Ranger Recap: things are coming together

Balance, bending, turns, canter from the hind end? It’s all starting to come together. Without trying to recap my entire lesson last night, all I can say is that I wish I had media. It was seriously a good lesson.

We started at the canter over “the pile of trash” in the middle of the ring. Basically it was a bunch of poles and a gate that was propped up at a 90* angle against the out of the outside line so that you could jump it as long as you prepared properly from the left lead. We did this on a canter circle and while I thought my trainer was insane (my thoughts most of this lesson), the jump wasn’t hard at all as bending, turning, listening to my leg, were all in Ranger’s plans last night. The only issue we started off with was finding the right amount of power at the base. I just needed to add leg/squeeze at the base as the canter I had coming in was fine (yellow line indicated on poor version of course below).

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A really bad attempt to recreate the course… 

Next, we warmed up a figure eight over the straw bale jump (orange line) to the plain vertical (burgundy line) on the right lead. Of course, by this point, most of the fences were hiked up to 2’9″ which got in my head for a few minutes. I struggled with this even though this was the exercise I practiced almost exclusively last week. I saw my distances yet the first time, failed to commit and added. Then I committed, got the distance, then committed the same sin. It wasn’t so much that I lost my pace, but rather that I lost my line? And let Ranger drift in a touch which caused the chip. Once I fixed that, the line was fine.

Then, the insanity began.

Because my trainer is crazy, we started with the trash gate (yellow) roll back to the our green oxer (green line) around to the straw bales (orange line) this time jumped the opposite direction) bending line to the vertical (burgundy).

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PERFECTION.

Holy crap. With the trash jump, we needed to turn before the in of the outside line which actually wasn’t a problem and the green was lovely. And the bending line was perfect. Ranger, on the other hand, has been SO BALANCED and on his hind end, that he through in a full change along the way. Seriously, this horse just keeps getting better and better.

We repeated this course one more time, adding in the blue outside line before calling it a night.

But, I can’t even describe how amazing this horse feels these days. I did mention riding someone else 1x a month because it’s probably good for me, but, I don’t want to stop with Ranger because I’m having so much fun right now…

Ranger Recap: redemption

I never quite figured out how to write about my last lesson and then instead, I wrote about all this other drama.

Long story short, I never quite clicked with Ranger 2 weeks ago. It had been a few weeks and everything felt off and I just was really hard on myself the entire lesson. I rode with a mother-daughter duo and they were great and commented (separately) after the lesson that they’d never seen Ranger so put together or go so well, but I just never on that lesson. Towards the end we sort of got it together, but I couldn’t really keep him packaged, moving from behind, AND not get my hands overly involved… I never felt like I got that bouncy canter either… So, I was either too slow or too fast. And then I never recapped.

I had the opportunity to ride over that weekend and used my water bottle and phone for some media so I’ll try put that in throughout this post even though it has nothing to do with this week’s lesson…

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So much pizza from a meet up with Emma and another friend the other week!

We were reunited with Mikey for this week’s lesson. I always enjoy riding with Mikey as we tend jump a little more AND get much needed breaks. In addition, I’m not complaining, we ARE challenged more.

We started off with a lot of time on the flat. Just trotting around, using the ring, remember (me) not to look too far ahead. I sort of have this problem where I twist my head/upper body trying to look too far ahead sometimes? So, I focused on trying to focus just between Ranger’s ears. Then we did a whole hell of a lot of sitting trot to get me straight. It appears when I DON’T fight it? I’m fine. When I do? hahaha… To the right, sitting trot wasn’t an issue, the left? Took me a while to get there even after a really nice sit trot the other way. One day I’ll learn. Cantering right was decent and I managed to package him up pretty quickly. Found pace, then worked on bending, impulsion, and all of that to make sure impulsion is coming from behind. Of course, every time I add bend, hand, etc., Ranger takes it as a cue to slow, but we’re getting there and I’m able to add pace more quickly/directly. The left was a little better, but more of the same.

We started off with a figure 8 of sorts, inside single gate around to the bending/broken line in a forward 7 (we did this continuously ~4x). The gate was fine the first 3 times, though around the corner, approaching it, Ranger had the habit of trying to “drop and drag” which forced me around the corner to do some adjustments. As for the bending line, I was turning a bit late for the in which made the line harder as  Ranger doesn’t exactly bend well — he’s about as flexible as a 2×4… On the 4th time through, Ranger suddenly required NO adjustment around the corner and I stopped riding (he also had been getting a little… strong? approaching the single and I had been checking to ensure that he didn’t drag me to the fence). As a result? Well, we took a superman flyer over the inside single… Who knew? Lol. After a halt and back, we restarted, I rode, and we rode to a respectable distance WITHOUT dragging me, and proceeded to once again, screw up the bending line (it was fine, but I turned late again and made more work for myself).

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After a quick break, we moved on to the following course of bending lines: straw bales to out of the outside line (7) around to the plain vertical to the in of the outside line jumped backwards (forward 7).

And this is how I nearly impaled myself on a fake tree and Ranger saved my butt.

You see, Ranger had springs. Serious springs. We jumped the first fence and instead of steering to the second fence, I decided to adjust my stirrup. Then I was approaching the fence I thought, shit, I think I need to go around. Let’s go to the right. No! To the left. No, that’s the standard! Then, Ranger, bless his heart, just said, “why don’t we just go over, you idiot?!”

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“mapping” my ride… Go make sense of this… 

So, despite me not steering, just carted my butt over a 2’9″ vertical… See, Ranger has a LOT of tricks (stopping is NOT one of them thankfully). The main one? Going around fences when you don’t steer. And here he saved my ass. Why? I have no clue. But, last night? That horse just took care of me… All the cookies in the world.

So, we started over, I kept my leg on, and we did the course with out ANY issue. Lol. No fear of impalement on second attempt. 3rd attempt? That 7 became a 6 and SPRINGS started doing the horse show strides..  he was feeling good. We had to hold for the 7 for our second line. We had power.

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We end with the following course: straw bales jumped the opposite direction (away from the out of the outside line) around to the outside line, around to our original bending/broken line (the out had gone up to some big oxer… to which I was asked if I was comfortable jumping it or if I wanted to stick with my other line… I decided to try), to the straw bale to the out of the outside line to end. Before I started, my trainer’s daughter asked if Ranger could jump that high. The answer was yes, but it made me laugh. Obviously he doesn’t jump high with anyone other than me and rarely jumps the large oxers. It’s funny though. 2’9″ now looks normal and while the oxer looked larger, cantering up to it, it didn’t look that impressive.

img_1143So, the course started off well enough, the straw bale jump was easy, though our change after was slow which made the approach to the line feel less smooth than I’d like, but it was fine. The line was good, but I did have to hold as Ranger was jumping the crap out of everything and covering ground like I’ve never felt. Then FINALLY remembered to look and turn a little earlier to that stupid line and we nailed that turn and line (though I had to remind him we weren’t leaving out a stride on a going line) to the oxer — which Ranger flew over because he was in SUPERHORSE mode  and continued to the final bending line — again moving up for the 6 because why hold?

Seriously, this horse. He’s amazing! I made the decision not to try anything again because I couldn’t ask for more. Was I perfect? No. But he had springs and gave 1000% and why try and beat that? All the cookies in the word.

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“a creature from outer space living in the dog bed, begging from a bell rub” — the lasagna

Ranger Recap: I rode a horse again!

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Not Ranger but these 2 fools are worthy of photos too.

After almost a month off from riding, I finally rode again!

Between my conference, 1 short, wonderful lesson (that I may or may not have recapped), getting seriously sick, and then Devon, I basically did NOT ride at all in May.

But, it’s June now and I finally got to ride again. And, I remembered how to tack up! I’d say I remembered what I horse looks like, but I sort of deal with those daily. But tack? Yes, I remembered how to do that!

Ranger. I love that horse.

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No photos just food.

Anyway, I was running a touch late and got to the barn to see a whole bunch of trailers… It was strange as Thursdays are usually dead. Anyway, I tacked up, rushed out to the outdoor to see all these people I didn’t know. Seriously. No one. Well, Forrest was in the ring, but other than him? I knew not one horse, pony, or rider. So, I got on, said hi to my trainer, and realized right away that things were running behind. Lol. Anyway, instead of warming up, I walked over to the rail and chatted with my trainer’s sister instead for about 10-15 minutes (because even though I was late, I still made it into the ring with 10 minutes to spare before my lesson started…)

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This duo… no words. 

Finally, I had brief trot warm up before another long walk break… Then to canter? I basically was used to teach a rider in the previous direction her leads. So, I’d canter some, she’d tell me if I were right or wrong (FYI, I always picked up my correct lead), then I’d walk or halt, and try again. It was… an interesting exercise for her and annoying for me and Ranger.

Eventually they all finished up and left the ring and norm restored.

We warmed up over our outside line (far side next to the pasture), working on riding Ranger’s back legs in a bouncy collected canter in an adding 7. No issue at all. Next, same line in a more forward 6 but still riding the back legs without adding speed. Fail. I got the 6, but rode his front end not the back end. So, we went back to the 7 to get the feel of the bouncy short stride coming from behind, no issue before maintaining that and just letting go and adding leg. Got it. And the 6 was right there.

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ring from my last lesson but I’m pretty sure most of it hasn’t changed

From here, we moved on to our next course: inside single (stone pillar standards) towards the barn/in gate, inside broken line (straw bales to straw bales — white standards by both mounting blocks to the white wing standards) in a 7 around to the outside line in a 6.

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Barn kittens in a stall… 

The first time we were heading directly to the single with a perfect canter to a perfect distance and suddenly chipped. A certain idiot (you choice who is at fault) decided that it was A-OK to drop and drag at the last second so chip we did… a quick halt and back and we started over again. Take two included a tug up and no drop and drag and a lovely forward distance. The broken line was nice (I’m getting so much better now at riding the bouncy canter and his hind end) the outside line was good as well. I would have even been happy to end there.

But, we don’t do things just once. After all, since I haven’t ridden in a month, why end on doing some well once? So we did it again. And you know what? It was even better. Ranger was bolder on both lines so I didn’t need to add as much leg while also focusing on keeping everything rocking back. He was just there. I’d say eventually he’ll get there naturally, but… I’m the only one asking so probably not. Still, he fights me less and less each time so, yay?

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Ranger says later!

In turnout news, it appears Ranger has divorced (been divorced from) his BFFs Mikey and Forrest and now has a new BFF Coco. He’s less than enamored with Coco but give him time?

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Ranger’s new turnout buddy, Coco

Ranger Recap: flat work.

My lesson this past week moved to Sunday and unintentionally turned into a flat work lesson. This isn’t actually a bad thing, but I convinced my husband to come, watch, and video over fences and we don’t jump. Of course. Seriously? Lol.

We also ended up inside due to an unexpected rain storm…

The extra flat work came about because Ranger was completely ignoring my inside (left) leg. Part of the issue is he’s ridden by mostly kids who he packs around and gets no instruction from. As a result, he doesn’t have to do anything. So, if he isn’t straight? Who cares. If his nose is turned out to the outside of the ring? It’s fine because he’s not really running off with the beginners. And, riding in the evenings, I’m also getting my trainer at the end of the day and we’re not working as hard on the technical “stuff” either.

So, yesterday morning when he was completely blowing off my leg? We got down to business. Part of this is partly unfair when he’s never asked to do this stuff, but he’s also not being asked by anyone else anything else that he’s ignoring so… He also has training in this so he does KNOW how to properly carry himself, but won’t do it if he’s not made to.

We basically spent 20 minutes trotting around working on a slow trot adding inside leg and informing Ranger that when I add ONE leg, the correct response is to move over NOT to speed up. It took a LONG time (hence 20 minutes of circles and bending) but we got there. It took actual kicks but eventually we got there.

Then we did the same thing at the canter, working at an upright canter, coming from his hind end vs long and low from his front end. Some point my husband must have realized this “boring” lesson (I was enjoying myself) should be recorded so he started videoing the canter stuff. I struggled some here but we got it at parts. I was struggling with the shortness of the reins and holding him up to get him on his hind end.

Also struggled with body position and tilting forward…

Adding in a pole and struggling with new way of riding…

Finally we added in a single fence, jumping it both ways (my husband however failed to record 3 of the 4 attempts… why, I don’t know… I can’t take him anywhere!). Coming up it, the first time, around the corner at the far end of the ring, Ranger wanted to duck, run, and get heavy. While I was able to get him back into a nicer canter, I lost all steering coming up the short turn to our fence and it just wasn’t the prettiest (I kind of failed to collect him (the point of the exercise) or look at the jump. At least we made it over. Second attempt was good though the duck, drop, and run at the beginning still existed.

For the long ride, first fence was nice in terms of the jump except I failed to actually do the exercise and shorten his stride and get him on his hind end… Oops. Next attempt? See video for disaster?

The problem was, I added hand, there was NOTHING there. Nothing was coming from his hind end at all. I added leg, and the only power I could get was up front. We called it a day as he was pretty much just spent at that point and had nothing left. The rain stopped and he and I went on a short walk before my husband fed him all the cookies.

I’m off to conferences starting tomorrow so we’ll see if I get any updates for the next week or so…

Ranger Recap: Turning in the air

This week’s Ranger Recap focused on turns.

Rather than our normal hunter courses and occasional roll backs, this week was completely focused on deliberate turns in the air.

We started off with the outside single (away from the road) around to the skinny (turning before the mess of other jumps) to the in of the outside line backwards (3 strides).

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The trick with this was to ensure that I kept Ranger’s stride short enough to make the turn (heading towards the barn, he likes to lengthen) and to keep him off of his front end so I could turn him. That said, this exercise went surprisingly well despite not having that much time to turn…

Next we did the exercise in reverse, sort of. So, we came up the outside single away from the road to the skinny towards the barn to the out of the outside line (see handy image…lol)

course002This went…less well than the other direction. We struggled (it didn’t help that I sort of injured my hip and had no right leg the entire night) and basically rode without any inside leg and we missed the skinny the first time… On repeat I forced myself to use my leg that was super weak and got through the exercise but it was…not the prettiest.

Finally, we added a whole bunch to the first exercise. So, outside single away from road, immediate turn to skinny 3 strides to in of outside line backwards to end jump turn out of inside line backwards 4 strides to inside single to 2 strides to green jump. Confusing? Hell yes. I had the other rider go first because I was so lost.

course003 The first time through I made it though jump 6 before I looked at the ground and ducked around it… Not exactly a success… Lol. We repeated jump 4-7 where Ranger decided to try and BOLT approaching jump 5 but thankfully we survived. On re-approach, I was able to collect his stride and successfully accomplish the course at hand.

Take aways? It is REALLY hard to ride when you have 1 good leg. Wednesday night my hip was hurting so much I could barely walk. Yesterday is was much better, but I just felt weak. That weakness just made everything harder. It was fine, just harder. Overall, not the easiest day to do these exercises. Still, definitely a welcome change from the normal hunter courses.

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Ranger Recap: Drowning.

It’s warmed up here in the mid atlantic but the rain is back. We had 2 glorious mostly rain free weeks (so, there was some rain, but mostly dry) weeks. And then yesterday happened. My paddock and yard that had begun to dry so nicely? Yeah no. SO MUCH MUD. I’m drowning. Sinking is probably a better word. It is AWFUL.

So, after being washed away walking from building to building on campus yesterday (stupid college campus with terrible drainage and work schedule that left me with meetings on the other side of campus), I convinced myself that I really DID need to ride. So I ventured out to ride. Last week? We were outside in the outdoor for the first time since last year. Last night? Back inside. Yuck. At times the rain was so loud I couldn’t here instructions. So I made my own… Completely fair, right?

Anyway, it was humid (rain) so Ranger was slow and behind my leg a bit so… fun. Spent time working on that and getting his head up. He just wanted to drop and pull. Not so much in a drop and drag kind of way, but more so in a get heavy and fall on his face? My least favorite Ranger ride, especially when I’m struggling to keep him in front of my leg.

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We started off just working on a large pattern. Down the purple single (towards the in gate) and back around away from the gate to the Swedish oxer (orange jump on ugly diagram). We repeated this 3-4 times until we maintained a forward GOING pace to both jumps. Supposedly in his previous lesson (he did a 1/2 hour with a kid to who kicks and causes Ranger to gallop) he was bolting to the single, but mostly I just had to worry about getting him to carry himself. No drop and drag was happening. Initially despite getting to the fences at nice spots, we lacked…power, but once I found a better canter, everything improved.

Next we reversed the pattern. So up the single away from the in gate (tight turn to the purple single), down down the Swedish oxer towards the in gate and continuing to the outside line (purple on diagram) in the 6. All would have been fine, but I got in my head because I started listening to chatter. Find the straight line. Leg, power, 2 hands. And got in my head. So, Ranger noped out of it when he felt me not ride. We circled, I used my inside leg this time and all was good. We continued around, did the whole pattern, and everything was good.

We did another course or 2 and I completely forget what they were… Sorry. I can remember the courses my lesson mate rode? Not helpful…

To end on, purple single away from the in gate, around to the Swedish, outside line again, around to the skinny (green single). I HATE skinnies, but since I actually rode, it was fine. We had done the outside line 3-4 time by this point, but Ranger tried to NOPE out of it and I had to use so much leg/had to keep him on course. He as a little annoyed at me but thankfully all was good. He was SO hoping I wasn’t paying attention by that point (he was tired), but…

Over all, it was a good lesson. But my legs were dead. I paid getting off and manage to pull something in my hip. Then, overnight got a charley horse in my left calf. So I’m a mess today… Need more water and probably less coffee but…

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: 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…