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

Advertisements

Simple (?) Changes

Ike Nov 2015

So, just when I thought our show season was over, I got a wild hair and decided to head to a schooling show this coming weekend to try Second Level one more time.  We will continue to ride and work at home through the winter, but nothing beats an outing in front of a judge to really gage our progress. And, to up the ante, I signed up for tests 2 and 3…

Hmm, test 3.  Had not even contemplated trying that test until 7 days ago. Guess it is time to memorize the test and actually try riding it in its entirety.  Second Level Test 3 morphs pieces of Test 1 and Test 2 into one “supertest”…the reinback is there, shoulder in, travers, the simple changes, and everyone’s favorite turn on the haunches.  Let us not forget the 2 full-sized canter serpentines to showcase your countercanter skills. Oy vey. What have I done?

Our turn on the haunches still regularly resembles Frankenstein.  If I try opening my rein to help suggest the way to go, Ike somehow ends up flexed in the wrong direction (i.e., I am doing something wrong).  I try using various leg position with the whip as an aid, but Ike’s hind end still swings in the wrong direction.  I get so focused on what my hands and legs are doing that I forget to shift my weight in the saddle and there is no doubt that it ends up in the wrong place.  There are days that we get a few good steps and all we can hope is that Sunday is one of those days. 

And the designers of the tests really challenge your simple change skills by having you do your simple changes on a short diagonal.  That means you can’t use the ring to help keep your horse positioned correctly.  You have to maintain and change the proper bend on your own.  Clever, clever people.  Yes, I get that it is preparing you for doing a flying change, but no, we are not ready for THAT since I’m still challenged by simple changes…At this point, it is a crap shoot if we are going to  pull it off on Sunday.  The other day I managed to canter on the left lead, ask for the walk, and then pick up the left lead again.  Oops.  And poor Ike maintained the left lead for about three quarters of the arena and then gave me a flying change when he got off balance.  He is such a patient soul to deal with the likes of his clueless mother. 

So if you are in the area on Sunday, stop by the show.  It is bound to be an amusing 14 minutes.

Alison

Breathe In, Breathe Out, Repeat

Tim April 9 2015

Jimmy Buffett tells us in one of his songs to, “Breathe in, breathe out, move on,” but today I find myself holding my breath and wanting to go back in time.  I catch myself holding the inhale just a wee bit too long and then I must remind myself to breathe out.  It is not my equines causing this lack of oxygen exchange, but the loss of our beloved canine Tim.  We said our final goodbyes yesterday, but it still doesn’t seem real.  I keep hoping his scruffy face will pop around the corner to see me.  I would love to hold him just one last time to tell him how lucky we were to have him as part of our lives.

He was 14 and the gentlest soul.  I think I can honestly say that everyone who met him liked if not loved him.  He was a great ambassador for dogs.  He did a stint as a therapy dog and enjoyed letting children read to him.  He was an attentive listener and they always thought he was reading right long with them.  Little did they know that I hid treats in the books at home so that Tim would stare at the pages…hoping for more treats to fall into his mouth.  If ever there was a dog that needed to be cloned, he was an ideal candidate.  His final days were peaceful and I feel certain that all our family dogs that went before him and my husband’s Dad (Mepaw) were there to greet him with wagging tails and open arms on the other side of the bridge.

But, maybe, just maybe, Jimmy Buffett was right about the “move on” part.  But though I grieve, time marches forward and I must look ahead to our first show this weekend.  Thankfully it is a small schooling show and we are doing two First Level tests that we feel comfortable performing.  No pressure.  Just a fun outing to distract my thoughts for a few hours.

"Mom, I gave myself a mud bath!"

“Mom, I gave myself a mud bath!”

Maybe that is what Ike was trying to do by wallowing like a pig in the mud hole he has created in his paddock.  There was mud in most every orifice, in his forelock, his tail, and covering at least 95% of his hulking body.  Grooming today was a strength and aerobic workout rolled into one.  I curried, and brushed, and wiped away clump after clump.  I used my fingers to detangle his mane and tail.  After an hour, he was presentable.  But for that hour, I did not cry.  I just talked to Ike as he munched his hay.  Perhaps it was his way of getting my mind off the sadness of Tim’s loss.

Ms.C did her best to keep my mind distracted for the next hour as she gave us one final lesson before the show.  I did my best to keep my mind on the tasks at hand.  It really is how I should ride each and every time I throw my leg over Ike’s back.  Be present during my ride just as I expect from Ike.  From there, we are two minds working as one.  We really did have some great leg yields and canter work today.  Fingers crossed that we can replicate the lesson on Sunday.

Breathing will eventually return to normal, but life will be a little different without Tim around.  But though he is no longer by my side, he will always be in my heart.  I will ride with that joy in my heart each time I head down centerline.

alison

Ribbons Here, Ribbons There, Ribbons, Ribbons Everywhere!

006

So Mother Nature continues to be a real bee-itch and make riding darn near impossible in Virginia.  Sub zero wind chills and now the looming possibility of up to a foot of snow.  Seriously, Mother Nature, you suck.

What is a rider to do when they cannot ride and grooming your horse means white, stiff fingers within 20 minutes?  You go hibernate indoors.  My house is the cleanest it has been in months.  I have scrubbed grime from crevices that no one else would notice.  Closets and drawers have been decluttered.  Cabinets are organized.  Sketchy containers of condiments have left the refrigerator.

And then I decided to tackle my home office.  Yikes!  It is amazing how quickly papers and other assorted things accumulate in my office.  It is the dumping ground for things that don’t have a better home.  It is also the place where all my horse show ribbons live.  I have only been competing for 3 years with Ike and prior to that, 5 years with Cigar, but boy are there a lot of ribbons loitering about the room.  As you can see, they had become “curtains,” but I feared that the miniblinds would cry “Uncle!” and collapse into two heaps on the floor.  I am embarrassed to admit, but the ribbons were a bit dusty.  There were also cobwebs and one, all right two, sheesh, three dead stinkbugs found amongst the colorful satin.  The horror!!  I boxed Ike’s smaller ribbons from his first two years of showing and only left the yearend awards and his 2014 season ribbons on display…after removing the offending dust, cobwebs, and dead bugs.  (Seriously, where did those stinkbugs come from?!!)

There does come a point though that you need to do something with all the ribbons.  Leaving them in boxes seems silly; there were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears poured into earning those pieces of satin.  You can donate them to a class for projects, dump them in the trash, or find someone with mad-crafting skills to turn them into something decorative.

Heart Wreath

My crafting skills are limited;  I managed to make the Valentine’s wreath above with some of the ribbons, but sewing is beyond my reach.  I opted for option three and turned to a more talented crafter to make something fabulous.  I collected all of Cigar’s show ribbons and handed them over to my friend’s soon to be daughter-in-law who wanted to try her hand at upcycling ribbons.  Let me just say right now that I wish I had done this sooner!  What an awesome way to honor Cigar’s short-lived dressage career.  She made me a hanging quilt and a decorative pillow using the streamers and some of the rosettes.

Ribbon quilt

The coolest feature of the quilt is the back where the show details from each streamer are chronicled.  Lauren put a lot of thought into the design and I could not be more thrilled with the results.

ribbon pillow

The pillow is adorable and lives in a room that always has the door closed.  My dogs thought the pillow looked like a pretty dog toy…the rosette was particularly tempting.  Once I had these two commemorative pieces, I felt better about tossing the unused pieces and reclaiming some space in my closet to now store Ike’s ribbons.  It is a vicious cycle.

So now that the house is clean and organized, spring can hurry up and get here.  This girl is ready for more saddle time!

One of My Favorite Ways to View the World

Ike at the end of September 2014

A great way to view the world!

So Ike and I took time off last week.  Ike spent his week off just being a horse – no demands of his time except for feeding time.  Rumor has it that he did look for me every time he heard a car come down the driveway.  While he might have missed me, I think he enjoyed living like his brother, the lawn ornament.  I spent the week on Ocracoke Island with my husband and our dear friends imbibing on some adult beverages and engaging in some serious hands of Spades.  While I love to get away from the daily grind, I do miss our dogs and horses while we are gone.  How can you not miss sitting astride your horse and the ease of their power?

We caught the 4:30 a.m. ferry off the island (yes, we are those people) and were home by 10:30.  That meant that there would be some saddle time that afternoon!  What a great greeting I received upon arrival at the barn.  Every horse, except for Ike, nickered as I said hello.  Ike promptly greeted me with a gentle nudge, then gave me his “mean face.”  I suppose that was him admonishing me for leaving him for the week.  He is quick to forgive…after a Stud Muffin or two were procured.  Had a moment of panic when I saw Cigar’s face with what looked like blood splattered on his forehead.  Thankfully, it turned out to be pokeberry juice.  Such a shame that he has to resort to eating pokeberries rather the alfalfa/timothy hay that he is provided.  Enjoyed a short but productive ride with the realization that the CBLMs are only three weeks away.

So much to accomplish in the next few weeks.  The training plan involves mostly pure training rather than test riding.  Training Level Test 2 and First Level Test 2 are good tests for us.  We’ve been consistent with our scores all season, so no need to drill the movements.  We are just going to work on climbing the training pyramid which will only make our tests better.

Ms. C introduced half steps to our training right before our week off; she said that both Ike and I are ready for them. Uh, okay.  I think Ike is picking up on the concept faster than I am.  I have a tendency to get a bit strong with my hands, not use my legs enough, and then forget to release my half halt…that of course creates tension which makes Ike’s back tight which then causes all the dominoes to fall and we end up back at square one.  Phew, we are now well outside my comfort zone with what we are doing.  No more happy-go-lucky Training Level stuff allowed.  I can read books and websites all day and night about half steps and teaching collection to a horse and rider, but there is no comparison to actually sitting on the horse and performing the tasks at hand.  It is much like swimming – the only way to become proficient is to jump in the water and do it.  Yes, it will be hard at first (and you might sink like a rock/get some low scores), but with steady practice and repetition, you will hopefully see improvement.  That is what I’m hoping with our half steps/collection work.  Good thing there is no hurry to get to Second Level.  (Sshhh, don’t tell, I’m also still not proficient with sitting ike’s medium trot either and I think posting is frowned upon.)

It is shaping up to be a busy week with the farrier and vet stopping by, but hopefully there will be plenty of saddle time!

alison