Is anyone excited about the United States National Dressage Finals??

So the first every USDF National Championships is this weekend. Sounds like the kind of event that I would love right? Something right up my ally. Big ribbons, lower levels offered, a chance for anyone to shine. Well, I have to say, I didn’t think much about it prior to the event, but watching the video of the First Level Freestyles…it is more disheartening than inspiring.

There is such inequality among the competitors. You can see people who seem to be normal competitors (who probably had to take off work and save all year to get to Kentucky) and then you see the money come rolling in. People who are bouncing around, have bad hands, and pay tons of money so that their expensive warmbloods ignore their faults. As a crappy rider myself, you would think I would have more empathy for my brethren, but because I cannot afford said fancy warmblood who will cart me around it is just frustrating to watch. During one particular ride I yelled at my computer “IF YOU ARE TERRIFIED OF YOUR HORSE MAYBE IT SHOULDN’T BE YOUR HORSE” and during another I was holding my breath, sure that the rider was going to just bounce out of the tack and off the horse at any second (why on earth would you choose to sit if you can’t sit well!).

It is disheartening to see so many horses hyper flexed (one step less cruel than Rolkur) and so many horse and riders who are clearly higher than 1st level showing at 1st level. If most of the horse and rider combos were at like 2nd level I would understand, but I have a feeling that at least half of the field is showing the maximum allowed 2 levels up (i.e. showing 3rd level at the show but has a 1st level musical freestyle). That means that in theory they are schooling 4th level at home.

While I did not make it the full 3 hours through the 1st level freestyles, I did watch a lot of it. I was looking for some acquaintances and also wanted to see at least part of every ride. It was nice to see Thoroughbreds, Appys, Arabs, and more on “tv” looking great, but it was also disheartening to see how unequal the playing field has become. I applaud those who went out and showed, but I must admit that watching the video has made me much more wary of ever doing USDF shows again…which I am pretty sure is the opposite of what they were hoping to accomplish with having a US Dressage Nationals.

Don’t believe me? You can see the footage for yourself by following the link below…and don’t just watch the first ride and say that I have no idea what I am talking about. Watch a handful of rides and then tell me with a straight face that dressage is fair.

US Dressage National Finals – First Level Musical Freestyles

Time for fun!

So tomorrow is the Summer Fun Show. I actually wasn’t planning on going to the fun shows this year. This year the dates just were not in my favor. The first one was scheduled for our first dressage show of the year, the second was this weekend which is no good for me, and the third is in October, which has not been a good weather month for my area for the past several years. After our lack luster performance in dressage shows this year and with my work being so stressful I am clearly not even thinking straight anymore I have decided to go to the fun show tomorrow after all.

I need some fun in my life right now, and the fun shows are just the way to get that. I was worried that the weather might not cooperate (I have gotten stuck in their parking area before so it needs to be DRY for me to feel comfortable) but we have been rain free for 3 days with lots of sun to harden the ground so I am hoping that it will be okay. I will be trading in my day of sleeping in and hanging out poolside to one for waking up at 5am and spending the day at a show. What better way to spend a weekend right?

I am not expecting much tomorrow ribbons wise. While I will do a ton of classes (they have a very, very reasonable day fee) I think there will also be a ton of competition. I have no idea who the judge will be, but in the past that have had QH judges who like the QH type. Lucky is most certainly not a QH, nor does she move like one. The judges seem to prefer a shuffle to a trot, and Lucky just isn’t a shuffler. Add to that the fact that it is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL tomorrow (low 80s, sunny, and breezy) and for most kids in the area it will be the first day of summer vacation so I am expecting a massive amount of people to be at this show.

So my goals are not for ribbons, although I hope out of a full day I will at least get something, but to have a good time and just ENJOY my Lucky at a horse show. I am thinking I might try and do something different and “live blog” the show. If you are around tomorrow check in my blog all throughout the day and I will hopefully be posting pictures as things go along. Why not try something new right? Besides, this way I can feel like I am at the show with a whole lot of friends, which will of course make the day even better.

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – The End

I am many things, but a quitter is not one of them. Even though I wanted to give up, I knew I couldn’t. Not only is it rude to the judge, especially since it was not a safety issue, but it is unprofessional. I needed to finish what I started, no matter how ugly it looked. One of the judges comments in my first test was that I didn’t let go during the free walk, so I just let it all go in the second test. I was playing a mental game with myself that when I picked up the reins again we would be starting over. A whole new test. I was determined to let go of the bad stuff in the hopes of finishing strong.

So those of you who know training 1 (or who watched the video yesterday and are very observant) know that I made a mistake on my test. A big one. The judge was so dazzled by my free moving horse at the free walk that she didn’t catch it right away either. So what did I do? I did both of my canter series to the left! Instead of going across the diagonal I did two short diagonals. Opps! The good news is that I got an instant do over on my left canter, and that I am not using the test for anything so I could care less if the test counts or not.

Minus a head toss in the upward, my out of control right arm, and having to go sideways to the downward again the second canter was much better, and I felt much more in control. I smiled my first real smile of the day to my last center line. Was the test beautiful? Not even close. Was it embarrassing? A little. Was it the best test I have done yet with Lucky at training level? YES! I was glad that Boomerang and My Trainer had not let me quit. Lucky and I still have a long, long way to go, but for the first time all year it actually felt possible that we could actually do this someday.

Considering we were blocking everyone in I untacked Lucky in record time and loaded her back up. With only being 15 minutes from home I knew I could give her a real shower and let her relax at home instead of hanging around the show. They did score my Intro C test already so I knew before I left that I had gotten a 59.25%. Since I was the only person in the class I ended up in 1st place 😛

I learned a lot from this show though. I learned I need to shorten my reins, when they are long I bump her in the mouth. I need to get better brakes on my horse at home because having minimal breaks at a show just isn’t any fun. I also learned I need to get a new show coat. I can’t find mine and a tucked in polo is just not flattering on my plus size self! Lucky and I have a long way to go before we are ready for training level at a show again. This show gave me a tiny bit of hope though.

When I went back to pick up my second test I was thrilled to finally break 60%. Sure, the judge was kind, but I need kind right now!! Lucky and I ended up with a 61.46% for 4th out of 6 in our training level 1 test. I also learned that, for now at least, I need friend support at a dressage show. I needed both My Trainer and Boomerang there to push me when I needed to be pushed. Plus having Boomerang there means I got a video of my issues with Lucky, which is something I needed. Even though it feels worse than terrible, it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as I thought it did.

I went home feeling satisfied and content in my decision to take a little break from showing dressage. We might have a lot to fix, but at least now I feel like we CAN fix everything. We might not have dazzled, but we didn’t humiliate either, and for now that is plenty good enough.

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – Part 3

My first halt ended up being a heck of a lot closer to G than to X. I had no breaks! Not a good way to start a dressage test. Undeterred, I reminded myself that each movement is scored separately. Who cares if I blew my first centerline, it was only 10 points. By the time I got to my first canter transition I was tense again. My test was not going very well, My lucky was not listening to me. I took a breath and asked for the canter and Lucky did a nice upward.

I was just starting to think that maybe I could save this test when it was time to trot again…and Lucky wouldn’t trot! We played tug of war for what felt like forever and lost a ton of points because cantered out of the circle and on to the next movement. Some judges would have blown the whistle on that, but this judge was kind and could tell that I was trying to get Lucky to stop. My arms and back were tight and ridged across the diagonal, so the one movement that I can usually get a good score on I blew.

Lucky and I were starting to fight with each other. We were only halfway through out test and we were fighting. When Lucky and I start getting frustrated with each other it escalates quickly. By the time we got to the 2ndcanter transition I wanted to be anywhere but riding a test with Lucky. Sure enough she threw her face in the air in the upward, and when it was time to do the downward…well…she just didn’t feel like it.
Lucky ignored my request to trot for so long we actually missed that trot section and even most of the medium walk. In fact,  I used a pully rein (which I am not proud of) in order to get her to slow down. I was so frazzled at that point that the free walk was a disaster and I was completely defensive in my riding when we trotted again. By the time we halted again I was done. I didn’t want to ride Dressage anymore. I didn’t want to do another test. I didn’t even want to be riding Lucky at that moment. I was miserable, frustrated and embarrassed.  People that know me can attest to the fact that I don’t embarrass easily, but walking up to the judge I was in full on humiliation more.

The judge was wonderfully kind. She reminded me to sit back more in my downwards and keep my hands up. She did point out that my horse was naughty, but she made things seem fixable, not disastrous like I felt it was.  As I walked out of the ring my frustration point was to the max. I was done. I was stuck in the same place I had been all year and it just wasn’t going to get any better. I wasn’t having fun. Lucky wasn’t having fun. I thought the best thing to do was just to quit for the day and try again next year.

To Be Continued…


 

Thank you again to Boomerang for taking the video…even if I don’t love what I see, it is still good to see it!

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – Part 2

I knew I had to be a better support for Lucky so I focused on taking some deep breaths and just relaxing. My trailer was parked, I didn’t get stuck in the end, I needed to stop worrying. Having a friend there helped to distract me and by the time my trainer came rolling up the driveway I was feeling much better. I tacked Lucky up as the parking lot filled up. Remember how I was so worried about not blocking people in? Well, the next trailer rolling down the driveway parked right next to me, blocking anyone from getting out. All well. I knew I needed to stop thinking about parking and start focusing on my ride. As I finished tacking up I reminded myself that my goal today was just to try and get my confidence back up. I was doing this show to practice, so I just needed to do my best.

 

Lucky being the old lady that she is we did a nice long walk warm up. I focused on riding with my hands up and together and trying to get her to be flexible. My little rock star was slightly inattentive, but not bad during our warm up. The trot work was great. I have been asking her for a bigger trot and keeping my reins shorter and it has made a huge difference. With only 10 minutes left before my ride it was time to do the dreaded canter. The first transition was good, and even coming back to the trot was not terrible. I was all smiles. I did a few more and changed direction just as Lucky decided that this wasn’t fun anymore. On our last downward from the canter she blew me off a little, but it was time to go in the ring so I didn’t have time to fix it.

 

As soon as we walked outside to walk around the ring Lucky started to ignore me in favor of watching the pretty scenery. The ring is set right next to the woods with the field on one side and the barn on the other. It is beautiful, but also a bit distracting. Our confidence issues are such that as soon as she started to ignore me I started to be overdramatic in some of my corrections and nonexistent in others. Instead of being firm and consistent (i.e. you WILL listen to me regardless of where we are) I was harsh and inconsistent (i.e. PAY ATTENTION TO ME…look a squirrel). I was already stressed out and she was confused before we even turned on the center line for the first time, not a good way to start a test.

 

To Be Continued…

 

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – Part 1

So between seeing the rainbow the day before and getting amazing times (even if I didn’t get them until 11:30 Thursday night) I was actually starting to look forward to the show. Even the fact that Lucky took her braids out the night before and was covered in mud (despite the sleazy and sheet I put on her) could not dampen my mood on show day. My friend Boomerang offered to come to the show and my trainer said that she would come by also to warm me up again so Lucky would have a cheering section. You know how some times you can just feel it is going to be a good day?

 

I was running a little bit behind getting ready because of what a mess my Lucky was, but with no one on the roads I made it to the show very close to when I wanted to be there. We have had a ton of rain lately…like INCHES the past week alone. Parking at this show is always interesting, but usually you can park in the actually parking lot so I hand’t been stressing it. When I drove in there were only 2 trailers there…facing opposite directions…taking up almost the entire lot! Instead of pulling up or backing in, they had just driven straight through. I tried to find a place where I wasn’t in the way, but I couldn’t really find anything. I ended up just parking on the other side of the barn to check in.

 

When I got out to get my number I knew I was going to have to move my trailer. There was no way people were going to be able to get through next to me. I do not have 4 wheel drive (which is a big frustration) so my options were limited, but I knew I had to move. After I checked in I got back in and tried to move the trailer to a different spot. Tried being the operative word because…I actually started to get stuck. I am unfortunately used to the feeling of my tires slipping at this point, so I just put the tuck in reverse and let gravity slide me backwards while I got the truck back on to solid ground. Another trailer had pulled in taking away the new option I had been thinking of so I just circled around and parked lot trying not to panic.

 

I hate driving the truck and trailer! I was all stressed out from my near miss with getting stuck so I was shaking as I circled the barn. I decided to park on the other side of the driveway in almost the exact same place I had been before, this way people could get around me on the grass, but I would be all on the driveway. I was still rattled as I unloaded Lucky when Boomering showed up to calm me down. Lucky was looking around, very interested in her soundings, but was still being a good girl. She could tell something was up with me though because she kept wanting to snuggle. I knew that if I kept this up I would take my calm horse and make her crazy out of insecurity. I just needed to get my head on straight ASAP if I didn’t want to ride a fire breathing dragon.

 

To Be Continued…

Still here…and still showing…sort of…

Sorry for the lack of posts as of late. I am officially in a funk with my riding. I still need to finish up my post on the last show with the thunderstorms and I need to write up the fix-a-test clinic. In an effort to try and stay current, I figured I would post on my next up coming adventure. Lucky and I have yet another horse show on Saturday. This is likely to be out last Dressage show for a while. I am hoping the weather will cooperate so we can do a fun show the week after, but we are looking at a very quiet summer…quiet for me at least.

I love to show. I feel like having my own trailer and a horse that is fantastic off the property has caused me to show a lot.

This year is different though. For one thing we are struggling in our training at the moment. Not doing well tends to make showing much less fun. Not that I need to win, in fact, I am just as happy with 6th as I am with 2nd most of the time. It is more that instead of going in to the ring with a “look at me” swagger I am riding more like “I hope people aren’t watching”. That is just not a good way for anyone to be. Going to a horse show takes a lot of time and effort, if it is not fun there is no reason to be pushing myself.

The other reason I am going to back off of showing? I am a home owner now…and it is expensive! My air conditioner broke a few weeks ago (right before a heat wave of course) and the outside unit needs to be replaced. Since my unit also is used in the winter for my heating it is already more expensive than normal, add to that the need for new wiring and 3 failed attempts at repairing it (trying to avoid the cost of replacing it) and I am spending several thousand dollars on that fun project. Even more fun? My roof decided it wanted to spring a leak at almost exactly the same time. Oh the joys of home ownership. My show fund, my emergency fund and my savings account will all be almost drained taking care of my home.

So I almost didn’t enter for the show this weekend. In fact, I waited until the closing date to send my entry in. If you are not doing well, and it is expensive, why bother? My trainer gave me a pep talk though and convinced me that Lucky and I do not look as horrible as I think we do. Plus this is the last weekend dressage show in the area for a long time. Since I am cutting my spending on showing way back, this is actually a pretty economical show to do (not that any show is ever truly economical). Even with gas for the trailer and entries I should be well under $75 for the day. My trainer even offered to come out and warm Lucky and I up since the farm is right down the road from her place. Her exact words were, “I know you can do well, if you need to not show because of money I understand, but I want to do everything in my power to show you that you CAN be successful, even if you don’t believe it yourself yet”.

So we are going. I entered for Intro C and Training 1 again. This is a no pressure show. It counts for nothing, and doesn’t even have real ribbons (they have the stock 1st, 2nd, etc ones with no farm name or anything). I want to believe that Lucky and I can do well. I also don’t want to end our show year in June…and on a bad note. We might still be able to go to the fun show the week after next (which has a day fee and you can do as many classes as you want), but considering it has rained several inches this month already and I have gotten stuck there even when it is not that wet, the fun show is a long shot. All I went to do is feel okay about not showing. I don’t though. I am glad my trainer talked me in to it…I really don’t want to feel like I can’t do well…

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!