Monthly Archives: September 2010

Faxx goes back to work

Faxx has been off for almost two weeks because he lost a shoe and my shoer has been out of town. Shoer came today, Faxx has new shoes and he went back to work. I ran through most of the work from some of the first level tests. He was a little fussy, but not too bad. As usual, the downwards are our biggest challenge. I have not taken a lesson on him since April! That gets remedied tomorrow.

He has a 69% USDF median at Training Level for the national USDF Amateur awards and is currently in 18th place in the country and in first place in Region 9 – not that that counts for anything. LOL! I was hoping he would end up in the Top 20 in the nation among amateurs – the show year ended last weekend but all the results have not been tabulated yet. He MAY just squeak in under that wire!

I am working on my Regional Championship entries for Faxx and Faeryn (aka Surfer Girl!). Closing date is Oct. 1 and the show is the first weekend in November.

This will be a busy weekend. I am riding Fling in a clinic with Debbie Bowman and taking Faxx to a local schooling show for his First level debut. He’s not really ready – since he’s been off – but the year is coming to a close and I’m running out of opportunities to get some First level show mileage at schooling shows before we hit the recognized shows next year.

I’ve rescheduled my arena renovation for Oct. 4-5. It would be handy to be able to clone myself for those two days since I have to drive the 11-ton compacting roller, direct dump trucks, apply water to the arena during compacting, etc. etc.  Eight-day forecast says our drier, cooler weather should hold for the foreseeable future!

 I will be very glad when the arena is done and I hope all this work will solve my footing problems.

Between condo and arena and all the coordination each has required (and 2x for the arena since it got put off by rain the first try) I am sick to death of “projects!” 


Loving the cooler weather – and a peek at the new dressage tests

Despite working 5 hours at the condo on Saturday and another 5 on Sunday I did get to ride! And, the condo is FINISHED, DONE, COMPLETE, tools are packed up and removed and the place is ready for tenant move-in!! Just in time for the wonderful cool front!!

I had a chance to look at the new 2011 dressage tests that were FINALLY published on the USEF website. I think Third level is a bit harder than it was. In Third 2, you have to do two sets of flying changes instead of one. Looks like Third 2 is what Third 3 used to be, with the addition of the second flying changes. Third 3, which used to require flying change from the half pass to the wall, with change at the wall, now has half pass from rail to center line and changes ON the center line. Ouch.   And I find it really odd that Third 2 requires two sets of flying changes – and not Third 3. Wanna guess which test is going to be least ridden at this level? LOL!

And so, since I’d looked at the tests, and Fling’s gotten a few ‘light’ workouts, we had a longer session yesterday afternoon and I asked some tougher questions. Did some schooling pirouettes, which are pretty good to the right, but, like in half pass, she is still leaning on my left leg when going to the left. I tried to remember what Stephen Clarke said in a clinic I watched – collect BEFORE the pirouette, and go FORWARD during the pirouette. It’s good advice. I estimate we’re still doing about a 6m ‘circle’ in our pirouette, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So, I cantered some straight lines, asked for haunches in, then out during canter just to keep her listening, and then tried a half pass to center line and then flying change on center line. No problem getting the change. As expected, it’s not straight enough, and the half pass left something to be desired. Her trot half pass, esp to the right, is getting pretty good. The canter half passes, not so much yet. But I was happy to see I COULD get a change on center line – just not as good as I’d have liked. But it’s a start.  I actually asked for changes in several different spots yesterday and got them all. It was a good ride.

So then I had about 30 minutes left to ride Faeryn. I decided instead of ‘drilling,’ I’d work on fitness. So I rode her all over the field (the mosquities were out!) and finally put her on the mown ‘track’ around  part of the fenceline that I’d done earlier in the day (didn’t have time to mow the entire 12 acres!0 and the mosquitoes were not quite as bad, and I also had a ‘gauge’ to estimate how much distance we’d done. We trotted first, and then I cantered her along the “L” that I’d mowed around the fenceline. I estimate it was about 1,000 feet, and we did it twice at canter. Then I trotted her the whole way in and she was not even breathing hard. The cooler/drier temps made a big difference!  Her canter felt good, and more balanced. I alternated between right and left canter leads. I am trying to set up a jumping lesson on her for Oct. 9. That should be interesting. I just hope she doesn’t try to take off like a bat out of h*ll over them when she sees them like she did at her Mare Performance Test! LOL!

My “little surfer girl”

Faeryn’s mane has been pretty unmanageable ever since she  had enough mane to flip to one side. It’s thick like her mother’s, and refuses to ‘pick a side.’ I’ve braided and ‘trained’ it to stay to one side numerous times over the years. It stays for awhile, and then reverts back to its wild ways. To make things worse, she absolutely hates having it pulled. And she doesn’t hate mane pulling quietly and politely. 😉  She views it as ‘torture’ (she is a drama queen) and therefore sees no reason why she should cooperate with the process. Since it’s such a battle (although it’s gotten better since I started bribing her with ‘cookies’), her mane is always just a little too long and thick for a ‘proper’ dressage horse. Her unkempt, tousled mane prompted me to nickname her ‘my little surfer girl’ when she was a two year old, and it stuck. She hasn’t had a proper mane pulling since May and when I ride her I have a bird’s eye view to her increasingly unruly hairstyle. To a “mom,” it’s an endearing sight. 😉

She was very good this evening. I am ‘raising the bar’ with an eye to being ready to show her second level at schooling shows next year. From the notes on our test at last week’s schooling show, I need to ride her more forward into the canter – to avoid those ‘bucky’ departs where she pops her butt up into the canter before her front end. And I also need to ride her more forward into the downward transition from canter to trot so she doesn’t fall on her forehand and also, again, doesn’t pop up in the rear. I can feel her doing it — I almost feel like I have to post the first stride she takes when coming down to trot from canter.

This evening I was able to successfully get her to go more forward into the canter – she had a few departs that were ‘butt first’ but not many. I was even more successful in driving her forward through the canter/trot transition and keeping her ‘up’ in front. And I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but her trot lengthenings were much better this evening. I could really feel her shoulders coming up in front more than usual. And just for kicks, I did a few canter/walk transitions. Well, they’re not TRUE canter/walk transitions yet – she has a few trot strides – but that’s how it starts. Baby steps.

What a good little surfer girl!

A short but sweet ride

I took the day off to take my 18-year-old Featherlite to a big trailer place in Willis (2 hour drive in rush hour traffic). We have no ‘service’ places near me, and I wanted someone to crawl under it and take a good look. I was planning to buy a new 4Star late this year or early next, but after spending so much on the condo, that’s probably not going to happen.  I can feel some ‘give’ in the aluminum planking on the floor, and I took it to an RV place last year and they said it was fine — but it was still bugging me. And if I do end up selling it in the next year, it would bug a buyer too. So they looked at it and said all the supports look great – it’s just some of the welds that attach the planking to the supports had broken.  So, less than $200 for that, which I thought was really reasonable. They also did it while I waited which was nice. Although I had planned to leave it and shop a little at The Woodlands, etc. 

While they worked on my trailer, I sat with a sales guy and we looked at trailers on the lot and different features, and I had him ‘build’ me a trailer on paper. I had a very good idea what I wanted. The total came to about $20K and the trailer is 5 feet longer and 1,400 lbs. heavier than the one I have now. I need to compare the measurements on the ‘blueprint’ he gave me to my current trailer, and also to the space I have to park it – some trimming will need to be done. I really don’t think I need a trailer that’s that much longer than what I have. When I do order one, it will be a two horse straight load with dressing room. It will not have a ‘wedge’ nose – you lose a lot of dressing room space that way. It will be a flat front like I have now. No manger in the horse compartment – breast bars with snap in vinyl ‘feed bag’ things – and full length doors on both sides at the horses’ heads. No manger lets them lower their head and neck during a long trip, which is really good for helping them keep their airways clear. I hate ramps, and I am tired of the back doors that don’t have very big windows, so I am having ‘dutch doors’ put on back. The top half can be closed or open. When they are open, they fold flat against the side of the trailer and are ‘locked’ in place during transit. Years ago I had a Shelby with that type of back door configuration and I thought it was perfect. I don’t know why you don’t see more like that. They make the trailers with ramps like that, but like I said, I hate ramps. I had one before, and never again. Even the salesguy agreed with me. I am so short, I can hardly get enough leverage to get the ramp up off the ground and all I can vision is me squashed flat under the ramp like some sort of Road Runner cartoon. It also won’t have a center post, so I can take out dividers, etc. and use it to haul my riding mower or maybe even Bevo (my Kubota compact tractor) to the ‘vet’. 😉

I did manage to get to the Cheesecake Factory at The Woodlands on the way home for lunch. Not fun negotiating the parking lot towing a trailer – but I was motivated by cheesecake! LOL!

Got home in time to do laundry – and of course it had RAINED AGAIN at home. (where is the really mad face icon????)

I rode Flling in the pasture for just about 30 minutes. She was super. Her canter is getting so much more collected, ‘up’ and she’s in much better self-carriage than she was just a month ago. Tomorrow or Sunday she will get a longer ride and we’ll work on flying changes.

I also rode Faeryn last night and my current mission is to improve her canter. To that end, I am doing a lot of trot/canter transitions. She needs to learn to go more forward into the canter instead of ‘up.’ And she also needs to go more ‘forward’ into the downwards to trot also. She is getting better at carrying herself, but she needs to learn to listen to my half halts prior to her downwards to trot so she maintains that self-carriage. I am going to try and start taking some jumping lessons on her. When I was prepping her for the OldNA Mare Performance Test and doing chute jumping with her, her canter improved a lot. Also, I would LOVE to do some really low level (REALLY LOW) eventing with her. And, I want to get Faxx ready to compete in Hunter Hack at the Arab shows next year. I have not jumped in YEARS and I am much more comfortable getting my ‘jumping legs’ back riding Faeryn than Faxx!

This is my last weekend to finish working on the condo. I worked over there Wednesday night and got a lot done. I just have a bit more touch up painting, need to hang the new miniblinds in the living room (took the old ones down Wed.) and do final cleaning. I hope I just have to spend one day over there.

I am a rain magnet

After a long time with little rain (our pond is almost dry!) as soon as I scheduled my major arena renovation (dozer guy/vibrating roller, etc) it has been raining. It literally has rained every day for the past week or so. It rained almost all day Saturday and Sunday — from light drizzle to occasional downpours — and we’ve had showers every day since! I can’t even begin to guess when to try and reschedule the work at this point – since rain is forecast for both days this weekend as well! Of course, when it rained LAST weekend – no one even had forecast rain!

Our dressage demonstration Tuesday went fine – small attendance – but I found out the junior college charges $40 for the ‘course’ and it comes with college credit. Fling is a professor! LOL!  She was quite tense for the whole thing – which is unlike her. It was sort of a karmaic (I made that word up!) experience,since it was held at the farm that was once owned by my very first dressage instructor. I had ridden Fling’s mother, Sonnys Mona Lisa+/, in that very same arena many, many times. I am not used to talking a lot, and between my presentation at work earlier in the day, and talking for 1.5 hours almost nonstop that evening, I was hoarse. There are people who would say I am always ‘horse.’ 😉  Anyway, it was a good thing no one at the demonstration knew anything about dressage, so they could not see how tight and tense she was. 😉 

I was beat when we got home and I think Fling was just confused by the whole thing. She had no way to ‘classify’ it in her experience – it was not a show – we didn’t ride a test, and where was the judge? And it was not a clinic – where was that person standing in the arena talking to her human? It takes a lot to puzzle Fling, as she is quite the clever girl. 😉

I went to the condo after work last night and didn’t get home until nearly 8. I will need to spend Saturday over there finishing up. New tenant moves in Oct. 1 and I got the first month’s rent check yesterday in the mail! Now, hopefully, life will get back to ‘normal’ and the horses will go back to working ‘full time’ instead of ‘part time.’ 

Entries to our Regional Championships are due by Oct. 1 and I need to get that together and make a final decision as to whether I want to take just Faxx, or Faeryn, too. At this point there are only 15 horse/rider combos qualified in Training Level Amateur GAIC champs in our Region, and I am two of those combos!  It will cost me $1,000+ to take them both by the time I pay entries and braiding.


Fling is a dressage poster child

Months ago I got roped into doing a dressage demonstration as part of our local community college’s series of equine ‘short courses.’  It’s tonight, and of course it’s been raining for days. I rode Fling last night and ran through some of the movements I’ll demonstrate tonight.

Ideally I would speak a little, explain some movements, and then demonstrate them. But I don’t want to spend 15 minutes warming her up while my ‘audience’ twiddles their thumbs. Or try to rush her into doing some of the moves before she’s properly warmed up. So I am going to get there early and have her ready to go when it starts, run through some things, talk a little, then untack her and Mike will stick her in a stall until we’re done.

I am a bit worried about the footing – this is being held at a reining barn, and they are notorious for liking really deep footing. I definitely am not going to risk her soundness by doing much if the footing is too deep.

She worked well last night – her basic paces are much more animated and I can ask for more suspension/activity with just my seat.We had some good flying changes, too.

As fate would have it, I also had to give a presentation at work this morning for our entire sales division, CEO, etc – about 100 people all total. What are the odds? I’ve just been calling this ‘hell day’ and will be glad when tomorrow comes. 😉  Public speaking is not my idea of fun. 😉

MORE Rain – and Faeryn’s schooling show

I wasn’t the only one to get unexpected rain this weekend – the farm where Faeryn was going to a schooling show today got rain, too, and it was late last night before I knew whether it was a ‘go’ or not. When I left the house this a.m. at 7:45, it was sprinkling. No rain at the show – good thing! Faeryn has gotten really bad on the ground – very bargy and totally disrespectful. She has taken to turning her head/body enough to use it as leverage to get away from me. She did it TWICE while trying to load her this a.m. From here on out, until she’s learned her lesson, she’s getting led with a chain over her nose and me holding a whip! It’s so odd, since she’s really good and obedient under saddle.

She was looky at this totally new place. It was good that because of the rain, they rearranged the ride schedule (there were scratches) so that they had a break where you could go in the covered arena for brief schooling. It gave us a chance to look at it, AND gave me a chance to canter her, since there wasn’t much good ground to canter on outside the covered arena.

She had two clean rides – no major mistakes – but her canter was not nearly as good as it is at home. Nor were her leg yields – well, her LY to the right was pretty good, but not to the left. I did not have much time to practice it on the showgrounds before we showed.

We were both huffing and puffing after First 2 – it’s pretty long! This tells me I need to really work on her fitness level more. Granted, the last month she has not gotten ridden as much as usual due to my almost constant painting/working at the condo. She also needs to get more balanced at the canter and be able to maintain that balance at the canter for longer periods of time. The canter ‘tour’ in First 4 is grueling. And that is the test she will have to show to qualify for championships next year, and for showing at the schooling show championships this winter (December 11-12) AND for the USDF Champs next fall. I foresee long gallops in the pasture in our future!

This was a very high scoring judge – we got a 72 and a 73 for a first and a second. We were the only amateur in the class where we got first (although she scored higher than the jr rider who was in a different class) and second place in a class of about four, I think. The person who beat me had an incredible 76 – but, it is a high scoring judge AND, she’s also been showing second level for the past year with that horse.

For some reason, Faeryn is a magnet to young girls at shows. I always have a gaggle of them as her ‘fan club’ and they come up to her and pet her and tell me how pretty she is. She had groupies at this show too. I don’t think it has anything to do with her dressage skills – maybe it’s the pink browband? That, and I think Faeryn just looks ‘girly.’  No mistaking her for a gelding!

It didn’t rain at all at the show but it was muggy and steamy. It rained on me almost all the way home – pouring at some spots – and it appears it’s been raining all day at our place.

No arena renovation next week – if I had any hopes it might dry up enough after yesterday’s rain showers, that’s gone now. No way we’ll dry up enough by Thursday to have dump trucks driving through my pasture. Oh goody. I get to try and reschedule everything.