Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I haven't written in a week, and the last time I did I was helped out by the blog hop.  Why so quiet?  *downward cast eyes* I'm burnt out.  Not on blogging.  I'm a little burnt out on the dressagery (made up word to describe dressage training process).  This is such a first world problem it's silly.  I feel silly even admitting it.  I'm used to having time to sit on the couch with my men (Shawn and Fudge).  I'm used to having time to just go out and brush Gav.  I'm used to it being more fun and less work.

Watching us progress IS fun, but the cost of that progress is free time (and spending money -- my god I've spent a fortune on horse stuff in the past two months). 

I feel a bit lost.  I had an unposted page attached to this blog that lists in detail my goals with Gavin.  Part of those goals is getting to FEI.  Now, I'm just not so sure.  I'm not saying it isn't what I want - believe me, I love watching Gav get better, stronger, more flexible; I just don't know if I'm willing to pay the price (in time and money).  I also want to trail ride with Gavin, I want to jump with Gavin, I want to do a pair pace with him, and a fox hunt!  I want a variety of experiences with him.  And the whole time I want us to improve.  To develop as a team.  If dressage just means training, than dressage should help us to accomplish these goals - by making Gav more attentive to me, more fit, more elastic.  But I don't know if I want dressage to be the end all, be all, of Gavin and I. 

And though I want all of these experiences with Gav, they are not the ONLY experiences I want - I want to watch my dog trot along in front of me with a big ole smile on his puggy face because he loves walks at the park so much, I want time (and money) to travel with, have fancy dinners with, and go to interesting shows with my boyfriend. I want to occasionally indulge in my other money-spending venture: clothing. I want. I want. I want. And sadly I have limited resources and limited time. This means I don't get everything I want, which means I have to prioritize... and I'm having a hard time doing it.

Pity party rant over.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Magical Color Bright Unicorn Blog Hop: Appreciating what you've got

I love the idea of this blog-hop, and L is absolutely right -- we do nitpick, and when we nitpick - we don't totally enjoy.  Being in full time training with Gav has definitely turned on my need-to-fix radar, but it has also showed me how hard my guy will work and what I love most about him.  So here's a little list of things I love about Gavin.

Gavin's nose hunting for a sugar

  1. I love Gavin's sweetness
  2. I love that Gavin also turns his head and peers at me with his big, sweet eyes when I'm cinching up the girth.
  3. I love Gavin's build - small, but powerful
  4. I love Gavin's gaits - especially his beautiful canter, oh how I long to perfect you
  5. I love that he's always willing to try
  6. I love that Gavin is a pretty fast learner (sometimes outpacing me in the learning department)
  7. I love that he isn't particularly spooky or hot (I have a hard time dealing with that)
  8. I love that he is so cute that people comment on it... A LOT
  9. I love that when I let him loose in the indoors he likes to go stand at the mirror and stare at himself the whole time (Gavin - you're so vain!)
  10. I love that he loves me back  :)
Awww - this blog-hop just gave me a bunch of warm fuzzies for my pony.  :)  Can't wait to go see him tonight!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Handsome Gavin

My Saturday ride was great.  My trainer hopped on first to show me what she was working on with Gav's canter (and canter transitions).  The right lead is much, much improved and because he's been getting mad props for his right lead (since it was so hard for him at first) now all he wants to do is canter to the right, even when the left lead is appropriate (and asked for).  Soooo… left lead was the main subject between Glenda and Gavin.  And since I'm always like "oh my horse's canter is beautiful" I figured I should take some video to show everyone.  So here it is.  This is to the left, so she was working on balancing him, but I think he looks great!  :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two Hands Forward, Put Your Legs Back!

Words to the wise: full time training for your pony  is costly (though in all honesty my trainer gave me a stinking deal because I'm broke), is time-consuming (if you like going to watch the training rides like I do), and is addictive (oh, I'll just do it this one month... but wait, I want to perfect his canter departs!).

Barn kitty says "leave me alone human scum!"

So what is happening in the world of Gavin and Erika?  A lot of progress!  I went out and watched my fine equine get schooled on Tuesday.  He was a doll throughout the entire ride.  Soft, ear-radar on, forward, engaged, and his canter... ooooooh his canter.  It's a thing of beauty when he gets it (which I believe will come with practice and the furthering of his athleticism).  I swear, when I watch him canter (more so in the ridden canter than a free canter) his legs look about half a foot longer than they actually are.  He just has so much lift, and really gorgeous action.  Sorry, I'm trying not to swoon.  It isn't all roses and puppies in this post.  Glenda (trainer) and Gavin would do a canter circle, two or three trot strides and then pick-up the other lead on a new circle.  He did shockingly well, considering his issues with picking up the canter.  And the ride ended on that note.  Gavin stuffed with sugars, and Glenda and I raving about how well he did.

The next night was alllll me.  This is going to sound like a whole lot of foofy-hippy-shit, but I've been doing visualization exercises at night before I go to bed.  I spend five minutes with my eyes closed going over in my head my "perfect practice".  Basically, I imagine in great detail the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of what success on Gavin would be like. 

I'm still in the process of reading and digesting the Jane Savoie book "It Isn't All About the Ribbons" and she discusses visualization as a great tool to overcome issues.  Apparently the Russians did an experiment where they had groups of athletes.  One group did ONLY physical practice, while others did varying degrees of physical AND mental practice (their "perfect practice").  The athletes who did a combination of both, with MORE mental practice performed better than the other athletes.  The thought here is that your subconcious mind does not know the difference between actually riding a horse, and riding a horse in your mind.  When you ride in your mind you have the added benefit of making it less stressful, and you are able to practice perfectly.  My boyfriend has actually mentioned this practice to me before, though he did it on his own without a book prompting him.  He used it while learning to snowboard.  He imagined what the snow would feel like under his board, what resistance it would give, how he'd have to move to manage that resistance.  My boyfriend -- a visualization pioneer ;)

Anyways, so I've been working on my perfect practice, specifically related to my hands.  I would imagine posting, and how my hands would have to move to follow the contact.  It is extremely difficult for me to imagine (shit - I'm an accountant!!! I barely have any imagination!!!), but I'm definitely going to keep at it BECAUSE without me asking, with no prompting at all, my trainer mentioned during my ride on Wednesday how much better my hands looked.  I was freaking beaming with happiness!  Of course, though my hands looked better I couldn't get Gavin to canter without running him into it (damn you legs - STAY DOWN!!!).  So now I have two things to visualize: following hands, weight in my stirrups at the canter. 

My boy after our ride on Wednesday

Saturday, April 12, 2014

9 Rides In

So Gavin is 9 rides in to his pony bootcamp month.  It's been hard work (for Gavin, Glenda, and even me!).  I'm not used to going out quite so much, but even when I'm not riding - I try to make it out whenever possible.

I had another lesson today (one on Thursday and one today).  They were both really good!  Through the tutelage of a trainer, it seems to have clicked to Gavin what is expected (to a point) and he seems relatively willing to comply *most of the time*.  Thursday we had a couple iffy moments - one where I told him no, and he threw a tantrum about his sweet, easy-going mom telling him no and threw his body across the arena, eventually smacking his butt right into the wall.  We bounced off the wall and did a lovely leg-yield.  And one other time where his whole body was screaming "I'M GOING TO BUCK YOU OFF!!!".  I laughed and told my trainer about the feeling and in classic trainer fashion she said matter-of-factly "He's going to buck, but you won't come off.  Now canter."  We cantered, he bucked one of his adorable, little pony bucks, I didn't come off, and we wound up having a nice canter.

Today we had a less explosive ride, but it was more about me than Gavin.  *hangs head*  I have some bad hand habits, and I wish I could just get over it and have steady, calm hands, but I feel like the more I worry about it, the worse they get.  I'm posting a video of our ride today.  It exemplifies the bumpy ride I'm giving Gavin's mouth, and I don't feel good about that.  I will admit though, that though my hands look AWFUL - I am really pleased with Gavin.  Cover the rider-up with your hand and just watch that beautiful pony go.  Ugh!  I compared this video with the last video of me and am really pleased.  His reach underneath is shockingly different.  If anyone has tips for steady hands, please - I'm all ears!

We worked on half-halts today, because as I've mentioned, Gavin sometimes will take me for a ride on the pony express.  At first they were not only too much, but they were basically ineffective.  I was just pulling.  By the end though they were wonderful feeling.  I'd squeeze lightly with my legs, squeeze lightly with my outside rein, and whisper "Gaaaavin" in my lowest voice.  I could feel him just tuck up.

So what is going well:

  1. Gavin reaching under himself at the walk/trot/canter
  2. Transition into and out of canter is much improved
  3. Leg yields!  We're doing 'em!
  4. I haven't been leaning in so much to the right.
What needs work:

  1. My hands!  MY ELBOWS LOCKING!
  2. Right lead canter needs a lot of TLC
  3. Halt means stop moving your feet Gavin - he shuffles, this has been improving, but we want more!
  4. I still need to be more decisive when riding - stop worrying about if I make a mistake, and try stuff when the statue look isn't working.
Anyways - that's it for now.  I'm really happy with our progress (specifically his) and I know that with time and commitment my hands will improve.  And then I can focus on my next big body issue!    

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sickness Runs Rampant

So, I've been MIA for a little while, but not without good cause.  Last week and this week are my busiest times at work, and though that normally would put a little damper on things, what really killed me this weekend was that I became disgustingly, deliriously ill.

Of course it didn't happen until Friday night while at dinner with my boyfriend's family.  I knew my stomach felt raw, but while I sat at the table not touching any of the delicious food that sat before me I started thinking "I'm going to puke all over this table… wait… no I'm not… yes, yes I am".  After a few minutes of this I decided to go lay down, and soon after we went home.  And that's when shit got reaaaaaaal.

No one wants to hear this, but it's a little fun to tell - so I'm going to tell it anyways.  I barfed, and barfed, and barfed.  Disgusting.  I barfed when there was nothing left to barf.  My boyfriend was a champion and laid on the couch with me (in between barf sessions), and told me I looked pretty and that my voice was sexy (gravely from all the barfing).

The next day, I had the optimistic notion that I'd go *watch* my horse be ridden since I couldn't participate in the lesson.  Ha!  What a joke.  I wound up feeling worse and worse, and my boyfriend finally took me (three sweatshirts on, crackers in hand) to an urgent care place.  I wound up getting IV fluids and some sort of IV anti-nausea stuff.  Basically, I was just crazy dehydrated (did I mention the intense vomiting?) which caused really low blood pressure and didn't help my stupid fever.

The silver-lining of all this illness was that I got a sweet pic out of the deal (I look miserable because I was trying to ham it up, but I look like shit because I really felt like shit).  After the anti-nausea medication had kicked in, I had the great sense (and sense of humor) to get my boyfriend to take this lovely photo.  I tried desperately to convince him to send it to my mom with some ominous text like "Erika isn't doing well, took her to hospital" or post in on Facebook with something silly like "Erika is fading fast, prayers please".  He wouldn't do either of these things, but did post it on Facebook to just let peeps know that I was sick, and was badass enough to get an IV without crying, or flinching, or making any fuss at all (all the puking took the fight out of me).

I can't just post a picture of me looking awful, and a blog about me puking - so here's a cute picture of my monkeydog sunbathing Monday morning (he always finds the beam of sunlight and sits down and enjoys).  Oh, what a life.  :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

outside rein. Outside Rein. OUTSIDE REIN!

Last night was day 2 of Gavin's April training.

Glenda started off riding him.  He was a little bit testy at first, but settled in to work pretty quickly, including two pretty nice right-lead canter departs with a few "oh my god his canter is gorgeous" strides.  Glenda felt sure after getting those strides that mechanically there is nothing wrong, or hindering him from cantering (this is good news!).  She also worked A LOT on the straight, and after a few halt/no seriously WOAH/NO SERIOUSLY WOAH/now back-up run throughs he was trotting along looking like the sport pony that I know he is, and going a reasonable rate of speed.  It was at that moment watching him that I was at my proudest pony-mom of the night.

So then I hopped on!  I'm pretty sure Gavin thought he was done because he seemed pretty pissed about me putting leg on at all (twirling tail, kicked out a couple times).  I decided that I couldn't have the "mommy complex" with him and continued to urge him forward (urge = nice word for a smack and more leg).  At that point he seemed resigned to work for me (yay me!).  We did some leg-yielding at the walk to make sure he was moving off my legs; I was amazed at how responsive he was, and the amount of cross-over he could make.  Then we started trot work.  I felt like it started off pretty well.  I am trying to be looser with my body (more dynamic in what movements I make - I tend to take a position and stick to it - like one of those statue-poser people, except I get yelled at, not paid for it).

We worked on serpentines, which felt nice to me, but my trainer clearly was not thrilled with the amount of inside leg, outside rein action going on (MORE INSIDE LEG, MORE OUTSIDE REIN).  Then we moved on to working on the straight.  It was nice.  He didn't feel like he was performing in the trot derby.  I got told on repeat for about 4 or 5 times around the arena outside rein, inside leg, outside rein, inside leg, outside rein, inside leg.  As I've said before, in my head I feel like these thoughts are being processed into actions, but I didn't see the results I was looking for until I was willing to get BIGGER with these changes.  I bent my elbow more and moved my outside hand a little bit away from his neck.  And then he was like a dream.  Just soft in the jaw, and moving forward (but not crazy forward).  It felt great!  And the awesome thing about my trainer is that when I'm bad - she isn't happy, but when I'm good - she is REALLY happy.  So I definitely knew that what I was doing was correct.

We ended on that note.  Gavin seemed happy, Glenda seemed happy, and I was happy.  :)

Gavin got ridden today, but I'm at work, so sadly I didn't get to see it (though I should be hearing about it shortly!) and tomorrow I have a full blown lesson.

Inside leg, outside rein, inside leg, outside rein, inside leg, outside rein.  :) :) :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gavin's Reach

So Gavin had his first trainer appointment last night, and like the doting pony-mom that I am, I showed up early to give him encouragement and try to scrape all of the shedding hair off of his plump little form.  I was thrilled to get to watch, and the transformation was interesting.  He went from being sticky with giraffe neck to a little powerhouse in about 5 minutes.

Some things I noticed between my trainers ride and the piece of riding I did last week that got video'd (video of both attached to show difference... I'm trying to be brave like L - don't judge too harshly, it was definitely an off day for me):
1.  You can tell when he's really coming through because:
     a.  The reach from his back legs is MUCH greater
     b.  Because he's putting more weight on his hind-end, he can (and is) much more animated with
          his front legs (much more knee action, less piddly-little-pony action)
     c.  He gets super loose, and his back swings - and I mean it really swings.  Nobody has to point it
          out to me.  It's obvious.  Sort of a strange thought - but the way he moves when he's engaged
          like that reminds me of a big cat (panther or something).
2.  What is she doing differently that I can see?
     a.  More solid rein connection (aka - her reins don't go slack and then tight, slack and then tight)
     b.  He's being pushed more forward (while watching my video I actually clucked at the screen)
     c.  More, what I'll call sincere posting (rather than my "oops, did I just touch your back, posts").      
          This I believe has to do with core activation, as I notice it gets better when I actively think about
          engaging my core.

Some things she mentioned to me:
1.  He is very dull to the left leg, and doesn't care to move off of it
2.  He really does seem to have a much harder time cantering to the right (they had several discussions about the right lead last night - it ended on a good note with him picking it up no problem).  She doesn't seem sure if it's a physical issue, or if he just doesn't understand what we're asking - so we're going to work on that.
3.  She noticed that he likes to come right off the bit on the straightaways and take off (hey - I noticed that too!).  She got him to relax into it (I need to ask her how), praised him, and then let it go for the day.
4.  He seems willing to try, and doesn't hold grudges when he gets corrected (that a boy Gavin!)

Schedule for the rest of the week:
1.  She will ride the first half of Thursday and then I'll get on (so long as their ride goes well)
2.  Friday she will either be riding or long-lining him in the morning (boo - I can't make it!)
     a.  The long-lining would be for more canter work.  She could drive more, and he wouldn't have to
          think about someone being perched up on his back.
3.  Saturday - I have a lesson!  Yay!
4.  Sunday - I ride all on my own, and get back to her with what felt good/bad/etc.

This is going to be a great month! :)