Happy Fall Y’all!

Motherly love

Hello friends, 

 It has been a spell since my last post.  Life has again decided that I should divert my attention elsewhere.  Work, family, chores, dogs, and yardwork fill my waking hours.  We squeeze in barn time, so time for creative writing falls to the wayside.  Ike and Cigar are getting curtailed visits, but they don’t seem to mind as long as breakfast and dinner show up every day. 

Ike and I did have our final prep show at Rose Mount two weeks ago. While our scores were not where I would like them to be, we did glean some valuable insight to use as we close in on the CBLM Championship Show in a couple of weeks in the scenic city of Lexington, Virginia. 

While the double bridle has its benefits, it is not always a friend or the right answer. Perhaps it is that I have a comfort level with the good old snaffle. I seem to clutch that curb rein like Linus clutches his security blanket. That death grip causes Ike to end up behind vertical inhibiting our better forward motion.  Our rides on Sunday were much less tense with me using the snaffle.  So our schooling work in these weeks leading up to Lexington will be with me utilizing one set of reins.

You can’t blame me for wanting the double bridle given that Ike bolted like a bat out of hell the day before the show. Sadly, the double bridle did nothing to check his rather robust gallop. Me yelling “WHOA” just make Ike ask, “Puny human yelling loudly wants what?!” And then he ran faster. I had visions of my crumpled body partially wedged in the stone dust when Ms. C found me later that day. The visions grew more vivid after I lost a stirrup. Thankfully Ike does not have the stamina of his brother and he decided to stop and catch his breath.  Unfortunately, I felt I had to reestablish leadership, so I made him trot and canter in both directions before sliding off and kissing the non-moving ground.

We learned that judges do have a sense of humor. Ike decided that turn on the haunches was the ideal time for a potty break in both our tests on Saturday. Not good for the scores…”stuck” and “hind end stopped” were really not necessary comments. I knew I was getting a 4 as we walked on to the next movement.  Heard the judge told her scribe that “that is unfortunate timing.” At least we can keep things interesting. Thankfully Ike decided to not show off his extended gallop any of my tests over the weekend.  I learned on Sunday that when we aren’t pooping,  we are capable at earning 7’s for our turns.

 Ms.C also extracted some “things needing improvement” from our tests. She is better at reading between the lines/comments.  I see a 5 and the comment “tense;” she sees that we need more bend and suppleness.  Basically our scores and comments boiled down to the following: more bending,  more suppleness, more bending, better engagement,  more suppleness, and more bending. Sure thing, easy enough to supple 86 inches of horse plus 3 feet of neck, plus 50 pounds of thick skull. 

So our lessons and schooling involve countless small circles, frequent changing of the direction (“you were not fast enough – you lost his shoulder!”), and no double bridle.  We throw in some shoulder in, renvers, haunches in, and half pass, but we always go back to the circle.  No ovals, not squares, circles.  Will our work be enough to secure a placement in the finals?  Only time will tell, but it won’t be for lack of trying. 

Happy Fall! 

Alison

 

 

 

 

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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

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