Saturday, April 8, 2017

Jumping all the things

As I have already stated in my other recent blog posts, since coming back into work with Tillie, my entire outlook and approach has sort of evolved in a much more "less is more" stance. The pressure is off resulting in a happier me and a much happier Tillie.

We even did the pinwheel of death without fighting!
Most of that pressure last year was a result from personal things outside of horses and I didnt realize how much it affected me and my riding. I understand now when horse professionals say the largest part of training and riding is keeping all of that in check.

I get it. But way easier said than done.

Tillie agrees
Even when Tillie has given me sass lately...rather than get upset or taking it personally, I laugh! Sure I put my leg on or do what I have to to correct it at times. But most of the time not playing into it seems to do the trick and it has eliminated it to the point it only happens every few rides rather than a few times a ride. 

Tillie likes the new laid back style

So my goal this year is to not let the pressure build. Dont use riding and this as an escape so much so that it creates pressure that leads to it being less enjoyable. So what could be more enjoyable than jumping my super fun mare over some super fun jumps?!

Seriously, shes like a sports car!

February she was still feeling sassy:

Her locking on and sitting that booty down to jump rather than push with her shoulder...<3

Then jumping 3'9 earlier this month:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Back in action with Dom

Like all the other pros, Dom leaves every winter to go south and continue training. That means all winter without lessons which worked out for us since we took most of the winter off anyway. Last Saturday was our first lesson back with Dom since before he left and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly nervous.

Tillie really helped me out by being caked in mud before the lesson

My fitness is not where it was at the end of the season. Tillie's fitness is not up to par either. We have just been back into work maybe a month. It is one of those things you want your trainer to be proud of you and be able to notice some improvement or change for the better after such a long time away right? Normally I am fine with things being a shit show because that is why my trainer is there: to fix it! But for whatever reason, I felt a bit apprehensive and worried we would be a disappointment.

She is so excited
I was pleasantly surprised at how Tillie felt. Dom gave us some pointers for warming up and said he liked what he was seeing. His goal for this warm up was to start installing soft buttons and be able to push Tillie around a little...bring the shoulders in then her haunches without it being a big deal.

Starting to be a bit more through in the bridle

Dom gave us this as homework since it worked well to keep Tillie waiting for me rather than try to take over herself. It also helped alleviate and unwanted weight or tension in the reins. The goal is to gently use leg and thigh to maneuver her and the reins simply supplement. The haunches in was asking for a bit more while shoulder fore was the relief part of the exercise and where the reins should feel lighter.

He also had us add in some counter flexion as well to really ensure the connection was confirmed and she could be pushed in and out of her "box" without too much resistance. He had us spiral in and out using the circle size to increase the difficulty.

After that he asked me what my goals were for this season and the question initially took me off guard. I honestly spent the last month getting on and enjoying my calm, quiet horse and having fun with her. I hadnt really thought much ahead to when our first show would be or even what we would be doing!

She is tracking up superbly well here! Ignore my poor position!

I answered that I hadnt thought too much about it but was hoping to really get confirmed at Training and figure out how to gallop and make time without the adjustability in the gallop /canter being such a huge issue for Tillie. Last season, any half halt once I let her out or gallop a bit would result in a meltdown or straight up zero response and her jaw locked so tight I feared we might never stop at times.
Miss fancy pants

So Dom laughed and said not to worry that starting out the season late April or even May is perfect for us since our season runs later into the fall. He said he would tell us what he thought after the lesson, but so far was much happier with her flat work. We both agreed her hock injections and time off really worked wonders for her and supplied us with a much more agreeable horse.

and quite the overachiever
Naturally, the next exercise he had us do was focused on adjustability in the canter. He set two ground poles 5 strides apart (Well what is a 5 stride 12ft canter). He said this is also homework for us so I can keep my "feel" and eye in check. It will also help me start developing that 12ft canter stride we will need when we compete again without it feeling so foreign. 

I think we were both shocked at how well Tillie handled this exercise. Especially after we pushed for the 12ft stride then asked her to compress and go smaller. I even got a "I am impressed" from Dom when we were able to get 8 strides in there!

Workin that small canter
Dom also commented at this point he was happy with the saddle and how it helped my position, most particularly my lower leg. He said I wasnt nearly as defensive with it. Over fences, same thing. I am now able to stay up on landing and not getting so defensive on the landing side of fences. 

So next Dom wanted to challenge Tillie and keep her thinking a bit with a trot pole to jump grid-like exercise. 

I was really shocked at how well this made Tillie lift and use her own balance. Dom kept saying to not help her and let the poles do the work. Just stay patient with my body at the jump. We started with a low x then bumped it up to a vertical. Dom wanted to sharpen her front end so added a low vertical to the front and instructed me to do this on a few jumps when schooling at home. This would help prevent when we get deeper to a fence and Tillie dropping over her shoulder. 

So we started doing it off the shorter right hand turn as well. Dom really pre-warned to ride the turn very tall and not to lean. He also kept repeating it was important to ensure I rode Tillie very straight through the exercise to make sure she was pushing off evenly.

Finally when she was going through to his satisfaction and stopping straight enough, he let us string the exercise together a bit asking us to think about our lead changes over the fences:

All in all it was a wonderfully education lesson for us both. I got some really great tools and homework and Tillie definitely got a tune up from it. Dom LOVED how she finished up and was excited to see my half halt releasing create a more soft reaction rather than a running reaction we used to get. 

To my surprise Dom said he thought Prelim was a good goal to aim for late fall! I laughed and said maybe I would let him do it on her first...but I was happy hanging at Training and seeing where the season goes. If we get there to Prelim, cool. If not, maybe one day!

Work that booty!! Who'd thought trotting a 3ft fence would be so ok...and not die?!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Its been a while...

I know I do not have a huge following...but for those of you that do follow my blog, I am sorry for disappearing! Life sort of took over and I had to take a hiatus there for a while. The good news is, it is all for the better and Tillie and I reformed our partnership.

While the time off wasn't exactly planned, we came back into work fresh and without all the baggage. The training was rusty, but still there. We have been working on rebuilding fitness and it seems Tillie has grown up even more over the winter.

Last year, she continued to get more rideable and accepting...but aside from an odd ride here or there since coming back she has been rock solid. Her brain seems to be more focused, she's calmer and much more accepting. She has always been ready to work, but now her work ethic is matched with allowing me to push some buttons and move her around more without so much sass. 

First dressage lesson in quite some time...Tillie didnt miss a beat
This winter seems to have done us both well. I am not putting as much pressure on us and it seems Tillie's answer has been to give me what ever I ask for with way more try than ever before. Which is saying something considering how much she always tried for me before.

Fancy new Lund tack so we look the part!

I always planned to give her time off this winter...just didnt exactly plan on THAT much time. But apparently it was for the best so now its just a matter of refocusing and rebuilding strength. 

We certainly have hit the ground running this spring since I have been back in the saddle...I will be sure to post specifically about each of these things, but Dom Schramm has already been back teaching us...which I missed sorely while he was gone. We have done our first XC school of the season and Tillie was such a rock star it made me want to cry.

The Dream bit seems to be a great option for us XC!
I am excited with how she is feeling. I signed us up for the Twilight CT at Loch Moy next week similar to what we did last season...hopefully it will dust off the cob webs and get us back into the swing of things. 

One of our first jump schools with the jumps put up since being back into work!
I am totally loving my stubben, which I believe I blogged about last before I disappeared:

Not to mention my partnership with Lund saddlery...I can not speak any more highly of the quality of this tack. They are not paying me to say this at all. I chose to partner with them BECAUSE of their foundation their company stands for and because of the quality. 

Her heart on her butt is still there

at least we look the part right?!

I know this has all been a bit vague, but I just wanted to say hello again! I've missed you all and can't wait to catch up on what you all have been up to as well!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I did something crazy

Yes, I know once again I have been has had a way of taking over. After my horse tried to gain herself a full vacation by severing a vein....we are back at it and cutting the lighter work period short. Luckily she was only out for 2 days with this...and you best believe I am ready to put her new hocks to use and make sure she doesnt get the zoom zooms all over again.

(beware some graphic photos below)

Yes like Tillie severing a vein after getting loose...
Soooooo much blood
Literally started to panic at this point
To make up for it, I decided to once and for all end my saddle fitting woes (hopefully for the foreseeable future!) know since we clearly need to do more galloping.

I got us a dressage saddle not too long ago...and decided to leave our jump saddle alone since it was working for us with the help of a thinline pad + shims. It has been working well for us... that is until recently.
This saddle has been there with Tillie and I since the first year I got her.
and all the ups and down its been hard to let it go

The fit for Tillie wasnt poor, but not optimum either. The bigger issue with fit has fallen on me and the fact it puts me in a chair seat like something horrible and my bottom hits the back of the saddle over fences.

You can kind of see the chair seat happening here

I was willing to make do for my own liking as long as it worked for Tillie...but lately she made it clear when saddling up she is not happy with it. After having 2 fitters take a look, one non-biased to Stubben another a Stubben was obvious we both needed to move on especially with our goals for next year.

Which should hopefully not include ANY MORE sedation

So long story long, I bit the bullet and placed the order for one of these:

Stubben Zaria Optimum
If you all remember, I blogged about one when I rode in my trainers, Dom Schramm. It was odd at first and I wasnt quite sold. I think the fact it felt so different was part of it. But when the fitter came back earlier this week and had me try a slew of them...I was hooked and I knew I had to have it.

Tillie the first day back after her injury...laughing at my anxiety
So we are a 29cm tree now, 18" seat (who would have thought!?) and regular flap with a soft seat. I didnt do any fancing color or stitching for fear of how it would wear and literally the image above is the color I got with it being the ebony brown with the ligther medium brown duo tone.

Tillie says, I so spoiled!!
The 18" seat shocked the heck out of me, but when trying a smaller seat it just want enough room...especially considering when  your out XC and you get yourself into a hairy situation. The Biomax was something I thought for sure I would want, but after trying it...didnt love it enough to warrant the extra cost. I just never felt like I got the close contact feel I did without it. It also tended to hit my bottom right in a spot I could feel the crease of it ending every tine my bottom touched the saddle.

All done fitting!
I also sprung for the crazy looking girth too, (their Equisoft Girth) but what the hell right?! Whats another few hundred dollars?

Stubben Equi-soft Girth
I will tell you I was a non believer in this girth...paying almost $400 seemed insane to me. I did not receive it for free nor am I being compensated in anyway for saying this but holy cow what a difference it made.

I was always of the belief the girth was meant for XC or galloping when the horse was exerted and working...that it would expand with the horse's breathing helping with regulating its heart rate and comfort when breathing became labored.

Stubben's description of the Girth is as follows:

"The Equi-Soft girth, when properly adjusted, effectively deals with the constriction by giving in all directions and markedly reducing the tension.  This frees the underlying musculature, allows better circulation, and decreases the restriction of motion of the gut.  As respiration is enhanced and the horse experiences less discomfort, pulse rate has been shown to be reduced during exercise.  Since the muscles are less restricted, lateral flexibility is enhanced as well as the horse’s ability to employ the external obliques, serratus and other abdominal muscles necessary to support the topline.  This is manifested in greater extension of the foreleg and more active employment of the hind quarters."

It was INSTANTANEOUS when using this girth + the saddle that I felt the difference. This girth plus the saddle were used on the first go round and the final...both times I had a horse that was through, relaxed and on the aids and her striding was open without being tense. This is just flatting her.

I have been told its like this with some horses while others there is no difference at all. If you are ever at all curious, know your horse has been properly fitted, ulcers checked and soundess but still doesnt seem to be quite fluid....this may be something to try.

Tillie REALLY liked it

So once I wrote out my deposit, I promptly cried a little realizing this cost me more than my first car, but find it really hard to regret at all considering how marvelous Tillie felt and also, the kicker, I felt too! I was in a much better position yet solid and not moving anywhere. It was slightly odd at first with the monoflap because the reduced bulk almost tricked my mind into thinking less support. 

But when we tried a few jumps and Tillie got some sass and excitment, I did NOT move nor did the saddle. Not to say I wont have any falls off this saddle...and just for good measure, I found an AWESOME deal on a Hit Air vets for less than half retail value and just received that today too!

I have been putting off getting one...but I have been told by many people that Training level and above you want to start thinking about it. So when I saw this being listed, I couldnt resist. 

So now that I am officially least Tillie and myself will have the best comfort and safety there is to offer. Heres to hoping if we dress for will follow. You know the whole, "Build it and they will come" mentalitly. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

muscling goes a long way

I recently was chatting with someone who hadn't seen Tillie since I had first gotten her a few years ago...they remarked at how much she's changed in how she looks. They even said if it weren't for her distinctive blaze, they would think it wasn't the same horse at all.

So I got curious, and dug up some old photos of her:

This was the first year I had her while she was recovering from cellulitis

2014: This was the first year I had her while she was recovering from cellulitis
the following October 2014
October 2015
Last fall - 2015
fall 2015
September 2016

Sept 2016

October 2016
October 2016

 Pretty crazy even from last year to this year. I notice it the most in her neck muscling...and her rump. I love seeing transformations of these OTTBs or any young horse that gets put into work and the difference with some weight and muscles. Show me yours!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New month, new things

Happy belated Halloween everyone. Can you believe its already November?!

It seems like it wasn't all that long ago when this show season started...and it was this time last year Tillie and I were xc schooling and experiencing more not so fun moments more than we were experiencing fun moments.

Not so fun moment
I have resolved that November will be all about exploring and keeping an open mind. That will include me riding horses other than Tillie and being diligent in my own personal progress, outside of Tillie. (In addition to her too of course).

Tillie snoozing this morning
I have yet to sit down and really iron out a lesson schedule to stick to...but that is part of my plan so I have something to hold myself to. I need to make it a priority, but I am pretty busy with my latest drawings and commissions...I cant say no to them, and I LOVE doing them and the more the merrier! It'll all go in the bank towards lessons and our show season next year.

My latest drawing from last night - if you are interested in one, email me:
My main focus on me right now are:
  1. getting a better seat in the canter
  2. being more firm with my hands (they will wiggle around when I don't take a firm contact)
For Tillie:
  1. Improve the canter so she is less braced, more uphill and engaging
  2. Improve canter to trot transitions
  3. Keep her on the aids into a halt and from a halt to trot
Tillie after our ride yesterday looking chipper
The good news is, Tillie is happy to work and I am ready to dig in to my own homework. The trick is finding a place I can ride other horses...What sort of things do you look for in a lesson barn?

Monday, October 31, 2016 horse is bipolar

This past Saturday was the first day Tillie was allowed back into work after her injections. I fully expected there to be some interesting much so that I even lunged her lightly to let her sort out some wiggles.

Extremely fit horse + 4 days off of work = pshyco mare

Except this is the horse I got
Ok she did let some sass out on the lunge. But when I hopped on her, there was no tension, no jigging or bracing...not even the usual goading me into argue with her when shes been out of consistent work.
She showed up ready to work and was shockingly bipolar in a good way.

Such a hard life
 I was so freaked out about how good she was, I even took her temp a few times...all was normal! Poor Tillie. I do not give her enough credit, but seriously up until this, if I even gave her a day off I would be riding a very opinionated horse the next day.

Tillie isn't sure what the fuss is about
 Her canter felt AMAZING. We were in the smaller ring, so she naturally tends to balance herself better in this one...and tends to stay straighter and better about not throwing her shoulders around. She was slightly down with her left shoulder when we tracked left, but that was also her more positive hock, and the side she is more downhill on.

Sleepy mare...and looking very tiny in this picture
 It didn't take too much to get her to lift that inside shoulder when in the past, it would sometimes be an open door for bolting, head flicking or any number of her antics. She felt really nice and balanced, even willing to sit and engage.

Donkey Ears
Now, I don't think the injections work THAT fast. I have been told they can take anywhere between 10 days to 1 month before feeling the effects. So I am not really sure why the drastic change.

Her canter has been what we are trying to improve the most lately...and she certainly has given me nice moments, but an not usually an entire 2-3 circles.

At any rate, I am excited to get back into our lesson routine and prepare for our dressage debut next weekend. Here's hoping Tillie stays on this end of the spectrum!