Friday, December 6, 2019

When to Say When

It was always my plan to give Cupid a break at the end of the year.  But when it felt like things were finally starting to click, plus the weather has been pretty reasonable (aside from some recent rain) I was struggling a bit with hitting pause.  I'm going to be gone for a week so the break was always going to coincide with my travel plans, but I was thinking of riding up to then.  We had a few really great lessons, but our last few rides were... just fine.  Cupid did everything I asked but just lacked a little sparkle.  He's also been a little more cuddly then usual, spending lots of time resting his head on me in the stall.  After riding him like that on Wednesday and Thursday, giving him time off now just feels right.  So in the next few weeks (aside from when I'm gone) I'll just be grooming him, handwalking and grazing if the weather's nice, and hopefully getting around to cleaning and conditioning my tack!
I also scheduled a few lessons for myself, so I can learn something new from a different horse and see how some of the things we are working on are supposed to feel like on a trained horse! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Giving Thanks

Cupid and I have been having productive rides, but nothing really remarkable to share.  We did a bit of jumping yesterday, and after a few jumps got back into the rhythm of it.  I meant to post closer to Thanksgiving, but work has been keeping me very busy and I've been sick on top of it.  But I do want to express some gratitude for the many things I'm blessed with.

- To Cupid, my partner and best friend, who is willing to grow with me and continues to rise to the challenge when I keep asking more from him.

- To my wonderful, patient trainer who somehow hasn't given up on me yet, even after telling me the same thing a hundred times!

- To my wonderful and supportive family, for not resenting all the time I spend at the barn.

- To my job, for letting me afford this hobby and allowing me enough flexibility in my schedule to enjoy it!

- To all entire team who helps keep Cupid and me comfortable: barn manager, vet, farrier, saddle fitter, chiropractor (his and mine!), body workers.

- To my barn friends, and internet friends, who share this crazy passion and make it more fun.

- For all the progress Cupid and I have made in the past year, learning the ways of dressage.

- For me becoming not only more competent, but perhaps a little braver.

- That Cupid and I both managed to avoid any serious injuries or health issues.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Indian Summer

We've had a few chilly mornings when I was glad to be wearing fleece breeches, but overall it's been pretty warm.  Cupid was clipped in October, and it seems to be growing back much quicker then in previous years.  I've never had to clip him twice, but we'll see how long and cold this winter will be.
I guess there was a little overnight rain I didn't notice!

After Cupid's shoe got pulled, I did a CleanTrax soak followed by Animalintex wrap three days and he looked good.  Then it was another day before the shoer came out to replace his shoe.  I had been planning a trail ride on Veteran's Day, but that had to be cancelled so I cleaned my trailer instead.  And lost my phone in the process, so spent the next two hours walking around the property, retracing my steps and looking for the phone.  I gave up, but found it the next day, underneath the trailer next to mine!

Our first few rides back were not great, Cupid was just kind of distracted especially in the outdoor arena.  Luckily he was much better during our lesson today (just some minor staring at, and trying to shy away from, a chair several times as we passed it), it probably helped that there was another horse in the arena.

We ended up having a fantastic lesson!  The contact and roundness have gotten so much more consistent.  I still use the billet strap to secure my outside hand.  Hopefully that will help create muscle memory.  We played a little with trot lengthenings, first on a short diagonal but we were losing roundness so we did them on a circle instead, going between a bit of shoulder in to the lengthenings.  They were a bit too quick at first, so I tried to really focus on slowing my posting down.  In the canter we transitioned between a working and medium(ish).

We ended with leg yields.  They felt a little weak today; Cupid was ignoring my leg a bit and I was overbending him.  So we broke it up into moving off the leg, then straightening, kind of stairstepping down the long side.  They still weren't the best we've done, but overall the transitions and everything else were right up there, my trainer and I were both really happy.

We're going to keep working for a few more weeks, then I plan to give Cupid a few weeks off before we start readying for a show in late January.  I'll be kind of bummed if the nice weather continues during our break, then gets nasty right after!  But I'll be gone for a week anyways, and I don't want it too close to the show. 

I think he had hay in his mouth when I bridled him, but we'll just pretend it's good foam!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Back to Square One

I thought the pads had been working beautifully for Cupid and foot problems were a thing of the past, but alas last week I found him with abscess-type symptoms.  It was especially surprising because it hasn't rained at all.  I had to call the shoer to pull the shoe and pad so I can treat it.  After a few days of CleanTrax he seems fine now, so we just have to wait for our shoer to come back and replace the shoe and pad. 
I'm still undecided on whether to keep the pads on over winter or not.  If he keeps getting abscesses regardless then we'll probably take them off. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Difference in Opinion

Cupid and I were at a dressage show last weekend.  We showed T2 and T3 both Saturday and Sunday, but unfortunately they did not have stabling available so we had to trailer a little over an hour each day.  After doing two days of the Nick K. clinic recently I was feeling a little more confident about this.  But my ride times were early Saturday morning, and Sunday afternoon - I much would have preferred the other way around so I have more time to get Cupid settled the first day!

I debated whether I should lunge Cupid when I got there on Saturday, and decided against it.  Instead I let him eat hay at the trailer a bit, and got on him about half an hour before our first ride.  And then instead of trying to tire him out in the warmup ring, I tried to put him on the outside rein.  Yeah what a novel concept :p  We started out walking, instead of just moseying on a long rein I was thinking stretching down.  Then we shortened the reins and I asked him to come on the bit.  Then we did a long trot set, mostly with me trying to plant my outside hand by his saddle pad and applying inside leg.  We did just a bit of cantering each direction.  We finished with some transitions and a bit more stretching. 

Then we headed to the show ring, and put in what I felt was our best test to date.  The contact/roundness was still a little inconsistent, it came and went a few times, but Cupid was definitely less giraffe-y then previously, and I thought our transitions were quite smooth.  I came out of it feeling great! 

We had about 45 minutes before our second test.  We went back to the trailer, I took Cupid's bridle off and loosened his girth and gave him some water and let him eat a little.  Since he was being so good I got back on about 15 minutes before our second test.  We walked for a few minutes, then again trotted working on roundness, and finished with some walk-trot transitions (no cantering at all).  The second test good as well, though the serpentines probably need a little more bend / showing change of bend.  But I was really happy with Cupid!!
Looking like a dressage horse!
And then I was very surprised to see our scores, 57% and 54.5% respectively!  I honestly expected 63/64.  Most of the comments were "needs down stretch."  And we got a 4 in submission, which seemed very harsh to me.  I think we got that when Cupid bucked.  We've gotten better scores with clearly worst tests.  I don't think it's just my imagination, there were some scores in the upper 60s but a lot more in the 50s and low 60s, which is fairly unusual for this series.  There was a kid on a cute pony riding Intro A who got 55.  Granted I didn't see her test, but I saw her in warmup and she looked like she was at least meeting the requirements of Intro.  I'm not trying to complain, but I was left feeling a little confused like is my feel of what I should be doing this far off.

So after the disappointing scores, then losing power Saturday evening (and not getting it back for about 48 hours), and gusting winds on Sunday I had a bit of a pity party and debated whether I should even bother going back the next day.  But I snapped out of it and got Cupid ready.  Since it was already a reasonable hour, plus with the wind and traffic lights being out because of the stupid power outage I left extra early.  Turns out there wasn't much traffic so we got to the show about 2 hours before my first ride time.  During the lunch break I took Cupid over to the show ring and hand walked him around, trying to gauge how distracted he was by the wind.  He seemed fine, though I wasn't sure that was still be the case when I got on him!  The ring steward told me there were a bunch of scratches so I could go earlier if I wanted.

I warmed up similar to the day before.  The warm up is in the covered arena, and I tried not to get distracted by the wind noise or looking outside seeing the wind getting stronger and stronger.  There was one other horse and rider in the arena with me, and I heard her say she's scratching.  I was starting to wonder if I would be crazy to try it.  But... I was there so what the heck.

I ended up riding my two tests back to back.  They were both fine - not quite as smooth as the previous day I thought, but it was just the things we're still working on the wind didn't really faze Cupid at all!  We had one little hiccup in our second test, where Cupid kicked under himself in the canter transition then swapped leads, and a few moments with a little head twisting.  But I was still really happy with him for keeping it together. 

Again I was a bit surprised by our scores - a little over over 62% and 60% respectively!  I was expecting upper 50s for sure.  I think the judge maybe gave some extra points just for showing up.  So it kind of made up for the previous day, but again, it did leave me a little confused not knowing what the actual expectation is, or wondering if my feel is just off.  Part of me is disappointed we weren't able to finish the year at First level, but we've made a lot of progress and I'm excited to continue this dressage journey.

When it's gusting 50mph and your competition decides to stay home
Canter still needs work, but I'm sitting up a bit better
Not all good though, lol
And that's a wrap, at least for rated shows in 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019

Thoroughbred Show

Not sure if I should share this news yet because I don't want to jinx it / embarrass myself if it doesn't come together, but ... I'm forming a planning committee to hopefully organize a thoroughbred show in Northern California!

There is a big event in Southern California I was hoping to go to.  I pretty much talked myself into going this year.  And I was okay with it being 5+ hours away... except it's in December, and involves driving across the Grapevine - a steep, unpredictable mountain pass that is often closed or backed up due to weather or traffic.  And then, it's a two day event but all the classes I was interested in are on Sunday - so 1) I would probably only do dressage, and 2) it's harder to justify going down there just to show one day.  So instead I decided to look into hosting a show closer to me, where I would have more input over the schedule, lol. (Even though I won't get to actually enter myself)

I'm not taking this endeavor lightly, and have only begun to scratch the surface of all that needs happen to get it done.  A few people have already volunteered to help organize, through an OTTB page on Facebook.  As I was messaging someone I realized I had an old unread message I never saw.  From someone who owns Cupid's half-sister!  I already thought that was pretty cool, and then I realized I recognized that person's name as the organizer of a Lucinda Green clinic I audited several years ago.  So, someone who owns an OTTB + has organization experience - I asked her to join the planning and she agreed! :)

I have all sorts of ideas.  In addition to the show itself I would love to get some guest speakers to lecture on topics such as nutrition/feeding the OTTB/ulcer prevention, and hoof care (another big topic with OTTBs!).  I also thought it would be good to do a clinic on Friday before the show - if we could get someone who does hunter derbies I think that would be popular and also dressage.

Wish me luck!!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Nick Karazissis Clinic

Cupid and I spent two days in a hunt seat equitation clinic with Nick Karazissis!  This was actually the second and third day of a three day clinic, but I could not make the first day.

I signed up for the beginner jumping group (up to 2'), and on my first day we were a group of 6 horses and riders.  We walked around for a few minutes, then Nick had us line up and asked the other riders what they learned yesterday, and asked me what my goals are.  I said my main goal was relaxation as we both get tense being away from home.

We spent the first hour on flatwork.  And I was a bit surprised that it wasn't really different from my dressage lessons - just because this was an equitation clinic didn't mean that Cupid could walk around with his nose sticking in the air.  We started with just walk-halt-walk transitions.  Then halt and back up, with the goal being to shift the weight to the hind end.  Nick wanted me to slow it way down, almost doing half steps.  "slow down the front end and get him pushing off his hind."  Slowing down was pretty much our theme of the day. 

 In the trot work we went between a slow sitting trot and faster posting trot.  Here it differed from my dressage lessons because Nick wanted the trot super slow when we were sitting - which does make sitting a lot easier but felt like cheating!

I was a bit nervous cantering in a group - even though I've shared an arena with people many times Cupid and I have never done a group lesson or rail class where everyone is cantering!  Cupid was going a bit faster then the other horses, but was otherwise behaving.  Nick said I need to work on keeping my legs from sliding back.  And when we were in half seat he actually told me to get my elbows more forward, which is a rarity for me!

Nick was not a fan of my Myler combo bit.  I had the reins on the bottom ring, he asked me to try moving them to the top, and suggested I should use double reins. 

We all trotted over some poles.  Then one at a time cantered though a grid of poles halting straight after.  The focus was on a square turn, straightness, and the striding.  We finished with raising the poles to small jumps in the grid, still with the square turn and halt after. 

I left the first day feeling pretty good.  Nick said Cupid and I have talent just need to put the pieces together!

No pictures during the clinic, so I took a selfie after

I was excited to continue progress on the second day, and Cupid did start out more relaxed.  (Which was part of the learning experience, since we have a two day show coming up I figured this would be good practice!)  The flatwork portion was fairly similar to the first day, just a bit shorter.

Nick again suggested double reins (and also took away my whip and spurs), and I borrowed a curb rein to try.  Cupid hated it!  He's never really reacted to an equipment change, and maybe it was me because I haven't used double reins in years.  Even after we took them off he was a little agitated, so I took a little time away from the group to regroup while they started jumping.  We trotted some circles and figure eights, then rejoined the group.

We did more work in the grid.  For Cupid and me the focus was on not overbending in the opening circle (think about pointing his nose to the outside), not bulging out in the turn, and then maintaining a steady pace through, and stay straight halting at the rail. 

Overall I thought the clinic was a good experience.  The double rein was a miss, and I didn't necessarily agree with Nick's impression that I am a bit overhorsed at times (Cupid is quite good as long as I'm riding well, just not when I'm curling up on his neck!), but I don't blame him.  He doesn't know Cupid or me, and was just going off of what he saw on that particular (two) day(s).  He was actually quite patient and did also have many positive things to say.  He also said that Cupid seems to really like jumping. 

Making faces :p