Monday, June 17, 2013

Judged trail ride? Yes please!

The time since our horse trial left little riding time as I am still working hard at clearing the new fenceline.  At this rate we should be sinking fence posts by the first week of July!   If only more hours in the day would appear I could do what I need to do in a day.

I bopped around on the TWH and the App bareback as a way to work on my bad leg, to reestablish my balance and as a cheating way to make myself have a quick ride.  If I work hard at a w/t/c bareback, I will usually only ride for 30 mins instead of an hour so it is a cheating way to justify a short ride.  Overall I did really well although I came dang close to actually falling off of the TWH in the first canter/trot transition.  Dang close.  We were circling to the right and the right leg decided to snooze.  If I hadn't have had a bunch of mane to grab I would have actually fallen off.  Stupid leg!!  Later I rode the App, something I haven't done in over a month.  What a difference, I had forgotten/didn't realize how short strided the App is.  His canter felt like he was cantering in place compared to the TWH's!  It was so funny to feel the difference.

On Sunday I hauled RB4 and the TWH 30 mins away to a judged trail ride.  It poured the night before and was sprinkling when we showed up at 830, when it was supposed to start, and no one there.  We decided to just go on a trail ride at the park instead and as we were saddling up some people arrived, apparently registration was at 830 and the event started at 9a.  The gal said she didn't think anyone was coming and would cancel if if they didn't have at least 5 people.  I told her that we were going for a ride and would come back, if they decided to hold it then I would participate.  RB4 and I went trail riding for about 2.5 hours and had fun walking through tons of muck and water, getting lost and enjoying the quiet as we were the only riders in the 400+ acre park.

When we finally got back to the parking area the organizer said they were holding the judged trail ride but the ride is mostly in the parking lot due to the condition of the trails and there were only 6 riders if I wanted to join.  So I paid my entry fee and off we went.  The first obstacle I didn't know how the TWH would handle, there were pinwheels and a couple of mylar balloons to walk by.  Not only did the TWH not care, he walked right up and put his nose on a balloon to sniff it.  Go TWH!!!  Absolutely not the reaction I expected!  The second obstacle was just walking over a tarp which I knew the TWH had no issues with.  The third was dragging a tire apx 50 feet that was tied on a rope, I made sure to hold the end of the rope so the tire was a good 15 feet behind us but there wasn't a reason to worry.  The TWH looked at the tire pretty hard and walked sideways a couple of steps and then just continued forward.  I then had to walk to a tree, take a vest off of a hanger, put it on, take it off and hang it back up.  The judge laughed when the TWH took the opportunity to eat grass while I put the vest on, he is much more concerned about calories than vests lol.

The fourth obstacle was a bridge over a ditch which I was able to stop him in front of for a few seconds while I waited for the judge to be ready.  If we hadn't had those few seconds I am not sure if the TWH would have just walked over it as he was quite clear that he wanted to stop as we approached it.  Thankfully those few seconds were all he needed and he went over the bridge without a second glance.  We then had to pick up a branch that was leaning on a fence and drag it 100 feet.  The TWH repeated his boogey-eyed, side step for a few steps before just walking forward.  He was quite tense and nervous about it and since unfortunately I only had one hand on the reins so I couldn't give him a rein cue to relax but I talked to him and he did fine.  We then had to go over a huge log which I was allowed to jump (yay!!!), it was at least 2 foot high.  The seventh "obstacle" was to dismount/mount from the ground which I did although it was hard since I so rarely mount front the ground anymore.  Mounting blocks are my friend!  Thankfully the points were more for the horse standing still, which he does perfectly, than my grace in mounting.  The last obstacle was to unsaddle/saddle your horse without tying them up.  Easy peasy.

We got a perfect score, 10 points on all obstacles, and went back to the trailer to untack and get ready to leave  Right before we left I walked back to see if they had determined placings and it turns out we had won!  The next closest person had gotten a total of 7 points off.  It reiterates how proud I am of my TWH and how nicely trained he is.  He may have irregular trot steps but he sure can clean up in competition!

Monday, June 10, 2013

We may have irregular trot steps however... Part 3

After cross country we had a decent break, almost 2 hours.  By the time we made it back to the trailer the TWH was looking much more chipper so I untacked him and let him graze while waiting on my friend.  As he grazed he returned to his more normal self and about 20 minutes later my friend came back to the trailer.  She didn't do as well and had 2 refusals but finished and I reminded her of Bad Eventer's motto, It's always better to finish with a number instead of a letter!.  We let the horses graze for a good while before tying up to the trailer and meandering over to watch the stadium jumping of the other divisions.

The Novice division was going when we got there and it was pretty bad, jump 4 was being knocked down by almost every horse.  While talking with someone we both knew, they said that jump was hard because there is a decent downhill slope after fence 3, you have to turn almost 90 degrees and get the horse in front of your leg to then jump uphill over fence 4.  Yowsers.  When the course was finally opened up for the beginner novice coursewalk my friend and I walked through it.  The only way I could see to make it was to be absolutely straight, apply lots of leg and try to jump higher than the actual jump.  I had been telling my friend that if we were going to lose our placings, we would lose it in stadium as it is what we aren't able to practice the least since I have such a small arena.  I said it again, I was nervous of how stadium would go, I wasn't sure if TWH could do it.  We meandered back to the trailer and started getting ready.

Stadium jumping is usually run in reverse order of placing so that the person in first place goes last.  Today, however, they were going in numerical order which made it impossible for me to keep track of everyone's placings.  It also meant we were 2nd to go!  I warmed up and he was tired.  Really tired.  I threw him over the warmup oxer a couple of times and the second time he rapped his front leg really hard.  Enough that he took some yellow paint as a souvenir on his hoof.   It seemed to really help, however, as that seemed to have woken him up!  He suddenly was more forward and alert and he jumped the oxer two more times without touching it.

We headed into the ring and I walked him around the jump I thought he would be most spooky at and he wasn't reactive.  Good, hopefully he is being desensitized!  Fence 1 was uphill so I started the course by chasing him over each fence and kept it up over all 10 fences.  He was certainly tired and I didn't want to chance any faults so at the base of each jump he got a squeeze, spur and/or a growl or kiss.  Fence 2 he rapped but it didn't come down and he also rapped fence 4 but it also stayed up.  Fence 5 was a 2 stride that he took with ease though fence 6 required a pretty sharp turn back to get to.  A good hard chase over the jump got us to a 4 stride of fence 7/8.  Fence 9 was easy but required another hard turn/bending line to fence 10 and the finish line.  I missed the line for the bending line so I yanked him into the turn, jumped it straight and then turned again to the finish line.  A quick glance at my watch indicated we were 5 seconds under time, OMG we just went double clear!

After the division they started handing out placings, I knew I was tied for 5th after dressage but I had no idea  what happened since.  I just knew we had went double clear in both cross country and stadium (that means we were clear in the time allowed and we were clear with no jumping faults).  They read off 8th, 7th, 6th.  I got a little excited when I didn't get 5th and my mouth dropped when I didn't get 4th.  I ended in 3rd place at our first Horse Trial!  I am so pleased and proud of my cremello beast it is hard to put into words.

One of the debates I have been having is if I should get a third horse, something more suitable for what I want to do.  I am now looking at it as yes, he has odd trot steps that gets comments about it in every dressage test and is not a perfect match for what I want to do.  However.  He is riding well enough that he has now placed in the top 3rd of his class in each of his shows.  We may never win 1st because of his trot but is 3rd good enough?  Well, right now it is.  We won't ever go Training level but we should be able to go Novice level.  I will keep an eye out for the perfect option but for now I am pretty dang happy with my gaited partner to do eventing.  Go us!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

We may have irregular trot steps however... Part 2

I hung around at the dressage ring to watch my friend ride before heading back.  I let the TWH walk all the way back to the trailer, hoping to conserve as much energy as possible for the day ahead.  As a result, though, I again ran into time problems as a 15-20 minute ride turns into a 25-30 minute walk when you are walking back.  Ugh!  I tied the TWH up and let him eat hay while I changed clothes and ate a sandwich.  I tried offering him water but because it wasn't water from home he refused to drink it, we are going to have to work on that.  My friend came back from dressage about 10 minutes later and immediately went to walk the course, by the time I tacked up and left she hadn't returned.   It was 15 minutes until my ride and 25 until hers, I am so glad I walked the course the day before!!

I trotted down to the XC warmup ring they were running about 10 minutes behind as well.  Thank goodness!!!  I immediately started throwing him over the stadium fences, first the crossrail and then the oxer. I then lined him up to one of the two cross country warm up fences and went for it.  I sat far back, used a ton of leg, a little spur and kissed to him as we came up to it.  He hesitated as he came up to the fence but for the first time ever he jumped the first xc jump he was pointed to.  Success!!  I had him go over it a second time while making a conscious effort to not yank on his face and I think I did a good job.  I pointed him to the bigger, novice xc fence and repeated my aggressive riding and not only did he jump it, he didn't even hesitate.  I was so happy that I called our warmup good, let him rest and walked over to the shade to wait for my turn to go.

We didn't have long, however, as there were only 2 riders in front of me.  Before I knew it we were in the start box and heard the "Have a good ride!".  Fence 1 was a basic log with a decent canter beside a big pond to a barn jump.  After that was a canter up a pretty steep hill and I chased him over fence 3 as I was afraid he would be tired from the uphill run.  Fence 4 was a coop that came up after going down a small slope of that hill and then 5 required a hard half halt, and open left rein to turn almost 45 degrees, jump a fence in the middle of a horse pasture and then out of the pasture.  Fences 6 and 7 was a 2 stride we had schooled the weekend before and we had no issues though after 7 you had a pretty sharp turn to zig zag over to a designated road crossing.   Fence 8 was an easy set of timbers before settling down into a trot to make a 90 degree turn over another road crossing.  Fence 9 was a baby up bank that we had schooled down but not up the weekend before so I was aggressive and he went up with no issues.  Fence 10 was another barn jump and 11 was a decent canter over to a rock wall.  Fence 12 I chased him over really hard because it was the corner jump he had refused as the first xc jump the previous weekend and I didn't want to take any chances but he jumped it fine.  We jumped Fence 13 easily and I was aggressive again over the ditch of 14 and I yelled at him to GO when we came to the water of 15 as he slowed wayyyy down and broke into a trot/gait but we had no stops.

When we jumped out of the water of 15 he had a randomly spooky moment.  Over what?  Who knows, there wasn't anything around us, the jump judge was probably 20-30 feet behind us and we were surrounded by nothing but grass but he suddenly went 3 strides to the left causing me to loose my stirrups.  I became seriously ticked because I was going to be eliminated for a fall when I wasn't even at a dang jump (Isn't it funny how time goes so slow sometimes?), clamped on and hauled myself back to balance.  I think I used his mane and his mouth but I think he deserved it if I did.  I had only 4 strides before fence 16 and we jumped it with only my right stirrup and another growl/yell/hard spur.  I got my left stirrup back about 5 strides after the jump and we finished with jump 17 at a time of 5:47, almost a minute faster than optimum time but still a good time and right on par with what most others ran.  Success!  I hopped down and walked back to the trailer hoping he had enough gas in the tank to jump stadium because he was one pooped pony, so pooped he was even only halfheartedly grabbing at the tall grass as we walked by.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We may have irregular trot steps however... Part 1

My week was filled with dressage, working to try to nail our transitions and get as best of a trot as possible.  At our last show there were 3 separate comments about the TWH's irregular/uneven trot steps and I wanted to get his dressage as good as possible.  Thankfully he was cooperative and we had great rides, with some lasting only 30 minutes because he was being so good!  I was also able to get his fitness up to 5 minutes of canter at the end of our rides.  It took until the last ride to do it, we went from 3 minutes of canter to 4 and had to stay there several days but the day before our show I was able to canter 5 minutes and he recovered nicely.  Fitness success!  Have I mentioned that 5 minutes of cantering is a LOT longer then you would think?!?  Thankfully I have a timer on my phone that I am using to help judge my time but there were times I swore the timer just wasn't moving lol.

On Saturday I drove the 1.5 hours and walked the XC course so I could see how things were.  Best Decision Ever.  A friend of mine that went to the show with me didn't walk the course until the day of the show and ended up having to run her XC course out of order because it took so long to walk.  I was happy to see that most of the jumps used were ones I had schooled over the previous weekend and I didn't have any real concerns about any particular fence.  I just knew to be cautious over the small ditch and to really push him into the water.  I also knew it would be a challenge because the course was lengthened to 2000m instead of 1500 so he would be cantering over 6 minutes instead of 5.  I was seriously concerned about his stamina!

Sunday morning I awoke 15 minutes before my alarm went off to my cell yelling at me, my helper was cancelling because she was ill so I now had to do everything myself in the time I had allotted for a helper.  I rushed outside and bathed the TWH halfheartedly, he was mostly clean and no one noticed lol.  I then threw him in cross ties and braided him up and while it could have benefited from a redo, I had no time so in the trailer he went and off we went.  I was SO happy I had taken the time to pack the trailer/cooler the night before, if I hadn't I would have been in deep trouble. The spot where you trailer/stall is a good 15-20 minute walk from the dressage ring so as soon as I got there I immediately groomed him, tried to "fix" his braid as much as I could, tacked up and headed over.  Even with trot/cantering over to dressage I got there only 10 minutes before my time to ride.  The show karma was awesome to me however and they were running 10 minutes behind which gave me plenty of time to warm up.  I am not sure if I have ever been so happy to have them run behind haha!

I worked the TWH in his canter/trot transitions as he was being resistant to the trot cue and was continuing to canter but we got it sorted out right before our time in the arena.  Finally the bell rung and it was our turn, he gave me a nice trot down the centerline and bent nicely into the corner.  Success!  Our trot circle was okay but our canter circle was great.  When I asked for the down transition I waited and he not only gave it to me, he gave it to me without any shuffle steps!  Our freewalk could have been better with a lower, stretched head but he still got a 7 on the movement.  Gotta love his natural overstep haha!  Our trot transition after the freewalk was a little icky and I had to really push him to get him into a true trot resulting in our only 5 but our trot circle went much better and got a 7.  Our canter transition wasn't great but the rest of the test was.  I was so pleased with him I would say that was the best dressage test he has ever given me at a show!

It took them For. Ev. Er. to post the dressage scores, they waited until right before our stadium jumping class before post it.  Once again our dressage test has "Uneven trot steps" and "loss of rhythm" comments about his trot however we were still able to obtain a score of 36 (lowest score wins).  Anything in the mid 30's is really good and it put us as tied for 5th going into cross country out of 14 competitors!!  Time to head back to the trailer and get ready for cross country!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quick catch up

Wow it is been a while since I have posted.  Sorry all, May was insanely busy!  I had every intention of posting after all of my rides but work got insanely busy and I usually only have time to blog in the mornings.  Since I didn't have time in the morning, unfortunately I just didn't blog.  For the last week I wasn't even able to read anyone else's blog, that's how bad it was!  Hopefully things are a little slower now, I guess we will find out.  So what has happened?

I rode the TWH irregularly for the week after the last show.  Partly because I wanted to give him a deserved break after his show, partly because I really needed to spend the evenings working on clearing our new fenceline so I can get the fence up.  The horses have already eaten down the pasture I have, a lot faster than I expected, and am already supplementing with hay again.  I had hoped that with having only 2 horses on about 1.5 acres would be enough for a while but alas it doesn't appear to be.  The next week I rode a couple of times but I had to give several lessons during weeknights and thus not a lot of riding on my part happened.  The following week I only rode twice and worked on dressage and am making progress, his canter/trot transitions are coming along SO nicely! 

The last weekend of May I went cross country schooling at a farm 1.5 hours away.  I am not a fan of hauling long distances but it was well worth it.  The TWH continued his bad habit of refusing the first xc jump I pointed him at, UGH HORSE!!  After I forced the issue he jumped it the second time I presented the jump so hopefully I can nix this habit quickly.  He also refused a novice level ditch the first time he saw it and I had to chase him over it the 2 subsequent times.  He was also very hesitant of going into their water complex but he did it.  To his credit it was dark, murky looking water and was shaded by trees however I would strongly prefer him not be so hesitant.  The rest of the schooling went fabulously well with little that needed adjustmen on his part.  I do need to work on myself, I told H that I feel I have no choice but to keep a hold of his face as I feel as soon as I let go he will fall apart.  That is my homework, trying to get him to a point that I feel I can trust him so I am not hauling on his face over jumps.  We schooled for a little over an hour and while he was sweaty, he wasn't super tired and he handled it all very well!  I was quite impressed.

Last week I had to force myself to find time to ride Every Day.  I sent in our entry to ride at our very first Horse Trial at the Beginner Novice division June 2nd and didn't want to make a complete fool of ourselves.  What is a horse trial you may ask?  It is a show that has three classes and the combination of the three scores determines your placing.  The first is a dressage class where you ride a pattern in an arena to show the training the horse has.  The second is cross country where you canter/gallop over countryside jumping whatever jump is assigned.  The hard part of this phase is the conditioning, as Jimmy Wofford said "Exhaustion makes cowards of even the bravest horse".  If your horse isn't fit enough to canter nonstop between 4-6 minutes (depending on the course) while jumping between 15-20 efforts over hilly terrain, you can have serious issues with mistakes or refusals.  Your horse has to be fit enough to go that far (5 minutes is a LOT longer then you think!!), brave enough to jump what is front of them even if they haven't ever seen it before and trained well enough to be controlled while doing all of this.  The last class is stadium jumping where you jump a course of fences in an arena or area.  Your horse then has to have enough gas in their tank to jump one more time and be able to listen well enough to slow down to jump after being amped up from cantering/galloping during the previous ride.  Needless to say we had some work to do.