Its Spring Break here in Texas, which means extra ride time. Combine that with my recent defense of my master’s degree, and bam! Riding again!
Monday was dressage day. I took Jellybean to Sarah’s and she was a mess. Which is mostly my fault. I have got to start holding her accountable for being a horse and stop making stupid excuses for her. If she won’t poop under saddle, its not my problem; we’re still working! She tried the spooking game. She ran from the log, she ran from her shadow, she was worried about the flower box that the dressage letters are painted on. Luckily my new saddle has some stick, she ran sideways a couple of times and I felt glued into the seat.
We worked on keeping a constant rhythm. Her walk was crappy and we worked on actually striding out. Then more at the trot and the canter. Use those gaits and cover some ground! I have been struggling with making her movements too small. In any case, we had some improvements, and it gave me a lot to think about with my riding.
Tuesday was a barn work day, which means lots of projects to do and lots of time spent walking around. I logged 25,000 steps. Whew. We cleaned out the cross country field and did some general cleaning and maintenance. I also had another student try Jellybean. There is the potential for some mutually beneficial situations, but we’ll see.
We went to the cutting pen and Jellybean was doing the spooky thing again. We were concerned about grass in the wind… We worked on a circle and she calmed down and then I had the student ride her around. She was a little tense in her arms, and she wasn’t quite comfortable with Jellybean’s low head carriage, but those are easy to fix. I had her ride around and hang out and see what she thought while I walked off to do a couple of workday things.
When next I saw them, the student was telling me that Jellybean was being a little bit silly. Something about a shoulder shake and pseudo-spook and kick out. And a separate moment with Jellybean tripping and the rider moving around and Jellybean being worried. I’m was pleased that we were getting an accurate view of what Jellybean does. I always hate when you try out a horse and everything is oddly perfect.
We’ll see if this works out, it would be nice for Jellybean to have a person that can ride her on the regular. It would also be fun for this student to get more ride time with a horse that can learn a little quicker than the lesson horse. Stay tuned.
This weekend was a little bit more hectic, we had some work things to do and I’m still working in all my “spare” time on finishing up my degree. Nevertheless, I made it out on Saturday and Sunday. Lots of words and less pictures, sorry 😦
Saturday I worked with Knots and Jellybean! Knots got a dressage school. We worked on some of the same exercises from the last lesson: trotting figure 8s and me stretching tall. We also worked on moving off the right leg better and not running from the left leg. We had some canter work which was really good to the left, but to the right we were falling into the circle very heavily. There was some stretching, but there was also a snatch of the reins out of my hand. The most exciting part of Knots’ ride was when he actually lifted his back a little bit at the trot. Its a crazy feeling when he does it; it feels like he is suddenly lighter. I kept focusing on sitting up straight and pushing the energy from my legs and seat out in front of my hands. One day we will both be in shape to ride like this all the time.
Jellybean had a more exciting time. I groomed her and then we went to the cutting pen where a jumping chute is set up. After trying to get her to come through it on her own, I grabbed the lunge line and tried to help her figure out what I wanted. Except then she started dropping her shoulder and running into me. That had to be firmly corrected, which unfortunately was made worse by the crazy neighbors next door raining buckshot (or bird???) down on our barn, and probably the arena. Byron was really terrified too; I think he was actually shot at some point in his past life, he has some birdshot embedded in his face and paws.
Anyways, we eventually figured out how to go through the chute and I made the jump bigger and bigger. We finished out with a 2’3″ oxer, which she stopped snapping her hind end so dramatically over. Next time I’d like to have more jumps for her to think about and maybe some higher, wider things for her to practice over. Oh, and a photographer! I couldn’t coordinate the line, whip, phone, etc.
Sunday was a fun afternoon. Rob and I headed out to the barn to see the ponies with the intention of jumping Knots and riding Jellybean on the flat. Jellybean went first, and she was having quite the day. Mind wasn’t present. at. all. We spooked at the flappy-flaps on the side of the arena (banners). We spooked at the water trough. We ran across the arena just because multiple times. We watched the tin roof flap a little.
It was definitely a baby ride, and I tried to find something good. We basically managed the spooking and worked on some of the things from the last dressage lesson, ie allowing the bend, turning on the forehand, and general transitions. We finished off with a little bit of moving off the leg in an almost side-pass way.
Knots started off a little up too, but my stirrups were also like three holes shorter than I ride with on the flat, so it might have just been general challenges. Unfortunately I got too enthusiastic at the beginning of the ride and planned something too big for him to handle gymnastic wise. I set up three cross rails at 10 feet apart with a 4.5′ placing pole (oops). I should have reviewed the distances before I started. Basically the placing pole messed him up and I lost balance and we were frantic for the rest of the ride.
I imagined us trotting in and cantering with big bold ROUND jumps over the cross rails, unfortunately I got flat, frantic instead. I fixed the exercise and tried to salvage, but even with canter poles and a last cross rail, he was still very upset. We kept trying to calm down, and eventually ended with a small vertical, big X, small vertical with limited drama. Got to start out good!
Here is an example of frantic and flat with my poor position making things worse:
This was one of our smoothest jumps, but its still pretty rough. So much work on the jumping front for both of us.
For the weekly dressage lesson I decided to bring Jellybean. Mostly because I actually rode her between the last time Sarah laid eyes on her, unlike Knots. Jellybean got breakfast before we left and I did something completely stupid that luckily didn’t end in death. While she was eating I walked up behind her and started to put a shipping boot on her hind leg. By some miracle of God I didn’t get kicked, she just jerked her leg forward. Amanda, be more aware!!!
Anyways, we loaded up the trailer in a fairly boring manner, Jellybean appreciated getting into a lit trailer instead of the dark trailer of the last week. We drove down the road and arrived just on time. We brought a breakfast taco, and hoped our offering cancelled out our lateness. One day we will be on time.
As I got Jellybean off the trailer and tacked her up, I saw the kite fill with air and lift off. Jellybean was snorting and checking everything out. I tied her to the trailer (on the opposite side as Bear) and she started screaming for Gracie (spoiler alert: she wasn’t on this outing). I put the saddle on (whew, it fits now. It didn’t fit last time I tried to ride her in a dressage lesson… a year ago.) and then the bridle and walked her around the trailer. She was still looking at everything. I started getting her girthed up and she just kept spinning around me. Maggie asked me if I wanted help holding her. I declined and continued playing the spin around game. Sarah asked if I wanted a lunge line. I also declined and mounted up.
We walked a lap and then immediately started trotting around. There was this terrifying rope thing swinging in the wind across the field (hammock) and then there were flowers in front of a large log stack. Scary life.
Anyway, this doesn’t end with me getting bucked off and falling in the dirt. Jellybean calmed down and we got to work in the arena. We worked on trotting in a nice rhythm and just a little bit of inside leg to outside rein in the trot. Then Sarah had us work on the turn on the forehand. Jellybean did two steps immediately, and then the trick was to get her to stop anticipating the movement. Hmm.
We switched sides back and forth asking for the turn on the forehand and Jellybean started to get frustrated so we did some more trot and worked on a figure 8. Then we came back to the work on the turn on the forehand. Sarah explained to me that we want to teach Jellybean that she can more her face and neck without moving her body. We worked on that at the walk a bit. Walking straight while turning the head from side to side. We also increased the amount of bend we were asking for in the turn on the forehand. Jellybean was trying really hard at the turn on the forehand and she was trying to wait for a cue instead of guessing.
After a little break, we worked on some cantering. We cantered two 20m circles at the end of the arena and then continued down the long side trying to maintain rhythm and balance. Jellybean was very balanced at the canter, and Sarah seemed pleased with her. Circle right Jellybean even stretched down to find the bit and get a little help with some balance. Sarah pointed out that this was really good, and that one of the nice things about baby horses is that you can teach them the aids are for helping, not hurting.
We were finished after the canter and we walked the horses out and chatted a bit more. I was pleased with Jellybean’s brain power. We made it through the kite moments without any actual drama and then we figured out how to turn our head without our body a couple of times. And she is looking to the bit for support. This was a really positive ride, and definitely helps me continue to be excited about our progress.
Spoiler alert: I’m pretty displeased with my position over basically everything, but in the spirit of documenting Jellybean, the good the bad and the ugly are all part of the story.
Friday we made it down to Pine Hill for some cross country schooling. Jellybean loaded right up on the trailer with the other ponies attending. She only pawed on the trailer until we headed off.
Once we arrived, the fun started. Jellybean was very concerned about the strange trees. Bellville features pine trees, and Jellybean seemed concerned that she could see through them. Not as many oaks down here. We tied to the trailer and then left the ponies to sign in. Jellybean was more settled with Quest and Cowboy by her side. She kept flipping from side to side and looking.
We tacked up and I was pleased to notice that Jellybean has grown into Knots’ jumping boots! Some people fit tack and equipment at home, but other people show up late. Sigh. We walked around while everyone else got tacked up and then we mounted. Jellybean didn’t really trot off, but she did jig all the way down the hill, mostly straight, but sometimes sideways.
This really amused me, since I’m choosing to take it as proof of her thoroughbred blood. When we got to the bottom of the hill we spooked at a person standing behind those fuzzy trees again. This was still amusing, because it was so out of character. Hmm. We trotted around and warmed up a little bit, still staring at everything. I got distracted coaching some of the students and Jellybean mostly stood there.
As everyone went over the log, we headed over to the start box and started rolling. Lots of coaching (Maggie was distracted at this point, she is having a bad run with stirrup leathers). I did take Jellybean over a couple of times, and I wasn’t very impressed with myself. I need to shorten my stirrups! It seems like my brain should have registered that after riding the weekend before. Especially because Jellybean is determined not to hit the jump with her hind end.
I also can’t explain what is going on with my hands. She was being really good though, she stopped being so excitable as we got started. She never really cares about what the other horses are doing, and so she was just going along.
The next jump was the brush, which she went right over, except when she decided to put her foot down in the jump (?). Again, shorter stirrups. I’m kicking myself. The next time was better for Jellybean:
Back in the woods lives the steep hill with a log on top. I decided to walk Jellybean over it, but forgot it was a BN log. Luckily it was a short log, and we managed to walk up and down the hill without drama. I don’t know that she has ever experienced such a steep hill, living in the land of flat.
Anyways, after that little bit, we spent the rest of the time helping the other riders and hanging out. We did play in the water at the end of the outing.
One more log to jump over after the water and we were done. No major dramas, just crappy rider position. Jellybean did a great job!