Still improving.

March 27, 2011

Well, I haven’t had much to update, as work is taking over my life. I had a lesson the other week and it went well. I also rode with the “advanced” girls last week and even though Fred was lazy, I did not feel that far behind. We really are improving quite quickly. I think things are finally clicking. It’s exciting. I just want to be able to show now!

Today, Fred went to the Burin’s academy show. Kiersten, who takes lessons on Fred, rode him and did very well. She placed second in pleasure in fourth in equitation. I was definitely proud of both of them! She is going to make him a good walk-trotter. Totally pumped!

As for me; I got on Fred and rode him there. I did not ride for long because he was on a gravel driveway and I didn’t want to hurt his foot. A few times he got a tiny gimp down the driveway; but most of the time he was okay. Also, half the time he was lazy and then I’d make another pass and he’d be almost St. Louis Fred.

I did notice from watching the video one of the girls took, that my hands weren’t raising constantly, even when Fred got pepped up. So, that’s good! I’m working on it!

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This is an e-mail I received from my dad today.

“Having goals and working towards them is the only way they might come true. If you don’t set goals in your life and work towards them weekly, monthly and yearly it isn’t very likely they will happen just because.

When I was a young man I had two goals… the first was to play in the major leagues and the second was to make the state swim meet. I was a good baseball player but never worked at it because I had other distractions… one of those was swimming. I loved baseball and liked to swim but because my father was a coach and I worked at the pool in the summers I swam more than I played baseball. Just so you understand the extent of this I swam 4 hours every day (including weekends and Christmas morning)… from 5-7 in the morning before school and 4-6 after classes. In between we had mandatory weight workouts for an hour 4 days each week. While I worked hard I was not the best swimmer on our team. Most of the other kids had been swimming for 10 years longer than me while I played baseball, basketball and causes problems. I was also not a very confident swimmer… I did not think I was very good. I waited until my last meet as a senior to prove to myself I was better than I thought. We had to qualify at districts to make it to state… the first 10 kids in each event. I had one event to swim… the 200 IM and my best time was 2:25:00 and to get anywhere near the top 10 I would have to swim around 2:10:00. It is pretty shocking if anyone lowers their times by more than a second at this time of year so no one gave it a second thought that I could qualify. When I dove in the pool that day this was my only, and last chance, to prove I was good enough to go to states.

That day I swam a 2:09:57… more than 15 seconds than my best time ever! My dad pulled me out of the pool to congratulate me and my teammates were going crazy. Pretty cool right!… I finished 11th and did not qualify for the state meet. Even today I wonder how good I could have been if I believed in myself sooner. So my message is simple… setting goals and working towards positive outcomes has many rewards even if they aren’t in the form of ribbons or trophies. You and Fred may or may not achieve your goals but in many respects the journey is just as important.

The difference between good and great athletes, good and great riders and good and great students is mostly confidence and belief. You have a pretty calm horse who will listen if you are confident with him… it is my Indian analogy. Jump on the horse and own what you are doing… Fred will respect that and try and do what you want.”

He has been supporting me since I told him my long-term goal (and short term ones too) for riding. My trainer is also pretty supportive and thinks that Fred and I can achieve the goals I have set as long as I get confident and keep motivated. So, we have a lot of work. MWUAHAHAHA. (*evil grin*)

I rode today but not a ton. Worked on some basic stuff and trotting circles near the end. I will ride tomorrow if the roads are okay and then I have a lesson on Tuesday! Wooo!

Dun dun dunnnn!

March 10, 2011

I have a problem.

I have realized that I am an “off the horse rider”, as I like to call it.

Now, my riding is not perfect. In fact, I’m really not that good of a rider (IMO). The people in my trainer’s lesson programs are probably some of the best riders in the area and I do not really think I compare. Maybe I do but I doubt it… I kind of think I suck. Hahaha. I am trying to believe in myself a little more, though. I’m definitely improving. I just don’t think I’m up to NBS  standards quite yet. All the riders are so good. I have an awesome trainer. < — point of saying that is, I am in no way blaming anybody for anything. I am not saying anybody is bad at riding, or my horse is badly trained; I’m just saying that I’m a tard and I like to pretend to ride my horse when I’m not on him. 😛 I don’t want anybody to read this and think I’m saying “I am the only one who can make my horse look good and I hate watching other people ride him because they make him look crappy.” because I am in NO WAY saying anything like that. If anything, it’s totally the other way around.

ANYWAYSSSS. I think  we all do it. At least, most horsey people do. We sit and watch other people ride and try to ride the horse for them… from the ground, of course. I think it is even worse when it is our horse we are watching.

I love that Fred gives lessons. LOVE it. When I first got him, I was totally against anyone riding him because he was “my” horse. Now, I am totally willing to lease him out if it’s to the right person (and of course, I would still be riding and showing him). I think lessons are great for him. They have really helped him mature and it keeps him somewhat in shape. He gets exercise… and he gets to teach people. I think it’s wonderful. But, I have noticed when I watch people ride him I get so frustrated! Not at them [the rider], of course. LOL. At Fred! And not because he isn’t trained well or anything; Not because he isn’t a good boy. Only because I know how BEAUTIFUL he is and how awesome he can look… and some of the things he does sometimes make him look so… blah! (Like his camel-look!) He gives a lot of beginner-intermediate lessons. So, I know that not everybody can do everything on him or make him look perfect. Even I can’t make him look that great all the time (or sometimes forget to). So, I never blame the rider or anything.

But, what do I do?

I sit there and I think “Damnit Fred, set your head! You look like a camel!” … “Ew, use your freakin legs some more. You’re trottin like a QH!” … “WHY THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE WESTERN? GO FASTERRRRRR!” … I stand on the side and act like I’m riding. I sit there and push with my seat and kiss to him when I see he is about to quit the canter. I can’t help but stare when he’s all strung out and looks like a camel. I’m sitting there thinking, “Fred, you are well trained enough. You should just set your head yourself without them having to do anything so you don’t look so funny.” LOL.

It just makes me laugh. I never realized I do that badly until tonight. A little girl, who does very well on Fred [and I have offered her to be his “walk/trotter”], was trying to canter him. He would go halfway around the arena and try to quit. She is still new to cantering and does a great job but could not keep him consistently in it. He’s lazy, she’s tiny… so he kept quitting. What did I do? I sat by the arena and kissed, and pushed with my butt to keep him going. (It didn’t work).

Am I the only crazy that does this? It makes me laugh a bit. 🙂

Today’s Ride.

March 8, 2011

I rode again today; yes, I have been riding way more than normal. Even during the summer I don’t ride this much. LOL.

I arrived at the barn after class with absolutely no motivation. For the next few hours, I stood around and talked to people. My trainer went out and got Fred for me, because there was a massive amount of mud and he didn’t want to come up to the gate. I had lost my boots I usually wear, so she was nice enough to risk her clothes for me. One of the horses, not Fred, sprayed her with mud. It was sad. Then later, I proceeded to tell her how awesome I was and that I can barely lift a 6lb medicine ball with my legs.

OKAY! But enough of my coolness. So, two of the girls at the barn decided to ride with me, which was pretty awesome. I asked them to play the “cut off game” with me, and because my trainer teaches us proper ring etiquette, they didn’t feel comfortable. I will find somebody though! ARGH! So, I rode for about a hour. One of the other ladies came in to ride with us… which was… interesting. *No public bad remarks, but HAHA!!!* We worked on Fred getting crowded, backed into… backed into… backed into… stopped in front of… backed into… well, you get the hint. Which, ironically, that was exactly what he needed! He was being a funky canterer the second direction (ouchy foot direction), so I tried not to canter him too much that way.

I planned to work on some figure eights– trotting I am okay at. Cantering… well that was interesting. You see, when I got Fred, I used to have major problems circling him. He wouldn’t circle, he would just go faster and bend his neck. So, I haven’t tried to do any circling patterns with him since about 3-4 years ago. Eeeek.  So, I tried today and realized: that is one of my show problems! He really speeds when he is not on the rail (*ahem* and sometimes I have a hard time keeping myself on the rail). He also kind of veers to the side because he is so big. I was able to sit back and keep him from speeding too badly but I could NOT get him between the poles I had marked for the middle of my figure eight. It was not happening. It’s kind of frustrating but I realize I always did patterns on horses that you did not really have to do much on but sit there. Fred is a big-ass horse. You actually have to bend him properly and help him do the circles, patterns, etc. and I haven’t yet got to work on those things yet because of our confidence issues.

Well, the good news is… my trainer says she thinks we are ready to advance to “off-the-rail” work. She says she can see I am working hard and am “doing a great job”. I’ve been waiiiiiiiiiting for her to tell me I could advance and start working on some more off-the-rail work. I think it will help me out IMMENSELY in the show ring because when I am off the rail, I won’t feel completely uncomfortable. I will be used to it and know how to steer, navigate, slow him down, etc… so I am totally excited for my next lesson!

Also, I am totally excited my trainer thinks I’m ready to advance further! I’m really proud.  I’ve been working my butt off. I’m done with my anxieties getting in the way of me improving. I’ve been riding for thirteen years, it’s about time I show it!

WE ARE GONNA KICK ASS THIS YEAR. (After we get this off-the-rail stuff figured out. Wink.)

But I think I’m being motivated.

So, I rode again today. When I got out to the barn, a girl was untacking Fred. I ran down and told her not to put him away and grabbed all my stuff. I tacked him up again and rode for quite a long time.

I was a little off my game today. I kept hearing from around the corner “Quit letting Fred be strung out!” … “Do you see our huntseat riders ride like that? You need to be riding more forward!”… etc. Eventually, I think I started riding properly. It just took a good hour. Hahaha. I was happy that Fred tried to bolt not one, not two, but three times from the back door. Twice because of strong wind, once because he heard the door from the potty slam. If it would have been me three-four months ago, he would have at least cantered down the side of the arena, leaping and getting me off balance; if not bolted. But, it’s not me from four months ago. I sat back, worked the bridle, slowed him down, and kept doing our business like nothing happened. I was so happy to know that we are starting to get so much more secure. Seriously, that would have not happened even two months ago. I’m really calming myself down and worrying less.

My trainer and I slightly discussed National’s. I still believe she thinks I’m a retard, but I’m pretty confident we can get there. We discussed the rules (bits and such), but we also talked about horses that compete there and she thinks that Fred is equal. She said his movement is the same as those horses (that we may have to work on a more motivated walk though) and that he is pretty light in his bridle too, compared to some. So, I know he is up there. I know he can do it. Qualifying would actually be pretty easy, if I can learn to keep my cool during shows. It would just be getting to the point where I qualify and we know that I’m ready to take him. We AREN’T ready at all. So, I am 100% positive he won’t be ready to go to St. Louis this year. The year or two after? Maybe. Who knows. It all depends on us. But, he can do it. I know he can. We just need more show experience. I need to get over my nerves. I need to learn to keep his headset perfect. I need to get “perfect” at extending and collecting his gaits. There are a lot of things I need to work on, but I have plenty of time.

The goal for this year is about getting rid of showing nerves for both of us. I need to show Fred a lot until I get completely comfortable with showing him. He needs to get used to being ridden in crowds, getting cut off, having horses come up behind him, etc. I am going to try and take him to Randolph a lot. That is the one place I am completely comfortable with him. I think not only our breed shows, but even the Friday night 4-H shows will help us a lot. We just need lots of comfortable ring experience. Once we get past those fears and issues, we can start to really improve and get to that point that I can take him where I want to go.

Like my trainer said, I would be doing a lot more things than I can right now if it weren’t for my nerves. And she is right. So, heres to getting rid of my nerves. Heres to a show season where I kick my nerves asses.

Then we can get further. Then we can begin to work on perfecting everything. Once I get rid of my nerves, it will be much easier to work on things that need improved.

Then, we can qualify and go to St. Louis. 🙂

These are quotes from people I have talked to about the idea. This is what I have learned within the past few days. Most of it is informational, the “game” suggestion was from a friend. (These people are all friends/acquaintances of mine that mostly have competed at that level).

  • By rules now, if they do not ask for a hand gallop (all gaits listed in Huntseat ASB rules) you can request it for the Championship class.
  • Nationals is really about how steady your horse is. if you look at the new rules and the articles it really isn’t about the horse being a “high stepping” show horse, but more of what would be the best for jumping.
  • “As long as Fred is steady (headset as well as gaits; and there’s an obvious transition between your canter/handgallop trot/extended) he should be fine. For saddlebred huntseat you want more action in the extended trot, but i feel as if it should be more EXTENSION of the legs, like in dressage. depends on the judge.”
  • “Make sure he has a clean jump (in nationals it is required to jump, no higher than 2’6”.) I think 2 refusals is the max.”
  • “Crowd navigating is a HUGE part of it, and it’s one of the things my trainer is great at teaching. A diamond cut, which I mentioned in your HGS post, is where you cut one corner, using a perfect diagonal line. Straight line cut is riding off the rail down the long end.”
  • “See if you can get some other riders to help you out and play the ‘cut-off game.’ You ride at all of the gaits, start at the walk, then move to walk and trot, and eventually add the canter. But what you do is you have a rider go up close behind you, then ride REALLY CLOSE, almost so their feet are hitting yours, and then they cut you off. Once you have Fred used to horses being all up in his business, you get to add the more fun parts. You then get to cut off the other horses.. but then, once you’ve got the trot down solidly, when someone tries to cover you up or cut you off, you get rid of them. You speed up and make a diamond cut, leave them in the dust, get the whole rail to yourself, etc. It’s super, super helpful in preparing you for what goes on in the ring!”
  • You can qualify for St. Louis at the ASHAO Annual Show in May,and you can also qualify at River Ridge.
  • “What did was,I wanted to qualify as early in the year as possible. The reasons is because it gave me plenty of time throughout the year to continue to show my horse,and it was also a good way to know for sure if my horse would be ready in September to go. Also,I thought it would be easier to qualify earlier in the year vs. trying to qualify later in the year at a bigger class A show,because more horses tend to show up and come out of the woodwork in the early Summer to late Summer Shows.Plus most of those horses wern’t going to show at St. Louis anyway,even if they did qualify. Also, qualifying earlier in the year helps give your horse a big edge in advertising to going to St.Louis and getting your horse’s name and your name out there as well. So I qualified at the ASHAO show,because it was early in the year,and it was an easy enough show to qualify at.”
  • To qualify for St. Louis, you must place first or second in a qualifying class. Once you qualify, you can continue to show in the S&B Hunter Qualifying class throughout the year as many times as you want.
  • One thing to remember is that a 24″ jump is optional in the S&B qualifying class. Most shows opt out for putting in a jump,but they can choose to put one in if they want and sometimes it will be listed on the prize list/show bill ” 24 Jump” or “No Jump”. At St. Louis you do have to do a 24″ jump in the Finals in which your jump will be judged on. River Ridge & the ASHAO show does NOT have a jump in their qualifying classes.
  • Most shows will have the S&B qualifying class listed on their prize list/show bills…or if you want you can look up all the shows on S&B for the complete list.
  • The complete rules for the Saddle & Bridle Hunter Finals are listed on S&B’s website on the homepage. Just click on the Saddle & Bridle Sponsored Classes and scroll down to the Hunter Finals,and all the rules will be listed there. (Rules HERE)

And then, I started this thread for fun to see what people who have been there have to say.

I have not been to the barn, so I have not had the chance to talk to my trainer and such about it. We will see. 🙂

A Dream.

March 5, 2011

Ever since I was eight years old, I was always interested in showing horses. I loved the feeling of showing. When I lived in GA, I actually was able to show at some pretty big shows: Blue Ridge and The Dixie Cup, to name a couple (and my favorites).  After I moved, I showed a fourth of the amount I did when I lived in Georgia. My barn’s lesson program did not take us to many shows and it tended to bug me, but I dealt with it and showed when I got the opportunity.

When I was in my early teens, I decided to do some snooping and went to the website from my old barn. I went through their pictures and saw a folder for Morgan National’s. I was awestruck that they got to go, as I had never known them to when I rode there.  Then, I remember the feeling of jealousy I was struck with– I saw a picture of the girl I grew up showing and taking lessons with showing there. Since I was still young and childish, my only thoughts were… “We grew up riding together. We’ve been riding for the same amount of time, taking lessons and learning the same things, and she got to show there? That’s so not fair.”

And that’s when the dream sunk in. In the back of my mind, I constantly thought, “One day, I would love to ride at National’s.”

I continued to ride but wasn’t riding horses that were nice enough to take me anywhere like that. Then, I got Fred and I knew that he wasn’t a nice enough saddleseat horse to take me anywhere, so I pushed that dream completely aside. I decided to forget about it– it wasn’t going to happen. I was never going anywhere.

Well, quite recently I had a facebook friend message me. We got along to talking and she made me think about whether Fred would be nice enough to compete at National’s in huntseat.  She had been there before and said she “absolutely” thinks he would be competitive there. We talked about it for about a day and it kind of reminded me of that dream I had. Then I made the decision. Fred may not have been a nice saddleseat horse; but he is a nice hunt horse. He stands out. He is beautiful. He is nice enough to compete at a high level. All we need is more training… but we could do it.

So, for a few days, I have chatted with numerous friends and acquaintances about the idea.  I learned some facts, which I will post in a separate blog entry. I think the stuff is very interesting… as I have never really paid attention to upper level hunt in the ASBs.

I don’t really know how many people are behind me on this matter. In fact, I am not even sure if my trainer thinks it’s possible– but I am going to prove it to her. I know he is nice enough. I know I can do it. I just need to start working hard. She needs to train the both of us. She is incredibly knowledgeable and she has told me before if she had a student who wanted to compete at that level, with a nice enough horse, she would take them where they wanted to go. Well, that’s where I want to go.

So, of course, we have a lot of work to do– and I am willing to work my butt off for it. I even have started working out at home, to get my legs and core strengthened. I’ve been riding as much as I can with my work and school schedule– but once summer hits I will have less classes and hopefully can get more riding and lessons in. This show season will be a lot of hard work and I am going to have to get over my show fears and just do it like I know we can. Just get a lot of experience. Hopefully by 2012-2013, I can at least qualify, but it is more of a long-term goal than short term. It just depends on the dedication, the hard work, and how much my trainer can teach us within 2 years or so. I am pretty sure she could turn us into a big team.

It’s not about the ribbon, it’s about the experience.

St. Louis, watch out for us one day. We’re comin!