Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weather and Gridwork.

Sigh the weather has just bombed the last two days. Today it was so windy my parents had to hold onto the quad bike to keep from being blown down the hill. Being literally blown off of your feet as I have been a couple of times in the last two days is a truely odd feeling. i don't think I have ever been out in winds like this. It makes working an absolute mare, it feels like when you are walking into it it's pulling the air out of your mouth and it makes everything more tiring. So if there are more spelling mistakes in the post (Than normal of course, I am aware my spelling blows) blame the wind.

So anyway, a couple of days ago Kim and I built a grid for Rascal. I was pottering around bareback- getting some really nice lateral work and Connie is really starting to free up her neck from her shoulders but I'm losing some of the forward without the security of my saddle to really drive her up into the bridle. Incidently, Connie is lame now with a suspected foot abcess so that is a complete blowout. Anyway, I didn't ride for long because helping Kim was more interesting. And of course there are no photos so I'll try to use lots of describing words.

Anyway the grid looked like this to start of with- 6 rails 9 feet apart. Got Rascal walking and trotting through this- the stridings don't quite work at these gaits but it's really good to get her comfortable with the grid. It was a fairly short striding grid- I opened the last combination out about another foot later on once the fences went up to allow for the bigger landing distance. It doesn't seem like muh but with ascending fences it makes a difference. Anyway, it was a short striding grid because we were looking to get her really powering off of her hocks.

Eventually you build up the grid to
groundrail- 9ft- crossbar- 9ft- rail- 9ft- crossbar- 9ft- rail- 9ft- small oxer

The problem that arose was this firstly that Rascal was basically ignoring the first cross and making a hash of it because she was more focused on the fences to come. So I put a little wall under the first cross and though Kim had to use more leg we achieved the ideal in that she actually looked at it and jumped it well. Then we changed it up (It's important to change grids often, if they get repetitive the point is lost)

groundrail- 9ft- crossbar- 9ft- rail- 9ft- upright- 9ft- rail- 10ft- ascending oxer

We gradually built up the oxer to about 1.10m high and 1.10m wide which would be bigger than Rascal has ever jumped having had most of last season of and being only 6. She actually started to really jump which was nice to see, and to open up behind which was even better. This brought up another issue which was Kimbles (Sorry love haha making an example of you). Basically the bigger fence was making Kim change her riding, she wanted to both really drive Rascal to the oxer and to unfold to early and in doing so catching Rascal's mouth as she came down.

My theory on gridwork is it's about training the horse so ideally the rider stays very quiet and in two point, allowing with the hand over the fence and lots of leg on take-off but basically letting the horse do the job for it's self. In that way you train the horse to think for itself as well as training it's strength and agility. Once Kim could trust Rascal and stayed quiet she got some beautiful jumping out of the little horse.

Then I built this grid
groundrail- 9ft- crossbar- 9ft- rail- 9ft- upright- 9ft- rail- 10ft- steep cross

Now steep crosses are just that steep crosses- I'm talking on the top holes of the stands. Steep crosses will make your horse get his knees up around his ears but they will also back him off a lot so if your horse is really chicken to fences I don't suggest it until he is bolder. Rascal took a lot of riding to it and when she got there she jumped over the shoulder and folded her legs underneath her. Gross! So I pushed the cross back so the face of it sloped and the next time down she nearly boomed Kim out the saddle and really got those knees up! Nice!

Final grid
groundrail- 9ft- crossbar- 9ft- rail- 9ft- 1.15m upright- 9ft- rail- 9ft- oxer~90cm

Just chucked up a big upright in the middle to see how she would cope and she jumped it really nicely so we called it a day. A successful jumping session all round. I think bounce grid for this horse next time but we are severely restricted in the jumping equipment we have so the grids tend to be pretty simple.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Hey guys, I'm really sorry I haven't been posting much. it's calving on the farm and I literally have no time to myself apart from the time my bosses very kindly give me to ride. Connie's saddle is shit on the shop so I'm even road riding bareback. It's doing wonders for my balance and position but lordy does it make me tired. Kate is a gem and i adore her. I think i might even have to withdraw from the Chris chugg clinic becaus Kim will be on holiday and there will be no one to do my jobs. Still we probably lookign at 3rd and 4th of october for your first show at Te Teko, unless there is something more local before then I guess. I hope everyone is well and that your horses are going good. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dealing with nerves at shows

Ask anyone who hs been with me at a show and they will tell you that I'm generally a wreck. I have been so nervous that I have cried and/or thrown up. I find the whole affair quite stressful. Saddling up I always feel really ill, and waiting to go into the ring most of the time I'm shaking and trying really hard not to chicken out. So possibly I'm not the best person to write a post about coping with nerves.

I have gotten worse recently, with dear old Fred where sometimes he would be good and other times (Like Kyrewood) I would fall off in every class (Thats enough to make you pretty nervous). I'm about 50% less nervous on Connie than I was on Fred. But still very very nervous haha! I will be absolutely terrified for Kates first class I guarantee it. Possibly paralyticly nervous and I'll probably duff up the practise fence 6 times at least.

It doesn't matter what height, even if it's tiny- 60cm, I will be nervous. I'm optimistic I would be ok in a ground rail class but I would still feel the pressure and so be nervous because really I should do well in a groundrail class. Man the fact that groundrail classes exist in America blows my mind. I'd so enter those. If the fences are bigger- ie step up in height on that horse, difficult course, one ugly jump, then forget about it, I'm an absolute wreck. I'm not too bad when I'm actually warming up and riding because I have something else to think about. The real kicker is that if i'm not nervous, i'm going to have a mare. It means i'm exhausted or not in the right head space. If I'm not nervous I might as well pack up and go home. And often the more nervous I am, the better I'll ride, it's like the adrenaline makes me sharper.

I try to visualise my riding my class before I go in, but normally I end up visualising crashes and things so it's often best not to. I do like to have a plan, ie ride up to this one, short five here so sit up early etc, but I also like to be flexible on it so that I don't freeze if the plan falls apart. I think some people get to caught up in the exact way their ride is going to go and thats just not horses, you have to be able to adapt and ultimately once you are in the ring all that matters is getting from one set of flags to the finishing flags. Though it is nice to look good doing it haha!

Ultimately I go into the ring, give my name and the bell goes and I pick up my canter and all of that energy thats been buzzing around as nerves gets focussed into my ride. I try to shut out everything but my cnater and the path I have to take. The more I can focus and trust my canter the better ride I will have. If ground crew talk to me once i have started cantering it goes out the window. It also does if the judge is yelling " ride Rebecca ride" on the loudspeaker (Thanks aunty Linda!). I have to try to get into the zone if you will and then I should be ok. Just stay soft and get that canter. And then I finish and I'm elated, right before I have to dash off and get the next horse.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Little bit of this and a little bit of that

Another beautiful day. All this nice weather is uncanny. Clearly September is going to be shithouse to make up for the sunshine we are having now. So Lately I have been unhappy with how Connies saddle has been fitting- having started to tilt to the left and on invstigation I found that the packing needs to be re looked at. I had this saddle just recently changed from the god awful CAIR panels to wool pack and the wool has settled more on one side. So much for jumping Connie today.

So I schooled her bareback instead. I used to be able to ride for hours bareback, but man alive a bit of walk, some leg yields and some shoulder -ins and my legs wanted to die. It's good for me though, will give me iron tighs of iron. Trotting focused mainly on a steady quiet hand and not bouncing of the side. Haha a few times I nearly went too far. I was quietly a little impressed with the fact I stayed on at all to be honest. Connie hasn't done any schooling since she was turned out at the end of January but she hasn't forgotten a thing, and all of the flexing and yielding work I did out on hacks has really stood me in good stead. My biggest complaint was that she wanted to go behind the vertical and bareback I couldn't ride her forward enough to pick her back up. It was mostly after she got tired, she did some beautiful work before then.

Had a few canters and she was been sticky with the right lead so I asked her to flying change on to it and she did a little buck. I have never put my knees so hard into a horse to avoid bailing. Cheeky mare. Obviously she is too well fed, with all this extra energy for airs above ground. I have to say she is pretty genuine in her naughtiness, she stays straight and never goes for the second buck. I had only just started work on soft canter work. She wanted to travel around with her nose poked out and I had just started to ask her to travel rounder even at the canter when she was turned out. I used draw reins for one session to help give her the idea. Well she has retained it, her right canter- after the rocky start- was fantastic, I could just sit on her balanced as and she went as she was told. The other canter wasn't as good but she got there. She is going to be a really fantastic little horse one day, she has such a neat attitude to life. Shame about the not jumping though. Didn't think I had the thigh strength for jumping without a saddle yet especially if she went for a stop and pop.

Oh and then I jumped Kate! First time I have properly jumped her since I trialled her. Couple days before I had been working over rails on the ground, trying to figure out what worked best for her. She wants to run to the fences and of course the natural instinct is to grab some more contact on the bit which is the opposite of what you should do. So over poles I was just trying different things and I think I kind of got her figured out.

So today when I jumped I wwent with that method. And it's basically a really long rein (feels like it to me) and then just cnter to the fence. And in my head I really focus on staying the same and maintaining the canter. I say this to myself- ride the canter, ride the canter, ride the canter because that keeps me focused in on her cnater and not chasing spots. Anytime I tried to 'help' her I made a complete hash of it and she was very forgiving. Anytime I just left her to it, and completely did nothing extra except for leg on take-off, even if she did run herself deep to the fence, it was all good. She is the poster child for less is best. Sometimes I did need to move her up a bit to the fence to get to the longer spots if I'm too quiet in the corner. It's been such a long time since I had a horse willing to take a flier so I'm always expecting the chip in. She surprised me a few times :)

I think Kim summed it up best when she said "Oh man, you have a horse that expects nothing and gets it right, and my horse expects everything and we still get it wrong". She has the dubious pleasure of riding Rascal whose old rider had an immaculate eye. I think half of it was though that the jumps were too small, as soon as they went up and Rascal actually jumped it was a lot better.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pictures from yesterdays ride

The latest in riding fashions don't you know. Ha I'm a mess.

Diversion through neighbours open gate into the river

Up on top of the neighbours farm. it's like 30 minutes ride but it looks like we have completely abandoned civilisation. Connie was a bit of a tool doing a huge buck coming up a back and very nearly buring me. She was a bit pissy on this ride. Didn't like the fulmer probably but I had control which I think is more important than her being a bit pissy when we are on such steep country. She is also feeling pretty good obviously. By the time we got to the tops she was pretty well behaved. The photos don't show it well but the views are epic from up here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Fees are Discouraging

Sigh, I wrote out a big fat check for Equestrian Sports New Zealand. $441 that gives me the right to show above 95cm, on Connie and Kate, with only Connie being registered for both Showjumping and Showhunter. I also get a subscription to the bulletin which has all the show schedules. I still need to buy three sets of numbers for the new fangled numbering system they are bringing in, in which all horses must be numbered at all times while on the showgrounds. It could be worse I guess, it could be like dressage where stallion riders now have to wear sashes as well as stallion tags.

One of the beauties of NZ is that I literally can afford to ride here, and until now do the riding I have wanted to do. Frankly though, I'm starting to struggle at all. the somewhat recent more than doubling of my farrier bill after I changed farriers, as well as all of ESNZs price increases (12% per year, for the next three years) are starting to put the pinch on. Currenty the horses are just gatting pasture and hay because the lower I can keep the feed bill the more likely it is tht my parents will keep helping with it. And I have so many things to buy before the season starts again- wraps, bandages, buckets (All of mine died over the winter) so many little bits and pieces that are seriously going to hurt the horse account, which is slim pickings as it is.

I have been in the last few days pondering whether or not I should be bothering. If I can't afford to do the riding I want, should I continue to sink these vast sums of money into it? I made $28,000 last year, with free accomodation and food for myself and free grazing for the ponies (God bless living at home). You know how much I have in savings?? $37. Thats not very good I don't think. The next thing I start saving for is the trip to Nationals in the South Island which I'll need $3000 minimum for by February. I guess luckily I haven't done any clinics and saved myself from spending like $1500.

On the up side we have started calving and this is when I make the real money because my hours increase so dramatically because calving is hell on wheels. We have 90 cows due to calve in the next 10 days O_O. Still my parents are very good about giving me time in the middle of the day to ride and both Connie and Kate were so good, it really made the money seem meaningless. I'm such a mug. Kate is such a joy to ride, having an older horse to ride again is amazing and Connie is really growing into herself. I'm doing a lot of flexing of Connies neck as we hack around, trying to free up her neck from her shoulders.

Still I think te time is coming when even here, equestrian competition is going to become the plaything of the wealthy, especially in times of recession such as this. I'm very curious to see what entries are like. Last year was entries up everywhere we went, but I would be very surprised if the same is true now.

Pukahu show on the 12th and 13th in Hastings. Do I go or not? Probably just be doing the baby classes on both my girls the old 90cm and 1m. No rush with Kate just want to get to know her. I'm sure we will move up fairly quickly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seeing your stride 101.

Contained in this post are a thousand pieces of informtaion I struggle to do myself, so I understand how difficult it can be to see your take-off point to the fence. Really it is very easy and I believe everyone can learn to do it well. The trick is to not panic about it.

The basics?
-Get a good canter
-Maintain that canter
-Go to the jump while maintaining that canter.

Thats pretty much all there is to it. The quality of your canter is key to all showjumping. It needs to be active, forward, full of impulsion and light in front. Training this canter is the work of years, but you understand what I'm saying.

Then you need to develop that canter so that it's like a metronome for rhythym. Some horses are naturally very rhythymic and ,thus, a lot easier to teach this, others require more work. Then when you turn to the fence you need to just do as much as you have to to keep that canter. When you watch really good riders they make it look easy because they do just the minimum of what they have to do. When you are cantering down to a fence, if that canter is 12 ft, 12ft 12ft you will find it a lot easier to find your take-off point compared to 10 ft, 11ft, 10 ft, 12ft because in the second situation as your stride changes the point you are going to reach the fence at changes as well.

Exercises for this? Canter a LOT of ground rails. Often if I'm struggling with my eye to the take off spot I will go back to rails on the ground and just canter over them and Viola problem solved. So canter a lot of rails, it also teaches your horse to stay relaxed approaching the 'fence'. Do whole course of groundrails until you can just canter them while jkeeping that rythym and then build little jumps and do the same thing. Train your horse and your eye at the same time.