Canter & Candor

Canter and Candor; an honest account of an amateur equestrian and her life with an OTTB


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Beginner Novice “Big Kids”

Because that title gives absolutely nothing away, right?

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gameface!

So this Sunday (yes, mother’s day… sorry mom!) N did a little outing to the Horse Park at Woodside. After the slightly problematic Fresno schooling, I was really hoping that minus the train and shooting range issues, we might be able to get a decent schooling done.

And boy oh boy, did baby horse deliver!

It started out a bit tetchy, as C was wild on the longe and when I got on, even more so. After some trotting and cantering around and some ‘discussions’, he seemed to have enough energy out to take a breath and grab a snack, as pictured* below.

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nom nom nom

When we approached the first fence after a couple of warmup intro logs, N was like, “Okay, introduce him to it!” and I gave her a look. And when she asked why, it was because the jump was huge. Okay, not huge, but not intro. Cue horse mom panic about whether Poopsie is prepared to jump BN or not, yadda yadda, but N knows us best and there wasn’t much intro stuff at Woodside anyway, so off we went, and it was our best schooling yet.

C brought his A-game. He wasn’t (too) spooky, had just the right amount of go, and with a little encouragement/leg was willing to do pretty much whatever. It was fantastic. And the more confident I got, the better I rode, so all over? Just incredible.

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The only big issues came at the ditches. Since my origins were in the hunters, I hadn’t done many, and while I think C may have with someone else, he’d only done one shallow ditch with me. The BN ditches might as well have been hiding horse-eating monsters and we had to follow behind other horses and even then he flung me miles out of the tack– note to self, next time, listen to your trainer when she tells you to invest in a neck strap, for the sake of your very patient baby horse.

After that, we had one last snafu at a hanging log coming out of a water. I think I’d lost some confidence at the ditches and I was kind of hoping he’d just cart me over it, conveniently forgetting he’s still a baby and I can’t “let Jesus take the reins.” So he refused, we popped over a couple of intro logs with me being more assertive as I’d been before, and then tried again. The next jump in the line was a coop and I could feel him sucking back as we approached it, but I was especially determined and with a little leg and a little luck we got over it.

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A trend you may notice in the pictures– I have a consistently shorter left rein, so poor C has to deal with that, too. The things he puts up with!

But overall, when I got off, aside from agonizing pain in my knees and butt… wow. There is no better feeling than successfully schooling ‘real’ XC on a horse I made (for the most part, anyway). When I bought C, we were still working on steering and go and stop. And now we can collect and jump and it feels like a real partnership, where we both have to hold up our end of the deal. I am so, so proud of my baby horse, and how far he’s come, and heck– I think I might be proud of me, too.

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no better feeling in the world!

Cheers to the upcoming season!

— M

* Pictures by Darren Nolan, (c) 2016

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The Core of My Problems

Hey guys. I’ve safely arrived across the pond and am currently traipsing around the Yorkshire dales in pouring rain. I assume C is doing well– no updates yet but I plan to harass the lovely folk riding him for them soon. With no access to pony, I’m spending some time reviewing videos and pictures from this past year.

So this is me (mid-Dec).

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Let’s talk about it.

I’m one of those people who, on the rare occasion I have video, I watch it a zillion times and freeze it at every point over the jump to see where my position is at. It’s not the best way to approach my faults, but I freely admit to being a nitpicker and this is how I cope with it in my riding. Once I’ve found a frame I don’t like, I analyse it and then go compare it to any other videos I can find– which I also freeze, screenshot, and compare.

When I first stumbled across this little gem, I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Once I did a little more research, I understood a little more why I felt so horrible about it, and also why it’s not all bad.

Good points:

  1. I gave him his head. It’s not a pretty release, but at least my hands aren’t tucked into my armpits! I’m not bopping him in the mouth, but there’s enough contact to re-organize after the jump.
  2. My heels are down. I struggle hard with this over bigger fences, so it’s good to see it’s still in place over smaller ones. This also means I probably haven’t slammed all my weight into his back.
  3. I am balanced in the stirrups. You know what they say– if you erase the horse from a photo, the rider should be in a position where they’re be balanced standing on the ground (and yes, I am crying laughing at this picture).
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#NAILEDIT

Bad points:

  1. I still bopped him in the back, right where the cantle of the saddle hit me. I think this is mainly because he jumped bigger than I expected, but is still problematic.
  2. My core has completely collapsed. This is my biggest issue with the snapshot, and I think my biggest overall. It’s why one of my primary resolutions is to improve my core strength. I need to be able to hold myself more efficiently.

Here are some shots of me and people in the same post-jump position. Intro, BN, Training, and Intermediate consecutively.

Compare the position of my midsection/abs to those of the competing riders’. My body has caved in– my torso and shoulders are straining forward for the release, and my hips have been flung back with the motion of the jump. As we can see, the set-back hips are pretty typical of a defensive eventing position. Which, overall, is good for me because I started out with a tendency to lean, which is a tendency I’m still working against. And I’m giving a decent enough release. So upper half and lower half? Decent! Workable! Better than okay on a green, athletic, huge-jumping C!

But that core? Oh, nuh-uh.

Guys, I see pilates in my future. And a lot of no stirrups work.

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C laying roses on my legs’ grave

— M


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Noodling it up on XC

After a very slow, stressful finals week, I was able to unwind by taking C on a jaunt to do a little cross-country.

Overall it was good fun! C absolutely loves jumping, even more when it’s not in an arena. He was thrilled to be out there, which translated to those boogery behaviors in amplified versions, especially at the beginning. He was a jigging, side-swinging, booty-bumping, side-kicking baby horse. A lot of it just felt like pent-up excitement, and the rest felt like the kind of behaviors he’s been exhibiting lately, which are just little opinionated tantrums.

Basically, T said that if he wasn’t going to do the jumps my way, he wouldn’t do them at all. So if he was impolite– kicking out when I asked for canter, jigging, trying to run off– it was endless circles in front of the jump until he decided it was more worth his while to behave.

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Putting the C in Cooperation

To get over them successfully, I really had to manhandle him; he’s used to dropping his head directly into my hands and making me hold him up. Obviously a lowered head isn’t the best idea for cross country (never mind the fact that he shouldn’t be hanging on my hands in the first place!) so I had to remind him, over and over, to please not do that.

He seemed to tire himself out with the misbehaving at the beginning and halfway through there was a lull of wonderful. Over the last three fences, though, I think he made up for getting tired by getting amped, and I headed back to micromanaging land.

But this experience made me so, so excited for when we’re able to do more of it! Because my origins lie in hunterland, I was nervous and a little intimidated to get out there again, especially knowing that he’s physically stronger now and he’s been throwing that weight around more than usual. It was reassuring to feel that his enthusiasm didn’t entirely obscure his listening skills, and that I could bring him back to me– even if it required a little more assertive riding.

cori nuuuu

“Nooooo– okay.”

In a year or two, I can’t wait to see where we’ll be.

Also supplying some obligatory adorable photos from today, where I made C dress up holiday style and turned him out with BBS’s 4-year-old OTTB, G.

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Pony cuddles!

— M

P.S. I am officially a college graduate now! 🙂


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Jumping Green Beans (Derby Post 2/2)

Approximately 30 minutes stood between calm dressage pony and what I hoped would be a little more of a spicy ride.

This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate C’s level head, because I totally do! It’s just that, at least for jumping, I like to have the energy and shape it rather than having to create it. Luckily, C tends to get pretty stoked about jumping.

A little background: we had a small practice lesson in jumping with T the day before the event, mainly because I’ve only jumped him once since I bought him (and not at all for 3 weeks prior). He was a little sore, a little poky, and oh good lord. We knocked nearly every rail on every jump we went over that morning. I was drowning in nightmare visions of the same thing happening at the show (a product of show nerves and disappointment).

Turns out, mister C really enjoys being away from home on nice grassy fields to jump.

Miserable horse, clearly

Miserable horse, clearly

Honestly, the whole thing is a bit of a blur. We had some steering trouble coming in to the first fence, as he popped through my right leg with his shoulder, and I sort of less-than-gracefully pony kicked him straight. After that, though? Smooth sailing. He was so excited, and kept locking on to any jump in the vicinity. That 2’3″ vertical for BN? Yes! That 3′ rolltop for Novice? Let’s do it!

Methinks this bodes well for the future.

It wasn’t gorgeous; I let him have fun with it and supported when I needed to, but mostly I wanted it to be a learning experience. So even if we were a little strung out and flat, we

A. went clear.

B. didn’t jump things we weren’t supposed to.

C. had fun!

And that’s all I wanted. But even better, after jumping for Intro had finished, BBS and I went to fetch our final scores and see if we placed…

Displaying his winnings

Displaying his winnings

THIRD!

Third.

We honestly, forreal, got 3rd at our first show. It was a lot of firsts– my first dressage test, his first official show, our first show together– so I was truly surprised (pleasantly!) that we placed at all! BBS got 4th with only .4 difference in our dressage so I think we both earned third.

That wrapped up the show! I gave C two days off to recover from the mental overload and hopped on tonight for a little flatwork. Guess who was a total booger.

Who, me?

Who, me? ft. my very average braiding skills

I’ll tame the beast tomorrow. For today, I just did a little walk/trot/canter, popped one crossrail in the hopes a little jumping would garner some cooperation and/or excitement about work, and immediately gave up. Midterms week is just too stressful without the additional stress of frisky ponies!

More to come on this week, I’m sure, if his high energy continues… Tomorrow I plan to integrate a crop into my riding toolkit. We’ll see how the princess reacts to a gentle reminder that his shoulder should not be rocketing into another galaxy!

— M