Liverpools and cross training

My standing Tuesday evening lesson started mid-winter when I was frustrated and hitting a brick wall. It started as just groundwork, evolved into flatwork and has settled in as my dressage lesson. I give huge credit to having that dedicated time to the improvement Archie and I have seen as a team and the fact that of my three event horses, he’s the one I can consistently keep the connection with the best. This week a friend asked if she could crash and another boarder has been dropping into it when she can, so it became a 6:15pm jump lesson which I was perfectly okay with in preparation for this weekend’s Sharon White clinic.

Chestnut QH gelding lesson

We warmed up over a small vertical, focusing on keeping the ride quiet and consistent, and from the first steps I could tell Archie came to play today. We had one weird moment where he suddenly stopped being able to function at all, but I pulled him up to see what was happening and realized somehow he’d managed to get a giant chunk of grass… in his eye? I literally do not know how. Issue resolved, we continued on, switched directions and got to work.

Sometime in the last week, they drug the liverpool out under one of the fences. I was 99.8% positive Archie had never seen one before (nor had the other two) so we spent some time just trotting over it by itself. He got ever so slightly looky to it the first time, realized it was boring and proceeded to hop over like nbd each time after. It got set to a starter-ish size vertical and we practiced coming down the line – liverpool to oxer, left handed rollback to a vertical, bending back to the liverpool, left turn back to a vertical, bending back to the oxer – kind of a figure 8 type pattern. From there, around to the two (aka an Archie three) stride, tight rollback to an oxer, bending to a vertical.

First liverpool

I realized this weekend a lot of my nerves come from worrying I can’t ride something. Perfect example: Archie was being an ass on Saturday and needed a reminder that adult, sane horses do not act that way. But my brain was going, as soon as I do that, he’s gonna lay me on my ass. The solution is (obviously) not to let him do whatever the hell he wants – the solution is I have to get stronger to ride the horse.

Smile makes it worth it though

Archie genuinely loves stadium – the twisty, turny courses suit him so well and keeps his brain moving enough to quiet all the little voices. He was so good that when my trainer asked after our first course how I thought it was, I said I’d dropped my eye in one of my bending lines which dropped the back rail of the oxer, but was otherwise happy and she (not one to hand out compliments) said nevermind that (I wasn’t wrong hah), that she thought it had been great. That he’d been great and I’d come out and rode the horse with direction and instruction from the first stride. I just about fell over. I knew it’d felt good, but great?! I ended up riding the wonky line once more and the course once more in entirety and that was it – the entire lesson. It felt so good to come out and be able to lay down a course like that (might I add a harder course than one would normally find at starter) right off the bat. I just have to come out with my brain ready to say, “let’s go Arch,” and mean it. Weird the way that works, huh?

New barn game/poll: clipper marks or dapples

Which is how I’ve found myself knee-deep in spin and pilates again. Spin is so nice, because with the addition of my bike, I can take a 20 or 30 minute class during lunchtime without the logistical nightmares. Pilates is down the street and hard as fuck, but worth it (please tell this to 16 year old Holly who took pilates as a ‘fun, relaxing easy class’ WTF) for the core strength.

Progress takes time, but I’m excited – twice weekly lessons, the upcoming clinic with Sharon (including XC on Sunday pleasepleaseplease don’t rain please), plus cross training – I feel really good about finally accomplishing my goal to run at IEA in a month (3.5 weeks actually but who’s counting idk). Now to just deal with the smalllllll detail called ‘I forgot to get a hotel room and now they’re all sold out hahahahahaha maybe I can sleep in Archie’s stall with him’. Minor detail, right?

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Partypony’s Spring Outing

Do you still count as a blogger if you blog… once a month? Cause that’s where I’m at these days. Instagram is so much easier, sue me.

Someone asked about the bench casualty from my last post – here is what remains…

We had our first XC school of the season last weekend. I went in a little nervous, after all, we didn’t have a great XC experience last fall, but my trainer reassured me we’d put the work in over the winter and would be fine. What do you know… it was better than fine. Archie was actually outstanding.

We got to lesson with our besties, Red and Lindsey, recently

Usually on XC lesson days we go right out to the field, but this day she chose to have us warm up over some stadium fences. It was really good for me – everything in the ring was still set at tiny crossrails from the itty bitty pony lesson before me so I used them as ground poles warming up while my trainer raised everything. Once she was done, she pulled us over and gave us some instructions and I got my first look at the fences and went, “UHHHH those look GIANT.” She basically shrugged and said, “they’re just BN size.” Oh, BN like I haven’t jumped since uh, last August? On a different horse? (She did tell me she’s snuck a few into my lessons recently but I haven’t decided if I believe her) Even if we have done one here or there, we definitely haven’t jumped right in at that height without starting smaller before.

From a few weeks ago!

Essentially, I was told, “sit up, it’s only 3″ higher, it’s not going to make a difference in his jump or anything else, you’ll be fine.” And… it wasn’t. Archie was FREAKING FANTASTIC and after a circle over two fences a few times to start, she had us do a small course and he was right there every step. It felt SO SO SO good to be back at height for the first time since Iggs!

Starter but cute!

We moved out to the field and warmed up over some small stuff – about a 2′ log and some green as grass stuff (like 18″) just to get MY head in the game. My goal for the day was GAG jumps and maybe a starter jump or two. After all, starter is where I fell off last fall.

Am I obsessed with this? YUP.

Well, didn’t need to worry about THAT. Archie was freaking GAME and we ended up jumping a bunch of starter fences, including a stairstep, a small blue table and a whole variety of banks, and we actually even popped over a BN fence or two. He never took a peek, he just came out all business and we had so much fun. He’s really starting to learn how to open his stride up in our conditioning work, so I let him open up between fences (it was pretty flowy back and forth across fields) and he was right there with me.

With the junior in the irons

After I finished up, I asked one of the juniors to pop him over his first ditch. I didn’t think there would be any issues, but sometimes they jump them like they’re horse eating holes and I wanted his first time to be no big deal. This junior has two horses at Prelim and a handful of sassy ponies she rides at BN/N so I knew she would be perfect for Archie. He absolutely was – he did jump the ditch a little big the first time, but never even thought about stopping or going around. They jumped it back and forth a few times and she added in a BN jump or two as well. He got nothing but praise from her and she offered to even take him around some Novice stuff. It felt pretty damn cool for everyone to think this sassy little QH could hop around Novice sooner than later. His mom, not so much, but it’s fun to know that’s the horse under me.

Ditches, check

I came home and spent the next few days basically sending Emily videos going “OMG THATS MY HORSE?!?!?!” We’re signed up to do a CT the first weekend of May, school at HHP the second weekend and then Sharon White is back the third weekend. I’m just beside myself with excitement for this year with the PartyPony.

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Proud mom

I was pumped to see we’d been moved up to a ‘big kid’ lesson this weekend on the schedule – by which I mean, riding with my friend Lindsey who spent last season consistently at BN. Archie has been going awesome and I’ve been leaving the barn thrilled, so this felt like an accomplishment with some of our winter work paying off.

Sure enough, it did. Saturday was sunny, 70 degrees, so basically my perfect day and Archie was freaking ON IT the entire lesson. In front of my leg, bending, I’d basically think something and he was right there with me and totally game. It was easily the best lesson we’ve ever had. An aside, when you’re 15.1h and have short legs and still improving doing the actual strides is… hard. We’re pros at the add. And the double add (raise your hand if you’ve put 4 in a 2 stride HI HELLO WHATS UP).

We is good at this

But Saturday everything was coming up awesome, so when we landed off a vertical, he was in front of my leg, I asked for more and he gave it to me, I was like, “Oh hell yeah, we’re gonna actually do one in the one stride!” We landed off the vertical, I pushed a little past the distance, let my shoulders get in front of me and Archie took a peek, my balance went wonky and he turned away… and I landed on the standard. Damnit.

I was dizzy, but otherwise fine, but nobody was gung ho on letting me get back on, so luckily Lindsey hopped on him and took him around a few fences to finish. He came through that one stride and BLASTED off the ground. My fall was just a mistake – he wasn’t bad, it wasn’t dirty, none of the above. Mostly I was mad that such an awesome lesson and course finished like THAT.

I opted to join a Sunday lesson too; normally I wouldn’t jump both days, but I knew for my own mental state I needed to get back on and jump around vs sitting for a week before my next lesson. Of course, it went from 70 and sunny on Saturday to 40, overcast and so windy they had to hold some of the standards up… super pleasant Sunday.

Slight attire change from the previous day

We started with circling over two verticals and then progressively added in to do a full course . Wouldn’t you know, this horse stepped up like nothing had happened at all the previous day and popped around in the horrendous wind like a seasoned little dude. He had every right to be ~sPiCy~, but seriously just took care of me. Including where we tripped a stride out from a vertical, he had every right to slam on the brakes, but I floated the reins and he hopped over like a freaking short stirrup pony.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how proud I am of Archie the past few weeks, but damn. This horse is not the same horse who stepped off the trailer in August, wide eyed and distrustful. Our slow and steady has started to pay off and he’s downright fun these days. I’m excited to hopefully get out and show this year, but honestly, it would be a bonus, not the goal. He’s a little quirky, a lot goofy and he’s turning into the horse I saw peeks of on that video seven months ago. My trainer has even remarked how different he is and the fact that I’m riding him like a completely different horse too. Some of that is trust bank, some of that is a relationship we’ve built and some is Archie stepping up to be the horse I knew he could be.

It’s back up to 60 and sunny today (seriously THIS STATE WTF INDIANA) and should hang out here the rest of the week, so he’ll get today off, we’ll have our regular Tuesday dressage lesson and hopefully some fun hacking the rest of the week. Spring is here and the party pony is coming out of hibernation.

Literally (He’s impossible to get butt shots of without someone holding him)
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Locked out

I’ve spent the last month locked out of the blog for some unknown reason, but not bothering to actually do anything about it. February lack of motivation I suppose? But, new month, I figured I’d give it a try and imagine that – I’m back in. Which means I guess I should update the world the happenings of Archibald the Party Pony.

We started the year with Archie’s first Sharon White clinic. We did gridwork, courses and some great flat exercises. Sharon is always outstanding to ride with – she ‘gets’ horses, she’s patient and sets you up fot success.

A few weeks later Archie got to jump his first skinny and corner with me (maybe first ever?). Being the amateur I am, I rode like a nervous monkey, but he said, “Uh, this is what you’re nervous about? K” and carted my ass around like a schoolpony. Needless to say… not an issue. I was beaming ear to ear as we finished.

Baby corner

And that… was the last time we jumped. Over five weeks ago. He’s not hurt, I’m not hurt, nothing of the sort. Just some awful cold weather and weekly dressage lessons taking precedence. We realized the jumping is easy for Archie – he’s essentially point and shoot these days. The flatwork… not quite as easy. So, for the last month+ I’ve focused on taking flat lessons and the difference is already outstanding.

Starting to find more of this finally

Half the barn left for Pine Top last week so we had the chance to ride with a local dressage trainer yesterday, something that I probably wouldn’t have done before our flatwork bootcamp. It ended up being one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had, just purely in terms of effort (Archie was SOAKING wet), but also by FAR one of the best. Little horse tried his heart out, even when things were hard and we made some great progress. He got some lovely compliments that had my cold little black heart beaming and we got some fantastic exercises to play with for homework. I’m hoping to make riding with her a more regular occurrence.

“SO HARD MOM”

In between, we’ve been doing an awful lot of road hacks on the few days it has been sunny and warm enough to get outside, which pleases Archie endlessly. He’s the most reliable little hacking partner, happy to cruise on the buckle while I practice my American Idol audition from the saddle.

Following traffic laws

We’re both ready for some sunshine and spring weather and I’ve got many other things to write about that have been happening – now that I’m emerging from my winter hibernation, hopefully I can get back on top of it.

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Move the feet: Tim Bourke Lesson

Quarantine meant nothing happened and then suddenly… everything happened at once and now I have 32235 things to write about and catch up on? Two weeks after our Sharon White clinic, Tim Bourke was at our barn for a clinic. It filled basically the day it opened and I didn’t get my act together fast enough, but luckily he had a few spots for lessons on Monday morning before he left. I snagged one of those up real quick and took the morning off work for a XC lesson (best use of PTO).

A recent hack with a barnmate

I audited all weekend as well, so my notes from the clinic are in somewhat haphazard bullet points that are a mix of my own lesson and others, but the points are consistent.

I didn’t have a stadium lesson, so I’ll just throw all those notes in at once, because writing them down = helpful.

One of the barn mom’s took this of me while I was auditing and I love it
  • Don’t jump your last fence like it’s your last fence: keep riding like you have to go jump something else
  • If you don’t get the change, half halt/block the outside, teach them to do the one stride/skip change. If it takes you 3-4 strides to change every time, you’re costing yourself time and rhythm (hiiii it me!)
  • Check all your gears and change them up before you get to the first fence – make sure you have forward, collected and can move between them. Obviously applies to XC too!
  • He doesn’t mind a miss on the way into a line because that’s information you can use to adjust, but a miss on the way out means you didn’t listen or use the information you got on the way in

Tim is big on making sure you have your transitions within the gaits before you ever jump so much as a ground pole. Lengthen, shorten, lengthen, shorten. They all have to be available at the touch of a button (leg?) and that’s where you want to start. Iggy is decent, but we definitely have to remember to do this in warm-up every time because it’s not a given that he’s going to remember this is something he has to do every time. Like reminding men that dirty socks go in the hamper. They’ll do it, but they’re not going to remember…

Video screenshots are all I have sadly

I know he’s made the example before, but I always love coming back to his basketball example – if you bounce it softly and take your hand away, it just fizzles out. But if you bounce it hard, it bounces more frequently and if you remove you hand, it keeps bouncing (aka horse’s legs keep hitting the ground and you don’t miss).

This one was a miss

He also talks a lot about making it subconscious – because if you have to remember to do it, when you get to a show, you’ll probably forget. What was fun to see, because we’ve talked about this concept for two years now, were the things I used to have to think about consciously that have evolved into subconscious. While my actual visual riding skill may not look a whole lot different now vs two years ago, my mental skills are totally different. Tim is also big on making a decision. Do something. Even if it’s wrong, you’ve learned something (like… don’t do that). If you don’t do anything, you can’t learn from it. Two years ago, I was the QUEEN of doing nothing. These days, I actually have the ability to think and make decisions on course (more on that soon!) now as opposed to just using all my mental capacity to make it around and not make any decisions at all.

But I made decisions to this one!

We jumped a whole assortment of things, including the trio of banks/ditches/water. Iggs didn’t care about banks or water, per usual, but definitely wanted to stop and eyeball the ditch before jumping it. Funny enough, one of my prouder moments was when he stopped and I actually reacted the way I’m supposed to – make him move his feet, think about it, don’t just turn away. After that, he didn’t care and popped right over it like no thing. However, this ‘I want to look at ditches I have already jumped many times before’ should have been a lesson that stuck with me…

Water however… “IGGYGOSPLASH”

The other big theme of the day was timing. Knowing where to collect before a fence as to not slow the feet down too much and understanding where that sweet spot is on your horse. On a hot one with a big ass stride? A little earlier. On Iggy? A little later. We played with it and sure enough, the timing got better each time (no pun intended).

Down into the sunken road – he rides through this so well every time

It was a fantastic lesson and I was so glad to ride with Tim on Iggy before camp starts in a few weeks. We left with some homework and some things we put into practice right off the bat.

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Midwestern Spring

The first weekend that dawns sunny and warm(ish) is always one of my favorites – like a sign we’ve (almost) done it, almost survived another midwestern winter. I saw almost because, inevitably, we will have one more miserable cold snowy spell. My first winter here it happened March 31st and I nearly revolted.

The truth pains me a little

This weekend was that weekend though – sunny, perfect, high 50s (even hit 60 on Sunday) and everyone at the barn had the same giddiness about them. (Side note, once upon a time I would have absolutely mocked anyone who told me high 50s was ‘warm’ or ‘nice out’, but this is what the midwest does to you I guess…) I had a lesson on Saturday, where we finally (!) got to jump some.

Spoiler alert: my pony is perfect. Also, so much fun. He even got elusive compliments from my trainer. We kept it low and simple since we still don’t know each other well and he’s still pretty out of shape. We’re getting there though – a few weeks ago he couldn’t hold his back lead around any corners, but this weekend he only lost it a few times when things got hard and he got tired. Or, uh, I pulled him off it. Mostly I couldn’t stop giggling because he’s just so much fun to ride. Our lesson was mainly focused on overcoming my natural tendency to stick my hands in my crotch and curl forward when I don’t see something/he gets quick/literally anything happens. Which is… not helpful. And then I promptly jump up his neck, which being literally pony sized means I’m at his ears. Instead I think I’m going to be hearing to push myself back, lift my chest, pick up my hands, and stop leaning for the foreseeable future.

This is my barn, pinch me!

Sunday was seriously even nicer out. It wasn’t quite bath temperatures, but I wasn’t able to resist washing legs. I figure if they walk through snow and cold mud in turnout, some cold water isn’t going to hurt them. Even that much was a drastic improvement.

Me, when anyone compliments any of my tack

The barn was absolutely hoppin’ and it was so much fun. I’m at a different barn than Doc was at and it’s 100% eventers and, with the exception of one junior, all amateurs. We have a few other juniors and pros who haul in for lessons, but the boarders are all a super fun solid group of ammies. Everyone was pumped to ride outside and we spent a long time in the outdoor meandering, chatting and goofing off before getting down to work. The ground wasn’t quite dry enough to hack on the cross country course, but even being in the outdoor is an upgrade and I’ll take it. We had an awesome dressage ride and Iggy was downright sweaty at the end of it. He’s apparently set a goal to be the very last horse in the barn to shed out and hasn’t lost a single strand of hair, I’m convinced.

“Bad at the standing still game”: a series

SweatyPants got a looooonng grooming session with all the new products and things I’m trying out after that – all the EquiFuse things, some Pure Sole Hoof Mud for his soft feet, cookies, liniment, BOT and then stuffed full of apples and carrots for being the best boy. I ended up staying to clean tack while chatting and not getting home until close to 7pm and it was honestly just the perfect weekend I needed.

THIS THOUGH!

T-minus two weeks until our (schooling) show debut and three until we get to ride with Sharon White!

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Lessons at a walk

I had already paid up and scheduled my lessons last weekend and was so looking forward to some one on one instruction with Iggs. Until, of course, I got on Saturday morning to find him off at the trot. Like, WHY HORSES WHY.

Well, why is because we are in the middle of switching joint care (Equioxx to Adequan) and his delicate tootsies need front shoes. Good, no acute injuries, but now I had two paid for lessons and a horse who wasn’t going to go do all the things.

Spent most of his theraplate time mugging me for cookies

So, I had a dressage lesson at the walk. Sounds nice and easy, right? WRONG. It was stupidly hard because everything happens in slow motion and it let Kira focus on every tiny thing my body and leg was doing. We did a lot of change of pace within the walk, bending, and working on the transition between the medium walk-free walk-medium walk. The latter being a place that is so easy to give away points in a test. It was actually a great lesson, especially with riding such a new horse. It gave us a chance to slow everything down and figure each other out. There’s no reason (well, rider error) this horse shouldn’t be pulling in 8s and 9s on his walk work this year.

Kira also worked a lot on my leg – within 45 seconds she’d picked out my ongoing issues. Raising my heel to use my leg and turning my toe out: these shouldn’t sound new, because they aren’t. Did we magically solve them? Hah, no. BUT I did come away with a really good new way of thinking about the first one. Essentially, she explained to me that my raising my heel to use my leg is a result of my horse not being reactive enough to my aids. I’m having to raise it to add leg because he’s not listening to my “whisper”. And if I keep doing it, I’m essentially going to untrain my horse to notice that whisper and he’ll only listen to me raising my voice. Lightbulb moment.

I’ve never had a horse react more strongly to BOT products. It’s like sedation for this horse.

Not in that I’m untraining him, but in that I was able to catch myself doing it so much faster. Instead of leg-raise heel-nag, it was ask quietly-ASK LOUDLY-get reaction.

We didn’t have quite the same breakthrough on my toes outward turn, but that’s no surprise. Caroline (Doc’s owner, old trainer) figured out years ago that comes from my hip flexors being tight. The only thing that’s going to solve that issue is stretching and long-term consistent work. It’s definitely gotten better, and hopefully will just continue to.

Old photo, hilarious photo, but plz look at toes 90 degrees to horse

A super interesting thing was also not noticed with my leg (yes, I know that phrase makes no sense but hang with me here). For years, my lower leg has been too far back. “Push your leg forward, Holly” is a refrain I hear in my sleep.

What’s that? My leg two counties away?

Now if you’ll remember, I got my dressage saddle about four days before we retired Doc and my monoflap jump saddle is brand new (and potentially going to work this is an entire other post oh my god I cannot even anymore). And in talking to Kira, we realized that in both saddles… my leg was never out of place. At least in the sense of going too far back. Fascinating stuff.

Which leads me to wondering if my “perfect fit for me” County Conquest was actually somehow shoving my leg out behind me.

It’s long sold and off to a great new home, but it’s definitely left me thinking – did I spend two years fighting my saddle without even realizing it?

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Peer Pressure

Did I get scolded by Emma and told to blog? Maybeeeee. Am I doing it? Here I am, so… yes. Peer pressure works guys!

That to say – I really want to write a longer version piece of this, but I truly don’t know how balancing being an amateur with competitive goals is a sustainable life. I feel like I’m burning the candle at both ends and then some trying to get everything done. Work has been unbelievably insane the last month (I… can’t even get into it, but when I say insane, so much more than I’ve been through before), plus I’m trying to figure out some long term goals there – and what moves I need to make to get there. Nothing like some fun 75 hour weeks to throw you off your game a bit.

Add in riding. Lessons, schooling, trying to keep Doc conditioned to go run at KHP in October (!!!). Attempting to get to the gym so I don’t die on the XC course.

We got out on the cross country course at the HHP a month ago (omg, I really am behind) which was the final catalyst to send in entries for Midsouth Team Challenge. Emily touched on it recently, but it’s known for being a maxed out for the level, challenging course so I really wanted to make sure it was something we were prepared to handle.

Good news, left drift still going strong

Per usual with Doc… needed have not worried. We played with the water, banks, ditches and strung a whole bunch of things together. The best part? All the BN stuff looked totally do-able and even… small. We spent most of the afternoon jumping around Novice stuff. Stuff I wouldn’t have dreamt of jumping a year ago.

Like this ditch to N rolltop combo
This water was the nastiest water ever haha, but drop into water was a blast

My trainer strung together this bank-ditch-rolltop-sled-coop-hanging log-trakehner course (omg I’m tired reading that) and I’m not gonna lie – that trakehner is a full N/T jump and it made me want to pee my pants a little. Peer pressure hits again? Totally worth it because the best feeling in the world was coming over it after he jumped like a rockstar – felt like I could go conquer the world.

Best combo of the day

Kentucky here we come!

If you’ll be there, come hang out with us – we’ll have food and drinks and ponies aplenty!

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Directions are hard: Event Camp Day 2

How far behind at life am I? Well, this post is a month late. Yeah, we went to event camp a month ago and I’m just now getting around to part two. Which means… details are fuzzier. So you might be just getting bullet points (be happy you’re not getting an Excel spreadsheet, since that’s where my brain lives 99.8% of the time).

Days two and three were all about the jompies. We started out with a XC lesson with Courtney Cooper on Tuesday morning, who was great to ride with and I definitely would again. We worked over the trifecta (ditches, banks, water) where she really emphasized you can’t overdo teaching the footwork – walking in/out, up/down, over – or as she put it “dribbling” through them. I’ve totally taken it to heart and we’ve continued to use that in practicing over the last month. She talked us through riding a ditchy horse (lolz, mine is not), a water-averse horse (lolz, mine thinks he’s at the waterpark), and the unsure-about-banks-one (loz, mine thinks they are a playground). Great lessons, albeit ones I’ll be saving for future horses because mine is a real life unicorn. It’s cool. She also gave me my favorite takeaway from camp: she never counts 1-2 to a jump because you’ll literally change your rhythm to leave on 2. Instead, she counts 1-2-3-4 and I don’t know why it works but IT DOES. MAGIC. (Simple magic, but magic)

We moved on to jumping some combos including a half coffin, some stuff in and out of the water, the rolltop in the water (our first time!), and a handful of fun technical questions. Including where I nearly fell off, twice, cause that’s how I do it.

Was my horse misbehaving? Nope. Take a bad spot? Not really. Did I completely abandon steering, leaving my horse to jump over the side of a novice table? YUP. Yeah, I probably deserved to fall off, but once again, Doc the Saint saved my amateur ass and waited for me to put myself back into the saddle before continuing on.

Let’s focus on the fun part of that paragraph though: Novice. Table.

YUP. We jumped all kinds of novice questions at camp, including the (giant to me) blue box out of the water, the half coffin, the hogsback and the picture frame. And all of it was So Much Fun.

(After I got over wanting to pee my pants, but turns out peer pressure in a group is a solid motivator)

The rest of my takeaways I’m putting into a list so I will publish this for once and for all:

  • Keep a record of lessons/shows – we don’t recall a good % of things, but if you write them down, your memory increases substantially. Even if it’s just highlights from how things went, what went well and what didn’t, etc.
  • Count to 4 on approach vs 1-2
  • Keep your upper body back HOLLY
  • Can’t overdo the footwork on XC
  • Ditchy horse – hands wide and low, stay in the backseat, tap behind leg
  • Banks – let them come up and it’s ok if they need a second to think

The afternoon on Tuesday was a stadium lesson with Leslie. My notes conveniently disappeared into the disaster that is my tack trunk, but the theme of this lesson was “wtf is wrong with your leg Holly?” which is a million dollar question. We started off warming up where he wanted us doing a transition every 6-10 seconds – which is hard! But damn, once I had him off my leg and tuned in like that, the adjustability came so much easier. We did a lot of work on adjusting the stride down a line – doing it in 5, 6, 7 and the line on the other side – doing it in 7, 8, 9, practicing feeling what our horses did if we just naturally let them find the distance themselves versus collecting up or pushing for the fewer strides. It was really about getting the rhythm and then sitting still – not continually messing with your horse all the way to the base (cough, I don’t know anyone who does THAT).

Later, we worked on coming off an oxer coming across the middle and making turns either direction – without throwing our body around. Weird, what a concept. This turned into a semi-figure 8 exercise where, as it turns out, you can just use your eyes and a slightly open rein and magically your horse knows where you’re going!! CRAZY. Eventually it turned into a short course that included a fun bending line each direction that I only managed to get lost in the middle of uh, twice?

Because if you don’t leave a lesson with Leslie Law telling your group of amateurs that you’re why he doesn’t get paid enough and that your homework is to learn your left from right, well… did you even go to event camp?

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Spoiler: I’m the Grinch?

Well, December is here… finally. I’m pretty much over 2018 at this point and ready for it to be over. What a festive spirit for the holidays, right? 

This is the kind of content you come here for

In all seriousness, my riding has been blah for a smorgasbord of reasons. Cold doesn’t motivate me to do much except hibernate in my slippers, my saddle needed adjusting, I didn’t have it in me to put the work in to do much more than just bareback walks. So, we did those. And then gradually I started actually tacking up my horse again. Rode in the dressage saddle (because really ‘my saddle needs adjusting’ is not an excuse when you have 2). Finally took a lesson. Took that momentum and had some really good rides.

Saddle just needed to be picked up in the back, which made a world of difference for feeling like I was actually on top of my horse vs on an entirely different plane. That balance back gave me some of my bravery to actually, uh, make Doc go do something. Like, not trot like a llama maybe. 

I love this sport, I love this sport, I love…

This fall, but the beginning of all my rides was a fight. Moving into the indoor for winter didn’t exactly improve things. Smaller arena + lower ceiling = lizard brain thinks I’m going to DIE everytime my horse hops in the air.. Cool. Finally, last week I pulled out our BOT quarter sheet and happened to get to the barn early for my lesson and spent a good 20-30 minutes walking to warm up, not asking for much/anything. And then when I asked him to go forward… I got some angry ears, but no fight. No fit. No tantrum. Huh. And then we had a great lesson.

Dirty mirrors and Starbucks

So I repeated the experiment again during the week. And… magic. It worked there too. What a thought – my horse needs a longer walk to warm up before going forward? In the cold? Groundbreaking.

So naturally, as soon as I have this breakthrough and have some great rides, I get bronchitis. Because, 2018.

I’ve spent the last 5 days in bed, trying to entertain a Jack Russell while not dying. Today I rejoined the living just in time to… pack and get on an airplane. I sincerely apologize to anyone near me this week, I promise not to breathe on you. 

So here’s my Christmas tree

At this point, I’ve thrown in the towel on 2018. Here’s to a better 2019!

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