“Un-Stuck”

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The takeaway from this past weekend is “Even when progress appears to be stagnant, Never Give Up.” 

 Why, you ask?  Well, Facebook reminded me that it was one year ago on March 26, 2015 that I wrote a blog about being “ Stuck ” and feeling all together depressed about my lack of progress in moving up the levels.  In March last year, Ike and I were just not ready to test the waters of Second Level.  So we continued showing First Level and schooling our collection at home.  Later in the season we did finally test the waters at Second Level and earned scores anywhere from 59% up to 64%.  Not bad, but nowhere near where we would need to be in order to make it to the regionals.

 So this winter we worked hard on the skills needed to up our Second Level scores.  More throughness, more hind end engine, more collection, and more tactful riding.  But I still wasn’t certain that it would be enough to compete successfully at the local licensed shows.  Region 1 has A LOT of talented riders and freakishly talented horses with jaw dropping gaits.  And they are very good at getting high scores on a consistent basis.  So I had decided that if I couldn’t get mid-60 percentile at schooling shows, that I would not throw my money into any licensed shows.  My dime would be better spent on more lessons.

 My internet search turned up a March 26th schooling show about an hour away.  The facility is a stunning eventing facility (https://www.morningsidetrainingfarm.com/ )  that runs a combined training/dressage show series.  Most of the folks who attend are there for the combined training show, but a few dressage only people invade the property at the end of the day.  I made sure that the calendar was clear and that Ms. C could attend, and then threw my name into the mix.  We signed up for Second Level Test 1 and Test 3 to establish a baseline for the year.  Where would we end up??  Well, it turns out, this show is best summed up as “A Tale of Two Tests.” 

Test 1 was pretty solid.  The judge told us that we needed to commit to our medium trot and that she knew there was more to Ike than he gave me in the test.  She explained that I should use the corners better to set him up for success in our medium gaits.  We also had one over exuberant simple change, but overall, though she seemed to like our ride.  I believe that I even remembered to breathe throughout the entire test – that alone is a big accomplishment.  While we didn’t see this score until after both rides were complete, I am happy to report that we scored a respectable 67.12%!  What?!  There is hope for us yet!  Here are the videos of the first ride…my phone decided that it is best viewed in two parts:

Second Level Test 1 Part 1

Second Level Test 1 Part 2

I only had two riders before Test 3, so we really just kept Ike relaxed and his focus away from the misbehaving horse being schooled in part of the warmup.  My hope was to implement the judge’s suggestion for my medium trot and to maintain the dreaded canter serpentine without Ike thinking flying changes.  Well one out of two isn’t bad.  We had two very respectable medium trots, but our first serpentine was a hot mess.  We fell out of our canter in the second loop of the serpentine.  Poor Ike was fired up and even my quietest canter aid sent him to the moon with the wrong lead, a disunited canter and finally the correct lead.  The horse breezing on the training track also gave us so much extra oomph for our second medium canter that I was not certain that I’d show any comeback.  Can you say “unfortunate tension?”  And sadly, our turn on the haunches were wrought with Frankenstein-like stiffness.  Unfortunately, our mistakes were costly, so while I did manage to get a 6.5 and a 7 on our medium trots and a 7.5 on our transitions in and out of the medium trot, we ended up with a 58.659% due to our costly mishaps in our canter work.  Tension is definitely not our friend. 

While I was hoping for two scores in the 60th percentile, I am okay with the outcome of the outing.  Ike was a perfect gentleman on his first outing of the year at a very busy schooling show.  He didn’t even react to the “flying horses” in the jump ring or the loose horse on the cross country course.  Ms. C was very pleased with our work for the day and is working on a game plan to improve the low scores.  We left the show with some new found confidence and the feeling that we are no longer “stuck” in the lower levels.  

Happy Spring Everyone!  We look forward to seeing everyone this season! 

Alison

 

 

 

Finally, the Hiatus is Over

Feb 4 2016

When I was a child, my family owned boats – a daysailer when I was very young, then we sized-up to a 25 foot sailboat, and finally, we shifted to motorboats which were better for fishing.  My mother used to call them “holes in the water that we throw money into” since it seemed sometimes that the boat spent more time at the dock than on the open water.  But, even when the boat was stationary, there were still expenditures that drained the bank account.  A few years ago, my parents finally plugged the last hole and got rid of the boat.

Now that I own horses, I better understand what she was saying.  When I am forced by powers beyond my control to cease all riding, it can be very frustrating.  Even when I cannot ride, there are still board checks to write, vet bills to pay, and apple expenditures.  So after 15 days of no riding, I finally got my butt back in the saddle and rode Ike through the slushy remnants of the blizzard.  Desperate times, people, desperate times.

Fortunately, some warmer temperatures melted those last stubborn traces of the snow and the ring was back to its pre-snow condition.  I took full advantage of the situation and scheduled a lesson with Ms. C.  She had warned me that the horses had displayed their naughty wintertime behavior earlier in the day.  One of the horses she rode decided to exhibit her airs-above-the-ground skills.  So with that cautionary advice, I heaved myself onto Ike’s back and began my warm-up.  Just when I was lulled into a false sense of confidence, Ike reminded me that he could at anytime be in charge of our ride.  Luckily I kept my ass in the saddle and quickly regained control.

In my lessons, we have dabbled with flying changes and half pass in preparation for Third Level, but the focus is mainly on the basics – is your horse through and working over his back?  Is your horse straight?  Seemingly simple concepts in theory yet challenging when you add motion and power.  Ike can certainly give the outward appearance that he is through at the trot, but I know when he is faking it.  The challenge is then to correct the lack of throughness.  There are times that the only way to establish it is to go back to the walk.  It is usually easier for me to win the argument while moving slower.  Once we achieve the throughness, we then are starting to add more power.  Note to self:  You had better get into better aerobic shape in order to ride that powerful trot!

Straightness can still elude us at times…well, for full disclosure, it happens more often than not.  Yes, we can regularly trot a straight centerline, but straightness at the canter and on a circle or bending line?  Hmm, I struggle to know what is going on with the caboose.  I can think we are going straight, but if you look at photos or watch videos, you can see Ike’s hind end is not quite on the same track as the front.  And while I know that we should be cantering with a slight shoulder fore position, I struggle to know if I have achieved that correct positioning.  Ms. C frequently asks me if I think I have a straight horse; I frequently respond with, “Maybe.”  Needless to say that is not the correct answer.

Things get even more challenging when I try to recreate the throughness and straightness when I ride on my own.  Do I have it?  Should I praise Ike?  Or did we completely miss the mark and I’m rewarding the wrong thing?  The struggle is real, but thankfully, I have learned that I am not alone with this struggle.  I’ve found a group of like minded dressage riders on Facebook.  We lament working on our own and worry that we are doing more harm than good.  Luckily some riders with more wisdom reassure us that our horses are forgiving creatures.  Most of them want to please us.  Stop worrying about making mistakes – it is part of the learning process.  Just enjoy the journey even when you end up on the long road.

So the plan is to enjoy the unscheduled time off from riding to just enjoy my horse’s company and stop kicking myself when we make mistakes.  Success comes when you dust yourself off and try one more time.

alison

 

Mom is a Cootie Queen

Ike Jan 2016

Happy New Year!  Hope all my friends are doing well.  Things are good here at the farm especially since I haven’t had to go anywhere since before Thanksgiving.  It has given me time to catch up with my barn buddies and contemplate the writings of Baruch Spinoza.  He is credited with saying, “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.”  No offense to Mr. Spinoza, but how can I not laugh at human actions?  I guess he hasn’t met my mother or her friends.  It is a veritable comedy routine of hilarity for my pals and me.  It is beyond comprehension why they do the things they do, but we sure do get a good chuckle from watching them go about their day-to-day lives. 

Mom has apparently had an alien take up residence in her head because she has been sick since the day after Christmas.  While my brother and I do feel bad for her, it has meant that I have had a really nice break from the rigors of regular training.  She has tried to claim that she was “better” on a couple of occasions, but when she can’t make it through a 30 minute ride without blowing her nose 10 times, I would argue that she it is time for her to see the vet.  If I had a runny nose for that long, I would have been poked and prodded multiple times and been subjected to yucky syringes of ground up medicine disguised as apple sauce (you are fooling no one Mom!).  Can someone please make her an appointment?  Hopefully Dad knows how to grind up the pills and fill the syringes.  Now there is a funny image of Dad cramming medicine-laced apple sauce in Mom’s mouth. 

When she does claim to be “well,” Mom has only been able to ride me two or three days a week.  The rainy weather has also kept her from asking Ms. C to ride me.  It is hard to get away with anything when Ms. C starts riding me.  She is very smart and wily and is quick to fuss at me if I try the tricks I try with Mom.  What makes it even worse is that Ms. C then shares her thoughts and findings with Mom.  Shhh!  I have diligently worked to develop those evasions.  Why are you telling Mom my secrets?!  It is fun watching Mom fumble about trying to figure out how to stop me from grabbing the reins. 

I am not bored though with all my time off from my dressage work.  Cigar got a new halter for Christmas; he gets one every year since his halter gets pretty ratty over the course of the year.  Now, I don’t want to incriminate myself, but I may play a role in the halter’s annual demise.  Mom got a different kind of breakaway halter this year.  It has a short leather piece that breaks if necessary.  Well, the second day Cigar wore it, the new halter fell off into the mud.  It could be poor quality leather or poor workmanship in the construction, but noooo, Mom blamed me for the broken piece.  Umm, Mom, it was over on the other side of his paddock, so maybe Willow broke it.  You have no concrete evidence that I was involved.   That is all I have to say about that matter. 

Mom also fussed about the missing hair on my forehead.  As you can see from my picture, it really isn’t all that bad.  The first time she saw it, she wanted to poke it with her finger.  Seriously?  You want to touch my wound with your cootie-covered finger!!  I stood very tall, got accused of being a giraffe, then she got serious and put my halter on my head.  Thankfully, she wised up and cleaned it with a washcloth and put some ointment on it.  I didn’t get to read the label, so hopefully it will protect me from Mom’s germs. 

And, Mother Nature finally got serious and colder weather has returned to Virginia.  That means that my big blue blanket finally made an appearance at the barn.  Mom was tickled that it still fit me.  Mom had it laundered at the end of last winter.  Not sure what was in her Koolaid that day, since the very first day she put it on me, I christened it in the mud in my paddock…Hahahaaaa!  There is also a slight tear in the shoulder, but I have no knowledge of how that happened.  To my equine friends reading this, a fun game to play with your human is the Blanket Sidestep.  Quietly watch your human get the blanket situated to place on your back.  This can take a while if my Mom’s pace is any indication; be patient – it will be rewarded.  Right when they are ready to lift it onto your back, quickly sidestep away from them and watch the blanket fall on the floor/in the shavings.  If your human is anything like my Mom, it will drive them crazy.  Good times. 

So sorry, Mr. Spinoza, I  am going to have to disagree with you about not laughing.  Life is too short and my Mom is too funny.  I’m going to laugh even if it is silently.

Ike

 

Reflections

Ike Dec 30 2015

Here we are at the end of one year and on the cusp of a new one.  Wow, another year complete.  I guess that means it is time to reflect on our accomplishments and progress for 2015 and set some goals for the year to come.

Ike and I really became “big kids” this year when we jumped into the Second Level arena.  It is still one of the proudest moments in my riding career when I did my final salute after that first Second Level test.  Seems silly to some, but after taking lessons since 2005, I finally have clawed my way out of Training and First Level purgatory that has been my place of residence for 10 years.

We also finally have a musical freestyle that I cannot wait to try in public.  Yes, I still need that test 3 qualifying score before we can break loose at a licensed show, but there is always the schooling show circuit to invade.  Be thankful that this musical performance does not involve me singing in any way, shape, or form.

And while we did well at First Level and had some respectable scores at Second Level this year, there is room for improvement. It is a double edged sword when your trainer gets a few trips on your horse.  You preen like a peacock when she tells you what she likes, but then, you hold your breath knowing that the next words will be, “But, you have some blocks to work through, you need to be more through in your trot work, and not let him cheat on the flexions.”  Sigh, you knew there was work to do, but this is the nitty gritty stuff that is mind-numbing, tedious, and technically challenging to get right.

And that is exactly what we have worked on during my last two lessons.  Flex left, flex right, left, right, left, right. Now just give Ike a “fin” and he will be ready for the next Jimmy Buffett concert!  But in all seriousness, it is amazing how hard it can be to achieve a proper flexion and then maintain it in motion. Jaw jutting and bracing.  Neck muscles bulging and blocking.  Head diving down and asking you to carry it.  A certain someone sometimes likes to grab the bit and straighten his head and ignore subtle requests.  Well, perhaps if the other someone was quicker at catching things, flexions wouldn’t be such a constant struggle.  So there, goal number one is to be more focused while in the saddle.

Ms. C also pushed us to achieve more consistent throughness with all our trot work- straight lines (“Ask for more power!”), circles (“Your hind end is leading again.”, “Turn your horse!”), small serpentines (“Watch that hind end as you change your bend.”), shoulder in (“Where is your flexion?” “Be more supple.”) and haunches in (“Again, watch your flexion.” ” You look stiff.”) I am so busy worrying about one of Ike’s body parts and what it is doing that I forget about the rest of Ike.  I suppose with time that it will become second nature, but for now Ms. C has to be that broken record. I bet some days she wants to pull her hair out.  Let’s make it our next goal for 2016 to be more proactive to save Ms. C’s hair.

Remarkably, as the show season came to a close, our best scores were for our canter work.  Our simple changes are becoming more consistent and our medium canter is miles ahead of our medium trot.  The next step for our canter is to straighten Ike’s body since he almost always carries his haunches slightly to the inside.  This necessitates me recognizing the problem and then learning to ride canter in a shoulder fore position.  I had better figure it out quickly if I want to achieve my final goal of riding a Third Level test in 2016.  It is my most challenging goal, but why not aim high. 

Thank you for continuing to follow Ike and I as we forge ahead with our centerline adventures!  May your year to come be healthy, happy and exceed your wildest expectations.

alison

 

 

 

 

The Final Hurrah of the Show Season

Ike Nov 5 2015

The 2015 show season is now in the books.  Done, finished, O-V-E-R.  We didn’t finish with any major victories; there were no victory laps.  Well, Ike may have had a gallop or two around his paddock, but I think that was more at the urging of his brother than for his show efforts this past year.  All in all, I am tickled with what we accomplished…and we are now two thirds of the way to our USDF Bronze Medal.  🙂

Our final show was a small schooling show so that I could try Second Level Test 3 in a less stressful atmosphere.  While the score was only a 59.76%, I am pleased with our overall effort in this test.  (If you remember, our Second Level goal this year was to hit the 60th percentile.)  When you look at the movement by movement scores, we are on the cusp of acceptability and we are going to work diligently over the winter to boost the low marks.  If you have a spare 6 minutes, here is a video of our ride…

So there it is, out on the internet for all the desktop judges to critique.  No need to tell me what we need to work on.  I am well aware.

Our medium trots need more oomph (I’m pretty sure this should be a dressage term defined in the USEF rulebook.)  Ike needs to engage his hind more and push.  It is a strengthening issue that we are plugging away at in our lessons.  Our goal is to always get at least a 6, and we did that with this test and even exceeded our goal with a 6.5 on our first attempt.

Our 10 meter circles are another area that we are giving away points.  We should be able to nail these, but I just can’t seem to keep Ike’s hind end from swinging out.  The 5.5 on our 10 meter circle to the left definitely didn’t help our final score.

Shoulder in and Travers are getting better and better.  Even I can tell from the video that Travers right is solid.  Travers left is a little more sticky, but it is coming.

The big surprise of the day was our Turn on the Haunches to the Right – we pulled a 6.5!  Whhhaatt?!  Yes, we are finally digging our way out of the lower end of the scoring for this movement.  The Turn on the Haunches to the Left was a bit sticky which earned us a whopping 4.5 (times 2 for the coefficient), but I have the utmost faith and confidence that we can improve it.

Most of our canter work scored 6’s and 6.5’s.  The costly mistake was on my first serpentine.  Ike decided to demonstrate “a movement not called for at this level.”  Thank you Ike for showing us your flying change skills, but since Mom was a goober and did not stop and fix it, our score reflected my failure to correct it (gotta love that 3 in the score column).  We then got a big-ole FOUR for the next simple change since we didn’t show any change.  Oops.  Lesson learned.  We also need to continue to school the simple changes.  I’m still not strong enough to support Ike in the canter-to-walk transition to eliminate the trot steps.  Occasionally I get it right, but more often than not, I am a goober and fail to do the proper prep work.

Having now ridden all the Second Level tests, I have to say that I like Test 3 the best.  I’m actually surprised at this admission since Test 2 was my favorite at Training and First levels.  That being said, if we intend to head to the Region 1 GAIGs next year at Second Level, we have our work cut out for us.  We have 10 months to practice, but we’d better get started…the 70th percentile doesn’t happen overnight.

alison

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

The Nail Biter Finals Class

Alison and Ike USDF Region 1 GAIGs Photo by T. Perez

Alison and Ike USDF Region 1 GAIGs
Photo by T. Perez

At the start of the season, the October championship show feels so far away.  It feels like you have all the time in the world to practice and hone your skills.  Heck, I even thought that we’d be able to pull off both First and Second Levels successfully (we only managed First Level).  But in the blink of an eye, it is here and the weekend of the show always manages to fly by without me doing everything I thought I could do.

The morning of our departure day was sunny but cold.  I had enough clothing layers packed to protect myself from any arctic blast and the suitcase zipper was barely holding the case closed.  I also had packed everything but the kitchen sink and the barbeque grill.  One must be prepared – doesn’t everyone travel with two corkscrews when attending a horse show for 4 days?  Unfortunately, I managed to wake up with a sore throat and a runny nose.  Awesome, just freaking awesome.  Luckily we had some Dayquil in the house, so I threw a couple of those down my throat and headed off to the barn to load big man…after a stop at the local Target for the large economy-sized boxes of tissues with lotion.

The drive to Lexington was uneventful.  Our hacks around the show grounds and competition arenas were relaxed.  The excitement came later in the day when my friend realized that someone had stolen 2 of her credit cards out of her wallet while we were unloading the trailers (the sneaky thief left the wallet, cash, other cards and the purse behind).  All was resolved without her being responsible for any of the charges.  But when I went back to the barn for night check, that is when I realized that I’d spiked a fever.  More super news.  Did you know that Dayquil Severe packaging is practically adult-proof for a tired, feverish equestrian?  After over five minutes of struggling, I finally released the pills from the hellish packaging.  My head hit the pillow and I prayed for quick relief.

Quick recovery was not to be.  Both Friday and Saturday were spent fighting a fever and struggling to stay awake to do my barn chores and riding.  I felt so poorly that I even managed to sleep through my husband’s wakeup call on Saturday and almost sending him into a panic on my whereabouts.  Our Friday open class was not our best effort, but if we had to sacrifice a ride, it was better that it was an open class and not our finals class on Sunday.  Perhaps Ike was just missing Miss C’s presence since once she arrived on Saturday, he settled.  We had a little tension in Saturday warm-up, but Ike was much more focused and gave me a solid performance with no major bobbles.  My performance was marred by tearing eyes, a runny nose, a sprained finger, and a lack of oxygen.  Cold wind plus a viral infection equals a not photo ready rider.  Confession time – Desperate times mean that you just might use the same rag to wipe your horse’s nose to blow your nose.  We came out of that class with a 67.5%, a pink ribbon, and the confidence to head into our finals class knowing there we were as prepared as we would ever be.

Miss M and Miss T were kind enough to take care of my morning barn chores on Sunday, so I was able to sleep in a bit.  Thankfully, I heard my husband’s wakeup call on “championship day” and I woke up without a fever.  The day was already starting on a good note.  Ike was a saint and kept his braids intact.  Our ride was not until 1:00, so we had some time to stew and watch our friends in their open classes.  Part of the learning curve with these long weekends is knowing your horse, his mental state, and his energy level.  You want to have good practice rides, but you need to conserve something for the finals.  Our warm-up was peaceful and short.  We did spend some time riding through the sun spot on the ground since we’d seen a number of horses spook at the one in the indoor competition ring. 

It was finally our turn.  The indoor was quiet and Ike was focused as I rode around the outside of the ring waiting for the bell.  Rrriinnnnggg!  Time to make that turn down centerline.  Big man was with me as we cruised to X.  Exhale, salute, and trot on.  Our left-to-right leg yield was sticky, but there was no time to dwell on it.  Our 10-meter circles were fluid and our mid-test halt at X was one of our best of the year.  Super happy with our canter departs as well as our canter loops. Our weakest movement is the trot lengthening…we just don’t have one.  We made it through the ride with no spooks, no “unexpected tension,” and no major errors.

Now came the hardest part – we’d done our best with a 67.86% average from the two judges, but now we had to wait to see how the next 25 or so riders would do to know our fate.  We hung out in the top 5 for more than half the class, but slowly, we saw our name drifting lower in the placings.  At 4:30 we were sitting in 8th place – the last placing with a ribbon and participation in the awards ceremony….and then there were three riders left….and sadly, the second to last rider bumped us to 9th place.  Our fate was sealed and we could now finish loading the trailer for the 2 hour ride home.  I must admit that I choked up since I hoped to place – not just for me, but for all those who have tirelessly supported us on this journey.

I teared up even more when we arrived at the barn.  Ms. C had left a lovely ribbon hanging on Ike’s stall to welcome us home.  In her mind, we deserved a ribbon – she is our toughest judge of all, so this ribbon is so very precious to me.  My horse may not have the fanciest breeding, the most extravagant gaits, or the prettiest tail.  I may not have the advanced dressage skills or the money for winters in Wellington.  But, Ike does have the biggest heart and a lot of try.  We do have a trainer who believes in us and amazing friends and family that support our dreams.  We have an incredible bond and partnership, and in the end, isn’t that worth more than any accolades or championship ribbons?

alison

 

 

The Final Push to the Finals

Ike selfie Oct 2015

Hello Friends!  Yet again my mother claims to be too busy to write to you about our preparations for the Region 1 GAIG Finals this coming weekend in Lexington, Virginia.  Sheesh.  So that means that I am taking charge.  How are my friends supposed to know to send good luck vibes unless they know when and where I will be?

We had some down time last month because of the weather.  It rained and rained and rained and then the cooler weather came rushing in.  The cooler air means that my brother and I decided it was time for our fence line games.  We like to walk to the far end of our paddocks and race back to the water trough.  He isn’t as fast an agile as he used to be, but he will try his best.  Mom got mad because I somehow managed to scrape some hide off the front of my hind leg with my front hoof.  I don’t know what she is so worried about.  I didn’t hurt myself.  She is such a fun sucker sometimes.  She also frets that I will slip and fall during my hijinks.  Does she not have any faith in my athletic ability?  It should be me worrying that she will slip and fall…she can be such a klutz sometimes. (I watched her hit her head on the stall door as she ducked under the stall guard.  I stifled my laugh, but I have to tell you that it was pretty funny!  But don’t tell her that I told you or I might not get to borrow the laptop again.)

I’m glad that it is getting colder since my winter coat is growing in pretty thick this year.  Mom will probably still make me wear my blanket even though I really don’t need it – I feel like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story when I am all bundled up when no one else is wearing anything.  We should all be glad that Mom doesn’t try to clip me.  I would look like I’d been shaved by a blind woman using her feet to hold the clippers.  I hear it is supposed to be very cold in Lexington this weekend, but better that than too hot.

When Mom and I did get back to work after the rain, Ms. C said that I was looking very fit.  She also complimented my canter and how much it had improved since last year.  Mom is the one who bears the brunt of the criticism since she is the one making all the mistakes.  I always try to do what she asks, but sometimes she is not clear about what she wants and I have to guess.  I try and bail her out as best I can.  There is only so much a fellow can do in some instances.

Part of Mom’s problem might be that she can’t see very well.  She has these things she wears in front of her eye’s that supposedly help her see.  Many times though, I catch her squinting.  Other times, the things on her eyes are so dirty that I’m not even sure she can tell if I am clean or dirty.  The lack of eyesight might explain why we make ovals instead of circles when we are practicing or why we miss X when halting.  She had to go see a special doctor and now she is complaining that she had to buy eye things call bifocals.  I will have to run away if she shows up with more eyes on her head.

Mom and I had our final lesson this morning.  We rode our final’s test from start to finish, then Ms. C made Mom judge each of the movements and next asked how she could have made them better.  Haha!  See, it is all Mom’s fault when we do things wrong.  Well, I do sometimes make it hard for Mom to do some things, but a fellow can’t be all work and no play.  I like to think it keeps her on her toes and sharpens her skills to a certain degree.  Ms. C felt that our trot work was where we could pick up some extra points, so that is what we schooled for the rest of the lesson.  She made us focus on riding accurate 10 meter circles with my body in the proper alignment.  That is HARD!  Mom and I also worked on our leg yields since there is a tendency for my hind end to get left behind.  When we get it right, Mom says we get good scores.  Let us hope she uses her corner to help set up the movement properly.

Well, all our homework is done.  I get the next 2 days off to rest.  Mom has lots of packing to do and has to go to work.  She says that without work, I would not live the lifestyle that I’ve become accustomed to having, so I encourage her to work hard at her job.  She tells me that unlike apples, money does not grow on trees.  That’s okay with me since I like eating apples.  I leave the money eating to my brother.

I promise to try my hardest this weekend.  Mom promises to let you know how we do.

Ike

#EnoughRainAlready – I Want To Ride!

"I will say my goodbyes from over here."

“I will say my goodbyes from over here.”

Sigh, it has been a challenging few weeks.  The Mid-Atlantic region has been coping with copious amounts of rain after a dry spell.  We were run out of our fall beach week 2 days early because of a nor ‘ easter, only to come home to a rainstorm and another nor ‘ easter.  Thank goodness Joaquin decided not to pay us a visit.

The foggy photo was taken the last morning before vacation.   Ike must have thought that he was expected to come with us because he avoided all interaction with me. I didn’t push the issue, gave all the apples to his brother,  screamed goodbye, and headed down the road for a week.  Did he learn anything from this? Probably not, but he came right to me when I returned,  “Hi Mom!  Come see me! Do you have treats?”

In the few rides that I have squeezed in between rain events, I am feeling confident with our First Level work heading into the last weeks before the finals.  Someone read my blog post from 2 ½ years ago titled “C is for Canter, P is for Patience” just the other day.  It was a good reminder of how far we have come with our work.  Back then we struggled to stay on a 20 meter circle.  Ike resembled Scooby Doo on more than one occasion.  Our walk and trot work carried our scores.  I can proudly say that we have now seen 7’s and 7.5’s in our canter work later this season.  Real evidence of progress! 

Our Second Level endeavors are also coming along.  Even Ms. C was pleasantly surprised with our turn on the haunches. There is hope for us yet.  I am pretty certain that our scores for the movement could finally exceed the 5 ‘s that we received earlier this year.  We have scaled back our simple change schooling until after the finals. Ike sometimes offers canter when I want trot…honest mistake, but it would be costly in our finals class.  The changes are coming and we will be ready in the spring when the plan is to go full Second Level.  (It would be the first time EVER that my season didn’t involve Intro, Training, or First Levels.  I feel like a big kid now.)

Lena

Lena

In other news, we have added an adorable Husky cross to the family. Lena is a five-year old from our local SPCA.  She is a lovable doll who just today barked for the first time since joining the family.  Briefly considered bringing her to the fall show for the doggie costume contest, but decided against it since she has yet to be introduced to the equine side of the family. Better to wait until she is more settled.  They can be a bit overwhelming the first time.

Sorry for the delay posting since our return.  I started drafting this last night and lost the post.  Not sure where it wandered off to, but I hope it finds a happy home like Lena did.

Fingers crossed for some sunshine this weekend!!

Alison

The Last Gasp Before The Finals

Ike at Rose Mount September 2015

Ike at Rose Mount September 2015

Phew, our last regular show weekend of the year is in the books – we just now have to power through to the championship show in October.  This particular show is a special one to me since my dressage chapter is the one that hosts the show.  We only have 45 members, so it takes everyone plus our supportive family members to pull off the weekend successfully.  Planning starts pretty much the year before when dates are selected and judges are secured.  Since so many of us also like to compete at the show, there is careful planning so that everything is set so that we can still get our horses ready for the competition.  Needless to say that the week leading up to the show is crazy as all the pieces and parts must be delivered to the show grounds and then assembled before the competitors arrive on Friday.

 And, if I can boast for just a second, I must say that we might be a small group, but we are mighty, and we pull off a mighty nice dressage show.  We’ve got a tent full of vendors with fabulous wares to sell, delicious food, an air-conditioned and flushable port-a-john trailer (yes, you read that correctly, air-conditioned), lovely ribbons and prizes, generous sponsors, and the BEST volunteers.  Mother Nature was a bit of a wicked witch on Saturday with some heavy rain, but the show went on and Sunday dawned a stunning fall day. 

There was a brief moment on Saturday morning that I questioned whether or not we would make it to the show.  My husband and I arrived at the farm to hook up the trailer and load Ike.  While my husband hitched the trailer, I was responsible for retrieving said horse and having him at the ready when the ramp went down.  Ike revived his one man play of “The Gingerbread Man” and ran as fast as he could around his paddock avoiding Mom.  Not even an apple would draw him close even when I shared the better part of it with his brother.  Luckily Ms. C felt sorry for me and stepped in to help.  Thank goodness that Ike never says “No” to her.  When that happens, we are doomed.

As I mentioned, Saturday was a bit of a soggy day.  And when I say soggy, I mean soaked through to your underwear as you watch the rain stream off your very expensive saddle as you pray that there is no permanent damage.  I must also get on my soap box for a moment and ask again who thought that WHITE pants were appropriate riding attire??!!  Unflattering to most of us and rather transparent when wet.  I’m fairly certain that the tag on my underwear was readable through the wet fabric. We ended up only riding our First Level test and with a personal licensed show best of 67.9% we came home with a pretty red ribbon.  That test made me feel secure with where we are as we head to the championship show.

Sunday dawned a better day.  Crisp fall air and bright sunshine.  Since we didn’t want a repeat of Saturday, Ms. C brought Ike in before we arrived.  Sorry big boy.  My first ride time was identical to Saturday and my second was shortly after – that meant we only had to tack up once which is always a good thing in my book.  Anyway, our First Level test was not as tension free as Saturday’s ride, but we still managed a respectable 65.7% and another red ribbon.  Would you like to take a guess at what caused our tension?  Geese.  Canadian geese waddling about right outside the fence line.  Just what is it about birds that Ike cannot handle?  At least they did not take flight since that would have guaranteed that I would have had a short duration flight as well.

Our second test of the day was Second Level Test 1 or as I like to call it, the one with all the simple changes.  Luckily, Ike and I have made progress in our simple changes and we actually received some 7’s for them during this test. Woohoo!  There is hope for us yet.  As you can see from the video, we still need to develop better throughness and Ike needs to sit on his hind end more, but considering that we really just started Second Level a few months ago, I am pleased with our progress.  The plan is to work hard all winter and be ready to bust a move with Tests 2 and 3 at our first show in May 2016. 

 

We ended up with a 63.333% and a third place ribbon.  Our goal for Second Level this season was not to make it to any of the championships, but to achieve at least 60% in our scores.  I’m just thrilled to say that all of the Second Level tests that we have ridden this year have hit the 60th percentile range.

With this show behind us, our sights are now set on the Region 1 GAIGs in mid-October.  Big man is going to get a well deserved break for a few days and then we will be back to work to fine tune the elements for the First 3 test.

Thanks for sticking with us this season!

alison