Sunday, June 24, 2012

Moving up to Novice

next weekend at the Hopeful Horse Trials.  Nervous!

Monday, June 18, 2012

XC in the most BEAUTIFUL place.

Rural Idaho.  Who knew it could be so beautiful?

I went straight from work to the barn on Friday, soon to be picked up my friend Morgan and her huge fancy trailer.  Huge as in she almost wasn't able to get turned around, thank god for goosenecks.  We were headed to the Fran O'Reilly clinic at 100 Acre Wood Farm in Princeton, Idaho.

The further south you go in Idaho, the more rural it gets.  After two hours you're in the middle of NOWHERE.  I was seriously wondering who in their right mind would choose to live out there, I mean, why?  The dirt road "driveway" was at least a couple of miles up a fairly good grade, and then we arrived.  On the top of a mountain, on the top of the world.  360 degree views of mountains and forests.  Beautiful sand dressage arena, rolling green hills with cross country  jumps.  A beautiful "off the grid" house insulated with straw bales, run by solar and wind power.  Lunch on both days was a huge potluck in the kitchen.  A bunkhouse (for free!) with a full bathroom.

The morning of day one was a group dressage lesson, a lot of what I learned in my last lesson with Jessica was reinforced.  The afternoon was cross country, and everything went fantastic

 until the giant 5 foot ditch.  I wish I would have gotten a picture of it.  He stopped but it wasn't dirty, he was just like "what the F*** is THAT?"  Fran informed all of us that a horse's stride is 12 feet so they can practically canter over it.  (This was after the two horses before us absolutely refused to get anywhere near it for what seemed like hours.) Jasper did not believe her and jumped the hell out of that nasty thing.

On day two we signed up for dressage tests.  We could ride any test we wanted any amount of times, and she judged them and we got the sheets back to look over before we tried again.  I rode BN A twice and Novice B twice.  Our scores basically sucked.

In the afternoon (in the hurricane winds) we got to pick our our own XC course, ride it, get some instruction, and re-ride any parts we wanted to.  I asked Fran if she thought we were ready for the bank, and she said sure, just walk up it and drop off.  What I meant was did she think we were ready to jump up AND down, and she said sure but if you decide to do it then you have to do it.  The side nearest the spectators was 2'6.  The back side was an uphill approach (or a downhill drop) so and was quite a bit taller.  We warmed up, trotted up the ramp to the bank, and he barely hesitated before dropping off.  Picked up a canter and leaped up the back side of the bank.  I was expecting a halt, or at least a walk, or some sort of hesitation, but he pretty much launched off the other side.  I don't know what I was doing besides flying through the air with no contact with saddle or horse, but in the video you can hear me scream a little.  And I don't think I got organized or got my reins back... ever.

THEN in order to teach me a lesson about staying organized and getting my reins back she made us jump something after the bank.  The first one was hard but it was a long ways away so we had some time to get it together.  Still jumped the second jump badly.  Oh, I need to keep leg on before all the jumps?  Even when I forget?

The last run we jumped up the short side of the bank and down the BIG drop, then had NO time before a giant black skinny ramp-tiger-trap-ish jump.  She told me if I couldn't get my reins back to make a big "V", which is what I tried to do, and did it badly.  Jasper, somehow, at the last minute decided we were close enough to jump it and did.  It was the second time he bailed me out this weekend.  The first time was another skinny tall wooden thing up a pretty good hill.  I got him in at a horrible distance (you can hear me say "uh oh!" in the video) and he went anyway.


 I don't usually anthropomorphize or put human feelings on animals, but I swear Jasper was pretty pleased with himself after the bank jumping.  I can't explain it, you could just tell that he knew he did something pretty great. 

The only photos I have are stills from the video, but there was a gal there taking pictures.  She's going to make CDs for everyone, I can't wait to get them!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Packing ughhhhhhh

We have a dressage/jumping clinic with Fran O 'Riley down in Princeton, Idaho on Saturday and a derby on Sunday.  Fun!  We're getting a ride with a friend and are leaving tomorrow straight after work.  Ugh.  Which means I was at the barn until 8:30 bathing horse and packing up horse stuff, (tack (not CLEAN tack, mind you!), grooming equipment, hay, buckets, feed, boots, first aid, extra halters, extra lead ropes, etc etc etc.)  went to the grocery store, and am now home at 10 starting to pack people stuff.  Camping two nights, riding clothes, sleeping clothes, clothes in case it gets hot, camping type food, coolers, toiletries, sleeping bag, etc etc etc.   Sometimes I get overwhelmed and do something completely non-productive.  Like writing this blog.  Oh, I need to remember to charge the video camera.  I should go plug that in.  Right now.  Hmm.  I'm tired.  Maybe if I go to bed now I can get up really early and finish packing. 

Yeah, right- THAT will happen.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dressage with Jessica Wisdom

Jessica and Welsh Cob stallion Cardi showing Jasper the ocean was not going to kill him back in 2010.
Photo by Carolynn Bunch

In 2010, when Jasper was 4 turning 5, I did a working student stint with Jessica Wisdom.  I had seen her teach in clinics in Spokane and totally clicked with the way she taught, but couldn't afford to ride with her.  I wanted to get Jasper's formal training off to a good start with correct basics.  She needed a groom to go down to California with her and then a working student for a couple of months at her barn in Yelm, WA.  Life circumstances allowed me to do this, and in exchange I got about 5 lessons a week on Jasper.

Two months of dressage lessons paid off when we went to Aspen Farms and won the dressage phase at our first 3-Day-Event.  Since then I haven't had a dressage lesson.  Actually I can count the number of lessons I've had on one hand.  I decided it was time to get with it again, so when she came to town last month I rode with her.

I will not bore you to with the 45 minute video of our ride as watching dressage is kind of like watching paint dry.  Here are some of the highlights:

"Bring the whole forehand to the center as a unit when circling.  C-shaped from nose to tail."

"Keep thinking shoulder fore"

"Don't let him splat..."

"I'm looking for a weapon (crop)"

"The left rein is not sacrilege, you can use it but then let it go."

"Even on the straight you need that slight bit of bend of shoulder fore to keep him balanced and onto your outside rein."

"...coiling his power and expanding that trot a little bit."

"He doesn't use as much freedom as he has in his body.  He trots for a "6" when I think he could trot for a "7" or an "8" now."

"Working from compression to lengthening.  Everything feels right right now, could I power this up a little bit?"

"You post BIGGER.  You post like he is FANCIER.  POST!"

"Ride him fancier!  Tap, tap, tap..."

"When you feel like he's pulling on your left rein is when he's not moving off your left leg sufficiently and you feel you have to upright him with your left rein."

"Just say, I'm not holding you any more pal and you're shit on your own bud."

" long as he is not behind the bit.  If the poll is a little bit low it's not the end of the world it's just a little bit like stretchy circle.  If that gives him more freedom over his back, which it may, then use that.  Then bring the poll up."

"Pressure him.  Make him step three inches bigger."

"When you get to the show ring the poll should be the highest point.  That being said, put his fricking poll down and show lengthening.  So it's a little lower than ideal but if you show lengthening that's going to be better than the poll staying up and him running like a chicken."

"Teach him that like a party trick."

"He's not built for a super spectacular extended trot.  To a certain extent you're going to have to manufacture the mechanic, and then it will become natural to him.  And then sell it to me... yeah, he totally did this all on his own, it's totally natural to him."

Thanks to Sharon Uhder for videoing!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Deep Creek Derby

Photos by Bobby Austin...!



When my alarm went off at 5am on Saturday it was cold, dark, and pouring rain.  It was physically painful to get out of bed and head to the soggy barn to hook up the trailer.  Added to the crappy weather was the knowledge that the day before I had had my worst ride on Jasper EVER.  He decided he could not go from a halt to a walk and at one point reared straight up.  Rearing is the one thing I will not put up with, and by the end of the ride we were both drenched in sweat and frazzled.  I was accepting the fact that all trust gained between us might be lost and this competition might be a disaster.

Pulled into Deep Creek late, tacked up in a whirlwind while Jasper was still shaking from his trailer ride (he always unloads shaking), Serena got my number for me and we headed towards the dressage areas that were on the other side of the creek.  Which he would not go near.

Finally someone noticed us and offered a lead which was gratefully accepted. I went to the wrong arena and was told they were waiting for me in the other one.  It was just a warm up test, Intro B, in a sand arena (the sand arena was actually good- horses were slipping all over in the wet grass).  He spooked at the letter pylons, the judge's stand, and jumped when the sand hit the white plastic fencing.  At one point I actually half smiled and rolled my eyes when his whole body spasmed and jumped in place, and then kept trotting on.  I'm wondering if that was what earned the comment "tactful" in the Rider's Position (keeping in balance with horse) section.  Was informed by the judge afterwards that he was rooting which "is not the same thing as free walking."  Gee, thanks. Good to know.  37.5.

An  hour and a  half later was our BN-A test.  By this time the rain had let up and things (including us) were starting to dry out.  Jasper was still tense and "hopping" into down transitions before we went in, but it was the same arena and the judge gave us a long time to trot around before she rang the starting bell.  The test felt much better than the first one. It wasn't fantastic-  he was unbalanced and throwing his head up in the transitions, wouldn't get off of my left leg, and was sucking back throughout the test eyeballing the evil pylons. He was much more relaxed though, which in my mind was a major score no matter what else happened.  The video makes it look a lot better than it felt.  I don't know why there's a green stripe across the top...

After a tack change we headed up the big hill to the XC course, got lost once, and arrived at the top in the crazy wind.  The warm up area was within sight, and the first thing I saw was a horse spooking and bolting when a particularly strong gust made all the plastic flags marking the arena strain at the ends of their tethers and whip around.

Luckily the girl riding him got him back under control pretty quickly.  I had flashbacks to 2009 when I brought Jasper here for the "Rock Hopper" (ground pole) division and it was not windy and he would NOT GO NEAR those horse eating flags.

 Memories of 2009.  My finger was broken in 2 places and I was wearing a splint.

I checked in and began trotting around the warm up and Jasper let out a  huge sigh and started to relax.  We went right by the flags, he was calm and responsive to the jumps, and even offered to stand still for a few seconds while Serena told me what the course was.

We went in for our warm-up round, I entered it mainly because I wanted to school the water.  Decided just to trot everything unless he happened to land on the correct lead.  I'm glad we entered it because the jumps were freshly painted and very, very bright... Jasper said whoa, those things are NOT supposed to be out in a field!

The BN course was the same as the warm up with higher jumps, an added line of 5 or 6 cross country jumps, and one more water obstacle.   I rode well when I remembered to actually ride and rode crappy when I got distracted.  Jasper was awesome.  We almost had a stop at a tiny 12" bank, I still don't know why other than it was next to a ditch.  Ditches don't usually bother him, so who knows.  My friend Anke brought her whole family out to watch and so every time we went through the water or over a jump they all clapped and cheered. :)

My mom came out to support and spend her Saturday morning videoing and was able to get my BN dresssage test and the warm up jumping.  Thanks Mom!  Something went wrong with the camera after that. 

There were 35 people in the BN division which they split into two groups.  I wanted to pick up our dressage tests but had to wait until everyone was done jumping and the scores were posted for a half an hour.  Really?  Why?  We had a 37.5 in the warm up which put us in second.  We also had a 37.5 in BN which put us in third.  I was pretty disappointed with that score, I thought he did much, much, much better in BN.  Finally everyone finished up jumping, they posted the scores, and I got my tests.  The BN test was 32.5, not 37.5!  Not a 28 or 29 like we've gotten before, but respectable and it put us in first place.  Woot woot!

I am a very brave horse now.  You can attach flappy things to my halter.


And a few more photos from this event in 2009, just to show how far we've come...

Dude.  Ears.

Invisible top rail.

That thing will not grab MY hooves...

An excuse to accelerate.

Dude.  Ears.