Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Strutting our stuff Part II

Having two grooms was amazing and allowed me to not fret while I walked the cross country course.  They untacked TWH, brushed him down and one settled in to knit while the other walked the course with me.  Awesome!  The courses are always fairly long, almost 2000m but this one is more complicated with lots of impressive hills.  Makes for a tired horse but an even more tired rider during the coursewalk.  I pushed it at the end to get back in time and the walk still took a good 40 minutes of our allotted 1 hour 30 minute break.  It sounds like we have plenty of time, we really didn't.

Once back at the trailer, the grooms set to work tacking the TWH up while I switched attire.  Thanks to my groom I wasn't eliminated for forgetting my armband (YIKES!!) and was able to hop up with 15 minutes before my ride time. They meandered onto the course to set themselves up by the water jump  to spectate and I set to warming up.  I was the third rider in the BN division and that meant there was a 15 minute pause in ride times for jump judges to move and for some fences to be adjusted.  As a result, the warmup fences were still set to Novice height which made me very happy.  My philosophy is that we should be comfortable jumping harder or higher stuff in warmup so the actual course is somewhat easy.  After a quick walk/trot set I set him over the crossrail before going around and jumping again, this time over the big oxer.  He was. Amazing.  He came at the right distance to the jump and when we went over it, I felt like we were seasoned pros instead of green beans.  Yes!

When our time came up, off we went.  Fence one was an inviting log and fence two was a log with a bunch of flowers.  I kept a good strong leg on him and something happened over fence 3, another log.  It was like I could feel something change, the TWH didn't seem hesitant.  He didn't look at the fence.  The encouragement I gave seemed unnecessary.  He acted confident and calm!  Fence four was a "barn" and he just soared over it without a second thought.  We went through some trees to fence five and I didn't press him forward.  It was a smaller coup that he could jump from almost a standstill so I waited to see what he would do, he jumped it confidently.  I let him cruise over fence six before kicking him into a strong, fast gallop.  Fence seven was the baby ditch, except they had redone the ditch so it was now an actual small ditch instead of a log on the ground with a trench behind it.  Since ditches are our problem, I wasn't taking any chances!  The TWH did take a look at the ditch but we were going so fast he didn't have a chance to think and just went over it. Yay!!

From that point on, our ride felt different.  It felt like we were a true team, working it together.  It felt like he was a serious competitor that was taking his job seriously.  I stopped kicking him over fences and let him approach them.  He felt SO confident and bold, it makes me so proud!  I worked hard to eat up time since we were going pretty fast and came in at 5:50 out of an optimum time of 5:58, double clear!  He felt So Awesome.  It was the first time I actually trusted him over the fences.  Now to settle in for a nice 2 hour wait for stadium.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Strutting our stuff Part I

On Sunday we had our show, this is our second "big" show of the year, a real three phase Horse Trial.  Horse Trials are ran with 3 rides and the combined score determines your placing, first dressage, then cross country and finally stadium jumping.  Unfortunately since we haven't been riding much this past month due to the fencing project, having a friend in town and volunteering last weekend, I really only had a week to prepare for the show.  My next show is in 2 weeks and I swear I will be better prepared! 

I was super busy on Saturday and was successful in accomplishing everything on my list!  Loading and filling water tank?  Check!  Cleaning tack?  Check!  Loading tack? Check! Loading show clothes? Check!  Hay nets? Check!  Bathe horse?  Check!  Ride horse?  Check!  I was very happy with my accomplishments Saturday night around 8p as I was riding.  Until I realized I had forgotten to go walk the cross country course because I didn't write it on the dang list.  DAMN!!  Timing was going to be tight, I only had an hour and a half between dressage and cross country and walking the course usually takes at least a half hour.  Damn!

I was lucky enough to have RB4 and another friend come help me and their help was awesome!  They braided him, helped tack/untack him, rinsed him off and kept great company with me, I certainly couldn't have asked for much better help.  Dressage was a little rocky, both the TWH and I were a little tense and it seemed to show.  He started our warmup by shuffling the trot instead of truly trotting and half of our warmup consisted of lengthening/shortening the trot in an effort to get the true trot back.  As we went around the ring I realized I had only practiced the pattern once in the past month, way to go silly!  I went through my memory, hoping I remembered the pattern, when the judge ran the bell.  Damn.

We made our way into the dressage ring and the TWH dumped himself on the forehand and worked hard to stay there the entire ride.  I tried fixing some of it by doing a little lengthening after our first turn at C and while I thought the trot felt really nice, it only earned us a 6.  The judge seemed to love our canter however and surprisingly enough both canter departs and canters earned us 7's!  My first transition down went quite smoothly and the freewalk was good but inconsistent in the stretch.  His trot at A was prompt and I worked to get a little lengthening before our circle at C but didn't get much.  Our second canter/trot transition was a little rocky with him pacing 2-3 steps before picking up the trot but we finished nicely.  Needless to say I was a little shocked when I got our test, she gave us a four for both canter/trot transitions.  A FOUR?!?  I really, truly think it was a bit undeserved, the first transition he had only a single step of pace!  One could chalk it up to imbalance or whatever like i normally get, I could understand if we were showing 2nd or 3rd level dressage but this is the equivalent of training level :-(  She gave him a 5 on his gaits saying that he paces out of the canter and is lateral in the walk but she did give me a 7 for my position and seat.  Her comments said he was cute but gets lateral in the trot and walk.  Ugh.

I was reminded that we are paying for one persons opinion at that moment on that day and I shouldn't get too upset about it.  I heard a competitor say the same judge wrote "Horse doesn't seem to want to be here today".  I was fairly happy overall though, we got a 39.5 score and it put us 5th out of 15 in our class.  Time to hurry up though, we gotta walk the cross country course!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back in the saddle. Again.

With a big show coming up this weekend, my second every Horse Trial with the TWH, it is time to get my butt in gear.  I had a lesson last week with H and didn't get to ride much afterwards due to other life events, last weekend was filled with volunteer stuff from 9a to 5p each day and I was too exhausted to ride Saturday.  Sunday, however, I knew I have only a week left to prepare so up I hauled myself onto the horse.

Sunday we did some basic dressage, working some on the shoulder-in that we worked on in our lesson in addition to lengthening and shortening to get some of the flexibility back.  TWH worked really hard and even with having butt sweat he still had barely enough gas in the tank to do some fitness at the end of the ride.  I only did a quick 2 minute canter set as we had worked really hard that previous hour and we haven't been working on fitness so I didn't want to push him.  It was interesting riding as when I rode the App he would go and go and go (and go) even when he was tired until he was just done.  With the TWH, however, it is different.  It is like you can feel the gas tank level and as the needle falls, you can feel him slow down overall.  It is a cool feeling.

I rode Monday morning in my jumping saddle, I figure since I will spend the majority of my time in the dang thing on Sunday I should probably get comfortable in it again haha.  I did some basic stretching and worked on some transitions before getting into two point and cruising around.  And I did cruise around.  For about 5 laps before collapsing in a slobby, unfit heap back into the saddle.  I knew I hadn't ridden in the jumping saddle for almost, what, 2 months now?  But I didn't realize I was THIS bad, sheesh.  I did several smaller sets of two point and worked the TWH on lengthening and shortening in the trot before biting the bullet, heading outside and forcing myself to do a 2 minute trot set of two point.

Admittedly it wasn't as bad as I expected and at the end of the two minutes I could certainly feel the burn but wasn't about to die like when I started the ride.  Progress success!  After a good (long) walk break I repeated my 2 minute set except I kept it in a canter, thankfully the TWH wasn't too huffy and puffy at the end of 2 minutes.  We gotta get to 5 minutes by Friday!  My goal this week is to ride 1-2 times a day, ride only in my jumping saddle until Saturday and to get fitness back for my two point and the TWH's canter.

I was successful in riding Tuesday and Wednesday morning and plan on riding again tonight.  This morning I was finally able to stay in two point for a full 4 minute set, fitness success!  I am certainly feeling the pain, my legs are doing what they can to protest my two point attempts.  It is not, however, stopping me and if we keep going at the rate we are I should make the goal of 5 minutes by Friday.  Tomorrow I have a jumping lesson with H, now that I have the new pasture I have enough room to jump outside (!!!!!!!) so I can have more than 2 jumps in a row! I have enough standards for 4 jumps and there are 14 poles so hopefully we can put something cool together.  Progress success!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When there is no suspension, can it be created?

Has it really been over 2 months since my last lesson?  This year is just flying by.  I finally took a lesson with H, it was another dressage lesson because I haven't been riding enough for a jumping lesson.  The main goal of the lesson was to see how my position is and to get H's opinion on TWH on if I should keep forging forward or if I should look for the 3rd horse.

Overall the lesson went well.  I am always reminded how disappointed I am when riding TWH with H because we never have these brilliant moments where she has me make him do something amazing.  When I rode the App, I got that feeling regularly and loved her lessons.  With the TWH, not so much.   A lot of times it is like having someone just dictating my ride and this ride wasn't much different.  We started at the walk and then I went to the trot and putzed around, working to keep my hands together and in front of me.  H said that she had to get used to seeing him move again, she forgot how differently he moved. 

We went the other direction and she had us do a few figure 8's to see how he is handling the changes of direction, which turned out to be fabulously.  The last dressage lesson we were having a really hard time with him dropping his right shoulder when making a 10m circle to go up centerline so she was happy he appeared to have fixed that issue.  We worked on some spiraling in and out to see if we could get some back to front connection and he would get it for a step or two but then would lose it. 

She then wanted to see if we could create suspension in his trot.  He has a huge stride in the trot but has virtually no suspension.  She suspects this is because of his ambling gaits, he is designed to not have suspension.  His trot is great but still technically flat.  She had us try some shoulder in and then leg yielding to try to create some suspension without any additional suspension being created.  She had us trot over some poles to reinforce the suspension but as soon as TWH was over the poles he went back to his calorie-conservative, ground eating trot. 

We finished up by playing with some canter transitions and she was quite pleased with his progress, when she last saw him he would still have some pacey steps but he is now picking the trot up right away in the canter/trot transition.  Yay for us! 

Overall we didn't actually accomplish much.  My position is really good, I just need to keep my reins shorter so the hands are more in front of me.  I need to try to weight my right (bad) leg more.  We spent a lot of the ride talking about goals.  I told her I wanted to get through Novice, go to Training and even dabble in Prelim if I could before I got old and broken.  I know my beloved TWH won't be competitive past Novice and will only be competitive at Novice at local shows.  He can't help that and we don't seem to be able to make it better.  I think I am going to finish out the season with a show Aug 18th, Sept 9th and finish it up October 5th.  After that I think I am just going to find that third horse and make it a goal to have that horse in training for my next show horse.  TWH will either play with Novice next year while I work on the project or will be my everything else horse.  He is willing to do everything/anything I ask of him and he is a great companion for my aging Appy.  I guess that is where I am and wanted to share, a little disappointed that I can't make him work out better for what I wanted but I am not throwing him away.  We will see how things go, I have a lesson on the TWH next Weds in a jumping lesson.  Might as well have some fun!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Project overview: Top 10 lessons learned

With the completion of my fencing project, I certainly learned a lot.  I figured I would jot some of them down in case it would help anyone else.

1. Make a budget for your fencing project.  Have a heart attack at the figure.  Did you survive?  Good, now double that number, that is closer to the actual cost.  Watch out for that second heart attack.

2. Never underestimate the usefulness of that third person.  Two is always better than one but it is amazing how much a third set of hands helps.  Four is good too but then you are boarderline crowded unless you are really good at project management.  Three is the magic number.

3. If you know your project is going to be super expensive, try getting supplies well in advance.  For example we started buying the split bolts back in December.  By the time our project rolled around, we are needing to purchase only a single bag of them to finish.  Instead of gifts we asked for fencing supplies, for example we got 4 bags of fence insulators from my mom.

4. Check the prices of things at multiple stores, they are usually close in price but not always.  I went with Electrobraid fencing because my App is still around because of it after being caught up in a fence when he was 10.  I checked the price of the copper split bolts from Electrobraid vs buying them from the Depot or Lowes or Menards and they were about the same price. I bought the zip ties at Harbor Freight as they were a lot cheaper.  We compared prices of galvanized ground rods vs copper at TSC, the local hardware store and the local farm store, they were about $20 for a 4 foot section (counting other materials).  When at the Depot on Sunday, apparently their copper ground rods are $10 for an 8 foot section.  Damn, we already bought and installed 4 ground rods.  Live and learn.

5. Landscape timbers do not make good fence posts.  In a lot less than 10 years your fence will be holding your fence posts up, not the other way around. I have pictures to prove it.

6. Having a tractor with a front end loader is awesome.  Having a really small tractor is even more awesome.

7. They make this thing called a Ratchet Rake for your front end loader.  It is an amazing thing and will clear heavy brush like you are sweeping a floor.  Beautifully destructive.

8. No matter how big your wood chipper will be, unless it is a tow behind model it won't be big enough. Trust me.

9.  Don't cheap out, if you are putting your paycheck into this project, spend the extra $4 for the better material.  You are expecting this to last 20+ years so get the better stuff.  This counts for gates (don't bother with the painted steel, go galvanized), ground rods (copper conducts way better) and even fence post types.  You may be able to save $100 by the end of the project but the extra $100 will make things a lot better.

10. The horses will not clap their hooves in appreciation as you work your behind and checkbook off.  Maybe when it is done but they will not while you are working on it.  Ungrateful animals.