Monday, March 15, 2010

Three Day Ranch

I love my Papa!! This past weekend was Three Day Ranch down in Aguanga, California (aka THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE) and Pa, who is currently enjoying one of the few major perks of being a school teacher (spring break as an adult!!), came all the way out to California to come with me. It was my first Intermediate with Ringo and my first event ever with Kiki; I was definitely more nervous than I wanted to let on for both of them, and I can't describe how awesome it was to have my dad there for both his superb groomsman skills (seriously, he is amazing and got all the other GME folks green with envy) and his emotional support.

After a frantic few days of preparation and packing (including Kiki's first ever cross country school in California, nipped in just time, for which she was ridiculously, ridiculously good!!), we pulled out of Rancho del Rio at the fairly unpleasant hour of 5am on Thursday to make the 7 hour drive sown to the desert. When we woke up, there was hard frost over everything and it was pitch black - I had to use a flash light to find Kiki in her field and her shipping boots, which I had washed the day before and had left overnight to dry in the wash rack, were frozen solid! Definitely not why I came to California. Fortunately Pa and I are both morning people, and could laugh about the whole thing (including Kiki getting some unplanned "ice therapy" on the way down, thanks to her frozen boots!).

(Kiki = The Bomb)

(What a starlet)

(Notice the many layers!)

We pulled in at noon (after missing LA traffic for I think the first time ever) and got everyone settled in. I was so proud of how both of them traveled, but especially Kiki, who got off the trailer like she owned the place and was cool, calm, and collected from start to finish. She drank tons of water and immediately got to work on her lunch - that's my piggy! Ringo was, as usual, a little more fastidious, and took some serious offense to the Three Day Ranch water supply right off the bat (I don't totally blame him; it was well water and would often come up, I kid you not, SMOKING, white with particulate matter, and occasionally containing very nasty green sludge - I wouldn't have drunk it unless my life literally depended on it). I definitely need to look into more ways of tempting him to drink better at shows.

(Ringo behind bars)

Thursday was spent setting up and taking both horses on hacks. Both of them felt great; Ringo was very calm compared to how he can be the first day at a new place (especially with the hacking ring right across from the xc start!) and did some great stretchy work. Kiki was a STAR for her first outing in a brand new place and trotted around all the dressage rings by herself like she'd been doing it her whole life. Good ponies! Pa and I also set up our digs up in the trailer area and got settled in ourselves; Three Day Ranch is, I cannot stress enough, totally out in the middle of nowhere, and the nearest hotel is a good 45 minute drive away. We decided to camp, with Pa sleeping on my mattress from my apartment pulled up into the peak of the trailer and me in a $20 tent we picked up from Target the day before we left. It ended up working out really well, except for the small detail that it was in the low 30s every night!! Fortunately, I packed every single blanket I own, and so I while I may have looked more like a cocoon than a person when I went to bed, I slept very well (minus a very cold face and nose in the morning!).

(Ringo looking very dapper against the rocks at Three Day)

(Sticking his tongue out to the photo op)

(Trotting around the rings all by herself)

Friday was a very, very, VERY busy day! I rode Ringo and Kiki in the morning just to get them out while Papa lended his invaluable help at getting the morning chores done. Then, I rode Kiki in a schooling show jumping round, as they were running a schooling show simultaneously with the first day of the horse show (how this is legal I have no idea; I didn't complain), for which she was BEYOND FABULOUS! She had to wait twice as long as I'd expected because they were late setting the course, handled a new and spooky arena with aplomb, and put in probably the best show jumping round I've ever done on her. Good girl!!

(Cute little wahine)

Then, it was back to the barns to braid Ringo and get ready for his dressage test. He had been so tight and spooky in the morning, I was pretty nervous for how he would be in the actual warmup, which was by far the most chaotic I had been in with him yet. But I didn't need to worry; he was absolutely perfect! He came into the warmup loose and soft and got better and better as he went. We had a great, brief, on point warmup with Gina, even nailing down his medium trot (which he is quite good at but I haven't quite mastered the right level of aids for - he's a bit dull for them at home but then so sensitive at shows; it's an exercise in learning to dial back that I'm still working on). We got numerous compliments on our turnout from the ring stewards as we went up to the big ring to do our test, which always makes me glow a little bit, and I felt really ready to put in something good. And we actually did! For the first time in I think my entire life, I got to ride a horse who was just as good in the ring as he had been outside. He was calm, soft, and fluid. His gaits were expressive and his movements were accurate, and I couldn't have been more proud of him. I did end up overdoing my medium trot signals, causing him to break to canter (d'oh!) but I can hardly blame him for my mistake. He was absolutely amazing. We ended up getting a lot of good marks, including 7 on both counter canters and haunches in, an 8 on medium walk, and a 9 (!!) on extended walk. Good boy!!

(9, Baby. 9.)

(This is how it's done)

(Good man!!)

We then did an immediate tack change and headed down to the show jumping to do some schooling rounds. He was definitely a bit spooky in the warmup but didn't feel too bad, but also looking back I don't think he really felt his normal self in the warmup either. Maybe it was the water issue, and he was tired and a bit dehydrated; maybe he's feeling a bit sore in ways that didn't come out on the flat; maybe he and I were both feeling a bit nervous after a less than stellar last jump school where Ringo, distracted by a loose galloping horse, crashed through a fence, stung himself on his hind leg, and scared the bejeezus out of both of us. Maybe it was a combination of all of those factors and more. But the bottom line was that neither of us really came to the arena mentally. We jumped a Prelim round where he was pretty good but (again, in retrospect) felt a little flat and frantic. We had a totally uncharacteristic stop at an oxer where, granted, I didn't make the best approach, but I gave him a decent shot at it and he got in on just a hair of a short stride and stopped dead. We jumped it fine on the second try and finished up fine but I should have known that something was up and been smarter about revising my plan right there, but I wasn't. Gina and I both agreed that I would be fine to do the Intermediate schooling round as planned, and I went right back in for another try. And it was a disaster. After jumping the first four fences fine, he stopped flat out at a very plain vertical to which I did not ride poorly. I tried to ride a few more fences but he just shut down more and more, so I pulled up.

(Trying his guts out)

I don't know what's up but I'm worried. He wasn't giving me a great feel just on the flat cantering around, and then the feeling to the fences was terrible: flat, low, and frantic. I decided to definitely scratch him for the rest of the weekend for the short term and take a much harder look at his wellness and program for the long term. I'm so frustrated because right up to that last jump school, I was certain that he was feeling like a million bucks. What went wrong? I feel like I've been missing a warning sign or have been overlooking a gap in my training that I didn't see was there; either way makes me feel incredibly guilty as a rider because such an oversight put my equine partner at risk both physically and mentally. The biggest concern now is to get Ringo back on track; all material goals are sidebarred for that task.

So, it was with a pretty sobered tone that we proceeded forward to Saturday. Kiki didn't go until painfully late in the day (2:52 dressage and 5:15 show jumping!), but Pa and I found ways to wile away the hours. Kiki got her first ever braids (for which she was perfect) and got her tail washed about 80 times in an attempt to make it white (partial success). She was a little tense in her warmup and carried it forward to the test, but I thought she had some real nice moments. Tenseness is always going to be a problem for her, because like me she is a perfectionist and is hard on herself when she gets something wrong, but I think she's made big strides even since January. I was very proud of her. She ended up scoring a 40.0 because her transitions were all very tense, but I was still quite pleased despite her lower mark.

(Fancy Piggy)

(Kiki's tail... the source of endless tears and frustration)

After a few hour wait, we were back on in the dusk to do the show jumping. This was definitely the phase I was most worried about, as some of our show jumping schools in preparation have been pretty damn wild, to say the least. I shouldn't have worried! Kiki came out a little tense but warmed up out of it, was far better behaved in warm up than I could have believed, and was an absolute star out on course. She did have one rail where she had a seriously green moment, but for the most part jumped ridiculously calmly and well. Gina and Bec hadn't been around to watch her schooling round the day before, and were blown away by how good she was. It's also been so fun to feel her relax and start to use herself better over the fences; she's really starting to get a nice shape over the jumps, and she's got more scope coming out every day!

(Woah there, Piggy!)

(What a good little moo cow)

Satuday was also Kiki's 6th birthday! Happy birthday Piggy!! She got lots of carrots and a few awkward photos with me after her awesome show jumping round to celebrate.

(Why we're made for each other: check out that mutual unphotogenic-ness!)

(Carrot detritus after Piggy's birthday feast)

Sunday was an obscenely early morning, as it was both the first day of daylight savings time and Kiki was set to go xc at 7:54 am (aka what had been 6:54 am without the change!). We definitely fed the horses with flashlights and then retreated to the car for as long as possible to try to stay warm. When I got on, the sun still hadn't fully come up over the hills, and I was cold to the bone through multiple thermal layers and jackets. Kiki warmed up the best she had all weekend, so much so that I got a bit complacent and was basically sitting on my hands, cantering around on a long rein and thinking about how good she was being, when she decided it was time to remind me she was still a baby: a girl fell off at the first jump on cross country and her horse turned and galloped back up past the warm up. Kiki saw a split second before I did, and in one stride when from center to full reverse! Since I was being so lax, I immediately lost my balance and ended up bear hugging around her neck, trying to stay on!! After a few strides I gave up the ghost and popped off in probably the most unremarkable fall of my entire life. I was laughing so hard! I got right back on and did some engaging work to make sure Kiki hadn't lost her marbles in this little shake up, and was delighted to find her right back ont ask, if just a hair edgier than before. We headed out on course soon after, and she was absolutely perfect from start to finish; I was absolutely thrilled. The only thing I was mad about was my own miscalculation of the time that gave us 1.6 time penalties, enough to drop Kiki from 6th to 8th, one spot out of the ribbons - I felt so bad for her because she most definitely deserved a ribbon after all her hard work, and I took it from her! Sorry Kiki!! But seriously, what. a. star.

After that, we packed up pretty quickly and were home by 5pm - the serious upside of going so early! I got to take Ringo for a nice bareback ride back at Rancho del Rio and watch as Kiki rolled, and rolled, and rolled, and rolled back in her pasture before going to boast to her buddies about what a stud she is (let's face it, she deserves to!). I discovered on the ride home that the serious upside to falling off in the California desert is that the dirt is full of gold flakes - my left boot, which got scuffed in the fall, was completely aglitter with golden sparkles. I'm rich!!

Next up is making sure Ringo is feeling tip top and giving Kiki a bit of a breather before Galway in two weeks. What good ponies!! I feel so lucky to have them both in my life. I also couldn't give enough thanks to Pa, who I had just a wonderful time seeing and probably couldn't have survived (and certainly wouldn't have enjoyed) the last weekend without.

1 comment:

Suzie said...

I think it was a successful weekend! You know where your weaknesses are with Ringo and can now go about fixing them. "Failures are just extra practice for success." :) Let me know when you want to play with Ringo over fences (tomorrow AM?) and we can maybe figure out where the problem lies without the chastising overlords.

And Kiki was absolutely marvelous! Way too go, Bitch. :)

For the dehydration thing, Penny is also an AWFUL drinker at shows and I learned to add some Gatorade to her water. I would buy a container of powder from the store and just add one scoop to each bucket. It covers up the smokey/green sludge taste well without being overwhelming to the horse.

I hope you had a good?/productive?/insightful?/fun? time in SF.

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