Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Photographic Evidence

If I forgot to mention it D came out to watch my second ride last Saturday (she was potentially having more fun with her Haflinger at an Eventing camp down the road..) but she did.
She's also the one responsible for all the shutter clicking you hear on the video.
here are a few of my favorite shots she captured!

Getting ready to go in.. we wasted our best leg yield outside the court.  lol

a bit tense

A bit less tense..

Free walk, we suffered a 4 on this!!

ZOOM! no idea where we were headed here...

Final lengthening.  Rather downhill, but a 7

done and done.

Sleepy mare.

miraculously (still) white breeches.

Up or Out!

Okay... well maybe not out, but it's nice to add some pressure sometimes... Entries got filled out for the next little B show next weekend (after Labor Day) and Prair is officially aiming for the 3'3" Pre Greens, and the 2'9" whatever they call the "still not good enough for AA's" division.  Modified? Low? Who cares. 

At least it doesn't sound as pansy as "pre-adult."  That always makes me think I'm stuck there until I prove some sort of maturity.  Like maybe by a really sophisticated sense of style, or taste in weird cheeses... or caviar (I would argue I more than qualify by the cheese measure..)

Nomenclature not withstanding, (I really don't care what divisions are called so long as I feel good and comfy and maintain control) I'm excited to move up! Right now there's only one other person entered, so I really hope the division fills out, but we'll see.  It's very possible that both our attempts to move up will get nixed and Prairie will end up lumped back in with the 3' PG's and the 2'6" Pre Adults... (but I like fancy cheese!!)

It's a much shorter show (Sat/Sun only) which means we'll have to work a little harder to try and get/keep Prairie calm and relaxed without a 5 day acclimation period.  Sometimes I feel like it would be faster to set up base camp on Everest and start climbing than it is for Prairie to "relax" and "settle in like a normal horse."

Really, my only complaint about this show is a totally shallow one - the Champion ribbons are a hideous Black/Orange color combo rather than the traditional tri-colors...

I think I've mentioned this before - and I'm going to sound like a snit for saying it - but Black/Orange ribbons look like crap tacked up on my garage wall (yes I'm a 12 year old) next to the other (normal) tri-colors.

Now, I'm not so presumptuous as to think that we will DEFINITELY be coming home with tri-colors in tow, but you know... power of positive thinking and all.

GET NORMAL RIBBONS.  Black/Orange ribbons totally ruin the really cool giant ribbon quilt that exists in my mind.

So.  Onwards.  Last year at this show we entered in the Baby Greens (with S) and Long Stirrup (with me).  I'm pretty sure we killed it on the flat but then placed last in every over fences course (lol) except for the one where someone fell off and then we placed second to last.

I am confident we will have a significantly less frustrating outing this year.

I'm not *complaining* just.. suggesting a change.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Camera Never Lies

So, videos.  Videos from last Saturday.  They are amazing, cruel little things.  Because in my head I'm all "gosh my horse is so pretty, I love her big trit-trot, she's like super model. I love hamburgers, road trip food is delicious, what a fun day, I wonder what I could buy from the Smartpak sale... derrrrr"

And then I watch the videos and I have to adjust my self talk to something more like "jesus, I'm surprised I didn't dislocate a shoulder, what the hell was I doing in that "lengthening!??" Oh, look, my hands are wiggling around.  What am I looking at? oh, hmm. I don't think we were supposed to canter there, I love hamburgers."  (hamburgers are delicious regardless of how poorly one is riding).
mmm hamburgers.
There is lots of good to see too, so I'm not pretending it's all bad, but we certainly have plenty to fix if we ever really want to play dress up for Dressage.  Realistically Prair felt about as crazy as she usually does when she hauls someplace for the first time and I refuse to warm her up.  The biggest improvement was that said craziness didn't result in any bolting freak outs. The downside is that there's still quite a bit of tension to deal with.

I am pleased with our overall picture.  My leg is much steadier than it was last summer, my reins are shorter (goal! ding ding ding!), and my shoulders are back more often than not.  Prair is straighter, more respectful and much, much more balanced.  No small feat those things.

Our First Level 2 test did get a bit screwed up as the caller (they just offered a caller..) started calling Training Level 2 and I got all flustered and confused and did a bad job of relaxing prior to starting over again...  Also perhaps the whole "not warming up at all" thing might have been a bit of a hindrance. 

Anyway, I can't decide what's more boring to watch, Hunter Rounds, or Low Lever Dressage Tests.  I think they are both a little mind numbing, but just in case you are super bored at work, or just have a massive crush on Prair and like to watch her zoom around, here's both rides from Sat:

Just as a note, our first diagonal was supposed to be a lengthening.  We just sorta blew that one.  Also, all transitions were moderate crap.  I never really got her attention in this ride. 

Amazing how much pickier I've gotten in a year.  The first time we rode this test my goal was "stay in arena" with a reach goal of "don't die during canter tour."  Now I'm all expecting soft transitions and relaxation.. crazy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dressagin' (kinda)

Saturday ended up be a very entertaining - and relatively easy excursion.  At least in terms of logistics...
In terms of riding the mare was in rare form, but the setting was pretty enough that I didn't get super obsessed with our performance and instead totally enjoyed being on a beautiful horse in a beautiful setting on a beautiful day.
beautiful horse/setting/day
I was a clever girl and packed the trailer after my lesson on Friday, so on Saturday it literally took us 20 min to hitch up, grab hay, stuff the mare in her trailer and get on the road.  We headed 60 miles east, just over the mountain pass to the same town where we showed for a week in June.  However this time we were out at a farm tucked up on a beautiful plateau that seemed YEARS away from anything, even though it was really just 5 min from "town."

This of course made The Boy's heart pitter patter and he had whiplash at ever "for sale" sign we saw posted in front of any plot of land.  (there are worse things for your husband to check out than potential farm properties..)

We got there a bit early and pulled into a shady grove that was dotted with trees to unload. The farm wasn't fancy, but it was super pretty and very charming.  They are mostly set up for clinics and camps, so there camp sites, big pastures, some low level cross country and two built-in arenas.  One was set up for the Dressage show, and the other was slated for warm up, but it was far away and on the other side of (very scary) agriculture sprinklers so I opted to use the alternate warm up area which was a pasture out front. 

That plan was.... interesting.  The last horse show was on grass and very "open" but as you may recall I did not ride there (at all) and thus have never been on the big mare in a big field out in the open... And I immediately remembered why. 

Her head was in my lap and I swear to god there was a good two-Mississippi count between her footfalls.  On one hand it sorta looked like we had confirmed our piaffe and passage (and half pass and pirouettes).  On the other (more relevant) hand, I had a fire breathing dragon that refused to move forward. 

I tried my hardest not to just clamp down on her mouth and worked to push her forward and soften every chance I could.  Eventually we were able to trot around without too much drama... until a tractor started working in the filed next door.

At that point I just wandered back over to the show ring and waited for my turn.  The event was extremely casual and the judge was taking a few minutes after each test to chat with every rider.  This meant I had a few minutes before my test to trot around the arena and "finish" my warm up so to speak.  I figured I wasn't really going to get Prair to focus until we got inside something with a fence. 

On the upside though, Prair felt awesome on the grass.  The field was nice, but not exactly flat and Prair felt very balanced and responsible for her own body while we were out there, and it was really pretty.  So that was fun.

The first test was fun! they asked me how high I wanted the jumps (which was nice) and if I had tacked up in the CWD I would have bumped them up, but as I was locked in my big-blocked Dressage saddle I kept the cross rails pretty low. 

Prair felt like a powder keg the whole time, but I also felt really confident that she was going to stay moderately controlled, which was a nice contrast to our "dressage outings" last year. 

Also, I had this trot the whole time.  This is a centerline, not a lengthening :)
The Judge started his comments before we even started our test.  He had us shoulder in/haunches in outside the court before we started and really (really) wanted me to sit down and not perch.  Under the best of circumstances I have a hard time getting weight off my thigh and onto my butt, though a year in the Hunter Ring probably hasn't helped that particular issue.  I also have never successfully turned my toes in, which I partially excuse from being too long legged (and not being able to get my calf on without turned toes out) but partially is just because I never stuck with Dressage-Only long enough to fix it.

Other than that off we went.  We made it through with only a few struggles and snagged a 75%. 

woo!!! 75%!  You say.  that's a fabulous score!!! WOOOO!!!!! but then we have to remember that it was a tiny schooling show in a walk/trot test at an event with more Western Dressage than regular. 

But still! 75%.  Go team.

I hopped off the dragon between our rides, and just let her graze while I watched other people go.  I was having a nice time and while I *knew* I should have been on, riding, getting the mare relaxed... I just.... didn't really care?

I was having a nice time talking to the other (totally low key and friendly) riders and just hanging out.  I didn't actually put Prair's bridle back on until the rider before me was in the ring (oops). 

I think my test suffered a bit from me not, well.. preparing - but it was still the nicest go at First 2 we've had.  I killed her first trot lengthening by not getting her off my hand and we ended up breaking twice which was disappointing as we usually NAIL those, but oh well.  It was by far our best canter work in a test yet and I was very happy with it.

The judge had some good comments for us, I'll detail them when I get the videos up.  He was very entertaining and I could see myself taking a lesson or two from him to stay sharp.  The organizer asked if she could see my tests, and she was adamant that he scored us a good 1 to 2 points lower than anyone else there on pretty much everything.  She thought maybe because I had the only quote-unquote "dressage horse" but who knows.  I wasn't obsessed with our score so much as seeing where we've improved and there were plenty of moments for that. 

Much of the pitfalls can be easily blamed on the ride I gave the mare.  I was a little tentative, went to my hand and didn't make wise choices in a few moments.  But overall we had FUN.

Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that in lieu of cheap ribbons they doled out cheesecake to the riders.  As a self professed satin-addict, I must say that even I was not disappointed with that decision. :)

They have another schooling show in late September and I might return for another crack at a higher level Prix Caprilli test (maybe the First Level one?) but we shall see.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why We Do It

This week has been full reminders of why we pursue this crazy little life with horses. 

Satisfaction from time spent with them comes in many forms, and sometimes I just need to be reminded of that.
Mare Love.
There's the satisfaction of the amazing ride.  Whether it's an easy relaxed stroll around the property/beach/trail or finally nailing that sticky transition/scary jump/lateral work.

Then there's the warm snuffles of a happy horse who pain is finally being managed.  Seeing the sparkle come back into a worried eyeball, or watching a personality come alive where anxiety used to rule..

Wednesday all three horses gave me something to feel good about. 

Before I left to go see Pia, I had an early lesson on Prair where it felt like everything just fell into place.

We hacked on a loose rein to warm up and she was right there for me.  We cantered and I felt like there was zero chance of her moving anywhere I didn't want her to be.  I stood up, she moved out, I sat back she sat down and collected... it was all just so easy.

S set a gazillion jumps so we could work bending lines, short approaches, long approaches and even the dreaded coup.  Prair ate everything up, landing softly, staying straight, getting changes and looking for the next fence.  Everything went so well the fences just kept going up and up and up and Prair just said yes mam (after knocking a few rails) and stayed solid and steady. 

A couple jumps got up to 3'3"/3'6" ish and it was remarkable to feel like it was the same ride as 2'/2'6".  It was a perfectly warm, sunny, enjoyable ride and a perfect way to start the day.

Those are the rides you live for.

Then I got to see P1.  Seeing the Red Mare in such a relaxed state was almost as rewarding as the stellar lesson on Prair.  To know how anxious she has been, and how much we've struggled to get her to just be - it was awesome to see her plump and content and playing with her herd mates.  Maybe it was the heat and her own exhaustion, but she was sweet and soft and looked like a happy horse.  Have to love that.

Even Gus got in on the satisfaction action - in spite of being on the disabled list.  Gussie's demeanor is brightening back up and he's mugging for treats again and acting like his old self.  That comes along with a big sigh of relief after a few days of watching him mope around with an increased limp.

We're pretty sure he just blew an adhesion (it appears that his annular ligament is fully adhered the top layer of the superficial..) so he's on stall rest and hand walks for a bit while we try to manage the inflammation and minimize motion in the joint. 
Gus Love.
Even though it was a spendy vet visit - it was rewarding to actually see what's going on in Gus' ugly right fetlock.  Hearing from the Vet that he's probably got years of school-horsing left in him and gaining an understanding to what causes his soundness to fluctuate day to day was satisfying.  Satisfying to know I'm doing right by the old guy and satisfying to know that we can still impact his comfort level.

I've always said that if you can't find some enjoyment in being a horsey nurse as opposed to a rider - this probably isn't the hobby for you. But this week I was grateful to all of the creatures for each reminding me why I do this - in their own way.

More Mare Love.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blog Hop! Dream Division...

Oh lord.  By my very participation I believe that I am acknowledging that somewhere, somehow, a tiny Hunter Princess has taken root and is starting to grow in my horsey heart. 

I never thought it would happen, but there you have it.  I even got defensive of my Hunter-Princess self when I heard a DQ at the barn was discussing what a "shame" it was that I'm "wasting" Prairie in the Hunter Ring. 

I see her point, but I also want to growl a bit and say that there's nothing shameful in me playing around trying to get the g-d damn mare relaxed.  Lord knows she never found relaxation in a Dressage Court.. Also - Jumping is fun and I've never thought I was going to die in the Hunter Ring.  Cannot quite make the same statement about running cross country (grin).

ANYWAY.  Dream Division. Lauren over at She Moved to Texas started a fun little round robin of collective posts and since I actually figured out how to paste the html code into my post I'm going to play along!

What's our goal?

3'6" A/O's.  (bam).

Also, 3'6" Performance Hunters with a Pro Ride. 

The height is easy for the Big Mare, the relaxation is... not.  We're coming along, but the pie in the sky is definitely getting to the A/O's.  I'm pretty sure we'll get to the A/A's without too much struggle... hard work, yes.  Struggle - hopefully not :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The P

Guess who I saw yesterday?

The Big P.  
(I don't know where her ears went..)

I drove up north for a fun lunch with my friend (who is graciously looking after the red mare) and got to see the beast and cover her beak in smooches.  In all honestly, she looks fabulous.  She's fat (sorta) and relaxed and dare I say even sweet...

She seems to be enjoying her life with another big semi-retired mare and two adorable ponies.  Her feet are bare and look pretty darn good, her ribs are covered and her neck is thick.

P's been getting worked a few times a week out in the big field and seems to be doing ok with it.  She's not working into a frame or anything to that extent, but seems ok moving out and just pushing forward. 

It was great to see her in such a happy state.  No ears pinned, lots of snuggles and a much, much softer eyeball.

It's nice to know she's in the right place.  At least for now :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Right Bag.

One my favorite birthday gifts this year came from M2 in the form of a totally awesome (and unique) boot bag.

It comes from Oughton Limited, a company that makes all sorts of bags and totes with a decidedly equestrian vibe.  The line is full of canvas, leather, halter hardware and rugby stripes.  Understated with a splash of color... which could describe my motive for how I buy clothes, furniture, wine or just about anything else in my life (aside from horses).

The Boot Bag is the piece that's the most dedicated to an equestrian purpose in the entire collection.  There is a Rolling Tack Trunk that looks lovely, but I cannot imagine stuffing it full of dirty polos or sweaty saddle pads.  The rest of the collection seems to be made up of items that would be just at home away from the horse scene as they would slung over your shoulder ringside.

The Oughton philosophy is summed up succinctly on the tag that came attached to the bag.. Just reading it made me think that whoever started this collection is someone after my own heart.

"Like the ringmaster, an icon of elite equestrian events, beautiful luggage annoucnes one's arrivals and departures with style and ceremony.  Made of waxed canvas and trimmed iwth halter fittings or a girth motif, they evoke a sensibility of long lasting utility and timeless equestrian traditions. An heirloom for the next generation, who will wear the patina of your travels with pride.  Whether around the ring or around the world, a great trip starts with the right bag."

The boot bag though, is lovely.  It is predominately waxed leather, with leather accents that make the bags look a bit like boots themselves (punched leather toe, harness straps across the calf, etc).  Inside they are lined with removable nylon "socks" which can be washed, or used to pack boots in a larger suitcase.  The socks are a brilliant burnt orange (think Hermes) and fill the role of an unexpected lining in a handbag or inside a coat which can often be the tipping point that takes a piece from average to interesting.

The strap that connects the two "boots" is a leather backed canvas strap that clips on with halter snaps.  The nylon on mine is slightly different, having a orange/tan/brown rugby stripe that in my mind is more interesting than the narrower plain orange shown on the website.

The new bag encouraged me to get the Da Vinci's polished back up to a show shine.  I repeated my hair dryer process and managed to get a bit more of a patent shine put down.  I think a few more repetitions of that (arduous) routine and my boots will be holding a really nice polish...

In terms of sizing, my extra-extra tall boots max out the height on the Boot Bag, which makes me confident they'd fit most boots, and there's plenty of room in the footbed area for a larger foot size than mine (I'm a 9). Since I was sidelined for the last show, they have yet to make their big debut in terms of being used and abused at an event, but so far they look lovely leaned up against my sofa in my den.  However the substantial hardware and fabrics make me thing this will be a bag to last the ages.

Another thing that I really enjoy is the "lifestyle" aspect of the Oughton website.  They have a pretty fabulous blog that draws on all things Equestrian Style, it can definitely eat up a lunch hour pretty quickly.

The price point is decidedly higher than basic totes and bags, but for a special piece, or as a gift for the DQ/Hunter Princess/Anyone who has everything, what a fabulous find and what a cool company!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Or Maybe We Will...

Of course as soon as I started lamenting the fact that Prair and I haven't so much as peeked down the center line, let alone trot down it, I refreshed my search for little baby schooling shows and found one lone, last possible event that we could sneak in next weekend. 

We actually tried to go to this schooling show last year, but wildfires were horrible and the air quality was so poor that the event got canceled.  It just so happens that their show (scheduled for this Saturday) was still open for entries so without much thought I popped a form in the mail and committed myself to First Level 2 and a Prix Caprilli test for funsies.  I did just email the organizer because when I google "Prix Caprilli Test 1" I get about six different tests all with that title... So um yeah. I need help there. For those who haven't seen one, here's one example of a Prix Cap test. 

I'm pretty sure we'll just be going over cross rails, but I just love the concept of having fences incorporated into a dressage test.  I guess in theory Hunters is judging your rhythm, form, relaxation, etc so it's not dissimilar from that, but fun, yes no?

Saturday, I got a text from S that Prair was a complete and total moron under saddle.  Spooky, tense, rushed, nothing productive.  She apparently followed that up by running like a lunatic in her pasture until she was lathered in sweat which was then followed up by behaving like an idiot in the wash stall (washing off said lather) and whacking her head into an overhead beam. 

That apparently quieted the gerbils but WOW.  We couldn't actually remember the last time she behaved like that (at home anyway), which is a testament to how far she's come.  Maybe she's in heat? who knows.

I do know that when I tacked up on Sunday for my lesson there was no hint of the marewolf behaviors.  Prair stood nicely, snoozed while I groomed her and we had an epically lovely ride. 

S had one vertical set up at X on the center line.  We worked on our straightness to/over/after the jump as well as our changes - specifically more straightness while getting them... then turning. 

We jumped out of our collected, working, and lengthened canters all without stress or rushing and figure-eighting back and forth.  I do think Prair is more confident through the turns in her hind shoes, I felt like I could carry significantly more pace through the turns than before.  In fact I had to concentrate on not holding her back to our previous "skid out" point and letting her still power through and use her butt like she should.

There was one magical jump where we were in our "big" canter, heading home, I took a long spot (previous cringe worthy moment), we landed, I asked for our tricky change to the right lead... we got it, rebalanced for the corned and worked around it without any fuss or motorcycling or anything.

Pretty much every aspect of that ride was a no-go for us last year.  No large step to fences, long spots were suicide, jumping home was a disaster and there was no such thing as a lead change or a balanced corner after a fence. 

It was such a tangible improvement I was thrilled.  The whole ride was just enjoyable.  Plenty to school and focus and work on, but none of it felt potentially explosive or tense.  It was a pretty perfect Saturday afternoon at the barn.

Other updates include poor Gus.  Gus was slated for his normal acupuncture on Friday, but he jogged out significantly more lame than he usually is.  S reported he was better than normal or normal (for gus) in his lessons during the week, so the lameness was new and unexplained.  My vet spent the better part of an hour working with us, we did a gazillion blocks on the leg starting low and working our way up first block laterally, then blocking medially.  Nothing gave us a conclusive "ah ha" insight, and while there were moments where Gus would jog almost sound, if we repeated it the head bobbing would return. 

He's since improved (yesterday he was almost normal for Gus), but I've decided to spend some cash and get a really good ultrasonographer to take a peek at his problem leg.  Our only hint of what's going on is a report from a vet (who I don't love) who did an ultrasound on him almost two years ago.  I think it's time for fresh pictures and a better understanding of what his structures look like.  I'm also very curious if we're dealing with old lesions and old scar tissue or if it looks like any recent damage is being done...

So that's our week.  Prair and I are going to see if we can still wear dressage outfits.  Gus gets a photoshoot (of sorts) and we will do our best to enjoy the waning weeks of summer...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Goals? What Goals??

I had a boss once who said "really writing down goals is about the conversation and thoughtful process... I don't actually expect you to do any of this."

At the time I thought it was a not so subtle comment on his confidence in me, but as I look at my extremely thoughtful (and what I thought were conservative) 2013 goals with the horses, I'm realizing perhaps there was some wisdom in his perspective...

I mean.. I'm not actually supposed to have done anything with my goals, am I??

The 2013 Goals... were written before Gus showed up, Pia left (again) and Prairie really started to get her shit together... given we're 2/3's of the way through the year, let's see where we are, shall we??

Prairie's Goals:

- Attend at least one recognized dressage show in 2013.
Ummmmm, not likely.  I have actually really wanted to repeat our fun schooling show outings from last year, but we have either been at another show, or out of town for every. single. one.  I found some that I *could* have gone to that were a couple hours away but that seems just absurd for a $20 test..

- Break 70% at Training Level and 65% at First Level.  Also, show First Level 3

I'm confident we'd nail this now.  Our transitions are way more balanced and relaxed, and Prairie's lateral work has sharpened by leaps and bounds.  Also, we can actually come back from a Medium canter now.  That button wasn't installed last year.  Though... we still haven't been to a show to prove it. bah.  First 3 only scares me because of the canter loops.. and only because Prair has finally gotten her changes moderately relaxed so I would expect her to offer two changes rather than a shallow counter canter...

- Get our changes 80% of the time 
OMG.  We did this one! She gets them 98% of the time (under the standard that she can swap fronts first and catch up behind later).  Hardly what I want in a Dressage test, but back in January I wasn't even sure that was a reasonable expectation.

- Attend at least FOUR overnight Hunter Shows. 

We should make it to 5 maybe 6.... if nothing changes dramatically on the schedule...
my garage has been overtaken by satin

- Move Up to 3' Adult Hunters
I think maybe I wrote this goal as someone who had only been to one rated Hunter show.  It's true that I feel totally comfortable riding Prair on 3' courses, but it's clear to me that we don't have the polish to be competitive as a pair in the 3' ring yet.  Though I think the 3' Adult Am's is totally reasonable for a majority of next year...

I'm skipping Pia's goals since clearly we haven't gone to any schooling shows... or anywhere.  She's a happy horse though, that's what's important ;)

As for My Goals...


I am... starting to shorten my reins more regularly.  Part of this has come from Prair lightening her front end (a lot) and not plowing down into the ground all the time.  Over fences I'm getting used to being up and out of the tack again, and that means my hands are up the mare's neck where they should be.  I still get scolded on the flat (a lot), but that's to be expected.  This goal might stay relevant for a long time, but I think I'm better than I was at the start of the year!

- Lighten My Seat

Another spot I've made progress... I'm much lighter when jumping, which is helping Prair not freak out all the time.  I tend to still sit deeper than I should on the flat, but old habits die hard, and they die even harder when your horse is shaped like a bendy bus and needs some serious effort to get her together...push her together.

- Continue My Dressage Education

Ummmm... perhaps my lack of Dressage shows is a result of the whole lack of Dressage education...  I haven't continued to lesson with either of the trainers who I enjoy.  I would like to, but I've definitely ended up filling the schedule (and the budget) with Hunter stuff, shows, extra lessons, schooling days etc.  Bad Rider.

 Ok... so we're so-so for our goals.  I feel like we've progressed well in terms of actual riding... but failed a bit on the "scheduling" side of things.  There are worse things, but good to be mindful of them as we head into the last 3 months of the year. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

First Ride Back

OMG! I rode! and nothing bad happened at all.  In fact, pretty much only good things happened.  I guess the only "bad thing" was my total lack of fitness but that's to be expected after several weeks of sitting on the couch like a lump playing solitaire compulsively...

Prair felt fabulous.  We swapped her bit back to her chunky KK double jointed D ring and she is going nicely in it (two days in).  We realized it had been a while since we tried a softer snaffle, and maybe it would encourage her to relax a bit more/not duck behind the vertical... and so far that theory is working.  I'm not sure it'll hold up in a show environment, but I'd love to get back to a friendly snaffle for schooling without sacrificing too much control...

The ride itself was pretty straight forward.  It started pouring rain just as I tacked up so we went to the tiny indoor to warm up.  Worked some leg yields which I haven't really done much with in a few months.. but Prair felt good.  Much straighter in her shoulder and felt more active in her hind end. 

After some walk/canter transitions and lead changes we marched outside into the drizzle to jump a little.

She felt very balanced over a small x, (and we trotted the dreaded liverpool as well), so we moved up to a four stride line set at about 2'9".  We started by trotting in (sitting trot, ow) and adding for 5 which was great.  Prair wanted to drift through my outside rein a bit so we focused on straightness (hence sitting trot) between the fences. 

Then we cantered in and added for 5, then we opened up her stride and went for the normal 4.  Everything felt good.  She felt energetic and bouncy for 5, and controlled and balanced for 4.... The only hint of landing and lurching was when we opted for 4 strides going home... a tad more strung out that direction, but still very manageable - especially given the softer bit. 

Started stringing small courses together and it was easy and fun.  Prair was mostly adjustable to every fence and I felt like at least 60% of my rebalancing was coming from my seat and leg as opposed to hand.  I don't think that sounds like that much, but for us it's pretty good :)

Hoping for a weekend with a few more good easy rides to get back into the swing of things..

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Better Round

another blurry video still
 I like YouTube for lots of things, but sometimes I get in fights with it and this was one of those.  Never fear though, S prevailed and we now have the second round that I (really, really) liked live.

It looks remarkably like every other round but Prair looks so.... relaxed - dare I say lazy? What a good girl.

Our next outing is a B show after Labor Day, basically three weeks out.  If I get my butt back in the saddle and things continue smoothly, I'll bump up to the 2'9"'s (ooooohhhhh, ahhhhhhh) and S will aim for the 3'3" Pre Greens instead of 3'.  There's a decided lack of other fun classes at this show (no medals, classics, etc) but it's usually quite a bit smaller and hopefully a good move up opportunity assuming my insides keep healing and I can ride like a functional human. 

Despite being grounded I managed to spend almost 3 hours at the barn yesterday.  I organized my lockers, rolled up wraps, and cleaned (and oiled!) lots and lots and lots of tack. Amazing how dirty one can get without actually grooming/riding a horse...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slow & Steady (and some studs don't hurt)

If there are downsides to being sidelined and forbidden to ride (there are plenty, believe me... my husband will attest that not riding adversely affects nearly all of my charm and sociability) - there are also upsides, like your horse being really, really, really tuned up without any noisy interference from yours truly.

Prairie finished the week at Evergreen beautifully.  She placed in all but one of her classes - which I consider to be pretty frigging awesome given it was her first AA show, two big divisions and her first time on grass.

very blurry video still
I did opt to throw hind shoes on so I could give her some studs.  I was on the fence about it, and while she seemed comfortable cantering around on grass at home, I know that she still gets very nervous when she loses her balance and all the dry weather had me worried the rings would be hard and slick.

S reported that she felt the difference in her balance immediately.  Apparently she felt like Prair was way more willing to sit and turn from her haunches than she is even at home in the sand.  While I'm a firm believer that there's nothing stopping a barefoot horse from maintaining it's own balance, I do admit that Prair is not naturally great at balancing herself and perhaps the grip of her studs was a very reassuring thing for her.

I'm curious to see if the shoes alone affect her at home or not.  My intention is to pull them this week, but I guess we'll see.  I really want to ride her myself before I make a decision on that...

Whether it was the studs, the heat (80's! perfect!) or just her ever increasing experience, Prair was as relaxed as she's ever been at a show ever.

I'm sad I didn't actually get to see her go, but I did actually come out of my drug induced haze long enough to ask S to sign us up for some videoed rounds so I could at least witness what was going on.

We taped two rounds, here's the one I like less.  The super fabulous round is being a pain in the ass on youtube, but this one is pretty good too.  She doesn't seem quite as relaxed in this one, and she's got a late change - but all in all pretty awesome by Prairie standards. 

I really need to get back on.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

All Clear

prairie headed out to an empty warmup field

Yesterday was Prair's first day at the show and my inconvenient operation. Thankfully both went well and while she probably had to work a lot harder, I'm thinking she probably feels a bit better this morning.

Truth be told I feel pretty good. Good enough to be trying to bribe my husband to chauffeur me out to watch a round or two :)

Prair did actually have a great day. Her divisions are huge relative to what we're used to (both about 15 horses) and the caliber of competition is much higher. So I'm super proud of her 2nd in her 3' Non-TB Hunter Under Saddle (sidenote- cant believe thats actually a division). She also snagged a 5th and 6th in her first two Non-TB courses.

The Pre-Green division is STACKED. Holy wow. I think Prair might be the plainest horse out there. Regardless she pinned 6th under saddle, and 7th and 9th over fences.

S assures me that her ribbons don't reflect how awesome she feels, but I'm thrilled with her first few placings a at her first big AA show!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pitter Patter

It takes more than just the normal go-to tack and equipment to make my tack 'ho heart go pitter patter.  But while rabbit-trailing down various links during Jeopardy the other night, I stumbled onto perhaps my favorite site ever.

Not because it has an endless selection (it doesn't), or even because I necessarily like everything that's offered (I don't).. but because it's mission/tag line sings to my little tack hoarding heart:

The UK's premier online luxury matchy-matchy destination.

Did you say Matchy-Matchy?????

Yes please. might be the best thing since white polos.  I mean one of the shopping categories is literally titled "Fab Over Reach Boots."  Can't get any more clarifying than that! Another (currently empty) category is "Fur and Bling." (love it!)

I've been drooling (a bit) over the Eskadron Platinum collection.  Some of it is tacky and unnecessary, but I secretly love their waffle knit competition sheet, which sadly Matchy Dressage doesn't carry, but they do have plenty of the other absurdly shiny, absurdly unnecessary Platinum items for the DQ who already has 4 of everything.
waffle knit loveliness....

mmm fleecey sheet with satin...

What. Fun. 

I don't think I can in good conscious upgrade Prair's show wardrobe without us at least jumping 3'.  2'6" doesn't exactly demand the highest level of finery....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

WEC - Pro Pics

One final post from the Emerald Classic...

I got my professional photos back from WEC. Thus far I've been underwhelmed with all the jumping proofs I've seen of Prair and I from our first few "real" shows as Hunters.  Part of that is either Prair and I look like total doofuses, or alternatively like holy terrors.  Add to that the fact that 2'6" fences don't exactly inspire... dramatic action shots and the picture pickings have been slim.

That being said, I actually liked a lot of the proofs from WEC.  I settled on two that I finally ordered and I'm glad to have at least one set of photos from our first real "season" out in Hunter Land.

Feast your eyes on our Pre-Adult glory (ha):

knees! and I'm actually giving a crest release...

The second pic is from that line that we simply could NOT get our lead when we came out.  I think this was from our last round, where I (somehow) did actually managed to pilot the mare around the turn moderately balanced and get the clean change.  miracles.

We almost look like we belong!  Next stop, the A/O's :) just kidding.  Feeling good about aiming for the 3' AA's next year though.

Today I'm heading out to the barn to watch the mare school on some grass.  Will be interesting to see how she does.  I'm not sure I've ever asked her to do anything on grass other than eat it....fingers crossed!

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