We made it to the clinic. I am having a really hard time deciding what to say about it. As I continue to think and gather my thoughts, check out some photos of the amazing grounds and barns of Middle Ranch.
I took some time last weekend to give my truck and trailer some TLC. You saw a photo the other day of my very dirty truck.
First up, I took Blue Truck into town for fuel and a wash.
Then I fueled-up the generator and gave the living quarters a thorough vacuum and wipe down. While I hauled Sydney to several lessons and shows in August and September, I haven't camped in the trailer since July. It was pretty dusty. Worse were the dead flies that always accumulate near the bed. Yuck!
After the floor and other surfaces were clean, I fired up the stove top (no explosions this time) and did a few other system checks. Thankfully, everything seems to be in good working order. I also filled my traveling hay bag as well as my bale bag and feed bin.
I wanted to be fully prepared for the Susanne von Dietze Clinic.
Since I was just talking about breeches, I had to share this little tidbit!
Many of my colleagues and I have been playing variations of the Biggest Loser for the past 7 or 8 years. It's fun, usually, and it keeps us watching what we eat. Some of us have a lot to lose, some just a muffin top, and others simply want to maintain their current weight. To accommodate all of our weight loss goals, we created this version of the Biggest Loser.
Rules for the Biggest Loser:
1. Determine a start and end date. Each player weighs in on the start date and contributes $5 to the pot. CM has a great digital scale that she leaves in her classroom for our use. Each player also receives a raffle ticket.
2. Each player weighs in weekly and records the new weight. If you lose more than a pound, you get TWO raffle tickets; any weight loss up to a pound earns ONE ticket, and zero weight gain or loss gets nothing. If you gain any, however, you drop $5 in the pot.
3. At the end of the contest, the raffle tickets are put in a bucket and a single name is drawn, winner takes all.
After however many attempts, I was finally the winner! Not only did I win all the money, but I actually lost weight, too! I paid my original buy-in of $5, but I never put in money after that. For the entire 8 or 9 weeks that we played, I lost at least one pound per week, sometimes more, for a total of 12 to 13 pounds. Go, Me!!!!
I received my "winnings" at lunch and was quite pleased to see $40. Well of course it started burning a hole in my pocket immediately. I knew I had to treat myself to something equine related, but what would it be? I had to stop by Target for some household stuff after work on Friday, so I thought I might browse the Active Wear section; $40 goes quickly there. Here's what my weight loss got me:
I had to spend a bit over the $40, but not by much. I bought two packages (12 pairs) of crew socks for a total of $13.78 - even though I school in field boots, I don't like to wear tall socks. The moisture wicking top was $12.99; it's super cute with a shimmery, metallic sheen. The sports bra was $16.99. None of it was on sale, but the total of $43.76 (plus some tax) seemed fair.
So I now have some new socks, a riding top, and a sports bra to wear with my two pairs of brand new breeches. Hold the phone, boys; this girl is rockin' it!
I have a fondness for breeches, which is odd because for most of my early riding life, I rode in shorts or jeans, and occasionally a bathing suit. If you’ll remember, I am originally from sparsely populated northern California where towns are quite small and uninhabited space is ample.
When I first started endurance riding, I didn’t know what breeches actually were. I only knew they were a funny type of riding pants that English riders wore. I quickly discovered that riding tights were an essential piece of gear for endurance riders, as jeans will rub you completely raw while trotting for any distance.
My first pair of riding tights weren’t even actually riding tights; they were leggings bought at Target that looked like tights. I was quite embarrassed to be seen riding in what essentially looked like dark panty hose. I didn’t want to invest money in actual riding tights if my modesty couldn’t overcome my desire for comfort. Riding with other endurance riders, both men and women, who wore riding tights, helped me overcome my fear of looking nearly naked. Being comfortable reigns supreme in the endurance world.
Once I was no longer feeling quite so exposed (long t-shirts helped), I found that riding tights came in every conceivable print and solid, at least in the endurance world. I’ve yet to see giraffe and zebra print tights in the Dover catalog. If you’ve ever seen an actual endurance rider, you’ll know what I mean when I say that we love color. Endurance riders love neon and electric colors like no one else. The vendors who market endurance equipment happily satisfy their customers’ cravings for bright and colorful gear by searching out weird patterns and prints and by doing custom work at no extra cost.
At some point during my endurance career, my tastes began to change, and I found that all of my tack and riding gear were soon all black. Had my life been a novel, the reader would have seen this as a bit of obvious foreshadowing as all of my dressage tack is now black!
While still doing endurance races, I kept my riding wardrobe to a minimum. I would have never in a million years purchased a riding shirt as they are quickly covered in dust and grime within a few short hours. Instead, riding shirts came from clothes that were no longer fit to be worn in good company. Most of my shirts were either cast offs that were stained in the kitchen or had been “won” at a previous endurance race.
My tights were also kept to a minimum. I always maintained at least two pair of racing tights, those deemed most comfortable and in the best repair, and several other pair for training rides that were less comfortable or patched and stitched and on the edge of disintegrating. It’s not that I was cheap, but brand new riding tights had a way of getting torn the first time out of the box. Well-worn pairs just seemed impervious to branches and getting bucked off.
Once I began riding dressage, I quickly discovered that I was coming back home in nearly the same shape as I had left. My clothes weren’t filthy and even better, nothing had holes or tears. I started to realize that I might be able to ride without looking like I was working for food. My love of breeches was born.
Having come from a sport where comfort far outweighs appearances, my love of breeches came with a caveat: no matter how cute the breeches, they must first be comfortable and conducive to maintaining a balanced seat. And since I am pretty budget conscious, (I would rather spend my money on clinics and shows), I often have to give up some of the cute factor for functionality.
A few weeks ago, the Riding Warehouse sent out a $10.00 off coupon on their Facebook page. If you haven’t “Liked” them yet, you should as they have a huge inventory of quality stuff at ridiculously low prices. $10.00 off was quite hard to ignore, especially since the minimum purchase was something like $20. With coupon code in hand, I sat down to browse the online store.
Not needing anything in particular, I clicked on the breeches link to see what might be new or on sale. For the past few years, my preferred riding breeches have been the TuffRider Ribb Lowrise Breech. They run around $40 in the Dover catalog. They have tons of stretch (my number one criteria), are pretty dang durable, and come at a price that allows me to buy them two or three at a time. And, best of all, they are live-in comfortable. I am always disappointed when I buy anything else.
The Riding Warehouse carries TuffRider breeches, but they have a model that I had yet to see. They’re calling it the TuffRider Ribb Wide Waist Knee Patch breech, which sounds just like what I’ve been buying, but these have some nice details that the others are lacking. First of all, they have a two-inch waistband, which I love. They also sport double clasp hooks that have faux snaps on the outside with TuffRider’s winged horseshoe logo. An extra bit of style that I don’t usually get.
The slash pocket, which is really deep, is set horizontally and has a zipper. And just like the other TuffRiders that I buy, these breeches have Velcro at the ankles. The pair I bought has knee patches, but the back of the breech has a cute stitching detail that makes them look a little like full-seat breeches. The fabric, 92% Polyester and 8% Spandex, is almost like a compression fabric; it's thick while still being super stretchy.
The best thing about this updated pair of breeches is the price. They were only $34.95 before my $10.00 discount. I paid $7.00 for the shipping, but had I ordered more, the shipping would have been free. I ordered the charcoal pair, and since I loved them so much, I later ordered the tan pair with a few other necessities to bring my total to the required $50 (free shipping). If you’re looking for a budget friendly, comfortable breech, I would recommend the TuffRiders and the Riding Warehouse.
I am an over-achiever. This is great in many ways; dinner gets cooked nightly, laundry doesn’t pile up, and our household bills are always paid on time. BUT. No one is perfect at everything, which means the over-achiever, me in particular, frequently under-achieves. This can feel devastating.
I am actually tired of writing about this, but one purpose my blog serves is to be a place where I can work on issues like this one, and I clearly need to work on this. I know that my feelings of failure often keep me from succeeding, or at least feeling successful. Especially when it comes to Sydney.
I get so much support from family and friends; they all think I have accomplished a great deal. I wish I knew to what they were comparing me. Compared to a non-rider, yeah, I guess I am successful; I show, I go to clinics, and I get ribbons. Compared to other active competitors, we don’t stack up too well.
So what do I do? The range from successful to total suckiness is vast. Hilda Gurney and Steffen Peters are successful. How can I say I am successful without qualifying the statement with a million buts? Do I say, I am successful as an adult ammie in the lowest levels of my sport when the classes are really small? Well, whoop-de-do.
How is success defined in dressage? Secretly, I do feel successful, but not in the way it counts. Or, at least not in the ways I want it to count. I want to win classes; I want to move up a level each year; I want someone to say, wow, she has a great seat. But none of that is happening. Hence, I am an under-achieving, over-achiever.
My list of secret successes is pretty small and not always dressage related:
I haul my horses and myself to any show that I want to with confidence and without needing to follow someone else’s plan. This is not dressage specific, of course, since I’ve been doing that for more than a decade, but it’s still something I feel good about.
I moved from a detail-oriented sport where success was based on completion time and for many, longevity, to a sport that requires a completely different level of attention to detail and the perfection of movements. This success, however, is tempered by the degree to which I’ve done the latter.
I guess that I should also include the fact that I am (probably) ready to start showing at First Level. When I first started showing Introductory Level in the summer of 2010, I would have been in absolute Heaven to be attempting First Level so I know that must count as a success.
I know you must be waiting for some big punch line: wah, wah, but here’s my epiphany type of thing. Sorry. I am still searching and waiting for the epiphany. Why can't I feel satisfied by the small steps that I am taking? How can I care just a little bit less? How do I stop feeling embarrassed by how far I have to go?
And buried within that idea is probably the very answer I need.
I'll be off the air for a day or two, but I'll have plenty to share when I am back. Things like ... Monday's lesson, how an overachiever is an under achiever, and some cool stuff about breeches and trailers.
Speedy is doing much better by the way. I'd say he's 95% sound in the arena and slightly less so on asphalt. I am hoping to be able to ride him again this weekend. During his hour and a half of turn out yesterday, he blew around the arena bucking and galloping without a care in the world. He's not that lame!
Here he is waiting for dinner.
See you in a day or two.
I feel great about the year Speedy and I had. On the showing front, we moved from nearly 60% scores at the start of the season up to the high 60s (67%) by the season's end. We earned our USDF Training Level Patch. We earned enough scores to be considered for the CDS Henry Buchard Trophy, and we qualified for the CDS Championships. We will earn a CDS plate to add to our plaque, and we even won the 2013 Training Level Championship at El Sueno.
And then there's my second season ...
I feel as though Sydney and I had a dismal and disappointing year. We worked so hard, but we just couldn't pull it together at shows. We did have two good scores at schooling shows, a 61.5% at Intro C and a 63.333% at Training Level Test 1, but everything else was in the 50s. There was even that ridiculous 48%.
4/7/13 Spring Dressage Fling Schooling Show
5/26/13 TMC Spring Mountain Dressage
6/23/13 TMC Mountain Solstice Dressage
6/30/13 Early Summertime Dressage Schooling Show
8/11/13 It's Showtime! Schooling Show
8/25/13 TMC Cool Mountain Dressage Show
As I look over the scores we earned, I realize they aren't that bad. They represent a team that is struggling, but occasionally hitting the mark. Riding at a show, no matter the level of show, requires an additional skill set that goes beyond the skills required for riding at a particular level. We can be the perfect Training Level team at home, but once we're at a show, we both have to deal with our nerves, a new stall, a new arena, new sights and sounds, and on and on.
My husband and I made the trip to Tehachapi on Saturday night for my CDS chapters's annual awards banquet. Tehachapi Mountain Chapter is a generous and supportive group. They work hard to support both juniors and adult amateurs. Without their initial support, I probably would have stuck to endurance riding. It was during the banquet that I realized Sydney and I aren't doing that bad.
There were at least 80 people at the banquet including riders, trainers, and supportive family members. Everyone around me applauded and congratulated the riders who received an award. Only 13 people in the room were given an award, including me. It made me realize that even though my scores were low, it's still pretty hard to get to show after show and earn any kind of a score. It was really gratifying that all of those people were there to recognize our hard work.
Sydney and I earned Adult Amateur Introductory Level Reserve Champion with an average of 56.167% while competing in the Tehachapi Mountain Summer Dressage Series (CDS-rated). It was our first season of showing together. We were awarded a certificate and a large bag of horse treats. It was actually quite satisfying to be recognized.
I have the rest of fall and winter to work with Sydney. We have a clinic this month, and hopefully he can also go to the Christian Schacht Clinic in December. We need to work on the right lead canter of course, but I am hoping these clinics will be an opportunity for us to deal with the nerves of being in a different arena.
Here's to the 2014 show season!
We had it, and then we lost it. It was great while it was there, and I hope we can find it again, but damn that right lead canter to Hell!
I saddled up yesterday in good spirits, ready to improve on the work we had done the two days prior. Who knows what happened? Maybe Sydney was sick of trying to canter. Either way, it just wasn't happening to the right.
I really tried every trick I knew. We did turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches, 10-meter circles, counter bent circles, and even lots of walking. I just couldn't get him to let go anywhere. By the end, I was all over that inside rein and vainly working my inside leg. The more effort I put into getting a bend and moving him off my inside aids, the more heavily he charged through them.
As I drove home, disgusted and frustrated, it occurred to me that the real problem was probably that I let his haunches escape to the outside. I have another lesson Monday; I hope JL can get me back on track. Today is another day.
We got it, we got it!
The right lead canter, I mean. We've been able to get a right lead canter off and on over the last year, but it seemed to be only when Sydeny was completely relaxed. And we could never get it at a show. If he was even the slightest bit anxious, he would whirl and duck to the right, picking up whichever lead he wanted, often times the left.
JL gave me an exercise to try at our lesson two weeks ago that firmed up the outside aids. We had that under control for my next lesson which was this past Monday. (I am a bit behind in sharing.) I had worked Sydney pretty hard last Sunday, so he was pretty relaxed for Monday's lesson.
I started by just warming up at the trot. I started to the left like I usually do, but then we did a change of direction. My persistence has paid off. He made the change without losing his balance and without trying to rush off. I did another change of direction so that we were tracking left again. I asked for a left lead canter which he positively rolled into. We were ready to tackle the right side.
Since I now had better control of the outside aids, JL had me work on maintaining the inside bend without making the circle smaller, not an easy task. Essentially, the exercise went like this:
This took a huge amount of concentration on my part, as well as some dexterity, because the instant I tried for some inside bend, I was riding a beam of wood. I finally got a little tough with him and really bumped that inside rein while holding firmly with the outside rein. He and I both got it at the same time. OH!
Once I could coordinate all four aids: outside hand to slow down, outside leg behind the girth, inside leg at the girth, and right hand maintaing a bend, it felt a little bit like making a marionette dance, but I felt as though I was (finally) riding Sydney's whole body.
To further help me keep Sydney balanced through the canter transition, JL had me think of moving him sideways into the circle (sort of like the direction of a half pass) so that the canter becomes a sideways movement and not a launch forward. Another image she had me think of was sidestroking into the canter like a swimmer will do.
Once I had all of these images firmly in my mind and all four aids under control, Sydney picked up the right lead canter without launching forward and without ducking and whirling to the inside.
The true test of course is being to get it days later with no trainer on the ground prompting you when to go. So I was quite eager to give it a try when I rode him again on Thursday and Friday. He was able to pick up the right lead canter at the very first request both afternoons, even though he wasn't totally relaxed and soft. I am such a dork, but after I halted him, I gave a very loud, and very solitary, "Woo hoo!" There might have even been some happy dancing all the way back to the barn.
By George, I think we've got it!
My show season has ended which means that taking care of my truck is harder to do. While I am using it every other weekend for shows and clinics, I keep the battery fully charged, the gas tank full, and the outside pretty clean. Once the season is over, my truck just sits there without getting used.
One week might go by, and then another will pass, and before I know what has happened, my truck's been sitting in the same spot gathering dust for a month. This is when the battery starts to get sluggish, dirt cakes the windshield, and spiders build their webs around my tires.
I think Blue Truck has already reached the neglected stage. I drove it just a week or so ago. Or was it two weeks ago? It might even be three weeks now that I think about it. Fortunately, Sydney and I will be going to an overnight clinic this month which means Blue Truck will get some tender loving care in the form of a bath and some fuel.
My goal for this fall and winter: drive Blue Truck once a week, wash it once a month, and keep the tank at least half full.