Two point Training

At my last lesson, Trainer D said that I needed to practice two point as much as I possibly could. I had agreed that that was a good idea and promised to do it. And I haven’t kept up with that promise. I’ve practiced the two-point intentionally just to practice two point once or twice since that lesson. That is nowhere near enough to actually build muscle up. So I need to make an effort to actually follow through with practicing this.

Friday, I was determined to practice. I knew that I wanted to practice my balance at the walk first rather than at the trot or the canter. The same muscles are used no matter what the speed but the canter is easier for me because of the horse’s movement underneath me. So I figured that would work perfectly for cooling out. I warmed Scarlet up and trotted over the poles set out in the arena. They rode odd at the trot and so I cantered past them on the side to see if they were set up for an okay canter stride length. Scarlet’s default stride is small-ish so it would have ridden odd.

When I was training with a dressage/eventing trainer before moving down to SD, she had been encouraging me to ride him forward at the canter, even to the point of it becoming a hand gallop. What she wanted was for an actual moment of air time. She explained that sometimes you have to ask for more and more forward from a horse before you can bring them back to a reasonable speed. Once we get the forward and suspension and then build up the muscle, then we can work on getting a smooth, unhurried canter. I hadn’t really been bugging Scarlet about moving out too much but I

I hadn’t really been bugging Scarlet about moving out for a while but I thought that might give me a good stride length for the canter poles, so I booted Scarlet forward. He was very willing to go forward but it took a lot more riding from me to keep him balanced. We went past the poles again and this time the striding looked better. The next time we came up to the poles, I asked him to go over them. It felt very bounce-like and Scarlet didn’t touch the poles. He also didn’t feel like he had to reach too much to keep the stride. We went over the poles like that a couple of times both ways. Then I decided that I wanted to go over jumps.

We went over the poles like that a couple of times both ways. Then I decided that I wanted to go over jumps. The line that had ridden odd the last time we jumped had been moved to a crossrail then vertical. I kept Scarlet at the good canter and turned him toward that line. It rode fantastic. He over jumped the first time but I’m always prepared for that with him as that tends to be his default. The second time was perfect. The other line that normally rides great rode really squiggly but I was very happy with his poles and the first line so I decided that line wasn’t worth it.

After the little bit of jumps, I put Scarlet back on the rail and rose up in my stirrups. Finding the right balance for my two point takes a bit. I think my stirrups were a bit long this time as my lower legs kept feeling like they were sinking down and down, rather than stabilizing me. I did manage to get two full laps at the walk and be able to move one arm at a time out into airplane position. Trainer D said it was okay to grab mane because I still have to use my muscles when I’m up there. I can definitely feel my back muscles working hard to keep me stable.

I got Scarlet a bit farther down the path to the trail as well. But, when I asked him to halt and just chill at the end of it, he was a little freaked out. He tried to spin and run back to the barn. He only really got the spin out as I was able to stop him from moving forward. Since he couldn’t move forward he moved sideways and it took a bit before he listened to my leg and stopped. I got him back to the path and we stood there for a bit before heading back. Progress but we aren’t going to be able to push too much more without him freaking out. I’m going to stay at that point for a bit so I can get him to relax and get used to being that far out on his own.

Saturday, I practiced two point again. I got about two laps of walk and two of trotting. I did raise my stirrups one hole and that felt much better as far as lower leg position. Amazingly, I was able to feel the shock absorbing movement of my hips this time at the trot. It wasn’t fantastic. I wasn’t able to move my hands much. But I was able to ride the two point and not splat. Go me!

My plan is to try to end each ride doing a bit of walk and trot two point until I feel like I’m secure enough to actually ride at the trot. Once I’m there, I’ll try to include two-point trotting in the middle of the ride, where I actually get Scarlet to move off of my legs and do things while in the two point. That might take a bit though!

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Cleaning, circles and Trails

Last Friday the vet came out to clean Scarlet’s sheath. I was told that yes he has a bean but he was cleaner in general than the vet thought he would be. I think the vet thought I was some sort of over anxious client. (Hey, only sometimes is that me.) But, when I voiced my concerns about the swelling potentially being something more than just old gelding not moving around as much, he did tell me that the sheath is a place horses can store fat. I never even considered that. And I do think Scarlet is a bit rounder than he needs to be. So, come next month, no more lunch ration for Scarlet. He is getting 20 lbs of hay morning and night and grain from me when I come out. I don’t think he needs that extra 5 lbs. Though I do like him eating all day the barn doesn’t allow me to split the 20lbs up between three feedings.

Saturday I went out in the morning before Nik’s work BBQ. I tried to keep it as quick as I possibly could. So we didn’t go up to the jumping arena. Instead, we rode in the arena closest to my tack room. It’s the same footing as the jumping arena but without anything in it. I’ve been trying to ride in there a bit more lately as I don’t focus on circles and bending and such as much in the jumping arena. It’s hard to do good circles when you have to move around jumps. Scarlet was pretty good and I didn’t ask for much more than a workout. Nothing to really challenge his mind.

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Glittery unicorn tattoo! Best BBQ evar!

Monday I was later getting on cause the small draft horse at the barn tore up her automatic waterer again. She likes to play with it and the poor owners have tried so many different options to keep her from flooding her stall and the stalls around her. I texted them and they asked me to turn the water off. Her stall has its own shut off due to how many times she has destroyed stuff. So it was a bit later than normal when I got on. Scarlet was very patient following me around while I got a wrench and turned the stuff off.

We warmed up and then I decided I wanted to hop over the jumps. I think I did one trot warm up jump and then we just cantered around. I think I’ve managed to change my habits just enough that Scarlet doesn’t feel like I’m anticipating the jumps. He has slowed down his rushing a bit. It’s not completely gone because that is part of his personality. He likes jumping and he wants to get to them faster. But it’s not as bad. Progress.

He got a little wiggly on some lines so we did those again and again with me focusing on my hands and keeping my legs on to try and keep straighter. It went better. There were a lot more verticals set up in the arena than normal so I got to keep my promise to jump more than cross rails and still be lazy! Win!

A funny thing happened on one of the vertical lines. Scarlet lost all momentum up to the jump and I was like uh-oh, we are gonna actually have a refusal. But we didn’t. He got over it. But it honestly felt like we should have brought down the pole. I didn’t feel like he even lifted any part of his body up. But I pulled him out of the line and there the pole was. I think we literally walked right through the pole. That or teleported to the other side. It was weird. That line also jumped odd for us the whole ride. Not sure exactly why. I eventually got it okay just by trotting through it and called it a night.

Tuesday, I wanted to focus on trot work. I think that I generally put in enough work with Scarlet at all gaits but I wanted to focus on circles and the spiraling in and out exercise. That is really hard for him to actually stay connected. He would rather dive in and out than slowly move. We had a few arguments about it but he did really well. He lost some gas but that is to be expected. When that happened, I’d let us trot around on a bigger circle so I could encourage him to move forward. I also worked on overbending on a 20-meter circle in both directions. That was hard for him as he just wanted to move his hind away from the bend. It also was hard for me because I had to use a lot of leg to keep him on the circle. After the ride, we walked around the barn and onto the start of the trail. I’

After the ride, we walked around the barn and onto the start of the trail. I’ve been trying to get him to go down the trail a little bit by himself. We have gotten out to the second post on the trail, maybe 200 yards. Not super far but its progress. I’ll keep doing this at the end of our rides and maybe someday I can just turn him down the trail for our cooldown.

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This is the face of a horse that is not impressed by his mom’s photo skills.

Higher Jumps

I got up as early as I possibly could on Saturday so that I could try to ride Scarlet before It got hot. I managed to get out to the barn around 7:20. And it was already 75 degrees. Ugh. I tried to get Scarlet tacked up as fast as possible. I brought my water bottle out to the jumping arena with me because I knew I was going to want it while riding.

The jumps had been set slightly higher than I normally jump them. I hadn’t been planning on jumping when I drove in but I saw them set up and my laziness spoke to me and said, now is a good time to jump more appropriate heights without having to move the jumps yourself. lol So I jumped.

I figured out a different stirrup length for jumping and it felt better. Not perfect. I still don’t love my current saddle for jumping but it definitely felt more balanced. Someday I’ll save up enough money to get a saddle fitting and a jumping saddle.

Scarlet warmed up very well for me. We trotted over the lower crossrail a couple of times and I circled around to trot over the second half of a line. Scarlet wasn’t paying attention to me and stumbled to a walk just in front of the fence and had to step over it. He felt very uncoordinated. We did the circle around again and he actually trotted the fence. Trotting fences with him feels terrible, even with the fences slightly higher. He doesn’t put in ANY effort when trotting. He will just trot over the fence rather than jump it.

After a few warmup jumps (and waking Scarlet’s brain up) I started cantering jumps. I tried very hard to think about not pinching with my knees and keeping my legs steady. I focused on not jumping the fence for Scarlet. It took a fence or two to get into the rhythm but I felt like we got it down. We did the higher line of crossrails and those went pretty well. The first time through Scarlet got a little wiggly in the middle but after we did it once he was good.

There were a few more verticals set up. I need to jump more of those. Crossrails are just more comfortable so I generally default to those. But I’ll never get to jumping oxers if I don’t get comfortable jumping verticals. Scarlet has literally no problem with jumping them. In fact, he gets excited by them. He did smack the first vertical we jumped with his hind but was more careful the next time.

I stopped after a few more jumps as it was hot and I didn’t want to overwork him. He got a hose off that he did not appreciate even though I’m sure he felt better afterward.

I didn’t ride Sunday as it was still going to be hot and getting up that early on Saturday basically wiped me out for the rest of the day.

Monday, I wanted to focus a lot on me but not my normal stirrupless ride. I wanted to focus on my position as much as possible. When I was posting around, I was really conscious of where my hands were and that my knees weren’t pinching. Slightly different muscles were being used so I was definitely sore. I also two-pointed at the walk for 3:26 before my lower back hurt too much to keep it up. A good baseline but I will need to work even harder to improve that. I’d like to hit 5 minutes at the walk and then try to time myself at the trot. Trotting while two-pointing is hard for me. I can’t seem to keep my balance at all. I’m looking to improve on that.

Lesson!

My lesson on Thursday was awesome! And hard!

I had asked earlier in the day if I was riding the same horse as last time, thinking that since I knew where he was and such, that I would just head straight to the barn and start tacking up. But I was riding a different horse, named Cory.

I got to the barn and found Trainer D. She directed me back to the barn saying there were some girls who would help me out with him. I went over and he was completely groomed and tacked up. Little minions are awesome. Nice girls who I totally saw myself in, though I don’t think I was quite that shy when I was 12.

Since we were all ready, I hopped straight on. When I had arrived, Trainer D asked if I had spurs. I told her no since my legs aren’t stable enough for me to feel like I could wear them. So I grabbed a crop for the ride as Cory was very lazy. And he was. OMG was he lazy. Scarlet is the opposite of a push ride. He isn’t the hottest thing around. He lets you put your leg on. Sometimes he doesn’t want to move out at the trot or the canter. But it’s pretty easy to convince him that he needs to move forward. Cory was the exact opposite and it was very hard for me.

Trainer D told me to work on getting him moving out as much as possible. Kick him, use the crop, really try to get him moving forward and his back swinging.

I’ve never had to work so hard over a walk in my life.

Ever.

I was feeling my muscles before we even go to the trot. His trot was pretty nice, but I had to push him in it as well. That would pretty much be the theme of the lesson. I wasn’t great at keeping my legs on. Trainer D explained that I was pinching more with my knees. That makes me think that I have my lower leg on him but in reality, I don’t. It also causes my lower legs to swing around. (Something I already know I need to fix.) She had me try the sitting trot for a bit with him. Sitting trot is really hard for me but I tried my hardest to make it work.

After trotting, we went to cantering. Trainer D likes her horses to canter from a walk. I hardly ever ask Scarlet to do that, as I’ve always been told it is harder. I probably should to push him but it’s always been trot to canter. The walk to canter during this lesson and the last one were hard. The previous horse wanted a longer canter cue than I give. Cory didn’t want to listen to me. It took many many tries each time to get him to canter. He would do a small little hop like the feeling of his front end leaving the ground at the canter and then would trot off. That was due to me releasing the cue when I would feel that. I somewhat got the hang of keeping pushing for it by the end of the lesson.

After a brief canter warm up, she had me canter over a pole with both leads so I could feel the rhythm of his canter heading up to an obstacle. After that, we jumped a tiny verticle with both leads.

The first time, I anticipated too much and leaned forward into a two point way ahead of time. This caused Cory to smack the jump because I had unbalanced him. Trainer D explained that we can’t jump the jump for the horse. We have to let them jump and let their body come up to us. The next time I went over, I tried to focus on that. She said I had improved so yay!

We then added another jump in. I would jump the small vertical and then head around the end of the arena and come off the rail to jump a small jump with some brush under it. We jumped that and I came off the rail at the correct angle this time. It wasn’t too bad. We did break to a trot before the first vertical so we did it again with more leg and managed to get around at the canter. The other way, we jumped the first vertical and then the second of a line of jumps. She wanted me to come inside the line and head out to the jump. We did it, but we chipped and got a bit underneath the jump. Trainer D explained that this was due to my line being just a little tight for the canter we had. If we had a more forward canter, we might have made it. Though she was happy that I chose a line and distance and went for it. Cory just decided to fix my decision to fit what he could do. We did it again, this time with me deciding that since he dives inward on his left lead, I’d go around the line and cut in from the outside.

The other way, we jumped the first vertical and then the second of a line of jumps. She wanted me to come inside the line and head out to the jump. We did it, but we chipped and got a bit underneath the jump. Trainer D explained that this was due to my line being just a little tight for the canter we had. If we had a more forward canter, we might have made it. Though she was happy that I chose a line and distance and went for it. Cory just decided to fix my decision to fit what he could do. We did it again, this time with me deciding that since he dives inward on his left lead, I’d go around the line and cut in from the outside. I went off and when we got around, Cory wasn’t diving. So I was like “Come on, dive in a bit.” But I pointed him at the jump and it was awesome. We angled in in one stride, straightened in the next and jumped. We were very close to the right standard, but not in danger of having to jump it. It was really cool. Trainer D was pretty happy with that.

Then we switched lead and added the first vertical, the one I had jumped on the left lead and the small brush vertical from the beginning. It was a land and angle distance between the two. Totally doable. I gave it a look as I walked around and felt pretty comfortable with it. We dropped to the trot before the first fence again but I got him back up, with a smack, after it. We went over the second fence and it was bad. The third fence was fine because I didn’t overthing the bad of the second fence. I told Trainer D that I totally flubbed that one. She said that my line was fine and it was good that I had focused on the third fence but I had focused to hard. So I collapsed down in the saddle way before we had even jumped.

I went off again and tried really hard to go jump by jump. It was better, but I jolted my back due to dropping out of my two point while still landing. I told her what I thought I did wrong and she confirmed it. She said it was good that I was so aware of what my body was doing. I have to admit, I felt pretty happy by that bit of praise. She asked if I wanted to do it again. I was pretty out of breath so I wanted to walk around a bit but I did want to do it again to make sure I got it right. It was a bit difficult to get Cory back to the canter after the longer walk break. He thought he was finished. We tried the first fence but got the trot so I headed straight back for the first fence and jumped it again before finishing. This time, I tried to basically stay up the whole time between fence two and three. I felt myself sit for about a stride but the two fences went off great otherwise.

It was a very difficult lesson, riding a horse that was so much pushing. It is completely different than what I ride every day. Its good to ride other horses and learn to be more flexible but boy it is hard. I looked at my fitness tracker after the ride and it said I had burned over 700 calories!!

So my homework between now and next time I’m able to lesson is:

Knees- keep those knees from pinching. Keep them away from the saddle as they are screwing up my leg

Two-point – Lots of two point. Get up there and hold it. Trainer D said to grab mane and get up there. Putting your hands on the horse isn’t a problem at the beginning. Then transition to an open rein movement with one arm, then switch. She said one of her favorite advanced two point exercises is to lean down, kiss the horse’s neck and then sit back up to the two point position, using only your core muscles. So I have a goal but man that sounds hard!

I added two more things for myself since she remarked on them a couple of times during the ride.

Eyes- I kept focused on Cory’s head, which isn’t at all where my focus needs to be. I need to practice keeping my gaze away from the horse and believing what I’m feeling underneath me. Checking is okay but no staring.

Hands – Somehow, my hands have traveled to the region of my groin and like to stay there. I’m reluctant to grab shorter rein on the lesson horses and I need to get over that. Horses can deal with shorter reins. I need to keep them a bit more out and up from where they like to float.

So lots done and lots more to work on but I’m very happy. I love lessons and having goals based on what me and my trainer think I need to work on.

Muscles

I hope everyone had a good 4th! I enjoyed my lazy weekend but didn’t end up doing anything for the actual day.  It’s hard to watch fireworks when you have to go to work the next day.

Friday, I got let out of work a bit early. It’s one awesome thing my job continues to do. We get out an hour or two early the day before a holiday weekend. Gives everyone a little extra time to get traveling if they like. I wasn’t going anywhere but it meant I got out to the barn a bit earlier. Friday is usually pretty quiet and this last one was no exception. The jumps were almost all set up as little cross rails so I decided to jump with Scarlet. We did so much jumping. There was a fair bit of rushing and Scarlet really wasn’t respecting the jumps. In the future, I’m going to have to actually not be lazy and adjust the heights so that he will jump rather than running over them. I worked on asking him to keep it slow and steady while cantering to and through a line. Lots of half halts several strides before and then softening. The softening meant to him to speed up so I was trying to get him to remember that no, that means stay where you are at. It needs more work but the last line of the night was perfect. Steady pace in, small half halt and steady pace within the line. We were a little far from the jump but it was smooth so I took the small flyer and ended there. Hopefully, more practice and more serious jumps will convince him to keep the pace rather than speed up.

Saturday I met up with some friends from NY at the Packing House in Anaheim. Yum! That was fun but it meant no ride for that day.

I didn’t really feel like riding on Sunday but I forced myself to get out in the evening. Quite conveniently, the lady who has invited me to do the trails with her was back for her first ride after a knee replacement. So we did a small warm up in the arena and then headed out for a short loop of the trails. It was perfect because it was super easy and still got Scarlet out moving. Yay for lazy alternatives to working hard on a ride. I really wish I could get Scarlet out on the trail by myself so I can do that for an easy day. Something else to work on.

Monday, I went out in the morning (yay for days off!) and rode without stirrups. So hard! Always so hard. I was able to do several laps of trot posting with walk breaks in between each lap. I also did a lot of sitting trot, much to Scarlet’s displeasure. He wasn’t annoyed with how I was sitting, I’m pretty sure. I was bouncing less and all the movement was up and down, which I’m pretty sure is correct. He just didn’t like me sitting and not letting him canter. I had to argue with him and tell him that no, transitioning on your own is not okay. After a while, I did let him canter. I really focused on moving with the motion with my hips so that my butt never actually left the saddle. Sometimes, I get a bit out of sync and can feel an impact of sorts each stride. I did really well and was able to canter around a lot without leaving the saddle. Woo for practicing skills.

Then, I decided to trot more, just cause Scarlet is convinced cantering equals ending so I have to focus on not finishing up on a canter to walk pattern. I was feeling masochistic I guess because I decided to post the trot again. (My legs were not happy.) We trotted on lap, crossed the diagonal and trotted a lap the other way. ALL WHILE POSTING! I got TWO full laps while posting. I haven’t been able to do that until this week. I’m so happy that I can see myself improving. This torture wouldn’t be worth it without those small signs of improvement.

Tuesday, I had wanted to jump in the morning but a lesson was going on. So I warmed up in that arena and then went to a different one to work on leg yields. At the canter, I could really feel the difference in my movement after practicing the motion without stirrups the day before. It’s sticking! The leg yields were okay. We haven’t done them in a while and they are hard for Scarlet. I’ve got to remember to practice them as lateral movement is really good for stretching him.

Next post: Another riding lesson!

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Juvenile coyote that decided to trot through the whole barn area around 10 am.