Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lesson in photos

I have chosen the winner for the Caption This! contest, but I'm working on getting the LOLphotos just right, so you'll have to wait just a little bit longer to find out who wins.  :)

Meanwhile, I wanted to make a quick post before putting my nose back to the grindstone of work.  My favorite photographer was out at the barn for our last jumping lesson (9/1), and I thought I'd post the pictures from it and a little bit of commentary.   Just as a sort of record of where we've been and how far we've come.

Warming up -- I like this photo because we're both paying attention to what we're doing.  I also don't look huge in this one, and my toes are forward, heels down.  I would prefer to see myself less collapsed, straighter through my right hip and left shoulder.

Also warming up.  I like this one for many of the same reasons I like the previous one.  I'd prefer to see my shoulders back a bit more.  I also realize, looking through these photos, that I look really relaxed on horseback.

Said photographer likes this one because of the sense of movement Apollo and I both have here.  I don't like the size of my butt or the chicken elbows, but I will bow to the photographer's more experienced eye.

Nice -- I like that I'm not hauling on Apollo's face here, though I'd like to see my leg a bit farther forward, my butt back a bit, and my toes not pointed out so much.  Lovely picture of Apollo though.

I think I lost my balance at some point here -- looks like I either got forward and cued Apollo to leave long, or he left long and I tried to catch up.  This is illustration of my need to sit and wait, shoulders up, until he's pushed off with his hind feet.

If we could both look like this up to the base of jumps and then I could keep my leg in this position over the jump and beyond, we'd be *golden*.   I love this shot for how relaxed we both are.  This is my favorite of them all, even though it's not actively jumping.

Photographer loves this for all of Apollo's muscles -- he does look pretty awesome here, doesn't he?  :)  I'd like to see my left leg back, toe in more, but I do like that I'm sitting up and using my body.

Mmmph.  I don't like this one as much -- I feel like I should be much softer with my hands here, on this first stride after landing.  At least my leg is in the right place.

Another nice one -- at least my position is consistent between the jumps.  I actually think THIS is the one I like best of us not jumping.

Again with the getting too far forward.  Need leg forward, butt back.  However, Apollo looks like a star here!

Okay, now I'm being soft enough with my reins, and my body's in the right place.  I can tell that the jump before this one went well by my balance and my hands.

"Come on!  Faster!  Let's go!"

This looks like it's going well, actually,  Balanced, soft hands, etc.  I think it was the jump before this one that MT and I had this exchange over:  "Okay.  Pet your horse!"  "*petpet* Good boy!  Was it that bad?"   "Well, he did save your butt."  "Oh dear.  Can I come again?"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Confidence builder - check!

We went to the same show this weekend that TSB and Redheadlins posted about earlier -- yes, the same show that had 30 pre-entries and another 40 day-of entries!  Yeek!    I'll tl;dr you now: we had a great time, walked away with a ribbon, and both partners' confidence is built up!  No pictures, unfortunately, so you'll have to use your imagination and extrapolate from TSB and Rhl's pictures.  :)

(And before I get on with it, go enter my Caption This! contest!  :) )

ME and I were two of the pre-entries, and after some confusion about when, exactly, our classes would run (one site had a class list showing the 2'3 and up classes in the afternoon, one site had them in the morning), we managed to get up at a positively unholy hour, load up, and get to the show site around 7:30.

We decided to go have a look at the course, since the barn owner had just finished dragging the arena and the horses were content on the trailer.  So our footprints were the first in that lovely jump arena!  We didn't have a course map yet, but the fences were numbered ... and as we wandered around, looking at all the turns, the piles of fences seemingly right on top of one another, or at least clustered tightly together, and the bending lines, we started to wonder if the numbers had been set up randomly or what?

Nope, nope, it was set up correctly.  All those crazy turns?  Yup, that was the course.  Hm.  Okay.  Well, now that we knew what the course WAS, we walked it with actual intent, looking at lines and turns and how to get straight to a fence without crashing immediately into the fence behind it.  :)   We decided that the best thing to do would be to take wide turns and careful lines and damn the time limit -- our goal was to have good rides and positive experiences.

I was SO unspeakably pleased with Apollo!!   He backed off the trailer, looked for his hay net, and just settled right in.  Not a flick of an ear, not a giraffe moment.   I'd intended to longe him, but when he walked over to the round pen area, which was right by the open warmup arena, he was so relaxed that I decided to just abandon the longing and hop right on.  He again didn't flick an ear, didn't get squirrelly about mounting, nothing.  Just ... yup, it's a horse show, here's a warmup arena, what's goin' on with you this morning, mom?   I was surprised and delighted, to say the very least.  I think our resident European's ride on him at Caber did a LOT for his confidence, and I'm super grateful, again.

The open warmup time was in the actual competition arena, with the fences set lowish, and you could pay $5 to warm up over the competition fences.  Well, I had $5, so in we went!  I ended up jumping the whole course, individually and as a whole, a couple of times.   I was concerned about one of the fences, a coopish/wallish type thing with wishing well standards, but as it turned out I didn't need to be concerned at all.  I set up my deep turn and straight line, sat up, put my leg on, and Apollo just sailed over it, no questions asked.  Gah.  Love that horse!

So I had entered the 2'3 and 2'6 Optimum Time classes, figuring that it would be less pressure for me than the jumpoff classes at the same height.  I started to chicken out when I checked in, saying "oh, I'll just do both 2'3 classes and skip the 2'6 ..."   But when I saw the fences set at 2'3, I realized I was being ridiculous.  2'3 is tiny, and 2'6 isn't much bigger.  So I went back to my original plan, and I'm so glad I did!

The 2'3 class went really well.  Apollo's only squiggly moments came in the upper corner of the arena approaching fence 1 and the start line -- there was an umbrella set up, a bunch of random extra standards, and -- the SCARIEST of all -- a mounting block. 0.o  I lost my balance and my left stirrup when he leaned hard away from the scary corner, but I managed to recover both before crossing the start line.   I was prepared to quit looking for the stirrup, though, if I didn't have it four strides out from the first fence, and just jump 1 with one stirrup.  I realize now that's kind of a cool attitude -- I wasn't too concerned with it, yay me.  I lost my position and my focus after fence 2, when you had to make a sharp left rollback, and I almost forgot to make the turn!  Whoops.  :)   But the rest of the course went beautifully, and I felt like I rode really well.  Especially to the coopy-thing -- I sat up, put leg on, and Apollo responded with a will!  :D

As usual, my bete noire is not going fast enough, so I ended up with a sixth place ribbon for that class.  I was pleased to just get a ribbon!  :)   Turns out the optimum time was kind of ambitious for that course for that level of show -- it was 59 seconds or so, and I came in at 71.  Nobody made the time, I think, or if they did, it was one of the rounds that scared the bejesus out of me to watch.   There's a difference between being fast and clean and technically good and being fast and not knocking down any poles, yknow?    Maybe it's my latent Hunter Princess I keep trying to squish, but some of those rounds ... I didn't want to see scary riding rewarded.   Ah well.  Maybe I'll enter some hunter rounds next year just for fun.  :)   ANYway ... yeah.

I was so pleased with our mostly-smooth round; Apollo didn't touch a single rail, didn't blink at any of the jumps or decorations, et cetera.  We weren't fast enough, but that's okay.

The 2'6 round was less smooth on my part -- I felt like my position wasn't as consistent as in the 2'3 round, and there were times when I jumped ahead and felt it.  Well, education, I suppose -- I'm getting better at identifying at least when I do it and then not doing it at the next fence, if not yet keeping myself from doing it at all.   I need to get my lead changes, even simple changes, more quickly and in better balance, and the flying changes will come with time.  I don't feel the need to press for them yet.   Apollo, though, was an absolute STAR, even when I wasn't riding well.  He didn't touch a thing.  He was responsive and generous, and there was never a question in his mind about whether he'd jump or not.

We didn't place in the 2'6 class, purely because of time issues -- if I'd ridden better, we probably would have placed, but hey: education.  :)    The hugest win for me was the fact that the 2'6 fences were no big deal.  I don't know what my mental block is about that, but it was there -- and I just kind of wandered past the block.  Even later, as I watched the 2'9 class a bit, I realized that I totally could have jumped that too, that MT has us jumping about that high and a bit higher pretty regularly.  That's a big deal, to walk away from a show feeling like I could have done another level.

And thank heaven for MT, TW, TD, and everyone at the barn ... ME and I felt like we had good lines, good rhythm, and fair-to-middlin' position, and we didn't scare anyone with our rides.  Heh.  ;)   I feel incredibly blessed not only to have a horse like Apollo, who's my partner, friend, and teacher, but to have an instructor like MT who teaches us carefully and well.  The hurry-scurry exercise we'd been doing over the last weekend was a huge help, as was all the work on bending lines that he has us do.  I will never even mentally groan about a bending line or angled fence exercise again!  All that tough work stood us in good stead this weekend, and I'm grateful.

So yes.  Love that horse, had a great time, feeling pretty good about myself.  :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Apollo

Handsome fellow!

Happy one-year anniversary, Apollo!  I think the actual anniversary of the best decision I've made in a very long time is sometime between a week ago and today, during the time I had him on trial: I realized that I absolutely loved this horse and had every intention of buying him and never sending him back to his seller.  :)

This horse is helping me learn to be a much better rider, a braver rider, and in general a happier person.  He loves being taken care of, is happy to be a partner and a part of a team, and does his job even when I make it hard for him.  He's generous and kind, and I'm unspeakably grateful to him for everything he gives me.  I hope I give enough back to him.

We've come a long way over this year, too.   We've gone from this:

First canter - both a bit tense

to this:

Hurry-scurry exercise from Sunday's lesson;
both much more relaxed

And from this:

First walk

More of the hurry-scurry exercise.
My position's looking better.

 To this:
When I first got him

A few weeks ago - still a wild animal, obv.  ;)

Here's to many more years together, best little bay Thoroughbred ever!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Well, I don't have anywhere near 100 followers (maybe if I updated more often ... ), but I have JUST THE CONTEST!    It's also sort of a preview of an upcoming post, in a way.   :)


Comment with your best caption for these two pictures, taken Sunday at the barn.   You can caption them as a series, like a joke setup and a punchline; you can caption them separately; you can caption just one or the other; whatever seems funniest to you.   I'll pick my favorite, then I'll post the winner here in proper LOLhorse format.   And you'll get a small, fun prize!  No idea what yet, but it'll be small, and it'll be fun.  :)   You have until next Tuesday, 9/10 -- tell your friends, too!

Without further ado, caption these priceless photos: