Friday, June 28, 2013

Dress Your Horse

I ran across a gem of a book a while back. The author explained that in times past, you did not so much pursue dressage as a competitive sport. Instead, you would “dress your horse”, which is what it was called when you put good solid basic skills on your horse.

Someone else (Alois Podhajsky?) said that the horse will become more attractive as it progresses in its training if that training is correct.

So, you dress your horse to make him more attractive!

Yes, sometimes I'm just a little politically incorrect...

Recently, many people have commented to me how much better my mount looks than she did 6 months ago. It’s not just that she has shed out her winter coat and taken on a silver sheen… People are just finding her to be more pleasing to the eye, but they cannot seem to put a finger on exactly why. Perhaps it is because I am dressing her!

Last year, someone explained to me that the Old Man seemed to have “a leg in each corner” where many of the horses around him just did not. I pondered this for weeks as I studied the other horses we saw. I’m convinced this impression is a result of dressing him!

This dressing improves a horse’s natural balance and self-carriage. Any of us who pursue dressage get this at an internal level (probably because we ourselves struggle so hard to maintain our own carriage so as not to interfere with our spectacular partners!).

I get a big, warm, fuzzy feeling every time I hear how attractive the Psycho Mare has become.  It makes me feel like we must be doing it mostly right.  =)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sometimes you need a little push...

It started when JR (Psycho Mare’s owner) mentioned the National Dressage Pony Cup. She was already envisioning us at the event. Having already received scores in the mid 60’s at Intro, I told her, “We can do it! And we might as well enter Training level while we’re there…”

We know what we need to work on for Training level… First level movements are in our repertoire…

Love this!

We’re already looking at Arabian Sport Horse Nationals 2014… I thought were going to save 2013 membership fees and start the journey in December. But, along came the Pony Cup.

Well, we’re already paying membership fees for 2013, we might as well get our money’s worth and hit up some other USEF/USDF shows and try for a few more qualifying scores. Especially if we can find some closer to home than Kentucky!

Are we ready? Mom says, “You’ll never know if you don’t try!” Thanks, mom. ;)

I have no idea if we are truly ready, but more centerlines never hurt anybody, so we’re going for it! I had been waffling about chasing dressage scores along with everything else, but we’re here right now, and we’re not looking back!

We’re chasing our first Training Level Dressage qualifying scores in 30 27 days!! Wahoo!
(I miscalculated)


In other news, she stood (almost) like a rock for clipping of ears and bridle path this week.  What a good girl!  Technically, I wasn’t holding on to her when I clipped her ankles, and she sure as heck wasn’t tied to anything…  It’s so exciting to see her growing up!
Look, ma!  Clipped ears!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Concurrent Goals

Sometimes, I feel a little guilty about my concurrent goals. Sometimes, I feel like maybe I’m cheating on my eventing goal… You see, when it comes to competing, I’m a bit… promiscuous…

I like “multi-purpose” horses. I want to be able to ride fast or slow…. I want to be comfortable galloping across the countryside… I want to be able to ride in parades or take part in a drill team. I want to be able to ride my horse one- or two-handed, however the mood strikes me at the time… Not to mention the flexibility to show up at an open show and confidently compete in a wide variety of classes…

I was presented with the opportunity to ride this little mare as my next eventing mount. The breeder would be ecstatic to see her compete successfully in this ‘open’ field. However, she would love to see her equally competitive against her own breed.

Until recently, I had no idea that Arabians were holding separate “sport horse” competitions. I grew up with this breed. I showed the Old Man at Arabian shows. I had stopped going to the breed shows when it turned out that there was more of what I really wanted to be doing in the sport horse arenas and it became apparent that my hunter didn’t really move like a country English pleasure horse… I wanted to be galloping and jumping! I wanted to get feedback on my dressage! And my funds are not so unlimited as to allow me to show every weekend… But these Arabian Sport Horses, I really like them! I want to know how the Psycho Mare compares to other Arabian Sport Horses! I want to show her on the triangle and get feedback! I want to ride her in the jumpers!

Since we are barely started in Eventing, (and hunter jumper stuff will only help our courses), we’ve decided to seriously pursue this ASH thing. Besides, every show is just more ‘away’ experience!

I want to be going Beginner Novice in 2014. It’s hard to find schooling horse trials in my area. I don’t have my own truck or trailer, so it is also difficult to find a ride to schooling shows and cross-country schooling opportunities. We don’t have much in the way of XC jumps at home, either. This makes it difficult to train for XC, or even get XC experience. Instead of lamenting about the schoolings I can’t make it to, I go to the ring to focus on my non-existent hunter skills.
(please don't show this picture to George Morris)

Currently, I’m focused on re-establishing my correct and secure jumping position. I don’t know where it went, but it needs to come back!

And let’s not overlook the fact that, compared to Eventing, any other competition gives you more bang for your buck! You know, as well as I do, that you have more shots at more ribbons… Where else do you slave through three phases for one chance at a single ribbon!? Admit it! You enjoy bring home a boat load of ribbons, too!

And now, someone had suggested that we go to this year's National Dressage Pony Cup!
We already do dressage for eventing... How can I resist??
Trot, pony!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Liebster Blog Award

Thank you, Mona at Panic and the Pony, for nominating my blog for this award! I am humbled and honored!

FYI - it has taken me days to complete this post!

Allow me to accept this award:

HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued. Here are the rules for accepting the award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.

2. List 11 random facts about yourself.

3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.

4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.

5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.

6. Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.

11 random facts:

1 – I’m a metal singer! I grew up singing country and broadway, but I’ve now been seduced to the dark side by symphonic metal.

2 – I was a math failure for most of my life. In my late 20’s, things finally started to click and I ended up being a math tutor and civil engineering major. I’m a damn good math tutor, too!

3 – I was in the Army. While I was in the Army, I spent some time riding horses for the Army. Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard!

4 – Part of me wants to be just as accomplished sidesaddle as I am astride.

5 – I love Victorian fashion.

6 – I love having PAINTED fingernails, but I hate PAINTING my fingernails.

7 – I want to play the cello… I don’t even own a cello…

8 – I want to climb glaciers.

9 – I climbed my first mountain at the age of 33.

10 – I want to quit my day job and train with a top rider (but, who doesn’t?). My husband will never understand.

11 – I’m going to be the crazy cat lady… That is, if I’m not already…

11 questions to me from Mona:

1. Were horses in your childhood?

Yes! I rode for the first time when I was 5 years old on an Arabian stallion that belonged to my mom’s friend. I was hooked instantly!

2. What's the weirdest lesson/clinic you've ever had on horseback?

I haven’t had any particularly weird lessons or clinics… I did have one lesson that was bareback in a round pen to focus on correct balance. One of the exercises, as we cantered around the round pen, was to hold one ankle. For example, imagine sitting classically on your horse, bareback. Now, draw your inside heel up until your naturally hanging inside hand can cup your ankle. Now, maintain that while cantering! It was great for demonstrating how the thigh needs to reach down and around the horse as well as the calf. I would only do this on well-broke horses!! And don’t forget to work both legs each direction!

3. What one thing would you change about your horse?

I can’t think of anything I would change about her… Unless it would be to make her a 16.2hh warmblood… But, then she wouldn’t be her, would she?

4. What one thing would you change about yourself?

Bravery. When I was a teen, I didn’t know fear as I galloped and jumped anything in my path. Now that I know apprehension, I still want to ride like that! It wasn’t bravery before, because the apprehension wasn’t there…

5. Do you board or keep your horse at home?

That’s kind of tricky… I’m in a unique (and oh, so sweet) situation. I don’t own the mare… We shall call her owner my sponsor, and she boards her where I had the Old Man so that I can ride her and put miles on her. So, I guess I still board!

6. What is your favorite thing about boarding or keeping your horse at home?

I love the social draw of boarding. People miss me if I don’t show up for a while. There always seems to be something to do with someone else, so I don’t feel like I’m riding alone. Even when I am the only rider in the arena, someone is aware that I’m in the saddle, and I’ve caught the occasional head popping out of the barn to make sure things are still alright.

On the other hand, I love the flexibility and control that keeping a horse at home offers. I knew exactly what he was eating and when. I knew if he was off. I could just enjoy watching him from the back porch or the kitchen window…

7. What is your least favorite thing about boarding or keeping your horse at home?

I could do without the politics that come with any boarding operation. It’s always there and is virtually unavoidable.

On the other hand, keeping my horse at home leaves me without facilities or the training opportunities presented by an ever-changing environment.

8. What nicknames do you have for your horse?

The Old Man had several nicknames… Boo, O-Pie (pronounced like “The Pie” from National Velvet, only with an ‘O’ instead – we were always saying “O-Pie can do it!!”), Pie (when the extra syllable was just too much), and Killer (because he wasn’t).

Psycho Mare is still developing her nicknames. Coach calls her “Little Mare” and I have started referring to her as “Pony Mare.” I think she’s going to start going by something along the lines of Super Mare, though!

9. What scares you the most about riding/horses?

Not getting to ride or maybe messing up someone else’s horse. Everyone rides differently. I am always honored when someone trusts me enough to ride their horse. The last thing I want to do is undo the work they have already done by riding differently than they do. It’s a recent thing I’ve developed… Never mind that I’ve started quite a few horses and put solid foundations on all of them…

10. What is your best skill around horses?

Laughing through spooks! I honestly find the things horses spook over hilarious. They may not think it is funny at the time, but my laughing gets them over it faster and keeps me relaxed enough to follow them through most evasive behavior. I suppose it is an extension of my ability to keep my cool through crazy things. Usually, anyway…

11. What is your dream pony vacation?

My dream pony vacation is whatever one my husband will join me on. However, it isn’t likely that he will willingly go along with such plot. Instead, I’ll have to settle for a mule ride through the Grand Canyon. Which would still be pretty darn cool!

Assuming that I am vacationing without him, I want to do anything that gives me an opportunity to ride fancy warmblood horses across Europe! Does that vacation package even exist?

  11 questions for the bloggers:

1) What is your dream job?

2) How old were you when you started riding?

3) What has been your biggest success?

4) What has been your biggest challenge?

5) How do you stay fit for riding?

6) Treats or No Treats?

7) How do you support your horse habit?

8) What is your favorite helmet, and why?

9) Dressage: love it or hate it?

10) Splint Boots, SMBs, or nothing?

11) Can you tell I’m running out of things to ask?

  11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers:

1-      Poor Woman Showing
2-      Grey Brook Eventing
3-    Viva Carlos
4-      Panic and the Pony
5-      The Spyder Standard
6-      (Re)Training as an Adult Eventing Rider (I’m so glad I’m not the only one!)
7-      Tales from a Bad Eventer (how do you not have over 200 followers??)
9-      Comedic Eventing
10-      Life as a Dangerbunny
11-      trying2event

Please bear with me if I have accidentally nominated someone with more than 200 followers.  I'm new to this.  You all inspire me!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Rabbit Hole Gets Deeper!

As we walked/rode the course the day before the schooling show, I asked Coach exactly where my course was… As she looked around, she replied, “Well, I’m really not sure. Because that’s a starter fence there… And that’s another one over there…” They were buried in grass taller than the jumps themselves. I decided not to eat until after I finished showing.

When we arrived Sunday morning, the starter jumps had been mowed around, but the path had not been mowed. Nine out of the twelve jumps would be approached out of belly-deep grass. I started feeling a little nauseous…

Coach walked the course with me. She told me how each fence was going to ride, and she was spot-on. For some reason, I was having a miniature heart attack…

Dressage was straightforward. She was consistent and obedient, but she was against my hand more than usual for the halts. We entered an extra test at Training-3 just to see what we need to focus on to get to the next level. I about jumped out of my skin to discover that we had scored a 7 on our free walk loop!!

Understand, our free walk was scoring 5’s last time, and she wasn’t inclined to stretch much further this time… And free walk straight? Not a chance! Free walk a loop? Why would we even try it? I threw my reins away and went for it anyway. What a good girl!

I didn’t get a chance to walk my stadium course. The combination was going to be sticky, but Coach and I didn’t even discuss it. She was throwing enough other stuff at me, all super basic, that I couldn’t have processed it anyway. I headed in with her telling me, “Just go jump the them!”

Remember. This is the mare’s very first horse trial. This is not the manicured hunter ring that we showed in last time. This is a grassy field that got rained on the day before and is still wet. It just happens to have some fences thrown up. And the first fence is an oxer!
Carousel Pony in the manicured Hunter ring
I put my leg on, threw my heart over, and prayed! She was over! I was so excited to get her over, I forgot to ride my course for a stride. Oops! Oh, there’s my next fence! Let’s go!

By fence 3, we were rockin’ and rollin’ and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m not riding straight lines… I’m weaving like a drunk, and asking her to jump these fences off of anything except a straight line. She generously played along. I finally started getting it together heading into the combination, but I allowed her to drift to the right. Without that lovely, perfectly straight approach, she didn’t stand a chance. She ran out at the second fence. It was totally my fault, and I knew it. I trotted my circle and took the combination again. I almost left out the cross-rail after that, but remembered at the last second, and I’m speaking a running commentary the entire time. Finally, we sighted in our last fence. I aimed for the middle and launched over it at what felt like warp speed. I’m sure we finally reached a nice jumping stride. Now that the course was over, I wanted to puke. I knew what was next…
What rockin' and rollin' felt like at the last show!

I knew I hadn’t breathed over the entire stadium course, so I just needed a few moments to catch my breath before heading cross-country. I walked into the start box and just stood. And breathed. I closed my eyes, swallowed, and tried to push my anxiety back down to my navel. OK. I was as ready as I was going to get. It was go time, or I needed to walk away. So, I went!

As I approached the first fence, I now understood why Coach had me jump the next level right off the bat. I trotted up to it, she zeroed in and cantered, and we cleared it with nonchalance. Three strides after, we turned for the coop. She told me this was for the birds, that we didn’t take these right after each other… I pushed her into a frame and brought her to a trot. She zeroed in again, got wiggly, I framed her a little stronger, and she stepped up to canter it. I took out a braid while I hung on for my life. I didn’t breathe again until we were halfway to the next fence.

We cantered all the way to the little roll top and had our rhythm all the way to the other side. That’s when I remembered we had to cut through the grass. It’s belly high, so I trot through it and look for the rails hiding somewhere out there… She hopped it like it was nothing, but I grabbed mane again just to make sure I didn’t apply any sort of contact until we were firmly landed on the other side. Into the grass again while I look for the red half-roll… She sees it and starts to canter around it. Coach had said she would do that. We wiggled and trotted and launched over it from a short spot. I pulled a couple more braids out and watched one of the rubber bands float to the side and land in the grass. I felt soothed by that sight, for some reason.

Now, we’re headed across the mowed path to the bench… Another one we hadn’t seen or jumped yet… she sucked back further and further… I could tell it was a reaction to me, even though I thought this one looked smaller than the rest… I started clucking with every trot step and pulsing my calves… She stopped sucking back and maintained. Again, we took the crazy short spot. But we went over it! And cantered out the other side!

I didn’t have time to feel sick, now. I was too busy riding my horse and looking for the next jump! Another set of timbers in the grass, and she didn’t even glance at them… Some little ascending rails, and she thought nothing of those, as well. They all just looked like variations of logs.

We cantered down into a dip (oh, holy cow! Breathe!) and up out of it right to the first log rail of a bending line. Over it we go, and headed straight to the second one. Just like Coach said, we rode it straight, she wiggled on her way, and it set us up for a straight approach to the second one, and over that one, too!

Finally, I’m convinced in my head (not quite in my heart, yet) that if I just push with my legs and kiss, she will, indeed, go over whatever I point her at. Now, we’re approaching the cabin. I nearly had a meltdown at this one when we walked it. The width just makes it look so big! I know it’s tiny. I would have laughed as I jumped it with the Old Man, but alas he wasn’t here to do it with me, and I need to ride the horse I’m on.

I pulled myself together and pretended that I was certain we had this in hand. Psycho Mare believed my act, and it was the easiest jump on the course! Only one more set of log rails that looks like a wall of logs… She didn’t like the line we had, so she sidestepped to the right about 10 inches, called it good, and lunged over the last jump on our course! She clipped it with a hind hoof, but neither of us paid it any mind as we cantered out the other side. I suddenly remembered that we were, in fact, being timed, so I lengthened our canter up to a hand gallop until we crossed the finish line. I brought her down slowly… Then trotted… Then walked… And suddenly realized I was still alive! I was still on my horse! We were done, and we finished with a number!!

All told, we finished with a score of 44 and took fourth place.

First-ever horse trial - Pre-Beginner Novice - been under saddle for 7 months

Despite my sudden mental instability, I was still in the game!  I wanted to cry, but I was too focused on breathing.
I'm thinking that the Psycho Mare just might be turning into the Super Mare!
I was so keyed up about the cross-country course, I completely forgot to pick up my blue ribbon for Training-3 Dressage!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

The Psycho Mare has been coming along great. She gets the idea: get to the other side and keep everyone together. She has even developed that ‘tractor beam’ effect where she locks onto the jump and commits. So, what is there to be nervous about?

I’ve been showing since I was 15 years old. I’ve been jumping since I was 16 years old. I’ve never felt nervous about going into the show ring or riding a course. Of course, I’ve felt the surge of adrenaline and the buzz of anticipation, but never have I felt “nerves.” I’ve given speeches, sang in front of full auditoriums, and ridden down centerline for my first dressage test ever (which just happened to be a USEF/USDF recognized show) with never a twinge of dreaded nerves. I took the Old Man over his first-ever cross-country course at Beginner Novice without ever in his life schooling him. Of course, we’d been a team for 14 years, at that point…

It's all cool.  What's next?
I showed up for cross-country schooling, warmed up the mare, and then followed my coach to the first starter jump.  Quite suddenly and inexplicably, I was petrified!  Coach knew it was the mare’s first XC experience.  She said, “Just let her walk up to it and check it out.  No, really, go on the buckle and walk her right up to it.”  The mare chested up to it and started trying to climb over it without even checking it out!  We started trotting it, and Mare happily hopped right over and cantered away.  I was everywhere in the saddle except where I needed to be.  Perhaps this was the source of my anxiety?  My leg slid back, or I locked my elbows, or I sat down in the saddle to early, or I landed in my knees…    We did this one several times until my position solidified became a little more stable.  Coach says, “She’s got this!  Now, take the beginner novice one!”  Since when did 2” make such a difference?  Why was my heart suddenly back in my throat?
...maybe because I was supposed to be doing this with the Old Man...
Just another party!

We hit a few more jumps.  Some of them were even Beginner Novice.  I chickened out at the roll-top.  We played in the water, and even jumped a little jump out of the water!  Oh, what fun that was!  We even jumped the big (ok, it looked big on 14.1 hh) barn that was 3 strides out of the water several times.  We had one awkward landing because I put on the brakes before we had completely cleared it, so she landed on all four feet.  Oops!  I didn’t mean to put on the brakes…  Why was I so petrified?
I melted down at one more jump that I just could not make myself go over.  What was my problem??
Coach put her right over it.  It's ALL me!  I have been struck with the "nerves" problem.  I've never had to face it before, so I don't know how to deal with it.  And I had to take her through her first horse trial the next day...  I am soooo glad I didn't eat before cross-country schooling!
looking the part of "eventing pony"
1) stay on the pony!
2) finish with a number...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sometimes the little things are really big!

Psycho Mare has this thing about clipping her bridle path...
She gets... Well... Psycho!

She went to sleep when I clipped her legs... Except for when she lifted them to better reach her fetlocks. 

She obligingly stretched her head out while I clipped her chin and jaw... She even tolerated getting her ears clipped!

But clippers on the bridle path? Oh, hell no!
Ok. How about scissors? Oh, hell no!

This is when 14.2hh turns into 16.3hh...

We had a breakthrough the last time I braided her mane. By the time I got them all braided down and then tied up... And then fixing the sloppy ones... I decided to take scissors to the bridle path, and for once, she stood just fine!

I clipped her ears a few days later, and she was less than thrilled, albeit somewhat cooperative. 

Finally, after a workout and hosing, I decided it was time to try the bridle path again...

I pulled on her mane while running the clippers up and down her neck... My feeble attempt to broadcast what was coming and make it appear inevitable... Slowly working my way up the neck... I expected perfect behavior...

And to my surprise, I got it!
...until the cord touched her ear...
Then, perfect behavior returned as quickly as it left!

clippers instead of scissors looks so much cleaner!

We have success!
The little mare is growing up... *sigh*

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Orange Breeches -or- Let Me Pick Your Brain

I love the look of light grey breeches. I want to show the little mare wearing light grey breeches and a dark grey jacket. However, a funny thing happened at the hunter/jumper show… My fan club mentioned that my pants had… changed colors…

I had an orange butt from my saddle! And it didn’t come out in the wash!!

So, how do you keep your light colored breeches looking brand new? How do you prevent your saddle from staining your clothes? Perhaps full-seat show pants for ALL disciplines is in order…

As a side note, I had pondered staining my jumping saddle darker (the orange looked horrific on the Old Man), but was advised not to because it would stain my show clothes no matter what I did. Well, it’s staining my show clothes anyway!

While I’m picking your brains, how about thoughts on these other obscurities?

Stock ties: frowned on or OK in hunters? Or anything outside of dressage?

I just love the look of stock ties! Especially the self-tie variety…

Fitted saddle pads: is it a rule in hunters, or merely strongly suggested? Any idea why?

Full seat breeches for jumping: Totally unacceptable or personal preference? Remember, I’m very new to the “Hunters” game.

What is your favorite brand/style of breeches and why? Style? Fit? Material? Color choices?

I just acquired a new-to-me pair of breeches from eBay. They are Mountain Horse brand, knee patch breeches that are soft and sturdy at the same time. They fit as if they were tailored for me! They feel as durable as denim, but have this brushed quality that makes them soft to the touch… I want more like these and have no idea where to look!

Other than that, nothing much new is going on. Continue work on the connection issue… Focus on my form over fences… pick up the inside shoulder, or just move the shoulder around so they don’t get stuck…

We’ve been practicing the triangle for sport horse in-hand! I’m excited to see how it goes!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...