Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall Plans

I love this time of year even though I know the artic blast of winter is on its way.  Crisp mornings, beautiful trees in full fall color, and minimal grass to mow, what's not to like?  Well, except for super furry horses that need to be body clipped(again!).

Now that showing is over for us this year, I've been thinking about our fall training plan.  We normally ride every other day, so 3-4 times per week, and that will stay the same.  The weather is usually much more varied in fall, so my full size grass dressage court is not always available due to soft ground.  I try to avoid riding full time in my teeny tiny indoor until totally necessary, so I have added in raised walk cavalletti, trot poles, and also a lot more "field" dressage all over my farm.  My dressage court will still be on and off usable probably through November/December, so we will also be working on using the principles of Dressage Naturally to improve the suppleness, transitions, lengthens and energy(amazing how those go together!) and test riding the First Level tests.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we will get in some video of improved tests with a pony that is uphill and not behind the vertical.

Anyway, nothing too exciting, but a bit of variety for Jet(boy, was he surprised at that first set of trot poles!) and lots of hacking out through the crunchy leaves with woodsmoke in the air.  Bliss!  What are your fall plans?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bee Serious

It's hard to take yourself seriously when you are dressed as a giant bee, but the last dressage show of the year was a good one.  I couldn't have asked for Jet to bee(!!!) any better.  He got off the trailer at his fourth new venue in four shows and put his head right down to graze.  Totally chill with the chaos and crazy costumes and basically acting like a horse show pro after only four shows.  Out tests were really nice too, flowing and relaxed, with really good canter transitions in Intro C.  

Intro A was a 68.125% for a first, Intro B a 67.8% for second, and Intro C a 70% for another second.  I was super pleased with the scores and judge's comments but even more pleased with Jet's attitude after four (four!!!) shows, that he gets the horse show thing and is totally reasonable to deal with.  From doing passage in a test at our first show, to needing a little more "march" according to the judge at our fourth show, I will take it.  You can see the second half of Intro C HERE if you would like to see my wings in action.  A good day and a really good show season considering that I never thought this horse would settle enough to show and I didn't plan to show this year at all.  Glad I pushed my comfort zone and challenged myself.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Saying Goodbye

Two weeks ago this morning, I said goodbye to my 27 year old Hanoverian mare Oreo Cookie.  She had a good long life and looked fantastic until about two weeks before she passed.  When she started dropping weight rapidly, got very quiet, and just wasn't at all her exuberant bitch self despite copious green pasture, abundant food, and care, my husband was adamant that we not drag things out and I agreed.  It's still a hard thing to do though.  I owned her for 22 years, basically half my life.  

Cookie was difficult, opinionated, hot, stubborn, and basically bat shit crazy sometimes, but at other times we had a wonderful connection.  She was a fantastic athlete with movement and jump to die for and you literally might see the pearly gates if she was in a mood.  We showed through second level dressage, won a starter horse trial, did numerous clinics, showed some hunters, and had thousands of riding hours together.  One day she could be wonderful and the next completely unreasonable.  She was so hot and reactive that everything had to be perfect to have a good ride.  She drove me crazy with her irrational mare BS, but also led me down the path of looking at alternative ideas like Centered Riding, Mary Wanless, and a whole host of different training techniques for hotter, more difficult horses.  I was perpetually frustrated by her nuttiness while simultaneously she opened up my mind to a whole new path of training and riding.

When I bought Jet I started riding her less because I found him so much easier.  It was such a novelty having a horse that always came out with the attitude, "What do you want me to do so I can do it and get my treat?"  He had nowhere near her athleticism but was just so much more pleasant to deal with on a daily basis.  So Cookie had a nice semi-retirement with a triple stall, 24 hour turnout, and the occasional ride testing out some new concept.  She was particularly receptive to the TRT Method since it really helped her with some of her fear issues and made her a little safer to handle on the ground.  She was slightly arthritic when I discovered Dressage Naturally, so I didn't bother to use the principles on her, but I think it would have been super beneficial.

A lot of people would have moved her on at some point earlier in her riding life but I just couldn't do it.  I was pretty convinced she would end up on a truck to nowhere good.  Though she was a PIA, even in retirement, I felt responsible for her.  My only regret is that I can't do it all over again knowing all the things I know now.  I could do so much better.  Greener pastures big girl.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fall Plans

As I touched on for my show recap for Serenity Valley, I'd like to take Jet to one more show this Fall at Intro.  I have a couple of choices of show venue and as long as the weather is not heinous, we should be able to show in October and be qualified for year end awards with the DLSC.  I've been so pleased with his attitude on the road that I have wondered whether I should push it showing in colder(and spookier!) weather, but this year has been about getting out of my comfort zone a bit, so we will keep on keeping on and give it a shot.

After SV we worked on being more poll high, stretchable, and in self carriage.  Jet had no problem doing this first ride after the show, which tells me the problem was yours truly.  We had been doing some harder work before the show and of course I was reverting to using my hands more and cramming him together, which leads to a pony who is not using the ring of muscles and lifting his withers properly.  Sigh.  This has been a theme through my riding life and I thought I finally had it licked, but obviously not.  The nice thing is that if I have the mantra of "Poll high, stretchable, in self carriage" in mind I am perfectly capable of riding properly.  I just have to especially be conscious of it when riding harder, more challenging movements.

Speaking of more challenging things, my current plan has been to test ride at a level that is totally easy while working on the components of the next level up.  Basically, I ride an easy test as part of our warmup and then move on to working on the ingredients of the next level. So right now we are riding a Training Level test in the beginning of our rides and then working on things from First Level.  This has seemed to work really well for Jet.  He feels like a star because the tests are easy(and he gets a treat afterwards!), I get test riding practice, and we are working in a low key way on the next thing.  I don't think you can overestimate how much our horses know when we are pleased with them and how much this builds their willingness to work harder.  I used to test ride right on the edge of what Jet could do and I think he could always feel my frustration when things weren't really good.  By doing tests that are totally achievable we both feel happier, but the bulk of the work is in the next level, so we are clipping right through the tests.

I'm hoping to get all the way through test riding the First Level tests this Fall.  We have done the First Level tests before but my goal is to do them properly in a correct carriage, not slightly behind the vertical.  I think it is totally possible and the biggest things that could hold us back are weather and my need to cram Jet together when doing harder work.  Wish us luck!