Tuesday 22 October 2013

Brilliant Birthday Weekend

Saturday was my birthday, my "baby" sister surprised me on Friday evening by flying back for the occasion. Having her wake me up at 2am Saturday morning with the surprise was a little less fun but I had had a sneaking suspicion she may be on her way - I was glad my instincts were right on the money, :p
Plus she brought me lovely Cadbury's chocolate & my fav perfume Flora by Gucci, what a generous girl she is with her new job earnings!

My work colleagues also went all out on the gifts on Friday, when I got a lovely strawberry mousse cake at our mid-morning coffee break & loads more yummy chocolates & goodies such as Ferrero Rocher, Raffaellos & Taytos - all the way from Ireland...the Irish expats gold-dust! ;-) My sis in Canada also sent me yummy flavoured Skittles, the likes of which cannot be found here in Europe - Tasty Times were had!

Happy LS with two happy horses
 Little Sister (LS) came with me to play with the ponies on Sunday & got her first spin on the loveable Nancy. She insisted on riding Nancy first as she thought she might find her too big if she started with Kika. I was happy to let her try who she wanted first, but I probably should have insisted on starting Nancy myself as the little minx took the mick out of her a bit. Although to be fair I think they were both feeling nervy & sadly feeding one from the other - N as always was a gem and didn't misbehave as such, but as with myself previously, when she feels her rider's uncertainty her reaction is to speed up.
We swapped and C had some fun with Kika while Nancy was reassured. Nothing against my sister's riding ability - she was just a little nervous and sadly baby horse + nervy rider made things a little more awkward then they needed to be. However all's well that ends well and she hopped back up on Nancy afterwards for another little trot.
As an aside, my sister said she LOVED riding Kika - the LS has never shied away from riding Kika and it is really sweet how she natters to her the whole time when in the saddle...I don't know who the talking keeps calm, but I wish I did it more - I am a terrible internaliser and don't use my voice as much as a should! *blush*

Long-time followers of this blog, did you ever think you'd see the day where someone said they actually enjoyed riding Miss Kika?!
I can't tell you how hearing such a kind thing, from someone other than the Guru who is biased as she has helped me so much, has warmed my heart.

Can you guess which one is attention-seeking?

 Sadly LS was only here for a flying visit and had to return to Ireland Sunday evening from Frankfurt-Hahn in Germany. The drive to the airport was glorious, it was a lovely dry, clear day & the trees were stunning with their multi-coloured leaves. I shall be flooding my instagram (LINK) with pictures I took en route, as well as the usual spamming pics of skylines & ponies!

Yesterday (Monday) was another lovely dry day, sadly I think today may be our last day of "Indian Summer" as it is due to thunderstorm this evening and then the forecast looks poor for the rest of the week. I am super lucky in that of late I have been able to squeeze in spins on both girls in the evenings after work before barn closing time of 10pm.

Lovely gift from two yard friends - a new bridle for Nancy.
I started with Nancy last night, as almost always she was first up to the gate - so she got to come in first.
It took her a bit longer to settle then our last few spins, perhaps some side-effects from Sunday spin starting with LS. We re-encountered our pre-summer-forestry-chill-out-hacking issue of not wanting to walk but trying to trot all the time. So we did for a few laps to get the trotting out of her system as she is more comfortable trotting and settles well, then we cam back to walk and worked on transitions w/t. These were also a little sticky, so we changed tactic and in the walk worked on smaller circles in a corner focusing on bend before changing rein, doing a bit of trot, transitioning back down to walk to circle on the other rein before trotting and changing rein again.
I then tried another new thing, an exercise I used to do a lot with Kika and really helped us. 3-loop serpentine with a small circle at each loop at the walk, as N isn't balanced enough yet for this in trot. We were both concentrating hard for this, me trying to keep her balanced and soft on the circles and her just concentrating on something new and challenging. It was a really cool feeling to feel her think about it as we went through the exercise once on each rein with a bit of a trot break and large circle between rein changes to help relax. She was a doll as always - and I was super happy to be able to encourage her to relax and stop her attempts to trot when I wanted us to walk. We also have a lot of work to do on our walk, as she is inclined to prefer to walk really slowly and not stride properly - so i have to use my seat (basin) to coax her into striding better when walking - difficult to do at the start when she wants to trot, but we'll get there baby steps and keeping things fresh & changing stuff up when we ride will hopefully keep the learning process fun.

Sadly I hadn't received the shiny new bridle/birthday present prior to riding Nancy - hence why Kika is in the picture behind it lol! I am looking forward to trying it on Nancy's monster head this evening. Bless my friends - they said they bought the biggest bridle in the shop, here's hoping it fits! I have never had a bulky noseband bridle before as Kika's head is way too dainty to carry it off, it would dwarf her - I'm really looking forward to seeing how it looks on Nancy's humungo-head.

Not to be left out Kika also got ridden last night, picture is of her posing after our spin - she is such a ham for the camera!
The Guru happened to be around as I started with Miss K and popped into the arena with us to give me some pointers - I couldn't tell you the last time I had a lesson!
I was in my dressage saddle and riding without a martingale, when L (the Guru) rode K in the training clinic a few weeks back the teacher (who had originally put the martingale back on Kika last November) said we could start phasing out the use of it as she no longer "needed" it, however to keep it handy as she is the type that could use the odd refresher course. ;-)
As usual I have to keep my heels down and use my calves more to squeeze a response from her and carry my hands better - not let them droop as I am wont to do...nasty nasty bad habits!

As Kika is super hairy and in dire need of a clip we kept it short & sweet. Roll on Nov 1st, when they start going in at night and we can clip the hairy-Kika-monster!

L had me concentrate on lengthening her trot stride while not increasing the speed in both sitting & rising trot. We also worked a good bit on our canter, with my sitting down deep into the saddle and lengthening myself - apparently I am still "crispé" = tensing when cantering and not going with the movement. I have to ride my canter like I am about to ask for a downward transition as only then am I properly going with the movement of the mare. Yay for stuff to work on - but at the same time, I should be getting this stuff by now, no?

K showing why her rug is needed the state of her!

 I've seen mention of the "to blanket vs not to blanket" debate mentioned online again this year. Obviously it is personal preference. I don't think I could ride in the evenings if I didn't cover my girls, they are both muck-monsters and would be destroyed every evening prompting me to spend the time I need for riding cleaning them. As it is you should see the state of their necks & legs when they come in - it is laughable how much muck they can fit onto such "small" body surfaces! 

Nancy has a new rug ordered (and dispatched - thank you Old Mill Saddlery), sadly the plum colour was not on special offer so she's getting a blue one like Kika's. Seeing how she has destroyed the first one, I'm slow to pay the 60-80 I found online vs the 40ish I managed to find in the same colour as Kika's - probably stock clearance on an old colour combo - but I loves it anyway, especially the price. ;-)
Speaking of the state of things *rolls-eyes*
I am loving these Horseware Amigo Hero Lite 0g filling rugs as they are wind & water-proof and perfect to keep the girlies clean without fear of them over-heating in these lovely mild autumn days.

Also lastly, just before I sign off from another mammoth update (SORRY!) an equine dentist came to the yard for a friends horse so I asked them to check my girls' teeth. I knew from equine dentist in Ireland that Nancy has awkward teeth and food can get trapped between them, my vet has been keeping an eye on them for me and even removed three of Nancy's baby teeth back in September - yes I have them & suggestions as to what to do with them are most welcome!

 Please artistic blog-readers help an-artsy-challenged girl out!

Thankfully both girls are fine for the moment and need to be re-checked in 6 months. Dentist said N's teeth are changing at the moment, so not a lot she can do right now - she'll know more when she re-visits. Kika could have had some work done, her front teeth were a bit long and some of her molars a little sharp - but dentist said it was nothing drastic and that they could both be done in 6 months time!

Fingers crossed that Nancy's new bridle fits & that, as the Guru put it, Kika can get her bridle back - leather quality on the black & grey one I got in July is quite poor...but I knew that considering what I paid for it :p
Will hopefully have some new pictures and another (hopefully smaller) update for you tomorrow!

*hugs, milk & cookies to anyone who has read this update to the end*

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Always Apologising!

Sorry again for the delay in my updating, my laptop broke a few weeks ago, I gave it into repair shop. However I haven't been back to see what the story is yet and blogging from my phone is just a nightmare - we need an app for this! :p
Plus I have become super addicted to instagram (apologies to those who follow my updates there & have seen the photos already) and as there is an app for that it is so quick to share the snapshots there. Although I do take a lot more photos than I share - I should share the excess here to keep things fresh & interesting for those who read...food for thought!

Girlies modeling their Amigo Hero Lite turnouts

 I last updated prior to heading back to Ireland unexpectedly due to illness of a family member - thankfully they came out of the woods this time and shall fight on. It was great to see them and a lot of other family members including Nancy's birthmom and getting celebrate my grandmother's 87th birthday with her was great!
She is some woman for one woman - still on the dance floor @1am - long after I was gone to bed!

That weekend the Guru rode Kika in the training clinic with an external trainer - who she had ridden Kika for twice before. Sadly no one could document this stage, so there are no videos or photos to share from it - however all reports have been very positive. With the best compliment coming from the trainer himself who said that he wouldn't recognise the horse as the same one he'd seen twice before, that the work done with her was beyond anything he'd have thought possible in the time since he last saw her in January!
Amazing compliment - probably had more to do with the fact that L had her in bootcamp for the week before the clinic and very little to do with anything K & I have done :p

Love the Autumn colours!

I have been riding both girls as often as I can and having great fun with them. My confidence with Nancy is growing, we alternate our work between only doing walk & trot work one day and then adding canter another day all the while changing up the scenery by riding in different arenas with different people. She is getting more exposed to riding with others and holds her concentration really well until left "alone" (with me) in the arena when all others leave - when she gets a bit giraffy & wobbly before settling back down really quickly again.
She is very good when the other riders in the arena get too close or come up behind her at greater speeds then she is going - she doesn't break stride or even look at them. They make me a little mad as everyone knows she is a young horse, yet they would mow us down if they could - some riders are just disrespectful when sharing an arena. *Le Sad Times*

She is also very good when sharing the arena with someone lunging another horse - even when that horse suddenly bursts into buck/farting mode - she does wobble a little when this happens, but only if it happens "behind her back" if she is facing them when they explode she doesn't bat an eyelid. She is so good that I forget she is only 4 years old - such a cool head on young shoulders.
I was bad and let my frustration with others get the better of me last night, as one of my fellow liveries after lunging her horse in the arena with us, knowing that N is very young - returned with the wheelbarrow to collect her horse's poop! Thankfully N didn't give it too much notice, however as this lady was moving around the arena, seemingly oblivious to me...we kept to walk in case one of the clankings would spook Nancy and I'd lose my steering & brakes.
She then stood in the corner rolling back up her lunging gear, hitting the clasps off the plastic chairs in the corner & wrapping everything back in their rustling plastic bags. Yes young horses need desensitization to things, but they don't need to be goaded into reactions either or have their limits tested when they are on their own in the arena with no other horses to help steady their nerves. I wouldn't mind but both this ladies horses are nervy animals and if someone was to do to her what she did to Nancy & I, she would hit the roof.
I try to be respectful of those I share the arenas with and am sensitive to the animals they ride & ages etc - it is always a pity when others don't extend the same courtesies to you.

Hedge-trimming Round 1, aka: Kika's mane got pulled

Kika and I have been plodding away, doing what we do - as best we can. I am weaning us off the martingale with her, rode her for the first time in a while without it last night and she was a doll. Stupidly i forgot my schooling whip and had to use my legs more than I have become used to.

Note to self: ride-more-without-artificial-aids to build leg strength. It made me realise how bad I have become and reliant upon the odd tap here and there from the schooling whip for more pep in her step. *LeShame*

I have been relatively good at keeping up with my sit-ups for L. Williams @ Viva Carlos' October challenge. Namely to do 100 sit-ups a day for the month of October - which would mean 3100 sit-ups by the end of the month. I was a day late starting this challenge & tried to ease myself into it by only doing 25 that first night and then 50 morning & evening since. On days I don't ride i try to increase one of my sessions to 75 - I also missed a couple 50s sets when I was in Ireland for the weekend. However I am keeping track of how many I am doing and shall keep going beyond the 31st of Oct to get the 3100 goal - in fact I am sneakily enchanted with the idea of having toned abs and who knows a 6 pack some day, so I may try to keep doing them for the foreseeable future - here's hoping i don't loose interest as I am renowndly lazy as I would like to be "ripped" LOL!

I think that's me all caught up for now, here's hoping i can get back into the swing of blogging & keep things better updated for myself and you kind forgiving followers who read all my waffle!

Friday 4 October 2013

New Nancy Photos

The friend who kindly snapped photos of Kika and I last week was able to spare a few moments to snap a couple shots of Nancy and I warming up in walk this evening.
I snapped a photo or two pre- & post-plaitting of her mane as its after getting so long - I love it!

Right no more chat from me as am on my phone and blogspot can be tricky to navigate & post pics without a pc/laptop, but I have to share these photos as I finally have some of myself and N under saddle.


Good girl pat

Giving her shadow the hairy eyeball

I love my poneh

Apologies for the photo quality, as ways all were taken on my camera phone. Nancy & i again mostly worked in walk and trot in the biggest & spookiest arena for the baby horse. I ride Nancy with my stirrups two holes longer then when i ride Kika in the same saddle. Apparently my legs swing forward and i end up looking like i am sitting in an armchair = not good!

Kika came back safe and sound from her couple of days bootcamp with the Guru in France, they are both ready to rock their lessons with the external rainer this weekweet. L said that Kika had been very good, loaded up like an angel for her when she was by herself Tuesday morning and behaved really well in her new spooky surroundings with pigeons out to try and upset her composure while away from home.

I sadly won't have much, if any internet access while i am in Ireland. I will however try to be a good girl and keep up with L Williams from Viva Carlos' sit-up blog challenge. I was unable to attempt 2-point or timing myself this evening for a baseline, so that challenge will be for another year. If i can complete the sit-up challenge, i will be very happy with my unfit self. I missed day 1 on Oct 1st, but i did do 25 sit-ups last night before bed and 50 this morning before work. Going to attempt to do another 50 this evening and hope to eventually catch up on those i missed day one - the better i am at sticking to doing them the easier they will be...right?!

My sincere apologies if bits of this blog post are more incoherent than usual, playing with blogger on my phone is a challenge. I really hope this post works and isn't all over the shop format-wise as i'll cry if i have to do it again!

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Random Ramblings

I am after getting very bad at keeping my blog updated -sorry guys!
But on the other hand this means that things are quiet on the horsey front & there are no dramas. :)

Sleepy Sunbathers
This photo was taken Saturday 21/9/2013 - I had just ridden Nancy and the plan had been to ride Kika but the two horses they share the field with were going on a hack and rather than turn Nancy back out on her own or leave her tied up while I rode Kika. I gave Miss K the day off and shared a bucket of carrots between the two of them.

Sunday 22/9/2013 I did pole work with both girls. The Guru set poles down in the outdoor and gave me a lesson with Kika and then rode her mare O at the same time as I rode Nancy - her first time in the outdoor. Of course she was her usual angelic self, one or two spooks at a pram & a dog that suddenly moved, but Nancy being Nancy those were more sideways scoots than actual "spooks".
I had hoped to attempt to do a paint recreation of the pole work layout - but as it has been so long since I rode them I have forgotten! *shame*

It was, however, very good for both horses & me. Kika and I worked on canter poles and had a funny semi-argument where she knew what I was going to ask and wanted to strike-off in canter before I wanted her to, as this was immediately after a set of trotting poles she almost snotted herself in the process - silly mare! However we got there in the end, managing to calmly canter poles on a bend - it felt awesome when we *ahem* I *cough* got it right and helped rather than hindered her!
Nancy was a doll, we stuck to the trotting poles - neither of us is balanced enough ensemble to tackle canter poles just yet so we worked on our tempo, steering & remaining focused on me and what I was asking as opposed to the distracting things going on around her. L & I then went for a quick hack in the woods to round out the weekend before coming back to tidy up the poles.

Post pole-work & hack matchy-matchy shot ;-)
Monday through Wednesday following that weekend were lazy days for the ponies as I had no energy to do anymore than visit them, sadly. I was a very bad mommy!
Thursday I had an after-work do as one of my 5 colleagues that got married this summer (crazy, right?!) had some cakes & drinks after work so that we could all meet her new husband.
So Friday  27/09 was my first time putting my backside back in the saddle after Sunday. L had asked to ride Kika as she is riding her in a training clinic again this coming weekend, so I got to focus solely on Nancy & not clock-watch to be able to fit the pair of them in. We shared the arena with another rider and we had a great time. L & Kika finished up before we did (they had been working outside) and came to join us as it was after getting too dark so she cooled K off while I finished up with Nancy. I got some helpful tips, mostly to encourage N to stride when walking & not take baby steps. Also to really focus on keeping her head slightly to the inside when working - something she finds quite difficult as her balance is still off. Baby steps but...we'll get there. Our arena work is miles better than it was at the start of the summer - so the summer hacking & trail riding in the woods did the trick and helped me relax & trust Miss Nancy more! :D

Saturday 28/09 The Guru rode Nancy for the first time in the woods while I hacked Miss Kika, who was of course on her toes & a bit of a goon as she hadn't been hacked in these woods in a couple of months - she is such a silly sausage and insisted on spooking/sidestepping sideways at every ray of sunshine and/or bench + tree stump we passed. She is such a character & that is why we love her...allegedly! ;)

Sunday 29/09 ended up being a day off for the ladies as there was a national show for lower level riders at the yard and between a charity walk up the country & family friends visiting I didn't manage to sit on either girl. However myself & the family friend did go visit them and fawn over them in the field for half an hour without realising that much time had passed - woopsy...but yay for pony-lovin-time!

Again "old" photo from 22/09, I was hoping for a N body-shot but she had to keep coming up to me!
Monday 30/09 I rode Kika in the main arena and we had a great session. L had mentioned after her spin on Friday to try to focus more on transitions with her, so that she could better maintain her shape when transitioning between gaits - so we worked on that while doing all the usual circles, serpentines & changing of rein. I spent a lot of time with Kika that evening as L has taken her on "holiday"/bootcamp for a couple of days.

I'll back-track a bit, the reason the Guru had asked to ride her the previous Friday was that she has signed up for a training clinic (I think I mentioned that above) with the instructor that she has ridden Kika for twice before while her mare was out of action this time last year and earlier this year.
Older posts about these occasions can be found for Nov HERE & HERE [videos] and for Jan HERE & HERE [videos].

L has signed up for lessons with both Miss Kika & her own mare (all going well) on Friday & Sunday. She has a good friend from her uni days who has a Riding School/Club just over the border in France who she often goes to visit when she has a week off - can you see where this is going? ;)
L was invited to visit her friend in France for a couple of days and was taking her mare & dogs. Knowing the training clinic/stage was going to be on this weekend I said that if her friend had room at the inn for Kika that I would have no problem with L taking her with for a few days bootcamp to re-establish the bells & whistles before the lessons with the external trainer this coming weekend. So Kika loaded up like a good girl yesterday morning, or so I have been told as I wasn't there, and everyone arrived safe & sound in France. I'm vainly looking forward to Thursday evening when they get back and I can see my Keeks again & hear all about what they've been up to.

Sadly I won't get to see any of the clinic this weekend as I have to make an unplanned trip back to Ireland due to a family member's ill health. :(
Hopefully someone can film it for L, so that we can both watch it & learn from the external teacher.

Gosh, sorry this post is getting super long - I'll make a warning up the top of the post and apologise here!
Last night I had a wonderful spin with Nancy, we worked solely on walk & trot with my focus being on keeping her correct - not letting her rush away from me to avoid work or pull faces/lock her jaw when things got a little harder to maintain and less to her liking. I concentrated on keeping her striding in walk & not running in trot, all the while maintaining our shape and trying to coax her head slightly to the inside, however this is very difficult for her as she still has to build muscle & learn balance better. When we started, she wanted to rush into her trot work and stay there while also refusing to circle nicely, whenever we'd leave the track for our circle she'd stick her nose in the air and try to lock her jaw. So I went back to walk and worked a lot on changing the rein across the center by making a big "S" between circles and only trotting down the long sides to keep things alternated and not allow her to focus on one evasion tactic. By the time we finished up she was nicely trotting and walking circles without locking her jaw and trying to run through my hands.

She is so different to Kika, yet both are such fun to ride and try to work through the kinks with.

I had been hoping that the friend who took the pictures of myself and Kika two weeks ago might be at the yard at the same time as me tonight to take some snapshots/videos of myself and Nancy - the only imagery I have of us under saddle is the first video when I rode her for the first time in July 2012. So apologies to anyone (myself) included who would like to see images of myself & Nancy working under saddle - it looks like we are all going to have to wait a little bit longer. :(