Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Second Show.

I had another post in the works about a lesson where we trailered to another barn to work some actual courses outside...but I didn't get it done before show prep started again.

Our second show went much more smoothly than the first. I was better prepared for delays, mostly mentally, and had my show brain a little more in tune. It also helped that the entries were not as high because there was an A show in Quebec that a lot of our usual competitors were attending. I guess that should also tell me something about the competition I'm against!

I did the hack division again and took Reserve Champion with a 2nd, 2nd, and 1st (Road, Show, Pleasure). I have decided not to do the Hack div again...we do well at it but it pisses Armani off in a way this year. We hack in a ring full of hunter jumps and the entire class he's asking to go to them and I'm telling him no while trying to make that invisible. Obviously this isn't very obvious or we wouldn't do well, but I can certainly feel it and feel his mounting frustration with going around and around without doing anything other than changing gait. No serpentines, circles, figures etc. He seems bored and irritated with it. It's possible he's feeding off me too.

Don't get me wrong, I don't jump every ride, far from it. During the winter, I only jump once a week. The rest I flat, sometimes with various poles or cavelletti to keep things interesting or work my eye, but mostly my non-lesson rides are focused on flat work. In the summer, we have the jump field set up so I might pop him over something a couple times in a ride to keep his interest but I still mostly flat and only jump for real (several full courses) once a week.

So it's not about only wanting to jump. However, when I flat in a ring full of hunter show jumps and he is wanting to go to them all the time, it seems counter productive to constantly say no. Anyway, it as good experience for him our first two shows so he can get used to the atmosphere again, but from here on I will add the 2'6" Open Hunter division to our core 2'6" Adult Hunter.

Our hunter rounds this show were much better, although I still have a lot of finessing to do. I am not always sure of my distance and although I mostly get there in stride, when I don't I have a hard time deciding whether to take off a bit long or add. I've been trying to avoid the chip lately, so I'm still figuring out when it will be a chip versus deeper distance. Yep, I'm an ammy alright!

First course. First place. 

More to come...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

First Show of 2014.

The first show of the season was...disorganized. I'm sorry to say it, but that is the best way I can describe it. I was on it, Armani was braided and put up by 8:30pm the night before. Yes, I braid the night before because it works in our situation and Armani doesn't rub (yet).

We had a colleague of my husband's staying over night, which was fine since he had to get up at around 4am anyway. I got home at around 9pm and had some tack cleaning to do but not a lot since I had already done most of it. When I got home, I was met by two very happy (and very drunk) Geologists. Oh boy. So I poured myself a glass of wine and cleaned some leather. By 11pm, I announced I needed to go to bed regardless of what they did.

This year, we are moving up from the Bronze circuit to the Silver/Trillium circuit. I decided to do the Silver Hack division and the 2'6" Child/Adult Hunter. All I can say say is I've never seen a ring empty for as long or often as I did that day. Sooo many delays. It was awful. I am afraid that many of those delays were because my coach asked the ring to wait but I'm not even sure of that yet. Ugh.

I was at the show grounds from 7am to 5pm, for only 2 divisions that were supposed to run in the morning, last division starting at  noon at the latest.

First show at a higher level and we didn't do as well as I am used to. We did pin 2 fourths in the hack division (it was a crazy division with so many asked to hand gallop at the same time, Mani was great but bucked once when another horse crowded him. After a winter of being in an indoor with one other horse at most, I can't blame him for being sensitive to it. He even started off warm-up reactive to other horses.

I did not pin in my hunter division o/f (2'6"ch/ad) over fences but took 6th/18 in the under saddle portion.

Disappointing but I am very happy with our rounds, especially for the first of the year.

First Round.

Second Round.

I learned we have to be a whole lot more serious and prepared if we are going to be competitive at this level. Armani has the quality but that won't come out unless I school him well and train myself well. Cardio and core strength boot camp? I think so!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Quick Update.

Life has been pretty busy but mostly in a good way. I painted my living room and dining room and it looks pretty fantastic. Armani is fantastic and we are gearing up for show season - first show on Saturday!

Oh, and this happened:

That's right, I put shoes on Armani a few weeks ago. I did not make the decision lightly at all. He has great feet that are sound on any surface so it seemed like a shame to mess with that. At the end of the day though, all it takes is one slip to do serious damage. Our jump field at home is on grass and almost all competition venues are on grass. Although Mani was very sure-footed last year in all kinds of conditions, he wasn't as confident in the takeoff as he is on sand and he did have some slips around turns. So, shoes it is.

He was not very good about the whole thing. Is there anything more embarrassing than having a horse who is bad for the farrier/vet etc? He wasn't mean or anything, just very nervous and then bored and wanted to be done with it. Thankfully he had been around other horses being hot-shod, so the smell wasn't new to him. Hopefully this will get better!

Also, we went to another clinic with Erynn Ballard. We had a great lesson and Erynn liked Armani a lot. She said he was easily a high-end equitation horse and I could get serious money for him. Nice to know, but he is not for sale :)  We went so I could school over scary jumps outside and that we did!

Photo is a bit late but still pretty nice.

Erynn (in white) giving Armani some lovin'

This pretty much sums up how I felt about it all.

Ok, now off to attend to more show-prep!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Awards 2013 and 2014 Plans.

Saturday night was the awards banquet for last years' show season. Since my horse was 4 last year and I had never shown hunters, or anything at all since I was a child, I did our Ottawa Valley Primary Show Circuit which is our "bronze" or schooling level.

Armani finished Reserve Champion in the Green Hunters and 4th in the Hack division. The Hack award is funny because we only showed that division 4 times and I only did so when it ran right before the Greens, just to keep from standing around the whole time.

I wish you could somehow share awards with your horse, it doesn't seem fair that I get the trophies. I tried to get something for him - I won a door prize at the banquet and ignore cooler prizes in favor of what I thought was a box of fancy horse cookies. Yeah...they were people cookies. Since I really don't have much of a sweet tooth, I brought it to the barn for boarders to enjoy.

The executive committee for this circuit has made some major changes to the divisions offered.  The result of which means I will be showing Trillium.Silver this year. My coach and I had discussed making that move in the fall but had ultimately decided to just do the schooling circuit again this year in the 2'6" jr/am since Armani is only 5, I only have one show season under my belt, and we are in no hurry.When they posted the list of pointed divisions and I saw my division was cut, plus the other core divisions pushed us out because they were either too basic or had rules about how many 1st place finishes. The only interesting divisions for us were "optional," meaning that venues could choose to host them or not. I can't plan a season around that, so Trillium it is! Now to decide on the schedule...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Three Mishaps and Three Rides.

Saturday I rode Armani for the first time in three weeks. I can't say it was my first time sitting on him in that time since one night, after a good lunge session, I told Alex I wanted to just sit on him while he cooled out with Alex leading. It was not such a good idea since Mani had never been sat on bareback and he takes advantage of my  poor husband's lack of horsemanship.  I got on and Mani got very wiggly under me (bony buttocks bones, even after all the lack of exercise??). Armani basically smooshed Alex against the wall and he dropped the lead. So, I was on my horse bareback with the lead trailing, holding mane, and Mani progressing from wiggly to mini-bucks. I was still very protective of my hand, so I bailed. Hard. On my ass. Did I mention I wasn't wearing a helmet?  Decisions made while under the influence of serious pain-killers are not good ones! No bruises though.

Seeing me on the ground put Armani on edge. At least that's the best way I can describe it. We walked a bit and went back to the barn. He was being bad because his grain was in his stall - he had already dragged Alex in there earlier, before heading to the arena. Alex has been doing all the tougher grooming and really learning on the fly (thank you, thank you!) but as with all who are new to actually handling horses, there is an uncertainty that bratty youngsters can take advantage of. Anyway, after the failed attempt to sit on him, we were doing his bedtime grooming when Armani threatened to kick.

Sometimes he lifts a hind leg in anticipation of being asked. That is good! But I have also seen him on edge and do it in a threatening way, which typically results in a knee/elbow etc to his ribs. That night, he lifted his hind leg and brought it slightly outward. Not cool. I was standing in front of him so I lifted my leg to give him a hoof first. I didn't get anywhere close - he knew he was in trouble for the gesture, so he pulled back. I was slow in my reaction to take the pressure off and his leather halter broke (as it's supposed to, really). He smoked his face on the barn ceiling. Ok, natural consequences.  So he was free in the barn while I ran in my Percocet haze to get another halter from my locker. Frig.

Ok, so that's 2 mishaps. Then last week, we had another. Alex had been away for work and Armani didn't get worked from Saturday til Wednesday when I was out next. I just couldn't handle him alone yet and not risk injuring my finger. My coach was going to work him the Monday or Tuesday but she ran out of time (it's been a lot for her to add 3-4 rides on him per week on top of her schedule). So he was fresh, fresh, fresh on Wed. But he was good for the most part. Alex was leading him around the arena and he could not contain his energy so he trotted next to Alex for 2 full laps before I put him on the lunge. He was respectful and didn't pull or do anything rude, just full of himself.

We had a great session. I rarely lunge but since the injury haven't had much choice. Armani always used to want to come in when asked to walk and I never "fixed" it because I don't lunge very much and don't like it as a general rule. Well, the few sessions before I had worked on teaching him to stay on the circle when asked to walk and this night he demonstrated he remembered our lessons. Yay! He was great the whole time, even though he started out with a ton of energy.

Just as I was finishing, Armani spooked hard at something. Not being able to use my right hand well, the line popped out of my left hand and he was off with the line chasing him! He tore around with the lunge line "chasing" him for several minutes. I just got myself out of the middle of the arena and repeatedly said calming shit that didn't seem to matter as I waited for him to step on the line and break his neck.

Fortunately, that didn't happen and he eventually stopped and allowed me to rescue him. He was sweating & steaming nose to tail...of course it was bedtime. I de-spooked him to the line that was chasing him as we cooled out. I don't think he actually put 2 and 2 together - as soon as I was holding it, he seemed to think it was not the same creature that was chasing him. That's all to the good! But we had a loooong cooling out session before he was ready for his stall!

Ok, so that's 3 mishaps.

This last Saturday, my coach rode for awhile and then *I* got on for the first time time in three weeks (other than the bareback incident). It was sooo nice but weird with a splinted finger. I used one of Alex's gloves and put my hand in with on the dressing and put the splint on the outside. There is no ride-able glove that will fit the splint inside. At least it's my middle finger and so doesn't directly affect the riding rein but it is still pretty awkward. I was on for only about 15 minutes but it was good.

Sunday, I rode for about 25 min and it felt a lot better.

Last night, I intended to only do a short ride since he had been worked each day Thurs-Sat by my coach, Sunday by me and Tues by my coach. But he was wound up because another horse left the barn just as I was bringing him in and then he was alone. Super jerk behaviour. Tacking up was no fun (Alex saw a whole new side to Armani, I've seen him like that a couple times) and it took a lot more work than I should have done to even get him to semi-relaxed. Jeesh.

But I got it done through burning abs (it's all about core with Mr Manners). My finger paid for it a bit today. Overdid it, for sure. But I'm on the mend and determined.

Now I just need this crazy cold winter to end and to shed about 10lbs and I will feel a tiny but closer to normal. Though I'm still about 6 months away from having a nail, assuming I don't need sugery somewhere in there. Have I reminded you to be careful around doors? Lol. It's no joke recovering from this!

Sorry for the lack of pictures. Bor-ing!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Armani Jumps Up A Notch.

I haven't been able to ride Armani myself since my injury on the 9th but my coach has been riding him every couple of days. Last Saturday we decided to school Mani over some bigger jumps. I've been very cautious about jumping him high and we only occasionally put them up a touch (around 3' or 3'3" to remind him to give the effort).

I know my coach has put him over a few jumps in the 3'3"-3'6" range but only a few times. Saturday was the day to push him a little and see how he responded. One thing about having a great coach is I knew she  would set him up perfectly and not interfere either. She is also tiny, so it's barely more stress for him than free-jumping.

Armani jumping 3'9" gym line.

Oh, this horse is going to be so fun forever and ever! I am dying to get back to riding again.

Second visit with the plastic surgeon tomorrow, so hopefully I can get a proper assessment this time. It will be nice to know exactly what I'm dealing with so I can start planning important events at work and also the vacation we were supposed to take in April. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Don't High-Five the Car Door!

Just days ago I was complaining about not having much motivation to be active...it's soo cold, blah, blah, whine, complain.

But life has a way of reminding you to be grateful for what you have and not to waste your days. I spent Sunday night in emergency after Alex accidentally shut my hand in the car door.

The fingernail blew completely off instantly, the bone broke completely at the tip, and the skin split in several areas requiring stitches. Basically, it's a total mess. Alex wouldn't take pictures before they bandaged it, so you are spared gruesome pictures. I've been in a whole world of pain but it's getting a little better.

I won't be able to ride for at least another week or so at the earliest. I have a consult with a plastic surgeon tomorrow to assess if any reconstruction will be necessary. I will know more about recovery then, I guess. Either way it will be a long haul until that nail grows back.

I can't even lead or handle my own horse. This is really the worst part of it, even worse than the pain. My coach is putting in some rides on him over the next couple weeks, so that's all to the good for Armani. I am able to free lunge him but Alex has to lead him in the barn and do the blankets, pick his feet and other detailed grooming. I can do some basic grooming with my left hand.

Well, that's where things are at for now. If you are sound of body and mind, be grateful for that and make the most of it!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Winter Semi-Hibernation and Shopping.

Well, this winter has taken quite the knock out of me! Things are still rolling but much more intermittently than is good for my motivation. I do best when in a program...when I let things slide, they sliiiiide. Needless to say, with all the insanely cold temps this winter, my riding has taken a hit. I just don't think it's healthy to ride when it's -20C(-4F) or colder without the wind chill. Actually, my cutoff is usually closer to -16 to -18C because with the wind chill it's brutal. Sure, we don't have wind in the arena, but still. Muscles just do not warm up properly in those temps, for horse or rider.

So I've done some free-lunging to let Armani loosen up, especially when it's been icy. Our barn turns out no matter what, which I love, but the horses don't move around much on their own when the conditions under foot are icy. I've also been careful to give electrolytes when it iced up and during out huge temperature swings. That kind of stuff is brutal on horses here and a little nudge to encourage drinking is good. I give a very small dose, though, because Armani responds to electrolytes like gangbusters.

The under-saddle work has been going great, despite the increased time-off and lack of real program. I've been riding more consistently in my rides, as opposed to bringing my A-game for lessons and being a wimp about asking him to work properly otherwise. The result is more consistency from Armani. Huh, what a surprise, hahaha!

Here is a picture from back in January sometime. It's not a great pic as we were just warming up, so soon in the warm-up that I'm still wearing my coat - that doesn't happen after 10min on Mani because he is such a bowflex. I usually don't even start with a coat, so it must have been an exceptionally cold day! We were  heading to the scary corner, hence the high-ish neck and my leg back to say 'git up there' as he has a tendency to balk at certain points.
I haven't gotten many pictures this winter either because I'm at the barn alone or because the light isn't great...or because I forget to put the memory card back in the camera...oops!

To alleviate some winter blahs, I decided to go tack-store shopping. While trialing a zillion horses as purchase prospects, I had ridden a few with the Royal Rider T3 stirrups. I loved them. I was out of riding shape and my bad right ankle *loved* the Royal Riders when we came across them. So, naturally, I began to believe I needed a pair for my crappy ankles.

Over a year after buying Armani, and having no necessities left to buy (save new show boots), I thought I would treat myself to a pair of the ridiculous $250 stirrups. Our highest-end tack shop was sold out, so I waited a few weeks for them to come in.


After a few rides, I realized...I don't like them. Boo! They are fine. But just fine. In fact, now that I'm in better riding shape (although less than I was in the fall), I find they hurt my bad ankle. I'm guessing I learned to strengthen my ankle properly during the last year. In other ways, I see no difference under saddle. In terms of tack care in general, I am finding them hard on my stirrup leathers and saddle.

So, a stirrup that doesn't yield any extra leg stability under saddle, I feel no difference, and my coach didn't even realize I changed stirrups...$250...they are going back. It's funny because I wanted them for so, so long but what's the point if my old irons are just as good and don't chew the leather? Boo! Granted, if I were doing jumpers, I think I would change my tune. So perhaps I will revisit in 5 years give or take, depending on where I think Armani would like to go.

Now, I'm at a loss for stuff to buy. How is that possible??  I guess at some point you've been buying good stuff long enough that it lasts and you run out of things. My top two right now would be a half pad for schooling and show field boots.

I am equally at a loss for both, in a way. My current half pad is ok but getting on in years and Mani has started to get some crinkled hair in the back of the saddle area. It's not saddle fit, so either his winter belly is making his mid-section swing more and it's rubbing or I could use something else. I guess I will have to do some research to decide whether to go sheepskin again or try a gel pad or something.

As for show boots, well, I guess I just have to start trying them! So much depends on fit there isn't much point getting hung up on Brands etc until I narrow the field.

Well, that's where were at. Hopefully I will get some lesson pictures tomorrow!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Adventures in Bunny Sitting.

We've had a house guest for the last couple weeks.

I wasn't sure what Hazel would think, given she is a bunny-chasing hound dog. Turns out she just wanted to lick his ears. A lot.

This bunny doesn't run, so it never sparks the full prey drive in Hazel. After having the bunny, Momo, for over a week, Hazel is now not so insistent on following his every move and only licks his ears when he asks. Yes, he totally asks for it!

Momo, in true rabbit form, thinks anything is worth trying to nibble at least one or two (but typically a hundred) times. When that started to include Hazel's nails, she was more than happy to move away from him!

It has been so cold for such long stretches that I would be at a total loss for entertainment if it weren't for Momo. Riding is very difficult in these temps and I don't think it's healthy to try to work below -20C (without the wind chill). Truthfully, I don't even try below -18C, though I might free lunge to get Armani moving and try to relieve some boredom. But that's another post.

There is a lot I didn't realize about domestic rabbits and it has been a pleasant surprise to have this one to care for. He is house trained! One litter in the cage, one outside. He quickly chose a favorite place to poop when free. We put a litter pan there and he has never pooped anywhere but in that pan since. Pretty smart!

He is extremely curious and loves to explore. He can recognize "another bunny" if he sees himself in a mirror. He pushes my exercise ball around and a whole slew of other weird and funny stuff. It's been very entertaining on these exceptionally cold winter nights.

I'm a little worried Hazel will miss him when he's gone.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anniversary Video. Or, What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging.

Riding hasn't been that great for the last several weeks with the intense cold we've had, so Armani has gotten a bit of a vacation. I was going to give him some time off soon anyway, so that's all good.

Unfortunately, it's also been killer for the motivation in all aspects of life. I'm telling myself it's ok. Sometimes balance has to be restored so I've been doing a lot of reading, casually researching things that interest me, and otherwise flying by the seat of my pants.

I did spend some time working on a video that I wanted to have ready in November to commemorate my one-year anniversary with Armani.  I finally decided to call it done.  I could keep improving it forever but essentially it captures enough of what I wanted.

Without further ado...