Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I need less helpful horses

From feeding time this morning...

Do you ever get that feeling someone is breathing down your neck?

Shhh, don't tell her I'm here!

That someone might be contemplating doing things they shouldn't?


Or maybe even... actually doing something they shouldn't?

That never happens around here.

All our horses are complete angels.

Nothing to see here, move along...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Taran was right all along

Taran has always been suspicious of the tar stripes on the road. We've joked that he thinks they're snakes or something, and they're going to get him.

These are all terrifying, all of them. Giant horse-eating anacondas EVERYWHERE.

Well, MC and I were riding on the road over the weekend, and one of the lines WAS ACTUALLY A SNAKE. Taran and Paddy both took a HARD look at the rat snake desperately slithering across the road trying not to get trampled, but were otherwise not impressed. The snake was definitely more afraid of them than they were of it.

Not actually as scary as imagined.

So next time your horse tries to convince you that there's something terrifying lurking in the bushes/log/car/tree/road/ditch/manhole cover/patch of flowers, you should probably believe them!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Not a supermodel

I've gotten spoiled taking pictures of Paddy - it's basically impossible to take a bad picture of him, because he's always adorable, his hair is always perfect (I hate him a little), and he always poses for the camera. He's basically a supermodel in horse form.

Taran, on the other hand, is not so camera-friendly. He's plenty cute in person, but man, getting him to pose for a decent shot is basically impossible. After his first show where we couldn't get any decent pics of him, I figured he was just tired. But nope, he really does suck at posing for pictures - even with his mom! See?

Oh no, not this again.

Am I supposed to be impressed with that? Because I'm not. Maybe if it were edible.

Nope, it's not edible. You tried to trick me.

Making faces at me will not help.

Trying to suffocate me also will not help.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April Taran confo shots - still so many changes!

I just can't stop with the monthly comparison pics. He's still changing so much!

Dec 23, 2015

Feb 1, 2016

March 6, 2016

April 10, 2016

Is he even the same horse???

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

... if only I could remember my stupid dressage tests.

Some of you maaaay have noticed that our 1-3 test had a bit of red on the second canter serpentine, and our last halt was a 5.0 instead of the 7.0+ we'd gotten on all our other halts.

Naturally, those were my fault.

Despite being confident that I knew my tests COLD before I went in, I forgot about the second canter serpentine. I realized it halfway through a trot lengthening across the diagonal, before the judge rang the bell. Whoops. There goes my 100% remembering test average this year. Boo. And of course two points for the error. Double boo.

I am so tired of seeing red ink on my tests.

I *also* neglected to do the final halt at the correct letter. 1-3 is weird because you don't halt at X, you actually halt at G... and I halted somewhere that was not G, for a 5.0. Which sucks because that was a pretty decent halt.

Nice, just in the wrong county.

The upshot of all those lost points? If I'd remembered my test AND gotten an 8 on the final halt, I would have had a 69.6... and beat the pro for first level champion. Heck, even if I had JUST remembered the test, I would have had it, because it was only .2% points difference. 

I'm not even mad about it, just more of a *facepalm* kind of moment. Taran was a super star and I was proud of our rides overall. Still... you think I'd learn by now!

What are YOUR tricks for remembering your dressage tests? C'mon fellow bloggers, HELLLLP MEEEEE!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bluebonnet Show - one for the books

I'm just going to dump a bunch of pictures because in a nutshell:

  • Taran is awesome
  • I shouldn't doubt myself
  • Taran is awesome
The reader's digest version of this is:
  • 1-2: 68.125 (1st) (second score at 1st level toward USDF bronze medal)
  • 1-3: 67.353 (1st) (qualifying scores for freestyle, SWDC regional championships, and GAIC championships)
  • 1st level reserve champion (.2% behind a pro)
Seriously, this show had the best ribbons.

We missed out of any media for 1-2, but Taran was super and I rode reasonably well.  I did get vid for 1-3, where Taran was even better and I rode even better, so here you go:

Look, a 10 meter trot circle with bend. 7.5.

Lengthen stride keeps getting better and better. 6.5.

I wish our leg yields were always this good. 7.0 right, 7.5 left.

Look at my horse, my horse can do a stretchy trot circle. 7.0.

My horse can also do a badass square halt on a dime and trot off like a MF pro. 7.5, coefficient of 2.

He can even sort of fake a decent free walk. 6.0, which is a gift from the judge.

He can lengthen canter too... he just can't come back from it without going splat. 7.0.

We uh, can't do a canter/trot transition very well though. Nice pogo-sticking behind. More leg needed. 6.5, but only because it wasn't scored individually.

Did I mention he can halt square? 7.5

And the video, which doesn't make us look quiiiite as good as the stills (because let's be honest, I can cherry-pick the good moments with stills): 

Here's the scoresheet for 1-2:

And for 1-3:

Yeah. It was a great show. :)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Pre-show questionnaire

Last night, as I was doing my usual oh-crap-show-and-nothings-ready panic, I started texting with Jan about my woes. This led to me sending her several quiz questions about prepping for shows, and it got funny (the cider might have helped) so I had to share.

Lists for your show stuff
  1. I sort of have a list of what I need... in my head.
  2. I have a packing list I use every time.
Sometimes I get fancy and put it on my phone.

Cleaning tack for the show
  1. It's a good thing I show because otherwise my tack would never get cleaned.
  2. I clean my tack sometimes so getting it show-ready is NBD.
  3. I wipe my tack after every ride so it just needs a touch-up for shows.
  4. My tack is always ready to go to an A show.
At least it's not *dirty*

Packing your trailer for the show
  1. I have to clean out my trailer to pack for a show (also known as, "Honey, here's the jousting shield you've been looking for!")
  2. My tackroom might need a little sweeping, but it's usually pretty quick to get it ready.
  3. My trailer is always tidy, so I just toss in my show stuff.
  4. Everything is in it's place, neatly labeled and stacked, so I'm always ready to go.
Getting your show clothes together
  1. I have everything I need... somewhere (except my $@%^(@#$ stock pin, which has gone MIA again). Stuff may or may not be clean.
  2. I have everything I need, I know where it is, and it's all clean. 
  3. I have everything I need cleaned and packed together in a bag that has its own place in my closet, so I just toss that in my car.
Getting your horse show-ready
  1. I think there's a horse-like object under the hair and mud. Can someone pass me a gallon of shampoo?
  2. I need at least 3 hours to tidy, clip, trim, and bathe. 
  3. A quick bath and maybe a little tidying is all I need to do.
  4. My horse is ready to go to an A show at any time.
He's half Fells pony, so I'm sure feathers are OK.

Drinking cider while packing for a show
  1. Why didn't I think of that?
  2. Best idea ever
  3. You might forget something!
  4. Crazy.
If you got more than a 14, can I hire you as a groom? Pleeeeeze? 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Over the river and through the woods

Last night, Taran and I went on an hour-long trail ride. I was hoping I could use it as a reset, maybe find my lost riding skillz (and perhaps some common sense too) while I was out.

What lies that-a-way???

It was really great. Taran trucked along in a big, open walk. I'd forgotten how much walking is actually good for conditioning a horse and building muscle, so I think we'll be doing more of this.

Walking past a busy 4-lane road? NBD.

Under the bridge? Also NBD.

He mostly ignored the cyclists and the dogs, although he did have a moment where a bunny almost scared him out of his skin. (Seriously dude? A BUNNY?!!?)

Through the dry river bed.

It's funny, we live right on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, yet our trails are almost entirely flat. We made the most of tiny changes in elevation, but it's not as if he's getting any hill work.

Right out our back gate.

Although this ride wasn't a magic fix, it was definitely therapeutic. I still have my doubts, of course. There's something about this sport where it's easy to go from the highest high to the lowest low in the blink of an eye (which makes me wonder why we all keep coming back?). I'm feeling more focused though, so hopefully I'll be able to rely on the solid foundation we've built to put in good rides. Now, if only the show secretary would actually send out ride times, that would be super!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Requisite sh!tty pre-show ride

Expectations are a cruel joke, sort of like decaf. Things go great for a while, then things are AMAZING, and then you have a ride where you're pretty sure you should turn in your helmet and take up couch surfing. Last night's lesson was one of those rides.

I have no media from my ride (thank goodness), so have some random pictures instead. This is the last thing a blade of grass sees before it gets eaten.

I started doing my new groundwork warmup, and Taran was good. I hopped on, did some walk on a long rein, picked up the contact, and trotted off. Taran was steady, round, and I worked on a keeping a slow, steady trot tempo that was ground-covering. We did a few 20 meter circles and he was super. 

Someone makes an excellent riding mower. Emphasis on the mower part.

And if I had wanted to ride a Training Level test, we would have been golden. But I don't. I'm riding 1-2 and 1-3 now, and 20 meter relaxed circles don't cut it any more. So I asked for a little more bend, a little more push, a little more connection. I got stiff in my arms and more demanding. My poor trainer tried to give us a new exercise that she'd worked on that day with HER trainer, but my brain couldn't cope with a new exercise because I NEEDED TO BE WORKING ON MY TESTS, DAMMIT. And we weren't doing that. And did I mention that we have a show this weekend? 

Golden boy in the sunlight.

We tried cantering, but Taran was just stuck because I wasn't following. He broke twice (which is never a problem) because I was holding so hard. I stopped, gave him a long rein. Walked around the arena. Apologized to my trainer for being a beotch (because I hadn't been listening to her well at all), and asked if we could start all over. I said that I wanted to work on trot lengthenings and leg yield zigzags, if we could please.

The reset was a good thing. I managed to get my head out of my a$$, relax some, and make the movements better. The leg yield zig-zag in 1-3 is still hit or miss because I need to a) go with the flow, b) let Taran crossover more, and c) ride it about 100000 more times... but we'll do what we can for Saturday and that will have to be enough. The lengthenings were super good, and we practiced setting him up in the corner better and riding it alllll the way across, and not letting him quit. We ended on a good note, although I apologized several times to my trainer and thanked her for putting up with me.

Weirdo dog loves sugar snap peas.

I spent most of a sleepless night wondering what happened. How can I have such fantastic rides and then ride like such crap? Obviously I'm putting stress on myself (and poor Taran, who just wants cookies) because of the show. But I've also come to expect an A+++++ ride, so a D- ride feels like a huge personal failure.

After a night of reflection, I think it all comes to the fact that I skimped on warmup for the amount and type of work I wanted to do. In the Alfredo clinics, we easily spent 10-15 minutes on ground work before getting on. Once on, there was a big focus on moving his haunches. The combination of these exercises ensured that he was very active and carrying behind, and "hot" off my leg. I spent about one minute doing groundwork last night, and I wasn't very demanding. When I got on, I didn't ask him to move his haunches at all (unless you count asking him to bend, which he was decidedly not interested in doing) until over halfway through the ride when we started working on the leg yield - and that movement was pretty awful, because his haunches weren't engaged. I mentioned to my trainer multiple times that Taran didn't feel like he was really engaged behind, like he was behind my leg, and ignoring me - and I think that's why. I simply didn't warm him up in such a way that set him up for success like I have been for the last week, and it really showed throughout our entire ride.

I'm lucky that I have such a nice trainer. I'm lucky that Taran is a kind guy and doesn't get flustered when I ride like a jerk. I'm lucky that my husband puts up with me and feeds me cider and Brie. And I'm lucky that even though I put in a bad ride, I know that we have the pieces to do the tests, even if they're not fantastic. And I'm SUPER lucky that it's only Wednesday, so perhaps I can redeem myself with Taran (I'm hoping that half a bag of Ms. Pastures helped) and I can maybe ride a little better come Saturday.

Luckily Taran is a forgiving guy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Alfredo's flying changes exercise

During the clinic with Alfredo, I got to watch one lady with a 2nd level horse do her first ever flying changes. Her other horse is going either PSG or I1, so she knows how to ride changes, but this horse hadn't done them before.

Alfredo had her start on a 20 m circle at the walk, then had her pick up a counter-canter. After about half a circle, he had her walk, then pick up a true canter for another half a circle. Then walk, counter-canter, walk, true canter.

After perhaps half a dozen repetitions of this, he added a haunches in/haunches out element. So, walk with haunches out, transition to counter-canter. Counter-canter with haunches out. Walk, haunches in, transition to true canter with haunches in. Walk, haunches out, counter-canter... 

As she was able to ride the exercise better, he started asking for more precision with the haunches in and out. Walk with haunches out, transition to counter-canter keeping the haunches out through the transition and during the counter-canter. Transition to walk and IMMEDIATELY haunches in at the walk, transition to true canter with haunches in through the transition and the canter. Etc. Again, these movement were repeated again and again.

Eventually the movements were coming very, very quickly, with the horse easily moving his haunches in and out. And then, during one counter-canter-haunches-out, instead of asking for a walk transition, Alfredo yelled "Haunches IN!". And the rider switched her aids for a haunches in, and the horse did a perfect change right on the aids.

I think part of what worked here is that she didn't quite know what was coming, so there was no anticipation on either the part of the horse or the rider. Plus, the horse was so in tune with moving his haunches over that the change was easier than the transition. And of course, he was changing from counter-canter to true canter, so that was easier too.

They did several more changes, and although the horse got a bit leapy in the changes, he DID them, every time. The set up was great and you could see he had no problem with it. The rider was smiling ear to ear too (in between gasping for air... she was working HARD and I was really glad it wasn't me!). 

So... do you have any secrets for teaching changes?

No media of other rider, but here's another pic of Taran from the clinic. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Where did this fancy horse come from?

I had my first lessons back with my regular trainer this weekend. I'm afraid I talked her ear off about the clinic, and really just reaffirmed what Alfredo taught was exactly what she's been telling me forever, just louder and in a Spanish accent.

Taken together, we discussed what the clinic meant for future lessons. We agreed that:
  • Taran and I are both ready to be pushed harder.
  • I have to be more demanding of myself - I have to be faster and more precise.
  • "Good enough" isn't any more. We have to do it RIGHT or we're going to go back and do it again.
On that note, we worked on 1-2 and 1-3, which I signed up to do at a rated show next weekend (this may have been a poor decision on my part). We had some SUPER nice work - still a lot of holes to fill in - but if I ride him well and set him up for the movements and let him do them, they're in there.

Look, suspension! I think this is a first for us. 

We struggle a lot with lengthenings coming off the left rein - he falls out on the right shoulder/right rein, so we're not straight coming out of the corner, and then nothing happens. Literally, nothing - he just can't do it. So I really have to think straight (almost to being counterflexed) through the corner and then make sure I get him really really REALLY straight before asking - and then sometimes it works. But we're still getting the hang of it and I have to remember to set him up, which is hard. Prep work!

I'm also struggling to make the angles for the leg yields in 1-3. They're STEEP. We can do them, but I'm having trouble letting him move enough to make it happen. And sitting straight? Who needs to do that? 

Obviously leaning waaaaaay to the right will help us go left more. 

Here's one of our less terrible attempts:

There's also a change through the trot at X which also requires careful riding. I need to keep him very very straight and think UP for the downward so he doesn't go splat... and then not throw my body at him for the left lead canter. We'll probably get a comment that we took too many steps, but that's OK for now.

I'm excited for the show this weekend, but also wish we had another few weeks so I could be more prepared. Isn't that how it always goes, though?!

Friday, April 1, 2016

The joke's on me

Last night, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items and replenish my chai supply. Only, they didn't have my normal chai. THEY HAD DECAF. DECAF CHAI. WTF.

I told myself it wouldn't be so bad. I told myself that caffeine doesn't matter, I drink it for the taste. I told myself that I'd be fine.

It looks normal. It tastes normal. But it's missing that special something.

I was lying.

So as I sit here at work on this Friday, April 1st, chin propped in hand trying desperately to focus a brain cell or two on my job, I think that the joke is finally on me. And it's not funny. Not one bit. Decaf chai is a cruel, cruel joke.