Blog .:. March 2012 7 Entries

It’s a miracle!

24 March 2012 Comments

We made it to a show.

And into the ring! And we got scores!

(For those not following along, I’ve been trying to get Ro to a show for a year now. Every. Single. Show. something happened and we wouldn’t make it. I was ready to open a betting pool on what would happen to keep us from this show.)

I decided to go alone, without anyone along for support. I figured if my show nerves exploded (or imploded) my brain, it would be easier for me to deal with it on my own than to have company.

This meant Ro had to spend a little time on the trailer or tied to the trailer while I was running some errands (picking up my number, picking up scores, etc), but Ro handled that pretty well for a horse that has the patience of a gnat.

Our warmup wasn’t great. I just couldn’t really relax, and Ro picked up on that and wanted to be tense and hollow. I could get her connected for brief periods, but there was no consistency.

I decided to go into the first test and just focus on trying to be accurate and consistent. And by that I mean—if we were tense and hollow? We’d be the same degree of tense and hollow throughout the test.

I hadn’t been in the show ring in about three years, and I completely froze up last time. Ro has never been in the show ring. On the balance, I thought low expectations were an awesome idea.

Overall, that worked out ok for us. I was tense and Ro was consequently hollow, but the test itself was fairly accurate and I felt like I was riding the test, not just a series of unconnected movements. We ended up with a 60%, but I think the judge was a little generous on the numbers side. The comments were accurate and unsurprising—we need more connection, etc.

The second test I decided to focus on more relaxation and connection. It was kind of a weird test, because we were more relaxed, but I was also a little less mentally focused and the accuracy in the test suffered. I felt better about the test, because there were moments where we really started to come together and I could tell that we have the capability for putting together a very respectable test. But in terms of how things get scored, we did much worse. We ended up with a 57%—again, probably generous—and the judge’s comments were pretty much the same as the first test.

But I think the judge saw something of what I was feeling about those moments in the test, because our collective scores went up. Like I said, it was just kind of odd—I’ve just never had a test where the individual movement scores went down and the collective marks went up, but I think that swing is a pretty accurate reflection of how the test went for us.

Next show I can raise my expectations for us both. We had our show where I kind of skated through like a deer in the headlights, but as it turns out, there wasn’t nearly as much of a “ZOMG freeze!” tendency as I expected. So enough of that—next show we need to be relaxed and accurate, all in the same test.

All in all, it was a good day. I went into the ring with very simple plans, and I achieved my goals. Ro went along with everything (although she did have a bit of an “are you kidding me?” moment over the judge’s booth) and any issues she had were a reflection of my riding and not, say, a horse having problems with the show atmosphere.

We’ll go up from here (one hopes…), but as beginnings go? This is a good one.

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Riding - Dressage, Trailering

Aiden Video

15 March 2012 Comments

As everyone realizes by now, I don’t take a lot of pictures.

Hardly any, really.

But we have a family get-together coming up, and I was told to bring pictures of Aiden.

“What pictures?” I asked. Meaning: Why are people who are related to me, and who theoretically know me best, acting like I would have pictures?

After a day or two, I realized I was being told in a round-about way to go take pictures. Which I could then bring.

I may be slow, but I get there eventually.

So I went and took pictures of Aiden. They look like this:

This is not a flattering picture. This is not flattering because 1) I can’t take pictures of anything that moves faster than a rock; 2) as far as I’m concerned, there are two types of lighting: off and on, and neither is relevant to picture-taking (cameras have flashes in case the lighting is off, right?); and 3) Aiden is not photogenic.

I mean, sure, that’s Aiden. But that’s not Aiden. That picture makes him look… dull.

Fine, I thought. I’ll go take video.

I put Aiden out in the arena. He went and splashed in some puddles, and then stared at me. Muddy arenas are boring? There is grass? I could be eating?

No problem. I went and got Ro and tossed her in the arena, too. Ro went Wheeee! and Aiden went Wheee—aaaait for me! I can’t run that faaaa… you’re not going to wait? I’ll just stand here until you come around again and… wheeeee—aaaait…!

This is Aiden, as he comes alive in video:

Although I’ll admit that one of my fellow boarders couldn’t believe that was Aiden. She’s more familiar with the da-dum-de-dum laid back, droopy lip Aiden. The one who does things like wander over and try to eat barrels:

If I had tried to actually take these pictures, instead of relying on video, they would have been even worse. I know it’s hard to believe, but I refer you to example #1 above, where I had a non-moving horse to work with and still couldn’t figure out what I was doing.

Ah, well. These are good enough for government work. Or, more relevant to my situation, for family gatherings.

If you’re interested, video snippets of Ro and Aiden playing in the arena:




Tagged: Horses, Horses - Dexter, Horses - Ro

In case we were not convinced that she’s a princess

12 March 2012 Comments

When I did the initial PPE on Ro, the vet mentioned that she would be a tough saddle fit.

He was referring to her conformation—shoulder blades that go back forever, forward girth groove, short back.

Ro took his comments to heart, however, and decided that meant she could also take a princess-and-the-pea approach to saddle fitting.

Fleece on her back? No ma’am! (I bet she’d welcome something expensive like Thinline, though.)

And so began the joys of fitting not just a green, developing horse, but a green, developing horse with Opinions.

It’s been fun, y’all. For, you know, a given value of fun.

I can’t remember if I mentioned anything about the latest saddle on here or not. I picked it up last summer, when Ro outgrew the Passier I’d had before. It’s an older English-made saddle—bit wider twist, virtually no blocks, very close contact and light weight. Ro liked it, I loved it.

I got a saddle fitter involved a little later than I should have, and she suggested a couple modifications that would take what was a pretty good fit overall and hopefully resolve some of the issues we were having.

Including the fact that this saddle tended to ride forward a bit and end up on Ro’s shoulder blades by the end of a ride. To help mitigate this, she added a point billet. And actually a modified point billet—it’s attached where a traditional point billet would be, but instead of running straight down the flap, she let it angle a bit back.

From talking to her (and I hope I’m not misremembering now), the goal was to provide the benefit of a point billet without putting too much pressure on the front of the saddle, which sometimes happens when the billets run straight down.

I rode in the saddle a handful of times after the modifications were done, and Ro said she wanted none of it.

I emailed the saddle fitter to explain the issues I was seeing, and her response was everything you’d hope for—she got right back in touch, got more information to make sure she had the full picture, and scheduled a follow-up appointment for that week.

One of the biggest questions, of course, was the new point billet: if that was the source of the problems, switching back to regular billets was just going to introduce the old sliding-forward problem again.

Fortunately, it looks like the point billet is just fine. And here again, I hope I am getting these details right, but you’ll have to excuse my extremely technical language here:

When you take a saddle apart, apparently most of the flocking is behind a lining of sorts. In most saddles, this lining helps give structure to the panels. However, in this saddle, the lining is so thin that it’s the reverse—the flocking has to give structure to it.

So when I started riding in the saddle and the flocking started to compress, it actually changed the fit of the saddle pretty dramatically, leading to Ro giving me the middle finger after only a handful of rides. We did some experimenting with shims and some quick test rides and confirmed that Ro was not unhappy with the point billet—the saddle just needed more padding in front.

All the adjustments were made (eventually—it took a couple rounds of tweaking, because Ro couldn’t allow anything to be easy) and we should be good to go now. Of course, it’s been raining all weekend and I have nowhere to ride until the arena dries, but such is life. It’s Texas; it’s going to dry up eventually.

The question will be how much the flocking will continue to compress, and it’s possible (probably likely, given Ro’s opinionated nature) that I may need to have the fitter back out in a couple weeks to do some minor tweaks again, but at least this time we know what the issue is and I can shim the saddle if I need to until things get tweaked back into shape.

If princess isn’t a four-letter-word, it should be.

In other news, with all the rain we have had this weekend, I don’t have a lot of options to get the horses out and let them stretch a bit. I tossed them both into the round pen tonight. Ro, naturally, trotted around like a lunatic because she hates the round pen. Aiden followed along behind her, a little uncertain about why they were trotting around, but perfectly willing to play ball. He is moving much, much better than when I first got him—he still has that nice floaty trot, but without all the exaggerated knee action. I’m hoping all that knee action was just a function of the shape his feet were in, because I like this trot much better.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Tack & Equipment

The Curse, It Is Powerful

7 March 2012 Comments

Last Sunday, in a fit of optimism, I dropped off entries to a schooling show.

After last year? you ask. (You, and everyone who knows last year’s epic string of failures.)

As I explained to a friend, it’s a new year. I’m an optimist. I’m insane. I’m conducting a scientific experiment to see just how many things can go wrong to keep me from showing.

Whatever the reason, yes, even after last year, I submitted entries to another show.

And received an email this morning saying it was being postponed due to some severe storms that are expected, with a couple options for some other shows I could apply my entries to if I wanted. One date I can’t make, and the other is too far out for me to commit to.

At this point, I’m feeling kind of philosophical about it all. Clearly, I am just not meant to show. Ever again.

My only real disappointment is that I already had a show cancelled on my last year. The curse was much more interesting when it was coming up with new and different ways to prevent me from showing. Technically, I suppose the reasons the shows were cancelled are different, but still. Boring!

Stay tuned, though: it’s spring. Schooling shows, they abound. My optimism, it is irrational.

I am printing out entries for the next show as I type.

Tagged: Bad Days & Bad Luck, Horse Shows, Horses

Now I know why people like bling

6 March 2012 Comments

Confess up, people:

The real reason everyone likes blingy markings is because it’s easier to pick horses out in the dark, right?

I had no idea just how much of an advantage white markings give you until I started turning Aiden out and realized he disappears as effectively as a ninja in the jungle.

Tagged: Bling Bling, Horses, Horses - Dexter

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