Adventures Of Diesel

What Have I Learned? | Blog Hop

Over the past few days, I have read quite a few blog posts answering the question “What have I learned?”, which was first started by Sara. Reading all of these wonderful and inspiring posts from fellow bloggers really got me thinking about what I have learned in the past few months that have had the biggest impact on my riding.

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The theme of the past few months for me riding wise has been “it’s all in the details”. Diesel’s inexperience has really made me take a step back and work on fine-tuning my riding all over again. It has also taught me some things that I guess I never really thought much into before now:

  • Creating and maintaining a good quality canter is more important than trying to “find” a distance.
  • Continuing to work Diesel through bad behavior is more effective than stopping the exercise to regroup.
  • Your outside aids are just as important as your inside aids.
  • Working your horse on the bit does not mean you have to have strong rein contact. You can be soft and still maintain contact.
  • Softening your hand while working your horse in contact is a more effective reward for good behavior than just dropping the contact altogether.
  • Ride every step. You have to be the driver – not the passenger.

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While all of these things are great, I have saved the most important thing I have learned, and am still learning, for last. It is best summarized in this quote:

“Riding, like life, doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” – unknown

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I have been a perfectionist for my entire life. One of the hardest but most important things that I have learned and am still learning every day is that it is okay not to be perfect all the time. Messing up and making mistakes is part of the learning process, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that. The most important thing is enjoying the ride.

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Adventures Of Diesel, College Life

Lesson and Life Update

Boy, it’s been a while since I was last able to sit down and get my thoughts together on here! Life has been pretty hectic in the last month between moving, starting the new semester, and horses. However, now that the first two weeks of the new semester are over, I feel like I can actually take a quick breather and get back to doing what I love: blogging!

Last Monday marked the beginning of my third year here at good ‘ole UGA and my second year as an Animal Science major. This semester’s classes feature organic chemistry, physics, animal reproduction, and equine undergraduate research. Whew! It’s going to be a tough semester, but hopefully, I will make it through in one piece. Either way, I am ready to step up to the plate and give it my best shot!

Even though I am currently living and going to school in Athens, I have decided to keep both of the ponies at my trainer’s farm. Both of them are at the best place they could possibly be, so it definitely wasn’t a hard decision to make even though they are an hour away from me. I just have to make a little extra time and effort if I want to continue to ride and lesson as much as I have been. Let’s just say that in order to get a lesson in during the week, sunrise lessons have become a thing. 😊

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While getting up early is not my forte, I am actually loving being in the saddle right when the sun comes up. I actually look forward to my sunrise lesson each week, which if you know me, is probably a little surprising! 😂

Our lessons recently have been going extremely well with both he and I learning a lot each time out. I feel as though I am finally starting to figure him out rather than just going along with the motions, which has been a huge confidence booster for me. My trainer has also been pushing me a little out of my comfort zone each lesson by slowly inching up the jumps. Yes, that’s right, I said jumps! We are actually doing some courses now!

 

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Our first 2′ jump together at our lesson last week!

 

The video below is from my lesson two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the video of my lesson from last week wouldn’t load. 🙃 The main goal of our last few lessons has been to work on relaxation and pace on course. I sometimes let my anxiety creep its way into my riding resulting in me leaning and rushing at jumps. Thankfully, that habit is slowly disappearing each ride as I continue to gain confidence in both Dies and myself.

There are definitely a lot of things that I need to work on, but overall, I am really proud of our progress so far! I am also really proud of how far I have come both mentally and physically in the last few months. I am finally starting to feel at home in the saddle and like my old self again, and it is all thanks to my amazing trainer and my wonderful baby horse!

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Adventures Of Diesel, The Life of Diablo

The Best Yet | HJ Fox Show

I know, I know. I’m a little late to the game posting this, but between prepping for the upcoming semester and work, I just haven’t quite had the time to sit down and get to writing. That is going to change, however, as I have a few exciting new posts in the works that will be published within the next few days! For now, let’s just start with a recap of our last show!

Friday

The weekend started off with me making a last minute decision to load Diablo up on the trailer with his little bro and take him to school in the horse park’s oh-so-wonderful Olympic stadium. I mean, if you’re already taking one horse, you might as well take the other too! 😊

It has been quite a while since I have taken Diablo to school off-property since his semi-retirement. However, like the good boy he is, he jumped right off the trailer and was ready to go – no prep required. I jumped right on, rode him down to the stadium, and had an absolutely fabulous ride! We even managed to sneak in a jump over the tiny trainer’s medal log. It definitely wasn’t anything close to beautiful, but for an old man that hasn’t jumped anything in over a year, it wasn’t half bad!

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Of course, after we had our fun and got his baby brother bathed and all tucked in for the night, we loaded Diablo back up on the trailer and took him back home. While I had so much fun getting to school my old guy, it was a little bittersweet for me. I can’t say that I didn’t shed a tear thinking about how we were competing in this same arena together a few years ago. It’s days like that that make me really wish I could go back in time and relive it all over again. Oh, how I miss showing my old guy!

Saturday

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Saturday started out a bit rough in the baby green division for Dies. While he ended up blowing away the competition in his flat class, we experienced some technical difficulties over fences.  He wasn’t badly behaved per se. He just really showed his greenness by pulling my trainer down the lines and trying to convince us that he had never heard of a flying change before. Despite that, he did relatively well handling being ridden in a brand new arena and not having a lunging session that morning.

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He did, however, make up for his not-so-stellar rounds in the baby green division by completely rocking the schooling hunter division later that day! He flatted beautifully pulling a first place in a competitive class and two third places out of around fourteen 2′ and 2’6 horses – earning him a champion ribbon for the division! He was stellar!

Sunday

Sunday was definitely Dies’s day as he came out so relaxed and focused. My trainer put in some absolutely gorgeous rounds on him in the baby greens and for the classic! In fact, her classic round was pretty much the epitome of perfection and ended up receiving a fourth place out of 26 horses! I am so sad that I forgot to video it! Like the day before, he flatted beautifully and received a first place out of twelve horses. While his rounds were beautiful, he only came out with a third over one o/f classes as his lead changes weren’t 100%. There were a few that he had to skip-change, which definitely cost him points in the consistency department. However, I definitely believe they were some of his best rounds to date minus the changes. It did earn him a reserve champion nonetheless!

Later that day, we decided to enter the schooling hunter division again to continue to work on developing his changes on course and finesse some things we can’t do at home. His rounds were even better than the ones he put down that morning! He just kept getting better and better! Amazingly, he ended up winning both of his o/f courses out of around sixteen 2′ and 2’6 horses!

Another spur-of-the-moment decision landed me in the saddle to flat him in his schooling hunter flat. He was being so perfect for my trainer that I decided to take the leap of faith and show him again! I even managed to put my big girl pants on and trust him enough to ride him to and from the arena. That definitely wouldn’t have even been a possibility a few months ago! As you can see from the photos below, I definitely wasn’t quite prepared to show, but at least my sunshirt was white! 😂

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I had an absolute blast as he was a complete saint for me! He was so soft and supple despite how packed the arena was. Even though this was my first “real” show in about two years and our second time in the show ring together, we managed to pull out a third place out of a very large and competitive class!

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I just can’t put into words how happy this guy makes me! He is definitely a dream come true for me, and I can’t wait to see what the future has to hold for us!

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Adventures Of Diesel

Sunday Funday | Lesson Update

Although the summer heat here in Georgia has been verging on almost unbearable, I have been out at the barn almost every day riding and feeding for my trainer while she has been gone on vacation. One of those rides was a big milestone for us as a team – our first real hack outside of the arena!

A few months ago, this would not have been a possibility for us as he and I were nervous wrecks. However, thanks to my awesome trainer, our confidence in each other has grown to the point where I finally felt that I could trust him enough to go outside the arena and hack around in the pasture. Not only did we walk and trot in the pasture, but we did it all while on the buckle! He was such a good boy and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his “field day”! It was definitely all smiles from me!

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Since my trainer came back from her beach trip on Friday, I signed up to have a lesson today to try and keep our weekly lesson streak intact. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride with a friend, which was so much fun! I find myself riding alone a lot of the time due to my schedule, so when I get the chance to ride with someone, it always makes the lesson 100x better!

The main focus of our lesson today was continuing to work on riding off of my outside aids to achieve precise turns and overall straightness. I developed such a bad habit of grabbing onto my inside rein to turn like a pony kid, but let me tell you, that does not work on Dies. His response is to just drift through the turn with his outside shoulder stuck out to Texas. Meaning, we actually never turn. We just keep on drifting.

However, I am glad to say that I am getting much better about using my outside aids thanks to all of the “square” circles, cone exercises, and off-the-rail work that we have been doing lately. Our straightness has improved exponentially, and we are actually able to turn! Crazy how that works, right? 😂

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The “square” circle cone exercise!

We also accomplished something huge today: cantering our first full pole course! Up until now, we have just trotted in and cantered out lines. I haven’t been quite ready to canter in yet, but today I finally put on my big girl pants and went for it!

I have to say, I was pretty proud of how well I rode and how well he behaved. I am starting to get a lot stronger and secure in the saddle, and I can really tell a difference in my riding. I have a long way to go, but I am definitely proud of the progress we have made so far!

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The sweetest baby horse there is! He tries his heart out!

As for the course itself, he took a wonky “baby horse” step to the first “jump” of the inside line and we got a little tight to the last of the outside line, but besides that, our pace was consistent, our turns were square and balanced, and I managed to not get in his way. I’d call that a win for us!

Overall, I was very pleased with our first full course. He just keeps on getting better and better each ride. I can’t wait until we start incorporating some jumps! We will get there!

As for what’s next, Dies has another HJ Fox show this coming weekend! I can’t wait!

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Adventures Of Diesel

Our First Horse Show | Serenity Creek Schooling Show

Buckle your seatbelt guys, this post may get a little sappy.

Diesel and I completed a huge milestone this past weekend – our first horse show together! My trainer and I loaded up some horses early Saturday morning and trailered into a cute little farm in Monroe, GA named Serenity Creek Equestrian Center to attend one of their schooling shows. I have to say – it was one of the best-run schooling shows I have been to in a while. The staff was so nice and welcoming, the arena was well groomed, and the ribbons were super nice for such a small show!

Since it was Diesel’s first time having a non-pro ride at a show, my first show riding in three years, and our first time showing together, we decided to take it easy and set ourselves up for success by entering the adult beginner division and green horse division. I also decided to keep my goals for this show small: don’t fall off and give my horse the best ride I can possibly give him. That’s it.

Our classes actually went extremely well! We had some great moments where everything seemed to fall into place and all of the things we have been working on in lessons seemed to click for me. In those moments, the connection was there, he was relaxed and focused, and I was actually riding both sides of my horse instead of resorting to my inside rein like an idiot. Not only were there some really quality moments, but Dies also behaved like a complete gentleman! He was on his best behavior despite some of the other horses’ shenanigans ringside and some very scary speakers by the judge’s booth. I honestly just can’t put into words how proud of him I am!

Is there room for improvement? Absolutely! First and foremost, I have got to get back in shape and lose all of the extra “fluffiness” I have gained while in college. I am actually embarrassed by how chunky I have gotten. 😞 Not cool, Ashlyn. Secondly, I need to work on maintaining my connection with him throughout the entire ride to keep him focused on me rather than letting his attention wander. And lastly, I need to continue working on achieving quieter, softer transitions by timing my half halts better and supporting him with my leg and seat. However, it is all a work in progress and for our first show together, I was very pleased with how he behaved and how I rode! I felt as though I was an active rider rather than a passenger, which was a huge win for me! I couldn’t have asked for a better first time out!

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Although placings weren’t even in the forefront of my mind for this show, we ended up doing extremely well for our first show together! In the adult beginner division, we ended up placing second in every class out of six earning us a reserve champion ribbon. That alone had me glowing with pride, but when we went into the green horse division and pulled out a first, second, and third, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Two reserve champions at our first show together? No way! I was beyond thrilled!

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All smiles with my perfect pony! (PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center)

Even though it was just a few flat classes at a small show, I came out of the arena feeling as though we had just won the $1M Grand Prix! I was that proud of my sweet boy and all that he has accomplished in the last few months! Actual tears may have been shed, and that is not an exaggeration!

Not only was he fantastic for me, but he was also perfect for my trainer in the schooling hunter division. He was such a good boy and behaved wonderfully despite the stifling summer heat. He and my trainer also ended up champion of the division with a first, second, and fourth with my trainer’s sale pony close behind in reserve. Overall, it was a fantastic show for us! I hope there will be many more shows in our future!

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The best boy! (PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center)
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PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center
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My trainer’s sale pony killing it! (PC: Serenity Creek Equestrian Center)

As I’m sitting here writing this post, I am just overflowing with pride and love for Dies and gratitude for everything that my amazing trainer and parents have done for me and him throughout this journey of ours so far! My trainer has put so much hard work into both of us, and I honestly can’t thank her enough for that. And my parents, gosh, they have sacrificed so much to make owning this horse a possibility for me. I am beyond thankful!

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Adventures Of Diesel, The Life of Diablo

A Visit From The Chiropractor

I’m late to the game writing this post as I’ve been on vacation for the past week. While I’ve been away soaking up the sun in Florida, the boys have been enjoying a life of leisure with a well-deserved week off from work as my trainer has been in Tryon with a few of her other students. However, before I left for my trip, the boys got a visit from our awesome local chiropractor, Dr. Amy Mushrush, because you know, it’s just money! 🙄

I’m not new to the whole chiropractor thing. In fact, Diablo has been adjusted multiple times in the past when he was in full work, and I have even had myself done as well. I know many people are skeptical about chiropractors and the benefits of utilizing chiropractic care in horses, but let me tell you, I am a firm believer that it is a necessary part of maintaining performance horses in addition to joint supplements. Yes, it can be pricey, but I personally feel it is worth the money as I can see and feel a real difference. While I feel that it is necessary, I definitely don’t think it is necessary every month. I think the frequency should be based on the individual horse as some need it more than others.

To give you a little more insight into the process, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about both Diesel and Diablo’s adjustments separately and break them down for you all that may be interested in incorporating chiropractic care into your routine. I will make sure to include what problems we have been encountering, how the chiropractor adjusted them, and the results.

Diablo

Diablo was the first to be adjusted as he is an old pro when it comes to being adjusted. However, I have to admit that I am a bad horse mom and haven’t had him adjusted in a little over a year as he is no longer in hard work. I know, I know, I’m just terrible! 😉

If you’ve never personally met Diablo, you wouldn’t know that he can generally be very tight throughout his back and is usually out of align in his pelvis. This is probably a result of both his older age and his long history with lameness issues. It is obvious to see when you trot him off as he develops an asymmetrical swing in the hind end at the trot accompanied by an asymmetrical stance and a crooked tail set when he is out of align. When under saddle, you can tell he is out of align as he tends to become stiff and reluctant to bend around the leg. I equate it to riding a stiff 2X4.

 

Unfortunately, he can be sort of hard to adjust as his mystery allergic reaction that runs the length of his back makes him sensitive to touch in that area during peak allergy season. Even though he is on medication for it, it can get a little ouchy if he has been rolling frequently. However, the chiropractor did a wonderful job working around it to keep him willing and comfortable throughout the entire adjustment. As you can see from his report that I have attached below, she spent the majority of his adjustment focusing on realigning his pelvis and was successful in achieving a symmetrical hind end swing and stance by the end. The result: a relaxed pony that is no longer stiff and unwilling to bend.

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Diesel

Unlike his brother, this was Diesel’s first time being adjusted. I haven’t really felt the need to have him adjusted before now, but now that his workload has become quite strenuous, I felt that it was time to start getting him adjusted to keep him in top shape.

Within the past month, my trainer and I noticed that his stifles had begun to give out at the trot and he was having difficulty picking up his left lead. After her pre-adjustment examination, the chiropractor determined that he was sore in his SI region and hocks, which was causing him to overcompensate with other regions of his body resulting in the reluctance to pick up the left lead and the minor stifle issue. After a few adjustments and a quick massage, he was good to go again. There will definitely be more adjustments, cold hosing of legs, and liniment baths after hard workouts in his future!

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I have to brag on him a little as he was a complete angel throughout his entire adjustment. Within a couple of seconds after her first adjustment, he was licking and chewing with a soft eye. He definitely enjoyed all the attention, pats, and treats like a true attention hog. In fact, he didn’t want to go back into his stall afterward!

After I left, my trainer rode Dies once before she left and reported that there was no more falling out behind and difficulty picking up the left lead. Thank goodness! Hopefully, the adjustment and his mini vacation will do wonders for him. 😊

A huge thank you to Dr. Amy Mushrush at Mushrush Performance for doing an excellent job with both of my boys! If you are looking for an awesome chiropractor in Georgia, she is absolutely the best!

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Adventures Of Diesel

HJ Fox Show | One Stride At A Time

The last few weeks have been crazy busy. With the semester coming to an end, a tidal wave of assignments and exams have made riding pretty much non-existent in my life for the past few weeks. It has also made finding time to post almost impossible!

Before I get into the details of the show, I have to share a picture and a video from when I got to come home and watch Dies school before the show last week! My awesome trainer has been working really hard on developing his adjustability and putting him over some bigger fences to raise his confidence. It was the first time I have seen him go over anything higher than 2 ft. Of course, my trainer is amazing and made him look like a seasoned pro. Enjoy the cuteness!

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Diesel jumping a “big boy” jump a couple of weeks ago!

 

HJ FOX SHOW | FRIDAY SCHOOLING

If I had to pick a theme for this show in one word, it would be “progress”. This weekend was full of so many triumphs and accomplishments for Diesel both in and out of the show ring.

Like any other horse, Diesel has his own quirks that, while endearing in a way, can be frustrating and discouraging to work through at times. Some of our worst enemies right now are his lack of confidence and tendency to become easily overwhelmed. Yes, they are pretty common quirks in younger horses, but boy, are they a doozy! They most often manifest at the beginning of the ride with him starting off very tense through his body and becoming hyper-alert to everything except his rider. In the saddle, it feels almost like you’re riding a fully stretched rubber band just waiting to snap under pressure.

However, he really surprised me this weekend with how well he coped with his insecurities in a busy show environment. There was a definite improvement from the last show. His transition from walking off the trailer to going into the covered arena to school on Friday was much smoother than it has been in the past. Last show, it took around 20 minutes of intense flat work to ease his mind, stop the unnecessary spooking, and get a more relaxed, supple pony. However, this time it only took him 10 minutes to get to that relaxed state of mind and get to work. I’d say that’s progress!

 

 

HJ FOX SHOW | BABY GREEN CHAMPION

Like last show, I was up bright and early at 5:30 in order to drive to the horse park, tack Dies up, and lunge him to get the early morning sillies out before meeting my trainer at the covered arena to warm up at 7:00 am sharp. This show I got to break out my new Back On Track Mesh Sheet that I got on sale from SmartPak, and let me tell you, I am a believer! After wearing the sheet all night, Dies came out of the stall nice and loose despite the weather taking a 40-degree dip overnight. Of course, I will have to do a full review with pictures, so stay tuned for that in a few days!

He was an absolute rock star on the flat and took home the first-place ribbon out of a large class comprising of 16 horses. He was visibly much more relaxed than he was at the last show, which translated into some really nice, flowy trot work. He is starting to settle much quicker than he used to, which definitely translates into a better performance on the flat. Both of his over fences rounds were really wonderful as well! He put in some great rounds that earned him a first-place ribbon for his first round and a third-place ribbon for his second round. Unlike the last show, he graced us with some flawless flying changes, which in of itself was a huge accomplishment for him! Go Dies!

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With a first on the flat and a first and a third over fences, he ended up taking home the champion ribbon for the whole division! I was such a proud horse mom!

 

Not only did he do extremely well in the baby green division, but he also knocked it out of the park in the schooling hunter division as well. He ended up placing second on the flat and second in his first over fences course out of 24 horses, which was absolutely amazing!

 

Dies also put in some really great trips on Sunday, but sadly, the new judge just didn’t seem to agree with me. He was an absolute angel both on the flat and over fences and put in some of the best trips he has had yet even though the ribbons didn’t quite reflect that. Oh well! That’s just how it is in hunterland sometimes! I couldn’t be any prouder of my pony and all that he has accomplished this past weekend!

The next show we have planned isn’t until July. However, that will give us plenty of time to improve and grow! I can’t wait to dive into summer!

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