Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Year Ago

I was planning on doing a little retrospective of all the big horse shows I got to go to last year, starting with Badminton, but then I got so depressed when Badders was cancelled that I put it off and then promptly forgot. One of the photographers that I met and befriended while in England is currently back at Tattersalls in Ireland, however, and as that was probably one of my wilder adventures in terms of getting there and back again (though Bramham does give it a run for its money) I couldn't help but take a little time to reflect on where I was a year ago this week.

(Charlotte Agnew popping off the CCI** double banks nice and carefully)

At the time, Tattersalls was probably my least favorite of all the big shows I went to last spring (Badminton, Tattersalls, Bramham, and Luhmuhlen), mostly because the weather was unrelentingly harsh for someone with no indoor shelter to retreat to for three days, and it was an unbelievably exhausting ordeal to pull off. But in retrospect, it was one of the more surreal venues I've ever been to, and the quality AND quantity of riding I saw was unbelievable.

 (And they had to jump stuff like THIS!!!)

The event took place over EIGHT SOLID HOURS OF FEI COMPETITION (something I've never experienced before or since) on what felt like an endless patchwork of perfect galloping fields surrounded by the biggest and most intimidating hedges an American like me had ever gotten up close to. Even walking the course felt like an adventure, as there were many ditches left unbridged for the brave spectator to leap, hoping very hard to not end up in the standing water several feet below. The course was MASSIVE, with some of the biggest "STB" (that would be "See-To-Believe") fences I've ever seen... and for the most part, the competitors made them look easy. Horses are awesome.




 (Whoops)

 (Naughty jack russells - the ubiquitous horse show accessory)


 (Not a small corner in the water)

 (Trakehner on a mound, with spectators watching)


 (Supah tidy)

 (Blast off!!)

 (Winner winner chicken dinner)

 (Just another massive corner... over a ditch... no big deal)


For my travails to and from, they went a bit like this:

After surviving Ryanair, the most miserable cattle-call-style airline in existence, I bused my way to the town of Ratoath (an adventure in itself of trying to understand thick Irish bus driver accents). From there, I bought a single (massive) Indian food meal that I then proceeded to make last an entire weekend, hitched a ride from a friendly delivery man, and (not having tickets) snuck into the event in the back of his truck. Classy times. I slept in my tiny one-man Target tent, which not only proved totally useless at blocking out the gale-force winds that ripped across the plain at all hours of the day and night but also made an unbelievable racket in the process of being totally useless, and was generally freezing and sleep-deprived for 72 solid hours.


(Damn you, Ryanair)

I got to drink a lot of Guinness straight from an Irish tap, both during the day and at night, and I got a glimpse of Irish eventing parties (which are legendary among the eventing community)... but admittedly, was wayyyy too chicken to join in myself (though I was woken up at 3am by the party getting so loud and rowdy that the sound carried the half-mile down the hill to where my tent was pitched).


(mmm.... Guinness - the fat of the Irish land)

After the event was over, not having anyone to hitch with, I sidewalk surfed a couple miles back into town, bused my way to Dublin, had hazy and mostly-forgotten but adventurous night in Dublin, somewhere hand-wrote a 2500 word Oxford tutorial paper along the way, and made it back in time for my 9am tutorial on Monday. It might have felt a little rough at the time, but in retrospect... man, what a lucky life I lead.


(Ha'Penny Bridge at night in Dublin, one of my favorite cities)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Forever is a Long, Long Time When You've Lost Your Way

Sorry for the total lack of follow-up posts from my last one. Last week ended up being beyond wild, and I didn't even get a chance to ride Ringo, let alone update the blog. In the meantime, I managed to open my senior art show and was really happy with how it turned out looking... even if it did require several of the most stressful days I've had in a long time to get ready for it!

(My show!!)


(Lots and lots of purdy pitchers)

(My opening panel with Artist's Statement, Bio, and roadtrip map)

(My work station trying to desperately get ready for the show)

In the meantime, I'm deep in the throes of my last few weeks as a college student, and am not at all happy about it. I feel very nebulous about the future, which, as a mega-Type-A personality, I find really difficult. This is the first major junction of my life where I've not felt at all clear on what to do next: I had never realized the extent to which I depended on the stable structure of the middle school - high school - undergrad structure and how much it allowed me to go through life without much thought or personal reflection. At the end of high school, the hardest decision I had to make was what college to go to (and man, what a hard decision that felt like!).

Now, my whole life lies ahead. There aren't 10 or so finite institutions to potentially sign my name to for the next foreseeable packet of time, but instead an infinite number of paths with timelines ranging from a few months to a lifetime ahead. Add that in with a bad economy that makes all those decisions feel 50 times more arduous, and it's a recipe for a stressopalooza. I hate not feeling in control, and this is a time where I really do just have to sit up, put my hands down, and ride it out.

This assessment doesn't even cover the social and academic aspects of Stanford that I've treasured so much. I feel like I've just started to come into my own, but I'm truly afraid to head out into the world alone from here. I feel completely inadequate to describe the way I've been feeling, but I think this essay not only does a better job but also points the way towards a future that I'm going to try my hardest to embrace (warning: unbelievably poignant):



Oh well. That's enough worrying for now. Long story short: high stress = not much time for really focused riding. I've been riding when I can, enjoying the splendor of the Red Barn for last few weeks I can, but besides that competitive goals are mostly tabled for the moment. I am T-minus 3 weeks until graduation as of today. Time to make the most of these last 21 days while I can (21 being, after all, my lucky number - surely an omen, right??).

(Meanwhile, my best friend at Stanford, Clare, got to ride my favorite school horse, Stanley - a match made in heaven!!!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

HUGE NEWS

Ok, so I've just gotten back from a whirlwind trip home and have many, many updates to share, but the biggest news has to come first. Remember about how I mentioned a few weeks (or months) ago about how I had a big announcement brewing but had to wait until everything was completely official? Well, last week the day finally came.

I HAVE A NEW HORSE!!!


Technically, he's more of an old horse that has come back. Black Brook's Kyote ('Ky') was one of the ponies that my parents bred when I was younger. I helped start him myself when he was a wee lad, and he was always my favorite of all the ponies we bred. I was absolutely heartbroken when he was sold, though he went on to be the absolutely perfect horse for his new owner and in retrospect it was definitely the best decision at the time. 

When his owner started vet school a few years ago, Ky came back to the farm to be leased out by a high school kid, which meant that I got to ride him occasionally over the holidays. I never stopped thinking that he was one of the coolest horses I had ever sat on, and would always throw hints that if his high school girl ever lost interest I'd be happy to take him off her hands...

This year his high school lessor is heading off to college, and it came time to decide what to do with him. His owner has now graduated vet school but is deep in the throes of the first years of being a practicing vet and doesn't have time to ride. So, in one of the most unbelievable things that has ever happened to me, Ky has been given to me. He's 14 years old this year; I don't think I've ever waited so long for something so wonderful in my entire life. I'm so, so happy.

Here's Ky on our second "official" ride together this past weekend:



He's a little out of shape at the moment (spring grass will do that to a pony!!) but man, is he fun to ride. The current plan is that he'll stay at the farm until the end of the summer when his current lessor leaves for school, and then he'll come join me. Excited already!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I Can't Remember all the Times I Try to Tell Myself...

...to hold onto these moments while they last.

With only five weeks until graduation (how on earth is that real???), I've been dealing with some mega Stanford nostalgia and have been trying to fit as much as possible into each of these last few days I have left.

So, today I got to sleep in (this is actually an exciting thing, as when will I ever get a chance to do it again??), go on a run with my friend around one of the most scenic parts of campus, chill outside in the suspiciously perfect weather and do work...


...and do this!

Yes!! Ringo and I jumped!! For the first time since he was injured almost two years ago! At the end of last summer the vet cleared him for light jumping (just never eventing again, due to the rigors of galloping over uneven terrain), but I pretty much ignored it as I was having so much fun with him in the dressage.

Today we were doing more of our relaxed tootling around bareback in the hackamore, and there was a promising looking pile of poles between a pair of standards in the main arena. We trotted over it a few times and he was excellent... then I decided to make it a little X. And he was so good!! We trotted it a few times, then picked up the canter and did a few times more. Ringo was absolutely wonderful and jumped it right out of stride every time. He was PUMPED and clearly very happy with himself. What a dude.

So, while I am still struggling with the realization that my time at this unbelievably amazing place is swiftly coming to a close, I am deeply comforted by days like today, which can only be described as AWESOME.

(Yet another gorgeous Red Barn sunset)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Change of Pace!

The last week has brought the first really hot weather of the year in Palo Alto, and with it has come a real case of Senioritis. So in that vein, Ringo and I have decided to have a little change of pace: this week, we ditched the dressage saddle and double bridle in favor of jumping tack and a hackamore, and have just been tootling around. It's been so fun! We cantered some poles a few days ago (for which Ringo was wild!! And very excited!!) and have been generally having a lot of fun rolling a lot faster and looser than has been the norm of late.

(Ray looooves his hackamore!)

I think Ringo also definitely enjoying himself; I had been noticing that he was falling just a litttttle bit more behind my leg from week to week with the constant drilling of test movements, and I think he was on the verge of getting a bit sour. For example, he was getting a little hoppy and pissy in the counter canter, which is usually one of his strong suits and something we practice a lot. Today in the jump tack, we made a dozen really beautiful, even, and forward figure 8s of true and counter canter without him falling behind my leg at all. Good man!


(Handsome Bear)

I'm thinking that next week we'll get back more into DQ mode. But in the meantime, the sun is out, the days are long, I've got a great horse... It's truly a wonderful life I lead.

(Another beautiful Red Barn sunset)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hossmoor: The Final Debrief

Sorry for the slight vent/rant over the past two posts; I needed it! I'm still super bummed with the way the show went, but am ready to get back up, dust myself off, and keep on moving forward. While I do think the judging was pretty whack, from watching the tape a few more times and trying to read between the generally unhelpful comments on my score sheets, there are some definite points of improvement to take away for next time.

Homework from Hossmoor:

BEND, BEND, BEND: One comment that came up a lot was "insufficient bend." I think this could be the source of the judge's insistence that Ringo was 'hollow' throughout. He definitely feels like he is bending beautifully for the most part when I ride him, but I think I need to exaggerate his suppleness even more to get it across to the judge. In both my half passes, for example, I started out with a nice bend, but sort of faded in the last few strides, so that the bend change when I got back on the rail wasn't super clear. The whole movement didn't actually lack bend, but for a judge looking for a nice crisp and obvious change of bend when I completed the movement it wasn't enough. The same goes for the shoulder in.


CONSERVATIVE COUNTS: My medium and extended gaits at both trot and canter suffered from me trying to go for broke, and then failing. In all cases, I would have benefited from a more conservative approach; I should keep schooling the really extravagant movements so that, with time, they'll become the norm, but in the meantime it is probably a wiser strategy to err on the side of safe and perfectly executed rather than bold and flubbed.


KNOW THY TEST: One of the things that really peeved me was the fact that the judge penalized me twice for making the same error without notifying me (which is not proper judging procedure). The easiest solution? REMEMBER THE TEST IN THE FIRST PLACE! The judge should have responded differently, but it wouldn't have been a problem at all if I had just circled in the correct place. I was banking on the ability to look my test up online on my phone one last time before I got on, only to find out that there was absolutely no service on the show grounds. Lesson learned: a paper copy will be coming with me to the next show!


OLYMPIANS DON'T WOBBLE: I was pretty darn put out by my rider score and think it was too harsh, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to improve in my position. I'm excited to keep up with my Western lessons, as I think they're really going to encourage the sort of lower core strength and stability that I need to sit deeply in the saddle without wobbling. Additionally, I tend to absorb a lot of movement into my leg, meaning that my lower leg bumps in rhythm to Ringo's trot. I asked Brian about this and he said it's normal, but my legs are so long, especially on Ringo's smaller barrel, such that it's really noticeable. I know dressage riders wear very stiff boots to make their lower leg look stiller; those aren't in the cards for me at the moment, so I'll just have to get even stronger in order to present a more controlled, not-floppy picture to the judge. 


So, a lot to work on! I feel so much better now that I've got somewhere constructive to move forward from; last night when I was very upset the show just felt like a total bust, and now it's not because I can use it to become better going forward.

I'm also going to try to build Ringo's fitness so that a second test isn't as unrealistic in the future as it was this weekend. I've been toying with the idea of trying to get into a show in Sacramento next weekend just to try to get that last Bronze medal score that I want sooooo badly, but I'm not decided yet. If not, my next show is only a month away, which will certainly fly given the speed at which this spring has progressed so far. 

Hossmoor: The Tale of the Tape

So this morning I went back and rewatched the tape of my 3rd level test from yesterday, along with the tape of me doing the same test and scoring 6+% higher last November. Watching them side by side confirmed what I thought before: Ringo looks BETTER now than he did then. This was a better test. He is much more cadenced and consistent in his tempo: in the November test, he quickened significantly in all the lateral work and got tense and stabby in the 10m circles, where yesterday he maintained a solid rhythm throughout his trot work.

As for the 'hollowness' that the judge dinged me on pretty much everywhere (and wrote a cutting little note about in the collective remarks), I honestly think he looks significantly more connected and through his back now than he did six months ago, where the judge was glowing about his throughness. The difference in the quality of his trot alone is a pretty strong indicator that we're moving in the right direction. There are a few moments where his underneck muscle comes out (which would indicate hollowness), but they are few and far between, where there were entire movements in the November test where he was resistant.

If I am critical of my riding, there were a few flaws. My elbows were sticking out through a lot of the trot work and my wrists are a little awkwardly cocked at times - maybe this is what the judge saw as being 'aggressive'? My sitting is following but at times I do look a little loose with my upper body - Ringo's trot has actually become a lot bigger and more expressive of late, and I have to up the quality of my sitting even more to keep up with him. Still, I never once smacked on his back or flopped around like a potato sack. The 5 on rider I received was unbelievably harsh, and not merited.

I've taken some super sketchy photos of the video to illustrate what I'm talking about (huge apologies to the unbelievably low quality/tentative legality of these pictures... I wouldn't normally do this, but I feel the need to vindicate myself):

 (Not hollow!)

 (I got a 6 on this movement with the comment "needs to reach out to bridle." Umm... what.)

 (OK, this is a real mistake - there is way too much angle in this shoulder in.)

 (Does this look like a leg yield? No. It is clearly a half pass, and not deserving of a 5.)

 (Towards the end of the movement. Haunches trail a hair, but still most definitely a half pass.)

 (How is this supposed to be hollow and unengaged, again??)

 (This was about the worst moment I could find in the trot: the underneck is showing and he's a little behind the vertical. However, the base of his neck is still filled out, his shoulders are still lifting, and his hind end is clearly engaged: look at that hind leg step! A horse that was truly hollow here would NOT be tracking up like that.)

 (Again, how does this look like a leg yield??? It is clearly a half pass, and not a shabby one at that.)

 (oh hey, still not a leg yield...)

 (Oh hey, STILL not a leg yield...)

 (NOT A LEG YIELD. Definitely a half pass!!)

 (Umm... why was this a 5? He's unbelievably square, relaxed out to the bridle, slightly in front of the vertical, and had excellent immobility. What.)

 (Ringo's bomb extended walk, which did, to the judge's credit, get a 7)

 (My 'hollow' canter... yeah. ok.)

 (Again... what is supposed to be wrong with this, again?)

 (Right after our beautiful, but admittedly slightly early, change, which got a 5 for being hollow. Again... WHAT.)

 (Ok, another admitted mistake here: his haunches came WAYY in during the extended canter, and it wasn't our best effort there. I would have happily accepted a lower score here if I thought the judging elsewhere was on mark.)

 (This is about as bad as I could find in the canter. Still, the way he's sitting on his hind end, lifting his shoulder, and stepping wayyy underneath himself with the inside hind makes a pretty difficult argument for him not being engaged.)

 (We got a 4 on this movement because he lost his balanced and took two quick steps over the centerline - it was, other than that mistake, the best extended trot I've ever felt on Ringo. I've had other tests where I've broken to canter over the centerline and still scored a 5 (this time when that happened in the first medium, I got a 3), so a 4 seems harsh for literally two steps of lesser quality trot that I recovered from nicely.)

 (NOT. HOLLOW.)

(My only other 7 of the test, besides my extended walk. At least we ended positively!)

So... I'm confused. And certainly will never ride for this judge. Ever. Again. Oh well; live and learn!

(Ray looking handsome and keeping an eye on the warmup)

Dressage at Hossmoor

So... that was not good.

Today was my first show with Ringo in exactly 6 months, since our very successful debut at 3rd level (with a confident win and 64% in a bigger class) last November. I went into this show knowing we would be a bit rusty but also tentatively confident that the improvement I've been feeling in the past few weeks and months would cross over into our test and at least give us that coveted 60+% that would give us our last score for our Bronze Medal. It's unbelievable how much better Ringo looks and feels now compared to then (with Brian and other outside sources agreeing), so I was excited to show him off.

Well, that didn't end up happening. I showed two tests today--3rd level test 1 and 4th level test 1--and got 58.5% and 53.4%, respectively. The 53% is officially the worst score Ringo and I have ever gotten as a partnership, and included a 4.5 in the collective Rider marks. Ouch. The judge, to put it briefly, hated us. I was extremely proud of my 3rd level test, and thought it was wayyyyy better than the test I'd done in November that had garnered a 64%. I'd made one bigger mistake in the first medium trot where he'd broken for a stride, but other than that was quite happy. I walked away almost certain that I'd broken 60%.

That did not end up happening. I am extremely loathe to blame the judging (when usually my riding more than suffices to explain any shortcomings) but this was rather ridiculous. The judge dinged me on pretty much every movement for Ringo being "hollow," where Brian had specifically commented in my lesson YESTERDAY how not hollow he was and how beautifully he was working over his back. He also feels and looks the most engaged I've ever had him, so I am more likely to believe Brian's assessment. She also claimed that my half passes were leg yields, whereas I have video evidence that proves they were not.

Additionally, I messed up the location of my 10m canter circle in the first direction, but then because I was not stopped for an error assumed that I had done it in the right place and so did it in the reciprocal place in the opposite direction. When I got my test back, I saw that I had been given a 4 on both movements with the comment "circle at wrong letter." THIS IS INCORRECT JUDGING. The judge must either ring the rider for an error of course the first time or not penalize the rider at all; it is not fair to penalize the rider for an error twice without notifying him or her. Being correctly assessed for this mistake alone could have potentially pushed me into the coveted 60% territory, so it is embittering to have the judge score wrongly. To top it off, I was given a 5 on rider with the comment that I was riding 'too aggressively.' I don't even know what that means - I certainly wasn't overly spurring, jabbing, or catching Ringo in the mouth, so have a hard time understanding what she meant.

I came back for my 4th level test just for the sake of getting the experience, and kind of wish I hadn't. Ringo was pretty much cooked and not nearly as willing to play along as he had been in his first test, with the result that he was quite difficult to control, especially in the canter, and ended up swapping out early in one direction and being realllllly difficult to manage in the other. I knew that it wasn't going to score great, but was still somewhat mortified to get a 53%, with a 4.5 on Rider. I honestly believe I did not deserve that score. I sat well and guided my hot and cranky horse as well as I possibly could have; I wasn't flopping, wasn't bashing my horse in the teeth, and wasn't almost falling off, which is what I think would be necessary to deserve handing out a 4.5 on Rider. It was a low blow to finish out the day with.

Going forward and with crappy judging aside, if I am honest with myself the second test was a mistake, and 4th level is still definitely at the very limits of our ability. The two things definitely should not be combined. I'm going to enter my next show exclusively at 3rd level with one test per day, and really focus on bringing that Bronze medal home. Then, the 4th level can come from there.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Don't Let Old Glory Wave, Plus Troubleshooting with Brian

In the past two days I've had two extremely helpful lessons that have really worked me, mentally and physically, and that I think will give me some great homework going forward. The weird thing is that I'm not sure the two lessons could be any more different! Last night I had my first real Western lesson (I've ridden Western a few times before, as chronicled here and here, but have have never really had any formal instruction), and then this morning I had a great dressage lesson on Ringo with Brian Sabo. Though the horses, instructors, tack, and ways of going were all vastly different from one to the next, I really enjoyed both and hopefully took away some good things to think about for my riding in general.

(Me and Master)

For my Western lesson, I rode a little quarter horse named Master. Master is (in)famous in the PE classes I teach for being unbelievably lazy, to the point where it took one girl 9 weeks of lessons to figure out how to kick him hard enough to get him to jog. Despite that, he actually has quite an illustrious past, having won over $100,000 as a big-time reiner back in his youth. Mysterious. All I know is that he is teeny tiny (15hh would be a bold estimate of his size), extremely downhill, and extremely cute.

(Master is adorable! And not large)

Right from the beginning, my instructor really nailed my on being too loose and fluid with my torso. As she put it: 'you don't want your upper body to be waving like Old Glory' (this is probably the most patriotic riding metaphor I've ever heard - AWESOME). This is one of the biggest critiques I get in dressage, and apparently in Western it is even more important to have a solid, unmoving upper body. This tendency became especially pronounced in the lope, where, in an attempt to keep Master from trantering due to his extreme laziness, I found myself scooping with my seat and pumping with my upper body. Tsk tsk tsk!! Bad Kate!! It was a massive workout for me to really concentrate on lengthening my body, wrapping my leg around, and keeping my hips and lower torso as still as possible, and while I certainly didn't figure it out completely by the end of the lesson, I did feel definitely improvement.

The biggest lightbulb came when I really used my upper thigh to anchor myself into the saddle. This was a direct parallel of the lightbulb I had with Kiki at the beginning of this year after watching Mary Wanless tapes, and so I know that it will be key as I keep trying to improve my sitting trot. I just wasn't strong enough to hold it for longer than a few strides at a time! I'm planning on taking a Western lesson every week for the rest of the school year, and I'm really really excited. Western is fun!!

 Then, this morning I had a private lesson with Brian. I came into it with three very specific things that I wanted to work on: medium/extended trot, turn on the haunches, and reinback. For most of my other work I by no means have everything perfect (by a long shot!), but I do generally feel like I have a good idea of what I should be working on and so have a plan of attack that I'm pretty happy with. With these three trouble areas, though, I've been a little lost. I've tried a lot of different stuff and just haven't gotten great results, and was getting worried that I was developing a bit of a mental block about them. So, given that I only get one real private lesson on Ringo about once every few months these days, I thought it would be best to really troubleshoot the big issues while I could.

And man, Brian is amazing!! We really had big improvement in all three areas. Some take aways for each thing we worked on:

Medium/Extended trot: basically the problem I've been having is that I've been very successful in getting Ringo to sit more and be more loadbearing on his hind end, but haven't really felt the reciprocal lightness in the forehand that this is supposed to bring. Brian had me play with carrying my hands much higher than I normally would (while still maintaining a positive, not pulling, connection to the bridle) to try to encourage him to lift his head and neck, while really focusing on not losing the connection at the base of the neck and withers. We added this in while in a very collected, almost half-step feeling trot, then asked for a few steps of medium with the front end still lifted. What a difference! The first few times I could really feel both of our tendency to lower in front and dive forward - carrying my hands higher really kept me honest in insisting that the front end stay elevated and the power come from behind. Brian was also very complimentary with Ringo's super collected trot, which is getting very strong. Good boy, Ray!

Turn on the Haunches: we started by doing small (5m) circles in haunches in, focusing on keeping the tempo of the walk going and keeping the shoulders moving. As he got better, I could try to risk making the circle smaller and smaller until he was performing an actual walk pirouette. Then, we carried that same feeling into the half turn along the rail. Very effective.

Reinback: Brian had me start making a 5 loop serpentine at trot. Every time I crossed the centerline, I was to halt and reinback, thus avoiding potential stressful arena locations like the walls or ends of the ring. Brian stressed to me the importance of patience; once halted, I needed to quietly vibrate with my leg until he yielded his back, and ONLY THEN ask for the reinback. Any sooner, and the result was not pretty. Ringo is prone to getting a little panicked in this exercise. Brian reminded me that it was way better to have a painfully long and immobile halt and a good reinback than a brief halt and a crappy reinback. Take a deep breath and wait it out.

Basically, the lesson was awesome. I wish I could have more!! If only this state weren't so stupidly large and southern California (where Brian lives) wasn't like EIGHT HOURS away from Stanford! Oh well. I also wish I had some photos from today, especially since I'm pretty sure there's a fine line between doing it right and doing it incredibly wrong with the high hand technique we worked on. I'm working very hard to make some good mental images instead; hopefully my memory will serve me well for the next month or so until I can see Brian again!

 I also got a few more photos from Nationals, this time from the girls on the Cal Poly dressage team. Unlike the pro photos, which I was pretty lukewarm on, these are awesome! As I'm usually the one behind the camera, I'm always extremely appreciative when I get to be on the other side of the lens =) Here they are:

 (skipping across the diagonal - not clear what I'm looking at, but no matter haha)

 (Showing off for the judge)

 (mid leg yield)

 (15m canter circle)

 (I think this is supposed to be a medium trot - whoops! Not looking particularly medium!)

(Medium canter - wahoo! I probably should've tried to make the balance a squeak more uphill, haha)

(California represent! All the California riders who qualified: the Cal Poly team, an individual from UC Davis, and myself)
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