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!