Monday, July 15, 2019

Engleside Stables Hunter Show

Oh yes we did.

and we had the braids to prove it.

I got back from Chicago Thursday night and obviously went out to the barn Friday morning. I rode my horse, giving him a pretty easy First-centric school with a couple jumps over the barrels in the outdoor when we were done for funsies. I was grooming him afterwards while BM was holding a horse for the farrier, and it randomly popped into my head: "BM, do you have a prize list for the hunter show tomorrow?"

The smaller hunter shows around here offer a flat only division, and that was where my interest originally was. But this was a slightly bigger show and they didn't offer it, so after poring over the prize list we decided to just go ahead enter Level 1 Hunters (2'-2'3") ...at about noon the day before the show.

Preparation is not the name of the game. It's all about spontaneity and whimsy! Or just having no shame or fucks, call it what you will.

the judge was hysterical and lent to my overall mood
of giggling every time i went into the ring.

The show barn is literally right around the corner from our barn, so after a perfectly reasonable start we still had plenty of time to play over all the jumps in their ring and derby field. Hunters are so weird!

I didn't put spurs on because I was trying to go for the whole neutral hunter look thing, but also because I'm not sure I even own a pair of plain black spur straps at this point. My wardrobe is bling and color. #nochill That meant it took me three tries to get Opie to pick up the canter from the walk, but once he bothered tuning me in we didn't have a problem on the flat. Where it did come in was not having enough to back me up over some of the more heavily pimped out jumps.

I should first point out that this marks...maybe the sixth or so time this horse has jumped so far this year? For sure the first actual full course he was going to be asked to go over since our jumper night back in December. Plus since he turned into a know it all/doesn't actually know anything bulldozer cantering stadium jumps (fortunately not something that seemed to carry over to xc fences) the few times I tried jumping him this spring, I've only been trotting him up to jumps.

blurry screenshots are the only jumping media you get. i wasn't able to find a free
barn mom to give my camera to until our flat.

Nevermind though! Into the canter and off we went!

Oh my gosh, guys. This fucking horse is so fucking cute. He picked up the cutest canter and went loping over everything like he was the brokest, most idiot proof 2' hunter on the planet. The only problem I ran into was a bright yellow oxer with bright white boxes as fill coming out of a 4 stride line. Things Opie knows nothing about: oxers, boxes as fill, lines. I had to school him through it a few times before he finally felt confident jumping out of the line, but everything else? Easy peasy. He coasted right through the long diagonal lines without ever changing pace, he half halted off a breath, and I never had to touch his face.

ears up, taking the cute gappy distance, loving his life.

Feeling totally happy with him in the ring, we scooted over to the derby field for a quick romp which included having to step down a bank to get into the field. I'd watch two horses in a row launch off the bank, but our young Dopie horse? Who's never seen a bank before? He lowered his head to watch where his feet were going and stepped right off before strolling away to see what was next.

I pretty much spent the entirety of the show silently squeeeee-ing to myself. Remind me of this the next time he spends an entire ride rearing because I ask him to step his inside hind under more than one inch.

probably the only person smiling the entire flat class.
that stupid yellow castle line behind us was our bugaboo.

Praise the baby Jesus, we were the very first division of the day. He got to take a break for awhile while the ring got dragged and set, and then BM secured us in the second rotation (you hunters!) so one of my two barn mates showing in the same division and I could watch several rounds go first.

Of course the very first jump in the very first class was the only one I didn't school over. It was a fake stone wall single, but oh well. Off we went! Dopie gave it the hairy eyeball and broke to the trot a couple strides out, but I was able to leg him on enough that he popped over it from the trot and stepped right back into the canter. He floated through the first diagonal line no problem, jumped into the scary outside red line, and then wiggled to a stop on jump out--another box-as-fill oxer (that was a vertical when we schooled it before). We came back to it from the trot and he went right over, and then finished with another perfect diagonal line.

i mean can you even?!

I could not have given two shits about the mistakes. He landed every lead, he jumped the jumps he understood, and he never got flustered or upset. I walked out and was like, "HE'S SO CUTE!" and everyone at the gate was like, "STOP IT HE IS!" He hung out totally chill while we waited for our second class, and then back in for round two.

I was able to push my phone into BM's hand for this one so there's video evidence:


That fucking yellow line was nearly our downfall. I barely got him over on the second attempt and that was with a lot of clucking and a pony club kick. But he recovered just fine and finished like a very good boy. Oxers are hard, yo. Especially when you never, ever jump them.

He got to go back to his stall to hang out for awhile before going back in for the flat.

it was dusty and breezy, but not ungodly hot for once

There were twelve horses in our division, and as BM pointed out, "I don't understand why everyone entered their giant warmbloods in the 2'" so we ended the day with no satin, but REALLY WHO CARES?!

"a strange show to be sure, but i'm not mad."
--opie, for real.

Dopie went around a wild and wooly warm up jumping everything I put in front of him, he did both his courses like this was something we actually practiced more than once a year never, and he finished cruising along in a giant flat class without getting upset about anything the other horses were doing. Plus he stepped right into the canter from the walk which means I don't want to see anything else in our 2-3 tests this weekend, sir.

#childgenius sash hung around his neck Saturday, hands down.

We finished the weekend out by taking a group to the park. Fortunately it was super low key and we spent the majority of the time walking because the kiddo would have preferred to nap the day away.

did thoroughly enjoy his splashing tho

He gets a well deserved day off today, and then I have to figure out how to manage our rides in the upcoming death heat so we can get some schooling in before returning to dressage--and Opie's official Second level debut!--this weekend.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Replace it with a pace

I was all set to go to the show on Saturday. Really, I was. I never got around to running through 1-2, but that was fine; it seemed like a simple enough test. The show was hosted by a neighboring GMO, so while it didn't count for my own GMO's year end awards, it's a really nicely done show, and the results could be stacked towards the TIP year end awards.

that swag tho

I woke up that morning to sunshine, and I couldn't believe they were still calling for storms. I stalked the radar over Buffalo all morning, and instead of blowing off, the storms kept blowing up. It looked like they were finally going to clear out over the show grounds right when my first test was going to start, but the storms were travelling in a direct line over the interstate into Rochester which meant I would be driving the entire time under severe thunderstorm warnings. Not fun, especially when the running lights on my trailer don't like working on a good day.

It worked out for the best anyway, as I was talking to a girl who did end up going for an earlier ride time who said that it was wet and sloppy, the ring they got moved into wasn't standard size, her trailer had to get pulled out with a tractor, and driving down 90 was awful.

Plus I ended up riding my horse at home anyway and he was quite the little shit.

wow so pretty but so bad

We're going through another cycle of "This is hard, I don't wanna." We hit this is in the spring as well, when I really ramped up the show prep to come out at First. It wasn't new information, I was just asking for it to be cleaner and bigger. Now that we're gearing up for Second, it's the same thing. He already knows how to do all the things, but I want the things to be better.

That's hard. It means he has to sit more, and be steadier in the contact, and we don't quit until he softens over his back. On Saturday that meant riding through three lessons until I got what I was looking for. There was much rearing, a heavy side of spinning, and a few bolts thrown in for good measure. #ZenNinja sat there and didn't change the rein length, didn't take my leg off, didn't stop asking for more forward.

Finally, FINALLY, Opie figured out there was no evasion he could try that could make any of that go away and melted into my hands. We floated down the long side, I halted him, and then immediately got off and shoved candy in his face.

Stepping under yourself without inverting is really the worst thing in the whole wide universe, guys. The. Fucking. Worst.

The one good thing about all the storms was it blew the suffocating humidity out of the air and we had the best weather for the barn's hunter pace the next day. I threw a borrowed jump saddle on Opie in bout thirty seconds to sub in for a girl that got hurt right before she was about to get on, and had the best time with my partner.

good old oz took opie on many of his first trail rides

Opie started out popping over everything right out of stride, being super soft and smart. Then his partner went behind a bush and Opie thought the Horse Black Hole Vortex had swallowed Oz and he lost his shit. Nevermind that Oz reappeared in all of fifteen seconds. He had a few jumps of landing and trying to bolt back towards the barn, but we had a little timeout and he went back to being perfect.

throwback to trying to exit because all alone

He jumped pretty much everything on the property, and only had a few of his hysterical, "Wow, what are legs!!!" jump forms where he twists the front half one direction and then lands by twisting the back half in the other direction. Grids would for sure fix that, or just teaching him to jump in general, but LOLZ, who has time for that?

"it's okay, i'll get us over somehow!"

"not sure what to do with these legs, so i'll just throw them over here!"

I had Oz lead us over the big 3' log stack since it was his first time jumping it. Opie cleared it by five feet and I was sooo proud of him for getting his legs out of the way. Only then he thought the fun game was chasing Oz over jumps and almost plowed through the next one when he barely lifted his legs at all because he was too busy galloping after Oz. So no more leads over jumps after that.

He got a quick break in his stall to pee and grab a drink, then went right back out to escort my favorite tiny barn child around. Her Haffie was being a sass machine, so he got shoved up Opie's bum the entire ride to slow his roll.

Opie might have Opinions about doing the work, but he is A Very Good Boy most of the time. He went from romping around jumping things with his giant OTTB friend, to jogging on a floppy rein with a pony attached to his hind end. Plus he got our tiny partner another blue ribbon, and we ended up with a second for our round.

He gets the next four days off while I party take my mom in for surgery in Chicago. Then it's back to being mad when I ask him to have a real job. Whomp whomp.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Sundman Stables Show and Tell

Well, we made it into the ring so...success!

Nah, it wasn't that bad at all. A bit sloppier than I was hoping for, but such is life when you can't be bothered to measure out a dressage court at home--something I'll probably do this week in between training hard trail riding--and get a wee bit spastic on how to ride in a real arena.  And actually, the last time I was at this facility was many years ago with Bobby also doing one of his first attempts at Second. Opie was green and we had some mistakes, but guys, he didn't take the chains of the court for a ride with him.

#bobbyproblems

i have absolutely no media so enjoy this tack cleaning snoot

I gave Opie a ten minute spin on Saturday because it was horribly hot and disgusting. He was fine, he felt as good as he was going to get. Sunday was much cooler with clouds and a breeze, and he came off the trailer kind of a tweaker. I let him have a good hand walk all around to snoot things, and by the time I got on he was completely settled. Only he was a little too settled, and I ended up never getting him jazzed back up enough to where he felt inspired to put forth any effort whatsoever. That warm up happy medium is going to take some trial and error.

Test 1

We got to go right into the court to make a couple laps for warm up as the ring wasn't large enough to fit a standard court and still have room to make a lap around. I shoulda woulda coulda used this opportunity to run through some movements and make sure I was comfortable with my geometry, but instead I tried to get Opie to wake up. He did not.

He headed down center line simultaneously tight but lazy, and reeled off a long line of 6s with 5.5s for the travers for not enough angle--I actually almost forgot to put him into it coming off my first 10m circle so well done me. That's rider error, and I can easily ask for and get more angle in those so an easy enough fix there for the future.

The halt, rein back, and turn on the haunches were all 6.5s. I know that fucking halt can score way better, but someone halted and then immediately periscoped to gawp at the horse in the round pen just behind the ring. The rein back itself was fluid and obedient though, and the comment was, "halt distracted, rein back submissive."

8s for the walk because obvi, and then 6 and 6.5s for the canter with 5.5s for the simple changes were that one trot step wasn't eradicated. A 4 for the final serpentine where he broke when the horse started banging on the round pen which was way more exciting to pay attention to than me, and then a 7 for the final halt.

the bad horse halter came out for the morning.

So! Lots of varying scores, but I'm pleased with her scoring and her comments. One thing I didn't want was fluffed up schooling show scores that gave me no real idea of how this test would score later this month in front of a real judge. While she might have thrown me an extra half point here and there (she gave us 6s for our perfectly acceptable lengthenings/non-existent mediums which was generous), she wasn't like, "You tried, here's a 7!" The final score for the first run through was a 62+% My only goal for the rated show is to eek out one single, solitary 60%. Clean up the mistakes, bring in a more focused horse, and I think that should be attainable.

The Clinic

We had about ten minutes to talk over the test and troubleshoot any problems. The judge is the head dressage coach at Cazenovia College. She was super fun and positive to ride with, but more than anything she was obsessed with Opie. I told her right off the bat that he was young, neon green to the level, and that his main problem was tension in the ring because I have a very different, softer horse at home. I know the medium trot is nonexistent and am not worried about it right now. What I hoped to get out of this was any tips on how to get him to relax a bit more over his topline.

She put me on a 20m circle at the posting trot and had me flex him back and forth a bit, leg yield out  couple steps, and bring him back and forth a bit. The end.

He got softer-ish I guess, but he wasn't any different than the horse I have in warm up. Really most of the quick session was nonstop gushing over Opie. He's got a great hind end, he's got the gaits, oh my lort that walk, he can do the movements, he's so lovely, he's so nice, he's going to be super, etc etc. I ain't mad to hear that, y'all, but I guess I just thought I'd get a little more out of it.

she clearly wasn't sassed with any of this side eye

I understand that it was a super short time period, but I was hoping to at least work in the sitting trot. She told me overall she wanted to see him more round and less braced. We wrapped up there and went in to do it all over again.

Test 2

This test actually went worse than the first one. He felt more tight and those 6s became 5.5s. The canter was a hot mess of him anticipating, and while he held the counter canter for the serpentines, he broke coming off the first medium canter, and then screeched to a halt in the second simple change before launching into the canter--at which point I halted him myself and made him stand for a second before walking a few steps and picking it back up calmly. I definitely used this test more of a schooling ride where a couple times I could have pushed him through and carried on, instead I made a very obvious correction. These scores count for nothing, so might as well use my time the way I need to.

We ended with a 60%--so I guess still what I was looking for even with the drama. Her final comment was that he "needs more suppleness over topline to fulfill the demands of this level." YEAH I KNOW.

that topline is plenty supple when begging for candies.
for real tho, he's looking awfully beastly lately.

Overall, it was worth the $50 just to get to ride the test twice in front of a judge in a really nice ring. I didn't get any bad or confusing feedback, and the comments and scoring were plenty to work with. Plus Opie was back home and out with his buddy before noon which doesn't leave a lot to complain about!

Now I just have to decide whether or not I want to do this fucking show Saturday. My ride times are next level dreadful and the weather is looking like it wants to be shit. Plus some idiot signed up for all three First tests. Don't do benadryl and fill out entry forms, kids.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Trail riding our way to success

I seem to have fallen into a tried and true training routine over the years when moving up a level or preparing for a larger than usual show. Of course the end result is mostly just that we somehow make it into the ring. Your version of success probably varies wildly from mine.

Opie is doing his first Second level test in front of a judge this Sunday, and while it doesn't count towards anything since it's more a quasi clinic set up, it is the only dry run he'll get before debuting it for real at a rated show in a few weeks.

Did I spend my time trying to ramp up those meager trot lengthenings into some semblance of a medium trot? Did I work on suppling the shoulder-in so it's not quite so stilted? Did I polish those often trashy left to right simple changes to abolish that rogue trot step?

Bish, no. We've been trail riding.

midget horse loves nature...as long as it's not touching him via bugs.

Last weekend we finally got to go hunter pacing, and while there were some disgustingly muddy spots, the weather was absolutely perfect. Opie was much more confident this time around than he was here last year for his first time. We jumped the majority of things and only landed on top of our ditch crossing leader one time. It took him awhile to get in the groove of going over objects again--aka not launching ten feet in the air from a standstill two inches away from the fence--but he's jumped maybe three times total so far this year, and by the end of the ride he was cruising over everything with ease.

I'd signed our group up for the slower section since we one junior doing her first off-property pace and a new-to-the-barn horse doing his first pace with us, but we had such a balling time and a balling group that we ended up clocking in our fastest time ever. Fortunately they were nice enough to switch us over to the fast time group and we all came home with blue ribbons.

hoovering his hay to gear up for runnies and jumpies

We followed that up by hitching a ride to the park with BM and her mom for a leisurely stroll complete with mandatory splash parties.

isn't a trip to the park until everyone's been soaked by splashing

Our young toddler brained friend here sucked his leather curb strap into his mouth while I was fucking with his throat latch and when I yanked it out, he'd gnawed the thing right in half. Baling twine curb strap it was, which was fine and kind of funny because those are cheap as shit to replace. Only the next time I rode him he sucked his Micklem chin strap into his mouth and was trying to go to town on that as well. Bad toddler!

He got Tuesday off, and then did a sort of serious dressage school yesterday afternoon. We touched on all the pieces of 2-3 at least once, and I made him push through the "We took a break and therefore we are done will all real riding" dredges. I'm going to have to time my warm up spot on for once in my life because he definitely hits a wall right now. There is willing to try Opie, and then there is dead to the world the sitting trot is now like riding a 2x4 cemented into the ground Opie with no in between. I think less is going to be more for this test, and trust that the training is there when we head into the ring with the focus on making sure the energy is also still there.

He's getting today off because aside from trail riding our way to success, I also like to load up on the whole not riding thing. Makes complete sense. Also, like most of the northeast, the weather snapped its fingers and decided we are now officially in the heart of summer death heat. Rude.

He'll get a quick spin on Saturday, and then we're off to make fools of ourselves give the middle finger to my least favorite dressage level EVAR.

just gonna do some more walking, let's be real.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Two Thirds

Two thirds: The ratio of Dopie's body parts that work.

The missing link? That whole kit and caboodle in the middle.

is that opie's rib cage napping in the wilds?
oh, no, just an old man haffie.

To further complicate matters, the front half and the back half work...but not often simultaneously. We've been working on leg yields and quarter lines--both things that really highlight how wiggly and not straight young Dopie Horse can be. Also, am I the only one that just really loves a circle more than long sides? Because in my brain long sides are only for lateral work and I hate straight lines. Hence the teeth grinding work on quarter lines, but ugh. Fundamental dressage is the worst.

Opie is not a fan of the whole leg yielding thing. They were something Bobby found easy, and I kind of thrust them upon Opie expecting the same result. As a result, he hasn't progressed much beyond moving sideways in a rudimentary way accompanied by immediately tensing up. I know it's been a weakness, but in the throes of kicking off show season, they got lumped into "I got 99 problems and leg yields are just one of them."

We have to finish out this season at stupid First level though, so they've got to get cleaned up. Knowing that it's a lack of understanding on his part, I've reverted them back to kindergarten. From the counted walk, one straight step over. That is all. This makes #childsatan VERY ANGRY. Why go slow when you can go FAST. He hilariously got so annoyed with my insistence the other day that he slammed on the brakes and stood there flipping his head until I told him to knock it off. I continued to sit there on the buckle and let him have a think, but he felt his tantrum wasn't getting through to me so he started stomping his front leg like a toddler until he'd made his point and walked off on his own.

he's so shiny and thicc and gorg right now, but he's still a
baby horse at heart.

Speaking of baby horses, I've done a bit change. I wanted something less and decided to try a fat hollow mouth. He gets very confused with new bits so I let him hang out in the aisle with it for awhile. After a whole lotta weird where he tried to figure out the two ounce thing in his mouth, his past few rides in it have seemed much quieter in the mouth. He still makes angry chomper faces when he gets tense, but he does seem to be carrying it quieter so we'll see how it plays out.

Speaking of not baby horses, next weekend he makes his fake Second level debut. I really hate First. If I could have skipped First from the onset and gone straight to Second, I would have. Sadly the whole muscling up and education things needed to be installed. Also sadly I don't like any of the Second tests but 2-3, so he needed to be a little more ready than sneaking by ready.

But at the same time I'm aiming for only sneaking by ready.

perfectly capable when he feels like it

We're doing a ride-a-test clinic thing--ride the test, get judge feedback, ride the test again. I'm going in expecting him to be tight and tense, and hoping that the feedback will help me figure out how to work around that when he does 2-3 at the rated show at the end of July. He feels more than sneaking by ready when he's not locked up from tension so fingers crossed.

He's tricky because you have to walk the fine line of riling him up a little bit to get him to put forth a proper effort ("Ugh fine, lady, I'll do that just to show you that I can! Take that!") without crossing over to, "Fuck you, lady, take your ask and stick it!"

Trickily, I have to reinstall the canter-walk-canter transitions--which I like better than the trot ones--and then switch back to the stupid c-t-c for a show the weekend following the ride-a-test where we're back to First.

Shit's about to get wild again. Hopefully we get to go hunter pacing this weekend since Sunday's got rained out!

u so pretty tho

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dressage in Wine Country I & II

While normally I would split a two day show into two posts, I can barely get around to getting one out at this point.

For one--wow, it really sucked! Also though, ALL MY THINGS are intent on breaking themselves. Between rehabbing the psycho cow dog's partially torn ACL, my ancient fat cat having a seizure and needing extensive further diagnostics (though I'm not convinced the answer isn't just that he's an ancient fat cat), my truck receiving a dwindling mortality deadline, and the shit storm with the trailer you're about to read, I'm kind of over everything.

But first I gotta go wait for the chiro to show up for my horse because what's one more thing to chuck money at at this point, right?!

obvi worth chucking money at a barn mate for this tail braid

I'm going to try to format this so it's quick and easy to read/write. I also paid a lot of money for the show photographer and only ended up with one usable picture which is a bummer.

Let's do this thing.

The Arrival

I did day two of this show last year. I remembered three things about it: the ride down was a bitch, Opie was a tense mess because of the isolation from other horses in the ring he showed in, and the management was all over the place. This year, the ride down actually wasn't as bad as I remembered it. The management had improved, and overall the show from my end ran pretty smoothly, but I wasn't too inspired when I went to check in and there was a line already out the door with no one sure yet who was in charge of what.

The Good Boy

The thing I was most worried about was this being Opie's first overnight show, and that he was going to make poor life choices left alone in his stall at night. You know, like getting cast because he loves his giant fresh pile of shavings and ripping his leg off again. Fortunately he was the very best boy. He had a young mare on one side of him and two stallions on the other, and he only occasionally nickered when the mare left. He didn't weave, he wasn't anxious, he ate and drank like a champ, he hung out ground tied outside his stall while I tacked him up, and then stood like a statue while I ground mounted.

snackin' while waiting for me to finish dressing

Test Riding Blonde Moments

I ended up riding three tests over the weekend after scratching my last one. I fucked up all three.

  1. Saturday 1-1: Fixated on that fucking canter-trot-canter transition we messed up both days at Houghton, I forgot you don't actually pick the canter back up until C in this test. Thank god the judge rang me for an error and had me repeat this movement because Opie spent the second half of the diagonal half rearing, half launching. Also thankfully she didn't just ring us right out. 
  2. Saturday 1-3: Yeah, you guessed it. He picked up the wrong lead in that transition. I went back into the warm up after this test and made him do it about twenty times in a row. There were excessive dramatics, but I managed to end with one I was okay with.
  3. Sunday 1-1: Exhausted, hot, pissed as shit at my horse and the asshole rail birds, and warned that this judge was getting annoyed about people tarrying at the in-gate, I heard the bell and headed in. Only my ring was a whistle. So I got waved out, apologized, and then the scribe had to yell out that she had now blown the whistle. To be fair, they soon ditched the whistle because no one could hear it.
hears everything. even imaginary things.

The Tests Themselves
  • Saturday 1-1: Opie. Was. Tense. He was a giant ball of "I'm the last horse to go before the lunch break therefore there are no other horses anywhere in sight and that is not okay." Every fucking comment was some version of tight, distracted, bracing, yada yada. Except the 7s on the walk. I'll take my small wins wherever I can get them, guys. The final comments for this one made me laugh. "#4 (the stretchy trot which is broken but on the repair) is generally the frame you should be in for this level--this was more a Second level frame. He needs more swing and a longer connection." I assume what she was trying to convey was that Opie was too smashed into a shorter frame and that he needed to be longer over his topline. Agreed, I just thought the wording was funny.
  • Saturday 1-3: Honestly the trot felt even worse in this test, and it scored a long line of 5s for--you guessed it--tension. Fortunately the walk reset him and we ended with a long line of 7s for the canter work, minus the 4 for the missed lead in the transition. 
  • Sunday 1-1: I cannot begin to describe how satanic Opie was to warm up. I put him on a 15m circle in a corner of the giant ring and cantered him for twenty minutes straight, occasionally having to yank him to a stop when someone would wander directly into our path which would make him rear to the point where he almost dumped me a couple of times. Bitches. I want one tiny circle in the far corner of this giant AF ring for my clearly melting down horse. GO THE FUCK AROUND ME. Then, once I got #childsatan reliably on four feet and was walking around at large waiting to go in, I changed directions while passing a pair of trainers on the rail to avoid their student making random circles all over hell and creation--because that's called COMMON FUCKING COURTESY--and the trainers were like, "She keeps following Student around or something." "She's probably trying to pick up tips." At which point I seriously considered accidentally on purpose kicking them in the face as I went by. Deep breaths, how do you beat these people? By going in and winning your test. So we did. 
must have been all those tips i picked up while on the opposite end of the ring
managing my rage monster and trying to avoid people that couldn't be bothered
to avoid me.

The Ribbons

Obviously the most important part.

how da fuq did we get any of these?

We were fourth for the first test, third for the second, and then went to the wine and cheese gala to pick up our Best Turnout Award. Our win in our only test Sunday was also good enough for High Point OTTB at First Level. The scores? A 60%, 61.94%, and a 60.86%--and yep, that last one was good enough for both high point and to win the whole class. Outside of Training, the judging was tough. Does no one know how to ride the new tests? Clearly I'm firmly in that category!

For Fuck's Fucking Sake

I've always had this fear that I won't notice if I blow out a trailer tire and will just keep rolling down the road on three wheels. Y'all, that's not a thing. On my way home, just about to hit the busiest split of interstate, I blew out a trailer tire so hard it sent the fender flying. I was able to pull right over onto a wide shoulder, had the world's fastest mini crying meltdown, and then got to work changing my first tire. 

Right as I was finishing pulling the blown tire off, ass glued to the side of my trailer for fear of getting smashed by vehicles that are a lot like warm up riders who won't get out of the way, a highway truck pulled up behind me. One of the friendly gentleman started directing traffic over while the other helped me align my spare and then put the finishing muscle on tightening the lug nuts. When they were done, they even ran back and grabbed my fender for me. They complimented me for my preparedness (aka my paranoia about being stranded helpless anywhere and therefore being a horse trip doomsday prepper) and sent me on my way.

poor old lady.


The good part (??) of losing the fender was that I could see the back half of the tire that didn't blow. Remember the trailer inspection I just had done? The one where I paid them a lot of money to break my lights? They also changed the wheel bearing on that tire...but didn't bother telling me that the bearing had caused uneven wear on the tire and it needed to be replaced. Or, you know, replacing it themselves since it was in there for inspection. Plus the tire that blew looked like it was a re-cap which had been put on by the other trailer place I'd taken it to a couple years ago. That's not okay.

And this is why I cannot with mechanics.

Or horses.

Or people.

opie's face = my brain currently.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Houghton College Spring Dressage Show II

My morning kicked off wonderfully when I hooked up my trailer for day two and had no running lights on the right side.

Did all my lights work when I dropped the trailer off for inspection? Yes.

Do all my lights work $323 later? NO.

After many, many bad words later, I discovered I at least had working brake lights and turn signals so as long as I didn't run into any rain I would be okay. BUT STILL.

the cutest snootest.

The drive down was blessedly uneventful as on the way home the day before, my check engine light kept blinking on and off...after paying nearly $1k in repairs on the truck a couple months ago. I might harbor a deep seated hatred for literally all mechanics on the face of the earth.

Anyway, I get parked, take Opie for a quick walk about the giant fancy spooky indoor where we were doing our first test, let him snoot the judge's stand Satan's Altar, and then set him up with his breakfast. As he was finishing, I looked up at the sound of thunder and saw this:

i like everyone else staring at it with a collective feeling of "oh shit"

Two seconds later it started storming. Straight up thunder, lightning, very very frightening. Too cheap to ever get a stall when I don't have to, Opie and I took refuge inside one of the big bay doors where he amused himself snooting the white boards until the rain slackened for half a second and I was able to run back out and grab his hay net to throw on the floor in front of him. Half an hour later it finished blowing through, and aside from one other storm that you could see and hear brewing on the horizon in the afternoon that ended up staying south of us, the rest of the day was quite nice.

never got a drop from this one

The storm put the show on a twenty minute delay which was great because it meant I didn't have to run right out and scramble around to get ready when it passed as my first test was pretty early. What wasn't great was that it put the whole morning into a scheduling cluster fuck. I got on when I was originally supposed to be riding my test. That theoretically gave me twenty minutes to warm up.

I went to the indoor first because I like walls of mirrors, but there had to have been at least ten people crammed into the space of a small arena all warming up for different levels. I made two laps before escaping to the outdoor warm up. It was deep and super sloppy, but it was also abandoned.

After a quick w/t I introduced Mr Tappy to the leg yields. Opie thought about objecting, but got over it and settled in and did the work. I did, however, decide that Mr Tappy could stay outside the ring for our test because it distracts me, and that I was going to sit the leg yields. I suck at posting, I don't need to bring that into an already questionable movement.

the indoor was abandoned friday which was okay by me

Feeling warmed up, I checked in with the ring steward who said I should start heading over as it was nearing my ride time. I ducked back into the indoor to check with the ring steward there who had no idea what was going on. I knew one of the trainers was going either right after me or right before me so I kept an eye on her before I couldn't take the mass fucking chaos in there anymore and went and parked it just outside the ring--where we then hung out waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. Finally, close to ten (my ride time was supposed to have been moved back to 9:24), I dove into the indoor again. The first ring steward told the trainer she was on deck. She headed over while I finished my lap on my way to the exit. I passed the other ring steward who then told me I was on deck.

I went over to the competition indoor and turns out it was finally my turn, and the rider before me was just heading down center line to finish. Way to communicate, guys.

First 3

This was one of those tests that felt better than it scored, and until I saw the score, I was actually happy with it. Opie wasn't spooky or distracted by anything in there which he has been for the first test every other time. He was, however, pretty tight and locked up which meant he kept bobbing on and off the contact.

he's getting so much easier about forward as a default though!

We started off with a 7 halt, and then a sad 5.5 trot lengthening. The rest of the test was unfortunately a heavy dose of 6s with a large side of 5.5s--minus a 7.5 for the walk of course. Almost every comment was either tight, tense, or braced. He was steady, and he didn't do anything wrong, but it wasn't soft and supple.

The judge somehow missed my second day in a row blunder on the change of lead through trot, or I just fixed the lead so ninja fast that she was cool with it for a 6.

Her final comments were that he was a "handsome, capable horse", but that his stiffness cost points and he wasn't round enough for the day. Fair enough, and while another judge might have slid us that extra half point here and there, she wasn't feeling it and we came away with a sorry 59% for sixth.

but at least he is the best boy about walking

The show got back on schedule after lunch, but our second test still wasn't until three. As we finally neared my ride time, I had Opie's head plunked in my lap as he took a serious nap while I was sitting in the bleachers watching tests. I ended up getting on him early so that we could take the time to wander around on the buckle for awhile to wake him back up.

We finally went into the outdoor warm up. Almost immediately I saw the giant grey monster horse headed our way in-hand, still screaming and being a rage monster. I boogied on out of there right as the rider got on because I wanted no part of that crazy hot mess. As I was passing its trainer, I heard her start yelling, "Forward! Forward!" I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see the rider get dumped and this thing come charging right for us. I swung off and stuffed Dopie behind the bleachers, but the trainer managed to intercept it and wrangle it back to the warm up without incident.

Needless to say, we hid in the indoor to warm up for the rest of the time.

too busy doping to care about no wild horse

First 1

I spent warm up getting Opie much rounder and looser, and it helped that we were back in the outdoor for this test. That aspect of it definitely felt improved, but he was so sleepy/lazy that I felt like I carried him through the whole thing. Still, not a score below 6 to be found with a nice range of 6.5s to 7.5s.

My blonde moment here came when I almost forgot my first 15m circle in the canter. I was just hitting the transition from the lengthening when I thought to myself, "I hate that there isn't a circle to bring the canter back in this test. .....oh, shit, wait, turn here!" Both canter lengthenings got 7s though, and the trot lengthenings--not being shut down by midget legs and a locked back--got a 6 and 6.5 which I will happily take all day every day.

"i am trying! i am doing the thing to the best of my dachshund ability!"
yeah you are, buddy. 

He ended up with his third 66+% from this judge and another fourth place behind the three Open riders. Most importantly, he unloaded back at home completely relaxed, and when I swung in to see him the next evening he was happy to see me, mugging for treats, and eagerly put his bridle on to go outside for his monthly confo pic. The whole show he felt like a complete pro and confident in himself and what was going on. That's a win for sure. Hopefully it carries over to this upcoming weekend when he does his first overnight show.

so adorbs.
also peep that dead short side from friday's test.

Day three of showing? Sunday morning I woke up so brain dead that I actually forgot it was my birthday. I spent it getting soaked to the bone volunteering all day at one of my GMO's schooling shows, but getting to be around horses for your birthday isn't the worst, right?

LOLZ I got home and went to bed at seven. You know you're getting old when...

Monday, June 3, 2019

Houghton College Spring Dressage Show I

To no one's surprise but my own, my block headed midget turned on the judge whispering powers of #childgenius Friday and Saturday.

worth the rear it took to reinforce the halt earlier in the week? when they score
8s each time out, YEP. 

First though, two things.

Most importantly, all the insanely gorgeous pictures in these posts (and for the rest of eternity because not sure I'll ever stop using them) are thanks to Emily Knitter of Cavalletti Photo. She offered an incredible deal on preregistration, and not only was she super sweet and accommodating, she went out of her way to hunt us down in warm up for some candid shots when she had extra time between riders. 11/10 will give her my money any time!

Secondly, our young Dopie Horse may be going through a bit of a phase where working smarter and harder is not his cup of tea most days, but the brain I bought him for is firmly reinstalled. Without ever batting an eye he handled a loose, charging, man-eating wannabe stallion (no, but legit tho); two long days at the trailer book ended by loading and unloading like an absolute professional; several meet and greets with adoring fans/bored spectators while hanging out ringside; and the short side of the arena blowing over during one of our tests.

If he could leg yield without throwing a tantrum he'd basically be perfect. I'll keep him anyway I guess.

even if emily did comment on the fact that she couldn't do anything about the
donkey ears in half the pictures. 

On to the tests!

First 1

I'll be honest. My brain is so fried after three full days of horse showing that I probably won't remember many specifics. Warm up probably went well? I know we got signed up to escort a young mare past outdoor demons for the second year in a row because Dopie isn't the fanciest, but he's always the steadiest.

We went in and I got my brain melt over the center line out of the way first thing. I don't know why I'm not awake when I go in for my first test of a show, but here we are --AGAIN. I was staring at the connected section of board instead of the tape--and, you know, THE LETTER C--so was just off my center line. The halt was square and got a "good halt" comment...followed by "not on CL".

the cutest when his ears are up

The dumb didn't end there though. The tear drops were fine--a 7.5 and 6.5--when I then completely biffed the 20m stretchy circle. It was some weird 18m cracked egg shape that as I was trying to fix it I was like, "Dude, you have fucking got to get yourself together here!"

Fortunately the brief self flagellation worked. No more mistakes, and the rest of the test was steady and correct. We clawed our way to our coveted 6 AND 6.5 (!!!) for the lengthened trot which I was super proud of because I could feel that Opie knew what was being asked of him and really was trying his hardest to deliver. He's much better in the lengthened canter (#ottbpower) and threw down 7s for both of those. The walk was obviously a hit, and he finished by his rider finding the center line and getting the deserved 8 for the final halt.

"i'm goinggg, candy lady!"

The test felt good when I got done, but I wasn't sure how it was going to hold up. I'd checked the judge's scores for earlier tests and was horrified to see that barely anyone was clawing their way past 60%. Thankfully First doesn't compare to the FEI classes she'd been scoring up to that point, and she was much kinder to the lower level riders. Opie came away with a 66.89% for third place--one teensy tiny smidge behind the mare we did battle with for first at every show last year. You know what probably would have edged her out? Not riding my center line crooked. DOES THIS FOOLISHNESS SOUND FAMILIAR?! The horse that won was another fancy warmblood mare. All the shows around here place amateur and open together, so being third behind two pros on two fancy horses is okay by me.

First 3

We had just over an hour break between tests Friday which was nice. I was able to get home in enough time that Opie got a few hours of turnout with his besties to have a mental break before he had to go back the next day.

Warm up probably went okay for this test, too? I know that I didn't have time to get my first test back yet so still had no idea how we'd done or what the judge was looking for.

if she was looking for someone that knows how to
post the trot it sure wasn't me.

It was sunny and gorgeous out all day Friday. It was also windy AF. We were maybe three movements into our test when the whole short side of the arena at A started blowing over into the ring. Bless his little dopie heart, he didn't even turn an ear at the fallen boards whenever we went by them. It made the canter transition at A a little awkward, but the judge slid us a compensatory 7 for it. As soon as we finished, a horde of volunteers swarmed in to nail the boards into the ground and they all fawned over Opie who was like, "Hai, hello, thank you for the pets, why are you here?"

Other than that, another solid scoring test. Lots of 6.5s, a 5.5 for the first leg yield that he was locked up for, and another 5.5 for a way too large 15m circle at the fallen A. But he also racked up a line of 7s and 7.5s for the walk and canter work, plus two 8s for the first 15m circle and lengthened canter.

My flub in this test--and in the same test the next day--was the change of lead through trot. He can get super hollow and spastic during these, but also sometimes does them flawlessly. I was trying for conservative and just tipped his head to the new bend without touching him with my leg until I asked for the canter. Except I hadn't actually changed the bend so he picked up the left lead again. I fixed it right away, but still a 4.

sometimes an 8, sometimes a dumb.

Another 66+% for a fourth this time. Again, the joys of being a complete fucking Ammy but competing essentially as an Open rider.

Overall I couldn't have asked for better scores considering the drama someone was experiencing leading up to this. Plus the judge had some really good comments to work on for day two, and the rest of my life. Things like, clear transitions between the lengthenings will get you that extra half point and ride your geometry correctly, you fool. But we also got "harmonious (LOL) and capable pair that will only get better as he gets stronger."

I'll take it.

i probably take dressage more seriously than anyone on the planet