Saturday 21 January 2012

Questionable Intentions

Title applies to both Kika and myself - don't worry though ... Nothing untoward has happened!

Got to the barn last night and tacked herself up, she was most distracted in grooming area - staring at her reflection in door window, or at least so far as i could tell anyway! Perhaps there were horses walking around up at walker but i couldn't hear them, so methinks she's just the vainest creature going - and I'll tell you this for nothing, that she does not get from me!
HATE mirrors *shiver*

Anyways, she rigid/stiff as anything tacking up as she stared at herself?! And rain was hammering on and off of the roof above us, due to said rain and her full fleece being at the cleaners i didn't fancy going out in the gale to the arena we typically work best in as i didn't want tack getting wet. I have an excercise sheet for her but it's one of the cut away one which don't cover the saddle - very handy for covering my legs with when hacking in the cold, but i'm going of topic as usual!
So basically what i am getting at in my predictably long-winded way is that we opted for the arena attached to our stabling block which is the oldest one on the yard - the original and IMO the noisiest despite it being 8pm and most people being gone is closest to the road and attached to stable block so all sounds of other horses and feeding, car park road/roundabout/motorway all in the vicinity and all sounds that can be heard as well as the wind and rain. One woul thing i am building excuses to bad behaviour - but for once it wasn't really the mare's fault!

She is in no way as innocent as her chocolate brown eyes might attempyt to convince you and is partly to blame, but i absorb more of the blame upon myself!

We walked around with me on foot for a few laps - i always start my warm up this way, get both of us accustomed to sounds/layout of arena and has Kika walk for an extended period of time to warm up (between 5 and 10mins depending on how we are feeling) as she isn't the best to walk under saddle to warm up - she starts fidgetting and fussing and looking for distractions - so we start our warm up calmly walking with me on foot. I am cajoling her - but i know from experience that this works best for us (me). She wasn't really settling and was getting herself stressed over lower corner where door is onto carpark with a roundabout on & off a motorway at the end of the drive - so plenty noises to put a windy horse on edge. Not courting trouble i opted for the chicken option and decided to ride in upper half of the arena as at this stage i could tell it wasn't going to end well if i forced the issue, so rather than make a big deal out of it and get into an argument - i changed my plans.

Got up and went to go left to start on our good rein - Miss was having none of it, she started with her threats which grates me as she knew they would work i was stupid and allowed her work herself into the position where she was facing the middle of the wall and with her not wanting to go the way i wanted her to gave her the perfect opportunity to start her wobbly, aka rear threats. She is also far from stupid and had twisted herself in such a way that unless i whacked her head off the wall to turn her, the only option left to me was to go the way she wanted - AWFUL START which did nothing to settle my nerve considering my last terrible saddle experience ... well not terrible, just unnerving as i had really thought we were passed this. Guess not!
So after a few strides i conned her into changing rein and going the direction i wanted - walked a little more trying to get her to relax, soften and listen to me - was far from picture perfect but moved up to trot. For some reason we always get on best in trot - it's a pace we are both happy with and she behaves impeccably (IMO) in trot. She went into a lovely soft shape (I can always tell when L was the last person to ride her - makes such a difference!) and was swinging in herself requiring light leg aids. Was lovely, changed rein a couple of times and we were going well - not anywhere near Prix St George level or anything but very good for us considering the start to the spin, we still encountered the odd sticking moment if she wasn't as responsive as i'd like on a turn and it ended up getting a little sharp - she'd toss up her head, but my response was always you've just got yourself to blame. Although that isn't technically fair as i know my legs are inclined to hang like wet blankets and don't support her as much as they should - tis no suprise we get ourselves tied in knots!
Anyways that's besides the point, we were going well with our trot so i figured we'd give canter a go and see how we'd get on. Canter is one of our main bogeys, as regular readers will know, the main problem i know is me - as when i can get it right she has a lot less issues with it - but alas this does not happen as often as i would like it to / wish it could / dream of. :-(
Yesterday was one of those days, i couldn't get the strike off right - despite now knowing what aids to give thanks to the wonderful lesson 2 weeks back with L (incidently it has all been downhill for me since then - the problem is i am too stuck in my head - obsessing, trying to hard and not just doing as i was which is what had been good - vicious cycle. What makes it worse is that i know i am the problem yet can't fix myself - so going to get L to help me again). Kika can feel the shift in me as i organise myself to give the aids, so gets excited and ahead of herself therefore tenses, loses her softeness and responsiveness etc etc - basically canter last night was a shambles - i only tried is twice on the bad rein and once on teh good rein, it was bad for 95% of it so i just dropped it and decided i am not going to try and canter without supervision and someone to keep me out of my own head / someone to yell at me to keep my heels down, shoulders back, look in, turn her head slightly and give the aid - cos it is obviously something going wrong in my head/mind when i'm on my own - and i know it so am hoping to fix it! We did get one or two nice strides, but that doesn't make up for the shambles surrounding it so rather than make a bigger mess of things i went back to trot and worked on spirraling in and out of circle sizes in rising and sitting trot - which is something we are getting better at. Anything in trot is manageable, shift us up a gear or drop us down a gear and i go to pot for whatever reason.
Had a chat with L about it last night afterwards as she was there when i dismounted and asked how we got on, i was so down in myself that she could see it written all over my face and my mother when i got in later - i really need to stop beating myself up about these things - it's not healthy. Although in saying that i don't dwell on it so long anymore ... resolutions were made today, ;-)
What get's to me most is that when we're going well it's great, but if i lose myself even slightly she takes advantage and throws the toys out of the pram with her rearing threats - which in hindsight i know she doesn't mean and is testing/taking the mick/taking complete advantage - it's is incredibly frustrating as that only knocks my confidence further and feeds/festers the self-doubt.

Gosh i should see a shrink!

Anytime i allow myself to think we're making headway and doing well something happens to put me back in my box and keep my feet on the ground. It's more mentally my problem, I am trying too hard and forcing things perhaps - which when doesn't work is frustrating me and hence her - senstive soul that she is. *roll-eyes*
That plus she takes complete advantage - any window of opportunity to doss or mess and she pounces on it with two hands and then is like a dog with a bone till i can co-erce and cajole her back out of bad behaviour!

My resolution might be seen by some as drastic but i want to catch this before it spirals - as i know myself that it is teetering on the edge of spiralling back out of control unless i can nip it in the bud, i can only hope once and for all - but if even just for now and to see that we can get it back on/ keep it on the straight and narrow.
I'm only going to ride under L or an RI's supervision - prefer L as she has worked with us this last year and knows exactly what the issues are and has the time to help on an individual level. Due to the decreased time the studyin is going to present i'm going to see if we can work something out, she has previously offered, whereby she'd school Kika on occasion (if i can't make it) and then go back to her giving me lessons when she has time during the week/weekend. Only for the forseeable future i'm not going to ride on my own anymore - it is just going to prove the undoing of me, i can feel it. Already the doubts are creeping into my mind and excuses will start forming, stacking up givine me get-out-of-jail-free crads to avoid riding, which is deffinitely not in Kika's best interest as she needs activity.

L is heading away for a few days and as i'm currently snowed under with legal reading; I'm hoping to share my plan with her in the morning as we let out the beasties and will give Kika a few days off till she comes back and till i can get to grips with the study. I'll still be going to the yard at least twice a day to turn them out / bring them in and feed O in the evenings - give them a loose school / pop them in the walker so that they aren't only going field/box - box/field.

So there ya have it, another hum-dinger of a "post" (novel more like), but due to Kika's questionable intentions - she has me questioning my intentions ... and the answer is i'm hoping to go back to lessons to keep someone's voice in my ear and me out of my own head!

Some may think me a chicken - but on this occasion I know myself and i think at this stage i know my horse and so that we don't end up in a similar situation to this time last year - i'm reaching out for help.

Friday 20 January 2012

Lovely Lungeing

It has been a very quite riding week for me thus far - so quite in fact that my backside has not touched the saddle since last sunday. But fear not L rode her on Tuesday, Wednesday lunch time i worked her in the pessoa and last night (Thursday) we lunged over poles. I changed it up slightly last night and lay out two formations which i have not combined while lungeing her before. In the lower half of the arena i had four trotting poles in a line and in the upper half of the arena had a pole at 12 and one at 6 o'clock on a small circle. What we ended up doing was warming up down the lower half, walk/trot/canter transitions then trot through the line of trotting poles - normal enough excercise, now i didn't go mad but on her good rein (which i happened to start working on) we tried something i'd thought about doing before but hadn't suceeded in getting the message across - plus request was too difficult last time as poles were different and not conducive to what i was asking for - so i'm glad she has a brain and said "ah - no thank you" on that occasion. What we did last night is trotted through the poles then cantered the semi circle without poles and back to trot to go through the poles again - testing responsiveness to voice commands, obediance and encouraged her to use her arse in trotting over the poles and bounce. Win-win! And I'm glad to say it worked!
Changed to bad rein and we changed the excercise slightly as it is still slightly more difficult for her on that rein so she'd trot through the poles take up the canter, I'd move slightly so she'd canter one full circle around me and come back to trot to go through the poles again. Kept her moving and guessing, didn't repeat any request more that 2-3times to stop her pre-empting and doing stuff of her own accord - thereby not actually listening to me.

Happy with that and sticking with our "bad rein" i moved up to the upper half of the arena (where I had the poles at 12 and 6 o'clock) trotted over one pole first then asked her to canter over it. When i previously had her canter over two poles in a similar position she had all sorts of trouble with it - either i had the poles spaced wrong (possible) or the arena we were doing it in was too small (more likely option i think). Anyways started her off over one pole and that was fine, brought her back to trot so that she could find her striding over the two poles then asked her to pick back up the canter. She broke back to trot the first few times as she struggled to find her striding/balance and then gave the poles a couple of clatters still she copped a little leap would help her out (like a really teeny tiny jump). Once she had this lightbulb moment and got three rounds without breaking from canter or hitting the poles i brought her back to trot and changed direction.
The only other time I'd tried a similar excercise (not incredibly successfully see above reasoning of smaller sized arena) she had been predictably better on her good rein. At this stage she was well warm and starting to blow so promised her that if she could hold it together to get it right a few times on this rein we'd finish up - as i knew she would as it's her better rein and as such easier, hence why we start with the bad rein - sneaky reward process. As i knew she would, she was quicker to achieve the no breaking/no hitting the poles on this rein so with two successul cantered circles over the poles we slowed back to trot then walk and cooled off.

I am very happy with how she has behaved while i was lungeing, responsive to requests and happy to work both in the pessoa and even making nice shapes without - victories are victories :)

Plan is to ride this evening and hopefully multiple times over the weekend, however I have started my Distance Learning Course this week and due to late paperwork and delayed registration I have found out that I am basically a week and a half behind most people. So the bones of my weekend is going to be spent with my nose stuck in a book and listening to lectures/tutorials as the first assessment (pass or fail) is being released today and has to be completed by Thursday. So mucho reading required by me this weekend as I've to cram the bones of two weeks work into two days - so the break for ponio will deffinitely be a well deserved one this weekend! Fingers crossed we can find each other on good terms and make the snatched moments count for something positive :)

Sunday 15 January 2012

Frosty Mornings - Frisky Mare

Today's planned early morning hack in the woods went far from smoothly. I spent more time on my feet leading the muppet then i actually spent on her back *sigh*

We started off alright, I was going out with a friend who i hadn't been in the woods with before and her young horse (6yr old) who hadn't been ridden in two days due to osteo visit last week - so basically my girl was supposed to be a calming influence being older and having been ridden on friday and loose schooled yesterday. But no one gave Kika this information ;-)
The first hiccup we averted smoothly, my friend's horse B was unsure about passing frozen poop so Kika bravely strode out - Yipee i thought to myself, previously if the horse hacking with us found something scary Kika would also without fail see the horse-eating-monster-within and also refuse to proceed - not so this morning, so i thought "Wahey! Today will be good" - WRONG!
No sooner had the thought cross my mind than something terrified Kika and she couldn't possibly go a step further - cue front leg bouncing threatening to rear, then an acute spin for home with more rearing threats at my attempts to turn her back to way i wanted to go. Heck, even the slightest pressure on teh reins to get her to stand still so that i could get off and lead her took a few attempts and coaxing around stroppy-rear-threats. I managed to get off after her walking/prancing/bouncing half the way back along the sand path we'd just come up - we were still within the yard boundaries at this stage!
Hopped off and lef her forwards with a slap or two of the stick as we walked to remind her who was in charge and that this carry on was un-acceptable IMO - although message would appear to have gotten lost in translation! Led her passed whatever was scaring her and down to the tarmac wich is the route we always take to the woods and indeed to her field every day - nothing scary there right?
Walked away down the road, passing sunday walkers and parents with push-chairs no problems we even got passed her field, just about! Then another strop insued...spinning and threatened rearing, so down i came again another two slaps and i walked into the woods with her, down the initial hill and under the motorway bridge. I got up from a bench without any issues and we walked on fine, even went for a sprightly trot to distract her ladyship. Friend's horse fell in behind as he was bullied by previous hacking partner and was not happy to walk alongside us - which to be fair i couldn't blame him!
Came back to walk as we were going up a slight hill where the ground isn't great IMO and often has loose stones and sticks so didn't want to be stumbling due to companion's horse not suppsed to be jumping/jarring after osteo treatment.
We were doing great till a tree was blocking our path with no way around it, and as previously mentioned companions horse wasn't supposed to jar his back so we turned around and walked back the way we came happy out, until we met a small water feature from the "wrong" side for Kika (aka the other direction to which we usually meet it in). Cue more messing on her part, so off i hopped again and lef her passed it and 3/4 way up another rise/hill to get away from the turn for home incase she got a notion and passed two other yard friends who were coming back from their hack incase my missus decided one horse wasn't enough company for her and she'd have to go back with the other two...
Anyways hopped back up and we were walking along fine, no problems at all till we came to a turn (away from home I'll admit) that again Kika just couldn't/wouldn't do! Grrr! Spinning and rearing threats again, even though i had no tension in the reins she still found a means to take offence, so off i slid once more and led her on a bit.
Hopped back up and decided to cut our route short as at this stage i was beyond annoyed/ashamed and downright fed up with her carry on, but i was not going to give her the satisfaction of turning her around and re-tracing our steps. So we turned down another route which would loop back to the turn where we'd just had our last issue and back down the hill for home...all was going well, not an iota of fuss out of madam, walking along happy out...Just as we get to the turn downhill for home, three horses get there just before us.
Do you think Kika was happy to follow them at a respectable distance behind them with her companion (who let's not forget has been angellic despite being younger and not exercised for two days!) - NO!
She kept trying to speed up in her walk, any attempts i made to ease her back, close my fingers on the reins resulted in head tossing and front leg throwing...So i threw in the towel (shame-faced), slowed her just about enough to slide off - as she wasn't stopping without throwing a wobbly! Rolled up my stirrups and marched for home - she was meek as a little lamb walking along beside me!
Such a frustrating creature!!!

I'm sure many would have handled the situation differently and i do feel like a chicken and a quitter for giving up and leading her, but it would not have ended well for me to stick at it. As it was i was very glad that she stuck to threatening to rear with her front feet only barely leaving the ground once - she didn't upright rear at any stage. Which take my word for it she is well capable of doing! She stands up tall for a few minutes, can come down and go straight back up if the mood is upon her. Thankfully that has not been done since this time last year as it happens! Must be something in the air at this time of year! :(
Friend who rode with us reckoned she may be coming into season - but to be honest i don't care, she should not be carryin on like that and to say i was bitterly disappointed and ashamed is an understatement!
Just as i allow myself to think we might be making headway something like this comes along and reminds me that we still have a long way to go!
I had a bit of a whine at L when i got back to the yard and she has said we'll go again next weekend and Kika is going to lead the whole hack! Bless the friend who came with me today, she was so proud of her horse who was good as gold despite all Kika's carry on and she was so proud of him, as anyone would be. I only wished mine could've been half as well behaved!

Turns out my mother wasn't one bit suprised when i got home and had a bit of a whine - apparently she'd warned me going out the door that she'd be feeling fresh with the frost but i hadn't heard her - woops! Mothers always know best, eh?

Despite the poor start to the week horse-riding wise (see my previous post Frustrated Fool - admittedly that was all on me) the rest of the week went well. Lunged her in the pessoa on thursday where she behaved impeccably, rode in the largest of the indoor arenas on friday evening - one i usually avoid as typically it is the busiest, although was the quietest on friday. She started off not really listening and a bit bouncy in her trot, but after almost snotting herself by tripping over her own feet she decided to settle and that perhaps i knew best and she'd better listen to me...we got some very nice work after that, including some canter work - which still needs a lot of work!

It seems for every step forward we must take several back...but God love's a tryer apparently, so we shall percevere & hope for the best. Pass this off as a bad day, put it behind us, look forward to the week ahead and try to do better. :-)

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Frustrated Fool

Me not the mare!

Kika was angelic last night, she was a super star to put up with the muppet riding her (again - me).
I was still on such a high from Sunday that i was overthinking while attempting to school last night and just plain trying to hard!
Admittedly at least i realised this and kept apologising to the poor mare who was trying her hardest to understand what i wanted from her. In my attempts to straighten myself in the saddle i think i tensed my back too much and was just not relaxed in my riding - i reckon this was the case as my lower back was not comfortable at all while i was in the saddle - note to myself for this evening: "Don't do that again"!

Bless Kika she was a star, numerous times she could have gotten as frustrated with me as i was with myself and thrown a wobbly - but the thought never crossed her mind! She was cool and calm under all sorts of pressure from my mupperty - only once did she throw a cranky buck, which she hasn't done in ages and actually made me laugh out loud at myself as it hammered home the fact i am a muppet! She made me smile though and i needed that in the end, ;)

I realised when i got home and had mulled over where i was going wrong (so many places and probably even more that i don't even realise) that i shouldn't have focused on what i was focusing on - getting correct strike off in canter as it is not a strength for me yet - i must practice more and with less pressure on myself. We did get it right once or twice and i was sure to praise her overtly when she did to hopefully balance out all my muppetry in between. My epihany moment when i got home was to realise i shouldn't have focussed all my attention on what wasn't working right and should have worked on something else for a while - something we could do better and then possibly go back to what i was trying to learn.

Live and learn!

I'll try not to get so caught up in one thing in the future and remind myself to mix stuff up a bit more...We did also work on our circles in rising and sitting trot, although because I was so tense in my back she was a lot less smoother than she had been on Sunday...again all my fault.
I was so disappointed in myself and my carry on - but have to put it behind me now and not dwell on it, yet keep in mind where i went wrong and avoid repeating my mistakes. I am so so so so so proud of her though as she really was a super star and did try her heart out but the jockey (me) was just being an ass and couldn't get her point across clearly.

Monday 9 January 2012

Lesson videos

As promised yesterday here are the two mini-videos made by L when she was helping me yesterday - again sorry about the sound. I still have not figured out how to (a) record without it and/or (b) uploade the video without it!

First one is slightly longer

Second one considerably shorter

Gosh i didn't realise that i fidgeted so much in the saddle, these videos highlight me need to be quieter with my hands and feet, drop my heels more and bend my elbows - Yeesh! Glad i asked L to make these, plenty more work to be done on myself as well as ponio. Am sure that if i can control myself better she'll improve without the fidgeting beast atop her!
I also need to increase the tempo of her trot, she's not really working in those vids. Although L did say that towards the end she did start to use herself better - as the song says she "put her @$$ into it" have to try to remember (a) what i did and (b) the feel of it - which is one of my main problems; my sense of feel is off! I am woeful bad at recognising if i am on the right leg in trot and canter - shame on me i know, but again i know it is a problem and can now work to rectify it. Doesn't help that Kika is a cheeky beastie and counter canters without too much difficulty - pity it's never what i'm after and i can't tell she's wrong due to her being smooth! Deceptive creature - but armed with my tips from yesterday at least from now on i will hopefully be asking her correctly and helping her more than hindering her.

Haven't managed to upload the Pas de Deux yet as between phone and wifi at home; uploading was slow on these two short videos so can only imagine that a 7 minute contribution will take some time...wich i did not have this morning before work ;-)

As always constructive criticism or tips as i prefer to put a positive shine on them alwasy welcome! :)
Outside eyes are better at seeing things that i miss/don't feel when in the saddle!

Sunday 8 January 2012

Making progress

I am super happy with how our ride went today. Plans changed which meant that i didn't end up working with L yesterday and just did my own thing over poles on the ground in an unusually busy arena (carriage driving was happening in the main arena so spillover again). Kika was good yesterday but she was even better today!!!! :D
(Can you tell I am excited?!! ;-) )

L and I were planning to head into the woods today for a hack about 11.30am, but weather was so unpredictable and we were hoping to grab lunch all before the 2pm displays/Yard party that i asked if she didn't mind could she give me some tips and pointers instead. Like the saint that she is (IMO) she agreed and we set to work. She did make two mini videos of us getting started but as we moved up to serpentines with volts, canter and no stirrup work she had plenty on her mind with advising me that videoing on my camera phone fell to the wayside which is a small pity as i felt myself improve as the lesson progressed, but at least some visual incentive shall be provided to those who do read on :)
Although it won't be added untill tomorrow as phone is being silly and won't currently upload them to youtube on top of that they are too big to send myself by e-mail! So i'm afraid you're going to have to wait. SORRY!

Since she had me start riding with my reins shorter on friday I feel like Kika is going much better for me, so even our warm up work now is taking less time for madam to get concentrated - again I now understand that was my fault as why would one concentrate when contact was not consistent enough to warrant concentration!
I still sit crookedly when on the right rein but we are working on it by doing more circle work and encouraging me to look to the center of the circle to move my shoulders inline with Kika's while turning my inside hand into the center to encourage her to look inside when she's working and bend her neck. The poor pet, I have made her so crooked with my bad riding - but now that we know we can work to remedy it!

When we worked up to canter work (no video of that sorry), another lightbulb moment occured. We always start our canter work on Kika's bad rein so that she can finish on her good rein and it seems like less of a chore...well that's the teory anyway. When we twice struck off on the wrong lead (after getting it right first time) I decided to check i was in fact giving Kika the correct aids - as i am woeful bad at remembering the correct canter aid - shame on me I know, but i recognised my weakness and sought help!
Turns out as i anticipated i was in fact giving her the incorrect signal. In that i was sqeezing my inside leg behind the girth rather then placing my outside leg behind the girth and squeezing with my inside leg in it's normal position.
However this was not the only reason poor K couldn't get the correct lead - you guessed it - it comes back to my awfully twisted position in the saddle on that rein that has my weight in the wrong place in the saddle making it more difficult for Kika to get the lead she needs - again won't be fixed overnight, but now that i know i can only try to correct myself!

The tip L gave me to try to get it right is to make sure that Kika's head is turned slightly inside when giving her the correct aids, which by making me bring my hand towards the center of the circle and turning my head in - moves my shoulders into a better position and shifts my weight accordingly (I am actually just after realising that - man am i dense!). We did multiple transitions in this fashion on our circle (as at this stage two others had joined us in the arena, one of which was lungeing - yet my great girl was wonderfully focussed on what we were doing and didn't pay them a blind bit of notice - yippee, we are actually getting there!) on both reins - we obviously found it easier on our good rein (can no longer just call it her good rein as it is actually i that made/make the other one her bad side!)

We rounded out the lesson with some sitting trot work, tighter and tighter volts and walk/trot transitions - however at this stage I decided to cross my stirrups infront of me as when sitting trot (and indeed canter moreso - but have not braved no stirrup canter in an age). I have the awful habit of gripping with my knees which in turn pulls up my heels and has L continuously telling me to drop my heels...vicious circle really, ;)
Our increasingly smaller volts went well, we kept a good balanced rythm and in our transitions she had me be careful to prepare K better in slowing her trot before i allowed her to return to walk as Kika likes to slow down and once she feels you asking to lessen the speed she stops pretty much automatically - think locks her front legs and jolts you a small bit - at the same time she doesn't have much time for walking - i reckon her opinion of walking is that "well if we're going this slowly we might aswell be standing still" so i have to push her in the walk.
L explained it to me in such a way that i've to slow the trot yet keep my leg on and then just squeeze the reins and ease her into a walk in such a way that my leg on has to keep her moving forward yet she's slowing down...I am sure this is "d'uh" territory for most riders but bit of a lightbulb moment for me.

Sneaky L also had me attempt do some rising trot without stirrups - which i have never tried before and i will not pretend it wasn't difficult as heck - but at the same time was not as hard as i thought it would be and we managed about a semi-circle before i gave in and cheekily pointed out that the whole point behind my no stirrups plan was to stop grabbing with my knees! L just laughed and said i had a valid point, ;) - i am sure that is not the end of the matter, but i guess as it was at the tail end of an hour's riding she let me off the hook this time!

It is actually great that I decided to write all this down as it is all making sense to me as i think back to what she had me work on. Sorry if this is a boring update, especially as it just loads of writing and the videos aren't even going to be at the end of it...but i originally started this blog for me to keep track of what we get up to and what better way to keep track of my goals and things to work on then to write them down on the day i was told them...trick will be to remember to come back and read them from time to time!

As well as being uber happy with what we worked on and how well Kika has behaved the three previous days - as i have ridden her each and every one, unheard of in the last 12months that she be ridden in an arena three days in a row - Lord am i soft or what?!?!
I like to change things up and typically ride her two days back to back then lunge with pessoa or poles or loose or normal in the days either side of riding. Variety is the spice of life and all that!

But on top of my feel really good factor with how we worked, the friend who was lungeing towards the end of my lesson kindly told me that i don't ride as awfully as i had told her i did - guess i really do paint a bleak picture of myself. I possibly err too much on the side of caution (read:pessimism) when thinking about my own skills or perceived lack thereof. She said we worked very harmoniously together and that Kika was very balanced and concentrated on what we were doing - admittedly i emphasize that she caught the end of our lesson, not the start! :p
Then the icing on the cake - L said she was very happy for me with the improvements we have made! Not just Kika and her attitude, but me too!
The last time she watched me ride like that to help me was my first spin back after my break in Thailand which was at the start of November. I have been trying to work on the tips she gave us then and am glad to find out that i must have been doing something right.

Today just clicked and I am over the moon with how it went, hopefully we can continue to build from here!

Tomorrow will be a break for herself and my poor sore body - it is ridiculous how mushy I am, in that a week and a half without riding has the same affect on my leg/stomach/back muscles as a month out of the saddle - but this could also be the step up in sitting trot and no-stirrup work i am now including more in our work schedule.
As well as the two mini videos of the start of my lesson I also managed to record the 7ish minute Pas de Deux to music done by two of the dressage riders on the yard as part of the yard show - so will hopefully manage to get them from my phone onto youtube tomorrow to share them with you for being soooooooooo good as to read my waffle!

Saturday 7 January 2012

Weekend Plans & Mucho Rug shopping required!

Hoping to make this quick, but more than likely will end up longer as usual!
Apologies in advance!

Starting with my "return" to the saddle yesterday after a week and a half unplanned riding break for Kika - she was still lunged a few times and turned out almost everyday so she wasn't just sat in her stable storing energy, ;)
Arena space was limited last night as there is to be a display on at our yard for a belated Christmas/New Year party of sorts taking place on sunday, so the largest and most used of the arenas was booked for practice, the RS had lessons in one of the smaller ones so the one i usually ride in and find the quietest was actually quite busy due to spillover!
So there were 5 of us in the arena at once - bit of a tight squeeze, but manageable. One was warming up for a lesson, so mostly walking and trotting, one was finishing up so spent about 10mins walking to cool down and then a friend of hers arrived after having lunged her ride in another arena to walk him for 10mins with her friend cooling down...two abrest was not ideal as it was already a bit cramped, but we didn't complain as space is tight everywhere...The last two were myself & Kika and L & her mare O (Kika's field companion and best buddy) - last night was the first time the pair of them had been excercised in the same arena since they had been being turned out together and before that hacking buddies - to say Kika was pre-occupied and distracted to keep her eyes on O was an understatement...She also had to keep tabs on all the other horses in the arena aswell in case she mised something scary they saw!
Trying to get her to listen at first was a nuissance, L could see we were struggling and in her fantabulous Guru-way gave me the tools i needed to help. Namely shortening my reins and pushing her forwards (complete opposite to what i thought i had to do which was to leave reins loose-ish so that she'd have nothing to fight against and trying to keep her slow and steady - I don't half get it wrong in my thought process - eh?!)
Needless to say that that helped immensly, as did the two cooling down vacating the arena after their 10minute strolls - which in itself lead to a silly Kika moment!
We were working away happy out and as it is winter most people now have their horses clipped and so have varying excercise sheets & fleeces to keep things moving as we warm up/cool down - these invariably are left hanging on short side of arena near gate - logical and not a problem for Kika...Until one of the is removed!!! Dun dun duuuuuunnnnnn - "DANGER, the gap that has appeared could eat me"  - what i imagine to be Kika's thought process behind her spook. She lept to the side completely ruining our attempted corner, so brought her round in a circle and passed the offending gap twice (once in walk and once in trot) to prove it wasn't going to savage her. Oddly if i am in the arena on my own i ignore such antics, but when there are other riders around i feel the need to reassure the silly horse so that she doesn't continue acting the maggot in that spot and end up distracting the others.

Anyways despite the spook which in all fairness was not earth shattering, she was good as gold and worked away lovely. Did a good bit of sitting trot on our bad rein to see if she'd hunch up against me/start bouncing due to uncomfortablness in preperation for increasing my no stirrup work over the coming weeks/months!
For those who hav expressed concern over my well-being with regard to removing my stirrups from my saddle, please fear not as i intend to do it gradually and build up my strength as well as Kika's. Starting with keeeping the stirrups on the saddle of this month and slowly increasing my work without them during schooling sessions.
I mentioned my plan to the Guru (my friend L) and she is in...She's giving me a helping hand today and is wholeheartedly behind working up to no stirrups (she actually seemed almost gleeful at thought of pain i'm going to be in lol - sadist!) and agreed with my reasoning for taking things slowly and building up to removing them from my saddle (aka Kika's not physically ready for that just yet...back needs strengthening)

Then tomorrow we're hoping to go for a leisurely hack in the woods in the morning, grab a bite to eat together and then be back at the yard for 2pm for the "Party". There is going to be a quadrille display - which i saw a bit of the start while they were rehearsing yesterday and there are actually 8 riders. Last year there was a jumping quadrille and a flat quadrille display with 4 riders in each...So nice to see thngs changing up, :)
Then there will be a Pas de Deux ridden by two of the competitive dressage riders from our yard - they compete at around teh same level (Intermediate i think) and I've also seen that being rehearsed over the holidays and it looks like it's going to be fab!
The final display we're being blessed with is the RS kiddies - they are the cutest things ever! Gluwein, Hot Chocolates and Cakes are being laid out by the Yard Owners so really looking forward to this! Am hoping to try and film the displays with my phone,  so all going well i might share them here, ;)

As for my rug "dilema", was afraid this was going to happen but it has happened considerably sooner then I'd hoped! Due to all her wonderful filling out Kika is now finding her 6ft3 rugs tight - they are after rubbing her shoulders, chest and are starting on her hips, not to mention she can attempt to be a grouchy so and so when they are being put on/taken off - but one stern word and she stops with the ears!
Typically due to our being able to turn them out over winter i splurged and bought a Horseware Duo Turnout rug with neck cover and 2 under blankets/linerrs (200g and 300g) - spent a fair whack on it to be honnest and guessed it all are size 6 3 and still in their packaging as thankfully weather has been very mild compared to last year and I've been able to use her lighter turnout rug over her stable rug to keep her cozy. On the upside this means that i can sell all on as being un-used and hopefully get close to retail price for them. I also have the following used rugs: Shire turnout with hood, can't remember the brand; 2 Horseware stable rugs (HW and MW) and a fleece from Horze - but may keep that as not too small, if anything cut funny and appears a little on the large side. So shall be cleaning those that are currently in use and attempting to flog them to cover the costs of creating a new winter wardrobe for herself - on the upside SALES should help on that front, ;)

So that's me caught up for today - as usual longer than intended, sorry I know i talk too much when it comes to my horse! Speaking off, must go let her out for a bit before riding at 4pm!

Thursday 5 January 2012

Jumping Pictures as promised - but belated

My first post of 2012 is actually pictures from 2011 - woopsy!

I was humming and hawing about posting these as they are far from super and no where near all of them, but they are a selection that i was ok about posting online - although not at all happy with myself!
Kika was an angel despite not having jumped since September/October, although we have been doing a lot of pole work under saddle and lungeing so this may have contributed to the calm I experienced - or perhaps she is just in a better headspace! (Ona can live in hope right?)

As always photos were taken with my phone, so please excuse quality and as always please excuse the state of me!! (28/12/2011)

Happy head on her after jumping fence!

Despite my being uber-happy with her non-exitability i found her kind of flat in her attempts to take on the fences - she wasn't pushing herself off the ground with her rear end although this may have somehting to do with the size and her possibly thinking them small. Shall use ground poles if/and when i jump again to concentrate her mind and give us both something to focus on for a better take-off point.

Plenty more work to be done in any case!

Unfortunately that was the last day i sat on her lovely self as a university friend arrived that evening ahead of New Years Eve celebrations and i felt guilty about stealing my typical 2-3hours at the barn of an afternoon/evening when i had a visitor. Although she is horsey herself and very understanding about the dedication required - including encouraging and accompanying me to bring her and O in/out of the field and watching me lunge on friday (I had been planning to ride but Kika was wired when we brought her in from the field and as time was tight due to other engagement i settled on lungeing her which although she responded to gait change voice requests i didn't really have her full attention at all!).

As always I'm prattling on here, basically surrounding New Years Eve celebrations i was too tired to ride Kika and felt it best to give her some downtime rather than attempt half-hearted riding as neither one of us would take anything remotly positive from that! Then Tuesday and Wednesday i was unfortunately ill (missed a day of work - tuesday afternoon and wednesday morning) friends kindly popped her in the walker and let her run free in an arena for me!
Got up to her this evening and she was well happy to see me, actually makes me wonder if my friends had been spoiling her with treats - as it's unlike her to actually miss me! We worked on the lunge with the pessoa and i am very happy with her as the wind and rain were pounding off the roof of the arena and she didn't give it a blinds bit of notice! All systems are go for a hopeful return to the saddle tomorrow afternoon - yay for a half day!
The plan is to flat work tomorrow, pole work under saddle on Saturday (pending arena availability) and then if L is up for it and weather permitting might see if we can fit in a forrestry stroll on Sunday.

Thanks to all who responded to my previous pictures on the various message boards i posted them on as well as here. Thanks for some wonderful tips which i hope to impliment to improve my riding - particularly re-introducing no-stirrup work to strengthen my core and stop me gripping with my knees (pulling up my heel). My initial thought process was to start with a month no-stirrup work in January. But upon further pondering over the christmas period i thought it might be best to work our way up to removing the stirrups from our saddle! As if i do too much sittting trot work without warming herself up properly it can get uncomfortable for her and as such bouncy for me as she reacts to her discomfort. So my new plan of action is now to work without stirrups (while they are still attached to my saddle) after warming up 1-2 times a week (or every session depending on behaviour) and then if i feel her back is strong enough & she is physically and mentally ready i hope to remove the stirrups from my saddle for the month of Feb or March - depending on how work goes this month!

So that is anyone and everyone all caught up!
Thanks again for all your very kind words (about our new saddle pad) and encouragement and tips to help improve my riding.
Will hopefully have another update after the weekend - although pictures are doubtful - sorry!