Category Archives: jumping

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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Gary Mittleider Clinic

While his name may not be familiar with many of you outside of Idaho, Gary has been training and riding event horses for many years. His daughter, Sara Mittleider, has competed at Rolex and has found success with multiple horses that she rides and trains at her family’s farm.

But the reason I know the name, is that Gary is my trainer’s trainer.

And for some reason I eagerly signed up to take a jump lesson on my trainer’s horse with her trainer. Oh, and when the group list came out I realized I would be riding my trainer’s horse, with her trainer and she’d also be riding in the lesson. Just the 3 of us.

Recipe for disaster.

I decided to make it even more fun by riding another horse- a lesson horse the barn had just purchased who I had ridden about 4 times and jumped once. He’s probably jumped a handful of times in his life. I had no idea how he would be in the lesson.

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Deputy the adorable QH

Well, let me recap for you.

Gary set up a grid. Three poles set 9ft apart followed by a 2 stride gap, followed by 4 more poles set 9ft apart. The 4th pole would eventually become a jump. It was a canter cadence and balance exercise. The gap in between poles would encourage horses to get quick and on the forehand, the poles afterwards would remind you of the cadence you needed before the jump, and hopefully you hadn’t changed anything just because there were some poles missing… After the grid developed you would make a sweeping left hand turn to a skinny cross rail -riding as if there were still poles on the ground encouraging you to have an uphill, balanced ride.

It was a great exercise.

Deputy, the solid as a rock QH  did not disappoint. Once I gave him the support he needed he handled each question easily. Man is he fun. He’s forward but responsive. He did not want to pick up his left lead, so we worked on that. I mean me, we worked on me, and how I can help him with that. (Note to self, looking down and leaning inward does NOT help). He handled the grid so well, and while it took some effort on my part, I was really surprised it wasn’t more difficult.

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whee!

I’d happily ride him again and even entertained the idea of half leasing him. Then I remembered I am short on both time and money.

I hopped off Deputy and onto Macy.

Warm up was tense and reactive. Sarah and Gary eyed me from the middle of the arena and I was like “this is going to be bad”.

After warm up Gary mentioned that I just seemed to be making too much effort. It shouldn’t be this tough. He knows Macy well, and told me he knows she “likes to argue,” so we have to keep from having arguments with her.

We went through the grid a couple of times and he called me over. He changed my leg position. Less heel, more thigh. What? Sarah and I had been working so hard on me having an effective lower leg! What?? Why would I take it off now? He could sense my confusion and said “Don’t take it off, just test the temperature with it. Don’t use it as a brace.”

Huh. ok.

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My toe could be more forward here, but mare is looking pretty happy.

It was kind of like magic.  I had the best ride on Macy I have ever had. At one point I even said out loud that I was having fun.

No head tossing, no arguing, it was like I was riding a super capable horse without all the baggage.

Like magic.

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This is her usual tail position on the backside

I’m not sure if she was having a good day, or missed Gary, or was happy to be riding with her BFF Rapid, but the entire ride was great. Huh. Maybe, just maybe, I’m learning to ride this mare.

Here’s a short video of the grid:

While it has been more about Macy than June lately, that’s about to change. Baby has been settling in SO well and there’s lots to report. So, be prepared for baby horse spam soon.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  My 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.

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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.

 

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The Lesson That Never Ended

Alternate titles: The First Time I Fell Off Macy, Lessons within the Lesson, or, my favorite: The Sh*t Show

Tuesdays lesson was set up for disaster from the beginning. I had asked for a jump lesson and we decided days ago to go out into the new jump field and hop over some of the xc jumps that had recently been placed out there. I told Sarah I wanted to see what Macy was like jumping out in the open.

It was so windy. I mean so so so windy. I couldn’t keep the end of my reins from flying all around. But, because we are eventers, and because I am stubborn, I thought, “It’ll be fine, I need to practice jumping in a new place with less than ideal conditions. What will I do if it is windy at a show? I’m way too cheap (and proud) to scratch.”

That was MISTAKE #1.

Macy was on fire from the get go. I couldn’t hear a thing Sarah was screaming at me, so it looked like I was just ignoring her. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to know you are not doing what your instructor wants but you cannot hear her and change anything. On top of that, the beast you are riding is trying to gallop back to the barn and/or feels like she is about to EXPLODE internally.

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A moment that looked nice

Then, when I could actually hear Sarah, she was telling me to kick Macy forward, but it is petrifying to kick a horse forward (or do anything other than grip uncontrollably with every body part) a horse that you think is going to EXPLODE.  Or it is for me at least.

This was when I realized riding Macy, a hot unpredictable TB, was MISTAKE #2.

What I would have given to have the safety and comfort of Georgie. Instead, I felt like I was going to fall off, be reared off (she never reared, just felt like it) or shook off by her enormously strong neck. I DID sit up and ride and TRY to make things better, but in order to hear Sarah I had to lean in, or cock my head ever so perfectly, and that would throw everything out the window. We did this for about 30 minutes but it felt like eternity. I was miserable and wanted to just throw in the towel with the mare.

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I’m not smiling

But I didn’t. And my intelligent instructor decided that yes, we would jump, but we would work on relaxing the horse (and rider) by trotting jumps AWAY from the barn.  Before we get into that, I would like to share two classic quotes from Sarah that I was actually able to hear  during the lesson:

“Well now she’s just being sour. KICK HER!” (When Macy was running through her shoulder and essentially trying to tear back to the barn)

“No, that’s just what she does. She’s a bitch.” (When Macy was not listening to a thing I was asking and was dragging me around the field and I asked if I was doing something wrong.)

So, we started by jumping a small barrel thing. It went fine. I actually think we did  begin to relax. I was able to work on my position. On the backside of the jump I need to stay up out of the saddle, continue to let my elbows move and ignore her head tossing, bolting, crap.

We moved on to the next jump. It was a narrow coop with two standards that had wooden cutout  watermelons on them. At the beginning of the lesson, all the standards had blown over so Sarah put each upright as we went to the jump. Same routine for this one, trot to it, land and halt.

Great! We trotted to it and about 3 strides out, the standard blew over, towards us, and Macy came unglued.

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Do you see where my foot is??

And I landed on the ground. Totally fine. But on the ground.

Macy took off and after making sure I was ok Sarah said “She’ll probably gallop back to her pasture. We can go get her there.”

MISTAKE #3: Don’t ride a horse whose owner knows where they run to when they have dumped their rider.  😉

Got her, got on her and came back to the STUPID watermelon standard. I made Sarah stand there and hold it upright. We got over it. Not pretty, but together.

I then jumped this stupid jump like 6-7 more times. It went ok, but Macy was getting agitated on the back side and making it tough on me. It just wasn’t fun. At all.

I felt like we had been out there for hours, but the lesson was literally 50 minutes long start to finish. I’ve never been so miserable in a lesson to the point that it felt way longer than it was.

When we got back to the barn and out of the God forsaken wind I was able to process all that had happened. I really don’t care that I fell off. I’ve basically been waiting for that to happen and know it will again. But I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with the bullshit of the lesson. I hate spooky horses. I have a tough time with hot horses. Put them together and I’m clearly totally miserable.

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Looking sweet and innocent after the lesson

But then I realized that I’m completely starting over with Macy. Not only am I starting with a new horse, I am starting with a completely different kind of horse. And that isn’t going to come easily or without a serious learning curve. Do I want to take that on? Yesterday I wasn’t so sure.

Today the answer is yes. (Is this MISTAKE #4???)

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I do love this shot from the end of the lesson

I’ve already learned how to be a better rider in just the few weeks I have been riding Macy. I REALLY want to be able to ride a hot horse for the mere fact that it’s a great tool to have in my toolbelt in case of needing to problem solve for the future. But I want to do it on my terms. If its windy AF I don’t want to ride Macy in the wind in an open field when I KNOW she is going to be batsh*t crazy. I don’t have anything to prove with this mare (and she certainly has nothing to prove with me) and I’m not riding her so I can teach her a lesson or get her to be safe in situations like that. I’m riding her so I can learn from her. Safely. And see what might be fun to do with her. She’s not my forever horse, she is who she is, and hopefully with that arrangement I can still have a good time with her. Does that make sense? I guess in the end I feel like I need to change the way I look at my partnership with Macy and it may not fit into my normal plan. And I think that’s ok.

I’m still signed up for the recognized show in June, but honestly, if I get there and she is crazy, I’m not going to force myself to ride just because we are there and I paid for it. If I get to a lesson and she’s crazy, I may ask Sarah to hop on her and work her a bit for me. I just want to be safe and have fun. And I think it’s possible, and as I get to know Macy better, I think it will become easier.

So, that’s where I am today. And we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 😉

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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.

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