Stuck

Ike November 2014

I have been trying to write this blog post for a few days.  I have struggled with what to say, what not to say, where we are, and where we are not.  Now that spring has officially arrived and the daffodils and crocus have popped up, show season lurks just around the corner.

I equate show season with the start of the school year.  You kind of assume that you are moving up a grade (level) with the new year (season)…and when you are a chronic overachiever, you expect that forward progress.  For years I have struggled to make the leap from a Training/First Level rider to one that can hold her own at Second Level.  While some people would say that reaching the FEI levels would mean the most to them, reaching Second Level has been the Holy Grail for me.  It is the level where it feels like the “real” dressage work starts – you have to show collected and medium gaits, you have to be able to move your horse’s shoulders and haunches independently, you had better be through and connected, and it all has to be done in sitting trot with an independent seat.

In January I honestly thought that we would be ready to try out Second Level Test 1 at a schooling show in April.  I was giddy when I thought about it.  This was it!  We were going to go out and show everyone that we do have some dressage skills.  There was work to be done on the simple transitions, but we had two and a half months, so it was not going to be a problem…and then the snow came…and All. Progress. Stopped. Dead.

As we have restarted, reality set in that we were not ready.  And then a bigger reality set in last weekend.  One of my besties with some serious riding skills came to the barn with me and hopped on Ike.  She last rode him 2 years ago when steering was still questionable most days.  She took just a few minutes to get a good feel for where he was, and off they went.  I will say it was nice to see Ike in action since I only get to see him on video with me astride.  When Miss L figured him out, his leg yield was stunning.  When asked for a flying change, Ike nailed it.  Whoa!  She then played with his simple changes and nailed them.

Hmmm……

Then the clouds parted and the realization set in – poor Ike’s progress is inhibited by his owner’s lack of any dressage skills past First Level.  Poor boy.  He is clearly ready for Second Level and could enter Second Level Test 1 in April, but sadly, I am not.  Too bad he wouldn’t be willing to give it a go on his own.  Heck, I’m even willing to call the test for him.

It is a difficult realization to digest when you are usually at the head of the class.  You see your friends moving onwards and upwards, yet you still remain where you were last year.  It is hard not to compare your progress with others.  It is human nature.  I found a quote on Pinterest the other night that hit home and is going to be my mantra this year:

10426133_10152794349317621_1201164302458210363_nThis year will be about bettering our dressage skills and finally riding down centerline for our first Second Level test ever.  Until we are ready for that, we will strive to improve our weaknesses (turn those shoulders!!) and better our First Level scores from last year.  That is the beauty of dressage.  Even if you never bring home a ribbon in a class, you can still compete against yourself.  Wish us luck!

alison

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Extracurricular Activities (or Why Ike Needed to Get Back to Work Sooner Rather Than Later)

"Who wants to play with me?"

“Who wants to play with me?”

The month of February was not a good month for making forward progress to our goal of showing Second Level in April.  We had a solid lesson on February 9th, and then Mother Nature decided to be persnickety and throw every type of frozen precipitation at us for days on end.  I tried riding one other day, but that ended with Ike’s hind end slipping out from under us and me almost sliding off with thoughts of broken bones and torn tendons flashing through my brain. So I hung up our bridle and hunkered down until Mother Nature’s mood improved.  Unfortunately it took her almost 4 weeks to come to her senses as our next lesson just happened today, March 10th .  Grrr, not amused.

Ike on the other hand, took the time off to engage in some extracurricular activities.  The more bored he became, the more the extracurricular activities escalated.  I thought I would share with you some of the activities in case your horse is still out of work and you need some ideas to keep him occupied.

  1. Halter Removal – This game only works when at least one horse is wearing a halter.  The object of the game is to get the noseband of the halter into the mouth of the horse wearing the halter without the halter breaking.  I guess it goes without saying that it is also better if nothing breaks on any of the participants.  Of course, this game is hard on the halter, so buy cheap ones since they will eventually fray and break.
  2. Snow Angel – You try and make the most elaborate snow angel.  This game requires some agility skills and the ability to completely roll over to obtain the full angel wing span.  Ike, sadly, usually made a one-winged angel.  This was his least favorite game and soon fell out of favor.
  3. I’ve Got Your Water – This game involves trying to steal the water from your brother’s paddock.  Each day, repurposed muck buckets of fresh water were set out in the paddocks in the morning.  We came to realize that Mr. Giraffe could grab the handle of his brother’s bucket if it was set too close to the fence.  Ike thought it was great fun to grab it and try to put it in his paddock.  “Ha, ha, I now have two and you have none.”
  4. Play With Me Now – The instigator stands at the fence line and must make mean faces at the other participant until the other participant relents and finally plays with the instigator.  It also helps to stomp the ground and kick out your hind leg in disgust.  Once both participants are engaged, both must show off their rearing skills in the icy footing.  The first one to fall is the loser.
  5. The Tree Removal Game– You find the one and only tree near your paddock and pull on the trunk of the tree to see how much of an angle you can obtain before the tree splits in two.  So far a 30-35 degree angle is the record.  Ike plans to parlay this game into some side work this summer working for a tree company.
  6. Paddock Redesign – This is an advanced game that requires some knowledge of electric fences and how to test whether or not they are working.  Beginners will need help from more advanced players to hone their fence testing skills.  Once the basics are established, the object of the game is to remove a section of the paddock fence to create a “door” into the adjacent paddock.  If the “door” is not fully open, you also test your jumping skills to avoid the “trip wire” still blocking the “door.”  Once in the adjacent paddock, this opens up a whole new array of game opportunities…until of course you get caught by the warden…
  7. Spring Fling – This is a bonus game if you master Paddock Redesign.  It is also a boy/girl game.  The object is to see how long you can play with the girls over their fence line until you get caught by the warden or you piss them off enough that they no longer want to play with you.  Bonus points are given if you can avoid shocking yourself on their hotwire while you engage them in play or if you can create a “door” into their paddocks.

Phew, we went back to work just in the nick of time.  I would hate to think what was next in line for equine activities…Trailer Pulling Contests or Hide and Seek anyone?

How Equestrians Know It Is Springtime

March 9 without blanket

1) You take your horse’s blanket off the final time and send it to be cleaned.

2) Your horse ejects hair at such an alarming rate and you consider if Hair Club for Horses might be needed.

3) Your car has so much horse hair in it you think the horses may have gone joy riding while you slept.

4) The printer runs out of ink because you printed too many show prize lists.

5) The excess funds you accumulated all winter are gone after you enter two shows.

6) Your horses look like bloodhounds as they search out the first blades of grass.

7) As your horse wanders around his paddock, you pray that the nails of his shoes will keep them secured to his hooves and not sucked into a muddy oblivion.

8) You arrive at the barn to find this…

Muddy Cigar

9) Once you clean your horse, you hope that he remains clean for the Coggins photo.

10) You debate the merits of brown boots, mud brown pants, and tan shirts.

11) You rejoice that you sweat during your ride rather than wondering if frostbite has set in on your fingers.

12) Daylight savings time means you no longer have to get blinded by the setting sun when you ride after work.

13) You are more excited at the thought of the new spring tack catalogs rather than the seed catalogs.

14) You shudder at the thought of spring cleaning the tack room.  Evidence suggests that the Mouse King now lives in your tack box.

15) You are so excited to be in the saddle again that you suffer from memory loss about all your summer complaints about heat, bugs, and sunburn.

We might still be days away from the official start of spring, but Ike and I wish you warm spring thoughts everyone!

alison