Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Icebreaker Show - Part 2

The show on Saturday had such a great atmosphere. It was well organised and attended. We were all warm inside out of the snow storm and all of my classes were pretty much back to back so no need to go out in the snow until I was done for the day. Savvy was relaxed and I was having a blast!

I wanted to give Savvy more experience and exposure to fences and schooling shows are the perfect place for it. No pressure, affordable fun for all.

My cross rails class had an unfortunate refusal but because I was able to try again right away and ride more effectively, I was feeling optimistic about my 2' vertical classes that were yet to come.

When the rails went up, so did the number of riders coming into the arena. There had only been six of us in ground poles and cross rails. Now there were at least another ten horses added to the mix so I was feeling pretty sure I was out of the ribbons regardless of how it would go.

When it was my turn to go, I committed to canter and kept in mind that coming away from the gate would need a lot more encouragement as she was sluggish heading away from it in the cross rails class. It worked on the turn to fence #2 this time and I did not lose her canter as I had last time. I was not able to keep her straight though, landing left and then having to fix things and regain forward pace coming to #3. The fourth fence was easy coming home but then it took a lot of leg to keep enough forward pace for #5 and 6. I was a bit worried about her stopping at these as they had moved the hay bales under the jump and if I came in too soft, Savvy might decide to stop at this one. We made it though and carried on to finish up nicely.

It was pretty much the most awesome round I might have ever had as an adult ammi!!!!!

There is so much to work on and I have a lot to learn. But. That feeling was my answer to the question of why I put myself through all this.

I wanted to quit there. Don't tempt fate. Take awesome and run like hell.

But with a little encouragement from others, I decided to try the 2' stakes class which was next.

Unfortunately the course changed and I worried about a fence we had not done in warmup or in the previous classes. And we had a refusal. Well, three refusals. Fourth time was the charm though and that is where I called it a day.

Three strikes = Not out when it is a schooling show! :)

Savvy got to head back to the barn to cool off and have some lunch and I headed back to watch some of the show before going home. When I got there, they were announcing winners of the 2' vertical round. I actually got 2nd!!

Video of 2' verticles

The other ribbons are awesome and fun to get, but this particular one means a lot to me. Hopefully it is just the beginning of a pretty great year with this horse.

In two weeks we have our first derby. FIRST EVER XC. I think it is time to take this pony to the park!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Icebreaker Schooling Show

After Friday night warmup I was feeling unsettled. Following the refusals at that wave jump I showed you in my last post, Savvy continued to refuse at every jump thereafter and so it went, one by one until we got through most of the fences that were out there. Every time we managed to get forward over a jump without any sign of refusal, I really wanted to quit there on a good note but my coach would then say "okay, next fence!" and my heart would sink.

I was trying to convince myself this is normal green horse/ineffective rider stuff while a part of my mind was running in circles like my ass was on fire screaming "I've ruined my horse!".

Blurry screen shot can't hide how cute Savvy is!
Surprisingly Saturday morning I had no show nerves and was really looking forward to the day. I was in the arena 7:00 a.m. for my ground poles warmup round and managed to shut out all thoughts aside from straightness and steady pace. Savvy was feeling much more relaxed and so was I.

When it was time for cross rails, we were all allowed in the arena to warm up over one fence on the outside line. Savvy did this quite nicely and my coach told me to continue practicing it at a forward and committed canter until it felt like Savvy was taking me to it instead of me pushing her there. This is the moment I had my own moment of breakthrough while experimenting with my body and hand position in Savvy's canter.

She has a very animated canter that has a lot of up/down to it as well as forward. Honestly we haven't spent a great deal of time in canter for me to sort myself out and be in a good supportive position with her yet, but I have been working on it. Because of her canter style, it is very easy to unconsciously grip with the legs and get popped out of the saddle each stride.

To fix this, I have been trying to sit tall and deep and keep with the motion with weight down into my stirrups. Then coming up to the warmup fence Saturday morning I had a lightbulb moment where I thought what if I get off my ass and half-seat in canter? (Rolling my eyes at myself/who gave this lady a horse anyways?/I'll figure it all out eventually...)

It changed everything.

Suddenly I had a more forward pony. I had more leg on her. I had more balance and instantly could ride more assertively, stay off her mouth over the fence and on landing, and everything felt more comfortable.

So entering my cross rail class the plan was to ride fully committed to each fence and my coach suggested trying to canter as much of it as I could.

Riding forward and working (maybe at bit too hard) on not restricting her with my hands over the fence.
Hahahaha...plans are great, but I did not canter - at all - and we had a refusal on the second jump. I circled around and cursed myself for riding too soft and managed to finish the rest without difficulty. This is where schooling shows are the best, because I was allowed to immediately do an unjudged schooling round. I felt quite determined to ride more and give my poor green pony some support. It felt so ugly but seeing the video, it doesn't look anywhere near as messy as it felt.

This is getting a bit long, but I really feel like I need to have details written down because I learned so much through this show!

So to be continued....2' vertical classes. And video of my cross rails unjudged round!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Warmup Woes or alternately titled The 'S' Word

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and enjoying some sort of horse time!

The dust has just settled on a pretty fun Friday/Saturday of horse showing, albeit a rocky start Friday night during my warmup.

Right now I just need to unpack and then have a long nap. I will fill you in on all the details soon but for now lets just say S is for stopping and Savvy just learned this.

And weather happened. How could it go from a fantastic +16 degrees on Friday to another horrible S word: Snow.

And the greatest friend ever braved the flakes to help me out!
Aaannd this happened :)

But more on that to come!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Show Time!

Well it is here--Savvy's intro to the wonderful world of hunter/jumpers in prep for learning to jump so we can start eventing this summer.

At the beginning of the year I set out a plan to get to this goal and so far everything has been falling into place quite nicely. There have certainly been hickups here and there, but no road can be completely smooth, right?

So here we go! For a 'no pressure' schooling show, I must admit I am feeling the stress.

To distract my spinning mind, I will simply deny tomorrow's existence while I pack all the things.

New-to-me grey pin striped hunt coat, *tried on again b/c 20-pound weight gain since I bought it--still fits (thank the f)*    --    Check.

New bridle for Savvy tried on, sized and ridden in once to be sure I could still ride if bridle changed (obv!?)  --   Check.

Wash horse today because the weather gods are giving us this one glorious day of warm weather as a peace offering for the hell they are bringing to us on show day.    --     *will most certainly be a check by lunch time.

Breakfast vodka cooler for show morning.   --      Double checked. Kidding. I have packed a sensible organic granola bar and a fruit puree power drink. :P

All tack, bits and bobs cleaned.    --    Check. Oh, f. I haven't cleaned my boots. Must clean boots. Ugh and my riding helmet.

Okay, feeling stressed again. I can do this. It's *only* a schooling show.

To everyone diving into show season, best of luck and have fun with your ponnehs!!

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Shiraz will be turning 4 years old in a few weeks. In my past experiences with horse training, 4 can be a bit interesting for some horses. Many horses sail through this stage in their growth without any hickups, but some...well, let's just say it can be very much akin to the struggles some teenagers may go through.

Shiraz came to my farm as a 6-month-old. She was sweet, brave and super laid back. Right from day one she led, tied, good for the farrier and happy to try anything. Year one and two were similar and she was such a treat to start training under saddle last year. She really did not feel ready physically though as she was still growing so much and so she got the winter off to continue filling out.

Enter this new, teenage version of Shiraz.

I saw it lately with her behavior in pasture. All along she has been happy to be on bottom of the pecking order, yet now she is pushing things and even throwing a very distant back hoof in the direction of her bossy herd mates.

She is testing waters and pushing boundaries in all directions. She tries to lean on the farrier. She suddenly wants to snort and spook at all the world she once thought was no big deal. She even has thrown a half-hearted "I'm gonna bite you" at me when I practice mounting lately.

Oh hell no.

It is awesome she is coming into her own and feeling out her place in this world, ya I get that.

But. Manners have to be in place and so ground work boot camp is now under way. I'll be fair and patient, but I certainly want to see a "Yes, Ma'am!" in her eye before we get back to saddle work.

I have a feeling this is going to be an interesting summer with this girl.

Have you ever worked with a young horse that suddenly decided to test the boundaries? Do you have any go-to exercises for instilling the leadership? I'd love to hear suggestions!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Jump Show Clinic

I am exhausted, so sore and I think my knee no longer functions as a hinging device, yet none of that matters because pony did the thing guys!! The jump show clinic this past Sunday was a success in so many ways for me and I definitely feel 'progress' which is all any of us really are looking for at the end of the day, right?
All I know is I got a lot of cookies! - Savvy
We started with warmup at 11:30 and got right into our first classes right away at 12:00 which was hunter flat classes and all the varieties therein. There were seven other horses in the clinic and Savvy handled the other horses wonderfully, even when we were asked to halt and a young rider rear-ended us. She pinned her ears but did not get dirty while I moved off to give us some space.  Then we got into the hunter over fences classes.
Starting with ground poles, we all did 'Hunt Line' class and I placed 8th out of eight riders. I don't know how I trashed a step-over-poles class so bad, but really to my defence, Savvy was very spooky/looky at all the people suddenly. I think she had become comfortable with the 'herd' and now suddenly we were heading off on our own around the arena and she was worried about that. So the result was much zig-zagging, some calling out for her new friends, and lots of trying to turn her head to look everywhere but forward.  

Our first 'hunt line' class placing 8th.
Moving on to cross rails, we improved slightly. I was able to get Savvy a bit more focused but we were still wiggly and she never actually jumped any of the fences, just stepped over at the trot.

We placed 5th this time so yay for improvement?

By this time I was really looking forward to verticals as perhaps I would actually be able to get her jumping instead of stepping over things. I was determined this time to focus on straightening Savvy in between fences and thinking 'forward' and we really improved a ton for the 'low verticle' class.

So much better this round and placed 4th.
 By the time we did our last class of 2' Hunter, I was feeling much more confident and thought I would push for as much canter as Savvy could comfortably handle. Neither Savvy or I have the 'eye' for where to take off from at the canter (Let's be real, we only cantered towards a jump for the first time last Thursday so we know nothing) but the only way to develop it is practise.

And then we placed 1st!

Most of our canter through this course happened where I could ask for left lead as that is her easiest, and trotted lines where right lead canter should have been because we never could quite get that right lead. She jumped beautifully though and I was so pleased with how it went.

In all it was four and a half hours in the saddle, nonstop. All of it was great experience for Savvy; being at the new venue with the business of a show atmosphere, exposure to the courses and even down time where she had to learn to stand and wait patiently was great for her. By the end she figured out it was much easier to use down time for sleep rather than prancing and pawing on the spot.

I am feeling much more prepared now for our real show on the 22nd, not only for Savvy's training progress but for my own progress on the psychological front. There were times Savvy was very up and worried and I managed all of those moments easily. I also felt myself spending more time planning how to ride a good, forward round rather than getting caught up in butterflies approaching the first fence.

We may not look very pretty yet, but the progress is real.

Friday, 7 April 2017


This weekend I have signed up for a jump clinic at a barn that I previously had lessons at (with a different horse though) and attended a few fun shows there in the past. This is planned to be run very much like a show with all the classes that we will see at the actual show on the 22nd of this month. We will get to do a course and then immediately get instruction/feedback following each turn.

May have approached this from a canter more than once! :)

I might be a little nervous about this...I have not ridden Savvy here before so there is that bit of unknown as to how she will handle that, and then add in jumping which we are really just dipping our toes into still. Not that I am really worried of total disaster. I have a lot of faith Wonder Pony will pull through for me. AND it is just an informal jump clinic. The point is to go and learn *remember that Wendy*. I just have a few niggly worries because of unknowns, but mostly so excited to have access to a full course again!

For my Thursday lesson I told my coach about my weekend plans and asked her to just help me leave on a good mental note for the jump clinic, and she did not disappoint!

My back yard after a week of wonderful spring weather. It is draining fast though so should be dried up in no time.

We started with ground poles warmup focusing on forward. I might have a habit of asking, asking, asking and not ever committing to 'telling' if the ask is ignored. Then when progressing into canter it was very obvious that the sillies from previous weeks were gone, but it had been replaced with "meh", and I just couldn't get her even into canter. Coach pulled her spurs off her boots and handed them to me and wouldn't you know it, "meh" turned into "ya fine, stop asking!" and off we went with a pinned ear and a magic swish of her zoomy tail.

I pitifully asked coach to make our starting jumps as simple as possible so she sent us at a walk (hahaha-I am such an underachiever and loving it!) over the two low jumps she had set up for us. Of course Savvy was fine, but I just needed to de-spook my own brain before I could get myself going.

The game plan worked and I was feeling much more relaxed and ready to send pony forward so off we went, doing the line first at a trot and then at a canter with a change in jump heights as we went.

Savvy's canter transition improved leaps and bounds as the lesson progressed and the ask was starting to become less dramatic and difficult for me as we went.

I left the lesson exactly where I needed. I can't wait for the jump clinic!