Friday, September 10, 2021

A Promise Fulfilled

A while ago I promised Cupid if he scored a 65 or higher, our next lesson would be jumping.  I jump him a few times a month, both for some variety and so it remains not a big deal, but we haven't had a jump lesson in over a year (aside from the near-disastrous Bernie clinic).  The truth of the matter is I'm a lot less nervous if no one is watching me, and I can pick my own jumps (which usually means no combinations!) or trot them if I want or change my mind about the course etc.  Even though we've had several good jump sessions recently, I was still a little nervous doing it in front of my trainer!  Which I know is silly, she is there to help me.  

Excuse the poor quality, got this through text message

Anyways I told her I wanted to do a little work on my two-point, and getting the kind of canter I can jump from, and then just have same fun with little jumps.  We start just cantering over a cavaletti, and focused on getting a straight approach and touching my seat to the saddle to avoid Cupid's tendency to go long.  We went through a little bounce a few times, but I think it made me a bit nervous thinking it would get Cupid a bit revved up so my trainer said we don't have to do that today.  Then we did a little course a few times.

It was super fun!  My trainer said my position was a lot more secure, and I could feel I recover after the jump a lot quicker than I used to, probably since I wasn't jumping ahead as much.  My trainer said Cupid has nice form even over tiny jumps, and if we worked on tightening his knees a bit he would be a pretty cute hunter.  Which I agree with, but I just don't think I can get my act together to be able to show over jumps.  At least not any time soon, I'm just now finally starting to not curl up into a ball at dressage shows!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Osierlea - From a New PR to Humble Pie

Cupid and I had qualified for RAAC - our regional adult amateur championship.  However after our last show my confidence was pretty shot and I felt like it wasn't worth going just to be so far behind everyone else.  Even though I had been looking forward to it and it was a goal for the year.  There was another show the same weekend, and I tried to justify going to that one instead because it's closer, cheaper, a place we've been before, and I figured would be less hot and less likely to have bad air quality.  Well it was still hot, but 90 degrees instead of 100 at the RAAC show.  And then the second day, when the actual RAAC classes were held, apparently the AQI was 150+ so from the perspective we made the right choice.

With the heat I decided not to lunge beforehand.  But I still got to the warm up ring way to early, especially after I found out there was a 15-20 minute delay.  The covered arena was being groomed, but as soon as it was ready we went over there for some shade.  Cupid was definitely on the lethargic side so I tried some transitions to sharpen him up, though I feel like our workout could have been a lot better planned.  It was kind of spurts of work followed by several minutes of walking/ambling due to the heat.

We rode Training 1 and 2.  We only had about 15 minutes in between tests, so we grabbed some water but didn't get to see the first test sheet or scores before our second round. They felt okay to me, but I thought maybe a bit more like a pleasant hunter under saddle style then dressage.  Plus we had a rare off course in Training 2, which considering how many times I've ridden the test shouldn't have happened but I think the heat melted my brain a bit! Scores from the morning varied from mid 40s to low 70s, so I figured this judge was not overly generous but rewarded when appropriate.  But I guess they looked better then they felt as we got a new personal record of 66.7% for our first test!  And 63.9 for the second (if only we didn't have that darn penalty!)  Not only that, but we got our first ever 9!!!  On reviewing the video I think that was rather generous since the hind legs weren't square, but I'll take it.  I was a bit overwhelmed and had literal tears when I saw my test sheets, feeling like our hard work the past few months has paid off.

It's been a while since we've stayed at a show overnight.  Well, Cupid did, as I drove the ~1.5 hours home to have dinner with my family.  I know a lot of people like to go to the showground a day before to settle in, but I've always felt like for whatever reason we've always struggled a bit on a second day.   Cupid had a large 16x24 stall and seemed quite content.  Our classes the second day weren't until the afternoon, so I spent the morning taking him for walks, letting him roll in the lunging area, grooming, and braiding.  It was hot again, though a bit cooler then the first day.  We were lucky though because a bit of smoke came through in the morning, but it cleared up.

I didn't want to start warming up too early again and got on about half an hour before our first ride time.  When I got to the warm up the steward told me they were about 15 minutes behind again so we were kind of just ambling around taking our time.  The steward confirmed the delay a few minutes later.  We just started putting it together when someone else came to the ring and said no, everything is on time and the rider before me just finished so I need to get there immediately and as I was approaching the ring someone said they already rang the bell so hurry straight in without circling.  I tried not to feel flustered and tried to recapture the magic of the previous day, but I knew it wasn't coming together as easily or well.  The day 2 curse struck again, and we were (deservedly) in the high 50s for both tests, with the same judge.  I don't know if it's fatigue or what because Cupid doesn't seem upset being there, he is very relaxed in the stall and eats and drinks well.  So I guess we have to either do it more often and get used to it, or not at all. 

In the end I'm happy with my decision to skip RAAC.  I kind of regret my decision to show 2 days because the first day ended on such a high.  But progress is not always linear, and we are lucky we get to do what we do so I'll try not to complain too much =)

Thursday, August 19, 2021


It's probably become an annual occurrence that I come to the realization that Cupid likes to ignore my leg and I should probably do something about it.  So we (mostly) fix the problem, and then over time let standards slip again.  So it's that time again.  Ask with a light squeeze and follow with the whip if I don't get a suitable response.  To start we mostly focused on accelerating out of the corners.  I'm trying to really feel the push from behind, which is a bit difficult for me.  I can feel when the front end gets lighter but have a harder time feeling the rear. 

 Riding Cupid this way is definitely more work for me - but actually not as much work as I thought.  I was expecting him to get a bit more pissy about we expecting more from him, but he is actually quite agreeable.  If I was able to ride him more effectively, he'd be quite a nice horse 😂

I feel like I've made good progress with my upper body, and some progress with my legs though as you can see in the picture below I still end up bracing on my stirrup a lot.  And also in the photo, I still have a bad habit of throwing my hands forward when I'm asking Cupid to go. I still have a hard time keeping my fingers closed on the reins, the rainbow reins are very helpful for me to see when they slip but I was thinking of trying a few rides with a stopper like for a running martingale where I keep my hands.  If I can get the darn things on my reins!

We also did a bit of stirrup work our last lesson.  I've been trying to ride without stirrups about once a week, but I still find it a bit harder to sit while maintaining the stirrups. 

We've also been doing a bit of jumping.  Last week felt really great - Cupid found the sweet spot carrying me to the jumps but not rushing.  The first time over the stone wall was a bit of a flyer that jumped me out of the tack, but our second time over was much smoother.  This week we did a little 2'-2'3" course.  I'm still not planning to show over fences, but it's fun when I can control the jumps and course! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Unexcused Absense

Time flies, and I just haven't gotten around to blogging for no real reason.  Aside from a few outings, and some very minor bumps and scrapes, there hasn't been a whole lot going on with Cupid and me.  

We did an equine biomechanics clinic with the Traveling Horse Witch last month which certainly merited its own post, but I just didn't get to it and now the details are hazy.  But I will say that Cupid thoroughly enjoyed the session, and felt much looser through his shoulders afterwards.  We are looking forward to Celeste's return in November and hopefully I will be more diligent about taking some pictures and writing about the process!

We also made several trips to the Horse Park, for a few lessons as well as some solo rides.  We walked around the XC course and through the water but didn't do any jumps.  We also showed there, and I felt good about my tests but got really crappy scores which sent me into a bit of a funk about not understanding dressage and how could we be getting worst not better when it felt like we were improving.  I was quite discouraged, but had some good talks with a few experienced friends as well as my coach, found a few things to focus on, and am now ready to give it another try.

It was a rare quiet day at the Horsepark, we pretty much had the place to ourselves!

We've taken several people from our barn trail riding, some with green horses and some experienced.  Our lovely shaded parks are a great place to ride in the summer, though thankfully aside from a few days it hasn't felt too hot.  And even more thankfully we have not had any fire threats or smoke, knock on wood.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Back in the Ring

Cupid and I did our first show in several months!  It was at a venue we hadn't shown at before.  With these two factors in play, I decided to enter Training 1 and 2 - start with a short easy test to get a feel for the ring.

Photo by L. Taylor

I was expecting a 4am wake up, but it turned out my rides weren't until 2:30 and 3:30 so I had a leisurely morning.  I was very happy with how my braids turned out (I know it's tradition, but ... as you can see in the photos I braid on the left - Cupid's mane naturally lies to this side, and I somehow just got used to braiding there and now it feels weird trying to do it on the right!)  

I got to the show grounds around noon and let Cupid snack on his hay while I looked around.  The show arena was mostly hidden behind bushes.  There was a covered arena, plus an uncovered dressage court you could warm up in and the secretary told me there was a third arena where you can lunge.  I tacked up and headed towards the lunging arena, which was another dressage court, and to my dismay had sprinklers on.  So I walked Cupid around a bit, then headed back to the lunging arena.  Now the sprinklers were only on the back half, so I lunged Cupid in the front half even though it was a little sloppy.  Cupid was well behaved on the lunge, and moving quite nicely with the side reins.  If only I could hold my reins that steady...

I glanced at the scores from the morning, and to my dismay saw lots of 50s and low 60s - very unusual for our area.  Now I didn't actually see any of these rides, but I had to assume the judge was maybe on the stingier side.  At this point part of me was thinking if my warm up doesn't go well maybe I'll just pack up and go home!

I decided to warm up in the uncovered arena, since it was most similar to the show arena.  It was warm, but thankfully not too hot.  The warm up had tall bushes along one long side, and the other long side was on the main driveway where horses and the occasional rig passed by.  Surprisingly Cupid was not very distracted in there, and I was pretty pleased with how he felt in warm up.  And then we headed to the show ring and T1 felt like a tense, distracted mess.  Cupid broke gait several times, and picked up a wrong lead.  

I was a bit tempted to lunge the ____ out of him before our second test.  But my rational side took over - he hadn't been showing excess energy on the lunge or during warm up so perhaps there were some other things we should work on.  I took him back to the trailer and offered him water and a little break.  I got on him with just under half an hour to my second test and tried to focus extra hard on making sure my reins weren't slipping too long, that I was sitting up straight, and keeping my heels under my hips as we did lots of transitions and light lateral moves.  Then we went back to show ring and had a much improved second test!  

At the end of the day the high point for all levels and divisions was only a 69 - probably the first show I've been to where no one broke 70.  So I was quite happy with my scores - 58 in the first test (which was actually better than I was expecting regardless of the judge), and 62.4 for the second one.  But more importantly I was very happy with how well Cupid handled himself at a new place after not showing in several months.  And I was happy with myself for letting cooler heads prevail and making good improvements.  Of course after watching my video I still see many things to work on but it's finally starting to feel like it's coming together!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Stag, You're It!

Today's ride was interrupted by 3 large bucks, first lurking outside the arena and then briefly venturing into the arena!  Cupid was surprisingly well behaved with them lurking around, and when they came in Cupid thought it was a fun opportunity to use his cow skills.  I didn't want to get too close, so the deer don't run into the mirrors or something.

I think Cupid was a little startled when they ducked back out through the fence, cows don't do that! 😂

I'm glad I happened to have my camera set, even though this was a bit of a Soloshot fail.  I'm not sure why it loses me for so long when I wasn't even close to the camera.  

After the deer left, we practiced some transitions and ran through the T1 test.  Even though the deer were still lurking in the bushes behind A, Cupid was not distracted.  I had the german martingale on for some extra help keeping the contact steady, hopefully to help build the muscle memory. We have a show coming up this weekend, our first in quite a while at a new to us venue so we need all the help we can get!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Pasture Wars

For me, the mental and physical  benefits of group turnout outweigh the risks.  Cupid is in a large, slightly sloped pasture with 5 other geldings during the day.  Most of the time they just eat or stand around, but occasionally one gets the notion to run which usually results in the whole herd taking off.  

Just over a week ago Cupid came in with a scraped up leg.  The barn manager texted me a picture and cleaned it up.  It seemed superficial, though there was a bit of swelling the next day.  My vet happened to be in the barn so took a quick look, but said it should be fine if I just clean it and apply ointment.   Cupid was not lame on it, and by the next day the swelling was gone.  I walked around the pasture to make sure there weren't any loose boards or nails but didn't see anything out of place.

Injury on right front, above his old puncture wound and popped splint

A fair amount of swelling for a surface level scratch
All bandaged up
Then this morning I didn't get to the barn until after the horses were already turned out.  As I was walking towards Cupid's pasture I saw and one of the retirees grooming each other and thought, how cute.  However a moment later apparently the other horse had enough (or maybe was embarassed to be caught, lol) and just turned and kicked Cupid!  I thought maybe he didn't connect, but unfortunately there was a fresh wound on Cupid's other front leg!  Since I didn't see the first injury I don't know for sure it's a kick, but they are pretty similarly placed.  

Second injury, on left front

My barn takes precautions, like horses in group turnout are not allowed to have hind shoes and new horses are introduced gradually, after a few days in an adjoining pen.  But horses will be horses, and even an established herd of mostly easy going gelding get rowdy every now and then!  Luckily these injuries were mild and I still believe the benefits outweigh the risks.