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!

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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!

 

My Trainer is Having a Baby Soon!!

Since my trainer is about to have her baby any time in the next two weeks, this past Wednesday was my last lesson with her for a bit.  Last week was supposed to be the last lesson, but she felt good enough to work this week too, plus she wanted to end with a little jumping.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out to the barn Monday or Tuesday, so the first time I rode this week was during my lesson.  I got there a little early and was able to start warming Sox up before she finished with the lesson before.  There was no one training just after me though, so we were in no hurries.

Sox was pretty alert and active that day, so that was a bonus.  Sometimes he can be a little slow to get started, as though he thinks I don’t really mean it – it’s all a big joke and I’m going to let him go back to munching & napping in his stall.  My trainer had us progress pretty quickly through the things we’ve been working on and I needed minimal correction, which was nice.  I felt good in the saddle that day, even though my RA was flaring up in my shoulder, it wasn’t interfering or making me stiff.  We worked on getting my left leg back.  My right leg goes to the correct position, but my left leg is apparently too far in front.  When she gets me straight and aligned – I feel like I am tilted backwards and that I’m practically kneeling on my left knee, which also feels like it’s a good several inches behind my other leg.  Obviously, my natural “balance” was way out of balance!!

She had me go around and around in two-point and that really helped get my leg corrected.  We did some figure-8’s over some trot poles laid out between some jumps.  That’s been our go-to work out lately when I ride on my own, so I was doing those much better than the last time my trainer had us do that exercise.  (Last time, we were all over the place, I had trouble steering, and was really perch-y going over the poles).  Then she had me do some canter work.  She had me canter-depart from the straightaways a few times, rather than the corners like Sox expects.   I felt much more balanced in the canter and was able to keep it going a bit longer than normal.  My left hand/arm has a tendency to get stiff and not stay with the motion of the horse, so she had me hold onto the martingale with my left hand – which felt weird but seemed to work!    I was also riding for the 2nd time with my gloves on, but by this part of the lesson they were feeling less awkward finally.

We finished up with a small jump where the trot poles were – so same exercise, but with a small cross rail.  I did ok.  She said I did ok, but I felt like I was having a little trouble following the horse’s motion.  She did have to tell me to place my hands higher on his neck and really stretch, but to remember that my hips need to do the work and open/close.  I either didn’t bend enough or threw myself forward.  It’s a little ridiculous how much I can’t get my body to listen, lol.  I have been working on hip stretches a lot and she did mention that I seem much less stiff in my hips, so those stretches are helping, yay!!

I am pretty bummed I don’t get to work with my trainer for a while after this, but I am excited she’s having a baby.  I’ll still see her – she lives on property and our kids play whenever I ride.

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

My sister decided to come out to the barn today while I rode.  My son went to the house and played video games with my trainer’s kids.   It was nice having my sister there since NO ONE else came out to ride this morning and I don’t like being alone out there.  She also was able to video record me so I can watch myself (eww) and see what I’m doing right & wrong.   It was really humid out there today, so it got really hot really quickly today, so I ended up only riding about 40-45 minutes, which is still a good ride.

We did a little of everything I worked on Wednesday, minus the small jumps.  Having my sister there was also nice because I was able to have her set up a few extra trot poles.  😉  The ride today was nice and I had a good time.   Sox was actually affectionate when I was done today and rubbed his head all over me.  OF course, it’s because his face was all itchy, but I’ll take what i can get.  😉

I did work out a barter with my friend that used to be my trainer.  She rides horses for my trainer while she can’t ride due to her pregnancy.  My trainer would act as the groom and my friend did the riding, but now my trainer can’t groom anymore, so my friend needs a groom once a week.  SOooo, I volunteered to do the work in exchange for a lesson on another day.  She knows I have no idea what all I will be doing but she is confident I can handle it.  🙂  And I get a free lesson, which saves me some money, so that’s good.  I have nothing really to offer my trainer for a deal like that, so this is cool.  Plus, I feel like I will learn something.  I going to try and get them to show me how to lunge the Sox this week or next though.  I really ought to know how.

 

ANyway, that’s all for now.  I get to play groom on Tuesday and get my free lesson on Wednesday.  Woot.  😉  Happy riding!!

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.

Quick rides are still Good rides

I wasn’t able to get out to the barn early enough to get a full ride in today, but that’s ok.  Yesterday’s ride sucked.  It was like I had never ridden.  My butt didn’t know where to be, my legs were all over, my hands were awful…it just wasn’t great.  I wasn’t sure if I should even bother with trying to canter after all that awful-ness yesterday, but I finally pulled it mostly together for a little bit at the end of my ride and got a few good transitions to canter and back down to trot. I didn’t push my luck by trying to go too far or transition too many times, so the couple we did each direction were good and we left it at that.

Even though we got those few good canters in yesterday, I still didn’t feel like I did anything positive in the saddle yesterday so I decided (kinda late) today that I needed to at least get in the saddle today a little bit just to make sure it was a fluke.  I mean, I know I am not a great rider, but yesterday I was SO off balance and not right, I needed to end the week on a better note.  I didn’t get to the barn until after ten this morning (it was already almost 90 degrees too) and for once, everyone was wrapping up and getting ready to leave!  I don’t ride at the barn totally alone, so I hurried up and tacked up Sox and jumped on for a quick ride.

We only worked on walk-trot; there wasn’t time for any canter.  But that is totally cool because honestly, I just wanted to feel like I should even be in the saddle.  Which I did.  Compared to yesterday, I felt better today as soon as I sat in the saddle and started walking.  Granted, Sox had much less oomph today than he did yesterday, which is ironic I guess – yesterday he was GO GO GO and I couldn’t do anything right and today I was much better and he was trying to nap.  We did a bunch of figure 8’s and other circle shape-things, a few trot poles and a lot of 2-point (at both walk and trot).  When my friend told me she was heading out, I walked Sox around the barn and driveway talking to her to cool him out.  We’d only ridden about 20 minutes at that point, and not hard at all, so cooling out was more fun than necessary.

I spent more time with Sox after our ride than I did actually riding him today.  But it was nice.  I gave him a nice sponge-bath in front of the fan today, used his special spray for his skin (instead of his special shampoo) and then dried him off nicely and used one of the body brushes to make him extra shiny. 🙂  He looked quite nice when I was done.  Then, my son and I gave treats to and took pictures of all the horses in the barn.  It was quite fun.  Here are a few pics from today.  We took a boatload!

dexter reaching for treats

You can’t see it, but my son is standing off camera with the box of sugar cubes.

old man zak

Zak is the sweet old man of the barn. So gentle.

stuey

This guy is a little stinker, but totally cute. And very excited to come get that treat.

at the barn

It’s awful, but I can’t remember this guys name. I think it’s Travis. not sure though. he’s nice!

lily in the field

This is Lily in her Fly gear out in her pasture. She’s so sweet. She nickers at us whenever we walk close by.

sox eating my apple

Even thought I just shared the end of my apple with him, he’s giving me that look. He hates me taking his picture.

sox hating the camera

He totally freaked himself out over my camera. No flash or anything. It took me a good five minutes to calm him down after. He got really excitable after this shot was taken. He does better with cameras when he is grazing.

Shoulders BACK!!

My lesson was today and it was great.  Usually I lesson at the end of the week, but schedules worked out differently this week.  Lots of shoulder back today.  I was very slouch-y today and I knew it going into the lesson that my right side would be worse than my left side.  I even warned my trainer that my right leg and my shoulder were just feeling icky and off-balanced today.  But we worked through it.

For the last few months leading up to the beginning of my lease, I have felt that I was making hardly any improvements…not that I wasn’t actually improving, but I wasn’t having any of those A-Ha! moments.  I sort of “plateaued” for a bit there, I suppose.  Today, however, I had an A-HA! moment and it was lovely!  It was during the sitting trot!  I could feel what I was supposed to feel and was really able to flow with the horse, keeping my lower back and inner thighs soft, while keeping my lower leg ON the horse and using my outer thigh for support.  All at the same time I was also stretching up tall and keeping my shoulders back and not leaning forward….. Ahh… It was so nice and lovely for the minute or so that it lasted.  I came close to achieving it again when we circled the other way in the sitting trot, but it wasn’t the same.  I had an even shorter glimpse of it last week, a couple seconds here and there throughout the week.  I know for sure what I am supposed to feel, so even though I doubt I will achieve much of it on my own, I should recognize whether it’s correct or not by how I feel in the saddle.  It feels good when it’s right.  (duh).

My calves are finally figuring out where they are supposed to be, and my legs are mostly in the proper position, most of the time.  I am working on getting my hips more supple.  I lock them in place too often.  Today, she had me practice letting my hip open and close.  We did some regular trot and walk, and then some in two-point.  Then, she had me really exaggerate the movement by having me get into two-point and then basically lay down on Sox’s neck.  I sucked at it for the longest time, lol.  I couldn’t keep my balance and would pinch with my knees, grip with my thighs, bring my heels up, etc.  My body has a very hard time with letting go.

It was interesting because there was another girl riding in the ring today and her upper body wasn’t right either, but for a different reason.  She was pumping with her body (hips, arms, core), trying to move the horse with her body…whereas I tend to get behind the motion of the horse because I am trying to let the horse move ME but in the process of waiting for the horse to move, I don’t move either (and subsequently fall behind).  As I wait for the movement to happen, I get locked in place.  I am finally beginning to actually understand the cons of my body position – as well as how they negatively affect Sox.  My trainer told me that it was weird that I didn’t do that in my jumping (fall behind the motion).  I told her it’s because I can find my Zen in the jump – the jump itself only takes a few seconds – I can let go for short bursts of time  – so I can relax and flow – over the jump.  But maintaining that Zen, that ability to “let go” and relax and flow for extended periods of time (like during canter and trot) is just too much for my un-enlightened mind.  (lol).

We did a little canter today – nothing crazy – although I did cut the ring in half and was able to do a circle using half the arena in addition to the whole arena lap.  I have trouble making turns and doing circles in the canter – I get nervous and tense…either causing or caused by my incorrect body position (which throws everything off).  But today, it went great.  I had good transitions (besides the very first one, but I handled that one well too).  I was able to make my laps complete and transition back into a trot that didn’t have me flopping all over.

Overall, I felt good about my riding today. We had a great end to the day as well.  I gave Sox his bath and used his special shampoo on his mane and forelock.  I have figured out that if I use the hose with no nozzle, with the water flow really low, he doesn’t get quite as freaked out about the water near his face and top of his head.  Which is exactly where he needs his special shampoo…  So we had a mostly calm bath and hosing down.  He looks so clean – he’s one of the cleaner horses at the barn because I wash him every week – I can’t say that about most of the other horses.  Speaking of other horses, Lily is overdue for another bath from me.  Maybe I will introduce my sister to her Friday…  After our bath, Sox and I walked around the barn and just spent some time together while he grazed.  It was super relaxing.  Here are some pictures I took of us just hanging out.

He's happy to be grazing.  As soon as he hits the grass, he starts munching.

He’s happy to be grazing. As soon as he hits the grass, he starts munching.

20140616_105411

Trying to get a head shot – but he won’t keep still once he sees the camera.

20140616_105454

This is as close to a head shot as he will let me get. Look how clean his face is!! 😉

20140616_105556

He looks so handsome. 😉

 

I am trying to get as much out of my trainer as possible right now since she is getting ready to have her baby ANY time now.  I have another trainer I can use, a friend of mine, while my trainer is out because of baby, but I don’t work as well with my friend as I do my trainer.  I will be having an easy day either wednesday or thursday to practice some of this stuff, plus a more serious riding day on Friday.  My sister is coming to watch me ride and play with the horses on Friday, so that will be fun. I am going to see if I can get her to record me riding so I can cringe as I watch it, lol.  Plus we are bringing one of my dogs, Leeloo, to the barn to see how she does around the horses.  I really have no idea what to expect from her regarding them, so it ought to be interesting.

Well, Happy Riding, see you next time!!