Third Level Debut

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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

Equestrian #AlternativeFacts

Ike in double bridle 2

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.

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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.
  5. “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.
  6. “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.
  7. “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?
  8. “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.
  9. “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.
  10. “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.”
  11. “I don’t need to wear a helmet.”  YES YOU DO.  End of discussion.
  12. “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.

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…

%$&*# Groundhog

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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!!

 

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

Merry Christmas!

Ike and I would like to wish all our friends and family a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a joyful holiday season. We hope this time is filled with laughter, fun get-togethers, and yummy holiday treats.  

Ike is hoping that one day mom will give up the tradition of placing things on his head or that he grows a little taller so I can no longer reach the top of his head.

I am hoping for a mild winter and safe footing so we can continue riding through the colder months.  I am also secretly hoping for clean changes and fluid half pass steps.

Merry Christmas! 

Alison and Ike