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.
Wish us luck and have a great weekend!
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!
Last weekend's show report continues ...
Sunday morning dawned gray and rainy, but it didn't dampen my spirits one bit. Best Friend and I had had the best time ever over the past two days. We laughed all Saturday evening as we shoveled down our dinner of burritos and white cheddar popcorn. Don't ask.
My rides were early on Sunday morning - 7:14 and 8:10, but that only meant we would be getting home that much sooner. What I haven't yet mentioned was that our drive down on Friday had been anything but easy. Our plan had been to stop on Interstate 5 at the In-N-Out for a quick lunch, but after I dropped BF off at the door and parked the truck and trailer, I saw that she was standing in a line at least 30 people deep.
We both said forget it and decided to walk over to the nearby Subway where we were met with a similarly long line. By that time, we simply gave up and dug some string cheese and chips out of the cooler and hit the road again. We ended up getting a sandwich at a Subway in Fillmore, 45 minutes from the show grounds.
Less than 10 minutes from the El Sueno Equestrian Center, we came upon a wreck and fire on the road that had us parked for more than an hour and a half with fire trucks racing by us over and over again. Speedy was an absolute saint. He stood quietly the entire time without making a single bit of noise. What should have been a two and a half hour drive ended up taking us more than five hours.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was supposed to come and give me a lesson on Friday afternoon, but because of the wreck, the road that we came in on was closed right after us. We were very, very fortunate to have made it through. That meant no warm up lesson.
Because my rides were so early on Sunday morning, I didn't need Chemaine to come and coach me. I figured I would just ride to the best of my ability which turned out to be about the same as on Saturday (here and here). Before I share my scores, check out the final halt from Test 1. I am not sure what spooked Speedy, but I love that he finished the halt decently square. The judge gave us a 6.0.
For Second Level Test 1, we scored a 59.242% - my absolute least favorite score. I'd rather have a 58 than a 59. We missed a 60% by 2.5 points. On the final medium trot the judge commented, "rider appears to be posting? needs more ground cover thrust & reach". Guess what posting gets you on a Second Level test. Yup, a two point error. Crap. It wasn't that I was posting on purpose. My sitting trot on the medium trot still sucks. Here's the test.
I said that this was a blooper filled weekend which means there was more. I've only ridden Second Level Test 3 three times, and the third time was this past Sunday.The first two times I had a reader. It's not that it's a particularly hard test to memorize, but there is a lot of canter work to remember.
I got lost on the twenty-fourth movement, the three-loop serpentine. I simply forgot where we were going. And frankly, up until that moment, we were doing pretty well. Speedy and I scored a 7.0 for our entry. We had two 5s, four 5.5s, fourteen 6s (!), and two 6.5s. All of that means that we were riding a 60% test (with the double coefficients). As soon as we went off course, I got a two point deduction. Here's the test.
What made it so bad was that the three-loop serpentine is a pretty tough movement. Speedy and I need time to set up for it so that we're balanced for the counter canter. Since I was lost, I didn't set us up for it very well so Speedy dropped to trot, and I couldn't convince him to pick up the counter canter. The whole thing went to hell in a hand basket earning us a 2.0 on a movement with a double co-efficient. For those of you who don't speak dressage, that means that single movement was worth twenty points, or nearly 5% of the whole test. Ouch!
We ended up scoring a 56.098%. That's kind of an ugly score, but truthfully, I know that we lost virtually all of our points on that serpentine. It's a movement that we can do pretty decently. We earned a 6.0 for the first one and a 6.5 & 6.0 on the two from Saturday.
Yesterday I promised you the best worst comment ever. I bought a grey horse on purpose. I know many of you cringe at that, but light colored horses often deal with the heat better. Speedy was bought as my next endurance horse long before I ever thought of doing dressage. He replaced a black Arab who struggled mightily with the heat. I got lucky with my grey; he HATES to get dirty.
While many people might call Speedy a white Arab, he is actually grey. His skin is black except for below his knees; he has white socks. You can see them when he's wet. He is also lightly flea bitten (little brown dots). So I leave you with this last comment from the judge. All I can say is ... Is that the best almost compliment you've got?
Yesterday, I wrote about slogging through Second Level with a 61%. I looked up the meaning of slogging - to work hard over a period of time; you'll notice that there's nothing in the definition about being successful. Slogging also means to toil, labor, plod, and exert oneself. Uh ... yep.
Here's the video for Saturday's next test, Second Level Test 3.
When I first saw the score, a disappointing 57.561%, my initial reaction was that the judge was being too tough. Upon further reflection, I realized that the score was actually pretty good. After all, she gave us ten 6s which translate to satisfactory and five 6.5s which mean almost fairly good. So of the twenty-seven movements able to be scored, fifteen of them were at least satisfactory or better. That's more than half. The remainder of the scores were 5s and 5.5s with a pair of (insufficient) 4s.
Throughout my not-so-speedy dressage journey, my process has always been the same. I analyze my tests to see where our strengths lie, and I work to build on them. I also study our weakness, and I focus on turning the 5s to 5.5s. Eventually, they become 6s, and before I know it, we're scoring consistently in the mid to upper 60s.
I know we have a lot that we have to fix before we're getting scores in the 60s, but I'm having fun, and I feel like we're almost ready to be competitive.
Tomorrow, day two's tests including some bloopers and the best worst comment ever!
... but having a blast while doing it. Best friend and I loaded Speedy G for a two-day show over the weekend. For the first time since Speedy and I made the jump to Second Level, I was headache free AND I had fun. We made mistakes, and our scores were closer to meh than marvelous, but I am motivated and ready for more.
That was Second Level Test 1 with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, "coaching" me on the video. For the record, I couldn't hear her. We all know it wasn't a brilliant performance, but there were some really almost great moments like that rein back (seriously!) and those simple changes. Even I know those didn't stink.
The medium walk after the after the first counter canter was also pretty good. I think it's the first time we've actually gotten a walk instead of a bunch of trot steps into walk.
My sitting trot is also improving - not during the medium, of course, but for the collected trot there's less air between my butt and the saddle. For right now, I am excited about the slightest bit of progress.
For this first test, the only thing that really hurt was the shoulder in. Those were our only sub-six scores (5.5 & 5.0). Well, that and my navigational error.
The free walk goes from S to P, but I rode it from H to P, one letter too early for those of you who aren't familiar with the the dressage court. That's a two-point deduction, and it did affect my score.
Overall, Speedy and I finished with a 61.970%. Spoiler alert. That was our best score of the weekend, but I still had a great time and came home ready for more. The second test tomorrow ...
Last week while letting Izzy wear his bit during breakfast, he hooked the throat latch of his bridle on something, probably his hoof, and snapped it down the middle. I was disappointed for about a nanosecond. It's not that the bridle is ugly or ill-fitting, but it was starting to show some wear. Izzy is hard on his tack. As I held the flapping piece of leather, I realized this was the perfect excuse to buy a new bridle.
As I poured over website after website, my practical side took over. Izzy isn't ready to show yet, so he doesn't need a fancy bridle. Besides that, he's hard on his tack - he sweats like a teenaged boy, throws foamy spit everywhere, and rubs his face on his legs every chance he gets. I decided to replace the bridle with something very similar for under $200.
I don't like to think I am that picky about bridles, but as I looked over my list of must haves, it would seem that the opposite is true. My must haves include:
With my must haves in hand, I went back to the internet to see what I could find. Searching with a clearly defined list makes the process much quicker. Before long, I ended up at our ever favorite Riding Warehouse. They have a good selection, and without too much searching, I landed on the Bobby's Tack Padded Crank Dressage Bridle with Reins.
The bridle checked off every one of the items on my list. The monocrown is padded and contoured, there are buckles instead of hooks, and the crank noseband is just the right size. Two things that were bonuses were that the throat latch is adjustable on both sides, and the leather is Italian. An additional perk is that the leather reins are actually quite nice. I've put them in storage for now, but I may bring them out to try later.
The bridle runs $182.95, but with a 15% discount, I only paid $166.78 which included free shipping. The bridle is not fancy, but it will work great as an every day schooling bridle.
I stole that title straight out of the March 2018 issue of USDF Connection. It came from an article entitled, "Valegro: The Making of a Champion." I am not saying I have a Valegro in my barn, but if something worked for Charlotte Dujardin, I am going to look at it closely.
There's a section in the article where Dujardin talked about head shaking (something that bothers Izzy every spring) and putting Valegro in the double bridle as a five-year old because "the curb chain definitely made a difference: it lies on an acupuncture point."
When I read that passage in the article, my heart gave a little pitter-patter of excitement. Dujardin continued with this gem, "What's more it gave me more control over him, which in turn made him less nervous - Blueberry was the kind of horse who, if he didn't feel as if his rider was in charge, would start to worry."
As Sheldon Cooper would say, BAZINGA! The rest of the article focused on how Dujardin was able to soothe Valegro's tension so that he could relax. As I read line after line, I found myself nodding and saying, yes, yes, yes! to everything. Izzy is my Valegro.
I've ridden Izzy in the ported curb bit with a chain for nearly a year with excellent results. He loves the bit, and has finally learned to relax and listen to me. The time to move him into a legal dressage bit has come however, which means I have my work cut out for me.
Since we began Operation Legal Bit Every Time, things have gone from are you freaking kidding me? to that's more like it. It feels like we're going through all the same stuff from last year, but we're doing it in fast forward. There was a day or two of very nervous, a day of complete jackassery, and yesterday, a day of oh, you mean carry my own head without plowing through the bit? All of that took a year in the last bit. I'll be delighted if we can get it done in a week or two.
As I was tacking up yesterday, something caught Izzy's eye and really spooked him, like head straight up with flared nostrils spooking. I finished tightening his girth and then led him over to what had caused so much consternation - a bucket filled with dog food that isn't normally there.
Izzy gave it one look and said no. Just no. I lunged him lightly for a few moments and pointed him at the bucket. With front legs splayed out every which way, he arched his neck to the bucket and gave it a tentative snort. Once he wasn't dancing on his tiptoes, I finished bridling and walked up to the arena.
With Dujardin's words still swirling around in my brain, I reminded myself that my focus was achieving relaxation and building Izzy's confidence in the legal bit. We spent a long time just walking with his head hanging comfortably. We worked on leg yields, renvers, travers, and even baby half pass ... all at the walk.
When he seemed genuinely relaxed, we did it all over again at the trot, including the half pass. To my surprise, he was much better behaved than he's been the past few days. And after the eye-roll worthy antics that we started with, I had been pretty sure I was in for another day of jackassery. Nope. He was actually quite delightful. That half pass that I've been playing around with? Super nice - for two rookies anyway.
Speedy and I are headed to Moorpark for a two-day USDF show today. Best Friend is tagging along for moral support as I continue to struggle through Second Level (go, Team Speedy!). This means that Izzy will get the next three days off. I am hoping he spends his time off contemplating the benefits of a dressage legal bit.
Wouldn't that be nice?
It's getting hot here; nothing like it will be, and so far nothing like it was last summer, but I just didn't feel like riding yesterday. Speedy and I are in frenemies territory, and Izzy is once again being a jackass - bit issues, but nothing that I can't overcome. Anyway, instead of riding, I started packing for this weekend's two-day show.
As I pulled in, I spotted a mama skunk with a bunch of babies in tow. It seemed a little late in the morning for them to still be out, but you know how kids are. It's hard to get anywhere on time when you have to take the whole family. I drove by slowly, I am cautious when it comes to stink bombs, but despite their ability to ruin my day, they were very, very cute.
#2 & #3
My dogs almost never go to the ranch with me as the arena is up by the road, and I don't trust them to stay on the property while I am riding. When I tugged on a pair of shorts (instead of breeches) and grabbed my purse, tails started wagging in excitement; they knew they were going. Even though it was unusual for me to take them, they didn't care. Cars and trucks are magical things, and they are always up for an adventure.
I parked my car and let them run around for a bit, but then we hiked over to my truck and trailer so I could hook up. I didn't want to call my husband telling him that I ran over a dog, so I loaded them in the truck with me while I backed up to the trailer. That really threw them for a loop, but like I said, cars and trucks are wonderful things and not to be questioned.
With heads hanging out the window, I pulled around to the barn to load up some of my stuff for the show. Dogs aren't always the smartest crayons in the box. When I opened the door, they leaped out excitedly, eager to check out someplace "new."
After I stuffed Speedy's hay bag with grass hay, I moved on to the alfalfa. As I was filling my half bale bag, I actually looked at it. I've owned that blue bale bag since 1997, but I never see it anymore. It's become as old and familiar as the 27 blue buckets I have laying around. Okay, maybe not 27, but close.
After I wedged it into the trailer, I caught what was written on the top and smiled.
Back when I was still competing in endurance races, and I am sure things haven't changed that much, ride managers had a lot of creative ways to entice riders to come back. For our winter desert rides, the three different race managers put together a three-show series. In order to compete for the series prize, you had to pay a small entry fee declaring that you were "in" for the Triple Crown.
If you got pulled from any of the three races or you weren't able to compete at all, you lost your money. If you completed all three races, you earned the prize. In 1997, it was a half bale bag. You'd think it would be an easy accomplishment, but it was much harder to do than you would think. I was really proud of that bag and the accomplishment that it represented. Seeing it yesterday brought back some fond memories.
I've already shared how Izzy's coat fades pretty dramatically over the summer. I am not sure my strategy to prevent that is working very well, but his coat did catch my eye yesterday.
His barrel is definitely lightening up, but that's not what I noticed. Izzy is registered with the Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) warmblood registry and sports their brand on his left hip. I can rarely see it unless he's all shed out.
I always think of his brand as a secret tattoo that only I am allowed to see. He's actually the third branded horse I've owned. Montoya DSA, an Arabian, was freeze branded on her neck, and Sydney, a New Zealand Thoroughbred that I previously owned, was branded on both shoulders.
In general, when I am at the barn, I ride. I have to say though that it was kind of fun just puttering around without riding. There's a lot more going on than what you'd think.
A week or two ago, I shared my new plan for alternating the legal bit with my go-to bit. I can't say whether the plan was a good one or not as I've already scrapped it and formulated a new strategy. Let's call it Operation Legal Every Day.
Yep. You heard me right. I've put the legal bit on my everyday bridle - which, by the way is no longer my every day bridle. I'll explain why in a minute.
After my last lesson, I realized that Izzy is well on his way to becoming fantastic. The problem is that I can't show him in the bit that he finds the most comfortable. This horse doesn't just go a little different with a new bit. He needs to be trained all over again.
The same thing happened when I left the correctional bit behind for the medium wide-ported bit with the Kimberwick cheeks, the bit he now loves. It felt like starting all over. I realized that if I kept going with the bit he likes, I was going to be even more frustrated by starting over with the show-legal bit. It seemed better to get it over with and just yank the band-aid off.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, and I talked it over. Izzy wasn't necessarily being a jackass in the show-legal bit. It was more like he was honestly anxious about being ridden in it. Gone was the affable, hard-working gelding that I've come to love. In his place was a hot mess. We hatched out a new plan of attack that gave Izzy some independent time to make friends with the bit.
Instead of riding Izzy in the bit, I bridled him up sans reins and let him wear the bit while he had his breakfast. At first, I felt bad leaving it on him for several hours, but then I remembered that my endurance horses would wear their bits all day long, never complaining about it. While he ate, I rode Speedy.
It really did seem to make a difference. Rather than grind his teeth and crunch on the bit while I rode, he was more willing to listen to me without being so distracted. That worked for several days until be broke the throat latch while I was busy with Speedy.
I guess he wanted a new bridle to go along with his new bit; It should be here tomorrow. In the meantime, I've been riding without a throat latch. While he's not as fabulous, he's at least 80% back to where he was with the other bit. My fingers are crossed that he makes the switch pretty quickly.
I sure like that easy going fellow I was riding last week.
We bought Blue Truck eighteen years ago this month. Blue truck has been around the block; a few times actually. Back in 2008, we said that if we got ten good years out of the truck, we'd be happy. We had no idea we'd get eighteen and counting.
Every year I question whether Blue Truck can still handle the job of towing my three horse trailer. Just recently I loaded both boys for a trip to Tehachapi which required crossing the Tehachapi Pass at around 3,771 feet. Bakersfield's elevation is about 400 feet. It's a steep climb, especially with two horses. Blue Truck handled the work load without complaint.
Since I am not really looking forward to making payments on a new truck, I do my best to keep Blue Truck happy and healthy. At least once a year Blue Truck gets a spa day. This year's treatments included an oil change with a check of all fluids, plus a tire rotation. I could almost hear BT sighing as the guys replaced the oil filter and checked the tire pressure.
Since pulling into the gas station with a trailer in tow requires a bit of luck (I need an entire row of gas pumps to be free of cars), I took advantage of being trailer-free to fill up the gas tank as well. Blue Truck needed one more thing that was closer to a dental checkup than a spa visit. BT needed a smog test.
Here in California, vehicles older than six years need to be tested to see if they have excess emissions. We have an air quality issue here in sunny California and poor-running vehicles contribute to the bad air. I am happy to report that Blue Truck passed with flying colors.
Summer is when Blue Truck works the hardest, so I feel better knowing that we're once again road worthy. Keep on truckin' Blue Truck!
Last week, Izzy and I worked with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, at a neighbor's house. I can't even begin to express how proud of him I was. He started off curled into a little ball of tension, but within five minutes he was listening and trying.
He gave one or two spooks in the far corner, but after that, he was all business. I asked Chemaine Hurtado, if I could just ride while she offered feedback. Izzy's been working so well at home that what he needs most right now is the opportunity to work somewhere that's not home. Chemaine readily agreed.
I basically rode him like I would if I were alone at home. I asked for the leg yield, haunches in, shoulder in, and then played around with some baby canter half pass. The more complicated the task, the harder this horse works. Chemaine encouraged me with comments aimed to reinforce what I was already doing or offered suggestions for improving the connection and stretch down.
Izzy never said no. Sure, he was a little tense, but he kept his focus on me and tried to do whatever I asked of him. The longer he worked, the looser his back became.
Speedy needs to get his rear in gear. Izzy's butt is always in gear, but he holds so much tension in his top line that he has trouble opening up his stride.
For the past several months, that's all I've really worked on - stretching his back. A few weeks ago, I started asking him to ever so slightly lengthen his stride.
I am not getting an actual trot lengthening per se, but his stride is getting longer, and he's spending a bit more time in the air.
When I saw this attempt at lengthening his stride, I squealed. This is what I've been able to get at home by myself, but this is the first time he's offered such a relaxed trot away from home.
The dude is going places!