Category Archives: dressage

More Macy Chronicles

About 2 days into my unofficial lease of Macy I fell jumping her. We had some terrible rides after that, mainly as a result of me being nervous and tense. I told Sarah I wasn’t up for riding her on my own- it wasn’t helping anything, and wanted to try and only ride in lessons.

So, for the past 3 weeks or so, that’s what we have been doing. Having eyes on the ground that know this horse so well has been incredibly helpful, but also, at times, incredibly stressful. Sarah and I had a rather unpleasant lesson where Macy was a spook factory, churning them out at an incredible rate. Sarah eventually yelled at me that I was overreacting to the spook and making things worse. This turned into a back and forth of “well I’ve never ridden a spooky horse!” “well her spooks are an overreaction to nothing so what do you expect me to do?” “Really? put my leg on and get her to bend? That’s the answer??? I doubt it.”

IMG_5512

I appreciate when she goes like this

Weirdly it was the answer. And I don’t know if my handling the spook better has made our rides quite pleasant lately or Macy has just been in a good mood.

We’ve had some major aha dressage and jumping moments. Macy was a saint in our last jump lesson (of which I have zero media) and she proved once again that she will jump from anywhere, over anything, despite what I am doing on her back to make it more difficult for her.

IMG_5511

And this

She is such a different horse from any I have ridden. Yes, she’s a sensitive TB. But she’s also really opinionated. And you’re not going to change her. Lots of head tossing, which is distracting, but I worked really hard to keep my elbows supple.

When it started to thunder, then lightening, then rain, I figured we’d head in. But Sarah kept us jumping. And I was so nervous about the weather I wasn’t helping Macy at all. But, we kept at it, I worked on sitting up, shoulders back, sternum out, and we had a couple of lovely jumps before calling it a night.

Macy is definitely getting me to be a better rider. She can be aggravating as all hell, but when she’s good, she has a lot of wisdom to share and I really enjoy those moments.

IMG_5628

So, for now, it’s two lessons a week on her with me getting her out by lunging or round penning. It seems to be working for now, and we’ll continue to see what the future holds for this partnership.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Building Trust

Probably my favorite part about having Georgie was the trust we had. She was an easy horse to trust. I would joke that Georgie at her worst was often better than most horses at their best. She would pull some antics, but I could laugh them off, and not worry that they would affect the rest of our ride. I knew her so well, and trusted her so much that I felt invincible on her.

img_5326

And it wasn’t that she was perfect or ever put a foot out of place. In fact, Georgie had some serious opinions. She would rear if the dressage work got too tough. And she broke free and galloped off with me unable to catch her at least twice. (Once at an event, that was fun). She thought about running out at light colored fences. She thought there were demons in the north end of the arena during the winter.

But none of these things ever scared me, or made me nervous around her. Because I trusted her wholeheartedly. Like a toddler, I let her have her moment, and then asked her to behave again. And she always did. And I knew that she always would.

Sure she jumped with her eyes closed, but I still trusted her…

And that kind of trust, that kind of relationship, is what I am currently missing in my life and am struggling so much with.

I cannot wait to have Junebug and start the trust building. I can’t wait to work through issues together and figure out what her triggers are, what scares her, and work through it. I can’t wait to have a horse who I trust wholeheartedly, and know so well we can anticipate each others thoughts to every question. ┬áMy hope is that Junebug will be as trustworthy as Georgie was, and I realize it will take years to get there, but I am excited for the journey.

I’ve been lucky to ride quite a few horses since Georgie’s injury, and each have taught me so much. But because none of them are mine, and I’m not training any of them to be my partner, there is something missing with each and every one of them. And it makes my ride on them that much more difficult.

ditch-wall

I would have never done this with a horse I didn’t trust.

So enjoy your pony, and enjoy the trust building. It’s for sure the thing I miss the most. Well, that, and galloping cross country.

 

Tagged , , , ,

Our First Show Together

In the week leading up to the schooling show I was going to with Macy there was a big part of me that was nervous about how it was going to go. But there was also a smaller part of me that was like “eh, just stay on and try to have fun.” As the week wore on, I concentrated more on that smaller feeling until it basically took over my thoughts.

Our trip over was uneventful and Macy settled into her stall and was pretty well-behaved except when I was wrapping her for the night and she refused to stand still. There was a lot of cursing going on. Macy just isn’t the type of horse who is at all concerned about you and what you’re doing. If she wants to move she is going to move.

IMG_5168

Checking things out.

Dressage warm up was in a large grassy field which gave us plenty of space to stay away from other horses. She was mostly calm and relaxed and I felt like we would have a pretty good test. She stood still while we took video of Sarah’s ride and meandered over to the arena. I was like “Oh we’ve got this. This is the new Macy!”

We literally turned to enter the arena at A and Macy turned into a fire-breathing dragon. She cantered up centerline. She was so tense and was taking these teensy tiny trot steps as we approached our first 15 meter circle. I was completely caught off guard and was thinking “Wait, what is going on??” At about our first lengthen (we did the Training A test) I was like ” So THIS is what Sarah was talking about.”

I spent the rest of the test smiling and laughing while trying to get Macy to listen to me a little. Her head was above my shoulders during any transition and for the entire canter lengthen. Yeah, it was a shit show. But, whatever.

IMG_5162

I brought Stella and she and Smokey could have taught Macy a thing or two about relaxation

When I got over to Sarah she said “You stayed in the arena!” Which is what every instructor says when they have absolutely nothing else positive to say. We laughed about it and she gave me some advice and we have some things to work on (get her DEEP so she can’t pull that shit with her head!!) I feel like I got the true Macy dressage experience and I am going to be far better prepared for it next time.

My jump time was soon after dressage- I was doing 3′ since Macy hadn’t been jumping much. Warm up went ok… There was WAY more head tossing than there had been at home and I felt like Macy would suck back at the corner and then take off when we landed.

IMG_5167

But I wore my new lucky socks L gave me for secret Santa!! I love them!!

Luckily Sarah came over before I had to go over to the course and I asked her for pointers. Keep my elbows moving and have a plan for when I land. Don’t just do nothing. Great tips, and they helped. We had one final lovely jump before I headed over to the course.

So, no one I know actually watched my ride, but in my head, here’s how it went: Macy was ready to JUMP. She listened to my aids, I don’t remember a lot of head tossing, I let her go as fast as she wanted, I was uncomfortable with how fast we were going but didn’t feel unsafe, I dropped my hands a couple of times when we got in a little short to the jumps, but basically she was a rockstar and I had a lot of fun. A LOT of fun. I need to get more comfortable with her speed and power, but the nice thing about Macy is she knows her job and takes it seriously so I know she is going to take care of herself and since I’m on her back, will take care of me, too. Mare loves to jump. No jump faults but I forgot to wear my number so our time wasn’t recorded. I like to think we were in the ribbons ­čśë

18118879_1148122471960562_6302269364709300331_n

Some kind stranger snapped this photo of us!

So, it was fun. I had fun with Macy. We have a LOT to work on. Especially since Sarah and I agree that we can compete at a recognized show together. So, I got my entry in today, and hopefully we will be doing our first three day event together! This mare has already taught me so much, and I think that if I just keep an attitude that is laid back and eager to have fun, we should have a great season together.

Tagged , , , , ,

Keeping the Sanity

While I would love to give myself credit for how amazingly sane Macy has been acting lately, I don’t think that’s giving the full picture of what’s going on.

Sure, I think Macy tolerates me. Maybe even kinda likes me. She definitely likes that I let her get away with things Sarah NEVER let her get away with. And while I don’t always push her to her potential, or ask more and more of her, I do work her hard and expect her to work when I am on her back. Some days she is fine with that, most days in fact, but she does still let me know her opinions. But to be honest, her opinions have been far less dramatic recently, and today I rode her without draw reins. While I have ridden her without draw reins jumping, or hacking out, the thought of leaving them in the tack room for dressage seemed a bit risky.

But. She was perfect.

So, I’m going to give a shout out to some pharmaceuticals that I think are helping with her brain. And helping me enjoy this mare as much as I have.

Sarah has tried some calming supplements in the past. Nothing had really worked. In fact, the calming supplement from SmartPak “SmartCalm” made Macy even crazier. When she called SmartPak, they mentioned that yeah, that could happen in like 1% of horses. Oh Macy.

IMG_5139

Sarah telling Macy that if she doesn’t behave she’ll be getting draw reins again.

But something about having a baby and hormones changing seemed to make Macy more receptive to drugs.

IMG_5142

Macy on drugs that work

Sarah started her out on Regumate. It hadn’t worked in the past, but this time around it seemed to take the edge off. She was still a bit whackadoodle, but better. Because there was a positive difference, Sarah switched to the injectable regumate. There is some controversy over this drug, and how it affects horses, but so far Sarah is happy with it. And should it become banned from horses competing in recognized events we can deal with that.

Because what seems to have made the biggest difference is Quiessence.

36981_L_vvs_000

It’s like a miracle drug.

It has completely taken the edge off.

And while Macy will always be Macy, (today she wouldn’t let me groom her, so I had to let her gallop around for about 10 minutes) once she gets the ya yas out, she is ready to go to work. And doesn’t pull any of her crap. It’s not like being all wound up lasts for the entire lesson like it used to.

Um. Amazing wonder drug.

Now, we’re headed to a schooling show this weekend. And to be honest, I 100% expect Macy to be tense and slighty crazy. It’s who she is. But even if she is, the fact that I can enjoy her at home, safely, means the world to me.

So here’s to sanity for both of us, and enjoying the use of safe and legal pharmaceuticals!

Tagged , , , ,

Maybe Macy

For the past 2-3 weeks I’ve been riding Sarah’s former 2* horse, Macy. Macy is a legend at our barn. Yes, she was a successful 2* eventer with Sarah, and then went on to have an adorable baby when she retired. But, it’s more her personality that’s legendary. When I first started riding with Sarah I started to hear stories about Macy. How she would kill you if you looked at her wrong while cleaning her stall. How she would bite you if you brushed her. How one time, at one event, she got away from Sarah and took off. She somehow ended up with half her body underneath a horse trailer. The stories don’t end, and so I’ve always regarded Macy from a safe distance of about 10-20 feet away.

FullSizeRender (2)

Who, me?

When Macy came out of semi retirement a couple of years ago, Sarah let me ride her. The lesson started with Sarah screaming at me “DON’T TOUCH HER MOUTH!!” Lets just say the lesson didn’t go that well after that. I did end up riding Macy in a TOC show a couple of months later, but I didn’t touch her mouth, so we didn’t really wow the judge.

With her baby weaned, Sarah decided to bring Macy back into some light work since she was seemingly sound and just sitting around in the pasture. And then Georgie injured herself. So, now we’ve got a horseless rider, and an experienced event horse needing to be ridden. Perfect match, right?

Well. Sort of.

Remember how I said I don’t love the sensitive TB? Well, I wouldn’t say Macy is really sensitive, she’s more just crazy. When she is good, she’s amazing. But when she is bad, she is not fun AT ALL. I’ve now experienced both. I experienced bad Macy on my own, riding along in the indoor and she decided she was DONE. She does this really fun thing where she throws her head in the air and unseats you by using her incredibly strong neck. Or, she will throw her head/neck and start crow hopping. You can’t do anything but try to get your seat back and wait for it to be over. And then, it’s over, and you’re back to doing shoulder in, haunches in, and a bunch of other upper level movements.

So, in last night’s lesson, Sarah broke out the draw reins. She saw how much I struggled with Macy when I was riding her on her own, and she is sick of the mare pulling that shit. I’ve never ridden in draw reins, and didn’t even know Sarah had any, so we spent about 15 minutes just talking about how to use them (and how I shouldn’t use them unless they are needed) and why it will help when Macy pulls her head tossing, neck strength shenanigans.

Lets just say I was really glad I had them for our lesson. I spent about half the lesson with them loose and untouched. And then, she spooked at nothing and proceeded to unseat me and pull her head and neck out and wham, hit the draw reins. Her reaction lasted about a quarter what it had when I rode her without them. She pulled some more shit throughout the lesson, the worst freak out was when we asked her to lengthen. I am posting the video so you get a sense of what it’s like, but also want to say I take full responsibility for her being disgruntled. Um, I’m pulling back and asking her forward and┬áshe had nowhere to go. Look how unhappy she is before I even get to the diagonal. The second go around was lovely. But this was not fun.

At the end of the lesson we had schooled shoulder in, haunches in and lots of leg yield. Macy is an AMAZING teacher. I could actually do these movements with ease- I didn’t have to ask for much, she is sensitive to my aids, and once I realized less is more, we really had some nice moments.

IMG_4959

But we also had 4-5 freak out moments. And at the end of the lesson, as Sarah was putting poles away, Macy spooked at the sound of them hitting the ground. Because she has never seen or heard poles before. Grr. And when I say she spooked, it’s a real spook. Not a one leg movement. An entire body bolting movement. It’s just annoying. I feel like I can’t ever have her on a loose rein. We tried to do a stretchy chewy and this happened:

So, I don’t want to make it seem like everything Macy does is bad. Because again, we had some lovely moments. And some of it was really fun!

Like this haunches in work!

But at the end of the lesson, I said to Sarah that while I liked Macy, I was also kinda scared of her. Sarah said she completely understood. Obviously Macy isn’t a horse for me to purchase or ride forever. But she is an incredibly talented horse that I could learn a ton from and potentially even compete this summer. She’s also free and a great option for me while I wait for baby horse to grow up. So.. maybe Macy is going to be my next partner in crime, even if it is just to learn from and become a better rider from. One of Sarah’s students once said about their current horse “I think of this as a business deal. I’m going to learn from her, she’s going to learn from me.” (Or something like that) And I think that maybe I need to go into riding Macy like that. I don’t have to fall in love with her, I just need to have a partnership that works. As long as I feel safe, and Macy is having a little bit of fun, maybe we can make this work.

IMG_4960

Fun. I need to remember this should be fun.

I want to thank Sarah for trusting me enough to ride her beloved horse and for also understanding my feelings about her. It’s tough to ride your coach’s/best friend’s horse and then blog about it, but Sarah has been amazing, and so far has agreed with any concerns I have about Macy, and has supported me through all of it!

So, for now, lets see how this plays out!

Tagged , , , ,

TOC Dressage Show

This past weekend our barn hosted a Test of Choice dressage show. Since I’ve been riding Val pretty consistently, I decided to enter him. I wasn’t sure what test to enter (I wanted to do a trot lengthen but not canter- there’s a test for that, right?) and trainer Sarah suggested the new eventing Modified Test. I was excited to try out this new test, meant as a stepping stone for riders looking to make the move from Training to Prelim. I’ve obviously never ridden Val in a dressage show, or a dressage arena, and had no idea what to expect, so we decided to practice the test in our lesson earlier in the week.

#dressage #dutchwarmblood

His trot is way too cute

The test is very similar to the T3D test but is in a small arena, and I found it to be a bit easier it doesn’t have all the movements the T3D does, and it sets you up really nicely for all the movements. Things come up quickly and the first thing I realized when riding the test on Val was that I needed to prepare and ask for the next movement with much more time than I did on Georgie. In the lengthen canter especially. I really needed to half halt and insist that he come back to me.

img_4735

He also has a cute canter, now that I can ride it…

The test went pretty well. Val was relaxed and easy to ride. He knew his job and was a very good boy. In retrospect there are lots of things I would have liked to do better. He has a lovely trot lengthen (such a treat!) but I didn’t ask for much on our first go. I also could have kept my contact a bit more consistent throughout.

We had one flub going left in the canter he swapped leads. Argh. We have been struggling with this, but I did a bad job setting him up for the canter and using my body correctly to help him.

img_4737

His walk ain’t bad either…

I’ve only been riding Val a little over a month so I was proud of how we did, considering when I started riding him all we worked on was getting him fit enough to be able to do these movements. I’ve also found a dressage saddle that fits him (although the stirrups are bit long for me at the top hole) that I can borrow and it has made a difference in how I ride him and the ease of asking for things.

I’m super lucky to have this fun horse to ride. I decided to make his show name Valiant Effort for the day and it seemed to suit him well. I have lots more going on this week, some good, some not so good, but am excited to fill you in on all of it!

Tagged , , ,

Groundpoles

While I continue to wait for Georgie to recover, I’ve been continuing my fun with Val. The other day I decided to throw some groundpoles out and trot him over them, to help break up the monotony of dressaging.

img_4519

I have also been enjoying this view. At a walk

I threw them down and didn’t check the distance. I figured the point was for him to figure it out. Three poles, thrown down randomly.

We walked over them a couple times then came to them at a trot.

Val LEAPED over each and every one. Horse can JUMP. Sarah missed the whole thing so I yelled over to her “Did you just see that? Val jumped the groundpoles!” I was kind of laughing, kind of stunned.

Her answer? “He’s probably never seen a groundpole.” She was not surprised by his reaction to them at all.

img_4496

Hello. I am a handsome groundpole jumping champion

Wait. What the what? This horse is 14 years old, is schooling 3rd level dressage and has never seen a GROUNDPOLE? Now, I will never state that I know anything about training green horses. But I feel like, when you ARE training baby horses, you would maybe, perhaps, walk and trot them over groundpoles? I mean, again, I’ve never brought up a baby horse, but I thought that was part of Baby Horse 101.

According to Sarah, no, it’s not. At least in Baby Dressage Horse 101. Wow. I felt naive.

So, kindhearted Sarah came over and gave me a lesson in how to teach a horse about groundpoles. We set out 5 poles. In a systematic and repetitive distance (all I know is they were three of my feet apart) and then she had me walk over them. Pet him. Then trot him over them. I kept my posting consistent and used a half halt if I felt him quicken. He trotted over the poles easily and happily and got a big pat. We did this a few times and have done it again since with no issue.

13062488_593969027427622_9059156472640037160_n

I wonder how Val would handle this obstacle. We may have to find out…

Looks like Val will be doing a lot of groundpole work the next few days with the hope that when he sees one, just out and about, he doesn’t want to fly over it.

Horse has got hops though!

 

Tagged , , ,