July 25, 2010

Practice Makes..

Well, we're a long way off perfect. But practice certainly makes a difference. You can't fix things just by wishing they were better, but there are lots of little exercises that make a big impact. Thanks to all of my buddies on facebook I have gone out to the paddock this week armed with heaps of small things to try in order to work on my jumping position.

The main exercise I've used is putting a hair-tie or plait about two-thirds the way up the mane, and reaching for that over the fence. I found that sometimes I will still 'float' my hands before reaching, so to try and tackle that I've been doing big forward canters around a hill paddock, coming into jumping position, resting my hands on the horse's neck, then moving my hands & body forward as if jumping. Just trying to keep in contact with the neck as much as possible. I still find it more comfortable to do an automatic style release (toward the bit) rather than a crest release (up the mane) - but I want to be able to use either, depending on the horse and the situation.

I have had about three or four rides on Xev with the sidesaddle now. We suspected a bit of thrush in her front hooves, so have treated for that (certainly the weather for such things). She is so kind with the sidesaddle and tries to go very smoothly for me. However I did attempt a canter - on the left rein which I'm told is harder? Anyway, it just resulted in me impaling myself on one of the horns on the saddle and yelping! Poor Xev didn't know what to do and just halted - what a good horse!

Neo and Gem are mostly just working on fitness, so they have been the 2 that I'm using to practice my jumping position exercises. It is quite amazing how different they both feel over fences - and Gem has such powerful paces that she makes Neo feel like a pony when I get on him.

I've also started doing small rides down the road on Neo... we haven't encountered a car yet (thankfully) and he still seems to think drains are spooky, but it's good to have a road that I can ride on if I want - I certainly didn't have that living in Pauatahanui.

Next show for us? Probably up at Tielcey Park again. But the schedules are starting to come out for more events, hopefully the weather co-operates unlike last season when almost everything on grass surfaces was cancelled.

July 18, 2010

Tielcey Jumping July

A good day out at Tielcey today - the sun was shining and it was actually warm! Swifty came and took some photos and helped out, and Mum came over from Masterton with some hay and also pulled manes for me! Fantastic. Was only doing the low classes today, as Gem not quite fit enough for much more, and just wanted to do a 'where I'm at' check with Neo. Really happy with the day though, Gem went great and Neo is making progress again. I am still not moving through my shoulder much when jumping, but in some of the pics I can see I'm trying to balance with my arms waving around in the air instead of nesting them into the mane or neck... and it's obviously not working. So now I have something concrete to try and aim to fix - that along with trying to do stretches and things to keep the joint mobile should start to make a difference (hopefully! I guess the next lot of pictures will tell if I'm right or wrong).

Gem did the 70 & 80cm classes and was an absolute dude. She got very excited when I first hopped on and was jig-jogging around and generally not listening.. but once she got in the arena she was great. Very focused and on-task, now just needs to bring her fitness up and she will be good to go!
Neo did the 80cm and was still pulling, but not as badly as last time we were out. He wasn't 'switching off' and running through the fences. I am pleased with him, but still a bit more schooling to do there and I guess just getting him out and about as much as possible again so that I can practise keeping his focus on me while lots of other things are going on.
Xev wasn't jumping today - but Mum dropped off the sidesaddle and we had a quick walk around in it! I need to learn how to actually put it on and sit in it properly and all that.. but Xev coped very well and I think she will be an easy horse for me to try and learn to ride sidesaddle on (just need to find some competitions to get some real practise in!). And a bonus picture of Neo sporting his new haircut thanks to Mum.
Only doing the little classes meant we got to head home in daylight - very awesome! But still really tired and looking forward to getting a good sleep tonight (turns out Neo was just looking forward to a roll, and by the time I got his hay to him in the paddock he looked like a walking lump of mud!).

July 11, 2010

Cruisy Weekend

Super weather this weekend - almost a shame to not have any shows on, but at least it meant I had some lovely laid-back rides in the sun and the chance to let the horses have some time with their rugs off too. Xev has dropped a bit of weight this week, so will try changing her feed around a bit (as it seems to only be since I changed their feeds when Gem arrived... though they are getting more now, but perhaps too much energy feed? Maybe she is burning it off being a silly pony in the paddock? Not sure - but will keep an eye on it). She went so sweetly today though - did some bareback riding and she is just so easy and smooth.
Neo has been a busy boy just lately. I've switched his canter aid from mostly inside leg, to mostly outside leg to ask. Hopefully this will help me in being able to use my inside leg to keep him out on the circle as he is a bit prone to falling in. He picked up the new canter aid inside of one lesson this week and has been reponding to it 100% perfect since.
I've also been working on riding him in different levels of contact. Because he has a soft mouth I have previously tended to have a really loose contact - but now I'm actively trying to push him up into a more true contact and switch between that and dropped reins or a lighter contact... just so that he learns to accept those differences without getting stressed out about it.
Yesterday I also spent some time doing what could possibly be called interpretive dance on horseback... trying to do all sorts of funny movements to really loosen up my shoulders. It felt like it was working well yesterday and I even popped him over a few fences while doing it and I was happy with how relaxed I was through the shoulder. I notice today I was stiff again though (and quite bad on Gem while jumping) - but I feel like it's worth keeping at it, at least while I don't have anyone out at the grazing who can put me on the lunge so that I can work on my shoulders that way.
Gem did heaps of crossbars yesterday and was really laid back and nice about everything. Good flying changes too, and by about halfway through the session she was starting to come back to being nice and tidy in front (she knows what those crossbars are for!).
Today she was much stronger though - and not listening to me very well.. but she's only really been back in work such a short time, so can't blame her for getting a bit excited! You can see in these pics below about my shoulders being stiff and me not giving properly over the fence too. I will keep working on it!
A nice day to be out riding though - hopefully more good weather on the way too! And thanks to Nick for taking the photos today.


I realised this morning that I hadn't put these pictures on the blog (at least I couldn't find them when I went to show someone). So, here are some old pics from earlier in winter of Gem's first time with her sidesaddle on, with the help of some of the girls at Mum's grazing.
And the pony trying it on for size!
I forgot to grab the saddle off Mum when she brought Gem over for me to ride, so I think I might have to get it next weekend and have a shot at riding in it (that is just riding, not competing!).

July 07, 2010

Wintertime Woollies

Mum wanted some pictures of Gem - so I took off from work a little early today and got Nick to come out in the cold with me to grab a few piccies. It wasn't raining too much, but still very wet and cold so just a quick ride for Xev and Gem (while Neo stood watching). Xev is so insanely fluffy at the moment! and I don't look forward to pulling her mane!
Gem was really well-behaved today - a few days work have got her a bit more supple and focused on her work better. She's still very swishy with her tail though! Seems to think I shouldn't have my legs on - silly horse.
She even did some stretching work at the end of her little 5 minute ride, which was really good - and if I can keep doing a good stretch before & after her schooling I think it will really get her a lot more supple (which is going to be important if she is going to be a dressage horsey for winter!).
Not much else to report. Hopefully get up to Tielcey Park again this month, probably for the showjumping and combined training - but we'll see how it all goes. A bit hard to get motivated in this weather, but the start of the next season is just around the corner!

July 05, 2010

Gem back in work

What an amazing weekend - sunny on both days! And some quality time with the horses where I could see them without artificial lights. On Saturday Mum drove Gem over from Masterton so that she could come back into work (as Mum is just too busy at the moment to get much riding in). Was a long & twisty drive for them, but eventually Gem got unloaded and I had a quick ride but I think Gem was a bit too tired from the drive. Sunday we had a proper ride and she was full of beans - no naughties, but my arms forgot what it's like to ride a horse who can be strong. Riding Xev and Neo afterwards was a nice rest!

Coco is settling in well at her new home, and will hopefully get a chance for either Mum or I to pop up there and get some photos of her. Zak not doing much but stuffing his face eating, and Shante is just in light work so that she doesn't forget everything she's learning.

Really it's all a bit boring. Not too many more months of winter though - and then the shows will all start up again and I'm sure I'll be begging to have boring and weekend sleep-ins.