Cavaletti, the Canter, and a Grid

Cavaletti, the Canter, and a Grid

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Two weeks ago, I had a dressage lesson with my trainer. I pulled two main objectives from it:

  • Keep the contact in the transitions
  • Achieve a collected, bouncy-ball canter

When we first got Beau, he rooted his mouth all the time. Not to find the connection but to avoid it. This meant that I started riding with a really, really light contact and even losing more contact in the transitions. Eventually, I started riding with more of a contact in the gaits, but I never started keeping the connection in the transitions again. I think it also helped that we moved from the slow twist bit he came in to a baucher to the smooth d-ring snaffle he’s in now. He needed the slow twist when we got him, but he’s learned to respond to light touches on the bit as well as leg and voice cues.

It was insane how as soon as I figured out how to keep the contact in the transitions, his head went down and his hind end came up under him. Magic. We only got it a few more times in the lesson, but I’ve been working at it in my rides and man does it make a difference.

The next objective was to achieve a collected, bouncy ball canter. We achieved this through transitions and cavaletti (well, a single one). We used a 20 meter circle to work on this. 6 canter strides and 6 trot strides made Beau rock back on his haunches and stay light on his shoulder. Next, we moved to the ground pole. Whenever we work on a pole or a jump, my trainer wants me to really push him to it. By doing that, he sits back on his hind end and actually uses himself.

We know Beau can extend his stride, easily. He has a 10 to 12′ stride in a working canter, can extend to about 14′, and can collect to about 7′, though that’s really pushing it. He has a harder time collecting, and we really want him to be able to do it, not just for dressage work but also so that he can make tight turns and spots in the jump arena.

This week, our lesson was more about jumping. Our objectives were:

  • For me to stop pitching my shoulders forward and down
  • For Beau to push up to the jump

My trainer set up a no-stride bounce to a four stride (I think) single. We worked at it for a while, really keeping a steady trot and an up-and-down canter. The canter helped me to be able to push him to the base of the jump. We also worked on my position, keeping my hips back and my shoulders up.

Lessons are an important part of my riding. I’m really starting to see progress, although winter is coming and Beau will start getting his cold weather crazies soon!

 

 

 

 

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Equestrian Blog Hop: What Started It All

Equestrian Blog Hop: What Started It All

When Heather of Bridle and Bone (psst: all my links open in a new tab – so click away!) posted about this blog hop, I instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Not only is it a great way to network and meet other bloggers, I knew it would be a great chance to get OTTBs and Oxers’s name out there. I can’t wait to read and comment on the other blogs and read other blogger’s opinions of mine.

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I am probably one of the newest blogs participating in this blog hop.

I started posting on OTTBs and Oxers on March 18th of this year with 18 Motivational Quotes. That was just over 6 months ago!

Before that, I had an even smaller Blogger site called U:Equestrian. I decided to switch to OTTBs and Oxers for a couple of reasons:

  1. The name came to me out of the blue and how could I not use it??
  2. I’m more comfortable with WordPress, as I’ve been using it for years to create websites for other people.
  3. Part of U:Equestrian was based around University. As I’m already a sophomore in college, I wanted my blog to be able to grow with me after I graduate.

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Why did I decide to start blogging in the first place?

I think it all stems from my love of writing. Since I was a little girl in grade school, I’ve always had my nose tucked in a book. I could only read so much before the need to write my own stories won me over.

In sixth grade, I started writing my very first book, a shapeshifter romance centered on an adventure. I finished it in eighth grade, and for those two years, I constantly had my flower print composition notebook and a pen in my hands.

In high school, I started writing a spin-off of that same novel – this time more a historical romance. It was also during this time that I learned how to write technically. I was blessed to be able to take Honors and AP classes that taught me proper writing techniques. Now, I’m working on my third novella, a fictional story based on the Manchester bombing.

It made sense to me to combine my love of writing with my love of my horse. A blog was the logical answer – plus, I knew it could be fun!

Blogging allows me to keep a journal of how far Beau and I have come – which is important to me as an amateur with a difficult horse. It also lets me get my opinions to other equestrians on products (Review: Annie’s Equestrienne Breeches) and current events (The Rolex Red Carpet!). I can even reflect on the important events in my life and how they affect my life as an equestrian, even if they are not equestrian in nature (Coming Home).

A big part of my blog experience is my presence on Twitter’s equestrian hub, fondly dubbed “The Island.” Through it, I received the inspiration for my last post and huge project, Rider Drug Use: Is It a Problem?. I also find it is a great platform to connect with your audience. I’ve even found a great support group for my non-blog writing in The Island Writers (Shout-out to you, girls!). My Twitter is @OTTBsandOxers.

What have I learned?

So far, I’ve learned that the equestrian blogging community is comprised of many incredible people who love to support each other. I have never felt alone in my quest to discover what blogging holds for my future. There is always someone to go to with questions or somewhere to look for inspiration.

Something I still struggle with is how to make my blog stand out in a sea of fantastic equestrian bloggers. I have an awesome, amazing horse, and I love chronicling our adventures, but so do plenty of other people. I am currently trying to start an IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) team at my school, which I planned to write about, but I am running into speed bump after speed bump. I’m a competitive person, but I don’t have a trailer, so we don’t show many times a year.

So, what do I have that’s unique?

  1. This silly, adorable, tries-his-heart-out horse.

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  2. A university perspective: I’m a sophomore dealing with horses, a job, school, and volunteering all at the same time.

  3. A competitive mindset – even if I’m not competing all the time, I still have goals for my rides that are fun to read.

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  4. Dedication to this blog – I’m currently posting between one and two times a week.

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Be sure to check out my other posts if you enjoyed this one – thanks for reading!

Click the button below to see the other blog hop posts:

The Reality of Schooling

The Reality of Schooling

Schooling is a complicated beast.

On one hand, you need to have a schedule, a plan.

On the other, you need to be flexible and adapt to your horse.

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Today was a complicated day in of itself. I knew I wanted to have a pretty hard work day as I felt like I’d been slacking lately. We’ve been doing a lot of hacks and bareback rides the past few weeks. Luckily, Beau has two other riders that work him hard as well, but I have to keep up too!

My plan was to work on bending and rating, as in extending and collecting the gaits. This way I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do, but I could choose my specific exercises depending on how he felt.

We got sidetracked. Of course.

When we got in the arena, two of my friends were just finishing up riding and left right after I picked up the trot. This is, of course, Beau and my’s weakness.

He gets spooky and hyper (no, don’t leave me friends!!) and I get nervous because I overthink what would happen if I fell off without anyone with me. We play off each other and get nervous and tight. Then it’s very hard to get a good ride, or any working ride at all, really.

So, our plan changed from bending and rating to using bending and rating to keep both of us focused and forward.

Step 1: Work on the far side of the arena.
Specifically, away from the spooky arena door where the horses leave.

  • Walk: work on bending, using leg yields and playing with the reins to keep him focused (literally jiggling them). I don’t use that a lot, but it helps him focus and me relax.
  • Trot: work on transitions for rushing using 5 steps walk and 7-14 steps trot, increasing more trot steps as he relaxed. Work on consistency by pushing him forward when he sucked back and half halting when he rushed.
  • Canter: push him forward and actually get him to go one way, try to hold him back the other. Because logic.

Step 2: Switch to the near side of the arena.

  • Walk: get him to go forward. Because he’s a big-A horse who is a jerk when he decides to just stop. Also, I have little legs!
  • Trot: Hey, hey, we’re going forward now! Work on bending and pushing him forward. Half halts and MORE LEG!
  • Canter: Bend and go forward. Bend and go forward. We did it – yay!

So, did we accomplish what I wanted? Yeah, we did.

Did we accomplish it the way I had in my mind? No.

Schooling will leave you glowing with happiness (ex: jumping like a boss, nailing lead changes, etc.), crying with frustration (the bucking bronco, the gross eq, or the FALL), or just feeling average (most days, let’s be honest).

The reality of it is – it’s going to be different everyday. Sometimes it’s going to be awesome, sometimes it’s not.

Expecting perfection every ride will lead to heartbreaks and headaches, but staying flexible and adaptive will allow you to get the most from your horse AND your ride. Remember schooling is for making mistakes. There’s no judgment for a bad ride. Everybody has them!

Coming Home

Coming Home

Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving the campus of my current college, let’s call it College A for now, for the last time. I’ll make the six hour long drive home with my mom and grandma, who are the absolute best for coming to get me. In case you didn’t know, this was my freshman year of college. So, the question begs, why am I not coming back to College A?

I chose to go to College A for a few reasons.

One, I love to travel, and I wanted to go out of state for a while, kind of learn who I am when I’m not with my family (Now: I hate not being with my family and friends).

Two, it was a good choice for my intended major, global studies and/or political science (Now: I’m studying marketing).

Three, I loved the campus (Now: Don’t visit college campuses when school is not in session. The people make the campus).

So, as you can see, my reasons for choosing College A in spring 2016 are no longer valid in spring 2017. There were also a couple of other reasons as to why I wanted to leave, but those aren’t things I want to talk about on here.

This brings me to College B. Ironically, in spring 2016, I was adamant I didn’t want to attend College B. All – well, most – of my family had gone there; it was too close to home; I wanted to be different. Blah, blah, blah, basically I was stubbornly against what my family wanted, even though they had the best of intentions.

So why did I choose to transfer to College B? Well, for one, it is very close to my family. One of the original reasons why I shied away from it, this is now one of the most important aspects of College B. Then, there’s also the fact that it is one of the best colleges in my state, and I can get a great education there. And lastly, what you’ve all been waiting for, it brings me closer to my horse.

So, how does all of this relate to this blog, which is pretty obviously an equestrian one? Well, College A had a lot of things. It also lacked a lot of things, one of which was my horse. I honestly believe that if I had had my horse with me, I would have stuck it out at College A. No matter how stressed you are, no matter how much crap you go through, if you have your best friend with you, you can survive anything.

Today, someone on social media asked the question, “If you had to describe the feeling you have when you’re with your horse, what one word would you use?” Now, obviously, there’s a lot of answers you could use. Some of the ones in the comments included: free, happy, euphoric, confident, and more.

But there was one word that stuck out in my mind: home.

What is it about a horse that makes you feel like you are home? What makes you feel as if you never left? Is it the bond between horse and rider? The gentle nudge of a muzzle on your shoulder that seems to say, “It’s okay, I still love you,” no matter what happens? Is it the wonder that such a wild and huge creature could come to completely trust you, a human, who makes mistakes, who screws up, who asks why they’re different from everybody else?

Perhaps it’s because when you are with a horse, you are stripped down to your most basic form. There is no College A or College B, or stress at school, or work, or home. There’s no hating on yourself (at least there shouldn’t be!), no wondering why you’re different, no time to think the deep thoughts.

There’s only you. The horse. The communication and bond. The original survival instincts to run faster, work harder, push yourself more but to know when to slow, steady, and rest.

So, what does College B have that College A doesn’t? I think it’s a home. Whether that’s my family, my friends, or my horse, I know that I’ll be better off having found my home, even if it took me a year to realize that my home was really my home all along!