The Excitement is Building 

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? 

Alison

%$&*# Groundhog

ike-in-double-bridle-1

Thus far, we have been fortunate to have a mild winter with plenty of opportunities to keep our horses in regular training.  That being said, we still have to make it through February and the beginning of March before we can say we are done with the misery of frozen fingers and toes.  And all we can hope is that the groundhog is wrong in his prediction for 6 more weeks of winter.  Too bad my hound dog Holly is no longer with us…she would be able to convince the groundhog to change his tune.

Our Third Level progress has been slow but steady.  We can’t seem to break out of our tortoise mode.  Rabbits we are not.  Since neither Ike nor I have ever schooled nor competed at this level, poor Ms. C has the difficult task of training us simultaneously.  And, for the most part, I am the one holding back our progress.

I manage to stifle Ike’s trot and canter half pass.  Every once in a while, I manage to align his body just right and we flow across the arena.  I get all excited and giddy like a schoolgirl, but when asked to do it again….well, we hobble across the arena looking like a ginormous wooden puppet.  It seems that I cannot grasp the concept that the shoulders must start the movement.  I prefer to let the haunch take the lead.  Yes, yes, it is wrong but I just can’t seem to help myself!  I promise to keep practicing since I know there is a great half pass in the big man.

The extended gaits are still rather elusive.  I am happy to report that finally we are beginning to have a decent medium trot.  A real one, not a “horse just goes faster” medium.  I guess it just took some time for Ike’s strength to develop.  It also helps that on the cold and blustery days, Ike wants to go forward, so we use that to our advantage.

And I know you must be curious about our flying changes, since that is the make or break for Third Level.  Let’s just say that they are a work in progress.  Some days we nail them in both directions.  Some days Ike’s hind end doesn’t get the message to do anything so we get disunited.  Some days Ike ignores me and we careen around with an ugly countercanter.  And then other days, Ike anticipates them and they are textbook perfect when he does it without my interference.  Sigh…  We did have one amazing day where we had solid changes and countercanter all in one training session.  I’m trying not to get too excited about that day since it is about as frequent as a blue moon.

The spring schedules and prize lists are starting to pop up in my newsfeed and on websites.  Not sure what the year will shape up to be, but we are aiming for a Fix-a-Test clinic at the end of March.  Based on the outcome of that, we will make some decisions about our spring show schedule.

alison

p.s. For those of you who are wondering about Cigar, he continues to improve.  There are still some proudflesh scabs that we are combating, but my old man is back to his normal, grumpy, independent self.  And yes, he is filthy!!