Broken Reins

We had beautiful weather in Virginia this past weekend. It is basically spring, which means all the plants are preparing for spring, and they will probably die when it goes back to freezing weathering. Only the strong shall survive.

D’Arcy and I took advantage of the nice weather by going for a long trail ride at Manassas Battlefield. I think we rode about 8 miles, mixing up walking, trotting, and cantering with an occasional cross country jump we found. The horses got a little sweaty, but weren’t overwhelmed. I’m feeling good about getting them in shape.

stream crossing
We even went through several streams with no fuss!

However, at one point we were cantering through a field and Berry got a bit strong. I gave her some strong half halts, and then whoopsie, my reins broke (The metal part need the bit fell out). I was galloping through a field with only one rein. I starting to make a large circle, afraid of knocking her off balance, but shockingly, I managed not to panic and thought about stopping her with my body. And she stopped. Truly a marvel to behold: extremely slow and lazy thoroughbred stops when asked.

General question to everyone – how many reins have you broken in your lifetime of riding? This is the second set of reins I’ve broken. Dave thinks this is two too many, and no one should be breaking so many reins.

fixing reins
D’Arcy doing her best to fix/make useable the reins, and Berry loving being in her lap.

I will start using those saddle pads that have pockets to carry stuff, and I’ll bring rope with me next time, just in case. Of course, I’m sure once I start carrying it, I’ll never need it. That is probably for the best though.

Franken-reins
Franken-reins

The end result was I had very, very short reins. My leather has thick stiffness by the bit, so the best way to do it was to switch it so the thick part was by the pommel. I was basically neck reining with one abnormally short rein.

Obviously this didn’t stop us from continuing to trot, but D’Arcy kept Vintage next to me in case I needed a stopper. This highly technical technique can be summed up by  ramming one horse into the other horse. Luckily the horses are basically best friends, so what actually happened was, once Berry realized I wanted to keep pace with Vintage, she literally just did that.

I found no ticks after this ride, and therefore, it has redeemed itself since my last visit when I got at least 100 deer ticks on me, and that is not an exaggeration. I was treated for Lyme just in case. But, now that I don’t have ticks or Lyme, I would definitely recommend Manassas Battlefield to anyone in the area. I had so much fun, and there’s still like 12 more miles to explore.

There’s still warm weather in the forecast, so hopefully the good riding will keep coming!

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Berry is Out of Shape

You know, just to state the obvious…but so am I, so at least we are a matching pair of out of shape individuals. Our shape is more round, ball-like, and uncoordinated.

Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20170205143750

I had my first lesson of the year last weekend. Berry was blowing pretty easily, which meant our lesson included lots walking breaks. We learning nothing new, and although it was intended to be a refresher, Berry didn’t actually need refreshing. She remembered how to do everything she could do before, including exerting no effort into jumping, and basically just making a slightly bigger canter stride.

berry
Her eyes are closed here. Awwwww…

Unfortunately it felt like a waste of money, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s wasting money. Berry needs to be able to get through a 1 hour lesson without needing stop breaks. Lacking that, she definitely needs to be able to canter around a ring for mere minutes without her sides heaving.

It was a nice ride, though. It was great to see my trainer again, and it was great to just ride in general. I need riding for my mental well being. All horse people know this – We all turn into different people when we don’t regularly ride.

poffins
Poffins kindly demonstrating how akward and uncomfortable I feel when I’m not riding.

Once I made an effort to start riding, suddenly it seemed like I can fit riding into my schedule. It helps that the days are getting longer, but it riding regularly seems doable again. I sometimes lose a little heart when I think about how I have three of them to ride…and wonder why I thought it was a good idea to get three of them**…but my positivity means I will ignore that, and hope for the best.

**When we were kids, didn’t we always wish we had a full stable of horses to fit our discipline whim? HA! What a silly idea that is! (Sidenote – stop collecting horses…just don’t do it. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. Just keep thinking of the vaccination bills, my absolute, very least favorite thing to spend money on.)

But...the longing for just one more...
But…the longing for just one more…a lovely jumper foal…Vintage is getting old, WHAT WILL I RIDE WHEN SHE’S GONE?! (Besides, you know, the other ones…)

So, I have a plan, and although I wish I could reveal some devious, brilliant plan, it’s basically just that I’m going to ride more and not take another lesson until Berry is in shape.

Step 1: Just ride. Ride around the neighborhood, ride through your next door neighbor’s vacant lot he’s trying to sell, but he doesn’t live around here anymore, he’ll never notice a thing. Trailer to some trails, use vague promises friends once said about going riding to guilt them into being my trail buddy. YOU SAID IT, YOU CAN’T UN-SAY IT.

Step whatever-number: Drag my arena next time it rains so I can school in the arena again. In case you didn’t know, if stone dust arenas are rained on and not dragged within 2-3 days, they become as hard as cement. They require soooooo much dragging. I look forward to the day when I can get sand …. and a million other amenities, so I’m not really holding my breath. I just try to drag the arena as much as possible. It likes it, I can tell, except for those days when it tries to choke me out with clouds of dust. Then I am holding my breath.

But, despite what I said in the previous paragraph, I actually did not keep up with dragging my arena this winter – it is currently a block of cement. Luckily, this can be fixed, but I have to wait until it rains again. The rain will make it soft enough to drag. If I tried to drag it without rain, it would be like dragging a paved parking lot. The drag would do nothing. It cannot penetrate the solid block of rock.

Step 3: Obviously profit. Although I would then go to a lesson…so not really profit. More like deficit.

This makes me laugh.
Maybe stop bouncing so much next time. I won’t even charge myself for that bit of advice. 

I’m already looking forward to a weekend of riding. What I need to do is get that smug little pony in the rotation. He hasn’t even been ridden yet this year, but he did play tag with me in the pasture, so that was cute enough to get him off the hook. It is annoying that I’m always “it,” I feel like it would be much more fair if he took a turn…

Unless this is the start of him running away from me when I actually want to catch him… In which case, now I’m just annoyed. Damn that wily, conniving pony.

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Winter Ride #1

winter trail ride

I decided to get my brain in gear and get out and ride. The pull was too strong. I keep seeing ads for shows or events I want to do, and I think to myself, wow, if my horses were in shape, I could go do that. So even though I won’t be able to do the event in two weeks, I could still maybe do an event in 4 weeks. The days will be getting longer, and warmer, and I will definitely feel more motivated when that happens, but there’s no reason I shouldn’t start now.

So, with that burst of motivation pushing me forward, I hooked up my trailer and took Vintage and Berry out to meet D’Arcy for a ride.

When I first arrived, it was cold. Cold, as in, somewhere in the 30’s. I can’t remember the last time I rode below 40 degrees, so it felt cold. There was a bit of wind, and that made it uncomfortable. My first thoughts were how much I was regretting this excursion already… but when I was a teenager, I rode in all sorts of weather, and I would always tell myself, “the temperature doesn’t matter! I won’t even feel it once I’m riding!” This is mostly true, and also, I was wearing my giant hunter princess coat, which kept me super warm.

Part of the reason to ride in the cold is just for the chance to wear this coat. It doesn't get nearly enough use.
Part of the reason to ride in the cold is just for the chance to wear this coat. It doesn’t get nearly enough use.

It isn’t quite spread out enough in that shot, but when it lays flat, it rests on Berry’s back like a dress. I feel like a centaur when I wear it… a centaur that also has a horse head. And my legs are so super warm! It’s amazing.

This was the first ride of 2017, and the first time the horses have been ridden in months. We took it easy with them, and just did some w/t/c, and a few of the jumps. Vintage found the barrel jump especially appalling.

barrel jump
The stages of getting Vintage over the barrel.

My main take aways from this ride – Vintage needs to be exposed to more types of jumps, as she also reacted to a gate jump, and I need to get my fitness back. My leg was very loose.

Berry doesn’t care about barrels. She had zero reaction to it, and just went right over it. However, she’s jumping very flat, and really just lifting up her legs more than jumping. She’s not fit though, so I’m going to make that excuse for her. But overall, she was super calm and obedient about everything. With the exception of her lack of fitness, it was as though she hadn’t been out of work at all. I was very pleased with her. She even got some normal distances!

I made this video to make it easier to track our progress this year. It’ll be fun to see how Vintage and Berry (and I) are all doing after getting into shape, and getting back into lessons.

After we rode in the ring for a bit, we went on the trails. There were lots of hills to build up those muscles, and also small mud streams for Berry to get upset about.

What is this horror!?
What is this horror!?

Even though it was cold, I hardly felt it thanks to my amazing jacket. It definitely belongs in the top ten of best jackets I’ve ever purchased! Everyone needs one of these jackets. I’m not even a jacket salesman, I just really likes this jacket.

I survived one day of riding in the cold – now I just need to keep it up! After a few more exercise sessions, I think I’ll be ready to take a lesson and have enough fitness to not feel like I’m wasting my money. I really do need those lessons to keep me moving forward with my riding skills and to give me some focus – it’ll be a huge motivator to take one.

We are serious about our riding.
We are serious about our riding.
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Hunter Pace

riding in the woods

If you’re wondering why I put up posts at a snail’s pace, it’s because I have a new job. It’s a pretty awesome job, but I end up having very little free time. When I get home, I either want to fall asleep, or just become comatose.

Dave, understanding my exhaustion, has been offering to take care of the horses at night. I thought that was pretty great until he said his true purpose: I don’t post enough, and with him taking care of the horses, I should spend the time making a post. I guess that’s still great, it just means I have to use my brain (slightly) instead of going into hibernation mode. I do have some catching up to do, let’s see how fast I can get this all out.

First, we will backtrack into October. I did a hunter pace with D’Arcy. She rode Vintage, and I rode Berry.

Berry sometimes leans on Vintage for emotional support.
Berry sometimes leans on Vintage for emotional support.

My horses have not been ridden regularly in a few weeks, so I was anticipating a slow pace. When we first got there, Vintage was her normal self, but Berry decided the grass field filled with trucks and trailers was the most exciting thing she had ever seen in her life. I mounted up as quickly as I could, and while I was waiting for D’Arcy (Vintage was doing the mounting dance where she takes two steps up, and then when asked to back, goes back 5 steps) Berry actually started doing little rears and prancing. The little snot!

But the good thing about Berry is that she really doesn’t have that much juice. She was a bit hyper while we walked down, but after warming up and waiting to go, she ran out of batteries. Then she was mostly interested in eyeing up her competition (likely wondering if they could be friends), and rubbing her entire head on Vintage’s body. Surprisingly, Vintage did not seem to mind this, although D’Arcy didn’t appreciate a horse head smashing into her leg every three minutes or so.

The reason I have been waiting to post this is because I really wanted to post one of the official photographer photos. At the very start of the race, there was a small split rail fence. I think it was around 2’3″. This was the shot the photographer was going for. I wasn’t going to do the jump because I hadn’t jumped Berry in forever, and if there’s one thing I am, it’s cowardly. But D’Arcy is not, so she was going to do it.

When they called for us to go, D’Arcy aimed for it, and as she approached, Berry spooked at a truck, because that’s what Berry does. Vintage refused the jump. D’Arcy immediately got her going at it again, and Vintage decided it worked so well the first time, she was going to do it again. She refused. This time she rightfully got a spanking, and D’Arcy went at it again.

That time, she took a huuuuge leap over it. The crowd nearby gave an “Oooooo!” It was magical. And that is the picture we are hoping the photographer got. Who knows if it will surface though…

But, we continued on. The route was about 5 miles, and we probably weren’t as fast as we could have been. Like I said, out of shape horses. But we had some good galloping streaks in.

hayfield
This was a good field for speed.

There were a bunch of jumps that looked like they would have been fun, but again, coward here. I hate that I said this last year too, but maybe next year I will jump them…maybe…

We treked through onward through the woods, where we saw the group behind us was catching up. That encouraged our forward motion.

One of us anyway...the other still moved at a leisurely pace.
One of us anyway…the other still moved at a leisurely pace.

In all seriousness though, despite Berry being the world’s slowest thoroughbred, she is out slowed by Vintage at a walk. Vintage can beat her at a gallop, but Berry wins the walking race. Just stick to your strong gait, Berry.

Turns out the team that was passing us was a jumping team, so they gained a lead. But when one of their horses wouldn’t go over a stone wall we gained a small lead, for about a minute. Then they got over the jump and breezed by our couch potato animals. Somehow, I don’t think Berry and Vintage cared. They don’t have the competitive edge.

We eventually ambled our way to the finish line, and decided we really wanted a good finish photo, so we took up a gallop. The world’s slowest thoroughbred was quickly left behind, so likely our finish photo will actually be two finish photos. Maybe they can be photoshopped together so we look like a team.

Hopefully, I will have the energy to get this blog up to date, and also be able to catch up on you guy’s blogs!

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The Hill Work

hill work conditioning

This warm weather has been incredible, and inspired me to make the beautiful image above of trotting through a glorious meadow (just squint and use your imagination). Finally, I can emerge from my hovel, and get back to riding. Except that my poor Berry, who has been mostly idle for the duration of winter, is very out of shape. She has a lot of bulk fat that should be muscle.

thoroughbred face
Berry is not amused by these comments on her body.

As part of my “I really want to advance this year” agenda, I’m going to make conditioning part of my rides. It’s not fair to expect her to do full jumping lessons or spend a full day at a show without taking the time to build up her fitness. The picture on my “About me” to the right certainly indicates how tired she gets from being at a show. Although (small brag), she did do awesome at our last lesson, with another grid set up, and a course with 2’6″ jumps, including the one in the picture above. She’s doing super awesome, and I’m keeping up with her. It’s feeling pretty good. But I digress.

Now that my property is no longer a mudslide, I’m going to incorporate the hill into our work twice a week. I’ve taken time after one ride this week to leave the arena, and go up and down the hill for about 10 minutes. I’m going to work up to more, but the main problem with this is that it is insanely boring to both Berry and I to walk/trot in a continual loop.

To make the exercise more worthwhile, I held two-point going up the hill, and leaning back two-point on the way down. I had Berry on a long rein, and I could feel her using herself and really pushing from her hind.

I would like to leave my property, but as far as I know I can’t get to the neighborhood trails anymore, and also Vintage freaks out when Berry leaves her. It’s really quite annoying. After 10 minutes of back and forth on the hill though, Vintage did seem to accept that we weren’t leaving, and just stared at us intensely.

horse up close

I would like to figure out if the trails near me are open again, but I feel like they aren’t. Until Pony gets back, it would be difficult to leave the property without Vintage going crazy, anyway. I’ll keep plugging away on my hill, but I really wish there was a place nearby where I could just trot up and down hills for miles, just like in my glorious image. That would be heaven. I guess I will have to accept that to find such a spot, I will need to trailer to it.

Or, I have some hilly property that is currently forest… I could create a loop through it, and then ride that loop… That may be the solution. Then it wouldn’t be so boring, and I could work my way up to 45 minutes of working on the hill. That would keep her in good shape! I’m getting excited thinking about it. If only it would just appear, instead of me having to go cut a trail down.

Our next show is this coming up weekend, and I am pretty excited! With being able to ride more, advancing in our jumping, and Berry being in better shape (although it’ll take longer for her fitness to dramatically improve), I’m feeling pretty good about showing.

riding glove engraved braclet
Soon to be show name of my baby Berry.

I’m going to be working her on my boring hill again before then, and hopefully the (minor) hill work really will have a great impact. I can definitely feel her pushing power going up the hill, and I hope that will translate well to her jumping!

Don’t forget to “Like” my facebook page if you want to win some Aztec Diamond apparel. The winner will be announced on Friday!

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