Friday, 21 February 2014

T - 2 Weeks Until Sun, Sand and Eventing!!

Holy cow, 2 weeks until Jenn and I leave for California!!!!

On one hand this winter has positively flown and I can't believe we leave so soon, and on the other hand I can not wait to just get down there!! Everyone keeps saying "Oh, you must be so excited!!", and I partly am, but right now I am mostly stressing about everything we need to get done before we leave! I think once we actually get on the road I will start to be genuinely excited, but even still it hasn't *really* sank in yet that I'm ACTUALLY GOING TO CALIFORNIA. I *know* I'm going, but I haven't really *REALIZED* that I'm going. I have honestly never been anywhere. I've done a 12 hour road trip to Winnipeg once, and I did do a 6 week working student stint in Ontario 10 years ago, but other than that I've been pretty sheltered travel wise!! I'm scared that I'm going to get down there and just not want to come home. I LOVE Canada, don't get me wrong, but I'll be completely honest, I'd trade our 8 months of crappy winter for someplace warmer and a longer eventing season in a heartbeat!

I'm most worried about packing the trailer. Fitting as much horse feed as we can will be interesting, we're going to take as much as we possibly can. I need to start making lists of everything so we don't forget or overlook anything! Horse stuff, show stuff, our stuff, camping stuff, ugh. And it wouldn't be so bad but we're borrowing a trailer, so we don't have the luxury of being able to pack much in advance. We are actually leaving from Jenn's place which is 2 hours south of me, so I am planning on making a trip down next weekend with some stuff, so I'm not in a mad rush with everything packed to the brim heading down there on March 7th, after work, to pack the trailer and leave super early on the 8th!

I still need to make an appointment for Sunny's vet stuff, I will do that next week. I was putting it off in the hopes that my fei passport would come so I could kill 2 birds with one stone and get her first flu vaccination done at the same time, but we're inside the 2 week window so I can't do any vaccinations now anyways.

Gosh what else? There's lots of just regular life stuff I need to take care of before I go too, work and bills and things like that. I need to switch my cell phone plan so it doesn't cost me a million dollars when I'm down there too! Haha. And I'm riding tons and busting my butt at the barn in the hopes that we will be ready!!

Back in January our high performance team coach, Lynda Ramsay, came up and we had a clinic one weekend. I was very fortunate to have her come right to my barn for my lessons, and I chose to have 2 flat lessons, instead of a flat & a jumping lesson, as the dressage is definitely our weakest phase! Day 1 went well, Lynda noticed right away that I was kind of stuck at the third level of the training pyramid, contact & connection! So we did a lot of different exercises to work on that, me keeping the connection and getting Sunny steadier in the bridle. Lynda also manipulated my body position during, so I was able to get a clear feel where I was currently compared to where I need to be, and gave me some good tips to keep improving little by little. Day 2 was a bit rough, just one of those days where I felt a little all over the place. We worked some more on contact and connection, transitions both between and within the gaits, bending throughout the body (not just through the neck!), and creating and keeping more energy and being more forward in general, especially at the trot. Even though it wasn't the best ride ever I came away with a lot.

It was my first time riding with Lynda, although I have watched her teach a few times before. She was absolutely fabulous, and very knowledgeable and offered a huge amount of help and information in a short amount of time. I made nearly a full page of notes after each ride! A few other things she suggested that I found really helpful were to think of leg yielding on a circle to achieve the bend and suppleness, and using the counter bend to my advantage. I have applied a lot of the things she talked about to my riding and I feel like she helped a lot. I am definitely excited to ride with her again in the spring!

The weekend after the Lynda clinic, I decided to switch bits with Sunny, just to see. I have had her in a french link baucher for a good few years now. I REALLY liked how she went in it when I first tried it, and I even jumped her in it for several years before switching to a 2 ring happy mouth elevator for jumping. The baucher was great, but I had noticed lately that she had started becoming really heavy and lugging on the reins sometimes, and was just sort of inconsistent in the bridle in general. So I dug out a french link loose ring and threw it on not expecting much, and HOLY CRAP I got on a totally different horse that day!!! I honestly could NOT believe that something that simple could make that huge of a difference!! All of a sudden I had a horse that was chewing and salivating, she was light in my hands and so soft and supple and just THERE with me. I was absolutely SHOCKED. It was such a huge difference that for the next few rides I would have someone walk into the barn and immediately comment on how nice Sunny was going, or how happy she looked, without them knowing I had I changed anything! And I found myself accidentally riding for like an hour and a half a few times, I would totally zone out, we'd just be trotting around and she'd be on the bit and for once I just rode and enjoyed it, the softness and connection. So now I am kicking myself for not switching bits before the Lynda clinic, I'm sure we would have gotten a lot more accomplished! Hindsight is 20/20 though;)

Funny how such a little change can make such a big difference! The new bit on the left, old bit on the right!

In the beginning of Feb we had a clinic at my barn, taught by dressage trainer Inge Sumanik from the Yukon. That was another great clinic that Sunny and I got a lot out of. She was very open to what I wanted to work on, so it ended up being a bit different from a regular clinic, which was good! I told her I wanted to work on lateral work, leg yield, shoulder in, and haunches in, and sitting the god damn trot! Lol. And on day 2 we worked on some specific movements from the dressage test I will be doing in California, and she gave me tips on how to get a better score, turn a 6 into a 7, things like that. We started with some leg yield and shoulder in, working on straightness and getting the proper track. Inge actually got on Sunny to show me where Sunny and I actually needed to be for haunches in, which was very cool and helpful to actually SEE from the ground what her and I were supposed to be doing. Haunches in is one thing I've been kind of struggling with, because I've never had the luxury of an actual schoolmaster to learn things on first. So it's me and Sunny fumbling our way through things, and me thinking "Well, I'm doing something that I'm pretty sure vaguely resembles some sort of haunches in" but not having any way to tell if it's what the dressage judges actually want to see!

Inge also tweaked my position a bunch in the sitting trot, and I actually had a lightbulb moment about where my body needed to be to make sitting the trot way easier! Shoulder blades back and down, bellybutton forward, chest up, hands like I was carrying a tray, and somewhere in there it clicked! And since then my sitting trot has become WAY easier, now I actually feel like I am semi-presentable when I do it! She also encouraged me to "be friends with the bounce", because we're all going to bounce at times when we're sitting, we just have to ride through it and work it out, and that helped me a lot, as I'd usually just start posting or transition down when things got a little rough. But Inge told be that even the best dressage riders bounce and just know how to hide it, or they have little tricks so the judges don't notice, so that made me feel a lot better, and I've just started riding out the rough spots instead of avoiding them. At one point Inge said "Ok now change rein and lengthen across the diagonal, keep sitting!" and I started laughing and I was like "Oh god!! I might die!" And Inge laughed and she talked me through it. And I did it a few times, it wasn't pretty at all and I felt like the hugest sack of potatoes, and we all laughed, but you don't learn anything from just staying inside your safe little box!

So things have been really good lately! Sunny is in great shape, she is currently going twice a week on the most difficult treadmill program, 30 mins of hill intervals, and she doesn't even break a sweat! Monday I went for a hack, had a nice dressage school, and then she went on the treadmill immediately after, and it seemed like a nice easy cool down for her, haha. So I think we will be ready!! :)

Ready for our dressage clinic!

Sunny's frosty nose, I think she is excited for warmer California too!

It was a gorgeous morning heading out to the barn, the sun dogs actually made a full circle above the sun but my iphone couldn't capture it properly! It was so beautiful though!

Some photos from hacking last weekend. I go out for hacks whenever I possibly can, if the weather is co-operating, we get out there! Hacked 2 days in a row last weekend:)

Brittany and her mare Uma out for a hack with Sunny and I on Monday:)

Working it out on the treadmill!

I did resize the photos because they were HUGE but not sure if that worked properly because Photobucket is not co-operating! :P

Friday, 14 February 2014

Input Please!

I need some opinions! :)

I've been messing around a little bit with my albertaeventer website. I finally got the dreamhost/wordpress issues sorted out so I've just been playing around with some of the free templates that come with wordpress, and figuring out how everything works, I haven't actually added any content yet. The current layout (Coller) was the only one I didn't hate, but I'm not planning on keeping it, it's pretty generic.

Check it out if you want: AlbertaEventer

What I'm wanting is something that can double as my personal website and a blog as well. Don't worry, I'm not totally ditching this blog or anyhing!! I want something not too cluttered or busy or out there, but something that's still a little different and unique. I need to be able to have both blog type entry and static pages that look good and are easy to incorporate photos into, and of course be easy to navigate.

I've been doing some googling and checking out different templates. The only one I've found so far that I REALLY like is this one: Empire

Opinions? I like how the background photos are large but there is a ton of room for text as well. And it is straightforward and easy to navigate. A lot of the templates I've looked at seem like they're either primarily photo layouts, with little to no room for actual text, or they're for a ton of text or articles and photos would be difficult to integrate. It's hard for me to imagine one or the other when they don't show examples of both.

Here are a few others I find interesting if you guys want to take a look.

Anchor I am kind of torn about websites like this, the funky pages/scrolling. Buck Davidson has something similar. It's definitely different, and I like different, but I can't seem to decide it I think it's kind of cool or kind of annoying.

Seabird I was looking at the side menu layout. This one looked like it would be easy to work both photos and text into.

Grid This one I thought the top grid part was very cool, not sure how a blog type page would look though as they didn't have an example pages for text, etc.

Blog-A-Porter It's interesting but seems like it might be too busy for what I want.

Thoughts? Any input at all is greatly appreciated:)

Sunday, 9 February 2014

January Recap!

Going to kill a few birds with one stone here! January was crazy busy for me. When am I not crazy busy? Lol.

I'm really cracking down to get ready for California, we have been working our butts off so hopefully we don't get down there and embarrass ourselves:P During a regular season it usually takes us an event or two to get into the swing of things and brush the rust off, and I don't really have the luxury of an event or two just to mess around this year with the "plans" I currently have. I put plans in quotes because we all know that with horses, plans are just sort of wishful thinking!! But I'm aiming toward things, so I'm working really hard and trying my best to be as prepared as possible.

In those 2 events in California I want to have GOOD dressage tests. I don't care about placings, I want to be able to not freak out about sitting my test and just be presentable in general. I want to have POSITIVE and SOLID stadium rounds. Rails are the least of my worries, I just don't want to freeze up in the ring or override, I want to ride like I know I can and not have to emergency circle every 5 seconds because Sunny is jumping me out of the tack. I want to ride a CONFIDENT and ACCURATE cross country. No more of these silly runouts because I don't have myself organized. Sunny is feeling 100% better physically, so any problem right now I absolutely know is me. So that's kinda my thoughts at the moment.

I've got a pretty intense riding schedule going on. Riding 6 days a week, and I have Sunny going on the treadmill twice a week for Feb to work on her conditioning and build some more hind end muscle. I was having trouble finding days off for a bit because I have been really GOGOGO lately, but I know rest is important. Being on the High Performance Team I was required to submit a weekly training plan, which I am finding super super helpful, so this is how things are looking for February!

I had 5 weekly jump lessons in January. We had lots of fun building all sorts of fun stuff! That's one great thing about my barn, my coach is very awesome because I can go to her and be like "I'd like to work on X and Y." And she'll go "Awesome! Build whatever you want and we will do it up!"

I built a faux corner for our one lesson, because I wanted to ride an oxer 4 strides bending line to the left to a right facing corner, which was the question that we had problems with at the South Peace event. And 3 of 4 runouts in 2013 were at a right facing corner. So I wanted to make sure we had worked out any remaining issues from that. One of the jumps also ended up at the top of the one standard in this lesson, which was super fun. Sunny absolutely FLEW over it no problem, and it was the largest non cross country jump I've jumped, so I was pretty happy too:)

2 days later we headed over to the lovely Horse In Hand Ranch for a jump schooling day. It was very nice to get out somewhere different after being cooped up for most of the winter so far, haha. The day didn't go quite as planned, Sunny had a very uncharacteristic couple of hard stops at the liverpool, which caught me totally off guard, and I came off twice! It was rather entertaining, and we did work the problems out in the end! I was so surprised and shocked, all I could do was just laugh at the time! The funny thing was that we had already jumped the liverpool several times from the other direction before her stops.

Here are the falls for your viewing pleasure, both ground cam and helmet cam!

And the rest of the video from that day. Everything before the 3 minute mark was before our falls, you see she jumps it several times no problem, and then the clips after that were after we had worked ourselves out.

For the following week's lesson we set up the Suicide X. I had done this in one lesson last winter, however it was the lesson where Sunny had lost. her. mind. There's a pretty epic video on my youtube of it. So we never did make it to the actual jumping of the middle X part. I'm happy to say that we did indeed have a brain this time around and it went MUCH better.

I've had some people ask about how we had it set up, so here is a diagram. The exercise on the right is what we used to warm up, I didn't helmet cam it but we did it in both directions. It is an excellent exercise for practicing straightness, accuracy and holding your line on a short approach.  photo SuicideX.jpg

That brings us to last week's lesson. We acquired 2 brand new rolltops from Darling Delights Woodworking , so of course we pushed the 2 pieces together and created a cross country rolltop, haha.  photo IMG_5861.jpg

Sunny and I had a few silly issues when we went to jump the roll top, which were mostly me not sitting back on the approach and not riding from the leg and not the hand like I'm supposed to! But I sorted myself out and once Sunny realized that YES we ARE supposed to jump that, she was fabulous. I didn't feel that great about the lesson right after because we did have some not so great moments, but once I got home and watched the video I felt a lot better. Sunny was jumping really well, and there are always going to be some awkward jumps and shitty distances, but you just have to ride through, keep on going and learn from your mistakes!

So that brings us (mostly) up to date! I haven't had much else going on, I work, then go to the barn. Sometimes yoga too. And planning for California!! :D That's pretty much it at the moment!!