I'm a web/graphic designer and photographer entrenched in the equestrian lifestyle. Since growing up on a horse breeding farm, I never left the Pony Princess phase, and currently, compete in the sport of Eventing (Equestrian Triathlon) as an Adult Amateur.
Jack and I had a CTJ lesson last week, and I think he has only now forgiven me since the occasion.
In that lesson, we were finally made to come to terms with his frame before the fence. This issue has come up a lot previously, because it’s Jack’s MO to lift his head and go hollow in front of the fence. As long as he approached the fence in a polite and steady manner, we tended to let it pass. But in coming back from his hiatus, Jack has been less predictable those last couple strides before the jump- either slowing down and losing power or racing towards the fence. And really the only thing consistent about it is his inconsistency. See the video below, where I try to keep him packaged but he runs through my aids as we get close to the jump.
Jump Lesson 11.08.18 - YouTube
It’s not all about where his head is before the fence, not just about how he looks and whether or not we make a pretty picture. It’s about him dropping his back before the fence when his head pops up, and as a result he can’t bascule over the fence as he should and can. If he can keep his back up all the way to take off, he will have a more effective jump and remain rideable through the entire approach. For these reasons, we need to install this basic concept in Jack – but I can tell it’s going to be hard won.
What’s difficult for me is that he is SO big and strong, and so wiggly. When I try to get him between my hand and legs before the fence, he escapes through a shoulder, or uses his neck against me – and no human is going to be strong enough to overpower and horse using their full strength in opposition.
So our lesson moved away from fences for the most part- instead making him stay low and soft over a ground pole, and let me tell you, this kicked off a battle of wills that Jack and I have not yet experiences with each other. We could be overbent but round and go over the pole, but if we were remotely straight the fight to stay soft became a war. He went sideways, he drew back to a jog, he threw his head from side to side, he tried to canter, or he went even more sideways.
When eventually we were able to ride the pole and stay consistent from front to back side of it, Holly let us try a small fence.
And guys, I have NEVER felt that before – he actually stayed soft right up until takeoff, and the bascule I felt under me was enlightening. I promptly dropped my reins and gave him all the pats and praises. And was just as promptly reminded to keep riding.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t repeat that success.
We spent the rest of the lesson riding the above pattern, and it was brutal. The fence was an 18″ crossrail, but you would have thought it was a Puissance fence the way he wanted to approach it. Let me tell you, my triceps were in agony by the end of the ride. We found an OK-ish place to stop and proceeded to have a long chat about next steps, all the while Jack standing with his head looking back at me with the biggest Fuck-you side eye I have ever seen from any horse. Even the carrot I gave him afterwards was eaten in ‘I wish this was your face’ stabbing angry bites. Ouch.
As it turns out, the above bit is our next step in the process. While I don’t like to rely on gadgets, I am simply not strong enough to ride through this. The hope is the gag action will stop him bracing against my hands, but we’ll still have the soft snaffle mouthpiece for all the moments when he’s a good boy.
Our next lesson is this weekend, so we’ll see how it goes!
Since my trainer is spending the winter amongst the palm trees and fancy ponies of Florida for the next several weeks, she made sure to give Jack and I a good butt kicking before departing.
Kate, trainer’s working student who is also in Florida
I love a good butt kicking.
No, really. Those are the best lessons.
We started out working on the length of stride within his trot, using my seat aid to collect or allow the stride. Sitting deeply = collected trot. Sitting more lightly and following with my hips = a larger more natural stride. While I feel like a sack of potatoes as I try to get my riding fitness back, Jack still appreciates being ridden off of the seat first. And trainer’s main point was that most horses prefer to be ridden off the seat (vs hands or legs), and while it might take slightly longer to achieve the same result from seat alone, it has a more lasting effect and is a more useful tool in the long run.
From there, we moved into canter work.
The canter is one of Jack’s best gaits, but he also naturally has a huge stride, and that can cause some balance and engagement issues. So we are working to make his canter smaller with the end goal of engaging his hind end more without causing the stride to become even bigger.
One of the tools we are using to create this effect is the counter canter. We worked on the idea of going from haunches in to renvers on a circle for a little bit (which sort of melts my brain a bit to think about – see below video). Changing the bend like this on the circle, while keeping the hind end really active will also help with his straightness – an issue we run into in jumping as well. So despite it being hella hard, there’s an added bonus that makes it worth it. I think?
Dressage lesson - canter exercise - YouTube
Other exercises that I have been asked to work on are more traditional counter canter exercises. Such as:
Pick up “wrong” lead on straight line and just canter down the long side of the arena then trot. After time start adding in corners (but not steep). Trainer thinks this will be easier for Jack
Pick up correct lead, change rein across diagonal then canter around short side on wrong lead.
The other part of the homework we’ve been given while she’s in Florida is to work on our walk-canter departs. Make them soft, small, and as boring as possible. Which is going to be hard, but hey, she’s gone for a long time so I’ll do my best!
We may pick up a lesson while she’s away with her trainer, who I’ve heard amazing things about. But that’s still up in the air. Until then, it’s canter bootcamp for Mr Yellow.
PS – if you want to follow along on my trainer’s Welly world adventures, you can follow her blog here!
So, one of the perks of being a Riding Warehouse ambassador is that I got a heads up on their Black Friday deals, which I get to share with all my lovely connections (AKA you guys!). But of course last night I went through their site and found items that I needed wanted.
At 25% off, and a $25 gift card already in my grabby hands, who could resist?
But I might have gone overboard.
A little. Actually, a lot.
All of these lovelies are mine, all mine! *insert cackle here*
Seriously though, at these deals… why not? Prices are rounded up to next dollar.
Roeckl Gloves (in this adorable yellow) $22
ECP Shaped Burgundy XC Pad (wanted one of these 4EVER) $34
Merino Wool Half Pad (mine is flat as a pancake and almost 2 decades old) $60
Eskadron Open Fronts in Chocolate (these puppies are $115 at Dover) FRONTS – $68
Eskadron Open Fronts HIND – $30
Dressage Whip in Navy (again, my current one is tatty as hell) – $7
WW Stable boots – $60 (Because pony does well with front stable boots and needs a hind pair)
Probios treats (just because) – $7
Bell boots x 2 – $5
Sound blocking ear bonnet – $21
OK, so a few of these are absolutely in the WANT category, but there’s plenty there that represents a well-overdue upgrade.
I’m afraid of what will happen if I see any more BF sales go on, so don’t mind me I’ll be over here like:
Though I totally encourage you to go check out the sale! RW will be announcing the sale officially at 1pm EST, so you get to see the deals before the rest of the world finds out!
Just so you know, I seriously contemplated calling this post “On Cloud 9 with a Turd Sandwich“. But that’s probably not the best SEO strategy in the world.
Thursday Jack and I headed over to the trainer’s, to finally jump some colored sticks after 6 months of being completely earthbound.
I expected the golden boy to come out in full spooky fashion, seeing as he hasn’t seen his shadow under lights in a long time, and you know, his tail is occasionally terrifying. But he wasn’t. Color me gobsmacked.
He was actually jumping so well, in fact that we moved past trotting 18″ and actually cantered fences and everything. See the below compilation of some of our finer moments:
Jump Lesson 11.08.18 - YouTube
And then the train started to come off the tracks. Jack got a little overambitious, dragging me to fences, one of which I wasn’t intending to jump. So, there’s that.
It took us some time to install brakes again and approach fences in a reasonable fashion, but luckily the video kept going:
Lesson 11.08.18 Installing Brakes - YouTube
We finished on a good note (not captured here as our videographer was cold and deserved to go home), and despite the naughtiness, I have to say:
These days, this is me. Well… actually in all truth, maybe it’s more like this:
But still, all the relevant information you need to know is here:
Basically, I was on my way back from Chicago when I got the news that Jack had lost his shoe Friday. Amazingly my farrier came out and tacked it back on Saturday morning, but without the pour-in pad since homie was due to be reshod anyways. Sunday when I finally saw my pony and hopped aboard, it was evident that he was lame. Like ouchy at the trot. He needed a trim, and new shoes, badly, but since his oh-so-special shoes were not in we had to wait.
Because in that time (meaning Monday to Friday the following week) my A team had to agree on what direction to go with his special fairy dust shoes, and then order them. Even with them being overnighted, Jack didn’t get shod until Friday- a whole 6.5 weeks into the shoe cycle, when he’s meant to go 4. EFFFFF.
Of course when he finally got shod, his soles were bruised and he was short up front. Jack’s got himself some sensitive little tootsies, y’all.
After a long diatribe to my vet about how even a week after being shod he still looks the teensiest bit short up front, I was told that it might take half a shoeing cycle to get back on track, since his going so long messed up all the mechanics of what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.
Jack’s super fancy shoes, and some mud.
So I might have just spent the equivalent of a clinic fee in farrier work, all for the pleasure of waiting for my horse’s feet to grow. Yes, first world problems, and yes, I’m whining about it. Judge me.
So that’s me. I’ve either been not here or not able to ride. My dreams of doing the Phillip Dutton clinic in December are likely crushed, and my hopes of jumping again are temporarily dashed.
At least there’s wine at the barn though… amirite?