Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Three Days in a Row

I decided (albeit after the first two rides) that Penn and I should practice going to work in the ring three days in a row each week, through championships. I'm kind of concerned he's going to be too tired/sore and flip me the bird on day 3 of championships (the day of our Region 1 Final). As a general rule, I've been riding him 5 days a week, every ride alternating between hack/trail ride/fun ride and ring work. However, when we go to championships, Penn is going to be expected to do two tests Friday, one test Saturday, and one more test Sunday (the important one!). I don't know how he'll be on day three. I got a good idea of it this weekend, and how I should manage him each day:

  • Friday: warm up and 1-2, warm up and 1-3. Each warm up and test should take no longer than 30 min, an hour of saddle time total.
  • Saturday: morning hack (I'm unfamiliar with the grounds, so I'm hoping this is possible, if not, we'll have to figure out how to go for some kind of walk), warm up and 1-3. Warm up and test not to exceed 20-30 min total. Hack might be moved to evening if 1-3 rides in the morning.
  • Sunday: morning hack, warm up and 1-3. Same idea, warm up + test not to exceed 20-25 min.
I know I'm not leaving much time for warm up. To be perfectly honest, Penn either comes out good and relaxed, and at that point I'm just tiring him out, or he comes out tense and it usually gets worse, so I'm better off riding sooner. I don't always have much luck getting him to relax if he's already tense, the only times I've managed it is when I say, "F it, let's just go ride this test."

Rides this weekend actually worked out time-wise for my current plan. One goal was to simply find a warm up structure that worked, that I could ingrain in my head and fall back on in moments of panic.

Jack Jack surprised me when I opened the trap doors to drop hay.


I went to the barn early Saturday before barn chores to ride before it got hot... I don't know if Penn is just cranky before breakfast, or if he's that dependent on his schedule, but he was a looky bastard. I tried repeating Tuesday's lesson on Saturday to moderate success - he's already more balanced in canter and is willing to hold himself up in the one loops. I like definitely like hitting canter before trot- he's much better in trot after the canter. However, as we cantered, I eventually got angry at him for gawking and shifting his shoulders in at the jump standards that have been in the same location FOR A YEAR, and put my outside leg on and gave him half halts from hell. Holy heck, he lifted his back and responded! Every time he would gawk to the outside, I'd wrap my outside leg around him (slightly back), half halt like hell, and put a little more inside rein on to get him looking the right way again. He eventually stopped gawking and we got some good work in with the shallow loops and double small loops. He'd react every now and then, but applying that same mega half halt and he would be back on task. Trot was fine, just a little reactive... I'm sure he was jazzed from all the stimuli in canter... And from whatever was up his ass that morning.

I took Penn on a trail ride last week, and we did some chatting in the arena after. Penn decided he had enough and started taking off his boots, haha!


It rained Saturday night and Sunday morning, so no skipping off to the barn before chores... I'm not waking up early to ride in the indoor when waiting a couple of hours let me ride outside!

The goal for Sunday was to run through a warm-up routine and then ride 1-3. I'm horrible at riding my warm-up properly at shows. Like, really bad. I get distracted and pick at things and get behind in my routine and ends up missing some. I tested:

  • Lots of walk with a ton of leg yields. I paid more attention to getting the sideways step and clear leg on, leg off than getting 'correct' leg yields. Repeat of centerline to wall yields. To change directions, I half circled from wall to centerline (like 1-2) then full 10m circled the new direction back up centerline to be properly bent for the other leg yield. Penn REALLY responded well to this. I'll have to keep it up my sleeve for later. 
  • I went to canter direct from the walk leg yield, the right lead first. We did several shallow loops that were good, so I did a simple change to the left and repeated the shallow loops. I skipped the double loops because Penn was responsive. I think I can pull them out if Penn is leaning and unresponsive- they're very effective in quickly fixing his leaning.
  • Went to trot, straight into leg yields from centerline to almost the wall- I wanted to practice straightening on my terms. 
  • I did the trot zig zag I described in my last post, and Penn tried so hard to do it, and he did it well! He got a voiced good boy and pat for trying so hard.
  • We did a couple 1-3 zig zags and that's when I found a new way to ask for the change at x: get him to x, stop the leg yield right while maintaining left bend, ask for the new leg yield through half pass left in the first step (almost leading him to the new direction with my left rein), and then swap him to leg yield right in the second step. Correct? No. Effective with no fuss? Yes. He knows how to half pass and he thinks it's hard. When the going gets tough in it, we swap to leg yield to finish the diagonal. He goes, "Oh thank God, this is MUCH easier, thank you." and then I get a good, non-fussy change and leg yield. Half the battle is won!
  • We followed that up with schooling the 10m circle-halt-circle pattern, which he did flawlessly with rapt attention to my aids.
I took him back to walk to mimic the meander to the show ring, then back to trot and off to our test.

I was missing some collection in the trot- my lengthenings were barely there. I was kicking on and really encouraging them along instead of letting them ooze out. The canter was lacking impulsion for sure, and we goofed the simple change. I didn't feel the wrong lead coming until he picked it up. I always have a good feel for what lead is going to happen well before I ask, and as I'm asking, but this threw me a bit because he felt good for the change. I have a feeling I let the transition get away from me instead of following through on it. The canter lengthenings were also tough and I had to really kick on for them. Overall, I was still happy with the practice test.

I banged Penn's tail too. Cut off about 4 inches, which made me VERY nervous, but it looks so much better now!


I got to the barn after work and saw they set up the dressage ring in the outdoor! So excited. BO's daughter is going to the show this weekend with me, so it was set up for us to practice. I was sad that it was only the small arena, considering the outdoor is 100' by 200', so it should have fit a standard ring easily. However, they haven't been grooming it out to the very edges (trying to keep sand from washing away down the hillside), and it's an oval shape, so the corners of the standard ring were off in the grass. BO is looking into fixing it sooner rather than later, but it might not happen until next spring when they can dig and put in kickboards to prevent sand from washing away (and add more sand). You absolutely could ride using every last inch of space, but it's not that important on my list to move the short side corner poles to do it. I was positively thrilled though that the standard ring didn't quite fit in the outdoor. I've been having trouble making it to my approximate centerline in the 1-3 zig zag. I was so happy that I had another 10m of forward space and my 10m estimate from wall to X was too big.

I did my walk leg yield work (zig zags) on the outside of the ring while Hawk was using the dressage ring (there's a ton of space on the sides, and a fair amount on the short sides since the small ring is set up). I went to right lead canter first, did a couple loops, change directions via simple change across the arena, then did a couple loops to the left. No double loops- Penn responded well. Hawk was done at that point, so I did my trot warm up in the ring: simply riding dressage ring corners, a couple 1-3 zig zags, then I worked the 10m circle, turn across the ring, halt at x, trot, turn, 10m circle pattern from 1-3. I always have trouble with losing the bend in the tests, so I wanted to practice.

I rode 1-3 again, even though I probably shouldn't ride it this much. The lengthening trots were much better (Penn was also carrying a good deal more collection than he was Sunday). The zig zag made me super happy since I've been having trouble making them happen in the ring that I kept in mind in my head. I decided to ride the zig zag to X even though this was the small ring, and Penn did it wonderfully. No fuss, he easily met X and swapped back. I'm no longer worried about doing it in the standard ring. I'll actually have to be careful how steep I make it! AND I might be able to make it a hair steeper so I get a couple straight strides across X before swapping to the other leg yield! I goofed the stretchy trot- he was stretching so well that I let him carry on for too long and hurried him back into regular frame. That caused a goof in the 10m circle halt circle work- he wasn't with me and paying attention. The canter was lacking impulsion again. He's just stuck feeling. It feels like he needs to let loose and gallop a little. Even so, there was a lot of jump, he didn't lay on my hand, and he generally carried himself. The simple change was excellent, but a hair inverted into the new lead. The left lead shallow loop was tough- I also rode those to almost X and it was just a bit too steep for him. I had to tap him with the whip a few times in canter to keep him moving. The lengthenings were a struggle to get and then the left was a mess to bring back- he broke to trot then hopped back into canter right away.

I think he was a bit tired partway through the test, so I don't mind the mistakes so much. He just did three days of hard work in a row! I'll take him for a trail ride Wednesday or Thursday, then some hill walking the other day. Overall, he worked for about 45 min Saturday, 25 min Sunday, and 20 min Monday. He got progressively better throughout the weekend, so I'm hopeful that he'll stand up to that kind of time frame.

Future Plans:
Sunday is a schooling show to get back in the swing of things. Then labor day weekend, we head down to VA to go to a recognized show and play with Austen! Two weeks later and it's time for Championships! I opted not to go to CBLM Championships in Oct (you may have seen it on my side calendar). They don't seem to divide the divisions by AA/Open, just Section A/B. A is restricted, B is essentially Open. To ride in First Level Section A Championships, you can't have ridden at Third Level or above. Well, Mikey and I did, so I don't qualify to ride in Section A. I'd have to ride in Section B, against everyone else. Umm, no thanks. I the winner from Section B last year was a 76.016%, and the first sub 70% score was in 7th place. I don't need to ride against pro's on their promising young horses. Maybe I'll try again next year at Second Level because I'll fit back into Section A again!


  1. I don't know if this will help with Penn's pre-breakfast ride grumpiness but I keep some Timothy/alfalfa cubes and give Stinker a quick snack if I'm riding him before breakfast. The cubes hydrate in the time it takes me to get him out of his pasture.

    You have a fun/busy fall planned!

    1. I did get Penn a bale of compressed alfalfa from TS this past weekend. I've been giving him a flake before riding, and he's been much less obnoxious... but I'm not sure if that's because he was ridden the day before, or because of the alfalfa. I do know that I absolutely cannot soak it first. At all. He will not eat it!

      Yes, the fall has reached it's busy season! Penn is going to be a traveling fiend for the next month, then he's earned some well deserved time off where he'll go for walks and trail rides and be groomed, etc.

  2. I like your idea of riding all your tests 3 days in a row. I need to do this because I'll be having the same problem at championships. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Testing it out before we have to do it when it counts really helped my own anxiety about the whole thing. I found I have enough horse to get the job done, but it might be a bit better if I have more horse... and one that's used to working 3 days in a row instead of 2-3 times per week with the other rides being trail rides or hacks.

  3. i am always so impressed with your planning and organization skills haha. way to think ahead and get everything set up to give Penn the best chance for success at championships! :D

    1. Hahaha... Little do you guys know, I'm truly batshit insane. Planning and lists are the ONLY way I can deal with my own show anxiety. Hell, Penn's chiropractor needed to move his September appointment (that I scheduled two appointments ago to make sure it was timed properly) and I went into full panic meltdown mode because it changed my carefully crafted plans! I'm still in it, the change should be fine, but it's not confirmed with the vet herself yet! I'm about to sit down and make a riding plan for the next month too.