Friday, July 31, 2015

I love torture... Wait what?

Yes, I'll say it. When I've done something that works my legs or abs and I feel sore after, I make a point to do it again and again. Torture? Bring it on.

"Yes, may I please ride with this torture cube for another hundred thousand rides? Pretty please?"
My trainer has built in a torture response into me: "Yes, I would like more torture please."

I've realized riding torture is good for you, and if you stick it out and work through it, you'll be far better off in the end. Or maybe that's what I tell myself and I'm really just crazy for looking for tough exercises and things that make me hurt for days after.

Perhaps that's why when she's away and I teach lessons the girls say I'm tougher than she is! I say it's because I have to answer to her... but maybe they're on to something.

Anyway, I had a lesson last night. We talked a little about Sunday, and what I needed to accomplish before Aug 15.
  • Crisper transitions: extended walk to medium walk to collected walk to canter, medium canter to collected canter, extended canter to collected canter, trot/walk to halt to rein back. Every upward transition strikes off with a purpose. (An interesting note about rein back, I asked how to get the diagonal pairs, she said rein back faster. No dragging or reluctance backwards. No gently backing up. No flying backwards inverted or harshly either, but back with a  purpose. Like, that's a complete doh. Apply the idea with his super connected walk work, and Mikey was rein backing like a champ and the movement was over before I knew it.)
  • Keeping the tempo and better bend in lateral movements- thinking medium trot in each one, not collected.
  • Get our centerlines straightened out- Mikey tends to step out with one hind or we wobble. It's easy points.
  • Work with the cube to fix my position faults to make all of the above easier!
  • Keep doing some flying changes, however they're not going to make drastic improvements in two weeks, so just keep asking on occasion and working them in, but no working just on them. I'll be ok without them if I can clean the other items up. And maybe if I can clean the other items up they'll get a little better on their own.
Such a small list right?

I did a little warm up, and as we chatted we paid attention to the walk work, halts and rein back before mixing in some canter. She pulled up the test to see exactly how the walk work read, which lead us to doing the following:

  • Come out of the corner in medium walk.
  • Extended walk for some portion down the long wall.
  • Back to medium walk.
  • Ask for collected walk by thinking about bringing my shoulders up and back like I'm trying to push back a recliner that doesn't want to go (no leaning back), legs back and 'picking up' the belly, lighter seat to give the back somewhere to go.
  • All the while maintaining steady non-elbow-locked contact, and then asking for canter in the next corner. It must be a connected canter- no shuffle steps, no inverted. He must strike off with a purpose.
  • Maintain the connected canter.
So the first thing that happened was Mikey tried to trot through the extended walk. He doesn't do that. It was like he was saying "No, we don't do extended walk on the wall, we do it on the diagonal. We trot here." Then I'd get to the collected walk portion and he'd try to lock up, or swing his hindquarters one direction or another to avoid having to use his butt. Once I got past that and had him where I wanted him in collected walk, I'd ask for canter and get sidepass pissy pants. It took some tries to iron out, some swats with the whip on the left hip to try harder, and eventually we had some excellent transitions. No big motions from me, just steady seat, steady hand, supporting leg, very upright posture.

The confusion about what we're doing at any given moment led my trainer to direct me to not do any movements where they belong in the tests. Extended walks on the walls, not across the diagonals. Mikey has to listen to what I'm asking him to do, not what he thinks we should do. This was part of our downfall in the canter in 3-1 on Sunday (and is not a new issue). Canter at 2nd level and 3rd level always does something after a corner. He's conditioned to hit the long side and either go forward into medium or extended canter or go sideways into half pass, or do something besides track forward and straight. 3-1 has 10m canter circles at V and P, so you have to make it past K and F in collected canter. Mikey says, "What're we doing now? Huh? Huh?!" and we end up battling each other and his canter gets wishy washy and then good bye points and we're screwed for the next movement.

A graphic for your viewing pleasure.
Coming down from the canter each time, she had me shift my shoulders back in that same recliner feeling (engages my core and thighs) and pay extra attention to keeping my lower leg under me near the girth. When I let it get behind me, I flop forward and all is lost in the transition. I tried to keep in mind the slowing the canter down to the speed of a quick walk that I learned from A Enter Spooking, and soon enough we were canter-walking round and promptly. Sweet.

After the torture work in walk and canter, she grabbed my cube from a fence I had set it on, gave it to me, and asked me to just go around so she can get a gauge on how it affects me and Mikey.

My trainer is one strong lady. She fetched the cube from where I had set it down and as she walked back with it she held it in front of her and supported it the way you should, as was like "Ooo. Hmm. It really engages the abs. Even I feel it." I'm glad that me feeling the burn before wasn't me being weak. Even the lady who rides 5-10 horses a day in addition to mucking 17 stalls by herself every day feels it.

Anyway, the first thing that became obvious was Mikey's intense dislike for the cube. I asked about it, if it was me engaging my seat too much for him to handle (he doesn't always appreciate a fully engaged seat from overweight me or even good weight Trainer, in fact you can make him explode from it). She didn't think so, she reminded me that whenever we change something to a more correct ride, he always retaliates that he has to work harder to meet our new expectations. He was just pissed off at the steady connection in my hand (and a bit from the deeper seat). I fiddled with his walk a bit, trying to use leg and seat to get him to meet the bridle. His usual evasion became very plain- if he started shifting his hips around, you better believe it that I was sitting slightly crooked and so he flung himself around in response. He couldn't stop to have a temper tantrum either- I had no contact with his face and my seat and leg kept saying "March on!"

Trainer had me move on to posting trot to free up his back a little and get him thinking forward again. She was very pleased with how the cube effected my sit part of the posting trot ("It really doesn't give the rider any other option but to sit deeply and properly!"), and equally pleased that it was forcing my lower leg to sit where it should up near the girth. I have a horrible habit of letting it fall well behind the girth, which of course leaves no where for it to go when I need to use it behind.

Once Mikey started to accept that my steady hands weren't going away and that he had to come up and meet the bridle, he slowly softened. Just a bit. Not a true connection or good enough throughness, but just a hint of willingness to meet the bridle.

Trainer had me swap to sitting the trot, and it was a glorious thing. It was EASY to sit his trot. She had me do some shoulder in and pay attention to the tempo. Mikey continued to relax further. She had me really stretch up in my spine and bring together my shoulder blades, which had an immediate effect on Mikey- he came through and connected like the awesome boy he is. I could go from sitting to posting to sitting, and I never interfered with his back to make him uncomfortable so he never changed his throughness. AWESOME!

I worked that feeling in the shoulder in, paying super attention to what my hips were saying (sitting that deep and correctly sure made it obvious how to use them properly!), and pay attention to what my legs were saying. My lower leg hung at the girth, and I could put my calf on him and inside seatbone and he'd respond wonderfully. When I ask for shoulder in left, he usually swings off the rail immediately, then I crush him back into left bend and back to the rail. The cube made it obvious that in the steps out of the corner left and right before I ask for shoulder in left, I dig into him with my right seatbone, and his natural response is to leg yield away from it. As soon as I got more control over it, we stopped drifting so much.

Next she had me do some trot halt trot transitions. The downward was a touch rough to begin, but it slowly led to very square halts. I asked for trot on, and Mikey would invert and I'd lose my contact and connection, but he'd step off with a purpose. She said that that is how hard I hold onto him going into the upward transitions, I hold so much and lock my elbows and drop my hands that I make him invert and I slow him down when in reality, he does want to step off with a purpose. Eventually they got a bit better as he trusted that I wasn't going to shut him down.

She had me half pass next. It became quite evident in the half pass left that I would lose my contact with the left rein, then lose a lot of the quality of the movement. The cube forced me to be steady, but not take back my hand to maintain the contact. I need to find a more forward half pass to make Mikey find the connection, and keep the bend from my seat and leg. And oh yea, No collapsing either direction. Same stretch up through the spine. I don't get a floppy contact to the left rein in left half pass without the cube because I'm taking back rein to force the contact to be there, not correct riding! The right half pass was pretty decent, just needs to think a bit more forward. One of the right half passes was the best she's ever seen us do. So yay!

We ended with a bit of stretchy posting trot. It wasn't as hard as I thought to let the rein out while holding the cube. Mikey enjoyed his stretch, and I had to learn how to do a stretchy trot without falling forward.

She loved the cube, but warned me against using it all the time. It puts both of us in a good place- we both use the right muscles and tire out quickly. She said to use it just a couple times a week to avoid the good muscles getting overly sore and creating a resistance issue because he's sore (we don't care about how sore I get, I'll push through cause it's good for me!).

I think tonight we'll do some long and low work. Just easy stuff that's stretchy. I'm sore from two days of the cube plus two days of Fitness Blender workouts (I love them!). Tomorrow I'll bring the horses in for AM feed, then take Mikey for a short trail walk before I get picked up to go to the mini trial this weekend.

Trainer already has plans for a cube clinic on 8/8 where a bunch of us take turns riding with it for 15-30min. Well hell. I look forward to it! More torture!

(faux) Equicube final verdict: A+++

Thursday, July 30, 2015

First Faux EquiCube Ride

"Momma, why are you here? Is it to hose me off? I'm so warm."
When it gets to be 90 degrees +, Mikey sweats something fierce, this was BEFORE we rode. :-(

So yesterday I ended up riding even though I didn't think I would. The temperatures really aren't supposed to drop all that much this week and I needed to get riding again before the weekend, since I won't be around to ride. My trainer also called to ask if I was riding last night, and if so, could I turn out the horses when I was done. She needed to go teach at another farm in the evening and it was just too hot to put the horses out when she needed to leave. I really needed to get Mikey working again since he's been on vacation since the show, I like helping and it's a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" type deal. So off to the barn I went!

Mikey was ridiculously sweaty when I pulled him out of his stall. Brushing him was a fail because I actually made him foam from bushing him. He just melts on days like today. It's a big reason I often don't ride him when it's this hot. My trainer has pulled him out on days like this and just hosed him down to try to make him more comfortable. I swear he smiled when I hosed him down after our ride.

I didn't even bother putting on my tall boots, it was too hot. I usually wear FITS all weather full seat breeches with deerskin patches, but it was too hot today so I was wearing my new pair of full seat FITS tights. I usually wear those on days I'm going to work and ride to try and save wear and tear on the deerskin.

I took my cube down to the outdoor to practice with. I figured I could walk around for a while and that'd be hard for me, easy for Mikey.

My homemade cube. It is a bit wider than the real cube, and a hair heavier.
This is the real cube.
If you want an ab-master, make or buy a cube. I am strong in my core. I had a gym membership a couple years ago, and it came with a free personal training session to learn how to set and use the machines. When it came to leg and core machines, the trainer was like, "I don't know what to do with you. I've only had a couple women be this strong." The cube whipped my abs and back muscles.

Walking over up and down terrain to the outdoor holding that damn cube was a pain in my back. Literally. The muscles next to my spine were screaming bloody murder. My chiropractor had told me several years ago that I ended up with so much back pain in those muscles because they weren't balanced with my ab muscles. They were too weak. Well holy piss, I wanted to die. So naturally, I kept going.

I had a lot of trouble connecting Mikey to the bridle. I had my reins a bit longer than I should have, thinking I'd ask him for long and low. I definitely was sitting straighter, taller, and was finding my seatbones with ease. I think Mikey was surprised by the amount of seat contact, and it was a lot for him, so he inverted instead of looking for the bridle. I pushed for a lot more walk with my leg (another thing was it quieted an overactive seat in walk), and he finally connected a little. I think if I had gone around and warmed up a little without it, Mikey would have been a bit better prepared for such a deep contact.

I asked for trot, and I had no problem sitting the trot (it was easy with the cube!) until I got tired. I do like the cube for posting trot. I have trouble finding that deep sitting position in the sit part of the posting trot, and with the cube I didn't have a choice. It was there.

Picture of the sand bag weight in my cube.

I also found I couldn't hold my hands forward like I wanted to- it was too hard to hold up the cube because at that point I had to hold it up with my arms. Since I couldn't do that, I had trouble following Mikey's movements with my elbows. That was a big problem at the show- coming down from medium/extended canters to collected canter, I'd lock my elbows and force Mikey to either invert or plow through. I also couldn't flex him right to counteract our tendency to connect to the left rein both directions. I'd check my rein length to make sure they were even, but still had trouble getting an even connection. It was still better than it was a couple months ago, and I think with some ground eyes it wouldn't have been a problem. These are the only meh parts I have about using the cube.

Trot shoulder in to renvers to shoulder in worked out very well with the cube once I had Mikey more through in the trot. He never thought about fighting me or inverting or changing tempo. I did find he drifted a bit to the left, and I had a hard time correcting it because I was getting tired. The canter was incredible. I found myself using my seat more, and he'd connect much faster and truer.

I found myself lowering my hands a bunch of times (bumped the cube into Mikey's neck, sorry Mikey!) and I found myself trying to widen them too to get what I wanted. I had to keep them still.

I did take away the cube to finish up because I was getting frustrated and Mikey was definitely getting sensitive.

What a difference! Hands up and together, I was able to follow with my elbows without the weight. I wish I had had my tall boots and my whip, Mikey was a bit tired by then and I needed to give him a couple taps on the left hip. I think my hands actually got too high. They definitely didn't want to drop down anymore.

By the time I got back to the barn, Mikey and I were both exhausted. It was still 90 degrees or so out, he did some good work over his back after I figured myself out, and my abs and back were killing me.

I have a lesson tonight in a couple hours, and we'll cube it again.

Cube Verdict: We'll see. It'll definitely up my back and core strength, and get my hands back up and together and get me to stop dropping my hands to get what I want. I'll feel better after a lesson with it with Trainer checking me from the ground. I may see about having husband made it narrower. He said he could do it, but wanted me to give it a try first.

If you're interested in buying the Equicube, it's $80 plus $15 shipping. Or you can make the one my husband made with this material list. Husband spent about $20, but he already had some of the more expensive materials. It's around $38 if you have to start from scratch. If anyone wants to make it, let me know and I'll add some notes about how my husband put it together (just some tips he had for making one).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Schooling Show Recap 7/26

Showing off his new number holder and fly bonnet.

So I went to a schooling show Sunday, rode 3-1 and 3-2. I've been thinking about it a lot, and I've got a lot of mixed feelings.

All dressed up and not entirely pleased to be going.

My horse had major surgery just under 6 months ago on his hock and there was no guarantee that he'd be sound again, or hold up to doing third level again. I cried after my 3-2 test. People were like, "What's wrong?" and I would blubber out, "I'm just so happy." and they'd have to do a double take that I was serious.

"Engaging turbo thrusters cap'in!"
Extended canter in 3-2.

2. Well, shit.
I missed 60%. On both tests. Again. At a schooling show which tends to put out better scores than a recognized shows (though I've found the higher in level you ride there, the more consistent the score from schooling to recognized). I didn't miss by much, 3-1 was 59.242% with an error, 3-2 was 59.231%. It's still going to worry me that I'm wasting money at recognized shows attempting to finish my bronze. That and I'd really like to stop hurting my centerline scores average. After the bronze, I'm going to ride 2-3 and 3-3 at shows to try to get a dover medal and then a qualifying score that will let me ride a 3rd level freestyle. Riding both of those also will let me get my averages above 60%. I should not be worrying about that!

That right hock is bending very nicely now! This is about the max he can do for extended trot right now. It's not glamorous like a warmblood unfortunately. However, it is better than last year.

Extended trot needs to get a bit better, but for him, this is good.

3. Confusion.
I missed 60% on both tests. We're doing so much better than what we produced Sunday in 3-1, and a hair better than what we produced in 3-2.  A low score was completely and totally deserved on 3-1. I didn't have my head on right, especially after my boot zipper completely busted out after the medium trot so I got distracted and completely forgot to halt and rein back so I got an error, my canter was so messed up, and completely missed both flying changes. I just couldn't get Mikey to connect to the bridle. In fact, I thought I didn't deserve the score I got. It was too high a score. That was counting the error- it would have been 59.848% without the error. Mikey did have an incredible (for him) medium trot in this test, and was rewarded accordingly with a 6.5. The extended got marked down to a 6 because the medium showed more. Yarg!

My second test seemed a million times better, I got one flying change (it was late behind but that's an improvement for in public). I kept my head and thinking going. I'll admit, I let my head go a little bit in the last extended canter and botched the collection, and was late in my transition to trot on centerline. It scored less than the first test (not by much)- 59.231% again.

Our turn on the haunches leave something to be desired, they weren't at the level they were last year. Mediums and Extended trots were much improved though. I did get a reprimand for my rein release at canter to center it over centerline, but I turned my circle and felt Mikey attempting to bulge through me so I held him for an extra few strides so I could still show the movement, albeit late.

Last bit of coaching from Trainer. She is very patient with me.
Cantering around to A to enter for 3-2.
4. I'm so fat.
It's not like I didn't know that before. I've been watching what I'm eating by counting macros, and I've lost 9.4 pounds in the last month! Slow and steady will make it permanent right? I was feeling happy about it. It's the first time that I've been able to lose weight consistently, and it's been easy and I'm not hungry all the time or feeling light headed when riding. I'm able to make good choices and eat what I want. I watched the videos and looked at pictures and I'm like, you're still so fat. Just disheartening. I did decide to try Fitness Blender's 30 min 2 Week Fat Busting Workout for Busy People, which I found at No Longer Fiction's blog. It's $3.99, I'd like to lose more than my pound or two a week before Aug 15, and exercise will be good for me no matter what. It'll be a good confidence booster if I can be successful. And after watching my fat ass, yes, I think I'm ready for that.

But on the bright side, fat is not what made my boot burst in my 3-1 test. The zipper has been failing under the spur because it's been rubbed too many times and I think a tooth or two is bent. I'm sure the bottom at my heel gave, I held on for the medium trot and just pulled the whole thing apart.

Half pass to flying change fail, haha. He took off for a medium canter instead. This one got a comment of, "Horse seems prone to bolting through changes." Judge, you have no idea.
A smile for the extended canter! I got to the left to right change. Yes it was late behind, but it's better than any other change he's given me in public. I was super happy, so sue me.
5. Good comments, aka improvements.
Last year, every test had 'more engagement', 'lack of throughness', 'needs better connection' and 'needs changes' written on it. They were a hair away from saying 'horse and rider not ready for this level'. This time around, the first test had connection comments (expected- I couldn't find the right connection and knew it), but there were no lack of engagement comments on either test. Mikey is an "elegant horse" and we are a "capable pair". He got 7's on his gaits in both tests, even when I messed him up.

I'm pretty sure husband caught the single nicest step of the whole last centerline in 3-2 with this one picture.
6. A plan!
I have my plan for the next 3 weeks before our next show- a recognized dressage show. I'm going to use my fake equicube as much as possible. My tendency to drop my hands absolutely did Mikey a huge disservice in 3-1. We're just going for the hands up and together with it. I'm also going to practice keeping my tempo in the trot lateral work. That was the biggest, over and over comment in 3-2. The judge absolutely nailed it to me for it. In Mikey's defense on some poor half pass work- we added that back to our workload about two weeks ago. We're rusty. My trainer is also going to drill me on my medium/extended canter to collected canter because I bombed those too.
Yupp, Mikey was tired Sunday. He leaned his head on the wall between stalls to take a nap.
Looking back at my list, it seems like an overall positive day. We got out and did two tests, got constructive comments, and we didn't entirely bomb it. Why do I feel so shitty about it? I was really hoping for above 60%. I know, 59 point whatever is so close. It's not close enough when it matters at recognized shows, and this wasn't even a recognized show.

I'm going to post both videos of my rides... I hate them, mostly because I'm fat and therefore jiggle and bounce, and Mikey has a ton of movement to absorb. I'm sorry. I'm working on it. It's coming off slowly, but obviously not enough fast enough for horse shows this year. Hopefully this much accountability of me trying to lose weight will make the change in diet stick.

Mikey is off for most of this week. He was off Monday because he's awesome and worked hard Sunday. He's off Tuesday and Wednesday because it's 90+ degrees and without an indoor to keep the sun from beating on us, I can't put him through that, even for me to just practice with my cube. Thursday it's supposed to storm in the evening, so that will be a play it by ear. I'll ride in the rain- in the summer it feels nice. But I won't ride in a thunderstorm. I like not getting hit by lightning. We will ride Friday, then Saturday and Sunday I'm a groom again for my trainer at an event. She's riding 6 horses this time, 4 novice and 2 training. I will be groom extraordinaire!

Mikey loves his alfalfa, and it worked out well for us on Sunday. His energy stayed up through 2 tests in the heat of the day when it was 88 degrees. I'll be buying another stupidly expensive tiny bale for the last two shows of the year.

"Mom, I was a good boy today."
"So please dump some of this in my stall!" (I gave him another flake of it after taking these pictures)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

7/22 Lesson

First, my trainer and I decided to get some alfalfa hay for Mikey to nom on (in moderation) at horse shows to keep his energy up. He has a tendency to fizzle out in our second test of the day and last year I got him some oats (essentially empty calories) to perk him up at shows. I bought an alfalfa bale from Tractor Supply to test it out this weekend at our schooling show. I may just continue to get it from there, it's easy for me to get (but is ultra expensive at $18.99 for 50lbs), and I don't need it all that often. I am also allergic to hay, grass, and most things outdoorsy, so not tromping around stacking hay is ideal.

My car smells like allergies due to this poison package in my backseat.
Anyway, so the clinic that was supposed to be Wednesday this week had to be cancelled due to the clinician becoming very sick. So I took a lesson with Trainer in my time spot instead.

Mikey ended up staying in when the other horses went out, so I'm not sure if that was what caused him to be a little spooky and up on Wednesday, but he wasn't my usual relaxed horse. He wavered between relaxed and ready to explode for the entire ride. He baited me like he always does, but I don't bite anymore. It was a bit unnerving this close to the show. Back in our first show season together, Mikey got very excited to be out and about, and I would get nervous, and it was just bad. Old demons are not cool.

We chatted about the clinic, and the German Riding Master's comments. She was very happy that we had gotten such good remarks. She should be, she's the one who got us up and running again after a couple months of me walking and trotting just asking for throughness.

We talked about what each test this weekend would entail, talked about the alfalfa, and got to work. I had done a lot of walking lateral work outside the dressage arena as I waited for the previous lesson to finish. Trainer and I had set up the dressage arena this past Sunday, so I worked around the outside and used it like a rail to practice changing from shoulder in to renvers and back to shoulder in.

Lesson was good, and I'll just recap the main points:

  • As I go around the arena (and in all movements really), think neck rein with my inside rein (no actual crossing the neck). That brings up my inside hand that usually drops too wide to where it should be and gives Mikey the proper support. I'd already been doing this in half pass on my own, but that's a better way of explaining it. When we get working with lateral movements, Mikey swings his hips around like a college girl on a dance floor. Take that neck rein feeling to hold the shoulder (which is where I really lose him- his left shoulder), add the correct leg to shove his hips back where they belong, and bam, he's straight and ready to go again. This same feeling on a 10m canter circle is incredible. No falling in, plenty of bend.
  • Hold a step of straight out of the corners before asking for shoulder in. Don't rush into it.
  • In trot half pass right, ride it like I'm asking for a medium trot half pass. Mikey gets slow off the ground and crosses and goes sideways, but there's a lack of bend, which leads me to...
  • Half pass right (trot and canter): Ride it like I'm going to slide off the right side of the horse. I collapse my left side, inadvertently put my left hip on him, and remove all right bend from a right half pass. As soon as I shifted more to the right, his bend came back and he reached more forward and was a bit more free in his movement.
  • All half passes- don't let the outside leg get stuck on his side asking for half pass. Make it find the rhythm of the hind foot and bump him with it each step to keep him active and stepping forward.
  • If I'm going to hold my grab strap in medium and extended trots, hold with the right hand. I need more right to right half halts anyway to keep him straight and engaged, so I shouldn't lock down my left hand like I had been doing. This makes sense too because I need to carry my whip in my left hand to keep after his lazy left hind (the undamaged one!!!)
  • Turn on the haunches- keep a more active step by lightening my seat as I ask for it instead of digging in and driving for it (GRM also told me to stop driving for it). This is the same idea that I need to keep when I ask for halts and rein back. Lighten the seat to give his back somewhere to go, otherwise I'm crushing it down and he'll invert because he simply can't combat my seat to bring up his back.
  • Medium and Extended canter to collected canter: When asking for the downward transition, think of it as putting my shoulders back into a recliner that doesn't want to recline. This engages my core and slows my seat without me struggling to do so, and while I stretch tall and back, slide my legs back and encourage him to pick up his belly into the collection. This created the much quicker and smoother transitions back to collected canter.
Then there's this interesting tidbit that I read on A Enter Spooking, if you want to canter-walk, you must collect the canter until it's the same speed as the walk, then change the rhythm of the steps from canter to walk, otherwise you get an inverted transition or trot steps. Like, this is totally obvious now that it's pointed out, and the transition isn't necessary for 3rd level, but I think I want to hold on to that idea in our canter-trot transitions. Especially the one on centerline when Mikey wants to collapse into a pile of downhill mush.

Ok, so that's a lot of main points. I mostly want to get it down so I can review!

Quiet school on Friday, a walk today, show tomorrow! 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Looking at Mikey

I was going to make this post about my lesson this past Wednesday, but I changed my mind. Instead we're going to look at Mikey because I was running early for my lesson and decided to take a picture of him just standing.

He does not have short legs. He's 16.2! Why does he always look like he has short legs in these pictures? He does have a long back and long neck, which I'm sure amplifies it.
He's really not much to look at just standing. He's not downhill built, but he's not uphill built either. His withers are huge and shark fin like. Long in the neck and back. Neck attaches too low to his shoulder. Ewe neck that I'm trying desperately to get rid of (I'm sure a by product of too low neck placement and high withers). We're working hard to redistribute the muscle in his neck even though he's not built to have that nice dressage neck. Hind legs too straight for my (now) dressage taste. He needs to be fitter (in his defense on that one, he hasn't had the most intense riding year).

When we bought him, none of it mattered. He is honest as the day is long and he has an incredibly warm and loving personality. Even Trainer lets him get away with some shenanigans and has been known to give him extra scratches and even a kiss on the nose (she's not the lovey dovey type). He's now the steady eddy in the barn who can help give nervous babies confidence on their first trail rides, first trips down to the outdoor, and first water crossings.

The day I decided I wanted to own him, not just lease him, we were jumping. He had just learned to jump, and he jumped me out of the tack in a classic baby moment. I landed on his neck, completely out of the saddle, and instead of freaking out like a green OTTB, he stopped quietly about 20ft after the jump and just stayed still until I got myself back in the saddle. My parents fell in love with his personality, and it was all over (they had been saying for almost ten years, no buying a horse). He was a high school graduation present.

I love this horse. He's not built for dressage, but he makes up for it in heart and try. A reason I love OTTBs, 99% of the time, they always try and give their best. Even if they can be a bit misguided in their efforts sometimes. He's been my partner for the last 11 years.

Here's to you, Mikey.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

7/20 Clinic with German Riding Master

Mikey is hilarious. I suck at taking pictures that are level.
Monday night I loaded Mikey into the trailer and took him to a nearby barn for a lesson with the German Riding Master (GRM). Everyone was very welcoming, lots of 'long time no see', then they were shocked to find out Mikey had surgery and we've been back in full, unrestricted work for about a month.

GRM knew Mikey had been off, but didn't know the full extent of what was wrong. We chatted for a few minutes about what Mikey and I were up to and what we wanted to do today. I asked to go over test 3-2 as I think it's right up Mikey's alley. GRM got the test and read it while I walked around and got started. He said we'll warm up each movement, then run through the test and see how it goes. He seemed ok with 3-2, stating that it was "a second level test with flying changes" and that he and I had covered everything in it in a previous lesson when we went over 2-3 last year. (It's nice to be remembered, especially when I only saw him 6ish times last year, and it's been 8 months since I saw him last.)

I picked up trot and started to warm up. I had to pay extra attention to post on the outside diagonal... I've gotten used to posting on the wrong diagonal and working my lateral stuff that way! The first thing GRM said after watching us trot around a little was, "He seems quite sound!" I trotted Mikey around, asking for some shoulder in and haunches in to start, and Mikey had his floppy ears going on. Yay floppy ears!

He noted that Mikey had much better contact with the bridle and much more swing in his step than he did last time he saw me ride in Nov/Dec. I told him that I spent 2 months doing walk trot without any lateral movement and the only thing I could do was push him to the bridle and get him deep and through and connected. He approved.

GRM asked for the shoulder-in (SI for the rest of the post) to renvers, and I believe we started with the SI right to renvers left. I rode it down one long side, before GRM shouted at me to "Stop, stop! Walk!"

He had me walk the next long side and SI to renvers, and take extra time in the change. SI right, to leg yield, to bending the neck left, to bringing the haunches around for renvers left. Break it down into those 4 pieces. Worked like a charm for SI right to renvers left. Back to trot, and lovely floating long sides.

I said, "I didn't know you could take that many steps to get the change done." He said, "Better to take the extra steps and slower transition than a quick inverted transition that never recovers." Well, doh. Once again, quality over quickness/quantity. Isn't that what dressage is about?

Back to walk, change direction. I opted to change direction via walking turn on the haunches, and we spent a few minutes on that. The first one I did was awful, just too big and more circle like. He made me turn around and do it again. He got after me about driving Mikey with my seat around the turn. He said the inside leg is moving very slowly, but it is moving, not pivoting, so it's ok for now. We spent some time working on both, then moved back to the SI and renvers.

This is where I got warnings about too much bend in the neck to the left. Mikey has a tough time getting true bend this way, and all of my seatbone to outside hand aids flew out of my head. I'd ask for the change and Mikey would invert and fight me, so GRM changed plans and had me keep the movement for a few steps and do multiple bend changes down the wall. That's where things fell apart a bit.

So I ride SI left, ask for the change to renvers right, then ask for Mikey to change back to SI left, and Mikey tried to drag me off the wall and pull me around. GRM said to focus more this direction on shifting Mikey's hind end around. Instead of thinking of it as shoulders coming off the wall, think of it as haunches pushing closer to the wall. Mikey picked this time to completely ignore my left leg. I wanted to crack him a couple times behind my left leg with my whip so he'd respect it, but I'm unfamiliar with how people at this barn would take that idea, so I struggled through it, kicking and tapping. Mikey may or may not have run his butt into the wall on more than one occasion as we tried to get our communications right.

At this point, GRM said, "Your homework is to do these transitions in walk for the next week, month, year, thousand YEARS until you can keep him on the wall and keep him from inverting." Talk about one big assignment! He said even though renvers to shoulder in isn't in the test, it's a transition we can't do properly. So we need to learn to do it properly. Well shit, that makes sense! It shows me a big hole in our training, so I need to fill it in.

After the transitions got a bit better in walk, we went to trot and did a handful that were much better than the first one I did.

We went on to half pass, which I started in walk to make sure Mikey and I were thinking the same thing. GRM was good with this, and I don't remember him having much to say about them, so they must have been ok for walk. Went on to trot, and he said the trot half passes were much better, but I need to make sure that in the half pass right, the haunches don't lead and that we don't get going too sideways. Half pass left, I need to be very careful about overbending the head and neck left. All in all, he was pleased.

He said in an 'oh boy' kind of voice, "Ok, let's see what the canter is like." I did my prep in walk, asked for canter left, and Mikey gave me one of the best transitions to canter ever. GRM said, "Very good transition... Ok... The canter is pretty darn good too." I did a couple lengthenings and circles, and GRM noted that I need to keep him straighter on the short sides because Mikey almost 4 beat canters when I collect him up and he gets overbent left. We moved on to canter half pass left. The forward in the canter powered us down the arena without much sideways. Then I screwed it up by trying to change leads at the other end of the arena. I got the, "Stop, stop! Start over."

He said to slow the canter down in the half pass, so I did. Right from the beginning. I basically crushed Mikey. He had me turn out of it after several failed strides and repeat again, but keep the forward in the start of the movement. Mikey needs it to get going, but tone it down once I'm in the movement with right to right half halts to slow it down and let Mikey travel sideways. At the end of each half pass (we were going from the wall to center line) Mikey would try to power through me in a mock change, so to finish to the left, he had me canter half pass into straight trot down centerline, then walk and pat. Looking back, the canter half pass left really needed me to find my left leg and seatbone to better get the bend, which would have resulted in a much better half pass and possible flying change at the end.

We repeated to the right, with a similar idea, only this direction seemed a bit easier for Mikey. By the end, he thought if I had asked for the flying change right to left, I would have gotten it easily. I asked if he wanted me to repeat and ask for it, he said no, we'll move on, and it is what it is.

Complete silliness.
We took a little walk break, then went off to ride the test. Which I started riding from the wrong end of the arena. I'm used to A being at the end of the arena that you actually physically enter the arena from the barn area. This barn has it at the opposite end of the arena. It also has a set of doors there, so maybe it's so that you can actually track properly into the arena from the outside. Either way, I found myself all kinds of flustered and messed up because I barely knew the test, I was disoriented, and I was riding a 3rd level test in a small arena.

I turned Mikey down centerline, and immediately had to turn around and redo it because I cut the corner way off. After redoing it, Mikey powered through me into a downhill transition into the halt. GRM told me to watch my forward coming down centerline. I don't need that much coming into it. Ha. Mikey made that decision, but I'll have to work on it.

I trotted off, and went to do my medium trot across the diagonal and GRM said, whatever it is, it is (knowing it's not our strong suit), and I asked for a bit and he was like, "Good! No more! Keep that!" It was much less trot than I thought I needed. I then asked for SI left, and I immediately felt him leave the wall as if to medium trot again, and I had to crush him back to the wall. After that, the SI left to renvers right flowed fairly well. Another good medium/extended trot back into a very nice and flowy SI right to renvers left.

I lost track of where I was going, remembered my two tear drop half passes were next just in time to get him down centerline at C. Half pass right started off haunches leading a hair, and just as GRM was mentioning it, I got it corrected. Half pass left was very good, he warned me to watch the bend. I actually lost my left stirrup in that half pass, then flustered myself trying to get it back, remember where I was going, and listen to GRM. So naturally, I cut the corners by C because they were also already partially blocked off for seating, which jacked up my turn across the school into my turns on the haunches. GRM was very displeased and said I need to do a much better job getting into my corners and making those turns properly or else I'm giving points away. *Insert crawl into a hole and die feeling here*

The turns on the haunches were alright. I was a little slow getting my extended walk going, but it recovered very well, and my transition to collected walk, to more collected, to canter was a bit rushed (getting 12m worth of work done in 6m will do that). So by the time I got canter, it was time to turn up centerline and half pass, and I never quite recovered from a poor transition. At this point, I'm chasing the test down, not thinking about each and every step in each movement, and forgetting about seatbones to outside aids that help with proper bend, so I missed the easier flying change.

I got my medium canter, did a little better with the next half pass, but absolutely was not set up to do the harder change (left to right) properly. I asked for the 20m circle with rein release, and Mikey attempted to blow through me and do a flying change. I think he was partially anticipating a change since we were going across centerline, but I also was not as good with my hips as I was when I practiced at home. GRM said to start giving the rein a bit late to ensure he stays on the circle.

Extended canter (needs more but good) into collected and turn up centerline, to a downhill transition to trot to a downhill transition to halt. Not the best finish ever, but Mikey was laying on my hand too. Another thing to work on.

GRM said not bad, and seemed to think I could score around 60% easily, but if I can get lucky and nail just one flying change, I'll be well over 60%. He didn't have that optimism last year, so yay!

Mikey was TIRED. He was puffing quite a bit. He's not in very good shape. :-(  I'll have to make sure we don't neglect our trot sets in the next month. My legs were jelly. Maybe I should do trot sets on the ground with him. Strangely, for as tired as he felt, if I had to come back in an hour and ride another test, I don't think it would have been that bad. Last year, he had a tendency to check out on me in the second test.

I couldn't get over the huge amount of praise both GRM and the hosting barn's dressage trainer had for Mikey's overall improvements from our last lesson to this lesson, and in general how good he looked. It was so hopeful. GRM said Mikey's work is a very very solid second level, and it's perfectly acceptable for third, if we're lucky and get the changes. I said I wasn't sure he'd be able to move beyond 3rd level, his leg might not hold up to it, and we'd just be third level queens. They didn't seem to think that would be the case. We'll see, I'm not going to get my hopes up! I'd still love to take Mikey to PSG though.

Things I need to pay attention to:

  • Too much bend in the neck to the left, in all movements.
  • When things get sticky, right to right half halt to get straight again.
  • Remember that I can half halt like I do at home, inside seatbone/leg to outside rein, to half halt outside rein to outside leg/hip. Don't get so flustered and distracted that I forget that.
  • Take it slow. Know your test inside and out so you're not surprised by anything, or how quickly things come up. Take it slow, use your corners, use every bit of arena you can (like a hunter). My best tests have come when I can separate everything out and have a slow-time-down kind of feeling. The horse has to be soft and responsive, and I have to have every step plotted in my head.

A very productive lesson!

I love him. He's adorable. He kind of looks like a deer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tack Cleaning Isn't Boring (picture heavy post)

Well it isn't boring when I'm going to blog about it, dying leather, soaking leather, and in general ending up filthy myself while my leather is spotless. Ah, the way of everything horsey.

So due to the intense riding schedule I have this week (Monday clinic, Wednesday clinic, Friday lesson, Saturday trail ride, Sunday horse show), I needed to have my tack spotlessly clean for basically a week. So I thought, I'll clean my bridle and saddle over the weekend, no problem. I also saw Leather Therapy Touch Up Dye in a Leather Therapy product review on Horse Nation and decided to give it a whirl while I had my bridle home.

Now, Mikey's Micklem was suffering a life of I guess too hard cleaning and not enough cleaning maybe? I donno, either way, the bridle never softened up and I had problems with the black fading off. The bridle looked black from a distance, but if you took a close look at it, you'd see things like this:

Fade!!!! Brown leather!!!! Also in the stitching, you can see some white flecks... Mikey rubbed his face on a white jump standard early in the bridle's life. I was mortified that I didn't realize what he was doing and stop him sooner.
The chocolate brown hues are apparent in the browband. The crownpiece has the same hue. All of the padding under the top flat leather doesn't have any fade and is nicely black.
My bridle is the only one of the Micklem's in the barn to suffer this fade. I take good care of my tack- I never leave it out in the sun. I try not to let it get soaked wet, and if it does, I wipe it down as soon as I get into the barn and run some leather balsam over it (or if I know it's going to get wet, I do that before riding). I clean it, and am in general very nice to it. It sees hard use, but never abuse to the leather. So it irked me that I had this fading.

I also decided while I was going to all this trouble of making the thing look nice, I was going to make it soft as well. Trainer has a system with all of her new tack: buy new bridle/reins/breastplate, put in bucket or bag, soak in neatsfoot oil for 2-4 hours. All of her tack is soft and supple with no cracking, even on some of the oldest leathers. She's been doing it for years, and her stuff sees hard use because she rides 5-8 horses a day, and the bridles have never given up.

So last Friday, the bridle got a good cleaning, then I nervously busted out the leather dye and did a test section on the noseband buckle. If I screwed up, at least it would be covered by another piece of leather. It came out very nicely! It was almost impossible to get it near the keepers, so I tried smudging with my fingers, then eventually gave up because when it's in use, you'll only see the keepers anyway.

Look ma! No brown!
The black was in fact so black, and my bridle so faded everywhere, that I had to cover the entire bridle in dye (nothing that sits against the horse or the padding). It has an easy to apply applicator that you run over the whole thing, so it was fairly easy to get a good even coat on everything. Quick drying too. Highly recommended. I had very limited dye wipe off too when I gently cleaned it later. I'd clean it several times though if you put it on a saddle just to make sure it doesn't come off on your clothes.

Nice black crownpiece.
As you can see in the background, and the poor lighting, I did all of this in my laundry room in the basement. We have a huge laundry room- shelves, bars to hang clothes to dry, hooks to hang things, drying rack, washer/dryer, double stationary tub. I brought out one of our big folding tables and set it up too. Poor Husband attempted to navigate my tack cleaning induced danger zone (oil, dye) in an attempt to clean his work clothes. Silly Husband.

Anyway, the next step was oiling the leather. I stumbled across a red/brown leather lead rope while I was down in the laundry room. I bought it a couple years ago and meant to return it because it was much redder than I liked, and it didn't match Mikey's brown leather show halter. I never returned it, so it's been sitting in my basement in the horse boxes. I decided I'd pull it out and oil it too and see if the neatsfoot oil would help darken it somewhat. I cleaned it briefly, took off a bit of the red dye, then dumped it in a bag of oil. I hate inflexible leather lead ropes, so if I was going to use it, it needed to be soft and flexible. It promptly sucked up most of the oil I put in the bag, and turned what was left red. Husband thought it looked like transmission fluid. It came out much darker!

(Update: That lead rope is still oozing red, even after hanging out to dry for 2 days. I don't know what I'm going to do with it. I think I'll give it a good cleaning next, then use a leather conditioner- no more oil. It's plenty soft. I didn't notice, but it got red oily ooze on my white show pad. Not happy. The pad got washed with bleach immediately last night within an hour or two of it happening, but I have to wait and see how it dries. On the plus side, it got soaked yesterday when I hosed Mikey off and the water beaded right off. So much oil in it.)

I dumped the Micklem into two more gallon bags, dumped oil in after them, swooshed them around, then let all three sit for 3-4 hours. Every so often I'd turn the bags to redistribute the oil and make sure every inch was covered.

Soaking in oil.
Soaking gave me some time to assemble my now favorite tack cleaning supplies. This was my first experience with Leather Therapy Wash, and I'm quite happy with it. I still enjoy my Belvoir Conditioning Bar, and Belvoir Leather Balsam. The Balsam is affectionately known in our barn as "equitation in a can" since it makes clean leather a bit tacky and helps you stick to your saddle. Just don't put it on your saddle flap and the inside of your boots.
So after you let leather soak for a couple hours in neatsfoot oil, it comes out a bit sloppy.

Umm, I need more newspaper.
I let it dry overnight like that, and then all day Saturday and Sunday. I wanted the oil to soak in, and it did. In the meantime, Saturday, I made a cake.

A very delicious blueberry zucchini cake with lemon buttercream frosting!
It doesn't look the best, but it was very good. A bit rich, but good. I'll make it with less sugar next time and less lemon. I had already cut the amount of lemon down, but I still thought the cream ended up too strong.
Does cake count as a fruit and vegetable when it has 1.5 lbs of zucchini and a pint of blueberries in it? I can follow a recipe, but I am not the best presenter. I managed to squeeze out the buttercream frosting layer from between the layers. Oops.

I ended up using my jump tack and bridle to trail ride Sunday. I thought, "This stuff is filthy! And stiff." So I brought it home to be cleaned too. Well, not the saddle. It's still at the barn in it's filthy state. It's time will come. After this week is over, haha.

I cleaned the jump bridle and dumped it in the bag of oil. Mostly dealing with it too this week because I have bags of oil now and I don't want to just throw it all away or pour it back into the bottle. I hate wasting the oil because it's like throwing away money. The jump bridle didn't soak up near enough of it! I also soaked my new grab strap. The leather that goes in the D-rings of the saddle was very stiff and bulgey. It worked in getting it soft enough to not cause the saddle skirt(?) to bulge. I also tossed Mikey's fancy show halter with his name in a bag of oil. I'm all about this now.

I finally put Mikey's Micklem back together. Very pleased with the result! A lot of the places where I had trouble getting the dye under the keepers seemed to have absorbed the excess dye while it was soaking. Who knows, but the couple spots where I couldn't get the dye are now dyed.

So black. And clean. And shiny.
No more fade!

Before and after.
Also, Herm Sprenger Diamond Paste is incredible (available at SmartPak or Amazon). It is expensive, but incredible. After this whole experience, I'll never clean bits or metal fittings with anything else again.

I have some Korsteel Loose Ring French Link bits that have been sitting around doing nothing for 1-3 years. I bought two while I was eventing because they were $25 a pop and I used the same bit to jump and do dressage, so it made sense to have two since I had two bridles. The jump bit saw discontinued use in 2012, and so had been sitting on my jump bridle doing nothing, then was replaced with a rubber mouthed pelham and it hung in the tack room doing nothing, and then it was moved to my trailer where it continued to do nothing. Let's just say, I was good at cleaning leather, not so good at cleaning bits. 4H taught me to use toothpaste and a toothbrush, which never seemed to get it as sparkly clean as when it first came out of the store. I'd rinse my bit off rarely (now I do after every ride since I'm using a $230 HS bit), so you can only imagine how filthy the bits became.

I wish I had taken a before picture of the bit so you could see the incredible difference this paste made in cleaning it. I tried using it as suggested, putting it on a rag and then rubbing the surface, but the bit was so dirty that while it helped, it didn't help that much. I ended up covering the whole damn thing in a layer of the paste and letting it sit for five minutes while I cleaned something else. I'd give it a rub and wipe off the layer of paste and voila! It's looking pretty good. Yes, it still has some stuck on grime that I probably need a chisel to remove. I'm just impressed because after 5-7 years of neglect and poor cleaning that it cleaned up this well since 90% of the bit was covered in the same grime! Makes me wonder about the active ingredients in the paste, even though it says safe for skin and hands. It did remove the Korsteel black lettering from the mouthpiece, but oh well. I know it's Kortsteel and it's not like I'm selling it or something. I'll do some before and after with my second bit. Maybe. It's not as bad as this one was, but it's still bad.

Hard to see how clean it really is in this light. Trust me, it's better!
I leave you with some pictures of my boot inspector, Penny. She managed to fit her head, front legs, and shoulders into my boot before deciding she probably wouldn't fit.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Schedule and Small Successes

The past few days have a been a bit of a whirlwind- plans are changing, new plans are made.

"Hi Mom."
The new plan/schedule:

July 20- Clinic with German Riding Master. I haven't seen him since I think November last year. I'm hoping he'll be pleased with Mikey's general progress... even if I come back saying, "Nope, the flying changes still don't work right." We've only had 3-4 lessons working on them... sigh (of the 5 or 6 I've taken with him). I love riding with him. He has a very quiet, just do it way of thinking, and I always have good results. A lot of the failure afterwards comes from a lack of walls, poor footing, and inconsistent work which means I prioritize what we practice instead of hitting everything on a schedule like I should.

July 22- Clinic with an ex-pro dressage rider who competed on the European circuit, then a little in the USA until a horse reared, landed on her, and damaged her spine- she can't ride anymore. I personally have never ridden with her, but I've seen her teach and I like talking to her and other people seem to like her. She's also coming to my barn so it's an in house clinic, and I ride straight dressage and do clinics, so I think it's kind of expected for me to ride with her. I'm all about more help though before my next 3 outings.

July 26- Horse on Course Schooling Dressage Show. Kind of disappointed I'm doing 3-1 twice, not 3-1 and 3-2 (this'll be expanded upon later). Though the close date is July 22, so I can always email and ask for a test change. This'll be our first run through the tests for the year, and our first show since Mikey's accident.

August 15-16- WPDA Summer Sizzler & Encore USDF/USEF Recognized Show. Finally back to recognized competition! 3-1 and 3-2 are the tests.

August 29-30- PVDA at Loch Moy Farm USDF/USEF Recognized Show. We're going to have a 3rd level chestnut OTTB party with Austen and Pig. Very excited! Don't know why I never thought to go to Loch Moy, it's still about the same distance from me as Morven. This weekend works out a lot better too as I really needed to be home 9/12-13.

Then that's it. No more. I'm out of money! Mikey will probably need a rest too.

So to expand on being sad about not doing 3-2 at the local schooling show.

I rode last night with a friend I don't get to ride with very often (her horse boards at a different farm, but is at our farm for the week for a horse show Saturday). She claimed her horse is better when I'm there, I'm going to claim the same!

I made a grab strap out of baling twine (I ordered an actual grab strap yesterday, no worries!), and I've been using that for the past two rides to sit Mikey's medium trot. Monday when I tried it, we were both kind of surprised I didn't flop like a fish, so I left it at that. Yesterday when I tried it, I started the diagonal thinking haunches-in, then let Mikey power off it on the straight line while holding on to my baling twine for dear life. I kept myself in the saddle and when Mikey got a little unbalanced, not only was there a steady new outside rein, but I had my seat and leg to be able to influence him. Rebalance and keep on floating. The first one we did was an average medium trot, nothing spectacular. The second one we did was a wonderful medium/almost extended trot. I got the shoulder pop and could see the toes flicking and reaching in his shadow. I'm sure the movement is a little braced considering I've fixed my one hand to the saddle, but I'm so pleased with the grab strap. It really takes a lot of the worry away from that movement, from me and I think Mikey. I asked for it, and he said "Yes, ma'am!" Lots of praise. I wish I had gotten one sooner. Each time I ask for it, he gets better and better with offering more and more. Mikey, I'm sorry I flop like a fish sitting your extended gaits and seem to have punished you for years for trying :(

I tried a couple flying changes on the diagonal to very little success (several strides late behind right to left, and a completely botched left to right, like Mikey had zero clue what I was asking for). So I decided to mess with canter half pass even though we haven't touched it since January, and then double it up and ask for the flying change when we hit the new direction. The arena has a gymnastic set up down centerline, which made an ideal "wall" to half pass to and bounce off of, so that's what I did. Just about 20m forward of half pass that covered probably 5-8m sideways into the side of the line.

First up was half pass right with the right to left change. Mikey was so quiet and through and willing that I did a double take that he actually changed, and confirmed with my friend that it was clean because I didn't feel it happen. We half passed (very well I might add for not doing it in 6 months), I asked, he did. He got a ton of praise and pats on the neck and good boy's and in general you-are-the-most-awesome-horse-ever love. Then we took a short break to digest what just happened.

Next was the half pass left with the left to right change. The first half pass we did I botched because Mikey was expecting the change and fighting me, so I aborted the mission and re-approached. Second time around I got a bit better half pass (haunches leading for sure so still sucky), but I asked for the change anyway once we got to the standards in the jump line. He did it without any fuss! I confirmed with my friend that it was clean, it was, and so Mikey got the same butt-load of praise, long rein, and a more gallopy cross country canter to relax a bit. Then we were done. Two good changes to finish? Hells yea, praise and put that horse away!

I'd like to ride 3-2 now at the schooling show because it has half pass from centerline to the wall (I believe 36m to go 10m sideways), and then another 12m on the wall to make a change happen. Mikey totally understands halfpass to the wall to the flying change, so I'm 90% sure we could make those happen in public. I'd just make sure the change happened in the first straight meter, no reason to hold counter canter. I have a feeling that test will be better for us.

"Aren't you proud of me? I'm a good boy!"
It's an absolute tiny success in the grand scheme of it all, but I'm super thrilled. I'm curious to see how the changes fair when we see the German Riding Master in an indoor arena.