Monday, June 30, 2014

Cantering on Chester

 I was riding well today, sitting up straight with my heels down, and posting on the correct diagonal almost the entire time. Meghan only had to correct me a few times, but a couple times I noticed myself and changed it right away. I was riding Chester in the bridle I bought him. It fit him well, but I did need to adjust a few things. Before I tacked him I had put him in the round pen to let him run off any extra energy if he hadn't been ridden over the weekend, but he didn't do anything other than walk around.

 I started the lesson by trotting along the long side of the dressage arena, then started a trot serpentine when I reached C. It was great! Meghan didn't have to correct me on my posting diagonal or my position. In fact she's having to correct me less and less. I rode Chester on several serpentines before taking a short walk break because it was very hot today.

 I then rode a few other serpentines, this time walking in between each circle and picking up the trot only a couple steps later before I had to turn to make my next twenty meter circle. Some of  transitions were a bit sloppy, but a few great: I stopped on time and began trotting just moments later. Then I began to trot along the perimeter of the dressage arena. After going around, I crossed the diagonal of the arena, heading from K to M so that I could change directions and start heading left. At H I once again crossed my diagonal to start heading right again.

 Meghan and I both soon noticed that Chester was becoming a bit irritated, tossing his head, which she said was because his pad with inserts that helped his saddle to fit better had slipped forward a bit and now longer supported the back of the saddle, making him uncomfortable. Before continuing, I dismounted and Meghan adjusted the pad.

 I then got back on and picked up the trot once more. After doing just a lap, Meghan put a longeline on Chester. Because I have been progressing so quickly these past couple weeks, she thinks I ready to do more cantering. I started by walk-trot a couple circles to the right, then left, and finally started a circle to the right again to begin cantering. I was apprehensive about cantering; I was worried that I would fall off, so I held the pommel of the saddle and sat back when he cantered. I cantered several times, doing it a few few strides at a time. I have to work on relaxing and not bracing my body when riding the canter. The second to last I was actually sitting deep in the saddle rather than being bumped up.
Here's a cantering picture! I was looking down most of the time, another problem.

 For the last set of canter strides that lesson, I asked for the canter, not Meghan, and I was a bit more relaxed. I'm determined now to be more relaxed and confident next time I canter and to not be worried about falling. Falling is part of riding and if I fall I will just get back on.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Product Review: Lexol Equine Quick Wipes Leather Conditioner

 Yesterday I bought a dressage bridle and a set of reins at the local tack store, which sells used tack. I'm allowed to use Chester's stuff, but his owner, Jessica, rides him in a milder bit than I do, and it is time consuming for each of us to have to change the bit when we ride. The bridle I bought is in good condition, although it was a bit dry so I bought some Lexol Equine Quick Wipes Leather Conditioner. The local feed store where I bought it is small and consequently doesn't contain many brands to choose between, so that's what I bought. I wanted to share my experience with you. Keep in mind that as a new equestrian, I don't have experience with different brands so merely describing my results rather than comparing the product to others.

 The product cost $8.99 at the feed store(cheaper at Dover) and came with 25 wet wipes similar to those you would use to wash your hands with on the go, except they were soaked in leather conditioner. When I started, the bridle was a little bit dry, but after wiping it down, it is soft and moist. The only downside is that it took a lot of wipes to do the whole bridle, though that may be because I was generous with the amounts I used and made sure to thoroughly condition it. Since you don't have to pour/rub the conditioner onto wipes of your own, they are quick and easy to use, and not messy. Consequently, I think they would be great for wiping down tack before a show or quickly before you ride.

 Next time I may buy a product other than wipes, but I think Lexol Quick Wipes could be good to have around if you are in a hurry. What kind of leather conditioning products do you use and what would you recommend?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Practicing Dressage and Continuing to Improve

 Friday I another great lesson. Riding several times a week has done a lot to improve my riding skills. I'm starting to post on the correct diagonal most of the time, putting my heels down, sitting up straighter, and overall just becoming more relaxed and comfortable in the saddle.

 Meghan had Chester tacked up and ready when I arrived. Horse service! The lesson started with me riding Chester on a serpentine, first at the walk and then at the trot, the latter of which I did a few times to work on my posting and changing my posting diagonal. I've been improving as lot this past month! When doing the  serpentine, I was on the correct diagonal most of time, though there were several times when I needed to fix it. I'm also getting a lot better at sitting a beat and changing my diagonal at the point where two parts of the serpentine meet.

Other than being tipped a bit forward and me shoulders not being back, I look kind of good.
Heels are down and aligned with my hips and I appear to be on the correct diagonal.

 After riding several serpentines, I took a quick walk break, then trotted around the dressage arena for a little bit, heading left. I then made a trot circle at E, riding several ones to make it more precise and ride on the correct diagonal.
Trot circle at B
 Next I worked my dressage test, Intro Test C. The were some parts where I was not on the correct diagonal and I didn't quite make it to the letters, but it otherwise went smoothly. The turn up centerline is getting better as well. After a short break I rode through the test one more time, making the circles and diagonals more precise.
Circle at A heading right
Finishing a circle at A to the left.
Heading to P to make my short diagonal to H.

After that, I cooled Chester down by riding him around the property twice because he had really worked up a sweat in the hot weather. I untacked him, the hosed him off to cool him down further and get all the sweat off of him. I then sprayed fly spray all over him and returned him to his paddock.
 Before I went home we stopped at a nearby feed store where I bought a sweat scraper because Chester didn't have one, as well as a lead rope with tan, navy, and burgundy stripes, just so I can start collecting my own things. That way I don't need to buy as much stuff when I get a horse of my own.

 The lesson was very fun and I'm happy that I'm starting to improve more and more. I'm now having  lessons Mondays, Wednesdays, and fridays every week, plus I will be attending the Pony Club activities. I'm really excited about that.

Forgot to mention this at the beginning of the post, but Thursday I helped out with the therapy riding program Meghan runs, afterward visiting Chester to give him an apple I brought from home. He enjoyed it!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Everything is Coming Together + a Dressage Test

Wednesday's lesson was fantastic! All the pieces that I learned are finally starting to come together. Most of the time I was on the correct posting diagonal, my heels were down, and I was sitting straight. It was an amazing feeling, and Meghan said that if I keep it up I could start cantering a lot more. Yay!

 The lesson started by me riding a serpentine at the walk. Then I began the trot, riding several serpentines and working on changing my posting diagonal. There were some times when I was off, but I'm getting better at feeling that now without looking at Chester's shoulders. Between every circle on the serpentine, I sat to change my posting to the new outside.

Looking for the next point on my serpentine.
 After riding several trot serpentines, I rode Chester to the long side of the dressage arena and began trotting around. When I reached M, I rode across the diagonal of the arena toward K, then I rode from F to H. This is something that also made me think about changing my posting diagonal, which you do when you reach X if you are riding across the long diagonal(from one corner to the other). I did this a few times before working on my dressage test, Intro Test C.
Doesn't look like I am on the correct diagonal on this one.
 This time, I was much better at turning Chester down centerline, which was harder last time because he is much bigger than the lesson horses I rode. I halted and saluted at X, then headed towards C, turned right and circled B, then at A. Then I rode across the diagonal to M, headed left, and made a circle at E and A. Finally, I rode at the walk from B to H, then trotted down the long side, turning down centerline and halting at. I skipped out the canter parts, but will eventually add then in when I do more cantering.

We both look nice in this walk break picture.
 After my test, I worked on doing a little sitting trot on a circle. I slowed down his trot and worked on stay seated in the saddle. It's hard not to be bounced around! At least I got a few steps in wear I was bouncing up and down. 

 It was a really fun and successful lesson! There were some parts where I was relaxed, sitting straight, heels down, and posting on the correct diagonal, which felt amazing!

 I also got a tack box so I can store all my horse stuff at the barn now. Ironically, it is the same trunk that all the other girls Meghan trains have, so I we all match. When I start showing, I can get the matching blue custom trunk cover that everyone has, except with my name on it. Very cool!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lesson on Correct Posting Diagonal

 I had a fantastic lesson today in which I worked on posting on the correct diagonal. When I first started riding, however, Chester seemed a little off. He wasn't lame, but was putting one of his ears back, tossing his head, and seemed a little on edge. At first, Meghan though maybe is was because his ear hurt, but that didn't seem to be the cause. She soon decided to lunge him a bit as she thought maybe he hadn't been ridden during the weekend. Sure enough, that seemed to be the problem. Chester gave a few small bucks to let out the extra energy. Luckily he is a good horse and didn't do any of that when I was riding.

I love this picture! Beautiful.

When I got back on, I picked up the trot on a 20 meter circle. After a bit I started a figure eight so I could work on posting on the correct diagonal and changing the diagonal. At first, I rode Chester at the walk a couple steps in between the two circles, then picked up the trot. There were quite a few times where I was on the wrong diagonal, so I walked and fixed it.

Later on, I worked on holding my two point for a few seconds the walk. Soon after Meghan told me to ride a few steps of sitting trot, then explained that I should do the same thing to change my diagonal if I was on the wrong one.
Holding two point. I'm leaning a lot forward, but at least my heels are down. 

I also did an exercise at the walk in which I closed my eyes and said “up” when the outside leg when forward. This exercise confirmed that I have a good feel for when the outside leg goes up. I probably just rush into posting rather than sitting a step and waiting for the outside leg to go forward. To test this at the trot, I closed eyes during the transition from walk to trot and started posting only when I felt the outside leg go up.
Nice picture too!
Things were a bit better after that, though I still had to change my diagonal back to the correct one a couple times. By the end of the lesson, I had started to get a better feel for how posting on the correct should be like since I had been focusing on it the entire time. I just need to focus on it when I ride.
Bath time!
After cooling down by riding around the barn and paddocks, I untacked Chester and hosed him off to get the sweat off and cool him down. When I put him away and began leaving, he followed me until he reached the end of his paddock. He had also perked his ears up and walked over to me when I first went to get hims. I think he likes my already!

 Here's some pictures from today that I didn't know where to put.

Not a dressage test, but looks like with how square he is standing.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's Official! I'm Leasing Chester!

 I had a great lesson yesterday on Chester. I met his owner, Jessica, who is very nice and friendly. I talked with her before getting Chester ready for the lesson. He had already been brushed because Jessica had taken him on a walk, so I just tacked him up and Jessica put some boots on his front legs. I was also using a different bit this time, a snaffle, while the other times I had ridden him I rode in a kimberwick. Meghan wanted to see if I could still control him using the milder bit. I walked around, doing walk-halt transitions for a few minutes while Meghan finished up a jump lesson. While I rode, Mom went over the lease with Jessica.

 When it was time to pick up the trot, I made a circle around Meghan and tested my brakes. I trotted a few steps, then walked, then trotted. The downward transitions took a few steps and I had to use more pressure to stop him, so after a few circles, we decided to change the bit. Once that was done, I again made a circle around Meghan and tested my brakes. I only had to use very light aids and Chester stopped. Much better!

 Once we had ensured that I could stop Chester if needed, I began trotting him around the dressage arena. My legs were a bit tired from riding several times this past week, I started gripping with knees. I walked for a bit, then focused on gripping with me calves, and things went much better.

 However, I wasn't posting with the outside shoulder, so I began working on that. Meghan had me working on correcting my posting. An exercise I did to correct this was zig-zagging across the short diagonals of the dressage arena(F to E, E to M). This helped me to focus on quickly changing my posting diagonal. I'm probably going to work on this until posting on the correct diagonal becomes automatic.
Circle at E
 After that, I rode down the long side and turned up centerline. I had to redo this several time because I didn't quite turn tightly enough. You have to make that turn a lot soon on a big horse! I rode up centerline halted and saluted at X, then went through Intro Test C(without canter).
Square halt

 When I finished that, I returned to the walk and cooled Chester out by walking around the property. Once I  finished untacking him and picking out his hooves, I brought Chester to the wash rack and hosed him off. I brushed the water off of him, then returned him to his paddock. After I put his fly mask on, Jessica gave me an apple to put in Chester's bucket. I'm really excited about his lease! It officially starts in July, but I will have lessons on Chester for the rest of the month. I will also write up an official introduction.

 Also here are some pictures from Monday's lesson--I didn't post them yet.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Lesson and Cantering on Chester Lease Horse

 I had another lesson on Chester, the TB/Percheron gelding I will soon lease, today. I started the lesson by warming up with walk-halt transitions, as I always do, the began a trot circle to the left in the dressage part of the arena. As I did so I worked on sitting up straight and posting on the correct diagonal. The edges the the arena come up quickly with a big a horse like Chester, so at one point I didn't turn soon enough and ran into the P dressage letter cone, knocking it over.

 After circling for a few minutes, I drank some water, then changed directions and started heading to the right.I was a bit better at posting on the correct diagonal right away, although a couple times Chester did some leg-yields, which Meghan said was because of uneven leg pressure. Chester is a sensitive horse and was unsure of what I wanted. I put him back of the circle and continued to ride him on it.

 Then, I started riding at the trot around the entire dressage arena, heading right. The more I worked, the better my posture and posting became. I later rode across the diagonal from M to K so I could change directions.

 Towards the end of the lesson, Meghan wanted to know if I wanted to canter. I did, so she put Chester on the lungeline I began a trot circle to the right. I was a bit nervous because I've only cantered a handful of times and had fallen last time, but after doing a few strides I was just fine. Chester's canter isn't as big and rocking horse-like as Ginger's, so it was consequently much easier to sit, though there was a moment when I almost went over, but I soon caught myself. I did several strides of canter at a time, three times. It was fun!

 I then trotted a bit more and cooled Chester down by ride the path that encircles the barn and pasture. I told him he was a good boy, untacked and groomed him, then put him away. Wednesday, I'll have another lesson on him, this time with Jessica, his owner, watching. Afterward we will work out a lease. If all goes well, which most likely will, I will start leasing him at the beginning of next month. I'm excited! When I start leasing him, I will ride three to four a week! I can't wait!

 In other news, I changed my blog name to The Aspiring Equestrian. I decided upon this name because I have aspirations when it comes to riding horses; many people who know me know I want to be a fourth level eventer someday. I thought the name was suiting!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Volunteering with Buddy Systems Therapy Riding and a Quick Ride on Chester

 Yesterday evening I volunteered with the Buddy Systems, a therapy riding program that my trainer, Meghan, helps run. Ginger, Reno, and Moe, the lesson horses, are the ones that are usually used for Buddy Systems. This time, Milo, a grey OTTB that just entered the program, was used as well.

 Mom and I were first with Moe and a girl named Kristen. Another woman led Moe(a halter is put over each horse's bridle), while Mom and I walked along the sides, supporting the girl. We walked around the arena several times, taught the riders a few stretches, then played a quick game with them. Each team led their horse and rider to one of the many buckets that hung on the fence. The rider would would grab an item from the bucket, and then the team would lead the rider over their own bucket. The rider would drop the item into the bucket before the team went to get another item. When the game was over, the riders dismounted one by one.

 A little later, the next session started. Milo had been put away, but Moe, Ginger, and Reno remained. This time, my mom and I were sidewalkers for Reno and his rider. One green and one red button, which the rider would press to tell us to stop and go, were affixed  to his saddle. After walking around the arena for a little bit, we once again played the fun game. All the riders seemed to enjoy it. At the end, we played red light, green light, with each team only stopping and going when the rider pressed the correct button(red to stop and green to go). I really enjoyed helping out and seeing how much the riders enjoyed being on a horse.

 After the Buddy Systems was over, I grabbed Chester and went for a quick evening ride to get to know him better. I rode him along the perimeter of the arena at the walk twice and did some walk-halt transitions. Then I made a trot circle around Meghan, riding it several times. Then I changed directions, heading to the right. There were a couple times when I didn't turn him all the way and he walked with his hindquarters to the wall, but it was otherwise great.

 A few minutes later, I dismounted and let my mom ride, as Meghan had suggested earlier this week so Mom can see if she likes Chester as well. My mom rode when she was my age, by stopped when she became an adult. Now that I am riding, she wants to get back into it again, which would be possible if I lease Chester.

 Since she hadn't been on a horse in a while, Mom just walked around for a couple of minutes. When she was done, she let me lead Chester back to the barn to untack and groom him. I then put him away so he could enjoy his dinner.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pictures of Chester Potential Lease Horse

Here's some pictures from my lesson with Chester!



He makes me look small! 

I love his cute face!
You might be able to tell just from pictures but his walk and trot are forward and nice.

Circle at B 
Continuing the circle
Heading towards C

20m circle at C 
Continuing the circle

 I think leasing Chester would be an excellent idea. He seems like a friendly horse and is a joy to ride. His gaits, too, are forward and smooth because of his dressage training. I know he has a lot to teach me and I think we are going to be able to work out this lease. Yay! Here's a link to my post about the lesson.

Interview: Jodi

 I recently found Jodi's blog, Racing to Ride, and as I enjoy horse racing, I decided to interview her on job working with racehorses. Enjoy!

What are your responsibilities at the racing stable/track?

 I kind of do it all, though lately I haven't been doing much in the cleaning stalls category. Mostly, I tack horses, watch them train, ride the pony-horse, and occasionally take one of the race horses to the track. Leg (wrapping, mudding, sweating, icing, etc.) and body (massaging, stretching, and red lighting) work is also a big part. There is a lot more to the business than just taking care of the horses, so I also handle the billing and keeping Ty, my fiancé, and the owners in sync. I also help with picking horses to claim or buy.

What is a typical work day like?
I hate to admit this, but I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to getting up in the mornings. I usually get up at about 5:45, which is pretty late for the track. My fiancé gets up a lot earlier. After arriving at the barn, I usually tack the first horse, watch it go, then go back and repeat. Or I take the pony with them. Every day is a little different. It depends on how many horses we need to track or if we are working (breezing) any that day. Watching the horses track and work is very important to me so I spend a large part of the morning doing that.

The races are in the afternoons and we usually only run about 1-3 horses a week. If we have one in, about two and a half to three hours is spent getting them ready. When we don't have a horse in, I usually spend the afternoons riding my dressage horses, resting, or watching the races.

The evenings are pretty easy. We feed and pick stalls mostly. This is usually when we do leg work too. Then go out to dinner with owners sometimes.

Could you tell me a little about some of the horses you are currently working with?
Oh, I could write a book on all of them. I will try to keep it short and down to just a few though.
Kama Su (Johnny)- He is kind of a head case, but I love him. He's beautiful! We claimed him out of California. He didn't have much of a foundation so we went back to the basics with him. Johnny is really starting to come around and I'm hoping that taking our time with him will pay off. My favorite part about him is that when he is coming back to the barn from the track, he perks up his ears and walks faster when he sees me. The jockey we put on him always tells Johnny "There's your girlfriend, bud!" as they start walking towards me. If he gets worked up in his stall, I can usually go pet him and get him calmed down. He doesn't really do that for anyone else.

Princessofthering (Princess)- I bought her off of a friend for $200. He was threatening to sell her as a recipient mare and I told him I would take her. She only had ten starts and had already been through three barns. I figured with a little consistency she could have some success on the track. She won a race with a $12,500 dollar purse about sixty days after I bought her. She is good to be around, smart, classy, and is starting to get very confident. I'm extremely proud of her!

Woodpulp (Woody)- He is a bit of a hard luck horse. If some weird thing can happen to him, it does. Woody is the sweetest thing in the world though. No matter what happens, he is always a happy horse and loves people. He has a huge stride and is a gorgeous mover. I'd really like to find him a home in a dressage barn when he retires (if we still have him). I hope he can still have more success on the track before that though. (Editor adds: Woodpulp is by Lucky Pulpit, California Chrome's sire.)

Pentagram (Berni)- He is the type of horse that you notice. He's plain bay, but is very pretty with a commanding presence. We've had some set backs with him, but I think he is starting to get lined out now. I'm looking forward to running him again.

Chopperette (Harley)- She was disgustingly skinny when we got her just over a year ago. So, of course I've spoiled her and now she thinks she's the queen of the barn. She's a little pushy and moody, but not in a mean way. I like a horse with a little bit of spunk anyway.

How and when did you first become interested in working with racehorses?
I've been infatuated with racehorses my entire life. My Grandpa was a trainer at one time. My dad took me to the races some when I was a kid.  I've always been interested in them, but never became actually involved with the racehorses until I met my fiancé in 2007. I didn't start working at the track until 2009.
Jodi's grandfather.

How did you get into the racing industry and working with racehorses?
Through my fiancé. I was working full time and riding dressage horses, which didn't leave much free time, but I spent every moment I could at the track. I always hated it when the season would end. My fiance would leave in the Fall to go to another track. I hated getting left behind. I missed him and racing. In 2009, the track at home didn't run. I had gotten hurt and couldn't ride anyway, so I quit my job and went to Arapaho Park in Denver with my fiancé. I gave up a lot to do this, but I don't regret it.
Justcallheraggie, one of the horses Jodi works with.

Who is you favorite racehorse you have ever worked with?
We've been lucky and had some pretty nice horses. It's hard to pick just one favorite, but I would have to say Scherzi. She won seven races and made just over $100,000 in the time we had her. That included a stakes win and some stakes placings. The owner had claimed her for $5,000.

Scherzi is probably the smartest horse I've ever worked with. She was little, about 15 hands, but had a heart of gold. She always tried hard. She was one of the most athletic horses I worked with! Scherzi was professional and classy, but also seemed to have a sense of humor.  She stomped in the paddock and post parade like a little Zenyatta.

Her half sister, So Many Ways, ended up being an extremely nice horse, so Scherzi is now a brood mare. She had her first foal, by Scat Daddy, this year.

What is your favorite part about working with racehorses?
I love the horses in general. Their different personalities and the challenges each one presents. I am constantly learning something new from them. They put so much trust into us, that I want to keep learning from them to be better for them. This is the case with any type of horse, but I think it's more extreme with racehorses. You have to pay attention to every little detail about them, physical and mental. This is a very high risk sport and if you aren't attentive enough to the horses, the results can be catastrophic. I love having to know each one so well. It's not necessarily the win that matters as much, but all of the work and pride put into getting them there.

What are the biggest challenges in working with racehorses?
Everything! Just kidding. Kind of. They are on a lot of high energy feed. They have to be able to focus and behave, no matter how good they are feeling, or it can become dangerous. Teaching them to use that energy in the right way can be difficult. You have to be very disciplined and draw the line.
It's also hard when a horse gets claimed or taken away for whatever reason. We are very hands on and spend a lot of time with these horses. It's hard to not get too attached. Mostly, it kills me if one gets hurt. Even if it was something that was out of my control, I feel responsible.
Another of Beefeheart, Jodi's OTTB.

Since you work with racehorses, I was wondering---did you get your OTTB directly from the track(maybe you worked with him when he was a racing) or did you get him through an adoption center?
My fiancé trained my OTTB, Beefheart. He hadn't been running well, the owners wanted to sell him. No one really wanted him, so Ty ended up buying him for me. Gunner, our pony-horse that I also ride dressage,  was Ty's first racehorse. I have to stay away from the adoption centers because I have a tendency to want to rescue them all. I can only afford so many horses.
Gunner, another of her OTTBs.
 Gunner at his first show.

Because you are familiar with racehorses, do you have any advice for anyone working with or riding OTTBs?
I think people need to understand how the horse is trained on the track to be able to retrain correctly. Educate yourself about their training, so you understand why they do what they do and don't get frustrated. Be patient. The worst thing you can do is get mad and start muscling them around. Understanding them is the key to an OTTBs success. Most of what you ask will be new. They are going to depend on you for confidence and guidance, make sure you are able to give that to them before ever getting on.

What are some of the challenges in training your OTTB for dressage?
Probably redeveloping their muscles for dressage. I don't think many people think about this, but going slow and carrying their weight on their hind end is going to be a lot harder for them than going fast. It helps if they're already fit, but it still involves them having to use muscle groups differently. They have to learn to relax to be able to do this. They have to learn to bend through their body and stay loose over their topline. This involves the rider being able to control the rhythm of the horse. To do this, the horse has to be able to balance. So much goes into building the correct muscles that it includes most of the other challenges a rider will face with their OTTBs. It takes a lot of time and patience
Silk Indian

Anything else?
I think that's about it. Horseracing definitely keeps life interesting. We work seven days a week, including holidays. It's nearly impossible to take a vacation. It's not an easy life, but it's worth it to me and I love it!

Thank you Jodi! Go check out her blog if you don't know her yet!