Thursday, April 30, 2015

Annnd Scene.

And Just like that.  We are back on stall rest.  I'd type a really detailed post about wtf is going on, but the rage is still strong, and it seems more appropriate to use emojis.

For those who don't speak emoji, I'll elaborate whenever I run out of wine and start using words again.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Maintaining Perspective on Maintenance

In my youth (my youthier youth, I still maintain illusions that I am youthful..) I held fairly strong, and righteous opinions about "regular" maintenance for sport horses.  My thoughts could be summed up by the philosophy that owners should not be taping their horses together to perform at a level that their bodies couldn't handle otherwise. 

Of course, I said this from the back of a 25 year old pony that was still capable of jumping 3'6" and never went lame until she was in her 40's.  Easy to think that all "performance" horses should operate well with the same (limited) regimen. 

and by limited I mean a handful of sweetfeed and one scoop of vitamins a couple times a week.

Of course the field of proactive sports medicine for horses has exploded over the last several decades, and with it a notion of what is "normal." 

Hand Grazing is good medicine too

When I was competing as a junior, plenty of people were busy injecting hocks, but not much else.  I suppose toward the end of my junior career it seemed like vets had suddenly discovered the stifle so maybe they were injecting stifles too...  it was the weirdest trend ever.

I'm sure that observation is more certainly an oversimplification, but even for my friends who were competing at higher levels - the only real therapeutic treatments I saw were hock injections, stall rest and "nerving" (for navicular horses).  My adolescent brain just didn't love the notion that without pokes and drugs and whatever else, horses weren't comfortable doing their job.

Then my focus shifted from my horses to the volleyball court and I quickly found myself in my orthopedic's office getting regular cortisone injections in order to keep my swinging arm, well, swinging.  I was astounded how those handy little injections nixed the inflammation and pain and let me continue to enjoy doing what I did without causing myself harm.

I suppose that was the turning point for me.  Realizing that somehow I was okay with maintenance for me, but not my horses.  The cognitive dissonance didn't last long and, obviously I sing a different tune now.

What's interesting is that every time Prair has a treatment (injection, shockwave, whatever) I still hear that tiny voice in the back of my head going "you shouldn't have to work this hard for sound..." and I toss and turn a bit wondering if I'm pushing Prair's body to hard or too far and if really she needs a drastically different job description.

I usually tamp down these nagging worries with wine and the repetition that we're jumping 2'6" which is approximately 3" higher than her canter stride when we're working on the flat...  And then - 5 days pass and we're clear to start work again and I get rides like this week where the mare is just Rock effing Solid.  No teeth grinding, no spook, no anxiety, supple in her back, a canter like a metronome and brilliant, adjustable work over cavaletti and small fences.

It's then that I realize, that yes, the injections are worth it.  Not so much for a more competitive performance, but for a happier, healthier horse capable of using her body correctly and freely - which ultimately is the most responsible thing I can do to protect her long term soundness.

So that is my new perspective on maintenance.  It should be a tool that allows Prair to be comfortable while working correctly .  Maintaining good, even muscling is what will keep her back healthy and supported for as long as possible.  Preventing any odd compensations that invite atrophy or overuse is what I'm avoiding with her "maintenance." 

But it most certainly is not a free pass to a higher level.

It's a fine line for sure - and maybe not always an easy one to see, but as long as I'm filtering my choices through what makes Prair stable, and not what gets me ribbons - I am doing right by her.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cashing in Those Chips

As I've mentioned, I tend to hoard $10 gift cards to the tack shop when they are an option as a first place prize.  I've slowly been creating a stack, and after the show last week I finally gathered them all up and hit the tack store to get myself a new Hunt Coat.

My current show wardrobe is limited to one functional coat that can still... um... button.  I have others, and they are in perfectly serviceable condition aside from the fact that I haven't quite gotten anyone to buy into an "open jacket" look while on course.

So, trying to be as reasonable as possible about baby weight and what will and (likely) won't change anytime soon I decided to bite the bullet and cash in all our little gift cards for a coat.

I know it's trendy (again), but down in Thermal I got hooked on the notion of a deep, dark hunter green coat and I haven't been able to shake it.  I think the dark emerald would look really (really) pretty on prair's glossy black - and let's be real, it's about as bold as I can get in the Hunter Ring. 

So I knew I wanted the Grand Prix Tech Lite in the new rich green.. but those were the only relevant details in my obsession.
pretty close to what we got

I did actually suck it up and ordered a custom coat rather than making do with an off the rack option.  12/L or 14/L GP coats fit me pretty well, but not excellent - and knowing we won't show until June, I figured I could wait the 4-6 weeks like a normal, patient person. 

I'm glad I did since when we actually got to measuring there were lots of changes.  extra length in the sleeves, extra room in the boobs, slimming the sleeves.. etc.

But really the important decision was THREE BUTTONS OR FOUR. 

I opted for 4, as I've always like my four button dressage coats, but now I'm second guessing myself and wondering if I should have stuck with the three for my short-waisted self...

But then it was fun decisions.  I opted for black buttons rather than the standard tortoise shell on the green.  If I had a bright chestnut I think the blond-tortoise-shell would look sharp, but on Prair I think staying dark on dark on dark is a good thing.  Plus I don't need bright buttons at my wrist advertising my busy hands :)

As for trim, I bypassed most of the fun options, getting a simple tone-on-tone green satin piping for the collar but nothing else.  There's no matching green satin option for the collar itself, and the "matching" green suede looked just off enough to drive me nuts.  (plus I strongly prefer the look of a matching satin over a suede.. not sure why).  I almost put in a tiny silver double-piping, but that started to feel to wild for me and I chickened out.

Hopefully the Emerald Beauty arrives before we show in June.  but I'm looking forward to a stretchy, washable, super lightweight new coat! 

I did feel like a goober while the poor manager swiped 35 $10 cards at the checkout register, but it certainly made a huge difference in the cost!

New coat courtesy of Prair's Under Saddle classes 2014-2015....


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Week Off

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments about our show success :)  I'm grateful the "no warmup" plan seemed to work and grateful I have a trainer who is willing to think outside the box like that.  It was a strange process but all in all a great show for both the mare and I in terms of learning and good, positive experiences!

Yesterday, Prairie got a little once-over from the vet just to make sure all is well and the two weeks of showing didn't set her back at all.  She lunged totally sound, but was maybe a .5 or 1/5 on her pesky left front on the hard pack.  Our vet didn't seem too concerned, even thinking that might be her new normal - which is something I might have to accept.

All in all though, she thought the left front looked great, and that two long weeks at 2'6" seems to not affect it negatively at this point.  So that's a big WHEW.

The only slight bummer is that her back was showing a lot of soreness to palpation.  I haven't noticed any increased sensitivity when I'm currying her/poking around during my regular inspections - but in full disclosure, I also didn't groom the mare once at the show, and as good as our guys are, I'm not sure they would have noticed if she started to get a tad flinchy.  I get serious horse-owner guilt when I acknowledge that Prair was probably uncomfortable and I just wasn't hands on enough to pick up on it.  It's definitely the risk of not doing your own grooming.  the flexibility and convenience is a huge upside (especially when balancing work and a baby and a show), but the downsides are real and unavoidable.

I also don't know how much Prair's fall on the lunge the first week could have knocked things around or possibly angered a few vertebrae.

If I had to guess - I'd say it wasn't the fall, but rather her long, low back that is just in one of its angry cycles.  When we reviewed notes, it's been nearly 18 months since her last round of injections, which is pretty darn good.  Initially we were expecting to need to inject every 3 months, but if good work, and strong muscling can help us stretch that interval - well I'm all for it.

So the mare has the rest of the week (and weekend) off, and we'll get back to some light hacks next week.

In the meantime, here are a few more photos from last weekend.

not exactly perfect, but much less lurch-y!
sweet baby jesus we're almost straight

Ears *almost* forward

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring National - Final Day

Yesterday was a great finish to our two weeks of Spring showing.  I was feeling a tad tentative in the morning.. mostly I was just thinking that Saturday was so lovely that I should quit while I was ahead and in love with the mare, but that quickly gave way to my desire to (potentially) have a few more lovely rounds with her. 

I tanked up on a breakfast burrito (horse show breakfast of the gods) and watched ponies go round (and round... and round really fast) before N did Prair's warm up. 

Again, she did the 2'3" and 2'6" Low and won both.  This is not a very impressive fact when you notice that after two weeks of showing, pretty much no one is adding the extra courses to work the wiggles out.  There's not a lot of glory (and maybe a little guilt) in stealing blue ribbons from hard working Long Stirrup riders who are actually trying to improve. 

(not enough guilt to actually surrender the ribbon however, let's not be crazy..)

The weather was good, but apparently it dumped overnight, so the ring was pretty full of puddles and lakes.  I had to giggle a little bit, as they had set a big Open Water element for the USET class held in our ring the day before, and the ring crew was carefully trying to drain and remove the thing before us baby-ammys got to showing. 

On one hand, thanks for taking out the big scary puddle... on the other - the entire ring was "Open Water" and I'm not sure anyone would have notice one more pool of standing water... but I digress.

I videoed the 2'3" round which was the slightly less good round of the two, but it's still a miraculous improvement over what N had in Thermal with the mare, so there's that.  Prair's moving out nicely and I think more comfortable and less sore than she was down in Cali, which is always nice to see.

N suggested I strap on some spurs (for the first time at this show), as Prair was bogging down in the muck a tad - and when I don't feel like I can get the mare to move up, I tend to lock down my hands and add... which doesn't to any good for anyone.  So spurs it was. (small, round plastic ones, but still... time for a nudge).

When I hopped on I could tell that Prair was totally unimpressed with the day.  She was loose, snoozy and totally uninterested in any of the usual horse show commotion (whistling trainers... scampering children... loose ponies... planes landing overhead... you know) so that was rad.  I love it when she feels that relaxed, it makes me relaxed - and that makes for good trips.

Our first round (third round of the division) was our best.  We got a good forward pace, splashed through the puddles and had light, balanced changes. 
(bless my friend for getting good pics at this height)
The second round was also pretty good, but I wasn't as consistent with my pace, and overrode the corners to some weaker distances.  We were still pretty straight, pretty relaxed and pretty good by our standards though.  Also, not ONCE at this show did we cross canter through the turn.  Prair has been aces on her changes, so she gets to be crowned "queen mare of the world" for that not-so-small victory.

Finally, we rode our little 2'6" medal, which wasn't too tricky (... it's 2'6"...) but did ask some different questions of us.  First fence was a trot fence on the end, fairly tight curlicue to the first fence of a diagonal line, rollback to single oxer on the outside, line, line, and single to finish.

The Trot Fence to start was interesting.  We opted to canter in down the long side, and trot after we turned to face the fence.  It seemed like most people opted for that with varying degrees of success.  Prair NEARLY picked up the wrong lead, but we were still in the shadow of the judge's booth so I don't think she saw me restart the transition.   Trot fence went well, we didn't land our lead, so we had a quick swap.. then again didn't land our lead for the rollback (ARGH) but got a quick change, and unlike last week I kept my pace and moved up nicely to the oxer.  The lines were decent, Prair stayed really nice and straight, and our last fence finished nicely. 
Rollback on task!
Again, like last week I felt like we were efficient and effective, but not super polished, but again - the judge really liked us and put us first.  (whee!)

Last week I thought our placing was because we went significantly before any other trips and maybe the time spent waiting worked in our favor... but this week I was almost the last trip in a tight back gate so maybe we actually deserved it! 

Our Hunter rounds pinned 2nd and 5th which (barely) held on to the Championship for the week - and I am reminded that the mare rarely ends the week like she starts it, and I need to be patient (and creative) in order to allow her to settle and stay calm.

I am very appreciative  that N is willing to think outside the box and explore options that allow Prair (and me for that matter) to succeed and have as positive an experience as possible.  Bonus points for getting a calm, focused mare without running her legs off on the lunge or galloping in the warm up until she doesn't have the energy to fight.  Anything that allows us to be relaxed going into the ring and conserves miles on her legs is a huge (huge) win. 

Overall it was a great show for the barn - one of the juniors won the (insane) Eq class, and one of our geldings won the Under Saddle challenge (which ran like the Eq terror but was an US).  Lots of tricolors in both rings, ponies that qualified for Finals, and a general good time had by all.  Fabulous start to the local show season!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Focus Returns

Today was a great day for the mare.  As much as I expect any horse to have good and bad days, with mares it's just expected for the highs to be high(er) and the lows to be low(er).

Today Prair was just on it.  She won both low classes with N (2'3" and 2'6") and I should have videoed them, but I didn't want to jinx things.  The big progression for Prair is that she's really reaching with her neck more (in a good way not a lurchy way..) and balancing up and back more.

Or at least she's doing those things with N.

With me? maybe not so consistent yet.

Prair's contribution to the ribbon pile today

But the two Low rounds were stunning.  Prair looked soft but forward and like she was reaching out to sniff a flower at every fence.  loved it.

With me, she was also good.  My first round was our best in the show ring yet.

N told me to think about establishing a hand gallop as our pace, and the idea of being more forward than necessary meant that I was pretty much barely forward enough...

The ring was pretty flooded, so the mud puddles were trying to suck out our pace at every turn - making a big forward pace and lots of leg all the more important. 

The plan worked great for us, and in thinking that I needed to keep creating pace, I also ended up really straightening the mare from my leg more than usual. 

My biggest success was moving up to a nice Hunter Gap going into each line.  It just flowed and maintained momentum in a way that we don't often accomplish.

The second round was also good, but not quite as brilliant as the first. I had a couple weak distances, so we weren't as even throughout our course, but there were no major bobbles. 

our division combined with the kids, (which always terrifies me a bit) but we snagged a first and fourth over fences.

As I was debriefing with N, I noticed a drug tester hovering and knew we had been drawn.  My theory is always be nice and helpful to the vet and testers, so we chatted a bit and she was very polite about not interrupting us while we waited for our flat. 

The hack went well - a tad crazy between the traffic and the puddles, but I was able to float my rein almost the entire time.  I could have pushed the mare a tad more with my leg for a bigger, loftier gait, but with a few misbehaving horses in the class, I was just a tad apprehensive about really moving her out without a lot of contact.

We snagged the blue for a really nice end to the day.

Prair complied nicely with the tester and (as promised) peed nearly instantly after being returned to her stall. 

Getting pulled for testing feels a bit like being stopped by the cops - even when you know you haven't done anything wrong, it still feels like they might pin something on you?  Very irrational, but very primitive response.

Anyway, 4 blues, 1 white, a big cup of mare pee and some blood and we were done with the day.

Tomorrow we have two more rounds over fences and our fun little medal, then show is DONEZO and the mare gets a nice break from the show ring until June. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Week II... (facepalm)

Logic says that if the mare was settling in last week and improving each day on the last - that this week should have been a triumphant step forward in our quest to go around the Hunter Ring like old pros.

Sadly, this was not to be.

Prairie decided that not only does the show schedule reset with a new week, but so does her brain and our early trips have felt more like we just walked off the trailer... not like we've been cantering around the same arena for ten days already.

Prair was a bit tense Wednesday for her one round, but not horrid.  Thursday she was good for N but still a tad reactive, so when I opted to add a round for myself, I had a fairly edgy mare who was completely and totally offended by the world.  traffic cones that hadn't moved all week were not to be trusted, other horses were... not to be trusted... and the arena was definitely not to be trusted. 

Her distracted brain and wandering eyeball lulled me into taking my leg off and I never established a good, stomping rhythm and it really showed.  The lack of impulsion made it hard to see a distance (any distance) so we were weak into our first two lines. 

Then I didn't realize a single oxer was set so inside (this is becoming a theme) so I overshot the turn and ended up overbent on the long gallop.  Losing our outside shoulder and the weak (but tense) canter meant I picked the mare to a stop.   A move that I actually groaned out load for and rolled my eyeballs like an exasperated teenager. 

I was mad enough about the mistake that I finally got a decent canter and we got over the oxer and finished our last line respectfully. 

Not a disaster, but not our finest work... or the best set up for our Eq today.

Eq today.  N took Prair in the warm up round and said she was still a tad distracted but not as tense as yesterday (they won). 

I resolved to NOT BE UNDERPOWERED during my trips today, so I kicked hard and actually got a decent pace.  Our first round had a couple tight-ish distances, but our changes were all pretty good (for us) and Prair felt a million times more on task than she had on Thursday.

Second course had higher highs (some lovely move ups into our lines) but lower lows (a few tense moments in the corner).  I took solace in the fact that I was riding more proactively and Prair stayed more uphill the entire time.  I don't mind bobbles when I feel like I am actively making choices and riding as opposed to sitting like a potato and just hoping for the best...

We managed a 2nd and a 3rd in a slightly larger and definitely more competitive division than last week.

The flat was frustrating.  Prairie decided that her ear plugs were totally horrid and started flipping and shaking her head whenever we trotted by the judge. 

No joke. 

She was totally fine everywhere else in the ring, but if we went by the judge we had to make it as obvious as possible how displeased we were about the plugs. 

The silver lining there was that all of her energy was being spent on trying to free her ears and none of it was available to be upset about the other horses or traffic.  (small blessings I guess). 

I honestly have no idea how - but we managed a 2nd place and that got us a Reserve.  I was actually a little sad that the judged never called for a Sitting Trot, since I think that's actually one of my strong suits (at least at the 2'6" level..) but really I was so sick of miss-head-shaker that I was pleased just to be done.

Tomorrow I'm *trying* to sneak in the start of my Hunter Division, but I have some meetings during the day that may foil my plans...

Regardless we'll be back Sunday for a couple rounds and a medal!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spring National Inagural - Sunday Wrap Up

Easter Sunday fell on that last day (of the first week) of the show.  And true to crazy-horse-lady culture instead of fewer entries because people were at church... or with family.. or at least making brunch, everyone was out at the show, enjoying the sunshine and an excuse for a few extra candies. 

The Easter Bunny even found Prair, leaving a chocolate bunny on her trunk, and a cute Easter egg charm in her braids. 
 We adjusted our warm up plan slightly and scratched the 2'3" Low, having N ride the Low at 2'6" and leaving me two rounds for my Hunter Division and one more round for a fun 2'6" Medal.

The Boy and the baby joined me for the day, which made for lots of entertainment before/between/and after my rides. Cayla is proving to be quite the horse show baby and happily snoozed and cooed in her stroller where normally she's crawling out and trying to toddle off to explore/eat something inappropriate.

Anyway, Prair had a lovely Low round with N, and true to her predictable form, she was soft and quiet and needed a tad more leg to create some impulsion and stomp than earlier in the weekend. 

I pretty much hopped right on to start my rounds, and made The Boy attempt to wrangle both baby and phone to record a video.

I'm still very proud that this is the ride we get without me warming up at all (though it's becoming more obvious that I need the warm up more than Prair).

I didn't realize the outside four stride was set closer to the quarterline than the fence, so I sort of overshot the turn and that killed my distance, but we worked it out ok.  Our single oxer felt great, and the two diagonals were decent too.  Mostly I'm proud of Prair's mostly quiet lead changes (!!) and willingness to move up without getting stressed. 

I am loosening my shoulders and elbow more, but that hasn't translated to a better release.. so that I need to work on, and also not opening my hip angle too much on landing...

We got a 4th (out of 5, lol) for this round.

Our second round I fixed the turn and distance to the four stride, but everything else felt worse.  I guess it wasn't, since N thought we looked smoother and the Judge put us First.  The Boy started a video of this round, but it turned sideways and stopped about 20 seconds in when the baby decided to be difficult I guess (if I could only teach this kid to video rounds I'd be onto something...)

The 1st and 4th were enough to clinch a Reserve for the division, behind a really nice pair that consistently bested us down at Thermal.  One thing I have to say about the low level Ammys in our area is that (for the most part) everyone is so nice to each other.  Lots of "nice rounds" and "good lucks" exchanged at the gate and commiseration in the hilarity that is often bumbling along in these not so prestigious ranks.  I really appreciate that, and it definitely makes the whole process that much more enjoyable and worthwhile.
Two tricolors and a Bunny Baby (also, look at the mare's NECK)
Finally, I went right back in to put down the first trip for the little 2'6" Medal class.  I don't mind being first, but I didn't really have a plan for the two places where there were options for inside turns.  The extent of my planning was "if she feels good we'll do it, if she doesn't, we'll go the long way 'round..."  Not exactly precision planning, but meh, it's 2'6". 

The course started with a rollback, which we landed the wrong lead so I opted for a longer route.  worried about our balance and turn, I picked at her canter a tad and we didn't chip out - but I really wish I had moved up and shown a bigger, bolder canter and distance. 

That weeny canter and tight distance followed us around the rest of the course (through a 5 stride, the four stride, and another rollback). 

The course finished with a single, then a halt and a sit trot out.  By far the best part of our course was our TOTALLY still halt (the transition to it wasn't great though), our lovely turn on the forehand (not called for, just looking polished) and our sitting trot to the gate. 

There were about 15 (I think?) juniors and ammys in the class so I was honestly just hoping for a ribbon, but when they finally pinned the class an hour later, we won it! 

In watching the round back on video it doesn't look at underpowered or jagged as it felt.  So bless Prair for covering some of my mistakes.  I definitely braced my hands quite a bit in this round and really cut her off over fences with my non-release.  Other than that though, she felt adjustable, polite and lovely. 

All in all a great way to end the week!

My Girls.
Today the mare is off, tomorrow she's hacked, then because she finished so nicely, we decided to scratch her pro division on wed/thurs and just put her in one round a day to school. instead  I think saving the jumps is prudent right now, and as much as I want ribbons, I'm currently out of ribbon hanging space, so until more strings are hung, I guess I can stop hoarding like a maniac for a moment.   

more fun to come!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ammy Time

Friday dawned with less rain than expected which is always a nice start to a show day when you're stuck in the baby outdoor ring :)

The plan was to carry our "no warm up" plan forward since it seemed to work for us on Thursday.  Prair got hacked in the am to stretch her legs, then didn't come out until a Low 2'3" round with N mid morning. 

Stall to Ring.  And it looked great.

Prair took a short siesta while they reset for my 2'6" Eq and we did the same:

Stall to Ring. 

I added a Low round to work out any kinks, but we didn't really need it.  Prar was soft, and lovely the entire way. 

Our first Eq course was also pretty decent, I got out of my tack a bit more and loosened my shoulder which allowed for some pretty lovely distances and a steady rhythm.  The course itself was a boring line-diagonal-line-diagonal game, so not much to equitate, but riding Prair when she's calm and happy is fun regardless of what's going on. 

Our second round start to build a bit more and that in turn makes me want to brace and stiffen the mare.  We worked it all out but didn't quite have the same loose flow our first two rounds did.  Also a dove flew out of the hedge in our closing circle and that was apparently unacceptable according to Prair.  Birds are to stay put according to her I guess.

I was a tad worried that her building stress would backfire on us in the flat, but she held it together.  I did feel that our "no warm up" plan showed itself most in our flat class as Prair was fully in her "big mare don't care" mode since I usually let her trot around however she wants for 10 minutes when we start our rides at home.  We've learned that instead of really asking for a frame or stretch when we first start letting the mare bobble around on a loose rein and find her own balance works really well and keeps her calm. 

However, it's not necessarily the cutest look in the ring. 

We had a good day though and managed to win all three classes for our division. 

And it's always nice to kick off a weekend of showing with a big tassel-y tricolor (love a good tassel on a ribbon) and a cooler to go with.  Takes some of the pressure off :)

Annnnd, it didn't rain!
Then we had a nice long break to watch the juniors do all their fancy medals and whatnot before a terrifying Equitation Challenge thingy. 

In hindsight, I shouldn't have entered, but our entire barn always shows it and the entry fee goes to the scholarship fund so it's all for a good cause...  But I know Prair rarely does well coming back out after a long break, and the class was being held in the enormously spooky indoor, which we hadn't schooled in at all during the week.  Two rather large strikes against us.

She's shown in the scary indoor before, and she's even done relatively well in there before - but every time it takes a day or two before she is able to relax and not freak out.

The format of the class was also a tad odd.  There were three sections (14&U, 15-17, 18&O) with the top four from each section returning for a final class.  I assumed the first three classes would run like a normal Eq on the flat (WTC each way, maybe sit the trot and lengthen, maybe not) then pin. 

Turns out no.  They started each section (about 20 peeps) on the rail and picked people off one by one as soon as they screwed up.  So some people didn't even get around the ring once before they were called to the middle of the ring.  The class continued (with increasing difficulty) until there was only one horse and rider left standing.  They did this three times, then repeated the process for the final.

The whole notion of being picked off one by one was terrifying to me.  I've had bad flat classes but I always assume that once I've embarrassed myself or the judge has dismissed me from their ribbon list, they stop looking at you and move on to everyone else.  Also, when I'm watching a class run I'm always trying to pick the winner and rarely spend time looking at the person who's having a mediocre or poor time in the ring.  But I take solace in the fact that I can just melt into the crowd and not have my mistakes OBVIOUSLY pointed out to everyone in the stands.  Also, I usually hope that a 95% good ride might make up for an early bobble.

No such opportunity in this class.  Start on the wrong diagonal and BAM, "#27 to the middle of the ring please."

Horse looks a tad stiff in the counter canter? "#45 to the middle please"

Ugly downward transition? "To the middle please"

Small spook at a kid running alongside the rail "TO THE MIDDLE"

Needless to say I was totally freaked before we even entered the ring.  Prair was a tad overwhelmed and got veeeeerrrrryyyyy light on her front end. I tried to make use our of entry to loosen her up, but the class called to order immediately and I just never got to let her out. 

We survived the first walk, trot and canter.  Then we sat the trot, reversed and called for the second canter.  Priar was a firecracker and definitely moving more up and down than forward in her first three strides and that got us called in.  We finished in the middle of the pack but missed the cutoff for the final (which was fine by me at that point...).  I took solace in the fact that Prair was at least willing to stand quietly in the center while the rest of the class finished their torture.

Tbe bright spot in an otherwise miserable experience was that a junior from our barn won the whole thing.  The final ride-off was long, hard and fairly difficult.  She and her gelding laid down a gorgeous ride to take home a tricolor neck ribbon (SWOON) and lots of goodies including a bridle and big gift card. 

The stress of the class left a sour taste in my mouth on the day, but the more I reflect back, the more I recall how much fun I had with Prair in the morning and how proud I am of both of us for our performance with this whole no warm-up thing. 

Saturday we only had half our Hunter Division to worry about.

We did the same warm up as Friday - a Low 2'3" for N, then a Low 2'6" as my warm up before two division classes and our Under Saddle. 

The system seems to work, and Prair was a star. 

Like Friday, we seemed to build up some steam (nothing compared to what we used to do) and our last course was our worst.  I stood up a bit too much and took tad more than necessary with my hand, but the good outweighed the bad and mostly things were fabulous by our own relative standards.  I stayed straighter, Prair's changes were soft and prompt, and we looked mostly Hunter-y. 

For the division we snagged a 2nd and 3rd over fences, and 1st under saddle.  Out of 5 pretty solid 2'6" ammys with nice horses, I was proud of how we did. 

Usually I would have stayed to watch the Derby, but the sun was shining, which made the idea of wine on my deck sound more appealing that shivering in the freezing cold indoor.  Plus, The Boy is a saint of a husband and doesn't complain about having the baby all weekend, but I try not to abuse that graciousness... so home I went, and wine I had.
Horseshowing at its finest
Sunday we finished our division, and enjoyed some Easter festivities at the show.  I had both the baby and The Boy in tow so there's actually photographic evidence (and video!) of our last couple rounds. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

New Plan

Well, if something's not working.. do the opposite.  So instead of trying to warm Prair up six ways to Sunday, today we decided to not warm Prair up. 

At all.

Since the lunging areas are death traps, Prair got a long hack in the morning (early) and put away again.  Then, thinking we could avoid the anxiety of the warm up, the new plan was just to walk straight to the ring and... go.
Annotated map of the Show Grounds

And it totally worked. 

 So after one round at 2', she away she went away until the fences were finally raised to 2'6" and again - she walked straight from her stall to the ring and.... she put down two decent rounds. 

Thinking that this may be a decent strategy for us while at a facility where every possible warm up area presents a unique challenge to the mare... I wanted to try my hand at the whole "get on go in" plan so I added one final 2' amateur class at the end of the day and aside from one late change, all went surprisingly well. 

Prair managed a 2nd in her early 2' round, a 1st and a 4th over 2'6" and another 2nd with me in the irons at the end of the day.

All in all a much, much better day at the show.

Tomorrow all hell breaks loose while the Ammys are turned loose for Equitation.  I gave Prair extra treats in an attempt to bribe her.  Fingers crossed this weird new no-warm-up plan keeps working.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Big Sloppy Show Fail

So remember the other day when I was all "Ohhh boo hoo I won all the prizes but they don't really mean a thing"  and you guys were all like "SHUT UP JUST GETTING TO THE RING IS A SUCCESS."

Well, yeah.  As usual you are right and getting to the ring would have been a big giant success.  Technically I suppose we got to the ring, we just didn't totally get around the opening circle. 


In case you're all, "wait what? that doesn't sound like the big, glossy pretty Prairie we know.."

Well, it's not.  Her "Seattle is cold take me back to California" self has decided to REGROW a winter coat and that is literally the least of our issues.
First off - EARS. MY GOD.  Secondly, this is the most successful we were all day.  We won the blue ribbon for standing in our stall.

First off, it's cold.  Cold and rainy. There was hail at the show grounds yesterday for schooling which I've been told made life rather interesting for some of the green beans.  The downpours left the outdoor ring a tad sloppy, but not bad.  Though it OBLITERATED the lunging areas and also the back ring that doesn't really get used for this show, but we like to use as Prair's super secret not busy warm up area. 

So problem 1 - Prair doesn't like slippery ground.  It's fair.  Neither do it.  If I did I'd be good at ice skating and off dealing with the weird subjective judging and questionable rhinestones in that that expensive sport instead of the weird subjective judging and questionable use of rhinestones in this one. 

Given the temps dropped 20 degrees a lunge seemed prudent, but Prair freaked out, objected and fell before we could acquiesce to her request that she not-get-lunged. 

Great.  So now instead of just a fresh horse, there's a fresh (covered in mud) freaked out horse.  I'd say things were pretty much headed in the wrong direction right from the get go. 

When we did finally warm up, Prair immediately freaked out over the traffic in the warm up, but when we redirected to her quiet back ring, I knew we were screwed the minute my boot sank 6" in the super slick MUCK that was being passed off as footing.  (for the record that is not footing, it's a fraternity house mud wrestling pit, ask me how I know).

Prair (obviously) didn't quiet down in the slippery slop and we obviously couldn't jump her, so we gave up on warming up and just took her to the ring with the idea that if she was good, N would take her around, if she wasn't, we'd pull up and scratch.

So I pose a question to you all, can you even call it pulling up if you never get going? 

Cause whatever that's called - that's what we did.

Prair was a loon, and at that point I don't think there's much to be gained by asking her not freak out when she was already completely freaked out. 

So we scratched all the over fences meaning to come back for the flat (to at least school the ring), but then we missed the flat (why start on a positive streak now?) and that was the end of our day.

But that's horse showing right? Some days they just say no and it's up to us how to best deal with that.

In an attempt to get something interesting out of the day I went to put Prair's Ice Vibes on, but one of the "vibes" is busted and won't hold a charge.  So she just got iced... no vibe.  More fail.

Time for wine (don't judge) and a good night of sleep for both of us.

Tomorrow is another day.  Perhaps we will be redeemed.  At this point I'm just hoping she didn't do something stupid when she fell like break her pelvis, or knock her brain out of her head.


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