Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Twin Rivers, Day 3 (Horse Trial!)

Despite my excitement and nerves, I was able to sleep fairly well the night before the show.  I did have one bad dream, but it was not related to riding! 

Our dressage test was scheduled for 9:20.  I got to the barn a little after 7 to take Cupid for a walk, then let him eat his hay while I cleaned his stall and groomed him.  I decided to lunge him a little in case he had some extra energy, but he was pretty lazy.  Since this was a Halloween show, I wore a medieval knight costume and made Cupid a studded breastplate and saddle pad.

So I got on and we only had a few minutes before we had to go in the ring.  This is the first time I've ever done a dressage test at a competition!  My trainer had gone through the protocol with me a few times, but the timing and whistles and everything are still a little confusing.  So I wasn't sure if I was supposed to go in.  Our first halt and salute was not really good, Cupid got fidgety.  I felt okay about the rest of the test, but it went by so quick it was over before I really realized what was happening.  At the least I didn't forget anything, though my test (Intro B) is super simple.  And my trainer said I was smiling.
First dressage test, in costume - Photo by Michelle Cale

We got a score of 31.9.  We got 6s on both our halts (though I thought the second one was good) and for our trot-walk transition.  But we got a few 8s, for our medium trot and our 20 meter circle.  The notes said we had potential, but that the rider should "stretch more throughout."  Haha, I think that means I was probably hunching forward with my shoulders and not stretching into my heels.  I do need to ride in my dressage saddle more, I'm still not totally used to it.

We didn't have much time to relax before getting ready for the next two phases.  The weather was surprisingly cool all morning (the sun later came out and it got quite warm mid-afternoon after we were done). The show jumps were all pretty tiny, I think most of them were only about 12".  I was concerned about the Halloween decorations on the jumps, but luckily Cupid was unfazed.  One of the jumps had a row of pumpkins under them and I was irrationally concerned about it, I was trying hard not to think about it or look at them but my trainer said I did look down.  Oops.  Good thing Cupid ignored me and didn't look!  He did however get a little quick after jump 5, I'm not sure why.  He was a little strong but I pulled him up and he was fine the rest of the way.  We just trotted in between the jumps.

Jumping the pumpkins - Photo by Michelle Cale

After our show jump round we went straight to cross country.  Luckily we had already gone over all the jumps on our course the past two days, but I haven't done cross country as a steady course without stopping and walking and taking my time.  We trotted between the jumps and Cupid was really good.  Until the last jump that is, after which he got a little strong and we streaked across the finish line!  I don't know if it was because we were going back towards the barn, or maybe he was sensing my relief, or something else entirely.  But we were galloping towards the warm up area, haha.  I pulled him up in a big circle before we plowed into anyone.

Overall I'm happy with the way the day went.  There were some rookie mistakes and a few things to work on.  Hopefully a few more outings away from home and Cupid and I will both be more relaxed about it.
Cupid's first ribbon - 5th place

Monday, October 26, 2015

Twin Rivers, Days 1 and 2

Our weekend started with a bit of drama as Cupid did not want to load in the trailer.  I was surprised because he was good last time.  This time we had a bigger (6 horse) trailer, with a pretty big step up.  We tried coaxing him with treats and grain.  We tried a lunge whip, to no avail.  The hauler finally moved the trailer to the hill so the step wasn't as big but by that point Cupid didn't even want to go near it.  I was about to give up when my wonderful vet came by, and patiently lifted each leg and slowly moved him forward until he was on.
The drive was about 3 hours.  We got there and let the horses get settled in their stalls and have some lunch.  Then we saddled up and headed out for a walk around the cross country course.  Cupid and I are doing the beginner division which is not timed, you can trot for both show jumping and cross country, and the maximum jump size is 18 inches.  We jumped a few of the jumps we thought might be part of our course, and a few of the Intro jumps (next level up).  Cupid was very good, and I was more relaxed then I was at Camelot.
Relaxing in his temporary home
On the second morning we explored the show jumping arena.  My nerves were starting to act up again a little.  Although Cupid was being good, he is definitely more eager to go when he is away from home.  Then we were told we were not supposed to be in that arena, whoops.  So instead we went back out to the cross country course.  Cupid got a little excited when we cantered through and out of the water!  Our trainer had us do a good bit of cantering after that, which definitely tired me out more than Cupid. 
Photo by Michelle Cale
Photo by Michelle Cale

By the second afternoon Cupid was getting bored of spending so much time in a stall, even though I took him out for several walks.  He has a bad habit of putting his teeth on the stall bars and scraping them back and forward.  It makes a bad sound and also can't be good for him!  Maybe next time I'll try to bring some sort of stall toy for him, but I think he may still be more interested in the bars!  He also was not really interested in eating his grass hay.  He ate up the alfalfa hay and his grain, and a bunch of disgusting old scraps of hay he finds on the ground so I think he's just being picky.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Show Prep

So it's finally going to happen (I think...) Cupid and I are entered for our first competition this weekend!  It is a one day horse trial, with a Halloween theme.  We are planning on doing the "green as grass" division, where you can trot the jumps so hopefully it will be fun and easy.

The halting after jumps we did last week really seemed to help Cupid listen.  We did a little course of jumps today no halting, and he was super relaxed throughout.  I felt very confident and comfortable and finally was able to allow him to come up to the jumps with a nice forward tempo, he jumped beautifully.  Before I was scared and always felt like we were going too fast so I had him coming up to jumps too slow, which forced him to jump more awkwardly.  We cantered to some of the jumps and trotted others.  I wasn't even nervous about doing a three jump combination (one stride in between each), ending with the third one at about 2'6".  Combos used to scare me because I felt like I didn't have enough time to prepare in between them, but since Cupid's being going so nice and my position has been more secure I didn't hesitate.  Our partnership has gotten really strong, I feel like we're trusting each other. 
I love this horse!

Friday, October 16, 2015


Cupid's had a very busy week with a bunch of appointments.

First up he saw a dentist.  It's been about a year since he's had his teeth done.  The vet gave him a sedative so he just dozed through the appointment.  The vet showed me where he had some sharp edges on his back teeth.  He also pulled out the last of Cupid's baby teeth so I guess he's pretty much all grown up!
Getting very sleepy!
Filing off the sharp edges

Then while Cupid was still drowsy he got his coat clipped.  He's been working up quite a sweat when I ride him.  We decided to do a trace clip so he will be okay if he's outside overnight without a blanket.  Cupid was waking up by the end and getting a little restless.
Trace clip
Cupid also saw the vet this week for a general checkup and to get his fall vaccines.  Everything looked good.  The vet said Cupid had put on a little muscle since he last saw him.  We also talked about his stifle, though he's looked pretty good lately.  The vet said to continue with the conditioning program and to make sure I ride him correctly.  Trotting nice and forward will help him build the right muscles, while shuffling along doesn't do anything - good thing my trainer likes to remind me of this. :) 

In our lessons we have been working on halting after jumps.  Cupid has been jumping nice and quiet and comes to a halt, but once halted he gets fidgety.  A lot of times I know I'm not sitting deep enough, I tend to pinch with my upper leg and hover over the saddle.  Working on this will help with our dressage tests too.  I've also been trying to work on my position over fences.  I let me leg slide back, then my upper body pitches forward and I stand too much out of the saddle.  It turns out if I feel like I'm kind of in a jet ski position with my legs in front of me my legs are actually pretty well underneath me.  I've been trying to keep my butt in the saddle until the base of the jump to not prevent getting ahead.  When I remember to focus on this it's a lot better, but unfortunately I've been doing it wrong for so long it's going to be a hard habit to break.  Good thing Cupid and my trainer are both very patient with me!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Camelot - Schooling Weekend Days 2 and 3

I woke up early and went to check Cupid.  We went for a little walk, then I put him in the round pen while I cleaned his stall and filled his hay and water.  Then I went for a run while he had his breakfast, and got a little lost on the trails! 

We saddled up a little before noon and warmed up in one of the jumping rings.  I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure how Cupid would act in a new place - which of course doesn't help him relax!  I was holding the reins tighter than usual and Cupid gently reminded me not to do that.  Sorry Cupid!  I was still quite nervous heading out to the cross country course, it definitely feels different when you don't have the arena walls around you!  I wasn't sure if I was ready to do any jumps so at first we just watched.  Then I saw a little log.  In fact it was so little Cupid could step over it.  So I had him walk over it.  Then we walked back the other way.  So far so good.  I was still scared, but asked him to trot and he calmly hopped over it. 
Our first cross country jump!  
After a few times over the tiny log we moved on.  We went on to jump up a bank, and over our first ditch!  Cupid was a star.  He took everything in stride, wasn't concerned about the new obstacles and didn't try to run off with me.  I was so proud of him!  I wish I could say I was as confident as he was, but I was still pretty scared.  I'm surprised Cupid didn't react to my tenseness but he was such a good boy and took care of me.  Once again I was reminded how lucky I am to have him! 
We jumped up this bank
Our tiny ditch
I was hoping I would be more comfortable on day three, then was dismayed to find myself still tense.  I told my trainer that perhaps I would just turn Cupid into a Western trail horse.  He would be pretty good at it!  But I was feeling pretty down on myself, and like I let Cupid and my trainer down.  So my wonderful trainer took me on a nice easy trail ride and we talked about my fears.  He reassured me that my feelings weren't uncommon, I shouldn't expect to feel the same as I did when I was young.  I was reminded that riding is supposed to be fun and I don't need to put so much pressure on myself.  By the end of the ride I felt a lot better, like a weight had been lifted.  So Cupid and I cantered around the field, then went back out to the cross country course and hopped over a few logs!  I'm glad we ended on a good note.

The third afternoon Cupid was happy to doze in his stall with his head resting on the door.  We loaded up mid afternoon for the long drive back.  Cupid seemed happy to be back home, and walked straight to the pasture gate.  Probably to brag to his buddies about his adventures!

Camelot - Schooling Weekend Day 1

Cupid and I had finally had our first excursion away from home.  Our trainer and a few of his clients were going to a clinic, and Cupid and I tagged along.  We went to a wonderful facility with lots of trails, jumping and dressage arenas, and a cross country course, and to top it off you can camp out right next to the horses!  I've always wanted to go horse camping.

Cupid was very good going into the trailer.  The ride was about 4 hours long.
Wrapped & ready
Step right up
We got there a little before the horses and got the stalls ready.  I took Cupid for a short walk to stretch his legs.  He looked around and whinnied a few times but seemed to be handling it okay.  He relaxed in his stall for a bit and had some hay, then we saddled up for our first ride.  I lunged him a little, he was distracted but trying very hard to listen and be a good boy.  He stopped to look around a few times but wasn't acting crazy.  I warmed up in a dressage arena and then we headed out toward the cross country course.

This was Cupid's first time on a cross country course, and I haven't been on one in over 15 years.  I think I was definitely the more nervous between us two!  But Cupid was behaving very well.  We kept it pretty easy, did a little trotting and a short canter.  Then we investigated the water complex.  Cupid only looked at it for a brief moment before bravely walking in.  The water was about halfway to his knees.  We walked through it a few times and then did it at a trot.  Cupid pawed in it a few times and I was afraid he wanted to roll so we kept moving.
Water complex
In the evening I took him for another walk, then gave him his dinner and topped off his water and headed to my tent.  It was really cool hearing the horses as I was falling asleep and knowing Cupid would be right there when I woke up!
Too bad he can't fit inside!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Checking In

Cupid and I have been taking it relatively easy the past week.  I was gone camping last weekend, and yesterday had a dentist appointment so Cupid got a few extra days off.  I had been a little concerned about his right hind leg but he felt good today.  We did some basic flatwork, mostly working on getting him a little more forward in his trot.  We did short canters on each lead and he was good.  Then we did some jumps.  We started out with a few crossrails.  My trainer asked how I was feeling today, and I was feeling very relaxed so we built up to a little course with a few crossrails, the brush box, and the barrels with a rail over it.  If he lands on the appropriate lead then I've been letting him canter between jumps.  He has been excellent, cantering quietly without rushing.  We added a 2'6" oxer to the course.  The first time to the oxer Cupid chipped in but we got over it.  The second time was much better.  I was really happy with our performance, it was a good confidence booster.  I need to work on not letting my leg swing back or out over jumps.  I told my trainer I would ride more in two point to strengthen it. 

Cupid decided he doesn't want to lunge anymore.  It is so hard to get him going!  Once I get on him he is great, it seems like he just doesn't like going around in circles.  I don't really blame him, it's not really my favorite thing to do either.  I just try to do a little to make the trainer happy.