Thursday, April 16, 2015

It's a bit big, but we'll take it anyway!

The year-end awards for our local GMO finally arrived:

AA Training level champions!

It's a wee bit huge on him, but whatever. We'll wear it with pride!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Imelda Marcos of Pyrs

Gus has made himself right at home with us - it's like he lived here forever. For the most part he is excellently behaved - he even comes when called (unlike certain Malamutes I could name). If he has one vice, it's his love of shoes.

And I do mean LOVE:


He's very gentle with them - there's never a tooth mark anywhere, they're only a bit damp. He simply seems to enjoy moving them from one point to the other and arranging them in small collections. These he moved from their official spot by the front door to his favorite napping spot by the back door.


It's great that he's such a good guard dog and all, but we're not quite sure how to explain to him that he's not supposed to guard shoes.



Fortunately he's not always stealing shoes. Sometimes he just looks cute and floofy...

Happy Floof!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Slummin' it at a schooling show

After last weekend's USDF rated show glamor, I was feeling decidedly less enthusiastic about our local schooling show. Don't get me wrong, I like our local shows and our local group is very fun and supportive, but the thought of putting on whites and braiding was kinda overwhelming. The show's "color" was purple to raise Alzheimer's awareness, but I have exactly 0 purple things in my wardrobe and I wasn't about to buy anything new (I also have 0 pink things, for the record. Redhead - enough said.) I decided to go with a solid blue palette, since that was the closest I could come and dark blue breeches sounded ever so much easier to keep clean-ish than whites.

The biggest reason I wanted to attend another show, however, was to get my head back in the game after last week. Watching the videos, I realized that Paddy had totally taken advantage of me in the arena. Sure, our warmups were good, but as soon as we turned at A he charged down centerline and pretty much ran the show. I wanted to have the chance for ME to run the show in a less stressful environment - to actually ride the test instead of just being a passenger.

Luckily, the weekend's forecasts for awful weather didn't pan out. We hauled to the grounds Saturday evening, and I got in a really great school. I focused on booting him forward whenever he threw his head up, and we also had some SUPER nice and balanced canter. I'm not sure if that was due to our short longe session beforehand, or the fact I was wearing spurs again (I'd taken them off for about a month), but it was really nice. I felt pretty confident about Sunday's rides.

Sunday dawned super foggy. I was scribing at 8 a.m., and you could barely see one end of the arena from the other. I joked to the judge that I should have asked for the first ride and been on a grey horse - our scores would have been awesome!

If you squint you can see C...

Scribing was, as usual, an interesting experience. The lone Grand Prix test included a rear instead of a canter pirouette, but hey, that's why this is a schooling show, right? I was lucky that the judge explained some of her comments, and I got to watch some good tests. It's always good to see what the judge can see and what they can't - and also see how easy some mistakes are to see. If you're not DEAD ON centerline, well... better practice that one at home, folks. A lot.

Next up, I helped Fuzzypony get ready for her rides and called both her tests. As usual, she and Taran put in nice, consistent tests. I'm kinda jealous that Taran is so steady on his own - I feel like I'm constantly monitoring Paddy's tempo, and Taran just happily motors along. We had a long break before my rides, so we grabbed lunch and then I spent some time getting ready... except that we discovered they were running 30 minutes ahead and I could basically go any time I wanted to. I told the ring steward that I was going to take my time to warm up, and I did, although I didn't get the longe I that I wanted to. When he was feeling relatively obedient, we headed in to do T2.

Tiny leg yield to warm up

Check out the Fabio forelock.

I just love pictures with this mirror

Haffie Hair!

And if you're super bored and want to watch YET ANOTHER video or Training Level Test 2:

Video courtesy of MC. Heck, all pictures are courtesy of MC, who am I kidding? Thanks MC!!!

Overall I was very pleased with this test. Yes, it was quick, but he was VERY obedient in comparison with last week. Except for the blown left canter lead (who needs to canter left? We only do right lead canter now!) I was quite happy with it. There were moments of stretch in our stretchy trot circle, and moments of stretch in the walks. Was it an amazing improvement over last week? No, but *I* was in charge and that was the point. Mission accomplished.

We had one ride between us and our next test, and I spent most of it walking. It was warm and humid, and he was blowing and getting tired quickly. With two minutes or so to go, I picked up the reins and did a few transitions. He was a bit more sluggish off my aids, but I wasn't terribly surprised. I was even more pleased with this test, except for the left lead canter which is our least favorite move. Check out around 1:30, in a move that I call "An Epic Battle for a Downward Transition Between a Train Wreck Haffie and His Desperate Amateur Rider." It's classy, y'all. Super classy. 

On the bright side, the first half of our free walk actually LOOKED LIKE A FREE WALK. He got distracted the second half, but whatever, we're halfway there! It's the tiny victories. Sadly, I did NOT win the victory with my hands. Work in progress for sure. Our final remarks on the test were "Horse got very quick and strong." Why yes, yes he did. Story of my life. 

T2 was good for a 59.4 (3rd place) and T3 was good for a 60 (also 3rd place). We did pull an 8 for our first centerline on T3, and a 7.5 for our second centerline (oh and we actually stopped AT X, unlike last week). Good to know if I ride those accurately we can make up some points there. Overall our scores were about 2-3 percentage points LESS than at the rated show. I'm not sure if it was the judge or just the day - he certainly looks less relaxed in these tests and yet he's much more on my aids. Somewhere there's got to be a balance between the two, I just have yet to find it. Clearly, more show miles are needed!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Siri vs "Brego" - the autocorrect archive

Not sure these even need an introduction...

What's the best/worst horse related autocorrect you've ever gotten?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

San Antonio Spring Dressage II

Sunday dawned kind of cold and drizzly. Lesson learned - pack a jacket/fleece/something, even if it's 90 degrees on the day you leave for the show.

I fixed three of Paddy's braids before our 9:52 a.m. ride, and hubby took Paddy for a little hand walk and grazing session while I got ready. Somehow I'd managed to keep my white breeches mostly clean on Saturday, and since they hadn't caused any of the usual problems (tight in the knee, rubs on the back of my left knee), I opted to wear them for a second day (those breeches deserve a post of their own, someday soon).

Hubby and I had talked over what didn't work the day before, and I had a new game plan. After our warmup (again, lots of walking, lots of trotting, and one short canter each way) I was going to head down to A, do several figure 8s to make sure he was listening, and then go in. We figured since A was where he'd gotten distracted the day before, I needed to make double-damn sure I had his attention there.

Only, that's not really how it happened. See, you only have 45 seconds after they ring the bell/blow the whistle for you to go into the arena. And in that time, I couldn't get Paddy focused on me. Instead, we careened around on some figure 8s before I decided we didn't have any more time, and went into the arena. Big mistake.

Paddy basically decided that he didn't have to listen to anything. He also decided that any use of my inside leg mean "canter", so you will see a ton of hop-canter steps in the test. As a result, I was terrified to actually put my leg on and insist that he do what I was telling him to, and he used that to his full advantage.

We are actually trotting across the diagonal here, but if you look at the sequence of footfalls, you can tell he's taking a canter half-step. This is at about 2:17 in the video.

I had no idea one could do a canter depart like this. Yikes.

For funsies, here's the video.

I came out of that test pretty upset. Yeah, we had some nice moments and for the first part, he was more obedient and less rushed than in other tests. But overall, it felt like he was blowing me off. Still, it was good enough for a 63.5%, half a point better than the day before. That got us 2nd out of 3.

After that less than stellar showing, I was determined to make the most of our last ride. Paddy decided to lay down for a nap about 30 minutes before we had to start tacking, and was NOT pleased about being woken from his beauty rest.

Note that the Haffie is not smiling in this one. 

Another long walk, and this time I didn't canter him at all before our test, just got him working more off my leg and seat. Since doing lots of circles at A hadn't helped, I decided to go in and really move him forward around the perimeter of the arena... do some shoulder fore, a little leg yield to really make sure he was on my aids, then go in. And overall, I felt it was the most obedient of our tests. Our trot work was better, although our canter work was worse - but I think he was pretty tired by then and I sure wasn't helping him much.

Classy spook-and-bolt right lead canter depart. You can see this at 2:50 in the video. Also see how I'm not supporting him with my right leg AT ALL? No wonder he falls in so badly.

And the video:

We ended with a 62%, which was good enough to get us one qualifying score toward the regional championships. Never mind that we were once again 8th/8, with the high score being a 72. A 63.5 would have netted us 6th place, so were were a touch more competitive.

Overall, it was a big learning experience for both of us. Paddy has definitely got it in his head that he doesn't have to behave as much when IN the arena, and I'm not riding him as well. We clearly need a lot of miles to put in a better performance. Even so, I can't be too upset with our scores, even if we're not competitive against the big-moving Warmbloods. We still had a great time, and I'm looking forward to doing it again in a month!

Monday, April 6, 2015

San Antonio Spring Dressage I

This weekend there were two rated dressage shows that we attended - on Saturday and one Sunday. They were at the same venue and used the same judges, but each rider was judged by a different judge each day, so we could maximize our chances for qualifying for various awards.

I had off Friday, so I loaded the trailer and got everything ready to go. We left when hubby arrived home, and only managed to forget a few things (I don't make lists, which would probably drive most of you crazy, but whatever, it works for me). The show was two hours away, and we made good time and pulled in with plenty of daylight to spare. I headed to the office to get our competitor's pack while hubby parked the rig, and then we unloaded Paddy and got him settled in. Being a well-traveled Haffie, he was at home as soon as the hay net arrived.

A treat from Dad didn't hurt either...

After we unloaded a few things, I tacked up and took Paddy for a tour.

Blurry ear shot of the warmup.

He was pretty good - spent a little time looking around but didn't do any of his usual screaming, thank goodness. We rode for about 30 minutes, then gave him a quick bath before heading out for dinner and THE BEST MARGARITAS EVER OMG. 

On Saturday, I didn't ride till 10:30, so I had plenty of time to pretend to braid my horse and get ready.  Hubby was awesome, holding Paddy while I did his forelock, checking on time, and generally keeping me cared for. With an hour to go, I changed clothes and put my hair up. I've GOT to find a better hair style - I simply have too much hair for a bun, because it just pushes my helmet forward over my eyes no matter how low on my nape it is. And I can't do hunter hair because it just doesn't fit under my helmet. I don't like show bows because they flop, which is visually pretty distracting. #horseshowproblems, right?

 Anyway, I had given us about 30 minutes to warm up, and we spent the first 15 of that walking around loosening up and taking in the sights. Paddy acted like a seasoned show horse - sure, he looked at all the activity, but horses everywhere didn't faze him one bit. Our warmup was going well when we were informed that they were running 10 minutes early and I was up next - YIKES! I could have waited (you are not required to ride until your posted time), but I figured we might as well go. And here's our ride:

It was quick, it was tense. He wasn't really listening to me very well. Still, we managed to squeak out a 63.099%, which I will take any day of the week. I decided that we needed a bit longer warmup, and I needed to make sure he was REALLY on my aids before we went in for our next test. We had a couple of hours before our next test, so we took him back to his stall, let him relax, and got a handwalk/graze in.

Between test hand walking and snacking. We were 3rd of 5.

The humans also got a nap in.

Training Test 3 was at 2:10. This time, I allowed 40 minutes for warmup. We spent a full 20 minutes walking out, and I think that really helped him loosen up. He's not used to being in a stall all the time, so a long warmup was good. The warmup itself went GREAT - he was really listening and we had some beautiful moments and excellent transitions. Unfortunately, as soon as we went down to the far end of the arena, he fell apart. Our test began with us barging up centerline and things going downhill from there. Here are some highlights from the video...

X was... somewhere back there...

Charging across the arena, hollow and stiff.

Bolting down the long side in canter.

I hear that leaning back helps loads when you're trying to get a downward transition (NOT).

"Free to look around with your head in the air" walk

And here's the actual video, if you want to see the carnage:

So, that was worth a 60.9 (8th of 8). I was pretty disappointed - our warmup was SO GOOD, and the test was SO BAD. Where had I gone wrong? Hubby and I discussed, and agreed that he really fell apart when we got down by A, just before we came in. We decided that the next day I would do a couple of 10 meter figure 8s down there before the bell, to get him focused and back on my aids before going in. Alas, horses do not always stick with the plan... 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Top 10 Takeaways From Our First Rated Show

This weekend was our first ever USDF rated dressage show. It was just me and hubby for the weekend - no trainer, new venue, playing in the big pond. It was terrifying and awesome, all at the same time, and I wanted to share the most memorable things that happened this weekend:

1. My husband is the most awesome horse show husband IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Not only did he put up with me, he also made me breakfast, walked Paddy, helped groom and tack Paddy, tried to muck, kept me on time, called my tests, and let me spend way too much money on pictures and videos. Seriously, he's THE BEST!

I bet your husband doesn't do this. Neener neener!

2. I suck dealing with hair - both Paddy's and my own. Paddy's braids looked like a 10 year old had done them, and my hair... yeesh. I need to find a better way to deal with it that does not involve a floppy show bow. And no, NO HUNTER HAIR.

3. Air BNB is not always the way to go. #uncomfortablebedssuck

4. The restaurant right next to the show grounds has the best margaritas EVER. OMG. I had two... I wanted twelve.

5. The horse world is a small one. We met a guy who works two buildings over from hubby, and happens to take lessons at a place we drive by to get to our trainers. We had a great time making friends and cheering for him and his GIANT 18.1 hh horse.

6. There are a lot of "meh" riders that are scoring really well on very expensive fancy-moving horses. I'm trying not to be jealous.

7. Paddy requires beauty rest every day between 10 and noon. If you schedule a dressage test during these times, you will have to pry a cranky Haffie up from his nap.

And really, he's just too cute to disturb... 

8. Judges have such creative commentary - our spook-and-bolt canter depart was called "playful" on our test, lol! Uh, yeah, and it was fun to ride too.

9. San Antonio Rose Palace is a super nice facility. Big stalls, excellent footing, great parking... and did I mention the restaurant next door with the margaritas? We'll be going back.

10. My trainer is awesome. Although she couldn't attend, she sent about 20 suggestions for warming up (which husband dutifully relayed),  texted me scores before they were posted, and called in between classes. She was definitely there in spirit, even if she wasn't there in person!

Overall, it was a really good show, and we learned a lot and had a great time! More to follow...

Blurry screener. I get the pro pics in a week or two.