Thursday, July 28, 2016

Catching Up

 Waiting for the farrier.

 Playing horse games.

 My barefoot farrier putting shoes on Ashke's fronts.

I decided to do front shoes for the rest of the riding season. The new pair of Back Country boots from Easycare did not work and honestly, my horse hates them. He drives his toes into the ground, he scuffs, he trips, he hates moving down single track, and despite the changes Easycare has made to the gaiters, he still fills up the heelbulb area with pebbles. I don't feel safe on them, when going over rough ground, and that unsafe feeling intensifies if we are moving on a steep downhill. I talked to my farrier and she said she could fit him with shoes, but she would take a while. I told her I didn't mind because I trusted her to trim the hoof correctly first.

 Ashke with a bit of duct tape on the end of his nose.

 He blew and blew, but finally stopped trying to pull the hoof away.

 Fitting the shoe.

Ashke wondering what the hell J is doing in the break room.

I opted for just front shoes, since I never boot Ashke's back feet. If he shows signs of being unhappy without something on the backs, I will have the farrier come out again. So far though, he seems okay with just the fronts. I rode on Monday and he was really good for the ten minutes we rode in the arena, so we went outside and tooled around the edges of the farm until the sun set.

Last night was another lesson. Ashke was being a touch resistant and over reacting to every touch of my heel when he thought we might be cantering. Like he kicked up into one of the transitions at one point in the lesson. We started with a little trot work, doing serpentines down the arena, until he felt fairly comfortable. Then Amanda set out some cones for us to work on the 15m circle. She thinks the 15m is the hardest size to ride, since rail to rail is the 20m and the 10 is half to half the arena. She set the cones for 15m and we rode them at the trot first, and then moved to the canter.

Ashke was really reactive to my leg. He got anxious and uptight every time he thought we were going to canter. I talked to him while asking him to trot in a bendy circle and told him it was just a canter, not something he needed to get upset about. I refused to let it distract me from our goal, but was willing to work a trot circle or two to get him resettled before starting the canter again. It seemed to help. I don't know why he was so upset. But it kind of felt like he was trying to pick a fight with me to get out of cantering. 

I picked up the canter at about F, started my circle at A, rode the outside of the cones first, then a second circle to the inside of the cones, and finished with a downward transition on the straight away. After we tried it the first couple of times, we alternated what we did at the end: cross the arena at a diagonal and transition down, do the serpentine along the rail and then transition down, leg yield to the rail before the transition. Basically we did whatever we could to mix it up so Ashke had to listen to me. She also had me do the two circles around the cones, then canter to the other end of the arena and do a circle there. Amanda said she could see the difference in Ashke when he had visual markers for what we were trying to do. I think the visual clues help him figure out where and what I am going to ask of him.

We cantered about half of the lesson. We did take a ten minute break while trying to figure out what kind of snake was living under one of the horse stalls. We are pretty sure it was a bull snake, but I didn't get a good look at it's head, so we can't be sure. It could have been a rattler.

After working the canter, Amanda had us go to the trot and work on slow jog versus lengthening into a working trot and then back to the slow. This was a really good exercise for us, since Ashke always wants to rush through whatever we are doing. Overall, the lesson was really awesome. Both Ashke and I were soaked with sweat when we were done and we have some stuff to work on this week. I can do the two circles, cross the arena on the diagonal, do a simple change and work the two circles on the other end of the arena. Getting him stronger at the canter is integral to improving both our dressage test and our obstacles. I would really like to be able to canter him through the obstacles at our next show, if possible. I know we can't do the slaloms, but we might be able to do the figure 8, the drums, and in between obstacles. At least cantering in between obstacles would be a great goal. 

I am also going to incorporate some slow canter then lengthening into a faster canter and then back to slow. If I can do so without him throwing a fit.

Friday, July 22, 2016

And Another, Thank You

You are probably bored with lesson write ups . . . so, if so, you aren't compelled to read this. Like many others, I write these for my own use, so that I can go back and reread what we were working on at some point in the future. Especially when things happen that I want to document.

Amanda and I talked about the show, about how I felt about the dressage test, about clinics in general, and how it affected Ashke. Then she started me working on square turns (over the haunches). Ashke was feeling very comfortable and moving very easily. We did square turns (left ones first) up and down the arena, and he definitely does things to the left easier than things to the right. Then we did serpentines, up and down the arena (all of this at the trot), with the occasional circle thrown in to limit predictability. It is going to be something to focus on in each ride, this bend to the right thing, until it becomes second nature.

Then we went into the canter work. We started to the right with a spiral circle and this time Ashke did great with moving back out into a larger circle. We did it twice in each direction and each time it was easier to move him where I wanted him off my leg. Although, he does like to come to a screeching halt when I say "good boy". I told him that meant he was doing good, not that he could halt. He snorted and stopped breaking gait after that. (He really does understand a lot of English). We turned to the left and he did the exercise, although I could feel him beginning to struggle toward the end so I asked for a downward transition before he could break gait. Then we did it again. He's only going to get stronger if we keep working at pushing the envelope.

After the spiral circles, we did the teardrop exercise, with haunches in along the wall. I used a dressage whip to just touch his hip to get him to step it inside and once again he was able to do it to the left but struggled to the right. I stopped asking for bend up front and just asked him to bring his hip in, which he was able to do for a couple of steps, which is more than last time. Amanda said he was doing it with the front of his body in a neutral position, which is better than the counter bending he was doing a couple of weeks ago.

Finally, we finished up with walk-canter transitions. We would walk, transition to a canter, ride a 15m circle (more like a 20m pear, honestly), come back to the rail and transition to a walk. Ashke did three great circles like this to the left. When we turned to the right, he got a little pissy. (Amanda says he is getting pissed off, not anxious during these exercises. I was thinking anxiety and was being careful. She says its not anxiety but rather he's pissed I'm making him do the exercises.) After our first circle to the right, when I asked him to come back to the walk, he started to swing his hip out and I reached back with my left heel to request he keep it in. He gave a little buck-like hop and kicked the bottom of my boot.

I was shocked. Amanda was shocked. Ashke appeared smug.

As we moved forward to try the exercise again Amanda said something about him going back into the sidereins if he was going to have attitude. His ears came up and he did the walk-canter, to a circle, back to the walk exercise without complaint. I swear he understands English. It was a perfect rendering of the exercise, so we were done.

Amanda also made the comment that he is so much more comfortable with the contact that I can stop giving him so much rein when asking for the canter. He is strong enough that we can start really asking him to remain on the bit and collect a little when doing the canter work, which we need to do if I am ever going to canter the obstacles. I decided last night that I am going to stop doing clinics with other people for a while. I've found a coach that I really like and with whom I think Ashke and I can improve. Changing how I am asking him to do the things we are working on is just going to confuse us at this point and I need to get him really comfortable with the work we are currently doing. It's not like we don't have a ton to work on. I would really like to start schooling the moves for the Intermediate level test this winter, working on the pirouettes, half pass and flying change of lead. But first we need to nail this bend to the right thing.

We have a show in five weeks, another one two weeks after that, and then we are done for the show season this year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Show Photos

These are the photos I purchased from the show photographer. She did a great job and I hope the club can use her in the future.

Dressage Phase 

 His eye has always been the truest indicator of who he is.
J recognized it the first moment they met.

He is so much more comfortable with contact then he was six months ago.
I can see the changes in his musculature; his neck, shoulder and withers are ripped.

This was our first halt, which was judged as not square. I don't know if he will ever stop resting that left hind whenever he can. I truly believe it stems from his patella injury as a colt.

We need to work on me relaxing.

 And our turns to the right.

 As contrasted by our turns to the left.

He gets a bit of rein to cue the canter, because we do not need head flailing and thrashing in our dressage test

 Left lead canter first.

 Canter circle

 Canter depart to the left

 The beginning of the canter serpentine loop

Final salute. Whoooo.

Ease of Handling Phase

 See the bright, sparkly silver thing? Eats horses.

 Doing the pen with the garrocha.

Doing the figure 8 with the garrocha.

 I am holding the garrocha a bit low here. The tip should be between the horse's shoulder and his nose, or it can be carried upright behind the rider's leg. I can see an application for holding it upright (like a jump or bridge with the garrocha) and will have to play with it to see what is the most effective.

 Depositing the garrocha.
Need to remember to lift, not pull, in order to turn.

 Again with the right turn.

 Around the drums

 Not square at the pitcher.

 Switch a cup, when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do.

 Moving to the right is more difficult

Final gate

Speed Round

 He knows we are back in for the speed round.

Waiting for the judge to ring the bell

Our first gate
 He's so focused on where I want him to go.

 Have the garrocha

 Trotting the pen, on our way to the bull.

 Figure 8 at the canter with the freaking pole

 And the left circle. He did such a great job of picking up the canter whenever he could.

 About to drop off the pole and then make a sharp left turn.
The first time he popped quick enough I lost both stirrups.

 About to make our first left turn.
He cantered all of the left turns, but we had to trot the right. 
We will figure it out though.

 Coming out of the single slalom, needing to make a sharp left turn to the Switch a Cup corridor.

 The second time he about lost me. He just turns so darn quick sometimes.
You can see I lost my stirrup.
Next time I will shorten them a notch and see if it helps.

Galloping to the sidepass poles

 He's so good about slowing down and sidepassing without getting anxious.

 Except I turned him off of the pole a stride to soon and we tipped it over.

 Last obstacle, which he rocked.

Racing back through the start/finish line. 
Doesn't he look like a race horse here?

Receiving the awards

Monday, July 18, 2016

HCWE Summer Show

I was pretty tired on Friday night after the clinic, hauling back and forth, washing Ashke, plus picking up stuff at Costco for the show the next day. Dinner was from Costco (chicken alfredo, corn on the cob and bread) and then up to bed. I was asleep before ten, with the alarm set for 5 am. I didn't ride until 10:15 but J, T and T's friend were all volunteering at the show and needed to be there before 7:45. I fell asleep almost immediately, but then woke up at 3 am to pee and never really fell back asleep again. See, it was 3 am and I had finally figured out what I needed to do to make my outfit work. I had purchased a western style vest to wear under my jacket (which I was not planning to wear in the show due to the predicted 97 degree heat). Except it was western style. At three in the morning my brain had finally worked out how to change that to be spanish style. Yay, brain!!! Not so much fun at 3 am.

I finally got up at 4:30 and went downstairs to find my vest:

It's a very nice vest, but it has Western points at the bottom

I pulled out the box of sewing stuff and began to evaluate my options. It was easy to find a clean line to fold the bottom edge of the vest up to the inside and pin it out of the way, but I needed some thing a bit more secure. I was wondering if I could put tucks in to hold the material there without ruining the look of the vest when I found the Stitch Witchery. Best stuff ever made. It is designed to be ironed between two pieces of material and it holds them together. I carefully cut pieces of the Stitch Witchery and layered them, then covered the material with a damp towel and ironed for a couple of minutes. The heat and steam is what activates the SW.

Finished product with a nice straight bottom edge.

I felt much more confident about my outfit afterwards and very pleased with how it turned out. We got the boy up, breakfast fed, all the things loaded in the truck, and headed for the barn. Ashke had spent the night in his BOT mesh sheet and a newly bedded stall and he still managed to get pee stains on his barrel. I didn't have time to rinse him, so we loaded and I figured I would deal when I got to the show. He traveled easily and we arrived in no time at all. I got Ashke set up with feed, hay, and water then went to watch the Intro riders and to introduce T and CJ to Tarrin. I had to go back out a couple of times when trailers were coming in, because OMG they were going to eat him (we had rearing at the trailer), but after the third time, he settled and was great for the rest of the day.

I watched my friend, BH, ride her pretty Morgan mare (filmed it for her) and then went back out to get Ashke ready. BH offered to rebraid him for me, since my braiding pretty much sucked wind (it was my first time ever) and made Ashke very beautiful. We went into the warm up arena and got him loose and warm. He felt a little tense to me, but that was him reflecting how I was feeling. His canter was nice, his turns were great and he was trying so hard to be excellent. Too soon it was time to go into the arena.

All spiffy and ready to show

I rode the test. Ashke was tense but listening well and I thought we had done a much better job than the last time I rode in a show (Horse Expo). I have really excellent video from Barbara, who filmed us. I went through and added the score and comments from the judge's sheet after the completed movement.

After the ride, I unsaddled Ashke and got him settled at the trailer. He was eating and drinking well and I went to do the course walkthrough. It was a tough, technical course with tight lines and weird approaches. I had already made the decision to trot the course, rather than trying to canter because we are still working on getting the canter correct and I didn't want to mess that up. It is my goal to canter the next show between the obstacles and canter the obstacles that I can, but I want to get him to that point the correct way, so trotting it was. After the course walk, I had lunch, then got Ashke ready again.

By that time, I had seen my score in dressage. It was the exact same score I had earned the past two times I showed (Sept 2015 and March 2016, both under this judge). I had felt like Ashke and I had actually done much better this show, but it didn't appear to be so. I felt so defeated. I know a lot of people say it's just a number and they don't care, but I do. I want to be getting better. I know my lessons have improved our riding, but according to the test, it had not. I felt so bad about how we had done that I was ready to throw it all in and just trail ride. Stop competing, stop trying to do WE. Just ride.

I said fuck it to the EOH. I wasn't going to stress or try. I was just going in and riding the obstacles the best we could and not even worry. I figured the way my trend was going, I would score lower than the ride at the EXPO. Ashke warmed up well and seemed eager to go strut his stuff (he was rolling back on me in the warm up pen - he knew speed was coming soon).

I laughed twice: once when he came to an abrupt stop before the gate (there were sparkling silver pom-poms in the planters he wasn't sure about) and when we made the second circle on the drum too big. I also lost where I was on the drums and circled to do the pitcher, realized I was off course and had to circle again to figure out where I needed to go. Next time, walk the course, stupid. At the Switch a cup, I was supposed to pick up the cup, back the corridor and place the cup on the top of the pole. There were two cups but when I got to the obstacle, it had not been reset from the prior rider. I reached across my body to pick up the left cup with my right hand, backed out and was going to put the cup on the left pole, but there was a flag there and I was afraid the cup wouldn't stay (which would mean dismounting, remounting and replacing the cup correctly) so I put it on top of the cup that was already sitting on the right side pole.

Again, I edited the video to put the score and judge's comments after the obstacle.

At the end of the ride, the judge called me over. She congratulated me on how I handled the switch a cup snafu, and gave me extra points for how I handled it. Then she also congratulated me on how I handled getting lost on course and said the fact that I didn't stop moving my horse to look around made it's impact a lot less. I just kept circling the drums to try and figure out where I needed to go.

I got asked by a lot of riders whether I was disqualified because of the cup, since they weren't sure of the rules, and I was able to tell me what the judge had said. I knew we were running the speed right after the EOH, so Ashke and I just stayed and watched the other riders. I was just hanging out when T came running up and whispered 64.44 in my ear. I was shocked. I started to cry because I just couldn't believe it. And all of a sudden I cared again. It shouldn't make such a big difference, but having your work and progress recognized via a score, makes all of the difference in the world.

Finally, it was time for speed. Ashke knew as soon as we walked into the arena that it was time. He LOVES running the speed round and he really tried hard to do it as fast as he could. He cantered half of the double slalom poles (with the turns to the left) and I know it won't be long before we can do the whole thing at a gallop. We completed the course and I almost blew it. I dismounted, took one step, swore and swung up again, turned and faced the judge to salute. I was really, really lucky, because it should have disqualified me, since I hadn't saluted first. However, the judge had been talking with the timers about the time and didn't see me dismounted. Talk about a lucky break. That is a mistake I won't make again.

In the end, only two of us in our division made it through the speed round. I did have a 10 sec penalty due to knocking over the rail at the sidepass. Ashke almost jumped me out of the saddle twice, he's so quick to move toward the next obstacle. When I get out of his way and just let him do his thing, he has a great flying change. I had to struggle to get my stirrups back twice. I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.

I place third in dressage, first in EOH and first in Speed. And won the overall Championship.

Ashke rocks!!

The ribbons are hanging off of a decorative cutting board I won as Champion.