Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Goals

After this past weekend I have come up with three very specific goals to work on. Sometimes I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what I need to work on other than to just work on everything and just be a better rider in general. So it is kind of nice to have some very specific things to work on.

So here they are:

Goal #1

In some ways this is not exactly a new goal but it is most definitely a goal that I need to renew until I get it down. The goal is to use more leg. It's pretty much as simple as that. In my last post I mentioned that Loki's issue isn't necessarily that he is going too fast it is that he is unbalanced. Not all the time but often. Because being unbalanced feels a lot like being too fast and being out of control my natural instinct is to grab the reins and say WHOA BUDDY! SLOW THE HECK DOWN!!! (Disclaimer - I'm really talking about when we are riding over fences not on the flat.) And, as often is the case with riding, natural instincts can lead you to all kinds of wrong. I need more leg! I need more leg! I need more leg! I feel like if I say it often enough maybe I will start to GET IT! I mean I do get it in my head but when I'm riding there is just a short circuit somewhere between my head and my legs. The message just isn't getting down there consistently. I'm starting to understand how easy it is to ride from front to back instead of back to front. I mean of course it is easy to say and understand that you should ride your horse from the back to the front but it is a hell of a lot harder to do when you feel like your flying around out of control and your entire body is screaming to JUST SLOW DOWN!! But, I have to overcome this instinct somehow if we are ever going to improve.

Goal #2

In looking at my recent jumping photos I am noticing a major flaw in my position. (I'm sure there is more than one but for right now I'm focusing on this one.) That is, I don't fold over the jump, like ever. I have learned to jump very defensively which can certainly come in handy but when jumping a course with combinations and quick turns it can really get you into trouble. When I don't fold and follow Loki with my hands one of two things happen either a) I get pulled forward anyways, which means that my whole body comes forward and my center of gravity is pulled forward or b) I let the reins slip. This isn't always a bad thing, out on the XC course it can be very handy but if you do that during, say a 2-stride combination such as the one that we had the run out on, then you're going to have a tough time riding your horse through the combination... hmmmmmm. So anyways, I've got to learn to start folding, keeping my rear end and center of gravity firmly towards the back of the saddle while my arms and upper body go forward to follow the motion of the jump. I know I am capable of doing it. When I ride at home and I'm not nervous/stressed I do get pictures where I am following and it definitely makes for prettier pictures. So now I just need to get myself to do it even when I'm nervous/stressed. 

The above photo is a good example of when I get pulled forward instead of folding to follow the motion of the jump. Granted you don't need to fold much over this little cross rail but when I resist bending my entire body gets pulled forward and my hands end up braced on Loki's neck.
And here is an example of me letting the reins slip. (I do have to add that Goal #1 will help Goal #2 immensely. It's super hard to follow your horse when it feels like they are going to bury themselves in the ground!)
Right afterwards you can see just how long my reins are. If this had been a combination I would have been very hard pressed to keep us together. Sometimes letting the reins slip is very useful but I need to be able to do both no matter how nervous I am.

Goal #3

This is actually my favorite goal but also the one that will be the hardest. It is inspired by this picture of our FFI intern riding one of our FFI horses at both of their first event. 
Can you guess what my goal is based on the picture?

If you guessed SMILE MORE then congratulations you are absolutely correct. Oh my gosh I just love this picture. Both the rider and the mare were totally new to eventing and they had a less than perfect stadium round but look at them. They look like they are having the time of their lives! It makes me realize that THIS is what it should be all about. So my biggest goal is to make a conscious effort to smile more even while I'm riding even if things aren't going the way I want them to. Just smile dang it!
I am actually capable of smiling. I just have to think about it. In pretty much all of my riding pictures I have some sort of grimace on my face. Most of the time I am biting my lower lip which has become a habit. It makes me look like an old person who misplaced her dentures! That needs to stop!

So after not so much deliberation I sent my entry in for Midsouth Pony Club Rally. Am I insane to want to do this again? I'm honestly not sure. I'm hoping that now that we've got the first event over with I will be able to ride better. Having these goals to work on will also hopefully help. As well we are going to be trying some other bit combinations for XC so that we don't have to spend so much time fighting out on course and so that I can have the confidence to just let Loki be in between fences and know that when I ask him to come back I will get a response. We have about three weeks to get our act together. I hope we can do it.


  1. Sounds like good goals! Sometimes a horse show really helps me pinpoint what I need to work on... and knowing that I have another show coming up motivates me to work hard!!

  2. Great goals.

    You are getting left behind - like you said from riding defensively. If you get your jumping position ready from the first transition in the ring and hold it - you should be able to avoid getting left behind and you will naturally fold as your horse jumps the fence. Almost a feeling of standing in your stirrup but keeping your chest up. I have the same problem....old habits die hard!

    1. Yes, definitely left behind. It is much exaggerated at the show because my body kept saying "no way am I getting near that exit!" lol. Thanks for the comment. :)

  3. I started running again and doing lots of two points and I can feel it help with your goal #1... yesterday when I was riding, I was adding leg to the jump but waiting with my body (in my opinion, it's all about your ABS as breaks, but it's so, so hard...) and he was jumping great. It's a nice feeling, but takes so much fitness on the part of the rider!! I was thinking 'geez I hope we can have GAS this time - last time I didn't let him run - but still come back for the jump. So I set up this really small cross rail, got in my xc position, let him open up down the long side, and then focused on using my eat and minimal hand to get him to come to me and balance before the x rail. I thought it was a good exercise and one I plan to continue doing in prep for rally! Maybe out in the field some next!

    Also, at least your habit #2 is better than jumping up his neck, like I do, haha. Once you learn to relax I think you'll have a great jumping position. Part of the problem too is getting tense and "holding" the bit instead of take give take give. This was one I really struggle with... it's easy to "WOAH" and not let go and not even realize you're doing it! But then the horse will just take the bit and lean into it and not slow (especially a race horse). When they feel like they're charging, it's hard to 'give,' but it really is a leg, hand, abs to steady, give with hand, repeat thing that is super hard to implement into your brain! But I have faith you'll get it :)

    ugh everything I write is so long... anyway, can't wait to see you at rally! remember it's only his first event, don't be too hard on yourself. I bet a year from now you're going to look back and be AMAZED at all the progress!

    1. Lots of good points. Thanks!

      I'm really looking forward to Rally! I just got back from grooming for my trainer at May Daze and it was crazy busy but definitely made me want to get back in the saddle and try again!

  4. I really had a hard time folding over fences until I started jumping bigger. Now it is just coming more natural.. you will get it!

    1. I'm sure we'll get there, eventually! Thanks!

  5. They are great goals, Loki looks STUNNING in those photos! Such a stud!
    I can't wait to recap over your Greater Dayton posts, I've been so busy and missed reading where you and Loki are at. Calls for coffee and blog reading catch ups on a Sunday morning :)

  6. Okay, now I am caught up! What kind of globes were you wearing? I've definitely had slippage issues with some gloves, but my Neumann's tackified are great in any weather.

    Save the breeches. They are now your rain breeches. :-D

    Sounds like a really useful outing! Stuff that went well, other stuff to improve on, lots of perseverence in the face of suboptimal conditions, and a smile at the end. Good work!

    I feel so much solidarity with your goal #2 and your analysis of why it's a problem. I, uh, made it to Training before I realized that I was consistently slipping rein instead of actually releasing. The good news was, by that point I was really good at gathering the rein back up on landing! But it's a better skill to have as an option than as plan A.

    I found that the folding came pretty naturally once I started jumping bigger stuff; the horse just doesn't close your hip angle all that much at 2'6", you know? But I have now regressed and need to jump a million fences thinking about pushing my hips back and hands forward right along with you. Go, team. :)

    1. My gloves are just the cheepo heritage ones. I should probably invest in some nicer ones. :)

      The outing was useful and I'm definitely feeling ready to get back to training and start ironing more things out, thanks!

  7. (Also, the folding thing is a very eventer problem. No, it's not optimal, but it comes from a place of digging in and STAYING ON TOP OF THE HORSE NO MATTER WHAT. So y'know, fix the problem, but embrace the eventerism!)

  8. I actually have the opposite problem when approaching a giant crossrail- I lean too much! I think the most challenging piece of adjusting your jumping position is that position only really happens in split seconds- it can be hard to adjust something that's so quick! Good luck! I love your last goal- something I need to practice too!