Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Summer paddling

Our summer is in full swing and although it's been hotter this year than the previous couple, it hasn't been too roasting. I love the longer days and dry weather, it makes for good riding conditions.
I found this skin, and then we found the owner. So cool

This weekend was pretty perfect for riding and as an added bonus we are looking after the dogs. We made the most of it with lots of walking with the dogs, taking the dogs swimming and we met up with friends for a ride by the river.

Sunday morning the weather was perfect to meet up for a ride. Andrew and I took both our horses out and we met up with Tahlia and Kat. We started out by walking through the water jump to continue Henry's education about water. He walked right in, then we trotted around through it before we headed out to the trails. I organised this ride so Henry could have a low pressure outing since the last few times he has been out has been XC training. I was very pleased when he walked out to the course and stayed relaxed the whole time.
Enjoying the water

Our next stop was to paddle in the river and again Henry went right in. He is clearly becoming way more confident about water and had a nice time paddling before we continued our ride. It was so nice to be out chatting with my friends, all the ponies were relaxed and enjoying their outing too. We had a trot along the river, Henry in true Henry style set a nice easy pace but Coolie wanted to race. We met other riders out and about enjoying the lovely weather.

On our way back Paris was getting a little antsy. She wanted to jig jog and not walk. Henry ignored her, simply flicking an ear in her direction as if to say 'life is much easier if you just walk!'. Our two boys were the best behaved in the group. I do love how relaxed they are for the most part, it makes life so easy.

We spent the arvo doing things around the house, walking the dogs and letting them swim in the dam. It was a really great weekend!


Monday, 14 January 2019

Dressage = brain mush

In an effort to push forward with my elementary goal, Coolie and I had a lesson in Saturday arvo. I had debated which horse to take because they both need work, and I need the most work but since Henry is getting lessons with Jonna and Coolie misses out this time round I decided to take Coolie and keep building from our last lesson.
Andrew was sailing during my lesson, so enjoy some unrelated pictures. I think his topline has improved!

Being a weekend afternoon, I arrived early and hopped on to warm up 15 minutes early, which was about 10 minutes too early since it was hot out there, 35C! Not ideal, but hey we live in Australia so we get on with it. Bec was also running early so it didn't matter in the end, we got right to work after a 5 minute walk.

From the get go, we set out to have Coolie really on the aides. I can get a bit slack at that because I like the easy life and so does he so insisting can lead to arguing. No more. If I want to do elem, I have to get him switched on right away. So we got him working on going from the leg right away, if he was tardy we repeated with a whip tap. We got Coolie moving on a circle in the shade and then Bec started to work with me on my position.
Lucy found this big, awkward stick and was so pleased with herself 

I have endless problems with my position, I would love to lean forward and grip with my knees, have my hands too low and reins floppy. Sadly that's not how I need to ride so we chip away at improving me, this time Bec broke down how I needed to progress my position to allow us to do elementary. We need to improve my position to allow Coolie to do the movements we need him to and guess what, it works! Bec picked on my legs, having me think about being able to do a froggy kick (a froggy kick will help place your seat and legs in the correct position) in the saddle at all times. This meant I wasn't gripping, but had contact with the saddle the length of my leg. I always need to remember to close my knee otherwise I have it too loose . Then I rolled my shoulders back, lifted my hand slightly and thought about keeping my knuckles together. Sounds simple and obvious doesn't it? My brain started to leak out of my ear once we started adding in lateral movements!

Next Bec picked on my every time I moved my hands back towards me. i had to really focus on getting Coolie to go forward into the contact. I am typical in wanting to pull back like the monkey i am distantly related to, so Staying soft with a holding contact, but not pulling back is hard. I don't even realise I do it most of the time. Staying forward, up and soft with my hands really allowed Coolie to move forward and into the contact which improved his way of going. It was very interesting to feel the difference. If he was resistant I just held the contact and softened (but didn't let go!) when he relaxed. Coolie was great and dobbed on me when I pulled, he would get tight and slow down.
Caspian went swimming in the dam, rolled in black dirt and then white sand. Yuck!

So with all that in my head we started working on a 20m circle, throwing in lots of 10m circles to continue to supple him. Also 10m circle are crucial at this level and mine are not great at all. Turns out I forget to keep turning. I do it in jumping too.  So I focused on turning more, and while I felt like Coolie was over bending it turns out he was bending the right amount. Maybe I am the reason my horse is a plank?! If Coolie fell out through the shoulder I re-positioned him using indirect rein and pushed him forwards again because he would lose the rhythm and slow down. Oh and I had to count 13-14 strides around the circle. While making sure my hands were up, my legs were down and coolie was going correctly. Dressage is hard.

When I was a 10m circle master we started working on shoulder in, using the 10m circle to shape the movement, I was happy to feel the shoulder in was better than last time but I need to be fast with my aides and really insist that Coolie moves off them. I found myself with the aides 'on' but Coolie was just doing what he wanted. I woke up to that and when I had him responding we got a good angle. We did both reins, had a walk break and then moved onto travers.

I had travers in my head and was convinced that what I asked for when I found myself instead doing a rather nice shoulder in down the long side. Bugger! Seems that I got muddled again. We did another 10m circle and this time I correctly asked for travers and found it much easier than our previous lesson. Winning! I really need to give the aide early for travers because if I am too slow I lose the angle. This is the biggest takeaway for this movement.
Arena traffic

We finished the lesson by cantering and fixing my position in the canter which needs less work, then counter canter. I was so much better at riding the outside of the horse in the counter canter and we had far fewer issues this lesson. I have to really think of riding the outside in the counter canter and almost have him flexed to the outside to keep him straight. I was very please with the work we did.

This was a seriously tough lesson mentally. By the end my brain felt like mush but I felt motivated and invigorated. Our homework is for me to make sure my position is as it should be, thinking about having my knuckles touching, and being able to froggy kick. Coolie must go off the aides lightly and promptly and I must push him up into the contact. No pulling!

Bec and I discussed my timeline for doing a test and I suggested March, before we go on holiday, Bec agreed so I had better get cracking. I think I found the competition I will debut at and i am equally nervous and excited. Bring on the dressage!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

2019 Goals

Goal setting is something I do every year, if I realise it or not. There are always things I want to achieve and to do. Goal setting isn't always the be all and end all though since sometimes being really end goal focused means you don't enjoy the journey, and sometimes the results aren't as sweet as you would like them to be. I suffered a bit of this last year. This year I am going to keep things really simple, especially since this is what I do for fun in my spare time.

Coolie

Do an elementary test. Don't worry about the score, just do it! Enjoy doing it, and the journey to get there.

Have fun jumping the jumps. Don't worry about moving up, just keep the horse and you happy. If it's too easy, make it harder. If it's too hard work harder on it to make it easy, but not all in one go. Break it down. It's not rocket science.

Enjoy eventing, at any level. Right now it feels like eventing on Coolie isn't as important as it once was. Instead, the elementary dressage thing is loud and clear in my head. So follow that path but if you want to event, just do it and have fun! You can go out at 80 if you haven't trained and have a blast. You can rock it at 95. 105 just seems like a bit too much for us both and that's ok, I have Henry to generally aim in that direction.

Take time out for trail riding and time with friends mid season. Just enjoy the time with Coolie.

Go faster in show jumping, but not too flat. You can take the handbrake off, it won't all go to shit.

Henry

Enjoy the baby horse learning time. He is young, but he is smart and sensible. Send him forwards, it's the key to everything. Hang on and be confident, he is turning out to be exactly the horse you want.

Jump the jumps, and be confident. You can do it and so can he. Sit up, leg on, heels down and go for it.

Do the dressage stuff. You practice it at home so you have to get out there. Henry will behave you just have to give him a chance. Have fun and relax, give a novice test a shot too.

Have fun with friends. Go riding, go training, just go!

Get out on XC more. Henry needs to get out there and do it. Preferably stay in the saddle. Remember to ride forward and enjoy it.

Trust Bec and Jonna. They know what is best for both of us.

Enter events. Go to events. Have fun at events.

Keep moving forward with Henry's training, keep him happy, take one step at a time.

Me

Stay active. Yep, PT hurts but it's good for you so suck it up and stop complaining.

Don't just talk about the half marathon, DO the half marathon. Get running!

Be positive. Smile more. Take a breathe. Life it pretty darn good.

Put more effort in with friends. Send messages, catch up. Go out and have fun.

Be confident in you!

Enjoy every day, and make the most of opportunities presented to you.

Ride a horse in Scotland, maybe England too.

Appreciate and enjoy time spent with the hubby.

Give new things a go.

Just ride the horses, enjoy them, keep them and you happy. Don't over do things, and you don't have to do things you don't want to. Your horses your life!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Don't trust a husband

This weekend was a warm one, especially Sunday when it heated up to about 40C. I avoided it by not riding and going to the beach instead. Far more pleasant!
It was a perfect day for it!
Saturday though was for riding horses. Well, one horse. I was maybe a bit lazy over the weekend horse-wise, but really we all needed some down time. Anyway, Coolie and I had a great flatwork session on Friday, so Henry drew the short straw to be ridden on Saturday. I wanted to jump but then I was feeling too lazy to set up a course, but couldn't be bothered with riding on the flat so set a course anyway.  After I was done the jumps all looked small. Now they were all set to about 60cm, so not at all big, but riding a green horse changes your perspective sometimes.

Anyway Henry was feeling fresh and ready to go, but he warmed up happily and was calm in his approach and departure from our warm up fence. I made sure i could adjust the canter so i could place Henry to the fence before I started building a course, adding in the one stride double to start. The double had a shadow on the take off, causing a false ground line. Henry saw this so jumped long leaving me a little behind the first few times through until I got my act together and gave him more rein. 

I worked to place Henry closer to the fences through the double, and ended up getting some good spots. I also made sure to keep him more forward as I tend to opt for too slow. We got a really good flow happening and Henry got some good spots to the fences and we really cruised over everything. Jumps are starting to just happen as they should, although he will still jump huge over somethings.

When we jumped everything and I was happy with how things were going, I bravely asked Andrew to put a few things up. The double I left as it was as Henry is still gaining confidence through such things, but the rest went up. I imagined Andrew would put them a hole or too, but no. Not my husband. I kept my mouth shut as he gleefully told me he wasn't going to tell me how bit the jumps were. I had a pretty good idea anyway! For a change though I was confident, I knew we could do it. So we did!

Henry didn't get the memo about the height change and so gave the first jump a good clobber. We came around and worked him over it while he worked it out. This horse jumps the moon when it comes to scary stuff, he just had to work out how to do it over a plain jump. I helped him out as best I could and once we worked it out we were flying.

We ended jumping between 70-80cm around our little course, which is the biggest we have really done to date, other than the odd jump here and there. It felt great too, super easy, Henry settled into a rhythm and was so easy to pilot.

I can't wait to see how this year goes, I already have a few things in the calendar for this little horse.


Friday, 4 January 2019

2018 goal review

Now that we have waved goodbye to 2018, lets look at what I set out to do and what I actually did... which was a lot. 2018 was very successful overall so lets take a closer look:

Coolie

Improve our dressage score

  • We really worked hard and achieved this. Weirdly though our results improved more in pure dressage than eventing dressage. Work that one out!

Get more consistent in dressage

  • See above we were pretty consistent with a steadily improving trend. 

Work on maintaining the contact in the canter

  • Still working on it but it definitly got better

Get consistent counter canter

  • I would say we did this. Still plenty to work on but we can do serpentines and circles!

Get flying changes

  • OMG kind of sometimes we can do a change on the flat that doesn't result in Coolie hating me. So this is a no.

Improve consistency in lateral movements

  • Yes, they are more consistent but still not good enough. 

Attempt an Elementary test

  • When I felt I was ready the test that would be most suitable wasn't offered. We are still working towards this one. 

Improve self carriage in all paces, especially canter and gallop

  • It is so much better. Check!

Improve lengthening and shortening strides in canter

  • These are getting quieter and more in self carriage. Check!

Leave all the poles up!

  • If I rode correctly and gave Coolie the best chance he did his job and we achieved this. It wasn't consistent though but I don't know if it was a success in terms of the goal or not. too vague!

Have more adjustability on XC

  • Definitely achieved this, Coolie listened so well on every course we did over the year. 
Attend hunter trials

  • We didn't make it to any but we did so many other things instead. 

Ride out with friends more

  • Check! We had a lot of fun times with all our friends. 

Do a 20km endurance ride

  • Nope, I looked into it but didn't make it to one. 

Ride 5-6 times per week

  • Yes he was in a lot of work for a lot of the year. 

Incorporate more fitness rides at pony club, once per fortnight

  • Nope this didn't happen at all. We got busy doing other stuff.

Get a better stretch!

  • We can do lots of stretching all the time now. 

Henry

Improve canter departs to be more on the aids

  • He does walk to canter, canter to walk, canter, canter, canter. 

Improve groundwork

  • He is super on the ground now, listens well and if he over step the mark he is quick to remember what is allowed. 
Continue to improve straightness

  • He is so much straighter than he was. Still work to be done, but I think the work never ends!
Attend a dressage training day

  • We did this in May, then we did a competition and a combined training day or two!

Attend a show jumping training day


  • We trained and competed more than once. 
Go XC training

  • We went 3 times, once on our own and twice in a group. 

Ride at Darling Downs

  • We didn't make it here but we went loads of other places instead. 

Attend a clinic

  • We went to lots of clinics with Jonna and the off the track clinic.  

Enjoy training


  • There were some really tough moments but we came out of the other side a better team, and I have really enjoyed the process. I am a better rider for it too. 

Take time in what we do and don't feel pressure to rush things

  • One step at a time has been my motto, and it is paying off. 

Compete and complete a competition

  • Or three. Smashed this one out of the park early in the year, we did the Off the Track Showman day, a dressage competition, a show jumping completion plus competed up at Walliston. 

Ride 3-4 times per week

  • He's getting 5-6 rides a week currently and thriving. 



Me

Lose 10kg.

  • Still relevant, therefore fail. I got a lot fitter though.

Run 5x per week

  • We consistently ran 3x per week and walked more, because running 5x was too much. 

Eat less chocolate

  • Ha, I started out well then failed. 

Reduce alcohol consumption

  • Restricted to weekends only

Enjoy eventing again

  • I think I nailed this one do the most part!

Investigate becoming an eventing steward

  • I investigated it but got no further. This is on the back burner for a bit. 
Set weekly schedule for rides

  • I spent a good few weeks doing this at the beginning of 2018, then gradually petered out with it. i need to start again though because it really helped me make sure both horses got worked the right amount. 
Be more organised about everything

  • Umm, I guess I was. I can't remember what I wanted to improve here, so this is a fail for that reason. 
Attend more clinics with new coaches

  • We had lessons with Jonna this year, and Craig Barrett. We learnt so much plus regular lessons with Bec saw us in a really solid training schedule.

Have fun riding without feeling pressure to climb the grades


  • I definitely enjoyed riding more, and for the most part didn't feel the need to move up to 105. When our confidence returned it really felt achievable that this was a reasonable step up though but I didn't put pressure on myself to do so which is exactly what I was aiming for. 
Look after myself better physically and mentally

  • I smashed this one! I was a lot more self aware, made changes where i needed to and really looked after myself mentally which helped my anxiety and confidence so much. Physically I am the fittest i have ever been, I run, and so PT twice a week as well as riding. 


Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2019

Happy New Year!

We ended the year at the horse beach, a fun, successful day out with 0 drama.

We started 2019 with a Park Run, we got a slow time because running has taken a back seat recently and it was hot. Then we went the human beach and went for a nice swim before napping and riding Henry. Henry also had a bath because he's itchy and was filthy.

From Andrew, Arthur, Coolie, Henry and I we hope you have a great 2019!

Less baths Henry hopes!

Monday, 31 December 2018

The last lesson of 2018

Coolie and I had our last lesson of the year on Saturday and it was a good one. I had mentioned to my coach about my loft elementary goal and she took me seriously and our lesson was very much working towards that. It was hard work.
Chickens are scary!

We started out getting Coolie to relax because he was being a spooky twit. You have to laugh at him because he is such an idiot. We got him to put his hear right down and stretch out. We carried that from the walk to the trot and used 10m circles to supple him.

We really focussed on establishing suppleness and rhythm, in addition to making sure my position was good before we moved on to lateral work. Bec had set a line of poles on the center line in front of the mirror so I could see what we were doing. I trotted a half 10m circle then when we got to the poles started shoulder in, using the poles to keep straight and the mirror to check we had 3 tracks. To the right was quite hard, as it always is, but the left was easier. We did a few repetitions on each rein, making sure to refresh the trot after each attempt to keep Coolie forward.
Chickens aren't scary at all!

We did the same exercise in travers, which Coolie finds easier to the right. In both shoulder in and travers if we lost the angle we did a 10m circle halfway to help ourselves out. After we got the travers we moved on to half pass. Bec explained the how and the why, explaining we could do it from either shoulder in or travers depending on the starting point, as long as it was correct.

I set Coolie up and had a go across the diagonal, doing a 10m circle at X to break the movement into steps. Coolie found it really hard work, he is not that bendy and would just rather not. We got a few good attempts though, we just have to keep practicing.

After a walk break we moved into canter, getting Coolie to stretch and use himself on a circle and keeping him forward. Self carriage was the aim as always, and making sure Coolie didn't deviate from my line or pace. Once we had the canter we needed we worked on counter canter on 10m loops. We practice this all the time but under Becs watchful eye there were improvements to be made and we worked really hard. It took us a few goes to get it good enough for Bec to be happy. The key and the hardest part was allowing with the outside rein, and straightening for a few strides in the middle.

We finished there and Coolie and I were both so tried by the end. It was a tricky lessons but we have lots to work on now.