Thursday, May 30, 2019

Here Goes Nothing

Tomorrow kicks off back to back weekends of showing...and the start of June in which every single weekend there's an opportunity for a pony party activity. Fortunately for Opie, most of those are hunter paces before July restarts a large block of dressage shows.

he is a pro on the trails

First we have to survive this block though. Which, at the moment, feels a mite questionable.

not that we haven't been working super hard...

Last week Opie was over it. Over work, over life, mostly over leg yields. Not, however, over his annoying propensity to rear when he doesn't wanna. He's a naturally lazy horse so usually his rears are half hearted at best. Last week, he almost got me off multiple times, hi-ho silvering every time I asked for sideways.

Or a longer neck that wasn't in my face.

Or a trot that wasn't mimicking the world's fastest sewing machine.

Or, you know, anything that resembled normal horsing.

I've never been nervous for a dressage show in my life. By the time the weekend rolled around, I was feeling sick to my stomach. I didn't want to take this psycho asshole into public. I was sure I'd broken him somehow, and there was going to be no coming back from it.

Fortunately, last weekend a few people from the barn had set a date to go play in the park, and it was exactly what the doctor ordered.

splash fest 2019 is where it's at

After a few hours frolicking around the park and a good swim (Dopie is officially a dolphin. As soon as I jumped on bareback he plowed right past everyone else for a swimmies.), a day off, and then a day of light longeing, I got back on yesterday morning after he got his feet done.

Praise. Fucking. Jesus. for #childgenius.

just had to wash away the bad 

He was soft, relaxed, and totally had his head in the game. I had to get after him for a second over the halt on center line, and he popped up once in protest, but he came back around and did what I was asking for before going to work without holding a grudge. I didn't do much and ended after running through 1-3 with perfectly normal leg yields. This afternoon I'll push for a touch more while trying to keep it short and sweet. And then bathing, braiding, and tack cleaning to get ready for Day One of showing tomorrow!

"i am the goodest boy about trailering now."

But because things couldn't go completely normally, I had dropped my trailer off to get checked out and tuned up before all my serious hauling starts. After paying the ultra douchey shop owner $300+ for a couple new bearings and replacing/fixing some of the marker lights, I brought it home last night...where the left blinker stopped working.

I may or may not have gone postal.

Hubby spent over an hour fucking with it to no avail. This morning I dug into my repair kit where I pulled out the unopened tube of magic grease Emma recommended in a blog post forever and a year ago. A quick smear to the connector of my truck and two seconds later I had a working turn signal.

best $10 ever

That crisis over, I'm feeling slightly less neurotic going into this weekend. If nothing else, I've already paid the show photographer for tomorrow so if things go batshit then at least I'll have fun bloopers to share?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

WW: Thoroughbred Awards

This will be the most worded Wordless Wednesday ever, but bear with me. I'll try to keep it as short as possible.

Last year I wrote about the Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Incentive Program's many available awards. If you didn't read it last year, or want a refresher on how to get free things for your Thoroughbred, go do it now!

free things! on top of a check for $125, we also got 2 totey
things (i have about 10k at this point and have started giving them
away) and a stall door bridle/show gear hanger thing.

Dopie finally got his swag bag Monday--the JC is doing great things for OTTBs, but they're in no rush to do them--and obvi even though it was casually blowing at about 30mph I went out to the barn to slap his ribbons on his face.

we had to change directions so they stopped smacking him in the eyeball. 

He ended up as reserve champion for Training level on the east coast, reserve champion for green OTTB (last raced 2017) across all levels for dressage, and 3rd overall across all levels and disciplines for green OTTB.

I keep flip flopping on what my show goals are for the entire year so I'm not quite sure yet what direction we're headed or where we'll be by the time the season wraps up. That means I don't think we'll have this same success again, but you can bet I'll keep super easily recording my show results on the chance that we get more free ribbons.

Seriously, you guys--there's no reason not to participate in this party!

that clunker of a head doesn't make for the best ribbon pics, but at least he's a
pretty color?

I also looked into USDF's All Breeds awards for this year way back in February or March. They'd had a Thoroughbred group listed--the North American Thoroughbred Society or something--but when I went to look again with the thought of signing up for eligibility, it had disappeared. I emailed USDF to ask about it and was told that that group was no longer hosting the award, but they were working on someone new coming in for 2020.

I was relieved to hear this for two reasons: moar awards to try for next year (!!!), and that this group would no longer be in charge of it. I had done some digging, and the woman running the award looked sketchy AF. You could pay an absolute shit-ton of money to her "group" to be eligible and you got nothing in return but the medal that USDF ponies up for. I understand that the groups aren't required to send out anything extra, but for something like $125 to the NATBS (or whatever the fuck it was) on top of the USDF fees, I want to see something from that.

Then I explored some more, and now you can give her $75 to qualify for "year end awards" to have your name listed on her website. The categories? Exactly the same as TJCTIP. The prizes? Um, having your name listed on her website?

So that's going to be a no from me.

"hai, i'm just here for the candies."

I know a bunch of other bloggers got awards from the JC as well, so I hope you guys share your results soon, too!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Good enough

We had some regrouping to do after the first show of the year. While the scores and placings were perfectly good, I had a few areas pinpointed that needed work in the ring, and my horse was a gigantic satanic asshole at the trailer which just doesn't work for me.

Fortunately, due to my hyper obsessive Type A personality and #childgenius, coming up on two weeks later I'm feeling much better about things. A hodge podge mix of cheap supplements slapped one on top of another seems to have settled Dopie completely back in his skin. The change in his general attitude towards life is amazing. When I left the barn yesterday he was at the top of the field eating hay by himself while his two friends soul mates were way out on the other end of the field grazing--completely out of sight of him, and he was totally okay with that.

we had a few days in there where he was too anxious to
even take candy. that is just not okay.

On to the riding!

I had all of Sunday after the show to think over the trot lengthenings. I kept thinking back to how easy Bobby found them from literally the very first try. Real talk, if Bobby could do something well, it felt like any horse on the planet should be able to do it just as easily. He had neither the conformation nor mindset to excel/participate in dressage and the fucker could sit on his ass and wing his legs out like a boss. So where you at, oh midget grey dressage prodigy?

bobby's regular trot while being an event horse. probably not a fair comparison.

I climbed back aboard Opie Monday to see what I was really working with. Were they in there and I jut wasn't asking for enough? Turns out, no.

It seems there's this strange phenomena where every horse is different, and the strength of one might not be present in another. Does Opie have a natural lengthening? Nope. Did Bobby have anything else going for him? Not really. Does Opie? Well...pretty much everything else.

My mantra for the trot lengthening has become, "That's good...for you!" I might be crossing my fingers to score a 6 every time on these, but that's going to be good enough for now.

opie trying his utmost to make his trot bigger.

I haven't abandoned them completely though. After that initial fact finding ride, we took to the longe for most of the rest of the week. I'm most comfortable tackling problems from the ground, an approach Opie was happy to get on board with. By the end, he basically understood the entire English language and responded immediately. (Okay, he understood the difference between "big trot" and "whoa trot". #babelhorse)

My goal was to see from the ground what I was working with, but mostly to let Opie figure out his body's balance without any interference from me. You can push bigger and open up without me clonking about on your back, little horse! He did try, and he did get a bit better to the point where when I got back in the saddle there was more of a difference than before. He didn't suddenly go from a (fingers crossed) 6 to an 8, but there was more push and bounce, and most importantly he stayed soft and relaxed the whole time. That's a good starting off point win for me.

we seem to do a lot more snacking than training.

Aside from his mix of feed-through happiness, for the second year in a row he came back from the first show of the year feeling worldly. He's so funny. There's a palpable change in his attitude where he's like, "Yo, bitches. I'm a show horse. Never mind that I sat down like a complete fool in a gravel parking lot for no reason. I did show horse things." He's come out to work full of confidence and focus. He gets right to business and when he gets something right, it's all, "Candy now, mother. That was a worldly show horse workout. I'm amazing."

Along with the trot lengthening, we've been working towards such exciting things as better self carriage, better hand carriage (UGH), and forward forward forward.

I've been pulling a lot from 2-3. We're not going to be showing that test this year, but there's a ton of good movements to work through regardless. On Tuesday he did his very first full counter canter serpentine. The first time I was hanging off the side of him riding like a drunk cowboy to make sure he held the lead, but he did it so easily I thought that maybe I could just ride like a normal person and still get it. Unsurprisingly that worked just as well. He got all the worldly horse praise for that and I jumped right off for extra candies.

"i exist. for that i deserve candy."
10/10 works every time.

He still has some normal horse derp moments of course. He tried his "I'm going to break, ope you gave me leg, better bolt instead!" tactic in the canter yesterday, but I immediately shut that down and that was the end of it. Much improved from last year where he'd try that multiple times and then get mad when I kept telling him to not do it.

He's also off and on with the sitting trot. Some days it's glorious and relaxed and flowing and I can ask for anything out of it. Other days it's tight and I quit on it pretty quickly. Being a growing horse is hard work.

Overall I seem to be struggling a bit more this year with the whole no comparisons thing. Even if I shut out what everyone else is doing, I can still find ways to compare our progress to things I've done with other horses. I think it's because I no longer have no base line for this horse, so I've got a new set of expectations for him. But I'm getting there, and my main goal is to make sure young Dopie horse feels like he's the grand champion of the dressage world, even if he does kind of trot like a dachshund.

Monday, May 6, 2019

WNYDA Challenge Series Dressage Show

I went into this show with my expectations set firmly on "Information Gathering Mission". We haven't been able to escape the indoor because we live in an aquarium which means I haven't been able to ride any of the movements in any sort of dressage ring dimensions.

I usually pride myself at being really good at geometry because when you own a fruity fruit bat of a horse, you need to pick up every half point you can. Opie picks up random cuteness points or something though so I have to admit my dedication to where to hit my movements has fallen by the wayside. Having not ridden in a dressage court since last August, I started off my first test LOLing in my head in a kind of mildly panicked, "Where them 10 meter turns go?" type way.

Additionally, it's hard to gauge how a test flows when it ain't flowing at all in our narrow AF indoor. So. Information Gathering Mission, and mission accomplished in the end!

r.i.p. purple halter.

My first test wasn't until three in the afternoon. I was able to watch some Badminton before sauntering out to the barn, sending a barn child to fetch my horse for me (He was supposed to be in, but was instead turned out in the mud and all I was wearing was tennis shoes. Pass. Thanks, booted barn child!), and then giving him a piping hot bath and braiding him from under multiple coolers. Thanks for never leaving, eighteenth winter!

It sprinkled on and off all day, but it ended up being warmer down at the show so it wasn't too miserable. Well, in my opinion. Opie found the whole experience completely emotionally taxing. It was like we started the season for the first time ever all over again. I had a weaving, pawing, tongue chewing horse at the trailer the whole time. At least he shut the fuck up all day and loaded like a gem. #smallwins

Hubby followed me up about an hour later in the car, and as I was on the phone with him directing him to parking I had to hang up as Opie had somehow wrapped his lead rope multiple times around his hay net and shortened himself into a choke hold which produced a massive tantrum. Okay, whatever, fair enough.

good thing i carry spares to my spare halters in the trailer. asshole.

Then I walked over to him with my saddle pad and he immediately sat down like a BAD DUMB DOG and tried to break free. He was in no way scared or panicked. He was just straight up being a BAD DUMB DOG. I stood there and yelled at him to knock it the fuck off and he caved in about ten seconds when he realized his tantrum was getting him nowhere. He still broke the fucking snap on the halter though so I had Hubby hold him while I got him dressed. He stood still while I mounted then went jigging up to the rings. I was glad I'd given him some extra time for warm up because #childgenius was nowhere to be found.

is this how you dressage?

Warm up was pretty awful. I swear I run into more trouble warming up with only one person than with a ring full of riders. This chick would dart off onto circles or quarter lines with no warning or care about where I was in relation to her. Nothing annoys Opie and I more than having to check hard to not get crashed into--especially when you have the whole ring to share--so that added to Sir's already tense and wound up state of being. I didn't feel like I got anything productive done before our first test. He cantered fine, but the transitions were shit. He moved off my leg, but his head was in the air...or sideways or wagging.

To make matters more exciting, our first test was under our favorite judge. She seemed well-liked by others, too. As I was unloading Opie, my trailer neighbor had just returned and was ranting about how unprofessional she found this judge after going off course. Yeah, Information Gathering Mission for sure. See how the test rode, fingers crossed I got some semi-productive feedback while doing so.

i almost ran over this lady and child multiple times as well.
maybe standing on the track when i'm trying to avoid your rider isn't the best idea.

First 1

This was Opie's third time showing in Houghton's fancy and lovely new indoor ring--third day of showing, fifth and sixth tests. I was hoping he'd remember it's nothing to be worried about, but he instantly was like, "WOW FLOWERS WOW LETTERS WOW PEOPLE WOW HOLY SHIT THE JUDGE'S STAND WOW MORE FLOWERS." The judge rang the bell right as we passed A (Why, whyyyy do some of them do this????). I kept trotting around the corner to give myself space to turn around and pick up the trot again, and right as I went to turn in Opie, again, was, "WOW FLOWERS."

And this is where my wafflely geometry came in. I couldn't for the life of me remember if I was supposed to be making half 10m circles for the tear drops (I was) or just turning at B and E so I didn't really commit to either. The judge rightfully marked down a bit for that--"avoids difficulty"--but fortunately that's an easy AF fix.

The trot lengthenings are essentially nonexistent for any horse but Opie. That is his current trot lengthening. Bro just doesn't have it in him, but fuck it if I'm not going to try to pry one out of him in the three weeks before his next show. His consistently high scoring walk work makes up for a lot, but we can't be completely throwing away movements.

8s from both judges

Overall he was slightly tense and very distracted for the whole test. He completely biffed the first canter depart because he wan't tuned in in the slightest. We got a 5.5 and the comment "blocked" for that. Blocked by what, I don't know. The vision of flowers dancing in Opie's head? The scores ranged from a few 5.5s, a couple 8s (the walk), and everything in between. All well deserved though. I actually felt like she judged very fairly, and she gave me some great comments to work with. We finished up with a 64% for second.

We had just over an hour until the next test. Opie spent it staring at things--I don't know what those things were--and generally being an impatient fool. I gave us another hefty warm up time, but this time when I got on his brain was actually in his head. The show was running fifteen minutes ahead by this point which worked out perfectly.

i know you're in there, grown up horse!

Opie felt soft and relaxed so I put him through some of the movements from 1-3 before picking up the sitting trot and working through the lateral work from 2-3. He felt even better after that, having something to occupy his squirrel brain, and we headed over to the ring.

First 3

The show ran from 8 in the morning until 8 at night so a judge change happened right after my first test. I'd never ridden under this judge before so had no predisposed feelings of "lol fuck it, this judge's scores don't count in my head anyway, imma do what I want." Generally a good thing, and it helped that my horse was horsing again.

Dopes felt quiet and steady this time around. Lighting the world on fire? No, but having a horse that lit the ring on fire through chaos and destruction, I'll take quiet and obedient any day of the week. The flip side is that I can let him get too chill and then he's coasting along like an adorable mired in the sand land yacht. Beebopping around in a Training frame still garners cuteness points because judges just can't help themselves, but that's not the end goal here. Or even the immediate goal, Carly. Ride your fucking horse.

is capable(ish) when asked

Another 5.5 for the first trot lengthening and a sad 5.5 for the first leg yield. I'd brought Mr Tappy in the trailer with me, but didn't take him along for the actual riding. Bad mistake, as I think even if I'd only used it for warm up someone would have moved their ass over for the lateral work. He's perfectly capable of doing much better than that. Another 8 for the walk and then mostly 7s for the rest of the test. He finished with a 67% for first.

Both judges had super constructive comments that I can't wait to get to work on. Both judge's collective comments were about getting the trot lengthenings bigger and better. He needs to get his balance up (can do, has done, need to ask for it in the ring), I need to get him working over his back more which means the booty has to do actual work, and I need to rev the engine up for the trot work in general.

still gets good boy pats even if he alternates
between being a tweaker boy and a lazy boy

To finish the day I also picked up my high point prize pack from a show last July (don't ask) which included a giant ass ribbon, some goodies, and a hefty SmartPak gift card. I didn't get home until seven at night, but I can think of worse ways to spend the day!