Thursday, 28 July 2016

Give-It-A-Go Clinic - Day Two

How many coffees does it take to move this 41-year-old ass at 5:45 in the morning? One chugged like a frat partying 20-year-old and then two more as I sat drooling on myself, waiting for them to kick in.

I am not a morning person.

My ride time was 9:30 but I wanted plenty of time to let Savvy have breakfast, clean stalls and then get to the warmup area.

We were going to be doing Training 1 and I only half believed the cantering would happen. In our warmup Savvy was feeling much more relaxed than the day before. She was still very looky, but I can't blame her - so much new stuff to see. I really must make an effort to take her out to new places more.

I was pleased that Savvy was listening well and even canter depart was lovely - only about two strides out from my cue which is good for us at this point. Unfortunately there was no right lead. We have been struggling with it at home. I decided I would be okay with what ever happened in the test. I would set her up as best as I possibly could and if it didn't happen, try once more to get it then carry on and not get frustrated about it.

By the time it was our turn, Savvy was as ready as I could expect of her. We had a fabulous halt at X and her trot was excellent throughout the test for the most part. We had really good comments for our free walk, but personally I felt like I nagged her along for it (she is convinced walk means done working). First was canter to the left which was a bit rushed and unorganized but got it done. Then canter to the right -- she got the lead!! I was so thrilled with that I was praising her like crazy and saying 'good girl' the entire circle. By final halt I was just beaming and really felt so proud of the test.

Right lead canter! :)

The judge came out and had much to say about Savvy's on and off connection, which is just where we are at right now. She gave me a few suggestions and then I got to ride the test again using those techniques. Unfortunately our second ride was not as good, but Savvy still got the correct lead again going right.

Lost the contact and leaning in corner. :/

Packing up, I mulled over the usefulness of such a weekend. It really was good motivation to ride more in the weeks before hand to prepare. I put in a lot of work on canter depart and transition work and the difference in Savvy is quite remarkable. Also, it is obviously good for Savvy to be at this venue as much as possible, because if we are going to show for real in the future, this is the venue they will be at for the most part.

Calm, willing and focused pony.

 Finally, it was good to open my eyes to the reality of dressage where I live. It is a competitive sport and there will be training and riding techniques I disagree with, not to mention judges who favor those techniques. I need to stand firm in my own methods and remember to put Savvy's wellbeing first. She has a natural talent for this sport and I think if I keep training on the path that I am, we can really do well.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Give-It-A-Go Dressage Weekend Recap - Saturday

Coming into this dressage clinic I had:
  • Two brand new shiny tires for my trailer
  • One beautiful pony who was approaching maybe cantering in the same zip code as the cue for it (so if course I was doing a test with cantering!)
  • One great friend just as (un)prepared as me also participating and a cooler full of booze
  • One shitty forcast for 90% chance of rain
Saturday morning did not disappoint. It started raining around 9:30 a.m. My ride time was 1:00 p.m. so I remained hopefull as I arrived, settled wonder pony in and sat down to read through Walk/Trot B test for the first time in a year.

Wonder pony is so little! She can barely see out of her stall! :)
By 11:00 I had to get out to warm up. It was still raining of course but Savvy was good about it, although sceptical. We had a decent warmup. Savvy was very looky - a peacock kept shreaking from a nearby farm and cars going by were suddenly terrifying for her, but overall she handled it all well in the pooring rain and never felt unsafe to ride.

A took her back to the barn for lunch and to my surprise the rain stopped (thank you weather gods!).

My goal for this walk/trot test was just for Savvy and I to get used to the venue again and I wanted to see if I could pay more attention to quality rather than just 'showing up in the right spots' - if that makes sense?

Savvy had other plans. As we came to the outside of the ring to do the typical walk-around waiting for the bell, Savvy was a bit overwhelmed by the new area we were now in, the trees with sounds of a horse banging in the barn behind them, a still distant screeching peacock and a hyped up rider on board. She was just about prancing on the spot and grinding the bit. Surprisingly, I was feeling a bit meh, what ever, lets do this!

The judge had better ideas though. She called me over and promptly suggested we lesson first, test second. Brilliant idea!

Working on riding with a 'bridge' in the reins to ride with the
 hands as a team rather than two independant entities.
I won't bore you with the details but I will say it was all very different from how I ride. I played the good student though and tried all the things with an open mind and enjoyed her coaching style. She was a fun lady that was very direct but kept a sense of humor about things.

Savvy did settle finally and our test in the end was decent. Our main issue was consistancy on the contact at a trot. (Her shoulder balance was actually good though!) This has been a longstanding issue, made worse when Savvy is nervous. Her mind can get so busy and it comes out in her body all over the place, but it is getting better.

I did catch a glimpse at dressage as a competative sport and could see how some riders might end up on a path of trying to get results from the horse for the points, and just how easy it would be to lose sight of the horse's mental wellbeing.

I am a ridiculously competitive person, but knowing better means an obligation to do better. And lucky for me, my competitiveness is within myself. I know what I am looking for from Savvy and will know what a successful test will feel like for me - actual scores be damned.

I know Savvy's training is progressing at a snail's pace, but she's doing great! She is happy, healthy and we like each other. For me, that is winning.

Stay tuned for day two!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Whine and cheese party for one

Many things are just getting to me and the overall feeling I am dragging around, chained to my foot is saddness and disappointment even though I should be grateful for all the good things. Sigh.

First of all, rain. It hasn't stopped in over a month. Everything is always wet. My arena is a mess. The paddocks are slop. I am sick of curly hair.

Second, trailer. My trailer is shit and I have spent a few years denying this, but really, it is shit. Nothing dangerous, but an ever so slightly bent axil has resulted in many flat tires because they wear unevenly. I am too broke to buy more tires, not to mention a new trailer. I am feeling just done with it and dream of pushing it off a cliff or something.

Or this. I would love to do this to my trailer.

Finally, dressage shows. They are expensive. I haven't done a single show this year. My first event is July 23 and 24, and even though it is more of a clinic (ride a test like it is a show then be evaluated by the judge and mini lesson) I am calling it a show in my head. There are many dressage riders that train exclusively and never show. I just cannot comprehend. I love the excitement of show day--everything about it--all the prep and packing, cleaning up my pony, that rush of excitement first entering the ring, and the focus and drive to be my absolute best in this one moment.


So after half a summer of getting it done and looking on the bright side of things, I need to stop and have myself a pitty party. Hopefully it is a short event. The rain can't go on forever (can it?!!), I will get more tires somehow and maybe I will have to open my mind up to hunter show flat classes for my fix in the future--at least those are affordable and there are more of them to choose from.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

In Between Spaces

Sometimes the quiet times are the best.

I haven't really been working on anything liberty per se, but our relationship is just so great right now. I took off all the tack to let her roll and ended up playing around.

It is humbling when they don't run the other way when they have the chance. Nothing amazing, just some stops and circles, a bit of front and hind end yielding, but it made my day!

Please ignore my lack of finese. I am not good at this stuff, but I still like to try. :)