A Farewell to Old Times

Dear Readers,

I haven’t updated my blog in so long, that I’ve actually forgotten where I left off. These past few weeks have been tough and busy. I’ve had to make several difficult decisions and updating my blog has just been the furtherest thing from my mind.

The last thing I remember posting about was telling you all that I was going to my first dressage show, so I’m going to start there. In June, I took Morgan and PD to a local dressage show and had a blast! I rode PD first and she was pretty fresh but I managed to keep myself calm, and eventually she calmed down too. First we did Intro Test B. We had our fair share of problems, but the test was great! The judge made a comment at the end of the judge’s card that said “…headed in the right direction with this confident and effective rider”. I was ecstatic! That gave me the confidence to do well the rest of the day! Later I rode her in Training Level, Test 1. Our warm up area was an open field, so I didn’t think it was a safe idea to warm her up in the canter, she’s much too green for that. I was a little worried about how her transition would be in the test, but to everyones surprise, it was her best transitions ever! We placed 3rd out of 8 in both classes.

After cooling PD out and putting her away for the day, it was Morgan’s turn to shine! I rode him first in Training Level, Test One. I was really excited to see how both ponies would do competing against each other. PD had done so well, I knew Morgan had some fierce competition on his hooves.  He placed 2nd, with just 2 more points than PD had received. It was such a close call. I later rode him in both Training Level, Test 2 & 3. I was riding against all adults, since I’m considered a senior, so I was super nervous. Morgan placed 3rd in both of the classes. We placed only 2 placings below  my trainer! However, I was much more excited about the great comments I was getting from the judge!

Not long after we got home from the show, Morgan injured himself again. He had rubbed himself on the trees in his pasture to the point where he was bloody and had very little coat. He also dropped weight, colicked and hurt his hip from rubbing. He was a sad, sad sight. I couldn’t ride him for a while. But finally he got back to his normal self, by this time I had no money left for leasing him. I recently got a job, but I’ve since made the decision that it’s time to move on. He’s old, and it’s starting to show. He’s not up for the type of things I’m doing now. Not only that, I just haven’t been inspired to ride lately. I haven’t ridden in weeks.

Today, I sat down and really thought about what I’m going to do. I realize that the first thing I need to do is get excited about riding again. I don’t really need to think about dressage and showing, because if I don’t actually want to ride, there’s no point in worrying about things like that. So, here’s my plan; for one year I’m going to visit as many different barns I can, taking lessons with tons of different trainers, in every discipline. I want to ride heaps of different types of ponies and just experience as much as possible. Meanwhile, I’m going to save money each month. One day I’d like to own a nice large pony, capable of doing upper level dressage, and board at a nice dressage facility with an actual dressage trainer. One day. Until then, I’m just going to have FUN.

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BIG, Exciting News!

Welcome back to my blog! I haven’t posted in so long, but I’ve been very busy, and there hasn’t been much to update about. I finally have some exciting news though, and had to post about it! This Sunday, I’m going to be making my debut in the Dressage show ring! Not only will I be showing Morgan, but also PD, the green pony I’ve been riding this year. We decided that I’ll ride PD in Intro B & Training Level One. I’m kind of nervous about having to to canter her, but I specifically asked if we could at least try. When we school at home, her canter transition is rough, and usually it takes a few strides for me to get the canter worked out. My trainer looks lovely on her, but I’m still trying to figure her out. On my dear Morgan, I’m going to be doing Training Level One, Two and Three. I’m a little nervous about competing against myself, but I’m too excited to worry! I’ll post pictures and updates after the show, but for now, enjoy some photos of me and Morgan schooling a couple of weeks ago!

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On The Bit, Off The Bit

Hi everyone, welcome back to my blog! I haven’t written in a while because I was trying to wait to get some photos or videos, or something a little more entertaining than the usual blog post. I haven’t saw myself ride since last November. Boy, my equitation sure has gotten weak. It’s also strange trying to go from a hunter position to a dressage one. The main things I’ve noticed from looking at the photos, that my friend took of us yesterday, that my hand position needs to be fixed stat, the ground isn’t interesting enough for me to stare so hard at, and my stirrups need to come down at least one hole.

Lately, in our lessons, we’ve been working really hard to teach Morgan to accept the bit. It’s so difficult. We have a process, I get him on the bit, then give with my hands and he stretches, then I have to get him back on the bit and the process starts all over again. We started learning it at the halt, and have been able to get it at all three gaits. Once it becomes more natural for him to accept the bit, we’ll start working on getting him to stay on the bit for more than a few strides.

Aside from dressage lessons, I’ve been working with PD almost everyday. She’s improved so much! For a while I had stopped riding her, because we had hit a brick wall. We would only fight when we rode, and accomplish nothing. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I was a little intimidated by her. However, now that we’ve made up, we’re getting along better than ever. I haven’t jumped her in months, but her flat work is improving at a rabid rate! The main thing we have a problem with right now is her canter transitions. With a lot of leg, she can get the transition well, but it’s much easier said than done.

I saved the most exciting news for last. This weekend my barn is going to a local, one day hunter show. Yesterday, I was asked if I’d be interested in showing PD! A brief history about PD; she was sent to my barn to be trained as a hunter pony, and is for sale. Her owner wants her shown as much as possible to advertise her, and get her plenty of experience. I really wish I could afford to buy her, she’s a phenomenal pony with so much potential!

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Over Shot the Centerline

I was so excited to finally start taking private dressage lessons with my trainer last week, unfortunately I had a string of bad luck with my car and had to cancel. In the meantime, I began organizing my room and found my judges card and a story I wrote, from when Morgan and I participated in a Dressage and combined training show at my barn in 2008. It’s a funny story, and interesting to read knowing now that I’m one hundred percent dedicated to dressage.  However, back then I hated dressage with a passion and put no effort whatsoever into learning it. It was too difficult and I felt like we just couldn’t ever get any of it right. Obviously a lot has changed since this show, but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy reading about our first Dressage show encounter.

“On Saturday my barn had their fundraiser Dressage & combined training show. It was actually a lot more eventful than I had imagined.

My ride time was scheduled for 1:45pm, so my mom and I didn’t get there until about 11am. I sat around watching everyone’s dressage rounds for a while. Then, while I was finishing my sandwich, one of the barn dogs came over and sat down in front of me. He’s 16-years-old and they said he just got sick, he started hacking really loudly, so my friend’s mom asked me to take him to the barn office. I coaxed him all the way from the arena to the barn with a piece of ham from my sandwich. When we got there my trainer hooked a lead rope on his collar and said she’d take him the rest of the way. I bent down to give him the piece of ham, but he jumped up and grabbed my fingers instead, he’s old and can’t see so he didn’t mean to bite me. It hurt for a second, but it wasn’t until I got back down to the arena that I realized my middle finger was gushing blood. A lady at the show, whom I didn’t know but later found out she takes lessons at my barn, told me to go wash my hands and meet her in the pony barn. I did as instructed, and met her in the barn, she gave me a sanitary, alcohol wipe thing and a band aid. My mom said its heeling fine, but we weren’t sure if the dog had had his shots recently.

Anyway, by the time the dog bite incident was over, I walked back to the dressage ring and found out they were finishing up with the class before mine. I wasn’t dressed, hadn’t warmed up, and I didn’t even have my pony out of the pasture! I ran to the pony barn, grabbed my halter and lead rope, then started running for the pasture. When I finally reached the gait, I was ready to scream. Morgan was all the way at the end of the pasture, in the woods. This particular pasture is one of the smaller ones, but its about ten miles wide and ten miles long. OK, maybe not that big, but its huge! I jogged down to the wooded area, fought my way through some mean briers, grabbed Morgan and had to walk back. Slowly. We would do awful in a model class, simply because he refuses to trot for me on the lead rope.

We finally made it back to the barn, my mom started brushing Morgan off, while I frantically started changing. When I finished I asked her to go borrow a white saddle pad from my trainer, while I did something, I can’t remember what though. We just made it down to the ring in time. While the girl, in line before me, finished her dramatic salute, I started trotting Morgan around the outside of the ring hoping it would suffice as a warm up. We had only made it around once when I heard the little bell. We went in and did the best we could, which wasn’t too awful, but I’ll come back to that at the end.

When we came out, we were already getting rushed to the jump paddock. We made it over in time to watch one trip before us. It was a complicated course with no lines, no easy ways out, and 12 random jumps to remember. My trainer stood beside me explaining the course. My brain was completely shut down and I wasn’t getting anything she said, and the girl riding the course wasn’t helping as she was constantly going off course and forgetting where to go. Then it was our turn. We picked the canter and headed for the first jump, we made it over and I started looking for the next jump. It was all the way at the other end of the paddock, it was a vertical pole with a row of feed buckets lined up underneath. I knew Morgan was going to look at this jump, we’ve never been over it before. I tried to ride him forward to it, but as we approached, he slammed on the brakes. I got a little unseated, but sat up and circled around for another go at the buckets of death. He went right over it this time, but as we landed I started realizing I had no idea where it was we were going to next. I just jumped the jumps I could remember my trainer saying, in no particular order, and finally came down to a trot and confessed to the crowd the obvious fact that I was lost. My trainer yelled “just go jump some stuff and have fun, you’re already disqualified anyway!”. With that we galloped off, leaving behind the roaring laughter. We didn’t mind though, I was laughing with them, and Morgan seemed to be enjoying himself simply because he was jumping and people were watching.

It was definitely a learning experience, one that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. Unfortunately, because I did combined training, when I messed up the jumping we were also disqualified from Dressage as well, so I’ll never know how we would have placed, but I do have the sheet from the judge. It basically says the exact same thing my trainer constantly tells me. Right off the bat I over shot the center line and I had a crooked halt. On the first circle I needed to “improve the bend”, but I had a “nice tempo”. On our first change of rein on the diagonal it was “straight and steady”, but “lacking impulsion”. For the free walk on two diagonals, I needed to “lengthen rein not loosen”, it was also “inattentive, had no stretch or change in stride”. Our second circle was too small, and we lost energy. Our next change of rein on the diagonal was straight, but the quality needed improving. And finally I, yet again, over shot that irritating little center line. At the bottom of the sheet the judge made one last comment saying; “Very cute pair! Maintain balance and push him into your hand. Good job”. Our score was 114, but I’m guessing that’s pretty low considering we got six 6’s, two 5’s, and one 4. On our collective marks, we got all sixes, with another note saying “needs impulsion”.

It was a lot of fun, but I’m not in a big hurry to try it again.

I apologize for any grammatical errors in the story, I did write it almost two years ago though. As an update, the dog that bit me hadn’t had his shots and had to be put down in fear that he may have had rabies. Luckily, he didn’t. I still have the scar on my hand to remind me not to feed dogs I don’t know well though. I feel I can say, with all honesty, that our dressage work, my spelling and grammar skills have all improved greatly over the last two years. I’m very excited about our first real dressage show! Hopefully it will go more smoothly and we’ll be able to enjoy it more, I’m also really excited to see the difference in the judges card from two years to now. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, after all I don’t even have a dressage girth or bridle or anything really except a saddle. One day, we’ll be ready…

There’s Always Another Day

Lately I haven’t been getting much sleep, as you can probably see from the 2am blog entries. I lay there, and lay there thinking about how confusing my life is at the moment. Blogging just seems more productive. Normally I’m always a cheerful, peaceful person at the barn. I never get in fights with other riders, or fight back with the ponies during a bad ride. Lack of sleep obviously caught up with me today. Every little thing aggravated me! However, when the assistant trainer asked if I was up for riding a couple other ponies today, I couldn’t resist.

First, I dealt with Morgan. Remembering how spooky he was yesterday, I decided to ride with my head today. So, the pompoms (horse ear plugs) went in, I also decided to change his bit. To the dreaded metal d-ring. It gave me more stop than the rubber one, and he definitely didn’t pull or lean. He was FANTASTIC! Much better than I expected! No spooking or resisting the bit, in fact, when I asked him, he would soften his jaw and accept the bit. He first accepted it at the halt, later he started accepting it at the trot, and finally at the walk. In wasn’t long, but the fact that he’s finally starting to listen to me and trust me, made me ecstatic! We did do canter work, but it was mainly just working on staying steady and balanced. I only hacked him for about 15 minutes, but as Robert Dover says; “15 minutes of solid work is better than an hour and a half of wandering aimlessly around the ring”. I also thought that maybe the short ride and day off tomorrow would make him happy and he’d try his best for me Thursday, our first private lesson, or he could flip out again from having so much energy.

Next I hopped on PD. The rain has been gone, but the wind was horrible today. The wind + the indoor arena = lots of noise. She was very spooky, but still went along quite nicely at the trot. The wind seemed as though it had died down, and she was starting to relax. Finally, I let her pick up the canter. Of course, every time I would ask for a canter transition, a huge gust of wind would come, she’d toss her head straight up and the spooking continued. It’s not her fault, most horses in the south aren’t used to indoor areas and indoors are quite noisy. After so many failed attempts, and realizing that I was now just picking a fight with her and losing the battle, I decided to cool her out.

Up next was Dixie. By this point I was so frustrated, I was sick of the rain, the wind, the cold and spooky ponies. I hopped aboard Dixie, and she pranced the “jig of death” to the arena. “Great”, I thought “ANOTHER spooky pony!”. I wasn’t even giving her time to relax, I was already flustered because I just knew she was going to be bad. I picked a fight with her over every little thing. Her little quirks that I normally don’t notice. After having a chat with my trainer, I just had to laugh at myself. I was being so stupid and over dramatic. At the same time, I knew my mood wouldn’t improve, I decided to call it a day. “Houdini gets lucky today”, I told the assistant trainer as I put Dixie’s blankets back on.

When you’re no longer accomplishing anything, and rather doing more damage, you have to know when to call it a day. There’s always another day for fixing those problems, and in a better mood they don’t seem nearly as impossible!

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Born of the Sea

In an attempt to keep my blog more updated on mine and Morgan’s daily shenanigans, I’m going to tell you guys the story of our schooling session today. First, I have to explain a bit more about Morgan. He’s an American bred mutt pony. Nothing fancy, but a sturdy little bugger, and a well trained one. He never bucks or acts up under saddle. He’s the best $700 auction pony you could ever ask for. Not scared of anything. Except, of course, water. He’s simply terrified of it. The funny thing is, his name (Morgan) means “born of the sea”. Ironic. Since Morgan got hurt, he’s been stalled 24/7. He hates stalls, and has never had to be in one so much in his life. Lately he’s been getting light turn out, but only in a very small paddock, not big enough to do anything more than a lighthearted trot. He’s had quite a bit of pinned up energy, which I had been enjoying. However, mixing his extra energy with the massive amount of rain we got today was a recipe for a disaster. Not only does he hate water, he hates the sound the rain makes when it hits the roof of the barn or indoor.

After successfully getting an antsy Morgan tacked up, I got mounted up and we headed to the indoor. We did the “jig of death” to the arena, and around for a couple of laps. Finally, he began to relax and we started trot work. Normally when it rains, he’ll do a couple of weak attempts at hops-to-the-side spooks and he’s fine for the rest of the ride. I guess the pinned up energy had something to do with the fact that after about five minutes of trotting, he took off, throwing actual bucks. I was so shocked! We continued on with our trot work. While giving him a walk break, he took off again. This time no bucks but I really thought he was going  to take us right out the gait. I did a hard right rein turn and circled him until he came back to me.

After this, my trainer, who happened to be schooling at the same time, told me to work him out long and hard at the trot. At this point, it was no longer raining, he was taking advantage of the situation. So, we worked at the trot, and worked, and worked, and worked… I kept him collected, the entire ride. Being hunters, we’ve never been much for collection. I rode a half halt every step he took. He hates contact and being collected, for much of the ride he remained behind the bit. Because I had him collected, I started to be able to feel when he was going to take off and could prevent it as he tried to take the first stride. We did lots of figure 8’s, serpentines, half circles, 20 and 15 meter circles, 10 meter half circles, and even some leg yielding. He wasn’t a happy pony after almost an hour of walk/trot work, but he was far better behaved and had even started accepting the bit. Because he is still recovering from an injury, we didn’t want to push him too hard. Since we wanted to work long, we had to keep it light with only trotting.

Even though the ride may sound as if it went dreadful, we actually made quite a bit of progress. Morgan is getting so much stronger in his gaits, especially the trot, which was always his weakest. He also managed to deal with being collected and having contact on the reins for nearly an hour, without killing me. The last thing that we’re getting really well is bending. He’s always been the pony with no “bad side” for bending, but I feel like I’m finally starting to understand my seat and leg’s purpose in keeping him balanced through the turns/circles. Maybe I try too hard to look on the bright side, but I never think of it as a “bad ride”, something had to be learned from it.

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Making New Strides

I have the most exciting news to update about! But first, I’d like you guys to enjoy the video above. One of the ladies from my barn made a video for us, from our last show together, back in November. The video got a little messed up when I uploaded it, it’s in slow motion and the sound is very delayed. But it’s an adorable video and I’m so thankful for all of my friends that take such lovely photos and videos of us!

Onto the big and exciting news! January has held so many changes for me, I feel like everything changed so fast and I didn’t have any control over what was happening. Most of the changes have been for the worse, but because everything is so different now; it’s made me really think about my current situation and make some tough decisions. For the past 8 years, I’ve really just wandered aimlessly from ring to ring, never really dedicating my time and effort to one specific discipline. I got scared at the thought of living the rest of my life being an average rider, who becomes an average trainer, riding average horses, at an average barn, going to average shows. This problem has nothing to do with lack of training, I simply have no direction in my “horse life”.

I thought about what I’m going to be happiest doing the rest of my life, what I would be best at, and what I could go the furthest in. Though it’s the discipline I’ve put the least effort into, in the past, I came to a decision that I’m going to change my main focus to Dressage. It seems like the most logical path for me to take. I’ve always had an  interest in it, I think it’s a blast and there’s no “shelf life”. Saying I’m going to do Dressage is one thing, but actually doing it means I’m going to have to really stick with it and not give up if it’s “too difficult” or I lose interest. This means I’m going to be making a lot of changes in my life. For one, I’m going to have to start taking private lessons. My barn, in the beginning, didn’t start as a hunter barn. It was very much a combined training facility. Though my trainer incorporates dressage into hunters more than any other trainer I’ve ever met, our barn has primarily become a jumper and hunter facility. This means that when I’m eventually ready to show, I’ll more than likely be going alone, along with my trainer of course.

Morgan is currently sound and I’m getting him back into light work. I’ve ridden him twice this week, and both days he was sound for walk/trot/canter action. While his jumping days are gone, there isn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that he wont be completely fine going back to flatwork. Dressage can be just as stressful as jumping, however, the lower level stuff should be fairly easy for him to handle. Morgan and I have basic dressage training, but that’s a long way from being competitive. For instance, even before he had gotten hurt, Morgan had never been taught how to get on the bit. I’ve never even sat in a dressage saddle, or  even tried on full seat breeches. It’s going to be a tough journey, but we’re absolutely ready for a new challenge. I’m not going to be starting formal lessons with my trainer again until Morgan is ready to be worked for a solid hour, but stay tuned for more updates on his recovery and how our first dressage lesson goes.