Wednesday, December 31, 2014

taking a trail break

First off - Isabel has a new boyfriend!! This kinda amazes me bc she's generally indifferent to the horses around her (they're clearly not civilized enough)... But apparently Canyon's got the right stuff bc Isabel even dragged herself away from the hay to hang out with him at the fence line. Very cute! Too bad he's only living on the farm temporarily for training...

or maybe she just wanted a NYE date... no shame in that game lol

Anyways, we took a break from our normal routine to go out for a relaxing trail ride. Seems like an appropriate way to bid farewell to an amazing year for us, right?

Our last time in the woods wasn't really the stress reliever I had hoped for, tho. We did a lot of standing around while my friend's OTTB Wick learned about water crossings, and Isabel does NOT appreciate standing around. We ended up having a few discussions about patience... 

So I really wanted today's ride to just be an easy peasy romp through the woods. And it was!!

follow the blue blazes

I actually hadn't planned on riding at all - thinking Isabel would just get the day off (as evidenced by my wearing jeans despite what is becoming a rather large breeches collection lol). But a friend was going out and wanted company, and who can resist that? 

riding in jeans is nbd

Obviously I tried to document the ride for posterity, but at this time of year it pretty much all looks the same in pics... so it's actually more like a random assortment of between-the-ears shots of Isabel lol.

wild n crazy arabians lol

Isabel *really* moves out on the trails - and my general rule (to avoid fights) is that she can go as fast as she wants so long as the gait has four beats (ie, no jigging or trantering). But this means we out walk almost every other horse. Since Isabel doesn't really stand well on the trails - or at all, really - the only way I can get her to wait up is by parking her at some food. 

So she does a LOT of grazing while we're on the trails lol. I know a lot of people disagree and don't let their horses graze under saddle.... but I figure it helps take the edge off so why not?

Tho by the time we were back at the barn, Isabel had a HUGE gob of grass rolling around in her mouth (see above lol). I took the bridle off thinking she'd drop it with the bit - but no, she's apparently pretty dexterous (and committed!) and managed to hang on to and eat that sloppy mess despite dropping the bit... ew haha. 

warm weather nap attack

Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Years Eve!! See you all in 2015 :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

lesson on canter pace and rhythm

I felt oddly excited when we arrived to our OF lesson to see canter poles set up, and proudly told P all about how we'd been doing this exact thing at home - ground poles and foot work and all that jazz. And I fully expected to demonstrate Isabel's badassery at canter poles. 

Haha... oops. We kinda failed, naturally. It wasn't horrible, just couldn't quite get the rhythm nailed down. Ah well. She trotted very nicely through them tho!

we apparently can't do this two days in a row

It was actually kind of a weird day. Temps at a BALMY 60ish degrees had the horses huffing and puffing. And even tho the arena at OF is light years better than at Isabel's home barn, it was still a bit wet - making it a bit of a slog for the horses given the temperature. 

Anyways, the lesson was pretty good, all things considered. Isabel flatted really REALLY nicely - probably the steadiest she's been in the contact ever, including nice canters in both directions. This is kinda a big deal for us - even if it's really basic boring stuff. So I was pleased. 

turns out arabians DO get sweaty - just takes unseasonably warm weather

The jumping exercises were pretty basic too - but I feel ok about polishing the little details over the winter so that we are prepared for more challenges come spring time. 

We started with trot and canter poles, then worked over two lines that started small and grew during the course of the lesson. The outside line was measured as a short four. It was initially a triple combination of a one stride to a two stride. But the middle obstacle was removed and it really could have ridden in three. But P wanted me to fit in four strides given the low height and my tales of Isabel's recent rushing. 

Same went for the diagonal line - measured at 33'. Technically, we could make that in two, but again P wanted to see a balanced three strides. 

Isabel conspires with the ponies at OF

After riding both lines and WHOA-ing the whole way through (with 3.75 and 2.75 strides, respectively... oops!), it was pretty clear I needed to fix my canter a little earlier. Izzy figured out the outside line in 4, but then kinda clunked into the diagonal (despite finding a really nice distance!) and got a bit upset bc she doesn't like touching the fences.

The last time through was very tidy and even (yay for picking your feet UP mare!) and we quit on that.

So the lesson ended up being highly focused on our canter and pace - with my big takeaway being to SIT DOWN, for the love of all things holy. Lol. Maybe I'll learn one day...

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 in Review -- part 4

This is the final installment of our 2014 review - covering the end of fall and onset of winter. Follow these links for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

-Isabel and I celebrated two years together.

-We had two jump lessons at OF. One aimed to help with landing on the correct leads (Isabel and I proceeded to do exactly the opposite lol). The other had us battling sloppy, soupy conditions to eke out a fairly decent lesson. (video here).

-The chiro came out to work on Isabel. She was out in almost all the same places as her previous session in April - despite intensified focus on improving her way of going. Thoughts here. 

-Schooling show at OF. This essentially served as a dry run for our next HT - so we parked and warmed up in all-new places. Isabel was 100% professional and I managed to hang on well enough. (Still not convinced our jumping round was worthy of 1st lol)

-Lesson with new trainer C. The focus was on being *still* to the fences. She wanted me stretching into my legs and letting go with my knees. Also - hands UP. For Isabel - we needed to slowwww down.

-Another Horse Trial!!! This HT was our biggest event to date, and showed improvement in every single dimension, except, uh, one big one. We were eliminated... oops. But we had our best yet dressage and stadium rounds, and our xc run proved that Isabel is into it (except water and mud, ew), and moving up to BN is not totally unrealistic. 

-Bio-mechanics lesson. This session was too short to dig into the meat of Kirsten's concepts - but she introduced me to the topics of side-to-side v front-to-back balance.

-Lesson with Dan. Biggest takeaways here were on the flat - tho the jumping went well. 

-Rode inside for the first time. All was well, except this was the first of two back to back OF lessons where my eye made a dash for the door when the jumps went up (second lesson here). Le sigh. 

-Hunter Trials were an absolute blast! The wind was howling and it was colllldd... but Isabel was a pro and trucked us around the 2' course of natural obstacles (essentially doubling as xc schooling) twice, winning both classes. (so there goes my assumption that Isabel can't be successful in hunter type classes!).

-Learned more about Isabel's breeding and history. And BABY PICTURES!!!

-Went on a phenomenal fall trail ride

-Jumping under the arena lights was deemed not an issue. (at least, when the lights work)

-Celebrated my birthday - and gifted myself some plexi-glass to enclose the trailer

-Trainer P suspected that Isabel may have ulcers

-Jumped 2'6" and didn't go splat!!! This included the roll top of doom again - tho it was backwards (and therefore less scary) so I'm not sure it counts or not lol. My confidence is maybe turning a corner. 

-Planned to go to a nearby jumpers show with a barn mate, but she cancelled at the last minute with a lame horse. Proceeded to focus on grids in our OF lesson instead.

-Had a break-through bio-mechanics lesson that will be the focus of this winter's 'dressage bootcamp.' Big take away: must be laterally balanced before Isabel can balance front to back - and therefore truly be straight and engage the hind end. 

-Isabel finished a two week course of gastrogard and started preventative supplements

-Lessons at OF included more grids and focus on positional details (like our release!!!) - both indoors and outdoors. We jumped hands free! And I started shortening my stirrups for jumping in an attempt to stabilize my lower leg.

-Rode with Dan again. He wanted me to work on the timing of softening my aids, and the quality of my gaits - both during transitions and while jumping. 

-We missed a lot of riding due to trashed arena footing and lights that only worked sporadically. Then we missed literal saddle time due to swellings on Isabel's girth area from a bareback pad (oh the irony). 

-Replaced saddle time with bareback time. Hilarity ensued (with onlookers doubled over in laughter after watching me awkwardly clamber up onto my short mare's back...), tho I managed to avoid falling off. 

-Isabel endured unspeakable torture for my own holiday amusement. Good times were had by all (except Isabel Scrooge) lol

Sunday, December 28, 2014

ground poles galore

Our latest ride was much like the one before - working on focusing Isabel's brain and energy on her feet. The footing was a little better so I felt ok upping the complexity a bit. 

In our last ride, Isabel wanted to rush through the trot poles (in yellow below). So I kept this the same. She was owning the 3 canter poles tho, so I raised the center pole to about 21" (the MS Paint blue lines in below pic). And, since the footing was much improved, I added in the blue and white X at the end of the arena. 

yellow trot poles, bright blue raised cavaletti with canter poles, and blue and white X in foreground

We essentially built off of yesterday's ride. Trot through the trot poles, halt, rein back. Reverse and repeat. Coming off the left, this led really nicely to the blue and white X. Halt, rein back, reverse, repeat to the right: X to trot poles (with halt in between). Isabel did much better through the trot poles this ride, so maybe next time we can try raising alternating sides?

kinda meh

Then we added in the canter poles, and Isabel still did pretty well here. With the raised center pole, she wanted to rush a bit, so we didn't hit every single distance - especially from the left lead, which had a much shorter approach. 

 um, no

Plus if she was a little exuberant, that third pole came up mighty fast. So it was a really great exercise for paying attention to her feet. And she more or less figured it out.

that's more like it

The right lead was pretty solid, aided in part by a nice long approach. After doing these three elements individually (trot poles, single X, and canter poles), we started mixing and matching - and only halting straight if Isabel started rushing. It was kind of an awkward course for stringing much together, but it was good for forcing focus and attention. 

awww yess

Isabel got her tootsies did after our ride. I had planned to add snow pads, but after talking about it with the farrier we decided to wait until next time. With recent weather, mud is more of a concern than snow. Of course, now that we've opted for this route we'll probably get a massive snow storm in the next two weeks lol... Oh well. 

After getting her toes trimmed and shoes tapped back on, Isabel went for another spin with her owner's niece who's in town from Canada. She apparently does the jumpers and had a grand ol' time playing around with Isabel. 

And finally, when it was all said and done (long day for princess!) - Isabel got to dig into some of the treats Santa left in her stocking :)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

back to basics

Isabel has been a tad feisty in our schooling rides lately. This is probably a function of two things: crap weather = inconsistent riding schedule; and super trashed arena footing means I end up micromanaging almost every single step - lest Isabel step into a hole and die. It's for her own good, really, but she still doesn't appreciate it. 

'i must be FREE' - isabel

Meanwhile, I've also been rolling Anne Kursinski's exercises around in my mind for the past few weeks. With the aforementioned feisty mare and inconsistent riding schedule, a lot of my planned exercises have gone by the wayside in lieu of some basics like, uh, rhythm. But perhaps there's a happy medium? 

I took advantage of some poles that were already in the arena and set up 4 trot poles up the outside line from F, and 3 canter poles just to the left of the centerline, starting around X heading towards K. This may sound like random placement, but if you saw the many many holes in our arena you'd understand what I'm working with...

Anyway, we started with trotting all of this in both directions, halting straight each time. The 'halt straight' thing isn't really Isabel's specialty, so I started adding a rein back after every halt (plus lots and LOTS of praise).

Our canters were a touch wild too - which was pretty undesirable given the tight turns and sloppy conditions. But she started to figure it out. Trot the poles, halt straight, rein back, forward into canter for canter poles, halt straight, rein back, rinse repeat. 

Halting after the canter poles was really not easy - especially headed towards the gate. But Isabel got the gist of it after a while, and then I could just sit up and easily get that nice trot transition and move right to the trot poles. 

worn out pony needs the fence to hold her up while napping lol

It was pretty basic stuff - but good work all the same. The wet sand was definitely a bit of a slog for Isabel, and she was blowing by the time we wrapped up (but not sweaty. she pretty much never sweats... an arabian thing, I guess). 

Isabel had to make quite a few corrections through the trot poles bc she wanted to rush. But she nailed the canter poles every time. And, despite the rushing and feisty canters, she was honestly still very good - walking like a normal horse when I wanted to walk. Trotting quasi-politely until I cued for canter. All good stuff. And she eventually figured out the halt thing. Hopefully this will translate to helping get our simple changes in corners while jumping. 

Ultimately I liked this exercise bc it kept both of us busy mentally. At a time when Isabel is likely to be dolphin-leaping down the long side of the ring like a lunatic, it's nice to have somewhere to channel that energy. Plus, I could let go through the poles and let them do the work for me. Score!

In any case, it was nice to be at the barn during weekday daylight hours. We had the place almost to ourselves, and I didn't feel like we had to race the impending darkness. Definitely something I could get used to lol.... And another thing I could get used to is chocolate covered pretzels left for me from one of the lesson kids - how sweet!!

And obviously kitten spam. I will probably never get tired of this bc it's so stinkin cute lol...

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thank You Alicia & Mollie!!

My Secret Santa gift from Alicia and Mollie from The Red Headed Mare is HERE and oooh boy was it worth the wait. I literally squealed with delight (like a child) when I opened the box up to find this:

introducing: Mini Izzy!!!!

It's a PORTRAIT of Isabel!! In MINIATURE!!!!!! 

And Alicia - the attention to detail is sooo perfect! The blaze shape, and rear socks... Plus the adorable dished face and curled ears!!! Not to mention the gorgeous flowing mane and tiny bow over her tail :)

Naturally, Isabel was flattered at the representation, and proceeded to spend some quality time introducing Mini Izzy to proper princess etiquette. 

"we don't look directly at the camera for fotos - princesses remain aloof" - isabel

two peas in a pod

Thanks so much Alicia - this little horse is stinkin adorable - and officially our new mascot!! 

Thanks also to Tracy from Fly on Over for hosting the Equestrian Blogger's Gift Exchange! 

Merry Christmas :)