As per my plan, I took it easy on Sunday. I fed early like I always do and took Speedy out for his mandatory lunge/walk. He simply won't eat breakfast unless I do. But after he was tucked back into his stall, I climbed back into bed and read until 7:00 (I was RV camping, so I had that luxury). I eventually coaxed myself out of bed and made a leisurely breakfast.
Unlike the previous two days, I also kept my sunglasses on, wore a wide brimmed hat, and stayed in the shade. Since my ride time wasn't until 2:26, I had the whole day to wait through. In fact, I was the last rider of the day.
I am not sure if you noticed Speedy's braids, but I kicked some butt on those babies. They were so neatly done that they held through the night and were still good enough to use on Sunday afternoon. I was pretty proud of them. After the last time I did this particular braid, I knew I finally had it down pat.
My strategy for Sunday's ride was pretty clear: stay out of the heat during the day, do a short 15 minute warm up, and don't give up before I'd even started. I slept in, hung out in the shade all day, and forced myself to wait to saddle until even friends thought I was pushing it.
I felt kind of bad about the last part of my strategy, but I was seriously intimidated by my competition, no matter how friendly they were. The one thing I forced myself to do was to NOT watch any of their rides. I was just as worried about them making a critical error as I was about seeing them put in a brilliant ride. I didn't want to place well due to someone else's mistakes, but I also didn't want to lose my confidence by watching a winning ride.
By the time the ring steward gave me the go ahead, the heat had returned, but I felt better equipped to deal with it. I marched Speedy into the ring and gave it our all. He was still behind my leg and he still curled, but we put in a pretty solid effort.
When I finally had time to sit down and study my test, I was relieved to see that we had nothing lower than a 6.0, and there were only four of them. We also earned eleven 7.0s, which was what I had been working towards all summer! Our final score for the test was a solid 66.029%.
If you read my post from the other day, you know my finishes at RAAC have been either first or eighth. While we didn't win, I was very relieved to not be in eighth place. I was more than happy to receive that red neck ribbon!
First place always receives a lovely cooler (I already have two of them), but second gets a leather halter. I know it's silly, but I am so in love with the thing!
Here's the video of the ride followed by the score sheets.
We have one more show in a few weeks to finish out the 2017 season. So far, I am more than satisfied with where I am towards accomplishing this year's goals. Win or lose at Tehachapi, I'm calling the season a success!
While my super powers were fully restored, they don't combat everything, especially the heat. Like a lot of other places around the world, California is having an unusually hot summer, even for us. While the mornings in Paso Robles were pleasantly cool, by afternoon, the temperature was almost unbearable.
Because of the heat, at least one rider scratched. I considered it, but I knew Saturday's second test was our last opportunity to really prepare for Sunday's actual RAAC class. We trotted in when the judge blew her whistle.
My goal for this show was to earn as many 7.0s as I could. There are a smattering of them for sure on this test, but there are also more 5.5s than I am happy with. As low as the scores look, I know most of it was because of the heat.
As we exited the ring, my mouth was so dry that I couldn't conjure up enough saliva to even swallow. Unlike the morning test, this ride was a best effort. I pushed Speedy as hard I could. Getting him in front of my leg, even when it's hot, is a new goal of mine.
Even with the slew of 5.5s, we still managed a middle of the road 64.412%. My goal for this season was to finish First Level with scores in the mid-60s. I felt like this score was within that range.
Some of the movements I really wanted to fix were the leg yields (6.5 and 7.0) and the 10-meter trot circles (7.0 and 7.0). I also wanted to improve the change of lead through trot (5.5). We managed to improve in at least two areas.
Here is the video and the score sheet.
As we exited the ring, I felt good about the ride, but I knew we could do even better. I had switched out the less-than-perky and now slipping pad for the larger, but sturdier Union Hill, so that problem was solved. I couldn't do anything about the heat, but I knew I'd have more horse with a shorter warm up.
As I lay in bed that night, I contemplated my strategy for Sunday which included sleeping in and staying out of the heat. I also planned to eat and drink more often, and I decided not to assume my competition was going to win.
The "Big Test" tomorrow ...
One of my strengths when I show is the ability to shake it off, whatever it is, and get on to the next movement. My super power failed me on Saturday though. I am not sure what my kryptonite was, but it was lurking somewhere near ring 1.
Everything about the show was going so well. The grounds were fantastic, including the stabling and parking, and my barn mates were all about good fun and friendly competition. Not like a few years ago when one of the competitors said that her friend was showing in my class and was going to win. Turns out she didn't, but I did!
Anyway, things were going well until I made a slight miscalculation in how long I needed to warm up. Apparently, showing is now old hat to Speedy and 15 minutes is all he needs. I gave us 30. After the first 12, I knew I had gone in too soon, so we walked and walked and walked. Just before my ride time, I decided to wake Speedy up with a big gallop.
Two things happened. First, he got really annoyed at me, and second, my trusty show pad, that one that wasn't looking as perky as before, nearly slid off his back. He gave a few bucks before I saw what had happened. In horror, I jumped off and reorganized the pad. From that moment, my confidence was shot.
As we trotted down center line, all I could think about was my stupid pad slipping off during the test. I kept glancing down to see if it was still there! Once I forced myself to forget about it, the next worry took over.
Speedy was behind my leg, note the curling above, but I knew that if I really goosed him forward, he'd flip me the hoof. That would be okay for one movement, but when he feels like I am working against him and not for him, he quits trying. Instead of sending him forward with a big cowgirl kick, I just nursed him through the test.
And really, it wasn't a bad test. My goal was 6.5s and 7.0s. We got more 6.0s than I would have liked, but considering how behind my leg he was, it wasn't terrible. That 4.0 though, I have no recollection of not being in canter. It's right in front of the judge though, so if she says we weren't cantering, we weren't, but that score came as a shock to me.
As with the comments we've had all summer long, the judge's further remarks were spot on. "Capable pair. Needs balance in transitions up and down. At times, horse over round and low in outline today." I love how generous she was in using "at times" and "today" as though yesterday we weren't and tomorrow we wouldn't be!
As we exited the ring, I knew it wasn't even close to a best effort, and I acknowledged that I had given the test away. I let the bigness of the show and the quality of my competition intimidate me.
I shook it off almost before we made it to the ring steward. Yes, I had let my confidence slip for a moment, but I recognized it for what it was. I was already planning my comeback for Test 3 which was to come later that afternoon. There was no sense in beating myself up about it, and suddenly, I felt my super power return!
Many of Sunday's riders didn't even bother with riding Test 2, so it was a very small class. For the adult amateurs, Saturday's classes were all warm ups for the actual RAAC classes held on Sunday. The scores from Saturday's tests still counted for USDF, but I knew that I still had time to get my little team squared away for Sunday's "big one."
When John and I compared our tests, we laughed at the point difference. Just 2.5 points separated our tests which would prove to be a theme for the weekend!
More to come ...
Don't I wish! There are a few scores that I can happily report that I've never received, but it goes both ways. While I've never earned a 1, I've also never seen a 10. A show report is coming soon, but until then, here's a 10 I hope to actually see sooner rather than later.
While it hasn't been ordered yet, this lovely thing will soon be hanging in my closet. It will be my tenth C4 Belt. I've decided that I am going to quit being embarrassed by my addiction to these plastic straps. They're a relatively cheap and harmless obsession and they make me smile.
But please, C4, quit introducing so many delicious patterns so frequently!
In honor of my first official day back to work, I'd like to share my summer reading list. Each May, I encourage (beg) my students to read at least a few minutes each day of their summer vacation. Some read like crazy; they'll be on my Battle of the Books team, but most don't.
As an educator, I find that it's important to keep on learning myself. I wrote a digital textbook last year that addressed the newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards. That took months of research. I also read all year long and share what I am reading with my students. They're always surprised that I read for fun. This summer, I read 16 books in 10 weeks.
I've been hooked on early to mid-twentieth century fare, which is not my typical area of interest. I am an eclectic reader for sure, but this recent change in taste is ... interesting. I tried to read a lighter piece in between the heavier ones because some were just meatyier and harder to digest.
With that, here's my summer reading list, in no particular order.
I keep at least 5 - 10 books ready to go in my Kindle. Between a few random titles I have waiting and the Dr. Thorndyke collection (22 novels and 32 short stories), I should have plenty to read during the school year. Of course, now that school has started, I'll be reading pages a day instead of chapters.
Have you read anything good lately?
Today's the big day. We are headed to the California Dressage Society Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC).
MISSION: The mission of these competitions is to provide an opportunity for all CDS Adult Amateur riders to qualify and compete against others of similar skills and experience. The regional nature of these shows will help to provide our membership with a developmental path for gaining competitive experience, promote excellence and increase awareness of and support for the Chapters.
I've competed at RAAC four different times, winning at Introductory Level and Training Level. I've been to RAAC at first level, but we didn't do so well. I am expecting this year to be different!
In 2013 and 2015, we finished dead last. Both times! And even weirder still, we placed eighth. Twice! Several year apart. There's actually quite an interesting pattern to my placings.
In 2014, I competed at the CDS Championship. That means that for evermore I must compete in the RAAC Elite division rather than Novice which is for riders who have never been to the championship. I don't know if this makes things more difficult or not. The elite division is for riders that have competed on a bigger stage; it doesn't matter if your horse has shown at a bigger show or not.
No matter what happens, I know that we've prepared as well as we can. Speedy is fit and ready, I know my tests (knock on wood right now, please), and the trailer is clean and ready to go.
Wish us luck!
The way I see it, there are two ways to approach showing. You can either show at one level until your horse is truly confirmed at that level and the scores reflect that, or you can chase down the 60% and move on. I am not going to say that one approach or the other is better, but I do know what feels right for me right now.
I am two scores away from the California Dressage Society Ruby Award. Two Second Level scores. That's it. Speedy and I are well enough along that we could probably eke out a 60% at Second Level at a CDS show.
I've wanted to try for those two scores all summer long, but I haven't. While I want the scores, I want even more for Speedy to be truly confirmed at First Level before we move on. That's why it's taking me so long to move through the levels. I've faced this dilemma (when to move up) at every level since Intro.
Every time I've gotten bored with the level I am working on, I remind myself how much I love seeing a 70%. Moving to a new level too early isn't going to yield scores that I like. It's that simple.
I want confirmation. I want to know that my horse is confirmed at the level and ready to move on with a solid foundation under his girth. That doesn't mean I am going to finish out the level with 70%, although that happened at Intro and Training Level. For me to feel confident enough to move on to the next level, I need to be earning at least mid-60 scores. We're pretty close.
Ruby Award aside, I have several First Level goals that I'd like to see realized this summer. The first is to do well at the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) this weekend. We've won at Intro and Training, so it's not an impossibility.
The second is to maybe win my CDS Chapter's Adult Amateur High Point Score for the season. We've also won that one before, but it will take a miracle this year, like maybe a 70%!
I'm also trying to get as many 60% and better scores as possible to add to my CDS plaque. In 2013, we earned a whopping 16 scores. Last year, Speedy struggled with several different lamenesses so we earned a disappointing 4 scores. Right now, we're on track to finish with 13 scores above 60%, but less likely if we chance a Second Level test.
I'd rather finish the season on a high note rather than make the move to Second Level and maybe get a 60% but probably bring home several disappointing 50s. In a way, I guess I am still chasing scores. Thoughts?
You all know how much I enjoy learning about bits. I've written about this a ton already, especially as it relates to finding a bit that works for Izzy. Once I finally realized that Izzy can't/won't do tongue pressure, it was simply a matter of finding a bit that gave him the tongue relief he needed while still giving me control.
The Myler Bitting System proved to be the right system for Izzy, and Speedy too. Their book has been an invaluable resource, and one I recommend everyone should have.
A few days ago, a friend, who knows how into bits I am, shared this informative website with me about bits and bitting. While I am pretty stuck on the Myler Bitting System, I figured it couldn't hurt to see what these folks had to say.
Gavin Chaplin, the website host, has put together "a website to provide information and tutorials on all things equine!" The part that I checked out was the video tutorials with Bomber Nel, a bit specialist originally from South Africa.
It's easy to recognize a good philosophy when you see it echoed by different experts. Bomber Nel and the Mylers are singing the same song. "Bomber's" philosophy is this: Pressure = Resistance. And Resistance = Lack of Control.
With that philosophy in mind, Bomber has created a line of bits very similar to what the Mylers have developed. When designing his bits, he addresses every possible resistance a horse might have by changing the mouth pieces to accommodate each horse's preference.
Gavin Chaplin's website, GavSays.com, has a series of videos featuring Bomber, but this one was my favorite. Check it out.
Speedy and I are headed to our biggest show of the summer on Friday. I have a blog post coming. In the meantime, I am trying to clean up a few things before the show. The leg yield and the change of lead are two of those things.
We've worked on the leg yield twice now, and I am getting nowhere. I can keep the shoulder from falling out, but that little booger (sorry, Speedy, you know I love you) will. Not. Step. Over. I finally nailed him with the whip which got a reaction, but I don't want to yell at him every time I want a bit of a lateral step. I've got one more ride at home to work on it, but that 7.0 might just be out of our reach.
On a good note, the change of lead through trot is now working for us. I left it alone for a few days and didn't ask for it until Sunday. I schooled it exactly as we had during our lesson last week, and got a balanced change of lead the first time I asked. After having had a come to Jesus moment about the leg yield, I thought it was a good idea to reward Speedy for the effort, so I hopped off and fed him his mints.
Besides cleaning up a few of the movements at First Level, I also gave my show pad a good once over. While it came out of the wash okay, I realized that it's not looking as perky as it once was. Unfortunately, I can't find that pad for sale anywhere. I have at least three brand new Union Hill Dressage pads, but I've always felt they were too big for Speedy's smaller fame.
While it's not a perfect fit, I think I can get away with it. The spine length is fine, it's just the drop that's a bit too boxy and long. I think my eye is just so used to seeing Speedy in a smaller pad. This pad is only about an inch or so longer, so it's not that much bigger on him.
I have two other nice fitting pads that are monogrammed, but since US Equestrian changed the rule about pads, I am not sure if my monogram is legal or not. Here's what the rule book states. You tell me what you think.
While in the competition ring and during awards ceremonies, a logo/monogram or name may appear on either or both sides of a saddle cloth in an area not exceeding 200 cm2 (26.632 sq. inches). Only the following logos or names are permitted: breed logos (for horses registered with that breed); a national flag (for citizens of that country); USEF or USDF names/logos. Professionals of any age may have a business or product name/logo of their official sponsor. Amateurs may not have a business or product name/logo unless they own the business. Competition award pads and stable name pads are permitted. No other advertisement or publicity is permitted on saddle cloths or horses. BOD 8/29/16 Effective 12/1/16 BOD 11/7/16 Effective 12/1/16
(I added the bold formatting.) The rule is confusing. On the one hand a logo or monogram is permitted, but in the next sentence they stipulate which logos are permitted but they don't add any comments about monograms.
Am I better off going with a pad that is slightly big on him, or do I risk using the monogrammed pads? And while I am at it, do I beat him into the leg yield, or do I just take the 6.0? Just kidding!
Both boys got lessons with Chemaine Hurtado last week. With Speedy, we focused on improving Test 3 from First Level. With Izzy, we're not showing this summer, so I wanted to focus on his rideability, being able to put him anywhere in the arena that I wanted without fussing. The whole "just do it anyway" thing.
During the two years that I've been riding Izzy, we've had numerous ups and downs. At first, it was all about just riding him without either one of us dying. Then, it was about staying on while he bolted. Then it was about staying on while he bolted as I tried to encourage a connection. Later, the connection became ridiculously heavy, and again, I tried to just hang on through the bolting. And when I got the bolting under control, there was was balking instead.
We have finally arrived at a stage in Izzy's training where I am no longer working on control; that's been established. Instead, we're working together to establish a friendly connection. With a bit that he both respects and likes, he can now hear the conversation. He might not understand everything I am saying (and sometimes I don't know either), but he's trying.
For the entire lesson, we focused on one thing - getting him to stretch his neck. Izzy's main impediment to progress is his retracted neck and tight top line. Until he stretches from the base of his neck, he'll never be able to lengthen his stride. So that's what we schooled.
You can see how short his stride is in the video, but until he'll stretch, that's all he can do. At all three gaits, we worked on it. At the trot, it was about almost coming to walk, and then asking him to stretch down and then sending him forward. Over and over and over.
At the canter, I rode with the same strategy. I collected him and then asked for the stretch down. If he accepted the invitation, he got to move out more freely - as long as he was willingy to hold himself up. When he got stiff or bracing, I collected him and asked for a stretch down again.
I love this next clip because it shows how much natural ability he has. Chemaine asked me to try some counter canter to help him stretch out his body. He held the counter canter for quite a while before transitioning to trot, but when he picked up the right lead, it was so nice.
By the end of the lesson, he was over-striding in the walk. HIs trot work also improved, and he was even able to do some stretchy trot circles.
When I rode him again on Saturday, I was so pleased with how much of the lesson we could duplicate. It's not like he was butter in my hand or anything, but at least he was with me and trying. I'll take a "try" any day!