Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Second Level Test 3 Shenanigans

Ok, show of hands. Who knew the Dover Medal program was ending this year?

I sure didn't.


That doesn't align perfectly into my plans! I had planned on riding the 2-3 Medal classes and 3-3 all next year until Penn was ready for 4th... finishing my 1*/2* centerline ratings, Penn's second and third level performance certificates, and hopefully winning a Dover Medal along the way.

Obviously if I want a Dover Medal, that can no longer be the plan. I have one more recognized show weekend before championships (champs is not the place for me to attempt to get a Dover Medal!). Since this upcoming show weekend is conveniently two separately numbered shows, there's two Dover Medal classes.

Of course, I snail mailed my entry before I found out about the Dover Medal Program... But the bright side of snail mail is that I don't have to pay an entry change fee since the secretaries don't even have my entries yet! (I sent emails and extra checks)

So we're signed up for 2-3 and 3-1 both days. If 2-3 is after 3-1 on Saturday, I'll ride both tests. If 2-3 is first, I'll scratch it. My bronze is more important to me, so the 3rd Level tests get the fresh horse. If I get my bronze Saturday, I'll scratch 3-1 Sunday and give 2-3 my full attention. So much is up in the air, it's all pending scheduling and results!

Anyway, that meant I needed to do a run through of 2-3 to see what I was working with. I haven't actively worked on counter canter since June's recognized show, only flying changes (swapping them out for simple changes or changes through trot when I need to mix it up).

I set up a dressage court in the outdoor this past Sunday, which ended up too narrow for the length so some stuff was awkward, and went to it to get a baseline: (the video was taken up and down and had a lot of shake, so this is cropped and stabilized, which is why it looks funny)

I made plenty of mistakes: the trot needs more power/forward/step/impulsion, and it needs to be not BTV. The TOH needs to be better, the halts need to be better, but the canter work was surprisingly good and uphill (until Penn got tired). I used my leg off technique for impulsion as I went into the first serpentine and Penn misinterpreted that as a cue for a flying change, hence the bobble starting that movement. In the first simple change, he went to hop immediately back into canter... I stopped him, then positively nailed him with my left spur for the right lead. I had to spend the time before the next medium apologizing to him for my rudeness.

BTV much?

Overall, I would have been happy to have that go down centerline! Would it have won a medal? I donno.

I scheduled a lesson with the local dressage trainer at her farm for Tuesday this week. She has a standard size outdoor court and an eye for test riding. I emailed asking to work on 2-3 because I decided to enter it on a whim. #3weeksisplentyoftime

She was immediately thrilled with Penn's topline. She last saw him about 2 months ago and thought he looked good then but a lot better now ("Whatever you've been doing is working!"). She also loved my new "fun button" that I found in walk: Penn sometimes comes out laying on my hands, which pissed me off to no end the other day. I gave him the kind of half halt I'd give him in the canter to sit the fuck down now (it's a motherfucking big one), leg slightly back and on lifting his barrel, then a few sharp taps on his hip with my whip. He makes an angry face, but lifts the front end and sits a bit more. DT thought it was great, and said I should start playing with half steps using that in trot (I can already feel a piaffe wanting to come out, but I am not pushing the button that hard for a few months yet!). She warned me to be careful with his walk- it gets a bit unorganized when I overshorten it.

The aforementioned outdoor. A little spooky even though it's neatly tucked into a hillside. 

We went right into what I would do to warm up at a show, but then stopped to mix in some turn on the haunches work:

  • Work on a square at first, doing quarter turns.
  • Keep them slow since he wants to rush through them and get unbalanced.
  • When working 180s, stop at the 90 mark, then proceed.
  • Until he gets stronger in them, make the beginning of the 180 tight behind, then let him get a bit bigger in the second half so he doesn't plant a hoof and get an automatic 4.
  • Work him on a 10m circle in haunches in, bringing him around into a TOH and back out again. Make the center of the TOH vary in size like you would as you school pirouettes.
  • If he's reluctant to make the TOH in a particular direction, begin it with a shallow haunches in, then bring it around.
  • When bending right, keep my balance to the right. He wants to drop me off the left side of him and fall out. Release the left rein a hair.
For the trot:
  • Let his nose out by pushing him forward then bringing him back with the "fun button".
  • When tracking right Tuesday night, he did not want to bend right. Flex him with the inside hand and scratch his shoulder every now and then with the outside. His whole picture changes.
  • Along the lines of bend, in 10m circles right, keep the outside leg on to force the left hind to keep up and stay in. It's almost a haunches in feeling for him. If I don't do this, I lose the hind end to the outside and it'll be a 5 or less.
In the canter:
  • Same right bend/flex right/scratch left problem.
  • More prep for the simple changes.
  • Keep the outside leg on in the right lead - he is suddenly weaker this direction and wants to leave the outside hind behind and 4 beat.

Someone had to "tie" to the trailer upon arrival because we cut it too close to lesson start time for me to schlep his stuff into the barn. He was extremely unsure and definitely still needed his helmet on.

Off we went to the test!
  • Keep the entry centerline straighter. Maybe I need to track left to enter. He's been especially fussy to the right which makes for a squiggly centerline.
  • Let his nose out just a hair in the medium trot.
  • Shoulder-in is good.
  • 10m circles are good as long as I keep my outside leg on.
  • More angle in the haunches in right- from C, it doesn't read as enough. Push him forward and resteady myself to the right and add some extra outside leg halfway through. A lot of the same theory as the TOH right.
  • I need to keep my right hand extra down in the shoulder in left so he doesn't tilt his head.
  • Same 10m circle rules.
  • Same more angle in the haunches in left. Keep my hands down and quiet because I end up wagging him.
  • Get better halts.
  • Know your count for the rein back and stop asking one step early.
  • Same rules as above for the TOH.
  • Free walk is good, play the fingers to keep the topline round.
  • Walk/Canter was excellent.
  • Medium canter A++
  • Serpentine good.
  • He dropped out early at the first simple change- she had me represent the change and add more new inside leg in a leg yield thought (without actually moving sideways) to keep him straight and get him hopping, and to start riding the change after the centerline so he won't break early in my test.
  • Medium canter A++
  • Serpentine good. Keep applying leg to keep him hopping.
  • Same rules in the second simple change.
  • Trot and final centerline, A++, easy 8.

Nothing much huh? Lol

We reviewed the haunches in after the test and added more angle, but by then Penn was pretty beat. She was thrilled with how his canter was looking- like night and day from when she saw him last. It's so much more uphill.

So that's the story of how we entered two more classes at the next show and took a lesson I never planned on taking (which was very beneficial). I might take another one before we go to Loch Moy, but we'll see. The next few weeks get tough for me to do anything extra as we gear up to finish my bronze and then hopefully smoke them at First Level AA Championships by riding a third level horse

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Finding Our Inner Hippo

I was going to include this on my lesson post, but it really deserved it's own post.

One of my goals for the year was to go to GP Trainer's, have lessons, and then go swim in her pond. It has a lovely beach in with good footing, and is big enough and deep enough that you can walk around in really deep water, or actually swim. I spent a bit of time working towards this goal of playing in the pond: the Cowboy Dressage lady and I worked on getting Penn to step in water. We played in the water complex at Loch Moy. I started riding him bareback.


Next year we're going to go for actually swimming, but this was a ton of fun too! I don't think I'll get down to her farm in time to swim again while it's warm enough to do so, so that's why it's getting pushed back to next summer. Just enjoy the photo montage... which is actually a mix of photos, gifs, and video clips!

First steps in. He liked blowing bubbles and lipping the water.
He was so game to get in the water and go to a deeper section of the pond!
I think he stepped in an underwater hole or something, or was just surprised by the ground falling away!

A good time was had by both of us!

Sadly, we couldn't get M's horse into the pond. We tried Penn leading her in, but he was enjoying himself and playing like a little kid, so he was pawing and accidentally splashing her, and then swished his tail and got her pretty good with water drops... The offended mare look was legendary, haha! The water was great BTW- the pond isn't spring fed, so by the end of July, Virginia's hot summer has heated it up to almost bathwater warm.

Until next time everyone...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

7/29-30/2017 Lessons: Getting All Jazzed Up

Last weekend, M and I drove to GP Trainer's for lessons. I don't have much video because her Pixio wasn't working, and we had our lessons back to back, but I do have some good media from the trip!

Saturday 7/29

Still working on finding these square halts.

Saturday's lesson covered simple changes and 10m circles at the canter... and jazzing Penn up a bit. Through our warm up canter work and our real canter work, Penn kept breaking from the canter, no matter the lead. As soon as we'd turn down the diagonal to simple change, he'd break. We'd get through 2-3 10m circles (go around the ring and 10m circle at P, R, C, S, V), and he'd quit. I'd be digging an inside spur into him, pushing him forward with my seat, and making sure I was allowing with my elbows, and he'd still break At one point, I cued for canter and he didn't pick it up, but there I am throwing my seat and shoulders at him.

GP Trainer had me put him together in walk, then lift both legs off, and pony club kick him. She said let him run off a little bit, praise him, and bring him back and repeat once more. She had me put him back together and cue politely for canter. He leaped off into it (in a good way), and we repeated the 5 10m canter circles to the right.

He did them wonderfully- I was able to use infintiely less leg, and got a bit more sit and collection out of them With a better response to my leg, I also got a better response to the canter-walk transition. We nailed them!

We repeated it tracking left- he is weaker left, but we still got all 5 circles. GP Trainer had me "threaten" him by taking both legs off halfway through each circle, and that was more than enough encouragement to get him to dig deep and continue the canter. I made sure to ask him to walk soon after the 5th circle, and it was a wonderful prompt downward transition.

We finished by going for a little walk down her driveway. Penn got a bath and turned out for the night, and M and I painted the town red by going to Applebees and Tractor Supply, with lights out by 10pm, haha.

Sunday 7/30

We rode in the outdoor for our Sunday lesson. On Sundays, the indoor gets taken over by cavaletti lessons, so we opted to work outside in GP Trainer's standard sized court. I want to do one of their cavaletti lessons eventually. I have trouble justifying it though. If I'm going to make the drive, I want two lessons with GP Trainer, and I just don't think Penn could do 3 days of work so we could include a cavaletti lesson.

We worked the trot halts some more since I continue to struggle with them. GP Trainer understood why I'm working them so much- 1-3 has a halt at X with a double coefficient (a side note, she's going to be riding one of her baby horses in 1-3 in a few weeks and despises the test, haha). Penn likes to rest a hind leg in the halt- the left more than the right.

That left hind ruining a beautiful halt. 

We worked on giving him a major halt half to get him to sit in the turn across the school, then letting him walk a step into the halt. It feels like he's taking a ton of steps into the halt, but she said it looks like he's just settling himself. I found thinking one step wasn't enough- I need to think about letting him take 1.5 steps. Enough that I'm not going to shut him down early, but not so much that I actually let him sneak out of it.

This is from Saturday's lesson, but whatever. It worked!

I rode some lateral work- SI down the long wall (at the angle from Sunday's test, which she said was good otherwise it doesn't look like enough from C), and half pass from corner letters on the rail to X. She reminded me to ride the end of the half pass- make him straight again. I rode a really sucky medium trot early on, but the laterals were good.

I moved on to the canter and did some shallow loops, and then tossed in the left lead half pass from 3-3.

It felt INCREDIBLE. And easy. OMG it was the best. It's not the steepest, and doesn't look like much when shot from the side, but I was thrilled with it. It is the first left lead half pass that actually made it down the line I wanted, the haunches didn't lead, the horse didn't break. I was able to start it (albeit slowly), and FINISH it. I can see where it needs more inside leg though to create more jump.

I then decided to be super clever and use a flying change to get to the right lead... Yea, I'm not so clever. It failed miserably because I didn't prep or plan for it well enough. We spent a good amount of time jazzing him back up (making him "itchy"), and then doing renvers in canter and being able to apply the same jazz up aids within the renvers and being able to collect him again. The next few changes we made we a mixed bag of unclean- however he started to change the hind end first, then the front. I have to remember to continue pushing him to sit through the change, not pushing him forward through the change.

We did a few to the right, which has actually become trickier to ride properly and he still bucks through them a little bit. GP Trainer wasn't concerned about it- he's finding the hop he needs behind to change. All of the mistakes he made in unclean changes she wasn't concerned about- he's sorting out where to put his body parts.

I did some more jazzing him up in the walk before the right to left changes, and inadvertently got a few steps of piaffe. I am not calling it that myself- GP Trainer did. Of course I don't have it on video though, M had to go tack up her horse. She said that's how she develops it- essentially walking the fine line of jazzing them up and letting them get frustrated in the walk until they offer it, and then praising them.

Throughout all of the canter work, I need to keep the inside leg on and really sit to produce the jump that Penn needs to do the work.

I finally got around to doing the right lead half pass towards the end of our lesson. I wish it was on video. I didn't hold my line- I let it get steep because Penn offered it so easily. I asked for half pass to centerline and he got very light in the bridle and floated across the diagonal from the corner to 15m sideways to somewhere between X and E. GP Trainer had to yell at me to finish it properly because I showed signs of simply enjoying the ride far too much and letting him fall out of it... I halfway succeeded in finishing it properly and was just tickled that it felt so easy for Penn. GP Trainer said the "tricks" come very easily when you've done your boring homework in finding straightness and balance. I absolutely cannot wait to ride 3-3 so I can show off his trot and canter half passes.

Fancy trot picture.

We finished with looking at the TOH (we were going to look at it after he got warmed up, but got sidetracked by changes).
  • The TOH left is OK, but she wanted him to take slower and bigger sideways steps because he's taking way too many tiny ones to get it done (like 6-7 instead of 4ish). I did a little opening the left rein and bringing the right onto his neck.
  • The TOH right is weak. I had to use the same opening inside rein, but she wanted me to step into my right stirrup, and to get after his left hind by taking my leg back and pretending to kick him in the stifle to keep it active. He likes to start well then fizzles out halfway through.
She said neither is really good enough for Third, they're still in Second level type collection. That's fine- I'll keep working on them!

I wish I had more video - I really rely on it to look back at exactly what she said for each movement and we covered a ton of ground in this lesson. We looked at all the things from First to Third (except medium and extended gaits). GP Trainer is lamenting having to ride First Level herself (it's apparently been years- she usually takes horses out at Third and then not again until PSG), and she is completely on board with continuing to show 3-1 and finish my Bronze (but not 3-3 yet, she thinks the canter is a bit too long for him at this stage), and basically only show 1-3 a little as possible. She also applauded me sticking with First at Championships and thinks I have a very good shot at Finals because I'm showing him two levels above our championship test (which we'll ride in a month and a half). She said to make as much of the 1-3 test of Third Level quality as I can- that will really bring in the good marks.

Penn didn't get a bath when we were done because...

Which deserves it's own post! :-D

Thursday, July 27, 2017

7/23/2017 - NODA Dressage Encore Recognized Show

Last we left off, Penn and I had made it through doing dressage in a swimming pool and were looking forward to a second crack at Third Level the next day...

I don't normally pay for night check. I think you should make an effort to be there for your horse bright and early so he's not being ignored as other people do morning chores, etc. I did night check for the second night of the show- Husband barely got any sleep Friday night and hates when I drag him to the shows early to just wait around (even though he gets that I'm there for the pony). All of the horses around us had night check, and they were all getting their breakfast at 7am... Penn was a bit lethargic by the end of Saturday too, so I'd rather someone checked on him all night.

It was wonderful not having to be there at 7:30 or 8 to feed and water the horse. Sigh. Husband appreciated it too, (and we like Husband so I try to keep him happy at horse shows). When we arrived, I grabbed Penn from his stall to walk him up to the food truck where Husband was ordering breakfast. I watched some of the FEI tests while Penn grazed for over an hour.

One of the nice things about this weekend was being able to mend fences between me and someone who used to be a good friend (we will call her E). She had a falling out within our horsey circle, left the barn, and moved to a new group of people. She rides and boards with Dressage Trainer now, so we run into each other at some shows and simply say "Hi, how are you" etc. Dressage Trainer had major vehicle issues trying to get to this show (first with another horse, then just with her car), so E ended up doing Friday's schooling and Saturday's show on her own (in kind of a panic). I ran into them Saturday and asked how things were going, and everyone looked a little frazzled and E said she was nervous since she didn't have a reader or Dressage Trainer. I immediately said, I can read for you. We had a lovely chat after, and I agreed to read for her again Sunday morning. I spent Sunday morning reviving old friendships, and it was wonderful! Dressage Trainer made it up Sunday morning to coach E and another rider, and E had a great ride, won her class, and finished qualifying for First Level AA Championships (so we'll be competing against each other come September!).

After helping out E, I went back to Penn and brushed him, and cleaned a little tack before it eventually was time to get dressed and warm up (boo 1:27pm ride times!). I had a plan for the turn on the haunches and I set aside most of my warm up in the indoor to work on those- attempting to keep the hind legs super active got him really jazzed up and he felt really super in the trot and canter after. I don't think I actually helped the turn on the haunches, but the work DID help the rest of the work! I took him to the outside warm up (which was small and had 3 rings worth of horses warming up in it), with 10 minutes to go and touched on a couple things out there.

I decided to ride this test like I was on a mission: to ride the snot out of it!

Husband could hear ladies behind him talking about how Penn was their new favorite horse, how his second change was very expressive etc. I'm sad that didn't make it into the sound of the video! I also didn't realize the the judge to the left of the camera yelled at her next rider for riding too close to my ring while I was in it. I didn't even notice her riding close to my ring at the time... focus!

The left lateral work was meh, the SI was much improved but I was having a discussion with Penn about the half pass. I was super happy with the lateral work right. I made a decision to ride the SI both directions with much more angle than 3 tracks because in my schooling show test, and Saturday's test, both judges said the SI needs more angle/bend. It paid off in a 6.5 and 7 for each SI, and the left might have been a 7 too if I had managed to not make him fussy.

Rocking the shoulder-in right.
The half passes from L-M and L-H are literally the worst half passes ever. I hate them. I made this one my bitch though! GP Trainer's advice on keeping the shoulder on the line is the best ever for my brain!

The medium trot was better than the day before, but I donno if it was a 7... the halt/rein back was a bit better too. Our TOH still sucked, especially since I picked at the second one so hard. When I was riding the test I was like, "If we don't get a 60, this right here is why!"

The canter work was wonderful. Penn absolutely bounded out onto the medium and extended canters. I got marked down for not making the transitions clearer at the end of each- I was just happy to stop booking it! Our 10m circles are struggling since we use them to build strength and so they're not really "show quality", but I should also keep my outside leg on him so his haunches don't swing out. The flying changes were each one stride late (and WTF, I'm pulling so hard on his inside rein), so I have no idea what this judge was looking at- she gave both a 7. The extended trot was lacking (Penn was out of gas), and the final centerline was a bit of a struggle (there was a lot of "JUST ONE MORE STEP!" thoughts). I was thrilled with this test though.

I put Penn away and hosed him off, and Husband I went to the barn lounge so I could change out of show clothes. On the way we stopped in front of a big industrial fan and I checked the online scores at that time... 65.758%! I jumped up and down and squeed in the aisle, much to the dismay of the hunter boarders #noshame. Not only did we get above a 60, but we knocked my expectations out of the park! I took a screenshot of the online score and sent it to GP trainer with the text "!!!!!!!!!!!!" To which she answered, "Are you now a bronze medalist?!" and I had to say "No, we need to work on turn on the haunches next weekend." lol!

I scurried off to change my clothes, then we went over to pick up my test and first place ribbon... I glanced over the rest of the scores in the class, then the rest of the scores at Third Level... It looked like I had the highest scoring AA Third Level test of the day, so I went back to the secretary and was like... so how's the Third Level AA Championship look? (I didn't know how the Saturday scores looked - the high point awards were for both days of showing, not just Saturday's show or Sunday's show)

FUCK YEA! You go, baby horse!

They were about to hand me my ribbon and such when the one lady was like, WAIT! She won the scholarship too.


The Third Level AA High Point award also comes with the Kathy Beck Memorial Scholarship in memory of one of NODA's riders, courtesy of her husband. $150 towards any lesson or clinic, and a memorial picture frame. Since this was a special award, they asked if I could get dressed again (just coat and helmet) and come get a picture. I said, how about I bring the horse? He's excellent at posing. They said, OK sure, see you in ten?

Thank goodness I had changed into my FITS tights and not shorts! I was able to slip my white breeches over my tights, and my stock tie and jacket over my shirt. Husband wiped off my boots while I wiped off Penn's bridle. The lady who came to take our picture was amazed at how nicely Penn posed and asked Husband to send one of his pictures (he took the above one with his nice camera) if they turned out well (they did). We got to chatting about Penn a little bit and I said I'd only had him for 2 years and this was his first recognized show at Third and I got him as an intro horse, etc. She was like, "You should write about that - Intro to Third in Two Years - and we'll put it in the newsletter!" I'm pretty sure I agreed because the thing is mostly written, except it's 2 Word pages long without pictures and I'm pretty sure that's too long for the newsletter. It'll make an appearance on the blog eventually here.

I'll print the head shot of the two of us and maybe take it to work! Penn isn't actually featured on my desk, and Mikey is!

Husband and I put Penn and my show clothes away, got a snack, and then packed up to go home. It was interesting to say the least trying to get the trailer packed while everyone else at the show was trying to do the same thing! We eventually got it worked out (and I biffed it in the aisle by rolling my ankle because I was in a hurry to stop blocking traffic), and headed home after a VERY successful weekend!

Penn is starting a dangerous tradition- Champion at his first second level show, Champion at his first third level show!
He was also the highest scoring Third Level test of the weekend, not just Jr/AA/Open. Squeeeeee!
Also note he's sporting his new bling, the ombre Topline Leather browband which is named after him!

I was hoping to finish my bronze this past weekend, but I'll certainly settle for a 65+%! It's higher than any of my Second and Third Level recognized scores! We'll hit up both days at Loch Moy Labor Day weekend and hopefully finish it then!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

7/22/2017 - NODA Dressage Recognized Show

This past weekend, I loaded Penn up and drove to a recognized show that I decided to go to on a whim- it's held at the same location as all the winter shows I've gone to for the past two winters, so it's actually relatively close and I wanted to take a crack at Third Level.

Hint: We did not stay dry on Saturday.

The fun part is I did all the Friday and Saturday morning stuff completely alone. While it's nothing new to haul on my own, this is the first time I've loaded alone, driven alone, arrived alone, and not met anyone once I arrived. It was really nice to be on my own schedule, but it got lonely really fast when I was stabled between two large groups. It made me miss my own group! Both groups were super nice and I talked to them some, but I mostly enjoyed my alone time.

This show had an awesome unloading/stabling check in crew though! They came up to the truck and we figured out where Penn went, I unloaded him while they brought a gator around, then we put everything of mine in the gator and drove it to my stall! The trailer was unloaded in about 5 minutes. They praised me for my lack of stuff, lol. A trunk, step stool, hay net, buckets, saddle, bridle. Apparently I travel light compared to some! I went and parked my trailer, only to drag the muck bucket on it's cart stuffed with Penn's fan, a 100' extension cable, his show schooling boots, and a drink for me.

I got Penn's stall all set up, and most importantly, his fan. I had to creep into someone else's tack stall to get to an outlet, and she wasn't around so I did a "do now, ask forgiveness later" because Penn was melting. Within about 15 min of Penn getting his fan up, someone stopped by and was like, "Do you have something to cover up that cord?" My bright orange cord had to go across the dirt aisle. I was like "No, I don't have a carpet yet. I'll be getting one tonight." I had husband hunt down a Wal-Mart from the computer at home since I had limited signal and then text me the address.

The offending cord.

I hustled to get Penn tacked up and out of the barn to school- the barn was significantly hotter than the outside air. I didn't school for too long- Penn was back to feeling NQR (uneven up front) and lazy. It came and went at the trot, which was a bit unnerving, but I chalked it up to bridle lame because I could make it go away if I really got after his left hind. I worked in the dressage court we'd be competing in so we would both get used to corners and having correct geometry again. I called it quits after 15 or 20 min, he was being good and I didn't want to push him.

I scrubbed him down in the outdoor wash stalls and that's where I really noticed that he's a star- I loosely looped his lead rope around the very low boards (like just above knee height) and he stood like a champ for his scrub down and rinse... Other people had to bring helpers, haha.

I got him tucked in for the night, took my tack back to the trailer and locked it in, went off to Wal-Mart to buy a rug, found dinner, and checked in to my hotel.

I was back at the show early to do morning chores and put my carpet out, only it was just starting to drizzle when I arrived so I said "Screw everything, Penn is going for his walk before breakfast." I hand grazed him for a long time, up until the rain started really coming down. At that point, I took him back in and fed him breakfast, cleaned his stall, dumped and refilled his water buckets, etc. I braided him and then was left waiting for Husband and my dad to arrive. I certainly wasn't cleaning tack BEFORE my ride... I knew I'd have to clean it after!

They watered the rings and the driveway Saturday morning. Like, FFS, did you not look at the radar?

The show ended up getting put on hold because of the rain- the storm was apparently severe nearby and it was quite the heavy rainstorm. We had some thunder, but I'm not sure about lightning because my stall was too deep into the indoor to be able to tell.

More severe south of us. I think they weren't sure how the storm was going to pan out. It was very slow moving and the heavy spots didn't move as expected.

I was hoping the rain would quit before my ride... nope. I got all tacked up and warmed up in the big indoor ring, then went outside for the last 10 min of my warm up. I was soaked in minutes, but Penn was a total champ about being rained on, and better yet, he felt fine. No NQR moments!

Off we went to do dressage in a swimming pool! When I got to the judge, I said "Hello! It's such a beautiful day!" in an extremely cheery voice. She laughed and said she thought I had done it right by putting an ear bonnet on to protect Penn's ears from the rain.

Everything about this test was lackluster- he needed more impulsion, lateral work was slow to develop and not enough, I let his halts be crooked/not square. We rein backed too many steps (I wrote 3 steps in the video comments but it was 5 steps that we did and the judge wrote).

Why. Why couldn't he have stopped square? This would have been stunning.
Also, the wet.

I thought his first turn on the haunches was OK, and the second bad... apparently the judge thought they were both terrible, with the first being more terrible. Then I let him break in the left lead 10m circle... knowing he would want to. Sigh.

I think the left lead circle started well, haha. I need to sit down.

The only thing to be thrilled about in this test is that I threw him to the wolves for the flying changes and he basically went: "Sigh. She stopped riding. I'm pretty sure she wants these though." Saint Penn came through big time and did the changes despite me. The first change was two strides late, and the second was actually clean! I had to slow down the video to catch that though because the judge wrote that he basically changed up front, changed back, then did a clean change. She still thought they sucked the big one, 4 and 4.5 respectively.

Right before he changed for the second change. He must have been like, "Mom, I need more hop to get this done."
I need to stop doing whatever the hell it is I'm doing here, lol.

By the way, the rain stopped after I did my final salute. Ugh.

All in all, we got, and deserved, a 58.030%. I rode conservatively because of the weather (and I couldn't see because glasses + rain + humidity = fogged up) and we lost a point here and there on stupid things that we can do better (entering the ring, SI, half pass, halt rein back), then combine that with bigger mistakes like the TOH (which is x2), breaking from the canter, the changes not being correct, and pushing him into canter in the extended trot. Between all of that I lost more than the 6.5 points I needed to break 60. On the plus side, everyone seemed to have had a rough go of it- of the 5 horses that rode their test, the high score was a 60 flat, and we were 3rd. We ended up with a second place though because they split the class into 3 placings- Jr, AA, and Open, which was neat!

I was super bummed because I couldn't have asked more of Penn- I felt I had reached his max comfort level with this work in the Saturday test and he really couldn't have given me more. I was worried about the Sunday test because today our max ability proved insufficient, so what did that mean for the next day? I had wanted to finish my bronze, and with a 58% that wasn't happening... but I'd settle for a single 3rd level score at this point. I hoped that he used some of his flair to slog through the footing and it would come back the next day.

Still, Penn got a ton of cookies and hugs and pats for being an extremely good sport and really trying his best... and saving us in the flying changes so we at least got 4 and 4.5 points instead of 0-2 points.

My dad went home shortly after we got lunch, and Husband and I went back to the hotel for a little bit so I could hang up all my wet show clothes in hopes of them being dry when I had to put them back on the next day. We went back to the show so I could sign Penn up for night check and we could do his evening stuff. I gave Husband the choice of hand grazing the horse or mucking and freshening the water buckets... he chose to do stall work, lol. The fact that the horse moves around while grazing bothers him, haha. He did a super job mucking the stall, adding an entire wheelbarrow of fresh sawdust (bedding is free at this location!), dumping the water buckets, and refilling them. That left me free to get rained on and grab this gorgeous picture of Penn in the sun getting rained on with a rainbow:

I of course took like 40 pictures to get one that came out OK!

I usually wrap Penn's legs overnight when we're at shows... I couldn't bring myself to do it this time. It was just so hot and muggy, and the barn had very poor ventilation (temporary stalls set up in an indoor ring- except these stalls are up year round). Husband said he prefers this location in winter... summer here sucks, lol! Anyway, we tucked Penn in and got dinner before passing out...

Hopefully I'll be able to post about Sunday's show soon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

7/16/2017 - Schooling Show... at Third Level!

I had an epic weekend planned this past weekend- riding 3-1 at two schooling shows in a row as practice for two days of recognized showing! The Saturday show was with a trainer I know to be fairly generous in her scoring (I believe she is practicing judging to enter to L program, but I think she is also missing 3rd level scores to enter the program), and I decided to go to that show as a confidence boost. The Sunday show usually utilizes L grads or r judges, so I figured I could get my confidence boost, then a more critical eye on me the following day.

Sadly things did not go as planned- due to the recent rain and I'm guessing some lingering footing problems, my easy Saturday show was cancelled and rescheduled for August (I need to email to get my check back from them though- I can't go in August). It worked out for the best though- I was able to do my barn work as scheduled, ride, clean tack/pack trailer, doing evening feed, wash and braid Penn in a more leisurely fashion.

Funnily enough, when I got my ride time for Sunday's show, the judge was the one I was supposed to see the day before! Small world. I'm glad I wasn't riding for her twice in one weekend though, especially at two different locations! I don't mind the confidence boost though!

All scrubbed and braided.
Maybe Penn's rabicano coloring is coming in a bit stronger? He looks like someone missed dying some of his roots!
Mikey had a section of white hair too, almost in this exact spot.

My mom was supposed to come with me, but some family things came up that made it impossible. I messaged one of the girls at the barn (T) who has been a groom before and lives close to the show to ask her if she'd meet me there so I wasn't showing alone, and I'd buy her lunch and then read some tests for her once we got back to the farm. She agreed, so I was back in action to not be showing completely by myself.

I had a 9:07am ride time, so my 4am wake up Sunday morning was rather rude! It was weird to do all my pre-departure things completely by myself. It was actually cold Sunday morning- 60ish degrees with a chill in the air from the humidity.

Who knew mid-July at 6:30am would be cool enough to trailer in the BOT mesh sheet?

For once, I arrived precisely when I wanted to! I usually end up arriving later because I'll leave 10-15 later than I wanted to and I just drive slowly with the trailer. I was good that morning- pulled out at 6:30 on the button, and arrived at 7:30.

I found my stall and took a few things over, and when I got back to the trailer, T had arrived and was ready to help take the rest of the stuff over to the stall. Between the two of us, it took two trips and then we were basically waiting. I hand grazed Penn while we watched the first couple horses go and killed time.

I wanted to be on at 8:47 (20 minutes before ride time). T was incredible- I have never had a helper who has been a paid groom before (I am usually the paid groom, so I manage myself at shows pretty well generally). I helped saddle Penn and picked his feet out, but she did basically everything else. Brushed him, fluffed his tail, used a damp sponge to get the dust off his face and braids. She bridled him, tightened his girth, and still managed to watch me put on my hair net and tell me to tuck in the wispy hairs at my neck! I applied some lederbalsam to my saddle flaps so my boots wouldn't squeak, then she grabbed a rag to wipe my boots down at warm up, and we were off!

Penn was... very sluggish in warm up. Relaxed, but lazy. He did everything I wanted, but I had to continually remind him not to lay on my hands. I did some of the shoulder fore/renvers prep for a single flying change right to left. It was late and leapy, but I was having trouble keeping him up. I opted not to do too much more since he seemed pretty low energy already.

I had a moment before I went in the ring where I thought about Mikey. This show was just a few days shy of two years since Mikey's last trip down centerline at 3-1 and 3-2. I asked Mikey to let Penn channel his inner TB in his medium and extended canters. Basically, Mikey was not forgotten on this day and I almost went into the ring in tears.

However, on to the test! I did a few turn on the haunches in the main ring since I forgot to do them in warm up, but then I just walked around until the judge was ready for me. I always feel like I should do more, but I'm always at such risk of doing my best work in the warm up.

I thought this test felt drunk. I did a bit too much mitigating and not enough riding for points to truly make me happy:
  • The trot lateral work left was sticky, the right was better (and I forgot to start the second SI promptly!). These are the stupidest half passes on the planet... they are so shallow. Of course they're going to get comments of 'needs more bend'... It's so hard to only move sideways 10m while moving forward 36m. That barely requires bend! GP Trainer's tip of keeping the shoulder on the line really helped here- his haunches were close to leading on the half pass left, but focusing on keeping the line instead of pushing the haunches over really really helped on these excessively shallow lines.
  • I was pleased with his medium trot, even if it was a bit quick... because it's still BETTER!
Not great, but better!
  • The halt was awesome... and the rein back is broken. He used to do diagonal pairs nicely, and now we're back to walking backwards.
  • I pushed him out of the extended walk since I thought he didn't have enough overstep. My bad.
  • Turn on the haunches are still sticky for us, I didn't think they earned the scores we were given.
  • I was happy with his medium canter- it's so much bigger than before!
  • 10m circle right was ok, the judge thought it was small, but we got totally lost when I tried to prepare for the change and Penn was ready to give it immediately off the circle, but the text calls for it after crossing centerline... which resulted in a wackadoodle leaping half pass change, haha.
#weeeeee #miscommunication
  • I was happy with the extended canter, but I could feel it going downhill instead of up. Nothing to be done about that at this point though.
He just looks so strong! And bulky. And grown up. Who is this horse?!
  • The 10m left circle was where I thought he'd fizzle out, which he did. I lost what little impulsion I had and he broke... I immediately thought, "Oh shit, how am I going to get a flying change in a few strides?" I put him back together as quickly as possible and began setting him up for the change... which ended up clean! Leapy, but clean.
I am honestly surprised this happened with the break so close. #MakeItWork
  • The extended trot leaves something to be desired, but it's still better than it was a month ago and I liked the feeling he gave me when we got on the line- he was like, "I'M GOING!"
He was already fizzling out by this point on the line, but I think he just looks pretty.
  • Maybe it was the better effort on the diagonal, but I asked him to collect and he almost quit on me, then I asked him to turn up centerline, and he was 'disinclined to acquiesce to my request.' This is now the second or third time this year that he's said f-off at the final centerline. Each time the judge never seems to catch it and mark it down, but I've got red alert going through my head because his centerlines are our score boosters and if we blow those, I won't have an offset for a weak movement (or a break from the canter).

I chatted with the judge after the test and got the feeling she didn't have much advice or whatever to give me- she herself is struggling at 3rd level (I've seen her around attempting to finish her bronze and I looked her up on USDF Score Check). She gave me a hand toss up and "Good luck!" at the end of our conversation, so I really had zero clue if she thought it was horrible or alright. She covered the general stuff:
  • "Wow, a lot of things happened quickly in that!" (I couldn't tell if she meant I hurried through it or the test just kept throwing punches or she's not familiar enough with tests of this level and couldn't keep up)
  • Penn needs better elasticity and uphill balance (I was struggling to get forward out of him... he was SUPER chill, to the point of detriment)
  • I could have added more angle to the shoulder in (I am very conscious of NOT putting him on like, 20 tracks lol so I took this as a good thing)
  • Keep working on the flying changes (I expected this of course)

When I got my test back, it looked like the judge and scorer got a bit lost in it, and there were 3 different pen styles in the writing- one for the scribe, one for the judge, and one for the scorer... only the judge's pen also showed up for both of my flying changes scores and comments as well as a few others towards the end of the test... meaning she didn't score them as they were happening, she scored them AFTER she spoke with me. Whatever, it is a schooling show, and she's out there practicing too.

Best comment ever. I may have laughed at Penn for breaking to trot in the extended walk...
Almost a Third Level baby horse! 62.727%!
And of course we won the class, you know, 'big fish small pond' means you're the only one in 3-1.

When I picked up my test from the office, the organizer was like, "OMG, he's looking so good! And I'm not a dressage person, but it seems like he's really flying up through the levels?" I was like "Yes, I just want to finish my bronze and then we're going to spend the next year working at second and third, until he's really comfortable."

That really highlights how far he's come- August 2015 he scored 59 and 62 at Intro A and B, respectively. Here in July 2017 and he's pulled a 62 at 3-1, with somewhat functional changes (even if they're not pretty).

This week is pretty quiet because we're gearing up to do 3-1 this upcoming weekend at a recognized show. I was hoping for a better run through at this show, but I did get a good feel of where we're going to struggle. I was hoping for a score between 62 and 64 so that when I go to the recognized stuff, I would still be ok when the leniency points are removed. I'm happy with the 62.727%, but this judge is usually quite generous (more than an L grad would be), so I'm a bit nervous about how this test would have scored in the eyes of an S judge.

We will just have to do the best we can this weekend! I certainly can't put any more training into it (except maybe working on the TOH, which I did do yesterday). I'll review the rein back, TOH, and trot work today, and do some generic 10m canter circles each direction without mixing in changes.

I think I may have to take some of Penn's omeprazole for my own nerves this weekend!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7/1-2/2017: GP Trainer Comes to Town

**We're still looking into what's wrong with Penn- we think we've pinpointed it but we're waiting for bloodwork to come back. Until then, I'm going to post other stuff.**

Like cats eating gnomes.

The last few weeks of June were a whirlwind of prep- GP Trainer was coming to our barn to teach a 2-day clinic and was staying at my house instead of a hotel. Husband and I took care of all of the outside stuff that we'd been meaning to do: cut new flower bed lines to make it easier for him to mow, pull weeds, put down mulch.

Fresh flower bed lines and mowed grass!

My house finally got the spring cleaning it deserved too- Mom came over and between the two of us, we washed, scrubbed, wiped, and dusted EVERYTHING the day before GP Trainer arrived. I clean sporadically (I spend too much time at the barn), and so everything in the house needed to be freshly cleaned. I was just disappointed that two of the projects we started earlier weren't done: the living room update (my house has good bones and 50s style), and the gutters that were damaged by the tree that fell on the house (the contractor will be here end of July/beginning of August to put all new gutters on the whole house).

BO got the farm ready- endless mowing and more sand for the indoor. OMG the indoor is so nice now! They spent an entire day or two dragging it though- there's some lingering deep spots near X, but for the most part the footing is LOVELY!

I was first up to ride on Saturday. GP Trainer confirmed that we were all qualified for Championships (check), then asked what the plan was for the rest of the year. I said I had been playing with Penn's changes, and that I'd really like to finish my bronze this year. I stressed that I only wanted to ride 3-1 since I know his canter is not really up to par for canter half pass. She actually agreed we could do that! And there would be plenty of time to get him put back together for first level championships in September, so now is a good time. I told her I was planning on trying it at two local schooling shows before recognized- the one has a very generous judge (to give me some confidence) and the other will give me a more realistic view on where he's at.

We warmed up and she commented on how much stronger he looked than he did in May. I always like hearing those comments. I try so hard to do my homework, and every time I see her she's always saying how much further along he is.

We did more of the same work we've done in the past- reviewing the laterals and me trying not to throw him into them, using 10m canter circles to find a slow collected canter, and then we got into some new territory- flying changes! It came with the disclaimer of "He's not quite ready, but if you're going to try them, you may as well encourage them to be clean eventually." Haha!

To start (this is almost direct, word for word from the video), and explanation of the exercise and the reasoning:
  • Collected canter from our circle work (20m circle with 10m circles at the points)
  • Ride shoulder fore at the canter (no crazy angle) down the long wall, then change it to the idea of renvers. Shoulders to the inside, but haunches and nose looking out.
  • Sliding the inside leg back to achieve this, which is very similar to the cue for a flying change. If he offers any part of a change, good bad or ugly, no problem. Walk, reorganize, canter again.
  • The challenge to the changes is that the horse has to be incredibly itchy to change and incredibly level, all at the same time. We want to tease him, just a little bit.
  • Renvers positioning makes it easier for him to change clean, but he also has to be patient.

Then directions in the work:
  • Slide the inside leg back, allow with the inside hand.
  • No swinging my body in, stay in the middle of him.
  • Don't let the canter change!
  • Keep the haunches on the same line as they were in shoulder fore (I kept putting him on a steeper angle after thinking renvers).
  • Very little angle! We're talking inches here, not feet.
  • Eventually be able to apply a half halt to hock him back while in renvers, and be able to let go and let him carry himself.

To do the flying changes:
  • Bring him onto the diagonal in the idea of renvers.
  • Big half halt, ask, touch with stick if needed.

The right to left change ended up a bit "superman"-like. Penn wants to lurch and leap through the change, so GP Trainer directed to make it quite up and down. Obviously that's not the final end result we want, but he has to learn not to lurch through them first. We took a short break and then went to the left with the shoulder-fore to renvers feeling. I cut out some of the good lateral practice work in the below video, only because Penn really needed a break and I was editing on my phone and it cut the video to 2:24 minutes from like 6 min, lol.

GP Trainer told me a while ago that the more difficult flying change, pirouette, etc would end up being the easier one in the end. The left to right has always been more difficult (I think because he struggles with the organization of the left lead), and yet since this lesson, the left has proven to be the quieter change. Still more difficult to get, but quieter.

Saturday night we had a grill and BBQ party featuring the farm's organic black pasture hog in burger, sausage, and pulled pork form. One of the highlight foods were the "adult fruit" aka apples and watermelon soaked in I believe vodka and tequila respectively. The party was a lot of fun! GP Trainer and I peaced out a bit early though- she'd been up for a long time and we had to be up early the next day to come back, and it's a 40 min drive back to my house.

I'd share the group pics we got took, but kids under 18 are front and center and I don't want to basically feature them on a blog. Just imagine like 20 people sitting down one very long table while raising red solo cups and smiling their heads off.

My lesson Sunday was a lot of the same trot and canter work from the day before, sans changes, and very similar to videos I've already shared. We quickly found that Penn was running out of gas, which was a reason we didn't touch the changes at all. All of the sit work from Saturday showed on Sunday and he was pretty tired. All the horses that did day one were pretty tired on day two!

We took it easy on him and quit a little early, and I took him for a walk on the trail as a reward. He almost stepped on a turkey hen hiding in the brush though. It blasted out from under him and he was rightly surprised. He was so tired though, he barely hopped away!

The clinic was filled to the brim- 10 rides each day! I watched them all (or all that I could since it was hard for me to watch rides directly before and after my own lessons), while running and fetching GP Trainer anything she needed. A common theme for all of the lessons on both days were working from the inside leg to the outside rein, but everyone had improved by the end of their 45 minutes.

So tired!

GP Trainer got an overwhelmingly positive response, with auditors and riders alike asking, "When is she coming back?" So I'm pleased to announce she'll be back Dec 2-3 for some winter shenanigans! Of course I'll see her before then, but it will be nice to get a tune up at home before she leaves for Florida!