Reflections on Last Weekend's Schooling Show

Top 4 U/S were all ladies from my barn. We got 4th and Leo could not look more proud to pose for a picture. Other horses? Not so much.

Top 4 U/S were all ladies from my barn. We got 4th and Leo could not look more proud to pose for a picture. Other horses? Not so much.

Last weekend I had my first “schooling” show of the year with Leo. My barn hosts local association shows a few times a year and I’m always happy to have a low pressure and low cost opportunity to show. It was both Saturday and Sunday, and I wish I could bottle the feeling of pure bliss getting off work that Friday with the sun still shining, heading to the barn for a final lesson and school a bit in the hedge ring. Leo absolutely knew exactly what this meant.

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We had an awesome and unusually energetic warm-up. Things that happened during our school: jumped things way bigger than the level we showed at, an exuberant Leo bucking and playing after said big but fun jumps, doing five strides in a long six, my crop broke because it went into my boot upon one wonky landing, a refusal to another big oxer because a bug flew in my eye and Leo knew something was up (good call bud, my eyes were closed). We basically raced around the course like we were planning on winning a jumper class. I would say it was a train-wreck but I was laughing the entire time and Leo felt so good, so how could I not enjoy it? I felt like we got a great school in, but heading home I started to have doubts. What if I can’t hold him together in the ring and he goes around happily bucking and playing? What if I pull him to another refusal like last show?? I put it out of my mind. A glass of wine helped.

My goal for the weekend was to get around the courses without worrying about winning and to have FUN. Needless to say, GOALS MET. Looking back on the weekend, I may have embarrassed myself a bit. Don’t mind the girl at the [schooling] show overdressed with a braided horse happily chipping and laughing about it, with unasked for upward transitions and definitely not using my corners. That’s fine though, Leo was a v. good boy and looked genuinely happy in all the videos and got absolutely showered with treats for being so wonderful. I can’t get over his swivel ears, jump hunting and constantly checking in with, “Okay, where we headed next?” I even heard someone sitting near my husband on one of our videos say, “He just look so happy to do his job!” as we entered the ring. Gonna need a parent signature slip for that feel trip.

Some thoughts about my rounds:

Saturday

U/S. I sincerely hope the judge Saturday shared my sense of humor. We had two accidental upward transitions and each time I was definitely making eye contact with her. When our trot was finally getting to floaty-status: Surprise Canter. How we didn’t come in last, I’m not sure. And damn, was Leo annoyed that we couldn’t just gallop around. I was laughing around the entire ring.

1. Heading into the ring with our nice trot, the surprise canter transition strikes again. I think this threw me off enough to think that we were really forward, a common fault of mine. Well, we weren’t. I pulled to a trot for our first fence. We did not place. Added in the first line. I still had it in my head that we were GALLOPING. We were not. Pulled to a bad trot/chip stride for the long approach oxer. Chipped into the last line.

2. Enter attempting to keep the trot to the end of the rail, so our trot looks sad and ugly and I still didn’t keep the gait. Still crawling at the canter, chip our first jump. Did NOT get the change, even trying to trot it and picking up the wrong lead again! Obviously did not do well in this class either. We are able to gallop down the lines regardless of what madness I try to pull. Nail the long approach! He’s perfect.

3. The Mini Medal! Super late change after fence 1, and then an awwwful chip, but then our rollback is beautiful. He really gets so powerful and lovely and turn-y with the outside rein and leg combo buttons. Our halts could use some work. Should I have patted him at the halt? Probably not. We also argued about doing a canter step before the trot jump so he takes off from like 10 feet away (Can I stop thrusting my hips forward with the trot jumps? Yuck.).

 

Sunday

4. Here’s another huge upward transition mistake! We were supposed to make a trot loop around the arena, like a backwards ‘c’, and then pick up our right lead. We head in across the diagonal and Leo’s like WEEEEE LEFT LEAD. I’m thinking: that gives me two very ugly options, lead change or simple trot change. I went with a very poorly executed lead change. In retrospect, I could have just brought him back to the trot… but at least we had a good pace after our ugly change. Going into the diagonal line you can clearly see that my reins have become a problem (a common fault of mine). He jumps the white and red line suuuper cute, but I need to focus on not letting him get so close to the out jumps of the lines! For some reason I become a coward to the long-approach oxer, which is actually not usually my problem. See a spooky thing outside the arena coming to the last line and then we’re on a roll and take a distance I did not expect… this happens to me occasionally (see: all the time) and my trainer always tells me to “just go with him” and I’m like I would but my brain doesn’t compute. Anyway, it looked like we were out fox hunting or something, so give me a grab strap and some extra points for that lively jump! It is called hunters, right?

5. Me: attempts to keep his trot under control. Leo: no canter? Well, you’re definitely not going to get a nice trot out of me.
First fence was okay! Butchered the long approach again. No spookies at the outside line! Very cute diagonal. I attempt to use my corner, reins get long again. I thought that round went pretty well!

6. Same ugly entrance, good first fence! The bending line was a solid 6.5 strides, and I planned for a slight bulge out for a 7. We still could have stepped up a bit but it rode well. After the bending I completely forgot my course! I was just like, uhhhh well it makes sense for us to end up over here so maybe do this line? And then remembered the trot jump at the last second. It made for a seamless transition, though! I was so impressed that I remembered the trot jump that I wasn’t focusing on the line and turned a bit too soon and without being organized. Chip = rail = points off. Good halt and made easy work of the last line. Almost trotted out of the ring, but even with all the mistakes, still ended up with a second!

All in all, especially after watching the videos and knowing that the mistakes I made are not only common for me, but ones that I have made and also corrected in the past, I feel confident that we can go into our next show and make definite improvements. I’m hoping we’ll be able to focus more on the medals and equitation classes, too!

 
 

How I Got My Groove Back: Lesson Update - March 2019

Last November I had two somewhat iffy falls (which I obviously did not dwell on) which seemed planted amid a series of unfortunate events. Fires in Northern California and a few storms kept me from diving right back into jumping the way I thought would be ideal for getting rid of my new-found fears. I think my step back helped me regain my confidence more efficiently in the end. My trainers were also amazing at structuring a series of confidence building lessons. I was able to return to “jumping” with exercises like a simple 5-stride line of cavalettis and as well as small grids to incorporate larger jumps.

In early January there was a storm so extreme that the middle section of our indoor was blown off, essentially splitting our indoor into 2 one-third sections on each end. This meant that our entire barn had a new [mandatory] focus on flat work and smaller jumps. Again, back to basics for the winter was not the worst news to me and it was a great exercise in taking it slow and confidence building. When I say ‘confidence building’ I don’t necessarily mean that I was scared to jump anymore after my initial reintroduction, but there are always holes in your education where just doing one thing repetitively at a very low level can give you the chance to make mistakes, identify, and then correct them without the worry about jump height or ‘can the horse make it from this ridiculous distance I just set up?’.

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Once the footing was dry enough to lesson outside, we were able to apply a lot of what we’d been working on inside which could basically be boiled down to: is the horse listening? We jumped the wall! Insert sassy girl emoji. I’d been warned previously about Leo’s “tendencies”, can’t do this, won’t jump that. Well, you expect more, you get more. I was riding with a newer trainer at my barn for this lesson who did not share the previous knowledge of him not doing x or y because z. She told me to go get it, and at my first turn towards the jump Leo was super offended. But she had me come around again, trot right up to it, slow to a walk, let him investigate and canter away, circling so that we didn’t pass the jump. We came to it confidently and supportive and he just did it. NBD. We also ended up doing the black plank jump in a course that day, which I don’t think we’ve done since last November - the planks were the original culprit in my falling-off legacy. Did I mention to my trainer that either of those things could cause issues? Nah. The more you focus on it, the more it’s likely to happen. Stop. Dwelling. Also, I can’t say enough about working with more than one trainer. Each one has different insights, different ways to explain things and can pick up different difficulties you and your horse are having.


Side Note: I watched the first episode of The Saddle Club recently after discussing the show with a friend since she absolutely needs to start watching it with her daughter. No joke, in the first episode one of the kids (Carol, duh) is afraid of jumping the wall and I was just like, wow is my life really a children’s horse show right now? Should I really be this proud about jumping a “scary” jump? Oh, and here’s the link because I know you want to watch.


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So anyway, the lesson!

What can I even say about it? It was so good! It’s been rainy the past few weeks/months/all of winter, and so we’ve been stuck inside relegated to either side of the covered arena. I won’t say it’s been awful though, it’s clearly made a huge difference in my riding, the need to ride in a collected manner helped me learn to sit the canter and control my body a bit more over the jumps if I’m not allowing him to immediately extend after even a small jump - there’s no room to let him go anywhere. Proper turns that use every available inch of a corner (opening outside rein!) also really aided me both indoors and in this lesson. And finally, all this rain and riding inside has made me appreciate being outside and having a proper jump lesson.

I can remember last summer and fall not looking forward to my jumping lessons because I found them daunting, stressful and probably too frequent. Jumping, though I feel it probably shouldn’t, takes considerably more mental effort than flatwork. If you have a goal in mind for your flatwork, e.g. practicing a halt by a certain place in the arena, and it doesn’t work out you can simply try again, noting what went wrong the first time. If you’re jumping and misjudge a distance or don’t get your proper, energetic canter, things can turn south quickly.

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I don’t know what it was about this day, but every single distance came up perfectly, Leo was totally excited and willing. Well, I probably know why we did so well. The day before we worked on a set of poles and eventually cavalettis on the ground set at 3 strides and worked on collecting enough to get 4 in, and switching back and forth for my pace perception and his adjustability. The concept just carried over to this day.

Our only ‘miss’ was when he spooked at the liverpool that we’d already passed ten times, but that’s horses, and it wasn’t awwwful. My only critique would be that my right heel is now able to flex much further down [and is overall stronger] than my left, so that’s next on my To Work On list. It’s also ridiculously hard to rein in Leo’s stride down the 4 to 4, but but hopefully can work on that with my seat and position. We did just switch to a D-ring Happy Mouth, so we’re still learning how to effectively use it. He’s excited, he’s happy and he’s got a monster stride. It was great practice for next weekend though, since he loves to gallop down the lines (and so do I tbh).

Should out to my barnmate’s friend for taking video for me! I owe you Shelby!

Equestrian Pet Peeves

 
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I’ve often seen the “What’s your biggest equestrian pet peeve?” posted as a daily question on IG and with too many responses to list and plenty of my own opinions, and also seeing how nasty things can get, I thought the topic deserved it’s own blog post!

Dictionary.com describes a pet peeve as
noun, a particular and often continual annoyance; personal bugbear

Which also begs the question, what’s a bugbear? I went ahead and listed a few of my greatest equestrian pet peeves below along with a few of my friend’s biggest pet peeves:

My Own

  • When I see other people getting to make the same mistakes I used to, but my trainer drilled them out of me. Not fair. Why do I have to sit up and support to the jump?

  • Rain. Enough said. Oh and WIND.

  • When people don’t get to buy the horse they want. It actually stresses me out to hear about friends not being able to have all the horses. I just want everyone to have their horse and for them and their perfect horse live happily ever after.

  • When people fall off and somehow have an absolute death grip on the reins. I don’t even know if this is a pet peeve or I’m just impressed? When something goes wrong when I ride the FIRST thing to go is my reins. Horse trips? Fingers magically open. Long spot? Reins gone. Bad chip? Reins have been deemed unnecessary without my consent. Maybe I’m just jealous… but the horses never looked pleased to have their previous rider now attached to their head and mouth.

  • Nastiness on social media. There have been times when I see something that I gasp don’t approve of! And guess what? I say nothing. Not because I’m some amazing person, but think about what is really going to happen if you say something, even with good intentions. They don’t know you, why would they listen to your suggestions or criticism? Their only response is to become defensive. Just unfollow!

  • Witch Hunting on social media. Watch this video to see why it’s both unproductive and a scary change to our culture. Just unfollow!

  • Having a GoFundMe to pay for a horse/vet bills/shows/etc.

  • Anything else that could be relevant to boarding or the barn experience, I have no right to complain about because I’ve probably been guilty of it at some point and no one knows everything. If you see someone committing a cardinal barn sin (like leaving poop in the cross ties) kindly say something (hopefully a different response in person than online, right?). This is especially true for safety issues! When you’re kindly saying something in those cases, also mention the safety aspect because these barn sins are almost always committed out of ignorance and not malice.

Friend Responses

- Arena etiquette, especially in the warm-up arena. There is nothing more infuriating than playing a game of chicken with the person coming head on at you when they don’t respect the shoulder-left rule. It’s also maddening when people pass extremely close. There is a special place too for the people who clearly lack horsemanship skills and common sense and do things like cutting you off after a fence or smacking their horse as they pass you. Lastly, don’t tailgate other riders!
- Caroline L. (@clurie.eq) [I’m so guilty of that last one, Leo’s got a big stride and loves to chase!]

- Putting off a persona that you’re the perfect rider and horse owner, we all make mistakes, be transparent. Also, not patting your horse after your round. They just tried their heart out for you, give them a reward, even if it’s as small as one pat.
- Olivia M. (@remarkablemare)

- My biggest pet peeve are riders who don't listen to their horses or care for them with compassion. If your only goal is to get on your horse and make them do exactly what you want, then I don't think you are a great horse person. Also, there are few more annoying things than someone else besides your trainer giving you suggestions on how to ride your horse. Don't listen to the peanut gallery!
- Connie F. (@connieincolorado)

- When people blame their horse for their poor performance and when people don’t attend to the other riders in the ring. Even if the horse is acting up, it didn’t choose to be ridden so it’s not his fault.
- Claire C. T. (@mdadultammy)

We're Building a House!

Actually, WE’RE not, but my in-laws are and I’m absolutely ready to live vicariously and pretend I have any input on their design choices. It’s already basically my Dream Home, think Napa Farmhouse Style on a 5 acre farmette and I’m already planning my future baby shower there.

They purchased the land and in-progress house from a builder and since the house was not too far along into construction, they will be choosing all the finishes and have already made a few custom upgrades (wow hello 36 foot beams). This past weekend my husband and I finally got to go out - and by go out I mean waaaay out - and see the property.

Front elevation.

Front elevation.

View from what will be the front porch. Planning on some grape vines in the front and a fish pond in the lower left section of the front yard (what’s a word for something much bigger than a yard?).

View from what will be the front porch. Planning on some grape vines in the front and a fish pond in the lower left section of the front yard (what’s a word for something much bigger than a yard?).

Rear elevation. I LOVE that the back of the home faces the setting sun. A pool will be here eventually.

Rear elevation. I LOVE that the back of the home faces the setting sun. A pool will be here eventually.

From left to right: front door, dining area, hallway to one side of the house, kitchen area and breakfast nook. That #NaturalLight

From left to right: front door, dining area, hallway to one side of the house, kitchen area and breakfast nook. That #NaturalLight

I found this lovely kitchen inspo (photo at right from Pinterest) based on their description of big wood beams, white counter, white cabinets with a giant wood center island. All white everything. Marble look quartz (great choice), with a to-be-decided backsplash. There’s also have an adorable walk in pantry with a window!! Kitchen sink under the window looking out over the backyard, which the The Dream, right?

Dining room facing the front of the house.

Dining room facing the front of the house.

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Things that may or may not happen on this property: goats, mini donkeys, mini cows, a gorgeous lil’ barn, fancy tractors n things, citrus orchard, homemade jams and jellies from said orchard, surprise Christmas morning ponies for my future children hiding in the gorgeous barn. Etcetera. I’m also told this is one area of California which actually stays green through the spring to summer! I’m crossing my fingers, because the grass is gorgeous.

View of the property from the back door. But views from every side of the house are pretty perfect.

View of the property from the back door. But views from every side of the house are pretty perfect.

 

I wish there was another word for envious that means I want that thing, but I’m also happy that someone I know and love has that thing. Admiration maybe? I’m so happy for my in-laws, they deserve a win and a place to settle down after moving many multiples of times since I’ve known them.

Cheers to buying and now creating your dream home and legacy property! Can’t wait to follow along in the build process.

Favorite Homemade Horse Treat Recipes

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of Paddock Cakes, but as my days at the barn ramped up, so did my treat usage and eventually ordering a $30 bucket of treats every 4 weeks became, as my husband would call it, “excessive”. So off on my treat making endeavor I went! After browsing many Google results, such as this, many ingredients commonly came up and I assessed my current inventory and came up with my own concoction. The only additional ingredient I had to purchase was molasses. Everything else I added I researched to make sure it was horse digestion safe.

The first version of the cookies (pictured right) included oats, molasses, finely chopped apple, water, a light sprinkle of chia seeds and plain flour.

First version of the cookies!

First version of the cookies!

The second version, prepared for Christmas, had little indents in the tops to push in peppermint candies. These were especially well loved by Leo, but in this case the apples were not finely chopped enough and retain so much water that by the time the second day rolled around the peppermints had melted into the cookie - so, sticky but still delicious!

Christmas version of the cookies, with soft and hard peppermint candies (which both promptly melted from the apple juices!). Horses did not seem to mind.

Christmas version of the cookies, with soft and hard peppermint candies (which both promptly melted from the apple juices!). Horses did not seem to mind.

 
Basic ingredients, adjust the recipe easily as needed.

Basic ingredients, adjust the recipe easily as needed.


Perfected HH Cookie Recipe (muffin style)

- 1 cup plain Oats (add more as needed for consistency desired) (plain Quaker oats - like for oat meal)
- 2 cups oat flour, or processed oats (see above)
- 1/4 cup ground flax
- 1/4 chia seeds
- 1-2 ripe bananas
- 5-6 ounces of molasses (I usually just eye half a jar of the Grandma’s brand molasses)

Then add whatever else your heart desires, chopped apples (finely chopped!), carrots, banana chips, etc.
I try to keep mine low on sugar, but felt the need to decorate with some light icing for Valentine’s Day. The recipe is fairly easy to alter and to transform the “batter” from muffin style to the “dough” cookie cutter style: I simply add more oat flour (or processed oats) and water and work it to the desired consistency. Though I will mention, if you’re doing all or mostly cut out cookies, use almost all oat flour/processed oats. The larger oatmeal chunks make it hard to make a straight cookie cutter cut. Be sure to bake thoroughly so they are longer lasting!

Bake

I think I usually bake around 350 and leave in from 15 - 20 minutes. Adjust according to your own oven, mine is a bit wonky and I tend to go a lot by “I feel like it should be this temp today” so… just monitor them!

The icing recipe is fairly easy: water, powdered sugar and gel food coloring. Just use a ratio that works for you! And decorating is obviously not my forte.

If you’re also a fan of perfectfit, and if you want to know how I’ve achieved it,
I used this tupperware and this silicone mini muffin tray. So satisfying.

Lesson Update - January 2019

My husband was generous enough to come out and video another lesson (in a short span of two weeks?) and so here we are. The weather was gorgeous that day and I even rode in just my base layer. I also didn’t fiddle with the camera setting and as always am super pleased with my talented videographer hubby.

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Exercises

Starting in our Thursday night flat lesson we worked on a curved pole exercise: normal five strides, wide track to 6, straight track for 4. You can see in the video I go out around the white jump for the 4 stride, straight approach, and stayed inside for a more curved approach to a 5. Lately we’ve been mostly working on track change and how it affects distances.

When doing roll-backs, it’s easier to find a distance if you turn sooner so if you see you’re getting to the jump too quickly or slowly, you can shift out or in on the turn to adjust for a better stride (track change), whereas if you approach straight from farther away, your only options are to move up or slow down (speed change).

Also got a quick refresher on inside leg to outside rein for collection, but adding outside leg back for a slight whole body bend makes for even easier collection (honestly, I totally forgot that trick).

The Good

Leo is perfectly capable of doing the wave planks! We had been avoiding that jump because it can be a bit spooky for them, but he was unfazed, even knocking one the first time over (which is why I look so pleased after the rail, totally thought he would over-jump it!).

I got almost all of my distances, and even the “bad” ones weren’t ridiculous.

Last Sunday the storm was so bad that it ripped off the mid-section of the arena cover (I am seriously devastated for the barn owners) and Leo has been completely composed thus far.

Pretty much last weekend’s storm @ Leo

Pretty much last weekend’s storm @ Leo

Leo’s new very reasonably priced breastplate has worked perfectly so far with no saddle slippage to report!

The Bad

My hands have not improved since my last video and if anything, have gotten worse. My trainer pointed out that I was leading a lot with my right hand and I think my excuse coming towards some of the jumps was to indicate to Leo that he should be landing the right lead – it worked once – but I think there are more correct ways to hold the lead… and my right hand was forward the entire lesson, not just before the jumps so just a bad excuse.

Also, my hands didn’t really follow during at all during my courses - so, I’ve regressed. Even over the jumps, I’m still sitting up like half a second too early.

I’m THIS close to ordering some resistance bands to train myself to follow properly again. My wrists are also excessively in the hanging position, which I think will be most difficult habit to correct. I sleep with my wrists bent like that, they’re in that position all day when I’m typing at work.

Leo was also a bit grumpy and possibly sore from vaccines the weekend before. Luckily there’s a probably reason for his sour mood. Where are his perked ears over the jumps?

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Last Lesson of 2018 Re-Cap

I haven’t really gotten to do a full lesson review since late October, I had a teensy fall early November, days before the horrible and deadly fires in California, which put a stop to riding for a fews weeks. I got back in the saddle and had a few good flat rides before a worse fall at the end of November. On top of that, the trainer I had been riding with since July 2017 left unexpectedly and my comfort zone was no longer existent. To say I was shook would be an understatement.

Luckily, with the help of the head trainer at my barn I’ve slowly been regaining my confidence and actually popped around the courses in my last lesson of 2018 fear-free. Under no circumstances does that mean that it was flawless, but there was no last minute handsiness, and no pray-for-it long spots (which I have also become a fan of recently). I got to lesson with two of my favorite barn-mates as well and husband was kind enough to video for them also! Apologies for the blurry video though, I messed up the camera settings before the lesson and forgot to set it back to auto for videos. Whoops.

Some observations:

  • I wouldn’t look like an orchestra conductor if my reins were the proper length (shorter). Also, the pelham has probably become unnecessary.

  • I need a breastplate so badly. The saddle pad and just plain saddle slippage in this video irk me so much!

  • Trainer pointed out that my hips are way too far forward over the pommel of the saddle, and now that I’ve seen and felt it, it can’t be undone. You can see a definite effort to correct it at the 1:35 line. Honestly, I wonder if my saddle even fits me properly (that’s a shopping idea for another day) or my position was made worse by the saddle slipping?

  • I’m having trouble when cantering and attempting to use my outside leg. It just slips back and up. Need to work on that!

  • As far as the horse goes, Leo is perfect in every way! Even his little trip over the trot fence was cute because he got so mad at it. We’ve been working a lot on counter-canter stuff, so I think keeping his right lead down right-lead lines is becoming easier for him. He’s always so game for whatever lessons we have an I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten to ride such a nice horse. Hoping for more great lessons with him in 2019!