Thursday, June 22, 2023

Summertime Silliness

 Last weekend Oregon got a much needed reprieve from summer. Friday was cooler, and storms started rolling in late Saturday, with some heavy thunderstorms (complete with water spouts over the ocean and in the Columbia and an EF0 tornado) on Sunday and Monday. Cinder and I had a nice ride on Friday, but on our walk around the property to cool out, she kept spooking at some plants. 

Dead plants must have ghosts coming from them

The plants were next to the shedrow stalls, which have been empty since the fall. I was slightly frustrated that Cin would spook at the plants that have been there for literal months, but then I realized that a new horse had moved into those stalls earlier that week and Cinder was probably not used to hearing horses in there anymore. My bad Cin. 

Cinder had Saturday off, and when I driving up to the barn on Sunday my gut was telling me not to ride. The temp had dropped like 25*, I got stuck in some pouring rain, and when I got to the barn no one else was there except the hay guy delivering hay. I tacked up anyway, but after three laps walking around the indoor with Cin spooking, snorting, and spinning at anything and everything I got off. It was obviously One of Those Days and I knew we wouldn't have a successful ride. I gave her a nice long free lunge, did a little ground work to make sure her brain was somewhat reinstalled, and called it quits. 

Monday was more of the same, weather wise, but I had a lesson and figured if Cinder was going to be silly stupid, at least we'd have help. Trainer A had me ride in the Dr. Bristol bit, and I don't know if it was the bit, the free lunge the day before, or some combination of the two, but Cinder was awesome. She felt much more settled and with me as soon as I got on. We had a flat lesson, staying on a 20m circle for the most part, working on learning how to ride her in this bit vs the mullen mouth. I can take more of a feel with the Dr. Bristol and push her forward from my leg more, especially in the canter. We're going to keep riding her in the Dr. B bit for now, but do some easy ride/trail rides in the mullen to switch it up now and then. 

Friday, June 16, 2023

Mental Game

 After the show Cinder got a few days off, then a couple light rides by Trainer A. I had a lesson last Friday, and A wanted to pick up right where we left off at the show, and had us do a brief flat warm up, then got right to the jumping. I was 100% expecting a flat lesson after the show, so I wasn't mentally prepared to just jump right into the jumping and I let my anxiety get the better of me a bit. For the most part, my mental game lately with Cin has been great; I've been managing her spookiness and baby moments at home and at shows really well and I know I'm capable of riding her through just about anything and I know she's going to jump whatever we put in front of her. But last Friday I started doubting myself a bit. 

The show photographer hasn't posted anything or replied to the email I sent so all you get is blurry screen shots

Trainer A handled my mini meltdown really well, and had me do flat work and would occasionally call out for me to pick up a jump. Lots of transitions, figures, changes of directions. Basically she said she was treating me like a nervous horse and giving me a lot to do without time to anticipate anything. And it worked. We ended the lesson on a good note. 

Always pat your pony

I flatted her last Sunday and then asked A what we were doing for our Monday lesson. Usually our Monday lessons are flat, and we jump in our Friday lessons. A wants Cin to jump in the martingale, so I wanted to know A) so I could mentally prepare, and B) know what to tack her up in. A told me I could pick, and since she's gone at a horse trial this weekend and I don't have a lesson today, I said jump. I (always) need more help over fences, and I didn't want to go too long between jump lessons and let any insecurities build up. 

So tired

It was almost 90* during my lesson, and heat=a very behind my leg Cinder. We did a quick and dirty flat warm up while A finished the lesson before mine. Over fences we warmed up with a single on the center line before A had us move onto two single diagonal oxers. She had us do the long approach to both of them, working on getting our pace along the short side and maintaining it and not picking to fences. I kept seeing a slightly waiting distance to one of them, but I made it work and A said she was happy with it. The other one I was able to see farther out and could move Cin up to it. A had put the single on the center line up a hole and then had me take it from the opposite direction we had warmed up over. I kept not being able to see the distance and Cinder was fairly tired and we had a couple pretty awkward jumps. The first time Cin didn't realize it had gotten bigger and pretty much jumped into the top rail.  I finally started riding and packaged her a bit more to add a stride and it worked out much better. We quit with one nice one since both Cin and I were hot and tired. I was very happy that even though I couldn't see the distance to the center jump to save my life I trusted Cin to get us over till I could pull myself together enough to help her out. 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

MDT Heirloom Show: June 2023 Day 2

 I spent Saturday night at A's house and we talked for a while about what the plan for Sunday was. I had three over fences classes; a 2' hunter round, a 2'3" medal, and a 2' derby. We both agreed a martingale was getting used, but we went back and forth about what bit. We finally decided on a copper twisted Dr. Bristol full cheek. It was the best hunter ring legal bit we had in the tack room. 

For full disclosure, Cinder did get a tube of perfect prep before we left the barn on Sunday. She also ran around like an idiot with her pasture buddies Sunday morning, so she obviously wasn't too tired. When we got to the show we walked her around a little, before tacking up and getting on. I wanted plenty of time to warm up and try the new bit before going in the ring. She felt much more settled than on Saturday, and warmed up well. 

They had us do a victory lap for the derby and the medal class. Both my and Cin's first two victory laps!

The plan for the first class, the 2' hunters, was to trot into everything. We wanted to reinforce that she needed to listen and slow it down. If she tried to take charge, I was to trot in the lines. If she was good, she could canter the lines. She ended up being very, very good, and we were able to canter all the lines. I could take a bit of a feel with the Dr. Bristol and then push her forward into my hand, instead of trying to manhandle her mouth with the mullen. We ended up winning the round out of 9. 

So proud!

For our medal class, they had the test built into the first round. We had a halt and a trot fence. We did have a small spook in the same corner as the day before, only this time the windows were closed and it was very windy and the shutters were rattling. We also hit a rail, but didn't pull it. We ended up 6th out 8. When they were putting ribbons on for the victory lap I asked they not put it on Cin's bridle as it was bigger ribbon and I didn't trust she'd be ok with it on her face for a whole lap around the ring.  

For the derby, I played the first round pretty conservatively, as Cinder was starting to get tired and I didn't trust the spooky corner. They had one outside line set with high options, and I had thought about taking them, but once on course I totally spaced it and took the low option. We had jumped the low side for the other two rounds and I went on autopilot. They were announcing scores, but due to the wind it was hard to hear the announcer so I wasn't sure what my first round score was. They did bring everyone back for the handy round in reverse order, and I went fifth, so I was in fourth place out of 8. 

Very happy to be back home with her dinner

I decided to go for it in the handy, because why not.  The first fence was the second in a diagonal line, with a rollback to the last fence in the outside line. Pretty much everyone else was going the long way, but there was an inside turn and I was pretty sure if I squeezed the shit out of Cin I could keep her going through it. It worked, and I was really happy with it. We then had a bending line, rollback to a single diagonal trot fence, to the first jump in the diagonal line and then halt. Cin fell apart a little after the trot fence so we trotted the last one, but otherwise I was really happy with the round. They called us into the ring to present awards, and I was shocked when we were called second. I was so proud of us and so happy to end the weekend on that great note. 

And to top it all off, I found out once we were back at the barn that we had managed to pull off the 2' division champion. I'm not sure how that's possible, but I'm not going to say no to another champion ribbon or the gift certificate to the tack store that comes with it!

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

MDT Heirloom Show: June 2023 Day 1

 We actually made it to another show, without Cinder trying to destroy herself! We did another local/outreach show up at a gorgeous facility in Washington, about 45mins north of Cinder's barn. I had gotten a stall for the weekend, but we ended up just hauling Cinder back and forth both days as my classes were in the afternoon and Cinder very much appreciates getting turned out in the mornings. 

The show manager had sent out an estimated timeline Thursday for Saturday, and based off of that, we decided to haul up a little early and take advantage of the open schooling between the jumpers and hunters. For this show, the outdoor arena was being used for warm-up, and showing in the indoor, but they were opening up the indoor for schooling while resetting the course. Cin has never been to this facility before; A and I have and know it can be a lot for the horses to take in. 

We decided a little late that we wanted to put a ribbon in her tail, and there was a bucket of ribbons from TBird that IL was throwing away. We grabbed a red (1st place in Canada) and used that to make our ribbon. 

Cin hauled well and was good while we tacked up. A took her over to hand walk/do ground work in the indoor while I got my boots and helmet on, and then I went over and got on. The ring was a bit chaotic and Cin had nice hump in her back for the first few minutes walking around. But once I started to relax and put her to work, she calmed down. We only did walk/trot as both A and I felt it was a little too crazy to canter and this was just a "get to know the arena" pre-ride anyways. 

The one moment of cuteness

Cin then got untacked and got to hangout in the stall for about an hour while the cross rails division went. After getting re-tacked up, we warmed up outside and Cin felt pretty good. She was a bit strong, but not bad and I felt pretty good going into our only over fences round on Saturday. The course started with an outside line even though I've told the course designer, who is mostly a jumper, that hunters always start with a single fence. We cantered up to first fence with no issue, but Cinder landed and wanted to blow through my hand. I held her for the correct number of strides and continued on to the diagonal bending line. She landed off the third fence, gave me the middle hoof, and proceeded to morph into a giraffe/jumper hybrid. I got after her fairly hard because that is not acceptable hunter ring behavior. 

It was about here that I decided to ask A about putting a martingale on her, and possibly a different bit

I made the decision to trot into the next outside line to reinforce "you need to listen and slow it down". This outside line had potted bushes next to the standards that Cinder wasn't sure about and she drifted hard to the outside and ran out at the second fence. I brought her back around at the trot and we made it over. I decided to trot into the final diagonal line since at this point I knew we were out of the ribbons and we were just schooling. That line rode the best and I was a little mollified that we could recover. 

For our post round discussion, A and I agreed that we needed more bit than the loose ring mullen mouth for shows, and that trotting everything was the right call. We weren't sure if Cin got a little stage fright going into the ring alone, since she was chill in warm-up, or if she needs a longer warm-up, or if we should have done a cross rail round to get her in the ring first. Or some combination of the above. 

Not how the under saddle is supposed to end

I had been the first of 8 to go in the over fences, so we had a bit of wait for the under saddle. Cin was still a little tenser than I would have liked, but for the most part she flatted well. There was one moment going the first direction when someone got too close to us as we were coming down from the canter to walk and Cinder kinda slammed on the breaks and tossed her head, and I had to glare at the other women because hello, chestnut mare with a red ribbon in her tail. Stay far away. Going the second direction, as we were cantering around the corner next to the windows, Cinder caught a glimpse of the tractor driving down the road next to the arena and spooked hard. She spun in front of a jump and I started praying she wouldn't jump it. My right leg slid way back and my stirrup leather got caught behind my saddle flap and I knew if she jumped I'd fall off. She almost ran into the standard and I managed to cling to her neck and stay on. 

I was sure that was going to knock us way down the list. So imagine my surprise when we were called third out of eight. The announcer (who was sitting next to the judge) follows me on IG and after I posted the spook she messaged me and said that neither her nor the judge saw it. I told A as we walked out of the ring that we didn't deserve that ribbon, and she said I did for staying on. We untacked and started making a plan for Sunday on the drive home.