Monday, May 31, 2010

Woodside Spring Event

All right! I think I've finally recovered from the whirlwind that was this weekend, though today I was definitely feeling a bit slow and worn out (in the best possible way!!).

(Kiki putting up with many many baths)

So, bottom line, Kiki was amazing, but based on the way our weekend started it definitely might have turned out otherwise. On Thursday I took Kiki over to the horse park to a have a little settle in and hack around under the eye of Beth Temkin (who's been giving us lessons every week or so since we got back from Gina's). I grabbed my tack, popped her on the trailer, and headed over, not thinking too much of it all because she'd been to the horse park before and she's always been so good in new locations. WELL. She got off the trailer and was frantic right off the bat, running me around while I was trying to tack her up, tearing at grass and then spitting it out again, crying, and generally being an idiot. I gulped, and got on.

We hacked up to the Polo Arena, which was one of the few arenas open and, as such, was an absolute madhouse. Kiki took one look at it and said, "No thank you!" She grabbed the bit and started racing around the arena in her worst pony trot, and didn't stop for nearly an hour. I felt like I'd tried everything, dug as deep down into my bag of tricks as I could, and come up with nothing. At the end of our ride she was still leaping around, hopping up and down, crossing her jaw and racing, and making an overall fool of herself. I was in tears, and Beth was (understandably) concerned. She gave me a new bit for the weekend (a slow twist full cheek) and left me to stew as to how to prevent another blow up like this for the rest of the event.

(Kiki's new bit for the weekend)

For Friday's dressage, I was lucky that I didn't have to go until 1:30, which meant that I had plenty of time to get Kiki "ridden in" before she had to go in the ring. I decided to go with the strategy of several short rides to steady her out with lots of breaks and candy in between. So, she got a 20min lunge at Stanford, a brief ride at Stanford, and another quick lunge at the horse park all before I got on to warmup. In the meantime, she was bathed, braided, and generally turned out to look like a million bucks. I also focused much more assiduously on staying calm and chill myself, in the hopes that my vibes would rub off on her. I was lucky to have one of my friends come out and groom for me, and she also really helped keep things upbeat.

(Kiki looking like a million bucks thanks to my friend Emily's groomsmanship)

And, it worked! We still didn't win the dressage by a long shot, but man, we were respectable. Kiki was calm, steady, and rideable. She got to show off her ever-improving gaits (for which she received a 7!!) and didn't once put up a fuss or pitch a fit. I was so proud of her!! She really, really stepped up to the plate. Beth warmed us up and was equally impressed with her turnaround, admitting that the day before she wouldn't have been confident that anyone could have gotten her around a test. We got a 40.4, which (besides the leader who was way out in front of everyone) was pretty much in the mix with the rest of the field. We were in 8th at the end of the first day.

(Reppin Stanford!)

Saturday I repeated the same routine before our stadium round, minus the first lunge. Kiki was a bit rank in her first ride at Stanford, and that carried through to the warmup, but she turned up the professionalism the second we got into the ring. She's so amazing. It's pretty much as if every time I start to doubt her, she says, "Oh just you sit back and I'll show you how much I can do!" The course was wicked tough, I thought, with everything up to height and width, square oxers, verticals with no ground lines, option striding (STRIDING at all!), and a double right at the end of the course, but Kiki took it all in stride. She clocked around the course super smoothly and forwardly.

(Kiki begging with Sasha before her round)

(Kiki being ├╝ber cute)

(Super. Star.)

We had a mistake at the very last, but I take full responsibility: it was a bending line from the double to a vertical with no ground line that had been riding in either 4 or 5, and even though we landed a but discombobulated from the double I still decided to try to kick on for the 4, which Kiki decided was ludicrous and very wisely popped in a 5th stride at the very last, unfortunately taking the rail as a result. While I was kicking myself for making such a mistake, I couldn't be more proud of her. The course ended up causing quite a few issues for other people in our division as well, so even with the rail we stayed in 8th overnight.

(Good girl, K-I!!!)

(Unspeakably cute!!)

(I wasn't actually this upset to be wrapping, I promise!)

Finally, on Sunday we got to do what we'd put up with all the rest for: cross country! By this point in the weekend Kiki was pretty good and settled (and tuckered) so she really didn't need the whole ride in routine, but I still took her for a walk around Stanny in the morning and 5 minute spin on the lunge before getting on to keep up the routine. She was perfect in the warmup, settling in quietly, walking around on a long rein, then popping over some over height warmup fences like it was no big thing. She walked over the box on a long rein (which is a long and spooky walk that I had a very hard time getting Dually to do without a fuss!), ambled around the box, and set off like a consummate professional.

(Emily showing off her grooming skills!)

The entire way around the course I had to keep reminding myself to stay focused on the task at hand because I was having such a BLAST! Kiki jumped out of her skin and stayed smooth and rideable from start to finish. There wasn't a moment where I felt even a glimmer of hesitation; she was totally in her element and I was just along for the ride. I started smiling after the 2nd or 3rd fence and my smile just kept getting bigger and bigger the entire way around. It was altogether WAY too much fun!! We cruised through the finish line easily and she recovered admirably quickly. I hadn't worn a watch and since she'd never made time at Beginner Novice I wasn't expecting us to make time here, so I was very happily surprised to find out we'd come in spot on the optimum time (a first in my riding career!) and moved up to 6th!! GOOD GIRL KIKI!

(Looking adorable! Ears are actually up!)

(Kiki looking beautiful after her round!)

So basically she's a superstar, and I'm just a member of her entourage. I feel so lucky to have a horse like her; I'm excited to see what the adventures of summertime bring us! Tomorrow is the opening date for Stuart... summer in New England is getting tangibly close =)

(My sunday crew... I have great friends!)

The most amazing thing was that Sunday we were done by noon and went on to have an utterly awesome afternoon at the aquarium and checking out seriously amazing meta produce stands in Artichoke country on the way home. I will have lots more pictures of the second (non horsey) half of the weekend tomorrow =)

(Prowler may have stayed at home this weekend, but he certainly wasn't forgotten! We even jumped on Saturday; he's so amazing)


I had Kiki at Woodside this past weekend for her very first Novice, and she was awesome!!! Calm, rideable, and jumped around to 6th in a fairly big division! I'm utterly exhausted and so will have many many more photos and a full recap tomorrow, but here are the few that I've been able to coerce my friends into sending me so far =) YAY KIKI!!!!

(Kiki looking sharp after a surprisingly good dressage test!)

(Kiki put up with MY nerves in the show jumping to have a great round. One rail at the last, but otherwise pretty faultless for where she is)

(I'm really pleased with the way Kiki's jump has been improving; she showed me over and over again this weekend what a big girl she's becoming, both physically and mentally)

(My friend Emily (badass showjumper) steps in as interim coach in a pinch and does a fabulous job)

(Kiki and I super excited after her awesome xc go this morning!!)

(Kiki may not look that into it, but I'm over the moon with how awesome she's been!! Spot on the time at her very first novice; what a cool horse)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Woodside Dressage Wrap Up

Phew! I can't believe how exhausted I am from this weekend. Riding one dressage test a day seems so simple compared to a three day event! But man, I forget that for me, the dressage is a far greater workout than any of the jumping, and also requires more time in the saddle with hour long warmups compared to 30 minute ones.

I couldn't be more pleased with Ringo. He really buckled down and tried hard for me, forgave some of my smaller mistakes, and gently pointed out to me my more glaring ones! I felt a bit bad for him today because he was definitely tired and I, being tired as well, didn't give him the most tactful ride. I also was warming him up on my own, and it showed! The end result was that he got a bit sick of all this collection nonsense right as we were going into the arena and I didn't quite have the tools to perk him back up again for the test, so he was a bit more fussy and resistant than he had been the past few days. While I was overall much less pleased with this test than either of the previous two (it lacked a nice underlying flow and the fussiness meant for resistance in our lateral work, which was a shame), there were definitely moments of improvement. We nailed the medium canters for the first time all week (7s, baby!), though the return to collected canter still has to be much, much more defined. The best improvement of all, though, was in the changes, which we got 7s in both times, as compared to the 4s we'd been getting all weekend!! Yay! So proud of the Prowler.

Overall, though I didn't quite get the scores I'd been hoping for, I really couldn't be much more pleased with how the show went. The weather was tough, the scoring was pretty strict (the high score all weekend for 3rd Level Test 3 was a 65% and the highest Jr/YR score at that level was a 63% - really, a 59% wasn't that far off the mark), and it was my first multi-day dressage show ever. I don't think we embarrassed ourselves, and indeed I think we fit right in as a somewhat green but capable pair for the level. Our judge's comments today were especially nice: "Really elegant pair, capable of very high marks." She then went on to nail Ringo's and my issues EXACTLY, commenting on how I need to get him a little better between my aids to keep him from panicking and running.

SO, the plan for the next show is to come back at 3-3 and try to break that magic 60% barrier with Rachel's help =). Then, when I go home for the summer (where I might not have a trainer or at least one who can go to shows with me), I'm going to drop back to 1st and 2nd level for a few shows to try to get the scores for my Bronze Medal. How sweet would that be?? Underlying all that, I'm going to be working on a 3rd level Freestyle =). Excited!

My goals for next time:
-NO MAJOR MISTAKES - no breaks, biffed changes, etc.
-more consistent collected canter
-more relaxed half pass in trot and canter
-better medium/collected transitions
-more relaxed and cadenced rein back
-7 on rider (Someday, if I put this down enough times, it will happen!!)

In the meantime, Ringo will have a lighter week while I focus on Kiki, who's moving up to Novice next weekend (!!!). She's been FABULOUS for the past few days, which of course won't last, but I'm enjoying it while I can =).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Woodside Dressage Day 2

Ringo is amazing!

Today's test was much improved over yesterday's. I really felt like the canter had a whole new level of rhythm and cadence that we've never been able to achieve in the arena before, and our medium and extended trots were like WOAH. We ended up scoring a 59%, which was annoying because it was SO CLOSE to being qualifying (if only we hadn't bobbled the first change!! Literally the separating factor between qualifying and not), but I was still super pleased. We got some really good marks (8 for our extended walk!! 7 on the extended trot! 7 on the shoulder ins and one of the canter half-passes!) and just one 4 on the first flying change (compared to 3 yesterday!). The judge's comments were positive, and I feel like it was a big step forward. An ounce more polish, and we'll be there. Plus, I just couldn't be more thrilled with Ringo's attitude, which was cool, calm, collected, and totally willing from start to finish, despite a ridiculously chaotic warmup, cold temperatures, and high winds!

Tomorrow we are signed up for a 4th level test, but I'm not totally feeling ready; I'd like to get the 3-3 a little more cemented before moving on. There aren't currently any openings for me to squeeze into a 3-3 slot tomorrow, but I'm heading back to the horse park in the morning to check. Otherwise, Ringo will get the day off and lots and lots of pats!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Woodside Dressage Day 1

Ringo and I are now officially DQs!! Well, maybe not quite yet; we've now definitely talked the talk, but haven't quite yet walked the walk.

Today was the first day of the Woodside Dressage show, which is apparently a big deal in the California Dressage circuit. I wouldn't really know, having nothing to compare to, but I can say with confidence that it was the first time in warmup that I had to dodge people doing tempis and canter pirouettes (at least intentional ones!!). The other ring for my warmup was doing an I-2 class while I was getting ready, so I was definitely surrounded by some awesome horses and riders! Ringo came out a bit with his eyes on stalks, as I knew he would, but actually settled in pretty darn well. We warmed up for a LOOOONG time, because it turned out my ring was running late and the steward gave me the wrong information about how many I had to go, such that I picked him up to go in the ring about 3 times before it was actually time. Given that, I was really proud of how well both Ringo and I coped. I had a few moments of nerves, but in general kept a lid on it, and Ringo followed suit brilliantly.

The test, for a first attempt, went pretty well. Ringo was very spooked by the flowers at the letters at first, and so was a bit against the bridle in our opening trotwork, but settled in very well. I saved the first medium trot from a break but we still had a fairly serious bobble in it, and then the second medium trot was AMAZING right until I decided to wait one stride too many to half halt, and we broke to canter (Judge's comment: "good attempt"). It was pretty amusing, because I had literally been thinking to myself, "should I half halt? He feels so good! Do I need to?" right at the moment he broke. I guess that answered my question! The halt reinback was a bit jagged, but our second attempt at the shoulder in - half circles - half pass after that was much improved. The walk went really well, scoring straight 7s - good man Ringo! I was pleased with the canter in general but it all needs more collection, which hurt us in every score. Still, the medium canters were pretty awesome and I thought I did a better and better job getting him under control. Coming out of the ring, my hopes were pretty up that I'd received a qualifying score (60%), despite our little bobbles.

So, I was a bit disappointed when I got my sheet back with a 57.6%. We got, in my opinion, pretty cheaply scored on the flying changes, which had a double coefficient and so doubly hurt us. Other than that, I couldn't really find much fault with the judge's comments; I just wish she'd been a bit more generous for the mistakes that we recovered from within the movement. Her collective comments, especially, were spot on, so I couldn't really find much to complain about (except wishing that the number was somehow higher!). I learned afterward that my judge today, Linda Zang, was one of the judges at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong, and is widely known as one of the toughest judges in California. I still wish I'd done better, but it was good to know that at least I was being judged by someone whose standards are very, very high.

Numbers and scores aside, though, I couldn't be more thrilled with Ringo. All the mistakes that happened were my error, not his; he was amazing, and remained absolutely rideable and with me the entire time, even I knew there were moments when he wanted to spook or get tense. It's hard to believe that just a few months ago he was rearing and spinning in the arena. We've definitely come a long, long way in our partnership. Now I've just got to show him off a bit better!

The awesome thing about pure dressage is that I've got two more chances at improving this weekend alone, so I can go back and try to improve while the feeling of today's test is still fresh in my brain. Here's to an even better test tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Baby's Got a New Pair of Shoes

Actually, between the two ponies we got six new pairs of shoes yesterday! (Kiki is still barefoot behind)

Ringo's feet in general looked really good. It's so interesting to see the difference between the soles of his padded front feet and his unpadded hind feet. The front feet Joe (my farrier) was easily able to cut and trim down, and the bits he trimmed felt soft and almost rubbery. The frog was looking good, but it was pretty small and it, too, was very easily trimmed back. His hind feet were a totally different story, with really big healthy frogs and soles so strong and tough that Joe had to re-sharpen his sole knife half way through! I definitely don't think that his front feet are unhealthy, but it's interesting to contemplate the long term effects of his feet in that airless environment. I'm glad that he only has to get pads in the summer when the ground is hard.

Kiki was excellent. Joe was really impressed with her big symmetrical feet (they've always one of her biggest selling points!). She's worn down her bare hind feet almost perfectly evenly and at a good rate of speed, so that Joe didn't have to do a thing to them. No flares, no chips, no cracks, and this is on a horse that lives on hard ground and jumps at least once a week! Impressive. She is reaching the limit of the rate at which she can grow hoof to replace what she wears down, so shoes are starting to appear on the horizon as her level of work increases, but for the moment she's doing great. The only thing of note was that there was a slight difference of wear between her left hind and right hind that matches perfectly with her patterns of stiffness in each direction. It's really cool to see how everything links together.

Today is an easy day to see how they've both settled into their new angles, and then it's a race to get in the last preps before the show!

Monday, May 17, 2010

So Proud

... of Papa and Dually!!

This weekend was my dad and Dually's first event together! They went up to Hitching Post in Vermont to do the Novice. Apparently Dually was a total star! They had a good dressage warmup but then D got a little tense, according to Papa, when they went down to the ring. It sounds like he did a really good job convincing the dude to relax, though, because they ended up having a very respectable test and were mid-field after the dressage. Then, after a few hour wait, they changed tack and headed down to xc. Dually warmed up really well again, got a little high going into the box (his first time in since July of last year in the steeplechase at Rebecca Farm!), but then went out like the old pro that he is and had a super round. He got a little strong in places (mostly because Novice speed is so darn slow!!) but overall I think my dad was really pleased with him. Then they went directly over to stadium and had a nice clean round, finishing on their dressage score for 6th place in a pretty big division! Good job, Boys!!! I couldn't be prouder of both of them, and I'm so delighted both that Dually has found such a wonderful new job and that it can be with my Pa, who's probably one of the most deserving people in the world for a good horse like the Dude. I'm very very excited to see them go in the flesh! =)

(Pa and the Dude a long time ago, helping me cool out from a gallop before Young Riders)

(Pa has been a great groom for me and Dually; now I'm excited to try and pay back the favor a bit!)

(A lot of my fondest eventing memories involve Pa and Dually in some way; I couldn't be more pleased that they're now getting to form a partnership of their own)

My two ponies have been fabulous the past few days as well. They both had lessons on Friday, with Ringo practicing his tests for the dressage show this coming weekend (!!) and Kiki jumping to get ready for her event in two weeks. Ringo was EXCELLENT - he started out a bit tense but it was good as a means of practicing what he's probably going to be like at the show, and Rachel had some really good strategies for getting him extra loosened up. Then, the test practice was a huge relief: I still hadn't been totally convinced that we were going to be able to string all of these complicated movements together! But man, Ringo was a total genius. Rachel gave us some great notes after the first run through which I think we improved well on the second attempt, all of which mostly centered on me quieting my aids a hair and being a touch more patient in my planning for certain movements. If we can ride like that this weekend, I'll be really pleased! I'm so thankful for all the help Rachel has given me in the past few weeks; she's really helped me make dressage fun =)

(Prowler's feelin ready, Twinkle Toes are at Full Capacity)

Kiki was not to be outdone by the Black and White. She was the best she's ever been on Friday, loping through a solid 3'3" gymnastic basically on a long rein and then jumping 3'3" single fences like she's been doing it all spring. It was the first time in a lesson where I really felt like I had her listening and quiet. I was thrilled! And goodness does she have a fun jump!!

(Piggy's improving all the time!)

The ponies both get new shoes tomorrow, then its a final scramble to get ready for the show on Friday. Ringo needs to get (many) baths, I need to do some white laundry and get all my saddle pads and show clothes organized, all the tack needs to be cleaned and polished, and the trailer has to be tacked up in an at least semi-thoughtful manner. Not to mention the last minute rides, test-prep, and general excitement/anxiety combo that go with any show I'm really looking forward to. Wish us luck!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lesson with Brian Sabo

Wait, what's that sound? Do you hear it chugging its way closer? I think it might be the sound of a COMEBACK IN PROGRESS!!

Ringo and I had another awesome jumping lesson with Brian Sabo today. Brian complimented Ringo right off the bat, saying that he's looking really good at the moment. I must say I agree: he's in great weight, has a nice bloom on his coat, a whole new chunk of topline from our past month's foray into dressage, and he's never seemed more calm or at ease. We had a nice warmup, though Brian still had to remind me to really hold Ringo to his straightness, especially in the upward canter transitions. I did feel though, that I had him better in front of my leg than last time (spurs helped!), and in general our transitions were much better in terms of maintaining energy up and down.

Once we got jumping, it was a matter of building on what we talked about last time: the approach strategy. I need to keep Ringo forward through the turn, half halt (without losing that forward energy), set the stride length, and then maintain to the base. Somewhere in that as well I need to keep him straight and keep myself straight on top of him. An interesting thing Brian picked up on quickly is the fact that I have a hard time keeping my side-to-side balance on Ringo; I've noticed this as long as I've had him (I think his compactness and agility are particularly hard for my long angles to keep up with), and it's definitely frustrating to me as my balance is usually one of my better qualities. So, a lot of the focus for me was making sure I really grounded myself evenly across his back, especially in the final approach to the fence. It was remarkable how much better his straightness immediately became! Goes to show the power of the signals I'm sending him without even realizing it...

After a few opening fences, we strung together a few short courses. I have to say, some of the 3' fences were still looking a little large when we started out! But man, Ringo was such a star. We did a few courses of increasing difficulty (by reducing the distance in front of each fence, requiring a quicker and quicker application of the approach strategy while keeping the impulsion), and then finished up with an adjustability exercise in a line. Adjustability in lines is usually something we struggle with, and more often than not more strides are achieved through crookedness, not collection. However, by changing the groundline of the two verticals from both upright for the collected stride to both more pulled out and ascending for the open stride, and then using the appropriate approach strategy, Ringo rattled off the more collected and more extended stridings like it was no big thing-- and stayed straight while he was at it, too!

The more we practiced the approach strategy, the more I felt him relax and start to enjoy himself. Ringo is a horse that needs to feel supported, and putting a regular system in place like this in front of every fence seems to be just the kind of connection to me that he needs. Now, we just need to get the system in place to where we can do it together in our sleep! I need to be consistent in my aids, first and foremost, which is just going to take lots of practice over little fences to get it down pat. After today, I'm very excited to begin! Ringo definitely reminded me how fun he is to jump =)

Tomorrow we practice our tests for Woodside next week. Eep! Getting very excited, and more than a bit nervous!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Woodside Spring Classic


For the past two weeks, the local horse park has been running an "A"-rated Hunter/Jumper show. I was over watching a friend ride her horse in the 1.20s yesterday and, on a total whim, decided that I wanted to do some showing too! So, I signed Kiki up for some 2'9" jumper classes, and before I could even realize what I was getting myself into I was in the ring!

Kiki was A M A Z I N G. She trailered over well and chilled on the trailer alone (well, with just me) for almost an hour when it turned out that our arena was running late. She was a little rank in warmup, but fit-pitching was very minimal and she's been much worse before at home! I warmed up with some time to spare, then got off and let her graze and chill out for a little while. I think this strategy ended up being very helpful for her, because it gave her a chance to take a deep breath and realize that nothing bad was going to happen to her. I got back on with two horses to go and walked around for a bit, then went in the ring. She got right to work and was calm, relaxed, and rideable. We clocked around for a clear and made it to the jump off, where we were clear again!! We were pretty slow, but still ended up 8th - GOOD GIRL KIKI! This was the first ribbon we've won together, and I have to say I almost got choked up when I picked it up. I love her so much! We did a second 2'9" class and this time had a rail, but I was still so pleased with her; the rail happened when she didn't listen to my half halt and blasted herself into the base of an oxer, and after that mistake she listened much better and jumped fabulously! WHAT A STAR.

Meanwhile, Ringo and I have had some great rides the past few days. Yesterday his medium trot was the best I've ever felt on him, and on both days our trot and canter half-passes have been coming along really well. I got my ride times for the dressage show in 2 weeks; I'm pretty nervous but very, very excited! It's time for Rachel Boot Camp from now until then to get our tests polished up!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

End of April Wrap Up and May Goals

Ok, so I'm quite late! But here's the April wrap up:

--By the end of the month feel happy and confident jumping Ringo on any given day, height not important
I will give this a half check. I really haven't been focusing on getting back into the jumping for the past month because I've been finding the dressage so enjoyable. A part of me also knows, however, that I haven't been getting back into the jumping because I am still a little shaken. I need to make myself bite the bullet and get going again because he is SO FUN to jump when we're on form!

--Get a "7" on a USEA/USDF Dressage test!
I didn't compete this month, so no "7"s - but May will provide at least 4 opportunities, so fingers crossed!

--Get more consistency in Kiki's trot fences (or rather, her ability to cope with them)
Ehh, not really. Kiki has been super fresh in the jumping this month, and I think I need to devote more time to getting her over fences on a regular basis. It's just not fair to ask her to come out, once a week, and be calm and settled, when at Gina's (which was a much less frenetic environment anyway) I jumped her three days in a row before she would get really calm.

--Take my first dressage lesson with Kiki!
YES! And Rachel loved her!

--Take Kiki foxhunting
Nooo... This month??

--Feel confident over 3' courses on Kiki on any given day
I'm thinking yes, though she is a firecracker at the moment

--Perform Novice A on Kiki, at home or in competition, with smoothness and obedience (No fit pitching!)
At home, yes; we'll see how it goes in competition!

--Continue to improve Ringo's acceptance of leg, suppleness and elasticity
YES; the dude has never felt better!

--Improve Ringo's Medium Trot!
Yes! Getting better.

--Have a fun competitive outing, either at Twin or Weatherford or both or somewhere else completely as long as its fun!
Nope; no competitive outings, but I'm not too shook up over it =)

--Really, I'd love to think that by the end of the month Ringo and I will be back on track and ready to move up to Intermediate again. I'll put that down as a goal, though at this point in time its more of a dream. We'll see.
Nope, but we're going 4th Level in three weeks, which is quite beyond my wildest dreams!

--Find an instructor/coach and have a blast!
YES; I'm loving Rachel and Beth. Yay!

--Get back into the groove at Stanford, being upfront with all professors about possible horse-related absences throughout the quarter and scheduling make up time for said absences
Yep; I'm a little behind on work at the moment, but I can't blame the horses for that! In general the quarter is going well.

Again, not bad! I need to be a lot more proactive in the jumping, both for Kiki and for Ringo, but in general the opening of May is looking a million times better than I thought it would at the opening of April. I definitely think the overall goal of getting happy and confident again with my horses was achieved, and then some.

Ok, so for May:

--Have a good move up with Kiki at Woodside, meaning:
----Have an obedient dressage test
----Jump clean and calm on sj and xc
----Good show grounds behavior
--"7" on rider!
--Debut Ringo at 4th Level without embarrassing ourselves
--Keep Ringo calm, relaxed, and happy in the ring
--get canter half pass and walk pirouettes nailed down
--break 60% at 4th
--get Kiki calmer and relaxed in the jumping
--get back into jumping with Ringo!
--Finish up the quarter well
--Get horse hotels lined up for trip home
--Take Kiki foxhunting
--Work the trot-canter transitions with Kiki to improve strength
--Get out to the hitting cage for polo at least once a week in addition to play and sets

It's going to be yet another busy month, but its hard to believe that in one month, a) I will be 21 years old!!!!!! and b) will be just eight days away from going home for the summer! Counting down the days... =)

Today's random photo:

(My first day riding Ringo in California... we'll be back to this soon!)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ms. Kiki goes to Washinton

...or, umm, the Horse Park. Whichever.

Today was Kiki's first introduction to the Horse Park at Woodside (which is also, luckily, the locale for our next event!), and she was a total star! I've come to expect quite good behavior from her when traveling to new places, but was still a bit apprehensive both because she's been quite wild recently and also because there is just something about Woodside that seems to light the horses up a bit. Add in the fact that an A rated Hunter/Jumper show was going on simultaneously, and the place had more than its fair share of atmosphere. In general she was really solid, though the crackling loud speakers and the sound of another horse cantering through the water the first time definitely surprised a little bit! She then warmed up really quite well, and was cantering around basically on a long rein.

When we went to jump she heated up a bit again (which was unlike her last few xc schools) and was a little hoppy in places to start. I was happy with my ride, which focused on being positive and forward but still with enough control to keep her contained, and se settled pretty well. By the end she was still jumping super boldly but felt attentive. And man did she jump well! We did:

- coop out of water
- coop into water, both on a long and short angled turn
- roll top out of water
- bank out of water (I think her first! Definitely my first with her)
- the Novice down bank
- one of the Training up banks
- a fairly spooky roll top bending downhill back down the same Training bank (!!)
- the first part of the Prelim bending line into the water (we just did the single rails with no combination, but they were still 3'3"!!)

She's so amazing! I love the feeling of her jump like woah. Even when she got a little wild (like on the downhill bending to the drop), she still made a decent effort to listen to me and stay under control. STAR.

I do think though that she might need to start going on some sort of supplement for her "lady problems" - she's not marish marish, per se, but she's more prone to tantrums and tense than she's been before and I think it has a lot to do with changing hormones. The vet has to come out soon to do spring shots, so maybe we can squeeze that in at the same time. Yay KIKI!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lesson with Rachel

My horse is a genius. 'Nough said.

Yesterday Ringo and I had a lesson with Rachel. He's been off pretty much all week because of the cellulitis flare up, so I was pretty unsure whether I was even going to ride him. Fortunately, he looked pretty clear as of last night, and with one more night of wrapping I was pretty confident that he was in the clear. Phew! But still, I wasn't sure what we were going to be able to produce in our lesson given the time off.

I was absolutely thrilled, then, when he warmed up super relaxed, free, and-- best of all-- even, which was a great relief to put my worries about his leg to rest. We got to work on some elements of the 4-1 test that we'll be doing at Woodside in three weeks (!!!), specifically the shoulder in tour in the trot and the half pass section of the canter. The pattern for the trot was:

- shoulder-in F to B,
- turn left, halt at X
- rein back 4 strides
- proceed trot, turn right
- shoulder-in E to H.

His shoulder in is a little better naturally to the right, so we started in the reverse of the actual test so that I could use the halt and a nice square turn to get my left leg a little better around him for the left shoulder in the first few times. I'd never done the rein back directly to the trot, and definitely had to remind myself to get the motor going again the first few times! But Ringo, being the superstar he is, picked up on what I was asking him very quickly. Using the halt as a means of scooting his hind end underneath him a bit more ended up being very effective for getting a better shoulder in to the left, so it was a bit of a challenge to reverse directions and do it the way the test dictates, but fortunately in the actual test this tour comes after the zigzags and first medium trot, so hopefully I'll be able to use those movements to get him equally attentive and light on his forehand (we can hope!). Overall, though, his shoulder-in felt fabulous (especially with me keeping Brian's comments on my position in the forefront of my mind). We then worked on a bit of trot half-pass, which is improving leaps and bounds; again, Brian's comments on my position, coupled with Rachel' great understanding of Ringo's temperament, really helped me improve the flow of the transitions into and out of the half pass.

After a quick walk break, we did the walk and canter section, which goes like this:

- at the walk tracking right, at M turn right
- between G and H, half pirouette right
- between G and M, half pirouette left
- at H, turn left
- S to P, extended walk
- P to F, collected walk
- F Canter right
- A down centerline
- L to R half-pass right
- R to M counter canter
- M flying change
- C circle 20m, with 5-6 strides super collected canter over the center line
- H to K medium canter
- A down centerline
- L to S half-pass left
- S to H counter canter
- H flying change

For the lesson, we modified it a bit by eliminating the change of rein in the walk and the super collected circle, going directly into the medium canter on the left from the walk pirouettes, and then doing the mirror (medium down the long side to the centerline to the half-pass) on the right. Again, I have a harder time with him on the left, so this was a bit of a challenge, but I at least had the collection of the half pirouettes to help me out. I still need to get my left leg better around him so that I can control him through the 10m half circle up the centerline so then produce a good half-pass to the left, but in general it wasn't too too bad. The right lead work was quite good, and his flying change in that direction was particularly nice. Good man, Ringo!!

I have to say, I'm getting so excited about Ringo in the dressage. Rachel is such a great instructor and I really feel like I've been improving by leaps and bounds under her tutelage. Plus, I think focusing on the flat for a while is going to really help us grow in our partnership for the jumping later on. Not to mention that he's just downright fun!

Meanwhile, I've been up since 3am watching Badminton online. AWESOME. This is a real four star, and frankly makes Kentucky last weekend look like a bit of a joke. How amazing it would be to get to gallop those fences! The real excitement, though, is that I can look at those wet and huddled spectators and realistically think that, in one year's time, I could very well be among them!! SO EXCITED.

Kiki and I will be going to the horse park this afternoon to do a little cross country school. I can bet that I'll be spending a bit of time mentally transforming the blasted, almost lunar landscape of the horse park into some green English parkland =)
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