Another Successful Day

So we survived another dressage show.  Ike has two more ribbons to add to his collection – a blue one and a red one.  I could not be prouder of my big boy.

As you can see I decided to braid albeit not my best even for cheater braids.  I placed the braids in on Saturday morning while Ike stood patiently in his paddock with the lead rope draped over the fence.  I, of course, forgot to bring the Quick Braid out with me and was too lazy to go back to get it, so we forged on without it.  The braids were a little worse for the wear this morning, but rolled them up, picked hooves, ran a brush over Ike’s back and onto the trailer he went.  My husband was in shock at the transformation in Ike’s attitude toward the trailer.

Turns out we were the first ride of the day just like at the last show.  Ike was a bit uptight not having a lot of company.  There was one other horse and Ike decided that they were going to be buds.  Whinnied and worried whenever he could no longer see it.  I could feel the tension building and the trot getting more and more choppy – asked for canter so he could free himself from that nervousness.  It helped to some degree, but then he was alone again for our first ride.  Intro C – 63.8% – we had high points and low points.  Ike nailed both our centerlines.  We had a small spook right after our first turn which got us the comment “drifting on and off the line.”  No duh.  Ike almost picked up the wrong lead, but a quick half halt and we saved the right lead canter circle.  We lost impulsion as we would feed off onto our trot circles, but I feared he would break into canter if I pushed for more.  High point for me was our left lead canter…7!  Yea for us.  Progress.

We only had two riders in between our rides, so we just chilled at the competition arena.  Intro B was up next – 70.3% – go Ike!  I could feel the lack of tension as we rode the test and knew that our score would be better.  Everything was more fluid including our circles.  Just one giraffe neck moment as we made the turn at the judge’s stand.  High point this test?  Centerline:  8 for the entry and 9 for the final line.  Call me silly, but I still remember the first time I ever got a 9 in a dressage test;  I think I even still have that test saved somewhere.

Need to thank Ike’s Fan Club for coming to cheer him on today.  We appreciate all of you taking the time to come support us!!  Thank you as well to the owners of Lucks Glen Farm.  Lovely facility and great dressage schooling show.

Ike is taking the day off tomorrow, but Mom will be hard at work cleaning tack and the trailer.  Two weeks until we head back to Commonwealth where we will make our Training Level debut. Hmm…

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Lesson Part Deux

I opted for a second lesson this week since we are headed out into the wild blue yonder on Sunday.  Had to fit the ride in between the early morning thunderstorms and the expected storms this afternoon.  It was very humid which means that the bugs were particularly voracious.  When they are this bad, I have found that the fly spray is almost a waste of time and money.  I resort to smearing the clear formula Swat (http://www.bigdweb.com/SWAT-OINTMENT-CLEAR-6-OZ/productinfo/9320C/) in strategic places to keep the flies at bay for the duration of the lesson.  It does a dandy job and is pretty impervious to sweat.

Ms. C had me school the various test movements as well as tell her each test each test  to make sure I know where each movement starts and ends (Intro C, halt at G..).  Ike’s right shoulder can be dominant some days, so I use my right thigh to combat the “push” I feel against the saddle.  This works against us on centerline because he then overcorrects and the left shoulder falls left which equals crooked halts.  The other problem we were having is Ike’s right flexion.  This was the issue of the day.  Somedays, today included, it is like wading through partially dry concrete to get that flexion.  If I fight for it too much on centerline…left shoulder falls left, right hind is to the right and we have the start of a “crab trot.”  See the May 29 post for the explanation of the crab walk and trot if necessary.  Free walk was adequate as was Ike’s walk.  Trot transitions were hit and miss.

The boy was also fired up today for some reason.  Maybe it is the unstable atmosphere due to the storms.  In any case, he REALLY wanted to canter.  So we didn’t.  He needs to learn to wait for the cue.  Of course, that being said, I’m sure at times I inadvertently shift my weight and he hears canter transition.  Today, he wanted to be in charge of the gait we were riding.  He got one past me, and it took all my strength to shut him down; he used that massive giraffe next against me.

Overall, he did well when we schooled each test.  He did get to canter the two circles of Intro C.  Quite the expressive right lead canter transition.  Some might call it explosive!  There were moments of our 8 trot and 7/8 free walk.  I wouldn’t complain with straight 7’s.  Would you?  Can’t guarantee that we will find it on Sunday, but that won’t stop me from trying.

Have my ride times.  They are only 20 minutes apart.  Awesome.  Only have to have one warm up.  Intro C is up first followed by Intro B.  Tomorrow will be a short barn visit with some tidying of the whiskers, mane, and tail.  Still debating braids or no braids.  Come back Sunday and find out!

Hijacked!

Hi everyone, it’s Ike.  I have hijacked Mom’s blog for the day, so that I can get a few words out there for everyone to read.  Mom tells me all the time that she is so very happy that I am part of the family.  I think she means it, especially after what Cigar tells me what he used to do to her.  I really do try to listen and do what she wants.

The trip from Florida to Virginia last year took two days, but I had a traveling companion who was headed to New Jersey to keep me company.  We traveled at night because it was August and it was hot during the day.  We stopped in North Carolina to stretch our legs and get some rest before the final leg to my new home.  My home is a very nice farm in rural Virginia.  Besides my best buddy Lady and brother Cigar, there are 5 other horses that live with me.  Most of them are nice enough, but this one chestnut mare makes mean faces at me every time I walk by her stall.  Don’t know what I did to make her dislike me so much!!

I’m still not sure I like the cold winters in Virginia.  That funny white stuff on the ground was certainly odd.  I tried to run fast and hover above the stuff, but as soon as I’d stop, it would touch my feet again.  Everyone tells me that I should see what it is like with a lot of the white stuff on the ground.  No thanks.  I will make Mom take me back to Florida for the winter if that is the case.  After all, I do have a cool new trailer to ride in now and hopefully by next winter Mom will know how to park the truck so she doesn’t tear the side mirror off.  Ha ha.  I’m still not telling what the nice gentleman whispered in my ear that got me over my fear of the trailer.

Ms. C and Mr. D take good care of me.  I always get extra goodies in my feed bucket and a pat or neck rub when they come to the barn.  They have the most delicious hay; Ms. C is very particular about what she buys.  I think it is because she likes me so much that she only wants the best for me and the others.

Mom tells me that we are leaving the farm again this weekend to go to another dressage show.  The last one was fine.  The horses in the barn area made me very nervous with all their neighing.  Thank goodness Ms. C was there to help me since Mom was too nervous.  Mom likes the ribbons we received.  I’m not so impressed since I can’t eat them.  The coolest part was that I had my very own cheering section telling me what a good job I did.  I hope they come see me again.

I was a good boy under saddle today.  Got over my weekend funk.  I’m entitled to a bad day every now and then right?  I really like to canter, but Mom made me work on my trot today.  She says we are going for an 8 for our trot work.  Don’t know what that means except that I won’t be cantering.  Bummer.

Cigar tells me that the dogs have a pending lawsuit against her for crimes against canines (something to do with not enough treats being dispensed and the fact that they are expected to sleep on dog beds rather than her bed) and that they are waiting for the SPCA or The Humane Society to help their cause.  I have to say that I’m pretty happy with my life in Virginia, and at this point, do not see the need to put my name on any legal paperwork….yet.

I’ll borrow the computer again soon.   Ike

Time-Efficient Braiding

What great weather day to end the month – can’t believe 5 months of 2012 are already behind us.  Ike and I are quickly closing in on our first anniversary.  Time flies when you are having fun, and isn’t that what riding is supposed to be about?  Fun?!  Looks to be a nice weekend as well for all horse related activities – high 70’s and lower humidity.  Going to the Strawberry Hill races at Colonial Downs Racetrack (http://www.colonialdowns.com/) to tailgate and bet on the ponies on Saturday.  The dressage schooling show is on Sunday at a nice farm 30 minutes from the farm.  Probably, no certainly, I am glad that it is just a schooling show which means I don’t have to braid if I don’t want to or if I don’t have the time.

And I must come clean, my braiding skills are not the best.  Yes I can take three pieces and plait them together and stick a rubber band on the end, but as for sewing in braids.  Forget about it.  Yes, I know there are purists out there who swear they can braid a mane in 20 minutes using traditional methods.  I have never been one of them.  I tried and failed miserably.   I am now well known for my “cheater braids” as my friend Amy dubbed them years ago.  I call it being efficient with my time, after all, I am not competing at Devon or Gladstone.  I promise that if we ever qualify for the Region 1 GAIGs or the BLMs, I will pay someone to braid Ike’s mane for the championship class (Girl Scouts’ honor).  For now, I will continue my time-efficient method.  Would you like to know my secret?  I call it Hairdini for Horses, but Dressage Extensions sells them as Easyplait Braiders.  (http://www.dressageextensions.com/ProductDetail.asp?KEY=14985)  They don’t actually require any braiding for them to work – there is a hole in the middle of the “velvet” covered wire.  You stick the mane through the hole, squeeze, and roll it up like you are putting in a curler.  You then bend one end over the other and TA-DA!  A button braid!  The photo below is Ike showing off our “braids” the day before the April show…we did a test run with the braids and bridle number.

 And here we are at the show…

Just squint a bit and you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Since you have made it this far in the post, here is my helpful hint that helps the Easyplaits stay in place better – spray a section of mane with Quick Braid, braid the mane and rubber band it with two rubber bands.  I usually do this step the day before the show and leave them in overnight.  The next morning at the butt crack of dawn, all you need do is stick the end of the braid through the holdein the Easyplait and roll it up.   You are now ready to head down centerline!

Back in the saddle tomorrow.

More than just Walk, Trot, and Canter

When shopping for a horse, we all spend time looking at the quality of the horse’s gaits.  Does the walk have a clear four beat rhythm?  Does the horse track up at the trot?  Is there range in each of the gaits?  Can I ride each of the gaits including sitting the trot?  (I could not even find a decent rising trot on one horse I rode when looking…I knew I’d never be able to sit that trot.)  Ike has rideable gaits and I’m finding that the trot is very comfortable to sit now that he has the beginnings of a topline.  But, I have discovered that there are additional movements within each of the gaits that are like finding an extra prize in the cereal box.  Ike’s gaits also include:

Crab Walk – Usually seen on centerline when we are supposed to be absolutely straight.  The body is held in a crescent shape as we attempt to stay on centerline.  Ike’s brother perfected this walk and added the tail swish and boot biting options for extra flair.  Advanced horses will also perform this at the trot while biting the rider’s boot (note: judges are not impressed.)

Hunchback Walk – a stilted walk with the back held very tightly, the croup high and tail raised.  This walk typically precedes a 20 pound poo.

Stiff as a Board Walk – not to be confused with the preteen sleepover game of Light as a feather, Stiff as a board.  This walk comes out when Ike decides he does not want to work and listen to my leg, seat, hands, or voice.  Usually accompanied by jerking of the reins from my hands.

Scooby Doo Scramble – can be performed at the trot or canter.  Legs are swiftly moving, but there is no forward motion.

Race Horse Jig – a rudimentary attempt at a collected trot.  To date only seen at the one horse show Ike’s attended.

Giraffe Trot – Fairly rhythmic trot, but neck is stretched long and tall, and attention is given to something invisible on the horizon.

Eventer Gallop – never experienced under saddle, but the boy can cover his paddock in about three strides…talk about a lengthening.

Great Dane Canter – All four legs are moving in an attempt at a three beat motion, but there is no communication between the legs that splay in any and all directions.  Not sure what the usefulness of this canter is except in auditioning for the role of Marmaduke’s big brother.

I doubt any of these gaits will make it into any textbook, but I know they are real.  Productive ride today.  Ike was back to his normal, willing self,  Practiced Intro B and Intro C for Sunday (reminder!!!  Intro C, final halt at G.  I’d better not mess that up again.)  Ike was a star with the trailer…let us hope Sunday goes as well.

Crabby Patty

We all deserve to have an off day every now and then and today was Ike’s day.  Can’t blame it on the heat because it was still in the 70s when I rode.  Can’t blame it on the green heads since they had not yet made a Sunday morning appearance.  Either Ike woke up on the wrong side of the stall or it was a heck of an equine Memorial Day party at the barn last night.  In either case, I had to try and work through the crankiness to call the day a success.  Even when I captured his attention in the photo below, I can see that he is just not himself, “Just take the picture and let’s get this done” it seems to say to me. There was ear pinning while I tightened the girth, hoof stomping as I applied fly spray, and then it was time to mount His Royal Cranky Pants.  When I’d pick up contact with the reins, Ike would quickly raise his nose and push with the lower neck muscles.  No, Ike, that is NOT an acceptable response, please try again.  Brace, yank, push, ear pinning.  Sigh, growing pains.  A four-year-old tantrum from the 1200 pound child.  Fun.  I never did achieve a true over-the-back connection today.  I recorded the first part of my ride (the camera shut itself off after about 8 minutes…I guess it couldn’t stand to record any more of the battle.)  From the video, things don’t look too awful, but boy did it feel awful while aboard HR Cranky Pants.  Once I edit the video, I will post so you can be part of the fun.  Lots of one rein flexes today and quick transitions in hopes of shutting down the yuck to get to a happy place.  Never really found it.

The one good note for the day:  Ike walked right on the trailer without hesitation.  Yes, it was the only good note.

Tomorrow is another day…

Cantering Fools

Was able to catch two rides in the past two days with one of them being a lesson. Don’t know what lit the fire under the big boy’s bottom, but he has been a cantering fool the past two rides even when not asked to canter. It is hard to complain too much because it is really becoming a balanced canter with a nice rocking horse motion. Ike is learning to use his back, engage the hind end, and lift the withers with each stride. Instead of four independently moving legs with a body and head attached, we have a cohesive unit with parts working together.  It has been months since my knee has been in danger of meeting the fence.

Ms. C noticed that his canter is better at the start of the lesson. She said that he still doesn’t have the strength and stamina of an older horse, so we work with him to get the most from what he can offer at this point in his development. We work on our canter transitions, circles, and stamina towards the beginning of the lesson and then move on to our stretch down trot work. It is evident that Ike doesn’t completely understand what I’m asking for in the stretch down trot. When I offered my hands forward, he snatched the reins, dropped his head and picked up speed. Half halt! Half halt! And he is still motoring along. HALF HALT! Oh, you were talking to me? Yes Ike, I was. And let me just say again that the people who wrote the dressage tests are evil geniuses. It used to be that the stretch down trot did not appear until Test 3…now, there it is looming in Test 1…and Test 2…and Test 3. Can’t escape it, so we will half halt our way around the circle and hope for the best until Ike develops a better understanding. My crystal ball predicts a 5 for our first attempt. I will let you know on June 17th what the actual score turns out to be. Hoping that the canter will be stronger than it was in April so that we don’t take the hit for the wrong lead, a wobbly circle, an unbalanced down transition, and in our collective submission score. Sheesh, one little bobble can really add up.

I’m also attempting to fix my position while cantering.  Yes, I know I need to sit back and I say it over and over in my head as I’m riding.  I also have the tendency to let the reins get a tad too long which probably contributes to our unbalanced down transitions because Ike has no support from me.  You can almost hear Ike asking, “Where are you to help me?”  I’m too busy sitting tall with a relaxed seat and watching for the fence while trying to maintain a proper 20 meter circle.  Thank goodness he is forgiving.

We did one practice load today.  Last time we practiced was Wednesday.  Ike was again a superstar and walked right into the trailer.  Fingers crossed that it will be as easy on June 3rd.

Hot weekend ahead – high 80s predicted, so we will ride early to beat the heat.  Hoping that the greenheaded flies decide to sleep in so we can avoid them as well.