Monday, November 19, 2018

Catching Up

First off, HCWE had their Year End Party a week ago Saturday. It was a lot of fun with some great year end gifts, our general meeting and a taco bar. I received the High Point Award for L4 Intermediate A for the year.

 Back of the Jacket with Logo

Front of the jacket on the left side.

That was pretty fun.

I rode both days this past weekend. It was snowing and cold on Saturday, but KM met me at the barn at 10ish and we shared the arena together. It is always more comforting to have another person there when you are riding, just because. He was solid under saddle and listening well. We did not work on flying changes, but mostly worked on keeping him listening and cantering quietly. I figure we will work on the changes during our lessons and I will work on keeping the canter from going to shit the rest of the time. Hahahahaahaha. 

Sunday, I spent the time working on all of our lateral work while dodging jumping students who are directionally challenged and have no sense of space. I ride in the same area over and over again, but constantly had to stop because they were sitting in the middle of my ride space watching others ride. It was a tad bit frustrating, but what can you do when you have only the morning to ride. We finished our ride with square corners at the canter, working on moving his shoulders while rocking him back over his haunches. He did well. I'm really glad I didn't set up my Pixem, because I am pretty sure it would have been taken out by one of the jump horses.

The Broncos won.

And Tristan played his special game with Lily on both Saturday and Sunday. She really does love this game and will bring him her ball to get him to play with her. He isn't putting any real pressure on her when he is holding her. The game gets really noisy when Skittle gets involved. Skittle doesn't want the ball, per se, but she likes warning her sister away from it, knowing how much Lily likes it.



Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mexican Saddle

One of the things that became very apparent to me at the National Show was that my attire is not going to cut it. The one person showing in an Alta Escuela looked fantastic, with the sheepskin cover on her saddle, jacket, vest and pants matched and fit her very well. She had a crupper (!!!!) on her horse and the two of them looked very put together.

I do not.

Short of flying to Spain and shopping, my best option is to buy an outfit, pay for shipping, then hope I guessed right and it fits (European sizes are hard for me). As an example, it took three orders before I was able to get a pair of pants that fit and in order to make sure that it all matches, I’m going to have to buy it all at the same time. I could be looking at a $1000 for an outfit. Add to that the fun experience of teaching my horse to ride in a crupper, and I decided to look at other options.

So, I found a Mexican saddle made in 1960, which actually fits him pretty good. It is a little wide in the shoulder, but with a couple of thin shims (yoga pad) I am able to get it fit to him.

The Western Poneh

The other side

He goes really well in it. I did the lesson on Wednesday night and his lateral work was even better than in the Alta. We got some very nice changes as well. He goes better in it, but I am struggling to adapt to the shape and feel of the new saddle. Overall, I’m pleased.

If you had asked me if I would find a saddle that Ashke likes better than the Alta, I would have laughed, but it does seem to be better and more comfortable for him. The best part is that I can get spurs that match my bit, and the saddle was only $350. 





Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Busted Flat

Last night, as I was preparing to use the mounting block to get on, we had a thing. Typically, the mounting block is set so the steps are toward the arena, so the horse circles the back, where the highest step is (three step model), he positions himself properly, and I mount with my back to the arena. Last night as we approached the mounting block, I realized it was facing the wrong way.

No biggie, right?!

I went to walk Ashke around it so we could assume the position. He was following closely on my heels and when I turned around to look at him, he was just coming around the mounting block. I realized that he didn't recognize that the steps were backwards, just as he tripped over them.

I was about a foot and a half in front of him when he tripped, lowered his head to catch his balance, and caught me straight in the chest with his forehead. And all of his body weight behind him.

I flew backwards about fifteen feet and landed solidly in the dirt on my back. My right breast hurt, which is to be expected when you balance your horse on it.

Ashke was a rein length away, looking sheepish, but still standing. Saw me and went WTF are you doing laying down and came over to investigate.

No lasting harm but it once again proves out the point that anything can happen when you are working with your horse. And always wear a helmet.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pixem Robotic Camera

Back in July, I pre-ordered the new Pixem robotic camera from Move N See in France, designed to work with a smart phone. I was really excited by the prospect of being able to seamlessly record, edit and upload to YouTube  any and all training videos going forward. They announced the Pixem had shipped via FB, and then email, while I was working the National Show in October. It was waiting for me when I got home. The learning curve has been a tad bit challenging, although it might be less challenging if I had actually read the manual before attempting to use it.

First thing to know: make sure you turn on the robot and then turn it back off again after charging otherwise the robot will self discharge. That means that the robot isn’t powered when you go to video yourself. I tried three times prior to finally reading through the manual to find out what the hell was the problem. (I’m special.) Your phone connects to the robot via the Pixem app, via the app store, so be sure that is downloaded as well.

Second thing to know: the beacons and robot can’t be too close toa lot of metal or it will lose the beacons because of interference. That was a problem to deal with because our indoor is a steel building. I ended up ordering four tripods from Amazon to hold both the robot and the beacons so that I could position them a little away from the walls. That seems to have fixed most of the issues, however I am going to try inverting the robot and place it next to the round pen rather than so close to the walls. The first night we tried to video the robot could not find the #2 beacon and kept spinning until it finally fell off the tripods because it had untwisted the screw in the botto of the robot. Doh!

Third thing to know: It is much easier to place the back of the phone against the solid brace on the top of the robot, rather than placing the screen against the brace. I really wanted to kick myself when that was described in the manually, because duh, but honestly, I did it that way three times before I figured it out. Part of the set up process is establishing the size of the object you are recording in the frame of the video before videoing, so the camera and phone know how to keep you centered as you ride closer and further away.

Read the Manual. 

I have been very impressed with the video that the phone takes, even at night when the lights are on in the arena.



The only bad part is where the robot loses me.


First attempt at a night time video



Warm up at the beginning of our lesson



Canter warm up at the beginning of our meeting



Working on the lead changes
This would go better if I was a better rider. And if I hadn't screwed Ashke up by cueing him from the outside and inside at the same time. I will need to work on the proper cue a lot of get it really set for him.



Second set, where we still look like we are flailing.


After lead changes, we go back and reestablish all of the stuff we've been working on, so he understands that lead changes are not everything we do.




Or the only thing we do.



Back to something we know.




More canter.
Seriously, it's like fifteen minutes of lead change followed by 45 minutes of trying to get back to where we were.



Going to something even slower and more precise.



Square corners.
He stumbled, which when viewed slowly via the camera, was a slip of his left hind in the footing.

I'm going to try moving the beacons and the robotic camera's positions to see if that helps with tracking. I will put the robot at  position 3 in the middle of the riding arena at the end, to see if there is less interference,  and made the necessary adjustments to the other beacons (#1 is diagonal across the arena from the robot, with #2 to the left of #1 and #3 to the right.)

I expect I will use it to track my progress in my lessons. Maybe not every week, but every other. It takes a good fifteen minutes to set up and take down, so that makes managing my time, my warm up, etc., more difficult.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Lily and Skittle

I have two dogs that I adore. They are Boxer-Malinois mixes and they fill our lives with joy. Several years ago, I asked Saiph to draw me a tattoo of the two of them, so I could get them tattooed on my shoulder opposite of Ashke (which she also drew). Yesterday, I got them put on my body.


Saiph’s art work from a couple of years ago.


Mom went with me and confirmed the placement of the art on my arm.
Lily was on top with Skittle set a little off to one side on the bottom.
Saiph actually drew it as two separate pieces and then I put them together to form the final shape.



This is my fifth tattoo and it hurt. It hurt more than the one I had done of Ashke.
The top of Lily’s ear was exceedingly painful.



I used the same artist that did Tristan’s half sleeve.
She took Saiph’s drawing and traced it into a frame work for the tattoo.
This is the art on my arm after the lines were finished.


On the table waiting for the fill work to get started.


I had also sent her actual pictures of the dogs in the sunshine so she would have a really good idea of what they looked like.
Last thing I wanted was to have the dogs not look like themselves or Saiph’s drawing.
The artist also had to work around my smallpox vaccine scar and a mole. She positioned the stencil so that the amount of the tattoo effected by those two skin imperfections was minimal.

Saiph’s response when I sent her the pic was “OMG IT’S JUST LIKE MY DRAWINGS”

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Working Equitation National Championships

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post and all I have to say is that the exhaustion I experienced at the end of the National Championships, combined with work and life have pretty much overwhelmed me. Being the Technical Delegate was amazing and challenging and rewarding, but it was also exhausting. I am usually bottomed out at the end of a show. This one was four days of work and lots of walking, but I got to do it with Chris, which made it even better in the end. Over the course of the four days, I walked almost twenty miles, with the biggest distance on Saturday. In addition to being the TD, I was also responsible for the Course Design, in conjunction with Chris, which meant I was singly responsible for making sure the courses were set correctly, according to the map, and answering any questions during the course walk. The work aside, I was able to meet people and watch riders who I only knew on paper (tallying points from the Confederation licensed shows for Year End Awards). It was awesome to finally put some faces to names. And then there were the ponies. We do this sport because at the end of the day we all love horses and there were some very fine horses competing.


The white building across the lake is the main stallion barn where the Haras horses live.
It was a beautiful facility.

The National Championships took place at Haras Hacienda, in Magnolia, TX. I stayed in a room on the grounds and all of our meals were provided for us at the restaurant (the logistics of managing the officials and volunteers of a National show are not for the faint of heart). The staff was really wonderful and I had minions. Let me tell you, minions are the best, and these minions had obviously hosted WE shows in the past, because they knew the obstacles, how they should be put up and most of the measurements. One of the things I did prior to the show was take the Master’s course map and add all of the measurements to the sheet at each obstacle. I wanted a quick reference guide to help put up the obstacles and as luck would have it, I handed it off to the head minion to use. The workers were efficient and knowledgeable and didn’t give me shit when I asked them to adjust the placement of an obstacle for the twentieth time. 


The main arena set with the dressage court

And yes, those are McLaren sports cars at the far end of the ring. When I first saw them, I about lost my mind (I love sports cars) and had to go down and take pictures like a complete tourist who’s never seen a McLaren before (hadn’t) to send to Tristan by way of text.


Oh yes, I would take this one in a heartbeat.
I wouldn’t sell it for something else . . . I would drive it like I stole it.

Thursday was a day spent inspecting horses, talking to the riders, sorting ribbons and trophies, and just setting up stuff in general. The footing at Haras was amazing. It is a mixture of silica sand and fiber laid over an under the footing watering system. Every rider we talked to said it was amazing to ride on. Friday was dressage day and the judges viewed 45 rides in eight different levels. I spent the day walking from the main arena (shown above) to the warm arena, about 300 feet away. As TD, I got asked about tack and attire, about riding with a whip, about warm up arena etiquette and got to inspect all of the horses before they entered the arena. Pictures are taken of each rider and their attire, because unlike Eventing where you can have three different bridles, three different saddle and various combinations of said stuff, in WE we are required to ride all three phases in the same tack. Attire can change as long as it is the in the same style (so you can wear clean clothes), although my experience is that most riders wear the same clothes all three days. The most difficult part of the day was not touching the horses. (Big no-no.)

Kate Fowler (Region 3 Director and bit checker), myself and Chris (comrade-in-arms)

At the ingate to the main arena, we had our table set up, with a designated bit checker who also looked for blood in the spur area and at the corners of the horse’s mouth. Luckily, we did not have any issues with blood or attire the entire weekend. There were no really tough questions on Friday and all of the rides went smoothly. After the dressage phase, the dressage court was pulled out and the ring was set up for Ease of Handling. As Course Designer, I directed my minions, walked the distances, repositioned obstacles (which was really fun when you had to leave room to not run over the McLarens), and finally invite the judge to walk the course. It flowed as well as I had hoped, while asking plenty of questions in the approach and navigation of the ride. 


Course open to the riders to walk.

So there are a few keys to making sure the show goes smoothly. First, because it was a national show, every course was different, increasing in length and difficulty as it progressed up the levels. Second, obstacles didn’t move between levels, so once the course was set, it remained in place for the entirety of the day. There were some obstacles that were added or removed for each level, while some of them, the jump for example, was left in place and the number was just removed. Some of the distances (bell corridor and drums) were changed for the Advanced and Masters levels (shorter distances between the barrels, the corridor was narrower) but that was an easy adjustment. Novice A & B rode the same course and Intermediate A & B rode the same course. There was a Course walk at each level once any adjustments were made and the judge had approved the layout.

This is the Master’s level Ease of Handling Course.
Note the jump is two bales high (not sure I want to show at Masters if Ashke has to cart my fat butt over two bales of straw).
Also, the single slalom was seven poles and the parallel slalom was nine. 




Children Level
We had one rider for this division, and she rode the cutest little Welsh cross pony.

TD Challenge: the bridge was set with live plants on either side (tall grass) to act as the rails for that obstacle. The grass, being grass and bushy, hung over the bridge and would be both visually intimidating and would brush against the horse’s legs as they walked through. One of the riders challenged that obstacle and asked for the grass to be moved. The judges replied that this is a field sport and grass is a naturally occurring obstacle. The rider then turned to me and asked me as the TD. I stepped into the bridge and let the grass brush my hands as I walked through. It was soft and moved easily, offering no possibility of injury to the horse. I stepped back and addressed the rider with “it’s fine”. That was the end of that, but it is a great example of the type of decision making process you will need to be comfortable with if you want to TD. 


Riders must be in attire for the course walk or it’s a DQ.

The Ease of Handling course rode as well as I could have asked. I heard from several riders that the course was challenging, but flowed well, and although there were some lines chosen I hadn’t considered, they were all decent. Probably the hardest set of obstacles to ride was at Advanced, where the riders came over the jump and then had to stop at the gate. That really showcased the rider’s ability to have enough speed to jump the straw bales, but then to demonstrate control by halting before crashing the gate. It was fun to watch the upper level riders. 


And I got to meet this woman in real life.
Andrea McNeal on Dylan.


At the end of the day, we moved the obstacles to set up for the Speed round. For Speed, there were some changes of the numbers between levels, but for the most part it was a fast, smooth course. The only change between Novice and the other levels was a slight repositioning of the Pole, Ring, Pole obstacle, otherwise smooth and easy. There were a few bobbles, where the riders had to dismount and pick up an object, remount and replace the object before advancing. The Switch a Cup was problematic for a lot of riders and horses not wanting to stand still. One rider was blazing fast and overshot her turn into the parallel slalom, missing her first pole and eventually DQ’d on the course. If she had caught her mistake, she could have reridden the obstacle before moving to the next one.  Sometimes, fast is not better and rating the speed within the gait is what makes one truly successful at this phase. 

After Speed, the minions pulled the course, I finalized some of the paperwork, and then we headed to the field for the Cattle Phase of the competition. Since the Cattle Phase is a team phase, the riders that opted to participate were randomly drawn from a hat and formed into teams.


The Cattle Phase should be a four person team, with one person at a time cutting out their designated cow and moving it down the field to the holding pen. It is a timed event and each rider gets three minutes.

The only team to pen all four of their cattle.

This was the first time the Cattle Phase had been offered as a competition at a National Show. It inspired us to commit to doing Cattle the same way at our B-Rated shows, so that our riders can get experience. At the National Show in 2019, I am hoping that HCWE will be able to field a couple of teams to compete in the team phase. It was fun to watch and it was pretty obvious which horses were used to being around cattle.

Overall, the show ran very well. It was a testament to the volunteers and the show manager as too how smoothly the show ran. I enjoyed my time as TD and picked up some tricks to make managing a show a bit smoother. There are also some items that need to be addressed as an organization, but I am sure that will happen going forward.
















Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Flying

Two lessons in a row now . . .

I rode Ashke through the stuff we have been working on, then handed him over to the Magnificent Amanda. A week ago, she got some solid counter canter and two clean flying changes.

Last night, same process, only this time the flying changes were smoother, cleaner and more prolific. At least a baker's dozen via a figure 8, then a half dozen in a serpentine dance. He is smooth and easy from the right lead to the left and is figuring it out going from left to right. Mostly, Amanda thinks the left to right is a timing thing for him. She also said he understands the aid: shift of her weight, new outside leg back to shift the hips and a half halt and he pops right over. Maybe next week, I will try to get the timing down with him after she reminds him of what we are working on.

He had a puffed chest and satisfied look in his eye at the end.

Also, Pixem is on its way, so the potential for lots of media starts next week. For this week, I am Technical Delegate for the National Championship of Working Equitation in Magnolia, TX. Looking forward to working with some amazing people this weekend.

See you on the flip side.