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