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:  http://suenostomanvuelo.blogspot.ca/2014/09/septembers-10-questions.html

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

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Famous Family Members!

So, while looking through the results for the WEGs, I was curious about whether Canada had sent any riders for the endurance portion.  Lo and behold, we sent four riders, and one of the horse's names was very familiar... Nightwinds Savanah!  Now for those who are new to the blog, I bought Koda from a farm northeast of Edmonton named Nightwind Arabians...

After a bit of googling, found out that Nightwinds Savanah is a half-sister to Koda!  How cool is that?

Koda's pedigree:


Article mentioning Savanah's breeding:


And career info


Dakota's Keyanti
Nightwind's Savanah
Keyanti's Lil Shocker (aka Koda)

Monday, 1 September 2014

Trail Blazing

Last weekend I called up my friend P whom I haven't seen all summer (so busy!) and we decided to hit the trails together down at Rocky Lane.  Now as you guys know, where I live it is relatively flat unless you're down in the river valleys.  The Rocky Lane trails?  Down in the river valley!  I've only ridden on them a few times and still have plenty of trails to explore, but the trails aren't too extensive or confusing so it was easy to get around.
Can't see this view too much
Even though the trails are in an area that is somewhat populated (by the indoor arena, school farm project, and community hall) you have to keep your eye out for bears.  Luckily, we only have black bears up here and the rare brown bear sighting, so not too much to worry about.  Either way, we tacked up and headed off for an adventure.  P is a GREAT trail companion, we both ride in a similar style, just relaxed and enjoying the day.  We didn't really have a plan as to which trails we were going to do, we just went out and rode.  P had her emergency pack on and I brought my phone (better service).  At one point I asked P to stop and turn as the photo was gorgeous - we were right beside the river, the light was perfect!  As she turned her horse Uncle Frank (yes, her gelding's name is Uncle Frank!!!), she heard crashing down on the river bank.  Lo and behold, bear cubs.  She yells bear, we both turn and high-tail it out of there.  The horses were perfect, and with the shot of adrenaline we were flying high!
Post-bear sighting, adrenaline running high!
After that, we made our way down to the river.  I'd never been along this trail before and it was gorgeous, the terrain was great.  As time wound down, we started to make our way back to the trail head, we accidentally went on the biathlon trail.  

Such a handsome man

P and Uncle Frank looking like bosses
Once we went through the biathlon trail (while jumping over some tree obstacles) we were back at the trailers where we found the new barn cat at the school farm project.  Koda decided to make him his new friend since the cat was absolutely certain he was coming home with us.
New friends