Friday, April 29, 2016

4/24 - Schooling Show - First Level!

So let me preface this all with: I'm super happy with Penn. I let him get away from me at times, but he tried his best. I think this is an OK starting point for First Level, but we have some serious work to do before the first recognized show in May. We did not put out the same quality work that we did with Stephen the day before.

Trotting in warm up.

For most of April, Penn has seemed a bit uncomfortable behind. It has made working on the canter difficult, and that difficulty really came out at the show. Some things to consider:

  • Penn grew behind in the last few months. Growing hurts.
  • Penn was barely broke to ride at this time last year. He's doing a ton more work than he was at that time.
  • I've owned him for just over 8 months. I have turned his world upside down and most of his training has happened in that time. He's doing a ton more work than he was 8 months ago.
  • Spring is here! He may not be dealing with the good grass well. He's been having some looser poops lately.
  • His legs blew up a week before this show and he wasn't sound for several days. The hind end was worse than the front.
I'm not making excuses- I'm trying to problem solve why my 7 year old (who had clean x-rays in August- no chips or arthritis) is suddenly uncomfortable with his hind end. I'm posting the trot at home, sitting in public because he was a bit squirrely in this indoor arena. I think a lot of that unevenness in trot comes from me holding him together, and his tension manifested in the canter. I didn't have a lengthening canter or a transition back to working canter. I think if we had been outside it would have been better, so here's to hoping for next time! I will make an effort to post the trot next time, but we will see.

Lengthening in warm up.

He's going to get more patches before the recognized show (they really helped him this time around). He's also going to get a bunch of doses of Adequan before the recognized show. I'm going to ask the farrier to shoe his hind end slightly differently at the recommendation of another farrier (I had asked her for an opinion on how he was shod - she liked my farrier's work very much- and she made a couple recommendations that are more on the nit-picky side. I trust her opinion and I'll run what she said by my own farrier). I'm also going to double up on his OCD supplement- it's for bone and joint health. It seems most of their clients are thoroughbred racehorses who get the supplement while they're still growing early in life. It certainly can't hurt to put Penn on the problem dosage.

Leg yield in warm up. They always look horrible from the side.

Anyway, back to the show! I got there super early because Hawk and I hauled over together, and her ride times were bright and early. Penn was obnoxious in the barn- screaming and stall walking. It has been a while since I've seen him that upset out in public. He's got to learn to deal with it though!

Canter in warm up.

I didn't ride until almost the end of the show- I got on at 1:40 for a 2:00 ride time. Warm up was OK- he seemed to be working fairly well. I was actually really hopeful for his canter work because his canter was nice and relaxed in warm up, and he was paying attention and willing to work with me without the tension he's had in the past.

Canter almost looks like a good gait for him!

I tried to work warm up like I had with Stephen the previous day. I was able to fit everything in except the trot-halt-trot and zig zag from 1-3. I was planning on going back down after my first test to review that, however I didn't think Penn would benefit from more warm up after the first test. The more we rode, the more electric his responses to me got.

It almost looks like he gets stubby up front at this point in the gait.

There were some people trying to load a horse near warm up, but the horse blew up and either slipped out of his halter, or broke it, and went gallivanting around a large grassy area across from warm up. Once they caught him, I decided to go up to the indoor a test early because I didn't want to have to walk past the scene the horse was causing in his desire to not get back on the trailer.

Off to the indoor to ride our tests! I borrowed the vest- I need to go to Goodwill and buy my own!

So here's the first test of the day, 1-2:

57.969% - 3rd place

Ok, so that could have gone a lot better. Stuff was just bad, end of story. There were so many 5's in this test, argh. She certainly nailed us where she should have, but she was willing to praise better efforts too. I was having a discussion with him and was completely late for my walk-trot transition right before the left lead canter.

And the second test of the day, 1-3:

61.765% - 1st palace, AA/JR First Level High Point

"WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK." That's what was rolling through my head in the first halt. Stephen had gotten after me about the left hind resting at the halt, so I was adding more left leg than I should have... and his ass went swinging in the WORST halt of my career. I was mortified. A 5 was generous. All I could do was pretend it never happened and ride on. Average scores through the start of the trotwork... and then as I was finishing my first 10m circle at R, I was like, "I paid zero attention to the outside hind. I bet it wandered out." Yupp. Then we halted, and I stopped myself just in time from saluting. *face palm* Note the rein adjustments that happened which made the halt obnoxiously long. I was pleased with his walk and the start of the right lead canter work.

Basically, most of the issues are bad direction on my part. His canter didn't feel available to me, so I barely asked for lengthenings. I didn't want to risk breaking to trot on the transition back to working canter. I had a hard time keeping him on task. He was especially distracted in canter and I just couldn't figure out how to deal with it.

Also, this judge severely disliked my desire to sit the trot. She asked me at the end of the second test why I chose to sit the trot- I told her that Penn was feeling wiggly and I have better control over him in sitting trot. She just stared at me, then said "Well, it negatively effected his gaits." All I could say was "OK, thank you. I'll consider that." I'm at a loss- so we could be inaccurate but his gaits would be better? She nailed him with 6's, which I do get... he wasn't up to his usual float. But I still think I made the right decision to sit. I'll give posting a try next time when we're hopefully not in the spooky dark indoor. The judge had some strong opinions throughout the day. A severe dislike of sitting trot in training and first level. She didn't like how Trainer held her hands in one test as the horse was getting tired, awarded them a slew of 6.5-8's throughout the test, then gave her a 5.5 on rider effectiveness. Umm, you can't award awesome scores like that and then dock the rider effectiveness. The rider was obviously effective if you awarded mostly 7's and 7.5s for a 72%. Anyway.

Well the satin tells the story of a great show day doesn't it?

I don't know these tests well enough. At all. Coming around the arena to enter 1-2, I'm trying to figure out what direction I turn at C. All I know is it's opposite of 1-3, and I have to work backwards from the zig zag to figure out which way I turn in 1-3, and then I had to repeat the process because I'm trotting around and decision time is coming and and and I NEED TO PRACTICE THESE TESTS MORE!

We're up to 4 champion ribbons!

Basically, we did what we set out to do- ride first level. Not a total loss, but we have a lot of work to do before the next schooling show on May 8th, and the recognized show on May 21/22. I'll see Trainer at least once (I'm hoping twice!) before the recognized show. I think I'm going to do some more long lining sessions so Penn can work on his hind end without me on him. I think I might give Karen's sliding side reins a try too. I found a good hill to walk up and down too to help his hind end strength. More on that later though!


  1. I can see what you mean on gaits - compared to the videos of the clinic, Penn isn't moving as well in these videos. But that could be from a slew of reasons :(. And yeah - you could try posting the next time around, but that went super poorly for me haha :P. Wish I would have stuck to my guns like you.

    Anyways, I'm tentatively planning to haul to our instructor's place for a lesson on the 20th. I'll have the day off of work though, so I'll be going in the morning, if it pans out. You're welcome to join!

    1. Haha, posting would have ended just as poorly for me as sitting did. Pick your poison! I probably would have tried posting in the second test if she had made her sitting comment after my first test... but she waited until after the second so... I unknowingly stuck to my guns?

      I don't think I can join on the 20th- I'm leaving for the recognized show that day. I'll probably try to make it over there another day, if work gives me the time off... I believe she's off traveling for every weekend except this one coming up!

  2. I feel you on the hind end weakness. Stinker has improved greatly but the more he improves the more I realize how weak it was. Can we just slap a GP butt on our horses? That would be great.

    I think that the judge was a bit harsh (because my uneducated opinion out weighs But he did look much better for the clinic.

    1. Yes please on the GP button! I'll pay a small fortune for it too. Just think of it as advance payment on future lessons, hehe.

      She was super harsh at times... it was weird. She wasn't afraid to give good scores when they were deserved, and I thought she was fairly nice. But man, she was willing to nail people for the slightest thing. I agree though, he was much better for the clinic. It shaped what I'm doing at the recognized show (only 1 test on day 2), and we'll see how that goes.

  3. That's SO WEIRD with his gaits, I totally didn't believe you in yesterday's post but yah, weird. Could it just be that he was sore from working with Stephen the day before? It almost looked like a tension thing, like he didn't want to swing his hind legs under his body due to tension in the lower back (SI joint maybe) so he was interrupting the swing of the hind legs at the canter especially (where the back naturally swings more anyway).

    One of the horses I work with canters like this when he's tight in the back. Penn is so loose in general that it might take just a tiny bit of tension to get his gaits to turn. Eh just a thought. With the horse in my barn we usually just get up and gallop him to get his pelvis actually moving- find a canter where the rhythm is correct and then half halt from there. But he's on the lazier side anyway.

    So weird! Yah some judges love to tell people to post if the test isn't going perfectly. I had a student whose horse just has never done well with posting trot (she's very strong so it's good to have your core to keep her together) and judges loved to tell the kid that the horse would move better at the posting trot. Well yah sure that might be true, but she'll also drag my kid around the arena so we figured sitting trot was best for her training. Obviously all those comments go away starting at Second so we just ignored them.

    Hopefully Penn feels better and that the next show goes really well!

    1. I think it's like you said- he's so loose in general that any tension makes his gaits turn. It's a thin line of what I can do with him when he's like this... posting the trot and he's wiggly all over and zoomy and sometimes he lays on me. Sitting the trot and he looks lame and disjointed. I really don't think he was tired from working with Stephen. His energy level felt the same (I rarely have a "tired" horse), but then again he's so forward that maybe when he gets tired it manifests in tension instead of dragging. In the past month, we've had good days and bad. The good look like Stephen's lesson, the bad look like the show.

      I haven't found the magic button to get the relaxation back yet- the first thing I did when I felt this at the start of the month was get going forward, let's go gallop. It made it worse. I brought him back and he was hoppy and horrible and tighter. I'm looking for the answer and just haven't found it yet.

      Perhaps some more in depth body work is required. I haven't found a chiro I like (I don't like rough), but one of the vets that comes to our barn does chiro work and everyone seems to like her.

      I just want my boy to feel better too :-( I haven't been working him hard in the ring since the show because I'm afraid I'm doing him a disservice. Instead we've done a light/basic warm up in the ring, then gone for slow gentle walks up and down hills. He's been relaxed and cooperative for the ring work, but every now and then as he gets going I feel a hitch.

  4. Jeez that judge sounds rather nasty. I would just shrug that one off. I love you guys as a pair!

    1. I don't mind shrugging the judge off, Penn is mostly out here for the experience so he doesn't have a meltdown at recognized stuff! And so I can learn these tests. Argh. Haha!

  5. Just found your blog and read through from the beginning. I love how you balance your goals and work towards them. You guys are amazing, making incredible progress, and it's been so much fun over the last few days to see how far you've come in the past year. Don't let one tough judge get you down.

    As for the rear end issue, Katai has been like this lately. I think I've found a small bruise on one of her back feet but I also think that she's really been pushing forward and carrying herself so I think some of it is just stiffness or tiredness. If she doesn't start being consistently more floaty again soon I'm going to have to figure out next steps. Right now I'm just giving her a bit more time to work out of it.

    1. Thanks for reading!

      I got to see my trainer yesterday, and we agreed it's a stiffness/overworking issue. We have a plan for the next month!