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

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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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

Diesel Update | Lesson Recap

In the midst of jugging a tidal wave of assignments and studying for tests, Diesel and I have been making some really good, but slow, progress together. It is extremely frustrating to not see improvement as fast as I used to, but I have to face it, I just won’t improve as fast as when I was in high school riding five days a week. However, it is exciting to be back in the saddle with a goal to work towards.

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The First Real Lesson Back: Crossrail Edition

This past Monday I had my first lesson on Diesel since he has been in training and let me tell you, the difference in him is unreal. It is so much easier to focus on the more technical parts of our rides when your horse has some idea of how to do his job without relying on you to hold him every step of the way. At least, it is for me as an amateur. Pros, I give you some major props! Riding young, green horses is hard! It’s sappy, I know, but I got a little teary-eyed when I asked for the canter and he held himself up through the transition rather than falling all into my hand.

The majority of our lesson was spent on the flat, as usual, since that is the most important part of riding! This week, at the trot, we worked on tightening our turns using my outside aids to produce an immediate response rather than letting him bulge his shoulder out to the outside. He has big swooping turns down-pat, but those tighter turns can be a little harder to get when you’re a baby horse. I need to work on using my outside aids more effectively in order to set him up for success all the time. Additionally, I have got to stop hanging on my inside rein when tracking to the left. What a terrible habit! I know my trainer has to be about ready to just rip my arm off as many times as she has to remind me to soften it up. I got a little slack in my year-long break from lessoning, so this is as much of a learning process for me as it is for him. I definitely need a tune up myself!

We also worked on our transitions at the canter by cantering around the arena, asking for a full halt on the diagonal of the arena, and then asking for the opposite lead from the halt. He was a superstar at that exercise – I can really tell how much work my trainer has put into developing his transitions. We definitely still need to work on getting a more immediate halt as it is still hit or miss sometimes. That is mainly due to my fault as I hesitated and didn’t fully commit to the halt. I have to work on that!

Our lesson ended with me getting to pop him over a few crossrails. Believe it or not, it was the first time that I have ever jumped him in the entire time that I have owned him. When I bought him, he was just not far enough along in his training for it to have been a positive experience for him or me. It was definitely worth the wait!

The jumps definitely weren’t anything substantial, but it was a huge step for us as a team. He was such a good nugget for me and packed me around the little course of 12″ crossrails like a pro. I was smiling like a fool the entire time. My baby Dies is growing up! This time we just started out trotting them as I am still learning how to trust him again and am a little rusty over fences. Plus, I definitely don’t have the strength over fences that I had when I rode five days a week so his round jump would have launched me if I had tried to jump him any higher right yet haha! Small steps!

I have to admit, it is hard to not be really critical of myself. After all, I felt like I was riding like a potato the entire ride. You really don’t know how out of shape you are until you jump back into lessons – it really kicked my butt. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself. I feel as though I have taken ten steps back from where I was a year ago, and that is frustrating for me. However, I am trying to stay positive and think of all of the things I have accomplished since started back riding: I got back on my young horse after getting injured after several bad falls. I was able to confidently canter him my second time back on him. I finally got to jump my young horse for the first time in my first lesson back. Finally, I have more confidence on him than I have ever had. That has to be worth something, right? I think so! Progress is progress no matter how small!

If you are feeling down and out about your riding, I challenge you to list out all of the things you have accomplished so far that you are proud of. It really helps you to see that you are making progress even if it feels like you aren’t. It has definitely helped me so far.

Happy riding, everyone! Go out and dominate!

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