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.