Monday, May 21, 2018

Waiting for Summer

Despite being well into May, after the one warm day a week ago the weather has been pretty cold.  Cupid's barn is near the coast, and it can get very foggy and windy.  Luckily though Cupid has been behaving perfectly, and is even getting a lot more steady in the outdoor arena.

We had a fun, varied week.  Continuing to work on connection in our lessons and practicing our loops for Training test 3, and we also did some ground driving and in hand work, popped over some jumps (including a 2' oxer with flowers underneath - not big but the biggest I've done lately), and went on another trail ride at Huddart park.  Nothing really specific to report, Cupid's been pretty perfect.
Grabbing a snack on the trail

Residential area before going into the park




Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Cupid and I have had steady but unremarkable rides since I got back.  Not surprisingly, he was fine after 5 days off - his usual slightly lazy self.  Our lessons have mainly been continuing to focus on steadying my contact through the reins (especially the outside rein).

One exercise we've started is doing a lot of transitions between a stretchy trot and more working frame, especially near the beginning of our ride.  Cupid likes stretching down, and it is good practice for me to ask him to come back up a little, while trying to make sure we don't tip onto the forehand.

We've also been doing a lot of serpentines, and our last lesson my trainer had us add a 10 meter circle in each loop so we get more bend.

The left lead canter is improving.  We still don't get it 100% of the time but it's gotten a lot more consistent.  I'm looking ahead at Training test 3, which has a longer canter to the left.  Cupid still has a tendency to drop to a trot, especially if he hits a slightly deeper spot in the arena so we're working on that.

On Saturday there were some small jumps set up in the arena so I trotted a few.  It was much warmer than it has been and Cupid was pretty low energy.  The first time over he didn't even canter out.  Then he would, but was pretty much ready to walk again a few strides out, lol.

Today we did some ground driving and in hand work.  I can back him up straight if I stand at his right shoulder, but if I'm on his left then he always swings to the right so we need to work on that.  (If I ask him to back up when I'm on him it's usually not straight either.)  The side passing went well.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


Cupid is currently getting a few days off, as I'm writing this from DC where I am for a conference.  We did have a few good rides though before I left.

Monday, the day after the show, I gave Cupid off.

Tuesday I did some ground driving.  I'm still working on not letting him drift off the rail, but overall he was pretty good.  When I asked him to step over a jump filler with pink flowers he did avoid it the first few times, so I moved to his head and led him over.  He was better after that, but I did have to make sure to keep him straight.  Going over the cavaletti was much smoother.

On Wednesday we had a very productive lesson in the outdoor ring, the kind of ride I wish I had at the show!  Once again we got the left lead, like it was no big deal.

Thursday we did a little jumping.  We started with trot poles, and ended up with a little course that involved trotting over the poles, picking up the canter to the left and circling around to a caveletti, switching to the right lead and going over another cavaletti, and then a little cross rail.  Cupid got the left lead correct each time, and after the first time through he even changed leads over the first cavaletti by himself!  Although we haven't been doing much jumping lately I think it's good for Cupid to mix it up, and when he is being this good and relaxed I enjoy it too.

I'll be gone Friday through Tuesday, and am looking forward to riding again on Wednesday.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Yarra Yarra Dressage Show

I'm going to sum up the show with something positive: at least we got our left lead canter both tests!  And the judge liked our free walk.  Everything else was a bit of a mess, unfortunately.

Things started out okay.  We arrived at the show early, and Cupid seemed settled waiting at the trailer eating his hay.  I tacked him up about half an hour before our scheduled ride time.  He started out okay, a little quick but I figured he would settle down quickly as he has been.  However he never really settled down.  Perhaps because there was some crazy gray horse repeatedly rearing up in the warm up?  Or the cooler weather?  Or maybe because this is the first show we've done with 2 rings going so there were twice as many horses warming up, half of which were upper level horses doing all sorts of pirouettes and half passes and whatnot, making it more difficult to find room.  Whatever it was, Cupid was hyper.

Our first test (Training 1) Cupid had his head in the air almost the entire time except at free walk, and of course I responded by getting into a half seat instead of sitting more deeply.  It's a vicious cycle! Also I somehow thought we walked between C&H instead of at C, and couldn't remember which diagonal we do the free walk on but luckily guessed correctly at E.  The full test is here:  After our test I went back in the warm up and trotted about 10 more minutes until Cupid seemed a little more relaxed.
Free walk - our signature move.  Photo credit K. Farris
We had over 2 hours until our second test (Training 2).  I loosed the girth but left the saddle on, so Cupid doesn't think he's done.  He was very good about waiting patiently, happy to eat his hay.  It was very cold though, I was shivering a bit even with a sweatshirt over my lightweight show coat.  We took one little walk midway.  I got back on about 25 minutes before our ride time.  Originally I was planning a little shorter but I thought maybe we could use a few extra minutes.  Cupid was better in the warm up this time.  He actually seemed like he was starting to get a little tired so we walked the last few minutes.

We started our test, and when we halted I was waiting for the judge to salute back.  I didn't see it and was unsure whether I should continue or not.  I waited a few moments before proceeding.  Things started out okay, if a bit quick and high headed still.  I was trying to do better about sitting upright this time.  We did our trot circle to the right, changed direction, and I was relieved when we got our left lead canter.  Even though Cupid had his nose up in the air, he still relaxed a bit into the stretchy trot.  We did our walk, the picked up the trot but then by H Cupid started cantering.  I'm not sure if it's because that's where we canter earlier in the test and he was just trying to help, or he was just full of it.  I got him back to the trot a few steps but he went back up to the canter in the circle at E!  Oops.  So we got a 3 and 4 for those sections.  Then we were actually supposed to canter he spooked coming out of the corner and went several steps sideways.  Then broke back to a trot right as we were finishing our circle, but I think the judge let that slide.  Here it is in all it's glory:

When we finished the judge called me over, and told me I forgot to salute in the beginning.  I obviously intended to, but can't remember if I actually did or not and even from the video it's a bit dark and blurry so hard to tell.  But I think I won't make that mistake again!

I was a little disappointed it was a bit of a regression from our last show, but I know progress won't always be linear. We just need to keep getting out there and gaining experience.  Also it's good to know even if things don't go perfectly, it's not so bad.  I would have been a nervous wreck trying to go over jumps with Cupid in this state of mind (even if I know he won't do anything terrible, just being quick to jumps scares me).  Even though I'm still a terrible dressage rider at least it feels safe!
Still love this horse!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Lead Up to Another Show

I was very happy with how my prep went before the last show and am following a similar schedule this week:

Saturday - day off
Sunday - lesson (outdoor), focusing mainly on my hands and getting our training level frame
Monday - light ride including a walk around the property and about 15 minutes mostly trot work in the dressage court (no cantering)
Tuesday - lesson (outdoor), continuing with hands and training level frame
Wednesday - day off, with massage for Cupid
Thursday - lesson (covered because it was very foggy and I wanted to focus on practicing and not deal with any spooking), more of same
Friday - w/t/c and incorporate some poles
Saturday - light ride, including walk around the property and bit of trot work in the court
Sunday - show!

I asked my trainer to video me on Sunday and two things stuck out to me: 1) my heels (especially the left) are way up most of the time; and 2) even though I thought my elbows were bent they are still pretty straight and it looks like I'm giving away the reins much of the time.

My left heel is horrid

My trainer says I'm showing some improvement, but admittedly progress feels slow.  Even though I need to ride more off my outside rein, I also let my inside rein get too long and then try to use it anyways which results in me moving my hand way out in a leading rein or twisting my wrist by my leg.  It's not pretty.

Cupid seemed to enjoy his massage, though it was a long time for him to stand still.  The areas that needed the most attention were the neck, especially the right side; the left side of his chest and shoulder; and the left side of his back.  The body worker said he seemed a bit better overall then when she last saw him in January.  My trainer said he seemed looser and was moving a bit better the next day, so I'll keep doing it for periodic maintenance.
Happy horse, and I swear his body is not this puny compared to his head

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Importance of Turnout

Cupid is usually turned out from about 9-3:30, in a large field with a few other geldings.  I don't know if he'd be the same easy horse without it!!  Yesterday I rode him in the morning, and then he saw the dentist and spent the rest of the day inside because he'd been sedated.  Saturday morning I was going to go see him around 8, though I was planning to give him the day off.  But then I thought since I'm always rushing off in the morning it would be nice to actually have breakfast with my boyfriend for once, so I didn't get to the barn until about 10:30.  I was very surprised to see Cupid in his stall, I forgot I put a no turnout sign on his door!!  Oops!!  Cupid was super excited when I led him towards the pasture.  He wasn't pulling, but was prancing a bit and wasn't even interested in stopping for grass.  Then when I let him out this happened.

Play with me!

Practicing the stretchy trot

Lol.  He tries to get the other horses to play with him, but they mostly just ignore his antics and he quickly gives up.  I'm kind of worried what will happen when we do an away show and he can't get turned out!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Trail Horse Extrodinaire

It's been several weeks since Cupid and I have been on a trail ride, but with sunny weather forecasted for this weekend I made arrangements to go with my friend.  We couldn't have picked a nicer day, as it was sunny and 70s! 

As has been the case recently, Cupid came off the trailer very relaxed.  I tacked him up at the trailer and headed up the road to meet my friend.  This involves riding along the road, but it's a quiet road where lots of horses walk so the drivers tend to be very courteous.  Cupid responded to a horse the whinnied at him from a pasture, but kept walking along calmly.  No problem either walking by people doing yardwork, trash cans, grates, and stepping from dirt paths to crossing driveways, and going up and down the curb.

We met up with our friend and headed into Huddart Park.  Unfortunately the trail we got on was a bit rough, but we accepted it as a training challenge.  There was piles of trimmed off tree branches across the trail.  My friend asked if Cupid would cross it, I said I wasn't sure but he handled it like a pro!  He also stood quietly while my friend broke off part of a dead branch and dragged it out of the way.  Finally we made it to a wider, better groomed but still interesting trail.  Cupid stepped down some banks, crossed a few flowing creeks, and didn't bat an eye at a group of wild turkeys crossing in front of us.  Even when my friend's horse was a little fussy (after having not been out in over a week) Cupid stayed relaxed.  We even led for the last part.  Cupid is still a little bit more tentative being in front, but was a total champ.  I could not have been prouder, or had a better day! 

Enjoying a little grass after the ride, before we head back home