More on those Good Rides!

I had one of the best rides of the summer on Monday night this week.  Even though Sox has not been ridden more than once or twice since I went away, he was SO good!  I was good too – I expected to be totally off balanced and feeling awkward in the saddle after being gone for so long.  Instead, I found myself feeling quite comfortable and getting right into the motion!  It was lovely.  We rode for about 45 minutes and my friend, L, told me that we looked pretty nice in both our canter and our sitting trot, so YAY!

Friday night, I went riding again with L, this time well after dark.  We had the arena lights on, but only 2 of the 4 were working so there were lots of shadows.  I know Sox has been ridden at night out there before and he is generally a non-spooking horse, but he spooked twice on Friday!  Neither were real big or drastic spooks, unlike L’s horse who spooks at lots things, lots of the times, in a much bigger & more dramatic way.  The first was a real small spook, easy to ride out and redirect his attention.  The second happened when I finally got him to pick up a nice canter that I finally felt relatively in control of (versus him just basically RUNNING as fast as he can get away with because he LOVES to canter) and we were coming across the arena diagonally and L complimented how absolutely beautiful our canter looked and then he saw whatever monster he saw.  And we went that way, then this way, and his head was all over the place, but I actually rode it out relatively calmly.  My heart rate definitely went up and it was in the back of my head that this could suck and was slightly nerve-racking, but I kept my seat bones connected to that saddle, kept my back straight (which still feels like i am leaning backwards slightly!) and stayed in control (mostly).  We recovered pretty quickly and we did a few trot circles and decided to call it a night there.

L and I walked the horses out for another 20-30 minutes and I tell you – Sox’s walk when he is full of GO GO GO and after he’s had a few good canter laps – is just beautiful and oh so comfortable.  It’s so the opposite of when he literally drags his feet – which is his only other mode.  SLOW or GO.  That’s it.  I practiced using my seat and hips to drive him more forward and then to bring it back down as well as some lengthening and shortening of the stride.  I haven’t tried to do that with just my seat with any seriousness until Friday night, but with L’s pointers I was able to really pull it off and notice the difference.  It was just great.

After we were done riding, we brought the horses in a gave them a real good brushing and all that and Sox was SUPER affectionate, which is totally out of character for him. He was slightly affectionate Monday, which was weird enough!  Maybe he is just super duper picky and takes a while to warm up to the few people he likes?  Maybe he does like me back?  Squee!! That would make me a happy girl!

 

So it was a great week.  If only I could get out to the barn more often!  The semester is getting ready to start and I will be so busy in the classroom and with students and with my son’s commitments in taekwondo and his school …I won’t have the time I want.  My husband hates me riding and anything equine, so he’s sure to be happy.  😦

 

Happy riding!  Hopefully sooner than later!

Two Wonderful Rides in One Week

This is going to be a short post since I’m doing it from my phone.

I got back from my trip for my grandmother’s funeral and then 2days later turned around and went on our planned trip for the summer.  Got back and it was time for work…so it’s been a week of workshops and getting class ready for the start of the semester on Monday.

A girl from the barn, L, invited me to go riding with her Monday night and I went. I had a fabulous ride on Sox. Everything was perfect.  Tonight we went again and the ride on Sox was good, but not like Monday. Then we sat around the barn and had a few beers and played with the dogs while shooting the shit. It was a fun night.

I will be back more regularly again and will have more to say about this week’s ride as well as post something for this week’s photo challenge. 🙂

Happy riding !!!

Jumping & Going Fast! (and photo challenge)

I am going to start with this week’s photo challenge “Summer Lovin“.  Here is my entry this week:

He doesn't actively ride anymore, but is considering getting back into it once it cools off again, but here is my son riding Sox.

Here is my son (whom I love SO MUCH) riding Sox. He doesn’t actively ride anymore, but is considering getting back into it once it gets cold again. Since it’s Florida, that’s not likely to happen for a while. 😉

The instructions tell me to show you something I love.  Well, I love a lot of things.  I love my son, my husband, my dogs, cats, parents, sisters, nephews, my job…you get the idea.  I decided that since this blog is about riding, I may as well try to find a picture that captures what I love in relation to something related to horses.    This is one of my favorite pictures of my son riding Sox.  He’s actually smiling and laughing and enjoying himself here (of course, Sox doesn’t look nearly as enthusiastic, but he never really does).  It also was during the time that we were still taking lessons together.  I think his lesson was over.  He was really starting to make some progress in his posting trot that day and was excited.  It’s really hot here in FL and my son is not the most athletically inclined, so when he said he didn’t want to ride anymore and was having less & less fun because of the heat –   I didn’t want to force him, so I let him stop riding.  He didn’t love it like I do and that’s ok.  He still loves going to the barn, and that’s good enough for me.  ❤

 


 

 

Ok.  So onto the horsey stuff.  I had a lesson on Wednesday and worked as my friend’s groom on Thursday.  Sox was on fire Wednesday – full of GO GO GO!!!  He wanted to canter everywhere and do it FAST.  So, I worked a lot on my half-halts. Turns out, I need more work on that.  Wednesday was a jumping day!  I cantered the jumps!  On purpose.  Well, the first time not so much, but after that – totally. I told my friend that I had accidentally cantered up to the jumps, but not intentionally, so she decided we should do just that.  And what was cool to me was the fact that it meant I had to canter a smallish circle to get to the jump, but I wasn’t nervous!  My small circles were better than my attempt around the whole arena earlier in the lesson!

Speaking of cantering around the arena – I had a much better time on what is usually my bad side today!  I almost couldn’t get it at all on my “good” side!  Going to the left, I am usually able to pick it right up even though that is Sox’s bad side, but not Wedneday.  Nope.  I’d get a few strides and then he’d stop.  Because I was off-balance or pinching.  Or especially yanking on his face.  I could not get my arms in sync with the horse’s motion.  But to the right?  That’s Sox’s good side, so as long as I ask correctly, he can pick it up – but usually I can’t sit right when I ask but this day, I was on fire!  I made it all the way around on my first try!  And it felt good.  I had a good transition back down to trot and the one time he started to slow down like he was going to stop, I was able to apply a little leg and keep him going!

Now, if I could only duplicate that at will more often!!  Anyway, my small circles up to the jumps really weren’t scary at all.  I was nervous in my mind, but not too bad (surprisingly). And all I had to do was think about transitioning to canter and Sox was there already.  During the jump,  I was having a lot of trouble getting/keeping my hands up high enough on Sox’s neck.  I kept wanting to bury them in the saddle.  He really stretches that long neck out over the jump and I know I caught him in the mouth a few times.  I know what happens (why I get nervous – burying my hands is a sign of nervousness in me) – he picks up speed getting to the jump.  He’s excited and I am not confident in my ability to slow him down without getting in his way (and subsequently killing us or something horrible).  But we worked on slowing him down, at least leading UP to the jump, because as soon as we landed on the other side, it was like Sox was reliving his cross-country days and was galloping to the next jump.  Oh. My. Goodness. SO. FAST.  lol.  🙂   It would feel completely exhilarating for a few seconds and then my worrying conscience would kick and say something to freak me out like “Aren’t we going a little fast ??”  and then I would wreck it.  But feeling the wind in my face & hearing it whip by, was pretty cool.  One day, I will get to fully enjoy that.

I did finally get him to stop running up to the jump and finally we were able to get a more steady, even pace up to the jump.  The last 3 jumps were much more controlled leading up to the jump and the last jump was actually pretty well controlled after the landing.  He was picking up speed, but I was able to give him a small “woah” and half-halt and I let him canter a few strides and then asked for the trot and then actually let him have time to make the transition.  I also made sure to better follow his movements after the jump.  The first bunch of times, I was just stressing out because we were going so fast.  I wasn’t telling him to slow down, but I was resisting all of his movement by tensing up.  Once I was able to tell my stupid body to stop doing that and actually land the jump and intentionally canter away, things got easier.

I know I need to challenge myself like that more often.  It feels SO GREAT when I do and we have even the tiniest bit of success.  I also know that since the last time I fell off Sox, I have been more reluctant to challenge myself.  Because I was challenging myself that day.  I have really wimped out lately in terms of how much and how hard I will work on the canter when I am riding on my own.  I was doing really, really well with cantering a lot on my own, until I fell.  I know that the riding I am doing is still helping and is making a difference, but I know I can do more.  I finally realized how little I am challenging myself on my own after this week’s lesson.  I don’t mean I should start jumping on my own or anything, but I really need to suck it up and go for that canter.  I need to master this.  Well, it would take thousands of rides to technically “master” it, but I need to get my canter ability up a few notches to where I’m no longer receiving instructions on how to do it, but rather I want to be at the level where I receive instruction on ways to make it better.

Grooming was fun and I am looking forward to next week’s lesson & groom session.  The plan is to push myself a little bit more on my own this week.  I only have 2 more weeks left in my summer.  I can’t believe it is almost over.  I will keep riding and posting, but probably less frequently.

 

Happy Riding!

Nighttime Riding

Today I went for my first night-time ride.  When I started, the sun was just setting and it was so pretty.  I wish I had brought my phone out to the arena so I could have taken a picture.  Sox and I were the only two riding as the other two ladies out tonight were untacking when I was pulling in.  They hung around the barn and my trainer showed up too so I wasn’t completely alone out there.  We didn’t do much.  Sox was a little “look-y” today – and normally he’s not like that, so it was weirding me out a little, then someone nearby was setting off fireworks which combined with the look-y-ness, made me a little hesitant.  Which stinks because we started out strong and ended in a fizzle.  Oh well.  Usually it’s the other way around!

Yesterday I had a lesson with my friend for the first time in many months.  It was kind of a nice ego boost to hear her say so many times how much I’ve improved on this or that.  She was especially impressed with my progress in my sitting trot – so YAY for that!!  Sitting trot is, in my opinion, one of the harder things to master.  Not because it is especially complicated, but precisely because it isn’t.  I know exactly what I am supposed to do.  Getting my body to actually do it is a whole other process.  That’s what makes it so hard for me.  I can’t figure out how to make my body do what I’m telling it to do.  And I know that nothing but time in the saddle working on it will actually make it work.

Anyway, it was a good lesson overall.  She was probably just covering all the basics (it felt like we did a tiny bit of all the things) to see where I am since we haven’t worked together in a while and she’s taking over for my trainer while she’s out on maternity leave.  We worked out a deal too – I will be her groom on Tuesdays and I get a lesson on Wednesdays for free.  Yay.  Well, only for another month or so since my lease ends when I go back to work in the middle of August.  😦  I can’t believe it’s almost over.  Normally, my trainer rides these horses, or tacks/untacks the horses so my friend can ride them (these horse are on training board) so my assistance isn’t needed, but for right now, I can help out, which is cool.  I get to interact with the horses in a different way (other than feeding them treats when I am at the barn) and I’m learning a bit too by watching her ride these horses.  Since we are friends, I don’t feel like I am imposing when I ask a ton of questions.  Plus it is fun to just shoot the shit with her and not have to worry about Sox or anything.

Well, happy riding!  😉  Going back tomorrow morning for some more!

 

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th!  I hope your holiday weekend is off to a good start!  My son and I started our weekend off with a little horseback riding.  He hasn’t ridden since April, but told me yesterday that he would like to, so I had him squeeze into his old boots, grab his helmut and hop on Sox.  I handwalked them around the arena a few times.  My son very much enjoyed it.  He said that maybe when it’s not so hot out, he may start riding lessons again.  We’ll see, lol. 

I used Sox’s walk around the arena as his warm up and got right to work when I got on.  I was trying out a pair of gloves today since I keep getting a blister on my left ring finger.  They felt super awkward.  Luckily, the rest of me didn’t feel awkward up there so I was able to adjust.  They weren’t great and I did end up taking them off for the last little bit of my ride.

For once I wasn’t feeling all over the place for my ride.  I mean, sure, there was plenty I could have been doing better, but I was doing better than normal for me, and the best that I could at the time.  I was able to pick up a nice forward trot after a little fuss from Sox.  I could feel the difference in my legs when they weren’t correct – I was doing much better at keeping the bend in my knee (and my elbows) and posting with my hips rather than trying to stand up in the stirrups.  Tuesday I couldn’t stop perching and standing on my toes in the stirrups, but my Wednesday lesson must have fixed that because I wasn’t doing that today.  Thank goodness.

I went over the trot pole exercise we did at the last two lessons and he was really good for it after the first pass where he stopped in the middle of the poles.  Last week he cantered through them, today he halts.  C’mon Sox, lol.  We picked it up and got it going right and I think I may have even dropped into a mostly correct two-point for at least half the passes we made today.  I was also paying a lot more attention to where we were in relation to the rail or our path around things today, as Sox has a tendency to fall to the inside if I am not on top of things.  We stayed to the outside for our whole ride today! Yay!!  Granted, our ride wasn’t super long, but hey – I’ll take all the victories I can get. 

I worked on a little itty bit of sitting trot today.  It was ok, but I kept letting that leg creep up and I’d end up pointing my toes…I don’t know where that reaction came from, but I kept finding my foot ALL the way in the stirrup, all the way to the heel of my boot.  Not ok.  So I spent a lot of my time trying to fix that while sitting the trot.  I probably should have just dropped the stirrups, but I can’t tell that I am moving my legs without the stirrups as well when I don’t have eyes on the ground to tell me. 

I did a tiny bit of canter work today as well.  Sox didn’t want to pick up a good canter today to start with.  I’m sure my aids were wonky and I was unbalanced or something, but regardless, he ran out the first few times so I brought him back down to a trot, which he tried to turn into a halt, and we tried again.  Then when he finally did start cantering, it was very choppy and not flow-y at all.  He did it like that the first couple times in each direction, but on about the third try we got it together.  I am sticking to cantering the straightaways and trotting the corners until I am better at telling whether I am on the correct lead by myself.  I’ll get there.  I can usually tell, but not everytime.  So the canter work was alright today as well.

Sox got a good hosing down and I washed his face & mane.  He got a bucket of watered down gatorade too, which he loves.  He was actually good again about me washing his face.  I think we’ve figured out how to do it without setting him off.  He even gave me a few snorts while I rubbed/massaged his neck.  He had a nasty welt on his neck (probably a bug bite), but after a good washing and then some spray, it looked a lot better, but he was sensitive about me touching it.  I let him graze a good long while after and he seemed quite content by the time I put him in his stall.

I decided Lily needed some loves today, so I took her out to groom and realized that she really just needs a bath.  So, I gave her one.  She is so spooky – today she spooked twice at the wash area.  Once she dropped her butt and her back legs looked ready to just take off, and that time startled me pretty good too, but I was able to calm her down both times.  We went in so I could spray her feet and comb her mane, and she kept trying to spook in the barn too, so I quickly finished up, calmed her down and put her back in her stall.  She got a great bath though and looks SOOO much better all clean.  🙂 

Well, we are off to our friend’s pool where we are going to hang out for a few hours before heading to the baseball game.  There’s fireworks after the game tonight so that ought to be fun!

Happy 4th (again) and happy riding!!

Riding before the Storm

Tropical Storm Arthur made his presence known today, but luckily it was after my ride.  I was in the middle of grazing Sox when the sky opened up again so we hung out in the rain a bit, but it was just rain, no lightning or heavy winds.  Today was supposed to be my last lesson with my trainer before she has her baby, but she decided to work next week too, so we have one more lesson together until sometime after the little baby is born.  She wants our last lesson to be a jumping lesson, so that is something to look forward to.

Today’s lesson was GREAT.  (Last week’s lesson was pretty great too, so maybe the pattern will hold through next week!)  My canter actually felt like it is starting to come together.  I couldn’t believe it.  It’s far from perfect, but certainly getting better.  I don’t know why I am having such a hard time with this stupid gait, but I really am moving much slower in my progress in this area than I “should” be.  Of course, “shoulds” don’t really matter.  I was able to do a few smaller laps, not quite a 20 meter circle, but I circled about 1/3 the arena today, and then continued on around the whole arena.  Sox slowed down and thought about stopping a few times, but I was able to put some leg on and keep him going.  I was also able to keep him out at the rail for the most part too!  WoOt!  🙂

We did some figure 8’s over some trot poles before we finished up with the cantering.  Sox kept trying to rush over the poles, and when I rode him yesterday, he broke out in a canter half the times we went over them, so we walked on my half-halt today.  I need to learn how to steady him, how to slow him down and how to not death-grip when he doesn’t necessarily listen to me.  It went pretty well.  He definitely keeps me on my toes by pushing the boundaries in a “nice” way.  For example, when I am coming back down from a trot to a walk to reorganize myself, he will stretch his neck down low and pull the reins from me, or drop to the inside of the circle big time as soon as I am not actively doing something.  Which is totally normal behavior, but it’s more of a recent thing with me and Sox.  My trainer said that Sox is a good teacher because he seems to know when someone is really, really new and is very well behaved for them.  But as he decides that his humans know what their doing, he expects more of them and will keep testing them to make sure they are using everything they have learned.  So keep those legs on to keep Sox at the rail and don’t throw the reins away just because you need to reorganize yourself… Got it.

I know I have mentioned that Sox isn’t the most affectionate before, and that hasn’t changed or anything.  🙂  But, he has been showing me more of his style of affection.  He will rub his head on me when I get him from the paddock and when I am done riding him.  Just 1-2 rubs, and most likely because his forehead is itchy, but he doesn’t use just anyone to itch himself on, so that’s cool.  Also, he gives me little mini nickers.  Sometimes when we are walking around the property when we cool down, sometimes when I am grooming him.  Today he was giving me the nickers when I shared my gatorade with him at the wash racks.  I have to wash his forehead and mane with a special shampoo and usually it’s a fight, but today, I started out with just petting him and was able to keep him calm, and even almost happy the whole time I washed his face.  Rinsing went almost as well too.  I love taking care of him, but I hate stressing him out, and washing his face has been stressful in the past, so it was really nice to have today’s bath go so well.  After, I took him inside and dried him off really well, sprayed his hooves and doused him in fly spray.  Then we decided to brave the rain and go grazing.  Sox didn’t seem to notice that it was a little wet out.  He probably only noticed that for once, it was not 100 degrees out!

I’ve attached a picture of Sox from earlier this year.  He just keeps growing on me, I really do love this guy.

 

 

Sox from January.  The camera didn't bother him as bad this time.

Sox from January. The camera didn’t bother him as bad this time.

Parting ways with your noble steed…

Falling off the horse sucks.  People like to tell me that it’s so much worse for them because their horse is taller than my horse.  Ya know what?  It sucks when your butt parts ways with your saddle no matter the size of the horse.  Especially if you are moving forward with any speed at all.  Like we were, at the canter, when I decided flying was preferable to riding.  It turns out that I cannot fly.

So what happened to make me fly?  I am pretty sure that I was trying to grip with my thighs as well as hunching over and just threw our balance way off which may have caused Sox to trip and stumble.  When he stumbled, I was pretty sure we were both going down.  He must have thought the same thing too because he then popped up real quick – he did a jump up – to save his butt from hitting the dirt – and that down and then up movement, so fast, just sent me flying off into the dirt.

I landed pretty hard on my side.  Well, mostly my side.  I know the side of my helmet was covered in sand and my neck and shoulders hurt a lot now (several hours later).  When I first went to get up, I couldn’t, so I hobbled over to the mounting block and just sat there for a few.  I could see that Sox was fine, waiting by the gate, the reins weren’t hanging too long or over his head, so I sat on the block for a few.  Had to catch my breath because the wind got knocked out of me in the fall.  I was about to cool Sox down when I fell off, but there was no way I could get back on – I was too dizzy – so I walked him into the barn and gave his reins to my trainer.  I told her I just fell pretty hard and he needed to be cooled down.  Trainer was cool with it.  She untacked him for me too.  After a while, I was feeling better and my trainer suggested that I try hosing Sox down and see how I felt.  So I did, and things were fine.  I did hang around the barn an extra hour or so to make sure I was ok before heading home.

 

Non-lesson rides this week:  2

Tuesday I also came out to ride.  It was one of the first times I was pretty frustrated.  My trainer laughed and told me that “frustrated” and “horses” are two words often used together in the same sentences.  Sox was certainly being frustrating.  I am sure I was frustrating him too, but he’s always been rather forgiving of my faults; that is part of the reason I decided to lease him.  My trainer said today that Sox probably is looking at me differently now – my role has changed.  I went from being the once-a-week-silly-lesson-human he let ride to his new stand-in mommy.  I am now worthy of ALL his fun (And not so fun) behaviors, including pushing the limits and boundaries and not listening to me unless I ask correctly.

I could not get Sox to do anything yesterday.  He didn’t want to trot, he didn’t like the trot poles, he refused to canter.  It was very annoying.  And I take full credit for not being a stellar rider myself.  I know I need a lot of practice.  But he has responded to my shitty aids before – and yesterday was no different from any other day!! So we didn’t get much done really, I spent more time walking around yesterday than anything else.  (So i practiced holding my two-point position in the walk).  Afterwards, he got a hosing down and then I let him graze for a bit.  I took a couple of good pictures of him.  After I was done with Sox, I took Lily out and groomed her too, and then I took pictures of all the other horses and shared my treats with them.

ImageImage

Today started off MUCH better.  He was responsive and forward.  He had a good trot going, he was willing to canter – too willing actually.  He kept trying to break into the canter when I was trotting around in circles between canter laps.  We did some basic stuff: posting trot, two-point at the trot all the way around the ring a few times and over some poles, sitting trot, all the trots in circles, and a few laps of canter in both directions, both sitting and in two-point.  Then I took off my stirrups to do the same without stirrups.  It’s hard work, but I enjoy it.  It helps my seat a lot.  Everything was fine.  I was having a bit of trouble keeping the canter going though.  Both with and without stirrups.  It’s probably me leaning forward or pinching my legs.  I was actually quite conscious of this fact going into that last canter lap.  I was telling myself to put my shoulders back and to breath….and then BAM.  Out of the saddle!

Looking Ahead

Surprisingly, I am not freaked out by my fall.  The last time I fell (like a year ago), it really shook my confidence.  It helped in some ways – it relaxed me a lot on the horse because I had that big scary first fall out of the way.  But it took a while for me to not have all that adrenaline pumping when I would get on the horse.  Of course, I rode once a week then and had literally just started cantering and only on the lunge line at that point.  I know falling is a part of riding.  I hope to do it as little as possible.  I am not as resilient at these young girls at the barn.  I am only 34, so I am still sort of young myself, but I’m not bouncy and bendy like these teens.  I also have RA and that doesn’t help either.  My confidence has increased a whole lot since that first fall.  I still need to work on my confidence in other areas, probably I will be a little nervous the next time I canter, but not to get on Sox.

I am taking tomorrow off.  Originally, I planned to ride tomorrow as well but I am going to go to the beach instead with my mom, my son and my nephew.  Plus, I think I will be pretty sore tomorrow.  I am riding on Friday though – I have a lesson.  I should be even more sore then.  I was already going to be sore in the “i worked out” sense because I rode pretty hard today.

Well, happy riding to you.  I am off to soak in the bath.  I have some epson salts laying around somewhere….

~Auntie Chi Chi~

 

ps.  Here are those other pictures I took this week:

 

This is Charlie.  He makes the SILLIEST faces at me when I have treats until I share with him.  He's so super friendly and sweet.

This is Charlie. He makes the SILLIEST faces at me when I have treats until I share with him. He’s so super friendly and sweet.

This is Dexter.  He saw me sharing with Sox and Charlie and wants some too.

This is Dexter. He saw me sharing with Sox and Charlie and wants some too.

Samson, Charlie, Travis, and (I think) Brooke.  They are all watching me and my food.

Samson, Charlie, Travis, and (I think) Brooke. They are all watching me and my food.