Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Re-direction FTW!

Oh boy, I've been a hardcore slacker! I'm updating about four lessons in one post here, along with updates on how Jynxy is doing with her awesome new part-boarder Brittany!

Our first lesson with Elaine was FANTASTIC. It just felt so productive and really helped me overcome a "hump" in my riding where I haven't felt excited about lessons lately. We went back to basics and addressed Jynx's very difficult habit of being SO heavy on me, to the point where I am exhausted and in pain by the end. Elaine rode her for 30 minutes and really got into her - she definitely has a huge opinion about big spurs as Elaine got the second big spur induced buck I've seen her give! It worked well though and by the end she was soft and supple. I hopped on and we worked only on halt, walk and a little bit of trot and by the end, we were going in LOVELY sitting trot, completely soft and round, and my arms weren't screaming in agony by the end! I have decided to do a lesson a week instead of bi-weekly as I really feel me and Jynx need this right now! Our second lesson was just as awesome, as were all my rides in between! For the first time EVER, I had gone on a trail ride in a Western saddle and when I brought her back and worked her in the arena she was FLAWLESS. Still in her Dressage bridle, I got some amazing soft trot and lope out of her - I wouldn't be ashamed to take THIS Jynx into some rookie reining! She listened beautifully, and we even worked on some walk to canter transitions and although obviously rusty, she was very willing and soft for me! I am very excited to see our progress from here!

As you can see form above, our jumping is going JUST as well! I am taking jumping lessons with Steph bi-weekly now, along with Brittany taking weekly lessons and you can really see how well she's doing. She's basically stopped rushing the second fence of a gymnastic and is content to just wait for you to guide her. The above photos was from our latest lesson where we worked on some lovely gymnastic lines and even began some bending lines which of course Jynxy took all in stride!

Yay, Jynxy and her part-boarder Brittany flying high! Their first couple rides were a bit less than smooth as they figured each other out and Jynx decided a little crowhopping and "canter bolting" was appropriate but Brittany handled it all well! By last lesson, Jynx was back to her old reliable self and Brittany was having to push her more often than rein her in! As you can see they compliment each other BEAUTIFULLY and I am looking extremely forward to watching them work together in 2013!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Change is in the air

I haven't updated this thing my last few rides, despite being phenomonal, as my goals and visions have changed so drastically this year and I have been trying to decide how to proceed from here. I thoroughly enjoy keeping track of both my progress and Jynxy's progress so I believe I will just re-vamp and continue on with updates from my journey through the rider levels.

For anyone lost and confused, I created this blog to track my progress with Jynx as we entered the world of sanctioned Dressage shows this year. That goal was modified from Gold Level to Bronze Level due to financial issues. That changed yet again upon the recent change in policy at my barn which results in Kali no longer being able to coach me without insurance, something a starving university student simply cannot afford. As the entire year of plans crumbled around me, somehow I found a silver lining. I have taught some beginner lessons recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. The change in barn policy made me aware of the lack of certified and insured coaches available in Manitoba. My ultimate goal with showing Dressage was the written tests you get back to improve yourself. Working through my Equine Canada Rider Levels will ultimately offer me the same guidance in my riding.

So, showing is mostly out and rider levels are in! I have also changed partboarders, and I am thoroughly hoping an amazingly talented and gifted young equestrian enjoys her trial ride/jumping lessons on Jynx tonight as it would mean she would be showing her in eventing instead! So fingers crossed that works out! I will continue bi-weekly jumping lessons with Stephanie Sawatzky who has improved both me and Jynx drastically in 3 short lessons, and I also begin as of now bi-weekly Dressage lessons with Elaine Banfield next Monday! Eeeek, so excited, she's never coached me on Jynx before!

Farewell for now Dressage ring but we shall meet again!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jumpin' Jehosaphats!

N'aw, my pony is the BESTEST! We had a jumping lesson tonight, only our second lesson with Stephanie and our first lesson was in January, sometime before Mexico. We've just had difficulty coordinating since and we finally made it happen tonight! Jynx is so easy going with jumping now, it's really me who needs the work - both in my position and learning how to do things like count striding so I can be there for Jynx. Our last lesson went great, we did mostly just crossrail to crossrail and crossrail to vertical gymnastics, working on getting me to relax and not scrunch up my shoulders and also to rate Jynx because she tends to get rushy once she knows we're doing gymnastics.

Well, don't ask me how, but apparently we both not only retained what we learned a month ago but somehow improved upon it without even practicing. With how hard I work for my Dressage, I'll take it! I figure there must be SOMETHING I can learn in my sleep, right? ;-) We started out pretty well, Stephanie commented I wasn't scrunching my shoulder's anywhere near as bad as I was last time. We worked with ground poles and over a crossrail and then moved into single bounces, which neither me or Jynx have ever done - piece of cake for Jynx! We went crossrail bounce to 2'0" vertical and again, she basically yawned on us. She's just so steady and dependable, she's so amazing to learn on. I was having a bit of difficulty timing my two point once we moved into a crossrail two stride to crossrail, so Stephanie suggested closing my eyes at the placing pole - WOWSA! It was a phenomenal feeling - Jynx became so steady under me, I finally balanced myself and just let her come up to meet me and she was smooth as silk through the entire gymnastic. It REALLY helped me unlock a few of my issues and realize what it SHOULD feel like and how much I was trying to overcompensate for my horses - it's like I'm either trying to THROW them over the jump, or I wait too long and get left behind.

This new found knowledge felt AMAZING. I finally felt really secure and steady up to the fence, sitting back a bit and just letting Jynx take me instead of trying to do the work. We shifted up into crossrail two stride vertical in varying heights and Jynx just kept knocking it out of the park. We finished up with a 2'9" vertical and it felt like the tiniest fence out there. I need to work on my release a little more, in my zeal to keep my shoulders down and elbows at my sides, I tend to lock my hands up. We also worked on an exercise to fix that as well that worked great! I love feeling so accomplished after a lesson!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Let me just begin by saying - I LOVE MY FREAKING HORSE. Srsly. I've been feeling a little down and out lately, a little bummed about my financial situation causing me to be unable to show Gold and even more bummed by some additional bad news that may result in me not showing at all if I want to afford to continue lessons (and lessons are more important to me than anything). Our last lesson wasn't the greatest and our sans draw rein work was dismal and frustrating. Suddenly, it's the end of February, there is a schooling show beginning of April and show season is a mere two months away. Oh and my wickedly awesomely talented coach discovered she is wickedly awesome at snowboarding and has taken up that fun sport in the last month which culminated into her getting into an accident on Friday that shattered her radius and she had to go for surgery this morning! So she's in good spirits and lessons will be fine, but she certainly won't be riding any more sense into Bella before show season! So naturally, I do what I do best - PANIC, stress, fret, worry, contemplate, watch some roping, decide I don't like Dressage anymore, try to convince myself I really don't want to do Dressage anymore and it's not just my paranoia and anxiety at play (about 4 years ago, I decisively claimed I was done riding English, sold my prized Collegiate Dressage saddle, took up Western on my Arab for about 6 months before deciding Western sucks and regretting the entire decision), and then stress some more about Kali murdering me for being an igitwit.

So on Thursday, Katrina had a jumping lesson with me on Jynx and I was a little worried because Jynx hadn't really jumped in probably a month and hadn't had much riding done either since I got back from Mexico. She was a little fidgety and alert in the barn so I figured I better warm her up first. Set up some trot poles and hopped on and she was SO quiet and sweet. We did some walk trot canter with zero issues, listening nicely to me if a little lazy. We went through the poles a few times, no issues (for some reason my brilliant horse finds the most difficult obstacle in life to maneuver through is trot poles), and so I got Katrina to set up a little crossrail and I took her through - what a little dreamboat! Relaxed and happy, through the poles, hopped over the crossrail and lovely canter out on the correct lead. Have I mentioned I love my horse? The amount of actual jump training this horse has had over the last year is about pencil tip sized, and yet here she is, happy as a clam to just plod through as if we've been schooling it all winter! I went once more and was satisfied so I threw Katrina up on her! Jynx was just unreal - beautiful even hunter like paces, steady with her headset, listening well to Katrina with no ear pinning or tail swishing. I sent them through the trot poles a few times, no problems, just working on straightness and steadiness as Jynx likes to slow down for the poles but speed up for fences. I set up a little crossrail for her after the poles, and they went through flawlessly - she really takes care of her rider over fences!

I set up a second crossrail and we worked going through the gymnastic - this is where Jynx gets a bit more challenging! One fence is fine, but she really wants to rush through when she sees that second fence. So we worked on tons of half halts and I even got Katrina to stop her in front of the first fence to really work on the concept of half halting enough to make her listen as Katrina just doesn't have the strength I do. I'm really not worried about putting Jynx off the fence as she's virtually never refused a fence and it helped establish to Katrina what I was talking about. It worked beautifully - the next time around, I told Katrina to "think stop" up to the pole and then just let her go as normal and we got a LOVELY relaxed horse over the crossrail, trotted to the vertical and popped over quietly. After that she found it much easier to rate Jynx before the fence to have her calm into the gymnastic. She did a few crossrail to 2'0" verticals and they did lovely! I am so proud of both of them!

Anyway, fast forward to tonight. I had a long talk with Shay-la (well, text talk anyway) about my icky feelings and how down I've been feeling and kind of not where I had hoped to be by almost spring of 2013. We discussed working without draw reins more, because all the lateral stuff is fun and such and the draw reins have definitely boosted my confidence but now we're reaching a point where I'm just panicking because I don't know how to ride without them. Or at least I convinced myself I don't Because I don't listen to my brilliant coach. Nope, I listen to those ugly shadowy nasty feelings deep in the pit of my stomach that always try to bring me down and convince me I'm just a big nobody and have no business thinking I can succeed at anything. Yeah. I know I need therapy. But that's a whooooooooooole other blog ladies and gentlemen!


Srsly. I just decided to LET GO. Not be so serious. Don't stress out so much. Just get on my horse and be patient and get to know her without the draw reins. Deep inside, I expected it to go terrible and yet I was somehow okay with that. It was important to me to not get upset with Jynx, to know this isn't her fault, and to not blame her for these perceived faults she has because I struggle with certain things. I think I've been so worried about being perfect at EVERYTHING, I just needed to take a step back and realize "so what if I can't sit the trot perfectly yet, I DON'T NEED TO IN TRAINING LEVEL!". Jynx was just....beyond words. We walked a few circuits on a loose rein and I bumped her up into a trot and just kept my reins fairly long - she just went there. She warmed up absolutely beautifully, taking my long rein and just stretching that glorious neck long and low, steady in my hands, completely soft in the jaw. We just worked in posting trot, gradually picking up a bit more contact in my outside rein, concentrating on locking my elbow to my side without blocking her. To the left, she was just so perfect I could have cried. In reality, she was probably the same as she's always been but my ability to just let go and accept that HER HEAD WILL COME UP SOMETIMES AND I JUST NEED TO RIDE THAT produced relaxation in me. I've become so obsessed with head seat and WHY?! Glancing in the window (yeah you have a mirror, I have a window, move on), even when her head seemed "up" it's still not UP. She's stiffer in the neck, stiffer in the jaw, a little more resistant at times but it doesn't look horrible, it isn't this grotesque image of some rank novice bouncing around on her star gazing cow pony. And when she does go softer, just wow!

To the right was a bit more difficult, I REALLY struggle keeping my left hand as a steady outside rein. Her head was up, neck stiff a bit more often than it was soft and it still wasn't terrible, just not as fluid and supple as she is to the left. I just worked on pushing through it, staying as steady as possible. After some nicer strides, I asked for the canter which wasn't overly pretty. She went around nice enough but I could feel myself just NOT stable on my outside rein, scrunching my shoulders, compensating by tightening up. We came back down and I decided I should probably be working to the left first! So we changed direction, and back to my lovely soft and supple horse and lovely anchored outside rein with supple elastic inside rein. Our transitions need definite work, but the canter to the left was much easier - it smoothed out within a few strides, her head came down, some happy snorts and we were back in business! Our downwards transitions were a bit rough, my whip is broken so without that aid, she was really getting behind my leg at times. But back into posting trot and man did she ever stretch down! I swear we may have been accused of doing rollkur! I didn't let her down into a stretchy circle immediately, and that head and neck become so round and supple and just stayed like that for a full circle! After that I let her down, more happy snorts.

So after some amazing work to the left that just had me on cloud nine, I decided we needed to go back and at least attempt to fix some issues to the right! We began in posting trot, and my lovely giving horse decided she was nice and relaxed and warmed up now, so forgave me a little and went a little lower even with my bouncy rein. We just stayed on the wall as I concentrated on really getting my left hand to co-operate a little more. Gradually, she became softer and softer, and my hand became steadier and steadier. As her head became a bit lower, she became a little heavier in my hands - and suddenly Kali's voice is ringing in my head "when she pulls on you, she should pull you DEEP into the saddle, not forward, DEEPER" and something just clicked. My shoulders rolled back, I glued that outside hand to my side, and WE MEANT BUSINESS. Her entire outline changed as I felt her back lifting under me, that glorious head and neck like putty in my hands. The deeper I got, the easier it was to keep that outside rein steady! We bumped up into canter, lousy transition, but suddenly my hand is like a ROCK, connected to my seat never leaving the saddle as I encourage her on to just be softer and softer. It's just an amazing feeling when you suddenly understand, grasp and just take hold of a concept that's evaded you for so long. After a few lovely circles, we came back down to sitting trot, and she just stayed with me, curling down, somehow going lower and lower without ever getting heavier in my hands, a picture of just perfect relaxation and giving muscles. We went into posting trot for some nice stretchy circle as reward and me marveling at having probably one of the most brilliant rides on my horse in months - AND WE DID IT WITHOUT DRAW REINS.

What was that? I DON'T LIKE DRESSAGE?! Pffffft, where'd you hear a delusional thing like that?


Monday, February 18, 2013

Back to the cold

Whew, it's been awhile! Me and Shay-la had a trip to Mexico from January 31 to February 7 and then I just plain forgot to update when I had a lesson on February 10! Being so busy getting ready for Mexico, I hadn't had a lesson in awhile and was mighty apprehensive about it! Turns out, a little time off can be a good thing!

I had Kali ride Jynx while I was in Mexico and it's amazing what a couple of rides by the coach can do! I came back to a very supple and responsive pon as opposed to a coming off vacation pon! We worked mostly on basics to get me back into it, my position didn't suffer horribly but unfortunately my strength did. Jynx was being a bit difficult and heavy and my whip hand was cramping from not being used! We worked on prompter transitions from trot to canter which is a bit of a nemesis of mine - even with the draw reins, I find immense difficulty in being able to stay straight and deep while also cuing with my outside leg. I always tend to get pulled forward or scrunch up my shoulders. We did a few transitions until we got some very decent ones! We worked mostly just trot and canter and kept it to 45 minutes. We also took the draw reins off for the end and it probably wasn't the best day to pull them off as I was already tired and sore through my shoulders. It felt horrific for about 10 minutes and she loosened up some, but I really couldn't. She's so incredibly difficult to keep on the bit when you're not perfectly there for her. It's frustrating during the lesson, but will teach me to be a better rider in the end so I should be grateful!

I've been having some minor health issues in the last few weeks that have been making me feel very drained and exhausted, so our lesson was cancelled for last night. I went out today to ride and have the farrier out and I only made it about half an hour on Jynx before I had to call it quits. She was a doll, but my strength being sapped concerns me. Her canter was absolutely breathtaking today - you know your horse has gone through coach bootcamp when they feel smooth as silk. She's starting to step under so much better now and it's a phenomenal feeling - the effortlessness of feeling her beginning to collect under me or go into straight lines without altering tempo or rhythm. It's been a year since I started working with Kali and man, the changes just blow my mind!

Also, in a bit of not so good news, we have decided not to show gold this year. We will still be showing bronze with Dressage Winnipeg but due to recent financial issues, and Jynxy's freshly resolved show issues, I've decided bronze is good enough this year and we will hopefully gear for gold next year! Just a slight hitch in the plan but at least we'll still get out there!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Episode deepfreeze

Well, we all knew it was coming sooner or later - Manitoba winter! Today officially saw us plunging into the -40's with the windchill for overnight lows and no close end in sight. We are gearing up for Mexico in another week, so riding has been sporatic at best! Kali has ridden her twice since my last post and she was fantastic. Because of the weather, we can't get them sweaty so we decided to play around tonight!

Jynx has been silly about bareback for awhile which is odd for me since I used to spend SO much time riding bareback. I used to trail ride her bareback in winter when she was 3 and she dumped me twice (once accidental spook, second time was deliberate bolt and buck) so that kind of ended that for awhile. Her lead issues started shortly after that so considering we couldn't even ride her in a saddle, bareback took a backburner!

So we've tried bareback occasionally in the last couple years and it never went well - she's squiggly, all over the place, and doesn't do well on a loose rein. She'd pin her ears and crowhop and even if I bumped her up to a trot, as soon as I ask for the canter, she would stop DEAD and just hop around, ears pinned. She always shook my confidence and I would give up immediately!

So tonight was great! This is the second tiome I've really "ridden" her bareback and she seems to be more willing now! My seriously improved seat from Dressage clearly helps, as well as my increased confidence. She still likes to pin her ears and act grouchy at canter but at least she listens! It's a work in progress, but we had a blast today! YAY FOR INSULATED HEATED ARENAS!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Double whammy

What a fantastic Monday! Although bitterly cold (come for the fun, stay because you're frozen to the damn ground!), the sun was shining so I was in a good mood! I finally had time to ride both my girls today, so figured I'd bring them both in and work on some herdboundness while I was at it! Zierra's partboarder has decided to do some barrel racing with her this summer, so I just want to put some work on her to get her a little more soft and supple so she'll listen a little better! So I grabbed both of them and tacked up:

And then left Zierra standing in the aisle while I rode Jynx. She called and danced a little when we first left but surprisingly calmed right down - I left the arena door open a crack so I could keep an eye on her but other then calling every 10 minutes or so, she basically just want to sleep! On the extreme bright side, Jynx didn't care at all granted with the cracked arena door I think she was a little "reassured" that she had company! She usually works fine solo anyway, she only acts up when a friend comes and goes. As long as they're constantly there or constantly awya, she's fine.

What a productive ride! We went right into the four posting four sitting exercise Kali tried with me yesterday and I FINALLY GOT IT. HALLELUJAH! After a few circles it was like everything clicked and I was finally able to do the exercise without having to check my diagonal constantly or realize suddenly we weren't even going in a circle anymore I was so distracted! I have to say, it's definitely a favorite exercise already! Once I got it figured out, it smooth Jynx out SO amazingly it was awesome! We've always had issues with me transitioning from posting to sitting trot and Jynx's head coming up, getting shorter, tenser, etc. This exercise eliminated all the problems! I was so happy!

We went into some shorten and lengthen trot down the long side and she was great - staying long in the neck, and keeping her head down. We worked on some diagonal lines as well as she tends to be VERY wiggly on the diagonal and speed up, tense up, raise her head, etc. I went into sitting trot and we worked on some lovely leg yields - she's so good at them now I can REALLY concentrate on myself and keeping my hands low, shoulder down, not collapsing. We also did some shoulder in which to the left was just phenomenal - as good as her leg yields now, so fluid and supple without any resistance. Not quite as smooth to the right but still extremely lovely. Travers, as usual, was a little more tricky but no getting stuck today which is a huge plus!

We went into canter and having the arena all to myself, went immediately into some 15m circles after a little shortening and lengthening. She was just BRILLIANT. I'm running out of words to describe how stunning my horse is. We worked on three 15m circles down a long side and it went just great. Not worrying about other riders I was able to really focus on supporting her as she's still quite weak and obviously slows and wants to break stride halfway through. We got through all of them without breaking stride and her staying nice and listening to me! I was so proud!

I walked her out and then took her out to switch ponies - took Zierra into the ring and left Jynx in the aisle to dry off and all went great, no calling! Zierra worked amazing tonight as well after an initial fight over the cattle chute - AGAIN. Once I got her past it, we had a brilliant workout as well! I worked on serpentines with her, and a lot of canter work - she did fantastic on the diagonal line exercise where we canter down the diagonal line, trot at X and then pick up the new lead at C/A. I was really surprised how well she was on my outside leg cue - most of her transitions were quite smooth as opposed to racing into the canter. Maybe she still does remember her training from 7 years ago! I was also immensely proud of her for getting a flying lead change when I asked for it! And both legs! She's famous for only switching in the front or being late in the back. She's not really balanced or supple enough to do flyings, but she has them for the most part on the pattern and that's all that really matters at this point. I wish I had time to take her back to basics and start from scratch but it's just not feasible so I'll do my best to make this all go as smoothly as I can for her! They both worked great today!