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

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shot Down

My knee is *knock on wood* all better! The past few rides with Jet have been AMAZING. Something has clicked between us. I have been able to feel a difference in his movement. His hind end is finally engaged and going in the right direction. I can feel him coming up into my hands and he has a bigger, more suspenseful stride. His canter has also become 10 times better lately! I have been doing lots and lots of transitions and changes of directions, circles, serpentines etc. and all of the different things seem to make him become more responsive and lighter in the bridle. I'll have to get a video to show you guys.

Yesterday, we gave him a 6-way shot. Its cheaper for us to order it online and give it ourselves. Jet has always had reactions to shots. It doesn't matter if we give it or if the vet does, he always swells up like a balloon. Today I took a look at his neck where I gave him the shot and it was nice and puffy :( Poor boy...gave him some bute and hopefully the swelling will go down soon.

As soon as we start to do well, we always have an obstacle in our path that slows us down No worries though, its just a small bump in the road. Two weeks from today we will be sweeping up at our first show!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Something New

Since my knee has been bothering me on and off, I decided to try something new (to me) but very familiar to Jet. It is something I have always wanted to do with him. Want to take a guess at what we did?

Here are some hints: he was originally bred and trained for this. His first career required him to do this task and while doing it, he won three times. Some horses pace, some horses trot. If you haven't guessed it by now, you never will.

I finally got to drive him! I wasn't the only one who was excited to be hooking a jog cart up to him. His ears perked right up and he was happy the entire time I was driving him. I didn't drive for long but we got in some nice stretches of trot. He was calm the entire time and listened to every aid I used. He wasn't spooky and he didn't care that we were leaving his friends to go for a drive (when riding and leaving the "herd" he tends to be a bit of a brat). Ofcourse, I have pictures.

*I know we are on cement. There was no other safe place to trot. We were not on it for long and he was warmed up and cooled out properly.

Click to enlarge, click read more to see more pics!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dear Horses, I Do NOT Like the Taste of Dirt

My knee FINALLY stopped bothering me when I was riding and guess what happens? I fall off...again.

Before this little streak that I now have going, my last fall was nearly two years ago. Now it seems like I fall off all of the time but strangely enough, I don't mind. It just gives me things to work on. The fact that I always get back up, without fear, and try again makes me proud and gives me inner strength. If at first you don't succeed, try try again.

As some of you know, I am part of my school's equestrian drill team. Today we had open tryouts and the current team decided to work the other horses after tryouts. It seemed like just another normal day.

I have been working with this particular mare to help break some habits and get her less tense under saddle. She is a little 8 year old 14/14.2hh chestnut pony mare who we shall call "S." She has bucked off several intermediate riders in the past few months and the school instructor is hesitant to put anyone on her at this point. I'm always up for a challenge and the instructor knows I can hold my own with most horses.

Lately, S has been AWESOME! I have her going consistently well walk, trot, jog. She has finally accepted pressure on the bit without tossing her hand. She has also begun to understand leg pressure. Before, she would just bulge through what ever leg pressure I applied and if she gets too annoyed, she bucks. She doesn't care if you kick with all of your strength; if she doesn't want to do something, she will do everything she can to get out of it. Oh, did I mention she kicks other horses if they get to close? This mare has learned every trick in the book to get her riders off. Her past owners were scared of her and she learned that if she got them off, she didn't have to work. Little does S know, I always get back on after I fall.

I have been working on her canter the past few rides. The canter is when she pulls 99% of her stunts. Usually, she just bucks or crow hops but today, it was her goal to get me on the ground. She did not want to work. It took three people to hold her still enough for me to even get on. She was rearing and jigging but I finally got my little bum in the saddle.

After she was warmed up (her warm up was amazing by the way, forward, engaging trot and she even offered to take the bit a few times!) I asked her to canter. I got her usual "I don't want to canter - buck buck kick kick" routine but I got her going a few times around the ring at a nice, balanced canter. She was swishing her tail and I knew she was thinking of something. But after she got into the canter, she was fine.

I walked her around a bit and switched directions. Apparently, I gave her enough time to let her think of a way she has an excuse to get me off. She pulled the same stunts when picking it up and even threw in a nice grunt and tail swish. I had her going maybe half way around the ring before I had to come off of the rail to pass another horse. S will deliberately go after another horse to kick them when the opportunity arises so I made sure to cut in a lot. However, S believe that if she bulged far enough out, she would be able to reach her destination. after politely asking her to straighten out and go back on the rail without success, I gave her a nice boot with my outside leg to remind her that I actually meant that she had to stop bulging towards other horses. Needless to say, S did not like my reminder.

After popping a few bucks, I squeezed her on. She was getting annoyed that I wasn't already off. So what does she do? Out of nowhere, she goes from giraffe mode to having her head in between her front legs, bucking, then crow hopping, then dead stopping. Without having anything in front of me to put my hand on to stop me, I went straight over her head. I do admit that I was leaning forward to try to gather my reins and that also helped me get to the ground. What did I land on? My screwed up knee. Awesome.

As I was plummeting to the earth, I saw her hooves coming at me in the corner of my eye. My heart dropped. I knew she was rearing and that she was right above me. I covered my face and shut my eyes. A few seconds later, I opened them and was relieved to see S walking to the side of me. Its school procedure to stay right were you fall and wait for the nurse to come and check you out before remounting but I'm a rebel and got up and got back on before anyone could come over to me and see if I was ok.

I quietly dropped some F-bombs to myself because I could feel the pain in my knee. Obviously, I sucked it up and told the instructor that I was fine and that there was no need for the nurse. She wasn't too happy with me but she was glad to see that I was physically and mentally able to get back on after falling off. Within a few minutes, I was cantering her around the arena again. She finally gave in and behaved so I got off and called it a day.

99% of the time, I take complete responsibility for any accident or fall. This time, I partially blame the horse's past owners for installing bad habits into this poor little mare. She thinks that if she gets you off, she gets out of work. Hopefully I won't fall off again but if I do, its a good lesson for this mare.

The most painful part of the whole ordeal was walking away. Literally. Each step felt like my knee was being hit by a sledge-hammer that was being swung by the world's strongest man. I got home, iced it, and took some Advil. Oh, guess what I have tomorrow in school? Gym. And guess what we are playing? Soccer and kickball. It looks like my poor knee will take longer to heal than I thought.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Leap" of Faith

Today, for the first time since I fell almost two weeks ago, Jet and I jumped. I set up four jumps in my little arena of varying heights. Since I am not wealthy, I used common backyard items as jumps and standards.

For example, one jump had big sticks from the woods as poles and groundlines and two saw horses as standards. This jump was a 2'ish crossrail placed on a diagnol so we could practice switching leads over a jump (which is a new thing that we need to practice for upcoming shows.) Jet did awesome! He listened to me and my body as we were approaching and landing the jump so he would land on whatever lead I felt like putting him on.

The next jump had a toy bin as wings and a long 2'6" wide piece of plywood in the middle. I slanted the plywood up against the bins so the jump had both height and width. It ended up being about 2'3". Jet seems to like more solid jumps compared to show jumping style fences. I think since it is solid, it is easier for him to see it and find a distance up to them. He went over this without hesitation.

Out of the bunch, the next setup was probably the most "normal." I had two big blue barrels as standards and then regular wooden poles. I set it up as a verticle with one pole halfway up and halfway down to give it some sort of a filler, the top pole, and then the groundlines. This fence was probably 2'4/2'5"ish. He went over this from both the trot and canter. He did buldge right when we were going to the left but he still went over it.

The last, and biggest, fence was the largest fence we have jumped as a team. I had a traffic cone as one standard and the mounting block with a smaller cone as the other standard. I used regular wooden poles as the top rail and the half up half down filler and then big sticks as the ground lines. As I set it up, I thought the jump was only about 2'6/2'7"ish but went I went back and measured it, it was 2'10"! He went over without hesitation at the canter going to the right (his bad way ironically) but he kept running out when canterred it to the left. I finally got him over it to the left at a trot and cantered it once more to the right and then called it a day.

I know my stirrups are waaaay to long, I'm too far out of the saddle, and I have broken wrists, but look at how well Jet handled it! And check out my new saddle ;) (matching bridle and stirrup leathers are coming soon!)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

New Saddle and a Lucky Fall

After spending what seems like endless months searching for a saddle that not only fit and pleases my finicky horse, but also fits my extremely long femur, the search has finally brought me to this saddle:

Say hello to my new Collegiate Convertible Diploma (with a long flap ;)). After sitting in many saddles, such as HDRs; Cicruits; Marcel Toulouses; even a few Pessoas and Bates, I fell in love with this saddle. The flap length works well for me when I do anything and everything from flat work to jumping, the seat isn't hard like a rock, the leather is a much nicer quality than some of the others I've sat in, it fits Jet like a custom saddle, and the seat has the perfect depth and twist to please my personnal preferences. I just LOVE this saddle.

The first time I rode in it, I had a bit of a  mishap. I was putting it through my test run (w/t/c, half seat, sitting trot, how it felt with no stirrups, jumping, etc) and Jet decided that it would be more fun to see what I look like going over a fence while he stayed on the other side and watched.

He had been acting a bit funny that day. It might have been the weather, or something caught his eye, I have no idea. I was definitely jacked up and ready to go. I knew that he felt ok in the saddle because when we tried the last saddle on him, he was jacked up but instead he wouldn't move. All he did was buck in place and pin his ears. He does this with any saddle he isn't 100% happy in. But he was moving around just fine with the Collegiate.

My Aunt (my instructor) set up a large crossrail so I could start to test jump in the new saddle. He pulled some of his usual "I haven't jumped in a while so I'm gonna test you before I go over it" stunts which include buldging out, running out, going fast, supermaning, or going nice and forward to the jump, then just trotting over it like it's a groundpole. This day, he added a new one to the list. For the first time, he actually straight out refused with a dirty stop. The few times before we went over before he stopped, he was flying through and supermaning. After I reminded him that he does have to listen to my aids, I finally got him going nice and slow and steady to the jump and then BAM, he stopped. I would have been fine if he didn't proceed to tuck his head between his front legs and fly backwards. I went over his head, knocked over the jump and landed on my knee. Jet just stood still with the "OH SHIT! I didn't mean to do that! I'm so sorry!" face on. From the ground, it looked like he was about to come jump the pile of poles where the jump used to be and were I was but thankfully, he didn't. I'm just glad I didn't land on my head again like I have the past three times I've fallen off. I'd consider that a lucky break!

When I stood up to go fetch my refusing horse, I could already tell my knee just wasn't right. When I got back in that saddle and started riding, I was in serious pain. But, I kept riding and working with Jet until we finally worked everything out and he was jumping it like a pro. As soon as I put him away, I checked on my knee. It was already burising and swollen.

I took some Advil and decided to suck it up. Bad idea. Two days after the fall, I was in a dodgeball tournament at school (it was a group of my friends from my major - Large Animals - so we called ourselves the Moo Croo). We won the costume contest for the tournament! We all dressed up like cows. In our first and only match, I managed to get pegged in the knee and fall and twist it. We were the only all-girl team so needless to say, we didn't win our match, even though it technically should have been a tie! I went home that night with an extremely sore knee.

Now, more than a week after the fall, my knee is just now starting to feel better. I can ride without it hurting but if I over work it or hit it on something, I'll be close to tears. It gets better and better each day so hopefully I'll be 100% soon.