It takes a village to make a dressage horse and rider!

I’ve been struggling with flying changes for years, and it’s what’s been holding Fling from advancing. I take all the blame for our problems – when I started teaching her flying changes, I had not even ever ridden a flying change on a trained horse. Since Fling is a ‘one person’ horse, sending her to a trainer to put changes on her was not an option.

I have been training with Marie Morgan for a number of years now and she is great – patient, correct and classical. And she coached Fling and I to our Bronze medal and to Fourth, earning both scores I need at Fourth for my Silver medal.

But we were definitely stuck. And I really needed to start working on flying changes with Faeryn, but I was afraid I would make the same mistakes as I made with Fling, and  didn’t really want to send her away to someone.

Pati Pierucci had been coming to a friend’s farm for a few months and she suggested I try to see if she could help me with Fling. Pati really helped me with Fling and with just a few sessions we were finally getting clean single changes reliably. So now she’s helping me with Faeryn. Pati has ridden her a few times and we are in the ‘making the canter better’ phase before Pati will start asking for changes.

I had never shown above Fourth 1 due to the difficulty, but I showed Fourth 3 at several schooling shows and at the HDS Schooling Show Championships. Four 3 has a schooling canter pirouette and one canter half pass zigzag. She still can’t do the tempi changes – but that is what we are working on and hopefully this year she will be ready to show Prix St. Georges and we can finish our Silver medal. Here are a  few great shots of her from the HDS Schooling Show Championships. She was a freight train during the class because she was scared of the arena – the canter photo is from Saturday and you can see the tension – but look at how she is sitting. I am prepping her for a canter pirouette here.

Bad, bad blogger!

So it’s been more than six months since I posted here. Life gets in the way! I’ve been riding – just don’t have much time to write about it. Most day I don’t have enough time to ride and write! But I have been riding, and the ponies have all bee making good progress.

Faeryn had her recognized show Second Level debut in July, with scores all in the 60s, with one 65. She qualified for the Region 9 USDF Championships. Unfortunately when the show rolled around, she was showing in heat for the first time in her life. My husband  got a new horse – a gelding – and Faeryn fell in love! She did not perform to her usual standards, but she managed to capture the brown 8th place ribbon in the USDF Second Level Adult amateur Championship class. So our goal over the winter is to start flying changes and show third level at schooling shows next year sometime.

Faeryn 2014 Region 9 Champs Award Ceremony

Faeryn during the 2014 Region 9 Dressage Championships award ceremony.

Fling is still working steadily toward Prix St. Georges. The flying changes are better, and her self-carriage has improved greatly.I am hoping to get her qualified for the Houston Dressage Society Schooling Show Championships in December. I am showing her fourth level – I’ve never shown Fourth Level Test 3,. which is almost as hard as Prix St. Georges, since it has sets of 3 and 4 tempe changes. We will have to show 4/3 in the Championships, although we’re allowed to qualify at any test of the level.

2014 Faeth w rose blanket cropped2

Faeth modeling the garland she won in January for being Champion Half Arabian Sport Horse.

Faeth went to the Arabian/Half Arabian Region 9 Sport Horse Championships and was a good girl and was Reserve Champion Half Arabian Sport Horse Mares in Hand Open, with Liz Petty from the Dallas area handling her, and in the Amateur class, with me handling her we got a Top 5.  I have started bridling her and she is not impressed at all with that. I am having to take the bridle apart to get the bit in her mouth, but once it’s on her, she’s okay with it. I have already booked her with a super good young trainer north of me for next April through June.She is already over 16 hands, but I think she’s almost quit growing because she finally got fat! Hoping she stops around 16.1. I seriously doubt she will grow to 17H like Faxx!

 

Yikes – it’s May already?

My last post here was in January. That’s how busy I’ve been. Thankfully the long, cold, wet winter finally ended and my riding can move to the top priority. The goals for this year are for Faeryn to show second level at recognized shows and hopefully qualify for our Regional Championships, which take place in October. Despite the absolutely rotten time we had last year – the lowest score of her career – I feel I’ve got to keep going at it until we get over the “Championships Curse.”  She’s working well and has gone to several schooling shows – our last was under a licensed “S” judge and she got a 64 and 65+ so I think she’s ready. But with our show season almost half over, and two shows for Faeth coming up in May, it’s probably going to be July before I can get her to a show. Her collection has improved and I finally feel like there really is an upper level horse in there. Her canter has improved immensely and I am challenging her more to go beyond her comfort level with collection and just playing around with harder movements. I’ve even started doing large schooling canter pirouettes  with her. She is learning to sit surprisingly well, given her short flat croup. And she does not seem to mind the harder work.

Fling is rocking and rolling! Her canter has gotten a lot more collected and her self carriage is getting awesome. I have started riding through some of the Prix St. Georges text. The new movements are 8 meter volte at trot, a steeper half pass at trot and canter, ‘baby’ canter half pass zig zag with flying change in the middle, canter pirouettes and…the dreaded 3 and 4 tempis. I have no doubt she’ll be able to nail everything but the tempis. Those will always be a ‘wing and a prayer’ thing. Fortunately, she is going to be able to score decently on everything else, so hopefully we can afford two bad scores. All I care about is getting 60% to finish my USDF Silver medal.Her half passes are very good and with more practice, she’ll get better at the half pass, flying change , and change direction of half pass. In just the past two weeks, a light bulb went off in her head and she ‘gets’ the canter pirouette. It may not be quite small enough  yet, but it’s light years ahead of where we were just a month ago. I don’t know when I’ll feel ready to show her at a recognized show, but I am hoping for a small show in November. If not then, maybe January. There are some schooling shows in the fall, and even if she is not ready, I will probably take her to one or two just to ride through the test in a show situation.

Miss Faeth has her own Wintec saddle now and has learned to lunge and wear the saddle. I had her wolf teeth pulled last month, so probably late summer she’ll start serious ground work. She’ll learn to wear the bridle and be lunged in it first, then I’ll start ground driving her so she will know the aids for turning and stopping before someone gets on her. I may or may not get on her before sending her off to be started under saddle. I’ve been leaning and lying over her back and she doesn’t seem to care. She is going to another show Memorial Day weekend to show in hand, and then the following weekend she will go to Ft. Worth for the Arab/Half Arab Sport Horse Regional Championships. It’s a 5-6 hour drive and I am not looking forward to it one bit. I hate the facility at Ft. Worth and am still angry that the regional Arabian politicos moved it from its own separate show in Waco, which I, and almost every other sport horse exhibitor loved, to throw it back with the general crazy Arab English pleasure/western pleasure stuff at Will Rogers in Ft. Worth. I wouldn’t even go except I think Faeth is very competitive and want to see how she does.

And that’s where we are now! And hopefully it won’t be another 4.5 months before I post again!

Faeth Goes To Her First Show

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I don’t know if I have mentioned Faeth, my new half Arabian filly. She was born in 2012 and is a full sister to Faxx. She became part of our family in July. She had barely been handled, so she had some catching up to do, but she was very eager to learn and is a very sweet girl.

I had entered Faeth in an Arabian/Half show this weekend. They have a sporthorse division now and you can show in hand and under saddle, and all classes are judged by carded dressage or hunter judges. This was her very first outing and I hadn’t had time to work her in hand much (they are shown on triangle just like dressage sport horse breeding shows) plus she hasn’t BEEN anywhere in her life hardly. And never stayed away from home overnight before. It was at Great Southwest Equestrian Center, just over an hour away from home.

 
Anyway, by the time it rolled around this weekend, I was so tempted t just blow it off. With all the stuff with my parents (I have one parent in assisted living and another in a nursing home) completely delusional Friday  it just seemed like even more work – braiding her and packing her stuff and my stuff. But it was beautiful weather and some other friends were going so I went.
 
I was a little concerned when I led her all around the show grounds – she was very good until we got to the busy warm up ring behind the main ring and she saw, for the first time in her life, snorty high stepping English pleasure horses and western horses, some doing spins. She obviously wanted to get out of there, but she listened to me.
 
The next morning when I got her out to walk her around before our class, she was noticeably calmer. Plus she’d drank all her water, eaten all her hay overnight and had laid down in her stall. All good things for a first trip  or even a seasoned campaigner. I felt she was calm enough to practice trotting up and down some empty aisles. Perfect. Trotted right up with me calmly and obediently.
 
I was showing her in two classes – Half Arabian Mares Sport Horse In Hand Amateur to handle and open. Judges have a score sheet and give scores for walk and trot, as well as conformation. I really like it because you get to keep the score sheet. The championship in each division is determined by scores.
 
My first class, she stood up well and walked well. When I asked for trot on the triangle she lept in the air! I was stunned. But brought her back to walk, asked for trot again and she was still very up, and shaking her head, but was able to keep her trotting and straight. As I got back to the judge I was just laughing. I knew the judge and her scribe and there was a crowd watching by the in-gate as I said, “I swear she didn’t do that once in practice!” Everyone laughed. But I also knew she’d shown enough of her good trot that the judge wouldn’t ask me to run again. Thank goodness!
 
I went again for the amateur class about 15 minutes later. I didn’t even check scores because I knew they would not be out. I spent some time trotting her in hand again and trying to get the silliness out of her. Our next round still had a minor air above the ground, but nothing like the first one.
 
She won both her classes and was the Champion Half Arabian Mare which earned her a flowered neck sash (artificial flowers) in addition to a ribbon. She ALSO had the highest score in the entire Half Arabian division, which earned her a ‘rose blanket’ (also artificial) to be mailed to me.
 
I was thrilled with her. Even if she hadn’t won, she handled the show atmosphere very well. Her next show will be in May and in June she may go to compete in the Arabian/Half Arabian Sport Horse Regional Championships.

A great start to 2014

The weather has warmed up and suddenly I’ve found my energy and motivation! This weekend I had another super lesson on Fling with my trainer, Marie Morgan. We have made a great breakthrough in the past month with getting her to lift her back more and be rounder at the canter and straighter. Actually, the straightness is what came first and allowed the other. Her carriage is much more uphill. Marie told me she is looking more and more like a ‘real’ FEI horse and to keep doing what I am doing. I am proud of this new breakthrough because it was something I figured out on my own, working alone.

Today I got up early and was happy that rain that was predicted for today never showed up. I rode Faeryn first. I need to push her more. I have just let her lag along at first/second and she’s going to be NINE this year. Unbelievable. I need to raise the bar for her and ride her like she is a third level horse. Tons of transitions. Trot to walk and insist on immediate walk and immediate transition to trot..no walk steps. Canter transitions and simple changes to prepare for flying changes. Head to the wall leg yields to build carrying strength in her hind end. She was very good today.

Fling was very quick to warm up. She usually takes a long time because I fight so much to get her straight EVERY time. Marie showed me an exercise that works much better and takes away the ‘fight.’ It is so simple – I would try to get her straight on a circle – she wants to throw her shoulder to the left both directions. Instead, Marie just had me do very shallow leg yields, keeping her PERFECTLY straight – no bend at all. Much easier and more effective way to warm her up and get her straight and ready to really work.

We did some trot work – transitions to walk, rein back and trot forward, and some half pass and turns on haunches. Then I moved to canter and first did transitions from collected to ‘pirouette canter’ and then asked for pirouettes – only doing two or three strides in each one and then cantering forward out of it. Since Marie pointed out I needed to use my KNEE as well as my lower leg to turn her, they have improved…and then today I also realized that I need to move my inside shoulder BACK, which puts me on my inside seatbone much better.

Then I worked on the simple changes….two strides of canter, walk or halt, pick up other lead…lather, rinse, repeat. She’s better so much better at cantering underneath my seat, and ONLY from my seat and shoulder back aid. this will help a lot when I move to phase two of my plan – actual flying changes every 3 and 4 strides.  I just love this horse so much. She is so generous and is so willing to work hard and give me everything I ask. I pray I can ride her for many years to come. She will be 14 this August, but it just seems like yesterday that I welcomed her into this world!

Trying to find motivation!

It’s been unseasonably cold since November and I am a cold weather wimp. Plus my asthma has really been bad, despite monthly shots and daily medications. So my motivation to ride has been really low. All I want to do is curl up, nap and read books on my Kindle. But nobody is going to get to PSG or second level at recognized shows that way.

So today I took Faeryn for a lesson and I got some good homework for the coming month. Between vacations, education symposiums and shows, Marie will be out almost every weekend in January and February, so I’m on my own.

Faeryn needs to become more collected, and really shorten her front end, while coming more forward with the hind end so she can do the movements more easily. She has super flexible shoulders and would rather throw her front legs forward to propel herself, as opposed to stepping under. And she also needs to gain strength and also build the foundation for flying changes.

Lateral work, lateral work, lateral work. And transitions. And transitions within the lateral work. And canter walk transitions. These are our directives for the upcoming months.

We did shoulder in to head to the wall leg yield and transitions from trot to walk and walk to trot within the shoulder in. And simple changes along the long side. Mastering these and building strength should keep us busy.

My showing is definitely on hold until Faeryn is ready to go show second at recognized shows and Fling is ready to show PSG. However, I plan to hit the schooling show circuit hard this year with both of them, working out the bugs in preparation for recognized shows. I have no idea how long that will take, but I am not spending the money to go to a recognized show until I feel confident they’re ready.