I know I promised no more posts from the Tehachapi show, but in the interest of honesty, I felt an obligation to show the good with the bad. And while video is probably the best tool for evaluating how we ride, photos can also tell us a lot, especially when there is a series of them. My photos from the June show were really, really, terrible. After that show, I was completely ready to quit with Speedy G. The photos show how braced and resistant to the bit he was. I don't even want to share the link, but I feel that it's only fair to show you how awful my rides were. You can see the photos here
After seeing those, if you bothered and I wouldn't have, do check out the photos from the next show just one month later - here
. Something clearly changed. I've been blogging about my AHA moments
, and obviously I had one before this last show because we look a ton better. I already posted that my leg position, torso, and bent elbows were vastly improved over last summer. The photos from this last show definitely support that.
The main problem, and I realize that there are several issues
, is just what the judge called me on - contact that was too
heavy. So, I've gone from no contact to too much contact. With just a bit more practice I feel that I can hit on the Goldilocks formula and get that contact juuuust right!
Feel free to offer suggestions and feedback, but just be nice! (It's really
hard to post bad
photos of oneself!)
Woke up on Friday morning and just decided to skip my rides. Unless the farrier is coming, or one of my boys has an owie, I ride pretty much every day during the summer. But on Friday morning, I just felt like we needed a break. Speedy G had given me a much improved ride the day before, and Sydney has only had a couple of days off in the past month ... so, we took a day off from schooling.
Just after deciding to skip my morning ride, Cha Ching's mom called and asked if I wanted to take that foal tour we've been putting off and follow it up with lunch at our favorite burger joint. Well of course I was in! We drove out to her mom's place and checked out the foals and German riding ponies.
Here's some of the silly pictures I took (I forgot to take pictures until near the end of our tour). And of course, I did swing by my own barn to turn my boys out, give them post turn-out showers, and feed them their lunch. Their photos are at the end. Enjoy!
Ho Height's (sp?) filly - I think her name was Sienna. She's Cha Ching's half-sister.
Some of the ponies and their babies
Cha Ching's mom with Giuliana tasting her hat!
Three of the ponies coming over to say hello.
Sydney asking for his lunch.
Speedy is certain that I'll FORGET to give him lunch. Silly boy!
Ah ... but don't we all. I feel silly, okay greedy, for even thinking
I deserve ANYTHING new for the next few months. I mean really ... new horse, new saddle, new Rambo halter, new Weatherbeeta fly sheet, extra feed, extra stall bedding, extra farrier bill, extra vet visit, more lessons, and all of this is on top of my regular
So what is it that I want NOW? My husband is curious to know as well. I know he's thinking, What else could she need that she doesn't already own several of?
Well ... I am embarrassed to admit that I want a new bridle. I say embarrassed because I've bought five in the last two years. That tale can be read here
. Now, in my defense, the first one was really an I'm-gonna-give-this-dressage-thing-a-try-but-since-I-might-not-like-it-I'm-going cheap. The next three were poor fitting and the final one worked. But now I have Sydney. Two of the poor fitting bridles fit, but the quality is not superb. I would never have truly known the difference except that I felt a bridle that Cha Ching's mom bought. Ooh ... butter soft.
So now I want a butter soft dressage bridle for Sydney, but I don't want to pay $300 or even $200 to get it. Toll Booth
just had a 20% off sale that I very stoically passed on. They carry the Tekna bridle that I am using on Speedy G for $53.96. If I would have bought it at 20% off, it would have cost $43 and some change plus $12.95 for shipping which is about $56 bucks. Pretty cheap, but I passed.
Without having actually felt one to know whether it is butter soft or not, but intrigued by the design, I am looking at a Pink Equine
bridle. They carry the Sport INTERchange bridle for ₤
99.95 ($162 US) plus shipping ($$). You can see it in the photo to the right and here
. If you do access the link, try out the cool zoom feature for a closer look at the beautiful stitching and padding. Of course, if I order it, it will be in black with gray piping.
Deep sigh ... lotsa money ... Christmas is far away ...
Anybody got a lead on butter soft dressage bridles in full/horse size for cheaper than ₤
A photo from last August's Tehachapi Show
Really. This is the last post about Sunday's show. I am doing other horsey stuff, but three things in particular struck me after watching the videos of my tests, and I wanted to write about them. This photo is NOT from the show. It's from LAST year. I didn't get a still shot from this show to show as a comparison, so you'll have to re-watch the video for that. With that, here are the three things I noticed:
The first thing that caught my eye was my leg position. It's much better today than it was last summer. From the video I can see that now I have a much straighter leg and my feet are flatter without the high heel/low toe seen here.
The video also shows that I am starting to bend my elbows. I still don't have that lovely straight line from bit to elbow, but it's certainly better now than it was last summer. Notice my zombie arms.
The third thing that has improved is my upper body. Last summer I was still allowing Speedy to tip me forward which caused me to have a closed angle at my pelvis. I saw in the video that I am sitting up much taller and opening my pelvis more.
My body position is still not perfect. But I can definitely see some improvement. If you missed the video from Sunday's show. You can see Test C down below.
I may have mentioned that I have had a few lessons recently that went really well. I think some more explanation is needed. The past three lessons have not been with Coach. Don't say uh-oh just yet. I still love riding with Coach and plan to ride with her again when she has a bit more time. You see, she's not independently wealthy and hasn't yet won the lottery. Much like the rest of us, she took a full time job this past February to help fund her own horsey habit and to ahem, increase her herd.
My job gives me weekends off, as does hers. That works great. Unfortunately for both of us, she doesn't get 10 weeks off in the summer like I do. When my interest in dressage blossomed a year or so ago, I dedicated my summer weekdays to lessons. This leaves my summer weekends free to spend time with hubby. So without access to Coach's weekday mornings, I've found it necessary to utilize a new trainer. I'll just call her JL.
I've had three very interesting lessons with JL. They've all been with Sydney. Lesson one concentrated solely on the inside leg and rein aids. We worked for an hour on softening Sydney to the left by bending his stiff side to the inside while pushing him off my inside leg. Inside rein says bend, bend, bend. Inside leg bumps and says, "don't lean on me." The outside rein just sits there quietly making a soft, but steady, contact. Outside rein might also rock to say soften, soften.
Lesson two focused on turning in by using the outside leg and outside rein aid. Sydney loves to go right because his inside is like a spaghetti noodle. He literally collapses inside when circling right. JL had me focus on holding that outside rein steady to prevent him from falling into the circle. Outside rein holds steady, outside leg bumps and says, "make the turn." Inside rein rocks and rocks and rocks and says soften ... soften ... soften.
Lesson three put the outside and inside aids together. AHA! Holy Cow! I FREAKIN' GET IT!!!!! It was truly like a 1000 watt bulb burst in my head. You mean that when we circle, I just keep fixing the circle by catching the outside when it drifts out and then catch the inside when it falls in? And that's it? Ohhhhh!
Of course it sounds easy when you say it like that, but that's what we've been working on and things are getting better very quickly. In fact, after watching the video of our last show, Cha Ching's mom made the comment that she's never seen my circles look as round as they did on Sunday. I must be doing something right!
Mixed in with the three lessons was also the idea of establishing the frame. Now, I knew what that meant, but achieving it has been a totally different animal. JL's images included a fence board in front of Sydney with the idea of slowing his front end to allow the hind end to catch up. She had me hold STEADY on the reins to slow the front legs down, and ask for forward from the hind legs until I could hear a much more even footfall. As we made a very small circle around her, she matched her pace to Sydney's and guided each step he took. Any time I allowed that imaginary fence board to drift out in front of him, she would say, "don't be an Indian giver. Don't give it back to him!" Until I would re-establish that fence board right in front of him. The steadier I held him to the board, the softer he got until finally, his footfalls were soft and steady and he became light in my hand. Suddenly, we were floating and riding became effortless.
Here's a super quick video of a few moments of our last lesson.
Geez ... how long is she going to milk this one little show?
I know, but this show has given me lots of junk to mull over.
I mentioned that my mom was here to visit and that she videoed my tests. I need to mention that while my mom loves horses, she doesn't know that much about them and knows even less about showing. So after my tests were completed and Speedy G was untacked and tucked into his spot at the trailer, we walked back up to the dressage court to watch a few other tests being ridden.
Just 14 months ago, I went to my
first dressage show. I remember being overwhelmed by how many procedures there seemed to be. How in the world did everyone seem to know what to do?
A bell was ringing every few minutes, someone was shouting out alphabet letters followed by equine gates, someone else was calling out riders' number with a time. And horses were trotting and cantering everywhere. It should have looked chaotic, but it didn't. It was actually very harmonious and relatively quiet.
Mom and I chose our spot along the spectator fence under the shade of the oak trees. I started seeing the show through the eyes of a newcomer and realized that I hadn't bothered to explain what was really
going on. She had seen me ride of course, and I had already explained how the levels were arranged and how each rider was given a time to ride. But really, that was it. I spent a few minutes explaining what the letters meant, what the judge was looking for, and what a reader's job entailed. As the next rider entered at A, I very quietly "translated" the reader's directions. After seeing just one test ridden, Mom quickly picked up how to follow the horse's movement around the dressage court. For the second test that we saw, she began to see when a horse or rider had made a mistake or when the horse was being a bit fussy.
Mom turned out to be a great "horse show mom." She mentioned to everyone in site that THAT rider was HER daughter and isn't she just such a LOVELY rider? She schlepped my boot wiping rag with pride. She toted my water bottles around and offered me a drink every time I looked hot. She cared for my show coat during warm up and pointed out the dusty spots on it so that I could wipe them off. And she of course "oohed and ahed" appropriately over my blue ribbons. It was quite fun to have such a dedicated entourage.
On Monday afternoon, after spending all morning with me at a lesson filming yet again, we checked to see if the show's results had been posted. Mom's super supportive "show mom" side appeared again. She suggested we count how many riders scored below my top score and how many scored above. Once we tallied the results, she excitedly pointed out that my scores fell within the top half of the scores. She really made me feel successful in a mathematical way. Thanks, Mom!
You'll find the link to show results here
. (At some point the link will reflect scores for the July 2012 show).
Read about the show here
Here's the video for test B. If you watch the beginning very closely, you can just see the after-effects of the dripping sprinkler at F. And again, I just need to point out that I NEED to bend my elbows ...
And here's the video for test C. Watch and listen for the "off course" bell. I am pretty proud of my okey-dokey attitude. Also watch for Speedy's numerous kicks and I-don't-wannas!
My scores don't reflect how I felt the rides went. Introductory B was 55.625% and Introductory C was 57.50%. When we left the show grounds at 11:30, the highest score posted was 60%, so my 57 seems pretty good. I was actually relatively pleased with both rides.
Since last year, I have memorized my tests to avoid having to find a reader. It didn't help for this day though! At the corner near F, there was a dripping sprinkler that spooked Speedy a bit as we entered at A. That fussiness and spook caused a moment of confusion so when I tracked left at C to make my 20 meter circle at E, I got a wee bit lost and went off course. Ding! The judge rang her bell and sent me back to to E to make the circle. Two points lost.
While it wasn't a perfectly ridden test, and I didn't bend my elbows as much as I needed to, Speedy G was reaching forward under himself with his hind legs and trying to listen. The judge did dink him quite a bit for being so "braced", but I know it was a better test than we've been doing. When we halted at X and saluted, I rode forward to thank the judge and started my turn to exit. The judge stopped me and quite loudly told me that I was riding a very nice horse and that she liked him a lot. Well, my goodness - a fine compliment!
Test C went much the same way. Our canter transitions were still fussy and sticky, but we did ultimately get the canter going both directions. Interestingly, as I was picking up the canter at A the second time, I heard the bell ring and wondered what was wrong. I knew I was on course, but I figured I must have done something wrong. I pulled Speedy to a walk and headed up the center line to discuss things with the judge. As I got close enough to hear her, she said that I was to pick up the canter between A and F. I told her that I was cueing for the canter. Oops! She suddenly realized that she had gotten confused and had rung the bell in haste. She apologized and asked me to start again at E. It wasn't a big deal to me, and it didn't seem to affect Speedy at all. We walked over to E, picked up the trot and continued with the test.
My mom was there to watch and offered to video both tests. When I have a few minutes, I'll get them processed and uploaded. Even though the scores don't scream "success", I am pleased with the rides we put in.
and I am not too confident. Frankly, I am a bit pissed. RAAC? Are you kidding me? If Speedy and I break 60%, I'll be thrilled. Grrr ... So what's the problem? Don't get me started! Speedy G is AWESOME at a great many things. He loves kids, he loves to walk, he loves to stand still, and he really loves to eat. What he doesn't like to do is work.
He had a few days off due to the whack he gave himself last week, and he got a day off on Friday because of farrier work, but Saturday it was back to work. I REALLY wanted to work on the canter transition so that it would be fresh in his mind for today's show. I am so frustrated with him. He WOULD NOT move forward. He was so far behind the leg that I am not sure we were even in the same county. I was literally KICKING his sides to get him to trot. I am definitely bringing the dressage whip to the show. It is impossible to establish any kind of connection if there is no rhythm or forward movement.
Literally, this is how it went:
Me ... leg on and thinking trooot ... harder leg ... harder leg ...
Speedy G ... ears pinned ... head WAAAY behind the vertical ...
Me ... HARDER LEG ... HARDER LEG
Speedy G ... nooooooo
Me ... H A R D E R L E G
Speedy G ... kind of trotting
Me ... HARDER LEG ... Taller posting ... squeezing on the upbeat
Speedy G ... even more behind the vertical ... nearly bucking
This went on for at least 30 minutes. This is not a saddle fit issue, he is not hurting, he is not confused about what I am asking for ... he just flat out doesn't want to do it.
I finally got him moving forward enough to ask for canter transitions. I asked for the canter ... nothing ... I asked again ... nothing. I finally had to KICK him HARD with my outside leg. It wasn't pretty, but he finally gave me something. And then we trot and did it again, and again, and again. I kept asking for that canter transition until he did it with just a softish aid.
This is extremely frustrating because last week when we worked on this, he was soft, round, and jumping into the canter with a nice push from his hind end. He can do it, he just doesn't want to.
Soooo ... we're off to the show anyway.
On Friday we said goodbye to Sparks, our barn's oldest resident. She was 31. Dr. Blanton was called to look at Spark's newest ailment, a newly swayed back with a leg drag. The diagnosis? Old age. Sparks's owner made the very difficult decision to say goodbye to her very good friend. It was the right choice. Sparks's mom couldn't bear to see Sparks go, so I volunteered to stay and be Dr. B's tech. I had gone through the process with Montoya a year and a half before so I knew what to expect. Even so, I cried as Sparks's heart slowly stopped beating. Dr. B kissed her cheek, and I stroked her neck as we sent her to better pastures.
My mom is coming for a visit! I haven't seen her in at least four years, maybe even five. She's excited to meet my equine family, as they are new since she last visited. When my mom called and asked what my schedule was like, I said that she should plan her visit in time for Sunday's show. She was very excited as she's never seen me compete with my horses. I am kind of excited about it, too. Even though I am all grown up, it will be very satisfying to give my mom a blue ribbon. Now I am glad I am the only rider in my class!
How great is it when we have one AHA moment after another? Pretty darn great. I do not mean to sound like a dork here, but I am finally understanding how to use the inside and outside aids AT THE SAME TIME! Sydney was back under saddle on Friday for more trot work and less walking. He was all Dr. Jekyll, with none of Hyde's dastardly behavior anywhere in site. We worked on soft, relaxed circles with changes of direction. I love how I can feel him change his bend when I change my seat.
Tomorrow is my fifth dressage show of the season with Speedy G. It is also a rated show which means it is an opportunity for us to qualify for the Regional Adult Amateur Championships. We have to score a 65%. Can we? Yes. Will we? I don't know, but I am feeling good about the show. I have a new comfy saddle that keeps me much more balanced, and I have a bit more confidence in my riding ability than before. We're also showing at a place that I really enjoy, and the warm up arena is HUGE. I am loving that part of it!
Rest in peace Sparks. Hey mom! And finally ... Here's to a fun-filled weekend!