Saturday, November 30, 2013

5 Day Challenge: Day 1

Well, everyone is doing it so why not me?! This was originally done by Tracy over at Fly On Over.

1. Most influential person on your riding

This is a tough one because there really hasn't been just ONE influential or most influential person on my riding. Some for better some not quite as much but many have influenced me. I've narrowed it down to the top 3, though. First and foremost there was Donna. She was my very first riding instructor and the person from whom I bought my first horse Ghazal. She had to deal with me through the worst of my pre-teen and teen years so she deserves a lot of credit even if there are a few things I had to "unlearn" as I changed my disciplines later. The second person to really influence my riding was Patricia. I didn't get nearly enough time with her but she remains one of the best riders I've ever known personally. She was the first to introduce me to cross country riding. And finally my current trainer Lori has influenced me greatly. She pushed me a little more than was comfortable and in return has given me new confidence. And of course without her I wouldn't have Loki, so 'nuff said!

Perhaps my dream saddle would look something like this?

2. Piece of tack you'd love to splurge on

This seems like pretty much a no brianer. I would love to have a custom saddle, two really, one for jumping and one for dressage. I truly envy "normal" sized people who can buy used saddles with a good chance of finding one that fits reasonably. At this point I'm not even terribly particular on brand of saddle just one that fits me and my horse at the same time would be awesome.

3. Top 5 riding playlist

I have to admit I don't have any playlist for riding. I don't like the distraction.

4. Most important aspect of your barn

As a lot of people have said the people in a barn are what really determines how "nice" a barn it is and my barn is no exception. However, because I do most of my riding in the middle of the week day I don't really run into a lot of people. I have learned to enjoy the solitude. One thing I love about my barn is it's familiarity. I know this might sound strange but as I have had to move so often and have found myself in new barns a lot more times than I would like it is nice to have a place that almost feels like home. It gets old being the new kid at the stable all the time!


5. Three winter riding goals

1) Downward transitions! particularly from canter to trot. They need to get quicker and tighter. 2) Our canter needs lots of improvement to be ready for the show ring in the spring. 3) Strengthening my core and staying centered over jumps, scary or not!
 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Join the Blogger Christmas Exchange!

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

I rode Loki yesterday and it was snowing! Not a whole bunch and it wasn't really sticking but still it was a lot of fun. It has been many many many years since I've ridden in the snow.

There are so many things to be thankful for this year; Christ, family, friends, Loki, roof over my head, healthy, bright kiddos... the list could go on for days. I hope you all enjoy the holiday and find yourselves with many things to be thankful for!

Also, don't forget or if you haven't seen it be sure to check out and enter the blogger holiday gift exchange. Tracy from Fly On Over has generously offered to host. You have until the 6th to enter. Check out the details here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lesson Photos: Over Fences

So much power and "potential energy" all coiled up in a thousand pounds of electric elegance, just waiting to be released, THAT is the enormous privilege handed to those lucky enough to ride horses----

For certain, there`s accompanying risk and danger, but once you get your head past that, and realize that even couch potatoes just as inevitably kick the bucket, you are ready to rock and roll.

Addictive? You got that right.
~Denny Emerson

The jumping portion of my lesson was focused mainly on helping Loki learn to better use his body to jump. When we first started jumping Loki had a tendency to want to run at the jump at full speed getting all flat and inverted in the process. We are working on getting him to slow down and start to "think" about what he is doing as well as getting him to use that powerful hind end of his. 

We started off just warming up over some cross rails. For the purpose of this lesson none of our fences were very high. I wish I could have gotten pictures of my lesson before when we were doing the gymnastic line. At the end we were jumping about 3'.
Loki is pretty much just cantering over this little cross rail and I'm slightly ahead. I don't know why but I actually find it harder to wait for these little jumps than I do for the big ones. Psychological maybe?
We started adding some width and you can see that even though his front is sloppy he is really starting to stretch his whole body and neck over the jump. I like my position in this photo.
Same jump at a different angle but Loki's knees are up and square, a little loose but this is such a little jump I am hopeful he will get them tighter as the fences get bigger.






In these next few photos my trainer widened our jump and placed a pole across it to make sure Loki didn't mistake it for a bounce. I'm not sure if I've ever jumped anything quite this wide before. It was maybe only an extra 6 inches but it really freaked me out at first. As you can tell from the pictures. 
Our first time over the wider oxer and you can tell that I've sort of gone into "fetal" mode. Instead of releasing I've taken back with my hands, bringing them to my chest in sort of a fetal position. Of all my bad habits this one bothers me the most. Luckily Loki is a very good boy who can forgive my occasional bad riding.
This was actually the third time over the wider jump. The second time was about the same as the first but you can see by this time Loki had figured out that there was most definitely some scary monster hiding out under this jump. After all his rider was freezing up every time he went over. He's not stupid!!
But he went ahead and tried to jump it anyways. Notice that I'm looking at the ground and have attempted to fling my body ahead in order to jump for Loki. Bad, bad bad!
Now we're both looking at the jump of death!
At first glance this might look okay but you can see that I am still trying to cling a little to my fetal position.
And the end result is a rail. We actually brought the whole back part of the fence down.

After that my trainer "yelled" (she doesn't really yell) at me and told me to get my shiz together. She sent me to jump a couple of easy fences to get us back in the rhythm and then told me that I needed to get over this jump and I was going to need to add some serious leg to the equation to make it happen. I chanted "Be aggressive, be-ee aggressive" up to the fence, put my leg on and this happened:
When in doubt add leg! I am still riding defensively and ideally should have my center of gravity a little more forward but I am actually releasing and we got it done and did it a couple more times after this all with the same results. We ended on that note

So my takeways are:

1. When in doubt add leg!! I'm not entirely certain how to keep myself from doing the fetal impression when something scares me but I know that is not a safe reaction. I'm very grateful for a horse that seems able to handle it, though, and the more we encounter these kinds of situations and push through the more trust I gain in him. I'm not sure if that works the other way around, though!

2. My position over fences has really come a long way. My leg is no longer swinging like a rusty gate caught in a strong wind. But, I need to continue to think about letting go with my knee so I don't get that hinge action. I also need to work on staying up in the saddle longer after the fence. After all, as someone, somewhere said a dropped rail is just as expensive in the back as it is in the front.

Overall I was pretty happy. We worked through something that intimidated us and came out stronger on the other side. 

I am really stoked for next show season. If we keep this up it could turn out to be a really great one!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lesson Photos: Flat Work

Here`s another thing to consider. There will be a pretty long period of time from when you start riding to when you begin to get much good at riding. If you let this reality beat you down, you may not slide through to the other side. So accept the struggle as part of the deal. Ignore criticism from those who may or may not have your best interests at heart, because even if they do, they don`t get it that you just need time and mileage. You can do this, and there`s no set time table. The best thing someone can say about you, especially right at this stage? "That girl has a lot of try in her."  Denny Emerson
 I don't know if you follow Denny Emerson or Tamarack Hill Farm on facebook but if you don't I highly recommend it. Denny always has some little nugget of truth to impart whether you want to hear it or not.

I am especially grateful for the above quote because it is so true and it is so true for such a long time. Even when you start to "get good" at this thing whether it be hunters or eventing or dressage or reining, etc there is always more to learn or something to improve. As I was looking through the photos of our lesson on Thursday I was reminded of this. There was a lot I liked but still plenty that I see that needs improvement. There are still those pesky bad habits that just refuse to surrender!

Here are a couple of my favorite shots:
Some of my takeaways:

1. I need to lengthen my stirrups more when working on the flat. I think this is mostly a lazy thing. I've just gotten out of the habit of doing it and it's more comfortable to ride with them short but I already have short legs. I need all the length I can get.

2. The canter still needs lots of work. I didn't include very many canter photos because most of them just were not that great, not horrible but just flat and long and/or inverted. I think more than anything we just need the miles, though. I think we are improving and he is getting stronger but I also need to get stronger. He is so big and so long that it is very easy for me to get pulled forward and off balance which doesn't help his balance either. I need to do a lot of work on strengthening my core.

3. Loki is behind the vertical in some of these photos. I don't think this is a "normal" thing for him but definitely something I want to be careful about. My trainer had me shortening and lengthening the trot while (trying to) maintaining the rhythm. Loki can still be difficult in his downward transitions and I find myself using more rein than I'd like. A friend has suggested that I try lifting the reins up when asking Loki to slow down instead of just pulling back. I tried that a bit tonight and while not an instant cure it did seem to help some so we will continue playing with it.

4. There is a lot that I Love here. Loki's shape is definitely changing, especially at the trot. He is starting to round and push from his hind end more. In a couple of the trot photos he looks very uphill and I think that we have a very good chance of doing well in the dressage if we keep it up.

I love riding! I absolutely love it. You can spend your lifetime, every hour of the day that you are awake riding and studying riding and there will still be something new to learn or something to improve. I feel like Loki and I are starting to sync. We are getting our communication sorted out to some degree. There is just no other feeling in the world than the silent communication between a horse and a rider!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Finally a Photographer!

I had a lesson yesterday and for once my husband was able to come out and take some photos. Okay not just some photos but over 1,000 pictures. Seriously! In times past I think I have been a little overly critical of my husband's equine photography skills. His motto now is if he snaps everything surely at least a few will turn out okay. What I've tried to explain time and time again is that it hasn't been his photography that has left me disappointed but rather myself and my position. I'm sure most of you know how that is.

After going through all 1,000+ photos there were very many that turned out great. There are still several that make me cringe but again it isn't b/c of Jay's skills as a photographer but rather the mistakes I can so clearly see in my riding. I have to say, though, I have come a long way.

Since there are so many photos I figured I will post my favorites over the course of a few days. Today I'll just start with the pre-riding photos.

This is one of my favorites. Jay said it is so nice that you've learned to smile. The thing is I always smile with my horses. I can't help it!
Any treats in your helmet, Mom?
Still lookin' for some cookies.
I put the flash on his bridle thinking that it would look better than having the flash attachment thingamajig on the bridle without it. But, I took it back off before I rode. I really dislike that thing. Loki does evade by opening his mouth sometimes and it is something I need to look into and figure out but I don't want to just avoid the issue by buckling his mouth shut. He doesn't do it all the time and actually it is when he is really on the aids that he doesn't do it so I am hoping that this will simply improve as we each figure out our jobs. Hopefully my hands will get lighter and Loki will get more accepting. Oh, and I know I could just cut off the flash attachment but that feels so wrong to me! It took over a year for my trainer to convince me to cut my leathers shorter so they weren't dangling so long. I'm weird, I know. 

And a little then and now comparison:
I'm 90% sure this is from our very first ride together before I even owned him.
He's definitely done some filling out especially in his neck and hindquarters. It's kind of funny to me how it makes his legs seem shorter.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Convention

The USEA yearly convention is going to be in Cincinnati this year which happens to be just a bit south of me.

I'm not sure where the idea came from although I've been told it originated with me (I truly don't remember that, but ok) but Friends of Ferdinand is going to have a booth at Convention. It is HIGHLY unlikely that we will make any money through this endeavor but our goal is to simply grow our name and hopefully grow our base of support.

Our main trainer is an avid eventer and the majority of our volunteers are also in the eventing world to some extent. This is the world that most of us know the best even though many of our horses end up being exceptional hunters or trail horses, etc. Convention moves areas every year. Last year it was in Colorado and next year it will be in Texas so it just seems to be the right time for us to do this.

And somehow I find myself in charge of this little adventure. It's already been a learning experience to say the least. I am both excited and a little nervous. More than anything I want us to make a good impression, get our name out there and hopefully find some horses good homes.

We are also going to be selling some t-shirts, stickers and a few other items. The front of the shirts will have our logo. If you haven't seen it before here it is:
The back of the shirts will have a design that was entirely created by me. I find myself a tad excited and more than a little embarrassed. Mostly I'm embarrassed because I am a complete and utter amateur who likes to dabble. This is not false modesty on my part. I have done a lot of dabbling in graphic design and art, mostly for my sister, but I've never really put anything I created out there for public viewing. It is quite intimidating! I'm afraid that "real" designers will scoff at my attempt. (Okay that sounds a little dramatic but hopefully you get the point, lol.) And I'm nervous because now if everyone ends up hating the shirts there will be no one to blame but me. Yikes! (The one advantage to me designing the shirts is we didn't have to pay me, so there is that.)

But I figured I'd give you guys the first glimpse of what the shirts will look like. We don't have a huge budget so colors were limited to only two and they both had to be light colors. Did you know that dark t-shirts cost $.50-$.75 more per shirt? I didn't but I do now. As well we couldn't afford to have a bunch of different styles so they are pretty much just your average t-shirt, nothing fitted or v-necked, etc. We did get a limited number of long sleeved shirts and hoodies, though.

Anyways here are the designs:
These are actual samples that we've gotten so far
We ordered mostly the blue design but some pink for those who want a little more flash.
This was my original design before I realized we had to limit ourselves to only two colors (in the design itself) and only light colored shirts
If you happen to be in the area and are coming to convention please stop by the FFI booth. I will be around the entire week. Convention is December 4th-8th. I think we are selling the t-shirts for $10 and I think we will have a few give-aways as well.

And, if anyone is interested I am thinking about snagging one of each size for a give away here on the blog.  So let me know if you'd be interested.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Where's The Fire?

Loki had another two days off due to my busy schedule. On Sunday we had some major storms come through. The tornado sirens actually went off for about fifteen minutes and we all hunkered down in the basement and watched Oz. Fortunately and thankfully nothing touched down in our area and everyone was safe and sound by Monday morning.

Horrible picture but that is all I got right now.
Our ride started pretty uneventfully with our usual warm-up walk around the trails. I wasn't sure if Loki had had any turnout on Sunday due to the storms so I decided to let him trot some. When I put my leg on Loki's response was "CHARGE! WHERE'S THE FIRE MOM, WHERE'S THE FIRE!" Seriously, it took me a good minute to convince him that there was no fire and yes, I really did want him to just trot. Once I got him settled I did let him have a quick gallop. That reaction is not like him at all so I think he really needed it.

Once we got that all sorted out we had another great ride. I swear it really is as though a light bulb has clicked on in his head. I feel like he is finally turning into a dressage horse. We got our right bend back so it was definitely the shots that were making him stiff before. My trainer has us doing this exercise where we trot down the quarter line and then do a half-circle towards the outside line. It has really helped Loki figure out how to stand up in his turns and get his hindquarters underneath him.
Cleaning up the extra hay on the floor before we head out. (Morning chores hadn't quite gotten done when we headed out this morning.)
In all we're still on the up and up. I'm supposed to have a lesson either Thursday or Friday and I'm hopeful that my husband will tag along this time and actually get some pictures and maybe even some video. Fingers crossed! both that he can attend and that Loki and I put in a good ride.
Mom, let's just stay here and eat instead of working!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Ears Have It (and contests)

This sort of ended up being a bit of a photo dump but oh well. :D  I went on a hack this afternoon and decided to take pictures of the trail that goes around our farm. It is so nice to have even if it is only maybe a mile long. We walked one loop, trotted one and cantered one loop. (We couldn't actually trot or canter the entire loop but where we could we did.) I'll let the photos do the talking.

Leaving the barn down the middle of the farm between the two sets of pastures

Between the pastures, railroad ties as practice jumps
Woods behind the farm
Still in the back of the farm
Winding around to the far side
You can't really tell from the pic but there is a significant hill on this side of the farm
Loki was looking at his buddies as we pass his pasture
Loki's pasture. Our fences are in need of some repairs

Sand arena up ahead
Sand arena
Looking up the hill from the sand arena with the main barn in the background as well as a very fun log to jump up and down hill
The main drive goes over a creek with this bridge and the front grass arena is ahead
Main drive and front arena (more fence in need of repair)
Between the front pasture and front grass arena
Beside front pasture
Front pasture. Buff and training barn visible behind the trees
Trail on the near side of the property

Back to the back side of the property
There is a small gap through this tree line here that leads to another loop we can ride on. Unfortunately it is too overgrown right now.
Back pasture with barns in the background
Letting Loki sneak a snack :)
Going back between pastures
Railroad ties from the other direction with barns in the background
Hope you enjoyed the tour. I am planning on having a project day in the spring to help spruce up our fences and fields. The property is really beautiful but it needs a lot of upkeep (like most farms).

**Update** There are 2 chances to win some scented saddle soap right now. Check out Equestrian at Hart and Slow and Steady. Don't miss out!