Friday, June 26, 2009
Anyway, after a fairly long and uneventful drive, we pulled into the campground. Lily Glen is an absolutely beautiful place.
It's kind of a sad story, actually. Lily Glen is actually public land, donated awhile ago by someone. From what I understand, Lily Glen used to be the premier recognized event in Oregon - for a time, the ONLY recognized event. The course went up to Intermediate. A few years of terrible flooding essentially ruined it, destroyed the footing and the courses. A big old barn, kind of a landmark, burned down - lots of people donated their time and money to rebuild and restore it, and the new one burned down too.
Noble Riders Pony Club is working very hard to build up the course again. They've added several new cross-country fences each year, and right now the course goes up to Novice. I hope someday it can be a recognized event again, but we'll see. It's so sad to walk by the broken-down ruins of these old, huge fences, big hanging logs, skinnies, water complexes.
But, I was there to ride and have fun at camp.
Over the course of the whole week, Pandora was just not very settled. Don't think she was a big fan of the whole openness. She didn't eat her grain very well, though she ate probably 80% of it, and didn't plow through hay like she normally does. On the other hand, she drank lots of water and didn't seem unhappy, just a bit on the tense side.
We of course breezed through the jogout on Wednesday night. Pandora was a bit nervous because of all the stuff going on, and I swear she grows about a hand when she's a tad spooky - she puffs up and it's very pretty to watch, though a little disconcerting to try to steer. Anyway, I got a compliment from the judge/inspector about my "lovely mare." Why yes, she is quite lovely!
First lesson on Thursday morning was XC. Pandora was hot to trot and OMG she looked adorable in her brand new red fly bonnet. I hope someone got pictures. It wasn't even a silly purchase, because she inherited typical sensitive TB skin and absolutely hates flies. Anyway.
Our warmup was just perfect for her. The whole group rode on a big circle, walking awhile, trotting for five minutes or so, then a little cantering. I'm learning that she just wants to get out there and move when we're in jumping mode, no stupid standing around or quiet walking or expecting her to trot slowly right off the bat. She just wants to get a forward, no-nonsense trot going, then I can start asking her to adjust or transition.
She jumped marvelously that day. She is developing a rather forward-but-not-rushing attitude to the fences, which I really enjoy. It's a blast to ride and she was jumping like a rockstar. The only times we get into trouble are when I think the instructors want something slower, so I pick, and she either fusses or chips the fence or both, so I just need to stop second-guessing and always ride nicely forward.
The instructor had a really nice tip, too, for horses who warm up pretty tense and stiff at the walk. She said to just put toe pressure on each stirrup, like you're pushing down a brake pedal, as each shoulder comes forward. Left, right, left, right. I'm not sure how exactly it works - I'm guessing the way it sort of imposes a gentle rocking on the horse's back - but it really seems to help them slow, relax, and stretch down, at least a little bit. I tried it a little at the trot and met with some moderate success there, too.
Our second lesson of the day was pacing. I expected, I don't know, marked-off sections of 100m each and tips on how to get and maintain your ideal pace, but we ended up going on a strange little trail ride for about 40 minutes, then she took us to a big loop and essentially told us how long it should take us to complete it at a certain speed. So, not particularly useful I guess, especially since I got lost the first time. The second time I wanted to aim for 350 meters per minute, a solid BN pace, so I asked and she said it should take 3:50. I held a steady canter through the woods, had to drop back to a trot for some tight switchbacks, and had to really hold her back on the open stretch at the end because she just wanted to FLY through it.
I still came in closer to 400mpm.
So, well, I know the dang horse can go fast. But I'll have to be careful not to gather speed faults on my BN courses, though I'm planning to ride Novice at the rec. HT next year if all goes well.
And thus concluded the first night.
My buddy and I went for a bareback hack, which was fun - we played in the water crossing, which Pandora was not a huge fan of (she hates deep mud, can't say I blame her) and cantered around a little. I almost fell off, because her canter got really bouncy at one point on a turn, but I just grabbed mane and hauled myself back on. Later in the week, we were headed down a mown path back towards camp when my buddy on her little QH mare picked up a canter. Well heaven forbid we walk when they're cantering, and trotting bareback is no fun, so I had to canter too.
Pandora has a much faster canter than my friend's mare, so we rather quickly passed them up, Pandora took a little leap over a shallow ditch, and we did a bit of an accidental bareback gallop towards camp. She pulled up pretty easily with a circle, and it was fun. Staying on is easy in a straight line!
The second day was, um, a little bit less spectacular. We started off with grids. Most of our problems, I'm pretty sure, came from a woefully not-ideal-for-Pandora warmup. The instructor had us get in a line and pick up a trot, then adjust our speed forward and back without breaking rank. Except, well, I was behind the my friend's mare - who has a nice trot and is capable of slooooowwwwwwwwwww when the instructor asks for slow - and so I had to be up in Pandora's face pretty much constantly - even in the forward trots - to keep from breaking rank or running up the pony's butt. Then she had us go straight into trotting grids.
Nope. Pandora was not having any of that. Definitely not a good warmup for her and by this point she was all wound up.
So then the instructor sets up a pole in front of a cross-rail, says we should be putting in two trot steps before the x-rail. So, because she said so, I tried to half-halt really strong to get the two steps, since I knew Pandora was really hot and would just want to leap the whole thing. Which was a bad idea, because she flipped her head and whacked me in the nose with her poll.
Which hurt, a lot.
Ugh. Basically, the rest of the lesson sucked and I had to work hard just to get her to trot calmly through some trot poles. She lost a lot of trust in me in the beginning because I fought with her so much and she had a crappy warmup, and I just couldn't get her back. Lesson learned, I guess, and I did carry away some ideas about how to control her with more seat than hand. And also the knowledge that even if I think an instructor wants a certain thing, I need to be careful not to compromise what I know simply will not work with my horse.
I was dreading our second lesson of the day, dressage. She's been a nutcase so far, so now I'm gonna ask her to be calm and quiet??
Much to my relief, and again with a much more suitable warmup, I had my horse back for this ride. She was pretty forward, but not ignoring me, and when we did some one-on-one instruction I got some reeeally nice work with a spiraling trot circle. The inside of the spiral was very difficult for her but it produced some very nice gaits, so I know that's something I need to practice.
It was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster of a day, to be honest. I am so used to everything always being calm and right with Pandora that when I have an awful lesson like our grids session, I start second-guessing practically everything. Is she right for me? Does she hate my bit? Is she feeling okay? Am I ever going to get her to relax? Is she developing bad habits that she's going to have forever? Is she getting hotter and hotter the longer I own her? And I just go round and round. I'm glad I had such a good dressage lesson about an hour later - it helped knock some sense into me and make me remember that it's not the end of the world if I have a bad ride. More on that later, I think, it's something I need to spend some time talking about.
Lots more to write about. I learned a lot and I don't think I can get it all down in just one or two posts! I keep remembering more to go back and add. Next I'll write about the last two days of camp, then talk about the horse management lessons we had while we were at camp.
PS, tomorrow I'm going to watch the upper-level XC at Inavale's recognized HT. I am SUPER excited!
Monday, June 22, 2009
I'm home from Lily Glen camp and I had a blast. Except, well, the last two days were REALLY cold, and the derby was canceled yesterday morning because it rained all night, but overall I really did have a good time and I learned a lot.
Real posts up soon, of course, I'll write all about camp and I'll post the pictures from the camp website. Unfortunately I am really awful at taking pictures (not that I take bad pictures, I am just bad at getting the camera out to take them) so I have none of my own, but I'm sure the diligent camp photographers got some good ones of me.
In the meantime, Pandora is very happy to be back out in the (warm, sunny, large) pasture with McKinna, and I am equally as happy to be sleeping in my own bed.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I haven't ridden much lately for pretty much the same reasons I haven't been posting. Pandora has been acting on-edge a lot - not as bad as when she was in raging heat, but I free-longed her last night to blow off some steam and she was just going for it. Fingers crossed she settles down for Lily Glen.
Anyway, without further ado:
Ah, morning. A quarter to 8, to be precise. Birds chirping, horses nickering, grass waiting wetly outside to be tromped through. Which I do, promptly, to feed and water my horse, who has managed to drain two hay bags and two buckets of water overnight. Sigh.
It is satisfying when she nickers at the sight of me, though. I choose to ignore the fact that she nickered only the second time I approached, which was when I brought her hay.
I head out to the barn, correctly suspecting that our instructor won't quite be ready for the guided course walk at 8AM sharp. My pants are wet wet wet by the time I even get down to the barn, so I know the course walk is going to be hopeless. Thankfully I borrowed my mom's very waterproof boots, so my socks at least are dry. But everything else is, as usual, wet.Our instructor is perky. This is because she has a cup of coffee in her hand, and also waterproof boots that are tall enough to keep her legs dry. The course walk, despite its sogginess, actually goes well. The course looks nice, though there are some rather tight turns for Beginner Novice. Then again, this is a hybrid between SJ and XC, so I suppose I should be glad there aren't any SJ-tight turns.
The course looks like this: the first three fences are a serpentine, two stadium fences and one rolltop. Then a right turn to a double stadium, hang a right to a fake trakehner (it was a little stadium vertical set down inside a shallow ditch), then up a longish hill to a little barn. Over the barn, pretty tight left-hand turn and down the hill to hop over a little ditch. Then an almost 90-degree left turn and a few strides to a little table with a pretty straight line to another bigger table. Loop awkwardly way left and then tight right to go through the water complex, then turn around the judge's mound for a turquoise stadium fence and another tight left to jump the Fence-3 rolltop in the other direction for the final fence.It looks like a nice mix of fences, and I'll actually have some room in places to let Pandora move out a little. Some of the turns suck, but most of it should ride nicely.
My only concern is the footing. I'm not sure if you picked up on this, but everything out there is pretty darn soggy. Before my division goes, the turf has to withstand divisions of Prelim, Training, and Novice, most of them with studs. I can't stud because Pandora's not shod on hind, and you don't want to have more traction in front than in back. Barefoot should be okay, I just don't want her to slip and get anxious in the mud.
I make the long slow return to the tent and again change into breeches and half chaps to save my poor wet legs. Isn't it summer yet? Thankfully, breakfast is equally good as dinner: leftover pork chop in scrambled eggs. Yummmm. Delicious.
Then we need to scurry, because Prelim XC is from 10 - 10:15 and we want to see the big jumps! As expected, it's exciting and fun to watch. There are only three of them, and one accidentally jumps the (bigger) Intermediate trakehner instead of the Prelim one. The big E for her after she jumps her next fence, but cool to see.
So we head back, take care of some chores, check on the horse, and the like. My dressage ride time is at 1:12 and now, at last, I get to take a nap. Once again the sleeping bag is very comfortingly dry.
I wake up to the most welcome voices I have ever heard. My father has arrived in his shining white armor - okay, maybe more like a white t-shirt - with, praise the lords of Eventing, dry sweatpants and my rubber boots. And food, more food. I am thrilled beyond words. I am now warm, dry, and immune from the ever-present tall wet grass. My day has suddenly become several orders of magnitude better.
Just in time for me to tack up, of course, but it's the peace of mind that counts.
Pandora dislikes being tied to the trailer away from all other horses. She commences dancing around like an idiot, eyes wide and rolling, ears flicking all over the place, ignoring her hay bag. I get that familiar feeling that sits somewhere in the belly and goes "Oh, well, this ride is going to be fun." I tack up anyway, of course. After taking a moment to admire the vast expanse of white that is my brand-new dressage saddle pad, I mount up and head off to the [soggy, squishy, grass] warm-up area.
Happily, Pandora mellows out once I'm in the saddle. (Highly preferable to the opposite situation.) Our warm-up is, one might venture to say, nice. She relaxes and stretches into my hands. We have bend, we have transitions, we have obedience even in the slippery grass. How exciting.
Naturally, this all goes out the window once we get to the actual dressage court. Our test is tense. The 20-meter circle at A has been thoroughly pounded by all previous divisions and is not squishy but hard mud and therefore very slick. Pandora, who is paying more attention to the judge and letters than me or where she's putting her feet, has several minor slips until she's so nervous about the footing that her canter is short-strided and incredibly tense. We survive the test without any major mishaps and exit.
Oh well. At least the warm-up was good.
I never check my dressage score, but if I had, it would have been a 46.2 and we are in 6th place out of 9 or 10.
So we put the horse away, settle down for some food, etc. It has now progressed past cold and wet, through warm and wet, and everything is growing decidedly drier. It's a pleasant idea.
Anyway, I trudge out to the course like a good little Pony Clubber to walk the course one more time. Much to my surprise, it's dried out. A lot. Still a little questionable in places, but for the most part, it reasonably resembles solid ground. This is a good thing and it makes me a lot more comfortable about my impending round.
So I go get tacked up and hack out to the course.
(This was actually taken on the way BACK from the course, but oh well)
Now, Pandora likes short jumping warm-ups. As in, walk around for three or four minutes, trot for a minute, canter a bit, jump three or four jumps, and go in. Grand total 10 minutes or so. Therefore, I check in as soon as I'm in the warm-up area.
Obviously this would be a good time for someone to fall off and hold the course for 40 minutes.
She was okay, or I wouldn't complain. But still. I end up hopping off, because Pandora hates being sat on for that long and I hate sitting on her for that long. I mount up with a few minutes to go, walk a lap, pick up a canter, jump an oxer, make a neat tight turn around to a vertical, and call it good.
We head out to the course.
She wavers before the first fence, a big red and white vertical with a lot of stuff going on near it (water complexes, big hill with permanent fences, judge's area, spectators). I growl just a little and we get over nicely. Left turn to the second stadium vertical which rides really nicely. We loop around to our first XC fence, a tiny rolltop, which rides well.
I pick too much to the purple stadium combination so it's a bit ugly, but we get through okay. I give her a strong ride to the fake trakehner, convinced she's going to want to put her nose down in that ditch, but to my surprise it rides super smoothly. A bit more aggressive on the uphill, push the speed a little, then over a barn and a tight left turn to go downhill. She slipped a little on that turn, the only place on course - probably my fault for turning too tight, but she let it go quickly. Back to a trot down the hill - my downhill horse, who wants to stick her nose in every ditch and pull me onto her neck, is probably not the best horse to canter downhill to a ditch - and over the little ditch with no problems.
Then a tight turn to the line of tables, which she nails with no problem. Awkward long loop to the water complex, and after a bit of drop-the-outside-shoulder-skitter-sideways, we plunge through. Around left past the judge again and over a turquoise vertical, which was super ugly because we just got a weird distance and I stopped riding, then a tight left turn to the first rolltop again. That one rode super nicely.
And we're done, clear, and according to my father the announcer called it 2:30, which was one second under optimum time. Go us!
Everyone packs up, heads out, and we load everything up. I decide to head over to check on my score. And, to make a long story short, they'd given me 7 time penalties which I knew was incorrect. After yet another trek to the XC course, all is straightened out, my time penalties are removed to make me one of two clear rounds, and in the end I move up 5 places to take 2nd place.
Victory (or close to it) is so sweet.
*Again, I shamelessly stole this post title from a book by Patrick McManus of the same name. He is an outdoorsman and hilarious. I don't hunt or fish or much of anything, but I am still in awe of his humor. Horse camping, much like hunting and fishing and regular camping, is indeed a fine and pleasant misery.
Monday, June 15, 2009
The last of the Derby story just isn't coming out quite right and I've been busy trying to get ready for Lily Glen - I'm leaving for a 5-day Pony Club eventing camp on Wednesday. So, I promise I will finish writing the Derby post tonight or tomorrow morning, and I'll schedule the boarding barn post for sometime later this week.
The girls are fat and happy out in the pasture. McKinna's been a little tender-footed the past few days, which is pretty concerning because the mare has never been sore a day we've had her. But she was a little long for her trim on Friday, so that may be the culprit. I'm about to head out there, and hopefully she's feeling better today. Pandora, now that she's not in heat, is her normal calm self. She was a bit of a nutcase the two days she was strongest in heat. Silly mares.
Alright, better get rolling, I need to pick up a bale of hay on my way out there. Post up soon!
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Splashing through the water is plenty fun. She's quite willing, though she really prefers that we have a bit of momentum coming in. Canter up and through? No problem. Walking is a little more iffy but she'll do it if I insist.
But our 10PM dinner is very good. Pork chops and carrots and sweet potato. Mmm.
It is raining. Again. I am sure that by now I've mentioned that my current existence is very wet. Pandora is happily sheet-covered in her little corral, munching on her hay whilst getting rained on. She is wet too. She is a sea-horse, and I am her soggy rider.
Now a retreat to the tent, where the sleeping bag is dry and we have chocolate and horse magazines. We forgot the extra blanket to keep us warm, but Pandora's (clean and laundered, thank you) heavy blanket was in the trailer and serves as a nice replacement.
As I said...this is horse camping at its finest.
Next up: Saturday, the slightly less-wet day.
*I shamelessly stole this post title from a book by Patrick McManus of the same name. He is an outdoorsman and hilarious. I don't hunt or fish or much of anything, but I am still in awe of his humor. Horse camping, much like hunting and fishing and regular camping, is indeed a fine and pleasant misery.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Many Misadventures is stuck in “end of the term research paper hell” so I thought I’d entertain y’all with my cute pony story of the day (Misadventures mom here aka MyLittlePony ). Some of you may not know, McKinna is actually my horse. I shared her with Many Misadventures for her senior year of high school. She had sold her thoroughbred and planned to go away for college so we thought the best course of action would be to share McKinna. Of course, she ended up going to school here (we have a perfectly good University here you know) and buying Pandora.
Since I prefer to keep most of her feet on the ground when we ride, McKinna’s life is not nearly as exciting as it was when the Many Misadventures of McKinna was created:
So now she just gets to do mostly dressage and only two or three days a week (ok, or less sometimes). So to compensate she occasionally likes to run around like a wild woman.
It’s especially funny because she’s such a cute sweet little horse. She is rather “my little pony” like (hence my screen name). She’s 14.3 hh, white (grey), soft and has a long fluffy tail and an adorable face. She's a QH/Arab.
Anyway… she and Pandora have spent the last month in a nice sized dirt paddock, which is a great improvement over their winter months where they spent most of their time in their box stalls (that’s a story for another day). Even better than that though is the eight acre mare pasture which they got to venture out into yesterday, for the first time this season. They will soon be out there 24/7, but yesterday and today they only got to stay out a couple of hours - being introduced to all that grass slowly.
So first I head out and give them some love. Here they are: 8 acres to choose from and nibbling nose to nose.
I wasn’t paying attention at first, went through the gate and headed out - looked up to notice McKinna had just cantered over to the shelter - she was warming up. As I got closer she stared at me intently. I talked to her a bit - she’s friendly and usually easily caught. Watching me, she suddenly took off at a full gallop. I swear I have never seen that little mare run so fast in my life. And not only did she take off, but she let out some sort of half whinny half squeal sound. I got the distinct impression she was calling to the rest of them. It was a joyous sound and a wonderful sight. My little mare is more of a wild woman than a prissy pony. I could see the delight in her eyes.
I did not think fast enough to get a picture. Here’s one with a couple of her gelding friends from another day that gives you an idea of her playful spirit, although they are clearly not running all out:
By the way all 9 remaining mares stopped eating, looked up, and then took off after her. To be honest, it’s just a little scary being in a field with 10 galloping horses, but they gave me a wide berth. Actually, most people at our barn don’t like it when they run. It worries them. They fear they’re going to hurt themselves mostly, but I don’t see it that way. I see the delight in their eyes and the beauty and ease with which the cover the ground.
Mercifully, their run ended up near the gate. From there I was able to tempt McKinna with a little grain. Running is excellent, but food is better.