Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Post event; the retrospective

This past weekend is the first time I feel NO regrets at all on a competitive venture.  Literally EVERY show, schooling or otherwise, I have always had ... something I regretted.  Usually it was the way I rode something; I jumped ahead, I dropped my leg, I didn't use my crop, I didn't make it to the warm up ring in enough time.  For ONCE, I did my absolute 100% best, didn't let my horse down, and didn't let myself down.

I got to look at the pro pics on site, and I am so pleased at how they turned out.  On xc, EVERY pic shows me tight as a tick and in perfect balance; no slipped legs, no jumping ahead, sufficient release, etc.  As a result, Tiki looks confident and is jumping well over all the jumps.  Yay me!:)

I honestly and truly have to thank my support system.  I know all I did was get a yellow ribbon at a USEA Novice event labelled "move up" difficulty level, but I just feel like I hit such a milestone and I'm so excited about it.  I had SO much positive support and good energy leading up, it was impossible to defeat myself, as I have done in the past.  Honorary little sis Nicole as been so important to me in terms of lifting me up and making me feel as though I can do anything:)  She's kicked my butt, she's loaned me tack and bits, and she's even clothed me, lol!  She just doesn't know how much I appreciate her, and I know that without her support I wouldn't have done as well.

My other good friends that are now mommies also have laid the groundwork for me to believe that I CAN do this.  I can take my hunter/jumper background and self teach myself and my horse an entirely new discipline!  They have been there in spirit, they've been there for real, and they've made me believe I'm more than just "mediocre".

Even kids at the barn have gotten into helping me!  I had one of the lovely young ladies that owns a horse at PWF posting pics of Neville on my facebook wall and telling me we're going to KILL IT like Neville.  Sounds silly, but I really do think it helped my mental state.  We ALL know half the game is the mental one, and my brain managed to be in the right place at the right time.
One of A's inspirational photos

I'm so proud of my horse.  He has finally become a bit of a xc machine.  I KNOW that I can tackle another N course, and he will eat it up!  He was just a little freebie; an ottb with an old bow on the front left and a race record of 7 starts and a grand total of $1200 in winnings.  He has become one of my reasons for existing every day.  I get up and work LITERALLY 5 days a week for HIM.  I'm proud to say he's 100% MY retraining project.  It has been SUCH a fun journey, and I can't wait to continue it!

B and honorary sis!  Amazing support system!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The grand finale, or, Stadium!

After hacking back to the stables, Hosed Tiki yet again, for the third time today, sponged him off with Witchhazel, applied Sore No More to his legs, and stood him up in front.  Tucked him in with his fan, lots of hay, clean water, and his dinner.

Sunday morning I didn't forget anything in the room because we checked out of the hotel:)  My ankle felt quite stiff and sore, but I wrapped it up again and forgot about it.  After feeding the ponies breakfast, we found the stadium arena and walked the course.  Now, THIS I might call "soft".  I felt EXTREMELY confident, and knew that so long as he didn't have any lazy rails we'd go double clear.  Might I add that after our clear xc run, we'd moved up to 5th.  Hey, my lucky ribbon!  (I got a 5th at our first and only other HT at Chatt Hills). So I KNEW that as long as we jumped clear, we'd at LEAST get a pretty pink ribbon, yay!  2/3 of my goals were met, only one more to go!!!  Walked Muffin around some to make sure he wasn't stiff, and he looked great.  Took him up to the Wise Air booth to have one of those awesome saddles tried on him, and was supremely disappointed that the saddle did NOT fit.  At ALL.  It bridged VERY badly.  Sadly, the sweet sales reps were VERY nice, but neither one of them seemed to have an idea at ALL of saddle fit.  Really?  I like the saddles and would like to try one, but I'm not convinced they'll work at all.  I let them mess around with the trees and adjust a few of them, and don't think it made a differnece, but I MAY borrow one at the AEC's to actually strap on and try out.  Maybe the problem is it's so light it needs weight in it to fit well.  (wishful thinking I know)

jumps 1 and 2; 2'9 oxer to 2'9 vertical

Jumps 2 and 3.  3' vertical to 3' ramped oxer

Bit of a tight right hand turn to the double.  A fairly "normal" 2 strides

Final 3 on a related bending line distance

Headed down to an empty dressage ring to w/t/c.  He felt pretty good, and I kept it nice and light with almost a loopy rein.  Kept it VERY minimal because it was HOT, yesterday had been EPIC, and Friday he'd had that long trailer ride.  Went down by the ring, watched a few go, hacked in a ring alone again for a few minutes, then ventured into the actual warmup ring with the jumps.  I had ear plugs in today, just to see.  ALL I did was canter the x rail (perfect), canter the vertical off the other lead (perfect), then canter the oxer (perfect).  I then got out of that ring ASAP and stood in the shade until our turn.  I let him tour the jumps as we walked in, then picked up a lovely, rhythmic canter to jump 1.  I remembered to have a forward canter in since it was an oxer, then steadied him as we landed for the vertical after.  Trotted for a lead change, then awkward left hand turn to the next line of vertical in, oxer out.  He didn't touch either jump, it was good.  He landed right which was good, because the 2 was off a tight right hand turn.  Got him straight, clucked, and he jumped out with ease in 2.  As we made a big loopy left turn to the next line of oxer to vertical, he did try to flatten out a little bit, but I sat up, kept my hands up, and balanced.  He knocked the vertical coming out, but it stayed up.  Trotted again for a final lead change, and came in left lead to a vertical/oxer/oxer.  He did 5 in the first bending line (and I let him go forward to the oxer), then went ahead and cruised down the line for the final oxer.  CLEAR!!! WOO HOO!!!  I DID IT!!!!  I couldn't believe we'd actually done it this time.  Finished on our (decent) dressage score!  I was so damn proud I couldn't see straight:):)  I'd conquered the biggest xc course we'd ever seen, I'd gone in "cold" and jumped a 3' showjumping course, all with NO penalties!  We were NO worse than 5th:)  And there were a LOT of 4 fault stadium rounds:)  So, we just waited patiently in the shade and waited to hear when we were called.

Our FIRST top 3!!!
Overall I had the time of my LIFE.  It was unbelievable.  GREAT trips.  I definitely want to come back and do Novice again next year.  Training had some HUGE tables, and some narrow chevrons, WOW.  Definitely not something we can tackle next year, but maybe the year after that:)  I think after this weekend that we'll definitely not drop back down to BN.  We're now N all the way unless we run into some severe confidence issues.  The course was big, but did EXACTLY what it intended, which was to instill confidence:)  Our xc time was 3rd fastest, by the way:)  4.34 or something like that, with me getting lost, and WALKING into both waters lol.  Probably a good choice on my part to do that I think, because speed faults began at 4.06.  I do NOT keep the time, and I don't plan to.  I just go off what I'm feeling, and my feeling was we were fast, which we WERE, so I tried to negate that as much as possible.

Galloping in third place, I had the biggest, goofiest grin on my face.  It was incredible.  The song we galloped to was the theme song to Mission:  Impossible lol.  It was awesome!

Part 2, or, in which I attempt to stay alive ...

Alrighty, after dressage Tiki was of course a bucket of sweat, so I schlepped him back to the washrack to hose him down and sponge him off with some vinegar.  He was getting SERIOUSLY tired of the cold water and attempted to sit back and break his halter at least 3 times.  Wow.  Much to my delight, I hadn't felt so much as a twinge from my ankle once in the saddle, which is pretty dang amazing.  Probably due to a combination of adrenaline  and lots of ibuprofen!  If any of you have ever thought it smart to vetwrap yourself, it IS ... however, the wrap itself will make my skin catch on FIRE, it hurts it so bad.  So smart me had brought a brand new pack of 5 pairs of trouser socks, and put the ugliest one on my bare left leg, then wrapped over that.  Perfect!

Worked like a charm:)  I had 3 hours before xc, so I pulled up a chair, consumed yet another bottle of water, munched on some snacks, and chilled out.  I had figured out the best way to get from the barn to the warmup, as the provided maps were next to useless, so I went ahead and changed into my super awesome shirt I'd just gotten for xc.  Horses were passing our stalls left and right headed out to the course, and I saw one girl in particular that had her bada$$ on.  The horse looked confident, she looked confident ... so I flipped on MY inner bada$$ and tried not to think about my looming E ...

Strapped on my medical armband so tightly I cut off the circulation in my arm, so I loosened that slightly, lol. Checked a dozen times to make sure I had my crop (I never ride with one), arm band, and bridle number (Hunterland uses back numbers) because the barn is a HIKE from the xc warm up.  Tiki was chill and relaxed, showing none of his former propensity to be a nightmare.  He stood still while I mounted with yet ANOTHER bottle of water in hand and waited patiently for Marisa and Pony to join us.  As we hacked down the road, M and Tiki were happy to be with each other and looked around with ears perked and happy faces on:)

As we arrived at warmup, I was trying to keep it cool.  Bada$$, remember?  I trotted about 20 steps, cantered about 20 strides, reversed and repeated.  He felt pretty dang GOOD.  Wow.  WAY different that our FIRST xc warmup at Chatt Hills.  There was the usual x rail, vert, and oxer set up, but I ignored those and cantered the tiny log first.  Tiki gave it his customary "solid jump look" as he bounded over with a pretty nice amount of air, then I came straightaway to the bigger log, which was a pretty solid 2'6/2'9.  We had a slight miscue as to where to take off at, so I came into that one more time and he was PERFECT..  We got there 20 minutes before our ride times, and they were running about 10 mins early, so I was ready to just GO.  ON.  Remember that I had it on good authority that May-Daze was "ridiculously small; equal to about other HT's BN".  OK, I don't know what division THAT person had been showing (Advanced, maybe?), but the course was NOT SMALL.  IT WAS HUGE.  This was literally going to be a round of the biggest, widest jumps we've EVER done.  The terrain made even the 2'9ish jumps ride more like 3', and the 3'ish jumps ride more like 3'3.  So I was quite literally quaking in my boots.  10 seconds!  3, 2, 1, Have a nice ride!

Big, but I was ok with it.
Jump 1 felt abso-frickingly loutely amazing!  It was only about 10 strides beyond the start line, and he locked on and jumped right out of stride:)

This one I was ok with because it's VERY similar to what we jump on the hunter pace.
Jump 2 rode quite large because as Tiki got up to it, he realized the top had a slight width to it, but it felt GREAT!  Right out of stride:)

This one I felt right at home; done dozens of these!
Jump 3 was off a bit of an awkward short turn to the left around a tree.  Tiki was FLYING at this point!  Huge, ground eating gallop:)  He locked on here, and landed looking for the next one:)

This was a tiny up bank ... WITHOUT the log of course!
Jump 4 was a tiny up bank.  Muffin hopped up ready to keep on galloping!  Little did he know what was next ...

Here is where I was half convinced we'd either be E'd, or have 20.  Uh, bench jump, anyone?
Jump 5 is literally the biggest jump I have ever seen.  Going up hill, a SOLID 3' tall, it had the 3 steps then a wide top on it.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 4' wide.  If Tiki jumped UP over that ... I'd fly out of the tack and we'd die.  As we made the awkward right hand turn after the bank, I grabbed the neckstrap, BREATHED, sat back but light and galloped.  And we SAILED over it!

This one is narrow and in the trees, so I knew I couldn't take it for granted
Jump 6 was a tall log, narrow, and set in the shade.  I knew I'd have to ride here, but we'd just landed from outer space, so he was coming on with a FULL head of steam and some supreme-o confidence.  He saw it and said, "WHATEVAH!  NO problem!"  Landed looking for more.  I positively laughed out loud at this point, and had to pull him up because we had a glorified puddle crossing coming up.  It was seriously like a cow pond with no good entry points.  I didn't even dignify it with a pic.  Pulled him to the walk for a second, then entered with no problems, trotted through, then looked for my path to 7.  After the water, jump 7 was beyond a blind hill and was somewhere vaguely to the left...

This one gave me SLIGHT pause because it's pretty stout, and SEE that stupid speaker RIGHT next to it?
7 was the biggest brush we've done, but it's right in the fence line of the actual steeplechase track!  Cool!  I was thankful the brush wasn't sticking up in the center too high, but I knew he'd be fine here.  As we galloped down the hill, the speaker started talking of course, and Tiki looked at it a little bit.  I grabbed the neck strap, sat back, closed my leg, and we sailed over it!

This would have worried me a year ago, but not today!
Fence 8 came up off a fairly tight right hand turn.  Tiki was motoring along and didn't even look at this one as he flew over it!

Fence 9 was the actual marked water crossing.  It was again pretty small and brown, and it took me the entire time from 8 to get him to come down, lol.  He was pumped UP!  I came down to the trot again so I could line him up for the second of impossible fences ... I hadn't even been sure we'd MAKE it this far, so to be riding to it now scared me ...

This thing is HUGE.  WIDE.  UPHILL.  ACK!
Fence 10 Tiki ate for dinner.  I lined him up coming out of the water, he locked on and galloped right up to it:)  I think I nearly wept with relief in the air.  From this point on I was "that" girl.  Yup, the one babbling nonsense baby talk to her rockstar of a horse and patting him every 3 feet.  Still some challenges left, but by now I felt pretty bada$$:)

Fence 11 was another tiny up bank straight ahead to ...
Our first combination!
12 AB was either a very gallopy one, or an easy 2.  I felt good about the distance.  These are smaller in height, but they're pretty wide on top.  Tiki galloped up, then looked twice when he saw the width, but I just closed my leg and said "Good Boy!" and he took them in a nice easy 2.

The dreaded half coffin ...
13 AB was the half coffin.  The ditch was well defined by the M10, and was 4 easy strides beyond the easy barrels.  It was about the width of the Calimar ditch, but much more shallow.  Tiki didn't even peek into it, just sailed over.  I laughed here and patted him as he galloped on looking for more to conquer!

This is a really stout rolltop
14 he didn't even think about.  We galloped up to it and over we went!  At this point, I got to thinking we were 3 from the end and it hadn't felt like even CLOSE to 5 minutes (optimum time).  We'd run through pretty fast, so I wondered if we'd have speed faults.  As I was wondering all this, I got lost lol.  Go figure!  I turned inside the fence line and was looking for the log, then realized the log was THROUGH the fence.  Whoops.  Pulled Tiki up, turned him around, apologized, then got back on track:)

The log wasn't quite as tall as some, but it was a slight drop fence
15 was FUN!  It was only about 2'9 high, but had a downhill landing.  Tiki felt like he was FLYING as we hopped over this.  Might I add, I balanced him up, and properly sat back on landing?  Only 2 from home and I was having the TIME of my LIFE!!!

Um really big table, Batman?
Fence 16 was HUGE.  I'm not even sure I knew I'd MAKE it at this point, as I was aware there were quite a few places Tiki would jump huge over, or slam on the brakes 10 strides out, or ... yeah, you can see how much I trusted how much confidence Tiki has now.  To be fair, this is only the SECOND full xc course we've EVER run.  And the first one, at BN we got around with one stop, one NEAR stop, and me just kicking and cropping for dear life as I forgot to breathe.  That was a year and a half ago, and we haven't even been schooling at one of the bigger venues, just little 'ol Calimar down the road.  Needless to say, he flew over this right out of stride, no hesitation, no looks, just ready to fly!

Final jump!
As we approached the last jump, I was blabbering non stop.  In the air over the jump I was praising him, patting him, and was near tears.  Galloping over the finish line, I threw my arms around his neck.  That was truly, 100% the most amazing thing I've EVER done with my horse.  He was fast, clean, and BOTH of us still had gas in the tank! We both could have done it again!  I could feel his perkiness, that cockiness as we walked in the shade, getting our breath and waiting on the Pony.  I felt AMAZING.  We had NAILED all 17 jumps, not one single missed distance.  Not one awkward jump, I felt tight as a tick and we felt like one entity the entire time.  I held my neckstrap at probably 5 jumps total, but I hadn't needed it.  Didn't pull out the crop at all.  We had a BLAST, and I definitely want to come again next year.  Double clear, baby!!!
Well deserved chilling in front of the fan:):)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What's that? You want to know how we did?

Mwu haha, you will have to wait until tomorrow!  Sort of.  Because an epic weekend requires some epic blogging, and each phase deserves it's own post.  I do have to say that at times it seemed to be a case of, "If it CAN go wrong, it WILL go wrong ..."

Left on Friday afternoon.  After doing this to myself:

"How?" you ask?  Well, DON'T do barn chores in danskos.  I've "fallen off" of them several times, but it's usually just a quick roll of the ankle.  Friday, I was stepping down and "fell off" my shoe.  As my ankle rolled, I heard a loud 'pop':(  Once the numbness wore off and it quit hurting, I held my breath as I flexed my foot.  I could walk fine on it, so I tried to put it out of my mind and get on to Tennessee.

I had to stop and buy a new plug for my trailer wires because the right side brake lights weren't working consistently.  My husband had rigged up an elastic band to hold the plug steady, but the connection was still spotty and the lights were not working more than they were, so I HOPED a new plug was the answer.  It seemed to work great, so continuing north!

As I crossed the state line, I hit some major, major traffic.  Long story short, a 3 hour drive took 5.  Luckily, I'd left 2 hours early, and arrived at Marisa's barn right on time.  We stuffed the truck and trailer with as much STUFF as we could, the Pony self loaded, and off we went!  (I add on the self loading thing to remind myself that horses that DON'T load make life a literal living hell).

We arrived at the KHP somewhere around 10ish and fumbled around in the dark for almost an hour before we figured out where to go, then how to turn the lights on in the barn!  Got the babies settled in then went to the hotel and fell asleep straight away.

Next morning bright and early we arrived at the horsepark ... where I realized I'd LEFT my BREECHES back at the hotel room.  REALLY?  I dropped Marisa off to feed the horses ... and I'd locked his food in my trunk and the key was in the ignition of the truck.  SIGH.  Drove the 6 miles from one exit to the next, got off, didn't think that was right, then promptly got RIGHT back on the interstate and drove 6 miles BACK to the park.  STUPID!  Turned around and drove the 6 miles BACK to the hotel, got off at the same exit, and utalized the GPS to tell my dumba$$ which road to turn on to get back to the hotel.  Sheesh.

Got back to the park about an hour later than I'd wanted, fed Tiki, and walked the xc course.  (I will show the detailed pics in tomorrow's post!)  Feeling faintly ill, I took him to the washracks and bathed him, where I then stepped in a hole and did this:

Wow.  I was feeling pretty dang stupid and hoped this wasn't an indication of the rest of the weekend.  Got Tiki clean, then headed out to the xc course again to sit on a jump and soak up the atmosphere.  I felt the need to bond with the course, to feel it's rhythm, to get a LITTLE confidence.  Not sure how well it worked, but I feel like I had a good idea of where I was going, so back to the barn to braid the muffin!  15 minutes later, muttering to myself, I ripped out the 3 braids I'd managed to complete, and said screw it!  Braids were NOT happening:(  He needs to be drugged with Dormesodan to get his mane pulled, and I don't have any of that.  Boo hiss!  Tacked up, wept with relief that jackets were waived and gleefully pulled on my white tech fabric polo shirt, then up to warm up!

It was the WORST Tiki has ever behaved.  Ever.  He was horrible!  There was rearing, bucking, rapid backing up, and LOTS of cow kicking and cross cantering.  I could not TOUCH him, and he would NOT walk at all.  Not on the buckle, not on contact, he wouldn't walk.  I've NEVER felt him like that, it scared me a little.  When he backed up, it was such a rapid backing that he almost fell down.  Not good!  I trotted until he quit feeling like he was trying to kill me.  Cantered on an 8m circle for about half a  lap each direction, then called it good.  Walked down to the ring and had a moment of blind panic that I'd forgotten the dressage test.  Sheesh.  As the horse in front of me walked out, I was trotting small circles in front of the ring and I thought I heard the bell.  Maybe?  Did I?  I was watching for the judge to stick the bell out the window to ring it.  Did she?  I don't think so!  HOW long do I have after the bell to get in the ring?  I COULDN'T get eliminated in DRESSAGE, how embarrassing!  Just as I'd decided to bite the bullet and go on into the ring, she stuck the bell out the window and rang it.  WHEW, bullet dodged.  He drifted left on the center line, then proceeded to put in a dretty dang decent test.  It was tense, it was a little dodgy, but it was accurate and after the salute I really did feel ok about it, ESPECIALLY considering how bad the warm up was.  As I put him in his stall to untack him, I checked my phone where my 2 friends had already texted me to say GOOD JOB!  I was like, "huh?"  Turns out we'd received a score of 38.5.  FIRST GOAL ACHIEVED!!!!  Dressage score in the 30's!  I was stoked, SO excited:)  At the end of dressage, we were tied for 8th.  That's ribbon worthy!  To be continued ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

T minus 2 days ... well, a day and a half really!

What ever happened to weight in the HEEL?  He's jumping well over this 3' jump though!
I am ok with everything but the slipped back leg

Somewhat awkward jump here!

We leave Friday after barn chores!  I have TOMORROW to clean all my tack, clean my house, wash 48 thousand loads of human clothes, wash the truck, clean and reorganize the trailer, pack my clothes, pack my horse's clothes, pack his tack and other assorted show items ... wow.  Hope there's about 48 hours tomorrow, lol!

Believe it or not, I have stuck to plan!  Monday I rode him in the dressage tack and he was super.  I plan to hack in the dressage tack for about 20 minutes Saturday morning, walk my xc course a few times, then get on about 35 minutes before our ride time.  He NEEDS that long to just chill out.  Sadly, it means his gorgeous, shiny, freshly bathed coat will be soaked in sweat, but maybe he'll get something higher than a 5 on the test this time ...

Yesterday I shipped him and Spark Plug to PWF to practice.  Wouldn't you know it, JUST as we put the saddles on the ponies, the heavens opened up with a pop up thunder storm:(  I was MAD!  Waited until a slight lull, then hoofed it to the covered to go ahead and warm up.  STUPID me had a sucky course set.  I had a 1 to 2 stride triple combo down one long side, and jumble of cavalettis lumped together on the other long side, a 2'9 vertical on one diagonal, and a 3' square oxer on the other diagonal.  Have I mentioned the covered is smaller than the home ring, which is 100X200?  What that translates to is neither of the diagonal jumps had a good, clear obstruction free path to them.  I feel like I need to have my own version of Bad Eventer's blog, geez.  I have NO ONE to blame but myself for that sucky course.

Anyway, Tiki was a pill and a half.  Our warm up was not in any way at ALL good:(  He was trotting a million miles an hour, his tail was circling and swishing so much at the canter Nicole was afraid he was just going to take off, and he just KEPT ON swapping half his lead.  I.  Lost.  It.  Little sis has never seen me lose my temper with Tiki, and man I DID.  I yelled at the top of my lungs, "CUT IT OUT SH!+ HEAD!" and smacked the living tar out of him with my hand a few times.  Ugh, SO frustrating!  He ONLY does that crap at shows/other places.  He almost never cross canters at home unless he's had virtually no turnout.

I fiddled around with the 2 outsides and the vertical until finally the rain nearly quit and by that point I knew I was going to have to jump that 3' square oxer.  And did I mention that 3' square oxer was set on a sucky diagonal?  On a short turn?  In a dark, rainy covered ring?  Yeah, well ... cantered up to it and he didn't really know where we were going because I'd just smacked the crap out of him for cross cantering in the corner for the 48th time.  Remember a year ago at the hunter pace on the steeplechase land when he jumped SO high up over one of the jumps I crash landed on his neck and hurt my thumb?  If not, he jumped so awkwardly high over the oxer, my butt flew out of the saddle and I crash landed on his neck and jammed my thumb.  Ow.  Mean 'ol Nicole made me do it about 5 more times, and while it never ACTUALLY felt good, it also never felt quite as BAD as that first time:)

By this point, the rain had quit, so we grabbed the video camera and ran up to the big ring.  I stuck to plan, and jumped around the course I'd previously set.  2'9 vert to start off the left lead, long left lead turn to a 3' gate, right hand turn down a line of verticals 2'9 in to 3' out, right lead to a 2'9 square oxer, left lead rollbackish turn to another 3' gate, left hand turn finishing over a ramped 3' oxer.  Common sense says that in a course marked "Good move up course" that most of the jumps will NOT be maxed out, right?  One can only hope:)  Here is the video proof that I didn't die:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj857Y9aAa4

At the end of the day, I'm VERY pleased with how I rode the course.  I was rhythmic, I kept contact, I had a good release everywhere, and Tiki felt excellent (other than the land off EVERY jump on 2 leads).  He was bold and brave to everything, what more can I ask?  Examining the still shots makes me a little nuts because my position DEFINITELY isn't as "perfect" as it is at 2'6.  I should look exactly the same over 3' as I do over 2'.  Oh well, gives me stuff still to work on!

Today we did trot sets in his HALTER.  That was an experience!  Sort of a hair raising experience, but I stayed on and we live to head to KY Friday!

Tomorrow I will do one final dressage school.  15/20 minutes is all, just want to see some suppleness and some self carriage.  So excited for Friday!  Hope we make good time since Marisa doesn't get off work until 5:00 KY time, boo!:(  And the HP is about 4 hours from her:(  Oh well, we get there when we arrive, not a second later, not a second sooner;)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ride times!

Ride times are up!  Late afternoon dressage on Sat, early evening xc.  10:10 Sunday morning for Stadium.  Novice B got the Sat stadium, BUMMER!  I'm probably not going to braid for Sunday unless I practice the "Team O'Conner" braids and can blow through them pretty quickly.  Was hoping to only have to wear one show shirt and one braiding day, lol!  Oh well.  Looking forward to tomorrow's "practice" round.  You can check the live scores here:  http://eventingscores.com/eventsr/maydaze/ht0512/times.php?division=3
Hopefully they'll never show the big 'E'!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Calm, calm, calm

VERY first show!  I was too nervous to ride him, this is my friend:)

Yes, I'm calm.  Nervous?  Yes.  Freaking out?  No:)  My one and only goal is to finish on my dressage score.  Since a "good" score is subjective, I'm not making any wishes as to how low it needs to be.  In the ribbons would be nice, but simply making it double clear in both jumping phases will make me happy!  

This week is to be a week of bathing, clipping and primping.  Cleaning mountains of tack, packing the trailer, and taking Squeaky and Spark Plug to PWF for a little schooling.  Did my trot sets Friday, and they sucked!  That pasture is so hard to work in; the hills are much more steep than in the front pasture, I definitely feared for my life on the downhill canter, lol!  Especially when he tripped at the bottom, eek!  Probably dressage Monday, PWF Tuesday, front pasture trot sets Wednesday, dressage Thursday, ship to KHP on Friday.  I will dose him his Adequan Friday am before shipping over, and hand walk him a bit upon arrival to the show grounds.  Excited!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dressage boot camp

I'm sexy and I know it!  Or maybe embarrassed, not sure!
Isn't this silly thing hysterical???

This week has been dressage boot camp!  3 straight days of dressage, 3 days of different and distinct exercises!  I always worry I'll get a little stale and just wander aimlessly, but luckily I always seem to figure out things to do to improve Tiki:)

Wednesday I added in some shoulder-in.  I worked it at the walk, which I really don't do all that much.  I tend to do a lot of s-i at the trot.  He felt really good that day.  I guess it helped that I myself felt really good as well and I know I wasn't transferring any sort of tension or anything to him.  I worked on the centerline, trying to get him to relax as he approached the end and not get so stiff.  Also did a bunch of serpentine loops.  Pulled off a lovely counter canter both directions and got some GREAT, soft halts on the contact!  I remembered my dressage test has the 20m canter circle off to the side, so I practiced that some as well.  He was lovely, lovely, lovely:)

Today, I vowed to spend as LITTLE time as possible going on the rail.  I did reverse across diagonal, reverse through center serpentine loop, rinse, repeat.  Threw in tons of circles, both big and small.  I did the "thread the needle" exercise with the half turn-in reverse and LOTS of transitions.  TONS of transitions.  He now is very steady and round during upward transitions and getting much more correct and on the bit in the downwards.  He's stopped pulling me down to the ground so much when I walk/halt.  Gee, go figure ... a week of practicing, and he is SO much better trotting down the centerline and making that right hand turn.  Also, our center serpentine loop felt GREAT.  SO much better than Tuesday it's crazy!   Did the halt/canter transition on both leads and that was really nice; did w to c, then halt/w to trot so he wouldn't anticipate it.  

MY HORSE WILL NOW WALK ON CONTACT, EVEN AFTER TROTTING AND CANTERING AND RELAXING ON A LOOSE REIN!  This is HUGE.  My blog rants and raves for 3 1/2 years about how Tiki will NOT walk on contact, and now here he is ... 8 years old, nearly 4 years in my possession, and he can walk on contact, woo hoo!!!

I confirmed (and so did honorary little sis Nicole) that the HS D-ring is indeed "eventing dressage" legal for our horse trial, which means I am using it.  Is it perfect and is Tiki perfect in it?  No.  Is it pretty darn good and does he like it well enough to flex pretty nicely in it?  Yes.  I feel pretty solid about the dressage test, I feel good that stadium is before xc, and I've been going back and watching old videos of us to try and improve.  Taking Tiki and Sparky to PWF probably on Tuesday to ride after Janet's lessons so Nicole and I can kick each other's butts. I plan to flat and warm up in the covered over a crossrail, oxer, and vertical then head up to the big ring to jump a course at 3'.  I know the May-Daze course will not be maxed out fully, so I have a bit of confidence there.  I used an ear net Wed and today, and I think that helps Muffin focus and not shake his head so much.  I think that "back then", when he'd shake his head and jump up every time a car drove by the pasture we were working in, he felt secure and more relaxed when I muffled his ears with an ear net.  I believe he associates the ear net to calming down a little bit.  I plan to ask the steward if we can perform our dressage test with one.  If not, I will DEFINITELY use one for both jumping phases, maybe even with ear plugs.  

Tomorrow I will do trot sets around HIS pasture, not the front one we normally do them in.  Even though I haven't tortured ourselves  done trot sets lately, I need a change of scenery!;)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Of sensitive horses ...

Really awesome Jeff Cook style course I set in 'my' ring at PWF

My horse is sensitive ALL over.  His skin, his back, his legs, while he's eating, when I fly spray him.  The only time he's NOT sensitive is when I'm cleaning his sheath.  Lol, he LOVES to have his sheath cleaned, it's hilarious. Dirty little Muffin, lol!

This week is dressage bootcamp!  I've found that my biggest problem as a rider is figuring out how to get deep enough in my corners smoothly.  The last time I schooled in a dressage ring was literally December of 2010, yikes!  There isn't anywhere close by that has an actual dressage arena; even when I lessoned with Gigi in Rome, it as in an indoor with normal walls and mirrors.  I have problems for instance, trotting down the centerline then making the right hand turn to the rail.  I have trouble keeping him steady and straight, then getting a nice uniform bend and making the turn smoothly.  I'm always worried I'm going to catch my foot on the rail:(  Any advice?

I swapped out the Myler D with the Herm Sprenger D on his dressage bridle, and he didn't feel as soft and supple in it as he usually does.  Maybe he isn't as fond of the bit with his mouth strapped shut.  Normally, I have the HS on my hunter bridle with the plain cavesson.  The dressage bridle has a flash.  Overall, he felt a little stiff today, and a little bit heavy with some inversion.  I guess not TOO surprising since I only rode him ONCE last week, on Thursday during our jump school.  He's been off since then, so I'm not worrying yet.

Warmed up with LOTS of circles and half turns, a'la Jeff Cook.  Ran through pieces of the dressage test.  Worked down the centerline both ways many times, trying to keep him straight from nose to tail and working on that turn away from the judge.

I also worked on the 20m circle doing trot/canter transitions.  I've done a bunch of 20m circles doing w/t transitions, it was cool doing the t/c.  He finally started to relax and get a little bit softer.  Our upward transitions from the trot to canter were very good and not "runny":)  I attempted one lead change across a diagonal and it was an epic FAIL.  I didn't try again, just cantered up the centerline and halted a few times, trying to keep him from hollowing out.

Overall not a bad day.  We've had better, but we've certainly had worse, so no complaints.  I bathed him and scrubbed on a few small patches of fungus on his legs.  I bleached his hind boots last week because there was a stubborn spot on the front of both rear cannons that would NOT go away.  Today they looked fine.  Next Thursday I will be scrubbing, pulling, cutting, clipping and polishing.  Less than 2 weeks away, can't wait!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fighting the nerves ...

Our ONE show where we've jumped 3':)

I think I'm my own worst enemy.  I need to work on staying calm, cool, and chill about jumping around.  I will be working on my visualization techniques these next 2 weeks, thinking about double clear jumping rounds and a relaxed, correct dressage test.  I have 2 goals for this horse trial; score better than mid 50's on my dressage test, and finish the competition on my dressage score.  I think both of those goals are worthwhile and reachable, I'm very excited!

Today was the first day this week I rode the muffin.  I had plans to ride yesterday, but the weather changed that plan.  It rained pretty much ALL day.  I tacked Tiki up and went up to the ring where all the jumps were in the center and the footing had been dragged.  Sadly, it had hardened up a bit and wasn't half as soft as I'd hoped it would be.  After walking around and feeling the footing break up some, I decided to jump at height a little bit.

Set a 2' bounce, 5 strides to a pole on one long side.  Had a 5 stride line of 2 3' verticals on the other long side, the coop on one diagonal, and the stack oxer set at 3' on the other diagonal.  While I set the jumps, I had secured the reins under the stirrup irons and let Muffin just GO.  He was hilarious ... walked slowly, ever so slowly, then burst forward into a squealing, bucky gallop.  Back to a moseying walk, then explode and squeal into a series of bucks!  I'm not sure how many evenings he's been turned out because there has been some pop up showers activity lately, so I'm sure glad I let him get some of his freshness out:)

Walked him twice both ways, practicing turn on the haunches.  Trotted twice both ways, reversing through an extended trot on the diagonal, then cantered twice both ways.  I just enjoyed how nice he felt; balanced, perky eared, and ready to go!  I get totally stressed out just thinking about jumping over 2'6, and my heart was pounding a little as I passed by the 3' verticals.  The good thing is they look much smaller when I'm ON; when I'm setting the jumps it is SO hard not to drop them down a hole.

I trotted the coop, then cantered the pole to the bounce.  Ugh.  I got left behind at the trot jump, underestimated his stride and came into the bounce on a 5 1/2, and he jumped through hard.  NICEEEE.  NOT.  Reversed it, and cantered into the bounce, made the 5 on step this time, then trotted the coop MUCH better.  Only down side was coming into the bounce he whacked the first pole really hard and knocked it down.  Fixed it, then did that again and things were much better:)  Came into the line before I could change my mind, thinking I'd easily add the step and do 6, but the height made me come into a 5 1/2 ... again.  JEN!!!  Get it together!  I cantered in again, landed and softly closed my leg, came into 2nd jump a LITTLE long so I clucked and he jumped a bit awkwardly, but didn't even tick the pole.

I strung together the usual; inside outside inside outside.  Started with the pole to the bounces, then to the oxer, then the line, then the coop.  Everything felt good up until the line.  I waited coming in ... then waited some more ... then pulled him to a deep, dead spot that it's a MIRACLE he actually was able to jump and clear it.  UGH!  Came back into the line on the left lead and was able to let go, find a distance, and make a nice 5 strides:)  Reversed the course and it was fine.  I was working on sitting UP, keeping my hands UP, and not letting him fall around the corners.  I did pretty well; I caught myself a few times dropping my hand down and leaning forward and letting him get heavy and on his forehand.  I let him take a break for a minute and made a slightly tougher course; oxer, bending line from first vertical to coop, back around to 2nd jump in line from opposite direction, then a big easy rollback to the bounce.  He did that really well, so I let him be finished.

I feel good.  I feel ready.  I'll confess:  I was completely set and ready to go BN again at MayDaze.  I had posted a topic on the COTH bulletin board asking for opinions, and the consensus was it's smart to do another BN since the one and only one I had completed, he had a stop and a rail in.  But then I got a PM from a reputable poster ... that told me in confidence that the MayDaze course is RIDICULOUSLY easy and super tiny for N.  It's very much a move up course, and it we were comfortable at BN, then the N course should be a good confidence builder for us.  That did it for me.  Depending on how well we cruise around, if I do a Chatt Hills or Poplar this year, I MAY go BN one more time there unless Tiki just makes a mincemeat pie out of MayDaze:)  Heck, I've already joined the USEA, so may as well get SOME use out of it!:)  Not sure what the next 2 weeks will bring; still have to pay for a hotel room and the gas to KY, so I don't have a lot of extra $$ lying around to spend on lessons or clinics or whatnot.  Jeff Cook is at PWF this weekend, so I will stay late on Saturday after my lessons to audit:)  Hopefully I can pick up one or two pearls!  Will pass on Sunday and spend the day with my boys since hubs is letting me go to KY guilt free (so far).  Tomorrow I'll do trot sets in our usual trot set pasture, then spend some quality time next week working on our dressage!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nothing like sticking to plan!

Pretty sure this is the day he busted his splint ... running around the ring like an idiot with naked legs!

And I DON'T mean that sarcastically:)  Gave Muffin his shots on Tuesday morning, gave him Tues and Wed off, and rode him today.  I couldn't decide really WHAT I wanted to do, and ended up tacking up in the cc saddle and his jumping bridle with the wonder bit.  Upon entering the ring, I adjusted the 3 cav bounces to the medium setting, a full 9' apart, then adjusted the 2 poles of a little maze thing someone had set up to a full 9'.  The coop sections had been separated to make room to go between them, and I tweaked their positions to be on each diagonal.  Each little section of coop (2 of them) are about 3' wide at the face of them, so VERY narrow.  So basically what I had was an outside line of 3 cav bounces, another outside line with 2 poles set as a bounce, and a teeny little coop skinny on each diagonal.  These were set amongst a nice little trail obstacle course I'm sure Joyce set up:)

The ring was still rock hard, so again I didn't plan to ride him into the ground.  Began with a walk and trot both ways on the buckle.  Gradually gathered up contact on the reins at the trot then put him on a 20m circle.  I kept a nice medium trot, not rushing him at all.  I have to ask a little more for him to come into the contact with the wonder bit; it is a gag bit after all.  I randomly threw in plenty of halts, and he was pretty good and prompt for the most part.  As SOON as all 4 feet stopped moving, I flexed both reins and asked for more flexion at the poll, sometimes backing up.  I don't want to back up every time I halt him, because I could see that being a problem for our halt down the centerline!!  I did my canter transitions every time from the trot, and each time they were perfect; no rushing, no quickening of the trot, no hollowing of the back.  Just a perfect back to front departure with a nice and steady rein contact.

The canters were very nice; super light and well balanced with a pretty decent flexion through the poll.  The canter is where he needs work right now.  Cantered through the poles, and he swapped to a cross canter so I halted.  Trotted a bit and got him nice and deep through his neck, then cantered through the poles again.  I let him move up to it, and he again landed in a cross.  Again, I patiently halted then backed, then came through again.  This time, I held the contact, COUNTED my rhythm, and nailed the poles beautifully in a nice slow hunter rhythm, and he just kept his lead and cantered through, YAY:D  Trotted some more, then cantered through the cavs.  He got a little heavy through them on landing, so I halted and backed.  Cantered into a coop section, prepared for a runout but riding to prevent one.  He TRIED to bulge a shoulder and scoot on by, but I stayed committed and he hopped over, albeit a bit awkwardly.  I truly think it wasn't a dishonesty thing, it was a "HUH?  You want me to actually JUMP now?  THIS???"

I just started cantering around, doing outside/inside/outside/inside.  I asked him for, and received 3 PERFECT and clean lead changes in the corners so was done there.  After that first coop, each time I jumped it I was always accurate and definitive, but he never wavered from it again.  He felt light and eager and very even and SLOW.  Lol, even Mary Bess Sigman, an advanced level eventer we've cliniced with a few times wanted me to SLOW him down!  We're learning.  And I'm doing better, thank goodness!

Riding tomorrow for sure but not sure where or what.  I will figure that out tomorrow after I'm done killing myself working.