Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Week 4 Review

Tuesday 5/26
Day off after the hard ride yesterday.

Wednesday 5/27
I had a reasonable ride. It was constructive, and we got some good work done, but she just WILL NOT bend correctly to the left and it's driving me off the wall. She tilts her face to the right and locks up all down her neck and arghhhhhhhhhh.

Thursday 5/28
Chiropractor day! Lots of things to work on but I'm super pleased: he says all her issues now are typical of hard-working eventers - regular hard athletics-induced tweaks, not fundamental problems with how she's carrying herself. Let's look at the sheet...
Lots of 2s and a few 3s - this is on his scale of 5, where 1 is 'nothing wrong' and 5 is 'get some Bute in the horse tonight and I'll come out tomorrow to work this thing out.' She used to get quite a lot of 4s with a few 3s, and he was VERY pleased with her progress.
Minor things in her jaw, neck, a little twist in her back, a little tightness in her tail. She had 3s in elbow/deltoids and triceps area, stifle/bicep area, and some abdominal muscles. He said these are pretty common in eventers - front-end stuff.
Here's his written comments: "Elbow torque with retracted shoulder - slow strong release to straight stride and posture. Minor lumbar and neck - multiplies counter balance."

Friday 5/29
Awesome XC lesson at the Westlake's farm. Lots of uphills, just enough to keep Pandora really nicely balanced and in tune with half-halts. Good variety, some trotting downhill, bigger and smaller fences, good long gallop uphill to a brush fence, one ditch with log in the back, over a water-trough skinny with no troubles. Superstar horse tonight.

Saturday 5/30
Dressage lesson with Biagina. It was awesome! Pandora was not pleased to be pulled out for another lesson after a hard day's work yesterday, but at Lily Glen we'll be riding twice a day for four days in a row, so she'd better get used to it.
She had us working on bend. I didn't realize how resistant Pandora was until Biagina made me do it right! I know what to do now, though - she was having me really just INSIST that Pandora bend, never mind the outside shoulder. When I asked, she said I could ask her to bend properly (without popping out the outside shoulder) once she was willingly and softly bending her neck. Very educational.
She changed the way I hold my hands, asking me to have a little more bend in my wrist. Surprising - I thought wrists were supposed to be straight - but Pandora responded very well.
She insisted that I separate the functions of inside and outside reins. Outside is for speed and asking the head to come down, inside is for bend.
Also suggested longeing in side reins, because at the canter she's pulling me out of a balanced position so I can't ride well. That means I need to acquire a surcingle and side reins - already have the longeing caveson - but it seems like it would be a good long-term investment anyway.
Overall it was a very constructive lesson and I really like her.

Sunday 5/31
Okay, NOW she gets a day off :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May Week 3 Review

Monday 5/18
Gave Pandora another day off.

Tuesday 5/19
I had kind of a frustrating ride. She was behaving pretty oddly - rushing (which she rarely does) with short little steps, basically just tuning me out. I kept at it for about a half hour and eventually realized we weren't going to get any productive work done. So I spent 10 minutes or so doing some nice, quiet, polite walk work, then called it a day. You can't win 'em all, right?

Wednesday 5/20
Had a much better ride tonight. Schooled dressage. That dang left bend is coming back to haunt us again, and badly - she simply would not flex her jaw to the left at the trot, nor would she bend politely without swinging her haunches out. I did the best I could to correct it, riding hard, riding soft, flexing at the walk and halt, free trot, but nothing shook it loose. In the end I decided to just ride correctly and ignore it, which confused her a bit I think, but led to some reasonably productive work.
I have a call in to the chiropractor. I understand some of the left bend issue is psychological, but when she's resisting me this strongly, it usually means she's being bothered. Besides, it has been about 2 months since her last appointment, and every 2 months is usually when she starts getting out of whack again.

Thursday 5/21
Nice short hack with my mom and McKinna. Pandora was much better this time than the last time we went out with McKinna, very calm and relaxed. On the way back McKinna was acting terrible and we had a hard spook-session at some trash cans. I made Pandora go up and make friends with the trash can, but couldn't spend too long on it because Mom and McKinna were having some behavioral problems. We were close to home but McKinna was awfully naughty after that, ignoring Mom and spooking and generally misbehaving. Pandora kept her head on straight, so that was good. I guess I need to do some schooling with McKinna out on the roads by herself.

Friday 5/22
Day off. They have been out in paddocks 24/7 so no big deal.

Saturday 5/23
Gallop session! We definitely made some progress. I did one round of 6/3/1 (6 minutes walking, 3 minutes trotting, 1 minute canter/gallop), then did several reps of a walk rest/gallop set. I'm not sure how long those were, but the gallop sets were close to 3 or 4 minutes and the walks were about the same.
She was great. I tried riding with a bridge at the gallop and it seemed to make a big difference - I will have to explore this more. There were times when she listened really well and came back to me the moment I half-halted on a light rein, there were times when she wanted to ignore me completely. We got going pretty fast sometimes and it was very cool. Just as I hoped when I started my galloping practice, I have lost a lot of my fear and am a lot more comfortable letting her open up the gears a little bit.
Also found out she does flying changes on her own. The first time it was an accident, because she picked up the wrong lead and tried to really run for it, so I put her on a small circle. She swapped leads to be on the correct one. So, in my next gallop set, I did a nice big figure-8 through the field and asked her to change. She didn't change exactly when I asked, but a stride or two later. We did it one more time after that. So, I don't have to worry about lead changes on XC!
It was a great experience. We did 4 or maybe 5 gallop sets total. She cooled out really nicely - after about 4 minutes of walking her breathing was pretty much normal. I untacked her, hosed her down with cool water (which she never approves of, but tough luck), scraped her, then put her out in the paddock to get a drink of water and a nice long roll.

Sunday 5/24
Another day off. Hard work yesterday, hard work tomorrow!

Monday 5/25
It was an interesting day. We rode a course of 20 fences, spread all through the derby field and out into the upper field, in randomly drawn pairs. Unfortunately, my partner seemed to have turbo jets, even garnering a warning from the announcer to slow down (the course was not timed). Therefore, the whole ride I was stuck between trying to keep up with her (and thus letting Pandora go a bit faster than I wanted, thus exciting her, thus making me have to floss her teeth every time I wanted her attention) or trying to slow down, which made me fall way behind and get confused about what I was jumping next.
It was frustrating. Pandora was not nearly as responsive as I wanted her to be, at ALL. I think that was the most upsetting part, especially because I think with any other partner it would have gone a lot more smoothly.
We need to do some serious schooling about straightness and steering. It's not that she doesn't really go in the direction I point her, but a lot of times she kinda drifts sideways and ignores my outside rein. Not okay.
On the plus side, Pandora did not spook or try to stop at any fences. And we jumped a bunch of big, solid 2'9 ones. My partner and I ended up taking 3rd place, not too bad.
In the drawing afterwards, I won a free lesson from the trainer at the farm. So, I am going to go out there and take a XC lesson from her sometime soon and we can hopefully work through some of these frustrating problems.
At least I know that next month I have five days at Lily Glen, and that much intensive work should really help me out.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

May Progress Check

End-of-month goal: Feel prepared to have a solid competition at Beginner Novice -- though I have decided not to attend the HT due to the cost. Easily smooth and controlled w/t/c/g in the open with good half-halts at gallop, smooth and controlled fences at 2’9 or higher (some stadium, but focusing on XC), excellent fitness. Walk, trot, and canter through water. Achieve a reasonable dressage test away from home.

I believe I nailed most of these goals yesterday alone!

Prepared to compete at BN - yep. We wouldn't win, but we wouldn't be dead last either. She is forward and willing, and hasn't given me any indication yet that she is scared of any fences. Her dressage is fantastic at home and in warmup, just a little distracted and nervous in the competition arena, which can only be fixed by miles.

Smooth and controlled w/t/c/g in open with half halts at gallop - we're not quite there yet. I have the smooth and controlled w/t/c. Our gallop is smooth and reasonably controlled, but I just don't have the level of half-halts I want. I know what I need to do: spend a whole session just working on half-halts in the open and immediate, prompt responses. We are at a stage where her occasional ignoring of the bit does not mean we need a stronger bit, it just means we need more practice and training.

Smooth and controlled fences at 2'9 or higher (stadium, mostly XC) - definitely yes. I've realized that schooling fences at the boarding barn just doesn't tend to work out, probably because the arena is sloped strangely in odd places and it's a tad small. I will have to see what I can do to minimize this. But, at the Combined Test yesterday, we were smooth and controlled over the stadium fences, and over XC fences that were easily 3'. The only thing we need to do here is learn to take bigger/more forward steps so we quit chipping in at weird distances.

Excellent fitness - sure? I am not sure how to tell, to be honest. Well, I know I need to do a workout and check her t/p/r consistently. Okay, for the last two weeks of May I will be firm with myself and check tpr frequently to at least give myself a baseline.

Walk, trot, canter through water - took care of this one yesterday ;) I don't think my girl has a water 'problem' anymore.

Reasonable dressage test away from home - again, we did this yesterday. It wasn't spectacular, but it was certainly reasonable. Now I know what to improve next time.

Overall, I damn near completed this month's goals in the first couple weeks. Go me!

May Week 2 Review

Monday 5/11
Had a good ride. Worked on dressage things, she was obedient. Since the weather was nice, we went out to the field and I ran through Beginner Novice Test A, knowing that her attention outside would be more similar to what it'll be like at the show on Saturday. She was 'up' but quite good, we had a beautiful canter transition to the right.

Tuesday 5/12
Day off.

Wednesday 5/13
Good dressage school. I don't really remember what I worked on, but I was pleased with it!

Thursday 5/14
Jump school. Not the best ride I've ever had. The arena was a little crowded, we spent a little too much time on tiny fences, the two-stride was more like 1 and 3/4 strides...just frustrating. Then she wouldn't settle down, especially coming to the 2'9ish diagonal panel fence, which she charged at every time. She jumped a big square oxer nicely though. Frustrating in general.
Went out to the field to cool my temper - the other girls came with, and we ended up having a good time just galloping around the field together. Pandora has found a good cruising pace, no idea how fast it is, but it's steady when I just hang out in 2-point with a light contact. Chased some geese. It was good to get out and run, I think it helped both of us burn off some frustrated energy.

Friday 5/15
Bath time! She is so easy, just hook up this sprayer bottle to the hose, wet her down, spray all over with the soapy stuff, then rinse. The only things you have to do separately are her mane, tail, and tiny little socks. She stood like a champ the whole time and was super shiny and clean.

Saturday 5/16
Wonderful day at the schooling show (combined test), better than I was hoping for. Dressage was very mediocre - judge gave us a 40.5 (eventing score), which I thought was quite generous. That put us tied for 5th.
Stadium was really good. I was on her too long - I think she really prefers about a 10 minute warmup for stadium, just enough to w/t/c and jump a couple fences, she gets cranky if I stay on her for too long. Which I did, since the divisions were running a little late. I hopped off and stood with her, which helped her settle down. Our round was pretty good. She was not spooky at the fences, of which several were set at max height. Pace was steady. We got awkward distances to most things, but she came out of everything fine. I realize every time that to hit the striding, we just need to ride with more pace/a bigger step.
Ended up fourth overall, and I'm quite happy with that!
Went out to school XC after the show was over. It was hot. Jumped a few things, decided to tackle the water, which was decidedly anticlimactic. After about 30 seconds of walking back and forth at water's edge, she walked right in and sploshed through the relatively deep water with no qualms. We trotted and even cantered through, and she was happy as a clam. If we cantered away from a fence toward the water, I had to practically drag her back to the trot, and then she started cantering in the water anyway. Silly horse.
I made up a little course. We jumped a small unrevetted ditch and then one with a log over it. I went over some larger rolltops and coosp, definitely Novice at least. Kept getting tight distances until I let her go a tiny bit more, the last fence was perfect. Need to practice galloping more - steering/not drifting to the outside, and pace regulation. Her rating is not as responsive or prompt as I would like. I'm sure I'll get help with that at my eventing camps this summer.
A fantastic day, overall.

Sunday 5/17
A well-deserved day off :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May Week 1 Review

Friday May 1
I'm pretty sure I rode, but I actually don't remember :x

Saturday May 2
Awesome dressage lesson with Melinda. Worked on really getting her to carry herself and moving towards real connection -- it's new for both of us and still very hard to feel correctly, so we'll need more lessons. Worked on 20-meter circle almost the whole time, after warmup. Reins much shorter, need to stop throwing her away just when she relaxes into contact. Always always always steady outside rein, outside leg BACK to keep the haunches in line, flex slightly inside with the rein while bending with the inside leg, then release and ask her to soften into the contact.
Interspersed periods of this with free walk or trot or canter. The quality of her gait changed a lot when we went into free motion: swinging, freer, longer steps. I need to maintain this feeling once I connect her again. Melinda says to always give the inside-bend aids before allowing a free rein, to help associate gentle inside softening with total relaxation.

Sunday May 3
Day off. She got free-longed around the round pen, since the OHSET team was using the arena for the whole time we were out there. It was VERY wet in the [outdoor] round pen, and Pandora was not a big fan of all the puddles, but she still went nicely.

So let me preface this by saying that I did reeeeally bad this week. I was having a bit of a rough week school-wise, and my dog injured himself in the middle of the night Monday, so I just..didn't really ride. Which is bad! Next month is going to be a huge month for me, and I have a Combined Test next weekend (dressage and stadium jumping) that's going to be just awful if I don't get some riding time in. So next week I need to really buckle down.

Monday May 4

Tuesday May 5

Wednesday May 6
Free-longed. Seeing a pattern yet?

Thursday May 7
Had a great ride tonight. I rode with a friend around the 2-mile loop. We went through a lot of water-filled ditches today, which I would say was a mediocre success. She always took a flying leap the first time. Twice we stopped to school it. The first time it was pretty long, and very shallow, and a bit running, so it was like a small little stream. She actually would walk through it, but just did not like having her feet in the water. The next time was a much larger, deeper pond-type thing, but not too deep. We leapt over it the first time (probably 6 feet?) and when I tried to get her to go through it, she just would not budge. I felt bad, but I didn't want to just leave it. So I got off and tried to lead her through. She disapproved, but went through once. The next time, she finally seemed to give in: she paused, very deliberately took a step into the water, and walked/trotted through without leaping or running me over. I called that good.
Doing this is actually much harder than it's going to be on an XC course, for now at least -- the water complexes we'll see are very inviting, with really good footing, and not at the bottom of a [shallow] ditch. Still, it is good practice, and I can still feel definite improvement. We are not going to go to Inavale this weekend because it rained all week, so hopefully we'll get to go week after next.

Oh, we also took a detour on our loop. There's a dead-end with a big hill that we walked up - and it was a beast! Pretty steep and long. Pandora really powered up, taking big huge walk steps, but I could tell it was really hard for her. By the end she was tiring out, and I think the steepness worried her a little. I will be careful about how often I ride it, and if we always go all the way up to the top. The rest of the ride was uneventful, though we did get a little impromptu passage when a herd of young horses galloped up to their fence and then away again. :)

Friday May 8
Pandora just stayed in the field, and they were out overnight too, finally. I had a Biology field trip to Fall Creek from 1 - 7pm, which was actually pretty fun. I can now identify lots of common native plants, and we got to go on an hourlong hike along the creek, which was really nice. The weather was perfect.

Saturday May 9
Left 'em out in the pasture. Did I mention that I have a huge history project due on Monday?

Sunday May 10
My mom and I had a nice mother's day ride today. I worked on some of the stuff I learned last week in the Melinda lesson. It went okay, I think? It's so hard to tell since she's had me working on such subtle stuff that even when she was right there guiding me, it was hard to feel exactly what was going on. Oh well - it felt like a good solid workout, and I feel like we made some progress.

Free trot to the left not good, she wants to bend to the outside and cut in and increase tempo. I know that means I'm not doing it right before I stretch her, but I'm not sure what to do, and by this time in the ride she was getting a little resistant. I guess I just need to keep trying.

The free canter was nice.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

April Review, May Outline

April Outline: Time to start thinking about XC as soon as the weather turns and courses are open for schooling. This will be the month for putting miles on Pandora: lots and lots of trail rides and road riding. We need to get over her fear of water ASAP so I don’t have to worry about it later in the season. Also need to find out if she’s controllable at speed in the open.
All our long slow distance should really help with conditioning for the upcoming months too.
I want to spend time jumping low, wide oxers and really adding frightening decorations to fences.
Finally, keep up with dressage. School some tests to troubleshoot difficult movements, and school them. I have let this slack off now that I've got a solid w/t/c with some lateral, so I need to push us in this area.

End-of-month goal: Schooling consistently over 2'9+, riding calmly in the open at w/t/c (gallop if we can find the space). Willingly walk through water. Create passable dressage tests at Training level.

  • Schooling consistently over 2'9+ - almost. We've ridden over that easily XC, but that doesn't quite count. It's just that our arena doesn't work so well for doing bigger jumps and courses. But, like I said at the midmonth progress report, I'm not too concerned about height right now. It will get there.
  • Riding calmly in the open at w/t/c/g - definitely accomplished. Galloping out in the field I've done twice: once was pretty terrible, and the second time was a wild success. I'm a lot more comfortable galloping, she's a lot more comfortable galloping with me; we can steer and slow down and go towards home without going into warp speed. We will need to explore this more, but I'm very pleased. Also, we've gone on several 2-mile hacks around the loop, walking and trotting, and she's been quite calm. The conditioning is very good for her. After the 2-mile walk she's not breathing hard but she does get quite warm, so I'm glad the conditioning is helping. Eventually I'll walk the 2-mile loop, then up and back down another big hill-road, which will add another mile onto the ride.
  • Willingly walk through water - well, we just haven't had the chance to practice this. But on our hacks around the loop, there are many ditches in the side of the road, some which occasionally get pretty sloppy in the bottom. She doesn't like it, but most importantly, she goes forward when I ask her to. Right now I don't care if forward means 'walk through' or 'take flying leap over,' because forward is always the right answer. We are trailering to Inavale this coming weekend, which will put us miles ahead in the water issue as I'll be able to practice in their water complex.
  • Create passable dressage tests at T-level - um...not quite. Like I've mentioned, I've been feeling really stuck in my dressage lately. I have a dressage lesson on Saturday May 2nd, so that should help a lot.
Overall, this month was pretty successful. We made steady progress, and the only goal we truly failed was the last one, which will be remedied ASAP because of dressage lessons.

May Outline

Now is the time to truly put everything together, and start thinking about our summer eventing destinations. We are going to go schooling at Inavale, so I will get practice jumping XC and through water and galloping in the open. We need to catch up on the April goals, working in more jumping work: low wide oxers and single fences at 2'9+. We need to get on top of the dressage and really make some progress there.
This is our last month really schooling at home before the summer hits. I've got eventing camps the next two months and then ratings in July and September.

End-of-month goal: Feel prepared to have a solid competition at Beginner Novice -- though I have decided not to attend the HT due to the cost. Easily smooth and controlled w/t/c/g in the open with good half-halts at gallop, smooth and controlled fences at 2’9 or higher (some stadium, but focusing on XC), excellent fitness. Walk, trot, and canter through water. Achieve a reasonable dressage test away from home.

May Activities
May 2, Melinda Lesson - dressage
May 9, Schooling at Inavale - gallop and XC work, schooling through water
May 16, Combined Test at Inavale - dressage and stadium. Will be a great schooling show and chance to get Pandora competing at Inavale.
May 17, Melinda Lesson - dressage
Then the last two weeks of May I will be working on my own.

It should be a good month!

April Week 4 Review

Monday 4/27
Just longed her today. Unfortunately, it's started raining, so they're stuck in stalls again, and Pandora is clearly not happy. She behaved well on the longe -- cantering is so, so much easier for her now than it used to be!
Still wants to ignore the halt command on the longe. Listened well enough, but not as prompt as I would like.

Tuesday 4/28
Free longed the girls today to let them blow off some steam. Looks like they'll be stuck inside for awhile, though it's supposed to be nice on Thursday.
She was strangely jumpy today. When I put her in her stall, I saw her walk over to her water bucket, stretch her neck towards it, then touch the rim of it and jump as if shocked. She went away to her hay. I came in and sat next to her water bucket. She slowly approached, retreated, approached again, and touched the rim firmly several times with her muzzle. Then, like a horse following its owner as far into a trailer as possible without actually setting foot into it, she stood underneath herself with her hind legs, stretched out her neck, and drank a huge amount. Maybe a couple gallons? I stroked her as she drank, and when she was finished, she withdrew quickly though not violently so. After going back to her hay, she jumped at a noise.
Strange how she was acting almost afraid of her water bucket. The level was lower than yesterday, so I know she drank today, but I wonder what happened to make her nervous of her water bucket?? I'll have to keep a close eye on her and make sure she's drinking well.

Wednesday 4/29
Well, I just had a frustrating ride in general today. I was tired and a little grumpy, which is probably most of it. We had to hurry because the OHSET team was going to have practice at 6:30, so it didn't help that I was a little rushed. I dropped my stirrups and did some trotting and cantering, and saying it was mediocre is being kind. Ugh. I really need to practice no-stirrups work. Maybe I will have my mom longe me on her so I can practice without worrying about slowing her down.
Left bend issues came back with a vengeance. I've noticed them slightly, but tonight they were pretty bad. Couldn't do anything about it.
On the plus side, I set up some slightly raised walk cavaletti and she managed to go through them decently. It felt like her walk got a little nicer too.

Thursday 4/30
My mom free longed the girls tonight, because I was off seeing Spamalot with my dad! :)