September 30, 2010

May 2, 2010
This wasn't one of our best lessons, but we still ended on a good note. I can't totally blame him though, as we were trying out a new saddle (which I did purchase), and the weather was windy and threatening to rain the entire time.

We started off with some canter work, because not surprisingly Nova was being a bit of a turd. He was just not feeling super cooperative, so he was going around with his head way up, trying to fall to the inside, and then trying to stall out on me. (I had considered that the saddle was causing part of the issues, but I've ridden in it since then and he's been very well behaved.) As well, I had forgotten my running martingale, and I think that between having a bad day and it not being on, he used that to his advantage. The running martingale is not set too low to force him to keep his head down, but I think it does remind him that putting his head into my lap is not so fun.

Diane then had me work on getting him to accept contact. One of my bad habits is to ride with a relatively loose rein - it's improved a lot since we first started working with her, but I still don't typically like taking a big 'feel' of him. (I think this comes from doing so much trail riding where the horses pretty much get their heads unless we need to direct them. The other part is that I don't want to be bouncing around on his mouth with my hands, as I know my hands aren't as steady as they could be.) Anyway, we worked on a small circle, first at the walk then we moved up to the trot. As he typically walks with his head nice and level on his own, he accepted the contact 'easily'. When we moved up to the trot he of course was not happy and was not consistent at all. Towards the end he did start dropping into the contact and lifting his back. As everyone knows, it's such a change when they do that!

Once we were finished that, we moved on to working through the same grid that Diane had set up before. This time though, my jumps were down so we actually had two parallel grids. While he had been a bit of a brat the last time we did this, he was much more willing to listen and go nicely for me. After walking, trotting, and cantering over the poles numerous times Diane put up one small vertical at the end of the one grid, then moved it up to two verticals. Nova did well, considering this is new to both of us! We did have one run-out, but that was my fault, and we went around and did it again and we were much improved.

I actually have video of the jumping portion of the lesson!

May 7, 2010
I had been planning to go to a hunter/jumper show on the 9th, so I asked to squeak in one more lesson before the show. (I ended up not going, as the forecast was iffy, I was exhausted and just felt that being so tired would not be fair to Nova. I have committed to the June show though - no excuses!)

Anyway, today was a great lesson! It was sunny, warmer, and NOT WINDY! Perfect weather for me! Right off the bat Nova was a lot more relaxed about things. I did have my draw reins on him, and basically just left them loose the whole time (after last lesson's head-in-the-sky attitude I thought he might like a reminder) and he went well. Since he was being so cooperative, Diane and I really worked on the trot and circles and bending. Let me just say it is really difficult to bend your horse to his stiff side, and keep him going on a decent circle without falling in. Diane kept having to remind me to keep my hands low, and to keep shortening the inside rein. To the point that the inside rein was inches shorter than the outside. It was tough, but he really started to come around (pun intended). We then did the same thing at the canter, and worked on transitions up and down from the trot and canter. Oh, as he did I think in our first lesson this year, he really started to come down and reach forward! It was so nice! This wasn't because of the draw reins, as they were still pretty loose. I could just feel him start to lift, come under himself and really start working.

We then took the draw reins off and moved on to jumping a bit of a course. While the video we took on Sunday was ok, I really wish someone had been able to video us today! He was even better! We worked on pushing him forward (I'm not afraid of speed, trust me, but because I'm green about jumping that it sometimes feels 'too fast' to be going to the jumps at that pace. Thankfully Diane is there to keep me going and assuring me that we aren't going kami-kazi down the lines!) Diane had set a line of two jumps down both long sides of the arena, and then one diagonal in the middle for me to work on. We started with the diagonal, then with two jumps on the diagonal, then working on two jumps, the diagonal, then back down the other two jumps. Again, he was very good and very honest about going over them nicely. Some felt less than fantastic, but there were a few that felt just right. Like everything clicked for those couple moments. I'm hopeful that those moments will start happening more often!

I was very pleased with how well he did. He reminded me that he can indeed be a good boy! Haha. I am also very much liking my (our) new saddle. It is a Santa Cruz Centauro, and is very comfortable!

May 9, 2010
Since I passed on the show, Mom and I decided to head down to the arena and play around a bit this afternoon. I was happy with how Nova did in the probably only 20 minutes we were there. But first - I was proud of him for another reason. We had just gotten to the arena, when Mom's cousin drove past on the road and missed seeing us, so we turned around to head home to catch her. And Nova walked calmly the whole way back home!!! After his bratty-ness the last while on the way home I was very happy.

Of course then, we rode back down, and he stood very nicely for me while I literally hung off the side of him and fiddled, banged and shook the lock and chain around the gate to get the lock to come off. About halfway through all of that, I had the thought about how good he is and how lucky I am he doesn't take offense to things like that! We then worked the trot, first to the left and then to the right where I worked again on taking the short inside rein and making him bend. He was a lot better today than even the other day. He was much easier to bring around, so I think with consistant work like that we'll get him to even out. (I will also have to remember to ask him to stretch that side from the ground.) I also asked him to canter, and he gave me the right lead both times! I'm so excited that we seem to have gotten past the real inconsistent lead departures. I mean, we sometimes get the wrong one, but they are much fewer and futher between.

After working in that end of the arena we went to the other end to watch Mom for a minute. Then Nova and I did some large circles in the inside of the arena and Mom cantered around the outside - I was pleased that he was not concerned at all when she would pass us. I then cantered some circles, then did a half-seat (2-point) and let him 'go big' around the whole arena. Now that I have an english saddle to ride in it's nice to be able to practice some of these things - it's not very easy to half-seat in a western saddle!

After Mom got bored riding around, we left and decided to go down the trail past the lake and into the new subdivision and home. I was happy with how nicely he walked the entire way! Even when it started to rain/tiny hail on us!! I think he was more pouty about that than anything ("I'm getting wet!" ) I'm just very thankful that we managed to get them back in the pasture (blanketed) before it really, really, really started to come down.

I'm glad that Nova seems to be settling down now that he's getting worked more consistently - it's a big relief! I'm looking forward to the schooling show at the end of the month.

May 15, 2010
Busy day today! I was in a first aid course all day, then raced home and literally jumped into my riding clothes and threw the saddle on Nova and off we went to the arena. (I’m always so happy that he’s pretty ‘okey dokey’ about most things, seeing as I was dashing around him like a crazy woman trying to get him all tacked up. Especially when Mom and I were both fighting with his new girth.)

It was pretty warm day today, so I was a bit surprised when he decided that he should be cantering instead of doing a nice trot. Gaaaaah. So, we cantered, and cantered, and cantered. We did a lot of circles, working yet again on making sure my outside rein is there to support him. Then after Nova did the ‘throttle back’ that lets me know that running around isn’t quite as much fun anymore, Diane had me work on some square turns. Very much like we did on our first lesson this year. He was very good with those.

After that lovely, and lengthy warm-up Diane said we were going to work on some transitions, and being off the rail. Overall, Nova and I have never had a problem working on the quarter lines - he never wants to drift back to the rail. So, we started at the walk, worked on keeping him straight, then did the trot, really working the half-halts to keep him straight, and when he wanted to get to rushy. So we did a lot of transitions back and forth that way, both directions. Then Diane had us work the canter a bit doing the same stuff, and again he was pretty good. I should say, that when we were doing our corners we made them square corners. Some were just awesome, I could really feel him rock back and bring his front end around. But overall, he’s very good at those and they make a big difference on getting him to bring himself around.

May 16, 2010
Tonight we just went for a nice relaxing (mostly) ride around the Village.

Started off well, we went through Spring Lake Ranch a bit until we turned off to walk to the edge of the lake. Nova started off well, but then he had to stop to poop and got just a bit behind, so of course he started to jig a bit. I realize that I haven’t updated about what we’re doing to correct this now. Mom is being very understanding, so every time he breaks into a jig/jog I immediately pull him into a tight circle and then we continue on. The first night we did this, I sometimes had to do basically three or more circles basically in a row to get the point across, but thankfully he seems to be a quick learner. Anyway, back to tonight – he did a couple steps of jigging, but only after he had extended his walk and was motoring along, and it really just seemed like he couldn’t help himself from breaking. Did a couple circles and by then Mom had stopped to wait for us, and we walked up to her nicely. We then found this nice little trail that follows along the lakeshore for a little ways. Nova got to practice his off-roading for a few minutes. There were quite a few little dips in the trail – you know the kind that they often like to hop over because they are small enough to do so? I was very proud of him that he stepped over, or down and then up on each of them. Yay! Mom even complimented us on how nice he looked with his head down just truckin’ down the trail – like the Nova that I’ve had the past two years and not the one that showed up this spring.

We went down the lakefront a bit, and he was fine. And he was even fine on our trip past the office and the loop home. The only problem was when there was one dog barking at us from one side of the road, and three barking from the other side of the road, he got a bit jiggy (but I let it go because we had Soka with us, and were trying to get past all of this with her not going over to investigate). He did stand, basically right in the middle of that when I had to give some people directions to the lake. And, once we were past all of that he was nice and relaxed the whole way home. I was very happy – great weather, and a great ride!

May 17, 2010
Helga wanted to go to the arena and ride, so I agreed to go with her. Unfortunately we decided to go in the early afternoon, which meant it was very hot and sunny out!

I should have known that Helga would not be on time, but I didn’t, and Nova got to practice some patience while we waited. He didn’t want to stand all that well while we were waiting, but overall was ok. I finally gave up waiting and went down to the arena myself. (Of course, Helga comes walking down not 1 minute after I got there.) I warmed Nova up doing some square turned at the walk and trot, and again, he was good. When I moved into the trot I was pleased that he was content to trot for me without trying to canter at every other opportunity. I tried working on getting him to bring his head down a bit, but he wasn’t really having any of that, so I did give up – I did get a few strides before quitting. When I say that I was trying to bring his head down, I mean I was holding firm on the reins and pushing with my legs (and seat) to encourage him to come down, of course softening when he would attempt to give me something.

After that, I started working on the canter. Something we haven’t done much of this year are simple changes across the diagonal – so I decided to work on that. Instead of doing changes at X, I ride him until we are almost at the other side, the come down to the trot and then back up on the other lead. (Thinking about it now, I might try doing some in the centre of the arena next time.) I was very happy with how well he did! He stayed straight on the lines across the arena, and he only blew his lead once. And that was because I rushed him, and after doing a small circle and coming back to the rail, he picked up the correct one. (Knock on wood, but I’m really happy to say that our lead departures are at probably 95% now! I am sooooooo happy about this, as all I’ve ever wanted was a horse that was consistent about picking up his leads. It seems that I always end up selling them or moving on to another horse when they get to this point, so I’m like I said, very happy!)

After we did the canter work, he was pretty warm and so was I, so we just walked around while Helga was still working Tika. I also found out this super cool thing! You know how it is always said that you are supposed to ride basically only from your seat and legs? Well, I will be the first to admit that I am not that great at doing that – yet. Anyway, while I was letting Nova walk around on the buckle I started to work on turning him. Holy moly! It was fantastic. All I had to do was turn my head, my hips, and add just a touch of outside leg (even just my thigh, not even my calf per se) and we were easily turning both directions, and doing everything from turning to doing full circles. All with my hand on the buckle and resting on his mane. And the best part? He did this all with his head nice and low and didn’t get the least bit upset about it at all. (I’m still used to riding my dad’s gelding, where any sort of leg means throw your head up and go faster. So this was a nice change.) I can’t tell you how excited I was about this! It’s sure a start!

After we got home I decided to hose him off as he was pretty sweaty. I expected a battle, but was pleasantly surprised when he stood completely still and let me hose him all off. He was NOT happy about it, but he apparently learned his lesson about not moving! Good boy! He got to enjoy some grass on the lawn as a reward.

May 18, 2010
Another lesson today – thank goodness it was in the morning!

Diane was a bit late arriving, so I started to warm Nova up on a nice loose rein. Something I haven’t done (or really, been able to do because of his canter, canter, canter mindset) this year yet. He felt good, and even offered to drop his head a couple of times. Once Diane arrived we did some more trotting, and I picked up the reins. Ohhh boy… He was really not feeling that today – but as usual, he did work himself out of that somewhat. I worked a lot of circles, as he has a lot harder time throwing his head way up and resisting when I do that. He is forced to bend and that automatically makes him think about lowering his head. We did a little canter work today, and Diane had me ride off the rail and work on square turns. He was very good! He had what felt like a very nice canter – so much so that Diane even said that it was a nice canter for him. She had me work the canter until he started to bring his head down a little, which he did finally.

After a quick break while Helga finished up some work on Tika, Diane set up a jump for Nova and I. It was set on the diagonal, and there were ground poles set on both sides of it one stride out. She had me work on really making him wait for it and not launch himself at the jump. I was actually proud of how hot he didn’t get over it all – he got a bit fussy with his trot a couple times, but a few circles and we worked out of that. Anyway, it was hard for me to keep in my mind to keep him trotting a decent trot (not pogo-stick), keep him straight, make him wait, and then make sure not to get in his way. I am very happy to say that we had MANY more good jumps than iffy ones! It felt great. One thing I have to remind myself is to talk to him – I found when we were doing our grid work the last time if I remembered to say ‘easy’ to him he would slow down that fraction and not be so rushy. Same thing today, when I remembered to say ‘easy’ he was more inclined to wait for me and go right to the pole before going over the jump. It was a good thing to work on, as we both need the work on being calm and steady. This is something that I will have to practice between lessons – and at least it won’t be that hard to set up!

We ended on that great note, and I was very happy with him! He really seems to like jumping, and I can’t remember how many times I’ve said this, but I’m also so happy that we have reached this point in our training! Things are starting to come together. Bring on the June Killerney show!

May 24, 2010
We hauled Nova and Rhythm over to Auntie’s today for a trail ride. A friend of my aunt’s had some company over from Germany, and they ride horses there and were looking forward to riding here in Canada. Of course, we were happy to oblige. I was very happy with how well Nova stood tied to the trailer (of course, we had them all tied up and they were all very relaxed) – but it was a good start to the day.

I honestly expected Nova to get quite excited (jiggy) when we started out – he hasn’t been ridden since Thursday, it was very ugly all weekend, and well, it was someplace exciting. Needless to say I was so pleasantly surprised when he was a superstar for the entire ride. He only got a little bit jiggy twice, and only for like 30 seconds. We led, we followed, and we got passed by cars. We also crossed over a set of train tracks, and he didn’t even blink at them. I was also so proud when a truck pulling a very loud horse trailer went past, and he only danced slightly in place but didn’t freak out. I pretty much went the whole ride thinking, “OMG! He’s being so good, but I shouldn’t think about it because I might jinx it.”
I might get some pictures from the day later on, but as of now, there aren’t any. But even without them it was such a great day!

May 25, 2010
Today I tried out a bit I was lent over the weekend, it was a Happy Mouth, mullen mouth. It was a bit too big for him, but still worked well enough for me to use it on him today. I’m not sure if he was tired from yesterday, or was just feeling mellow, or if the bit made that much of a difference, but he was soooooooo good today.
We started off walking a big circle around Diane on a loose rein while we chatted about what to expect at the show on Saturday (should it not be pouring rain as currently forecasted). After a few minutes of that and switching directions we picked up the trot. Diane then talked about when I ask him to trot how he typically likes to put his head up and do a short, choppy trot to start out with – well today I was all prepared for that, and ready to push him forward, but I didn’t need to today! He picked up the trot and didn’t even throw his head up! He wasn’t tracking up (he typically doesn’t), so we did push him up a bit and got him almost completely tracking up. And the whole time he didn’t get fussy or anything, just calmly and nicely went around the circle, even as we made it bigger and smaller. We then left the circle and went out to about half the arena (my guesstimate of how big the ring at the show will be) and picked up the canter. Oh my, it was such a nice canter! Really steady, not rushy, and very smooth. We practiced some passing, like I would do at the show, and then we started working on asking him to bring his head down a bit. He has a hard time with that, but did give me some in the end. Most importantly, he stayed nice and relaxed the entire time. We paused to talk for a minute, then went out to the right and did pretty much the same thing. Diane got me thinking too much about the canter transition, so we did blow it the first time, but I brought him back and smoothly picked up the correct lead the second time. He was more rushy this way as Diane allowed us to use the entire arena, but he also was listening to my half halts and also started to bring his head down. He was so good that we called it a day after that. Diane said that we could harp on working on his head a bit more, but what’s the point? He was so good that if he’s anywhere near that good on Saturday I will be beyond happy. Anyway, he was so good today with the mullen mouth bit, I'm looking to buy a smaller one in the next day or so. I'd like to try it at the show (will take his 'usual' bit as well, just in case).

I have a picture from today – not a riding one, but an interesting one nonetheless. I had him on the lawn grazing because he was such a good boy, and he was doing a great job trimming around the garden. As he got closer to the flag I thought for sure he’d move around it or suddenly notice it and spook a bit. Nope. I guess the grass was too darn good, and the flag not nearly as scary as I thought. (Now, any bets on whether or not it would be scary if I rode up to it?)

May 29, 2010
Show day!! Dawned nice and… cloudy. And it started to rain a tiny bit before we left… Not a good omen.

Nova loaded well, and hauled well, got along well with my friend’s gelding Apollo when he loaded in beside him, and was pretty relaxed when we unloaded at the show. Of course he was a bit looky, but he didn’t look much further than his haybag once I attached it to the trailer. Since I wasn’t showing in halter or showmanship I took my time getting him ready, and actually saddled him up after a few of our ‘group’ left to go to the ring for their classes. As I was hoping, as long as he can see/knows other horses are there he is quite relaxed. The wind came up and wasn’t very nice just after I got on as I was trying to warm up in the field where we parked the trailers. (Being hilly and with lots of rocks didn’t help much either.) Riley, who I warmed up with suggested we head over to the outdoor ring (halter/showmanship classes were being held inside) and warm up there – I’m very glad we did, as he was much better to warm up in there. Well… Once we got past the BIG SCARY ROCKS that were outside the arena. He walked past the plastic pink tape that they had used to fence off part off the arena that was wet – and this tape was definitely moving in the wind (I considered it potentially scary). He walked past it, then stopped dead and backed up about ten steps with his eyes bugging out of his head, and I had to look to see what he was spooking at. Of course it was a large rock located on the outside of the arena… I think a bit of Rhythm is rubbing off on him! So of course we went up to the fence to look over it to see that the rock won’t actually kill us… and he noticed the second big rock. Oh deary. We went to go see that one, and after that he did scoot past them the next couple times past, but then settled down and ignored them. They had worked the footing a bit, but it was still pretty hard and since he just had his feet trimmed yesterday he was just a smidge ouchy on them. We walked, trotted, and cantered both ways and he was good. Got all of our leads!

Riley and I decided to head back to the trailer to hang out for a bit, and by the time we got there (after a quick visit with some friends) it had started to rain. Not just a sprinkle, it was a full out rain. I threw a cooler over my saddle on Nova to keep him a little warm. We actually loaded Apollo and Nova back into the trailer and hung out in there with them so we all stayed a bit drier and stayed out of the wind. Pam wanted to at least do one under saddle class, so she tacked up Apollo in the rain and we headed over to the indoor arena. I was a bit unsure of how Nova would react to being in the arena, as he’s only ever been in one other indoor in his life (ok, two, but the first was when he was a yearling). He was very relaxed in there (probably just happy to be out of the rain!), and so I pulled his sheet off and got on to warm up. There was a short break for people to tack up their horses for the under-saddle classes. Right from the first lap around he was very relaxed. He actually only eyeballed the muck bucket on the side of the ring. For a very small and crowded ring he listened well and we did a nice walk and slow trot around a few times. Finally I felt him getting just a smidge worked up (going one way at the walk he wanted to get jiggy), so after a few laps working on that I pulled him off to the one end to hang out. In typical Nova fashion he quite nicely just hung out while we waited for our class.

The class we did end up doing was Walk/Trot 18 and Over. I was feeling pretty confident going in that he would be fine, I just wasn’t sure if we’d end up with a ribbon. We first lined up along one side of the arena to wait for the previous class to have their ribbons handed out, and Nova was very chill. We walked about a lap around, and he did get a tiny bit jiggy going down that one long side, but I managed it well using my outside rein to ask him to keep walking, and he probably only got a couple of steps in. We then trotted and he picked it up easily and went around very smoothly. I had to weave and dodge a few people, of course, but he stayed nice and relaxed for me and listened well. Broke back to the walk when asked very nicely and we reversed and went the other way. He did the exact same to the right, and luckily I don’t think the judge noticed when the horse in front of us decided to go straight sideways towards the inside of the arena. He broke, which I don’t blame him for, but readily picked it back up when I asked again (and did so like nothing happened). They then had us walk and go into the lineup. He stood well while we waited when they handed out the ‘luck of the draw’ prizes (my friend won a bag of cubes that she donated to us since she won’t need them as she boards). They weren’t doing 1st – 6th ribbons, they were just doing the ‘top six’… Well, Nova and I won a ribbon!! I was so excited!! (And just for the record, there were definitely more than six of us in the class!) I had entered into the walk/trot/canter class as well, but decided to end on that great note and leave it alone. He was a tiny bit ouchy again in the hard packed arena, and I figured between that, a ton of horses in that class, and such a small arena it might be asking quite a bit of him. I just didn’t see the point of potentially getting him all hot and worked up and maybe having a less than great experience, when he went above and beyond what I hoped for today.

I am so proud of him. He was just a great horse all day, didn’t get upset about much of anything. (In fact, I was so pleasantly surprised when he only called out twice the whole day, considering it seems like there is non-stop calling by a ton of horses.) Also, I purchased a mullen-mouth for him on Thursday, and didn’t get to try it on him before the show, but he went really well in it. I think he’ll be staying in this bit for awhile! He was just awesome, and I couldn’t have asked for a better horse today. Like I said above , he went above and beyond today, especially considering the very crappy weather. I love my pony.

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