Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back to School

My trainer finally returned home this past week and  I was both excited, and dreading my first lesson.

Excited for obvious reasons - lessons are great, I improve a lot, I love the "ah-ha" moments I get in lessons, and in general I like to push myself or be pushed.

Dreading it because I haven't had a lesson in ohhh - I don't know, four months (CRAZY!!!).  Gavin got kicked in December, was off for a month or two, then I built up the amount of work he got, and then my trainer was gone to Cali for 6 weeks.  So - I'm a little lesson rusty.

I tried to keep myself on track as best as I possibly could - by reading books, blogs, visualizing, making goals, etc.  But there are some things I don't even notice myself doing.  I have a bad tendency to curl in to the right (when going to the right), and I also have a tendency to go a little bit on auto-pilot (which means Gavin gets to do some of the navigation!).  So - yep, those were the things we got to work on in my lesson.  We also worked on canter departures (Gavin was awfully confused that suddenly running into the canter to the right wasn't acceptable).  See a pattern - the right is definitely my harder direction.

I have to admit - I feel a little stuck.  I've been riding for a long, long time, but I'm no trainer.  I have a hard time understanding the process of "teaching" a horse something.  More specifically, how to break up a process into little building blocks that the horse can understand.  That way of thinking does not come naturally to me, so I've always found it useful to work closely with trainers.  I don't know why I feel that people can judge me on this fact, but I do.  It's like there is a point of pride in people going out and doing it on their own, but I have a really hard time doing that.

Having said all of that - I'm really excited to announce that starting April 1st - Gavin and I are going into full-time training with my trainer (Glenda Needles)!  I don't know how long it'll last, considering her schedule, and my level of poorness (horse rich, cash poor), but I'm going to enjoy the shit out of it while it goes on.  It is 17 rides in a month (roughly 4 a week).  And that can be any amount of lessons, or her riding him.  I definitely need work, but I think that there is a lot of value to be had in someone with uber-experience riding a relatively green horse.  If Gavin were a school master - I'd say - 17 lessons all for me!  But since he isn't, I think some ride time with the trainer is a good idea.  I've been thinking more and more about it.  My current idea is 2 lessons a week for me, and 2 rides a week for him with Glenda.  I am hoping to watch as many of their rides as possible (because I can learn that way).

The take away is that I'm so excited for April, and to get started with my horsey bootcamp!  :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Just going with the themed day trend - here is a shout-out to Throwback Thursday.  This video was shot roughly 2.5 years ago on the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction, CO.  Gavin was a real star for the entire trek.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunny Sunday

This week has been hard and sad and awesome all rolled up into one.  This blog isn't about all parts of my life, so I'll skip most of it, except to say that it was nice getting to spend the weekend with my mom, thank god my headache went away, and I didn't get enough riding in (barely any riding happened at all).

I managed to drag my sad self to see my pony this afternoon which I knew would be therapeutic once I got out there.  And of course, it was!  He was shedding like a mofo, which is great because he has the coat of a wooly mammoth.  It was beautiful out, but I rode indoors because the outdoor was packed with people.  When I started off there was only one lady riding, but after about 15 minutes the wind pushed 5 other riders into the arena.  This is not my forte.  I get uncomfortable and just sort of unable to focus.  But hell, I need to get over it!  I decided to make lemons out of lemonade and work on transitions and working on the straightaways (something we need to work on any ways).  Gavin was really good (once I settled down - yes, me - after everyone else came in) except for one spook that turned into a buck at I'm not even sure what.  Everyone was in good spirits and it wound up being fun.  I also got the opportunity to take selfies in one of the mirrors.  :)  
Wooly Cobbeth 

I may be a vampire… not sure why my face isn't in focus - witness protection program
The thing that really made my day though, was I was talking to a lady after we were done riding and I mentioned the spook/buck thing and she told me not to worry - that she thought we looked great and that she was jealous watching us go.  I was just beside myself.  It was so nice to hear that!  

I'm going to end today with 5 positive things that happened this weekend:

  1. Spend quality time with my mom and family, and my boyfriend and his family
  2. Have relaxation time this afternoon - long enough to watch the latest episode of Girls, instagram these pics ;) and write this here blog
  3. My pony relaxed on the straightaway after a few reminders that this wasn't some trotting cob race
  4. It was beautiful out, and my boy is shedding
  5. Tomorrow the new guy who is taking my old position starts at work.  I'm excited to really start my new job at my company.  
Hell - I fit more than 5 good things in there, which I'm pretty sure means life is good.  
Gavin after his post-ride roll

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's in a Name?

I changed my blog name, and I still may change the actual domain name.  I'm more worried changing my domain name since I'd be losing 3 followers.  That's right - 3 whole followers!!!  I appreciate people reading my blog, and when they follow it I feel like I'm not just talking to myself, so those 3 followers are a big deal to me.  Regardless of my impending domain decision, I went ahead and changed the blog title.

Why did I change my blog name?

To be perfectly honest I read all of Viva Carlos' blog hop posts about how people came up with their names, and it made me realize that most blog names were descriptive, and they really told a little story about the rider, the horse, or both.  The Happy Rider is a bit generic, and it certainly didn't have a story behind it.  I am a happy rider, but I think a lot of riders are.  I just wanted to start putting my voice out there, and so I didn't think too long or too hard about the name.  But, after reading everyone's blog name story, I decided I had to change my own.

Why An Optimist, a Pony, and a Pug?

I actually had a lot of other ideas, including:

  1. The Accountant and the Cob
  2. How To Train Your Gavin
  3. Horse Child in the City
  4. Girl on the Cob
 But I decided to go with An Optimist, a Pony, and a Pug for a few reasons:

I'm an optimist.  People comment on my cheery mood on the regular.  Sometimes I fall into the complaining rut just like anyone else, but I really prefer to be upbeat and cheerful.  I find it to be much more productive.  I've also found that by focusing on goals and what you want out of life, you're more likely to actually attain those things.

I have a pony.  He's a Welsh Cob and probably of horse height, but I love that he has such a pony look about him.  I never call him "my horse" it's always "my pony".  That pony and my interactions with him are the epicenter of this blog.

I also have a pug.  He is a wonderful dog - a total cuddle bug, a therapy dog when I cry, a dog to take for a run (so long as the run isn't too long), a dog to dress up in silly costumes, a dog to teach new tricks to continuously.  He is my boyfriend and my dog-son and we love him dearly.  So I thought it was fair to include him, especially since I have billions of cute pics of him that'll likely show up on here.

And that's my blog name story.  :)  *sigh of relief* that feels better!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mama Raised a Test Taker

Hi everyone.  My name is Erika and I'm a circle-a-holic.

Hi Erika.

So, as I've stated many-a-time on this here blog, I want to show my pony at training level this year.  Not to sound arrogant, but before I really knew what I was getting involved in I thought it'd be a piece of cake (preferably of the carrot, cheese, or chocolate variety - yum).  So I was riding around a few days ago when a lady who I was *calmly* sharing the arena with asked if I had ridden the test yet.  Well... no.  I mean, I have copies of them all, but no - hell I had plenty of time to prepare.  But, I thought it was such a good idea that I decided to bring out Training Level Test I with me today.  And I'm glad I did.

It really pointed out the areas we need to work on.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm a circle-a-holic.  Circles are my safety zone and my crutch.  It's wayyyyyy easier for me to get Gavin supple and on a steady tempo on a circle.  But the very first test in Training level has some straight aways at the walk, trot, and canter.  Now at the walk I'm set.  We walk straight lines perfectly fine, but you gear Gavin up to a trot on the straightaway and his giant Welsh Cob trot comes out.  The canter is my fault.  I procrastinated on really working on the canter for a long time out of some nameless fear, and so my boy is a little behind the curve in that area, and thus pretty much just does circles *shame, shame, shame*.

So we worked on it today.  What do I notice?  His head pops up angrily almost immediately and his tempo increases to about 1.5x the rate it is on the circle (and believe me, on the circle it is plenty fast).  I tried a few techniques, all with varying degrees of success.

Technique 1:  I envisioned him trotting along smoothly and calmly (Jane Savoie idea).  This did seem to help with the speed issue most of the time.

Technique 2:  When Technique 1 didn't work I'd circle him and then put him back on the straight-away and then praise him when he kept a slower, more steady tempo.

The angry head in the air - errmmmm I'm not totally sure why he's doing it except that maybe he doesn't understand contact on the straight.  And maybe I don't totally get it either.  I understand that the outside rein is still the solid contact rein, but he should be straight, correct?  And so to push him into one rein and not the other seems odd.  Any thoughts on this anyone?  I did find that by controlling his tempo he was more likely to allow contact.

Technique 3:  I found that if I scratched his neck every few strides with the inside rein hand that helped him relax further into the contact on the straight.

I am proud to say that by the end of the ride he was trotting straight lines at an acceptable pace, and with an acceptable amount of contact.  I haven't really given it a go at the canter, but I want to master the gaits he is more comfortable in first and then move on to the canter.  We did do more canter work today and it went really well again.  He's going to have one badass canter this summer.  :)

Completely unrelated - I punched myself in the face this morning really hard (so hard I heard my nose crunch sickeningly when I made impact).  I immediately burst into tears (1/2 out of embarrassment and 1/2 out of pain).  I was trying to imitate George St Pierre (the MMA fighter) hitting someone with his elbows and I really got myself.  Sadly I have no bruise to prove what a badass (and dumbass) I am, but it still hurts.  :)

I have no pictures from my last few rides, but I do have this funny selfie my boyfriend and I took last night at a St Patrick's day party we went too.  Notice the big dude behind us dancing.  Funny.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pretend like...

sweet face
*twirling in circles singing the sound of music while smiling and laughing*

This was how I felt after my ride last night.  Just happy!  I haven't ridden since the weekend because the monthly process I'm sorta kinda the lead on at work went to warp speed (happens every month; hell, you could call it "that time of the month" for me, because that's when I'm cranky as shit).  It's hard to get in a workout, let alone see my pony.

I have, however, been reading two of my Jane Savoie books, and it gave me some great ideas for my ride:

  1. Issue 1 to deal with - when I ride around other riders, especially dressage riders, I tend to become insecure and for lack of a better word, I choke.  I get so uncomfortable that they're watching me, judging me, thinking I'm a terrible horse person that I wind up riding like an asshole.  Well, Jane has a whoooole section on that.  And it basically goes like this:
    1. Say to yourself "I love riding with other riders in the arena!"
    2. Say to yourself "I'm so good at (whatever you think your bad at)"
      1. in my case I say to myself "I'm so good at sharing the arena, and I'm a very balanced, centered rider with quiet hands"
    3. If these two positive brain-washing techniques don't work, literally pretend to be someone else.
So I decided - screw it!  I'll do all three.  I pretended I was my trainer, Glenda.  Oftentimes I catch myself saying "why can't I ride like her; she's so calm and decisive, etc, etc.".  So I was her.  I was calm.  I was decisive.  And since I was Glenda, I also was much more balanced (naturally...) and didn't mind sharing the ring.  It was strangely liberating, and really worked for me.

The second idea for the night, was one of a more practical nature - getting Gavin very light on my aids. Now, he is pretty light already between transitions, but at the walk and canter he tends to bog down after about 3 or 4 strides and then I have to urge him on again.  Well, this is no bueno.  And for ever and ever I've been on auto pilot about asking too much for forward motion.  So tonight we worked on responsiveness to aids, and also staying in the gear I put him in.  This required a couple of swift "corrections", but after that he marched along like nothing could stop him.

More apples PLEEEEASE!
I did more walk breaks then usual, mostly because I get so focused on trot/canter work that I forget and I'm pretty sure I don't give Gavin enough walk breaks on the regular.  Trying to be more concientious of my little guy.

Anyways - the ride was awesome.  He did awesome.  Sure, we didn't ride with any dressage riders, but we did share the ring with two little girls taking lessons - and they looked pretty damn impressed (I like to think).  ;)

post-workout roll

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Horsey Weekend Extravaganza

The weekend started off just peachy by my darling boyfriend, our dog-son Fudge, and myself going to a for-fun painting class.  It was for the Colorado Pug Rescue (I can't believe people give their pugs away when they're old!) and we got to paint our puppy and let him socialize (aka timidly sniff other dogs butts when he thinks they aren't paying attention, and scuttling away when they try to reciprocate).

Showing off our art skilllllz
I then moved on to the barn, where it was beautiful and in the mid-50s.  Gavin was wonderful and I accomplished some of my monthly goals (for the day) of being sweeter to him and cantering more.  He was sweet, on my aids, and I didn't feel confused or that I was ruining him for the whole ride (YAY!!!).  I also found out that my trainer is coming back near the end of March (YAYYYY again!) and I'm sure she'll have a whole new arsenal of tools as she's just getting back from an extended training trip to California.
Pretty barn light

More pretty barn light
On Sunday I went to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo with my friend Laura.  It was fun.  A little too basic, and a little too western-y for our purposes, but we still got to see a lot of horsey stuff.  I also bought 3 books (knowledge is power - I'm hoping that translates to horsey knowledge = horsey power).  The books were all written by Jane Savoie (is that pronounced Savoy? or Savoy-a?): It's Not Just About the Ribbons (started reading and really liking it.  Sort of about empowerment, goal-setting, and quitting with all the negative self-talk), Dressage 101 (hoping to get some more exercises out of this), That Winning Feeling (the book lady gave it to me for free for buying two other books---thanks book lady!!)              :-D

Here are some random Horse Expo pics:

mini horse butts

Vaulters giving a demonstration... crazy girls!

Wooley mini beasty!

We got lost and wound up in some sort of creepy horse expo dungeon.
The final ending to the weekend was going to a horse-based theatre performance called Gladius (think Cavalia, but not produced by Cirque de Soleil).  It was only $15 and it was really a good show.  I went in thinking it was going to be cheesy and second-class compared to Cavalia, but I was really blown away by the caliber of their belgian draft horses, the acrobatics, the clown (I normally hate clowns, but this one was funny), and this amazing near-white stallion who had an incredible free performance with his rider/handler.  If you get the opportunity to see it I would definitely recommend it.  Here is the website (sorta overly cheesy looking, but like I said, it's good!)

I ended the weekend a happy horse girl, all recharged and ready to start a new week!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Magical Pony 7 Deadly Sins Blog Hop

I love lists.  I love ponies.  I love lists about ponies!

Seven great things/strengths in your riding life
  1. My awesome pony who is game for anything
  2. My trainer, who has been the greatest help to me overcoming fears and "really riding" my boy
  3. My supportive boyfriend.  I've known girls who have guys that are jelly of their ponies.  Seriously?  Jealous of a horse?!?!  Crazy.
  4. My own obsessive/compulsive brain that has fixated on horses since I was little, without it, who knows if I would've stayed the course
  5. Being in shape.  I didn't realize it when I was out of shape, but being in shape really improves your riding all on its own.
  6. My ability to recognize, and maybe over-analyze, my weaknesses.
  7. My tenacity in overcoming the weaknesses noted in #6

Seven things you lack or covet for you or your horse
  1. A leather version of my current wintec dressage saddle.  I don't need it.  But I wantttts it!  (bates isabell)
  2. A truck and trailer.  Again, not necessary, and I can't afford it, but it'd be nice to have so that I didn't have to look for rides to everything.
  3. The finances and time to audit more clinics or lessons (also, more clinics would need to be held in the Denver-metro area).  Hell - for that matter - partcipate in said clinics or lessons!
  4. The knowledge (or a person who wants to pass the knowledge on) of how to ride around a cross-country course.
  5. New show clothes (including a new helmet because mine got junked out by a family of mice this year... grosssssss)
  6. I wish I could NOT have adult ADD when there are several people in the arena with me.  God my riding sucks when I'm surrounded by other moving objects.
  7. A beautiful, thick tail for my pony.  Refer to post about his mullet-skunk tail.

Seven things that make you angry
  1. Horse people that share their opinions with me about me or my horse when I never asked for their opinion.  Drives me bonkers.  I just nod and smile and then completely ignore them.
  2. Mice in my tack trunk (happened once this winter, there was a family of 15 living in there), totally tramautizing.  I now kick the crap out of my tack trunk everytime before I open it.
  3. Wind!!!
  4. Clinton Anderson clinics in the wrong hands (when used by someone who already knows what they're doing with horses I think some of the techniques can be valuable, but in the hands of the wrong person it can just be brutal and mean)
  5. When people watch me ride without saying anything at any point.  It just makes me so squirmy.
  6. When my horse destroys a blanket or sheet (happens a lot)
  7. How my lunge line always gets tangled when I hang it up (how does that happen?!?!)

Seven things you neglect to do or cut corners on

  1. I never clip my horse's whiskers.  He winds up looking like an old man until my friend Laura comes out, and then she'll always do it.
  2. Sometimes I'll lunge Gavin and hold my dog on a leash simultaneously so that I get to exercise them both (they're both cool customers about it)
  3. I never wipe off my boots or tack (shame shame shame)
  4. I need to return a girth I bought from Dover, but am too lazy to go to FedEx
  5. I just shove my coolers, fly sheets, etc in my tack trunk rather than trying to fold them neatly
  6. I like my pony to always wear a sheet or blankie so I don't have to spend so much time grooming and he's soooo shiny!
  7. I've stopped trying to properly loop my lunge line since it just tangles up anyways 

Seven most expensive things you own for your horse/riding

  1. My horse, his trailering out to Colorado and his initial training.  I don't even want to think about the cost.
  2. My Wintec (I'm pretty thrifty about tack).  I bought it new, so I think it was $1200
  3. My new Tredstep Raphael boots ($500)
  4. Blanket/sheet collection - Rhino Wug, Rambo Flysheet, Mio liteweight sheet ($500)
  5. My Pink Equine bridle ($150) - pretty with purple rhinestone headband.  Gavin looks very feminine in it ;)
  6. My barely used Silverleaf cob-sized bridle $150-ish.  Trying to sell for $75 (if anyone is interested)
  7. Fleck whip - costly beating stick that I just have to hold to instill leg respect.  Gavin doesn't get spanked often. 

Seven guilty pleasures or favorite items

  1. Spending the entire time out at the barn primping my horse.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does I enjoy it.
  2. Having the indoor all to myself
  3. Freshly trimmed hooves, and being told by the farrier that Gavin has wonderful feet
  4. Having people tell me how cute, sweet, etc. my boy is (I try to act cool, but I love hearing it)
  5. I do love my boots (they're almost totally broken in now)
  6. Taking off his blanket and having him just being glossy and clean underneath
  7. Watching my trainer ride Gavin (terrible I know, but I just get to sit and admire)

Seven things you love about horses and riding

  1. I love how I feel when I'm at the barn.  I get to just focus on the horses, and feel more comfortable in my own skin than I do anywhere else.
  2. I love hugging my pony
  3. I love how I feel after a really good ride - just super energized.
  4. I love when I'm saddling him and he turns his head around to inspect my handiwork with those sweet eyes.
  5. I love the idea of constant, and never-ending improvement that riding offers
  6. I love the camaraderie you get with other riders, it's quite a community!
  7. and mostly I love horsey kisses on super soft muzzles.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Goals of March

Note to self

Remember this Erika.  Strive for progress NOT perfection.  Remember, remember, remember!  So, here's how I'd like to progress in March:

Me, all on my own:
  1. Do my Rushfit program as prescribed.  This will increase my overall athleticism, which will in turn improve my riding.
  2. Ride Gavin 3-4x a week.  I wish I could always ride 5 times a wek, but I get so busy with work, and then so tired (from all the working) and it makes it hard.  With daylight savings starting (or ending - I never remember) it should make it easier to get out there when it's still light out.
  3. Make sure to show Gavin affection when you see him!!!  Sometimes I get so robotic about how I behave out there, that I forget to be really present with him.  And he's best when I'm really present.
Me and Gavin:
  1. Get Gavin to move off my left leg (aka left bend)
  2. Stop leaning in to the right!  - something I've found useful in stopping this behavior is to imagine that when I'm posting, I'm pushing my hips through my arms.  Sounds weird, but it keeps me from baby-posting which allows me to twist in more.
  3. Canter more!  And not just at the end of the ride!  He loosens up so much after he starts cantering, and the aide to get him to canter has gotten so light - it's great and very motivating!  More canter!  More canter!  More canter!
  4. Do something different with him once a week (cross-rails, walk the property, etc.)

Gavin tonight looking cute:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fancy Zocks and a Goofy Pony

I bought two pairs of Ovation Zocks from Dover a few weeks back to help slide my own, fat pony legs into my sleek boots (I have since found them unnecessary, but I still own them).  So I decided to give them a try today.
feetzies in Zocks

leg shot
Cute right?   Very thin, very slippery (to aid getting unwieldy legs into unyielding boots).  Look what happened -- 
A zipper casualty
I still wore them (duh), and I'll be keeping them until they're truly demolished.  I probably just shouldn't own such delicate leg wear.  So Ovation Zocks, I appreciate your cute prints and sleek feel, but I won't be buying you again.  

In actual pony news I went out to see my boy tonight and he was such a goof (in a good way).  I lunged him in just his halter, as I feel that teeth floating deserves a couple days off.  He was moving off like a total powerhouse!  Okay, so he nearly dragged me around the arena once, but I'll take it for those gaits (plus he calmed down after a couple trips around).  There was a little pole jump set-up that I lunged him over.  And as always, nothing phases Gav so he popped over like it was nothing new.  What a great boy.  Here are some cute goodbye pics from tonight. 

wait... are you leaving?


I need a sugar to cope!

note the lazy eye from what I can only imagine is intense emotional distress ;)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Doctor and the Insecurity Fairy

So Gav had a vet appointment this Friday to have his teeth floated, sheath cleaned, and spring shots given.  Poor guy was soooo drunk from the sedative.  He had his hind legs crossed like a princess through the whole procedure.  Don't worry, this wasn't some sort of emergency equine-dental procedure; it was just your normal, once-a-year teeth grinding.  I am lucky enough to have a vet who will explain literally everything to me if I ask him.  He even explains stuff when I don't ask him.  So I got to peer into my horse's gaping mouth and even feel some sharp edges on his super-wide horsey molars (the before and after).  Ouch!  I'd complain too if I were him; those suckers were sharp!

Gavin -- stoned

We also got to deal with the delicate issue of sheath cleaning, and my vet had to tell me that I should clip his nether region of all long hair.  It was too awkward - I had to break the awkwardness with an inappropriate joke about modern hairstyles in the gelding groin area.  Dr. Turner warned that Gavin may not appreciate being waxed ;) Thank god he found humor in the subject.  Otherwise, I would've just looked like some sort of horse pervert.

Finally, his shots were given and the vet left me with one very sedate pony.  While I had him in this agreeable mood I decided to pull his mane (something he absolutely detests).  What a joy to pull a horse's mane that isn't flailing his body about like he's dying.  It was great.

Gavin -- perfect attitude for mane pulling
While I was pulling I had a curious boarder come talk to me about why I was pulling my horse's mane.  She asked if I was planning on showing and I told her that yes I was.  She then told me which shows she would go to and that I shouldn't worry because they were "easy" ones.  Easy shows.  Phew - well, that really put my mind at ease, because I was worried before then that we weren't up to the task.  Wait a minute - NO I WASN'T.  But suddenly - I was/am worried.  Why would this lady say that (besides being socially impaired)?  Are we simply not good enough for bigger shows?

I like to think of myself as not delusional when it comes to my abilities or my horse's.  I was (am) going to show him at training level.  All of the movements (ha movements - circles at the walk/trot/canter) are things we already do.  It's not like I'm going to be showing him third level with not a clue of what I'm in for.  So why not aim high?  Why not go to high prairie (colorado horse park... I can't get used to the name)?  Would we get our asses handed to us by girls who train twice a week, and ride six days a week - it's likely.  But why not put ourselves out there for it?  Am I delusional?  It just threw me (like Gavin did last year on that trail ride).

I need a lesson and start getting back to really riding with some focus.  Gavin's injury, the bad weather, and now this lady have really put me off my game.  But at least his teeth are in good shape, his sheath has been cleaned so that it sparkles in the sun (hahahaha... gross), and he has all his shots for the spring.  That means I'm all ready to get ready for our shows (easy or not so easy).  

I'll leave with something a strong competitor supposedly once said (I don't ever totally trust Pinterest quotes even though I'm totally addicted to them):