Monday, September 28, 2009

Brian Sabo Clinic - Favorite Quotes

As I mentioned, Brian has a great sense of humor. He's so quick that sometimes it's hard to think of something even slightly witty in reply! Once, someone else's clinic report had a collection of her favorite quotes from the clinic, which I thought was an excellent idea. Here's my favorite quotes from Brian.

"Loved your first fence. It was beautiful, absolutely perfect. Your second fence made me want to grab a bottle of Drano and pour it in my eyes. Go do it again."

I told you he was blunt. Heavy on the praise, equally heavy on criticism!

"Good riders ride the approach. Great riders ride the landing."

Similarly, "Good riders ride the front legs. Great riders ride the back legs." (Referring to his mantra that you must worry about keeping the hind legs pushing forward, NOT about when the horse picks up his front legs to jump.)

He told us about how McKinlaigh, Gina Miles' Olympic horse whom she just won Silver on, took more than a year to understand that the correct takeoff spot was NOT 13 feet away from the base of the fence. "He really, truly believed in his heart that this was the right thing to do. It took SEVEN trot poles in front of the fence to teach him how to wait. Once he figured that out, he was unstoppable."

"I'll ask you this question, because you're young and you'll probably answer wrong." (This was directed at me. I answered wrong.)

"She's afraid of the horse in the space suit." (Pandora was wearing her fly sheet, which is a shiny silvery mesh, complete with neck cover. My buddy and I went to stand and watch the last XC lesson of the day, where one girl's Preliminary/Intermediate level mare became very distracted by my terrifying astronaut-horse.)

Of course, my other favorite quotes include when he told me I had an excellent position most of the time, and when he said if he still had a working student program he'd take me on. Who doesn't need a little ego-stroking, anyway? ;-) I try not to let it go to my head.


I have had good rides the past few nights. Yesterday, I worked hard in the arena and headed out to the field to hack around for a bit. Well, you know how things go - one thing led to another and we ended up galloping for a bit. Faster than I've gone in quite awhile, probably since Lily Glen back in May. I had to pull her up before she got too quick because there are some sketchy areas of footing, fine for cantering but best to not go galloping through.

The sun had just slipped down behind the trees and the breeze was cool, but I was still warm from our workout. We went flying across the field, nothing out there but cold wind in my face and Pandora's muffled hoofbeats in the grass. She didn't want to pull up and I didn't either, and it made me remember why I love galloping.

First day of school tomorrow. Hopefully my long summer has rejuvenated me enough that I do all my reading and homework!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Brian Sabo Clinic Report - Sunday

Much like the previous day, my Sunday wake-up time was a cheerful 6:00. I'd resigned myself to this fact, though, and got up without grumbling too much about internal clocks. I wandered over to say hi to Pandora, toss her some more hay, and refill her water buckets.

I must note that I didn't have to muck her stall all weekend - I guess the stabling fee covered mucking. Score.

We rolled out at about 9:00, much earlier than yesterday, but we wanted to watch everyone else's XC rounds.

Several times over the course of the weekend, if someone was having trouble with leads, Brian said this: "A flying change or a change through the trot does not school them to land on the correct lead, because it's not much more difficult to do. To school for the correct lead, you must bring them to a walk on a straight line, get your correct bend then pick up the canter from the walk." Alternatively, you could walk-halt-reinback-walk-canter, or walk, pirouette away from the inside leg of your desired lead, and then canter. Works remarkably well, from what I saw.

Another common theme was to concentrate on keeping the hind legs moving, not telling the horse to jump. "If you keep the hind legs moving, the horse will figure out when to jump. But if you're telling the horse 'JUMP' whenever you want him to take off, then you can never ever be wrong, because you're not allowing him to learn to figure it out for himself." As long as the hind legs keep pushing, you'll get over the fence eventually.

For this same reason, he prefers several clucks or kisses (to encourage continued forward motion) rather than one big cluck or kiss, or worse yet, a 'HUP!' (which cues the jump). In fact, HUP! is apparently an acronym of a french word that means "I'm a freaking idiot who can't ride."

Did I mention he has a sense of humor? ;-)

While watching the Training-level group, I heard a lot about the 95% rule: if you're jumping a post-and-rail fence followed by a ditch, water, wall, or bank, 95% of the time the horse will come in close to the fence. This affected how you should ride, i.e., don't push your horse for the long spot.

Brian consistently told riders NOT to kick their horse back up into the canter if it drops into a trot on the approach. The legs should say 'keep going,' but you don't want to transition upward. It's part of the whole "maintain" section of the approach that he spoke about before and I explained yesterday. If you keep the trot, you can encourage the hind legs to keep moving in a nice carrying gait - but if you kick them into a canter for the last few strides, they'll be taking long, forehandy strides and it's not a good way to jump a fence.

He also said that he will not move a horse from Training to Prelim until it can canter down a line to a 3'3 square oxer, transition to a trot three strides away, and maintain a perfectly balanced steady trot to and over the fence.

Every time a horse rubbed the fence in front, Brian noted that 85% of front rubs are the rider's fault. (Sometimes I think he made up percentages!) They're caused by riders leaning forward and weighting the front end, thus preventing him from getting his forelegs up in time.

Okay. As for my lesson - it was very good!

From the moment I mounted up, I could tell Pandora had remembered the lessons from the day before. Her canter had a hint of "I want to run away," but not nearly as much as before, and my half-halt was still there. We cantered a big loop around the stadium field, practicing our extension and compression, and she was right there with me. I also worked a bit on my walk-canters on a small circle. It's very hard to get the lightness, but she was trying for me.

Brian began by setting us on a very large circle around the field. First at the trot, then at the canter, he had us practice lengthening and shortening the stride. One lady had been sitting deep in her saddle when trying to compress the canter; he brought us all in to explain why this is a bad idea.

To collect the stride, you need to soften. When jockeys want to slow down at the end of the race, they stand straight up - in other words, a very nearly dressage position, legs straight beneath the body. Sitting deep like that is driving them forward, not lightening.

He then sent us at a small coop for our first fence. He noted that because we weren't practicing over something simple like a cross-rail, this first fence was going to bring out every horse's nature. The carriers would likely drop to a trot, and Pandora would probably want to rush.

Everyone had trouble. Pandora ducked out twice. The first time, I used my crop on the shoulder she ducked out on. Brian promptly informed me that the refusal was my fault for tipping forward, not Pandora's, and he wouldn't let me go on until I used the crop on myself instead!

So, with a few hard taps on my thigh, we came around to try again. I focused very hard on maintaining a tight core, looking up, and keeping my shoulders back. But she ducked out again. It sure didn't seem like it was all my fault - I didn't tip until she pulled me to the side - but I suppose if I would have ridden it perfectly solidly, she wouldn't have been able to duck.

The last time, I rode as firm and strong in my position as I could, and she jumped over it just fine.

We moved on to jumping the "pimple hill" - a little hill with a log at the top. He had us jump a cross-rail about a stride away from the base of the hill, then head up the hill and over. Here, he very strongly emphasized the importance of a solid position. He didn't want us to tip forward at all over the top. As long as we maintained a steady position with supporting leg and did not lean forward, everything would work itself out.

Wonder of wonders, he was right!

It's hard, though. The first time, I concentrated on almost nothing but being strong in my core and keeping my shoulders back.

I still got pulled forward.

After that I must have been extra-sure not to lean, because I didn't end up tipping anymore. I think, to be fair, it's a combination of me and my horse. She tends to pull me forward, even when I am trying my hardest to stay up. That doesn't mean I'm allowed to tip forward - obviously I need to work on it until I never tip. And I will, because it really did make for better fences.

Anyway, she jumped the pimple hill very nicely.

We went on to work on some water stuff and simple logs. We jumped up and down a bank into water, a first for us, but Pandora did it all smooth as butter. Again and again, I found that if I tipped forward, we got a slightly weird jump; if I didn't tip, everything tended to work itself out.

I had started the weekend wanting to jump 'up,' as in more max-sized Novice fences, because I'm tired of jumping tiny stuff. I didn't get that desire at all - most of what we jumped was simple and probably in the 2'3 - 2'9 range, but I realized that it wasn't a big deal. Brian spoke to us a little at the very end, and essentially voiced the same thoughts I was having: "I know some of you wanted to jump big and complicated stuff, and so you might be feeling like you didn't quite get to do what you wanted this weekend. But I promise you that if you take the techniques and things I taught you here and you work on them and apply them to all your riding, it WILL be worth it."

Which is essentially what I came away thinking. No, I didn't get to challenge myself and my horse by jumping big stuff, or trying a big drop into water, or practicing ditches. But I learned how to ride every fence well and was shown again and again how much of a difference it made; I learned how to ride an approach to fences that helps me teach not only come to it in a good stride, but teach my horse how to figure things out; I learned how to school my problems and turn them into strengths.

I would ride with Brian Sabo again in a heartbeat. In fact, I tried to talk him into taking me on as a short-term working student (I was thinking next summer), but unfortunately he doesn't have a permanent barn location - he travels giving clinics. Bummer. Apparently I was about 20 years too late, because once he had a great working student program! Ah, well.

He has a fantastic sense of humor and is extremely educational. He's blunt about it when you screw up, but he's just as quick to praise you when you get something right. He (probably correctly) blames the rider for most of the problems, but if a horse is really acting stupid despite a good ride, he recognizes it immediately.

Overall it was a wonderful weekend, and we told the organizer to give us a call if she has him back again!

I'll make one last post about this with some of my favorite quotes from the clinic.

And, I'm not sure if I mentioned - a friend of the friend I went with brought her video camera and taped our rides. As in, all of them, plus clinician comments, plus interesting moments from other people's rides. I should be getting the video sometime soon, and I am SO excited for it. Of course I will write about all the new insights I get from it!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Brian Sabo Clinic Report - Friday and Saturday

Our trip up to Sisters on Friday afternoon was uneventful. The horses would stay at a barn here, and each day we would haul about 30 minutes to the clinic site, which was over in Redmond.

Stabling was very nice - covered outdoor stalls that open out to big circular runs, maybe 24x24 if they were squares. The footing was sand. Both horses settled in nicely - Pandora looked around for maybe 10 seconds, then promptly drank about half a bucket of water and shoved her face in her hay.

Have I mentioned how much I love her eating and drinking habits? Always steady, always prodigious. I never have to worry about her getting enough water.

We watched Brian giving some dressage lessons. Unfortunately, with intermittent chatting amongst the viewers and the occasional interruption from a phone call or something, it was a bit hard to get the gist of what he was saying. He had a girl working on walk-canters with her Training-level gelding - that's eventing Training, not dressage Training - to help him carry himself more lightly. My glorious moment of the day was to stand in as a traffic cone in one of her corners so she would either quit cutting the corner or run me over. Thankfully, she chose the former.

We got to go check out the clinic site that evening, because Brian needed to watch a local instructor teach for part of maintaining her ICP certification. It was fun. I was a little disappointed because I'd wanted to take the horses for a hack that evening to make up for them standing in a trailer all day, but oh well. At least they had runs to walk around in, and when we returned Pandora sure seemed cheerful.

I tried to sleep in Saturday, I really did. Except, we went to bed at about 9:00, so I ended up waking up against my will at about 6. Sigh.

We got ready slowly, fed the horses, ate some breakfast, then headed over to the clinic.

Pandora was, um, "exuberant." Which in a way is good - she was channeling exactly the kind of attitude that had caused such a terrible jumping lesson about a month ago, which meant I could learn how to fix it. It wasn't quite that she was trying to bolt when we trotted or cantered . . . just that she wanted to go fast, and she really didn't want to listen to my suggestions. Not panicked or rebellious, but anxious - it wasn't a "screw you" sort of attitude, not that I could tell anyway.

The facility was beautiful, by the way. A quite long, wide field with very thoughtfully maintained and constructed XC fences, a dressage arena, and a big wide open grassy area at the very end where the stadium fences were set up.

We all introduced ourselves to the clinician and began by trotting a big circle. On the far side of the circle was four trot poles to a cross-rail. Upon landing, Pandora wanted to scoot. Not majorly, but obviously enough that Brian had a pretty quick idea of what she was like.

The second time I went through, he explained something that - as far as I can tell - effectively showed me how to eliminate her rushing on the landing side of fences. Or at least school it.

"You don't want to tell them that you're afraid of going fast," he said. "You never want to say 'NO' to that, because at some point, you do want them to gallop. What you want to say is, 'Yes I like that, but not right now.'"

So he had me go ahead and bring her back to a good working canter after the fence. THEN I asked her to open up her stride. Then I asked her to come back. Then we extended and compressed again. (He also told everyone to pay attention, because "Sooner or later every horse is going to try this and think this is a good answer, even the ones that want to go slow now.")

I swear I had a totally different horse after that. It was as if whatever anxiety had been causing the rushing just went away. "Okay, boss, you got it." A nice feeling, let me tell you. I mean, she still wanted to "push" at the fences, especially the last few strides, but everything between the fences was much more in-tune.

Also, as we jumped a fence from the trot, turned, transitioned back down to trot, and jumped another fence, he made the very dry observation that when I had a perfectly steady solid leg, a soft following hand, a still upper body and a perfect eye (not for striding, but focused forward and up), she jumped without rushing.

Gee, so if I can just be perfect all the time...

Brian characterized horses two ways: pushers and carriers. Pandora was the only pusher in our group - that is, she has a tendency to want to lengthen and flatten her stride, pushing herself at the fence. A carrier, by contrast, tends to want to shorten and slow the stride, often manifested in a transition to the trot in the last few strides of the fence. A horse's tendency will come out much more strongly when he or she is given something new or challenging, and their tendencies can change over time. Neither is inherently good or bad - you just have to be aware of it, and develop their ability at the opposite end of the spectrum so they're more balanced.

So for Pandora, she needs to be more willing to sit back and flex more in the joints of her hind end. At one point, he had me doing walk-canter-walk-canter transitions on a pretty small circle, and I was amazed at how light she could make the upward transitions. These, along with halting on the approach, turning on the forehand or reinbacking, then trotting forward, really reinstalled my half-halts. He emphasized that the purpose of the halt-correction was NOT to stop a horse from rushing, but to school the half-halt.

One of his biggest things was how you handled your approach to fences. You would come around the turn, expand the stride to generate more forward energy, then half-halt and compress to take however much of that energy you need and transform it into carrying energy. A half halt, as he defined it, takes forward and turns it into carry. How much 'carry' you need varies depending on the nature of the fence - you need more carry for a tall vertical, more push for a fence with a lot of spread like an ascending oxer.

The most important part was that after you half-halt, you must maintain exactly what you have for the last few strides before a fence. If the horse rushes, you don't fight, and you don't say "Okay you're right, let's go!" You resist with your body and hands, saying, "I disagree," but you cannot force the horse to come to the correct conclusion. Only time and a consistent experience going "Hey, I buried myself to that fence, that kind of sucked" will work.

Pandora was very good. I think I have a lot of work to do in terms of maintaining the pace those last few strides, because she wants very much to lengthen. But I have good tools, now.

It was a very long lesson, 2.5 hours in the middle of the HOT day. I definitely did not drink enough water and afterward I was a bit of a shaky grumpy mess until I drank a bunch of watered-down gatorade and ate a sandwich. After that, I was fine.

Pandora and my friend's horse got to just chill out at the trailer. As usual, Pandora drank about a bucket and a half of water, then settled down to munch on her haybag.

It was a very good day. I walked away feeling like Pandora and I were even better partners, more tuned in to each other and what we needed. Brian focused a lot on what I needed to be doing with her - expand, compress, HOLD, HOLD, and he got after me for allowing her to drop her head down after our last fence and sort of fall into a walk. Bad habit. So I started to make her still use herself, canter a circle, and transition nicely downward. She argued at first but gave in, and I admit it felt much nicer.

Only one ride, and already I had learned so much. XC would be the next day, Sunday, and I couldn't wait to see what was in store.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rally Report! (Plus extra training thoughts)

Well, I have a little less than a month to go before the Mega-Rating where I'll take my C-1. It shouldn't be too terribly challenging, but it's more of a challenge than my D-3. The real question will come if I decide to take my C-2 next spring, because the level of riding and knowledge expected for it is more than what I have right now. But, you know me, I love a good challenge.

I really had to DRAG myself out to the barn yesterday. I was very tired from the rally. But, I did it, and I had a great ride. Pandora was on her best behavior and we rode in the outdoor - it was the absolute PERFECT temperature for riding, and there was a beautiful sunset too.

With all the hard work we've put in, Pandora has become much more responsive to lateral work. We still are just not getting that left bend at the trot - she tilts her face to the outside and leans in over her inside shoulder while swinging her haunches out. I have also noticed that in halt and reinback, she tends to blow her haunches out through my right leg/rein. So it's all symptoms of the same problem, and I just need to figure out what the problem is. Strength in her hind end, I'm guessing - the right leg since it's the one she ignores, or the left leg since that's the one she swings out to unload? Don't know.
Either way, the more lateral strengthening work we do, the better it will get, I'm sure. In fact, I think general strengthening will be a big help. I'm hoping to make it over to Elijah Bristow, a state park with horse trails about 10 minutes from our barn, to do some riding and conditioning. Event horses need to go over terrain, after all, and there's nothing for building strength like riding over hill and dale.

On the plus side, she can hold the correct bend at the walk. So we do a lot of walk-trot transitions on the 20-m circle, trying to hold her in the bend as I transition up. I can actually feel her lean into my inside leg as she makes the upward transition. It gets worse as she gets tired, but I'm thinking that maybe if I do this, I will be able to hold her in the correct bend for a few strides, so both of us can at least understand what it feels like to do it right.

She gets excited about the canter transitions too. But, I got some good ones. I am trying everything I can think of to keep her engaged and working hard off her hind end, like a 20-m circle with transitions from trot-canter-trot-canter-trot-walk-canter-trot-canter-walk...etc. It gets her a little riled up, but she carries herself better. Walk-canters are hard, but Brian had us doing them at the clinic I went to last weekend, and it really helped my half-halts and Pandora carrying herself. I struggle with that, because we're not near good enough to do proper dressage walk-canters, but even our attempts are helping with strength and carrying...chicken-and-egg, I suppose.

Anyway, lots to work on. There's a nearby dressage trainer I want to try taking lessons with. A friend's ridden with her before. If all goes well, I'm hoping to take a lesson every other week for several months throughout fall and winter, if I can swing it. We are just at the point in dressage where I don't know what to do next, as I've mentioned several times before.

Then, I was thinking about maybe trailering to Inavale for stadium and XC lessons with Brooke as we move from winter to spring, because I could certainly use some of those, and I click really well with Brooke no matter which horse I'm riding. Brooke is $40/hour for a private lesson, and the dressage lady is $35 for a private lesson (don't know how long it is). I think I can do it, it's only an extra $70-80 per month if I don't overlap too much with the two kinds of lessons.

I'm funny about lessons. I take a bunch and learn a lot, but if I go on too long, I develop this overpowering need to go home and work on things on my own. I need time to take what I've learned and digest it by myself, working through the exercises and awareness that I've taken away. I did that for most of the summer - I took a LOT of lessons early summer and then I really needed to go home and figure some things out for myself. It's been good for me, because focusing so hard on how to fix this left bend has made me incredibly more aware of what Pandora does with her body and why.
But, now I'm at the stage where I want and need another round of lessons. I'm at the limits of my experience, so I need a pair of educated eyes to help take us to the next level. I think with some quality, one-on-one instruction this year (I've found consistent, individual lessons seem to help much more than group lessons with rotating instructors, at least for what I want right now), I should be able to easily meet my goal of competing Novice next year and maybe taking my C-2.


The rally was wonderful. We got 8th place riding-wise (an E for one of our riders on XC really hurt us, plus a few stops and time penalties here and there), but we got 3rd place in Horse Management! I was extremely proud of our team because that's certainly the best we've done since I've been a member. I told everyone on the team that I wanted to do really well in HM, and they all got psyched about it - everyone chipped in to help keep our tack room clean and organized, stalls picked, etc. As the weekend went on I think we all got tired and let some things slip, which may have cost us a higher placing, but oh well!
It was my first time as Stable Manager, so now I know a lot more. I learned that it's easy to drop a lot of needless points on safety checks, as they will dock a point for a not-quite-tight-enough girth, a crooked noseband, a strap not through its keeper, and the like.

Still, I had a great time. The facility was gorgeous - it is the same place where the Mega Ratings are held. She has 78 acres there, wow. Lots if it is in a big open field with BN through T sized fences, and I really hope we get to go in THAT field for the rating next month instead of the little field we did the rating in last time!

I was glad I wasn't riding, because it was much easier to take care of all the riders than to deal with my own horse and equipment, but I admit I was itching to get out there on XC. There were some Training-level fences that looked like a blast to jump, including a section of trunk on a huge fallen tree. Next year, maybe!

Okay, enough for the day. I am writing the clinic report (probably even as you read this!) and it'll be posted tomorrow.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick Check-In

Sorry, no clinic report just yet. It has been a bit of a hectic week, between trying to wind down after the clinic and yet wind up for the event rally!

I am headed off to the eventing rally later this afternoon. I took the rally kits home - for the uninitiated, rally kits are groups of items every team must bring. They include basically everything under the sun for what could go wrong - extensive first aid, extra tack that can fit all the horses on the team, tools, tack cleaning, and so on. Very useful, but you must have exactly the items on the list, and some Chief Horse Management Judges have preferences. So, I took the rally kits home to go through them and ended up putting a lot of my own stuff in there to make up for missing pieces. Very glad I decided to check through them.

I will be stable managing at the rally, which means I keep track of my four riding teammates. I make sure they get to their turnouts and ride times promptly, hold down the fort at our tack room/feed area, and help make sure everything is clean. I'm not a groom, but I do help the riders get ready. I'm actually looking forward to it, because I get to enjoy the rally without the stress of riding and trying to get my horse and all tack ready.

So, I promise a clinic report once I return from the rally. My goal is to place top 3 in horse management, so let's see how we do!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Home Again!

Well, we are home from the Brian Sabo clinic!

I had an awesome time. Pandora was excellent, I am pretty sure her rushing is gone (and at the very least I have the tools to deal with it if it comes back), and we're both pretty tired but happy. It was a lot of trailer riding for her - 40 minutes to my friend's house, 2.5 hours to stabling, then each day it was a half hour to the actual clinic site.

I learned so much and I will definitely write up a full clinic report. I am SO lucky because the lady I went with (who is wonderfully fun to hang out with) called a friend, who came and videotaped our entire clinic sessions! So, if all goes well, in a week or two I should have a DVD of my whole ride, plus Brian's comments, plus interesting rides from the other people.

It was a very successful weekend. I cannot BELIEVE how much Pandora ate. She very impressively consumed almost an entire huge bale of our barn's orchard grass/timothy mix, plus a few flakes a day of the orchard grass that they feed where we were stabled. Holy cow that mare can put down the food. And water. It's hard to keep her buckets full, which I suppose is a good problem to have.

I also made my first solo trailer trip! I know, I'm 19, I should've done it long ago, but when my mom's involved with horses too, we tend to travel together. I even lined up the truck and trailer on the first try, and tonight I managed to back the trailer into our slightly difficult spot even with a car parked in the way!

Pandora, of course, informed me that she was starving and dove immediately into her big pile of hay. What a pig.

Anyway - I'm going to kick back for the rest of the evening. More tomorrow or the next day!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All Ready!

Well, everything is ready to head out tomorrow.

Trailer loaded with a nice fresh hay bag. My bag's packed. Food's in the fridge waiting to go in the cooler. Pandora got a bath tonight, though bathing a bay horse is so easy it hardly counts - just spray her down with the attach-to-the-hose-shampooer thing, then rinse. I scrubbed her socks with whitening shampoo, but compared to bathing McKinna, it was a snap.

Farrier job on Tuesday - sore on gravel yesterday - much better today, thankfully. I had a really nice ride in the arena. I actually felt like I was getting somewhere with lateral work. I warmed up without my whip, so it was slower-paced than usual, but calmer. Grabbed the whip to do a few turns on the forehand in each direction, then I asked for a TOF in motion - slow down, walk the hind legs around the forelegs while still taking small steps, then walk away forward. Hard for her, but by the end of the ride she was doing it without ducking through the outside rein. Progress.

Got some nice canter, too. I had to chase her a little because I think she got tired and wanted to quit, so then I had to work to get her to relax and slow down a little without breaking to the trot.

We are slowly working on stretchy circles. Nothing fancy - just more the concept of, "You can stretch down without speeding up or completely bending to the outside."

Cooled down out in the field. I did a lot of walking out there yesterday since she was striding short at the trot but fine at the walk. It was really beautiful out there tonight, late evening sunset. Very nice and warm.

Pandora's got something weird going on with her coat, especially on her back and haunches on the left side. Like her summer coat is shedding out, but you can see her black skin through the thin fur instead of seeing her winter coat growing in. A few tiny lumps here and there, fly bites I'm guessing - they could either be causing it or maybe they're just now visible because of the thinned fur. Maybe she's having an allergic reaction to something, but we haven't changed anything in recent history. I'll keep an eye on it for awhile and hopefully nothing's changing, she's just shedding out weird and the winter fur will grow in fine.

She had a bot fly following her today, stupid thing. I found a couple little eggs on her knees and got rid of them.

Alright, time for bed. Don't ride till Saturday, so we're in no rush and I don't even have to leave the house until 9:30 or so.

I can't even tell you how excited I am for this clinic. A little apprehensive, because I just don't school hard for 2 hours at a time ever, but I think we can handle it. I'm hoping to take a lot away from the weekend, and of course I will come back with a full report. No promises on pictures, because neither of my official photographers will be there.

Hope everyone has a happy weekend.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Quick Update

Hi guys - I am busily getting ready for this weekend. I leave with a friend on Friday at about noon for the Brian Sabo clinic in Redmond, which I am VERY excited for. But it's a lot to get ready for, even just a two-day jaunt. Pack the clothes, empty the horse trailer, repack the horse trailer, make sure everything's clean, buy and pack food, grab food for the horse, evict those little bitty bee/wasp/buzzy-thing nests from the trailer tack room . . .

Everything has been going well at the new barn. It's still lovely and quiet and have I mentioned the hay?

I've had some pretty good schooling sessions with Pandora. I still feel stuck a lot of times on dressage, but a lot of that is my problem not hers - it's just a lack of practical experience. We'll keep working our way forward until I take some lessons anyway, I don't think we're doing anything wrong; we're just slowly stepping along, working things out for ourselves.

I've done a few nice gallops out in the field. Yesterday I was reminded why I ride. After a long morning helping out at a Pony Club mock rally, my boyfriend Jon and I drove out to the barn. We were talking about friends I think, and not getting along with people, or some similarly deep topic. A few moments of silence passed, and then he asked what I was thinking. "Oh," I said, "I'm just trying to figure out if I should go through the grid today or just do flatwork, or maybe change the grid up . . ."

Yup. Give me five seconds and my mind's back on the horses.

"Don't you ever get tired of it?"
Now this I had to actually think about.
"Yeah. All the time, actually. I get discouraged, or bored, or just tired. I don't want to go out, I don't want to ride. Most of the time, I just do it anyway, because in the long term it's what I want and need to do. Sure, if I miss a ride here or there, it's not a big deal...but if I didn't make that choice every day, I'd never get anywhere."
I thought some more.
"Like today. I don't feel like riding right now. I'm tired, and I'd really like to just come out here and longe her for 15 minutes and leave. But I'm going to ride, because I need to."

So I hopped on. We spent 10 minutes on flatwork in the arena. She was good, quite good - mellow, responsive, relaxed. So we headed out to the field, where I did some trotting, cantering, and galloping. Pandora was excellent out there too! Big, ground-covering trot. Easy, relaxed canter, just plunking along at a calm speed until I asked her to open up, and then coming right back to me. (McKinna was hollering for her off and on for the whole ride, by the way. Pandora ignored her for the most part.) Jon got some really cool pictures, which I will steal from him and put up on the blog ASAP. Since she was so good for that, I decided to hop her through the grid once or twice in the outdoor arena, then call it done for the day.

She was perfect going through the grid. Mellow but forward, relaxed, not trying to rush at all. Jon took video. I went through twice and hopped off.

The whole ride lasted about 20 minutes, but we worked pretty hard for most of it. It was a good workout.

By the end, I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. As I untacked, I enthused to my patient boyfriend about how good the ride was, how rateable she was outside, how much better she went through the grid now than at that bad lesson a couple weeks ago, etc. At last I concluded - "So that's why I ride every day. Because even if I'm tired of it, most of the time I come out of it glad I decided to get up there."

I went from being in a tired, crappy mood to being tired but cheerful and really pleased with my horse. It was a good day. Not only was she good for me in general, it was also the first day I'd taken her up to the main barn (maybe 1/5 mile away from the pasture) without taking McKinna up too. Pandora and McKinna both handled themselves quite well.

So that's how things are going. My ride today was pretty good too, just a half hour before the farrier came out. It's been lots of checkups lately - the vet came out on Friday to check teeth and do vaccinations while she was out. Pandora was actually in perfect shape, even though it's been a year since her teeth have been done, so I scored a lower vet bill. McKinna needed done. Poor thing, she always looks so pathetic when she's sedated. I also bought a tube of banamine to have on hand.

Very, very excited for the clinic this weekend. Fingers crossed it's worth the money!

Speaking of money - dang, internet shopping is dangerous. I got a pair of Dublin Aristocrats for $37 on sale at Bit of Britain. SERIOUSLY. Tall boots. For less than $40. I also got a polo for my mom and me to share. And a few weeks ago, I got a pair of Ariat Icebergs - a winter boot, but a tall boot, so I can ride in them. I am SO excited. They're all fleecy and warm and insulated. I have had cold toes every winter, because my Ariat work boots aren't insulated or super waterproof, and my rubber boots are definitely not insulated. For the first time, I'll have warm toes!

Anyway. I've put a bit of a moratorium on internet shopping for myself, as the return to school means a drop in work hours. The money inflow comes down, but the board payment does not. Sigh.

Hope all is well, and I'll check back in a day or two with some pictures before I head off to the clinic. Then I will hopefully return with a successful, happy clinic report!

PS, here is a video of us lolloping through Grid Therapy v. 1.2. Very calm and relaxed, no? I need to shorten my stirrups for jumping, but the fences were so low it didn't really matter.

Look at that stretch down at the end. "I'm TIRED, are we done yet?" Like I really worked her that hard. 20 minutes, give me a break.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Picture Time!

The new barn is still as wonderful as ever. The barn owner dragged and watered the outdoor - which apparently nobody else ever uses, but it's RIGHT next to our separate little barn where the two girls are - AND she says I can set up fences and leave them up out there. Score!

Since Pandora apparently has some lingering "OMGGOFAST" grid issues, I have decided to carefully and methodically do some Grid Therapy, much like the Dressage Judge therapy I do every once in awhile. Last night I set up the beginnings of the grid - just four trot poles to an X with a landing pole. We went through it twice at the end of the ride, nice and easy, and she was completely relaxed. This I expected, because honestly that simple of a grid she should be able to do in her sleep.

Each day I'm going to add one more level of complexity to the grid until she's calmly jumping trot-poles to X, one stride to a vertical, two strides to an oxer (if I can fit all that in the arena). I'm also going to set up the grid outside in the big field. If she can calmly go forth in that situation, the rating will be a piece of cake.

Speaking of the big field, I went to check it out last night. A boarder said to watch out for the holes out there, and indeed there are some holes in the field, but highly visible ones with piles of dirt, and most of them are clustered in one area so quite easy to avoid. I did some trotting, cantering, and galloping out there, and it went well. I had to remind her with a modified pulley rein (set outside hand on tight rein, gentle tugs up and in with the inside rein instead of the short sharp yanks you use in an emergency) to stay OFF of her left shoulder. Other than that, we still have all the gears, though I didn't go super fast.

I'm looking forward to being able to practice a little galloping, as well as doing some trot sets. Not that she really NEEDS trot sets to go novice, but, you know, eventually. In the future.

And without further ado, pictures!

Here are their two stalls. Both horses are actually in the stalls, you just can't see them because they have their heads more or less permanently shoved into their piles of excellent hay.

Here they are venturing forth from the pasture. Without fail, when they see us, they come to the gate. There are benefits to having spent the entire summer feeding your horses their grain only when you bring them in from the pasture.

McKinna after her post-ride rinse. No warm water, but apparently that is in the works. At any rate, it is SO NICE to have a designated wash area complete with mats, drainage, and a tie post!

Grid Therapy, version 1.0. Easy peasy.

We painted all of that stuff ourselves! You can hardly see the last trot pole, it is a very nice greenish-grey color striped with beige. It's nice to have brightly colored poles now instead of plain wooden ones, and they are much nicer on the hands to carry.

I have a video of us plunking through the grid, but we're having uploading issues. I'll try to get it up later.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Settling In

Well, we moved the girls on Sunday afternoon. It was pretty low-key, actually - strip the stalls, load up all the equipment, then stick 'em on the trailer with some hay bags and we're off to the new barn.

They settled in quickly and calmly, which we expected - they both have been calm in temporary stabling situations at shows and clinics, and this wasn't much different. In fact, it was easier, because they were together! (They also had piles of the barn's fantastic orchard grass/timothy hay, so they shoved their noses straight in.) The only sign of nervousness was the way Pandora followed McKinna. They are stalled next to each other, and each stall opens out to a large run. Whenever McKinna went outside, Pandora spun around and walked quickly outside. When she came in, Pandora came in. Kinda cute.

We left them with that for the day, and I PROMISE I took some pictures, I will upload them when I get home tonight.

Yesterday they went out in the (big, nice, OMG) pasture, though they were quite ready to come in when we arrived. Nervous a little, maybe? They were a bit 'up' all evening. We longed them separately, one in the indoor and one in the outdoor, which caused a bit of hollering, but in all they weren't totally nutty. We then tacked up and went for a nice brief ride in the indoor arena, for which both mares behaved admirably well.

We met a lady who trains several boarders' horses. She is extremely nice, and is going to be my new trail-riding buddy! Apparently, there are some trails at the back of the property, but she didn't want to take horses out by herself and of course I wouldn't either, so this is a nice situation. I'll probably take McKinna out first, since I believe she has a bit more 'real' trail experience. Ideally I'll be riding both girls out there on a pretty regular basis, as to me trail riding is an excellent way to condition for eventing.

I am so happy with this barn. It's quiet, everyone we've met has been very friendly and outgoing (especially the barn owner), the horses have super nice hay in front of them at all's just lovely so far. We walked their pasture on Sunday, and other than a strand of barbed wire across the top of most of the fenceline (not something I like), it's great. Very big. Extremely varied terrain - some people might like manicured pastures, but remember I'm an eventer, and while I don't want my horses to be hurting themselves dealing with ridiculous conditions, I want them to be able to figure out elevation changes, trees, banks, etc on their own. There's a creek bed, dry at the moment, with a nice crossing point and a little trail. Lots of trees for shade, plus a little run-in shed. I also plan to do some riding in there, which I have permission to do, because it'll be a great mini-trail ride and I think there's actually enough space that I can do some cantering. Failing that, trotting for sure.

We started setting up our little tack room last night. Our horses are at the upper barn, which is about 30 feet from the main barn - it has three stalls, a tack room, and some other storage space. Ours are the only two horses up there right now, so it feels a little like our own private barn ;-)

I am excited to go out to the barn each evening now. This is the first time we've done full care, and I've got to say, I am already loving not having to muck stalls. It's not that I think it's below me - heck, it's the best way to warm up in the wintertime! - it's just, when you can show up and immediately tack up and ride instead of mucking stalls, cleaning water buckets, picking the paddock, have a lot more energy to ride. The time we spend at the barn seems shorter because we don't have to do chores. (Maybe with less chores I will start cleaning my tack after every ride, eh?)

Pictures up this evening. Things on Pandora are pretty much back on track, by the way - I think everyone was right and we just had a couple bad days. I had a great ride last night with lots of obedient lateral work, which I think is the key to suppling and strengthening her. There's several different places at the new barn that I can get out and ride her outside, so I will be practicing calm half-halts while cantering in the open again. If I can find a big enough open area in their pasture, I will also start working up to being able to jump a grid calmly outside, starting with just a trot pole and building up from there.

I'll let you guys know how it goes.
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