Go No Whoa

One week off + Cooler temperatures = One very energetic horse with no whoa

One week off + energetic horse = partially eaten stall door

Energetic horse + equine brother who won’t play = broken fence boards

Energetic horse + no grass = galloping fool who took his gate off the hinges…again

Anyone have a horse sized treadmill we can borrow?

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Fun Photo Day

Fun photo day! Ike is enjoying the final days of his fall vacation. He has spent the week trying to engage Cigar in some roughhousing, taking his gate off the hinges, and pushing down fence boards. Maybe a week off is just a little too long…

So what do you like to do with your horse when they are enjoying some well deserved down time?

alison

Peering through the fog towards Regional Finals

In four days we will end our show season as we head down centerline for the UDSF Region 1 Adult Amateur Third Level finals class. No matter what happens this week, this year went well above my expectations. Ike and I met all of our preseason goals…well, okay, they were more my goals, but Ike played along since he is such an agreeable fellow. How could I not be happy with a horse like Ike?!

Our finals class is HUGE. The entire show is HUGE with over 450 horses entered. I saw a post on Instagram from Heels Down Media earlier today that I will keep in mind at the show, “A rising tide lifts all boats. Someone else doing well doesn’t take away from your own success.” With that in mind, our goals for this show are to equal our Fourth Level score from last month and aim for a 65% in our finals class. We came close in August, so it is not out of our wheelhouse. Let’s just hope that the remnants of Hurricane Michael don’t try to dampen our fun.

Best of luck to all the competitors! We have all worked hard to make it Lexington. Enjoy the experience .

Alison

Weekend Recap

Ms. C, Ike, and me celebrating our debut

I am not even certain where to start to summarize our show last weekend.

My dressage club pulled off our first three-ring show under less than ideal weather conditions thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon. Pretty sure that every member did something to make the show a success, from planning the show, securing sponsors, set up, volunteering at the show, and the least popular tear down. It is always nice to hear the positive feedback from competitors.

And then there was our Fourth Level debut. So many emotions. Is it okay to say that my ride this past Saturday is probably one of my proudest moments as an equestrian? Cantering down centerline on a horse that used to canter like ScoobyDoo was a thrill. Realizing that my plain brown wrapper boy is no longer a green broke baby, but a seasoned show horse was overwhelming. It was all I could do to not cry when my husband wished me luck just before my test.

Ike demonstrating his big boy canter

The entire test flowed quite well. Our two biggest hiccups were the left lead canter transition following the walk pirouette and the right to left flying change. The pirouette to canter just needs more practice. The flying change issue was due to Ike and I “discussing” when the change should happen. Ike was a bit impatient. I asked him to hold his counter canter. The result was a change that was late behind. We deserved that score of 4.0.

The high points were that we earned 6.0 or 6.5 on our pirouettes, nailed our tempi changes on the diagonal, and scored solidly on our trot work. When it was all said and done, we pulled a 61.6% for our debut. Say what?!!

I made a game day decision to scratch my Sunday ride and avoid soaking myself, my horse and our tack. And, I just didn’t want to chance an injury in sloppy footing. There will be another day in October to try again.

I cannot thank Cindy enough for her guidance, instruction, and friendship all these years. We would not be the team we are without her. My husband also deserves a medal for his support on this crazy dressage journey. He is the voice of reason when needed, my biggest cheerleader, and the best chauffeur.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey thus far. I appreciate the support and kind words more than you know.

Onwards and upwards! Next stop – Silver…

alison

Breaking Down The Test

Photo by Tara Jelenic Photography

My mind is going more than a mile a minute right now. So many thoughts about this weekend. More thoughts than riding…but I really can’t ask Ike to give me 100% under saddle when the heat index is over a hundred. So he hides in his stall with his fan, and I mentally ride the test while pedaling the exercise bike.

Most of the movements in Fourth Level Test 1 are familiar. It will be the execution of those plus the new requirements that will determine if we can find the elusive 60th percentile.

Trot half pass, circles and shoulder in are all in our repertoire. The test designers are seriously testing your skills by placing shoulder in on centerline right after half pass and a circle. Clever people. If I can maintain control of Ike’s shoulders, we stand a chance at scoring respectably.

Canter half pass, countercanter and single flying changes are also familiar. Let us just hope that I execute my aids appropriately and someone is listening to those aids and he isn’t thinking about all the pretty mares at the show.

Now let’s chat about the “new” stuff. Those clever test writers have put the double coefficients on most of the new movements. Evil.

You start off the test cantering down centerline to a halt. If I do my part and keep Ike from falling on the forehand, we can make a good first impression. Good thing since the next movement is a beast for us.

Medium trot to sixish strides of collected trot back to medium. Hmm, if we get out of that movement with a 5.5 or a 6.0, I will be the happiest girl in the ring.

After the trot tour, we will appreciate the half circle of extended walk. Pray for us that Ike doesn’t decide to poop at this time. We lose that lovely swing in his back while he argues with me to stop and take care of business.

The double coefficient walk pirouettes are next. Hoping we can build on our recent improvement in our turn on the haunches. I am still grinning at the “correctly stepped the turns” comment from the last show.

The canter tour is next. More prayers that someone doesn’t decide he is a freight train. Half halts have no meaning when we are in train mode.

The final movements of this test will be the biggest test of our skills. Cantering a 20 meter circle? No problem. Showing six strides of very collected canter? That could be challenging. As we slow we get a little stiff and I am pretty sure that stiffness is not what the judges want to see.

Next comes the three changes on the long diagonal followed by cantering onto centerline for the final halt. It is that final turn that will be tricky. Imagine hitting the cloverleaf to exit the interstate cruising about 60 mph…

Too bad there is no score given for moves that make the judge giggle. We seem to have a knack for that.

See you on centerline!

alison

Taking Off The Training Wheels

So many times in life, we skip the questionable, more dangerous road and opt for the safe, albeit lackluster path. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Many times it is the comfort of knowing what you are going to get. Opting for the chicken option means that your digestive system will most likely not object to dinner. Ordering the beef carpaccio or tuna tartare means committing to eating raw meat. Scary it can be, but oh the party in your mouth you will get when you dare take that first bite.

How about signing up for the class with the professor who gives open book, multiple choice tests? Been there, done that, but did you really learn anything? Why didn’t you risk taking the class with a professor who asks thought provoking essay questions? Fear of failure holding you back?

Trying something new always means risking failure. “But what if I fail,” you ask, “Won’t people laugh at me?” Possibly. You might even find that you laugh at your mistakes or hiccups (like when your horse decides to poop in the middle of every single test and ruin two or three movements…) Or perhaps they will respect that you tried. Perhaps you might inspire them to take that next step towards their dream.

So, my friends, Ike and I are taking off our training wheels and removing the safety net. We are fully committed to riding our first ever Fourth Level test. It will be our only class each day at next month’s show. (I dropped our backup-in-case-I-chicken-out Third Level class tonight.) Good, bad, or ugly, we will give it a go. The butterflies are already starting to flutter.

Here’s to taking that scary first step towards our silver medal.

alison

Happy Gotcha Day Ike!

At approximately 8:00 a.m. seven years ago today, big man arrived in Virginia. Traditionally, the seventh anniversary gift is something made of copper. Hmm, I can think of nothing that Ike would appreciate that would be made of copper. I suppose that I could pay his board in pennies, but something tells me that neither Ms. C nor the bank would appreciate that gesture.

Ike almost celebrated his arrival with stall rest. He decided to run laps in his field when a couple of the ponies got fired up as a thunderstorm rumbled closer. He got a little off balance rounding the corner and lost his hind end. Whomp! Ms. C said he then showed off his sliding technique and ended up with his legs under the fence. Thankfully he did not panic. She said he used his ability to sit like a dog to extricate himself. He is missing some hair on his lower legs and had some minor swelling, but mercifully no lameness. He did not seem to appreciate my admonition of his antics.

Instead, we will be celebrating his anniversary with a lesson to finish preparations for our next trip down centerline. We are sticking with Third Level next weekend, but our sights are set on Fourth Level in September. I still marvel that the horse who had difficulty cantering a straight line as a three-year-old is prepping for Fourth. Somehow, despite my lack of coordination, Ike’s lack of fancy pedigree and a huge dollop of self doubt, we have slowly worked our way out of the lower levels.

The year to come promises to be a fun one. Poor Ms. C has to somehow teach the girl who almost twisted her ankle while standing still (there were witnesses in case you are wondering) how to do tempi changes. I wonder if there is a dressage trainer support group where they commiserate about their frustrations? “Hi, my name is Ms. C, and it has been 382 days that I have had to repeat the same comment to one client. When will she learn?!”

Here’s to slow progress forward,

alison