Face Plant

Saturday Winifred and I had a jumping lesson. As we went through the flat portion I was planning the title of this blog post. Winifred the Hunter! He was SO relaxed but not lazy. We even received a few “super” comments from trainer. Of course I still had my normal “your leg is too far back” comments as well but I am working on it and was overjoyed to have Win moving so nice and relaxed. So what happened?

We started jumping like normal just going back and forth over a trot fence. Trot fences are not his specialty but he looked and acted like a pro at them! Next we were asked to trot over a cavaletti, canter a broken line to an X, then around the corner to a triple (1 stride to a 1 stride). He did the cavaletti great but got a little stronger on the broken line which got an “easy” from trainer. He was not bad but getting stronger. He came of the X and decided he was having fun and got a little stronger still. Let me be clear though at no point was he out of control! We weren’t even going fast by any means he was just wanting to. One of the things that I know that he likes to do when he rides strong like that is to take the long spot and I sometimes get left behind. Saturday though I did something that I have NEVER done before on Winifred….. I jumped ahead. My only (flimsy) excuse is that I thought he was going to take the long spot but I should have known that he is too smart going into a triple to take the long spot. He slammed on the brakes and I launched over his neck.

I landed directly on my face. Thank God for helmets! I know that I landed right in front of him and got into a ball as fast as I could. He did end of stepping on my right hand but trainer said that he tried everything he could to avoid trampling me and jumped me instead. Once he cleared me he stood there until I got up then he decided to take a walk towards the hay cart. I guess he decided that I was fine and he deserved a snack. Lol.

I am not the best communicator when I am hurt so my behavior after worried my trainer. I got up but stumbled because both of my calf muscles cramped for a moment. Once I saw someone grab Winifred, I started walking across the arena. Since I was not talking yet everyone thought I was confused but in reality I was going to get the Kleenex out of my jacket to help with the blood. Trainer finally got me to sit down, as I am still looking around, I apparently looked very confused. Trainer asked if I could remember what happened to which I immediately stopped looking around, focused on her, and answered, “yes, I jumped ahead. I am just looking for a Kleenex.” This caused trainer and everyone to breathe a sigh of relief and laugh.

Trainer asked if I wanted to get back on but at that time I could not close my hand. My amazing friend LT walked with me up to the clubhouse and then went back to take Win back to the barn and untack. BO (who is also my other trainer) got me some ice and within a few minutes I was able to close my hand. All I could think that that point was that I needed to get back on! Luckily, I was able to catch LT before she untacked Winifred and brought him back to the arena. Trainer was happy to see that I wanted to literally get back on the horse! We did a trot fence to loosen back up then the original mini course. I was worried that Win would be nervous and maybe he was but his reaction was to take his time and went at a beautiful perfect pace. The entire time we came around the corner to the triple I could hear trainer, “sit up, sit up, sit up…..” I may have learned that lesson the hard way but damn it I think I won’t be doing that again!

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Really not a pretty picture of me but not too much damage done. (Why does my forehead look so big in this picture????)
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It is hard to see the swelling but it got pretty big later that night but all good now!
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Winifred: “That is the last time I let her pick the spot!”
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Winter Woos

Can this winter be over already???? I know that I just posted on my clinic but that was back in mid-November. Recently the weather has been FRIGID and riding has been tough!

Luther

Luther has been enjoying what I am calling his winter of bareback! I have not actually put a saddle on him since October. In the last couple of weeks it has just been walking and maybe a little trotting because the weather has been below zero. He is just too stiff in this weather but he needs to get out and move a bit. It has warmed up a little today and I will be out to ride him. We may do a little canter but we shall see how he is feeling. Side note: my trainer saw me cantering him bareback for the first time a couple weeks ago and her response……. “You canter him bareback???? I would never trust him to do that….. but I mean good for you!” Told you he is Lucifer! Lol

Tried to do a nice photo shoot with him but he had other ideas. Oh Lu….

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Temper tantrum when I did not get his cookies to him quick enough

Winifred

Winifred has done a little more than Luther but not too much more. We have not been able to jump in a few weeks but we have done some flat work. Win needs to be in a steady program or else all of his pent up energy turns into nervous energy. Even though he has lived in our barn for 3 years his nervous energy makes the indoor seem like a house of horrors to him. This past week I rode him Monday and he was not terrible but Tuesday through Thursday was far too cold to ride. I did get him out for some hand walking and on Thursday I let him run around the indoor with my friend KD’s horse Charlie. Charlie is actually Luther’s pasture mate but I had a brain freeze and thought he was Winifred’s. Oops! The boys did great together though. I expected Winifred to be the crazy one but Charlie took on that roll. Charlie was running around with his tail straight up like an Arabian and would stop to do a guttural snort every so often. Lol! Win just followed him around a little distance behind him. The best part was watching Winifred jump on his own. Why was not I not videoing that?!?!

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Are we going to be friends????? YES!

I rode him on Friday and everything concerned him! For some reason his “concern” gets a lot worse going to the right. Saturday we did a flat lesson and he was phenomenal! He was totally relaxed and we went around on a nice loose rein then Sunday he went back to thinking that Pennywise was going to jump out and get him. Oh Win……

Since we aren’t doing much we have been focusing on lateral movement and transitions. His transitions up are great but his downward transitions need a lot of work. This boy just wants to canter, canter, canter! He has been doing good with this lateral movement except for Sunday for some reason. We have been doing lots of circles including spiraling in and out, moving off the wall then back to it, just going around with his head in or out, and walking triangles. Always open to any other ideas if anyone has any. I have been way too lazy to dissemble jumps to do our ground pole exercise since I would then have to reassemble them and nobody wants to do that in this cold!

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How does this happen????

Finnley

This cold has really been affecting Finnley too. He is already a SUPER energetic dog and that is with regular bike riding. It has been too dangerous to spend too much time outside even with his coat on but I have forced myself to take him out for a little bit when it was safe. He has gone on a couple of short walks and has gotten to play with his friends Gus and Cleo. Our barn owner was so nice and let us bring the three of them into the indoor when it was empty. They had so much fun and even jumped a few of the jumps! Finn got to meet the new barn dog Gypsy. She is a super cute beagle basset hound mix. She was not too sure of him at first but it was a little overwhelming to her to have 3 new dogs on her turf looking to meet her. Once we walked her and Finn together away from everyone they settled down and it seems like they are going to be friends. 🙂

Frozen whiskers!

 

Clinic

 

Every year our barn hosts a clinic with professional trainer Mark Leone. I have audited the clinic for a few years now but due to various factors I was never able to ride in it. You have no idea how incredibly excited I was when my trainer said that I could participate this year!!! You also have no idea how nervous I was! It has been about month now since the clinic but I still wanted to record my experience so I can live it over and over. Lol.

The clinic is two days with a two hour session each day. Since I have show goals for the 2’6” division that is the group that I was put in. My group included some of my best friends which made the whole experience even greater.

Part of my nerves were the nerves of Winifred. Winifred is a phenomenal horse and I know that I can trust him over fences but he is not the calmest of horses. I had seen him at shows so I knew how he could be and that was with a little Perfect Prep in his system. I decided to be brave and not give him any calming supplement. I thought that this would be a good chance for me to see just how bad he could be and if I could handle him at a show.

Day One

We started our first session by gathering and giving a little background on ourselves and horses. Win could not bring himself to stand still so we just walked tiny circles as we informed Mark that while we planned on showing in the hunter division I knew the horse I had and therefore I was only looking to hopefully be competitive in the equitation ring. (FYI I was quite dizzy by the time we finished our pow wow.)

Once we were done talking it was time to impress Mark. Too bad I almost fell off in the FIRST 30 SECONDS!!! We had just picked up the trot (maybe 5 steps in to it) and someone in the clubhouse moved scaring the shit out of Win. He did his signature move of jumping down and sideways which had me hanging from his neck. My only saving grace was when he went to spin there was a jump in his way so in the 2 seconds that it took for him to realize this I was able to get back in the saddle and ahold of his mouth before he tried to bolt again. What can I say we know how to make an impression!

Winifred never fully calmed down like our normal rides. Not only did we have lots of people in the clubhouse moving around but Win was sure that the people sitting in the corner of the arena were going to jump up and attack him at any moment as well. If I have to pick a silver lining of this incident it would be that I never felt over looked by Mark who throughout the whole session repeatedly asked me if I was ok. Lol. This actually did lead a great compliment from Mark. He said that he kept asking me because I looked “cool as a cucumber” and told my trainer that I was the right rider for that horse. He even commented to the group that “when you have a nervous horse like the big guy you want to react like Rachel, in that she isn’t making a big fuss about it and just supports him in the areas she knows he is extra anxious.” All I could think was holy shit Mark just gave me an incredible compliment and holy shit am I a great actress because on the inside I was panicking!

The other silver lining in Winifred’s behavior is that I know that I can handle him when he gets like that. I have worried about how he is going to behave at shows and I have a bit more confidence that I can handle him.

We did some general flat work and then some really fun ground pole work. It was a simplistic exercise but SUPER valuable! He placed 3 poles and instead of just varying our canter strides through them (which is a valuable exercise too) we changed gaits. For example sometimes we trotted in, cantered the 2nd, and trotted out, other times we would canter in trot out over both, or canter in, trot the 2nd and 3rd, etc. Like I said simplistic but not something I have ever done before and since downward transitions is something that Win and I need to work on it was a great new exercise. Win does not like to come down to a nice trot from the canter and it was even worse when he thought that he knew we should be cantering. I love any exercise that changes the norm to keep him on his toes and thinking.

Now to the fun stuff…….. JUMPING! The first day to warm up we did a trot in gymnastic of X, one stride to another X. Simple right? My timing was totally thrown off though by the trot pole before the jump. I have not “used” one in years. Third time was the charm though.

Then we moved on to courses. Like the ground poles we worked on transitions at different times. Once he is moving Winifred does not like to slow down let alone come to the trot! We also had 2 lines set up, one of which was a 7 stride and the other was a 2 to a 4. Win’s MO is to grab the bit and drop strides but I had been able to get the right strides with him always…… until that day. We ended up doing a 6 down the 7 line and then a 2 to 3 instead of 2 to 4. Those videos are below. What I do not have are videos of us once I put my big girl panties on and took control of him. My BO later told me that when she saw the 2 to 4 line set up her first thought was Win will never get 4 strides in there so when I did it she was impressed and even more rewarding was Mark shouting “now you’re riding!” Wish I had that on video!

 

Day Two

Win came out slightly less psycho but still on edge. We did similar flat so I will go straight to jumping. Man do I wish we always had our jumps set up like this!!!

Clinic Course

The little pin wheel of jumps was great and gave us so many course options! The was also a line with a 4 stride to a 4 stride but depending on which way you jumped in it was either a long 4 to a short 4 or a short 4 to a long 4. I was so happy because we made the right strides each time. Oh and let me tell you about the straw bales jump!!! It was two straw bales stacked by two straw bales wide. On the flat Win thought it was going to eat him but he had no hesitation jumping it! (I know it is tiny for some of you out there but this was the a solid jump for me.) But it definitely was not all sunshine and rainbows! I got scolded for pulling out of a line and let me tell you I deserved it. The course started with the yellow oxer to the straw bales to the green oxer. The yellow oxer was fine but I got left behind over the straw bales and instead of going on to the green oxer I pulled him up and asked if I could do it again. Mark was upset and reminded me that things don’t always go perfect and there was nothing unsafe about me continuing on. He was of course right and I took my “tongue lashing”, really it’s not like he was yelling at me but knowing that the reason I pulled out was because I wanted a pretty picture going over that fence really made me feel like an ass. Funny thing is that no one was even videoing me at that moment. I also had a couple of times that I went off course at least one of them Mark liked my version and changed his course to that.

 

This was such a great confidence builder and I learned a lot of new exercises that Winifred and I can work on to better ourselves.

Things to work on

  1. Downward transitions
  2. Reduce anxiety (on both of our parts!)
  3. Being able to control and vary our stride lengths
  4. Keeping my heels down over bigger fences
  5. Not letting my leg slip back
  6. Releasing better over fences when Win in a run-away-with-me mood
  7. Staying up with him when he takes the long spot

What’s in a name?

Lately, it seems like there have been a lot comments and conversations about names. Kristen from Stampy and the Brain had a whole post about it (The Great Name Search)  and our table at the barn Christmas party this weekend spent a great amount of time throwing out every name on the internet to her. Even The $900 Facebook Pony had a comment in one of her recent posts that she was not a fan of the name that Henry had when she purchased him.

I too have been racking my brain about show names for Winifred. The majority of my youth showing was done in the Quarter Horse world where you showed by your horse’s registered name no matter what it was even if it was Cluminator’s Bozo! It generally had something to do with the horse’s lineage and could tell you a lot. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I moved into the Michigan Hunter Jumper Association (MHJA) circuit and I was surprised to find out that 1. A horse’s lineage is rarely used in the name and 2. If you don’t like your horse’s name that you can change it with a snap of your fingers (or really the click of a mouse). You could change a QH’s registered name but it took a lot of paperwork and money plus I was always told that changing his/her name was bad luck. Lol.

So here I am though not pleased with my lease horse’s show name so I asked my trainer (his owner) if she was ok with me showing him under a different name and she agreed. Winifred’s registered name is Winni. This is not bad but it reminds me more of a pony than a big 17.2 hand warmblood. The girl who leased him before me showed him under the name Final Win. She did this as a tribute to her horse who had passed away because he had “Final” in his name. I respect her reasoning but Final Win sounds like I am going to die. Lol.

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I promise not to kill you if you give me cookies!

 

Now the big question……… how to choose a name????? Do I stick with something that has something to do with Winni, something that has to do with his personality, some cool science term since I am a big science geek, WHAT DO I DO???? Well I thought of all of these and came up with quite a lengthy list.

The problem with coming up with a name to suit his personality is that they all were very “jumpery” names since Win likes to fly around the ring. Full Throttle, Terminal Velocity, Risk and Reward, Never look back, etc. I have many more but you get the idea that none of these really suited a hunter. I did have Easy Does It and Take it Easy on my list since those are things I say to him all the time. My trainer did like those.

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I have a jumper bridle on so that must mean I am a jumper.

Then there were names that really didn’t tie into him but just sounded cute like Natural Rhythm, A Million Miles, Above and Beyond, Anything but Ordinary, Uniquely Me, etc. I also liked Under the Influence but I am hoping that the name that I pick will stick with him and since a junior might eventually show him I decided against that one.

This left me with names that had something to do with his name. I thought of In it to Win it but that sounded kind of conceded to me. I also liked Without Words. That doesn’t have Win in it but the double W was a stretch to tying it to his name. Lol. Then on a two hour car ride to an equine seminar on neck pain my friend suggested that I look at German words with win in it since Westphalians are a German breed.  We found out that win in German means friend. Awe, cute.

Final decision…….. Aldewin! It is a German word for noble friend and I think it suits Winifred perfectly. Now I can finally order his Christmas present which is a stall name plate. In the very off chance that I take Luther into a flat class I love his registered name Big in the City so I am all good there.

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No you are a hunter now!

What are some of your favorite names?

 

Goals

Now that you met my new boys the big question is, “what do I want to accomplish with them????”  If you had asked me this question in the beginning of September I would have told you that the only goals I have are to continue to strengthen my back, lose weight, improve my confidence and equitation, return to the show ring, and in general not die. These are still part of my goals but they have grown a little.

My goals with Luther are a little simpler and easier to attain. Since he is semi-retired from jumping I will not be showing him, although I have considered taking him in to a flat class. He is hilarious to ride during a show because he is ON! This is a horse that I have wear spurs and carry a crop with to get to move forward on a regular ride but if I ride when we are hosting a show he moves out like he is 10 years younger. He also loves jumping so much so that when I started riding him and I could not get him to canter I would ride him towards a fence. He would get so excited that he would finally pick up the canter. Recently he has had an increase in his stiffness so my goal with him is to get him back to shape where he can do a small line again. I think that a full course would be too much but I know how much he loves jumping and a small line is achievable. Seriously he loves it! If other horses around him are jumping he gets so excited. I am not sure that this goal will be achieved in the winter though due to extra stiffness from our tundra like winters.

Luther grazing

Goals with Winnie, this is the tougher one. The last time I showed was August 2015 in the 2’3” division before my back surgery. My goal was to get back to showing in 2018 but that was about it. I was pretty satisfied with this as a goal until September 17th. It was the day of Medal Finals and at the end of the day my trainer, D, told me that she had been thinking about it and she decided that my goal is to be in the ride off for the 2’6” division Medal Finals. I was blown away that D believes that I can accomplish that when I didn’t even believe that I could qualify for Medal Finals let alone be in the ride off. (A little insight on me, I am not good in believing myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that I suck but I would put myself in the average to below average abilities group.) D setting this goal both elates and scares the crap out of me! I can’t explain what it means to me to have my trainer think that I am good enough but now I am scared about letting her down. Setting a goal for myself means that I am the only person that I have to “answer” to but having her set it puts a lot more pressure on me. I am still not sure I can achieve this one but there is a small seed in me that D planted that says maybe just maybe I can do this.

What are your goals this year?

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Winifred

I would like to introduce you to my lease horse Winnie or as I formally call him Winifred. Since Luther is 21 I call Winifred my young man but really he will be turning 18 soon. While he may be older he really acts like he is closer to 4! He is a gorgeous 17.2 hand Westphalian chestnut. He came to our barn in early 2016 for another barnmate, S, to lease. He was an impressive jumper competing in high levels including at Maclay. S is a great rider who did jumpers for her whole career but after her horse passed she could not bring herself to do jumpers again. They were such a great pair I understand why she needed the change and Winnie could use some settling down.

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When I saw Win I was impressed but he also was intimidating watching him fly around the ring. Winnie definitely still has the jumper mentality! There was a lot of back and forth on whether S was going to purchase Winnie at the end of her lease but she decided that she did not like him that much and passed and my BO scooped him up.

I had been on Luther for a few months and started jumping him but he is limited to very small fences and I wanted to test myself. I asked my trainer and my BO their opinion of me riding Winnie and they agreed to try it but there was concern about my back since he is such a puller. We decided to just do a few lessons before we discussed leasing. I was unsure of him with my first lesson. He was NOT anything I was used to!!! He felt like he was a ball of nerves and I was too. I mentioned to my trainer that I felt like I was falling backwards. Turns out he needed a riser pad. That made a big difference but he still was a different ride than I was used to. Even his walk was/is fast. Then I got to the canter and………… heaven!!! For serious, if you can’t sit for equitation on his horse’s canter then you better get out of the saddle cause holy crap does he suck you into the correct seat. After a few rides I got used to that “ball of nerves” feeling and realized that that is just how he is. With that said, he does tend to be a scaredy-cat. There has been multiple times that he has jumped sideways or spun and tried to runaway just walking in the driveway to and from the arena. He keeps me on my toes. Lol.20280306_10210070180376668_1754991139959790895_o

After a few lessons I decided to lease him. I have been on him for about 7 months now and I already owe him a HUGE thank you! Both my skill level and confidence have greatly increased! Until Win I have been on horses who I needed to add strides on but Win is known for dropping strides. Don’t get me wrong, I still have nerves and butterflies about some of what we do but I know that I am a strong enough and effective enough rider to control him. We still have a lot to work on but I know that we will continue to get better.

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Lucifer

So last I posted about riding I was just starting to get back in the saddle on this amazing warmblood named JB. He was being leased by a girl in our barn and I was so grateful that she let me share him. I started to want to ride more though and so I could not keep sharing him. My trainer then suggested an older quarter horse at our barn named Luther. He is owned by a very lovely woman who cares for him deeply but due to family life and her job she is not able to ride him but maybe once a week. He has quite an impressive resume doing 3’6” hunters and winning lots of titles in the QH circuit including at Congress. Now though he is a nasty old man with an even nastier buck!

I started riding him April of 2016 and let me tell you I HATED him!! He was 20 and you would think that he would have settled with his age but his work ethic was terrible and his MO when he didn’t want to work was to buck and spin. I was also still nervous about my back so the bucking really really bothered me! I was also concerned about hurting myself right before I left for Europe. (I spent 3 weeks in Europe in June 2016.) Not only was he nasty in the saddle but he was nasty on the ground too. The last woman who rode him warned me about that as well so I was prepared. All of this is why I gave him the nickname of Lucifer.

Luther naughty

I gave him 5 rides and I was done! I told my trainer thank you for the opportunity but that was it! She said that she understood but swore that he could be a great horse. He just liked to challenge his rider and told me to give it just one more ride. I was not sure what was going to change in one ride but I told her I would give it a shot. I have no idea what happened or how my trainer knew but the sixth ride was game changer! He was so good and it was such a great ride!

1st good ride

It has now been a year and a half and while Lucifer does make his appearance every now and then I have learned to absolutely LOVE this horse!! He is not going to win any classes anymore. He is difficult to move forward and every now and then he still bucks sometimes out of nastiness and sometimes because he is excited but he is my rock. What I have learned about him is that he needs someone who stands up to him in one second but then show him love and kindness the next second. He puts up a big show but he really loves all of the love and attention. He comes when he sees me and snuggles into me now. My BO has commented on how much better he reacts with everyone now. I had to laugh the first time I went on a business trip. My BO commented that after just two days of me being gone Luther was starting to get naughty again and by the fourth day he was full on grouch to the point that some of the barn workers were back to refusing to go into his stall. Lol. Ok, I should not laugh that he scare some of the workers but I just have to shake my head at my loveable, old, grouchy man.

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