Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Update!

I swear summer gets shorter every year...blink and you'll miss it. Maybe that's because I seem incapable of doing anything with my summers other than stuffing them full of activity?

Anyway, here I am, about to start Week 4 of classes.

First things first: McKinna is doing well! To be honest, I've been averaging about 1 ride a week since...well...Inavale, in June. Turns out it's awfully hard for me to motivate myself to work hard on riding when I'm throwing everything into my research, and that definitely didn't get any easier when classes started. McKinna certainly doesn't mind this life of leisure, though!

We had a visit from the chiro last week, which I think made a big difference. McKinna had been fairly cranky about saddling and just wasn't into working - I didn't think much of it because I was so busy not being into working either. I hopped on for a little stretch-everything-out ride on Wednesday, and my mom has ridden a couple times since then, with positive results. Back to happy, ready-to-work pony.

Am now realizing that I never updated you guys about Inavale. The short story: it was fabulous. Dressage was pretty good for us, a little tense but not bad. I think we were middle of the pack. I was a bit concerned about XC because our entire XC-schooling of the year consisted of hopping over a few logs in Devin's back pasture, but I wasn't too worried. After all, this is McKinna, XC Rockstar Extraordinaire, we're talking about.

 My favorite fence!

She did not disappoint! We blazed around that course and she took everything in stride, including a brand new ditch with very scary light-colored gravel on either side and a two-stride combination in the woods with a bit of a light-to-dark element. Double-clear, naturally. That moved us up to fifth.

If you'll recall, stadium was our downfall last year. So I was understandably a bit nervous coming into stadium on Sunday! I had a few things going for me, though. McKinna was overall a MUCH happier horse, because we decided to learn from our mistake last year and stable in one of the open pole corrals instead of a totally closed-in temporary stall. Huge difference. 

 McKinna's good-morning stretch in her pole corral

Also, we spent a good chunk of last year working really hard on our stadium to get up to C3 level, doing 3'3 courses and the like - so a Novice stadium course, even Inavale's fabulously decorated fences, looked pretty tame.

Even though it did have the dreaded horse-eating piano fence as fence #7.

Well, let's just say I needn't have worried.

We went in there and McKinna did her job. A little nervous, sure - but never any question about going over the fences. I did ride a little extra hard to fence 7! A clear round for us moved us up to fourth for our final placing.

So that was Inavale. Lots of friends and family came out to spend time with us, and I had a great time.

Other than that, nothing too exciting in horse-related news. I spent two weeks at the end of the summer doing paleontology field work in Eastern Oregon with my lab, which was ridiculously fun and also exhausting. At the moment I'm having a bit of a hard time juggling all my responsibilities. I've got a lot of short-term, recurring deadlines (classwork, mostly), a lot of Really Big Important Deadlines (mostly research projects and scholarships), and the handful of other things requisite to daily life like eating, doing laundry, and getting over a cold. So far I'm doing okay, but I've been spending a lot of time going between "Okay, I can do this" and "Aaaargh how the hell am I going to survive this term??"

Which, you know, sounds pretty much like I do every term, so I probably shouldn't worry too much. Maybe someday I'll learn to give myself a balanced schedule. On the plus side, I had a great ride tonight. It was sunny and crisp out at the barn, McKinna was cheerful (and insanely fluffy for a horse who was body-clipped a month ago), and I had a really nice dressage school. Felt good to get some solid work in.

I'll get up some video from Inavale for you guys to see. Other than that, don't hold your breath for frequent updates (I'm having a hard enough time treading water as it is!), but I'll check in when I can. Let me know what you guys have been up to! Maybe tomorrow evening I'll spend an hour or two getting caught up on everyone else's blogs.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The End-of-Term Crazies....

May or may not be getting to me.

Yes, that is me galloping with a nerf gun. (Last week, when the weather was not doing its best impression of FREAKING FEBRUARY. IT IS JUNE. STOP RAINING, DAMMIT.)

Yes, that is a semi-accurate rearing horse skeleton that I may or may not have drawn in the midst of writing a giant term paper.

I had a lovely ride Monday night and tonight. McKinna is content to be worked a few days a week, and to be honest I'm thrilled with how well she's doing considering the lack of concentrated attention I've been giving her. She's still fit, she's still strong, I can go out and work on some nice canter lengthenings or trot cavaletti and she is perfectly happy to go to work, and she retains the stuff we work on too. It's great.

Horse trials at the end of the month! My brain is completely occupied with school right now but I'm sure I will start getting very excited about the HT shortly after finals are over.

A week and a half to go!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Hey there! It's been...a goodness.

The rally went super well. We did the Horse I division, which goes up to 3'3. I was particularly excited because I discovered that McKinna has an ADJUSTABLE canter. In warmup I could send her forward in big gallopy strides, then close my leg and sit up a little and collect to short, bouncy strides. Very exciting. Very new.

She jumped her heart out for me and was a fantastic girl. A rail or two here and there, but overall it was great. The take-your-own-line round was spectacular, including a ridiculous rollback to a one-stride line that had to be jumped at about a 45* angle. We did take the first rail (because we didn't land on the right lead for the rollback - argh! - and had to drop to a trot before picking up the canter again), but McKinna jumped it like it was no big deal. Love her.

Anyway, life's been a bit crazy for me as always. School, mostly. Midterms. Research. Homework. More midterms. And it doesn't look like it's going to let up much at all anytime soon. It's all fun and exciting stuff, which is good. I've been riding regularly and having a great time. Adding alfalfa to McKinna's diet was the best decision ever (have I written about that?), because now she's got seemingly endless energy but she's not stupid-hot. She's just ready and willing to go to work with plenty of enthusiasm, and I can really feel the difference when we're jumping. So I've been riding probably an average of 4 days a week, which isn't 100% ideal but it's pretty good.

And on that note, it's time for me to officially take a little break from blogging. (The 'unofficial break' being the fact that I've been posting extremely sporadically anyway.) I've got a lot of stuff on my plate, and I don't like having one more thing nagging at me for my attention, even though you guys don't complain! So I'm going to not worry about the whole blogging thing for a little while.

It's possible that I'll be back soon, or maybe I'll just post once a month, or maybe I won't come back until into summer vacation. Who knows? I'll see what I can do.

Hope all of you are having a wonderful time with your horses. I definitely am!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Scratches Begone, and Super Awesome Jumping Lesson

Well, sometime last week we gave in and I shaved McKinna's legs to better deal with the scratches. It was still spreading despite our best efforts, and while I wanted to leave the hair to protect her against the mud, at this point it was hindering more than helping.

So, zip went the clippers and her legs are now naked. We also have been leaving her inside over the last couple weeks, which isn't as bad as it sounds because she still has a run and the barn owner has been turning her out in the arena to blow off some steam. McKinna seems perfectly happy with the situation, and best of all it has really helped with the scratches. (Or so I assume - since we clipped, kept in, and medicated all at the same time, I suppose there's no causation established).

It's been a pain dealing with. Scrub legs with antimicrobial/antifungal shampoo, dry with towel, wait to dry more and/or dry with a hair dryer, apply lovely mix of antibacterial/antifungal/desitin/etc to all the scratches-y spots, repeat ad nauseam. On the plus side, it's almost completely gone now! Just a few little splotchy pink spots. We've been treating it just about every day, and we'll continue to do so, but it's mostly taken care of (which is nice, because I have the Show Jumping rally this weekend).

Speaking of jumping, everything is going awesomely. I went to a lesson with Devin last week which REALLY helped get me out of my riding funk. Next time I am whining lots about not wanting to ride, ask me how long it's been since I've had a @#*@!(&% lesson with my regular instructors, okay? Not that I'm not allowed to whine, but I've forgotten how much fun it is to ride with them. I went in, told Devin I wanted a solid, simple confidence-boosting jumping lesson, and proceeded to have possibly the best ride ever.

We worked on establishing a forward, powerful canter stride from which McKinna can collect or extend easily. And wow, what a canter! We did a lot of course work, and I ended on short course of 5 fences. Most of them were 3'3, and the natural vertical was 3'6. Yeeeeeeeah baby.

I love her expression. She is SO calm and confident about it, and really in tune with me. It sounds silly, but I can't tell where my thoughts end and her responses begin. We just kind of adjust everything together and it works. I had another jumping lesson yesterday where we worked on more technical courses, and it went very well too. McKinna is working hard to keep her rock-star status!

I'm doing the 2'6 - 3'3 division at the rally (ridiculous range, I know. And jumpoff can go up to 3'6). It should be a great chance to practice jumping flashy courses with show nerves, so wish us luck.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


McKinna has developed a sad little case of scratches on her right hind fetlock/pastern. She doesn't seem to have it anywhere else, which is interesting - I'm wondering if it came up because she got a small cut in the area a couple weeks ago. Maybe that opened the door to the fungus?

It's not too bad, just pink skin that develops those crusty little scabs and some hair loss. It doesn't seem too painful. We've been washing it very well with betadine scrub every day, using a blow-dryer to get rid of all the water on her fur and skin, then smearing it with antibiotic ointment and vaseline. Last night we bought all the good stuff to mix up and put on it: an anti-fungal cream (since that's what scratches is, a fungus), antibiotic ointment (because apparently secondary bacterial infections like to piggyback on scratches), and desitin (to act as a water barrier).

Yesterday was a mega-score in terms of new apparel, thanks to Tack of the Day and eBay. (I am hopeless.) A few days ago I received my Mountain Horse Sportive High Rider II tall boots. They are zip-up dress boots and they are perfect.

I love the chunkier footbed, and have realized this is important to me in my boots. They're just a tad bit snug, which means they'll break in perfectly, and in general they fit me WAY better than my last pair. They're quite comfortable to wear already, though my right foot is apparently bigger than my left and starts to feel a bit squished after awhile. I'm planning to wear them to the Pony Club jumping lesson tomorrow, though I'll bring my paddock boots and half chaps just in case I'm dying halfway through.

The next item to arrive was: my very own pair of FITS breeches!!!

Yes, they are the dreaded monkey-butt breeches, and no, I don't care how ridiculous they look. I tried on a pair last summer and they are THE most comfortable breeches I've ever worn. It's like wearing pajamas, but with full-seat awesomeness. They've also become pretty much ubiquitous on the eventing scene, so at least I'll fit in ;)
I am also wearing these to the lesson tomorrow. So excited to FINALLY have a pair of these! I have wanted them approximately forever, but they retail for over $200 and that is way too much. But, I found a pair of the beige color in my size on eBay for $99 buy it now, and I was all over that like stripes on a zebra. Now I just need to find deals like that another time or two so I can have some schooling pairs in black and brown...

Finally, I got a package of some Patagonia tops from another eBay seller. Those I actually bought for hiking and other fun outdoor things, but they are definitely getting commandeered for lessons and clinics. They are form-fitting, warm, and sooooooooooft.

So yes. I essentially received a whole clinic's worth of riding attire yesterday, and it was awesome. I think this may do more for my riding motivation than anything else! (I kid. Mostly.) I have been having some good rides on McKinna in the outdoor, but keeping my energy up has been a bit of an issue. A bunch of things have kind of hit me in a row, from putting those 30 days on my barn owner's mare which took lots and lots of daily work, to getting sick, to hitting finals week, and finally this week the (loving and necessary but still very difficult) end of my long-term relationship.

Most times I head out to the barn, I'm just tired and don't feel like riding. Sometimes I make myself do it anyway, and I usually go on to have a good ride and be glad that I did. But that doesn't make it much easier to motivate myself the next time. When I think about all the stuff I have planned out for my competition season - the goals, the unrecognized HTs, the smaller shows, the recognized HTs, my C3 rating - I just don't get that excited, must-plan-things-now feeling.

It's not all bad. A big part of my horse-related reluctance is how much fun I've been having working in my advisor's lab on campus this term. I've been getting very excited about the science we're doing, I'm working on my very horse-related thesis project (which is going to be AWESOME), I've just started on another project that will hopefully wind up with me presenting a poster at a scientific conference next's been a lot of fun and it's all happened very fast. Exciting, yes - but it's hard for me to maintain super high levels of motivation for more than one major thing at a time!

On the other hand, the new term starts on Monday, so I'll get a little reprieve from academic overwhelm (hopefully I can stay more on top of the studying this term). And I did just get all that fun new gear, which will help drag me out the door and onto the horse. My plans for the summer are flexible. Nobody says I have to move up to Training! My #1 priority is that I never ask McKinna to do anything for which she is physically or mentally unprepared. My #2 priority is to have fun. So I am free to shift my plans around as much as I want to accommodate what I'm feeling, as long as I never try to do something we're not conditioned for. Just deciding this has taken a weight off my shoulders...I think I built up all these expectations for the season and I was pre-emptively worried about it.

We'll get back in the swing of things. Leslie is back in town soon, so I can start taking dressage lessons again. And I've got a few things coming up, like the SJ Rally in two weeks and then an Upper Level Prep with Jen Verharen. Those should be fun.

Plus, the weather will eventually get nicer, and that always helps.

Thank goodness I have a horse who doesn't need to be worked 6 days a week for an hour. Though unfortunately she DOES need to be bathed in order to look presentable in public, which means today is bath day. Sigh.
It's worth it, I suppose. She is pretty much perfect in every other way, after all.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I Made It!

Whew. That was a rough finals week.

I made it out alive, though. No grades are up yet, but it's the usual situation - I'm not 100% sure I got straight A's, but it's pretty likely. I didn't end the term as strong as I would usually prefer fact, I ran up against pretty much all the deadlines and didn't put as much time into studying/final projects as I would like to. But that's the way it goes sometimes! All I can do is work to be better next term. (And hope I pulled off my A's.)

McKinna is doing well. I've recently discovered that the outdoor arena footing situation has improved to the extent that I'm comfortable riding out there! It had been a little deep over the winter. It's still deep-ish, but not bad, and the arena is big enough that I can do lots of canter work, so hooray for that. My mom and I had a lovely ride this morning in a brief window of sunshine, and then the rest of the day was rain/hail/general nastiness.

 Mom having a very nice ride

I'm still working on recovering from the sleep deprivation and mental tiredness of last week, so you'll have to pardon the short post.

Fun fact: today we went to the horse evolution exhibit at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Lots of cool stuff there. Also, they have a station where you can put your hands into knitted horse feet (!!!!!) from early, three-toed ponies all the way up through modern Equus caballus, and test them out on different "grounds" from soft, squishy forest to hard, flat grasslands. So cool. The one where your fingers are all spread out in the toes feels very nice on the squishy stuff but weak on the hard ground, while a hoof (which only has enough room for one finger) feels unsteady on squish but awesome on hard ground. Way cool.

Man, I am SO glad the term is over. It's slowly sinking in, but it always takes a couple days for me to decompress. The thing I'm most excited about is finally getting my brainspace back to myself. I can use my mind to think about things I actually care about (thesis research! fossils! ponies! grad schools! thesis research!) rather than things I don't want to do (projects projects projects why are there so many projects).

Look, we can canter!

Right, so. Now that I'm free, you expect a quasi-regular posting schedule again, and by quasi-regular I mean no semblance of regularity except that P(1 post/week) > 0.5.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Okay, I'm Back

That was quite the absence, wasn't it? Didn't mean to disappear for so long. I was in a little bit of a funk for the whole horse thing. Still going out to the barn and riding a few times a week, but I just wasn't feeling it.

Never mind that, the energy's back. I think I was just at a low-motivation point in the term. Right now I'm about halfway through dead week - have a lot of writing to do, but finals week is shaping up to be not so bad, and I'm riding a lot again.

I decided to lop McKinna's mane off and make her look like a real sport horse. Cut it last night, and then tonight started in on the pulling. Already it's looking pretty good. Her mane is SO dang easy to pull, and of course she is so polite and patient about the whole thing. It still needs to be shortened up a lot, and more thinning done on the upper part of her neck, but I have lots of time. She is going to look so damn awesome with braids in this summer, I can't stand it.

Photographic evidence:

So cute.

What else? We've added a bit of alfalfa to her diet to make sure she's getting enough protein, since the grass hay she's on is fairly low-quality (fine by me - she gets nasty diarrhea on orchard grass). She is going to be working hard this season, and things start ramping up next month. Surprisingly, no digestive upset whatsoever associated with the introduction. Cool beans. (Ha...ha...get it? Because alfalfa is a legume? Right.)

I took the stirrups off my jumping saddle and have been riding in it more often. This is a good thing for me, because stirrupless work was one of my weaknesses at the rating prep and I have another one coming up in April. It's been miserable work until tonight, when it was still extraordinarily painful (posting and 2-point, that is; sitting trot is pretty easy) but I felt like my position finally 'clicked' and held stable through the whole thing. Also, I have discovered that McKinna is capable of cantering in the indoor arena without totally losing her mind. She still doesn't approve too much, and she's more tense than she would be in a big arena, but it is very nice to know that I can actually school the canter at home.

What else? I'm working on a report for the ABC retreat. Wrote up an outline for the PC newsletter about it, but I know you guys will want more detail! It is also the 8th of March today, which means I need to get my butt in gear analyzing my February goals. I'll work on that one, and at least have it done by next weekend after finals are over. Probably sooner. Writing blog posts suddenly becomes very attractive when you have a mountain of OTHER writing to do.

McKinna is awesome and very fun to ride. I bought one of these lovely quarter sheets because I found it on super-sale, and earlier this winter when it was ridiculously cold out I felt guilty while warming up because I think her poor shaved hindquarters were cold. Also, I bought a pair of these from Tack of the Day today - I came to the conclusion that I dislike my Dublin Aristocrat tall boots because they are too big and the footbed is very thin. I do not like thin footbeds and I do not ride well in those boots. The Mountain Horse Sportives are perfect because they have a slightly chunkier footbed (perfect!) but are still dress boots and can be polished up all nice and pretty, unlike my tried-and-true paddock boots + full-grain leather half-chaps. Pretty polish is good when you're at a Pony Club rating.

Quick review of upcoming excitement: jumping lesson at the end of the month, Show Jumping Rally (yes, I decided to go!) and upper-level prep with Jen Verharen in April, dressage show and/or hunter jumper show + Inavale eventing camp + Inavale unrecognized HT in May.

And after that, things start to get really crazy.

That's all for now. Gotta make some progress on that pesky schoolwork.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


That is the sound of me whining. Really I don't have a ton of excuses, just that I'm tired and it's cold and rainy out there and I'm busy with school. You know - the usual :)

On the plus side, I did just read a paper for my thesis about the evolution of shoulder morphology and the stay apparatus in horses. Interesting things all over the place. And, after forcing myself to learn the terminology, I can ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND sentences like, "Whereas the biceps brachii tendon of Mesohippus was directed medially as it passed distally on the sulcus, the biceps tendon follows a sagittal course in M. primus."

Yay me.

ABC retreat was fun, best part was obviously the leg dissections. Nothing better for learning what the tendons and ligaments in the distal limb look like than going in there and slicing it up yourself!

I haven't ridden since the schooling show on Sunday (which was AWESOME, because we are slowly figuring out how to put together a decent course at 3'3), mostly for all of the reasons I was whining about. We're going out tonight, though, so schooling ride ahoy.

Back to the homework grind. See you when I resurface!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Short and Sweet

 McKinna looking cute after the last schooling show

This week has been really nice out at the barn. No lessons or anything, just me and my mom and McKinna. Nice, quiet, easygoing rides.

Mom and I each got a new pair of Ariat Heritage gloves for schooling. They're very comfortable - thin enough for a good feel, a little grippy, fun colors. The palms are black grippy stuff, but the backs are breathable fabric. Mine are dark red and Mom's are way cooler - pink and black argyle. I told her she needs to wear a black polo with a pink shirt underneath and get a black dressage pad with subtle pink piping. I am all about color coordination in other people! I guess I can pull together my red-and-black color scheme at shows, but most of the time you're lucky if I'm not using a purple saddle pad and a green polo or something.

I've been diligently working on the no-stirrups thing. Just in the dressage saddle so far, where it's much easier than in the jumping saddle, but it definitely forces the open hip angle! McKinna is going along great and she actually stays really steady in the contact when I ride sitting trot with no stirrups. Mom and I are working on the walk, encouraging McKinna to stay soft and round but really stretch over her topline instead of bracing or kinda "crunching" up her neck as she would sometimes prefer to do. It's going nicely so far.

Tonight we just drove out to say hi and love on her a little bit. She was happily munching through her mountain of dinner hay, nice and warm in her blanket, nice and muddy everywhere the blanket doesn't cover.

Friday I'm off to the Pony Club ABC retreat, which is basically upper-level horse management on steroids. From about 8AM to 5PM on Saturday, we'll be taking in as much knowledge as we can handle. Included on the roster of topics: fitness for equestrians, concussions in riders, saddle fitting, equine nutrition, and leg dissection! The ABC retreat is tiring, but it's always a great time. (Says the girl who reads scientific papers in her spare time.)

Hope you are all enjoying your horses, and surviving the crazy weather if you're in an area that's been affected by nasty snow and such.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011 Goals!

Huzzah, it's finally time for the curtain to be swept aside on this year's goals! Never mind that it's February already, I like to take my time about these things.

Without further ado:

The big goals are to get to more competitions than last year, successfully move up to Training level, and to pass my C3 in August. Luckily, Training level and C3 level are basically the same thing, so all my goals are generally pointing in the same direction: make our dressage better and more consistent, become familiar with Training-esque XC questions, and make our stadium jumping bigger and more complex. Nothing to it! ;)

The Smaller Goals are a pretty big collection of things, but mostly they are aimed at pieces of the Big Goals and thus they'll be worked into my monthly goals, which I am definitely going to do this year. The idea is that if I complete all the Smaller Goals, then the Big Goals will just follow naturally.

(Side note: sometime over this autumn, I told Leslie that I *really* wanted to be able to canter McKinna down the long side of her arena, straight, without having to floor the accelerator just to make it down without breaking to a trot. We officially did this in our lesson last weekend! STRAIGHT, balanced, and we didn't have to rush. Mini-goal accomplished!)

Big Goals
- Complete at least one HT at Training level (preferably recognized)
- Pass my C3 in August
- Complete at least 2 recognized HTs

Smaller Goals
- Consistently work on my own fitness
- Develop and follow a regular conditioning plan for McKinna
- Able to maintain a soft, balanced, relaxed canter with connection (especially away from home)
- Score above 55% at a First Level (USDF) or Training Level (USEA) dressage test at a schooling show
- Complete clear rounds at or above 3'3 at H/J schooling shows
- Comfortably, competently school 3'6 in lessons
- Corollary: if all is going well, do some 3'6 rounds at schooling shows??
- Without stirrups: be able to ride 30+ minutes and jump over a 3' grid, without loss of basic balanced position
- Be able to get on an unfamiliar horse and have a productive flat session and confident, smooth stadium course at 3'
- Develop confidence and familiarity with Training-level XC questions
- School a few straightforward Prelim fences
- Practice longeing enough that I am 100% comfortable doing it the Pony Club way in an arena that's not mine

Whew, that's quite the handful of little goals. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure I can get them all done. Let's take a look at how those are going to fit in, month by month!

Also, Leslie has left for California for the dressage show season down there, and she will be gone until April. Sad face. On the plus side, we've been doing hardcore dressage work for the last several months and we've made tons of progress, so now I will be focusing on jumping for awhile.

Finally, I'm going to do something a little different with the monthly goals this year. I usually have a pretty solid idea of what my goals are for the next several months, but at 4-5 months out things start getting hazy and I end up changing the goals around a lot as I get there. So I'm only going to set my goals through April for right now.  (Yes, I know that's only 3 months.) In April, I will take stock of where I am at on my Smaller Goals list, listen to the feedback I get at the Upper Level Prep clinic, and develop my goals list for May through July or August.

I think this will help keep my goals more focused and relevant, as well as keep me checking in more often. So here you go!

No-stirrups month! I am going to spend a LOT of time this month working no stirrups in my jumping saddle. Now that I've finished up with my 30 days on my barn owner's young mare (successfully started under saddle and w/t/c off leg and dressage whip, with no bucking!), I have a LOT more time to work on McKinna, so we'll be getting back into the swing of things.
End of Month:
  1. my fitness (check in)
  2. developed a conditioning plan for this season
  3. can ride 30m stirrupless on flat with little to no loss of position
  4. taken at least 1 jumping lesson
  5. completed one clear round at 3'3 at JJPC schooling show
  6. focused dressage work on getting McKinna to reach forward to the bit at all times
  7. contacted 2 people about practicing my switch rides on their horse

My last free and open month until the fall, pretty much! I'll be using this time to get myself organized, enjoy a little more down time, and then start revving up for the season. In jumping lessons, I really want to work on McKinna accepting my leg, and the two of us growing more powerful and confident over big fences.
End of Month:
  1. my fitness (check in)
  2. begun to implement conditioning plan (and actually take vital signs!)
  3. taken at least 2 jumping lessons and jumped at least a couple fences at 3'6 
  4. ridden at least 2x/week with no stirrups on the flat
  5. worked over small (2'6 and lower) fences and grids with no stirrups
  6. completed 2 switch rides
  7. practiced longeing in Leslie's arena
  8. focused dressage work on maintaining stretch over topline while doing lateral work and transitions

Things start to heat up a little with the Show Jumping Rally and an Upper Level Prep. I should feel like we're really making progress on the goals, building my and McKinna's fitness and confidence up, and by the time I get to the Prep in the middle of the month I want to feel like we've made huge progress since the last Prep in January.
End of Month:
  1. my fitness
  2. continued conditioning plan
  3. continued no-stirrups work
  4. clear rounds at SJ rally! (will be doing the up to 3'3 division, with jumpoff to 3'6)
  5. taken my goals and conditioning plan to UL prep for feedback
  6. checked progress toward Big Goals via feedback at UL prep
  7. practiced longeing at least once
  8. ridden 3 horses for switch ride practice (at least 1 over fences)

Well, there you have it. What do you think? Any goals that need to be revised a little? I am sure I'll mess with things as I go - you always have to adjust along the way. But with how my rides have been going lately, I'm feeling really excited for this season! I think it's all well within our grasp.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

3' and 3'3 Jumper Rounds

At our Pony Club schooling show this past weekend, I did a few classes with McKinna - a 2'9 jumper class to warm up, then a 3' jumper and a 3'3 schooling round (since no one was around to do the class with me).

Can I just say that McKinna rocks?

It wasn't 100% perfect, but I will say this: McKinna was responsive and jumping well. AND, 3'3 looked small and easy and doable. This is a big deal for me! We JUST moved up to regularly jumping 3'3, and already it seems easy (height-wise). If you watch the videos, you'll see that McKinna actually got better distances in the 3'3 class than the 3' class (except for that nasty half-stride on the very last fence...oh well).
It's really exciting that the height I am looking to compete at this summer is already well within our range. Sure, we need to polish, and come summertime I want to be schooling at least 3'6 on a regular basis because I like to school a level above what I show, but still. To have this level this early in the season is really cool and makes me feel good about ratings and competitions this summer.

3' Jumper Class

I love how she makes those itty bitty turns and angled fences for me in the jumpoff. I felt bad about the trip after she landed from the purple fence, but another horse tripped there in a jumpoff too, so I think the ground was just a little compacted there.
PS, I got first place in that class. And I actually had like four other riders for competition! Very exciting.

3'3 Schooling Round

Stupid last fence. It was better the second time.

I am very pleased with my pony. She's getting more and more confident - usually at shows she is a little more tense (you can see her canter isn't super relaxed and flowing), but at least she's not hesitating off the ground as much and she is getting better about softening up laterally so we can make reasonable turns. 

Next schooling show is just in a couple weeks, so it should be a great chance to get a comparison ride.

The next order of business will be to just start a nice, steady conditioning program (as long as it's not pouring outside, anyway). The more strength she has, the more she will be able to generate the big rolling stride and the power that she needs to be able to launch over those bigger fences even more confidently - it will also help her get us out of weird spots more easily. I read an interesting post on Jim Wofford's (aka Eventing God, for those of you who aren't familiar with him) blog about conditioning for eventing. You can read it here, but basically he says Novice and Training horses should be able to do three reps of 4-minute slow canters by the time they start their competition season.
Long walks and slow canter sets, here we come!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Award! (Or Several)

I usually suck at picking up awards, but since so dang many of you posted on my last entry, I decided I'd be on top of my stuff today and actually pick them up!

So, without further ado: the Stylish Blogger Award.

Here are the rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

Okay. So, I've received this blog from:
Chasing The Dream, Riding From the Ground Up, Nina's Story, Adventures in Colt (Filly) Starting, From Bones to Beauty, and Tucker the Wunderkind. Did I miss anybody??

Here's a few things about me. Goodness, what is there that you guys don't already know?

1. I'm a junior Biology major and school is a really, really big part of my life. I get A's, I love being in the Honors College where I can be in challenging cool classes, my advisor is amazing, and in general I love what I'm doing.

2. I have a cat named Rascal, who has long soft white fur with orange points. I also have a dog named Kuma, who is a 105-pound Rottie-Chocolate Lab cross with a heart-stopping death growl and an absolute puppy love for his people. Best dog ever.

3. I was a band kid in high school. Wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, pit orchestra for the musical. I played trumpet, and for two years I was a drum major for our marching band. Joining band was one of the best things I ever did; it's where my closest friends are from, and I learned a lot about leadership and teaching during my time as a DM.

4. Once, I rode my horse through a Dairy Queen drivethrough. (Actually, my high school's whole equestrian team did.)

5. I have no clue what I want to do for a career, but I do know that I want to spend a couple years as a working student for an eventing barn after I graduate. General career interests: teaching, science, writing, horses. We just did a unit on scientific teaching/literacy in one of my classes, and it was really really interesting. Pedagogy for the win!

6. Project horses? I'm a sucker for them. I covet horses all. the. time. Sure, I have the most perfect horse in the history of existence. Sure, I really enjoy all the extra time and money that comes with only riding one horse. But, man...I see potential in horses. I imagine what they could be with six or nine months of proper conditioning, dressage training, lots and lots of nice hay, and an introduction to over-fences work. Little grulla ponies. Big TBs that move like warmbloods and are currently ridden western. 3 year old warmblood crosses. It never ends and I am hopeless. (Most of the time, I can restrain myself. When I can't, I do things like buy a 6 year old Appendix with a rearing history when I have a broken ankle..though we all know that one turned out well!)

7. I like sleep. A lot. I'm not lazy, my body just wants lots of sleep. 9 hours if possible. 10 is okay too. Anything less than a full 8 and I'm a sad panda for the day. I can fall asleep anywhere in about 5 minutes flat, which is great at horse shows or other situations in which napping can be beneficial. On the other hand...I'm in college. Sometimes, you gotta stay up late! I'm happiest in bed by 11, but sometimes I have to stay up late to finish something that I've been putting off, and those times it really sucks. In a perfect world, I'd go to bed at 11 and get up at 9 every day! Also, I really really really hate early mornings at horse shows. One benefit to moving up the levels is that I don't have to get up as early anymore, because the higher divisions go later =D there's 7 completely irrelevant facts about me. Now to tag more people! Lots of these blogs aren't new to me, and I can't hit 15 (a lot of you have already gotten this award!), but here's what I've got.

The Jumping Percheron
Talk to the Hoof
Wet Reins
Dapple of My Eye
Behind the Bit
Barn Door Tagz
Adventures of the $700 Pony

There you have it, folks. Check out those blogs, they are some cool people writing cool stuff.

Stay tuned for my 2011 goals! I know you are all dying to know what they are ;)

PS, we had the kick-assest (yes, I just made that a word) dressage lesson yesterday. McKinna is in heat or something and was really "up," actually calling out to the other horses and generally being kind of tense. But when I put her to work, man! All that extra energy comes shooting out as this gorgeous power. It took a little more effort than usual to get her trot work relaxed and soft, but when I did, she just let me squoosh into her and I felt like I could ask for anything. It's like plugging into an electrical socket or something, except with less pain.

And then, the canter work. Holy crap. She had real jump in her canter. Big, rolling, powerful, horse-not-pony strides. And to keep her from motorcycling, all I had to do was half-halt my outside and squeeze a little with my outside leg - and magically, easily, she softens on the outside rein and stands up and carries herself. I was cantering around with such a giant grin on my face that Leslie started laughing at me.

Seriously, though. In Leslie's words: "That wasn't just SOME of your best canter work, I think that was THE best canter work you've ever done."

We actually stopped after a half hour of work. After schooling some beautifully connected trot work, shoulders-in, haunches-in, leg yield, and gorgeous canter work, what more do you want? Not much!

It was a very good ride. Have I ever mentioned how much I love this horse? Because I love her. She is amazing, and the approximately 10 sugar cubes she got yesterday can attest to that fact.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2010 Goals Recap

Alright! Time to get started on these goals posts.

First, I want to review last year's goals. I already did a short progress check in October, and we were well on our let's see how things ended up.

1. Pass C-2 rating in Pony Club [passed in May]
2. Master Novice-level eventing [considered achieved in October]
2b. Begin to school some Training-level eventing
3. Clean tack consistently
4. Get a dressage saddle that fits Pandora and me [done before I sold her]
5. Kill the Judge Stand Monster for Pandora [untested - sold before I got to a schooling show]
6. Stick to a fitness schedule for myself
7. Take monthly progress reports

Okay, so it looks like goals 2b, 3, 6, and 7 were the only goals that remained open after October. Let's take a look at those ones!

2b. Begin to school some Training-level eventing
At this point, I am calling this goal officially PASSED! We have only schooled a few Training XC questions, but since that is our strongest phase, I'm okay with that for now. Our dressage has been kicking serious butt lately: not only have we introduced haunches-in, McKinna now LOVES doing it at the walk and is beginning to learn to do it softly at the trot too. Also, we introduced walk-canter transitions, and those went swimmingly the first time we practiced them. After looking at a video of our flatwork from the prep clinic (which I will post soon!), we are doing really well in just going along looking like we know what we're doing.
As far as Stadium, we are moving right along there, too. 3'3 looks perfectly manageable, and it rides like that too. In our lesson on Saturday Devin had everyone working on dropping the hands lower for an automatic release, and it felt great - video of that coming soon too! And Devin's always got some crazy bending lines and angled fences in her lessons, plus this time we had a triple combination, so I think it's safe to say we are schooling Training-level SJ.

3. Clean tack consistently
Um, right. About that. I was more consistent than last year, which is a plus. But it definitely wasn't consistent. So, FAIL for this one. As I consider adding this goal to this year's list, I think: does it really matter? And I come to the conclusion that no, it doesn't. My tack gets cleaned probably once a month. Is that ideal? No. But I take good care of my stuff, it never gets grossly dirty, and it never takes more than a damp sponge with a little bit of Effax Ledercombi to get it clean. So not only do I declare this goal failed, I declare it not particularly relevant, because once a month is good enough for me!

6. Stick to a fitness schedule for myself
Not so much here either - another FAIL. Last year I really sucked at working on my own fitness. However, this one IS going to make it onto the current year's list, because one of the biggest things I took away from the Prep Clinic was the need to improve my core and lower leg strength. Luckily I am already making progress on this: I am in a Yoga class this term at the University, and I just ordered some Yoga DVDs with a Borders gift card, including one that's focused on core strength. Yay me!

7. Take monthly progress reports
Sigh...another FAIL. I pretty much didn't take progress reports. I think this is partly because I didn't have monthly goals - everything I had was either long-term (begin to school Training) or ongoing (clean tack consistently). So I will take this into consideration for the structure of this year's goals, which are going to include monthly goals to provide a checkpoint.

So there we have it, folks! Obviously we were highly successful in all riding/training goals and not so much in the personal responsibility ones. That's okay, though - it shows me what I need to work on.

Just for kicks, let's take a look at what things were like over the last year.We have made some really amazing progress, in my humble opinion.

In January, I took McKinna to our very first dressage lesson with Leslie because Pandora had just hit her head on our trailer. When Leslie saw McKinna's canter, she said, "Oh my." I went to the Pony Club ABC retreat and learned a lot of interesting things. And finally - perhaps most significantly - I revisited the idea of selling Pandora so that I could finally explore McKinna's potential. (Not such a bad idea, eh?)

In February, we had our very first jumping lesson with Devin. I took a deep breath and decided that the real world can wait, and after I graduate in a couple years I want to be a working student for awhile. At our JJPC schooling show, Pandora and I jumped our first 3' course together.

March saw yet more progress, though it was a light posting month because I was in the misery class of doom (AKA, Organic Chemistry 2). McKinna elicited numerous comments from jumping trainers about how nicely she jumped, despite that canter. And I mused: why horses?

April came along and Pandora was doing great in jumping and dressage lessons. At last, Pandora went up for sale on Dreamhorse. And I rode McKinna in the Show Jumping Rally, where despite a minor meltdown I was very pleased with her.

Spring was in full swing and May was a big month for us. First I passed my C-2 rating on McKinna! A few days later, after almost two years together where we made a lot of progress, we sold Pandora and she went off to her new and perfect home. McKinna and I had some ups and downs. I returned home from the Inavale camp, where my dad took my favorite picture ever.

In June, I had an interesting ride at the Eventing Derby. I finally wrote up a more thorough Eventing Camp Report. I rode in my first recognized Horse Trials at Inavale (!!!!), where we had a reasonable dressage score, one of only 2 double-clear rounds XC (including our first ever trakehner!), and then got devoured by the horse-eating piano fence in stadium for a sad elimination.

In July I supported National Helmet Awareness Day, groomed for Devin at the wonderful, educational, exhausting Event at Rebecca Farm, and got a happy update from Pandora's owner.

August was another busy month, in which I attended Quiz Championships in California, decided that I love dressage, and was seriously jet-lagged when I returned from an awesome 10-day trip to Taipei. 

In September things kept improving. McKinna and I had a great jumping lesson and played around with some clicker work just for fun. We had a great ride in a schooling show, then kicked butt at the eventing rally, with video of dressage and stadium.

October saw a chiropractor visit after a less-than-stellar XC school, followed by the conclusion that she definitely needed it. I spent some time thinking about how lucky I am.

In November I got tired of mud. Now aiming for our C3 in August, McKinna and I went to our first Upper Level Prep Clinic. I discovered that I can, remarkably, ride pretty much an entire lesson in sitting trot. And it snowed!

Finally, in December, I celebrated the end of Fall Term (at last!), continued to have a great time riding McKinna, jumped our first ever 3'3 course together - which McKinna rocked, of course - had the jumping saddle reflocked, and spent some great time with my family over the holidays.

What an awesome year. I can't believe that in January and February of last year, I was just taking my first lessons with Devin and Leslie! Just trying to get McKinna to soften to the bit a tiny bit...working hard on Pandora and deciding to sell Seems like forever ago.

I can't wait to show you guys my goals for this year. It's going to be even better than last year!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pony Club Prep Clinic

I rode in an upper level prep clinic this weekend with Jen Verharen, a Pony Club national examiner. Though it was miserably cold (come on, weather, we're in Oregon, not north Idaho!), the weekend was quite the success and I absolutely loved working with Jen. She is one of the highest-quality clinicians I have ridden with in recent times - extremely thorough, has a great eye for what horse and rider need, super friendly, and really dedicated to helping Pony Clubbers through the rating process. I've got videos and maybe some pictures, so I'll see what I can get uploaded.

Upper level preps are designed to help PCers make the jump from club-level ratings (D1 through C2) to the national ratings (C3 through A). The certification process for examiners is more extensive, the expectations of candidates are a lot higher, and I know in the past (maybe still?) Pony Club has sometimes had issues with kids coming to their first national test at C3 being unprepared for the rigor of a national rating. Thus, prep clinics! You ride with a national examiner, get traditional clinic-type feedback focused on the progress you need to make to prepare for your rating, and you're able to ask questions about how you compare to the rating standard on that particular day.

We rode twice each day, and we had a wonderful goal-setting discussion with Jen on Saturday evening. More on that later. I am a C3 candidate: this means I am expected to have an independent and very secure seat, confidence and control on the flat, over fences, and on XC, proficiency at relating my flatwork to the dressage training scale while discussing it, a developing training ability, and so on. The test is basically equivalent to Training-level eventing, an in fact one requirement is that we ride the USEA Training Test A.

Other requirements include the switch rides, in which you must show confidence, control, and free forward movement on another candidate's horse. You also have to jump another candidate's horse over a 3' course, and evaluate your rides. The courses you jump on your own horse are 3'3, plus you jump through a grid set at 3' with no stirrups.

So that's the context of the prep clinic. McKinna was, as one would expect, a rock star.

Saturday Dressage: Jen had two big pieces of feedback. One, I am a very effective and tactful rider, so now I need to develop my position to be more "elegant." This involves stretching my legs longer downward (thus stretching those darned tight hips!) and sitting taller without the slight forward tip I tend to get. No comments about my elbows though, huzzah! The second piece was about McKinna, who was kind of "sticking" in her transitions both up and down. She sort of flows along nicely, then braces and stops the energy for just a second when I ask for a transition before she complies.

We addressed both of these at once: I got to drop my stirrups, and also make McKinna much quicker through the transitions, keep her prompt and that energy shooting straight through. I was skeptical, and a little concerned...I have worked so hard to get and maintain relaxation from McKinna that I really didn't want to throw it away by getting her worked up about snappy transitions. Still, I went ahead with what Jen said, and in the end it worked out marvelously. After sorting out an initial 5-10 minutes of McKinna getting a little anxious and tense, I learned how to relax my hips and sort of squoosh myself into her while still sitting tall, and McKinna responded by keeping her energy forward and free through the transitions without becoming tense. Cool stuff.

Saturday Jumping: this was alll about me, because my pony is basically perfect. Essentially, my lower leg has gotten WEAK, and I let McKinna talk me into not using it because she tends to rush if I have it on snugly. My orders were to get that leg out in front of me a bit more and keep that calf on! I was able to make a huge improvement once Jen showed me what she meant. I think I have just let it slip now that I'm not as strong as I was over the summer, and I needed a reminder of what exactly to do. She said it was much much better, I just needed to keep practicing so it was a natural and easy thing.

We also jumped through the 3'ish grid with no stirrups. OW, OW, OW. The landings are not soft! It is difficult to keep your legs up in jumping position with no stirrups, not to mention keeping your calf on! It is hard to keep the upper body tall with strong core! Again, I made improvement, and McKinna was a total gem about cruising straight through the grid without a care in the world, but man. I clearly have some core and leg strengthening to do. Too bad the superfit Stacey isn't close enough to whip me into shape ;-)

Sunday Dressage: switch rides! Also, we had a little trouble with relaxation at the beginning, and Jen noted that McKinna tends to lock up in her poll before anywhere else. She often does it very subtly, but it leads to the rest of her body stiffening too. We worked briefly on small wrist movements to encourage her to let go in the poll, which resulted in relaxation elsewhere too. One more tidbit of information.

Anyway, the switch riding was very educational. I rode a big, slow, somewhat stiff warmblood gelding (exactly the type I knew I needed to practice, which Jen confirmed!) the first time. He did not want ANYTHING to do with softening! Eventually I discovered that I had to really use my outside aids, keeping him turning, to get the hind end to come up underneath him and once I got him there I could soften and he would soften back. He had gorgeous gaits. The second horse, a really really nice TB gelding, was further along (his rider is going for her B, the next step above C3) and I guess I just didn't know what to do with a horse with that much training! I did some leg yields back and forth to encourage him to keep his outside shoulder under control, and cantered some smaller circles focusing on turning off the outside shoulder. I had to shorten up my reins to really get him working.

Jen's feedback: my rides were fine for C3 level, and I need to just keep working on riding tons of horses so that I can be a little quicker to pick up what I need to do on them and a little more assertive in the saddle about what I am doing. She said my analysis of my rides was very good.

McKinna's switch rides, incidentally, were pretty good too. It was really nice to see other people having positive, soft rides on her! Not 100%, but still pretty darn nice. It's nice to know I won't ruin someone else's C3 by having the impossible horse to ride...

Sunday Jumping: coursework. All the horses and riders were, in a nutshell, totally wiped out and not on their top game - me and McKinna included! We hit that point where she kind of scooted around instead of really reaching out in her canter, I couldn't see a distance to save my life, I couldn't seem to keep my leg on, and it just didn't work out so well. Because she is a rock star we had no stops or anything silly, just not-the-prettiest courses. Still, if my position had been solid, it would have been an adequate ride for C3, and we jumped around the 3'-3'3 height with no issues. It's nice to know that even on our worst, exhausted days we can still make it around a course looking reasonable, but it was definite confirmation that I need to work on my strength. It is early in the season for all of us, so I think horses and riders just aren't quite up to this level of intensity yet. We'll be there by the next prep clinic.

The overall takeaway: we're on the right track! I really need to work on my overall strength, mainly my core and my ability to keep my leg on. Jen said she would really like to see McKinna more accepting of the leg by the next time she sees me, which will be in April at the next prep clinic I'm riding in. She says we are an excellent pair and we're working on all the right stuff. 

That being said, I'm already working on the fitness stuff. One of my classes this term is yoga (oh yes!) and oh my goodness, I almost died today. I must be really out of shape, because I swear it wasn't that hard a few years ago! Lots of plank to side-angle pose, high leg lunges (LOTS of those) and warrior pose. And more plank. So this will be good for me! I'm thinking of taking another yoga and/or a martial art PE class in the Spring. We'll see...

I'll talk more about the goal-setting session we did soon, which ties in nicely to my own goals, which I've finally mostly ironed out! About time since we're already almost halfway through January, eh?

Pony got a WELL-deserved day off today. I poked my head in tonight and saw that she managed to get herself thoroughly muddy again. Oh well. I went for my first real ride on the young horse I'm working with! We longed, I leaned on the saddle a bit, mounted up, and off we went. I had a ground helper with a longe whip to swish, because obviously the mare doesn't know about leg signals yet, and it was a great success. She was very calm, willing, not wigged out by my legs at all, and while not as forward as I'd like she wasn't horribly slow either. A very successful first real ride, in my book!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Time Off: A Great Tool!

Remember how in my last post I said I wasn't too worried about McKinna having a light month last moth, since she usually comes back well after a break?

I love it when I'm right.

At our dressage lesson last night with Leslie, McKinna was back and better than ever. She felt free and swinging in her shoulder, and generally focused on the task at hand. Together we're really developing a feeling of straightness in the trot: Leslie uses the image of one of those little levels sitting on her withers. Will the bubble be in the center? At the trot, yes it is. And I am consistently able to develop more of a trot lengthening without losing suppleness or freedom through the shoulder.

Best of all, remember the first baby steps of haunches-in that we were trying out? Well, I haven't really practiced it. Mostly because I have barely ridden! But at the lesson last night, when Leslie had me ask for haunches in, McKinna just said, "Right. Got it. What next?"

I mean, it wasn't exactly that easy. It still takes some effort to get her to hold the correct positioning, and my mind has to jump around to a bunch of different things to fix - keep her supple, ask for inside bend, outside leg on to keep the haunches in, don't forget the FORWARD. Reminds me of our early attempts at shoulders-in. But the important part is that she now understands what I am asking for and she tries to give it to me. How she figured it out I'll never know.

Leslie even had me ask for a little travers to renvers - haunches-in to haunches-out. When I have more energy I'll explain the two thoroughly, but for now my understanding is this: haunches-in, you move the haunches to the inside of the forelegs while continuing forward and the horse is bent in direction of travel (i.e., when tracking right, the haunches travel to the right of the forelegs while maintaining right bend). Renvers is opposite, moving the haunches left and maintaining left bend while tracking right. I think.

The switch from travers to renvers was rather wiggly and I'm sure I contorted my body into all kinds of crazy positions, but we got the idea. That's the exciting part. Leslie commented that we are well on track to have a really successful season.

So maybe some time off isn't such a bad thing for your horse's training. Granted, McKinna went out every day in a big old pasture with 2 - 4 other mares, and still got ridden once or twice a week. Locking your pony in a stall for three weeks may not produce the same results. But if your horse is in a situation that allows an outlet for excess energy (e.g. turnout), maybe don't feel so guilty next time you end up really busy and barely ride for two or three weeks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First Ride! (Sort Of)

I haven't talked about it at all, but I'm working with my barn owner's young horse. She's a very sweet young mare, and also very feisty and intelligent. And MAN, can she throw in some athletic bucks! I think that's why my barn owner asked me to put 30 days on her ;)

So I've been methodically figuring out what I'm doing. Before me she'd been saddled and ground-driven twice, and liked to throw in big buck/spin/rear moves on the longe but was otherwise pretty obedient and chill. I decided to take things pretty slow at first, just to make sure I wasn't leaving any holes or rushing a young horse too much.

First of all, this girl LOVES to work. She nickers at me when I walk up to her stall. She actually stands at the tie rail and fusses around until I start tacking her up, at which point she settles down and stands still. Very cute. (Still irritating, but cute.)

We've made a lot of progress. She still doesn't like to canter on the longe, but bucking incidents are down to almost 0, and when she does it's just a little hop because she's mad that I made her canter, not full-blown bronc kicks. She'll back up and stay politely out of my space. She'll walk, trot, and halt almost totally off voice commands. No more humping her back at the girth - the first day all I had to do was pat my hand on her belly and she'd look uncomfortable, and the first time I saddled her she tried to roll with my saddle! She carries a bit, even though I work her off a rope halter or side pull. No need to go to the bit, but she's so darn mouthy I think having something in her mouth helps her focus.

And, most excitingly, I sat on her for the first time last night!! I was the first person on her back! It was a very cool moment. I have been leaning on the saddle for a couple days now and practicing giving to the reins with the sidepull. She couldn't care less about me leaning on the saddle, and she'll do the "one rein stop" move very politely. So last night, with my mom standing nearby, I leaned on the saddle, slid my leg over, and then sat up.

Filly went, "...and your point is?"

She didn't care at all, though she is still so mouthy she wanted to turn around and chew on my toes. We didn't walk at all, but she took a few steps one time when I asked her to bring her head around. I dismounted and remounted a couple times uneventfully, and called it good for the night.

It was very exciting. We definitely still have a lot to work that I've been in the saddle and it only takes about 15 minutes to tack up and longe quietly to confirm obedience, I think I will make a grand return to ground work and iron out some kinks as well as do a lot more ground driving. The mouthiness, while improved, needs to be toned down a lot. And I want to work on her leading, she tends to want to trail along behind.

Anyway. I just wanted to share my triumph with you. I think I'll go read through Mugwump's archives for some baby-training ideas.

McKinna, who has had a pretty light month between finals and winter vacation, is getting kicked back into full-time work today. We're off to a lesson with Leslie, then a Pony Club prep clinic this weekend, a lesson with Devin, our club's schooling show, and another "lesson" with Leslie in the form of a clinic that my club is putting on. Whew! McKinna isn't going to know what hit her! Luckily she's still been in light work, getting ridden a couple times a week and lots of turnout, so I doubt she's lost much fitness if at all. Maybe I'll ask Leslie to take it easy on her tonight...though probably the person who needs an easier lesson is me!

Still thinking about my goals. I'll get back to you on those.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Welcome to 2011, everyone! Today is my last day of break before I start classes again. True to form, I've got about 25% of the work done on my short story that is due tomorrow. Go me! Oh's cooking along okay, but I do wonder why I do this to myself.

Oh, right. Because winter break is supposed to be a BREAK, and I spent time at the barn and hanging out with my family.

One bonus of winter break: the boy is around! And when the boy is around, I drag him out to the barn and he takes nice pictures for me. I'm currently stewing on my goals for the year and that will definitely be a post soon, as well as an evaluation of my 2010 goals.

McKinna finally has a halter as gorgeous as she deserves. It will definitely be a clinic/show halter only, but it is beautiful. I swear that was my FAVORITE part of Christmas, buying that for my mom. It was so hard to wait the month and a half after I bought it for her to open it!

 Also, McKinna was in heat last week. In DECEMBER. This is her cuddling with the handsome TB gelding who lives next to her. He's a very sweet boy and athletic as hell - very fun to ride.

 Have I mentioned before how much of a ho McKinna is when she's in heat? Any other time she won't give the geldings the time of day, but when she's in heat, she's all for it. That's great and all, but I want those blankets to stay in one piece!

 My favorites. Mom with her pony! Even though I ride McKinna as my main horse, it is very good to remember that she belongs to my mother and I am really, really lucky to be able to ride such a kickass horse.

Goals post up soon. In the meantime, I have a story to finish..
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