Thursday, October 25, 2012

By the Seat of My Breeches...

So last Saturday rolled around and myself and two good friends were heading to our first and last jump show of the season: The Martin's Courses and Candy Halloween Fun Show.

I, in all my craziness, invited a certain gentleman of the non-horsey type to come cheer us on, and H invited her cousin and another friend as well. So there was a small ensemble of us headed out to the show, which was set to be an interesting adventure if nothing else. H hadn't had much time for jumping this year, H3 hadn't really jumped ever with her boy, and I was...a nervous wreck despite having the most time in the saddle this year.

The day, despite weather forecasts, was overcast, windy and COLD. Children shivered from their saddles, the ponies whipped around the ring and most of us had more than one layer on. Brr. The audience was frozen.

Mr. Moon started his warm-up just fine, and then lost his mind. Gawd-bless his little heart. My gentleman kept calling him a 'scamp', which I think is much too kind of a term...he was a brat.

He SCREAMED constantly, mainly when he wasn't allowed to either A) Run around like an idiot or B) Hang out with his best-bud, The Black (who you'll recall, was the one he was chased incessantly by when he moved to H's, and now loves...horses).

He refused to stand still, he fidgeted, threw his head about, did his classic evil rabbit face and stormed at jumps like we were doing x-country and not a little jumper round of x-rails. Oye.

I finally took him over to the side and just worked the Dressage snot out of him. Leg yielding, turn-on-the-fore, serpentines. Over and over, asking and demanding he yield and pay attention. I gotta say, he moves beautifully when he's stoked like that. And my experience this summer in the show ring has taught me that he is NOT the type of horse that you warm up and then let relax. When he's at a show, you need to work him CONSTANTLY and he'll perform better and better, while still being hyped. My boy has energy.

We did the x-rails without issue and I was pretty proud. Neat and tidy, a little waver here and there but he was willing and happy to boot around the course. Even went through it at a nice canter approach at times, did a 2-stride and can't really complain. He was a good boy.

They upped the rails to somewhere in the 2'3 range with some oxers and the 2-stride, and then placed fillers under the jumps.



Mr. Moon headed in just fine, I loved his canter off the first jump, nice hunter line around to the 2nd fence, we wavered a touch going into the 3rd and I was a little off-balance into that oxer. Not bad, held it together but didn't feel stable on my feet. Over to the larger candy-cane jump and he approached eagerly and jumped cleaned. But came off with a LOT of momentum to jumps 5 and 6, the 2-stride (or maybe 1 from a canter).


It was the first jump with an interesting filler. And I was STARING at it. I was. Thinking "Oh gawd! This is new!"...

And Mr. Moon deeked right, leaving me on his neck. Yeah...

We can say embarrassing. I was just praying that the gent couldn't see very well through the thick tree in front of the jump. "Oooh, look at me! I'm a jumper. Not. : P"

Found my stirrup, circled and reproached. Took a little incentive with my legs and staying true, but we got cleanly over 5 and 6 and carried through the turn towards 7.

#7 I thought would be easy. I mean, it was a simple vertical with some natural spruce greenery under it. It was brown. Natural. Normal. Easy-peasy.

And Moon stopped. Literally just slowly came to a stop.

Came around again, drove him to it, and he died under my legs. "Nuh-uh" he said, clearly not so sure about that greenery.


Technically that would DQ me, but it was a fun show. So I rode over to H who was waving her stick at me (yes, yes, I know. But I always believe I won't need it), and I gave him two good smacks up to the jump. *Pop* we went over it, and carried on in a haggard manner towards #8. A plank.

Over that with a little incentive, and as we rounded the corner towards home, Mr. Moon exploded in a gallop down the ring.

Scamp? Naw, Cow-pony.


We did the course twice more, with equally questionable skill. Every time Moon hesitated and I pushed him to a jump, he popped over it, I was left unbalanced, and the next jump came to fast for me to feel rebalanced. Needless to say, it was sloppy and messy, and not what I'd hoped for.

We still had refusals to the greenery, though with the crop by the end I could just force him up to and over it. I never hit the ground, Moon stayed reasonably clean, and willing for a horse who was brand new to this type of jumping.

And he did a lot of nice cantering for me too. ; )

Was I proud? Dang straight I was proud. It wasn't as awesome and I didn't look as amazing as I had dreamt (ha, we never do), and my form was nothing compared to the arena at home, but I was incredibly proud that we got to do it together, we did it with good friends, and we did it safely and without injury.

The whole experience really showed me just how well I know and understand my horse at this point, and exemplified where we can go together if we keep working at it.

Of course, the experience also showed me that me and my horse are a mess when stressed, that I need way more saddle time and training when it comes to jumpers, and I need to create some fill for the jumps at home!

When we finally dismounted, I was shaking. My legs were so weak, I nearly fell into the trailer when trying to make the step up. Wow, does this ever take a lot out of you!

We all had some warm drinks and a donut, packed up the ponies in their pretty coolers and then headed back for home, happy and content about how our day went. What an adventure for sure!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting My Sea-Legs...

One of the most beneficial things you can do if you're training without a trainer, is to video yourself riding. While this means you're not able to make changes 'in the moment', you do have the opportunity later on to review your errors, see where you're improving and be more conscientious on your next ride.

WAY back before I owned Moon, which would be two years ago, this was him and I, doing our first jumps...note, they're like 12" off the ground...

Take note as well, that my lower leg has slipped WAY back, I'm lying over his neck, and dear me, look how chunky Mr. Moon is!

The following summer after I owned him for about 6 months, and a year after the above pic was taken, we tried it again. While Mr. Moon looks like a more healthy specimen of a horse, I'm now standing in my stirrups and while i'm not laying ON his neck, I'm floating over it. And I've got some droopy reins going on. There's still some leg slippage, but my straight leg is likely preventing it from being as worse as it really is...

Oh, and note that I'm trying to take flight with my elbows...this is a theme...

Now, let us look at yesterday. Moon was feeling sluggish (two jump rides in a row?!), but seemed to have better contact with the bit. I tried my best to think about what my hands and legs were doing, and go about the course. If you saw the video, you'd hear me counting strides and trying to get it right (bahahaa...nope).

First, our x-rail:

While my reins are getting a nice release, the fact that my leg is WAAY out behind me is awful. How does my horse manage to jump when I'm riding like this?!

And of course, note my flying elbows. Again. 

At least i"m looking up and ahead, right?...

In this one:

I'm again almost standing in the stirrups, my arms have gone straight and it looks like Moon's putting in a lot of effort. He is a cute little jumper at least... ; )

And then on my LAST round, I seem some things I like...(minus the really long approach)...

The below one, I really like. My back is straight, my legs are bent and under me, my elbows while still flapping are bend. My back is straight, my head is up, I'm looking ahead and I'm neither over his neck nor way behind things. 

Plus, Moon looks like a tidy, happy little jumper here. 

Especially compared to where we started...
(wow...and can you ever see how de-chunkified Mr. Moon is when comparing the pics side by side!!!)

Just a few more days until the show! So excited! Wonder what height we'll head up into? I'm thinking a full 2'6" would be a bit much for us, but who knows...just going with the flow for once. ; )

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Like we do, I've spent many days simply moving through life. It's only recently I've really stepped back to realize how different the world is when we take the time to be attentive to the things and the people around us. 

When was the last time you stopped from your harried grooming session to sniff deep the scent of your horse? Take a wander up the road in hand and while your boy nibbles the last of the green autumn grass, you stand back and simply take in his beauty? 

When did you last catch catch a sunset? Did you text your best to tell her she matters to you? How long has it been since you wrapped your arms around your partner and just appreciated a moment of nothing?

I read something today that said we are too good at forgetting to be "human beings" when we're so busy as "human doings". 

I consciously now, every day, try to take the time to notice, appreciate and be attentive to the little things, the simple things, the beautiful things. And while I can't say it's the key to happiness and success in my life, it certainly leaves me renewed every day for whatever may come my way.


My Sunday mornings are devoted to trail riding with H and E. The three of us will hit the local park, ride through the fallen leaves, canter three abreast down the trails, popping over the odd log, deeking around corners, smiling and giggling and laughing. We always get one crazy gallop in, where we urge our horses into their fastest gait and run side-by-side, laughing in all the merriment in the world. It is, and will always be, some of the most perfect moments of my existence. Friends, both human and animal, the bond to have a powerful creature striding out below you, the exhilaration as you urge him faster, laughing as you whip beside your friends, not a care or fear in the world.  If there ever was truth to heaven, it's right there in that moment.


Saturday's horse show. I'm excited and nervous! H and I are going with some other friends, and it'll be interesting. We're all a bunch of greenies!

Last night I had some time to pop over to the barn before my oil change, and set up a small four jump course for Moon and I to practice over.

I did up a 2'7" vertical along the rail, a 2'4" vertical in the middle of the ring on a diagonal, an x-rail skinny just off the other rail (with enough gap to ride past in case Moon needed some school on running out), and finally a tiny little 1' vertical on the short side, more to focus on being handy and not cutting corners.

On warm-up, Moon even jumped over a rail on the ground. Like JUMPED. That horse is nuts. 

My intent was to ride everything from a trot, since he should be fine doing those heights at that slower pace. We started out a little rough, and I can tell that I have a huge impact on him. When I'm nervous, he wavers like CRAZY coming up to the fence. He also hesitates, gets in too deep and pops over. 

Focussing on just the x-rail and little 1' jump at first, I worked on getting a nice pace, keeping him even to the fence, my heels down, body under me, not jumping too soon and looking ahead and forward. 

After a few goes I felt confident in our performance, and we tried the 2'4" after the x-rail. Success. The second time we did the same sequence, I asked him transition to a canter after we made the corner, trying to maintain that nice pace and trying to determine how he'd need to pace to arrive at the fence in a controlled manner and at the right distance. He got over nicely, and again, I thought about transitioning down to trot for the corner, maintaining our impulsion and circling back around to the 1', as a way of making sure he didn't think we stop and rest after every jump.

Eventually, I worked it out so we would trot to the x-rail, circle deep into the next corner, straighten, transition to canter, three strides to the 2'4" vertical, land, transition to trot for the short side, back to canter after the next corner, and then stride confidently (but not rush) to the 2'7" vertical on the next long side. And then back to trot and a big trot circle before stopping.

Our first time through, he tapped the rail on the 2'7" with his hind and it came rolling down. I still rode him in the circle before slowing, and fixing the fence. Again, I told myself.

The next time through, we went clean the whole way, even coming around and doing the x-rail a second time in the opposite direction after the 2'7".


We did it again, changing the order and direction of the fences so that we'd have our own version of a jumping course. 

Once he tried to really rush the 2'7" fence, but he responded beautifully to my request to slow a touch, and I felt like we had a beautiful jump over it because of it. 

When we had done our 'course' three times, I decided we were good for the day and didn't want to wear him out before the weekend. But I really couldn't believe how much he seemed to take to jumping. My little quarter horse seemed genuinely confident and eager over fences when *I* was confident and eager over fences! 

My mind kept going to the thought of x-countrying him next year, when we both have a little more confidence. 

And sitting there on his back after his beautiful clear round at a canter (remember, Mr. Moon never even had a canter transition before!) I suddenly realized something earth shattering. More crazy then the fact that Moon was loving jumping...

*I* wasn't scared for once. There were no nerves by that second time we did our little course; I was simply riding and moving with him, flowing through the course, asking him instinctively for what I think he needed to approach cleanly (more impulsion or more collection), would release myself to his judgement a stride before the fence, leave the reins for his choosing and let my body flow how it felt it should.

I was jumping naturally, not obsessively and fearfully. 

And it felt, amazing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pure Beauty.

I'm still kicking around! I am! But life is INSANE, in the most wonderful way possible. Yes, it's true. From the deepest downhill I've travelled, I've found myself climbing towards a beautiful sunrise, and I'm excited every day. I'm only even half alliterating on that, since I have taken to photographing every beautiful sunrise, sunset and cloud in the sky I come across.
Recently, life has made me even more conscious of the high rates of suicide, and how this level of depression seems to plaque people of all over 30, girls in their late 20s...everyone. And it's made me really step back and stare hard at my life.

I took a good blow to my "happiness" when my last relationship came crumbling down, when my car kicked the bucket at a tender age, I suddenly couldn't financially afford to do much of everything and my life was turned upside down. Probably overall, something that would send many people dipping into depression and thinking bad thoughts.

What is amazing, and always will be, is the AMAZING people in my life. Amazing. My worst moments ONLY stood to remind me and illustrate clearly for me, how incredible my life is. Last week, I sat on a best's couch, glass of wine in hand, my cutest, most darling nephew on my lap gurgling (and spitting up on my jeans), that best lounged beside me, us gabbing about guys and life and futures, talking about my home building, staring into her beautiful wood fire, our ponies warm and freshly fed outside the door, puppies snoring on the thick rug, my little niece asleep in her bed, and I kid you not, I could have exploded of pure bliss.
I was knocked down. I sold my share of the house, packed 5 years into boxes, tossed my dreams of the future in a trash bin, watched my bank account plummet to nothing, cried with all $3k in cheques I wrote to the lawyer, stared at myself in the mirror wondering why *I* wasn't "the one" and wondered long and hard if I ever would find myself in the place I wanted in life...with a family, a home and happiness.

Last week, I came to my desk at work to find a huge wrapped gift. Inside was a wine kit, a gift card and a card signed by 15 amazing people I worked with, both past and present. Next Saturday I'm riding my horse in our first jump show, with my best and our two amazing ponies. On Sunday, my dad and my dog went hunting together, something I never imagined I'd get to do in my life. And a week ago I lounged in the sunshine with my closest friends while celebrating their daughter's birthday, as she showed me all of her doll's clothes.

I photograph every sunset and sunrise I see now, because it is the time when I stop, truly stop in my life, and appreciate what I have. I haven't *lost* anything. Those things I want in life? I have THEM ALL. I have incredible nieces and nephews who make my heart sing every time I see them. I have close friends who'll sit by the fire and pour wine into me, dishing on everything in life. I have a home, because my home is where my friends and my loved ones come, to celebrate, the console and to be together. And I have happiness. My gawd, do I have happiness. Dwindling bank account be damned! Broken car be damned! I am, and continue to be, the richest woman in the world. And I have a thousand sunset pictures to prove it.

Who would ever want to end something that would mean missing out on such beauty?