Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Kathy Playdon Clinic Day 1

The first day of the clinic was a tad rushed to begin with since it was right after work and I wasn't sure who was going to be trailering us over since I had a friend lined up to come get us, but turned out the BO could take her trailer so there was some very fast texting/calling made to iron things out.  We got to the arena in plenty of time, which was nice since Koda had gotten himself completely filthy, the turkey.  We groomed and tacked up and started our re-introduction ride with Kathy. 

It was a nice lesson, somewhat basic, but got you really thinking about foot placement, timing, and complete control of the horse with the aids.  We did a lot of walk/trot work, keeping things slow but being a lot more meticulous as to where the horse's hooves were falling.  One of the girls in the group does not know much about lateral work at all, so Kathy was taking time aside to explain to her leg-yield, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, and shoulder/haunches-in while the BO and I practised our turns.  Once we had exhausted the lateral work, we went on to canter work.  It was kind of fun since the exercise we were doing was one I learned a VERY long time ago when I first started to ride at a lesson barn in Ontario.  The exercise was a canter figure-8 with simple lead change, halt at the beginning and end. 

When I was learning to ride, the barn I rode at always had a spring in-house show for all the lesson kids.  It was GREAT fun, and always ended up being a wonderful outing since all the families would come out, everyone would be shined up and dressed in our show best.  For lunch, most people would pack picnics and eat out on the lawns.  The classes were always separated in levels, A (being the highest) to C (lowest) then walk-trot classes.  Everyone always knew what the equitation tests would be for each class since we had been practising them in our lessons.  The test for A was always, without fail, the canter figure 8.  That figure was drilled into us, making sure we pick our correct center for the 8 (move it down a touch since the horses are lined up at the end of the arena), which lead to go on first (always end on your worst lead since it's easier to get from a trot than a halt/walk), a longer trot through the middle to make it straight is better than to have less steps but drift, squirm, miss the centre, etc.  Koda was a champ, but we had issues getting the left lead.  He actually gave me a lovely canter to halt transition, nice and square. 

The last exercise we did was choosing leads on center line.  We didn't have a problem getting the left lead (interesting since on the figure 8 it was the harder lead...), but couldn't for the life of us get the right lead, which he'll generally take.  What we discovered was I was over-cueing with my right leg to help shift the shoulders over (bad rider, bad!).  So instead of thinking of moving the shoulders over, we changed our thinking process to moving the haunches over using left leg.  First time, not a problem. 

This is why I love doing these simple exercises, to find the holes in my equitation, where I need to really be aware of how much pressure I'm using to cue, etc. 

Sorry for the lack of photos and video!  The SO couldn't make it out, but I promise there will be some for days 2 and 3.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Mane Makeover

So, in preparation of the Kathy Playdon clinic this weekend, I decided to spruce Koda up.  His mane has been growing rampant, along with his forelock and tail (that need to!) so it was the main (haha...) objective to get done on Wednesday night.  It was a nice night, a touch windy, but that's actually good to have since it keeps the bugs off.  I went to grab Koda out of the field and this is what I saw:

I know I whine and complain about living up here, but darn it can be quite lovely.

Once I brought Koda in, this was the state of his mane:

lovely long flowing locks

Not bad, thick in parts, much too long, but salvageable.  I was very surprised that he stood so still and tolerated the thinning blade so well.  I don't generally pull simply because I was never taught and I like the effect I get with the thinning blade in a much shorter amount of time.  It took about 40 minutes, but we went from lovely flowing locks to much more presentable (and braidable) mane.

Needs a little bit of evening out, but all in all not too shabby!

Next up:  The clinic

Friday, 24 May 2013

Trailer Update

So here is the post showing the trailer damage since it's been taken out of the quonset!  We had to tarp it the moment it came out since it was going to pour, but you can still get the idea of what is needed to be fixed.  The main spot where fixing is needed is on the front right corner when looking at the trailer head-on. 

Front right corner of the trailer

It took the brunt of the weight of the quonset collapse, and has the most damage.  There is a large hole in the dressing room roof, along with the support bars being the most warped/bent.  I talked to the autoshop and they suspect those two bars will need to be replaced (above the divider wall).  More patches need to be done along the right part of the roof and back right corner.  
Inside damage

Back right door and corner

All the doors work just as they did before, and all lights are working.  A few lights need to be put back into place, but all in all not shabby.  The roof vents work just fine, there is a small hole in the back one that will be filled.  Just with the guys looking at it, they gave me a low quote of at least a couple thousand, so I'm assuming it will be around four or five thousand to have it completely done (always estimate more and be glad when it's less!).  They say it should be ready before the end of June so I may be able to make it to a dressage show :)

Fingers crossed!
Front damage

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

New Saddle!

So I have FINALLY been able to get my hands on a newer 18" Stubben Siegfried VSS with a 30-31 tree.  Got it for a relative steal, particularly considering the shape it is in.  The person I bought it from was going to go into english riding, but decided against it.  It came with all stubben fittings, along with a bonus leather stubben girth that fits Koda!  It is in need of a cleaning, but otherwise is in super good used condition.  I purchased a new soap/conditioner and am hoping it will get here before Friday since I'd love to try it out on this saddle before the clinic.

My precious

During the long weekend I didn't have much of a chance to ride as I was farm sitting (dogs, minis, horses, and llamas, oh my!) but I did fit in a lunge session with Koda using my vienna reins.  It was the first time for him to have this one, so they were on their loosest setting.  He figured it out fairly quickly, and I only had them on him for a short period of time since I really didn't know how he would react.  Koda can be a touch explosive sometimes over random things...

Great workmanship, even though it's orange underneath...

Either way, he figured out what the reins were asking, and to reach down and out more so than he usually does.  I had to really keep up the pressure on him to move forward into the contact of the reins since I think this is a really new concept for him.  Yay for discovering a couple holes in his training.  Since I don't have a lunging surcingle, I popped the new saddle up there and saw how he handled flopping stirrups.  Didn't bat an eye at anything, just got down to work and figuring out what I was asking of him.  (Key to Koda success - engage his BRAIN!).  When we were done, I pulled off the baby pad and saw exactly what I was looking for - even dirt marks (for the most part) and a very generous space along the spine.  Great indicators that this saddle fits Koda, and fits him well. 

Good fit!

I'm going out tonight to take the trailer to the auto shop and give Koda some beauty treatments!  His mane needs to be thinned and shortened, along with cleaning up his bridle path and still fuzzy legs. 

Next update - Trailer fixin' and Koda's make-over

Monday, 20 May 2013

Quick Update


Surprisingly it doesn't look as bad as it could have been, but I'm going to take it to our local auto body shop who does work with fiberglass to see what they can do for me.  The roof doesn't look like it needs to be completely replaced, but just patched in a few places.  Two major patches at the front and back, and one smaller patch along the left long side.

Easy down the road we go

Last Wednesday I went out on a long hack with the BO.  She took her steady as she goes mare JJ for an easy going ride, and it definitely helped me keep Koda more relaxed on the trail.  It was also a great time to try out the finally found perfect saddle for Koda and I!

For the past few years I have been looking for an 18" Stubben Siegfried with a 30 or 31 tree.  It didn't really matter how old it was (I also have a VERY old Stubben, with the white stripe and suede knee rolls that I absolutely love), and this one looked almost brand new.  Got it for a steal of a price, and greatest thing of all, shipping only took 2 days!  That night I tossed it on him and it seemed to fit like a glove.

The ride was a nice hour long ride around one of the unseeded canola fields.  Koda was on his best behaviour, although we still have to work on him listening to me instead of letting his attention be on everything but.  It was fun to play with who was leading our 'trail ride' and how it affected each of the horses differently.  JJ is a been there, done that, kind of mare, and will take the lead or drag behind as easy as she pleases.  She needs a bit of a tune up since she is the babysitter in the herd.  You can put any inexperienced rider up on her and you know they'll be ok.  When I took Koda to the lead, he went from passive follower to "ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!  EVERYTHING IS GOING TO GET US!!!!!!!".  It was kind of hilarious.  Once he stayed up front for a bit, he settled into it, but it was kind of funny that every time something moved in the brush, he had to stare suspiciously at it.  Even when he stumbled (turned up fields, plus Koda is a tad clumsy), he would stop and look around...

After the ride, the sweat marks on the saddle pad showed me that I was right about the fit!  I'm rather happy that the saddle came with a 51" leather girth, since the billets are shorter than my other saddles I use, so my new 48" was a no go, at least while we're getting rid of the hay belly.  The saddle fit me nicely, it is a TOUCH wider in the twist than my old one, but not by much.  The seat is padded as well, which I'm not used to (call me an odd duck, but I love my hard as a rock old stubben seat), but does feel nice on the behind.  I have this week to break this saddle in as the Kathy Playdon clinic is fast approaching (Friday!).  Still no news on getting the trailer out from its metal cave, so my friend is going to trailer for us (thanks P).

Next post I'll show the new saddle :)  

Monday, 13 May 2013

Schooling in the yard

Last Friday we did a bit more schooling in the yard, and I managed to get the SO out there to take photos and video to help me out.  After watching the videos and seeing the pictures, I know I need to jack my stirrups up another hole when going over fences!  I did more of the same as last time, working on relaxing in the yard and focusing on work.  There is a thread on the chronicle in the eventing section that talks about working on the 20m circle.  I personally like using the circle, it's consistent and really helps a horse like Koda who doesn't have an ingrained work ethic to help focus and get down to business.  I won't sit on the circle for 40 minutes at a time, but will work for about 10 minutes each side, then do different exercises in between for fear of over working the inside hind leg.

Koda has been responding well to the circle, and the SO got some footage of us working on shortening and lengthening in trot while on the circle.  The changes aren't as dramatic/noticeable as we've had before at the indoor, but it's something (plus the video angle doesn't show the changes since I kept them in the same general spot on the circle).  Eventually got some very nice trot-halt-trot transitions.  I'm still in love with this boy's canter!

Youtube isn't linking to blogger, so here are the links to the videos:

I think I'm going to raise my stirrups one hole for my flat work, or do no-stirrup work to help my position and specifically getting my legs to relax.  May bust out some canter poles, trot poles, what have you on the longe line during the week to help save time (darn regular job...).

When we went to jumping, I popped my stirrups up a couple holes, but they do need to go further up one hole.  I felt much more secure jumping this time around and had time to relax and get into the groove.  I didn't jump much again, but was happy that Koda didn't care about the wall that was setup under the vertical, and the height was nothing.  I have a feeling height isn't going to be a problem for this boy until we get up into the 3'6" range.  He jumps fairly round and tends to keep me in a pretty good position (thanks buddy!).  As much as it kills me to say, he looks like he jumps like a hunter!  Pretty even knees, rocking-horse canter, fairly steady.  We may have to go into a couple hunter shows if we can get to some (com'on, lets get the trailer out of that quonset!!).

He got a bit squirrely when we were jumping away from the quonset towards the back field, but we got it done.  It's all about the approach...

The local pony club is putting on another Kathy Playdon clinic during the last weekend of May so we have a TON of conditioning work to do to get into half-decent shape to ride for the three days!  Need to shed both of our winter pounds, it's finally warm enough to workout outside without freezing your butt off so I'll be hitting the pavement.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

George Morris

A couple weeks ago, I drove down to Red Deer to visit with a friend and to audit a George Morris clinic!!!! It was a great time, but will update on all the other details in another post, this one is all about what I took away from George.

Without further ado, here are my notes:

Trot 4 loop serpentines – focus on inside leg to outside hand, inside hand is opening rein, outside hand makes the turn.
Multiple reverses, again focusing on the inside leg to outside hand; hands are UP and belong to the mouth, not the withers!!  Ensure there is a straight line from the elbow to the corners of the mouth.
Shorten and lengthen within the trot, keep the tempo the same within the transitions, keep the energy UP!
Canter warm-up: Canter transitions, circles, counter-canter, and transitions within the canter.
Sit up, relax and wait for the jump to come to you, do NOT get ahead. 
Single fence along the short side, sit and relax, DO NOT MOVE.  Also try setting this on a 20m circle.  When introducing this exercise, set a 9’ placing pole for Koda.
Set a distance between fences and add/take out strides.  Set the tempo and stride before the exercise, DO NOT PICK before the fences.  SINK into the saddle to slow/shorten, no sitting/slamming.  Use leg, cluck, spur, and whip for the forward stride.
Apply both of these things in course work

Homework and Reminders
For any lead changes, half halt on the OUTSIDE rein and have the INSIDE leg on.
Re-group in the corners well before the next jump.
Open the inside-rein for tight turns and keep the eyes looking UP and AROUND.
RELAX and let the horse take you to the jump 8-10 strides out.
The aids for forward are as follows– Leg, cluck, and whip (in that order of intensity)
Halt after a line while on the line to help a horse to respect the slowing aids (shortening the stride)
Circle after the line to help a horse go FORWARD through a line
Always do something constructive after the course or exercise
For harder/”looky” fences, go for a shorter distance to give the horse time to look at or read the jump/question.

These notes were taken during two group sessions, a training level group, then a more prelim level group.  

The last exercise he did with the more advanced riders was SUPER cool, he had the course set up and would call out what type of distance he wanted for each fence.  The course was as follows:

The really impressive part of the exercise was all the horses settled and became so much more adjustable and rideable!  The roll-backs were extremely tight, but all the horses managed them with ease.

I'm SO glad I made the drive down (10 hours!) but it was absolutely worth it.  While we were there, both Jess and I got some great deals in the marketplace including a new girth, reins, and gloves for me and a new girth and saddle pads for Jess.  I also found out a saddle I had on consignment had sold, so yay for unexpected money!  If you're ever in Calgary, go visit The Tack Collector, they are fabulous!  I picked up my cheque and got a pair of breeches that fit me perfectly for a steal.  Am going to send down some of my items for sale to them as well.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Trying something new

Decided to ride Koda in the yard yesterday since I really didn't want to have an argument like we did on Friday, plus it was extremely windy and didn't want to deal with any potential spookiness.  Right now, all of our rides are going to be setting up for success.  Koda and I are still a VERY new partnership together, so I want to get into it and really learn to read him.

During the ride, I felt Koda start to drift away from a certain corner in the yard by the driveway, I'm sure he was thinking there was something ready to jump out and eat him.  My first reaction would be to just push him over and laugh it off saying "knock it off, there's nothing there".  Instead, I went into a more reassuring rider/leader and still leg-yielding him over but using my body and voice in a more "it's ok!" tone... if that makes any sense at all.  We did work down in that corner, just walk-trot transitions, staying steady, and making sure the circle was round :)

After doing this light warm-up, we tackled a very watered-down version of an exercise George Morris did with his students at the Mane Event in Red Deer.

Yes, I audited a clinic given by George Morris.


It was INCREDIBLE!  Will do a post or two about the entire experience.

Now, back to our scheduled program.

The exercise was to jump a single fence and for the rider to do two things:  set the tempo and rhythm of the stride several strides before the actual jump (aka stop picking at your horse before the jump and relax!) and focus on your hands, specifically don't move unless to follow the horse's reach over the fence.  Because of the how the yard is set up, I had two different approaches, a bending line off the left or through water/mud on the right.  Not going to lie, on the approaches, I was a tad nervous since I really didn't want any bucking or yahoo-ing after the jump.  To ease my nerves, we approached the jump at a trot and cantered after.  It wasn't very big (cross rail that was less than 2' in the middle).

Bending line approach around the tractor (check out our "standards")

Mud puddle approach off the right

I shouldn't have worried, Koda was an absolute STAR, didn't put a foot wrong!  Cantering through the mud, not a problem.  Bending line?  Got it handled.  I settled in and relaxed in the exercise, but next time we do it, I want to repeat it until both of us (mainly me) relax completely.  Koda was putting in a lovely effort over the fence and was showing his rideability particularly when we landed in the rather cramped end of the yard.
Modeling my new Riding Ninja polo! 

Since Koda was trimmed last week, he's been a tad ouchie on his front feet (thin soles) so I decided to ice his hooves.
Small joys of still having snow on the ground, and Koda got a little drink at the same time

Not sure what we'll be doing in our next ride since the yard really isn't ideal to practise any dressage in, can only really fit one good 20m circle in at the bottom and a couple small serpentine loops...  Will have to see what I can come up with for our next ride.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Naughty Koda!

Tonight was an interesting ride!  I drove out and pulled Koda out as usual, tacked up and off we went.  Nothing was different but I didn't have my half-pad on (may be important later on...).  As we head down the road Koda is going rather nicely, just plodding along.  The BO's pony is having some hot to trots going on and she's dealing with a touch of a handful.  Ironically, once we turned back for home, it was Koda's turn to be naughty.... much more naughty.

"Who, me?"

We were walking, and Koda gets antsy and fidgety on the way home, wanting to get home as fast as possible.  This is a new issue that I'm dealing with this winter/spring that started when I first started working him again.  This time he actually legitimately bucked a few times in a row before I got him around, the jerkface.  At this point I thought - ok, need to figure out a way to tell this horse that trotting when I want walking is a HUGE no.  So, I decided to trot him off away from home (and his buddy) every time he tried to trot.  It was working in the beginning until he cantered off instead of trotted, caught me off guard so I went to slow him (aka - grabbed reins) and he had another MAJOR tantrum.  I saw the road and I thought I was going down, but I stuck somehow!  Haven't had to stick like that for a while, so I'm thankful I still some of it.

At this point, I thought "ok, not doing that again, let's try something else."  I took a note from BO and her pony, and started marching Koda in the smallest circle possible, almost like a turn on the forehand, until he decided he wants to go my speed.  Once I adopted this strategy, didn't have any other tantrums since the moment I felt Koda try to start anything, we were on the circle.  What I wanted was a nice walk home on a loose rein.  The moment we halted after the circles, I'd ask him to walk off on a loose rein.  After a few of these moments, he seemed to settle and click in.

More work on walking home properly and getting fit is in our future, my my he's got a hay belly on him!
I still love my boy!
Please note - 8:15pm and it's still sunny out, plus it's polo season!