Monday, August 13, 2012

54-40 or Fight!

Very few things from American History have stuck with me in the 13 years since I crammed for that particular AP test, but President Polk's catchy slogan calling for a northern boundary that flirted with what is now Alaska, drilled right into my brain and stayed there.  And while only one of these numbers was an actual score form yesterday (in fairness it was a 55%... ) My weird little subconscious just ripped "54 40 or Fight!" out from the depths of my demented memory and it seemed a moderately (if barely) apropos summary of our schooling show.

In short - we've had... better days.

In slightly longer - I'm still happy with the mare.  We struggled through a few things, improved on others and all in all ended up with a productive (Ha! that's the word riders use when wheels fall off the proverbial wagon) day.

To begin:

My tests weren't scheduled until 4:30 and 5:00pm which meant that there was no reason to be at the barn before noon.  Prairie got to be turned out and roasted in the sunshine for a bit before I hauled in in for her braids only to realize that I had exactly enough waxed cord to sew up 60% of her braids.  Rad.  A quick call to The Boy saw him make an extra stop at the local marine supply store (sail making thread is perfect) as well as the grocery store (snacks are a must!) before grabbing the trailer and meeting me at the barn.

He even held Prairie's giant face while I tucked up her "forelock"  (or what's left of it after I honestly clipped her bridlepath and took away her "comb over" fake forelock...).  He's a gem.  If there was some sort of score sheet for horse show husbands his would look something like this:

COLLECTIVE MARKS                                                         score               notes

PROMPTNESS (without nagging or reminding)                           10            Well timed! 
HUSBAND'S anticipation and preparation                                   8.5         (wife prefers
                                                                                                                   turkey sandwich)
HUSBAND'S correct and effective use of the aids                         8           Good Praise! and use
                                                                                                                   of water bottle
HARMONY between husband & wife and horse & husband         9           Good w/ wife.
                                                                                                                   Horse wants
                                                                                                                   more treats

So at least one of us got great scores... Back to the pony:

P2 was a bit wound up even at home, which did not bode well.  Neither did loading up (at a leisurely 3pm) while horses were being brought in from pasture.  Lots of screaming and pacing and galloping as everyone anticipated their dinner or protested their buddies being taken in first.  P2 thought the world was ending.  Also she was very irritated with her wraps and was rudely kicking the back of my nice trailer.  (bad mare).

But we arrived well and she came off the trailer calmer than she went on.  My plan was to repeat our minimal warmup from the last show so I didn't even get on the mare until the rider in front of me entered the ring.

Prairie was great.  Much calmer, less looky and generally more relaxed than she has been. Although - she really should be since this was her fourth show (fifth outing) at this particular facility..

but while I was waiting for The Boy to return with a sip of water before heading in the ring (since the show was early and I had an extra 10 minutes at my disposal), someone else trotted in ahead of us.  Not a big deal, but as I walked the mare around during the second rider's go - the gerbils started scurrying and I could feel her getting tenser by the moment.

My first reaction was "god dammit horse.  (and god dammit extra rider)" because I really had a nicely calm, supple ready mare before we were delayed.  But then my second reaction was "ooh! now we have to try to diffuse this.  Perfect place for a not so perfect warmup..."

Needless to say by the time we trotted in I had a snorty, prancy, very heavy mare in my hands.  I tried some leg yield and shoulder in to back her off a bit, but the traffic cones (omg the CONES!!!) next to the judge's booth were much more engaging than my little hands and legs asking for some lateral movement.

But the bell rang quickly, and off we went.  Our halt was ok, we moved off well but then we had to pass the cones.  Which resulted in a spook, which resulted in a circle (whoops! -2!).  Not a fabulous start. We recovered (a bit) but had a few more bobbles including some unplanned "leg yield on the rail" in our right lead canter and one more big spook (that rocketed us into our left lead canter circle).  At that point I heard a distant "are yoooouuu okaaaayyyyy" from the judge's booth which I assumed meant that things were looking less than spectacular.  I chimed back that "yes!" I was fine and just giggled at my big, drama llama, cone-phobic beast horse. 

I think I giggled because unlike our first outing where the spooks and bolts were of an undetermined length and outcome - this time I felt like I had total control (well, mostly) of her scoots and I was confident that I could shut them down with a circle, or a discombobulated long side.

That's improvement!!

Our first test ended with a crappy downward transition to the trot (more of a break really) and a crappy lengthening that was more of an unbalanced rush-en-ing.  We earned our paltry 55% but still pulled off a 3rd place in the class.  There were more than three of us in the class.. but not many more.

The judging was MUCH tighter than the first two shows (perhaps more accurate) as I think we were way better off in this test than our first outing where we pulled a 66% out of a miserably distracted and freight-train like performance.  So, again - the scores don't show it, but we're handling ourselves better in tough situations.

I did cringe a bit when I reviewed the score sheet.  The first comment on the back was "brave riding."

That's can't be good.  I mean, I guess it's a nice comment, but it doesn't exactly inspire images of harmony and submission...

I agreed with all the other comments though I thought a few were nit picky given the level ridden.

Like the comment that our final halt was "straight but not square"
that is pretty darn square.
I suppose her left hind was maybe 2" ahead of her right hind, but she was square up front.  So, I bristled a tad at that remark.  When I rode it I was thinking "WAHOO! she's sitting down and forward to the halt"  given our little runaway moments I felt like that was a positive note to end on.  Apparently not.

To the judge's credit there was a lot of this going on:
not cute.
Once my reins got long I was screwed. I tipped forward and we went to pieces.  I can't tell where this was in our test but I think it was our transition up to the trot after our free walk.  the comment was "prompt transition, needs balance."


To our credit, the second test had a lot more of this going on:
slight improvement
I stayed back, and was a bit more effective, but we were still pretty firmly on the forehand/I was getting ripped out of the tack for a majority of the ride.

small victories.

I'll dive deeper into the tests in upcoming posts. but I came away feeling like I diffused some of the anxiety in our second ride, but still need to find a way to get the mare focused when traffic cones are lurking at one end.  Also, I think maybe I need to explore not showing in the super nice chunky KK double jointed D.

I know that no bit is a substitute for true obedience, but having a bit that she respects just a TEENSY bit more might help shut down the scoots a tad.  It won't produce relaxation and I wouldn't expect it to, but I could use some help backing the mare off her forehand when we're away from home.  The KK does just fine when we're schooling, but she's a whole-lotta-mare when she decides to get strung out. 

Also, it was at least 80 degrees so I'm proud that neither of us (me or the mare) passed out mid ride.  Good on us.


  1. Yeah ... sounds like a "learning experience." I hate those! Still, P2 is a gorgeous mare, and the picture of you that you like is a lovely one. There's a lot of dressage in that mare and in you!

  2. Brave riding!! I love it. :-D

    You sound a lot more confident and collected mentally this time around, which is a step forward. You also finished both tests.

    Amen to more bit. Cuna does dressage in a Dr Bristol, and it helps him keep 150lbs or less in my hands and still be round-ish. Maybe someday we'll be a french link couple, but it's a long road ahead.

  3. I once had a green pony go absolutely bonkers in an Intro C test at canter (yeah, that test where you literally canter for half a circle). Pony schooled beautifully at home, in the warm-up - turned into a bronco in the actual test. The judge wrote "tactful riding", which I can only assume actually meant "Dear lord, how did you even stay ON?!?"

  4. Sounds like you kept your cool and got your mare back for the second ride. You should be commended for that! And I think "brave riding" sounds pretty cool.

    Loved the collective marks for The Boy. Too funny.

  5. Life with the ponies! It's a constant back and forth, forward a few steps and back, esp with the green beans! Glad you braved it, keep doin what you're doin and she'll get more reliable. I tried bitting up with Pong and turns out I needed to bit down. I highly recommend the Nathe snaffle, Pongo is putty in it and way less high strung/heavy with the softer/gummy bit in his mouth.

  6. To be fair, the first level tests have quite the canter tours. When my mare spooked at the 'killer' judge, she was off like a freight train and of course we couldn't come back for a whole other lap, including extended canter. Not too freight train friendly. My judges comments weren't readable however. They were in some form of scribe code that i'm not privy to, although i'm sure they have their own alphabet.

    The second photo looks nice! The sun has really lightened up her coat colour, but it looks good on her.

  7. I love your husband's score sheet! That's awesome!

    This is why I don't show and probably won't show. It's too stressful for me and I have stage fright/anxiety lol. It sounds like you did a great job keeping everything under control. You guys are definitely on the path to success, just keep on plugging away. :D

    Oh and I agree on the halt comment. She looks square to me!!


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