Fix-a-test test…

So I have a fix-a-test coming up next weekend that I am very excited about. It is at a farm that is right in between Gen’s and Lucky’s so it is close and it is a judge who is new to the area and who is doing a lot of shows this year. The fix-a-test is actually a fund raiser for on of my GMO’s youth, but since I am on the youth committee and there is a space left they are letting me ride J

I think a fix-a-test is exactly what I need right now so I am thrilled with the timing and that they are letting me in. What I am not thrilled about right now is having to pick a test to do. I have no direction this year. No hopes for year end awards. No idea where I belong and what I should be doing. That makes it hard to pick a test. I ALWAYS have goals in mind for show season. This year, I don’t even know how much I want to show. Here is what I am thinking with all of the tests…

Intro C – The weenie part of me wants to just do this test. Not only is the test short, but there is not a lot of canter in it. Since our biggest issue right now is canter transitions, it is not like I am completely avoiding the issue…just mostly avoiding it. I know that it would be a cop out to do this test, but I am thinking about it.

Training 1 – I think that realistically this is the test that I am going to end up doing. There is plenty of canter in it, but it is on curved lines which we do better with. It is also the test I think that I will be showing the most at this year. It will give us a lot to work on that will be relevant for our showing this year. This is where Lucky and I are at, but I am having a bit of a hard time accepting that…

Training 2 – Since I can no longer show at Intro, if I want to be doing two tests at a show this must be one of them. I don’t feel ready for this test after our disastrous first show of the season, but I have a feeling that the reason I feel this way is more of a confidence issue than any real difference in this test compared to training 1. I also kind of want to do this test because the stretchy circle is directly after the right lead canter, which is impossible for us right now. It would be nice to get some input and exercises to try and improve that. This is also the test my trainer said we should do after my lesson this weekend.

Training 3 – I have had a mental block about this test since the new tests came out. I am one score away from getting my GMO bronze medals and have been for years. I just can’t seem to get head on straight about this test. This test is also challenging for me right now so it would be great to get the help of a professional on it. This test would be a total reach right now because my confidence is so low with it. I want to do this test for purely selfish reasons, which wouldn’t be fair to Lucky.

So I am leaning towards training 1, but I am just not 100% sure what I want to do right now. I don’t have a whole lot of time to figure it out either! What to do, what to do???

Thursday Night Show – Part 1

So I know that you all are wondering how my show went on Thursday…Well…it went.

As I mentioned in my post the day of the show, we were expecting strong Thunderstorms that night. They also put out a floor warning because we were expecting so much precipitation. All day at work my co-workers were laughing at me because when there would be a sudden downpour outside I would make a face and yell at the weather. When I got out of work on time (victory number 1 of the day right there) it was cloudy, but not raining. On the 45 minute drive up to the barn I was pleasantly surprised to see that the clouds were lightening. By the time I got to my trailer I had hopes of a rain free day.

Since I am OCD about getting Gen sick, I only see him before horse shows, not after. Since I was in a time crunch I hooked up the trailer and just went out to his field to give him some attention. After 10 minutes of him telling me how horrible his day was (it was buggy, hot AND humid! Poor Gen) I left to go get Lucky ready. The weather was still okay when I got to Lucky’s, but my gut told me not to open up the trailer just yet. I decided to instead get Lucky ready and keep my fingers crossed.

About 5 minutes after my arrival at Lucky’s the skys opened up to a pouring rain. I still had nearly 2 hours until my test at that time so I choose to be optimistic that it would clear up before my ride, but some serious doubt was setting in. By the time I had Lucky clean and ready to show not only was it pouring, but there was now thunder and lightening. I was 10 minutes away from my wanting to load time and decided against tacking Lucky up. As the Young Rider arrived at the barn I was pouring over satellite images of the storm to see what was going to happen.

With a red cell above us giving us massive amounts of Thunder, lighting and rain, things were not looking good. I told my trainer and Lucky’s Owner that I was going to scratch and just hugged my Lucky looking for her to comfort my sad self. Lucky kept looking at the Young Rider like “My Mommy has gone crazy, fix her”. I was sooooooo sad. I just needed to do one Thursday night show in order to qualify for the Thursday night championship. It is so hard to show after work, this was the only time I thought could pull it off. To have the weather be the reason it wasn’t going to happen was just so frustrating.

To be Continued…

Horse Show Tonight (yes, another one…)

So I am doing a Thursday Night Show tonight after work. I have a meeting that goes right till the end of my work day today, so I am hoping it doesn’t run over because the last thing I need to be worried about is time! We are also expecting severe thunderstorms tonight. You know the storms that produced all those crazy tornados in Oklahoma? They are coming my way tonight. Hopefully I can get my two tests in before they hit. In my old age I am not willing to ride in crazy weather.

I am not willing to die for two dressage tests. Well, if I could do two perfect Grand Prix tests and be in the 90%s that might be a different story…but not with how my scores and tests have been as of late!

I guess it is technically one dressage test since I am riding Intro C HC again so it doesn’t count for anything.

I had signed up for this show when I was thinking year end awards. Now I am not really sure why I am doing it except that I already paid for it and I know that Lucky and I need to just keep on going out and showing until we are both comfortable. Plus the Young Rider is home so I will get to be off the property with help again, which is a good thing. It is always nice to have someone to coach you from the rail, especially when you don’t feel confident in your own abilities at the moment.

So here is what I want to accomplish tonight:

1) I want to feel comfortable enough to canter in my warm up

2) I want to get both canter transitions at Intro C. We have been having issues getting a good transition in enough time since your whole canter “series” is on a 20 meter circle in that test.

3) Let go in the canter at training 1. This is what the last judge got mad at me for. I need to trust Lucky, even if the canter is ugly. Better to have an ugly canter than to piss off your horse.

4) Not have a reader. I was babied on Saturday, I don’t want to have a reader this time around! I need to know my tests, they only have like 10 movements so it really isn’t that hard!

5) Actually enjoy the tests. The first two shows of this year I have been gritting instead of smiling for part of my tests. This is supposed to be fun! If I am not having fun, why am I even bothering to do it?

So we will see how tonight goes. I need to remember to give Lucky plenty of time to look around and relax before I get on her. Hopefully mother nature will allow that to happen!

The second horse show of the year -part 2

As Lucky and I went in to the warm up I could feel her tense up. I took a deep breath and reminded myself to stay relaxed, and sure enough after a few reassuring nose to arm touches Lucky let out a big sigh and relaxed again. She did like to pick up her head and stare at herself in the mirrors, but I can’t blame her, she is very adorable! I didn’t let her stop and look (see…I can learn new things too) but instead focused on getting her lazy left hind to track up. Eventually she started to pay attention to me too just as my trainer came in.

It was my turn to let out a big sigh. I might not have had a lesson in 7 months, but my trainer has known me for so long and is a good horse person herself that she jumped right in and set Lucky and I to work. Our warm up was fantastic. My trainer had me focus on being clear with my signals to Lucky and being super steady. Of course Lucky loved the fact that I was totally focused on her and started to show off by getting a bigger trot. I wasn’t even thinking about my tests when we did a lovely canter in the warm up. In fact, as my trainer told me it was time to go in I wasn’t even sure I wanted to ride a test.

My whole goal for the day was to get Lucky and I to feel more confident cantering off the property, and that goal was already met. A fellow student and friend was there and she encouraged me to do the test anyway. My warm up might not have been as beautiful last time, but I still had a nice warm up and a not so nice test so I needed to just do it.

I asked my trainer to read the first test for me, more as a security blanket than anything else. The show ring is right along the driveway so as I went to check in I tried to think about the fact I was hearing trailers being closed up. Of course as soon as I went down the centerline a trailer came by, banging around causing Lucky to look over. I took a breath and pushed her on, reminding her that she wasn’t allowed to stop and look at things anymore. My first test was okay. Not great, but not terrible either. We had 3 trailers total come swinging by during the 4 minute test, but I didn’t let her look and she wasn’t too worried about them. Our canter to the right was actually much better than our canter to the left. To the left she didn’t even pick it up at all. She threw herself on the forehand and started to scramble so I made the executive decision to not worry about the canter. The whole test she got heavier and heavier and more and more on the forehand. It was a good reality check about my reliance on figures, clearly I need to work more on getting her back to front on straight lines!

When I went up to the judge to get comments she was really nice. She wanted me to be firmer with Lucky (duh) and gave me a good canter exercise to do at home. She did make the comment that my horse was challenging to ride and inattentive, but no bashing of my riding which was cool for once. I only had 15 minutes before my next test so after wishing luck to the woman after me I quickly went back to the indoor to get Lucky more off my leg.

We did lots of transitions and lateral work in the 10 minutes between tests and before I knew it, training level test 1 was upon us. I sheepishly asked my trainer to read for me again and went back to the ring. Our first centerline was amazing. I got Lucky under herself and we got a nice square halt. As we turned the first corner Lucky started to get heavy. Clearly she was tried and need to move forward. I didn’t have a whip with me and my 10 minute schooling had clearly not done the trick because she started to ignore my leg again. I fought to get her back on the trot circle without much success and our first canter transition was yucky.

I started asking her to come back to the trot too early and lost some points on that, and the stretchy trot was yucky because Lucky went down, but not down and forward. Lucky’s gas tank was running on E. By the time we asked for the canter to go to the right she was ready to be done. She surged forward in the transition and threw her face up in the air. My first thought was “shit, she is never going to trot again” so I tried to bring her back to my aids. She did not like that at all, and ignored me cause me to start with my death grip again. As we started up the long side I took a breath and told myself to relax…and I did. My arms lightened and of course that made Lucky relax.

We were almost done with the canter at that point but out last half circle was really nice. I was sooooooo proud of myself that I had let go of my tension that the rest of the test was just cake. I was so proud of myself when I went up to the judge for comments that I was shocked when she was annoyed with me. She told me that I needed to not pull on my horses face and use her for balance at the canter. She comments what a good horse Lucky was and how I needed to get better. She pointed out how much better Lucky was once I relaxed. The real kicker…she told me I need to trust my horse.

I do trust Lucky. I don’t think she is going to kill me at the canter. Worst case scenario is that she might not trot when I ask her, but that is a far cry on being taken away with. I got what she was saying though and just hadn’t thought about it that way. My arm tension was a fundamental lack of trust. What the judge didn’t realize was that it wasn’t my trust in Lucky I was worried about, it was my trust of myself. I don’t think I am a good enough rider to get Lucky back. I know she will come back when I ask her correctly, I just don’t always feel like I am capable of asking her correctly. I know that doesn’t really make sense, I just don’t know how else to say it…

I was proud of myself for letting go at the canter, even though according to the judge I didn’t do it soon enough. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it at all, so regardless of the comments I was thrilled. I also got a massive complement from my trainer. She said (and I am quoting it because I was proud), “All your issues are new issues. Last time I saw you guys you had a lot to fix, and you did it. You fixed all the issues you had in the fall. We are going to be starting over on a whole bunch of new, more challenge issues. That is how I can tell you guys have been working hard”.

When the scores came out they were about what I had expected. I got a 53.something% on Intro C and a 55.something% at Training 1. Pretty ugly, but not unexpected. What was unexpected was that when they placed my training 1 class of 8, my very low score was good enough for 4th place, which meant the judge was also a tough judge. We ended up in the middle of the pack. I was shocked. My tests were 1,000% better than the week before, but Lucky and I still have a very long way to go. It was nice to know that even though we are far away from I think we should be, we were actually not that far away from everyone else. I left the show feeling very encouraged, minus my mental meltdown later that night. Lucky and I are just no good at dressage, but we were at least a heck of a lot better than we were the week before.

The second horse show of the year – Part 1

I had gotten in touch with the show manager that Saturday afternoon after the first show to see if she would let me drop my tests down to Intro C and Training Level test 1. She had gotten back to me in less than 24 hours saying that not only was that totally fine, she was not even going to charge me a fee to change them. I was starting to get a good feeling about the show. Add in two more amazing rides at home on Lucky and things were starting to look up…until the times came out.

They were posted late Thursday night, which is way late for a Saturday show, and they had me down for training 2 and training 3…like the e-mail had never happened at all. I told myself not to freak out. I e-mailed her right away asking to change my tests again. Could Lucky and I do training 2&3, maybe, but they wouldn’t have been done well. I really wasn’t comfortable doing those tests and I really, really needed this to be a good show. When I still hasn’t heard back from the show manager by 7pm on Friday I tired calling. No one picked up, but I left a message. I had spent the week learning Intro C and Training 1, and was trying not to stress about not knowing the Training 2&3 tests that well.

As soon as I had seen the times I sent a panicked text to my trainer freaking out about how Lucky and I weren’t ready for Training 2&3. My trainers farm is literally right down the road from the show so she told me not to panic, she was going to try and move some lessons around so she could come out and help me. The only thing that kept me calm about the tests was that my trainer was going to be able to be there at the show. No matter what tests I rode she would be there and help Lucky and I out. With her help there was no way that this show could be as bad as the last one, which was a very comforting thought.

On the morning of the show I woke up early enough to braid Lucky so between that and a last minute scrub with quick silver of her socklets she looked amazing as we loaded up on to the trailer. She had been screaming on the cross ties while I got her ready so I was starting to get nervous on the drive to the show that her off property confidence was gone. The show is only 15 minutes away, all back roads, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to try and calm myself down. I have shown at this place before, two owners ago, so I knew parking was going to be tricky. Just how tricky became apparent as I drove in. I had to back in to a spot next the trash dumpster. Lucky for Lucky and I, I have to back in my trailer space at Gen’s so I am used to it. I backed it, turned off the truck and just sat for a moment telling myself to breath.

Lucky was silent in the trailer as I gathered myself so I went back to check on her and make she was okay. I opened the trailer door and Lucky looked back at me with such concern. I felt terrible I really had killed her confidence last weekend. I decided to just stay with her for a few minutes and tell her how good she was before checking in. She needed that extra chill time with me on the trailer. After a few minutes and lots of praise later she was settled down enough to eat her hay.

When I went to check in I found a smiling show secretary ready and waiting for me. She gave me number 119 and asked me to change who the check was made out to. I asked her about the tests. She looked a little guilty and was like “sure we can change your tests, but since it is the day of you are going to have to ride HC for Intro C. We will still give you a ribbon, it just wont count towards year ends”. You know me and my ribbons, so while I was questioning if I had made up the whole e-mailing the show secretary the week before, I happily agreed to ride HC. In fact, I was so concerned about having a good day that I would have happily ridden Intro C HC even without a ribbon just to make sure Lucky and I had a good test.

I took Lucky off the trailer to chill out before I got on and stood watching some of the tests. I hadn’t given Lucky time to chill out and look around at the last show, and I think that was a huge mistake. This time she came off the trailer okay, but concerned, but after watching a few tests and just hanging out she felt like her normal self as I went to finish tacking her up to get on. I wanted to get her to the warm up ASAP since it was an indoor and she has only been in an indoor a few times in her life.

To Be Continued…

Irrational

Be forewarned, I am having a moment…It is 5:30 am on a Sunday morning and I didn’t sleep well.

I will post on yesterday’s show ASAP, but I wanted to get something out first. Contrary to what this post might lead you to believe this weekends show was much better. I am about to launch in to a full on pitty party for one with lots of irrational anger involved. I am struggling at the moment. You see, at this moment I HATE dressage. HATE IT.

I think the reason I hate it so much is because I am just no good at it at all.

I suck at dressage. I always have, and I am starting to think that I just always will. I have been riding dressage for over a decade and I am still terrible at it. Like TERRIBLE. I start to get delusional and think that I am getting better at it, but then reality comes knocking and I realize that I just as terrible now as I once started. Except now I know how terrible I am which makes things even worse.

When I first started I didn’t know a shoulder in from a half pass. Now I do, but am still not able to execute them well.

I wanted to riding training level this year. FREAKING TRAINING LEVEL. I didn’t think I was reaching for the moon. Over a decade in to dressage and I can’t even manage training level. That is truly just pathetic. It makes me sick to even think about it. I know people who are in a similar situation, but they don’t really work at it. They claim to ride dressage, but don’t take lessons, read books, go to clinics or show. They are allowed to be a decade in and not yet at training level. I have done all of the above and more. I have spent countless hours and dollars trying to get better.

I think this year I finally realized that I am just no good at it. I know that everyone says “dressage is a journey, not a destination” but if a person had any skill at all their journey wouldn’t take them 10+ years to get to training level! Not when they have been consistently working at it.

I cannot even tell you all the things I have given up to pursue my love of riding. I used to love dressage. I could watch tests for hours, dreaming that someday I would be able to do that myself. Reality is that I wont be able to. Are there sucky riders out there at high levels? Of course, but they have something I don’t…enough money to make it happen.

I suck at being focused, a necessity for dressage. I have worked so hard at it though. I could understand not getting better when I was only working on my dressage in lessons, but since riding Lucky I have been so incredibly focused. I make Lucky work even when I would rather be going for a hack. I work hard between my lessons. I have to face the facts though, Lucky is a difficult horse for me to ride. She is improving leaps and bounds, but I am getting worse.

I find Lucky to be a very challenging horse to ride. We just don’t click naturally. Over the past two years we have been able to gain chemistry, but it has taken time.

I have worked so, so hard to improve my riding. I want something to show for it. I have nothing to show for it though. I am getting worse. Each horse that I have ridden since Gen got hurt has had its own set of challenges. People are not going to let you lease a perfectly trained horse for not a lot of money, they are going to let you lease something unbroken, or injured, or green.

I started to think about it and I got really mad. At first I got mad at myself for being a bad rider. I knew dressage was impossible for me, yet I had to try and take on the challenge anyway. What the hell was I thinking? This is something that I can NEVER be good at. I sucked at it when I started and I will continue to suck at dressage forever. Then I got mad about all the money and time I have put in to so many horses for the past 6 years and I started to get mad at Gen.

This is all his fault. Gen loved me enough to hide my shitty riding. He would cover for me. If things had worked out the way that they were supposed to I would be showing 3rd level by now. We were going to do training level in 2006, in fact we did one show and we did well, and then he broke. Why did he have to break? He was being an idiot in his field. He didn’t need to be such a show off! He was running around way too fast and he hurt himself and he is never going to be all the way better.

It is his fault I can’t afford a well trained horse. It is his fault that I have to make time for two horses. It is his fault that I am getting worse. When I rode him I was getting better, but now I can’t ride him and IT IS ALL HIS FAULT FOR GETTING HURT.

Horse Park of NJ 006

I love loved Lexi, and Phoenix and Lucky, but not the same way that I love Gen. It is like some kind of joke that I found a horse that was so easy for me ride only to have that taken away. If I was always terrible at dressage I think it would be easier for me to walk away. Gen teased me that maybe I could do it, so realizing that I just can’t is just…frustrating.

I know Gen didn’t mean to hurt himself. I know that it was my choice to save him and keep him, and that is a choice I don’t regret at all. I just hate that this is how it is all turning out. I don’t remember my dreams very often, but I have a stupid reoccurring one where Gen miraculously gets better and he helps me earn my USDF bronze medal. I have always wanted a fairy tale ending, the kind of story that people want to read in a book.

I know that is naive, childish even. But sometimes I am just not a very rational person. Take now for example. I am in full on temper tantrum mode.

I am going to end this pity party and be grateful for all that I do have, even if talent at riding is not something I posses. Tomorrow I will write up the show, which was better than expected, and start to figure what the hell Lucky and I can do since clearly it isn’t dressage.

 

The First Horse Show of 2013 – Part 4

I knew as soon as I walked out of the ring that nothing was going to be gained by doing my second test. So many people had scratched though that there was only 5 people in my class. 5! That meant a guaranteed ribbon…and we all know how I love my ribbons! I wanted one so badly, but as we walked back to the warm up Lucky stayed in ball of tension mode. I knew before I even walked back in to the warm up that I had to scratch my second test. It wasn’t fair to Lucky. It is one thing to push through when you have a tense horse and you are riding well, but I was riding TERRIBLY. The worst I have ridden in a long, long time…and it is not like I ride that well in general. I brought her back in to the warm out of hope that she would relax, but I knew that as soon as she did I would call it a day. I tried to just walk her around, I tried to give her a long rein, I tried to use her training to get her to focus on me. I did get her body back and listening to me, but her mind was elsewhere at this point. I had fried my poor ponies brain and with my rider suckyness I couldn’t get her back. We went up to watch tryingtorides second test and I decided to stay on her just to see if just watching someone else and relaxing myself would help her.

 

Unlike before our first test, Lucky had now decided there was a boggy man in the field behind us. She would spin around trying to get a better look at it. I knew know that my days of letting her look at things had to stop so I kept turning her towards the ring again. It was a very stressful 5 minutes of me turning her back and her spinning around again. I finally decided that it she could just face the ring for 10 seconds that would have to be good enough. Eventually she managed to stop trying to find the boogy man behind her long enough that I got off. I had to hand walk her back to the trailer, and even with me on ground she was convinced she saw monsters. The great thing about Lucky is that she doesn’t spook, so even though she was clearly distressed and stressed out, she was manageable. We did need to do a lesson on personal space on the way back, but just like when I was riding her she was trying to not be crazy.

 

I untacked in record time and was looking at her hot self debating if I should take the 3/4 of a mile drive back to the farm and cool her off or try and the show grounds when Lucky did something I have never seen her do. She shook her head so hard that the lead rope I had been loosely holding while I put stuff away popped out. Were at the back of the trailer and Lucky trotted right up the ramp on to her spot. She had gone so fast my first reaction was that she was going to fall, my second was to laugh. I know that was a very bad training moment, but in her defense she is supposed to self load when we are at the back of the trailer and I do let go of the lead when it is time to load up. Dom did teach her to do that, it is just that normally I know I am asking for her to do it! I thought about backing her off and making her wait, but she literally let out a massive sigh and started eating her hay…I just didn’t have the heart to stress her out. I said goodbye to trying to ride and went back to the farm to cool her out and hose her off.

 

Even back at the barn she was tense, which is so not like her. I started to get really upset, and even started to cry that I had ruined everything. At the end of last year Lucky LOVED to show. All winter I had worked on getting her to listen to my body and in the one ride when she really needed me to be there to feel secure I totally stopped riding from the chest down and turned in to a giant handsy mess. Lucky might have been a little tense, but that bad ride was ALL my fault. I took my time making she she was cooled out before I turned her out again. As soon as the halter came off she took off away from me, something she never does. I ruined everything, Lucky didn’t even like me anymore.

 

I went back to pick up my tests and was not surprised I came in last. I took my pink ribbon and my test, but was surprised by my score. I got a 57.86%. I wasn’t even 10% away from 1st place. The ride had felt like a 40%, so I was honestly shocked that I broke 50%. When I read through the test I was shocked to see lots of 6.5’s. The comments were spot on and things like “unbalanced rider”, “too much from hand” and about 10 different ways to say how tense and resistant Lucky was, but none of them was cruel. Every comment was accurate and she even had some nice things to say like rhythmical, and straight. She even gave us an 8 on our second center line with the comment of beautifully square halt. That is why I like to show dressage, not only do you get feedback, but each movement is scored on its own accord. In the summary comments she even said “attractive horse with potential”. I let Lucky down. A lot. I rode terribly. Lucky wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t deserve to be treated the way I rode her.

 

It was our first time off the property in months, Lucky was in heat, there were massive thunderstorms that afternoon, I wasn’t feeling 100% and about a dozen other reasons why we may not have had a good day. I don’t know. I have another show this Saturday (the close ones are all right by each other this year!) so I immediately went home and e-mailed the secretary to see if I could drop down to Intro C and Training 1 (she got back to me right away saying I could). I am going to try and bring someone with me to remind me how to ride in case I forget. I also signed up for a fix-a-test clinic. My big fear that I shattered Lucky’s confidence and ruined all the hard work I put in to training her this winter. I will never forgive myself if I did that. All I can do now is get better and use this as a learning experience.

 

The First Horse Show of 2013 – Part 3

We didn’t keep it together for the rest of the ride though. As Lucky felt more and more stressed about the boggy monsters outside the ring I rode her stronger, but not better. Our first trot circle my focus was just to keep her at the trot because she wanted to break to the canter. The higher her head went the more my hands became like human side reins. I got her to listen to me for the second half of our trot circle and had hopes that we would still be okay when we headed back towards A. Whatever she was seeing was still there and she totally ignored my seat and legs, which of course made me go super handsy, which made her just block me out. It was UGLY, and I was ridding TERRIBLY! The more I used my hands, the worse my riding got. By the time I went to switch my diagonal on the change of rein part I basically slammed myself in to her in a last ditch attempt to get some reaction out of her. She did react…by shaking her head from side to side.

 

What I should have done was sit back, relax my arms, and stop fighting Lucky. Instead I tilted forward which took away my seat, let my legs bang her instead of a gentle squeeze at some weak attempt at forward, and shortened her already way too short for training level neck. Even just writing this disgust me. Lucky might have been having a hard time, but I was doing everything wrong and just making it worse and worse as the ride went out. Our first canter wasn’t terrible, she even came back to the trot when I asked her, but I had no connection, no roundness, no suppleness, no forward, and no flexibility. I tried to show a stretch during the stretch circle and that was really the beginning of the end. She threw herself on the forehand and started breathing like a dragon. Even our free walk was a mess of her taking choppy strides and shaking her head.

 

Picking her up after the free walk was a disaster. I literally was yanking at poor Lucky’s mouth at the same time as giving her leg. My poor Lucky was already stressed and now she was completely confused. The only good thing I can say about the whole walk series is that we didn’t end up breaking. So by this point in the test I have a choke hold on her mouth, sloppy legs and no seat. Great riding right? So I know what I should have done at this point is lighten up my contact, sit deep and really use my body in the trot. Instead I decided to force Lucky to pay attention by asking for everything at a 10. I am such an idiot! I used way to much of an aid to ask for the trot and of course she lept forward, causing the extra confusing reaction of me praising her (she listened) by patting her neck with one hand and pulling back even more with the other.

 

She did do a circle when I asked and even managed to launch in to the canter at the appropriate time, but as soon as she started to canter I knew I was in trouble. We have been working hard on her canter and while she still tries to pull down on the forehand, normally she can hold herself up for at least a few strides. At the show it was a beautiful uphill transition and then it was like she was pulling me down to China. The canter to trot transition is on the long side…going towards whatever she was looking at. I started to ask for the trot even before the rest asked for it…and got nothing. I tried again, stronger this time…and still got nothing. Funny thing is that I wasn’t freaking out, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop her, but I also knew she just wanted to canter, not bolt off. She was just stressed and wanted to put her energy in to going faster. I just wanted to try and end my test on a not so terrible note. I knew I had to do the emergency rein if I wanted her to trot, so I put one hand in her mane and the other back and my fit Lucky turned about 90 degrees in a stride and thankfully slowed to the trot. It was such a dramatic move that on my test the judge had thought Lucky spooked…not that I was being a bad rider. By the time we trotted up the centerline you could see the foamed up sweat all over my poor girl. I was afraid to walk towards the judge after my test to thank her because I thought she would yell at me for being such a jerk to Lucky. I have manners though so I went up and the judge didn’t even look up from her furious scribbling and responded with a “um hmm”. You know you are a terrible rider when the judge can’t even stand to look at you. I didn’t have much time to think about it though because Lucky was still upset as we walked out of the ring.

 

To be Continued…

The first horse show of 2013 – Part 2

When we got to the show we were the 4th trailer there. Really…that was it! Tryingtoride had beaten us there and another woman in our class was also getting ready. I went to check in and sure enough people had scratched that I knew I would be getting a ribbon, which of course put me right at ease 😛 They asked if I would be willing to ride early so I high tailed it back to the trailer and finished tacking up. The footing in the warm up ring was sloppy and scary. I did a lot of moving her shoulder, haunches and neck around at the walk just trying to get her flexible before I even tried to trot on it. One half of the warm up was much better than the other so we stayed to the better part and really worked on getting her to listen. She was a little tight and not that responsive to my leg, but not bad at all. In fact, I was pretty excited to ride my test because I thought we were going to do pretty well. The show ring was above the warm up so I let Lucky have a loose rein on the walk up.

 

She was very looky, which isn’t like her, but I trust her so I let her be. We watched the last little bit of tryingtorides beautiful test and headed in the ring to do out test. As soon as I went to pick my reins back up Lucky totally stiffened up. She put her face in the air like a giraffe and her whole body went tight. I didn’t think much of it at first and instead set about mover her shoulders and trying to do shallow loops to get her to pay attention to me again. It wasn’t until we reached the other side of the ring (by A since we entered by the judge) that I thought “oh shit, my horse isn’t listening to me right now. The whistle hand’t been blown yet so I knew I had more than 45 seconds to fix the problem so I tried to do everything I could think of get my horse back. From counter flexing her to leg yielding I used my long side as best as I could when the whistle went off. I halted and did a turn on the haunches since to try and combat her going on her forehand with her head up in the air without much success. As we went back towards A she started to stare off again and shake her head, which is not normal Lucky behavior. She wanted to stop and look at something.

 

This is my fault. When we school at home if she is concerned about something I let her stop or she can go over and touch it (if possible). She is not a very looky horse normally and when I first started with her she would scoot when turned away from something that worried her, but if I just let her look she would just stand like a champ and relax as soon as she figured out what it was. I knew I only had about 30 seconds left to get in the ring, and I could tell from the way her eyes were bugging out of her head this was going to be more than a 30 second look, so I made her go forward. She was beside herself with concern as we went in to the ring. I did manage to keep her at the trot as we went up the centerline, but barely. The thing I love about dressage is that the movement scores are totally separate. Even though out centerline sucked, it didn’t mean a bad score as long as we kept it together for the rest of the ride.

 

To be continued…