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.
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