Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jumping Around

We had yet another AMAZING lesson last night! I am floored by how quickly Gatsby and I have progressed recently. When we came to DK early last month we had both had about a month off but even before that we hadn't really been in full-on training mode. In our first lesson with Alexis we worked over little baby jumps and Gats and I were both pretty rusty and all over the place. Since then we have spent all of our lessons and rides working on keeping Gatsby calm and focused and it has really paid off!!

Yesterday we started out working on a circle to get Gatsby relaxed and straight. We also did some spiral-in/spiral-out to really get him to use he haunches on that smaller circle. We then moved on to a gymnastic exercise which started out as a small cross-rail, one stride to some poles, one stride to some more poles. This quickly built up and eventually we had a cross-rail, one stride to a 3'3 vertical, one stride to a 3'6 oxer. Once Gatsby had mastered this, which he did very quickly, we incorporated the gymnastic into a course. We would go through the grid, bending line to a bounce in the corner, around to a big vertical out of the other corner, 6 strides to a big square oxer, roll back to a vertical and another bending line to a vertical. We did this a few times and I was just astounded by how amazing my horse felt.

The only thing we had a slight issue with was the 6 stride line from vertical to square oxer. Coming off the corner to the vertical I had to really focus on keeping him straight as he really likes to pop that right shoulder. I also used to time on the small side of the arena to really ride him into the canter that I wanted. We got a couple messy lines, a 7 and a couple of 5's. I did afterwards find out that the line WAS set for 5 but we just wanted him to do it in 6. We never ended up with that perfect 6 strides but we did get a nice 6 with a long take-off which I was very happy about because he will normally chip in the extra 7th stride.

I was also extremely pleased after our lesson when I remembered that I had switched him back to a full-cheek snaffle from the kimberwicke and I hadn't even noticed it the lesson!

I am super excited to get out to Twin next month to school cross-country and I am even more excited to start out the season!

Monday, February 21, 2011

All-Star Weekend

Unfortunately this weekend didn't quite go as planned and I only made it out to the barn on Sunday:( I was super excited about not having anything planned for the weekend but this allowed me to sleep in very late and not be very productive. Also there was a dressage show at our barn this weekend so I couldn't ride until the afternoon and often by then I am distracted and don't realize what time it is until it is too late (my bad, I know). I was also supposed to take my car in for maintenance on Saturday but it was pouring rain and I was lazy and didn't go. I am now kicking myself for this because I need to get it serviced before I drive down to SB this weekend.
What I did do on Saturday was spend the entire day in bed watching the last few episodes of LOST. Afterward I did decide to go to the barn and even had all my riding gear on when I realized it was All-Star Saturday night and I really wanted to see the slam dunk contest. Btw, don't even get me started on this; I am livid over the results, Blake Griffin had THE WORST dunks out of the group. I just wish he would pack up and try to become a star in some other city, we don't want him here.
On Sunday I convinced Daniel to go to Golden Gate Fields with me which was so much fun!! It was dollar day so parking, admission, programs, beer, and hot dogs were all just $1. Talk about an amazing deal! We won our bets on some races but we did end the day down $8...not too bad though. I also got to see one of Gatsby's fairly close relatives race which was AWESOME. Unfortunately she didn't do very well. She was in a claiming race and I really wanted to take her home with us but Daniel wouldn't let me:(
Gatsby's famous Great-Grandfather, Seattle Slew

I did end up heading out to the barn after the racetrack but it was late and cold so I didn't ride for very long. Fortunately Gatsby was fairly relaxed and we had a productive but light dressage school. I worked on some shoulder-in at the walk and a little bit at the trot. He is usually pretty good to the right and fairly awful to the left but he finally seemed to figure it out and even though it wasn't as good as going to the right it was progress and I'm happy with that. I also did some lengthenings and a lot of leg yields to push him on to my outside rein. These didn't work quite as well as I had hoped but he was straight and responsive so I was happy. I then came home to find that Kobe had DOMINATED the All-Star Game putting up almost 40 points and some awesome dunks, including one over LBJ which thrilled me:)
Kobe doin' work!

Today I am planning on heading out after work and doing some conditioning work which he desperately needs.

Happy President's Day!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jumping in the Rain

So I finally got my tooth pain all sorted out. Turns out I got dry socket which is fairly common after wisdom tooth extractions. Also VERY painful though. My dentist packed the socked with some gauze soaked in clove oil which works magically and tastes horrid!

Gatsby and I had a jumping lesson scheduled for yesterday and I was SO disappointed when I saw that it was supposed to rain all week:( That is, until I remembered that two of the arenas at our new barn are covered!!! Unfortunately Gatsby had had the last two days off due to dentist appointments (mine, not his) so he was very fresh and frisky when I got on yesterday. Alexis helped me work him through this in our warm up and encouraged me not to be such a passive rider. Basically I am a little too quiet and this actually makes him more high-strung. When I really put my leg on and tell him what I want he relaxes almost instantly.

We worked him back and forth over a probably 3' vertical and I worked on keeping him straight and keeping the same canter stride to the fence. It took us a few tries but we did get some LOVELY jumps out of him. I also realized that when he is truly straight he feels crooked to me!! I guess that means we just have more to work on than I originally though:) After the vertical we moved on to a small course of a vertical, a star burst looking fence, and a one stride cross-rail to an oxer. Gats jumped all of these beautifully and out of stride and didn't even look and the scarier ones!! I could not be more pleased with my horse!! I rode our last couple course with a huge smile on my face.

Today Gatsby is getting new shoes and tomorrow I have a work event so I won't be able to ride but I am confident we can pick up where we left off on Saturday.

In other news, I just found out today that my time off request to go to Japan was approved!! I spoke with one of the managers I support about how important the trip is to me and he made it happen! I am beyond excited. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the beast while I am gone.

Outside the Golden Pavilion in '06

Monday, February 14, 2011

What a week!!

Actually, it's been longer than a week since I've updated but A LOT has been going on in my life, good and bad.

My last post was right before I left to spend a weekend at home in sunny SB...AMAZING!!! Saturday I took a drive down to Thousand Oaks to go linedancing with some friends and Sunday I did some shopping, got some nachos and horchata at my favorite Mexican joint, FREEB!RDS, and spent the afternoon at home watching the Super Bowl with the fam. I did have one minor scare when halfway to Santa Barbara I realized I forgot my cowboy boots (a must for linedancing)buuuut thankfully I have some friends back home with equally clown-sized feet and an affinity for Western apparel.

Back home in Berkeley, I had a pretty busy week. I got hit with my first real adult-job dissappointment; My request for time off to go to Japan with my dad and some friends was denied as it coincided with month AND quarter end. Heartbreaking but I guess I just have to deal. On top of that I was not feeling great at the beginning of the week (read: still sleep-deprived from my weekend in So Cal) so I did not make it out to the barn until Wednesday. My ride was OK, Gatsby was a handful but neither awful nor amazing.

On Thursday I had my wisdom tooth pulled and despite my determination to be back on my feet on Friday I was sent home from work and opted to have Alexis ride Gatsby so he wouldn't have yet another day off. I went home at around 1 and slept until dinner time when the BF and I ventured out for dinner. Sushi, a Lakers win, and a Cavs win (I adopted them after LeBron's abandonment last summer:))

I was finally somewhat back to myself on Saturday and headed out for my second ride of the week. Gatsby seemed exhausted at first, probably because Alexis kicked his butt the day before, but then decided to ignore ALL of my half-halts once we started our canter work. Alrighty big guy, if that's how you wanna play you can canter around with your nose on the ground until you respond to me ever-so-slightly closing my fingers on the reins. That seemed to work pretty well and overall I would call it a successful ride:) Saturday was also supposed to be the day the BF and I celebrated our one-year anniversary but alas, laundry took much longer than planned and we decided to post-pone dinner in the city.

Sunday came all to quickly but I did manage to fight through my ever-lasting toothpain for long enough to have a fantastic dressage lesson with Alexis. We were both amazed at how quickly Gatsby is learning and how different he is after only 4 lessons! I am SO excited to conquer Training level this season!

I ended my weekend with a triple date with my BF, my college roomie and her BF, and another couple they are friends with. We went to an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet in Daly City which was suprisingly good except for the fact that my tooth REFUSES to stop hurting!! I once again attempted to go to work today but halfway there I was in WAY too much pain and decided to head home and call the dentist. I have an appointment this afternoon and hopefully they can make this go away:(

Friday, February 4, 2011


In the past I have been making goals for Gatsby and I in my head...and then quickly dismissing them as soon as we stray from my original plan. Obviously, this is not very productive as I tend to give up on my larger goals or at least put them off to be accomplished at some yet-to-be-known date. Since I have decided to actively track our progress and training with this blog, I figured this would also be a good place to keep track off my goals for us. So, here goes...

2011 Goals
  1. Successfully compete at Training level.
  2. Get our dressage score in the 30-35 range.
  3. Compete in at least one dressage show at Training 3 (possibly First level if all goes well).
  4. Compete in at least one jumper show at 3'7 (possibly 3'9 if all goes well)
  5. Qualify for and successfully complete the T3D at Galway in November.
  6. Feel confident and prepared for a move up to Prelim next season. (Possibly do one Prelim this season if everything goes spectacularly).
I know these goals are very competition oriented but I plan on making our monthly goals much less so and on a much smaller scale.

February Goals
  1. Continue to work on keeping Gatsby relaxed and fluid to his fences. I would love to have him jumping a small course in this new mindset by month end.
  2. Continue to work on keeping him relaxed and FOCUSED in our dressage work.
  3. Start playing with deeper leg yields and more significant extensions.
  4. KEEP HIM STRAIGHT. I have A LOT of work to do with using my outside aides more effectively and consistently.
  5. Lunge at least once a week with side reins.
  6. Venture out of the arenas and explore the trails/galloping track at our new home.
  7. Map out a conditioning plan for this season.
  8. School cross-country fences at home at least once? (This is a maybe because I am not sure how mine/Alexis' schedules will match up on the weekends for the rest of the month.)
Clearly we will have our work cut out for us this month! I am super excited about it though and I think he will do just great:) We had an amazing dressage ride yesterday and right from the start he was reaching into the contact and only rarely brought his head up. I was so happy I didn't even want to get off! I ended the right cantering around the arena with Gatsby stretching into a very loose rein...AMAZING!!

This weekend I am going home to celebrate the superbowl and go linedancing with my BFF and then on Monday I am going to a Warriors' game. Gatsby will be getting a few days off since my barn is going schooling at Twin this weekend so Alexis won't be able to ride him. I have no doubt that he will be ready to roll come Tuesday though!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stopping at fences is a good thing?

If you read the title to this post you're probably just about as confused as I was during my jumping lesson last night. Fortunately, Alexis is very good at explaining and I ended up understanding his point.
We started our lesson last night working on keeping Gatsby straight; he tends to pop his outside shoulder out a bit. We worked at the trot and canter on a circle with me focusing on my outside aids as well as keeping him forward, relaxed, and stretchy. Gatsby is a very smart horse and he loves to please so he caught on very quickly and we moved on to trotting some low fences. We wanted to keep him in that same relaxed mind frame that we got him in last week, once again my horse is very smart and he knew right away what I was asking from him. After popping over a cross-rail a few times we moved on to a small vertical on a diagonal. I'm sitting there thinking how great my horse is for staying so relaxed and responsive when all of a sudden SUPRISE! Gatsby stops. My horse rarely stops so I am a little surprised but I rein back and trot him over it...a little messy but he goes over fine.
After a few more rounds of that we moved on to the tough part. Alexis had me ride a line from a vertical to an oxer, both approx. 3 feet. Gatsby jumped the verticle smoothly, I half-halted, sat back and stayed quite to the oxer (we're working on me not doing anything on the approach and him staying relaxed and figuring it out on his own). BAM! He stops again! I have no idea what is going on at this point and I am racking my brain trying to figure out why my horse is all of a sudden refusing simple, low fences. That's when Alexis says "That's exactly what I wanted to happen." What?!?!?! After a little explanation I understood his point; Gats is used to me riding him to fences with a strong leg and a short rein. He usually rushes to fences and has a very short and elevated stride and it is necessary for me to pick up a strong contact and really guide him over the jump. When we took away all of this "discussion" in the approach and had him come to the fence at a nice relaxed, reaching canter with loose reins, he didn't know what to do. After a few more stops and some very ugly fences Gatsby figured it all out and hopped over the oxer without a second thought.
This whole exercise really got me thinking about how I have been riding him in the past and why we started having problems on course all of a sudden. That's when what Alexis said about him not knowing what to do without me really made sense. I've been letting him do things his own way and accommodating his bad habits by overriding instead of just training him to things the right way. I think that this new style will actually help us develop faster once we're both more used to it. I would have been terrified to ride him around a Prelim course the way we were going before but if I can get him to stay calm and figuring things out for himself, I think I will be much more confident.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


So last week Gatsby and I had our first two lessons with our new trainer, Alexis Helffrich. Alexis was highly recommended to me by everyone at our new barn including an old friend and instructor of mine so I was very excited to get his input on my somewhat knuckle-headed steed. Our first lesson was a jumping lesson on Thursday. Since neither Gatsby or I had jumped in over a month *gulp* and Alexis had never seen us go before, we kept the jumps pretty small. We worked on keeping Gatsby relaxed and forward and Gatsby was just wonderful.
To start the lesson Alexis had me trot Gatsby back and forth over a small cross-rail. After noting Gatsby's tendency to rush to the fence and then back off at the last second, Alexis set up a short course for us set on a serpentine. Having those tight turns to help keep Gatsby relaxed and balanced is REALLY helpful for me. Alexis also pointed out that while I have a very strong and stable lower leg, I rarely apply pressure from my thigh so I worked on that as well. We did the course a few times and I worked on keeping pressure on from my whole leg, keeping my hands quite, staying back and letting him find his spot. This worked wonders! By the end of the lesson Gatsby was cantering around the jumps super relaxed and more forward than ever! I immediately texted my friend Nicku to thank her for recommending such a wonderful trainer

We had our second lesson with Alexis on Sunday and this time we worked on dressage. Alexis hopped on Gatsby at the beginning so that he could get a feel for him. He concluded that Gatsby seems to have the same issues in dressage that he does jumping, he gets too tense and agitated and rushes through everything. When I got on we worked on giving Gatsby very precise and correct cues so he knows exactly what I want from him. Being able to rely on me tends to keep him much more relaxed. On that same note, Alexis also had me working on being much stronger in my corrections, as Gatsby tends to be quite rude at times. Especially at the canter, he will start bobbing his head all over the place and refusing to hold a contact. To remedy this, Alexis had me hold my outside hand very strong and steady at his withers so that when he bobbed his head he would catch himself. At the same time, I was giving him an open, leading rein with my inside hand and pushing him forward from my legs. Once again, this worked magically. Gatsby continued to try the head bobbing trick to see what he could get away with but by the end of the lesson he had pretty much given up. I am sure this is something we will continue to work with.

Unfortunately, since then I haven't been able to make it out to the barn:( I had to work late last night because of month end and I will be staying late again tonight to make up for arriving late after a dentist's appointment. We do have another lesson scheduled for tomorrow though! I am uber excited and have started planning out a shoe schedule for us this season:)