Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2/19/17 Day 2: A New Work Ethic

I came to lesson the next morning with a new attitude, no longer completely in despair after a good night's sleep.

Nearly square, nearly all the time now!

The first thing GP Trainer asked me was if I got to watch yesterday's videos. I told her I did, and man, I've been going easy on Penn in the canter. It made me wonder if I should do two day trips a month where I'd drive 10+ hours in one day for a lesson so I can check in more often. She said, we'd love to have you and can totally do that, but we really don't need to. Just video your rides to make sure you're on the right track.

SoloShot3, you need to hurry the f up! GP Trainer just ordered a Pixio and it was waiting for her in FL. Apparently Pixio does better indoors, but SoloShot3 is better in almost every other way, especially in outside range- I keep seeing that Pixio only has a 330' range. Husband was willing to chip in for the SoloShot3 because it could track him over an entire autocross course (further than 330').

Trot work:

Anyway, back to lesson. We started with the trot... and it was spectacular. I was thrilled that all the pieces worked together so well, and I was able to influence his medium trot and make it better, all on the same diagonal. GP Trainer was pleased too, she said we could have taken that work anywhere and done well. Riding this kind of work is just plain fun. GP Trainer said to keep raising my expectations with his trot, even though this is good work.

Suffer through the screenshots. I loved riding this work.

Medium Trot
Half pass magic
The shoulder could have led more in the second half, but super happy.
Shoulder in

Just super happy with it all. Very much improved.

Canter Right

On to the canter! I brought new determination to lesson with me- I will make him sit the hell down by sitting up myself and really riding it! #ExpectMore

This was also where I asked her if I was ruining his walk- she said no. We're not trying to fix a lateral walk, he's just doing that as an evasion to the job at hand. When the walk clears up, the canter will most likely have cleared up too.

We rode the canter in shoulder fore- I found it MUCH easier to maintain the jump in shoulder fore... probably because doing that most likely put him straight and not actually in shoulder fore. (Put a big star on this- I've been using it religiously at home and it is helping a ton. I get better quality work a lot faster.) I also love the hop he's getting in his hind end when it's really working. I mean, the hop up front is great too, but it's so cool to see that he's still picking up his feet behind too.

One day I'll have Mom learn to zoom in. Until then, you get gif's of awesome transitions from very far away. You'll just have to click on it and make it bigger. Sorry!

This is actually from Saturday lesson's walk break, but I forgot to include it. He's like, "More rein please." and I'm like, "I'm already holding them at the buckle." It's how you know the horse has been working hard sitting! He wants to stretch way down.

Why Yes, I Would Love to Ride the Left Lead Struggle Bus Some More

To go with a long left lead video (which isn't even all of the left lead work we did, I cut out the start to cut the length, sigh), GP Trainer basically said this: All of these little failures are perfectly fine because while this is about teaching him to sit more while cantering, it is more about him being able to take the pressure of me asking and continuing to try. He was continuing to try, however I gave him a couple taps with my whip to help him dig a little deeper. He was riding the struggle bus Sunday for sure!

Just before he broke to trot, lol.

After lesson, I took Penn for a walk in GP Trainer's XC field. Maybe one day Penn will jump well enough (and I'll be confident enough) that we can jump all the logs on her little gymnastic loop of logs. The first image of the below gif has a hexagon shaped group of big logs. I don't want to jump those, lol. And watch for the couple pics where he's looking left and a log is progressively getting closer. Yes, I had to stop him from walking into it and tripping. #NotAJumper

I walked him over the little log on the ground after he was distracted, and we trotted to two little uphill logs at the end! And he jumped! Well, he jumped the first one and kind of tripped over the second one. I'll just say his butt was tired. ;-)

Penn moved during the panorama... but this one turned out the best for the background shot, lol.

So the homework is to keep hacking away at the canter. More sit. Hold it longer. Round and round we go. Apparently one day I will look back on the struggle and laugh. I sure hope so! Writing yesterday's post put me in the same depressed mood I had post-lesson. Glad this one was a bit more determined to do better.

We'll be going back to GP Trainer's in two weekends. Let's see what we can do in 3 weeks time!

Monday, February 27, 2017

2/18/2017 Day 1: Wake Up Call

We had beautiful weather for our February trip to GP Trainer- 60's and sun!

I got to the farm a bit early and was able to watch the tail end of a lesson with an Intermediare I student who is working on riding Grand Prix late this summer. I thought this was super interesting and want to repeat it back for anyone having trouble, or for if I ever have this problem, and I just thought it was an interesting solution. She was working on the canter GP zig zag, but her horse kept anticipating the change and then her next half pass suffered because she never got the haunches behind the shoulder again. GP Trainer had her screw the count for a moment and do the following: half pass, then put the horse in the new half pass's shoulder-fore position, while holding the original lead. THEN she could ask for the new lead and the new half pass. The horse listened well at that point and they went back to the zig zag but with the last few strides being straight, shoulder fore, new lead. It got a lot better and her half pass covered more right/left ground since she had the shoulders ahead of the haunches at the start each time. I also got an interesting saying for how to get your butt to stick to the saddle, especially in canter when we tend to bounce out...


Sit on your butthole.

Seriously, go home and try it and pair it with pulling your belly button into your spine. It worked super well for me, so try it and report back!

Tough Love

We started our lesson by showing GP Trainer where we were at- trot work was good but the canter was still a struggle for the simple changes. We talked briefly about the schooling show and she gave me some tough love.

He has a 3rd level trot, no problem. He still has a 1st level canter. The two do not average to 2nd. No more showing 2nd and 3rd until we get canter sorted out (little does she know we already entered two more schooling shows since I had to send in the entry back in December- which I am still going to ride in- more details to follow on that in a later post).

Good Trot

Right Lead Canter

First we attacked the canter. Penn does not have enough jump or sit in the canter. So back we go to me sitting up and back as much as I can (leaning behind my vertical just won't happen for me, I tend to ride more forward), and really lift his front end. We found the proper canter quickly to the right (it felt like we were not covering ANY ground), and then we put him on a 10m circle to ask for even more sit and then walk.

We're basically working on him taking longer slower steps with his hind legs so he's "not so scrambled eggs." Lol.

Less scrambled eggs.

We had a super finish to the right lead work:

Developing hop!

Left Lead Struggle Bus Hurtling Down the Highway of Despair, aka Left Lead Canter

The left lead is a disaster. It is so much harder for him. I'll just leave this video here for you. Listen to GP Trainer in the first part of the video, then you can skip it (I'll pull some gif's out). She basically says these issues are the things no one talks about- the absolute struggle and hot mess that happens and the side effects (losing the quality of the walk while you sort out the wiggles for example). She also stressed, "Do not despair. This will pass." (she had to reassure me the next day that I was not going to ruin his walk because I was horrified watching the videos)

How to be a hot mess.
We eventually worked it out.

We spent a LONG TIME in walk between canters because I was fighting his wiggles- the haunches move, the shoulders move, he walks like an f'ing cat with his front legs, he drops any connection to the bridle- it all raged like crazy as an evasion to sitting and connecting to the bridle while walking. GP Trainer stressed that I have to wait him out. We will win the fight by simply outlasting him. GP Trainer would rather I focus on having him straight by a relative point in the distance in front of me, rather than straight right now, because it keeps a focus on moving forward within the walk and I'll actually get straight faster (this point took me the entire weekend to understand).

Half Pass Made Easy

Like, stupid easy.

She said we could address my half pass issue- basically Penn takes me wherever he wants in it and I have very little control over where we go and if the haunches lead. She had me think about it like this: Turn on your diagonal. Ears, chest and hips are all pointing towards the end letter of your diagonal (our example letter E). Take the first step on the diagonal, then ask for haunches in, pretending that diagonal line to E is actually a wall. Chest, ears, and shoulders stay pointing at E, outside shoulder stays on the line to the letter, while the hips come in. While the shoulders stay pointed at the letter and outside shoulder stays on the line, it is very hard to get the haunches to lead.

Video description of GP Trainer walking out the explanation for the first two min, then we actually get rolling at the 2:55 mark.

Holy crap guys, doing it this way was EASY and FUN. I use basically no outside leg for it, he simply went and it was amazing. Since this lesson, both Penn and I actually enjoy and have fun in half pass- he gets very swooshy and seems to really enjoy it (it's probably the one thing we both go, "Weee!" in).

Tough love in our first lesson this weekend. Tomorrow, I bring a "Let's Do This" to the party after getting to watch my videos from this lesson and we keep on building.

Monday, February 20, 2017


I need to edit videos, pull some screenshots, etc from lessons this weekend, but this was one video that did not require editing, and I found truly impressive of where Penn's trot work is at. This was in the first 10 min of our ride Sunday (ok, I used YouTube to edit out the first 40 seconds of non-horse related chatting while we were going in straight lines around the ring).

It's a long video, but is just over 6 min straight through of beautiful trot work: 10m circle, SI, HI, half-pass, medium trot. Penn is going to get extra cookies today when I drop off some stuff at the barn.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Post Show Rides: An Exercise in Straightness

I will not pretend that this is my bible. To be honest, I feel like the bottom should be a circle.
However, I feel it does demonstrate a hole we've developed (hint, it's #5).

We all know I'm a bit disappointed with my scores from the schooling show, but pleased with Penn's actual performance. I knew he wasn't "show ready" so this was a way to get out and do it and see how far there is to go.

The judge harped a lot on: tight back (maybe she really meant he looked stuck to the ground and slow, so his back didn't swing a ton?), needs bend, needs engagement blah blah blah. I went to Megan for some advice because I really think this judge was a bit harsh in numerical values and I didn't find the comments incredibly helpful (though I do think they were spot on). Megan gave me something very constructive and useful: Instead of sitting into the movements, Penn wavers his hind end (that wobbly feeling I get, plus the whole "I've lost his hind end and can't get it back behind his shoulder" thing that happens). She told me Rico did the same thing, and how she worked on it. She would get him super connected in walk, slow the walk, and ask for a tiny trot. He had to stay STRAIGHT. If he shifted the haunches, shoulders, sped up, inverted, or did anything besides trot straight, she'd stop the trot from happening and reset and ask again. To help with this, she used a chute of poles as well.

BOT Brush Boots! Very white. Got to use them for the first time Saturday.

I was all excited to test this out over the weekend, but there were lessons happening Saturday so I had to make due with using my legs to keep Penn straight (the horror). I was able to keep him much straighter from the super connected walk, and it of course resulted in better trots and canters. We still had major cases of the wiggles in walk, especially when I was trying to ask for walk-canter. However, once we were in the next gait, it was fairly steady in connection and balance. The halts were also better- the judge had nailed me for single steps of walk into/out of them. Penn was very trot-and-HALT-and-TROT.

Side note, I thought I'd have a threatening to rear tantrum from this. I didn't. Instead, he'd shut down entirely, stop, and put his head between his knees. A very different problem, but I can work with it much easier than threats to rear!

In between lessons, I tried Penn's flying changes on the 3-1 pattern (10m circle, short diagonal, change) because that seems to set him up well in the past by letting the circle set him back on his hind end. Well, the changes are nice and broken. I got one late behind change from left to right (but he didn't invert or speed up), and one change right to left where he flip flopped the front for 1-2 strides then changed back. The rest were all no-gos. I tried some simple changes after that, and he wasn't even clear on those when I'd ask for the new lead- he still offers the old one, especially when changing left to right. Sigh. I'm sure it's a straightness/strength/clarity problem. We finished with some shoulder in to 10m half circle to half pass and I kept losing control of his haunches- they'd bulge in as he anticipated the half pass.

Dressage Poles of Doom

Sunday was lesson-free when I finished working, so I hurried up and set up 7 of our poles down one of the long sides and BO's daughter and I had at them (she liked the exercise too btw!).

I started with just walking through the poles, then using them for all my transitions in warm up before getting down to really insisting. Holy crap, it was the first time I've ever felt him really sit into a downward transition. I started with just simple trot-walk-trot-walk-trot down the long side, from sit trot. In the last steps of trot I felt him actually SIT and lighten the forehand as he walked. So freaking cool. And I got it to happen in a row, on more than one pass down the long side! I started pairing it with shoulder in on the opposite wall: transition refreshers in the poles, shoulder in, transition refreshers, SI, repeat. He felt steady before SI, in the transition to SI, during the SI (with bend! I could really feel his hind end stay straight), and out of SI. No bulging the shoulder/haunches in anticipation into/during/out of the corners. He was just ready and waiting for the next cue. He felt so grown up, and BO's daughter said he looked so grown up, and SO STEADY.

You know what else disappeared? His leg interference. The BOT brush boots give a lot of sound when he interferes, and it completely vanished with this work (and came back with a vengeance when I'd give him long rein to stretch and rest).

The canter work to the left was super- I started getting canter-walks that were SO CLOSE to canter-and-walk. And I could fit two in on the pole long side! I ended up doing two simple changes tracking left through the poles too, and they were better than our usual.

You know what is not super? His right lead canter. I don't know if it was muscle soreness, running out of steam by this point, or some combination of those, but the right lead sucked. I could finally feel him trying to shove his shoulders right and look left (and so he picks up the left lead), and it would take me the entire long side to get the right lead canter in a halfway acceptable transition. The canter itself was better, but I had to really ride it: sitting up, riding shoulder fore, and really using my thigh and seat and inside leg. Towards the end the right hind got so slow it felt like a lateral canter and there was no hope of canter-walk transitions. I let him quit at that point because I was not making it any better and I was just wearing him down.

Tired pony on Sunday. It was just warm enough to give him vetrolin baths both days this weekend!

I rode him again last night, and while I had trouble connecting him in the walk to the right, his left direction work was great. I focused just on the trot last night- no canter. I paired trot-walk-trot-walk-trot transitions in the poles with 10m circles at C, E, and A, then with shoulder in on the empty long wall, then SI-10m circle-haunches in. I'd use SI to half pass to change directions. I could tell if the SI was faking bend by asking the following question: "If I asked him to 10m circle now, would he drift through my outside rein, or would he promptly step off onto the circle?" Not completely sure I could fix it at this point, but I at least knew right/wrong, and they were mostly right! The half pass would fail spectacularly if I wasn't right because I'd lose the haunches in the 10m half circle and he'd just take me for a ride.

Towards the end he was feeling very straight, steady, strong, and connected, so I changed the downward transitions in the poles to medium trot in the poles. The medium trot off the left rein was great- having the haunches directly behind the shoulder is great for pushing power (go figure right?). Transitions to medium trot were slow, but transitions from medium to collected were prompt and strong. The medium exercise to the right wasn't as good- he got hurried in it and it wasn't as easy to sit. I don't think I'm finding enough straight that direction, and I'm still not sure about the right hind's pushing power.

Overall, I'm really thrilled with these exercises in straightness. Penn really didn't take much reminding to stay straight once I established "this is how we do transitions now." I can really identify straight vs crooked vs bend vs fake bend now (as silly as that sounds). Thanks Megan!!

All of this has made me think of the training pyramid, and how in the long run, it's been kind of spot on (go figure, they knew what they were doing in designing it). When Penn came home, we had to establish a rhythm. Why did a kind of connected horse get less than 60% at intro? Because he couldn't keep a rhythm to save his life. After we established some rhythm, I had to reestablish supplement and contact. He's always had a lot of natural impulsion, but sometimes I squash it and we've cycled through it coming and going. Right now it's in a going phase I think (phases can last hours or weeks, because horses). I found straight over the summer towards the end of our First Level work, but no collection. GP Trainer had us increase collection, and we eventually lost our straight/impulsion/suppleness/rhythm/contact depending on what day it was, but the most consistent loss was straightness. I've been building all the lower pieces back up, and Megan helped bridge the gap from impulsion to collection.

I am beyond excited to visit GP Trainer this weekend and show her our progress! I do have some questions for her (ie that stupid 3-1 half pass), so I'm hoping we can work on a couple of my questions in addition to whatever work she feels is suitable.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Shopping Spree

I've been on a bit of a shopping spree... I've been making an effort not to buy things/spend money, so maybe it all built up? Sadly, I was able to justify everything (aren't we all when we shop?).

It all started innocently enough:

BOT Brush Boots, in flashy white of course.
I was looking for non-fuzzy brush boots because I'm tired of cleaning my fleece and these were actually one of the cheaper pairs (ME has yet to make their dressage boot in black and a mid-dark blue, so obviously I can't do those).

And then evolved into attempts to help Penn with his current workload because he is SO GRUMPY. Like, you walk by and he wants to bite you grumpy (Hawk can attest to this fact):

I'm doing this on the hunch that his muscles hurt- he's had a whole new workload since November and has laid down a ton of new topline muscle. I opted to put these in SmartPaks so that I could do the money back guarantee and it was actually cheaper than buying the bucket to scoop myself. Plus, total score on the first time SmartPak 50% off!
He started wearing his BOT Mesh Sheet at night- and LOVES IT. His SmartPaks are still shipping, so I know they haven't helped yet. I got a very excited report from BO that Penn was MUCH less grumpy about having his blankets changed (ie not trying to bite them anymore). I ordered him the BOT hood because the massage person identified some issues in his neck.

Other things that I've ordered but I'm not sure when they're getting here:

Lemieux Fairfax Lambskin Girth Cover
Actually extremely reasonably priced for what it is. See the above grumpy pants horse.
Lemieux Mesh Pad because it was a good price with the girth cover and came in navy. 
Acavallo Massage Gel Pad with full sheepskin
The local tack shop is ordering this for me (they are making me a deal on it). See above grumpy horse.

And then to make sure I wasn't left out, a new pair of paddock/summer work boots because my current pair is completely worn out: they smell (actually they REEK), they aren't waterproof anymore (multiple holes in them), and the padding your foot sits on is so completely crushed that I was getting plantar fasciitis in both feet and walking like a cripple for days after wearing them. It was time.

Ariat Terrain Zip H2O boots. I loved my other Terrain pair (note their complete wearing out).

That was supposed to be the end of the shopping spree... but nooooo, Penn can't socialize properly. Penn likes to undress his friends. He also has a new friend who likes to undress HIM. While I find it amusing when Penn undresses his friends, I am annoyed that they return the favor (my karma for laughing I suppose).

Penn's new best friend is an OTTB who is just as mouthy as he is. Within a week or two, the horse has figured out velcro and zippers. Penn's hood didn't stand a chance (thank goodness it's Smart Pak's Ultimate Turnout with 10 year guarantee- that is the only thing that will stand up to this pair of ponies). Every day Teddy and Penn facebox and pick at each other's clothes- Teddy unvelcros Penn's 2 hood closures, and then unvelcros two of the 3 pieces that attach it to the main blanket (the 3rd attachment is an actual clip).

Basically, I have to change both of his SmartPak Ultimate Turnout Hoods from velcro straps to clip-able straps because Penn can't socialize properly and lets his friends undress him. *facepalm*

So I've devised a modification to the hood- I'm going to fold over the edge of the velcro closure and sew surcingle buckles onto the end (which means I'll have to sew additional nylon onto the main hood), so it both velcros and buckles.

Not using the bottom pieces.
Gray nylon. May or may not match existing nylon. From Amazon. Go Prime!

To further help the surcingle buckles stay buckled, I'll put these annoying rubber stoppers on them:
These are the devil's o-rings.

I'm going to go the extra mile and going to sew clips onto the 2 non-clip hood attachments. This is my biggest problem with these hoods- the whither has an actual metal clip, and the attachments on each side of the shoulder are super long elastic with velcro (which you put through a D ring and stick it to itself...dafuq). Why on earth there aren't 3 clips, I'll never know. The elastic velcro lets the hood and blanket gap at the shoulder (by like 4 inches), which lets in the cold and the rain. We've tied knots in the elastic and do some complicated loop through the d ring to take all of the slack out of the elastic. It makes it a PITA to move the medium hood between his medium and heavy blankets. Since I have to wash and sew both hoods already, I'm going to sew clips onto the elastic as close to the hood as I can.

Do you know how hard it is to find this particular snap? I had to order from Dover!

I ordered the main parts from Riding Warehouse and realized I wouldn't get the 2 day $5 air without making the $50 order minimum. Well you know I had to meet that so I can get sewing quickly! The more days it takes me to do this, the more days my pony will end up undressed.

I'm going to convert his BOT mesh sheet to a snap closure up front. Buckles annoy me.
The mesh sheet also has a stupid shoelace type tail strap. It also annoys me because it absorbs shit. Literally.
I love Noble Outfitters Peddies. I ordered two more pairs in black.

On the plus side, I sold Penn's original Stubben 1984 a few weekends ago, along with his old TSF girth, to a lovely lady at the barn who has always wanted to do dressage. She started taking dressage lessons and Dressage Trainer asked her to have her multiple saddles evaluated by a saddle fitter. It turns out all of her saddles are way too wide for her horse. I saw her tacking up with 4 saddle pads under her Australian stock saddle and asked her if she'd like to try my Stubben (she liked BO's Daughter's saddle and mine is similar but with bigger knee blocks). She loved it, but Penn's was a bit too wide for her horse. I fetched my old saddle that is 2cm narrower from the local tack shop the next day, hooked her up with a short girth for it (she has a horse that uses a smaller girth than Penn!), and she used it in her lesson 3 days after sitting in my current saddle. Everyone loved it. She got off the horse and wrote me a check. Awesome! I let it go for less than I wanted, but it is gone and is in excellent hands who love it.

No more shopping for me! This was more than enough.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2/5/2017 Schooling Show

So if you're friends with me on Facebook, you got to see this kind of awkward picture of apparent success from the show.

Apply blue ribbons to cute face, take picture.

That picture was mainly for the Facebook frenemies haha. It did not deserve to be posted, because 1st out of 2 and 1st out of 1 are really not accomplishments. Especially on scores of 53.293% (2-3, first out of 2) and 53.182% (3-1, just us). It will pain me to hang those ribbons on Penn's wall. The one can get hung, we beat someone for it, the other... meh.

Anyway, not important. What is important is that I am so super pleased with Penn. I know, dafuq?

Could it be because he's one sharp looking guy?

Sunday was great. I got to roll out of bed at 8am, go to the barn and wipe down my horse with a damp sponge and braid him, load and go around 12:30... Got to the show around 3:30, hand walked him during the ring change break, and then killed time. My goal was to get on 20 min before my ride (5:38 PM), and I kept to that. I didn't want to wear Penn down, but I wanted enough time to attempt to settle him. I found I probably needed 25 min or so- I ended up wanting to do a lot more walking than I allowed for time-wise.

Penn got a massage Saturday. He enjoyed it for a while, and then basically had his fill of being fussed over.

He was a bit up in the warm up, but I was able to channel it into a very impressive trot (that of course ended up toned down in the show ring). He immediately told me about how displeased he was with my riding in the first canter of warm up and promptly bucked when I tried to hold onto his face and ask for a medium canter. At the end of warm up, I was really really happy- he came to work, was holding himself up, and I only had to work at keeping his butt in line with his shoulders and his mind focused on me. He got some lovely complements from several people in the ring (one was an event trainer who is getting into dressage after her main horse had to be reduced to flatwork only- she asked a bunch of questions about him and how he was basically what she was looking for in her next baby horse project).

On to 2-3.

The halt was meh, he stepped right. All of his trot work is just stuck to the ground (apply more forward), and I need to find better medium trots stat! SI right barely had any bend (something I'm finding hard to manage because he's short backed and a true 3 track barely gives him any bend). I thought his travers had good bend, but looking at the video makes me realize it's basically leg yield- needs bend! SI left shows you just how drunk he is in the SI, especially to the left. It wavers. The whole lateral section tracking left I fought his hind end (I fought it in warm up too- it wants to throw itself around), and how he wants to tilt his head when tracking left too. The halt rein back got a 6, but with the note of 'walked into the halt, rein back OK'. I imagine it would have been an extra half point if I could have gone trot-halt. The turns on the haunches... the first one stuck (very unlike him, they're usually way too big) and the second one just didn't have anything to it. Then he tried to canter off on the right lead, haha. The free walk was a shining moment, yay! His medium canters really felt like they were moving to me... and apparently they aren't, at all. I'm sure that's because I'm a little nervous about him bucking through them, and then he loses straightness too, so I only let them out so far. The left to right simple change- 4 steps of trot is actually really good for him for that change, so while it's still bad, it was better. His second 3 loop serpentine got away from me, and go figure, it's the right lead one that I KNOW he has difficulty completing the counter canter loop, yet I did nothing to fix it.

Since I have video, this post with have perfectly timed screenshots.
It looks like he might actually have some reach.

Basically the judge said "tight back" and "needs bend", over and over. Needs more engagement and self carriage. I'm pretty sure one of her comments in the collective section was "Needs to develop the basics of connection through back in order to maintain balance and engagement." I think that was it, she used a lot of short hand. I have to remember that while he is SO MUCH BETTER than he was 2 months ago, it isn't enough yet. And remember how I said his forward/back balance was just weak, and I thought it was a strength issue? I think that's what she's really pinpointing with that comment. She doesn't know he looks so much better and has so much more self carriage than he had before. She's there to judge a moment, and in that moment, he's still too weak.

I really like these- especially the one on the right!

Two things Megan pointed out to me (thank you Megan for going over this test with me!): he has the elevation needed for the level, but he's lacking the actual sit. His hindquarters wobble around instead of sitting, most notably causing the downward transitions to fail (canter walk ends up canter...trot... walk). She made some awesome recommendations on things to try to get more sit, and while I know they will cause a tantrum, it's got to happen because I want to get better and I'm excited to try it! Then she pointed out the whole thing could be better by simply making better transitions between the movements. I knew it was riding sloppy... and I can absolutely work on that. I didn't put in the time like I normally do to plan the transitions. Also, can we talk about how long those diagonals are? I can't wait to get back out in the outdoor and have longer diagonals to work with!

Not going to bother making scans of the test. Just imagine a bunch of 5's and 5.5's, with a 6 every now and then with the occasional 4 and a single 7 (free walk). Lots of comments of "needs bend" and "tight back". Collective marks ranged between 5 and 6 (rider position and gaits scored the 6s). Final score: 53.293%, first out of two. Scoring shorted me a point on my test (they dropped a .5 on a doubled collective), but it's not like it matters! The score is still so low.

Pretty sure the free walk was the only thing we did right in this test.
I'm so excited that the "low" moment in the canter steps isn't as on the forehand/leaning as it used to be!

I only had one test between 2-3 and 3-1, and I closed out the show as the last ride. I did some SI-10m half circle-half passes in warm up and opted to completely skip schooling a flying change before the 3-1 test. I was afraid I would jazz him up and I wouldn't be able to work with him. Spoiler: I should have done the change like I planned.

On to 3-1.

I tried to keep him straighter on this centerline, but immediately felt how tired he was getting. I'm happy with the mostly square halts he's giving me these days! I HATE the half pass in this test. It must be USEF's idea of a sick joke: L-H and L-M is a long forward distance (36m) to only move sideways 10m. I liked it better in the previous test version when it was L-S and L-R. Penn reaches beautifully sideways in a steeper half pass... and I have a much better idea of where his haunches are and they don't lead nearly as often when I make it steeper. The half pass left got a 6 (wow, she must have been impressed!). I lost control of the haunches when I started the half pass right. I kind of gave up in the medium trot, oops.

Can't wait to get a good pic of this, to match the one of Mikey in my banner.

The halt rein back were also good and a 6 (it's sad that that's good). I completely bungled the extended walk (thankfully missing from this video because husband had battery issues). I practiced it at home and I've never been overly clear on how much stretch there should be, but I aim to get the same big step the free walk gets. I pushed him past his balance point in the extended walk like 3 times on a 3/4 diagonal, making him take a step of trot... I'll have to ask GP Trainer to help me with that when I see her in two weeks. These two turn on the haunches were better, and the second one in this test was the best scoring one of the 4 we did on Sunday.

It looks like there's a breeze. Nope, just irritated tail swishes.

This is about the point where everything GP Trainer drilled into me about sitting up in the canter just fell out of my head. Once again a lacking medium canter, into a shut down canter 10m circle, into a flying change fail. He gave me the, "I'm already cantering, what else do you want?!" Guess not doing one in warm up before this test bit me in the ass. After not getting much extended canter, I had a little "coming to Jesus" moment with myself in my head: told myself to sit up, sit down, follow the horse with your hands, and LET HIM GO FORWARD. Of course the body change made Penn want to break to trot. I tried for more oomph into the change. It still failed, but I asked a second time and he swapped the front for a stride before swapping back. It took a while to get the lead sorted, so I botched the transition to trot and kind of didn't care much about the extended trot diagonal, but somehow scraped together a 7 for the last centerline.

I still haven't learned not to throw myself around. At least I can sit up though, even if this was a wee baby buck.

So I over-schooled the counter canter in the last few weeks, and not touching the flying changes since mid December was probably a bad idea. Penn's more honest than that, and I need to be better to make sure he's clear on things. Also, ditching the plan for doing a flying change in warm up was a bad idea.

Pretty trot post-canter, for like the two steps he was balanced.

Again, not going to bother making scans of the test. More 5's, 5.5's, with a 6 every now and then with the occasional 4 (flying changes) and a single 7 (final halt- all I can think is she was excited I was done). Lots more comments of "needs bend" and "tight back". Collective marks ranged between 5 and 6 again. Final score: 53.182%, first out of one, wahoo. The scoring people somehow gave me an extra 11 points, and reported my score as 56.1%. I always add up my tests on my own after I get the paper back (doing this caught an error at a recognized show so I ended up in first place!) and I found where they doubled a 5.5 where they shouldn't have, but I cannot for the life of me figure out where they got the other extra 5.5. I even added up the numbers on the tape and couldn't replicate it. Again it doesn't matter, but I was originally kind of excited to get a 56 after such a poor 2-3 score.

Nailing the final halt, pretending we nailed the test. Ha.

So this was a successful outing in that: Penn was well behaved, I kept my head mostly in the game, we got through the tests, we knocked off the dust, and Penn was relatively the same horse at the show as at home. What was not successful were the scores since basically every movement had some kind of bobble that knocked every score down to 4-5.5 range. I'm still really happy that we were able to take the progress we've made and not backslide too much in a test, so I think these are fairly accurate representations of the work we've been doing. Despite the scores being low, I think he's on the right track, it's just we're not fit for public consumption yet (as GP told me we wouldn't be when I saw her last... damn, she was right again). Some more sit and muscle strength, more practice linking the movements, and practicing the flying changes should help these scores go up for the next show in a month.

Penn is off Monday and Tuesday this week, and my tall boots went to the shoemaker Monday. Both zippers unzipped themselves in both of my tests at this show, which was totally awesome for riding these tests. Then the one split under my spur and I couldn't get the boot off... so no more putting off the trip to the shoemaker. He'll fix the teeth under my spurs and he's putting a new pull thing on the zipper that apparently locks the zipper in place unless you pull the tab down (so pulling the leather won't cause it to unzip like it does now). I'll get them back on Friday, so Penn will have some easy rides Wednesday and Thursday this week. I'll tackle Megan's suggestions this weekend!

I'm still pretty nervous about not being ready for these levels come the beginning of May, which is the first recognized show on the calendar!