Monthly Goal Review


Goals Post Here

Since my goals are pretty quantifiable, I want to do a brief accountability check-up on the blog just to keep myself in track. I've only included the goals I've changed or made progress on. So here it is:

Riding Goals

    • Take at least 1 lesson a month. So far so good.
    • Ride 3-4 times a week. Yes and no. In good weather, yes. In bad weather, no. Since the bad weather riding is uncontrollable, I consider this a win.
    • Work on at least 2 different exercises each ride. No problem here.

Personal Goals

    • Lift 2x a week. Only started getting serious about this last week, so fail for now.
    • Stretch 10 minutes, every day. 50% success.
    • Track calories (1400) Eat healthily on weekdays, splurge weekends. Tracking calories is annoying and unnecessary for me. Instead I recently buckled down and eat meat/fruit/veggies during the week and splurge in moderation on weekends. Not a success this month though.
    • Read at least 1 book a month. 5 horse books over the year. Finished reading Missing 411 Eastern US early this month (fascinating!). Currently reading We Need To Talk About Kevin (as if I need more reasons to abstain from having kids haha).
    • Contact close friends 1x a week at least (I'm bad at maintaining contact). Only got serious about this a few days ago, so not a success this month.

Financial Goals

    • Sell Hastilow saddle Sold it briefly after posting goals list.
    • Pay off CC debt. Paid off half of CC debt with funds from Hastilow saddle.
    • Double my current savings. Plan in place to double the amount I put into savings each year (ends up being more than just doubling savings, so super win).




I got my butt out to ride Fiction last night after a week off. Unfortunately right as I finished tacking up, the people who now own my saddle showed up. They were great enough to give me thirty minutes to ride before relinquishing the saddle, but it made me really long for my dressage saddle.

Which, by the way, has made it's way to America way ahead of schedule and is waiting for me with the saddle fitter. We've made an appointment for February 4th for her to come out and check it on him. She said it's gorgeous and she thinks I'll be really happy. I'm practically dying of anticipation.

Anyways, we kept the ride short and sweet. Did some walk warm-up with rein-back. Lots of head tossing but I didn't want to spend my entire thirty minutes working on that quirk so I moved on to trot. To the right he settled down immediately and went straight to work. It was beautiful. To the left we were stiff, crooked, and all over the place. I'm starting to think it's me. I'm trying too hard when we go to the left, which is making me over-correct, which is in turn making Fiction crooked. So, I tried very hard to just relax and let things happen. The ride got a bit better, but not where I would like it to be.

I will admit that to the left Fiction feels 100% like a completely different horse and I really struggle. I have to apply so much left leg just to get him to bend that I tense up because of the exertion. This is with spurts too, and using the whip just freaks him out. He also puts me to the right, so there is a constant struggle with my body to actually keep contact with the saddle with my left seatbone. It feels like we're careening out of control sometimes.

And the biggest frustration? To the left he just doesn't want to go where I want him to go. We were performing the circles down the long wall at the canter and got to the end of the wall. We circled once before the corner and then when I attempted to put him into the corner he blatantly ignored my legs and just cut off 1/4 of the arena to go where he wanted to go. It's like he was still stuck on a circle despite all of my aids saying STRAIGHT, please. This is crazy common and no matter how much leg or hands I apply, it just doesn't work out.

This doesn't happen to the right. At all.

He's not pissy when he does it. No ear pinning, nothing. So I don't know if it's confusion, misdirection on my part, or just general laziness. And when I circle and force him to where I want to go (I have to get incredibly strong and I hate that), he throws a hissy fit.

Anyone have any insight? I'm hoping to approach this with Instructor #2 on Saturday during our first lesson.

Also is it normal to feel like your legs are absolutely dying after every ride? Even with spurs? I just want to make sure I'm not going crazy here. I honestly don't think I should have to apply my legs as hard/often as I do.

To be honest, I think he really needs a couple of training rides on him so the Instructor can feel what I feel and really help me figure out how to fix it (or let me know that it's all my fault, which would be fine too). Not sure how keen on that Instructor 2 will be, but I approached the topic briefly with Instructor 1 before she left and she seemed game.


Blargh Winter


I haven't been posting because there isn't much to post about at this time.

The last time I rode Fiction was on Sunday. We had an hour long session together where we worked on basics from our last lesson. He was having trouble trotting to the left for some reason, so we spent a lot of time in that direction. We ended with trot work over a circle of poles and he was fantastic. No bolting, no speeding up, etc. He's getting much better with the poles at the trot but we still have a long way to go with the canter.

After our ride I stuffed him full of peppermints and turned him out so I could go hop on Penn for J. She had been feeling very under the weather lately and needed someone to exercise her horse under saddle. I was very flattered that she asked me, especially since Penn is still just learning and J is a much better rider than I!

He was definitely a challenge - a completely different ride than Fiction. While they are both sensitive horses, Penn is the type of sensitive that I like - easy off the aids, quick to respond, etc. He was definitely a pull ride as opposed to a push ride, and his gaits were amazingly complex. On the other hand, Fiction is a push ride that is sensitive in a totally different manner. If your weight shifts or your hands get too heavy, he throws a fit rather than responding to the aids in a more exaggerated manner. Definitely more frustrating haha :)

After Sunday the weather got way too cold (below 20s most of the week, sometimes single digits) and I simply don't ride during those times. Some people do, but I quickly find that it gets miserable for me (my hands tend to go numb, my eyes water, my nose runs, etc), and I don't like subjecting Fiction's lungs and joints to the frigid cold.

Tonight is the first time the temperature will approach a more comfortable level, but we are supposed to get a ton of snow dumped on us, so who knows if I'll make it out at all. Luckily I know my pony is warm and very well taken care of! And I'm sure he doesn't mind the time off haha.


Rider's High


Last week was rough. Between too much socialization with people and feeling under the weather, I didn't make it out to the barn until Saturday morning.

Luckily the weather was gorgeous.

Fiction was pretty relaxed when I hopped up on him. I let him meander around while I stretched in the saddle. We actually got to ride outside in balmy 60* weather!

We started off with the backing-up/walk exercise, and implemented corrections to prevent head tossing. Fiction did very well - he's starting to really get the hang of it.

From there we moved into the trot circles/shoulder-fore/in exercise. He wasn't bad to either direction, though to the left he was somewhat dead to my leg and I had to switch my whip over to that side just to give him a little bit more incentive to move off of my aids.

The canter was where he really shined that day. I'm talking absolutely perfect. It was a 'I wish I had cameraman because I don't think anyone is going to believe me when I say that Fiction gave me the most relaxed up-hill canter I have ever felt' kind of ride.

We repeated the circles exercise with the canter and he was freaking fantastic. For the first time ever we had a very relaxed shoulder-fore, where he didn't balk once and stayed perfectly round. We even managed trips down the straight side of the arena in perfect harmony. It was amazing.

He was doing so well that I decided to surprise him and pop him over the tiny crossrail in the arena. No bolting, no lunging at the jump, no shooting sideways....it was so relaxed and easy. Unfortunately, this feeling quickly went away when I pointed him at the jump again, so we abandoned the idea.

Ended the ride with some fantastic stretchy trot - nose to the ground. He was pretty sweaty by the time we were done. I untacked him, shoved peppermints into his face, all the while beaming from happiness. I was seriously high on life after that ride.

Lesson with a silver medalist dressage trainer is tentatively scheduled for the 30th.


Lunging Work


Last night was supposed to be a riding night, but the people purchasing my saddle were finally going to be out to pay me and the girl the saddle is going to was so excited to ride in it that I decided to nix my ride for the night. I got to the barn early, cleaned the saddle and slathered some leather balsam on it for good measure.

However, I wasn't about to let Fiction off without some work, so I threw on his lunging gear and put him through his paces. We started off slow, sans-side reins, and once he was warmed up we got into the hard stuff.

It is really great to see just how evolved his gaits are becoming. His walk has evened out, his trot has become a lot more forward (well, it still needs a bit of work under saddle), and he is really beginning to use his rear in the canter. There was a lot of lift to his strides last night. He looked wonderful.

To keep things interesting, I lunged him over a nearby pole. At first he was a bit iffy about it and tried to jump the pole, but he eventually calmed down and was completely relaxed by the end. We lunged for about 25 minutes before the arena started to get crazy (2 people quickly turned into 6!). Cooled him down, gave him a treat, and then deep cleaned/balsamed my bridle.


High Expectations


Saturday was our final lesson with the new Instructor before she heads down south for the winter. Fiction was relatively hyper after a good 5 days off due to scheduling constraints. I was warming him up with some walk/rein back exercises when the Instructor walked in and asked me if I had been having any problems.

We tackled his backing up problem first. Fiction has been throwing his head and rooting when I stop him and ask him to backup. This is a new problem and since I ask for all of this via leg/seat, there is no reason for this disobedience. So we worked through the problem together.

I've taken zero horse pictures lately, so enjoy some recycled ones!
The advice: Alternate between halt/rein back with just halts and almost-halts to mix it up a bit and get his mind working harder. If he tosses his head when asked to rein back, bump him with the inside leg and send him hard sideways as punishment. Be sure to liberally apply praise when he completes the action without fuss.

We then moved on to trot work. Instructor wanted to get me off of a circle, so we worked on spiraling circles down the long side. 12-15 meter circle at the trot, a small bit of shoulder-fore down the wall, then another circle. If he lost the bend, circle immediately. As he gets better, I can decrease the number of circles and increase the length of the shoulder-fore. If he shifts into a shoulder-in, that is fine too - it is just important that he has some lateral movement. It was during this trot work that for the first time ever I felt him push with his hind end and really power forward in a true connected trot. It was amazing.

We also did this exercise at the canter.

If only the sun were still around...
This exercise took a ton of leg on my part and I was pretty well exhausted by the time we moved on to the next exercise - a circle of 4 poles.

Fiction hates poles, so this didn't go so well.

We started by cantering around the outside of the poles to the right. He was a bit crazy, especially when we asked him to incorporate a pole or two into his canter. So, we dropped down to the sitting trot. We alternated between trotting over the poles, trotting around the outside of the poles, and trotting on a circle inside the poles. Instructor encouraged me to mix it up to keep him guessing. This was crazy exhausting because Fiction tends to be unruly over poles - he just has a hard time calming down.

When he finally had an acceptable trot, we cantered again (and had our best canter transition ever!), but ultimately just cantered around the poles. We then changed direction, trotted over the poles to the left, did a bit of canter, and then let him off. He was super sweaty and tired by the end and I was shaking. I'm so out of shape!

Instructor said that my Hastilow loves to put me too far back in the seat - first I've heard of this, but now that I think about it, it makes sense. I apparently have zero luck with saddles haha. Here is hoping the new one is satisfactory!
Instructor told me that by the time she gets back from her winter down south she expects me to be able to trot/canter over the poles with ease, as well as be able to insert poles as needed/change direction within the circle, etc. Basically Fiction needs to be 100% comfortable with the poles, with consistent strides. A tall order, but I'm super happy to have so much homework to work on while she is gone.

In other news, I finally sold my Hastilow to a fellow boarder at the new barn. She has graciously offered to let me keep using it until my new saddle comes in. So - first goal of 2016 has been accomplished!