Category Archives: cross country jumping

Considering History

Ask me 8 months ago if I thought I’d ever be singing the praises of Macy and I would have looked at you like you were crazy. But, Macy and I have certainly figured each other out. In a good way.

This weekend was our barn’s annual Halloween fun show. It included barrel racing, bareback jumping and regular jumper classes, you could do all of it in costume, which I clearly declined, seeing as I loathe Halloween. (I’m super fun, I swear.) Fun post of the show coming soon!

Anyway, despite not jumping Macy for a month or 6 weeks, and having ridden her 3-4 times in the last month, I thought I’d sign up for a couple 3’3 jumper classes. It’s my home barn, how bad could it be?

I brought Macy into the indoor arena and she immediately saw a ghost-  pulled back and proceeded to gallop around the arena. The thing is, she really did see a ghost. A horse dressed up as a ghost, sheet over his head and all.

I realized this show may be too much for her, but threw her out to gallop around and figured we would give this saddling thing one more shot.

Warm up was chaotic. No, it was crazy. There were first time show people, barrel racers, kids with parents and then like two of us, just trying to jump over the jumps in the middle of all of it for warm up. Macy was a rockstar and only bolted once, when her mom’s voice came over the very loud, very crackly, speakers, letting us know it was 10 minutes until start time.

She kept her shit together way better than I could have ever anticipated and we went into the jump arena with probably more confidence than ever, despite our lack of preparedness in the past month.

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Um, we kinda nailed it. Our rides werent flawless but they felt amazing and we walked away with a blue ribbon. I asked Sarah if I could enter her 3’6 and she paused, to which I said “No, no, it’s ok, we don’t need to push her that hard.”

But Sarah thought she’d actually love it and we agreed that I’d enter once and not do the jump off with tight turns should we get to that.

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She doesn’t care that my leg position is bascially non functional

It wasn’t as seamless and fluid as 3’3, but we got it done. And not a rail was dropped. Macy is still a fantastic and super fun jumper. And maybe even a tolerable horse in warm up these days. I totally get why she was Sarah’s heart horse despite her quirks and how difficult she can be. When she’s in that arena, she’s FUN. She’s the most fun horse I’ve ever jumped just because of her talent and experience. And this is her when she is far from her prime.

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Here she is at her prime. Going Intermediate for the first time, at Rebecca and ending up in first place.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Macy lately. Or rather, about Sarah and Macy. Macy was a homebred and Sarah has known her her entire life. Her hope was for Macy to one day be a prelim horse. But Macy exceeded everyone’s expectations as she climbed up the levels, making easy work of Intermediate and the 2* level. They were consistently in the top 5 at events, proving that eventing is not a dressage show. While Advanced was on the table, Sarah knew there was more work to be done to make sure they had a safe, confident ride at the level. And then one day, running cross country, Macy felt off.

She began to stop at fences.

And Sarah knew something was wrong.

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Macy at 1 day old! Those ears though!

A visit to the equine veterinary specialists confirmed her biggest fears. Macy had injured her stifle and her upper level days were behind her.

We’ve heard this story time and time again, and there really isn’t anything “special” about Macy’s story. But I’ve been thinking lately about how tough it must be to continue on after your once in a lifetime horse ends it’s career.

I didn’t have to bring Macy along. I didn’t teach her lead changes, or how to be straight, or how to do haunches in or pirouettes. I just get to enjoy all those things because of Sarah’s hard work with her. So, imagine getting to the point where jumping Intermediate jumps on the horse you have put so much work into is fun. And kinda easy, in the sense that your horse is prepared for it and can make light work of it. And how FINALLY you can enjoy your horse and get out of the minutia of training and do some of the more fun and “fancy” things. This is what you’ve been working towards for SO MANY YEARS. And this horse could be the one. The one that takes you to a level you’ll maybe never again achieve.

And then it’s over.

And she’s your only horse.

And because you chose to be an eventing trainer, you’re expected to move on. Find another horse and chase that upper level once again.

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Just flying around the Galway CCI**

But really, you just want to mourn for what you lost. You don’t want to have to start over. With the minutia. With the endless 20 meter circles and desperately trying to get your horse to come out of a corner straight. You don’t want to buy a “made” horse because you want the horse to be made by you. But really, deep down you don’t want to have to put those years back into training because it was finally fun. And thrilling. You just want that back.

In Sarah’s case it took her a while to find a new horse and get serious about it. And the horse she found is the polar opposite of Macy. (She saw the ghost at the show and was unfazed.) And it took Sarah a while to realize that it’s ok that the horse is nothing like Macy. She’s still a good horse. She’s still got talent and heart, two of the most important things.

I think it must be tough for Sarah to watch me ride her horse as an amateur who pulls on her mouth and bounces on her back. As someone who used to be so frightened around her and unable to get past that for many months in order to see what the horse is actually capable of.

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Look ma! From far away it looks like I know what I’m doing!

But I also know, that when she sees Macy make light of a 3’3 and 3’6 jumper course, despite the rider on her back not always seeing her distances, and sometimes riding backwards (it happens, I’m working on it…) I think it makes her happy. Happy that this talented, tough, mare, can have a second career.

And that it’s ok for both of them to move forward, even if they’re on different paths.

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And… We’re Done

While the title reflects my current mood, it may not accurately describe the future. Maybe. Hopefully.

In the beginning of this month I was raving about how much I was enjoying Macy and how amazing our jumper show and xc schooling went.

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This. This was so much fun

But if you have a horse you know that for every high there is a low.

When we got back from the show, Macy seemed off. She wasn’t eating or drinking well, and when the veterinarian was called to check her out, she confirmed that Macy had an impaction colic.

So many reasons why this could have happened, but what was most concerning was that this was Macy’s 2nd colic in 6 weeks. And this mare, who is 17, had only colicked once before in her entire life.

The thought was the colic was spurred on by her ulcers, which used to rear their ugly head quite often. Macy is on an NSAID which could have been inflaming her ulcers and causing her to colic. To add to it, I was an idiot and forgot to bring her ulcerguard when we traveled. So, when she was flemming and not eating well at the show, I passed it off as her being in heat and being too concerned about where Max was and not to her  feeling off. That still could have been the case, but considering she felt like crap when we got home, I think she was already beginning to colic.

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How do you know you’re in Idaho? There is an enormous Mormon temple behind you while xc schooling

So, we take her off the NSAIDS and give her some rest. She starts to feel great after about 3-4 days (we also took her off her grain and Quiessence, which I only knew had happened when I got on her and she was her old flightly self. She went right back on the Quiessence…)

And, as expected, she felt a bit uneven and unsound. Old mare needs her drugs to feel 100%. So we started her back on them and she started to feel looser and more even. And then, the following day, I took her for a walk down the driveway and she felt completely off on her front left. At the walk. When we went back into the barn and I began to untack her she was resistant to put weight on it. I checked the foot and everything looked ok. I asked Sarah to check her out the next day.

When Sarah went to go check her, leg was swollen and hot.

Now, Macy is old and a bit of a delicate TB flower. But she had just gotten a week off for a colic/ulcer issue, and now she was lame on a front leg- usually the stifle is what is the issue. And while I wanted to be like “give her a week off and we’ll see how she is” I have a recognized event in about 2 weeks. And closing day was the following day.

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I don’t think a good horsewoman would look at this horse, who is basically breaking down around us and say “eh, she’ll be fine to run her first Training event in 3 years.” I don’t think a good horsewoman would think “I REALLY want to go to this event so how can we patch her together to make it happen??”

And while I like to think I am a good horsewoman, I thought all of the above thoughts. And others. But then realized I am NOT a good horsewoman and I emailed the show secretary and scratched our entry.

I’m not sure Macy can withstand the level of work I am asking of her. I think she would happily jump anything I point her at, that’s the kind of horse she is, but it’s tough on her body and she’s starting to show her age, as well as why she was initially retired.

The biggest bummer for me, selfishly, is that I felt like I finally got her. I felt like she had made me such a better rider and we were now a team. I really liked Macy, if not loved her. I haven’t met a horse with such an amazing work ethic before.

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Now, we’re not sure what’s wrong with her front leg, but hopefully the vet will tell us that she still has some riding left in her. Sarah and I have both prematurely come to the conclusion that we need to take it a bit easier on her. If she hasn’t blown a suspensory (always imagine the worst, right?) we’ve discussed doing some dressage work on her for the future. Maybe no more jumping.

Since I scratched the event and was feeling down in the dumps, Sarah offered to give me a June lesson, maybe I could back her. I pulled June out, threw her in the round pen and went through our routine. Brought her into the indoor and began to brush her. That’s when I noticed a cut on her left front. Plus lots of swelling and heat. So…. I went and cold hosed her, gave her bute and wrapped her. So much for my consolation lesson.

Horses. It’s never a dull moment is it?

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Riding the Broke Horse

This past weekend was a bit of a test. How would Macy do at a schooling show? How would she do schooling xc at a new venue? My hope was, it would all go well, as I had just entered us in our first recognized event! If all went well this weekend, Macy and I would be trying our hand at Training come October.

At the show we entered in a 3’3 jumper round as well as a 3’3 jumper derby round. This jumper derby would be out on grass and along with stadium jumps there was a bank and a ditch. Any opportunity to get some more xc schooling! Plus, the derby had a cash prize for the winner!

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Getting show ready

Macy immediately went into heat when we unloaded from the trailer. She was IN LOVE with the gelding that traveled next to her. And while Max is quite handsome, her full on slut came out. It was kind of x-rated. But great news, while she is obnoxious on the ground when she is in heat, it doesn’t impact her game face.

Warm up was, you guessed it, tense and not fun. I ended up walking a LOT and jumped two jumps before heading over to the jump arena. We were working on being forward and getting a good rhythm. I felt like we accomplished that. But Macy still had 3 rails down which is SO uncharacteristic of her. Mare can jump. Rails were a sign I was doing something wrong. Quick chat with trainer Sarah, who agreed we could do another round, I just needed to keep her off of her forehand, ride more with my core.

Second round was amazeballs. No rails and it felt great. We got our distances, and had just an all around good round. Phew. I know how to ride this mare.

On to the derby round! Macy was awesome. We had a clear round and it felt great.

 

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Wheeeeee

She didn’t look at the ditch and she was a rockstar off the bank.

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Macy and I ended up winning the derby round. To be fair, we didn’t have much, (or any) competition, but still! We made it around without faults and it felt great.

The following day we went off to cross country. Macy was a champ. At first I rode tentatively. This is my MO. We loped around, without much purpose and got to a bank drop into water. And she stopped.

Macy doesn’t stop.

Until now.

Sarah called me over, and told me to ride way more forward and with way more purpose. So I did. And she flew into the water the next time. Good pony. Way to be the teacher Macy. I appreciate it.

The lesson went well from there on. I have a lot to work on. Macy does not. That’s the thing about a broke horse. This mare can teach me so much. There is nothing we will be jumping that she hasn’t seen a million times. There is nothing we will be jumping that will be a challenge for her. But, that doesn’t mean I  get to leave my 50% at home. If I don’t bring it, she won’t either. Or not for an entire course at least.

Macy is an older girl with an injury. We’re not sure how many jumps she has left in her so we try to get in, get it done, and call it a day. We decided to ride a prelim coffin line and while it went ok the first time, it only went ok because Macy is honest and will jump what I point her at. We tried it again, with me bringing my half, and it rode so well, and was so fun.

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Over the ditch, preparing for the SKINNY chevron

Here’s the video, with my enthusiastic yell at the end:

Ya’ll I am so lucky to be able to ride this horse. I know she’s quirky and a pain in the ass sometimes, but man she is so honest and can teach me so much. I’ll never have another broke horse like Macy. My hope is we can continue to move forward and I can continue to learn from her every time I am on her back.

Oh, and June is back in work post trailer incident as well! More on that, next!

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History

There has been much talk of history in the news lately. And while this is in no way a political blog, it’s tough for me to turn a blind eye to the atrocious acts that have been occurring in our country of late. I am embarrassed by our country’s leader and horrified that hate groups feel emboldened to come out of hiding. Our country has parts of its history that we shouldn’t be proud of, but instead of moving forward, we’re bringing the past into the present.

History is a tricky thing. You can’t erase it. But by living the present in the way you want the future to be, you can change the course of the past.  That made sense on my morning run, I hope it still does now, as well.

Macy has a storied past. You really can’t say her name around someone who knows her without getting some sort of story about her past. And while her event record on paper is quite flawless and speaks to the athlete she is, the entire picture of this horse is more than what you see by looking up her record on useventing.com

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Macy has a history of being a difficult horse. She’s quirky. She’s a pro ride. She doesn’t make it easy.  She’d spook and bolt and bite and kick and really wasn’t very pleasant to be around.

I got to hear all about this when I decided to start riding her this spring. And, as you can imagine, hearing the history of this horse made me feel a bit less than confident around her. And, as you can imagine, Macy took full advantage of this.

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Even Sarah couldn’t get Macy to listen to her

And we had our mishaps and frustrations and my confidence plummeted. To where I dreaded riding her. And dreaded having a lesson where Sarah would yell at me because I over reacted when Macy over reacted and the entire thing was a disaster.

So, I stepped back and essentially started over. I stopped riding Macy as if she were my next event horse. I had lessons that were completely at the walk. My attitude about riding her began to change. I slowly started to trust her more and more. I could sense when she was going to spook, or toss her head, and reacted appropriately and with minimal fuss. We moved on, instead of letting it overtake the lesson. I rolled my eyes when she wanted to bolt and made her get right back to work. I was over the behavior. But more in a motherly way than that of a scared child.

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And since then, Macy has begun to change the path of her history. She’s become a rideable, calm, enjoyable, dare I say it, fun, horse to be around. We have been having a fantastic time together. We went and schooled cross country and Sarah was essentially silent the entire time I was riding. She had a few pointers for me, and there were some laughable moments, but all in all, it was a great outing. Macy was calm and relaxed and so was I.  We haven’t had a bad ride in over a month, maybe two.

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I have my theories about why Macy is a changed mare, but they are theories. Sarah thinks it’s because I am riding her better, and am more confident, and that may be a (large) part of it. I think the other part is that a) it’s bloody hot and who wants to put in the effort to be bad? and more likely, b) Macy realizes she isn’t a 2* mare anymore and is ok with just plodding along. I honestly believe that so much of her past behavior came from a place of “I MUST BE AMPED UP WE ARE JUMPING BIG JUMPS AND GALLOPING FAST.” We haven’t done any of that together and I think she’s realized it’s a thing of the past. Her future is going to be all about galloping at a moderate pace over pretty insignificant jumps. And I think she’s ok with it. More than ok with it.

So, here’s to not letting history dictate our future. Enjoying the present and letting it be the guide of what our future holds.

 

 

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Cross Country Schooling

It’s been a year since I’ve galloped around xc. Ok, so not counting the Irish adventure. But still, a full year since Georgie and I went to Rebecca and did the T3D. And that was our last time on a xc course. So, the way things were going with Macy I figured I’d just skip xc this year, which saddened me and made me a bit panicky (would I remember how to ride xc??) but I realized it was reality.

But then one day, when Sarah asked, “Do you want to go school the local xc course on the 4th?” I blurted out “YES!” before thinking the entire thing through. I’d be riding Macy.

Eh, I can always bail or just watch others jump.

So, we went. And I was nervous, which made Macy spooky and me tense and stiff and it wasn’t a great warm up. When Sarah sent us out to do three logs we got them done and I was SO proud of myself. SO proud, in fact, that I said “I’m happy to do Beginner Novice stuff today, but maybe nothing bigger. ”

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She was so happy. And confused why I was messing with her so much

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Sarah wasn’t going to make this mare jump small logs all day.

I want to say that Macy was amazing. She was SUCH a good girl despite my inadequacies as a rider. She was so happy to be out there. Happy for the both of us, because I was still a stiff, leg off, backwards riding passenger. And while I hadn’t ridden xc in a year, she hadn’t been out in at least two years, so she had every right to be a hot mess. But she wasn’t. She stood quietly and waited our turn, and was as easygoing as I could have ever hoped for.

The beginning wasn’t pretty. But the fun group of women I was with cheered me on like I was running Rolex. I forced Macy into stopping a Novice jump. I gave her no leg, became completely unyielding in the rein and she was like “I gots nowhere to go!!” It was a kind stop that unravelled well before we got to the jump. After that I got better. But there was lots of room for improvement.

By the end though, we were actually having fun. We jumped what I would consider a Training line. Corner to corner four stride, then a little gallop to a down bank into water, through the water and 3 strides to a chevron.

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Whee!

Macy was awesome. I was ok. And together we got it done.

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Chevrons are no big deal…

I spent three years riding the same horse cross country, and it was so fun. But I didn’t learn nearly as much as I did in this one lesson with Macy. And maybe that’s not completely true. Maybe I learned a ton on Georgie which enabled me to ride a horse like Macy. She’s not easy, but she’s honest. And I love honest. It’s easy to ride honest. I just needed to learn to trust her and let her do her thing, while supporting her along the way.

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Loving her here

It was SO great to get back out there. Well, the last 30 minutes were great. The first 90 were a bit scary. For no reason. Macy is “hot” and “sensitive” but if I ignore the head tossing (which weirdly minimizes when I ride forward instead of backwards) it’s actually a ton of fun.

I’m actually adding a video. Again, remember, work in progress, it’s not like this is what I think is ideal…

It was a great way to spend the holiday and I can’t thank Sarah enough for continuing to let me ride her mare and pushing my comfort zone.

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Saying No To Your Dream Horse

I’ve hemmed and hawed about even writing this post. You see, I’ve been keeping a little secret from you all, and now that it’s all said and done I wasn’t sure I even needed to write about it. But, I will. Mostly because it will be cathartic to put it out into bloggerland and close this chapter.

When I let people know Georgie was injured and no longer competing with me, I got a lot of very sweet emails and lots of people reached out letting me know about possible horses for me.

What I didn’t expect, was for the folks in Ireland who I had ridden with, to contact me and see if it would be possible for me to purchase Buttons, the horse I had absolutely fallen in love with over there. (you can read about him here) At first I was like “yeah, right.” But the more we talked, the more I realized this could actually, amazingly, possibly, happen. They were being incredibly kind and generous and wanted Buttons in a good home, so were willing to work with me to see how we could make it happen. I started to freak out a little and imagined Buttons being here with me. OMG it would be a dream come true!!!

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Buttons. Look how happy I look!

What it all came down to was the cost of shipping him to the States. They agreed to look into it and they mentioned that without an agent, shipping costs could be drastically reduced.

I know nothing about the cost of shipping horses overseas, except that it wasn’t cheap. I decided to set a budget for myself so that I wouldn’t get carried away with getting Buttons if I really couldn’t afford it. At the top end of my budget, I could have the horse, and pay his board, but I wouldn’t have any money to compete or really take regular lessons for about a year. But, at that moment in time I didn’t care, because THIS WAS MY DREAM HORSE.

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More Buttons and I looking very happy together

So, we began working on looking into shipping costs. Unfortunately, the Shannon to Chicago route, which EN teased us with this past fall, never really took off. That would have been the far cheaper option, as Shannon was about 40 minutes from the barn Buttons was located at.  So, we’d have to haul the horse to Dublin and fly him to Chicago. Then, 3 days of quarantine. Then, I could drive 23 hours to go pick him up, and drive 23 hours home. This all sounded like it was NOT going to fit into my budget.

And it didn’t. Despite the folks at Dartfield working their pants off to get me a reasonable price, it was still far above my budget. The top end of my budget. Shipping horses can cost anywhere between $10-$20k I learned.

Yup. Let me break some of the steps down for you:

  1. Health cert, passport, blood work
  2. Transport to the airport
  3. Groom
  4. A shipping pallet is about 15k, and fits 3 horses. So, just to sit on the plane costs 5k per horse.
  5. Quarantine
  6. Transportation from airport home

Even with the most economical option we could find, and with people being incredibly generous, it would cost me $10k to get Buttons home.

I was now $7k over my stretched budget.

There was no way I could make this work, even with both the shipper and the seller offering to take payments.  I’d be paying this horse off for over a year, and literally doing nothing but paying off the horse. Like, I would be sweating every single payment and trying to make it work. Yeah. No. Can’t justify that.

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So, I called Sarah just to make sure I was making the right decision and she agreed. Goodbye Buttons.

The folks at Dartfield  were so amazingly nice and tried so hard to make this work out. I felt horrible having to tell them no, after how much work they put into it.

So, the last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. From EXCITED to sad to EXCITED to sad. I almost felt a sense of relief when I sent the final “I’m sorry I can’t make it work” email. As sad as I was, I knew I could move on and not set my hopes on this horse any longer.

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Maybe one day I’ll get my dream Irish horse. Maybe not. I can’t live in the “maybe” and it’s so not my personality to dwell.

With Buttons behind me, I’m ready to move on to the next option. I’m really, really, excited about a baby I am going to check out next week. She’s not Irish, but she has a great pedigree and I think she could be a great fit for me. As I said to Sarah when I was weighing the options of Buttons or this baby horse , neither is a bad option. I’d be lucky to have either, despite how different they are. So, even though I am down to the one option, instead of two, I think this one can make me equally as happy and make it much easier for me financially. And if baby horse is the option I go with, I’m also looking into options to keep riding and even competing this season, as that has been the hardest part for me- not having something to consistently hop on.

So many options! I’ll keep you posted as they go from options to decisions.

 

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Winter Work Commences

For those of us in the frigid part of the world, winter is a time to step back and reevaluate how things are going. There are no upcoming events unless a haul to a warmer climate is happening, and so we get to take this time to work on holes in our training, and work on becoming more solid riders. I look at winter as a solid 5 months of indoor arena time. And for me that means practice, practice practice.

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This please.

You better believe that while I am trotting in endless circles in the indoor I’m dreaming of being back out on our beautiful trails. Or that when my coach tells me to gallop to a fence I pretend we are galloping on grass somewhere in Oregon, or Montana. But for now it’s a lot of dreaming. And getting my butt kicked in lessons.

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Also, still on the hunt for a new one of these. Update blog to come….

We’ve had some great jump and dressage lessons. In our dressage, we have been working on straightness in the walk to canter, or counter canter, transition. It sounds kinda boring, but it is SO fun. Seriously. Really hard work, but I love it. Georgie and I have gone from haunches out and me pulling her head one way in order to get a transition, to working on and almost always getting a transition that is straight without much use of my hands. I can pretty reliably ask for counter canter on a straight line with just my seat. Lots more homework, but its been great. The one loops in the Prelim dressage tests will seem easy compared to this work.

Our jump lessons have been fun and challenging as well. In our most recent lesson we worked on seeing our distance. I can see my distance from 3 strides out pretty consistently. But Sarah bumped it up a notch or two for this lesson.

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We started with a ground pole and would say “1” when we were a stride out. Then 1,2, then 1,2, 3 and so on. All the way to 8 strides out. Which was around a corner. I never ever thought I would get this.  And then it became a 2’3 jump. And then a 2’9 jump. And lastly a 3’3 or so jump. As the jump got bigger the strides changed a bit and I had to account for that. But all in all, it went pretty well. I learned that I had to have a good corner (duh), keep things consistent, and a couple of times I saw a different distance than Georgie may have, but I could easily and safely ask her to jump from my distance, and did! Sure, I shortened her a couple of times too, which was cheating, but all in all I was pleased with how it went and how not only could I see my distances, but could do something about them as well!

Here’s a video of what it looked like: 

The exercise was one I can easily do on my own as well, and keep practicing. I struggle to jump when I am by myself, but this one I think I would feel safe doing as the jump can really be at any height. (Am I the ony one who thinks they will die when jumping alone despite having jumped crazy ass things alone as a kid?)

I guess I’m looking forward to more winter work, but really we all know it’s so we can get out and enjoy those events!

 

 

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