Monthly Archives: June 2010

It’s official – Faxx was Champion

I got TWO very fancy neck ribbons in the mail today – Champion and Reserve Champion!  Seems he had the highest amateur score AND the second highest score for the Sunday show.  Too bad they didn’t give prize money for reserve champion as well! 😉

Tonight I took it ‘easy’ and only rode one horse. Plus the guy who is building the framework for my arena mirrors came by to look at the site and discuss and that took awhile. I rode Faeryn lightly and then did some tractor work. Still hacking away (quite literally!) at my mini ‘thicket’ at the back of our pasture. It’s almost an archeological dig – I’ve found some lumber that looks like the remains of some very old small building, and some almost completely rusted through pipe that looks like it was a corner post for some long-gone fencing. The next step will be to get in there with a chain saw and ‘slash’ some of the tallow (aka Chinaberry) trees, then paint them with GrazOn to kill them.  But there is one heck of a mess of tangled underbrush, downed branches, etc. that needs to be removed from the area before I can really get in there and do much more.

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Basics, basics, basics

I never got any ‘official’ notice that Faxx was high score amateur at the HDS summer Show, but I got a check for $150 in prize money in the mail today, so I guess that would be fairly ‘official.’  LOL!  My entries were about $194, so that’s the closest I’ve ever come to actually ‘breaking even’ at a show. There is rarely prize money in dressage – I’ve just been lucky enough to do well in the two local shows that actually offer prize money.

I’ve been struggling with my basic work with Fling. Fling is the ‘stiffest’ of my horses – she’s short backed and has a short neck compared to Faxx and Faeryn. The stiffness shows up the most markedly in her rein connection and in her neck. I have been focusing on trying to ‘supple’ her neck.   Since Marta has been unavailable lately, I hauled to a local trainer I’ve known for years for some ‘eyes on the ground’ help. She suggested I should concentrate on suppling through her body instead, with the use of lateral movements like shoulder-in, renvers and haf pass.  I worked on that for the past two rides. Tonight it all came together – I methodically worked on the exercises, trying to really concentrate on sitting on the correct seatbone in shoulder-in, and then changing seatbones when I segued into renvers, and then back to shoulder-in. I tried to do the shoulder-in and renvers using mostly body position and very little rein.  And I just kept my hands ‘neutral’ really trying NOT to half halt or pull back on her at all, but with short reins so I could give or half halt when needed without pulling back – just using my fingers. And, in a bit of ‘tough love,’ I occasionally ‘thumped’ her way behind the girth with just my calves to say ‘hey, use that substantial rear end you have!”

Suddenly, her self-carriage got much better, she was giving to the reins and she really felt like a third level horse again!  This was all at trot. So then I went to canter, and remembered the things about my position and sitting on the correct seatbone and keeping my inside shoulder back – and again, keeping my reins short so I could half halt or give easily. It was much better and more like the ‘good’ canter I know and love!

The frustrating thing is, I know all this. I’ve been told all this before – 10,000 times before, it seems — but old habits gradually start to creep back in, and each day you get a little further away from ‘ideal’ and when you get far enough from it – you forget how to get ‘back.’  That’s when you need that ‘third person’ on the ground, who can see so clearly what you no longer can see, or even feel!

I rode Fling again today – a short session since it was so hot – and again did my warm up mostly with lateral work. And another good ride. I kept saying “good girl” to her, but sometimes I think she’s saying the same thing to ME when I ride her correctly!!  I read a very apt quote by someone the other day that describes my recent issues very well… something like “if you feel like you have to warm the horse up in 15 minutes it will take all day. If you think you have all day to do the warm up it will take 15 minutes.”  I almost ‘dreaded’ the warm up on Fling – the youngsters require almost zero warm-up. I definitely have a new attitude toward Fling’s warm-up –  instead of thinking of it as something I have to ‘get through’ to find my third level horse again — I will consider the ‘warm up’ as the most important part of the ride. And will also remember that it’s the body that needs to be supple – not the neck. A supple neck is a RESULT of a supple body.

Today I watched my video from Faxx’s last show – where he scored 72 and 69 and earned the prize money mentioned above. It is the first time in a long time that I’ve watched one of my rides and not been mildly horrified. 😉  He looked very good. The mouth issues from the April show were all but gone. He opens his mouth a few times, but most of the time it was because he was trying to cough, or was snorting (he was on the tail end of getting over an upper respiratory infection.)  He was nicely forward, very steady in the bridle and bending. I still need to work on those canter departs. At home they are great. During a test I always look like I am rushing him into it, because I pretty much always PANIC and flail away instead of riding the way I do at home. I don’t do that with Faeryn. It’s definitely a “Faxx” thing for me.

He also looks BIG. Or I look SMALL. LOL!  He’s working well at home, too. Today I asked for some shoulder in and did some very large quarter turns on the haunches. Also some ‘forward and back’ a trot and canter. It was all good and fun. And since he’s at the end of his ‘training level career,’ it’s time to raise the bar and expect more than good movement and good looks from him. I laughingly tell my friends (when they compliment me on my obviously superior riding skills due to Faxx’s high scores) – that Faxx is like the blonde cheerleader…. He’s been getting things handed to him based mostly on his good looks and good movement. Time for that to come to a screeching halt and expect him to do some ‘real’ dressage. 😉

I rode Faeryn in the field this weekend. She is fun to ride in the field, and I did a lot of canter work. Her canter was much better in the field than it was in the arena. I think the excessive ‘crowning’ on my arena is tough for her to deal with at canter. Hopefully by mid-august arena ‘redo’ will be finished and mirrors will be installed! I sent the dozer guy my arena specs Friday and should have a bid for dozer work soon. I already have costs for materials, and for the mirrors. The mirrors are a definite go. I called my guy a few weeks ago and gave him a timeline. They have to wait until the arena is done to be installed. I hope the mirrors will allow me to correlate what the horses FEEL like and what they LOOK like and keep me from straying far off the correct ‘path!’

I also started packing for our trip to Waco July 15-18. Got the show clothes packed, except for the coat. Still have to take it to the cleaners. From my experience last year, when it was 104 in Waco every single day, I know I will need lots of shorts and sleevless shirts for wearing around the barn. Fortunately the hotel I stay at has a coin operated washer and dryer. I discovered that last year when I ran out of clothes midway through!

As much as I try to control my impulses, whenever I go to Regionals (four nights) I pack like I am heading for an expedition to Mount Everest. Or, I guess, in this case, it would be more like the Serengeti. I make detailed lists and usually bring way more stuff than I actually end up needing. But I guess that is just my ‘security blanket.’ It’s just a very good thing my trailer has an enormous dressing room. LOL!

This year, I have paid for a ‘double stall’ for Faxx – which means they will leave out a divider and he will have a 10×20’ stall at Regionals. Last year he did not lie down once during the entire time. I figure he’s there five days – the least I can do is do everything I can to make it more pleasant for him. I have been joking to my friends that Faxx has a ‘doublewide’ at Regionals. Fairly appropriate for a horse from the tiny town of Alvin. ;

HEAT and small breakthrough

Because I  have three horses to ride, it’s pretty essential that I ride two horses almost every weekday, and all of them on the weekends to really get enough training rides in on them. That alone is a tough bill to fill, but lately, when it’s so hot it’s tough to _make_ myself venture outside until 6:30 or 7, it gets even tougher.
 
It’s also so hot that the last thing I want to do is either cook, or consume anything hot by the time I stagger in, dripping wet, around 8:30 p.m. Frankly, I would just as soon skip dinner altogether. So my solution is no cooking this summer. I have ‘spoiled’ my husband by cooking almost every single night in the past. No more! LOL! I gave him the bad news yesterday. It’s sandwiches for the summer. If it were just up to me, I’d eat a big lunch at work and skip eating at night altogether. But my husband has a super freaky metabolism – he is an EATING MACHINE. He consumes close to 4,000 calories a day – I kid you not. It’s like cooking for a family of four, with two of the four being growing teenage boys! I am talking mass quantitites of food. But, hey, he can eat as many sandwiches as he cares to make! This gives me more time to ride, and no guilt about not cooking.
 
Lessons have been far and few, and it looks like they will continue to be that way. Marta has gotten really busy with her own barn. So I am on my own for awhile. Faxx and Faeryn are doing great. I mentioned to a friend that maybe I should haul Faxx up to Marta’s for a lesson as a tune up before our Arabian/Half Arabian Regional Sporthorse Championships in July. She looked at me incredulously and said, ‘You just scored a 72 and a 69 at your last show, won both classes and did it with no schooling. I think you’re doing OK.”  LOL. I hope she is right!
 
Faeryn’s right lead canter was feeling a little funky to the right. I think it’s a combination of being off for two weeks while she was sick, my position, and her stifle has gotten weak again. I worked on my position at right canter – I have a habit of twisting in the saddle and getting my outside shoulder further back than my inside shoulder. I fixed that, and then also started adding reinback and lateral work to her routine so address any weakness in the stifle. Fixing my position made a lot of difference – it will take a week or so for the other things to help.
 
I have been most frustrated with Fling, as her canter has not been ‘quite right’ and I could not figure out what was wrong. Not collected, just did not feel in self carriage like I know she can be. Not straight. I’ve been doing a lot of shoulder-in and renvers – paying special attention that I actually SIT on the seatbone that I SHOULD be sitting on. And, for the ‘duh’ moment, I realized that I am twisting in the saddle at canter the same as I was on Faeryn. Not only twisting, but also looking to the OUTSIDE of the circle instead of the inside. I corrected myself, also remembered to look THROUGH THE HORSE’s EARS, and keep her ‘face on the circle line.’  Much, much better. I am anxious to try it again and see if the ‘fix’ sticks.
 
I really need to get Faeryn to one more schooling show at first level, and need to get Faxx to his FIRST outing at first level.
 
They are both learning shoulder-in and both are doing pretty well in their leg yields. Both still need work on canter and trot lengthenings and both have better trot than canter lengthenings at the moment.

A first for Faeryn

I often ride Fling in the pasture, but I haven’t done so with either Faxx or Faeryn because I don’t quite think they would be as ‘ho hum’ as Fling is when the other horses come galloping across the pasture.

But tonight I let them all into the arena, which has lush grass right now. I took Faeryn and we made our maiden voyage around the ten-acre field. She was completely blase about the entire thing  — until a loose dog startled her and sent her off on the granddaddy of all bolting episodes. Before I got her turned, I really thought she might go through the fence. I was also quite proud of myself for not getting dumped! But I can’ really blame her for that. Afterward she settled down and went right back to work. Her leg yields have gotten quite good, but her right canter feels funky. I need to work on figuring that out. I also worked on small ‘forward and back’ at the canter. I really like riding in the field and do it most of the time with Fling. In fact, I rode her after I rode Faeryn tonight. She worked well, but she is still having a small coughing ‘fit’ about five minutes into each ride. She coughs four or five times, then snorts, and is fine for the rest of the ride.

Faxx is still on “R and R” and will go back to work this weekend.

 

Life is “normal” again…

Whatever that is! I rode Fling last night for the first time in what seems like forever! My mantra on her for now is NO pulling, no HOLDING, half halts must happen, and if they don’t, she needs to be read the riot act. NO MORE nagging, constant, tiny half halts. Half halt and MEAN it or don’t do it at all. I also have decided she is against my leg not only to the left, but also somewhat to the right. So she can’t lean on me either. From now on, she has to carry her own weight. Literally. She is not being naughty or bad – but like any thinking creature (and she definitely IS a thinking creature!) – she has found the ‘easiest’ way to do things, and often that involves letting ME hold her up, or do a lot of the work. And, I have discovered, when I am holding her – she is not LIGHT. And she is not supple. Last night, despite not being ridden for awhile, I resisted the urge to keep half halting to get her rounder, or lighter, and instead, worked on using my leg to push her out to the outside rein, and give her a chance to go light and round. And mostly it worked. I had some really good canter work and some good half pass. In the HP, I am especially tempted to hold the OUTSIDE rein too much – I need to use more inside rein, less outside rein, sit on my ‘inside’ seatbone and bend her around my inside leg but don’t let her lean against that leg. Fling requires a much more complicated warm up than either Faxx or Faeryn. Fling does not ‘come out of the box’ supple, light, etc.  It takes a methodical warm up. My first reaction is always “OH MY GOD WHERE IS MY TRAINED HORSE!! SHE IS STIFF AND HEAVY AND SO NO LISTENING TO MY AIDS.”  And when I panic, and try to kick and pull her to get her where I KNOW she needs to be (and CAN be) – it just is not fun or pretty. The KEY is to ‘push’ her to where she needs to be, not pull her. And it is truly amazing what a difference that makes. It was wonderful to ride my spotty girl again.

It is so hot right now, it’s hard to get my butt outside to ride before 7. Which makes it tough to ride two horses each night. I told Mike we are going on the ‘summer’ schedule and will eat really early – for us – about 6, when it’s too hot to do anything else. Then if I need to stay outside until 9, no problem. Lately we’ve been eating around 9 and that’s not good.

Next up is the Arabian/Half Arabian sporthorse championships in Waco, in almost a month. It was hot as hell last year – literally.  Waco was setting high temp records each day — 104 almost every day. We’ll be there for five days and although the competition arena is ‘air conditioned’ – that just means it’s 80 instead of 100. And the barn areas are NOT air conditioned. They have Big Ass fans -yes, that is what they are named. They are HUGE ceiling fans and they work well IF you are close to one. I am getting Faxx a ‘double wide’ stall since he’s so big, the stalls are only 10×10, and last year he did not llie down once — and we’ll be there five days.

Faxx is done with training level!

Faxx did very well at the HDS show today. It was HOT. He coughed a few times – more in the second test than the first. I think it was from standing in the dusty stall. It just irritated his already-irritated airways.

I had a real surprise when I got to the warm up area for my first ride. I arrived about 30 minutes before my 8:54 a.m. ride time, and the gate person said, “Everyone else in the class has scratched, so you’re next.”  YIKES. Now, they can’t MAKE you ride earlier than your given time – but believe me, when you’ve got a judge and a scribe sitting, twiddling their thumbs in a completely empty arena, it’s a LOT of pressure to get in there ASAP! Fortunately, Faxx does not require a lot of warm up. I mainly wanted to check that ‘all systems were go’ – as far as taking contact, bending, and get a canter depart from both directions. I think I rode about 15 minutes early. He felt good – he had one little spook/scoot forward during a canter circle (could not figure out what scared him) but it was OK since he went FORWARD, it was just more energy. I thought it was a clean ride but didn’t leave the ring thinking “Wow, that was one of my best rides EVER!”    They were incredibly quick with the scoring, and by the time I’d changed clothes, they had the results for the class. (Well, duh, since I was the last ride that made it easier.)  I was pretty surprised and happy to see we’d gotten a 72.1!!   There ended up being 5 in the class and we won it. My next ride was SIX hours later. I changed and hosed Faxx as quickly as I could and got over to the vendor area and donned my other hat – partner in Tailspun Jewelry. We make custom horsehair jewelry – mostly bracelets – and had a vendor booth at the show. You can see our work at www.TailspunJewelry.com  We had a good day, with almost as much sales as we had at the dressage championships last fall.

The time flew with talking to Tailspun customers, and it did not seem like six hours had passed when we were up for Training 4. A full 1/3 of the original class of 18 ended up scratching – and again I got to the warm up ring being ‘next up’ even tho I was 20 minutes early. I warmed up a bit longer this time only because Faxx was really coughing and snorting and I wanted to give him a chance to clear his airways!  We had an OK ride, but I knew it was not as good as the first ride. Some parts were better – I thought our entry/halts were better (those have been particularly challenging in the past) but at one point he really needed to cough and got a bit braced against me.  We got a 69 on that ride, and again won the class.  We may have won the amateur high score award ($150!) but won’t know for a few days, since they need to look at all the scores from all three arenas from today to make that determination.

So, Faxx  finished the required 8 scores to compete for national USDF Awards and he is DONE at Training Level, with the exception of the Arabian/Half Arabian Sporthorse Championships next month in Waco, and the Region 9 USDF Championships in November.

And next week – Fling and Faeryn finally get back in regular work after two weeks off!

 

Finally riding again!

I rode Faxx last night and he only coughed once. He worked well – I only rode him for about 20 minutes. I rode Fling this evening and she coughed twice at the beginning, but did not cough again during our ‘easy’ 20-minute ride, including a tiny bit of canter. Faeryn and Fling are still getting Tri-Hist, Fling got one more dose of Tucoprim this evening since she started getting it later than the others since she got sick a few days behind them.

  I will ride him tomorrow, and will have a short lesson on him with Marta on the show grounds on Saturday afternoon.

I will not be able to ride Faeryn or Fling this weekend, due to the show, but look forward to my ‘riding life’ getting back to normal next week!  I’ve been “off” for two weeks!! I can’t remember the last time I went this long without riding!