Thursday, March 22, 2012

Just an observation...

Stella is just about 16 hh (maybe 16.1). A whole hand taller than Gia. But she doesn't really feel that much bigger when I ride her. It got me thinking... maybe it's something about the way I'm built, but I've ridden all sizes of horses and seem to fit them all about the same way. (For the record, I'm not terribly tall, 5'3". I don't know what I weigh anymore but more than I want to... plus I'm busty for my size...)

Anyway, examples:

Me on 14hh (Moira)

Me on 15hh (Gia)

Me on 16hh (Stella)

And me on 17hh (Sam)

Now, I realize that I tend to gravitate toward a certain type of horse - more of the Arab and TB type. That may be why the height doesn't feel different, if the body type is the same no matter what the height.

Anyway, like I said, just a random observation :)

Stella - the story so far

I knew Stella very briefly before she became mine. The first time I laid eyes on her I was blown away... the trainer brought her into the barn and I was immediately googly eyed. THIS was a fancy mare. I begged to stay and watch her go. It became very clear that she lived up to her stereotype as a "chestnut Thoroughbred mare" - hot and high strung. But a lovely mover when she relaxed, and not spooky to speak of... just a worrier. It was at this point that I was informed that she was for sale...

Fast forward about a month, and here we are. Stella has been with me for almost 2 weeks now, and I just adore her personality. She is sweet, friendly, affectionate and personable, but she is definitely hot and anxious under saddle. She longes meek as milk but as soon as you get on her, the energy level goes waaaay up and her busy brain takes over.

I think some basic dressage work will be very good for her... I feel like she was asked to do too much too quickly, and now she is always expecting to be hit with that same pressure again. I am focusing on lots and lots of boring flatwork, trying to get her to relax (she has a tendency to move a bit like a sewing machine when she gets tense - lots of up and down movement, not much forward). She is 100 times better at the canter than at the trot or walk. But no matter how "up" she gets, she doesn't make me nervous, because (unlike her predecessor Gia) she doesn't really spook at all.

Even in this quick video taken just after I got on, you can see that she really wants to curl up behind the bit. It's going to take a LONG time to get past that. For now, I don't really care how she goes as long as it isn't behind the vertical... so we spend a fair bit of time trotting around inverted, and I don't care because at least that way I have contact with her face.

You can see how inconsistent she is in this trot video (and also how agitated she gets - notice the snorting and bit chomping). I just try to stay as quiet as possible. Seeing this video made me cringe because HOLY COW I am posting all over the freaking place. Yikes. I really need to work on posting more quietly.

Anyway I wanted to show these videos as hopefully the beginning of our journey together. I'm in no hurry to accomplish anything special, so it might be a long journey, lol... but that's okay.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Welcome to Jumperland

Calgary is famous for the Stampede, a huge rodeo held every year. But if you know me, you know that I couldn't care less about rodeo... or cowboys... or country music (shudder). Instead, I am thrilled to now live so close to Spruce Meadows, a world-renowned show jumping facility that I have seen a million times on TV but never once dreamed I'd be able to actually visit.

I was able to actually go to the Masters, a huge international show at Spruce, last fall. Going there was overwhelmingly amazing. I didn't expect to be able to get so close to these riders who have always been my idols. Even the arena seating... you can actually sit right on the wall to the arena just like any other horse show. I wasn't expecting that.

At any rate, having Spruce as such an integral part of Calgary's identity means that the vast majority of english riders out here are jumpers. And I do mean the VAST majority. I personally am not a jumper rider, I've been almost exclusively a dressage rider for many years now. Dressage is a passion of mine. I evented in my younger years and it was fun, and Gia and I were heading toward the hunters, but it has never been my "thing". In the last several years I haven't jumped any higher than 2'6", and other than eventing (which I did through Training level which I believe is 3'3"), I have never competed in a jumper class. I've shown hunters, but never jumpers unless it was the show jumping phase of an event. And I haven't evented since 2001 or so.

So, needless to say, I am a big weenie when it comes to jumping :D

I have met up with a great group of ladies out here who all compete in the jumpers at various levels from 2' all the way up to actually competing at Spruce. Over the last few weeks I've ridden a variety of horses which has increased my confidence level greatly. They put on a weekly jumping lesson on Thursday evenings which has been a blast, and has really pushed me beyond my comfort zone, with various levels of success.

Robin and Sam at a recent jumper show

Me and Wall-E, my normal jumper night buddy

When in the midst of a group of riders, it's much easier to be brave :) While I've had my bad days (my last jumper night consisted of convincing three - count 'em, THREE - different horses that refusing was the best option), in general I've impressed myself by at least PRETENDING to not be nervous over jumps that I would never attempt on my own. Not that they were major, but when you haven't jumped in years, a 2'6" brush box is a pretty scary thing.

So I guess I am officially becoming a member of Jumperland, after many years in Dressageville. The other major surprise?

This is Stella. AKA Red Stilettos. And she's my birthday present.

How did this happen?? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure :) I had no intention of getting back into horse ownership so soon after moving. I am not nearly settled here yet! But here we are, and how can I complain? She is just so lovely. She's a 16-ish hh TB mare, 8 years old (if I recall). She was bought at auction, dumped by someone who really did a number on her. She's quite an anxious mare, expecting to be punished when she's ridden. Luckily my experience with Gia (and many other hot horses before her) makes me the perfect type of rider for horses like this. (Which is good because that always seems to be the type of horse I end up with, lol...)

I can't wait to see what we accomplish! Right now my goal with her is just getting her to realize that I'm not going to ask her anything she can't handle. I see lots and lots of boring trotting in our future, until she realizes she has nothing to worry about. And then... we'll see!

I will, of course, follow her progress here on the blog. A chestnut TB mare? Should be an interesting ride :)