Wednesday, August 24, 2016

spectacular fashion

So according to Aimee, I'm on a bit of a roll lately. And... well.. She means that quite literally. I'll explain.

After the lesson at Dan's farm in PA, I drove right on down to our farm to pick up Brita and Wick to head over for our regularly scheduled weekly lesson at OF with trainer P. Two lessons in one day is apparently one of the ways I roll right now. And it was another (even bigger) chestnut - this time the gelding Gogo from a couple weeks ago.

more chestnut ears!
I was super excited to try my hand at him in a more normal outdoor lesson, esp since it was really just me and Brita riding (one typical lesson mate was doing an easy hack on her brand new mare - so exciting! - and another was putzing around bareback and bridleless with the pony she outgrew but still adores).

But.... kinda right off the bat things weren't going well. Gogo was VERY against my hand, very fussy with the bit, and very very stuck.

just needed a navy bonnet and we would have matched wick!
He probably hadn't been ridden in the two weeks since I last sat on him... which undoubtedly contributed some stiffness. But he was also just kinda in a mood. I simply *could not* get him going. And finally had to pick up a stick and wake him up a bit.

Eventually we started to get a couple moments here and there where I could feel his back free up, and feel him come through. But it was tough to maintain. And he'd quickly revert right back to stiff, hollow, shuffling, stuck and very against my hand. Canter was not as bad as I expected actually, but the horse still basically felt like two different creatures from front to back.

And here's where I made my mistake. Made a poor life choice, and I really should know better. What I *should* have done was continued on with the flat work, spending another ~20 minutes at the trot really pushing him over his back and getting that loose softness that we had the first time I rode him.

I could feel it in there - it would have happened. He would have kept getting better. But probably by the time we would have gotten there, he would have been good and tired (remember, he's not been in regular work for probably three months) and especially with the heat, it would have been time to call it a day. Ah hindsight.

still fussy with the bit
But nope, that's not what I did. Bc we were there for a jumping lesson and I wanted to jump. Save the horse from the extra exertion of the flat work so that we could pop over some fences instead.

Which you might notice is the *exact opposite* of good sense when the flat work is that bad... That horse that felt like two different creatures front to back at canter felt even more like two different creatures front to back over fences. Seriously. His front half and back half basically jumped completely separately.

no pics of me riding (thank god) so instead here's Brita and Wick demonstrating how to not utterly fail over fences lol
And that felt exactly as uncomfortable to ride as it sounds. Don't get me wrong - he was actually a very good boy. Rushed a little bit to one of our first warm up fences, but then started waiting like a gentleman and would let me work with his canter (to the degree that his stuck way of going would allow).

He found the jumps nicely, was only a little sticky with the steering (it's hard to sit on your butt around a turn when your butt isn't connected to the rest of your body), and never got bolt-y on landing.

There was a very real problem tho: his awkward stuck way of going meant that I kept getting jumped way out of the tack. Even when we found the fences nicely. And the 4 stride line was basically my undoing. The first time we kinda got a little crooked so trainer P had me go fix it. But the second time we nailed it and.... man I just got jumped right out of the tack over the oxer. Literally. And fell HARD (but in spectacular fashion, according to onlookers). Ughhhh.

no riding pics, but riding is never far from my mind - even when walking to work from the metro. who sees a corner jump?!?
What a stupid reason to fall too. Like the horse did nothing wrong, and was a very good and honest boy. But I had done what I often criticize others for doing: skipped over the basic foundation type stuff to rush ahead to more advanced things. Skipped loosening up his stiff stuck back and ended up with a stiff stuck back myself. Le sigh.

And I gotta admit - it was really hard for me to keep jumping him after that. Given that it was honestly just his way of going that unseated me in the first place - not some mistake or error or whatever - it felt like another fall would be a real possibility. Luckily tho I managed to keep my goddamn legs down, my butt in the back seat, and my fist tightly clenched onto that neck strap.

So we got through a couple more courses, including the lines that proved trickiest - since it was recovering my position after the fence that seemed hardest. And all was well. He really was a good boy - I actually really liked him and his good honest no-fucks-given nature.

But damn. Hopefully that's a lesson that will stay learned this time. If the horse feels like shit on the flat, it's probably gonna feel like shit over fences too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

leaping Lion

It's funny - I kept calling this horse "Little Lion Man" the entire morning. Probably bc of Lauren's recent post about Simon over at She Moved to Texas. And also bc he is little (relatively speaking, tho he's definitely an upgrade for me haha). And he is Lion. And also about as manly as a horse can be, as the first stallion I've actually handled, much less ridden.

This would be Lion, one of Dan's prelim horses (technically the horse ran a 1* earlier this summer, but I do not believe there are plans for him to return to that level).

yep, that's the lion!
It's been difficult scheduling a lesson since deciding in June not to continue training with Isabel for the foreseeable future. Obviously I don't want to fall off the map completely bc I love this program, but it's kinda hard when the trainer is so far away.

I don't mind paying the expenses to have Dan travel to us - that is, when I have something worth it. Right now that isn't Isabel. And as much as I love Krimpet.... well... it's probably not her either haha. So we've basically been in a holding pattern. All along tho, there's been the option to go up to PA to lesson on one of his horses, so I finally found time to make that happen.

quiet in the cross ties
I expected to ride a sales horse, especially since he's mentioned one or two of them to me before (probably hoping that I'll buy something lol). So it was a surprise when the working students brought in Lion. Exciting!

trainer P says stallions often have a sullen way about them. idk if that's how i would describe Lion, tho he certainly seemed unimpressed lol
The excitement kinda dribbled into disappointment when they pulled out a dressage saddle tho. I asked whether Lion jumped in lessons and they said 'not usually.' Hrm. I mean, I love Dan's focus on flatwork and consider his lessons as glorified flatwork with jumps thrown in... but I also didn't anticipate driving 3hrs round trip for a dressage lesson when trainer C is basically in my back yard.

not the type of saddle i was anticipating! very relieved it was changed out haha
It cleared up fast tho when he got back from hacking and took one quizzical look at the saddle, asking "don't you want to jump?" Yes, Dan. Yes I do haha. Saddle was changed and we were off to the lesson on what was certainly among the most schooled horses I've ever jumped.

especially bc omg these leathers were soooooo long. i had wrapped the damn things twice lol
And it was likely that element - Lion's high degree of schooling - that maybe motivated the choice to use him for this lesson. I've written before that Dan believes many amateur riders would be well suited to learn on something that's already gone up the levels (he usually says prelim). Saying it's more valuable to learn what the buttons are and how to push them before trying to install them on something green.

Personally I could go either way, but have really enjoyed sitting on all these nicely trained horses recently. And Lion was no exception.

the nice forward flap of dan's jump saddle was much preferred. as, actually, were the somewhat aggressive blocks
The biggest standout was in noting how he responded to my errors (the same errors I always make on Isabel or anything else), but even more so in how he responded to my corrections. Namely: when I got it right, he very promptly, noticeably, and easily ordered himself as well.

Dan made it clear from the start that I should focus on myself and my ride, especially since it wasn't a ride on my own horse. He dug immediately into my position, calling for a much longer leg with heels wrapped down and around the horse. Telling me to feel my heels connecting under the horse's belly.

a few of the residents at HF. i loved the facial markings on that one on the left - very unique!
And especially at the canter, I needed to focus on that long leg while achieving more roundness and more activity from the horse, with less inside rein. Unbelievably, the story still hasn't changed haha: the weight in my reins should be even. But if one is going to be stronger than the other it should be the outside rein. He also wanted more bend in my elbows, which (again, unsurprisingly) helped me improve the connection and get more of that "bounce" feeling in the canter.

Dan pointed out that Lion is used to him riding - meaning he is used to a LOT of leg. If my legs weren't burning I probably wasn't using enough. Well. Trust me, they burned haha.

course diagram: basically a modified figure eight exercise. all oxers are square and the course rides in both directions. turns are large and sweeping, not meant to be ridden tightly. oh and those are barrels under the wide center oxer
Moving on to the jumping exercises, I had to focus on a couple main points: getting a bouncy round canter with bend - not long or flat; going straight but without falling on the inside shoulder (Dan said that just bc you're going straight doesn't mean you don't have an outside rein - there's still an inside lead after all!); and keeping the energy coming from behind.

it was actually quite a lovely farm, very picturesque 
We circled the blue and white diagonal single in the bottom right corner of the diagram off both leads for a couple repetitions until I got it right-ish. Then went right into the course, starting with approaching the blue and white diagonal off the right lead and finishing with the one stride.

I got nailed for losing bend and letting the horse fall in on approach, and then letting him just get long and strung out on landing. We turned it around and things maybe even got a little worse - starting at the blue and white off the left lead going to the one stride (which we totally would have eaten if Lion hadn't saved my ass), then all the way around to finish back over the first blue and white.

with pretty little vistas out of all the doors and windows
The issue is that I would start with a decent canter (I consistently transitioned from walk to canter, which achieved that nice bouncy canter up in front of my leg) but would let it slip almost immediately, with falling in at the first jump then never pulling it back together again.

Well, actually, we usually did ok to the blue and white end jump on the other side of the arena bc there was another rider down their lessoning on his own 1* horse so I actually had to, ya know, actively steer and stuff. Which unsurprisingly led to much nicer jumps. Go figure.

nice tidy and spacious aisles too
We ran through it a couple more times in each direction (with ample walk breaks for Lion {and me} since it was super hot out). Eventually something clicked in my head tho. I could feel what Dan was talking about every time we did something wrong - that being the major advantage of riding a schooled horse: the errors were always very clear. But I just wasn't doing anything about it until usually too late.

So I actually made myself not just sit up and ride to each fence (with not just the outside rein that Dan kept yelling about, but also a helping heaping of inside leg {duh Emma}) - but also ride after each fence too. Esp since Lion tended to land a little strong, tho he always came back when I actually asked.

and large clean and bright stalls
And that last course clicked along perfectly - with the jumps coming up so plainly that I could hear Dan saying "Yes" even 2-3 strides out from each fence.

It was annoying that it took so long for me to actually get it right, esp on such a nice horse that honestly was not particularly complicated to ride. And especially on a horse that rides exactly the way Dan teaches... so it's not like any of this should have been new to me.

But whatever. It's been a minute since I had one of these lessons and I tend to be a little conservative on new horses.

thanks buddy for a good lesson!
Regardless, I left the lesson feeling somewhat empowered that maybe one day I'll have these basics down. In some ways it felt like a win to get on this nicely trained horse and make him dance a little. Tho obviously I also felt equally sheepish when I goofed up and the horse had to bail me out. 

And it's kind of annoying seeing the same mistakes I made with Isabel creep into my rides on every other horse. I didn't ever quite put the blame squarely on the mare for why things fell apart... but it's still pretty glaringly clear that my riding was part of the problem. Le sigh. 

All the same tho, I'm definitely working on it and feel like all of these rides on different horses are helping to put the pieces back together. So I'll enjoy the variety for now, and hustle as hard as I can to keep the lessons with my favorite trainers rolling even tho I don't have a regular horse in training. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

fluffy ponies!

Because it's Monday, who needs words when there are fluffy baby pony pictures to look at, right?

Plus bonus horse-sized baby too, out with the yearling shetlands bc poor thing is apparently an orphan. 

Seriously tho, these little babies are so freakin friendly. We literally just pulled up in the trailer (immediately behind the camera) and they all hustled right over to the fence line to say hi.

Which, obviously, nobody turns down an offer like that haha.

Omg their little noses and ears are just ridiculous. I don't think I'll ever get over teeny tiny horses haha.

And you just gotta love friendly babies. I mean, sure, some horses are more naturally reserved or distant. But still. Give me a good sociable pony any day!

Of course they were even more excited to learn that someone (ahem, yours truly) had a pocket full of breath mints.

Which was ridiculous in its own right. Considering a life saver is typically more than a fleeting taste of flavor for our larger equine friends. Like, say, Wick. 

These guys actually had to spend a solid couple of moments chewing each haha. 

All the same tho, they were always ready for more. Pushy little buggers haha. 

Don't get me wrong - there was more to this weekend than just fussing around with yearling shetlands. For instance, we had our weekly lesson at OF (the farm these guys call home).

Plus I made it up for a lesson with Dan on one of his horses. First time I had seen him since... gosh mid-June? It's hard to schedule anything when I don't have something for him to teach me on at my barn, and his barn is so far away. We'll figure it out tho.

There's also one last segment to the rider safety survey. So there will certainly be more to tell soon (once I get around to writing haha). In the meantime, tho. PONIES.

Hope you all had a nice weekend too!

Friday, August 19, 2016

friday foto finish

So legitimately I think this needs to be a real thing. Seriously. That feeling (all you bloggers must certainly know it) of knowing you should probably get a post out... but not being all that sure what the hell to even write about. So you start swiping through your recent photos like, wtf have I even done recently?

And so. Dear readers, friends, fellow horse ppl who maybe just kinda have lots of random pictures on your phones: may I present a Friday photo dump of lots of little things that will be forced into one single horse-shaped post.

For starters - let's see a show of hands here, who streamed the Olympic games while at work? All of you, I'd wager, at some point or another haha. Alas, I ran into the struggle of not having actual cable (bc of course I don't, I live under a rock, remember?) so Austen was kind enough to provide her mother's cable login credentials so I could watch. Um, thanks mama G! 

We also made another trip back to Olde Hope Farms for Brita and lesson director R's horse show. I mostly just played spectator and pretend groom (meaning: person who hands you cold water and beer), and not very sadly at that seeing as it was super hot out. Still tho - what a fun day. All horses and riders performed very well, with Brita and Wick even locking down their first dressage score in the 20s at novice!

Our show set up was aaaaalmost on point. Almost. So close. Except. Well. My canopy (the blue one) died a sudden and tragic death at its first outing at Plantation earlier this summer (Allison was there to witness lol). It still.... kinda? does the job? But... not really. Idk. It stood up for the whole day tho so I'm gonna call it a win - we needed that shade!

Especially bc Brita got a puppy!!!!! And this little puppy needed it's shade for naps!!

Seriously tho, how sweet is she? 

And then we found an EVEN SMALLER PUPPY OMG!

On a slightly less cute note, my ensuing week kicked off with a flight out to Memphis for quite the work-related roadtrip through the South - a region that I hadn't previously gotten to know. But we certainly got to see a lot of it on this trip, with plenty of stops along the way! (Tho, in all honestly, we didn't actually stop in Greenville or Greenwood, but they were notable landmarks along the way all the same).

My colleague roadtripping with me has actually lived in the Delta before, and knew all the history and all the landmarks and had very personal connections to everything. Including needing to make a quick pit stop at Miss State for a picture to send his daughter.

I gotta say - all that insider info definitely gave the trip a better shape than had I just gone through it all by my lonesome yankee self haha (nvm that Maryland is technically south of the Mason-Dixon line - we like to say that Baltimore has all of the Northern charm and Southern efficiency haha).

Once back in Baltimore, things continued on their hot August summery ways. Including the hatching of all our cicadas. Such crazy weird bugs. Kinda creepy actually, watching them emerge from their armored shells. But cool. If you're into that kind of thing... (which obvi I am lol)

Mostly tho it's always nice to come back home bc of the kitties. They haven't gotten too mad at all my absences bc it's been balanced out by working remotely for the first time ever. So even tho I am technically out of town and away more than ever before, they are actually still seeing more of me bc of working from home. So I guess the cats are the real winners in my life choices haha. 

I'm trying to fix that balance tho. #needsmoarhorses, ya know? I'm working on it. An intro lesson at a new barn with this elder statesman Remmy went a long way towards remedying that. Not an awful lot to share yet - but I'm feeling optimistic about getting back into a regular riding routine with actual full-sized horses who probably aren't neglected problem children lol. 

Like this poor problem child. Oh Krimpet, sweet thing. She was SO TIRED OMG before this ride. It's camp season and she's workin' her little butt off apparently. Which isn't the worst thing... except for some reason they decided to free jump her for camp - having her go pretty high for a pony (tho as you have seen she's actually quite a nice jumper).

Which. Well. She jumped that 3'6 fence no problem, and proceeded to jump right on out of the arena. Bc guys. This pony aint stupid haha. I'm not totally sure why they chose to take a sour baby horse with a poor work ethic and run it through a scope test... Especially when it resulted in teaching an already-naughty pony a new trick... But whatever. Nobody asked me and it's sure as hell not my horse, so I don't call the shots. 

So whatever. Greener grass beckons. In the meantime, my cats are kinda judging me for even considering life outside the walls. Well. OG is maybe still curious, but Martini knows. Ohh he knows. He's got it figured out all right haha.

What about you - what story would the recent photos in your phone tell?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

FCE Rider Safety Survey Part II

Ok let's dig into a few more data elements from the survey. Starting with identifying our actual response group. Unsurprisingly, the survey got the most responses on the first day it was published (114 of 288 responses).

Over the next couple days it picked up a few more both from this blog and from those of you who shared the survey elsewhere (thank you!) - netting another 74 after two more days. Eventing Nation shared the survey to garner 84 new responses, and the rest (16) trickled in over the remaining days before the survey closed.

By the nature of 'Fraidy Cat Eventing's audience here, and the share from Eventing Nation, the survey received responses primarily from eventers, many of whom dabble in dressage. Nearly a third are h/j riders, and there were many write-in responses for western disciplines (including reining and breed shows), trail riding, and fox hunting.

It's notable that some of the answers on the gear question from Part I can be explained by the distribution of preferred disciplines among survey respondents.

For example, full seat breeches and rubberized reins elicited more responses than knee patch breeches or laced reins - likely due more to their popularity and common use with eventers and dressage riders. Tho there is a slight difference in proportions, it's not actually as large as that chart would make it seem.

I was curious to see if this variation in preferred disciplines would play a role in how riders choose new helmets.

The survey asked: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most important, what is most important to you when purchasing a riding helmet?

This was particularly interesting because these results stayed the same regardless of preferred discipline. It was a close race between Fit and Certification / Approvals, but those two factors hold a strong lead over any other choice.

Of note: the only measure in which this helmet priority order shifted was when considering age.

Riders in the 65-75 and under-15 age groups ranked Price as "least important." Perhaps because the under-15 riders aren't paying the bills? Or the 65-75 riders are beyond pinching pennies? Either way, those two age groups were very small and therefore subject to higher degrees of skew.

And the race between Fit and Certifications / Approvals was closest in the 25-35 age bracket.

More helmet tidbits:

  • 91% of survey respondents wear a helmet every ride
  • 98% wear an ASTM/SEI approved helmet (when they wear one)
  • And 58% research their helmets beyond learning whether they are ASTM/SEI certified before purchasing.

Survey respondents also reaffirmed what we already know: To ride means to fall.

I should clarify that just one person reported having never fallen off - so while I think it's safe to say that person was probably an outlier, they're included here for the sake of transparency in reporting. Otherwise we might expect to see this stat reading "100% of riders have fallen off."

Regardless, basically all riders have fallen off, and just over half have done so within the past year.

What surprised me, tho, was how few report a fall-related injury in the past year - just 16% (44 respondents). I'm not sure why I expected that number to be larger, and I'm not trying to say that 44 injuries is insignificant by any means. It's interesting, tho.

And of those survey respondents who were injured in a fall,

  • 19% believe that different equipment could have reduced the impact of the fall.
  • And 10% believe that different equipment could have prevented the fall.

These stats further reaffirm what we already know: When riding horses, accidents will happen. And sometimes those accidents will result in injury. Safety gear and equipment are not enough to prevent accidents from happening, but they play an important role in risk mitigation.

Stay tuned for still a little more to come - mostly as it relates to rider opinions surrounding different behaviors and activities. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"PONY" is a four letter word

It was JenJ who introduced me to that phrase back when I first wrote about Krimpet. And naturally she was spot on when it comes to this little baby pony mare. Four letter words. So many of them. Le sigh.

stinkin adorable tho!
Long story short, I took Ms Pony Thang xc schooling at OF last weekend. While it's entirely possible that this horse has successfully been out cross country before, perhaps with her previous owner, to my knowledge she hasn't made it through a schooling without tossing her rider at least once. (in fact her current owner is still on crutches from the last time Krimpet was ridden out in the open...)

Alas we did not break the streak this go round... but it was honestly still a pretty good outing!

a little peek at the candy cane, but up and over no problem!
And thanks to my intrepid videographer Brita, we've got all kinds of fun pictures haha. Ooooooh. And video. Omg. The video guys. Brace yourself - it's coming!

cantering through the open like an adult!
I was a little late to the schooling so we warmed up fairly quickly - mostly just checking on the steering aids since this pony is really terribly herd bound. Everything seemed to be in order, and she managed a couple quick canters without any sass, so we moved on quickly to little logs on the ground (with the aid of a lead horse haha).

pony actually looks somewhat confident out there!
Aside from getting left behind at the first little log, and having to take a peek at another (then proceed to step over at the walk), the pony was actually quite good and we were able to cut the cord with our lead horse for a quick circuit of all the little logs in the field. I gotta say - this horse is surprisingly easy to jump when she's going. The spots kinda just present themselves!

baby banks are nbd
Next up was the water, where we basically just went up and down the banks while the other riders schooled over bigger stuff.

Krimpet went up without hesitation but showed a little more reluctance to go down. It was fine tho - a couple passes through and she was jumping down like a seasoned veteran.

seriously tho, how cute?!?
I almost felt like we could be done with that, simple as it was. Especially since it was SO HOT OMG out haha. But no - trainer P took me to task for not actually taking the pony, who was FINE, over some more appropriate jumps.

clearly not impressed haha
So we did that too and Krimpet couldn't have cared less. Good baby pony mare.

mayyyyybe the nicest trot jump i've ever ridden
Tho for most of the "bigger" jumps I opted to use a lead horse, which seemed to work out just fine.

no problem with coops either
Krimpet was happy to go wherever the other horses went, so we enjoyed some fun little canters through fields and woods and streams and such.

so fierce tho
Then on to the ditches. Where again Krimpet seemed to warm up nicely to them after some initial uncertainty. Tho I got left behind once pretty good, and the next time after maybe was a bit behind too and.... well... pony is apparently not very forgiving.

going.... going.... gone. 
So that snotty little pony just up and bucked me right off. Ugh. Ouch. Talk about rude!

It was definitely not the most pleasant experience... maybe the worst of the year (physically, at least. my {multiple} falls at that jumper show with Isabel were definitely WAY worse on the emotional scale lol). But the good ol' tuck-n-roll served me well and I as basically unscathed.

she had been going so well!
The pony was maybe slightly chastened when I got back on and got her going again - back over the ditch again (not on the video) and then up and over a few more fences.

slightly looky fence
The next fence up was basically OF's version of a BN trakehner. There wasn't actually a true ditch under it, but it was dug out enough behind that log on the ground to give the idea. We flubbed our first attempt over it but then more or less got it right.

And of course I was taking no chances on the landing side any more haha. Pony had her trust privileges revoked!!!

good over the bench! and let's just ignore that my heels are dug so far into her sides that there's daylight between my knee and the saddle lol
She was fine tho. I was kinda sad not to get the last couple jumps on video but Krimpet was basically perfectly behaved.

You'll see it in the video - she actually looks like a pretty cool little pony. Very green and needs miles. And obviously that buck really fucking sucks (but is somehow oddly mesmerizing to watch lol). But cool none the less.

naughty naughty pony
So perhaps if nothing else, this post will serve as some nice mid-week comic relief lol. I've already had a couple friends tell me they had to watch that slo mo over and over again since it brought all kinds of childhood memories flooding back. Did any of you ever grow up with a pony that bucked you off all the time?