Sunday, July 15, 2018

Local Exploration

I've recently been inspired to check out more of our local trails. We are fortunate that the college in our town has a huge research forest that is open for public recreation. The downside to the forest being close to town and open to the public is that it is highly trafficked and the parking can be a challenge (especially when you have a trailer). On Friday I took a test run in my car, to the location that I wanted to try, to make sure trailer parking would be doable. As always, there wasn't a ton of parking but it looked okay and I figured if I got there early I'd be especially fine.

There were a surprisingly large number of cars already at the trail head when I arrived (before 8am on a Saturday). I was able to get turned around and parked easily but I was a little worried about being blocked in when I returned. Emi and I set out and armed with my cell phone and a map. The first 1/2 mile or so was fairly flat and then we entered into 2+ miles of climbing...fairly significant climbing. Every time we rounded a corner I thought it would be leveling off. Emi had started off pretty happy to go but part way through our climb her little ears went out to the side and I'm pretty sure she was thinking "this is not fun." I actually took pity on her and walked about a 1/2 mile near the top.

The view at the top of the climb was awesome!

We continued on our way and had finally found some flat trail. We picked up a trot and started making up some time. After a couple of minutes trotting I asked her for the canter. It was the first time we've cantered on a trail where she has felt totally confident and I was able to get up into two point and just roll along. Talk about fun. Her ears were up and we were just out enjoying the day together. That's the best feeling. 

What goes up must come down. Part of the way down the mountain we pealed off from the logging road for an actual trail. Emi was thrilled because there was lots of grass to snag along the way. 
There were a few steep spots and the trail was fairly smooth so there wasn't a lot to get traction on. She took small careful steps down those areas until it leveled off a little bit. I hadn't really thought of it before but as she was doing that I was struck by the fact that Emi is very sure footed. She rarely (if ever) trips, stumbles or slips. It's great and definitely makes you feel comfortable on her when out on the trails.

The best trail pony around!
(I dropped my map so had to get off to pick it up.
There are definite benefits to having a short horse.) 
When we got back to the trail I was pleased to see that no one had parked behind me so I had room to get out. While I was untacking Emi the car in front of us pulled out; no trailer parking trouble this time around. Yay! We will definitely go back to the location as we never made it to the peak that I actually wanted to see, but next time we will take a slightly different route up the mountain.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Show Recap: Mid Summer Night's Dream

Emi and I attended our third show of the season on Saturday. We had great ride times of 11:20 and 11:44 and the show facility it slightly over an hour a way. It was a fairly leisurely morning getting her braided and heading to the show. I'm starting to find my groove with getting her warmed up at the show, meaning that I know I don't need a lot of warm up. She felt good from the start so we kept it short.

The tests both went smoothly and were the two cleanest tests we've put together. Emi did whinny through out both of them but she remained was relatively attentive so it could have been worse. I was especially happy that we had no big issues in the canter work and the canter transitions (both up and down) were significantly better than at the last show.

We totally botched the free walk in Training 2, which is usually a high score for her. We did a medium walk across one short diagonal and then turned to do a free walk across the other short diagonal. We were a third of the way across the diagonal when she started site seeing and calling. At times like that, all I can do is smile.

They ended up adding a ride to the end of this class, with the addition riding at the end of the show. I wasn't interested in sticking around until the end of the show so I left with out the final placing. Turns out we got a 65% and first place! I should have my test score sheet sometime this week so I'll recap a few details of that once I get it.

Training Level Test 3 - 65.682% - 2nd place

This was our first attempt at test 3 and I was happy with how it rode. There were some bobbles here and there but we nailed our canter to trot transition at X and scored a 7. We also nailed our first trot loop to score a 7. The second canter transition felt like a hot mess but looks slightly better on the video. Emi was feeling like she might break from the canter as we headed towards C so I was urging her on (thinking don't you dare break) when we careened around the corner and I hauled her to the trot....okay, it wasn't actually that bad but it did come up quickly and I didn't ride it well. So we definitely need to spend some time cantering through that corner while preparing for the down transition.

Low score - 6 (x2) (trot loop tracking right & stretchy trot)
High score - 7.5 (x1) (final centerline, halt/salute)

Collective Marks:

Gaits: 7
Impulsion: 6
Submission: 6
Rider's Position and Seat: 7
Rider's Correct and Effective Use of the Aids: 6.5


Capable pair, clear ____ (not sure what it says). Try to ride your horse more in front of your leg. Looks a bit hesitant to canter transition back to trot (this is also hard to read so that's what I'm taking from it). 

My goals going in to this show were to have reasonable canter work and to score in the mid 60's. We achieved both of those things and enjoyed the day together. Next up is our first recognized dressage show...I've got slightly over a month to do a little more polishing. Ready or not, here we come!

All photos are courtesy of Emi's breeder, Cindy. 

I can't help but smile when I ride this mare

A Shared Trail Ride

On Thursday, I met up with Emi's breeder for a trail ride. She didn't end up riding the horse she brought so part way through we switched places and I walked while she rode Emi. It was so fun to let her have a chance to ride and I'm not sure why it took me two years to make that happen. Emi was excellent for both Cindy and I. She readily got in the water, crossed bridges confidently, and led almost the whole time Cindy was riding her. I love that she has become a reliable trail partner and that I could comfortably stick someone else on her out on the trail and know that she would be good.

 Breeder and baby - a full circle moment

Friday, July 6, 2018

Clinic Recap - Day 2

Emi and I headed back to Eugene on Sunday morning for our second lesson with JW. After a hard ride on Saturday I expected her to come out tired...and she did. Despite being worn out we still had some excellent work. It wasn't as impressive as the previous day but at the same time I was able to latch on to many of the same things, just with a little less brilliance than the previous day. We did one counter canter loop, as performed in first level, and it rode very well. We also practiced a little bit of shoulder-in and the trot lengthenings.

Emi and I have reached (or exceeded) the level I was at with Benny (who I left off with in early 2016) and it feels so amazing to be advancing in my riding. I don't talk about it often but my main goal is to get my bronze medal with Emi. After that, we'll see how far we can get. As mentioned in my previous post, JW made many comments regarding Emi doing FEI down the road. Pinch me...I must be dreaming. Obviously we all know that horses rarely go as planned and I know it's still going to take a lot of hard work, time and money to reach that point. Let's also not forget the little bit of luck it also requires. For now we'll keep putting in the work and will hope that things go somewhat according to plan.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Training Ride #2

Emi had her second ever training ride on Saturday. Some of you may remember her first trainer ride (video here) which was in October. Since I was able have two clinic rides this weekend and I decide to take advantage of it by asking Auntie J to hop on her the first day.

On one hand I hate to give up my lesson time and it also seems a bit silly to ask her to do a training ride when I'm completely capable of riding my own horse and don't have any huge issue that requires a ride. On the other hand, it's really nice to get more input on how Emi's going (from a different perspective) and also to have Jessica train her up a little bit for me. I was a tiny bit nervous heading in to her ride, hoping that she wouldn't think I've screwed her up in some way. It's definitely a little vulnerable to hand over the reins on a horse that you've mostly made yourself. On the flip side, it's also super cool to see her perform beautifully for another rider. It's also incredible what Jessica can get done in 20 minutes.'s way cool!

JW asked if I had any projects for her and I told her that I'm having a little trouble with the renver when tracking left and we are also having difficulty with our canter to trot transitions. Overall comments included: "she's much better in the contact since the last time I rode her" (thank you to our magical myler bit) - "girlfriend, the canter has gotten way better" - "You have a new gear almost in, can you feel that?" Big take aways for me: the issue I've been feeling in the renver when tracking left is a function of her leaning on my right rein, she needs to be taking me to canter, I need to lift her into the trot from the canter, and I need to work on not tightening any part of my body when I use the stick as JW thinks I'm blocking her in some way.

After that quick tune up I hopped on and it.was.magical. Seriously, that woman has the touch (aka knowledge and skill). She wanted me to bounce Emi in the trot and once I got it I was able to grab ahold of that feeling several more times. We used that same concept transitioning from the canter to the trot, bouncing her into the trot and really using my legs to do it. Jessica said, "when this horse is an FEI horse you'll be glad I rode you about that" and "it goes from kind of a nice trot to I feel where the FEI is going to be, it's the same feeling Cardi gave." The canter was the best we've ever gotten, and it was so cool to be riding my baby around while feeling a really cool educated horse underneath me.  As with her first trainer ride, her second ride left me inspired to keep working on me. I have lots of areas that I need to improve in my own riding but we are on the right track and the way Emi stepped up on Saturday was very very cool. I'm so excited for the future with this horse.
First session practicing a little trot lengthening

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Race Report: Mary's Peak 25K

Last fall a friend invited me to run a trail race with her. Well...not actually with her as she was running the 50k and I didn't want to do more than 25k (~15.5 miles). Leading up to the race I was struggling with my knees being a little bit sore and didn't get in quite as much mileage as I had hoped. A few weeks before the race another friend asked if I planned to do any trail running before the race. At that point, between sore knees and not a lot of time, I told her that I didn't think a few trail runs were going to make that much difference.

The race took place last Saturday. About a week prior we received our first email from the race coordinator. He stressed that everyone should have "trail shoes" and also that "some people attempt this as their first ever trail run..."He also told us the 25k was closer to 17 miles. Yikes! I was feeling a little apprehensive as A) I didn't have trail shoes (nor was I planning to purchase some and run 15 miles in them a week later) B) it was my first ever trail run.

The day started early as I got to the race in time to see the 50k crowd off. The weather was perfect and it had been fairly dry leading up to the race. They bussed us out to the start and then we ran back to the school where they were staging from.  The first couple miles we were on a narrow trail with everyone crushed together. One person fell and twisted their ankle in that first stretch and I had the thought that if I made it through uninjured it might be a miracle.  My supervisor has done several Iron Man competitions and he also ran the 25k. I hung with him for 4 miles and then we started a long uphill climb. I ended up walking and he kept running...I never saw him again. My hope had been to finish the race in 2.5-3 hours. Although I felt like was running at a decent pace my watch told me I was much slower than normal. The terrain from the trails itself, lots of turning and a LOT of ups and downs created a tough race course.
Seeing my friend off before the start of the 50k
We had been warned that from miles 6-10 we would climb 2000 feet in elevation. As we entered that stretch I was trudging along. Parts of the trail were super steep so I'd walk those spots and then start jogging again when it flattened out. Part of what made the trail so challenging was that not only was there a fair amount of steep up hill but there was also a lot of steep down hill. It was hard to find a break! At this point there was another lady who I played leap frog with a couple of times before we settled in together. As it turned out, we ran the rest of the race together and only saw a few other people over the next 10 miles. At one point she asked if I was ready for a walk break. When I agreed she said "You are God's gift to me today." Right back at you! She made the rest of the race pass more quickly and we were pretty perfectly matched in terms of speed.

We hit the last aid station at about 10 miles and we got onto a couple of stretches of logging roads, which were way easier than the narrow, bumpy trails. I was still feeling surprisingly good at this point and knew that the finish wasn't too far off. We had 1.7 miles to go when we were dumped out onto the final road. I was beginning to feel pretty tired and my feet were hurting but we kept on. It was uphill to the finish and my running buddy took off. I was out of gas so I jogged my way in behind her. I finished with a time of 3:06. Although that was outside of my goal I was totally happy with that time. It was a tough course and I felt like I ran well. Also, it ended up being "only" 16 miles (rather than 17) so I was happy with that too!

I felt decent after the race, although I was already stiffening up after the drive home and my feet hurt. I ended up with a few blisters on my feet and I'm losing a couple of toenails. I was super sore the first few days but I'm feeling back to normal now.  The trail experience was fun but I think I'll stick to my road running. I'm glad I did it and I'm proud that I made it to the finish. Who knew I could run 16 miles! My boss actually asked me what my running goals are because if I can run that race I can run a marathon. Also, I only came in 5 minutes behind him! Woohoo!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Happy Birthday Emi

Today is Emi's 5th birthday. For some reason five seems like a big birthday to me, a sign that she's really a grown up now. How quickly that past 5 years have gone. 

Four was a year of great growth for her and for our partnership. The loss of Roz changed some dynamics and we slogged through some difficulties in the winter and early spring in regards to her sassy attitude and unwillingness to work. We are finishing four in a wonderful place. She's making great progress and our relationship is stronger than ever.

She moved home.
Showing together 
More beach time!

So many ribbons won
One of my favorite photos of us
Our first solo trail ride...
Followed by many more
Came out this season at training level. 
Last show as a 4 year old

First championship - first high point

My Unicorn