Friday, August 29, 2014

Mia'a afterburners are currently cooling off

With our first eventing derby in a week and a half (!!!!) I figured it was high time to get back to jumping since we are going Beginner Novice instead of starter.  Funny enough, the dressage is the scary part with TWH.  So far, I am completely not stressed about the dressage test with Mia.  Ha!  I am sure that will change as the date draws near but it is how I feel right now.  A very pleasant change.

I rode Mia in dressage on Monday and we ended up doing 20 mins of walk work reminding Mia that she is not allowed to keep 40 pounds of pressure on each rein as we walk around, that she cannot drift her shoulders, that she should not bump her outside shoulder out so that she runs my leg into the wall, that she should not drift her hindquarters out on a circle instead of bending and that she should halt and then stay still when she does so.  For whatever reason Mia decided some of the basics had escaped her!  After some arguing and redhead attitude being flung around, she settled down and decided that she might as well see what I do if she listened.  Ah, mares!

After the walk work fixed most of the attitude issues, we actually had a spectacular ride!  She is so consistent in the bridle now which resolves most of the issues we have been fighting so we may actually make some real training progress.  Her canter required a little work to remind her that her head should not be in my lap but I am feeling good about the dressage work.  I am going to ride her again this weekend a few times and introduce the dressage test, wish us luck!

Yesterday I figured it was time to start jumping so I brought RB4 over and we set up 2 small jumps on each side of my arena, one a 2' vertical that had 4 trot poles and one an 18" cross rail.  Mia took the first time over as a warmup before settling into a nice rhythm and was jumping things nicely.  My habit of slipping the reins over the jump is currently a really bad idea for Mia, she really needs the support after the fence and giving her free rein makes her either really speed up and take off or stumble and practically drag her nose on the ground after the fence.  I am working on it, habits are hard and this one is actually a good one mostly.

After bumping her up to 2'6" over the trot poles, I had RB4 move the vertical up to a 2'6" oxer  which seemed to surprise Mia but she handled it quite well.  No poles being knocked down and no real rushing.  Success!  After a few times over that, I had RB4 move the trot pole jump up to 2'9", the highest we have ever jumped under saddle!  Unfortunately it was too hard for Mia, she kept bringing the fence down until RB4 suggested removing 2 of the trot poles to give her more time to be ready.  That seemed to do the trick as Mia then stopped knocking it over and would alternate between jumping it really nicely and jumping it with her hoof rockets being on full power.  She would get in front of the jump and at the tiniest, slightest bump of the leg she would accelerate and try to canter the trot poles and then leap over the jump.  We gotta fix that!

After finding the combo of absolutely no leg, lots of rein to balance on each side of the jump and staying slightly behind the motion, we were finally able to go over the 2'9" without knocking it down or letting the hoof rockets stay at full power.  Feeling brave and having no value to my life, I had RB4 go ahead and raise the (super skinny) ascending oxer fence to 3 foot.  Yes, 3 foot high!  The highest we would have jumped by 6 inches!  There was a ground line but no trot poles, it was all me to get her ready before and after the fence.  The first time over she cleared it and jumped it like it was a little 2'6" jump!!  I was very excited but the next time over she knocked the top rail.  And the next time.  And the subsequent 3 times.  I decided to change it up and instead of riding her to the fence like the 2'9" fence, I would apply leg and see if that extra push would get her over.  Well, that was apparently the right answer to clear the jump.  RB4 said Mia lifted her knees so high they were above the horizontal and her hocks went almost in line to her stifles she was trying so hard to clear the fence.  She also was in a flat hand gallop when we landed and it took me half of my arena to get her back to a trot!  We walked around and told her what a good girl she was before trying again, again with lots of leg.  She again took down the top rail of the oxer, hmmm she is going to be tricky as we learn this huh?  I went one last time and didn't apply as much leg and and she did very well and cleared the what I determined was the last jump of the night.

I am not quite sure how to take her jumping, we obviously need more grid work to get her solid but at least she is jumping, not refusing, not ducking out and is ok with bringing the fence down instead.  I would much, much rather have a horse bring a fence down than refuse.  And the extra bursts of (extreme) speed she likes to give will do well on cross country.  I am really looking forward to schooling cross country the day before the show, I think it will do us both really well and will be good confidence booster for her.  This week is a good mix of dressage and jumping, so little time before our first jumping show!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

TWH kicks butt

Pissed.  I was so pissed at myself for ruining the dressage ride, why, why, why!?!  TWH absolutely cannot have a rider check out, you have to be there for him and he will be there for you and I failed him.  I mumbled and grumbled until it was time to get ready for stadium, I think RB4 wanted to smack me lol.  Maybe I could still pull a decent placing, I mean I heard a lot of people were having issues and several had been eliminated.  Maybe they had been ahead of me?  

Looking like a pro going XC!
The announcer said it was time to walk the Novice course and that jackets were also waived.  Wahoo!  I HATE wearing the jacket when it is hot and it was getting steamy!  I started riding over when someone reminded me that even with jackets waived, you have to wear a white shirt.  Damn it!  There was no way I was wearing my skin tight dressage shirt, back to the trailer I went and put the damn coat on.  No worries, I just needed to sweat off a few more pounds anyway.  

Good pic to show the height we were jumping.  BIG!
The course walk was uneventful, nothing was particularly difficult except jump 4, it was literally jumping up a decent hill on a max height/width oxer.  Note to self, LOTS of leg at jump four!!  5 was a bending 4 stride and nothing else was of a concern so we settled in for our wait.  5 riders out I warmed up and had to wake TWH up as he was snoozing.  The first jump he knocked over before I gave him a good boot and made him pick up speed at which point he started jumping nicely.

We went into the ring without knowing the optimum time so that added pressure was gone, if I don't know what I have to hit, I don't have to worry about timing ourselves.  Just gotta go fast!  

Look, no grabbing poor TWH's face!
Jump one rode very well in fact!  A recently discovered "trick" I have learned is to not look at the pole at all.  Apparently I can't actually function like a normal person and will micromanage if I think the striding is even a little off.  This makes me jump ahead or behind, all while grabbing onto TWH's face and looking like a fool who needs to go back to crossrails.  By not looking at the fence at all, AT ALL, TWH is finding his spot and and is jumping much, much better.  Rider fault, who would have thought.  Ha!  Jump 2 and 3 were unremarkable though I really put on the afterburners up to fence 4.

Fence 4.  On a hill, max height, max width.  
TWH made fence 4 seem super easy, no reason I should have even cared!  Aside from my stirrup being "home" instead of at the ball of my foot, it made for an awesome picture.  Fence 5, 6 and 7 were easy

Ugh, equitation fail
Fence 8a rode nicely but apparently I blanked out at 8b (or something) b/c TWH met it wrong and we had a quite awkward jump that had me out of the saddle but I stayed on and shouted at him to GO as we sailed over nine to the finish.  I was so happy with TWH, not only was he double clear, he also jumped one of the best stadium rides ever.  YAY!!  My little gaited man is all grown up into an eventing horse.  I watched the rest of the class and rail after rail was falling, sitting there waiting I started to get my hopes up.  Maybe?

They finally called the riders back into the ring and they CALLED OUR NUMBER!  I was so excited, out of a class of 17 I was in the ribbons!  I didn't have to wait long before I was called, despite a horrible dressage score TWH jumped double clear in both XC and stadium and we took home 6th place ribbon.  While obviously I would have liked to have gotten higher, the fact that I went from 13th to 6th on jumping alone shows how much of a awesome horse TWH is.  And now that we seem to have stadium figured out, we actually look like we know what we are doing which is even better!  HA!

TWH got lots of treats and attention before being kicked out in a pasture for a week for his R&R.  Mia's first eventing show is Sept 7th and possibly Sept 21st, let's see what we can get done!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

No love from dressage judges

The time finally came, time for our Horse Trial!  Saturday was a combination of relaxing and hectic, while I wasn't super duper busy, my time was fully occupied and I wasn't able to do what I really wanted which was walk the cross country course.  As we went out to dinner with a group of people, my stomach started doing twists.  What if they had changed the cross country course from the prior weekend?   I had walked the course last weekend and knew it but surely they did, they changed the course from last weekend and I won't know where my fences are!  I stressed about it all night and debated about calling RB4 to see if she would come over an hour earlier so we could get there in time for me to walk the course but SO kept telling me it would be fine. Even if they HAD moved the course, I knew the property inside and out so stop stressing!

Sunday morning didn't go much better, I was super stressed and aiming to be there an hour before my ride time wasn't working out like I wanted.  TWH needs so little warmup I had figured I would reduce my time at the show.  I got TWH bathed and wrapped as RB4 showed up, I shared my stress and she scolded me for not calling her and having her come over earlier.  We got to the show and the show secretary made my day by saying the course was identical to the prior weekend.  PHEW!!!!!!!!!!

Alas I didn't have as much time as I wanted, however, the dressage rings were running a little ahead and I was behind.  Never again will I only leave an hour of time between arriving and showing!  I decided not to braid and instead got tacked up and hustled to the warm up.  TWH was doing pretty well overall, he was giving me pretty consistent transitions (yay!) and was fairly relaxed despite my uptight riding.  The more I tried to relax with breathing, the worse I was getting.  Great, BAD RIDER!!!!  Be all stressed when you have a horse that needs a calm, confident rider, this can't possibly go wrong?  We finally up next and the surprisingly test started out pretty good!  He was a bit more behind my leg than we had been in warmup but he was consistent.  Our free walk wasn't as good as we had been practicing but was decent.  Our first canter circle, however, something happened.  I still don't know what happened as the video doesn't show it but TWH spooked at something.  His head went WAY up and his back end went WAY down and he almost took off before getting back together and a stride later he was pretty composed.  RB4 says it was over in almost a blink of an eye, the entire episode had the time span of 2 canter strides.

The down side?  The test went downhill from there.  TWH was quite upset over whatever it was and didn't give me a good canter/trot transition.  He was tight and nervous over the diagonal and hesitant to pick up the opposite canter lead, it took almost 3 trot strides before he picked it up!  That isn't a lot for a lot of people, but it is a lot for TWH as he always picks it right up.  Immediately.  Our last canter/trot transition wasn't good either, he gaited for 2-3 steps before trotting up the centerline.  Damn.

We walked back to the trailer, I had only 60 minutes before cross country.  We sat him in front of the hay bag while I looked at the video and kicked myself ruining the ride for him.  Stupid stressed rider didn't help him in the test.  Bad, bad rider.  We got him ready for cross country and I was finally not stressed, dressage is our hardest part of eventing!!  We warmed up and he did great, before we knew it we were on course.  Fence 1, 2 and 3 were easy fences (even though 3 was awfully big haha!).  4 required a trip up a BIG ass hill to a set of barrels at the top and you can't really see the landing side.  It had given a ton of refusals at the previous show held there and apparently quite a few refusals at this show.  TWH sucked behind my leg but a good strong leg urged him forward and over we went :)  We went DOWN the BIG ass hill to immediately go up another BIG ASS hill and went to 5.  6 went better than expected, it was a ditch and TWH didn't come to a COMPLETE stop (although it was damn close lol) and the 3 stride after the ditch rode well.  Damn ditches.  7, 8a and b, 9 and 10 were all easy but by this time we were getting tired.  Should have gotten 2 point up to 6 mins, bad rider!  11 was a the bottom of a big hill and then a U turn to go up a small hill to bop up a bank.  12 was into water and 13 was a jump out of water, easy peasy.  14 was funny b/c TWH approached it like he was drunk, he was locked onto the beginner novice fence and I had to keep putting and repointing him to the novice jump!  Finally 15 came and went and we were double clear in cross country.  Yahoo!

We wandered back to the trailer and settled in for a 2.5 hour wait for stadium, time to recharge and get the dressage score!  Walking up to the scoring trailer I shook my head.  Damn it, we were 13th out of 17 with a dressage score of 44.  44!  That is our worst score yet!  Damn it, my bad riding done screwed us up and this judge did NOT seem to like TWH.  The best I could hope for is people to have issues with jumping.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Getting ready

These last 2 weeks have been super, duper busy.  Both weekend days since Mia's show have been stuffed full of stuff that doesn't involve riding my own horse and week nights have not been much better.  The only option? Getting up and riding at 615a.  Very unfun to ride your horse AS the sun is coming up, and riding alone, since it is the only option for one to actually be able to ride.  But as a result TWH has been ridden 5 days a week since Mia's show and I think we are ready for our show on Sunday!

Our first few rides back worked only on transitions.  The month (plus?) that TWH didn't have me riding him as I got Mia ready did no favors with his non-gaited-ness.  His trot was fine but his walk/trot transition was sluggish and had several sluggish steps before he picked up the trot.  His canter was fine but his canter/trot transition had several pacing steps in there.  His trot/walk transition was loose and sloppy, yeah we had a lot to fine tune.  Thankfully a few rides tightened his responses right back up and he is doing quite well.  He still isn't as snappy into the trot from a relaxed walk as I would like, I have to really get his attention before I can get a good, clean trot transition, but it should be more than sufficient.  His canter/trot transition is back to where it needs to be as well has his trot/walk transition.  Something that seems to have helped is to significantly increase the tempo, getting more speed is working for him so that is what I am going to ask for.  Yay us!  Tonight I am riding dressage again and am going to actually attempt the test, something I haven't yet done as I have been working on the individual pieces instead.

Jumping is going very well!  We had a couple of small jump schools outside where I worked more on me than him.  I really, really want to stop jumping ahead/being left behind and I really, really want to stop the practice of grabbing the reins over the fence.  I NEED to fix myself and if H isn't doing it in my lessons, well damn it I am going to figure it out somehow.  And I need pictures to prove it, but OMG I think I may have fixed it???  When cantering up to a jump, one should look at the jump until you can't see it between the ears and then look at your next fence.  That is all fine and dandy except my brain refuses to do that.  I have a tendency to look at the jump AT. ALL. TIMES.  Because, you know, it might disappear.  I tried not looking at the jump at all, whatsoever, and guess what happened?  I started jumping better.  Doh.

I jumped inside this week thanks to the 5+ inches of rain we got, everything is nice and saturated which makes for iffy footing when you are riding in a pasture.  On the plus side, however, some improvements to my arena worked and my arena had so minimal flooding that I would consider it a non-issue.  YAY!!!!!!!!!  On Tuesday I set up 2 jumps and threw a tarp over each so they appeared to be solid jumps and started off at 2'3", TWH didn't care.  2'6", TWH didn't care.  2'9", TWH didn't care.  Finally at 3' TWH sank behind my leg as we came up to the jump but I gave a good kick and TWH touched it.  Good Boy!  It was very apparent during that schooling that NOT looking at the jump whatsoever is really working for me, even at the 3' jump it felt like TWH was giving me an extended canter stride instead of trying like hell to get over.  This AM I jumped again, this time with an oxer and a vertical.  The vertical started at 2'3" before jumping straight up to 3' (jumping the 2'6" oxer in between) and while TWH knocked the pole down the first time over 3', he then cleared each of the subsequent 4 times.  He feels SO much better with my not looking at the jump, apparently I have been the problem all along!  I am really, really looking forward to pictures of our stadium course.  If not looking at the jump will fix the problems at home, can we actually pull in a stadium round that looks decent?!?!?!

We are now up to par on conditioning, I feel confident we can do our course.  We are up to 5 minutes of cantering/two point and I will be adding the 6th minute tomorrow morning.  I have been doing conditioning on our (dirt) road this week thanks to the rain and it is actually working out quite well for us.  It doesn't have the hills that I want to have like my pasture does but it does have a decent surface to go on with definite markers so I can tell how far I have gone.  One more minute and we are show ready!  I don't know if I will have pictures of our show on Sunday as SO isn't planning on coming and RB4 hates to take pictures but hopefully we will get some from the official photographer if not.  Updates to come after our show!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mia's first show Pt 2

When we finally got to the showgrounds, we had 40 minutes before our first class.  Considering it is just dressage and I am not showing the App?  That is pretty good time!  The App always required a full hour of riding allotted before a class in case he was a firecracker on a pogo stick, which was half of the time.  I got my back number and RB4 set to unwrapping and tacking Mia up.  I got changed into dressage attire and swung aboard, let's see what kind of mare I will have today!

Aside from being convinced a gravel patch would swallow a horse hoof, Mia was very good.  I walked her around for 5 solid minutes to loosen her up and picked up a trot.  She was a little looky but not bad and her trot wasn't rushed.  Good mare!  Our first class was a walk/trot class only so I didn't work on any canter but worked on our transitions.  When I saw the judge take a break for lunch, I meandered over and let Mia inspect the judges booth.  She was very hesitant to walk up to it and when she finally put her nose on it, she left it there for about 3 seconds before she teleported to the left.  I came *THIS* close to biting it and was barely able to grab the saddle pad to help keep myself upright.  Ugh, we love our baby horses.  We love our baby horses.  We love our baby horses... keep telling myself this.

I made her walk back up to it and when she finally relaxed we walked off.  It seemed like no time at all before the judge came back and we were up.  Mia went into the arena very straight and even had a good halt!  The turn left at C had a little bobble but then she was fine.  She did a nice circle to the left that did not have her drifting her haunches out (yay!!) and her transition to medium walk was a little abrupt but not bad.  Everything else rode very nicely!  We walked out of the ring and I felt really good about our effort.

An hour later we tacked back up and warmed up.  Mia was a little sticky in the canter transition but a quick smack with the dressage whip reminded her she needed to canter with her rear legs at the same time as her front legs and one reminder was all she needed.

Whose swanky van in the background?  OURS!  Cause
only cool people haul to a horse show in a van.
The show was little hectic and no one was running in order which was confusing, but soon enough the steward said it was my turn even though I was supposed to warm up for 10 more minutes.  No problem!

I glanced at the test and reminded myself I had to turn right at C.  We trotted in and had a decent halt even though she took a step backwards when I went to proceed forward.  I trotted around and had our canter transition which went really well, I then dropped into my walk when the bell rang.  Oh crap, now what?  The judge walked out and told me I had ridden the whole thing backwards, which was why my diagonal I needed didn't work out.  He was waiting to see how I handled it lol!  I COULD NOT believe I did that, in the 10 years of showing this is only the 2nd time I have EVER been off course!    The judge was very nice and said this was a fun show, so why don't we just leave the arena and we will start from scratch?  Great idea OMG!

The second ride went much, much better however when I got to C, I ALMOST turned fricken left AGAIN.  What the heck brain???  When we went for our right canter transition Mia actually gave me the wrong lead?  She hasn't done that in a long time!!  I quickly took her out of it and fixed it, technically we were still in the first quarter of our circle, maybe it wouldn't be too bad?  After our free walk Mia was a slug, she was hot and tired and she definitely didn't have the energy for that last trot but we finished the test.

Right after our last test they read the results of our first class, I listen for my name and  nope, not 8th, that was good.  Not 7th.  Not 6th.  Not 5th.  Wow, not even 4th?  NOT 3rd???  Mia got 2nd at her first ever class!!  We brought her back to the trailer and untacked her, pulled her braids and rinsed her off while we waited for our results.  The second results came really fast, we hadn't even wrapped her up and they called out the results, 2nd again!  My Mia who was virtually unbroken 10 months ago got 2nd in both of her first dressage classes!  I am so happy and excited!  She was such a good mare and is getting much better about being hauled places.  She didn't holler for other horses the entire time, she didn't spook at everything, she was the same horse that she is at home.  That is AWESOME.

Oh and our tests?  Intro B was a 68.750%.  We got an 8, AN 8(!!!) on our freewalk!  We got 7's on everything except our medium walk which was a 6.5 because she likes to come to an almost halt out of the trot.  Go Mia!  Intro C was a 66.250% with more 6.5's but 2 7.5's on our medium and free walk!!!  We did get a 6 on our canter transition where she got the wrong lead first but a 6 still isn't bad at all.  This mare and I, we are going to go places :-D

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mia's first show Pt 1

I have been really excited for Mia's first show, there has been a lot of work put into her for this big debut and I really wanted everything go to well.  When I got my ride times on Friday, our first class wasn't until noon.  That is awesome, not only do I get to sleep in, but I can even bathe her on Sunday and not worry about having a filthy mess of a mare if I bathed on Saturday!  I spent Saturday loading most of my trailer and cleaning my tack.  Because, you know, you should really only clean your tack within 24 hours of a horse show.

Sunday I got up at 4a to go to the bathroom and horse brain said OMG HORSE SHOW! TIME TO GET UP!!  Body said Hey Brain, screw off, we get to sleep 3 more hours, go to bed.  It actually took a while to get back to sleep and I didn't sleep deeply before the alarm finally went off at 7a.  Time for a horse show!  I got up, fed the horses, fed the animals, ate breakfast and was ready to start getting everything ready at 745a.  Win!  I was rocking it!  I pulled the truck up and hooked up the trailer, I had to pull forward a half inch to drop the latch as the ball was just a smidge too far back on the tongue.  As I pulled forward, my foot went to the floor and I heard a slight *psssssstttt*.  O. M. F. G.  I pressed the brake again to make sure and yes, there was zero brake pressure and most definitely a hissing noise, that noise would be a popped brake line.  What now?!?!

SO was outside at this point and we confirmed that yes, a brake line blew out, I certainly can't haul with it now!  I was racing through thoughts of other alternatives when SO suggested I take The Van, well it should work right?  "The Van" is a 9 passenger GMC Savannah that he very recently bought for his own hobby, it is technically a 1/2 ton truck with a van body and CAN haul, we just haven't actually done it yet.  And it isn't wired for a 7 wire plug.  And it doesn't have a brake controller.  Yikes!!

Desperate times call for desperate measures however and my only options at 815a on a Sunday were to use The Van or scratch the show.  It wasn't that expensive of a show if I ended up scratching but I had been looking forward to going for a good while now.  SO was nice enough to make the decision for me and said if I was comfortable hauling without trailer brakes, he would get the van set up to haul us.  Well, okay then!  I have hauled in much, much, much worse rigs than I have now, no trailer brakes?  Heck, that would be like when I would haul my 2 horse trailer with a Jeep Cherokee but only better because The Van was bigger and heavier.  (Yes, yes I really did haul the App in an old 2 horse trailer with a straight 6 Cherokee with no trailer brakes.  For over a year in fact until SO hauled with me ONCE and said I wasn't allowed to ever do it again)  He drove off to (who knows what store) to get an additional ball since the trailer's ball sits on a hitch with a 5 inch drop, needless to say the van doesn't need that!  While he did that, I got to bathing and braiding.

Bathing was a fast affair, I cheated and used the EZ-All bath spray again and got her mostly clean.  For her first official bath, she did pretty well.  No dancing or anything, once she realized I would let her eat grass if she stood still, still is what she decided she wanted to do.  Good mare!  After a quick bath it was time to start braiding. My fingers definitely do NOT remember how to braid dressage braids!  It has only been over 5 years since I put them on the App, I guess I need to brush up on my skillz :)  I started braiding when SO got back and brought the van up to the garage to get it ready.  I was almost done when he was finished, he successfully hill-billy wired it for a 7 way plug, got the new ball on a 2 inch rise hitch and we hooked The Van up to the trailer.  He is so awesome in doing all this frantic work for me, he is such a good guy!

RB4 arrived and helped me get the last of everything ready, we wrapped up Mia, loaded up some water, grabbed directions and off we went.  With everything that happened, we were only running 20 minutes late from my planned departure time!!  I have not been more thankful for always being so early for things haha, I would still have 40 minutes before my ride time when I got there!  The first few stops weren't bad though we had to run the first stop light we came to that had a very fast yellow.  Thankfully we were still out of town and nothing bad happened as a result, it made me slow way down at stop lights though.  We got to the event with 45 minutes left before my ride time, time to get the party started!