Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Fixing problems one step at a time

After our first level debut, I knew we had to make changes. I wasn't happy and I don't think Mia was either. We can do so much better. With the lessons at the new barn going well, I brought up the concerns with the trainer, let's call her A, and her first suggestion was "Let's try Mia in the Pessoa lunging system". 

How we started

Okay, sure. What kind of issues are we focusing on, what are the goals? There are a lot of mixed opinions of the Pessoa system, which is why I was hesitant but with someone more educated in its use, I was willing to give it a try. 

How we started

The goals are to build her topline, get her to push from behind and step under herself, and to get her to develop neck muscling that will let her be more compact without pulling me forward. The last one is becoming a legit concern, she is pulling me forward because she is refusing to yield at the poll. Does she hurt or is she being stubborn? Let's find out!

How we are going

The first time was pretty uneventful. Mia is a solid citizen in lunging and has lunged in side reins extensively, especially when she was younger, so I wasn't super surprised. 

Needs to stretch down, but coming through and on the vertical

When we shortened the ropes enough to bring her on the vertical, she did throw a tantrum and I had to really push her to go forward. She was very insistent that she could not go forward like this and we had to do some adjusting of the ropes to get her through her tantrum, but she accepted this new torture. 

Is that a...canter? In balance? With haunches behind her? Miracle!

The first week I lunged her exclusively, starting with 15 minutes and working up to 30. The second week I started lunging her before every ride and keeping the actual rides short. The third week I would throw her on the lunge line for 5 to 10 minutes before getting on.  Y'all. I can't even.  

A snapshot from our lesson this week. LOOK AT US!

I am not calling this a miracle tool, I know it is not. But to try describing the difference in Mia without using "amazing", and "mind blowing" is impossible. For the first time, Mia is soft in the bridle and isn't pulling me forward when I shorten my reins. Mia's canter feels totally different now, it feels like a "normal" horse, where it has always felt almost lateral and short in the hind. I can put Mia in a frame and she is staying in the contact, she isn't constantly dropping in and out of contact. 

More of this please!

It's now been about 2 months and you know what happened this week? Mia gave me a place to sit in her canter because she is suddenly uphill. Like....#Mindblowing It feels SO different and so GOOD. Good enough that I plunked down entry fees for a Novice level derby next weekend. I am super excited to hear what a judge has to say about this "new" mare, I know I am leaving nothing but rave reviews!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

USDF First debut

Spoiler - our rides weren't great. Mia was stiff and it took a good while to warm her up, which wasn't good because it was 90 degrees with 80% humidity with zero shade. She didn't overheat, although I kinda did, but she definitely ended up cranky and picking fights in the second part of the day. 

Our day started late, with the first ride being at 130p. It was SO nice to get up at a normal time, have breakfast, and not be rushed before heading to the barn early. We were early enough that I even braided her, something I don't do often because she isn't good and we end up annoyed at one another. She shakes her head and neck, she moves forward, backward, up, down, shake, move, shake.... you get the drift. This was actually the best she has ever been for braiding, so that was a huge win.

By the time we hauled out of the barn, the humidity was already making things uncomfortable. I was happy that Mia still loaded like a champ and we were out of there in minutes of being ready to go. The show facility was a 30 minute drive, which was also super nice, and we got ready. With the sun beating down, with not a cloud in sight, I was sweating before even hopping on. 

I took a long time to warm up as Mia was very stiff and borderline short on her left hind, the one that had the abscess. She wasn't lame, but she was certainly short on that foot and was working out of it. We had some decent warmups before it was finally our turn. 

Mia had an amazing entrance and ended up with an 8, even though she wasn't square. She had been fighting me SO hard for contact and roundness in warmup, and I was tired and hot, so we went with what I THOUGHT was her pretty well on the bit and listening to aids. Until I saw the video....erm.... yeah. 

What I thought was short reins with her being connected looked like an intro rider frame. When I was pushing for her to come round and step under, I am tilting forward as she was pulling me forward so much. We had some moments of brilliance, but they were just that. Moments. I missed some geometry (the indoor that I have been practicing is smaller than a standard ring and I was riding in a large ring) and also had an error where I didn't ride completely to a letter before making my turn, so there went 2 points. 

I am much happier with First 1 than First 2, but by the time First 2 rolled around 45 mins later, we hadn't had an opportunity to cool down, she was quite annoyed with me, she was adamant that she couldn't bend at the poll, and we were just riding to get through it. 

I think the judge was a little hard on some points, but fair overall. She doesn't think Mia is ready for 1st level with this frame. And...well I do agree BUT this is not where we are really in our training. We have the skills and I am going to work even harder to get there because we do belong here. What kind of things are we working on to do that? Well....great question. I already have the answer. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

USDF First Level - here we are!

Mia and I worked hard to get ready for this show because I really needed a "win". Not a ribbon win, but a "we did the thing, we can still do the thing, we aren't old and broken" thing. I really wanted to challenge ourselves as well. I could have done Training level, and we probably would have gotten a pretty good score. But we were working at second level back in 2021 and we were working so hard now, I felt like why not. Let's try first level and see what happens.

Originally my plan was to show First level Test 3, however that test has counter canter as an element and that is not a movement Mia and I have been practicing of late. The opposite, in fact, we have been doing simple to flying changes and I didn't want to throw a counter canter back in with a week to prepare. I also figured we should take the slightly easier route and so I entered us in First 1 and 2 for our first level debut. Would it have been smarter to go Training 3 and First 1? Probably. Do I always make good decisions? Well....I mean, I did enter First 1 and 2. Case closed.

The week leading up to the show was nerve wracking because I kept waiting on Mia to come up lame. Apparently I have some serious PTSD and I can attest that it isn't pleasant. I do think Mia was still slightly off in her hind where the abscess had been, but it was so slight, it is also maybe in my head (which is what the farrier said today when they saw Mia). I do think I can see it in the video though, especially at the walk.

In preparation for the show, I took two lessons and I did get some good feedback which helped. One big  takeaway one is that Mia really likes to quicken her tempo in the trot lengthening and I really need to work on getting bigger, not faster. If anything in a lengthening, Mia needs to go slower because she has no problem going faster. The other takeaway is that I need to give just a touch of rein in the canter because at this stage of our development, Mia can't stay balanced in the contact with shorter reins. Which is fair.

Our show was last Sunday and while I am a little disappointed in the scores, I am very happy in our accomplishment of Doing The Thing. Mia and I had a much better Test 1 than Test 2, I think a big part was because it was so hot and humid. By by the time Test 2 came around, Mia was completely over the day and I was fighting heat exhaustion due nary shade or clouds in sight for the prior 2.5 hours. The judge loved our entrances down centerline but hated Mia's canter. I can't fault her for that, Mia's canter is not great. We were nailed on Mia not being round enough, Mia's cadence being too fast, and her canter being too lateral, but you know what? I am still happy. Coming up? The test breakdowns. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Let's get restarted - again

Started this post back in *cough* early June. Let's get this updated....

You haz Carot, I LOVE CAROT!

With summer starting to peek into life, things are moving in better directions. We moved to a new barn last week in June and I am cautiously quite optimistic that this will be "the" barn. Mia has been there almost a week a couple of months and every day I have been happy when I go and visit her. The people I have seen have been friendly, chatty, and I am optimistic that I will enjoy myself as the summer progresses. I have moved to an eventing barn again, so if nothing else, it is going to kick my butt to really get me to do all of the things.

A pasture. With GRASS! 

Mia has been no worse for wear excellent through it all, taking it in stride. She walked into the new pasture without a care in the world, no drama with the other horses, and tucked herself into some hay that had been thrown out. One of the best parts of the new place is that Mia can be on grass again. Both barns here in MI have kept her on, essentially, dry lots and she doesn't need to be in a dry lot. She does very well on grass and loves having space to roam. She has both at this new barn, so fingers crossed!

Haz you more treats?

I was finally able to start having lessons again, which is huge, and they have been are going fairly quite well. I am optimistic happy to report that I am seeing benefits from the lessons, and while group lessons in dressage is not my preference, they are working for us. The lessons aren't nearly as intense as the ones I was getting in PA back in 2020/2021, but they are productive and much better than the ones I had back in July/August of last year. Mia and I need lots of dressage work to get back to where we were, but slowly and surely I think we are getting there.

She is looking GOOD!

We had hoped to go to a jumper show last month, but no big surprise, Mia came up lame the day before with an abscess in her hind. Because of course she did. That took her down for 2 weeks. Then SO and I went on vacation for 10 days. Then Mia and I had to work ourselves back up, because now we had been out of work for almost a month. *sigh* But that's okay. Because I made the rash and maybe unwise decision to enter a dressage show. Just how would that go? Well....

Monday, May 15, 2023

K3DE recap and where we go next


LRK3DE was amazing. I had the best time, maybe my favorite visit down there out of the 5 or 6 times I have gone. Going on Thursday for the shopping is absolutely the way to do it.

  A lot of places were live streaming dressage so I had plenty of time to watch even without purchased seating. But the shopping? The best deals are there because nothing is yet sold out. 

The lack of crowds means you can talk to reps for minutes or an hour without feeling like you are taking up resources from others. It was truly the best.

As posted in March, I have finally come to conclusion that we can't make the Trilogy work for Mia. While she seemed okay with it back in 2019/2020, after her Lyme treatment, Mia has been very clear that she doesn't like the saddle. She isn't naughty, but has zero desire to move forward even when being free lunged. 

Within a lap of the arena, she will drop to a walk or a halt and just stand. I had hoped that building her muscling back up would fix it, but it did not even after two fittings. The saddler who looked at my County said he suspects the panels by her shoulders are too big and he could fix it with stitching, but I don't want to spend more money trying to make it work when nothing has worked so far.  

And when none of the Trilogy saddles from the Trilogy rep worked for Mia, it is time to move to something else. A saddle has to work for the rider AND horse, not just one of us.

Philip Dutton and Z

With a new to me dressage saddle being my mission, I sat in about 50 saddles in my search to find a dressage saddle. The plan was to find a make/model and then begin my hunt. If there was a dressage saddle, I sat my butt in it and talked to the rep. 

Boyd Martin and Contessa

Some were an immediate no, some were a no after sitting in them for more than a few minutes, 5 made the solid "possible" list. On Friday AM I sat in those 5 again and narrowed it down to two, a demo Stubben and a traded in Devoucoux. 

Will Faudree and Mama's Magic Way

Both were aggressively priced, and thus I came home with a new (to me) Stubben D Aramis II and Devoucoux Makila Harmonie S. I am nervous for the Devoucoux, I've never dealt with a saddle with foam, and have avoided them due to horror stories, but the saddle is super comfy and was a steal. I've also had the carbon fiber tree talked up by different people, so now I get to try it.

Liz Halliday Sharp and Cooley Be Cool

The actual event was pretty amazing. The weather was great with only a few bits of rain/hail. Not super cold, not super hot. We were adequately prepared for the weather and fully enjoyed ourselves. 

Buck Davidson and Sorocaima

I accidentally ended up at the start of two signings, plus had Silva Martin sit at my picnic table Sat am while I was hanging out. Our seats on Sunday were the best, highly recommend sitting in Section 108. Again, I think it was my favorite trip to KY.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum

Unfortunately Mia is still lame with her abscess. Part of it has popped, but the farrier confirmed there is still some left in her heel. I am hoping it won't take 6 weeks like it did in the fall, but I am starting to lose hope at this point, it is just a waiting game. 

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum

She needs to hurry it up though, I have big plans and would really like to make it to the horse trial at the end of the month. 

The bank out of the head of the lake is no joke

Not only that, I have finally found a trainer to work with and am moving barns (again). I need her sound and in good health so we can do All. The. Things. And also so I can play with all of my new toys, so keep your fingers crossed for Mia!

The duck in the water is significant

Monday, May 8, 2023

Steps forward, steps back

Last month I had a clinic with Dani Moguel. I totally planned to do a full write up, I do have lots of footage, but I got super busy. The footage isn't great because the Pivo was misbehaving, and blogging fell to the wayside. The cliff notes? She really liked Mia and she really liked my riding. We weren't as fit as I hoped, but we were close. Mia and I jumped about half as much as the other rider in my group because Mia was nailing it #Winning I am very glad I chose to do the Novice/Training division, it was challenging but completely within our capacity.

Dani clinic!

One of the best things that happened in the clinic is that I was able to pull our training from 2020/2021 out and tap into Mia's power. Developing her power is something I haven't done since her Lyme diagnosis and it was super cool to see that we could still do it. We struggled with keeping the power up mostly due to Mia's fitness and my lack of practice, but it was so fun to tap into after all of this time. I really enjoyed the clinic and am going to sign up for the next one in July.

More injuries

Our big take away from the clinic is to stop focusing on finding a distance and instead focus on creating a good rhythm. Mia will figure out the takeoff spot, getting and keeping the rhythm while also keeping the power up is what I need to keep working on. Mia and I got back from the clinic ready to work on it all when the barn cats knocked my (only) saddle off of the top of a 3 tier saddle rack and suddenly my saddle started squeaking. After bringing it to a saddler, we found the gullet plate was cracked. Thankfully the tree will be replaced under warranty by County, but there is a 9-12 week turn around and I was told I should not ride in the saddle. *sigh* 

Such a cute snoot

I immediately bought another saddle, almost identical to mine, but didn't even get to ride in it when Mia came up lame with an abscess. It took 2 weeks to pop, deciding to do so while I went down to LRK3DE. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Where has the year gone?

 I had big ideas for blogging in 2023, where the heck has the year gone? How is it already March? Hopefully with the plans that I have in place, I will have so much to tell you about that I will take time to talk about it. So...where first?

When I left off, I had finally recovered from the Covid lung issues that kept me from doing virtually any work. Thankfully that has not returned. January and February were really hit or miss in riding due to the weather, but I have made some excellent progress in dressage. I am quite comfortable with the Novice level tests and we have played with the Training level tests and while not perfect, I am not hating my rides. I have started riding in my jump saddle for dressage and while it works, I don't love it. It is a jump saddle for a reason and it really wants me forward. Perfectly place where I need to be over a jump. *sigh* 

What is all this?! 

I tried my dressage saddle on Mia back in January and even when free lunging, she refused to go forward. She doesn't like it. In February I had the saddle fitter back out to see what she thought. She is of the opinion that the saddle fits perfectly and looks like it was made for Mia, so she isn't sure why Mia doesn't like it. We then tried all models of saddles that she had in her car to see if Mia liked any of those, Mia did not. There were models Mia liked better, but she wasn't super happy with any of them. Whatever has happened after the Lyme ordeal, Mia is no longer a fan of the Trilogy saddles. Back to the drawing board I go, I really do love my dressage saddle too. If anyone is shopping for a MW 18" Trilogy Verago, I guess I now have one for sale.

We finally started jumping again in late February and right about that time I saw something that caught my eye. A clinic with 5* eventer Daniela Moguel. About an hour from my house. On a weekend I have open. With the incredibly annoying inability to find a trainer who can travel, I have been needing a serious kick in the pants to get working again. So I made the extremely impulsive decision to enter the clinic. It gave me exactly a month to get fit enough to jump 3' consistently, because I also went "all-in" and chose the N/T group. Nothing like setting a huge goal to get my butt in gear.

Mia's happy place

Things have been going mostly okay since I paid the clinic fee, even though I feel like I am waiting for the disaster to strike. I have ridden at least 3x per week, even with the very persistent snow/ice storms that have hit us 3 weeks in a row. I have successfully worked up to 3 sessions of 3 minutes of two point and am going to bump that up to 4 minutes at my next ride. Mia is comfortably jumping 2'6" and we are bumping that up this week as well. We have only 2 weeks before the clinic and I am determined to get us there!