So, five weeks ago, four days before our schooling show, at the end of my lesson as I was untacking, this happened:
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sunday, June 13, 2021
The last time we showed in Working Equitation was June of 2019. It rained all weekend, so the show was inside. Ashke had just started getting injections for his hocks and although our dressage was okay, his behavior in the EOH was atrocious on the second day. I came away from that show having made the decision we were hanging up the effort for good. I stress too much about our performance and he really only wants to do speed all the time. It just wasn't fun. And since my last show was also on the same day that my divorce was final, I wasn't sure what my financial outlook was going to be long term. I made the decision that I would invest in our training with Amanda and put my show ambitions on the back burner.
Some time between then and now, maybe both Ashke and I matured, developed additional skills and listened to our trainer. I completely changed my tack and attire, Ashke got injections, we've rehabbed a serious leg injury, and have consistently taken lessons with Amanda. Last Monday, Ashke and I had a huge fight in our lesson. After the lesson, I walked back out to her and said "he's for sale". She kind of laughed and said why? I answered "because I suck as a rider and I hate fighting with him". She said, "when are you going to learn that you will never win that fight? He is a 1000 lb animal with a mind of his own. The trick is to not fight. And you need to remember that he is Loki in horse form. You need to respond with humor not anger."
Chris agreed when I talked to her later that he does have a bit of Loki in him, and that most Arabians do.
I thought a lot about that conversation over the week. I also thought about the fact that Amanda has been chasing two scores on her FEI Grand Prix horse for the entire time I have been taking lessons. She doesn't get angry, she just keeps working on the things that need to be better. It's humbling. And recognizing that changed something for me this weekend.
For the first time in a dressage test, when I knew I had made a mistake, instead of feeling frustrated or upset, I gave myself a nod and kept riding. No one in the history of dressage has ever scored a perfect 100%. We are going to make mistakes. And with Ashke, there is a likelihood that there are some movements we will never score better than a six on, so a six it is. I was still anxious, but it felt different this time.
I also talked to Ashke on Friday when I went to bathe him. I told him we had two shows this weekend and I needed to wash both his face and his forelock, since he needs to be clean enough to glow. Damn if that horse didn't drop his head and let me wash his face. When I put him back in his stall I asked him to not lay in his poop so that he was still clean the next morning, which he complied with. He was amazing at the show. He stood calmly at the trailer when he needed to and was responsive under saddle. We were there from 8 am to almost 4 pm (the show was over about 1 pm, then we ate lunch together and then we had to reset the course for the following day. I was exhausted and humbled by my horse's attitude. He came back and did the same thing the following day without complaint.
We did two solid dressage tests in two days. We scored 62.11 on Saturday and 61.36 on Sunday. The biggest differences were the walking pirouettes (2x score) and his changes across the center line were all early. The one thing I was able to correct was our entry down centerline (on Saturday I completely forgot to salute the judge and was saved by the fact that the test they had was the wrong one and so I got a do over). The other item I addressed was making sure our canter down the left side of the arena was straight rather than bigger. We were consistent. On Saturday I didn't have a score lower than 5.5, but on Sunday we had more 7's.
The EOH on Saturday was harder for Ashke. There was a jump (which I practiced at our home barn on Friday for the first time in two years) and the double slalom was seven poles. I knew that both of those would be difficult. We also had a back foot slip in the gravel around the figure 8 barrels. He wasn't the only one and the judge changed the location of one of the obstacles to avoid that slick area on Sunday. We scored a 61.11 on Saturday. We were the only ones in our division so it would have been easy to not race on Saturday, but even when I have the best of intentions of not racing, we end up going fast.
I was worried about Sunday's EOH ride. The last time allowed Ashke to race the Speed on the first day of a two show weekend, he was out of control in EOH the next day. When we were in the warm up arena, I talked to him and asked him to remember to go slow on the first course, that it was the EOH and he needed to listen and be with me. When we first got in the arena, I asked him to canter around the outside of the arena nice and collected. It told me he had listened and was willing to do the EOH course correctly. There were a couple of bobbles. I should have approached the single slalom differently and the change on the figure 8 was entirely my fault for cutting the back of the circle off and not getting him straight for the change. Other than that he did really awesome! We ended up with a 65.0 in the EOH.
Then we got to run speed and run we did. But even when I let him out fully, all it took was a halt from my seat and he came right back down to me. It was so much fun.
This was the first set of shows that I've had fun participating in. I let the small stuff slide off and enjoyed the partnership with my boy. It was pretty amazing. He was amazing.
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Wow. it's been a long time since I posted and so much has happened that it might be a book to detail all of the things that have been going on . . . . that said, this is a story about Ashke.
We started working on flying changes in December of 2018 and Ashke has shown moments of brilliance, but less of consistency. His issue has been from the change from his right lead to the left. From left to right, he is flawless and it takes just a slight shift and bump on the rein to execute, but in the other direction, he can be half a step off behind. We had reached a point where he was getting it clean 90% of the time, but the consistency wasn't there. I worked on making the warm up work we did consistent to see if that helped and although it does help overall (a warm horse is more consistent than a cold horse - who knew?) it didn't fix the real underlying issue. I began to suspect there might be something else going on, since otherwise he is well balanced and we have worked on getting him equally strong on both sides.
We started with having the chiro come out. I felt like he was out in his SI area (chronic issue) which was the case, and also in his neck. He was better after that, but still kind of struggling. We brought in the vet and had his teeth done. They weren't horrible but there were a couple of points that needed to be addressed. It had been two years since his last teeth float, and as is usual with geldings, I had his sheath cleaned while he was drugged. He, of course, didn't drop and my vet, bless his soul, he had to go digging.
At the end of that adventure, my vet pulled three beans the size of my thumb out. Ashke must have known that he was trying to help, since Ashke didn't kick or thrash, but also didn't drop. The vet said to me, going forward, we need to do his teeth once a year, specifically so we could clean his sheath. That poor boy.
Guess what got 100% better? That's right, his change is now correct and balanced in both directions. Life is hard when you are a gelding.
Monday, February 8, 2021
I got to practice my dressage test this last weekend and although I went off course at the first walk pirouette, I thought we had made a marked improvement. Below you will find the last test I rode in a show and below that the test I rode on Saturday.
The dressage test from the June show (Jill Barron, judge)
February 6, 2021
Friday, January 22, 2021
OMG, this was the best move to date. I love this barn.
We moved in on 12/26. I needed to be able to ride without worrying about concrete footings, icy roads, and moving holiday blow up decorations (the new little gypsy cob Amanda is working with tried to destroy one of them - she be fierce). The move was fairly easy and we got the horses out to ride the day we moved in.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
So, when we moved from Owen's we had two barns that we really looked at. One was a big facility, just having gone under new management, with two big outdoor arenas and a huge indoor. The stalling option was a run with a shed or inside in a box stall. That barn was big, with lots of horses and riders, very often busy with five trainers. The huge drawback was we were told that Amanda wouldn't be able to train us until one or two of the other trainers left. And there were only five spaces available. The second barn gave us the opportunity to have all of the horses in one barn, with a huge tack room, stalls with runs, two outdoor arenas and an indoor arena. We opted for the second barn, with the exception of the woman I was sharing lessons with (the other barn is within walking distance of her house) and Amanda decided to put Laz, her Grand Prix horse, at the other barn. We moved in the 18th of October.
Our first time in the indoor in our new barn, Amanda walked us over to show us this:
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
So, when shit hits the fan, all you can do is duck or move out of the way . . .
I have been taking lessons on Thursday night for several years now. Sometimes it moves to Tuesday or Wednesday, but we always gravitate back to Thursday. I have been riding with one of my barn mates and sharing lessons with her, because we are both working on the same things. It gives the horses a break between pirouettes and half-pass and sometimes you can figure things out by watching them in front of you.
The barn we were boarding in had a huge indoor arena with decent footing and horrible lighting. We ride outside as much as possible, but late fall, winter and spring, we have to ride inside. Its a necessity. And its why we were willing to pay $600 a month for the privilege. Mind you, that's for the stall with run, cleaning the stall and run, water, hay, safe choice grain and use of the facilities. No blanketing. No turn out. An indoor arena that leaks badly. Snow sliding off the roof of the arena. Tree branches scrapping and banging on the walls in the wind. Flooded runs and a tack room with a wall that rains water like a waterfall during inclement weather. It was impossible to ride early in the morning because the barn owner uses the indoor for turn out. They watered and dragged the arena on her schedule, which meant that some nights the indoor was wet, muddy and slick. But, we made it work for us, the hay was premium quality, and the horses seemed happy. And no one ever really wants to move barns.
On the last day of September, the barn owner gave us notice of the board increase (with no upgrade in facilities - every improvement made in the past two years we've paid for) of $100 a month. We were bound by contract to give a 30 days notice, which meant we needed to find a place within two days. Not a lot of time to work with, but we made it happen. Once we knew where we were going, we all gave notice. Thirteen horses were leaving. Eight of them went to my new barn, three of them went to a second barn and the other two went their own way. I'm not sure what the BO was expecting, but it doesn't seem like this is what she thought would happen. Instead of seeing her profit margin increase, she took a huge hit in potential income. It made her a bit surly.
Two weeks ago on Thursday, we were taking our lesson with Amanda. All of a sudden, with no warning (door!) at all, the BO yanked open one of the doors on the show barn, which shrieked horribly and scared the bejesus out of both horses. She glared into the arena and then stomped off into her side of the barn. No greeting, no acknowledgement of her poor choices. She left the door open, which her husband shut about twenty minutes later. This last Thursday, my barn mate and I went into the indoor and started our warm up. We had walked around the arena a little bit and had just started a jog when once again the door was yanked open. (No warning). This time both horses spooked pretty hard and I'm not sure another rider wouldn't have hit the ground. The barn owner stomped across the arena while we turned to watch her. Two strides from the light switches she said "I'm turning off the lights. . . . you might want to get off." Then the lights in the arena went off. My barn mate had gotten off her horse but I was still swinging down off of Ashke when the arena was suddenly in pitch blackness. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and got it turned on which helped us get out of the arena safely.
I was beyond pissed. It was unprofessional. Reckless. Dangerous. Horrible horsemanship. And a breach of contract.
Amanda had received a text from the BO about the time we were swinging into the saddle saying that if we wanted to use the indoor at night we had to pay her an extra $20 to ride. Everyone was pretty pissed as well. There were at least five of us riding in the indoor in the evening that this would effect. The BO expected it in her Venmo account prior to turning on the lights.
We were already paying a premium price for board, it was flat out
extortion to ask for more, a poor business decision on her part, and just petty.
We texted the new barn owner and made arrangements to move the horses two weeks early. I took Friday off to move hay and then we moved everyone over the weekend. I will post the new barn photos next.