May 6, 2011

May 4, 2011
This lesson was much improved from last week’s lesson! Go us! Sadly my really nice new Ariat paddock boots gave me really nice blisters last week, and I was blonde enough to wear them again this week… I think I hurt more than Nova did afterwards.

We started off on the circle again, working on just picking up contact and asking him to go forward into it. The walk was much improved over last week, and same with the trot! He only did about two pogo-trot strides before stepping forward into a much nicer forward trot. (He doesn’t often track up completely, so it’s something we push for on almost every lesson – but hey, to give the guy a break, he’s looooong.) We worked on the leg-yielding the hindquarters again, and he was more inclined to listen to me this time as well.

I was wondering how the canter would be today, and was pleasantly surprised that he was way better. Diane asked me to ask him to leg-yield and then ask him to canter immediately afterwards – this seemed to work well for us. That said, since I started asking him with my inside leg for the canter (versus the outside like Diane uses) our transitions have been better and more consistent. So our leg-yield to canter wasn’t quite like Diane is thinking. Whatever works though! I was able to ride him with contact this time without him sucking back – he wasn’t dropping down into it, but he wasn’t being a total idiot either, so we’ll take that for now.

Going to the right side (he bad side), he was super leany on my inside leg. Holy moly. Bring back to your memory, my nasty blisters… Ouch. Diane went out to truck and grabbed her spurs for me, and with those it still hurt pretty bad, but I was at least getting under Nova’s skin about moving his ribs over. I had to get a bit forceful with them at the start to get my point across, but he’s a smart cookie when he wants to be and decided that hurt and he should respect my leg. (I am going to see if I can get a chiro appointment for him, it definitely wouldn’t hurt him to get looked at again.) We worked to the right with the spurs on at both the trot and canter, and it went well. While I won’t be riding with spurs all the time (I don’t trust my legs 100%), I definitely will be purchasing a pair to use for times like this when I need that bit extra to get his respect. As we all know – he should be working harder than I am!

Oh wow, this is worse than I thought! Though, Nova didn’t get ridden much after the September MLM show as the weather started to turn (sadly towards winter). He also had from November – April off – lucky boy! In an effort to make my total lack of posting not seem so bad I will include lots of pictures!

April 23, 2011
Nova turned SIX today!! The time has sure flown! It seems like not that long ago he was the little weaner-head that I brought home, and just yesterday he was three and we were putting the first rides on. I cherish every moment I spend with him – he never, ever, ever fails to make me smile. Even when he’s been a total turd during a ride he manages to redeem himself after I get off. To celebrate his birthday this year, Nova got to go out for the first ride of the season. Lucky boy! He was fantastic for me, even after six months off. There was still snow in the arena, so we didn’t do much more than some trotting and a brief canter each way.

Happy 6th Birthday, buddy!
Keepin' it real. :)

April 27, 2011
It was our first lesson of the year, and we had some positivies, and some not so positives. Diane said that our main focus on the flat this year is dealing with Nova’s resistance to contact. It’s time for him to put his big boy undies on and deal with it. We started out at the walk with me just taking contact and being steady with it. He didn’t like that and proceeded to put his head up and jig about. I did realize that when I do this I often tighten my body up and start to resist against him a bit – so once I made a point of loosing my movement and going with him again he relaxed and started to think about walking forward with the contact.
We then moved into the trot, and as usual he did some pogo-stick trot and the head up thing, but being steady and just pushing him forward he slowly started to think about things instead of just having a hissy fit. We worked on asking him to leg yield his hindquarters off of the track going both directions. Things were going pretty well until we moved into the canter. He was a bit tired by this point, so he decided that he would prefer to go up and down instead of forward at the canter, and then resist any effort of mine to steer him. We had a discussion about that, and Diane did have to remind me not to let his hissy fits bother me – he knows how to push my buttons, which is why this is why we still have these issues now. We did canter and while we did not work on contact we worked on ‘forward’ and turning where I wanted him to go (which usually isn’t a problem for us). We ended on a positive note, as we always do, and considering it’s the second ride of the year and he got tossed into ‘bootcamp’, I can’t complain too much.

September 26, 2010
I was so thankful to wake up to find that Nova was not a complete mudball, as I arrived home late the night before and didn’t bother to go blanket him in the dark. He was very well behaved up until the point I went into the warmup ring… I don’t blame him for not liking that arena, but holy moly, he was bad. Like, I threatened to sell him for dogfood bad. The arena is an indoor, with the tent-sides, is small compared to what we are used to at home, and it was crowded. After our last lesson on Thursday, I was not surprised that he was ‘full of himself’, but I did expect that he would be at least somewhat responsive to me. I was mistaken. He was very resistant and I’m sure we looked mostly out of control. In an effort to get him to relax and progress a little, I probably spent somewhere between a half an hour and an hour in there – the majority trotting and cantering. I switched him from a his Happy Mouth mullen-mouth bit to a full-cheek French link the other day to get a bit more brakes from him… In the warm up ring, I had more than enough brakes. To the point it was stop and contemplate going up. We actually ended up putting my rope running-martingale back on him just in case. Thankfully he did calm down (but not before we were both super sweaty), and we were able to do some practice jumps before going outside to wait our turn.

This time we entered in the 2’0 and 2’3 hunter classes. As he was so forward that day I was not too worried about a repeat of the ‘OMG boxes!’ of the August show, but as the jumps were a bit higher and the first jump had a straw bale under it, I still had my fingers crossed. Any second thoughts I had were unfounded, as we went in, cantered our circle and went straight up to and over the first jump. The rest was history as he didn’t give any of them a second thought! I was so proud of him (especially considering the large number of refusals during the first round of this division). He was, as predicted, very forward. In the three classes at this level we placed third in Working Hunter and fifth in Handy Hunter, but did not place in the Working Hunter Stake class. I was surprised at our two placings, as there were about 12 people entered.

Video of 2’0:

Our second division was 2’3, which is the highest we’ve ever shown at. (We have schooled up to 2’6 or higher at home.) After doing the 2’0 class I was totally not worried about this class. The jumps were all the same, just the top bar was raised. Unfortunately we knocked one rail, and smoked another really loudly (way to be subtle Nova, way to be subtle). They were, as always, my fault – I have to keep thinking ‘forward’ and to let him flow. In the videos we never seem to be going as kami-kaze as it seems when I am riding around the course. We’ve also worked on not allowing him to rush towards the fences, so I try to hold him back slightly, which is when Diane tells me to let him go – something I will just have to practice. In this division we received a second in Working Hunter, and fifths in Handy Hunter and Working Hunter Stake. Again, there were approximately 8-9 people in this division. (It is nice to feel slightly justified in the placings – that there were definitely more people entered than ribbons.) You can tell that our last round definitely wasn’t our smoothest – I think by then he was starting to feel the effects of having being a bit dumb earlier in the day and having to work his tush off.

Video of 2’3:

For our last show of the year, I can’t complain with five ribbons out of six classes! Bring on the 2011 show season!
August 16 – 20, 2010
Day 1
After some truck trouble and rushing to get it fixed in time, we were on the road by mid-afternoon. This meant we arrived at the campground (Blue Rock) when it was almost dark, so we just got the horses settled and then got the camp set up and flaked for the night.

Day 2
We originally planned on doing two short rides today, but after we came back and had lunch… Well, we just didn’t feel like tacking up again and going out. I was very curious to see how Nova would react to the river this year (we all remember how he was like, “Thanks, but no.” last year). I was expecting a bit of the same, at least at the first crossing (it was not a shallow/calm crossing). Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when he stopped for a drink and then walked right in and across. Good boy! He did get rather excited a few minutes down the trail and we did a whooole bunch of circles while I was waiting for him to stand still. Both Trapper and Rhythm were just waiting calmly while we did circles, then I would ask him to stop, and then we’d do another circle, rinse and repeat. After that episode though he was much better behaved. We did practice our hover-craft impression though at the big scary boulder that was lurking in the bushes. It was pretty funny, as he doesn’t come anywhere near to dumping me on my head (*knock on wood*). We rode a ways down the trail and then onto an old (but still useable) road. We were very impressed that when we turned around none of the horses got the least bit excited. Woohoo! The rest of the ride was uneventful – Nova again crossed the river wonderfully on the way back.

Day 3
The first day of riding we headed out down the trail to join up with an old road – we were just riding out and back today. All the horses were really well behaved until right before we turned around and went back a short bit before stopping for lunch. Before we turned around, Mother decided to take a ‘short cut’ trail while we stayed on the road… Unfortunately her short cut did not short cut anywhere, and when both Nova and Trapper realized that she was not right behind them… OMG! THE END OF THE WORLD! I really wish Nova didn’t care so much about where other horses are in relation to him (I’m hoping riding out alone more often will help with that). Anyway, the boys got pretty stupid, so we decided to stop for lunch and calm down before continuing. It worked, as when we started out again they were more relaxed and no one had to mutter the words “dog food” to either horse. There was one part of the trail that was totally covered by a creek (it was basically a huge pool of water), and we paused in it for some photos on our way back. Nova didn’t want to stand in it, but at least he didn’t try to drop and roll! Oh wait, he still doesn’t like water, no matter how much better he was about both water and mud. The road today had a ton of puddles on it that went all the way across the road. The bottoms on all of the puddles were fine though, so after having a ‘no, you are going through’ on the first couple, Nova went through all of them without the least bit of trouble! I was very happy – the river yesterday and the puddles today.

Day 4
Today was the big ride that we had planned on, and man, it was long. The first part of the trail is pretty interesting. After about a half an hour, you end up going really far down (switch-backs) to go across a creek, and then start heading up, and up, and up. Nova handled it all really well. I am so happy that he doesn’t get stupid on long and tough downhills – he just diligently picks his way down. And on the uphill, well, I felt sorry for the poor guy, but he just keeps on truckin’. When we got to the top, there was quite the view! We had lunch at the top and the horses got to stand and relax for awhile. The only problem with this trail is that the best part of the trail (the view) is close to the start, so even though you’ve had lunch, you still have the majority of the ride left. So, we rode, and we rode, and we rode. Down off the mountain, around and through the valley, then up onto another ridge (at which point I got off to give Nova a break, as it was another steep down). At one point we ran into some cows, which got the horses a bit excited. I actually rode Nova towards one of the calves, and when it moved off from him he sort of decided that they probably wouldn’t eat him. (Mom did the same with Rhythm last year, and you can just see the horses go, “Huh, so they move away from me?”) Not far from where we met the cows we had to go through a gate (which oh so happened to be in the middle of a huge puddle). I didn’t really attempt the gate because Nova + Puddle + Tough Gate = Christine IN Said Puddle. Anyway, we finally got the gate closed (without having to get off) and were started up yet another hill. There was a small tree that had come down in such a way that it was facing down the hill at an angle, and with the steep sides of the path worn into the hill it was not feasible to go around it easily, so I got off of Nova to push it out of the way. While I was doing that, one of the cows (that must have followed us to the gate) let out a loud bellow set Rhythm and Trapper over the edge. Rhythm ended up facing down the hill, and Trapper was almost jumping out of his skin. I hear this and whip around, prepared to dodge a Nova coming overtop of me, but to my surprise he was just standing there looking at me like nothing was wrong. I was very proud of him for that. Nova also learned this year that yes, he can indeed walk behind me without attempting to walk over top of me. Perhaps he figured that out because he was tired and walking my pace wasn’t such a bad thing, or the lightbulb finally turned on, but it was a welcome surprise.

I think it was a welcome relief when we finally made it back to camp. The ride stopped being fun a couple hours before that. Nova got a really good brushing and a big scoop of sweet feed for packing my butt around all day. It was one of those days where I truly appreciate how great my horse is. Not only is he super cute, but he’s got the heart and stamina to back it all up.

Day 5
Today the smoke rolled in. And by rolled in, I mean it was – “There was a mountain here yesterday…” The minute you stepped out of the trailer the smell hit you. (The forest fires in B.C were causing the smoke and it was blowing into Alberta.) After our killer ride yesterday we did another easier day today. The last time we were at Blue Rock (a few years ago) we heard about and found a trail that was not marked on any map. We had ridden down it a ways, but because we were hauling out that day we did not get to explore very far. We decided to take it again this year and see if we could get to the end. The trail starts off nice and wide and well used (there are well beaten paths around any large dead fall), and it is a nice easy ride. The further you go down though the more rugged it gets. We went through one part that actually had a path around it that we had missed (didn’t know to look for it) that got pretty hairy! For the hundredth time, I am so glad that Nova has a good head on his shoulders. There was one part of the trail that looked pretty bad (lots of mud and a scary home-made job to make a bridge). Mom got off and walked up the trail a short ways to see what it was going to be like, and said it seemed fine – and when she walked back to the horses, actually found a way through the mud that wouldn’t have been that bad. I felt that we were getting close to the end, and both Mom and I wanted to get there just to tell my dad about what the trail was like. But Julie didn’t want to continue (even though it seemed like Trapper was behaving just fine), and sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow. Actually, I think today was the best day for all of the horses – everyone behaved themselves. They had a lot to think about (lots of logs to step over, rocks to go over and around, really twisty trail), so didn’t get it into their heads to be goofy.

Day 6
Time to head home already. We had some big horn sheep run down the road while we were letting the horses have one last drink from the river before heading out. Nova was fairly clueless about them until the very end, while Rhythm noticed right away and was keeping a close eye on those shady characters. It was a good week, all in all. Nova was much improved over last year in pretty much every way! He just keeps getting better and better.
Oh my, I have been so absolutely remiss about posting our lessons and rides! *slaps own hand* Bad Christine! I will say that we’ve had some nice and productive rides as of late. We’ve hauled out to Ft. Assiniboine twice for day rides – he was very well behaved both times. He got a bit excited a few times, but a number of small circles later and he came to the realization that walking was the best choice. We’ve gone for a ride around here – and rode alongside the busy roads and he handled all the traffic perfectly! I think we are almost past his car phobia, which is a big relief considering where we live. My trainer has also been on him and took him over some jumps. It was nice to actually be able to watch him go instead of just being on him and holding on for dear life. He even did a couple flying lead changes for her (unasked, he was just switching back to the correct lead) – and since then he’s done a number for me as well. I am so very pleased about this, because if he can easily do auto-changes, it will be one less thing I’ll have to concentrate on. He doesn’t do them every time, but hey, he’s got a good start! Anyway, when my trainer was done with him, her first comment was “He’s so fun!” I’m so pleased, and hope that she’ll ride him some more for me – it never hurts to have the trainer get on!

July 4, 2010
Nova and I had a very nice lesson today. Diane had us warm up with two laps around the whole arena each direction, then start doing three circles along each long side of the arena (6 circles each way). I was impressed with how well Nova moved out when I asked him to trot. He’s been a lot better of late – I think the bit change has helped – about striding forward instead of up and down, but today he was even better than usual. He was moving nice and big without trying to go “Canter? Canter now? Yes, now!!” every two point five strides. Diane then had us move up into the canter and do the same exercise… Well, I can tell my horse is in at least a little shape now! I did a lot more than 12 circles to get him to finally settle down and stop trying to power around like a crazy horse. After the million circles and really working on using my outside rein to half-halt him every stride he finally came back and gave me a fairly decent, non-crazy canter. I have to make sure to sit up tall and really hold my core when he gets like that, so he can’t pull me around and do what he wants. Diane then had us work on a new exercise (for us), and have us come up the centre line and break to a trot, then pick up the canter again still on the centre line – and alternating leads. I was very happy with how well Nova did! We only blew on lead, but when I brought him back down and asked again he nicely picked up the correct one. The first couple passes I cantered him right down almost to the end, then broke to the trot and asked for the lead as we were starting to bend that direction. After that, Diane then had us break to the trot about a third of the way up, and picking up our canter by the two thirds part of the centre line. Like I said before, he listened well and I was very happy with that exercise!

We then moved onto doing some jumping. Starting with some x-rails on the diagonals, then moving up to verticals, and finishing up with some bending lines. I could explain about how it all went, but seeing as I have a video clip, I think that’s the easiest way. He is a little lazy with his back legs, because he typically doesn’t have to worry too much about them yet. I hope as we progress and go higher he’ll start picking them up. Or, I may also get some deeper cups so that when he’s lazy, it hurts a bit. And as we all know, I’m very much a work in progress – and I’m thankful every day that Nova’s such an affable guy and puts up with me.

July 6, 2010
Helga couldn’t make it down to today’s lesson, so I had a private one – it was nice! We warmed up doing basically the same exercise as we did on the 4th. He was way less rushy at the canter today, which made everything a lot smoother. When I got to the centre line canter transition portion, we again missed one lead, but managed to change it first try. I think it’s a very handy lesson for us, and I will definitely be doing it when I ride by myself.

We then moved onto the jumping, starting as always with some x-rails. Diane also set up our very first oxer for us to practice on. During our warm up Diane had us doing some tight turns, all of which we made! Well, one was pretty ugly and I think we almost ran into the fence, but that was because Diane had us doing a figure-8 pattern and I came off the jump thinking ‘right’ and she called out ‘left’. Thankfully Nova is a very forgiving pony. We then started going over the oxer, starting with it as two x-rails, then raising it up to about 2ft. I had a few really nice rides over it – especially when I remembered to hold him off of it slightly. He’s a very keen jumper! We finished the lesson off with a course that went really well. It had one tight turn that we managed, and then two lines on the diagonals (including the oxer). I think we’re going to be ready for the Killerney show in a couple weeks! Well, ready as in we probably shouldn’t completely crash and burn, haha.

July 18, 2010
Today was the Killerney Shamrock Series show. I entered in two flat classes – equitation and pleasure, and one jumping division – Beginner 2’0.

We arrived early to school over the fences before the show started – this was more for my confidence than for Nova. I will admit at this point it’s hard for me to just ride him like it’s no big deal, when showing is still a big deal to me! We did have a handful of refusals, but Diane got after me and we then schooled over all of them without any trouble. Once I knew he’d been over them all and did not care about them, I could start to not care about them.

We did our two flat classes first. I was proud of how calm and controlled Nova stayed for both classes. He trotted nicely, allowed me to do a sitting trot without trying to canter, and picked up both his leads perfectly in the Equitation class. We didn’t place, but that’s ok because he was so great! We just have to work on getting him more steady in the bridle. By that, I mean I would just like him to keep his head in a consistent spot, and preferably a little lower than where it is right now. The second class was the Pleasure class, and we placed 5th! It was a huge surprise, as he missed his right lead the first time (right at the end where I thought for sure the judges were watching) but otherwise he was as nice and steady as he was in the Equitation class. What I was most impressed with was the fact that he was in both classes with two mules and he didn’t even react! (Last year he totally eyeballed the one mule that was at the show.) Videos are up of both classes:



After a lengthy break it was time to go into my 2’0 hunter class. Nova went nicely in all three rounds, and I was very pleased with him at his first time showing at that height. In the first round he was feeling really nice and I dropped him right in front of the last line, so he took a stutter step and we lost a bit of our ‘flow’, but that was totally my fault. Mom missed videoing my second round (mixed up the on and off on the video camera), but he was even better in the second round. By the third though he was hot and a bit tired so it wasn’t quite as nice as the others (for the first time I had to push him to keep his pace up), but he was still good. The class was huge, so there was no way we were going to get a ribbon, but that doesn’t mean that he was any less good!

2’0 Hunter Division: