No pressure or anything.
I know I already "debuted" at Second Level, but that was at a CDS-rated show. This time, it's the real deal, a USDF show. Not to disparage the CDS show; my GMO is huge, and the two qualifying scores I earned count toward a lot of great programs (Regional show, Ruby Award, Rosettes, Championships). My scores didn't count for the Second Level Rider Performance Award or a Bronze Medal though; both things I would like to earn someday.
Earlier in the week, I dragged out my clippers to tidy up Speedy's bridle path and fetlocks. When I opened my braiding box, where I store my clippers, I realized it was really gross inside. Some hair gel had spilled, braiding bands were in little dusty piles, and they whole thing was filled with dirt and loose hair.
I dumped everything out and and gave the inside of the box a quick wipe. Then I proceeded to throw out anything that was empty, cracked, broken, or otherwise useless.
Then I repacked everything. I don't think I have ever cleaned this box out. I bought it six years ago; it was time.
Of course, after that was done, I looked up and saw my bandaging box. That too got a "going through."
In for a penny, in for a pound. By that time, I was in full on organize everything mode. Next up was my med kit.
And since I couldn't have stopped even had I wanted to, I tackled my bottles and jars of OTC stuff.
Then I had a crack at my shampoos and conditioners. For someone who doesn't do a lot of grooming, I have way too many types of mane and tail products. By the time that was all done, my side of the tack room started to feel pretty clean and organized. When I stepped back to admire my work, I was disappointed to see that it didn't look any better. It's all still just crammed in there.
After I was done, I realized that I was just blowing off nervous energy. Instead of feeling worried and anxious about the show, I was actually really excited. I feel better prepared than I did last month, and we're going to a venue that Speedy knows well.
My Saturday times are really good - not too early, and not too late. I wish they were closer together though. I hate to make Speedy stand saddled for all that time. Keeping him tacked up lets him know he's not done for the day though. He can get resentful if I take him back out when he thinks he's finished.
My Sunday times are great - first thing in the morning. Since I camp on the grounds, I'll be there anyway. And since I ride so early, I'll be able to hit the road sooner (it's a two and a half hour drive) which means I'll get home in time to unpack the trailer and make it home with part of the day still intact.
One last thought: the show drew more riders than anticipated which means there are two rings and two judges. I get to ride for both judges which means I get more opportunities to earn scores for Championships and the Second Level Rider Performance Award - scores need to be from four different judges. This show could get me halfway there.
No pressure or anything.
I haven't used Izzy's RPSI name in a long time. I almost forgot what it was. It came up while I was reading an article about what makes a warmblood a warmblood. I was digging through his pedigree and was reminded that his sire line is filled with stallions whose names begin with the letter I. Inbegriff (his sire - Oldenburg), Ideal (grandsire - Oldenburg), Inschallah (Anglo Arabian), and Israel (Anglo Arabian).
No matter how hard I search, I can't find a photo of Izzy's sire, Inbegriff. If you spot one, please share the link!
Imperioso ... It doesn't roll off my tongue with any familiarity. It's a very regal name; maybe I need to start slinging it around now and again.
I am terrible about taking conformation photos. I either forget, or I take such bad photos that I am embarrassed to share them. Somehow, my boys always come out looking like lunkheads even though they're both pretty handsome fellows.
When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here two weeks ago, she nodded appreciatively at Izzy's developing topline. His neck is getting rounder and the bulge under his neck is getting smaller. She liked how his body was shaping up.
While I don't take many saddleless photos, Izzy's breeder/first owner did. Over the weekend, I started to dig through the pictures that she gave me just to see if I could see any appreciable differences in how his body is shaping up. The verdict? Not really. I see him too often to recognize the changes in his body.
His head looks nearly identical as when he was a toddler, and his color is nearly exactly the same. He's certainly got a badonkadonk; that thing goes on for days. I bought him as a six-year-old, so his growth was mostly done, but now he looks more mature and powerful. I am not sure I see any of his relatives lurking in his bone structure, but I think Noemi did good.
Upon closer inspection though, that hind end does look like it might have come from Inschallah. Love me a good booty!
I am probably falsely optimistic here, but I feel like I somehow just made Second Level my B*tch. All of a sudden, the level doesn't intimidate me any more. Don't worry, we're not jumping to Third any time soon, but I am starting to actually enjoy Second Level. What the heck?
I mentioned this already, but Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here for a clinic two weekends ago. Rather than have everyone travel to my barn, which is on the far east side of town, we all met at Amy's house; I was the only one who had to really "travel." While her dressage court is a teensy bit short, it's 20-meters wide and marked with letters. Swoon!
Right now, I really need a court to help me with the serpentines at Second Level. I told Chemaine that the counter canter was my priority for the day. By the way, I had tons of great pictures, but I accidentally deleted them before I downloaded them to my laptop. Grrrr....
Pictures or no, we covered a lot of little things that have really helped smooth out the rough edges. One of the first things we worked on was getting Speedy soft much more quickly. He and I have been duking it out for the first 20 minutes of every ride which then leaves ten minutes for real work.
Chemaine suggested I do the "fighting" at the walk. She had me visualize touching an electric wire - to do so gives you a zap! Instead of tugging and pulling on Speedy, she had me zap him when he got heavy. When he leaned on me, I gave a quick, sharp snap of the reins to say "no, you can't lean on this. GET OFF!" It worked like a charm!
Once Speedy was lighter in the bridle, we got him more in front of my leg. That's been my number one problem at Second Level. When I ask for collection, he breaks gait, particularly at the canter. It also makes the simple changes nearly impossible when he's not in front of my leg.
Most of you know this already, but for those of you who ride the same struggle bus that I do, the more in front of your leg the horse is, the better he can sit into the walk or push off into the canter. To get Speedy thinking forward, we worked on collecting him, but the instant he tried to stutter and lose the canter, I popped him with the whip. That got his hind leg much more active.
The three loop serpentine was next on my list of must conquer. Speedy can hold the counter canter, but I just couldn't get it on the serpentine. Right away Chemaine was able to diagnose the problem; Speedy has the habit of falling on his right shoulder. When tracking right on the right lead, I have to really work that inside rein to get him to let go of it.
For the left lead serpentine, Chemaine had me look at E as we came out of the corner - I had been turning toward K. By turning my shoulder to the new bend, I could then lift Speedy's right shoulder with my right rein, straighten him, and then push his haunches to the left (think renver) to pivot him around my inside leg.
You can see in the video that it took me a few tries to get it right. We've since been riding it at home, and Speedy is getting lighter and lighter. We have a USDF show this weekend. I'm still riding tests one and two which don't have the single loop serpentine, but knowing how to ride Speedy through the counter canter will still help us for the 20-meter half circle.
I can't believe my attitude toward Second Level has changed so quickly, but I am actually looking forward to this show. I feel like we have a better handle on the movements. We might not score well this time, but I am confident we're on the right track!
Judges are like cops; they're never around when you need one. Yesterday I shared a blooper moment. Here's a completely different kind of moment from a few minutes later. Talk about a judge-worthy frame!
I didn't have to "cherry pick" that instant either. I just hit pause and grabbed the screen shot. He didn't start the day looking like that, but it didn't take long to achieve it.
It had been at least seven months since Izzy had been ridden anywhere but home, and he'd only been in the trailer to go to the vet. Even so, he and Speedy loaded up like perfect gentlemen for the 40 minute ride out to Amy's place.
Amy has a beautiful piece of property. The turn out paddocks are nicely laid out, the barn is ample and roomy, and the arena's footing was great. The one draw back is parking. We had to park on the road. Even though she lives on a super quiet "street," I opted to tie my boys in one of her paddocks so that they were always in sight of one another. I didn't trust leaving one out on the road alone while I rode the other.
Even with all of that newness, Izzy never batted an eye. He stood tied while I rode Speedy and when it was his turn, he marched into the arena like he'd been doing it every day. He was a bit tense, but he went right to work.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, told me that my big take away for the day was to now keep thinking forward while I make adjustments to his frame. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but Izzy hasn't been able to handle more leg with more hand. Recently, he seems able to deal with me pushing him forward into the bridle without having a melt down.
We're not "there" yet, but we're really starting to pull it together. Here's a short clip of us schooling some trot to canter to trot transitions. You'll see that at the end he starts to get tense and pop his shoulder. I don't have video of it, but I ultimately got him to settle back down and listen for the correct lead.
He's sure fun to ride!
I mentioned on Friday that I had had a lesson last weekend. It went great, but Izzy did have a "What the WHAT?" moment. And fantastically, it was caught on video. If bloopers are going to happen, I at least want media so that I can watch it in perpetuity.
In case you missed it, here it is frame by frame ...
He's such a funny horse!
You might remember that I recently wrote about suffering from migraines. As of yesterday, I've had some form of a migraine for five straight weeks. To say my quality of life has suffered would be a massive understatement.
Some days, I've had to choose whether to ride for a few minutes, work on that stupid class I am taking, or cook dinner. I absolutely couldn't do more than one. And even choosing one of those things made my migraine worse. I've spent many nights huddled on the floor bawling my eyes out because my head hurt so bad.
I've been keeping a headache journal per the neurologist's recommendation, and Tuesday night was kind of the last straw. I hit a 9.0 on the headache scale - 10.0 is where I truly look for a permanent exit. Had I not been going to see the neurologist early Wednesday morning, we would have gone to the emergency room.
As it was, the neurologist had me admitted anyway. I spent the better part of Wednesday hooked up to various fluids and drugs as my husband hovered in the background alerting the nurse every time the machine beeped out a warning.
I went to work on Thursday mostly headache free, but it's still there hovering slightly. The neurologist doubled my meds, but there have been some side effects already. I see him again in a few weeks.
I tell you this story only to explain why I haven't been able to watch the videos of my lessons with Chemaine Hurtado from last Saturday. I took Izzy off the property and had a BRILLIANT ride on him. He was AMAZING. Not only that, but Speedy and I finally figured out how to ride the three loop serpentine while maintaining the canter lead. That's one of the trickier movements from Second Level Test 3. We've even done it at home without Chemaine coaching me!
So, forgive me if my blog posts get a little weird or if no post appears. I am trying to keep it all together, but it's been challenging. And of course, the whole time I was laying in the ER with needles jabbed in my arm everywhere, all I could think about was the show next weekend.
Migraine or not, I am going!
Please tell me your laundry pile looks like this. Riding wear on the left, normal clothes on the right. Admittedly, last weekend's laundry pile was slightly unusual as I had the week off from work which meant I wasn't wearing work clothes.
Even so, on a normal work week, my non-riding pile isn't very big. In fact, I own more riding clothes than non-riding clothes. Either I need to quit shopping for breeches, or I need to start shopping for real clothes.
Honestly, what's in your laundry basket?
I must be hard on boots. This is my third pair in less than five years. I do ride nearly every day, and our climate is very hot and dry, but still, you'd think they's make them last a little longer. Pair one were the Ariat Volants, loved them, but they fell apart much too fast for their $500 price tag. Pair two were the TuffRider Baroques, loved them as well, especially for under $200. In fact, I loved them so much that I decided to reorder them.
I had the TuffRider Baroques in my shopping cart, but then I decided to see what else Riding Warehouse had in tall boots. The Baroques were in stock, but I figured it couldn't hurt just to look a bit more.
I didn't expect to see anything that I was willing to take a chance on. I knew what I was going to get with the Baroques, and I knew how they'd fit, but then I saw the Belmonts. They were the same brand, so I suspected the fit and quality would be similar.
What really sold me on the Belmonts were the little extras that the Baroques don't have: the punched toe cap, the zipper guard at the heel, and the textured look of the leather. The difference in price between the two boots was less than $20. I figured that the snap keeper along the heel was worth twenty bucks. I tossed the Baroques to the curb and ordered the Belmonts instead.
Right out of the box I liked the looks of them. The leather is super soft, and the boots have a fancier look than the more utilitarian Baroques. Understand though that these are budget-friendly boots, so they're not going to impress as much as a $900 pair. For the price though, they're pretty nice.
I don't know how well the snap keeper will protect the zipper, but since that's where my last two pairs of boots have failed, I figure it can't hurt to have a bit more protection there.
The Spanish top on these boots is more "finished" than on the Baroques, but it comes with the brand's logo placed front and center. I am not offended by brand logos, but if you are, you probably won't like how TuffRiders use their logo; it's everywhere. Like I said, I am not bothered by it especially since they're small.
After checking out all of the bells and whistles on the Belmonts, I slipped them on. My first reaction was ... bummer. I didn't like the fit. Where the Baroques had a "sloppy" fit, the Belmonts were snug. Even though they're from the same company, the fit is not at all the same.
The foot of the Baroques is much wider. In fact, they were so big initially that I had to add gel inserts to make them more my size. The calf was also much more roomy than I needed. I always felt that the Baroques ran big. The Belmonts run true to size. I ordered an 8 with a wide calf. The fit is perfect without much wiggle room. I decided to send them back.
And then I tried them on again. Still no. And then I tried them on the next day. Nope again. After the third time, I realized that I could probably live with them, especially for the price, so I tossed them in my car hoping to scuff them up so that the decision would be made.
When I got to the barn, I slipped them on and completely forgot they were new. I've worn them several times for several hours and have not had a single issue. No rubs, no blisters, nothing.
The verdict? Budget-friendly boots that look good and feel great.
Last Friday I was agonizing over whether or not to go to a show in two weeks. No sooner did I hit publish than my Facebook feed was filled with friends urging me to GO.
Having so many people encouraging me to go and knowing that they'd be at the show with me, tipped the scales. I worked hard on Friday and Saturday and got tons of classwork done way ahead of schedule. I'll have no problem finishing the course work over the next few days - a week early!
That evening, my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, not only urged me to go, but nearly has me talked into doing an extra show in May. I have had an eye on USDF's Second Level Rider Performance Award since I got my First Level Rider Performance Award. I need four scores from four different judges. We'll have our first shot at a score at this show in two weeks. I'm riding four tests over the two days so hopefully I can get the first score then. If we go to the May show, I'll get a second chance.
I would be really happy to earn those four scores this year. That won't mean I am done with Second Level, but it would be nice to see that atta girl hanging on my wall.
I don't make enough time to do fun and easy stuff with my boys. I should; we all should. When you work full time, and you're a perpetual under achieving over-achiever, there's simply no time for taking it easy. I don't know who makes those rules, but I broke one of them on Friday.
A new friend, KM, sent me a text asking if I had Saturday open for a ride. She rode with me a month or so back, and I had told her to call when she up for round two. I had a Chemaine Hurtado Clinic to put on on Saturday, but I told her that my Friday was free. As luck would have it, so was hers.
My selection of trails is quite small. If you want to get an hour ride in, there's basically one loop. You can ride it clockwise or counter clockwise. We have a single paved road with a good shoulder and no traffic that circles around the neighborhood which is comprised of two to ten acre properties. There's also a small section that winds through some nice trees and then down along the river. The ranch itself has a nice circle, but even if you tie it all together, that's all there is.
Fortunately, KM is not picky. She had seen it all before, but she was more than happy to do it all again. She's a lady after my own heart. Four sound legs, a long swinging neck, and a piece of leather under her bum were all she needed to be happy.
We spent some time grooming and tacking up and then walked up to the arena for some get re-acquainted time. After that, we spent a lovely hour just enjoying the nice weather and the musical sound of eight hooves beating out their rhythm.
On the way back to the ranch, we discovered that the sandy beach along the river had been smoothed out and cleaned up so we walked the horses down to the water and let them put their toes in. KM had been sharing how she was looking forward to an upcoming beach ride with her husband and friends. The Kern River is not quite the Pacific Ocean, but it was a beach ride.
After we had cleaned up the horses and given them some treats, we spent some time chatting. I learned that KM is quite an accomplished artist, like people would buy her stuff kind of good. She especially likes to paint animals.
Oh, boy ... I've got a couple she can paint!