Drought, record temps and Faeryn’s second level debut

 We – who usually get 50 inches of rain a year since we live very close to the Gulf Coast, have not had any measurable rain since Feb. 1.  I seriously cannot ever remember a drought this bad. It poured on me on my commute home from Houston yesterday – even hailed at one point – but not one drop of rain at home. If we do not get rain soon, we will have to start feeding hay twice a day, as our pasture is about gone – all 11.8 acres – even tho we only have 5 horses on it. Usually this time of year we’re constantly mowing and can barely keep up with it. Now, my tractor has been sitting idle ever since it came back from its ‘spring tuneup’ in March.

In addition to the drought, now we’re seeing record temperatures. I think that is a perfect scenario for hurricanes to form – when the waters in the Gulf of Mexico are very warm. As much as I hate to think it, a small hurricane would bring some much-needed rain. Although we really did not get much rain from Ike, and it seems we’ve been in a semi-drought ever since then.

Now to play ‘catch-up’ on what’s been going on, horse-wise. A few weeks ago I took Faxx to a local farm that was having its first-ever dressage schooling show so he could have one more chance to ride through the first level tests before the Spindletop showthe following weekend. I was scheduled to ride early in the morning, then I had a 2 p.m. session with Debbie on Faeryn.
Faxx would call this show “The Attack of the Killer Chickens.”  In actuality, it was more like “Chickens prove horse is chicken.” šŸ˜‰
There were a ton of CHICKENS on the property next to the show arena. Behind vegetation. So they are heard but not seen. The Intro/GAG were being held in a different arena, and First and Training level was being held in the ‘chicken’ arena. Fortunately I was the first ride in the ‘new’ arena and was told I could school/warm up in there. As we entered the fenced area, and he saw the judges’ stand with flowers around it for the first time, there was a huge chicken ruckus – squacking, flapping wings and something metallic banged. That was all Faxx needed – he wheeled and spun and was making a serious attempt to head for the hills. I reined him in, said at least one four letter word and pointed him at the now very scary judges’ stand and corner where the noise had come from.

I spent the next 15 or 20 minutes trying to get him to face his fears. He got better – but was still wanting to drift away from the rail on the ‘scary’ side and counterflex through the corners. Fortunately I was able to get him over his fear of the judges’ stand – but those chickens still had him wary – and dropping contact. Not as bad as he would have done last year in the same situation. But when in doubt, Faxx does not want to take contact, and especially the right rein. It’s trickier in the best of situations, but harder when he’s nervous/tense. The other thing that goes ‘poof’ along with the contact is our good entry/halt that has taken us so long to develop. He was great at Marie’s – super contact all the way down to the halt, and did not ‘barge down’ on the reins like he’d done so much the year before. Well, the barging down was back – at least in the first test.
The first test felt ragged – he dove down on me at the halt, and wiggled a little down center line. No spooking on the ‘scary’ chicken side, but some people had come and sat right next to the fence on the ‘not scary’ side after we’d left the arena during schooling, so he was giving them the evil eye and wanting to drift off the rail big time on that side.  but everyone told me how good he looked. He definitely was not as connected and through as in our lesson the day before. Our next ride was 15 minutes later.
The next test was better as far as his connection, throughness, but he picked up the wrong lead in the canter/trot/canter across the diagonal – because he was gawking at the scary side and was counterflexed away from said scary stuff and I could not get him bent correctly in one/two strides. It took two tries to gt the right lead. His lengthenings could use a bit of work – the canter was good, but he was not listening in the ‘coming back’ department.
However, overall, much has improved since last year – his stretchy trot circles and his free walk  – both double coefficients and both sources of trouble last year where he would drop contact – were on contact and decent. Actually his free walk is finally getting the kind of scores he SHOULD get on it. He has a fabulous walk. But he would either drop the contact, or stargaze, or want to just amble across the diagonal. I have started KICKING him and insisting he GO and MARCH and his scores have been much better this year. Last year, at the walk, he would drop contact and chomp the bit. Even when he drops contact now, he does not often chomp the bit.
I hung around waiting for scores, counting off the time I had before I had to leave, drive 35 minutes to get home, unload Faxx, grab lunch, round up Faeryn and have Faeryn at Kim’s in time to be warmed up and ready to ride for our 2 p.m.lesson.  The show started out running late to begin with. I never could figure out where they were posting scores, so saw nobody else’s scores from this judge. Finally the farm owner came out with my tests and he had a 65.something on 1/1 and a 66 something on 1/3. In 1/3, he had many 8s, a 6 for the evil leg yield from hell that I’ve been whining about all season, (and 7 for the LY the other direction) but 3 for our canter/trot/canter screw up and some 5s for other stuff.  So, much room for improvement. He got 8s on gaits.As it turns out, he was the amateur high point winner. I was feeling a bit better about Spindletop the next weekend.
My lesson with Faeryn was a bit disappointing. Maybe because I was not riding as well as I could – I only had an hour at home to eat something before I had to hike out to the pasture and corral Faeryn to go to Kim’s. She felt good – I guess I was hoping Debbie would agree with Marie about moving her up to second. šŸ˜‰  Mostly we worked on my position and getting her more ‘adjustable’ in the canter. I showed her my progress with teaching her half pass so far and she did well.

Faxx made his recognized show First level debut at the Spindletop Arabian horse show Memorial Day weekend. We had a record number of 80 rides – we had some scratches that brought it down to 70-something by the day of the show, but still, very good. I volunteer at the show and this is the third year we’ve offered dressage, and the numbers keep growing each year. Faxx had a good ride in First 1 and got a 66. Our second ride, which I thought was much better, only scored a 60. I got nailed for him having too short a neck. I was so happy that he was taking such good contact that I completely missed that! That’s why I’m an amateur! But, he got the qualifying points he needed to show First level at the Arabian/Half Arabian regional sport horse championships and that’s all I cared about. We are not chasing USDF awards this year.

I took Faeryn to a schooling show last weekend and she made her second level debut. She will ‘officially’ (to me, anyway) be six June 26. Hard to believe. She’s really not quite ready for second level, but Marie urged me to “push the envelope” with her. She really has improved tremendously in the past few months, and in another few months, she really truly will be ready for second. She does many things well already – the turns on the haunches, the canter serpentine loop and the shoulder in. She needs the most work on her canter/walk and walk/canter transitions. The key is to get her to carry more weight behind – and we’re definitely making progress in that area. I took her to Marie’s for a lesson the day before the show and really got her ‘sitting’ behind and responding very well to the half halts. She just needs to get stronger behind – after our lesson she was tired – but it was not a ‘fitness’ issue – it was ‘muscle fatique.”  I think she may have been a tad sore the next day as she did not ‘sit’ as well warming her up for the schooling show.The footing in the warm up arena was hard as a rock – even harder than my field I ride in every day! So I didn’t do a lot of canter. And I really did not want to work her too hard, as I was doing two tests, and it was hot – and in fact, ended up with a high of 105! Fortunately we were through riding by 9 a.m.

I have to say, the thing I think I love best about Faeryn and Fling – and also their mom, Sonnys Mona Lisa+/ – is how honest and consistent they are. I don’t know whether my girls got that from their mom, or if Frohwind is also that way under saddle. But they really don’t have many bad days, and they always just march into the arena and seem to try their hardest.

I entered First level test 3 and Second level test 1. One of my goals this year is to show her first and second level at the schooling show championships, to be held at Great SW in December. She is already qualified for First level, so I was really just wanting a qualifying score at Second level from this show.

First 3 seems like it goes on forever – the canter work mostly. For a horse who is still developing a good canter, it’s tough. I had to ‘help’ her a lot and we were both pretty tired at the end. She ‘fell’ out of the canter into trot early in one transition – it’s a tough spot, because I noticed the rider ahead of me did the same thing. Otherwise it went pretty well. The footing was a tad deep, too, so we both had to work harder.

Since we had 2/1 in about 20 minutes, and it was hot, and the ground was hard, I didn’t do much with her except try out a few walk/canter transitions and do some turns on the haunches. I had a real’ here goes nothing” feeling as we entered the arena for our first-ever second level test.

Other than being ‘not quite ready for prime time’ when it comes to the canter/walk and walk/canter transitions – and a bad spook/bobble when a horse in an adjoining paddock exploded into a bucking fit, it was not too bad. She was not as ‘back’ on her haunches as she was the day before, and that is one of the things the judge noted  — “would like to see her carrying more weight behind.” It’s always good when the things the judge nails you for are things you are very well aware of already! It was a good, solid effort.

Now, the scores from this judge are always way too generous. Always. She really likes my horses, so I think she  tends to score them even higher. Even though there were many scores in the 50s at this show – Faeryn scored an embarassing 77.7 on her First 3 ride and a 73.4 on her second level ride. Probably ten points higher than we deserved. But, as a friend once said, sometimes you get less than you deserve and sometimes you get more than you deserve, so just take what you get and figure that it all evens out in the end! LOL! She was the high scoring amateur at the show by a pretty large margin.

One other notable item from the score. Faeryn scored a 9 on a movement. In my entire dressage career, I can remember exactly how many times I’ve scored a 9. Interestingly enough, previous 9s were both from recognized shows. I got (or more correctly, Lisa got) a 9 on her free walk back in the mid 90s at an HDS show at Windy Acres. Around 2006, Fling got a 9 in a First level test from Joan Darnell. I can’t remember the movement, tho. but it was at the Topsider Farm show. Faeryn scored her 9 for the canter/trot/canter transition you have to do across the diagonal in First 3. It is not easy for us – but we’ve worked on it. I tend to not half halt her enough coming to the trot, so she comes to too-strong a trot, or on her forehand – and then tend to panic about getting the canter depart quickly, and flail around and do not sit up straight. I do remember thinking, as we were coming down from canter, to half halt, to stay sitting straight and looking UP – and when she did a very nice upward canter depart within about two strides, thinking “That was pretty good!”

Not even Faxx, with his 69% median at Training level last year, or his high schooling show scores, has ever scored a 9. I think Faeryn just threw down the gauntlet. Perhaps she is tired of living in “big brother’s” (size and achievements-wise) shadow. šŸ˜‰





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