Thursday, April 30, 2015

"He's using his cuteness against you"

“He’s using his cuteness against you.”

My trainer told me this last night. This is a very polite way of saying “Your horse has your number and you need to do something about it.” Whoops.

See, she’s been riding him for the past week while I was helping Hubby with the jousting competition. And she apparently learned a lot about what it’s like to ride him, in addition to having a few very serious discussions with him.

Apparently, taking things seriously is hard for him.

Exhibit A: The mounting block. Paddy happily walks off the moment my butt touches the saddle. No more of that, trainer says. You get on, he stands until you say otherwise. Shockingly, he’ll stand still without so much as a toe hair out of place now. Huh.

Exhibit B: Walking. There’s a fine line between walking politely and using his butt and, well, not. I am learning to keep my core super engaged at all times to “hold” him to a polite medium (without pulling on the reins, of course), making sure our tempo is very consistent and he doesn’t get the chance to speed up and fall over his front end. We’re doing this more in the free walk too, “holding” while allowing him to stretch, but still riding the hind end. The nice thing is that our transitions from a polite walk to a trot are just that much better, and it’s so easy to feel when he’s falling over his shoulder that I can mostly fix it very quickly.

Exhibit C: Trotting. As my trainer puts it, “He’s taking over… HE’S TAKING OVER!!!” In the space between one step and the next, Paddy can go from politely trotting to tucking his nose in and bowling for dressage letters. She was impressed at how good he is at this, and noted that the MOMENT you pull to get him to stop/slow down, he pulls twice as hard and just keeps going. (Note that he also does this at the canter, times 10.) To counteract this, I have to ride. Every. Step. Quite literally, I am riding every step his inside hind leg takes. I cannot allow him to go straight – we have to be sliiightly shoulder-fore at all times. If I relax for even a moment (or, heaven forbid, think “Hey, this is pretty nice…”), next thing I know he’ll be charging off, ignoring my seat like he’s never heard of a half-halt before.  But IF I’m paying attention, and I’m quick, I can give a half-halt with my seat and apply some inside thigh to re-focus him and get that inside hind back under control. Our trot work has magically slowed down (it feels like we’re crawling, although I’ve been told we’re not), BUT he’s also much more obedient. I know we’ll get marked off on not being relaxed over the topline, but if I ride like this, maybe we’ll also not get comments about rushing and pulling? One can hope.

We’re not even talking about the canter. Things are getting worse before they get better, but damn, we have our work cut out for us on this one.

Oh and Paddy? Trying to commit Haffie-cide three days before a show is sub-optimal. I know cantering is hard but did you REALLY have to try to bank off a panel in the round pen, get BOTH front legs caught, and flip over mid-stride? Because you almost gave me a heart attack.

Scrape on back of heel/pastern

Slight ding on inside of LF

Rumpled hairs

Don’t worry, he’s sound despite me thinking I’d killed my horse. A bit stiff of course, but no heat and no swelling – just a bit of rumpled hair and a cut on his pastern. Thank goodness!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Brego rocks Lysts on the Lake 2015

The short version: Brego ROCKED the jousting competition this weekend! He had zero problems in the lane, was happy to engage in mounted combat, and thought the jumping part of the obstacle course was THE BEST. Hubby couldn't be happier, and I doubt Brego's had so many treats (often provided by his extensive fan club) in years.

The long version:

Although we had worked a lot with Brego over the winter, at his first competition in March he decided that he really did not like the idea of his rider getting hit, and chose not to play. He would either not go in the lane at all, or would stop dead in the middle, at the impact point. Since then, hubby and I have worked a LOT with him, getting him used to having his rider hit, having his rider move about, etc. Hubby went to a couple of practices where he probably got hit over 100 times while walking and trotting down the lane. While Brego had gotten better and better, he still hadn't been able to do an actual run where both riders had lances and were targeting each other. In an ideal world, we would have had another month to practice, so we were both quite concerned about what the big guy would think about actual jousting. Had we gotten him over his fears? Would he play?

Here's a video of how the first joust on Friday went:

Note that these are in reverse order ('cause I'm an idiot with iMovie), so the last runs in the vid where you hear me clucking are actually his first runs.

In short, Brego has gotten TOTALLY into jousting. He did his job, ran perfectly down the lane and stopped at the end. You'll even see a few vids where he flips leads after the hit to keep himself under his rider! Hubby actually made it to the finals, and by the end, was able to run Brego with no reins. Talk about major improvement! We couldn't be happier, and Brego couldn't be happier with all the treats and praise he got for a job well done.


There was also a mounted combat competition, which is something that hubby has won repeatedly on Red. Alas, with Red happily retired, Brego has had to step in. He's not as maneuverable as a zippy little 14.2 hand MFT, but he's definitely getting the hang of going around bashing opponents. This was another game he just wouldn't play in March, and while he's still not interested in being the aggressor 100% of the time, you can see he does quite well considering all the excitement:

Back at the barn, Brego was quick to make friends with all the ladies. His favorite girl is a big Belgian mare named Peaches - they were practically inseparable. (Peaches mom made up the following song about the two of them.... "Brego and Peaches, sittin' in a tree... CRASH!!!") However, there were a number of PerchX mares and one PerchX gelding, all of whom thought he was pretty hot stuff. By the end of the weekend, Brego had an entire harem of his own.

Brego (in the middle) and some of his girls.

The final contest was a mounted obstacle course based on the hunt. There was apple chopping, boar stabbing (a fake boar), a drag hunt, and jumping ditches and hay bales (Brego's FAVORITE part). I don't have any pics of this since I was jump judging, but hopefully there are some pro pics coming.

Brego also had an enormous fan club the whole weekend. I am pretty sure he mooched more treats than any horse there, and he got a bit impolite about asking for them. We ended up having to tell anyone who wanted to pet him to keep their hands "above his mouth" or else they were in for a bit of a slobbery surprise! I think he may have gained a few pounds from over-indulging, but it was well-deserved.

The only thing better than adoring fans is adoring fans with cookies.

Of course, there is a huge amount of work that goes into putting this show on. Many thanks to the organizers, all the ground crew, and all the other competitors for making it such a wonderful event. We had a great time and can't wait for next year!

Oh yeah. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Jousting: Hitting tip-to-tip

In short: Big jousting tournament this weekend and all our work with Brego paid off! He was a jousting STAR!!!!

I've got a ton of pics and videos which I'll post when I'm done processing them, but for now, I leave you with a sequence of shots where the jousters hit tips, which is very unusual. 

See the tiny "poof" of the initial lance break just above the lances?

Hubby's lance is still on target for his opponent's shield.

Juuuuust about to hit...

... and the follow-through!

4 points for hubby and Brego, since they broke on their opponent's shield AND broke more than half of the lance tip!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Brego: "My humans are crazy. Please send help."

It's been almost a year since I moved back to Texas. At first, I thought this would be an easy gig - more eventing and foxhunting, and plenty of people to properly worship me. And then we started doing this thing called "jousting".

Jousting is a dangerous sport for humans, and a rather terrifying prospect for horses. You're supposed to let some guy wearing a big metal suit HIT YOUR RIDER. Seriously. I know they say eventing is dangerous, but this jousting thing... NOBODY hits my rider, NOBODY. I have tried to convey the danger involved to New Dad, but my every attempt falls on deaf ears. Refusing to go down the lane, stopping in the middle of the lane - how else can I explain without words that this is simply Not Safe?

My New Humans seem to think I'm being silly. They have reassured me constantly (and fed me a lot of treats) that it's OK for New Dad to get hit. At home, he's been letting New Mom hit him with a "sword" (I swear it's just a big stick) while we practice, and that's not so bad. And then I figured out that I get close to other horses, New Dad would hit THEIR riders! Well, everyone knows that I, BREGO, am boss of the entire universe, so having my rider boss other riders seems entirely fair. Also New Dad is quite adept at not getting hit, so that is good too. So now I am shouldering in to other horses so New Dad can hit their riders when we do something called "Mounted Combat", and this is kind of a fun thing.

Then, this week, we tried another crazy thing. Apparently there is a game called a "drag hunt" where someone on horseback drags a thing behind them, and then we gallop up to it and New Dad has to try to spear it from my back. I am pretty sure I did a lot of drag hunts when I lived with Other Mom and it was NEVER like this, but anyway. To practice this, New Mom got out a Scary Blue Thing and put it on a string. Then she ran all around while we tried to stab it.

(Jen in here: the things we do for our spouses, I swear.)

Going in for the kill

New Dad learned not to stare at the Scary Blue Thing so that I won't stare at it too. Because you know, when humans stare at something it usually means it's scary. Anyway, I figured out my job, and New Dad stabbed the Blue Thing a few times, and then I had a better idea: why not just stomp on the Blue Thing to stop it moving. That seemed to be the goal of this game, so I, BREGO, decided to help.

For some reason New Dad and Mom found this very funny.

So just in case you ever wondered what it takes to be a jousting horse, I am here to tell you that it's much harder than eventing or even foxhunting, and that humans must be a special kind of crazy to do this. I am fairly certain I deserve extra carrots for putting up with this.

 In action

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Going round and round in circles

I've been longeing Paddy quite a bit of late, mostly to let him work on his balance in the canter without having to deal with a less-than-stellar rider as well. I haven't really done this before because at some point in his life, Paddy learned that longeing means to run around the human as fast as possible in each direction, randomly slamming on the brakes and spinning around to change direction. Not precisely what you want for a productive longe session. He's also a pro at throwing out his shoulder and bolting off if you're not longeing in a round pen. After being dragged across the pasture a few times (we don't have a round pen), I took the coward's way and decided we would just skip that whole longeing thing.

Until now. It's become glaringly apparent that we have got to pull out all the stops to work on his canter. Sure, we could try things like a little shoulder fore in the canter, or maybe some shallow counter-canter serpentines, but his canter is literally such a mess that I can't do anything with it. Cantering more with him splatted on his forehand isn't going to help, so we opted to try about a million trot-canter-trot transitions on the longe line in hopes he would be able to sort himself out a bit on his own, and get a little stronger so that when I'm on his back we don't flail quite so much.

Our first try was with my old stand-by, side reins. When I had Cash, I used to longe him often, just for a few minutes. I wanted him to have a chance to feel the bit contact without the instability of a rider's hands, and over time, side reins definitely helped him. With Paddy, the goals are different - steady rhythm and tempo, and better balance in all gaits but especially the canter.

Paddy in side reins. Note that he's BTV and tight in the base of his neck.

One thing I discovered about using elasticized side reins is that Paddy likes to lean on them. That meant when I got in the saddle to ride him after longeing, he was SUPER heavy in my hand (and having him more in my hand is really not somewhere I want to go). I also tried side reins without elastic, and he sucked back behind the bit the entire time with those. So while the elastic side reins might be OK if I'm ONLY going to longe him, they aren't great if I'm also going to ride.

Based on a little research and recommendations from other bloggers, I decided to try a chambon. The action is entirely different than side reins - it works off poll pressure and bit pressure when the horse raises his head. When the horse lowers his head, all pressure is released. He's allowed to go with his nose poked out or in and his head way down or slight up, and the chambon won't activate. It's only when he flings his head in the air that it kicks in.

Paddy with a chambon. Note how he's relaxed along his neck and top line, stepping under (for him), and has his nose poked out and down. This is actually a GREAT free walk for him!

It took him a few sessions to figure out the action of the chambon, but now he goes in a big, relaxed, swinging walk, and he's relaxing into the trot more and more. It's interesting to see how hard it is for him to balance in a trot over his topline for more than half a circle without anything to lean on, but he's getting better day by day. The canter is still very hard for him, but it's only been two weeks and he's finding his balance a bit more. I'm keeping sessions short, maybe 10-15 minutes total, mostly walking, and it's definitely making a difference under saddle. His walk is much freer and his trot and canter are both a bit more balanced. Yay progress!

Do you use longeing as a regular training aid? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When you realize your horse isn't competitive against the big boys

I realized something really important at our first USDF rated show: We are unlikely to win much of anything at these venues.

I'm sure most of you are thinking "Quit it, that was just the first one and of course you're going to get better and your scores will improve." And you're right, we WILL get better and our scores WILL improve.

But they're not going to improve that much. Not ever. Because there's a fundamental difference between Paddy and the horses that we were and will continue to be competing against, that no amount of training can overcome.

You see, the other AA horses we were up against, even at Training level, were mostly warmbloods or WBXs. Those horses are bred for dressage, for loose, long movement, for big walks, for free shoulders and lots of push from behind. Paddy, on the other hand, is basically a miniature draft horse. He's got a more upright and heavier shoulder, a more upright trot, and let's not even get started on his canter. At his very best, he overtracks a tiny bit in the walk, whereas these horses might overtrack by an entire hoof print without even trying.

The horses we were getting 8s on their free walks - because they naturally have a very nice, loose walk with lots of overstep. A free walk has a coefficient score of 2, which means it's actually worth twice as much. So our 5 or, on a really really good day, 6, is going to be 4-6 points less than anyone else we're competing against. That's an entire percentage point (or more) on the total score - on one movement.

Same thing goes for collective movements. These horses are getting 7s and 8s on their gaits, because they really are nice movers. We're getting 5s or 6s. Even on our best day ever, some day in the future when I have Paddy relaxed over his topline and pushing from behind, we'll be lucky to get a 6.5 or maybe even a 7, if the judge just loves him. Those horses that we're up against? Pushing from behind and relaxed over the topline is going to get them an 8+.

I competed against an AA whose horse wasn't really engaged, wasn't really through. It was a pleasant test, but the figures weren't terribly accurate, the horse swapped leads, the rider went off course, and also didn't post during the stretchy trot circle (posting required on the test). They ended up with a 65 and change. We got a 62 on the same test. In other words, other riders can make MULTIPLE ERRORS on their tests and STILL have a significantly better score than we do - not necessarily because they are better riders (this person got a 5 on the rider score), but because they simply have much nicer horses that are better suited for dressage.

In all fairness, I wasn't very happy with our performance at that show. We do many things better at home, and I need to ride a lot better when actually IN the sandbox.  We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do, and plenty of room to improve.  But the fact is that even if we put in a stellar test, we're unlikely to get much above a 65, or maybe  68 - certainly not the 72% that won most of the Training level classes. We'll probably always be in the bottom of the field, especially in the qualifying classes. That's a little depressing if you're in it to win it.

Not blue, but it'll do.

But, the nice thing about dressage is that you don't have to win in order to get the scores you need. You see, the USDF has a number of awards programs that are based off percent scores. There's a Rider Award program at each level, which requires 4 scores over 60%, under 4 different judges. We have two of those scores already at Training level. There's also qualifications for the Regional Championship - two scores under two judges over 61% on Training 3. We have one of those scores. There are qualifying scores for Nationals (don't have any of those), and once we move up to First (you know, maybe some day when we can canter) we can qualify for Bronze Medal scores. All those awards require scores in the low 60s, which I believe is totally doable for us - especially once we get our act more together. :)

So, while we're unlikely to be bringing home any blue ribbons at a rated show, I have every hope that we can qualify for some of the USDF awards. And I'm really glad that the USDF has a program where people with less-than-amazeballs warmbloods can still play.

And who knows, maybe if we can get this kind of movement on a regular basis, we can beat a few of those Warmbloods. :)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Snakes. Why did it have to be... snakes?!?

Megan, you probably don't want to read this post. ;)

Every spring, we have one or two rat snakes come hang out at Wyvern Oaks for a month or so. They usually hang out around the back shed/chicken coop, and when they move on, we have no more rodents. They're shy creatures, not at all aggressive, and are quick to move out of your way if you encounter one. Although it can be somewhat disturbing to find a 5+ foot snake hanging out in your shed, I'm always grateful for their presence.

Last week, Fuzzypony found one in the chicken coop. Apparently this one didn't get the message that he's supposed to eat rodents...

Well hello there!

Contemplating an easy snack...


Yes, rat snakes also eat eggs. And I'm more than happy to share if they also kill off a few rats! Good luck, little fellow!

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...