Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quiet Week

I haven't quite managed to get back in the swing of things since returning from vacation.  Cupid got his shoe replaced on Friday after I already went out in the morning, so I didn't ride him until Saturday.  Just a basic ride in the covered arena to knock the dust off.  He started off with a bit of energy, but was a little sticky moving off my leg in leg yields.  We also needed a few tries to get the left lead canter. 

On Sunday I had family visiting so I didn't ride, but did take them out to see Cupid.  He was happy to meet people and get carrots. 
Winter coat coming in, he's dark!
On Monday morning Cupid's left hind leg was a little puffy above the fetlock.  No heat and he didn't seem sensitive, body temperature normal.  I found the likely culprit, a very small and benign scrape on his fetlock.  (Oh, Cupid!)  I cleaned it and applied ointment and we did a light ride, just walk and trot for about half an hour in the covered arena.  The puffiness was gone afterwards.  However Tuesday morning it was puffy again.  No heat.  Since the light work seemed to help the day before, I saddled him up and we just walked around the property for about 20 minutes.  Sometimes Cupid is a bit looky when it's foggy, but today he was very good. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Extended Vacation

I was really excited to ride again when I got back from my trip.  Unfortunately I found Cupid with a loose, slightly twisted shoe!  :(  Big bummer.  Because of how the shoe was, I didn't really want to wrap it, and I don't have the tools to pull it off.  My old shoer showed me years ago, and I've done it a few times.  I considered keeping him in the stall, but he's much happier outside so I just hoped he wouldn't do too much damage.  I spent extra time grooming him.  He was very dusty, and is also shedding his summer coat.

The next day, as I expected, he had no shoe.  There was a bit of chipping but luckily not too bad.  I put a hoof boot on (currently experimenting with the Hoof Wraps Brand Bandage Kit, since the easy boot has been a bit hit or miss staying on) and we walked around the property for about 15 minutes.  It felt good to be back in the saddle, even briefly.  Afterwards I put Magic Cushion in his foot and wrapped it.  I left my shoer another message, hopefully he can come out ASAP!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Practice Makes Perfect

The lunge line lessons were quite helpful in letting me work on my position, but they unfortunately don't address one of my biggest flaws: ineffective use of my legs.  The breakthrough I made with the leg yield helped, and my next objective was to work on canter transitions.  I realized when I was focusing so hard on trying to maintain my seat in the saddle, keep my shoulders above my hips, and not raise my hands I was pretty much forgetting to use my legs.  Now some horses may be able to pick up a canter through your seat alone, but Cupid and I are not there yet!  So we've been spending a good amount of time working on our transitions.  Part of it is just me making sure I am organized before asking for it.  Also having a good quality trot - also practicing a bit of sitting trot which I haven't really been doing a lot of. 

In my last lesson I was worried I was getting a little too perfectionist about it, waiting too long before asking because I wanted it to be correct.  But my trainer said right now that is fine.  If we had a show coming up we would focus more on promptness, but we have the luxury of taking our time and learning it correctly.  So sit up, outside leg back a touch and a light squeeze, and if no response add the whip.  And wouldn't you know we got some pretty nice canter transitions!  The right is unsurprisingly better than the left, especially the second day in a row.  I had lessons on both Saturday and Sunday, since I'm out of town this week.  I think Cupid was a little tired on Sunday.  He was also anticipating the canter a bit, so while I was focusing on getting that good quality trot he was trying to rush into it.  So we went back to transitions between the walk and trot a bit until he settled and paid attention. 

We also did a bit more work with the German martingale.  Again the purpose of this is to help me achieve a more steady and consistent contact, since after 25 years of riding primarily hunters and trails I'm still somewhat apprehensive about.  But I can see and feel the difference with the martingale, it does give us the rounder "training level frame" judges keep commenting we lack.  I don't want to have to rely on it, but using it sparingly will let me get a feel for what I'm looking for, and allow Cupid to develop the correct muscles.  Though on Sunday, when Cupid was a bit tired, he was lugging down into it a bit and I was having to work the keep his poll up. 
Cupid is getting the next week off while I'm gone.  He'll get turned out every day so I'm not worried about him acting up when I get back (though I will miss riding him!)  He's been working hard, and has had a few days where he seemed to struggle a bit so I'm hoping the time off will be good for him. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dressage with Speedbumps

I've been trying to do a few little jumps every week or two, so it's not a big deal to either Cupid or myself.  Most of the time these jumps are small enough to step over, with the focus being riding between the jumps - pace, straightness, etc.  Even though I don't actually feel nervous, I realized today that subconsciously it does affect me.  Often it just feels sloppy: I let Cupid cut the corners, or canter instead of trot or vice versa approaching a jump. 

After one such round today I stopped to think about it, and I don't let Cupid get away with that when we're having a dressage or flat work day.  Adding a few little jumps shouldn't change that!  So I made a determined effort over a few more jumps and ended with some flat work, asking for some leg yields and shoulder ins.  Cupid (usually!) does listen if I ask, I just need to remember that I'm the one in the driver's seat.  And in fact Cupid would probably prefer not having to make decisions but I need to give him confidence that one of us (me) is in charge. 

Just a quick thought I wanted to get down from today's ride!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Week in Review

Last Sunday, after a really good lesson in the outdoor arena, we were cooling off with a walk around the property when suddenly Cupid went to his knees.  I think we were both pretty stunned as he stayed there a moment, but then he straightened up and I jumped off.  At first I was confused as I didn't see anything he could have tripped over, but the hole was behind us.  Apparently he got a hind foot in it, and momentum brought his front end down.  Though he had a little scuff on one knee, he is fine.  No swelling or lameness.  (Of course I still cold hosed it because I like to worry and fuss!)
Poor Cupid :(
On Monday we kept it fairly light, about half an hour of walk and trot.  Working on the idea of "carry yourself," making Cupid responsible for not petering out of whatever pace we set.

On Tuesday we did trot poles and a little course of poles and small jumps.

Wednesday we had a lesson and it was a bit odd.  It was foggy and cold, Cupid started out a bit stiff but ok.  We started trotting to the left, and all of the sudden he just lost energy.  He felt totally even though.  We continued to trot a bit to see what happens.  Then we walked, and then did some canter work which actually felt quite good.  But afterwards when we went back to the trot it was just like someone took the wind out of his sails, but again he didn't seem sore or off.  I packed his feet just in case.

I gave him Thursday off and did some stretches from my Masterson Method book.  I also noticed when I was grooming him he was shedding quite a bit.  In the past he has sometimes been a little funny when seasons change, so maybe that was it.

Cupid seemed back to normal on Friday, and we had a good ride.  I forgot my whip, and even though I don't feel like I use it that much it felt weird not having it!  But we were able to get our left lead canter several times without problem.

We had a lesson on Saturday, and played a little with the German martingale.  Cupid didn't like it at first and tried a few evasions - lifting the head, dropping the head, going quick.  Then he gave in, and it felt quite nice.  I wish I could get that same steady contact without it.  Though for some reason it did seem to make me want to carry my hands high, I'll have to work on that next time.  We ended with some leg yielding, and I realized that not only is it more elegant but also more effective if I just squeeze with my calf instead of bump with my heels.  Which I probably should have known but was a new realization for me!

On Sunday we went on a trail ride, the same park we usually go (Huddart).  We did about 2 hours and Cupid was very good, no spooks. 
Walking under the oak trees on the way to the trailhead
No water in the creek

Friday, August 17, 2018

Videos, and Post Show Week Recap

I was very excited to receive my show videos of tests Training 1 and 3, unfortunately she was unable to get 2.   Purchased from Smith Videography:

 Cupid got a well-earned day off on Monday, and Tuesday I thought he would a break from dressage to practice coursing over poles and cavaletti.  He felt great on the flat warming up, and the poles course felt solid.  We had some of our best lead changes to date, with barely a step of trot in between.

On Wednesday we did ground driving, walk and trot with circles and serpentines and going over some poles.  We ended with a little in-hand work.  Cupid seems to have figured out that if I stop him mid-way over a pole I'm going to ask for a side pass. 

Thursday morning I found Cupid was a scrape on his right hind leg and a few bite marks on his back, but luckily all superficial.  I set up some trail obstacles in the arena for another fun day.  We weaved through cones, backed through parallel poles, walked between two coops, and practiced opening and closing a rope gate between two jump standards.  We managed to do the gate though our form and technique needs work! 

On Friday we had a lesson.  It started out slow, as in Cupid was being quite poky.  He eventually warmed up out of it.  We had a really nice transition into the left lead canter and the canter itself was nice and balanced so we decided to end on that note for canter, and focus on trot work.  We played a little with lengthenings, first on a 20 meter circle lengthening after coming out of a 10 meter circle, then we did a shallow serpentine up one long side of the arena to work on bending and come across the diagonal with the lengthening.  Although we need to keep working to get a true lengthening it did make our working trot pretty nice after! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Greenville Dressage Show, Day 2

Cupid seemed quite content when I left him Saturday night, but I wasn't sure what to expect the next day.  I packed my longing equipment in case we needed to burn off some energy, but when I took him out for a walk he was totally calm and relaxed.  But he seemed to be feeling good, I thought he was striding out a bit smoother than he looked the last few days.  After breakfast I was going to walk him again but he was napping in his stall so I decided to leave him be.
Snuck a few bites from the lawn...
Our ride was at 12:45.  I braided him at 11, then got myself ready.  I was happy to take advantage of coats being waived as it was in the upper 90s (and I don't think I could even button my coat right now!)    We headed to the warm up ring a little after 12.  My impression from the morning confirmed that Cupid seemed to be moving a bit more loosely, though he was a bit lazy.  I can't blame him in the heat though!  I kept the warm up pretty similar, walking on a loose rein to start, then shortening the reins and walking some loops for bending and stretching.  After about 10 minutes we started trotting, again on a loose rein to start then shortening and doing some figures.  Once he was a little warm we did transitions between walk and trot to wake him up, and some shoulder in for suppleness.  We did a little left lead canter, and it was still a struggle.  Then we just walked until it was time to head over. 

Mid braid
I felt great entering the arena for Training 3, and even better exiting!  I thought it was our best test yet.  I'm finally starting to get a hang of those darn loops.  We picked up the left lead canter no problem (!!) and sustained it during the longer period required, with a decent down transition at X.  I was especially happy with our transition into the right lead, which felt quite good.  Our stretching trot wasn't as good as it could have been, and I think I forgot to shorten my reins again before completing the circle.  But overall I was thrilled, and couldn't have been happier with Cupid.

Unfortunately our score didn't quite reflect how good I felt about the test, but this weekend I felt like we are finally meeting the minimum requirements of Training level.  This was likely my last show of the year.  But I am happy with the (admittedly slow) progress we've made and excited to keep improving.  I think if we keep working hard this fall and winter (with a few weeks break planned) we will be ready to move onto First level next year.
By virtue of small classes, but what the heck I'll take it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Greenville Dressage Show, Day 1

I took Cupid for a walk and finished braiding his mane (I did the actual braids at our home barn in the morning but didn't roll them up, and still needed to do his forelock.)  Then he hung out in his stall for a few hours, contentedly eating his hay.

I changed into my show clothes and tacked up with about half an hour to warm up for our first test.  Warm up was in a large covered arena, which was fortunate since it was in the mid-90s.  Cupid was well behaved during warm-up, but felt a little stiff.  After about 10 minutes walking we trotted around the arena and did circles and loops to try to get some bend going.  We did a little leg yielding and transitions to make sure he is responding to my leg.  We cantered to the left only, and continued having problems picking up that lead.  We had problems our last lesson too and I didn't think it was something we can fix in this one warm up so I decided not to worry too much about that right now, we'll just try our best. 
Warm up, not sure what I'm looking at
The tests kind of went by in a blur so I'll have to wait until I get the video to watch back and see what actually happened!  In Test 1 we didn't get the left lead first ask, but there were no other major mistakes and I felt good about it overall.  We got pretty much straight 6s, except a 5 for the left lead canter and a 7 for the halts and walk.  We also got a 7 for gaits, and 6s for impulsion and submission for I think the first time.  I got 6s for the rider scores, with a comment that I need to soften my elbows and sit up... yeah I know I've been working on it but judging by the pictures I failed miserably!  But we finally achieved my super modest goal of breaking 60, lol. 

We had about half an hour until Test 2.  I didn't want to overdo it, especially since it was so hot.  I got off and let Cupid have a drink in his stall (and for me too!), then we stood in the shade for a little bit.  I did about 10 minutes mostly walk and a little trot in the warm up before heading back.

Test 2 overall went about the same as the first.  Had to retry the left lead, but no other real mistakes. I wasn't quite as happy with the halts, we kind of ambled into the first one.  The scores were about the same, though we ended just a tick under 60. 
Blurry screenshot of our halt
I was happy with our transition going right
I was super happy with Cupid.  The correct expression isn't "I couldn't have asked for more" because I certainly could have, but that is on me not him.  He gave me everything I asked for, and a little more.  :) 
I didn't realize he was mugging, I wanted a nice elegant pictures with the pretty palm trees!
Just for fun, proof I suck at dressage.  Or as one previous dressage judge (diplomatically? or snarkily?) commented "Elegant hunt seat position":
Good lord, why can't I sit back?!?
At least here my elbows have some bend?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Lucky 13

I was very excited about staying overnight for our first 2 day show!  We've done a few overnight schooling trips, but have never shown 2 days straight.  In those past trips Cupid seemed more anxious the second day, though he was so good in Oregon I was hoping he may have matured out of that.  We had a bit of scare initially when I was told they were out of stalls, but it did end up working out and we got one.

I decided to do 2 tests the first day, and 1 the second to see how it goes.  The next decision was when to get there.  I could go Friday and get a practice ride in.  But I thought traffic would suck, and we've been at this facility once before and Cupid seemed to like it so I would save myself a trip.  When I got my ride times I saw I wasn't riding until the afternoon - do I want to get there about 1.5 hours before our test like we've been doing at our shows and Cupid might be used to, or early and get him settled in his stall first?  I decided to embrace the whole away show experience and get there Saturday morning. 

When we arrived I went to check in, I was told we have stall 12B and they pointed me in that direction.  I didn't think much of it, I assumed that was the B barn or aisle.  I walked down past stalls 1, 2, 3, etc... but there was a horse already in stall 12.  I was confused for a moment, until I saw the next stall, "12B."  I guess they thought I might be superstitious and wouldn't want to stay in 13 so they relabeled it, haha!! 
Lucky for me I needn't have worried, my impression was correct that Cupid does seem to like this facility and was quite happy and relaxed all weekend! 
Nice roomy stall, not unlucky

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Work in Progress

Here's a clip of me on the lunge line, which was really helpful for me to compare what I felt with what it actually looks like.  Admittedly this wasn't our finest effort, as Cupid was being lazy and with my trainer also trying to hold the camera you can see me thrusting the hips a bit trying to help keep Cupid going.  So definitely something to work on - using my legs (and whip if needed) instead.  I'm also still a bit tipped forward, and my hands a touch high.  Also for dressage I'd like my toes to be pointed more forward.  Overall I still look a bit like a hunter rider sitting in a dressage saddle here - still a work in progress!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Walk Work, and the Endless Trot

I was grooming Cupid on Thursday morning, and noticed his right hind leg was a bit puffy above the fetlock.  It felt slightly warm to the touch, but his temperature was normal and he seemed otherwise fine.  On closer look I found a barely perceptible little scrape.  He looked okay walking so I tacked him up and headed to the ring hoping it was a non-issue.  I let him warm up slowly, but he didn't seem totally comfortable (though to his credit his work ethic was there) so we just did a bit of walk work. We also practiced halting, and asking him to yield his poll and carry on in that contact.  Afterwards I cold hosed and cleaned his leg.

By Friday morning his leg looked fine.  I had planned to do an easy ride, walk/trot in the dressage court to practice the loops for our Training 3 test.  However as is often the case I got kicked out way too early for ring maintenance.  I had just finished my walk warm up, and barely had time to trot one loop and one 20 meter circle each direction.  I could have gone to the covered arena to continue working, but decided to just walk around the property instead. :p
Saturday was a day off. 

On Sunday we had a lesson.  I was happy to see the dressage court was dragged and empty, but it was one of those days where Cupid just could not settle out there.  Spooking at a chair by the arena, and the mounting block, and nothing at all.  Or getting distracted every time a horse moves in one of the paddocks.  It's a bit annoying, but at least it doesn't scare me anymore; his head shoots up and he may scoot sideways but now I'm pretty sure he won't bolt or do anything too silly.  I just don't know what his issue is with this arena, like I've said before even though we spend more time in the covered he's been out there over 100 times already!  And he's not even this bad in new places! 

We set to work trying to get his focus back, and there were moments that were quite nice.  Until he got distracted again.  Pretty much each time we said okay let's finish this circle or whatever and then we can walk he would spook, so we went on.  We trotted for a good 20 minutes, did a bit of canter each direction, and a bit more trot, before finally walking.  But Cupid wasn't even really winded or sweaty, so I guess his fitness isn't as bad as he lets me believe sometimes!  After a walk break we finished with some more trot work, mostly quiet this time. 

I don't know if it was the hard work the day before, the weather, or just his mood but on Monday Cupid was super lazy!  We were in his favorite covered arena and he was content to go around like a lesson horse.   I did try to get him a little more forward, but pretty much failed.  We trotted over some cavaletti, and did a little course with cavaletti and small cross rails (like under a foot).  I was glad he was quiet, but admittedly struggled keeping him straight after a jump instead of letting him cut the corners, I'm assuming mainly because of the lack of forward. 

On Tuesday Cupid and I had a lesson.  He was still being lazy so we decided to canter on the lunge line, so we have a better chance at getting prompt departs instead of practicing chasing him into it.  Plus I'm not going to lie, I strangely enjoy being on the lunge!  He still struggled a bit with getting the left lead.  Whenever I think we're over that problem it seems to reappear. :/  I've discussed with the vet and chiropractor in the past, and obviously my trainer is well aware, and all parties say there doesn't seem to be any physical reason but it is harder for him (and my bad side as well which doesn't help).  By the end of the lesson Cupid was a bit more awake, and we ended with trotting some serpentines which felt really good. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Trail Ride in Huddart Park

Saturday morning Cupid and I headed to Huddart Park for a ride under the redwood trees, perfect for a hot summer day!  We haven't been on a trail ride in a while so I was looking forward to it.  Cupid was a little bit nervous when we were riding up the road alone.  We were approaching a corner and he spun but luckily didn't run off!  I thought maybe someone was coming around the corner, but there wasn't and I didn't see anything unusual.  (He had walked by a stack of tires and some cones no problem.  Horses!)  He also whinnied a very high pitched little whinny a few times.  He was much happier once we met up with my friend.

Midway through my friend's horse was getting a little fussy so we switched places.  Cupid is still a little hesitant being in front.  He stop once to stare a child running and yelling down a trail, and spooked at some people playing in the river below us, but overall he was very good. 

We walked for about 2 hours, with fairly gentle climbs and descents throughout.  Luckily we were in the shade almost the entire time, and Cupid didn't get too sweaty.  Though later when we got back to the barn I put him back in his stall to pack his feet and give him his grain before turning him back out he got quite sweaty, it can get pretty warm in the barn.  Summer has finally arrived!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Brief Recap of the Week

Monday - We almost always take a day off after a show, no matter how light it was :)

Tuesday - Back at it with a dressage lesson.  I wish I wrote notes after because I can't remember what we worked on!  I remember we had a very long trot set, then did trot-canter transitions on the lunge line.  We worked on different bends on a circle - staying on a 20 meter circle but bend like you're on a 15 meter, or 10 meter, and shoulder in both sides. 

Wednesday - Hopped on bareback for a walk around the property.  Still one of my favorite things to do!

Thursday - Another lesson.  Did a little more on the lunge line.  At the trot I had the whip behind my back to increase the bend in my elbows (still a problem area, unfortunately).  Then at the canter I held the whip under both thumbs.  I was resisting the urge to do airplane arms, haha.  We did this a little earlier in the ride, which I think helped Cupid.  He seemed to be really concentrating, especially to the left, , I could feel him really gathering himself.  Afterwards we did a few off the lunge line, which were not quite as nice but the canter itself felt really good.  We had some nice moments in the trot too.
Friday - I was planning to ride in the outdoor (dressage court) and practice my loops for Training 3.  I should have started earlier because the tractor came to drag before I even got to trot - whomp whomp.  So instead Cupid and I just did another walk around the property.  I tried doing a short trot in an empty field in the back, but the footing was uneven and I didn't want to risk it.

We did have a bit of a "training opportunity" when Cupid froze passing by a stack of mats that aren't usually there.  I asked him to walk by several feet away.  Then we turned and walked by a little closer.  He was a little nervous but did it.  Then I walked him toward it, and stopped half way.  Then he walked up to it and put his nose on it and was fine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dressage Schooling Show at Seven Oaks

The main purpose of going to this schooling show was to have my trainer come coach me, so she can help us better prepare for our next rated show.  So from that perspective it was a big success, as she saw exactly what I was hoping she would see.

Our ride time was 11:10 and I wasn't braiding, so it was a relatively leisurely morning (aside from a road closure causing a slight detour - which compared to the punctured tire, truck problems, and witnessing a bad motorcycle crash previous show mornings was no big deal).  Actually revise that - I wanted to try doing a running braid just for fun, and when I finished I thought it looked okay at first but when I saw it from the other side it was a lumpy mess so I just took it out.  Oh well, I'll need to practice a bit!  In a way it was harder than regular braids for me, since you need to hold it tight the entire time instead of being able to rest your hands between individual braids.

Cupid was perfect loading and we got to the show with plenty of time to get ready.  The usual warm up arena was not available, instead we were directed to the covered arena.  I had it to myself, and Cupid seemed pretty comfortable in there.  I was happy to see that the warm up my trainer put me through was pretty similar to what I'd been doing myself, though of course she always has me push for a little more.

Then we went over to the show ring.  The arena itself is 20x60with regular (tall) sides, and instead of going around the outside we do our pre-test lap(s) inside.  Which is kind of nice to get a peek at the ring, except of course you don't get the benefit of the straight approach to X.  But as we were doing our initial lap Cupid started getting fussy, and even broke into a little canter.  I brought him back to the trot and tried to sit up and deep and give the inside rein a little to get him relaxed.  It's okay though, this was the kind of thing I wanted my trainer to see.  I asked her after if she thought Cupid was just picking up on my tension, and she said no but I do need to make sure I stay level - don't let him change my posting or lean forward, etc.

I thought the test overall was okay, though not totally relaxed or as engaged as at home or even in warm up.  We got our leads and didn't break early, so I was happy about that.  Our second canter to trot transition was a little late, and Cupid took a step during our final halt but otherwise no glaring errors.  The judge's comments included that our loops were over the center line, needs better balance, and rushed a few places.  Our best score was a 7.5 for the medium walk.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Mini Trail Ride and Lessons

It's been a few weeks since we've hit the trails, so I was hoping to go out last weekend.  Unfortunately my usual trail riding buddy wasn't available, and I didn't want to go out alone (just in case!)  So instead I invited one of my barn mates for a hack around our own property.  It was a nice sunny day, and we had a good time walking around while chatting.  I also found someone else at my barn who might be interested in going trail riding.  She said her horse has experience but it's been a few years, but he's usually as good as his company which is the same for Cupid.
There's the ocean under a layer of fog
Our rides have been going well.  We had two lessons this week.  In our dressage lesson we were doing shoulder-in on a circle, then straightening (still on the circle) into a bigger trot.  I wasn't really getting it at first and my trainer pointed out that I was collapsing through my ribcage.  Once I corrected that, I still couldn't feel as much bend/displacement of the shoulders that I was seeking (it's hard for me to feel it on a circle!) but when I straightened I could feel a huge improvement in the trot - it felt much lighter.  My trainer said right now that's what we're looking for. 

Our canter work also felt pretty good, though going to the left Cupid still has a tendency to break into a trot.  It tends to happen in the same spots around the arena, I think where the footing is a bit deeper, so sometimes I can anticipate it and try to keep him going but today I was surprised because the canter felt really good, not behind the leg.  I'm a bit worried because the Training 3 test has a longer canter to the left (of course!)  My trainer said I need to be a bit more firm telling him that is incorrect.  Usually I just curse under my breath, reorganize, and eventually ask for the canter again - she said I need to tap-tap with the whip right away, even if I take a moment after to reorganize before asking again. 

We also had a "jump" lesson.  Our course was actually just trotting over trot poles, picking up a canter and going over some cavaletti (trot changes after the cavaletti if we don't land on the correct lead), then back to a trot for a little 1' crossrail.  I enjoy these little courses when I'm not worried about the actual jumps!  I can just focus on straightness and getting to the base of the jumps.  My trainer said my eye is getting better - I don't know about that but I do feel more secure.
New shoes

Friday, July 13, 2018

Keeping it Clean

Well two days later that fly sheet isn't looking so white anymore!! 
I've been cleaning Cupid's wound every day - squirting chlorhexidine with a syringe then Neosporin.  It's a little sensitive to the touch, but he's been a good boy about it and it doesn't seem to affect him much otherwise.  It's on his hip so I can't wrap it, but I've been taping gauze over it to keep it clean and that's also why he's been wearing the fly sheet, to help keep the gauze in place.  I don't have the good elasticon just some cheap sticky medical tape from Walgreens, but surprisingly it has stayed in place.
Redneck medicine
We had a super lesson today!  I started off... rough.  We were in the outdoor, and Cupid was perfect last time but this time he decided that something on one long side was going to eat him.  So we started a 20m circle, with 10m circles on the spooky side to make him focus.  I was feeling pretty no-nonsense today and a bit firmer than usual.  It took less than 10 minutes before Cupid decided it was no big deal anymore, and the rest of the lesson went really well. 

We had probably our best canter work to date, continuing the exercise of doing the 20m circle with some 10m circles inside.  I don't think we've ever cantered a 10m circle, but it felt balanced.  All that work turning off the outside rein is paying off!  The right is still our better side but the difference isn't as obvious. 

We finished with trot work that included between a small circle to shoulder in, straighten to a big medium trot, and a slight outward bend with a slight (or just feeling of) leg yield.  It's starting to come together! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer's Start

Cupid and I have had a relatively quiet week plus since the show - aside from a text from the barn last night that he came in from turnout with an injury.  Nothing serious luckily, but I appreciate that they both noticed and told me about it.  It is finally starting to feel like summer, though we still have plenty of cool days interspersed. 
You know it's summer when the grass turns to weeds

Lessons have continued to focus on improving connection, and making sure I'm beginning turns off my outside rein.  I'm a slow learning but starting to get the hang of it!  I've also been requesting some time on the lunge line about every other week so I can hopefully build muscle memory doing it correctly.  I think it's also helped my coach be more aware of some of Cupid's tendencies - things like finding an excuse to break gait if you get distracted; anticipating what we're doing; when he doesn't want to carry himself; and that he does tire a bit going to the left and picking up that lead will get more difficult if he's a bit tired.

I've been trying to make sure I'm not constantly drilling him, and add variety to the routine.  So on Saturday I rode him around the property including some paths which have recently been made usable again after getting a bit overgrown, before dropping into the outdoor ring for a little trot work, then continuing around.  We did a day of ground driving, and another day of in-hand work.  We practiced backing up straight between two poles, then I had Cupid step over a pole with just his front feet and side pass down.  He's finally starting to get this but it took some time! 

I was going to do some jumping this week too, but Cupid took a few funny steps before I mounted.  He seemed okay after, but we decided to keep it light and did a course with just ground poles and cavaletti instead.  I asked for some lead changes over the cavaletti, we don't always get them but had a few (especially if I repeat a course and Cupid knows which way we're going!)

Getting turned out with his Fresian friend
New fly sheet, still fits a 69"!
Cupid also saw the chiropractor last week.  A few adjustments but looking good overall.  She said his left hamstring was a bit tight, and his pelvis was rotated up to the left and lower back had some rotation to the left as well.  She also recommended adding rice bran to his current rations as he's lost a little weight, you can see he's a bit ribby.  I haven't had him on rice bran before but luckily it doesn't seem to cause any adverse effects for him.

I'm hoping to get a trail ride in this weekend.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Yarra Yarra Dressage July Show

I entered Training 1 and 2 again for this show, since we've been having a bit of trouble with the left lead and it's a bigger part of Training 3.  My ride times were 11:30 and 1:10.  So on the bright side I don't have to wake up super early, but it is kind of nice to be done and home by noon!  Plus the heat.  So I got to the barn with lots of time to spare, especially since I still cleaned by tack and loaded the trailer, and bathed Cupid the day before (since I wasn't sure how cold it would be at 7am)  I was taking my leisurely time grooming and braiding him.  I decided to do his forelock first, since that takes me the longest.  It's still not perfect but I was happy with how it turned out.  Then as I was doing his mane one of my fellow boarders came by and asked if that was my truck and trailer, and said there is a screw in my tire!!  Her trailer is parked next to mine and fortuitously she was also going someplace that day and somehow happened to notice a nail in my tire, though the tire was still fully inflated.

I have no idea how this nail got in my tire, it's not really on the driving surface??!!  But good thing she noticed before it blew out on the freeway with Cupid in the trailer.  And lucky I had plenty of time, so I could put my spare on.  (Big thanks to my dad for teaching me how to change a tire!!)  Once that was done I still had just enough time to finish braiding and still leave with plenty of time in case we got some traffic - luckily we didn't so we got to the showground about an hour before my first test.
Got nailed!!
I got on just over half an hour before my ride time.  The warm up ring wasn't too crowded, and I think the upper lever horses were pretty much already done for the day so I didn't have to worry about dodging them.  It is nice not to feel rushed!  I started with about 10 minutes walking, first just around the ring to loosen up than adding some bending.  Then we did trot work, with some 20 meter circles and serpentines and some smaller circles to increase engagement.  Cupid got a little startled once by the automatic gate opening right by the arena, but overall he felt good, neither too lazy nor quick.  I think I only cantered to the left in warm up.  We didn't get it first time, so I still had some doubts we would get it in our test.

We headed to the test arena, and as I was circled around it I kept Cupid to a walk as we passed the corner he spooked last time and the judge's booth, then picked up the trot.  I thought the test was okay overall; Cupid was a bit tense but the geometry was good and transitions prompt, no errors.  We got both leads correct and didn't break early, so I was happy about that!  I left the arena feeling pretty good.

With over 1.5 hours to go, I untacked Cupid, sponged him off with cold water and scraped him, and found a shady spot to hang out.  He was pretty content to eat hay and drank plenty of water.  Since I was all alone the only show pictures I have are during this time.
Shady spot
Braids turned out okay
I eventually went to pick up my test, and I admit I was pretty disappointed.  It was pretty much a 5 or 5.5 on everything, with the comment "hollow."  Except a 6 on both halts, "square", and the free walk, "stretches out but not down."  I had a little pity party and thought why do I even bother.  I thought about how we would do better in the hunters, if only I could get over my nerves.  If I had picked my test up earlier and still had a long wait I would have just said forget it and left.  But since it was almost time to tack up I figured I'll just go do it since I'm here.

I gave us about 20 minutes in the warm up.  Cupid actually had a bit more energy.  Our warm up routine was similar just a bit shorter than the first time.  Cupid did try to break into a canter from the trot a few times, so I ended with doing transitions between the trot and walk on a large circle to get him listening.

Cupid was a bit exuberant during the test.  He did break into a little canter when we were supposed to be trotting, but came back down quickly.  We did manage to get all the transitions in the correct places, and again got the leads correct though it felt like Cupid lept into the canter a little, and did a mini half-buck at one point.  (Note to self to schedule a chiro visit for him - I think it was more from excitement but he feels due anyways.)  Overall it felt a bit more mixed; clearly there were anxious moments but there were some good moments too when he relaxed a bit.  The stretchy trot felt good, and I tried to push him a bit more in the free walk. 

Despite a few exuberant displays it was actually fun, I felt good about it and was happy I decided to stay.  I was first to go in my class, and decided not to wait over an hour for the class to finish and get my test sheet.  I check my score online and it was still terrible, though slightly above the first test which I was a little surprised about since we did have a few naughty moments.  A few positive takeaways:
-Finally, I didn't feel nervous beforehand!  The last few shows I wasn't sure if it was pregnancy or show nerves making me feel a bit nauseous, but I felt fine.
-I still need to work on keeping my shoulders/upper body back, but I am getting much better keeping my butt in the saddle.  I made a conscious point to check in with myself on this and make sure I can feel the saddle.
-Cupid can handle the heat, when he wants!
-Even if Cupid is a bit excited, he (probably) won't do anything too terrible (though our scores might be).  But my confidence has improved a lot, and I feel a lot more secure taking him new places. 

I am hoping to do a 2 day show next month, which may be it this year for Cupid and me.  I might do a schooling show before that, and since it's local maybe have my coach come to that so she can see how we've been doing in a show environment and help me improve.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Best Laid Plans

I sometimes say that horses have a way of laughing at our plans.  That's how I felt today, when I was doing my final show prep.  I wanted to practice some elements of the tests, but Cupid decided he wanted to practice jigging and scooting sideways instead.  Sigh.

We got off to a bad start when I saw the sprinklers were on in the dressage court.  Usually the covered arena is dragged and water first, from about 7-8am, then around 8 then do the dressage (outdoor).  So usually I ride before work, in the covered arena while they are watering it.  (It's a guy with a hose, and I just stay on whatever end of the arena he's not working on.)  Since I ride there most often, Cupid is very good in the covered but can be a little spooky in the outdoor.  Which, I mean yes we go there less often but we've been there at least 100 times already so it shouldn't be an issue!!!

So I stall a bit, and around 7:45 the sprinklers are off and I go in and Cupid is a jigging spooking mess.  I spent the next 15 minutes mostly just trying to keep him walking straight.  He can spin around pretty quickly and seamlessly if I'm not paying attention, all of the sudden we'll just be facing the opposite direction!  He was finally starting to settle and I thought yay we can get to work, but of course I see the tractor heading down, so much for that.  We had to go to the covered arena, which is bigger than a dressage court and also full of jumps so I couldn't go down the centerline or proper diagonals.  But I did make Cupid work, since he seemed to have so much energy outside. Overall our ride was okay, but we were having trouble with the left lead again.  Double sign.  The first few rides after we got back from Oregon it wasn't a problem at all.  The best strategy I've found is to counterbend him a little, then ask for the canter as we straighten back.  The bigger problem is a lot of times when we get it incorrect it takes several strides to get him back down to a trot, then rebalance, before we get it - way too long. 
Looking contrite after finally deciding to behave

I'm not feeling optimistic about our show this weekend.  We'll be in the outdoor ring at Yarra Yarra, where Cupid was a bit spooky last time, plus we'll probably blow the left lead.  Oh well, we'll do the best we can and try not to embarrass ourselves too much!

In other news, earlier this week I asked my trainer for a lunge line lesson.  I wanted to work on sitting down and back, especially in canter transitions.  I have a bad habit if leaning forward and raising my hands when I ask for the canter, so not helpful!  I tied and dropped my reins, and just held my whip under my thumbs and it was great to be able to focus on less things.   Cupid was a really good sport about it.  (Of course he's almost always good, in the covered arena at home!  We just need to learn to take that relaxation elsewhere.)

Monday, June 25, 2018

4 Years!!

The week plus since we've been back from Oregon has passed quickly, and uneventfully.  I gave Cupid a few days off, and then the first few rides back he felt focused and refreshed.  It feels like he's working into the bridle a bit more, and the left canter lead hasn't been much of a problem.

The weather has been all over the place, a few cool foggy days followed by a few hot days, then back to cold.  It's making it kind of hard to plan my rides, or life in general!

In other news, Cupid and I celebrated our 4th anniversary together!  It's hard to believe how quickly it's gone by.  And kind of sad that we're still toiling at Training level and jumping 2', but oh well.  In honor of our anniversary here are some clips from my first ever ride on Cupid, about 2 weeks after his last race!

He always had a nice long stride at the walk!
In other news, before Oregon I tried out a western saddle that I wanted for trail riding.  Although it was very comfortable for me, I didn't think it was a great fit on Cupid (though I'm certainly no expert).  But he did look super cute with it!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Long Haul

Our destination in Oregon was over 400 miles away.  I've never trailered that far, so did a little research to try and make it as comfortable as possible for the horses.  This is what I did to prepare for and during the trip:

-Truck/trailer maintenance:  I've had my trailer about a year now, so it was about time for my annual maintenance check anyhow.  There is a trailer place nearby, where I got my trailer brakes: AB Trailer Hitch.  It's the only place I know in the area so I didn't compare prices, but they are very nice.  They checked the lights, tires and wires, greased the bearing, and whatever else they do.
I'm lucky my dad is a mechanic, so I asked him to take a look at my Ford Expedition before the trip, top off oil etc.

-Fans:  While my trailer was in the shop, I also asked them to install fans.  Even though I have adequate windows and vents, I thought it couldn't hurt and is especially useful if we have to sit in traffic.  My fans are installed on the same wire as my trailer's interior lights, so they are on if I turn the lights on.  The guy at the trailer shop recommended this because having them separate requires a lot more labor to install.
Trailer fan
-Frequent stops:  The advice I read online was to stop about every 3 hours for about 20 minutes, to give the horses a break from the vibrations.  So I got gas, and if the station wasn't busy stayed under the awning at the pump, otherwise I tried to find a shady spot, and opened the windows.

-Water:  I offered the horses water during some of our stops, and read that they may or may not take it.  Cupid drank a little each time I offered, while the other horse with us didn't at all.  My trailer has a water tank, which made this pretty easy.

-Wraps:  People have pretty strong opinions on each side of this issue, whether to wrap legs or not.  I did put on Coolmax no-bows on all 4 legs, and bell boots in the front.  The wraps did not get loose, and his legs did not feel hot underneath when I took them off.  I just feel more comfortable with this, I would feel horrible if he sliced his legs somehow.  My friend's horse was bare legged, and didn't have any problems either - so this one goes down to personal preference.

-Hay:  I had grass hay in front of Cupid, and he ate pretty much the whole ride, so I refilled his hay at one of our stops both on the way there and back.  His travel buddy only ate about half her hay bag on the way up, and finished that up on the way back.  I also brought hay with me, so he has what he's used to at home. 

-Camera:  I got a little camera that transmits a live feed to my phone through Wi-Fi.  The one I got (Rear View Safety model RVS-83112-Wifi) is listed as a back up camera, not specifically intended to watch horses in a trailer, but it did the job.  It was $140 on Amazon.  A camera is totally unnecessary, but it did give me peace of mind, especially since I wasn't sure how Cupid and the other horse would get along.
Camera, placed in rear trailer window
Captured on the camera

-Ulcergard: I started giving Cupid Ulcergard the day before we left, and continued until the day after we got back, in case he was stressed from the travel or being in a new place.

Driving by Mt Shasta