Monday, September 28, 2009

Hy Court Farms Show 9/27/09

First of all, I want to put out a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came out and helped yesterday. Special thanks to D.A. for not only trailering to the show even though Duchess was lame and you had to scratch, but also trailering Red all the way to Elgin Vet Hospital after a looong day at the show. I can't thank you enough and I'm pretty sure I owe you enough margaritas to keep you sloshing for a month! Oh, and you also make an excellent Horse Show Mom, keeping everyone hydrated and making sure I was at my test on time.

Thanks also to R.D. who came out to cheer, watch, and took the video and picts of dressage. Your talents are much appreciated! Maeve, thanks for horse-sitting Saga, making sure I had water, and keeping track of the puppies. E.R., thank you for taking care of the puppies and cheering. FuzzyPony, thanks for cheering and reading my tests. And congrads on your fabulous tests yourself!

I also should say that the crew at Hy Court Farms were absolutely amazing. The staff was so kind and helpful, they really made Saga's first experience out wonderful. In the Hunter Versatility class, the judge had lovely things to say about both horses and riders. It was just such a positive experience, I highly recommend anyone who's thinking about showing to go to Hy Court. It's great!

Ok, on to the details. Warm-up for TR1 was fairly short and uneventful. I worked to get him out and in front of my leg in hopes of avoiding the canter hopping episodes of Saturday. Every time he thought about sucking back, I pushed the reins forward and clucked him on, closing my leg softly. We had a few moments early on where he thought about hopping, but he never really got into it. I only did one canter depart in each direction, and those went reasonbly well. However, we were warmed up and then we had to sit and wait for a bit because they were behind. It was super hot and humid, so we did a lot of standing in the shade, which was bad for our warm-up but good for Saga.

Training 1 was not my favorite test ever. We got off to a poor start because the footing at A was really chunked up and so we got screwed up on the entry. Saga was counterflexed on the long sides and especially in the corners, but he was nice on the circles. Our canter departs were decent, but he cantered with his haunches to the inside on the long sides, which is new. I rode very conservatively and didn't really push any of the issues, which made for a lackluster test. Our upward transitions were quite nice but our downward transitions were really downhill. The trot-halt transitions were especially divey, which was difficult for me to ride because he's so strong. Watching the video, I think our transition from free walk to medium was nice, and our right trot and canter circle were quite nice, along with the downward canter/trot transition to the right.

What did the judge say? Well, I should have listened to Joan... she totally pegged our score with a 69.56% ! We got 8s on both trot circles and our center line entry. Everything else was 7s with the exception of the left lead canter and the trot/medium walk transition, where he dove down into the bridle right in front of the judge.

So, in between our tests, I went and schooled better bending, more responsiveness off the leg, and better downward transitions. I also decided to just GO for it and not ride so conservatively, and as a resulty I felt that Training 2 went much better. He was straight on the long sides, we had more bend in the corners (but not perfect), and his downward transitions felt more responsive and less divey. I was very happy with our second test!

We got 8's across the board for our trot work and 6's on the left lead canter transitions (both up and down) and left lead canter. Everything else was a 7 except for medium walk, which was an 8. I have never, EVER gotten more than a 6 for any of Cash's walk work, so I'm pretty thrilled about that! Overall, I felt like the test was much steadier and more consistent, and we scored a 70%! If I had been scoring our tests, I would have scored TR1 lower, but I thought the score for TR2 was fair. Clearly, I know what we need to work on!

After our tests, I tacked him down, hosed him, and he drank a bunch of water (did I mention it was super hot and humid?). I got a snack and then went back and tacked him up again for the hunter versatility class. Maeve was kind enough to hold Saga while I went and walked the course, which was a mix of 2'6 jumps and some trail-like obstacles, including a bridge, serpentine among stumps, 360 box, and backing through an L. My goal was to have a quiet, rateable jumping round where I didn't throw him at the fences, and the rest of the obstacles I wasn't too worried about. I also wanted to see how he did in a field full of jumps that he'd never seen before.

I wouldn't say our jumping was exactly quiet, but he was rateable and I think I only threw him at one fence. I sort of laughed my way through the obstacles but he actually did pretty well and figured them out, despite never having done anything like backing through an L. The "flat class" part of it didn't go too well since he was pretty wound up from jumping, but hey, I was out there for fun. The judge was complimentary of my ride and said she appreciated how considerate and positive I was with my horse over new obstacles, and what a lovely bold jumper he was. I thought her comments were very kind!

D.A. got two really nice shots of us jumping. I like that it looks like we had good spots on both and that I'm not jumping ahead of him, but my leg is slipping back. I really need to work more on two-point interval training to get my leg to cooperate more - I'm just not as strong O/F as I used to be.

You know, somehow this 2'6 vertical looked a lot bigger when I walked the course. In this picture, it looks like it's so small he can barely be bothered to get his knees up. Oh well, at least our spot is decent!

He's trying a bit harder here but still making this fence look tiny. See those fake green grass bits sticking out of the hay bales under the fence? He tried to eat those while we were waiting for our turn to go. My horse is so smrt.

So for the day, we ended up in 1st place for TR1, 2nd place (behind a pro) for TR2, and 1st place in Hunter Versatility (there were only 2 of us though, so that doesn't count for much!). I was very pleased with our day and it was a good confidence builder for the event next weekend.

The only down note was that about 5 minutes from home, I got a call from the barn saying that Red was found in the pasture 3-legged lame. And he was... he almost wouldn't put any weight on his right hind. But, there were no signs of a kick, cut, impalement, or anything else (no swelling even!), so that was odd. We pulled Saga and Taran out of the trailer, loaded Red up, and headed to Elgin Vet Hospital.

The good news is that they think it was just an abscess, which they lanced and drained. There is a chance that his coffin bone is fractured - three different vets looked at the x-rays and they all agreed that there is a "suspicious" area, but nothing definite. He's on stall rest with daily soaking and wrapping for a week, then he's supposed to be x-rayed again to see if anything's changed in his foot. Keep your fingers crossed that it's just an abscess!

Yeah. I just love this picture. :)

P.S. Whoever decided that white breeches were the "in" thing for dressage should be taken out and shot. I soaked mine in OxyClean tonight and washed them with a bunch of bleach... and they're still only *mostly* clean! Argh!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words

Yeah, we rocked! But, I came home to find Red three-legged lame (right rear). We unloaded Saga and Taran, loaded up Red, and took him to Elgin. It's either an abcess or he fractured his coffin bone. We'll know more when Dr. Hays looks at him in the morning.

I'm exhausted and going to bed. More on the show tomorrow...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Taking stock

It's only 9 p.m., and I think I'm packed. Tack's all clean, boots are polished. Got my show helmet, coat, shirt, stock tie, white breeches, and show gloves. I had to get a new hairnet today since I couldn't find my old one (of course I found it later today). I've got my clothes laid out for the morning, including some jogging pants to protect the white breeches, earrings, makeup (yeah, I wear makeup for shows), and hair stuff. The braiding kit is in the bag hanging on my front door, and all I have to do tomorrow morning is throw it all in the car. And hopefully not forget anything!

Carol is supposed to have the special pads for my RP saddle - three of them. But I packed a black pad and a white one just in case they don't make it for some reason. I have to chauffeur the kiddos around early tomorrow morning, so FuzzyPony's going to load Saga for me and then meet me down near my house. From there we'll head on over to the show...

Sorry, just remembered I needed to put a copy of Saga's coggins in my wallet. Done now.

Oh, and I put the camera batteries on to charge. Anywho, we'll head over to the show and hopefully have LOTS of time to get ready. I still haven't decided if I'm braiding or not. Saga's mane is nice and short now, but braiding seems like a daunting task. I'll probably try a few and see if I'm gonna manage to finish. I MUST braid for next weekend though, so it's not like it won't happen sooner or later.

I'm off to read a bit before bed and finish my cider. If you're coming to the show tomorrow, I'll see you there!

Did you say 70%? I'd say more like 50%!

Today started off by stopping off to pick some stuff up out of my trailer that I had dropped off on Monday to have the ramp repaired and the wiring checked. I expected to find that it had had some work done on it, but not a damn thing had been done to it. NOTHING. Seriously, it's been sitting there for a week and they couldn't even bother to call me and tell me? Grrr. I talked to the manager and he assured me it would be done for next week. I don't need it either this weekend or next since Duchess's mom has kindly agreed to trailer Saga both weekends, but nonetheless I feel better having it, in case of emergency or something. Plus it's got all my extra stuff in it, so I sort of feeling like I'm missing something without it.

So, FuzzyPony and I snagged our stuff and headed out to the barn. Saga was especially cranky when I put the saddle on him and tightened the girth, so I may have Carol check the saddle tomorrow since she'll be at the show. We did a loooong walk warm up since he's been in his stall since Wednesday (yeah, I'm horrible and didn't ride either Thursday or yesterday). His trot started out well enough but was a little divey in front. I'm not sure if I need a bit that he can't fuss with and lean on so much or if it's just a matter of him becoming more consistent in his body so that he's not so all over the place. He does seem to like the Happy Mouth and has even tried to pick it up when the bridle is just hanging there in front of him, so I'm a little hesitant to change it out. I guess we'll wait and see for now.

The disaster came about a bit later when he decided to continually try to canter when I wanted him to trot. Yeah, he hops into our trot transitions (though not as badly of late), but he sometimes also sucks back in the trot, throws his head up, and does this poky little canter thing. Ugh. Pushing him forward only begets a bigger canter, and slowing him down only ends up with a teenier canter or a walk. AARGH! Try as I might, we were just NOT getting the trot consistently. I muddled through it and then went on to canter work... which was shockingly nice. And then came the downward trot transtions. Except, it seems he forgot how to trot from a canter. All I could get was the aforementioned teeny canter or a walk. So, I asked for the down transitions, and if he gave me something crummy, we went back to canter. Again and again. Finally I went for walk transitions and then legged him back up into a trot, and that actually seemed to work. But it was really frustrating to have this issue, which I thought was mostly solved, come out of nowhere. Maybe his back is sore. Maybe he's sick of sitting in his stall. Maybe he was just having an off day, I don't know. But if that's the kind of ick that we get tomorrow, our score is going to more like a 50% than a 70%. Yuck. And frankly, I don't care about the score so much as we were doing so WELL and now we seem to have this big, ugly, new issue.

On a brighter note, a couple of funny things happened as I was tacking Saga down. First, I'd taken off his bridle and hung it on a hook that's right next to the tie point, then turned around to take off my helmet and gloves and put them in my locker. When I turned back around to continue untacking him, I saw this:

New for the fall season: bits on the browband ~ bridles double as hats!

Apparently he had rubbed his face on the bridle and managed to get it tangled over his ears. I just had to take a picture! Saga only managed to look put out that I was laughing at him.

Then, as I was pulling off Saga's saddle, I heard FuzzyPony laughing hysterically next to me. Her horse Taran was next to Saga (I was on Saga's off side) and Taran was apparently feeling salt-deprived, because the next thing we knew, Taran was using Saga as a salt lick!

Yup... tastes like chicken!

Taran must have stood there slurping on Saga for a good three or four minutes, until I moved Saga off to get bathed. The funny thing is that Taran has 24/7 access to a salt block in his pasture, so he shouldn't be so salt-deprived!

I shampooed Saga with Betadine since he's been itchy and has any number of scrapes, scratches, and bites on him, then shampooed and conditioned his sad, scraggly tail. I pulled and trimmed his mane (not sure yet if I'm going to braid or not) and trimmed his bridle path, ears, and whiskers with scissors. I don't do the inside of the ears, and I only trimmed his whiskers to about an inch long, so he still has use of them. I noticed that he had gotten a teeny bit fuzzy with the cooler weather we've had the past few days, but hopefully he'll stay shiny for tomorrow since it's supposed to be pretty warm both today and tomorrow.

This afternoon FuzzyPony and I are cleaning tack, and I still need to get my clothes together. Tonight is a late night for me due to step-mom chauffeuring duties, but I don't have to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow so hopefully it will be OK.

Wish us luck!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ride times for Sunday are UP

For Hy Court Farms' Schooling show this Sunday, here are our ride times:

12:54 Training 1
1:18 Training 2
2: 50 Hunter Versatility

Not at the crack of dawn (BONUS), not too much time between our dressage tests for Saga to go "we're done, I QUIT!" And, plenty of time to tack down and take a break before our "hunter versatility" class.

A hunter class in a dressage saddle... this should be amusing! :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

T minus 4 days and counting

So tonight as I was driving out to the barn for my lesson, I saw one of those big neon bank signs - you know, the ones with the time and temperature? - and it read 58 degrees. Brrr! I had to pull out my polarfleece breeches and dust off my sweatshirt to go ride tonight.

Saga was, of course, a raving nutcase. Between being in his stall for 2 days due to the rain and it being 58 degrees, he was READY TO GO. I decided to do some hand walking to get a few boogers out of his system, but the hand walking only seemed to make him worse. So I groomed him and tacked him, then went and hopped on him to walk him around before the lesson. Fortunately I had about 30 minutes, because I needed every second of it!

We started off with lots of head-tossing at the walk. I shortened up my reins since giving him long reins was only allowing him to be naughty, and we walked for a bit, throwing in a 10 meter circle every now and again to give him something to think about other than the fact that he had a lot of pent-up energy and nothing to do with it. We trotted around some as well, accompanied by more head tossing and a teeny hop or two... just enough for him to prove that if he really wanted to be naughty, he could. I growled at him a lot and eventually he settled down. When I finally got to the point where I could let him have a long rein and not worry about him being a moron, I walked him on the long rein for about 10 minutes while FuzzyPony finished up her lesson.

When my lesson started, we did only had done a few trot circles to the left and right when Joan said, "OK, let's do your test." At which point I confessed that I had not even bothered to look at either of the tests I signed up for this weekend (hey, you're allowed readers, and I'm a quick study... yeah, that's my excuse!) She gave me the quick overview, and we managed to fumble our way through the test pretty decently. He wasn't super straight on the free walk across the diagonal, but Joan said he did have good overstride, and when we picked up the reins to go back to medium walk and then to trot, he got a little upside-down and then I had trouble with the right bend until the circle, where I really got it back. The left lead canter depart was, not surprisingly, sticky, but it was in a dark corner of the arena and Joan said it didn't look too bad. She said that our centerlines were super straight, the halts were square (no swinging his haunches left!) and our circles were round and had nice bend. She told me that the test would probably have been around a 70% at a schooling show.

No shit. A 70%.

After I pointed out all the flaws that she didn't see (like the crummy canter transition), she said maybe high 60s, but still, a nice test. I was pretty floored. This from my horse that couldn't even come round when I got him in May. Dang.

We schooled some canter transitions because they were the worst part of the test, but even after doing 5 or 6 of them to the left I didn't feel like they got much better. He just doesn't lift his shoulders into the transitions like he sometimes does to the right (i.e. like he's supposed to). Part of this I know is that my right leg doesn't ask as well since my heel comes up, and I also tend to throw my body more forward on the left transitions instead of asking him to come up. I really, really need to make an effort to ride those transitions better and not lose my position, or else he's never going to get any better at it.

We then proceeded to do Training 2. In some ways that went more smoothly but he was starting to get tired of this riding thing and wanted me to hold him up. I gave myself more time to get to the medium walk and then the trot after the freewalk by starting to pick up the reins on the quarterline and then asking for really deep bend in the subsequent corner, and it went beautifully. On Tr2 the second canter circle is immediately followed by turning right down center line, and I made the transition right after we hit the letter so that I would have the maximum amount of time to balance him for the centerline turn. So I feel like I rode the test pretty smart, even though Saga was heavier on his forehand (especially in the left lead canter) and somewhat less willing in general. However, it was another good test and I felt pretty good about it. Now, if we can just pull that off on Sunday!

We finished up the lesson with some leg yield attempts. I had a major ah-hah moment when Joan told me to point his nose where I wanted him to go, but keep his body bent to the inside. I've always ridden leg yields with the nose to the inside, so this was completely new. And what do you know, suddenly we were actually doing nice leg yields! Not a ton of crossover yet, but he was getting the idea. He still needs to move better off my leg, but at least we got some good, correct steps in the right direction. And at the trot too!

So, another fabulous lesson. I really feel like Joan is helping us make tons of progress. Now, if only I could ride more in between my lessons, it would be so much better. Alas, I can only do so much, but hopefully I can get in a few more rides before the show Sunday. T minus 4 days and counting!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Odds and ends

Tonight after dinner, I headed out to the barn. I'd spent part of the afternoon polishing my boots (yeah, they're still as uncomfortable as ever, and no, they still don't fit) and cleaning some of my old bridles that I dug out of my bin of unused strap goods. I found not only Cash's old double bridle, from back in the day when I had hopes of going 3rd or 4th level, but I also found Moose's (a.k.a. Karlita, my Lipizzan mare who now resides in New Mexico with another owner) old bridle. Somehow I had my old bradoon reins, but the snaffle reins, which broke in a moment of absolute stupidity on my part years ago, were nowhere to be found. I think they might be in the hubby's workshop somewhere, awaiting to be fixed.

Anywho, I cleaned and reassembled as much as I could. The goal was to get two complete bridles together, one for jumping and one for dressage. I did manage to procure another loose ring snaffle, size 5.5, for jumping, so I wanted to get that on a bridle. I tried Cash's old bridle on Saga, and it was WAAAY too small in the browband, which I sort of expected. Moose's old bridle actually fit pretty well, although the browband was a touch too big. However, I've never much liked the bridle. The throatlatch is really thin in comparison to the cheekstraps and the rest of the bridle, and it just seems out of proportion. However, it's white padded black leather, and it looked pretty nice on Saga from afar. Eventually I want to get a bridle that really fits him and looks great on him, but I'm trying to save my husband from the sticker shock as much as possible. :)

So, for jumping I now have a loose ring snaffle with a flash noseband and 54 inch web reins with stops. I'd prefer 60 inch web reins with stops, but FuzzyPony is being nice enough to loan them to me, so I can't complain. For dressage I have the black and white bridle with a Happy Mouth eggbutt snaffle and my bradoon reins. I'd rather have the plain snaffle reins, so hopefully I can find them. As an alternative, I may buy a set of 60 inch laced reins. My problem with reins with stops is that I tend to hold the stops with my thumb, so often the reins are either too long or too short, because I can't convince myself to hold the reins anywhere but at the stops. Oh well. If I can't find my plain snaffle reins and get them fixed in fairly short order, I'll go back to my leather reins with stops for dressage. At least I do have alternatives.

My ride tonight was kinda strange. When I went out to get Saga, his buddies were inciting a riot. He came up to me twice, got a treat, but then quickly left when his buddies came near me. When I brought him up to the barn, he was behaving very forward, so I stopped off at the round pen for a bit of free lunging. With very little encouragement from me, he cantered around for about 3-4 minutes in each direction, and trotted for several more minutes both ways. He was lathered by the time he was done (but he sweats A LOT) but seemed to feel like he'd gotten the boogers out of his system.

After I did all the bridle fitting, I decided to hop on for a short ride. He behaved as though he had already finished working, and was a bit of a snot about being asked to work more (this is a thing of his, I'm noticing). We only did a bit of trot work, but I noticed that I was really having to move him off my inside hand and leg more than usual. We did have some nice moments, but nothing spectacular, which may be because I haven't ridden him since Wednesday if nothing else.

After I was done and was grooming a bit, I discovered his favorite itchy spot. It's on either side of his spine on top of his rump. He totally gets into being scratched there, and his butt must've dropped 6 inches as I scratched. It was pretty cute! Oh, and I tried on the size 87 turnout sheet I picked up at The Tack Shop of Austin yesterday. Thank goodness, it was HUGE on him. I think he needs an 84, maybe an 82. I may exchange it for an 82 (since they were out of 84s) and see if that would work for him. I mean, he's big and I know he's longer than a schoolbus, but I would be embarrassed for him to wear a blanket bigger than Brego - who, as a big, handsome Percheron, at least has an excuse to wear an 84!

Tomorrow, it's off at the crack of dawn to drop off the trailer to get the ramp reinforced and the lights rewired. You would not believe how much a 1300 lb horse can bend a trailer ramp without even trying! And then there was the rescue that FuzzyPony picked up a few weeks ago for another friend who tried to trample my trailer... sigh.

Since I didn't take any pictures today, I thought I'd leave y'all with this - this is Cash (the white dot on the left) at his retirement home with his 4 buddies. They've got a 10 acre pasture of rolling hills with knee-high coastal all to themselves. Horsie heaven? I think so!

P.S. Thanks for the banana pudding, FuzzyPony!


I measured Saga for a blanket yesterday. He wears an 85.


Wednesday lesson

I am so behind on the blogging thing, so this is about my lesson Wednesday with Joan Darnell.

I started off just walking on a long rein, and I told Joan about what I'd learned in the week since I'd last ridden with her. Namely, that he does better with a walk warmup on a loose rein, and that I had really been working on the bending and making him move away from my leg. She commented that I had been doing a lot of thinking in the week and that was good.

I picked up the reins, got a good walk, and moved off in the trot. He was absolutely fabulous both directions. We worked on 15 meter circles and some spiral in/spiral out. Each time he became unbalanced and lost his bend, I was able to get him back together within just a few steps, which was really exciting. We worked on walk/trot transitions, and really focused on keeping the bend and the throughness during the transition. It went really nicely, and we only did the hop into the transition a few times.

After a bit of a break, we moved on to canter. His transitions up were excellent to the right, and passable to the left, but still need work. When he gets tired, he's just not nearly as good to the left. We worked on downward transitions as well, and I learned that I can get a much better transition if I don't stare at his ears. Shocking, that.

We finished up the lesson doing trot/halt transitions down the center line. I learned that he halts with his haunches to the left, at the last second. I swear that he didn't do that in previous rides, but he kept doing it, so Joan had me really put my left leg on him in the halt. It was better if I did the transition from trot to halt with as few walk steps as possible. I think I may be weighting my right stirrup and seatbone more than my left, causing him to swing left, but it's something I need to work on being straighter myself.

ZZ very kindly took a few pictures of us during the lesson, although because of the lighting photography was difficult. I really think he's starting to look like a dressage horse!
A bit unbalanced right here, but striding forward nicely.
Very well forward and relaxed here, and bending well.
Inside hind is stepping up rather well.Down center line, looking quite nice all around!

And finally, a square(ish) halt, with haunches in line with the front end. Yay!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not dead yet

With the amount of posting (or lack thereof) I've been doing lately, you'd think that something was wrong. Alas, just lack of time to post.

First off: is anyone else's horse blowing their summer coat? This is what I got when I curried Saga tonight:

Let the shedding begin!

I didn't get to ride over the weekend due to the weather and life - even though we have a covered arena, we got so much rain that the arena was flooded. However, I managed to ride tonight and last night, namely because I have a lesson tomorrow night and I don't want to look like an idiot on a maniacal horse that hasn't been ridden for a week!

So a couple of things I have learned. I used to warm Cash up with a lot of WTC on a loose rein to let him move out and stretch, and so I continued that with Saga. Due to the arena still being wet and having a horse that's been in a stall for 7 days now, I didn't feel that warming Saga up on a loose rein at anything more than a walk was a good plan. He has a tendency to throw his head when he's feeling uppity, and after all the time in, he was feeling pretty uppity! So, I kept my loose rein warm up to a walk, but made it really long. Then I picked up the reins and got him moving away from my leg, really concentrating on keeping him from counter-flexing when going right, and not letting him twist his head when going left.

After a LOT of walk work, I picked up the trot. Joan really concentrated on me keeping him bent all the time last week, so I really focused on that as well. We had some absolutely lovely moments, and I'm getting much better about keeping him straight and really giving him time to change reins and bending on our changes of direction. Tonight they were especially good, and I worked on keeping the forward even when I sat for one beat to change posting diagonals.

To the right, he's going so much better than even just a week ago. He's moving off my leg, he's not counter-flexed on the long sides in the trot. We're getting more laterals (shoulder in and leg yield) than ever. With the walk-trot transitions, I really have to keep him bent right to keep him from hopping into it, otherwise he counter-flexes and hops. To the left, the issue is that he tips his nose to the left and tilts his head. I'm trying to keep a very steady outside rein (my right hand is not as good an outside rein as my left, even though I'm right-handed) and LET GO with my inside hand, all the while asking for bend through the body with the inside leg. When I remember to stop hanging on the inside rein, it's really nice... otherwise, we're really crooked. However, the walk-trot transitions are better when we're going to the left.

The canter remains unblanced, but the transitions up are getting more precise with every ride. The downward transititions are improving too, as long as I remember to ride not only the transition but also the first five steps after, instead of going "YAY! I got the transition!" and then forgetting to ride anything else until I try to fix the disasterous trot. Gotta remember to ride every step and not wait for the problems to happen!

So, tomorrow night, hopefully another lesson. If not (since the arena still has wet patches), then I will head out to ride anyway. I need to send in my entry for Hy Court Farms schooling dressage in two weeks (ok, a week and a half... EEEK!) and oh, I need to hope that my idiot horse doesn't find any more ways to damage himself in his stall. Seriously. This is what he did to himself in the last 24 hours:

I looked over his stall and couldn't find anything, but the barn owner wrapped his buckets and a few other things, so hopefully he won't find any new ways to damage himself. At least he didn't get a part of his face where the bridle goes.

Oh and speaking of bridles, one last thing. I've been riding him in Cash's old Happy Mouth snaffle sort of accidently (I left his regular bridle at home after cleaning it, and the only bit I had at the barn was the Happy Mouth). Last night and tonight, I noticed a good bit of foamy stuff on his mouth. Either he really likes that bit or he's starting to relax and work his jaw more - maybe a little of both? At some point I will switch back to his metal bit (it's the exact same bit, just stainless) and see if he's still drooling. If not, then I think I'll use the Happy Mouth for dressage. I don't need any more bit, that's for sure, so if he likes it, I think we'll use it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Minor update

I don't have much time to post an update tonight so I will keep it short.

Sunday I managed to get up on Saga. We just walked for about 30 minutes, and he was grumpy about it after the hard day before, but due to the weather he couldn't be turned out, so I figured that him moving around some was better than sitting in a stall and stocking up.

I also went out to see Cash at Paint Creek Ranch. When we got there, he was swimming in his duck pond! Firefox (Ziggy's dad) and Zhizhu gave him a bath, and then we all rode him bareback for just a few moments (and before you ask, YES, we were all wearing helmets). I even asked him to canter for a few steps, but it was pretty discombobulated. We did have some nice trot moments though, and he still remembers he's a show pony. Overall, he looked really great and it was so good to see him.
This is just after I pulled him out of the duck pond where he was soaking.
If you look closely, you'll see that he's got a high water mark
just below the black spots on the top of his back.

Sooo handsome!

Can you tell he used to be a real dressage horse?

What a cutie!

Monday I had a very nice but short ride on Saga - we got in perhaps 5 minutes of really stellar trot, but because I was still sore (and I'm sure he was too), I called it quits and just walked him for another 20 minutes or so.

Wednesday I had my first lesson with Joan Darnell. It went really, really well. I'll have to post more on it later, but I learned quite a bit about how bad he is off my right leg, especially on the straight sides, and how counter-flexed he is. We did get a few really sweet canter transitions though, so I'm very pleased.

I'll post more later. Enjoy the picts and the tiny bit of video!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Um, Ow.

I am not, apparently, the same age I was 10 years ago. It's the Morning After our 5 hour XC schooling endurance ride, and dang, I'm tired and sore! Fortunately I did some stretches last night before bed and popped two Ibuprofen (vitamin I, as a friend likes to call it) before bed, so it's probably not as bad as it could have been.

Back to the tale of yesterday's schooling. After our WTC warmup, we moved on to the first log on the course. We did the GAG, BN, and N first fence. As usual, he took a giant leap over the first teeny log, and I got left behind (this seems to be a thing for us over the first fence of the day). The second fence was a coop, and we jumped the BN and N fences there. Because the group of folks schooling was large and going all different levels, we ended up waiting around several different times for folks to jump the GAG fences... but then, they waited for us too, so it was all good. There was a N table that I declined to jump, since it just looked big (yeah, yeah, I know), but there was a smaller narrow N fence between two trees that we did nicely. We moved on to the water complex, and Saga was good into the water for the second time ever. We ended up doing a Training level bank up out of the water, and he was super good for that although I really had to sit back to keep him balanced down the hill into the water and then through the water.

After that we headed back into the woods for a few fences. I skipped a BN fence that we'd jumped in our previous schooling (a big log) to save him for later. We popped over the N ditch (he didn't even look at it, although I have a hard time figuring out where to take off for ditches since there is no spread) and then went about 15 strides to a small N log pile. He was great and I was able to keep him together between the fences. We declined to jump a maxed-out N table with Virginia Creeper growing up out of it, but did a handy little BN combination that was very nice. We hopped over a BN log pile that Saga was very surprised to see when we came around a corner, and although it wasn't pretty, he never thought about stopping. We finished the first ride of the day with a line of two fairly large BN fences, and he was actually a total snot about the second fence, since he was cantering sideways up to it. But at that point we'd been out for about 3 hours, the barn was in sight, and there were two other people cantering past, so I really can't blame him. I did manage to get him straight for the fence and we got over it, no problem, but I had visions of riding Cash on the approach.

We took an hour break for lunch (and BOY did we all need that time to recover), then tacked back up again. Saga sucked down a bucket and a half of water and munched some hay, and when I came to tack him back up, he looked at me like, "AGAIN??? Are you KIDDING???" Everyone was very tired after the morning ride, so we had a short warm-up (that included none of the theatrics of our morning warm-up) and did the last BN fence on the course as our warm-up fence (we would have done the last N fence, but it was a maxed-out table). We headed to the back section of the course and I jumped a BN log with a really short uphill approach, and then headed over a maxed Novice roll-top. I'm pretty sure Saga thought it was a Prelim roll-top, because we had some major hang-time and I about lost it on the landing. My helmet actually slipped forward over my eyes (do I need a different helmet??) and I ended in a rather inglorious heap on his neck. He was a sweetie though and waited till I got myself back together before moving on. We skipped a Training log fence at the top of a hill, because he was tired and it had a short, steep downhill after it. I know we could have made the fence, but we would have gone ass-over-teakettle on the downhill after. Maybe next time!

Next up was a maxed BN triple bar, a nice new fence that was very inviting. After that, we did a combination of a N log to a N drop, and Saga never even thought about looking at the drop, which was awesome! Next up was a 3-stride N combination, which I declined to do because I was trying to save Saga for other fences, but we did two nice BN fences in a row. He stayed very balanced for both and I was happy about that, given how tired he was. I opted not to do the N trakhener (but it was SOOO tempting!) because I was waiting for... the stair steps. Pine Hill has a 3 step up 1 stride combo for Training and a 2 step down bounce combo for Prelim. But on one side of the complex, there are only 2 steps up or down - they were unflagged but I've seen them used in the past. The last time I'd ridden stair steps was on a Training course in Fall 1999 with Cash, and I remembered how much gas you needed to get to the top. I set Saga up for it, and he popped up the first bank and went "OMG there's ANOTHER ONE???" then sort of scrambled up the second bank. I didn't give him a good ride in the middle, just sort of sat there and stayed forward, but he carried me through. I gave him lots of praise as we cantered away and except for one last teeny log, that was our day. I am so very proud of him!!!

Based on yesterday's ride, we are definitely going BN at the Pine Hill show in October. I dropped off my entry while I was there yesterday, so it's a done deal. I think that, with some work, we could go Novice next spring. Our biggest issue was having him listen to my half-halts to balance him, and frankly, that wasn't working very well, and I've got the blisters to prove it. Part of it was, I think, that an eggbutt snaffle is just not enough for him. I think a loose ring sanffle would be fine, perhaps with a flash or figure 8 noseband. Basically I want enough bit so I can get in there, do the job, and get out... none of this hanging or leaning back in the saddle to rebalance. My shoulders are telling me this morning that they worked hard yesterday, so I can only imagine how Saga's face must feel. Poor guy.

The Novice fences we declined to jump were due to me trying to save my horse or because I thought they looked big. Obviously, I need more experience jumping at a 3' height so that those will start looking "normal." But, there will be time for that later. We really need more work on gymnastics to improve our balance and transitions. I think that that will go a huge way toward getting us to work more as a team.

I did feel like I did a better job waiting for fences, most of the time. They certainly weren't all perfect, especially as the day wore on, but I really tried and I feel like he listened and waited most of the time. Also as the day wore on, my position got worse and worse - my leg kept sliding back really badly. So some strengthening exercises for me would not go amiss either.

Time to bring this post to a close... I need to go out and take Saga on a hack to stretch out this morning. Visiting Cash is on my to-do list today as well, so hopefully I'll have some pictures of the Spotted Pony to share.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Frickin' Awesome!

My horse is frickin' awesome. Not only did he jump all the BN fences today, he also jumped about half of the N fences, and a few Training level fences as well. Here's the scoop...

I did end up going XC schooling today, despite not having ridden since Monday (how DO I set myself up for these things???) I had planned to ride last night and pack for schooling, but we had some massive weather come through and there was no way I could ride with all the thunder and lightning.

Two of my good friends hauled Saga in their three-horse trailer (a big THANK YOU to Duchess's mom and Lucky's dad) since my trailer was supposed to be going in today to get the lights looked at and the ramp reinforced (my poor ramp just can't handle all 1300 lbs of Saga). We arrived, tacked, and headed out to the field to warm up. Saga was a RAVING LUNATIC. I had visions of my rides on Cash dancing in my head - he jigged, he threw his head at the trot, but oddly enough, his canter was really relaxed and soft. Part of the head throwing was I think due to my running martingale being about 8 inches to short, so I took it off after about 5 minutes of riding. The head tossing improved dramatically after that.

As I'm writing this, it occurs to me that I'm about to fall asleep. So I'll try for a longer post tomorrow, but here are the highlights:
  • I got one (ONE) picture that someone took. It's not at all good, but I'll try to post it tomorrow because hey, it's a picture. There may be some video that I can get my hands on, but I'll have to see.
  • We did ALL of the BN fences and about half of the N fences. I ran out of horse about halfway through the schooling, or I would have done more. Fun fences included the novice drop to ditch, a bank up out of the water (part of a Training combo that we didn't do the second fence of), and a two step up jump. He was very willing, and we had NO refusals.
  • I need some better brakes - an eggbutt snaffle is just not going to do it. Unfortunately one of my other bits is too small and the other was on Duchess, so I need to get another bit. I'm thinking a loose ring with a running martingale that fits and maybe a figure 8 noseband. I don't want huge brakes, just something where I can get my half-halt in and then GET OUT of his face.
  • Balance is key. It's hard to get him on his butt and get him to wait for the fence, especially as he gets more tired. A bit that he can't lean on would help.
  • I need better XC reins. Mine suck. They sucked 10 years ago, and they still suck.
  • And gloves. My old green gloves didn't have the reinforced fingers and my hands got all chewed up. I actually have a huge blister/tear on my left ring finger. Owie.
  • Saga can jump really, really big when he thinks he needs to.
  • MUST.... WAIT.... FOR.... FENCE :)
Ok, I'm falling asleep at the keyboard. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

About time!

Yeah, it's about damn time I updated this blog!

First things first: thanks to Ziggy's dad for taking pictures of our jumping lesson a couple of weeks ago. Here they are:

Nice bit of trot warm-up.

This was our first jump of the day. I was not at all ready for it and got jumped right out of the saddle. Yuck!

If you focus on how much my butt is coming out of the saddle, you won't notice that we took off a stride too early. :)

Oooh... heel down, leg is not sliding forward, I look like I'm with him and the spot is not huge... now if only I could get my chicken-wing elbows under control!

Speaking of huge spots... yikes, do I ever need to learn to WAIT for the fence!

My leg is still slipping back, but at least the spot is a more normal size. Must... WAIT... for... FENCE!!!

Ok, picts from lesson done. Moving along in chronological order, I went on vacation for a week and didn't get to ride; however, Ziggy's dad got in a few rides and so did another friend of mine. Both said that Saga was really good for them but asked about the crummy canter departs (really? we have crummy canter departs??? WHO KNEW!!!) and the lack of straighness. Well, at least I'm not the only one with those problems! While I was gone, Saga also got his saddle checked since the saddle fitter was out to look at FuzzyPony's saddle. She did a minor adjustment but otherwise everything was fine with the saddle.

Last Tuesday (that would be August 25) I had a very nice dressage ride. It was pretty clear that *I* hadn't ridden him in more than a week, but he settled back into the routine pretty well. Toward the end of the ride, I started doing an exercise that FuzzyPony calls "the Horsemaker"... I think of it more like "the rider killer." Here's how it goes:

  1. Trot down the long side from B-F.
  2. 10 meter half-circle (ish) from F-D.
  3. At D, make sure your horse is straight, then leg yield left from D-E.
  4. At E, right lead canter depart, immediately into a 20 meter canter circle at E.
  5. When you return to E, trot. Trot down long side from E-H. Lather, rinse, repeat to the left.
The virtue of this exercise, aside from the fact that you have to be REALLY on the ball to make these things happen where there's supposed to, is that your horse is already a bit collected and stepping under with the inside hind leg in the leg yield, and that just makes your canter depart so much easier. I was getting canter departs IMMEDIATELY, instead of running into them. It was pretty incredible, actually, but I was really, really riding hard to make it happen. I guess that just goes to demonstrate that I'm riding sloppily and not being demanding enough much of the time, because when I really, really ask, I get it.

I ended the ride doing a canter-halt transition instead of a canter-trot transition at E/B. I started to ask for the trot, but I could feel him really sit down and I made a split-second decision to go for the halt. And what do you know, it's in there! It was square, upright, and on the money. Dang, we're good!

So after that fantastic ride, Saga got the rest of the week off. Between the kids starting school and, later in the week, me being sick, I just didn't manage to ride. Sunday I did crawl out to the barn to say hi to him, and my husband had his travel mug of coffee with him. The following ensued:

Do I smell... could it be... OMG COFFEE?!? I MUST HAVE EEET!!! If I can just stretch my prehensile lip far enough, I might be able to snag eeet...

Ahhhh... coffeeeee... delivered fresh to my stall. Dad at least understands the importance of this most wonderous elixir of life! (Mom does not drink coffee, she prefers Chai tea. Mom's wierd.)

Seriously. Saga likes coffee. Who knew?

So, now we're to my ride yesterday (Monday), nearly up to date. Last night I took a lesson with Vanessa, who teaches regularly at my barn. I'm just not sure when I can get down to Paige's place again, so I figured some jumping is better than no jumping. I really concentrated on what I worked on last time with Paige - namely, waiting for the fences and making good turns. The mini-course was all on the right lead, with one bending line. Generally it went pretty well - I really made an effort to wait, and wouldn't you know, we had a lot of really nice spots. When I failed to ride and wait, we had HUGE, ugly, sprawled out spots, and then a disaster on the other side of the fence. After the bending line he got to tossing his head a bit, I think because I had to re-balance him to get to the next line, a one-stride. He had no trouble with the one-stride, although when we did it from a trot I made sure to ride in with a strong trot because others were having trouble making the distance. He did great. The turn to the final fence was hard - I used a lot of outside leg but he still tended to drift left, which is also a problem we have on the flat. He also tends to jump a bit left of center, and, as Vanessa put it, "drop his left shoulder." I'm not sure exactly what this means and I don't have any pictures of us, so I really can't tell. Something to ask about later.

I felt pretty solid in my ride, and concentrated on keeping my leg under me (it felt out in front, but it didn't feel like it was slipping). I have a tendency to duck a bit over the fences, especially when I'm going for a particular lead, and I need to be careful about that. Otherwise, we only had a few really crappy fences where I just threw him at it - and he jumped it like I threw him at it. Yikes. Well, at least he lets me know when I'm doing a bad job riding!

It looks like I won't be able to ride again till Friday, and I'm considering going XC schooling on Saturday with the crew from the barn. Sunday I think I have a dressage lesson with Carol (the saddle fitter), and it looks like I may also be able to get a regular dressage instructor out on a weekly basis starting next Wednesday! Things seem to be shaping up a bit for the fall - and about time too, our first show is in 27 days. Yikes! I'd better start thinking about sending in my entries!