Gracie’s Weekend: Part II

After the success of Friday night, we returned home briefly only to start packing and show prepping all over again to head back again Sunday morning.

While our return Sunday was a much busier environment than it had been the day before, it was still a low key winter schooling show and was nothing in comparison to what we would be encountering next month when the Trillium season started.

The morning started with unloading and heading straight into the main ring to flat around with all the horses before the show started. Gracie was a bit up at this point, so we stayed in the ring until it closed and then put them away in their stalls for a bit while we got organized. My group’s spot in the order for the first 2’3 division was towards the end, so while they started we headed to the bigger warm up ring to flat them and get some energy out. 10 trips before our group we headed down to the main ring and coach warmed us up over some jumps in the small arena. The turnout was still low at this time so we were lucky to not have a lot of traffic in the warm up rings.. but we knew we would be doomed to deal with that later unfortunately.

Then it was our turn!

The three of us headed into the chute with our greenies and awaited the final rounds to finish. Knowing that the other entries included some riders we would be competing against this season, and some trainers on sale horses, it was disappointing walking up to the ring to find the only rounds we would get to watch of the division were of a little short stirrup kid who couldn’t get her pony around.. indoor shows suck for spectating.

Ever since last season with riding an unpredictable spooker, I have learned to take my time when entering the ring, identify the potential spooky spots in the ring, and set my horse up properly with the lowest level of risk possible. The first jump was on the quarter line in front of the in-gate away from home, this meant I had to circle at this end of the ring upon entering before heading off to the jump. In the middle of my circle was a decorative jump with straw bales for filler that we would only be jumping in the equitation round in the afternoon. I knew I definitely wouldn’t want to direct her at this and risk her spooking or picking up the wrong lead to start. Therefore my plan of action for this course would be to walk calmly and assertively straight into the ring and circle to the right around the scary jump, and once on a right bend while we are heading back onto the rail we would chose then to pick up a canter and partially finish the circle before going onto the quarter line on the path to the first jump.

The first jump I knew Gracie would back off from, so in the approach it was all about getting her onto the canter before the corner, and keeping the pace consistent with my leg on all the way there. Although these jumps were very tiny, I knew that with all the filler and Gracie being a green horse that I could expect her to still jump this height impressively; although I could afford to get a little deep to the singles, it was still important to be brave to the jumps without taking the flyer and set her up to get down the lines easily and avoid adding.

Gracie was great for the 2’3s; I felt like we were rushing things a bit, but I got her over the jumps and made the lines and that is what mattered. When we came back for the 2’6 division I could trust she would be brave and had opened her step to make the lines. Now we could settle it all down.

Going back into the ring at the end of the next 2’6 division meant letting her cool down in her stall for an hour, then going through the whole tacking up, warming up process we had done that morning, only this time there was a whole heck of a lot more people around. The warm up ring was a death chamber. Too many people, horses coming and going, standing in the way, and just overall not paying attention. We spent as minimal time in here as possible; we just warmed up then got outta there before someone missed the jumps and went flying over us.. or into us.

By this time of day the shadows had all changed in the ring which made the jumps much spookier for some of the horses. Our warm up round required a lot of schooling (thankfully the 2 strikes and you’re out rule didn’t apply at this show) but after some simply green horse refusals and a lot of drifting and some adding we got around. Having won the battle, I could go in for the next rounds knowing she had gotten that out of her system, and now we could settle down and ride the courses.

We fit in two very civilized hunter-like courses with simple changes and a few flying changes her good way in the 2’6 division. We added for the first time in one of our lines when we got a bit crooked going out, but in all she was excellent.

Here videoed is one of our 2’6 division rounds. Turn on your volume to be education on the Manhattan Once-Over by the peanut gallery.


Gracie’s Weekend: Part I

The Grey mare’s super exciting weekend started with an evening outing with the barn to school over the jumps in the big show ring..

What a weekend!

It was all about Gracie this weekend as we trailered first to school in the big show ring on Friday night, and then back again Sunday morning to attend The Grey mare’s first hunter schooling show.

Overall the schooling night on Friday went great. Taking that extra day before the show to get her into the big ring with the extravagant jump fillers would appear to give us an edge against the competition on Sunday, but this weekend was about the experience, not the competition. On Friday I took the time to get my horse comfortable with her new surroundings, but the point of the evening was to learn what I could expect from her away from home. We purposely skipped giving Gracie any of the usual supplements we have available for the more energetic horses to take when they go off property; this meant this would be 100% Gracie on the weekend, and we would see what we had to work with going forward this season.

Having my coach with us in the ring on Friday meant we could spend extra time with any part of the course we were having problems with until thus satisfied with the result. While we would not have that luxury when we entered the ring for the show on Sunday, this schooling night would be a big bonus for Gracie.

After unloading and getting organized, I tacked up and started warming her up in the ring outside the main show ring. While she was a bit more up than the last time we had trailered to this facility to school, she was moving great and she quickly calmed down while we warmed up. She was not keen on the whole standing and waiting thing at this point, so after warming up for 15 minutes we marched straight into the main ring to continue flatting. We walked around while the group before us finished jumping (she still wasn’t having anything with this standing business), and soon joined the next group in some warm up jumps over the quarter lines.

Next, it was time to start jumping the lines. The course that was set up had a 5-stride and a 6-stride on either long side, then a 4-stride on one of the diagonals. We started by trotting into each of the long side lines and cantering out while adding a stride. The next time around we then cantered in and cantered out with the correct number of strides for that line. At this point I was struggling to get Gracie onto the correct forward canter, and I would play it safe and let her jam in that extra stride into the lines.

If I kept playing it safe, we were stuck.

Now I had to make a decision. Do I want to teach this horse and make the lines? Of course. So then what I had to do was break out of my comfort zone, and make the lines already!

That soft, floaty, safe canter I had been working on all winter was great for the hack class, but what I needed now was to switch into that forward, extended, but still floaty horse show canter.

The next two courses I did felt like we were rushing and gunning it around to make the lines – looking back on the videos after this was certainly not the case – as we took a flew flyers in order to make the stridings.

So step 1 was accomplished: make the lines.

Moving on to the next course, funny enough, we made the lines easily this time. Huh. The next course after that the same thing happened, this time we felt more settled, she was opening up her step to adapt to the proper stridings I was consistently achieving.

Now we were on the canter.

The rest of the night went about the same. We stayed on the same canter and made the lines. When we were deep, I kept my head and continued out of the line with the correct strides. When we had a bit too much canter heading out of the line, Gracie backed herself off and we successfully made it out cleanly. Smart mare.

Leads are a work in progress. This will be the focus this week at home and the time leading up to our first show.

Videoed here is our last round where we ended things on a good note for the night.

Guess Who’s Back!

Riley is back! The Riley we know and love is back in action! But don’t worry folks, he’s still got the sass.

rileyIt has certainly been an interesting month for Riley and I.

We had made nothing but progress up until February where we experienced our major setback.

I’m going to start by acknowledging that the sub-arctic temperatures we had been experiencing for the last little while have finally lifted to acceptable winter going on early spring temperatures. I truly believe this was the main reason behind Riley’s issues this month, and I’m so glad it seems to all be behind us now.

For the last week I have finally gotten Riley back into a safer mindset where I am finally able to incorporate a riding crop back into our warm up. Before last week Riley was not capable of being encouraged by riding aids without risking him going up and rearing every time I pushed him too far – during this stage all I could do was lunge him before getting on him, and while mounted nag him into walking forward and stay off of his face for the entire process. This week when I added the riding crop I could tap him behind my leg when necessary to get him moving up into a trot or canter transition without causing a big ordeal.

At this point there is now only a fight to get him going at the beginning of the warm up, and once he has lost the battle he gives up and we can get on with our ride without any more major arguments. I am thrilled with this progress and know if I continue to hold my ground and keep my leg on during the beginning of the ride that the habit will die fast and be gone altogether before I know it.

This week Riley was back into his lesson program and we went right into the warm up exercises and did a few courses both lessons this week. The nice thing about this horse is that he has no issues with the jumps themselves. So long as we work things out in the warm up and he has given up his fight, he is soft and willing to go to the jumps every time.

I’m so glad to be back on track with this horse, and I know this setback will only add to the reward at the end of my first season with him.