Ranger Recap: Ride Defensively.

The frigid cold finally hit the Mid Atlantic yesterday in the form of crazy wind gusts and plummeting temperatures (gusts were up to 50mph during the day). Nonetheless, after cancelling last week due to a migraine, I dragged myself off to the barn to see possibly my almost favorite horse ever.

I was warned that he’d be grumpy, angry, and possibly crazy and that the kids can’t work him through that, but I said I was up for the challenge. Now, Ranger is a draft cross. I’m used to thoroughbreds and warmbloods being up. Ranger being up isn’t like that at all. He doesn’t get up, he gets heavy.

I got on and he tried to convince me he needed a nap. So we worked on trotting with energy and eventually I managed a forward trot knowing that everything could come out over fences. My trainer eventually asked me to through in halts and backs. This is when you could tell he was faking as it took everything I had (and several attempts) before I could halt without Ranger pulling his large head to the ground. Eventually, I was able to keep his head up, but the struggle was real…

After a while, we added in the canter which was surprisingly lovely. However it took a few strides to get my body back were it needed to be (why? no idea but I started the ride a bit forward). After 3 or 4 or 5 times around the ring, we added in the in of the outside line on a circle, in an attempt to tire him out before really starting over fences. We did this 6 times, with the first 3 being nice, then I got passive and Ranger NOPED to the outside. See, I came up to the most PERFECT spot on the most PERFECT stride so I didn’t add extra leg and since we had already jumped it, I didn’t use extra hand (both hands to the inside). Ranger saw the inch I gave and took a mile. I need to be on the ENTIRE ride. Ride defensively. On repeat (x2) no issue.

We switched directions, cantered around 3-4 times,  and did the same thing over the outside single on the other side with no issue.

Feeling “warmed up,” we started down over the inside single heading towards the in gate and then were to come around to the outside line in a holding 7. The inside single is the jump that Ranger loves to OMG LAUNCH over because it’s heading home and GATE. Sure enough, right as we turned, I felt him go for the bit, but I was able to tug his head up early and a couple follow up tugs brought us to a perfect spot. It was really nice and Ranger was slightly pissed that I had his number… We stayed way out but unfortunately, I didn’t keep enough outside leg on him for the line and he noped out of it. That was the last NOPE of the night and sort of woke me up… Circling back WITH outside leg, we got down the line in the 7, continued around, did it in a 7 again, evenly woahing at strides 1-3, continued around and did the line again, this time in a 6. And then we got to walk. Finally.

Next, the word “skinny” came up. Since everyone knows how much I love skinnies…. the plan was to approach the inside single from the opposite direction (away from the in gate) and then stay close to the wall to do this crazy awkward inside line of a skinny to oxer. The issue with the line (in addition to the blasted skinny) is that everyone wants to turn too soon and then the horses assume that they’re jumping the outside single vs the inside line which is not the normal diagonal line but off set so you go all the way around the corner and part way around the side before you turn.

So first time through, we started, and another pony was in hacking so I had a bad corner to my jump because she decided to be in her own world so I circled defensively and Ranger had an “oh shit, she means business” moment when I forced him through a tight turn and made him bend… Ha. Our inside single was perfect and then I forced him to stay OUT and wait for the skinny which in turn made the line an easy 6.

Ultimately, we put in all together. Down the inside single towards the in gate (check). Outside line in the going 6 (check). Awkward skinny inside like (check). Inside single away from in gate (check). Could not have ended with a better course.

The jumps may not have all been picture perfect throughout the lesson, but as my trainer said, it was some of the best riding I’ve ever done. I rode defensively most of the lesson because I needed to. If I gave anything away, Ranger ducked out. I had to ride to the base and over or else we were going around. Lol. When Ranger has energy, THIS is how he shows it. But, it was fun too and great for my confidence. A year ago, I wouldn’t have trusted myself that I was strong enough to ride him through everything. Last night? No issues.

Ranger Recap: no rest for the weary.

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Yesterday I dragged myself out to the barn for a lesson on Ranger. By dragged, I should probably say, swam. I swam out to the barn for a lesson on Ranger.

Thank you weather gods! I KNEW I was missing something in my life. RAIN! After all, it had been 3 ENTIRE days since our last round of monsoons so we certainly need more monsoons. By the time I made it from my car to the barn, I was wet, my hair was wet, and my saddle was wet. It’s not THAT far of a walk either…

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Not innocent… Mooching for treats.

We started off with what I thought was going to be a quick and easy warm up. A little bit of trotting, a couple of circles, etc. All WAS going well until I heard the dreaded words, “drop your irons.” OMG. I seriously avoid no stirrups. I do not participate in No Stirrups anything. And, in the 2+ years of riding with my trainer, I don’t think she’s actually asked me to drop my stirrups. Thankfully we started at a sitting trot (which is easier) but then I was to continue around posting. Damn. Of course, then I was told I was trotting too slowly. BUT BUT BUT. See, the slower I trot, the easier it is without stirrups. Counter argument from trainer: the faster you trot, the quicker you can have your stirrups back. In my defense, I kept my argument in my head. I compromised and trotting a tiny bit faster, but I didn’t want to lose my position. Unfortunately, we did the same the opposite direction, minus the sit trot. Evil. Positive? My position is evidently good. [I am NOT sharing that past trainers have told me I have a better position without stirrups…besides, this is no longer the case. I ride Batty without stirrups, but I haven’t been riding him and he’s a couch.]

Next we changed up our canter work a bit. Basically, normal canter around the ring with a large circle thrown in but each direction with ended with a hand gallop up the final long side ending in a half. This was actually A LOT of fun. Ranger was quite easy to get going (and pretty easy to halt), but more than that, the quick gallop really helped us out over fences later.

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This nose!

We warmed up on a circle over the second jump in our outside line (basically, we were jumping the in of the outside line off the right lead backwards). Our first and third circle were fine but I forgot to ride the second and had a crappy stop, but oh well?

Next we did the outside line in a forward 7. Thanks to the hand gallop, we were successful in one.

After our warm up fences, BFF Mikey left the ring and POWER Ranger (pun maybe intended?) came out to play. We started off with our inside single which we ran out of 2 or 3 times until I finally managed to steer with both hands AND my right leg to and then continued around to the inside line in 6. Whereas last week we had trouble with the in of the line, this week, we did not. I did have to hold a bit for the 6 (it should be a going 6, but honestly, if I added a tiny bit more leg, Ranger would be doing the 5 with the big horses… LOL). We continued back around to repeat the combo twice more before heading from the inside single to the outside single (towards the in gate) around to the outside line in the 7 then BACK to the inside line to the outside single away from in gate (we almost crashed into a dog) so we cantered around and did that again and then again did the weird random jump that’s sort of at the middle top of the ring (light blue in the graphic) around to the inside line ON. LAST. TIME. where we perfected our 6. We ended there.

 

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Tucked in for the night!

OMG. I’m pretty sure we jumped about 20+ jumps straight. I lost track. But we just got better and better and better. Made a mistake here and there, but we found a rhythm and went with it. Ranger was in front of my leg and forward and adjustable. And best of all? He was having a blast!

I can tell my endurance is getting better, but the best thing about jumping like this? I don’t have TIME to get stuck in my head. It’s too rapid fire. Just wait for next instruction and keep going. So strange, but sort of crazy fun.

And Ranger? He’s the best.

Ranger Recap: SO MUCH ENERGY

So I never recapped last week’s lesson and I’ll be honest, I can’t remember a lot… Oops. I meant to? And then life got in the way. If this BARN thing ever happens, I will write a series of blog post detailing EVERY. SINGLE. CRAZY. ISSUE. THAT. POSSIBLE. COULD. HAPPEN. DURING. THE. PROCESS. But, I’m not doing that until stuff happens because the last thing I need is more of a jinx. AHHH! (thank you michele for talking me off a ledge on a daily basis since thanksgiving)

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More muffins!

So Ranger was once again WINTER Ranger though it was comparatively warm. I learned last week that he’s not getting ridden much. I’m not sure WHAT that means. I know I’m riding him and I know his favorite little 8 year old kid is riding him. I don’t know who else. But, I’m wondering if I’ll get to pick up some extra rides throughout the winter? You never know…

Anyway, he’s regularly lazy and pokey and SO HARD TO BEND while flatting at the trot. We’ve been integrating a little more changes of direction into our warm up routine which does help, plus I’m getting a bit more aggressive–if I’m digging my heel into his stomach and he’s still not moving off my inside leg, he does get a small kick. Usually that helps. Oh Ranger. Things would be easier if you would listen… Thankfully we do bend better at the canter and fight less (with or without warm up).

We’ve been testing my lungs lately (not great for my asthma, but good for my endurance?) and right out of our canter, started over fences, integrating our outside single off the right lead a couple times. Then, changing directions, we hit that the other direction continuing around to the outside line, attempting (and failing) to do the line in a 7 (we were a little pokey and did an 8). On re-approach, I actually added leg coming in and the 7 was there. For some reason, inside I have a harder time judging speed and stride length. I can find my distances, that’s not the issue, but I can’t judge the length of stride?

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I’ll do anything for this face!

After finally allowing me to catch my breath, we started around over the inside single/Swedish oxer to inside line (going 6 which turned out to be a HOLDING 6)… So we started out with ducking to the right of the single where Ranger laughed at me but on redirect I somehow remembered how to ride (I might have been taking it too wide?) and then screwed up the next line. See, I landed in too quiet of a canter and was told I would never make the 6 with my canter. So I added leg. And then I turned (I think too early because I had to make the same mistake as last week…) and Ranger decided to grab the bit and try and bolt. So, once we were actually heading over the our jumps, I was basically doing everything in my power to add for the 6 while Ranger was trying to convince me to let him take a flyer and do a 5.  We added back in the outside line in the 7 and continued back to the inside line a few times. Then after the inside line which was never lovely, but successful-ish? we landed from our semi-6 and continued to the outside single (away from the in gate (so, slower) and then around to the inside single/Swedish oxer (other direction – sort of towards the in gate) trying not to let Ranger take off… We finished attempting to pretty up the last 2 fences and did so as well as possible (our last swedish oxer was actually nice).

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Cat wars continue at my house. Biscuit kicked off out the top shelf and downgraded by Lasagna to “steerage” 

It was a different lesson. It was probably the first time in a long time that I did all my over fences work in a concentrated time. Usually its a few fences and then break. This time it was just keep jumping. OMG. I felt OK, but my lungs did start arguing a bit, but nothing like a few weeks ago. My endurance is definitely getting better. But, I can tell Ranger is not working that much as he’s certainly opinionated. Lol. It’s fun though! Much better than summer Ranger where I can get a little too passive. I like having to be on my toes.

Ranger enjoyed Subi’s pumpkin molasses muffins in celebration/payment of hard work.

Ranger Recap: better late than never?

Considering I’m scheduled to ride tonight, I might as well get around to recapping last week’s lesson… A week later, I’m going to simply try and highlight the basics. I was trying to follow the philosophy of jump the first thing I see. It seems to work for me and my eye…

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Riding with leg AND hand: We started off with a skinny (wth is with all of these skinny fences lately?) in the center of the ring) parallel to the long sides of the arena. So, first a longer approach from the left lead (it was closer to one wall of the indoor than the other) than from the right lead. On the left lead it was easy as I’m just more comfortable on the left lead some days. To the right, steering to the base wasn’t the issue, but it took several attempts before I was able to canter out with the same canter as I approached with. Partially, I was terrified that we’d duck out, but mostly I was lazy in my approach and didn’t actually ride to the base and OVER the fence. Once I added leg and rode, it was fine. But, for some reason, I just faced a bit of insecurity and was riding with more hand than leg. Skinnies do that. But, I had Ranger off his front end so I really just needed leg… I eventually learned.

Do things right the first time/I love winter Ranger: Winter Ranger is in front of my leg and I LOVE IT! He’s forward and responsive. We started the next exercise which was the Swedish oxer (next to our skinny) on the right lead and then were to do the inside line in a 7. Oxer was fine, the inside line we did in a VERY long 6. I mostly just landed from the in and let him go. It was fine, but I probably could have helped for a nice 6. We redid that and the 6 was lovely. No point on collecting for a pony 7.

Plan ahead: Next we did this 3 jump course/bending line. Basically, outside single followed by the inside single boxes bending line to the double Xs. It’s hard to explain without media, but there was a small window to turn before you’d miss your chance to get to the jump. When you jumped the single, you’re pretty much facing the outside rail of the ring so you need to plan to turn in the space between the outside single and the Swedish oxer/skinny jump… But, for whatever reason, I could steer and Ranger jumped the snot out of all 3 fences.

Listen and STEER CORRECTLY: We finished up, or tried to, but doing the same 3 fences in the opposite direction. So, outside single heading away from the in gate, double Xs bending to the boxes. I jumped the single perfectly 3 times, but kept screwing up my approach to the double Xs. The first time Ranger noped out when I cut the corner. Then, misunderstanding what my trainer was telling me (turned too soon–>I interpreted as turn sooner), I made worse, and then even worse, until she changed her wording to stay out longer… By the 4 attempt, we stopped doing the outside single because trainer decided I didn’t need to keep jumping that one and couldn’t do it better (seriously). Once I stayed out, I actually saw the straight line (::head –>desk::) and the jump was easy and then Ranger overachieved, REALLY jumping the snot out of the last fence. I swear it took days for my back to feel normal.

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Regardless, Ranger is a saint. And, winter Ranger is SO MUCH FUN (yay for being in front of my leg!!!). Even if he hates to bend. But, I didn’t feel like focusing on out bending issues this post.

Ranger Recap: Cold. Air. Can’t. Breathe. Oxygen. Required.

We’ve been having some strange weather here lately. It’s been warm, it’s been cold, it’s been snowing, it’s been raining, the snow’s melted… Yeah. So, due to a crazy weird storm that mucked everything up, I didn’t ride Thursday and rode Sunday instead. Yay daylight! Except, it was super cold and we rode inside… It’s winter so I’m anticipating this becoming the norm for the next few months.

Anyway, it was nice and quiet when I arrived though Ranger’s OMG BEST FRIEND (this time, Texas) was in the ring so he stared in anxiously in love from the cross ties while I groomed and tacked up. Seriously, that horse is falls in love with any horse from his field. It’s crazy. He needs to get over himself… 

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Once in the ring, he was a gentleman. Me, however, struggle to keep him moving. He was poky and slow and my legs felt like lead. Ranger was stiff so that didn’t help. Eventually he loosened up enough that our circles resembled the appropriate shape. I realized though the lesson was going to be a struggle and breathing was difficult. Once we picked up the canter, we cantered, and cantered, and cantered, and cantered. Circling small circles on each end, focusing on where I was seated and the placement of my outside hand and shoulder. We found balance eventually and continued on. And then started on simple changes to find the right rhythm. Finally, after what felt like a half hour, we walked. And I started gasping for breath. 

Breath never returned and we started to jump working on a circle over a single, first on the left lead, then on the right. We did this about a half dozen times each way, mostly focusing on both the ride in and ride out–turning with 2 hand to the fence, turning in the air, making sure landed with pace and maintained a steady pace, etc. 

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Next we moved to our outside single around down the inside of the ring (long ride) to a Swedish oxer. First time through I was weak to the single (but made it work) and then over rode to the oxer.  Next time though I actually had pace and it worked). Then we did the same 2 and continued around to our inside line…

Success did not happen. 

So I came into the in lacking power, but to a nice spot. I added leg, Ranger extended really nicely and I found the distance. Except, I took my leg off and just assumed he’d cart my butt over. And he laughed in my face and said, “nope you idiot.” Having ridden outside most of the recent lesson, I’m used to wing standards and 10 foot wide jumps. Inside many of the jumps are not winged and the jumps are 8 foot wide. Add being passive…Fail. Advise? Ride the entire time. And start from the beginning. 

Gasping for breath (SERIOUSLY), I started over and the second attempt was MUCH better. Though the first jump was kind of a miss…

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At this point, I could barely breathe, so I had to do 3 more jumps before I could dismount. Outside single around to the outside line. I promptly missed some distances and had to continue around and repeat. I asked if I could circle before the outside the second time, was told no, things looked good/I was fine, so I continued made it over a gorgeous line and halted. The thing was, my issue wasn’t the line, but rather that at that point I flat out could NOT get oxygen into my lungs. I have NEVER not been able to breathe like that while riding. I eventually dismounted, still gasping for breath Ranger got the biggest hug for not dumping me. 

He had another lesson (a walk learning to trot lesson) so he cooled out while I tried to breathe/found my rescue inhaler (fail) and it wasn’t until steroids that night and sleep that I finally could breathe normally again. The ring was freshly watered and wasn’t dusty so I’m guessing it was the cold air? Needless to say, Ranger eventually got a huge amount of treats for taking care of me… 

Ranger Recap: Blame.

I want to start this post off by saying my lesson this week was everything last week was now. Incredible. Perfection.

But, it revealed some holes(?) in my past training that I want to talk a little bit about while also recapping my lesson.

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In one of her recent recaps, the everything pony talked about how old habits from old lessons and old trainers resurface during lessons with new trainers. Stuff that’s so ingrained that we don’t even think about it. It’s not necessarily the heels down or closed fingers or the mechanics of riding, but the mental stuff that sticks with you in ways you don’t realize until you are riding with someone new. Now, caveat, my trainer isn’t new, I’ve been riding with her consistently for 2.5+ years now and have taken a few lessons with her before then. But, I rode with my previous trainer for much longer, multiple times a week at times, plus I rode with other instructors at her barn, in her program. So, I was fully ingrained.

Last week, I had issues with the one stride. I didn’t steer aggressively. Then, I didn’t do enough to get us over the skinny. It didn’t take a lot to get over the 1 stride and after 2 attempts, we were over and had no issues. The skinny, I struggle with, despite my best attempts, I still AM 100% certain I WAS DOING SOMETHING WRONG and a better rider could have gotten Ranger over.

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Last night, we were warming up on the flat at the trot. It was windy, but warm so we were light on flat work. Trainer mention I need to work on bending him more (his nose wanted to point out despite my best effort). To the left, I managed to get him bending (holy crap, my inside leg was THROBBING), but to the right, nothing I did worked. “I have no right leg.” “It might not be your right leg. If he’s not listening, escalate. Kick him with your inside leg.” After kicking him, we did some circles and I got him bending better to the right (I struggled with our circle/pole exercise to the left, however, I misunderstood the point was to go OVER the pole the until I was halfway through the exercise to the left the first time, so… that was the bigger issue. Lol)

During our walk break, my trainer mention that an 8 year old has been riding him and causing his right drift. I brought up that I was taught to blame myself for all the issues and never blame my horse. My trainer flat out said that is bull and sometimes it is the horse. All of the issues last week were caused by right drift. Yes, I was passive, but, I rode straight to the jumps with equal leg pressure and normally that would have been enough. I did then share that I hate 1 strides (and bounces) and left to stew about dying… She agreed that I do better when I can just get my course and go so that lesson wasn’t the best fit for me. But, my riding wasn’t the entire problem. But, I take 100% of the blame when stuff goes wrong even when it may only be 50% my fault (or less or more). Much of this is because I don’t see myself as a competent rider. I need to work on that. But, it was a really good and necessary conversation that we had.

So, after this, we canter and I rode. First, supposedly, I picked up too much of a canter? Rare for me! But, I’ll take credit here. We were outside and it didn’t feel fast so I asked for more. But, with the wind, it was supposedly too much. And, Ranger was leaning in on the corners… I was told to halt and back, but as I asked for that canter, instead I just lifted and balanced and he came right back to me which made my trainer happy. To the right, the leaning was worse so I kicked which got him fast, but, he got off my leg which then allowed me to balance him. I did have issues keeping my right hand by his shoulder so I’ll work on that for next week…

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We started back and forth over the quarter line jump. Basically, working on straightness to it, even pace, and halting on the landing. Right lead was actually easy and I made the turn without issue (I struggle SO MUCH with that turn). Left lead we were able to canter a circle first to establish pace, then a slight steadying tug UP and again, all was good.

Next we came down our quarter line around to our outside single around to the inside single oxer. Once again, the quarter line was easy, the single was fine in that I rode to it and fit what I saw and wanted in to it. Now, the spot was our worst spot of the night but it was 100% adequate. It wasn’t a chip and it was completely deliberate, but it wasn’t as lovely as every other jump of the night. But, as I struggle SO MUCH with that jump, I’ll take it. After that jump, we headed towards the in gate where Ranger got a bit excited and thankfully I adjusted early and we nicely jumped that fence.

We ended with a course. Outside line in a 6, inside line in a 6, outside single, and inside oxer. Every. Single. Fence. Just. Happened. Perfectly. Seriously. I can’t even describe it. So, the inside like was a 5, but the 5 was there. We were going home, he was in front of my leg and it worked. Heading to the outside single, I felt the right drift early and was able to get him OFF my leg and move him over and finally nailed the distance I wanted. The outside line was nice, the oxer was lovely.

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Halloween for horses? 

My trainer thought it was a good idea to end while we were ahead. I agreed. I didn’t miss one distance and Ranger was perfection.

Ranger Recap: Laughing at me.

So it was bound to happen. I finally had a crappy lesson. At least for the first time in a while. I’m pretty sure I never wrote up my last lesson, but too late.

Nothing starts well when you get there and 1. notice everyone is riding in the indoor and 2. are early (enough) and are told to get on as soon as possible to ride with the other girls.

I typically ride at 6:30 so arrive between 5:50 and 6:00 which gives me enough time to groom, relax, and hop on by 6:20. So, being told to hurry up so I can ride with the 6:00 lesson is never a good sign. And, it turns out everyone was riding inside because the rated show was indoors this weekend. This sort of meant that I wasn’t going to a priority because 1. lesson person and 2. children’s hunter and larger division pony in my lesson. So yeah. Granted, I was defeated before the lesson because I hate rushing.

I won’t go over our warm up/flat work because it was decent enough. I’ve been struggling with bending on straight lines with him. He’s being ridden by a lot more kids now and no one works on bending at all so I get on and it’s 1000% harder for me. So… Corners/circles/etc. are fine, going straight? way too much work. Especially as my inside leg wasn’t working (both directions interestingly enough).

As the other pair were the focus, I didn’t jump as much. I can’t complain as this rarely ever happens. But, when it does, it’s frustrating. I didn’t help things but not being on my game. But… I started off with my nemesis. A 1 stride around to a skinny. Except, I had to wait a while as my trainer kept messing with it while I sat and contemplated my impending death. Lol. But it’s true…

So, when it was finally my turn (other girls were jumping other more fun stuff), we jumped the in, I gave zero direction and Ranger NOPED out to the right. So, we turned, cantered back around, and Ranger NOPED at the in (twice I believe. The second time I was actually trying and he grabbed the bit, laughing all the way, ha! Ha! HA!). Thankfully, anger got in the way of my fear of death (I seriously despise 1 strides) and I picked his massive head up and got him through the damn line a couple of times…

We next added in the skinny and again had the SAME problem (thankfully, he stopped playing with the 1 stride once he realized I was not not jumping it). So, my trainer is on a skinny kick. This one is NOT as bad as the skinny in the outdoor that was so skinny that, jumping the center, I tapped my foot on standard, but that freaked me out. This one was hard to get to and I kept overshooting the approach and Ranger first got his eye on the out of the inside line… So, first step was correcting then trying to get straight. Except we ducked out to the left. Ugh. Instead of going back to it, we repeated the entire thing and I’m pretty sure we got over it the second and third time, again, sitting deep and LIFTING a big and ultra heavy head. But, it’s been a while since Ranger has tested me that much.

Finally, we were to end with the skinny, around to the 1 stride around to what was a bending line of our picket fence jump to oxer in what was anticipated to be a 7. But, the damn skinny. See, the first few times we did the skinny, my trainer was standing near it and then she was down towards the end of the ring. And Ranger was not having anything to do with it. Finally, I was told to forget my distance (I saw my damn distance every time and rode to it and then lost it when Ranger dropped and rolled–well, not quite, but I could not get on the same page when I knew where I wanted to be) and just get over the jump. Lol. So, I fought him, we lost our canter, ended up trotting the skinny (at the distance I wanted because, I can’t let everything go). Then, from there, the one stride was easy (the out now being an oxer but that didn’t matter). While I was concerned about the picket jump to the oxer, it was mostly because I despise the picket (it’s my death fence) and the oxer was a much larger than anything else we had jumped that night. I was told it would probably be 7 strides but we jumped the in out of a forward canter and landing, Ranger was so in front of my leg that I saw that 6 that I just went for it vs fussing. After all the cruddy first fences/lines, it was nice to have SOMETHING look nice first time through and to ride aggressively.

In the end, I’m not sure what to make of the lesson. It wasn’t great. Part of that was because I wasn’t riding well. Part of that was because I was down on priorities list. But, Ranger doesn’t test me like that often. He’ll test me when I’m not trusting my eye (ie: add if I don’t keep my leg on). But, it’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with this ducking out stuff. So, it was a good reminder to stay square, keep leg on to the base, and lift his head UP a half an inch as needed when he STARTS to feel a tiny bit heavy…

I may not have enjoyed all of it, but I’m pretty sure Ranger had fun. He had a twinkle in his eye every.single.time. he ducked out. You could see him laughing. He has too much personality…

Ranger Recap: Finding the stride

I’ve really been terrible about blogging lately. Honestly, life sort of been a mess and I haven’t wanted to put everything out here until at least some of it is resolved. Honestly, each time I think some aspects of my life hit rock bottom, things get worse. So, there’s that.

 

But, having said all of that, I have 2 rainy lessons to recap.

2 weeks ago, in the cold, pouring rain, we rode inside. Ranger was UP. This lesson was all about bending, looking ahead, and riding the stride I had, staying consistent.

We started off at the top of the ring (away from the in gate) on a left lead canter basically cantering over this inside single on a circle several times. After that, we continued from the inside single, brought him back to the trot trotted the center vertical heading towards the in gate at the very top of the ring (jump 2 in the very bad illustration) landing, turning towards back towards the out of the bending line (jump 3). We did this several times, finally stringing it together as a continuous pattern. The time the only struggle was the trot fence, Ranger was convinced I wanted a simple change, so I had to fight more than I wanted. The second time, I had a more collected trot than I’d have liked, the third time, we were both on the same page and he understood that letting go did not mean canter (sometimes he getting a little lesson horse programmed). And, having more go than woah…

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Not drawn the scale…

Next (there may have been other jumps in between… I don’t remember), it was about lengthening vs turning in the air. Using the same first jump, this time from the other direction, everything this time was about the ride and trusting my eye. Short ride to jump 1 (A), then around to the outside line going by the in gate (ugh) in a going 6. The line was perfect. Then, around to a long ride to long ride to jump 4 (D). Heading to the last fence, a large, wide oxer, once again, I saw the spot turn the corner and decide just to go for it. About halfway towards it, Ranger started to get heavy. Trusting my eye, instead of pulling, I re-balanced him, added leg, and we were able to hit the forward spot. 2 weeks ago, I’m sure I would have messed with it or done nothing but maybe I’m learning to trust what I see? Either way, it was perfect and we ended there. The out of the line was 2’9 which for inside is huge for me and it looked tiny and felt tiny. I guess that’s good? When I’m told heights by my trainer and I don’t believer her… lol. I could have done more, but sometimes you just want to end with perfect.

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This past week it was raining. Again. But, we rode outside and the rain eventually stopped. Unlike the week before, I had to work to get Ranger in front of my leg on the flat.

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This rain is getting old…

We warmed up with a circle exercise both directions consisting of 4 fences on a circle: poles, 2 boxes, and a cross rail and jumped them several times each direction worked on maintaining a slow, collected stride and working on riding each fence on that going but  collected stride. It was easy because it’s Ranger and thankfully I struggled on the flat and by the time we started jumping, he was already there.

Next we did this crazy roll back exercise. Basically doing a figure eight. Ranger’s OMG BEST FRIEND Mikey left the ring so he was devastated so life was even harder (and Forrest started calling to him too…). Basically, we cantered up over the quarter line single turning in the air to the out of the outside line (3 strides) then turning back to jump the quarter line the other direction to the other jump in the outside line (3 strides). We did this several times. See illustration below but keep in mind I was also dodging other jumps. Goal: looking ahead, turning in air, remaining forward to hit the 3 stride.

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Sort of illustrates the figure eight exercise?

Finally, we ended with the following: outside single, to the inside cross rail (these were the first 2 jumps of the circle exercise) around to the large inside oxer. The trick of this exercise was to ride the appropriate stride depending on which part of the exercise you were on. The first part of the exercise required required a quiet canter, keeping Ranger in front of my leg. We really collected on the landing for the tight turn turn to the tiny cross rail (barely a pole ~12″) and then we had to land and move up immediately to find the right canter for the next fence so that once we were straight I wasn’t fussing with my canter. Thankfully because he was in front of my leg, he was there immediately and we were able to get the forward spot. We continued around to the outside line in 5 (?) and called it a night. I don’t remember the last time where I had 2 lessons in a row and didn’t miss one spot.

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Just hanging out with this guy is the best!

Trusting your eye and turning off your brain

Be warned, this may be more of a philosophical post than a traditional recap post…

In today’s edition of Ranger Recap, I’m going to try and talk about my last 2 lessons. 2 weeks ago was my first lesson in about 3 weeks. The lesson was fine except I could NOT ride a distance to save my life. I was going to say I couldn’t see a distance to save my life, but that’s not true.

The issue was, I say the distances, I saw EVERY. SINGLE. DISTANCE. And then missed every distance. Or most of them. The problem being that instead of riding the distance I saw, I didn’t trust my brain. I changed something and then the distance wasn’t there.

And this was so frustrating.

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I have mentioned it before, but I have a very accurate eye. Why? No idea. But I can see distances very well, especially for someone who isn’t riding much. If I rode more, chances are my eye would be pretty damn close to perfect. But, that’s how accurate my eye is.

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Gross mini anyone? He’s trying to be an appaloosa? 

The issue came last lesson that I started second guessing the distances. Instead of turning, seeing the distance, and riding TO it, I turned, rode 4 strides, and said, “Oh shit! Maybe that’s not what I should be riding to!” and changed something. This had me riding past the distance. Or, when I finally accepted that the distance I saw turning the corner (seeing the distance 10-15 strides away ISN’T ideal FYI — but that’s where I see things) was THE DISTANCE and stopped fiddling, I then failed to add leg for the going stride. And we’d chip.

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Always judging me… 

We started off in that lesson with baby fences. 2′? And I really couldn’t see anything. Granted, I didn’t panic, but it was HARD. Then my trainer hiked the fences up to help me out. It was so much easier to see, but then I stopped trusting my eye. (NOTE, there was 1 fence I nailed every time, 2 fences I screwed up every time, 1 I then fixed, and 1 we drilled until I finally didn’t screw up).  We got through it, but it wasn’t pretty.


Based on last week, I was dreading this week. Migraines all week and I wasn’t disappointed when my lesson was rescheduled from Thursday to Sunday.  Sunday it was pouring and we were inside.

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Constant judgement

Barn was empty when I got there so I had my Ranger time and a full 40 minutes to groom and relax. So necessary.

The rain and cooler weather and possibly not being out overnight left me with a energized horse. He was forward and wiggly. We had a long flat warm up and lots of circles and two point and circles in two point and drilling my position in two point. Then cantering. Larger circles. Small circles. Focusing at the canter shifting between 1/2 seat and 3 point. In our small circle dropping my outside shoulder and sitting on my outside seat bone. Then lengthening. Then, because when you haven’t done lead changes, why not work on that in the indoor? Which we missed at first but eventually got in the corner and the collected the canter back up and repeated our circles before halting with Ranger’s head up (he likes to root if given the opportunity).

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This face does not judge. Unless you stop stuffing him with food. 

Over fences we warmed up with a large figure eight exercise — single around to short ride to another single back around and repeat. We did that a few times before turning it around and doing that the other way. After the lead change, Ranger was a bit excited, but nothing crazy. We then turned back around and did the first single around to the long ride to our oxer focusing on steady pace and even. We. Hit. Every. Single. Spot.

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Judging me, judging Hermione (who is suture free and doing very well!)

As the ride continued, we added in fences, working 3-4 jumps at a time. Always riding forward, working on straightness because Ranger was NOT providing that and keeping the forward going. My eye was accurate and the only change was that once I saw something, I just started counting 1-2, 1-2 to maintain a steady rhythm. If Ranger tried to pull down (not forward, down), I tugged up to rebalance and back he was on his hind end, moving forward. Everything was right there.

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Best face.

We struggled with 2 lines. One inside where my turn wasn’t perfect. We made it work the first 2 times (first turned too late… shocking, then didn’t use 2 hands) but once I used 2 hands AND outside leg it was easy and I didn’t need to work. The only real issue was the bending line and that was not Ranger but me. First time through we did the oxer around to the line and I didn’t like the oxer and failed to let that go. The in was actually nice, but I got nervous heading to the out oxer (it wasn’t huge, but it was close to the wall and made me twitchy) and looked at it and saw the spot and then stopped looking at it and rode right past it. Consciously.  So we did it again. I did the add just to get me over it. Before jumping the second time my trainer yelled “you guys jumped in the Dixon Oval and that jump is making you nervous?!” Lol. Third time was gorgeous and forward and we called it a day.

Well, I called it a day. Ranger had a do a w/t lesson with a tiny bit of cantering which is cute and terrifying. Supposedly he’s good if he likes the kid. If he doesn’t, he can’t do the w/t lessons. He just takes off cantering and gets faster, and faster, and faster. Oh Ranger…

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Best face in the world. 

Anyway, my takeaway from this very long post. I really need to trust what I see, what I FIRST SEE, and go with it. Once I see something, I need to focus my brain on something, anything, whether counting, singing, or conversing with Ranger about anything. But, trust that I can and do see the spots. I wish I wouldn’t see distances so early because that is part of the issue. Seeing something 12-15 strides back isn’t ideal as that’s a long time to stick with a plan. But, that’s where I’m at. Trust it. Go with it. Commit. And stop interfering. And it’s all better when Ranger is more up like yesterday. When he lazy, it’s so much harder to stick with the plan!

Ranger Recap: I forgot how to ride…

This post could also be titled: Don’t do yoga before you ride…

It was also a week of boxes and shipments and we all love boxes, especially when they don’t cost anything! And even when they do…

First box? New helmet ordered on IHAD! I ordered the Trauma void and then spent hours debating whether it fit (I had tried one on a few weeks ago so I knew the size was right). I also realized that my old One K helmet did NOT fit (plus was giving me headaches again–the last thing I need). Thanks Michele for laughing at me and thank you to Amanda @ 900 Facebook Pony for helmet fit advice from pictures and random text messages! I’m still not sure I love the look, but it’s comfortable and it definitely fits. I’ll do a full review one of these days!

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Next box? ~$300 worth of Kensington fly stuff! I won an Instagram drawing a few weeks ago and now am the proud owners of lots of fly garb. All my guys already have fly sheets (Batty and Jiminy JUST got new sheets this year) but Subi’s is on his 4th summer so he was the recipient of the prize package. Fly sheet, fly mask, fly boot, tail cover (not really sure about this one), and a matching lead rope. At some point I might splurge and get a matching neck cover, but, as I don’t use the neck cover on Subi too much, he may just use his current next cover on with this sheet… Who cares about matching… I’ll dress him up this weekend and take a picture. The mask MAY be too big as he usually wears a cob mask and the smaller size was listed as arab (on the package it’s listed as cob/arab) so we’ll see. It’s a new style so very few reviews. Regardless, it’s still nice to win stuff!

Now, lesson time! Thanks to a weird  kumbaya day at work, I ended up doing a lot of yoga instead of working (less the 90 minute intensive research class I had to teach while the rest of my colleagues were running around playing video games and painting rocks). I love yoga, but it’s been a while. As a result, I felt it when I hopped on Ranger last night. Flat work was fine. Did a lot of extending and collecting at the canter.

Over fences, we started out working on an extending/collecting exercise over the center line (maybe 1ft fences). First time in, 10 strides, next length in for the 9, then collecting for the 10, then back to the 9, then 10, then 11, then 8. One time I overrode for an 8 instead of the 9, but ultimately, you get the idea. The fences weren’t the issue, the stride length was.

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Next we took it to the inside single around to the inside line. Goal was to do the inside line first in a holding 7 then a going 6. The single was fine, the holding 7 was fine, reapproaching the single was fine, the 6, less so. I failed to keep my right leg on him as my leg was starting to die by this point and because of a lack of a straight line, we ended up with a 7 vs 6. So continuing around, we landed from the single, moved UP, stayed straight, and got the 6. Easy, no issue (this time).

After this we did the other inside single (oxer) around to the outside line (4 strides) back to the inside line in the 6. This was, er, less successful. As we turned to the oxer, Ranger had a moment of GALLOP in his mind (he caught his eye on the outside line vs the oxer) and I had to collect). Despite that, the oxer wasn’t terrible). But, we landed and didn’t exactly regroup and sort of flew to the line and while I collected as necessary, I failed to ADD LEG at the base and we chipped before thankfully finishing the line semi successfully. The inside line was OK.

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On the reapproach, I stayed out longer before the turn to the oxer and there was no attempt the gallop as Ranger did NOT get his eye on the wrong jump as my turn was better and direction was clear. The turn to the outside line was again so much better. BUT, where I completely failed was the inside line… OMG. I landed from the in and just lost it. We did the line in a 7 and it was ugly. So, I was to go to the other inside single and go back around to the inside line. Except… I completely FAILED at that. (legs DEAD and no heel and shaking legs re: yoga coming in to play)

Let me just mention this. It deserves its own line.

Ranger is a SAINT.

Ranger SAVED MY BUTT.

I have no idea how WHY we got over the jump OR how I stayed on.

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Summer is ending quickly…

First he thought we were jumping the brick box NEXT to the single then realized I was likely thinking single and said, “Idiot, I’ll jump that, hang on fool.” And jumped from the base of the fence about a foot higher than the jump so that he cleared it. I landed in a HEAP on his neck. But managed to stay on as he cantered around the corner and decided he’d throw in a front change just because… (I’ll while I’m promising him so many cookies and peppermints to make up for my mistakes).

Needless to say, we restarted and I regrouped and got my leg under me and we jumped both of the damn jumps/lines. They weren’t perfect, but I believe at that point, as it didn’t look like I was going to die, my trainer decided that was a close to perfect as things were going to be. I made promises never to do yoga before I rode ever again and off Ranger and I went for a walk (where he proceeded to spook at a horse running and bucking and almost unseating me AGAIN–thankfully I had decided to put my feet back in my stirrups as there was NO strength left in my legs to hold on to his side jump and spin).

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My new helmet ALMOST got a crash test.

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Ranger got an INSANE number of peppermints and cookies.

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