Even though I hate hearing myself on video/audio clips, I did do a narrated video tour of our new barn. Enjoy!
Well, for goodness sake! It's either not enough contact, or too much. It seems that for Introductory Level I am now riding with too much contact and now need to lengthen my reins. Yep. You heard me right. Lengthen my reins. While frustrating as this may be, both tests went very well on Sunday, and I am quite pleased with how we did. I kept my elbows bent; I know because I peeked down quite a few times to check. I also kept my leg long, and I sat up straight. And while Speedy G didn't kick out or buck at the canter, it still wasn't the transition that we can do at home. Here's a copy of Test B; Test C will follow down below.
It was quite warm when I arrived in Tehachapi and I was very grateful that coats were waived for all riders. It was so hot that my warm up lasted about three minutes, and when I was called to the "on-deck" position, Speedy G stood happily at the fence without fussing or pacing. I was called in and as usual, I approached the judge with my number and confirmed which test I was to ride. The scribe, a member of the show committee, gave me a cheerful, "Ride him!" The judge gave a warm laugh and encouraged me to have a great ride. Nice!
We rode the test without going off course and no whistles in error by the judge, both of which happened last month. There wasn't anything that went wrong with the ride. Speedy G was well behaved and tried to give me a good ride. Most of the errors seemed to belong to me. I need to allow him to stretch into the contact and be less restrictive.
At the end of the test, I could see that there was no "on deck" rider waiting. I asked the ring steward if we were ahead of schedule, and when she confirmed that we were, I volunteered to ride my second test right then. The judge was delighted with my enthusiasm and gave me the go ahead. As hot as it was, I knew that waiting forty-five minutes for my second test wasn't going to do either of us any good, so we rode again. Here's Test C:
Again, you can see the judge's comments stating that I need to allow Speedy G to stretch down into the contact. But look at movement 13, the final score for the actual test. It's an 8! I've had one or two before, but they were for the free walk. This was for a difficult movement, straightness at the trot. AND ... this particular movement requires the horse and rider to trot right at the judge who was standing up to get a GOOD view. I'll admit it. I am a bit proud of it.
A bit later in the morning, while I was waiting for my test to be given back, I was chatting with some of the volunteers about my rides. I had some questions and they were happy to share their thoughts with me. When the judge walked in for his break, several of the ladies encouraged me to ask him directly about his comments. Eek! Really? Well, okay!
I walked up to him, looking brave and confident but feeling like a dork, and asked him if it was okay for me to ask him questions about his remarks. When he said sure with a warm smile, I reminded him of which rider I was. My questions had to do with shortening my reins and establishing contact. How can I establish contact and lengthen my reins? He explained that at Introductory Level, the purpose was to teach the horse to reach for the contact. This means that the reins need to be slightly longer and that the rider needs to encourage the horse to lengthen without hurrying. Hmm ... This sounds like very good advice and something that we will continue to work on. The judge also added that I will easily earn more points if I allow Speedy to reach forward instead of restricting his movement. More points equals a higher score. We can do that!
Overall, I am tickled to death with our rides, regardless of the nice scores. I know how it felt, and I am happy! In case you missed it in my earlier post, our score for Intro B was 63.125% and Intro C was 62.00%
We had a great show! Not that everyone else would think so, but it felt good to me. I have more to say, but as I write this, I am t-i-r-e-d! Suffice it to say that we scored a 63.125 % at Intro B with all 6s and 7s! Our Intro C test also went well with a 62%. We scored mostly 6s and 7s, but there were three 5s. Guess what those for. Yep ... the canter transitions. He didn't buck or kick, which is an improvement, but the judge commented that he was bracing. One of the highlights of that test was the 8 we scored for our final trot down the centerline! The judge's comment, "STRAIGHT!" Woohoo for us!
After driving home from the show, which was more than an hour away, I braved our 100 degree plus weather and moved both horses to their new home. Lots more on that topic, but here are photos from their first afternoon at home. Click photos for larger view.
Show day ... not feeling stressed ... that's a good thing!
I washed Speedy G and gave him a haircut on Saturday. He also got a big turn-out session where he galloped and bucked to his heart's content. I gave my tack a quick cleaning and bought a bag of potato chips to go with my sandwich and lemonade. That's all we need: clean horse, clean tack, lunch!
If you're curious, we're still riding USDF Introductory B & C. No shame in my book. I feel better about riding a lower level while we improve. What's the sense of showing at a higher level if we're just going to get low 50s? I'm happier riding Intro A & B and shooting for scores in the mid 60s. If we show well today, I might consider showing Training Level Test 1 in September. Wish us luck.
On a different topic ... big news for us! Speedy and Sydney are moving to a new home!!!!!! I am really excited about the move. Hubby (THANK YOU!!!!!) helped me move most of my stuff on Saturday afternoon. Both boys are still at their old home, but they should make the move on Tuesday or Wednesday. I know this seems like surprising news, but I have been quietly searching for a place that has like-minded riders. Dario and Mary do a wonderful job at Silverado, so this move had nothing to do with the quality of care they provided.
As we finish the move, I'll provide photos and details. In the meantime, just know that I LOVE our new barn and I can't wait to get there!
Really, I can't claim credit for this one. I found this at Now THAT'S a Trot! But, I did like it well enough to order it for myself. What is it? Check and see!
Click on photos for larger view.
I am really pleased with these halter tags. I chose the Brass Foal Tag, seen here. I've never kept tags on my halters, but I do have ID tags on my trail bridles and endurance saddle. I made my bridle and saddle tags at PetSmart, but these are of much nicer quality and a lot cheaper. They have quite a few designs available, but if you do order, be prepared to wait nearly two weeks for your order to arrive. You can find Halter Tags here.
Coming off nine weeks of summer vacation and returning to a full time work schedule can be quite difficult. Waa, waa, get over it! Yes, I know. I wouldn't have much sympathy for me either. The truth is, I work really hard when I do work. Most teachers do. We're not in it for the money (good thing). We don't do it for the summer vacation. We do it because we enjoy being with children and find it very rewarding to teach. It's that simple.
After two decades in the classroom (crap, I am getting old!), I work harder now than ever before. Today I graded a mandatory set of math tests that had 50 problems each, recorded the data with the district office, met with my grade level partner to analyze the results, and then graded a separate math test that was supposed to diagnose the students' current math level. I did all of this during my lunch break and after the kids had gone home. This of course doesn't even begin to describe what I did during the rest of the day.
I know you're wondering what this has to do with dressage, endurance, or even equine health. I have a point. Really, I do. What I wanted to say was that even after a week of loooong days and temperatures in the 100 degree range, I still went to the barn each afternoon. I rode Monday and Tuesday. I took a lesson on Wednesday. I checked both horses on Thursday and discovered that Sydney had whacked his hind legs in his stall and had some surface scratches to go along with his puffy leg. I am writing this on Thursday evening, but my plan is to head to the barn on Friday after work to recheck Sydney's leg and give Speedy some treats.
Even with all of these barn visits and a lesson, I still managed to cook dinner and spend time with hubby. And to top off an already long and hectic week, I also have a show on Sunday.
I will say this: I am sleeping really well!
Not mine though! I was reading the August issue of Dressage Today and landed on the "Ask the Experts" column. The letter rider was having problems at the canter. I was delighted with some of the answer and thought to myself rather smugly, well at least I am doing something right!
Since I've only had formal training in the last year or so, there were many things that I never learned until last year. Posting to the outside diagonal was one of them. Man, oh, man that took me forever to learn! I am not 100% accurate, but I am getting much better.
Back to the expert's answer ... (by the way the column I am referring to is on page 72 if you get the magazine.) Elizabeth Madlener, USEF "S" judge, suggested that the rider check her "position and be sure that you have your weight on the inside seat bone." She went on to say that "if your weight is to the inside, your horse will throw you quite naturally up with the inside hind." And of course, "if you find yourself consistently coming up on the outside diagonal [outside hind?], then you need to get your weight down into the inside seat bone and leg."
Well woohoo for me! I wasn't sure how I was doing it, but I nearly always get the correct diagonal when we return to rising trot from the canter. This must mean my seat and leg are in a somewhat correct position!
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I'll take the atta girl!
But why so many lately? It's not like I am complaining about it, but I'd sure like to know why my rides have gotten better and better over the last month.
Could it be that ...
A foundation was laid that is now supporting new information? Even though I've ridden my entire life, it wasn't until the summer of 2009 that I started taking "formal" riding lessons. Up until then, I was still competing in endurance races on Montoya and Speedy, so the dressage lessons were really just to help my balance improve. I bought a dressage saddle in the spring and took Speedy G for a weekly lesson with a nearby all-around trainer. Out of necessity, the instruction focused on English tack, especially the saddle. After riding in my comfy, squishy endurance saddles, the dressage saddle was quite a switch. I spent several weeks on a lesson horse in the round pen since I was really afraid of tipping over and falling off! It was quite a humiliating experience for someone who regularly rode 50 or more miles in a day to have to ride in a round pen. And how do you just fall off? Fortunately I didn't, but it took quite some time before I felt ready to ride Speedy in the dressage saddle.
The next summer, 2010, I found a local "coach" who agreed to work with me twice a week. During that summer, I started to learn about my body position: lower the leg, relax the leg, sit back, bend the elbows, and turn the thumbs up. I also learned to post to the correct diagonal (mostly). I learned a lot of terms: contact, half-halt, inside/outside aids, free walk, medium walk, change the bend, counter-bend, square halt, and others. I learned the terms, but I wasn't able to make my body, or Speedy's, do them.
Could it be that ... I have a new horse? I bought Sydney this summer, 2011. As soon as I started riding him, Speedy got soft. Or was Speedy soft all along and I only noticed it when I rode a horse who wasn't? I thought Speedy was stiff. Whoa, Nelly! Was I ever wrong. Speedy is the complete opposite of stiff. He's an over-cooked piece of linguini! Until I rode Sydney, I didn't realize how little it takes for Speedy to bend. I think all along we had been struggling because I was over-bending him, especially to the inside. I couldn't figure out why he wouldn't stay out. Once I rode Sydney, I realized my mistake(s). And then when I couldn't bend Sydney, I realized why. I wasn't actually asking him to bend!
Switching back and forth between horses has really forced me to be honest with my body. Something I might be lazy about on one horse can spell disaster on the other horse.
Could it be that ... I have a new trainer? In just five or six lessons with JL, I feel that everything I have learned over the last two years is simply falling into place. Every time I get on one of my boys, I hear an audible click in my head and I literally say, o-o-o-o-h, that's what that means!
I filmed Saturday's schooling ride on Speedy. I liked some of it, and disliked some of it. When I rode him on Sunday, I worked on the parts I disliked, and brought in some of the new things that I've been working on with JL. And just like that, our ride improved. Instead of letting him have that really soft contact which allows him to fall behind my leg, I pushed him forward into the contact. How? When his nose popped up and he braced his neck, I brought my elbows straight back, held the contact steady, and squeezed him forward with my legs. As soon as his neck softened, he got a release, and I gently pulsed the rein to ask him to soften just a little more. When I felt him try to suck back, I squeezed him forward and widened my hands to keep the contact at the corners of mouth. I could see him thinking, AHA! That's what she wants.
Before I knew it, he was (mostly) in front of my leg and reaching for the contact. We walked, and he stretched deeply. Success!
I also rode Sydney and did much the same thing. The difference with Sydney is that he's very soft at the walk, but not so soft when we trot. When he braced and popped his nose out, I pulled back with my elbows, squeezed him forward with my legs, held steady until I felt him soften, and then gently pulsed the rein on the side on which he was heavy. Since he is much stiffer than Speedy, I had to rock the reins a bit more to remind him not to be heavy, but within minutes he was soft and balanced.
After working both directions, I asked for a walk and was pleased to see Sydney offer a nice deep stretch. And again, success!
One definition for dressage is, "the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance." I think the definition should include, be prepared for this to take many years. Be patient, work hard, and you'll get it!
Another confirmed case of EHV-1 has been identified. Read more ...
August 23, 2011: Confirmed case of EHV-1 neurotropathogenic strain
On August 23, 2011, a 15 year old Oldenburg mare from Sonoma County has confirmed positive for the neuropathogenic strain of Equine Herpes Virus-1. The mare is isolated, quarantined and undergoing treatment at a veterinary referral hospital. The premises of origin is under veterinary observation and the potentially exposed horses temperatures are being monitored twice daily. Epidemiologic investigation conducted by CDFA reveals minimal disease risk based on lack of animal movement on and off the affected premises. The investigation has determined the positive horse has no direct link to the May 2011 outbreak of EHV-1 in cutting horses which resulted in 22 positive confirmed equine cases in California. CDFA staff will continue to monitor the situation to ensure disease control.
Monday was the first day of school. Here's how it went.
I woke up at 5:00 a.m. Got to work one hour early. Worked through half of my lunch period. Left on time. Mostly. Arrived home, slipped into barn clothes, made it to the barn by 4:00 p.m. Temperatures were in the lower 90s with a stiff breeze, although it was similar to what a hairdryer might emit. The horses had just been fed so I cleaned my stalls and groomed Sydney. I gave him fifteen minutes to eat and then saddled up. I had a lovely ride. I cleaned him up and turned Speedy out. He and I goofed off out in the arena until he was ready to continue his dinner. I prepared a late "lunch" for both boys, or is it now going to be dessert? Total barn time - hour and a half. Got home, prepped dinner, wrote a blog post. Cleaning lady came today so there were no household chores to do.
So far, not a bad way to return to work.
The photo is from the end of a our ride. White foamy mouth - this is a good thing, right?!