Monthly Archives: July 2011

Life returns to ‘normal’

Well, normal for me anyway – still trying to fit way more into a day than can possibly fit and always three projects going on at once it seems. At least I am almost finished painting cabinets for the pink house remodel – I still need to get some paneling for the side of two cabinets and touch up a cabinet door that had a flying insect kamakazi into the wet paint, leaving skid marks along with his earthly remains. 😉

In addition to that, I am trying to finish my home office – that I started two  years ago! All that’s been lacking is to make pillows/bedskirt for the daybed I bought for it. But I got carried away and probably have fabric and pillow forms for about ten pillows. Less is NOT more in my world. 😉

And, I have two MORE projects in the works: Gutting and remodeling our guest bath, and redoing our guest bedroom. We’ve lived here for 9 years now (it does NOT seem possible!) and the stuff that’s in the guest bedroom was in my “pink house” before we moved. It’s time for something new. So I’ve got the bedding, picked paint colors and am now shopping for ‘new’ furniture. “New” to me means something from the resale shops that I will paint. 😉

In the next week I have to have one mondo trip to Home Depot and buy as much stuff as I can that will be used in our bath reno, since I have a 10% off coupon and it expires 7/31. Luckily I have already been shopping and took tons of pics of stuff and their SKU numbers/prices. All I need to do is check with Home Depot and see how they want me to place the huge order – we’re talking tub, toilet, sink, light fixtures, sheetrock, beadboard paneling, vanity, paint and tile. It will probably be $2500 in materials.

But on the horse front, things are back to ‘normal’ since I’m back to riding, AND I am happy to report I am riding on the base of my arena and it’s pretty good. Fling works much better on it. It’s a bit softer than the pasture, which is a good thing. We got about an inch of rain this afternoon and it rode just fine damp. The plan now is to let it settle a bit more, then have dozer guy come out and fix some of the low spots that developed when it settled. Then I have to sift the sand he scraped off to get the old bad clay base chunks out of it. I’ll use my front end loader to dump loads on the arena as I get them sifted, and when I am done, dozer guy will come back out and spread. I won’t need much sand on it, and I think when the coarse sand mixes a bit with the very top layer of the base, it will be absolutely fabulous.

Speaking of fabulous – Faxx was yesterday. Went right to work with hardly any warm up, taking super good contact. He did shoulder-in, leg yield, baby half pass at walk, and some pretty decent turn on the haunches. I am making a concentrated effort to raise the bar as far as getting him more ‘adjustable’ in his gaits, so we also did lots of forward and back at trot, and also many trot/walk/trot transitions.

And fling and Faeryn were fabulous today. I decided to take the bull by the horns and get back to working on our flying changes. they’ve been like the elephant in the room that nobody wants to mention. As in, they are STILL not confirmed. But not working on them isn’t going to help. I understand her canter needed to improve in quality to help the changes – but I think it’s time to face our toughest challenge. So tonight I started, and I think I have some insight into what may help us. For one thing, I discovered, when I ask for a change, i really have to MEAN it. She cannot read my mind. Sometimes when I asked for a change, I got nothing. So I had to make my aids clear. A few times, she did not change in back. So I tapped her with the whip as I asked for the change – something I’ve never done. It solved the problem of not changing behind.  Above all else, though,  Fling has to learn to do the change without completely barging through my aids and ‘taking off.’ We had a small ‘discussion’ about that, and what I started doing was canter across the diagonal and just walk where we would do a change. And then pick up the other lead and canter. And when she did listen to me, and I did a change, I started bringing her to a dead stop as quickly as I could after the change – which was not easy, considering stopping her after she’s done a change is like trying to stop a freight train. Wherein lives the big problem in trying to do more than ONE change. And therein lies the road block to fourth level. So around and around we went across the diagonal this way and that – sometimes changing, sometimes just doing a simple change, but ALWAYS coming to a walk after a flying change. And if she was barging as we went across the diagonal, we came to walk. She started getting the idea, and as a bonus, her canter/walk transition got much better.  it is hard to get cross with her, since she’s not really evading, she just is enthusastic and thinks SHE should make the decisions sometimes. 😉

Faeryn was good too. She felt less on the forehand than she has. I am seriously thinking about sending her to a rehab place for a week to ‘swim laps’ every day. It’s near Bellville and I’ve heard terrific things about it. They have a horse swimming ‘track’ that is sort of a large loopy affair – it’s very narrow so a person can walk on each side of the horse with a pole attached to their halter to make sure the horse does not get in trouble. It’s very reasonable, too. $30 a day including board and a swim every day.

I am also planning to go to the Sport Horse Nationals in Kentucky as a spectator. since I decided I would wait and let Faxx get some experience at First level, I knew that if I went and watched and saw the facilities, and got the lay of the land, I would be much more comfortable when it came to actually going to the show. A friend of mine who used to do endurance riding with me – and who is now into dressage too – is going to go with me. Hopefully we’ll finalize our plans next week and book airfare. I already have a hotel booked, since I was planning to go to the show. I’ll do this instead of going to the USDF Awards Banquet in San Diego to pick up my Bronze medal in person.

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Wrap-up on Arab Regionals – the ‘dressage curse’ is broken!

The past two years, Faxx has really underperformed in dressage at this show. As I’ve mentioned before, the arena is totally enclosed, and he cannot see any other horses while he’s in there. Plus, they go from the hot warm-up arena to the ‘air conditioned’ competition arena (probably no cooler than 80, but a good 15 degrees cooler than the warm-up) and then only have about a minute to acclimate before starting the test.

 In past years, Faxx immediately ‘braced’ and got stiff and tense when hitting that cold air and isolation! And since you only have about a minute before you have to start your test, I never had time to work him through it.

This year, he was much, much better. He was a total 2×4 on Thursday when I rode him after the in-hand competition. I was quite worried at that point since I could not have ridden a dressage test if my life had depended on it! I couldn’t even get him through enough to sit the trot, despite working on it for more than 30 minutes.

He was much better the next day in my warm up for Sport Horse Under Saddle, so I was hopeful for dressage the following day. However, I also knew that he was not really quite ready to compete at First level. He does not have the ‘adjustability’ in his gaits that Faeryn does, and I was especially worried about the canter/trot/canter transition that you have to do across the diagonal. And I was a little concerned about our always-present issue, taking good contact and keeping it.

Our dressage rides were after lunch on Saturday. Not my favorite scenario. I would much rather ride in the morning. Plus, our rides were just over an hour apart. Very awkward timing. Not enough time to really unsaddle them and let them relax, but way too much time to just stay on and walk around.

I was relieved that he at least was taking an acceptable level of contact when I got on for my warmup. It was not as steady and consistent as I would have liked, but light years better than what I’d had two days before. 

He was working pretty well when it was our time to go in. Unfortunately, about the second stride of our first movement – lengthen stride at the trot – he tripped. It took me several strides to get him back together and I couldn’t even get a lengthening. It rattled me and the first few movements after that weren’t great. And, he missed the lead on the canter/trot/canter transition across the diagonal. Oh well, that’s horse showing! Aggravating, but not much you can do but try to do better next time!

 I chose to take Faxx back to the stall and leave his saddle on, but loosened. I thought that mentally, having the saddle taken off, then put back on, might make him a bit grumpy. So I unbridled him, but tied him by his hay net and water. It would have been helpful to be able to see my previous test scores and comments before riding the second one, but I knew that would not be possible. The scores might have been posted by then, but no way they would have the entire previous class scored and results posted by my next ride, much less allowing me time to actually pick up my test and see it. So I didn’t even look at the scores before my next ride. I preferred not to know!

No tripping in our second ride, but, again, he missed the lead change through the trot. He keeps falling against my leg and I can’t get him bent quickly enough to the correct new direction. But he is still taking good contact. A little ‘wobbly’ in spots, but quite rideable.

When we’re done, I take my time untacking him, changing clothes and hosing him off before I go check on the scores. This is my LEAST favorite part of showing! I am pleasantly surprised that we got a 64.something on our first ride, the Adult Amateur class. We were tied for second, but lost the tie (determined by collective marks) and ended up third – or Top Five. Bummer, but I am pretty pleased with the score and know that our second ride was better. When I checked back later, they only had about half the scores posted and we were in first with a 66.7! And I was very happy when I checked back later to find that we had WON the class and the second place person had a 64. Finally he had WON a dressage class at Regionals! The ‘curse’ was broken!  LOL! Our final ride was the AOTR First level dressage Sunday morning. The pressure was off, since we’d already won four championships, including the long-awaited dressage win. The main thing I wanted to do was nail the durn canter/trot/canter transition! I was pleased with our ride and thought it was better than my second ride on Saturday. We also managed to finally get the correct lead in the canter/trot/canter transition. I was a bit bummed that the score was a 66.1 – just a tad lower than the previous day. When I got the score sheet I discovered we had more 8s than we had gotten the previous day, but had also ‘traded in’ some 7s for 6s. We were reserve champion – just three tenths of a percentage point behind the champion.

I was very pleased with Faxx. He went in and did his job and the mistakes were those of inexperience, and not of being tense or uncooperative. He will only improve with more chances to ride the test, and more training! And, I am happy to report, we won almost $500 in prize money! Not nearly enough to cover all our expenses, but every little bit helps.

I looked at the scores for the Top Ten placings in the First Level amateur classes at Nationals for the past two years and he would be been in the top third of the class both years. Regardless, we’re going to delay our appearance at Nationals to gain more experience.

I didn’t get a photo with ALL our loot on display,but this was taken Saturday afternoon, so it’s most of it!

 

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 Recap of Regionals Results:

 Champion, Half Arab Sport Horse In Hand, Amateur to Handle

 Reserve Champion (by two tenths of a point!) Half Arab Sport Horse In Hand, Open

Champion, Half Arab Sport Horse Under Saddle Open

Champion, Half Arab Sport Horse Under Saddle Amateur to Ride

Top 5 (Actually third place, since he tied for Reserve CH but lost the tie) Dressage First Level AATR

Champion, Dressage First Level Open

Reserve Champion, Dressage First Level AOTR ( three tenths of a point behind Champion!)

 

 

Report from Arab/Half Arab Sporthorse Regionals

It is almost unbearably hot in Waco. They have had triple digit temps here for something like 32 days in a row now. It has hovered between 103 and 105 each day. The barn isn’t too bad in the morning, but heats up in the afternoon.The only thing that makes it tolerable is that they have those Big Ass fans. Yes, that is the company name. They are so big they look like airplane propellers and they really make a difference. We requested stalls that are directly under one of them. The show arena is ‘air conditioned’ down to about 80, which makes wearing a wool show coat miserable but not dangerous.

Yesterday Faxx competed in the in-hand classes.  He is totally bored with showing in hand and it shows. He is Mr. Perfect when I am schooling him outside of the ring (which I do very infrequently since he IS so  bored with it) but when we got into the ring, it was fidget, fidget, fidget. They have to go in by themselves, and they can’t see any of the other horses in the warm up area from the ring. That is what Faxx hates most about it, I think. Anyway, I did lunge him prior to showing him, like i did at Spindletop, and I think that made a difference in getting better movement out of him. And it’s a good thing that movement counts more than conformation, since he wiggled around so much I don’t know how the judge even could tell much about his conformation. But, he was Reserve Champion in the Open class, and the Champion only beat him by .2 points.  Next was the  Amateur to Handle class. The horse that beat him in the open class was not in the ATH class, so I was hopeful he would win – and he did, with a score that was .2 higher than the first class.

Today was Sport Horse Under Saddle, Faxx’s favorite class since all he had to do was walk/trot/canter around with ‘friends.’ He is much happier when he has company in that big arena! He had a good go the first class except for one small bobble when I asked for just a bit too much trot and got a stride or two of canter. I did not think the judge saw it, so was not too worried. There were several horses he had never competed against in this class. I was happy when we were named part of the Top 5, and even happier when he was named Champion!  We had about a 15-minute break and then we went back in the ring for the SH Under Saddle Amateur To Ride class. This was a bigger class – and I was a little worried about traffic, but had a better ride (I thought) than the first trip. Faxx was taking better contact and we had no bobbles. And he won that one too!

You can see a picture of our ‘loot’ so far below. Even better, we’ve earned prize money! More than $300 so far, which will help defray our entry fees!

Tomorrow is dressage. He has not performed well in this venue – the combination of not being able to see any other horses while he’s in the ring, and also that it’s ‘air conditioned’ and is about 15 degrees cooler than the warm up area. Both of those factors tend to make him tense. He also has only shown First level a few times – and only once at a recognized show. We will just do the best we can and learn from the experience.

 

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Life gets in the way….

I pretty much ride every day – no matter what. I just don’t often (lately) have time to post on a horse AND on my blog!

The video I posted of Fling at the clinic made me feel a lot better about my progress with her. My position is much better – I am not leaning back nearly as much. I am keeping my reins shorter (too-long reins are what, Debbie suggested, started my bad habit of leaning back), Fling is consistently on the bit and very collected. It also showcased some things we need to work on. If you’ll notice at the walk, she nods her head. If you look closely you’ll see she is nodding her head at the same time her right hind comes forward. She is still weak in the right hind – and one of the problems is that, in doing a lot of exercises to try and strengthen it – sometimes it gets a little sore. And sometimes the left hind gets a little sore compensating for the sore right hind. We do not think there is any particular problem – it’s just a lifelong weakness that we have to always be aware of and work on. Everyone has imbalances from right to left, horses and humans alike. Nonetheless, I think it is time to ‘upgrade’ her ‘maintenance’ dose of generic glucosamine to regular polyglycon injections and perhaps get some baseline x-rays of her hocks and stifles. She will be 11 in August and she’s schooling canter pirouettes, and, unfortunately, for the last 6 months she’s been working on pretty hard ground. She also doesn’t get much time off. But she will this week, since Faxx is going to the Arabian/Half Arabian Sporthorse Regional Championships in Waco.

In our last clinic, I told Debbie Bowman that I felt like I was constantly nagging Fling with half halts. Although it’s not apparent in the video. I am now making a conscious effort to make each half halt count – ie, she needs to repond to a half halt, not ignore me. And she’s probably ignoring me because I’ve been doing too many – becoming like ‘white noise’ to her. I overheard Marie say something to a student riding after me a few weeks ago – she said the student needed to have a more ‘playful’ connection with the reins. That struck a chord with me. I realized that I am so SERIOUS about everything that I keep my reins the same length all the time, with the same pressure on both reins for most of the time. And I do give the reins on a regular basis – but there is not enough of a ‘conversation’ going on between Fling and me.

So I’ve been trying to work on letting her have more ‘freedom’ – not nagging her with half halts, and trying to make ALL my aids much more sublte – and doing much more ‘giving the reins’ – even if it’s just one rein at a time. It’s made a difference I think.

In the meantime, my arena is more than haflway done. All the bad heavy clay base has been scraped off and is piled next to the arena. I brought in 27 loads of ‘soil engineer-approved’ new base and it was spread and leveled. I rented a 500 gallon water truck and spend July 4th weekend filling the tank and using the firehose to water the arena. It tooko almost 2 hours to fill the tank and about 15 minutes to disperse it onto the arena! It was very ‘mucky’ and the dirt stuck to my shoes when it was soaking wet, which kind of concerned me. But within a matter of hours, you could walk on it without making big footprints. By the next day I could ride on the base.

It still needs some more work before I put the sand back on it. It has some small low spots once it all settled, and I think I would like it crowned just a bit more. And then the real work starts. I realized that in scraping my $3,000 coarse sand off the arena, a LOT of the nasty clay base got mixed in with it. Since I cannot spend $3K on more sand, I will be HAND SIFTING the sand before we put it back on the arena. That may take me until the end of the year!  Even with that, I am cautiously optimistic that “Arena 2.0″ will do the trick. I have been riding on the base every day. Only about the top 1” of it has gotten ‘scuffed up’ due to the riding. And it’s much more forgiving on the horses’ legs than riding in the field.

As I mentioned, Faxx is going to the annual Arab/HA SH Championships this week. He is going through a bit of a ‘whiny teenager’ phase. He really thinks I am working him WAY too hard, and would really like to just go back to training level, where all he had to do was trot around pretty. 😉  He has had several small meltdowns over learning shoulder-in. He is not being a bad boy – it is just hard for him. For one, he is a big horse, with big movement, and, as Marie pointed out – REALLY long legs. It is not easy for him to figure out what to do with them. He also is not nearly as mentally mature as Fling or Faeryn. And (lowers voice to a whisper) he is not nearly as smart as his sisters.Shhh. We do not want to bruise his little ego.

He is going to be a challenge for me to train, because I’ve been dealing with super smart, overachieving horses for a long time. As Marie noted, I am going to have to break things down into very small elements for him. He gets frustrated and a bit worried when he does not understand something. It could easily be mistaken for being uncooperative – but I really don’t think that is the case. I did at first – but after several lessons, and watching him, Marie pointed out to me how worried he gets when we’re doing new stuff. And looking and thinking back, I believe that is true. Several times, I have had sessions where I thought he was being a completely butthead – and told him so! And then the very next day, he was Mr. Perfect. I think it takes him a while to process things. The fact that he improves overnight shows he really IS trying… it just takes him longer to think about it.

He is showing first level at the Championships. We are DONE with training level. Even tho he is only 6, and he’s probably not _quite_ ready for first level – we’ve only ridden the new First 3 test in competition three times, and two of those were at schooling shows. No matter – onward and upward. He will also show in hand and in Sport Horse Under Saddle, which is sort of like a materiale class. Last year he won both of his SH US classes – open and amateur. He likes to do those….because all he has to do is trot and canter around and look pretty. 😉

Speaking of trotting around and looking pretty – here’s a video of his warmup at our last clinic.