Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Moral Victories

I've settled on classifying the schooling show as a moral victory.  For a number of reasons, but the primary one is that this show came just a few weeks off my "one year anniversary" with the Big Mare.

Technically, I bought Prair in December of 2011, but I didn't really have the opportunity to work with her regularly until we brought her home in April of 2012.  So this little schooling show is a nice milestone in what we've accomplished together over the course of a year together.

Prair and I also had our first (baby) show together in June of 2012, so we're not far off that year mark either.  All in all, I cannot believe how different an experience Sunday was for us.

Things that happened Sunday that make me feel like we're actually making progress:

1) Prairie walked on the trailer without pause, then proceeded to stand on the trailer for over an hour munching hay while I got organized for the day.
Bringing Prair home in 2012
It took about 15 minutes to get Prair loaded when we brought her home, and usually takes exactly 2 minutes to get her loaded now.  She isn't demonstrative, but she likes to pause on the ramp and sniff around before walking all the way on.  Also, once she's loaded, she's typically worried enough to ignore treats when offered.  She doesn't sweat or freak out, she is just.... distracted.  Having her walk straight on and stand happily is a nice progression.

2) NO SPOOKS at the show.

I should probably highlight this statement, animate it, bold it, whatever because it's huuuuuuuge.  When Prair first came home we regularly scooted across the outdoor, spooked inside, and came unglued in new environments. In fact I had plenty of rides where I convinced myself I would just walk and trot because I wanted to focus on my trot.  In point of fact this was just an excuse since the canter caused me severe anxiety and I avoided it unless the stars aligned or S made me.  I have never had anxiety about the canter in general so I think it developed by association since all of our scoots happened going into the canter or once we were cantering.  Ergo, I avoided.  Good ol' fashion coping mechanism.

So to have a full day of showing complete with umbrellas, ponchos, grandstands, and ponies going a million miles per hour without a full spook totally impresses me.  Sure, she was amped up in a (very) crowded warmup ring, but she kept her feet in the right place and never bolted, inverted or freaked out.  Prairie did give the "grandstand" a hairy eyeball a few times, but she actively worked and controlled herself both in warmup and big arenas.

You may recall at our first few Dressage schooling shows (at the same facility) we we a little less than.... contained/controlled/calm during our canter work and even excused ourselves from a test.

Sunday I was able to canter around the same arena with a loop in my rein. 
impersonating a freight train last year in the same arena...

We will also be attending a show where this epic spook happened in June of 2012...

3) Flying Changes!!

We managed to get around all three courses on Sunday with only one simple change.  The lone simple change was a byproduct of her harder direction and some super sketchy looking spectators lurking in the shadows (Prair was concerned).  Without the hard look we might have gotten a clean(ish) change but with the look I opted to bring her back to the trot.

The rest of the changes were mediocre.  Some were very late, but we got them.  New feature.  Who would have guessed.

4) Long Spots

Sunday, I mentally committed to not choking Prairie back to a lope and chipping all of our distances.  In an attempt to be "defensive" and not allow the mare to get unbalanced/panicky, I have gotten very (very, very) comfortable with a slow, underpowered, "manageable" canter (read: lope).

The result is that I am constantly holding her back to add extra strides (and then one more for good measure) which also means my giant 17h huge strided horse adds one (or two) in every line.  Aside from feeling like a nitwit when a 15h QH makes the strides and we don't, it's not correct or a good foundation to take all the RPM's out of Prair's engine.

So Sunday I decided no more and we went for it (actually S decided NO MORE and told us to go for it).  To my surprise, Prair didn't take advantage of me being soft or allowing a larger step and we moved up without drama.  When in doubt, I chose the longer distance and we survived without incident.

During our first course I erred on the side of "bold" and while we made all our strides and "moved out" nicely, we apparently also looked like we were galloping around the course.  I would defend my round slightly in saying that unlike previous shows where Prair has dragged me around at a gallop, this time we proactively motored around "at a gallop" with her in front of my leg and a softer rein.  (WIN).
Remember this cute move? It was nowhere to be seen Sunday. (thank god).

5) Eq

I'm glad to say that I'm consistently moving up the ranks in my Eq on the flat (and over fences for that matter).

When I first got Prairie I felt like I brand new rider.  Her movement was so much bigger and her body so much longer than anything I had ridden, I felt like I was flopping around like a sack of sloppy slop every ride.  (The Boy describes this look as "getting ridden" by your horse).

Not only have I become a much more effective Prairie Pilot, but I think I look significantly less flop-sloppy than I used to.  I'm sitting up, sinking into my heel and actually showing up for the ride.

This was helpful on Sunday during our twenty minute equitation class.  I don't know if the judge was bored or really couldn't figure out how to pin the class but holy lord it went on forever.  I'm not kidding when I say we sat the trot for 5 minutes.  Not a terrible thing (though I did think a few ladies were going to fall off) but I could feel both Prairie and myself starting to lose gas.  We had waited to do our courses until the end of the division which meant that we literally went out the back gate and circled back to the in-gate for our flat classes without pause.  tired.  (note to self, workout a little).

Aside from the sitting-trot-set-from-hell, we were asked to do both simple and flying changes of lead, and lengthen our stride in the trot.  Obvi Prairie aced this, but the immediate call for a HALT during the lengthening was mean.

Then the judge called for a canter depart.  Which we squeaked out, but would have warranted an embarrassing score at a Dressage show.  All in all, I felt a little discombobulated, exhausted and like Prairie's frame was getting longer and lower by the second.

I was shocked when we won the class, but I guess it was a nice little affirmation.  At least we pinned well in something.  We managed a 3rd in our HUS, which usually I'd be pleased with, but I really didn't think anyone else in the ring could match Prair's movement/way of going.  S noted that I let Prairie's poll get a little low at times, but her nose was always poked out.  Do you know how hard it is for me to let her do that?? Another moral victory of sorts...

Over fences my Eq is leagues ahead of where we've been.  I was thrilled to pin in the middle of the pack for our (one) Eq over fences course which was pretty fun.  It had a nice (insanely tight) rollback and a few fences with super long approaches that I usually psych myself out on.  When we jumped through our last line during that course I was literally grinning.  Prairie was right there for me and I felt totally locked on.  My leg was wrapped around her, my ass was out of the tack and Prair was soft and uphill waiting for me to move her up or hold her back.  Bliss.

Of course there were lots of little things to work on from the show and plenty of room for improvement as suggested by our placing.  But as far as "personal bests" it has to rank high.  It's so obvious to me how much better of a rider I am this year than last - and even more pronounced how much more relaxed and confident Prairie is.  I dare say she seems to enjoy being a Hunter, even if she's not a very good one yet.

On the Horizon, it's a short week at home before we head right back to the same facility on Thursday for their one "big" rated show of the year.  It's still only a C but it's the "exhibitor's choice" C show for our zone.  That means the jumps are fun, prizes are good (COOLERS) and there a pony only division not to be missed.  Prair is slated for the Pre-Greens and a 3' classic/derby thing with S, and for Pre-Adults and a 2'6" classic/derby thing with me.  It should be a really fun weekend, especially if Prair remembers to pack her manners again....

Monday, April 29, 2013

Best of Times / Worst of Ribbons

There is nothing quite like getting your proverbial ass handed to you at a totally un-recognized, backyard-ian schooling show.  Especially when such results go hand in hand with what was unquestionably our best outing in.... ever?

I've almost forgotten how long one day (not dressage) schooling shows/events/whatever are.  You're up at the crack of dawn, then spend hours in drizzling rain staring hopefully at small (passing) patches of sunshine while your horse gets grumpier and grumpier as divisions run later and later....

BUT they are fun.  They are still exciting, entertaining and sometimes even productive.  
Not our show.  But this was happening all morning...
Prair and I managed to make yesterday, exciting, entertaining and yes, even productive.

Our one lone blue ribbon doesn't really reflect how freaking BASS ASS the mare was and how much fun I had on her.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) there is absolutely zero photographic evidence.  So the rose colored glasses have firmly tinted the glory of our (moderate) successes and fuzzily blurred the agony of defeat.

I'll get a full report up tomorrow, but suffice it to say that out of three classes over fences we had only one simple change (one!), only added in a line once and zero spooks.  ZERO.

On the flat we were steady, obedient and patient enough to deal with the Eq class from hell.

Good Mare.  She deserves lots of grasses.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hey Girl - Use those aids

In honor of Rolex Dressage rides (and nothing of note from my own trips to the barn...) here's a Hey Girl from my very own boy.  I think I drafted this last summer (obviously I was still riding dressage tests... but I don't think I ever posted it? did I? If I did I'm sure I repeat myself at least every six months on other items anyway....)

The Boy was/is still learning about how to read Dressage Score Sheets (and also how to score derby rounds!), but when deciphering one of P2's old dressage tests, The Boy took a particular liking to the term "use of the aids."  He's taken to asking me "how well I'm using my aids" and "so, were you more effective with using my aids today?"


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rolex, Rolex, Rolex!!!

BAH.  In all my scurrying about I (nearly) forgot that the dressage rides at Rolex started today.  WOO..

And here I thought I'd actually be getting work done.  NOPE.  Time to stream.  In years past I've plugged in some headphones and subtly kept one ear sort of tuned into the office, but today I'm just shamelessly playing the commentary through my speakers.  However, I haven't (yet) expanded the window to full screen (I am at least responding to emails... ha)

Also exciting is that in my neglect of the run up to Rolex, I totally missed that one of our old Pony Clubbers has her horse entered and ready to ride this afternoon.  She's not in the irons, but I'm still excited. Love some West Coast (especially PNW) representation however we can get it.

So, while I'm totally out of the loop of who is supposed to win and who's supposed to be fabulous - I am thoroughly looking forward to watching Mar De Amor enter at A.  Supposedly he and Buck been schooling well but that's literally all I know.  He is a gorgeous (feisty) horse, and I'm excited to see him at the 4* level..

Borrowed pic from EventingNation.com.. I'm sure they won't mind.

Cute, yes no?
Anyway, they ride at 12:12 which means I will be delaying my lunch hour just a bit and will pray to my network gods that I don't spend their entire ride buffering the stream...

Yay Rolex! Now I know what I'll be doing all weekend ;)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Order

I'm back to the (oddly) familiar state of waiting for a saddle to arrive.

Last week I finally connected with the CWD rep (who was lovely by the way) and had potentially the most productive, and most fun saddle fitting to date.

The fact that I have been blessed (or is it cursed? not sure which) with so many frigging saddle fittings in the last three years has given me more perspective on what I consider to be satisfying in the process...

Things that make me happy:

    Thoroughly explaining the philosophy (and technology) of a brand.

Things that don't:

    Bad mouthing other saddles (including ones that the same fitter had "sold" me a year prior)

Good things:

    Enthusiastically considering consignment options and going through the inventory

Bad things:

    Telling me that waiting for the right used saddle is a waste of time

Good thing:

    Actively commenting on the impact of different saddles as I'm testing them

Bad thing:

    Only praising expensive (read: custom) options.

The whole time I spent with my CWD rep was fabulous.  She was very genuine about her process, very straightforward about costs and very mindful of my budget.  I also enjoyed that she unabashedly campaigned for her brand.  I have decided that while I enjoy "objective" fitters who really just work on any saddle and have their favorites but no allegiance - I am thoroughly irritated by supposedly objective fitters are tied to a brand and end up pushing homogenous solutions.  I guess maybe I just appreciate transparency.  If you rep a brand, own it and love it.  If you don't, that's cool too.  Just don't pretend to be objective or unbiased when you aren't.  (rant done).

So the fitting was good.  I was confident that she was mapping my horse's back well, attending to how the saddle fit my body and affected my position as well as making the whole thing moderately enjoyable.  I feel like when you are considering a large purchase, the process should be fun (this is why I also like personal shoppers when the occasion warrants it). Even more important than fun is that I feel informed and confident - both of which I did.  I'm not sure I would have been so confident if I haven't had the good fortune of riding in S's Mom's Saddle (SMS) consistently and having the opportunity to switch between it and my current jump tack as well as S's own CWD...  I really hate trying to decide how a saddle impacts my horse in 5 minutes of hacking. 

When it came down to decision time we had basically agreed that SMS was an almost perfect fit.  Ideally I needed a bit more flap and Prair needed a bit more gusset if we were ordering new. I also firmly decided that that the SE02 (half deep) put me in a better balance than the flatter SE01.  I also decided that (for the first time in my life) I preferred the wider twist (weird).  And I also enjoyed the slightly rounder, more forward "C" flap over the decidedly more Huntery "L" flap which sadly did compliment the line of my leg more than the C.  Finally, I also decided that while sticky calfskin is nice, I hate how quickly it stains and wears. I also dislike the extra panel stitching which inevitably needs repair.  Full Grain leather is a-ok by me.  Also - cheaper.  (woo! score one for the budget..)

We looked over the used inventory, chatted about the likelihood of my necessary specs surfacing in a consignment saddle anytime soon (seat size, tree, gusset.  I'd compromise on leather, color, flap) and in the end we drew up the paperwork for a new saddle.
8-10 weeks... My egg timer is set....
I know purchasing new is a bad habit of mine, but used CWD's in good condition are still so expensive that it seems silly to then compromise on it not being "just right."  If I'm shelling out over $2k for a saddle, it's going to be a good fit.  Or at least that's how I'm justifying it... I do also recognize that while I can get over not having a perfectly long flap for my mutant femurs, I won't compromise on the panels on Prairie's back and she's still sorta shaped like a hammock, and hammock shaped saddles are a little harder to find off the rack.

So today I'm heading to the barn armed with my huge tack cleaning kit, my Prestige and the Pessoa.  They are getting a thorough cleaning and then listed on eBay ASAP.

$2,400 for the Prestige, and $1,700 for the Pessoa.  Both have less than 6 months of ride time on them so hopefully they will sell fairly easily.  I love them both dearly but I just don't need a full tack shop in my garage.  The Pessoa will be redundant once the CWD arrives and the Prestige sadly just doesn't fit Prairie like I want it to, and sitting in my nice dressage saddle on the arm of my sofa only offers so much value... it's got to go.

I hate waiting.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Weekend Work

While some excess celebration of a friend's engagement left me a little worse for wear, the weekend brought a couple very productive rides for the big mare.

Friday I had a lesson late in the afternoon and as I mentioned, S had set a full course outside and we were going to school it (come hell or high water).  Which, actually came in the form of unrelenting rainstorms and an immensely soggy ring (high water).  The showers lightened to a polite mist by the time I was legging up so we braved the weather and headed outside.

Prairie was a tweedle-monster from the get go.  She was spooking at birds, at wind, at rain, at... whatever. 

Of course this tantrum ramped up just as the seriously heavy rain returned which meant that there was no escaping to the shelter of the indoor without first resolving Prairie's antics. I also simultaneously realized that my beloved raincoat is no longer waterproof.  Oh, and those nice big vents on my GPA are less than ideal in a monsoon situation (soggy head).

But the mare. 

The mare was doing her best impression of "freak out at everything on show day" but at home.  Aside from the rain I was moderately intrigued by the "opportunity" for me to stay on and attempt to work through this little episode without completely relying on S (who was also braving the rain outside with us).

So, on I stayed - and did my best to start diffusing the powder keg that I was riding.  Between pathetic whimpers that were meant to garner sympathy from S, I focused on keeping Prairie super busy and working hard and also not just clamping down on the reins in an attempt to contain her.

I stayed on a very small circle at the "safe" end of the arena doing small figure-eights, shoulders-in/haunches-out and transitions.  Keeping her busy kept her brain moderately focused and also really helped prevent me from tensing up and wrangling her into relaxation. 

Slowly S asked us to broaden our circle and creep toward the scary end as we worked.  I felt Prair "pop" a few times attempting to scoot but I caught her shoulder, set her straight and focused on immediately releasing.  It was nice to have S there to tell me to soften because she was yelling "SOFTEN!" about 10 strides before my brain would have considered it safe to actually soften.

The result however, was that I avoided a tug-o-war and I think that we prevented the mare from escalating further.  Eventually I worked a small crossrail into our ever-growing-circle and managed to get some nice circles at the trot and canter over it.  Then we worked a line going toward the scary end, and eventually continuing to canter through and past the scary-horse-eating-end of the arena.

About an hour later I had a mostly soft (if not totally relaxed) horse who was cantering full courses and getting her changes. 

I did keep her canter very tiny and we were adding two strides in ever related distance, but I think it's what we needed to stay in control and not scooting about like a drama llama.

By the end of the ride I was exhausted, but really proud that I was able to work through the tantrum and get to some nice, productive work. 

Saturday was a day off for everyone, but Sunday I headed out to watch S's ride.  In theory we were going to repeat the coursework outside, but the continuing monsoons pushed us inside for some low cavaletti/crossrail work.

Prair with S on Sunday
Prair was rad.  She was steady, balanced and responsive.  She went right to work and stayed focused for the whole ride.  It was really, really fun to watch.  I continue to marvel at how much I enjoy watching my horses work with other riders.  Growing up I never had anyone else on my horses and I couldn't quite figure out what the allure was of having other people ride/show your horse for you. 

But I totally get it now.  Not only do I still take pride in my horses when they are under someone else, I find it just as educational and entertaining to watch a work session with S up in the irons.  I also find shows just as nerve-wracking and stressful when I'm on the ground. 

It's weird.  But I enjoy it and its been a fun addition to my horsey experience.

This week I'm hoping the good trend continues.  I'm hauling out Wednesday for our offsite lesson and Sunday we have a fun little schooling show back at our favorite local park.  It will be a good one-day warm up for a super fun C show back at the same facility May 3rd-5th.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Birthdays (belated, botched, etc)

So many birthday fails.  First of all, Prairie turned 8 on the 14th.  If you recall I missed her birthday last year too.  Whoops.  Terrible horse mom.  But, we did have a nice hack on the 14th, so maybe she was giving me a present for her bday celebrations.  Although, she then promptly ripped her shoe off and went lame, so maybe she was a little pissed about the whole "oops I forgot" thing.  Not so subtle tantrums are sort of her style...
I didn't even fake a new birthday picture....
Secondly, I petitioned the USEF for an ownership transfer for Gus (since his USEF paperwork is M.I.A. but then again, so are his old owners..) and I finally got his Lifetime Horse recording back in the mail.

Turns out Gus gets a birthday bonus because according to the USEF, his birthday wasn't on March 29th, like I was told, but rather it will be on May 9th.  Of course Gus made no mention of this when he got extra birthday treats on the 29th... 

Extra birthday bonus? Gus wasn't born in 1997, looks like it was 1996.  Mind you when I started considering taking him on he was "12."  Then when I was mostly committed to him we found out he wasn't 12, he was 15, almost 16.  But really he's 16 almost 17.

Frankly, aside from the whole DDFT thing, he looks pretty darn good for (almost) 17. 

The Cutest.
Not much else to update on Gussie Bear.  He's doing great.  We removed the acrylic from his feet, so he's now in traditional shoes.  I'll take pics and do a more in depth post on his feet (they still have a long way to go) but we're getting there (slowly).

He continues to have a few students who love and adore him, and M2 just had her first official "lesson" this week so Gus is definitely staying busy and having fun.

A few more Gus shots from Supermom because Gus is cute and Supermom's pictures are fun..

Highly Kissable Beak
But careful, cause he kisses back...
The rain has returned, but P2 is slated for a jump school today in the outdoor regardless.  I need to work on my course management and she needs to get used to the rain.  Hopefully it will be productive for both of us.

We have a schooling show in a week (on the 28th) and then a quick C show the 3rd-5th to get our butts in gear a bit before Prairie's big debut at an A in mid June....

Too many fun things.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The P

Lest we forget who the real star of the show is, I better do a brief update on Pia.  I've been meaning to post something on her for a while now so when D sent me a pretty new picture of the girl this morning, it put my butt in gear.

Full disclosure - I've been a bad (bad, bad) horse mom and haven't visited Miss Pia since I dropped her off.  But, I've been getting regular updates from D and so far I couldn't feel better about my decision to get P away from a stall and out with other horses. 

The mare's attitude seems to be melting back into a (usually) nice citizen.  She still has her flareups but I think she's generally in a much happier mindset.  D has also been throwing a leg over when she has time and giving P some rides out in a big field.  Nothing shocking there, mostly the same rides as Cowboy Man had, medium good rides and some small bucks picking up the canter. 

Other than that the pretty girl is all shed out, putting on weight and has rid herself of scratches finally.

She really is a looker.  I can't wait to see how things progress over the summer...

looking majestic in her field

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mystery Lameness Solved (d'oh)

Sunday I went out to hack the Mare and she was fabulous.  The sun peeked out for a few precious minutes so we strolled around in the outdoor mostly on a loose rein.  I didn't want a hard "school" session and in fact some of the things I need to work on the most are sitting quietly with my seat and quieting my hands when Prair is being good.   For some reason this is easier for me when I mentally commit to "hacking" rather than just being quiet while also trying to "school" something.  Stupid mental games...

Anyway, Prair was lovely.  Soft, reaching over her back and light.  I hauled out a cavaletti just to work on rhythm and she stayed soft and quiet for that as well (both trot and canter).

After about 20 minutes I gave her a long walk break before picking up the reins and finishing with some long and low work to really stretch with.  Prair was great, until I switched to the right rein and felt a slight hitch in her left shoulder.


I serpentined a few more times to really feel it, but she was noticeably short on her left front and while not glaring it certainly seemed to be more and more pronounced.  I hopped off, pulled her boots and felt for anything weird (as though I would feel something immediately after pulling her boots).  Thankfully I didn't find anything so I untacked, informed S gave her some bute and figured I'd see how she was Monday.

When I got to the barn Monday I went straight for Prair's legs which were (mercifully) cool, tight and even. 

So I set some jumps (looking to expand on our "soft, steady, even" ride from Sunday) and tacked up.

Our walking warmup was lovely.  Soft, relaxed and light - I worked our typical suppling exercises, shoulder in, haunches out, leg yields, leg yield on the wall, haunches in, etc.  Then I moved up into the trot.  I didn't feel any sign of the short step from Sunday, and then BLAMO.  head bobbing lame. 

I took one more circle for good measure then halted, called S and frustratingly relayed that Prair was way worse than the day before.  While we chatted for a few minutes, Prair started to get antsy and began lifting/resting her left front.  As I started to go down the road of a massive panic attack, I flew off her back, grabbed the foot and breathed a huge sigh of relief:
That would make me lame too.
Never have I ever been so thrilled to see a loose/twisted shoe.  (yay!)

That elated thought that was promptly followed by some slight cursing of horseshoes in general.  You can't pull/twist/lose/break the shoes that you don't have... barefoot is just so much simpler (if sometimes difficult).

Anyway, I walked back to the cross ties and started to take a look at what happened.  All three medial nails were missing (clearly) but all three lateral nails were FIRMLY HOLDING TIGHT.  I couldn't wiggle the shoe and it certainly wasn't showing signs of wanting to let go all the way.

I think that the shoe was probably missing nails on Sunday, but the clip was preventing the shoe from twisting too much.  I'm guessing that it did have some play though and that probably is what ended up making Prair a bit sore as the ride went on.  Handy things clips... hmmm clips.  if the shoe was twisted and the clip wasn't showing anymore on the outside.... that meant holy shit it was IN her wall.

In a slight panic I reefed up on the shoe and extracted the clip from her separated wall and then stood there thinking I had been super helpful. 
proverbial thorn out of the paw.
Except now I was stuck in the cross ties, with a shoe that still wouldn't come off and I didn't want to set Prair's foot down and have her reinsert the clip into her poor little tootsie. 


Oh, and it was Monday so the barn was empty.  Totally devoid of humans, aside from me hunched over a hoof trying to figure out how I was going to get anything resembling nail pullers or a crowbar while still keeping my horse's foot in the air.

My first call (while holding hoof in air) was to my farrier.  He was far, far away but his assistant was close and could be there in 40 minutes.  My second call (still holding hoof) was to S, who was only 20 min away and rerouted immediately to the barn to hopefully get some tools to help pull the shoe.

I could reach my hoof pick and the needle-nose pliers that I always keep in my brush box.  The hoof pick was too weak to leverage the shoe at all and while the pliers did an okay job of gripping the nails, they kept slipping off before they could actually pull the nails out.  

Eventually, one of the barn guys walked by and I called out a bit pathetically.  I did a bad job explaining what I needed help with. (at first I think he thought I was complaining that no one noticed Prair's shoe was falling off) but then with some epic gestures and charades-ing he happily retrieved a crowbar (eek) which we were able to hammer under the nails and then pull them cleanly, leading to getting the shoe actually off. 


Prair, god bless her, probably let me keep that foot in the air for 30 minutes.  She got lots of cookies.

Awesome farrier man made it out this morning to reset both fronts and after lots of watching her go we're pretty sure she just snagged the thing overreaching (damn fancy movement).  I guess she gets bells on for turnout now too...

Exhausting.  I'm already thinking about when I will be transitioning Prair to barefoot again... I need a plan for that.

(Note to self, pay attention to nails in shoes when picking feet and avoid all of the entirely...)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pure Bliss...

One of the fun parts of saddle shopping endlessly-googling-slightly-different-search-parameters is that you inevitably stumble onto fun new things and end up clicking down rabbit trails of links that send you far off into the deep space of the internet. 

While I've been keeping my consignment hunt relatively confined to the particular saddle I think I want, a few hours on an airplane led to less focused search and some serious oogling of what can only be considered saddle pornography.

Bliss of London has been making irregular appearances in my horsey life.  I've seen a few saddles out at shows and heard a few trainers and fellow riders reference the saddlery, but I've never sat in one, felt one, or done anything more than snoop (stalk) around on their site.  Their site might be more indicative of a new Vegas club than a typical saddlery, but it sure is pretty...
Exactly what I (and my barn) look like in early morning light...

Usually aggressive design sings to me, but they have a few flap designs that send me right back to my traditional roots.  However, aside from a few styling misteps, the Tack Ho in me considers their attention to detail, absurd options and unique styling refreshing. 
Dislike.  looks like the saddle got scalped.

Like.  Subtle but detailed.
Also Like

To me, the price tag must be moderately based on the aesthetics of the brand, but I'm curious to meet someone who actually owns one of these things and find out if it's more than just a really pretty piece of tack (or should I say horse jewelry?)

It's like they deconstructed a Chanel handbag for that gullet...
The leather options are endless (drool), as are the locations for potential rhinestones (something I can pass on) but if I had money just burning a hole in my pocket and a barn of fancy schmancy horsies who needed new outfits, it would be fun to have something like this to suit each horse's needs/discipline/color and personality.

Please tell me someone out there has sat in one and hated it so I can stop thinking about what color my quilted saddle gullet would be...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Like a Hole in My Head

Is about how badly I "need" another saddle. 


I mentioned earlier that Prair has been a superstar and my balance has been way (way way way way way way way) better in S's Mom's saddle (SMS?).  It was purchased for a (giant) PMU baby who had a broad back but surprisingly high wither.  Also, S's Mom is about my height with the same mutant-long-femur which makes finding a saddle that fits moi a tricky business. 

Since S's Mom is currently horseless she is (generously) allowing me the use of her (essentially new) CWD.  I am totally in love, and quickly started scouring the internet for anything resembling the build of her saddle.  I can find bits and pieces well enough (seat size, long flap, chocolate leather..) but I cannot (cannot) find the deeper gussets which fit Prair's back like a freaking glove.  I know this means I'll end up purchasing a new CWD (ouch) and then waiting forever for it to show up at my doorstep.  S has her own CWD with a standard panel, and it really does need a bump pad to fit it correctly.  My thinking is that if I'm spending $3k on a used saddle, I really don't want to be shimming it up with pads.... and so the hunt continues.
The closest thing I can find to SMS
Two nights ago I did my best perfect-housewife impression, dutifully pouring The Boy a cocktail when he got home and asking all about his day before coyly mentioning that perhaps Prair really wants a new saddle. 

"oh, does your current jump saddle not fit well?"

(points for knowing that saddles have to "fit" and also that I was discussing a "jump" saddle...)

I explained that while it fits Prair fine it seems to tip me back and makes it hard for me to keep my leg forward and underneath me, which in turn throws her off balance which starts a tug of war which makes everything less fun...

"oh.  well then you should probably get a new saddle."

(This is another example of how I am wildly lucky that my husband doesn't find redundant tack a "wasted" purchase. Frankly, he's so excited about Prairie doing a derby that if we needed a diamond encrusted trailer to take her there he might consider it.)

The downside of this blind support is that I end up being the one who has to rationalize the expense of such purchases and figure out what actually makes sense.   Some would call this skill "self control" though I wouldn't because I don't really know what that is (ergo, we have a problem).

Anyway, I made an appt with our local rep for next week (see? no self control in sight).  God save me if I order another saddle to suit (which would be the third in as many years...*smack*) But at least I have a few saddles I could sell to offset the cost (a little?). 

I should sell my Prestige, although I love it.  The fact is that doesn't fit Prair correctly and it still has a decent market value.  It's also only been ridden in for about 6 months since after ordering it for Pia we stopped working in an arena.  (2011, 18" Optimax, post upgrades to the tree and panel and 34 tree..).  It does fit Gus nicely.  But I don't think Gus needs it.  At least not until I use him for my Bronze Medal. (teehee)

I could sell my Hastilow, but I'd like to keep a dressage saddle (for my supposedly dressagey horse) and it does actually fit Prairie.  Plus it's potential resale is much lower which is less helpful in the pursuit of the elusive perfect CWD.

I could also sell my Pessoa, which is the current jump saddle.  I still like it, but since it has even less resale value than the Hastilow (It also had a much lower initial price).  I wouldn't mind keeping it as a second saddle for Gus or whoever, especially since I have the M, MW and W gullets already.  But it is essentially brand new and I would easily sell it if someone asked.  I will say that I have been super pleased with the quality given the price point... I think it's just a little too forward and a little too deep for what I need..

I also have my ancient Klimke Dressage saddle which was originally purchased for $900 back in 2000 and is the only thing that (sorta) fits Pia decently at the moment (also it's currently up with her, which makes it harder to sell).

Wow.  nothing makes me feel like more of a saddle hoarder than listing them all together.. Eeeesh.  I guess the good news is I'm not nostalgic about anything but the Klimke (cute star the wonder pony..) and since it's worth the least in terms of trade ins I guess that's a good thing. 

Time to get on eBay I guess....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stepping Up

When I posted yesterday I was already anticipating a severely over scheduled day, but I didn't quite account for all of our misadventures.

(skip down to the first picture if you're less interested in rambling and would prefer to see a crappy phone vid of P2 jumping...)

A late morning meeting got canceled so while I thought I was 15 minutes ahead of schedule getting to the barn to hitch up, S quickly ran up to my truck and informed me that while getting something out of the back of her car, one of her dogs stomped on the "lock" button and locked her keys in her car.

With her dogs.

No windows cracked.


We clearly weren't going anywhere until we freed her doggies so she scurried off to ask one of the barn guys if they could help.  I'm not sure how she phrased it but I think they took her question to mean if they had "experience" breaking into cars and were mildly offended.  whoops.

Anyway, we grabbed a crowbar from the shop and the stiffest wire we could and managed to pry the window enough to snake the wire down.  Of course a wiggly, wobbly wire was just about the most excited thing her dogs could imagine (italian greyhounds) and they were not exactly helpful in the process.

Twenty minutes into the wire wiggling process I was starting to feel like we weren't getting anywhere and we were quickly becoming a laughing stock for the (large) construction crew that was 20 feet away and working on rebuilding the new farmhouse.  Seriously.  20 dudes, and not one had a better idea/tool/strategy than watching me and S struggle with a crappy piece of tie wire.

After determining that the wire was too soft to "press" the button, we were literally at the point of affixing cheese to said wire and trying to coax the dogs into hitting the unlock button themselves, when one of the guys came up with a yard stick shoved it in the window and saved the day.

Thirty minutes behind schedule we got the mare shoved in the trailer and hit the road.   The trainer we were meeting wasn't too concerned about timing aside from trying to get our school in before the jumps got put up too high, which was not something I was worried about.  I was more worried about hauling an hour, sneaking into the warm up rings, hauling back an hour and making it to the barn for Gus' delayed spa-pedi.

Anyway, we got to the show grounds, parked inconspicuously in the back and snaked through the barns till we found our set up.  Prairie was super quiet (like she usually is when she hauls alone) and didn't seemed phased by the hustle and bustle.

However she was not excited about the grooming stalls that were set up.  She snorted and sniffed and refused to go in.  when we finally did go in she looked like a cat getting a bath and was clearly not impressed with the situation whatsoever. 
Once we overcame the tack stall, we headed to an outdoor ring where the fences were just being raised to 2'3"/2'6"ish.   S hopped on and started walking around.  I was for sure convinced that Prair was going to lose it since she dislikes puddles and the last week of downpours left this particular ring resembling a lake more than anything else.

Much to my surprise though, the mare happily splashed through puddles and warmed up really nicely.  If I didn't know the her, I'd assume she was 100% relaxed and swinging.  But I do know the mare and I could see the occasional heavy checks to bring her back a bit.

I was super pleased with how Prair handled to traffic (everything form bucking broncos to zooming ponies) and she didn't seem overly distracted or spooky at all.

Over fences she wanted to rush a little bit, but once S started adding in the lines she came back and was great.  Trainer lady has S start to think about moving up to the fences then adding for a deeper distance 3 strides out.  My personal tendency is to just hold, hold, hold which results in a tiny, underpowered crappy canter and usually an even crappier distance.  S suffers from that plague way less than I do, but until recently Prair wasn't very trustworthy jumping out of a bigger stride or longer distance... so it's a mental adjustment for us both.

The result of asking Prairie to move up and then back was a much rounder, softer, loftier jump.  Dare I say she looked like a real hunter.

After about 20 minutes we headed for the big indoor where fences had been set to 3'3".  The arena was pretty crowded.  Probably six horses and ten big, well filled jumps.  Prairie breathed a little fire walking in but settled well.  I was certain the big spooky ring would freak her out but she stayed fairly manageable.  The only time she wanted to scoot a bit was sneaking between jumps and the rail which I think was more of a claustrophobic response than anything.  She was delightfully not affected by the traffic or horses freaking out around her.

S popped over some easy courses adding in the lines to get a tighter distance with ease.  Dare I say that Prair almost looked like a big kid hunter.  I was so hypnotized that I nearly forgot to snag any video but I finally came to right at the end of the ride and snagged a couple of clips.

First video is an outside line and diagonal.  Fairly consistent aside from accidentally adding two in the last line instead of just one.  Never would I have thought that would have been a problem we would have.. lol

They popped back through the diagonal one more time (only adding one stride) and called it a day.

I was super pleased with the ride and Prair finished calm and relaxed.  At least five people approached me about the mare asking everything from "where did she come from" "who is that" and "is she for sale."

I still feel like we have a bit of polish to add before we make the step up to the A's but Prairie looked like she belonged and like she might actually hold her own - which was super encouraging and very rewarding to see. 

When I think about how we were struggling with canter departs this time last year it's incredible to see how far she's come and how much more balanced and connected she is...


Monday, April 8, 2013

Magic Mare - and 10lbs of scheduling in a 5 lb sack..

Prairie has been spectaculamazing.  The entire week she has been a soft, light, forward ball of loveliness.  Our magical ride on Tuesday was followed by a fabulous trainer ride on Wed (counter canter down long side, flying change to true canter for short side, change back to counter for long side.. repeat) another fabulous lesson for me (course work, soft, steady and joy inducing) and a couple of hacks (all productive.

Saturday S asked if I wanted to head out to one of the AA shows nearby and watch the Derby in the evening and obviously I said yes.  Of course I said yes without asking The Boy (or my totally non-horsey friend who was visiting) if they wanted to go but no matter.  We all pig piled into the truck and headed out to be spectators. 

Honestly I expected to be blown away by the level of competition, but I.... wasn't.

There were a few gorgeous horses and some lovely rounds to be sure, but I was shocked at how many refusals there were (especially at the hay bales... Hunter babies have gots to be getting out on XC more often..) late changes, crappy rides, etc.

Mostly it was reassuring that while I don't entirely want to cough up the funds for an A show at the moment, Prair and I wouldn't embarrass ourselves too much running around.  Also fun, a (big gorgeous KWPN) gelding that Prair beat out for her Pre-Green Champion was the Reserve Pre-Green at this show... which means that in theory Prair could have held her own as well.

All in all very encouraging.  The entire time The Boy was like "can't Prair do this? Why didn't we bring Prair? she looks way better than some of these horses... when can we take Prair to a big show??"

(he also made the observation that Gus looks less lame than some of the horses being shown but that's another issue..)

Of course all the fun show action led to a night of S filling out entries for our next couple outings including.... DERBIES. 

A 2'6-3' one for me and a 3'-3'6" one for S to ride in.  WOO. so fun.

Schedule-wise things are a bit bonkers this week.  The second week of the AA show is starting and our plan was to haul Prairie up for schooling day tomorrow to play in some big rings, be in the atmosphere and take a lesson from our favorite fancy trainer. 

This was a great plan except that schooling day is actually today and the jumps are set to "our" height around 1pm.  Which conflicts directly with both my weekly exec meetings, the dog's 2pm hydrotherapy (don't get me started) session, and Gus' poorly scheduled 2pm pedicure.


I had a mild panic before I shuffled meetings, arranged to haul Prairie today, rescheduled hydrotherapy and Gus all to get done and accomplished before we head to Cali on Wednesday.

Busy, busy week but it's all good, fun, information stuff.  Really excited to see how the big mare handles today!

Also... I'm a little skerred that all our success last week was due to a change in saddles.  I've been borrowing S's Mom's saddle and while it fits Prair the same as mine, it puts me in a much better position which I think is totally facilitating our rides...

It might just be the equivalent of Dumbo's Magic feather.. but even he needed it to fly for a while so we'll see.  Lord knows I need another saddle like a hole in my head..

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kisses in Profile

Supermom's last visit resulted in some fabulous pictures (Note Gus' new portraits on the sidebar) which will be trickled onto the blog to maximize the glory of having new photos to share. 

But I just couldn't wait to share my favorite sequence that she shot:
If you can't tell by the giant (and tall) beak, this is P2, who had her head dangling out of her stall into the aisle.  The bright light at the end of the aisle lent itself to the severe black and white processing which I just love. 

Simple, but somehow still captures the joy of smooching a big, soft, beak.

This series is definitely getting printed and framed in the house somewhere.. just need to find the right spot...

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Wednesday was my first ride post-show and I had a loooooonnnng list of things I wanted to work on/not forget to discuss from the weekend.

However, the 60 degree sunshine and perfectly peaceful Prairie made it hard to be too fussy about anything, let alone to fixate on past sins.

S had us warm up with easy, relaxed shoulder-in at the walk and a few leg yields "against the rail" but really we did them on the quarter line.

Up into the trot, we shoulder-in-ed down the long side, then turned up the centerline focusing on total straightness before changing rein and shoulder-in-ing down the next long side.  Prair was good.  Even trotting away from the scary end she was soft, relaxed and dare I say.. lazy?

We moved up into the canter for our long side shoulder-ins, but transitioned to a trot for our centerline.  Then we started maintaining the canter and utilizing simple changes before changing reins.

After about 20 min of soft, lovely cantering, with a focus on mobilizing Prair's shoulder both with shoulder-in and a bit of counter-bend in our turn to the centerline, we removed the simple change and replaced it with a flying change. (dum dum duuuummmmmm).

The plan was to stay absolutely straight down the centerline, then prior to the change ask for some shoulder-in (true to the first lead) and then ask for the change.

We got it every time. (except once but I'm omitting that because every time sounds way more impressive than almost every time).

I think the shoulder-in made sure that Prair was off her forehand and stepping under..before asking her to swap leads.  I don't really know if that's why everything was magical, but it worked and I liked it.

Every time Prair got a clean change we'd walk and pat her for a few minutes before striking back up again for the other lead.  Because of all the good lead changes, she got a lot of walk breaks which means we probably only "worked" for 30 min, but all 30 min were fabulous and enjoyable and efficient.

I could not have been more proud.  She was so quiet and soft and willing.  No stress or anxiety at all, and she didn't even bat an eyelash at the construction crew working 20 feet from the outdoor arena.

Stellar mare.  Possibly a top 10 ride on her to date...

Lots of carrots and pats and then she got put out in her new summer field for some grasses.

good mares get lots of grasses

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Show Recap: Sunday Funday! (otherwise known as Easter)

A lot of competitors packed up and headed home on Saturday what with the Easter Bunny making his rounds... but I opted to give Prairie another day of showing and kept Gus around to keep her company.
Actually from Saturday, but I like the cherry blossoms..
Turns out I'm really glad we did since it ended up being a super productive day for us.  Notice that I say "productive" which is one of those sneaky words that doesn't necessarily indicate "successful" or "winning."  Kinda how like how teachers find all sorts of moderately complimentary words to describe hellish children.  Similarly, as a horse mom, I find all sorts of silver lining terms like "schooling opportunity,"  "great starting point," or "good benchmark,"  "educational" and so on.

Anyway, Sunday was "productive."

We did end up pinning pretty well, but I'm not exactly bragging since I was the only Long Stirrup rider in the Short/Long Stirrup combined divisions which meant that I was competing against kids and ponies.  (whoops).

Anyway.  The plan was for me to handle the mare for the day.  S was there for coaching, but if my Medals class from Saturday was any indication, I needed miles and I needed to find my comfort zone with the big mare in the show ring.

This plan lasted approximately 10 minutes which was exactly how long I walked Prair around the pony-filled warm up ring before S found us.

Prairie was pretty drama-llama-ish and in her obnoxious mode of spooking at everything (including the ponies) and hyper sensitive to all noises (most notable being one mom who closed her sunglasses case with a "pop" and sent Prairie flying.  really mare??). 

I felt myself wanted to clamp my reins and shut the mare's face down, which is exactly what S has been working so hard to avoid.  Knowing that I was getting defensive I pulled the chicken move and got off, handing the reins to S to get the initial deescalation handled. 

Two years ago if you had asked me if I would ever be the girl who let her trainer warm up her horse I would have laughed and made some disparaging comments about how if you can't warm the thing up should shouldn't be on it.  I'd probably make most of the same comments today, but in the moment I knew it was the right move in order to avoid a bad game of tug-o-war which would have lasted all day.

I got back on about 20 minutes later and while Prair was by no means perfectly calm, she was at least attentive and cooperative enough for me to productively school the rest of the warm-up.  I focused on gaining control of the shoulder, so we did lots of shoulder in at the trot and canter along with some canter/halt/canters in order to get her off the forehand and listening to come half halts.

By the time I went into the ring I was feeling pretty good.  Prair wasn't quite as relaxed as she had been Saturday afternoon, but it was about 20 degrees colder and she hadn't been snoozing in the sun for 6 hours already..

I was slated for one warm up course, then two Hunter rounds, two Eq rounds and our two flat classes.

My warm up class was ok, but we struggled with our changes, distances and me hauling on the mare's mouth.

I schooled a couple of transitions and went back in for our first hunter round which was remarkably similar though we cleaned up our distances and changes (aside from our last three fences...)

The Second round we started with "more" and I never quite got the mare back in balance and control.  She was stronger through the whole thing and still bloody whinnying for Gus.  

Our First Eq Round was better.  I held her to a smaller stride and the rollbacks in the course made it a bit easier to manage her between fences.  But still.  Not the ideal "soft" hunter performance.

I took a few extra minutes in between Eq 1 and Eq 2 to ask the mare to pretty-please-slow-the-eff-down.  My frustrations were running high and eventually we got some relaxation (both her and me, ha) and went back into the ring.  The ride itself was a bit tense, but more.. obedient? Prair listened to my half halts and although we zoomed around a tad (and she spooked at the footing against the wall) the only real "mistake" was my fault in the rollback of not giving her enough supportive leg.

No joke we pinned 3rd in every round.  Something to be said for consistency right?  It was clear to me that the judge really wanted to see a huge looped rein and a poked out nose.  Priar is just never gonna pin well with those judges, even with when she gets a more tactful ride (ie - S is riding).  The cute little mare who cleaned up in everything was a darling Paint QH who used to do western pleasure, if that gives you any indication of what was winning.  No doubt the cute Paint put in much more relaxed rounds than Prairie but still..

Immediately following my rides, I was really frustrated with the mare.  Mostly because she was so buttery-soft and amaze-balls in warm up and then such a tweedle in the ring.

But after a few minutes of reflection I could acknowledge that 6 months ago "buttery soft" in warmup was merely a dream.  Also, our rides are a million times better and Prair is getting most of her changes without pitching a fit these days - which is huge too.

We finished the day with our flat classes which both were ok.  It's funny because while we won both the Under Saddle and the Eq (yay us), it felt like less of a success since I expect more from the mare on the flat now.  She was starting to get a bit tired and heavy in our Eq round but we squeaked it out.  Somehow the math worked out that our two thirds and a first claimed Reserve for Equitation.

There are few things more boring than watching a low level dressage test, but watching a Hunter Under Saddle class is definitely one of them.  It's all I can do just to get The Boy to tape them for me.. lol.  But for those who are truly interested here's a short clip.  For those who want the cliff notes, here's a still shot:

We were done by lunchtime which meant that we were back to the barn by 1pm and both Gus and Prair got turned out in a nice big field where they galloped like mad and grazed for the rest of the day.

The only downside was that Gus continued his attack on his tail while we hauled home (what the what!?)  Anticipating the rug burn, I threw a polo wrap around his tail hoping to mitigate the damage. 

When I opened up the trailer door this is what I saw:
Gus.  Squatting on the butt bar with a black stain on the polo (from the bumper?) and poop squirted out everywhere... what's weird is that I would expect a horse in that stance to be sweaty, anxious or nervous.  But he isn't.  He's just chilling, sittin' on his sofa/butt bar...

So we unloaded and I thought "good thing I wrapped his tail!"  but then this is what was under the polo:
A sad, bloody tail rub :(  Poor guy.  Anyone have any tips? I'm thinking maybe next time I'll try wrapping with an Ace then putting a real tail wrap over that? I've never had a horse do this before... Also part of the mystery there is no tail hair to be found as evidence of the carnage.  No piles, no snags, nothing...

So aside from the Gus-tail-destruction, it was a great outing.  The horses were good, calm (or calmer) and we added some tools to our tool box for bringing Prairie back into orbit.

Great show! now onto the next....

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Show Recap: Day 2

Waiting for classes.  The #1 show activity.

Saturday was a bloody brutal morning since I agreed to help S prep her walk/trotters in exchange for my Coaching.  It sounded like a really good deal right up until my alarm went off...

Truth be told I think helping kids warm up for their first show is a fun thing and I also really wanted to see Gus in action for his walk/trot stuff.  Cuter.

When I had checked class counts the night before, horseshowtime.com showed that there were only 3 walk/trot kids entered (our 3), but come Saturday morning there were 12 kids and horses of all shapes and sizes playing bumper cars in the warm up ring. 

Most exciting was a nice looking lady on some sort of spanish-baroque looking thing who turned out to be a stallion.  The trainer on the ground called out a suspicious "stay away from the mares... don't let him look at them."

The comment piqued my interest and thinking that perhaps someone-who-is-showing-a-stallion isn't in the walk/trot class I politely called to the trainer "the kids on the mares are just walk/trot, I wouldn't count on a ton of control."

Her response "yeah, my rider is walk/trot too."


Wow.  So now not only were 12 W/T riders going to careen around the same arena, but there was a cute, amped-up, well-haired stallion in the mix as well.  With a rider who doesn't feel comfortable at the canter.

What could go wrong!??

As it turns out the stallion was not a concern.  He was in fact very well behaved and was one of the few horses in the ring who didn't (at some point) misbehave.  I was happy to report that Gus (along with the other two ponies from our barn) were well behaved, calm and handled the chaos well.  A few other horses had minor rearing fits, a couple bolts and other grab-bag suboptimal behavior.  However no one came off, so that was nice.

Gus earned a 3rd place for his rail class (CUTE) and pulled off a 1st in his Ground Pole course thing.
Gus and Cricket.  Looking about as cute as possible.

 After the W/T was done we had a nice big gap to get Prair ready for some Low Working Hunter classes.  I was disappointed that there wasn't a complete Pre-Green Division for her to show in since it's nice to have classes all close together and it's nice to keep racking up her points.  However, rather than pay for the "Pre-Green" division and have Prair go against herself and run a flat class (by herself) we opted to just throw her in all the warm up classes at 2'3", 2'6" and 3'.  I also had a fit of inspiration and put myself in a 2'6" Medals class for a fun Eq round.

The spaced out warm up classes meant that Prair was going to have a long day of standing and waiting, which is another form of education and experience that she needs. She started her warm up as a crazy thing, which was a bit understandable since all the pony hunters were warming up and zooming around her in all directions.  She hates that.
The Gerbils woke up

But S got a good rhythm going and after about 20 minutes Prair relaxed and got to work.  She was still a bit edgy about lead changes so S didn't push them and went in for her first round intending on simple changes if necessary.

They pinned 4th I think? I forgot, 3rd or 4th.  After watching a few rounds we figured out that the judge was not excited about breaking gait.  He came over to the back gate when there was confusion over the distance between the lines.  (The diagonal was supposed to ride as a 5 stride, but never moved back out after the pony divisions, which meant that either you broke your rhythm and squeezed in 5, or moved up for 4 and risked a penalty for the "wrong" strides).  Judge clarified that he wouldn't penalize for 4 strides and gave some hints that he hates seeing riders hold their horses back.


I mean, I know that as a "hunter" I'm supposed to let P2 have her head and not rip her mouth off in the turns, but damn.  She still isn't totally trustworthy without a fairly supportive contact... and by that I mean that if she loses her balance and you aren't there for her, she bolts into the next county (or country).

SO, change of plans.  S went back in for their second ride knowing that shed hold a counter-canter if necessary rather than simple change and letting the mare move out a bit more than we usually do.

The course was decent, and they moved up to a 2nd place in a larger class.

I've decided that while I'm less offended by the inherent subjective variety of hunter judges than I thought I would be... I still think it would be nice of them to tell you what kind of judge they are.

You know how when you go to a gallery there's often a short "artists statement" posted somewhere near the start of the exhibition? Hunter Judges should have to post the same thing where courses are posted.  That way riders know what the Judge's personal "perfect" hunter is.  Slow and steady? Brilliant and going? Does relaxation trump accuracy?

I digress.

While S was warming up a P2 and playing around I got to get Gus ready for our couple flat classes.  He was amiable and happy to stand around in the sunshine while we sorted out our next moves.  Personally I started to get frazzled since I realized that I needed to warm up Gus and ride Gus, but also hop on Prair a bit in order to not feel like a doofus for our Medal class.  What ended up happening was that I warmed up Gus, swapped to Prair, tuned up my feel for her, then got back on Gus for our flat classes, then immediately hopped back on Prair, jumped twice and went in for our round.

But first: Gusford.

God this horse is fun.  So straightforward.  They combined the pre-adult and pre-children divisions so I was mostly riding against kids/ponies and we pinned 3rd in the Hunter Under Saddle.  Gus was a good boy, but he just isn't your "typical" Hunter in movement.  He wants to carry his nose at the vertical and he wants to bend his knees and flick his toes.  He also wants a 12" long stride...

This is a boring flat class video, but it does show cute Gus being cute and you can really see his gaits and lameness (which is so, so so sososososososo much better than in January).  

We ended up 3rd in the Under Saddle Class but took home blue in the Eq.

I think I need to work on raising my hands with him and following his uphill neck a bit more in order to make a prettier picture.  But I am super glad with how quiet he was and how easily I was able to keep a slight loop in my rein.  Gus was totally tuned into my seat for half halts and for the most part it was a pretty passive ride.

I do need to drop my damn heels a bit more though.

We also discovered that Gus hates applause.  hates. Like freaks out and does airs above the ground.  S and I made a note to try and applaud loudly during his lessons at home and work on that issue.... 

Prair was waiting for me after Gus' classes and I should have requested a few extra minutes from the back gate prior to our Medal course.  I made the mistake of just hopping on, jumping one jump and going in - instead of remembering that Gus and Prair and opposites and I needed to make some adjustments...

Sadly, the video file is corrupted (boo) so I can't show your our less than stellar ride.  I didn't adjust to the immediate change form Gus to Prair and even as we trotted in I knew I didn't have full command of Prair's parts.  Prair was a good girl but we zoomed around faster than I would like and had some sloppy distances. My eyeball just couldn't see our spots.  I buried her to three of the jumps and while our rollbacks were beautiful - in our tightest one, I lost my inside leg and let Prair break to the trot.

I'm glad I rode the course though, it gave me some frame of reference for what to focus on for Sunday.  Also, our warmup was incredible.  It was the first time I felt like I could 100% soften and let Prair carry me to a fence.  She was soft, measured, and relaxed.  Sadly it didn't translate to our round, but still, huge progress.  When I think about what our warmup felt like for last year's Octoberfest, it's a night and day comparison.  

We scratched P2 from the 3' class since she was being a good girl and it didn't seem like it was worth waiting around for another 45 minutes before the jumps were reset.  Instead the ponies got curried, hand grazed and tucked in for the evening while The Boy and I shot up to the fairgrounds to catch Supermom in one of her evening classes.

It was a good, fun, sunny day.

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