Friday, October 27, 2017

The Plan

So the plan was to put flying changes on Ashke this winter, since Amanda and I both believe he is ready to learn this next thing. My plan was to wait a year or more before showing again, but Amanda wants me to wait and perhaps do some non-WE dressage tests for non-WE judges before making that decision. Triple Creek does schooling shows where you can ride any test you provide the judge. She also believes that even if Ashke has flying changes, doing a simple change through the walk is still good practice, so I could work on the Intermediate A test.

I'm going to smile and work hard and leave next year to next year.

In the meantime, we did a lesson on Wednesday. I rode more firmly than I typically do because things have changed in the arena. The pile of poles that reside in the south west corner have been elevated.

An European look.

There was actually less spooking on that side of the arena, and more on the other, where the new arena drag is kept contained behind a plastic baby fence (it must be a wary, wary wiley drag). Ashke was not a fan. I let him look and sniff and sidle past a couple of times in each direction while we were warming up, but then the nonsense was expected to stop. Unfortunately, it did require some additional work in the middle of our lesson. The expectation is to walk past it close enough to set up for our leg yields, which seemed to be completely beyond him. I hope that within a week or so of ignoring his response and insisting he behave, we will have moved past it.

For the record, he reacted with Amanda too. 

After we had worked on my stuff, Amanda got on to start the flying changes process.

Amanda telling him "No, we will not break to a trot at this end of the arena".
And yes, he really was that pissed at her.

We got a couple. He is much more fluid and it is easier going from right to left.

The after canter work.
Some nice half-pass steps in there

Amanda told me to make sure I resettle him after attempting the flying changes
so he doesn't get completely "Wheeeee" about the whole thing.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Happy Ending

Do you all remember this?

Well, look at Wilz nose now!!!!

 There is just a little bit of dead/hard flesh at the very end of the scar.
It looks amazing.

The rest of the scar is minimal, and difficult to see without knowing to look for it.
He still has movement in the nostril and it is super sweet to see how well it healed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


I decided not to try riding after being out of the country for a week. I had talked to Amanda about training rides while I was gone and we decided that since we were done with the show season there was no urgency to keep him in work. He got a vacation while I flew to Germany for work for a week. I came out to see him on Sunday just as he was going into turn out and he wanted nothing to do with me. So I gave him a couple of cookies and opted to see him on Monday.

When he saw me on Monday night, he whinnied and then acted like he wasn't sure he wanted anything to do with me. As I was putting the halter on him, he raked his teeth across my forearm, just a slight touch of teeth in warning. That worried me, since he usually only snaps when he's uncomfortable or in pain. I checked him for swelling or injuries and there was nothing, and he walked out of his stall sound. I led him around to the tie rack and began to groom him. He was swishing his tail, pinning his ears and swinging his body around a lot while I was trying to groom him. I finally got a bit tired of the antics and raised my voice. He immediately tensed and threw his head up like I was going to beat him.

I paused and really looked at him. Then I said "you were magnificent at the show and I was so proud of how well you and I did on our test. You were such a good boy and tried so hard for me and we looked so very good while we were doing it. I quit the show because of the wind, not because of you, and because I wasn't having a good time." While I was talking I was scratching his neck, withers, belly and cheeks, running my hands across his body in soothing arcs.

He gave a huge sigh and relaxed into the touch.

I think he was blaming himself for our not completing the show, even though the wind blew over the portopotty. I went on to tell him that we were going to continue working with Amanda on our dressage and that there was lots for us to learn, plus maybe we would do an endurance race or two next year. He seemed agreeable.  

I had a great ride. We worked on our normal stuff. We ended our ride doing 10m figure 8 circles with a canter-halt-canter transition one handed off our seat. He was so good.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Last Dressage Test

 Our warm up under foggy skies

Walking toward Amanda

Ashke warmed up well, but I kept it fairly light and easy, not wanting him to be tired as he seemed to be the last show. We worked on the things that Amanda asked of us, and I tried to keep him focused on me instead of the tantalizing mules on either side. As we walked into the arena for our test, I just hoped for relaxed and responsive. I had no real hope of scoring high enough to matter in the little class of three. Amanda told me to have fun as I went in.

After dressage, the EOH was to start. So did the wind. I went out to try and warm up, but the barrels in the arena were blowing over and rushing across the arena to crash into the fence. I scratched. The show was finally postponed til the next morning when this happened:

Thank goodness no one was inside!!

They decided to wait until 5 pm and do the Novice B division, since the other two riders besides me were staying at the arena overnight. I could have opted to stay and ride, since they would do it after the wind had died, but I decided to go home instead. I was done.

I'm at a crossroads right now. I love the discipline of Working Equitation and have been in love with the idea ever since I was introduced to the concept back in 2013. I think it is amazing. I have worked countless hours on improving my riding, and have seen Ashke attain some personal best moments I didn't think we would ever reach. However, none of that matters when I ride in a show. I scored the lowest score of the season on my dressage test in this show.

I realized standing in the indoor arena at Circle Star watching the wind stream past the door carrying seedpods and dust from Wyoming, that I'm not having fun. It seems like my goal of achieving a 58% is receding further and further from my reach and I felt dread at the idea of trying to ride the Ease of Handling phase during that show. So many people tell me I should be enjoying this, but I'm not. I've lost the passion and excitement I had when I first considered this discipline. It's not fun any more.

There is something wrong if I've taken weekly lessons, Ashke has gotten stronger and more balanced and I can see the improvement in each new video, but our scores are dropping with each show. Maybe the problem is with me and I'm trying too hard, transmitting anxiety and angst to him at the show. It sure didn't feel that way this last show. Or maybe the standards are getting more difficult to attain, a target that is constantly moving away. All I know is that I no longer want to show. Even though I have my outfit figured out and we looked amazing. My heart is no longer in this sport. I want to feel like I have the chance to be successful, to improve, to be as amazing in public as we are at home. 

I still plan on being part of the National and local WE clubs. At least for one more year. I will work the shows and J will still be the show secretary for next year as well. After that, we shall see. 

So what does that mean for Ashke and I? I am going to continue to work weekly with Amanda. We will put flying lead changes on Ashke this winter and I will work on improving our canter as we go. I love my lessons and Ashke has benefited so much from the dressage work, plus he loves learning new and difficult things. If Ashke has his flying lead changes, then the EOH course should be easier to ride and maybe we will start having fun again. I think if I decide to ride in a show again it won't be until 2019, at either Intermediate B or Advanced, which gives us plenty of time to improve. I also want to attend the playdays that allow us the opportunity to ride EOH courses in all different venues so I can work on Ashke not being spooky and distracted by his surroundings, but rather obedient and submissive, like he should be.

We are also going to try our hand at a LD or two next year. I talked with an endurance rider here and she watched Ashke go and said there was nothing in his gait that would prohibit him from being in a ride. Since that was our goal when I first got Ashke, I am excited to be able to try with him. It also gives us the excuse to get out on trail a lot over the next eight months and I'm going to have to leg him up again, while also keeping his strength and flexibility in the arena. Plus, the opportunity to ride on trail again, which I haven't actually been doing this summer, is a real bonus. And we still need to try horse camping. Lots and lots of opportunities.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tarrin Warren Clinic

HCWE's final show was Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. We did a clinic with Tarrin Warren the Friday before. Overall, I thought Ashke tried really hard for me and the exercises we rode were very good. I can't wait to use them on my own during arena rides or maybe even in my lessons.

Mostly white horse standing at the trailer in the morning sun.

Circle Star Arena in the rising sun.

Impatient boy

Sweet boy. Great eye. 

We started with an exercise where we would side pass over a pole, past the ends of the ground poles until we were even with the poles set perpendicular to the side pass poles, then you were to send your horse forward between them. The exercise was to show how straight your horse was when pushing from behind. We started at the walk. Ashke likes to throw his hips to one side or the other depending on which way we move.

Then we worked on it at the trot. I have some work to do to keep him a little straighter so we get good crossing of both front and back legs, while keeping the bend for the half pass position. And moving sideways then pushing forward into the trot is great for his haunches. 

And then we did it at the canter. This is very similar to one of the exercises Amanda and I have done during our lessons without the ground poles.  He did better as he understood the exercise, which is always the case with Ashke. 

This exercise was such a challenge. I want to work with Amanda on something similar to help reinforce riding off my seat. I knew he would struggle to hold himself together riding such a small circle. Although, I really think this was one of the best exercises we did.

In this exercise, we walked into the corridor, then backed three steps, then went forward into the leg yield until we were in a straight line with the second corridor. Once we were in a straight line with the corridor, we were to trot forward through the second set of poles. This was a very difficult exercise and I think it will be one we will work on during our arena rides until Ashke gets it. Understands what the question is. 

Then we did it at the canter. I didn't feel like either of us was ever really comfortable with the earlier exercise and that became obvious as we moved to the more advanced attempt. I think I would put a little more space between the first set of poles and the second set and start the leg yield at a walk first.  
 And then at the cante. I thought he handled it really well, considering. And it will be an exercise we come back to. 

Our final exercise was trying to collect and extend the trot along a set of poles. I think it would have worked better within the trot, but that is something Amanda has had us working on for awhile. It was a good exercise to be finished on.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Catching Up

Wow. It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. . . . I know you all have missed me, right?

 Surprise tickets from work for the Dallas Game!!

 South Stands on the West side, rather than the East

 Packing for Vegas. Stazi wanted to go, up until she realized I would be zipping her in.

It started with a trip to Las Vegas, at the Southpoint Hotel, for the Andalusian World Cup. I was there on Tuesday for a seminar to get licensed with the Confederation for Working Equitation as a Technical Delegate. It's been fifteen years since the last time I was in Vegas and the biggest difference I saw was 1) food prices had gone through the roof, and 2) they don't use coins any more. That was the strangest thing: I missed hearing the coins clatter out of the machines. Not to mention, I think you can gamble a lot more money if you aren't feeding coins into the slots.

Wednesday I spent in the classroom, reviewing the US Rules for Working Equitation and talking about different situations. Being a TD means being an expert on the rules. The two people who were hosting the seminar, Tarrin Warren and Carmen Franco, have so much experience. It was good to hang out and go over all of the things.

Shadow judging at C

Starting on Thursday, the seminar attendees got to help with the A-Rated show. We helped with scribing, running, shadow judging, scoring and following up on all of the issues a TD might have to deal with. It was a lot of work, but also very educational. The WE part of the Cup had to be done by noon, which meant we spent the afternoon in the classroom, talking about the things that happened during the show, answering questions the attendees might have and reviewing film. Then, after dinner and the evening part of the show, we got to help set the course for the EOH on Friday, and the Speed round on Saturday.

There was a jury of judges: Tarrin Warren from the US, Isabelle Dorronsoro from Columbia and Rui Rosado from Portugal. It was really amazing to be able to talk with someone outside of the US and Isabelle was a font of knowledge from the International level. It really was an amazing experience. I will be back next year, but as a competitor.

There are always things that need to be adapted and changed.
The bridge was adapted to "varied footing" for the Speed round.

 The Gate for Speed.
There wasn't a gate in the EOH, since it has to be a fixed gate and the one that was designed and ordered didn't arrive until the week after the show.

 Carmen (left) and Tarrin (right)

 The arena after being set up for Speed.
Colorado had three competitors from HCWE, and one from Utah.
They did fantastic and I think they had a lot of fun.

The first sun we had seen in five days.
Not that it wasn't sunny, because it was, but because we weren't outside of the casino in all of that time.

Southpoint has the arena, the barn and stalls, plus a couple of smaller arenas and a warm up area all in the bottom of the hotel. It also has eleven restaurants, a swimming pool, a spa, a barber shop, a bowling alley and a movie theater. It was it's own little world. Between the seminar and the shows, my day started at 5 am and ended between 11 and midnight. We were all pretty wiped by the time the show ended. Tarrin and Carmen worked even longer hours to pull off the show. The casino didn't have a boot barn, though, so Carmen, Isabelle and I braved the world in search of Lucchese boots (which are slick as snot, actually). A couple of hours giggling over the outrageous boots offered at Boot Barn and one very happy boot totting Colombian judge was the perfect topper to the weekend.

I came back from Vegas and got two rides in before leaving for Grand Junction with J for her bike race. One of my two rides was a lesson, which was interrupted by poor shoe choice, but which Ashke stepped up to the plate for. Then we loaded up the camper and headed to Grand Junction for the Tour of the Moon bike race.

 Rocky Mountains.

 Fall colors

More color

 It was a pretty drive

 Definitely fall in the high country.
Course, by Saturday night, it was more like Winter.

We stopped at the Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs and enjoyed the heat, then headed into the KOA in Grand Junction. A and J slept in the camper and I slept in the hammock. Sleeping in the hammock is something I've been wanting to try,

 The rain cover was awesome, but I need to work on the hammock set up.  It really needs to be tighter, with less dip in the middle, in order to be comfortable to sleep in. I kept ending up in a ball in the middle of the hammock. I would say 5/10, but it can be improved upon. I do think I need a hammock mat to help hold it both flatter and more open, plus it does add insulation.

J and A did the 43 mile ride, with 5300 feet of elevation gain and loss, through a National Monument. The ride was brutal. It took them more than seven hours to do in the midst of pouring rain, hail, lightning and temps in the low 40's. They were both shaking with cold when they got to the truck. Part of the reason it had taken so long was the incredibly steep downhill after the brutal climb. It was too steep to ride, so they had to walk the bikes down. It was good they were cautious, since a woman on the ride just behind them lost control on that downhill and hit a rock wall, which killed her. They got into dry clothes, ate some lunch and then we went back to the hot pool in Glenwood Springs. Once we had a good soak, we grabbed a quick bite and headed home.

Sunday, I got up and went to Barr Lake with some of the riders from my barn and the friend I rode with on our last ride. We did a walking ride around the lake and it was wonderful to be out in the sun.

 At the entrance to Barr Lake

What we woke up to on Monday morning in the ceiling of T's bedroom.
Currently, there are roofers fixing the roof of the condo so there will be no more leaking in the bedroom.