January 25, 2021

Cavaletti Sundays: Keeping it Simple

I'm trying - t-r-y-i-n-g - to structure Connor's weeks with some intention lately, and that includes making sure I'm not drilling him even when what I need myself is absolutely being drilled.

He appreciates it, I'm sure

That includes doing cavaletti and poles 1 or 2 times a week, or jumping if Mary is around. I'm not overthinking it. I'm not doing insanely complex exercises. I'm just Doing The Thing.

Yesterday I wanted to do some canter poles, and I hoped to set it to where the distances would fail miserably if I came in with too much pace and on the forehand. To do this (see my previous statement about being intentional), I measured with my new fiberglass tape reel and then texted Mary to make sure I was in the ballpark. I really have very little experience setting poles or jumps of any kind.

If I'm working on learning how to set poles for the first time in my life, I'm not going to learn how to do it wrong. I'm going to use this AND pace off the distance until I really get a feel for pacing off the distance.

I used my barnmate's triangle as the first pole because I'm lazy, and then had a two stride to a one stride. Just as I hoped, when we came in all disorganized to the first one, Connor took the opportunity to overachieve with his new "super comfortable jumping thanks" body. It felt a lot more wild than he ended up making it look in the video.

Where we started

So next it was okay, how do I collect the canter without pulling? And you know what, for the first time, I feel like I'm starting to get this concept. Sit up, keep the leg, and follow a little less with my seat. And try to half halt, although that concept is still a work in progress for me on Connor (but not on Aeres, who has the lightest easiest half halt on the planet).

Where we ended up

All in all, it wasn't perfect, but we both learned something and it was a good change of pace.

January 22, 2021

Fun Things Friday: Meatloaf Jumping 3'6

Meatloaf has been on a run of really good behavior lately. It started with remedial housebreaking - she spent at least 1/3rd of her life before we got her in a shelter/kennel, and as a result had no qualms about peeing, well, anywhere. Up to and including peeing on her bed in her crate and in the Pet Tube during transport.

One of our best investments ever. Corrals the dog, the hair, and the pee, should they decide they want to pee in the truck (the bottom is waterproof and the top is mesh)

So I said okay, I'm treating you like a puppy. I locked her in my office with me and took her out once an hour. If she didn't pee or poop immediately, within say 30 seconds of getting outside, we came back inside. If she did pee or poop, I made a big fuss out of what a good girl she was, and we immediately came back inside for a high value treat. 

This is her favorite spot in the barn while I'm riding, where she can see everything but has the security that no one is able to get behind her.

Part of my thinking with giving her only 30 seconds to go is that she often would go outside, get distracted by birds/other dogs outside the fence/nature, forget to pee, and then after being outside for 10 minutes she'd come back into the house and immediately pee on the floor. So I wanted her to understand that "outside" means "do your business ASAP and then you can get distracted by whatever you want."

"Why am I stuck back here with you, this is so boring"

By Day 3 of that, she was really starting to understand, and it's been about 10 days of that now and we're on day 7 without an accident in the house, with progressively more freedom. 

The supervised release and less backyard time also means we're on day 10 without an escape. But that doesn't meant I haven't been exercising her jumping muscles:

Yes, that is my dog that stands maybe 16" at the shoulder jumping 3'6, lol. It's surprising how much energy that takes out of her. A couple of times over 2'6 and then one at 3'6 and she was exhausted.

Sleepy dingo

She's doing it on command though, which is really cool. I put her into a sit-wait about 20 feet from the jump and walked all the way around to where I took the video before I gave her the release-jump command (okay-get up) and she jumped it. She really would be an agility rock star, but I do not have the time for another hobby!

January 20, 2021

Revisiting the Equicube

Reading about Megan's rides with the Equicube lately reminded me that I've had one sitting on my tack locker for a year. The last time I rode with it was 11 months ago, when I learned I couldn't ride my horse straight while holding it, because it forced me to ride with even reins and apparently I did not do that on a regular basis. Which kicked off the whole Pilates/biomechanics/learning to use my abs/full training hero's journey you're all familiar with.

But now that I have the ability to use my core and my body is a lot less crooked, I wondered what I'd get out of it now.

Good pone

To be honest, while I was riding with it, he went so poorly I wondered if I was making a mistake.

What is even happening lol

Now that I'm so strong in my core by default, holding the cube wasn't really that hard or tiring, but it was curious to note which muscles were tense but not contributing to supporting the cube or riding in any way, chiefly my "underneath" muscles as MW calls them, so the pelvic floor and glutes. When I relaxed those muscles but kept my core engaged, I was able to follow his motion a lot better.

Love what the cube does for my hands in posting trot

Once I sat the cube down though, from the moment he stepped off it was like "...whoa, the cube actually did something." The contact felt solid but elastic, just the way it did at GP trainer's, when I imagined I was still holding the cube. I suddenly realized if I put leg on and "held the imaginary cube", he lifted his back and came together in the best way.

Even more interestingly, when I relaxed my underneath muscles, I had effortless down transitions. Something that's been happening lately that I haven't written about is that I've had a hard time halting him since he came home from GP trainer's (lol) which is obviously a "me" problem and not a "him" problem.

I think with that much tension in my underneath, I was driving him forward and his back down with my seat even as my hands and torso motion were saying "stop".

One more week working on this and I think I'll finally be ready for a video lesson with my GP trainer. I needed some time to internalize and work through getting to know my "new" horse before I rode with her, and I feel like I'm almost there.

January 19, 2021

Taking "Dressage Improves the Jumping" to a Whole New Level

I had the day off yesterday, so Mary came down for some extended pony time in which we rode both ponies, free jumped my barnmate's mare, and Annie rode both Connor and Zippy.

Dada even got in on the fun. And shortly after Mary turned them loose, he loped, on purpose lol (Zippy's a WP horse, so it's not as impressive as it sounds, but still). Mary was like "I haven't even cantered with Annie yet!" and then immediately had to get on and canter with Annie, haha. The Brockcamp bareback pad Kristen sold me is a perfect baby saddle!


Mary had been dying to jump Connor ever since he came home, although I know she's nervous about "messing up his Dressage training," even though I know she won't. I've been curious to see him over fences myself, since he learned leg + hand = put yourself together at Dressage boot camp. And when I came back in from putting Aeres away to her warming up like this:


I said she could ride him like that anytime!

We had set up a line that we could push back against the wall for the free jumping exercise later, and built it up from ground poles. I had a "hmmm" moment early on, as Connor seemed engaged and relaxed - not words I normally describe him while jumping.

I'm sure some of you haven't been around for this entire saga, but I did fail him as an event horse because of his weird jumping motion (pointing his chest down at the ground in front of the fence, almost touching his nose to it and then often taking off from a standstill). 


Turns out learning to go around with his chest up and his abs and butt engaged may have been just what was missing in his jumping training. Even at this height it was obvious something big had changed about the way he approached jumps. And then when we put the sticks up a bit...

We both simultaneously started freaking out as soon as he finished this line. Side note, can we talk about how Mary hasn't been able to jump regularly in 10 years and her eq is STILL THIS GOOD?!

That was his FIRST TIME over that oxer and first time jumping anything that big in probably 3 years. We actually quit there. Mary was like "Jen! This is all I've ever wanted for you! It feels easy to him now, you could actually work on your eq on him for the first time."

CAN WE JUST. OMG. Is this really my horse?

And then as if my heart couldn't possibly be even happier after seeing that, we quit there (after only doing the line with the fences up 2 or 3 times because he was foot perfect through the entire thing), stripped his saddle, and let him cool out "over fences" with his favorite little jockey:

I was just smiling ear to ear taking this video. To have a horse with the ability to go as far as I want to in Dressage, that jumps an oxer like that, and then immediately turns around and takes such good care of a baby is worth so much to me. He really is my heart horse forever <3.

January 14, 2021

Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatuuuuuuuuuuuuureeeeeeeeeee! *shakes fist*

Last night I was having a great Dressage ride when I was rudely interrupted by one of the barn's resident raccoons trying to climb down the arena wall.

Since the rest of these GIFs will be ridiculous, proof that we actually did get some legitimate work done before this happened

Connor is the biggest chicken in the world, and with little success I've tried to embolden him by asking him to chase wildlife that scared him in the past - hawks, foxes, cats (but uh, obviously not the skunks. Live and let live.) So I cantered him straight at the thing hoping that would intimidate it, buuuuuut Connor wasn't really interested in that, haha.


In case you missed it in the GIF


So I got off and threw my whip at it.

Poor, long-suffering sidekick

And continued to throw my whip at it the whole way across the arena, hissing and yelling the entire time.

As always, Connor was skeptical but trusted me. Just look at that face.

"Well okay I guess, if you say so"

I got back on to cool him out, but there was no recovering from that level of excitement, which thankfully happened about 30 minutes into my ride so it didn't matter too much. So I untacked Connor, and while I did, Meatloaf treed the raccoon in the corner the entire time.

Good dog. Never moved a muscle for 15 whole minutes.

The BOs have a trapper coming today, so hopefully we can continue our Dressage schools uninterrupted. Although if I'm being honest, I don't mind the diversion. The more weird shit I do with my horse, the better citizen he becomes - or at least that's what I tell myself.