Sunday, June 29, 2014

Loving his gel insoles

 I had a non-horsey friend put it to me best this week when I was explaining that Fawkes had pads put on his front feet.  "So, basically, he now has Dr. Scholl's gel inserts?" ......welllll, yes, I guess that is true, Fawkes is gellin'.

He certainly seems to be a happy beastie right now.

From this morning's lesson.  Flower oxer ain't no thang.

Holy crap, pictures over a real jump.  And while still fighting my upper-body-throwing-mane-devouring tendencies, I am rather happy with our form.  I used to think I would never be a good equitation rider but trainer R is really getting me there. I am over-riding these relatively small fences, but at least I am over-riding in good form!  Plus, we are in hunter land, right? And Fawkes seems quite content.  Not that our ride was without shenanigans....

Ahem.  One of the neighbors up the street dared to walk their dog past the ring.  Fawkes was being so good about focusing on the jump that he didn't notice them until they were close and then he freaked out.  Several times.  In the same corner.  But, if I am being all Suzy Sunshine, I can focus on the fact that even being wound tightly and looky, he kept jumping everything I aimed him at.  Working on antics between fences is much better than wondering if we are going over!
Can this face tell me where exactly he lost his fly mask?  I bought a high end one because he destroys cheap ones so the bastard decided to one up me and just somehow lose the whole damn thing.  HOW?
It was super hot this morning so after our lesson we got a hose down complete with mane and tail shampooing.  That will last until, oh wait, that was hours ago, I am sure he is already filthy.  But it made me feel good.  Then I cleaned all my tack even taking my bridle apart and putting it back together (this is amazing, it happens approximately annually).  

I did this in part because I was dropping my dressage saddle off for consignment today.  Looking back at this blog, I haven't ridden dressage in what seems like forever because I am trying so hard to get our jumping in order.  Plus I really would like to upgrade my jump saddle and not spend all my savings.  Finally, while my dressage saddle is beautiful and shiny and made in England, I never really loved the gigantic thigh blocks.  So if our fortunes change someday and eventing seems like a possibility, I will get a different dressage saddle next time.  

And in wrap up, a few pictures from Saturday, the day we Attempt to Tire Out Cattle Dogs.  We went to Buena Vista (a very pretty place about 2 hours from Denver) and hiked Lake Hartenstein.

So hard to get them to pose together.  Jasper looks very 1/2 corgi here (we have no idea if that is what he is)

Log crossing over the stream

At the lake.
Weekends always remind me how very lucky I am!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Morning rides

Fawkes and I switched it up this week and went from our usual post-work rides to me getting up painfully early and riding before work.

While the early mornings are not usually my thing and it sucks when the alarm goes off, there are several advantages:

  • First, obviously, is how much cooler it is in the morning.  Usually low 70s vs the 80s and 90s of 5-6pm.
  • Less likely to be storming.  CO is notorious for afternoon thunderstorms.  At this time of year, pretty much every day you have about even odds of having downpours, hail, and/or electrical storms.  Yes, I have an indoor, but Fawkes lives outside and trying to drag your horse in during a hail storm sucks.  We are far enough west that we don't have much tornado risk, but the morning weather is much more consistent
  • Though tired and under-caffeinated, I am not all tense from a long day at work.  Anxious horse doesn't need my added post work stress in his life.
Downside: Fawkes thinks he will literally DIE from being in the ring during breakfast.
They look so happy
This was our first week experimenting with it, and I am super grateful to my boss for allowing me to flex my schedule a little. I am salaried and always work greater than 40 hours a week, but still, not all places would let you shift your schedule several times a week.  

Monday, farrier came and put pads on.  I have never gone this route before and am hesitant, but I am told CO's ground is just so hard, I shouldn't read too much into it right now.  Farrier did say Fawkes was pretty sore in front and he doesn't have great soles so hopefully it isn't anything more sinister.

Wednesday we had a jumping lesson and worked on some bending lines as well as straight lines and single fences.  Not too much noteworthy, Fawkes was really good, my riding definitely feels like it is coming together, and my confidence seems to be improving as well.  We bashed one fence down when I "got fast with my shoulders" per my trainer (read: tried to climb into his ears) but other than that we were in a good place.  
Doh.  So close to being a really good picture too
Even did some course work, bending line to diagonal vertical to straight line. It seems like it is getting there, I hope we can keep progressing for awhile.

This morning it was all about getting some impulsion in the trot and then working on canter transitions.  I am not sure what has happened there.  When I first got him his transitions were ok, then they were awful, then they were good, and now they are meh.  So we will keep practicing until he is convinced he can pick up the canter with contact and with outside leg, like a real horse.  

Hopefully we can keep this morning riding thing up through the summer, will have to see how it works out with work but I am really liking it this week!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

And now for something completely different

Well, sort of.

Fawkes and I have had two excellent jumping lessons this weekend and also - gasp - a trail ride!  Holy crap we got out of the ring.

Friday in our lesson, we got very lucky with the weather.  It was mega hot and we were thinking we would have to take it easy, but then a breeze lifted and some clouds rolled in and it was perfect.  We worked on lines over fences and canter transitions.  I didn't have a photographer, but took some jump pictures to show we do occasionally jump things bigger than a bump

About a 2'3" oxer
My big takeaways are 1) don't drop your hands!  I think I am just grabbing mane but instead I collapse forward and then he worries.  He didn't quit at all, but definitely if I need to grab mane I need to go forward, not down.  2) leg on leg on leg on.  Specifically, put leg on whichever way he is bulging and hold it there.  By and large if I keep my hands and eyes up and leg on, he just keeps on trucking.

A 2'3" ish vertical
 At this morning's lesson, we spent a bunch of time on flatwork, which was hard and awesome.  I love how my trainer is always always asking me to work.  I am a terribly lazy creature by nature and will just stagnant.  Trainer R is perfect at being demanding and encouraging at the same time.  So we worked on me keeping correct contact during transitions, telling Fawkes to suck it when he objected to said contact, and to get him responsive off the inside leg.

Then we worked on getting him more sensitive to canter transitions since he is completely happy to ignore my outside leg until he feels like taking off.  My butt was well and truly kicked before we even started jumping.

And just for posterity, other things I am constantly working on:
1) Not posting so far out of the saddle
2) Maintaining the correct bend at my hip
3) Using seat bones appropriately
4) Keeping reins in a fist because apparently I like to live on the edge of Fawkes ripping the reins out of my hand
5) Letting go of the inside rein
6) Not sitting and driving when Fawkes gets wiggly
7) Quiet lower leg (I am not bad here, but can improve)

Just a couple things to work on there.
Cute ears, scary mane

The jumping was straight forward and for once something we picked up quickly  - changing the striding in a line.  So do 6 the first time, 5 the second time, 6 the third time, etc.  We had a really dumb stop at the first cross rail, I just don't think Fawkes was really paying attention and I looked down so it gave him the excuse he needed to just slowly stop.  Duh.

Then we were on.  Collect for the 5, allow for the 6.  R kept moving Fawkes' nemesis - these plank box wooden things which he just doesn't like - closer and closer to the second jump in the line until he finally had to jump them.  I did as I was told - hands up, eyes up, legs on and not pulling in front of the jump.  And he did as he was told, jumped it like a dream.

After the lesson, we took a quick dismount and water break and then went out for an hour trail ride with a friend.  I was amazed at how good he was.  He spooked a couple times, but considering we had to walk through a neighborhood and deal with dogs, bikes, joggers, and weird motorized rafts at the pond we went to, he was spectacular.  Even better than the other horse, which, let's be real, we are usually the worst behaved in any crowd.

I think trail rides are growing on him as he was generally relaxed, willing, and walking out with his head down.  Old Fawkes jigged, skittered, pawed, stopped, half reared, and spun.  Not always and not the whole ride, but even when something scared him today he was able to gather himself together.  This is definitely new for us.  Could not be happier with the horse this weekend!

And to finish, a picture from our hike last week :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Having a run of bravery

Had a jumping lesson on Saturday morning and while we kept everything teeny tiny, it was flowers and a plank thing and there was a hose outside of the ring and somehow Fawkes had his big boy pants on!  Got a little wiggly but never refused.  Yay for progress

This trot is freaking rock star.  I am looking forward to the day I can get it with a bit less inside leg.  

Pssh, silly cross rail is not even worth my time.

First time over the flowers cross rail.  A bit defensive but not terrible at least.

Yeah, still bored with this mom

I will make it more interesting with a launch

First time over the plank, better watch it the whole way so it doesn't attack

Fawkes' bestie in mid-sneeze.  Love it

Amazing how well we can jump while watching the photographer instead of where we are going


Super brave over the flower vertical.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dirty horse, good horse

Fawkes has been a professional mud roller, it is fast becoming legend at the barn.  Barn crew now takes pictures and videos of him drenched in mud, rolling happily.

This was a good day.  He is usually much more rhino-hided
This means I get to spend my time being a professional horse cleaner.  Yay.  I presume this is because he is hot and laying in the mud is cool.  But picking mud out of his ears and sheath and spending hours hosing mud off of his (brand new) fly sheet and mask are not my idea of fun.  On the plus side, he is finally shedding. Which means he was just slow and we can stop worrying about diseases for the moment.  Real yay!
This is a super old picture, but very indicative of his mud accumulation talents.
He also continues to be excellent under saddle.  We had a great jumping lesson tonight.  We weren't jumping any height - mostly around 2' - but we were asking him to canter things the first time he saw them which he always gets nervous about.  I actually got to ride with trainer R's daughter which was fun.  Basically worked on hunter courses (line, diagonal, line, diagonal) and shockingly, he was good and I rode well.  AT THE SAME TIME.  This is almost inconceivable.

But really, it was all good.  Were able to maintain rhythm, get mostly decent spots, his changes were clean, tight, and right there. We finished up with a walk up the street past the house with the scary kids and the other house with the scary goats.

We will do another lesson with R's daughter tomorrow morning before I head out of town for the rest of the weekend for a party.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Week in review

Well, J and are I beginning to think we caught some sort of parasite in Costa Rica since we aren't really getting better.  Or, more accurately, symptoms come and go.  I felt pretty good Wednesday and Thursday and had a total relapse on Friday.  Blargh.  I will go to the Dr this week and see what we can find out.

Praise the horse lords, Fawkes released the giant stick from his butt this week and came back as the nice horse I know he can be.  With my photographer sick, photos are at a premium, but we got a few today.

Trot is coming along nicely
I did manage to ride almost every day which was nice, although several of the rides were 15 minutes long or a bit of ring work followed by a walk up the road.  Interestingly, Fawkes does not seem (extra) nervous about walking up the street by himself although I don't go more than 10 minutes away right now.

We had jumping lessons Friday and today.  Friday's lesson was working on adding flowers to a jump and we had a small epiphany.  See, when Fawkes gets squirrely to a fence, my innate reaction is to sit and drive him to the jump. It works, but trainer R doesn't like that.  I have struggled with getting him over spooky jumps without that fall back.  But on Friday, I felt him starting to wiggle, and - with my trainer helping - managed to just put leg on and keep him straight.  Lo and behold, he went over the damn jump like a pro.

Not the best eq, but look at how brave he was to the open distance.  Yummy, yummy mane.
We were going to work on more of that today but we got rained/hailed/thunderstormed into the indoor ring so instead we just worked on our usual straightness and rhythm.  To add the "spooky" factor, he had to canter over things the first time without sniffing it or trotting first.  I know, for most horses that is so ridiculously easy, but Fawkes gets really upset when anything changes - height, width, decor, lighting, sigh.
Sick photographer is also drunk apparently.  But dammit, I think that is the best I looked so I am including it.
Anyways, the good news is, he was very responsive and obedient and overall I am finally feeling the progress that just felt lacking in May.  We spent some time on canter transitions - i.e. don't throw him away with your hands- and then the single jump on the quarter line, circle, and then the line of poles up the middle.  Balancing for the tight turn is still challenging for me, but I definitely felt like we were getting somewhere.

Goals for this week hopefully include getting his clip job fixed and me getting healthy so we can don't lose this momentum!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Horse Shaming

So it has not been smooth sailing around here and on Friday I came down with a nasty stomach bug.  Not one to let logic dictate my life, I decided to try and make it through my riding lesson on Saturday.

I *did* make it, but it wasn't pretty.  I almost threw up at least three times.  The heat and humidity (in the indoor) didn't help the situation.  

I barely remember what we were working on, I do recall a gymnastic of some sort.  I am lucky Fawkes didn't kill me.  

Yesterday, I went down to CO Horse Park to watch my friend just rock the Training level cross country course and Fawkes was supposed to get clipped by one of the trainers.  The picture speaks for itself

Yeah, that is exactly how far she was able to get before he went batshit crazy and started flipping out.  He started shedding today too so I am not sure if I am going to get drugs and finish clipping him or let him shed out and live in the shame of his terrible clip job.  Asshole horse. He has been clipped before without trying to murder anyone:

So who knows what bug crawled up his butt on Sunday.

Anyways, probably because he sensed I was ready to drop him off at the door to the Alpo factory, he was foot perfect under saddle tonight.  Moving laterally off both legs (still needs to get better off the right, but at least responding), giving walk/canter transitions like it was never an issue, carrying himself around lightly in the canter, and doing a line of poles like a champ, even with me changing up how many strides we take in the middle.  

The outdoor was pretty busy, both with other horses and with neighbors mowing their lawns, children playing, and bunnies.  He was alert to the other things happening, but stayed focused on me.  OK Fawkes, you can live for now.