The Halfway Mark: Where We Stand

With June already behind us, it’s time to look back at the goals I set in January and see where the horses and I all stand. However much reality differs from the way I planned it, I accept it joyfully; God’s plan is always better than my own, and I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me over the next six months.

Skye’s the Limit. Goals: Stay healthy; get fit; get a Western saddle. My mighty charger, whose heart never fails her, was sadly let down by her body in the past few months. Although she’s only in her mid teens, her toed-in conformation has ended up the way it usually does, with arthritis in her right knee. I’ll elaborate on all this in a later post, but the good news is that she’s in little or no pain and still enjoys our short walking outrides. Getting fit is probably not going to be an option for her this year, but as for staying healthy, we’ve made progress. She’s definitely on top of her allergies/COPD/whatever was wrong with her respiratory system, and being permanently on pasture, she’s looking better on less concentrate than she ever has before.

Oh, and the Western saddle? Check!

Happy [fat] charger
Happy [fat] charger
Thunderbird. Goals: This year, I’d like to spend some time working on Thunder’s physical strength. … I would like him to lope slowly and on the correct lead (using simple lead changes for now), understand the basics of neck-reining at all three gaits, learn to stand squarely, and turn on the haunches by the end of the year. I would like him to go out consistently without bolting, alone and in company, by the end of the year.

Thun has made awesome progress on his schooling goals. He neck-reins all the time in walk and trot and abut 80% of the time in canter. He stands square and turns on his haunches, as well as turning on the forehand and the beginnings of sidepasses. Outrides are improved but not awesome: he hasn’t bolted since forever, but he still shies and spins on most of our rides. In company he generally doesn’t spook as much as alone, but he never naps. We need more outrides and more lunging, though. He still looks like a giant clothes hanger with a forelock.

Doing too much of this
Doing too much of this

Arwen Evenstar. Goals: I would like to get her on the show circuit more regularly and to raise the bar slightly to be jumping around 80cm competitively by the end of the year. I would also like to enter her in a few dressage shows and see how she does. At home, she can learn to jump 1.10m consistently. Her canter, whilst good, needs some work; she must learn flying changes. I want her to improve her frame so that she is going in a good outline with her nose in by the end of the year. She must also learn to do all her lateral movements, which she does well in a walk, in trot. She must also be able to extend and collect her trot.

Arwen has made some progress, but it’s a bit on the slow side a) unlike the youngsters, Arwen’s training is the limit of my experience; each time she learns something new I’m learning it right alongside and b) my goals changed. I decided to go into eventing instead of showjumping.

We have been showing more, having done two outings since May, but her first 80cm round was a total flop (we were eliminated by the second fence) so that’s the area where she needs tons of work. We’re also still not jumping 1.10m at home, in fact 1.05 is proving to be a challenge. Some confusion with measurements might mean that 1.10m is bigger than we thought it was and that it’ll take quite a bit more time to get there, though. We’ll add cross-country to her goals as well: I want to jump a clear xc round at an event before the end of this year.

Her first dressage test was a resounding success, though; first place with a lovely, calm, consistent test scoring 61%. No progress on the flying changes but her frame is much improved, with the nose in nearly all the time in walk and trot and most of the time in canter. Lengthenings are improved; we still need to get to the collection thing, but she now leg-yields and shoulder-ins well in a trot. EM will have to wait a bit but I’m confident we can go Novice and possibly Elementary by the year’s end.

Eventer pony!
Eventer pony!

Magical Flight. Goals: Magic must go to his first shows, and learn to make calm transitions between gaits, leg-yield in walk, start flying changes, and build correct muscle tone. He must also jump 1.10m at home.

As you’ll all know by now, since I’m forever whining about it, Magic and me have had some setbacks in terms of confidence. 75cm felt like an achievement the other day, which is not good considering we were happy at 90cm last year. It will take lots and lots of work to be happy at 1.10m by the end of the year, but if I can get my act together, I’m positive we can do it just fine. He’s gutsy and scopey enough for it.

Flatwork is a lot more encouraging; his transitions are loads better, and his frame was improved to the point where I can now school him in a snaffle again. Still nothing on the flying changes but that’s more a rider error than anything else. His muscling is improved, but he needs his belly trimmed down and his fitness built up a bit. He is starting to get an awesome strong neck, though.

We have a neck!
We have a neck!

Yours truly. In dressage, I must get into the habit of riding with a proper upper body: eyes looking between the horse’s ears with chin up, hands a fist’s breadth above and in front of the pommel, thumbs turned up, elbows relaxed by my sides with upper arms hanging almost straight. In jumping, I must learn not to balance on my hands, but to push them forward and allow the horse to stretch. Oh, and I can stop doing that funky poke-one-toe-out thing. In Western, well, I don’t even know what a proper Western seat looks like. Fix this.

I’m pleased to report definite progress on the dressage and jumping fronts. I look up more and the hands are quite a lot better. I still need to fix my left hand, which (probably from carrying a whip) likes to bend inwards and do this weird thing where the wrist bulges out, but the hands are getting there. Now I must open up my shoulders a bit more and bring my butt underneath myself by tightening up my stomach muscles. (Yay sit-ups!)

One of my rare Moments of Pro-ness
One of my rare Moments of Pro-ness

Jumping is also a lot better especially with the release; my hands follow the horse instead of clinging to the mane. I still need to learn to balance myself over my lower leg instead of eating mane or sitting on the tail. No luck on the one-toe-poking, I’m afraid.

Epic position fail
Not horrible
Less horrible

Western is also better; I figured out where my hands and legs should be and the hands are a lot better. The legs are only better when I concentrate, but this is at least a step in the right direction.

All in all, I’m okay with how far we’ve come so far. We still have a lot of work to do, but there is a lot of year left!

Golden ears <3
Golden ears ❤

2 thoughts on “The Halfway Mark: Where We Stand

  1. Don’t balance on your hands, relax your elbows, don’t poke your toes out, hands one fist in front of and above the pommel, keep your thumbs facing up….something tells me that even if I were 50 years younger, I’d be happy if every time I rode a horse I managed to get off of my own volition and (a) didn’t fall off, or (b) wasn’t ceremoniously dumped on the ground by my four-footed friend 😀

    1. Staying on is always a plus, Lyn. I nearly ate dust today – something went wrong while Arwen and I were coming down from a jump and we landed awkwardly. I was pretty sure I was coming off and had even kicked out of my stirrup to avoid being dragged by the time my brain kicked in and decided it was not a good day to die. Somehow within two strides I was back in the saddle and totally balanced. Arwen, being used to me, merely continued calmly on her way.

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