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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Sitting Trot Woes

Since everything else has been going pretty good, my trainer decided we need to work more on the sitting trot.  Which I'm just the worst at!  We haven't done too much of it, initially because Cupid was young/green, then we just had so many other things to work on, then right after we started a little bit he had his back problem.  So I've gotten out of it for a long time.  I know the key is to stay relaxed; the harder you try to sit still the worse it gets.  I tried to cheat and get Cupid to do a little shuffle-y trot but of course my trainer stopped that pretty quick.

Like most thoroughbreds, Cupid doesn't have the smoothest gaits.  But no excuses.  I still remember the one and only time Cupid was working round and sitting was just easy, so I know we can do it.  There may be another lunge line lesson in my near future!

Otherwise things have been going well.  I was looking forward to going to an "Intro to Cattle Work" clinic this weekend, but unfortunately the clinic was cancelled.  :(  Maybe it's for the best, I have no idea how Cupid would have reacted.  He's been totally fine riding along cow pastures, but I'm not sure what he would think of sharing the arena with cows!  But we do have a hunter/eq clinic next week, so something to look forward to.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Working Eq Test Ride Clinic with Ali Kermeen

This weekend Cupid and I did a working equitation test ride clinic.  I signed up for the Novice A test, which is very straightforward with shallow loops at the trot, picking up the canter on a 20m circle, and changing rein on a free walk.  The main differences between it and a regular dressage Training level test are that the halts are straight from/to a trot, and there is a reinback.

I thought we had a pretty good warm up.  Cupid was a little disturbed by a chair balancing on top of a mounting block outside the arena - which I mean who does that?  I mostly just avoided that end of the arena so we can focus on bending and trying to get round.  I was riding in my dressage-legal bit, not the Myler combo which I think does encourage Cupid to drop his nose a bit.  But he was listening, and bending and both up and down transitions were prompt.

We headed into the arena, and in typical fashion threw down a mostly accurate but tense test.  Afterwards Ali asked me what I thought about it.  I rattled off a few things I thought could use improvement - the first loop was a bit big, I had immobility both before and after the reinback because I couldn't remember where it goes (before is correct, then step straight into a walk), and my second canter to trot transition was late.  Ali said she wasn't concerned with that, and we need to just focus on relaxation.

The first thing she did is shorten my stirrups, so my hips can move more easily and I have a better base of support.  She had me rock forward and back and asked where I can feel my seatbones.  We started walking, and she told me to follow Cupid's movement but basically leave him alone.  Don't try to make his walk bigger, just focus on following with my hips, sitting upright without arching my lower back, and bending my elbows ("capital L, not little l!")  The other emphasis was on turning my upper body ("headlights") the direction I want Cupid to go - obviously something basic I know but forget sometimes when I'm thinking of a hundred other things!

Then more of the same at the trot.  Of course at the trot I do additional weird things with my body, like raising one shoulder or collapsing through my side.  Aside from a few reminders to have him more on my outside rein, the focus was more on me and my position; as long as Cupid was relaxed and maintaining a steady rhythm I left him alone.  Was he on the bit - no - but Ali said this is still more correct, and he is lifting and swinging through his back much better even with his nose poking out then when he's tense and his whole neck is braced up.  She also basically said once I was more secure in my seat and steady in my contact the rest will come.

We took a bit of a break, working on the reinback a few minutes.  Ali shared a different technique, using a gentle backwards motion with my heels.  It took Cupid a minute to figure it out, but then it seemed to work pretty good! 

The canter work was also mostly focusing on my position.  The transitions into and out of it were good, aside from one time when Cupid kind of squealed and leapt into it.  Even though I still worry about picking up the left lead, he's been very consistent with it (I think the pads on his feet are really helping!) 

I really enjoyed the clinic, and Ali's practical yet relaxed teaching style.  I was quite happy with how Cupid went, and that we could have a good experience being at a somewhat new place.