Monthly Archives: May 2010

Summer has arrived…and maybe too, the doldrums already

When summer came, it came fast. The flies are awful, and I’m having a tougher time than usual getting adjusted to the new (summer) reality.

Lately I’ve been riding two horses almost every evening. That means we eat dinner really late, but luckily my husband does not complain!

Faeryn and Faxx are now both qualified at Training level for our USDF/SWDC Regional Championships, to be held in November. Faeryn also has her required 8 scores to compete for the USDF All Breed Awards through the ISR/Oldenburg registry. So she doesn’t really need to go to anymore recognized shows this year. She will go to some more schooling shows to school First level, as will Faxx (who has not made his ‘first level debut’ yet).

Faxx will go the Spindletop Arabian show Memorial Day weekend and will show in the open/all breed division of their dressage show, and will also show in-hand and under-saddle in the sport horse classes held on Sunday. These will (hopefuly) qualify him to show at the Arab/Half Arab Regional Sporthorse Championships held in Waco in July. He is already qualified in dressage on the strength of the scores he got at the HDS show in April. Faxx will also go to one day (Sunday) of the June HDS show, and then he, too, will have the eight scores he needs to compete for USDF awards.

They are both working well and I am happy with how they are progressing. Faeryn is probably a bit further along than Faxx – Faxx had a major ‘mouthiness’ issue at the HDS show which I did not realize until I watched my video tapes — I could not feel it, and NONE of the FOUR judges I showed under mentioned it once! But he was opening his mouth. A lot.  He had never really been that bad at home – but was also opening his mouth after his few days off from the show. I have already played musical chairs with trying every possible bit on him and not much made a difference. In desperation, I dug out a baucher bit that Nanja (who I traded for Faxx) used to wear. It was quite a surprise when Faxx went much better in the baucher than in all the different snaffle permutations I’d already tried on him! I think the baucher, since it puts a bit more pressure on the poll, puts less pressure on the mouth – and that is what Faxx likes.  I also have not ‘pushed’ Faxx since I do not want to ‘upset the apple cart’ before he shows at the Arab/Half Arab Championships in July.  We have been schooling everything in First level, but have not started schooling any of the Second level movements.

Faeryn however, is a quick learner and it seems to come easily for her. We are doing walk/canter transitions and also starting to do canter/walk transitions, some ‘baby’ shoulder in and lots of trot/halt transitions to get her a bit more ‘up’ and collected. Marta also suggested I do halt/reinback to really get her off her front end. The first time I did these on my own it was like pulling teeth (almost literally!) to get Faeryn to back UP.  The second time?  Piece of cake. Faeryn is a very quick study.

And that brings me to Fling. Sigh.

Sometimes I feel like I am going backwards with her rather than forwards. The half pass and flying changes that were going so well a few months ago are a daily struggle. I think we have hit a point where she must be much more submissive than she is used to being – and I must be much more demanding than I have been – or am really comfortable being. See, Fling has always liked her work. And now I am feeling she likes her work  less (or it really does feel like “work” now) than she has in the past. And it really makes me feel bad. She is not overtly rebelling against the work. But the little things she’s been able to do (like leaning against my left leg) that did not matter so much, and I did not address earlier – now have to be addressed and corrected. And, now that those flying changes aren’t NEARLY as exciting and fun as they were a year ago, sometimes she completely ‘blows off’ my request for them. And so I have to insist that she gets off my leg, and insist that she really do the flying change when requested.  And it really makes me feel like the ‘bad guy’ and I am ‘making’ her do something that, up to this point, she offered willingly and cheerfully. She is still cheerful – she is just not quite the ‘overachiever’ (as Pam Grace described one once) as she was a year ago.

And third level feels like it is not getting any closer or easier than it was last year. A big part of the problem is that I have not been able to get lessons more than twice a month – and sometimes even that. And given that this is new territory for both me and Fling, it makes it really, really hard to progress. With Faeryn and Faxx — I’ve trained half a dozen horses to Training/First level. Fling is the first horse I’ve gotten to third level (Assuming we really are “at” Third level at this point.

Some days it goes brilliantly, tho. A few weeks ago, I managed to do a movement from Fourth level – you canter across the short diagonal, do a flying change near centerline, then make a 90-degree turn at the rail at B/E and canter back across the opposite diagonal, and do a flying change near centerline. Fling and I actually managed to do the first change, and stay organized enough to make the sharp turn and execute the second flying change. I was so stunned and happy I almost cried.  And, so, once again, I need to remind myself – this is all about the journey as much as it is the destination.

And in other news, I have another ‘steed’ to ride — Bevo, a bright “chestnut” (ORANGE) much-needed and long-overdue Kubota tractor. Bevo does not have much ‘suspension’ in his gaits – but he is very powerful!

And in case your’e wondering about the name — Bevo is the mascot for the UT Longhorns – whose colors are burnt orange and white.

Hook ’em horns!

Pine Hill – Day Two

Sunday

Even tho forecasters called for hotter, muggier weather – apparently Bellville didn’t get the memo! It was overcast and very pleasant – almost chilly! And much calmer since there was no jumping today!

Faeryn is turning into a very consistent performer – just like her mom and older sister. She did not really require the 30-minute warm up I’d planned on, so we walked the first 15 minutes or so. I think her fitness level is not quite what it needs to be for a multiple ride, multiple day show at this point. She also is not eating her hay as well as I would like, and that may be part of the reason she doesn’t seem to have as much energy.  I think for future shows I will bring more alfalfa, and also maybe feed her a bit more. She was pretty subdued especially for her!

So Sunday was quite ‘boring,’ especially compared to all the excitement of Saturday! As I always say, where horses are concerned,  “boring is good!”

She put in a clean test for our first go, in Training 2. I think I could do this in my sleep now, I’ve ridden it so many times this year. She had a bit less energy than I would have liked – plenty of ‘forward’ but not as much ‘power’ of inside leg to outside rein and not as much ‘jump’ in the canter. I was able to get that at Tyler – she worked much like she does at home – but at Bellville, she was a bit flatter all weekend, compared to home.

My rides were 1 hour apart and they had my test scored very quickly so I could see what the judge said and try to make improvements in the next test.  She got a 65+ in the first ride and won the small class of two. I was  bit irked that I only got 6 for rider – I’d gotten 7s from the judge the day before. I generally do get 7s.

I only allowed a 15-minute warmup for the second test – it felt about the same as my first one. As soon as we were done, I took her back to the stall (she hadn’t even broken a sweat!) and finished packing everything but her and the water buckets. The place was emptying out and she was one of the last horses and I knew she would really be unhappy left alone in her stall, so I really hustled to get the last few things loaded. I had hitched up my truck earlier in the a.m., so now we were just waiting for our score and we would be out of there.

Faeryn’s next door neighbor, one of the other remaining horses, left to go ride a test and I could hear Faeryn screaming so I hurried over and got her out of her stall, and future trips to load stuff included her!  I even led her down the hill to check scores, not wanting to leave her in her stall with the possibility of injury – or worse  — I was afraid she’d get the idea to jump out of her stall! (the stalls only had half doors – something Faeryn has never seen!)

The scores were up – they had combined all the open/jr/amateur into one class for Training 4, and she had won with a 64.4! Good girl – and up the hill and into the trailer we went! She was happy to get into the trailer and head for home! And even happier to GET home and go bombing around the pasture – braids and all – with her buddies. (I didn’t want to take the time to unbraid her before letting her blow off some steam. She got umbraided after supper that night.)

She has all the scores she needs now to qualify for All Breed Awards with Oldenburg NA. Her median is just under 65% – lower than I would have hoped. The 61 and 63 she got in her first show hurt. I will now have to decide whether to try to take her to another show to try and improve her score.

I spent an hour unpacking stuff and piling dirty clothes by the washer – which ran constantly from about 5 -10 p.m.!  The barn washer will get a good workout too, with dirty saddlepads.

Then I rode Faxx, who had been off for four days! He was a good boy – I tried to shoulder in and half pass – first at the walk and then the trot. The shoulder in went ok, but he was quite mystified by the half pass! 😉 Tomorrow I will ride Faxx again, and Fling, while Faeryn gets a few days off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faeryn at Pine Hill – Part One!

I hauled Faeryn to Pine Hill late Friday afternoon. We arrived around 5. (Too much fun driving the tractor and time got away from me!) Note to self: Do not EVER take 99 (The Grand Parkway) to I-10 EVER again.I thought most of it had no traffic lights, but I was wrong. And people were driving like maniacs. One idiot almost sideswiped me in his effort to zip in front of me, and I had to swerve so hard I was afraid the trailer would jacknife. Poor Faeryn! And it took FOREVER to get to I-10.

Pine Hill is an eventing facility in the small town (pop 3500+/-) of Bellville. Pine Hill used to have dressage shows in the early 90s — and the last time I competed there was probably 1992 or 1993.  They have a huge event course, a covered arena that, at the moment is filled with portable stalls, and several large arenas.

Faeryn was curious and alert but not overwrought when I unloaded her. She promptly started eating her hay (“Home is there the hay net is” is her motto.)  Still not drinking like I would like her to – she drank fine at the Great Sw Equestrian Center – but, like Tyler, this place has well water – and well water can taste very different from place to place. We have well water too – and she drinks a LOT at home – more than any of the other horses.

She munched hay while I set up her stall and got changed to school her. I debated about lunging her, but decided I would hand walk her, tacked up, and see how it went. The best thing about Pine Hill? Mounting blocks. Huge, multi-tiered, permanent ones – everywhere. Why the heck doesn’t Great SW do that? There, everyone has to bring their own, and the place becomes littered with tiny little (and not the safest) step stools. 

 It very quickly became apparent lunging was not required – and I got Faeryn positioned next to one of the much-appreciated mounting ‘stages.’ 

What a good girl! There were pavilions, people, horses, cross country jumps, regular jumps – she walked briskly, taking everything in – but was very responsive.  I rode her in the competition ring, and she barely looked at the large gazebo at one end that will hold the judges for the show.

This place has the REDDEST sand I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t even look real to me, coming from black gumbo country! Forget about keeping those white socks white!

After I rode Faeryn in the dressage ring, we took a walk around the cross country course. You could not pay me enough to jump most of those obstacles!  However, I think Faeryn would LOVE to jump them.

In fact, tomorrow they are also hosting a Pony Club jumping derby here and that concerns me a little – considering how crazy Faeryn got at the Oldenburg NA Mare Performance Test about the jumping – if she can SEE horses jumping from the dressage arena, I think we are in trouble! At the inspection, she got SO wound up watching the mare ahead of her go through the jump chute, I had to go walk her behind the barn. I have been told we should not be able to see the jumping from the competition arena. I hope that’s true!

Saturday

Well, the warm up was quite an exciting place today. Even people with older, experienced horses had some issues with the jumping. Mainly, the little issue of the finish line for the jumping derby being located at one corner of the dressage warmup arena (about the size of a small dressage ring) and of course, they did not STOP at the finish line, but barreled across the warm-up ring at that end.  In addition to that, at regular intervals a horse would come splashing through the water jump about 500 feet from the warm-up. Faeryn heard the first one before I saw it and it took me by surprise as she whirled around to see what was causing that strange noise! And, to top it all off, before my first ride, a loose horse came galloping in from the cross country course, heading straight for us. I got Faeryn pointed toward it so she could SEE it, and then scooted her toward the far end of the ring to get out of the way. Bystanders got a gate closed before the horse could completely escape. And shortly the rider showed up, unhurt. All this before our first ride! I was really hoping once she got into the competition arena, Faeryn would be less distracted by the jumping, since that arena was probably 200 feet further from the ‘action.’ During our warmup, I had to keep after her since her head kept swiveling toward all the ‘action.’

As it turns out, we weren’t quite safe in the competition arena either – the rider before me had lost her bridle number in the perimeter area of the arena. When I pointed it out to her, she had someone run in to get it as I was doing my final pass around the perimeter – unfortunately the person getting the number came running into the competition arena, straight at Faeryn, and scared Faeryn, who spun and bolted – almost dumping me! I was beginning to feel like we had a big red “X” painted on us! LOL! I also said few choice words that I am pretty certain the judge could hear!

Fortunately Faeryn settled very quickly and, as usual for her, she was all business once we entered at A.

She was very attentive and we made no major mistakes. The footing was a bit deep in the corners of the ring and I thought she was just a bit flat in those areas. Also, very deep where we had to do a downward from canter to trot and she went “splat.”. She got a 66 and I was a bit disappointed in the score because I thought the ride was better. Faeryn naturally likes to carry her poll a little low – she is connected and through – just a bit low at times. Some judges nail you for it, some don’t. This one did.  The judge also told me I would have scored higher if I had been on centerline for entry and exits – which I thought was odd because I had a ‘bead’ on C for both movements and thought we were dead on centerline, and very straight. I showed again for the same judge and made a point to really stay on centerline for entry and exit, and also to go all the way to the centerline during the serpentine loops. Again, I got comments that scores would be higher if movements had been on centerline. I am wondering if she was not sitting directly in front of C.  The judge’s box was a gazebo that was elevated above the arena, and I am not sure the judge could even see C from where she sat. Faeryn scored a 66. in her first ride, Training 2, and was first out of two. In Test 4, they combined the amateurs and open for the class, and she was 3rd out of, I think, 7, with a 64.4 and got her second qualifying score toward the Regional Championships. And, I discovered later, she was also the Training Level Champion.

I was very happy with my girl. There was a lot for a young horse to look at, and look she did while we were in the ‘lower’ warm up arena. But once we got to the competition arena, she was all business.

I do think it would be VERY fun to do some very low level eventing with her!!

Coming up – Sundays’ competition.

 

 

 

A First for Fling

I rode Fling in the double yesterday, and rode her in my ‘field’ arena – basically a rectangle marked with step-in plastic posts and some rudimentary letters just so I have an idea where to do certain movements. It gets us out of the arena, and is especially useful when my regular arena footing is not great. Like now – it’s too dry, which makes the deep spots even deeper. And for now, I have no water run out to it. But that is going to change. But I digress.

I worked a lot on half pass. Her right half pass is quite good. Still plugging along on the left half pass, and have made some progress. I think part of the problem is that she really likes to L_E_A_N onto my left leg. that has been a problem that comes and goes ever since she was first started under saddle. Faeryn does the same thing. To combat that, I’ve been making her do leg yields from the ‘wall’ (fence) completely laterally. As in, I put her face into the fence and ask her to completely move sideways – no forward movement at all. She does it fairly well from right to left – but from left to right, she hates, hates, hates to do it. And it’s hard for her. Which is why we need to do it regularly.

And here’s the “first” part. Her flying changes are getting better. Well, more accurately, I am getting better at setting her up to do them successfully! She knows perfectly well how to do a clean flying change. Yesterday I decided to see if I could do more than one….so did one across diagonal as soon after the turn as I could get her set up….then regrouped and asked for another. And got both of them! I was so stunned I didn’t even think about trying for a third! I quit, praised her and gave her a peppermint!

Update on the show – and a thought about Faxx

I found out this week that Faxx was the Adult amateur reserve high point, National Level (Training – Fourth level) for the HDS Spring Show I, (Friday and Saturday) and also for the HDS Spring Show II (Sunday.)

Every show determines champions  in a different way. At the Tyler show, they took your two highest scores to determine champions.  At the HDS show, it was determined by the single highest score.

I’ve been thinking about Faxx’s reluctance to take contact at the show – especially on Sunday. When I rode him today, he was taking such steady, good contact, it seemed difficult to imagine this was the same horse who was so fussy about taking contact at the show.

As I was riding him, I had a thought. Maybe he was reluctant to take contact because the first time I felt him back off from the contact, I started ‘tiptoeing around’ the issue and rode him less ‘assertively’ than I do at home? Maybe the better solution would have been to take MORE contact and use more leg to push him toward the contact. I did use more seat/leg – but when I drove him forward, I didn’t take as much contact with the reins as I do at home. I’ll try to remember that at the next show.

I rode Faeryn this evening. She is coming along very well. I am starting to do small ‘forward and back’ exercises at trot and canter to get her more ‘adjustable’ and to get her to carry more weight on her hind end. This is the beginning of collection. She does the classic break to trot sometimes when I ask her at canter.  But she is very tuned into my seat, and, especially at trot, I can get the forward and back just from asking with my seat. The canter is a bit trickier to get her to come ‘back’ – which also is very common. I have the same problem with Fling – quite happy to go forward just from my seat – but not as obedient about coming back.  Faeryn is also learning to pick up canter departs from the walk. It’s really astounding how much her canter has improved in the past six months. I am also doing the shallow loop canter serpentine that’s found in First 4 and she’s doing it well.

The hardest part for me, as a ‘trainer’ for my horses – is to be able to clearly see the path I need to take to get from “A” to “B”….A, being the level we’re currently schooling/showing, and B being the next level up. Right now it’s really hard to imagine either Faeryn or Faxx having the strength and balance to be able to do the canter/walk transitions required in Second Level. Hopefully, in another year they’ll both have progressed so much that it will just seem like a tiny next step instead of a huge leap.

Heck, I remember when Faeryn’s canter was so awful, Marta and I were both stumped as to what exactly the issue was. And now her canter circles regularly score 8s.  Sometimes the advances in training come in such small increments that it can feel like you’re not making much progress—which is one reason I write this blog. Looking back at some of my entries helps me remember just how far we’ve come – and not just how far we’ve yet to go.