Friday, June 15, 2012

Finn over fences

For those of you that read my blog because I read books, I apologize to you. But aside from my annual reread (listen) of the Harry Potter audiobooks, I haven't been reading much in the last month. That's the price you pay when you have a long-term visitor in your house that enjoys talking. Like, a lot. So I'll get back to posting about books I'm reading... once I start reading them again!

So I had a few good rides on Finn this week. On Tuesday we managed to not knock down a single jump during our ride, which is a first! Yesterday we weren't so lucky, but we did learn a few things: One, Finn does not like bulky front boots. I'll be sticking with polo wraps for a while I guess. Second, Finn can jump 2'3''! We've been jumping 2', so yesterday I tried raising one of the fences slightly, and he handled it like a pro! I was so proud. We still have a lot of work to do, but I look forward to this road.

In other Finn news, I got my first nicker yesterday! That's the "Hello! I'm happy to see you!" sound. It's pretty common to hear that noise when you're approaching with food, so when you have no food and you still get it, it can be pretty heartwarming. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Finn takes a step forward

This past Saturday, Finn and I didn't have the best ride. It started out okay, but by the time we ended I could feel that his brain was whirring a little too fast. He was losing focus, getting worked up, and it generally made for an unpleasant experience for us both. However, something good came out of the situation: It reminded me that he is new to this world where he's not supposed to just run as fast as he can. He's doing new things everyday, and sometimes he just gets overwhelmed and overstimulated. It made me realize that at this stage I need to focus more on quality versus quantity: Two or three good, solid jumps after a good warmup will be so much more beneficial to us both than an hour of saddle time.

So on Sunday, I went out and we tried again. This time I wanted to get in a good, solid work without overstimulating him. We warmed up, did some circles, trotted and cantered over some poles, and then decided to tackle a single 2' fence. The first time was okay, but not great. The second time was spot-on. We both nailed it (where's a camera for these ones?). Then we took a breather before attempting it again.

All in all, I think we took that jump about six or seven times. They weren't all pretty. But we did most of them well. When I felt him getting worked up or antsy, we walked and got back to a point of relaxation before trying again. I didn't focus on the little things, but instead looked at the big picture. And by the time we were done, I felt like we had made a good step forward. I was proud of Finn, and I was equally proud of myself.

On the not-so-bright side, I also figured out my saddle is just way too narrow for Finn. I knew it wasn't a perfect fit, but lately I've been suspecting that it was more ill-fitting than I thought. Turns out I was right. But at least now I know, and I can take steps to find a saddle that does fit. In the meantime I will make do, and while only a new saddle will totally remedy the problem, at least now I can take steps to somewhat alleviate it until that time comes.

I won't be riding today--Finn deserves a day off, and it's hot and muggy anyway. Tomorrow we will probably give it another shot. I look forward to seeing what this horse can do!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Finnigan... Step One

So a little over a month ago, I did this super crazy thing. I bought a horse. And not just any horse. I bought a 5-year-old off-track Thoroughbred. I've always loved OTTBs and championed the efforts some put forth in finding homes for them after their racing careers are over. So it made perfect sense that I would end up with one of my own!

So here are the details:

Registered name: Fire Slanger
Nickname: Finnigan (Finn for short)
Namesake: Seamus Finnigan

Used to be this:

Now is this:

So here's the deal. Finn and I are still getting to know each other, and we're slowly learning to understand each other. There have been roadblocks, and no doubt there will continue to be roadblocks. But my goal is to be the best rider I can be, and for him to be the best horse he can be. In order to do that though, I have a few mini goals. My plan is to list them here on my blog and slowly work on conquering them all. I plan to document some of my progress here as well.

Mini goals:
1. Work on my form - I need to keep my legs steady, work on keeping my legs from slipping back over fences, close my angle over fences, and focus on getting a good release. I can achieve this through awareness and lessons.
2. Strengthen my core, legs, arms... okay, everything - I can work on this through exercise and riding. I'll be slinging some hand weights around at least twice a week, along with cardio twice a week. And obviously, I ride whenever I can! :)
3. Create a deeper connection with my horse - This will simply take time, both in the saddle and on the ground. But I look forward to continuing to get to know him.
4. Get Finn ready for the Sport of Kings Challenge in Fall, 2012 - I want to compete in this show. To succeed, we're going to continue working together, finding where we're struggling and where we're excelling.
5. Get Finn bending properly - I want my horse to become more balanced. To do this, we'll do a lot of circles, serpentines, ground work, and good old fashioned riding time.
6. Continue teaching Finn to jump - He can jump 2' right now, but after a few fences his attention span and focus go out the window. I need to keep this in mind when we are jumping and slow things down. I don't want him to be burned out and frustrated--this needs to be an enjoyable experience for us both. Slowly as he becomes used to this new job, I expect his mind to settle down to business more.

I think the above goals are all very feasible, and accomplishing them will really help us as a team. I look forward to chronicling how things are going for us!