September 30, 2010

April 16, 2010
After a rather dismal, and frustrating, ride last night I was really hoping Nova would behave himself today. And in the end, he more than redeemed himself for his unacceptable behaviour last night.

I arrived at the arena before Diane, so I started to warm up. As per Nova's now normal fashion, we spent half the time trotting and half the time trying to canter. At the time I was thinking that it might be a very 'fun' lesson.

When we started the lesson, he was doing the same thing (along with his pogo-stick trot), so Diane said the next time he broke into his left lead, to just let him canter. So that's what I did, and we ended up cantering for... Oh jeez, I don't even know - a long while. Basically we decided to canter until he didn't think it was such a fun idea anymore. Diane really got after me about using my right rein to keep his shoulders straight. HOLY COW! That made a HUGE difference!! He felt a lot more 'under' me, and I could feel him rocking back a bit on our smaller circles. Diane then had us do 'Stop signs' - as in cantering a couple strides, then angling, cantering a couple more strides, etc. (I think my 'stop signs' had 8 sides, but that's beside the point.) It was such a great feeling to feel him make the slight turn each time I asked.

After we walked for a minute and changed directions Diane had me pick up the trot and really take a feel of his right side (as he doesn't bend well this direction) and lowering my hands to the front of the saddle. Holy man my legs got a workout trying to keep him out on a decent circle. But after a few minutes he did seem to get the idea and it was easier to push him out. We then cantered with the same idea - keeping my hands low and the right one shorter to make him keep the bend. He actually didn't fuss as much about it as I thought he would. After a few minutes Diane let me bring my hands forward and we went around the entire arena doing circles on each end and one in the middle. Again, he was turning really nicely - on such small circles that I didn't think he could actually do them so nicely. We also did the 'stop sign' exercise again this way, and again, he was very nice about it.

When Diane asked me to trot, she wanted to keep a working pace and keep my hands low and even. Oh man! Again, probably the nicest trot I've ever gotten out of him. He went along with his head nice and level, not fussing and striding out nicely. As Diane said, he was learning to carry himself - which is fantastic! And I could really feel the difference in him.

We finished up with a couple changes across the diagonal, and he was very nice about them.

So short story - he was awesome!! I think for the first lesson of the year it was beyond amazing, and I'm very hopeful for our riding season this year. Hopefully I will get a call back from the saddle-fitter soon so we can get starting on finding us a saddle!

April 18, 2010
I got sprung from work early today (hurrah), so I immediately came home and tacked Nova up for a ride in the arena. I was very excited to get out and spend some time in the gorgeous weather.

I kept Diane's instructions from Friday in the back of my mind, and I think we did well. I asked him to warm up at the trot, and was expecting him to get all fussy and want to canter - but perhaps he remembered what happened on Friday, and he was content to trot. His head was up and he was a bit short strided, but that's very typical of him at the start. I did work him a bit and he was starting to come down a bit more and stretch. Nothing fantastic, but there was a bit of a difference.

As we were going along I asked him for the canter, and we moved nicely into it. I started off doing some larger circles before moving into the smaller ones, and eventually doing the stop sign exercise again. After I figured we'd cantered enough one way I asked him to come down to the trot to try and work on that again, but he was apparently just getting warmed up and while he wasn't really breaking at every chance he was fighting be more than working with me, so off we went cantering the other direction.

I actually spent a lot more time cantering than I thought I would, but he just wouldn't settle down and give me a nice trot afterwards, so we just kept cantering. And then there was a point when he got very rushy at the canter. So, true to what we just worked on, every time he'd speed up I'd just do a small circle. Smaller than I was doing in the lesson! And he still felt pretty balanced and kept a nice true canter throughout. I'm still impressed that my looooong pony can do these things!

So after cantering quite a few small circles, he finally gave me a decently nice trot, so I called it a day. Oh man, Nova was one sweaty pony! He still has some of his winter coat, and it was 24 degrees out. I figured for sure he would have played out a lot sooner than he did, but he was quite a bit of stamina. I'm in so much trouble when he gets fit!

Afterwards Mom wanted to work with Soka and a distraction - Nova and I playing the part of the distraction. Soka did well! And Nova was pretty good about walking, trotting, and then doing a minute of canter work around them while she was working Soka. I figure it was good for both of them. Once we were done I got off and decided to lead Nova home and let him cool off - thankfully there was a breeze, so he dried off (and thus, I would guess cooled off) relatively quickly.

April 27, 2010
Lesson day! It was super windy today, which made trying to hear Diane a bit of a hassle, but I think I managed to get most of it.

Diane brought her saddle for me to use today, which was very nice. It felt good to be back in an english saddle! I could tell I wasn't totally steady (almost lost my stirrups a couple times), but I wasn't too terrible either.

He started off more relaxed than our previous lesson - when we started to warm up at the trot he was less insistent about attempting to canter. He did try to break a couple times, and then the third time I just let him canter on and we did a few circles and I brought him back down and he settled down nicely. We went both ways and really worked on my right rein - using it to keep his shoulders straight when going to the left, and using to to keep an inside bend when going to the right. He felt good, and definitely felt good when I actually remembered to use my rein! Old habits are hard to break.

After we warmed up Diane had me do some half seat/two-point work. OMG. I really hope I get a saddle soon so I can practice, because that needs some serious work. After only a couple of minutes my legs start to scream at me, and I don't like not being so steady up there. So I will definitely be practicing.

She then had us do some grid work. About 5 poles placed about one canter stride apart. We started by trotting through it, and well... That wasn't so pretty. Since there is nothing visual to keep him straight and honest it is a lot of work for me to keep him there. I failed the first couple of times, but did get better as I made a point of keeping him where I wanted him. (Sometimes I kind of forget, or I suppose just wish he was point and shoot, but we're not there yet. Sometimes he's great, and other times he's the wiggly baby that he actually is - which is fine. I just can't stop 'riding' sometimes!) After a few times through we cantered through it both ways. I was impressed! At the Mane Event on the weekend I caught two of the jumping clinics and saw a similar grid set up (it had more poles though), and how some of the more experienced horses flailed through it (would try to jump the first pole, then do a half jumpy-trot-canter thing through the rest of it). Whereas Nova seemed to go very smoothly through it for me. Of course, we started on the centre and ended up off one of the ends of the poles - so we're a work in progress. I am hoping to get my standards down at the arena before our next lesson, as I think the visual of them being there will help both of us.

After going both ways through it at the canter, Diane decided to put the barrels down and make half of an x-rail at the end. I did have to do some canter work with Nova on a circle to get him forward as when we came off the rail to go down the line he would literally stall out at the canter and go pogo-stick on me. And to push him forward would make him pogo-stick more - so we did a lot of circles really pushing him over with my right rein and leg and getting a big forward canter. Because of this, and me basically just thinking, "go straight, go straight" as we went down the line we basically flew down it pretty quickly. He still did the strides very smoothly, and definitely overjumped the x-rail at the end. (I do know it's supposed to be 'go over the pole/jump, sit up, half halt to set them up and then let them go again' - I was just working on keeping him straight this time, but next time I will definitely spend time working on settling him down.)

Diane then put the jump up to a vertical (she says 2ft) and had me do it twice more. Again, I had to work on going forward, then we went down the line, again very quickly and did a HUGE jump over the vertical! Huge. We did it once more, and I think he jumped even bigger. (I was and wasn't prepared for that - I knew he was going to jump big with the speed we had going into it, so I knew it was coming, but I have never ridden such huge jumps, so I did my best to stay off his back and off his face, and I don't think I caught him. But I am sure it was not very pretty looking.)

Diane was very excited about how round he was and how he tucked his feet up all nice - said he will probably end up being a jumper, and that this year while we'll stick with hunters we will have to challenge him a bit. She was also happy that he really didn't want to touch the jump, because last year he was content to smack them and then trip, haha. (I do have jumper boots for him now, but didn't put them on as I didn't think we'd be doing any jumping today. I think those will also help because those poles will hurt a bit more than they do with the Pro Choice boots.)

Obviously we won't be letting him have a 'free for all' like we did today once I get my jumps down there, but it was kind of fun. He really perks up and I do think he enjoys doing something different. I just really want to get a handle on his pogo-stick-ing, as he was doing today what he does on the trail - so I'm crossing my fingers that working on it in the arena will help him learn that he doesn't need to do that.

I'm nervous and very excited to be at this point with him - it seems that with all my other horses that I get them to this point and then end up having to sell them for one reason or another. So while I've wanted to jump for years, I haven't had much opportunity. I think this year will be a big learning curve for the two of us. And hopefully full of lots of excitement and great rides!

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