Thursday 23 August 2012

Jumping lesson

Our jumping lesson went really well last night - I was pleasantly surprised as it was a bit of last minute decision to take L up on her offer based off Kika's & my good session on Tuesday evening. I figured we could both do with a reward and a change of scenery - nothing like a couple poles to make everything interesting again.
We warmed up over a pole then cross pole type of bounce combination on each rein. Then cross pole became a straight bar on each rein. I was encouraged to canter on after fence and then a vertical was added to the mix. A couple pops over them and we continued cantering through a triple combination of a bounce in and one stride out over an oxer. I got that woefully wrong first time and was told to shorten up my reins after each fence and as a result to be better able control my pace coming into the take offs. Came around again and did it much better - final fence added to the mix was another straightforward oxer up the longside of the arena changing rein after the triple combination - again reins were a bit long and we kind of fluffed the first attempt - but got ourselves organised when we did the course again the second time. L was laughing at me cos as she was shouting "brake" at me to slow down before the fences - she said she could hear me clicking at the mare! I wasn't even conscious of making a sound!

Changed things up a bit when she made the first pole & straight bar into a pole followed by two straight bars in a bounce left handed turn down over vertical, up over longside oxer then back to trot to come at the pole & bounce off the other rein and turning right handed cantering through the triple combination. Took me a couple of times to get that course right as it was quite twisty and I forgot where I was going a couple of times - which resulted in a big boo-boo of a woeful jump from me where I deservedly got yelled at for not presenting properly to the fence - bless Kika she was an angel and got me out of trouble by jumping despite my terrible steering!
Came around again and got it right the second time and finished on a good note - feeling apprehensive and guilty for having made a boo-boo.
Kind of took the buzz out of me as I knew it was all my own doing - but am still immensely proud of the horse and her responses to me - when i had my reins at a manageable length she came back to me well and overall we jumped much better than in our previous lesson a few weeks back. Namely that Kika was actually jumping this time and not just flopping over the fences - admittedly L had increased the height from our previous lesson - correctly recognising that Kika was being disrespectful of the lower heights.

So that was my evening, plan is to lunge tonight as she's been ridden the last three days and that'll give me time to come up with interesting things to do over the weekend as I've tomorrow off - so three whole days to do with as i please!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Saddle Sore Again!

Am I the only one who suffers from this ailment? One week without riding and I'm as leg sore after two spins back as I would be if I'd been a month out of the saddle.

Monday evening's spin was interesting - it was a tale of two halves. Always before riding i walk Kika around the arena a couple of times in each direction while tightening her girth to make sure nothing pinches and I guess to remind her of the lay of the land therein so that she can't have an excuse for silly spooking or shy-ing when I get on. All well and good in theory - as obviously nothing is going to scare her or get her while I am leading her around, but once i get on her back and she has to "fend" for herself in the big bad scary "manege" - well now that is a completely different ball game for Miss Kika!
In case you can't see where this is going, I led herself around the arena twice in each direction as is the norm for us and then hopped up walking on a loose left rein along the short side of the arena then followed the side along the long side - Low and behold there were Kika-eating-monsters hidden there that only she could see *of course*, cue a bit of a skite towards the middle of the arena away from the offensive section of the arena side. Managed to coax her back on track and continued happy out around the arena till we got to the same place again - where the monsters had not yet vacated. I decided to ignore her and continue with my warm up as if she wasn't sidestepping across the arena at the same spot on that rein each time - Point of information - the same section of arena did not cause a single problem when approached from the other direction. However the opposite corner was terrifying on the right rein! *eye-rolling*
Silly Nag!

I decided to ignore her and work away as if we didn't have a problem, we worked on spiralling in and out of circles, where I was really trying to focus on keeping my inside hand soft, holding with my outside hand and leg so that she wouldn't cheat and drift out while trying to encourage her to bend around my inside leg - a lot to keep in mind when like me one is not used to isolating and asking the same body parts to act slightly differently to one another. Our smoothness and rhythm was also continuously interrupted by the scary Kika-eating-monster on the left hand rein which just didn't seem to be able to leave the poor scardy cat alone!
We also worked on some serpentines - however these were also hindered in their smoothness by the terrifying monsters lurking out of my eyesight - but that she could see without any problems.
Once warmed up properly we moved up into cantering circles with me focused on keeping my backside in the saddle, heels down, not gripping with my knees and relaxing in the saddle so that I don't tense my back, I am getting slightly better - although can still be hit and miss.
Finally in the canter work the scary Kika-eating monsters finally disappeared and we finished our session on a very happy note. I was glad we managed to overcome her fear without incident and worked through the issue which finished with some quite nice work - I thought.

Tuesday evening (yesterday) I rode on this day for the first time in what seems like ages - for the last few weeks I have had classes once a week and couldn't make it to the barn. However yesterday I just couldn't face the thought of spending the evening in a stuffy classroom and wanted to ride my horse to make sure we had gotten over our issues from yesterday and not give her another day off! She has had way too many of them this summer!
So brought her in from the field and tacked her up - the cheeky sod nipped my thigh as i put in the bridle! I have a bruise there today now and everything! I have no idea if it was intentional or not as she has never nipped me before - but i had just put the bit in her mouth and was just finished slipping it over her ears when i felt the nip on my left leg. She got a slap and some choice words flung at her before i finished closing up the straps.

The arena I usually like to ride in was busy which was no bad thing really as I do have to ride elsewhere more often - but i do like "our" arena. The main arena was blissfully empty which was unusual for a weeknight - but who was i to complain. At 30C at 7.30pm at night the larger space with less people in it the better in my experience!
Walked our couple of laps while tightening the girth then hopped up and got to work. Took us a while to settle as there were some monsters again on one side - but nowhere near as scary as the day before and forgotten about a lot quicker then the previous day. I had only intended to work in walk & trot as it was so warm - but as she was being so good I figured it wouldn't do either of us any harm at all to work on our canter in the larger arena as we'd have more space to work with then in our usual spot. Took us a lot longer to click into our better canter work - but we got there in the end so I cooled down with some stretching trot work and gave her a rinse, popped her in the walker as i prepared her food then tossed her back out for the night.

Plan is to have a bit of a jumping lesson with L this evening, last minute decision based off yesterday's good work - i figured we both need a reward and a happy distraction from schooling on the flat. Hopefully all goes well and we don't faceplant in front of half the yard as they'll undoubtably be sitting on the benches by the outdoor arena where the fences will be set up - But who am I kidding in thinking they'd even pay a blinds bit of notice to what myself and Kika be getting up to!

Oh - Before i sign off here for this update - I'm slowly getting all my pictures from the weekend uploaded. LINK
Shall have to do an RDS post once i do, to give a run down of the wonderful weekend L & I spent at the Horse Show in Dublin - and of course list off the purchases I made! ;-)

Thanks to anyone who has read this update - don't forget that anyone can leave comments. Would love to know what people think of the blog and any and all tips and/or constructive criticism is always welcome!
I'm continuously looking to improve!

Thursday 16 August 2012

Woods Wandering & Lessons Learned?

Gosh were does the time be going!
Since my last update I had a wonderful lesson with L in the outdoor arena on the Sunday - we worked mostly on spiralling in and out of circles in all three gaits, concentrating on my relaxing my inside hand and using my outside rein to maintain our circle while using my inside leg to push her out while keeping her on track between my outside hand and outside leg.
To say it was tough work is an understatement as I have been overly reliant on using my inside hand to guide her in circles and shall take some rectifying. There are two little videos, thanks to same friend who caught previous videos & photos, which I'll include below - apologies but they aren't very exciting. The sun was in the wrong place and no other videos could be made, which was a great pity as I managed to get our best canter transition & maintaining our shape & contact ever on our normally worse rein - I was so pleasantly surprised I wish I had it on "film" to watch back and try to pin-point what we did differently in the hopes of repeating the process. As I was so caught up in the moment & listening to L's advice that I couldn't honestly say what my body was doing - so not sure i could replicate it from memory alone!

As is often the case after I see videos/pictures of myself or have a good lesson - I tend to get caught up in my head with what I want to/need to change and as such my riding suffers - and the rest of that week was no exception. I didn't ride Monday or Tuesday evenings and was late getting into the saddle on Wednesday evening as I'd offered to help L with her jumping - being the gopher & fence fixer, it is the least I can do seeing as I can offer no constructive criticism!
What made my riding worse that day was that I knew all day (and indeed the two previous days) that i would be crap as I knew I'd get all caught up in my head and then got annoyed at myself for not being able to stop it from happening. L was there and helped me save the spin be coaxing me out of my head and then scolding me for being too hard on myself after we finished on a good note. Needles to say that as soon as I was out of sorts Kika took full advantage and pretended to be terrified of the sides on the arena - which gave me a good giggle at the end of the session as L & agreed that Kika was never going to be the type of horse to help me out if I'm in a fluster - teehee. More a case of she takes full advantage to have a bit of a spook - she's such a character and there was no badness in her so I could but laugh.

I had a better spin the following day, although still far from the nice work we'd had at the weekend as I tried to incorporate some of the advice I'd been given re:where my hands should be and how I rise out of the saddle in trot work...
I was also listening to different music lol - since I started riding with my mp3 player, I'd been continuously listening to Florence + the machines latest album 'Ceremonials' - which I adore. But for a change of pace I decided to have a go with the calmer Snow Patrol & 'Fallen Empires'.
Might be an interesting experiment to see if I ride better listening to certain types of music over others - although the frequency with which I listen to certain albums will also have a baring as I think familiarity will breed contempt - and if the music fades further into the background and my mind gets more of a chance to tick things over and think - I'll start interfering/tensing more...Perhaps changing things up will be best - either way have just talked myself into a sort of experimentation - any readers care to join me?
(If I have any followers left considering the length and now infrequency of my posts I wouldn't blame you all for jumping ship! :-p )

On Friday, Kika & I made our long awaited return to hacking in the woods (the title of this submission is now all being tied in I hope). Our previous two outings while not thermonuclear (sorry have recently read the Fifty Shades trilogy and some of the vocabulary is contagious - not unlike "Laters" in the books ;-)) were far from smooth. For anyone who may not have been following the blog during Kika & my "troubles", we went through a phase over a year ago where Kika took to rearing straight up when dis-enclined from going forward - I had everything checked and it turned out her saddle never fit - long story short, it's been a twisty road - but we are (fingers crossed) out of that dark time!
Anyways as a hangover (if you will) from this period in our partnership, Kika realised that if we were out hacking and she threatened to rear, tucking her head in so I'd lose steering, prancing/tossing her front feet around in a "don't-forget-what-I'm-capable-of" kind of threat - which there was no fear of me forgetting seeing as my confidence took a serious knock. Anyway, thanks to my wonderful Guru (L's) help we had got everything back on track and our partnership and progression was better than ever - the final hurdle to negotiate was returning to the big bad woods where for whatever reason (probably previous threats and lingering fear) my brain would go into shut-down/freeze mode when she'd start to be silly and rather than reprimand her and drive her on I'd tense in the saddle and in some way she'd win as I'd panic slightly and wind up getting down walking a bit on foot and then getting back on board - all the while being annoyed at myself as I knew it was a victory for her!
Giving myself a mental talking to and finally building back up the belief in ourselves and of course with L's consistent encouragement & support we headed back into the woods last Friday with what I hoped was the mental fortitude to not lean forward and panic if she started acting the hound, but to sit up straight and drive her on as I used to do when we were in Ireland before 'the fear' took root. I also brought my trusty smaller riding crop as opposed to the longer schooling whip.

Being the semi-coward that I am, I walked alongside her to the entrance of the woods as (1) we had to pass her turnout field where her overly attached fieldmate would make a fuss at our passing and (2) Straw was being brought in and after having been almost run down twice by speeding tractors & trailers in going to get Kika from her field - I decided I'd rather avoid any potential opportunities to set us off before we even got going.
Plus I didn't fancy an audience (the drivers) if Kika and I did get into a tiff.

Just inside the entrance to the woods there is a bench which I was able to mount from, although on the wrong side as I was still in semi-coward mode and didn't want to turn Kika towards home to mount from the correct side. Despite my not often mounting from the incorrect side, it thankfully caused no ill effects and we could continue on down the hill into the woods strolling happy out with L's 2 bearded collies ahead of us and L thankfully nattering away to me keeping me out of my own head - she really is a Godsend!

This isn't a Disney story or a Hollywood film - so it wasn't all smooth sailing, we did hit our eventual speed bump when after a few minutes in front going up an incline Kika decided something ahead was just too scary to keep going towards and spun a 180 almost bashing into L and her horse - we had to go single file as the path wasn't really wide enough to ride abreast. Thankfully I kept calm, remembered to sit up and turned her back the way she was refusing to go, when we got back up alongside L Kika realising I wanted her to go back in front had another "Hell No" moment and spun again - this time the stick came out down her shoulder as well as some growling and with encouragement from L I drove her on up the hill ahead of the other horse ignoring her nonsense.
To say I was proud of myself in that moment would be an understatement - I was bloody delighted with myself - and I really hope that this doesn't come off as sounding big-headed or conceited ... but this was our big milestone and what had been holding me back from really appreciating all that we have accomplished in the last year. This gray cloud loomed on the horizon, the fact that I knew I was still afraid of what might happen if we returned to the woods hacking.

We had a few more discussions later in the hack about passing logs piled on the side, but no more spinning just a bit of eyes-on-stalks and kind of zig-zagging on approach to the scary pile of logs and/or patch of sunlight through the trees! *roll-eyes*
She can be so silly when she want's to be, L quite rightly laughed at her carry on and pointed out that if she was faced with the prospect of jumping the logs she'd have a completely different attitude to them - which was a spot on observation as Kika did love going Cross Country when we lived in Ireland.
We even went for some trots & canters in the woods which were wonderfully liberating - I think L was actually surprised that I was happy to go faster than walk - I don't know if I can explain it properly - but once I'd weathered her first pique I knew we'd fine if any more were to happen and I was only too happy to do whatever she wanted after that.

I know this is unbearably long - so apologies once again!

Don't worry though that is all the equestrian activities all caught up, as although I had great intentions of doing more work with Kika over the weekend and indeed this week prior to my visit to Dublin for the Horse Show this weekend (Excited doesn't begin to cover how much i am looking forward to this, L is coming with me! Yippe!) ... I was very stupid on Saturday just gone and managed to scorch the front of my shins while reading in the back garden, so there was no way I could get into jodhpurs, socks & tight gaiters and go for a spin!
I did manage to coax the gear on myself yesterday (national holiday for some religious day so no work) - but wouldn't know know Kika had let something bite her where the saddle goes and she had a nice bump on her back. Nothing to worry about, but she just wasn't 100% comfortable with my touching it so I figured my weight in a saddle would just be too mean - and we know how sensitive she can be about an ouchy back!!!! ;-)

So the lucky sod gets another unplanned week's break - and hopefully when I get back into the saddle on Monday we'll both be refreshed and ready to get back to work!
Hopefully I'll finally have learned my lesson and keep out of my head and out of my own way!
Watch this space ;-)

Saturday 4 August 2012

Quick Video & photo update

Throwing up a quick update here as a friend came with me to the yard today while I rode and managed to snap a few pics and some videos of myself and Kika. So thought I'd share them very quickly as heading out to the cinema soon to see Ted!
I've stepped up the amount of time I spend on our canter now as since I started riding with my mp3 player I must be more relaxed as we're not struggling as much as we had been of late. We are still a long way off perfection, if we'll ever even get close is debatable - but all the fun is in learning and trying new things together!

Hoping to schedule a time with L for a lesson tomorrow and some pole work - hoping to work in the outdoor if it's dry & not to hot, summer has finally arrived in Luxembourg and it's come with a vengeance. Over 25C today - happy days!

Posting these in the order they were taken in, so that anyone reading might have an idea of any progression that may or may not be there!

First up a pic of our Giraffe impression in walk - she was very antsy when we started - she had a real bee in her bonnet about something. I honestly didn't think I'd get a single share-able photo or video from today as she was very twitchy when I was tacking up.

Beginning to come around and thinking about relaxing
I know my hands are awful in this pic, it;s something I'm hoping to work on in the lesson tomorrow & of course my sneaky heels are still troubling me by creeping up and can't be seen in the photos but my legs are always moving so L is also going to tackle that in our lesson tomorrow by strapping me into a pair of spurs to make me more conscious of my leg as well as reminding Kika that she actually has to listen to my leg aids. There really is a pair of us in it and I can't say I blame my horse for ignoring me sometimes as watching teh videos from today i really am always at her sides! *blushing*

First video is of some trotting

Quick photo

Next we have another trotting video

And another video - some cantering on our worse of the two reins

And two more photos

And a final video - cantering on our slightly better of the two reins, although you might hear me telling Kika off for leaning on my hands. But bless her she was very good considering I was convinced I was in for a throwing-toys-out-of-the-pram-wobbly-tantrum-throwing-spin when I was tacking up

 She worked well for me in the heat - indoor arenas in the summer can be like ovens - although save pale Irish girls like myself from sunburn!

Had a jumping lesson on wednesday just gone, riding in the outdoor for the first time since last Autumn some time. Decided it'd be better if the pair of us were kept busy by someone talking to us (aka teaching) and jumps always get Kika and myself in good humour! :D
We have a lot to work on, especially as we'd a bounce of pole on the ground 2 small cross poles, pole on the ground followed by another cross pole which Kika steadfast refused to make an effort to jump till she got some extra encouragement in the from of a slap on the shoulder from my crop. We then also did two more larger cross poles on looping changes of rein. The venture was made slightly more challenging by outdoor being right beside one of the yard parking areas so lots of coming & going and car doors opening, closing + lights flashing etc etc. Plus the people who had been having lessons with the SJ instructor (L also helps me and another friend with jumping tips over the course set up for the lessons - suits lesson users as then we clean up after everyone as we're the last to use the fences, hahaha!) we sitting on tables & chairs by arena having their Bubbly Wednesday where they have a mid-week party every week. Normally they have it in the cafeteria area at the yard - but with the nice weather they've moved their celebrations outside - so to say i was apprehensive of Kika's reaction to being ridden outside for the first time in ages, jumping for the first time in ages - the fact we had to do it all in front of an audience was not my favourite thing!
Thankfully no major mess ups - although again it was far from perfect. I've to remember to sit back and wait for the fence to come to me, fold going over the fence - not before and Kika and I will have to have discussions as to who sets the pace going into the fence ;)
As of next week there will be no tanking into the fence at Kika's speed! :p

So that's us kind of caught up in a not so brief update - I know I keep promising brief updates yet never manage to deliver, SORRY!!!!

Better run as bus-ing it to the cinema. Will hopefully have another update tomorrow after our lesson with L. Same friend that took above photos & video has offered to play with my new camera for shots tomorrow - so we'll see what happens if there are any i am willing to share! :p