Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Agility 101 :)

Ok so my mini-vent of the day -- my Kobo isn't working right any more :(   And it's only a few months old.  Booooo.   When you plug it in it only sometimes charges (and a Kobo with no charge is less than useless) and it won't connect to my computer at all, making getting new books more of a pita.  Thoroughly not impressed :(  And the internet suggests *lots* of people are having these problems.  Till now, I loved it.  But now I might recommend one of the other e-reader options out there to those shopping.

Now in much happier news - Sasha did her first agility class this week :)  hahaha woohoo!  She has to pass grade two before she can do real agility but this was an "on leash" class (nobody ever said the leash had to actually be held!)  She was *SPUN* when we went in.  Fake grass and TONS of new dogs to play with (and they did all seem to be full-grown dogs; I'm pretty sure Sasha was the youngest).  At that point I had a *few* doubts.   First, and most important -- I couldn't really control her even ON leash.  Definitely not a promising start *sigh*.   Then, the ring was set up with three stations - jumps, tunnels, and planks.  Sash isn't a big fan of jumping and hates terrain changes.  So the only one I thought might go well was tunnels.  *sigh*   But at least the jumps were super low -- going over them would be not much different than stepping over the poles flat on the ground at the barn.

So they divided the class into three -- seemed to mostly be by size.  Sasha was with a couple boarder collie types who seemed to have been there before.   Our group started with the jumping -- she certainly did it well enough; didn't like the idea of one she'd actually have to jump over but everything little was done bravely if a little puzzled: "ummmm Laur?  It's really just as fast and much easier to go around..."  hahaha but she's a good puppy, so she humours me.
This is easy!
So then we moved on to the tunnels - which she loved!  She figured out that game after the first try: "I go through here, you give me treats."  And then would *run* to whatever tunnel was closest and bolt through it -- I was having to run just to get to the other end before she did -- even though they were curved tunnels!  hahaha so that part she's clearly got down :)  The only down side was when she tried to randomly pick her own tunnel, just as somebody else was setting up from the other side.  Oops - poor puppy form!
Best. Game. Ever.

The day finished off with planks -- Sasha's not a huge fan of weird footing OR heights, so I wasn't sure how this would work, but with a handy lead of hotdogs after the first few tentative steps she was happily trotting along from one end of the balance beam to the other, up and over the A-frame, and even navigating the teeny-tiny teeter-totter!  I was pretty thrilled :)
First time on the A-frame
And grade two starts next week :)

Preparing for show season!

Waylon Roberts came to Graduate Riding School again today for a show jumping clinic with a focus on courses.

Of course, for this to happen we needed a course.   Much debate and a Facebook discussion later I decided that despite the threatened cold weather, said course would be built outside :)   So the night before I spent a while designing a course that would include the requested challenges (a straight line, a bending line, and a one-stride) that could fit and be reasonably ridden in a 20x60 ring :)   It took a little more creativity than in a wider ring, but in the end it all worked out.  
Thanks to Amy for the diagram!

So all excited, the riders and spectators dressed warmly this am and were good to go!

The first group started bright and early at 8:30 this am.  These are the girls aiming for Entry level this year (2'9") -- a first year of eventing for all :)  
Rowan on Jack,
Chelsea on Lissy
and Emily on Bella.
And I was SO impressed with the riding I saw.   All three horses were hot, none had seen the fences before, and all three riders dealt with it brilliantly!   These girls have done a ton of work over the winter both on the flat and through gymnastics and did their hard work ever pay off.  They were able to control their horses on the flat and to the fences and look good going over :)   Sweet!

Their warm-up had a fairly long canter to help take some of the edge off, with a focus on moving the horses around -- circles, shallow loops and leg-yield on and off the track were all schooled.  Then they moved on to jumping with a focus on pace-control and straight lines.   The line that could ride anything from a 4 to a 7, was to be in 6 (7 for Bella).  And nothing else would work.  So for those on speedy horses or horses with a long stride - it was a bit of a compression challenge.  The broken and bending lines were to be bent or broken in exactly the right place -- no jumping on angles.  Corners are meant to be savoured, not cut out (you wouldn't skip desert would you!).   And in general they were to ride an accurate, controlled, rhythmical test.   The kind that makes unknowing spectators say "riding's easy" :)   And you know what?  All three girls pulled it off.   I was really proud of them.

Then it was my turn.  And alas I was not nearly as brilliant as my girls *g*   Ah well :)  hahaha Waylon caught my number one bad habit in about 20 seconds (reins too long.  Always.)   Athena was quite high but not stupid with it, so that was a good start.  Our flat work was a very different exercise involving spriling and very small circles with little-to-no inside rein in an attempt to get her to figure out how to carry herself (she's gotten a TON better than she used to be, but we definitely have a long way to go yet).

Ok, so far so good.  Time to jump.  Yeah - about that.  Athena was feeling just a *little* bit strong and pretty sure she should be making the decisions.  And her decision is generally "go as fast as you can and throw yourself over", which sadly does NOT lead to the "riding is easy" statement -- it tends to look more like "omg, they're going to die" *sigh*   We had several less-than-pretty discussions, which got even uglier following Waylon's admonition to stop helping her and let her hit the fence.  That whole thing about breaking eggs to make a cake?   Well yeah, it got pretty ugly.   Rails everywhere *but* in the cups.  Horse jumping like an inverted deer ("do NOT slip your reins".  Right. About that.)   We definitely jumped the mounting box and left the ring after one particularly horrific jump.  Sheesh (and yes I called that one the night before -- I'm not new here :)

But you know what?  In the end our broken eggs led to something yummy :)   She started to get her act together and we jumped a reasonable course.  Still not quite where I want it - the balanced canter was lacking -- she was coming back, but often all the way to trot, and she hauled me to one fence, but it was significantly better than any other round I'd done.  So ok.  Waylon asked if I wanted to do it again.  Ah yes, the fatal question.  Do I want to do it again?  When it's borderline that's a tricky one.  If it's brilliant you stop.  If it's horrid, you repeat.  But what about in the middle?  Do it again and do it wrong and you'll be there all day (and remember Athena doesn't get a vote, but if I choose wrong, she'll let me know it!)...  But there's still room for improvement.  And I don't often have eyes on the ground.  So we chatted for a bit to give her a chance to catch her breath and then tried again.   And finally.  After what seemed like a gazillion tries.  She got it all together.  AND I kept my reins short >;-P  hahaha it's the little things in life.  But yes, she was balanced, jumping off her hind end (I know - seems obvious eh?  Yeah, unless I show you the bad photos - and there were an unfortunate number of those!), and actually coming back to me.   Sweet.

Somebody else's turn :)

Our next group was the Pre-Entry group (fences 2'6"ish).  While not all of these riders intend to compete this summer they are all *very* dedicated to improving their riding and tend to ride in competitive lessons.  We had:
 Margaret on Louis, 
Kennedy on Jack (only her 2nd EVER time riding him),  
Mieke on Dixie, 
Brena on Bella, 
and Olivia on Nick.
Nerves were very high with some riders in this group as not one but TWO managed to fall off getting on!  Arguably a new record :)  
She has a good enough sense of humour to profile this, so I figured I could share here :)
Then to add to the drama, Dixie was super high!  Mieke was doing a good job dealing with her, but after the flat portion of the ride (which was very similar to the entry group's) it was deemed she was just too hot to participate, so Mieke and I snagged a corner of the ring to lunge her and let her burn off some steam while the rest of the group started work over poles in a figure 8 exercise.   There were 5 poles spread out around various tangent points of a figure 8 with 20m circles and they were to hit the centre of every one, in rhythm, with correct bend.   Since I was busy with Dixie at the time and didn't really get to watch, I'm just going to assume all the riders were perfect :)

Dixie did eventually settle and relax, so Mieke remounted demonstrating the definition of courage!  I had her ride on the lunge for a bit till we were reasonably certain Dixie brain would, in fact, stay between her ears and then Mieke was able to rejoin the group and take her shot at the figure 8.   Beautiful.

Then all this group got to jump -- working over the same course as the previous group, built up in the same manner.  And they rode brilliantly!   I have a reasonable grasp of the English language, but when I think back to where these riders were last spring and compare it to this clinic, I fail to find the words.   I can't believe the difference in both equitation and effectiveness that I saw evidence of today.  Have to say I was pretty thrilled at that.  Louis is not the easiest ride over anything complex as it is all very new to him and he gets quite excited, but Margaret piloted him around the course as though they'd been jumping together for years. Kennedy, who has ridden Jack all of *once* earlier that week, jumped around like a pro.  And Brena, who I'm not certain has ever jumped a course of this complexity before, rode Bella around as though it were easy :)   Olivia on Nick was first introduced to this type of course at Spring Training, but it's still very new to her and she got him going nice and forward and meeting all the distances.  And Mieke, despite the energetic start, was able to keep Dixie totally under control and put in some beautiful rounds!  I was so very impressed!

After this, everybody got to warm up and enjoy some pizza before the afternoon sessions.   One of Waylon's semi-regular students who lives in the area came over for a lesson on her gorgeous grey mare which was really nice to watch.   Then we were on to our last group of the day.  This was the intro group made up of riders who are either not interested in competition, too green for eventing but considering schooling shows, or riding green-bean horses.  There was Elizabeth who trailered in for the day, 
Amy N on her young horse Flora,
Amy P riding Louis, 
Aileen on Nick,
and Caelan riding Lissy.
All the riders did a great job navigating the same course as the more experienced groups.  Woohoo.  Flora proved to be a superstar, much to Amy's delight but nobody's surprise :)  Aileen did an excellent job energizing Nick to get him around the course!   Caelan unfortunately tested and proved the "jump first, jump alone" theory, but she kept trying and pulled it off in the end!   Often harder to do after things have gone wrong than doing right on the first try.  And Amy with Louis navigated everything well - even getting the tricky left lead on the first try!  For more details on her ride, see the post below :)

Overall a fantastic day!   Takeaways: pace, path, position... hmmmm where have I heard that before?  >;-P Riding's simple -- after all, just keep your rhythm, hold your line, and have decent eq when you get there and you'll be good to go!   Simple, but not easy :)

Guest Blogger - Amy Parker

My summary's only half written, but Amy got an excellent one up so I'm stealing it from her blog A Rider's Tales.  Thanks Amy!

Jumping Courses: Waylon Roberts Clinic April 22, 2012

Amy & Louis on courseGraduate Riding School (visit their Facebook page) hosted yet another fantastic jumping clinic with Waylon Roberts this past weekend. Once again, Waylon drew a crowd – this time despite the occasional snowflake on a cloudy, windy day outdoors (proving the GRS gang can’t be deterred). Almost everyone that rode in the previous clinic was back again and excited to learn more and to build on what was learned previously. Waylon had lots to say about both horses and riders who had improved since his last visit. The ring, barn and horses were prepped to perfection thanks to coach Lauren Cude, her parents and many helpers and riders. And despite the unexpected cold weather, the crowd stayed all day – wrapped in blankets, hot chocolates and coffees and cameras in hand.

The focus of this clinic was jumping courses: especially to prepare some riders for the upcoming show season but also to get some helpful input about riding courses and just to get some more miles on a young or excitable horse for other riders. Mission accomplished! Waylon emphasized straightness, good rhythm and an alert and actively-thinking rider – all solid basics but often hard to put together when jumping a series of fences instead of just one!

The show group rode excellently! Being the first group out, their horses were fresh and took some focused concentration to gain their attention and respect on the aids. For some horses like our dear Lissy and Bella, the goal was to package up their energy and get a round and steady canter rhythm rather than the running, eager rhythm the girls would rather have given their riders in the early brisk morning air. (Great preparation for show day!) With horses like Jack and later Nick, the goal was to get them moving out and forward, freely and ahead of the aids. Like Lauren always says, “Find a rhythm that you feel you can jump a 3′ fence out of!”  Waylon wanted to see Jack coming through and forwards, activating his legs (“We want him to have Bella legs!” he said at one point.) – not necessarily “fast” or “speeding up” the rhythm but increasing the tempo of the footfalls. For Jack, increasing the tempo of his legs, getting him to activate his body and energize his rhythm creates a better scenario for success on course; he will be more respectful of the aids (because he’s better prepared to answer more quickly) and he’ll be better prepared to lift himself and his legs over the jumps on a good stride, decreasing the chance of a knock-down.

The courses were the same through the rides, which was helpful to watch as you not only got to ride the course but you got to watch rider after rider repeat the same exercise, ingraining what you learned as the day progressed.

Feeling a little nervous for my ride, I was extremely happy to get the opportunity to watch another rider take my horse into the ring first. Louis is a fairly new horse for me, and also a fairly new “type” of horse than what I’ve been used to in the past few years. Jumping is a fairly new thing for Louis – an older horse who for most of his life has been a beginner hack horse – walk, trot and the occasional cross-rail – put him on the buckle and he’ll go round and round just fine. Since he’s been at GRS, however, Louis has been exposed to the fun world of dressage and jumping (gymnastics, courses, related distances and all that fun stuff). Prone to speeding up and racing when he gets off balance (looking very much like a trotter with his speedy little steps) and still figuring out where his feet go, Louis has taken a little bit of courage (not normally needed) for me to get on and work through both his and my gaps in training. One flaw (made most noticeable by riding Louis) in my riding-instincts is a tendency to buckle forward and clamp up when nervous, two things that I have learned (and learned well) are very counter-productive to riding through a problem on an off-balance horse (or any horse for that matter)!  This goes especially for a horse like Louis since the shifting of my weight forward and a tightening of my hands and legs just escalate every issue with him – putting him further on the forehand and off balance, giving him the bit to plow down onto and getting myself off balance by clamping my legs making me prone to losing my stirrups. Not that we’ve really had many scenarios that ended up like that, but there are moments that begin to feel a little hairy because we’ve taken steps down that road! Not something you want to be thinking about happening during what could be a complicated course in a jumping clinic with a bunch of people watching you, including a well-respected international rider!! Hence the nerves!

What I love about Waylon’s teaching style (not so very different from our coach Lauren’s) is the simplicity with which he teaches. Sit up straight and tall, balance yourself! Long legs, loosen the knee! Hands up, straight line from bit to elbow, no matter where the horse’s head was at (Dixie’s rider had a time getting used to how high her hands had to be for that!). Get a solid reaction from your aids and get it right away – get respect first, be sure to give, then you can soften your aids once you have the respect. Straight lines – on the flat and over fences – pick your line and stick to it, demand it if you have to. Eyes up, bodies back, knees off so the leg can go long and deep into the stirrup, sit tall and make a difference.

So Louis and I got to ride in the last class. After watching the other rides and Louis’ previous ride, I knew what had to get done. I had some things I wanted to be sure I asked, and went in feeling a lot less nervous and actually a little confident! And really, I find by the time you’re stepping into the ring, you just have to shrug your shoulders at the butterflies and smile, because it’s going to be fun whether you have a hairy ride or an easy one, and there’s “no going back now” (or at least, not for me). In the end I could also just say to myself, “you’ve done it before, just do it again”… and off we went. The flat work was geared to get the horses moving off our aids – especially off our leg and seat – Waylon wanted to see horses and riders relying less on the reins and more on the legs and seat to direct the horse. The riders that reverted back to steering off the reins found problems later on course with broken lines and turns to tricky fences. The canter work was where I wanted Waylon’s help as I have yet to be able to pick up Louis’ harder left lead (that being said, I really have only tried it once in my last lesson!). Waylon came down to the end of the ring to give me a hand – he got me to more or less exaggerate my aids, put my inside leg forward and firmly against his barrel, lift up on my inside rein and ask when the trot rhythm felt balanced. Remembering too from my dressage lesson this week how hard it was for me to get my hip forward I tried to also exaggerate my inside hip coming forward (literally picking it up and moving it ahead, which having the leg forward also helped). We picked up the lead on the first try (‘Surprise myself’ moment #1!) The canter exercise was a circle at either end, coming off the track to the quarter line and riding straight. Some riders simply turned their horses to the quarter line. Being a little fearful of what a sharp turn would do to our canter and his balance, I asked Louis (just to see what I’d get) to move more sideways off my leg. ‘Surprise myself’ moment #2 came when he stepped sideways almost immediately and we carried on through the exercise without breaking to trot and with a very good canter.

The jumping went very well! Probably one of my best rides on Louis to date! I felt balanced and in control and Louis felt engaged and listening quite attentively to my aids. We focused on rhythm and straightness, trot or canter (basically whatever we ended up with that was balanced). My goal was just a quiet easy rhythm and straight approaches and straight lines before and after our fences. The course was fairly open, nothing too tight or difficult which was nice for this horse. The first time through the outside line (one of our only related distances) got my nerves back up a little (having had a hairy moment with Louis in a lesson where the distance ended up off, coming in forward and he stopped). But as soon as we landed after the first fence I must have been grinning because we landed very balanced and soft on a nice easy canter and I looked ahead and knew our distance was right and I wouldn’t have to change a thing. ‘Surprise myself’ moment #3.
The courses rode well and for the most part something got better each time around or I at least had a new ‘aha’ moment each round. Just for reference sake, since not everyone that may decide to read this (and has got this far) was at the clinic… I took far too long and drew the course out: Jumping Course for Waylon Roberts Clinic Apr 22 2012
My aim for Louis was either to keep the balance in the canter if it felt right before or after a fence, or to bring him back to a balanced trot and organize him well before our turns and/or well before the next fence. The nice part about being outside was that there was plenty of room between most of the fences, the corners for the most part did not come up fast and I found only really one tricky spot on course for getting him balanced after a jump. Fence #1
The warm up was done over fence 1, then added on fence 3 – rolling back to the outside of fence 6 for a long easy approach. We had few issues here, the first round I learned I needed to set him back and organize the trot a little sooner before we needed to start our turn and thereafter we had a nice organized and rhythmic approach to fence 3.
Fence #3
After that we moved to jumping fences 1, 2 and 3, then adding on fences 4 and broken line to 5. The broken line was a tough one for many. Waylon didn’t want to see any slow gradual rounded turns to the second fence he wanted to see a definite change from one line to the next. For some riders this proved a little hairy – some over shot the turn and then made the turn a little too drastic, others like myself didn’t give any warning signals before the turn to get the horses ready and so the turn became a little too harsh on the first try, while others didn’t quite make the turn significant at all and simply rounded off the turn which ended up in some refusals and run-outs or just sloppy approaches and take-off’s. Where you really saw the effects of a straight line approach and a good turn was on the other side of the fence. Riders who miscalculated the turn and turned too early had a shallow corner afterwards, whereas the riders who got straight to the fence could go deep and balanced into their corner. Chelsea and Lissy had this down to a science in the first class!
Fence #4

Fence #5
Next we added on the liverpool. The trick to this fence was to stay on the outside line as long as possible and then make the same kind of definite turn (as to the bending line) to the liverpool so the horses got on the line straight. This fence rarely caused problems except for when a rider cut in too early and rounded off their corner or came off the outside with too much gusto and fell in on the forehand after the turn. Louis and I just found the turn afterwards which was tight between the oxer on the outside and the edge of the ring, it was a little hairy the first couple of times until I got him setting himself back a little bit early and got his hind end a little more underneath himself.
Liverpool Jump #6
The in-and-out came after a rather tight approach off the rail and the corner. Louis in his earlier round had a tough time getting straight to this combination and had a couple of run outs from turning too early to the first fence. With that in mind and Waylon’s earlier coaching on the bending line and the line to the liverpool, I tried to make the approach with a definite turn, lots of outside aids and leg on looking ahead down my line. Albeit probably a little easier from his first ride since he’d seen it already, the first time or two through was a little uncertain showing up in the landing side being a little forward and slightly more unbalanced. This was my one trouble spot on course. After the in-and-out that seemed to get him a little charged-up, I had some trouble setting him back. It usually took me to the first corner at the end of the ring to get his canter under control and back down to a trot, then not much room to organize the trot before the turn to the skinny. The first couple shots at the skinny were definitely “hairy” to say the least. We overshot the turn the first time and nearly had a refusal – he stalled pretty good but we got over it. The second time we were still just a little too on the forehand with legs flying a little too erratically to get over it clean so we ended up punching out the rail. (Sorry Waylon! Poor guy had a cast on his leg and this was the furthest fence in the ring!)… After those two times I was figured I needed to set up the in-and-out better so he would land a little less enthusiastically and unbalanced. I tried to stay slightly more upright in my body between and over the second fence, focusing on getting the canter balanced earlier and back to the trot well before the first corner so that I could truly focus on the turn to the skinny and not still be trying to get a good trot as I’m turning to the fence.
Fence 2 of In-and-Out (Fence #8)
In the end we had a few really great rounds with no obvious flaws, other than it wasn’t all done in canter. Waylon was really happy by how steady and rhythmical the rounds went (goal #1) and how straight and connected our turns and lines were (goal #2)… and hopefully there aren’t too many grimaces on my face in the pictures!
Making Faces
By far one of the best rides on Louis I’ve had to date and a great clinic!
Good boy! :)

Waylon Roberts Clinic Ride Times

And now what you've all been waiting for...  Sunday's ride times!

If anybody has any time Saturday to come help us get ready, would be greatly appreciated :)



Rowan - Jack
Chelsea - Lissy
Emily M - Bella

Lauren - Athena

Margaret - Louis
Kennedy - Jack
Mieke - Dixie
Olivia - Nick
Brena - Bella

12:15 - Lunch


Caelan - Lissy
Amy P - Louis
Aileen - Nick
Amy N - Flora
Elizabeth - Princess

Online clinic?

I have a subscription to a website that posts equestrian coaching videos -- consider it professional development :)   And the vast majority of these videos are grand prix level pros teaching subject X -- they are very much teaching the watcher, not the actual rider.  Some have really interesting exercises, some just have a good turn of phrase or a different way of explaining something, and admittedly some are essentially useless.  (yeah I know - shouldn't say that.  Can learn something from everybody.  But sometimes the something is simply NOT worth the 15 mins or so it takes to watch the video).

But for my learning style, the fastest way for me to improve my coaching, is to watch other people teach.  Coach A fixes problem X by doing Y.  And that will stick in my head forEVER.  And when I see X, if there's no immediately obvious fix, my brain shifts through every coach I've ever seen teach X till I find the style/words/combination that will most help this particular student succeed.  And it always makes me laugh when somebody who knows one of my previous coaches hears me teach and says "oh you sound just like so-and-so..." -- which A, I always take as a compliment since I've had AWESOME coaches, so I'm quite happy to be compared to them, and B, I find amusing because while none of them are alike (I tend to go for extremes in my learning), I apparently sound like all of them!  hahaha

Anyways - back to my original story.  In an effort to improve both my coaching and my riding, over the years I have audited hundreds of hours of lessons from probably 10-15 different coaches.  Basically any chance I could get.  Obviously some more than others (ie - those who let me hang out at their barns endlessly!) but still, lots.  Now however, I have less time and fewer opportunities for that, so I've turned to the internet.   Now since *most* of these videos are aimed at teaching the exercises and the theories rather than the demo-riders, I actually find them far *less* useful for my own use, but still mostly worth watching.

Today though one popped up that was described as "an in-depth schooling session" -- which roughly translates as the coach schooling the *rider* as opposed to the audience.  Or essentially a videoed lesson.  Which is exactly what I want to see.   It was a much longer video than the ones on this site usually are, but thanks to Kirby I had tonight off, so why not? (yes, this is what I do with my time off -- I know, I'm beyond help!).

So at first I didn't think too much one way or the other of the lesson.  The coach is *very* french, so not sure how much is lack-of-english and how much is just not commentating.  What he said was very correct, but he wasn't saying much.  Warms up the student (ummm now keep in mind - the student in question is a grand-prix rider on a grand-prix horse, so not exactly your average participant) over fences - pretty standard change-number-of-strides exercise.  Again, everything he said was accurate, but nothing I'd write a blog post about.

So then he sends the rider out around the course.  Fairly technical course with lots of related distances.  And he doesn't say a thing while the guy is riding.  Then after the course is done he's analyzing it for the rider and whoever put the vid together replayed each section to match the analysis, so you could see exactly what he was speaking about as he was saying it.  DEAD on.  Right up to including "you were one stride too late asking the horse to lengthen on that approach".   I don't think I've ever seen an after-the-fact analysis anywhere near as in-depth or accurate as that one.  Not just you were a little long or a little short, but where exactly the problem happened and why.  For every. Single. Fence.  I was pretty thoroughly impressed.  And impressed with the rider who in-turn was able to apply all of said advice and ride an *almost* flawless round on the 2nd try (tbh, the first round was definitely not horrible -- just that said coach picked it to pieces *g*)

So yeah, just thought I'd share.  Main take-away from that as a rider is attention to detail.  That and the horse must be super-adjustable and relaxed.   As a coach is - clearly time to improve my memorization skills!  hahaha Wow.

Happy Easter

So it totally makes sense that Bunny Day is good for jumping!

Started with my awesome working students who were SO ON today :)   Brena and Rebecca both pulled off a complex gymnastic of bounce, one stride, bounce, one stride, oxer.  Woohoo!  And at a reasonable height too :)

Then I was going to dressage Athena, but Brena offered to set fences for me, so I figured I should take advantage of that opportunity since A needs TONS of gymnastics but they're a pita to set when you ride alone all the time.

And just as well, since Athena was *spun* when I got on her.  hahaha so I let her run around the ring a bit (it wasn't pretty) and as soon as she was warmed up and I had something that vaguely resembled control we switched to jumping.  Popped her over a little (2'3"ish) oxer a couple times at the trot before moving on to our standard pole-vertical-pole w/u.  I had the poles set pretty close to the jump to really encourage her to round.  Normal jumps until we got to about 3' and then suddenly we had a bascule and a half!  hahaha Not sure how it looked but it was pretty kewl to ride.  Although made the 3' jump feel about 5'.  Sheesh.

So then went back to our baby oxer and added a baby vert one stride in front.  We've been doing a lot of little gymnastics with this horse to try and get her figuring out where her feet are.  Popped through it a couple times, np.  Add another jump one stride in front of it, cheated a couple times trying to add a canter stride in but not tragic.   She was speedbumping the middle fence though - not even really acknowledging its presence.  So we made it a bit bigger - about entry height.

Still didn't care.  Jumping beautifully.  Slight drift, but nothing tragic.  So we upped the oxer a couple holes -- also entry-ish.  Flawless.  Ok fine, up two more holes.  Still easy.   Not even putting real effort into it.  (See above paragraph -- she usually starts throwing herself over with all her power at about 3').  Ok fine, up two more holes.

Turn the corner...  hmmmm that looks a little bigger than I anticipated.  And definitely bigger than I've jumped her before.  Ah well - already on the line, committed now.  She hesitates one stride out of the first fence - which actually works in my favour as it gives us the trot approach instead of the canter stride.  Put a little more leg on and she jumps the next two like an absolute superstar.  Didn't even overjump the oxer or kickout with her hind legs (her two standard "I don't know about this" reactions).  Actually jumped it confidently and as though she schools that height all the time.  Even landed straight, on the correct lead and balanced!  O.M.G.  hahaha Ok, we're done.   I was *thrilled*.    hahaha part of successful horse training is knowing enough to quit while you're ahead.   When you most want to do it again, is often when it's the perfect time to stop.  Carrot and pats for pony :)

Did eventually check the height of the fence - it was between the 3'6 and 3'9 range -- certainly not massive, but a good sign for the horse I have ambitions of sending training level, but have been wondering if those ambitions might be pushing her ability.   So after several weeks of less-successful rides, to have her jump positively and comfortably over a reasonable sized fence pretty much made my week.  Now admittedly there's a long way between one fence at the end of a gymnastic and a course full of single jumps, but still - it's a giant leap in the right direction :)

Oh, and my puppy was an unbelievable superstar in puppy class on Saturday.  I'm still grinning about that too.  Great weekend!

Why dogs don't live as long as people

This popped up on my Facebook and I thought I'd share.

First the photo caught my attention because there was one of these dogs doing a m/u in my puppy class one day and omg was it ever cute in a horrendously unfortunate type of way.  Poor thing did *not* know what each of its very long legs was doing at any given time and had a seriously delayed reaction to any command.  BUT was clearly a complete sweetheart trying as hard as he could.

Then I started reading and figured the story was worth a share.  I spent a *full* ten minutes googling and was unable to find the author (although I did find several million copies of the story) so I'm going to call this one Anonymous.

Kleenex warning.


Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa , and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker 's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I live.

He said,''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?''

The Six-year-old continued, ''Well, dogs already know how to do that when they're born, so they don't have to stay as long.''

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.


Mini puppy brag :)

Been pretty proud of my puppy lately :)

So in puppy class, the trainers are very good about keeping an eye on any dog that might not be entirely under control in case they have to step in.  It's very rare that they do, but every once in a while it happens that a dog gets to be a little more than the handler is prepared for, and I've watched them step in subtly but effectively.   Well one of the things they teach is "settle/sit" -- as in when the dog is playing, it should stop on command.  I've taught Sasha this one as a combined "chill" command.  And she's very good at it *g*   She has to be, since we tend to play fairly hard :)

Anyways - they tell us to give the play command and I have Sasha pretty thoroughly revved.  hahaha none of the other dog owners seem to play quite that hard *g*  She's barking and jumping around and being totally psyc since it was early in the day and she was still fairy excited, and I half-noticed a couple of the instructors hovering in "just-in-case" position :)   So they tell us to give said "settle/sit" command and I tell Sash to chill and she instantly goes quiet and sits and looks at me.  And behind me all I hear is a very quietly spoken "wow".  hahaha kinda made my day.

So this week I had her out working on recalls -- lots of distractions in the form of the little dogs that belong to my landlords who she adores.  And just as she's about far enough away to call her, the long-leash broke.  And yet even with her own personal squeaky-toys to play with and no way for me to reinforce, she still came right away.  I was pretty thrilled about that :)   Little things in life eh?

And then she followed that by working on leash respect and choosing *not* to chase her cat friend down the driveway.  Again, a little thing, but I was super impressed.  Yeah puppy!

So yeah - nothing of national consequence, but in my little world, I've been pretty happy :)

Running away to join the circus

(stolen from GRS blog :)

Today some of the more adventurous GRS riders tried out a new form of cross-training:  circus school!

Yes, I'm serious.

Arguably not the best thing to do the day after stacking 400+ bales of hay, but still So. Much. Fun!

Today's participants included:  









and Rowan.
There will be photos.  Lots of photos.  Some here and tons on FB.  Just waiting till I get the the ones from other cameras so I can pick and choose the best.  So far many of the ones I've seen have been blurry (the lighting was tricky and for some reason people really weren't staying very still!) BUT in every one the subject is smiling.  Definitely a good sign.

I also have to say - rotating photos so they're the right way around when half the time the people are *supposed* to be upside-down...?  Tricky.  And the photos in this particular blog are of the unedited-unphotoshopped-just-want-to-publish-and-go-to-bed variety...  hahaha they may or may not (realistically likely not :) get updated at a future time.

Ok so last time I did this (ummmm should I admit there was a last time?) we did a very gentle series of stretches and then were slowly introduced to the silks.  Got tons of time to play on them as we had several sets going at once, but was very low key.  This time?  Yeah not so much.  We started with jumping jacks and push-ups and a roll-over thing that made people look a little like fish out of water (and some of us couldn't steer so there was a bit of crashing into each other too -- just not pretty, trust me).  *Then* stretching -- but not nice easy stretching, no...  Cruel and unusual stretching up to and including the splits (Kirby won that one :)

But *finally* we got to play!   We started with the trapeze.  Somehow I got volunteered to go first -- I think I have Kerri to thank for that, but she was rapidly seconded by a whole bunch of people.  Sheesh.

So the last time I sat on a trapeze I was about 12.  Oh dear.  But still just as much fun as I remembered.  Step one was getting on.  Tip backwards and bring your knees up, rotate over your head so they're in pike position, then straighten them back up and hook them over the bar.
Emily with her knees up, ready for the next step!
Personally, I found getting my knees up over the bar was np, but that pike position -- wow was that trapeze ever wavering all over the place with my arms shaking!
Mieke demonstrating the pike :)
But yes, once on the first task was to hang upside down.  Did I mention this was the FIRST task.  So much for starting out simple!  hahaha but *everybody* did it!  Wooohoo!!!
Brena showing off the upside-down hang
Ok so then still on the trapeze, we did a sideways hang which was actually both fun AND easy -- a not entirely common combination we rapidly discovered *g*  The hardest part of this move was the ab strength required to get back out of it.  Yeah sitting trot.  This was where we started to notice that some people have a natural grace.  Alas, I am not one of those people.  *sigh*

The first step was to sit on the trapeze:
Aileen up on the trapeze
 And then to tip sideways and hang off of it with kind of a queen-wave thing going:
Kerri 's princess wave
You gotta admit - you're never going to see the queen waving quite the same way again :)

So about this point we left the trapeze to try the silks.   Step one was to climb!  Some found this easier than others.  A few lessons learned...  1: wrap the silk around your foot and step on it.  Those that didn't quite get that part really didn't get far off the ground.  2: Long pants and/or socks make life significantly more challenging.  And 3: once you DO get off the ground, Don't. Look. Down.  
Katlyn breaking rule 3!
The next step required no actual skill but far more bravery.  hahaha our instructor tied a knot in the silks making a swing of sorts, and as with the trapeze -- step one was to hang upside-down.  Sheesh >;-P
Demi is WAY too flexible -- actually managed to make this look graceful!
Following that entertainment was a combination of skill and strength leading to...  ummm I guess I'll call it a swan, but really?  I don't know what we were doing *g*   Kirby was definitely by FAR the most graceful of us here, but sadly I did not get a decent photo of it (maybe when the rest come in :)   However, everybody managed to pull this one off reasonably well!
Chelsea being a swan
After the swan we had our most complex maneuver of the day -- always good when your muscles are starting to fatigue.  At least we got to practice this one sitting down first!   You have to basically use one foot to tie a knot around the other one.  Sounds tricky enough like that -- even more when you realize you have to do this while holding yourself up in the air!
Kirby wasn't alone with getting the "a little sloppy" comment about the knot - but @ least she got it done!
Then AFTER you managed to get the knot tied, you could try one of a few movements -- most of us opted for this star type pose.  Rowan definitely pulled it off the best!
Rowan's Star
 After that, we were all a little beat...

So we watched our coach show off (at our request) for the last few minutes.  And honestly, that was just as if not more entertaining than the rest of the day!  He did rope and hoop -- and thanks to Bev, we have video of some of the rope :)

But all in all, an awesome day!  As I said at the beginning: So. Much. Fun!  Not sure what the *next* outing may be, but with these girls involved, I'm already looking forward to whatever it is!

hmmmm ok so I def just saw a few of Katlyn's mum's photos - and they are amazing.  But it's bedtime >;-P So they'll go up in the fb album instead!