Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Fabulous Blogroll

It's been a busy week, but not in a bad or stressful way, except of course that I haven't blogged as much as I would like. But I wanted to say a quick hello, and shine the light on some relatively recent blog posts I've read that have particularly spoken to me.

Firstly, Karen of Bakersfield Dressage's post "Not Where, But How."

An excerpt...
I have been focusing on how we're going, rather than where we're going, and I mean that literally. Rather than just riding a 20-meter circle at A, I am focusing on how we're riding that circle. Is he moving off my inside leg; is he balanced in the corner; is he maintaining a steady rhythm?

Geometry isn't on here.
This has been a recent revelation for me as well, and Karen was able to articulate it perfectly. This focus has helped me not only get much more out of my dressage lessons, but every other ride too. It's less about the circle being perfectly round, or going around the arena, than it is about balance and bend and impulsion and relaxation and rhythm and on and on. How you're going is what will move you and your horse up in training, not the perfect circles.

Secondly, SprinklerBandit's "Community" post on her Non-Equine Life blog.

SB has a magical way of saying so much with so few words. Her posts are always a joy to read, and this particular post was timely for me personally, as I have been taking an honest analytical look at the people in my life, and questioning their roles in it. As well as my role in theirs. Community shapes us and supports us. Its important to occasionally take a step back and look at it and try to define it and its meaning in our life at that moment.

Finally, thank you to Niamh of Life of Riley for selecting Hemie et moi as a runner-up for her contest. Congrats again to her for a blogging milestone. We should all celebrate these kinds of achievements. =)

Friday, September 20, 2013

(Human) Nutrition Update

Previous posts on the topic:  July 10th Nutrition Post  &  July 31st Nutrition Post

It's been about 10 weeks since I started the 21 day elimination challenge, removing some major components to my diet (gluten, dairy, sugar, artificial sweeteners, corn, etc). On occasion I'll have some of these foods, but by and large I'm still following this. I've also increased the intensity of exercise (from Denise Austin to Jillian Michaels, hehe) and I've also started a meditation program to help address stress.

Quick note: "diet" seems to be a negative word nowadays. Health coaches/nutritionists/even random friends get upset when you use that term instead of "lifestyle" or "way of eating" or some such. To me they are all synonyms referring to the type of foods you're eating nowadays. Silly semantics.

My goal for this challenge and diet/lifestyle is weight loss. So far I'm down 10 lbs, and have another 20 to go before I reach my goal. 10 lbs is great, though it took longer than expected. But it is what it is - I can either continue with this and hopefully continue to lose at this rate, or I can add the foods back and potentially plateau or regain, or I can try even further changes to diet and exercise to lose weight faster. Each has their pros and cons but for now I'm just continuing on with the challenge.

Meanwhile, I'm still loving the weekly organic produce delivery. The fruits and vegetables truly do taste better than store-bought, likely because they were just picked from the field rather that trucked in from who-knows-how-far-away-who-knows-how-many-days-ago. I've never been a grapes fan, but the ones we've been getting are so sweet, I'm eating them for dessert!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finding Forward (lots of video!)

Our double-feature combined tests this weekend went fabulously. We did not find what we were looking for (namely, a chaotic warm-up environment to see if Hemie would get crazy); however, what we found was much better. We found our forward momentum in both dressage and jumping. :)

Here's the videos!

Intro Dressage (BN Test A)

BN Dressage (BN Test B)

Intro Combined Jumping (2')

BN Combined Jumping (2'6")

Good enough for 2nd place in both divisions!

Friday, September 13, 2013

In Search of Chaos

First of all, congrats to Niamh of Life of Riley on their 200th post! Go check out their contest!!

This past weekend's outing was fabulous.  A little too fabulous, in a way.  Our plan was/is to get into some *CrAzY* warm-up arenas (the scene of the crime for Hemie's antics) to provide an opportunity to address the shenanigans.

Well, no shenanigans were had at our hunter show. Was this due to the general mood/energy/atmosphere being more low-key? Was it due to my proactive "you will go straight to work, and no funny business" attitude and riding style?  No way to know.

So we're doing another show this coming weekend. We're headed to the fabulous El Sueno Equestrian Center for a combined test derby. In fact, we're doing  2! With pricing less than half of what The Meadows charges, I decided to sign up for both Intro and BN divisions, so we'll be doing 2 dressage tests and 2 jumping rounds (combo stadium & xc). The nice thing is that we can add extra jump rounds/schooling if we have an issue.    

Dare I say that I hope the warm-up arenas will be more chaotic?  I do. Because, really, at this point it's not about ribbons - its about a fun and safe experience. It's about show mileage and addressing shenanigans. Wish us luck!

dysatisfunctional wild horse eyes
From the funny

Thursday, September 12, 2013

XC video

Without further ado...

Many thanks again to Ride On Video for this wonderful service!

Okay okay, so we were not nearly so forward as we really could have been.  Going down to a trot was his idea but I didn't object - it was his first time and I just wanted him to be have a great experience. I finally asked him to move out (and actually canter) for the last 3 jumps. He very willingly obliged, so next time I'll be asking  I asked him to canter earlier on, if not for the whole course. A few greenie moments but overall I am so pleased with HIS EARS!!! Forward and alert and happy - he's gonna be a XC rockstar.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wherein we kick butt

This past weekend we went to a local hunter show. And by local, I mean literally right next door at the lovely Elvenstar Riding Academy. (And yes, like the last time we did have to trailer over, LOL.)

The show started bright and early with classes starting at 7:30, meaning  registration/warm-up was at 7:00. Since I live 45 minutes from the barn and needed to longe beforehand, I ended up having to wake up at the seriously dark hour of 4.

Upper Arena
I hadn't pre-registered since I was tagging along with Laurie's other clients and was planning on just doing whatever classes were available at the time we were going to be there. Turns out the 2'6" classes started at 7:30 and went bigger from there, then the x-rail classes through 2'3" would be going in the afternoon. So, 2'6" was our only option. We school that height regularly but hadn't competed that high before.

We entered the warm up and it was quite busy, with not nearly enough room on the rail for people to pass safely around each other given the jump placement. The energy was very calm, though, even though it was crowded. Laurie was busy riding another client's horse so I just marched Hemie in there and put him to work. I didn't even give him an opportunity to looky-loo at the exciting water jumps or the scary wood piles in the corner - strait to WORK! He responded great. We did a nice flat warm-up and then we cruised over a few fences. I had a chance to take him over all the jumps that would be in our courses and we did great.

We entered 3 classes total: a non-judged warm-up round, AA Hunters, and Handy Hunters. Our warm-up round went fine - nice and fluid and forward. Our Hunter round was okay - we had an extra stride in every line than would be normal.  The Handy Hunters felt improved - I asked Hemie to get the correct strides and he obliged nicely. I'm fairly certain we had good lead changes throughout. The ring steward informed me that I had forgotten to do the "test" elements in the Handy Hunter round (apparently we were supposed to trot a certain jump and halt after another one - I missed that on the course map) so I was disqualified from that round. But it didn't matter - I felt like a winner because we did what we came to do: have a safe, solid warm up and a solid competition performance.

Amazingly we were done by 8:15 am. We took the ponies home and put them away. I decided to head back and watch some of the other competitions and support Laurie's second round of clients competing. Just for kicks I decided to see how we ended up in the placings. Prepare to be amazed.

1st out of 8 entrants!
Well, one of us was happy to win!
Apparently the judge liked our Hunter round, even though we added 1 stride to each line. Maybe because we were at a consistent pace throughout? I don't really "get" the nuances of hunter competition yet. Anyway, this is an awesome milestone because it's our first blue ribbon where we actually beat other competitors (versus being the only person in a division, lol).

"Mom, seriously?"
My barn mate, Laura S, did well in the placings too.  The fabulous Lynn S. took her Gypsy Vanner into the competition ring for what I believe was the first time: x-rail division! They looked great.  Her daughter ended up Intermediate division Champion. So all in all it was a good day for Laurie Canty Training Stables.

Gypsies ftw!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dressage video & tests

Wow I am super behind in posting. I blame work. Multiple property emergencies = not enough time for blogging + lots of stress.

To catch up briefly, below is the dressage rundown from the Shepherd Ranch horse trials 2 weekends ago. XC video is still not available =(.  Meanwhile we went to a show this past Sunday and it went quite well. We have another one scheduled this coming weekend too. Also my husband and I bought a truck, but I'll post details on everything just as soon as I can. Meanwhile: dressage.

Thursday's Pre-Dressage
Considering our warm-up was quite tense, I was happy that we were able to complete the test, and even that we had some good moments. The judge was very pleasant and had excellent feedback. Her scores were quite generous - meant to be an encouragement before our competitions testing the next day, I expect.

Here's the score sheet

She explained that "more activity" means that I should be scooping with my seat and squeezing the reins every.single.stride.  Which seems noisy to me, but she had me try it and it was effective.

On to Friday's competition dressage round!  First, the video.

I was actually pretty proud of our first half of the test, including our free walk. We lost it thereafter, but in ways that don't bother too much me since I know practice and more dressage competitions will help us improve. 

Not that it bothered me in the least, but isn't the judge's final comment a bit cheeky?   Well, here's a copy of the "purpose" of the test. She's right - we certainly didn't nail it! Ha!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A good laugh: the stadium jumping video

Wow. It is truly amazing how the passing of time changes one's perspective. And how video really changes one's perspective!

For as much as I was flustered/upset/embarrassed/emo over our stadium jumping warm-up and competition round, I found myself giggling the whole time while watching the video. With plenty of clucking at my past self for us to move. forward. darnit.

I recommend listening to the hilarious soundtrack while watching. Without further ado...

So, I guess it wasn't quite as horrendous as it felt. My horse was acting more like a bouncy bunny rabbit, but that is a problem that we've had in the past and it resurfaced due to stress. I'm confident we will address that. The main takeaway for myself from watching this video is:  As soon as you can, encourage forward. Don't let shenanigans distract you from riding forward ASAP.

I'll post video of dressage along with scoresheets soon. XC video isn't available yet.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Plan

Now that I've caught up on some sleep (and laundry and dishes and time with hubby etc etc) my attitude has shifted back towards its normally optimistic outlook, leaving the frazzled embarrassed pity-party behind. Right now my overall feeling about the show is pride in myself for not loosing my cool even when my horse wigged out, and pride in both of us for getting it done.

After all, as TSB reminded me, getting through a horse trial with a score is a goal I've had for a very long time. 3 years, in fact. It really is a wonderful thing to check that off the list and move forward with a new goal.

The loot!

But first we need to address this acting-out nonsense. It's dangerous and simply unacceptable.

Hemie has acted out in the warm up only once before: at the Meadows of Moorpark derby in March which was our first show of the year. Laurie wasn't there to see it, but she took my concerns very seriously and we decided to go to as many small local shows as possible to try and address it. We did several, all without issue, before signing up for our first HT.

So the plan right now is 3-fold:

1) Attend more shows to get in more crazy warm-up arenas.
Preferably local (cheap) shows. Hunter/jumper is probably better than derbies, so that Laurie is allowed to hop on and deal with him more effectively than I can if needed (trainers are allowed to warm up horses in h/j, but not for eventing).

2) More trainer rides. 
Laurie is going to ride Hemie more regularly, and push his buttons on purpose. The idea is to add more stress to his training, so that he can better learn how to respond to stress, and be more mentally capable of handling situations that stress him out.

3) Better riding on my part. 
Change begets change. If I want my horse to act differently, then I need to ride differently. Specifically (a) ask for shape and contact from the moment I mount instead of after 10 minutes of warm-up, (b) have a zero tolerance for behind-the-leg-ness, and (c) change my lower leg aid from bumping to a solid contact with a heel-rake as needed. I'm sure more clarity on these will come in our next few lessons - Laurie just gave me a brief overview.

To be honest, I am still quite surprised that we didn't get a "DR" mark next to our final score. In my opinion we certainly were "a hazard to the safety or well-being of the competitor, horse, other competitors, their horses, spectators, or others" per the Dangerous Riding section in the rule-book (EV118). But hey, we were going Intro, and clearly it was a green horse meltdown and not an abusive rider situation so maybe that's why I was allowed to continue on.

And so the hunt for local cheap shows begins! Hopefully we can find sufficiently crazy warm-up arenas because I'd hate to pay $1,000 for a full on horse trials just to get us some warm-up ring action.