Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Blenheim III - Final Day

I swear I'm almost out of things to say about the show.  Almost.

Saturday was my last day of showing (class schedules are weird down in Cali..).

With both flat classes out of the way, it was a lighter day with only two Hunter rounds and a single Eq. 

Sadly, we got moved to yet another sand ring, so no more big fun field, but we made do. 

What was so awesome about the big field (aside from being pretty) was the fact that I had fooooorrrreeeevvver to (slowly) think through my checklist in every corner. 

forward to the change
balance up and back
sit and feel the hind leg
soft arm
find the right hind
lift his frame
annnnnddddd... go

When I'm in a smaller ring I tend to jam all those things into like... two strides and I get stuck, and a tad frantic and end up either flat, or really underpowered out of the turn.  Mentally it sounds more like this:

straightenforwardtothechangebalanceupandbacksitandfeelthehindlegsoftarmfindtherighthindlifthisframeannnnnddddd... go


So goal #1 was to keep the mental (and physical) spaces in my process.

It went pretty well.  Better than any of our other rounds in the sand - which was really encouraging. 

I still sat back and pulled into the judge's line (oops), then had a hard time finding the right balance since the ring was pretty aggressively domed. 

At one point (to the single oxer RIGHT in front of the judge) we were cantering up the diagonal (literally, up) then crested and started cantering down the hill and I had this moment of "wait, what? where'd my balance go, oh shit - where'd my distance go!?"

and we chipped.


Between rounds the only thing I was reminded of was to balance UP and stop planting my hands.  If I could just manage that, everything else would smooth out.

With the exception of the 6, where we still ran out of room, I felt awesome about my last trip.  I kept Winds' balance a tad higher and his step a tad more open, and everything just worked out better.  Still some weird distances, but when he's up - he can get out of them much better. 

I ended up with a 4th in my first round of the day, and a FIRST for my second.

I squealed.  Like actually squealed.  And when I got to watch the video for the first time I had a smile on my face because I feel like we are starting to look like a nice pair, not awkward middle-school-dance-partners.

Windsy got a nice long break and hand walk before he tacked up one last time for Eq. 

He was not enthusiastic about coming out of his stall (again) and he was for sure a bit sluggish in the warm up.  We literally jumped two jumps, did one lead change and went in.

No two stride was set (thankfully. We need to work on those), but still some rollbacks and interesting angles.

I knew that (for me) the biggest challenge was going to be getting straight in our rollbacks, and not grinding my canter down to a lope in order to be tidy. 

My plan was to establish a bigger canter and plan for some longer options in the rollbacks.  I think this was a good decision since I'm still really focusing on not letting Windsor get too up-and-down in the tighter turns.  It felt smooth and manageable for where we are in our partnership. 

We had a late change in the first rollback (I don't think he had a clue where we were going, but neither did I, lol) and a stiff change between 7 and 8 at the end, but ended up riding to the last fence well. 

Even with a few bobbles, I was really, really proud of our ride.  There's no way we could have accomplished this our first week, and overall I really felt like I had a much better understanding of where we are.

The first week of showing, it felt like when things went wrong,  I literally wasn't sure why, or how to fix it.

By the end of the second week, my feel for Windsor improved so much that even though we were still making some (not to subtle) mistakes, every time it happened I at least knew why, or how we got there.  "ooohhhh right, my hands" or "oooh right I tipped" or "oooh right, not quite a big enough step"

Much better than feeling like I had no idea we were leaving a stride out of the line until we had.... already left it out...

We even managed a 6th for that last Eq round - which is a ribbon I for sure made a note on the back of.

Windsor got a well deserved mash before I took him out one more time for a Prom photo before going home.

I couldn't have asked for a more educational (or entertaining) couple of weeks down in San Juan Capistrano.  I could have asked for a tad more sunshine, but that's just getting greedy.

Finally, after packing up all my tack and shoving most of my dirty show laundry in my trunk (lol), I poured myself a well deserved glass of wine (or two) and enjoyed watching one of our juniors go around a few more times before I hit the road for home.

The best part about being an Ammy

he was not super cooperative.  He for sure wanted some Sauv Blac too

Monday, April 11, 2016

Blenheim III - The start of the 2'9"

I will fully admit that I am deep in the midst of a Horseshow Hangover.  I know you are all familiar, but the couple days after a big show always leave me a bit down.  Some of it is dealing with the reentry into reality, some of it is that all the planning and anticipation of the show is over, and some of it is for sure exhaustion.

I am trying to put on my rose colored glasses, since I know at the time I was super (dee-duper) thrilled with how my last weekend at The Oaks went. 

When I last left you, I schooled two 2'6" rounds in the big field and had the time of my life.  I also had two refusals - but more importantly I felt like I had a very eager, very rideable horse that I was feeling pretty confident on.

So, we boldly entered the 2'9" Eq and Hunters and waited for Friday to come.

Friday started with two rounds of Eq over fences followed by my flat class.

I was bummed to be back in the sand (though a much larger nicer ring), but really (really) excited about trying to replicate the feeling I had in the big field. 

I had a slight panic attack when I saw the courses.  The 2'6" Eq the previous week was a straight Hunter course.  No bending lines, no rollbacks. No lines set tighter than a 5 stride.

The 2'9" was a different beast.  Multiple rollbacks, a TWO STRIDE and unrelated distances.

wtf.  good thing I'd schooled exactly none of those things with Windsor yet.  It's possible I got a raised eyebrow from my Trainer, but off to warmup we went and then straight into the ring.

I am lacking video from these two rounds, which from a personal pride standpoint - doesn't make me sad.  But from a archival perspective - I'm wishing we had it.

I have totally blacked out the start of the course, and can only remember the last half, which was a jump into the judge's line, rollback to oxer out the diagonal, then a looooooooonnnng gallop up to a two stride, and a six stride home.

The rollback when surprisingly easy, but it was our second one, and I felt Windsor's brain pick up on the more interesting track and immediately switch gears.  We were bold out of the rollback and while I reestablished a good pace, I could tell that as we approached the two stride, Winds was convinced we were in the jump off.  We went in big, out tight and then jacked around the (thankfully big) corner while I tried to desperately turn off the "jump-off" switch.  The 6 came up fast and we barely popped the last stride in but it was there - so while we lacked some rhythm and polish, we didn't have any catastrophic mistakes. 

What I did notice while I waited to rotate back in for my second round was that all the back cracking fun time in/after the two stride had done something to my back. 

The longer I sat the tighter everything got.  And by the time I went back in I was pretty sure I was maybe going to die. 

Turns out I didn't.  And Windsor was decidedly less impressed with everything the second time around, so we fixed most of our mistakes, smoothed out our corners and snagged a 6th (out of 16).

Then there was more waiting (and more back spasming) while the last few rounds went before the Eq on the flat.  Winds was (again) a total champ in the flat class.  We got cut off, and run into and galloped up on and everything you hope never happens in a flat class - all without flicking an ear.  This dude was made to be ridden in traffic. 

I think we would have done ok, but the whole rigor-mortis thing made for a pretty atrocious picture and a horrific sitting trot.

So, for maybe the first time ever I got totally aced out of a ribbon for Eq on the flat.  Somewhat sad, but totally understandable. 

Again, I wish I had the really charming photographic evidence for you - I would totally share,  but I don't.

After that Windsy had a nice long break before we tacked back up for two Hunter rounds back in the field. 

The rain rolled in, and it always cracks me up how many people scratch in California when that happens.  Horses were hanging out in the tents, riders looked ready for an artic expedition and my division dwindled from 45 to about 30. 

Hiding from the "storm"
At our local shows, you aren't allowed to ride in the 2'6" (or 2'9" or 2'-whatever) if you are showing in a rated division.  They run extra "open" classes that you can use as a warm up, but you can't start with a division below you. 

At first, I was surprised to see a total lack of warm-up classes on the schedule, but then I realized you are allowed to cross enter down here, so all the 3' (and some 3'6") entries drop down to 2'9" as their warm up to get in the ring and see the fences.

This fact was somewhat disappointing for me.  Since most of the top ribbons were snagged by horses going on to compete in bigger and better things - but I got over it. (mostly).

Our first round back in the field was decent.  We fixed some of our mistakes from the 2'6" rounds on Thursday.  I stayed more forward, we didn't have any stops (lol), and I'm starting to be able to read my lines better.  Still some quiet distances and a tendency to brace to shorten rather than lifting - but progress is progress.

Also, the 2'9" looked WEENIE with the longer poles and giant field.  Felt like the course was set for Long Stirrup - which is a very comfortable feeling.  I was most proud of moving up to the outside line at the end of the course, rather than siting back and adding in.  That's a huge mental victory for me. (go team).

The coaching between rounds was basically to balance up and back, not down. And work on reestablishing my canter a bit better, then not changing it after the corner... 

The second round topped my personal favorites of the show thus far.  I fixed ALL of my jumps and read my lines way better.  Sadly, I sorta blew two lead changes.  Like really, really blew them... so clearly I wasn't going to get used on the card, but I just felt so good about the ride, which was awesome. 

Here's the video.  Note the great jumps.  Ignore the lack of changes (whoops!)

I knew I was off the card, and with a flat scheduled for 6pm... I politely inquired if maybe we should just scratch that and the Windsor take his poor braids out... but that didn't fly.

Capable of rolling while tied... noted
Probably a good decision because I'm still learning how to best show him off, but still - I had been looking forward to a post-show-day cocktail, and for some reason felt like I had to wait.

The hack was a good experience.  In trying not to push his trot too much, I underpowered him a bit, but his frame was better... so all in all a good data point.  Also, during our canter, the loudspeaker popped right as we went by sending the horse next to us into a tail spin.  Winds flinched, flicked an ear, and kept cantering on a loose rein.  (OMG I LOVE HIM).

We managed an 8th in a pretty small class (only 15 or so opted to hack) and called it a day.

I'm learning so much every time we go into the ring, I really can't explain how happy I am we made this trip.

Stay tuned for the final wrap up and (even more) video....

Friday, April 8, 2016

Blenheim III - Pro Day 2 with an Ammy cameo..

Thursday was another day.  I was having slight heart palpitations over the whole "omg my horse can't hold a lead" thing, but turns out - not an issue.

The new strategy was to step Winds a bit more forward, carry him in a higher frame and make a point of really pushing forward over the jumps - not just softening at the fence. 

The more supportive ride changed EVERYTHING.  Not one swap.  Or maybe one swap... I can't remember now, but essentially a 100% turn around so I was thrilled. 

I mean.  The Best.
Winds rocked his two Low 3' rounds and Pre Green rounds pretty much back to back, which worked well, but definitely saw him get a bit tired in the end. 

I'm going to put all four rounds down, because... I have them.  But they are all pretty much the same.  Cute horse, jumping cute jumps with cute ears. 

So much cute.

This ended up being a 5th place round out of 65

That second Low round snagged a 3rd! Out of 65!! So I was thrilled

Then we moved to the PG rounds:

Which I think looked, pretty much the same as the Lows... maybe a tad less brilliant over the jumps since he wasn't so impressed..  But he was chill and forward and held his leads..

Finally, the last round was also lovely and smooth and abated my fears that my horses is totally broken.

So, You can imagine, that after pinning so well in the Low rounds (against all the PG horses, and other 3' horses warming up...) when we got NOT ONE RIBBON in the Pre Greens. 

Don Stewart was judging, and I know Windsor is not his perfect Hunter type, so I can understand that in a big, competitive class that will happen - but I'm surprised he used him so well in the Low's against the same horses and not at all later on.

But that is the definition of horse showing (in the Hunters...)

Finally, I had spied on the schedule that the 2'6" open division was showing in the big pretty grass field.  So, since I was still a bit unsure what I'd be showing in, I asked if I could enter for the extra experience, but really I just wanted to show in the big pretty ring. 

Winds was not totally thrilled with coming out of his stall (again), but he reluctantly warmed up and politely popped over some fences. 

Windsor picked up *a lot* in the ring and all the sudden a I had a big, uphill, open step that felt AWESOME.  We had a nice first fence (though a tad quiet) and then as I boldly stepped up to the Judge's line, he popped up and out and said "no thank you" to the blue wisteria draped over the jumps. 

I was caught off guard and circled and re presented, only to have him stop a second time which really passed me off. 

The third time I really sat and held him and gave him the full eventer-on-task ride that popped us over.  I rode tight to the oxer out (same damn flowers) but once we were clear of it, we were golden.  The rest of the round was tidy and it became apparent that I'm really starting to be able to feel where I am in the lines on him.  I can gauge where I am and don't have to wait so long to know if I need to move up or wait... last week I had NO idea where I was, and couldn't really tell how big a step we were on.  I'm definitely getting a better sense of the horse and how he goes which makes me feel competent.

The second round was the most fun I've ever had showing.  Winds was bright but not tuned out, and I just really enjoyed the big open space of the field and having some time to think about things between fences. 

It was by no means the most beautiful round I've ever ridden, but I had a TON of fun and it was enough to snag 3rd in a large open class with a lot of trainers on some lovely horses....

With that round some of my PTSD from Prair really started to fade.  I started trusting Windsor being up in front of my leg and moving up to the longer distances suddenly didn't look like a bad idea. 

Plus - the really good news was that since I didn't totally make horrible choices, Trainer let me enter the 2'9" for the weekend - which means... MORE rounds in the field!

Standby for fun!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Blenheim Spring II - Back at It

After last week, everyone got a few well deserved days off.  The Boy and I zipped up to LA to see great friends, and Windsy enjoyed some downtime and lots of handwalks in preparation for his second week.

I was disappointed to see that the Pre-Greens got moved out of the big pretty grass field and into a sand ring, but I didn't realize how sad  I was going to be about that until we saw Windsor go.

We kept him in the 3' Lows (in the name of mileage) and he was kind of a twit.  He was just a bit tense, and was really landing a lot on his crosslead. 

(He kept going in the ring during Taylor swift songs, which YouTube mutes for copyright protection...)

Like enough that I was starting to hyperventilate about him being really ouchy about something....

He was just weird enough that we decided to scratch the 3'3" Pre Greens and knock back down to the 3'.  I was disappointed, but he really wasn't going all that well, and all the fluid awesomeness from the big grass field was gone.

The only upside was some serious empathy from the Trainer on how different he felt in the deep sand than he had been out in the field.  It's always good when she doesn't think I'm making crap up to explain my major mistakes...

Anyway, Winds sort of looked like crap.  The last Pre-Green round was better, but then he smacked the CRAP out of the back rail on the final oxer and decided to express some displeasure about tapping his little tootsies.

So, zero satin on the day.  He even missed the ribbons on the flat, which - wasn't terribly disappointing, but I had him pinned in the middle of the pack and somehow didn't even see the horse that snagged the blue. 

It was a bit of a frustrating day to say the least.  Winds was just a bit more irritable than I've seen him and I think everyone was a bit frustrated after his success last week.  He wasn't the only horse in the barn having an off day, so the energy all around was a bit muted....

Stinker Face
I will say we recovered on day two, but I'll get to that later.... Right now it's time for me to enjoy my hotel room, which is to say that I have sauv blanc in the mini fridge and HGTV going nonstop.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Blenheim Spring II - The Ammy Days

The short summary of my three days showing Winds last week is that things went okay, then they were a bit tragic, then they were somewhat better. 

Classic photo-of-a-photo moment
The longer story is that it's really obvious I haven't shown in a year, and haven't ridden Windsor outside since...... germany. 

He is, a god damn saint.  Horse deserves a halo.  (Also, this horse wears his ears WELL, getting good photos is not going to be a challenge... )

I have literally never had a horse who is so frigging easy to manage at a show. 

He is quiet in his stall.

Quiet on hand walks

Quiet in warm up

Quiet at the back gate

Quiet in the ring...

Quiet in the wash rack...

He's just the same god damn horse (gelding!) everywhere, every time.

East, but not always interested...
And that is so EASY, that my poor overachieving brain has to find something else to wig out about.

So I decided those things were going to be reading my distances in the lines (face palm) and left lead changes.  Because why leave well enough alone.

One of Windsor's best features is that no matter where I throw him at the jump, a) he jumps and b) he doesn't get mad.

This is in stark contrast to Prair who was unhappy (and freaked out) if you missed her distance by more than 6" either way.  Her panic attacks have left me with severe PTSD about missing, but I got pretty good at not missing because I always knew were I was with her.

Winds is so adjustable, and so sensitive to contact, that when I go to take a feel and lock in on a fence, he backs off the distance (even though I swear I'm not pulling) and things go to shit. 

Then I get into the lines and his stride is so adjustable I spend all 4 or 5 (or 6) strides changing everything all the time and end up somewhere I shouldn't be on the out.

This is not ideal.

(and maybe led to me leaving a stride out... MAYBE).

So, things were a bit rough on Friday for my Eq rounds (though we pulled a 2nd after we cleaned things up in our last trip) and I didn't really beat myself up because - new horse, so that was great.

Saturday, I had expectations to add some polish to everything and totally self destructed.  I chipped, I pulled, I kicked, I waited, I leaned in on my changes, it was ugly.  I thought my trainer was going to demote me to cross rails.  really. I did.  She had every reason to. 

(I really like the girl at the end telling her trainer I got 5 in the 6... dammit)

Saturday left me really discouraged because, while I'm used to having issues to work out - I'm also used to FIXING THEM and not just repeating the same mistakes. 

By the end of the day, Windsor had finally had enough of my bad decision making and started tuning me out, which led to better distances, but isn't exactly the end goal.

I ended up Reserve in the Eq - mostly due to that one 2nd place ribbon and a win on the flat (thank god).  The other two rounds over fences were... interesting.

Sunday, we started with an Under Saddle which was going great until I let him almost step into the wrong lead right in front of the judge  (BAD) and that killed it for us.  I am figuring out how to find his ideal pace where he swings his shoulder a bit more and carries a nice little hunter frame.  We'll dial that in next week no prob.

Finally, I had two more Hunter rounds which were EXCELLENT (given our new relative scale of tragic to acceptable) and even the parts that felt fast or tense look pretty hunter-y on video.  so yay me. 

Our ribbons were worse (since apparently everyone else also stepped up their game) but at least I finished the week with a solid sense of competency and excitement about what lies ahead.

All in all a great start.  We ribboned in every class, which is something that I sort of expected given his CRAZY CUTE factor, but we've got a long way to go before we're kicking ass and taking names in any sort of consistent manner. 

I just have to keep reminding myself that I really don't know him that well yet - we haven't been outside in big rings EVER before this and Winds also doesn't totally understand his new job description.  I think once we get used to at least one of those things - we'll be a much more consistent team and maybe (just maybe) we'll get out of the baby ring.

See you next week!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Blenheim Spring Classic II - Day two

Oh god, it's all a blur!!

Thursday (if I can recall) was a lovely day at the show.  Windsor started with his Under Saddle classes for both the Low 3' and the Pre Greens. 

Trainer rode him in the Low since... well... he's never been in a flat class before and I wanted to video (side note, I forgot to video), but he was a good boy.  no concern over the traffic, or all cantering in a group.  he even stood in line politely until they called his name for a pretty pink ribbon.

I hoped on to ride the Pre Green flat since we had another horse in the barn also in the class and it was really, really fun to hack in the giant open field.  I pushed Winds a little too much and made him tense and rushed instead of open and flowy, but he was relaxed, and chill and squeaked out an 8th in a pretty competitive class of about 16. 

Then it was onto fences, one final round for the Lows, and 2 rounds for the PG. 

If he was a good boy on Wednesday, Thursday he found his literally stride.  Just a bit more relaxed off the ground, and a bigger slower step made each round lovelier than the last. 

In full love. deep.
I did actually remember to take some videos of his last two rounds... so here you go.  Such a stud.

When they finally pinned the class I couldn't believe that I heard Winds called for the win in the Low, then 3rd in his first PG and another WIN in the last round. 

We ended up missing Reserve by ONE POINT which is pretty freaking spectacular given the guy is literally learning on the job.  I already can't wait to watch him go around again.  I'm thrilled.

I love that little man has not only snagged some satin but two blues in the first week.  Plus since I managed some cute photos and videos, I can already call the show a success...

Hang on to your hats... it's on to the am my days (gulp)

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