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.