Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finishing touches

Mia's first show is in 4 days.  4 days!!!!!  She is doing really well, I am very proud of her progress over the past couple of weeks.  At this rate, I think she will do really well at our show if she rides like she is here at the house :)

The dozen rides with draw reins has made Mia do a complete turnaround in how she is handling contact.  She has always been very inconsistent and regularly dropped rein contact when she could, consistency has been our homework at all times.  After riding with draw reins, however, she is now accepting contact without dropping it and is being very consistent about keeping it.  Yay!!  I have stopped riding in the draw reins (though they are still sitting in the arena just in case) and my 3rd ride without them at all was last night.  I did have issues with Mia being abnormally heavy in the bridle but if that is the most I can complain about, I am okay with that.  Consistency for the win!

Some of the other things we have achieved over the past few weeks have been the direct result of weak spots in our dressage tests.  We are riding Intro B and Intro C as Mia still needs the basics confirmed, thus my decision to not attempt Training 1.  Maybe at her next show??  The first piece that was completely lacking was a free walk, Mia had no true free walk.  When you slipped her reins she wouldn't follow the contact down, she would instead hold her head where ever she felt comfortable until you picked the reins back up.  And no, that isn't a free walk.  We spent this past weekend installing a free walk and it is now pretty decent.  I taught her how to do it by using her "head down" command over and over until she would walk with her head down and then continued until she would walk with her head down with contact.  It is pretty obvious that it is still a new skill for her, as she isn't 100%, but she does pretty well at it and is consistent in doing it when asked.  Yay!

Another task we had to work on was her enter down centerline to the halt.  Being young and green, she trots and halts straight about like your Cousin Eddie at a your wedding reception after about 6 drinks.  I haven't been able to completely fix this yet, however she is much better at going straight down centerline.  I started by keeping both legs on (which didn't help), then using a leg to control her drift and then just asked for speed as she turned.  Speed is what helped her be straight and now I have backed the speed off a little bit so she doesn't look like she is doing a lengthening as she comes to a halt lol.  Last night I rode without applying speed down centerline and she was a little wobbly but not as bad as she has been.  Progress!

Halting square is another issue we had to work on.  This one is more complicated because it is a 50/50 shot on if she will halt square on her own so I am not correcting her every time anyway.  I started by asking her to step forward with the leg that was back and she wasn't understanding the forward, she just kept moving off of my leg which meant going sideways.  Ah mare, yes I appreciate your turns on the haunches, however this is a slightly different cue I am using :)  I hopped off and started teaching her to pick up a specific foot when I tapped her leg and progressed until she would pick it up when I tapped her elbow and then mostly at her girth.  After I hopped back on, she made the correlation pretty well and now will pick up her the front foot I ask for under saddle about 75% of the time.  So now if she doesn't stop square, I have a shot of fixing the square-ness.

Lastly we have to work on the left canter transition, I assume because we have worked on the right SO MUCH (as it is her worst direction) she gives it to me without a fight and is quite fluid in picking it up.  Her left, however, results in her cantering in the front for a stride or 2 while trotting in the rear before she picks it up.  She doesn't always do this, but she does do it regularly enough to know she CAN do it correctly and chooses not to for some reason.  I haven't found the magic button to fix it however if I carry a whip and give her a smack when she gives me a bad transition, she will usually stop doing it for the rest of the ride.  Unfortunately I tend to not ride with a whip anymore so at least 50% of the time I forget to have one.  This issue, unfortunately, hasn't yet been resolved however I am riding again tonight and am bringing the whip from the barn so I have it for when I start cantering.  I think if I can be CONSISTENT in correcting her for a few rides, she will correct herself.  Self accountability and all, you know?  Stupid rider lol.

Other than these small issues, I think we are ready for our show.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Straight? Who said anything about going straight?

With a little over 1.5 weeks before Mia's first REAL SHOW, I need to get my butt into gear.  Of course, that says nothing about the fact that TWH's next show is in a month and we haven't jumped since our last show.  I am such a bad horse owner.

I have been riding Mia in draw reins attached to the saddle d rings to help her be a little more consistent in contact and it seems to be working quite well!  She is MUCH better at the start of our rides and the canter has stopped becoming her throwing her head as high in the air as possible and is more about carrying herself almost properly.  Yay!  I am not a big gadget fan but I do know there is a place for gadgets and am not afraid to use them for the short time frames they may help.  Hopefully within a month I can stop riding in the draw reins and have the contact I have been working on getting since February!

Last weekend I rode without the draw reins so I could evaluate her progress and it is quite impressive.  Her temperament was much better than it can be, she picked up the contact at the walk right away and didn't fuss about it.  Win!  I was undecided on if we should ride Intro C/Training 1 at our show or Intro B/Intro C so I figured I might as well work on stretchy work.  Mia already has a "head down" rein command and the trick is to continue that command until she can place her head in the desired position and then keep asking whenever she moves her head from the position.  We started at a walk and it didn't take her too long before she realized what I wanted but her consistency isn't there.  After riding the majority of the ride with her head down, I gathered her back up and compressed nicely and didn't fight at all.  Yay!

I rode the Intro B, Intro C and Training 1 tests to see what I liked best and I am 100% sold on riding Intro B and Intro C.  For her very first show, I want an enjoyable experience that won't happen if I am pushing to introduce new things a week before the show.  Her free walk needs more work in getting consistency and her canter departure to the left needs more work as she isn't as quick as I would prefer.  She needs to go straight (or even straight-ish) down the centerline and stop drifting through the halt.  To add stretchy trots and quick transitions into the mix would set her up for failure.

I have ridden Intro B and C several times now and am fairly comfortable with them, I think we will finish and the show won't be a disaster.  If I can get her polished a little more I think she will be spectacular and I am excited to see how she behaves!  The show is August 3rd, so I have a little more than a week to get her going.  She has come so far, can I get her up to par to be a true, blue show horse?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mia's first "show"

After riding Thursday and not feeling all too bad, I decided to suck it up and try riding at the judged trail ride.  It was supposed to be a small one anyway, add that it was cheap and close?  Why not!  I truly had little expectation for this, I was going alone, Mia is still sometimes inconsistent, we haven't done a ton of trails and we haven't extensively schooled trail obstacles.  I got up decently early (but after the sun was up!!) and Mia was pretty clean so a good hard grooming brought her to a wet-like shine and all ready to go.  I wrapped her up and went to the trailer, I was curious if she would just hop in.  The answer was a resounding no, she walked up to the trailer before deciding that Nope, No Thank You she had no desire to hop on.  I pointed her at the trailer again and she instead backed up a lot.  I put the stud chain on and yanked her a few times and grabbed the dressage whip.  I am not going to allow bad habits to form!  I pointed her at the trailer again and she stepped on my little toe/ring toe/middle toe as she came super close to knocking me down.  She got a very serious smack with the whip on her neck and I lined her up and gave her a good hard smack on her butt.  It worked, she jumped in the trailer.  Win!  I backed her out and we re-loaded 3 times before I locked her in and headed down the road.  Baby horses, ugh.

We made it to the event with little difficulty and I signed up before taking her out of the trailer.  Everyone had assigned ride times and went out in groups of 4, I had a 1.5 hour wait.  I unloaded Mia and tied her up, she was very happy to munch her hay and didn't call out to anyone, that was a first!  I chatted with a couple of people and even walked away from Mia and she didn't act up once.  Success!  Eventually I sought out the port-a-john and left Mia alone at the trailer.  When I got back she was still quietly munching on hay, what a good horse.  I hung out for a while before tacking up and walking over to the start to wait for my assigned group.

I immediately found a rider in my group and we chatted while I warmed up.  Mia was nice and quiet at a walk and trot (!!!!) so I figured I would try a canter.  Not only did Mia give me the canter right away, she did so with her head in a normal, non-giraffe position AND kept her shoulder upright.  OMG I was so happy!  A couple of people walking by said she looked really nice and the event photographer took several pictures of us, maybe I will find them posted somewhere.

Our group finally organized and headed out, the first obstacle was a rope gate, something we had practiced at the house!  Mia was a little hesitant to walk up to it and then had a little bit of an issue after we walked through it but did it and was told out of the 40 people through so far, we were the 2nd to actually do it.  Yay!  We then had to pick up a rain slicker with the horse staying still and she didn't move. Good mare!  The third obstacle was going up a hill and the fourth was going over a tarp, both of which she had no problem what-so-ever with.  The fifth obstacle was a log pull, something else we had practiced, and she scored a 10.  The sixth obstacle was a wooden "bridge", a wooden platform to walk over.  Mia unfortunately lost her marbles and in the 2 minutes allowed could not fathom how to walk over it.  She ducked out to the sides, wouldn't walk forward, jumped over the platform and just wouldn't walk on it.  We got our only zero :(

The seventh obstacle was to trot through a square, circle around and stop in the square, turn around and walk out.  Mia aced it, trot poles win!  The eighth obstacle was going over logs which she was a little looky at but went over.  The ninth was to take mail out of a mailbox which she didn't move a muscle for and the 10th was to dismount and have the horse stand still, again she did perfectly.

We ended up 10th out of 25 in our division which I thought was awesome!  I didn't agree with some of the scores I got but hey, whatev's, I am so happy with her performance.  We definitely know we need to work on bridges and I think she handled everything wonderfully.  I need to submit my entry for a dressage show with her on the 3rd, hopefully I am able to actually go this time.  I am so happy with my mare :)

*Edited to add* Come Sunday morning I woke up and my back didn't hurt any more than it did Saturday morning.  Awesome!  I am now at 95% and expect to be at 100% within days.  Yay!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mia's turnaround

After our last ride where Mia had to argue, my next ride went fantastically.  My next possible dressage show with her is at the beginning of August thanks to schedule issues however there is a judged trail ride in 2 weeks (now this weekend!).  Maybe that kind of exposure would be really good for her!  With that in mind I set up some obstacles.  I had poles set up to walk through, an L set of poles to sidepass through, a tarp to walk on, a stick in a bucket to pick up/drop off, a grain bag on a jump standard to pick up and carry, a grain bag filled with twine that was hanging to drag across the arena and tie up somewhere else and a pole to walk underneath.

Surprisingly Mia did fantastically and was able to do ALL of them and didn't spook or shy away from any of it.  ANY OF IT!!  Did she care that we drug a bag across the arena?  Nope!  Did she worry about the tarp, not even a blink.  Did she care about the grain bag? Well she did pick her head up and see what it was, that was it.  Amazing.  Afterwards I did a quick w/t/c session and Mia was awesome, she didn't try to take off.  She didn't try to throw her head in the air, she acted like a nice, normal, mostly trained horse.  Success!

Unfortunately after this I hurt my back again.  Fairly badly and I have been out of commission for a week.  I am TRYING to go to the judged trail ride this weekend, I am going to ride her for the first time in 2 weeks tonight to see how my back feels.  It is still sore but it doesn't hurt to move like it did so I am hoping that a quick ride won't do me in and I can ride this weekend.

Sorry for the sparse updates, I started writing this almost 2 weeks ago and then got hurt and then got busy (got our 350 bales of hay, moved 2 cord of wood, picked/mowed the pasture just for starters) so I didn't get to finish it.  Hopefully I will have updates from the weekend, maybe I can find time somewhere :)