Friday, June 26, 2009

Lily Glen: Days 1 - 2

By Tuesday night, everything was loaded in the trailer tack room. As in, we fit all the equipment for five days of horse camping for two girls and two horses, including three MONSTROUS bales of hay plus one smaller one, inside a normal trailer-sized tack room. It was a triumph of engineering, let me tell you.

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!


jacksonsgrrl said...

WOW! I sure envy you all of your experiences on Pandora! What a beautiful looking place! Hopefully, you will have a slew of pics to post when you get home!!!
The bike pedal thing engages them from behind. My dressage instructor has me doing it even tho' Jackson NEVER needs any help with get up and go (good, but scary sometimes!!) but she has me do it in every gait b/c (and I may be butchering this...) it makes them reach with their back legs, etc. I have learned this through other dressage instructors but wasn't doing it alot on Jacks cause he's so forward. Apparently, this is a common constant dressage move to ( I am assuming) get them on the forehand and engage the hind end, which my green horse obviously needs MUCH work on!!!! I want to do 3 day eventing but am starting out with dressage. Small jumps (12 inches) cavaletti, etc. but nothing more, we aren't close to ready for more....Well, Jackson may be, but his back to riding (after too many years) rider who has broken her shoulder (on Jacks 2 yrs ago) and still has fear issues isn't yet. The lessons help SO much as does every ride. My confidence is 100% more than it was one year ago! Enjoy your horses sweetie!

mugwump said...

>>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 really like this. If I combine it with a deep seat and rock my seat bones in the same rhythm it should work wonders on a nervous or anxious colt, with out having to bring in my hands. I can't wait to try it...

manymisadventures said...

Hmm, I had no idea this was a common thing to do. I really liked the way it worked - subtle but a definite effect.

Mugwump, let me know how it goes!

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