Saturday, April 21, 2018

So many lessons!

OK, only three so far, but I am loving them!

Despite my Sunday lesson having to be cancelled due to icy roads, I was able to reschedule for Wednesday since we are on school vacation!  Ellie was MUCH better this time about arriving at a new farm and after only a few moments of looking around with wide eyes and a small bit of walking around the barnyard as I chatted with the barn owner, I was able to tie her right up and get her brushed and tacked up.  

I got to the indoor about 15 minutes before my lesson was to start and she was so calm on the lunge line that I got on within ten minutes.  Just as I got on, another rider came into the ring, who was only planning to ride for about ten minutes.  Normally I would expect Ellie to not care, as she is generally calm about horses in the ring with her, but for some reason she was obsessed with this horse.  Like every time the other horse got close to her, she started to jig and swing her haunches around, almost as if she wanted to go meet this other mare.  This was a new one for me with Ellie, so apparently she wants to make sure I am on my toes.  I almost threw her back on the lunge, but had this been a show situation, I would have had to ride her through it, so I just sucked it up.  I don't want to baby her and she needs to get this experience now in order to make her into reliable and sensible horse eventually haha.

All media is completely unrelated, but at least we have improved the whole sn*w thing
After some tense and tight figures at the walk, Ellie finally decided she would start listening to me a bit.  She is still not at the point where I can start a ride moseying around a little on a loose rein anyway, so I put her right to work doing circles, half circles, and figure eights at the walk.  We picked up the trot and even though she started out with her neck braced and wanting to watch the other horse, she found her brain fairly quickly.  The other horse left and she didn't seem to notice, which was good.  

Ellie still wasn't ready to start listening to my aids and the trot was kind of crappy.  Opening inside rein, inside leg, steady outside rein, and some spiraling in and out on the 20 m. circle and she FINALLY figured she would accept my input haha.  She started swinging more in the trot and settling into the contact.  I was impressed that really it didn't take THAT long to get her settled, though at first I was like OH GREAT this ought to be a fun lesson.  Instead of having to spend tons of time working with a tense horse, she went to work and we were able to accomplish something.

Beth had me work on transitions within the trot, which was excellent for Ellie.  She is becoming smart and sensitive enough to my aids, so she was willing to step right into a fairly balanced medium trot from her working trot and then would come back to what Beth called "almost a jog trot" since we are not really looking for a collected trot yet, of course.  It is nice to see she is going to have adjustability despite her size. It was also really cool to feel her engage her hind end to sit into the smaller trot, and I had to laugh when Beth said, "YES!  That is going to be a passage someday!" Hahaha I had told her my goal is Second level someday and she is already like oh we'll get her to FEI.  I do like that she sees potential in my horse, but I am way too practical right now lol.  I'm in the mindset of let's get her going walk/trot/canter for a Training level test, so it makes me giggle and feel slightly terrified when Beth says nice things about her haha.

We took a few walk breaks and Beth commented on the huge improvement in her walk since the first lesson.  I worked hard all this past week with that walk and I thought we had made progress!  Ellie was really happy to reach into a free walk after working within the trot and I like that she is confident enough in the contact to do so.  
Hacking in the field
The canter is coming along well, too, though I have some habits to unlearn.  We started with the right lead, and I have a tendency to counterbend her slightly without thinking, because that is how I had to ride Dreamy in the canter transition, so Ellie picked up the wrong lead a few times.  We did get the right lead several times once I fixed my position and Beth had me slightly lift my inside (right) hand.  It is going to take time for me to remember how to ride the canter transition, since I can just ask her correctly and stay in the correct bend haha.  Beth recommended that I could also start by trotting a 10m. circle and asking at the halfway point, which makes sense because it will force me to ride the transition the right way.  Ellie still isn't prompt in the transition because she is not totally sure about the canter aids anyway, but I think we are getting there.  It feels to me like she's running into the canter, but Beth assures me she isn't.


Our third lesson was this morning, a beautifully sunny spring Saturday (FINALLY!).  Ellie was still a little excited when we arrived but nothing at all like she has been.  I love that she is adapting to being a grown up horse who can travel somewhere new without losing her marbles!  She's been great about loading, trailering in general, and stepping down instead of launching herself off the step up haha, and beyond the training we are getting from lessons, just the act of taking her out and about is helping her grow up.

We worked a bit on transitions within the trot again as well as the canter.  This time I got my act together and we actually got the right lead each time I asked, so that's a plus haha.  Beth reminded me today that it is OK for me to start asking for more from Ellie and that is she really not a baby.  That is good for me to hear, because sometimes I think I give her too much leeway.  For example, we might be trotting along on the circle and Ellie goes OH LOOK OVER THERE! and throws her head up.  I tend to be too subtle in correcting her, almost like I am thinking ohhhhh it's ok, here can you please maybe sorta stay connected and stay bent around my inside leg please?  Beth encouraged me to be more direct with my aids, not to force her into a frame or anything, of course, but to expect more out of her.  I just need to be more forward thinking, so I really focused on keeping my inside leg on her and using my opening rein in a little more proactive way instead of reactive after she's already trotted five steps with her head flung up to look at something.  It made sense, because as soon as I started assuming and anticipating I would need to correct her, my timing was better and she didn't get a chance to lift her head and avoid contact.  We got some really lovely trot work that I was so happy with! 

Ellie even kept her brain intact when an upper level horse/rider came into the indoor and started doing extended trot, passage, and canter four tempis (with some naughty bouncing around in the meantime).  It was perfect because the rider was only there for 20 mins but it allowed Ellie to have the experience of a horse coming in, doing weird things she wanted to watch (instead of paying attention to me), and then leaving her.  Besides being interested and wanting to look, Ellie really didn't put a hoof out of place.
Round two in “learning to wear things on one’s legs” was front dressage boots the other day.
Besides the hilarious Spanish walk thingy she did out of the barn, they thankfully were a non issue.
Next we’ll try the hinds, which possibly may elicit bigger feelings haha.
A few things to work on right now: softening my left rein when it is the outside rein and more prompt canter transitions.  Beth complimented my outside rein in both directions, but said I tend to slightly "hold" the left outside rein too much at times.  So, for example, let's say we are trotting right and Ellie goes to look at something, so I use my opening right rein.  She comes back down into the contact, but is just restricted enough by my left rein that I am almost not quite allowing her to fully bend right.  I don't need to even move my outside left rein, just relax the elbow (it's that subtle) and she bends and accepts the bit.  Once I started paying attention to this, she went along SO MUCH better!  It is amazing how a small tweak can improve the horse so much.  THIS is why I am taking lessons, because while I feel confident to ride and train her on my own, I also know I need someone to help me develop this horse.

And while Ellie obviously isn't confirmed yet in the canter transition because she isn't completely aware of the aids yet, she was totally blowing me off today to canter.  She understands a kiss noise on the lunge line means to canter, so I still have been using my voice as well as my leg/seat aids.  But as Beth reminded me, it really shouldn't still take half a circle for her to canter.  It sucks because there is waaaay too much mud right now (big surprise) in the area that is flat and large enough to canter here at home, so I have not been working her in the canter at all (it has been since last fall!) besides the three lessons we have had this spring haha.  So I cannot complain, since I know this is just where she is at right now, but I feel as though if I could canter her here at home, we'd be further along.  PATIENCE is not my best virtue haha.

Still no media from lessons because all the barn kids were turning out horses and mucking stalls and the other three adults around were either riding or giving lessons in the outdoor.  :-(  I have the worst time asking people for favors. I seriously need a preteen child who loves horses and wants to come along to lessons and shows with me to take photos and videos hahahaha.
This is me and why I have no riding lesson media

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Eliot was right

April really IS the cruelest month.  Ugg.  It is no secret those of us who live where winter is a season are all totally completely OVER winter.  We started our school vacation week here in Maine on Friday, and it was a lovely sunny near 60 degree day.  Pretty much what one might expect of a beautiful spring day.

And then the temperature dropped significantly yesterday (Saturday) and it started to rain, sleet, snow, etc. and isn't supposed to let up until Monday afternoon.  Forecasters like to call this a "wintery mix".  It is currently 28 degrees, real feel of 21.  Yeah.

Needless to say, I did not have my weekly lesson today.  I don't drive in the ice, never mind truck a horse.  :-(  

Instead of feeling sorry for myself because of the weather haha, I will say we had great rides this week.  And it has to warm up eventually, right?  RIGHT?!

I gave her Monday off and we rode the rest of the week, even yesterday morning before it started raining.  Working to slow down the walk has really helped Ellie's balance and connection in the walk.  We had lots of good transitions moving between stretchy free walk and working walk, too.  Most of our trot work has been on a 20 m. circle, especially with some spiraling in and out.  I started to ask for leg yield on a straight line too, as she seems to really understand leg yielding out on a circle.  Plus, after a winter of trying to not fight about flinging her head in the halt, she has developed an understanding of how to halt off the seat.  It is still not perfect, but I am relieved she is finally starting to understand.  And her rein backs have been improving the same as well.

Thursday I opted to try to reach the trails at the far end of the Christmas tree fields.  There is one spot in all the fields that is low lying and still too muddy, so I accidentally pockmarked the edge of the path.  Oooops.  

We did make it into the woods at least.  And for her second ever trail ride and first time alone, Ellie was really brave.  We only went out for about ten minutes in the woods because there is still a lot of mud and seriously wet areas.

brave trail horse
 At least the mud puddles are fun for playing in.  The two year old and I thoroughly enjoyed our first day of vacation on Friday when the temps were so warm.  I may have won myself a new pair of cool new boots, but who can compete with frog face boots???  haha

spring fun
There is an opening date looming for a dressage show with our local GMO so I spent time yesterday afternoon getting the paperwork together instead of feeling sorry for myself about the weather.  LOL
being cute during night turn in
And I discovered in a random internet search today while the small child naps that USEA does indeed accept the Myler bits for eventing dressage.  Maybe I can find one used to try out, since I am not really in the mood to pay $100 on a bit!  ;-)  So that is exciting since Ellie still isn't totally thrilled with any specific bit yet.

Page 6 of Annex 1!
Alright, five months straight of shit winter weather is getting old.  This is the first time I have actually considered that living in a state with winter isn't worth it!  I'll be glad when I have fun things to write about instead of complaints because of the weather!  ;-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shires Equestrian Contest

I have never really though of myself as a lucky person, and I am not usually one to win contests or raffles.  I have never bought lottery tickets or placed bets on anything (other than random $2 bets at the track here and there haha).  However, over the last few years on social media, it seems there has been an increase in contests.  Generally, these contests are easy to enter and I am a firm believer that you can't win unless you try!

Last year I won a $250 shopping spree to Noble Outfitters, which was super exciting.  I had totally forgotten I had entered until I got the email that I won haha.  

A few weeks back, I entered a contest on Facebook through Shires Equestrian for a pair of rubber boots.  And much to my surprise, I won!

The prize was a new pair of Rockfish boots, which is perfect because we are right at the beginning of mud season.  I wore out a pair of original Hunter Wellies over the span of about fifteen years and bought my current pair five years ago that I am not in love with (they don't fit in the calf the same as the old ones, therefore are not as comfortable so I don't wear them much).  The Rockfish boots I chose are the original style in matte, as I did not want gloss and the neoprene lined ones seemed like they would be too warm.
The boots arrived yesterday and I had to give them a try while I did chores.  They were super comfortable and fit my wide calf well.  I had no issues walking around, no feeling of blisters or the boots flopping around at all.  I ordered a size 6 and they appear to run true to size.  This is the Dragon Fly color, but there is black, grey, navy, and green available as well.  Obviously I cannot speak to durability yet, but they are well made and will probably last me just as long as my first original pair of Wellies haha.
This is a super fun prize because while I already own a pair of decent rubber boots, I just don't wear them because they are not comfortable.  And I am too frugal to buy a new pair of boots like this haha.  I was actually really excited last month to hear that Target has partnered with Hunter and I could buy the low end $40 pair this coming weekend, but now that I have these spiffy new Rockfish boots, I won't need to run to Target haha.

not slippery

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ellie's First Riding Lesson (and we all survived)

After a winter spent talking and thinking about taking lessons this spring, I finally was able to go to our first one today!!  As I readied the trailer and loaded my tack, I felt slightly nervous, hoping Ellie would get on the trailer since we haven't practiced since December (she did, first try!) and would ride well for her fifth trailer ride of her life (she was great even though the back roads of Maine are bumpy and full of potholes at the moment!).  I have known Beth for years (the farm owner and my new instructor) through the local dressage scene and not only has she brought horses along to Grand Prix, both of her daughters have as well (and a few of those horses were born right on their farm!).  So while this was the first time I rode with Beth, I knew her personality and experience would work well for me.  They put on several schooling shows each year, and I competed there with Dreamy in 2008 and 2009 at the beginning of her show career.
The sn*w was nearly gone until we got 3" overnight on Friday. 
By Saturday afternoon, not much was left. 
But I was not impressed LOL!
Knowing this was Ellie's first real trip to a new place, besides when I brought her home to my farm six months ago, I arrived a bit early for a 10:45 lesson.  Plus, I haven't been to this farm for several years and I wasn't sure exactly how long it would take.  I had 50 minutes in my head and that is exactly how long it took.  It was perfect though, because she was LIT when she unloaded.  Like tail over her back and prancy in a circle around me lol.  The farm is tucked off a back road and is a super laid back place, but of course it was all new to her and there are a lot of horses in pastures everywhere.  I started leading her around carefully, since she can be dramatic, and let her stop and look as needed.  It was a fine balance between letting her stop and keeping her moving and staying just out of her way enough so she didn't run me over.  She listens well and tries so hard to behave, but I am fully aware she needs time, patience, and exposure.  She screamed a few times but held herself together well.  We walk around the barn yard and then I took her into the indoor arena, figuring it would be good to get a look around beforehand. 

Within twenty minutes, Ellie was considerably calmer. The only thing that she was NOT loving was the tarp tacked up on the side of their hay barn near the indoor.  Tarp on the ground or on her back?  No problem.  Tarp on the side of the barn gently blowing in the breeze?  CERTAIN DEATH.  She did walk by it nervously several times with me, but that was the only thing that she could NOT relax about.

I felt confident enough at this point to tie her to my trailer and tack her up.  Beth had offered to let me use a stall and/or the crossties, but I told her I wanted to first try the trailer.  Obviously, if Ellie really needed the mental support of being in the barn, I would have done that.  But this was the perfect opportunity and setting to pretend it was like a horse show.  She was still on high alert, but she stood calmly and I attached the lunge line to her bridle.  I am not a huge fan of lunging and will phase it out like I did last fall, but if she was going to buck and dolphin, I'd rather not be on her back thankyouverymuch!
Looking around but being so good
There was a boarder doing fancy canter halfpass and such and an adult taking a lesson on a lesson pony by the time we entered the arena.  I had told Beth that I wanted to make this as normal as possible and not baby Ellie.  We can ride alone every day at home, but I wanted her to get used to horses coming and going.  If she was going to be upset, this was the time to address it instead of in the warm up of a horse show!  

We went down to the far end to lunge and she took off in a fast trot.  I let her move out like that for about thirty seconds to get whatever sillies out, and I was pleased when she came back to the walk when I asked.  I just did a few transitions from walk to trot to walk, then we practiced walk to halt to walk.  Beth was giving a lesson but remarked that Ellie looked much calmer than when she first arrived haha.  After going in both directions and only one dolphin leap later, I felt ready to get on.  Ellie stood nicely at the mounting block, though I did ask Beth to stand at her head, since the open door was right there and I am all about good experiences.  Ellie had nothing to prove, and even though I ride her all the time at home without anyone with me, I am all about creating good experiences to gain her confidence away from home.

Beth had offered to have me do a few weeks of 30 minute lessons just to get Ellie into shape and since I would be working her before the lesson as well.  This ended up being exactly what Ellie needed.  We spent some time talking about my goals and she watched Ellie walk around for a bit.  She was still up and not ready to relax, so I put her to work bending on circles at each end and doing changes of rein.  The lesson pony left and she didn't notice.

The biggest thing I have to work on right now in the walk is not letting her get too forward.  Haha that's pretty much going to be the theme of her life.  She has a MARCHING walk and I have to be careful not to get too busy and overly following with my seat.  Beth had me slow my seat movement just slightly, ask for bend and engage the inside hind, and soon we had a much quieter walk.  Plus she was more balanced and able to relax into the contact.  This is exactly why I am taking lessons, because I need that person on the ground to help me.  I want to train this horse myself, yes, but I also know that in order to be sure I don't allow my bad habits to get in the way of training her correctly.  That is my biggest goal with Ellie, to train her correctly through the training scale.  We will be at "relaxation" on the scale for a while!  ;-)

We started to trot and Beth was able to hone in on how once I have Ellie's trot at the right tempo, she gets shorter strided.  There is going to be some learning for us to find the correct forward, because once I was able to get her in the right tempo AND reaching underneath herself, the trot was much improved.  Half halts all day every day LOL!  Thankfully, she showed she remembered what a half halt is from last fall, and we had moments of really lovely trot work.  Ellie still has to learn how to stay in the correct tempo and that will come with strength, but it was really great to feel her move correctly.  Beth explains herself really clearly and I love that.  She explains the WHY behind what she is asking you do to, which is important for me as a rider.  Don't just tell me how to ride, because I need to go home and replicate what I am learning in lessons in order to improve.  

At this point, we were pretty much done, and Ellie was finally asking to stretch down into the contact.  She is not yet ready to start a ride on a loose rein, but once she has worked a bit (and realized how much she is working lol), she loves to stretch down and out.  Beth asked if I wanted to canter, and I really did want to see what I would get, even though a small part of me was nervous.  We have not cantered since late last fall.  Beth was great, telling me not to worry, that she knew Ellie was just in kindergarten/first grade canter mode right now.  I like that while I know she will push us, she is also realistic and understands how to develop a young horse.  She wanted me to get the canter and bring her back to the trot before it fell apart, even if that was only three strides.  I should not have worried because Ellie picked up both leads without missing a beat and we cantered around a full circle and a half before I eased her into the trot.  She still isn't quite confirmed in the upward transition, but she will obviously start stepping into it as her balance and strength improves.  Just the fact that she did what I asked and did it WELL for her age and level made me so happy!  
At the end of our lesson!  I didn't quite dare take a mirror selfie haha.  I am hoping there will be young riders around at some points so I can befriend them and ask them to take media hahahaha
The coolest part of the lesson was Beth saying WOW about ten times about Ellie's canter haha.  She remarked that Ellie had the best canter on a Morgan she had ever seen.  Even for being a baby canter at the moment, that was really fun to hear!  I told her I heard it was from her sire, Triple S Dark Eagle, who passes on such great canters to his get.  

I couldn't stop grinning because she was just so darn good and had relaxed so well by the end.  Another rider showed up with her horse as I was changing directions to canter on the other lead.  She asked Beth what breed Ellie was (how could she not tell she is a Morgan? lol) and Beth was like, you've got to watch this horse canter!!  Needless to say, it was a great lesson and a really encouraging place to start the year.  As I was putting up my stirrups and loosening the girth and we were chatting, Beth said, "I am so excited about this horse's canter!  She is going to be so much fun!"  

YES!  That is exactly how I feel.  I know we will have our struggles and not everything is going to be perfect (heck, she came off the trailer like a fire breathing dragon kite!), but she is so fun!  Even when she is exhausting (and she is...!), she is FUN to train and ride.  I know she will always be dramatic, but a lot of this "electricity" will subdue with time.  Granted, she might be 20 before she mellows out haha, but just going out for this lesson was a huge step for her.  We go back again next Sunday, and I am hopeful she will be able to tame the squirrels in her chestnut mare brain a little bit better each time we go.

Winter is still hanging on here in Maine, but starting lessons like this makes it seem less shitty haha.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Transitioning into Real Work

We are finally at the stage where much of the snow is gone and the wait for everything to dry out has begun.  That means after an entire winter of hacking around at the walk in deep snow, we can finally start doing something a little more productive.

Don't get me wrong, the hacking has been great for her brain and for us to get to know one another.  As Denny Emerson is always writing and I agree with wholeheartedly, hacking out at a brisk walk is a great way to build strength, balance, and confidence.  And I feel as though we have begun to establish a fitness baseline so it is not as though Ellie is totally out of shape from sitting all winter.  This is a good place to be, therefore I am trying not to feel the impatience of waiting for the ring to dry out.  Sadly, the flat area I call my ring isn't really a ring at all; however, I don't want to dump money into fixing this spot because the REAL ring is going to be located in a different area on the farm altogether.  But that's going to take thousands of dollars I have not saved up yet, so while the snow is completely gone from my "ring", the MUD is real.  So far the fields are OK as long as I avoid the wettest areas (I hate to create any holes in the grass footing!), so our hacking continues, but now with some bending and trotting!  Whoo!

One week difference #gettingthere
 It is funny how different it is to hack out in deep snow as opposed to bare ground however.  Haha Ellie has had a little spring in her step without the snow to wade through!  ;-)  She is actually a good listener and tends to spook in place or just stand and look and wait for my reassurance.  For instance, the little sparrows have begun their nesting and laying preparations this past week, so there was a lot of stopping to look and a few spooks because of tiny darting and chirping birds.  

Ellie: *stops, flings head upwards, and stares*

Me: It's OK, El, it's just birds and they are not scary. (insert petting of neck and gentle reassurances, leg on, ready for a spin/blot just in case haha)

Ellie: OMG OMG OMG what are birds and why are they flying and what is that noise they are making and OMG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE! HALP!

Ellie: *spooks in place*

Me: ... 

Ellie:  ...

Ellie: Oh, I see.  They are just birds!  Why didn't you just say so?

Me: Oh, Ellie. (insert laugh at my ridiculous horse)

So, most of her spring silliness has been indeed pretty silly and easily diffused by my desire to not react to her or her antics.  She is a dramatic mare and I doubt that is ever going to really go away haha. But thankfully after being a wide eyed wild beast for the first few minutes of a ride, she does calm herself and act respectable enough for a five year old!  ;-)  
Modeling one of her many Dark Jewel Design browbands

We practiced spiraling in and out at the walk the other day, an exercise she was unfamiliar with when I first got her but she seemed to understand at the walk and trot by the time we had to start our winter snow hacking routine. Immediately when I asked her to spiral out, she threw her head up and decided to go faster.  Hang on mare, you actually DO know how to do this.  Resume walking forward, ignore baby tantrum, ask again.  Ohhhhhhhh that's right, your leg can mean SIDEWAYS and not just forward!  Ohhhh, and there is that outside rein contact that I sorta forgot how to do (Ellie, probably).  We proceeded to have several lovely spirals in and out on a walk circle (just a bit too squishy in the field for trot circles just yet) and she remembered she knows about rein contact while bending.

The free walk still needs work, since that is another thing she had no idea about and is now starting to understand.  Learning to be in front of my leg, using her back, and reaching for contact will continue to be a work in progress, but there has been a lot of improvement.  She has a naturally forward and swinging walk, but is still not sure about opening and closing her frame when asked.  I spent SO MUCH TIME adjusting her walk this winter, that when I asked her to stretch into the bit, instead of just going a little ways before I had to ask again (and sometimes even ask three or four times to get her really reaching down far enough), she actually stretched forward and down like a real dressage horse.  GOOD MARE.  It is not yet a solidified movement for her, but having such a good transition like that is a good step in the right direction.

The good news is she is clearly trainable.  The bad news is she is still opinionated.  LMAO snort laugh.  Let's be real, THAT is never going away!

It also dawned on me the other day that I need to be mindful about introducing this mare to things on her legs, ie bell boots, leg wraps, brush boots, and shipping boots.  Because she tends towards the dramatic (such as her loud and clear opinion about a particular saddle she disliked...), I don't feel comfortable just throwing something on her without a bit of thoughtful introduction.  Bells and brush boots are generally reserved for jumping sessions and I am not a leg wrap person (unless there is a medical reason for wrapping).  I do want her to wear shipping wraps though, as I never bothered the first three times I have ever shipped her.  So last week she had her introduction to bell boots.  She was fine when I put them on, but definitely had a IT TOUCHED MY FOOT reaction once she shifted her weight and felt them on her pasterns and heel bulbs.  Oh Ellie.  I was ready for this (she was on the crossties with a saddle on and I snapped a lead rope on her halter just for funsies) and besides her classic spook in place move, she had no other reaction.  

Me, dramatic?

Once I bridled her and led her into the barn yard, now with lunge line attached for funsies, she did have a moment of awkward Spanish walk and then was fine.  I made her move around me on the lunge in the barnyard just to make sure all was still fine with bell boots and actual movement, and thankfully she was still accepting of them.  It's funny the things you take for granted and need to slowly introduce to dramatic redheads!  ;-)  

Bell boots are no big thing -Ellie, once she has cookies

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The First Show Season

I love when show dates start rolling in and I can create a new Google Doc with all shows and opening dates neatly color coded.  Yes, I am that person haha.  Normally, I have a very clear plan in my mind of what I want to do with whatever horse I am going to do it with.  But this year I have felt super overwhelmed because as much as I want to DO ALL THE THINGS, I have to remember that my horse is young and this will be her first show season.  There are literally close to fifty different shows I could do but obviously won't do them all haha. There are many Sundays that have two or even three shows on the same day and I have to choose what to do.  It comes down to what are my goals and what is my budget.

bored of the sn*w pics yet? haha
As much as my real love is eventing, with some dressage shows thrown in, that is just not what Ellie is ready for yet.  Our eventual goal is to do a handful of dressage shows and events each year, but that year is not now.  We jumped two ground pole courses and one cross rail course in our two little jumper shows last fall.  She has never schooled a XC fence, never mind a full course.  It is freaking freezing in Maine because winter doesn't want to leave and practicing a dressage test on a flat dirt surface at my barn may not occur until, well, May haha.  
hahaha sorry Ellie
eventually this will be mud
and maybe someday we can just ride on normal dry dirt ;-)
So my brain (which already works in overdrive) has been trying to make a solid plan (near impossible to do).  I like plans and ideas to keep me organized and grounded.  But heck, you do what you gotta do.

Here is what I do know:

I want to expose Ellie to lots of venues and get her out and about, but I don't want to overwhelm her.  She needs to learn this year that showing is fun not stressful.  So that means one, maybe two shows a month maximum.  Because we will be trailering out for lessons, getting her out to the two barns will help with her exposure.

I want to take as many lessons as I can, which means busy weekends and more money, which will cut into scheduling shows and the show budget itself.  Once summer break arrives, I can do lessons during the week.  But I want lessons to come first.

Dressage shows are a definite yes.  Two phases are doable once I get her into the dressage ring. Flat classes at open shows are boring as hell, but I can get her out and about.  

Here is where I get to overthinking:

Should I even bother with getting mileage at open shows with rail classes?  This is an easy way to expose a horse to showing before doing dressage tests, but do I want to bother (time, money...)?

Then there is the question of whether or not to stick to WT or do WTC.  Ellie can canter under saddle and it is quite good for her age, but obviously it is not perfect.  Could we do a Training level test or WTC rail class?  You bet.  But realistically, she should be in WT classes this year.  My thought is to start with Intro dressage classes/WT rail classes and move up later on if she feels ready.  I feel like I have been stuck in walk/trot forever, but obviously the last two show seasons were with Snappy, who needed to be there because her canter was so unbalanced.  Had she lived and stayed sound, maybe it would have improved?  My guess is no.
This photo makes me laugh because Dreamy is a full hand taller than Ellie, but because Ellie is pressed against her stall chain, she looks go much bigger.
So, I am tentatively looking at a little local schooling show with flat classes at the end of April and definitely her first dressage show in the middle of May.  Hopefully I can schedule a lesson or two in April now that the ice is gone from my driveway (for good?) and our vaccinations/Coggins are all updated.  It feels like it took forever to arrive, but show season is steadily approaching and I am so excited!  :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Bitting Miss Ellie, Part 3

Yes folks, we are onto part 3 in the saga of finding the right bit for the young 'un.  Like anything else with horses, every animal is different and what we think may work best isn't always what ends up actually working.

To briefly recap, we started in the JP French link eggbutt, and I moved her to a Neue Schule lozenge eggbutt thanks to a little Christmas money.  She really seemed to like the Neue Schule better than the regular French link, but man oh man, she was still so chompy.  At first, I was willing to chalk it up to her greenness and then later on to her slight nervousness at times with riding out and about in the snowy fields and such.  She had her teeth fully floated and examined in November, so I knew I could rule out any teeth issue.

JP French link

Neue Schule lozenge eggbutt
But it eventually dawned on me that this horse wasn't chomping on the bit due to greenness, nerves, or teeth problems, and it had to be the bit itself.  Huh.  My last three horses have all loved the French link design, but I started to suspect that maybe it was just too much movement for Ellie's mouth.  I gave it some thought, dug through my bit box to see what I had to try, and realized maybe I ought to try Sparky's favorite bit, a single jointed eggbutt.

Bit box has lots of bits

Of course, the mere idea of a single jointed bit goes against everything we have learned during the last several years about bitting and mouth ergonomics.  Heaven forbid I put a nutcracker action bit in my horse's mouth!  Oh, the horror!!  Haha.

I couldn't find the single jointed eggbutt anywhere in my bit box or tack room.  Then it dawned on me where it was...
Sparky's old bit always has the placement of honor on the horsey wreath
Oh right.

Maybe I ought to take down the wreath.  It was the first of March by this point!  And admittedly the wreath was starting to brown...hahaha.

Off the wreath, on the bridle, and Ellie approved
And I'll be damned.  Ellie loves this stupid bit!  She honestly does not make a peep, her mouth is quiet, and there is still nice dressage foam after our rides.  

Clearly, she needed the magic chestnut Morgan mare bit. 

The chestnut mare herself approving the magic bit
Let's see how long this lasts!  ;-)