From The Horse’s Mouth

Ike November 2014

Happy Fall Everyone!  I’m again taking over to fill you in on my life in my words.  I’m pretty sure that I should have my own blog by now, but Mom says that I’m not ready for such responsibility.  Sheesh!  What a mean Mom.  Seriously, how am I supposed to rely on her to give the full story?

I’m pretty sure that I did a very good job at the regional competition.  Mom had that silly grin on her face and tears in her eyes when she realized we got one of those big ribbons with the long streamers.  I gave one of the streamers a taste and I have to say that it was disappointing.  I will stick with apples and horse treats.  It was cool to have people cheer for me when Mom and I went into the big indoor.  People called it a “koliseeim.”  I say it was a really big indoor with lots of chairs and few windows.  How do I get one of those at the farm?  Maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas…

Being at the show was a lot of fun, but by the end of the weekend I was really tired of being inside all the time.   We horses need to start a union and get some better benefits – stalls with attached paddocks will be on my list of demands.  An internet connection at the barn, a private apple orchard, and a climate-controlled barn will also be discussed.  And none of that pay-for-performance stuff.  I get my pay and benefits regardless of the color of the ribbon.  But I digress…My friend Winslow was there as were Roo and Flori.  Dad came along as well as my canine brother Tim.  Ms. C was there to cheer for me on Saturday.  It was big fun to have Miss Melana visit me at night.  We had fun sending photos to Mom.

Once I got home from the show, I had a whole week of doing nothing but hanging out in my paddock.  Mom came to visit, but there was no riding.  She said that I had earned my vacation.  I’m trying to figure out how to have vacation every day like my brother.  He won’t tell me the secret to full-time vacation.  I think he is afraid Mom might put him back to work.

But now that I am back to work, I have to say that things have become much HARDER!  What?!  I did really well all year, so how can the work get harder?  Mom and Ms. C have introduced me to this medieval torture device they call a double bridle.  They stick not one, but two bits in my mouth.  Two!!  What was wrong with one?  It has something to do with the work getting harder.  I keep hearing the word “kollekshun” used more frequently.  It basically means that I have to use my hind legs more and more.  There is also talk around the barn about some sort of Second Level.  The only other level in the barn is where they keep the extra hay.  I’m waiting to see if we will have horses moving in up there.  Mom and Dad have a second level at their house, so maybe my brother and I are moving.  None of the other horses are telling me much, but they all like to smugly stand along the rail while I have to work with all that metal in my mouth.  Luckily, I don’t have to use it every day.

You might be interested to know that my mane is finally growing back.  I really didn’t mean to scratch out as much as I did this summer, but the tick bite was really itchy.  My mane is at the length now that it looks like a Mohawk.  Cool, huh?  Maybe we can introduce that as a talking point at the union discussions this winter.

If you know anyone who wants to help me with my union formation, please send them my way.  It is awfully hard to type on Mom’s laptop.

Ike

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Selfies with Ike

Friday night smile

Ike and his buddy Melana

Do you ever wonder what your horse does at night once you have returned home or to your hotel room if away at a show?  I’m neither curious enough nor neurotic enough to set up a web camera so that I can constantly monitor my boy.  I have never worried about the boys when they are tucked into their stalls at Ms. C’s house.  There are rumors of hot bran mashes and mice parties in the feed buckets, but I know that I can sleep soundly when both horses are home.

Now when Ike and I go on the road, I can be a bit of a worrier.  Will he get some rest?  Will he have enough water and hay?  Will he try to escape over the half door?  Did I remember to latch the stall door?!!  It helps that my friends and I take turns doing late evening barn checks.  My husband has become accustomed to my request to swing by the barn after dinner “just to make sure all is well.”

Well, I learned while in Lexington, VA for the CBLM Finals last month, that Ike had a late evening visitor.  My husband and I were watching television at our hotel when my phone buzzed with a new text message…

"Selfies with Ike!"

“Selfies with Ike!”

Hmm, young man, Mom is not sure that you are old enough to have girls in your “room” without adult supervision!  I texted back asked what the two of them were doing and if she thought she could fit Ike’s entire head in the shot.  Didn’t have to wait long to find out…

"Nailed it!"

“Nailed it!”

Phew!  That is a lot of head to fit into a selfie.  Good thing Melana has long arms.  There were selfies from Friday and Saturday nights as well as daytime selfies when Melana would stop by for some Ike time.  I was also informed that there might have been some snuggling as well.

Friday night love

Friday night snuggling

Oh, Ike.  Such a lady’s man.  I even got to join in the selfie fun on Sunday afternoon before my Training Level final.

Group selfie

Maybe that is why Ike did such a stellar job – his selfie buddy was there watching his performance.

The selfies didn’t stop when we returned home either…there must be a cache of photos on Melana’s phone.  Me thinks that someone misses her late night buddy.

"How I feel not visiting with Ike."

“How I feel not visiting with Ike.”

Ike says you are welcome to visit anytime!  He will leave the barn door unlocked for you.

Our CBLM Finals Recap – What Would Hilda Think?

Getting ready for the victory lap

Getting ready for the Training Level awards ceremony

Phew!  We are now back to reality after living in Horse Show World for 4 days.  Horse Show World is a world unlike any other that I exist in on a daily basis.  Your entire day revolves around your equine family member.  You drag yourself to the barn in the dark to make sure that your beloved horse eats at his normal time.  You realize that your horse is a rather slovenly stall keeper who likes to watch you mine for the poop piles.  Your hands get chapped from fishing out water-logged hay from the water buckets four or five times a day.  Seriously, Ike, why must you leave so much hay in your buckets?  The day’s activities are predicated on what time you need to begin your grooming/tacking/warm up in order to make it down centerline on time.  If you have two rides, this process might have to be repeated…But wait, you can’t leave the show grounds yet, since then you must wait for the class(es) to end to determine if you must frantically retack your horse to make it to the mandatory mounted awards ceremonies.  Even after you scramble to get there, you have to have your baby situated for the night before you can even consider a shower and a real meal.  And who hasn’t driven back to the show grounds for one last night check?  If aliens are watching us, they must think that our horses are in charge and we are their servants.

Ike and I after our First Level final 10th place finish

Ike and I after our First Level final 10th place finish

I am tickled to say that Ike and I finished out our 2014 show season with placings in both of our finals classes.  Yes, can you believe it?!  Both of them.  If you had asked me what the outcome would be, I would have told you that we might have pinned in one or both of our warm up classes, and had a slightly better than average chance of placing in our Training Level Final, but we’d be lucky to be in the top half of our First Level Final.  There were about 30 horse and rider pairs in each of the final’s classes.  Yikes!  When it was all said and done, we came home with a first place in our Training Level Test 2 warm up class, a 5th place in our Training Level Final, and a 10th place in our First Level Final.  [Shhh, don’t tell, I teared up when I realized I placed in each of my final’s classes.]

Here is video from the First Level Awards Ceremony – it cracks me up that Ike seems to realize that we were announced and that the crowd was cheering for him.  I have to say that I was so proud of Ike marching right into the Coliseum like he had done it before…I feared having to walk around by myself while Ike ran freely around the show grounds: 

It finally felt like validation for all our hard work.  We can do this in spite of all my self doubt and my lack of experience.  We started the season with the Hilda Gurney Clinic in Maryland and I can’t help but wonder what she would think of us now.  We were still trying to find a show worthy canter in April, and I am happy to say that we found it this past weekend.  The season that started off with scores of 5.5 for our canter work, ended with 7’s for both the left and right leads.  And let’s be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be at this point without a cadre of amazing people who have helped Ike and I to establish our partnership.  Thank you to you all!!  If I try to name them all, I fear that I will inadvertently forget someone.  But I must say a special thanks to my husband who is my greatest cheerleader and supporter – I love you dearly for supporting this crazy horse habit!

alison

Anticipation

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To this day, I can still (poorly) sing along to Carly Simon’s 1971 top twenty song “Anticipation.”  My singing is not fit for public consumption – just ask my husband who is subjected to it in the car…That aside, things are gearing up for our show in two weeks.  Anticipation is building and hopes are high that we will do well.  My riding has come along way the past few years and is finally fit for public viewing.

With the seasonable temperatures, we have been able to ride and not finish looking like drowned rats.  Although the region could use some more rain, I am not complaining that the sun is out more often than not.   We have been able to school 4 or 5 days a week.  Ike had his pedicure last week as well as an acupuncture and chiropractic session.  My extensive packing lists are on my desk as well as the lists of stuff that I need to get done at home and work before we leave.  The dog sitter has been hired.  Ike has attempted to grow back some mane.  We have about 1.5 inches of spikey growth in the “bald zone.”  I am hopeful that there might be enough hair to fake some sort of braid.  Still praying that roached manes will surge into popularity with dressage riders in the next 10 days.

Our lessons have been intensive.  A lot of discussions about keeping Ike up in his bridle and not letting him dive into the connection.  My whip has been taken away since it not allowed in the championship classes.  I’ve played with a longer spur so that I can speak to the other time zone that is Ike’s hind end.  A few test movements are interspersed in the lessons, but we continue to focus on me understanding when I am connected and through and when Ike’s stride is too short/tight/quick/choppy.  Once the problem is identified (if I am successful at the identification) then we work on what I need to do to fix the problem.  Thankfully, I’m now better able to fix the problems.  Could it be that I might have discovered the secret language of the half halt?!  I’m still waiting to be taught the secret handshake, but that can wait until after the show.

Of course, anticipation can be a bad thing when your horse has ridden the dressage tests enough that he begins to anticipate the next move.  I finally realized that Ike was anticipating the up and down transitions in my Training Level Test 2 rides.  When I sat back and looked at my score sheets from this year, I saw that we quite frequently jig right before our trot transitions.  We also got hit a number of times for trotting before we finished our right lead canter circle.  While practicing my tests at home, sure enough, Ike is jigging and trotting too early.  Hmm.  Guess I need to change up my preparatory methods.  Part of it is that I might be on cruise control myself.  I should know better by now, but some habits are hard to break.

Back in the saddle again tomorrow and then a break on Wednesday.  Thanks for checking in on Ike and I!

alison

My New Romfh Show Coat

Ike at Rose Mount 2014

It is high time that I finish my review of my Romfh Feather-Lite Dressage Coat (http://www.romfh.com/show-coats/romfh-feather-lite-dressage-coat-202041).  I’ve been able to use it at two full weekend shows, and it has been laundered, so I feel that I’ve given it a full test drive to give an honest opinion.  And my final decision?  This coat is well worth the money you will spend on it.

For years I have shown in my very traditional black WOOL dressage coat.  This coat has simple buttons and a classic cut.  It has served me well and will continue to do so for years to come.  But let’s face it, it is WOOL, and I live and show in the mid-Atlantic region which means hot summers with sauna level humidity.  Needless to say, I would offer up a happy dance every time coats were waived.  Sadly though, as I have aged, I’ve found myself wearing my wool coat even when I could be coat-free.  Why?  Let’s just say that there might be a little middle-aged spread happening in my abdominal region and the coat does a wonderful job hiding the sins of my overzealous eating and wine habits.  So when I saw that Romfh was offering a dressage coat constructed with a micropoly/viscose/lycra fabric, I was excited to give it a try.  Breathable fabric?!  Yes please!

One thing to keep in mind is that the coat runs small.  I ordered a 12 Long since, I have broad shoulders and, as my mother calls them, I have monkey arms.  If I wore the coat with only a bra underneath and stood perfectly still with my arms straight by my side, the size 12 fit.  Since that would not be practical while astride Ike, I had to send it back for a 14 Long.  This time the fit was spot on.

I love the silver-toned buttons down the front that also adorn the sleeves and the back of the jacket.  There is a Celtic pattern on the buttons that give some visual interest; Romfh also provides spare buttons just in case one disappears into the sand of the arena.  The most exciting discovery for me was finding that the coat has real pockets including one on the interior of the jacket!  Finally some place to stash a couple of peppermints, a tissue and a copy of my test.

The fabric is soft to the touch and has some give that allows you to move comfortably.  There is a mesh interior which does help with wicking away the sweat and air flow.  That being said, the coat is still black and I did still sweat in it.  The nice thing is that even when I sweat and rode in the rain on Saturday, the coat was dry Sunday morning by just leaving it hanging in the trailer.  How nice to not have to put my arm into a still damp coat sleeve.

I finally decided to take the plunge and wash my coat after my September show.  My wool jacket of course is dry clean only.  When you read the Romfh care label, it clearly states, “Do Not Dry Clean.”  How awesome is that!  I followed the instructions, started the washer, and said a prayer that I didn’t ruin my new coat.  The coat came out of the washer in one piece.  I hung it up overnight to dry.  Happy to report that there was no “shrinkage” and my favorite part is that it does not need ironing. 🙂  [I don’t even know where my iron is and do not currently own an ironing board.]  Machine-washable show clothes?  Who would have thought it would ever happen?!

Looking forward to wearing my Romfh coat at the USDF Region 1 CBLM Championship Show in October.  Hoping that my coat brings me the same luck that it did in August and September!

Alison

It Is All About Your Perspective.

Ike at RM 2014

Our final regular season show is now behind us and there is only the Region 1 Colonel Bengt Ljungquist Memorial Championship Show (http://www.bglongaker.com/cblmain.htm ) left on the calendar.  It is hard to believe that our third year of showing is almost complete.  Where did the time go?  As I reflect on our show last weekend as well as the season as a whole, I realize that I have much to be thankful for, more than just the satin ribbons that hang on the wall of my home office.

At my show in August, I had my mental breakdown.  Cried like a baby with my frustration about our performance.  There, I said it.  Now everyone knows.  The frustration came from the numerous mistakes during my First 3 ride – cantering like an out-of-control freight train, falling out of canter on the canter loop, our inability to ride a centerline. and having the judge tell me to learn my leads (how pleasant of her).  Just wanted to crawl into a hole albeit a big one so that Ike could get in there with me.

During the weeks between that show and our September show, I have cried a few more times, but not because of my riding.  I cried when I heard the news that one of my dear blogger friends lost her sweet mare Sugar.  It was completely sudden and unexpected.  I never had the opportunity to meet Sugs, but I felt the loss as if she was my own horse.  I am now crying again with the news that a dear coworker, who only just retired last year, is now in hospice care.  How unfair life can be.

These recent events have placed some perspective on how I am going to look at my show performance.  We sometimes place too much importance on the attainment of a ribbon and a placing.  I am as guilty as the next person of this.  But, dressage provides us a way to rate our performance that has nothing to do with a ribbon.  Whether or not you place, you get to take home your dressage test; the test tells you how the judge rated each and every movement of the test with comments for all the lower scores.  Some judges will even give you comments with the higher scores.  You need only read the comments to know what you need to raise your score.  How lucky that we have written comments?!  You can compete against yourself from show to show.

That being said, I went to the show last weekend with my personal goals – to maintain my Training 2 and First 2 performance, obtain higher than 65% at Training 3, and to get higher than 60% at First 3.  If we placed, wonderful.  If we did not, that was okay as well.  I am happy to say that we obtained each and every one of our goals!  Could not have been prouder with Ike’s performance at the show.  If you would like to see some action shots, check out our pictures at Pics of You –

http://picsofyou.com/store/index.php?do=photocart&viewGallery=26756#page=thumbs

I can head to the CBLMs and know that we are more than capable of riding Training 2 and First 2 in our championship classes.  No matter how we finish, I know that we will have put forth our best effort.

I am so thankful and grateful that I am able to own a horse and that I have the means that allow me to compete.  I am lucky that we are both healthy are physically capable to do the sport I love.  Life is too short and our time with our horses and loved ones is a gift.  Remember to enjoy each and every ride.

Alison

The Changing of the Seasons

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So here we are careening towards the end of August. It is almost hard to believe that fall is just around the corner. Where did 2014 go? It seems like just last week that we launched our 2014 show season with our First Level debut. This summer has been a busy one for Ike and me. Three weekend long licensed shows, clinics sprinkled in-between the shows, as well as more lessons than I can count on my fingers and toes. When the seasons change, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the outgoing season and prepare for the one just over the horizon.

Some might ask why we are still showing Training Level at this point in the season. Well, it is because we (okay, okay, I) am I still struggling to get good scores for some of the movements in Training Level Test 3 (that blasted trot loop and the canter to trot transitions at the letter). You would think it should be easy for us by now, but being the perfectionist that I am, it bugs me that we can’t seem to get anything more than a 64.__% in Test 3. Grrr. Even at the last show when I thought we’d finally crossed that invisible divide, we still only received a 64.8%. And truth be told, our canter is still a work in progress. Some days we canter and can look like a pair that belongs at First Level, but then a new day dawns, and we are back to the strung out Scooby Doo shuffle. Luckily as the season has progressed, the Scooby Doo days are fewer and fewer…unless a vulture shows up and then all bets are off.

Our First Level work is also inconsistent. There I said it. There are folks that have the skills to go out and get good scores no matter what the day, no matter which test they ride. I am not one of them. Am I happy about that fact? Nope. Do I work my butt off to try to change that? You bet I do. Will the change happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

Ike and I are still trying to figure out when forward becomes too quick, and when our connection goes from steady to too tight or nonexistent. It happens in the blink of an eye, and I’m definitely not always quick enough to catch it as it is happening. I might get lucky every once in a while, but more often than not, we’ve lost the beauty and become the clunky beast. Our leg yield goes from a floaty “8” to a choppy “6.” Our trot lengthening looks more like we a scrambling to the barn in a rainstorm. And that evil canter loop? Pole bending gone horribly wrong. This will not be our breakout year at First Level nor will we be attempting a Second Level test anytime soon.

In preparation for our final two shows of the year, VADAF’s licensed show at Rose Mount and the Region 1 BLM Championships, we spent some time with Ms. C analyzing our scores and more importantly, the judge’s comments. While there are always comments that leave you scratching your head as to their meaning, most of the comments provide valuable insight on how to improve your score. Unfortunately, there are many areas that we need to improve – that inconsistency thing again. What we do well in one test, we blow in the next.  The list of things to work on is long.  We pick one or two at each lesson and do our best to improve.

So with all due respect to Aretha, we aren’t looking for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, we are looking for C-O-N-S-IS-T-E-N-C-Y. Wish us luck!