Since it only rains about 6 times a year here, the wait for rain strategy doesn't work for us. What do you all do for dust control?
On the day before we left for Canada (blog post about that coming soon), the ranch owners did another application of their dust control product, ArenaKleen (by Dirt Glue). I blogged about this process before (and here).
Pretty much everything you'd want to know about the product is on the label above. If you read the label, you'll see that it's an organic blended severely hydrotreated dust suppressant. Yeah ... doesn't help me out much either, but who cares since the stuff really and truly works.
For such a hi-tech product, the application is super simple. You just spray it on with a garden hose. Getting it out of the container is the hardest part. The ranch owners used a portable, high powered water pump.
When the ranch owners treated the arena nearly two years ago, they applied four containers. Since it has held up so well, they only needed to apply two containers this time. With two hoses dispensing, both containers were emptied in under two hours.
When they were finished, the footing looked wet, but it was rideable that same day. Even when dragged, the footing will continue to be darker than the dirt outside of the arena. Before this new application of ArenaKleen, there was no dust in the air when I rode, but some low-hanging dust was beginning to form with each footfall. No more. I rode yesterday and there were absolutely zero dust poofs.
Since the arena didn't need all of the second container, they sprayed the round pen as well. I don't use it very often, but since Izzy hadn't been ridden in two weeks, I started him in there yesterday so he could blow off some steam. That footing was also dust free. Not just mostly, but completely dust free.
Since DirtGlue's website doesn't list the price per container, you know it's expensive. But really, what equine related product isn't? This is probably not a feasible dust control solution for most backyard horse owners, but if you run a larger facility, the price of ArenaKleen might be cheaper than your water bill - especially if you live in California where water is in short supply.
After years of dragging sprinklers around to ineffectively water my riding space, it is so nice to just hop on without having to water or deal with dust. My ponies better mind their manners because I am not getting kicked out of this place! I'll get new ponies if it comes down to it. Kidding. Not really.
Since it only rains about 6 times a year here, the wait for rain strategy doesn't work for us. What do you all do for dust control?
First of all, happy Independence Day! As a fifth grade teacher who teaches US history, I love this day. I like to think that most of my students will be talking about some of the stuff they learned this year - like who signed the Declaration of Independence and why. Who can forget Paul Revere's ride - gotta love it when horses are involved! Most of my students agreed King George III was a jerk and that taxation without representation was unfair. Some even thought taxes were unfair altogether - I let them make up their own minds. But what does that have to do with Canada?
There are 195 sovereign states recognized by the United Nations. I'll never hit all 195 of course, and there are a few that I'm not interested in visiting at all (sorry, Somalia, but you need to clean up your act first), but I'd like to see at least 10% (and more would be amazing!) of them before I am too old to hobble around.
So far my list of Been There! includes the Canary Islands (geographically part of the continent of Africa but belonging politically to Spain), mainland Spain, Costa Rica, Ireland, Peru, Canada, England, Scotland, Belize, Guatemala, Portugal, Italy, and Vatican City. That makes 13 (I am counting the USA as one of the countries I've been to) of the 195. In dressage speak, I've earned a 6%, still short of my goal of 10%. That's okay as I'm getting close.
Early tomorrow morning, my husband and I are off to visit Montréal and Quebec City in eastern Canada. We've already been to Canada once before - we visited the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island a few years ago, so this particular trip doesn't get me another mark on my list. Even so, I am excited about the trip. After Paris, Montréal is the second largest French speaking city in the world.
I've ridden horses, or done something with horses, in many of the places we've visited. I've ridden in the Canary Islands, Ireland, Scotland, Belize, and Portugal, and we've done a carriage ride in Italy. I'll be keeping my eye out for an opportunity in Montréal or Quebec City as well. My husband's always game for an equine experience, even if it's just dropping me off while he goes for a beer.
We don't really have a specific itinerary like we usually do, but we plan to visit Notre Dame Basilica and Old Montréal. There's really no end of things to do. We'll be gone for close to two weeks, so you won't hear from me again until the middle of July.
Enjoy your 4th of July festivities!
Our jump to Second Level hasn't been an easy one, but we're not completely crashing and burning either. As I sit here and look at the rosettes on my CDS plaque, I remember how proud I was that every score we earned in 2017 was above 60%. I won't be able to say that in 2018. I am relieved, however, that we've at least earned a handful of scores above 60% to put on the plaque - five so far.
I have at least four more shows scheduled for this summer. Speedy and I have been working our tails off to boost up our scores where we're weak while polishing the movements where we shine.
One movement that I have completely neglected is the transition from halt to collected trot. There are two of them in the Second Level tests; three if you count the final halt from collected trot. As long as Speedy ultimately picked up a trot or finally halted, I've been okay with a few walk steps in between. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, finally called me on it saying that we need to really tighten up that transition.
So for the past week, Speedy and I have been doing lots and lots of trot to halt to trot to halt transitions. Let me tell you, if you aren't doing those, START! Holy cow are those transition ever getting him sharper and more in front of my leg.
The other benefit to getting him in front of my leg with transitions is that our shoulder-in is looking more like a shoulder-in. I am sure that Chemaine has already said it 10,000 times, but at a lesson on Friday night she had me use a ton of inside rein to get the bend but then she had me use the outside rein to keep him from coming off the track.
It was like being struck by lightening. You mean I can use BOTH REINS?!?!? Why didn't someone tell me that SOONER?!?!?!? Miraculously, we now have a shoulder-in. When I rode yesterday, I started with a bunch of trot to halt to trot transitions. Suddenly he was bounding forward, so I turned his energy into a shoulder-in, and then rode it into the 10-meter circle followed by travers. It was all so good that I awarded myself a string a 7.0s.
Speedy was feeling pretty good about himself. He knows when I'm finally getting it. We took a quick walk break and then rode the shoulder-in and travers the other way into the rein back. He nailed the halt and rein back and marched forward with a really nice medium walk. I thought it all deserved at least 7.5s. I was feeling generous with the scores.
I am really looking forward to our next two shows later this month. I know we're slowing filling in some gaps in our training, and I am eager to see how well we'll be able to blend the movements together. Of course, different judges place a premium on different things, so our scores may not reflect what we've learned, but I'll know.
I am more amazed by this endurance horse turned dressage horse every day. Who knew?
Have you heard? Season two of last summer's binge worthy Free Rein is coming back on Netflix. It starts July 6th. I'll be on vacation, more on that in a few days, but you can bet I'll be checking it out as soon as we get back.
Who's with me? If you haven't seen season one, you've got time as there were only ten short episodes. As soon as I am back from vacation, I'll definitely be watching!
When I shared this photo the other day, I realized that I've been sharing a lot of these lately. These bucks and kicks are not hard to sit, and I in no way feel out of control. These are just Speedy's way of saying, quit asking me to work so dang hard!
I wish I had taken screen shots from our earliest rides because I know there have been many, many more of these physical expressions of his opinion. The dude doesn't have a middle finger, but who needs one when you can do that?
Have a great weekend!
Speaking of showing ... Just how do we afford all of these shows anyway? Well, if you're like me, you supervise the children's version of jail. Kidding, of course. Sort of.
You see, at my school (I teach 5th grade in case you're new here), we have lunch time detention. It runs for the 30 minutes of lunch recess. Students get approximately 30 minutes to eat followed by another 30 minutes to play.
Kiddos who get in trouble, either from our school principal or another staff member, serve noontime detention with whichever teacher has detention duty. Most often, that's me. I run detention every Monday and Friday. The other nine intermediate teachers rotate through weekly so that they serve Tuesday through Thursday about three times a year.
Why do I do it so frequently you ask? For the "money," of course. I make approximately $12 each time I serve as the detention teacher. During the course of the school year, I gave up my lunch twice a week, sometimes more if I "subbed" for another teacher. In June, I got my extra duty check for the second semester's detention as well as for serving as my school's Battle of the Books coordinator.
My check was a "whopping" $822. I used the money to pay my entries for both June shows, coaching at each show, and Izzy's new bridle. My husband was horrified that I would give up my lunch twice a week to supervise naughty children for $12. Looking back, It does seem like a lot of work for so little pay.
School starts again on August 16th. I have another month or so to consider whether missing my lunch hour two to three times a week is worth one or two shows during the summer. But you know, if Izzy doesn't break anything next spring, I could turn that check into three shows. My colleagues certainly hope that I'll continue with the Monday/Friday detention schedule as it means fewer days they have to serve.
It's worth it, right?
I always disliked First Level Test 3. It was hard and complicated and freaking long. Second Level Test 3 is organized, and it makes sense. What you do to the left, you do to the right. And you don't have to wait until the end of the test to do it. That always killed me about First Level. I always hated that the second trot lengthening came at the very end of the test because I always forgot about it until the last second. I actually like Second Level Test 3.
Like I said yesterday, we didn't break any records, but Speedy and I finally rode a very consistent test with no errors. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer and Symphony Dressage Stables, said that we rode a test where she wasn't thinking more, more, more, and that's a good thing. That doesn't mean we don't need MORE, but now it's a subtle more.
The entire test is a string of 6.0s with a few exceptions. We earned a 5.0 for the rein back, which I felt was pretty good. Apparently, we've been practicing it incorrectly. I've been allowing Speedy to trot into a walk before he halts. Oops! We'll be addressing that in our lesson on Friday. The other 5.0 was for our turn on the haunches left. We go better to the right.
To offset those 5.0s however, we earned a 7.0 for the walk to canter at K (go, Speedy!) and a 7.0 for our simple change at L which has a double coefficient (counts twice for those of you whose eyes are glazing over). We also earned a 7.0 for our final halt.
When I looked at the score sheet and saw a solid string of 6.0s, I told Chemaine that it's disappointing that it only adds up to 60% when it feels like a 70% test. I'll slowly (or maybe quickly) turn some of those 6.0s to 6.5s, and before I know it I'll have a 65%. My final score was a 60.732%. I'll take it! Here's the video.
Speedy and I had another show this past weekend, but I needed a day to recover before I wrote it up. I can't be 100% sure without doing a little bit of digging, but I think this was the first time we did back to back shows. For many of you that's not such a big deal, but dressage shows in my neck of the woods require a fair amount of driving. I am tired. Still.
The Tehachapi shows, all four of them, are put on by my local chapter of the California Dressage Society. They're only CDS-rated, but as most of you know, my GMO has amazing incentive programs, so the scores I earn at the Tehachapi shows can count for a lot.
Spoiler alert: we didn't pull out any fabulous scores, BUT we are stepping up our game. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, put it like this, "Karen Sweaney, in my opinion, had break through tests! Much more impulsion and therefore much less signature Arabian tendency to curl!" Chemaine was showing several clients' horses, coaching other clients (including myself), and coaching her own kids.
So far this season, my scores have fluctuated pretty wildly including a couple of 2.0s and 3.0s and the ever pesky 5.0s. My goal has been to eliminate all of those sub 5.0 scores, especially the 4.0s and below. Anything under a 5.0 is insufficient or worse. In my case, those scores are simply from pilot error. We know how to do the movements. We wouldn't be showing at Second Level if we didn't.
I've said this about a million times already, but in the show ring, the movements have just come at me so fast that I've had trouble riding them harmoniously (or well). For this show, everything finally slowed down, and I felt like I was able to think ahead of the movements and was able to ride proactively instead of reactively.
For Second Level Test 1, we earned 7.0s for our first centerline, our medium walk, and the walk to canter at M. The rest of the test was filled solidly with 6.0s except for three other movements, two of which had double coefficients. We earned a 5.0 (x2) for our shoulder-in left, a 5.0 (x2) for the rein back, and a 4.0 for one of our 10-meter canter circles (Speedy took a wonky step and stumbled into trot).
The final score was a 59.394% - 196 points. We missed a 60% by 2 points. In all likelihood, if I could have balanced Speedy a bit better in the 10-meter canter circle, he wouldn't have lost his balance, and we would have earned a 6.0 and the 60%.
I am clearly in a learning phase right now though so I am not at all disappointed. Chemaine was really pleased with our improvement over just one week ago. I felt much better about the ride and know that Speedy and I getting a handle on Second Level. The scores are already reflecting our progress.
We have plenty left to work on, trot to walk is one of them, but I can't believe how much progress we've made in the past six months. Who would have thought an endurance rider who had never had a formal lesson in her life could go from not knowing her posting diagonals to showing Second Level? It's taking forever, but that's what what you get when you're riding a Speedy pony!
Second Level Test 3 tomorrow ...
I am a score stalker. If I know your real name, I've looked up your scores. It helps me to see what's "normal." While your scores are interesting, I particularly like to track my own scores. Are they trending up? Not right now. Are they following their usual pattern? For the love of all that's holy I hope so! You see, my scores tend to follow a predictable pattern. At the beginning of each new level, they start in the 50s, but they eventually creep over sixty percent and settle comfortably in the mid-60s. I can live with that.
Sometimes I even do searches of famous riders like Charlotte Dujardin (who has exactly two USDF scores) or Steffen Peters. Laura Graves actually has a 54% at Third Level if that makes anyone feel better. She also has an 85% at Grand Prix with 51 rides at that level. So yeah, who cares about a sucky score at Third.
I love looking at my data on USDF's site (or Centerline Scores) because it shows a journey. While I was poking around the other day, I realized that I've done 62 USDF shows with Speedy G. How is that even possible? I feel like we're still beginners.
Most of the time I visit the site to double check that my scores have been recorded correctly. While I was here most recently, I noticed something that I've never seen before. There is now a spot where your awards are highlighted! I am a sucker for any kind of sticker or atta girl, so this totally floats my boat.
When I clicked on the Second Level Rider Performance Award, a pop up window appeared showing my progress toward that award. How cool is that? I have two scores and need two more from two different judges. It sounded so much easier at the beginning of the year.
Another new-to-me feature was the USDF Rider Award Check. If you use Centerline Scores, you know that if you've earned any scores towards a medal, they shade in portions of the medal showing your progress. USDF doesn't do that. Instead, you can now click on the medal you're working toward, and a new window pops open detailing your progress just like it did for the Rider Performance Award. Here's what mine looks like.
I'm pretty excited. I am two-thirds of the way towards a bronze medal. That sounds so achievable to a regular person, but anyone with any dressage experience knows that getting out of Second and scoring those two coveted scores at Third Level is enough to drive you to the edge of insanity and maybe even push you right on over.
There is nothing new on the Tests page, but I like to study this page, too. I like to see how long it takes me to figure out a level. Speedy and I spent FOREVER at Training Level. It was mostly because of injuries, but I also hate to move on unless we're truly ready. I am not sure yet how long we'll be at Second Level. I suspect that if we stay here another year it will be because of my sitting trot.
I definitely won't feel comfortable about moving onto Third Level until this bar graph evens out a little. Those scores at Second are lower than I am happy with. The next USDF show we will do is the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition in mid-August. There is a CDS only show right after that, but that's as far as my show season has been planned.
It seems a bit strange to plan a show season based on some charts and data from a web site, but if my Rider Performance Award gets colored in this summer and my bar graph gets a little longer, I may call the season a wrap! We'll see how things go in August.
Check out your data (and mine while you're there), and let me know what you think.
Lord have mercy. Just how many things can I possibly have to say about this one show? Four day's worth apparently. I'll try to make this quick.
I did learn a few new "tricks" to help ride some of the Second Level movements a bit better. The first is to have more bend. That's not really a new trick, but I continue to have doh! moments about why.
For example, I learned that for the turn on the haunches, I need to think about doing a lot of things before I actually do a turn on the haunches. I need to 1) keep the walk marching. 2) I need to think shoulder in. 3) I need to make sure I keep the inside bend otherwise Speedy will be counter bent and my outside rein does nothing.
I also learned to keep off the rail for the rein back. It's a bit like parallel parking - you don't want to get too close or you'll scrape your tires as you back up. It helps to give your horse a little more room too. And besides, you don't need your elbows in the judge's face as you back up. Just saying.
As much as my sitting trot needs work, I wasn't the worst rider out there. I am not fishing for compliments here, but it did my heart good to see that we pretty much fit right in. There were riders better than me and riders who had their own struggles. There were nicer horses than Speedy, although not many; you gotta love the one you're with after all.
And finally, while we didn't hit it out of the park, we did earn four scores that were ever so close to being satisfactory. Our first score of the show, the 61.97%, was actually good enough to count for a whole slew of things. It gave us another CDS Championship qualifying score which means we only need one more. We also earned another score towards our Second Level USDF Rider Performance Award leaving us only two more before we earn our patch. And best of all, we earned the final Second Level score needed for a Bronze Medal.
Each year Speedy and I prove that we are certainly Not-So-Speedy Dressage. We are ever so persistent though. It may take us longer than the average rider, but we get it done. Believe it or not, we have another show on Sunday. It's only CDS-rated so we can't earn a USDF score, but my GMO's scores count for so many things that you can bet your butt we'll be bringing it. If you're in the Tehachapi area on Sunday, we ride at 1:20 and 2:00. We'd love to see you.
Wish us luck and have a great weekend!