Monday, September 26, 2016

Championships Day 3, 9/17: Ride #3 and a Side Trip

Penn started his 4 bucket breakfast Saturday morning, haha!

Husband and I arrived early at the show on Saturday- I needed to get Penn fed and out of his stall to stretch his legs well before our 10:38am ride time. I heard the morning announcements (finally!) and heard that coats were waived. I debated wearing mine anyway since it wasn't going to get warmer than the mid-80s and I was riding in the morning, but I was glad I didn't. It was very muggy and buggy. I could feel the heat on my leg UNDER my boot as we walked back to the barn. An actual your-leather-boot-is-burning-your-leg feeling... that didn't go away when we made it back to some shade! Side note, I got to wear my new show vest instead! I am glad I finally have my own, and I do like it more than the vest I've been borrowing.

I went to warm up sooner than I originally planned- I gave myself a full half hour to walk over and warm up. There's a patch of grass behind the warm up area and I did all of my walk work in the grass so I could avoid warm up traffic and also not cause traffic. It worked ok- Penn had a stiff feeling in his neck (Austen had pointed it out to me too- he's a bit locked in the base of his neck) and I should have spent some time stretching him down and unlocking the base of his neck... but I needed to move on and warm up his other gaits. Still, it was more effective than the previous day's.

The two show rings, with warm up behind, and the grass behind that.

First 3:

I keep pushing Penn out of the trot in the first lengthening!! Ugh. Struggles with connection and impulsion in the trot work again. I was very happy with his halt across the school though! The canter lacked impulsion too. I did a little overkill on the left lead one loop since that's the movement that Penn flip flopped leads on me the day before- I pushed his haunches way left and the judge took points off for it. The final trot work was meh I think, and while the halt was square, he tried to invert and flop into it.

66.324% -  7th out of 17

I was super pleased with this test though- no sub 6 marks! But I was thinking, holy hell, what do you have to do to get in the ribbons at this place??? 7th again, right out of the ribbons again, but on another good score!

Anyway, how about some pictures?

I love this pic. It's like he found his sassy-leg-yield pants.

That fabulous halt across the school.

Despite only winning a 5th place ribbon on Friday and Saturday, we also picked up the Dressage Division AA First Level Reserve Championship. I feel like I probably shouldn't have gotten this- a lot of the heavy hitters that were winning my classes had numerous Championship classes to compete in and didn't enter the right sequence of classes to be eligible for the Dressage Division Awards. You had to compete in any two First Level tests on Friday and First 3 on Saturday to be eligible. Management picked a winner by averaging you higher score from Friday with your 1-3 score on Saturday. I averaged 65.897%, and champion was 66.030%, so I wasn't that far behind! I decided to not care that the heavy hitters weren't eligible, because to be honest, most of them were off competing in Second Level championships anyway and chose not to enter the classes they needed to in order to be eligible. Plus it's pretty satin and on scores that are nothing to be ashamed of!

I got to talk to Trainer after Penn was tucked in. She set me straight that Penn was doing amazing, and I had to agree with her. I told her there was nothing horribly wrong in this test, just connection and impulsion, so how do I make more impulsion overnight??? She had an interesting recommendation that went something like this:

Trainer: Are there tack shops at the show?
Me: Yes?
Trainer: Go shopping. Browse their spurs. Find one that's very square and blunt. Try a different sensation for your test tomorrow. Keep your roller spurs on hand, just in case you need to switch them back in a hurry.
Me: Awesome, shopping therapy! I'll message you pictures of what I find and then you pick something.

I ended up buying two sets of spurs- her recommendation, these Herm Sprenger spurs:

As well as a smooth rowel spur made by Centaur. They had the tiniest rowel and I was intrigued (and they were not expensive). I knew Penn would react to them, but I wanted them on hand if he didn't spice up on the blunt spurs. I have a set of smooth rowels, but they're in retirement because they don't spin freely. They were neat, and I haven't used them on Penn, but they're a good item to have in my arsenal of tools.

After my buying spree, I took out Penn's braids then went to the main ring to watch a bunch of musical freestyles in the afternoon on Saturday. I caught the tail end of the I-1 freestyles, and then the Grand Prix freestyles!

The Colosseum

OMG guys, kudos to anyone who rides the FEI levels, and kudos to anyone who does freestyles at that level. No judging on any failures that happened. These people were still so good. There were five GP freestyles- two AA and three Open. I wasn't able to put a percent on any of them, but I did rank them in my head and came out with the right placings! I felt so bad for the only sub 60 freestyle- her horse did not want to play with any of the tempi changes.

I got to see Lauren Sprieser's freestyle (which won on a 75+%, 5% more than second place), and holy cow guys. I am so impressed. These people were good, but she blew it into another league. All of the freestyles were so good though, it was great just to watch them.

Sorry it's so far away!

I wanted to stay for awards, but Husband ushered me out (as was our plan), I checked on Penn to give him dinner and make sure he would be good for a couple hours, and then we drove to the beach at Nags Head, NC!

Draw bridge over the Croatan Sound (I had to look this up on Google Maps)
I thought we were driving into the ocean. It sure looked like we were!
Heading out over the Roanoke Sound.

No draw bridge here, just a huge hump in the bridge!

Husband and I had a good time walking on the beach (and getting wet because the waves were rather aggressive) and then we found somewhere to eat around 8:00pm... and it was still an hour wait for a table. The food was worth it though!

It made us really miss Hilton Head, SC though. We went to HH for our honeymoon and for a week the year after we got married. We like the atmosphere of the island a lot better than Nags Head, as well as HH's white sand beaches! Oh well, we had a chat before we left about house projects vs vacations, and well, it'll be at least 3 years before we can afford to vacation (horse shows and his car stuff come first). So we were just happy to visit a more southern beach!

We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had to drive back since it's an almost 2 hour drive and we had to do final night check on Penn, then try to get some sleep for the next day: championship test day!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Championships Day 2, 9/16: First Steps in the Ring

We left off with a nervous Jan tucking Penn in for the night. I shouldn't have worried much, when we arrived the following morning he was very chill. He had laid down in the night, ate half of his hay, all of his alfalfa, had drank a bucket of water, and pooped and peed plenty. He was back to peeing normally. I was so excited that he seemed just fine that my husband was like, you're being extra horsey-weird. Strange things make horse people happy, you know?

View from the chairs in the tack stall.
Ridiculous cuteness. He looks like a pony.
I went over to his stall to give him a bath and braid him... and then found something else to do because he was so cute!
After he got up and got his bath. It was actually a little cool Friday morning, so I covered him up with my BOT mesh sheet to take him outside to dry. He loved that bottle- he'd drop it and pick it up again.

The morning was uneventful. I signed up for pictures, Penn got a bath, graze time, then braided. The photographer had an excellent deal going on- a link to download all of your pictures for $100. That's one of the better deals I've found. He was quick in getting the links emailed to us as well, and he uses SmugMug to do prints (my husband used them as well). His people took a number of excellent pictures- I may see about having Smug Mug do proper prints for a couple of them.

First 2:

I got on about 20min before my first ride at 1:57 pm, which wasn't quite enough time. Penn was VERY dull feeling. Not lazy per se, but tired and wanted to lay in my hand again. I needed a little more time to get him jazzed up.

Warming up.

Everything was a bit of a struggle to get done in this test. My head wasn't in the game for it because I haven't been preparing First 2 all that much. I use the leg yields to warm up and that's about it. I had a huge brain fart during it and mostly just went through the motions, accuracy be damned (like the final canter/trot transition- I forgot it was at M, not C). I wasn't planning on riding this test at this show, however I needed to ride two First Level tests on Friday (in addition to 1-3 on Saturday) to be eligible for the dressage division championships.

65.469% - 5th out of 10

All the comments were right on, more power needed. Yupp. But you can tell the quality of horses and riders who were showing this weekend- a 65.4% only put us halfway in the pack.

And here's an obscene number of pictures. The photographer managed to grab every good moment! The pictures are courtesy of High Time Photography. They came to me with watermarks, but unedited, so when I cropped them, I sometimes cropped out the watermark... I guess I should have put the watermark back on... but I'm telling you all where the pics came from instead!

First 3:

My second test was at 3:20pm, so an awkward amount of time later, I tacked up and went back over to the non-championship rings to warm up.

Warm up area for my second test.

I wasn't all that happy to warm up in an indoor/covered arena then go outside to show. That doesn't work well at home, why would it ever work well at a show? Penn is usually gawky in the indoor, then tense in the outdoor. To make matters worse, my ring was running behind so they decided to catch up during the water/drag break... they sprayed water into the ring instead of driving over it and evenly watering, then they opted not to drag afterwards... which left puddles in the places where 4 hours worth of test riding created ruts and tracks. They told me they were going to do that when I checked in, and I was like "No problem!" I used to event, the footing isn't perfect. Well Penn does not share my mindset. He likes perfect footing. Coming out of the indoor to show outside, where you can see/hear the highway traffic, and have puddles in the ring? Way too much atmosphere to put together a solid test.

Really not trying to make excuses here but there was extra water on centerline (so wiggly centerline), then there was a puddle at H... which basically messed up each movement near H. Also, I guess I botched the correction for when he lead flopped on me? I know I got lost in it, I went to go to walk and canter from walk like I do at home, but then I changed my mind since that's not part of this test... oh well, a 3 on that loop. Oops. Another interesting thing, the ring next to me was using a squeaky toy as their bell.

62.941% - 7th out of 10

This test was just a bit of a mess, sooooo I guess I earned that 62%!

More pictures, courtesy of High Time Photography.


After we put Penn away, Husband and I went to the Colosseum to watch the more advanced tests. I think there were musical freestyles going on, but I don't remember what level. The Friday night Sale Exhibition was after and that was kind of fun too since there was a pair of cremello Morgans featured.

Pretty mares! They got a 75% on their Pas De Deux

Penn went for a graze near Saturday's show ring before Husband and I went to dinner.

While we were out on our Friday Evening Graze, Husband realized Dressage is kind of scientific: We have Silicon, Mercury, Carbon, and Magnesium, right there on the letters!
I may have sat in the judges booth and let Penn graze right up next to it, haha.

Husband and I had excellent steak dinners from the place across the street from the show grounds. We went to Tractor Supply before dinner and got a bag of bedding for the trailer (and had to sneak it into the show grounds under the cover of darkness because foreign bedding is forbidden), a bag of alfalfa cubes, another bucket, and a bucket strap. I'd been putting the alfalfa on the floor of the stall where it would get wasted, and he often would have some left when I put it in his feed bucket, so I got him a designated alfalfa bucket.

Tucking him in for the night was uneventful. He was much more settled when we left Friday night than he was Thursday night.

Next up, Day 3: Round two in the ring!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Championships Day 1, 9/15: The Drive to NC

I was up late Wednesday night packing the trailer and doing last minute laundry (that I never used, btw). Husband did the smart thing and went to bed early. Or was it? He did most of the driving and I got to nap...

All ready to load up!

Something I tried before this trip was giving Penn omeprazole starting Tuesday, and he got it though this past Tuesday (8 days). He was MUCH more mellow about the trailer and actually ate hay while he traveled.

I hung a bucket of water in the trailer for him (half full) with Horse Quenchers in it so he would hopefully drink on the long trip from PA to NC, driven at horse trailer speed (for us that's between 60-65mph because we opted to get actual trailer tires instead of light truck, and they're only rated for 60mph). It didn't work- he didn't drink anything.

Camera Penjamin

We loaded up and drove out around 7:45a Thursday morning. We had an excellent and uneventful travel day- it was cooler, and sunny up until the last 15 min of the drive when we drove through a brief shower.

You can see Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center (that's a mouthful huh?) from the highway, and I'm pretty sure it is the only attraction in the area because it's middle-of-nowhere in all directions when you leave the grounds.

Coming up the main drive.

It is positively HUGE. It's set in a circle driveway- the Colosseum, covered arena, two warm up rings, one show ring, 6 mega barns, a meeting center, the RV hookups, and all of the trailer parking fit neatly inside the drive. Just outside the drive were two dressage pads that held two show rings each, plus an extra building that was basically an indoor arena warm up area (for this show) or could be converted to more stabling if needed.

It is also gorgeous. The stalls are pretty and safe. They are not the biggest, but they're good sized. They have rings on the walls to hang things and exterior facing stalls have windows. The buildings are pretty and functional. Some of the bathrooms are air conditioned (I found this out on our last day, boo). The footing is excellent and the maintenance people really took care of the footing all weekend (except for one blip I'll talk about in my next post).

Stabling was an excellent price- Wednesday night to Sunday afternoon was $165 and came with two bags of shavings. Tack stalls were $145 (and no shavings). You had to buy their shavings (pre-order for $8 a bag or at the show for $10), which I was irked about until I figured out I wanted 4 bales of bedding and 4 bales of hay... which would not have fit nicely in my trailer! I bought an extra night (Sunday night) of stabling for $60, but I got stuck paying an extra $60 for my tack stall even though I didn't need it for the extra night. Whatever. The tack stall was absolutely worth it.

I would have had to be more creative in my stacking if I tried to fit 4 bales of bedding in here too.

We arrived around 5:45p and unloaded the trailer and got Penn right into his stall. Husband had done research and found all kinds of maps that showed where our barn was and even figured out approximately where our stalls were!

He parked the trailer, I checked in at the show office, then Penn went for a long hand graze to stretch his legs after the 10 hour drive.

"Mom, this is the biggest place I've ever been!"
Pausing mid-nom to stare.
Overlooking ring 3. (Penn grazing in the background)

We grazed until dark, then brought him back to his stall and fed him dinner. We went to get dinner ourselves, but when we came back to tuck Penn in for the night (refill alfalfa/hay/water, clean stall, wrap legs), he hadn't pooped, drank, or ate much. He was peeing often (very unusual for him), but not always very much. He wasn't settling in at all- he was stall walking.

Cue nervous Jan. I decided to not add him to the night watch list, and if I woke up in the middle of the night that I would just drive over since the hotel was only 8 min away. I had a feeling he was fine and just needed more alone time (nervous people around him certainly don't help), and while he hadn't drank anything all day, he wasn't dehydrated and did get some moisture from the grazing.

Looking in from the outside. He's eating fresh alfalfa.

Next up, Day 2, the first rides!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lesson 9/13 Recap


The last week has been busy, busy, busy. Penn and I are back, not quite the way I wanted to be, but he was so super for Championships. It was a great experience. I absolutely cannot wait to see what the future holds. If he's this good after only a year of showing, he's going to be exceptional with a couple years of experience.

I'm piecing together everything from the show and collecting my media. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know how things went and you might have seen my Husband's 20 part play-by-play series of the weekend (when in reality there should probably have been 40+ parts!). I'm going to do a post for each day since there's 5 days worth of media.

First we're going to start with the lesson recap that I didn't get to do before we left:

Lesson 9/13:

Trainer went over my last couple tests (papers and videos) while I warmed up, then we went outside to go over the walk and trot work (no walls to lean on).

  • Generate more trot by timing leg bumps with his hind legs, then give opposite finger wiggles to help steady him (yea, I was NOT coordinated to do this successfully- but I still got some semblance of what she wanted). She recommended rein aids for this winter- Penn holds steady in the bridle, but every few steps just braces and makes a slight rooting action (not actually rooting), and it eats up any elasticity in the reins. She thinks the elastic rein aids will help him stop that behavior.
  • Don't shut him down in 10m trot circles. Keep bumping him forward. Also, don't flatten the circle on centerline- I tend to get halfway through, take a straight step, then keep going. Don't do that.
  • We worked on the halts again. I apparently did my job the previous week because she didn't have much bad to say about them. She had me ride them in all kinds of patterns besides the test pattern.
  • Don't be afraid of the leg yields. Push them forward and over. Trust Penn in them. Get a whooshy feeling going, like an ice skater. Send him forward down the first leg yield zig zag, then guide him into the second one without shutting anything down. This paired perfectly with the tactic I figured out a few weeks ago- leg yield to X, then change the direction by "leading" him in the new direction with the outside rein, he takes a first step the new way, then change the bend. It made for very fluid, whooshy changes.
Since the outdoor was hard as a rock, we went to the indoor to do our canter work.
  • Canter lengthenings are really coming along: I finally figured out how to follow Penn's head and neck with my hands, which meant I didn't lock my elbows and shut it down. Doh.
  • Shallow loops were good.
  • We worked on the simple change a bit. Trainer didn't like the number of steps I was taking because they often got shuffly and sometimes inverted. The simple change from left to right was better, but that's not the one we do in the test. She had me work the right to left. She thought I was getting a bit floaty in my left hand trying to encourage the new direction and new lead, so she had me think about gluing my left elbow to my side and becoming very very straight on that side throughout the entire diagonal. Holy poop, that made a huge difference! Penn no longer fell into trot part of the time, and he was balanced enough that I could pop him back into canter after 2-4 trot steps, with zero question about if I was going to get the new lead. I had to relearn how to center that over X though since the change happened so much faster.
She finished with, "There's nothing else I can do for you. You're ready. Don't screw up!"

No problem Boss. *cue nervous laughter*

Penn went for a trail ride Wednesday, then I packed all afternoon. Packing was too easy, I didn't have enough stuff. I thought I probably forgot something (I did- I forgot his shampoo and had to buy more at the show!)

Strap all that good stuff in!
I got creative to get things to dry, then filled my backseat.

Side note, I can't wait to use that elbow straightness thing in the flying changes. I always try to lead the horse in the new direction and I'm afraid to get the horse truly straight... even though that is what the horse needs to be in order to get proper flying changes.


Next up, the drive to NC!