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.


  1. YESS! So excited for Loch Moy next month, you have no idea! I'm not sure if we'll be attempting 3rd again, or just doing 2nd. We'll see.

    Pig understands changes more in half pass --> change, too. I had a lesson the other day where the instructor had me counter canter until balanced, then come up the quarter line and leg yield to the center line, straighten, put my legs in neutral for a moment, and THEN ask for the change. It was much better for Pig, and really showcased that his problem seems to mostly be strength and straightness issue, not an understanding issue. Might try that to mix things up? All the lateral work and counter canter helped Pig think instead of anticipate. Really helpful.

    1. Do Third, you know you want to 😉 Either way, you guys have done third in public, so we're still third level ottbs! I am super excited about the show too. I wish we had a local recognized that you could come stay with us! I'm working on Horse on Course offering them. They used to about 6 years ago... Every year I ask the owner, "Do what about recognized shows?" They host a B rated hunter/jumper show each summer, why not dressage?

      I'm stealing that exercise to do tonight. I like practicing picking up counter canter from walk, so no problems getting into it, and as long as I don't take it across the diagonal or circle Mikey's generally happy to comply. I know that's ridiculous and he should comply no matter where we are, but the changes are such a hot button issue with him that I try to keep it as straight forward as possible to keep the good quiet experiences coming. But that exercise is an excellent way to practice without destroying the half pass work. I'll let you know how it goes!

    2. So the little ? symbols were supposed to be a winky face lol

    3. Let me know how the exercise goes!

      I DO want to show third, but I need to get enough scores at 2nd to be able to qualify for my end of year awards, which is 6 scores total, I think. But if I get 8 scores, I can drop my lowest two!

    4. Soo... It was interesting. I never really got to the leg yield because Mikey was so fixated on switching to the correct lead. He offered me so many "skipping" changes where he swaps up front and skips behind up catch up. I couldn't get him straight enough to get to the leg yield and change. Counter canter was rough because he kept baiting me as an evasion. He was almost relieved feeling when I changed to regular canter and half pass change. It's a big hole we need to fix, but in the interest of keeping the changes boring, I'm going to wait until after loch moy to work on it. I think in a month's time he'll have the flying changes down a bit better and I should be able to start demanding a good counter canter and getting to choose when the change happens... Right now I don't always get to pick! But he was very good with his half pass changes tonight too. Had an incredible canter half pass right. It was one of those to die for flowing passes.

      Which year end awards? And that's a totally acceptable reason to not ride 3rd! Awards will be on my radar next year, and maybe a trip to the regional championships if I have my act together.

    5. Oh Mikey! Gotta learn to relax, dude. :) Damn those TBs and their crazy smarts!

      My old Indiana GMO does an end of year award ranking complete with MASSIVE ribbons. So... Gimme gimme! :)

    6. We were completely crooked too... But he just wasn't available to me... I'm definitely coming back to it! He should be able to do it. And yes, TBs are like, "But mom, this is what you really want. Aren't I such a good boy?"

      Ooo, so you don't have to compete at their shows to partake? Yes, second level for you! It's probably what I'd do. Massive ribbons are AWESOME! They should have TB breed awards. I want to partake in that!

    7. um do you guys need a dressage fan club crashing your little party? bc this newbie would love to see what some legit dressage riders and their horses look like in action!

  2. You guys get talking like this and I feel like I'll never make it. Sigh.

    Still. The clinics sound like fun and so is getting back in the show ring. :-)

    1. You'll get there! I hung at training/first level for years because it wasn't at the top of my list. I was eventing and the jump work was much more important! Well flatwork is important, but if you screw up your dressage test you'll live, if you screw up your xc, you're getting hurt. I've only made fast progress because I'm solely devoted to dressage, and I also figure being unprepared in dressage means embarrassment, not injury.

      I'm excited to clinic and show again. The fact that I have a sound horse for it is incredible. Back in February he had a 50-70% chance of coming back like nothing ever happened.

    2. You will totally get there. Go back and read my archives from 2011-12, and remember when I was getting crappy scores at Training and First. ;)