Where Do I Start? The Regional Finals In A Nutshell

Alison and Ike selfie

The BIG weekend is finally behind us.  The butterflies have left my stomach and started their migration south for the winter.  The nervous twitch in my neck is gone and I can finally sleep through the night.  Ike is safely tucked in his own stall after spending the day grazing in his paddock and visiting with his buddies.  I can only imagine the stories he shared with them about his stay in Lexington, Virginia.

It is hard to summarize a weekend like this.  There are so many stories and moments that I want to remember.  You only ever have one first time at a show like the USDF Regional Finals.  When we return (hopefully) next year, we will be wiser and stronger.  There will be no worrying about how to navigate the check-in process or how to get around the show grounds.  We will be smarter about packing for Ike and for us.  Hopefully Ike will no longer feel the need to spook and shy during our tests since he will have been-there-done-that.

So instead of droning on and on about things that only I want to remember, I will share what I think are the high points of the weekend.

The camaraderie with my friends:  I was fortunate enough to have two fellow competitors from my local dressage chapter at the show with me.  We all have young horses who are all showing Training Level.  Each of them has their “young horse issues” that they are working through, so we commiserate and cheer for each other.  This show would not have been nearly as much fun without them there to share the experience.  Each of our equine boys came home with exactly one pink ribbon.  (Ike got his in his Training Level Test 2 test despite his spook in the middle of his trot circle.)

The doggie costume contest:  So while this was a very horse centric weekend, the dogs did have the chance to have their moment in the spotlight.  The Virginia Dressage Association always holds a doggie costume contest in conjunction with the fall show to raise money for a local animal rescue group.  It is always a popular Saturday night activity, and this year there were over 40 dogs vying for one of the 6 placings.  My friends and I entered our canines as a group…Emma the leggy cocktail waitress, Meg the cosmopolitan, and Tim the dirty martini.  And our dogs pulled off what their equine companions could not…Champion status and a chance to stand in the middle of the coliseum with the crowd cheering.

The 2013 Champion Doggie Costume Contest Winners

The 2013 Champion Doggie Costume Contest Winners

The best support team:  There is no way that I could not acknowledge the greatest support team a girl and her pony could ever want.  My husband is always there to drive Ike and I to whatever show we enter.  He will wipe my boots, keep peppermints in his pockets, and babysit my naughty horse when Ike decides that he needs to rear to look out the window waaaay up on the side of the barn.  He is a saint and I love and appreciate him more than words can say.  Ms. C was there to coach me for my finals ride.  Without her Ike and I would never have made it to the finals.  She will scour my score sheets and help to decipher the judge’s illegible comments.  She will continue to help us strive to improve and we will do our best to be the best pupils so that next year we can earn that victory lap.  And I must give a big shout out to my friends who were able to come and watch our finals ride and all those who sent good luck and good karma our way.  I also need to thank two of my youngest supporters for their special gifs.  My good luck pipe cleaner bracelet from Peter made me smile all weekend.  And, below is a photo of Angelina and I and the inspirational gift she gave me when I returned home.  It is humbling to feel so loved and supported.

Angelina made this awesome card for Ike and I for our efforts at the GAIGs.  It says "I kicked butt at my horse show."

Angelina made this awesome card for Ike and I for our efforts at the GAIGs. It says “I kicked butt at my horse show.”

Riding down centerline for your first finals ride ever:  Wow!  How nerve-wracking was warmup for my finals ride.  Trying to be perfect is hard work!  I tried my best to breathe regularly, relax my shoulders, and smile.  Ike tried his best to do the same until the green tractor of doom decided to come groom the warmup arena we were using.  He decided that we needed to leave NOW and find a better place to work.  Ike left in such a hurry that he left Ms. C to face the tractor on her own.  We then moved to the warmup arena designated for our finals class.  It was lunch break, so things were quiet.  Hand walking was allowed around the arena, so I dismounted and Ms. C and I walked Ike around the indoor for one last look.  Then came the dilemma that I had to get back on my big pony…enter the nice gentleman who offered to give me a leg up…and then watch Alison thwack him in the face with her whip.  I apologized profusely for my gaff.  That will be the last time he tries to be nice to a stranger…Time flew by and soon the class started.  I watched the first rider head down centerline for her final salute, and then it was our turn.  The squirrel nailed his entry and we were off.  The ride was going well in my estimation until we rounded the short end and fell out of our left lead canter.  Got it back within a stride, but I knew that would be a costly mistake.  We did our final salute, thanked the judges, and left the arena.  Dare I say I felt tears of relief well up in my eyes?  We did it – good or bad – we did it.  In this day and age of instant information, it wasn’t long before we had our score:  64.5%  (62.4% from the judge at C, 66.6% from the judge at E).  18th of 38 competitors.  Not bad considering our bobble.

The judge at C’s comment at the end of my score sheet was that “horse has greater talent than was shown.”  So there it is.  My homework for the winter.  Ike is going to continue to mature and get stronger.  Alison is going to hone her skills and finally execute an effective half halt and learn to relax.  Together we are going to refine that raw talent and show the world what we can do.  Can’t wait to see what is in store in the year to come!


The DQ Invades the Hunter Fun Show…And Has a Blast!

Go Ike!

Go Ike!

So everyone knows that we’ve been rather unfortunate with our off-the-farm experiences lately.  Every time we try to go somewhere, it rains, and rains, and rains.  Well, the curse has been lifted!  This past Friday, Ike and I headed to Hill Top Stables (http://hilltopstablesva.com/) to ride in their Friday afternoon fun show.  The show included command classes, hunter flat classes, hunter over fences, western pleasure, and games.  There was something for everyone.  I perused their prize list and determined that there were three classes that we could enter.  No, pole bending and barrel racing were not one of our selections.

We arrived right after the gates opened to provide Ike a good hour to walk around, calm down, and giraffe his neck.  Turns out, we needed all that time.  You were allowed to warm up in the competition arena.  The jumps for the hunter over fences classes were already set.  Each was creatively decorated:  Halloween ghosts and garland on one, beach toys and a boogie board on another.  Let’s just say that Ike was a bit worried about these obstacles.  “Um, Mom, why are there things in the arena?  We don’t have stuff like this at the other shows.”  My Hackney giraffe huffed and puffed as we walked by each one.  Shoulder in was my best friend to help guide Ike past each one.

It was a good thing that I’d asked Ms. C to meet us at the show.  Just about the time she arrived was the time that the other riders started jumping…”OMG, Mom, why are these horses flying???!!!”  And if one of the horses happened to rub a rail or knock one down?  Ike would panic.  In his panic, we almost took down one of the standards.  Poor sheltered dressage horse.  Ms. C helped tame the fears with Mrs. Pastures cookies and reassuring words.  She also gave me some pointers on how to ride Ike like a hunter horse.  I must sadly admit that I’ve never ridden the hunters and have no idea what they want.  Ike and I tried our best to follow Ms. C’s instructions, but every time I’d give Ike a little more rein, someone would rub a rail and off we’d go.  We finally decided to be done with warm up and let Ike stand and watch until it was time for our first class.

First up, the Senior Command Class.  Basically Simon Says on Horseback.  The judge had the class walk, next rising trot, then extend your trot, and then back to walk.  What came next?  Canter.  Thank goodness we’d been schooling our walk-canter transitions and trot lengthening at home.  Then it was back to trot, then walk and reverse.  The next command caught me off guard.  There we were walking and we heard, “Hand gallop, please, hand gallop.”  Uh, okay.  Ike took a few steps of trot into our “gallop.”  Thankfully I remembered to ride in two point which is rather challenging in a dressage saddle.  And even more thankfully, the judge asked for trot rather than walk.  We then had to halt, perform a rein-back, and then trot and line up.  As the announcer called the placings, our number was called for second place.  Go Ike!

We had a short break before our second class-  Green Rider/Horse Under Saddle.  This was a class for adult amateurs and juniors in their first or second year of showing over fences.  Since we have never shown over fences, we were allowed to enter.  It was a class of 7-8 riders.  Again, the judge asked for walk-canter transitions.  Ike nailed his transitions in both directions.  The canter-walk transitions were not quite perfect, but were okay.  We almost had a collision during the left lead canter since there were two riders walking on the rail and there was a jump just off the rail.  There luckily was a narrow opening between them and the jump and my very loud half halt kept Ike out of the tail of the Thoroughbred.  Of course, this all happened in the direct line of the judge’s view.  We lined up and waited for the judge’s decisions.  “First place goes to number 14, Commanders Eisenhower…”  What?!  No way.  So very proud of my big man. 🙂

Our third and final class was Open Hunter.  Pretty much the same riders as the second class.  Dare I say that Ike was getting tired.  His trot was choppy and we missed our walk-canter transition to the right.  This young dressage horse is not used to cantering laps around the arena – lots of respect for those well conditioned hunter horses that have that stamina and can do it in multiple classes.  When the placings were called, Ike politely received his fourth place ribbon and gave the ribbon lady a nudge with his nose.  I think he was hoping for a candy for all his efforts.  Luckily, Ms. C greeted him with a cookie so all was well in Ike’s world.

It was a great outing that I consider a success.  The sun was out, Ike overcame his fear of flying horses, and he was his usual stellar self when asked to perform.  I think everyone should consider going outside their comfort zone and try something new with their mounts.  Don’t worry that you are the only dressage rider on the biggest horse. Just do it.  You just might find that you have a blast when you take all the performance expectations out of the equation.  When you just relax and enjoy yourself, you will surprise yourself at how well you can do.   Now if I can just remember my own words of wisdom next weekend at our dressage show and get that last qualifying score!

It Wasn’t Worth the Ribbon

Hey Cigar, Did you hear that I didn't have to show this past weekend?

Hey Cigar, Did you hear that I didn’t have to show this past weekend?

A 3:00 a.m. alarm is rude.  It doesn’t matter if it is one of the dogs waking me, the radio, or the alarm.  It just is inhuman to wake at that hour, but that is what we horse people do when your show is 1.5 hours away from your barn and you get stuck with one of the earliest ride times.  So I let the dogs out to find that the forecasted rain did indeed arrive in the wee hours of the morning.  Great, my Polish luck strikes again (for those of you wondering, Polish luck is the polar opposite of Irish luck.  I have Polish and Irish ancestors, but sadly, no Irish luck.)

We forge ahead to the local Wawa for extra-large cups of coffee.  As we get back on the road towards the barn, it starts to rain harder and even harder still.  Ugh.  I check the radar on my phone.  The entire region is covered in a large green blob.  Super-duper.  Do I chance loading Ike and head to the show?  Will he even leave the barn in the pouring down rain; he is a bit of a fair weather fairy after all.  Do we drive 1.5 hours to ride in the rain, wait in the rain, and ride again in the rain?  Is the ribbon and the score worth it?  I envision a score of 55% with comments reading, “erratic trot around puddle,” “this is not a prix caprilli class, horse should not be jumping.”

One last traffic light before we head down the road towards the barn.  The rain comes down harder and the wipers are barely keeping the windshield clear.  I pulled the plug then.  No sense stirring up the horses when we aren’t going anywhere.  I’m sure my disappointment was evident.  I send an email to the show secretary.  I hear a flushing noise as my show fees float away.

When daylight finally came, I headed out to the barn to visit with the boys.  They were peacefully grazing in the rain.  Ah, Ike will leave the barn if the rain isn’t too heavy.  Felt like a wimp for not going, but given the information available in the dead of night, I made the decision that made sense at that time.  Hindsight is a pesky bitch.  She nags at you and pokes holes in your logic.  I sent her down the drain with the show fees.

Was I disappointed?  Yes.  But really, it is just a score and maybe just a ribbon if it had been a decent score.  So what?  I have an acquaintance whose horse was just released from the vet hospital after battling an infection and a stifle injury.  My friend who bolstered my mood last night is still grieving from the unexpected loss of her talented young mare (Thanks S!  We will uncork a few bottles soon!).  And today, a gentle draft cross at my barn was rushed to the surgical clinic for his second severe colic in three months – fingers are crossed that he survives the night.  For as large and as strong as our horses are, they are also amazingly fragile creatures.  We take them for granted when things are going well.  They can be gone before we have a chance to say goodbye.  Remember it isn’t about the ribbons, it is about the journey and having these amazing creatures as part of your life.

The Marshmallow Fluff Separation

010I’d like to share with you my story of the jar of marshmallow fluff.  You know the stuff, that small jar of white, sticky goodness that only ever was used for Thanksgiving dinner when I was a child.  My mother would mash yams with butter and brown sugar, then top them with apple pie filling, and then marshmallow fluff.  Completely healthy right?  Well we never seemed to use the whole jar, so the partially used jar would go live in the back of the pantry.  Now my mother’s pantry is as deep as a normal closet, so neglected food items have a tendency to hang out in the dark recesses and never see the light of day again.

One night in the fall of 2003, I decided to cook dinner for my parents.  I opened the pantry to see what was available……..that turned into a treasure hunt to see what canned item was the oldest.  The winner was clearly the bulging can of chicken ala king from 1978 (the year we moved into the house).  Anyone hungry for some botulism with a side of rice?

Anyway, I also came across the forgotten jar of marshmallow fluff dated 1984.  Do you know what happens to 19-year-old fluff?  It separates into two distinct layers:  the corn syrup layer and the layer of unidentified white stuff.  Yum.  Too bad that this predated the days of smart phones or there would be a photo to share.

Now for the $1000 question:  Why am I sharing the marshmallow fluff separation story?  Well, let me tell you why.  I got off my sorry butt and on Tuesday night, attended the monthly meeting for my local dressage chapter.  We are a small group, but there are some very dedicated people who keep things running.  And there are suckers like me that volunteer to be acting secretary because I felt guilty that I’d been so lazy for the past couple of years.  While at the meeting, I heard a story that saddened me.  It involved some members who were supposed to be working together, but things spiraled the wrong way, plans fell apart and the two factions separated…just like the marshmallow fluff.  Unfortunately, no amount of stirring was going to correct things in time for the group activity.  What a shame.  In smaller organizations, the breakdown of communication and teamwork can really hurt the organization as a whole.  I was not involved, so I know none of the specifics.  I just hope that going forward that everyone can put those feelings aside and remember why we joined this organization: our love of horses and the sport of dressage.

Equestrian sports might be a multi-million dollar industry, but there would be no shows without volunteers.  From the small local shows to the World Equestrian  Games, volunteers keep the show wheels turning.  There has to be someone to set up the show grounds, to beg companies to donate prizes and sponsor the classes, to keep the riders in the warm up ring up-to-date on their classes, or to sit for hours on end writing down the judge’s scores and comments.  Let’s give a big round of applause for the folks who are on the cross country course at each of the jumps rain or shine, those who are the runners or gate keepers, and those who sit in a windowless room calculating the scores as quickly as possible.  I coordinated volunteers for four years – it can be like herding cats – challenging, frustrating, and rewarding all at the same time.  There is no better feeling than when the show is over and all the ribbons have been handed out, to hear a thank you from a competitor for an enjoyable day.  That is what keeps you motivated to do it again and again.

So the next time you are at odds with another member of your association, take a moment, breathe deeply, and ask yourself, “Do you want to be one of the layers of the old marshmallow fluff or a well-blended jar of sugary goodness?”


p.s. Ike and I have our lesson tomorrow…work and weather played havoc with our riding this week and delayed our weekly tune up.

What a Rollercoaster Ride of a Weekend

013Yes, we did make it to our show this weekend after one emergency vet visit, multiple test rides under Ms. C’s watchful eye, and a last-minute, Saturday morning visit by our farrier to put Equi-Pak on Ike’s front hooves.  Sheer luck, divine intervention or a miracle?  Who knows for sure, but what I do know is that there are many take away lessons from this experience that have nothing to do with the color of the ribbon or the number on the scoresheet…although I will admit that I jumped up and down in the aisle of the barn after earning our first qualifying score for the regional finals.  But let’s get back to the big picture stuff.

Be an excellent client/student/friend/partner.

Unless you are a superhuman, you cannot succeed in this sport alone.  You need a tremendous support team to make your goals come to fruition.  You need to be a reliable client for your veterinarian, trainer, and farrier if you need to call in any favors.  Be willing to reschedule your appointments on occasion when they need to take care of someone else’s emergency – one day you will be that emergency call.  Pay your bills on time.  Show up on time to all appointments.  Show your appreciation and most definitely, say thank you.

Be kind to your pet sitter so that they will be willing to come let the dogs out and feed them while you are at your weekend show.  The kindness is especially important when you have to tell them that you may or may not need them, but can they still keep their calendar open just in case.

Be willing to be the supportive “ear” for your friends so that when the tables are turned, they will be there as you vent your latest horse woes.  Saying thank you to them is also not optional.  Express your gratitude over and over again.

And lastly, kiss and hug your mate when the rollercoaster ride is over.  They might not always understand your crazy obsession with your horse, but they hop on the coaster next to you to wipe your boots, drive the truck, scoop horse poop, and retrieve your tests and ribbons.  If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

You are not your score or the ribbon color.

Who among us doesn’t fret about the score we see on the front of the test?  Especially when you know that 55% is going to get posted at the show and online for the world to see.  Will they think I’m an idiot who cannot ride?  Will they secretly smirk and take joy in my bad luck?  Before you sell the trailer, turn the horse out to pasture and throw away those sweaty riding clothes, take that test home and read the individual scores used to calculate that final average.  Yes, all the scores.  Yes, all the comments, even the bad ones.

Once you read the individual scores and comments, you realize that up until your horse decided to spook in the corner when it came time for the canter transitions, you were scoring 6.5s and 7s.  You know that those 4.5 marks with “horse looks tense” and “explosive transition” comments are due to the horse getting scared by the judge’s booth (there is video as proof).  Yes, you have to take your hits for those moments, but you rode through them and stayed on the horse and in the ring.  The judge can only comment on that 7 minute ride they see that day.  Come back another day and try again….and get a 69.4% on Training Level Test 3 that wins you the class riding in front of the same judge.

This is a tough sport.  In order to succeed, you will most likely fail once or twice or more times than you wish to remember.  It will teach you patience and perseverance if you stick with it.  You will be a better person for living through the hard times.  It makes the good moments that much more special.

At the end of the day, hug your horse.

I think we sometimes forget that our horses are not machines.  They are living, breathing creatures with minds of their own.  If only we could really peer inside those brains to know what was they are really thinking.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could tell you exactly where they hurt and how bad the pain was?  Unfortunately we cannot read their thoughts, so we are left to interpret the symptoms before us as best we can.

We must be the best advocates for our horses and make the best decisions for their health and well being, even if it is not always best for our checkbook or our egos.  Had Ike still been off after the Saturday morning farrier visit, I would have scratched my rides.  Yes, it would have been disappointing, but it would have been the right thing to do.  I got lucky this time.  Big Man came back strong and showed everyone just what strong character he possesses.  Our horses give us their all, the least we can do is give them a hug.

There is No Place Like Home, No Place Like Home

DSC02382Well, that was a lonnnnnnnnngggg weekend.  It is no wonder that I only consider doing big licensed shows one weekend a month.  We were all exhausted last night and bedtime arrived early.  Brain was non-functional so the thought of writing was quickly cast aside.  Unfortunately as well, the laundry and cooking fairies did not show up at the house to magically take care of the neglected chores.

Overall it was a successful weekend.  Sadly we missed a qualifying score by 0.4%, but there was too much other good to worry about that.  Here are the  observations and high points from the weekend:

1) After schooling on Saturday, Ike and I walked around the competition rings.  Sound checks for the musical freestyles were in progress, so he got to hear the squelching speakers so it wouldn’t be a surprise on Sunday.  As we were standing around a freak gust of wind blew over a pop up tent and a trashcan.  I think Ike grew about 2 feet taller in his panic.  Luckily, I kept my ass in the saddle (many years of practice with his brother), so crisis was averted.  So proud of Ike trusting in me to save him from the evil tent monster.

2) Ike survived his first night away from home and overcame his disappointment at the lack of a surprise party.  If I’m completely honest, I really didn’t sleep much Saturday night as I worried about what was happening back at the show grounds.  This must be what parents feel like when their child leaves for college and you realize that you have to trust that all will be okay.  Ike obviously got some rest as evidenced by the shavings in his braids and tail.  Maybe I should have taken the Gastrogard.

3) I learned that leaving a young horse cooped up for over 12 hours makes for a very energetic walk around the show grounds.  I quickly gave up for fear that Ike would dislocate my shoulder.  So when he couldn’t move forward, he decided to go up….as in I’m going to rear in my stall to try to see the horse on the other side of the stall wall.  Suggesting to Ike that he keep four on the floor was met with pinned ears and a very grumpy facial expression.

4) Warm up for my first ride at 8:37 started well over an hour before.  Since I couldn’t walk Ike from the ground, I let him do the walking, and more walking, and even more walking.  We were early enough that we were able to do a couple of laps around the outside of our ring.  Not sure that Ike liked the flowers.  He stopped to sniff the petunias, but seemed disappointed that they were not more fragrant.  I had to strongly suggest that he not try to eat one.

5) Our first test was going extremely well until I decided to half halt at the end of our canter circle to rebalance as we went down the long side.  Ike heard “trot” and we got the wrong lead when I asked for canter again.  Our lovely canter circle work was erased and the number 3 appeared on the score sheet.  And since we trotted early, there went the next score as well.  Lesson learned.  If things are going well, be a quiet rider.  That was a hard lesson because it cost us enough to prevent us getting the magical 63% to qualify.  We came out of the class with a pink ribbon.  The rest of the test was scored quite well and I agreed with the scores we received and the comments the judge provided.

6) We had five hours until our next ride, but the silver lining to that long wait was that Ms. C was able to be there for our second warm up and ride!!  Phew!  She analyzed our first test and developed our game plan for warm up.  Thank goodness Ike is a willing partner for part two of the day.  His darling brother hated the restart “I already worked today.  I’m done.”  Let us hope that Ike does not learn that behavior.  It also doesn’t hurt that he loves Ms. C and know she comes bearing candy if he is good.  Food motivation is a good thing when training animals.

7) Warm up went smoothly with Ms. C reminding me not to pull Ike behind vertical and also schooling our canter – let go of that inside rein Alison!!  Our second ride was one of my favorite Training Level rides ever on Ike.  Ike didn’t want to give me 100% committment at the trot and I decided against any arguments.  We received a decent score (63.9%), but the high point for me was his canter work.  This is the canter that we have all been waiting for – balanced, rhythmic, uphill, and just way too much fun to ride.  Ms. C even said it was some of his best.  What a way to end the weekend.

And while we didn’t have ruby slippers to click together, we rubbed our red ribbon from our second test and said, “there is no place like home, no place like home,” and we headed home with smiles on our faces and visions of the future in our heads.

Disappointment Takes a Turn to Elation

Great photo of Ike and I...yes, I know, you can't see much of me.  That is what makes it great.

Great photo of Ike and I…yes, I know, you can’t see much of me. That is what makes it great.

So of course I was bummed that our show tomorrow was cancelled, but the money that was going to be spent on the show was used for an extra lesson with Ms. C and a clinic with Rebecca Langwost-Barlow.  It turns out that sometimes the unexpected can turn out to be just what you need to feel good about you and your horse and the progress you have made over the winter.  To hear from both these ladies that Ike and I are working well together and that they can see the progress that we’ve made, gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that perhaps I am starting to “get” what dressage is all about.  There is a glimmer of hope that we will succeed this season AND even more exciting, make it out of Training Level.

A big part of progressing is, of course, the half halt that I talk about incessantly, but the other necessary skill is (ugh) the sitting trot.  That was my nemesis today at the clinic.  OMG!  I do believe that it is going to be harder to master than the half halt.  I either lean too far back, or shoot my lower leg out like a water skier, or pinch with my knees, and most frequently, tense my shoulders.  Meanwhile, I’m also huffing and puffing and trying to move my seat with Ike’s trot rhythm.  It gets even more challenging when I try to down transition from canter to trot.  Ike’s trot as we come out of the canter is very forward.  Whoa, that is a lot of motion to absorb and keep my tush in the saddle in a somewhat relaxed fashion.  By the end of the clinic I was doing it, but so very glad that there is no video evidence of my less than masterful skills.

I find it interesting that there are so many things you can learn to do proficiently from reading a book: baking, cooking, gardening, and bike maintenance are all things I’ve learned from reading books.  In my humble opinion, riding is not one of those skills that can be learned from reading a book or magazine.  Sure you can read the concepts over and over, but to truly be proficient, one must ride.  Not just once, but over and over and over again.  But wait, if you truly want to master a riding skill, you must ride many different horses since each one is unique.  No wonder so many of us struggle to progress.  Who has limitless time and a barn full of horses to ride?  Not this girl.  So it means that much more to earn the complements from those skilled trainers…almost better than a blue ribbon. 🙂

p.s. We have ride times for next Sunday, so the countdown restarts…8 days.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Heart Wreath

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those ribbons that you and your horse(s) have earned over the years?  Not the really pretty end of season ones or the coveted neck ribbons, but the average, every day schooling show variety that you have piled in boxes in the closet.  After a while, you run out of wall space, so the older ones get pushed aside to make room for the new ones.  I pulled out that pile of ribbons and decided that I was going to make a Valentine’s wreath with the red, white and pink ribbons.  I embellished with some pompoms and ribbon from the local craft store to fill in the holes.  Don’t look too closely or you will see all the flaws.

I did get in a quick 30 minute ride this afternoon.  Ike was relaxed and all was going well until the local terror on his four-wheeler arrived home from school.  I could feel Ike tense up and the game plan had to be changed in order for the rest of the ride to be a productive one.  The plan changed from riding some of the Training Level test movements utilizing the whole arena to working on walk/trot transitions and 10 meter circles at the end of the arena closest to the barn (the safe zone).  Yes, yes, I know Ike needs to learn to work with distractions, but why risk it on Valentine’s Day when no one else was at the barn?  Better to be safe than sorry and fight the battle another day when there is someone to dial 9-1-1.

Ike tried hard to focus on our work.  We ended up working at a slower trot rhythm on a 10 meter figure eight.  The smaller circles force me to ride every step keeping my reins at the proper length.  That is no small feat for me.  I’m notorious for letting my reins get too long – hard to give an effective half halt with a floppy rein.  Riding the smaller circles helps me help Ike to keep all body parts on the one bending line; it is not uncommon to see us losing a shoulder or the hind end as we cruise around a 20 meter circle.  Now I know we aren’t suppose to turn on cruise control on any size circle, but who doesn’t have those momentary lapses (Olympians, Grand Prix riders, more focused amateurs) – I’ve got nothing to lose by admitting that I lack focus sometimes.  Can’t really get mad at my horse when he does the same thing.  Like I’ve said before, we are a work in progress.

Tucked Ike in for the night with some Valentine’s Stud Muffins.  Tomorrow looks to be another good day for riding.  Saturday is questionable, but thankfully I’ve still got a pile of ribbons to repurpose.  What shall I make next?

Got Ike tucked away in his stall with some special Valentine’s treats.