Thursday, July 27, 2017

7/23/2017 - NODA Dressage Encore Recognized Show

Last we left off, Penn and I had made it through doing dressage in a swimming pool and were looking forward to a second crack at Third Level the next day...

I don't normally pay for night check. I think you should make an effort to be there for your horse bright and early so he's not being ignored as other people do morning chores, etc. I did night check for the second night of the show- Husband barely got any sleep Friday night and hates when I drag him to the shows early to just wait around (even though he gets that I'm there for the pony). All of the horses around us had night check, and they were all getting their breakfast at 7am... Penn was a bit lethargic by the end of Saturday too, so I'd rather someone checked on him all night.

It was wonderful not having to be there at 7:30 or 8 to feed and water the horse. Sigh. Husband appreciated it too, (and we like Husband so I try to keep him happy at horse shows). When we arrived, I grabbed Penn from his stall to walk him up to the food truck where Husband was ordering breakfast. I watched some of the FEI tests while Penn grazed for over an hour.

One of the nice things about this weekend was being able to mend fences between me and someone who used to be a good friend (we will call her E). She had a falling out within our horsey circle, left the barn, and moved to a new group of people. She rides and boards with Dressage Trainer now, so we run into each other at some shows and simply say "Hi, how are you" etc. Dressage Trainer had major vehicle issues trying to get to this show (first with another horse, then just with her car), so E ended up doing Friday's schooling and Saturday's show on her own (in kind of a panic). I ran into them Saturday and asked how things were going, and everyone looked a little frazzled and E said she was nervous since she didn't have a reader or Dressage Trainer. I immediately said, I can read for you. We had a lovely chat after, and I agreed to read for her again Sunday morning. I spent Sunday morning reviving old friendships, and it was wonderful! Dressage Trainer made it up Sunday morning to coach E and another rider, and E had a great ride, won her class, and finished qualifying for First Level AA Championships (so we'll be competing against each other come September!).

After helping out E, I went back to Penn and brushed him, and cleaned a little tack before it eventually was time to get dressed and warm up (boo 1:27pm ride times!). I had a plan for the turn on the haunches and I set aside most of my warm up in the indoor to work on those- attempting to keep the hind legs super active got him really jazzed up and he felt really super in the trot and canter after. I don't think I actually helped the turn on the haunches, but the work DID help the rest of the work! I took him to the outside warm up (which was small and had 3 rings worth of horses warming up in it), with 10 minutes to go and touched on a couple things out there.

I decided to ride this test like I was on a mission: to ride the snot out of it!

Husband could hear ladies behind him talking about how Penn was their new favorite horse, how his second change was very expressive etc. I'm sad that didn't make it into the sound of the video! I also didn't realize the the judge to the left of the camera yelled at her next rider for riding too close to my ring while I was in it. I didn't even notice her riding close to my ring at the time... focus!

The left lateral work was meh, the SI was much improved but I was having a discussion with Penn about the half pass. I was super happy with the lateral work right. I made a decision to ride the SI both directions with much more angle than 3 tracks because in my schooling show test, and Saturday's test, both judges said the SI needs more angle/bend. It paid off in a 6.5 and 7 for each SI, and the left might have been a 7 too if I had managed to not make him fussy.

Rocking the shoulder-in right.
The half passes from L-M and L-H are literally the worst half passes ever. I hate them. I made this one my bitch though! GP Trainer's advice on keeping the shoulder on the line is the best ever for my brain!

The medium trot was better than the day before, but I donno if it was a 7... the halt/rein back was a bit better too. Our TOH still sucked, especially since I picked at the second one so hard. When I was riding the test I was like, "If we don't get a 60, this right here is why!"

The canter work was wonderful. Penn absolutely bounded out onto the medium and extended canters. I got marked down for not making the transitions clearer at the end of each- I was just happy to stop booking it! Our 10m circles are struggling since we use them to build strength and so they're not really "show quality", but I should also keep my outside leg on him so his haunches don't swing out. The flying changes were each one stride late (and WTF, I'm pulling so hard on his inside rein), so I have no idea what this judge was looking at- she gave both a 7. The extended trot was lacking (Penn was out of gas), and the final centerline was a bit of a struggle (there was a lot of "JUST ONE MORE STEP!" thoughts). I was thrilled with this test though.

I put Penn away and hosed him off, and Husband I went to the barn lounge so I could change out of show clothes. On the way we stopped in front of a big industrial fan and I checked the online scores at that time... 65.758%! I jumped up and down and squeed in the aisle, much to the dismay of the hunter boarders #noshame. Not only did we get above a 60, but we knocked my expectations out of the park! I took a screenshot of the online score and sent it to GP trainer with the text "!!!!!!!!!!!!" To which she answered, "Are you now a bronze medalist?!" and I had to say "No, we need to work on turn on the haunches next weekend." lol!

I scurried off to change my clothes, then we went over to pick up my test and first place ribbon... I glanced over the rest of the scores in the class, then the rest of the scores at Third Level... It looked like I had the highest scoring AA Third Level test of the day, so I went back to the secretary and was like... so how's the Third Level AA Championship look? (I didn't know how the Saturday scores looked - the high point awards were for both days of showing, not just Saturday's show or Sunday's show)

FUCK YEA! You go, baby horse!

They were about to hand me my ribbon and such when the one lady was like, WAIT! She won the scholarship too.


The Third Level AA High Point award also comes with the Kathy Beck Memorial Scholarship in memory of one of NODA's riders, courtesy of her husband. $150 towards any lesson or clinic, and a memorial picture frame. Since this was a special award, they asked if I could get dressed again (just coat and helmet) and come get a picture. I said, how about I bring the horse? He's excellent at posing. They said, OK sure, see you in ten?

Thank goodness I had changed into my FITS tights and not shorts! I was able to slip my white breeches over my tights, and my stock tie and jacket over my shirt. Husband wiped off my boots while I wiped off Penn's bridle. The lady who came to take our picture was amazed at how nicely Penn posed and asked Husband to send one of his pictures (he took the above one with his nice camera) if they turned out well (they did). We got to chatting about Penn a little bit and I said I'd only had him for 2 years and this was his first recognized show at Third and I got him as an intro horse, etc. She was like, "You should write about that - Intro to Third in Two Years - and we'll put it in the newsletter!" I'm pretty sure I agreed because the thing is mostly written, except it's 2 Word pages long without pictures and I'm pretty sure that's too long for the newsletter. It'll make an appearance on the blog eventually here.

I'll print the head shot of the two of us and maybe take it to work! Penn isn't actually featured on my desk, and Mikey is!

Husband and I put Penn and my show clothes away, got a snack, and then packed up to go home. It was interesting to say the least trying to get the trailer packed while everyone else at the show was trying to do the same thing! We eventually got it worked out (and I biffed it in the aisle by rolling my ankle because I was in a hurry to stop blocking traffic), and headed home after a VERY successful weekend!

Penn is starting a dangerous tradition- Champion at his first second level show, Champion at his first third level show!
He was also the highest scoring Third Level test of the weekend, not just Jr/AA/Open. Squeeeeee!
Also note he's sporting his new bling, the ombre Topline Leather browband which is named after him!

I was hoping to finish my bronze this past weekend, but I'll certainly settle for a 65+%! It's higher than any of my Second and Third Level recognized scores! We'll hit up both days at Loch Moy Labor Day weekend and hopefully finish it then!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

7/22/2017 - NODA Dressage Recognized Show

This past weekend, I loaded Penn up and drove to a recognized show that I decided to go to on a whim- it's held at the same location as all the winter shows I've gone to for the past two winters, so it's actually relatively close and I wanted to take a crack at Third Level.

Hint: We did not stay dry on Saturday.

The fun part is I did all the Friday and Saturday morning stuff completely alone. While it's nothing new to haul on my own, this is the first time I've loaded alone, driven alone, arrived alone, and not met anyone once I arrived. It was really nice to be on my own schedule, but it got lonely really fast when I was stabled between two large groups. It made me miss my own group! Both groups were super nice and I talked to them some, but I mostly enjoyed my alone time.

This show had an awesome unloading/stabling check in crew though! They came up to the truck and we figured out where Penn went, I unloaded him while they brought a gator around, then we put everything of mine in the gator and drove it to my stall! The trailer was unloaded in about 5 minutes. They praised me for my lack of stuff, lol. A trunk, step stool, hay net, buckets, saddle, bridle. Apparently I travel light compared to some! I went and parked my trailer, only to drag the muck bucket on it's cart stuffed with Penn's fan, a 100' extension cable, his show schooling boots, and a drink for me.

I got Penn's stall all set up, and most importantly, his fan. I had to creep into someone else's tack stall to get to an outlet, and she wasn't around so I did a "do now, ask forgiveness later" because Penn was melting. Within about 15 min of Penn getting his fan up, someone stopped by and was like, "Do you have something to cover up that cord?" My bright orange cord had to go across the dirt aisle. I was like "No, I don't have a carpet yet. I'll be getting one tonight." I had husband hunt down a Wal-Mart from the computer at home since I had limited signal and then text me the address.

The offending cord.

I hustled to get Penn tacked up and out of the barn to school- the barn was significantly hotter than the outside air. I didn't school for too long- Penn was back to feeling NQR (uneven up front) and lazy. It came and went at the trot, which was a bit unnerving, but I chalked it up to bridle lame because I could make it go away if I really got after his left hind. I worked in the dressage court we'd be competing in so we would both get used to corners and having correct geometry again. I called it quits after 15 or 20 min, he was being good and I didn't want to push him.

I scrubbed him down in the outdoor wash stalls and that's where I really noticed that he's a star- I loosely looped his lead rope around the very low boards (like just above knee height) and he stood like a champ for his scrub down and rinse... Other people had to bring helpers, haha.

I got him tucked in for the night, took my tack back to the trailer and locked it in, went off to Wal-Mart to buy a rug, found dinner, and checked in to my hotel.

I was back at the show early to do morning chores and put my carpet out, only it was just starting to drizzle when I arrived so I said "Screw everything, Penn is going for his walk before breakfast." I hand grazed him for a long time, up until the rain started really coming down. At that point, I took him back in and fed him breakfast, cleaned his stall, dumped and refilled his water buckets, etc. I braided him and then was left waiting for Husband and my dad to arrive. I certainly wasn't cleaning tack BEFORE my ride... I knew I'd have to clean it after!

They watered the rings and the driveway Saturday morning. Like, FFS, did you not look at the radar?

The show ended up getting put on hold because of the rain- the storm was apparently severe nearby and it was quite the heavy rainstorm. We had some thunder, but I'm not sure about lightning because my stall was too deep into the indoor to be able to tell.

More severe south of us. I think they weren't sure how the storm was going to pan out. It was very slow moving and the heavy spots didn't move as expected.

I was hoping the rain would quit before my ride... nope. I got all tacked up and warmed up in the big indoor ring, then went outside for the last 10 min of my warm up. I was soaked in minutes, but Penn was a total champ about being rained on, and better yet, he felt fine. No NQR moments!

Off we went to do dressage in a swimming pool! When I got to the judge, I said "Hello! It's such a beautiful day!" in an extremely cheery voice. She laughed and said she thought I had done it right by putting an ear bonnet on to protect Penn's ears from the rain.

Everything about this test was lackluster- he needed more impulsion, lateral work was slow to develop and not enough, I let his halts be crooked/not square. We rein backed too many steps (I wrote 3 steps in the video comments but it was 5 steps that we did and the judge wrote).

Why. Why couldn't he have stopped square? This would have been stunning.
Also, the wet.

I thought his first turn on the haunches was OK, and the second bad... apparently the judge thought they were both terrible, with the first being more terrible. Then I let him break in the left lead 10m circle... knowing he would want to. Sigh.

I think the left lead circle started well, haha. I need to sit down.

The only thing to be thrilled about in this test is that I threw him to the wolves for the flying changes and he basically went: "Sigh. She stopped riding. I'm pretty sure she wants these though." Saint Penn came through big time and did the changes despite me. The first change was two strides late, and the second was actually clean! I had to slow down the video to catch that though because the judge wrote that he basically changed up front, changed back, then did a clean change. She still thought they sucked the big one, 4 and 4.5 respectively.

Right before he changed for the second change. He must have been like, "Mom, I need more hop to get this done."
I need to stop doing whatever the hell it is I'm doing here, lol.

By the way, the rain stopped after I did my final salute. Ugh.

All in all, we got, and deserved, a 58.030%. I rode conservatively because of the weather (and I couldn't see because glasses + rain + humidity = fogged up) and we lost a point here and there on stupid things that we can do better (entering the ring, SI, half pass, halt rein back), then combine that with bigger mistakes like the TOH (which is x2), breaking from the canter, the changes not being correct, and pushing him into canter in the extended trot. Between all of that I lost more than the 6.5 points I needed to break 60. On the plus side, everyone seemed to have had a rough go of it- of the 5 horses that rode their test, the high score was a 60 flat, and we were 3rd. We ended up with a second place though because they split the class into 3 placings- Jr, AA, and Open, which was neat!

I was super bummed because I couldn't have asked more of Penn- I felt I had reached his max comfort level with this work in the Saturday test and he really couldn't have given me more. I was worried about the Sunday test because today our max ability proved insufficient, so what did that mean for the next day? I had wanted to finish my bronze, and with a 58% that wasn't happening... but I'd settle for a single 3rd level score at this point. I hoped that he used some of his flair to slog through the footing and it would come back the next day.

Still, Penn got a ton of cookies and hugs and pats for being an extremely good sport and really trying his best... and saving us in the flying changes so we at least got 4 and 4.5 points instead of 0-2 points.

My dad went home shortly after we got lunch, and Husband and I went back to the hotel for a little bit so I could hang up all my wet show clothes in hopes of them being dry when I had to put them back on the next day. We went back to the show so I could sign Penn up for night check and we could do his evening stuff. I gave Husband the choice of hand grazing the horse or mucking and freshening the water buckets... he chose to do stall work, lol. The fact that the horse moves around while grazing bothers him, haha. He did a super job mucking the stall, adding an entire wheelbarrow of fresh sawdust (bedding is free at this location!), dumping the water buckets, and refilling them. That left me free to get rained on and grab this gorgeous picture of Penn in the sun getting rained on with a rainbow:

I of course took like 40 pictures to get one that came out OK!

I usually wrap Penn's legs overnight when we're at shows... I couldn't bring myself to do it this time. It was just so hot and muggy, and the barn had very poor ventilation (temporary stalls set up in an indoor ring- except these stalls are up year round). Husband said he prefers this location in winter... summer here sucks, lol! Anyway, we tucked Penn in and got dinner before passing out...

Hopefully I'll be able to post about Sunday's show soon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

7/16/2017 - Schooling Show... at Third Level!

I had an epic weekend planned this past weekend- riding 3-1 at two schooling shows in a row as practice for two days of recognized showing! The Saturday show was with a trainer I know to be fairly generous in her scoring (I believe she is practicing judging to enter to L program, but I think she is also missing 3rd level scores to enter the program), and I decided to go to that show as a confidence boost. The Sunday show usually utilizes L grads or r judges, so I figured I could get my confidence boost, then a more critical eye on me the following day.

Sadly things did not go as planned- due to the recent rain and I'm guessing some lingering footing problems, my easy Saturday show was cancelled and rescheduled for August (I need to email to get my check back from them though- I can't go in August). It worked out for the best though- I was able to do my barn work as scheduled, ride, clean tack/pack trailer, doing evening feed, wash and braid Penn in a more leisurely fashion.

Funnily enough, when I got my ride time for Sunday's show, the judge was the one I was supposed to see the day before! Small world. I'm glad I wasn't riding for her twice in one weekend though, especially at two different locations! I don't mind the confidence boost though!

All scrubbed and braided.
Maybe Penn's rabicano coloring is coming in a bit stronger? He looks like someone missed dying some of his roots!
Mikey had a section of white hair too, almost in this exact spot.

My mom was supposed to come with me, but some family things came up that made it impossible. I messaged one of the girls at the barn (T) who has been a groom before and lives close to the show to ask her if she'd meet me there so I wasn't showing alone, and I'd buy her lunch and then read some tests for her once we got back to the farm. She agreed, so I was back in action to not be showing completely by myself.

I had a 9:07am ride time, so my 4am wake up Sunday morning was rather rude! It was weird to do all my pre-departure things completely by myself. It was actually cold Sunday morning- 60ish degrees with a chill in the air from the humidity.

Who knew mid-July at 6:30am would be cool enough to trailer in the BOT mesh sheet?

For once, I arrived precisely when I wanted to! I usually end up arriving later because I'll leave 10-15 later than I wanted to and I just drive slowly with the trailer. I was good that morning- pulled out at 6:30 on the button, and arrived at 7:30.

I found my stall and took a few things over, and when I got back to the trailer, T had arrived and was ready to help take the rest of the stuff over to the stall. Between the two of us, it took two trips and then we were basically waiting. I hand grazed Penn while we watched the first couple horses go and killed time.

I wanted to be on at 8:47 (20 minutes before ride time). T was incredible- I have never had a helper who has been a paid groom before (I am usually the paid groom, so I manage myself at shows pretty well generally). I helped saddle Penn and picked his feet out, but she did basically everything else. Brushed him, fluffed his tail, used a damp sponge to get the dust off his face and braids. She bridled him, tightened his girth, and still managed to watch me put on my hair net and tell me to tuck in the wispy hairs at my neck! I applied some lederbalsam to my saddle flaps so my boots wouldn't squeak, then she grabbed a rag to wipe my boots down at warm up, and we were off!

Penn was... very sluggish in warm up. Relaxed, but lazy. He did everything I wanted, but I had to continually remind him not to lay on my hands. I did some of the shoulder fore/renvers prep for a single flying change right to left. It was late and leapy, but I was having trouble keeping him up. I opted not to do too much more since he seemed pretty low energy already.

I had a moment before I went in the ring where I thought about Mikey. This show was just a few days shy of two years since Mikey's last trip down centerline at 3-1 and 3-2. I asked Mikey to let Penn channel his inner TB in his medium and extended canters. Basically, Mikey was not forgotten on this day and I almost went into the ring in tears.

However, on to the test! I did a few turn on the haunches in the main ring since I forgot to do them in warm up, but then I just walked around until the judge was ready for me. I always feel like I should do more, but I'm always at such risk of doing my best work in the warm up.

I thought this test felt drunk. I did a bit too much mitigating and not enough riding for points to truly make me happy:
  • The trot lateral work left was sticky, the right was better (and I forgot to start the second SI promptly!). These are the stupidest half passes on the planet... they are so shallow. Of course they're going to get comments of 'needs more bend'... It's so hard to only move sideways 10m while moving forward 36m. That barely requires bend! GP Trainer's tip of keeping the shoulder on the line really helped here- his haunches were close to leading on the half pass left, but focusing on keeping the line instead of pushing the haunches over really really helped on these excessively shallow lines.
  • I was pleased with his medium trot, even if it was a bit quick... because it's still BETTER!
Not great, but better!
  • The halt was awesome... and the rein back is broken. He used to do diagonal pairs nicely, and now we're back to walking backwards.
  • I pushed him out of the extended walk since I thought he didn't have enough overstep. My bad.
  • Turn on the haunches are still sticky for us, I didn't think they earned the scores we were given.
  • I was happy with his medium canter- it's so much bigger than before!
  • 10m circle right was ok, the judge thought it was small, but we got totally lost when I tried to prepare for the change and Penn was ready to give it immediately off the circle, but the text calls for it after crossing centerline... which resulted in a wackadoodle leaping half pass change, haha.
#weeeeee #miscommunication
  • I was happy with the extended canter, but I could feel it going downhill instead of up. Nothing to be done about that at this point though.
He just looks so strong! And bulky. And grown up. Who is this horse?!
  • The 10m left circle was where I thought he'd fizzle out, which he did. I lost what little impulsion I had and he broke... I immediately thought, "Oh shit, how am I going to get a flying change in a few strides?" I put him back together as quickly as possible and began setting him up for the change... which ended up clean! Leapy, but clean.
I am honestly surprised this happened with the break so close. #MakeItWork
  • The extended trot leaves something to be desired, but it's still better than it was a month ago and I liked the feeling he gave me when we got on the line- he was like, "I'M GOING!"
He was already fizzling out by this point on the line, but I think he just looks pretty.
  • Maybe it was the better effort on the diagonal, but I asked him to collect and he almost quit on me, then I asked him to turn up centerline, and he was 'disinclined to acquiesce to my request.' This is now the second or third time this year that he's said f-off at the final centerline. Each time the judge never seems to catch it and mark it down, but I've got red alert going through my head because his centerlines are our score boosters and if we blow those, I won't have an offset for a weak movement (or a break from the canter).

I chatted with the judge after the test and got the feeling she didn't have much advice or whatever to give me- she herself is struggling at 3rd level (I've seen her around attempting to finish her bronze and I looked her up on USDF Score Check). She gave me a hand toss up and "Good luck!" at the end of our conversation, so I really had zero clue if she thought it was horrible or alright. She covered the general stuff:
  • "Wow, a lot of things happened quickly in that!" (I couldn't tell if she meant I hurried through it or the test just kept throwing punches or she's not familiar enough with tests of this level and couldn't keep up)
  • Penn needs better elasticity and uphill balance (I was struggling to get forward out of him... he was SUPER chill, to the point of detriment)
  • I could have added more angle to the shoulder in (I am very conscious of NOT putting him on like, 20 tracks lol so I took this as a good thing)
  • Keep working on the flying changes (I expected this of course)

When I got my test back, it looked like the judge and scorer got a bit lost in it, and there were 3 different pen styles in the writing- one for the scribe, one for the judge, and one for the scorer... only the judge's pen also showed up for both of my flying changes scores and comments as well as a few others towards the end of the test... meaning she didn't score them as they were happening, she scored them AFTER she spoke with me. Whatever, it is a schooling show, and she's out there practicing too.

Best comment ever. I may have laughed at Penn for breaking to trot in the extended walk...
Almost a Third Level baby horse! 62.727%!
And of course we won the class, you know, 'big fish small pond' means you're the only one in 3-1.

When I picked up my test from the office, the organizer was like, "OMG, he's looking so good! And I'm not a dressage person, but it seems like he's really flying up through the levels?" I was like "Yes, I just want to finish my bronze and then we're going to spend the next year working at second and third, until he's really comfortable."

That really highlights how far he's come- August 2015 he scored 59 and 62 at Intro A and B, respectively. Here in July 2017 and he's pulled a 62 at 3-1, with somewhat functional changes (even if they're not pretty).

This week is pretty quiet because we're gearing up to do 3-1 this upcoming weekend at a recognized show. I was hoping for a better run through at this show, but I did get a good feel of where we're going to struggle. I was hoping for a score between 62 and 64 so that when I go to the recognized stuff, I would still be ok when the leniency points are removed. I'm happy with the 62.727%, but this judge is usually quite generous (more than an L grad would be), so I'm a bit nervous about how this test would have scored in the eyes of an S judge.

We will just have to do the best we can this weekend! I certainly can't put any more training into it (except maybe working on the TOH, which I did do yesterday). I'll review the rein back, TOH, and trot work today, and do some generic 10m canter circles each direction without mixing in changes.

I think I may have to take some of Penn's omeprazole for my own nerves this weekend!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7/1-2/2017: GP Trainer Comes to Town

**We're still looking into what's wrong with Penn- we think we've pinpointed it but we're waiting for bloodwork to come back. Until then, I'm going to post other stuff.**

Like cats eating gnomes.

The last few weeks of June were a whirlwind of prep- GP Trainer was coming to our barn to teach a 2-day clinic and was staying at my house instead of a hotel. Husband and I took care of all of the outside stuff that we'd been meaning to do: cut new flower bed lines to make it easier for him to mow, pull weeds, put down mulch.

Fresh flower bed lines and mowed grass!

My house finally got the spring cleaning it deserved too- Mom came over and between the two of us, we washed, scrubbed, wiped, and dusted EVERYTHING the day before GP Trainer arrived. I clean sporadically (I spend too much time at the barn), and so everything in the house needed to be freshly cleaned. I was just disappointed that two of the projects we started earlier weren't done: the living room update (my house has good bones and 50s style), and the gutters that were damaged by the tree that fell on the house (the contractor will be here end of July/beginning of August to put all new gutters on the whole house).

BO got the farm ready- endless mowing and more sand for the indoor. OMG the indoor is so nice now! They spent an entire day or two dragging it though- there's some lingering deep spots near X, but for the most part the footing is LOVELY!

I was first up to ride on Saturday. GP Trainer confirmed that we were all qualified for Championships (check), then asked what the plan was for the rest of the year. I said I had been playing with Penn's changes, and that I'd really like to finish my bronze this year. I stressed that I only wanted to ride 3-1 since I know his canter is not really up to par for canter half pass. She actually agreed we could do that! And there would be plenty of time to get him put back together for first level championships in September, so now is a good time. I told her I was planning on trying it at two local schooling shows before recognized- the one has a very generous judge (to give me some confidence) and the other will give me a more realistic view on where he's at.

We warmed up and she commented on how much stronger he looked than he did in May. I always like hearing those comments. I try so hard to do my homework, and every time I see her she's always saying how much further along he is.

We did more of the same work we've done in the past- reviewing the laterals and me trying not to throw him into them, using 10m canter circles to find a slow collected canter, and then we got into some new territory- flying changes! It came with the disclaimer of "He's not quite ready, but if you're going to try them, you may as well encourage them to be clean eventually." Haha!

To start (this is almost direct, word for word from the video), and explanation of the exercise and the reasoning:
  • Collected canter from our circle work (20m circle with 10m circles at the points)
  • Ride shoulder fore at the canter (no crazy angle) down the long wall, then change it to the idea of renvers. Shoulders to the inside, but haunches and nose looking out.
  • Sliding the inside leg back to achieve this, which is very similar to the cue for a flying change. If he offers any part of a change, good bad or ugly, no problem. Walk, reorganize, canter again.
  • The challenge to the changes is that the horse has to be incredibly itchy to change and incredibly level, all at the same time. We want to tease him, just a little bit.
  • Renvers positioning makes it easier for him to change clean, but he also has to be patient.

Then directions in the work:
  • Slide the inside leg back, allow with the inside hand.
  • No swinging my body in, stay in the middle of him.
  • Don't let the canter change!
  • Keep the haunches on the same line as they were in shoulder fore (I kept putting him on a steeper angle after thinking renvers).
  • Very little angle! We're talking inches here, not feet.
  • Eventually be able to apply a half halt to hock him back while in renvers, and be able to let go and let him carry himself.

To do the flying changes:
  • Bring him onto the diagonal in the idea of renvers.
  • Big half halt, ask, touch with stick if needed.

The right to left change ended up a bit "superman"-like. Penn wants to lurch and leap through the change, so GP Trainer directed to make it quite up and down. Obviously that's not the final end result we want, but he has to learn not to lurch through them first. We took a short break and then went to the left with the shoulder-fore to renvers feeling. I cut out some of the good lateral practice work in the below video, only because Penn really needed a break and I was editing on my phone and it cut the video to 2:24 minutes from like 6 min, lol.

GP Trainer told me a while ago that the more difficult flying change, pirouette, etc would end up being the easier one in the end. The left to right has always been more difficult (I think because he struggles with the organization of the left lead), and yet since this lesson, the left has proven to be the quieter change. Still more difficult to get, but quieter.

Saturday night we had a grill and BBQ party featuring the farm's organic black pasture hog in burger, sausage, and pulled pork form. One of the highlight foods were the "adult fruit" aka apples and watermelon soaked in I believe vodka and tequila respectively. The party was a lot of fun! GP Trainer and I peaced out a bit early though- she'd been up for a long time and we had to be up early the next day to come back, and it's a 40 min drive back to my house.

I'd share the group pics we got took, but kids under 18 are front and center and I don't want to basically feature them on a blog. Just imagine like 20 people sitting down one very long table while raising red solo cups and smiling their heads off.

My lesson Sunday was a lot of the same trot and canter work from the day before, sans changes, and very similar to videos I've already shared. We quickly found that Penn was running out of gas, which was a reason we didn't touch the changes at all. All of the sit work from Saturday showed on Sunday and he was pretty tired. All the horses that did day one were pretty tired on day two!

We took it easy on him and quit a little early, and I took him for a walk on the trail as a reward. He almost stepped on a turkey hen hiding in the brush though. It blasted out from under him and he was rightly surprised. He was so tired though, he barely hopped away!

The clinic was filled to the brim- 10 rides each day! I watched them all (or all that I could since it was hard for me to watch rides directly before and after my own lessons), while running and fetching GP Trainer anything she needed. A common theme for all of the lessons on both days were working from the inside leg to the outside rein, but everyone had improved by the end of their 45 minutes.

So tired!

GP Trainer got an overwhelmingly positive response, with auditors and riders alike asking, "When is she coming back?" So I'm pleased to announce she'll be back Dec 2-3 for some winter shenanigans! Of course I'll see her before then, but it will be nice to get a tune up at home before she leaves for Florida!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Obviously it calls for some panic"

Went to the farm last night to ride... only to find Penn was NQR. Not lame, but not perfect. He was short ever so slightly on his right front, but it felt like he had a flat tire when I trotted him around.

First thought? "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. I have him entered at 3-1 at two schooling shows this weekend, and then two recognized shows next weekend."

One of the farriers was out, so I pulled his tack and asked her to hoof test both front feet. He reacted ever so slightly to the right front toe, but she said not to worry about it because she had to press extremely hard to get a reaction, so she doubts it's an abscess.

Shouldn't have to do this. Hopefully.

Yay? An abscess would be simple though.

She thought it's probably because his toes are nice and long, and the right is a bit longer than the left. Since I ask so much of him, that length makes a huge difference in his movement.

He's scheduled to be reset today anyway. He really should could have been reset last Wednesday... I thought he would be ok to do 5 weeks this time- we did last time at 6 weeks, except he really could have been done at 5. One day I will learn to just call the farrier and ask if he can come out sooner. Apparently we're going to try changing his cycle to 4 weeks!

The same farrier that tested him also does this pulse treatment thing (I'll have more details later). They just lowered their rates for it (I could not pay the $200 a session), so in addition to a manicure today, he's getting a session with the pulse machine, lol.

He was adjusted by his super chiropractor the last week of June. I was warned he may be quite sore after - the base of his neck was a mess and Penn almost laid down because of the pressure it took to make it right. Penn moved really well several days later (he got 2 days off after because I needed to clean and he needed extra rest). I scheduled him to see the pulsing machine this week and next, because you know, horse shows and third level. Goodbye money.

Hopefully between a trim and shoe reset, body work, and rest (he was going to get rest and extremely light rides anyway after yesterday because his schedule is so heavy), he'll be back in tip top shape! We can skip the schooling shows if need be, but I don't want to miss the recognized!

No prep is the way to move up to third... right?

Monday, July 10, 2017


Before I write about GP Trainer's visit (which was a total blast, and totally exhausting), we've got some low key fun stuff going on in between training.

Like BABY GOATS!!!!!! The farm has 4 baby goats on the ground (two sets of twins) and at least two more babies on the way soon! The 4 you can see here were born on July 4th (foreground) and July 5th (background).

National Pony Cup - Small Horse Division

So this was some super exciting news I found out- National Pony Cup has Small Horse awards! You have to get your small horse measured by a vet and fill out a form and pay the fees, but that's it! All of the scores you earn in that competition year count, so you don't have to get the form in before you show. Penn isn't registered anywhere, so I thought this would be fun to do en lieu of a breed registration. They add "degrees of difficulty" to the percentage score (the number of percentage points depends on the test ridden), and then average all of your scores at each level.

Part of getting him registered for this was to get him officially measured. He was originally supposed to be 16.2 (per his breeder) as a 6 year old, but the sale barn called me when he arrived and said he's more like 15.3. When he came home, my vet measured him at 15.1 with a tape (which was one week later). I measured him at 15.2 3/4 at the wither and 15.3 at the rump with the barn's stick sometime between Dec 2015 and Feb 2016. So basically we had no idea how tall he was- no one could agree. It didn't matter, I showed him as 15.3 and that's the end of it.

Well, the vet measured him at 16.0- 162.5cm officially. He's allowed to be up to 163cm with shoes for the Small Horse Division. Whew, he barely made it! I thought she was crazy though, there's no way he was 16 hands.

Well, Austen was right when she told me back in May that I should stick him again because she thought he grew.

We pulled out the barn's stick over the weekend and measured him again... 15.3 3/4 at the shoulder and 16 at the rump. Slightly downhill, but he's grown about an inch in the last year. He grew an inch as a 7 year old. I mean, part of me is jumping for joy ("He grew!") and then the other part of me was like, "Oh shit, he grew!" I'm glad he doesn't need to be measured for Pony Cup again though- his form is considered final since he's 8 this year. Growing explains some of the gait problems he's had in the last year too (aside from just a strength issue).

Have you ever seen a boar get a belly rub? I have!
And when Penn spooks the boar, I totally get it now.

New Experiences - Riding Bareback!

I also rode him bareback for the first time this past weekend! I've been putting it off since a) I rarely rode Mikey bareback because spine and shark fin withers, b) I haven't done any serious bareback work since leasing my QH Jasmine and that lease ended in 2004, and c) Penn wigged about me not riding with tall boots- full leg contact was a bit much. How was he going to deal with complete contact? But I want to ride Penn in GP Trainer's swimming pond when M and I go back in a couple weeks, so I have to be able to ride bareback, haha!

I used to be much more confident riding bareback. And bridleless.
Oh to be young and indestructible again!

Penn stood like a champ while I scrambled on. A friend stood by his head to make sure he didn't move (the transition from block to back is the one place I thought he'd have a good chance of dumping me), but he just stood and let me scramble. We walked and trotted, and it was fun as soon as I pulled myself out of the fetal position, lol. The first time I asked him to trot he was like, you don't really mean that... and then broke into this western pleasure jog, lol. Maybe next time I'll canter. I have to learn to sit up again though- I could feel I was tipped forward and afraid to sit on him.

We went for a little trail ride with M and her mare when she was done with ring work. Next time, I'm using my 5 point with my bareback pad! It immediately slipped way back on the first hill... Penn was really super on the trail as well! He watched his own feet and took everything super easy- no power walking. There's a step mucky section that he usually walks a bit quick through... he sat down and took teeny tiny western pleasure steps down it. I have to say, he usually trips a couple times when we trail ride... he didn't trip once. Someone had to watch his own balance because I couldn't watch it for him!

Basically I need to practice bareback a lot more. It's much easier than no stirrup work (so much easier to get my leg around him). It'll be fun now that I know Penn will take care of me a bit! It seems we both need it, lol!

Bareback ride with sleepy ears! Such a good boy.

We've had a fun low key week! Good thing too, we're busy for the next 3 weekends (then I'm busy on the 4th weekend!). I think I'll use bareback and trail rides during the week as something low key that we can do to chill.

Monday, July 3, 2017

6/17/2017 - The Unexpected Lesson

I meant to get this posted in June, but GP Trainer came to the farm for a clinic on July 1/2, and stayed at my house instead of a hotel (save money on those lessons yo!), so I was obnoxiously cleaning the house, inside and out, during the week I wanted to get this posted.

Since the last horse show, I set two pseudo-goals: get the changes more confirmed (aka get at least a late change every time) and make our medium gaits better. This was in anticipation of... riding 3-1 at a schooling show July 16, and a recognized show July 22-23. Finally finish that bronze, you know?

So I've been cracking away at it. Working on straightness to build engagement. Keeping the changes low key. Things had been going ok. Until they weren't.

Foamy mouth with gross bit sucking noises = good

I had been working on the changes, and he was giving me something every time I asked on the short diagonal (the way it is in 3-1), so I was happy. Until he started hopping through the right to left change. NBD I thought, he's a green horse. Green horses sometimes hop. Check the connection, move on. He hopped half the time, changed the other half. Until he started outright bucking. Then the bucking got bigger. I was not about to pop him with the whip over it- I could tell his response would be to retaliate, not to take his spanking and move on. I knew something was wrong training-wise, I didn't know what (am I setting him up wrong? trapping him? holding him back? is he just fucking sassy? what combo of all of the above?), and I knew if I wanted to meet my goal of trying 3-1, I needed to work it out ASAP. I needed HELP.

So I took stock of who I had available to me: GP Trainer wasn't an option, she's too far away to help without video, of which I had none (and she doesn't exactly approve of me working on the changes right now, which is pretty valid considering Penn is a barely-second level horse, but we might be getting closer!). Cowboy Dressage Trainer was actually one of my top choices, but I didn't think she would approve of working on it either. She'd sidetrack into something else we needed to work on (which I know wouldn't be all bad to do either). I didn't want to ask Event Trainer since I haven't really talked to her in ages. BO's daughter mentioned Dressage Trainer was going to be out the next morning, and had a lot of experience with teaching flying changes since her PSG horse put her through the flying change ringer (he did not take to flying changes well at all), and she's brought a bunch of horses through successfully to 3rd and 4th. I decided to give Dressage Trainer a whirl: she has a lot of experience and I could get help immediately.

Apparently I made Dressage Trainer's day when BO texted her to ask if she'd shuffle her schedule a small bit so I could have a lesson. She said that's fine, and was thrilled to teach me. Well that's exciting! I know she has a bunch of lower level students (First and below), and I know trainers get excited to work with students who know, and can do, more.

4 white standards = markers to count strides between on long sides and diagonals, in trot and canter.
Trying to get a handle on the mediums! I crunched some interesting numbers to go with these, I might make that into a post.
This work on Friday was MUCH more acceptable than his flying change work.

I told her up front when we started that my end goal for the moment was to squeak out two 60s in 3-1 in July and finally finish my bronze... that it has been on hold now for 3 years and I'd really like to finish it because we are SO CLOSE. She laughed and said ok. I told her the trot work is all good, except the mediums need to be bigger, but I'm working on it and they're getting better. I was also working on the flying changes, and usually getting something when I asked, but he's started bucking through the one change, and it's getting worse.

She said alright, let's warm up the trot, and go straight to the changes. She said the changes are a change in bend behind the saddle (which ensures the hind end keeps up in the change), so our warm up work focused on lateral work to get that part of his back moving. She also didn't want to work the changes on the diagonal- she thought that might not be a good way to approach them right now.

She had me mess around a bit with going forward and coming back on a 25ish-m circle- short bouts of medium trot, then collect, do another medium, collect, change directions, medium, collect. It was really good- his medium trot got better immediately and within a couple go/collect rounds, DT was pleased with the medium he was offering and said that's plenty of reach. Wahoo, we'll keep working on those so maybe I can have a medium and a medium + 1 (aka not an extended but hey look, this medium is a hair bigger!)

She then had me work SI and haunches in (HI). She had me do both on the 20m circle, but then when I'd go "straight" on the circle, ask for a short bit of medium trot. Repeat. Then we took it down the wall. SI down the wall. Make the trot bigger in SI. Smaller again. Bigger again. Smaller again. Straight. Turn to the short side, medium trot. Collect, turn the corner, SI again. Repeat. Then we did the same with the HI. All the while, she wanted a more uphill trot. It was super interesting work, and it helped me cement the new feeling of core activity/seat engagement that I found I needed at the last show to get a better uphill trot.

Something she continually reminded me of in the SI was to keep my outside hand down, especially tracking left because Penn wants to tilt his head in that direction. Keeping my outside hand down really helped with fighting the tilt, and steadied him a lot better. I imagine that's because it helped me keep him connected to my elbows, instead of breaking the connection at the wrist.

All of the go forward/come back within straight and the lateral work was to show me the elasticity and suppleness Penn needed in that kind of work. How he needs to be that adjustable, all the time, no matter where I put him. It was super cool, I really wish I had video of it (of course there was no one on hand to take video for me!). I'm super excited to give it a whirl on my own though.

New fly clothes. This is a 72", BTW. Penn's regular clothes? 75-78".
He was hulking out of his fly sheet from last year, and basically ripped the shoulders out of it.
I may have picked this one because its color was "Illusion Blue" and well, Penn is Illuczion.

We took a break, then moved on to the canter right. The very first thing she said was make the canter much more uphill. He can't buck through the changes if his poll is up. She phrased it as, "Sit on his hind end." I don't know why, but that clicked for me. I know I've heard it before. I think it goes hand in hand with MF telling me to sit against his outside hind while I stretched him down to prevent him from speeding up. It was super easy for me to engage my seat in a way that encouraged him to be more uphill and collect, but without closing any of the front doors.

We did the same thing: medium canter on the 20m circle for no more than a quarter of the circle, collect, medium, collect, medium, collect. I had warned her before we cantered that we struggled with the HI at the canter last time I tried it, he would try and simply couldn't hold it very long. After we worked medium/collect, she had me work SI, straight and medium, collect and SI, straight and medium, collect and HI (holding the HI as long we we could, but no more than a quarter circle), straight and medium. Holding the laterals on the circle for no more than a quarter was enough to give Penn something to do, but release him before he got flustered. As we progressed, the medium canter found that awesome shoulder pop-and-reach motion, and it was effortless. Combining the "sit on his hind end" feeling into asking for the transition med-col worked really well too- no more squeezing him to death with him thighs (which didn't work well, let's face it). Just sit against him and he has to collect. Durrrrrrrrr. It works for both working to collected AND medium to working? Who knew?!

Anyway, down the long wall: Go to SI for half of it, medium out of it. Collect and turn the corner and get a little more forward and uphill going again. SI down the first half of the long wall, medium out, collect, turn, find uphill again. She had me change one of the SI to a renvers-like change and seemed pleased that it was relatively easy for him. Next was substituting HI for SI, being careful not to trap him in it (aka medium out).

Then she had me tear drop back around to the other direction, but maintain the counter canter. We balanced the counter canter- it mostly involved me continuing to remind him to stay uphill and compressed and to keep his balance. Then she had me turn down a quarterline and leg yield out to the wall- left leg with every stride, then hit the wall and right leg, flying change. He did a quiet and clean flying change. Walk, make a big fuss over him.

Due to the recent heatwave, Penn has finally learned fans are his friend.

We did the same to the left after a good rest- he could hold the HI!!! I was amazed. He clearly didn't have the same endurance to the left as the right (we also started with the easier change), but she rather liked his left lead better than his right. I rode it much better because I had to, which might be part of it. She got after me to keep after his hind legs, especially the right hind. She said something similar to what GP Trainer has said- his hind end gets slow this direction (GP Trainer has phrased it as he gets scrambly). I need to keep after his hind legs and make them keep up and slow the front end down (something else GP Trainer has told me).

Partway through the left lead work (while we were still tracking left), she had me introduce the concept of half steps to him- when I was putting him together to walk-canter, he just was not engaging his hind end. She had me half halt and basically jazz him up, tapping a couple times with the whip. I got a, "Finally! He's bending his hocks!" Haha. He absolutely leapt off the ground into the canter, which was pretty cool. It was uphill from the start. Gotta figure out how to channel that better.

The left was really hard for him (and me). It took a couple tries through the quarterline to wall leg yield to get the first left to right change. She had me really get after his right hind in the leg yield and then apply the same pressure with the new outside leg for the change cue. This was super hard for me- I didn't want to over cue him, and I was letting him expand his frame in the last few strides before the change. We got a couple that way- then she had me set it up with a 20m circle, compress, straight, cue new lead onto the adjoining 20m circle. She said the left to right wasn't late, per se. It was late to be sure, but he would change the front and change the hinds a half stride late- like a funny hitch.

One of the times he broke in counter canter while on the left lead, I tried picking up the counter canter directly, like I normally do. We hit the straight away as I cued, he picked up the left lead, went two strides, and did a perfect flying change to the inside right lead. DT laughed, I laughed, I pulled him up and gave him a rest and a pat while we giggled. Sneaky horse. He looked super proud of himself too for being so clever. One might even say, smug. Lol

Picture courtesy of BO- he took a nap Saturday afternoon after that lesson!

She said overall he wants to expand his frame and pull his poll down through the flying changes (which then lets him buck), and I need to keep him up and compressed. That's why she doesn't want him doing them off of long approaches like diagonals right now- it's too much time for him to lengthen his frame and drag me forward out of my seat.

This lesson stressed being able to make him laterally supple and elastic (get that back bending for the changes), and making him longitudinally supple and elastic (so I can keep him compressed and up through the changes). DT apologized for making the lateral work so mentally taxing and quick-coming, but she said she's trying to cover a lot of ground in a short time. I told her, "No problem- I brought you a long list!" In fact it was great the way she structured it. I'm super excited to try this all on my own. I won't hit the changes every time, but I can work those lateral moves a bunch.

We'll see how the next few weeks shake out, but I might try to ride with DT again before our July debut. I'm a bit nervous about riding 3rd- the last time we tried 3-1 it was not good (53%), and I feel like I'm rushing Penn like I did Mikey (Great, we got recognized scores at second! Move on to third!). But I think Penn's quality of work and connection is much better than Mikey's, and Mikey averaged 55% at third. I think of 3-1 as 'second level with flying changes' because it's SI, trot half pass, medium/extended trots, medium/extended canters, flying changes. I donno, we'll see. It'll be an interesting experiment.