“I Hope My Antiperspirant Holds Up”

Cigar and I

Cigar and I

This past weekend, my husband and I met my parents at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia to enjoy some time together and place some bets on the Thoroughbred races.  Ever since I was a little girl, I loved watching the races and trying to pick the winner.  Everyone has their method for picking the “winner.”  My Dad selects a name he likes.  My husband actually reads the race statistics and workout times to select his bets.  I bet on the horse that looks like my OTTB Cigar (bay with a white star)…and then there is my mother.

When she was a youngster, she used to go to one of the local tracks in New Jersey with her Uncle.  He would ask her which horse she liked and would put a $2 wager on it to win.  She would always pick the grey horse without fail.  He would tell her she shouldn’t pick that particular horse.  My mother would insist and when asked why she wanted the grey, “Because it is pretty.”  What other reason would there be?  To this day, she still bets on the grey.  In one race there were multiple grey horses with not the best of odds.  She placed bets on all of them and even tried a trifecta box.  That trifecta box was a $48 bet; a wee bit more than she usually wagers.  She was giddy at the thought of winning that bet and that is where the quote of the weekend comes into the picture, “I hope my antiperspirant holds up.”  My mother was on the edge of her seat when the bell rang and was standing and screaming as the horses came around the final turn toward the finish line.  Unfortunately, one of my bets and another horse ruined her plans of a big payout to supplement her shoe budget.  Have no fear, she stuck with her greys and won a few dollars in the later races.

And speaking of antiperspirant, although I liberally applied it before I left the house, I doubt I still smelled spring-time-fresh by the time I was done riding Saturday morning.  I managed to get an extra lesson in with Ms. C early in the day.  Even early in the morning when the sun is not at its strongest, I was sweating like I was sitting in a sauna.  Ugh, mid-Atlantic summers are so humid.  The slight breeze was barely enough to stir the leaves on the trees.  It definitely wasn’t enough to keep the sweat from raining down into my eyes and onto my glasses.  Yes, I am a vision that will never make it into a deodorant commercial…not quite the marketing plan the executives have in mind.

Um, are you sure you want to do this?  It is awfully humid out there.

Um, are you sure you want to do this? It is awfully humid out there.

Although the weather was not my favorite, Ike still performed like the stellar fellow he is.  We continued schooling him in lengthening his stride at the trot.  When we do manage to get some strides in which Ike is really using his whole body, I begin to wonder whether or not I will be able to sit that trot when the time comes.  It is a lot bigger than I realized.  It might not have the suspension of some of the top warmbloods, but there is enough “oomph” in there for this girl.  And can I just say that there is no good way to learn how to sit trot other than getting on a horse and giving it a go.  No amount of aerobics or sit ups or yoga is going to teach me how to move with my horse without stiffening or flopping like a fish out of water.  Any advice is welcome, as well as any coupons for some more antiperspirant and deodorant.


I Think I Can? Maybe Not? Yes, We Can!

Commanders Eisenhower Spring 2013Ike and I have a few weeks before our next dressage show.  During this brief intermission, we are working hard towards boosting our scores.  I’m trying not to psych myself out, but to remain positive that we will see some improvement before we head down centerline again.  Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you are right.”  In other words, what you think, you become.  If I think Ike and I can’t hit that magical 70% mark, then chances are that we won’t.  So I’m going to push on and do what I can to make that magic happen.

One tool that we are going to try for the first time is the free analysis on the Global Dressage Analytics (GDA) website (http://www.globaldressageanalytics.com/).  I learned of this website in my latest edition of Dressage Today.  It is the brainchild of David Stickland, a British physicist, whose daughter was struggling to boost her dressage scores.  He sat down with her score sheets and discovered that she could achieve decent marks for every movement (6.5-7.0), but that she had a movement or two go poorly during each ride which kept her average score in the lower 60’s.  Hmm, that problem sounds vaguely familiar.  He then created GDA so that riders can see trends in their scores, and see which movements are hurting the final score.  If more than one judge scores the ride, it allows all the individual marks to be entered.  I’m certainly not averse to doing my own statistical analysis, but why not take advantage of this tool that has already been created.

It is easy to enroll for an evaluation package; the basic analysis is free and there are more options if you are willing to pay the monthly fee.   You enter some basic information on you and your horse and submit it to GDA along with your USEF/USDF member numbers.  If you are outside the USA, you would provide your member number for your national organization.  Once they create your account, you enter your scores from each competition.  Luckily, GDA is big on confidentiality, so have no fears that people will see any of your scores, including the abysmal ones.   I had my access the next day and uploaded my scores from this competition year.  Hmm, unfortunately with only four scores to enter, there aren’t any meaningful conclusions to be had from the statistics yet…too few data points.  Once I enter enough scores to actually generate meaningful statistics, I’ll be sure to share the results.  You may as well learn from my mistakes.  So much for this helping me out before my next show in June.

Luckily, Ms. C didn’t need any fancy statistical software to interpret the scores and judge’s comments on my newest score sheets.  She scrutinized the video of my Test 2 ride as well.  When she reads comments like “losing balance,” “rushing,” “head wagging,” and “not quite steady,” she knows immediately that my half halts are not effective (shocker) and that I am not maintaining thoroughness and a steady connection.  We are truly inconsistent at this point and no statistical evaluation is necessary to tell me that we need to be consistent to get the higher scores.  Part of it is Ike’s young age and lack of knowledge, strength and stamina.  The bigger part of the problem is of course the rider’s inability to be heard with too little a half halt or to pull on the reins rather than squeeze them so then I appear to be hanging on Ike’s mouth (where are those soft, following hands??).  Either way, it is not a pretty picture and we throw away valuable points in each test.

Much like Mr. Stickland’s daughter, Ike and I have also consistently botched at least one or two movements in every test.  I’m assuming our blunders were more costly than hers, but it still hurts that bottom line and the ribbon color.  Making mistakes during our tests is the only consistent thing we do right now.  When you want to cross that mythical 70% mark, you really cannot have 3’s, 4’s, or 5’s anywhere on your score sheet.  Sigh.  Maybe we need to reassess our goals for this competition year?  The plan is to successfully ride our four tests at the June competition and then decide if the game plan needs to be retooled.  In the meantime, we will channel Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, “We think we can.  We think we can.”