The One With the Shallow Canter Loop

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Yeah, yeah, I’ve been a bit of a slacker on my blogging in the past few weeks.  After reading what Ike had to share last week, and finding out that he placed a sales advertisement for me on Horse Junkies United (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/?p=83195 ), I felt that I needed to get back to my writing before I found myself on a trailer to an unknown destination courtesy of my darling horse.

We are gearing up for our next show.  It seemed like it was waaaaayyyyyyy down the road, but June arrives on Sunday and the show is only two weeks away!  Eeek!  Now I should have some confidence given our luck at the last show, but I know well enough that success at the next show is not guaranteed.  Plus, we decided to be bold and signed up for First Level Test 3 otherwise known as “the one with the shallow canter loop” as I have dubbed it.

The shallow canter loop: It sounds so simple.  Left lead canter around the short end, at H turn onto the long diagonal towards X, then maintain the canter as you head back to the rail at K.  All this after a 15 meter circle and a lengthening.  Not.So.Simple.  I have no doubt that our problems with maintaining the canter on the loop are all my fault…problems are almost always due to my error(s).  We tend to lose it right around X.  I probably shift my weight inappropriately, or grab the right rein more than I should, or shove Ike to the right with my left leg and knock him off balance.  Then, I repeat my sins on the right side.  No wonder he put me up for sale or trade.

Then there is the matter of the right-to-left leg yield to centerline, to 10 meter circle to the left, 10 meter circle to the right, and (joy of joys) then finish with leg yield left-to-right.  Say what!?  That is a lot to ask of the spastic girl with her BIG horse.  It is not a good time to let your reins get too long.  Trust me, I speak from experience.  I’m debating smearing Stick-um/rubber cement/Super Glue/Gorilla Glue on my gloves to help.  If you lose your steering at any point of this series of movements, you are doomed.  Doomed!

Although I know that we are not as strong as I would like to be, I’m still glad that I decided to try it.  If you never commit to trying, then you will be less likely to practice and push yourself.  It is too easy to get complacent and stick with what you know.  It is the same philosophy I used when I signed up for First Level Test 2 at the first show of the season.   Just do it.  And remember, at most shows there aren’t that many people who are watching that closely.

And while I did commit to the harder test, I did also sign up for Training Level Test 3.  I really want to see if we can break the 70% mark in that test.  It still haunts me that we had the bobble in the canter at the GAIGs.  It also haunts me that when we rode the test a few weeks after the GAIGs that the judge compared our canter to Scooby Do.  I know we are better than that now and it would be nice to see the improvement in the scores.  Anyone want to take bets on how we will do?

The weekend looks gorgeous.  Looking forward to two happy days in the saddle.  Happy Riding!

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Time to Step It Up

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Howdy Everyone!  I’ve decided that I will be the one to fill you in on the latest from the barn.  Mom seems to be distracted with issues with the home and work electronics.  She had to fix the home router last week, have the power supply for the phone/television/internet replaced, and now she broke her work laptop.  Maybe I am glad that I am a horse and don’t have to worry about such nonsense.  Maybe I should be worried that she might break me?  What is the big deal with living with no TV or computer for a few days?  I live without it every day.  Silly, silly human.

I gave myself a few days off after my stellar performance at the first show of the year.  I don’t mean to brag, but I was a really good boy.  A bunch of my friends came to cheer for me;  my favorite fans brought apple slices that Mom made me share with my buddy Felix.  You might be wondering how I managed to get a vacation so early in the season…Well I kicked the back of my left knee with a hind shoe and limped around the barn.  Mom overreacted as usual and had the vet come to check me.  It was just a bruise, but I managed to get almost a whole week off to do nothing.  Mom was really nice to me and let me graze in the good grass.  After a few days, I did finally let her know that I was feeling better by taking her for a walk (I let her think she is walking me most days since it seems to make her feel good).

Last weekend Mom signed us up for another clinic.  She seems to think that “outings” are good for me.  At least this clinic was really close to home so I got to sleep in my own stall.  My new neighbor Joe misses me when I am not at home at night.  (Joe moved into Dooda’s stall a month ago; he is a nice fellow who is brown like me.)  The clinic was at Mom’s friend’s farm.  Ms. S has a very delicious parking area with lots of clover.  Mom was all worried that I’d have a green mouth while she rode.  I was worried that I’d missed a good grazing spot.

I tried really hard at the clinic.  The clinician was a judge from New York, Scott Peterson.  He is a really tall man who had funny stories to share about Hilda Gurney.  Like Hilda, he did not hand out candy during my lesson.  I need to work on this lack of handouts.  I tried really hard to do everything that they wanted me to do.  I would hear Scott say that I looked good, but when I would try to slow down as we would get close, Mom would goose me along.  Sheesh.  I think I might need to start a petition to demand candy during all my lessons and clinics.  Yes, I must admit that I am very food motivated.  I will be happy to provide a list of all the candy that I do like to eat.

I was glad to hear that a lot of the problems that we have while riding are due to Mom’s lack of focus and timing.  Ha!  She gets all upset with me when I lift my head to look at something, but she will drift off into lala-land and put on the cruise control.  No wonder I spook sometimes.  Something has to snap her back to reality.  The poor woman did work on her sit trot on Sunday.  The arena we worked in had mirrors, and just between you and me, it was not a pretty picture.  Pogo stick meets toy soldier meets uncoordinated, sweaty woman.  Good thing I had on my thick Ecogold saddle pad to protect my back.  Don’t look for us at Second Level anytime soon.

The take home message from this past weekend is that we need to step up our work in order to escape the lower levels.  Yes, we are doing well, but to ever make it past First Level, Mom and I are going to have to work really hard.  I’m told that I have to slow down my canter – boo.  Mom was reminded that forward does not mean faster.  I need to be more rhythmic in all my gaits – that is fine, but it is Mom’s job to make it happen.  I think it was funny that Scott made Mom count out loud while she rode.  Poor woman was breathless at times, guess she needs to get her butt into the gym for some cardio.  I kind of like that all the hard stuff falls on her shoulders.  That leaves me more time to eat my candy and grass.

Good catching up with you.  Come see us at our next show, but don’t forget the candy!

Ike

 

Horse Lovers Rejoice! Our Homes are Finally Trendy!

 

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Well, at least that is what the article in last Friday’s newspaper said.  All things equine are turning up in various home collections according to the author.  How lucky are we that we are finally on the leading edge of home decoration?!  Finally Elle Décor will be knocking on our doors to do a photo shoot for their next issue.  Guess I’d better break out the broom and sweep up the stray horse hair that has escaped from the lint trap of the dryer.  Suppose I’d better neatly roll that pile of polo wraps that came out of the dryer last week.  Hmm, is that mud and/or manure that I tracked home from the barn?  What is that intoxicating aroma that Yankee Candle will want to use for their new campaign…horse/manure/sweat/leather cleaner?

Oh, pul-lease.  Hello?!!  They obviously must not shop in the same stores that we do.  I have never had trouble finding equine-centric home furnishings to adorn my home.  As far as I know, my fellow horse-crazed friends also have no problems adorning their homes with equine inspired décor.

Of course, I don’t think the home decorators would agree with some of my equine “décor” or the amount of equine related knick knacks that are strewn about the house.  They are probably of the notion that one or two horse things are more than enough to evoke a feeling for the room.  Any good horse junkie will tell you that one horse is never enough.  Horses like to live in herds, so the more the merrier!

With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite items:

1) The print I bought at an auction to support the Virginia Dressage Association about 6 years ago.  I think it looks like Ike.  Maybe it was a sign.

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2) A vase from my mother with horse hair used to create the pattern.

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3) The perpetual award that I was presented at my dressage chapter’s banquet in January.  I get to keep it until the end of the year.

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4) The painting I saw at a wine festival.  My awesome stepdaughter, who was there with me, called my husband and insisted that he buy it for me. 🙂

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And now a few things that “decorate” the house that would probably make a designer cringe and declare that I have committed some designing faux pas:

1) The “feed bag sculpture” that adorns the family room.  [Purina discontinued the feed I use as a supplement, so I stockpiled 15 bags while I researched a replacement.] As you can see, the sculpture has shrunk and we’ve now added a winter blanket to enhance the pile.

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2) The toothbrush holder.

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3) The ribbon “curtains.”  I’m running out of window space!

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4) My eyeglass stand.

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5) The boot corner.  No, there is not a closet available to hide them…

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Then there are the other items that also decorate the house from time to time – various bridle pieces, bits, and reins, Ike’s saddle when it needs a good cleaning, sweaty saddle pads, clean saddle pads, show clothes, mail order boxes from various tack stores.  If I wanted an immaculate home, animals would not be part of my life…I will take the dirt and clutter.  It is a small price to pay for the joy they bring to my day.

Would love to hear what some of your favorite “designer-approved” items are as well as those cringe-worthy items you possess.

Alison

 

 

This Was the Trifecta of Show Weekends

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Since horse racing took center stage this past weekend with the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, it seems appropriate to share my show news in racing terms.  Sadly, I did not have a trifecta bid on the Derby, but if I had, I’d be $1700 richer today.  But, in terms of success, I’d say that this past weekend’s show outcome is just as exciting…at least in my mind.

Ike’s behavior was stellar.

I can honestly say that Ike continues to amaze me with his show demeanor.  After so many years of hanging my head in shame after Cigar would exhibit his wild side, it is nice to have a horse who is easy to handle.  There is no stress during trailer loading.  The trailer does not rock from side-to-side because we are trying to escape as the trailer rolls down the road.  I love that I can braid Ike in under 1 1/2 hours (yes, that is how long it would take to braid Cigar).  In fact, I can now have presentable braids in about 30 minutes using bands.  I love that although he gets rattled by the large tractors, he does try his best to focus and continue to work.  Ike is usually not bothered by the disobedience of other horses in warmup.  He is an amazing partner for this dressage adventure.

The show was well run; the weather was perfect.

The show was hosted by the Central Chapter of the Virginia Dressage Association.  They should be commended for pulling together a show that offered a pleasant atmosphere, friendly volunteers, great ribbons and prizes, and timely classes and scoring.  There is nothing worse than waiting over 2 hours to find out how you did in a class.  Kudos to the stewards, scribes, runners and scorers that kept the wait to a minimum.  Mother Nature also was cooperative and gave us perfect spring weather for the entire weekend.  We were due since the week before had been drenched with almost 6 inches of rain.

Ike has the best fan club.

There is no way I could write this and not thank everyone who helped to make this weekend as memorable as it was.  My husband is my rock that helps keep me from going off the deep end with nervousness.  Ms. C was there to school us on Saturday.  My show buddy Ms. D made hanging out in the barn so much more fun.  And I must sincerely thank all my friends and family who made the trip to the show grounds to sit in the stands and cheer for us.  I’m pretty sure Ike had the biggest fan base at the show; he especially appreciated his junior fans who brought him apple slices.

Our scores were our best EVER!

I am still in a bit of shock.  There I said it.  I have never had show success like this.  I might not ever have it again, but for this one weekend, all the stars and planets aligned to give us our best scores ever at Training and First Levels.  I kept staring at the score sheets in disbelief fully expecting to hear that my scores were for someone else.  My hands shook as I was handed my test sheet and ribbon from the smiling volunteer.

Ike came home with two blue ribbons for his Training Level tests (both were Test 2) with scores of 71.607% and 71.071%.  Mom came home with two hand painted, commemorative wine glasses.  How awesome is that?

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He also has a red ribbon and a yellow ribbon for his First Level tests with scores of 68.108% and 68.103%(Test 2 and Test 1, respectively) .

The most surprising was that Ike also received the High Point Training Level Award for the weekend.  What?!  That never happens.  Never, ever.  I think I am most excited about our First Level scores since we’d only ever tried First 1 last fall at a schooling show.  It was perhaps a bit ballsy to sign up for two First Level tests at our first show of the season, but what did we have to lose?  If we can survive a clinic with 200 auditors, we can try a test with a few spectators, a judge, and a scribe.

So there you have it.  Our first show of the season is behind us.  Now we need to forge ahead, master sit trot, conquer First Level Test 3, and continue the journey for our Bronze Medal.  Hope you stick around, it is just starting to get interesting!