Sunday, 25 August 2013

On the Road Again!

This weekend has been all about packing.  This coming week, Koda and I are heading down to the closest eventing clinic and event to us (6 hours south of us) for a week of clinics and a competition on the weekend.  I've gone to this clinic last year and it was good, but I didn't really click with that certain clinician.  This year I'm riding with one of the clinicians we rode with in Red Deer a couple weeks ago, so I'm pretty sure it'll be a good experience.  I really love this clinic since it's a three day clinic, then you can go straight into the event.  For Koda and I, it's perfect since we have no place to school cross country, so here we can school it and roll straight into the event all in one trip.  Saves time, saves $$$ on gas, and gives us that event exposure we desperately need.

I personally really like the course since it's not just jumps spread out through a big field but is more through the woods, winding through different areas including going on the race track!  Last time out I bunked in with a friend of mine, but they won't be able to get the trailer this year so camping out we go!  I love camping, but this will be the first time I've camped solo.  Since I'll be out there for a week, I'm bringing the big 4-man tent with me instead of the lighter 2-man we use for backpacking.  Though, with camping brings more packing and more lists.  We have the clothing list, the riding/show clothing list, the camping list, and Koda's packing list!  Much to do, but loving the lists.  They've been keeping me busy since it has been pouring all weekend and our riding area/arena is an absolute mess.

Next post will hopefully be from the clinic!

Hope y'all had a great weekend :)

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Small Gymnastics

Other than working on dressage this past weekend, I decided to make some jump standards.  I made 4 in total, and the new farrier knows how to weld (he made his own hoof stand) and has said he'd be able to make me jump cups!  Not the ones with the pin, but the ones that just go over top of the standard.  Yesterday the fiance and I took the newly stained standards out to take Koda for a spin over them.  The BO has a few pairs of cups like the ones I want made, so we borrowed those for the evening.  I ended up making a simple 1-stride combination instead of a true gymnastic since it has been a bit since Koda and I have jumped anything with real height to it.  I did a quick warm-up where he was lightly favouring his left front (flat sole) but nothing too drastic.  Plus the ground was soft, so I wasn't concerned.  Even though we don't have a real arena where I board, the remnants of one is still there and keeps the ground relatively flat and well drained so that it's soft footing but not greasy or slippery.

The warm-up was short and sweet, just got him going on a loose rein trotting and cantering in both directions, kind of clearing the pipes sort of deal.  Since new round bales were put out, Koda has had a snotty nose, nothing huge, but definitely there.  While we're warming up, he'll have a couple good snorts then he's good to go.  I think it's just from the dust build up in his sinuses from these new bales.  These ones were wet when baled, and rather dusty as a result.  No mold, thankfully, but still not great.

Anyways, back to the ride.

I put him through the gymnastic with it set as two cross rails.  I don't know why, but I was getting nervous about jumping him during our warm up so I decided to start small and go from there.  Well, we ended up jumping higher than we've ever jumped together and it was absolutely fine!  Koda didn't find any issues with the height, and since he jumps rather flat (his bascule isn't very exaggerated or developed) it's really easy to stay with.  I found it kind of funny since I was riding the larger fence in the gymnastic better than the smaller first fence.  The fiance was kind enough to grab a couple videos and be my eyes on the ground (along with fence crew!).  It's a pretty good deal we have, he comes out to the barn and goes for a run through different terrain while I set the gymnastic/exercise and tack up.  By the time I'm in the saddle warming up, he's back and stretching :).  Everybody wins!

Here are the couple videos we got.  The first fence is about 2', the last measured at 2'10".  Wished I'd known it was at 2'10" while we were working (the standards don't have a scale on them yet) or else I would have told him to bump it up the extra 2 inches to make it 3' even.

Off the left lead, not the best...

Off the right lead, a little more balanced

He seems to favour the left lead after landing, but that is the direction of his buddies.  Will have to investigate this with more jumping in our "arena".  Figure out if I'm leaning or twisting in that direction, or it's both of us...

Monday, 19 August 2013

Circles, circles, circles

Over the weekend Koda and I went back to our favourite (not really...) shape - the circle.

On Saturday, it was all about the spiral in-out, leg yields in and out, and working on movements from the Entry level dressage tests (Canada).  The movements are all fairly simple, but I have a tough time coming out of the canter and keeping the trot at a decent rhythm along the long side.  It doesn't help that Koda is naturally a push ride, but I should just get my riding together and ride it right.  One weird thing that was happening was every time I asked for the canter on the last quarter of the 20m circle, Koda would pick up the incorrect lead.  In both directions.  I worked on the circles a few times, and we still couldn't get it so I stopped to just figure it out.  When I was riding Dillon, I would sometimes get into this thing of trying too hard and pushing too hard (read - TENSE) to the point of pissing him off.  Figured that this was happening again with Koda, so just thought to myself, just canter the circle.  It's not THAT complicated.

Voila - correct leads, both sides.

Sigh, why do we make things more difficult for ourselves?

Sunday was all about the circles.  How many circles?  Pretty sure we didn't ride a long-side the entire ride.  Warmed up with some very nice serpentines with turns on the haunches (from walk) tossed in for fun.  He's great off the right leg, not so much on the left.  Went into a 10m circle exercise within a 20m circle.  While you ride a 20m circle, in each quarter, ride a 10m circle.  Really worked on the connection, and keeping a consistent shape and bend on the smaller circles.  When doing this exercise, I WISH I had an outdoor arena, or even letters spray painted in the grass to help keep my circles round.  Instead of letters, I use random points in the field for reference, whether it's a small patch of tall grass, a poop pile, or a large yellow cone.  Koda was awesome going to the left, much more consistent than going to the right.  When we go right, he wants to fall out of the outside aids.  After working through that and getting some lovely trot work, we moved onto canter figure eights.  Absolutely LOVELY!  Leads were great, circles were great, had to work to keep the right lead circle as a 20m, simple changes were good.  Was so happy with Koda after those :)

To finish the ride, I dropped my stirrups and did the same exercises for about 15 minutes.  From what my body is telling me now, I need to do more no stirrups!!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Short and Sweet

It was calling for thunderstorms all throughout the weekend so to get out to the barn, my timing had to be perfect.  Since we don't have an indoor, or really do we have an outdoor (we have a place in the field where there USED to be a riding arena, but no more), footing can be a big issue for schooling.  I popped out on Saturday evening to see how it was and it wasn't worse for wear.  A little soft (that's fine!) but not slippery, so I pulled out a few jumps.  Now as you guys know, my jump standards are a mix of milkcrates and tires.  Luckily, the BO has brought home a few of the big yellow highway cones that they use for pony club (maybe 2') to play around with with her geldings, so I get to use them too! 

Another exercise that Linda told us we can do to help Koda and I get into a groove is ride a circle (doesn't matter how big) with a jump on it.  Once we were comfortable with that, add a second jump on the opposite side of the circle.  The idea was to ride the rhythm of the circle, no scooting afterwards or rushing/baulking beforehand.  I set the jump so that we could jump either away or towards his buddies hoping that it would help stop any type of drift is we were jumping length-wise.  To the right, Koda was an absolute dream.  I was making sure my hands were forward and up along the reins (short reins, long arm) since Sandra did say throughout the clinic to keep my elbows in front of the body.  I also wanted to make sure I wasn't hitting Koda's back on landing, so there was a lot of concentration on staying up and riding away from the jump in 2-point. 

At this point, my hip was starting to bother me again, so we took a short break and was going to go to the left a few times then call it a night.  The left was not as great as the right, but I think we can chalk that up to me trying to protect myself, and Koda not being as strong to the left.  The BO had driven into the yard at this time so I asked her to watch us a couple times.  She noticed that nothing was really going badly, just Koda scooting more so this way and I dropped my right shoulder a couple inches a few strides out of the take-off point.  We went back at it and corrected a few things, had a couple nice flowing circles and called it a night. 

Koda was being VERY careful with his hooves, clearing the fence easily (it's only 2'), and was really listening when I asked him to come back after his scooting to the left.  We even got a couple lead changes over the fence which was nice since we do tend to have problems with that in the indoor.  I think that's mainly to me not riding him forward enough when surrounded by walls.  Next on the docket for our schooling will be to up the height in some simple gymnastics (maybe convince the BO to bring a couple pairs of jumpkins home!) and more dressage work.  Every ride is being ended with a nice and easy hack down the road to just chillout and relax. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

To the schooling ring: Dressage

Since we've gotten back from the clinic, we've been buckling down hard.  Koda and I need to get consistent work in and to not allow circumstances (no one at the barn, weather, footing, etc.) to stop us from schooling and just getting those saddle hours.  First night out, we hit the dressage hard, sticking on the 20m circle.

The name of the game?  Transitions.  Specifically proper, soft, straight, and through transitions.

We worked for a good 45 minutes excluding warm-up and I was SO happy with my boy! We were doing mainly 1-step transitions, trying to throw a transition in every 5 strides or so.  I was focusing on keeping my hands soft and still instead of up high like a saddle-seat rider (nothing against saddle seat!  I secretly think it's super pretty...).  We had good moments, we had ok moments, we had confused moments, and moments of Koda just popping his head up and down trying to figure it all out but by the end he was going well for me. We had longer moments of soft contact, him really pushing from behind and lifting through his back, it was awesome.  I remember one moment when everything just came together.  We were trotting along our 20m circle and he just came down and I felt his back lift up and we were just floating along.  It was awesome!

Close to the end of the ride, I was starting to feel some pain in my hip flexors.  In highschool and through university, I was a competitive rower.  When I first started rowing, I injured myself by over-extending my right hip flexor and causing some damage and scar tissue to build up.  I don't remember the specific muscle they said it was, but it runs from the hip to the knee along the outside of the quadricep.  I have reinjured it once before, and the pain is similar to a hernia.  I actually thought I HAD a hernia when I re-tore it in university.  I went to physio therapy for it then, and when I was there they showed me clearly where I had lost the strength in my leg.  The exercises I need to do to strengthen it are extremely particular to the point where if my foot is angled incorrectly, I won't be doing any help.  Either way, while doing this ride the pain had started again, and being the fool that I am, I kept going.  Koda was working so well I didn't want to stop and just keep going.

Bad life choice

I kept riding, and all of a sudden it felt like a hot knife had hit my hips.  I had to stop then (luckily it was nearing the end of the ride anyways), so we just cooled out after that point.  I did a slow-motion dismount to make sure I didn't crumple when I hit the ground, and continued doing the hunched-over walk to untack and put Koda away.  I'm living with ice packs strapped to the hips, but right now it's totally worth it :)

Will have to baby the hips for a bit, but continue getting in that saddle and putting the miles on and riding PROPERLY!

Best moment of the night was right after I'd taken Koda's halter off in the field he just rested his head on my chest and just relaxed.  Absolute bliss

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Helmet Cam! Cross Country Day 2

Sorry for the long delay, was having issues getting them to upload, and then life got in the way.  Finally have some time to post them.  We didn't do much "big" stuff for us since we were still getting back into the grove and really moving in a more wide open space.  We had some baulking, but by the end of the weekend, Koda was really learning what his job is which is awesome.  I need to give him a completely confident and FORWARD ride so that he doesn't get lost in his head questioning.  Essentially, I want him to lean on my confidence and just GO for it.  That being said, I need to be confident and sure as well :)

First mini course on cross-country, really got us going.
The walk after the logs was me trying to catch my breath!  Need to hit the gym...

After the morning session we went down to the river.  Koda wasn't too excited about the water

Warming up for the second session on Sunday

Doing more than just logs!

Last line of the day.  LOVED Linda coaching us through it, she was awesome!!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Cross Country Clinic Day 1

What a whirwind! 

Over the long weekend, I hauled Koda down to a two-day cross country clinic to get ourselves back in the game and expose Koda to more things.  During the course of the weekend, Koda showed both his Arabian and Quarter Horse sides, which got him the nickname Jekyll or Hyde, depending on which one was there.  The first morning, my usual quiet minded and calm horse decided he was going to voice his opinion and start rearing at the trailer while I put on his open fronts (plus my friend J had hold of his other leg so that he wouldn't move the one I was working on).  I could not believe it! 

The look of eagles?! ... after his Black Stallion impression

After that yahoo, I was getting nervous which made him more nervous and lose his ever loving mind.  Luckily, once I got him working (and the clinician tossed down a pole for us to focus on) he came back and worked really well for me.  The first lesson was working on stadium and the water jump.  In stadium, it was all about rideability and riding off the landing, NOT the take-off.  We ended up doing a quick course that was essentially all bending lines and riding the rhythm forward.  Koda saved my butt a few times for which I am very happy and grateful. 

Part of the mini course

Last line of the course

Going through the water was a lot better than the first time we went through back in September at South Peace.  All we did was trot through it a few times and did a canter through once (whoop!).  We could have jumped a log 2-strides out and 2-strides to in, but the gravel was hurting Koda's front hooves (thin soles) so we left it at that.  I think I am going to have him shod in the front during the spring/summer from now on since he's been tender on those front feet before. 

In the afternoon, we had dressage.  Koda was still feeling a touch weird, so we took it easy.  The clinician gave me some excellent pointers for myself and to help Koda learn to stretch out and down.  He was doing REALLY well with the stretching which was surprising since he hasn't stretched out before.  The one tip I really liked was I tend to be too soft with my hands and I lose the connection with it trying too hard to be soft.  What the clinician asked me to do was think that you can hook your pinky fingers into the gullet of your saddle and keep them there. 

The former SO (now fiance!) was awesome and came with me to the clinic, so I have some photos and video to post, along with helmet cam videos.