Sunday, 25 November 2012

New Experience

This past week has been full of snow, severely cold nights (-30!), and high winds.  Of course, in this type of weather it's all about staying warm and cozy.  Since I had Koda in his fancy winter blanket, I knew he was fine during the bitter nights, so I just stayed in for the week.  P and I were going to hit up the arena on Friday, but when the snow is going sideways for most of the day, it's definitely not the time to be hauling half an hour down the road.  So, Friday was nixed.  We re-schedule for Saturday morning, see if that's any better... nope, still snowing and blowing all over the place.  I live up north where it's wide open spaces, so wind is worse than snow with major white-out possibilities.

So, Saturday morning was a bust as well.  I still really wanted to ride, but that evening we had a Christmas function for the SO's work.  Time was running short, but by 3pm, the wind had stopped and the sun was shining so I was taking my chances and heading out to ride at the barn.  It was -17, so not too cold, and not bad for Koda's lungs if we take a gentle ride.  As I was driving out I realized I didn't have a lot of time to tack up, ride, cool out, untack, etc. so...  I decided to try something new with Koda: bareback riding!  

When I had Dillon, I used to ride him bareback weekly/monthly, as a fun or schooling ride.  I didn't know if Koda had ever been ridden bareback before, so we took it slow.  Did plenty of patting, laid across him, just let him figure out what I was doing.  He was actually really good, only taking a couple steps then stopping, really trying to understand what I was asking.  Finally had him stand still with me draped across his back, so I swung a leg over and away we went.  

It was awesome.

Koda was an absolute gentleman.  We went around the front paddock, through the trees, just playing around.  I don't think I've felt that close with him before.  It helped me realize how sensitive he is to my seat and legs.  The smallest touch (intentional or not!) got a response from him.  I think I'm going to try to do more rides like this during the winter.  The BO had the yard lights fixed so the yard is flooded with light when I get off from work.  

Best part of the ride was after we had picked our way through the woods, we just stopped and watched the other horses in the back field.  Absolutely peaceful, the light was at that nice golden glow before sunset.  Wonderful.  

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Schooling Time

It looks like myself and P are going to be riding at least 2 times a week this winter, perhaps even 3 times regularly!  It's always safer to ride with someone else there, and always nice to have a friend to give some tips.  Today we did a bit more lateral work, and started on some shoulder-in.  Once we were both warmed up well, we took to the fences.  Again, nothing too strenuous, but just had some fun.  When you're under a time crunch with the arena being booked back-to-back, you have to be quick with the setup and take down!    The SO came with me today and took some video for me :)


Warm-up fence, nice and easy:

Koda showing his athleticism (or inbalance?!) of 
doing some counter-canter... unasked for..

We put together a mini course

I really need to watch my canter cue.  After looking at these videos it seems like it's not a left-lead issue, but more of me not being able to ride to the left as effectively.  I need to make sure he is bent to the correct side for the correct lead or else it seems like he will take the incorrect one.  Wish the chiropractor had made it up this weekend (cancelled due to snow), and I think there may be something out on this boy.  Nothing major, just an... inkling.  After our next ride I'm going to do some basic massage and stretches.  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

First "attempt" at the big D

So last night we had an impromptu ride at the arena.  My friend P sent me a text saying she had the arena booked, and if I wanted to join? Of course!  So off I went to the barn right after work.  I was off work at 5:20pm and it was pitch black outside.  Gotta love living way up north... I can't wait until the solstice when the days start getting longer again.  Either way, I was off and heading to the barn to pick up my boy and head out.  The BO decided she wanted to come and brought her younger (but much more level-headed) gelding to come this time.  The BO and I have a system for setting out together now.  She gets the trailer, I catch the horses.  She will load them as I transfer my tack to her truck, then off we go!
As we were pulling out of the drive way (snow covered, we have even more of it now...) the trailer was a bit slippy.  I didn't think much of it as it was snowing and a touch icy in some spots.  During the drive there were a few more slippy spots, and as we pulled up around the arena, it was very bad.  I hop out thanking my lucky stars that the BO was hauling (she has no fear, she's hauled through everything).  As we got out she had a grim look on  her face.  Uh oh... not good.  We go to the back of the trailer, and yup, low and behold, one of the tires was flat.
Again, lucky for us, the trailer itself was fine, no one was hurt, and my friend P brought her 3-horse trailer so she could get us home.  The BO took her rig to her friend's place (close by) to have it fixed and to defrost a bit as well in their heated shop.

Well, after that, it was a bit like "well, we're here, let's do this" kind of thing.  I had planned a dressage school, yet had forgotten my dressage whip (with Koda, it's a helpful tool sometimes) plus I hadn't ridden at dressage length stirrups for a while, so it was going to be a bit interesting.  I really should have started doing our warm-up with no stirrups to get my leg draped down properly, but ah well.  We did some warm up, he was being a turkey about the corners again, and was just having a more... arabian day than usual.  Most people don't believe me when I say Koda is half arab, he's a fairly cool and sensible dude... except when he's not.  This boy can pull the diva when he wants to and last night was one of those nights.  After we settled down a bit, I tried a dressage test (for the Canucks, Entry Test 2).  Here are the better bits.  Please keep in mind, I haven't really been working on dressage with Koda that much (should do more) and we were both all over the place.

Here is the better half of the test:

And here is where it goes off.  For some reason, our left lead canter has disappeared!  I'm sure its a pilot error, not holding the bend when I ask or not having the bend at all, so will work on this in the future.

The test was ok for a first shot, but I really want him to relax more into the work.  We're looking at doing fairly basic tests, but we need to work on our connection, relaxation, and that good ol' training pyramid.  Koda has never had to deal with contact or carrying himself properly, so we'll be focusing on that.  Taking a little tip from another blogger, I may try vienna reins on the lunge with him for a short bit to see if that helps him understand what I'm asking for under-saddle.  After the attempt at the test we did some canter figure eights with simple changes, and with some thinking on my part, we had an ok/decent one by the end of it.

I am extremely happy and lucky to have friends that are determined to ride during the winter.  It just makes things so much safer and it really gets your butt off the couch and in the saddle when it's pitch black outside and -20 (celsius).  I know once it gets really cold (-30 and below) Koda will have time off, but for now, it's riding when you can.

Friday, 16 November 2012

What am I doing up here? Oh right... riding

Sorry about my hiatus, I have just been in a slump and it's driving me crazy.  I rode this past weekend, both days, and am very happy with what we did, but need to figure out how to balance what we're doing.  I've never been in the position where all of my rides are back to back with a large gap inbetween.  I know as an athlete myself (rowed while at university and did some coaching) that this isn't the ideal schedule for keeping a horse (and myself!) riding fit.  After our ride on Monday (yay for long weekends) Koda stood around while I taught a Pony Club lesson.  I noticed that after my teaching, his ankles and pasterns were slightly warm and swollen.  Nothing to write home about, but this horse has never had this before so of course I was worried.  I think it's because our riding schedule is so crammed into a few days, then nothing, plus the standing around didn't help him any either.  Does anyone have ideas that I could do to help alleviate Koda's swelling yet still try and keep a 'riding on the weekend only' schedule for winter time?

Our rides were fairly basic, did some lateral work, did some no-stirrup work (poor legs), and worked on a simple line.  I'm discovering that when ridden properly (aka, RIDDEN), Koda will lay down some nice lines to the point of having the style of a lower level hunter!  Of course that isn't what we're aiming for, but I have dabbled in the hunter world a time or two and wouldn't mind going to a few shows like that if they're close by (less than 6 hours away, that is ;) ).  We had a bit of a OH SH!T moment when I waited for the short spot, he went for the waaaaaay long spot and we punched the pole out and almost went down.  Thank you shoulders and training for teaching me to STAY BACK!  If we had a camera, my position would have been that good ol' classic "catching the cab" ride... not pretty, but saved our butts.  Thank goodness I had my long hacking reins on the bridle too.  Koda punched out the pole hard enough to take the cups with us.  My friends were a little shocked and shook up.  I guess it looked worse than it felt since my thoughts were "ok, let's try that again and actually RIDE this time".  This time around, I had my legs on, looking up, compressed the stride just a little to get that nice quality canter and he flew. 

The next ride we did more flat work and worked on trying to bend and relax a bit more.  Koda was still being a bit of a nut about the corners (silly pony) but he settled down nicely and put in some good work.  I think he was a bit tired from the day before so we took it easy, although I did jump over a few sticks that day as well.  I love having a horse that isn't too green about jumping and is game if his rider is!  As you guys know, Koda is green about a lot of things, but I think because of his age there are less antics about new things.  This winter it's all about exposure to new, crazy stuff (going to raid work for all of our decorations), and just work towards him not having a complete melt-down at competitions this coming spring/summer. 

A girl can dream!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Winter Plans

As some of you have most likely guessed (or read) I live way up north in Canada.  Not too far north that I get days of complete darkness, but fairly close to it.  We've had substantial (about 2 feet) snow on the ground for a month now and we won't be rid of it until April or May.  This makes riding in the winter a bit touchy as to ride outside can be cold and miserable, let alone a tad unsafe when it's icey and your horse doesn't have studs in, and to haul to the arena is another hair-raising activity as it's mostly along gravel/dirt roads that get very slick this time of year.  With these two options in mind, it's very difficult to motivate oneself to go and ride when you can oh-so-easily curl up under a nice warm blanket and dream of going to Florida for the winter. 

BUT since I'm kind of a nut and can't go without riding for long periods of time (tried it, it wasn't pretty), we've all decided to ride at least twice, maybe three times a week during the winter.  Now as all of you know, these times of plans will in reality wittle down to 1-2 times a week, but that's still better than nothing.  I'm going to try to use these times to teach Koda new things, really school him on learning new dressage movements, going through gymnastics, reviewing things he should know, etc.  Essentially treat this time as "school time" and then when the shows start up again, those would be our end of term exams!  Oye, I've been hanging out with teachers too much...

This past Sunday my friend P and I met at the arena for some easy schooling times.  I set up a few jumps, nothing crazy, and got down to work.  My legs were dead since the night before a group of us went to the local school and played badminton for 2.5 hours.  I'm not really a badminton player, but it was fun none the less.  So, with wobbly legs Koda and I got down to work.  He was being a bit of a turkey for the first bit, trying to tell me that the corners weren't really just corners, but were quick sand with horse eating monsters right under the surface so we really shouldn't go there.  I'd say the conversation went something like this:

Me - ok, bend through the corner, inside leg to outside hand
Koda - whoa whoa!!!  What is THAT?!?!?!
Me - Koda, it's the corner, we go around it
Koda - *slams on the breaks* No way
Me - Koda, you've gone through these corners a million times, now get ON with it
Koda - imgoingtodieimgoingtodieimgoingtodie
Me - Grrrrr, get IN THERE!
*sloooooooooow hesitant steps into the corner*
Me - sigh, finally!
Koda - *looks at the other corner* Oh my GAWD, what is THAT?!?!

After getting the sillies out, we got down to some nice trot work.  I went without stirrups and worked on really getting him to push from behind and listen to my leg.  His leg-yield to the right is excellent, yet the one to the left leaves something to be desired.  After schooling leg-yield and circles for a while, we took a break to catch our breath then tackled our jumps.  I had a single x-rail set up along one side, and then a 4-stride on the other, x-rail to 2'6" vertical.  We popped the single x-rail a few times to get his mind in jumping gear, then went for the line.  Now, if I had rode it well, it would have been beautiful.  That being said, Koda did his job well and soared over the last fence (pretty sure he cleared it by 6", P was astounded at the height he gave it) while he had a monkey on his back trying to stay on, legs flailing, pretty sure I was "catching a cab" over the last fence.  So we settled down and went through the line one more time, entering at trot then cantering through.  The second time around it was lovely, I actually rode instead of imitating a monkey, and Koda was lovely, gave me some nice round jumps and stayed soft.  At that point my legs were pudding and Koda was getting wet (darn those winter coats!!) so we called it a day. 

He got his mouse-eaten cooler tossed on while I took down the jumps, and then we were on our way!  It was a great ride, was very happy with it and if we can continue to do this 1-3 times a week this winter, we're going to be completely prepared for the spring and summer season.  Now to just get myself a nice new cooler that doesn't have mouse made holes in it...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kathy Playdon Clinic - Final Post!

Sorry it has taken my so long to finish up these posts, life has been getting hectic and in the way of blogging ;)

On the last day of the clinic Kathy set up a really interesting course of two 4-stride lines along the long sides, and a jump at X.  We started off with some flat work, warming up, and Kathy (or Evil Kathy that morning) had us warm up with no stirrups, including posting, two-point, and lateral work.  Now usually this isn't a bad thing, but after the long day of riding the day before my legs were screaming (hence Evil Kathy!).  Not going to lie, when Kathy wasn't looking, I was sitting.  It was really nice to do the lateral work since Koda has had some work with it, but not much.  We did some work on leg yield, turns on the forehand, and in our case, shoulder-in and haunches in.  I had never ridden a haunches in before, so that was kind of fun to do, plus Koda had never done shoulder-in at a trot.  We have some new things to work on!

Once we got to the jumping, we did some lead work over the middle fence, essentially choose the lead you want over the fence and make sure you turn that way at C.  Everyone flew through that exercise, so we moved on to the 4-stride lines.  The lines were more like a short 4 or a long 3.  If you came in at a trot, you could fit the 4, but if you came in at a canter, you really had to compact the stride to get the 4.  Some of the riders had problems getting a smooth four, but after a bit everyone sailed through to the main exercise of the day - jumping on a diagonal.  Not along the diagonal, but you're meeting your jumps on a diagonal.  Similar to the exercise we had done the day before down centerline, but this was a course of them... sort of.  The videos do a better job of describing it than I can.

Overall I was extremely happy with Koda and how we did during this clinic!  After the clinic I asked Kathy of what I could work on during the winter with Koda.  Her responses were in a nut shell: lateral work (once he gets the idea, move it up to trot/canter), transitions gait to gait or within gait, and bump the height up when jumping.