Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Winning all the things

Dressage mare can dressage
Have I mentioned that moving sucks? And going from having your own barn to boarding again kinda sucks? Saturday I spent 2 hours, TWO HOURS just finding, organizing and preparing my things for the show. And that is all before I left the house. Ugh. My shipping wraps had been washed and dried and then needed re-packed. My show sheet, sleezy, liniment, poultice, clippers and what not all had to be located. My show clothes were discovered in three different locations and they all needed to be tried on, organized, etc. The result? I now have 2 sets of show clothes. My main set and a backup set, both now living in my trailer. I got all of the barn things (that now live in the basement) about a third organized and I know where the dedicated boxes live. Progress!

Our short ride on Saturday was very good, I had 3 people comment about Mia's LOVELY tail and that Mia looked really good under saddle.  She bathed and clipped well (yay!) and a good 3 hours later, I left the barn.  After all of this prep, I was finally ready.

Braids courtesy of Braid-eez.  Need more practice though
SO ended up joining me, to my surprise as I expected him to just show up and watch classes.  Love company!  We left the house at the decent hour of 6a so we could make the 45 min drive to the barn and the 2 hour drive to the show.  Fun times.  We said hi to the barn owner who was showing the Novice division (and had to leave the barn at 5a) and I hopped on.  Mia was pretty good in warmup, but she kept her head fairly high and was not stretching down into the bridle.  We focused on keeping a nice and slow tempo like we have been working towards and kept the warmup short.  Like Sinatra, she doesn't need a ton of warmup which is really nice.

Tail love!
The dressage test went pretty well, the parts I didn't like she scored me well on and the parts I thought we did well she scored us low, go figure.  The first trot circle, for example, she gave us a 5.5 for uneven steps but I don't remember them.  Or see them in the pictures.  Oh well.  We got a lot of 7's which really helped our score and even an 8!  Our biggest thing right now, not surprisingly, is staying straight.  Mia just can't go in a straight line so we will be working a lot on that in the coming weeks.  We got a 34% which put us 3rd of 12 horses.  NICE!!
Nice relaxed canter.  Now need to package it back up
I didn't get a chance to walk the SJ course because I was walking the xc course instead, thankfully that only took 30 minutes so I got ready for SJ.  I watched the other competitors and nothing looked tricky and the only thing that became tricky was a 90 degree turn from jumps 3 to 4.  Mia is getting SO much better at stadium now, our last few rides over stadium has been VERY sternly reminding her that she cannot take off over fences and the lesson stuck.  She didn't even HIT a pole, what a huge improvement WOOHOO!.
Nice relaxed canter the other direction.  Still need to package it back up
There is this one picture at fence 4, below, where she met the distance right but for some reason just didn't go.  Her front end is really low like she is horse chasing a cow, she basically did the 4 footed step that Sinatra could do.  This, of course, threw me forward and she did a great job of popping me out of the tack.  Thankfully she went over, I stayed on, and the rest of the fences rode like no big deal.  And we went double clear.  Turns out, that helped us move up to 2nd when the 1st place rider forgot the course and was eliminated. WOW 2nd!!!
What the what, what mare?  Why apply the brakey brakes?
Cross country actually had me a little nervous.  We hadn't ever been there before, we hadn't gone actual XC schooling since September and finally, there were no warmup xc fences.  We went off and she was a bit looky, sadly I actually had to smack her over the first 2 fences bc she was going to stop.  Ugh!  That happened last year, if you recall, when she had 3 refusals at our first Horse Trial of the year.  At the 3rd jump I smacked her out of caution, but by then she had decided/realized we were going XC and my XC machine was back.  We went over fence four and I had to haul on her to get her to slow down for the water crossing.  She couldn't possibly go straight to get to fence 6 so I brought her back to a trot and trotted to 6.  Seven was a bending line from 6, with a down and up hill.  Time was not ticking by fast enough so I brought her to a walk down the hill (it was pretty steep) and trotted over fence 7.  
Fence 8 was an easy log, as was 9.  Mia couldn't have cared.  I was getting dangerously close to speed fault time so we slowed down to fence 10 and over the ditch (without a glance) of 11.  We had 2 fences left and almost 90 seconds till optimum time.  Oops!  I put Mia in the slowest dressage canter I could and we finished at 4:10.  Speed fault was at 3:41 and Optimum time was 4:59.  Well, that isn't all that bad lol.  Not long after I finished, the person behind me finished and we chatted.  She was sitting in first place and said she went double clear.  I was excited, 2nd place!
Well, the moral of the story?  Ride with your watch.  We waited for results and I sat gape-mouthed as I heard the placings.  I was in first place!  That person in 1st had 10 points of speed faults for going too fast so I moved up to 1st.  I am so happy, for it being a new place, Mia did so great.  There is always things that can be better, but she really showed up to play.  And not only did we win the division, we also got a ribbon in dressage (MORE RIBBONS!?  YES PLEASE!) AND we got a dandy brush with the show name and word Champion on it.  AHH!   STUFFS!! Love stuffs!
XC fence one, required several smacks, and now off center
Homework?  Well, I REALLY need to find a way to rate Mia in XC better.  At this point, I am thinking a bigger bit. We have ridden exclusively in a regular snaffle, maybe she needs more to be reminded to slow down.  She just goes and unless I yank on her, she doesn't like to slow down.  We really need to work on straight.  Even when not applying any leg or rein aids, she will drift off of straight, so I need to find out what the magic formula is going to be for her.  Lastly I need to get her to stretch down into the bridle more.  I think she does stretch down, but pics don't lie and she doesn't.  The good?  Did you check out my position?  So awesome!
Smacks applied, not really needed
Next weekend is another race with the racecar so Mia is getting a nice long break. Our next show is tentatively in July (possibly 2 shows?) so we have time to work on this stuff.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

And then there was a lesson

More stuff to talk about, really?  YES!  I know right?  I went a year that, thanks to the move, I had almost nothing horse related to talk about.  Now?  I am back to plenty of things but not enough time to write it down.  Ah #workingpersonequestrianproblems.  After our awesome xc schooling, I had a lesson scheduled for Sunday.  It was our first dressage lesson in about a year, thanks to that pesky lack of funds thing.  (Who knew relocating and 2 mortgages made finances hard?  jk, it be hard)  Overall?  Pretty good lesson.  It was a very expensive lesson, the most I have ever paid for a lesson AND it was only a 45 min lesson, but it was good.  And the only dressage instructor who makes trips to the barn.  Ugh.  Great barn, great people, but really?  You don't have more than one person for any one thing?  I don't want to be "that" person, the only one who uses someone else....but....

I started out the lesson with a brief synopsis of what we do and where we are.  I got Mia 2.5 years ago when she was only hillbilly trail broke, restarted her from the ground up, pretty willing but opinionated mare, finally went BN last year, hoping to go N this year, etc.  I told her that I liked being micromanaged as I think it gives me the best snapshot of what I need to fix, especially since I don't get lessons regularly.

Mia was doing really well in warmup, she was fairly soft and moving along well.  When we started trotting, the instructor liked us but was immediately able to see my weakness, my bum leg.  Stupid leg.  It has had 3 knee surgeries and my body protects it even when I don't think I am.  This means not as much weight on it and it doesn't activate as much as I think it does.  Story of my life lol.

The summary, as I am not going to be able to make this into a long, winding story.  SLOW DOWN. She is a big metronome user and said we need to slow it down.  Mia wants to go fast and I am enabling her to go fast.  Apparently it is a very common problem with eventers LOL!  As a result, Mia is fairly flat without a lot of hock motion and power.  She won't be able to have lift and reach in her legs if she is spending all of her time moving her legs forward as fast as she can.  Huh.  Never had it explained like that.  That makes a lot of fricken sense.  We are powering along at approximately 170-180 bpm and she wants us closer to 140 bpm.  She originally set the metronome at 129 bpm so I can aim to be behind the tempo. OMG people, that is SO HARD.  SO SO HARD.  So ridiculously easy to try, so, so hard to actually do.  Once we got the tempo slowed way down, we were able to get Mia to push a bit more and she did feel more "up" and definitely had more power.  Whodathunk?!

With this slower tempo, Mia's canter transitions were not nearly as crisp.  She is having to pick us both up in order to canter instead of using speed to push us along.  It is something I will play with this week, but not too much as I don't want to be changing it up a whole bunch before the show.  The plus side?  No cross cantering!  Woohoo!

We also determined I collapse my ribcage on my right thanks to my bum leg.  So even if I feel I am leaning over to the left, I am almost always upright and straight.  #brokenpeopleproblems.  Lastly, I am a little too grabby with my right hand.  Almost everyone has a grabby hand and mine is my right.  Always something to work towards.

Overall she seemed to like us and spent very little time critizing or micromanaging me.  I am always afraid that I am not hearing corrections because I have a poor trainer instead of thinking that maybe it is because there isn't much to correct.  In looking at my recent pictures, I am for once actually inclined to think MAYBE, this time, it is because there isn't much to correct?  Here's to hoping anyway, less than a week till our first show!

Monday, May 16, 2016

So much to talk about

Suddenly I am faced with too much to say, not enough time.  I could easily have 3-4 posts by now, how crazy is that?  I guess I am going to have to do a summary post.  To make it up, I have media for you.  Does that make it better?  :)

Last week:
Last week was weird crazy.  The horses got trimmed and made me REALLY miss my MI farrier. Unfortunately, this farrier does EVERY SINGLE horse in the barn and I don't want to rock the boat, he does okay enough work if I micromanage him.  But dude, a trim is not take off ALL the toe and leave all of the heel.  Alas.
Really dog?  
Monday I didn't get to ride bc my dog decided that her separation anxiety has reached critical levels since the move from MI.  She has always been anxious when I am gone, but just a little whiney and annoying to others.  Well, then she started moving her crate around when we got to PA.  Then she was bending the bars at the bottom of her crate.  And then she apparently had enough, flipped her crate over and broke 6 of the welds to get out. *sigh*  So on Monday she went to the vet and was put on Prozac.  Hoping it kicks in by the end of the month because right now she is getting Ace almost every day.
Big mare jumps big jumps
Last week was total fitness work, with it being BEAUTIFUL I took advantage and rode outside with some jumps set up.  I have been working hard to get my fitness back up and was able to get to 3.5 mins of two point and then be able to walk the next day lol.  Mia is being a machine while jumping and NOTHING is phasing her.  I set jumps up to 3'3" and mare just didn't care.  We finished off the week with some 4 min canter sets and I could two point for 5 mins.

On Saturday I was supposed to ride with another boarder, MC, and practice some of the XC jumps here at the barn.  MC then had to push the ride time back but some severe storms were moving in at exactly the time she wanted to ride so I rode earlier to go xc schooling.  That said, it involves 5 logs, 2 ditches and 2 coops in total.  Better than nothing I guess!
LOVE this pic!
Mia was SUPER excited to be going XC and from the get-go I had a hard time keeping her from just going fast.  We trotted around the XC "area" and while Mia got to see some of the jumps, I tried not to get close as I wanted to see how she would react to them "cold", without any previous presentation.  Let's just say Mia wasn't concerned lol.  The ONLY thing she hesitated to was each "ditch".  The first one I walked up to and she refused but when I trotted her to it, she jumped it without question.  The second ditch she actually ran out on.  She got acquainted with Mr Spanky as she was told refusals are not acceptable and she then had zero issues with either ditch.  (Ditches, we be making them our bitches!)

The only real issues we were having was Mia's tendency to streeettttch and ggooooooo over the fences, so she is galloping for 2-3 strides after a fence while I desperately pull her back.  It will fix itself, eventually, I keep telling myself.  She is better than last year anyway, so it is a start.

We finished on a good note over some stadium fences and with lots of good pics.  Takeaways?  My position is SO much better.  I think I need to close my hip just a little more and sink into my heel just a little more and I am good.  My position is pretty solid over all jumps, not just a few random jumps.  Win!
Position love
I need to really consider changing her bit for xc to one that will get her head UP and a little more bite.  Mia is a XC machine and isn't phased by much at all.  Here's to hoping it keeps up, I have a show on Sunday!
Example of Mia, one stride after a xc jump, hauling ass,
having yanked me out of the saddle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pics don't lie

 was able to wrangle SO into coming out over the weekend to take video of our riding.  I wanted to see how I was position wise and see if Mia looked as good as she felt.  Since the barn doesn't have a trainer or give lessons, and I don't have anyone to ride with, I needed some legit feedback.  TL;DR I was wrong.  At least this past weekend I was wrong.

Gapy mouth, overall really nice
Gapy mouth, a bit of pulling with my hands
One thing I have been suspicious of is Mia's bit, she is ridiculously quirky in her bits.  I start feeling like Sprinkler Bandit at times, having to swap out all of the time to appease the princess.  As I have said before, Mia really loved her copper full cheek.  The issue is I hate full cheeks.  I hate their look, I hate their pointy ends, I hate the keepers that you need on them, I have them because they are great starting bits but I have zero desire to keep using them.  So when I moved her out of the full cheek, I had to try several before we found one that worked.  She hated the french link snaffles that I have used forever on the boys, okay fine.  So I bought a HSS loose ring for a steal. She hates the loose ring.  Okay, fine.  I bought an eggbutt and she went okay in it, I bought a copper eggbutt and she went well in it.  Well, always one to meddle, I bought a HSS boucher bit and have been riding her in it since the end of last  year (not saying a lot, if you remember lol).  Well, the pictures don't lie.  She doesn't like it.

Leaning forward a little, mouth issue again

open mouth, some suspension!
I have cherry picked the best pics, however in almost all pictures she is gaping her mouth and isn't stretching down like I thought.  I have strongly suspected she has been gaping her mouth, and was right. I have now grabbed the copper eggbutt and it will be going out tonight.
That issue with the right front being on the ground when the
left hind is off.  If it was timed correctly, suspension!
Gapy mouth, right front striding issue again
Overall, I am pretty happy.  SO took 489 pictures and some video.  90% of the pictures show the only real issue with ME is that my leg is sliding too far forward.  My hands are up and together in about 75% of the pics and I am not leaning forward in most pics as well.  Win!
Gapy mouth, really nice position I think

Tense, Above the bit, bad hands but good position
It also shows me that the last trim job has left Mia's toes too long, her front are still on the ground when her diagonal rear is off of the ground.  I have a farrier coming out on Saturday, so let's hope that gets resolved.  Why is every pic going the same direction?  I have no idea lol.  I picked the pictures and it wasn't until I uploaded them that I noticed that, sorry ha!  So.... what do you think? Bit issue?  Just being resistant?