Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Max goes hacking!

Big breakthrough this weekend!

We'd had a good but pretty tough lesson on Saturday and if Max was feeling anywhere near as sore as I was, we just needed to do something different. So I thought we would try to go hacking in the vineyard again.

Just down the road from the paddock is one of our vineyards. Now, vineyards are brilliant for hacking around and doing fitness work. They leave huge headlands at the end of the rows so they can turn the tractors with sprayers etc around. See below:

So this means there is lots of grassed space around the edge of the vineyard which is all nicely mowed, flat and pretty safe. And the whole vineyard is fenced because although vines tend not to stray very much, they graze sheep there in winter. So if you did happen to fall off your horse, he can't go very far!

Even though it is just a mere 400 meters down the road, we took the float because it is not worth the arguments and stress of trying to ride up there. Apparently the roadside is overflowing with horse-eating tigers/lions/lampposts. Not to mention the blood-thirsty alpaccas that appear over the fence occasionally! We arrived, I shut the gate and unloaded the boy. He came off looking like a bit of a giraffe, but settled down when there was no-one to talk to.

I quickly got him saddled up and climbed on from the side of the float (note to self: teach horse to stand next to things for mounting). Off we went, a bit bouncy and syncopated, and indeed, quite giraffe-like. I have found that singing and talking to him helps. But I am not naturally talkative, so quickly run out of things to say, so I resorted to quoting any poetry I could remember. Not much poetry, it seems - a couple of Shakespeare's soliloquies, Spike Milligan, and some Pam Ayres. Poor horse.

But we survived a mostly sane ride right around the block, including across the scarey bridge and under the wind machines. I was so proud of my little guy! There was no way on earth he was going anywhere near the creek but I'm sure we can overcome this. We can go hacking!!!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Twilight Thursdays (5)

This week at the Park, I worked on introducing Max to the concept of "hacking". This requires some bravery especially for chicken bay horses who think everything might bite them. It seems that the secret is to keep said chicken horse distracted from approaching threats by asking him to stay focussed on what the rider asks.

So we wended our way around the Park. I just kept changing direction everytime he got distracted. So it was a pretty erratic path and must have looked completely insane to anyone watching. But what the hell, this is about my horse, not what anyone else thinks.

We even got into the Tucker paddock (very scarey area full of tigers!) and got all the way around the perimeter and through the (dry) water jump a couple of times. Success!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Jumping phase - combined training

50 cm.

One foot and 8 inches (I think)

Not the actual round, but representative

That's not going to get us to the Olympics.

Well, it might but it will be a v  e  r  y   s  l  o  w  journey! However, we all have to start somewhere. And since we don't really have canter doing a jumping round is a big ask. (But look at how snapped-up those knees are! George Morris would be impressed.)

I was so proud of my little guy. He was pretty freaked out by all the coloured poles, and wings and fillers and STUFF! in front of him. The riding club girls had got out most of our toys, so we had a green wall, a white picket fence, a painted fill as well as lots of oxers. But I just sat quietly, put my legs on and said "Yes!" everytime Max got a bit looky. He is such an honest horse, he just believed me and went forward. We lost a bit of control in the in-between bits (hence the long time for the jumpoff) and so I think no more jumping for us till we are more in control.

But I think this is a good sign for the future, if he will listen and go even when he isn't sure. I just have to figure out how to make him catty and brave for cross country. Anyone want to take a little llama-horse out hunting for me????

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Combined training

No photos of this as the photographer was also the secretary. Probably just as well, really.

I know we aren't ready for real competition. But it was just a low level, riding club day and I figure every time I have to ride into a dressage arena will be good for my nerves. At least this time we weren't completely last or eliminated. 

Test 1.1 
Max 53.63
This put us in 8th=, and the winning score was only 60.

50cm SJ 
Max C C C C C C C C C C 0 
Jumpoff C C C C C C 0 1.09.78
We were 8th in this too. But I was so proud of him as this was his first ever clear round, and jump off!

Now that I think about it, this was quite a step up for us. We had only ever done the low level Pony Club or Training tests, so this was our first ever real dressage test! Good to start with the first prelim test (1.1) even if we didn't do the canter part of it.

In my previous lessons we had worked on a warm-up routine. Starting with lots of walking to get the fluids moving and the muscles warmed up. Long rein to start, then picking him up and starting to use some contact to ask for roundness. Alternating working paces with stretchy rests, and then adding in a bit of trot. Now, our trot is still a work in progress, so I do just a little bit. Or else it all turns to crap and the llama is back with a vengence! 

On the day my nerves were obviously affecting Max as he was quite spooky, and "looky" at the other horses, the cross-country jumps etc. I just kept asking him to concentrate (as best he could) and tried to stick to the plan. The judging was running early, but I know my rules, so I kept on warming up till my set time. Then a friend on a young TB went past, looking greenish and sick. I offered her my time so she could get it over with, and then rode after her.

We were tense, but there were a few (all too short, fleeting) moments of nice work where it all came together. Unfortunately if you don't do the canter parts of this test, you end up endlessly trotting with just one walk on a loose rein across the diagonal. We scored 4s for all of the canter parts, so overall we didn't do too badly. The judge's comments were fair, including criticism of my circles (diamond shaped) but also some nice comments too.

Next - show jumping!