Another Weekend, Another Jumper Show

 Posted by on 21 September 2013 at 10:00 am  Horses, Personal, Sports
Sep 212013
 

Lila and I competed in another jumper show last weekend. My primary goal was to take her to a wholly new place, again to see whether she’d balk at the jumps. As it happened, I had a bad case of nerves — so much so that I was weak in the knees when warming up — but Lila was great! The jumps were set at their maximum of 2’9″, and many looked scary. However, my fabulous girl Lila didn’t give them a second glance. She’s really become a much more confident and dependable jumper of late.

As for me, I’ve been making amazing progress in the last few weeks, but I still did plenty wrong. Lila needs to be more collected, with a better uphill canter. I still need to sit back, and I need to make sure that she gets to the base of the fence, rather than taking off long and weak. Also, she tended to be a bit crooked on some fences, so I need to insist more on her going straight. Still, I think that I’ll be ready to move up to the 3′ (low jumper) class next time.

Here are my three rides, with video taken by Paul. (He’s been so supportive! I love it!)

First class:

Second class:

Third class:

I knocked down one rail in the first and third classes, unfortunately. Also, my pace was slow (intentionally). So I received sixth place, fifth place, and sixth place out of about 10 riders. Not too bad, and we learned lots! So I’d consider that a win for us!

Sep 142013
 

On August 31st, I took Lila over to the Colorado Horse Park for a jumper show. Given that she balked at every damn fence at our first three-phase event early in the month, I wanted to give her some more experience jumping strange fences in strange places. (She’s not phased by any of the jumps at home or at Martha’s, no matter how crazy we make them.)

Happily, she took all the fences in stride, so to speak. Lila was a bit hesitant at the very first fence in my first class — in the “puddle jumper” class (jumping about 2’5″) that I used to warm up. But I was ready for her to hesitate, so I wrapped my legs around her belly to insist that she jump it. She did, without a problem. After that, she was fine, except that she really disliked one particular “sailboat” fence with wavy poles. Still, I got her over that every time. She was never comfortable with it, but she improved each time. We were clean in that class, and since it used an “optimum” time, we got second place. Yay!

After that one puddle jumper class to get her comfortable, I took her in all three “schooling jumper” classes. The images below are the courses that I was required to quickly memorize and then jump. It might sound strange, but I needed experience doing that! I learned how to easily “chunk” the course into three or four segments, then to always think ahead to my next fence. Happily, I didn’t go off-course, as many riders did.

The first class was our best. We went clean (meaning: no refusals, run-outs, or poles down) in the main course, then in the jump-off too. Alas, we didn’t win anything, because we weren’t going for time — as is required in the jump-off. Basically, we were too slow, but that’s okay. (In eventing, I never need to do a jump-off. Most of all, I need to jump clean. To avoid time faults, I just need to jump the course in the time allowed.)

In the second class, I leaned forward through the whole course. GAH! Unsurprisingly, we dropped two poles.

In the third class, I managed to sit up and ride her better. Still, my upper body position wasn’t nearly as upright as it should have been. Again, we dropped two poles, both times when I leaned forward and dropped Lila’s front end in the stride before the fence. (By this time, I was more tired than I realized, I think.)

The show was a great experience for Lila and me. We gained confidence and experience, particularly in strange surroundings with the “one-take only” pressure of competition. I plan to do another jumper show on September 14th — that’s today! — at another location. Then we’ll be good and ready for the stadium jumping portion of our next event on October 12th to 13th!

Also… big thanks to Paul for coming to the show! I appreciated having him there to help out and provide moral support — and I really appreciated being able to watch the video to see exactly what I did right or wrong afterwards. So he wins the “Awesome Husband Prize”!

Sep 102013
 

My friend Cyndi Meredith wanted to see whether her lovely and talented horse Zoe would respond to her without a bridle or halter. She used a rope around Zoe’s neck to help communicate, but nothing else. Here’s what she did:

Pretty awesome, no?

 

I’m beyond pleased to have found a solution to the longstanding problem of my horse Elsie being deeply herd-bound — meaning that she freaks out, runs the fence, and works herself into a full-body sweat whenever I take Lila away from her. Such separation happens every day for one to three hours, so you’d think Elsie would settle down after a while, but that happens only rarely.

Alas, the problem is not a mere annoyance. She’s lost far too much weight this summer, despite my feeding her about double what Lila gets. Plus, she’s been wearing through her very expensive shoes — which she shouldn’t even need — in half the usual time.

Over the past few months, I’ve tried all kinds of solutions, without much success. However, I’ve never tried tying her because that’s so dangerous: she could really hurt herself if she freaked out, pulled back, struck out, etc. — as a panicking horse would do. However, after seeing Clinton Anderson deliberately spook a horse on a “blocker tie ring,” I realized that I could try to tie her using that. She’d be tied, but she’d be safe too.

Basically, blocker tie rings allow the horse to pull out the rope with a sufficient amount of force. The rope exerts friction, so pulling out the rope requires effort. Also, the rope can be looped in such a way as to require more or less force to extract.

Blocker tie rings work with a horse’s psychology in rather surprising ways. If the horse is tied fast, he might panic — and fight the tie like a mad beast. (Even lazy Lila does that on occasion.) But with the blocker tie ring, the horse will free himself just slightly by pulling. So if the horse panics and pulls back, he’ll get a bit more rope thereby, then calm down immediately and stop pulling. (It’s counterintuitive, but it works!)

I use blocker tie rings in the trailer already, as well as when tying a horse to the outside of the trailer. They’re awesome. If Elsie freaked out when tied using a blocker tie ring, the worst that she’d do is pull out the rope and then run the fence. However, she’d likely calm down before extracting the whole rope from the blocker tie ring.

I started the experiment by tying Elsie to my hitching post using the blocker tie ring, and then I took Lila out of sight to do groundwork. I was expecting Elsie to freak out, but she was pretty placid. She never attempted to pull out the rope, although she was a bit upset by Lila’s absence. That was promising!

Next, I tied her and then trailered Lila over to our community arena to ride. I worried that Elsie would decompose with time… but she was good! She was still quietly tied when I returned, and Paul reported that she wasn’t overly upset while I was gone. She ate a whole leaf of hay too.

After that, I left her tied for about three hours while I took Lila to Martha’s for my lesson. Paul was home to keep an eye on her again, thankfully. Once again, she was excellent. She’s pulled the rope out a few feet, but she was still tied.

Then, on Saturday, we had the real test: I tied up Elsie, then took Lila to the jumper show. Paul was with me, so Elsie was totally alone for over seven hours. Amazingly, she was still quietly tied well when we returned. Yes, she’d been standing out in the hot sun for many hours. But that’s better than her running out in the hot sun, as she would have done if loose! Plus, she had easy access to hay and water, and she can move around quite a bit.

Here she is, perfectly relaxed, even though she knows that Lila’s soon to leave her. If she were loose, she’d be running the fence already.

(As you can see in the picture, I’m running the rope around the post to give it a bit more friction. It’s a bit too easy to pull out as-is.)

Happily, every time I tie her and take Lila away, Elsie seems to become more accepting of our departure. The more that she ran the fence, I think, the greater her anxiety became — to the point that it seemed to take on a life of its own. Forcing her to stand still keeps her calm. Perhaps she’ll learn someday that Lila’s departure isn’t anything to fuss about, but at her age, I’m not holding my breath!

Really, I’m just amazed that this method works. Elsie is so reactive — she freaks out if she steps on her own leadrope, for example — that I never would have expected that typing her up would be safe or effective. Yet it is!

Hopefully, Elsie will regain some of the weight that she’s lost this summer over the next few weeks. Even better, I’d like to be able to remove her shoes, once her feet grow back. I want a cheap and easy companion horse again!

Show Jumping with Ludger Beerbaum

 Posted by on 31 August 2013 at 1:00 pm  Animals, Horses, Sports
Aug 312013
 

My trainer Martha lent me — and I recently watched — an instructional video with international show jumper Ludger Beerbaum instructing two classes of students, then riding two of the horses himself. The video was good, although he wasn’t the best teacher. Still, his riding is superb — and he’s only gotten better, as you can see from this fabulous video of him winning the Grand Prix Herm├Ęs in Paris in 2013.

The first round is just aiming to go clean (meaning, no refusals or rails down) in under the time allowed. The second round is the jump-off with other riders who did that, so that aim is to go clean in as little time as possible.

I’d give my eye teeth (and a whole lot more) to be able to ride so damn well.

Me Jumping Lila: Progress!

 Posted by on 31 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Animals, Horses, Personal, Sports
Aug 312013
 

Here’s a video compilation of me jumping Lila in last week’s lesson with Martha Deeds. We’re jumping a bending line, which is more difficult than an ordinary (straight) line. Basically, I have to get busy immediately after the first fence to get a proper approach to the second fence.

I made quite a few mistakes in these jumps. Happily, I was pretty darn pleased with the last sequence. Still, even then, I made small versions of the errors that have been plaguing me:

(1) I lean over in the stride before the fence, rather than keeping a very, very upright posture. When I do that, I’m letting Lila drop on her forehand — such that she’s heading downhill — just before the fence. That screws up the jump in various ways, particularly if the striding doesn’t happen to be just right. This tendency to lean forward and drop Lila has been a major problem and frustration of mine for some time. Happily, in that last sequence, I only leaned forward a wee bit, which was progress compared to the earlier jumps.

Plus, the fence with the poles is an extra challenge for me, as I’m even more likely to drop Lila over such fences. (I get nervous, so I learn forward and release her head. It’s exactly the wrong thing to do!) So I’m particularly delighted to have gotten that mostly right a few times.

(2) I hunch my shoulders a bit on landing. That means that I’m not able to recover so quickly as I need to do for the second fence. I need to keep a flatter back, so that I can land ready for the next fence. I’m getting better at that, but my goal is to eliminate that hunch entirely.

Despite those problems, the news is good: I’m making progress! For example, I’m doing much better at looking up rather than down at the fence lately. Also, I love the collected canter that Martha had me ride into these fences.

Lila and I have come so far in the last year. I’m eager to see how far we can get in our next year!

Yesterday’s Almost-Faceplant on Lila

 Posted by on 24 August 2013 at 12:00 pm  Animals, Horses, Personal
Aug 242013
 

My major excitement of yesterday was my horse Lila suddenly stumbling — almost to the point of disaster — while we trotted down a slight hill. (We were out on a trail ride.)

In the span of less than a second, I felt her stumble downward into the ground. I could see only the dirt of the trail in front of me, not her neck. I was headed into that dirt, face-first. Basically, Lila must have tripped, then gone down on one knee.

Amazingly, I pulled myself upright, and Lila managed to right herself quickly too. I’d lost my reins, so she did that all by herself. (Good girl!)

Once we were stopped, I jumped off immediately to sooth her and myself, because dammit, that was scary! Then we trotted off down the trail again, and all was well.

WHEW!

Aug 172013
 

Last Saturday, I competed in my first three-phase event on Lila. The three phases of a “combined training” event are (1) dressage test — meaning precision movements in a pattern on the flat (2) stadium jumping — meaning a course of fences in an arena, and (3) cross-country jumping — meaning a course of fences over varied terrain.

Eventing is new for me, as I mostly did hunter shows and foxhunted when I was riding seriously in my teens. Back then, I did a few (two, I think) events for Pony Club on my fabulous horse “Paint.” That’s the sum total of my experience with eventing… and it’s not much.

I’ve been training with the amazing Martha Deeds of Middle Ground Farm for the past year, and Lila and I have made spectacular progress. So it was time to put our skills to the test! We did that on Sunday, August 11th at the One-Day Trial at the Colorado Horse Park. We competed at the “beginner novice” level, meaning that the fences would be 2’7″.

My dressage test was very basic, easier than the three “training level” tests I did at the schooling show in July. My performance was okay, but not spectacular. Alas, I rushed through the test a bit — except for the free walk, which was too sleepy.

I did manage to capture video of the test. The video camera is sitting on Paul’s hat, so that’s the white thing you see in the frame. Martha is next to him. (Paul was a fabulous supporter and help during the event, and I was so glad to have Martha with me to warm us up, plus give me advice and support all day long!)

Here are my dressage test results, with the movements, scores, and notes from the judge.

During the break between dressage and the two jumping phases, I decided to walk the cross-country course again. Or rather, to run it, since I had only 20 minutes to cover a mile of very hilly terrain, stopping to take a picture at each of the 17 jumps. Yikes!

A few hours after my dressage test, I warmed up for jumping. The warm-up area was a madhouse, but Lila was fine for that. However, when we entered the ring to do our course of ten fences, she became quite nervous. I think that being suddenly alone in an unfamiliar ring, with lots of brightly colored jumps with (*gasp*) flowers was a bit more than she knew how to handle. I didn’t realize just how nervous she was until she sucked back on the approach to the first fence and then refused it. (That’s a big penalty.) After that, I got after her, insisting that she jump every fence despite her fear. Thankfully she did that, although she continued to suck back in the few strides before every fence. She knocked down a rail on one too, and thankfully, that was our only other fault. Still, my riding improved and she gained confidence as she went through the course. When we finished the course, I was breathing harder than Lila was because I’d worked so damn hard to keep her going forward.

Since then, I’ve jumped her over various scary fences made of cones, tarps, flowers, and more, both at home and at Martha’s. She’s been mostly fine, so we suspect that major problem for her is jumping wholly new jumps in unfamiliar territory. To fix that problem, I plan to take her to two jumper shows in the next few weeks. After that, she should be much more confident jumping new fences in new places.

After that disheartening performance, Martha, Lila, and I headed down to the cross-country start area. Given what she’d just done, we expected Lila to balk at the warm-up cross-country fences — and in the course too. To our amazement, she was fabulous. She only got squirrely at one fence: #8. It was large tree branches at the top of a steep hill, and it looked awfully big as we cantered up that hill. Oh, and Lila refused to canter through the water, but that wasn’t a big deal. She was even excellent when I forgot everything I was supposed to do, such that I hindered rather than helped her.

We were good on time too — 17 seconds under time. (Both stadium jumping and cross-country are timed: you get penalty points for going over time.) Again, I could have ridden better — but again, I’m glad that I improved as I went through the course. Plus, I had SO MUCH FUN in those five minutes of jumping cross-country. Now I really know why eventers are, in the end, really about the cross-country. It’s the most challenging, the most dangerous, and the most fun!

Alas, the video didn’t record for my stadium jumping or cross-country. I set it up properly, but the camera just didn’t record. GRRR!

Ultimately, Lila and I ended up 5th in our group of 12 “Beginner Novice” riders, which isn’t bad for our first event. (We seemed to be in fourth place when the results were posted, as you can see from the picture, so we took home the white rather than the pink ribbon.)

I was pretty nervous during the event — although at least I’d overcome the major pressure and despair that I felt a few days before the event. Given the challenge of what we were doing, I’m pretty happy that we weren’t eliminated! (That’s not uncommon.)

Overall, the experience was very, very educational. I’m more aware of the kinds of mistakes that I’m likely to make, and I’ll be better able to handle … well, everything next time. Some of Lila’s hidden deficiencies were laid bare. More generally, I felt like I really grew as a person, particularly in my capacity to let go of mistakes, even while working to correct those mistakes and improve my performance.

Here are some pictures from the event, including each jump of the cross-country course:

I want to do one more event this year, so I’ll go back to the Colorado Horse Park on October 12th to 13th for this two-day event. It’ll be good for Lila and me to be in familiar territory again, and I think we’ll be able to do really well!

Now that my story is told, I’ll get off the computer and on my horse!

Aug 092013
 

I’ll be busy competing in my first three phase event on my horse Lila this Sunday morning, I won’t broadcast a radio show. I won’t broadcast on Wednesday either, so we’ll return to our usual fabulous schedule on Sunday, August 18th.

I’m really pretty nervous about this event — even though I’ve been training for it for a year, and training very intensely for the last two months. I don’t care how I place, but I want us to do our best… or reasonably close to that!

So… YIKES! And… wish me luck!

I’ll report on how we did next week!

Horse, Agent of Justice

 Posted by on 30 July 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Funny, Horses, Justice
Jul 302013
 

Normally, I don’t enjoy videos of people being hurt, but I’ll make an exception for this jackass who tried to play a mean joke on an already-agitated horse… from behind.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha