Tag Archives: horseback riding

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.

IMG_6027

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.

IMG_6026

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.

IMG_6029

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.

IMG_6028

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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. ”

IMG_5943

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.

IMG_5946

Whee!

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

IMG_5947

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.

IMG_5945

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.

Tagged , , , ,

Learning From Each

So much to report on and I don’t know where to start. I had wanted to do a full recap on Aspen Farms HT but I think it will have to wait.

Instead, I’ll give a recap on some recent rides.

It’s been Macy and Rapid and Smokey lately and all have been exactly what I needed at that moment.

Macy continues to make me a better a rider. I can’t say I always love riding her, but damn, I learn a lot. We have had two jump lessons recently and they’ve been great. I mean, sometimes  I am nervous and worried about her spooking, but overall, I learn a lot and she is actually a really fun horse to jump. She 100% calls me out on my mistakes, but she is honest to the jump and I can worry about me, which is nice.

IMG_5720

She’s 100% bored with me, but I’m what she’s got right now…

I got to do trot sets on Miss Rapid this weekend while Sarah was away. She is teaching me ALL about young horses. I brought her in and let her run around for a bit (she hasn’t really been worked all week since she came back from Aspen on Monday) and she wasn’t very interested in doing much. So, got her tacked up, and as we headed out I realized I forgot to put stirrups on the saddle. She was all antsy, so I decided to run her around. Thank God I did ’cause she was bucking and head tossing and full of it! I caught her after about 10 minutes and decided to hop on. She was still super antsy, prancing instead of walking, but I felt oddly safe. We got to trotting and mare was great. I really had to work on not tipping forward (there is really nothing between pommel and her head) and using my core to keep shoulders back and out of what I call the danger zone. She had some “green” moments, but was sensible and and I had a good time for the most part. Plus, not falling off is almost a goal with these youngsters, so I felt like I at least accomplished that.

IMG_5543

Such a poser…

And then Smokey. This was the ride I needed. Meg may have gotten a serious sunburn yesterday and can barely walk, let alone ride (#irishburneasy), so she asked if I would get Smokey out.

Ah, to ride an uncomplicated horse. My brain needed to relax and just enjoy the ride. Smokey is as honest as they come to a fence and I just love jumping her. It was fun. I haven’t had fun in a while. I really like that mare and am thankful Meg let me take her out for a spin.

IMG_5721

I mean.. the cutest

I learn something from every single horse I ride, and I am so thankful to have them to ride! I am headed back east this week and then bringing baby Junebug home!! Ahh, I am so excited! I have been in touch with a foundation trainer and she is going to help me with ground work for the next few months, since I have never had a baby. I have some things I really want to work on with her, and am excited for the guidance.

So, lots of fun, lots going on, and I can’t wait for it all to continue!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Horse Happiness

Yesterday I headed 4.5 hours (one way) to go see Junebug and decide if she was the horse for me. I brought my most trusted advisors with me, Sarah and Stella, and knew I wouldn’t go astray with them helping me.

Stella got car sick the entire trip up there, which made me feel like maybe we weren’t starting off on the right foot. But once we got there her spirits brightened and she happily ran around while Sarah and I met with Rapid’s owner/breeder.

We brought Junebug in from her pasture, put her on the cross ties and I got to grooming her. She stood and let me groom her everywhere as well as pick up her feet. She wasn’t antsy, or pushy, and literally just stood in the crossties.

IMG_5433

I also got right to work getting lots of pics

Next we took her into the arena, out of sight of the other horses. We trotted her around a bit so I could see her move and then I attached the lead rope and walked and trotted her over some poles. She was slightly distracted, but it really wasn’t until the other horses whinnied for her that she realized she was away from them. She still allowed me to lead her around and was completely sensible.

IMG_5489

We headed back out and I took her for a walk around the property and down the long driveway. She was slightly more interested in turning back to her friends than heading away from them, but was easy to handle and was easily convinced to go with me and leave her friends.

IMG_5424

So shiny!

As we were walking along I thought to myself, I’m buying a horse for her brain, everything is secondary and I need to remember that. When I got back to Sarah and Junebug’s owner, I found out that Junebug had only gotten out a few times in her 23 months. If mare is this sensible with that little handling, I feel like I am getting the brain I want.

Conformationally she is built uphill, has good bone and is the thick, stocky build that I like. I imagine she’ll grow to about 16hh. She won’t be built like a lithe racehorse, but I feel like her breeding will help with getting around xc easily.

IMG_5452

Lastly, after saying goodbye to Junebug, we drove over to go meet her momma. Her mom is a Quarter Horse who has produced some nice babies. Junebug’s maternal grandma produced lots of nice, smart, jumpers. I need to research the lineage a little more, but momma was well built and seemed sweet. Her full brother is a total sweetheart, with a lovely build and great brain.

IMG_5466

Cute momma!

And her Dad. Her Dad is who I hope will get us some nice dressage scores and will give her major athletic prowess. Her half sister has proven to be quite the athlete, so I’m hoping Junebug will also prove to be a great eventer.

As we headed home I started talk things over with Sarah and Stella. Our conversation didn’t last long, as it was clear she was a great baby horse for me to take a chance on! I’m currently figuring out when to bring her home and what our future will look like together. She will be 3 on 6/24, so we have some months of ground work and life experiences together before I get to riding her.

IMG_5453

Not a bad life so far

I’m obviously excited, and nervous, and anxious, but mostly excited. I can’t wait to start our future together!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Plan #15

It’s been a whirlwind week. I flew to Florida for a conference, spent 4 days there, flew back for one night, and then flew to Seattle for a U2/Mumford and Sons concert. (With guest appearance by Eddie Vedder!!) So, I’ve been travelling a BIT.

FullSizeRender (1)

Drinking my favorite drink (or two of them) with my cousin while in Florida.

Somehow in between traveling I’ve managed to get some rides in on Macy. And, they’ve been pretty horrible. What I realized is, that after she spooks or is crazy once, the ride is over for me. I worry about her bolting so I tense up, shorten her and then neither of us can recover. I don’t want to get into every crazy moment she has had, or what she did, but do want to mention that I get why people keep horses that aren’t appropriate for them. I’m struggling with the idea of giving up on Macy and she isn’t even my horse. I didn’t buy her, invest a lot of time or money into her, and even having her doesn’t make me exempt from having to buy a horse in the future. So, really, I have it super easy with her and I am still struggling with giving up riding her. I can’t even imagine what it is like for people who bought a horse and are having this struggle. I get it.

In the past weeks I have realized Macy isn’t the horse for me and lately I feel more unsafe and frustrated than I have since the beginning. I let Sarah know and she totally understood. But then I kinda back tracked and was like ” Well, maybe we can see if I can make it work.” Because I just couldn’t give up, even though I wasn’t really enjoy riding her. It’s so messed up!

Yesterday I brought her in for my lesson and she was cuckoo bananas. She was tied in a different spot than usual and was so distracted and antsy. I was worried she would pull back, or trample me, and so I was tiptoeing around her. Sarah came over and let me know I can’t do that. Got her to pay attention and Macy didn’t like it, pulled back, broke her halter and galloped around the arena.

IMG_5387

How she reacts to me reprimanding her

I want to take a moment and mention something that happened while Macy was being a wild mustang. There were two other horses present. Both OTTBs and both, ironically, from the same breeder. One was getting acupuncture and one was being ridden in a lesson. When Macy had her meltdown, neither of them flinched. As she galloped around the arena, they stood still and waited for us to catch her. When Macy was caught they went back to what they were doing as if nothing happened.

So, props to those two OTTBs. And seriously, I am looking into who the breeder is and if he has any horses off the track for sale….

Ok, so Macy. Sarah hopped on her to show me a couple things to work on and then I got on. We ended up having a lovely lesson. Mainly because Sarah was there to guide me. I learned the following things:

  1. I need to keep Macy’s brain engaged every single step of the lesson.
  2. I need to be active every step of the lesson. If she gets the frame and bend I want, I need to keep working in order to maintain it.
  3.  If she spooks once, or even worse, if I THINK she is going to spook, I can’t get tight and lose the elastic connection. Because when I do that, it makes things worse.
  4. If she wants to spook, or does, get right back to work. Stop it before it escalates (if possible) but don’t get her short and tight. Get her back into that deep frame. (And when I say spook, this mare rarely just spooks, the spook leads into a bolt, head tossing bonanza)
  5.  I don’t trust Macy. I wouldn’t let go of the reins to even pat her when she was good.
  6.  I should not be riding this horse by myself. I haven’t ever been in a full lesson program, where all I do is take lessons and never ride on my own, nor do I want to be. But with Macy, I am doing neither of us any favors by riding alone without Sarah guiding me on staying relaxed and getting us through the tough spots.

 

So. By the end of the lesson I realized what I wanted to do. Showing is off the table completely. (Despite getting into an over subscribed recognized show, I scratched.) I won’t be riding Macy unless in a lesson. I’ll be doing that twice a week. I will continue to ride her with supervision because the lesson was actually really fun and I learned a ton. Once I learn how to ride her reactivity, I think I can ride her alone again. But that might be months from now. And that’s ok. Some of you mentioned that you worried a horse like Macy would make me lose my confidence. And I think that’s an incredibly valid point. I think that if I continue to ride her the way I was, when I free rode, that could definitely happen. With showing off the table I have no goals I have to meet in order to feel prepared to run her at Training. I can just learn and enjoy. I also realize Macy isn’t my long term horse. But my long term horse is going to be a young, green, unbroke horse, so I better get used to a little crazy in my life.

So, this is plan #15 I believe, and I am excited to give it a go. Plus, I’m going up to see Junebug Tuesday so I have something to look forward to 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

IMG_5223

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.

IMG_5224

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.

IMG_5219

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.

IMG_5220

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???)

IMG_5213

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!

 

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 , , , ,