Saturday, 1 November 2014

Memorial Ride

As the snow comes in and everything is quietly going to sleep for the long cold of winter, Koda and I hit the point road for an easy trail.  Now, Koda has had a few days off, and with the changing temperatures he can get to be a bit feisty, but nevertheless I wanted to go out on this solo ride.  We headed out down the road.  
The Point Field Road
It was an alright ride even though Koda was being a bit of a pig, tossing his head about, trying to circle back home, etc.  He wasn't too nasty, but very consistently trying to get back home.  Bad thing on my part is that I wasn't in my usual riding gear, so I didn't have any extra oomph to get him to quit and continue forward.  Not the most relaxing of ride, but got through and have a way forward to change this attitude he sometimes gets.  

The bribe to ride out nicely :)
When we got back to the yard, to give a bit of a training moment, I decided we were going to halt and stand in the middle of the yard until Koda relaxed and accepted my choice.  It took a while, with plenty of head tossing, pawing, fidgeting, and face making, but he finally did chill out with me petting him and remaining relaxed.
Impatient face
Just not impressed...
Frosty sunset
For the rest of the winter, the plan is to do these types of rides to get him to listen outside of the ring along with inside the ring.

Sneaking treats from the trailer

Friday, 31 October 2014

October's 10 Questions

1.  How many pairs of breeches/jods do you own?  I've actually been expanding my collection of breeches to have a few more varieties.  I have 4 schooling pairs, 2 fleece-lined, and now 3 show pairs whereas before I only had 1.

2.  How many horses have you ridden?  I started riding at camps and lesson barns, so I've ridden a ton of different horses in all shapes and sizes.  On top of that, I worked as the equestrian director at a summer camp for a few years and rode every single horse in the program for tune ups, test rides, and more throughout the summer.  The main horses that gave me my riding education would be November, Corky, Frosty, Cotton, and Cherokee from the first lesson barn I rode at, Max, Thor, and Laddie from the camp, and Dillon, Celtic, and Koda as my own.
Max and I on a morning ride before campers arrived
Playing around with Thor

3.  How many trainers have you had?  I've never really had trainers, but did the lesson thing with coaches and clinicians.  For sake of this post, I'll say I've had 5 coaches.

Esther teaching about equine first aid... love the expressions!
4.  How many barns have you ridden at? Three: first lesson barn I rode at, the barn I rode out of while at university (and where I found Dillon), and the barn before I moved to Alberta.

5.  What is the name of the horse you consider yourself to have the greatest bond?  Koda.  Dillon is up there, but Koda is the horse that I'm really getting to understand and actually know.

6.  What is your favourite show name you've ever encountered?  Gryffindor.

7.  What do you consider your greatest weakness or flaw in riding?  My lack of patience sometimes.  I've worked on it quite a bit, but I will sometimes get so wrapped up in what I'm asking and end up asking wrong (wires crossed) and it builds to be a disaster.

8.  What do you consider to be your greatest strength?  Coach-ability.  When I go to clinics and lessons, I'm going for a reason so I tend to be able to absorb and retain things I'm taught very quickly, especially when I can see or feel the result of that new technique/riding skill I'm being taught.

2014 Clinic down at Alhambra
9.  Have you ever leased a horse?  Yup!  I've leased two, a large welsh-arab cross pony named Cotton Blossom (cotton for short), and Dillon before I bought him.

10.  What is the name of the first horse you rode?  The name of the first horse I rode, excluding pony rides, is Apache.  He was an elderly pinto pony who had taken many first riders through their first riders.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Fall Fires and Winterizing

It's that time of year again where we start getting prepared for the long haul of winter.  We've been lucky in the fact that we haven't had snow just yet, but it's coming!  We've had a few little flurries, but nothing has stuck.

After the shows and clinics I've done this past year, my trailer has slowly but surely collected almost all of my tack and equestrian paraphernalia.  Add in the mud, the transporting of hay in the trailer because last haul we had a ton of snow/hail/rain coming down on us, and things were being tossed about since they weren't in their proper spot... yeah, it was an absolute mess.  Trying to find anything in there was almost impossible!

The black hole of tack and equipment
Also during this time, I have to pull out all of my leather tack since there's no heated tack room at the farm.  During the winter my tack lives in certain little nooks and crannies in the house away from kitten claws and puppy paws.  Everytime I ride this winter, I haul my tack out from the house in strategic bags and carriers.  All lotions, potions, and liquids are out of there as well.  Last year I forgot a bottle of fly spray in there and didn't find it until spring.  After it had melted.

Life is tough for kittens... so tough
Another thing that happens during the fall and early winter up here is the annual burning.  To clear more farm land, the farmers will make rows of log rubble and trees to burn so that the land is useable for the next growing season.  It's a bit spooky when you're driving home or even in town since this year the wind blew the smoke all over town.  Especially around Hallowe'en, the town had a very atmospheric feel about it with smoke and fog everywhere from the fires.
Smoke from afar
Up close and burning

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Late Thanksgiving Post

Last Thanksgiving (Canadian here!), I went on a baking and sweet making spree, making some desserts for our family away from family Thanksgiving meal, and made some tasty treats for Koda as well.  Now, I'm not a big baker or sweet maker, so it was fun to work with some new ingredients!

The reason why I wanted to try making my own horse treats is while we were at the Fall Finale, I gave Koda some stub muffin type treats.  You know, the ones that are essentially oats and goodness all slathered in sticky molasses that makes them soft and chewy.  Ever since tasting these supposed amazing things, he turns his nose up at every. other. cookie.
My horse is now a "foodie" of the cookie world.

By the way, molasses?  Smells disgusting.  Looks disgusting.  Mixing it with anything?  Oh goodness...
Carrot Crunch
Molasses Squares
After making the human treats, I pulled out google and found some easy to make horse treat recipes that didn't have a lot of filler.  I wasn't too sure of feeding flour to my horse, but then again I'm sure it's found in some horse cookies so it can't be that horrible.

I tried two different recipes, one called a carrot crunch and another more gooey.  It didn't have a name, so let's call 'em molasses squares.  Overall, the molasses squares were easier to make since it had the least amount of ingredients, making it easier to mix the molasses (damn molasses) evenly through the mixture.  I think the problem with the carrot crunch, it should have been baked longer and mixed better so that it was a bit more even and... crunchy!  Instead of lumpy.  The molasses squares came out a LOT better, much better mix and easier to handle.  Add the crushed candy cane on top?  Delish!
Looks tasty

Gone in the blink of an eye!

Koda approves :)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Fairview Fall Finale

This past weekend Koda and I ventured into the world of horse shows and went to a new show in the north, the Fairview Fall Finale.  This is a two day show with the first day being all dressage and the second consisting of flat classes in the morning and hunter/jumper classes in the afternoon.  Due to the travel time, I only did the dressage day and the flat classes since I wanted to get home at a decent hour.  I signed up for Training Test 1 Open along with Open Pleasure, Open Equitation, and Open Show Hack.  

Training Test 1

The first day was a bit crazy as I'd forgotten how long it took to braid and was starting to panic!  Luckily I met a couple of super friendly girls that gave me a hand in that regard and the braid came out half decent.  Sadly, with the braid panic, it ate into my warm-up time and I ended up only having about 5-10 minutes of warm up whereas I really wanted 20.  I had ridden the night before in the arena, so Koda wasn't too looky or spooky plus the dressage ring wasn't dressed up with a ton of flowers or anything, so it was a pretty steady test.  During the test I was consistently thinking "relax, legs on, allow with hands", like a mantra.  The second half of the test felt a ton better than the first, which I think is mostly due to me getting into the groove of riding and Koda responding to the me digging in.  

Once I had finished, I didn't have anything else for that day until the evening, so the hubs and I went into town to run some errands.  When we got back, I picked up my test and surprise surprise, Koda and I got second place, with a 7 for rider position and another 7 for harmony between horse and rider!  All of those clinics this past year are paying off, woot!!!!

He looks so cute here
The next day was a lot more relaxed as I had braided the night before and was determined not to be caught with that time crunch again.  I had plenty of time for warm up and we went in for our first class.  It was a pretty big one (nine horses!) and it was making me a tad anxious.  Koda and I don't have our walk-canter transitions confirmed, so those were a struggle in these classes.  I kept getting tense and pushing too hard for the transition whenever we had to canter, causing Koda to pick up the wrong lead.  Bad rider moment.  

Attitude in the tail flip

Square halt, love it
In the equitation class, I was SO thankful we used to do these types of classes at my old lesson barn in Ontario where you had to ride a pattern specific with cones.  The pattern was sit trot from cone A to cone B (think X), rising trot circle to the right (back to X) rising trot circle to the left (back to X) canter right lead to cone C, halt at cone C.  For those who don't ride equitation, you MUST ride on the proper side of the cones or else you are eliminated.  In this show, they didn't eliminate people, but it was explained at the end of the class.  I didn't get the right lead canter off the left circle (darn), but surprise surprise again, since I was on the proper side of the cones and had equal sided circles, we got another second place!  Plus we did have a kick arse canter-walk transition right in front of the judge before line up which never hurts either ;)  


Show Hack
The last class was a tough one, another big one with nine horses in it.  For some reason I was expecting this class to be like a Road Hack class... HA!  For those who show hunters, you know this isn't true.  The show hack class is more for those horses who can give HUGE changes in gait, collected trot, extended trot, collected canter, extended canter.  Now, we all know Koda doesn't really have an extended trot, but we gave it our all.  It was a fun class to ride, but was very tough.  I was so proud of my boy, he gave me everything he could in that class.  Next time out, we may try and aim for the road hack (if it's offered) instead.

 All in all, I had a great weekend and learned some more about Koda and I!  We aren't as "out to lunch" as I thought, and do stack up to others out there.  We CAN do it and do it well, just need to keep on polishing and perfecting those issues and we'll continue to improve.

Such a handsome man

Friday, 3 October 2014

Playing on the Farm (Media Dump!)

As the frost, ice, and snow is slowly creeping in (we've already had snow one day!), every day of sunshine is being taken advantage of!  After a ride this week, JJ (the only mare in the herd) was taken out to get her hooves done, along with Cain and Duster.  Whenever JJ leaves the herd, the boys get riled up!  It's really fun to watch their dramatic herd dynamics.  Mic and Dandy were running about while I cooled Koda out.  Once I tossed him out with them, he wasn't really feeling the drama... but he wasn't given a choice.

Mic decided he must get in on the act, and then the running began!  

Mic and Dandy
Such a graceful creature... 
Fall colours
Watch out for flying gloves ;)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Judge My Ride!

The other day I had a stroke of brilliance and decided to bring out the camera and tripod to capture part of my ride.  We're heading to a show this weekend, and it'll be mine and Koda's first ever pure dressage show!  We're only doing one test on the first day and then there are fun classes on the next day.

Take a look at our attempts at Training Test 1 below and let me know your thoughts.  I know which one felt like it rode better, let's see if it turns out that's the one you like best!  Sorry for the wide rides, I wasn't paying much attention to the width of my "dressage arena" so my geometry is off.

Have fun and please be helpful if you see things that could be helped!  No need for nasties :)

Training 1A

Training 1B

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sandy Alexander Clinic

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to drive down and ride with Sandy Alexander again.  The first time I rode with him it changed how I looked at riding and how I rode in general so I was really looking forward to this second chance to drive down.  Everything was set, had the truck looked at the weekend before (new tires and minor transmission work), trailer was packed, Koda and I were ready to go.  As I pulled onto the farm road, a light dings on my dashboard.  Nothing too big, just one of the tires are low.  Ok, no problem, the BO has a compressor at her place.  I pull in and get the compressor out, give BO a call to ask how to get it working, and then we're off to the races.  Got the tires pumped up to where they should be (while getting drenched by rain), hitched up, got Koda loaded, and on the road we go!  Or so I thought...

Sunrise over the Peace River
 Twenty five minutes down the road, the light goes on again.  Ok... I'll check them again in the next town.  Get to a gas station, check the tires, all are well, not sure what's going on, but really don't want to haul 600km with lights going off on my dash.  I call the clinic organizer, we can change my time to later on Saturday, and we head back home.  Early the next morning, find out that the mechanic didn't reset my tire pressure indicators properly!  Thankfully, the mechanic is along one of two routes down to the clinic, so got that sorted and off we went.

We're on a boat!
 Once we got down to the clinic site, I unloaded, tacked up, and was in the saddle within 20 minutes.  I'm sure Koda wasn't too impressed with that situation, but it's how it goes some days!  The first lesson was on the flat with three other riders.  The main lesson behind all of it was your horse must accept the leg, and you must allow it to take your hands forward while maintaining pace, rhythm, relaxation, and straightness.  Sounds simple, right?  But the great thing was, during the lesson it was broken down to focusing on one or two things at once.  One wonderful thing that I took out of it is realization and acceptance of what Koda can do and what he simply can't.  He's not going to be an amazing mover since he's not built for it.  What he CAN be is a very solid training/first level horse as long as I ride him as correctly as I can.  I have to play to his strengths, which is consistency and lightness.  If I stay light and correct, we will make it at the training and possible first level.

Over the suspension bridge that always makes me nervous
 One thing I needed to hear from him was to stop getting hung up on what people told me before about what is necessary before you can do certain things.  It was kind of funny but extremely illuminating when we came in after doing some trot work and he looked at me and said "those spurs you're wearing are USELESS!  Why aren't you using bigger ones?!".  My response was "I was told you need to have good legs before riding with spurs".  At this point, we'd already done the go around about me thinking so lowly of my abilities and to expect more from myself.  It was a realization that I can use those spurs that I thought were only reserved for the "good riders" and that I wasn't in that category.

Got to love self reflection!

Sunrays in the morning
 The next day we had a jumping lesson and we did some really cool exercises.  I've done walking over poles and logs before, but not actual jumps.  The first exercise was to walk on a loose rein over soem logs and 2'3" fences.  Walk.  Not trot over, but walk.  Ok... let's do this.  Realization: Koda can walk over 2'3" fences easily!  Every time we walked over the larger "poles", Koda would trot or canter off, which indicated that he had never been allowed to jump, but been forced/pushed to jump.  Now, when I heard that it totally clicked in my head.  I've been pushing Koda over fences, and not really allowing him to take me there and him do the job.  The over-bearing mother comes to mind :)

For the rest of the lesson, the objective for all of us was to ride the track and allow the horse to figure out the fences.  As long as we set our horses up in a nice rhythm and rode our track, we would have perfect rounds.  It was pretty amazing, to tell you the truth.  I'd get Koda set up in a nice trot or canter, keep my reins soft and my legs off completely, and off we'd go!  He would set himself up for the distances, and as long as I stayed soft and allowing, we'd have no chips or launches.  Every distance was perfect, as long as I didn't get in HIS way.  Even if I picked up my reins a little, or changed the pressure of my leg, we would get a slightly awkward distance.  It was truly amazing and was a HUGE turnaround point for me.  As I focused on the track, Koda was allowed to do the job I was asking him to do without me nitpicking in his way.

Absolutely wonderful.

Autumn colours on the drive home
It's strange how not having to do anything and yet be prepared to correct if necessary is one of the hardest things.  I started singing "canter, canter, canter, canter" in time to his strides in my head so that I wouldn't start nitpicking about distance or what have you.  There was no slamming on of the legs 3-5 strides out of the fence, nothing.  Just letting him flow through my hands along the track I wanted and he'll deal with the obstacles in the way.  Amazing.

One last thing that really resonated with me during this clinic was we are in the business of TRAINING our horses, even if we don't consider ourselves trainers.  There's a lot of emphasis in our world about the rider seeing the distance to a fence.  During this exercise, every time I saw a distance and did something about it, we'd chip or launch, but when I left him alone, he did it himself.  Essentially, he knows his stride length better than I do, and he can figure it out better than me.  Yes, I'll still ride certain fences certain ways, but after this clinic I think there is a lot to be said for just riding the track and letting the horse do the job you're training it to do.

Homeward bound 
If some of you saw this and thought, td:dr, here are the highlights:

Expect more from yourself, that's the only way you'll go further
Consistency is key
Play to Koda's strengths - lightness and consistency
Allow Koda to flow through your hands
Allow Koda to take you to the jumps
Allow Koda to do his job!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A little more about me

I grabbed this list of questions off of Viva Carlos:

1.  Is there something you don't like about your riding?
The past education I've received and learning now that some things I was taught weren't always the most correct and having to change it now.  Happy that I've learned 'better' but wish I had learned it before instead of now!

2.  Does your horse buck?
He has had one bucking moment for the 2.5 years I've owned him.  And that was mainly because he was pissed I wasn't letting him go walk with his buddy.

3. Is your horse head shy?

4.  Favourite barn chore to do?
Tack cleaning, if you'd call that a barn chore.  If not, racking or sweeping the alleyways.

5.  How many times do you ride a week?
This number fluctuates, depending on weather and motivation.  I try to ride 3-4 times a week, but sometimes it ends up being not at all!  All depends on the situation.

6.  Who is your favourite pro rider?
Ian Millar.  Since I was a little girl, I've loved watching this man ride.  Now that I know what to look for, I'm even more impressed by his technique, style, and awe-inspiring tenacity and love for the sport.

7.  If one pro rider could train you for one day, who would it be?
Jimmy Wofford.  I've read reviews from his clinics, and all levels of riders seem to come out of them with a ton of new confidence and education that they can take home with them.

8.  Favourite Facial Markings?
I like interesting ones, like stars shaped wonky, a 'bleeding star', stars and snips.  Not a fan of blazes or bald faces.

9.  Leg markings or no leg markings?
Am indifferent, really.  It's cute to have a couple markings, be it facial or leg, but not something that I'd specifically look for!

10.  Ever broken anything falling off?
Only time I've broken a bone was being launched off a camp horse when I was a kid.


Dressage Work and Trails

This one is going to be short and sweet!

For the month of September, we've been focusing on flat work and dressage.  Koda isn't the best mover, and he'll never be that horse with amazing lengthenings or can carry collection very well.  What I want to do for him is be able to show him at his best, and be able to give him the ride that makes him look as amazing as possible.  One thing we have to work on is consistency.  Sometimes we'll click and everything will be great, but maybe in a few strides, or half-way around the arena, something will change (be it myself, or a distraction pops up, or something) and we lose it.

I like big butts...
 We had one super cool schooling ride where I came out with a complete plan as to what I wanted to accomplish that ride.  Quick groom, tack up, and off we went and got it done.  There was no putzing around, no trying to figure out what I wanted to work on while riding.  I had a plan formed in my head and just did it.  Koda responded so well to that type of mental focus that I'm trying to get that for every ride.  Ride IN the moment, but have a plan as to what you want to accomplish.

Ready to ride, feel the zen
 Consistency, focus, and correctness.

I was working on this type of ride so that when we went to our clinic with Sandy Alexander, we'd be able to get into more in-depth work.

Wide open spaces.
 Between all of the dressage rides, the BO and I tacked up and went for a nice long trail ride down to the point.  She pulled out Mik, so it was going to be a fast ride!  Great for fitness, and great to just get out and go!  During the entire ride, we trotted and cantered at least 2-3 miles.  Since the crops are off the fields, the footing is absolutely wonderful.

The boys truckin' along
We had a great ride, even though the sun is setting earlier and earlier, we still managed to squeeze in a two hour trail ride before it got too dark.  Of course, the horses will always take us home no matter how dark!  Both were very well behaved on the ride home, no rushing or silly shenanigans.  I'm suspecting it was because both were tuckered out from the long trotting through the fields.

Next up - Sandy Alexander Clinic, and the disaster of getting there.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

On the road... in August!

We went to the annual South Peace Horse Club eventing clinic which was absolutely awesome!  We learned a ton, one thing being that Koda can jump Entry (BN/N) level cross country fences from a trot... maxed out.  So, that was pretty cool :)

On the road again
Had a quick stopover to see Keith!  Hot shoes for Koda
My eventing friends JK and JS didn't make the long trek up for the clinic and event, so it was me tenting solo (Hubs was back to work).  Over the three days, Koda and I worked through doing grids, cross country elements, and putting it all together on the last day.  Again, we rode with one of my favourite clinicians, Sandra Donnelly.

Second water complex
The main things I took away from the clinic were:
1) Leg on
2) Keep the line straight
3) More leg
4) Follow through with the arms
5) Can never have too much leg
The digs
Some pieces of homework for Koda and I are to get out there and do more cantering in open spaces, work on connecting the canter (canter poles!), and getting Koda to respect my leg more.  Once my leg goes on, he needs to say "yes ma'am" instead of "yeah.... maybe?" sometimes.  Dressage schooling, here we come!
Training on the left, Entry on the right
During the clinic, we had the opportunity to audit three different clinicians, all with different teaching styles but with the same underlying concepts of balance, tempo, pace, and LEG!  Not to have the horses going faster, but to get them reaching more under themselves, or to load the haunches, or to help lift the front end etc.  Another one that is a good reminder is, if you have the horse straight and in front of your leg, once you're 3-5 strides out from the fence, you've essentially done your job, now it's time for them to do theirs.  Stop picking, stay steady and balanced with leg on, and GO!
At the end of the day

Infield area
Watching the Prelim group, they had the opportunity to school an Intermediate line went like so: Up bank - 2 strides - bank up with ditch - 2 strides - six foot drop.  As the riders went through the exercise, you could tell how much leg they really needed to use for this type of question.  Of course, the riders had to be on their game as this was a big question.  Once all the riders went through, you could see one of those moments that I absolutely love in the horse world: the absolute JOY of riding, and what these animals truly give us...

Sleepy Super Koda