I can finally see it. Over the last month, I have had a number of people tell me how much more like a dressage horse Speedy now looks. I just couldn't see it. Until now.
This first picture cracks me up. Look at how scrawny his neck is! And his butt is so bony and thin! And he has a pot belly!!!!!
Warm up walk at our very first show in 2010
Warm up walk in 2013
The biggest difference I see in his trot work is the size of his butt! He also looks stronger in his back and withers.
Trotting in 2010
Trotting in 2013
I know this isn't a fair picture of his canter work back in 2011, but it does demonstrate what every canter departure looked like: he either launched into it or bucked and kicked.
Cantering in 2011
Cantering in 2013
It's been very, very hard watching others score better and move up through the levels faster. I've been dealing with the green-eyed monster of late. I've refrained from mentioning it before because jealousy serves no purpose. Now that I can actually see that we have indeed made progress, however slowly, I feel proud of the influence I've had on Speedy's body and brain. We are making progress even if it is not at the same rate as everyone else.
I definitely owe a big thank you to my trainer. I am so glad that she embraces the ideals of correct work. Our solid foundation will definitely pay off as we move up!
I was quite lucky to have so many acquaintances and friends at Saturday's show; several took photos of my rides and sent them to me. Not only did I get video from Hubby, but I also got a variety of still shots which have really helped me to analyze my body position.
Hit Play or arrow through the photos.
I am no photographer, but Instagram does make it easy to beef up plain photos! After hosing Sydney off this weekend, I grabbed my phone and shot a couple of pictures while he dried in the sun. He is shiny, but Instagram gave him a little extra sparkle!
He has filled out very nicely over the past two (nearly) years.
I love how his veins are visible while his ribs are not!
He was supposed to be grazing, but while my back was turned he came into the feed area and helped himself. Maybe this is why his ribs aren't visible.
I went to bed on Saturday night feeling excited about Sunday's rides. We are definitely improving; it might not be by much, but we are certainly headed in the right direction. Last year, we had the occasional 4, a slew of 5s, a few 6s, and if we were lucky, a 7. This season, I am not seeing the 4s, the 5s are appearing less and less, and we're bumping those 6s to 6.5, 7, and even the occasional 8.
There was a scheduling change made after the original ride times were posted. My Saturday ride times were changed slightly, which was no big deal; the changes in the times doesn't throw me. Before I went to bed on Saturday night, I decided to run back down to the show office to confirm my ride times for Sunday. A quick glance revealed that I had been scheduled to ride at 1:56 and 2:00 in two different arenas. Well that certainly wasn't going to work.
Early Sunday morning, I returned to the show office to reschedule with the show secretary. I lucked out by getting an abandoned time from a scratched rider, 11:34 a.m. This worked out well since Speedy grouses about riding both tests back-to-back. The only unusual aspect, for me anyway, was that I was going to ride Test 3 first. I was looking forward to this opportunity as I usually score lower on the second test. This would give me the chance to see if it is because it is a harder test or if it is because Speedy just grumbles about working twice in a day.Chemaine Hurtado
, a local trainer that I have met several times before, had her horses stabled near Speedy G. Having met her and her clients before, I spent some time visiting with them and talking about riding the tests as an FEI level rider; Chemaine is quite accomplished. Not only is she a very talented rider, but she is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet (as are her clients and students).
As we were watching other horses warm up and school, I took a chance and asked her how I might fix the "head tilt" thing as well as what she thought I might try to get Speedy straighter and off my inside leg. She very kindly talked me through a few suggestions. She explained the head tilt (left hand is stiff while right hand is following) and suggested I open my outside rein when I need him to move his shoulder out.
As I warmed up, I kept Chemaine's words in mind. Opening the outside rein was immediately helpful. I also focused on keeping a more even feel in my contact. While I am still not even in my contact, I know it improved just by being aware of what I was doing.
I loved riding Test 3; it was fun, and I felt a new sense of balance. Our scores were very good. We did score a 5.5 for the right lead canter and a 5.5 for the stretchy trot, but all the other scores improved. We earned FIVE 7s for the directives, two 6.5s, and four 6s. That means that seven of the thirteen scores were 6.5 or higher. Even better, eleven of the thirteen scores were 6s and above!
Even though we didn't win the class, I was elated! Eliminating the 4s and 5s made me feel quite successful. Here are a few photos of Training Level Test 3.
My hands look even.
I really like this picture. I love the El Sueno barn in the background.
Right hand too high ...
I like the muscling across his hind end!
He looks softer in the jaw here ...
Coming down centerline ...
HIgher than the day before!
I was so excited to see all of those 7s!
The judge noticed the things I worked on!
I had an hour between the two tests on Saturday. I walked Speedy back to his stall, pulled his bridle, but left him saddled. I hoped that he would rest a bit, snack a bit, and even drink a bit. In the meantime I zipped back to the show office in hopes that my Test 2 score would be posted so that I could fix anything obvious that the judge hadn’t liked. And even though I waited until the last possible second, the scores didn’t get posted. With the clock ticking, I figured that I had done my best anyway and would do the same for Test 3.
Speedy is not a big fan of two tests in a single day which drives me nuts as he has completed 50 endurance miles in a single day on more than one occasion. Seriously, Dude, how hard can 6 minutes of walk/trot/canter be? Apparently, it is quite demanding because Speedy reminds me of the fact each time I try to head to the warm up for a second time in a day.
If I’ve learned that my first warm up needs to be brief, I’ve also learned that warm up number two better just be a drive by. The warm up for Saturday was in Sunday’s Ring Two, which had a great alley around the court. That was our warm up – a lap around the outside of the court with a trot down the long side. And even that small amount of work earned a harrumph from the not-so-speedy pony.
Training Level Test 3 seems easier than Test 2 in several respects. It’s shorter, for one. Test 2 has 16 movements while Test 3 has a puny 13. Test 3 has no 20-meter trot circles or the long trot across the diagonal. Instead, there are the two one-loop trots from C to A which I find easier than the 20-meter trot circle. And yet, while the test feels easier, we tend to score lower.
While we had a very satisfactory score, 61.200%, we weren’t nearly as consistent as we were at Test 2. We earned a 5 for the stretchy trot (darn!), four 5.5s, and again no 4s. We had three 7s on the directives, another 7 for gaits, and even a 7.5 for our medium walk. The rest of the test was filled in with a few 6s and one 6.5.
And again, there are actually a few photos to prove that we really did ride! Watch for the raised right hand and the head tilt.
HIs front end is somewhat lifted, but there's the head tilt and raised right hand.
More seriousness ...
My hands are even, but he was heavy! Can you see how he wants to tilt his nose to the outside?
I like his reach. Darn that right hand! We need to work on the gaping mouth. I have since dropped my bit a hole hoping it might help.
If you’re a Facebook friend, you already know how we scored on Saturday, so to bring everyone up to speed, I scored 63.214% at Training Level Test 2, and 61.200% at Training Level Test 3. This was a CDS/USDF/USEF show with a judge who seemed very equitable in her scoring. None of the scores seemed overly high, or painfully low. So yah for Team Speedy!
Those scores mean that I have completed the necessary requirements for the USDF Training Level Rider Performance Award which requires four scores at or above 60% from four different judges. We’re now also qualified for the California Dressage Society’s Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) which will be held at El Sueno this summer. RAAC requires three scores over 60% from two different judges. I was thrilled to see those two above 60% scores posted!
Both of my rides were rather late in the day (2:27 and 3:37) which meant that I had plenty of time to watch other riders complete their tests as well as visit with some of the riders that I have met at previous shows. I’ve learned to take it easy at two-day shows. There is no reason to rush, and there is a lot to learn by watching more experienced riders.
Quick interrupt: I am writing this at the show. Some neighbors, who are also camping, had some trouble with their microwave and were looking at a very cold supper. They took a chance that I might be friendly and tapped at my door. I am so glad they did, as I was thrilled to be able to “pay it forward” by heating up their dinner for them. So many people let me camp with them, use their showers, or stay in their trailers when I was starting out in endurance. It was great to help this pair out!
I have learned that Speedy doesn’t need much of a warm up, and if I do warm up too long, he gets resentful and cranky, so I kept it to a minimum. I walked him for 5 minutes, did a little trot work, and asked for one or two canter transitions. We were done in 12 minutes. I hadn’t planned on the warm up being that quick, but I knew better than to ask for any more. Even though we had 15 minutes to wait, I chat with the ring steward, walked a bit more, and then walked over to the dressage court to wait my turn.
It wasn’t a perfect test by any stretch, but I knew it was good for us. There were no obvious mistakes, and no moments where I felt we had really blown it. The stretchy trot, our long time nemesis, wasn’t great, but there was at least something resembling a stretch. The judge rewarded Speedy’s effort with a 6. We had no 4s on the test, and the lowest mark was a single 5.5 for our left lead canter. He picked up the correct lead and felt prompt, but he resisted the inside bend. We earned four 7s for the directives (count ‘em!), and a 7 for gaits. Everything else was a 6 or 6.5. Not too shabby.
You knew there had to be one. No one who has read this blog would think that I’d be satisfied with just reporting the good; there is always something to be learned. I screwed up my courage and asked a rider that I know if she’d be willing to take a few photos of our ride. The photos revealed a few unpleasant things that I need to fix. The judge commented a few times that Speedy’s head tilts and that my hands were sometimes too high. The photos confirmed this. She also dinged me for his head wagging. This is definitely something that I need to work on once we’re back at home. It’s completely my fault for sure. I do not have a good feel for even contact. If I ask on the inside, I drop the outside and vice versa, which creates a head wag. Several photos reveal that my right hand is higher than my left, which would definitely explain the head tilt.
So thanks to Jen, here are some photos of out first ride.
Enter and halt
We both look so serious!
A bit of a woohoo moment
Some potential for lengthening?
Ticked at me, but he's lifting his front end ...
Coming down centerline for a halt
Loves those 7s
Our scores at Training Level Test 2 were all very close!
It's hard to get a picture of all of us together: Hubby, me, the dog, and the horses. It's usually only two of us at a time.
During my Spring Vacation, Hubby surprised me with a barn visit. He brought Tobias with him and asked if I'd show them the way to the river so that Tobi could swim and play. Our only access to the river from the barn requires trekking across private property so I agreed to take them down there.
Hubby leashed up Tobi, and I threw on my helmet and hopped up on Speedy bareback with a halter. It is really great to have such a dependable pony. He hasn't always been that reliable of course, but it was fun to walk down the trail feeling relaxed and "safe."
I was really pleased with how calm he was about the dog as dogs haven't always been his best trail allies. But Tobi is well behaved, especially for an adolescent Labrador Retriever, and they both minded their manners.
When we got to the river, I (wisely) hopped off while Hubby unleashed Tobi. He threw a stick for Tobi, who bounded through the water, happy as a clam. Speedy, of course, blew wildly and flipped his tail over his back as Tobi careened around the beach and through the water. I just held the reins loosely and let Speedy act the Wild-Child. Tobias enjoyed himself immensely, and I think Speedy actually enjoyed showing off!
While Hubby put Tobi back on the leash, I found an embankment and hopped back on. We walked back to the barn along a different path and both boys, pony and dog, heeled like perfect gentlemen. Just before we got back, we saw one of my barn owners out on the path taking a few snapshots of our little family. What a great surprise!
Hubby and Tobias and me on Speedy G
The show went well ... specifics later. For now, a quick post with just photos of the drive, the grounds, and the show schedule with scores.
Hover over picture and either hit Play, or Arrow through.
After that marathon post from yesterday, I figured we could all use a break so this is just a looky-lou post. Okay, some reading might be necessary. Either hit the play button, or arrow through the pictures.
I really dislike having my picture taken. No matter how hard I try, which is probably the real problem, I end up looking really cranky. Or disgusted. Or just plain mad. I try to smile, but it's rare that I come across looking happy to be there. When Lori Ovanessian offered to do a photo shoot with my horses, I hesitated for only a moment. The possibility of getting a good one of them was more than I could resist.
Lori and I set a date, rain threatened, of course, so we postponed for the next day. Secretly I was relieved because I was certain appointment number two would fall through, and I wouldn't have to spend any time in front of the camera after all. But no, the day was dry and cloudy which is apparently excellent for shooting photos.
Lori's directions were to wear something nice and bring a set of riding clothes. Something nice? Has she never met me? I am not much of a dresser-upper; I am much more of a jeans and sweater kind of gal. Worried that she would be disappointed, I went the jeans and sweater route anyway and hoped for the best. As a bit of a compromise, I did add a pretty scarf and jewelry. Lori took a look at my wardrobe and seemed satisfied with my choice of colors.
We walked around the property scoping out good locations for the types of photos that Lori wanted to try. As we walked, she adjusted her camera's many settings to ensure the correct amount of lighting would enter the lend and so on. My confidence grew as we talked. She knew what she was doing.
We spent some time first in the arena using the white fencing and green background. From the first shutter click, Speedy was game on! I can never get him to stand still for photos. For Lori, he posed for over an hour, and I don't mean just a little bit, he truly posed! His ears were ALWAYS up and he either looked directly at the camera, or gave a lovely silhouette as if to say, this side, or this side? Lori giggled at him more than once. I know how charismatic he is, but it was really nice to see someone else appreciate his personality.
We ultimately used a number of locations for the photos, but my favorites were the action shots. Lori asked if someday she could come back and shoot him at liberty doing his "Arabian thing." I suggested we do it right then. Speedy and I play some fun games out in the arena, and I suspected that he would be up for it that day. You can see for yourself.
Click play to start.
There were many more ... these were just my favorites!