Can’t believe the big man is 9 already. Seems like just yesterday that we met when he was only 3 years old.
His personality is as big as his heart…and his head. Looking forward to this year and can’t wait to see what it has in store for us.
We are just a little over a week away from heading down centerline in our attempt to claim a Bronze Medal from USDF. If you had asked me six years ago if I thought this might even be possible, I would have snorted with a hint of derision and skipped on my merry way.
It was spring six years ago when I was faced with retiring Cigar and my future in dressage was uncertain. I was riding Ms. C’s Hanoverian mare who let me know in no uncertain terms that she had no desire to leave the farm. Lots of uncertainty and I would not meet Ike until late July. Showing at a schooling show was not in the cards since Miss Willow would not load. A Magic 8 Ball would have said “Definitely No” for a Bronze Medal.
There has been a lot of learning the past six years. It sometimes feels like I really didn’t start to understand the nuances of the sport until last year. Cigar taught me many things, but sitting trot, half pass, and collection were not among the lessons.
But now here we are teetering at the finish line for that elusive medal. It might not happen next weekend, but the possibility for success this year is real.
We had a solid lesson today with Ms. C. Ike is back working in his snaffle. For many things, we are better without the double bridle. I am still learning to be a little more subtle in my use of the curb. I tend to keep just a wee bit too much contact with the curb which impacts Ike’s ability to bend his neck and his ability to maintain good jump and throughness in his canter…and as you can guess, the lack of bend is bad for our half pass and the lack of jump ruins our flying changes. Oh the struggle is real. Thankfully we don’t need the “braking power” of the curb we needed over the winter.
This weekend we will head to a clinic with Michael Bragdell from Hilltop Farm. The game plan is to ask for some help and suggestions with our half pass work. Ike has a really good half pass in him; we just need to figure out how to get me out of his way. There will probably be no miracle cures, but it should be a nice outing at my friend’s farm.
Hoping for some sunshine and moderate temperatures next weekend. Anyone have an in with Mother Nature?
Well, it finally happened. We went out in public and completed our first Third Level test in front someone other than Ms. C and the local wildlife population. The best part is that we survived without any humiliation except for a runny nose from the cold air.
Our debut came at one of our favorite schooling show venues at a Fix-a-Test clinic. For those who don’t talk “horse,” that means you ride your chosen dressage test, the judge discusses what she saw, you have a quick schooling session with the judge, and then you ride your test again trying to implement the judge’s feedback.
Sounds easy enough, but as I write this, my muscles are aching from the effort and stamina it took to ride two Third Level tests in a 20-minute span. It is a good ache since I came home with great feedback on what we need to work on to up our scores and with the confidence that we are where we need to be in competition. As one of my wise friends told me, “Sure you can continue to get 70% doing 20-meter circles, but where is the fun and challenge in that. Go for it! Try the harder levels, take your hits, learn and move on.” Of course, I want 70% at every level…but that is just me being a little greedy.
Our goals for today were 1) Finish the test. 2) Hit the 60th percentile. Well, we finished, but we just barely missed that second goal in our first attempt with a 59.871%. The high points of that first ride were surprisingly our flying changes (what?! No way!), our transitions in and out of the extended trot, and our extended canter with the comeback to collected canter. The not so good – well, our turn on the haunches continue to vex us. We start off strong and then someone plants his hind legs and pivots. Ike also struggled with the correct bend in his half pass work, but we know who takes the blame for that and it isn’t his majesty.
The judge noted that I looked like I was perched on Ike rather than really sitting deep in the saddle. Grr, it is one of my rider issues that continues to plague the journey. So we worked on that in the schooling session as well as improving the bend in our half pass work. Right now, I must be very clear with my aids and remind Ike almost every other stride. Lack of focus for me means a straighter horse under me. So trying to stay focused, we took a deep breath and headed up centerline for the second try.
Our second test was much better and thanks to the best horse show husband ever, here is the ride if you care to watch:
Maybe some of my nerves had stopped firing on overdrive since I realized we could do this. Maybe I really did stay more focused and tried to ride every stride deliberately. Maybe I did keep my ass planted deeper in the saddle. Whatever the reason, we managed a respectable 63.589%! Go Ike. Big man improved his trot half pass scores to 7’s. Our shoulder in and renvers scores all improved. Our canter half pass right was a 7, but the change was a quarter stride late. The left lead half pass was not as strong (rider error) but the change was solid. And again showed the judge how much he likes the extended canter (7.5) with the comment “Bold.”
So there it is, we can now claim to be a Third Level team…that bronze tinted dream is starting to come into focus. Squeeee!
No matter what you call them, equestrians are masters at telling themselves alternativefacts/lies/falsehoods. We can pretty much rationalize anything if it is related to our precious equines.
- “My dearest pony NEEDS this new brush.” No, your pony does not care that this brush is handmade in England by master brush makers. Your pony just wants for you to be done with your latest grooming session so he can roll in the new mud hole created after last night’s rainstorm.
- “This new saddle pad will make the saddle slip less and improve my score.” Umm, sure. Just like the 15 others that you have squirreled away in your spare bedroom closet. You like it because you don’t have that color in your stack. You like the braided trim that none of your other pads has. It is okay, admitting the problem is the first step to recovery.
- “Ooooh, this mane and tail product smells divine so that must mean it works better than the one (or ten others) that I already have in my tack box.” Every once in a while, I dive into the depths of my tack box to see what is lurking in the back besides some mouse poop. I have bottles of shampoo that I bought 10 years ago (bathing the boys is not a priority). I have conditioner that we got as a prize. I have about 40 sample sized bottles from competitor bags. There are $100’s of dollars worth of products…it won’t stop me from buying more.
- “Going to the clinic with X will surely mean that we will improve.” You see it all the time. A rider will go to any and every clinic with a big name rider. They love to tell you all the big names that they have ridden with over the years, yet they are still struggling with the basics. What they lack is a clear system to help them master the basics and see steady progress forward. Regular training with the one competent person is what they need.
- “I will only be at the barn for 30 minutes.” Bahahahahahahahaaa! Ask any significant other how long a typical visit to the barn takes. They will tell you the truth. They will get a good laugh about this lie.
- “I can get my horse tacked and ready for our class in 30 minutes.” Many years of showing has taught me that when I try to cut preparations that close, something can and will go wrong. Your horse decides today is the day he won’t stand still for braiding. Your gloves decide they no longer want to be a pair. Your horse does his best giraffe impression so getting the bridle on is impossible. The zipper on your boot breaks. Mysterious stains appear on your jacket and breeches and they stubbornly resist your attempts to rub them off.
- “It won’t be that hot/cold this weekend at the show.” The sun is searing hot or the frigid winds make you debate the merits of fur-lined boots. You then begin to question the whole showing concept. A weekend sipping margaritas by the pool sounds divine. Why didn’t you just curl up under the covers with a good book instead of braving 20 degree wind chills?
- “If I am careful, I can clean the stall without getting anything on my white breeches.” Perhaps someone else has this expert skill level. I do not.
- “I am going to stop at the tack store and just pick up my horse’s supplement.” And then somehow a pair of socks, a belt, some treats, a new show shirt (it was on sale!), and a deliciously scented tail detangler appear in your shopping basket.
- “The vet bill will only be $100.” Never have I ever had a vet bill that small except for a supplemental medication that was shipped to me after the visit that cost $300-400.”
- “I don’t need to wear a helmet.” YES YOU DO. End of discussion.
- “That is a great price for that pair of boots/saddle/bridle/bit.” It is amazing once you are indoctrinated into the equine world how $500 no longer seems like a lot of money. $800 boots? What a bargain! I’m pretty sure that there is a change in your brain chemistry when exposed to the scent of a horse that rewires normal monetary logic.
Bonus “My horse is the best horse/most handsome/most talented.” This is one alternate fact that I think is okay. We all certainly cannot have the number 1 horse, but there is certainly nothing wrong with believing that you do. It shows true affection and love and there is nothing wrong with that.
You heard it here first! Ike has decided to forego his remaining years of eligibility in dressage and enter the NFL draft. He believes his skills will impress recruiters for defensive tackle or for the offensive line. He is like a 3-for-1 deal considering he weighs close to 1500 pounds.
Ike came to this conclusion after body checking me into the shavings in his stall today. In his defense he was trying to avoid the Jaws-like behavior of his brother as I was leading him back to his stall. I had the reins in my right hand, and typically Ike walks peacefully behind me and into his stall. In his panic to avoid the gnawing teeth of Cigar, he forged forward…seemingly forgetting that I was in front of him.
Somehow my left foot ended up under his right hoof (yeah, there was a scuffle and I am not sure how I ended up facing Ike). His knee connected with mine and I ended up sprawled in the shavings in his stall. I was on the ground before he removed his hoof from my foot. I screamed obscenities admonishing him to not step on any other body parts as I attempted to roll towards the wall and away from the advancing brown mass. Images of casts and external fixation (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/External_fixation) flashed through my mind. I now know what it must feel like to have a offensive lineman hit you with all his might; it is not something I would do every Sunday. Miraculously Ike tiptoed around my arms and legs avoiding any further damage. He turned and gave me the ” What the heck?!” look once he was safely out of his brother’s reach.
I realized pretty quickly that there was no serious damage. The end of my boot has a permanent dent. My pride was also a bit bruised. I dusted the shavings off my head, hobbled out of the stall, and finished putting away my tack.
Ike said to let the recruiters know that he doesn’t need pads or a helmet. He is pretty sure his skull is hard enough. He is hoping for Tampa Bay or Miami to avoid the colder winters. He is looking for representation if anyone has a recommendation.
p.s. I am sore and might lose a toenail. There is also a colorful bruise forming on my knee…