Wednesday, 17 June 2015

XC & Dressage Clinic with Becky Lee and Janet Adams Day 1

So originally my mom was going to come watch this clinic but the opportunity came up for her to go to a Mounted Shooting practice and competition so she bailed on us.  I can't blame her, given the choice between watching someone else and riding my own horse I will almost always choose my horse. Unfortunately this means there is very little media from the weekend.  Which kinda sucks because Dee and I were on point!
Enjoy the handgrazing photos, it's all I got from Saturday

The schedule of riders changed very last minute so on Day 1 I was in a group with a couple of Entry riders and one Pre-Training rider.  This was actually ideal for us as we will be starting the season at Entry and quickly moving up to Pre-Training/Novice (our move up event is Rebecca Farm). Pre-injury the plan had been Pre-Training all year but since we had over 4 months off jumping my coach and I decided I should run the first two events at Entry in order to preserve my confidence (and Dee's old lady legs). The concern is that if I have a bad go at either Cochrane or Thompson then my confidence will be in shatters for Rebecca Farm.  My entire goal for the year is Rebecca Farm (I've gone for the past 5 years as a groom, dammit I want tot RIDE!).

The XC course and ring we would have dressage in are at the top of the hill and the barns are down near the bottom.  It's a mile trek up the hill to ride so it served as a good warmup.

Becky had us start out our warmup over a tiny log and really work at not getting ahead of our horses. For me, this was the entire theme of the weekend. We schooled all the fences in that area, which meant schooling a steep downhill turn. She had us really focus on keeping our horses underneath us and keeping their poll as the highest point.  Dee swapped leads the entire way down the hill but maintained a really solid rhythm and stayed under me exceptionally well (for the horse who loves leaning in like a barrel horse).  Becky said not to worry about the lead, that it is my responsibility to get us to the fence, and hers to figure out her legs.

We then moved onto schooling the ditches.  As expected Dee was a rockstar and lead the two greener horses over. We then schooled the little half coffin (a tiny rolltop to a fairly wide ditch) and then cantered up a hill to our choice of jumps.  The first time I took the Entry option.  On our next go Becky suggested I take the picture frame. From the distance it looked like it might be Pre-Training so I said sure. We cantered up to it and it got bigger, and then the grass was really long in front of it.  Turns out it's a smallish Prelim jump!!! We were maybe 20 minutes into our second foray XC this year. Dee sailed right over it, but I felt like we were in the air forever. My pony sure remains the best pony.

Spider hates everybody, except Dee apparently
Next we moved to the back complex and schooled up and down the bank a ton (Dee was the only one who got it right every time, everyone else was getting really sketchy distances). The bank is set in the side of a bit of a valley so to get at it you after canter down a hill while turning to go back up the hill to the bank. Since the footing was wet but firm I was really glad to have corks for that section. After everyone figured out the banks we cantered up the bank and then I had a super tight 90 degree right turn to a giant log and then another tight turn to the left (which rode like an S it was so tight) to a big galloping Pre-Training coop. The whole way Becky was telling me I needed more pace, I felt like we were really moving but apparently it was really a leisurely Sunday hack pace. I guess I get to set up some distances and relearn speeds on Dee, I've always ridden really big moving horses so this is a huge change.

We finished up at the water complex. I opted not to get our feet wet before starting since I know Dee is good about water and I wanted to ensure that remained the same mid XC course. Turns out Best Pony couldn't care less. We jumped a Pre-Training ramp at an angle of our choosing and made a tight turn to the banks. There is was up-two strides-down and then a short gallop to a table, a hairpin turn back to the water, canter into the water, turn 90 degrees and jump up the bank out of the water and then another hairpin turn to a galloping Pre-Training fence.  I chose a fairly steep angle, just to see if we could and it sure enough we can. After that it rode really well despite Dee cross-firing about half the course. I was really happy to end there. I couldn't ask for a better horse.

EM doing lunges while handgrazing. I nearly fell over laughing when I turned around to this.
Later in the afternoon I had a semi-private dressage lesson with Janet. I really enjoyed it. She had Dee pegged within seconds. We spent most of our lesson on a 20m circle and we actually had a few trot circles at one pace and with Dee stretching her neck. To achieve this I had to be really conscious of where her shoulders were, keeping them from drifting out on the right and actually making her turn them to the left. This transferred right into our canter and Janet actually commented that Dee has a really lovely canter. Unfortunately at this point a storm had started to roll in.  It started to pour and within minutes we had pea-sized hail. I decided that I was happy with our canter work and was calling it quits rather than trying to wait it out. This turned out to be the right choice as it started to thunder very impressively when I was half way back to the barn.

Despite the rain, it was a really good day with a lot of learning and a whole bunch of confidence building.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Weekend Recap, Part 1

I love my horse!  We had a fabulous weekend that included Dee's first ever foray into sidesaddle and a XC clinic that saw us schooling mostly training. 
The weekend started with me having Friday off (I actually don't work a Friday until August) and hauling out to a friends place to see if her spare sidesaddle would fit Dee. With a little adjustment and the girths on all the last holes it was actually a decent fit. Dee took to it like a duck to water. WTC was no biggie, so Jacky set up a few small cross rails.  When that went well she changed them to small(ish) verticals. Never has a 2'3" jump been quite so intimidating, but we never had any dicey moments. My equitation left a whole lot to be desired but it was a ton of fun. 

Dee looks less than impressed here

Sidesaddle really requires you to have impeccable posture.  You must sit up tall and sit straight in the saddle, no twisting. I have trouble keeping my right side back even astride, so aside is even more challenging. I feel so elegant and ladylike when I get it right. I'm looking forward to the sidesaddle clinic in August, I could really use some help to improve my position.


Since I was having so much fun and my core muscles weren't screaming, Jacky and I even hacked out aside. All in all I rode for the better part of 2 hours and I was hardly sore.  All the gym time is starting to pay off.
Sadly, my Annie's breeches wore right through (after less than a dozen wears) and I was mooning everyone after the sidesaddle jaunt

We then headed back to the barn for a quick bath and EM and I loaded all our gear and horse and hit the road for Cochrane. We had a fairly uneventful drive down, until we hit the big hill down into Cochrane.  This hill is fairly intense (remembering it's in the foothills of the Rockies, we're used to hills) at just over 2 miles with an elevation change of just over 400ft. Turns out my trailer brake controller completely gave up the ghost. By the time we got the the bottom of the hill you could smell my brakes.  Thankfully, they are relatively new brakes and other than some excessive wear seem to be fine. My new trailer brake controller should be here this week.

Dee's now a BoT model: mesh sheet, no bows and bell boots

The rest of the evening passed quickly with no surprises as we got the ponies settled in and then we headed to a friends house for the night.  I managed to drink half a bottle of wine and consume basically my body weight in pretzels before we managed to get off to bed.

Spider striking his model pose

Next up? XC!!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Clinic Time

Best Pony and I are off to a clinic in Cochrane with buddies EM and Spider.  Wish us luck!

In the meantime, we got our pro photos from the endurance ride a few weeks ago.

This was probably about 6 miles in, Dee and Snappy still were convinced that zoom was the only acceptable pace

L is only 10 and her pony is 5, combined they have less experience than Dee (and while Dee was good, they were great!)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Best Pony Has Nicer Stuff Than Me

So while I am in the midst of trying to clamp down on spending, since we are in the process of buying an acreage (if we ever find one we can agree on), I have made some purchases recently that I feel zero guilt about. (Who am I kidding, tack purchases never make me feel guilty)

I love shipping things to work, I get to take time out of my day to play grabby hands!

First off, PS of Sweden had one of the bridles I've been eyeing up in their outlet.  It was so reduced it was practically begging me to buy it. So Dee now has a beautiful brown Flying Change bridle. The nose band is a little stiff so it fits a little funny right now, but as it break in I am sure it will be fabulous! The only weird thing is the throatlatch I ordered has no holes in it.  Has anyone else ordered one? Is this normal, do I just punch holes in it? Now the hunt is on for a brown dressage saddle!
It's so snazzy!

A while ago, I ordered some stuff from Beka.  She was super awesome and let me order some things I'd seen her do but weren't in her store. Because Canada Post moves at the speed of a glacier I just got my package yesterday.

It was completely worth the wait! And the timing actually worked out well. I got it just in time to use my new "Good Juju" charm for our first XC school of the year. And it worked, we couldn't have had a better ride. I knew I wanted a white skull but that was it, so I told Beka that the rest was dealers choice.  I love how it came out, with the teal bead and the stamped tag. This will live on my jump bridle from now on.  I can use all the help I can get.

I also ordered another "Best Pony" tag for her halter since I lost the one Beka had originally made for me (Two Pointober winnings!). A "Courage In The Middle" bracelet and a set of tags for my field boots rounded out my order. I can't recommend Straight Shot Metal Smashing enough. Beka is a joy to deal with. Since her Etsy store isn't set up to ship to Canada and I ordered items not on her store we communicated via email and she was quick to respond, super helpful and gave me many options I didn't even think of.

I also got a few extras in my pacakage. One of the extras is her signature bracelet with the horse shoe. I LOVE IT.  I've been wearing it for only half a day and I've had multiple compliments on it.  It's perfect for me to wear to work.

I also got a key chain that I will be using as a halter tag for the #littleasshole. Seriously though folks, Beka is the best, go visit her store and buy it all!
How perfect are these?!?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Eventers do Endurance

This weekend saw Dee return to competition. Since we have just been cleared to start jumping it was not an event or even a jumper show.  Nope, we attended our first endurance ride with my friend Julie and her daughter Laurel. Since I've never done this before (and neither had Julie), Dee is returning from an injury, and it was located in the Devon river valley (extremely hilly) I decided that we should just do the fun ride rather than the 25 mile. The fun ride was only one 12 mile loop.

I love eventing, but if I ever get to the point where I no longer feel the passion or desire to continue I will transition to endurance. That's how much fun it was!

The ride was incredibly well organized and everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful. The organizers had appointed one person as the liaison for the 12 milers. She was awesome, she walked us through the whole process and was always around to answer questions.

We registered and then vetted in. The vet actually commented on how nice it was to have one of the fun ride horses stand still. We vetted in with all A's and got a very enthusiastic "good luck" from the vet.

We still look like eventers :)

We decided to head out with the first group since Julie's horse doesn't handle standing around and waiting very well. We stuck to the back of the pack and held back after the first mile. All 3 horses were raring to go but manageable.

Smiles all the way around

About halfway through the ride someone rode right up Laurel's butt (we never heard them call out, we would have stopped and waited for them to pass), spooking her young pony. Her pony bolted into Julie's horse, who bolted into Dee. Thankfully Dee is Best Pony and she basically ignored them.  They both were getting there horses under control while the pair who caused the incident just kept trucking along past us. Irritating but manageable.

Shortly after this we caught up with another pair of 12 milers right before Suicide Hill (it's steep, but not nearly as bad as the name makes it sound). We waited until they were half way down the hill before we started down. Their lead horse kept stopping and refusing to go, so we ended up asking to pass. Apparently they thought it would be a great idea to use us as a lead down the hill and promptly put their horse's nose into Laurel's pony's tail. Poor pony had had enough of that nonsense and kicked. Thankfully she did not connect when she kicked but we got a lecture about red ribbons at the bottom of the trail. In an effort to be polite we just smiled and nodded.

They passed us again and we shortly arrived at a very long, steep hill. Once again we waited until they had a head start before starting up.  Once again their horse kept quitting part of the way up so we caught up to them around one of the bends. In a seriously irritating move they then told us that our horses were puffing way too hard and we should take a break.  There was absolutely no where to stop safely and comfortably until you were at the top. Our horses were puffing, but not to an extent I was worried. Hills are not something we have around our place so we don't get to do much hill work. So once again, I just smiled and nodded.

We took a short break for the horses to catch their breaths at the top of the hill and then continued on. We caught up to the pair again, passed them and thankfully didn't see them again.

The rest of the ride passed without incident and all 3 horses pulsed down quickly. We ended up completing in just over 2 hours. We vetted out with all A's again, thanked the volunteers, scarfed down some delicious cookies that were provided and were on our way home.

Despite a few small irritants it was possibly one of the funnest rides in a long time. On the way out and on the way in we passed a bunch of longer distance riders and every single one wished us luck or asked us how it went. I'd go back in a heartbeat.  And do the 25 mile.

*Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get the grease crayon number off Dee's butt? She's had a bath, been groomed and nothing is making a difference*