Progress, Not Perfection

While trolling Facebook the other night, I came across the following quote on Motivation Today’s page: https://www.facebook.com/Motivation4Today?fref=ts, “Strive for progress, not perfection”

Progress not perfectionSeems like a simple enough concept, but I cannot even count the number of times that I have told myself that things have to be perfect – the house perfectly clean, the refrigerator perfectly organized, the flowerbeds perfectly clear of weeds, the need to purchase the perfect gift, the need for my work to be perfect, the quest for perfectly flat abs (haha)…the list goes on and on.

Having animals in my life, especially horses, has truly helped me to let go the notion of being perfect.  The thought that I can get a 1500 pound animal to do exactly what I think it should do every single time is absurd.  The thought that I will be able to ride perfectly every single time is as far fetched as me winning Publisher’s Clearinghouse.  And now that I am working on new skills necessary to boost our scores at Second Level and then move on to Third Level means that I need to accept that I am now again a beginner and that mistakes will be made.  Whhhaaattt?!  I find it hard to explain to some of my non-riding friends that yes, even after being back in the saddle for 10 years, I am still a beginner in the world of dressage.  If I really think about it, I really know very little about the sport.  Collection is still elusive for Ike and I; throughness will depend on the day and Ike’s cooperative mood.  Medium gaits are still a crap shoot with comments of “fast, no lengthening of stride shown” still commonplace.  Turn on the haunches vexes me on a daily basis.  The thought of teaching Ike flying changes is both terrifying and exciting.

When you look at scoring for dressage tests, even if you miraculously received a 10 for a score, it only indicates excellence and not perfection.  When I first started showing, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that scores over 60% were good.  Grades like that in high school and college meant failure was imminent.  Slowly and reluctantly I have learned to accept this scoring convention.  So since perfection is not an option, progress is measured by the incremental changes in my scores.  And thankfully, we are seeing positive changes in my First Level scores, especially when you look at the marks from this time last year.  The shallow canter loops are no longer 5’s.  Circles are routinely 15 meters rather than 16, 17 or 18 meters, so those scores are better.  My rider scores have crept up over the 6 mark on a number of occasions.  Slow and steady progress.

The real progress though is not seen in my scores.  On any given day, scores can be good or bad depending on the judge, the ring conditions, and the scary boogeyman hiding behind the judge’s booth.  The real progress is seen in my ability to know when I have established a “7” trot, achieved a leg yield worthy of a 7.5, or produced a perfectly square halt.  The ability to know a very good performance from average or a bad one is most exciting.  Knowing the difference between an average trot and a show-stopping one is the true measure of my progress as a dressage rider.  As long as we are seeing progress, I can live without perfection.

alison

#equestrianproblems

Photo by S. Atkinson

Photo by S. Atkinson

It is all about the hashtag these days.  #this, #that, #andtheother.  If you are past a certain age like me, you still occasionally call it a pound sign…and get odd looks from the younger generation.  It was only last year that I dipped my toes into the Twitter pool.  I must admit that I am still not an effective tweeter, and properly hashtagging and tagging fellow Twitter users is not my forte.  The other challenging twist to Twitter is that you only get 140 characters in which to make your point, so it forces you to really think about your sentence structure and word usage – no superfluous words allowed.

My tweets are usually confined to my thoughts about horse ownership and barn life.  In case you are not on Twitter (if you are, you can find me at @wholovesike), here are some of my random thoughts that fall into the category of #equestrianproblems.

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Horse hair is: a fashion statement, a condiment, a home accessory, or all of the above?

Drug chemistry is a good thing…banamine to the rescue again.

Leaving your horse’s uneaten Stud Muffin in your pocket means you will be cleaning lots of little crumbs from the dryer.

60 minute lesson of mostly sitting trot =1440 minutes of soreness.

Alison+Ike=5 Horseflies=0 – why does it feel like we are still losing the Battle of the Flies?

Hot,humid weather+rubber reins+sweaty hands – riding gloves =loose reins+ pathetic half halts.

% $#% Apparently, my white show breeches decided to become pale blue in the washing machine.

Bleach removed the blue tint from my white breeches, but left behind a dingy yellow tint. Definitely .

That moment during your lesson when it feels like your graduate work oral exams when you don’t know the answer.

To wash my horse’s laundry with mine or do a separate load? That is the question.

That moment you realize your horse is going to bite the farrier before you can intervene.

Picking frozen mud out of my horse’s hooves is like chipping a concrete block with a butter knife.

Dressed warmly enough to handle the cold temperature at the barn, but I looked like Ralphie’s little brother in .

I don’t recommend driving with spurs still strapped to your boots.

Finding a shriveled carrot in the washing machine 2 loads later…

Yes I wore my fleece-lined winter riding breeches to walk my dogs. No I don’t care what people thought…I was warm!

Ending up dirtier than your by the time you are done currying and brushing off the crust of mud.

Leaving dirty barn rags in your new car=no more new car smell.

The realization that you are the one holding back your horse’s progress.

With the volume of hair in my car, it makes me think my have been taking my car for joy rides while I sleep.

Hearing from your barn that your removed the hot wire and fence between them so they could play…

Wiping your face with a towel then realizing you already used it to wipe dirt from your horse’s nostrils…

Forget the pumice stone, my feet need a hoof rasp to be sandal-ready.

When you horse is so tall you don’t see the dirt on his topline until you are mounted.

Paid my horse’s chiropractic bill yesterday so that he could act like a bucking bronco today.

Today’s lesson was all about the shoulders. Why must my have such massive ones that like to be bullies?

Watch out SI swimsuit models, I have my first tan lines of the year.

Going from First Level to Second Level is like jumping from elementary school to graduate school in a single bound.

When your trainer gets on your and says “We have work to do.”

My braiding skills leave much to be desired. My poor looks like a beauty school reject.

Thinking your white saddle pad is still white until you get a new one.

I think I blinded my husband with my pale legs…

Finding your underwear stuck to the Velcro of a polo wrap…after you get to the barn.

Why is breathing the first thing I forget to do when riding my test?

The trailer always looks like a crime scene after a show.

So desperate to ride that I rode in the rain until I could no longer see clearly through my glasses.

Putting on your riding helmet when it is still wet from your sweaty ride the day before…

Phew, offended myself when I wiped away the sweat on my face with my gloved hands…time to wash the gloves I suppose.

I need to set aside my perfectionist, OCD tendencies and be okay with being a “beginner” with my dressage work.

Spring Is In Full Swing!

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My flower beds are abloom, the lilac bush’s fragrance perfumes the side yard, Ike is in the final throes of shedding, and show season has kicked into high gear.  It has already been over two months since the forced halt in riding due to the wretched February weather.  Soon enough we will start complaining about sweat in our eyes and getting buzzed by horse flies.  But for now we are enjoying the warmer and sunnier spring days whilst wiping away the yellow pollen that coats everything.

We now have one schooling show and one licensed show in the books.  I am thrilled with where Ike and I are in our First Level work.  Is there still work to do on our trot lengthenings?  You bet, but so many of the things that plagued us all last season are now garnering solid scores.  Our canter work last year was still one part Scooby Doo and one part young dressage horse.  We can now canter respectable 15 meter circles, show a canter lengthening and a come back, and best of all, the shallow canter loops no longer include flying changes or breaking into trot.  Here is our First Level Test 3 ride from Sunday.  It earned us our best Test 3 score to date at a licensed show.

My most exciting news from the licensed show last weekend is that we now have our second First Level qualifying score for the Regional Finals in October.  That is a huge monkey off my back which means that we can now concentrate our efforts towards our Second Level debut.

And speaking of our debut, I committed us to riding Second Level Test 1 at a schooling show on May 24th.  Yikes!  We are now on a tight schedule to improve our simple changes, counter canter, 10 meter canter circles, and our collected gaits.  Oh. My.  Is that all?!?!!  Am I certain that we will have a mistake-free test?  Nope, but at some point, you just have to take a deep breath and give it a go.  If we score in the low 50’s, we know that we have more work to do before trying Second Level at a licensed show.  If we can hit the 60th percentile, then we know we are on the right track.

Our lesson yesterday was fairly intense given our timeline and the work that needs to be accomplished; we have another one scheduled for Saturday.  We practiced pieces and parts of Test 1.  If I can establish a balanced collected trot, then we can actually make it through the first 9 movements of the test with very little drama.  When Ike’s alignment is right, he can rock his shoulder in…if I am off in my aids and Ike’s trot gets choppy, it is more of a “neck in.”  But once we get past the free walk, all bets are off on how the test will go.  Five simple changes means 5 places to pick up the wrong lead, look like a giraffe in our canter-to-walk transitions, and 5 places for a mental breakdown by the rider or horse.  Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

The work is physically and mentally harder now, so Ike tends to get a bit stressed and on the muscle.  He then turns into a sweaty worm that squirms with even the slightest movement of my leg or weight.  More breathing.  More exhaling.  Less tension for me is key.  Easier said than done, but even more necessary.  This is not the time for me to get emotional while in the saddle.  Stay calm, wait out the “worminess” and then get back to work.  I keep reminding myself that progressing up the levels is more of a marathon than a sprint.  There is no Olympic team medal riding on this performance.  There is no prize for being the fastest to get to or succeed at any given level.  We will take the time to do it correctly.  Success will come when the time is right.

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

Squeak, Squeak, Squeak Goes the Diesel Engine

Ike peering from barnDid you hear that horrible squeaking noise on Tuesday afternoon?  The one that sounded like a 50 year old bike being pedaled up a hill?  That would have been Ike and me in our dressage lesson.  Sheesh, it sure doesn’t take long for Ike to get a little stiff and rusty, and seemingly lose all the progress we’ve made towards Second Level.  It takes even less time for my riding to fall to pieces.  I suppose that is what happens when you are down to riding once a week.

Such is the plight of the average rider in the middle of winter.  We are at the mercy of the weather since we have no indoor arena.  Why am I not riding regularly?  Too wet, too cold, too frozen, too windy can all be used to explain why.  People like me are not able to leave our jobs, homes, and family and spend the winter in Florida playing with our horses every day.  We live vicariously through videos posted online; we jealously stew over their short-sleeved shirts and shiny, mud-free horses.

It was probably a good thing that I didn’t ride in the gale force winds on Monday.  Ike had a very busy day applying a mud mask to all exposed parts of his body.  It took me a good hour or so of grooming to get the dried, caked mud from Ike’s head, neck, legs, and tail.  There was even mud under the blanket – I’m not sure how he managed that feat.  I was as dirty as he was just from taking off his blanket.  As you can see from this photo, there was a clear line of demarcation between the land of the blanket and the mud flats.

Line of demarcation

Ike’s neck after 15 minutes with the curry…

While I cursed the blanket for sharing Ike’s mud with me, I also was thankful that it was in place or my task would have been even more daunting.  When I was done, even my teeth felt gritty.  A friend suggested that I get some Orbit gum for my dirty mouth.

Thankfully, Ike did not reapply his mud mask on Tuesday, so grooming was quick work and we could get straight to our lesson.  It. Was. Not.  Pretty.  Ike was stiff; all body parts were moving, but all parts were not moving together.  My fingers were stiff in the cooler weather which meant that my reins kept getting too long and uneven and I was always a half a step too slow for a proper half halt.  Transitions were our saving grace.  It took a good 25-30 minutes, but finally Ike’s body started moving more fluidly.  Ah, he is like a diesel engine – he just needs some time to warm up before getting to work.

Once the engine was humming, our work improved 10 fold.  We starting working on our leg yields to supple Ike even more.  I still have trouble keeping the correct alignment.  All too often, I leave Ike’s hind end playing catch up as I let the shoulders bully their way ahead.  Just half halt that outside rein to stop it they say; I say bully to that.  Once Ike’s shoulders take the lead, it is all I can do to slow them down.  I also have to be careful that I maintain the proper flexion since Ike is more than happy to demonstrate his half pass ability. (which by the way is lovely.)  We tried the new First Level Test 3 movement of leg yielding from K to X and then from X to H.  Make sure you have control of those shoulders well before X – it is way too easy to overshoot X and end up with a very steep line to H.

We then moved on to shoulder in and started introducing the Second Level Test 1 pattern.  Holy moly!  We can actually do it!  I am still in shock.  There is a dim chance that we might actually be ready to try Second Level at a schooling show in April.  Ike and I can finally ride the first 8 movements of the test with some level of success.  We are able to show a change between a collected trot and a “medium-like” trot.  The medium trot is still a work in progress, but work has stalled with the poor footing.  We are really in a correct shoulder in position and don’t just have an over bent giraffe neck.  We can ride smooth square turns onto and off of the rail.  Reinbacks are decent.  Luckily, Ike can already walk and free walk, so movements 7 and 8 feel like bonus points.

But that is where are work ended for the lesson.  The footing was not safe enough to push for medium trots or canter.  Call me a wuss, but I’d rather err on the side of caution then end up with a tendon injury that sidelines any work.  Warmer weather will be here soon enough and we will be back to full speed.  I am still practicing my impatiently patient skills.  They too are a work in progress.

alison

Impatiently Patient

Photo by Pics of You

Photo by Pics of You

Is it just me or have we become a society of “now?”  We no longer wish to wait for anything.  Everyone needs the answer now and will call you repeatedly until you pick up the phone out of frustration to make the ringing stop.  No one wants to take the time to do real research that would take you to the library to find an actual book or peer-reviewed journal to find correct answers…just Google what you want to know and hope the first website to pop up has an accurate answer.  No need to spend all day in the kitchen measuring wet and dry ingredients for cookies, just tear open a package and chomp away.  Why wait for the evening news when you can check your phone 100 times a day to learn that your friend just ate waffles for brunch?

I will admit that I am not the most patient person.  I have been this way since I was young.  My mother will attest to that fact.  I will scream at the slow person in the left hand lane of the highway.  I will roll  my eyes when the person in front of me at the store waits until after everything is bagged to try to find their wallet at the bottom of their suitcase-sized purse.  I will shudder and weep for the future of our country when the cashier tries to figure out how to make change when I give them $10.01 for a $5.26 purchase.

My horses are doing their best to teach me to be patient.  It. Is. Not. Easy.  I watch as fellow riders seem to sail up the levels with ease while I continue to struggle with the correct alignment for a leg yield or keeping Ike’s haunches from drifting in at the canter.  This may well be the first year ever that we aren’t starting with Intro or Training Level tests.  Ten years is a long time to ride those same 20 meter circles.  I’m sure there are ways to cheat time and get things done faster in our training.  I don’t know how, but I’m sure someone, somewhere, has come up with some tricks.  This impatiently patient person is going to do things the right way.  My ego will just have to take a deep breath and enjoy the slow ride.  Yes, we have used a double bridle in our training, but it is done under adult supervision.  It will not become a crutch.  Most days I ride in my snaffle.

The funny thing is that I can actually see and feel a change in Ike and I even since the championship show.  We can now ride the First Level shallow canter loop with ease.  The canter-trot-canter transition actually occurs right around X.  Our 10 meter trot circles are round with Ike’s outside shoulder pointing the right way; those 10 meter canter circles for Second Level are still a work in progress.  Our leg yields are more fluid and Ike is going to rock shoulder in and haunches in when the time comes.  Ike’s medium trot finally has some power from behind and I am gradually able to sit his trot for longer and longer periods.

What is the difference?  Time, time, and more time.  We patiently school on a regular basis under Ms. C’s eagle eye.  I ride after work most days trying to replicate what we had in our lessons.  I read online articles and my Dressage Today regularly to better understand the theory.  I get back in the saddle and practice some more.  Will we be ready for Second Level in April?  Only time will tell, but when we do, I am certain that my impatient patience will have paid off.

 

Happy New Year!

Hello 2015, so nice to meet you.

Hello 2015, so nice to meet you.

Ike and I would like to wish all our friends and family a Happy New Year!  We are excited about what the new year will bring to us.  Hopefully it will bring me the ability to sit the trot, the knowledge to compete successfully at Second Level, and the ability to laugh at myself when things go horribly wrong.  I hope for Ike the new year brings the ability to move his hulking body as one cohesive unit, the patience to put up with his spastic mother, and that his fear of large tractors and vultures stays in 2014.  Ike is hoping for more treats, less work, and that the hotwire between his paddock and his brother’s magically disappears.

Stay tuned for our new adventures!

Alison and Ike

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ike and Alison

Ike and I would like to wish our friends and family a very Happy Thanksgiving.  We are so very grateful and thankful for everything –

Our friends who follow our adventures through the maze that is dressage riding/training;

Our friends and family who attend our shows to cheer for us as we head down centerline;

Ms. C who guides us through our training – we would be trotting ovals at Intro Level if it wasn’t for her guidance;

The clinicians who provide another point of view;

The managers, secretaries and volunteers who tirelessly work to pull together fantastic shows;

My fellow dressage chapter members who provide camaraderie and wisdom;

Our farrier and veterinarian who keep Ike sound and healthy;

My supervisor who is always understanding when there is another barn “emergency” or an upcoming show; and

My amazing husband who continues to support our efforts and who safely gets us to and from our shows and clinics.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your holiday season be blessed.

Alison and Ike

 

How to (Kind Of) Assemble a Double Bridle

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So this winter means that Ike and I are beginning our introduction to the double bridle. Yep, I have never used one before. It was debated and discussed for a number of months before we decided that it could be helpful. I struggle due to lack of experience with dressage beyond First Level, and I lack the physical strength to half halt effectively in certain situations.  There are also Carpal tunnel in both wrists and my fibromyalgia that can make riding a struggle some days. My drive to learn and to escape the lower levels keeps me going, and the double bridle can hopefully give me just a little bit of extra oomph to teach Ike the skills to progress beyond First Level.  I will still ride in my normal bridle most days, but will use the double bridle during some of my lessons. [read – under the eagle eye of Ms. C so I don’t do anything stupid inappropriate.]

I found a very nice double bridle (it can convert to a snaffle bridle if necessary) and inexpensive bradoon and Weymouth bits through Schneider Saddlery (http://www.sstack.com/English_Bridles/Dress-Conv-Bridle-W-pat-Bead/$%7B(%20%20)#32871%20FS%20BK}) for a very reasonable price. Of course, assembling the pieces was not quite as easy as clicking “purchase” on the website. So, without further ado, I present to you “How to assemble a double bridle.”

  1. Stupidly smile at box when it arrives because it makes you feel like a big kid rather than a beginner.
  2. Open box. Remove the packaging and sniff the new leather.
  3. Lay out the various pieces on the counter to make sure all parts are present and accounted for.bridle on counter
  4. Look in box for some Ikea-style pictogram assembly instructions. Grimace and then mutter expletives when you realize there are none.  my look of horror
  5. Pour a large glass of wine.
  6. Retrieve laptop so that you can find a photo of the assembled bridle on the website.
  7. Attach the bradoon and Weymouth bits and admire your handywork.
  8. Remove the bits when you realize you forgot to attach the browband.
  9. Curse your ineptitude and take a big swig of the wine.
  10. Slide browband into place.
  11. Reattach both bits.
  12. Realize that the headstall is backwards because the throatlatch is in the front.
  13. Mutter more expletives as you remove both bits for the second time and then the browband.
  14. Have another large sip of wine.
  15. Curse the inventor of the double bridle.
  16. Pour more wine.
  17. Yet again study the photo of the assembled bridle and reattach the browband first and then the bits.
  18. Attach the noseband.
  19. Breathe sigh of relief when you realize you finally attached everything correctly.
  20. Attach the reins to the bits.
  21. Call your trainer to confirm each set of reins are attached to the correct bit.
  22. Admire fully assembled bridle.
  23. Find a keeper on the floor. Pick up before it is consumed by a curious canine.
  24. Scratch your head when you realize you cannot figure out where it goes.
  25. Shrug and put it in your wallet just in case you have an epiphany.
  26. Admire your accomplishment again as you envision riding down centerline with your horse wearing the bridle…one day….
  27. Finish the bottle of wine.

I am happy to report that Ms. C gave my efforts a passing grade.  Ike was a sport as we adjusted the fit.  And I have to say (please pardon my proud horse mom moment), that I think my boy looked pretty smart wearing this new bridle.  Wish us luck!

alison

 

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