Friday, September 29, 2017

9/14/2017 - Championships, Part 1: The Long Ass Drive

Wahoo, we've ground through the pre-championship posts in the queue, time for the big show!

Before we get there, I had one last ride before packing it up for champs. And it was horrible. Absolutely dreadful. I worked inside to use the corners and arena walls, and that might have been my biggest mistake ever.


I had walked Penn around and was gearing up to trot and start tuning him in to my leg... when one of the horses who was in for dinner lost her ever loving mind and tried to claw up the stall wall. They got her out of the stall, but she was hell bent on leaving and leaped out into the indoor, directly in front of Penn. She was very very disturbed, and her abrupt appearance really spooked Penn. Like, legit scared him. His whole body shook with every heart beat. I could feel it in my leg and seat, and see it in his head and neck. The horse was terrified. He wouldn't go forward, he wouldn't go towards the far end of the arena, he wanted to stop and spin. He took a bunch of nervous poops where he just stood there and trembled.

I tried my best to encourage him forward into his fears, and to try and salvage a basic ride that could hopefully end with some relaxation. He did not need pony club kicked anymore. He needed to chill and turn down his turbo. He seemed to get more and more freaked out the more I tried to package him. So I stopped trying to. I sat the trot and let him trot as big as he wanted up into the bridle. And boy oh boy, he went to town. I offered him nothing except a steady rider and he just kept going and going. After a good bit of "excessive big show trot" he was finally ready to take some input and relaxed a hair. I did a little bit of canter, same idea, big big canter. He was a bit squirrely in canter (bodily out of control and he could have easily dumped me), but we got some work done.

I was horrified. He has worked much, much harder than I wanted, and none of it was what we needed to work on. The Perfect Impulse guy was out, and I told him he might need to spend a bunch more time on Penn the next day at his treatment because today was a shitshow. :(

Thursday morning dawned rainy and hot. Irma had finally made it to my neck of the woods and brought tropical humidity with her. Fortunately, she had lost most of her rain and wind by the time she reached us!

Husband and I got to the barn right on time, got packed up right on time, and left the farm, right on time around 10:45-11:00am. The goal was to be at the show outside Cincinnati by 4pm. Ha. Hahahahaha.

My truck had other ideas.

No oil pressure means you pull over before you turn your engine into a hunk of useless metal.
About 15 min after we left, the truck's oil pressure dropped to zero. The truck did that before to Husband, but he pulled over and turned the truck off, let it sit for 5 min, then turned it back on and it was back up on pressure, no further issues.

We pulled over and turned the truck off. I texted my barn owner that shit might be hitting the fan. Husband hopped out, checked the oil level, added some since it was a hair low, but everything else seemed fine. We got the truck started again, and the pressure was normal again. We decided to keep going, and stopped for gas about 20 min later. Everything still seemed fine, so I texted BO that it seems ok, Husband is 99% sure it's an electrical gremlin and the gauge was bad (we've had other gauge problems). About 20 min after that, we were going up a long steeper hill on the way into Pittsburgh when the oil pressure dropped like a stone and the truck lost some pulling power. We managed to limp the truck to a commuter parking lot and popped the hood... and when Husband pulled the dipstick, it came out smoking.


I called barn owner immediately... but no answer, so I left a message. I then texted M (BO's daughter) and was like, "I need to get a hold of your mom, we're stranded with the trailer). Then I texted Dressage Trainer- she was heading to Championships that day too. I messaged another person I knew was going to champs. I messaged everyone I could think of as I tried to formulate plans B-Z to try and get the horse another 5-6 hours to the show. DT was already in Columbus (way far away) and once we were back on the road, one of the other ladies said she had an extra trailer spot if we were still in a jam.

While I called everyone I knew, Husband called AAA. I was actually kind of sad I didn't get to use US Rider, but we were still within an hour of the barn, and only 15 min from my house, so I didn't need to call strangers.

This horse is a fucking rock star.
He stood in the trailer without making a peep the entire time we were sitting in the parking lot.

BO was great- she called back and agreed to let us borrow her truck for the weekend. She set her stuff in order and drove out to meet us. While she did that, AAA was on the way too. So were my parents. We arranged for the truck to go to a local dealership for them to look at whenever they had time and my dad would follow it there to make sure they got the right information down. Mom drove my BO back to the farm.

It seriously took a village to get us to this show. Horse people may be a crazy breed, but they are the most helpful people too. I could not have gotten to champs without the help of a bunch of people.

This made me very, very sad.
Also, this is the biggest truck this flatbed can take, haha.

It also took us like, 10 hours. Not kidding. We left sometime around 10:45am, and arrived around 9pm I think (no earlier, for sure). The trip was supposed to take 5 hours and 30 min. We figured 6 or 7 hours since we had the trailer. Between the stops we made (the first sitting on the highway, getting gas, stopped a second time for a couple hours, stopped again for diesel for the second truck, and stopped again because we we just beat), and the sheer distance to travel (308 miles), we took enough time to get there that I could have driven to Region 1 Champs in NC. The whole point of going to Region 2 Champs was to avoid the 10-11 hour drive. Sigh.

It may be 10:00pm in this pic, but we made it!

Karen was wonderful- she was my go between to the other members of our stabling party, and she got me the combination for the tack room so I could dump all my stuff in there after everyone else left. I promise guys, I may not have met any of you yet, but I won't steal your stuff or miss locking the tack room :-) An 8am ride time meant I had to get my stuff in there the night we arrived or face an even earlier morning.

Next, a very, very early first ride.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

9/10/2017 - Schooling Show

Aka, "That time the baby dinosaur stuck in a tar pit was still a big fish in a small pond." (shamelessly stolen metaphor from Emma)

Thank you everyone for the condolences. My grandfather was 98 and had an incredible life. He retired at 55 on an incredible pension. He and his late wife spent their years of retirement visiting over 100 countries on incredible trips. We traveled to NJ to lay him to rest in a Jewish cemetery next to his wife. We sat shiva for the rest of the week.

After the disaster that was 2-3 at the recognized show, I needed a confidence boost before championships. I entered 1-3 at the local dressage venue after making sure the secretary could work with my limited schedule (a shiva service was in the afternoon of the show), and off we went.

While I was doing funeral things after the recognized show, the vet was out to give Penn his fall vaccines, write up a health certificate, and check out Penn's coughing. He had a normal temperature, no abnormal lung sounds, and she agreed it was probably allergies. She left him antihistamines, which he started getting the Thursday after the recognized show. Penn's coughing was much less by this adventure- it was mostly sneezing and he was able to tolerate stretching down and back up with no coughing or sneezing fits. So I think in the future, I'll be getting him some seasonal allergy supplements to try to head this off before it gets this bad. He seems to have coughing issues each fall and spring. Of course, this particular antihistamine is a USEF banned substance (as are they all), and not only is it banned, I need to fill out a drug declaration form when I check in at Championships because it can still show up in his system if he received it within 7 days of the blood/urine draw (even with the 24 hour withdrawal period). By the way guys, feel free to call the USEF drug number- they are super helpful. I've called a couple times now!

Anyway, Penn got his warm up cough and sneezes out, and I should have put a little more effort into making him hold himself up. He felt stuck, but I didn't put out the effort to unstick him because I was worried about making him tired, and I thought part of the problem might be the deep footing.

Anyway, off to the test:

My first thought after, "OMG, we are completely screwed for championships. That was completely insufficient and thank goodness I didn't ride third here, because it would have been the shittiest score ever." Not only was he heavy in the hand and tense and resistant, we had made 3 major blunders. Cantering in the first lengthening (seriously, wtf? How long has it been since we've made that mistake?), bungling the trot change into scrambled eggs (I pushed him down the diagonal and then said sit and come back and he told me to f-off), and then him breaking to trot at the end of the second canter shallow loop. On top of those, he felt like a dinosaur stuck in a tar pit- he needed more oomph and I wasn't finding it.

Well I know what lesson he's getting before we go to championships- the legs off, pony club kick lesson! That way I have a back up plan for if he peters out on me- take a leg off and he'll dig a bit deeper without the kick. That and a metric shit-ton of canter-trot-canter changes. And paying extra attention to connection.

I was honestly surprised at the 69.411%. Really? Was she blind? Did she not see my baby dinosaur mucking about in the bog? Four 8's, seven 7.5s, eight 7s. 19 of the 27 marks (collectives included) were 7+. The 5 on the shallow loops (double coefficient) hurt the most I think, but I think she was a bit too generous even with a 5. I mean, the loop was great, and he broke at K. I donno, maybe I'm being overly critical? I look at it and go, "That was not third level quality" and my basis for first level quality is now super super skewed.

It was of course the highest scoring First Level AA test (and Open/Jr/AA First Level test if you want to know). Cue the: "OMG you got pretty satin, just be happy already!" I think that's how you know you're really after the score and how things felt I think. Win blue and tri-color ribbons and it's still not good enough!

Though I have to say, it's pretty darn cool to have a meh feeling test score a 69%.

I was still quite nervous- this judge was a bit generous with everyone I think. I know I am expecting 3rd level work in a 1st level test, because in reality, that's what I need to do really well at championships. However, my championship test is being judged by two people I've ridden for in the past and I found them quite fair, if a hair generous. Between the two of them, they've given me a 69.063, 68.971, and 68.088 at first level. I haven't seen the one since last year, and I saw the other in June. They both seem to like Penn and reward steady connection.

Next up in my stream of posts, Championships!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

9/4-5/2017 - Trail Riding and Lesson

Monday 9/4/2017:

Monday was turning out to be a beautiful day, but getting hot quick! Austen and I got to her barn, and I tried to see what Penn was up to- he was just chilling in his field in an apparent grass coma. Austen and I messed around with Baybuilt (a trim and a ride!), then she went over and fetched Guinness while I got Penn tacked up.

He made me walk across the entire field, then thought about running away! He was very happy out there by himself and did not want to be caught.

Penn kind of stopped eating well on this trip- he didn't eat all of his dinner, and only ate a bit of his breakfast. I know he goes off grain a bit while he's on a lot of grass, and when he's away, so I still chalked it up as normal for him because he was in a grass coma and not at home!

We had to keep the trail ride short- I needed to leave for GP Trainer's by a certain time to make it in time for her staff to be there when I arrived (I believe Monday is her day "off", aka minimal work day, and her staff is usually done by 4pm).

Penn decided to be a bit of an ass about water on our trail ride- backing up, not wanting to cross. It took us about five minutes to have a "moment" at the first creek crossing before Penn decided crossing it would be a good idea. Austen knew of another great crossing that we could walk up the creek a bit, so we went there to finish our ride:

This one was fine. It was so pretty! I wish I had it at home.
He was staring at Lyra who was hunting something from the creek.

Too soon, it was time to head back to the barn and pack up. I love visiting Austen! We always have a good time. I cannot thank her enough for being my eyes at the show and having great tips that really helped (and spending her weekend on horse show mode!), and for keeping me company after my parents called Sunday. I would have been in a really bad mindset if I had been alone.

I arrived at GP Trainer's right as her staff was finishing up for the day at 4. They showed me where to put Penn to eat his dinner, and which field he could spend the night in (the horses were on night turnout). Of course, Penn wanted no parts of his dinner.

Asshole. This is why I don't use feed pans either- both Mikey and Penn dump them.
I scooped the feed back into the pan, and the asshole grabbed the pan and dumped it a second time WHILE I was refilling it.
I just turned him out at that point and put his dinner back in a travel ziplock!

I turned him out and he was like "See ya mom!" and meandered off to investigate his neighbors and chow down on lush VA grass. I went to my hotel, had a nice dinner by myself, and went to bed early! #paintingthetownbeige

Tuesday 9/5/2017:

I arrived for my lesson in time to massage Penn a bit before it. He really likes that phaser! He took a snooze while I massaged him. GP Trainer was super sick with some sort of plague- she taught her mom in the lesson before me, and then peaced out to go to the doctor after my lesson. I had looked on her schedule to see if she had any earlier slots available (I did want to get home ASAP after lesson), but she didn't have any earlier lessons, and no lessons for the rest of the day. I have a feeling she cancelled her schedule except for the two of us, which was nice of her to teach me anyway!

We worked in her outdoor since it's a standard size ring and I wanted to work on 1-3 concepts in the correct riding space since Championships was coming up. I told her about the weekend, (yay bronze! boo 2-3) and how I needed some hand holding because I felt inept after the 2-3 disasters.

She immediately got after me for accuracy- 10m circles and not cutting the turn right/halt/turn left stuff. ("You're a bronze medalist, ride like one!"). We looked over the halts too- she told me to stop touching him before I thought I needed to because I was pushing him out of the square halt. Then we went on to address riding the movements better, and I had some major DOH moments. I told her, "Why the hell didn't I think to ride them like this?!" She laughed and said that's why she gets paid the big bucks, lol.

We're going to put some graphics in here too.

Left: Leg yield zig zag
Middle: Right lead shallow loop
Right: Left lead shallow loop
Green is the track, blue dash is your eye.
Did you know, the only thing harder than riding a shallow loop is actually drawing one on a computer? Please forgive those horrible green shapes! I couldn't free hand it, and Excel shapes were limiting.

  • Leg yield zig zag: leg yield right K-X, leg yield left X-H. Ride the shoulders down the K-X-M diagonal like you would the half pass right, but aim about 2m to the right of M. This puts you on the centerline a bit before X, so you have "plenty" of time to straighten over X (and ensures make it to X). Then when you leg yield left, aim for about 2m to the left of H so you get to H on time and are straight again at H.
  • Shallow canter loops: Right lead on K-X-H and left lead on H-X-K. Look at the letter on the 3/4 diagonal (R and P in our loops), when you get towards centerline start looking to C/A, straighten on centerline, then look down the diagonal and aim slightly before H/K. Riding the loops like this ensures you make it to centerline, show more than just two straight diagonal lines, and ensures you show some counter canter.
It's magical nonsense, I tell you! Like, durrrr, how did I not think of AIMING THE MOVEMENT?! I'm sad it took me this long to learn that, and here we are, basically done with 1-3. The shallow loops are SO FUN to ride when you ride them like that. They are SO EASY to ride when you ride them like that too. So easy. I am seeing all the points I've lost in the past on the 1-3 loops AND the T-3 trot loops fly past my eyes.

I'll certainly keep that magical nonsense in the back of my head for the next ever because it will ALWAYS be applicable to basically everything else.

We worked a little bit on the simple change through trot as well. I have it down so Penn takes 2 steps of trot and off we go again. She wanted me to take 3, if only because it sometimes looks scrambled when you take so few trot steps. Guys, we royally sucked the big one here. Waiting that extra step messed us both up- he started picking up the wrong lead, or just trotting off really fast. I guess that means we've over-schooled the movement and he's anticipating.

We finished by running through 1-3, which went pretty well except he simply got tired. She finished with, you'll be great as long as you:
  • Don't warm up for 35 min.
  • Get his coughing under control. It's a huge problem.
  • Make sure you know your test.
I told her two of the three were just fine, I normally warm up for like 15 min, and I've ridden this test at least 20 times in the past year and a half, I know it. **foreshadowing famous last words**

The coughing was a huge problem throughout lesson. He had his warm up coughs, but then would rip me out of the tack and cough up a storm in the rest of the work, to the point where it was detrimental to getting the work done.

I got on the road shortly after lesson, and made a few phone calls. Penn was scheduled to have his fall shots the next day (stupid USEF 6 month and not within 7 days of the start of a show rules made this appointment really nerve wracking if they had to cancel for an emergency). I called the vet office and asked them to have the vet bring an antihistamine with her to the barn. I didn't believe Penn was sick, I thought he had allergies. He's a seasonal cougher anyway, particularly in the fall (he came home in 2015 and a few weeks later I was almost in tears because I thought he had heaves and was doomed). They asked if I had a preferred drug choice, I said no, they're all illegal to show on, so just one that usually works fast and well.

The next call was to my barn owner to fill her in on my grandfather and the vet visit. I work for her 1-2 times a week, so I needed to tell her my schedule would be up in the air. I also told her all the things I needed for the vet, since we hit crunch time as we were 8-10 days out from the start of Championships.

Towards the end of the phone call, the sky started looking REALLY scary.

This does not do the darkness justice.

I didn't worry too much about the rain, I've hauled through it before, NBD. I take it easy and it's cool. I already drive super slow with the trailer anyway.

Nope. I ended up pulling over about 10 min after hanging up with BO. The road was no longer straight, and the rain was coming down so fast and hard that my wipers did exactly nothing to get it off the windshield. The wind was very strong too. I limped along for a little bit at 35 mph before looking for a safe place to pull over.

I watched Penn in my cameras, and originally panicked because his head bumper was wet and I thought I had a leak in the roof. No, the wind and rain were that strong that they made it into my limited screened windows and soaked his face and side. Sorry buddy :(

The rest of the trip was uneventful, just long. I got the trailer parked and unpacked in record time once we got to the farm, tossed Penn out, and went home to empty my suitcase to pack it for a trip to NJ for the funeral.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

9/3/2017 - PVDA @ Loch Moy 2

The second day of the show dawned much prettier! We started off by walking Penn and ourselves down to the show ring to watch some friends ride, and so I could scratch 3-1.

Penn before 3-1 on Saturday.
PC: Austen

I entered 3-1 and 2-3 both days. The plan was to ride 3-1 and 2-3 on Saturday, as long as 3-1 was ridden first, otherwise I would scratch 2-3. For Sunday, if I got my bronze on Saturday, I was going to scratch 3-1 and only ride 2-3. If I didn't, I was going to scratch 2-3 if it was before 3-1. During the week before, I had some crazy notion that I had enough horse to possibly ride all 4 tests! Ha. After the salvage ride in 2-3 on Saturday, I firmly squashed the idea that he would ever ride more than one test in a day at any level above first/second. Especially not the hideously long 2-3 test!

Penn before 3-1 on Saturday.PC: Austen

Anyway, we played at Austen's barn in the morning after Penn went for his walk, then came back and did Penn's pre-test routine. The plan was to get down to warm up a bit sooner than the day before and drill the 3 loops a bit so I felt more comfortable than the day before.

This test was for the same judge that judged our 2-3 test the day before. Apparently, we were still lacking all the things. Right from the beginning of watching the video, I could tell he needed more trot. I didn't realize that on him at the time, or maybe I couldn't access any more at the time. Can't remember. Penn needed more suspension in the medium trot again, sorry judge, that's just where he's at right now. I don't have much to say about the trot work, I thought it was a lot better than the day before and the judge kind of agreed (I mean, I had some 6.5s instead of straight 6s!). The halt rein back was bad, then I completely messed up the first TOH when he got stuck. The second one was a bit better. Overall, Penn's walk needs to be a bit more relaxed, ugh.

Then the coughing. So much coughing. I thought it only messed up the start of our canter 3-loop, but looking back at the video, it started when I brought him back from the medium canter, which the judge gave us a 4 for with "needs connection". Oops, can't be connected and coughing. He just about ripped me out of the tack in his coughing fit. It directly effected the amount of sit I had in the first 3-loop, which was marked down for needing more collection. The lack of collection continued to screw me, I had way too many trot steps for the next simple change.

The next medium canter and transition was probably the best movement of the test, he stayed up and reached and came back promptly and was nice and straight. The judge rewarded it with 7s.

The next 3-loop had misshapen and unevenly shaped loops. Sigh. That's my own fault, I need to actually measure in our outdoor and mark out the edges properly. And properly measure where each letter should go so I'm not guessing at where they are, so I can be much more accurate. It's a double coefficient move, so I mean, it's worth the measuring.

I completely botched the next simple change. I started sitting Penn down for it, and he simply broke to trot. Yuck. Well deserved 4.

The show was basically done at that point in the day, and I wanted to play in Loch Moy's new water complex... so we did!

It took much longer than it should have to get him in. The horse that goes swimming won't get in ankle deep water.
He was so thirsty. He drank for several minutes before getting in.

Post-water happiness.

Immediately following this video, one official came down and yelled at us. Oh well. We were on our way out anyway!

We flew through getting Penn packed up, and Austen ran down to get my dismal test- a 59.370% for 4th place. I was miffed because it felt so much better than the previous day's test, but scored worse. And not only worse, but sub-60! Second and third places were tied with a 60.3%, and first was a 68% on a PSG horse. Ok, so I was close enough to everyone who is near my skill level, lol! Still, the 59% really shook my confidence in my abilities to warm up and ride my horse on my own, so I was really looking forward to my lesson on Tuesday. I wanted to cover 1-3 and the halts (because they had been dismal at home), and basically just get a confidence boost.

Looking back at the video, I can see that majority of the work WAS better than the day before. What screwed me were the coefficients with the handful of single bad marks: my entry is usually much better (4), unsquare halt and resistant rein back (5), sticking in the first TOH (4x2), his normally loose free walk that gains extra points was missing (6x2), coughing in the medium-collected canter transition (4), a 3 loop that would have been ok if he wasn't coughing through the start (6x2), the first simple change (5x2), and the second simple change (4x2). With the rest being half and half 6 and 6.5, with a smattering of 7s, the mistakes were too much to overcome. The medium-collected canter transition, 3 loop serpentine, and the first simple change were all effected by the coughing fit. I lost his collection and never really got it back. Two of those 3 moves are double coefficients.

During the pack up process, my husband texted me to see if I was done for the day, and then my parents called. My grandfather had died that afternoon. It wasn't a complete surprise- he had fallen asleep on Wednesday and we weren't sure if he was going to wake up again. I had left for the weekend anyway, and if he passed while I was gone, I was going to come home Monday and skip trail riding and my lesson. I checked in with my mom and if she needed anything, and then if she minded if I kept to my original plan to go to lesson. The burial wasn't going to be before Wednesday, so I didn't actually need to be home yet unless she needed me. I explained that I was really shaken from my two 2-3 tests and needed a lesson, so she agreed with me continuing my plan.

Austen picked up more Straw-ber-ritas on our way to her barn, where we settled Penn in his own massive field (like 1-2 acres all to himself). They didn't have a stall for him that weekend, so we had arranged a paddock because I figured he'd be happier being outside anyway. He had zero interest in dinner when I hung it for him. I had put him in the field without dinner to see if he'd lose his shit over being out by himself. Nope, he walked around, rolled, and looked. I hung his feed and shook his grain so he would know it's there. He looked at me and then cantered away in a manner that I'm pretty sure he thought he was flying, but alas, he was not.

We got pizza and ate and drank on the farm deck for a while before going back to visit Penn and see what he was up to now that horses had been turned out for the night. He was chilling by the gate, half interested in his food and half interested in his new neighbors. We headed out shortly after, bringing an end to the horse show part of the weekend!

Bubble wrapped, just in case.

Monday, September 25, 2017

9/2/2017 - PVDA @ Loch Moy 1, Part 2

After my 3-1 test, we scurried back to stabling and I pulled Penn's tack and started a second round of miniPhaser massage. We only had about an hour, but I wanted to get as much soreness out of him as I could. Not sure how successful I was with that, but the horse still enjoyed it!

Well, he used to have tall hind socks.
Walking down to warm up (this was walking down the first time).
PC: Austen

We went back down to warm up and I made sure to hit my 3 loop serpentine several times, especially on the right lead, to make sure I squashed any flying change ideas Penn might have. I shouldn't have worried; Penn has become quite honest about the changes. 90% of the time he waits for some kind of cue from me, and I've been schooling the 2-3 canter pattern at home with flying changes instead of simple changes to keep him guessing about what's happening.

PC: Austen
Sassy tail wants to do a flying change.
PC: Austen
PC: Austen

Unfortunately this test was not the Dover Medal winning test I wanted it to be, instead it became a thing to try to salvage.

Simply, Penn was tired and didn't have much to give and he wanted to be a bit looky at the stuff outside the ring. The medium trot lacked, the SI right wasn't enough, the travers right was bridle lame. Medium trot lacked again, he had a coughing fit that went across the short side and into the SI left, which wasn't enough, and he fought me in travers left. I didn't think the halt rein back was all that bad though. For the TOH left, the judge noted that he has a tendency to cross the hind legs. I thought in TOH that was ok? It's not a walk pirouette. Penn didn't come to play for the free walk either.

Medium canter was ok, then I completely botched the geometry of the first 3 loop. Remember how I said in my last post that I liked schooling in the show ring because it let me work on my geometry? Well I need more practice. I think I was fighting Penn's fatigue or flying change tendencies and just didn't get the 3-loop started right, so then the middle was bad, and I missed the final loop start. Bad, just bad.

Simple change was ok, another ok medium, and another shitty 3 loop (but with better geometry). The next simple change I apparently took too many walk steps, even though I've seen people walk on for even longer. The final few movements were better than the rest of the test... I wonder if the judge was thrilled to see us go?

Hoping for a 60.
PC: Austen

I came out of the ring just hoping we had salvaged a 60. I really didn't want to add a sub-60 score to his record. On our way back up to stabling, Austen pulled my 3-1 test and we rejoiced over the bronze score and second place! Once we were back up to stabling, we checked the scores online and Penn and I had scored a 60.854%, albeit for 7th place, and there was more rejoicing! While it's not a winning score, it was: over 60, and counts as on of 4 required 2-3 tests for Penn's 2nd level performance award.

We walked back down to collect the test, and I walked Penn around the show ring because he was being looky before and a little during my test near the judge. Of course the horse didn't bat an eye at anything, but we did get this great set of pictures of us looking at the test:

PC: Austen

Speaking of average:

So many 6's.

In the end, I was just happy to be average that day!

So pretty, and definitely not average!
PC: Austen

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

9/2/2017 - PVDA @ Loch Moy 1, Part 1

I did a quick look at the weather before I left Friday.
Harvey made our weekend start out on the soggy side!

Next on our adventure trail, Penn and I traveled down to Loch Moy to try and finish my bronze, maybe win a Dover medal, and hang out with Austen (and her new baby horse!!!).

Awesome stall location. Also finally figured out what to do with the absolutely massive LeMieux saddle pad bag I ordered. It is double sided and huge. I found  that keeping saddle pads on one side, and BOT products on the other, with a rubber stall guard on clips between them, makes an excellent hanging device that really helped stall tidiness.

I arrived, unloaded in record time, got parked, and then the stall front kind of organized before going down to the ring to school a bit.

He wasn't sure of Loch Moy's new coffin complex. Like, he spooked at the logs and wouldn't go near it.
Hurricane Harvey clouds and super bright sun. And I didn't notice my hand shadow until I was paroozing pics days later.

I was super excited to school in the show rings because I don't have a court at home. I like being able to school proper shapes (this is important later) and in the corners. I tend to float my shapes and corners at home, so a pre-show reminder is nice!

Penn was a bit tense and locked in his neck for our session, and I really struggled with fixing it vs wearing him down. He had a lot to do the next day, and badgering him in a schooling session did not seem like a good thing to do. He also had some warm up coughs going on. He does that, but this was an uptick from no warm up coughs. (He coughed once the night before when I was turning him out) I opted to get something acceptable from him and made a note to really work his neck/shoulder connection muscles with the miniPhaser the next day.

I settled Penn back in his stall and tucked him in for the night, and left his AM grain for night check. Austen picked me up from the show grounds, and we went off to play with her new baby horse! But I'll let her tell you about that!

The miniPhaser also worked to force stall relaxation.

Penn was a bit of a mess when we got to the show Saturday- he churned his stall all night and barely ate breakfast. I tried hay at the front of the stall, keeping the door open, locking him in, going to hand graze; nothing stopped him from mad stall walking. For lack of anything else to try, I did an extra session with the miniPhaser. He relaxed almost immediately, started munching the hay in front of his stall, and even went back and finished his breakfast. Wahoo!

First up was the exciting 3-1 test (bronze or bust!).We walked down to the show ring with a quartersheet on- it was misty drizzling and sub-70 degrees.

Shamelessly stolen from Austen's Instagram.

Penn warmed up well with minimal coughing, and Austen kindly told me to get my trot more uphill, stat. I botched the prep for the single flying change I usually ask for in warm up and Penn gave me an awkward shuffle change instead. I asked for another one, which he did wonderfully. Some hop behind, but more relaxed than not.

Off we went for the test!

I was SO THRILLED with his trot. The trot work itself left a lot to be desired, he just wasn't playing laterally left that day and I met a lot of resistance in general. But the trot itself- it was so uphill! It was like his legs grew six inches! The TOH were pretty good too! It all went to hell a bit in the canter though.

Shoulder in right. Cherry picked photo makes it look fabulous!
I don't think he could get any more square. #nailedit

He gave me lovely medium and extended canters, but for the first change (right to left), he hit the diagonal and bucked. He only does this off the right lead (then left he waits patiently for me to cue before being naughty). He buck-hopped, changed the lead behind, we both got befuddled, he trotted, and I cued for the new lead. The judge found a sense of humor and gave the debacle a 4 with the comment "Missed that one". I thought a 4 was generous, bahaha! I mean, at least he's oopsing by changing the lead behind first. That's a good mistake!

"Missed that one" aka it was a clusterfuck of legs everywhere

I collected him on the left lead from the extended canter and I felt all kinds of warning bells go off. I could feel a buck brewing and had zero clue what to do about it mid-test. Ideally, I'd scrap changes immediately and force him to canter some 20m circles without being naughty. But I can't exactly do that mid test, now can I? He waited SO PATIENTLY for the cue to change. I couldn't put my leg on him properly, lest I cue the buck, so our next 10m circle had trailing haunches and all kinds of terrible... I sent him down the diagonal, asked him to collect a bit more, and ever so gently touched him with the new outside leg. He promptly buck-hopped, then changed his lead. Sassy bastard.

"Could be more fluid" aka try to keep the horse's ass below its whithers

We wrapped up the test and I then I started fretting and worrying. This judge is not the most forgiving (Austen and I both rode for her in May), and I had made some mistakes.

Sass. Hopefully this is the right kind of sass that let's them piaffe and passage like champs!
Pretty! Also, when did he get so huge looking?

I shouldn't have worried!

Bronze Lapel pin! (actual medal to follow in December)

Austen grabbed my 3-1 test after I wrapped up my second test of the day, to find a 61.364%! We both squealed a bit and there was much rejoicing. (and celebratory Straw-Ber-Ritas later that put me on my alcohol intolerant ass)

It hasn't really sunk in yet that my Bronze is complete- it's been a goal for SO LONG. The first level and second level scores were relatively easy for me to get with Mikey. After getting my first level and second level scores I was like, "Well, that was too easy." Third level has been my kryptonite level for so long that I'm not really comprehending yet. So, four years and a second horse later, my bronze is complete! Wahoo!

I applied for the award as soon as the scores showed up on USDF score check, and ordered my lapel pin immediately after. They sent it out the next day and I had it 2 days later! I'm excited to debut it at Championships!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

8/27/2017 - Schooling Show

(this post is media heavy and word-light- I've got at least 5 posts worth of material as of today, and another 3-4 coming up in the next week... so word-light posts are coming!)

As part of my final prep for the recognized show Labor Day weekend, I went to a schooling show to ride 3-1 one more time.

We had a large block of time where we were waiting for the end of the show so the girl I hauled could ride an extra test.
We took selfies.

I did my new prep: mini-phaser, tack up, warm up. Penn felt good to me in warm up, nice and agreeable. He did seem to forget what flying changes were, oops, but I did one each way and he remembered.

We'll go right off to the test:

Of course as soon as we got into the ring, he started being a little resistant and disconnected. It showed through all of the trot work: head tilting, gait irregularity, unsteadiness in the bridle. It also showed in all of the halts. Not a single one was square. The trot needed more.

I was super happy with his turn on the haunches though! We've been working so hard on those.

The canter was the highlight of the test really. I didn't push the medium canter at all for some reason, but I really let the extended canter go! Both changes were clean, but the first one had swinging haunches and the second was one against the hand, so not great scores, but 5.5 and 6 are still better than 1s and 2s!

Overall, 61.970%. Too many little things wrong, but he did all the things! Obviously I was a little disappointed in the score, but having the video to fall back on is really meaningful for me. I can go back and say, "Yea, that's about right. Good call judge."

But what we did get out of this show were some awesome pictures!

First centerline.
Half pass right. I love how much he steps forward into it- Mikey's steps always got shorter as he went forward.
Medium trot that's not so mediumy.
Medium canter that's not so mediumy. But it was a pretty picture!
"Against hand" in change. Haha, still clean though!
I liked this pic since my hand is back and his tail is out.

It was a good show though, I saw some friends I haven't seen in years and got to run through 3-1 one more time!

Penn used me as a head rest at one point while we were grazing.