Monday, July 23, 2012

Grace Goes to Boot Camp

“I need this mare for a week” were Sarah’s words at the end of our marathon lesson before the July 14th horse show. I had to agree, I was more than willing to hand the reins over for a little while. After sitting on Sarah’s horse for just a few minutes I again realized just how difficult to ride my mare can be. Grace was dropping her back and running from leg pressure. When I held the bit steady she would swing her hip as the leg pressure brought her to the bit. The last thing she wanted to do was lift her back at the lope and step up underneath herself. Sarah was leaving that weekend to drive a horse to California, so yesterday was the day that I dropped my kid off at summer boot camp. 

We’ve had two shows since that lesson, including a schooling show this past Saturday. Grace excelled in all of the pattern classes, but the rail classes did nothing but frustrate me. Sarah kept telling me to hold my hand steady and add leg. I could feel that if I added leg Grace was only going to run. I have developed the bad habit of bumping the bit with my hand because it works, but Sarah pointed out that I am only riding the face and making my horse’s back sore. I’m looking forward to getting us past this point. While rail classes are not our thing, I do believe that it will only make our pattern classes better if Grace and I can hold it together going around and around the pen. Grace is only 20 minutes away this week and I plan to go visit after work.

 I spent yesterday afternoon doing all the things in Grace’s pasture that I can’t do when she is there; taking a portion of fence down so I could weed whack and stripping the outside of her shelter down to the hard pan so it can dry out. I might even put a new load of gravel in before she comes home. Seriously – am I on only one that gets excited about moving gravel??

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

79 Days Til Vegas

I have shared here more than once the idea that I had to let go of my agenda before I could really accomplish something with Grace. When I had put aside the horse show, rodeo and barrel racing timelines I was able to focus on the missing pieces of the foundation, which once were filled would then allow me to accomplish the goals on the agenda. I am about to contradict everything I said before in regards to letting go of my agenda. I am a woman which means I am prone to changing my mind – you have been warned!

The upcoming trip to AQHA Novice Championships is a BIG freaking agenda! We were fresh off our first AQHA show, a novice one at that when I made the decision to go to Vegas. I am starting to question the decision less every day but I admit on paper it doesn’t necessarily pan out. That is when I remember that I’ve never let that stop me before. Instead I have always come up with creative ways to feed my horse passion. Any time I doubt myself my mother reminds me that I started to fund my horse show habit at the age of 12 and how I took over the care of the horses from my dad, changing the type of hay we fed and firing the horse shoer. Apparently horses were the one area of my life where I didn’t take no for an answer. I will be channeling that inner 12 year old starry eyed girl as I figure out how to fund the trip to Novice Championships. 

It has only been 37 days since the decision was made to make the trip to Vegas. I am in awe of how much progress Grace and I have made in that time. If it wasn’t for the October deadline I don’t believe that I would have been as willing to dig deep and find that I could be the leader under saddle. Grace is still my best friend, but I have a new set of expectations of her under saddle. With the help of Sarah I have seen that Grace is able to not only meet these expectations but also exceed them. Lately the more I ask of Grace the more she gives me. She has not only respected my leadership role, she seems to appreciate it. Now that she no longer has to be in charge she is able to focus on the job at hand. Grace showed me this on Saturday on our Western Riding pattern at a show. 

We had a less than smooth lesson with Sarah on Thursday and I wondered if I should even bother with the show on Saturday. Things were going well until we went into the lope and I asked for control of Grace’s hip. Grace dropped her back and ran; I was unable to get my body in a position to change my horse’s pace. The more I tried to fix it the worse it got. Sarah had me get on her horse Wesley so I could feel what it was I needed Grace to do. It took me several minutes to get my body correct so that Wesley would listen to my cues, he knows better than to respond to me just throwing my body at him. The lesson ended on a good note, but still wasn’t where I wanted to be. 

I took my time on my warm up at the show on Saturday. I used all of the exercises that we had done in our lesson on Thursday; turns on the forehand, haunches in and half passes. By the time I asked for the lope Grace was quiet, relaxed and working over her back. She didn’t rush when I asked her to give her hip at the lope. I rode one handed right before pattern repeating all of the lateral work and only asked for a few flying changes. When I entered the ring for the Western Riding class I had control over Grace’s foot falls, there was no tension in the mare. After jogging over the pole she stepped right into the lope when asked. On the turn to the cross change I knew I had the horse I needed on pattern.  Grace’s pace never changed during the entire pattern and she only changed leads when asked. At one point I was actually worried that I would screw it up because I had no idea how to ride this nice quiet horse that was waiting on me to tell her what to do. I took a deep breath and held it together for the best line changes to date including a relaxed lope over the last pole, a nice clean halt followed by a back – up. I was thrilled to pieces as we walked out of the arena. THAT was the pattern I had been envisioning in my mind for the last year. Grace didn’t seem to think it was a big deal; she was just doing her job. I would imagine that loping around the arena quietly with some flying changes was much easier for her than all the lateral work I had asked for in the warm up. 4 days later the feeling of that pattern is still fresh in my body and mind. That residual feeling is feeding my belief that we might actually belong in Vegas in October.