And I know I am preaching to the choir ...
To say this has been a busy work week would be a grand understatement. I am a 5th grade teacher. That should be enough said, but just in case you don't have kids, there are only 8 days of school left. We are trying to wind the school year down as the kids are winding up for their summer vacation. Think about Halloween, Easter, Christmas, and a birthday party all happening on the same day: that's what these past few days have felt like.
My barn time has been very limited this week: I had a lesson on Monday, the boys saw the chiropractor on Tuesday, I had an appointment on Wednesday, there was a school event on Thursday where I worked from 7:00 a.m. straight through until 7:00 p.m., which brings us to Friday afternoon.
On my drive home, all I could think of was a chilled margarita and silence. But as I looked at my car's thermometer (sub 80), I knew that I couldn't skip a third barn day especially on such a pleasant afternoon. I waffled between needing to ride and needing to just relax. By the time I pulled into the garage my decision was made; I would do a short ride only.
Tobias, cutest dog ever, greeted me with a hopeful, but resigned expression. Hubby was going to his nephew's baseball game which meant Tobi wasn't going to get an evening run. I didn't really want to ride anyway and Tobi needed some fun, so my afternoon was set: he was going with me!
As soon as I made the decision not to ride, my afternoon got a lot better. Tobi jumped into the backseat eagerly, and we headed off to the barn. He has turned out to be an excellent barn dog. He seems to know where the property line is, and he is developing a respect for the horse zone. He's not allowed in any horse pens or the arena. He is also not permitted to chase Little Red Hen. He needed a few reminders about the rules, but overall, he enjoyed himself without causing any trouble.
Tobias hanging out in the barn.
I turned Speedy out while I cleaned both stalls. Tobias ran around the barn checking out any poop piles I had missed. By the time I had finished cleaning, Speedy was brought back in and Sydney was turned out. Knowing that Tobi would love a walk, I popped up on Speedy bareback with his halter (with my helmet, of course) and took Tobi for a "walk" around our section of the neighborhood. Tobi was quite happy about the walk and Speedy seemed to enjoy the rambunctious company. By the time we got back, Sydney was ready to come in.
All sense of being tired and cranky had long since vanished. RM, my BO, came out with a Smartpak box that I knew was my latest order. I pulled out my new Passier laced reins and Speedy's new fly sheet. I gave the reins a quick conditioning and tried out the fly sheet. It was a perfect fit!
This is the whitest it will ever be!
Tobi and I puttered around a bit more, but after an hour and a half we were both ready to head home. He got his afternoon run after all, and I drank my margarita in silence. Ponies can really fix whatever's got you down.
We're heading to the cabin this morning for a quick overnight visit so you won't hear from me until Monday. Have a great weekend!
Speedy G is great at shows: he's sensible, friendly, and pretty willing to do what is asked of him. I think he thrives on both having my undivided attention as well as the novelty of being at a show facility. He finds it all stimulating and interesting. Back at home, he's a horse of a different color. He's easily bored and is very vocal about the lack of excitement and amusement.
And then there is Sydney, who is trying his heart out to be my Steady Eddy. Sydney tries his hardest each day. If he's bored by the repetition, he never says a word. He just goes where I point him and tries to figure out what I am asking for. He doesn't volunteer anything extra, but he does his job without complaint.
I've only taken Sydney to two shows and two ride-a-test events. He wasn't nearly as sensible as Speedy is, but none of the outings were disastrous either. He'll be going to the first of the Tehachapi shows at the end of the month where I hope he'll show me some of the steadiness he has learned.
I am not sure which personality is better: bored at home but dependable at a show; or calm and steady in my own arena but tense and nervous away from the barn. I suppose the answer is to change up Speedy's routine to eliminate his boredom and get Sydney to more events to ho-hum him to the activity at shows.
I wish I could just squish them into one super horse that is dependable at shows and happy to work at home. It would sure be a lot cheaper!
Or, a long list of random things that didn't fit in the first five posts.
Gizmos and gadgets make showing a lot easier, but you don't need to bring the kitchen sink. At least that is what I remind myself of as I pack! While at HDEC a few weeks ago, I spotted a few more things that would make showing easier. I bought them and was thrilled with their application. Someone recently asked me for some showing tips. I am really not an expert, but I guess I do have a few tips to pass on.
Bale bags are a very common sight at endurance rides, but I don't think I've seen one at a dressage show. I generally load a full bale of hay in the first stall of my trailer (three-horse slant load). Once at the show grounds, I cut open the bale, and slide the bale bag over half the bale, a little like a pillow case. My bag has a very sturdy zipper over the top which keeps the hay from falling out. I haul the bag to my stall, usually in a little cart. The bag keeps the hay from being scattered around, and it keeps it out of the dirt. It also protects the hay from passing horses.
Bale bags are a great way to keep hay in one place.
The Gamma Seal Lid
is also a great gadget. I've written about these before (the blue lid on the orange bucket). I have a bunch of these at the barn. I use this one to carry my beet pulp, rice bran, electrolytes, and horse treats. I measure out a weekend's supply of beet pulp into the bottom of the bucket. I add the rice bran in pre-filled baggies. The electrolyte container is small enough to bring the whole thing, and the cookies go in a little plastic cookie jar or in baggies.
The bucket hangers turned out to be my favorite new gizmo!
I briefly mentioned the bucket hangers in my first post about the show. I wasn't sure how well they would work as Speedy doesn't really care for things that move or wiggle in his stall. I was surprised at how sturdy this set-up turned out to be. Speedy loved it. He drank more water at this show than he does when the buckets are down in the corner on the ground.
For these stalls, the hangers worked great. At some shows we do, the stalls are solid wood and the only place to hang the buckets is over the door. Speedy really likes to stand at the door when that is his only "window" so I am not sure how they'll work when we go back to the traditional dutch door stall. I've seen people hang the buckets on the outside of the stall so that the horses can still stand right at the door. I might have to give that a try.
Speedy wants you to know that he LOVES the stall chain.
The stall chain solved so many issues. Speedy REALLY likes to put his head out so that he can see. He is not in a solid stall at home so I know he feels a bit claustrophobic with the solid stalls that are used at shows. With the chain, I can open his door so that he can still see what is going on. It also helped while trying to clean and braid. Of course, I didn't leave the door open if I wasn't standing close by as there is a risk of escape with the chain. If he wanted to, he could lift the chain and walk under it.
A few other odds and ends that make showing easier are seen here, too. I love my braiding box (red), found at Lowe's Home Improvement. It works as a storage box for all my braiding stuff and it's a great mounting block.
The portable tack hanger (purple) was also quite useful. Most of the stalls we've used don't have the open bars for hanging stuff, but I was glad to have the tack hanger for this situation.
I've seen the dry erase reminder boards before, but for this show, I realized how useful it can be to have your times written down where you are sitting and thinking. And since all four of my times changed over the course of the weekend, it would have been nice to have a quick and easy write-and-wipe board to show the updated times. I also found that friends want to know what time I am riding. If I have it written down, they can see it without me having to drag out my wrinkled and crumpled day sheet. The next time I am at Target, I am buying one of those boards.
You can just barely see the mini dry erase board and pen under the free sandwich coupon.
I don't have any pictures of the riding stuff that I learned, but they're no less important. I've already mentioned that Chemain Hurtado, a local trainer, gave me some good tips. I am still working on straightening Speedy down the long side. She suggested I open my outside rein so that I give him someplace to move his shoulder. That tip proved very helpful. She also explained some of the reasons for Speedy's head tilt. She suggested I use a strap at the pommel (oh, shit! strap) to steady my hands and help me lower them. I couldn't do that at the show of course, but I did do it once we got home. I wrote about that yesterday, which is definitely getting a follow-up.
And finally ... some thoughts about success from the world's (admitted) Worst Self-Critic.
I wish an accomplished rider, trainer, or judge could give me a definitive explanation of what constitutes success in the world of dressage. I realize that this can't happen since success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. For the past three years, my goals have been to move up through the levels and to bring my scores above 60%. We've done that. If accomplishing a purpose really is the criteria for success, then I am forced to admit that I have been successful with Speedy.
To an overly critical person, those goals seem tiny and inconsequential. What makes you truly successful? Is it rides of 70% or simply riding at a certain level? What should my goals be? I know that my goal can't be to jump to 2nd Level and win the CDS Championship. I don't work well with goals that are too large (and unrealistic). And so while I might find my goals to be small or insignificant, at the very least, they are achievable.
So what next? This show helped me see that my next goal should be to eliminate the 5s on my score sheets. This goal serves several purposes: it will raise my scores, which is something that I am always trying to do anyway, and more importantly, it will be some sort of confirmation that we are moving through the dressage pyramid in a correct way.
Here's to success!
My Wednesday ride on Sydney was yet again, so, so nice. The reason it's even worth mentioning is because of the tractor...
At the "C" end of our arena is a small, tree-lined driveway, and immediately beyond the driveway is a large orchard of baby trees. Occasionally, the farmer who owns the orchard finds it necessary to work in said orchard with various loud machines. If this were an everyday occurrence, Sydney would be long used to the noise, but it is not an everyday thing. On the rare instances when the tractor approaches, its loud grumblings and grindings even make me a bit nervous.
In the past, the noises have frightened Sydney so much that I found it easier to simply lunge, or just do turn out. As I was tacking up, he seemed to not even notice the tractor. As I mounted, he stood with his ears flopping to the side. When I saw that the tractor was heading in the opposite direction, I decided this was my chance to at least ride the perimeter of the arena for our walking warm up.
I ended up doing the entire ride without any issue from Sydney. Granted, I did keep to the bottom two-thirds of the arena, but in truth, he ignored the tractor completely. As I brought him to a final halt, my heart swelled with both love and gratitude for this horse. Just a few months ago, he was still trying to bolt, and even small noises caused his whole body to tense with fear. That's not to say that Sydney will never be tense again, and we'll see what happens at the HDEC show next weekend, but he sure has changed.
Just think how great he'll be in another year. Last year, I would have never even considered making such a statement.
I am so glad that I didn't sell Sydney this past fall. I am even more grateful to Hubby for encouraging me to stick with him. I am absolutely head over heels in love with that Kiwi from down under. Thank you New Zealand Racing for sending this very lovely horse to the USA.
Sydney's race name is Pick a Card; click image to look him up.
As I was preparing Speedy G for the two-day HDEC show, Sydney had eight days off. He was turned out plenty, but he had no under saddle time. I got on him for Monday's lesson, a little apprehensive; eight days is a long time off for a healthy OTTB. No worries - I was treated to a very well mannered boy. Tuesday was much the same, but an appointment and a sick day kept me from riding on Wednesday or Thursday.
Pick a Card - I'll take this one!
I worked a short day on Friday which gave me sufficient time to ride both boys. Even though I still wasn't feeling well, I hopped up on Sydney anyway (Speedy, too). I was so glad to find my boy just as relaxed as he had been on Monday and Tuesday. Each time I rode him, I worked on a small circle to the right to encourage Sydney to stand up and fill up my outside rein. He got better each day.
I enjoyed a very pleasant ride on Saturday. His left lead canter is something to die for. He has become so light in the front end that I can put him anywhere I want to. One difficulty that I've been having is using too strong of an outside rein. When I do, he drops back to a trot. On Saturday, I really focused on following his motion so that when I wanted to pick up his shoulders to move, I asked when he was already lifting his shoulders. AHA!
Wow. What a great feeling. By fine tuning my feel at the canter, I was able to get him even more collected. It was like flying ...
On Sunday, my plan was to work the right lead canter again in the small circle to help him balance and learn to move out. He foiled my plans by picking up a very balanced right lead canter without the need for the small circle. Now that he and I have finally connected emotionally, he is working so hard to do the right thing for me. Over the last few months, he has developed a keen sense of what I am trying to ask. If he thinks he knows the answer, he will volunteer before I can even ask the question.
During our loose rein warm up, the neighbor boy b-b-b-b-bounced around on his roller coaster car, startling Sydney. He gave a give "scooty" hop over, but then quickly returned to his pleasant trot with an ear flicked to me as if to ask, everything okay up there? I gave him a good boy pat and reassured him that everything was indeed, okay.
I have fallen in love with this horse ...
In case you didn't already know, I am pretty goal oriented. Sometimes my goals are big (not usually) while others are quite small (more typical). I am not much of a dreamer; I don't even have a bucket list. I usually get an idea and then see it through to the end. My husband used to be surprised by my wild ideas
, but now he adds his own two cents and we bumble right along. A few years ago, I came home and told him we were going to Peru over the summer. He gasped and harrumphed about it for a few days, but then we went.
I get an idea, it sticks with me for a few days, and then I work until it's done. The funny thing is that I don't usually know where the ideas come from. Dressage is a perfect example. Why dressage? I honestly don't know. I had no understanding of the sport, I'd never seen a dressage show apart from on TV, and I owned no dressage tack. And yet, the idea took, and here I am.
My goals for the 2013 show season aren't very lofty. I am not feeling compelled to move on to First Level. I am happy plugging along at Training Level, for now. I do want to qualify for the RAAC
, and I do want to earn my USDF Rider Award at Training Level.
"USDF Rider Awards are based strictly on the scores the rider achieves over time and need not be earned in one year." Thank goodness for that, or I'd be up a creek without a paddle!
The Rider Performance Awards may be achieved at Training, First, and Second Levels. Riders must earn four scores of 60% or higher at the respective level from two different shows, four different judges, and four different rides. So far I have two scores from two judges from two different shows. I just need two more scores from two different judges
In order to be eligible for a USDF Rider Award, a rider must have a Participating Membership (PM) or a Group Membership (GM) when scores are earned. I have a group membership with my GMO, the California Dressage Society
The horse need not have a USDF Lifetime Horse Registration Number (LHR) at the time the scores are earned, but the horse must meet minimum competition eligibility requirements at the time the scores are earned. Speedy has a USDF Horse ID Number which meets the requirement
Scores may be earned on one or more horses. Good to know, but so far I am on track to do it with just one horse, Speedy G
I think the Rider Performance Awards are a way to encourage riders to begin their journey toward earning their Bronze, Silver, and ultimately, their Gold Medal. When the 2012 USDF yearbook arrived, I flipped through the pages eagerly hoping to spot riders' names that I knew. I saw that Jennifer Nunez, from Ventura County Chapter of CDS, earned her Bronze Medal. I looked for other riders that I knew, but no one's name popped out. It must be quite exciting to earn the Bronze medal.
Near the back of the Yearbook is the list of riders who have earned their Rider Performance Awards (RPA) at Training, First, and Second Levels. There were a ton more medal recipients than Performance Award recipients. From a goal oriented thinker's point of view, this seemed really odd, but then I gave it more thought. There are likely many reasons why the list of names is so small.
First, it might be that many Training Level riders are not aware that there is an award available to them long before the Bronze medal. And to add to that confusion, the award is not
automatically mailed out; riders must complete an application and submit a $25 fee. It might also be that riders don't feel that the Performance Award is worth the trouble. For those riders, the medals might be the recognition they seek. Out of the Training Level list of riders pictured below, only four were Californians.
Click to enlarge
I would be over-the-moon happy if I could get my two scores before summer. My first opportunity will be March 16th and 17th. I've already sent in my entry to the Spring Dressage Show at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center. This show is my first USDF/USEF/CDS show of the season. It's also a two-day show with two different judges which means that I could conceivably earn the last two scores needed to complete the requirements for my very own Training Level Rider Performance Award.
But no pressure or anything!
We're still at the cabin, but I've hi-jacked a neighbor's internet connection via wi-fi.
Did I ever need yesterday's "breather!" I always wake up between 4:00 and 4:45 a.m. There are no exceptions. I am an early bird even when I wish it weren't so. I SLEPT until 7:00 a.m on Saturday morning which is completely unheard of for me. I can't believe hubby didn't check on me to make sure I wasn't lying there dead.
We made it to the cabin around 10:30 a.m. We watched a little TV, no cable, just DVDs and Blue Rays, and by 1:00 we were both napping. I slept until 3:30. I am not sure why I even bothered to get out of bed on Saturday.
And even after all of that rest, I slept until 6:45 a.m. this morning. I am pretty sure it was the intense stare from two brown eyes that woke me. I opened my eyes and found myself nose to nose with Tobias. He clearly thought I had slept far too long. Thanks, Buddy.
I am feeling much more rested now. Once we're home, I'll head to the barn to ride both boys, and thanks to all of our American presidents, I have Monday off. My plan is to ride Sydney in the morning, have a lesson on Speedy at noon, and then come back to re-ride Sydney.
By Tuesday, life's craziness will have begun again, but I think I'll be rested enough to deal with it!
Just a quick change of pace here ...
Holy cow, work has been pretty icky. I guess that's why they call it work. Driving home yesterday, my normally low blood pressure (at times almost dangerously low, so thank you, Cruddy Day, for boosting it up a bit) was anything but. The day had been a real stinker. To top it off, every driver on the road was aiming for me, and every single traffic light timed itself to hit red as I approached. I got grouchier and grouchier as I neared home. By the time I walked through the door, I was a ball of pissed-off hell-fire.
I took a deep breath as I walked down the hall. Tobi beat me to the bedroom as is his habit. He was ensconced in his bed with Lambchop tucked securely under his feet. I kicked off my shoes and sat down on the carpet to give him his quick five minutes of belly scratching and tug of war before I booted him back outside while I made my daily trek to the barn.
Photo taken last night, and yep, that's Lambchop at his feet. EVERY part of that toy squeaks, much to Tobi's absolute delight!
Once Tobi had his five minutes of woo hoo this is great!, I pulled on my muck boots and headed out to the barn. I was still feeling some tension, but my attitude was definitely getting an adjustment. It is amazing how five minutes of dog time can erase 8 hours of crap.
I pulled into the barn and heard several welcoming nickers. Ahh ...
I zipped through my barn chores: hay for everyone, stalls cleaned, and beet pulp readied. Sydney was the dirtiest he's ever been since I owned him, but even that couldn't chip away at my happier attitude. I scrubbed his back and girth area clean and saddled up.
Our ride went just like last week's did: A warm-up walk with my hands planted firmly into my thighs, pick up the trot with hands still at the thigh, and several changes of direction. I only needed to ride for about 20 minutes to get a nice walk, trot, and canter. We even managed a pretty decent right lead canter.
Life is pretty dang sweet.
Just makes the world a happy place to be!
A quick pour of some 14 Hands ... aaaand now I can begin.
If you know me personally, or if you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I like structure. No, really!
Okay ... I LOVE structure. Hubby knows that if he needs me to acquiesce to something, he needs to ask me days in advance (or even months) to give me time to process and wrap my mind around the change in my routine. I have some OCD tendencies, but they're mostly under control. I used to not be able to sleep if the closet door was open, progress, eh?
This is probably why dressage has appealed to me so completely. Frankly, there's very little disorder permitted in that discipline. Everything about dressage is structured and ordered. Even the spirals of learning follow a very specific pattern as they build on the Pyramid of Training.
This week has rocked my little world of routine and regularity. Monday morning I received a text from my trainer that she was ill and my lesson was cancelled. This is the first time in more than a year and half that either one of us has cancelled due to illness. It was disappointing, but I muddled through my ride without her.
I knew Tuesday was going to be a non-barn day as I had my monthly meeting after work that always lasts until 5:00 p.m. But to make the day even longer, I volunteered to attend the follow-up meeting at 7:00 that lasted until 8:45. That's p.m. as in 8:45 p.m. That's when I normally go to bed! I left home at 6:00 a.m. that day to be at work by 6:25 a.m. and returned home at 9:00. To say that it was a long work day would be an understatement.
I suspected that Wednesday would also be a non-barn day which is extremely rare. I occasionally miss a day, but never two unless we're on vacation. My boss had scheduled a late meeting for Wednesday afternoon, but thankfully, my contract requires that she give us ample notice so I was well aware of the change to my schedule.
On Thursday, I had yet another end-of-day meeting. Fortunately, the woman who conducts those meetings is very respectful of my time and had me out by my 3:20 dismissal time. I did make it to the barn, but I just gave up on riding. I was just too tired. Instead, I piddled around.
I cleaned both stalls ... click to enlarge.
turned both boys out for more than 30 minutes each ...
Speedy enjoyed his time out ... Sydney just galloped madly. I guess he needed it.
and did some reorganizing. Click for captions and to enlarge photos.
Last weekend, I had suggested to Hubby that we run up to our cabin this weekend to check things out after this cold snap we've had. Hubby, always the smarty, asked me on Tuesday if I might consider going up on Friday night instead ... panic ... deep breath ... a few details later, and I acquiesced. Which means of course, that there will be no barn visit on Friday or Saturday either. And for that matter, no blog posts until Monday.
It's okay. I will survive, you will survive, and my ponies will survive. The good news is that Monday is a holiday. That's one schedule change that never makes me panic!
And now for a second glass ... Cheers!
Yesterday was my birthday, and while I am not fond of my birthday, it was quite a good day. Hubby knows that the best gift is to encourage me to spend all day with my ponies, which is exactly what I did!
Once it warmed up a bit, I loaded my barn bag with a snack and a plan to stay until late afternoon. I started off by riding Sydney which was a bit of a disappointment. Since it was my birthday, I was hoping
for a nice, obedient ride. He was lovely the day before, but as soon as I started grooming I knew he wasn't in the mood. Too bad. The neighbor was loading firewood, the gardener was mowing, JL was giving a lesson up the street, and on and on. Again, too bad
After one lap around the arena, I knew the ride wasn't going to work unless I did something different so I grabbed the lunge line and set to work. Eventually Sydney realized that my way was probably the better choice. I hopped up but didn't get anything even close to relaxation. No biggie. I had him do lots of bending with LOTS of leg and before too long he finally let go through his withers and neck and gave me some softness. Happy birthday to me!
Next, on my day at the barn, was an hour or two down at JL's to watch Cha Ching and his mom take a jumping lesson. Watching JL give a lesson is a lot like getting a lesson for free. Since Cha Ching's Mom and I are such good friends, I feel comfortable in the arena resetting poles, asking questions, and simply being part
of the lesson. After the ride, we spent the better part of an hour just hanging out sharing meeting our honey
stories. Being with friends on your birthday is a real gift.
Cha Ching was staying at our barn for the night so I walked them down and helped get him situated in a stall. Speedy was up next on the list. We had a nice ride where we continued the walk to canter transitions as well as some canter lengthenings. And then, since Sydney hadn't been at his best earlier, I saddled him up for another
ride. He was much more relaxed for the second go round. While I was saddling Sydney, my BO gave me a very special birthday gift
in the form of lovely, lovely comment about my character.
By the time I got home, I was pretty thoroughly awash in birthday goodness, but ready for a birthday dinner with my hubby. Before dinner, flowers were delivered (he's an AWESOME guy) and so was the gift from my mom. As soon as I saw the delivery box, I knew what it was for there emblazoned on the side for all to see was the word Stübben
. Oh, what a lucky girl am I!
My mom had sent me the bridle that was on my Dear Santa
Before we left for the restaurant, I opened the gift from my dad and stepmom, a lovely little wooden box with a galloping horse inlaid across the top. Hidden inside (tricky, tricky) was a very generous gift card. Hubby's gift was a new pair of breeches (and the movie Magic Mike
- can't wait to finally see it!). He thinks those kind of gifts are just "eh
," but ooh la la - I LOVE new breeches!
We finally made it to dinner, one of my favorite restaurants, followed by my birthday pie
at home. I am not a big cake fan, but I adore coconut cream pie! Just before bed, I snuck into the kitchen and filled up quite a scrap of paper to add to THE JAR
All in all? One of the best birthdays I've ever had!
Quite a haul!