Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Seven Oaks Dressage Extravaganza

On Sunday morning I groomed Cupid, put him on the trailer, and we set off to a nearby farm for a dressage schooling show.  This time we arrived with plenty of time before our first test!  Cupid seemed pretty relaxed when we arrived.  I tacked up and we headed to the warm up ring.

Cupid was pretty good warming up, though he didn't like one corner of the arena where there were some jumps and stuff stored.  He also got startled when horses walked down the path behind the hedges along the ring.  We walked around a few times, then trotted on a circle to get Cupid accepting my leg.  We cantered each direction, then trotted a square each direction.  Then it was show time!

Our first test was Training 1, which we did at our last show.  It went pretty good, though Cupid got a little crooked down the long side passing by some water tanks, and the other side where there was a viewing platform.  He stumbled a bit in the canter transition, there was a big wet spot in the arena.  But overall I was quite happy.  This time Cupid did not whinny at all.

We had about half an hour until our second test.  At my trainer's suggestion I went back to the trailer and got off and let Cupid relax for about 10 minutes.  He ate a little hay and drank some water, and seemed relaxed.  I got back on and we went back to the warm up arena.  Cupid was super!  When it was time to head to the arena I was feeling really good, expecting we were going to have a great test.  But, that was not the case.

From the moment we entered the arena Cupid was like a different horse, totally unsettled.  He trotted around quickly, with his head high.  He bucked into the canter!  We careened around the 20 meter circle, I was probably pretty much up in 2 point.  Then I forgot the test!  The bell rang, luckily at this schooling show they let you continue.  Cupid has been doing a great stretching trot, but he just giraffe-necked through it.  However our free walk was quite good.  Then we went back into trot, and Cupid picked up a canter a few strides before I could get him back down to a trot.  We did our canter circle, went back down to a trot and I thought we were going to run over a squirrel that was in our path, which seemed like the cherry on top of this disaster.  It was going so poorly I couldn't help but laugh.  But our grand finale ended up being Cupid stumbling into the final halt, almost falling on his face. 

I don't know what happened since Cupid had been so good all day, maybe he just had enough and was ready to go home.  We got a score of 67% for our first test, and the comment said that Cupid was a "lovely horse who seemed to enjoy his work."  On our second test we got comments of : naughty, rambunctious, and exuberant.  It also said: "Tactful rider handles exuberant horse well. However, there needs to be an improvement of overall bend, balance, and roundness to better meet the requirements of this level."

I know Cupid and I are capable of much better, and hopefully next time it will come together.  It was a good learning experience though.  And since I was the only person in my division we came home with a blue and red ribbon.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


The last week has been very hot.  Cupid has been sweating just standing.  So we took it a little easy this week.

Monday - I planned on riding in the outdoor ring in the morning, but it was closed for maintenance so instead Cupid and I just went for for a hack around the property.  One of the paths we hadn't been on in a while due to it being overgrown with branches and brush has been cleaned up, so we went down that.  It runs parallel to the busy road, but with thick shrubbery in between.  I still don't like it when loud big rigs or motorcycles zoom by, but Cupid is not bothered by the noise.  He was very good!  We walked for about half an hour and didn't have any spooks.

Tuesday - Flatwork lesson.  Started out lazy but eventually Cupid woke up a little.  His leg yields have been really good lately, showing more lateral movement.

Wednesday - Rest day.

Thursday - Dressage lesson in the outdoor.  Cupid was a little distracted, and had a few little spooks.  He still doesn't like the end of the arena with the chairs alongside, and tarp pile outside, and tried to cut this corner.  He also seemed to be struggling with the footing in the arena a little.  We tried avoiding the far end where it is more deep and uneven, but he had a few stumbles elsewhere too.
We went through my dressage test twice.  The first time I got lost, oops!  We had a little trouble with the left lead today, I hope that won't happen at the show.  Since Cupid had a few spooks and stumbles, plus trying to remember my test I was riding a little defensively (leaning forward), which I still need to work on.

Friday - Flatwork lesson.  My trainer had me ride with the crop under my thumbs.  This was a really good exercise for me because it helped me feel when I was twisting my wrist, and also realize when I was leaning.  I am having a hard time getting a good walk out of Cupid, not letting him be too lazy.

Saturday - Group jumping lesson!  This was a fun change of pace, I had 3 other ladies in my group.  We practiced a lot of 2 point, and took turns cantering.  There were a few other people in the arena as well, and Cupid was being very good with all the activity.  During the warm up he was actually quite lazy and got passed a few times.
Then we did a little grid.  First it was two crossrails one stride apart, trot in canter out and halt.  Then we added a third jump, and then the last two became verticals.  Cupid was a little excited, I circled him before we started the grid until he settled down and also gave a half halt before the first jump.  He was a little more eager than I like, but we went through it several times.  Though we did almost touch the arena rail before halting a few times!  My trainer said I still need to work on sitting up in between the jumps, but my last time was the best one.  Our straightness is getting better too.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Trail Ride, Purisima Creek Redwoods

Purisima Creek Redwoods is only about a half mile from our barn, but in the past when I've taken Cupid there he got very anxious walking away from home.  When my trainer offered to trailer over, I was curious to see how he would be.  We loaded the horses for the short ride with their saddles on, so when we got there all we needed to do was tighten the girths and put bridles on.  I used a small post to mount, and we were off.  Cupid headed down the trail on a loose rein, behaving perfectly!  I knew he was relaxed when we tried to eat some weeds along the path.  It was a warm day, but luckily most of time we were shaded by trees.

I was super happy with how good, and brave, Cupid was.  He had no problem with the changes in light, or walking by large boulder type rocks or anything else we encountered. 

The one down side on this park is that you start at the highest point, so you start by walking down hill before it flattens out a little, then heads down some more.  We rode side by side, or sometimes Cupid led.  The trail does not loop around, and when we turned around Cupid did get a little quick.  But since it was all uphill, he was puffing and sweating before long. 

We got back to the parking lot, got off and walked the horse to cool them off.  Cupid was pretty soaked in sweat by this point.  I hosed him off when we got back to the barn. 

The next day we had a flat lesson, with our German martinale on.  I think Cupid was a little sore from the hills, because he felt a little uncoordinated.  So we took it easy, a little shorter and not doing anything new but I still made sure Cupid gave me what I asked such as making him go in a good working trot instead of just an easy jog.  His attitude was quite good, so I promised him the following day off!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Continuing Progress Over Jumps

Tuesday - We did a little grid work in our lesson.  We started out just jumping the first element, a crossrail, and halting at the end.  Then my trainer added a second crossrail one stride out.  Then the second one became a vertical, and we added a bounce with just a pole on the ground.  All the while keeping the halt at the end.  I was a little nervous because there was a horse lunging in the arena, down at the end we halted.  This always makes me a little leery, and Cupid was picking up some vibes but overall he was quite good.  My main focuses were on staying straight, and working on my release.  My trainer said I don't catch Cupid in the mouth, which is good, but I need to push my hands forward more over the jumps.  It was easier over the second jump, with the first one I was trying to make sure he wasn't rushing into it!

Wednesday - We took the day off, but the weather was so beautiful I was tempted to play hooky from work and go on a trail ride!

Thursday - Joint lesson with my trainer's other student I often ride/show with.  I like the joint lessons.  We are similar levels and often need to fix the same things, and I can always learn from watching someone else.  Cupid likes it because he gets a bit more breaks. ;)  At first I had to work pretty hard to get Cupid going, he was extra lazy.  But he eventually woke up.

We did a warm up crossrail, trot it a few times then canter, then switch directions.  It was great going to the right, harder on the left and we got a few longer spots.  But I worked on my approach and sitting up and we did better.

Then we did a little course: left lead canter over the warm up fence; stay left and jump a vertical on the diagonal; then roll back to the rail, trot and go left over a small crossrail and halt.  The first time through I forgot my course and got lost!  Oops I haven't done that in a while.  My trainer put up a few cones to help me turn at the correct place.  Then we added a vertical after after the second jump and roll back.  We cantered the first three jumps, and trotted the last one.  The halt was the worst part as Cupid kept drifting left, and I was too distracted trying to get him straight so I didn't halt until we were almost at the fence.  But I was very proud of us for cantering the course! Cupid was so nice and relaxed that I didn't worry at all.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Turning a Corner

I feel like Cupid and I have both made a lot of progress - it's been almost 3 years of hard work but it's finally starting to come together!  For me, I'm making incremental improvements in my stiff elbows and hips, and starting to sit up straighter.  Cupid is starting to develop a frame, and seeking contact.

We not only are figuratively turning a corner, but also went over our first corner jump this week!  It was about 2' tall, and set on blue blocks.  My trainer told me to jump it on the narrow end, but made it a little easier for me by putting a wing on that side.  Cupid had been eying the blue blocks in the ring earlier, so I wanted to make sure I had him straight and keep my leg on.  He ended up jumping over a little bigger than I expected!  But I was pleased with both of us for doing it.
Our first corner jump

We did a course of about 6 jumps, including a little vertical, a one stride combo, a semi-skinny, and the corner.  The one stride was a touch long, but after the first time through (when we got the second element a little long) Cupid and I figured out how to navigate it more smoothly.  My trainer said I'm doing a much better job getting to the jumps straight.  Now I just have to get more confident with doing it all at a canter!

On Friday we tried on a few Stubben dressage saddles.  The saddle fitter also looked at my jump saddle, and said it still fits Cupid well but recommended I go back to the wool half pad instead of my thinline.  I'm having a hard time picking a dressage saddle because I pretty much like them all!  I was hoping that one would really stand out above the rest, but so far that hasn't happened.  Cupid was very patient with all the saddle changes, and letting me test all the saddles even after he worked pretty hard in our lesson.

I gave Cupid Saturday off since he pretty much did double duty on Friday, so I thought he would be nice and fresh for our lesson on Sunday.  He started off pretty good.  He seemed a little distracted by things going on outside the arena, but kept working and listening to me just looked around and whinnied a few times.  But midway through he decided to stop and balk!  He tested me for a moment, but eventually I got him going and he was great afterwards.  We ended with some nice stretching trot.

On Monday I planned to go for a little hack around the property, since I thought maybe a day out of the arena would do him good.  But it was so foggy I could barely see anything!  So instead I decided to lunge him a bit with our balancing side reins, which we haven't done in a while.  Cupid was good, if a touch lazy.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Lone Tree Farm Hunter Pace

We had a jump lesson on Friday in preparation for our weekend outing, and it was fantastic!  Cupid and I did an entire course of jumps, around 18" crossrails and verticals including a one stride combo.  We trotted in and cantered out.  I tried for one left-to ride lead change but didn't get it.  But more importantly I kept my composure several times through the course, and Cupid was very responsive throughout!

Saturday I just did an easy ride, warming up outside the ring, then doing a few circles, serpentines, leg yields, and walk-trot transitions.  Then we walked a loop around the property.  He worked hard all week, but I didn't want him too fresh for Sunday!  I didn't give him a full bath but did rinse him off.  He doesn't love baths but is good about standing, and doesn't whinny anymore like he used to in the wash rack.

On Sunday I woke up at 5am and drove to the barn as the sun was coming up.  I gave Cupid a quick grooming, and wrapped his legs.  We loaded all our gear the day before, so we just had to load the horses and away we were!  Cupid loaded perfectly, the last horse in my trainer's 3 horse slant load.

It was about a 2 hour drive.  Unloading from the 3rd spot is a little awkward, but I can mostly get Cupid turned around to unload head first.  I walked him a few minutes so he can stretch his legs, and he was very good, probably the best he's been first arriving at a new location.  He stood tied to the trailer while I tacked him up and put on his closed front boots.

Once I got on Cupid he got a little antsy.  We walked circles and figure-8s a few minutes while I waited for my barn mates to finish tacking and mounting.  The ground was full of rocks, it looked like we were in an old river bed so I was a little worried Cupid would bruise his feet or trip!  We walked over to a little "warm up" area, which was a long narrow enclosed area with grass footing.  Cupid spooked a little, I think from the flag course markers whipping in the wind but I'm not sure.  We walked for a few minutes, then started trotting some circles.  Cupid was anxious, but being good.  The warm up got very crowded, so it was a little hard finding space.  Before too long it was our turn to go, and I went in a pair with my trainer.

The first course was just to trot around the field inside the jumps.  When Cupid started getting too quick we would transition back to a walk for a few steps.  This was the first time I've ridden him on grass, but he seemed comfortable going on it and didn't try to stop and eat.  We did it in pairs with my trainer on her horse, and Cupid didn't like getting passed!  He seemed happier being in front, so we stayed ahead of the other horse.  Cupid was a little unsure about walking by a giant downed palm tree, but we passed it with only a little side eye.  Before we knew it we made it all the way around.

We went back into the warm up ring, and jumped the practice log a few times.  I trotted in, and made Cupid halt after.  It took a few extra strides to pull him up, but not too bad.  Then my trainer got on Cupid and took him around in pair with her other student for the elementary jumping round.  She said he was good, except stopped to look at the final coop.  Then it was my turn, and my trainer came with me on her horse.  In the pairs class at least one person has to go over each obstacle.  So my trainer said no pressure, do as much as I am comfortable with and she will do the others.  We ended up jumping each jump, mostly logs and one ditch, except the last coop.  At first I said I was not going to jump it.  Then when I saw it ahead I said you know what let's go for it!  But then Cupid started getting a little squirelly so I kind of bowed out.  Even when we passed it Cupid was tense, so I don't think it was the jump it was just kind of a spooky corner in front of the warm up. 

Overall I was very happy with both of us!  My goal for this event was to sit up straighter, and my trainer said I did much better than last time we went out.  And Cupid, even though he got a little quicker than I'd like sometimes he did come back down when I asked.  So overall it was a very positive experience and confidence builder for me!

Cupid got Monday off, but in the morning for some reason he really wanted to come out of his stall.  Usually he just wants to eat his breakfast hay, but today he was pacing around and kept standing at the door.  So I put his halter on and let him amble around the property a little, eating grass and smelling things.  I checked his temperature to make sure he was any worst the wear after our adventure.  I also put a little magic cushion in his feet Sunday night, just in case.  Even though we mostly were on grass, he did have to walk across the rocks to get there.