Third Level Debut

ike-in-double-bridle-1

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!

alison

Ike Is Entering the NFL Draft 

Cigar likes to taunt his “little” brother

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.  

Alison

p.s. I am sore and might lose a toenail. There is also a colorful bruise forming on my knee…

Ike’s 2017 Update

Hello my friends! 
It has been a while since I checked in to share my thoughts on life and my Mother’s stories. Someone has to fact check her writing and get to the truth.

My brother sucked up a lot of Mom’s time and money late last year. His leg looked like a bloated hot dog and he didn’t feel like eating. There was some fancy name for what he had, but I called it “Suckstobeyou-itis.”  The vet stuck a tube in his neck and then he had to stand in one place for a few hours while clear stuff got drained into him.  Borrr-iiinnnggg.  They also kept sticking him with lots of needles. Oh, the needles; the tack box looked like it belonged to a drug addict.  The vet even had Mom sticking him multiple times a day. Mom also jammed applesauce laced with medicine into my brother’s mouth for weeks on end. She even conned Ms. C and Mr. D into helping with her evil plan. 

I did feel bad for Mom one day when she thought my brother was not going to make it. I hung close and casually ate my hay. I tried to look unconcerned, but I would have been very sad to say goodbye to him. Even though his vet bills cut into my Christmas loot, I guess I am glad that he is still around.  He finally feels well enough to play with me which is good since there is no grass to eat and my slacker Mom doesn’t ride as much in the cold.

When Mom does ride, she puts the big boy bridle on me. I am not a fan of all the extra metal in my mouth. I like to play with all the pieces. Sometimes I get it under my tongue which forces Mom or Ms. C to have to fix it.  Mom thinks it gives her more control,  but I proved otherwise a couple of days ago. She was trying to slow me down, but I managed to set a pretty fast pace. Mom results to yelling, “slow down!!!” but I just ignore her.  A boy has to have some fun once in a while.

We are working on stuff to move up to Third Level this year. Mom wants a medal of some sort and the stuff I am learning will help her get it.  I wonder what it tastes like. Will it get me more treats? I had better get an Uncle Jimmy ball if she gets her medal. 

Most of the stuff we are learning isn’t too hard, but Ms. C yells at Mom a lot during our lessons. “More flexion.” “You let the haunches lead.” “You let the shoulder fall out!” “Ask for more push on that trot.” (Umm, Mom, I hear you huffing and puffing up there…perhaps some cardio training is in order. Maybe some training for your coordination too.) I am trying to do what she wants for the flying changes, but sometimes she doesn’t ask at the right moment and I have to scramble to do what she expects. Thankfully we have plenty of time before we have to go public.  And Mom still gets her left and right confused. Face palm. Yeah, it is embarrassing some days.

We have been lucky this winter that the snow has not piled up and we have not had weeks of sustained cold. I like it since it means Mom can’t keep me in a blanket all the time. I look silly being the only horse at the barn whose mother dresses them in ridiculous clothes. I guess I should be glad that the goofy patterns don’t come in my size.

Hope all my friends are doing well. See you out and about later this year!

Ike

My Love/Hate Relationship With Winter

Ike January 25 2016

Ike expressing his views on winter weather. (This is from last winter.)

 

Well, winter has arrived in the mid-Atlantic states.  The snowbirds have migrated south and the rest of us have opened up the bags of winter clothing and hand warmers to face the colder temperatures.  There are things that I do like about this time of year, but there are also things I truly despise about the season…

Love: Not having sweat pouring down my face and burning my eyes.                                                   Hate: The wind stinging my eyeballs making it look like I am crying. 

Love: Not having to have ninja like reflexes to kill horseflies.                                                                     Hate: Being so padded to stay warm that I move like the StaPuff Marshmallow Man.

Love: Not riding in the atomic dustbowl.                                                                                                  Hate: Frozen footing.

Love: No allergies and random sneezing while I ride.                                                                             Hate: That my nose runs like a faucet in cold weather. 

Love: The energy that my horse has.                                                                                                        Hate: The bat crap crazy energy my horse has on some days.

Love: Pockets in my winter coats.                                                                                                           Hate: My fingers being so frozen that they can grasp nothing in the pockets. 

Love: Not having to clean gooey sweat globs off the bridle.                                                                   Hate: How impossible it is to manipulate cold leather.

Love: Not fearing having a shoe sucked off in the mud.                                                                         Hate: Worrying that my horse with twist a fetlock in the frozen mud holes. 

Love: Not worrying about odd tan lines.                                                                                                  Hate: Wind burn and chapped lips.

Love: Not having to wear a gas mask in the car with the dirty, sweaty saddlepad.                                   Hate: Having to wait for the ice on the windshield to melt.

So what are your favorite and least favorite things about this time of year?

Alison

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

So show season is over.  We have submitted our year end award packets.  The trailer has been cleaned.  My show coat has been mended.  Memberships for next year have been renewed.  Fall shots have been administered.  The saddle fitter will be stopping by soon for a saddle checkup.  So what does that leave us to do with our time?  Plenty.

 Next year we (okay, okay, mostly me – Ike doesn’t much care what we do) want to make the leap to Third Level.  That means there are some mad skills that we need to acquire over these winter months to be ready for the challenges presented at this next level of dressage.  We wasted little time after the championship show to get back to work since a quick read of the Third Level tests shows that there is some work to be done.

 Having just spent the past year working on and improving our Second Level work, I have a higher degree of confidence in our collection skills, but Third Level means no more half-assed collection.  Do or die, there is no try.  Fortunately Ike is working well in the snaffle, so we can save the double bridle for another day.

 Medium gaits…coming.  Extended gaits…umm, what are those??  As long as Ike doesn’t decide that a potty break is necessary during the test, we can approximate an extended walk.  An extended trot?  We will take our 5 and hope that Ike continues to develop his pushing power.

 Half pass.  Well, I have more to learn about riding a correct half pass than Ike does.  One must move the shoulders first, the shoulders.  And much like shoulder in, the rider needs to keep their weight in the correct place despite where my horse tries to put me.

 Turn on the haunches?  Sigh, I was saddened to see that they follow us to Third Level.  We will continue our efforts on this as well.

 And then there are the flying changes. Left to right is usually easier since Ike wants to shift his weight to the right hind.  Right to left needs to be ridden a bit straighter or we only change in the front.  Thankfully we have not lost any shoes during this scrambling moments.  The downfall to teaching the changes?  Someone starts to anticipate them and gets a bit strong in the hand.  The solution?  Canter-halt transitions, canter-walk transitions, or staying in countercanter.  All of these require that I use every skill I have in my arsenal to make Ike listen.  I can thank Cigar for my ability to stay astride during Ike’s panicked moments…and I still have the double bridle available if necessary. 

Stay tuned. We will let you know how how are winter homework is progressing.

alison

 

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