Monday, June 4, 2012

Jacqueline Larouche: PRO JYR Scholarship Award Winner's Week With Jan Byyny

Saturday, May 19, 2012
This morning, Allen, my horse, and I arrived at Surefire at ten. I unloaded a few things, including saddles, a bridle and feed for Allen, and Allen himself, and started working right after. Kendyl, Jan's working student who's from my USEA Area and was on the NAJYRC team for my area last year, helped show me how Jan likes things done. It's all considerably different than where I worked last summer. Basically all of the tack is shared, they just change the bits and use clean pads and boots. Generally, most things are communal, which seems to be necessary considering the number of horses that need to be ridden in fairly limited time periods. Here, if the horse gets sweaty from being ridden, Adolfo, who is from Guatemala and works for Jan, gives them a bath as opposed to just rinsing them off. It makes all the horses really soft. The first thing Jan asked me to do was to drive her car to Middleburg for some veggie oil, dish detergent and needles, with a hundred dollar bill and her credit card. Talk about trusting someone that you met 5 minutes ago…I then tacked up a few horses before my jump lesson. I've had one lesson with Jan Byyny before, in CO for a Young Riders camp last May, and I don't remember much except for being extremely confused and overwhelmed, mostly because of moving back from North Carolina to Colorado and training with so many different people in a short period of time. But this lesson was very clear and successful. Mostly, we worked on establishing and maintaining a good canter around the course. We started with two skinny walls 6 strides apart, cantering them in first six, then five, then seven strides to work on adjustability without losing impulsion or balance. It was really hard for me to stay relaxed in my arms when we did the 7, and I just tense up and hold. The five was easier, but we got flat, so I needed to remember to really make it come from my legs. We then moved on to two slightly larger brick walls, which we cantered first in one stride, then as a bounce. Again, the bounce was fairly easy, but I really had to concentrate on not taking and holding and becoming tense when I wanted the one. I also had to think about not adding a stride that wasn't there if it came up long, but rather just staying soft and using the fact that the horse lands closer to the fence on the other side when they jump long to my advantage. Still, it was all about balance, and you had to maintain enough impulsion and softness in order to be successful. We did a few courses, next, both starting and ending with that same combination in one stride. The first course wasn't that successful because I tried to maintain the canter that I had for the boxes over the duration of the course, but it wasn't enough. We did it again though, and I added a little more pace, but kept the same balance, and the course improved a lot. It was really helpful and interesting to have the super short one at the beginning and end of the course because it got me in a good balance to start, and forced me to regain that balance, if I Lost it at all, at the end. We finished up on a larger course where I practiced establishing and maintaining the appropriate canter. It was a fabulous lesson and I feel more confident going into the cci* than I have in a while. Even just working on that helped so much. I'm excited for the rest of the week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012
I had to be at the barn at 5:45 this morning for feeding. It was hard getting out of bed that early. Jan and Kendyl had a dressage show that they had to leave early for, so we had to feed before that. Tomorrow Jan is taking JR (Inmidair) and Wyatt (Why Not) over to Phillip Dutton's farm to school cross country, so I have to be up even earlier. When they left Adolfo and I had chores, such as walk hacking horses and taking down and then resetting a new show jump course, then I did tons of laundry, and dead-headed flowers, which Jan has a lot of. This took us to about noon, when Kendyl and Jan returned, and I cleaned the trailer and bathed the horses. Later in the afternoon I had a flat lesson. It wasn't as productive as the jump lesson, but Allen was being unusually heavy on the forehand. Jan had undo some short mediums in the trot, to tight circles in order to force him to rebalance himself without laying on my hand. We also did lots of shortening and lengthening of the canter stride on a twenty meter circle to get his hind legs more underneath him and quick. I did some halts and leg yields, and we finished up by running through the one star A test that I ride this weekend. It was ok, and definitely an improvement from where we started today, but we certainly have a better test in us.

Monday, May 21, 2012
Well, it was yet another LONG day today as I had to be at the barn and ready to work at 5:30 this morning. Jan went with Wyatt and JR (Why Not and Inmidair) to school cross country at Phillip Dutton’s, and had to be pulling out with the horses loaded at 6:15. They got back around 3:15 this afternoon, and in the meantime I walk hacked a few more horses and did much of the same chores as yesterday...only in the rain. I guess it started raining at some time last night, and hasn't totally quit since. It varies between pouring and sprinkling, but it hasn't been dry for even a few minutes today, and this is supposed to continue the rest of the week. Muddy! Even walking the short distance from the barn to paddocks to bring horses in got me soaking wet. I think the horses and I all resembled drowned rats at multiple points of the day. Allen must have had fun in the rain at night because he was filthy when I brought him in this morning, so he got his first of three soapy baths of the day. At home I would never bathe more than once in a week, and usually just once every month before a show, but here the horses get at least one bath every day, with soap and everything. Jan likes to make sure the sweat gets washed off really well, and if they come in form pasture dirty they get a bath also. When Jan got back I studded Allen and we had a second amazing jump lesson. The arena had about three inches of water in it at some places, and at others only 1/2 of an inch, but that just made for really sandy boots, girth, my legs and horse. We worked again on the quality and impulsion of the canter around relatively short courses, set at height. Jan likes setting both short and long distances rather than those adjusted correctly to the horses stride length, so that was very good for balance and control. Again, she had me keep in mind using a shorter rein, starting the course with ten percent more canter than I think then settling a bit, and looking at the front rail of the fences for my distances. It was really hard to keep my canter the same when I saw something really long or short rather than moving up to it, but it makes him too flat and can get us into trouble because then we lose the quality of the canter. We finished up over a course of 5 cross country obstacles in a section of the Surefire cross country course, which is great to get back into the hang of jumping out of stride and carrying a fast pace. It was very valuable prep for my CCI* this weekend! Shortly after my lesson Dr. Johns came out to watch a few of Jan's horses jog before this weekend, and she took a look at Allen as well to make sure we are sound enough for this weekend and there isn't a huge soundness issue that well have to combat before NAJYRCs this summer. He jogged well, and even flexed well up front, which is impressive considering he was positive flexing during our pre-vet almost two years ago. As expected, his back was pretty sore, so we did a shockwave treatment, and hopefully that will allow him to use his back better on the flat and be more comfortable in general. I didn't finish turning out horses until eight tonight, so it was a LONG day. Thankfully I get to sleep in until 6:15 tomorrow morning!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It has been soooooo busy the last few days that I haven't had any time to write about them. On Thursday we left for the horse show, then between riding and grooming, and packing and unpacking, I was working six to midnight and too exhausted at that point to do anything other than shower and sleep. Jan didn't drive with us on because she had a few more lessons, so Meghan drove both JR and Wyatt down, and I took Allen. We left at around eleven, after doing morning chores and hacking a few horses for Jan at Surefire. Thanks to a well taken care of truck, I made the journey to Lexington without hitch, though the trailer Meghan was using broke down about an hour into it. They transferred the horses into the trailer of someone else that works with Jan and was a few minutes behind us, and after taking the truck to a ford dealer, finished the drive. In barn inspections that afternoon went well, and I braided in preparation for 7:30 jogs Friday morning. 15 put of 19 horses passed the initial formal inspection, thankfully including Allen without being held. Dressage was ok, as he was very stiff to the left, and over bent to the right. It got a little better after Jan telling me to think about not having any bend, because while he still had it, it was less severe. I also had to remember to keep my reins short. Though it was not our best test by far, we got a 51.2, which landed us in fourth out of fifteen. Our comments were mostly stiff to the left, which I definitely felt. On the other hand, we had great halts, and even scored some eights. Before Dressage, Jan walked the cross country course with me and two other CCI* students. Similar to my trainer in Colorado, she walked very direct lines between fences that were really spread out, so sometimes you were only straight for a stride or two before the fence. This cut off about two hundred meters cumulatively, which is significant. I was definitely worried about the c element of the coffin, which was a chevron with steps, and the first step was the side of the wooden number. But Jan reminded us to keep out eye on the back rail since the front didn't have any height, and that made it more visually approachable. Other than that, most of the other fences were to be jumped out of stride, and the combinations in a forward show jumping canter with quick hind legs and his poll up. Allen and I ran clean clear, as did the two other students. The drop complex, which was a log going downhill to a fairly large drop with a log on top, again on a slight downhill was my favorite question. Because of the terrain, the drops felt much bigger, but I really liked that. And though I had to really ride the skinnies and corner, Allen was very honest even when it wasn't perfect striding. Today we had second inspections, and they held Allen out of concern that his back or hind end was sore, though. It's just how he moves. So the vet checked him out and we passed upon representing. Since Jan left Saturday, I walked the show jump course with one of her one star students, Victoria Jessop, who obviously is experienced and has competed above one star, and she was super helpful. The course was similar to the course for the regular horse trials, and causing some major carnage. There were a number of eliminations at prelim, and even more rails and refusals, and between both one star divisions of around fifteen people, three more clean and clear rounds. Considering Allen's usual nonchalance about knocking rails, I was expecting a number of faults, however I really got to see all the work that we put in with Jan pay off as we only had one rail. It was by far the most confident and comfortable I have felt in the show jumping arena, and the one rail we did have was going into the triple because I didn't have his pole up enough, so I can fix that pretty easily next time. I am beyond amazed at how far Allen's and my show jumping has come in just one week training with Jan. It's unbelievable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Today I had my final jump lesson before leaving for Virginia tomorrow. Again, we improved soooooo much, just in the one lesson. A lot of it was the same stuff that we've been working on--the quality of the canter, balance, short reins, impulsion, not running at a long spot--but to put those points in practice is harder than it seems, so it was great to have another lesson to practice. We had a few bad jumps, mostly because I would see a spot and slow him down, so we would lose the quality of the canter and he couldn't really jump it, or I would run him at a long spot, but then he just got flat, but by our course at the end we were much, much better. I need to remember to balance as soon as I land from every jump, rather than continuing for a few strides, because then it becomes really challenging. I also need to remember that the quality of the canter is the most important thing, then the distances, because he can jump it from anywhere as long as he has a good canter, but if he doesn't have a good canter, then he can't jump it from anywhere well. Unfortunately Jan said she won't be there on Sunday to school me, but she'll either get Will Coleman or someone else to help. Work seemed extra hard today, but I think I was just extra tired. We had to do stalls because Adolfo had a day off, and I have a really hard time cleaning stalls, but I just generally felt like I was treading through muddy water. And it was another 13.5 hour day, which didn't help much. There weren't many extra chores, though there wasn't really any time for them either. We loaded straw and hay, and tack trucks onto the trailer, along with everything else Jan needs for this weekend, because she'll be going to VAHT also. While we were doing that, because it was later when we were working on it, the power cut off from some thunderstorms or something, so we don't have any running water or lights. It's amazing how much you can take power for granted and realize it when it's gone. After a hard thirteen-hour day, with hay and dirt and sweat because it got really hot, I can't take a shower. Yuck. Hopefully it'll come back in the morning. I think that's about it. A number of us, well, Jan and her working student/groom Meghan, Jess (who is short listed for the Olympics on the Canadian team) and I, plan on leaving for the horse park at around eleven-tomorrow morning. I'll work up until that point, and I bet they'll want me to work some when we get there, though I also have my own horse to compete and groom for a CCI, so I won't have too much extra time.

Jacqueline Larouche, is one of the winners of the PRO Junior Young Rider Training Level Scholarship Award in 2011. Jan Byyny hosted Jacqueline and her horse, Allen, at Surefire Farm for a week of training and exposure to the routine of a high performance training program. 2012 scholarship winners will be hosted by Marica Kulak and Will Faudree on the east coast and Shannon Lilley and Tamra Smith on the west coast.

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