Pushing Yourself vs Burning Out

Before getting to the meat of the post, I wanted to talk about meeting Emma from ‘Fraidy Cat Eventing. I’m sure many of you have read her post or L’s post on her blog. It was amazing. Tacos and new blogger friends, what more can a girl want? Emma was exactly as I expected from reading her blog. Funny, quirky and sassy. I regret that we only had a couple of hours to talk but hopefully we can get more time next time she is out west.

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Now, to the main topic.

I’ve always had issues pushing myself. I am the very definition of lazy and it is extremely easy to allow myself to talk myself out of whatever I need to do. I’ve procrastinated on projects my whole life and allowed myself to be lazy whenever it suited. It’s something I’ve tried to fix on and off. But willpower is something I’m not good at either.

Recently (for the last month or so) I’ve made a real effort to not allow myself to come up with excuses to get out of responsibilities. The biggest areas I’ve been focusing on are exercising, chores and a side project of mine. Riding generally hasn’t been a problem but I’ve been continuing to make sure I go out 5-6 days a week. And I have to say, I’ve been doing pretty well. But I still am stumbling.

I’ve talked about the ab challenge I’ve been doing and I have kept that up. It’s really difficult but I get it done each day, using that time as my break from work in the morning. I’ve also been running more often. Then, after work, I go ride for 50ish minutes. This last week was a tipping point. I pushed my body too much and fell apart when finishing up the ab exercises on Friday. I also couldn’t run the majority of my normal route. My muscles were just exhausted. It was demoralizing and I found it very difficult to tell myself that this is going to happen. I had been running, doing an arm workout, doing a lot of core work and riding a lot this last week. I had been pushing myself to add more abs, push a bit more for the 30 seconds of pushups, run just a bit more this time. I’ve been pushing myself in small bits across many things during my day. And I pushed just a tiny bit too far and it fell apart.

The thing I’m finding difficult to do is to know that line. I need to push myself to improve. No one else is going to do it. I’m not under any deadlines for exercising or chores. No one is going to go tell me to run for 30 minutes. I have to be responsible for keeping myself moving.  I can so easily say “Oh, I’m tired today. Let’s just do a little less.” or “I’ll get to those dishes tomorrow”. And suddenly we are a week later and I’ve done nothing. So I can’t see where that stops and my body is actually telling me I’m pushing too hard. I am working toward finding this line but it is extremely hard to do so.

While I am tired, both mentally and physically, I find myself bouncing back and forth between being annoyed with myself and proud of myself. Proud, because I’ve consistently pushed myself in my daily life for a while now. And it had become easier, more default to want myself to push more. That means that my overall mentality was changing to the habit of pushing. Annoyed, because I seriously can’t manage to hold that plank for five more seconds? I really can’t figure out how to just run the same amount I did before? It’s really not that many dishes, why didn’t you do that instead of watch that YouTube video? It’s really easy to beat myself up when I don’t meet every expectation I have for myself. I’ve had a lot more practice giving myself guilt trips so that tends to be my default.

But I’m getting there. It’s a work in progress. I’m going into every day with a list of things to do. I’m getting most of the working out done. Riding almost always happens. Chores are getting better. My project is coming along. I’m getting there. I need a bit more time to stop with the guilt trips on the days I don’t but I think I’m getting that as well.

How about you guys? Are you guilty of being lazy often? Do you find it easy or hard to push yourself to do more each and every day? How do you know your limits?

Jumping and Transitions

Wednesday I went out to the barn hoping to do some jumping. It had been a while since Scarlet and I had done some and I like to try to repeat anything that I had done during my lesson as soon as possible with him. But there were lessons going on in the jumping arena so I wasn’t able to do so. I rode around in the arena hoping that the lesson was almost wrapping up so that I could jump. It looked like it was but the horse the kid was riding wasn’t cooperating. They are currently using another boarder’s horse for lessons (with permission) since they have a limited amount of horses.

I don’t agree with a lot of the teaching I see from the trainers here (hence why I’m not in lessons with them) but I have to say, using this horse is probably the worst idea. He is a hard ride even for the trainer. No one can really get him to behave properly and the kids that get put on him aren’t confident and aren’t they type to sit down and kick him through whatever they are doing. He is a horse that needs that kick to see that he can’t get away with his crap. But, not my horse, not my business. I just watch and shake my head.

Friday is usually a low activity day at the barn. I was crossing my fingers when I went out so that I could have the jumping arena to myself. And it was empty! There might have been one other person out on the property but they weren’t anywhere near me. I moved a bunch of the jumps up before getting on as they were set at ankle height and I wanted heights that would make Scarlet respect the jumps. We warmed up and jumped. He was spooking at one whole side of the arena which made him run squirrely into the jumps when they faced that side. I had to repeat a bunch of jumps just to make him listen to my leg when telling him not to try and move side to side.

It wasn’t as relaxing and simple as I would have liked due to the squirrely-ness but he was very good about actually jumping. We had some messups but we would go to repeat and the second time would be better. I managed to connect the jumps together in patters and run through them several times and we did pretty well. He doesn’t want to land on his right lead so we had to do some simple changes but I expected that. I was pleased with the rounds as they were. I found myself counting strides more and when I’d reach one, Scarlet would take off every time. It wasn’t necessarily the best take off spot but we were in sync for the ride which I liked.

Saturday I just wanted to hack around and maybe do some lateral work since Scarlet has been ignoring my legs more and more. We did do some leg yields, TOF and TOH at the end of the ride along with some backing up. But what I noticed the most was our terrible upward canter transitions. I’ve noticed this happening for a bit but figured I was the cause. Now I’m not so sure.

Scarlet hollows his back really easily, probably due to training and breed. So lately, when I’ve been asking for an upward transition, he will go from a nice lifted trot into super hollow giraffe head. I’m trying to push him upwards and not hold with my hands but also not throw them away. I just don’t know what is going on. And the problem compounds with once I’ve asked, he gets tense at any moment of sitting down from me and anticipates. I haven’t found a way to haul in for lessons yet so I don’t know when I’d be able to get a trainer to assist me on this. I’m going to be doing a lot more transition work in my rides overall to hopefully help this trot-canter transition.

Does anyone have any exercise suggestions for the trot-canter transition to help with hollowing within the transition? I’d really appreciate some ideas as I don’t want to just drill transitions on a circle if I can help it.

New Segment! – Scarlet Rates Stories

I’ve been wanting to add something to the blog that isn’t just a daily rundown of what Scarlet and I do together. I love doing that and it is a great chronicle of what we do, but I also like the variety I see in other posts (DIY, reviews, etc) so I wanted to try something new. But I also wanted to stick with things I love. I love horses obviously. I also love reading. What I don’t get often are good horse books meant for adults. I loved the Thoroughbred series when I was a kid but it seems like every writer assumes that we readers grow out of the horse crazy phase (NEVER!) when we get older. So I wanted to try to find more horse stories that are appropriate for adult readers. I’m not sure how successful I will be but I want to try. And since I’m going to be reading them anyway, why not share on the blog to see if anyone else benefits from my reviews?

So here is the first iteration of my horse book reviews. I’m trying to find books where the horses are integral if not the main point of the book. I’m primarily sticking with books I have not read yet so I can give a first impression type review. I’m open to suggestions of books to review if anyone has one they have been interested in but didn’t want to take the plunge themselves. Also, since this is a new thing, please feel free to leave comments on what you think of this segment below.

As always, these are entirely my opinion and I’ve received zero incentives to review the books I’ve chosen.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

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Genre: Fantasy, YA more than Adult

Summary: Karigan runs away from school before being expelled due to a fight and finds a dying Green Rider – a member of the special messenger group for the crown. He pleads with her to take his message to the king. Karigan agrees and finds herself chased across the land by evil with the Green Rider’s horse and magic to help her complete the mission.

Scarlet’s horsey opinion:

My mom reads lots of books. Sometimes she shares them with me, especially if there are horses in the book. Mom tells me that a big problem with horse books is that horses don’t always act like horses. I would have asked her what she meant by not acting like horses. Every horse has its own personality. After all, I’m nothing like my paint neighbor, who sticks his nose through the fence to greet everyone. I would have asked, but my mouth was full of cookies and I didn’t want to be rude. She asked me what I thought of the horses in this book. After all, who would be better at judging a horse book than a horse?

The horse in this book, Condor, acted horse like. He wasn’t able to do anything that I can’t physically do with more exercise to build up my stamina. The major thing that Mom told me about that seemed off was how he acted. His responses (though we horses are very responsive to our humans, they like that) were more human than horse. But he lived in a world with this stuff called magic. Mom explains that it makes impossible things happen. So maybe the magic made him think and act a bit more like a human than a horse. Condor’s behavior wasn’t enough to make Mom not like the book just due to that.

However, Mom’s biggest pet peeve with horses in any media form existed in this book. She will rant every time she sees it. Horses cannot run around at top speed everywhere. Condor did that a bunch. She did say it might be that magic stuff again but really, even with magic Condor would have to get tired at some point.

Alex’s reader opinion:

I try to start off with the positive things before focusing on negative things so the positives of this book were the magic system and the world.

The magic system was quite interesting. There weren’t too many magic practitioners in this world. When the magic is limited to certain circumstances, it makes for a more solid magic system. It also makes the magic more impressive when it does happen, as it isn’t as normal as tying your shoelace. The magic mainly centered around the magic that the Green Riders possess. This magic is tied to a brooch that is their symbol of office. Each brooch has unique magic and chooses its wielder. One magic is invisibility. Another is to tell when someone is lying. Simple but useful magics overall. I thought that was very well done.

The world was very well developed. The author had specific distances in mind from place to place and those didn’t seem to vary for the sake of the story. The world had a history, a caste system and an explanation for why things happened based on historical references. World building is hard to do without getting so sucked into it that you sound Tolkien-esque. Britain did a very good just having enough information there to make the world seem completely solid without droning on about facts. Some things I didn’t like were the protagonist herself and the presence of romance in the book.

Some things I didn’t like were the protagonist herself and the presence of romance in the book.

Now, before you think that I hate romance, I really don’t. A world isn’t complete without having love in it. Love exists in everyday life so why shouldn’t it fit in books? Th problem I have is the specific romance in this book. There are two implied romantic attractions and I never saw it till the main character said it herself. I was completely surprised by this. If I’m responding with a “wtf?” and it’s not just with the character being surprised themselves, the romance has just been forced into the book for romance’s sake. Neither of the romantic interests had spent much time with Karigan. Neither of them showed any indication that they thought anything of her before it was directly stated that they liked her. There was no basis for attraction (beyond physical but that was not the attraction that was stated in the book) and I cannot stand random romances.

Karigan herself is just… flat. Everything about her falls flat. She is the protagonist but she NEVER DOES ANYTHING! Everything just happens to her and she goes along with the flow. She doesn’t really choose to start as a Green Rider, it’s forced upon her. Then she just shrugs and says okay sure why not. That first “choice” that she has at the beginning of the book is indicative of how she acts for the rest of the story. No choices, just going with the plot.

I wanted to like this book but I really just didn’t. The summary and premise really seemed good. I had bought this book a while ago and didn’t get very far in it. I then put it down for a number of years and decided to try and read it again. It was hard. I just couldn’t get engaged in Karigan and her problems. They just weren’t problems for me. Nothing that started the journey really mattered or would change her life. Later, once she was already in, the stakes rose and things matter to her life but it was too little too late. Not a terrible book, but it really wasn’t for me.

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Lesson!

I had a lesson on Tuesday! So happy that it is a new month so that I could have one. I rode a different horse this time. Still huge compared to Scarlet. I’ve ridden 3 horses at this barn and I believe all of them have been 17hh.

Trainer D wasn’t in as much of a hurry to leave that day (or the fact that the kids are back in school leaves her with less minions) so I groomed and tacked up before my ride. I don’t mind that at all. It was kind of fun to see what it would feel like to have someone get my horse ready for me, but I really enjoy the grooming part of riding. Not because Scarlet likes grooming (he is more or less indifferent to it) but because it’s part of my ritual of getting into the riding headspace. With new horses, it allows me to get to know them a bit and get a feel of their temperament while doing so.

The horse I rode has had an abscess in his mouth for just over a month. They are cleared to ride him by the vet but not with a bit. So I had my very first experience with a hackamore. (It was purple! XD) I was a bit hesitant about that because, hey I’ve literally never ridden with a hackamore. I wasn’t sure if I’d do something wrong with my cues because of the lack of a bit. I shouldn’t have worried though. It wasn’t much different than normal. The horse was also a little girthy. Scarlet will toss his head sometimes but this horse mean mugged and snapped at me. I smacked him back and told him that he better behave himself or he is going to really regret it. He tried half-heartedly to snap at me again when I was checking it before mounting but another smack caused him to stand there and glare at me while I made sure I wasn’t going to slide beneath him.

Trainer D said this guy could use spurs or a crop as well. Since I don’t have spurs (I might need to look into them, just for lesson purposes) she brought me a crop. He was nothing like my previous ride though. I didn’t think he was all that hard to get moving forward at all. He needed a tap with the crop here and there to be reminded to move and reminded not to lean but a very solid equine citizen overall. His trot was almost a western jog feeling but I was told that was about all we would get out of him. That was okay. A super smooth trot is really nice to ride to so I wasn’t going to complain. His canter was very even and slow feeling as well, without actually being slow.

Trainer D had me two point around at the trot each way for a lap and she said she was very impressed with me. All my hard work paid off! I’ve been practicing while riding Scarlet so I’m glad that has helped. I also have been doing a 30 day ab challenge with my friend. We are on day 16 as of Wednesday. It started with 15 crunches, 6 leg lifts and 10 seconds of plank. Then it ramps up by 5, 2 and 5 respectively each day. We end with 160, 64 and 155. It has been pretty killer for the last 5 days so I’m dreading the end of it. Leg lifts are the bane of my existence as well. So hard! But, something I’m doing core wise is helping my riding so if it’s this workout, maybe it’s worth it. 😉

Trainer D had me practice the sitting trot as well. I hate my sitting trot. I never feel balance and Scarlet hates me sitting in the saddle for the most part so when I practice, most of me is focused on keeping my horse moving forward, but not at a canter, versus up and down. I said as much to her and she had me sit the trot in a circle in front of her. She said it didn’t look bad but I explained how I felt like I would occasionally slip to the side and then try to over correct and then all my balance would go to hell. She had me try and exercise of sitting for 5 strides and then posting for 5 strides. It was quite difficult at first to get the rhythm but I got it. After that, she explained that while I had a nice lovely posture while posting, I would sit way back and open my pelvis up a lot while sitting. That was probably what threw off my balance, as I didn’t need to be opening up that much. The explanation made sense to me but I’m not sure how to implement that with sitting at home. The lesson horse’s trot was smooth, Scarlet’s isn’t without a ton of work on my part. It will be something to work on to see if knowing what is happening will help me figure it out.

After the warm up, we started jumping. She had two lines of 6-7 strides. One of crossrails (absolutely tiny, lol) and one of verticals (probably about 18″). We headed over the crossrails and the horse didn’t feel like I was with him so the first crossrail was bad and then the second one he broke to a trot for. I regrouped and made sure to let him know that I was there and ready to head for the jump. I apparently did that too well as we got a half stride for 6 and a half for the second crossrail. Trainer D explained what happened and said we should decide on striding. I said let’s do the 7 as I didn’t feel confident enough to push him forward for the 6. So we went around again with me half halting after the first crossrail. But my half halts are much stronger than that horse needed and we got 7 and a half. At least we weren’t making the same mistake?

The next go through it was much better. Then we went through the vertical. Those rode pretty well each way. I had to ride a bit more forward for that due to actually needing to jump them versus canter over them. Once I got that down it was easier. Then we strung those together. This horse leaned to the left very hard and that was the lead we went through first. Because of that, we ended up making a much sharper turn to the vertical line that I wanted to. But we were there so I said (outloud) okay well we are going sharp and we made it over. We also took the second jump of the line on a long jump but we would have chipped if adding an extra stide. I believed the horse could do it and he felt me be ready so we did it.

Trainer D praised me for just riding with the ride we had considering that turn was terrible. Then we did it again and I put my left leg on hard to keep him out as much as possible. It still wasn’t as much as I wanted but it was many more strides distance to turn and straighten for the jump line. Then we went to the right. We broke to the trot after the crossrails and I had to circle around to get space to go back to the canter. We headed straight for the verticals and Trainer D yelled for us to come back over the crossrails at the end to get a full 4 jumps. We did that and then called it a lesson.

Trainer D said that I was doing really well, focusing on the things I needed to last time. My two point has improved, my knees improved. She said my homework was more or less just keep doing the same thing. A bit disappointing because I like having new specific things to work on but I’m glad I showed improvement.

I did decide to ask about boarding and haul in fees, just because what the heck. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Yeah…. boarding will never happen. The minimum cost is 2x what I pay for Scarlet’s board. I can’t afford that. She didn’t remember the haul in fee because it has been so long since she has done a haul in lesson. She said she would look it up for me and she does do lessons on Saturdays. So, depending on what the fee is, I may try to do a haul in lesson someday. Now if someone could just donate a truck and trailer to me…. XD

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Lack of Motivation

I’ve been lacking the motivation to do anything lately and am jumping at the smallest excuse to not do this or that. Unfortunately, horse time sometimes gets lumped into that avoidance. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going out to my horse. I really do. But after sitting around at work all day, sometimes I just want to veg. This usually is at the expense of anything more strenuous than throwing clothes in the wash. I wish I could arrange my schedule so I could ride in the morning before I’ve used up motivation on other things. I’d get that done and then have the rest of the day to do work and the other things I need. But I’d have to get up at 4 or some other god awful hour in order to make it work with my job. So I am stuck doing my riding after work.

I have ridden and accomplished some things despite my laziness but then I gave myself a 5 day break so I honestly cannot remember when I accomplished theses things so I’ll just give a run down.

(I did see The Book of Mormon in those 5 days off so I didn’t just sit on my butt eating chips.)

I’ve been practicing two-point. It’s still quite hard but I’ve stuck with it. I managed to two-point at the trot for five total minutes. There is no steering and I hardly let go of the mane but I was up there! I’ll improve with practice. My next goal is to go 15 seconds without holding the mane. I’ve been adding some ab exercises to my daily routine to try and improve my core muscles for this. They are working me hard so I’m hoping to see results soon.

I’m able to get Scarlet to go to the bend where the trail turns from the barn. He isn’t in love with it but he goes without protesting too much. It’s a good addition to our cool down and I’m going to keep doing it. Maybe when he is a bit more comfortable, I’ll inch down the trail again. I’m not doing it till he is comfortable though because the turn allows him to see the barn and I know he is going to try to fight me to go right back.

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Horse nose!

I plan to have a lesson soon. Probably next week. I want to wait till the heat drops again and till my breech order comes in.

I also may tentatively be on the market for a jump saddle. In a discussion with my husband about anniversary gifts, saddles came up and he wasn’t a super shut down about it. So I’m currently contemplating trying to find an independent saddle fitter because I’d like someone to be able to look at me and my horse and figure out what we both need. I don’t have a super high budget but I’m hoping that once I have the specs, I can search around till I find the right one.

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!

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.