Friday, May 31, 2013

Catch-Up Post Dump

Gosh, I've been super laggy with the blog posting lately. I was having issues with youtube uploads of the dressage tests from 2 weekends ago and have been just very busy at work (I have to work at work instead of reading and writing horsey blog posts?!?!).

Anywho, so here's a brief catch-up dump post. Hopefully I will make time to expand on some topics shortly.

XC School on Memorial Day
This past Monday my office was closed for the holiday so we adventured El Sueno Equestrian Center in Somis for a cross-country school. El Sueno is the home of upper level event rider and trainer Debbie Rosen, and they have a nice field of cross country obstacles including water, banks, ditches, and plenty of logs, and some good areas of terrain sloping. Hemie was completely game - smart but brave, very responsive but willing to move forward. The coolest jump was actually a section of a live oak tree that had fallen down. See expert artistic rendition:

We had a very successful outing. Only one refusal, but it was honest and square at a BN or N sized log. No run-outs, no spooking. Hemie had his big boy pants on and was a true pleasure for this outing.

First Ride Sans Bridle
The morning of our XC school at El Sueno, I decided to spend some quality, low-pressure time with Hemie so that we could both just relax and hang with each other. So I put him in the round pen with nice sand footing and he played around for a bit. Then I put his halter on and tied the lead to make reins, and practiced head/neck flexions from either side. I strapped on my helmet and safety vest, and mounted up bareback. He walked forward one step, then got completely stuck: he flung his head into the air, hollowed his back, and started to think about getting light with his front end. I just sat deep and square and patted his neck to let him know that everything would be ok. He flicked an ear back, then relaxed his whole body and stood squarely. I gave him a tiny squeeze and he moved forward about 5 steps. Again stuck. Then again relaxed. And that was the end of it. Didn't take him too long to realize he could actually walk around with me on his back without a bit in his mouth. After a few minutes we were trotting along, turning, and bending to boot. I'm turning him into a true backyard pleasure horse.

Did the follow-up fecal test, came back negative for all types. Whew. I've got a super gross picture I'll be sure to share soon!

My horse is too skinny so I've been making some changes to his feed. More detailed post coming soon - I love getting everyone's opinions on feeds!

Long and Low
Hemie has discovered the joys of stretching his neck down and lifting his back up! Over the last 2 months or so we've been able to get him to do this for a few strides at a time, at most lessons but not all. Over the last 2 weeks it's really come around - Hemie is offering it -- no, he's taking the rein down into a stretchy walk, trot, or even canter (!!!) at the slightest cue. Only 1 or 2 strides later he lifts his back and it is VERY evident when he does - I'm physically lifted into the air by a few inches! And he is keeping it long and low for quite a while now - say, 10 to 15 strides at a time, and he probably would go longer but I end it because, hey, we've got other things to work on too.

Post Purchase Vet Exam
I've got our vet coming out tomorrow afternoon to do x-rays, maybe some flexions, palpations, and physical exam. Basically it's the pre-purchase exam I should have done ages ago, and a way to establish a baseline in case issues come up in the future. Please keep your fingers crossed and send good vibes for a fully healthy horse exam.

Ventura CDS Dressage Schooling Show - Training Test 2

I'm pleased to report that Hemie and I did make overall improvement during our 2nd test - Training Level Test 2. One rider rode in between my two tests and during that time we focused on our free walk and stretchy trot. It paid off because we improved on both scores.

Here's the video:

Finally, a performance that actually reflects where we are in our training!

And our scores:

The judge was quite kind with the scoring. After all, at schooling shows they try to be encouraging to riders (especially when they are clearly on green horses). I'm very proud of my boy, and of myself.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ventura CDS Dressage Schooling Show - Training Test 1

Lovely day in Somis, CA
Okay, it's super late in coming but we all have those crazy busy weeks sometimes. Last Sunday 5/19 we participated in the Ventura County Chapter of the California Dressage Society's schooling show at the lovely Faith Ranch in Somis.

 I'd driven past Faith Ranch before but never been inside. It was a lovely facility and I would show there again in a heartbeat. A brief tour:

Main entrance sign
Covered competition arena, stables in background.

Covered competition arena, warm-up arena in background.
We rode two tests: USDF Training 1 and Training 2. I'm proud to report that I was able to memorize both tests completely and did not go off course at all. It was our first time competing in a full size dressage court, and even though it was a gorgeous day it sure was nice to be in a covered arena!

Training Test 1
For some reason the Blogger-to-YouTube situation is not working, so you can find the Video Here.

I was very pleased with our performance. It was our first judged dressage test that I felt accurately reflected where we are in our training (by and large).

Overall a great outing.

Test 2 to come!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dedicated to Carlos

The loss of a horse is one of life's most challenging heartbreaks.
The loss of your heart horse is a wound that will never fully heal.

My love goes out to Lysette of Viva Carlos who had to say goodbye to Carlos today. I loved following their adventures, especially since Carlos has so much personality (and he looks a lot like Hemie). I hope L will keep writing.

Saying goodbye to Carlos brings back deep sadness and pain from losing my heart horse, Bo, over 5 years ago. Words simply can't explain what it's like.

Luckily my office is pretty dead right now because I'm a teary mess.

Carlos, I believe you're enjoying the lush green pastures at the Rainbow Bridge. L will meet you there one day.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. 

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.  There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.  There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. 

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. 
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. 

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. 

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. 

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.

Author unknown.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Our First Blue Ribbon

I've been negligent on the blogging front due to a very hectic work schedule, but here's a quick happy moment from yesterday: our first blue ribbon!

From left to right: Bohemian, myself, Phoenix, Sarah B., and Wyatt.
Okay, okay - I was the only person riding that test so really all I had to do was not get eliminated in order to take home the blue. But you know what? We did not get eliminated! And furthermore, it was our best dressage performance at a show to date. Hooray! Video and scores to come soon.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Camelot H/J Show

Hemie and I have been hittin' the circuit lately: going to shows the last 3 Sundays in a row! This past weekend we decided - last minute - to go with "the girls" to the hunter/jumper show at Camelot Riding Club in Santa Clarita. 

Pretty much everyone who commented on our derby report from the previous Sunday echoed the sentiment that the only way to get the quality of work "at home" into the show ring is to show, show, show. Just get out there and do it. Focus on quality but get there through quantity! With that in mind I decided on Saturday to see if Hemie and I could grab that last space in the trailer. And boy, I sure am glad I did!

Because we rocked. We zoomed around the arena with plenty of forward energy - not one moment of resistance or getting "stuck" - no refusals or run-outs, just fun and forward!  We both had so much fun that I may have to consider us having a side career as hunters!

It was an overcast day with some wind and sprinkling rain. But Hemie was calm and obedient. He must have  woken up on the right side of the stall - he had a great attitude all day and even started jigging in excitement when he saw the trailer pull in to get us. He was longed twice - once at home, and again at the facility, just to be on the safe side. He was completely nonplussed by being in a brand new facility, even with the blustery weather making the trees and temp stalls groan and rattle. He warmed up like a dream and we were able to really put in good work in 2 different warm up arenas.

Like the Elvenstar show we again did the "intermediate" hunter division, with jump height of 2'3". We did a total of 4 rounds: non-judged warm-up, hunters, handy hunters, and equitation over fences. Each had a different course of 8 jumps, and the organizers did a good job of really mixing up the courses - including new jumps each round and changing the directions of approaches.

I was the only competitor in my division over the age of 12, but I loved it. The girls were all very welcoming. They had serious looks on their faces but were polite and encouraging. And they were great little riders to boot! Unsurprisingly, my eventer-in-training and I weren't super competitive in terms of placings, but we put in respectable performances: 3rd place in hunter, 3rd place in handy hunter, and 4th place in equitation. Out of 4 riders total  =P. But the important thing is that we didn't get eliminated! We cantered all 4 courses and I could feel Hemie's calm excitement. He locked on to jumps and really pulled me to them. I was proud of us starting with our very first go, but each round we got smoother and smoother.
Our loot!
Thank you to everyone who commented for your encouragement. You really did give me that push to go for this show, and I'm very happy we did.
A good boy at the trailer.
As a newbie to the hunter world, I've been learning some interesting facts at these shows:
  • "Hunters" classes are judging the horse's performance, and tend to have very straightforward courses like: outside line to diagonal line to other outside line. You are supposed to get a prescribed number of strides between jumps in a line.
  • "Handy hunters" classes again judge the horse's performance, but the course asks the rider and the horse to be handy, meaning tighter turns and less straightforward courses with more single jumps.
  • "Equitation" courses are more similar to hunter courses, only the rider is being judged instead of the horse. It appears arched backs and tushies out is a desired body position.
Fermie the fantastic groom.

I'll have to keep watching and learning if we ever hope to make a real go in the hunters!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Of Braids and Glitter

Moonlit morning - great for braiding =P
Following the last show's braiding disaster, and thinking on all the wonderful comments and suggestions that were left on that post, I decided to experiment and try braiding the day before but without buttoning up into the braid button balls. I also made sure to not wash his mane when bathing him. And I decided to use a hair product to help out.
Unfortunately the plan did not really work. Before I even left on Saturday afternoon he had shaken one braid loose.  And by 6 am the next morning...
Yeah, most of them had come out. And the rest were covered with shavings and dust. Luckily I had allowed ample time to deal with this situation. And interestingly, the braids that did stay in were in great shape, once I cleaned them off. For future shows my plan will be to braid early the morning-of rather than waste effort the day before. 

Also, I think I need to thin out his mane a tad, especially in the middle of his crest. The hair did not taper down at the bottom of the brads - they were thick, bluntish ends that made it very hard to tie off the braid.  

This is my braiding kit, which was given to me as a gift several years ago. I've used zebra duct tape to fasten a twine so I can wear it as a belt. 

On to the hair product. While Quic-braid comes well recommended, I can't quite bring myself to buy it yet. $10, plus shipping, really?  I was going to pick up a bottle of mousse at the dollar store, but then realized I should check in the dark abyss under my sink at home. Lo and behold, a "texture twist" styling goop, which I got for free and only used once (and didn't think I'd likely ever use again). 

Well, the goop did help hold the braids and effectively contained loose hairs. However, it was a little greasy once we brushed the braids out, and it gave his hair just a tad of an ashen color. Overall, good since it was free. And better than nothing which is what I used last time.

Our derby day last Sunday happened to be mine and Hemie's 1 year anniversary!  <3  To celebrate, I brought out the Twinkle Toes! I put on just a modest smudge before jumping, after dressage. Just a small festive way to celebrate the day.

Hemie of course also got a nice big bucket of goodies. He still hasn't figured out that apples are delicious, but he sure loves his rice bran and beet pulp!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Derby Recap Part II: Dressage with video

Our last post covered the jumping portion, and now on to dressage which actually took place earlier in the day.

I'll be frank: dressage was a mess.

We warmed up pretty well (no crazy antics, thank goodness!) and I thought we were on track to have a solid performance. Alas, no.

First of all, there was a stallion in a nearby paddock who was screaming at the top of his lungs, clearly in a panic. Being herd animals, understandably Hemie got a little tense from this as we circled the arena, but I put him to work and he was a good boy by trying to focus on his job and not his freaked out neighbor. Just something that comes with the territory at horse shows.

Secondly, we went off course. Way off......for over 30 seconds.

The judge did not ring the bell to indicate we went off course - they just let us go around while I was left thinking "Gee, wait a second, am I off course? No, must be okay since bell wasn't rung. Oh wait a second I think I am off course. No, no, must be fine, just keep going. No - I'm sure of it - we are in the wrong place going the wrong way."  At which point I halted and looked at the judge for guidance. Blank faces stared back at me.

We were off course starting at 3:17 in the video (below), until 3:55 when I finally reversed and picked up my test from where I thought I had left off. Turns out I missed a movement somewhere in there but oh well.

Thirdly, we were both tense and Hemie got stuck several times. Trying to push him forward resulted in breaking gaits, and even though I was trying to relax, I wasn't very effective. The canter was a hind-swapping, pogo-stick-like movement, and our free walk was more of a cringe walk. I really tried to kick him forward and even touched with the whip but didn't get much done. It got a tad better as the test went on, and we had a few good moments in there. Here's the video:

To be honest, coming out of the arena I was very dissapointed and did NOT think it was better than the last one. But with a little bit of time, and from watching the video and listening to others' comments, I have realized that we did make some improvement and had a some good moments. The trick is to put more and more of what we practice into the show arena (bit by tiny bit), and we need to keep that going.

So, what happened with the judging/scoring situation, you ask? Well, after the test it turns out the kid after me also went off course - waaaaay off, as in riding entire test backwards without being signaled by the judge. Her trainer approached the show organizer about it and I just happened to be near by - the organizer said they'd have the girl re-take her test. Aha! I shall try to re-take mine as well!  Nope. They decided just to fill in scores as best they could. Therefore, no wonder there are no remarks on my scoresheet after we went off course, and the numbers are just the same as the first half (even though I do think we settled down and improved a little bit by the end. I guess maybe not enough to increase our marks though).

I checked the rule book and while it does instruct the judge to ring the bell when a rider goes off course, it also has a caveat that the judge may use discretion and not ring the bell if it they think it will interrupt the flow of the rider. So I didn't bother to lodge a complaint.

Ah well, we got through it. The question remains: how do you go about getting the quality of work you have at home into the show ring?  Both myself and Hemie seem to lose our cool, even though I know we are both trying not to. Does it just take time and lots of shows? Or is there some other methodology I just haven't figured out yet?