Rain Delay

Our area got some much-needed rain today, so no riding and I used a head shot from a sunnier day since the indoor shots aren’t always the most flattering.  The Fair Weather Fairy and his friends were happily munching hay indoors during the heaviest showers.  Not a big deal since there really aren’t any major breakthroughs that we can or will have in these last 5 days before the show.  Unfortunately there are no overnight miracle cures for establishing a balanced canter.  There is that darn lesson in patience again.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Ike and I will have our lesson with Ms. C tomorrow to confirm the skills we do have and to sketch out our show day warm up plans.  We are going to bring the tractor into the ring as a substitute judge’s booth.  Many of our low scores were down at the judge’s end of the arena at the last show, so I will try to keep Ike’s attention as Ms. C shakes papers as we ride by.  Can’t keep giving up those points and half points in case we need them to make up for the lack of stretch down trot.

p.s. The chipmunk boy is back to normal.  Thank goodness we were able to avoid a vet visit.  Cigar was full of himself today in his paddock.  Bucking in place like he just couldn’t stand still.  Perhaps a side effect from the antihistamine?  Or just a Thoroughbred being a Thoroughbred?

Chipmunk Cheeks

No riding today – Ike deserved a day off.  I only groomed and dispensed treats.  Should have done some beauty school, but just didn’t feel like tackling the hard stuff today. I think it is nice just to visit with the boys so they don’t just associate me with work; although I think Cigar has figured out that his life no longer includes work of any kind.

As you can see from the photo, Ike is not the one with chipmunk cheeks.  Poor Cigar was the one whose cheeks were lumpy and bumpy – he declined a photo since he was looking his best.  The horses had just been fed their afternoon grain and heads were down munching on hay when I arrived.  I was putting some anti-itch spray on Cigar’s tail because he has rubbed a bald spot over the past few days.  Not sure if it is from his constant rolling to fight the flies or if he is itchy.  While I was checking the back end, Ms. C noticed that Cigar had an odd lump on his right cheek.  When I palpated both sides, the right was more swollen than the left.  Very odd.  He was his normal self with bright eyes and happy nickers, so he did not seem to be in any distress.  Gave him some bute and some antihistamines.  A show of hands by everyone who has sat on the tack room floor pulling apart antihistamine capsules and dumping them into a cup of oats…Will check tomorrow and if it is any worse, I will place the call to the vet.  Hoping that he was just stung by something and it is a temporary reaction.  Reminds me of the time when I was stung on the forehead and awoke the next day looking like a Star Trek character (a Borg perhaps?) with a swollen forehead and eyes.

You could tell that it was a hot day today.  You could see the dried salt on the horses from the sweat.  Hoping that the weather is much less steamy next weekend when the black wool jacket makes its next appearance.  Excited to read that ride times will be posted tomorrow.  Fingers crossed that they are close together and in the morning like the first show, although I really don’t want to be the first one down centerline like we have been at the two shows we have attended this year.

Hoping the weather cooperates and I can catch a ride tomorrow.

Do You Ride?

Imagine if you will the following picture as you are walking through the grocery store: before you stands a woman with a ball cap shoved on her head to hide her sweaty, helmet-flattened hair, her shirt is also wet with sweat and has a green smear of something across her chest, her tan pants are close-fitting and also have unidentified stains on them, and she has on a pair of tie-dyed Zocks with her feet wearing a pair of clogs.  As you approach her, there is an intoxicating aroma of horse, sweat, and hay with a hint of leather conditioner lingering in the background.  Do you ask that woman, “Do you ride?”  Really?!  The devil on my shoulder is goading me to say, “why no I don’t, why do you ask?”  The angel on my other shoulder twists my earlobe until I do say, “why yes I do.”  Why else would I  be clad in such odd attire?  Unless I was aiming to get my photo on the last page of Glamour magazine with the black box obscuring my identity, there really isn’t any other reason to look that awful except when you are done riding but desperately need groceries.

Have had two productive rides this weekend.  I have tried to focus on our trot rhythm and my proper timing for half halts.  Sometimes I really feel like an uncoordinated klutz in the saddle.  It gives you a true respect for those riders trying out for the US Olympic team who regularly score in the high 70s at Grand Prix.  In any case, I persevere and continue to practice.  Still debating on whether or not to carry my whip at the next show.  Sometimes it seems to help, but shifting the whip from one hand to the other is another one of those klutz-inspired moments for me.  And then I have to decide where does the whip need to be to make it useful.  I could really use it behind my left leg when asking for right lead canter, but within a stride desperately need it at the right shoulder to keep us from collapsing to the right.  AARGGH.  It will have to be a show day decision and based on how Ike feels in warm up.

We did a practice session with the trailer yesterday.  Ike performed flawlessly.  Phew.  One less thing to fret about.

Ike also is in need of another beauty school day.  It seems like his mane has grown at least an inch since April and he is also sporting a Miami Vice five o’clock shadow.  Put that on the list of things to do this week.  The dry cleaner did manage to remove the slobber from my show coat.  Thank goodness they put the protective plastic sleeve over the clean item…I managed to promptly drop the coat as soon as I arrived at the barn.  Couldn’t even make it the 50 feet from my car to the trailer.  Klutz.

One week from today is our Training Level debut.  I think I’m actually a bit nervous already.  It will be a long and sleepless week.

Anyone, Anyone? Bueller?

Do you ever ride your horse and wonder if anyone is home or if they have left town and headed to the beach for a long weekend?  Today, as I rode Ike in our lesson with Ms. C, I felt like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off asking questions to the class, “Anyone, anyone?”  I would ask Ike to half halt, and I would ask again and again and again and….well you get the picture, and he would just keep rolling along as if I hadn’t asked.  I could imagine him sitting at one of those high school desks in economic class with his head on the desk with a puddle of drool under his mouth.  The lights were on but no one was home.

Ms. C had us doing exercises to help control Ike’s shoulders – square turns were challenging since my half halts were going unheeded.  “Ask again, be louder!”  My arms and legs started to hurt from my efforts.  I finally had to down transition to the walk in order for Ike to respond to my request and then attempt them at the trot again.  Ugh, I will need to take some ibuprofen before going to bed tonight.  We also worked on my timing since I have a tendency to be a little late in preparing Ike to feed off on a square turn/circle/centerline.  Half halt a few strides before you feed off or turn, not right as you get there.  It sounds easy enough, but as we are trucking along, I get so worried about missing the letter that I forget to do my preparations.  I guess that is why people like me take lessons from experienced people like Ms. C so that they can keep us on track.

We definitely need help with controlling Ike’s shoulders at the canter.  His right shoulder can be very dominant and today was one of those days.  When I ask for the right lead, that right shoulder collapses and our 20 meter circle quickly becomes a 15, 12, 10 meter circle.  To the left, that dominant right shoulder pulls us right so we have those half ovals or full egg shapes.  Ms. C had me carry a short whip in my right hand and keep it at the shoulder to encourage it to stay more upright.  It did help, but I do sometimes have a hard time keeping my reins at the right length, squeezing my fingers and holding onto the whip.  Feel like a klutz.  Thank goodness Ike is so forgiving.

Can you guess how we finished the lesson?  Stretch down trot!!  Ike was tired at the end of the hour, so we actually did have some positive moments in our stretch down.  I need to remember to sit tall and to not lean forward as I encourage Ike to stretch more.  That just causes him to trot faster and faster and get out of balance.

We will be back to trailer loading practice tomorrow.  I also need to pick up my show coat from the dry cleaners.  Hoping they were able to get the horse slobber off that right sleeve.

But I’m Hungry

Today was one of those days that Ike’s worlds collided.  I showed up which means peppermints and neck scratches before and after we work, but I showed up at dinner time.  So, what is better?  Me or dinner?  It was apparent today that dinner ranks higher than I do.  I had to drag him from his stall.  When I tried to capture his attention for a photo, the above is what I got, “No, I will not look at the camera or give you my attention.”  Ike just knew that everyone else would be fed while he was “forced” to work before he would get his afternoon ration.  Yes, I am just that evil.  Ike might be joining the dog’s lawsuit sooner than I think.

I left the gate to the arena open while we worked.  It was like a siren of the seas drawing Ike closer and closer.  Correct flexion was next to impossible as we would approach the gate.  Trainers would say it should just take a squeeze and release of the inside rein to recapture his attention.  Ha!  Tell that to Ike’s stomach.  Pretty sure that it was calling the shots for half my ride.  I’d have to open my inside rein and shift all my weight to the inside just to get Ike to be straight at the poll.  I can see a judge’s comment, “too much use of the inside rein.”  Yes, I’ve seen that comment before, but sometimes it is all I have to fight the battle.  I finally gave up and moved to the far end of the arena to get something accomplished.

The half of the ride that I could capture Ike’s attention went pretty well.  Worked on the evil test combo of canter-trot transition-stretch down trot circle-working trot.  It is a shame that the stretch down trot has a coefficient of 2 for the movement.  It is just not our friend.  We are hovering in the score range of 4.5-5.5 and I’m being optimistic.  Too bad that dressage scores don’t have the high and the low marks thrown out before computing the final score – like they do in ice skating.  I’m also still OK with using mulligans like I suggested in a past blog entry.

Our canter continues to improve.  Practiced the T-1 canter movements.  Our half circles in the middle of the arena are sometimes half ovals.  Again, sometimes all I have is that inside rein to save me.  At the schooling show last weekend the judge thought that our canter was a bit too slow.  Really?  That caught me by surprise since I’ve been trying to slow down the Marmaduke canter to something more presentable.  Hoping that at the next show that I get to ride Intro C AND get the test (comments) back before my T-1 ride.  At least then I know what that judge thinks we should be doing and try to show a change in the T-1 test.

Lesson with Ms. C tomorrow.  Betcha we work on that stretchy trot thing…

Selecting a Theme Song

Call me odd, but all of my furry family members have a theme song.  The title of the song captures their spirit and personality in those few simple words.  I shared these a while ago on Facebook, but thought I would share again since I was thinking about the appropriate tune for Ike.

Cigar’s song is Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett.  Just because he is a Thoroughbred does not automatically mean that he is crazy, but we are pretty certain that a screw came loose and rattles around that head of his.  Good thing I love him so much.

Holly is my 15-year-old hound dog.  Her song?  Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads.  In her heyday, the girl could hunt down ANY critter that dared enter our suburban backyard – a groundhog (1), opossums (3), a dove (1), a house finch (1), squirrels (too numerous to count), and thankfully, no skunk.  Most amazing part, she never had a scratch on her from any of the battles.

Tim is my terrier mix therapy dog who hates getting wet in the rain or muddy and refuses to have anything to do with Holly when she is prowling for critters.  I selected YMCA by The Village People for him.  It just works.  Trust me.

Spencer is our 3-year-old All American Mutt.  He was and still is a whirling dervish; the 1980’s classic I Want to be Sedated by The Ramones seemed all too appropriate.  The only means of taming the zaniness?  Three days a week at doggie daycare.

And finally what you’ve all been waiting for….(sound of a drumroll)…..Ike’s theme song is Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bob Marley.  Ike rarely gets grumpy and is always happy to see me.  Yes, he can be excitable in the cold wind, and hates being out in the elements, but his overall persona is one of peaceful  contentedness.  I wonder what he’d look like with dreadlocks?

Hoping to hop aboard for a ride tomorrow.  A little over a week away from the next dressage show – guess I should make sure I have memorized Training Level Test 1.  Oh, and um, yeah, we need to work on that stretch down trot.

Baby Huey Wants to Pump You Up

Can you believe it?  Big boy might have slowed in the vertical direction, but there is definite muscle mass development occurring in every other direction.  There might actually be some muscle definition.  Who remembers the Saturday Night Live skit of Hans and Franz, “We want to pump you up, yah, wake up and smell the muscles.” (all said with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent)  Classic SNL.  I sometimes think that Ike is sneaking out of his stall at night to hit the gym.  I can see him curling dumbbells and chugging protein shakes with the oiled up muscle men.

There is definitely some fat and muscle on that loooong back now.  Ike will now let me sit the trot for longer periods of time – patience dear girl, he is still only four.  The boy needed some fat on that gawky young frame to make it possible – no fun to have me bouncing on skin and spine.  We have slowly adjusted his daily feed ration over the past 10 months.  Currently it includes the Pennington All-Phase Balancer Pellet, Whole Oats, Alfalfa Pellets, and Purina Athlete.  I discovered Purina Athlete years ago when Cigar was having trouble keeping his weight.  I tried one of the regular weight gain supplements, but Mr. Picky said, “No thank you.”  Corn oil would have worked but it is messy and can go rancid so quickly in the heat.  My veterinarian recommended Purina Athlete as a supplement/top-dressing to his normal grain ration.  Purina notes that it is a 14-15% fat and 14% protein feed for performance horses (http://horse.purinamills.com/products/athlete/ECMD2-0033779.aspx).  I can tell you that it does wonders for getting weight on and then helping the horse maintain the weight even in the winter.  We’ve adjusted the quantity depending on the work schedule (or lack thereof for Cigar these days) and usually after consulting with the vet to make sure the change isn’t to drastic.  The side benefit of the Athlete is that the coat is glossy and shiny without the need for shine products.  There is nothing on Ike’s coat in the photo above.  Would you believe it if I didn’t tell you?

Ike enjoyed his day off yesterday and supervised while I cleaned tack and tidied the trailer.  I’m still waiting for the day that one of my horses decides to help with all the clean up.  Was able to hop on for 30 minutes today.  Had to fight for a connected trot, but I finally achieved it after I rode in two point for a few minutes.  I have found that it helps Ike find the connection if I stay off his back and then quietly go back to rising trot.  We worked on maintaining our tempo on circles – that was one of the judge’s comments from Sunday – we have nice impulsion on the long side, but we lose impulsion on the circle.  She is right, but at first I had to slow down or we would drift out as centrifugal force would take over.  Now that Ike is finding better balance, we are less likely to drift into another orbit and we can bump up the impulsion on the circles.  We will get there.

p.s. this post would have been up 30 minutes ago, but a laptop glitch caused me to lose all but the first 6 words of the post. #$%&*$$

Another Successful Day

So we survived another dressage show.  Ike has two more ribbons to add to his collection – a blue one and a red one.  I could not be prouder of my big boy.

As you can see I decided to braid albeit not my best even for cheater braids.  I placed the braids in on Saturday morning while Ike stood patiently in his paddock with the lead rope draped over the fence.  I, of course, forgot to bring the Quick Braid out with me and was too lazy to go back to get it, so we forged on without it.  The braids were a little worse for the wear this morning, but rolled them up, picked hooves, ran a brush over Ike’s back and onto the trailer he went.  My husband was in shock at the transformation in Ike’s attitude toward the trailer.

Turns out we were the first ride of the day just like at the last show.  Ike was a bit uptight not having a lot of company.  There was one other horse and Ike decided that they were going to be buds.  Whinnied and worried whenever he could no longer see it.  I could feel the tension building and the trot getting more and more choppy – asked for canter so he could free himself from that nervousness.  It helped to some degree, but then he was alone again for our first ride.  Intro C – 63.8% – we had high points and low points.  Ike nailed both our centerlines.  We had a small spook right after our first turn which got us the comment “drifting on and off the line.”  No duh.  Ike almost picked up the wrong lead, but a quick half halt and we saved the right lead canter circle.  We lost impulsion as we would feed off onto our trot circles, but I feared he would break into canter if I pushed for more.  High point for me was our left lead canter…7!  Yea for us.  Progress.

We only had two riders in between our rides, so we just chilled at the competition arena.  Intro B was up next – 70.3% – go Ike!  I could feel the lack of tension as we rode the test and knew that our score would be better.  Everything was more fluid including our circles.  Just one giraffe neck moment as we made the turn at the judge’s stand.  High point this test?  Centerline:  8 for the entry and 9 for the final line.  Call me silly, but I still remember the first time I ever got a 9 in a dressage test;  I think I even still have that test saved somewhere.

Need to thank Ike’s Fan Club for coming to cheer him on today.  We appreciate all of you taking the time to come support us!!  Thank you as well to the owners of Lucks Glen Farm.  Lovely facility and great dressage schooling show.

Ike is taking the day off tomorrow, but Mom will be hard at work cleaning tack and the trailer.  Two weeks until we head back to Commonwealth where we will make our Training Level debut. Hmm…

Lesson Part Deux

I opted for a second lesson this week since we are headed out into the wild blue yonder on Sunday.  Had to fit the ride in between the early morning thunderstorms and the expected storms this afternoon.  It was very humid which means that the bugs were particularly voracious.  When they are this bad, I have found that the fly spray is almost a waste of time and money.  I resort to smearing the clear formula Swat (http://www.bigdweb.com/SWAT-OINTMENT-CLEAR-6-OZ/productinfo/9320C/) in strategic places to keep the flies at bay for the duration of the lesson.  It does a dandy job and is pretty impervious to sweat.

Ms. C had me school the various test movements as well as tell her each test each test  to make sure I know where each movement starts and ends (Intro C, halt at G..).  Ike’s right shoulder can be dominant some days, so I use my right thigh to combat the “push” I feel against the saddle.  This works against us on centerline because he then overcorrects and the left shoulder falls left which equals crooked halts.  The other problem we were having is Ike’s right flexion.  This was the issue of the day.  Somedays, today included, it is like wading through partially dry concrete to get that flexion.  If I fight for it too much on centerline…left shoulder falls left, right hind is to the right and we have the start of a “crab trot.”  See the May 29 post for the explanation of the crab walk and trot if necessary.  Free walk was adequate as was Ike’s walk.  Trot transitions were hit and miss.

The boy was also fired up today for some reason.  Maybe it is the unstable atmosphere due to the storms.  In any case, he REALLY wanted to canter.  So we didn’t.  He needs to learn to wait for the cue.  Of course, that being said, I’m sure at times I inadvertently shift my weight and he hears canter transition.  Today, he wanted to be in charge of the gait we were riding.  He got one past me, and it took all my strength to shut him down; he used that massive giraffe next against me.

Overall, he did well when we schooled each test.  He did get to canter the two circles of Intro C.  Quite the expressive right lead canter transition.  Some might call it explosive!  There were moments of our 8 trot and 7/8 free walk.  I wouldn’t complain with straight 7’s.  Would you?  Can’t guarantee that we will find it on Sunday, but that won’t stop me from trying.

Have my ride times.  They are only 20 minutes apart.  Awesome.  Only have to have one warm up.  Intro C is up first followed by Intro B.  Tomorrow will be a short barn visit with some tidying of the whiskers, mane, and tail.  Still debating braids or no braids.  Come back Sunday and find out!