Fall Harvest HT: Dressage

The day didn’t even start at the crack of dawn thanks to a 10:27am ride time, so it should have been a good omen. I got to wear my sparkly white Animos for the first time! These were good things!

I have zero dressage mediaz so you’re getting random other photos

I made sure to get on with plenty of time to warm up, knowing he likes a longgggg walk before being asked to do anything these days. We did just that, then added in some long and low trots before moving into the warm up arena for Trainer K to finish help putting it together. I started to pick him up and push him forward and he responded well, adding in some canter transitions upward. The last few weeks have been a total breakthrough in our canter work – I’ve had some fantastic lessons where it finally (a year and a half later) feels like I can influence it in a positive way, as opposed to being an unbalanced lump on his back. He was feeling amazing and when we came back down to trot, it was even better, having now really warmed up. I had just enough time to let him walk a few laps and then it was time to go.

It started out with such promise.

The beginning felt good – he tried to get a little wriggly on the centerline, but we stayed straight and the scores/comments reflected both of those. A 7.5? I’ll take it. Nothing was perfect, but we were solidly in the 6.5s range, which is basically where I am right now. This winter is going to be dressage boot camp.

And then came the second canter circle. Beginner Novice B has you trot a half circle before picking up the canter on the circle – sounds great, right? I was feeling good, we had this. Well, I went to ask for the canter and felt him suck back behind my leg. Instead of taking a deep breath and adding some extra leg and keeping him bent, I panicked, saw E straight ahead and tapped him with my whip (literally barely a tap). Which earned me a sassy kick/mini buck and One Pissed Off Doc. Who was now on the wrong lead. I was flustered from All That, so it took me three or so strides to fix it and then it was basically time to trot. Well, now Doc was like, “Yeah RIGHT lady, you had the audacity to touch me with your crop to canter so now I will ONLY CANTER FOREVER.” Thx. Got dat 4.0.

Late to trot. Late to walk. Judge literally CIRCLED the movements on the test. Like, I am aware I was late, I was just trying to STOP CANTERING. Medium walk became more of a ‘wrestle-with-giraffe-in-corner’, to the free walk where I went, “Oh dear God, please just take this moment to RELAX.” At least that was a 6.0, a small flicker of light in a dark dressage world. Back to medium walk, with my Angry Llama who I am not helping with my tense ‘well fuck’ body language. Our trot transition earned the remark of, “prompt” which just makes me laugh because uh, yeah, he was ready to get the hell out of there so going faster was not a problem. It was also “hollow and counterbent” but really, not the biggest problem here now.

We pulled out a 6.5 for coming down the centerline at least and a final 6.0 because someone halted square. Needless to say, when the 6.5s are the HIGH points in your test, you’re not exactly going to be like top of the class. No worries, we weren’t. A 40.5? No, that is not the dressage court speed limit or the number of times this weekend I was told to bend my elbows. Yes, it is unfortunately our dressage score. It’s never good when your score is closer to ‘midlife crisis’ than ‘legal drinking age’.

Plz stop communicating with Murray via brainwaves

But! It was over and it was time to jump the jompies and we like doing that more anyways.

Continue Reading

Outlook optimistic

Despite all the temptations that exist right now, I’m on a spending freeze (cold snap?) due to some fun things this year is holding. They’re also the things currently pushing me to get off my couch and go jog or do something else to prevent from turning into a blob of human-ness in the off season.

Me, coming back from winter

Mainly, I got my deposit in for Event Camp which is as awesome as it sounds – four days with Sharon White, Tim Bourke and Leslie Law. It’s like all of my childhood dreams of horse camp, but way better. I’ve heard great things about riding with all three and I basically can’t wait for July now. (Except I can because whoa, out of shape and need to get that fixed.) It’s two lessons on days one and two, one lesson and one competition evaluation on day three and one lesson on day four of your choice (flat, XC or SJ). It’ll mean taking four days of my vacation time, but seriously would I rather be on horse vacation or off doing touristy things, uh no competition there.

Always would rather be doing this

We also have a Lucinda Green XC clinic scheduled for this spring, so essentially come hell or high water I will be there, although auditing or riding is TBD.

Otherwise, the schedule is still a little up in the air, but I’ve been rounding up some of the local options that have published dates. We have a lot to choose from this summer, so I’m excited to see where we end up. I’ll be playing with the budget and work dates to make it happen.

Bank account looking at me like…
  • March 24th – First Day of Spring CT at CAF
  • April 14th – Heartland CT at CAF
  • May 5th-6th – Penny Oaks HT at Hoosier Horse Park (we may not be ready to run XC, but we’ll see)
  • May 12th – May Flowers Derby and CT at CAF
  • June 2nd-3rd – IEA Horse Trials (also N/T 3 Day starting May 30th, so will definitely go down to volunteer!)
  • June 9th-10th – Lucinda Green XC Clinic
  • June 16th-17th – Day before HT Derby and Father’s Day HT at CAF
  • July 9th-12th – Event Camp!
  • August 11th – Summer CT and Derby at CAF
  • August 18th – Hoosier Hops Derby at HHP
  • September 8th – Fall Harvest CT and Derby at CAF
  • October 13th-14th – Fall Festival Derby and Horse Trials at CAF

So. many. options! IEA doesn’t even have their full calendar up either.

Continue Reading

CAF November Combined Test

We left off at a high of 36 degrees and a very pissed off dog who promptly went back to bed as I left. I actually entered two consecutive divisions; our local farm that runs these shows makes it super affordable to do two and if we’re already there… why not?

Proof of survival/regal Saddlebred pose

My dressage ride times were 9:15 (Starter) and 11:10 (BN), so we were tacked up and walking by 8:30 aka my hands were already goners by like 8:38. Aside from Doc feeling very appalled that he was not allowed to graze during our walk, things felt pretty good. As much as I could feel anything, that is. Starter rode BN Test A and BN rode BN B, so I was mainly focused on remembering to turn the correct way at C.

And success! At least of the ‘not forgetting my test’ sort. Still didn’t really get that whole ‘connection’ thing going and my circles were all more of the 15m oval variety than the 20m asked for, but improvement is improvement and we managed a 36.3, which is our best score to date.

Helllooooo 7.5 free walk

Second test, I went in with the instruction to stop, “trying to ride pretty” and to actively ride. What a thought, right? Turns out it even works. We even had moments where we did real dressaging. Miracles, I tell you. The best part? An even better score of 35.5.

An actual moment of dressaging!

By this point, I was only semi-frozen as we’d hit a heat wave of 28, making it downright balmy out. Just in time to go jump.

I’m not cut out to be a midwesterner, plz send more clothes mom

My first round was actually one of the best rounds I’ve ridden to date – things felt really, really good, which is always the best feeling. Minus the small place where I, um, got lost going to 8, nearly rode past it and had to trot it like a snail to get there from the weirdest distance ever. This course also featured the sailboat jump, the site of our first rail at 18″. We got kind of a weird distance to it here and we’re now just convinced Doc thinks the entire jump is stupid and not worth his time, because he made sure to give it a nice whack for good measure (it stayed up). Seriously, we have a sailboat jump vendetta.

Horse iz so cutes

Second round was my BN round, the same course except 5 was now an AB combo. Not nearly as pretty of a course, but we were instructed to get a good distance to the damn sailboats, and we did. Maybe at the expense of um, everything else? But we did!

When your rider basically rides you into the jump and you only manage to knock ONE rail down vs the entire thing

We pulled the rail at 3 because I can’t ride and basically made my horse jump from underneath it like the fantastic rider I am and then I got lost to 6 because I’m an amateur who can’t remember things and all my brain cells were frozen by this point.

Hello, crappy video screenshot

The best part of all this? In August we showed at this same series and I remember looking at the Starter course and thinking they all looked big. Three months (almost to the day!), I went out and didn’t think a single jump on the BN course felt big. That when Trainer C asked what I thought of the Novice course, I was able to say it looked… not that big. Crazy stuff, right there.

This felt totally do-able and great

It’s amazing that I started riding this horse four months ago. Four months ago, I hadn’t jumped a course in 10 years. I said that Starter looked big. And this weekend?

Satin!

We came in 2nd in our first BN CT. Sure, it’s just a CT, we still have an entire phase to add next year (2018, we’re coming!), but I’m pretty damn proud of that. I also feel very proud of surviving (maybe even thriving a little bit?!) a horse show in literal freezing temperatures. It might even feel like a greater accomplishment, but I’m not admitting that publicly.

That’s ending the show season on a high note. (Approximately a 2’7″ note, more precisely.)

Let’s not forget that Auburn win either, kay?!
Continue Reading

How to go to a horse show

How to prepare for your first CT at BN:

  • Have giant work project take over your life, including 10 hour Saturday and Sundays

  • Temperature drops out from under you, making it miserable to go outside
  • When you do make it to the barn, have horse decide he hates you and will only go backwards

  • Back around round pen 45 times until horse decides that also sucks
  • Now you can’t go forwards OR backwards
  • Have saddle rep come out to try saddles
  • …where horse immediately decides he CANNOT HORSE NO

  • Repeat, inability to move
  • Trainer has to get on while you’re supposed to be trying saddles… twice
  • Hallelujah, horse can trot
  • Canter is still iffy
  • Remind yourself that you can trot BN and horse can get over all of them
  • Hyperventilate a little bit

  • Second work project goes from being nice, casual easygoing thing to HUGE PRESENTATION
  • …on the Thursday before your Saturday show
  • Cue anxiety that manages to keep you awake despite Benadryl AND melatonin

  • Sleep is for the weak
  • …or those without crippling anxiety issues. That too.
  • Horse decides he can horse again, but only likes to canter in dressage test
  • NOWALK NOTROT THOSE DUMB, HORSE ONLY CANTER, I IS FAST SADDLEBRED, I CANTER BEAUTIFUL

  • Give up mentally

  • Look at show day forecast: high of 36. Sob.
  • Consider buying stock in hand warmers
  • Figure out how many layers of clothing you can wear and still ride effectively enough not to fall off
  • Get look of pure disgust from dog when you take him out at 5:30am on show day and it’s 15 degrees outside
  • Wait until brain cells are frozen enough that you cannot be nervous, or frankly, care

Recipe for success, right?

Outcome to come tomorrow. Spoiler alert: I am alive.

Continue Reading

Octoberfest Charity Combined Trial

The days leading up to and after last Sunday were gorgeous, which means that obviously Sunday was 100% disgusting with rain, wind and overall grey dreariness. Perfect day to go horse show!

When Doc came off the trailer, we all went, “Oh boy, we got two hour Doc.” As in, the amount of warm up he was going to need. Then he realized it was gross outside, there was a hay bag in front of him and it was not, in fact, nearly that interesting, and quickly became 15 minute Doc. I got on way ahead of my 11:15 ride time and we went over to dressage warmup. After a few laps around, I got the ‘balance dressage whip on top of wrists’ instruction because apparently jazz hands aren’t welcome in dressage tests. Rude. I finally got my stuff together more or less, we headed back to the trailer to wipe some of the mud off (a recurring theme of the day) and I changed into a show shirt. Back to the show rings we went, where I promptly realized I had managed to get filthy. This is why I can’t have nice things.

My groom extraordinaire/horse show mom, J, went back to the trailer to grab my quarter zip and I say thank yous to the world who made this a casual dress schooling show. Outfit change complete, we were ready to go show.

This was a better moment

In the ring, we turned into a giraffe. Maybe a llama. Gir-ama? And damn, did our test reflect it. Literally we had the exact. same. comment. the entire way down. “Needs to lower neck to connect through back.” She could have written it once and then drawn a line down with “ditto”. Despite that, it was still worlds better than our first test back in August. Transitions happened in the right place, circles were (mostly) round and I didn’t get lost. I mean, was our score anything to write home about? Not at all. We still have a lot of work to do. But for the second test we’ve ever done? I’m okay with it.

After a quick tack swap, we popped over some warm up jumps, hoping to get in my round before the ominous looking sky decided to stop playing nicely. Crossrail, vertical, oxer, got a, “YES, go jump the entire course like that!” So, obviously, I did not.

One and two went well, at which point I promptly couldn’t find three for a solid 10 seconds. Thankfully, it appeared and we stayed on course. Down the bending line to four, we took our favorite long spot, came around to five where I actually semi-rode, down to six, annndd pull off that patented left drift to seven!

Seriously, why am I incapable of jumping straight?! Eight on the course map shows it out in a line from seven, but when it was set, it was to the inside of seven, so you had an awkward line there, but of course Doc was like, yeah, k.

Over nine, and then past the gate to 10. Almost every horse, including mine, thought they were done after 9 as they came by the gate. I had to seriously add some major leg to convince Doc we had one more jump to actually go do.

HAHA you mean you’re not supposed to leave from the next county over?

Overall, no rails, not the prettiest, but still better than where we’ve been. On the plus side, everything looked tiny. Nothing induces confidence like that. We ended up third in the division and got a lovely pretty ribbon we have no photos with because of the nasty weather. With the gross weather, xc schooling got rained out (my luck is the worst), but we loaded up as the sky decided to open back up and got outta there. I was home by 1:30pm, which is insane to me. Ride times are miracles.

Not perfect, but getting better and what else can you ask for?

Continue Reading