Tuesday, September 30, 2014

HT re-cap: dressage + stadium

We completed our first ever horse trial this weekend! I'm going to lay it out in a few posts, just because there's so much I want to say about it. 

When I bought my truck and trailer last Spring to start taking Isabel to lessons, it was with a specific goal in mind: be prepared to compete in all three phases by Fall. And we did it! So this weekend was kind of a big deal to me. Anyways, I'll write more about my thoughts on the event and experiences as a whole later. For now, it's onto dressage and stadium!

I didn't have any trainers there to coach me, per se, as they were pretty busy with show administration. Though I ran into my dressage trainer MP at an opportune moment and she advised on my warm-up plan.

MP recommended that I take *more* time than I was planning, even if it's just walking around slow and steady for 10 extra minutes. I had debated about cantering in the warm up, as it's easily our worst gait and where Isabel and I are most likely to fight. But she told me to do it anyway. 

Her suggestion was that I go through everything with the intention of giving it our absolute best. She said to prepare as if it were the biggest show ever, even if we don't necessarily plan on ever doing anything recognized. This may seem like 'duh' advice, but it was important to hear. I tend to go into this weird 'passenger instead of pilot' mode at shows where I just want to cruise through and not fuck up too badly, even if it means not pushing for our best. 

All the same, though, our warm up wasn't great. We had some very nice moments. But also some very ugly ones... particularly at the canter. Isabel wanted nothing to do with her right lead, and when I finally demanded it, she grudgingly acquiesced with nose straight up in the air (not exaggerating). 

After about 30 minutes of mostly-tense, sometimes angry, occasionally smooth warm up, we went off to wait our turn. MP was the ring steward, so I had another brief chat with her about how my warm up went - and the elusiveness of our right lead. She suggested starting the canter aid early and adding a little leg yield. Her opinion was that it was more important to get the lead (even with nose in air) than otherwise. 

You can see MP seated behind Isabel's tail in this pic. I'm glad she saw our test (even though it wasn't our greatest work to date) because we need HELP lol

In any case, Isabel actually gave me a nicer test than I deserved after that warm up. Our circles were odd, and I was fighting too much with my hands... plus we broke early in the left lead (4... ughhhh), and in retrospect I should have just ridden it instead of pushing back into canter then immediately fighting back down to trot. Free walk was ok enough (6), especially given the x2 coefficient. 

As expected, we sort of fell apart after changing to the right rein, and our right lead canter was ugly - but it happened!! By this point I was just trying to keep it together and escape in one piece - as demonstrated by my too-hasty salute before Isabel even finished halting (crooked, as always). 

finally - a recorded test for all y'all. this is after 5 months of dressage lessons...

We earned a 41.6 for our efforts - which felt quite fair. It was not a spectacular test by any measure, but there were some moments in there that give me confidence in eventual improvement. 

We had a break before stadium wherein I did as much as possible to make Isabel feel good and happy in hopes that she'd forget (forgive?) my fighting with her. She got fully untacked and sponged off with liniment-infused water. Then spent some quality time grazing in the shade with her fan club while I left her the fuck alone to go walk my xc and stadium courses. 

I walked the stadium course while they were re-setting it for BBN, so some of the fences were still BN height. I didn't like it, but felt oddly (for me) stoic. Not lying: 2'3" felt like a stretch, even though we've been jumping at that height with some regularity for a couple months now. But here we were, and those jumps were gonna get jumped. 

The course was pretty straight forward. The shortest related distance was jumps 7 to 8, and I walked it in six. So I figured everything else would ride off my eye. My biggest concerns were: 

  • the left turn from 3-4 to 5. Anyone who has watched any of our jumping videos will be familiar with our tendency to cross canter around left turns. And this was a sharp turn. But there was lots of space, so the plan was to WHOA straight after 4, even if it's slowing wayyyy down, then reorganize on the left lead well in advance of 5.
  • the 6-7-8 line was all kinds of wonky. I forgot about 8 while I was walking it, and planned to jump 6 (which was actually quite straight facing the end of the ring) on an angle so that it'd be a straight line to 7. But then I saw 8 and realized 7-8 was a much straighter (and shorter) line than 6-7, and I should jump 6 straight on instead of angled, then bend to 7 to make the line to 8. 

Anyways, the course was walked. I felt ok about remembering it bc it was essentially side diagonal side diagonal single single - just in a more 'jumpers' fashion instead of hunters. Plus, ya know, the numbers help lol. 

I screwed up my timing tho and was in line for a hotdog 15 minutes out from go time and my horse was not tacked. Nor was I helmetted or booted. Uh.. oops? Horse was promptly saddled (and stuffed with candy canes) and I threw my xc vest and water bottles and xc course map into the unsuspecting arms of Izzy's fan club, then hopped on and trotted off towards warm up - with said fan club left in our wake. (sorry guys gotta go!)

eat our dust

We arrived to warm up at 3:04 (3:15 ride time) and started lapping the warm up fences at a trot before popping over the crossrail. She landed cantering (right lead, obvi - right lead is best lead ALWAYS - except for dressage) and we cantered around to the X again. Then cantered the plain old 2'3" vertical. My eye wasn't great, but it wasn't awful either. And Isabel was moving forward. Check and check: it was time. 

We went into the ring and trotted a BIG circle before getting whistled to start. I probably took a little too much liberty with the circle, but wanted to make sure Isabel could eyeball as much as possible. 

Anyway, eyeballing or no, it was almost over before it started. Isabel looked HARD at jump 1. I rode it tho (to paraphrase Sally Cousins: if it doesn't look good coming in, ride it with everything you got bc it's not going to look any better the second time) and she jumped it. Jumped me out of the tack AND out of my stirrups. But I recovered in time to support her up and over 2. 

Jump 3 (a ravens jump, natch) was tight but still going, and 4 was nearly out of stride, tho still tight. Our turn to 5 went pretty much as expected, but we settled and 5 was maybe our nicest jump on course. 

Jumps 6-7-8 rode easier than anticipated, tho I chipped in pretty badly at 7. Got the six strides to 8 tho, which would have been nicer in five if we had done a better job at 7... but whatever. Chipped in again at 9, then another hard look at 10, but we were over and CLEAR. Phew!!

video exhibit a: why we are not hunters

It was a far cry from our great schooling the day prior. But I think Isabel's initial uncertainty scared me into my too-conservative habits. I held too much and didn't work hard enough to establish a steady rhythm with the horse in front of my leg. That said tho - Isabel *was* quite uncertain, and I'm pretty sure that if I tried running her at anything she would have stopped. So as it is, we were clear!

One interesting takeaway: The height was NOT a problem for either of us. Once I was out there, I was determined to get over everything on the first try, 2'3" be damned. And Isabel can clearly handle the height, given her clean round despite getting buried again and again. Game game game mare. 

So I left the ring telling Isabel how extremely wonderful she was, and put on my vest and game face. Because up next: cross country! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

September's 10 Questions

Recovering from the weekend - definitely more to come :) 

Meanwhile, I saw this over at Viva Carlos, and thought I'd play along. 

1. Is there something you don't like about your riding? I wish I wasn't so conservative all the time - that I could trust the horse more. I also dislike most of the things that I do with my hands/arms over fences. Perhaps this is more easily fixed than the trust thing? Or perhaps they are part and parcel of the same problem?

2. Does your horse buck? Isabel plays sometimes after a fence and through lead changes. Nothing serious tho.

3. Is your horse head shy? She's not head shy, but very particular about *who* can touch her face, and when. If someone goes in for the unapproved face pat, she just quietly moves her face away with a disdainful look. lol

excuse me i did *not* grant you permission.

4. Favorite barn chore to do? I honestly enjoy most barn chores - there's something so mindless and relaxing about picking stalls. I like feeding too. Pretty much any of it is fine, but if I have child labor the first things I foist off onto them are sweeping and the water chores lol.

5. How many times do you ride a week? Ideally 5 times. This used to be 4 days with Isabel and 1 day at the hunter barn. But lately it's been just Isabel. 

6. Who is your favorite pro rider? Hm, this is actually a tough question for me. Maybe William Fox Pitt? He's just so consistent and gets such great rides out of his horses.

7. If one pro rider could train you for one day who would it be? A realistic answer would be Sally Cousins, since she's fairly local to me and actually quite accessible. Maybe one day?

8. Favorite Facial Marking? I LOVE snips. So cute

9. Leg Markings or No Leg Markings? I definitely like big socks that are BRIGHT WHITE. 

10. Ever broken anything falling off? Not yet (knock on wood)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

last lesson before the HT

We had our last lesson at OF on Saturday before today's horse trial (!!!!). It was also the first time we jumped since the combined training last week, as I've been focusing exclusively on dressage. 

I got to the barn early to do the stalls etc while someone else fed. Isabel's SMZ course just ended Friday, and she had been getting breakfast in addition to her normal dinner to facilitate the medication. 

But she's officially off the drugs... meaning she's also off breakfast. Poor thing apparently didn't get the memo tho, and was confused about not getting brought in to eat.  

She kept pacing at the gate, and then looking at me like, 'um, emma - i ordered breakfast and they aren't giving it to me. doooo somethingggg!!!!' sorry girl! Her only consolation was a candy cane from me... followed by her muzzle. No wonder she thought about playing hard to catch when I went out to get her later lol.

ANYWAYS... back to the lesson. We arrived at OF a bit early, which gave me time to hand walk Izzy around the freshly set up dressage court. 

'nbd' -isabel

I also walked her around the indoor, since it was set up as ring 2 for dressage, and I wasn't sure where we'd be riding. Plus, it's not known if Isabel has ever been inside an indoor... so, worth a little looksie. 

'well hey there good lookin, come here often?'

She got to nose around all the corners and peek into all the mirrors (lol) plus generally sniff and snort a bit. Nothing crazy, but definitely taking a good look. Later found out we'll be outside anyway, but still. Good experience - esp since there will be so many more new things to look at today. 

Once on for our lesson, I was able to show off some of the fruits of our dressage labor. Starting with my new warm up routine, wherein we flex the base of the neck with a very exaggerated bend until everything is loosey goosey. Our trot work was quite nice (for us) and my trainer encouraged me to keep legging on to get her to lift more with her back and lower her nose. 

Even the canter was ok-ish, at least on the left lead. I definitely foresee our test falling apart after the free walk change of rein from left to right. We don't, uh, really have any 'give' to the right. Sigh. Maybe one day?

We warmed up over fences with a quick trip down the outside in 'four or five' according to P. Trotted in and the four was right there, easy peasy. 

Next round was a single diagonal bending to the out jump from the outside line, right turn back to another diagonal bending to the in jump of the outside line (but this time jumped coming home). It was essentially a figure eight, if that makes sense. We did an easy four and five strides, respectively. 

There were some delays in between courses as two of my compatriots experienced unplanned dismounts. Both were fine, however.  

To put together an actual course, we repeated the previous two bending lines, then came around to a diagonal in three or four strides. Izzy was really hunting the jumps and moving forward so well - I practically had a loop in the reins (for me, at least, since I'm usually GRIPPING) and the three was perfect.

The distances were just right there. Isabel and I felt totally in sync, and I was actually staying out of her way and *gasp* letting her make decisions. And she was nailing it. 

Trainer P said after that course (our first real course of the lesson, mind you) "If it were me I'd be finished with that." 

Don't have to tell me twice! Despite the long walk back to the trailer (which we usually do on horseback), I hopped off right then and there to loosen the girth and wrap the stirrups. I wanted it to be 100% clear to Isabel that we were DONE, and that it happened immediately following her lovely jump round. 

video of last course. this is pretty much our A game at the moment, and it feels GOOD
(ignore the random circle between lines 2 & 3 - I had a BUG right between my eyes. ew)

We stuck around for a while longer to watch the rest of the lesson. Isabel dutifully volunteered to weed the edges of the arena, and I graciously accepted her offer lol. 

So it was a good lesson. Very positive. I guess this means I feel as prepared as I'm gonna for the HT? It would have been great to get another actual dressage lesson... but c'est la vie. 

Today's Goal: finish with a number, not a letter.

Ride Times:
Dressage: 1:39
Stadium: 3:15
XC: 3:30

Saturday, September 27, 2014

slo mo video update

Not much to report on at the moment - just keeping my nose to the grindstone in preparation for tomorrow's HT. 

We'll travel to OF for our jumping lesson today - which will also be our only jump school since the last show. Should be a good time!

In the meantime, a boarder has this neat slo mo feature on his camera and used it to record our stadium round last weekend. He's standing in nearly the same place as the other person taking video so it's not very different from the video I already shared. But it's still kinda cool to watch the super slowed down jump approaches - def have a few new ideas on what I'm really doing eq-wise, and how to improve. 

So here it is, for anyone interested:

One thing that's glaringly clear to me here is Isabel's penchant for swapping her front lead in the last 1-3 strides before the fence. Any ideas why?

Friday, September 26, 2014

is spooking your horse an acceptable aid??

I went out to ride today thinking that the drizzle was light enough that it would be nbd. What I didn't realize was just HOW MUCH rain the farm got... the ring was soup. So no riding. Spa day instead, wherein Isabel got her bridle path cleaned up and her whiskers snipped and her belly stuffed with candy canes. Fun fun. 

We did get to ride yesterday, however, and it felt a bit like a breakthrough. No pictures tho - so enjoy today's fun spa time while I recount what all went down.

notice shiny pool of water in far corner of ring. boo

Yesterday was dressage practice. We're doing a w-t-c test at the HT this weekend and I feel... unprepared. I ran through the movements and then the whole test the day before. And it was messy. Ew. Like I'd be lucky to escape the test with a score in the 50s...

I think part of the problem is still in my warm up. Isabel needs to be asked gently and calmly to get connected on the reins. I can't just poke around for a lap and then shorten 'em up and expect her to just *bam* get on it. Especially if I want her to stay with me later through transitions and in the canter - our hardest gait right now.

is Chesney a friend or foe?

 So instead, I tried a new tactic that combines ideas I've gleaned from other bloggers with an approach touted by my bio-mechanics trainer (who I will FINALLY see again at the end of October - YAY!!!). 

The idea is to really really exaggerate the inside bend, to the point of near leg yield. It's very gentle tho - just keep the inside rein wiiiiide open to bring the horse's head all the way around, and allow (but still gently support) with the outside rein. And LOTS of leg - particularly the inside. So the whole horse's body is straight and moving forward on a line or circle, but the head is way over-bent to the inside.

hey dude - that's MY stuffs

Isabel braced a bit at first, but after a few laps of this exaggerated bend at a forward but easy walk, she started to release at the base of her neck and go low. Here's the tricky part for me: being there to almost "catch" her from falling on the forehand so that she can learn to trust the connection, but not actually popping her in the mouth. 

We did this for a few laps in each direction - and as she loosened up more and more with her neck and poll, I was able to slowly draw in the reins. So her frame shortened up to what I'd ideally like to see in the actual test, but she never hollowed out. 

oh but you can totally have the muzzle. take it, it's all yours

Then, when I had my reins where I wanted them and she felt steady in the connection, I tried to 'lift' into the trot. And boom - it was right there, no hollowing out or anything. We then proceeded to have the steadiest few minutes of trot I've ever experienced ever. There were a few blips here and there, sure, but was actually a connected and forward trot first and foremost. It felt GREAT! 

And if she started to brace or fight against me, I'd ask for the same exaggerated bend at the trot (tho the bend is lesser at faster speeds). 

look ma - no whiskers!

There were four lesson kids riding too - taking individual turns to practice their own dressage pattern. So we were doing lots of circles and changes of direction just to stay out of the way. It was a great way to keep her mind engaged and focused on me. 

Even our canter work was the best we've ever had, though it's still kinda heinous. I *must* sit down and back. I can't give Izzy the support she needs to use her own hind end if I am in a half seat. Just doesn't work.... (side note: I did feel like the new stirrups are helping here - score!!).

moar candy canes plz??

Then all the kids left and it was getting a little dark and Isabel started worrying. Trying to tell me there were horse eating monsters and maybe we should follow the kids. But she still didn't hollow out - just sped up a lot. At one point she was about ready to break into the canter from the trot, and it was the most AMAZING trot I've ever ridden. EVER. 

She was round and loose through her neck and shoulders, her back was swinging, and she was MOTORING with her hind end. I actually *felt* the loft and suspension with each step. Man. Now THAT is the trot I want in my test!!! If only I knew how to actually achieve that trot without a nervous about-to-spook horse lol. We had about 8 glorious steps of this before she settled back down. 

there's gotta be hay around here somewhere

In fact, she stayed with me and we did a bit more trotting and one more canter and it was just all so much better than any ride we've ever had. I was practically giddy. Not really sure what the difference was... maybe the warm up? Or maybe she was just in the right mood?? Who knows... hopefully I can find that same gear again at the show. 

So I finished with that (totally forgetting to practice turns up the center line and halts... oops) and made sure Isabel knew just how awesome she is. Even if we don't get the same quality in the test, it's inspiring just knowing Izzy has that kind of trot in her :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

fall haul from smartpak

SmartPak sent out an email blast last week about a special Fall Haul sale for existing customers, and quite a few folks in the blogosphere mentioned it. 

I suspect that I was not the only one susceptible to such marketing gimmicks lol. 

So I ordered some stuffs!! Yay!! It's a little early in the game for full reviews, but I want to share anyway.

Piper Full Seat Breeches

I *finally* pulled the trigger on the Piper breeches that were sitting in my wish list for months. I ordered the merlot / dark grey variety

I'm still figuring out how much I like them, and might have more to say later. But some first impressions:
  • They definitely don't look great with my brown suede half chaps - but I suspect they'll look sharp with black tall boots
  • The weight is nice for moving into fall, and I'll likely be able to layer in the winter
  • They REALLY show dust and dirt, tho it wipes away easily enough
  • Sizing is true, but so are the tales of woe re: gapping. This isn't a deal breaker, tho, bc nearly everything gaps on me and I usually wear belts anyway
  • So far I *think* I like my Tredstep Symphony knee patch breeches (same price point) slightly better
  • Pockets - esp butt pockets - aren't for everyone. But I am first and foremost a practical gal, so I love me some pockets. And these are deep and sturdy enough to hold things like my phone while I ride

Rockin' SP Fleece Cooler

I ordered this in size M for Isabel (74-76') since a few reviews mentioned having to return for a bigger size... and it looks big to me. What do you all think - should I size down to the small (72")? Or try it with a saddle underneath first?

It seems like nice quality, though, and everything is super reinforced so I think it'll last. My plan is to use it when we trailer around in cooler weather, especially since I have a stock trailer (tho I may know someone who can retrofit plexi-glass windows on it...).

Compositi Premium Stirrup Irons

Lastly, my new stirrups. This purchase was inspired by a review on She Moved to Texas. Specifically - she mentioned that the lightness helped her leg stay in the right place and that she felt less likely to lose her stirrup. In my never ending struggle to find my seat at the canter, I've been losing my stirrups a LOT, so I wondered if these would help. 

SmartPak doesn't carry the same exact version that Lauren reviewed, but has the same brand. This version also lets you choose what color you want the foot pad to be. I wanted black (was sold out), and thought briefly about purple... but ultimately settled on a more conservative gray. 

I like the look, and felt pretty comfortable in them. But my test was not ideal since I switched out the stirrup leathers to my old ones from my hunter days (thinking I'd keep the owner's stirrup irons and leathers together for easy swapping in case she'd prefer to stick with her own stuff) - and the leathers were WAY too short for how I like to go these days. To the point of needing extra holes punched. 

So another few test rides are needed for a full assessment. My initial feelings are pretty positive though - and I definitely like the lightness combined with the shock-absorbent and grippy treads. 

So that's my haul. Is there anything here that you'd definitely like to hear more about? And did you take advantage of the sale too??

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

xc schooling - finally!

We *finally* made it back to OF for our regularly scheduled lesson for the first time in a month. These are typically jump lessons in an arena, tho we were supposed to school xc last weekend before Isabel's poorly timed wound. The lesson before ours was out on xc, though, and I figured, what the hell, maybe if I beg hard enough we can go too? 

Well, I was right. Except, no begging required. Trainer says, 'well I wasn't planning on it, but sure, let's go.' YESSSS!!!!!!!!

And I am SO GLAD we did. I just needed that confidence boost, ya know? Isabel and I have only schooled xc twice before. And I've only gone one other time with a lesson pony (Jasper, who I felt confident enough with to do the big-to-me 2'6"-ish stuff).

this candy cane will be jump one next week. it's perfect really, since Izzy wants to eat it

First we warmed up in the dressage ring. It's a nice stone-dust pad with no fence - just little railroad ties and pine trees as the perimeter, and a pretty judge's gazebo at one end. It was Isabel's first time in there, and she only needed one lap before getting to work. Good pony. 

The warm up was good. Trainer instructed me to compress our canter more - what we started with was good for xc, but she wanted to see our little, organized canter - what we would want in a dressage test. Good practice. 

It's funny - she says very little about my position compared to my normal dressage trainer (who also hails from OF, so they know each other well). I normally want a lot of feedback on position, but for my dressage canter, I'm at that weird in-between stage where my position needs so much work that I'm essentially ineffective as a rider while I try to sort it out. So it was kinda nice to focus on the actual riding part of it, knowing my position was sub-par, but getting ok-ish results all the same. I think that'll be my strategy during the test. Sacrifice rider position points in exchange for better actual canter work. 

We are going BBN this coming weekend at our first ever horse trial, and were able to school the first half of the course. 


Isabel was great. She was FORWARD, but staying with me. And I could still park her in between turns and she would just munch on grass while we waited. (Side note: I know a lot of people are picky about when their horses are allowed to graze... I admit: I pretty much spoil Izzy. She's allowed to eat almost all the time. But in my opinion, it takes the edge off. And she doesn't stand otherwise. So I let her eat. As long as she's listening and not getting too worked up, it's all good with me). 

this log jump almost looks like a keyhole. *almost* lol

There were six of us schooling, including some kiddies, so it could take a little while between turns. It was cool tho. We got to do a few combinations, wherein I learned that I WON'T lose Isabel like a runaway freight train in between obstacles. But I also learned that it's very likely that she might play on landings occasionally (see sass above lol). 

There were a couple moments of hesitation, but with enough leg nothing was insurmountable. The height looked ok to me. Apparently the max height on course is 2'3", but I'm not sure we actually schooled anything that big. Izzy's an adjustable girl tho - I just need to leg on, regardless of my mental state. 

We did have one stop: our first approach to the roll top (easily the biggest thing we schooled that day, which goes to show how inviting the BBN course will be). You'll see in the video tho - it wouldn't have been a stop if I had actually truly committed to the jump. A little more leg was all she needed. 

We didn't end up schooling the water complex bc it's all dried up at the moment, and trainer wasn't even sure if they'd add water for the show. It might end up being just banks. We will see. We kinda ran out of time anyway. 

All the same, though, I feel much more prepared for our xc course next week. The jumps are in my comfort zone as far as size goes (tho stadium is 2'3"... but I just have to keep reminding myself that Izzy can trot that height. It's fine. really truly.), and I was really pleased with her rideability out there. 

This video (sorry about the vertical-ness...) should reaffirm what I'm saying about how really truly good she is out there. She's forward and ready to go, but will add in as many strides as I ask her to (wrongly or rightly). I think she's liking this job :) {also - bonus points for counting how often she jumps with massive mouthfuls of grass lol}

So going xc schooling this weekend was sorely needed for my own mental health re: entering the HT next week. And it was a GREAT experience. I now feel super prepared. Plus, it's not likely that I'll have video of our actual xc round... so y'all will just have to use this video and your imagination next week. Good times!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

show re-cap

Our second CT on Sunday went exactly how I hoped it would go - and I couldn't be happier about it. So here's the full feature length recap:

The day didn't start out super promising, as it was misting and foggy out, and the grass was SLICK. We delayed starting the stadium rounds until it was a little drier... but still had a few folks scratch. 

warming up for dressage in the mist

Unlike the barn's first CT, this one was actually publicized and we got quite a few entries from other farms. Plus they split the divisions by age, so I wasn't competing against little kids after all. 

My dressage warm-up went well enough. There weren't any stadium rounds running yet so the jump arena was open for schooling (over fences and on the flat). So I let Izzy look at all the flowers and hay bales and other fun stuff we'd be jumping later. 

We did a few laps around before drawing in the contact at the walk. I tried to keep it as easy-peasy and calm as possible, and she rewarded me with some nice stretching. We only walked and trotted, with lots of transitions to get her soft and steady. Then off to the test! 

So there's no actual video of our test. I had every intention of doing a separate post comparing the last test with this one... but the person taking video with my phone accidentally had it set in camera mode, so just got pictures of the beginning and end... and nothing in between. Whomp whomp. Another friend took a video on her phone and texted it to me, but it arrived all compressed and pixel-y. So you just get the judges notes and my word vomit. (sorry not sorry)

Anyways, the test was vastly improved from our last time - and the judge agreed (she remembered us). But she also told me that she judged us harder because the horse looked better? So the test was objectively better in almost every movement, but our score only improved by one point... Not sure how that works, but whatever. Still got excellent feedback. 

She saw some tension in Isabel that wasn't because of overuse of rider hands (yay!) - but still needs to be ironed out. Our circles were inconsistent, and Izzy popped her head up in the middle of our free walk to take a looksie around. Oops. Isabel had been stretching lowwww (judge said it would have been an 8.5 without the pop up), but she recommends that I actually try to keep her up a little more since I *know* that pop up is coming. That way, if I can keep her from going so deep, her inattention and little looksies will be less obvious. 

Our biggest improvement was in the collectives - on submission!! Yay! We jumped from a 3 to a 6, probably just from me not pulling and fighting so much with my hands and using my arms more correctly. So, in all, it was a good test and we beat our last score. Mission accomplished. 

On to the fences. 

the 1 - 2 line was actually slightly bending, and the 3-4 line wasn't offset

They ended up keeping many of the fences I had set up the week before, but we tweaked some of the distances, and turned one of the inside singles into a line. My background is in hunters so pretty much any course I set is hunter-y. Oh well. 

jump 1 - nice and inviting into the first line

Our warm up was, uh, a little wild. Isabel was on FIRE. She wanted to GO GO GO. My dressage was at 10:05 and stadium at 10:39, so I didn't get off in between - just went straight to warming up over fences. I probably *should* have gotten off to put on our martingale... but it ended up being ok. 

jump 4 - hay bales coming out of the diagonal line

There was a LOT of head flinging going on though, especially two or three strides out from the jumps. There were a lot of horses warming up all at once, and Isabel was being pretty, uh, expressive. And she was way over-jumping stuff again. Boo. But she didn't look at anything and didn't have any hesitation. (haha. no. no hesitating AT ALL)

jump 7 - oxer after a 90 degree turn

She was being super squirrely tho - like, ok ok where we going??? She wiggled so much down the first line that we got 7 where I expected 6. No big deal tho. We cleared everything and I felt like we could keep it together for the class. 

approaching jump 8, the coop

The hardest part of the course was the turn from jumps 6 to 7. It was a 90 degree turn to a single oxer going towards the crowd. If you were going to have a problem on this course, this was where it'd happen. Plus, the field slopes down to the left in that corner, leading people to unconsciously drift right - further complicating the turn. Lots of folks missed their turn, which made the oxer pretty much impossible. 

video of full course

We did fine tho for our actual round. She jumped well, was forward and straight (we did FIVE in the same line where we did seven before lol), and adjusted well enough that I was able to get her balanced around the corners (even tho we cross cantered around between jumps 2 and 3 lol). I started prepping for that turn to the oxer pretty much at jump 5, and it worked out well. 

After that, I stuffed the ponykins with candy canes and hosed her off and she galloped away down to the pasture. I think we'll definitely have enough fuel in the tank for next week :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

monday memo - an eventful weekend

Guys. GUYS! We had an awesome weekend. It was everything I'd hoped for, plus some. I am grinning like a fool. 

And I have a metric ton of pics and videos to share with you. 

But... I'm also exhausted. (and football is on. #priorities)

So I'm just going to leave these little teasers here. You can expect full posts starting tomorrow. 

But wait a second - that last one doesn't fit? It sure looks like an xc rolltop, doesn't it?? But there's no xc in Combined Training events... what gives, eh?? Patience - all will be made clear soon :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

CT goals

My second CT with Isabel is tomorrow! To prepare, I'm organizing my objectives for the day.

We are in the same division as in July: 2' Stadium and 2011 USDF Intro Test B.

The only difference is the name change from Elementary B to Introductory A. For some reason, I thought they changed the dressage test to a w-t-c version too, but nope: still just w-t. This is FINE by me since our canter resembles lumpy mashed potatoes. 

So, the goals:


We are doing the same test in front of the same judge. This is an opportunity to truly gauge our progress this summer. 

My goal: Improve overall score from 42.2

Particularly, I *hope* to improve our transitions, halts, and the circle to the right. Each of these areas remain difficult for us, but I believe we've made progress. 

For the collectives, the coefficient is on submission here... which is, uh.. not Isabel's strong suit (especially when we're against lesson ponies, who are as submissive as they come). Again, I'd like to see that score improve - even if just by .5. 

Most of the judge's notes revolve around overuse of hands - a constant struggle. In the last few weeks I've started to feel my arms hanging from my shoulders. And I've used that weight for contact, instead of bracing and doing weird things with my wrists. We shall see if the judge agrees that this is better. 

Things to keep the same: accuracy and geometry were decent last time. Transition from free walk to medium walk is usually solid with Isabel. And impulsion - not a problem for my gal.


My stadium round last time was clear. So, uh, yea I'd like to go clear again. 

But lo - there is still room for improvement!! I would love to avoid falling on our ass, please!

thanks, but no thanks.

I'll achieve this goal by creating a *balanced* canter with horse firmly in front of my leg. 

So yea, my goals are pretty simple: improve upon past performances. Fortunately for the lesson kiddos, I'm not very competitive. Otherwise...

kids gotta learn how to lose somehow

lol just kidding!! ....sorta ;)

Friday, September 19, 2014

SFTS Blog Hop: Why do you do what you do?

Jenn from Stories from the Saddle started a new blog hop! 

She wants to know: Why do you do what you do?

Excellent topic! Perhaps this wasn't the intent, but I'm going to take this as an opportunity for a little trip down memory lane. Throwback Thurs.., er, Friday?? 

I learned to ride at a barn that didn't outwardly align itself with a specific discipline. We were quite isolated, actually, and the trainer/owner was very traditional and strict. She was certain that her way was not only the best way, but the only way. 

We didn't show, per se, except for one big year-end event that was a closed-barn demonstration to show our parents where their money went.

she liked drill patterns performed to military tunes. go figure
(i'm on the tall blaze-faced mare Toby)

So I really didn't know much about the wider world of horses, though I got an excellent education on all things horse care related. I now recognize the barn as being mostly dressage-oriented, though we jumped occasionally, and the trainer's fundamental philosophy was traditional, balanced seat riding.

when you got to a certain age, you did dressage tests instead of drill patterns.
i could not for the life of me get Candy to canter in our test.

it was actually quite idyllic

I started riding at hunter barns when I joined the IHSA team in college because that was the de facto discipline. I really loved the barn where the team practiced, so when I graduated and moved, I found a barn that was similar (more on these barns here and here). This was more about seeking the familiar than actually knowing what was out there, or what my goals were. 

It's kinda interesting, in retrospect, because I've never really fit in super well with the hunter world. That's not to say that I felt excluded or out of place (I didn't and don't) - I just never felt that my talents (or lack there of? lol) where a great match. 

doing my hunter thang with Lad in Rochester, circa 2006

In any case, things got interesting when I found Isabel (or when she found me?). I had a *very* affordable six month lease on her, and figured she'd serve to get me into good enough shape to be successful at my new hunter barn after a few years off. 

But a funny thing happened - Isabel became an exciting mount in her own right and I extended the lease indefinitely. Then I discovered this excellent blogging community, and was really inspired by all the various ways you enjoy your horses and fit them into your lifestyles, regardless of resources and background. 

I realized that I had a special horse on my hands, and that I'd never get the same kind of animal at this cost ever again. 

oh hai. wanna have some fun?

By this time I was educated enough in various disciplines to recognize that I'd be squandering my game arabian mare's talents by squishing her into a hunter mold. So I started thinking about which disciplines she could excel in. Obviously anything trail related - trail challenges or endurance, for instance. 

But my heart has always been in jumping. And I've always had a fixation on cross country (despite my wussiness lol). Getting judged on just time and faults? And scrappiness is rewarded?? Yea, Isabel can do that. 

So we took the dive into eventing this spring. We started dressage and jumping lessons, and have been xc schooling together twice. And our first full three-phase horse trial is coming up in just over a week. That makes us official, right? :)