A Break

As of right now, I haven’t ridden since the Saturday before last. AKA, the day that Indy threw me. img_8013As one may imagine, the fall has not made me inclined to ride. That’s why I haven’t posted in the last week, because I literally have nothing to say about what I am doing.

Other than busy work for school (finding horses wherever I can),

keeping up with my hobby,IMG_1984.JPG

and general re-cooperating.

Cleaning tack has been one of the things.

and I have also done some crafts.

Part of me feels guilty about putting off riding and nervous to get back on, but another part feels like the break helped me a little.

It’s been nice, but i’m ready to get back to business this Friday when I have my lesson. I don’t know who I will be riding or what I’ll do, but I know I’m not letting one fall get to me. And besides, show season is coming up fast…img_8010(plus, Indy and I can finally jump! *inner squee*)

Hours 20 & 21: a Thrill, and a Spill

The past two hours have been VERY eventful, both in a good way and a bad way. Probably my two most eventful hours yet. Long story short, they were both with Indy. One ride involves our first verticals, …and the next involves our first bucking session, that, spoiler, ends with me on the ground.

Hour 20 (Friday, Jan. 11th)IMG_8010.jpg

Today, I had an amazing lesson with Indy: we jumped verticals together for the first time! (it makes me smile to look at her tucking her feet all nice like a hunter! Squee!)

The majority of the lesson was spent with a whole lot of kicking. We are trying to teach her to respect my leg through anything that we do, and we are making some progress…except that part of the reason we were doing that was because I let her get away with being slow over my two weeks of free rides with her.

eventually, we moved on to a line of poles. img_8013

which, before I could blink, turned into a small vertical.IMG_8012.jpg

and, believe it or not, we did it! a few good times too.IMG_8009.jpgThis is where Indy says “oof”.

The aim of the lesson was to get Indy to respect my leg and be more careful about where she puts her feet, and I think we made some headway on accomplishing just that. Today’s lesson was definitely a big adrenaline rush, but it means we are slowly turning a corner and that’s exciting! See you at the next hour!

Hour 21 (Saturday, Jan 12th)

I’m not going to lie. Hour 21 went fairly well, and then it plunged. Like, literally.

I fell off Indy for the the first time.

I don’t have any pictures, because it was a free ride and my mom wasn’t watching when it happened. What we were basically doing was repeating a smaller-scale version of what we did in Hour 20. Just kicking repeatedly, telling her that we mean business. The only difference was that she was more distracted. A gelding was in the arena and a friend was finishing her lesson with Indy’s pasture-mate and arch-rival, Tia. Other than that and the fact that I had to kick, all was well.

Where it started to go downward was when we went back to the line of poles that we did during our lesson. No jumps, just poles. Believe it or not, it took me several infuriating tries just to get Indy over the poles at the trot. I was starting to get mad. After we managed to do it a couple times, I decided to do it the other direction, and then be done. Going the other direction is logical, just to turn things around and make sure you and your horse are good with the exercise at every angle.

Of course, going over the poles in the other direction involves going into “the corner.” It doesn’t bother me, but for whatever reason, she just doesn’t like that corner. In the last post where i talked about feeling a little baby hop that terrified me, it took place in that corner. But what was about to happen was more than a little baby hop.

It was hailing lightly outside, I was a little bit angry with how stubborn she was, and I had to keep kicking. We entered the corner after circling a few times. I didn’t even get her to go over the poles once before she absolutely lost it and bursted into a canter.

I was probably on Indy for over thirty seconds of frantic cantering, hopping and bucking in big bursts. Just when it seemed she was going to quiet down, she bursted out again. Even though I was screaming whoa at the top of my lungs and crying like an idiot, I used all the things I have learned. I sat back in the seat. I jerked the reins. The closest I got to stopping her was when I remembered to do a one-rein stop. I grabbed the left rein with my right hand and cranked my left hand as close to the bit as possible, and then I jerked the rein as close to my hip as possible, and Indy began to circle. it’s what to do to slow down a bolting horse. Sadly for me, the rein just wasn’t short enough and Indy burst out of the tight circle.

Then I lost my stirrup on the right side. I knew I was on my way out, and I stayed on for five or so more seconds before falling into the very depth of the corner. Of course I was crying like an idiot, but I knew that I was not hurt and I was grateful. Indy slowed down immediately and stood still before Bethany grabbed her and got right on. Terrified, I watched as Bethany taught Indy a lesson. Indy repeatedly tripped over her own feet in the chaos and it looked as if she would fall, bringing Bethany with her. But Bethany knew what she was doing, and eventually she brought Indy to a relaxed trot and a flowing, perfect canter in the same corner where she dumped me. Trembling, I got back on Indy and trotted for half the arena. Then I got off and put her away without another word.

 

Now it is Sunday and I am at home cleaning my saddle and bridle. It’s relaxing and satisfying and it allows me to think a little bit about yesterday’s ride. It might be hard to believe, but despite the obvious flaw, the ride wasn’t total crap. When put into the situation, I did all I could and everyone was beyond proud and supportive of my efforts, even though they didn’t turn in my favor. In fact, we even laugh about it a little. I crack up thinking about my dirt angel in the corner near the jump standards where no horse walks.

I’ll also point out that of all the time I have been riding and learning at Feather Run Farm, that was the first time I ever fell off in that arena, where I have ridden hundreds of times. The first time that I get off a horse that isn’t standing still and about to fall asleep. It’s my seventh fall.

Indy, of course, is still Indy. Our next ride won’t be fun, that’s for sure. I haven’t ridden since. But sometimes a fall can teach you so much, and it’s all part of the way it works with a horse like Indy. Working through and embracing everything Indy has to offer has shaped my riding more than any other horse has, and it’s been an exciting journey. She’s a forgiving horse, and will be ready whenever I get on next.

 

in the end, I still love my baby girl, and we’ve got more things to do! See you then!IMG_4838

Hour 7

Hour 7 of the 100 hours took place on Sunday, I just haven’t gotten around to posting it since school hit me on Monday. Sunday’s hour was made of two thirty-minute practices. The first thirty minutes was groundwork with Indy.IMG_7548.jpg

Groundwork is one of the things USEF allows to count towards your hours, and I think it does count even though what I did is not a typical form of groundwork. It is also known as playing with Indy! It starts with a quick groom, then I go in the ring (making sure the gates are closed) and take her halter off. It is so much fun to walk (or trot) around the arena with your horse following you. I even set up a teeny tiny cross rail and she followed me over it! What fun!

 

I wasn’t intending to get another thirty minutes that day, but Mama decided to get Indy out again for a quick ride in her lovely western saddle. I honestly didn’t feel like getting on, but it quickly turned into a “what the heck, why not” moment, so I got on for a few minutes. It is very enjoyable and awkward at the same time for me to ride in the western saddle, and Indy was a very good girl. IMG_7564IMG_7587

After our short ride we put back the deserving and tired Indy into her paddock with her sheet on and took off to finish up the day.

Sunday was a very chill barn day. I am happy to have these experiences as much as I can, it is so much fun sometimes just to try something new: take off your halter and play with your horse, or try a ride in a different kind of saddle. It’s all part of the experience.IMG_7551.jpg

Hour 6

For my sixth hour, I had a short-and-sweet ride with Indy (AKA goofball) to recap from what we did yesterday.

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Today, the weather was really gross. Mama took our dog to the vet and Daddy dropped me off to do chores and ride. Indy was a good girl despite her usual wiggling.

I used my favorite sea-foam colored saddle pad that I got from the Dover store at Tryon. Here’s a close-up view of my new saddle in case you all were curious, if you guys are interested I will probably write a tack collection post later!IMG_3031.jpg

Just like yesterday we mostly did stretching and transitions, and using both long and short reins. It was mostly a relaxing ride, and it was really nice to get Indy out after doing chores all morning and ride. She was a good girl!IMG_3023.jpgIMG_3026.jpg

*peeks back and looks at me*  me: o helo dere

got any post ideas, questions about anything or ideas for exercises I should try in the saddle? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

 

Hour 5

Today’s hour was spent doing some much-needed flatwork in a lesson with Bethany and Indy. It was so nice to walk straight out of school and then go to the barn for a lesson on a Friday.

Instead of starting out on a long rein and working into a shorter one, we mixed it up and started the opposite. We were working on getting her to give in to the contact and stay straight with the use of my hands and legs. My seat and legs are getting better, even though we still have some things to work on as a pair.IMG_7540.jpg

We did a lot of trotting: lengthening and shortening reins and bringing the trot up and down, stretching her into a nice relaxed frame while moving in a nice working trot to build her topline. We also did some poles, through most of which we felt pretty confident. The key is to stay straight and stay quiet and to make a good turn to set yourself up for success. i have learned that in riding this applies to pretty much everything!IMG_7539IMG_7538

Then we did some canter; I find myself rolling with it a lot better, I just need to work on staying straight in the saddle and not leaning as we turn.IMG_7541IMG_7542

After my choppy ride on Thasia, riding Indy felt like a smooth breeze. Her movement is so free and flowing, even with stiffness in her hind. Indy was sharp and confident, even at the canter, and I was very pleased with her. This is progress toward eventual jumping (which I know she can do, because she is brave, we just need to work out the kinks). We are going to do great things! IMG_7543

Tomorrow, Mama is going to drop me off at the barn to do some chores and hopefully ride. It’s going to be rainy, but there are benefits to having an indoor arena; I will just have to see how it goes. This weekend is going to be a fun one, I’ll fill you in as it goes down! Thanks for reading!

Hour 4

Today after school I had an uncontrollable desire to ride and get more hours, so Mama drove me to the barn and dropped me off.IMG_3002.jpg

I only got a selfie because no one was there to take my picture when I was riding, and then my phone died. It’s a cute selfie though!

Today I rode Thasia, one of those been-there-done-that lesson horses. However, she means a little more to me than that. She’s an eighteen-year-old appendix, and the horse I am currently jumping with. I plan to take her through at least the first part of shows in 2019 so I can have a positive experience starting over fences. She also was the very first horse I ever rode in a lesson when I was in the sixth grade!IMG_6491(I am pretty sure this photo is from that day.)

Our ride today was nice and peaceful, since the barn was pretty much quiet. We had the arena to ourselves for the majority of our ride until a novice lesson started happening. I wanted to focus on my equitation and do as much fine-tuning as possible with Thasia since her and I have had some time off. Obviously I will practice jumping, but I feel that at the moment fine-tuning ourselves in groundwork is just as important. I couldn’t help but notice that my seat and leg was much quieter than when I last rode her. We had some problems with steering and pulling, so it is evident that there are things we need to work on in our next lesson.

I don’t think I will be able to ride tomorrow, but I have a lesson coming up on Friday! See you then!

Hour 3

Since I had a weeklong case of the stomach flu over thanksgiving, I haven’t been riding in a week and a half and it’s been killing me. Luckily, I felt a lot better today so Mama took me out to the barn for a simple trot work ride with Indy to get us both back in tune.           According to Mama’s news, Indy had been giving her the “many faces of mare” look for the past two days, since she tends to be mad and grumpy when we leave her.manyfacesofmare.jpgThis perfectly defines Indy in the past few days. I am sure a lot of you can relate!

However, today when I went to get her and groom her and throughout the course of our time together, she snapped straight out of it and returned to her normal self, which is a little bit more like this.manyfacesofindy.jpeg

I literally didn’t realize how true this was until I pasted it into the post. Me and my mom literally died laughing, because I can see her making all of these faces on a regular basis (LOL)

In our ride, we struggled a little bit with wiggling and steering (since we were both a little foggy after the time off, and there was a lesson going on) but I was happy with how calm and collected she was.  One of the vices that we are working through in Indy’s training is the use of her hind legs and hips.                                                                                              Before I got on I did some groundwork to have her step to the side and cross her hind legs together. I usually do this before mounting. A lot of thoroughbreds have this problem, due to the ways they are ridden in racing. Picture a horse being led into the starting gate, how they practically walk sideways, tossing their head and stiffly shuffling their hind along.

We were able to accomplish some of that under saddle too, although I am still training myself to sense and ask for that. Here, I have asked her to go closer to the rail and her right hind is slid beautifully under her left. For most people it may be confusing or even humorous, but for me it is something to feel good about even if the ride was not our finest hour. Wow, I just realized but no pun intended.IMG_7531.jpg

As I untacked her and mama snapped a picture Indy looked like her normal self again. I am happy to have my girl back. Mama works at the barn, she goes every day to help out while I am at school. Not only does it pay off some of Indy’s board but it has allowed me to have endless opportunities to go and ride myself. Mama is part of Indy’s everyday life, so props to her!

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We put her in her liner sheet and her new Shires blanket. As I type this, she’s hopefully snuggled warm in her stall. I smile thinking about it.

Despite it’s flaws, today’s ride was good both for me and Indy. We are staying home for Christmas this year, so I am going to practice my tail off anytime I can. I’m getting ready for the upcoming show season! I plan to have    at least half my hours in before I start showing in 2019. Thanks for reading, plenty more excitement to come!

 

Hour 2

Today was a practice ride with Indy and two of my barn buddies. Since no other easier horses were available to ride, I chose to ride Indy. I was kind of skeptical about riding her  with two other horses in the ring, but I figured she would be fine because she knows how to take care of herself. My two friends, Mia and Mary Hampton, were riding Tia and Huckleberry.IMG_7502.jpg(Indy and I are on the right).

    We spent the majority of the ride doing simple trot work, since Bethany told us to steer clear of the jumps (due to a previous incident). I wanted to practice cantering, despite my whole existence telling me not to. I cantered successfully (for the most part) in circles and down the long side a couple times. Indy handled herself around the other horses (who were also trotting and cantering) very well, and I was happy with the way it was going. Until we were cantering and found ourselves stuck in the corner.

I was stuck in the corner with Indy, and both of the other horses were in the same corner as well. The pony, Huckleberry, was having difficulties with steering, so I immediately regretted my decision to steer her into that corner. I began to turn in a circle instead of squeezing between the jump standards and the rail with two other horses. But, while still cantering, Indy decided to get out  of the situation for me. Her relatively collected canter turned into a bolt for one or two strides. Then, freaking out inside, I decided to pull on her mouth to slow her down. In hindsight, I should have done a one-rein stop. That’s the only time I had ever felt the need to do something like that because I had never been mounted alone on a spooking horse. So, I did the super wise thing and proceeded to pull on her mouth. Then, Indy started hopping in reaction. She was not a bucking bronco, but it was a first for me, having never been in the saddle for such a thing (except for the time when my friend persuaded me to ride doubles with her super green appendix mare, but that story is for another day). By no means whatsoever is Indy a horse that bucks and it wasn’t an actual buck, it just shocked me a little bit. When it was over, having shouted whoa countless times through gasping breath, I let myself hang limp and sigh with relief.. And the most shocking part was that I was still in the saddle.

So, on my second hour of riding, not only did I survive Indy’s little number, but I learned a lesson. I should have stuck to trot work when I was riding, simply because there were other horses in the ring that were actively working and no riding instructor. I guess, since I had only just met these friends, I was trying to prove myself and maybe even show off. I may have also felt the urge to canter because I knew that as a rider I was beyond trot work. I was ready, but obviously my horse was not. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. Another thing I wish I had learned beforehand is to make good choices in the saddle. Not only should I have done what’s right for my horse, but I should have been aware if where the other horses were in the ring and payed them respect and space. When Indy went into that corner, I should have slowed her down to a trot to safely navigate out of the situation and give the other horses space. But I chose to keep the canter and attempt to turn. It didn’t end well.IMG_7505.jpg       (looking at my face in horse pictures makes me laugh. It is evident that it was taken after Indy’s little number.)

Every ride teaches a lesson, whether it be through the words of an instructor or one’s own personal experience. My trainer did not see the incident (She was teaching a lesson in the outdoor arena) so it left me time to reflect on it myself. The most important thing was that as soon as Indy calmed down, she forgave me. She doesn’t hold a grudge, so I shouldn’t either. The next time I get on Indy, I will act as if nothing happened. Because as far as Indy goes, nothing did.

 

Hour 1

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I had a lesson with Indy today. Indy is a green thoroughbred mare that’s six years old. Since she has been at our barn for the majority of her life, even before we bought her, she has had the advantage of having correct training by both myself and my instructor, and she’s progressing nicely! She’ll get her own post later, since she’s such a good girl!

Most of the lesson was trot work, that being where she’s at right now. I concentrated on keeping her busy but not doing too much with my hands. We are working on building

her topline, improving her balance and movement, and getting her to stretch into a nice frame while giving in to my contact. I struggled a little bit at the beginning, trying to get myself into focus and prevent her from wiggling, but I was able to get a hold eventually. I had just bought my new saddle from my trainer and it fits Indy so much better than my other one, so that was extremely useful in helping to keep good balance.

After trotwork we moved to a set of three poles between standards at the trot. My instructor, Bethany, and I were pleased with how confident she was. Again, for any other horse trot poles are normal and easy, the same for me (I jump bigger things a lot), but for Indy obstacles are still fairly foreign. Next, we moved to a small cross rail. I had never actually jumped her into a canter (I have only trotted her over a cross rail in the past), but I have seen Bethany do cross rails and even a flower box with her, so I was confident that she could do it. The first time she simply trotted over, but the next two or three times she cantered on the other side. The last time i did it, she actually popped over it, coming out in a proud canter on the other side. As with the poles, We were pleased with her confidence (especially since I don’t have much experience jumping her). It turns out to be yet another reason to love my little girl: she’s not nervous, she’s bold and will do anything you ask her if you have enough confidence. What a good start for my first hour!

A Bit More About Me

Hello again! Before I start documenting the rides I have gotten over the past few days, I think it would be wise to give you all a little background on where I have been up to this point. So here we go!

I started riding about five years ago, but really I have been into horses my whole life. My first horse was a hobby horse named Cocoa.

Feb 2007 011

my grandmother used to have miniature horses that I loved so much as a tiny tot. Their names were Marble, Feather and Sugar.100_2035

In fact, I loved the minis so much that I had them come to my front yard for my fourth birthday party. That’s when I had my first fall: Breaking my arm because the girth wasn’t fastened when I got on (And that kids is why you always fasten your girth). We’ll come back to that later.

A few good years later, I went for my first real ride with my mom’s old friend and a humble bay mare named Annie.annie5yearanniversary.JPG

I remember my grandmother cheering when I got into the saddle. It was going through my mind that when I sat in the saddle, that I was an official equestrian and I had just transitioned from wannabe to rider.

After that day I didn’t get to ride for a long, long while, but I was convinced that I was now a part of the horse world. I was horse-obsessed more than ever.

I actually started taking lessons when I was in sixth grade at Feather Run Farm. The first horse I ever rode there was Thasia. Mama took me there because she decided to take a drive one day and she drove past my future home away from home. She had heard about it from a saddle fitter who lived down the street from our house in the suburbs.IMG_6491.jpg

I believe this photo is from my first lesson. My trainer to this day, Bethany, is holding on to Thasia for me. The funny thing is that the saddle i’m in is the saddle I actually use to teach my six year old brother…

I progressed and rode at Feather Run Farm for about a year. I even got my brother into it. IMG_6591.JPGTia, a Pintabian, and my brother, Robert (there are two bros). Becky is helping him pick Tia’s foot. I made so many memories when I was there that first year. Only one thing was wrong: I lacked confidence and never cantered once when I was there.

After a full year, Feather Run Farm moved. I was devastated.

Luckily, my friend Elizabeth hooked me right up with her instructor, Erika. I started by riding a little Welsh mountain pony called Maggie. IMG_8503.JPGElizabeth is on her bay mare, Ice, in this picture.

At this point I had little to no confidence, even though no fall had happened to me since that fourth birthday party. I guess I was just naturally that way. I hated being scared and it only got worse.

I had always wanted to compete in a horse show my entire life. I was riding a bay Dutch Warmblood named Callie at the time, and I was very excited to try a walk/trot flat class. But I was also dreadfully nervous. On my first show day, I was so nervous I wanted to cry. I got squeezed in between a pony, a jump and the rail, a truck drove down the road, Callie started cantering, and I fell off. At my first horse show. IMG_9365.JPG(You can tell by my face.) This is before it happened.

Of course, that only made things worse. I dreaded every lesson, and when I trotted the only thing that would go through my brain was “Don’t fall off, Don’t fall off.” Even trotting was a scary, scary thing for me. I even almost cried when I rode Maggie down a hill at a walk. I was a hot mess.

And yet, I stayed with it. That’s what amazes me. I could have quit at any time, but in my mind that was not an option. I made it through a couple more shows with Callie, a schooling show and a show at Clemson. I had just bought a new show coat and was very proud of it. But I was so nervous during one of my trot-pole rounds, I quit it. I was always overcome in a fit of jealousy for my fellow students who won literally everything.IMG_0323.JPGeverything’s cool here, except for my face. I can tell the judges are super thrilled.

After Callie, there was a disagreement between my instructor and the owner of the barn, so she agreed to move to Elizabeth’s house, where I began riding her appaloosa, Jeffrey. I was still a nervous wreck, except I was cantering and jumping. Of course, I didn’t want to do that, and I still dreaded lessons, but I did it anyway.IMG_1276.jpg

The shows that I did with Jeffrey were good. In fact, I ended up raking in the ribbons. I guess the schooling show judges liked his cute spotty booty.img_1490The only problem was that even after a couple years of riding, my nerves limited me to the walk-trot class, competing and often losing to kids that were more than five years younger than me. I always let my age get to me. I hated that I was competing in a class with five year olds but didn’t have enough courage to move up. I was still a nervous wreck in general.IMG_2775.JPGhe’s so adowwable though.

The worst lesson of my entire life took place in Elizabeth’s small arena, doing a crossrail at a canter that was situated on the short side. I mistaked the turn. I ended up falling off three times. Surprisingly, I was left unhurt, although I got sick afterwards. As we pulled out, there was still sand in my mouth and even my voice had been knocked out of whack.

one day, my mother told me that she heard through Facebook that Feather Run Farm was coming back. I was surprised beyond belief, but I never thought I would be going back.

I was in eighth grade at the time. When they turned us out to the track at school, I sat alone on the bleachers (like I usually did), tore out a spare piece of sketchbook paper and wrote a long, heartfelt letter to Bethany and Becky. I sent her pictures of me riding Jeffrey. I sent it, and I waited. Eventually, mama reached out to them through social media, and I went to go visit.IMG_3654.JPG                     Here I am on Thasia, in the same arena, three years later.

The rest of the story is simple. I have been back at Feather Run Farm for over a year, and my confidence went from complete and total rock-bottom to the best it has ever been. I am riding and owning a green thoroughbred with ease, and jumping verticals…for fun! I know it sounds super easy for most riders, but personally I am very, very happy with where I am at. I will start going over fences next show season, and I will do it proudly and calmly. I have even been completely calm at recent shows, even after taking a spill with Finn. Nerves do not exist anymore, even when I am learning something new.

IMG_2813a ride that I had a couple weeks ago

That’s why I am taking the next step. I am watching myself progress by cataloging my rides. I know that i’m ready to tackle something new and exciting. It’s been, well, a ride, but I would not have missed a single minute! I’m ready to share my riding adventures of the past and future to anyone who wants to listen. I am ready to get started!