Friday, October 20, 2017

velvet chronicles (and spot the puppy!)

Let's talk more about Velvet, shall we? I've basically plucked this pony from an idle pasture puff lifestyle (with the occasional ride by roving barn rats, and maybe a weekly trail ride with her owner) and plopped her directly into my own preferred riding schedule.

sassy poneh + riley dog!
Meaning: Velvet now does all the things within the structure that I've built around myself in producing my eventing partnership with Charlie. This includes a heavy focus on flat work mixed with frequent hacks and jump schools.

Now Velvet's owner doesn't necessarily need (or want) an event horse. Or a dressage horse, for that matter. Rather, she's more interested in a safe and reliable partner for putzing around. She's still learning the finer points of like.... the canter, and probably isn't likely to be touching on things like leg yields or spirals or transitions within gaits for a while yet, if ever. And that's totally fine.

i hope you aren't bored by between the ears shots bc that's most of what i got. at least the farm is pretty tho! fall has arrived!
In my opinion tho, developing a safe and easy going horse who's happy to toodle starts with first teaching it what "work" really means. And not in like, a punishing, aggressive or burdensome way. Just the same style of building a horse up, showing it how to carry itself, teaching it a whole new set of expectations about how we "go" under saddle. So that when her owner gets on and just wants a relaxing hack, Velvet is more than happy to acquiesce, thankyouverymuch.

Velvet is deep in the throes of realizing that I don't just want her to trot a circle -- no, no. I want her to carry her shoulders up with her hind end brought up underneath herself. I want her to be supple and hold a correct bend in balance, and to do so even through transitions or changes of direction. And she's basically like, "What the actual fuck I do not remember signing up for this!"

velvet was very reluctant her first time with me down this path behind the barns. now she just goes. good girl.
She's figuring it out tho and is actually a neat little mare. She likes being told she's a "good girl" and is willing to work for pets and neck scritches (and maybe the occasional peppermint haha).

The horse's biggest struggle is in carrying her own self. She wants to get heavy up front and just start running as a means of avoiding actually falling on her face, all the while with her hind end literally dragging out behind her. It feels just as sketchy as it sounds, and I totally understand why this way of going might make a novice rider nervous.

turns out we both enjoy goat watching!
So we work on rhythm. Slowing everything wayyyyy down. Bringing the hind end more underneath her by trying to create more engagement with circles, spirals, and baby leg yields. Of course, each and every one of those movements also makes Velvet want to run faster so we often need to step back and break things down to their component pieces.

Trainer Dan once told me, "If what you're doing isn't working, slow down." That's essentially been running on repeat through my head during all of my rides with Velvet. And it really helps!

her only remaining spooky spot is that little gap between buildings dead ahead. that's where the pig gets fed and velvet reportedly has "pig trauma" despite being neighbors with the critter for a year now. sorry princess but you live in that barn. you're not allowed to be spooky to the point of refusing entry to an entire end of your own house!
The horse has been surprisingly tolerant of being drilled a little on her flat work. To the point where my original idea of focusing exclusively on relaxation was almost immediately tossed out the window. The horse can relax -- she can actually do a fair bit more than that and willingly accepts more pressure than Charlie, it turns out.

So I'm having fun with that. Using the horse as a way to keep my own self in line and accountable while still pushing for more, still working to advance my own skills along with the horse's.

she was positively strutting after our first purposeful jump school together. so proud of herself!
Tho naturally most of us have limits for how many 20m circles we can ride in a row before we absolutely must change the subject lol. To that end, I've wanted to keep a little variety in the schedule. With lots of hacking out around the property and through the cross country fields, as well as the occasional opportunity to jump.

We finally made it up to the jump ring for a real true honest to god jump school this week too. Dusk was falling fast and of course Velvet requires that I show her the full ring first before we get to work (ideally in both directions with pauses to look at things and touch her nose on anything particularly spooky). But once we completed that task, she was more or less ready to set off.

easy peasy over the log despite the puppy on landing
Trotting all around, changing directions, remembering that we do flat work in this ring too even tho there are jumps and other horses around. And then.... we just started popping over things. First some single trot poles, then a couple poles in a row. Then an itsy cross rail here, a bitsy vertical there. Slicing and dicing and taking weird approaches by threading the needle between other jumps.

And the little pony really impressed me! I expected her to be really squirrely with maybe a couple refusals or at least sticky moments. But she honestly really quickly started truly taking me to the fences - first in trot, but then in canter too!

we had to stop and look at this jump first, but then she jumped it quite nicely
She initially wasn't very confident in canter, especially if we came up on a longer spot she'd feel her most uncertain. Lucky for her tho I like the close distance too so we quickly found ourselves getting more in sync. So we just kept going - eventually putting together whole lines from a pretty good canter. Exciting stuff!

It may not sound like much (and it wasn't, really), but I had a lot of fun and think the pony did too. That was my first time jumping in almost a month and I was relieved to find that I hadn't somehow forgotten how to do it. Sure, I also didn't somehow magically fix all my typical issues in the time off either, but that's ok too.

actually, aside from the log we had to stop and look at every jump #kindaannoying
All the same, I can't help but keep on making plans. And coming up with ideas for what to do next, how to keep building. For both me and Velvet. Might as well take full advantage of this fun little pocket rocket while I can, right?

but then she jumps. and she really jumps lol
And naturally those plans include lots of fun with eventing partner in crime, Brita and her mare Bella. Who, if you'll remember, I also fondly refer to as my life coach lol. Because she's the kind of friend with whom an innocent hack among the fields can turn into an impromptu xc school.

During which she's quick to remind me that, actually, I *can* do more than just logs and should man up and point the pony at more interesting stuff.

sometimes we caught the jumps a little awkward, but then she was game to come back and clean it up (again with the puppy on landing lol)
So Velvet has also now had both a slightly casual xc school with me (where we jumped exclusively the itsiest of bitsies) and now a slightly more formal school where we actually tackled a small chunk of the intro course.

And again, the mare really impressed me! Sure, we actually did have the squirrely moments I had anticipated from our earlier arena school. And we had to stop and look at each fence first before we could actually jump it....

#goodwithdogs
But then she'd jump everything just fine. I had to remind myself to keep riding the way I know how - as in, shorten my reins and keep my leg on. My initial inclination with her was to keep these long loose reins and just grab mane... but the lack of connection really kinda threw both of us off. Things were much improved when I stayed more forward and kept my reins short with hands up her neck.

She was also much happier to canter the fences - and from a longer approach where it was easier to really establish a rhythm. Plus a longer time spent cantering allowed me to really focus on my position and connection. Obviously, again, my known issues have not magically disappeared by changing the horse haha, but still. It felt good.

also just mostly good (and still so much like izzy, aside from the spookiness)
Not sure I'll end up taking any lessons on her tho. The last couple times I lessoned on other people's horses (like Shen and Krimpet) it ended up feeling like it was more for the horse than for me, in such a way as maybe I shouldn't have been the one paying for the lesson.

It's possible that Velvet's owner would be down for paying for a lesson with trainers P or C, but idk. I'll probably just keep wingin' it on my own until Charlie is better.

there's my star <3
Wingin it is pretty fun, anyway. Somehow in bringing Charlie along (and esp moving to the h/j barn), I lost a little bit of my 'independent rider' identity, particularly in the jumping. Idk, maybe bc he's my first personal horse and started from such a raw place. Maybe I was scared of messing him up, or getting into a situation I didn't know how to fix, or... something. Idk.

But now, with the advantage of being back on someone else's horse, I'm liberated from the shackles of feeling so... responsible. And am remembering in the process that actually I *do* know what I'm doing. Feels good, man!



(admittedly, it also feels *super* good to get texts from her owner {who is riding the horse again!} saying that the horse is becoming fun again and that she's starting to enjoy riding now instead of being made nervous or scared! #winning)

34 comments:

  1. I don't know if this owner knows how lucky she is to have you but she is really really lucky. You are doing a great job with Velvet and I will miss the updates once Charlie is back to work.

    I love that last photo with Charlie all 'um, what are you doing? I'm the one that you are supposed to have fun with!'

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    1. ha charlie has been keeping a very close eye on velvet, making sure she doesn't turn into a usurper! he's also not used to hearing me talk to other horses either. true story: velvet got in trouble in the cross ties and charlie got all upset in his stall like "but what did i do?????" thinking somehow he was the one in trouble even tho he wasn't even out with me lol. poor guy!

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  2. Awe. I love this post!!! It is so odd because I never took lessons before and would jump Gem on my own in the arena in WI, ride on the flat and do whatever. Ever since I started lessons I’ve found that I’ve lost that feeling of just doing it on my own. Like my trainer has become my crutch. Anyway....great job with Velvet and I’m so glad she is coming along and you are enjoying it

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    1. yea it's super funny how that works, right? like sometimes there are some things that are best left to be tackled with the oversight and guidance of a professional... but we still have to be able to go forth and carry on those lessons learned while riding by ourselves. i strongly dislike feeling like i need a "crutch" (even tho i totally need on often haha) but at the same time the training is so instrumental in advancing as riders.... tricky balance!

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  3. Velvet is so cute! and I'm glad you're able to enjoy yourself why Charlie keeps healing up.

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    1. thanks - she's a really neat mare and i'm happy to have her in the interim!

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  4. It's awesome that you've found a situation that's so beneficial to everyone (you, Velvet, and Velvet's owner!) to keep you on course while Charlie recovers. She's definitely a cutie! I love all the photos from your new barn, it looks like an amazing place.

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    1. this barn is really such a treasure - i've spent so many years hauling out everywhere to get the same full experience that this barn offers all within its own fences. i'm feeling pretty spoiled! at least with velvet i can take advantage of as much of it as possible before the time change and it gets so dark...

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  5. omg shes so cute

    good on you for getting her around a couple little jumps. and i like that she reminds you of isabel.

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    1. the similarities with isabel are very very strong haha, in so many ways. really the only difference is that this mare is spooky, something i haven't actually had to deal much with in my past experience. if velvet can turn into the packer that isabel became tho, everybody wins!

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  6. Awww I love this!! So much good for everyone involved, for you, Velvet, and her owner! WIN WIN WIN.

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    1. yea it's definitely a happy feel-good story during an otherwise sad and disappointing time in my horsey life!

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  7. The work you are doing with Velvet sounds like a lot of fun. It is great that you are able to structure her work in a way that benifits you too and work on your own riding. and how is that dog still alive? lol

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    1. i'm seriously grateful to have such full access to this neat little horse while charlie gets better - esp bc she really is up for basically all the things i'd be doing with charlie anyway (albeit at a slightly lower level). and that dog... omg we should all be so lucky to be as carefree and happy as riley!! lol

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  8. I'm so glad her owner is finding Velvet fun again! She's definitely lucky to have you turning that cutie into a packer!

    Velvet is so adorable. I love Charlie, but Velvet reminds me of Amber lol. Just thinner and more spooky haha. I love how she tries for you! And seems to be hunting those jumps. I'm also glad you have a pony to ride while Charlie is on stall rest! And I love Charlie's face at the end like "Why do you have her? She's not yours!" lol. Amber does that. She pins her ears at a horse if I'm near them haha!

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    1. yea she really was hunting the jumps, which made it that much more annoying when she had to stop at every new one. after she got her first stop out of the way she really did quite well, so i'm gonna chew on that for a little while to see how i want to handle it moving forward, knowing that she doesn't really have to be a schooled event horse but also knowing that she could do better.

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    2. Yeah I agree. It could be the newness of jumping that's causing her to stop, but after seeing her jump I agree she can do better. I'm sure you'll figure it out!

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    3. she just doesn't have any confidence and needs to be shown things first before she will decide it's ok. but she thinks jumping is actually pretty fun and seems to like it, so any action i take in resolving the stopping should take advantage of that fact rather than making jumping feel like punishment. we'll see!

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  9. Sounds like a win-win-win arrangement :)

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  10. My favorite part was that you are making this horse enjoyable for her owner. Really tugged at the heartstrings! That and the goat.

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  11. She's so cute though and way less evil looking than Krimpet. I'm glad you are finding your independent riding mojo again! I started getting mine back when TrT gave me more horses to ride on any random day and of course when I got Dante. Also if you take a lesson with Megan ever she will keep you on a 20m circle until your great grand children die of old age.

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    1. she's definitely WAY less evil than krimpet. like sometimes she'll play after a fence if she's feeling sassy and proud of herself... and sometimes she'll spook after a fence too (which is obvi less fun)... but she's not dirty lol. and yea getting that independent mojo back feels so good!

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  12. It's awesome getting a positive reaction to the work you're doing on someone else's pony, isn't it? :) I rode my BO's mom's mare for a couple of years; mostly what she needed was rules enforcement, but I spent a bunch of time toodling around with her on the bit and girlie put on some MUSCLE! It was pretty cool to see, and BO's mom was so excited.

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    1. ha yea i mean, i've basically always exclusively ridden other ppl's horses. obvi lesson ponies but also privately owned horses (like isabel!). i'm finding out that somehow, for some reason, i'm more comfortable forging forward with someone else's horse than i have been with charlie. so that's something i gotta change! i feel newly empowered to hold this same attitude with him. presuming he ever comes sound again lol ;)

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  13. I always like to have aplan as well. It makes my riding more structured. And then thinking of all the possibilities with the horse is fun too! I'm glad you have a steed until Charlie is feeling back to normal!

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    1. plans are definitely my security blanket haha. it's so much easier to get through current blahs by imagining future highs!!

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  14. There's so much positive stuff in this post! I giggled at the "go slow" bit... I'm hearing ya. Velvet is super cute and your barn is SO PRETTY in fall. Loving that ears pic <3

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    1. Tracy from fly on over once told me that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. That's also been a really helpful way for me to conceptualize progress. And doesn't she have the cutest ears???

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  15. She sounds so fun! And I love that you're finding your independent groove again. 😊 You don't look like you've had a month off from jumping at all!

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  16. I think this little pony is so cute and changing it up (even unplanned) is good every once in awhile. It tends to remind you of things that you've forgotten but shouldn't have

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