Sunday's rides tomorrow ...
Just to relieve you of any tension, we finally got a score above 60% at a Third Level test at a USDF-rated show. Not a huge amount over 60%, mind you. In fact, we earned a 60.405%, just 1.5 points over the necessary 222 needed for a 60% at Third Level Test 1. Do I care? Nope. We earned it fair and square.
As in everything Speedy and I do, Saturday's two tests, Test 1 and Test 3, were a mixed bag with both good and bad moments. Test 1 was filled with a very long list of mediocre 6.0s and 6.5s. We had a few 5.5s and a lone 5.0. Add that all up and you get 60%.
For test 1, we didn't make any real errors other than one. I hate to show everyone in the warm up ring our "ugly." It's the ugly that Speedy needs though to put on a better performance. He needs to know that I am going to smack him once or twice if he doesn't get his butt moving. I didn't smack him like I should have, so we had a lackluster performance.
Don't get me wrong; I am not dismissing a 60% score as "lackluster." I have worked both our butts off to cross that magical line in the sand. In fact, when I got word that I had finally earned my first qualifying Third Level score, I burst into tears. Did I raise the roof, high five everyone in the barn, or do a happy dance. Negative, Buck Rogers. I bawled like a little kid.
Weirdo. I know, right? I am just so damn driven that getting my bronze medal is all I can think about. And it's not like earning it means I am done with Third Level and moving on to bigger and better things. All it means is that I can cross that goal off my list so that I can really focus on owning the directives at Third Level and getting better. Here's the video.
Our second test of the day, Test 3, is just hard. While I didn't make any real mistakes, I just don't know the test well enough to ride it with confidence. Not like that's the only reason we didn't earn a 60%. Did I mention that it's hard? My goal between now and our next show in December is to know that test backwards and forwards. The better I know a test, the more effective I can be in riding it.
Our score for 3-1 was 58.375%, just 6.5 points shy of a 60%. Our entry and halt, one of the places we can easily score a 7.0, was not up to par. We earned a 5.5 for which I have no explanation. That was at least a 1.5 loss. Our trot half pass left was weird - we earned a 4.0. That score carries a double coefficient so we lost another 4 points. That's 5.5 of the the 6.5 points we needed for a 60%.
Could I have picked up another point along the way? Absolutely. Like I said, knowing the test a little better and not riding it while second guessing myself would really help improve my score.
It wasn't a great test, but it wasn't a disaster either. We just have to keep working at it. Here's the video for Saturday's Third Level Test 3 ride.
While earning 4 scores of 60% or better at a show is always my ultimate goal, Saturday's 60.405% meant that I earned my goal for the show. With it, I now have the first of the two scores that I need for a Bronze Medal. That score is also a qualifying score for next year's Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC). It also means Speedy has the fourth score of 6 towards his CDS Horse Performance Award.
At the end of a show day, I always like to formulate a new plan for Sunday. What can I do better? What needs to change? What went well? As hard as it is to let everyone watch me "school" my horse, I knew I needed to get Speedy in front of my leg and sharper to my aids. That meant I was going to have to annoy the heck out him and expect him to "show up."
Sunday's rides tomorrow ...
Over the weekend, Speedy and I did our third USDF-rated show at Third Level. Three is apparently our lucky number. But first, have a look at this beautiful facility.
The Mission Pacific equestrian facility was recently purchased and renamed the Southern California Equestrian Center. Since purchasing the property, the new owner has done a lot of neat things to spruce up the place.
From a previous visit, I remember the lounge as being a dark junk room. Now, it's super clean, modern, and brightly lit. I don't think I would always feel motivated to ride if I had a place like this to hang out in on a hot day.
The second lounge, where the restrooms are located, is even more inviting, especially on a cold day. The large windows in the lounge slide open for fresh air on warmer days. You also get a nice view of the dressage court.
While a comfortable place to take a load off is nice, what's really nice are stalls so huge that you almost don't even need to turn horses out. There are 50 of them!
This year, management reserved the entire left side of the barn for show horses. Full service included pre-bedded stalls, and each day after they cleaned, they added MORE shavings! The automatic waters were super clean stainless steel, so it was nice not to schlepp water buckets back and forth. The guys also fed the hay and pellets I left in front of Speedy's stall. Of course, I checked in on him about 4,000 times to be sure he didn't need anything, but it was nice that I didn't have to feed at 5:30 a.m. like I usually do. The price for full service was $185. I felt like it was totally worth it.
This is truly the largest barn that I've ever been in. I am sure larger ones exist, but they're not that typical here in sunny California. The barn is shaped like a cross with two very long sides stretching from one end to the other and two shorter ends coming off the front and back of the barn.
At the center of the "cross" there is an arm that holds wash racks, tack rooms, and a few other places that I didn't really take the time to check out. Out the back, where the bright white light is, there is a pair of wash racks.
Facing the other way is the new lounge through the first door on the left and the older, more comfy lounge at the end. There is a men's rest room in the middle. On the right hand side, there is a tack room through the first door, a breeze way where the farrier can work, and at the end, an office with a state of the art security monitoring system - in case you were getting any ideas.
The property is vast. There are many pastures and other smaller barns scattered around, but they were too far to visit for photos. As you leave the barn though, you come down to this small ring that I am sure once served as a type of parade ring like you see at race tracks. Now it just connects the various rings and some pastures.
Encircling the grassy ring, dressage court, warm up ring, and several smaller pastures is a quarter mile galloping track, fenced just like a race track.
Speedy and I walked/jogged the track each morning in hand. He loved it. The footing was great, and he was able to really move out which he loves to do before breakfast. On Sunday morning, he even talked me into a full out sprint.
I am not sure what the dressage ring's footing is composed of, but it was quite nice. The warm up was just as nice. To the left of the corner at K is a raised viewing platform that proved to be a great vantage point for watching tests and taking photos.
I ended up parking and camping in the day parking area which meant I did have to haul stuff, like my saddle, back and forth each day, but since I was the only one who camped, I had a super nice view and a very quite camp site.
I am not sure why the shows at SCEC haven't been on my list, but after this visit, you can bet I'll be going back. My very good friend Jen manages the shows which gives me yet another reason to show there next year.
Speaking of showing ... more tomorrow.
A few weeks ago, Dover suckered me in with one of their THIS IS THE ONLY TIME THIS PRODUCT WILL EVER BE ON SALE, SO YOU HAD BETTER BUY IT RIGHT THIS MINUTE email ads. I get them all the time, but I am usually able to resist with an eye roll.
I probably would have been able to say no this time too, except my muck boots, which I live in when I am not at home or work, have started to look as though they've seen better days. I literally wear them 365 days a year. I even wear them in the summer.
So when I saw the ad for the MUDS by Noble Outfitters at under $50, I couldn't say no. They typically run a bit over $100. I also had a $10 Dover gift card, so it brought the boots down to $39.99 plus tax and free shipping since I have a Dover Visa. The purchase was a no brainer.
They fit great, and past experience tells me they'll be just as comfortable as my old pair. The only thing I am not sold on is that this is the tall pair and my old ones are mid calf. Like I said, I wear them in the summer, so I am hoping they're not too hot. Noble Outfitters describes the boots as having "a moisture-wicking fleece lining for comfort on both cold and hot days." We'll see.
If nothing else, I'll get to buy a second pair for summer duty. I can live with that.
On Friday, when my confidence was a bit low and Speedy was a bit grouchy, what I forgot to mention was that my AWESOME chiropractor had come out on Monday. That man is simply a magician.
CC's been doing my horses for so long now that he can figure out what's wrong without my two cents, but since I am nothing if not hands on, I like to give him a 30 second summary of what I'm feeling. Speedy can't bend right, his lumbar region is sore, and his left hind seems a bit ouchy.
I was mostly on track. Speedy couldn't bend right because his poll was definitely out as was his C7, that deepest neck vertebrae in the spinal column. Those two things were causing everything else to hurt, even his lumbar region.
One of the things I most love about working with CC is that he's also a horse trainer and competitor. As he's finishing up with one of my horses, I love to pick his brain about how or why my horse is sore. Sometimes I know. Izzy has fallen a time or two which would explain why he was hurting, but most of the time, I figure they're hurting because of me.
It's not like I am doing something on purpose, but CC describes it as "wrestling with them." And yes, that is a pretty accurate description. So then I have to ask myself if we're struggling because they don't want to do what I am asking - this seems quite likely since what I am asking for is typically hard, or is it that they simply can't do what I am asking? It's both I imagine.
CC always offers training solutions for what might have led to the soreness. He also says that horses excel at hurting themselves without our help. I like hearing his perspective and would love to have him on site. Wouldn't it be great to board and train with an equine body worker?
I gave Speedy the next day off and then rode him lightly on Wednesday. The changes in his ability to bend and in his overall attitude were obvious. Izzy was the one who was needing an adjustment every couple of months. It looks like now that Speedy is solidly at Third Level, he's going to be needing some more frequent body work.
That's okay. I've got a guy.
I don't usually show in the fall and winter, but because we got such a slow start to the season, I'm powering through with a show this weekend, and if all goes well, another show in December. Both are two-day USDF shows. That's California for you, riding/showing weather 365.
I can't say I'm brimming with confidence. A week ago? You betcha. The changes were crisp and clean, our medium trot was getting even more balanced, and the canter half pass, while still lacking some bend and power, was at least a half pass. And then I broke everything.
I am not sure what happened. One day Speedy could bend right, and the next he couldn't. My fingers are crossed that he's just really grouchy and maybe a wee bit sore since I started insisting that his inside right hind join the party. I've been super careful about not over-insisting, but he's mad about something, and that seems the most likely culprit.
I Spent last Sunday getting organized for this weekend's show. Even though my confidence is low, Speedy still needs to eat, and I need someplace to sleep and shower. I gave the truck and trailer a quick hose down; it's amazing how much dust can build up in just a few weeks.
I also loaded a bale of hay for Speedy. If you'll remember from my post the other day about how heavy our bales are, you'll commiserate with me as I huffed and puffed and nearly failed to load that bale. Those suckers are HEAVY.
I also bagged up all of Speedy's supplements. His senior feed is loaded in bulk, but his vitamins and electrolytes come in much smaller portions, so they go in baggies with a bit of beet pulp to hide the electrolytes. His daily Pergolide dose will go in last. I don't think it will be warm enough for electrolytes, but the small bit I am giving might encourage him to drink more if it's cool.
Speedy's had an easy week. I hope that was enough to make him feel not so picked on. he likes to show, so hopefully we come out swinging. With four rides over the two days, I just need one score of 60% or better.
Lady Luck, The Universe, The Divine ... a little help this weekend would be much appreciated.
I love having Speedy and Izzy living side by side. They are both much happier and more relaxed. They might be happier, but I am not. According to the ranch owner, the boys play off and on all day. They tear up and down the fence line, striking at each other over the fence before charging off the other direction.
The good thing is that Izzy's energy level is much more manageable. The bad news is that they are chewing the crap out of one another. Both horses are covered with bite marks from head to rump. Most days, I shake my head in exasperation. Over the weekend, I worried that a vet visit might be in order.
Speedy had a hunk of hair missing from the side of his face with a very obvious bite mark in the middle of his jaw. The missing hair and rumpled skin weren't the problem, it was the swelling in his cheek that had me worried. I couldn't tell whether the damage was on the inside or the outside. I poked at it gently only to feel a very squishy pocket of liquid. Dude.
I did what every take-care-of-it-yourself horse owner would do. I grabbed my head lamp and the hose and did a pretty thorough investigation. I flushed out his mouth, grabbed his tongue, and peered up in there to see what was what. All of his teeth were still there, which, if you've followed our story for any length of time, you know doesn't always happen. He's already lost one tooth from fooling around.
My view wasn't as good as it would have been with a speculum to hold his mouth open wider, but I could see pretty well. There was nothing obviously out of place. He's also eating quite enthusiastically which I know he wouldn't do if he had a wonky tooth. Past experience is quite a useful predictor of behavior. He's also taking the bridle willingly. The swelling is seems due to a little edema, and thankfully, it finally started to go down yesterday. I think I can skip a vet visit.
Every day as I pull into the barn, I cross my fingers that no one is dead. I swear I don't make this stuff up.
Now that we're showing Third Level, I waffle between feeling rushed to get everything perfect, and relaxed knowing that I have all the time in the world. I mean, realistically, how much farther can we go? Sure, Fourth Level is looking like a distinct possibility, but after that? The FEI Level? I am not holding my breath.
So really, what's the rush? Over the weekend, I took some time to shore up some areas that I felt needed patching up, namely our flying changes and the overall quality of our canter work.
Earlier in the week, I broke our left to right flying change which put me in a complete panic since we have a USDF-rated show this weekend. A busted flying change is not what we need right now. I realized that Speedy needed more jump in his canter to get the change, so I played around with some canter to walk to canter transitions insisting that they be crisp and clear.
Wouldn't you know it, but suddenly, our canter had more jump and a much clearer rhythm. Our left lead canter was back on track, but the right lead was being hampered by the fact that Speedy's ribcage was pushing through my right leg. No bueno. So I schooled that a bit. Bend, half halt, MOVE OVER! A few dozen of those and magically our right lead canter got jumpier with a clearer rhythm.
And just like that, the flying changes were back. Who knew that getting your horse in front of your leg with a soft inside bend would fix faulty flying changes? Palm to face moment right there.
Fall is awards season, at least it is if you show dressage. The championship shows are winding down and scores are being tabulated. Here in California, both the CDS Championship and the USDF Region 7 Championship shows have ended. It's now time for awards.
On Saturday evening, my husband and I, along with Team Symphony and about 75 other people, attended the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS's annual awards banquet.
The banquet was held at the very beautiful Oak Tree Country Club. It was actually supposed to be held last weekend, but with the recent power outages across California, it had to be moved to this past weekend. The Country Club was able to pull it off though, and surprisingly, it looked like most everyone was able to make it.
The dinner was quite lavish with prime rib and parmesan crusted chicken, a wide array of side dishes, and a decadent apple crisp topped with freshly whipped creme. Tehachapi Mountain Chapter (TMC), is a small CDS Chapter with fewer than 40 members, but they work hard to put on a first class banquet and awards ceremony.
Although only a small chapter, TMC recognizes open riders, amateurs like me, and juniors. Awards are given for Champion and Reserve for each level, Introductory through Fourth Levels. TMC is a generous chapter whose goal is to promote the sport of dressage and to encourage rider participation.
Team Symphony was well represented with riders winning championships at Introductory, Second, Third, Fourth, and Western Dressage.
Speedy and I earned the Adult Amateur Championship for Third Level. While we didn't have much competition, we still had to earn an average of 60% or greater. Our year-end average was 63.379%. I am really proud of this award. Third Level isn't exactly easy.
This was Lois and Terry's last year as TMC board members. They decided to retire, much to the dismay of the rest of the chapter. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, along with myself and several other people, have stepped up to fill the Quinn's especially large shoes. Chemaine will serve as Chairperson with me as her Vice-Chair.
Let's hope we can put on as successful of a show season and awards banquet as the Quinns have these many years.
For the first time in at least a year, I asked Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to hop up on Speedy. Not that she doesn't want to ride him, but for the most part, I am doing all the training rides with her coaching and teaching me.
I made sure that Speedy was warmed up before she pulled in for our lesson because while she didn't know it, my plan for the lesson was to finally have her ride his canter half pass to see where we're stuck. Basically, I wanted to know if it was me, the mostly likely explanation, or him. As it turns out, it was mostly him. His canter half passes are weak right now because he just hasn't quite developed the reach and strength for the WOW type of canter half pass that I am expecting.
It only took Chemaine a few minutes to figure out his issue. The main reason his half pass is a bit sticky, particularly to the right, is because I've let him lean on that right rein since the beginning of time. I am working on it, but it's proving much harder to fix than it would have been way back at Training Level. For now, Chemaine's advice is to get what bend I can and not be too hard on him. It'll come.
Chemaine did show me one exercise to help develop his reach and strength though. Just because it's hard for him doesn't mean I'm not going to work on it. Working on it is how it will get less hard. Essentially, the exercise involved half passing to the quarterline, moving his shoulders back toward the rail, and then riding forward in a haunches in. When the bend has been reestablished, move laterally into the half pass again.
The first time I tried it to the right, Speedy ran headlong into to my right rein. We had a little discussion about it, and then we tried it again. The feeling is of moving the shoulders out of the way toward the rail to allow the haunches to swing in. It's very difficult to do when you're falling in on your inside shoulder. Once we tried it a few times, he got much more supple, and the half pass did improve.
We now have several new exercises that we can do to free up his shoulders - counter canter 20-meter circles with 10-meter true canter circles at each "corner," pivoting out of the corner, and now this half pass to haunches in exercise.
We're Not-So-Speedy-Dressage for a reason.
This has been one heck of a week. Strike that. It's been a hell of a month. I've been teaching for 26 years. Never before have I had a first quarter kick my butt as much as this one has, and I am not alone. Every one of my colleagues is saying the same thing. What can you do though? Adulting is hard, even when you're approaching 50.
So when I got to the barn yesterday afternoon, I immediately felt the urge to sweep the feed/tackroom floor. There was no pressing need, and it's not like anyone is going to blame me for in tracking dirt. In fact, I'm the only one who does sweep. Even so, that dirt on the floor reminded me of the mental mess that I've been packing around this week. There is something very cathartic about sweeping. Scooping poop will give me the same sense of cleaning out the cobwebs.
And then I rode Speedy. It wasn't a great ride. I was pretty tired, and my heart really wasn't in it. Speedy knew it and took full advantage. He was behind my leg and heavy. I tried to get something productive going, but all I managed to do was break our flying lead changes. Out of "nowhere" the left to right change disappeared.
Eventually I realized how behind the leg he really was. As soon as I got some more jump to the canter, the change was there. I quit on that good note, and besides, we'd been working for a solid half an hour.
I untacked and let Speedy wander off to check out the lawn. As I was hanging up his bridle, I grimaced at the caked on dirt and gunk. It was just like the floor - it didn't have to be cleaned RIGHT THEN, but I couldn't stand it. I started off by wiping it clean with a damp cloth, but that didn't satisfy me. I then used a bit of leather creme but still wasn't free of the mental muddle I've been fighting. I finally dragged out the lederbalsam and finished it off.
With my fingers already feeling sticky, I looked down at my boots and figured a little more mental housekeeping wouldn't hurt. I wiped my boots free of dust and massaged in some of my boot conditioner. I find it's easier to clean them while I am wearing them. I looked around and realized that my mental state of mind had improved.
Today's going to be a busy day. I have an early morning Battle of the Books party to host for eleven 4/5/6th graders. We have a science assembly at 8:30, and then I'll be managing the lunch time detention program during my lunch. Add to that, it's Dress Up like Your Favorite Book Character day. Nothing like throwing in a bit more crazy to an already hectic day.
My husband has already agreed to pick up sushi for dinner. Bless him.