Sunday, November 30, 2014

What do you do on Thanksgiving?

Make a tiny crossbow from popsicle sticks, embroidery thread, hair clips, and glue! It shoots about 30 feet and can be used with matches, cotton swabs, or snappers taped to matches!

My husband made one too. We agreed we're just big kids!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for these ears. Other things too, but I am very thankful to have these ears to look at every day.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Start of Vacation Riding Updates

First off, I got Mikey new "underwear". I replaced his lavender stretchies shoulder guard with this navy one from Schneider's.

"Mom, I can't believe you bought me underwear."

I am also on vacation until Dec 1! Well, I'll still be home, but I don't have to be at work! Yay! I had to log on this weekend from home and do a couple things, but oh well. I'll be seeing my trainer this week and spending time with family.

I rode again Saturday after stalls, and the whole goal was to be able to repeat Thursday's flying changes. I spent a lot of time at walk getting him through and connected, then at trot, doing half passes and lots of changes of bend through serpentine and circles. I had to spend extra time unlocking his jaw, he tends to not want to connect as well to his double bridle. I usually just hold his body straight and bend his head and neck right and left. Eventually he softens and I can push him into the contact.

The first two changes I tried (one each way), were failures. I didn't get the half pass right. I spent the whole half pass worrying about if I was setting him up properly, and in doing so, I didn't set him up for success. Instead I micromanaged him which didn't allow him to change, instead he gave me the hop of trying but no change. I decided to then focus on the half pass and only the half pass. Make sure the haunches are keeping up. Make sure we're going sideways enough. Keep the outside leg engaged. I actually dropped my left stirrup for the half pass right to try and get better reach with my leg. I hit the rail, swapped my legs and seat, he swapped his lead. No problem! I praised him and kept him collected on the short side, extended down the long, collect, back up centerline to half pass left. I paid attention to the half pass again, the strong right leg now, hit the rail, swapped my legs and seat and he swapped his lead! Not as through or soft as the first change, but who cares, throughness will come. I praised him and immediately got off to walk him out a little.

Sunday (Today) was close to 70 degrees, so I brought Mikey in from the field and fixed his body clip. I had clipped him several weeks ago and he grew a significant amount of hair back. I trimmed some more hair off his hind legs last week, and the two different clips obviously didn't match. I figured I could let the second clip grow out and it would eventually meet the rest of his body... well it didn't grow fast enough and Mikey was fuzzy so I shaved him again. He has to be presentable. I'll be seeing my trainer this week, and the German Riding Master next week. I banged his tail as well.

I finally got around to riding him, and I decided today was our walk through and connected day, so that's what we did. He'll be working hard Tuesday and Wednesday with my trainer, so a walk day won't hurt.

Nothing dramatic to report, I pushed for extended walk to collected walk and back and forth. We did some turn on the haunches, and I realized how to apply my seatbones to get the turn just right. He usually wanders a bit more than I would like, or gets stuck and pivots. We've been hitting the perfect mix of the two all summer, but it's sticky now that he's out of practice. We did more bending and then worked on centerlines and halting. He has a habit of tracking nice and straight, and then sticking out a hind leg in the last step.

Ok, so Mikey isn't this bad.

Due to the mirrors in the indoor, I can finally watch what happens, which means I can correct it. I need to halt more off my seat, holding slightly more pressure in my right rein and leg as that is the side he consistently steps out on. We did several of those, and when he marched down centerline, halted promptly when I asked, while remaining through, and then adjusted his feet so he was square, he got a pat, good boy and long rein.

I gave him a quick hose down to get rid of any stray hairs from his clip then a vetrolin bath. He didn't really work hard enough to need it, but he's been working hard for 3 weeks now. He wasn't sure about the bath until I starting sponging the vetrolin on him. I love how he always relaxes when I start sponging it on him, I like keeping my partner in crime feeling good!

I let him graze out in the sun until he dried, then covered him with a sheet so he'd stay slightly clean and put him out (when I left I could see the mud on his neck and face). I packed the trailer... his feed barely fits in the gallon baggies I keep for traveling. He's eating 2.5 lbs of Nutrena Pro Force Fuel, 1 lb of Nutrena Boost, 1.5 lbs of Dumor Alfalfa Pellets... at each meal. 10 lbs of grain a day. Though I guess 3 don't count because it's alfalfa grass dried and pressed into pellets. Still. With his slow feeder ring (he likes to bury his nose in his feed and scoop it onto the floor using the side of his head, the ring stops this awful behavior), he takes forever to eat. Slow and steady right?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ecstatic Happiness

I had a very average to slightly disappointing ride Wednesday. I used my Drift helmet cam on the wall, I'll have to post some video later. There isn't much to see.

But now to the real reason for my post's title...

I rode last night, using Mikey's double for the first time in 2 weeks or so. I spent those two weeks really working him over his back and getting him to fill up the correct neck muscles in his Micklem. I also worked on quiet half passes in trot and canter, quiet simple changes through walk on the serpentine, and quiet flying changes while being respectful of my left aids.

He tried to dump me in the first 5 minutes sitting on him- we're just walking and I'm pushing him into the bridle and forward and thinking Spanish walk to get a little extra reach. He just became a spooky bastard about the arena door and did his neat sit and spin to the left without the hard stare that usually happens first. I wasn't as vigilant as I should have been, but he's been spooky about the arena for all this time without reacting to it, I can usually just push him through to work and he forgets about it.

So how does this equal "ecstatic happiness"?

After working through quite a bit of tenseness, I went to canter, did a couple medium/extended canter to collected canters.

I then turned up centerline (tracking right) at the spooky arena door, half passed right from centerline to the wall, and when I hit the wall, I asked for a flying change to see what I would get.

I got a perfect, clean, prompt flying change! No fuss, no shenanigans, no problem. Lots of good boy, neck pat, and kept on trucking tracking left. Extended canter on the long side, collect, turn, half pass left, and a wobbly change. The half pass wasn't as good as it needed to be. He offered me a simple change through trot so I praised him, walked, changed directions at connected walk through a serpentine loop letting him chill (he kept trying to jig back into canter), asked for canter, extended down the longside, collect, turn down centerline, half pass left, hit the rail and asked for the change and BAM! Perfect, clean, prompt flying change.

Good boy, walk, pat, dismount!

I got it on video with my phone, except the changes. Where we hit the wall is in the tiny bit of arena my phone can't see. I'll just have to make the half passes better so they go more sideways and less forward so it fits in the frame! I'll post pics and videos later.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weekend News

So after being out of the loop here's some updates...

I worked at the barn this past weekend, as always (from Nov 1 until at least March 31, 2015). I had average rides after my chores. Mikey is getting "stuck" in his canter and I'm unsure how to unstick him. Our changes were progressing very nicely on the serpentine, except now he's starting to find stuff to spook at as he's learned the pattern. I normally shy away from pattern work, I don't want him anticipating. But, he's had such a difficult time with the changes that all trainers involved in our lives have agreed that patterning him first, then adjusting the pattern and eventually breaking it, would be the best way for him to learn.

He's starting to get silly when we ride, so I  know he's patterned. Now I have to ride better to keep getting the good results, and I have to find the jump in the canter again. Perhaps I'll stick a couple poles out or something. He's just very sticky again and I don't think a hack in the woods will fix it.

I had a little time to kill Sunday after chores because the barn owner's husband was add mag-flakes (sorry, no idea on the spelling) to the indoor. They had to take out a considerable amount of sand to make the footing rideable, and so had to add back some of the anti-dust agents they put in before. So while I waited I did what any good horse owner would do, I took pictures.

The herd. (left to right: Civan, Cocoa, Duke, Eddie, Mikey)
Mikey sporting the one eared look. Normally he tucks both in his hood.
I tried setting my phone on the kick boards by C and the mirrors on Sunday to attempt to video my ride. I actually get a decent view of the arena and there's only very small sections where you can't see. I was pleased with the view, but not with the video capabilities of my phone. I rode for about 10 min thinking it was running, when in fact it had stopped at 3:31. So it missed anything interesting. So here's a screenshot.

Cantering a 20m circle at B in prep for a change that the camera didn't get.
His changes were less than adequate Sunday, and I ended up working him for longer than I wanted because he gave me 2 good ones, and then all crap. Can't end on crap. An unproductive ride.

I worked him Monday instead of Tuesday this week due to the balmy high of 19 (with a real feel of zero) on Tuesday. Monday night was super windy. The clear plastic sides of the arena were buzzing in the wind. I ended up much more jumpy than Mikey. I decided to keep it short and sweet and easy, and only focused on getting him very very very connected in walk. I added circles and serpentines and making square halts and keeping the connection in halt to rein back or halt to walk. He has a habit of halting square, then taking a hind leg and adjusting it out, ruining the square halt. Well I had nice square halts! I did a small amount of trot, and a half lap of canter each way, and was pretty pleased with how he was. The wind noise was awful, and he was a little spooky, but he went to work and stayed very very connected and round. All those good muscles on top of the neck were working hard!

Perhaps we'll do 3 days of flying change work, 1 day of ultra collected work (the work I did with the German Riding Master last time I saw him), and 1 day of walking very round and connected work that will slowly become very round and connected trot work. When the flying changes are sorted out, we'll work on something else those days, but for now, 3 days of that.

I'm going to ride tonight and work on getting more canter and more jump in it, and then work the flying changes. I also am going to break out my Drift HD helmet cam. It has a number of attachments and a remote control stop/start, so I just have to get it rigged up in the arena and leave it be. Plus it can run for 30-50 min without running out of space. Maybe I'll have something to show you all tomorrow.

I also decided to put my truck on all year insurance. The insurance company was going to make an exception for me for Dec 2, but I could see all kinds of bad happening there over a verbal agreement (make sure you get things in writing!!!). Plus I have a feeling I am going to have several more occasions when I want to use my truck.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Truck Begging

I got a text that the German Riding Master will be back Dec 2-3. Too bad my truck is off our insurance from Dec 1 to Feb 28 to help us save money. Doh. I've already asked the insurance company if they'll put it back on for just a day or a short time frame. The answer was a very angry "No." I told them my old insurance let me do that. They replied, "Then go back to your old insurance."

Annnnddd we're back to begging for a ride. I got a truck and trailer so I didn't have to beg!

Friday Thoughts

I rode last night and had another great ride. I got several clean flying changes and stopped because well, the only place to go from there was down. He wasn't quite as brilliant as he was Wednesday night with the relaxation and half pass work, but I'm sure he was a touch sore behind from that brilliance and well, two days of it sounds rather exhausting. He has today off, he earned it.

I'm not sure why things have gotten so much better, and so quickly.

Is it the softer footing? I've noticed he's a bit better when we're working on nice arena footing rather than our baseball field clay/dirt. Nothing wrong with our field, I like working in it. But I don't know if there's something to working in an arena with a real wall. He respected the dressage chain in our baseball field, but obviously not the way he respects a solid wall.

Is it I'm more relaxed now that I know if something doesn't work out I can come ride the next day, no matter the weather? I pushed myself and Mikey very hard over the summer. We don't have an all weather outdoor, and there's no indoor, so I'm stuck to being able to really work on things when the footing suits. I felt a lot of pressure to accomplish a lot in a short time. Mostly from myself, but still.

Is it that Mikey is now getting regular work? He has a schedule of when I'll be out to ride him? Sat and Sun, then Tues, Wed, Thurs? He always thrived on regular work. He's starting to put back just a hint of muscle and topline that I let slip away at the end of summer when I took our workload down a notch in prep for him to relax in prep for the work he is going to do all winter.

Maybe it's a combination of all of the above. Our home barn is quiet, so is this one, with a little construction mixed in.

His new herd is nice and mellow like his old herd. He even has an old playmate from many years ago. His old friend is blind now and doesn't rip-roar across the field like how they used to play, but they still carry on just fine and can be seen grazing together for most of the day. By the way, with yesterday's temperature drop apparently all of the boys were galloping and playing and Mikey found his inner racehorse. Mikey's blind friend apparently would take off galloping, suddenly stop short cause he remembered he's blind, then start spinning in circles bucking and striking out with his front end. He's adjusted very well to being blind.

Anyway, back to my pondering- for as few horses that see almost daily work (3 of the 5 at the barn), I've ridden alone twice in the two weeks I've been boarding there. Both were Sunday mornings. Now, I've ridden alone in the arena more than that, but there's always been someone in the barn working or grooming or cleaning tack or just doing something. I've ridden 10 times, and 80% of the time, if something had happened to me, there would have been someone there to help me immediately. It's nice to know.

I felt so welcomed when I arrived, and it was great. We joked it would be hard for me to leave. Now I'm debating staying. I'll miss my friends, but I have a truck and trailer so I'd just haul back once a month for a weekend of lessons. I averaged two lessons a month this summer, and my trainer didn't make much money off of me because it was such a low average and I worked majority of them off. I'd still go to her Ride-A-Tests. Those are invaluable tools. But I do pretty well (knock on wood) working on my own for a while and then seeing her when I have a problem or when I'd like a tune up. The last couple lessons I didn't really have anything specific in mind that I wanted to work on because nothing had really gone wrong, I just wanted to check in and make sure we were still on the right path. I have a feeling this is the beginning of the end. She hasn't worked much past 3rd level, and she doesn't need to because the 4* eventing test only covers up to 3rd level. She's planning on continuing up the dressage levels after she does Rolex a couple times to better her own resume. She's done the canter pirouettes and is beginning tempi changes with her 3* horse. I enjoy working with her because she has a great eye and is very knowledgeable about all things horsey and has great intuition, is tough, isn't rattled by horsey nonsense (She jumped my horse down his first bank. He launched off it like there was a 4' fence on top and about 10' wide. When he landed he took off bucking and squealing. She giggled and brought him back around.) and believes in her riders and creates independent, thinking riders. I've never seen a barn with more independent riders. Willing to ride alone, working or trail riding, and even the most timid will try to work through problems. Everyone always does well at shows, schooling and recognized, and most are willing to go by themselves as long as they can get the horse there.

I do well having a lesson, then working on things on my own for a while. I've become very independent. I don't like being constantly supervised, it doesn't allow me to play with what I learned and allow me to solve my own problems and come up with new questions I can't answer.

Next year's plan for where Mikey is at now includes excavating the current sloped grass outdoor so they can put in a 20x60m dressage ring with dressage fence, and then a wide courtesy lap path around the outside with regular fencing outside of that (the whole property is fenced, and the the outdoor will share sides with the property line and turnouts, so it needs real fence too). More stalls will be built, and more of her acreage will be fenced for pasture.

 I can't really afford to stay, her board is well out of my ability to pay. But we've worked out me working off board, so I wonder if we could continue that. Just wondering what would be best for me and Mikey. I dread the spring rains that will halt my riding, and the summer thunderstorms that also halt my riding. Pressure is back on to accomplish our goals in a short time frame. I don't know. I've always done what I think is best for the horse and myself. Ever since I woke up one day while I was still boarding at the barn I bought Mikey from and realized I was not an independent rider. I relied on my instructor for all decisions and all confidence in myself. I wasn't thinking for myself.

Just some thoughts. Only time will tell if we go back home, or make a new home for ourselves.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best Ride Yet

What a fabulous ride Wednesday night! Best one since our move, for sure.

We started with walking for a while as the cold has started to settle in. I asked for some shoulder in work, which was average, but I got him put together and swinging in his walk. I forced the trot transition to be round and connected, then let him carry a bit of a lower frame in the posting trot for a couple laps. We did some trot-halt-rein back-trot transitions, where I kept asking for the connection and really forcing it to be there when he wanted to disconnect.

By that point he was fairly well tuned in, so I rode a couple trot serpentines and then rode the canter half pass portion of the freestyle I posted earlier in trot... right half pass from A, 10m half circle left to X, 10m half circle right, then half pass right back to centerline and tracking left at C to repeat the exercises the other way. No complaints about his work, it was soft, supple and connected.

I asked for canter and did basic canter half passes from the wall to centerline so I could continue going the same direction and not worrying about changing the lead. His half pass right was incredible, I asked and woosh, off he went. From half pass out of the corner, we got across centerline to the next quarterline in about 50m of forward distance. More than acceptable for our level. And we repeated that same flowy half pass another 3 times.

The left half pass in canter is a bit harder and did not go as well, but I got from the wall to centerline without too much resistance from him and he did it without overreacting or getting angry.

I moved on to the canter serpentine, doing several with simple changes through walk, paying attention to keeping my hands soft and making the transitions happen from my seat. Those went very well, so I started to ask for flying changes. We didn't get to loop it flying change to flying change, I sometimes repeated the center circle before asking for the next change because I didn't have him where I wanted him. I got a bunch of clean left to right, and several late behind right to left. He gave me a clean right to left, so I let him roll forward in the canter, break to a trot and do a stretchy trot for half a lap and quit. He was so super!

Tonight was one of the nights where he softens, I soften, so he softens more, so I relax more and he relaxes more, and so on. Either last night's learning curve paid off, or he was just feeling good tonight. Either way, I'll take it!

Since the weather is making a turn for the worst, Mikey got to snuggle up in his Schneider's Stable blanket with bellyband and hood. My phone's camera was not making it easy to get pictures of him!

"My forehead is itchy. This hay is conveinent!"

"Do I have any hay in my hair?"

Warm horse :-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lots of Riding

Today's post is broken up by day. I haven't written about my rides lately and I just kept tacking on to this post!


So Mikey had last Friday off because his butt felt a bit tired. He's been doing much better on connection and there's more footing to slog though than he's used to (our baseball field is clay/dirt footing... so it can be hard and there's no sinking in it), so I'm guessing his butt was feeling over used and tired.


I sat on him while I taught my barn owner's lesson on Saturday. I don't normally do that if I'm teaching, but we were going to go for a road walk after her lesson and this way Mikey was already tacked up. I didn't want to work him Saturday, but I did want to take him for a hack so he could see something besides the indoor arena. It was the first road hack my barn owner went on with her horse, who she said can be spooky, so Mikey took the lead. Her horse was quite unhappy with that arrangement! He did all of the behaviors Mikey did before I forced him to learn to be the leader- head tossing, chomping, pulling the reins out of her hand. I made her lead for the second half of our 25 min walk and don't you know it? All the naughtiness disappeared. He was very content to lead at a speed Mikey was happy with (otherwise I'd have the chomping horse), and just looked around and took in the sights.


I worked Mikey Sunday after I finished the barn work. Part of my deal with board is I brought my own feed and I do the barn work Saturday and Sunday mornings. I can't afford to board where Mikey's at, but I can if I can work some of it off. Anyway, I wanted to brush Mikey up on his work in his Micklem since we hadn't used it yet at the new place and work his shoulder-in to haunches-in and shoulder-in to haunches-out. My barn owner is having a difficult time with shoulder-in on her horse, partly because she's never truly learned it, and partly because her horse was taught to do it by neck reining him so he wouldn't give her the right response when she got the aids right. Mikey is very good about giving you shoulder-in and all those things as long as you're halfway right (when you are more than halfway, he'll do it round). He's taught a couple other riders how to ask for it (I've been told, "He's like Gumby!"). Plus she wants to learn how to get her horse to connect faster, and he's not rewarding her efforts with that either because a previous owner just stuck him in a double instead of fixing the problem... so he's been cheating the connection for so long that he's not easy to connect. I sat on him, and he gave me quite an ab workout. I want her to try it on Mikey, who will let her know when she's done the right thing by immediately softening. She just has to stick out his jackhammer trot!

Anyway, I worked on the lateral movements, plus halting and backing and moving off promptly into trot. That work came together and then I moved on to canter, paying extra attention to making the changes between extended canter and collected canter with my seat. I then added circles, and decided to add back the simple changes from second level on a round figure 8 and 3 loop serpentine. I immediately felt where I lose him in the flying changes, as soon as I'd ask for the downward and straight, he'd immediately bulge his barrel the new direction. We spent a little time remembering what my outside leg does and getting straight on a circle. Yes, that doesn't make sense. But I think of it as he's bent on his circle, but is available to me and will straighten in a heartbeat.

We didn't get it perfect, but I went ahead and asked for the flying changes on that figure 8 and he gave me them each way a couple times. Not clean, but he's swap the front promptly, and take a few strides to fix the back.

I took him for a 20 min road walk again after we were done, and I wish I had had my phone on me, it was beautiful out and Mikey was shiny in the sun, and the big field I pass when I drive in was so green and lush still. It was quite a pretty picture.


Yesterday was such a beautiful day- I used an early out from work (leave 2 hours early), and got to the barn before the horses were in for dinner. Got Mikey out, tacked up and used his Micklem, grabbed two whips, and off I went. We were having a very poor ride; I couldn't get the connection I wanted. Not sure if I was trying too hard, expecting too much, or if he was just being funny because I disturbed his normal routine- he was much lookier than yesterday.

I started with his shoulder-in to haunches in work. Which was complete crap work. He was so stiff, I spent extra time on shoulder-in, and then when I asked for haunches-in to shoulder-in he blew right through me and off the track. He doesn't do that. It was obviously not his night.

One thing my trainer is always after me about is not letting his shoulders fall left when I transition downwards from canter (more of an issue on the right lead). This is a major hole in my right to left flying change. He's already bulging his shoulder when he knows it's coming so he either hops like crazy and drags me and doesn't change, or I muscle him into circling back. Not pretty.

Enter Serpentine From Hell. Not to be confused with Circle of Death (I'll explain that one if I ever use it again... probably won't have to until the next horse). I started a 3 loop serpentine in trot. I am pretty good at making the 20m loops (I'm awesome at ring geometry), however, the indoor is 160ft by 70ft (standard is 66ft by 198ft), so I had to adjust my bends and it took a couple of rounds. As I was working I noticed Mikey was flinging himself around the bends. I made an effort to be straight across centerline for several strides instead of the neat 20m to 20m bend I would normally ride that has one stride of straight. This seemed to help, but even in trot he was falling to the left.

I'm a bit stumped at the falling to the left. We were having connection issues, so maybe that's why, but I tried less bend when tracking right, I tried counter bend. I paid attention to what my seat bones were saying. I tried more left thigh and leg. Interestingly, he was running into the wall tracking right. Perhaps I need to practice riding him straighter that direction. But he's only got two legs when I see his head on reflection in the mirrors. I'm sure it also has something to do with the hole on that side; I have a tough time getting him to fill up the left side of his neck when tracking right. Part of it is also habit, he does it to my trainer when she first sits on him, she corrects him, and then he's fabulous. But this is why I wanted to carry two whips, so I could pick at his right side for a slow right hind, and his left shoulder for bulging.

Anyway, back to Serpentine From Hell. I tried a number of things, and what worked best was tapping him on the left shoulder with the whip, or raising my left hand to force him to look left and stop bulging. We worked in the trot until it was smooth, and then I moved on to canter with simple changes through walk at center line. I had the same bulge problem, but when I tried riding him straighter through the head and neck, he tensed but didn't bulge. I worked the 3 loop with simple changes until he started to come through and round both directions.

At the end I asked for a handful of flying changes as I changed his bend. The right to left was crapola, he wasn't doing smooth flying, I got one of what felt like a very good trot simple change- that single hitch step and off to the new lead. I got a running walk type change (he does that when he's not relaxed). I wasn't about to pick at them though. I was just happy he wasn't bulging through me. His balance is off that way, it'd be cruel for me to pick at him for not doing the flying, so I settled for whatever his answer was as long as it was the new lead (and he did answer with the new lead each time, even if it wasn't flying). I only did one left to right because he answered it so well- an immediate clean change. Lots of pats, and then off for a road walk. He'd been working for 45 min by that time. He got a Vetrolin bath after because it was still almost 70 out, and he has one of those nice Rambo Whitney Fleece coolers.

Not very thrilled with how his work is going (I am pleased with his left to right changes, they usually work), but I certainly have enough issues to bring to my lessons Thanksgiving week! Today I will do a repeat of yesterday, minus the road walk as it will be dark. I did manage a picture last night though:

Complete with orange ear bonnet to make sure cars see us!

I've Got 99 Problems... and Horse Shows are All of Them

Le sigh.

My barn owner is part of the local dressage association, and she received notification a month or so ago that the venue I go to for recognized dressage shows is closing.

Yarg. It was just over 2 hours away from me, now I'm looking at over 3 hours away being the closest recognized show, and at a higher cost.

Hoping this is not true, but I have a feeling it is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Musical Freestyles

So I'd like to try to go to the US Dressage Finals next year, which means I need to get better and make some extra money to be able to afford it.

Another thing I'd like to do is a 3rd Level Musical Freestyle. I even began writing one. Then rewrote it. Over and over and over...

What I need to do with what I have is ride the test I wrote in a standard size arena and check the time. I think I've gotten a bit too long- five min is the max time otherwise there's penalties and non scored movements etc.

Does anyone have any programs they particularly like for editing music? Or for creating the tests? Right now I'm working out of Excel! I don't really want to create in Dressage Diagrams, I hate paying for stuff like that when I'm perfectly capable of picturing stuff in my head and writing it down in Excel.

So I'm asking for construction criticism of what I've written. I'm toying with eliminating the walk pirouettes as they aren't required and take up time. I want to leave the extended canters the way they are because the canter work is going to be taxing on my horse and those are good easy movements for him to let down on. I am toying with the idea of going straight from the second flying change into a 3 loop serpentine with 2 additional flying changes, altering the extended trot so it works out I'm walking at C still. I want to lead with the canter work- this is not optional. Mikey relaxes and gets his groove in the canter work, and the flying changes jazz him up and will make his trot work much better. Also, I want the half passes going towards the judge.

Here are the test directives with required movements: Click Here to go to the Test

Please don't steal my test if you like it. You know we'll end up competing at the same show.

I'll be posting riding updates soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Enjoying the Indoor

I am thoroughly enjoying having an indoor to ride in. Get home from work in the dark, out to the barn and turn on the lights! It rained today? No problem!

My first two rides with Mikey were generic ones where I just wanted him forward and relaxed. I asked for shoulder-in and half pass, just something easy to keep his mind occupied.

He's not so sure about the mirror wall (the entire short side -around 23m- of the back end of the indoor has lovely mirrors)- when I have him alone in there he tends to stare at it. That's ok though, he's letting me take his nerves and send them in a productive direction. Can I just say how incredible his canter work has been? Super through, super connected, and when I ride the short wall I like to watch the muscles on his topline crunch. Plus when he's that connected he loses that awful thoroughbred neck and I can see the proper muscles really working. As someone who has had limited mirrors in the past, no mirrors for over 2 years, an entire wall of pristine mirrors that are tilted slightly down to better show the rider the horse is incredible and will be stared at. So maybe we're both just staring at the mirror wall together.

Back on point, his work has been active, sharp, and attentive. And through. Very through. He's rather impressed by the indoor, and then the construction that is still happening at the barn (building 6 more stalls, an official tack room, and a bathroom). He's made a giant step in maturity- instead of being spooky, I can tell he's looking to me for direction and praise. The old Mikey would have been spooky and ignored me, but the old me would have enabled him. So maybe I'm giving him a super confident ride and praising often. I've been practicing engaging my seat more in the canter to try to get medium canter to collected canter, just from the seat. I've taken that down to the walk and trot too. Maybe he needs that strong ride when he's nervous.

Monday I had planned on keeping things quiet again because he was still nervous, but I put him together and ended up doing a couple flying changes. I made sure to start with an extended canter down the wall, taper it off to a strong working canter, come across the diagonal and then ask. He gave a late change behind on the first right to left, and then a super clean left to right, and then another clean right to left. I quit at that point. He'd been spectacular, attentive, through, and did what I asked. And he did them without a pole for guidance. Time to be done for the night! It was neat watching the changes in the mirrors!

Mikey was off Tuesday because the indoor was having a good bit of sand removed in the evening (the footing was deep in some places) and I ended up having to work late anyway.

I rode again Wednesday, and right from his stall he was more relaxed. Not sure if he's settling or if it's because construction has been halted for the next week. He was better with his half passes in trot than on Monday, and he gave me a clean left to right change the first time I asked for one, but then things kind of fell apart. He was connected, and then became overly bent and I had trouble getting him forward again. He was using my seat against me to half pass into the changes and be crooked and drag me around a little. I spent some time redoing the canter work and then decided on the next acceptable change I would leave his canter work alone and move on to something else. He gave me a rough clean change right to left eventually, so I decided to leave them alone and went back to trot. What a trot! Powerful, easy to manipulate for half pass or shoulder-in or extended trot. I got to watch a good extended trot from him in the mirrors!

He was a sweaty mess when we were done and I still spent an hour brushing him dry. I have to shave off a bit more hair on his hind legs- they were soppy wet where the clip ended and the winter hair began.

I'll be going back out tonight, and I think I'll stick poles out the way German Riding Master showed me for flying changes. Apparently Thursday night is girls night at the barn. Everyone comes out and rides, then when everyone is done they go to dinner at a local spot. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Moving Day!

I moved Mikey to his winter house this past weekend, and what a day. Exhausting and always going.

We are starting with adorable Penny. We had a good cuddle Thursday night.

I am organizing tickets and hotel accommodations for my trainer's students who can commit to all 4 days at Rolex 2015 so we can all sit together and take advantage of the group rates. Right now that's 18 of us. More on that in a different post. I only mention this because the day started with a little drama about how people were paying me for tickets. I asked everyone that is going who would rather leave a check at the barn than mail it to do so by 10/31 because Mikey is leaving Saturday (11/1) morning and I will not be back to pick up money. On what planet is it ok to bring money after 2pm on Nov 1?

The day started like this:

-Wake up at 8. Get husband moving too. Feed cats.
-Pack a garbage can and 3 bags of feed in the backseat of my truck while texting back and forth about mailing me money for Rolex because they were late paying me for tickets. Mind you my truck is a Dodge Ram 1500 that does not have the full size cab, it has a backseat but it's the squished one. Basically the backseat was getting full.
-Pick up my mom
-Get Sheetz breakfast. This is by far my biggest guilty pleasure. Ever. I love Sheetz runs.
-Go stop by a different farm 45 min away to pick up a check for Rolex from a different person.
-Go 10 min from there and pick up blankets. I not only picked up my 4 blankets and 2 hoods, but also picked up 5 other blankets for two other people. I crammed those in my backseat as well and it was just like driving the trailer, I couldn't see out my back window!
-Go 20 min back towards home to the barn to pick up Mikey. It was 11:15 by this point. Texting has continued and they didn't think they'd make it out before we left. They asked if I had everyone else's money. I said everyone who was leaving it at the barn had left it, and everyone who was mailing had mailed it, so I would have all the money by Monday.

Saturday had nasty weather around here, switching from rainy and cloudy and windy to sunny and back to rainy. It was awful. I got the trailer packed up, squared up with my trainer and set up the next time we would lesson (Thanksgiving week since I took the whole week off!). I caught Mikey, put on his shipping boots, and off we went!

Here's a view of his new barn as we drove up:
The barn sits on a hill. The field in the foreground doesn't belong to the barn, but I'm trying to find out if I can do conditioning laps on the edges of it!
One of the ladies who trains one of the boarders and in general helps out met me and helped unload the trailer and get Mikey settled. She's super perky and high energy and OCD just like me. We get along. I felt very welcomed! The owner met us a little later, and we went for a ride after bringing the horses in and evening feed.

Mikey chilling in his new stall waiting for his dinner.
Mikey tried to break my foot. It's slowly turning more purple.
On our way to the indoor, we had to pass through the back part of the barn that is under construction, and between that and the barn doors that move like very quiet garage doors, he lost his cool a little and stepped into me as I tried to get him to walk forward, then put all his weight on that foot as he twisted to look behind him. I thought he broke my foot. I was gladly mistaken. That would put a damper on me working off some of my board.

I got home late, and my husband was visiting his parents, so I had the kitties keep me company Saturday night. Thank goodness we changed the clocks back! I needed the extra hour of sleep.

I came out for morning feed and stalls on Sunday as I will be taking over AM work on Sat and Sun while Mikey is at this barn. I took Mikey out to walk around and explore the fields by himself before he met the other horses. Its very windy at this barn, so I stuck him in his hooded clothes.

The lady who cleans and repairs my blankets added the gray Velcro strap on the bottom of his hood. It used to gape open, and now it doesn't! I'm going to have her add something to where you can see it gaping open at his chest. Weatherbeeta really failed on the design of this blanket, but it is a tough blanket!
The owner brought out the horses at the bottom of the pecking order first, an older horse who proved he is not too arthritic to be ridden, and her blind thoroughbred/appaloosa that Mikey used to play with a few barns ago. They tried to chase Mikey around, but he ignored them and didn't give to their pressure, so they took off hopping and bucking and playing by themselves.

The next horse out is a young horse who is still very green and can be a bit of a pig. He hung by the gate, then realized Mikey was there and tried to pressure him, Mikey finally kicked out at him and made him stop. The young horse went to the others and jumped around with them some.

The last one out was the owner's horse who has quite a lot of attitude and is an alpha. He made a beeline to Mikey and tried to run him, but Mikey didn't run, but gave to the alpha's movements, just walking around and little trot. Eventually the alpha went off and every horse except Mikey ran around the field jumping and bucking and carrying on. Mikey was like whatever, and ate grass. They eventually settled with the alpha and Mikey grazing side by side nicely. We're thinking he'll fit in at the number two spot. He's not going to take crap from the other three horses, but he's not about to answer the challenge the alpha put out. He's been number two in most of his past small herds, and he's a disaster and mean as the number one (last winter when the alpha went south for part of the winter).

I helped with stalls and learned their morning routine. Mikey had been out for a couple hours, so I went and grabbed him and finished his body clip while there was a little construction happening. He was not dealing well so I pilfered some of his alfalfa pellets (hey I brought them, so I can give him handfuls!), and stood him near where the guys were pulling wires through the rafters and making noise and fed him while he watched. He was instantly better and content to just watch the guys work.

Finished clip. No more nasty neck hair!
Here's the wall of mirrors at the end of the indoor arena. I tried to tell Mikey there aren't horse eating gremlins living in them, but he doesn't quite believe me yet. He's not bad, just being a little looky. I've been using his double for the last two rides, and I probably will for one more, only because he can spin on a dime like a quarterhorse and the curb gives me a little more control to stop that lateral spin.

The mirror wall.
My goal for this winter is flying changes and helping his neck's topline look less like a thoroughbred neck. He'll never have that thick muscle on top of his neck, he's not that nicely put together, but I can try to even out his neck.

I cleaned up and closed up and sent Mikey back out to see his new friends. I think he was looking for his old alpha and misses him. I feel bad! But the alpha here will be his buddy soon enough.

Wandering back to the herd.
 I did a little exploring when I left. I had seen a standardbred training track on Google earth, so I decided to drive past it. On my way I drove through this historical covered bridge:

Historical covered bridge. No taking a horse trailer through here!
I found the track and attempted to get a pic of it from my moving car. It didn't work so well. I asked my barn owner about it, she's going to see if she can find out who owns it and maybe we can go on an adventure and go gallop there.

You can almost see the track.
I came home and took a nap. It's been a long exhausting weekend.