Good thing Speedy doesn't care. He likes me no matter how bad I am. The feeling is mutual.
This is not a new topic; it's one I come back to now and again. Does anyone ever feel that they are good? And I mean the kind of good where you don't have to qualify it: yes, I am a "good" rider compared to a non-rider. In my world, you're only "good" if you're Carl Hester or Steffen Peters or Isabell Werth or any of a half dozen names. How can I say I am a good rider when people like that are in the world?
At the El Sueno show a week ago, I warmed up with riders doing Prix St. Georges and Fourth Level because the show is run from the higher tests down through the lower levels. At the time, I felt comfortable warming up in that crowd and never worried about running anyone over. Later though, I wondered to myself what in the world I thought I was doing in such prestigious company.
No matter what level Speedy and I do, I still feel like that endurance rider giving Intro Level a try. Speedy looks exactly the same to me as he did eight years ago. He's lost most of his dark gray coloring of course, but I just can't see the "wow" that everyone else tells me they see.
Here we are at Second Level. No matter how many people remark that Speedy is moving so much differently, I still feel like the bumbling Intro rider who's trying to fool the judge.
Does that feeling ever change?
Someone recently told me to remember that Speedy wouldn't look the way he does if I weren't doing something right.
It's a crisis of confidence for sure. Maybe I'll feel "good enough" if we make it to Third Level. Or does the feeling come at Fourth? Please don't tell me that Carl Hester walks around feeling like a walking train wreck; my already minuscule ego couldn't handle that.
Good thing Speedy doesn't care. He likes me no matter how bad I am. The feeling is mutual.
While Izzy hasn't been around much on the blog, he's still getting worked daily. As of right now, he seems to have moved on from an I am a jackass, watch my dick moves attitude. He's still special, and by special I don't mean he's worth $80,000 special. He's short bus special, which means he requires a great deal of tact and patience that's not for every rider. Good thing he has me. I have loads of tact and patience; I teach kids after all.
Since I switched to the legal bit for every ride, every time, we've gone through some ... moments. There was a week or three of him bolting through my aids, another week or two of him balking and rearing, and then a week or so of him combining all of that into one grand gesture.
Every ride I remind him that the rules are no different with this bit. In fact, the rules are quite simple: no looking around, no hanging on my hands, no stopping when you're mad, and no bolting when you don't get your way. Easy, right?
For the past several weeks, our rides have been about steadying the connection. I am totally happy to work on that. We start at the walk with me asking him to stretch forward and down - he loves that part. We then turn that into a medium walk where he has to lift his withers a bit and carry his own head.
When the walk is more or less established, we pick up the trot where we do the same thing. I say only three things as we work - Nope, nope, nope ... Yes. Nope, nope, nope, Yes! And every once in a while, I get to throw in a good boy! which is all too often cut short by another string of nopes.
I am honestly really happy with how he's working right now. He's genuinely trying to figure it out, and he looks so proud of himself when he finally gets it. Just the other day we were doing pretty decent trot half passes. His stretchy trot needs a ton of work but the lateral work is nothing for the big brown horse.
If we ever get to show again, we're coming out at Second Level where no stretchy trot is required. Bring on the half pass and flying changes - you know, the easy stuff!
I am kind of over watching these videos and writing about this show. Yes, it was fun. Yes, we did decently overall, but I'm ready to move on to something else.
The other thing that makes these write ups so boring is that Second Level Test 1 and Test 3 are nearly identical, so all of my photos (screenshots, really) look the same in ever single post. I swear they're not all from the same test!
So in the interest of time, let's just cut to the chase. We squeaked by with a 60.366% for Second Level Test 3. No errors, but we had a few scores below 6.0. The first was for the left turn on the haunches, 5.0, with the comment "stuck." The day before the judge gave us 7.0s. I didn't think this one looked any more stuck than the ones from the day before, but maybe she was tired of cutting me so much slack.
We also earned a 5.5 for a medium trot (needs ground cover just into front foot steps - or that's what I think it says). And in that same medium trot we earned a 5.5 for the transitions at M and K. No surprise there. We were both feeling tired.
We didn't score any 7.0s for this test, but we had enough 6.5s (six of them) to make up for the 5s. This test certainly wasn't our best effort, but we didn't totally stink either. We're heading to the California Dressage Society Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) next Friday. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, will be there both days, so hopefully we do better on Sunday.
I keep saying this, but while we may not be brilliant, we are decidedly consistent. I am learning, Speedy's learning, and that's how we'll get better.
Here's video of the test.
If I am pretty relaxed for the first day of a show, which I usually am, I am almost over it by day two. I just can't quite get excited about doing it all over again. I don't groom quite as thoroughly, and I am a little lazy in my riding ... that simple change was almost what I wanted, it's okay if his braids are a bit fuzzy; the judge can't really see them anyway, yes he's behind my leg here, but let's just get it done. That kind of thing. I am happy to be there, but my attention to the details gets a bit careless.
That doesn't mean I don't care, but my focus tends to wander. Even so, the test was quite satisfactory. We scored a 62.424%, meeting my goal of no scores below a 6.0. We earned a 7.0 for our 10-meter canter circle right, eleven scores of 6.5, and fifteen scores of 6.0. Again, not a brilliant test, but we're being consistent.
As before, the simple change through walk is still our weakest movement. We scored 6.0 for both of them on the serpentine, although I think the judge was being really generous for the first one; we were all over the place. Or rather, I was all over the place.
Our rein back is definitely getting better, and that's a good thing as it carries a double coefficient. I worked the halt to trot to halt so well that Speedy started to get really anxious in the halt as he anticipated the GO command. I left it alone for a few days which turned out to be a good thing as he definitely started to relax in that transition.
Speedy has always liked crossing the diagonal and charging up centerline. I am not sure what he thinks is going to happen once he gets there, but he always digs deep and powers down those long lines. Since I know that, I always try to take full advantage of his enthusiasm as centerline is one place where we earn a lot of 7.0s.
This judge was quite helpful with all of her comments, and she did it in a positive way. Her further remarks read, "Nice job for level. Try to lengthen neck a little while encouraging more length of stride in mediums." Yep. We're working on it.
Here's the video.
When I saw my score from Second Level Test 1, I was quite pleased; it's my highest Second Level score yet. Not that 64% is fabulous or anything, but improvement is worth celebrating.
Test 3 started out fairly well with a 6.5 for our entry and halt and progressed well, if not quite as solidly as test 1. Where we had 6.5s for test 1, our score was 6.0 for test 3. In total, we earned only a pair of 7.0s, eleven 6.5s, twelve 6.0s, and two scores below 6.0 - we earned a 5.5 for the first simple change across the diagonal and a 5.0 for the second one. The simple change is definitely our weakest moment right now.
Not only did we miss my goal of no scores under 6.0, I didn't help myself any by giving away two points in an error at the walk. Yes, you read that correctly. How do you go off course when YOU'RE WALKING?!?!? If you walk from M to V instead of R to V, you lose two points - that's how. Rats. That mistake cost me half a percent. Without the error I would have had a 62% which just feels better than a 61%. My final score was 61.585%.
The overall score was still above 60%, which is my goal for now. And while there are definitely plenty of things to improve, there were some really good moments. The 10-meter canter circle to the left earned a 6.5 with the comment, "Balanced." Both turns on the haunches, which carry a double coefficient, earned scores of 7.0 - we made up a lot of points there. Both medium canters earned the comment, "bold."
When I got home and started looking at my scores and analyzing what needs to be improved upon, I realized that I had completely forgotten about earning the third score toward our Second Level Rider Performance Award. The award is earned with four scores of 60% or better from four different judges from at least two different shows. We only need one more score. At our next show, this show's judge and Hilda Gurney will be judging. I hope I get to ride at least once for Hilda, otherwise we won't even have a chance to earn that last score.
As painful as it is to watch, here's the video with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, narrating.
This weekend's El Sueno show was a lot of fun, and I never felt stressed about it. Of course I wanted to do well, but it didn't worry me. I am still coping with the migraine issue, but even though it was hot as blazes - great conditions for triggering a migraine, I was pain free all weekend. That alone counts as a win.
Since I am always on a budget, I go with the cheapest stabling option possible, but this time, Speedy got to stay in the main barn, a total upgrade from the portable stalls. Now that we've flown business class, I don't think we can ever go back to coach. Speedy's small enough that we don't need the bigger stalls when we show, but I think he appreciated the extra room.
The best thing about stabling in the main barn was that it was completely shaded with a lovely breeze. We weren't hunkered down in the corner of the stall looking for a strip of shade. With warming up in the covered arena, I stayed cool enough to wear my coat even though coats were waived first thing in the morning.
Chemaine was able to come out on Friday evening for a lesson, and she coached me through both tests on Staurday. I can go to a show without her of course - and I did that for a lot of years, but it's such a luxury to have someone coaching you through your warm up.
Besides having fun, my number one goal was to eliminate any score below a 6.0. We killed it on Saturday's Second Level Test 1 with nothing lower than a 6.0! In fact, we earned three 7s, and fourteen(!) 6.5s. We finished the test with a 64.242%. It's not a brilliant score, but it's approaching the mid-60 range which tells me we are definitely showing improvement.
The first couple of times I rode this test, and test 3, I needed a reader. A few shows ago, I decided to ride it on my own as I find that I do a better job if I am thinking about the movements rather than waiting for someone to tell me where to go. For this test, everything slowed way down, and I had time to prepare for the movements (to the best of my ability - Charlotte Dujardin I am not).
Our comments for this test were needs more over stride, needs impulsion, slightly lazy, and needs more ground cover. Yes, yes, and yes. There were other corrective comments as well like slightly off rail, think shoulder fore when on rail, and keep slight flexion right on right lead. Got it, will do. The judge was really kind and friendly to everyone. After every test she thanked the riders and often gave compliments loud enough for everyone to hear.
The judge's further remarks were spot on, This is a nice horse to learn on - well balanced and obedient. Try to get him a little more up for medium canter and a quicker walk in between canter on serpentine. I had to laugh at the first part though - if she only knew what a butthead he was in the beginning. But yes, he is a great horse to learn on now that he's 14 and truly broke to ride. She could have filled the page with try to get him ____________. We have plenty of room for improvement, but I'll take the positive comments.
Here's the test.
Last week I ordered a gray dressage pad hoping that it might look good against Speedy's gray coat. The fun thing about having a grey-nearly-white, horse is that he looks great in almost every color. As it turns out, gray might not be for him.
The plan was to update my gray show coat to a nicer gray coat and then pair it with a gray pad. I think the combination could be stunning if only the pad were a pretty gray and not a gray tinged with lilac. The pad was sturdily built and had a nice contoured shape, but the gray color was off. In some lights, it looked like it had a purplish tint.
Even though the color wasn't what I was wanting for showing, I could have lived with the pad for schooling, but it was just too big for Speedy. This is not a new issue. Finding dressage pads with a shorter drop has always been a challenge. Finding one with a shorter drop in just the right color is going to be even harder.
At this weekend's show, I ran into my pal, Valerie, who owns The Dressage Pony Store. She and her pony Clooney were sporting a fabulous white pad with navy and gold trim. It was stunning and fit Clooney's diminutive frame perfectly! Clooney is similar in size to Speedy, so I know the pad will fit. So, guess what's on its way to Bakersfield?
Show update tomorrow ...
Don't get me wrong; I love having a trailer, especially one that allows me to sleep on the show grounds rather than footing a hotel bill. With so many bells and whistles though come problems.
Since last summer, I've been battling an intermittent trailer light issue. Last summer I was able to sand off the metal bits of the plug and receptacle which seemed to remove the corrosion allowing the lights to work.
On Saturday morning, my brake lights and running lights worked great. When I loaded up on Sunday morning, none of the running lights worked, but I did have brake lights and blinkers. I went to the show anyway as running lights only come on when the headlights are on.
On Wednesday morning, I decided that I had better figure out what was wrong as I'm leaving for a two-day show this morning. The last time the lights went wonky, I simply rubbed sandpaper all over the metal bits of the plug which got things working again.
After an hour of sandpapering and climbing in and out of the truck bed to check the lights, I had only made the problem worse! None of the trailer lights were working, not even the brake lights. I'll admit to using a few choice words, most of which began with the letter "F."
Fortunately, Blue Truck has a second plug receptacle beneath the bumper for bumper pull trailers. When I plugged into that receptacle, the lights lit up as usual. That told me that something was wrong with the bed receptacle. I pulled out my truck's manual (as if that were going to help), and turned to the page dealing with the fuses. After tugging on a few and getting nowhere, I decided to get some help.
The ranch owners are quite handy with vehicle issues, so I hunted them down and asked for some advice. It was agreed upon by all (why I contributed to the conversation I don't know as I clearly couldn't fix it) that I should take the truck and trailer in to have it repaired professionally.
In the meantime, a bungee cord and some electrical tape are going to get me to the show and back. I made an appointment to have the wiring, and a few other things, checked out next week. Nothing like added stress as I head to a show!
We all know that Izzy is not an easy horse. He lacks confidence and is suspicious of anything new or different. I don't mind. I do all the showing I want with Speedy, so I don't feel any pressure with Izzy. I just keep working on whatever he needs on any given day.
If you've been following along for any length of time, you know all about our bitting issue. Quick recap if you're new: I started him in a lozenge snaffle which worked fine until it didn't. Moved on to several ported bits that Izzy loved but that weren't legal dressage bits. Experimented with a legal bit that offered lots of tongue relief, but no control. When it seemed as though he was done with all of the jackassery, I finally decided to use the legal bit exclusively.
I wish I could say that the switch to the legal bit went without a hitch. It did not. You would have thought that I was starting over completely. Izzy's world simply fell apart. When he broke his headstall, I bought a new one never imagining that I would have to remind him how to be bridled. He knew it was new and different, and since he doesn't do new and different, he refused to be bridled. It took some patience and a few days, but he once again takes the bridle without any fussing.
Bridling wasn't the only fight. With the legal bit, I have very little control, and Izzy figured that out quickly. We went from a long and stretchy back to a super short back with a tendency to bolt, again.
Izzy brought out all of his old tricks: Balking, bolting, rearing, stiff jaw, running through my aids, and so on. Fortunately, I've seen all of these tricks before and know how to work through them.
When he started balking, which leads to rearing, I brought out my whip and went to town. Every time he even thought about slamming on the brakes, I whacked him with the whip until he agreed to go forward. That's not always guaranteed to work though. One day, he decided to rear after I whacked him. As I was yanking his head to the side, my whip got hung up in my reins. As I struggled to free it, Izzy had a bit of a meltdown, and I experienced a very serous Oh, crap! moment. No one was injured though, and Izzy has since rethought the rearing thing.
When the balking and rearing didn't work, Izzy decided to try bolting at random moments. We would be walking along quite nicely with a drape in my reins when all of a sudden he would launch forward into a bolt. Jerk! I worked him through that by using the pulley halt. I simply planted the knuckles of one hand into his mane and halted with the other. I sent him forward and then halted. Repeatedly. Many times. Eventually, he quit bolting.
I am happy to report that a month later, we seem to be back in business. We still have at least one Come Meet Jesus moment during our rides, but I've finally convinced him that I still have control with this bit and that the rules have not changed. During our last couple of rides, I've been able to ask for a lengthened stride, and I am getting more moments where he is asking to stretch down again.
While I find it a bit frustrating that he is so incredibly sensitive to change, I am happy that he is willing to be talked off the ledge. Like I told my chiropractor the other day, it's not like I have anything better to do. And besides, I kind of like the big jerk.
I had one ride between my first test and second test so there was no time to go back to the warm up to fix anything. These afternoon rides are the hardest for us because it's so hot. Speedy is a happy enough guy, but he's also lazy in the heat. This creates a lack of forwardness which contributes to curling and being downhill. So instead of more schooling, which only serves to annoy the heck out of him, we stood and watched Chemaine Hurtado's ride (she earned the Open Point!).
Not so long ago, I struggled with First Level's test 3. That thing is pretty hard. Now here we are at Second Level chipping away at its third test. Second Level is not easy, but I think its test 3 is comparatively easier than First Level's test 3. Again, it's not an easier test, but it makes a lot more sense than 1-3.
Even though my goal was no score under 6.0, we still earned a single 5.5. The rest of the test was filled with a long line of 6.0s, fifteen of them in fact. We earned ten 6.5s and a 7.0 for our final halt and salute. Our final score was 62.073%, which was higher than our score for 2-1. That always makes me happy.
After watching the video, I think the judge was very generous when he scored my halts. I've been schooling the halt to trot to halt which has made Speedy very "jumpy" in his once very quiet halts. As a result, he's super antsy about the halt because he's expecting me to goose him forward into the trot. That's definitely something I need to work on quieting down.
While I am delighted about ditching the 4s and 5s that we started with, there are definitely a few things we can work on. Our simple change is still not confirmed. Sometimes we get it great, other times not so much. The upward transition to canter is pretty reliable. It's the canter to walk transition that's still not.
While our season has seemed to progress from insufficient (we've had more 4.0s than we've ever had before) to slightly better than satisfactory (we're getting some nice 6.5s and 7.0s), I am actually quite pleased with what we've done so far.
We've earned seven scores in the 60% range. Those seven scores mean that we are now qualified for the California Dressage Society's Regional Adult Amateur Competition and the CDS Championship show. Speedy also has enough scores to earn CDS's new Horse Performance Award at Second Level; I just dropped the application in the mail.
We're going to another two-day USDF show this weekend. I am feeling like I have a much better handle on Second Level, but you know how that goes. My goal continues to be to eliminate any score below 6.0. We'll see what happens. Either way, I am really pleased with the direction we're heading. We haven't mastered the level, but it's no longer so intimidating.
Here's the video.