Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Saturday Speed Round

On Saturday, I played it safe in the speed round, remembering what Tarrin said to a competitor during Expo. I was competing against myself and I had finished both the dressage and EOH trials without a DQ. I wanted the completion so that my scores would count for High Point with the Confederation and for my third medal score. I also wanted to make sure Ashke was working the obstacles mostly correctly (changes and canter rather than trot) so that we didn't undo our hard work.

There were a couple of things I was cautious about: the sack, since I didn't want to get off and remount again and the sidepass pole since we didn't want a time penalty added on, not that it would have mattered, but precision is something I must emphasize for the poneh. I had one big mistake, in missing the barrel with the pole. I wasn't even close and Ashke was a bit confused by our having to circle. I blame the sun.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Saturday Ease of Handling

So, one of the things I noticed two weekends ago, is that thinking about riding the dressage test no longer feels overwhelming. I have practiced the movements (without stringing them together cuz really smart horse who tries to overachieve) of the test, but we also school more complicated things like leg yield to half-pass and shoulder in to haunches in on the same line, leg yields at the canter. Those things are still hard for me to ride correctly, but the thing that has changed is that I no longer feel overwhelmed by the idea of riding four circles and four canter-walk-canter transitions at the end of a six minute test.

I am no longer feeling stressed by the actual movements.

That is a huge leap for me and may be a contributing factor in lowering my overall anxiety.

Ease of Handling, on the other hand, really doesn't make me feel anxious. We understand the obstacles. Ashke knows what is expected and really the only question is the line between obstacles. I feel like sometime this year, the lines have become very clear to me in my ride. Amanda and I talk about alternative lines or approaches, based on our evaluation during the course walk, but sometimes what it feels like on your two feet and doing it at the canter changes your approach during the ride. Best laid plans and all that.

The other thing I think about when riding a course is where might he get a little squirrely, suck back behind my leg, or perhaps give me an abrupt stop. He still remembers the spiky plants at the opening of the livestock pen, which were right next to the gate at Expo two years ago. They are sharp on the ends and poked his shins while we were trying to execute the gate. He remembers and gives them a hard look and extra room when they are a decoration.

I was super proud of him when he stood without moving for me to remount. I patted his neck before picking up the bag to let him know it wasn't his fault. The barrel we were using was upside down and the burlap was super slick. I had just let go when I saw it slide. He was a trooper though. Once again, insisting he stand paid off. I am also very impressed with his jump. This isn't something we practice very much (although Amanda said we do need to work on my release because I am hitting him in the mouth) but he tucked his legs up and went over every time we faced a jump this weekend. It seems much easier since Dr K has been working on both the SI and right hip issue in our chiropractic work.

For the record, it hit 97 by about noon. It was hot and there were no clouds. I did a minimal warm up in the indoor before our ride, mostly working him on turning from my legs and got him to sit down and think about the double slalom pattern prior to going into the arena. It is a fine line between getting him supple and able to move vs too damn tired to ride. We are still fine tuning it. I also listened to Saiph and drank water exclusively during the day. I did use my inhaler an hour or so before the dressage test and again at lunch, mostly because of the humidity. The second time I use it, I feel a little sick to my stomach and nauseous, but it fades after about 20 minutes and it certainly helps with the ride. We also used the hose to spray off Ashke and myself after dressage and then again after the EOH but before speed. That seemed to help.

So, without further ado:

Monday, July 16, 2018

Saturday L4 - Intermediate A Dressage Test

Saturday dawned hot. We were at 90 by 10 am. Ashke was a bit tense when we first got to Circle Star Arena and spent the first half hour standing on his hind legs. He bonded with Izzy (dun QH mare that looks just like Cali) two seconds after he stepped off the trailer, then took exception to her leaving to do her dressage test. By the time I needed to saddle him, he had stopped playing the fool and was standing in the sunshine, with his head in the shade, munching on his hay.

Amanda got there about nine, but the tests were running a little behind, so we chatted with her, her sister Kari (who took all of the photos in my prior post) and Deb, who has been super supportive of my showing. Plus, one of Amanda's other students was there to check out WE. It was a nice way to relax before my test. I finally swung a leg over and we started working on loosening his body. He was being pretty protective of his right hind (my friend Chris suggested I talk to the doc about another injection) although he was trying very hard to do what I wanted. Once he felt warmed up, without us pushing him so far that he was too tired for the test, I just walked and waited for my turn.

One of the great things this show weekend, I was much less anxious. No vomiting or crying. My confidence in our development is growing and I am less worried about making a major mistake. I know where we need to improve and we are chipping away at it, but it can't be fixed in the warm up arena right before our ride. Amanda knows what we need to work on to improve our scores and I think she has a plan. We have two and a half months before our next show. In that time I am taking a family vacation, flying to Germany and prepping for our final show in McCook.

Ashke was amazing all weekend. I was very proud of him for stepping up and being a serious show horse. I think he really likes it and seems to enjoy showing off. It is what he was bred for, after all.

J got the video for me:

This was a personal best. I've been working on a WE dressage test for four years and this is the first time I have scored above 60%.

The dressage test in case you want to know what the movements were:

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Tristan Did A Thing

Tristan has talked about wanting a tattoo for several years. His desire was for a full back tattoo of an eagle with the wings coming over his shoulders and down his arms. I suggested he might want to do something a little smaller for his first tattoo (I was thinking something on a shoulder or pec that could be finished in one sitting. He opted for a half-sleeve on his right arm.

Six weeks or so ago, we had our consultation with an artist I met at the barn. She does a lot of grey scale tattoos and Tristan didn't want any color. We met with her and he talked about what his expectation for the design was. She finished the design and sent it to Tristan, who wasn't sure until he talked to her about what the finished product would look like. Sunday morning, our whole herd, including J and Tia, accompanied him to the parlor for his first tattoo.

 He thought he was going to listen to music, but my witty conversation kept him distracted better than music.

 Bands are hard, but our tattoo artist did a great job.

 The ditch is a bitch.
At least he will be able to see the best part of the design.

 Design touch up with Sharpie.
He sent this pic to one of his friends and his friend asked if it had hurt.
Tristan was like "dude, it's sharpie."
Made me laugh.

 Overall design.

 I was so proud of him. He sat without moving that arm for a solid two hours while she inked the lines. We knew he had to finish the lines in one setting and he rocked it.
He asked her to start on the shading, since he was doing okay and we still had an hour to go in the appt.

 She shaded the bottom band. It was pretty sore. I could feel the deep tremble of his body trying to deal with the shock of the trauma by the time we were almost done. I recognized it from my own tats and told him he was about done. Between the pain, holding himself still, being hungry and where they were in the tattoo, it was time to stop.
I did offer at one point to whack him in the balls to help distract him.
He said no.

This was right after. It looks even better a couple of days later. The lines are crisp and well done.
There was no blood, just a bit of fluid from the skin. No sign of scabbing.

He's already talking about what to do to finish the sleeve.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Practice Ride

I have videos of today’s practice ride. We rode early to beat the heat, since it broke 100 in a couple of places in Colorado today. Ashke was so very good that I wanted to pinch myself. Tia, T’s godmother and good friend, said at she thought he looked happier than she had ever seen him. And he is the perfect weight. It’s an amazing thing.

Ashke in the front and Kat (Friesan Sport Horse) in the back

Not the single slalom pattern. 
We were working on leg yield to half pass keeping the same bend.

And again. Trying so hard for me.
This was the first time we had tried this exercise.

There were several attempts at the single slalom. Ashke seems to have figured out this obstacle is easier when he is moving very slowly.

Working the canter transitions on the straight away.
Focusing on keeping his body straight and fewer steps between transitions.

And again on the straight away.

Square corners. Not as good as I rode them yesterday.
I did not have him as well put together today as last night. And he had too much rein.
So hard to break that habit.

And again in the other direction.
It didn’t feel as good as the night before, but since I haven’t watched him do it right, I’m not sure why.
More connection, and more of an ask with my outside thigh, I think.

Leg Yield to half pass at the canter

And in the other direction.

This horse just makes my heart soar.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Transition Epiphany

If you had told me four years ago that I would start loving dressage so much that I would want to take lessons several times a week (I'm not, since I am not that well heeled) I would have laughed my ass off. Plus, I do need time to practice the stuff we are learning. However, I am really enjoying myself. And Ashke seems to be happy about it too.

We were in the outdoor last night, working on the stuff we've been working on. Ashke was in a very relaxed mood and tried very hard for me. We started with some simple trotting serpentines, to get him moving around my leg with changes of bend at the mid point. Then we started the canter to walk serpentine, followed by shoulder in and haunches in.

Amanda had me do a half circle to center line, leg yield to the rail, half circle at the far end, and then a half-pass across the arena (20m) almost to the rail, where I was to remain in haunches out until we reached the end of our riding arena, where I was supposed to switch to a shoulder in and then ride the pattern the other direction. It was a great exercise. Hard at times, but still very good practice for us to move his shoulders and hips where I want them at will in the arena.

Next was some canter leg yields and then I worked canter walk transitions down the center line. He was still falling on the forehand with each transition. We stopped and I asked Amanda why it was happening. She said it was a timing thing and that I needed to time my half-halt to a different place in his canter. She said I was asking when he is going into the high point of his canter (two feet on the ground) and that I needed to ask when he was in his low point in the canter (one foot on the ground). My response was "how the hell am I supposed to figure that out?"

She laughed. Told me to close my eyes. Feel the canter. Be one with the force.

So, I get why my transitions are the way the are. I am asking him to go to the walk when he is up, and him being the obedient horse he is starting to be, does it with alacrity. Which dumps us on the forehand and makes him feel like he just plowed to a stop. Instead, if I can change my timing, he is already down in the gait, which means that he comes UP into the walk. Years ago, N told me you had to ride the horse up into its transition, but I had no idea what that meant. Last night, it finally became clear to me. At least, I can wrap my head around the idea. Implementing it consistently will take time, however, I was at least aware and making the attempt last night. The transitions got better and he wasn't dumping as bad, so at least that is a good thing. I will practice it going forward.

One of the things that Amanda said was much better was the straightness we've achieved in the canter. He is holding himself so much straighter. Cantering down the centerline in a slight shoulder fore is helping. Although, we still have an issue with transitioning to the canter in that body position. It will come. I also am trying to be so much more subtle with my spur when asking for the canter. He really moves his hip away when he feels the spur, so I am using my calf and inside heel to ask, which is also helping him remain straight through his body so much better.

He is awesome at picking up the canter lead from my leg on the straightaway. I don't worry any more at all that he will pick up the wrong lead.

We worked on bending at the trot in our ten meter circle, trying to ride the outside rein without falling in on the circle and getting our change of bend in the straightness between the two circles. We included some medium trot with me really remaining focused on keeping my hands where they are supposed to be so he remains in his house.

During a break after the trot work, we realized we still had half the lesson left, so Amanda had us do square corners at the canter. Ashke is really good at that. Then Amanda had me shorten the strides between the corners. So we started out straight stride, turn stride, straight stride, three canter strides and then the corner again. After one round, we went to two strides between the straight strides, then one stride after that. That was the smallest we could get thus far. It will be an exercise we work on in our practice rides. Amanda said it is a great training tool and will continue to strengthen his back and core as prep for the canter pirouettes.

We worked on our medium canter which was quite hilarious. Amanda told me to keep my hands where they were and let him figure out how to meet me there. During my first attempt, Amanda started laughing and said "when I told you to keep your hands where they were I did not mean for you to straighten your elbows! Keep them bent." I had to laugh. This is the biggest issue for me right now. The muscle memory is awful and retraining it is really hard.

I asked Amanda if she could help me with our sidepass since he really stalled out on me at the last show. He sidepasses so nice, I want to maximize our points on that obstacle. Amanda had me go through the first time and then coached me to change our angle. We need to be more straight in the cross, instead of being angled too much in the direction of the pole.

We even have video of the last two attempts.

Better transition and nice crossing both front and back

The other direction

We ended the lesson with the setting sun. Ashke just gets better and better and seems to really like the intricacy of the stuff we are working on.