Monday, August 27, 2012

Beach Trip 2012

What a great time we had at the beach this weekend! The trip down was a long one, thanks to tons of traffic. But we made it before sunset - set up camp, and had nice warm chili and a roaring fire thanks to our friends! The horses settled in just fine in their beach paddocks. Sun up/sun down brought with it horrible stinging/biting knats - the horses were covered with them. Thankfully we all remembered fly masks and Deep Woods OFF kept the knats away. And, as it turns out, Ben accepts the aresol type spray far better than the spray-bottle spray. Go figure.

beach bum - yer doin it rite

Saturday morning we woke up at 6 am thanks to our noisy camping neighbors - I'd be annoyed but they were seriously the funniest people to listen to - kinda like sitting around the dinner table with the Klumps - so they got that nickname for the entire trip. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our coffee and the warm sun, then decided to take the horses out to the beach for the first time.

what is that?

Ben was a champ -it was a beautiful day so it was pretty busy - lots of people, dogs, kites, and horses. tons of horses. One huge barn, Miari stables, came down to school on the beach with about 25 horses. THAT was very exciting for Ben, he wanted to be part of their herd.

Never the less we got our beach ride in - got our toes wet and even managed to snap a couple of pictures in the process.

After a couple of hours, we called it good and went back to camp for lunch, with the intent of having a sunset beach ride. That ride was a bit more, uhm, exciting. As it turns out, Ben is not such a huge fan of high tide. The larger waves, rushing water, lack of compact sand, it was a bit too much. He was still a very good boy, but very overwhelmed, and had some half hearted attempts at showing his displeasure. But, we survived and still managed to enjoy the beautiful sunset!

The next morning, the clouds had rolled in, and the wind picked up. I was not feeling great, and didn't really want to ride at all. Luckily for our group, though, there were 4 riders and 3 horses, so my friend rode Ben. The tide was out again, and the horses were much calmer. It was cold, windy, and at the very end it started to rain- but still quite fun!

We got back to camp pretty quickly after that ride and decided to pack up and go home, knowing the weather was only going to get worse. We had a long drive back with a few pockets of traffic, but otherwise uneventful.

We're happy to be back home but even more grateful for having the opportunity to go beach riding with our wonderful friends!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stage Fright

"If I show my 4 year old neon green horse training level, and he behaves like he is 4 - I will get a crappy score."  From one of my favorite bloggers, The Dressage Curmudgeon, in a recent post. So, so true, and exactly what happened to Ben and I this weekend.

Now, don't get me wrong. The whole show wasn't a bust. In fact, it was a really great experience, and we had quite a few accomplishments to account for. So, lets go through those first.

+1 for loading well both at home to go to the show, and to go home from the show.
+1 for not freaking out upon arrival at the show grounds
+1 for dealing with immediately being tacked up and going to the warm up without time to soak it all in
+1 for being pretty chill throughout the entire day
+1 for having decent warm ups, despite the crazy busy arena
+1 for having generally clean tests- no bells rang, and the rider stayed on. 

Oh shoot - have I remembered my test? LOL Love the look on my face!

And now, lets review the opportunities...

-1 refusing to bend left
-1 growing roots when scared, and having that carry on throughout the entire test, no amount of urging via leg nor whip effective at all.
-1 once scared, spooking at random shit like dirt hitting the dressage rails, and making ourselves scared all over again, and then avoiding being close to the rail all together.
-1 for being an ass during the second warm up before our second test. Apparently he does not like having a break in between tests.

See? Not so bad - more plusses than minuses. Ben's biggest thing was that the scary corner with the loud gravel was, well, scary. When he gets scared, he starts grinding on his bit, and gets very sticky - which means irregular, gaity- gaits and a lot of work on the part of his rider to keep him going. When he's sticky he's also on the forhand and not straight so we also resemble more of a fish swimming upstream than a horse going down the centerline.

We had 1 score of 4, and that was when he broke his canter and we could not show our down transition from canter to trot. Otherwise we were in a sea of 5 - 6.5's.  Not bad, not good- just right down the middle. I can't recall the exact scores - but I think they were 57.6% and 58. something% Not terrible, not great but not good enough for ribbons - I think we were 7th both times, and there were 8 or so in the classes.

Am I disappointed? In a way, yes, because I thought we had had some good breakthroughs over the past month and I was hoping that would have improved our scores. Then again, I have to remember, this year was not about getting great scores. This year was about getting our feet wet. And so far, so good.

Speaking of wet feet...on Friday we leave for a beach trip.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Is A Great Ride?

Smiling at the SAFE Show 8/5/2012 -Photo by Karen Wegehenkel

Rode in a lesson last night. Afterwards, one of the girls at the barn asked me how it went, and I shrugged my shoulders and said "It was okay" while at the same time my trainer said "She had a great ride!"

Huh? A great ride? I did? Are you sure you are talking about what took place in the arena about 10 minutes ago on a certain bay standardbred?

And then that got me thinking about it- why is it that I felt like my ride was so-so, meh, and my trainer thought it was great? I certainly didn't feel great, nor did I feel like I accomplished anything or made any huge breakthroughs.

But upon thinking about it, maybe I did. And maybe a great ride doesn't always feel great.

When I envision a great ride- I have a soft, active, forward, supple moving horse that feels effortless to ride. I hear comments such as "great," " super," " beautiful," and " that's it!" from my trainer. All three of us are on the same page.

This was not my recollection of last night's ride. So what exactly did happen?

We started off with a long walk. I was telling my trainer about what we did during the past week, and that I realized that I, as a rider, am much better off if I figure out my position first and then bring the horse into it, vs trying to make the horse perfect then correct my position. Basically, my own equitation is great until I pick up the reins and attempt to have contact.

And so I showed her. And then slowly I picked up the contact, and life was better. So we changed things up. When Ben flipped his head at me, we worked on something else. Basically, she said - if what you are attempting isnt working, do something else, and here are things you can do. And so it went - we went through a series of exercises to use. 

So instead of resisting his face with my body, I just quietly held my reins and practiced booting him up. Sure, he was above the bit, a lot. It wasn't pretty. But man, it is much easier to ride him. I could fix my upper body. And a couple of times, we broke into canter. And the canter was easier to sit. Last week my seat at the canter was so tight, I had gotten the order that I had to work on loosening my lower half and strengthening the upper- because I have been doing the exact opposite.

From there we added poles to trot through and then pick up the canter.

It felt ugly a lot of the time, but I felt like a more solid rider. My canter seat was much much better than last week.

This morning, I was talking to a friend about it, and she also said my ride looked GREAT. WTF, why didn't I feel great, then? I guess it is because I expect progress to be linear - one thing develops off the next, and you never look back. Reality is, progress is a tangled web. You get better at one thing and something else goes to hell, at least temporarily. Over time, though, you move forward. But ride to ride, week to week, you may feel like you take steps backward, or no steps forward, or things that were going well suddenly aren't. And sometimes a great ride means you worked through some of this - a great ride may not be a pretty, feel good ride at all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 2 - Hunters

Photo by Karen Wegehenkel
I've been putting off writing this post in hopes of having some photos to accompany my tale, alas, still waiting for those.  And at this point, if I continue to wait, the rest of our journey will also get backlogged. Onward we go.

Where was I...oh yes, the SAFE show. Day 2. Hunters. I havent ridden a hunter course in a good 10+ years. Probably closer to 13 or 15 if I want to be honest. Nevertheless, that did not stop Ben and I from trying it out.

Our first 2 classes were on the flat - but in the ring with all the jumps. It was a cool intro for him - he's never been in a full flat class with other horses, nevermind one with obstacles to avoid. We took 4th in our Hunter class - and promptly got called over by the judge. He was very nice- said I have an adorable horse and that I'd place a lot higher than 4th if I lost my dressage stuff - specifically my bridle and whip. LOL. I knew going into it that I was using verboten tack, but I had also checked with the show organizer and she said it would be fine. Judges rule, however is final. Not much I could do, and in our second class, equitation, we came in at reserve, which I pretty much expected after the warning, plus...hunter eq in a dressage saddle isn't gonna happen. No matter, it wasn't about winning, it was about playing around in an arena w/ jumps.

About an hour later, it was time to do our trot poles course. By then it was 11 am, and heating up. Ben was sweaty, flies were coming out to annoy us, and he was getting very antsy and also tired standing in the heat waiting for our turn. Finally, though, we got in there. It was really fun - he was a champ. We managed a 4th place.

After that run, I decided to scratch out of the eq class - one because I'd have to memorize another course, 2 because we werent going to place well in it anyway, and 3 because we were both ridiculously hot, sweaty, and tired. Rather than push it and sour us both to the experience, we ended on our 4th place note.

So there you have it. A successful long weekend full of 4th places! LOL Not bad considering how large each of the classes were. We had our neon-green-bean moments, but we also had some really nice milestones and lots of good times.

Looking forward, we still have a few events on the calendar. This weekend we're going to yet another dressage show to ride Training 2 and 3 again. The weekend afterwards we'll be dipping our tootsies in the Pacific Ocean on a 3 day camping trip to the beach =) Should be loads of fun!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bio Break

I promise, I will finish writing about the show. Honestly at this point I'm just waiting for pictures.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Day 1- Dressage Highs and Lows

Saturday brought a different can of worms. As the show was getting under way in the morning, I thought it would be good for Ben to see a bit of it- before it was in full swing.  This time I grabbed the halter and lead rope and walked him down. All of the people, tents, sights, sounds, especially the announcer over the microphone - it was a lot for him to take in and he was spooky. He held it together, but I didn't feel like he was very safe to be in the company of others, as it was getting crowded and free space becoming an issue. So we went back to the barn.

I didn't know what to expect for our rides, given how uneasy he was about the crowd- but I figured I'd get out there and try - the worst that could happen is that I'd have to scratch. Saddled and bridled, we headed back down. He was much, much better. I headed for the warm up arena, and once in there, he was fine. So I got on, warmed up, and felt like he was going really well. Still a little looky- but nothing dangerous.

Our first test, Training 2, went great.  A few bobbles here and there, but generally speaking, it was quite good! We went from a 55% (at our first show on June 30th)  to a 64%. I felt like we used the arena much better - our geometry was better, his canter was awesome. He got 8's on his canters!!! HUGE improvement there! Our score was enough to land us in 4th place out of 10. I love the overall comment "Attractive and capable pair" YAY!!

After our first test we headed back to the barn for water and shade and to get recharged. An hour or so later, it was time to tack up again and head on back. This time-things were different. Ben was fine until we got to the warm up area- the arenas had gotten too dusty and so the big water truck had to come through and spray down everything- including the walking aisle-way, and apparently the people/horses in it. The tractor came not too far behind him. Ben's butt was to the water truck when the dude blasted the water- it was poor timing - and I had no idea he was going to do that...actually all of us, even the spectators were a little spooked! LOL. That wasn't good for Ben - he was very jumpy for the 15 minutes it took to water and grate the arena- and there was no where else to go. So at this point we had about 15 minutes to warm up after the crew left, Ben was a spooky hot sweaty mess - and we just had to use what time we had left.

His warm up was less than stellar. His mind wasn't all there- he was tired and cranky and wanted to buck into his canter transitions, he was behind my aids- and there wasnt much I could do about it, except stay on and keep trying to get him back to being relaxed and forward thinking. Part of me really wanted to just school the heck out of him, but the other, more sensible part of me realized it was over 90 degrees, and that my young horse was acting, well, young. A hard schooling right before our test was a risk I wasn't going to take this day.

how are we not falling down? hehe
At least I'm looking where I am going...I think?

Still, I figured I'd give the test a try - at least we'd have our first T3 score and we could improve upon that at another show. I had never ridden it either- so we needed to start somewhere.  So onward we went. The whole ride was a struggle. He had run out of gas, his mind was in other places, and I was just trying to get through it without forgetting the test, not get bucked off, and be done, LOL.

We got a 56.7% - which is still higher than our June 30th scores- and we still got an 8 on our left canter. Comments were all things I knew "behind the aids, horse is sluggish today" Yep - we got what we deserved!

Well, I was glad we did it, but also really glad we were done for the day. So back to the barn we went to untack, cold hose, water, and have some lunch. The next day would be a totally new experience - the hunter arena!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The SAFE Show Recap - Arrival Day

Oh my, what a weekend!

We arrived at Donida at about 6pm on Friday evening - after unpacking, setting up our stalls, and getting our registration stuff squared away, we all wanted to take our horses out to see the place. 2 of the 4 horses were taken by their owners in their halters - and when they left Ben got pretty upset - he was left in the barn, and the horses next to us were all a tizzy - not exactly relaxing. So I got to work quickly - instead of going out in the halter, I figured I'd have better luck tacking him up and going from there. I was right. We spent a good 20-30 minutes walking around spooking at everything - the rocks, bushes, judges booths - horses moving - you name it- if it caught his eye, he spooked.  But once he had a good look, I felt like I could get on.

One mounting block. Crap. 16.1hh horse...hahah. I managed, and he was a good boy.

Once on we rode around our friend as a safety net- but it was obvious Ben was fine. The arenas there are HUGE - and I tell ya it was a wonderful thing to ride in such open space. Ben's canter and trot even were infinitely better. We rode in every arena, practiced going into the dressage arena - and by the end I was so happy I brought him to the show, if even all we got out of it were these rides.