Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Yarra Yarra, Day 2

My trainer told me something in our last session before the show - that we are now at the point where I need to stop thinking about it as "surviving" the show, and focus on trying to ride our best possible test.  It's a small and silly distinction, but it is accurate.  I did go into a show thinking anything can happen (we can pick up the wrong lead, or start cantering when we're supposed to be trotting, or Cupid gets quick or even crop hops) so I was pretty happy just to get through it.  A test goes by so fast it's pretty much over before I even realize what's happening.  Often times in a show what we produced was maybe 50% as good as how we generally feel in a lesson; at our last show last fall I was pretty happy when it felt at least 75% as good.  But I really wanted to commit to putting in our best test possible, and not just "get through it."

My coach was also showing that day, she was riding not long before me so she was also warming up her own horse but did give me some tips in warm up.  Cupid was a little "up" but listening.  Since Cupid is more reactive at shows I decided to forgo spurs and my whip.  The warm up arena was pretty wet, though it felt okay and Cupid handled it fine but I didn't realize until afterwards just how dirty we had gotten!

We headed to the covered arena for our test, and I tried to remember everything I had been working on: steady contact, legs under me, sitting up, and set the tempo I want through my posting and not let Cupid change it.  And I think I was largely successful!  It is still a little inconsistent at times, but at least now I realize and more importantly can even correct when the reins have gotten a little long, or I'm tipping forward.  We had a few distracted moments when Cupid could hear his buddy whinnying and responded, right around the corner between A and F, but overall it was our best test to date.  It's a bit silly, but I was a bit overwhelmed with emotion after we finished.  You can see me smile as we halt at X, but after I squeaked out a thank you to the judge my eyes were tearing up.  Just really really happy with my horse, and that our hard work is finally feeling like it's paying off. 

Here's the full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP-Fj5o8LkU

We had a bit over half an hour until our second test, so I stayed on though we just walked and stood around for a bit.  I didn't feel like we needed to do a whole lot before our second test.  My coach came over with about 15 minutes to go and had us work a little on bending and getting round.

The second test was about the same quality as the first, which is to say I was quite happy.  Still a few things to work on - steadying the contact and fixing my suddenly weirdly floppy ankles/lower legs.  But overall this felt like a huge improvement from our last show last fall, and I think I'm finally starting to look like a dressage rider instead of a hunter rider in a dressage saddle!

Here's the video of our second test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBnkCt08EQU

My tentative plan is to do one more rated show this March at Training, then hopefully try First level at a schooling show in April!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Yarra Yarra Day 1

Last weekend Cupid and I went to our first show of the year.  We did this show two years ago, and based on that I expected to have an early ride time and decided to take Cupid over on Saturday (about an hour drive) and stable overnight.  But as luck would have it, I was actually the last rider of the day, finishing at 4 (with my first ride at 3:15).  I decided to try the stabling anyways and see what difference that makes.  Plus my friend / barnmate was also going so it would be more fun not having to be there alone. 

So on Saturday afternoon I loaded up the trailer and headed over.  Overnight accommodations were in permanent stalls in a small empty barn.  I think it was a 12x12 stall, with a window he could stick his head out through and a door he could see through and also stick his head out.  The automatic waterers were not on.  I haven't had to hang a bucket for Cupid in a while, and last time I did he kept dumping it.  I was hoping maybe he's grown up a bit since then, but no he still enjoys dumping his bucket! 
Home away from home

I let Cupid settle in his stall for a bit, then tacked up.  The warm up ring was closed, but we could ride in the show arena, which was set in the covered arena.  The judge's table was up as well, so it was nice to let Cupid see everything though he seemed fine with it all.  I was the only one riding.  We walked around and trotted a few laps, then I put Cupid on a circle to get him bending and round.  We went through a few components of each test, then one of the tests entirely.  I was feeling pretty good, and happy we got to test out the arena.  I gave Cupid his dinner and headed home.

Testing out the show arena
Cupid had finished all his hay when I got there the next morning, so I gave him his breakfast and cleaned his stall.  The first few horses were just starting to warm up as I went to take Cupid for a walk.  As we got closer to the warm up arena Cupid got a little prance-y and excited.  I didn't want to get too close to the warm up ring because I didn't want to get anyone else's horse there excited (I wouldn't appreciate that if I was in the warm up!) so we headed the other direction and heard a horse kicking the wall in the ... what is it called like a hot walker thing inside a round pen?  Whatever it's called, that totally set Cupid off - his tail shot straight in the air, he couldn't keep his feet on the ground and he was just snorting and blowing.  I tried to do some in hand exercises to get his attention back, with some success.  Then I saw someone coming out of the round pen, so I went in there and let Cupid go.  And go he did!  Once he finally came back to his senses I did a little more in hand work, which he did without any more excitement so I took him back to his stall and let him relax and eat while I cleaned tack.

I did not know a horse could even bend like that
Since I didn't need to get on until about 2:30 I had time to meet a friend for brunch, before coming back to walk Cupid, braid him, and tack up again.  At this point I wasn't sure if going a day early was going to help or hurt, because he was good when we first got there Saturday afternoon but pretty hyped up Sunday morning...

Thursday, January 9, 2020


Last year I didn't set any goals because I wasn't sure what to expect with the new baby.  I tried to figure out how to be more productive with more limited time.  We did not show or trail ride as much last year,  and stayed at Training level but by the end of the year it felt like things were starting to feel pretty good.  We lost some riding time in the summer when Cupid was sore in his back, and figured out Cupid seems happier with pads on his front feet.  We did not do much jumping, but I was brave enough to do a clinic with Nick Karazissis, and jump around at a local show's warm up day.

My goals for 2020:

-Move up to First Level: It's not so much the test itself (1-1 adds lengthenings in the trot and canter, which is not our forte but will be passable with a bit more work; and smaller circles which we can do) just solidifying our connection and roundness.

- Get a 7 on the rider collective score: This is what my trainer has challenged me with!  So far the best I've done is 6.5.

-Try something new: I was signed up for a cattlework clinic last year but unfortunately it was cancelled.  Hopefully it will be rescheduled for a day that works for us, or we will do some sort of trail trial or obstacle clinic or competition!

-More trail riding: I try to go once or twice a month but it hasn't been happening.  Of course right now it's weather dependent.  I'd also like to go to a new place.  And maybe do more trotting?

-TB show: I haven't figured out what my criteria for success is but we have set a date!

Forged in Fire

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Tack: Passier Marcus Ehning II Anatomical Bridle

I couldn't think of anything I really needed to buy on black Friday, but I felt compelled to get something.  Horrible I know!  Even though we didn't really need a new bridle, I have been thinking of trying one of the newer anatomical designs.  Cupid seems fine in his old ones, but he does sometimes stop to rub his face on his leg and usually after a ride he rubs his head on me.  So I wanted to see if we can avoid some of the nerves on his face whether that would make a difference.  Also the ear cutouts in the Bobby's bridle I primarily use aren't quite in the right place for him. 

I don't use a flash on him, so I needed something with no or a removable flash (I don't really care if there is a loop for it.)  I'm also apparently unusual in not really caring for patent leather, bling, or rolled leather so I was having a hard time finding something I liked! 

The Schockemohle Delta was close, but I wasn't sure about the noseband and bit hangers being on the same cheekpiece.  The Kavalkade Ivy fit my criteria, but I wanted to splurge on something a little nicer.  Finally I came across the Passier Marcus Ehning II. 

The size guide seemed to indicate that it runs a little bit, so I ordered the cob size which turns out to fit Cupid quite well.  It is not buttery soft, but true to its German heritage seems to be a good quality leather that will get better with age.   It came with webbed reins.

I wasn't sure about the curved browband, but I figured that would be simple enough to swap out if I don't like it.  But upon seeing it I think I'll keep it as is.  The noseband is thicker then I'd prefer, but it's alright.  It may just be a coincidence but in the first few rides with it Cupid has not rubbed his head on his legs, and after our rides he is still happy to have me rub his face but hasn't been rubbing his head on me.  Overall I am very happy with this purchase!