The Power of the Horse

Well, the final hurrah of the year is over.  The show duds have been packed away until year.  The self-imposed stress of horse shows is behind us and we can get back to just training…after Ike enjoys a few days of well earned down time.
Our Second Level championship ride had a major spook, but the rest of the test was solid and our score enough for an eighth place ribbon.  While it now resides next to the two we earned at Training and First Levels, it somehow has an extra special place in my heart.

This year was a big one for us.  It was the first year ever that our shows did not include any of the lower levels.  This was the year that I felt that Ike and I truly connected – collection is possible and I have seen glimpses of the still untapped power. The falling acorns helped me find my medium trot and Ike’s passage.  It is scary and thrilling all at the same time.

But most of all, I marvel at the awesome group of friends who I have met through my equine endeavors and who share this grand adventure.  We all arrived at this point by different paths, yet as we sat together in the barn this weekend, it didn’t matter how we got there. We were all there to enjoy our horses and cheer for each other. Strangers became life long friends. Fellow competitors morph into friendly faces and you cheer for their success. You volunteer your time to help the show run smoothly and sometimes you can turn someone’s day around by wishing them luck or congratulating their nice ride.

Horsepower is a good thing, but the power of the horse is something truly amazing. To all my friends, I cherish you all and look forward to our future adventures. 

Alison 

Equestrians Know It’s Hot When…

Ike in the shade

Can we just hang in the shade?

So there have been numerous articles published in the local newspaper to let us know that the dog days of summer are here.  Oh, really? Someone needed the newspaper to tell them that it is ridiculously hot? Umm, any equestrian could have told you that weeks ago.  We have our own ways of knowing it is hotter than Hades outside with a dose of subtropical humidity to make it more insufferable.

Equestrians know it is sweltering when…

 

You are on your third change of clothes and it is only 10 AM.

The sweatband in your helmet is so saturated that the sweat just runs into your eyes and blinds you. Thankfully your horse is smart enough not to run into your trainer.

They postpone a horse show for the safety of horses and riders.

You sweat through your gloves and can no longer half halt efficiently since the reins are sliding through your fingers.

Your horse is soaking wet even before you start grooming and tacking for your ride.

You dread stopping somewhere on the way home from the barn for fear someone will surreptitiously take a photo of you and mistake you for a Pokémon character.

A bug flies into your face and sticks to the sweat. Hey, at least it didn’t fly into your mouth this time.

You remove your clothing off like a banana peel.  Raise your hand if you have had a wrestling match and a few choice words with the sweaty sports bra that really doesn’t want to part ways.

It feels like you are squishing when you walk, but it is just the sweat pooled in your black leather boots.

You sweat so much that your gloves turn your hands a rainbow of colors from the dyes. Another show of hands for those who have gone into the office with this new “accessory.”

You accidentally hit yourself in the face with your horse’s sweaty saddle pad. Bleh, that doesn’t taste so good.

You seriously debate the merits of riding up and down the barn aisle rather than braving the sun.

You place your helmet on your head and sweat from the day before drips onto your head.

Your clothes are wetter going into the washer than when they go into the dryer.

You use the word “moist” a lot in conversation and you have not baked anything since the holidays.

You Google “places with cooler summer temperatures” but then realize that your 18 hand dressage horse will be a bit out-of-place at that dude ranch in Banff, Canada.

Stay cool and safe everyone! This heat wave can’t last forever…

alison

 

 

The Show that Almost Didn’t Happen

Second 3 Dover Medal Ride June 2016

What do you get when you mix one part horse lameness with one part work and one part family obligations?  You get a hot mess of a rider and a lot of sweat from worrying if you are going to make it to the June show or not.  Of course, this all starts to ramp up just after the close date for the show which means no refunds.  It also meant that there was not a significant amount of schooling done in the two weeks leading up to our second licensed show of the year.

Thankfully Ike’s lameness turned out to be the need for his annual Equithane application.  For those of you who are wondering, it is basically a custom gel pad to keep his highness’ feet from getting too sore on the hard ground.  This is now the third year that he has needed it, so I should just put a tickler on the month of May to get it done and stop waiting for the pain to appear.

We went to the show with high expectations that we’d continue to earn scores in the 60th percentile as we have for most of the year.  Ha ha!  I should learn to stop setting the bar so high since there are just too many things that are out of my control – like sloppy footing, unexpected spooks, and a judge who just didn’t seem to care for us as a team.

It is hard to not take the low scores personally, but when you see most of the scores as 4.5, 5.0 and 5.5 in a test, you can’t help but feel like a failure.  I’ve shown enough to have a sense of what my score will be when I complete my final salute.  It is devastating when you see a score that doesn’t mesh with your expectations.  I think all the competitors were feeling the same as I did when they saw their scores from this judge.  After the particularly brutal beating we got after our Sunday morning ride, I took a walk to clear my head, shed a tear or two in frustration, and to try to get myself ready for my final ride of the weekend.

Our final class of the weekend was the Dover Medal class – Second Level Test 3.  All adult amateurs are eligible for this award; the award goes to the high score adult amateur in the class as long as the score is greater than 60%.  My goal for the class was to get at least 60% and to hold our countercanters in both three-loop serpentines.  I wasn’t even worried about my placement.  We had to warm up on our own without any adult supervision.  Ike felt a bit tired, but he was calm and on the aids.  I didn’t school countercanter since we’ve found that it can fire him up and encourage him to show off his flying change skills.

It was finally time for us to head down centerline.  I love it when we make the turn at A and Ike puts on his game face.  He knows it is time, and we can usually make a good first impression on the initial halt and salute.  I was doing my best to breathe and to keep him supple in my hands.  Our medium trots were two of our best for the weekend and we got solid scores on our 10 meter circles.  Frankenhorse did not make an appearance and we got a 6.0 and a 6.5 on our turns on the haunches.  Yea for us!  Our simple changes were not our best, BUT I am happy to report that we held our countercanters in both directions.  Hallelujah!! Especially since they are a double coefficient in the scoring.  We did our best and now just had to wait for the final tally.

While we waited for the score, we got Ike hosed down and our tack loaded on the trailer.  He and my husband were going to head back to the barn to get Ike some afternoon paddock time while I gathered our test once the class placed.  Amazingly, we heard our score right before the boys departed.  I knew I’d done well when I heard the announcer share the news that we were the recipients of the Dover Medal.  What?!  Never did I think that I’d be able to claim I owned one of these medals.  It was such redemption after the challenging rides we’d had all weekend.  Our score was a 63.049%.

My only wish was that Ms. C had been there to watch our ride.  Thankfully my husband recorded our ride so she would be able to see it for herself.  This medal is as much hers as it is mine.

 

Get Smart

 

Ike at the Meadows May 2016

Photo by Melana K.

 

If you are of a certain age, you have probably watched the television show Get Smart starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.  Younger generations are probably more familiar with the movie of the same title starring Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway.  Maxwell Smart’s famous tag line was, “Missed it by that much.”  That line pretty much sums up  our first licensed show last weekend.  It is that wee little bit that costs you dearly.

The weekend did not start off well given that Mother Nature had decided that we needed 15 straight days of rain leading up to the show.  I was so desperate to squeeze a lesson in before we went that I rode in some light rain.  We traveled to the show grounds in the rain, unloaded in the rain, and then sat in the barn listening to it rain even harder.  The covered arena was in use by the breed show, so most of us tacked up and rode in the rain and slop and prayed that Saturday would dawn a clearer day.

My first ride on Saturday was Second Level Test 2 – the qualifier for the USDF Region 1 CBLM Championship.  I needed a 62% to be qualified for the fall.  You only need one score and to be a member of one of the group membership organizations.  We’d been able to get some scores over the minimum at the schooling shows, so I was hopeful that we could get our score at this show to take some pressure off at future shows.  Heads up, watch my face closely as we make our first turn off centerline:

First Attempt at Second Level Test 2

When your horse decided to show his medium canter rather than a medium trot, spook at the judge/scribe/plants/invisible boogey men, and then show his pivoting skills rather than a correct turn on the haunches, you end up with a score of 61.795% – a mere 0.205% away…yep, missed it by that much.  I would have to wait until Sunday to try again.

We also attempted to obtain that magical 60% in Second Level Test 3 that I need in order to try my musical freestyle at a licensed show.  This test has continued to vex us even though we are stronger in all of our Second Level work.  We have yet to ride it without a bobble or two, but I took a deep breath and headed down centerline.  Well, let me tell you, we did manage to ride both canter serpentines without breaking in the countercanter, but we again demonstrated our ability to plant Ike’s hind legs in the turn on the haunches.  Our score?  A 59.5%…sigh, another swing and a miss.  Since we only signed up for this test on Sunday, the coveted 60% will have to wait until June.

Finally, it was time to try Second Level Test 2 again.  This test would be ridden in the covered arena…and guess who never schooled in the covered arena.  We’d just have to hope that Ike would maintain his composure, and let’s admit it, it was fingers crossed that I could maintain mine as well.  Here is the ride:

Second Level Test 2 Dressage at the Meadow

We had the one little bobble in the right lead countercanter, but after a quick prayer, I was able to get Ike back into the right lead so that we could demonstrate our simple change just a few strides later.  Phew!  Overall I was pleased with the ride; I had to just hope that the judge felt the same way.  After a 30 minute wait, the score was finally available online.  Drumroll please!  65.128%!!  We did it!!  Qualified!!  What?!  Ooohmmaahhhggeerrrrd!  What a huge relief.  Finally, we didn’t miss out by a hair or a nose.  There is hope for us yet.  We had many very good movement scores in this test.  I am proud to say that we earned a 6 and a 7 for our turn on the haunches (the secret is to nag at the caboose the entire time).  Our simple changes also were strong.

So now I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be plenty more misses on our way to the championship and plenty more comedic relief moments as well.  But that is part of the journey.

alison

 

 

The Other Left

Ike Morningside April 2016.jpg

Hello friends!

It has been too long since we have had a heart to heart.  I have had a busy spring, and this weekend will be my first weekend away from home since the championship show last fall.

Mom and I have already done three schooling shows this spring.  Three!  A poor boy can’t catch a break these days.  She is a woman possessed this spring – like she is on a mission and everyone had best stay out of her way.  I tried to get out of her way by busting out of my stall, but she was less than amused at my efforts to thwart the third outing of the year.

Two of the shows were at this place that has a lot of high-flying horses and also horses that race around on perfectly good grass and jumped bushes and big logs.  I can’t figure out why they would choose to jump over fences or bushes. That seems like a lot of extra work. Why not just run around them? I could show them fence deconstruction techniques that are rather effective.  Or, here’s a thought, how about not run at all and just eat the grass?  Such silly ponies.  Mom did let me taste some of the grass before and after we worked.  It was very delicious.  I think all shows should offer it to the competitors – a snack bar for horses if you will.  There is a snack bar for the people, and I think since we are doing most of the work that we should have one too.  I shall have to remember to bring this up with show management at each of the shows this year.

I like these little shows since it means that I still get some time in my paddock to play with my brother and I get to sleep at home.  Yes, I get a stall at the away shows, but with my late night visits with my selfie buddy and the fact that the new barn makes scary noises, I don’t sleep as much and get very tired by Sunday.

And I must say that poor Mom needs some directional help.  At the last show, I almost had to change my name and disassociate myself with her.  Mind you, she had Ms. C READING the test and we have ridden Second Level Test 2 many times already so it wasn’t like she didn’t know which way we needed to turn.  I even tried to strongly hint to her that she was trying to turn the wrong way and I tried to go to the left as called for by the test and Ms. C…but the crazy woman insisted that we do a second turn on the haunches to the right.  Umm, Mom, we just went that way, it is time to go LEFT!!  The judge never rang the bell, but politely told Mom that she failed to demonstrate a turn on the haunches to the left.  Mom laughed.  I just hung my head in shame.

Thankfully I have heard through the grapevine that she has now enlisted the help of a 6 year old for some tips on remembering which way is left.  (“The left hand makes the ‘L’ Ali.”)  Hopefully mom has practiced making the “L” so that we don’t have another misstep this weekend.  If you are reading this and will be at the show grounds, remind her to avoid the other left and stick with the correct one.

And, in case you hadn’t heard, I’m 8 years old now.  That’s like 25 in human years so I am waiting for the opportunity to have more of a say in what I do and don’t have to do.  My brother doesn’t have to go places or work hard, so I think it is high time I get to live like him.  When I asked him about approaching Mom with the idea, this was his response:

The boys Apr 2016

“Seriously, why does Mom keep him around? Shouldn’t he have moved out by now?”

 

He thinks he is such a comedian.  I am not amused.  I will just have to figure things out on my own.  Stop by my stall this weekend if you have any tips to share.

Ike

Frankenhorse

Ike Culpeper Aug 2015

Yes, that’s right puny human, come closer…

Move over Frankenstein (or Fraank-en-shteen if you are more of a Mel Brooks fan), there is a new monster in town to terrorize the villagers.  If you are attending a dressage show in the mid-Atlantic area this year, keep your eye out for Frankenhorse.  This creature is typically one of the larger equines in attendance with a ginormous, block-like head and a long bed body.  He might look like any ordinary horse, but if you look closely at the button braids, they will be hiding the bolts in his neck. 

 

 In the stabling area, you might see him dragging around a young-ish maiden as he bulls his way to the nearest grass patch.  Stud chains and lead ropes are no match for this monster who can be very single minded when hunger pains strike .  It is suggested that you just step aside and let him pass rather than risk having him dent your $800 Deniro boots and/or your foot with his sizeable hooves.  If you see him in his stall, do not be fooled by the friendly expression on his face as he watches your approach toward his temporary living quarters.  Frankenhorse’s long neck makes easy work of nipping at unsuspecting passersby.  Barn visitors should also be wary of flying feed buckets.  This monster can be very grumpy when hungry.  You might consider wearing your riding helmet when visiting the barn housing this creature.

 Frankenhorse typically reveals his awkward self during the more challenging movements in the Second Level tests, so mosey over to the ring to catch a glimpse of the Second Level classes to see this creature in action.  Ten meter circles are more hexagonal than circular since a supple midsection is not typically seen on a FH.  Countercanter is also not FH’s strong suite since that also requires a supple body rather than bullish shoulders and a board-like ribcage.  Most often, FH gives himself away with the turn on the haunches.  That movement exaggerates FH’s stiffness.  If you are quiet and listen very closely, you will hear him grunt and groan when asked for the turn.  Pinned ears and a swishing tale are also telltale signs that you are watching a Frankenhorse.

Thankfully, with regular work, timely feeding, and appropriate training to keep his mind occupied, Frankenhorse’s reign of terror can be minimized and peace can be maintained. 

Consider yourself warned!

How To Dance With Your Horse

It has been a while since Ike and I have offered up a “How To” blog.  We’ve tackled the subjects of assembling a double bridle and taking holiday photos, so it seems appropriate that we provide some advice on the subject of creating a musical freestyle.  If you recall, we discussed freestyles two years ago…and that was as far as it went.  But now we have a freestyle for next season, so I thought I’d show you how “easy” it is.

  1. Watch Andreas Helgstrand ride Blue Hors Matine at the 2006 WEG freestyle finals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKQgTiqhPbw
  2. Watch Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz ride Fuego XII at the 2010 WEG freestyle finals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx3a4nNO3ak
  3. Go to bed and dream of riding a musical freestyle with your horse.
  4. Wake up and daydream of riding a musical freestyle with your horse.
  5. Attend a Dance with your Horse clinic with Michael Matson (www.equimusic.com ) and receive a CD of walk, trot, and canter music. We did in March 2013.
  6. Download free music editing software believing that you can edit your music and choreograph a freestyle routine.
  7. Curse at the computer when you realize the “free” software also downloaded “free” advertisements.
  8. Curse at the computer some more as you try to delete the “free” advertisements.
  9. Open music editing software and stare blankly at the computer screen. Heads up – it has as many knobs and buttons as a 747 cockpit.
  10. Mutter more curses softly under your breath as you attempt to even play your music with the software.
  11. Wish you had paid more attention in music class in elementary school as you try to recall musical terminology.
  12. Close software and drink wine.
  13. Stare at the software for another week to finally figure out how to play your music. Rejoice at this small victory.
  14. Drink wine to celebrate your cleverness.
  15. Delete software from computer when you realize you are not clever enough to edit music.
  16. Watch Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the 2014 London Olympics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcDLLxgWa_Y
  17. Find a friend who wants to do a musical freestyle as much as you do.
  18. Celebrate when your friend organizes a musical freestyle clinic.  Thank friend profusely.
  19. Have Michael M. determine your horse’s beats per minute (BPM) at the walk, trot, and canter.
  20. Ride to various pieces with the correct BPM and pick the music that suits you and your horse the best. (FYI – after 2 years of training, Ike’s BPM changed and we received new music.)
  21. Stare in awe as Christine Betz (http://www.christinebetzdressage.com/ ) choreographs a routine for you in well under an hour.
  22. Memorize your choreography.
  23. Drink wine AFTER you learn the routine.
  24. The next day, ride the routine so Christine can time each of the compulsory movements for the level.
  25. Try to hide your shock when she edits the music in under 20 minutes.  Again wish that you’d been more attentive in music class as a child.
  26. Ride your freestyle for the first time (You might need to turn up the volume to hear the music well) You will see that we will need to adjust our entry-

Second Level Freestyle Take One

27. Go home and drink wine and count the days until you can ride your new freestyle!

So, you see, it isn’t all that difficult…get out there and dance with your horse.  I promise you that you will be hooked!

alison