Blog .:. October 2012 3 Entries

Clinic Ride

29 October 2012 Comments

I rode Ro in a clinic today.

In the spirit of My Ever-Loving Luck, the temps dropped significantly this weekend and it was a chilly 45-ish degrees when I arrived at the barn. Well, so said my truck thermometer, and we all know how accurate those things are.

I did plan ahead—and was on time!—so I was on her far enough ahead of my clinic session to get her moving and let her sort out the worst of the weather goosiness.

But between the weather and my being stressed and tense for other reasons, we ended up with—surprise—a ride in which Ro impersonated a plank of wood and I had to keep fighting the urge to curl up in a ball over her withers. Not very successfully, I might add.

But I will say this: we had some really nice moments.

The walk—on the buckle, we’re great. Picking up contact, not so much. The problem is that we don’t school much at the walk, so Ro equates picking up contact with heading in to the trot and starts anticipating. Bad schooling habit on my part, and something to address because the walk was one of the things we got murdered on in the show last weekend.

The trot—Ro pretty much wanted to blow through my aids, and I was just not processing instructions quickly enough. Ro had that figured out very quickly and simply blew threw my aids.

But there were moments in the ride where things really came together, and watching on the video (yes, there is video) you can see the potential there. But I just couldn’t hold her together, and even if my aids had been rock solid, she doesn’t have the strength to carry herself correctly (even lower-level correctly) for long.

The canter—It was an improvement over our canter in recent weeks. I don’t know what my issue is, but lately in the canter I lock up, clamp my thighs, and Ro (rightly so) says eff you and we end up with this awful mess. But I was better today about holding my position without locking up, and managed to relax my leg more and keep more of my weight in my stirrups and not in my thighs/seat, and, naturally, the canter was better as well.

At least we had rhythm and she is starting to reach underneath herself again; I had enough of a position to start thinking about being able to do something at the canter, where lately I couldn’t sort myself out, much less Ro.

All told, I was happy with the ride. It was an honest ride that reflected the good and bad of where we are.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Riding - Clinics, Riding - Dressage, Weather

Preparation: It’s a Good Thing

28 October 2012 Comments

I took Ro to a schooling show last weekend, figuring it would be our last show of the year and, hopefully, would confirm I’ve gotten through the show nerves thing.

Unfortunately, I ended up running late that morning and arrived at the show with about enough time to grab our number, tack her up, and warmup for about ten minutes.

For some horses and riders, I know this could be adequate. But not for us. I’ve never been the kind of rider that just gets on and immediately goes to work. Thanks to owning a slightly arthritic horse up in the Frozen North as a teen, I am used to a long slow warmup with lots of walking at the beginning, just letting horse and rider relax, get the kinks out, and get in a mindframe for working. I’ve kept that long warmup/slow transition into a working frame of mind all these years. So that it what Ro is used to, as well.

A few minutes walking, a few minutes trotting, and into the ring we went, wholly unprepared. That’s what I get for running late.

The test was ok, but our scores ranged from a 4 to a 7, if that gives you an idea of the inconsistency. I was just happy we went into the ring and dealt with it.

Ro and I are both unfit, and she was a bit, um, exuberant in the canters, so she came out of the ring huffing a bit. We were both still pretty tense, and there were about twenty minutes until the next class. So we were caught in that awful dilemma: we needed to work our tails off every one of those twenty minutes to get the relaxation and thoroughness that I know we are capable of, but if we did that, there was no way either of us would have gas left to go in the ring.

For better or worse, I spent most of it walking on the buckle and letting Ro look around and settle a bit. Another quick warmup at the trot to get muscles moving, and back in the ring we went. We were more consistent, but not in a positive way, and ended up with a significantly lower score.

And honestly, I’m ok with that. The point of this was to get back in the ring, and while it was a difficult ride since we were unprepared, we dealt with it.

For being thrown unfairly into the situation, Ro was as good as I could have asked her to be.

The good news about all three shows is that they do paint a pretty consistent picture about our strengths and weaknesses. So we have this winter to get fit—both of us—and in addition to working generally to improve, there are some specific things we need to address.

I’ve taken a pretty laid-backed, low-expectations approach to the shows this year, and we also need to leave that behind. Assuming we are fit next spring, we have no more excuses: Ro is clearly capable of going into the ring and doing her job, so no “green show horse” mumbo-jumbo allowed. I’m clearly capable of going into the ring and riding, without freezing up, so no rider nerves excuses.

So: we prepare this winter, and plan better for warmups next year, and then we go in the ring and show what we are capable of doing. It’s not a question of whether we can do it—we definitely can—it’s just a question of commitment.

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

In which we are all alive

14 October 2012 Comments

My schedule has continued to be erratic, because some health issues make it difficult to get out to the barn on a consistent basis. Fortunately, I have surgery scheduled in November and that should clear things up so I can put all this behind me.

In the meantime, Ro is taking full advantage of the on/off riding schedule and spending most of her time acting like she has never been asked to ride on contact in a steady rhythm before. Fun times.

Since she’s lost so much muscle being (mostly) out of work, I tried to pick up a fleece half pad to help out saddle fit for a while. The problem is that so far, every pad I’ve tried that is short enough for her back is too narrow for the back half of the saddle. I’m using one that sort of works, have rejected two others, and am trying a third tomorrow. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what to do. Buy a larger-sized Thinline and cut it to fit the saddle?

But still—we had moments in the lesson today that were good. And then an acorn would drop in my truck bed and Ro took that as a canter cue. Uh… no.

Mental note: park the truck on the street next time if I have to. Anywhere but under that tree.

Really, our only problem is consistency. Or the lack of consistency. Once we can get back into a regular program, all this will go away. And that’s all on me, not her.

Meanwhile, everyone loves Dexter.

Which is a good thing, because he needs all the brownie points he can get with the barn owner—since he apparently has no fear of the tractor. And by no fear, I mean stands there watching it coming and doesn’t move until she stops the tractor and chases him off. It makes mowing difficult.

I’m not sure whether to be happy he’s unflappable or worry about his apparent total lack of self-preservation.

His winter coat is also starting to come in (so is Ro’s, but she doesn’t get much of a coat—she just goes back to a really pretty chestnut instead of bleached out summer blah). Based on how his coat looked when I got him, I expect this means that instead of alternating between looking like a goat and a horse, he’ll start alternating between looking like a yak and a horse.

Fugly stages are good, though—they mean he’s growing. He’s about 14hh now. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up—everyone who said “tall” is saying “short” now, and vice versa. I’m still hoping for somewhere in the 14.2-15hh range, which is about where he string tests.

At any rate, it looks like it will be a quiet winter here. Things will pick up in the beginning of the year, when Ro and I start letting up in earnest, and next summer Dexter will start ground work. I figure if I back him in early fall, put a month or two on him, and turn him out for the winter, he should be good to go the following spring.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Dexter, Horses - Ro, Injury & Illness, Riding - Lessons

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