Sunday, May 12, 2013

Show day

Sunday brought a pretty relaxing morning as our first ride wasn't until almost 11, that allowed me to get out of bed at 730a (on a weekend!) and get ready.  The bath the previous night stuck around with the sheet and sleezy he was wearing so after a quick rebraiding he was ready to wrap and go.  I got the the show in plenty of time and met my cheering section there, they helped me get all tacked up, dressed up and mounted for dressage.  During warmup, however, I could tell that schooling cross country the day before was a bad idea.  The TWH was uncharacteristically heavy, forward and dull to my aids.  I had a hard time riding in the sand warm up area because of a couple of riders who wouldn't look at anything but their horses' ears, we were cut off and blindsided multiple times.  We left the level sand and tried to ride off in the grass to settle the TWH down with no success.  He was still very heavy and while I was able to bring his canter/trot transitions back, he was fighting me the entire way.

When one of the two troublesome riders left, I went back to the sand arena and worked more on my transitions.  While doing so I met a gal who was riding a Rocky Mountain who trotted and paced, how cool!  She was having lots of trouble with his canter, unfortunately I couldn't give her much advise as I said the TWH's canter was easy.  It was his trot that I had issues with.  I hadn't ever met another gaited rider at these events so it was super cool to see one, I hope I see her again.

It was finally our turn to go, the TWH was sooo heavy in the reins and was rushing so much and there wasn't anything I could do to fix it.  We had a decent start though the first circle at A was small because he wouldn't listen to my inside leg to move out.  Most likely had to do with my smaller arena, he was going at the size we practice at instead of the size I was dictating.  The canter transition was really nice and the canter/trot transition was immediate.  Success!  The freewalk was almost non existent as he decided to almost trot in the middle instead of walking with his head forward and down.  I guess I should have practiced that during warmup, I didn't so my bad.  The last canter/trot transition went really well too except it felt like I was riding the App instead of the TWH with how much he was pulling on me.  As a result we overshot the centerline for our final trot/halt/salute. Dang horse, too bad we couldn't have pulled it together.  We were sitting in 6th out of 8.

We went back to the trailer and got him all ready for cross country, I have to say it was cool finally being able to use all the awesome stuff I have for cross country.  Most of it I had bought last year and wasn't able to use due to being injured/recovering the entire year.  I had a new vest, new jumping boots, new saddle pad, new 5 point breastplate, new breeches, new spurs and straps, I sure looked like I knew what I was doing!  Cross country started off with him knocking down a crossrail pole on jump 2.  I looked back in amazement because he typically doesn't knock poles so I decided instead of trying to ride to time we were going to ride for clear.  As I approached each jump after that I stopped holding him and instead gave him a good solid nudge with my spurs.  The rest of the course went smoothly with not a single issue.  We came in at 4:37 but clear.

We went back to the trailer and untacked and let him have lunch.  He had no interest in the water I brought him but enjoyed the brushing and hay.  I chatted with my cheering crowd while I cleaned my tack and finally they announced the placings.  Turns out I didn't get 6th.  Or 5th.  Or even 4th, we ended up 3rd!!  Someone the pretty poor dressage score made up for 2 refusals and a fall.  Also because it was a cross rail they didn't count the rail at fence 2 against us so we ended up 3rd.  Go us!  AND we likely wouldn't have gotten 1st or 2nd as our dressage score was a good 10 points higher than 2nd place so it worked out all around.  I am so proud of my TWH and plan on giving him several days off as a reward.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cross country prep

After my return from Rolex I had a lot of work to do, I had almost no time to put finishing touches on things. I had a lesson on Wednesday and H was very pleased with how the TWH had come in his dressage.  Our things to work on were the freewalk, getting him to basically flatwalk with a low, forward headset, and our turn up the centerline at the end of our test not becoming a pivot/turn up the centerline.  Our canter to trot transitions have come along tremendously and he is picking up the trot almost immediately without a pacing step.  Our canter transitions up are amazing with good push and hop.

The lesson went well and H found one of the bigger reasons we were getting a pivot/turn up the centerline instead of a 10m circle was, no big surprise, my body was refusing to put weight in my right stirrup.  I was telling it to but my body was refusing to cooperate. Thus we worked on that for about half of the lesson.  At the end I asked her opinion of where the thought we could go in the training progression and she made a good point.  She wants us to be at Novice level by the end of this year or beginning of next year and she thinks he will make a fantastic Novice level horse.  However.  She doesn't think he will make a competitive Training level horse because he won't ever be able to make it in dressage.  His gaitedness will work against him and he can't help it.  It is a little frustrating but I completely understand and agree, he doesn't ever truly connect hind leg to rein through his back because while he looks like he is trotting, he is actually just moving his legs in the trotting motion I asked.  Like he learned dance steps and he is performing them.  Looks like I will probably be looking for a third horse by the end of the year, we will see I guess.

Saturday was, unfortunately, the only day I had to school the cross country course.  I was supposed to school it April 20th  and the course was closed due to very wet conditions.  It was rescheduled for April 27th however that was when I was down at Rolex and so the May 4th date was the only one I could possibly go to.  Not ideal but it was all I could do.  Cross country schooling started out with a nice, solid warmup and a nice, solid run out at the first cross country jump I pointed the TWH at.  Not the way I wanted to start the day!  I gave him several very aggressive pokes with my spurs to let him know it wasn't acceptable and pointed him at the jump again.  I kept my reins long and wide, funneling him to the jump as he couldn't turn his head left or right.  He tried to dodge to the left, then tried to dodge to the right and then just lept over it.  Yay!  I made him go over it a couple more times and he gave me no issues so off we went to school the course.

Jumps 1-3 were big crossrails and except for the first jump, I didn't even send him over the jumps a second time.  Jump 4 was a nice solid log and I sat back and pushed, pushed, pushed.  Not only did the TWH go over it, he didn't even think about refusing!  I jumped him over the novice log beside it just for good measure and he was spot on, he jumped it like it was 18".  We jumped number 5 which had some hay bales and then pointed ourselves to the novice jump beside it.  It was scary looking.  I knew he would refuse at it, it was a red jump with dying brush sticking out of the top of it.  It was also wide with brush at the bottom of the jump.  SO asked if I wanted pictures and I said sure, if nothing else to see what he does when he refuses.  I picked up a VERY forward canter and kept long reins to funnel him to the jump.  I gave him a huge jab right at the base of the jump and it turned out that I didn't need to.  TWH jumped it, no soared over it.  No questioning me about out, no spooking at it, just jumped it.  OMG I am SO PROUD!!

After playing with more jumps we went to the water, we had the option to just trot in/out of the water OR we could jump a log and land IN the water and trot out.  Can you guess what we did?  We jumped the log!  I say jump loosely, however, because he just took it as a big canter stride and never did tuck up and fully jump it. Haha!   We played with jumping in and out of the water and then played with jumping up/down a little back into the water.  I then brought him to the 2' bank section of the water and after a couple of nudges of encouragement he jumped up and down the bank.  Good cross country horse!  To finish I pointed him to the Training level water question, a big ol 3'6" bank up out of the water.  I cantered him through the water and after a step of confusion he figured it out what I was asking and jumped up the bank without issues.  Yay!!

After the water I ran the entire course to see how he felt and he felt great.  The optimum time was 4:58 and we came in right on time with no refusals or even sticky spots.  Go us, we are ready for our show!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rolex recap

I am such a bad blogger :(  Working to try to get caught up on my story now.

The last weekend  in April I went to Rolex and had a great time!  The weather was quite nice, the Rolex food was subpar but the area restaurants were great and I had good company.  What an awesome trip!  It started on Thursday when we left around 1130a.  It was a little over a 7 hour trip down there but the time went quickly as I had RB4 to chat with.  We made it to our hotel at 730p and for a hotel that we paid $53 a night for we were impressed.  We stayed at the Howard Johnson and it was NICE for what we paid.  The room was clean, modern and HUGE!  It had 2 queen sized beds in it and if you rearranged things you could have fit a third queen size bed in it.  The continental breakfast was also pretty good, there was a good selection of bread, bagels, french toast and waffles plus fruit, fruit salad cups and juices.  Would highly recommend the hotel!

Friday was dressage day and while I only got to watch a few riders, it was pretty cool to watch.  I watched William Fox Pitt ride Chilli Morning and Mary King ride at least.  It was interesting to watch them, the upper level horse movements are so much faster than what I school at.  A medium canter for them is a super forward canter compared to mine, I keep telling myself that I am on little horses (in comparison) but it was cool to watch the differences.  Friday I also went on a coursewalk.  Twice actually!  The first one was with Peter Atkins of Run Henny Run and it was an awesome coursewalk.  If anyone has the chance to do so, I would strongly recommend it.  It was very small, only about 50 people and was like a mini lesson.  He explained his strategy of approaching the fences and how he routes his entire run because since Henny is not the fastest horse, his goal as a rider is to take as few gallop strides as possible.  He is always running to the rope to make the course as short as possible.  How cool is that?  I got a lot out of his coursewalk and enjoyed going.  The second coursewalk was with Jimmy Wofford and it was huge, there were probably 300 people there!  It was a pretty good coursewalk but I must have been spoiled because I thought Peter Atkins was much better :)

Saturday was cross country and it was awesome.  We started out at the Normady Bank jump and it was quite impressive watching the horses go up and over the bank and jump.  We then went to jump 6/9 and watch people jump the double brushes with the false ditch and then come around and jump the combination log, ditch and brush.  We watched Peter Atkins jump through the first water complex at number 7 before making our way over to the ditch/wall before the sunken road.  It looks like such an "easy" jump as you approach it until you look at it from the side, then it is scary as you can get.  The jump isn't even max height but there is a 4 foot drop into water that makes up the jump spread so when looking at it from the side it looks like the horse is jumping closer to 8 feet.  Wowsers!  We watched the sunken road and then sat at the whiskey barrels after lunch as we had a good view of several jumps.  We then meandered over to the double corners and watched Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo go over them.  What a great day.

Sunday was stadium jumping and SHOPPING!  We didn't know we had to buy seats for it before we got to Rolex so thankfully we found out and were able to buy bleacher seats on Friday.  Last time I was there you could sit in the grass and watch, well not anymore!  We did some shopping before parking ourselves in a prime position and letting the crowd fill around us.  It was awesome watching everyone jump and was cool to see that even top riders don't have perfect equitation over most jumps.  I was really happy for Quimbo to go clear, love when a horse other than brown wins!  I was also very pleased with Pirate and Henny for placing in the top 10, good for them!!

After some residual shopping we headed back for our 7 hour drive back to Michigan, in which it rained about a third of the way.  We finally got back at 11p and crash I went as it was back to work on Monday and a show the following weekend.