Friday, February 28, 2014

Choose Your Sport!

How did you come to choose your equestrian discipline?
I grew up around Arabians.  My first riding lessons were on a OTHA gelding.  That’s kind of like a OTTB, but instead of a Thoroughbred, it’s a Half-Arabian.  Don’t feel bad if you didn’t recognize the acronym, because I just now made it up on the spot!
I made my way into a program at an Arabian farm and had the opportunity to show Arabian horses at Arabian shows.  From the time I was 5, I told my mom, “I want to jump!”  While I was in the program at the Arabian farm, I also took jumping lessons.  I didn’t know what dressage was, but I asked the trainer about it.  I was told that going to a dressage show was like watching grass grow.  I have since come to a different conclusion, however.  I knew I wanted to jump!  I wanted to jump big jumps!  I wanted to ride in the Olympics as a Show Jumper!  No lie.  I even laid out my plan to get there (as a project in my Sports Psychology class in High School).  All I lacked was the funding, the horse, and the coaching…
I still didn’t realize that Arabians weren’t taken seriously in the hunter/jumper ring.  I had also caught glimpses of Eventing, and I really wanted to try that, too!  I mean, how can one resist more jumping?
I bought my first horse when I was 20.  I had him until the day he died.  I taught him to jump, and he became a pretty honest jumper.  One day, he took me over a natural down bank into water (it was totally his idea!!) and I knew that, at some point, I would try Eventing.
such a kind eye...
While we played at H/J shows and Arabian shows, we really started making our mark in Hunter Hack.  I started researching dressage philosophy and implementation.  I applied it to my training as best I could.  I grabbed lessons as I could afford them.  I took myself to my first dressage show (nope – no coach, no barn, no team – just me!) and couldn’t argue with any of the judges’ remarks.  I went home and diligently did my homework.
Six months later, I competed in my first Eventing competition.  I was immediately addicted!
Ultimately, I feel like my sport chose me.

I’m still riding an Arabian.  As a breed, they really are game for almost anything.  I will always love the breed, even if I don’t spend any much time in the Main Ring.  As I hone my Eventing and Dressage skills, I don’t yet need the upper level horse.  I will ride the Grand Prix (Dressage).  I’m not sure when, but it is going to happen.  It might even be on an Arabian!  Perhaps even on the Fancy Pony?

I am not limiting my capability in Eventing, either.  I think I might ride Advanced at some point…  A girl can still dream, right?
And, just so you know, I’m still not ruling out the Olympics…

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pushing Boundaries

"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got..."

Or something like that!

Coach said Fancy Pony needs to learn how to NOT over-react to oxers.  So, the plan was: Jump more oxers!

She put some poles on the ground in parallel with a third pole on the oblique.  She asks, "What is this?"

My excited response: "It's a ditch!"

...obviously, right?  Because that's what ditches look like?


We jump the ditch.  Then it gets wider...  And we jump it some more. And it gets wider... and wider... and wider!!

THEN, it comes up off the ground!!!

It may have also been raised once while I wasn't looking, because we were now jumping this:

It's, like, as wide as my pony is long!

Eventually, we moved on to more normal-looking oxers, but the fancy pony started losing her normal jump...

I found myself in moments like this:

I know it's all me.

Luckily, we also had some of this:

This is what I think is happening:
I found the balanced canter, and it is comfortable!  It's the place I want to be!
Now, I need a longer, somewhat faster, canter to jump this fence correctly.  But when I let her go, she immediately feels more downhill and unbalanced.  This makes me feel like we aren't balanced enough to take the fence.  But, if I ask her to balance, I inadvertently ask her to collect as well, and that doesn't help us get the long, smooth arc we need for the oxer...

What is a girl to do?
I'm thinking: Gallop brush fences! (You know, itty bitty ones)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

If it isn't working, try something different!

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

So, I'm trying something different!
  Sitting in a chair is uncomfortable.  Sitting in my saddle is not.  Why can't I just work in the office while sitting in my saddle?
It's not bad, so far!  I can make it through the work day without sciatic pain.  I can stretch my hip flexors.  I can practice my equitation (sort of).  Honestly, the only thing I would change is the height.  I would make it a foot or so taller...

Anyway, it has been about a month since my round of spinal injections (did I mention that we were doing injections for the sciatic pain?).  Just like last year, the injections were delivered to the right and left roots of the L5-S1 nerves.  It helped some, but I still can't stand long car rides (and by long, I mean 30 minutes or more), and I still struggle sometimes to put my right sock on the "normal" way (folding my knee up to my chin, between my arms).  I'm having some ache in my left hip, still, and sometimes it migrates about 4" down my left thigh.  I traced the nreve to my foot for my doctor (I will never forget where that nerve runs.  About 11 years ago, I was diagnosed with a L4-L5 disc bulge, and before it got better, it zinged all the way down and made half of my foot numb!!).  Doc decided that, since I was having no pain on the right side, we would adjust our plan of attack.  Next week, I'll go for another round of injections.  This time, we will do only the left side of L4-L5 and L5-S1.

Am I speaking greek to you? I can try my best to answer questions in the comments!

I'm hoping that this next round of injections makes the difference...  Oh, yeah - we're increasing my Gabapentin, too... 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Battle of the Breeds - Stock Horse

I was feeling pretty good about the stock horse class.  It would be like a mini dressage class in a western saddle.  Trot, walk a corner, canter a circle, simple lead change, canter a straight line, halt and back up.  We've got this!

Cool as cucumbers!
Have I mentioned how much I love riding drill?  This team was on before our class:

I want to do more of this!
 Then, in the ring, we realize that they have set the long part of the pattern across the short direction of the arena.  Oh, man, was that pattern tight!

So, I lined up on the far side of the cones to give ourselves more room.
And another competitor yelled that I needed to be on the other side of the cones!!
Come to find out she was disqualified for trying the same maneuver the year before.  I was grateful for her sportsmanship!

Walking the corner.  No big deal...
 The canter depart was great!  But she paniced at the confines of the circle defined by our bend and took the wrong lead.  Who can blame her?  I've never asked her to canter a 10 meter circle!!
I trotted to fix it.  She finished the circle on the correct lead.

She came down to the walk easily enough, and got the lead change!!
breaking down to walk for the lead change
Unfortunately, once she picked up the new lead, she leg-yielded all the way to the judge...

Despite that craziness, I acquired the halt, and backed 6 steps.  I nodded to the judge and returned to the line.

When you take last place, you can still step out of line and accept your placing with good grace!  After all, we were actually here!!
 I guess you have to take last place when you try to run over the judge...  ;)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Battle of the Breeds - Trail

1) canter right lead to poles - trot through poles - canter left lead to barrels

2) Pick up flag:
oh!  I get it!  Stand here while you do stuff!!

...trot figure-8 around barrels - replace flag

3) Trot to sled - drag sled across arena - tie to fence on the other side:
No way!  I am NOT dragging that monster!!

When all else fails, fake it!
This is us pretending we are dragging the sled...
Since we arrived with no sled, we pretended to tie it to the rail!  The audience made noises of confusion, then realized what we were doing and started chuckling.  After we "tied it up", they clapped as we walked to the next obstacle!

4) Trot to the 'gate' and work gate.
She said she wanted nothing to do with the wild blue rope that served as a gate.  We were excused from the obstacle after 30 seconds.

5) Trot to the tarp and pole.  Walk over it.
The tarp in warm-up was blue.  She was cool with it.  This one was silver.  It was an entirely different bird...
are you sure this is a good idea?
She was tentative, but let me convince her to put ONE FOOT on it.  Then it was over.  She couldn't take any more!  I nodded to the judge, and we moved on.  I was very proud of her for even putting that one foot on it!

6) canter to...

7) The cow pen!
Walk through the cows, get the 'ribbon' (caution tape) from the trailer, walk back through the cows...
...I can't go there.  There's a cow in the way...
Me: Well, FP, you are going to have to push the cow out of the way... can do that???
Me: Try it!
FP: Who knew?  That was easy!

must take this with us...
8)  Trot to the Mailbox:

when you run out of places to put your 'ribbon'...
 9) Place the ribbon in the mailbox:
fuzzy version...

Oh!  Stand here while you do stuff again!
 10) Canter over the jump:

Alright!  Back to the fun stuff!
 11) Halt at the cone and back up:
diagonal pairs and all!

 Waiting in the line up for placings...

Someone waved at me, first!!
 Tucker the Mustang entertained us, too!

Despite everything, we took 6th place!!!
I was so surprised!
 Everybody's boundaries were pushed!  The judge gave some tips after the class.It was really fun to get her out there in ALL THAT STUFF!  I want to do it some more!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Battle of the Breeds - Gambler's Choice Jumping

The thing about Gambler's Choice Jumping is that there is no pre-determined course...

course walk
Each jump is worth a certain number of points (25, 50, 75, or 100).  You can only jump the same jump up to 3 times.  You have 60 seconds to jump as many jumps as you can.
When I planned my course the night before, I didn't look at the individual fences.  Instead, I determined how many points each line was worth.
I chose to set a rhythm by starting with some hunter-style lines: outside line, diagonal line, outside line...
The vertical on the end just happened to fall beautifully on the curve after each outside line!
Then, things would get interesting...
The plan was to follow the second time over the vertical on the end with the oxer, roll back in a tear drop shape for the 75 pointer, back over the vertical, and to the oxer again.
If the buzzer hadn't gone off yet, I would take the bending line to the green jump and head to the nearest outside line!

Best laid plans...
We trotted a circle, then the buzzer called.  As we picked up the canter, the music started.  We were accompanied by the Bangles and "Walk Like An Egyptian"!  How appropriate!!

...all the old paintings on the tombs they do the sand dance, don't ya know...

Outside line - end vertical - diagonal line - outside line - vertical all as planned...

the vertical on the end (the second time)
 ...walk like an egyptian...

To the oxer!  I've never asked her to jump a 3' oxer, but I could feel she was game for whatever I pointed her at.  There was no anxiety.  No doubt.  She was going to take it - no questions asked.  She made it feel so easy!

seriously - easy!
 She sighted in on a bending line to the red and white jump and missed my cue to start the roll-back.  I half-halted and asked again, so she swerved toward the green jump and sighted in on that!  Then, she over-reacted when I told her "no really, keep turning!" and stopped slowed way down before following my lead to that 75-pointer.
Now, I recognize this was a rookie mistake on my part.  I should have let her jump the green one then finish my turn for the 75-pointer.  Live and learn, right?
Over 75-er, back to the end vertical, back over the oxer (yup - she jumped it just as big)...

No buzzer yet?
To the green one!
oh, yeah!
 Just as we landed on the far side, the buzzer went off!  We totaled 850 points!  We were in the lead, and we held it for a while!
We took 3rd behind 925 and 900 points!

15 months under saddle, baby!
I heard the crowd cheer each time we jumped!  They seemed to get more excited with every jump we cleared!  It was sooooo cool!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Battle of the Breeds - Speed Class

This is exactly what it sounds like... The fastest time.
But there was a twist....

Do it with a cup of WATER!

...and we're off...
 The pattern was a simple one.  Run down, around the barrel, and back!
BUT, don't spill the WATER!
Luckily, we practiced some barrels at home, so as soon as we started turning the barrel...  the Fancy Pony tried to stop!
(It's nice to know she thinks about what we have trained, at least.)

Plenty of us were concerned about this water business.  If you spilled too much, it was a 2 second penalty.  We went for a conservative long-trot to the barrel.  On the way home, she chose a long, easy canter.  I was cool with that!
smooth pony!
Alas, we had spilled too much water, so we were penalized 2 seconds.  I think we took 8th in this one!
Talk about a great way to level the playing field!!

Next time, we're just going for it - water be damned!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Battle of the Breeds - English Pleasure

This class was really straight-forward.  We went out going for a nice, relaxed ride.
Previously, she has become very tense and insecure in pleasure classes.  When the Fancy Pony gets trapped in the mob, she has a mini-meltdown.  It concerns her.
Fancy Pony is... well... PONY!

I was pleased with our performance.  She was relatively consistent, and never hinted at a meltdown.  She did drop the left lead and pick it back up on the right lead...
So, I trotted and asked for the left lead...
...and she picked up the right lead...
So, I trotted and asked for the left lead...
...and she picked up the left lead!
But, alas, the damage was done.  She dealt well with the mobs, and trusted me that they really weren't going to kill her!

Ultimately, we placed 9th (I think).
I was all smiles.  I wasn't last!!
I haz braidz!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What a Weekend!

We landed 8th overall in the Battle of the Breeds 2014 at Equifest, KS, and I am mighty proud of the Fancy Pony!
Look!  I didn't duck my shoulders!

We competed in the following events:
English Pleasure
Gambler's Choice Jumping
Stock Horse

I will write a separate post for each event, as they were all adventures in and of themselves!

There may even be video to come!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Please come and see me! Equifest Kansas, baby!

This is what we look like (in the summer, anyway)
I'm hitting the road tomorrow.  On our way to Battle of the Breeds!
Come see us and say "hi" if you're in the Wichita, Kansas area this weekend.

If you find our stall and I'm not there, call (or text, or whatever you're comfortable with) my cell phone number that will be listed on the stall.  I'm serious!

Who will be there?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Giveaway shout-out!

Dangerbunny is giving away the good stuff!
Go HERE to enter her contest to win Higher Standards Leather Care!
Seriously, I can't get enough of this stuff!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Guess Who Noticed!

My husband (who avoids the barn like the plague) took me out to lunch, then drove me to the barn to take “Pony in the Snow” pictures…

Yes, devoting our attention to eating is wonderful!

It was cold.  It was snowy.  Fancy Pony has been trapped in a stall now for a week.  She gets lunged before we ride!!  A foot of snow is really discouraging, and we aren’t getting any melting.
Hubby was all about galloping in the snow photos until we got there.  Then it became: Why don’t you just lead her around in the snow?
I tacked up.  Besides, I still had to try out my new-to-me riding/snow pants!  They worked great for skiing, anyway…

So, I’m brushing away, when Hubby says, “She’s really is quite small, isn’t she?”
Yes, she really is.
“She has a lot more muscle than she used to.  She really is a much prettier horse than when you started riding her!”
Aw, thanks!  You know, one of the classical horsemen says that when the dressage work is correct, the horse actually becomes more beautiful! (He seemed to like that philosophy.)
“Her mane is shorter, too.  It looks really good!  It’s so even!”
Oh, honey, you sure know how to butter me up!  I did that mane-pulling job! *BEAM*

He was really nervous when he was standing next to her in the cross-ties, so he just watched from in front of her head…  You know, about 6 feet in front of her head!  LOL
He watched some of her lunging (so he saw her being a nut as well as being a fancy pony).  Life is rough when you’re stuck in the stall and can’t be turned out.  When the temperatures go back up, they can get kicked out again.  It really needs to happen SOON!

We got some walking and trotting in the snow pictures, but hubby is particular about what pictures shall be published, so he is going to pick his favorites, edit them a little (the lighting was dull and overcast, so they aren’t really what he wanted), then I will actually have something to share.

Back inside, he actually fed the Fancy Pony treats!  She mooned over him for the rest of the day!  I'm still in awe that hubby actually joined me at the barn!

We were both cold when we left.  Well, let me amend that.  My feet were cold.  The rest of me was quite toasty!  The riding/ski pants were awesome for warmth!  Less awesome in the saddle.  Not horrible.  I would wear them to hack in a heartbeat.  Actual focused training, though, they wouldn't be so good.  Maybe if they were a bit smaller...  The full-seat sticks quite well, but I still slide around a little inside of them...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Evaluation of 2013 Goals ~ In Honor of the Year of the Horse!

this is where we started...
Short Term:
  -  June, July, August, and September schooling Horse Trials at Heritage Park (level to be determined; can we make BN by the end of the year?)
It just didn’t happen after June.  We competed at Starter in June, and just never made it back.  There were physical concerns when she couldn’t comfortably balance herself, so we got the vet, massage therapist, and chiropractor all on-board and focused on muscle-building and flat work for a while, instead.  I’m comfortable about not meeting this goal as explicitly as it is stated.  Sometimes, things come up.  I’ve adjusted this goal for this year.
  - Sport Horse In-Hand and Under Saddle (let's give it a shot and see what the judges think!)
Never made it to an Arabian show.  I just ran out of money.  It could be because I spent it on the vet, massage therapist, and chiropractor!  We’ll carry that over to this year, then.
  - AHA Arabian Sport Horse rated show(s):
I didn’t make it to a breed show, but we qualified for Regionals in Kentucky!  I’m not sure how to evaluate this goal…

Any excuse to drape the pony in ribbons!!

  - National Dressage Pony Cup
Not only did we do this, but we brought home satin and loot!  It may have been at Intro Level, but the comments from the judges were insightful and meaningful.  Hilda Gurney judged several of our rides that weekend!  How incredible is that??  It was at this event that we earned our qualifying scores at Training level for Arabian Regional Championships in Dressage!

All in all, I'm happy with last year, despite the setbacks!


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