Monday, January 22, 2018

Yarra Yarra Dressage Show

The last few days before the show were filled with thoughts of wondering if Cupid was coming up with an abscess, and why we can't seem to get that left lead.  I packed his feet, applied Sore no More, and put on his Back on Track blanket and quick wraps, just in case! 

We had our final lesson on Friday, and went through Training Test 2.  On Saturday I kept our ride fairly light, practicing some 20 meter circles and transitions.  We still had a little trouble with creeping forward in the halt, and couldn't get the left lead canter on the first attempts, though I am getting the hang of asking Cupid to bend through his ribcage and making sure I don't lose his outside shoulder when I ask.  And also make sure my reins aren't too short.

On Saturday I gave Cupid a bath, and loaded all my gear into my trainer's trailer (she was going to trailer Cupid along with another student's horse), and put all my clothes on the dresser so we'd be ready to go. 

On Sunday, show day, I woke up bright and early at 4:30am!  Get dressed with sweats over my show clothes, and head out to the barn in the pitch blackness.  I gave Cupid some grain to keep him busy while I braided his mane.  My trainer wanted to leave before 6, her other student was riding at 8am and my times were 8:20 (Training 1) and 9 (Training 2) and the show is about an hour away. 

Cupid loaded well; he backed off at first after getting his front feet up in the trailer but then walked up no problem.  We'd been on the road almost half an hour and my trainer's truck (a big old Diesel F350) wasn't getting much power. She thought we should turn around but asked us. I said it's not worth blowing the transmission or getting stranded. So we turned back around, and I was ready to give up on the show.  My trainer said we could still make our second test with my truck and trailer, just have my boyfriend drive the truck out to the barn since I drove my little car.  The funny thing is I was going to drive my truck to the barn, "just in case trainer has car problems or something" - but then ended up driving my little car since the truck was low on fuel and "what are the odds anyways, trainer's never had car problems I'm sure it'll be fine."  So we quickly transferred Cupid and all my gear into my trailer, and arrived at the showground right at 8:30.

Despite this being the longest trailer ride Cupid's been on in quite a while, with a weird reload midway through, he seemed pretty relaxed when we arrived.  My trainer fixed some loose braids and started tacking him up while I checked in.  The warmup was in an outdoor ring by the road.  The footing was sand, and though it looked a little deep Cupid seemed to move well in it.  Actually considering how cold it was (he can start pretty stiff when it's cold), he was moving quite nicely.  It may be my imagination, but it does seem like the Back on Track blanket does help him!  We had a nice warm up, and his focus was quite good.  Quick walk, then right on to trotting 20 meter circles.  We did some shoulder fore on the circle, then canter on the right lead.  Back to some trot work, then canter left lead.  We didn't get it the first try, but then did get it.  We finished with some suppling exercises and stretching trot.  Cupid was good with a few other horses in and around the arena, but he was a little distracted by one particular paint horse!  


 The show itself was in the indoor, which is attached to the barn so there are stalls right around the ring, but luckily none of the horses did anything distracting.  We started our warm up lap around the court, and Cupid passed by the judge's table with just a quick look.  We entered the court, and I was trying to make sure our trot was lively enough but also such that we can make a smooth halt at X.  I thought the halt was pretty good, no creeping.  Though in the dimness I couldn't really see if/when the judge was nodding back.  We trotted on, around the corner then to our first 20 meter circle.  I messed up the diagonal I think and got back on the rail a little early.  Then we botched our left lead canter depart.  Unfortunately we couldn't get it at all, but I shook it off and focused on continuing the test.  Our stretchy trot circle was the best it's been so far at a show (in the past Cupid wasn't relaxed enough to stretch down at all, even though this is his favorite move at home).  We did break from the trot once when we were passing by a group of spectators, Cupid got distracted and I guess I didn't have my leg on.  But overall I was super happy with how it went!!  Still some green moments and a little above the bit, so our score wasn't what I hoped but I know we're making progress.  Most of all I was very proud of how well Cupid handled everything!

Cupid is very gentle with my little niece

Poor guy's going to have curly hair for a few days!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Slogging Through

The weather hasn't been quite as cold, but it has been chilly and damp. With just a little bit of on and off rain everything is muddy again. The pasture is a swamp and the outside arena is closed. Of course right before my show so I can't practice on the proper size dressage court.
The left lead canter is still presenting a challenge. If say right now we are about 50/50 on it.  So my trainer made me do a bunch today, and I think we were getting the hang of it but I was having a problem letting Cupid break early.  He was a bit lazy today, and tired after centering a few laps to the right first. Even though his muscle tone looks pretty good he seems to get winded pretty quickly.  I guess we should do more conditioning work.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Can't Turn Left

There is a funny scene in the movie Zoolander where Zoolander says he can't turn left.  He's not an ambi-turner.  I've kind of been feeling that way with Cupid; we can turn left fine but just haven't been able to pick up the left lead canter consistently.  I was starting to get a little concerned, but my trainer didn't think there was a medical reason.  It's just naturally a little harder for both Cupid and myself, and he is being lazy and my aids just aren't clear enough.  Fitness does seem to play a role, because once Cupid gets tired it can be almost impossible.  But maybe I'm giving him too much benefit of the doubt and it is still mostly just laziness? 

-Tuesday: Had our lesson early so we can use the outdoor arena and practice our dressage tests.  Had a little trouble getting the left lead canter.  The halts need some work too; I still find myself bracing, so I'm pinching with my upper legs and hovering over the saddle when I ask for the halt instead of sitting deeper.

-Wednesday: Hacked around the property, bareback.  Practiced opening and closing a gate, but I can't do it with keeping my hand on the gate.  It doesn't help that these are designed to be opened form the ground, so the latch is quite low!  We also rode around an empty pasture.  Cupid used to live out there years ago, but he hadn't been in for a while so he was a little looky.  He balked a little at a cone on the ground, but then walked past it.  Overall he was very good.

-Thursday: Lesson riding on the longe line!  My trainer asked me if I wanted my reins, I said no because I wanted to focus on my lower body and not feel like I'm getting pulled forward.  (We did use side reins.)  It felt good when I was trotting.  I could smoothly change my posting diagonal.  But doing a trot to canter transition without reins felt really strange!  So I tried to really focus on sitting up - actually I think about leaning back because even when I feel like I am, I'm still actually more forward.  Still wasn't able to get the left lead all the time.  Cupid was very good on the longe line, and made me feel pretty confident.

-Friday: Day off.

-Saturday: Jumping lesson!  We only have 3 jumps in the arena currently so we did a simple little course.  I felt a little rusty doing our warm up jumps, but Cupid was perfect.  We jumped a little white panel gate for the first time.  I wasn't sure how Cupid would feel about it so I tried to make sure I kept me leg on as we approached, but Cupid thought it was no big deal. Had a little trouble getting Cupid to land on the lead I wanted, but it happened both directions, sometimes he landed left when we were going right.  So at least I know he doesn't totally hate the left lead?

-Sunday: I was hoping to ride in the outdoor again but it was closed since we had a little rain recently.  The covered arena was a little busy, but luckily all the horses were behaving.  I was still having trouble with the left lead.  We got it the first ask, when I cantered a lap around on the right, went across the diagonal and did a trot change into the corner (which tends to be the easiest way for us to get it).  But then I let Cupid break early, oops.  I tried getting it on a circle, making the circle a little smaller and leg yielding back out and then ask but it still wasn't working.  Then I realized that although Cupid was very good at leg yielding I was losing the bend.  So we tried it making sure we had an inside bend and were able to get it a few times.  So maybe that's the key??

-Monday: It was bleak and rainy so I decided to longe instead of ride.  Did a few minutes walk and trot each direction to warm up, then put on the balancing reins and did some trotting (making the circle smaller, then bigger again) and cantering each direction.  We went to the right first.  He was being lazy, it was hard to keep him cantering!  Then we switched to the left.  We trotted a few circles, then I asked him to canter and he picked up the right lead, so back down to the trot and tried again and got it.  Big good boy!  Then I let him break from the canter (oops), asked for it again and got the right first, before getting it.  More praise.  We did a few more transitions and I think he was correct here on out. 
Maybe I can avoid these darn things by ducking under?

OK fine, if you insist

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Goals for 2018

I can't believe another year has gone by, and we are quickly approaching Cupid's 7th birthday!!  In my mind he is still 4 I think.  Before I get to our goals for the new year, here's how we did for 2017:

1) Sit up and keep leg on instead of ride up Cupid's neck with a chokehold on the reins when I get nervous. 
A- I still lean forward a little when I'm nervous, but vast improvement!! 
2) Learn to do flying lead changes and walk to canter transition.
C Cupid is starting to get the idea of lead changes, but we're not there yet. I forgot about the transitions, but coincidentally did them my last lesson in 2017 and it went well.

3) Straightness - especially over jumps.
B- Still a little drifting, especially after jumps, but our approach has gotten a lot better.  Can still work on our centerlines, and keeping my leg on to keep Cupid straight when there are strange object alongside the arena he scoots away from.

4) Get comfortable cantering courses. 
B It's gotten better, but I did chicken out at our last schooling show and ended up trotting because Cupid was feeling too quick to me.  But we did canter our ticketed rounds last fall.
In 2017 we went to 3 dressage schooling shows, 1 hunter schooling show, 1 hunter ticketed rounds, 1 hunter pace, did half a combined test, and went on several off property trail rides.  

My goals for 2018:

1) Develop a more effective leg.  I resort to using my upper body too much.  Even when I try / think I'm using my legs, like to keep Cupid straight when I know he's thinking of shying away from something, he ignores me so I know I need to be more effective.  Plus I let him break from the canter way more often than I should!

2) First level dressage by the end of the year.  Of course that means rocking training level first.  Our first rated show is only a few weeks away!

3) Flying changes.  Left over from last year.

In addition to doing rated dressage shows, I hope to do a few hunter schooling shows and be confident to canter.  I'd also like to learn to do trail obstacles, and continue getting experience on trail rides.  Most of all, I just hope Cupid and I stay healthy!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Healthy Habits

Cupid has been working hard towards building a proper training level dressage frame.  Since I see him every day it's hard for me to notice the physical changes, but he is developing his topline.  After I ride I tried to give him a little neck massage, and after a pretty good lesson I felt a knot in his neck, a few inches below the poll.  I contacted our chiropractor, who unfortunately is unavailable but she recommended a body worker for massage and also suggested I do stretches with Cupid.  He seemed to struggle with the carrot stretches, especially to the left side - but it is hard to get him standing square so that didn't help. 

Cupid's massage lasted over an hour.  He was a little fidgety to start, but seemed to really like it when she worked on his back and hind end. 

For Christmas I got him a Back on Track fleece blanket; he tends to feel stiff and slow to warm up when it's cold and I am hoping this might help him with that, as well as hopefully just general muscle soreness.
We hadn't jumped since his sore foot, but I thought we were ready our lesson yesterday.  Unfortunately Cupid was struggling with the footing, so we ended up sticking with just poles on the ground.  They had just removed most of the jumps so there were a few spots that hadn't been dragged in a while, and either skipped watering or did it lighter than usual so it was very dry.  Although Cupid's attitude was quite good, he just didn't seem comfortable and stumbled a few times.  He is just weirdly sensitive to footing; he doesn't like it too loose or deep, or if there are spots that are drier or just different.  The upside with the footing was I got a loveliest, perfect hunter pleasure trot. 

We had a lot of trouble picking up the left lead canter.  We got it the first time by starting with a right lead canter, and doing a trot change on the diagonal but after that couldn't seem to.  We tried it on a circle, making it a little smaller then leg yielding out before I ask for the canter. My trainer suggested I let him counter canter half a lap and then ask for a trot change in a corner, and it worked once but after that he was happy to keep counter cantering. 

My trainer told me to try getting the canter from the walk.  I wasn't sure I could do it since I felt he was a little behind the leg, but I started with a few walk-trot transitions to wake him up a little, then asked walk-canter and got it.  We still couldn't get the left lead, but I was still a little pleased that we got the walk-canter at all. 

I felt like my aids aren't clear enough for him to distinguish I wanted left lead; Cupid thought he was doing the correct things by just cantering.  I need to work on making my legs more effective.  There was a few times he broke from the canter to trot, which I shouldn't allow and is just him being lazy, but I think I need to be patient with the left lead.  I think a few lessons riding on a lunge line will help me

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Trail Ride in Woodside

Since I had the week off from work, I arranged a trail ride with my friend.  Cupid had a minor abscess/foot soreness earlier in the week, but with an epsom soak and few days of rest and packing with Magic Cushion, he seemed good to go.

The day before I fed him off the back of the trailer, and we had no problem loading.  He was a little alert when I got him off the trailer, but stood nicely while I tacked him up.  He seemed a little anxious as we set out.  We were still alone, as we were going to meet our friend up the road.  He didn't like a neon sign shaped as a person and skittered by it.  We also had a little trouble passing by a few chickens!  They were on the other side of the road, but Cupid stopped and stared, and hesitated before passing them.  I'm not sure he's seen chickens before, but the place I got him from did have peacocks running loose!  I knew he must be nervous because he didn't try to stop and eat grass. 
Ready to hit the trail

Once we hooked up with our friend he settled down, and was good the rest of the ride.  We crossed several little bridges, without batting an eye.  We also crossed a dry creek bed with a lot of big stones, and a truck and tractor doing some road maintenance.  We walked through Huddart Park, and came out and back around through the Woodside trail system.  These are along residential roads, and we passed a few other riders, horses in paddocks, people walking dogs, cars, and a lot of bicyclists without incident.  Then we saw a pasture with over a dozen deer, and I silently wished they don't stampede!  The deer were all walking our direction, and Cupid had his ears up, but luckily the deer did not start to run so we were able to walk by quietly.

When we got back to the trailer and I dismounted I noticed my knees hurt, which usually means I was carrying a lot of tension.  Luckily Cupid did not feed off my tension.  He was actually quite good, so I need to relax myself more, to help further relax him.  Though I think both Cupid and I have made a lot of progress this year being braver in new places.  When we started out and Cupid was anxious I made sure I wasn't holding the reins too short, and kept my legs on (lightly).  Hopefully we can get a few more trail rides in before winter really hits.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!  I'm looking forward to a week off from work, especially since the weather is relatively good.  A bit chilly, but no rain.  We did have a little overnight rain earlier this week, enough that the pasture got a little muddy and I guess Cupid felt it because he seems to have a bit of an abscess.

We had a lesson yesterday.  When I led him out the stall I thought he was walking a little off, but then he seemed okay.  He felt great when I rode him, except we struggled a little getting the left lead.  I packed his feet with Magic Cushion, just in case they were bothering him a bit.  We were in the outdoor ring, and had a few distracted moments but it's getting better. 

Then today just from what I saw in his stall I suspected he was off.  Sure enough, soon as I led him out it was clear.  I soaked his foot and wrapped his legs, and kept him in his stall.  He seemed a little better already after the soaking, I think this will resolve itself pretty quickly.