Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Equitation Snapshot

In the name of archival integrity, I need to get some actual evidence of how Winds and I are marching around the ring.

why do these always look so small in pictures??
All in all, I am really happy with how we handled the Equitation ring at Thunderbird both weeks of August.  While I didn't have the big open gallop that I had in the field at Milner - I felt like we were as consistent as we have ever been and able to make (mostly) good choices when necessary.

Let's start with the first week:

Nothing was very equitation-y, but we rode well and overcame some of our goblins, namely staying straight on the left lead and stepping up to our distances then falling back.

Pretty great for us! We ended up 2nd out of 20.

Our second round was much the same, but they turned on the BIG sprinklers in the ring next door.  I didn't think twice about it because Winds doesn't care about such things, but toward the end as we came into the Judge's line, the wind shifted and blew the sprinkler mist over into our faces.  It was weird, and although you can't see Winds do much, he sorta fell in away from the mystery rain, and I lost his inside shoulder.  That set us up for a borderline late change and then I never really got him back up and balanced before the two stride.  We didn't chip in, but I didn't have him straight and he sorta jumped over his shoulder.  Somehow we won the class - but in watching the video, the tension isn't nearly as visible as it felt.

Week two, the course design was a tad more interesting.  Lots more singles and omg, a rollback. 
Winds was not intrigued by the jumps AT ALL and I felt like I was beating him around the ring.  This horse is so much easier to ride when he cares even just a little bit about what's in the ring, but it's hard to fabricate that the second week of a show. 

I made the mistake of enjoying my coffee while I watched some early rounds go in my ring - and managed to totally freak myself out.  Of the 8 rounds I let myself watch, 4 people fell off, two had refusals and only 2 got through clean.  Never in my life have I seen such a bloodbath at 2'9", and it did nothing to help my brain calm down as I went to get ready.  Usually I watch rounds so that my self talk is "see, it's fine. Everyone is fine, just ride the lines, it's fine. YOURE FINE.". Didn't work out that way this time, instead I saw all the nightmare scenarios I had been dreaming up come true.

Our first round was relatively uneventful (praise Jesus), I lost his shoulder in the rollback and had to add a stride.  In a perfect world if I held my track, I think there would have been one less and looked a bit better - but not tragic - we worked it out.  Even with the wonky rollback we ended up first out of 22.

The second round was FUN.  There were some end jumps that are really hard to see on the video, but we basically got to clover leaf around them which had me a touch worried given the fact that Mr. Casual was all but sleeping on the job. 

Turns out, it was exactly what we needed, and as soon as we turned up the centerline to a new fence Winds woke up, sat up and felt like a very rideable sports car. 

The difference in his interest and balance was SO tangible it's hard to discount.  This horse legit hates line/diagonal/line/diagonal.  Well, maybe hate is a strong word, but he sure doesn't care about it at all. 

We ended up 5th in this round - but fences 4,5,6 were hands down them most fun I had all week.  (that sounds sorta sad when I type it, other things were fun too..).  But as I look forward at my goals with Winds, I'm starting to shift them a bit.  I think maybe (horse gods allowing), this is the horse I take in whatever Medals I can find, and let him play in the derbies. 

I also have to note that we were 2nd on the flat both weeks - and in a division of 20 that is something I am really proud of.  I've been working a LOT on my ability to stretch and stay tall without getting stiff and I think maybe, just maybe I'm making progress.  The same girl beat me both weeks (damn teenagers), but I had her pinned as the winner even out in warm up.  Gorgeous rider, lovely look on a horse and really, really soft.  I'm totally ok riding behind someone like that.  There is no world where I beat her on the flat.

It was a great way to finish the Summer, and really a testament to how much I am starting to gel with Winds.  Love this horse.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Summer Shows, and New Baby Horse and Everything

Holy no blog.  I wish I had been inspired to write the last couple weeks because lots of fun things have been happening, plus a few cute things (LEADLINE) and one not so fun (MRI). BOOOOOO

But let's do the 60 second rundown, shall we?

Thunderbird.  Both boys went up to Tbird in August for both weeks of showing.  Windsor was a superstar.  He did one warm up class with the pro, looked bored, and then didn't come out again until the Derby, which was in a different ring and in hindsight, he was WAY TOO FRESH. 

Bored, but also fresh? V V Confusing

Whelp, lesson learned.  He overjumped everything, and while it wasn't his most fluid course ever, the 72.5 base score drew confused gasps from bystanders who aren't as biased as I am. It's the first time he hasn't made the handy... had to happen sometime!

Then it was my turn.  We did our equitation and managed to win a round and get second on the flat out of about 22.  I was thrilled. 
Turns out Pilates actually works.
Winds was awesome, and our courses were actually interesting.  We were champion.

All of my ribbons have been chewed on.
Quiz made his debut in the Baby Greens and won his first class each day and was SO TIRED in his second that some baby mistake usually came out.  But he is a DUDE.  Didn't bat an eye at anything.  No lunge, no extra rides, prep, voodoo, nothing.  He's just a solid citizen.  He peeked at the flower boxes exactly once as he hopped over and never batted an eye after that.

Best. Baby.
Week two was much the same repeat.  Quiz rocked the Baby Greens again, Windsy packed me around the Eq and the Hunters. 

We repeated our performance in the Eq - and had a nice finish to the show in our Hunters, winning one round, nabbing a ribbon in a HUGE flat class and getting our proverbial shit together in the classic to get 2nd (due to an 85 in our second round).

Also, I fell slightly in love with a Nations Cup rider, who I may have stalked a teeny tiny bit (equal interest in his horse, let's be real), bought a new show shirt, oh and d├ębuted my new Burgundy show coat from AA.  It was a good show.
(He's 20 and decidedly NOT single, but a middle aged girl can dream)
At home, Quiz has continued to be a total stud.  He learns every ride, has yet to get grumpy or say no, and even with a lot of rides by yours truly - is finding his balance and fitness.  I have yet to really fault him for something.

Winds was stepping a bit short at the end of the show, so Paranoid Polly over here had the vet out once we were home.  She confirmed that he was looking slightly off on the LF again, and that it did block out in the foot.  So we headed south for ANOTHER MRI to see what's up. 

Are things continuing to heal? Did he re-injure it? Is this the new status quo and I need adjust his management and schedule accordingly? Who knows. 

Well, Hopefully, I'll know - as soon as my vet calls.  Still waiting for the official report...

OH, and the kid did her first deadline class.  It was insanely adorable and there are so many photos that I need to do a separate post on that.  Hopefully I'll get around to that before she turns 16. 


Monday, August 7, 2017

Making it Official

Finally bit the bullet on Quiz' USEF, which was mostly delayed due to total name paralysis.  You guys had AWESOME suggestions, (and Quartermaster made the top 3, as did the Qrown ___" suggestions).

But the ultimate winner is QUOTABLE. 

I'm actually glad that I got to spend a little time with Quiz before locking in a show name.  While he is big and elegant, he has a quietness to him that made some of the bigger, bolder names seem like a poor fit.  So, Quotable it is.  There are only a couple registered with USEF making it one of the more unique options we considered, and I like the simplicity.  Also, much like Heir Apparent - I like that it hints at quality as opposed to declaring it.

Aside from the name, the first week of work has been a great one, and Quiz is exceeding expectations.

The sweetest
After a few days off to relax and get acclimated, Quiz got to work. 

He is admittedly significantly more green than I was expecting.  He lacks the strength to hold his balance for more than a few steps and his go to is to lock his poll and shove his head up into the sky, or curl waaaaaay too low. 

But, he is also significantly smarter than I was expecting, and in the short span of a week he is already steadier in the bridle, more responsive to the aids and totally willing to work.  I have to also give him credit that he appears to be totally Ammy-Proof.  He hasn't spooked once, no offered any tension in his work.  He's quiet and kind and follows you around like a puppy on the ground and tries desperately to understand under saddle.

I always thought that Windsor would be the most tolerant horse I ever had.  And while Winds is kind, he is also totally willing to let you make a mistake and act like he couldn't possibly have known better and helped you out.

Quiz seems to really want to make it perfect for you, he can't always, but his heart seems really, really impossibly good.

On the flat it's been about getting him straight and soft.  We're making progress.  He has a hard time staying organized in the trot (there is a LOT of movement), but his canter seems to be pre-made, and omg you could ride it allllll daaaaay loooong.  Love.

Tuesday he popped over a couple cross rails quite casually.  He peeked at the flower box exactly once, then jumped it with a total lack of interest every time after. 

Thursday I had my first real ride on him, and while I was exhausted from all the extra leg that he takes (Winds has made me soft), he was such a good egg.  I ended by jumping a few cross rails, and OMG he's fun.  His hind leg comes SO FAR under that you feel his stomp perfectly and the fences just show up.   My main problem seems to be that I don't have a good sense of his gas and brake pedals, so my adjustments weren't always what I was going for - but silver lining- He doesn't care! I parked him a couple times and he just lumped over the fence and looped away. 

I know our hopes and dreams change as we get older, so while I might not lust after a wild black stallion anymore, a tolerant gelding who doesn't care about mistakes makes my heart pitter patter.

We ended the weeks with another great hack and Quiz already feeling more responsive and consistent in the bridle.  He is a GOOD BOY. 

I'm' hoping to take him up to Thunderbird next week for a field trip.  Not sure if he'll show, but I'm curious to see if he brings his same laissez-faire attitude to a big, busy facility like Thunderbird.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Milner - The Ammy Rides

I know the Derby round was the most exciting news to come out of Milner, and no one is ever very interested in small, slow ammy rounds.  But for me, the headline at this show was "HOLY SHIT I LOVED EVERY ROUND."

Which, may seem like a close cousin to "OMG I love my horse."  But it's not.  I loved Pia - but she tried to murder me a lot.  I hated a lot of those rides - even though I "loved my horse." 

I got closer with Prair, because - well, Prair.  But really, even at our most relaxed, it always felt like our success was tenuous at best, and I was always ready for all the proverbial shoes to drop.

I guess I could say that I thought I had already loved every round on Windsy.  But that's probably like saying I thought I loved my high school boyfriend.  True statement at the time, but possibly worth some revision in hindsight...

But back to Windsy. 

I warmed up on Thursday for my first round, with the option to have a Low round before my division started.  Our warmup was lovely.  Not brilliant, but not argumentative. I found my pace and the jumps were coming up fairly easily. 

As we walked down to the back gate I just had this feeling that the Low round was going to be a waste of jumps.  So, we scratched it, and I headed in for my first round at 2'9" cold. 

I was a little nervous about the first fence.  It wasn't your normal Hunter-quarterline-single, which was enough to have me over thinking it.  But Winds lifted his balance and showed me the slightly forward spot out of stride. 


Then he came back to me, we stayed out of the bit of muck at the end of the ring and I tried hard to keep our step through the turn.  We did.  And stepped right up to the rolltop into the judges line. 


Then it was single oxer time.  Again, winds sat back, I kept him straight, and BAM, jump. 

Up the outside line, and home in the two stride.  (we swapped into the two stride, but I so didn't care).  At every fence I literally thought "oh, there it is, let's go get it" and added some gas pedal. 

Winds jumped open and round and super duper soft.  The lines were set long, which was also great since I'm used to choking him back - it was so fluid and fun to land and continue and jump out with some push instead of pull...

When we landed after the two stride, my smile was HUGE.  I have never, ever, ever had that much fun on course.  (well, maybe on XC with the old wonder pony, but I was 12, that doesn't count).

Winds was forward, I stayed soft, everything was small adjustments and just flowed. 

Thank god I scratched the warm up, because if I had wasted that round on a Low, I probably would have tensed up and butchered the second round when it counted....

The next day was the Derby, so all I had to do was stretch Winds' legs in the morning.  But Saturday we were back at it.

I was a bit tentative getting on - mostly just nervous that I would feel some crippling soreness or stiffness that I would be able to attribute to the bigger jumps in the Derby - but nothing.  Winds felt loose and lovely.

He was a bit slow at the canter so I picked up a crop (I prefer a shoulder tap and rubber ball spurs over a sharper spur..) and he was perfect.

As we walked into the ring I realized both the crop, and spurs were probably unnecessary.

He was looking at EVERYTHING.  Flowers. Grass. Jumps. Fence posts! OMG.  I had a brief PTSD flashback of Prairie's eyeballs popping out of her head and certain death - but I shoved those thoughts aside and tried to believe that Winds would be good.

Turns out he was perfect
We had the same weird first fence, and Winds was so fluffed up it was all I could do to not grab at his face and start a tug o' war.  But gentleman that he is, he sat back, waited for the fence and there was zero drama. 

Then I cut off the end of the ring (to stay out of mud) and had to be somewhat thoughtful about my track into a bending line on the outside.  Winds was light, and straight and we stepped right up to it.  Loved that line, and it was set long so we got to continue nicely and move up to the out. 

Didn't love my ride into the diagonal, I lost the hind end and ended up adding in.  Knowing the lines were long, I gunned Winds on the landing and he popped off his lead but we got up there ok.  In hindsight I think I could have been less panicked about making it up the line  and not lost my lead by finessing it a bit more, but lesson learned.

Then it was a single oxer set on the outside.  I had built up this fence as my boogie fence because without a real arena fence, lots of horses were bulging, never getting straight and then really messing up the distance.  Winds was still pretty keen at this point which made my track easier and straight wasn't an issue - so we made it through ok.  (I also realized I had been holding my breath and finally started breathing again on the landing, WHOOPS).

Finally, a smooth seven stride home and we were done (with a new favorite round in the books). 

Even with the swap, somehow we won the class, which was reinforced by a win on the flat (maybe the first time that's happened?).  It was a good Saturday.

Sunday we came out for one final round, and I decided to let Winds keep his hair down, so it was a bit of a casual day ;)

fluffy hair
Warm up was our trickiest.  He was dull again, and again I picked up my crop.  I remembered to put it down before we went in the ring, but I didn't have the same, lofty, eager beast under me. 

I was reminded by a barnmate that Windsor is almost always a bit more charged and looky the day after a Derby, but quickly returns to his casually bored self after a round or two. 

I think Winds was for sure bored, but also tired, and potentially a bit sore from jumping significantly more than he had been at home.  He didn't feel stiff per se, just lacked the lifted energy that was so magical for my first two rounds. 

This round felt rough by comparison.  I didn't feel that fluid connection and it sort of felt like I was grinding the gears in the corner.  My adjustments felt clunky and jarring, and while Winds didn't seem to mind, I never got a great rhythm that I could groove into

The video looks less awkward than it felt (thankfully), but still not our finest.  Mostly what I see now is that I didn't trust my canter, so I was fussing in the corner, then pushing him just past the distance even when it was right there.  Most of the time it was fine, but I forced him over his shoulder a bit.

This was fine.
this was a little tight.

All in all, not a bad ride at all, just not quite as magic as the others, but I am proud that I still mostly made good decisions and stayed with him, instead of totally panicking and getting in a fight. 

It was a fabulous show, I adore getting to gallop around the big grass field and we definitely came away with a confidence building outing!

Oh, and a championship, and a cooler.  That's always nice too.  I love this horse show and wish we got to be here more often.

Now it's a few weeks at home getting to know the new kid and gearing up for Thunderbird!

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