Thursday, February 28, 2013

I don't mean to brag ...

Silly satin ear net!

but I am!  I mean, honestly ... raise your hand if you have either an ottb or even a warmblood that can have 6 days off, not get turned out one night, and behave himself with NO fireworks being fully body clipped in low 40's cold and biting wind.  Lol, I know there are plenty of well behaved horses out there, but I'm just so blessed to have found one so ... SAFE.  That's what he is, safe.  He's fiery, he's sensitive, he's hot, but he's safe.

I tacked him up in the dressage tack and headed out to the front pasture (Star's pasture) to do a field dressage school.  Well ... ALL the mares were in her pasture, so I changed course and headed out to the back 15 acre pasture.  It's been quite awhile since I've ridden him back there, and when I do it's usually to walk hills.  I've lengthened my stirrups to the point that I can NOT keep my heels down; my dressage score is usually significantly higher than others, so I guess it's time to QUIT riding like a hunter rider, and learn to ride like a dressage rider!

It was COLD today.  Low 40's, cloudy, and a biting wind that would have cut straight through me had I not been bundled up like the Michelin Man.  I left off the quarter sheet due to the wind; I figured it would be blowing around so much it would just distract him.  What I DID do was put on his goofy satin ear net ... why?  I don't really know.  At the end of the day, I do think it helped him to stay focused.  I'm telling y'all; when his forelock tickles his ear and he's fresh he just shakes his head like a fiend.  Today?  Only once:)  I marched him up a hill to the only relatively flat part of the pasture by the neighbor's fence, and even there it's still pretty rolling.  I put him on a rectangle at the walk, and he tolerated that both directions for about 10 minutes, and that's when he finally got impatient and started sucking back and getting behind the leg.  Rather than lose my temper, I corrected his behavior with a good squeeze of the spur, a growl, then the trot when he reached back into the contact and strided out.

I did nothing difficult.  A simple 20m circle both ways.  I kept my leg on, kept my outside leg back to bend him around the inside, and kept my hands up and floating.  I made sure he was flexed at the poll, and even though it was HARD, he was very forward and willing.  I had to slow my posting significantly and power him forward with the leg, and he finally began to balance on the downhill portion of the circle.  I did a few tiny figure 8's concentrating on changing the bend and keeping the tempo up.  He felt great!  Cantered right, very nice.  Cantered left, and Oh.  My.  Lord.  I have NEVER felt him canter so lightly in a circle in a field with SUCH a nice flexion in his neck.  WOW!  He was SO good, I dropped the reins and walked him out.  It was a little sooner than I'd meant to, I only rode about 16 minutes, but that frickin' canter was so light and lovely, I wanted him to end on that.

Tomorrow I will jump; either the jumps as they're set, or if I'm feeling ambitious I will set a gymnastic.  LR will do a flat school on Sunday, and we'll see what next week holds!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

And ... jump:)

No where else I'd rather be than on my boy!

Saturday I got to ride with ... honorary little sis Nicole!  Woo Hoo!  She came home for a visit from NY, yay!  I headed out to Joyce's after a long day teaching, and Tiki man was a fresh little butt head lol:)  He ALWAYS is when riding with his mare ... in the cold ... late ... on a Saturday.  At least when LR rides him on the weekends, it's normally sometime before 2:00pm.  I set up a simple outside line, 2 inside diagonal singles, and a single on the other outside.  I tried to make it "scary".  Barrel, 2 poles above it, ground line poles, and 3 cones lined up in front of the groundlines on both sides.  It stood 3'.

I tried to have some productive flat work, and I feel like I did ok.  He was SO fresh, he got swappy at the canter, and I had a TOTAL lightbulb moment!  Because he was already swappy and swishy, I decided to ask for a change.  Totally unassuming, cantered up the diagonal ... and just stepped out.  Didn't anticipate, didn't wrench my hips to the outside, just looked in my new direction and thought about moving his hips over.  BOOM!  Clean change with absolutely NO change in rhythm or anything!  Good for us:)

I put together a few courses, first time through adding a stride in the line, and he was just lovely.  Jumped great, did his changes, stayed lovely and quiet, and waited on me to tell him what to do.  Other than feeling my leg slip back a few times, my position felt pretty good and solid.  When I cantered him into the big vertical, he didn't even look at it funny, just jumped right over, no issue!  He's so brave, I'm very proud of him.  I really want to haul out to Calimar on March 10 and ride with Mary Bess so we can school around a T level xc course and see how things go.  Sat, it was FREAKING COLD, the coldest it's been that I've ridden in at all.  By the end of the ride, my nose, ears, fingers, and toes were freezing:)  LR rode him and jumped on Sunday, and said he was lovely.  Tomorrow I will do a good dressage school ... Friday it's supposed to be cold and rainy so may not be able to ride then, but I will try if the weather cooperates.  Next week, I will get in a ride during Mon-Wed ... I've started my Insanity workouts again in prep for our Spring Break trip to the west coast.  Exercise breeds motivation, and I'm definitely on an exercise kick again!!:)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Working towards Training

Ahhh ... Home!

Well, had two GREAT rides yesterday and today!  The weather has finally cooperated and I got to sit on Muffin for the first time since Thursday 2 weeks ago!  It has rained, rained, and rained.  This is a good thing ... but a not so good thing!

I posted the following video on the Chronicle forums:  Flat work
I got some very good and honest feedback about it!  To MY eyes, and hopefully to the long time followers of my blog, you will see a HUGE improvement from the early Tiki days.  It's been a  process, as y'all know. Slow and steady and all that.  One poster commented she felt like Tiki was moving more like a lower level hunter than a dressage horse ... Bwa hahaha!!!  I take that as a HUGE compliment, and at least I've been doing SOMETHING right lol.  It'll take too low and quiet over spastic sewing machine any day;)  Another poster mentioned maybe I've hit a plateau in my training, and how maybe it's a good thing.  Ya know, I think she's right!  I've got to kick things up, expect the boy to rise to the occasion, and CHALLENGE him again.  The training test B (the eventer test, not straight dressage) is a little more involved than BN or N, so I have my work cut out for me!

I feel like I really kicked it up.  Both days of course I rode in the dressage tack.  Unless something happens, I'm REALLY liking him in the mullen Happy Mouth loose ring, so that bit's staying on the dressage bridle for awhile.  Both days I warmed up on a long rein.  Yesterday, I w/t/c both ways.  I could feel how much he fell in at the canter, but I had NO contact!  After roughly 6 minutes, I came back to the walk, shortened my reins WAY up, and forgot about riding like a Hunter.  I used my spur, I used my seat, and I aggressively focused on pushing his hind end into the reins.  I actually felt quite a bit of enthusiasm from him, and he agreeably stepped underneath himself.  I spiraled in and out a few times both ways, and could feel when he tried to "cheat" and fall in on the inside shoulder.  Again, I forgot about sinking my weight into my heels and sitting soft and quiet, and pushed him hard into the outside rein.  I kept my reins taut, my shoulders back, and the tempo "UP"!

On a 20m circle, I tried to really ask for variation within the trot.  Sitting trot with collection; LOTS of flexion in the neck, LOTS of leg, seat sitting DOWN and following, shoulder slightly behind the hip.  Rise to posting, and visualize his shoulder REACHING as far as it could.  I have visual evidence he CAN have a gorgeous, open trot:

Sometimes I went right to the edge where he was nearly in a canter, and then I would bring him back down to a collected sitting trot.  In the canter, I went from a regular canter to a "gradual lengthen", and then back.  He felt a little strong, but when I settled back into the "regular" canter, he really sat down and lightened up.  Finished with a few stellar transitions from Canter/walk/ canter/walk.

Today was more of the same, but during my long rein warmup, and just concentrated on going FORWARD, and didn't canter on the loose rein.  For the most part, stayed on the 20m circle.  I worked HARD on that steady contact.  I lengthened my stirrups a hole, and focused on leg 80%, hand 20%.  I think my biggest mistake has been fixating on hand 80%, leg 20%, oops.  Within about 10 minutes, I could feel a nice steady reach through his shoulder, and his neck was "jelly like" in the bend.  I FELT LIKE his back was up, and he felt REALLY GOOD, but I was just going by feel.  

I practiced riding a 15m circle since I realized I really had no idea how to execute it.  I did a 'baby spiral' from 20m to 15m and back.  I practiced on bending him all the way through the body, and not letting him cheat and tilt that head/bend that neck.  Of course it wasn't 100% perfect, but he made an excellent, honest effort.  Good Muffin!  I ended with some big loop serpentines all the way across the ring, and they started a little awkward, but ended pretty good.  I then did about 4 turn on haunches to canter depart.  It was the BEST he's ever done those!  Absolutely NO shuffle/quick trot steps between walk/canter.  He was crisp, prompt, and oh so good.  I love his try and his heart.  I will get in a few lessons with Susan coming up so we can score under 40 at May-Daze:)  I think we have a good start!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

And, the BEST phase!

Um ... where is THIS trot in the dressage???!!!

Sorry this post has taken FOREVER!  I've been a bit busy and not in front of my computer.  Sunday dawned clear and cold after a small rain shower Saturday night.  Tiki was clean and happy and snug as a bug in his nice heavyweight blanket and his snuggly neck cover.  LR took him for a little walk and he was happy and interested in his surroundings, but not silly or googly-eyed at all:)  Good Muffin!

We went down to the xc course and staked out a spot to watch the Intermediate and most of the Prelim.  The course seemed to be riding very well; I'd walked the Prelim coffin and was quite impressed by the sheer SIZE of it.  Big wide ditch, and big logs in and out.  It rode beautifully, with barely any peeks by any of the horses.  I really fell in love with PP, it's such a lovely farm, and the footing couldn't have BEEN any more perfect.  Saturday we'd walked the course, and without further ado, I present ... the course walk!
Lincoln logs; easy as pie!

Garden Gate, NO problem

3, teeny coop

4, little cabin I would have worried over 2 years ago:)

5 was through the water, he was PERFECT!  Even cantered through it:)

6, the "faux ditch".  He jumped this nice and big!

7 was a nice little bench with a bit of a down hill landing and a long downhill gallop to 8

Cute little hedge jump; he again jumped this LOVELY

A simple, solid log with a downhill straight ahead to the mushroom

Mushroom was a nice 10 or so strides down then up a hill.  He got a tiny deep here, but did great

11 was a cabin he's jumped many times (thanks Marty!)

12 were barrels he's pretty comfortable with by now

13 was the ONLY jump of concern.  It was a pretty big brush into the woods.  It was a light to dark question, and the jump itself was a little spooky.  LR was prepared to sit up, close her leg, and swish the crop if needed.

About 3' with the brush

Up to the armpit on landing!  No worries though, he was PERFECT

Next was the tiny little canoe; a little wider, but very small

15 was a quick pass through the water, up to ...

The world's tiniest log

a little palisade that he jumped well, finishing with ...

A planter that seemed WAY smaller than the one at May-Daze;)

He didn't hesitate, overjump, or otherwise act silly.  He marched around picture perfect, according RIGHT to plan, and LR got to feel how lovely he is over the solid stuff.  She wore my watch to keep an eye on time so he didn't incur any speed faults, and managed to keep a good and even rhythm and finished well within optimum time.  Another double clear moved them up 4 more spots to finish in 10th.  Not too shabby!  I'm SO proud of both of them, it was a GREAT weekend!  Tiki has grown up to be such a big man, and he's learned his job so nicely.  

I've made a crucial decision ... I'm 100% going to May Daze again.  AND ... moving up again.  We're going to go for Training.  No reason not to!  He can handle a trakehner, he can handle a coffin, he can handle big and wide and gallopy.  I've watched a few helmet cams from T, and I don't see anything he can't handle with grace.  We will work on our dressage, we'll go schooling one more time, and I will make it to where I've always hoped we COULD.  Exciting times!:)

Such a big boy:D

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The stadium round

Walking, er, marching down to warm up

Final jump!

First of all, here are the pro pics from the weekend!
Horse trial pics

Secondly, here is the recap of the stadium round:  He was perfection:)  LR placed him exactly where she wanted him, and he said, "Sure!".  Her comment when coming out of the ring was, "I can't believe how stinking ADJUSTABLE he was!"  Wait?  No problem!  Go?  Sure!  I LOVED the course; it was a nice, long twisty course that looked like a lot of fun.  I was a little surprised there were no combinations, but that was a nice thing, too.

After watching a few super scary rounds with horses tearing around on the wrong lead and tearing around in general, LR walked in and laid down a trip worth of an equitation medal.  He looked at nothing, he didn't obviously hit anything, and he marched around like it was easy:)  Good Muffin!  A lovely double clear in the grass arena moved them up 5 spots to 14th going into XC on Sunday ...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Dressage Test

Um ... Y'all?  XC is over THERE!

Well, we are home safe and sound!  Muffin was a ROCKSTAR, LR had a wonderful time, and I am STILL exhausted from playing horse show mom:)

As y'all know, I encouraged her to go BN since she's never done a HT before, and Tiki has only done 2 previously.  She's been preparing now for a few months, but unlike what I did, she hasn't had any lessons on him at all.  She's also only averaged riding him about once a week per month, so NOT much saddle time (on Tiki.  She gets PLENTY of saddle time on other horses).  I'm saying these things in defense of the fact that they were 19th at the end of dressage ... out of 19.

To be perfectly honest, I was VERY shocked they ended up dead last.  I feel like my May-Daze dressage test wasn't any better than what they put in Satureday, and I was somewhere around 9th I think after dressage then?  LR spent plenty of time early Sat morning schooling in a relatively uncrowded warm up ring. She just sat patiently and waited until he came down into the contact, and BREATHED.  Looked pretty good to me!  He was quiet, he was obedient, and he was calm.  No wild eyes, no kicking hind legs, no swishing tail ... he looked really happy.  All was well!

Their test was dead quiet.  THAT'S why they were last.  She's a hunter rider that's never performed a dressage test in public.  Actually, she's a hunter rider that's never performed a dressage test in front of any sort of trainer or ANYTHING, so what she did was GREAT:)  It was accurate, it was pleasant, it was even, and i was steady.  The ONLY thing it lacked was pace, a bit of impulsion, and a flapping, "loud" rider.  Final score was 41, which certainly wasn't bad at all!  Very respectable, in fact.  At least 10 of the horses in front of her was above 35; there were a LOT of 38's and 38.5's.  So despite the last place finish, we were happy with both HIM, and HER.  She shrugged and said she'd go home and work on it.  Lol!  Cool customers make me happy.

I just have to add in here, I had SUCH a good time!  LR's mom, SM (Super Mom) and her good friend MP (Mama P) took care of LR and I all weekend.  MP owns a beautiful little cabin in Calloway Gardens, just 20 minutes from PP.  She took advantage of having SM around, and invited all of us to stay with her for the weekend.  I just have to say, I haven't been so spoiled by even my OWN mother!  I am very grateful for having them there, and for having such a nice place to spend the weekend; made it feel like a little vacation weekend vs. just a "horse show" weekend.:)

Game faces

He was VERY good in the warm up!