Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in a nutshell

Since I started this blog a couple of years ago, I usually make a blog post on the last few days of December to recap what the year has brought me and see how I did on my year end resolutions. Let's start with the 2012 recap. Well, I have to say that one of the biggest things accomplished this year was that we all survived the apocalypse! I know everyone was worried about that one but now we can all breathe a little bit easier (take that Mayans!! lol). In all seriousness, my riding got better even though it seemed harder this year. There were no super impressive scores but lots of hard work in solidifying our second level work. Our high was definitely the GAIGs with our best second level to date. We had some rough moments with Buddy jumping the fence and DJ's mysterious mouth sores (still working on my theory for this one, expect a blog post soon!). But at this very moment, I'm happy with where the boys are in their work. We are ready to take on new challenges next year and ready for our first lessons since before the BLMs in 2 weeks.

Ok, it's time to see how I faired on my 2012 goals:

2012 Goals:

  • Finish that darn USDF Bronze Medal!!! 
    • Well, I almost had it and I only need 1 more score! I'm not so sure DJ will be the one to finish it but at least he was the one who got me most of it :)
  • Qualify for GAIG's & BLM's at Second and Third Level
    • I did half of this one and I am REALLY glad I did not pursue the other half. In the summer I tried to make the transition to 3rd level with the addition of flying changes...long story short, bad idea! Bud was so confused with what I wanted it started effecting everything about our rides. So, we went back to really perfecting 2nd level and it ended up being the right decision for us at the time.
  • Get into better physical condition - last year I set a goal for lbs. lost and I accomplished that but this year I want muscle along with it...that means, ugh, working out :(
    • Hahaha! Silly me! I knew this one would be difficult for me personally since I'm not the biggest fan of working out. I recently bought a living social deal for a new Pure Barre studio that opened near my job and it expires in February. Maybe now I will actually try this time around.
  • Get to at least one clinic this year (audit or riding)
    • GOAL ACHIEVED! I had the great opportunity to go audit a clinic with JJ Tate. One day I will work with her on a horse. She is FANTASTIC. I went both days and learned so much it was ridiculous :)
  • Read 20 books with at least 1 being a book to help my passion for the sport
    • GOAL ACHIEVED! See the list below:
  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
  2. Daytripper - Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba (Graphic Novel)
  3. Dressage Masters: Techniques and Philosophies of Four Legendary Trainers - David Collins
  4. Brisingr: The Inheritance Cycle Book 3 - Chistopher Paolini (Audiobook)
  5. Septimus Heap Book 1: Magyk - Angie Sage (Audiobook)
  6. Septimus Heap Book 2: Flyte - Angie Sage (Audiobook)
  7. Septimus Heap Book 3: Physic - Angie Sage (Audiobook)
  8. Septimus Heap Book 4: Queste - Angie Sage (Audiobook)
  9. Septimus Heap Book 5: Syren - Angie Sage (Audiobook)
  10. Septimus Heap Book 6: Darke - Angie Sage (Audiobook)
  11. A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness
  12. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smtih (Audiobook)
  13. Anya’s Ghost - Vera Brosgol (Graphic Novel)
  14. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack - Mark Hodder (Audiobook)
  15. At the Mountains of Madness: A Graphic Novel - H. P. Lovecraft & I.N.J Culbard   (Graphic Novel)  
  16. Inheritance: The Inheritance Cycle Book 4 - Christopher Paolini (Audiobook)
  17. Pirate Latitudes - Michael Crichton
  18. The Maze Runner - James Dashner (Audiobook)
  19. Locke & Key Book 5: Clockworks - Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez (Graphic Novel)
  20. The Scorch Trials  - James Dashner (Audiobook)
  21. The Death Cure - James Dashner (Audiobook)
  22. Tiger’s Destiny - Colleen Houck
  23. The Kill Order - James Dashner (Audiobook)
  24. The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater (Audiobook)
  25. Divergent - Veronica Roth (Audiobook)
  26. Insurgent - Veronica Roth (Audiobook)
Ok, really I only read 9 and the rest were audiobooks but that's ok because my requirement was still met including my dressage read. I provided a link to that book since it was a fantastic read and will definitely be revisiting it for inspiration. 

I will post my goals/resolutions tomorrow. Until then, Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Onward and Upward

The 2012 show season is over. Two of the three championships we attended I can count as successes! The first one I wrote about in my last post Quiet Laughter...that was clearly not one of the successes. Next we were onto the CBLM Championships held in Lexington, VA. Any fall show at the Virginia Horse Center is going to be one of my favorites. I grew up showing at this facility but there's something about it in the fall that makes it perfect. The leaves are beautiful in their wide array of fall hues, there is a crispness in the air and I get the chance to eat at all my favorite local digs! But I digress, back to the show...besides the terrifying drive over the mountains, everything went seamlessly. Buddy was positively lovely to ride. He was soft, adjustable ad forward in all of our schooling both inside and out. He  went into his practice class and had a BEAUTIFUL ride with only a small spook earning a 2nd place in a large class. This pumped me up for our Championship the next day. My ride was in the very middle of the class so we were lucky the pea soup fog had finally subsided by my ride time. We went in with the same mentality of keeping it quiet and forward. The test was going  SO WELL that I took at moment to sit back and back in the glory of it...and then we broke out of the canter! Ugh! No biggie, I can fix it on the other side...and it happened again!!! Really?!?! So I opted for trying to make up for some lost points by driving the last medium trot home. The score wasn't awful but it knocked us out of the placings for a respectable 12th place of 27 riders. Not bad but not the best. Performance wise, I was super pleased after having quite a few difficult rides this season with Bud. We had a blast with our friends from Beech Creek Farm and overall the show was awesome!

Two weeks later we made the trip down to the last show in Williamston, for the GAIG/USDF Region 1 Championships. This particular show made me a little more anxious than the others because of the test. Second 3 has been giving me problems all season. I haven't felt confident with our balance in the canter  let alone the counter-canter teardrops, but we were going to try our hardest anyways. The week leading up to and into the show was a tough one for us anyways. The weather was very rainy (preventing any riding), Buddy sprang the corner of ones of his shoes the day after the farrier came (Friday). I  knew my farrier was unavailable so I called another who told me he was too busy, I called a 2nd farrier who was unfortunately out of town. So, Monday came and my farrier was able to put the shoe back on. I rode Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday it went to hell in a hand-basket at work so no riding and Thursday we left for the show. I get everything settled with Boo in the barn (we were stabled with all of our friends from NSTC and Beech Creek was right down the aisle) and go to check in. I had left my Coggins at home on the printer. Commence full freakout mode! I called my vet's office but they were closed for the day. I ended up calling the Emergency number and luckily the vet on call was headed back to the office and would fax me a copy. 1 hour passes and no fax. I call the vet back and she says she's been trying to fax it but there is a busy signal (i.e. the show's fax machine is busted). UGH!!! The vet says she will attempt to email it. Another hour and the email finally comes through, EUREKA! We get our numbers and fly back to the barn. By this time it is 6:30 and the rings close at 8 for riding. Our championship ride was going to be in the Coliseum (which is not one of Buddy's favorite places to ride) so the first night, the next night and the following morning either included a ride or hand walk in this fear inspiring building. I get him all tacked up for the first warm-up ride in the Coliseum and boom, left front shoe is missing. Cue the tears. I try to collect myself and find the show farrier, wouldn't you know, he has left for the evening. I call and plead for him to put this shoe on and l  he begrudgingly agrees and will be there in 5 min. I run back to the barn to get my horse and go to bring him out of the stall where I proceed to break his etched wood show plaque. UGH AGAIN!!! The day was just not a good one! I get the shoe on and run to the Coliseum for a 7:15 ride. It was full of spookiness and tension but I decided to call it quits on a decent note since I was pretty sure I was the problem and not him. We started the next day anew and it all went up from there. We had a super ride for our practice test and ended up 2nd in a large Dover Medal Class behind a friend of mine. We went to dinner with friends from the barn then came back for a hand walk around the Coliseum. The next day was the big one...and I was the first ride of the championship class. I went in and rode my tail off. I came out of the ring in tears and my mom asked what I thought of the ride. My response was, "That was the ride I was waiting for all season!". I wasn't sure if the judges would agree but at that point I didn't care. To make my very long story a little shorter...I sat in first place with a 66% for the next 12 rides. The last three bumped me down but by only tenths of a %! We got to victory lap with the other placers and I wore a stupidly big grin the entire time! It was a perfect ending to a rather frustrating season.

Now, the boys and I are enjoying a little down time with lots of fun strength building rides including gallops through the back pastures, flying change schooling and cavaletti pole work. Buddy's changes are coming along quicker that I expected and DJ is just working on not being so strong in the mouth. I think we are going to have a real winter this year meaning actual snowfall. It may put a little dent in our ring work but who doesn't like a good gallop through the snow?!? Until next time!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Quiet Laughter...

Wow, again I have neglected my blog in favor of riding, reading, fall TV and just plain laziness. Epic Fail! But enough about my lack of enthusiasm, let's get to blogging! I saw we start off with DJ since he usually ends up in the backseat due to all of Buddy's show adventures.

The end of July was my first show with DJ since 2009. Nervous was not enough of a an adjective to describe how I felt about bringing him back to the show world. I knew he wouldn't be bad or crazy, I feared he wouldn't be accepted. We had had many years doing (what I now can see was mediocre) 2nd level resulting with less that encouraging marks from the judges at open shows. Along with the remarks came bitterness, discouragement and confusion. I felt myself constantly asking "Why didn't they like my horse?" "He did all the moves and he wasn't crazy, why I am scoring in the low 50's?" "Do they not like him because of his breed?" (yes, in fact that was a problem with one judge but that's a story for another time!). All of these thoughts would run through my mind and unfortunately at the time my education could not help me rectify the situation. Since moving down here, my riding has changed drastically and even though DJ is not my usual lesson mount he gets to partake in my riding reinvention through the homework I obtain. He has become more balanced and confident and even though he turned 18 in May, he has also become more athletic. Because of this, it was time to dip out proverbial toe back into the waters of competition. Luckily, the show I picked was only half an hour away so that meant showing out of the trailer, thank goodness! Our first day was a good learning experience. The test was tight and very quick, the changes were not really clean and VERY braced which resulted in a 56%. Understandable, it was his first time back and I put a bit too much pressure on myself thinking that this might not be the best idea I've had. After getting my test back and reading, rereading and re-rereading the comments as well as multiple views of the video, I knew what I had to do the next day for better scores. I came back Sunday was a fresh view and a new game plan. I fixed what needed fixing in the warm-up, practiced a couple of changes and went in to try again. The test was much smoother but the changes were still bleh although they were clean this time! Our homework paid off and we were given a 61%!!! DJ gave me my second to last score needed for my Bronze medal. I couldn't have been more proud. Again, I read, reread, and re-reread my tests then made a plan to take DJ out again before the season was over (I'll elaborate on that trip a little but later).

August was Buddy's month.  I had taken him to see Dr. Bob Grisel from Atlanta Equine for a second opinion and follow up after his little "incident" when he jump the fence. Just want to let you all know that Dr. Grisel is AWESOME and so are his staff. They extremely knowledgeable, patient, and pleasant to work with. Dr. Grisel travels a lot so if he comes to a city near you, go meet him and have your horse checked to make sure everything is running properly, you won't regret it!!! Back to my story...We were given the go ahead to go back to work, so that is exactly what we did. Championship time was looming ever closer and the first one would be cutting it a little close but I figured we'd try anyways since we qualified. I signed up for the NCDCTA Championships and we rode our butts off before the show. I asked Lynn to have a lesson on the Friday before the classes started. She hadn't seen him since the June show and before his injury. Honestly, it was probably one of the best lessons we have ever had! He was so spot on I had great hope for the weekend...(now comes the reason for the blog title) Have you ever heard the saying, we make plans and God laughs? That basically summed up my weekend. Saturday and Sunday came around and my wonderful, talented, and willing horse went back to being my crabby, unwilling, UBER tense mule in the show ring. The scores were in the low sixties and nowhere near the quality of work he had been putting in the weeks before. I'm not sure if he was exhausted or just having a bad weekend but boy, was it discouraging. We went from the previous day of being so awesome to going down the centerline trying to mimic the body posture of a giraffe gazing at the heavens. As Charlie Brown so appropriately put it "UGGGGHHH!!!" We ended up fourth for the Championships but my pride took a pretty good beating. I eventually snapped out of it and now am working towards Championship #2, the CBLMs.

Finally, we arrive at last weekend. Remember I said I was going to sneak in one last show with DJ? Well, I decided to take him to down to Pinehurst for that last attempt of finishing my Bronze. The week before I had his teeth floated and feet done so all would be set for the show. During his floating, my vet noticed some sores on the inside of his mouth that we initially thought were caused by calcification that was lingering on his bit. I thoroughly cleaned the bit (Now, don't think badly of me. I clean my bit after every ride but what I thought was hurting his mouth is the white/yellow stuff that sticks to the bit like glue after a while), started applying GlyOxide to heal the sores and bought my new favorite product in the whole wide world Bit Butter! It worked like a charm! The sores were healing quickly and my pony was softer in the bridle and worked his tail off at home for me. I felt great going to the show. We arrived on Friday with time to sneak in a quick ride. I wanted to make sure both of our jitters were gone so they would not hinder us come show day. He rode around like a champ and gave me quiet beautiful changes. This was going to be a great weekend...wait, do you hear that?? Yea, that would be God laughing again. Saturday was an utter catastrophe. We didn't ride until 3:27 so I had the whole day to sit around and think, not such a good thing. I took DJ for hand walks and made sure he was clean and happy. Somehow, I didn't plan correctly with all that extra time and only gave myself about 28 minutes of warm-up. Warm-up was tight, tense, heavy and overall unpleasant. I couldn't figure out what the problem was until about 8 minutes before my time. I had forgotten his Bit Butter. I tried to convince myself that it couldn't make that much of a difference. Boy, was I wrong! To sum up that test, I had people stopping to watch the rodeo that had my test had morphed into. There was excessive running (head up in air style), plank straight laterals and emergency braking. It was a red hot train wreck!!! I got back to the barn and untacked trying to think of why that was such a colossal failure, then I checked his mouth. The wounds were back and twice the size they were previously! I felt AWFUL!!! I spoke with some of my friends and show neighbors about the problem and the general consensus was that my bit was old enough that the outer layer had worn away and the under layer of a different type of metal was causing a very bad reaction to the inside of his mouth. I checked the trailer for other bit options but was left with ones that were too large or illegal for licensed dressage. I even went to the tack store on site to try and purchase another but alas, they didn't have any either. My plan changed to trying warm-up the next morning with an excessive amount of Bit Butter and see what he did. If it was bad we would scratch. He was much happier with some added lubrication so we attempted the test again. The changes were still a disaster but the rest of the flowed much better bring our 5s up to 6.5s and a couple of 7s. We ended with a 56 % and really positive comments from the judges. His old bit is in the trash so it cannot cause anymore harm and the quest for a new bit has begun. DJ's show season is over but we will spend the winter working extremely hard on 3rd level to get that last score in the Spring. Buddy and I will be off on the 17th to our beautiful home away from home, Lexington, Virginia, home of the Virginia Horse Center. Hopefully, this outing will be a bit more successful that our last. But, we will not be making any definite plans for what will happen at the show and I will keep my ears open for that ever so quiet laughter from above.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer, Why Must You Hate Us?!?!?

It's no new story that most of the United States has been continuously blasted with unbearable heat waves that could easily rival that of Saudi Arabia. In order to get anything done under saddle without melting or causing heat stroke, it is necessary to be on your horse at an ungodly hour every morning. Well, that's been my routine for the past few weeks or so. Up at 4:30 and on my first horse by 6:00. UGH! Now I'm exhausted all the time but at least I'm keeping up the routine. My next show isn't for another three weeks but I'm still trying to work as hard as I can. This will be DJ's first show since moving to North Carolina. I'm excited yet extremely nervous. His Third level work is much more solid then when we left Virginia but I'm still a little leery on his "exuberant" flying changes. We went to a lesson yesterday and he was amazing (even though the two of us were sweating buckets!).  I am thinking more positively about our classes and hopefully *fingers crossed* the Bronze medal is within reach!

The other two boys have not had a great summer. Khakie, the "gaited dressage wonder", has had a relapse of his laminitis and will probably be unridable once we get him out of the woods. It has been very difficult for everyone involved and very emotional but we are still doing everything we can to make sure he is comfortable and that his quality of life has not depreciated in any way. I'll keep this updated for milestones in his journey to recovery.

Then there is Buddy...Buddy, Buddy, Buddy....dear goodness, this horse is going to be the death of me! It all started with a phone call at work. He had jumped the fence on his paddock because a neighbor on his ATV scared the snot out of him. No, he did not clear the gate.

Luckily, the vet was going to be there within minutes and would look at him when she got there. About a half hour later, I got a call from the vet to discuss his current status. He was really scraped up and swollen but on the whole everything looked to be superficial. He scraped up both stifles and had a nice flesh wound on his right front tendon.

Two weeks after, the wounds were all healing very nicely...

but the swelling on the front leg was not going away. While he was wrapped, there was no swelling and we were about 98% sound. No wrap = tree trunk swelling and 100% lame. That worried the heck out of me! After much coaxing and prodding, I got the vet to take some X-rays (no, she really thought he was just being a sissy!) and wouldn't you know it, he has a stress fracture on his Splint bone!! Good grief! I was told that this will heal itself but all the riding she had me doing before the X-rays, to keep the swelling down, had not been such a good thing after all. So, we are restricted to walking under saddle and we are going to get a second opinion next month since I have lost faith in this particular vet. He is going to get another set of X-rays in about 30 days to see his progress and make sure nothing is hurting his suspensory ligaments. Sigh.... That is where everyone stands at the moment. Hopefully, the next entry will be a little bit more upbeat with positive reports for all three horses! Until next time!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lessons, Clinics, Horse shows, oh my...Concussion?!?!

I would tend to say I'm usually on top of my blogging, but I would be lying! The last month has been a whirlwind that I just could not catch up with. When I finally felt things getting back to normal, I was a bit intimidated to dive back in. It wasn't going to get any easier the longer I waited, so here I go again in attempts to keep my thoughts somewhere other than my head while providing some equine education and a little bit of entertainment :)

I think that I can skip the summary of the lessons since they tend to be repeats this season. Don't get me wrong it's not a bad thing by all means. They are repeats because we need to keep addressing my weaknesses in order to improve in the show ring. Just a quick review: It's the balance of the canter which results in a less hectic/spastic/tense canter when we get it right and connection into the bridle at ALL GAITS!

Dressage in the Sandhills was the next show on the roster after a couple weeks of lessons. I have to say since we first attended this show last year, I was really looking forward to it this season. The show grounds are nice but improvements were made over the last year which made the stalling and the competition rings 10x better than previously. It's right next to a golf course, so it kinda feels like a mini vacation at the same time! Overall, our rides the whole weekend consisted of moments of brilliance  then tense at others. The scores ranged in our normal area (low-mid 60's), we won a class and got 5th in the others but money was won so not too shabby ;) Even though the scores were good and Buddy wasn't necessarily bad, we just seemed to be in a weird place (or a better word "funk") the whole weekend. The two of us had some difficulty in the warm-ups but I rehashed the weekend in my head and decided we would handle it differently the next time. Not a bad second show, especially since we got the last qualifying score we needed so we are off to the GAIGs in November :)

Next up was what I would like to dub "the incident". No, there was no knock-down, drag out battle or vicious venomous verbal brawl. I closed my head in my car door....go ahead, get all of your laughs out now so I can continue my story. The incident actually happened a few days before Dressage in the Sandhills but it wasn't addressed until after the show when the headaches became so fierce I took up a semi-permanance in my bed. The first doctor put me on Migraine meds which I could understand since I have a history of those crippling headaches but they just didn't feel the same. The next doctor (seen a few days later) disagreed, put me on muscle relaxers, heat therapy and no riding due to my slightly serious concussion!!! Oy! No rider wants to hear that! But alas, I was sentenced to no riding until the headaches subsided and then wait ANOTHER week before setting foot in my irons *grumble grumble*. This was awesome timing since I had a horse show coming up in the next week, NOT...but I'll get to that in a moment.

Since I was unable to ride, the next best thing was to go audit a clinic, which is exactly what I did! The NCDCTA Symposium was taught by JJ Tate this year. Boy, was she full of useful info!! Here are just a few of the high points that I learned along with a slew of exercises that I have been tormenting my children with of late in order to polish up or educate them in better 3rd level work.

  • Remember to keep the zipper of the boot away from the saddle. The knee must close without tightening the hip this will help the toes to stay in. The leg is draped and not pinching which should result in a kneeling feeling
  • Seatbones direct the hind seat bone strikes off like a match so each stride is its own depart
  • Power in the pelvis= swinging in the seatbones. To go forward your pelvis will make an oval shape, to collect make turn oval into a circle
  • Hold the reins at the base of the palm for better connection
  • Keep your fulcrum anchored onto your engine
  • The "seat" is from the knee to the top of your head
  • Think of cutting your torso into four quadrants...when you want to collect use your abdominals to "scoop it" (the horse) up!
  • 3 Types of Evasion:

    1. Speed
    2. Inversion
    3. Crookedness

  • The mouth is for drinking and eating not stopping
  • Knee and seatbones ride the shoulders up
  • Bossy seatbones and think of seatbones as Flashlights = pointed in the direction in which you are driving
  • "T-Rex" arms = elbow coming out from your hips
  • We should always have an awareness of when the inside hind leaves and connects with the ground 
    I was able to ride the Tuesday before we left for the Capital Dressage Classic. I figured since I really hadn't ridden in three weeks, I wasn't going to be able fix anything before Friday. So we had a nice leisurely ride to remind Buddy and I what is was to do mediocre dressage and called it a day. Friday, the first day of the show, would be our next ride, talk about being prepared...HAHA! The weekend wasn't bad. I under-rode everything and the scores reflected it but I thought it better to be safe than sorry when it came to my Noggin. Buddy tried really hard all weekend and probably could have given more but again, I just wasn't ready. We won a class and came in 2nd or 3rd in the others. Not bad especially since Sunday was really our worst day being one of the last rides and spooking like a barely saddle broken 4 year old in the coliseum. Oh well! As they say "Sh*t happens!" I've decided Boo's next show will not be until the Labor of Love show which also happens to be the NCDCTA Championships in early September. The two of us are sick of 2nd level so it's time to suck it up and start schooling some 3rd...EEP! DJ (hopefully) will take Buddy's spot at the Raleigh Summer Dressage Show at the end of July in attempts to finish up our Bronze (*Fingers and toes crossed*).  Until, next time which will hopefully be sooner rather than later :)  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lessons in Fear

I'll admit that there are very few things that scare me...spiders, zombies, losing things I love...horseback riding is not and has never been something I'm afraid. I have broken my back and my nose, sprained all of my limbs, been kicked, bitten, stepped on, smashed, thrown, and impaled but that has never stopped me. Heck, the first thing when I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I go to bed is horses but more specifically riding dressage. Nevertheless, April 22nd's lesson enlightened me as to what fears I had yet to discover, hence why it has taken me so long to write a blog about it.

Buddy and I had a lesson with Lynn in the early afternoon and of course the weather had to do something out of the ordinary. The week before and the days leading up to the lesson had all been sunny and in the low 80's/high 70's. Sunday proved to be rainy and in the low 60's...greeaat! That wasn't the only difficulty we faced. For some reason, the receiver box for Lynn's teaching system was acting up and cutting in and out regularly resulting in mixed/missed instructions and quite a bit of frustration. Buddy, luckily, was awesome with a really willing attitude and lots of highlights in his work.

Lynn asked what I wanted to work on and I told her to just watch and comment on whatever she saw problems with. We did lots of trot transitions into walk and halt to help square him up. The quality of his trot was AWESOME! We worked on keeping him up in the corners and not letting him drop at all which kept him better prepared for his shoulder-in/renvers/travers down the long-side. We moved into the caner and again she commented on how much this canter has improved in the last couple of weeks, yay!!!

Next, we discussed what I had signed up for at Dressage in the Sandhills and someone (can't remember if it was someone auditing the lesson or my dad...probably my dad because I think he is sick of watching 2nd level) questioned why I wasn't doing Third level. I remarked that although Buddy's canter is getting better, it is nowhere near what it needs to be to successfully do 3rd level.  Lynn told me all we needed was one flying change each direction to do 3-1, but I just didn't feel comfortable. She said that we were going to need to start schooling changes eventually and why not start now. We were three weeks from the show and it couldn't hurt to see where we were starting from. I did the only change I knew how to (I know it's wrong but my body decides to use it as a defense mechanism when I feel hurried or tense due to the on-coming change). Luckily, Buddy was super and did a quiet although late change. Lynn made a big deal that it was not that bad but I needed to do the exercise the way she originally explained it (granted, I didn't hear it due to mic problems). I went to perform the canter leg yield from right to left, maintaining the left lead and helping to make the previous outside concave and the new outside convex. Then the theory is to put the left leg back and push forward with the right hip while giving with the right rein to help encourage the new body had other plans. I fell back into my horrible habit of leaning forward, putting the leg back and pulling with the inside hand, this led to Buddy's head in the air, rushing around the corner and only flipping the lead in the other words total CHAOS!!! Lynn was a little frustrated that I did exactly everything she told me not to basically setting Buddy up for failure. That is when I lost it. It had hit me, teaching the flying change was scaring me. I wasn't afraid of the change necessarily but more for doing it wrong which would result in the frantic running around. Lynn re-explained the exercise and had me do the whole thing again with the exception of the actual change. We turned that into a simple since the exercise would help those too in the long run. Unfortunately, I was too shaken to be pleased with how well Buddy was doing. With tears welling in my eyes, I managed to sit back and make the conscious effort to not ride my bad habit. I had to sit up and slow Buddy down with my whole body to make sure I wasn't hustling him in the canter leg-yield to get through the change in order to move onto another movement that I was comfortable with. The rest of the lesson was this exercise in both directions. I had my homework to do this over the next two weeks in order to improve the canter.

Once the lesson was over, I went back to the barn in order to untack Buddy. That's when the waterworks started...and I couldn't get them to stop! While untacking and systematically wiping the tears from my face, I managed to get my thoughts together on why this was so upsetting for me. I had had a really hard time teaching DJ the change (and still do!) which has made me dread them. They come hurried and flat and there is nothing calm about them. I haven't even been able to ride one on a horse that is already trained. My body literally doesn't know what to do and I freeze forgetting everything that I already know. I result to the old stand-by of bad hunter riding and leaning forward and pulling on the rein of the new lead. It frustrates me that I can't break this habit, that I fret that much about it which means I'm transferring this negative energy to my horse and that I let myself get this upset about it.

Now I know. There is something new that scares me and it's not the flying change, it's the fear of doing it wrong or late. I can't let it get to me but I have a LONG way to go before it stops bothering me. I can set a minor goal for now of attempting to not get a knot in my stomach when the idea of doing flying changes on either of my horses is mentioned. Hopefully, there will be less tears in this Saturday's lesson.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

First Show of the Season: March Magic Dressage

Well, it's here!!! The start of show season has come!!! Most people say their favorite season is spring when the flowers come in, fall when the leaves change, summer for time at the beach or winter to play in the snow, but none of this works for me. I love show season for clean tack, fresh saddle pads, blinging browbands, fancy show clothes, vendors, greasy food, old friends, new friends, and pretty ribbons. This year we started the 2012 season with a new show for us. March Magic is held in Williamston, NC (a tiny town with literally NOTHING around or in it besides the Ag Center). We got there in about 2 hours and Buddy settled in right away. The stalls were lovely open and airy. They even had the option to hang their heads out of their stalls. Not many competition grounds give that option.
Our first class wasn't until Friday, so Thursday night all we did was take a quick hack in the Coliseum to make sure nothing was going to freak Buddy out in Friday's class. He was a super star so we tucked him in and went back to relax in the hotel for the rest of the evening. 

Friday morning I was up early to braid a couple horses that I volunteered to do last minute since the show braider was overbooked. I met some nice women (one who lives close to me!) and made some nice money in the process. The rest of the day was spent watching my teammates and Lynn ride their tests. Around 2:30, it was time to give Buddy his bath and then braid before we had to be on for our 4:35 warm-up. We were going to do our first qualifier for GAIG's, Second Level Test 3. We went down to the covered for warm-up and Buddy started off ok but as we went along he got tighter and crankier. I tried to work him through it with Lynn coaching but it was not easy. I had him in a nice place before we went in, so I was hopeful going into the test. Unfortunately, I was wrong. His trot work was very nice and then it all went to hell starting with the back-up. It was tense and dragging. The free walk was distracted and in the canter he was tight as a tick. There was no relaxation and I tried hard to help correct and loosen him but it was in vain. He broke twice in the second counter canter tear drop. I left the test very upset and deflated. But, my teammates were supportive and Lynn said we would redeem ourselves on Saturday. We were two % points behind the winner with a 62.042% and ended up 2nd with some nice comments but some realistic ones as well. Thanks Kem Barbosa, you were very generous and gave us our first qualifying score!  

Saturday my ride was early and I was determined to make this ride better. This time we were riding the BLM qualifier and in my opinion a much easier test than the day before. Lynn was absent from the first half of our warm-up due to technical difficulties with the golf-cart (i.e. it wouldn't move!). But when she got there, man did we get down to business! Soft forward trot with active hind legs, slower canter with soft neck were the goal. We practiced in the back of the property closer to my show ring in a covered arena with very deep footing which slowed Buddy down and ended up giving him more cadence. It worked! We went in and nailed that test! It had a little bobbles like the fact that I added a circle at K because I had a flash back of test 3...oops! Other than that, it was a great ride. We ended up with 4th place and 65.132% in a large class. Yet again we made our qualifying score so we are going to BLMs in Lexington in October, yeehaw!!! The rest of the day was spent with my teammates rooting them on and calling tests for my friend Lauraine which resulted in hysterical laughing and tears! We were a mess but it was a great day. Everyone got together in the evening for a barbecue dinner and door prizes which 4 people in our group won! Overall, not a bad day!

Sunday was brutal! The night before we had HORRENDOUS thunder storms that the rest of the state had been getting all weekend. Lucky enough, we were blessed by the weather gods and only got a little drizzle, some thunder and a beautiful rainbow. My first ride was at 10 but I had to share my warm-up with Lynn with my friend Rhonda who was also riding close to 10 in her I-1 qualifier. Buddy and I ended up with the same warm-up we had Friday night, tight, tense and inattentive. I was left on my own 20 min. before show time so Lynn could help Rhonda. Again, I thought I had gotten him under control but Buddy had other plans. We were in a different ring than Friday but next to the one from Saturday. Regrettably, Buddy saw a VAST difference in the rings since there was empty, "horse-eating" chairs next to this ring. I got his attention back but then the fates laughed in my face and put people in the once empty, "horse-eating" chairs. That rocked Buddy's world. This was my second qualifying ride for GAIG's and it was going to go just about as well as the first one did. His trot work again was good but the canter was a blooming mess! He stopped in one of the simple changes to stare at the people in the chairs. Literally, he would not move. I was getting worried that we were going to get eliminated since we were not going anywhere. Finally, I got him to move but man was it tight. We ended up with 5th and a 60.478 but the judge made my day with her comment of "Lovely Pair. Didn't want to work today. Scores will improve when he is more cooperative!" It cracked me up. We didn't get the score we need but we got some more experience out of the deal. 

I must have been tired, over-enthusiastic, or just delusional when I signed up for a second test on Sunday. It is my least favorite test to compete to date (Second 1) but it was a money class. So, I worked hard the previous week to really master the moves and figured I would just see how it went. Because the test was only an hour after my first one, I decided to stay on him and just walk to help him relax and only did  a few minutes of warm-up by myself. We went into the test much more reserved but completed a relaxed Second 1 that ride that is probably the best Second 1 I have done on any horse to date. Sadly, after watching the video, the test was more than conservative it was under ridden and very lack luster. In the amateur stakes class we came in 2nd with a 60.571% but ended up with no money since they combine the open and amateur divisions to determine the handout. Womp, womp :( Oh well, we did it! We got through an arch nemesis of mine (Second 1) and got a couple of qualifying scores in the process. Buddy is taking a few days off but come Thursday we are back to grind and we will own Second Level Test 3 come May!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One last lesson before the storm....

I COMPLETELY forgot to blog about my lesson weekend in February. So, now I'm running around like a total nutter updating things (mainly my severely neglected blogs), packing, and getting ready for the first show of the season! Ah! Where did the time go?!?! But I digress, let's begin...

The title of this blog is ever so appropriate since all we have been having the past few days is storms. I had my lesson last Wednesday on a gorgeous, rain-free afternoon. Since the last lesson weekend (yea, the one I forgot to blog about...doh!) was about my lack of a nice collected canter, my homework was (yet again) a half-halted, up, light, slower, with active hind-leg canter...not too much to ask, right? I worked for a month on just that! Lynn watched me warm-up at the trot and something new I had not heard before left her lips, "Wow!" and there were LOTS of them. His trot was relaxed, supple and super rideable. We didn't do much since the trot was so spot on. We moved onto the canter with hopes I would hear the same amount of "wow's" as the trot, unfortunately not as many but she did notice a big change in quality! Yay, one step at a time right?!?!

We worked on more half-halts to just slow him a bit more. My new problem is instead on pulling him down into the simple changes, I have left his head alone so that the transition will not be affected but in doing so, I end up dropping him by not doing anything. We did a few more simples both directions and then I really made a wrong move. I guess now I can't look at it as a bad decision because I needed to work on it anyways since the show is in...oh, 3 days!!! I asked Lynn to look at the counter-canter to evaluate where we were. I also opened my big mouth and told her of my severe dislike of the counter-canter, especially the counter-canter serpentine in Second Level Test 1. But, because I signed up to do all three tests at least once this weekend, I was made to run through all the ways counter-canter is done in the tests. Since the first one didn't go so well (rushing, on the forehand, rider not doing much to stop the first two problems, etc. You know, the normal!), the new exercise was 20m counter-canter circles each direction. This was FAR harder than the original exercise but Lynn did this so that way when I went back to the serpentine or the tear drops from Second 3, it wouldn't be so foreboding. After much griping and whining, I did the hard circles then ran through the serpentine again and wouldn't ya know it, much easier: more balanced and hey those half-halts really do work when you sit up and ask for them!

Overall, really great lesson especially since it's the last one before the show this weekend. Since then, I've had 2 great rides and a not so great ride. We will get there on Thursday afternoon/evening and I'll ride him around the indoor since this is a new venue for the both of us. I'm nervous but really excited since I feel that we really have a good grasp on Second level this year and we're just about ready to start Third...yippee! See you in a few days!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lesson Day...HURRAY!

This month has been a whirlwind of craziness! Weather-wise, we go from the 70's to the 40's back to the high 60's then down to the 20's at night...seriously, is this January?!?! I mean, I know some places are getting crazy snow or perfect weather for the most part (yea, I'm talking about you FL!) but this is just a little ridiculous for January in NC. Dear Weather Gods, Make up your mind please, preferably in the warmer direction :) Besides that, the rain has edited my riding and so has my new job! Yes, I said it, new job! I finally have my paralegal job which gets me more $$ to spend more time in the saddle but because I'm new at work, time in the saddle is not necessarily what I'm getting. Also, Buddy has had a rough couple of weeks with another biopsy on the lump on his face which was so painful it resulted in crazy swelling which he tried to alleviate by rubbing off all of the skin on the side of his face. The poor boy was a mess and that resulted in no riding for a week and a half. I finally start to get him back on the mend and last Sunday he coliced a little on me so tomorrow I will attempt to do a light workout with him. Anyways, Lynn was in town from FL this weekend which meant lesson time. Since, Buddy was feeling better but hadn't been ridden in a full week, I didn't think it was fair to subject him to a lesson. DJ was the lucky substitute! The funny thing about this horse is that he LOVES and I mean LOVES taking trailer rides. As soon as he saw the trailer pull up along side the barn, he started piaffing in the aisle as I as putting on his shipping wraps. On the way to the trailer, he picked up a trot and literally trotted onto the trailer. When he landed inside, the whole trailer shook and he started talking (his voice is much deeper than one would expect for his size or breeding) which meant, "Close the darn ramp and lets get moving! We have places to go and things to eat!"

We got to NSTC and it was PACKED! People were keeping horses overnight to partake in lessons tomorrow, some had horses on the trailer since they had already had lessons and were watching their fellow riders have their turn or they just finished and were packing up to go home. Lynn managed to squeeze me in during her lunch break today so we were right in the middle of all the commotion. It was funny because all of the horses around us were big flashy warmbloods and here comes my Napoleon-complex, Alpha-male, 14.3 Arabian gelding...he has no idea he's tiny because his presence is that of a 17.2 WB stallion! We went in right at the end of my friend Liz's lesson to warm up and man was he feeling good! We got right down to work in creating bend throughout his body and Lynn had me giving half-halts every stride in order to gain more cadence in the trot at shoulder-in since he tends to be quick and choppy when we start. He got better and better every stride showing that our work over the past month has been paying off and that he is getting stronger and more confident in himself. Next, we moved onto the canter and even though this is only his third lesson with Lynn, his canter was lightyears better than the first lesson! She was so impressed by just watching the left lead she wanted to work on the "FC"s at the end. YAY! She finally thought we were ready to start to tackle my evil nemesis the flying change but alas, that all changed after seeing the right lead. Even though the rhythm was better and he was adjustable, we still had a lot of problems with his bend. So, we went back to the walk and trot to do some really exaggerated  over-bending to the right and then back to the canter. When he started to lose it or get frustrated, we went back to the trot and sometimes walk just to reinforce the idea. He improved a lot with just that exercise. Lynn suggested instead of working on the changes themselves today (we would try again when she came back), we would just work on maintaining a nice uphill canter while just changing the bend. This way he would think this was no big deal and not associate bend change with flying change. The left was super easy and the bend came quietly on both sides. Cantering to the right proved more difficult because he was fine going straight and kind of bending to either side but not the other, meaning we could go straight and bend left but not right or we could go straight and bend right but not left. Right at the end he was getting a little tired in the canter but when I brought him back down to trot he felt like he was ready to do the whole trot tour of the Third 1 test, what a silly boy! I had to halt and relax his neck before we could go back to the nice cadence trot we had at the beginning just to stretch him down at the end. Overall, what a great lesson, we definitely improved over just a couple months and next time we come back I'm sure we going to be able to at least show Lynn what we can do as far the "FC" is concerned. But for now I can be content with today, and I have the basic plan for Buddy tomorrow even though I was inspired by watching all the great freestyles from the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach on the usefnetwork!  

Monday, January 2, 2012

First Post of 2012!!!

YAY!!! Happy New Year :) This is is gonna rock! I can feel it deep down in my job, great rides, maybe new rides?!?! (ok, I have to be a little realistic here, probably not gonna happen but one can always dream!). I have my new goals ready for this year. I am also refraining from referring to them as resolutions, because a friend once said "Resolutions can be made and completed anytime as long as one has the strength to go through with them." Goals are different because because it's something that you would like to complete during the time-frame of a year but your life will not be better or worse if you don't. SO, let's get on with them:

2012 Goals:

  • Finish that darn USDF Bronze Medal!!! 
  • Qualify for GAIG's & BLM's at Second and Third Level
  • Get into better physical condition - last year I set a goal for lbs. lost and I accomplished that but this year I want muscle along with it...that means, ugh, working out :(
  • Get to at least one clinic this year (audit or riding)
  • Read 20 books with at least 1 being a book to help my passion for the sport
I think these are realistic and achievable goals, not too many and not too vague!

And now, for the new announcement....I have started another Blog (*gasp* I know, right?!?!). It is still about the adventures of my boys and I, but it is only about the training that the three of us do at home. I'm using a book that is all about dressage exercises as inspiration and cannot wait to get started! Check it out  at Hope everyone has had a great start to the New Year! Until next time, Happy Riding :)