From racing to riding... the training diary of an off the track Standardbred

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Plans for 2012

I guess you could say I have been thinking about my future a lot lately. Next year, I will be a senior in high school so right now is the perfect time to start looking at colleges. There are so many to choose from! I don't even know what career path I want to follow so how can I pick a college? As of right now(and for the past two years), I am at the top of my class. If I stay here, I will have to give a speech at graduation next year. I'm completely fine with giving speeches and presentation in front of people, but I absolutely suck at writing them. What am I going to do?!

All of this thinking made me start to realize that I only have a short year and a half left before I go off to college...and I'm not sure if I will be able to take Jet with me. I am going to do everything I can to either stay close to home or to find a place near the college of my choice where I can board him for a reasonable fee. That being said, I only have one full show/riding season left before I leave. So here is what I plan on doing with it:

  1. Go to the National Standardbred Show in New Jersery on September 9th. I want to compete in walk trot AND walk trot canter classes and well as jumping and maybe even western classes.
  2. Show w/t/c with Jet at local shows instead of w/t. I have never competed a full show season w/t/c. I'm capable of doing it, but I also end up riding green horses or Standardbreds who are learning to trot instead of pace, never mind even thinking about cantering! This should be exciting, but I will admit..I'm a little nervous about how Jet will do cantering in a large ring with many other horses..
  3. Show in the hunters and jumpers. I have done groundpole jumpers with him in the past and crossrail hunter courses (click on the link to see the posts about that) but this year I would like to be competitive in the 2'-2'6" range. This means that we will have to get our lead changes down aswell.
  4. Go team penning!
  5. Try cowboy mounted shooting
  6. Go to Woodstock Fair 
  7. Drive Jet
  8. Show him western atleast once
  9. Do the Breed Demo at Hobby Horse Farm
  10. Go to Rehoboth Fair again!
  11. Go on the Apple Knoll Hunter Pace and at least one other hunter pace.
  12. Go to the beach!
  13. Be in a parade
  14. Jump a 3' fence for the first time with him ( I have jumped up to 3'3"-3'6"ish in the past on other horses)
  15. Ride with friends as much as I can
If I think of anything else, I will add it on here. Basically, I want to do as much as I can while I can do it. This year we are trying everything we can get our hands and hooves on. Hopefully, we'll get to do everything and more on this list.

As an update, me and Jet have been trail riding a lot since the clinic. The first trail ride I took him out on, he bucked at the canter NON-STOP. I was actually worried that there was something wrong. I just walked him after that.

The next day, I got on him and just walked for 40 min on the trails then did some ring work for 20 min. He has never given me such nice canters before! He was even somewhat balanced and slow going to the right! (his much worse direction)

I rode him again yesterday for about 45 minutes and we gave me another beauuuutiful canter. I don't know if he realigned himself with all that bucking or maybe if he just needed to get out and moving in a big field, but something clicked and hopefully we will continue to build on this canter and make it show worthy by April!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pics and Video From the Clinic

If you missed my last post about the first clinic Jet and I went to, read about it here before looking at the pictures.

That being said, enjoy looking at the progress Jet has made since last year!

More pics and videos below

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Our First Clinic

Today Jet and I went to a Cross Training Clinic with my friend Alli and her new pony Annie. The focus of the clinic was to "use dressage to improve your jumping and use your jumping to improve your dressage" but I found that the instructor taught the two separately and never really connected them. With that aside, I had a great time and got to try some new things!

We started with introducing ourselves and telling the instructor about our riding abilities and our horses' histories. When I mentioned that Jet was a Standardbred, she started to talk about how her friend owns and trains Standardbreds out in Michigan. I was relieved that she wasn't prejudice against the breed like so many people are. She even said that they are great horses but people don't give them a shot. Lets face it...right now, Warmbloods are in, more refined horses (like TBs and STBs) are out.

We then warmed up on the flat. She set two cones on opposite sides of the long side of the ring. She had us count the number of trotting strides between the two cones at a working trot. After we found the average of strides between the cones, she had us add some strides and take some out. The point was to collect when we were adding strides and extend when we were taking them away. It felt more like she was having us adjust our tempo between cones because all me and Alli did was slow down and speed up. The other horse in our group is a Level 6 jumper and had all of these moves mastered so we definitely looked sloppy compared to her.

Next, we moved it up to a canter...well..ermm...tranter. I warned her that our canter definitely needed work (especially our right lead) and boy was I right. The first thing she said was, "Oh...that was...interesting.." She had me try to work on it in a circle which I was fine with, but her reasoning didn't make any sense to me. She said that he is falling and and balancing off the circle and corners and that I needed to lift him up when I could. She said to work on long straight a-ways. I said that he is a lot better in a field where he can't anticipate turns or use the walls or rail to balance off of. I asked her how to "lift him up" and she started her response with "when you are on a long side.." Well how am I supposed to work on that if you are keeping me on a circle?! I could tell Jet was getting frustrated. He was trying but the area she gave us to work with was too small so I brought him down to a trot.

He was MUCH better going to the left. I could actually canter multiple times around the ring without him breaking and he was somewhat balanced. His canter was much faster than the other two horses' so as soon as I got a good (well good for us...) rhythm going and when he was just starting to use his hind end...I'd have to bring him back down to a trot because we caught up to someone. We couldn't cut across the ring and there was only one or two spots we could circle (but they would be TINY circles) so I decided just to bring him back down to a trot and start up again when the opportunity arose.

The fun stuff came next! We did a lot of grid work, which is something I have never been able to do before because our ring is way too small. I was interested to see how Jet would handle it. I had a feeling that he would see the first groundpole and try to jump that AND the cross rail (a stride away from it) at the same time. He surprised me by not only going over every element separately, but by doing really well and enjoying it! I was worried that since we haven't jumped much recently, he would get sour quickly or maybe he would pin his ears, refuse or run out...but he went over EVERYTHING, no questions asked, and he did it with his ears up the entire time!

We started with a cross rail with a take off pole a stride before and a landing pole a stride after. Next, we added another crossrail, and finally, we took out the original take off groundpole and replaced it with a vertical that was about 2'3"-ish in height. This meant that there was now a bounce in the grid. We have also never done a bounce. Yet again, my Super Standardbred shocked me and did it very well. By the end, he was taking off evenly with his hind feet (something that has been a problem for him from day 1) which meant he was using his hind end evenly, resulting in a more correct, better feeling jump. I was a proud mommy (:

Overall, I felt we accomplished a lot more in the jumping phase than the dressage phase. I would not go back to this instructor for regular lessons, but I would definitely go back to the facility to rent the indoor or go for shows. But for right now, I'll stick with lessons from my Aunt in my little backyard ring and one day, we will prove to the world that Standardbreds can do ANYTHING, and they can do it well.

*Pictures and videos to be posted tomorrow*

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Friends

We recently added two new animals to our family. Two lambs were taken home yesterday and Jet immediately wanted to be their best friend. I'll do a full update later but for now, enjoy these pictures!

I don't think he looks too bad for a Standardbred!

The black one is Reggie, the white one is Jack

Read more to see all of them!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fun with Friends

Happy pony ears
Tuesday was a day to have fun with friends. Once I got home from school, I loaded Jet onto the trailer and headed off to my friend Mary-Kate's house.

Mary-Kate also has a Standardbred (a mare named Katie) who I have talked about numerous times on this blog. Jet absolutely adores her! He always nickers when he sees her and puts up a fuss when she goes out of site (something I definitely need to work on).

Dad drove us there and went home to relax while we rode. Jet was fairly well behaved as I brushed him removed the caked in mud on his coat, picked his feet, then tacked him up. With a little more practice, I'd feel comfortable bringing him to a show all by myself.

Mary-Kate hopped on Katie and I got on Jet. We walked around for a while, walked up the street and back, then rode in her field. I love being able to ride in a larger area than my 85x80 little ring because Jet has the ability to really stretch and lengthen his stride. In my ring at home, he'll get to exactly were he needs to be balance and movement wise but then a corner immediately pops up and we lose it. In a field, we have a lot more room to work with and he can't use the fences, that would be in a normal ring, to balance off of.

 We did walk, trot, canter, and attempted some ground poles. Apparently, Jet has forgotten how to go over ground poles. He refused, ran out, and jumped them but he didn't really go over them like he is supposed to. That another thing to work on.

After that, we went for a trail ride and rode by the cranberry bogs and the multiple ponds and lakes that are by them. I took my camera and proved that it IS possible to take semi-decent pictures while riding a horse!

We then went back to the field were Mary-Kate took pictures of me riding. By this time, the sun was pretty much down so the pictures came out blurry as you can see. I cooled Jet down, took off his tack, and hopped back on with just a halter and lead rope. Mary-Kate ponied us around for a bit and then we called it a night. The two love birds went their separate ways but they will definitely see each other soon!

Oh, and a few days ago we also popped over some small fences to mix things up. I'll put pics of those too!

Click to see more pics!