The Latest Show News

004

After yesterday’s pre-show antics, I feel I must add another definition to my last post.

Definition #5 – An involuntary spasm of a muscle when one’s horse acts like a fool.

So Sunday dawned with clouds in the sky and a drizzly rain falling – fingers were crossed that we’d have no heavy rain showers.  We headed out to the barn to put the finishing touches on Ike’s braids and to get the trailer hooked to the truck.  Ike was peacefully grazing when we arrived and decided that grazing would be his chosen activity for the day.  When I went to retrieve him for grooming, he decided to be the gingerbread man, as in “Run, run, as fast as you can!  You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!!!”  Aaarggghhh!  Really Ike?!  He trotted, and pranced, and galloped and bucked, and almost ran into the fence as he came to a sliding stop.  The bucket of grain was not even tempting enough to stop the silliness.  Ms. C finally caught the stinker with an armful of fresh cut hay.  As if running wasn’t enough, he had also practiced his Stop, Drop, and Roll technique to plaster mud on the left side of his body.  Cool.  The best I could do was smear it around and wait for it to dry.  I could feel my neck muscles beginning to tighten and threaten to throb and tick.  Deep breath.  The day will get better.

And the day did get better.  We arrived at the show with plenty of time to spare.  Warm up went smoothly and I was lucky enough to meet a fellow blogger Geri who was at the show with a friend!  How awesome was that!  And Geri was kind enough to video our first ride (which was the better of the two), so for your viewing pleasure:  Alison and Ike – Training Level Test 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QghrZad7wa4

We received a 65% and fourth place.  Now I need to spend some time comparing the video to my score sheet, but even without that analysis, I can see the difference in the 7 trot and the 6ish trot.  Not quite sure what caused Ike to scoot down the long side after the right lead canter transition, but luckily we recovered soon enough to attempt our circle.  Judge wants more half halts (surprise) – I want Ike to listen to more of my half halts.

Our Training 3 test was not as stellar.  Our canter work was FAST!  Marmaduke decided to pop out for a romp.  Not sure what changed, but such is life.  Still trying to find that magic formula where the stars and planets align and all our work is solid.  Right now we just have bits and pieces of good in each test, but not everything at one time.  Came home with a 62%…the 70% mark seems like it will never come to fruition.  Patience, grasshopper, patience.

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Swwwwwiiinnnngggg and Not a Miss

005In case you were wondering how Ike and I did at the ride to music clinic today, I can inform you that I could not be prouder of my big boy.  We came home with three awesome musical selections.  But before I fill you in on the clinic details, I must share that we almost didn’t make it to the clinic.

I arrived at the barn early today since someone decided to take a mud bath yesterday and was too wet and icky to scrub clean.  Great, I love chipping caked on mud out of a winter coat first thing in the morning.  Thank goodness that the luck of the Irish was on my side this morning, because Ike managed to remove most of the mud himself.  He had obviously rolled in his fresh sawdust last night and those lovely chips of wood did a bang up job at removing most of the funk.  After a brief grooming session, we decided to load up early so that we could watch my two friends ride and select their music.  Ike had other ideas, “No, I do not wish to leave the farm today and you can’t make me get on the trailer.”

That is right, someone showed off his mule genes for almost 45 minutes.  I had to dig deep into the recesses of my memory to remember all the lessons that Mr. Revelle taught us last year: do not back away or walk away from the trailer, use the stud chain appropriately, reward any effort, say “load up” as you lightly tap the hind end with the whip (note to self – purchase a longer piaffe whip or have arms stretched to reach the go button on the back-end), remind Ike that the only correct answer is to get on the trailer….I seriously thought that we weren’t going to make it on time if at all.  Finally, Ike sighed and calmly walked on.  Huh?  Why all the fuss???  He would not share his rationale.

Made it in time to see one of my friends ride and select their music.  It is a fascinating process.  Mr. Matson first establishes your beats per minute at the walk, trot, and canter.  He then looks through his 1400+ musical selections and finds music with the correct beat.  The music is played.  Both the rider and the audience give feedback.  No, just not right.  Yes, that works.  No, that overpowers the horse.  The selections are narrowed and the rider gets the ultimate say.  Amazingly, you could tell when the rider and horse liked the music – things flowed easily and beautifully.

Then it was our turn.  I let Mr. Matson know that Ike was young at that we were not always consistent with our rhythm and tempo.  He said not to worry, we would have music.  I’m still thinking that we will get Pan Banging Baby music.  So after our warm up, he had us ride on a circle around him while he used his electronic metronome to establish our beats per minute.  Beep, beep, beep.  Okay, time to pick music.

First up, the trot.  Amazingly enough, the first piece worked and worked well.  Was that really that easy?  Yes, yes it was.  Turns out, Ike likes swing music.  We tried a few other pieces, but the first one was spot on.  The walk was next and finally the canter.  I have to say, I love our canter music.  All three pieces are swing – I guess it is in keeping with his namesake, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a five-star general during the 1940s when swing music became prominent.

So we came home with our music, now comes the hard part for this non-musical person – editing the pieces and creating the musical freestyle that meets the USDF requirements as well as our limited Training Level abilities.  Stay tuned!

Alison

p.s.  Big man walked right on the trailer to go home.  Good thing, I don’t think I had enough energy for another epic battle.

The Zombie Apocalypse Has Reached the Barn

008Ms. C called me late Sunday afternoon and asked what we did to Ike while she was away teaching.  She said he was a zombie and just wanted to be left alone – completely out of character from his normal demands for all her attention and any treats she might have on her person.  We are hopeful that he will be unable to “infect” any of the other horses while they are sleeping in their stalls, but if things start to get out of hand, I will notify my readers as soon as possible so that you can arm yourselves and shelter in place.

Ike’s catatonic-state was brought about by his busy weekend.  It has been a while since his social calendar was so full.  Our weekly lesson with Ms. C was pushed to Saturday since it took a few days to melt the ten inches of snow that fell at the barn on Wednesday.  We still had to work around some snow piles, but most of the ring was workable enough to have our lesson Saturday morning.  Sunday was Ike’s first off-property event of 2013.  We had a clinic with Rebecca Langwost-Barlow at a local barn…very glad that the snow didn’t stick around and force us to miss the clinic.  Also very glad that Ike remembered his trailering skills from last year and walked on the trailer without too much fuss or protesting.

It is interesting to me that despite the different methods of teaching and explaining the concepts, both Ms. C and Becky had the same message to me that boils down to, “Stop pulling the reins backwards and start riding forward to your hands.”  I don’t mean to pull back and quite honestly don’t realize that I am doing it until an instructor points it out during a lesson.

My over-reliance on my inside rein has been well documented in my blog posts.  [Alison:inside rein :: Linus:security blanket]  It is one of those bad habits that I should have considered giving up for Lent.  I’ve heard “inside leg to outside rein connection” over and over, yet when Ike gets strong, I digress back to my happy place.  And yes, I know that by stifling the neck and shoulder by constantly pulling backward, the hind leg can’t really step up and under Ike’s body.  When others ride, I can easily spot when the rider overuses their inside rein.  I am aware that you straighten the horse off the outside rein.  It doesn’t seem to matter what my brain knows, the pulling is now an involuntary movement.  It is going to take strong measures to stop it.  Maybe I am the zombie and someone needs to whack me in the head?  Who wants to take a swing?

Think Spring!

004As I write this, winter storm Nemo is invading New England.  I hope everyone is safely at home and all their animals are also sheltered from the blowing snow and wicked cold.  Virginia was spared and my emerging daffodils, peony tips, and Rose-of-Sharon buds are thankful.  Seeing my flowers begin to return to my garden beds reminds me that spring is not that far away.  If we can make it through February, any winter weather that decides to visit in March usually doesn’t stick around all that long.  Good thing since I’ve seen some dressage schooling shows on the calendar for March, and by April, winter is just a memory and we can look ahead to pretty days spent at the local show grounds.

I’ve spent some time looking at the available shows and trying to plan Ike’s second show season.  He spent his inaugural year doing Intro classes at licensed and schooling shows and then transitioning to Training Level only at schooling shows.  Because of the classes and shows we entered, I didn’t have to empty the pocketbook to obtain my USEF Membership, my USDF Participating Membership, Ike’s USEF registration, and Ike’s USDF registration.  Since our goal for the coming year is to qualify for the USDF/GAIG Region 1 Dressage Championships, I had to bite the bullet and empty the checkbook to get us street legal for licensed shows.  I’m now scraping together the funds to enter the necessary shows in hopes of qualifying.  I’ve also got my checklist of things to get done before our first scheduled outing on April 29, 2013:

1) Get the trailer inspected.  The inspection sticker expires this month, so hopefully the weather will cooperate and it will get done so that we are safe to travel.

2) Clean out the trailer dressing room.  I’m really not certain how the chaotic state happened, but every time I open the door, I cringe.  Okay, I lie, I KNOW how it happened, but I’m just in a deep state of denial that I actually let it happen.  I am so anal about everything else at the barn that it is so wrong to let the dressing room exist in such a state.  Unfolded blankets, a Christmas gift bag with trash, unidentifiable packages of stuff, and none of it where it should be.

3) Try on my show clothing.  Need I explain why this is necessary?  I did already purchase a new pair of white gloves for this year.  The ones I have been using since 2007 are the color of dirty street snow and it is time for them to retire.

4) Condition and polish my boots. Dreadful, but necessary chore.  I’m seriously considering paying the local shoe repair place or a Marine to do it for me.

5) Tame Ike’s mane.  Yes, there will be a spa day coming up soon.  I openly admit that I am not proficient at pulling and thinning a mane.  I compare it to plucking my eyebrows,  I do the bare minimum to prevent unibrow for fear that I will overpluck and be left with bare skin where hair should be.  My greatest worry is that I will pull too much mane in one place and not enough in others leaving no alternative but to roach it and pray for quick regrowth.

6) Work on my half halt.  Practice centerlines.  Improve our up and down transitions.  Work on my half halt.  Improve our stretch down trot.  Learn half halt timing.  Perfect our circles.  Square halts.  More half halts.  Hmm, there seems to be a preponderance of work on my end in this entry.

7) Do something really nice for my husband.  Without his support, I would not be on this journey with Ike.  Without him, Ike and I would be hacking to shows.  Without him, shows would be lonely.  He is our greatest cheerleader.

8) Organize my paperwork.  All our necessary registration paperwork, rule books, vet certificates are shoved into a file box.  It is all in one place, but that place is my home office and that will not help me when I’m at a show scratching my head while trying to remember membership numbers or test patterns.  Guess I need to accomplish task #2 or fear losing this paperwork in the chaos.

9) Measure my whip.  How awful it would be to put in the ride of a lifetime to only have it negated by a whip that is 1 centimeter too long.

10) Take time to breathe and just spend time with Ike.  While time in the saddle is important to success, I believe the real partnership bond forms with time spent out of the saddle.  The new spring grass will be here soon enough.  I will steal some time to find a quiet spot at the barn and let Ike graze while I stroke his neck and back and remind him how lucky I am to have him in my life.

Psst, Hey You. Yeah, You.

003Shhh, be very, very quiet.  Mom doesn’t know that I’ve got her laptop or maybe she does know, and I’m going to be in big trouble tomorrow for dribbling water and grain all over the keyboard while I type.  She is a little OCD about those kind of things.  I like having a snack while I share my thoughts on the latest goings on around the barn.  Snacks help get the creative juices flowing.

The “trailer riding” season is supposedly over for the year.  I’m told that when the weather turns cold that Mom and the other people who go to horse shows hibernate for the winter or they go to Florida to prance in the show rings down there.  Pretty sure that we aren’t headed south for the winter, but right now, there really isn’t any reason to leave Virginia.  It has been in the 60s the past few days and today it made it to 70 degrees.  It was really warm with my fuzzy winter coat.  Mom gave me the day off today since I’ve been busy the past 5 days.  I like days like these.  She still comes to the barn to see me and my dirty brother.  She is a walking treat dispenser on non-riding days.  You get snacks for just giving her a little bit of attention.  Cigar and I have her so well trained.  Good Mom.

Everyone tells me that I’m starting to fill out and develop a topline.  Not sure what that means or where it is.  It appears to mean that Mom has permission to bounce on my back while I trot rather than doing that up-and-down thing.  She is doing a better job at bouncing, but still needs to relax her hips a bit more and get a little deeper in the saddle.  I make sure to let her know when she needs to stop bouncing.

Mom and Ms. C have still been fussing at me when I yank on the reins.  Such meanies for not letting me have any fun at all.  I do know that if I am quick enough with my head toss, I can pull Mom off-balance or even pull the reins out of her hands.  She is not amused by these antics.  She continues to also frown on my “extended canters” while we are working.  A boy just needs to blow off steam now and again.  Not sure why I can’t do it with Mom on board.

I guess I’d better try to behave since I don’t want to be on the naughty list with Cigar.  I have to say though, for a horse that always seems to be on the naughty list, he does seem to have the life of Riley…he still gets fed really well, he doesn’t have to do any work and spends his days amusing himself in his paddock, and even after he tries to bite Mom while she grooms him, she still gives him a hug and a treat.  Ha, ha, what he doesn’t know is that I get three treats when I do a good job.  Going to try to do a really good job tomorrow at my lesson and go for the whole pocketful. 🙂

Who is That Horse Staring at Me?

It has been a busy couple of days for Ike and now he is tucked safely into his stall for the night…and don’t worry, that pile of hay is now on the other side of the stall.  There would have been loud protests if it wasn’t.

I was down for the count yesterday.  My snot gland kicked into overdrive, and I spent the day in bed begging the cooties to go away.  They have been around for a week and have outstayed their welcome.  Since I wasn’t riding, I had Ms. C pop on Ike to help gauge his recovery and our progress.  Ms. C felt some wobbliness in Ike’s right hind to start especially when she tracked to the right at the trot.  She would stop and restart and gave Ike the chance to work out the kinks.  Ike was stable tracking left.  By the end of her ride, Ms. C felt that Ike had improved and that we must be still dealing with some stiffness from the vaccines.  Thankfully, it is not lameness.  Too bad I can’t fire up the hot tub and let Ike take a soak.  Now that would be a sight to see.

When I awoke today, the first thing I did was breathe in and out through my nose!  It is sad the things that can make me happy.  But having had to mouth breathe for the past week, it was nice to know that I’m now on the road to recovery…hope I can walk fast enough to catch up to Ike.  I arrived at the barn with about an hour to groom Ike and load the trailer.  Wouldn’t you know it, today was the day that Ike decided to wallow in the new mud like a pig.  Worst part was that it was still wet when I had to start grooming, so all the curry comb did was smear the mud into pretty swirls.  I broke out the bucket and rag and did my best to wipe away the offending mud.  [Note: As I was riding Ike today, I noticed the clumps of mud I missed in his mane.  Nice touch.]  Poor Ike was also doused in show sheen – it was my feeble attempt to disguise his filthy condition.  Perhaps Becky would be blinded by the gleam of his coat…fat chance.  Beauty shop time was over and I quickly loaded the trailer.  Wish I could have two of everything to avoid this process, but the long-lost rich uncle has still not materialized, so we load and unload with each outing.

Today was another milestone for Ike – his first experience in an indoor arena.  The indoor today is large and bright, the doors were open, and I hoped for the best.  Ike would not stand still at the mounting block.  He kept sidepassing away from it, so Becky finally suggested I walk him around a couple of times to let him check things out.  It wasn’t until the ride home that I realized that Ike saw his reflection in the mirror near the mounting block and didn’t realize that he was staring at and moving away from himself.  Silly boy.  Ike made me a very proud horsey mom today.  Becky liked his look, his demeanor, and his movement.  She repeated the same things I hear from Ms. C on a regular basis – too much inside rein, you are overbending the neck, sit up, your weight is too much to the inside/outside, don’t lean back in the halt…hmm, yet again rider error is the source of the problem.  Too help with my tendency to be too strong with one rein, she had me bridge my reins and ride.  Ah, a bit of a light bulb moment and what a difference it made to Ike’s straightness.  It forced me to keep my hands quieter and steadier.  Not something I had even considered trying, but I will continue to bridge the reins on subsequent rides to rethink my overuse of the inside rein.

I thoroughly enjoyed the clinic today.  Got to visit with old friends, see some lovely horses, and come away with some new tips and the feeling that Ike’s journey down centerline is going to be a blast as he matures.

Living Vicariously

My wild riding days are well behind me, and I now choose to live vicariously through the Olympic eventers.  As a young rider, helmets were unheard of at my barn.  I look back in wonder at how we all survived virtually unscathed considering the foolish things we did on horseback.  Bareback rides on the trails, into the ravine, over the river and through the woods…(now you’ve got that song in your head, don’t you?)  Silly games like hanky pick up, rider pick up, and red rover, red rover.  Somehow I never sustained any significant injuries except for my pride.  One day, I thought I had my girth tight enough during a rousing game of red rover, red rover, but alas, I did not, and after one very quick rollback, slid off the side of my horse with the saddle now suspended under my horse.  Needless to say, I never let that happen again.  We’d also jump anything we could sans helmet.  Ah, the foolishness and stupidity of youth.

These days dressage fits my lifestyle.  Keeping four on the floor so to speak suits me just fine.  My supervisor and regional director already get white knuckles when I describe my days at the barn.  I can only imagine what they’d say if I told them I was taking up eventing while showing them a photo of 20A from today’s Olympic cross country course.  [It was the steep drop portion of the Royal Greenwich Borough.]  They’d somehow revise my job description to prohibit any and all equine pursuits.  Since that would be unthinkable, I’ll stick with the more staid pursuit of dressage.  Training a 4-year-old is good enough at this point in my life…but I wouldn’t be above going for a good gallop every now and again.  Think I’ll wear a helmet as well.

Ike enjoyed his day off today as well as a handful of peppermints.  Plan to ride tomorrow and work on our transitions from free walk to medium and stretch down trot to medium trot without performing “the giraffe.”

Go USA!