Long Weekend: TWO Lessons

Looking for pictures? Skip to the second half of the post.

Last minute decision from the people in charge of people at work resulted in the library being closed for Good Friday. Hooray! I asked my trainer on Thursday night if we could school Eli on Friday and she said “sure!”

Eli has been doing great flat work, so I was looking forward to a productive lesson, and I think I got one. One thing that I’ve been working on–and it still needs work in the form of finessing so it will never not need work–is how I ride to the base of the jump. Last summer, I got into a rut of picking up the reins, taking my leg off, and thereby chipping in. So how does one work on not doing this, and instead stay on pace, keep hands steady and relatively low, and close leg (just a little, not a lot)? Mental game. I am trying to develop it. Basically, I am trying to program my muscle memory in to just knowing that if I don’t know where I am in front of a jump distance-wise, my reaction needs to be close leg, not pick up rein. I think I kinda am finally getting that down, as quite a few times during my lesson Friday, as soon as I felt my self hesitating, I closed my leg. Consequently, Eli was all “RAWR” and trainer was all, “um, could you maybe, um, you know, LESS.” However, I ride in a program where trainer would rather ask me to chill out and drive a little less than tell me to step up my game and get going already. It’s a good feeling, knowing my horse and I have the energy and the desire to attack the jumps now.

However, the bad thing in the lesson was our turns. And not just the turns themselves, but the ride to the jumps we’d roll back to. The turns were messy, and therefore, twice, I reverted to the pick up the reins habit instead of the new close the leg habit I’m trying to hone. Each time, trainer asked me to come back through and correct the ride. The turns were still messy, but I kept Eli going forward through them, instead of trying to hold him in the turn, and we got to much better, easy, non-chippy distances. (We jumped a 3’6″ Swedish on an angle, for crying out loud–of course I’m going to miss at that the first time! Ha! Trainer still insisted I plan for success and nail that s.)

So my flat work project for this week is circles. I’d been working on transitions and some lateral stuff, and that has done wonders for Eli over fences, and even helped him get leads while we’re cruising around the jumps. But rollbacks? We just haven’t done anything lately that translates to easy turning and steerability on course. Adjustability, yes, but if you get stuck at the apex of a rollback turn you can’t get out of, you immediately lose the ability to adjust. You can’t turn anywhere if you can’t go forward, and you can’t go forward if you’re trying to turn with your reins instead of your leg and seat. My oversight. Flat work circle camp starts today.

So after this lesson, which over all was great, not because we were great, but because I made mistakes that I then successfully corrected, trainer and I discussed doing a grid the following day. Something easy, to take Eli down a notch, as he was pretty amped Friday around the jumps.

I consulted my Linda Allen book, and decided a good exercise for Eli to keep him relaxed but also not lackadaisical would be:

easygridEli was pretty easy through it. Trainer and I were both happy that he was relaxed enough without being dull. He certainly tried to tell me that we should be cantering a few times, but I just relaxed my hand and pet his neck and he decided that he could then trot to the exercise. He’s getting that jumper go button. I love it. One last MAJOR take away from the grid was that I am chasing the jump a little with my shoulders, so I need to really concentrate on not doing that, and let Eli jump up to me instead of ducking at him. The rest of this post is media.

Okay, so when I said easy and relaxed, I meant specific to Eli.







odetokneesAnd since it’s obvious the above photos are screen shots from videos, it’s only fair I post the videos. We didn’t film every time through, just a few times.

20150404_113914.mp4 from rennikka on Vimeo.

20150404_114232.mp4 from rennikka on Vimeo.

Lettia Memory Foam Clik Girth: Review

leftsideTo suggest Eli is “girthy” would be an understatement. I have been using the Lettia Coolmax nylon girth with elastic on both sides on him since, like, the second time I rode him because his girth area is sensitive. I actually hated these girths (I tried one on a different jumper I owned and felt completely unstable), right up until I had to tack up Eli regularly. He just minded this type of girth a lot less than a leather girth.

I noticed that Lettia also made a memory foam nylon double elastic girth. $79.99 later, and I had one in Eli’s typical Lettia girth size, 50″.

rightsideThere are a lot of things to like about this girth. One is that Eli seems to be comfortable in it, and isn’t any more girthier that he is with the Lettia Coolmax girth. Two, it’s memory foam. So squish. Want for pillow. Want for car seat. Want for desk chair. Want for feet. Pretty cool that it comes in girths, though!

blingbuckleThe third and overwhelmingly important feature for me is that the girth is machine washable. I have already washed it once, hung it to dry, and it came out basically looking like new.

foamyThe memory foam is along the entire length of the girth and is thick and squishy without being bulky. It is not as thick as, say, an Ogilvy jumper half pad.

nylonTwo more features of the girth that make it appealing to me and very useful are the buckles and the center dee ring. The buckles are Lettia’s Clik design, that have springs that make tightening the girth while you’re in the saddle a snap because they hold the prongs of the buckles in position. While I do try to tighten the girth from the ground before I get on, I may need to bring it up another hole after trotting around. Without these springs on the buckles, it would be a struggle, partly because getting Eli to stand still for longer than 7 seconds under saddle is not currently possible, so I am usually trying to tighten the girth while he’s walking.

The girth also has a center dee, handy for training aids and other equipment, like breastplates with clips, draw reins, or martingales with clips. Or neck-stretchers, but I don’t use those, although I think they do have clips for attaching to a girth dee.

There are a couple downsides to this girth. The memory foam side that rests against the horse is not especially grippy the way sheepskin or synthetic fleece is, so I have experienced a great potential for the saddle to slip out of place a bit. I know if I get the girth  tight enough, this isn’t an issue. However, the mounting block I use is at the base of a hill and the arena is at the top of the hill. It’s a short hill, but if I haven’t tightened my girth up to that last hole that I like it on, my saddle can shift while I’m walking up the hill, and I do not experience that with the Lettia Coolmax girth that has synthetic fleece.

The other downside is a small one now, but may be a bigger deal over time, and that is that the elastic is stretchier than the elastic on other girths I’ve used. By kind of a lot. Enough that I could go down a girth size, maybe even two sizes, and probably still get the girth on without a lot of difficulty. This makes me wonder if the elastic might wear out more quickly than on other girths.

Overall, I am pleased with the girth and would be willing to buy a second to keep nice for shows, although I would probably go down a size. I am reaching for it about as often as I am still reaching for the Lettia Coolmax girth. While the Coolmax girth is still my “favorite” (as favorite as a not-leather girth can be for me), this memory foam girth is a close second and Eli doesn’t protest when I tighten it from the saddle. This is a well made girth and for under $100 I think it is a good value.

Tale of Two Elis

I own one horse who has many, many moods. So, here you go:

Tuesday night: Trying not to die in the jumping arena. Lesson horse lesson-ing around and breathing, Eli thinks, “I should be wary. That horse is breathing. Something bad might happen because that horse is trotting slowly and breathing.” I think, “Eli, please pay attention. Even at the walk. You can’t even pay attention while we’re walking???” Eli responds by jog-trotting and looking out into the murky dark darkness beyond the arena lights. And he may have squealed. He definitely swished his tail. I ask for a trot. Self, that was stupid. Eli trots, then trots fast and gets way down on his forehand like downward-facing-dog down. I rethink the whole trotting thing and ask Eli for a walk. Eli actually walks. Eli then spooks at something that may have maybe made a noise and possibly moved over by the water tanks. Nope, for sure–it was a giant swirling sharknado lurking in the darkness by the water tanks. I can’t tell what Eli spooked at, but he is completely sure of the sharknado and its lurkiness. Eli is completely evading the bit at this point by curling his chin under to his chest.

So, yeah, a whole lot of walking and trotting went on Tuesday night. Because cantering an anxious, squealing llama just doesn’t seem like a good time to me. And I did not feel like getting off and letting him run around like an idiot on the longe line.

Think, think, thinkthinkthink
Think, think, thinkthinkthink

Wednesday night: Lots going on in the barn aisle near the cross-ties, in the form of farriers doing their thing with torches and forges and mallets and smells. Eli doesn’t even blink at this. As soon as I pull him out of his stall, I notice a difference in his mood–he seems much more like his happy grumpy self than Tuesday night, when he was more of a angry grumpy self. Grooming goes well with a minimum of snappiness, and I decide this night is a great night for Eli to wear his bonnet.

The bonnet is clearly the important factor here. He didn’t wear one Tuesday night. I put one on him Wednesday night.

And it was as if angels came down from their lofty, fluffy clouds and touched Eli’s adorable white snip with their magical unicorn glitter wands of amazingness. My horse felt astounding! Back to himself, and even better, motivated to work! Yay! The instructor teaching lessons Wednesday evening even said that I need to go find a horse show RIGHT NOW because Eli looked fantastic. Go win that hack! What was different? THE BONNET. It is now known as Eli’s thinking cap. (Which cannot be worn in a hack, so that’s out.) He MUST wear a bonnet if it is less than 90 degrees outside. Seriously. I asked the instructor what she did to him today (she doesn’t ever do anything with him, I was just kidding around) and she said she just patted him an told him he was pretty, of course, so I was all, you must pat him everyday and tell him he is pretty, until the end of time. Deal. I stuffed Eli’s cookie face with cookies and took silly pictures.

Cookie lady, I need more cookies.
Cookie lady, I need more cookies.

Not sure if I’ll get to ride tonight because of inclement weather, but hopefully it won’t rain too much.

ANGELS, I tell you.
ANGELS, I tell you.