2018 Fall Mini Trial – Dressage

Can I start by saying that a horse trial held in mid-August should not be called a “Fall” mini trial? Until the weather is cool and breezy and leaves start to depart from trees, it is summer in my book, and the sweaty horses this weekend is a testament to that.

Let’s back up though. My day actually started closer to 6AM (before the heat but right within prime fog time in KY). The sun wasn’t up yet, but there was a slight glow to the sky that let you know it was trying. What was I doing at this time? I was climbing through some overgrown and wet weeds in May’s field, trying to make sure I didn’t fall on my face while trying to find her. Luckily, she was hanging out by the shelter and let me catch her. She had even stayed mostly clean from the night before. Good mare!

We loaded up the horses around 7AM, since our first rider had an 8:17AM ride time… My ride time was 11AM, but it was well worth getting up early to be a part of a big team again. I forgot how much of what I love about showing is about the people I show with.

Anyway, May got off the trailer more relaxed then she has ever been off property, and this is saying something. Husband of the year decade lifetime held May while she cocked a foot and took a nap. Cool. I tacked up, swapped into my white pants, and hopped on for a quick warm-up before Dressage.

Now, Dressage immediately  had a couple of challenges for us. The warm up area was right next to the start box for XC, and it was on the other side of the property from our actual show ring. Also, the show ring was in the facility’s indoor arena. We have never done Dressage indoors, AND it is one of those indoors with an entrance on the side to the barn and stalls partially open to the indoor (with horses in them).

May was awesome in our warm-up, but she was a bit amazed by the indoor thing. Our minute inside to warm-up got most of the tension out, but it took away my ability to really push her into positive tension and any kind of self carriage. Great. I resigned myself to riding an accurate test and keep a higher emphasis on balance and rhythm then really anything else. After all – this is Intro C we are talking about…

So there it is. There is a lot I can say about it, but I’ll give you all the scores and judges comments, then my own.

1. Enter Working Trot Rising. Halt through Medium Walk. Salute – Proceed Working Trot Rising.

Score: 7.0

Judge: Forward and Square. A little crooked after.

Centerline

Me: A little? We practically made it to the quarter line before correcting. The first trot after the halt on centerline was pretty bad. Granted, we have never halted at the beginning of a Dressage test before, so I really shouldn’t have been surprised that May was a bit sticky off my leg and chose to go left ins

tead of forward.

2. Track Right, Working Trot Rising

Score: 6.5

Judge: Could Show More Bend.

Me: Could show more of a a lot of things. She kind of fell through her inside

shoulder through the turn, and I should’ve taken the opportunity in the corner to really lift her and shove her over.

3. Circle Right 20 Meter

Trot Right

Score: 7.0

Judge: Steady Tempo

Me: Ok. Yes. The tempo was steady, but she was so far away from my outside rein that it was a bit like driving a tractor trailer with the steering wheel on the floor.

4. Circle right 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of circle, right lead. Before A – Working trot rising.

Canter Right

Score: 7.0

Judge: Fairly Balanced

Me: This is a hard movement for me to review because the transitions get their own score. Also weird. No thoughts. It was fine but not nearly as good as I know she can be.

5. Transitions in and out of canter.

Score: 6.5

Judge: 1st could be more responsive. 2nd – Smooth.

Me: Totally agree. The downward transition wasn’t WONDERFUL, but we got the tempo back within the confines of that movement. (i.e. before A).

6. Change Rein, Working Trot Rising

Score: 7.5

Judge: Forward. Clear Bend.

Me: I like straight lines like this. I can open her up a bit and show her off. She was really good here, and we could show off a working trot.

7. Circle Left 20 Meters

Trot Left

Score: 7.5

Judge: Forward. Clear Bend.

Me: Yup.  Not as steady in the contact as I would like, but the rhythm and relaxation were there. Again, that became the aim after we decided that the indoor was not our happy place.

8. Circle left 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of circle, left lead. Before A – Working trot rising.

Score: 7.0Left Canter.JPG

Judge: Fairly Balanced

Me: Look familiar? Same score and comment as the other canter direction. I thought this one was better, but I’ll take a seven. (Can we also discuss how the judge must have been staring right at the right entryway of the indoor?)

9. Transitions in and out of canter.

Score: 6.5

Judge: 1st Smooth. 2nd could be more prepped.

Me: I am pretty meh about both transitions. I would’ve given me a 6 because I really needed a half halt before both.

10. Medium Walk

Score: 6.5

Judge: Smooth transition. Could be more active.

Me: I agree. Unfortunately, this was one of those tension trade offs. We were right near the scary side entrance and the stalls of horses. I could either push for more activity and get tension and jigging, or just deal with the flat walk. Flat walk won. (Rewatching… I actually don’t think her walk was that flat. What do you think?)

11. Free Walk -> Medium Walk

Score: 7.5

Judge: Better Activity. Clear Stretch. Difference Shown.

Me: See? Boring walk paid off. May’s conformation just makes this movement a bit hard for her, but I think that this time, she clearly showed a stretch over her top-line and an opening of her stride.

12. Working trot rising to A

Score: 7.5

Judge: Forward and Steady

Me: Yup. This is kind of an odd movement to score. It is trotting around half the arena.

13. Down Centerline. Halt through medium walk. Salute.

Score: 8.0

Judge: No Comment

Me: Same. Appropriate for the level. Although – Am I horribly leaning to the right? This video makes it look that way. I need to watch my mirrors/set up my camera at home to see if this is a habit.

Collective Marks: (nothing was underlined or circled).

Gaits: 7.0

Impulsion: 7.5

Submission: 7.0

Rider’s Position: 7.5

Rider’s Effectiveness: 7.0

Geometry & Accuracy: 7.0

Judge: Cute! Pair works fairly well together. Forward thinker. Watch he doesn’t get too fast. Canter transition could show more prep/polish.

Me: Agreed. I don’t think speed is an issue as much as balance.

Final score: 29 to put us in third out of SEVENTEEN.

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08.19.2018 Horse Trial – Goals

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In 2016, when May and I competed more regularly, I was really, really good at setting goals for each show. This year, as we returned to horse trials, I let them slip for the first one, but I am determined to make this a habit again. Our modest Sr. Starter division has 18 entries, so I am going to be really conscious of keeping goals away from ribbons and onto things I can control.

In writing this list, I realized that it is really a combination of two lists I had done previously: the one before our first BN and the one before our first recognized trial. The former was a BLINDING success in my mind, while the latter still feels a bit like a failure. The hilarious part? I got a better score (by like 6 points) at the recognized event. Just goes to show you, scores do not tell the whole story.

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Dressage

I am not sure what to even write here. We scored a 24.2 from a very soft judge at the last schooling horse trial, which had us in 4th out of 19. I am going to throw out there that I want to score below a 35. I think our last test was, more fairly, in the 35 range, and we will be doing Into C, which is not a test I have ever done before.

SJ8

Show Jumping

Ride forward. Really. That’s it. If poles come down because May doesn’t respect anything at 2′, then I am ok with that. I will not be ok with crawling over more oxers. If we are going to get back to BN, we need to go forward.

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Cross Country

Do the water if it’s an option. I would much rather be out of the ribbons and get a 20, but school the water, then have the same thing happen at a BN recognized horse trial in the future. I don’t need to prove to anyone that we can win. I just need to make sure that my horse and I come through the finish flags as an even better team.

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Overall

No negative self talk. I am just going to quote this one from my first BN horse trial:

I am not nervous, I am excited. That is not a huge jump, it is a reasonable effort. I did not screw up; I found something we need to work on. My pony is not a Corgi, she is an elegant gazelle (or something I guess)

Utilize visualization to create positive outcomes before they even happen. This always sounds kind of hippy to me, but it does work.

Stay Positive. At the end of the day, I am at a horse trial with my friends, and I am riding a horse that is genuinely just happy to pop over some fences with me.

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Anyone wonder why she decided it wasn’t in our best interest to attempt the next jump from a weird stride and awkward angle?

Things not on the list:

1. Clean Jumping Rounds: If we get rails, we get rails. If I try for one of the bank/ditch/water options and get a refusal, that’s not the end of the world. I am truly utilizing this event as a barometer for what we need to focus on going forward. I am going to ride like I stole it and come away with issues to work on.

2. Make My Trainer Proud: Maybe one day I will write a full post on this one. However, I think a lot of riders put a lot of pressure on themselves to not embarrass their trainer. I know I do. Of course, I managed to eat dirt during Marilyn Payne’s clinic in 2016, so I am not sure I could embarrass anyone more. At the end of the day, I work hard, am nice to the other boarders, pay my bills on time, and care about my horse. That’s all my trainer really wants from me.

3. Win: One day, I would like this to be our goal, but after so much time out of the game, it is not our goal on Sunday.

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Even though I am still a 12 year old kid who loves ribbons. 

Our First Hunter Pace

Now, this post is going to be full of old photos because, when I was a young teenager, I went on A LOT of hunter paces. I took barely broke youngsters on easier paces with manicured, rolling fields and jumps larger than 2’6″ marked with cute little cones. (Just in case my future-weenie self didn’t know a jump was “big”) I took school horses that needed a bit of schooling over the tough landscapes set by my local fox hunting clubs.

Domino
Check that helmet cover, crappy t-shit, suede half chaps, and an Appy who was probably not the best XC horse.

It was seriously my favorite thing to do on horseback. However, I changed barns (a couple of times) and then ended up in KY, where manicured eventing fields greatly outnumbered rough and tumble trails that highlighted the hunter pacing of my teenage years.

During my first lesson with her, NT asked me if I would like to hunter pace May. “Yes. Absolutely.” the words were out of my mouth without a second consideration. May had never been on a hunter pace, but she had always been reliable over fences and strong but manageable traveling in a group. Then, I promptly forgot about it.

The Monday before the hunter pace, I asked NT for a lesson, and she mentioned that we could do Thursday or Friday… but that Friday was probably too close to the hunter pace. It took a solid minute for the phrase to make sense in my brain. “Am I going to that?”

“I thought you wanted to…”

“Yes… Yes! I do!” A quick, but excited, text was sent to the husband to update him on my weekend plans, the entry form was filled out, and we were in business! I did not wear a helmet cover, a t shirt, or suede half-chaps. I pulled out my white sun-shirt, polished up my boots, cleaned my tack, and then stared at my bridle.

The D-ring Myler with the hooks is a great bit for May for eventing. It gives us a lot of help getting balance, but it doesn’t have a lot of “whoa” to it. (It doesn’t need to. I do enough unnecessary “whoa-ing” in stadium all by myself.) Would I even need more whoa on May? We were going about 5 miles in a group of 7 horses including at least 4 thoroughbreds. May is not a thoroughbred, but she likes to play one on TV.

I reached into my bit box and pulled out this bit. A 3 ring, Copper elevator bit with copper. (Thanks old horse for having the same mouth size as May.)

 

Bit

I threw two reins on, one on the snaffle ring, and one on the milder gag ring. I figured that,  if she’s good and easy, I can just ride off the snaffle, but if she is strong, I have the gag bit. Then, I did something another trainer had taught me. I vet-wrapped the buckles of the reins together. (The ends farthest from the horse… not sure why this is so hard to explain… The buckles that are included in the bight of your reins… I hope you get the idea). The idea here is I could  hold just the snaffle bit without risking losing the curb rein or creating too much of a loop. If I dropped my reins, it would be MUCH easier to get them back, and I minimize the likelihood of a rein going over May’s head. Quick, Easy, Safe.

So on to the actual pace. I didn’t charge/pack my cambox because there had been a chance of rain. Of course, my luck, it was sunny and warm all day. Oh well. Next year! (Tried to find someone else’s video on youtube, but couldn’t find a single one!)

We tacked up the horses, and May was her usual calm, happy self, munching on grass while I tacked up. I hopped on, and she even stood like a statue at the mounting block… I almost threw myself off the other side. I figured out my 2 reins (luckily a smooth curb rein feels a LOT different from my pebbled, rubber reins). We even snapped a quick pic before heading to the start box.

Hunter Pace Team
See? Barely a cloud in the sky…

My biggest concern going out was May’s fitness. I had been on hunter paces that had stretched to over 2 hours and covered roads, rivers, etc. I was assured that this hunter pace was 5 miles and optimum time was likely right around 55 minutes. Great. We could do that. Headed to the start box. Started off… and May’s shoe came FLYING off. She must have loosened it during the trailer ride over.

Now, NT is VERY familiar with the farm, and she had already ridden the course once that morning on another horse. I trotted May off. She was TOTALLY sound. I was assured the footing was super forgiving, so we decided to continue. I would just avoid jumping anything of any real size. (i.e. anything larger than 2′ LOL). How did May feel? Like a screaming ball of fire. She kept up with the thoroughbreds on every gallop, big hill, little jump, etc that we found.

Buddy2Then, we came up on an ITTY BITTY stream at the bottom of a TEENY TINY hill. I brought her back to a walk, so that she could walk over it. I grabbed my neck strap with one hand, kept my body back, and waited for her to figure it out. And she LEAPED over it, snapping her head up.

Luckily, her head doesn’t come that far up, but it did bring my right hand up at an alarming rate of speed… It also brought the butt of my crop, in my right hand, up to my face at an alarming rate of speed. I ended up smashing the butt of my crop into my chin/lower set of teeth. My teeth took off the skin on the inside of my lip, and I immediately tasted blood.

A quick “tongue check” of my teeth found them all still in my head and undamaged. So I kicked on. I ended up sporting a sweet face bruise/fat lip for a few days after.

Near the end of the pace, May was definitely tired. Still sound, but tired, and she politely trotted/loped the last couple of jumps. There was a LARGE stack of barrels I really wanted to try, but it will have to wait for a time when we have our shoes on (or are really acclimated to going barefoot.) After crossing the finish line, I spent some time trying to find her shoe near the start, but I had no luck. Oh well. It was hot, and I wanted to untack, hose May, get her (and me) in the shade a bit. As for my bit choice? Considering that I am sporting at least 4 different blisters, I am glad I upgraded this once.

Sunny
How cute is this dude? Pulled out of a trailer from (or going to) Mexico with all skin and bones. Quickly developed into the most reliable school horse one could dream of. During this pace, I trotted a 2’6″ coup… from a trot… while looking backwards because I didn’t see it and was checking in on a teammate.

We ended up coming close enough to the optimum time to come in second! Second apparently included a whole bunch of swag including: gift certificates to the local tack shop, t shirts, bags, medals, and a pair of slippers. Our barn brought 14 riders and 4 teams, and three teams ended up in the “medals”. Super fun day with the barn family.

As for aftercare, May got her hooves packed with magic cushion and was rubbed down before being turned out for the night. I am a big believer that turnout is the most important thing you can do for recovery. Even after being fully cooled out and spending time standing on the trailer, all of May’s legs were tight and cool.

Her foot looked a bit broken up, but it was mostly from losing the shoe. The magic cushion was probably more for me then her since the ride was 80% grass, 15% mud/dirt, and 5% minimal gravel (where we walked), but hey, it couldn’t hurt. May got her shoe put back on Monday, and I rode her on Tuesday. She came out fresh, happy, and totally sound.

Now I remember why I love hunterpaces. Both horses and riders tend to really enjoy them. Looking forward to our horse trial this weekend!

08.09.2018 – Jump Lesson

“What is this?”  you ask… Well, it just so happens to be ANOTHER lesson. I know, it’s pretty shocking at this point. This makes our 3rd jumping lesson since moving to the new barn – more than I was able to get in all of 2017!

NT also changes around the jumps a lot, so this week was a whole new challenge. A fan of bounces! I know some people are very familiar with this exercise, but it was one I had never done before. With May’s propensity to pop her shoulder out when things get tough, I figured this grid might have our number. Below is a good idea of what it looked like. The biggest difference was that, to start out, ours were raised on the outside to encourage the horse to the circle.

The first time through, we were supposed to trot it to make sure we got the right bend, connection, impulsion. May decided to just canter the whole thing, which was not the point. We tried again, and more purposeful posting and a well-timed half-halt had her trotting through it properly. One more time at the trot to make sure that was all set, and we were onto cantering it. This was… surprisingly easy. We reversed and did it again the other way and worked a bit on me keeping my body back over such small jumps. NT raised the jumps to three verticals, and we went through again without an issue.

This was during the last course, but gives you the best angle on this gymnastic.

So, we moved onto the next exercise. Building on the same idea of controlling the outside shoulder, this was 3 jumps, where you were encouraged to make more square turns between each jump. The jumps were small verticals, but the idea was to jump one, go a couple of strides, make a square turn, get straight, jump the next one, and repeat.

Three Jump Exercise

Our first time through this was rough. I really wanted to use my inside hand to pull her body around the corner, instead of using my outside rein and leg. As a result, I almost missed the second jump and none of my distances showed up nicely. The second time was a bit better, as I concentrated on sitting and rotating May around my inside leg. She even got lighter in the bridle, who would’ve thought! (NT was fully aware that this was going to happen.) We reversed it and had even better luck.

Finally, it was course time. (See the pattern of these lessons building on each other? It is fascinating.)

08 08 Full Course

So! Starting on the right lead over the triple. Right turn IMMEDIATELY to a 6 stride line (oxer to vertical). Then, we had to boogie a bit to get forward enough to come down the gold combination, which was an oxer, 2 strides to another oxer, 2 strides to a vertical. Left turn to loop around to the pink line. The oxer into the pink line was set kind of awkwardly off the rail so that you had to ride the horse’s outside shoulder to get the distance. Then, it was 3 strides to the barrel.

The first time, we nailed the bounces, turned to the purple jump 2… I put my leg on… and nothing. It took May probably 3 strides to actually get it in gear. While we hit the oxer fine, we didn’t have enough gas to get down that line in 6, and we ended up reaching the vertical at an awkward 6.25 strides. Whoops.

Um… Kick Mom! (4A, B &C)

However, I KNEW we had to get our butts in gear to get through the triple. So I galloped her forward and got her SUPER in front of my leg as we turned to that combination. From the more forward pace, it rode pretty easy, and we were able to land, re-balance, and make a nice turn to finish the last line in 5. At the end, I halted her and asked her to yield her shoulder, right and then left.

My biggest issue with May is her locking her shoulder and losing her suppleness while jumping at speed, so we are making sure that each course ends either with a circle or some leg yielding to reiterate that she needs to stay soft with me. The halting during this lesson was a decision I made due to how much speed we were carrying throughout the entire course.

So what did we do next? Trainer raised jumps 2 and 4C, and we did it again! This time, May responded much better to my leg before jump 2, and we were easily able to make it down that line in six strides. I pushed her forward again after that line and we were ROLLING. It has been a long time since I have jumped from that truly open step, and man, it felt REALLY good.

This is the “GO FORWARD!” moment before jump 2. 

We got a bit deep into the first part of the triple, but we had enough momentum to easily carry us through the line without losing balance or rhythm. The last jump in that line was now closer to Novice height than BN, and May CRACKED her back over it. It threw me a touch off balance, but I recovered quickly. We cantered to the last jump, and it finally sunk it that NT was yelling at me to use my seat. You can actually hear me say “seat” as I realized what she was telling me. I am glad I sat because it kept us from screwing up the turn to 5, and we sailed easily over 6. Again, halt and supple before ending. The full video *with hilarious audio* is below.

By far, it was the best course we had done in a LONG time, so we called it a day on that. Immediately after my lesson, I felt like I had given up and should’ve kept pushing even though the heat had me a bit nauseous and dizzy. However, after writing this all up, it was quite the lesson! AND we had the hunter pace 2 days later. No shame in keeping a horse fresh for work. Called it a day, took care of May, and chugged down some electrolytes. Couldn’t be happier with this mare.

The Next Four Weeks…

For probably the first time since May and I moved to KY, we have a real calendar building out for the next several weeks.

Saturday, August 11 – Long Run Woodford Hounds Hunter Pace

Hilariously, this might be the thing I am most excited about. I hunter paced A LOT during my early teen years. I took green horses, babies that were barely backed, school horses that needed their heads screwed back on straight. Whatever was offered to me, I would hunter pace.

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Other than one pace maybe 3 years ago, I haven’t done it in more than 10 years, and I have never done it on a horse like May. Something that is sensible but game, and a horse that I know like the back of my hand. I am also going with a great group of people, which definitely makes the whole thing a lot more fun!

As long as it’s not raining, I’ll bring the cambox along.

Sunday, August 19 – Spring Run Farm Mini Trial

This barn is actually a barn I looked at to board May at before I moved to KY. It is a beautiful facility that used to host USEA rated events. While it wasn’t the perfect fit for us, boarding wise, I have definitely wanted to take a run at their really awesome XC course.

May

Since the courses tend to be bigger than your average schooling show, we are just going to play it safe and stick with starter. I definitely want to have a solid SJ and XC round in before trying to move back up. (Of course, I accidentally entered BN through their online entry portal, instead of starter. A call is in to the secretary to fix it.)

Sunday, September 9 – Blackhorse Stables Mini Trial

Hoping to move back up to BN here to end our season. I have been told that SJ and XC is a little more forgiving at this venue, and while it’s actually another barn I had looked at for boarding, I didn’t get a great sense of their XC facility when I went there. Luckily I have some time with this one, as the closing date isn’t until the end of the month. Yay schooling shows!

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After that? I will probably need to lick my financial wounds for a bit. These things aren’t crazy expensive, but it’s still extra money out of my wallet. I really need to take the time to list some extra items I have for sale this weekend…

What about you? How is your late summer/early fall schedule shaping up?

Not Weightlifting, Yoga

I have seen, many many times, that trainers have associated Dressage with weightlifting. They talk about the strength building, the potential for muscle soreness, and the overall change in how a horse carries itself.

For May and me though, Dressage is more Yoga than Weightlifting. Strength is, as always, an important component of Dressage. As she gets stronger, things get easier for her. Movements go from ok to good. However, how do we get from good to great?

We need flexibility to get there. If you have ever done yoga, you know the balance between flexibility and strength, and you know how the movements build upon one another. Dressage with May is a LOT like that. Take our warmup routine lately, for example.

We start on a loose rein, and I ask her to simply come over her back, while we did big 20 M circles and oversized loops through the arena. The back needs to loosen up from her earns all the way to the top of her tail. Because naturally, with no human interaction, this horse runs around like Pepe Le Pew (tail and nose in the air).

So we need to start here:

Some days are better spent being a pleasure pony than a Dressage horse #may #horsesofinstagram

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

Back end is starting to track up. Nose is poked out. Horse is open from check to chin. Tail swings back and forth with each stride. The “circle of energy” is more of an oval, but it is developing.

The bending continues to be a focus point when we move into serpentines. Straight, then bent, then straight, over and over again. The shoulders start to come up at this point and the hind end is asked to track up more so that it doesn’t slip out during the change of directions.

Then, we start stretching laterally. Leg yields open up May from left to right, so that the back to front flexibility and strength gets better. Think about stretching your arms straight in front of you before stretching straight up. Same concept. May is still not SUPER flexible laterally, so this is hard for her. She wants to move slower and kind of lean into the movement to make it easier. All the while, I have to make sure that right shoulder is staying where it should instead of moving outside the “box”.

Once those help loosen her up, we have introduced should ins to May’s routine. Now, we are asking for bend AND lateral movement. This is still super hard. Kind of like a new yoga move that you can only hold for a few seconds, May can only hold this movement for a few strides. Then, I give her a break.

As we straighten out, I find myself with this trot. Although, with less tension. (and what are my hands doing?!)

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This trot translates to a more connected canter AND a more connected walk. It might not be fast progress, and it might not be fancy stuff. However, it is building the right muscles and the right flexibility to create a better Dressage horse in the future.

What about you? Do you think Dressage is more like yoga or weightlifting? (or wrestling!?)

Sometimes – An AA Needs a Pro

Ok or like… all the time hahaha. Recently, I have been having a real issue getting May off of my inside leg and into my outside rein going right. (So right leg to left hand) This isn’t a new issue, and it was definitely something that was exasperated by the wolf tooth on the left side of May’s mouth. I have even, apparently, gotten REALLY good at hiding it. However, I knew it wasn’t correct, and I was really struggling with how to fix it. I also wasn’t sure if it was a ME problem, since I am right side dominant, or a May problem. So I texted NT, and I asked if, instead of a lesson, she could ride May, and I could watch.

too-cute

I got there in time to help her tack up, and we chatted a bit about the issue. Then, she hopped on up. And May did what May likes to do when someone new gets on. She turned into a drunken sailor. This is… not normal for draft crosses, in my experience. Most of them want to be straight and board like and heavy. May? She wants to move every part of her body in a new direction and see if you can put her back together again.

NT had no problem with it… She warmed her up similar to how I do it, encouraging May to move over her back and into the contact. NT immediately picked up on what I had been feeling, and she was surprised at how well I had been hiding it. At this point, I realized that this was the first pro ride May had gotten since… early 2016? I think that has to be right. NT gave me a compliment on how well I have done with her… if only she really knew where we had started.

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Good thing her neck isn’t any longer. Also, the only piece of equipment I still use from this pic is that saddle pad and the bit. 

Pretty quickly, NT realized that the problem wasn’t so much her willingness to move off my right leg, but in her desire for me to hold up the right ride of her face. She would move off the right leg by swinging her haunches out, while pushing her shoulder forward and in. So instead of a pretty curve through her body, we were getting a horse whose front end and back end weren’t really following the same line. I need to show her that I won’t hold her up on the right side, while also using my outside leg to keep the haunches following the front end.

At the canter, thing’s got even worse. I mentioned that, when I did get her off the inside shoulder, she would then fall apart to the outside. NT immediately identified that her canter to the right made me want to sit to the outside, instead of the inside, of the horse. When I sat on the outside, pushed her off my inside leg, and struggled to get  her on the left rein, it is no surprise that she fell of the outside. Well… duh…outdoor-cantering

She also demonstrated spiraling in to a smaller circle before asking for the downward transition. On a larger circle, May was able to really throw her weight through her inside shoulder in the transition and do the transition off the outside aids. On a smaller circle, the rider can really set her back on that outside hind through the transition. Good stuff!

The final exercise was cleaning up the canter transitions. NT did this through a leg yield towards the rail, picking up the canter, and immediately turning. This got her off the inside front leg before the transition, through the transition, and then immediately turning kept her from falling on it once she was in the gait. It was really cool to watch as, by the third attempt, May had really figured out how to use her body better and lift through her shoulders through the transition, instead of throwing her head up and barreling through the aids.

We chatted a bit about the difference between training a draft cross vs. a thoroughbred as they cooled out. And then NT gave me some homework:

  1. Serpentines – Make sure the haunches are really following the shoulders in all right turns, square off left turns a bit, and keep her right shoulder up and light on the right rein all the time.
  2. Lots of transitions – Transitions will make her stronger in this new way of holding herself, but she might need smaller circles to do them both relaxed and correctly.
  3. Random leg yields – leg yields are important, but she is anticipating where they start and stop. She needs to really understand that the outside rein helps moderate the leg yield, so I need to put them into weird places in the ring. Some leg yields at the canter too.
  4. Sit with the bend ALWAYS – I cannot give up my seat because of where she is trying to throw me. Using my seat will reinforce the leg and hand aids.

There’s probably more. I am sure there is more. I had a serious case of barn blindness through the whole ride. Like how did the horse that I bought go from this:

May Start

To This (and honestly, she looked even better with a pro up):

Can’t wait to see what she looks like once I figure out how to really get her on that left rein! Are you an AA that occasionally throws a pro up? Or are you 100% DIY? Or as a pro, do you think it’s helpful to get on your clients’ horses every now and then?

Goals Update

It is now August… so 7 months into the year instead of 6. Since I was already late with this one, I figured I would throw it in as a “bonus” this week. Any time is still a good time for a goals update! I wrote down 6 riding goals in January, and 4 “other” goals. Read the original post here. Let’s see how I am doing!

Red = Not Happening, Blue = In Progress, Green = Achieved

Riding Goals:

  1. Do One Clinic – Hah…. this got wiped off my calendar when I changed trainers. I really want to be comfortable and really “in a program” before I even think about introducing other trainers.

    Throwing in some screenshots from the cambox. I just can’t get over those cute little yellow ears before every jump! Full Videos at the bottom for you.
  2. Do Two Horse Trails – Well, we got one done in May, and I have two more that I have put on the calendar for the end of the season. Giving this one a Blue!
  3. Get In Shape – Actually, I have been making strides here. Getting up at 5AM a few times a week has really allowed me to get some treadmill time in. Is it where I want to be? Nope, but it is progress.
  4. Ride 4 – 5 Times a Week – I would say that I have had more 4 day a week rides than 3 day a week. 5 rarely ever happens since my real-life schedule has been crazy with house stuff, social stuff, and work stuff. (not to mention things like Jury Duty)img_7172
  5. Plan Out My Rides – This one is a Big. Fat. Fail. It is definitely something I need to get back to doing better, including getting on a real schedule with my trainer. Time and money have both been limiting factors for lessons, but there is no reason I can’t get back to planning stuff. August calendar, Here I Come!
  6. Get Comfortable over 3′ Fences – This one is getting a big fat fail mark too. Three jumping lessons since the beginning of the year hasn’t been enough to get me up to BN height comfortably. However, there is a lot more of the year to do, and I have definitely been getting more lessons recently, which have pushed my comfort level up a couple of holes.

Non Riding Goals:

  1. Blog Two Times A Week – This one is my first green. Other than planned vacations, I have been REALLY good about blogging constantly. How good you ask? See this comparison of last year to this year. (Dark blue dots are posts)Blogs.JPG
  2. Clean Up My Email Inbox – Constant Struggle. Still Trying.
  3. Start Meditating Again – Big fail here, and it likely won’t happen. Working out at 5AM has really replaced this. I also no longer work in a place where I have an office, so closing the door for 5 minutes each day is literally not an option.
  4. Do One Thing Every Month That’s Outside My Comfort Zone I had literally forgotten about this one. Some of these aren’t overly impressive, but I feel like they are steps in the right direction for me. Let’s see how I did:
    1. January – Went to St. Lucia and did a tour of the island on a speed boat. Super Fun.
    2. February – Dove into a new job taking on responsibilities beyond my wildest nightmares.
    3. March -Took some serious steps into managing May’s health and well being. I tuned out the opinions of others and listened to my gut… which ended up with the vet agreeing May needed injections and a new dentist finding a very old problem.
    4. April – Opened up a lot more on the blog about my mistakes and regrets.
    5. May – Attended a horse trial at a new venue with minimal outside help.
    6. June – Moved barns.
    7. July –  Launched the May as Well Event Facebook page. It is something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I hesitated because I was afraid how others would take it. So far – all positive from anyone who matters.

So what is on the list for the rest of the year?

  1. Do Two Horse Trials – I have 2 more on the calendar, but if we only get to do one more, I will be happy.img_0051
  2. Get in Shape – Forever and Always
  3. Ride 4 – 5 Times a Week – This should still be the goal, even if I am not always successful. Failing is ok. Not Trying isn’t.
  4. Plan Out My Rides – My rides are a lot more productive if I have some idea of what I want to do before I get on.
  5. Get Comfortable at 3′ – I am not giving up on this one. May is capable. I just need more consistency and fitness.
  6. Blog 2x A Week – I am enjoying the schedule. I hope you are too!
  7. Clean Up my Email Inbox – Forever and Always
  8. Do One Thing a Month That’s Outside my Comfort Zone – Growth is uncomfortable. Get used to it.
  9. Move May As Well Event to it’s own domain

A Footloose Jumping Lesson

If you’re wondering what happened to me last week, join the club. I was called in for Jury Duty, and they quickly explained that, of the 60 people called, only 14 would be selected and the rest could leave at lunch time. Great! Except, I ended up being one of the 14 people and spent the majority of last week as a juror on a federal criminal trial. It was also at a location WAY DOWNTOWN in Louisville, so I was 45 min from home and 35 min from the barn, without traffic… given that there is always traffic in that area and they kept letting us out late, I basically didn’t get to ride last week… Oh well. Here is a summary of our lesson from the week below.

NT LOVES grids. She thinks that, especially in eventing, it is important to train horses to be responsible for what they are doing with their legs. The truth of the matter is, no one is ever going to hit ever jump from the perfect distance, so we have to train horses to make sure that they are confident and comfortable getting us out of some less than ideal situations. So instead of building exercises and courses that allow a jump, 20 strides, another jump, 5 strides, another jump, she built exercises that force us to think and react a bit faster.

The first exercise? A modified circle of death. In essence, we did the circle of death going to the left, but making right circles after the first 2 poles. See below… enjoy my paint skills.

Circle of Death

This was shockingly harder that I thought it would be. I really needed May to move off my inside leg and into my outside rein each time we changed direction, when all she wanted to do was drop her inside shoulder through my leg and barrel through my aids. Fun stuff. Eventually, we were able to do it without flailing around corners with me hopelessly hanging on the inside rein. Yay!

So then the circle of death changed again. We did it in the traditional manner, then circled in the opposite direction and came over an oxer in the middle of the exercise.

COD Oxer

Now, something interesting happened. If I could keep the balance and rhythm through the circle of death, then the turn and the oxer ended up being super smooth and easy. May POWERED over the oxer, and we ended up only doing this once in each direction. Calling it a win!

Now, it was course time. Let me just throw this out there… then I will explain. Luckily, all pics below are the jumps at the height they were set for our lesson, so you can have an idea of where we’re at. (somewhere between Starter and BN).

July Course

I always label the jump numbers on the side of the jump you are jumping from. So jump 1 was jumped from left to right, then the 2 combination was jumped from right to left. So yes. That means that the course started by jumping 1 near the rail, leg yielding out to the rail, then making a tight turn to jump the 2 combination on the quarter line. That two combination was a tight 2 stride… that I tried to make a 3 stride the first time we did it. The rest of the first course (which only went to jump 6) can be seen through my cambox!

It’s on mute because otherwise all you would hear in my heavy breathing. It was HOT and HUMID that day. After getting the 3 in the 2, I realized I really needed to get our butts in gear. I rode forward properly from there and, SHOCKINGLY, the rest of the course came up great. We were supposed to do the inside turn after the barrels, inside the red white and blue jump… but no luck the first attempt. Jump 4 jumped well, but I kept my leg on because of the liver-pool under jump 5. I shouldn’t have worried, May couldn’t have cared less. The triple rode AWESOME. It was a 1 stride to a 2 stride with the oxer at the end. So first course attempt was establishing the rhythm, but loosing the turns.

Our second attempt, we were told to add in jumps 7, 8, and 9. Except… I seriously massacred jump 4. I lost her right shoulder to the outside going around the corner, pulled (which made her MORE crooked), lost the distance. She chipped in, and jumped through her right shoulder, shoving my foot out of the stirrup and landing in a heap. I, embarrassingly, thought I was going to fall off. Nothing like impressing a new trainer in your second jump lesson by falling off because you lost your stirrup….

Here you can see the triple combination to jump 7. You can also see jump 4 (the watermelon jump) and jump 9 (the far, red white and blue vertical)

I regrouped, and we started again. I nailed one, got through 2, made the sharp turns to 3 and 4. Then, I got a little tight to the entrance into the triple combination. I am about 95% sure that I stopped breathing. We made it through fine. May really does have plenty of step. I made a VERY BAD turn to 7, and I realized I was REALLY dizzy when we landed. I circled and regrouped and came back to the walk. It was a cop out. I keep thinking that I probably could have made it through 2 more jumps, but was probably worth it in a lesson? Probably not. We took the walk break, and finished over 7, 8, and 9.

Just a slightly “to the left” pic compared to the one above, so that you can see the blue barrels and how close they were to jump 7.

I was exhausted. I felt heat sickness creeping up on me. I chugged a bottle of water while I hosed May off, and once she was in her stall under a fan, I sat down for maybe 20 minutes to regroup. It was bad. I was so sore the next day, and it was just really disappointing to me. I have spent the last couple of weeks getting up a 5AM to get to the gym before work, and this just reiterated how out of shape I have really gotten.

All I can do right now though is keep moving forward. I am pushing my morning workout a little harder, upping the amount of time I spend in the saddle (especially cantering) each ride, and I am making more of an effort to eat better to make my (and May’s job) a little easier with a few less lbs.

How did May feel? When I turned her out in her field (after a cold shower and some time under the fan), she took off galloping across the field to tell her friends about how awesome she is. I had to laugh. As usual, the problems are mine, not hers.

The circle of death! Hahaha (and the first 3 jumps of the course all the way in the background).

How do I feel about the lesson itself though? AMAZING. Reflecting back on it has made me realize just how much improvement I got from May through that one lesson. This horse has a habit of pulling me down and out of the tack after fences, but through these exercises, I had a horse that landing and came up to me, instead of pulling down. It was a huge improvement, and I can’t wait to keep working on it.

Past Horse Shopping – Part 1

Quick Update – May As Well Event officially has a Facebook page!

I am not in the market for another horse. I don’t WANT to be in the market for another horse. In fact, when I bought May, she was the only horse I looked at, and I traded away my old horse for her. Why do I dislike horse shopping so much? Probably because the experience is always pretty miserable. However, now looking back on my horse shopping experience 6 years ago, it’s something I can laugh about, and I hope you can to.

When I bought my first horse, it was before I got into eventing, so I wasn’t looking for an eventer. I was looking for a jumper horse that could cross into the adult equitation divisions. 3′ and under. Didn’t have to be fancy. I think my specs were:

  • 15.2 or taller
  • Over age of 4 (I wasn’t in a rush, but didn’t have the time for a 3yo)
  • Under age of 13
  • Capable of jumping 3′
  • Wouldn’t kill me
  • Under $5K

I have seen this happen. In fact, I ended up buying it in May.

img_4469

However, I saw a lot of interesting horses with that spec list. Let’s start with horse 1!

Oldenburg Mare – 16H – Bay – 10YO

This one even had some show experience at the level I wanted to compete. Seller mentioned that she really wouldn’t be competitive as a Low Child/Adult Jumper (3’3″ – 3’5″) as she was a brave jumper but not always the most careful. That’s fine. Safe and fun was more important to me then ribbons, and it explained the lower price. All good, reasonable things. Right? She was even less than an hour away from my barn. Great!

We went to go look at her. I don’t even remember if the trainer got on first, or if I hopped on. Either way, we passed through the indoor and into the outdoor because “The outdoor has better footing.”

The mare was in a pelham, which I only remember because it had been quite a while since I had ridden in two reins. I was also handed a pair of spurs. Again, not something I had ridden in often. Not a huge deal. You can do the eqs in a pelham and spurs, and it isn’t outrageous gear for a jumper. I got myself sorted out, and asked the mare to move on.

Her whole body weight was immediately in my hands. I tried to give her a bit of rein, and the seller starts shouting at me, “Keep contact with her face.”

Really? I thought. This much contact? I tried just sliding my hands forward and got the same response. Fine. This is your horse, and I will do it  your way. 

At the trot, I picked up on another issue. The mare had 0 flexibility in her body. It was like the muscle that run along either side of her spine were tensed into solid rock and there was nothing I could do about it. Now? I probably have a few tools in my toolbox for her, but not back then.

Then, I asked for the canter. To the left, no issues. To the right, she swung her haunches in, levitated, and picked up the left lead. It wasn’t so much a naughty response, but it was like she just COULDN’T rock back on that left hind leg like she needed to. The seller’s advice? “Keep more contact with her face.” I wish I was kidding.

I finally figured out that it was easier for her if I really rocked my weight back with her when I asked. (mind you, I was all of 140 lbs then, and she was a stocky mare.) After cantering a bit, I was told to jump her through the triple combination set up on the outside at around 2’6″. I think it was a vertical, 2 strides to a vertical, 3 strides to an oxer.

Fine. I pick up a good canter pace. Turn the corner. She TAKES OFF. Jumps the first jump from a stride away, does ONE stride, and jumps the second vertical. I circle before the oxer. Nope. Not dying on this horse. Seller AGAIN tells me that I need to hold her face tighter and keep her more collected at the very beginning. Basically, I end up cantering towards the combination in a skiing position.

I managed to get two strides in-between the first two jumps and then halt half HARD to get the 3 to the oxer. Mare cracks her back and then tries to take off on the other side. We do a couple more jumps to prove how brave she was, and then I handed her back to the seller with a quick thank you.

I was crippled with muscle soreness for 4 days after that, and that was when I rode 4 horses 6 days a week. I also was later told some shady things about the trainer selling the horse… I won’t go into details, but passing was probably the right move.

SmartPak Update

After my review went live, another smartpak rep did reach out to me and recommend another fly mask. This one. Her comment was that it didn’t rub her thin-skinned thoroughbred. However, if it fits her thoroughbred, it probably doesn’t fit my draft cross, and it only comes in a standard horse size.

Honestly, I just might go try and support my local tack shop after work tomorrow. 🙂