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. ;

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