Thursday, January 31, 2019

indoor jump courses: greatest hits edition

Phew, is everyone staying warm out there right now? This cold snap is intense even in Maryland, I shiver to think about how some of you are coping in colder climates, ugh.

So in line with the season, I'm talking today about indoor-friendly jumping and cavaletti exercises. Charlie and I have had our last 3 jump lessons inside, and while it can feel tedious or confining, we really are grateful to have that option.

And along the way, a number of you are also stuck inside this winter and have commented on my trainer's creativity in setting up a variety of fun exercises in the small space.

This is my 5th winter riding in this indoor, and over the years I've diagrammed, charted, and otherwise captured many of the courses. So here are some of my favorites!

spacing is approximate. while one track is prescribed in yellow, obvi there are unlimited options for stringing stuff together
It should be noted that few, if any, of these diagrams are to scale. In almost every case, tho, the arena itself is the size of a small dressage court: 20x40m (roughly 65x130'). 

Likewise, each of the exercises can be adapted to virtually any height: ground poles, cavaletti, taller jumps and oxers. You wanna do it? These configurations can work for it.

slightly different central pinwheel configuration 
In a small space, diagonals are often the most versatile when it comes to using as much space as possible to turn. The downside is that they mean frequent and rapid changes of direction. This can be tough for horses that prefer to land on one lead vs another, or who are very unbalanced when hitting a turn on the wrong lead.

great for practicing rollbacks and landing the lead
Then again, tho, if you feel like you and your horse match that description, this is a great way to address practicing it.

another variation. slightly more unfortunate outline. 
My favorite indoor configurations are those that require the fewest pieces of equipment, the least precise set up, and have a lot of flow.

In other words, I like exercises where you could always at any moment turn and aim for something else. That there aren't any "dead ends" or that you don't end up in a situation where everything has to be approached from the same direction or location.

similar idea of the jumps all in a line, but this time on the E-B line

Tho in my (limited) experience, the highest versatility courses often end up with the least combinations or related distances. At least in a small space. The exceptions being some of the following examples. 

lol i get that the perspective of this image is funky, but it's intended to be six ground poles ridden L to R or R to L, aplus extra cross rails on the diagonals
Offset configurations can help address that issue. Like the above line of ground poles. Theoretically it could just as easily be a combination of ground poles, cavaletti, and jumps. But when I rode it, it was just ground poles.

The image isn't to scale, but each of the blue lines shows a different path through the poles that adds or excludes poles to arrive at different configurations.  The two bottom blue lines can be done at trot or canter (for 3 strides between  the two end poles, or a line of four poles set at one stride distances). The other blue lines would have to be done at trot.

adjustability exercise
Riding in small indoors often promotes a smaller quieter and sometimes more backed off canter stride. It's easy to get a little dull, ya know? So exercises that focus on adjustability can be key to staying sharp.

Like the above oldie-but-goodie, tried-but-true set of two cavaletti spaced about 4 strides apart that you then aim to get various numbers of strides with each attempt. Can you get the 4? Can you get 6, too? What about 7, omg??

another cavaletti exercise, this time set on a roughly 20m half circle from E to B

For me, I am easily soothed into a false sense of security on a too-quiet stride, so it's important to keep practicing riding my canter forward. I don't have a diagram for the exercise in the video above, but it was a good one for helping to stay on an open stride by removing all actual turns.

The bending line of cavaletti sits on the 20m half circle from E to B, and is two bending one-strides. Much more challenging than it sounds, but great practice!

the ultimate in simplicity. striding really doesn't matter
These next two, above and below, are also some favorites for their plain old simplicity. Again, anything from ground poles to actual jumps can be used. And especially for the above if the poles are set kinda far-ish apart, distance really doesn't matter bc you can just add or subtract bend to get even striding.

a little more specific here - nothing to scale but in this instance the bending lines are closer together
Each of the jumps can be approached individually, and of course the jumps on or around the A-C center line can be put together for bending lines. And you can sorta see how easy it would be to just keep cruisin around hitting up jumps whenever you want.

the above is not very well suited to a 20x40m arena, but provides more of a to-scale level of detail on spacing for bounces, one strides, and two strides. all the distances are slightly shortened, which can help horses practice compression. 
Obviously tho, whenever you're in a tight space situation, grids are always a good fall back plan haha. Personally I tend to not really do them outside of lessons bc the set up and progressive nature of the exercises lends them to times when you have at least a ground crew lol.

Still tho, they're so so so useful for horses and are great practice, even in small doses.

example of a grid of one strides up the long side
In our indoor we will often set up one stride grids along the long side. Sorry the above is dark but you get the picture. It's a pretty good representation of what the exercise looks like. It can be verticals, oxers, or some combination thereof.

We often put the jumps right up along side the wall bc we have these nifty hanging standards that hook over the edge of the wall - perfect for space saving! If you don't have those, tho, you can always bring the grids in off the track a bit so any other riders can still get around the jumps.

example of a grid of bounces up center line
The center line is also a great place for setting up the grid too. This is useful bc it allows you to approach the grid from both directions without having to worry whether your jumping elements can be jumped both ways (like if you wanted to use an ascending oxer, for instance).

Another benefit to grids on the center line is that they also serve as practice for center line turns in dressage tests. Or at least, they do in this size arena haha. You have to be planning for that turn and approach to the grid well before you even reach the corner -- good practice!

I'm sure there are countless other examples scattered across this blog of cool exercises we've done inside. But these were the ones I could find most immediately. Think you'll set any of them up? Or are there any other types of exercises I missed that are your go-to favorites for riding in small spaces?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

the l'apogee trial

Last weekend after dropping all that consignment stuff off, I found myself putzing around the rest of Maryland Saddlery's consignment section. I was just aimlessly prowling, sure, but then found it impossible to leave empty handed. Isn't that always the way?

in't she purdy? 
Luckily, the reps likewise agreed that I really ought to leave with something, and were eager to usher me onto the saddle stand for some test "rides." So after casually browsing the used saddle section and sitting in a few things, this lovely little French close contact saddle came home with me for a trial.

my next saddle will have blocks for sure
Maryland Saddlery's trial policy is extremely liberal and accessible: virtually unlimited trials at no costs at all for a week, provided you leave them your credit card information.

i like the rich dark color too
I've taken full advantage of this policy over the years, and have trialed probably dozens of their saddles. Tho it's kinda funny, I've been a bit picky about actually *riding* in anything if I don't think I'm likely to actually buy it.

my poor beloved bates always looks kinda ugly in these comparison pictures....
Even the last saddle that I trialed, I didn't even jump in it. Which I kinda regret, honestly. Even if I'm already pretty sure I'm not going to buy a saddle, maybe it would be useful to ride more in them so I can really figure out what I like (or dislike?) in each one?

but wait, what's that? up there?!?
Anyway. Back to this particular hunk of leather: it's an 18" L'Apogee LXP close contact with a MW tree, a forward 2AB flap, front and rear blocks, a flattish seat, and foam panels. And I actually quite liked sitting in it at the consignment shop!

lol barn cats always be creepin
The feel was in some ways very similar to my Bates (which I continue to love, despite its imperfections), but also some of the same elements from the Beval that I really liked. Namely: it put my seat at a slightly different and improved angle from the Bates, and I liked the really close feel down through the flaps.

anyway. not a fit. le sigh. 
So I took it back to the barn to try out in our weekly jump lesson with trainer P. Unfortunately right away after putting the saddle on the horse, I could tell that this particular saddle was not going to be a winner. It's just a little too wide up front, and had barely 2 fingers of clearance from his withers without a girth or rider.

nice even contact all the way down the back, unlike my bates
Obvi the clearance issue is a deal breaker, but it's still interesting to assess how this saddle fits differently from the Bates. Most importantly? These panels seem much better suited for Charlie's back compared to the Bates' more swoopy panels that lift off his back under the cantle.

more clearance (tho slightly uphill) with shims
I figured I'd try to ride in it anyway just to test it out. Honestly thinking back, I can't remember the last time I jumped in any saddle other than the Bates. Might actually be back when I was riding Dan's P / 1* horse Lion in lessons, and rode in his Stubben. So yea. It's been a while haha.

maybe worth a whirl anyway?
The saddle looked good enough with the shims for me to figure it was worth a shot. Tho uh.... once I got on it was pretty clear that there still was not sufficient clearance. Luckily after conferring with Trainer P ahead of our lesson, she was able to find a giant chunky ass sheepskin half pad to get the job done.

It was interesting too bc I was just sorta walking and trotting Charlie around a little bit while she went looking for the pad. He wasn't bad or grumpy or anything, but didn't really feel great. Then when we swapped pads he was definitely much happier, and eager to stretch over his back. Yet another reminder that it's worth it to keep him as comfortable as possible!

ha but the shims weren't quite enough so we switched to this massive sheepskin lol
So anyway you already saw my post on the lesson itself. It was a good one! And Charlie felt good, and clearly could perform well despite rider error and a less than ideal saddling situation.

The real question was how did I feel in the saddle? And?? I really liked it. The saddle gave me a really really really close feel all the way down my leg against the horse's side. Like it was easier than ever before to really put my upper calf on the horse, instead of always trying to curl my leg up to nudge with my heel.

i liked the close feel my leg had on the horse through this saddle! esp my upper calf!
I also felt very secure. No matter what Charlie did, it felt very easy to ride with a long leg underneath me. And even some of our funnier jumps, I always felt very secure, while simultaneously not feeling reliant on the blocks.

Honestly I was pretty smitten with the saddle. It wasn't in the best shape (some rough patches and nicks on the leather, and the foam panels were pretty well smooshed, further contributing to the overly wide fit) so there might have been some room for negotiation on price. But alas, the fit is just not close enough for even a negotiated price.

It's given me a pretty clear idea of what I like tho, and what I could maybe look around for. Honestly I don't *need* a new jump saddle. The Bates has worked out just fine. But especially with my hopes to keep challenging ourselves with more difficult courses this year, some improvements in saddle fit for both horse and rider would not be unwelcome.

We'll see what happens haha. I never expected to even be interested in shopping for a French saddle but things change I guess lol.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

bite-sized jump lessons

We finally got to ride outside this week!! TWICE!!!! Not like, for anything serious or anything, but STILL. Riding outside!! Wooo Hooo!!

there goes charlie making a 3'3 jump look like 2'3. c'mon bro, try a little bit??
I managed to ride in the outdoor dressage court one night, which was very nice to have the extra space. Tho the footing was literally freezing more by the minute, so we just stuck to walk and trot for ~35min. Charlie has a LOT of pent up energy right now and reeeeeally just needs a good gallop. In time, tho, in time. He seemed happy enough to trot around outside lol.

person for scale lol. the smaller natural standards are 3', so those left two fences are solidly in N territory. the right two tho? yea the blue oxer was belly button height on me when i hopped off to grab my sweatshirt.  
We also got to finally go for a nice long hack through the woods and fields this past weekend too. So far our winter has been wet but otherwise mostly mild. Except the few nasty cold snaps have fallen on the weekends - my only daylight hours at the barn. So it's been keeping us off the trails.

Not this weekend tho, and Charlie seemed again to be really happy to get outside -- he was actually *marching* on the trail instead of his normal lazy amble haha.

omgosh so fierce tho on landing, chuck!
All the same, tho, we were still inside for our weekly jump lesson with trainer P. The ground is just too hard, with weird mixed layers of wet and frozen. That's ok, tho, I think Charlie and I are finally adjusted to the confines of our little 20x40m indoor.

we may be a little, ahem, rusty at jumping this height stadium fences lol
And considering I've resigned myself to not having anything particularly exciting on the calendar for a little while yet, we have no urgent need to do anything very specific in our lessons. Honestly it's kinda just play time. Which is fine by me for now.

still pretty boss at the N fences tho!
And the exercises themselves for the ride were pretty straight forward. Apparently a lot of horses earlier in the day were kinda just not feeling things. These wild temperature swings have made the horses kinda a little blah (and actually we've had a number of colic scares at the barn recently....) so trainer P kept things reeally simple with just four fences zig-zagging across the middle E-B line of the arena, each on a diagonal.

practice makes perf-good-enough tho, right? 
Every corner had a pole marker that riders were directed to go outside of for every turn. And trainer P wanted to see us in a tiny bouncy-ball canter doing the add strides to the fences. Really collected, but with a lot of impulsion.

omg he's so excited for me to mess him up at that fence again lol
For me, this felt easy enough while we cruised through everything warming up at lower heights. But when P set everything up to what you see in the pics and video (a mix of N and T), I got a little caught out.

lol sorry buddy, i tried!!
When the jumps were bigger, it was a lot more obvious that my idea of a "collected" canter really did not have the energy and impulsion necessary. My feel was way off, and I was more likely to gun it for the long flat spot vs keeping the revs up in our collected canter..

In my defense, we haven't schooled T stadium fences in a pretty long time. There was just one or two in the Phillip Dutton clinic, but otherwise it's been since September or October probably. Instead, more recently we've been jumping T cross country fences. One thing I still have to learn: the difference in style between show jumping and cross country becomes more obvious and important as height increases.

wheeee indoor jumping haha
It worked out well enough tho. P encouraged me to go large around the ring, getting almost a lengthened canter feel down the long side, then collecting in the short end but maintaining the energy before turning to the jumps. The key was to not get dull or flat or backward. I'm just still kinda slow to figure out if our canter is good enough until it's a little too late lol.

Charlie honestly felt pretty good tho. Honestly pretty happy. It occurred to me the other day that I can't actually remember the last time Charlie had one of his "dinosaur stuck in tar-pit" tantrums. Like those moments will always be there haha, esp when I really start pissing the horse off.

But for now he's kinda just cruisin around. Even when the jumps got a little bigger and I kinda fumbled the approach. Nbd, Charlie still took care of business.

handsome pony <3 and wait a second -- that saddle is a different color than my normal bates!?
I'm eager to get more proper course work practice, and may or may not be scheming for some lesson opportunities in larger indoors in the next couple weeks. For now tho I am actually really enjoying treating these weekly jump lessons as more like fun playtime.

It's like the little bite-sized morsels of useful schooling exercises (like the skinny barrels of the past couple weeks, or the bigger T fences this week) are giving us just enough to stay relatively sharp. But it's not so much as to feel like "work." I like it!

Monday, January 28, 2019

KonMari my tack trunk!

It's kinda amazing to me how much stuff we equestrians accumulate over time. The volume alone is absurd. Then you spread it around between various closets at home, the backseat or trunk of your car, the trailer, and your tack trunk at the barn (plus god knows whatever other storage there is... garages, attics, basements, what have you).

roller ball spurs that i bought and literally never used
It adds up quickly, almost without us ever really realizing it. For me, personally, the accumulation is all the more curious bc... uh, I only just bought my first own personal pony two years ago. So tell my why most of the stuff pictured in this post predates the horse?!?

why do i have so many nosebands tho????
I mean, obviously a lot of it was for Isabel, too. She totally counts. Although some of it also predates her, to be honest, but oh well.

and like... why so many spare flash straps? how did i not know that i had them before going out and buying moar??
There's so much stuff of varying sizes too. Like I guess I never wanted to get rid of anything bc who could know what my "future horse" would wear size-wise? And so I collected and collected. Really, it's kinda obscene.

the consignment shop was happy to take these, meanwhile i wasn't sure people even wore non-zipper tall boots anymore...
Lately tho, I've been hearing a ton about the new reality TV show "Tidying Up" with Marie Kondo. Whose ultimate mantra is that we should keep what sparks joy, and let go of the rest.

spare halter breakaway
It was kinda a tantalizing thought, tbh, haha. Was my massive collection of dusty musty moldy tack really truly bringing me joy? Every time I had to fight to shove my saddle onto its rack beyond all those extra boots and bridles.... was that really a joyful feeling?

one of many girths, and a whole bunch of narrow gullet plates bc of that one saddle fitter years ago who wanted everything in a narrow...
Plus, combined with my new zeal for budgeting ahead of a year that will be more expensive than in the past (if all goes to plan, at least)... Well. It got me thinking whether some of this crazy stockpile of equipment might actually spark more joy if I could transform or otherwise convert it into a couple greenbacks.

speaking of adjustable gullet plates..... my Bates dressage saddle is officially for sale
And so. Spring cleaning came early to 'Fraidy Cat Eventing haha!

it served me well over the years, i'll be sad(happy) to see it find a new home!
I went through all my little caches of horsey paraphernalia and pulled out all the stuff that I simply am not using. Much of which hasn't been touched in maybe years. All those spare nosebands. The old pair of fillis irons that were replaced by newer hi-tech gear... All those various styles of spur that I bought, when all I actually wear in reality are my tiny tom thumb nudgers.

comes with medium (black) gullet plate
It all had to go.

adjustable point billets + nice thigh block that won't push you around too much
I spent a couple hours over last week and weekend just sorting through the stuff and cleaning it all up. Then made a couple trips up to my local consignment shop at Maryland Saddlery to list everything with them.

anybody wanty? asking $800, all reasonable offers considered. email fraidycat.eventing at gmail ;)
I thought about offering it all here, but the idea of trying to figure out pricing plus shipping, and then making any trips to the post office.... Honestly that idea was kinda daunting and overwhelming to me. And possibly was why it had taken me so long to get around to organizing all this stuff anyway.

moar stuff for consignment tho.... they didn't accept that bonnet bc of the sun bleaching so i guess that's up for grabs too haha
Really, I just needed an escape. An immediate "eject" button. A way to quickly just jettison it all. And so off to consignment it all went.

why do i have so many spurs? and it's time to stop holding on to all these bits i'm never gonna use on chuck
Admittedly I made one feeble attempt to list those roller ball spurs on Facebook, but idk if it's my #cavetroll or #socialmedialessemma status or what but the post was immediately flagged as not in compliance with FB policies so I tossed that idea too haha.

oh hey look, here's more strap goods that make complete bridles with all those earlier nosebands!
We'll see if any of it sells at consignment over the next couple months. If not I'll probably pick at least some of it back up again (they donate unsold items to a therapeutic riding center, so I could just let nature take its course) and try other channels.

so. many. girths. why.
In the meantime, tho, it feels flipping fantastic to have shed so much figurative (and literal! those fillis irons and gullet plates especially were heavy!) weight.

that figure 8 tho.... well... 
And maybe if I'm really lucky, eventually all those odds and ends, bits and pieces, above will metamorphose into some new and desperately needed breeches haha.

maybe i'll hold on to this one for now ;)
The only thing that didn't go to the consignors is the Bates dressage saddle above. Hit me up if you're interested in any details on that saddle. It's a nice hunk of leather and has fit a wide variety of horses. Asking $800 but open to offers.

And who knows, maybe more stuff will get purged soon too. Bc god it feels good haha. Maybe KonMari is really onto something with the whole "keep only what sparks joy" idea. It's kinda invigorating to let this stuff go!!

Did you watch the show? Has it inspired you to take a fresh look at all your stuff? Are you like me in stockpiling all manner of horsey equipment on the off chance that "I might need this later!"?? Or are you really good at moving stuff out as soon as it's not useful to you?