Friday, September 30, 2016

Lesson 9/27 :D :D


:D :D :D :D :D

That was basically my face after lesson, grinning like a stupid fool. Even Trainer snuggled Penn, she was happy too!

But let's back up a minute.

We had lesson on Tuesday, first one since champs. I warmed up in walk a little in walk with leg yields and starting half pass (because I suck at it and it's easier to work in the walk) while Trainer looked over my tests from Championships. She was very pleased with them- they were consistent and there were no glaring you-suck-at-this movements, just green horse mistakes and rider errors. Basically experience problems. We had connection and steadiness in the bridle issues, but we have that at home and we're working on it. Basically just keep moving forward and onward!

She said, "I see from Facebook you've been working on flying changes? Let's have a look at those today. They're the next step anyway."

So we chatted about how I was approaching them. She wanted to try them from half pass since that's the one way I haven't done them (and she's thought for a while it would be the easiest way for Penn to do them and understand), and I said I was afraid to do them from half pass because the half pass just sucks right now. So we looked at half pass first.

I'm going to attempt to remember our half pass work. There was important information in there that should be recorded but it's just fallen out of my head. I can't remember it all because I'm so happy over the second half of lesson, haha. Here's some bullet points of what I think I remember. I'll have to ask her to go over it with me again next time...

The exercise: Shoulder-in on the quarterline to half-pass. Turn the new direction and repeat.
  • Half pass left needs more right leg to keep the right hind coming
  • In trot leg yields left he's started to feel bridle lame- she made me relax my left hand and just let him work himself out, same thing in half pass left. (I'm pretty sure this was the solution- basically he just needed to figure it out himself)
  • Half pass right struggles with bend. *crickets* I honestly can't remember what she said about helping that along, major fail here cause I could have told you about the bend struggle haha! I'm pretty sure it amounted to doing less because I tend to smother which prevents the things I'm trying to smother into existing. Yea, that doesn't work.
  • In shoulder in, be careful how much angle I get- Mikey was long backed and needed more. Penn is short backed and doesn't need anywhere near as much angle before he's on 4 tracks. If the shoulder in feels right, it's probably too much angle.
  • The half pass has the opposite problem. If the half pass feels right, I need to check that still have angle, otherwise the haunches are probably leading. My feel is off- I feel that it needs to actively have a crossing feeling like leg yield... and I don't think that's right... so my whole feel is wrong.
I love this picture.
And I know Mikey's haunches are leading.
But toe point!
  • Start the half pass work in posting trot on the wrong diagonal.
  • When I switch to sitting trot, all it takes is a simple weight shift to send him into half pass across the diagonal. Let sensitive pony be sensitive!
  • He was jumpy off the contact, but held some bend and had excellent crossover.
  • The one time he stayed on the bit in the half pass right, he was a crossing fiend and I felt that whoosh sideways with reach. Ermygawd, I need to not be stupid in the half pass so that's the norm!
Half pass homework? Keep practicing in walk and trot so we can move on to half pass in canter.

Trail ride Wednesday evening.

Trainer had me start the canter work by showing her what I've been doing. I started off to the left, did a couple one loops and double one loops because Penn decided to be a spooky bastard about the back end of the indoor arena. I then moved on to our canter/walk/counter canter/walk/canter on a circle at the front of the indoor. I did a couple simple changes, then asked for the flying change back to true canter. BAM! He was prompt, clean, not anticipatory. Trainer was like, what the hell, that was clean and a non-event!

She had me change direction and show her the same work to the right. Same non-event clean change at the end. Then she got after me for letting him stop after as I praised him ("Eventually you're going to want to do more than one!")

She had me repeat the circle exercise to the right. At this point, Penn had caught on quite well to what was going on and was anticipating via inverting (not overly concerned about that right now). He was extra prompt and super up in the transitions from walk to canter and was starting to find his sassy pants. He was also pinning his ears until we did the flying change, which I wasn't crazy about.

We repeated the same clean change, then trainer wanted me to go down the next diagonal and do another change. I opted to go down the wall and come around on the diagonal the other direction (I thought doing a flying change into a spooky part of the arena wouldn't be good for him), but by the time I came all the way around, I lost the good canter and got all befuddled across the diagonal. I asked for the change and pitched myself forward (hello Mikey habits) and Penn went, "OMG you said gooooooo!" and squirted out down the diagonal. I half halted and sat up and asked again and he gave another clean change in the corner (even though we were still a sloppy mess).

That exact response is why I like changes on the circle right now- I don't do the bad things that make Penn misinterpret my cues. I need to fix myself. No pitching forward!

I'm pretty sure this is the reason I pitch forward... because changes were such an event with Mikey. Hell, the one lesson he almost dumped me over his ass because he launched up so hard.

She had me start the circle exercise again towards the other end of the arena going to the left, but not the full way at the end of the arena- enough so that I could go a super short diagonal towards the non-spooky end of the arena. By this point, Penn was quite hoppy off the aids and VERY sassy, so I toned down all of my cues. He stopped pinning his ears at that point and listened to me. I made him do a couple extra walk/canter/walk before asking for the next change (which was perfectly clean). Trainer had me take him across the diagonal again where I botched the change by shooting him down the diagonal via pitching forward. Turn around, repeat to the left.

Clean change again on the circle exercise from an even sassier Penn, then across the diagonal with a much more relaxed and through horse. I kept my shit together and asked for the change, and Penn promptly did a nice clean change, with a bit less sass.


He's a freaking smart cookie. This is the 4th time I've touched the changes, and the most we've ever done in a ride. And they're clean. Inverted with a bit of sass, but they're clean. I kept asking trainer, "They're clean right? Not late behind?!"

Comments from the work as we did it:

  • Tracking left in the circle exercise: When changing from true canter to counter canter, make the change more from the leg and less from the seat. I'm shoving his haunches over with my left seatbone (wrong), instead of the left leg and right seatbone for the new bend. And I mean shoving, BTW. Like I felt my left side dip and push and Trainer was like, "STOP DOING THAT!"
  • I need to find a true working canter. Penn goes in more of a collected canter since his canter was a mess for so long. Trust him in finding a bigger working canter so I don't smother him as much and so that his sass has a direction to go in. Same goes for the counter canter. Trust the horse and hold his lead with my leg and seat.
  • Be quieter with my whole body- leg, seat, hand, everything.

Flying change homework? Don't touch it too much (aka don't touch for at least a week!). And work on being quieter with all the body parts, and ask more from the leg because right now my seat is screaming at him. Work the circle exercise without the flying changes to help break the anticipating and to keep working on the counter canter. Find a true working canter in the counter canter on the circle. Basically, counter canter all I want and work a ton of simple changes. The canter-walks still need a ton of work.

But OMG guys, I'm pretty sure by next summer we'll have the changes and counter canter sorted out... We just need to develop medium and extended trot and extended canter... then it's Bronze Medal time!

I got Felix a no-stuffing rabbit dog toy.
He loves it. He grabs it with his claws and throws it and tumbles with it.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


So what have we been up to since championships?

Penn got a couple days off, then I decided to work on his flying changes. Since we aren't going to finals, I decided that means I can mess up his canter by really working on installing the flying changes and trying to make them clean. (and now we've hit the end of what I know and I'm simply guessing at his training)

He's so handsome. I have very limited new media, so you're getting some repeats.

I did a little experimenting on doing changes across the diagonal and that worked OK last Thursday. I found I had to make them short diagonals otherwise I lost too much quality in the canter and I got myself too wrapped up in prepping for the change and then Penn either didn't change and charged off, or he flipped up front and took a long time to follow through behind. We got several changes each way that were just 2-3 strides late behind, so I called it good. Penn was really trying and this is basically at my limit of knowledge. I did get a couple on video, but the video was very hard to make out- it was getting dark and the sun was just right so that video is basically black screen. However, thanks to the glamour effect on YouTube, I was able to salvage one of his better changes! It's still hard to see, sorry! He was two strides late behind in this change (I couldn't see it until I brought it up on an actual computer screen, sorry mobile users!)

Penn had another day off then went for a trail ride on Saturday. He was a gem of course and his mom forgot to take his picture. I left him with a sheet for Saturday night- the horses were going to spend the night out and it was going to be sub-50. I think he enjoyed the night out, he was very chill and very slow coming in for breakfast!

Trying hard to make sure his changes don't end up like Mikey's :(

I took Penn out to the outdoor on Sunday with a plan in mind- working on the counter canter and then the flying changes maybe. I remember reading a true canter/walk/counter canter/walk/true canter exercise on a circle on jenj's blog. I didn't do the haunches in and out part of the exercise, I just wasn't that interested in making it even more difficult for Penn (plus I couldn't get the canter-walks coming fast enough). I used it to develop straightness and the counter canter instead (which helped the canter-walk), and eventually Penn got very hoppy in the counter canter, so I asked for a flying change to the true canter, and Penn did a clean prompt change over! We were only 15-20 min into our ride, but I was like, that was good! Quitting time!

Pretty canter picture.

He's catching on to the changes SO QUICKLY. He is such a smart cookie. And they have yet to make him fussy in canter. I'm not drilling them (no more than a handful in a ride), and I try to change up the exercises of how I ask for them, so he's not anticipating (yet). I started my ride Sunday with shallow loops in canter, just to see what he would do. He was definitely on high alert, waiting for me, but I was careful with my leg and seat and asked for the loop instead and he was like, "OK, sure." He had zero trouble maintaining counter canter on the circle, in fact he was a little questioning... "Ok... you're saying something new... you want... the wrong lead? Are you sure? Ok... is this right? It is? OH GOOD!"

I haven't asked him to canter across a diagonal to pick up counter canter yet. I thought that might be a bit too confusing for him right now and might cause him some anxiety. I'm happy to ask for whichever lead I want from walk though - it makes him think about the two different leads and which I'm asking him to pick up. I can only see that helping the flying changes since all I'm doing is asking for the other lead.

The canter circle exercise really helped me get him straight for the change and get enough hop in the canter to make it a no fuss thing (but I fussed over him as soon as he did it). I certainly won't be asking him to change from true canter to counter canter- that's well beyond our skill level. But what I can do is work canter-walk-counter canter-walk-canter and toss in flying changes back to true canter every now and then. I just have to make sure I work the exercise both directions. Maybe we can turn it into a figure 8 when it's time to change directions so he can practice changing to the outside lead in a logical manner.


So blog land, toss your best flying change exercises at me! I need to keep switching it up! Keep in mind that I tend to overdo the rider part of it and have trouble just sitting quiet and making the change happen from my leg and seat (part of the reason a long approach on a diagonal may not be the best for us!).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Championships Day 5, 9/19: Long Drive Home & Final Thoughts

Sunday night was the only night that Penn did not do well- I think there was too much activity on the property and a lack of horses near him. We got there and he had churned his stall up badly. I fed him breakfast and packed up the last couple items in his stall (hay net, alfalfa bucket, one of the water buckets).

The farm crew had been hard at work long before we got there. They had managed to clear out two of the barns by 7:30am and were working on Penn's barn when we arrived. They were very courteous, even stopping and turning off the machines when  brought Penn out to load him up.

Loading to go home.

The drive home took a bit longer, 11 hours, because we hit some pretty bad rain in VA that made seeing difficult. Leftover tropical storm I think? Either way, we made a bunch more stops than we did coming down. It was uneventful, which was very nice!

Home in time for evening feed!

We got back to the barn at a normal hour, just as they were bringing in to feed for the evening. Husband helped me get stuff out of the trailer, and I actually unpacked the whole thing and cleaned it out, and reset it for next time before we left! It took no time at all. We were on our way home at a very decent hour.

These furballs missed us!

As I said in the Day 4 post, I spent some time being very disappointed and I needed to find some perspective... which was hard. What I came up with is this:

  1. I've only had Penn for a year and a month.
  2. Penn NEVER showed before coming home with me. He was barely an Intro Level horse when he came home. He has been showing First Level for five months and is pretty much ready to move on.
  3. I brought him along myself with Trainer's guidance, but I did the bulk of the riding (99%).
  4. This is the biggest show I've ever competed at, and I kept my nerves in check. I was a valuable partner for Penn so he could keep his own nerves (if he had any, I'm not a mind reader!) in check.
  5. All but one of the horses that placed in the top 8 were already showing at Second Level, some of which were in the top 8 in the Second Level AA Championship the day before.
  6. 9th out of 29 people at championships is nothing to sneeze at either!
  7. We got awesome scores in a competitive weekend!
  8. This is just our first visit to champs. There will always be another year!

So, 9th out of 29 horses, in a large competitive region, at a high participation level, AT CHAMPIONSHIPS, on a very solid test, is nothing to be upset about. In fact, he came to work that day, ready to play. There was a lot of atmosphere from people packing and leaving, in addition to the atmosphere of a big show. I really wanted to go to finals, but oh well. Instead, Penn is learning his flying changes instead of spending more time at First Level!

Trainer looked over my tests from championships at my lesson last night. She was looking for a trend in the tests for what went wrong... And couldn't find anything that was wrong. Mistakes yes, but they were all green horse and rider error, not "you have a gaping hole in your training." The trend of needs better connection and more steadiness in the bridle is something struggle with at home, yet it all came together for the championship test. She was very pleased that I brought home such solid tests with no glaring holes. She got to see all the videos during the show- I sent them to her for distance coaching!

Oh, and durrr, this is actually something important that happened at championships!

Penn finished his First Level Horse Performance Certificate!

He needed just one more score (darn that 58% he got in his first recognized test, or he would have had it before champs), and he got it on the first day of competing! I've been keeping track of it off on the right hand side of my blog, but here's the recap:

USDF First Level Horse Performance Certificate:
Score 1 - 62.500% (5/21/2016 - Vogel)
Score 2 - 62.206% (5/22/2016 - Vogel)
Score 3 - 69.063% (6/5/2016 - Schmitt)
Score 4 - 68.971% (6/5/2016 - Schmitt)
Score 5 - 68.750% (6/11/2016 - Vracko)
Score 6 - 64.412% (6/11/2016 - Schneider)
Score 7 - 62.794% (6/12/2016 - Vracko)
Score 8 - 69.063% (9/4/2016 - Lees)
Score 9 - 67.941% (9/4/2016 - Malone-Casey)
Score 10 - 65.469% (9/16/2016 - Hyslop)

Different Judges: 7/4
Different Shows: 6/4
From 1-3: 5/4


I went with the first 10 scores, not the best 10 scores (since he had it after the first 10 anyway, the last 3 don't really matter much). The scores don't get recorded anyway, I just apply and USDF checks to make sure he met the criteria, then I'm sent a neat piece of paper. Now I can send in his First Level Horse Award with my First Level Rider Award money!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Championships Day 4, 9/18: Championship Test

We got to the show way early again for my 11:38am ride time. Penn needed to eat, go for a walk, be braided, get a good curry, walk again, then I needed to get ready and get him tacked up. Ahhhh, the to do list!

A friend I haven't seen for ages lives about 2 hours from the show, so she came up that morning too to say hi and meet Penn and watch some tests and see us go.

One of the championship warm-up rings.

I gave myself a half hour again to warm up for the Championship test. The first thing I did was stretch him low and make him super connected to unlock the base of his neck. I did a little overbend right, overbend left to help unlock his jaw. This had another interesting side effect- he focused on me and not on the clearing out show grounds. I kept his feet moving to maintain the focus I found. There was a scratch or something before my ride, meaning they had an empty slot and I could go early if I wanted. I told them I'd keep them posted, but for now I planned on keeping my time. Penn warmed up like a champ. He had adjusted well to the show by now, and the atmosphere of the championship area plus the atmosphere of people packing and loading and driving off really made him sharp to my aids.

I used the blunt, very square edged spurs too, which gave Penn a different sensation and he was quite prompt about everything, especially the leg yields. I really like those spurs! I'm going to keep them on hand as "show spurs" or something ridiculous like that. He tends to either be 100% on or ignores me a bit when we're in public. Warm up that morning could have gone either way- I think the combination of a new spur sensation and the extra effort I put into making him super connected really paid off. I can't use them at home all the time or else they won't be a different sensation anymore, and I don't want to revert to the smooth rowels I got. Penn is much too sensitive for that.

I gave the ring steward a heads up that I'd like to go early- Penn was so ON that I wanted to get him in the ring ASAP. I was careful to keep him trotting and cantering right up until I went over to the show ring (something very key in keeping him ON- make sure he's always focusing on something). I even remembered to flag husband over and give him my whip nicely instead of throwing it at him or tossing it on the ground (carrying a whip in a championship test is a no-no).

We walked past the judge at C, down the long side a little to the judge at B, turned around and walked back past C, then walked back and forth a bit while we waited. The bell rang, and off we went.

First off, I don't care that this isn't our highest scoring test ever. It felt like it was. Penn was available and willing and on task and better connected than he had been all weekend. Yes, we had mistakes, but I don't care. Anywhere else, I think this test would have been over 70%. Except this is championships, a level 5 competition, so the judges were super picky. It's just annoying that my test the previous day, that was not as nice, scored slightly better (one of my judges from this test was the same as the day before!).

I distinctly remember as I rode my 20m trot circle, "OK, be careful you don't make it too big. It's usually on the outer edges of 20m, even though no judge has ever said you made it too big. OK, where is the 20m mark? Before or after R-S? Umm, how many meters are there from the corner to R... Oh f-it, I can't do math right now, we're making the circle even with R-S." Guess what? I had a comment that I made the circle too small, whomp whomp. The most common thought going through my head during this test? "Don't screw up." That's not exactly an 'on task' thought, haha.

66.029% - 9th out of 29

I was so ecstatic about our test (I still am, I love watching it). I thought we had gotten the 68% we needed to go to finals or at least should be in the top 8 (and therefore eligible to get satin and participate in the victory gallop!). I was all tears and things after it. So many emotions running on high, and then doing our best when it counted.

Needless to say, when I looked up the scores and saw it was a 66% and 8th place, I was a bit upset. I was still sitting in 8th at the lunch break, and there were 3 horses left to go. I was excited about that, (I just wanted some satin at this point), but I looked at who still had to ride and realized there was a good chance I'd end up in 9th. One of the riders who had yet to go had been winning for most of the weekend and I fully expected them to score better than us... whomp whomp, she did and moved into second place (go her!) but that bumped me down to 9th and out of the ribbons.

It took me a while to find some perspective (which I'll talk about in the final post of this series tomorrow), but I did eventually find some and then set out to hug and praise Penn even more and enjoy the rest of the day. Getting my tests back and watching the video really helped me- there were only one or two things I could have actively done better (actually making my 20m stretch trot circle 20m for one thing), but there really wasn't any one thing that cost me the points. Out of all the marks between the two judges, only two were sub 6, which I thought was fantastic. Penn felt fantastic, came to work that day, I could have concentrated a little better, but I wouldn't have changed anything in how I rode the test (except that 20m circle). I wasn't about to push his trot lengthenings into canter like I had been doing. I wasn't going to push him for more ground cover in his one loops- I haven't really worked on counter canter with him and I didn't want to put him off balance and lose even more points. We did our best, and for once, that's good enough for me.

It helps that most of the people in the top 8 also rode in the AA Second Level Championships too... and scored well in that class too. Penn is not ready to ride Second Level yet. I don't know how I feel about that- coming in to this weekend I didn't think it was quite fair to be able to compete in more than one Championship level. I feel bad for the horses and riders in the lower level who aren't showing both levels. But it's not my call, and definitely no judgement on anyone who does that. Competing in two levels is great!

So I was a bit pissed about the pictures... I paid for my photos at the start of the show... and I thought that meant the photographer would have someone at all of my tests... nope. They decided not to shoot the CHAMPIONSHIP RING on the final day of the competition. Dafuq???? That was the only thing that really bothered me about the photographer. They took pictures of every rider, as they should... however I think if you have customers that paid already, you should make a point to get to all of their tests, you know? Anyway, I took screenshots from the video my husband got, so here you go!

Coming back from the first one loop.

Let's talk about this uphill canter.
I was so happy with the canter-trot transition at the end of the test!
Smile like a fool.
Hug the horse and tell him you love him.
And scare him just a bit.

I grabbed a couple pics Sunday afternoon with Penn and our two ribbons for the weekend, then took out his braids and gave him lots of love. The show was over by that point and people were hustling to get out and on the road. Husband and I were not in a hurry as we planned to stay over one more night (umm not driving 10 hours home starting at 2pm or later after being up early to show!).

Obligatory (gorgeous) head shot.
What you don't know is I'm wearing sweatpants instead of breeches.

Instead, Husband and I found a pirate themed indoor mini-golf place that made homemade pizza a short distance away, so we went back to the hotel to change...

... and found this. Husband named him Steve.
Common garden spider is not a malicious enough name for it.
Leg tip to leg tip was about 4" long.

We took a ton of pics of Steve then went off to play some golf! We had fun eating pizza and playing golf, then went back to the barn to pack up.

By this point, everyone except the one other overnight horse had cleared out, so we pulled the trailer right up to the door next to Penn's stall and parked it for the night. We walked into the barn and went "Whaaaaaaa!"

The great Mucking.

The farm crew had gone through every barn and mucked the stalls into the aisle, where we guessed they would come back with a skid steer and scoop them out.

We emptied the tack room and left the bare minimum hanging on the front of Penn's stall, tucked him in, and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before the long drive home.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Championships Day 3, 9/17: Ride #3 and a Side Trip

Penn started his 4 bucket breakfast Saturday morning, haha!

Husband and I arrived early at the show on Saturday- I needed to get Penn fed and out of his stall to stretch his legs well before our 10:38am ride time. I heard the morning announcements (finally!) and heard that coats were waived. I debated wearing mine anyway since it wasn't going to get warmer than the mid-80s and I was riding in the morning, but I was glad I didn't. It was very muggy and buggy. I could feel the heat on my leg UNDER my boot as we walked back to the barn. An actual your-leather-boot-is-burning-your-leg feeling... that didn't go away when we made it back to some shade! Side note, I got to wear my new show vest instead! I am glad I finally have my own, and I do like it more than the vest I've been borrowing.

I went to warm up sooner than I originally planned- I gave myself a full half hour to walk over and warm up. There's a patch of grass behind the warm up area and I did all of my walk work in the grass so I could avoid warm up traffic and also not cause traffic. It worked ok- Penn had a stiff feeling in his neck (Austen had pointed it out to me too- he's a bit locked in the base of his neck) and I should have spent some time stretching him down and unlocking the base of his neck... but I needed to move on and warm up his other gaits. Still, it was more effective than the previous day's.

The two show rings, with warm up behind, and the grass behind that.

First 3:

I keep pushing Penn out of the trot in the first lengthening!! Ugh. Struggles with connection and impulsion in the trot work again. I was very happy with his halt across the school though! The canter lacked impulsion too. I did a little overkill on the left lead one loop since that's the movement that Penn flip flopped leads on me the day before- I pushed his haunches way left and the judge took points off for it. The final trot work was meh I think, and while the halt was square, he tried to invert and flop into it.

66.324% -  7th out of 17

I was super pleased with this test though- no sub 6 marks! But I was thinking, holy hell, what do you have to do to get in the ribbons at this place??? 7th again, right out of the ribbons again, but on another good score!

Anyway, how about some pictures?

I love this pic. It's like he found his sassy-leg-yield pants.

That fabulous halt across the school.

Despite only winning a 5th place ribbon on Friday and Saturday, we also picked up the Dressage Division AA First Level Reserve Championship. I feel like I probably shouldn't have gotten this- a lot of the heavy hitters that were winning my classes had numerous Championship classes to compete in and didn't enter the right sequence of classes to be eligible for the Dressage Division Awards. You had to compete in any two First Level tests on Friday and First 3 on Saturday to be eligible. Management picked a winner by averaging you higher score from Friday with your 1-3 score on Saturday. I averaged 65.897%, and champion was 66.030%, so I wasn't that far behind! I decided to not care that the heavy hitters weren't eligible, because to be honest, most of them were off competing in Second Level championships anyway and chose not to enter the classes they needed to in order to be eligible. Plus it's pretty satin and on scores that are nothing to be ashamed of!

I got to talk to Trainer after Penn was tucked in. She set me straight that Penn was doing amazing, and I had to agree with her. I told her there was nothing horribly wrong in this test, just connection and impulsion, so how do I make more impulsion overnight??? She had an interesting recommendation that went something like this:

Trainer: Are there tack shops at the show?
Me: Yes?
Trainer: Go shopping. Browse their spurs. Find one that's very square and blunt. Try a different sensation for your test tomorrow. Keep your roller spurs on hand, just in case you need to switch them back in a hurry.
Me: Awesome, shopping therapy! I'll message you pictures of what I find and then you pick something.

I ended up buying two sets of spurs- her recommendation, these Herm Sprenger spurs:

As well as a smooth rowel spur made by Centaur. They had the tiniest rowel and I was intrigued (and they were not expensive). I knew Penn would react to them, but I wanted them on hand if he didn't spice up on the blunt spurs. I have a set of smooth rowels, but they're in retirement because they don't spin freely. They were neat, and I haven't used them on Penn, but they're a good item to have in my arsenal of tools.

After my buying spree, I took out Penn's braids then went to the main ring to watch a bunch of musical freestyles in the afternoon on Saturday. I caught the tail end of the I-1 freestyles, and then the Grand Prix freestyles!

The Colosseum

OMG guys, kudos to anyone who rides the FEI levels, and kudos to anyone who does freestyles at that level. No judging on any failures that happened. These people were still so good. There were five GP freestyles- two AA and three Open. I wasn't able to put a percent on any of them, but I did rank them in my head and came out with the right placings! I felt so bad for the only sub 60 freestyle- her horse did not want to play with any of the tempi changes.

I got to see Lauren Sprieser's freestyle (which won on a 75+%, 5% more than second place), and holy cow guys. I am so impressed. These people were good, but she blew it into another league. All of the freestyles were so good though, it was great just to watch them.

Sorry it's so far away!

I wanted to stay for awards, but Husband ushered me out (as was our plan), I checked on Penn to give him dinner and make sure he would be good for a couple hours, and then we drove to the beach at Nags Head, NC!

Draw bridge over the Croatan Sound (I had to look this up on Google Maps)
I thought we were driving into the ocean. It sure looked like we were!
Heading out over the Roanoke Sound.

No draw bridge here, just a huge hump in the bridge!

Husband and I had a good time walking on the beach (and getting wet because the waves were rather aggressive) and then we found somewhere to eat around 8:00pm... and it was still an hour wait for a table. The food was worth it though!

It made us really miss Hilton Head, SC though. We went to HH for our honeymoon and for a week the year after we got married. We like the atmosphere of the island a lot better than Nags Head, as well as HH's white sand beaches! Oh well, we had a chat before we left about house projects vs vacations, and well, it'll be at least 3 years before we can afford to vacation (horse shows and his car stuff come first). So we were just happy to visit a more southern beach!

We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had to drive back since it's an almost 2 hour drive and we had to do final night check on Penn, then try to get some sleep for the next day: championship test day!