Thursday, 17 March 2011

Bumbling Along...

Saf has had a fairly easy time of it really. Well, an easy time for a Saffy anyway! She's been having quite a few days off because of work etc so she's been quite lively to work. I put a triple up on Saturday, starting as just poles on the ground. She was being a bit of a moose at first and having a hissy fit about being made to walk over poles. She soon settled though and began to work properly. We built it up to 1 jump, then 2, then the triple. I was quite nervous because I had jumped a triple the week before and managed to fall off. Although I wasn't hurt and I got straight back on, my stupid mind had been mulling over it and of course I'd decided that was going to happen every time I tried to jump a combination. Grrr. Good thing was though I had my friend with me who was shouting at me that Saf was more than capable etc. The daft thing is, I don't let my worries stop me from doing stuff, I just argue with the voices in my head! So it's good to have someone shouting louder than those voices. Needless to say, with more confident riding Saffy flew through the combination and we didn't have a single refusal.

After a couple of days off and some flatwork (to which she was completely disinterested...she was powering around the school in a lovely jumping canter..shame we were aiming for steady and dressage-y) I decided to put some canter poles out with one set of wings today. She was a star :) The canter poles took a couple of tries but she managed it perfectly once she remembered she had 4 legs. I put a piddly little cross up at the end of the line of poles and she wobbled her way upto it but, and it's a big but, didn't stop! We came round a few more times and it was much more stylish. I put it up to a straight and suddenly got nervous again. It wasn't big, but my mind was saying 'it's a straight, it looks different, she'll stop'.

About 4 strides out she backed off my leg. Suddenly everything went into slow motion. My mind was saying 'she's going to stop and try and jump it from a's too big for her to jump from a standstill without a massive'll fall off'. Somehow my body was functioning without my brain and I kicked her on and gave her a tap with the whip. Two strides out and she literally got the bit between her teeth and went 'mother, sod off and let me do it my way' and she flew it like an absolute pro. It felt amazing! My baby pony, sorting us both out. On landing I tried to say 'good girl' but it came out as a bit of a squeak. I was so happy :) We went over it a couple more times and she was foot perfect.

So now we have our transport (Mabel!) and she's showing me *she* can be (and wants to be if her flatwork performance was anything to go by!) a showjumper, even if I'm having confidence issues. I'm quite proud of myself for pushing myself through it though and I'm really looking forward to getting back to the level of confidence I had last summer.

Show season starts Sunday! Better pull the flatwork out of the bag :)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Lesson Number 3

So today was our 3rd lesson with eventer lady It was a lovely day and I was looking forward to it. I always seem to get good results in her lessons.

We started with an exercise on a circle where there was a little jump at 3 o'clock then a pole on the floor at 12, 6 and 9. We then progressed to have the same but with 'half' cross poles at 12 and 6 (as in, one wing one pole) to encourage her to land on the correct leg. We tried it a couple of times and she was really powering round and getting her striding spot on

The next exercise had the beginnings of a grid set up. On the right rein there was a big cross on one long side, coming round to a triple. There were 2 poles one stride apart then 2 strides to a small vertical. She went over that ok both reins but I really needed to focus on the quality of the canter. She flies them fine if I set her up right and push her on, otherwise she loses impulsion and jumps like I imagine a llama would

After a couple of goes over that the grid went up so there were 3 jumps rather than poles. On the right rein it was a straight and then 2 oxers. She went over it fine when I rode her forward. It felt great when she met every jump at the right stride We then changed the rein and changed the combination slightly.

It started with a cross, followed by an oxer then a vertical. As we came to it I felt her back off a few strides out. I sent her on but obviously not enough. She took a massive flyer over the first, sending me skywards. I should've sat up straight away, but my muscles don't respond all that quickly to brain commands I was tipped far too far forward so when she stopped at the 2nd I came off. Didn't do much damage, although I'm aching a bit now. I'll live! I got straight back on (with a bit of effort..legs had been replaced with jelly) and brought her back round to do it again. She stopped at the first I brought her back round again and pony club kicked as if my life depended on it She threw herself over the first, plodded to the 2nd and managed the 3rd. We were through it, but it wasn't pretty

So round we came again. Again she slowed and jumped it llama-style. I was pleased she was going down the line without trying to stop or run out, but it definitely wasn't glamorous. My instructor said to wait a few minutes, get our breath back and try again if I wanted. I didn't want to stop until we got it right! We got our breath back and got our quality canter going before popping the big cross on one long side. We carried on to the grid and although she went through it all in canter, it wasn't particularly fluid. I kept her going back over the cross and then to the grid again. I was ready for her this time (had only taken me 100 attempts ) and had her charging forward as if we were going into battle! She flew through the whole thing, foot perfect I felt like we'd just gone double clear at HOYS

So that was our lesson! I really enjoyed it and once again it's given us plenty to work on. In a way, I'm strangely glad I fell off. It wasn't dramatic and I wasn't particularly hurt (landed on the softest part of me ). I'm hoping it will help with my confidence. What am I scared of? Falling off apparently. But then, actually falling off isn't always too bad.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Typical Half-Term

Hmph. One day off and it's terrible weather. Luckily it had stopped raining by 5 and so I could have a ride, albeit very dull (the weather not the ride). We did some flatwork on Sunday and tried a few new moves. She's starting to understand shoulder in and is taking to walk pirhouettes and it was nice to experiment a bit. We did some work on medium/extended canter too, which she loves :) I'm really looking forward to doing some WH classes this season. I love feeling her accelerate when I push her on into gallop. Ahh hurry up summer!

Anyway today I put out some canter poles along one side of the school and 2 canter poles with a jump after them. She was getting in a bit of a muddle over the poles. She'd either fall back to trot or get disunited. Didn't help that she was more interested in everything else outside the arena! She managed it in the end though. I took her up to the poles and jump in trot and she stopped about 4 strides out. It wasn't a naughty stop, it was a 'hang on I need to have a look at this first' stop, but I was a bit disappointed because she'd been doing so well with no refusals recently. Not to worry too much though, she popped over it the 2nd time. We kept at it until she got her striding right and ended on a good note. She got all giddy at one point, so cute :)

She'll be having a day off tomorrow (had Monday and Tuesday off too, part-timer!) because I'm in uni til late but I should be able to have a ride during the day on Friday. I think I'll do some flat work again and practice our individual show. Haven't done that since the summer! Will keep working on shoulder-in too. She'll be jumping on Saturday hopefully because she's having a visitor so she'll be wanting to show off :)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Can we enter Badminton yet?

Had another lesson with Andrea on Monday. I had a very slow day at work today so spent a lot of time thinking of all the things that could go wrong in the lesson. Basically it boiled down to her refusing and me going over her head. As if that would signify the end of the world as we know it By the time I got to the yard I was nervous but very excited.

We started off with some canter poles in a line and a little cross pole. My main issue with Saffy jumping is that she has been stopping at 'new' jumps. Doesn't matter what they look like, if she hasn't been over it in that session she has generally been stopping. She doesn't do dirty stops as such, just stops and gawps at it waiting for the monster to pop out. Anyway today I trotted her up to the first jump and she went straight over it! Excellent!

RI then put the canter poles into a fan so I could stay on a circle, go over them (at 3 o'clock on a clock face) and then pop over the jump (at 9 o'clock..make sense?). We did that a few times and it felt great when I got the lines right. Saf has never done canter poles on a circle before but she handled them brilliantly.

I have been working on keeping my lower leg really far forward (I tend to bring it back) to work as an anchor and keep me upright. RI said it was a lot better than 2 weeks ago but still needed to be kept still. Will keep working on it! I did find having my ridiculously short stirrups helped a lot in terms of getting into a good jump position.

We did the canter poles (by now there was a jump at the end of the poles), round the cone to jump 1, back over 2 and then changed the rein over 3. We did that a few times on either rein, focussing on trying to get her to land on the correct lead. We managed fine over jump 1 but it all went a bit to pot over the poles She was still going over them and keeping the rhythm, which RI says is the most important thing at this stage.

To finish (it was an hour long lesson so we were both pretty tired by this point) we did a mini course, starting on the left rein. Saf was fantastic. I could tell she was tired, an hour jumping and cantering about is a lot for any horse, but she really went for it. She was stretching over jumps instead of the usual thing of chipping an extra stride in. It felt brilliant RI was really pleased with us and said we'd improved loads since our last lesson.

I was so chuffed I know we kept the jumps very small throughout but it really let us focus on getting the fundamentals down, which is only going to help us as the height builds. Perhaps most importantly, it's done my confidence the world of good. No refusals, no near falls, just a hell of a lot of fun

So, stuff to work on for the next fortnight:
- Keep lower legs forward and still, making sure knees are off saddle
- Introduce as wide a variety of jumps as possible - tyres, traffic cones, branches, water tray etc. Focus on keeping the rhythm and don't let her turn away from the jump if she stops.

Today (Saturday)

Saffy has had 3 days off this week so she was ready for a good ride this morning. I set up a course of 4 jumps in the outdoor, scattered about so I could ride some good combinations. It was raining so I had the massive arena to myself :) I had put some tyres under one of the jumps too, one of my aims for this fortnight.

We started off with a few nice playful spooks at...well nothing really. It's so nice to see her that lively. She wasn't being stupid, just kind of showing she feels well! I went over some canter poles I'd set out and she was great so I popped her over the first jump. This is where she usually either refuses or slows right down so she can check for lurking monsters. That didn't happen today, she just popped it! I took this as a good sign and turned her towards another. Pop! We managed the whole session without a single refusal. The did have a little look at the tyres but didn't stop.

She was just fantastic. I got off and put the jumps up so most were about 2ft-2ft6 and she bounded over them all. One big change today was that I didn't put any placing poles out, which is something I've been doing for a while to get her used to correct striding. The difference from a few weeks ago was amazing. She met more jumps on a good stride and those that she didn't she either stretched for it or put another small stride in. The thing I was most pleased with was that she altered her striding instead of coming back to trot, which is what she's always done until now. I've found counting her strides out loud really helps to drive her forward because I seem to ride more forward when I do that.

Next time I jump I'm going to try and get some bits and pieces to use as fillers etc. Now she's getting the rhythm under her belt I think it's time she got a bit braver and then we shouldn't have any problems in jumping classes this season. So excited :D

Saturday, 5 February 2011

We've been hibernating...

Or at least that's my excuse for not updating this since the summer :) A lot has happened since then! We finished our showing season winning both the novice working hunter and the upto 15.2hh WH. I was thrilled! We did some dressage the week after but it was a bit of a washout, literally! We tried our first novice but because of the abysmal weather and the fact her shoe was hanging off (only discovered this on leaving the arena!), we didn't do so well. Still, onwards and upwards!

We moved to the other side of Manchester and had a couple of lessons with a dressage rider. Unfortunately Saf didn't settle at the first yard as it was very small so we moved to a much bigger place. We both love it there so all is good! We've been doing some dressage competitions and getting lots of 2nd place rosettes. Would be great to finish the winter dressage series next weekend with a first place! We'll see. Our best score so far has been 68% so it would also be great to beat our personal best.

We've started having lessons with a brilliant eventer. We've only had one so far but it was great. I've got a couple of points to focus on:

- Do not let her refuse. Keep jumps small so if she stops she can do it from a standstill.
- Look up. Pick a point in the distance and focus on it instead of gawping at the jump.
- Shorten stirrups by 2 holes.
- Keep lower leg forward and heels down as an anchor.
- Keep arms loose at all times. Flap like a chicken if necessary :)

I had a jumping session on Saffy today in the rain. She was brilliant! I was trying to keep all those points in my mind. I was definitely looking up more and she jumped loads better when I did. I started off with them very small and the dozy pony stopped. I made her do it from a standstill and she did it but after a couple of goes we had demolished 2 of the 3 jumps :) I got off and told her she was taking the piss, put them back up and got back on again. We came around again and she went over them perfectly from trot :) We did the 'course' (only 3 jumps) in canter a couple of times then I got off and put them up. She was fine until we got to the jump on the diagonal when she stopped. It was too big to jump from a standstill (I think anyway..) so I turned her the opposite way to the way she wanted to go, gave her a sharp smack with my whip and turned her on quite a quick turn. She popped over it and got lots of praise :) She backed off coming upto the biggest jump but I kept my lower leg forward, sat back and wrapped my legs around her which resulted in a nice little pop. We did the mini course a couple of times, making it up to 6 jumps by repeating a couple. She was fantastic! A couple of times we even got all the striding right! Bless her she doesn't stop if she's on the wrong stride, just tends to chip one in, but she was really working hard today.

So overall, good session! Looking forward to our next lesson in a week's time. Possibly hacking out tomorrow if the weather's not too bad and then going to focus on dressage on Monday. She's having the back lady out on Tuesday so will probably need a couple of days off afterwards so will probably leave her until Friday and so a bit of dressage and pole work before the dressage competition on Saturday.

Roll on spring!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Solid Fences and Red Ribbons

I really should update this thing more. Aaaanyway, what have we done since the last update? August 1st was Urmston show again. I took her in the WH clear round (it took about half an hour to get her round last time!) and my god she was on form! She flew round the whole course, only slowing to look at the water tray, never once feeling like she might stop. I then had quite a wait until the novice WH class. I eventually went in and she flew round again like a pro :) We went in and did our individual show and she behaved very well. We haven't ever been able to practice our gallop because of lack of space but she still picked up quite well.

It was all I could do to stop myself from crying when we got pulled in 1st!!! Our first ridden first at a show! I knew WH would be a good class for her :) Going to do it again at the next show (22nd) and even going to attempt the 14hh-15hh class. The height shouldn't be an issue, she's definitely got a pop in her!

The 8th August brought a clear round competition at the Etherow centre. It was very low-key but thought I'd take her anyway to give her more exposure. She was fine in the weird indoor arena they have (very dark with whacking great columns everywhere, right next to a train track) but was a naughty madam refusing the mini warmup jump. To be fair to her I think it was all just a bit confusing. Hacking down, being indoors, then suddenly a jump appears infront of her. Once we got in the outdoor with the course we were fine. Very tight turns were in order because of the size of the arena but she coped very well. We got a clear in the 2ft3 and 2ft6 :) The 2ft6 felt very easy which was great. Once she's used to scarier fillers etc we'll be able to start entering some decent size SJ competitions hopefully. I've been trying her with a new water tray, just getting her walking over it. She has jumped over it (after a long time working up to it) but I just want her to be 100% comfortable with it.

This week's lesson involved me and Donna hacking over to Happy Hooves to have a XC lesson. I was nervous but very excited. Saf has been jumping brilliantly recently and I wanted to see how she'd be over xc fences so hopefully we'll be able to start eventing next year. Well, I think I've found her forte!! We started with a small pile of tyres which she dragged me to and flew over with about 2ft to spare. We ended up doing a tyre jump (2ft3ish), the bank, the jump on top of the bank, a house type thing, a keg jump and a red plastic wall. I'm really pleased we did the wall because we had a bit of a daft time at Urmston the first time with their wall. I do need to try her with my bale covers, the weirder the better!

So Saffy is just being amazing at the moment! I couldn't find a better horse if I scoured the country! This Sunday we're doing beginners WH at Mottram show. Would be great to get round clear. Next Sunday is the last Urmston show I'll be able to make it to this year, sad :( But will hopefully go out with a bang!!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Dressage and Schooling

We entered a dressage competition on Saturday, Prelim 1 and 7. Did prelim 7 first (I'd wanted prelim 1 as a warmup..grrr) and she went beautifully. Got a lot to work on in canter but the rest seemed to go quite smoothly. We ended up with 64.5%!! Our best mark yet and we came 3rd :) Very pleased as it was a strong class.

Prelim 1 didn't feel as good. She wasn't as in front of the leg as I'd have liked but she still went fairly nicely. We got 60% for that (no improvement on our mark from March but she's completely different now so just shows different judges!) and won!! Very pleased with my little dressage pone :) I think once our canter improves and she's moving forward properly we should be getting much better marks, maybe even 70%! We'll see :)

I started her on Allen & Page Hacking Mix on Friday night to give her a bit more oomph. I've worked up gradually and she's now on a scoop a day so I'll see if that helps. I was schooling her today in a Derby House Samber saddle (want!) and she went beautifully. Much more forward going and was working in an outline for the vast majority of the time. I loved it :) Jumping lesson tomorrow! I'm going to ask if we can do some scary fences in preparation for working hunter on Sunday :)