Thursday, June 30, 2016

Meet Felix!

I said last week that we have been casually looking for a third cat. We're happy with our two girls, but the house was nice an full before we lost Nickels. My husband said it had to be a male (to even out the genders in the house, bah! I wanted another calico girl to confuse with the other two, but I lost on that front). I wanted it to be another Manx mix. I love the wiggly tails!

Felix loves the big cat tree! Husband hand made it for Nickels when Nickels was a wee hell raising kitten.

I put out a feeler with the shelter group that we got Penny from- no hurry, but when you have a manx come through, let us know. Well they got back to me much faster than I anticipated. I thought we had a few months, but they got a brother and sister within weeks.

Side note: Please donate what you can to shelters. We met and adopted Penny through Petsmart- the Petsmarts in our area partner with local shelters to help adopt cats. Penny had been fostered and then sent to Petsmart for exposure to be adopted. This time around, the kittens had been fostered and then placed with the shelter to be adopted. This shelter needs all the help they can get- they have very limited space (that really isn't all that pretty) for both dogs and cats, and it looks like they could use things like organizational systems, more volunteers, and better building. Unfortunately, they're over an hour from me so I can't go volunteer, but I do donate to them through Amazon Smile (my parents do too!). I can't do anything about the shelter space, but I can send food and items like fans up- they are close enough to the barn that I could go on a Saturday to drop things off. Anyway, I went back to this group because they do good work in getting animals in foster homes before adopting them out- Penny was far better adjusted to house life and living with humans than Nickels was (and he came from a pretty ritzy shelter).

We went up the shelter and met the little boy kitten last Friday- he was a bit timid, but willing to be snuggled and purred up a storm. The shelter was loud (dogs barking) with no real quiet meeting area, so we thought he was probably just overwhelmed by going from house to loud shelter and having strangers take care of him, etc.

Arrangements were made for us to pick him up from a local Petsmart on Tuesday- Husband was going to cut it really close if he had to drive to the shelter before closing time. I couldn't make it to the shelter at all, so they opted to drop him off with some other kittens so we would have a little more flexibility with the timing.

We got a couple new things for him- his information card said that he liked kitty hammocks for sleeping, and don't you know it, right in front of his cage was a scratching post/hammock combo for $26 (which I then got another $2 off because of adoption coupons!). A new tag, a collar, and his own brand new catnip carrot toy (we have a very chewed banana and pepper- they're canvas toys filled with catnip that hold up well to excessive biting, scratching, and licking- seriously, the pepper is stained because Penny licked it to the point of soppyness).

We kitten proofed the spare bedroom and put a screen door in the place of the real door. We used this method to introduce Penny and Nickels- Nickels wanted to kill her and it let them sniff and exchange smells without any danger to Penny.


Felix was super timid and scared when we finally let him out of the cat carrier. Husband and I had to sit very quietly on the twin beds in the room before he'd come out from behind the curtains or out from under the bed. He'd hide immediately if one of us moved or talked. The girls didn't help much either- Sophie wants to kill him and Penny just tags along.

Passive watcher behind, aggressive hunter up front.

Both girls came right up to the door- Sophie started her mountain lion growl and hissing. Penny was being super polite until that point. Though it was hilarious- Sophie is growling and hissing at Felix, and Penny turned and growled at hissed at Sophie!

Just before his leap onto the giant plush bear! I missed it! He landed in the bear and it just enveloped him, haha.
I pulled out a favorite feathery toy to help encourage him to be braver about the space, and he was all over it.
When the girls lost interest in him, he finally went over to the door to have a better look around.
Which he then climbed.

Husband hooked up an extra back up camera to our security system so we could keep an eye on Felix while we're at work. Originally it was going to look in the door so we could see any harassment that was happening, but it just didn't work out. Instead I had an excellent view of Felix sleeping in the cat tree all day Wednesday.

I'm hoping the wall doesn't back up!
I caught him snuggling the bear!

He's coming around and losing his shyness- he wanted some hugs Wednesday morning before we went to work. He's quite chatty too. If he wants anything, mew mew mew mew! He's excellent about keeping his claws to himself too. I've found that cats that spend extra time with mom are MUCH better about this kind of thing (they just don't learn it from human moms). Penny and Felix did, and they seem very respectful. I'm fairly sure Sophie did too because I picked her up off the street, so that was probably self weaning instead of human intervention. Nickels didn't go to a foster home and was without his mom by 9-10 weeks old. He clawed us up like hell.

Anyway, Felix is becoming a purring love bug! He's not afraid of me and Husband anymore, and is slowly gaining confidence. He explored the house Wednesday evening - without me locking up the girls. Sophie is still growling up a storm, but it seems to be an, "I'm in charge here" type thing that she reminds him of every five seconds, not an actual "I'm gonna eat you!" type. Penny just oversees it all and reminds everyone that while they may be a little princess and prince, she's the Queen!

Sharing space! 
So much cuteness!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Riding Recap

Alright, so I never got my 6/21 lesson recap written. Since then, I've had some pretty shitty rides, that I'm 99% sure are my own fault. But we'll get to that. First, this past week's lesson amounted to:

  • Continue ripping off the band-aid of me doing everything for Penn.
  • He's starting to be in halfway land in the stretch from last lesson, so either stretch him down or push him up to connect him.
  • Start working largish walk and trot pirouettes. We need to get his shoulders moving/lifting and establish a real bend in the walk and the trot, and this is obvious enough for me and gets it done too. A neat trick of lightly tapping the outside shoulder for over, then the hip for forward, really got the concept across: bring the shoulders around, don't put the haunches in then try to swing around. Thinking shoulder in for everything.
  • Trot half pass: 10m circle, take the bend into half pass, if he falls out of bend 10m circle and continue, thinking pirouette with the shoulders to finish it and circle back around to repeat. (so you're working across the same diagonal)
  • Trot/Canter/Trot transitions- thinking pirouette in the upward transitions to keep the jump happening and prevent him from collapsing in the downward.
  • End goal: increase the collection so we can start nailing the canter/walk/canter simple changes at Second Level.

All this work will help get this trot lifted up more and give it more reach too.
We had  A LOT of trouble finding bend. I'd put my inside leg on at the girth, he'd move out. I'd block him with the outside aids and he'd speed up. I'd half halt and he'd invert and lose his rhythm. Inside leg again, repeat until he guesses proper bend. He needs to understand that my leg doesn't always mean go forward- sometimes it means bend, sometimes it means go forward, sometimes it means move over. It's especially hard to the left- I tend to let horses drift out the left shoulder (Mikey did it and now Penn does it), so we focused on riding a bendy square instead of a circle to the right. That made me find bend, but keep him straight, and no creeping out on the circle. Which totally makes sense if you don't question the concept of bendy straightness.

Lesson was quite successful, yet frustrating at the same time because this is the same area I had trouble with Mikey (needs more bend and collection), and we never got it down to a science in my brain. Still by the end, we had a serviceable half pass 50% of the time that was lacking forward but had excellent bend and positioning, and the canter was coming along. We both got tired before we could really make something of it.

More media from the show because I have no new media. Can we talk about his chunky monkey neck?
Also, I think he's leaning on his right shoulder here, despite being on a straight line.

I rode Friday and Monday. Lesson was Tuesday, Penn saw the chiro Wednesday, rest day Thursday, then I was away Saturday and Sunday. I should have made one of those rides a light trail ride or something, but I didn't. We went to work in the ring.

Basically Friday had some good but frustrating trot work, and the canter was meh. He totally gets the sit down idea, but forward got lost in the translation somewhere. That's just how these things go, I get it. I sent a couple joking messages out, "Penn was sitting and leaping into canter, and then he wanted to canter on his hind legs, hahaha! Just need to find some more forward."

Monday was... not good. Bad enough that when I got off, I sent a message to my trainer asking if she had time to come out Thursday or Friday this week because Penn was getting my number in canter and I was failing to fix the problem. The trot work was reminiscent of the bouncing on and off the contact from the winter. Apparently we're back in that cycle of training (which is why we didn't rip the band-aid off while we were actively showing). He's starting to hide behind the aids, and when I push him up, he inverts and canters off, where he continues hiding behind the aids in a rather threatening way. Canter is very much the same: he's backwards into the transition, backwards in the canter, and if he's not at 'neutral' in the canter, he's sitting on his hind end hopping while inverted and behind the aids. It's one of the only things that I find unnerving when flatting a horse- when the forward button is broken. Funny though, he's much easier to bend.

Not a naughty horse. Mouthy yes, naughty no.

This horse has NEVER done a naughty thing riding in his life. The trainer that broke him said that he never crow hopped or bucked. I've had him almost a year now and the worst he's done is shake his head. Part of the nerves is I don't know what he'll do next. He's never been naughty. How big will the buck be? Will he launch himself in the air? Then buck? Or will he simply plant his feet and rear? That last option scares me the most because I worry about flipping over.

I went back to some concepts from two lessons ago- stretching down in trot and canter. Trot worked well and he seemed to relax into it, but panicked when I collected him back up. Canter was a disaster- I did it to the left first and he sped off and I didn't trust him stretching down, so I'd activate my seat by accident, he'd pin his ears and lift his head, then when I tried to stretch back down, he'd lean over his inside shoulder and then all bend and constructive work was gone.

To the right, I set him up to walk/canter. It was fabulous. Inverted with pinned ears, but prompt. Zero stutter, just simply into canter. I tried to stretch him down without letting him fall out the left shoulder, but he wasn't having it. I felt the inverted hoppy canter coming, so I gave him some big half halts and asked for walk from the more collected canter. He didn't drop down immediately, but he didn't have too many trot steps. Aside from the angry confusion between us, it wasn't half bad for him. I quit there- the two transitions were OK and positive enough to end on. It certainly wasn't going to get better!

Take this lifting moment and suck it back so he's hiding behind the aids and lifting and inverted.

I think what's happening is that Penn has caught on to the concepts extremely well. The problem is me- I'm still asking him for everything as if he hasn't got a clue. So I'm over bending him, over collecting him, basically over stimulating and over facing him and he's giving me the natural response of, "I don't have any more to give, WTF DO YOU WANT?!?" Only we're so far in that I can't seem to find the way out (ie, we're in trouble, I must not be asking right, ASK HARDER). Cue, TRAINER PLEASE COME HELP ME!

Writing this out has been really helpful- I think I need to go back to basics for a ride or two and find forward again- do an entire ride of pushing him forward in every gait. Endless simple transitions to make them prompt and not something to be nervous about. It sounds like in trying to convince him the leg doesn't always mean forward, I've taught him it NEVER means forward. I need to get some of my connection back. Also, take the horse for a freaking trail ride. But only after the forward button works again because if there's a disagreement on the trail, that button HAS to work properly.

I don't have a definite date yet for lesson, but I'll certainly keep you all posted.

How could this face ever do anything bad?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Flexible Fit Equestrian Review

Image from Flexible Fit Equestrian's Facebook

I've been ogling Flexible Fit Equestrian bridles for some time now. I decided a while back that when Penn was ready for a double, I wanted to order from them. (no, I did not order Penn a double!)

This awesome guy in his double. Penn and Mikey will only share the bradoon bit and reins.


When Penn made the switch between a Micklem and a regular snaffle bridle, there was a problem. I changed Mikey's double back to a snaffle (removal of the bradoon hanger), and realized the noseband wouldn't work for Penn. Way back when, I used a removable flash attachment on a HDR snaffle bridle. No one at the time really told me how to fit the noseband and flash, so the noseband was too low and loose and the flash too tight, causing the noseband to pull down and it almost looked like a poorly fitting figure 8 bridle. I rode that way for years, and it stretched the noseband to the point where it won't sit up on the nose anymore. If I were to attach a flash, it would just pull down Penn's nose and look ridiculous. Not to mention that I also had the bridle as tight as the cheek pieces and noseband side buckle went. I had to order a new noseband anyway, and based on the prices for new nosebands, I decided to just order a whole new bridle. It's only money right?

The last time I got a new bridle was back in 2013- that's when I got Mikey's Micklem. I think I got my black snaffle bridle between 2005 and 2007 when I got my first dressage saddle. I don't collect bridles- I have a brown one, an HDR snaffle and bradoon hanger, and a Micklem. I figure this means I've been behaving and am allowed to buy Penn his own, brand new, not hand me down, bridle.

Order Process/Pricing:

The really nice thing about Flexible Fit bridles are just that- it's a flexible fit. Mikey's full bridle was too big for Penn, but the full size Micklem seemed to fit Penn OK- except the drop was almost as tight as it goes and the jaw band was bigger than where Mikey wore it. Penn's cob sized show halter fits his nose well, but it's a bit small for his jaw. Full browbands are ok on his head, but cob fit better. FFE allowed me to mix and match sizes, creating a custom fit for an excellent price.

I measured Penn according to their methods and emailed them the measurements and asked what size pieces I should buy. They responded promptly and politely to all of my emails, and asked me to go measure Penn's head again because the nose measurement I sent them was smaller than their pony size. Oops. Penn's final dimensions? Full headpiece, full cheek pieces, cob noseband, cob browband.

FFE is based in Australia, and I think their full bridles are a hair smaller than US full bridles- I expected Penn to be firmly in the Cob sizes, despite his thicker jaw, however his measurements put his headpiece and cheek pieces in the full range. After receiving his bridle, I think he might have been able to get away with cob cheeks, but definitely not cob all around.

BO's daughter has also been looking at FFE bridles, and since we both wanted one, and it's flat rate international shipping, we decided to order together and split the $35 shipping.

I decided to get the Flexi-Fit Gel Mix & Match Bridle, and BO's daughter got the Flexi-Fit Mix & Match bridle. Starting prices on my bridle are $184.80, hers $109.80. Not a bad price for a custom bridle. You can buy individual pieces from them, ie just a noseband or just a browband, however there's a discount if you order them within the Mix & Match bridles. Neither of us bought reins- we each have our own preferred reins.

Depending on the base Mix & Match Bridle, you have a varied selection of nosebands (so the leather, gel/non-gel and fittings match). The Gel Mix & Match has the most options. It seems almost every browband is available to each bridle (some are limited due to styling like rolled leather etc). You can get brown or black leather in dressage, eventing, or hunter styles. You can order any number of nosebands and browbands (all are discounted in price since you're buying through the Mix & Match!)

I went with these:


$49.95 - who can say no to sparkle for that price?!
I wasn't going to order a browband, but I decided that I liked this one too much, so I figured I'd have 2 sparkly browbands.

My bridle totaled $209.80 + $17.50 in shipping, so custom fit bridle for $227.30. Awesome. Add everything to the cart, and start checking out. The bridles had a price drop because Australian taxes were already figured into the price, so those were taken out. My bridle was down to $208.23. Fabulous!

So we submit the order, I get all the confirmation emails, and I check my credit card. The total charged to my card was significantly less than the order total. How about a strong USD vs AUD for the win? I don't know why it didn't occur to me- AUD is represented with $ too. I should have realized the website was in AUD, not USD! But that was a nice surprise (it could have been a really bad one). At the end of the day, after splitting my CC company's ridiculous $8 currency exchange fee, Penn's custom bridle only cost $158.13. After factoring in the CC fee, that's a 24.06% discount because of the exchange rate being in favor of USD! (two side notes: one- our two gorgeous browbands were only $33 each, two- BO's daughter's was the cheapest Mix & Match option and including that gorgeous clear crystal browband, shipping, and CC fee, it was just under $117)

Communicating with the company and ordering were a cinch- they're very responsive and the website was easy enough to navigate. I only had trouble removing items from my cart- sometimes I dump a lot into my cart to decide on later. Communications were only held up by the time difference- they're something like 10 hours ahead of EST.


We placed our order on 6/2 (when it was already 6/3 in Australia), and I got the package on 6/13. Not a bad turnaround for international shipping halfway around the world.

The bridles come in an awesome soft bag, and all of the leather was soft, right out of the bag. I can't tell if I like the leather or not- it's soft right out of the bag for sure, but it has a kind of waxy/plastic feel and the edges are VERY square. I think that will go away in time as it gets cleaned and conditioned. They have that wonderful new leather smell though! I love the gel padding on the underside of the crank noseband- it's just as good (if not better) than the gel insoles you can buy for your shoes. I may have spent a long time squeezing it and making everyone else squeeze it too. The regular, non-gel bridle is still very soft and has excellent padding.

All the pieces (two bridles worth)

There was only one problem- my browband suffered some kind of manufacturing problem where the crystal strip was splitting from the leather backing. when laid out flat, it looks fine, but when curved, it splits. I brought it up to the company via email, and they sent me a new one without any fuss. The crystal browbands are also shipped in their own heavy plastic sleeves, something I thought was cool. You can reuse the sleeves to store browbands too.

Penny liked the bag. She was in it as soon as it was empty.


The bridle fits Penn perfectly! BO's daughter's bridle fit her horse perfectly too. Everyone is very happy. Penn seems to enjoy his new bridle too- he's been foaming at the mouth like mad when we ride. The company is spot on in their recommendations when you send them measurements. Each buckle has 7 holes- the company recommends sizes based on using the middle hole, so you'll never be buckled at the very first or last hole. If I changed anything, I might have gone with cob cheek pieces- I tightened them up one hole from where I normally put them. Definitely not the company's fault though!

Not being photogenic for new bridle pictures,


So I already said how awesome the crank padding is on the gel bridles, but the crown piece and noseband have the same gel and get an A+ in the soft and squishy department. The gel mix and match bridle has ear cut outs in the monocrown. The throat latch buckles on both sides. The noseband is nice and stiff (in a good, it-won't-slide-down-the-nose way). The noseband also has a neat converter option with the flash. This flash is completely removable, without damaging the noseband itself, or looking hokey like the normal removable flash attachments.

Without the flash. Also, you can see the squishy crank padding.
Insert the flash between the gel padding and outer leather.
Bring the bottom of the attachment around the gel and the raised square through the top, insert flash, and bam!

The bridle also comes with cleaning and care instructions- never use any liquid oil on it. It seems they wanted a cream conditioner, but I don't have anything like that, so I used my Effax Balsam on it. It is quite thirsty! The directions didn't say anything about the cleaner, so I used the balsam on it a few times before using my LederCombi on it to remove some of the waxy feel (it worked).


I really, really, REALLY like this bridle. It's pretty, it's soft, and it was an excellent price for a semi-custom bridle. I only say semi-custom because it was a mix and match of sizes instead of a fitter coming out and measuring/cutting it exactly to Penn's size. This is pretty darn close though. Obviously it's not the best quality out there, but it's really excellent quality for such a great price.

There's already talks of another order at the end of the year- BO will be riding again soon, and her daughter has another horse who would love her own fancy bridle. And sometime in the next year I'll be ordering the Gel Mix & Match Double Bridle.

5 Stars!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

So Busy

This past week has been super busy. BO is away for the week, and I volunteered to take care of the horses every morning (clean any stalls that weren't cleaned the night before, hay, breakfast grain, blow out the barn, bring horses in, feed field board horses and rearrange a couple horses, set up dinner grain). I ride when I'm done, then Monday-Friday log on remotely and work my regular job for a half day.

Look! Pretty flowers! These calla lilies were supposed to be orange like they were at my wedding, but I bought them as bulbs sooooo they're actually pink. Oh well. They're still pretty!

My last recognized show of June was cancelled due to a lack of entries, boo. I got all of my money back, and I already found a reroute show that works out really well. We'll do a schooling show at the end of August, then go play with Austen and Pig at a Labor Day weekend recognized show (it wasn't on our original show list). That will be excellent prep for Regional Championships two weeks later.

Penn's new saddle came in way ahead of my schedule- it was here a week and a half after I ordered it. I went last Saturday to the tack shop to pick it up. Fits like a glove- Penn loves it. He was quite sassy about his trot and canter work when I tried it out. He hasn't had that much sass in a while.

So pretty! Too bad Penn already damaged it.

I have a Flexible Fit Equestrian review post in the works that I never seem to have enough time to finish.

I had a lesson on Tuesday which I'll write about that in another post. It was good, and we continued ripping off the band-aid that was holding our canter work together. I need to get it written soon because the details are slowly fuzzing on me!

Not cooperating with pictures of all the new things.

Penn saw the chiropractor on Wednesday. Nothing wrong, just his 6 week follow up visit from his initial visit. He had different issues than before (the right hip was significantly lower than the left at his original visit)- this time his left hip was a little lower and the chiropractor did some extra work on his neck and chest. We scheduled his next two appointments- we're doing every 6 weeks in the summer during shows and we'll stretch it out over the winter. He'll get done the week before we go to Championships, so he'll be all good to be awesome when it really matters!

Husband and I have been putting out feelers for a third cat. We're looking for something kind of specific, so I told a local shelter to let me know if they got anything in, no rush... and they got it much sooner than we expected. More on that next week probably.

The girls are getting quite attached.

Eventually I'll get a couple more posts out, but right now I'm just sleeping, working at the barn, working remotely at home, repeat!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

6/11-12/2016 Recognized Show

Mom and I got to the show Friday evening... and were immediately confused. The grounds had 3 entrances and 8-10 barns and the prizelist didn't have a map... This is where I miss eventing and the signage that went up at each driveway, and turns before the farm, along with the random check in person that told you where to go. I accidentally drove the entire way to the show office. It happened to be on the opposite side of the property from stabling. Oops. They set me straight and pointed me in the right direction, as well as telling me where I was stabled. They also gave me a map.

Upon arriving at stabling I realized these were tiny stalls (Penn is little, so OK), but they had nails all over them. Sometimes the pointy bits of the nail were sticking out. At least one horse cut his nose on his stall this weekend. Penn's stall seemed ok, which left the other problem: the stalls were on rock/compressed footing, which means they aren't level (which is fine). However, these stalls had huge holes dug in them from previous horses and most had a slight slant with some cliff type action going on. I was worried if Penn laid down in the night that he would roll and slide down the grade and end up cast... against old nasty wood boards with nails in them (extra happy I always wrap with no bows at shows!). I put extra bedding at the bottom of the grade to try and level it out (and I bought more from a local Tractor Supply on Saturday). This seemed to work OK, but I was always in a hurry in the morning to check on him!

I stabled across from a lovely Australian woman. She brought two horses with her: an OTTB that she shows at PSG/I1 and a 4 yr old baby Hanoverian who she shows at First. I didn't get to see her rides on her OTTB, but she said she had the ride of her life on him Sunday morning in her I1 test (I believe it ended up being a 68+%). Hers isn't an easy guy to ride and is a tension sufferer and sometimes wants to rear through his halts. She said he's left the ring via halt-back up more than once. So OTTB riders, keep at it! There are OTTBs out there doing FEI dressage!

The show had a food stand, "Galloping Goodies."
This is a homemade Strawberry Roan Smoothie (no strawberry roans were hurt in the making of this tasty beverage).
I may or may not have a smoothie problem now.

I took Penn down to the rings to school Friday night. He was quite good, but I was kind of horrified by the rings... Ring 2 looked like it had been dragged with a very deep drag- the footing was deep and uneven. My non-horsey mom even said, "That footing looks terrible." I was also disturbed by the fact that P was not across from V- they measured wrong and instead of the longside going 6m-12m-12m-12m-12m-6m, it went something like this: 6m-15m-9m-12m-12m-6m. I went over to do some ring familiarization in Ring 1 (it had covered stadium seating and a bit of atmosphere), and the letters RSVP were in each other's spots. At that point, I knocked on the show office window and let them know that their letters in Ring 1 were wrong and the distances in Ring 2 should probably be checked because P wasn't across from V. I was just surprised that this stuff was wrong at a recognized show, you know? By the morning, they had made all of the letter and drag corrections they needed to, so they get an A+.


I rode my first test around 1:56 PM, after watching tests for most of the morning. It was somewhere around 93 degrees and very humid. Side note, I bought a square corner white pad with black piping from Smartpak- I finally got to use it this weekend!

First centerline. He looks like a pony.
First lengthening.
Cantering across to X to trot for a half diagonal.
Learning to engage the thrusters in the lengthening canter.
Halt and salute!

When I rode this test, everything felt very quiet. I thought Penn was capable of more flashy movement with more spring, however, the heat made me let him go with being quiet. Quiet apparently worked for this judge, because she scored us well in everything except the lengthening canter to working canter transitions and a late trot-walk transition (all of those deserved poor scores).

68.750% - CBLM Qualifying - 1st out of 9

This test was another one of my gripes about the scheduling- originally all 3 of my rides this weekend were going to be for the same judge... which meant both of the 1-3 GAIG qualifying classes would be for the same judge, and therefore you could only get one qualifying score from this weekend even though each day was a different USDF/USEF numbered show. I already had both of my GAIG qualifying scores, so while annoying, I didn't care much. One of my fellow competitors did care and brought this up to management, who scrambled to call all of us and move Saturday's 1-3 Q class to the other ring where we would see the other judge. The price was changing out a 3:30ish ride time for one at 5:45 PM. I didn't care- I was happy to see another judge and it's not like I had anywhere else to be this weekend!

The hot and humid temps hadn't changed, but I was really happy with the horse I had in warm up. Penn had a couple hours to chill in his stall after our first test, and he came out super relaxed and on task.

Lengthening canter. I love his expression and shoulder lift.
Canter one loop. I think my half halt got across to him and he sat and lifted!
We'll have to start some counter canter to find better true canter balance.
Final lengthening.

I got greedy in this test- I botched both of my trot lengthenings by asking for more and causing him to break to canter. I also struggled with the leg yield right and made him canter there too. I didn't realize how much my geometry around X was suffering- all of my one loops and my leg yields missed X. The leg yield I knew missed it because I had already messed up, but I ruined otherwise good movements by not making it to X. Time to set up a dressage ring using poles every week and practice so I stop giving away free points!

64.412% - GAIG Qualifying - 2nd out of 4

Saturday went REALLY well for us. Not only did we win the biggest First Level class of the day, but we won the First Level Open/AA/Jr High Point! There were 28 rides at first level, so I'm super pleased! As a prize that went with it -besides the super awesome tri-color satin- was a coupon for $20 towards a schooling or recognized show, or a clinic, hosted by this particular GMO, to be used in 2016 or 2017. I'll have to see if it can be used at a schooling show I'm planning on going to in August, since that show is sanctioned by this GMO. Otherwise, it'll have to wait until next year.

A super haul for day one's show!


Sunday was SUPER windy. The heat from the previous day hung out through the night, but as the wind picked up, it dropped and hung out in the low 80s instead of the 90s. said wind gusts were going to be between 15-20mph throughout the day. I was glad that Penn got to spend time on Trainer's farm on the hill! It's regularly that windy there and we've worked in it before, no problem.

Penn got to go for a 45 minute meander/graze Sunday morning around 9am. My ride time wasn't until 5:27 pm. Awesome. What I should have done is taken Penn for a graze and then a hack. Instead, he went for a graze and then sat in his stall until 4:30. Then I found out my ride time was bumped to 5:08. My 20 min of walking time was out. I don't know why I didn't take him for a 30-40 min hack around Sunday morning. I would have taken Mikey for a hack, so why wouldn't I have taken Penn?

All covered to go graze. This fly sheet is really incredible- Penn was perfectly cool under the sheet. Much cooler than the outside temps. It's really like his own little parasol that isn't spooky.


So you can probably guess that warm up didn't go well. The best thing that happened in this warm up was getting to use the second show ring as a warm up ring because it had finished for the day. I got work on my "near x" figures and try to make a plan for the leg yields that just don't want to get there. Penn was against my hand, not connecting to the bit. He wanted to hide behind the bridle and wasn't pleased when I asked him to move up to it. All kinds of things converged on me: I was the last ride of the day. There were scratches, so the judge was ready for me whenever I was ready, so I didn't want to keep her waiting. We had a 5 hour drive home, so the sooner we could leave the better. All those feeling rushed emotions didn't help me warm Penn up. He needed more time just walking and stretching. He got to a semi-soft point, so I said screw it, let's do this thing.

Poop pile X marker. Not missing X again in this test!
Lengthening trot
My stretchy trot seems to have gone to hunter land?
A free walk that could use more stretch.
Final lengthening trot.
More final lengthening trot.
And again, final lengthening trot. It was a good one, ok?

I rode this test for the same judge as my 1-2 test, so I was jarred by some of her comments. I knew this test wasn't as good as my 1-2 test, but she made a complete 180 in her attitude towards us. We didn't deliver like we could have, so I guess that's deserved! The uphill balance we had Saturday was gone. I had decided in warm up that if his hind end was trailing in the trot zig zag, that I would just let it trail instead of picking a fight in the middle of the test. I came out of the test going, "This felt similar to the ones at Morven, so I'm guessing 62-63%." I was super spot on in that assessment. Kind of a let down after scoring well the day before, and the previous weekend.

62.794% - GAIG Qualifying - 4th out of 5

Staying positive here, because this really was a fabulous weekend: Penn tried to do what I wanted and never said no. This show was an excellent experience for him- the ring we rode both 1-3 tests in had a lot to look at and he never blinked. It's good experience for me too- I'm learning how to manage him at overnight and multiple day shows (spoiler: he's not so different from Mikey!). The mistakes in the tests were mine, or direct results of my prep. I really liked how he felt for my second test Saturday, so I'm thinking that on days he only has one test, I'll ride him briefly in the morning... unless the test is in the morning, in which case I'll take him for a spin before tucking him in the night before (if we don't have super late tests like we did this weekend).

As I mentioned before, we had very little diarrhea issues this weekend. I started him on 2 Probios Soft Chews a day the Wednesday before the show. I also bought him a compressed alfalfa bale, which he got a flake every day from Wednesday on, then I liberally stuffed his face with it over the weekend, and he'll finish it up this week. I also made "surprise" hay nets where I stuffed a flake into the middle as a goodie to keep his interest in the net while he was in the trailer. He had softer than desired poop coming out to the show, good poop at the show, and excellent poop coming home- absolutely zero diarrhea on in his tail or on his leg wraps! I'm super pleased- I'm going to try the same thing for the next show and see if the results are similar. The probios chews only cost $10 for 30 days at Tractor Supply, and I can get them via Amazon Prime for just over $12 if I had to. BO is going to try to get some alfalfa/grass mix regular sized bales in just for Penn while he's showing (her hay guy has a field of the mix so it would be easy).

The final ribbon haul. We used spearmint gum to get Penn's attention for this shot.

Something else I noticed at this recognized show (since I had ample downtime to watch majority of it): there are riders who make it look effortless, and there are a ton of average riders. There are more riders than you'd think that you can tell are riding the struggle bus, but they're trying their guts out and make mistakes, and are simply thrilled at the end of the rides. For some reason, in my head, I imagine all of the riders that show up to these things are super competent and everyone is awesome. Don't get me wrong, the show was fairly competitive and there were large classes and there were a lot of good riders. I got to watch a large portion of the show since I rode so late each day- there were only a few flawless rides. I watched a mustang tackle the beast that is 4-3 (so. many. flying. changes.), and do so admirably and with unending try. His rider was so thrilled at the final halt, as she should be! I got to see the high score test of the weekend- a gentleman riding I1 on a VERY hot horse who is going to be an incredible GP horse. I watched riders struggle with training level and first level. I watched a horse have a meltdown over training level and one meltdown over I2. It was just a realization that everyone has to start somewhere, and meltdowns happen at every level. So everybody, get out there and do it!