Monday, August 31, 2015

brief thoughts: a preview of a successful weekend

Yesterday's outing at Olde Hope went really well. Really better than it had any right to go. More details to come later, but suffice it to say I'm quite pleased. We had our share of 'green' moments (to be expected) but Isabel proved herself to be a reliable and 'generous' horse (yes that's actually a quote from the dressage judge lol) and we had a blast.

'as if i could be anything other than awesome' - isabel
There were a couple little things that happened early in the day that I chose to take as good omens. First off, the recently discovered spider that had taken residence in my truck's mirror? Well, he was super busy and active all morning long while I was packing, and it was kinda freaking me out. He was ALLLLLLL OVER my drivers side window and yea... the idea of driving for an hour and a half with that thing right there was really unappealing.

But lo - poor spider got too bold and ventured down low enough where I could swipe a sweat scraper underneath him to fling him into some foliage where he'll surely eat just as well but yet be nice and far away from ME. Just the way I like it. (it is maybe worth mentioning that I have a serious aversion to killing predators so I'm happy that 'eviction' was an option here rather than 'execution' lol).

spider was quite active for quite some time. as evidenced by the changing color of the sky as we moved from pre-dawn to past sunrise
Another silly 'good omen' was driving past a couple hay trucks on the way out. I'm not sure how this superstition originated, and perhaps it's total and complete bunk.... but for whatever reason my family has always considered it good luck to encounter a hay truck on the road. Bonus points if little stray pieces of hay wash over your car in passing.

So I felt really oddly (and ridiculously) reassured when I passed two such trucks in a row.

check it out!!!
But whatever the reason, things just worked out really well for us. Well enough that we were able to put in a near-record dressage test and just barely cling on well enough to finish with a quite lovely blue ribbon. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

the move up is upon us

We are off to try our hand at Novice at Olde Hope today. Wish us luck!! Our ride times are early-ish, so hopefully by the time you're reading this we will have already survived the outing. Fingers crossed lol.

the face of a fierce competitor?
I'm feeling a bit nervous as of this writing, and a little sad that we'll be alone - but nothing terrible. We had a really solid dressage school yesterday which helps - if nothing else I would like to put in a nice test at the show today. Score < 35. Tho I am not likely to have ANY media of dressage so... wah.

As for any other goals, well... I would like to complete. With confidence. Penalties in either jump phase will be ok - I kinda want to approach the courses as schooling opportunities. So if we have an issue, it won't be a huge deal. Isabel doesn't know what penalty points are anyway, so we'll just deal with whatever might crop up and fix it and move on.

That said tho, obvi I'd rather not have any serious issues!

they post their maps online ahead of time. pretty cool, huh?
Olde Hope already posted the course maps and just looking at this on paper makes me feel ok. There aren't any words on there that freak me out (trakehner in particular is missing haha). The banks should be fine, and the jump out of water (#8) looks situated somewhat similar to how Fair Hill was set up - meaning I might possibly have quite a bit of leeway for reorganizing before presenting to the fence.

We've working on ditches a lot lately too, so that should hopefully pay dividends today on course. Really I'm thinking the only complications might be if something looks a little spooky or imposing in size, or if some of these jumps are closer together than the map makes them look. Nothing is flagged as a A-B combo, tho.

this guy apparently lives in my truck's side view mirror now. consider yourself warned if you ever have reason to go near my truck! #goodtoknow
So we shall see. I will very dutifully take as many pictures as humanly possible, and will obvi have my trusty helmet cam strapped securely to my face for the jumping phases. And if I get verrrrry lucky my parents might arrive in time to see me jump (fingers crossed!).

I think it'll be a good day tho. Will let you know soon regardless haha. In the meantime hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

thinking verrrrry hard: a lesson

Last week's lesson with Dan was more mentally strenuous than anything else. And frankly it's probably been a long time coming, as I know I've previously read a ton of posts on this topic and figured I'd eventually have to learn the lesson first hand too.... 

And what lesson might that be? Connecting to the outside rein, and LETTING GO of the inside rein. Even more specifically: installing a half halt on my apparently-still-quite-green 13yr old mare. (tho in her defense, Dan said there's maybe only 4 horses in the US that are truly not green haha) 

Ya know, nbd. Just one of the most basic tenets of correct flat work. 

"nope nothing to see here"
No media either... Sigh. These lessons used to draw so many spectators when my farm's other trainers rode too - all their students hung around to watch (and take video). But lately it's just me riding and apparently I don't draw the same interest haha... boo, I want video!!!!

But eh, video from this ride would have been pretty boring anyway. Let me set the scene:

  • Emma twists and turns in the saddle trying to make her seat and legs and outside rein do things when really she'd much rather just pull the inside rein.
  • Isabel can't possibly understand what fresh hell this is, and why her whole baseline for communication has been flipped
  • Meanwhile the trainer repeats endlessly: "Let GO of the inside rein"

So yea. Probably not the most visually impressive ride. But wow, it really made me think. The effort and concentration required to NOT pull on my inside rein made it abundantly clear how dependent I've become on that rein - it's my crutch, essentially.

But I think connecting Isabel reliably to my outside rein will be the catalyst we need to channel her natural talent into truly beautiful flat work. 

"wait - i'm sensing something.... something nefarious"
To back up a couple steps - I again want to reference Austen's brief ride on this horse bc it helped me better understand where we actually are. The horse IS green to the aids. She's NOT going to give me the correct answer immediately every time. And, furthermore, she might get evasive or frustrated when I ask for things she doesn't fully understand. 

These are simple (maybe even obvious) statements - but they're reassuring for me to write/read. I'm so quick to back off if Izzy doesn't get it right or gets mad bc my lack of dressage experience makes me distrust myself. Maybe I'm asking wrong. Or I'm messing her up. Or something. 

But no. Those little ugly moments are just the learning process, and I just need to stay patient and keep asking and striving to make things clear for the mare. She's honest, she tries, and she'll eventually get it. 

"you're pulling your inside rein again, aren't you?"
Ok. So. On to the actual exercises. Nothing really new or groundbreaking here, but I'm recounting it anyway for my own reference. 

We circled at the walk doing modified turns on the forehand at various points on the circle. Going as slow as needed to collect the walk and feel like I could influence each of Isabel's legs with my seat. Using just my inside seat and leg and steady outside rein to push Isabel's haunches out. Then continue forward straight ahead. 

If it wasn't working, we were probably going too fast (Izzy's favorite evasion is speed). I had to slow it down to the point that Isabel could understand (even if it meant coming down to halt) - but she had to be forward through the turn on the forehand, hind legs couldn't go backwards. 

And no inside rein. Let go of inside rein. 

Next we started moving forward into trot coming out of a successful turn. It was imperative that we stayed straight coming out of the turn tho - no fishtailing or allowing Isabel's hind end to swing immediately back to the inside. I'll have to keep an eye on this in schooling...

Then we continued the exercise entirely at trot. The trot had to be SLOW, and there had to be a distinct shift of her hind end OUT. Dan said I had to be very clear about when I wanted to push her hind end out, and when I wanted her to be straight. He also told me to sit the trot when doing the turn so that I could use my seat more effectively. 

And let go of the inside rein. Always. Ugh. 

pictured: pulling. #stopit
Kinda more of the same at canter. We didn't do those turns at canter, but he wanted me setting up the depart coming out of a turn at trot. This produced quite lovely departs too!!! (shocking exactly nobody, I know haha). (but no inside rein during transition!!!)

And while cantering he wanted me to ride off my seat - not just following the motion but actually driving her hind legs forward underneath her. This was a struggle for me since getting my seat to do ANYTHING while cantering has been... tricky. But I tried. And we got a few nice moments. 

Tho Isabel was quite fussy about the persistent contact on the outside rein and radio silence on the inside (let go of inside rein!!). It wasn't really pretty but there were glimmers where the pieces came together. 

Essentially, the whole point of this entire lesson is to install a half halt and connect Isabel to the outside rein such that I can push her into it from my inside leg to get her round (not currently a thing we do!). Meanwhile I also must be careful not to twist my body in the saddle. 

While flatting, this exercise was easier going to the right vs. tracking left, presumably bc we don't really have a left bend at present (didn't tracking left used to be our easier direction?!?). And I expected the wheels to fall off the bus when we started jumping too haha. We started by warming up circling over the blue fence (started as an X) for a while. Trotted once then proceeded to canter it, tracking left. Leaving my inside rein alone was HARD. 

most boring course diagram ever?? mebbe haha
Then we turned around to approach the blue tracking right, and bend up to the gray (my lattice fence!). Dan wanted me to keep my seat closer to the saddle and use the rail to help get the turn, rather than my inside rein (let GO!!). I needed both legs ON too, including thigh and knee. Inside leg to push Isabel into the outside hand, and outside leg to help steer. 

He also wanted to see some of the same head flinging fussing Isabel demonstrated on the flat - he referred to it as a litmus test on whether I was secretly holding my inside rein or not. #busted.  

When we turned it around to start over the lattice and bend left to the blue I expected it to really go badly, seeing as tracking left was harder on the flat (and tracking right over fences had already led to nearly running into the standards a couple times). But surprisingly this direction was easier for jumping. Huh. 

It was crazy - I was concentrating SO HARD on not pulling that inside rein that I could not even count strides (and I ALWAYS count strides). We apparently got 8 our first time coming off the left lead, and then followed up immediately with 6. 

So the distances often weren't perfect, tho oddly even the iffier spots actually rode fine bc surprise surprise, when riding from inside leg to outside hand the quality of our canter was vastly improved despite Isabel's protests. And our last time through I managed to actually think clearly enough (while letting go of my inside rein) to count and fit in the desired 7 to quit on. 

pictured: more pulling on that inside rein!
Phew. Who woulda thunk I could write so much about letting go of my inside rein?!? Sheesh...

Ultimately this was a flat work exercise (even over fences) for improving the quality of the connection and balance, which then ultimately improves the quality of our canter. Which itself appears to be the holy grail of riding at this point in my education haha. So yea, we'll be working on it. 

Have you had to totally retrain yourself about a bad habit like this? 

Friday, August 28, 2015

everyone's favorite: scratches!!!

I've already briefly mentioned the wound on Isabel's RH from interfering in a lesson a couple weeks ago. The wound was busy minding its own business not bothering anybody for just over a week, until Izzy came in from the field for her chiro appt with a fat leg the day after our last xc schooling.

but izzy you're too pretty for fat legs!!
This naturally freaked me out bc why was the leg suddenly angry? Esp right after schooling? The mare was sound, the leg had localized warmth but wasn't really hot. Plus, the wound actually looked pretty great. And yet I could not for the life of me totally get rid of the fill.

We iced. Buted. Worked (with light intensity bc chiro...). Left in over night in standing wraps (much to princess's dismay). Slathered with all variations of tinctures and tonics (up to and including ivermectin at the recommendation of my chiro in the off chance that she might have pests in the wound preventing it from healing).

And there was much panicky texting (thanks Alli and Austen for tolerating the barrage!!).

We finally just sorta concluded that the mare was a delicate hothouse flower who would probably take a couple days for the swelling to go down while the wound finished healing.

left: angry raging scratches (and itty bitty wound). right: covered in magical healing desitin mixture
So imagine my surprise when, after her requisite two days off following the horse trial, I discovered that the entire area of her leg beneath the Alushield spray was lumpy bumpy scabby. Poor mare.

The wound was just a distraction - disguising the ugly truth. Mare was brewing up a raging case of scratches all along. Ugh.

makes her socks look bright white!! (whereas the mtg on the unaffected sock makes it look disgusting haha)
She had scratches pretty badly when I met her three years ago (right around this same time of year!), so it shouldn't really have come as such a surprise. I've actually been pretty diligent about proactively slathering her legs in MTG to keep the funk at bay... but I guess I've been slacking the past few weeks.

So now that we finally know the source of the mystery swelling, hopefully we'll get it under control in short order. Scratches is pretty common at our barn so the BM keeps a homemade desitin-based remedy on hand at all times. Izzy will get treated with that once a day on her affected leg, and meanwhile I'm hitting the so-far-scratches-free leg with MTG like it's going out of style.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

overly ambitious? delusional? mebbe. doin it anyway.

We have another horse trial this weekend - which will bookend our recent flurry of horse show activity. There's another bunch of events on the weekend of Sept. 12... but idk. None of my friends will be competing and I think we'll enjoy just taking that weekend off instead.

But before then, one more trial! (plus probably a few more this fall... but that'll come later haha)

long lining the mare after her chiro appt (with the angry wound from interfering still wrapped up)
We're signed up for Olde Hope Farms' "There Goes Summer" trial over on the Eastern Shore. It's a little bit of a hike, and I'm also going totally solo, which kinda bums me out.

The ride times aren't fabulous either for being alone, with just one hour between dressage and jumping. I'll have to be super economical with my time to get the horse happy and the course walked. Not impossible, I just have to stay on top of it.

she got doctored and petted quite a bit, complete with getting her face stuffed with hay. she approves.
Olde Hope is known for being a fun and inviting event, with divisions from 12" through novice. Their website advertises courses with 'banks, drops, ditches and water all with easier options,' and goes a step further to say it's 'a good opportunity to try and move up to the next division.'

wrapped up and parked at the hay in an effort to eradicate the last bits of swelling! 
So perhaps you see where this is going.

mare looking satisfied after our shortest dressage school EVAR
I'm not totally convinced that Isabel and I are actually ready for novice yet (considering we declined the trakehner at our last schooling, chevrons spook me if not the mare too, and jumps in close proximity to the water continue to be sketchy). But. I want to give it a shot.

seriously, we were out there for about 13 minutes. she was sure i must be kidding
We seem to be as prepared as ever for the height increase, jumping 3' in the jumper show and schooling novice cross country. And again Olde Hope is known for being a bit soft.

Plus Isabel seems to really understand the concept of a horse trial. She's consistent through all three phases - as demonstrated quite clearly by my posts over the last two days, and also our Fair Hill posts (and Fair Hill was arguably a much more challenging test). I also have all three trainers on board with the idea, kinda an important detail IMO.

but obvi didn't need any extra encouragement to move on to phase 2: eeeeeting
I took the opportunity of a quick golf cart ride with DOC at the clinic a few weeks back to ask him about his thoughts on moving up too. His answer was simple: the current level should feel easy.

Which begs the question, is beginner novice easy for me and Isabel? The answer might change depending on how you define 'easy.' For instance, I think there are still opportunities to challenge ourselves at BN (and we still struggle with jumps out of water). So I'm not quite willing to give the blanket statement that the entire level across all competitions is 'easy.'

my braiding skillz..... ugh haha
Rather, I'd prefer to say that the level is solidly within our skill set - that we have the tools to handle it competently and without error when I ride the way I've been taught.

Furthermore, I'm increasingly feeling that many of the skills required at novice are also becoming standard parts of our tool box. The level will undoubtedly be more challenging, and we certainly have a smaller margin of error.

But I think the timing (coming off a very confidence-inspiring and yes, EASY, run at OF last weekend) couldn't be better and the stakes are very low. We will give it our best and assess what the future might hold at a later date.

It's exciting!!! (but still with just that touch of uncertainty that I can't seem to escape lol)

How have you assessed whether to move up to a new level with your riding? What do you need to see before deciding to go for it?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

OF Starter Trials - cross country!

Cross country time!! We left off yesterday walking away from a pretty decent stadium round eager to get on to the next phase. At that point I didn't plan on any more warm up fences - we were just gonna get straight out there and make it happen. But upon reaching the start gate, there were actually something like 5-6 horses waiting to go ahead of us.

looking ready as ever
That's never happened to me at an event before. Usually we can get right on course, or at worst there's one or two riders ahead of us. So there was a bit of wait time. It was fine tho, we chatted and hung out in the shade and Isabel grazed a little. Then once we were on deck I hopped over one warm up fence and am kinda glad I did bc while she jumped well, Izzy was a little unresponsive to the rest of my aids. Nbd tho, I fixed it and she was ready to go when they counted us down.

brown ramp
Upon leaving the start gate we headed straight over the brown ramp we schooled a couple weeks ago (actually this entire course will look very familiar to anyone who read this post). Seeing as Isabel quite handily managed the novice ramp during schooling, I expected this to be a cake walk. And it was. Good mare.

log pile
Same story for jump 2. Isabel came out large and in charge and made quick work of these logs.

The bench at fence 3 had been causing some issues for other riders, and I could understand why. It looks pretty innocuous sitting there in the fence line - but just as you get to the base you realize it's actually set kinda awkwardly down hill, with a bit of a drop on the landing side. Nothing crazy - it's only maybe challenging bc you don't read that 'down hill' nature until the very last moment. Izzy had looked a little when schooling, but jumped it no problem this time.

first stream crossing
I opted to trot the first little stream crossing. Mostly this was to help get Izzy's eyes on it and give her time to understand. But also the ground was pretty hard and rocky. Plus, going through water then getting back up to jumping pace has proved challenging to us in the past, so this was good practice.

pheasant feeder
And that practice is definitely merited! Sure there was plenty of space between the small stream and fence 4 - but I still didn't have our canter where it needed to be and we stuck in an ugly extra stride by drifting left way far off our line.

This reminded me of what Dan said about how if we're already on our maximum stride length, there's nothing left to move forward with. I think that's what happened here - there would have been a nicer long spot, but we literally could not stretch out Isabel's stride any further than it was. Instead, I should have had her more collected and organized so that we would have had greater adjustability. Oh, and I shouldn't drift lol.

i think they called this fence a 'saw table'?
So we had to readjust our track to get back over towards fence 5 - set in a kinda shady area of slanting ground. Isabel jumped this much better and cantered off easily up the hill toward 6.

brush jump
Fence 6 was another example of the BN jump looking pretty soft, especially in comparison to the novice version we jumped while schooling (which is itself also pretty soft for novice). Izzy got a great read on it tho and jumped from a very forward stride. Perhaps a little too forward bc we kinda mis-shot our turn to loop through the field.

log with rock. note the fairly large ditch/hole to the left
I did not love fence 7 - with it's fairly deceptive approach complicated by a trench and rock on the left side. When schooling I chose the coop next to this log since it had a much friendlier approach, and actually another competitor had said while waiting to go that she asked the organizers if she could jump the novice coop instead of the log. Kinda wish I had thought of the same thing...

Eh it was ok tho. We didn't fall in the ditch and die, and Izzy jumped it just fine. But the angled approach threw us way off the line toward fence 8 and I had to make a very speedy adjustment since I kinda forgot there was a mini-bank complex directly in front of us, and our canter was definitely NOT appropriate for down banks haha.

Then we skipped over the small coop to head into the woods.

more logs!
Same story for fence 9 - it came up easily in line after 8. Then Izzy happily chugged right on along this little wooded path. Dan says that horses back off in the woods but that certainly wasn't the case here. Isabel was GOING!

lattice coop
She really moved up to this coop too. When jumping this during schooling I had really expected her to back off and spook a little, but she didn't at all - she ate it up. Same story for the other riders out schooling with us. And same story for when we were actually on course for the event. So idk. Maybe the fence is charmed or something - horses just love it.

another water crossing
Riders coming off course before we went out said that the water crossings, particularly this one, were getting quite deep. Probably from all the four wheelers going through... So in any case I opted to walk into this one and trot out.

Then it was a quick canter up hill to the green roll top situated in the fence line that we jumped while schooling (my phone crapped out on me and I lost the photo... sorry!). That same fence was also on the BBN course last year so... yea no problem.

roller coaster at 12-13
We had a nice little canter across the field past the water complex toward the roller coaster. Isabel was VERY forward through this combo and we did it in four strides. I suspect that if we were schooling with Dan he would have preferred a more organized five.... but ehhhh. It was fun!

Trainer P happened to be out jump judging in this area and snapped a quick video of us going through. Sadly the video was super mangled into the pixelated monstrosity you see above.... but I'm including it anyway bc Izzy just looks so damn fun! I look ever so slightly defensive about the forward pace and a little behind the motion... but eh that's fine too.

triple bar logs
We looped around to come back toward the water over fence 14 and kinda biffed the jump a bit. I think it was the same issue as the pheasant feeder earlier. I should have been more organized. But also I should have trusted my spurs (new addition to the xc arsenal) to coax Isabel over from a slightly longer spot. Ah well. Next time!

log jump down hill
Fence 15 was no problem and then we kinda eased our way down the hill towards the water.

water complex
The flags were set nice and wide - giving us the option to drop down the tiny bank or just go straight in. I opted to go straight in at a trot, and Isabel acquiesced with the least hesitation she's ever shown at a flagged water obstacle. Sure she's been through this water complex a million times (including just a couple weeks ago), but I'm still counting it as a win.

She felt similarly game at our last event at Fair Hill. And while we did come to a full walk to get into that water, I had the distinct impression that she would have trotted in too. Perhaps we're really truly making progress with the water issues!

tiny roll top for 17
Fence 17 came up somewhat quickly after the water and we kinda just plopped over it from a distinctly mediocre distance haha. Eh. I was actually a little surprised to see this fence on the BN course anyway (it's about 2') so neither of us gave it much respect... Whatever. We cantered right on through the finish line and were done!!! Yay mare!!

'um why is you touching me?!?' - isabel
(also how majestikal is that tail?!?)
So it was a great run. A couple messy fences, but predominantly it was an easy forward course that did very little to distract Isabel from galloping along like a pro. The whole day really just felt supremely easy. Part of this is a function of familiarity (ie on our 'home-away-from-home' turf), and partly bc the jump courses themselves were on the soft side.

And obviously I love the helmet cam footage. Seriously this camera is the best thing I ever got myself lol. Hopefully you enjoy it as much as I do!

tired horses and happy riders!!
I'm really happy with the outing tho, and can't see anything to dislike in Isabel running across a whole course with such confidence and ease. So we again finished on our dressage score - second time this year and third time ever! The clear jumping was enough to move us up to 2nd too - yay satin!!

This was made doubly sweet when B also finished on her dressage score for second place. Good day all round!!

unusual prize, right? 
The prize for second place was this omega 3 supplement. It's apparently peppermint flavored fish oil. Seems kinda like horse candy that might make Izzy shiny... but we'll give it a whirl. She usually loves all things peppermint, and the liquid nature of this stuff might help her better manage all the powder in her feed from her gastric supps. We'll see haha. 

But anyway, that's a wrap on the event. A very good time had by all, and hopefully a solid run in preparation for next week's trial at Olde Hope. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

OF Starter Trials - dressage + stadium!

This weekend's event went super well - pretty much exactly as I had hoped. Isabel had a fairly light work week leading up to it, with the exception of the epic cross country lesson (detailed yesterday).

The last few days before the show included a chiro/acupuncture session, stretching on the long lines, and then one quick dressage school in which, after riding for about 13 minutes, I declared us ready to go. Mare was soft, loose and relaxed. Check and check.

i may or may not be propping her ear forward in this pic lol
Our dressage ride time of 11:30 gave us plenty of time to finish prepping that morning, as OF is only a 20min drive from Isabel's farm. Even so, we were still early and enjoyed the luxury of feeling unrushed while tacking and warming up. The warm up itself was pretty good too. Slightly less relaxed than our quick school the day prior, but still nice.

Given how our schooling has been going, I opted to carry a whip but not wear spurs - pretty much the opposite of my typical getup. It worked out well enough - Izzy was sharp to my leg cues and I had the whip on hand to help keep her hind end where I wanted it. I focused on not arguing with where Isabel held her nose, and instead worked on shoulders in, leg yields, and achieving more inside bend.

mare loves to trot
Once we were actually in the ring, things kinda went by in a blur. We rode test BN-A, not really my favorite. If I'm not careful I can get really rushy in this test, especially after the change of rein. Isabel felt pretty good - but maybe a touch braced against me.

if you squint a little it *almost* looks like i'm sitting down in the saddle lol
All the same tho, she stayed with me and we mostly got through the movements without issue. Our circles all typically had at least one area where we lost balance - which I think happens when we're 'posing' instead of actually connected to and pushing from the hind end. Tho for every iffy moment, we seemed to have an equally nice moment. I'll take it!

The most pleasing aspects of this test are the few areas I've zeroed in on this summer. Getting better inside bend in the circles became a priority after Jenny Camp - and I've worked on it with both C and Dan. As far as our trot work is concerned, I think we're on the right path. I haven't addressed halting straight in lessons, but I've been practicing on my own. Isabel almost always swings her haunches left through the halt and we managed to avoid that this time around. Yay!

not square, but also not crooked. baby steps!
Our canter transitions are MUCH improved. Still not fully 'there' yet, and I think the judge was a touch generous in the scoring (esp for the left lead depart), but getting a 7.5 on that movement with the comment 'calm & obedient' is a huge deal to me. There's still a lot of room for improvement in the transition, sure, but the transition isn't as disruptive to the whole picture any more - it doesn't stick out so much as an issue.

We usually score better on the canter circles than the canter departs, so this test tells me that my focus on the departs has paid off and now I need to start working on the canter itself too. Isabel has a lovely canter that should score as well as her trot work if I can get us more balanced.

very pleased with this score
I left the ring feeling like we were a bit rushy and braced, but that the ride was generally an accurate representation of where we are in training. So the score actually surprised me a little bit - I was maybe expecting something more in the 33-36% range. I'll take it tho!! This put us in 4th place, with a difference of less than 4 penalty points (ie, a rail in stadium) between us and 1st place. Not too shabby!

per usual i added the scores and comments directly to the video

B rode her test shortly after mine (which was also awesome - her goal was to score <38 and she did exactly that with a 37.6, leaving her tied for 2nd after dressage), and then we had a nice long while to just chill out with the horses. Walking the courses the day prior definitely simplified show day logistics. Never had to put the horses back on the trailer (they seem happier off anyway) or worry about overlapping ride times or anything. 

mare was quite literally dozing for the entire day - except when it counted haha
Soon enough it was time to switch over to jump tack and apparel. Things were running ahead of schedule and we were actually able to get into the ring for our show jumping course quite a bit earlier than expected. I took just enough time to watch a couple rounds to see how the lines were riding and warm up over a couple fences.

Trotted the X once, cantered the vertical, then cantered the oxer - knocking a rail in the process. Fine by me - I certainly don't mind the horse getting that quick reminder right before going in for our course!

sugar cubes help wake her up
(and wow looking at this picture makes our trailer setup look quite chaotic. i assure you - there is very definitely a method to this madness!!)
The course was pretty interesting - 9 jumps but it rode like a very very short course given all the related distances. Jump 1 started us right out with a somewhat extreme bending line to jump 2 - maybe even more like a 'broken' line than 'bending.' Then a long sweeping roll back to fence 3 (that we got a bit deep to), and another long turn around the end of the arena to the triple combination of jumps 4-5-6.

I walked this in a somewhat long-ish 3 strides to 3 strides and it seemed to be riding well for other competitors. We jumped into the line fairly conservatively tho so I opted to balance for the 4 strides, then move forward for the 3 in the second half.

note that jumps 4-5-6 constitute a triple combination, and 8-9 is also a shortish line to finish on
(also, i took these pictures the day prior when the jumps were set for elem, not BN)
Then another long sweeping turn to 7, that we also got a bit deep to (apparently I don't like long approaches), then a quick sprint down the final line in an easy forward 4. Fun course! And we left all the rails up!! Yay!!

Despite Isabel looking a bit tired and lethargic at the trailer, she really woke up to put in some nice jumping efforts through the course - even when I buried her at a couple fences. A lesson mate from OF observed that Isabel was looking quite 'scopey' haha, and you can kinda get a sense of that in the helmet cam footage considering the air time she got over some of these fences.

We maybe got a bit fast and flat to some of the jumps, but really that's a pretty typical mistake for me... #workingonit... But generally I felt great about how the ride went tho, and was eager to get out onto the cross country course!!