Quotes from Coach: The Hunter Rider

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They say the hunters lay on their horses’ neck over fences. What the hunter rider does is get out of their horse’s way over fences so they may jump freely, and to the best of their abilities.

-Coach

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Time to Make Some Goals

While I’m constantly making and changing my short term goals, it’s good to have your eyes on the future- then the hard work you put yourself through all seems worth it.


10172636_10154440112180383_193316924226266555_nWith the 2015 show season fast approaching, I decided it was time to publicly set some long term goals for this season.

  • First and foremost, I want to make this the most enjoyable season yet. I want to remember every show and every ride in between why I love this sport, my horse, and my barn family.
  • I would like to make it to Provincial Championships in at least the 2’6 Adult Amateur division with Gracie, and it would be great to also make it to Champs in the 2’6 high/low Open division also, or at least get a top 10 placement in that division. I would also like to qualify her in the Hack Division, and myself in the Adult Equitation on the flat.
  • Although it is not necessarily a “goal”, I wont deny my aspirations to place higher than a few certain horse and rider combinations I will be competing against for various reasons – be it that I know I work harder than them, and I would like my hard work to pay off in that sense
  • By the end of the season I would like to be able to compete at the 2’9 height option in the 2’6 high/low division at the last show or two
  • I want to take Gracie to the A Circuit show my barn will go to in October and successfully compete in the Pleasure Hunters or another suitable division at a Gold rated hunter show
  • In November, I would love to drag my coach to The Royal Winter Fair to compete with Gracie in the Thoroughbred suitability under saddle classes
  • And a more long term goal still, I will start saving my money in a Florida Fund to put towards taking Gracie to compete for a few weeks down in Ocala, Florida in February 2016 when my barn goes down next year. The timing just happens to work out perfectly, and that would definitely be one to check off the bucket list
  • My final long term goal is to have Riley back into consistent work and compete in at least enough Trillium shows to qualify for year end in the 2’6 Adult Amateur division. Even if he is ready to go in time for the start of the show season, my goal is to keep him consistent enough to continue having a work ethic all season, and hopefully get him permanently out of his habit of shutting down

So that’s what I have to look forward to this year. Now its time to get out there and earn it.

My Equitation is Flawed

The only way to reach your goals is to identify your weaknesses, then work your but off for it.


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Even since my days of dance classes I have been told two things; My hips are not square therefor throwing off my center of balance, and I have a lovely toe turn out. After developing tendonitis in my left Achilles in early high school, physiotherapy showed that I had short tendons in the backs of my ankles. This was not surprising seeing as I had naturally been walking on my toes since I could walk. Well this might be alright for pointing my toes in dance class, that was not the case with getting my heels down in horseback riding. It only made sense that I should then choose horseback riding as the hobby that would take over my life of course.

Although I would consider myself an effective rider, I have two main flaws in my equitation that prevent me from being a better rider.

The first flaw is my center of balance. In the saddle I tend to drop my right hip and lean right, sometimes quite dramatically. At times I might even throw in a little lift of the right shoulder to unsuccessfully try and even things out. This especially gets me into trouble with bending lines to the left, and cutting the corners coming off the jumps and going right.

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slight lean to the right

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leaning to the right over fences – throwing my left leg out to rebalance

The second flaw in my equitation are my heels and lower leg. While I have been much better at establishing connection with the horse through my lower leg instead of controlling him all the time with my seat, the angle of my ankles still puts up a major barrier. The way my feet want to sit in the stirrups puts my big toe in the air, and my pinkie toe down which rotates my ankle to the wrong angle and restricts my lower leg from properly sitting against the horse. With my ankles at this angle it is impossible to therefor get my heels down properly.

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a look at the angle of my ankle

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my big toe wants to point up, rotating my ankle down into the wrong angle

With suggestions from my coach and a little internet research I have found two exercises to start with in trying to correct my Equitation flaws.

Exercise One:

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Wii Fit Center of Gravity Test – my own results showed leaning to the right

Pull out the old Wii balance board folks!

Wii fit has numerous games and activities with the board that are all based on balance. To start, I tried my luck with the Center of Gravity Test. Result – needs improvement..

There are many other balance games to try on Wii Fit that require minimal movement, great way to start a lazy morning.

Exercise Two:

1-5m-yoga-pilates-rubber-stretch-resistanceThe second exercise has to do with stretching my ankles using rubber resistance bands.

By sitting flat on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me I start by placing the middle of the rubber band one at a time on the palm of my foot, and holding the band a few inches from the ends in each hand, allowing some tension. Some things I can do with this exercise are pointing and flexing my foot – spending longer flexing the foot before pointing it – and lifting and holding my foot a few inches off the ground while the foot is flexed. The back of your legs and your ankles should feel an uncomfortable stretch, but not so much that it hurts.

So, I will be playing around with these exercises all week and will see how it has affected my riding and overall equitation by the end of this week.

To be continued. . .

The Devil is Bay

Horses are frustrating. But what would the sport be without hardwork, sweat and tears.. okay horse but can we maybe skip the hardwork when the temps are below 0.. and the sweat and the tears??


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So Riley has been on a pretty great streak- I’d almost forgotten his asshole qualities and tendencies to stop dead and have a melt down. Yep, almost forgot.. but it only goes up from there.

Since coming back from my vacation my bay pony has been nothing but the devil. He has tried everything he can to get out of work during every ride for the past 2 weeks. He stops. He romps. And boy does he rear. And then after his fit he may lope around, soft, but not much faster than he would prefer to go. Then just when you think he might be back to normal he would stop dead and go at it again.

I had spent the last 7 months building up a work ethic for this horse, so after a few months of finally having him in the mindset where he was enjoying riding and ready to learn, this setback couldn’t be more disappointing.

So, why has this happened then? My original diagnosis was that this was the first time he had fallen out of his regular riding routine, and he was being naughty by trying out what he could get away with. Well it’s 2 weeks later and he has yet to give it up, so that on it’s own is not likely.. so what else do we have to consider? Well, he has recently transitioned into being on indoor board after living out most of his life. It has been frigid and disgustingly cold. He was recently clipped for the first time during the midst of winter. And the list of excuses and what ifs could go on. These are all factors I will have to take note of with this horse to remember in the future as I get to know his quirks.

What I can conclude from these past 2 weeks is that everything I’ve taught him is still in there, but what this horse needs from me right now is to go right back to basics. Knowing this, his first step to recovery is getting rid of the timelines. Yes, it would be great to be ready to show in April, and I would have liked to get him off property in March, but for the time being all future plans are cancelled. I need to worry about the now.

For the next how ever long this is going to take, Riley and I are back to our original riding routine. I will need to lunge him before every ride to get him moving forward and gaining back some respect from him. When I do ride him I need either my coach or someone capable in the arena or on the ground to help get him moving and not giving him the chance to stop and rear. I need to expect respect and cooperation during our ground work, but while riding him I need to be more encouraging and nagging in order to keep myself safe but still start breaking his naughty habits.

As disappointing as this seamed, I can’t help but compare this situation to when Gracie was injured. I always said that Gracie took one for the team, because by putting herself out of commission for awhile it actually got me starting Riley in lessons and therefor beginning his jumping career. I had been frustrated with the way Gracie felt after she was back into work again, and much preferred riding Riley for awhile. Now that Riley is the one who has seemingly self destructed, it only makes sense that he would be returning the favor in letting Gracie have her time to shine and take her place back as the favourite. Wow guys, I have enough room in my heart for both of you, get your heads in the game and lets get ready to horse show already!

Eureka!

There comes a moment in your riding where you have to stop and remind yourself how far you and your horse have come. You are not heading nowhere. Your partnership and abilities grow stronger every day. With every step, with every half-halt, with every canter transition. You and your horse are learning something together. Remember that.


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Gracie and I – back from December

During my vacationing at Disney World 2 weeks ago, Gracie stayed at home in boot camp. On my return I had two days of flatting her (and trying to get myself back into shape so I didn’t feel like I was just flopping around!) before lesson day rolled around. I did a good 30 minutes of warming up and flatting before the lesson – for both of our benefits – and we went right into cantering over little x’s on a circle.

The first thing I noticed was that on the landing side of the jumps she was reaching down and forward and pleasantly cantering away. Not that our problem before had much running after the fences, but she just felt more relaxed and balanced after every jump. Continuing onto 5 or 6 strided broken lines and a long approach to a single vertical, the next thing I noticed was all the adjustability I felt. She could speed up coming around the corner, but I could sit back and bring her back to the same balanced canter I felt on the first exercise before we left the wall again for the long approach to the next jump.

So by this point I’m ecstatic. I walk over to my coach and tell her all the things I’m feeling and what I can see she worked on in Gracie boot camp. Then my coach tells me that she did not jump Gracie over a single thing during her week with her; she only flatted her. This was the first time Gracie was jumping in 2 weeks.

From there she told me what she focused on; getting her to move forward off her leg, and doing everything in a calm zen-like way with this horse. Gracie is a very smart, sensitive mare who is very aware of her rider and therefor her rider’s state of mind. The week before I left for vacation I was stressed and anxious when I rode Gracie, which is where her own stress and anxiety was coming from. This is why this mare spooks. When Gracie would spook, her reaction is to drop her shoulder in and drift away from “the spooky thing”. She is not actually “spooked” by anything, she just feels the anxiety from her rider and this is her reaction.

The way for me to fix this is to be very aware of my emotions and keep corrections relevant to every different situation. If my horse is careening around the ring, be aggressive with my aids and bring her to an immediate halt, relax, walk on and start again like it never happened. But if my horse is dropping her shoulder in and drifting away from the corner, quietly change the bend and don’t overreact if we cut off the corner a bit, just continue like it never happened. There will come a time when certain things should be expected of her, but for now that list is not as extensive as the 10 year old 3-foot hunter I had last season. I’m riding a green thoroughbred who started her new career 6 months ago, had a significant injury, and has been back into full work again for less than 2 months. I’ve got to give the mare a break sometimes!

So the next step; continue what I’m doing and keep adding on. Engage her mind and her hind end in our flat work. Change the pace, extend then collect and vice versa, use the whole ring, get her to calmly go past piles of poles in the ring (they might bite). And the most important thing for my mare is to be very calm and forgiving with her, and she will give the same back.

Weekly Wants

Sooo.. the ponies and I want this stuff.. any takers!?


Riley wants . . .

Professional Choice VenTECH Combo English Girth

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After recently having his second body clip of the season Riley has been especially uncomfortable under saddle. There has been no change in his tack recently so I’ve come to the conclusion that the leather girth I have always schooled him in is irritating him now that he’s freshly clipped again. So then I tried a “fuzzy girth”. Although he is still a bit irritated, he is no longer hopping around with a stick up his butt and his head between his legs, so that’s progress. I’ve always wanted a Pro Choice girth because of the removable liner for cleaning purposes, but have known horses who did not like the original VenTECH girth with the neoprene lining. This combo girth has the same neoprene moisture wicking liner, but with the addition of fleece around the edge of the girth for ultimate comfort.

Gracie wants. . .

Back on Track Hind Exercise Boots

botbootsNearly 4 months after Gracie’s paddock injury she is back to a regular riding routine, jumping 2’6 courses and starting to get her lead changes successfully. During her recovery time, I purchased a Back on Track rain sheet to put on under her regular blanket. Her injury left her with a swollen, strained lower back- with using the Back on Track blanket to stimulate blood flow, Gracie’s swelling went down quickly during her stall rest. I have had to continue wrapping her hind legs while she is in her stall this winter due to the leg she had injured stocks up over night – weather permitting and shortened winter turnout is the main factor of this issue we suspect. Having had great results from her blanket, I though I’d give the exercise boots a try on her back legs when I school her.

And, I want. . .

Aerion 3/4 Length Jacket

aerioncoatI’m in need of a longer length of riding coat in this frigid weather!! I really like the fit of this mid-weight 3/4 length coat, and the gusset system in the back allows the bottom of the coat to open up for riding. I just got the Ariat Ashley Vest in blue with chocolate brown accents; I have wanted a slimmer fitting riding vest for awhile for better movement in my arms for jumping lessons. Of course as soon as I got the vest the temperatures dropped big time again.. the vest is staying nice and clean hanging up at home now for the while.


Any experience with any of these items or another product you like better? What’s on YOUR want list this week?