You might remember that we were gone last week on vacation. Who knew San Diego could get so hot? Our plan was to leave the valley's heat and chill out on California's coast. Nope. The whole week was in the upper 70s with 79% humidity. Even so, we had a great time.
If you ever visit California, I'd recommend a stay in San Diego. While I was there one time while in college, I stayed with a friend and didn't really see much besides La Jolla. This time I was there as a "tourist," and I was delighted with the city. It was clean, pedestrian friendly, and quite charming. The restaurants were amazing, and there was no end of things to do. I am not surprised though; California's just a great state!
It got really hot again this week. We had 28 days of triple digit high temperatures in July and at least 15 in June, so it's not like it hasn't been hot. It's just that it suddenly got hotter. We're driving to the Ventura area for lessons with Chemaine Hurtado today even though they're poised for record heat too. Knowing that today was going to be a long one, I opted to hop on Speedy bareback yesterday with just a halter.
As I was hunting for his riding halter, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd ridden him bareback. It must have been at least six months. He's always such a good boy, but I wondered how good he'd be this time.
I shouldn't have even given it a second thought. As I hopped up, a big smile hit my face. I had forgotten how broad and sturdy his back is. I settled in and enjoyed the feeling of his muscles rippling around beneath my seat.
I also realized that my bareback seat could use some work. I thought about doing some trotting and cantering out in the nearby field, but doubted my security. It wasn't that long ago that I felt comfortable popping over small logs bareback.
Once I go back to work in the next week or so, I'll be forced to ride in the hot afternoons again. Those are perfect bareback days. I am sure I'll be popping over those logs in no time!
While we still earned a blue ribbon, and in a larger class no less, this test didn't ride as well as the first one. Part of that is due to my riding ability. I am doing the best I can, but this test is just hard. Most of why we weren't as sparkly though was because it was freakin hot. Like gasping for breath and thinking about scratching hot. Even the judge was starting to wilt.
Halfway through the first test, I truly thought I would need to scratch Test 3; I was having trouble focusing. I am not a quitter though, and I really hate wasting money. Instead, I took Speedy down to the trailer where we both got a good drink. He looked better than I felt, so I figured we'd just crank it out and see what we got.
I didn't even take him to the warm up for our second test; it was just too hot, and I worried I'd have no horse left. Instead, we did some quick transitions within the trot as we waited for the bell. As soon as I turned down centerline, I knew it was going to be a lackluster performance. Speedy was behind my leg and curling. I was so hot myself that I just urged him forward as much as I could.
I know this judge wasn't giving any points away, but I do think his scores took the heat into account. When we cantered at C, Speedy got a wee bit sassy and even considered throwing in a buck. I think he realized it was just too danged hot for any shenanigans and decided cantering was just easier. The judge gifted us a 6.5 and even called it "prompt."
I really hate this test and look forward to moving on to Second Level just to not have to ride this thing anymore. Even though it was hot, our scores improved for the canter work which comes during the second half of the test. I can assure you it wasn't because I got a second wind.
The first part is just hard with the leg yield to X and then back to the rail. Then there is the stretchy trot and the 10-meter trot circles. It's a lot of bending and lateral work for the first part of a test. All of the canter work at the end flows much better.
Since this is the test that I'll be riding for RAAC in two weeks, I need to try and eke out a few more points. Our canter work is okay, but if I can get him a bit more balanced and pushing from behind, we might get some 7.0s. It's the leg yields and 10-meter trot circles that I need to focus on this week.
I think we can also work on that halt!
There was video by the way, but my videographer made a small error. You can probably see it better on a mobile device!
The day before we left for San Diego, I attended TMC's Mid-Summer dressage show. While it was only CDS rated, the scores count for a variety of CDS awards and programs. Besides that, I am attempting to earn TMC's year-end high score award. As of right now, I think I'm in third place, but there's still one show to go.
We weren't brilliant or anything, but we got the job done. We earned a 64.063% which was good enough for first place. While I am always looking to improve my scores from one show to the next, I try to look at my score in relation to the rest of the scores posted that day. The average score for the adult amateurs was only 58% which makes my 64% seem relatively high.
After watching the video, I suspect I am probably riding First Level about as well as I can. I've been focusing on getting a bend and adding leg which is helping me earn another point or two for each movement. The score sheet is filled with 6.5s and 7.0s which tells me I am on the right track.
Unfortunately, I did make a mistake that probably cost me as many as three points. I was thinking ... sit, sit, sit, as we were developing the working canter in preparation for the downward to trot. Apparently my work on the half halt has really paid off because Speedy SAT at C instead of at M. The judge gave me a 4.0 with the comment, "lost canter." We typically score a 6.5 or a 7.0 for our canter to trot transitions so that cost me nearly a full percentage point.
To the good, there was more that I liked about the test than I didn't. We're getting some lengthenings, both at the trot and canter, and our 15-meter canter circles (7s for both) are definitely proving to be a strong point.
I was also quite pleased with how well Speedy picked up the right lead canter (7.0). Going from left to right is easier than going from right to left (in Test 3). That's something we're definitely going to be working on this week.
The judge's further remarks hit the nail on the head.
Our next show is in two weeks - the California Dressage Society's Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC). It's a fun show, but it's really competitive as everyone has to qualify to enter. We've won at our level twice (Introductory and Training). I don't ever expect to win, but I would sure like to do well.
With a few more points here and there and no silly mistakes on my part, we might do okay! Test 3 tomorrow.
We are on our way to San Diego for a week. It's not the two weeks we normally take, but since we bought a new house in October, we're a little poorer this year.
No matter. We've got a pretty nice week planned. We have tickets to see the Padres play the Mets on Tuesday. I am not a baseball fan, but I always enjoy going to a game.
We also have box seats at Del Mar on Thursday for some live Thoroughbred racing. We go to Santa Anita at least once a year and have been to the Breeders' Cup twice. We thought it would be fun to check out a different track.
We're staying in the Gaslamp Quarter the first two nights, mostly because getting to the baseball stadium can be a bit tricky. Just like in any big city, parking can be a problem in San Diego, so it seemed easier to find a room within walking distance of the stadium.
It seems weird to move hotels while in one city, but we are. After two nights in the Gaslamp Quarters, we're moving to a hotel near the beaches of Del Mar. This will also be more convenient for getting to the track, too.
We would also like to take a tour of the SS Midway. I've heard great things about the ship and the things that you can see while there.
There are a million things to do in San Diego. I am not sure what else we'll find to do, but for this trip, we're happy to just play it by ear, mostly. See you next week!
Izzy has waffled between too much forward and not enough. In other words, he evaded by bolting (too much forward) or balking (not enough). It's taken me a while to work through both issues.
I've been pretty frustrated with him this summer. I've come very close to putting him up for sale, but deep down, I KNOW this horse has huge potential. I am just not ready to quit. When I think about selling him, I always imagine it would be to a stronger, more knowledgeable rider.
That got me thinking. It's not Izzy. There's nothing wrong with him. It's really just me; I need to be a better, stronger rider. As I saddled up on Wednesday, I started asking myself what would a better rider do? All of a sudden, I remembered that super controversial interview with Katie Prudent. She said something that really resonated with me.
see if you can take that animal and get him to do what you want to do.
I decided to take her advice and see if I could get him to do what I wanted. I wasn't going to force him necessarily, but I was going to quite accepting no for an answer.
I started out with the shoulder in exercises that Chemaine showed me last week. But instead of asking him if he wanted to bend his neck, I took hold of the inside rein and did a shoulder in. And I didn't let him out of it until he softened to the inside rein.
And it worked. All of a sudden, I had some bend and he wasn't bracing against the rein. We walked all over the arena changing the bend from right to left. When I felt that he was supple enough at the walk, we did it at the trot. When he said no to the bend, I insisted with added leg.
And he did it.
Then I asked for the canter. He picked it up grudgingly, but then he said no. He balked. He tightened his back and threw up his head, and cried about how he simply couldn't. I realized right then and there that a stronger, better rider would realize that the correct thing to ask for was more FORWARD. And I did.
I cowgirled up and kicked the crap out of him. He grunted and tucked his butt and pinned his ears, but with enough kicking, he shot forward. It dawned on me that softness or bend don't matter if he won't go forward. I quit caring what he looked like or even which lead he was on. The second he hesitated, I kicked the crap out of him again. And again. And again. And again.
There were two spots in the arena that he just didn't want to canter past. I was relentless though. I growled, and kicked, and made a lot of noise when he even thought about slowing down. Within a very short time, his neck softened up, and started to ask if he could stretch a little in the canter.
I am sure all of our problems weren't solved by a little kicking and yelling, but it sure did a lot for my confidence. The scales are tipping in my favor, if ever so slowly. I got his number this time, and that always helps!
It's official: I now wear Noble Outfitters Over the Calf Peddies exclusively. I know it sounds super choosy, but I am tired of my toes popping through the ends of every other brand of sock.
My toenails are kept short for those of you doubting my foot hygiene. I even get regular pedicures. If my toenails need to be trimmed, I am down at my local salon the very next day. No, it is not my toenails ruining my socks.
I have given every major sock brand a thorough try, but none of them stand up to the durability of the Noble Outfitters brand. I hated the Ovation Zocks as soon as I slipped them on. They're as thin as pantyhose; my boots aren't that snug. Why even bother wearing them?
The Horseware socks also left me feeling meh. They're cute, but I started seeing holes appear after just a few outings. The same thing happened with the Ariats. They're too short for starters, and they don't hold their shape. I was certain the Under Armour socks would be The One. They have a nice compression band around the arch of the foot, but the calf was so snug that it sort of hurt to put them on.
My Peddies however, why they just keep on wearing. I still have my very first pair, and guess what? They don't have holes in the toes! The calves don't hurt, they're tall, and they come in cute colors. In fact, I am having a hard time wearing them out.
My very first pair, the solid purple ones tucked in the back, have started to sag, but only in my mucks boots and never in my tall boots. And when they do sag, it's only to the top of my boot, and it never includes the foot. That part stays put. None of the other older pairs sag though, so I am hoping that pair was just different.
For me, the Peddies check off all of my boxes: they have a cushy foot, a tall, thin calf, and they come in nice colors. Best of all, my toes don't poke through the end. I now have seven pairs, enough to ride in all week long.
So now, anytime I place an order and need to meet the shipping threshold, I toss in a bottle of fly spray AND a pair of Peddies. You just can't have too many pairs of socks!
Things have been going pretty well with Izzy. We're still not ready to show, but he's learning, and I am learning. That makes it a win in my book.
I mentioned a week or so ago that I had started experimenting with the Myler bit that is US Equestrian legal. Dale Myler suggested I try the bit out once a week. I popped the bit on and had a fantastic ride. I used it again the next day, but I had to put Izzy in the round pen for a while when he forgot that I was up there. We then had a pretty good ride. The third day I used the bit, all hell broke loose, and I realized I was on a version of Izzy that I didn't want to ride.
I took him back to the barn, swapped out the legal bit, and replaced it with the old one. It took about 25 minutes to remind him of the rules, and then we spent another 20 minutes working. I've decided that Mr. Myler's suggestion of once a week was probably a good idea. I got greedy. I am now going to try it every tenth ride. Once a week is too frequent.
For last week's lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, I opted to use the non-legal bit since I knew I would need more control away from home. She agreed.
My biggest issues with Izzy are now solely about relaxation and accepting the contact. This might sound like no progress, but it actually is. When Chemaine saw Izzy last March, we were still fighting the jackassery moments. My goal back then was to be through with all of that for our next lesson. Mission accomplished!
Izzy was still tense of course, and he craned his neck to keep an eye on Speedy, but he went where I told him without any shenanigans. Right away, Chemaine had two new exercises to help get him to soften off the rein. In the first, she had me do a turn on the forehand where he turned in the direction of the bend.
From a right bend, I pushed his haunches in to make a comma or banana shape. I firmed up my inside rein, and pushed his haunches into the bend while minimizing his forward steps. The purpose of the exercise is to push his haunches until he learns to soften and accept the inside rein.
The second exercise was a variation of the first. Once he was giving to the inside rein, we picked up a trot and asked for more or less the same thing. As I bent him to the outside, Chemaine directed me to turn my shoulders to the outside. Then I slowly turned my shoulders back to the inside. As I moved my shoulders, I directed Izzy to do the same thing.
In the final exercise, we put it all together. Starting from A, I rode Izzy in a shoulder in and then turned across the diagonal maintaining that bend. As we neared X, I started to straighten my shoulders while asking him to do the same. As we approached S, I asked for a new shoulder in while making sure my shoulders were also turned. We rode the short side in shoulder in and repeated the exercise across the other diagonal.
In no time at all, Izzy was concentrating very hard on his job and forgot that he was worried and anxious about Speedy's whereabouts. He started flicking his ears my way and never even thought about bolting or exiting the arena.
We ultimately moved on to the canter work which was the best he's ever given me. Sorry, no video as we ran out of storage. What the exercises showed me was that I really need to focus on where Izzy's shoulders are. It's the same issue I have with Speedy.
I've ridden him at home a few times now since the lesson. We're not "there" yet, but I am riding him with a different feel now. I can tell when he's falling in or out on his shoulders. I've noticed that I need to be careful not to get him too over-bent as well. Sometimes he's actually right between my aids, so I need to recognize that.
We definitely need a follow up lesson for sure. In the meantime, I'll keep chipping away at it and see where we end up.
This post is really for my good friend, Jill, who has a few broken things of her own. Good thing her brother is an orthopedic surgeon. And yes, a horse did it. Her toes have been straightened, and she's now sporting a pretty hefty cast, but she'll be good as new in no time (or, I am fine to ride right now! if you ask any couch bound equestrian).
My broken things are much easier to fix than Jill's toes, so I've been asking myself why they are still broken. Specimen number one has been missing a tine for years. I refuse to replace it because I'd just break the new one, and it would probably be in the same spot!
The next broken item, my dressage whip, did get replaced, but then it wore out, too. The only reason I bought a new one to replace it was because I was too embarrassed to take either one of those crappy things to the Hilda Gurney Clinic that I did in May. The one on the right is Izzy's. Speedy got the new one. I keep the one on the left in case I am ever in need of a crop.
I need to find a new style of dressage boots for Izzy. While not exactly broken, these boots have certainly seen better days. I need a pair that can be hosed off daily, but I want them to still look like dressage boots, not endurance boots. Anyone have a suggestion?
As much as it pained me, I did replace my Roeckls. In fact, they're sitting on my desk right next to me as I type. Did they just arrive last night? Why no, they did not. So why are they still sitting on my desk instead of being shoved into my helmet ready to be worn? They're just so pretty and clean that I hate to get them dirty. I am waiting for at least one more hole to appear in my old pair. It would be even better if I could get a finger blow out.
And finally, I present my fifth and last broken thing (not that I don't have more used up stuff crammed into bins and totes in my tack room, but these are the five that I use most often). It's silly, but I just can't part with this blue hoof pick. It has been my favorite for a very long time. Years and years.
It was only recently that I started pondering it's inefficiency. I was puzzled as to why it wouldn't dig down into the frog groove very well. I finally stopped and looked at it and realized that I've had it for so long that I have literally worn it down to a nub! I dug out a new one that I've had stored, but I don't like how the brush rubs me while I use it. I am now on the hunt for more like the blue one.
It's funny how I'll pay almost any amount of money to keep my horses in good health, but I balk at replacing stuff that is still serviceable. I am pretty sure I'm not the only one that hangs on to stuff that has seen better days. My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, shared this over the weekend.
She was at a show, too. She held them together with her spur strap and the snap at the top. Since Jill has already had her broken things fixed, maybe some of us need to have a Replace Our Broken Stuff Day!
I already mentioned that my last lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was a marathon of a day. Getting two lessons in a single day is such a luxury though. I was able to work on one thing with Speedy, and then carry it over to my work with Izzy. And as luck would have it, we worked on the same issue with both boys: a drifting shoulder.
Speedy's a well broke pony these days. He knows what he's supposed to be doing and offers very little complaint. It's nice to actually work on the quality of a movement rather than just trying to stay on and in the ring!
Over the past few months, Speedy has learned that he has a rear engine and can push - yah! for some impulsion. Using his engine is also fixing the curling problem. When I get his butt in gear, he keeps his poll up.
For this lesson, we were able to tackle new and different things, primarily getting better bend by controlling his shoulders. Speedy loves to fall out on his right shoulder. It's not such a big deal when we're tracking left, but when I want to do a change of lead or track right, it's a different story.
I have a confession. Usually I take great mental notes and am able to convey what Chemaine taught in the lesson. This time, I was feeling pretty puny from a stomach flu. I am bummed that I can't really articulate what we did because the feeling that she helped me achieve was pretty awesome.
I have another round of lessons in a few weeks, so I am not too worried about not being able to remember every detail of this lesson. The one big take away I had was to not focus on getting him to let go of the rein, but to think instead of how to get him on the other rein.
When we track right, especially at the canter, Speedy gets really heavy on the inside right rein. Instead of thinking, LET GO, DAMMIT!, which hasn't been too effective, Chemaine had me flex him to the inside while at the same time opening the outside left rein to draw his shoulder out.
To the left, I kind of did the opposite. I took that outside rein and pushed his shoulder in by counter flexing him slightly. By moving his shoulders around, I was able to get a much better outside rein connection. Once he was more solidly on my outside rein, he was able to sit. Almost immediately, the walk to canter to walk transitions improved.
We have a show before our next lesson, but I think even the parts I can remember about this lesson will help our scores improve.