Thursday, June 30, 2016

Alpine Preview - Ammy Days

Saturday finally saw the start of my rides with Winds for this show. 

JK, pro ride in the derby - not me.
I really didn't miss my Eq division in terms of extra trips - but it's a little weird to not actually ride my horse until Saturday of a show.  I felt like I had been on vacation and was playing catch up in class.

The upside of me not riding on Friday was that Winds was that much more schooled, and that much more relaxed about my division.

I added a Low round (for my warm up, not his) and looked forward to two rounds over fences for my division.

The weekend was a really good learning one, so let's just dive into that, shall we?

(also I will be posting a bevy of videos, ignore at will).

So for the Low - it was REALLY obvious that Winds was still in Derby mode. He looks uber chill on the video, but he was quite a bit more... forward thinking... than I'm used to and I didn't adjust to it as effectively as I could have. 

Good thing about Derby mode is that his balance stays super up and back without much effort, bad things about Derby mode include a much more open step and slightly weaker brakes when I'm trying to fit one more step in.

Moving up to a bigger distance was cake (see the last line), but we were tight getting out every time and even when I could read the distance it was hard for me to ask Windsy to wait. 

Only major bummer was a missed change in our closing circle - from right to left - our nemesis.  I know I'm tipping in, even though my entire body feels like I'm stepping out and trying to lighten the front end.  ARGH.  very frustrating.

I got assertive and cleaned up my act for the first round of the division, and it totally worked out.  To date this was one of my bet rounds on Winds at a show.  My main complaint is that in "being more assertive" I got a tad tight with my hands and started opening up too early on my fences (hard to break that old XC habit).  BUT  we moved up nicely in each line, and never got tight out.  I rode the crap out of the single oxer and landed our left lead twice - thereby eliminating that pesky change issue...

We won this one, and I felt like we deserved it.

But theeeeen  I got a little cocky.

Or, maybe cocky is the wrong word, I just thought if I sat there, the same thing would happen again.

It didn't.

I came out of the ring really frustrated and feeling like I didn't deserve to ride. It was a bummer of a way to end the day.  And in fact it was such a disappointing trip that I avoided the back gate and seeing/hearing about how the class pinned for like four hours. 

Then I watched the video and realized it wasn't actually that tragic (well, most of it anyway) and got over myself.

In point of fact, there were only two major bobbles.  One, I swam into the outside line and thought maybe we were going to crash. On video it just looks like I justcouldn't pick a distance. 

Then, I checked him hard into the judge's line and Winds pulled a rail to let me know that's a no-no.  He played a little, but we got out just fine and the round was done.

9 horses rode the round.  Ribbons to 8th, and uh.... obviously we we're 9th.  Whoopsie, sorry Windsor.

Sunday I came back with a clear head (full heart, can't lose?) ready to not ride like a nitwit.

But then warm up was a struggle and I was just killing myself on my leads.  Winds was a bit sulky in the turns and despite my attempt at positive thinking I was getting frustrated. 

It's one thing to have a hard, tricky horse (Prair) that most people have a hard time riding (Prair) not warm up perfectly - But when your horse is scoring 90's with the Pro and winning big classes, it's harder to place the blame anywhere other than your uneven hands and slouchy twisted hips.

Finally my trainer told me to just twist my hips hard to the outside when I was rebalancing in the corner or asking for a change - and the clouds parted and angels sang. 

I have been trying (aggressively) to control Winds' butt with my outside leg, which often results in my heel getting comedically far back on his side (move over move over move OVER), without actually being that effective.

When I turn my hips/shoulders out, and drive my outside seat bone back and down, the inside hind magically goes where I want it to.  All without weighting the forehand.


I made a snide comment about why she didn't just tell me to do this sooner, but really I was grinning from ear to ear and couldn't stop playing with my new trick.

The first round for the day (Round 3) rode really well.  Much like the Derby, the course designer managed to get as creative as one can in the Hunters and I enjoyed having some interesting tracks and single fences to ride.

You'll notice me engage that outside seat bone in every corner as I straighten onto my track.

And you'll notice that it's brilliantly easy to step up and onto a nice distance.  And you'll also notice that our terrible-no-good-very-bad left changes are prompt and balanced.

I did get a tad tight into the outside line, but everything else rode smoothly and felt like a bit of redemption from where we left things on Saturday.

Our final round for the division (first for the Classic) was awesome.  I don't have a lot to say, because it felt like everything clicked.  Nice rhythm, nice balance, no crazy distances... We certainly had our best ride through a two-stride to date - and other than opening up and cutting off his jump a bit - it was great.  We were given an 84 and took first place in the round.

And that's where I should have stopped.  That whole "quit while you're ahead" thing is so hard to do.  But I knew I had that top score going back in for the second Classic Round and that was probably the wrong fact to be thinking about.

I also noticed was that this might be the first time (ever) that I felt tired during a round.  I've never been on course and thought "hmm, maybe I'll turn early and save myself a couple strides.. we might get done faster" but that was definitely running through my mind with about 3 fences left to go.

I think I might have to up my cardio game, or commit to three lessons a week as opposed to the cushy two I've been enjoying.  Anyway, it's not the best excuse, but I do think it contributed to me perching a bit more and losing my nice light-seat connection.

Realistically the only major issue was a totally botched change where I got Winds so bottled up we nearly halted in the process.  But the entire round just wasn't as flowing as the first two of the day.  I am proud of my last two singles as I don't get a lot of opportunity to ride tracks like that in the show ring.

We scored a 68 (oops) and that slid us into 5th for the classic, which was higher up in the pack than I thought we would end up, but certainly didn't win any Voltaire swag like we did the first week. (who needs an extra girth anyway... sob).

We came back for the hack about an hour later, and I felt like I got a pretty stellar ride out of him.  I was able to keep a slightly bigger trot (and canter) even with a decently full ring with 10 horses.  I was disappointed to place 6th (behind two pretty lame horses?) - but that's the Hunters and realistically I know this judge prefers the traditional, long, TB type over a tighter, bouncy little warmblood.  I thought we'd be 3rd-ish as there were definitely a couple lovely movers who I mentally pinned 1st and 2nd.

I actually have footage because The Boy was feeling magnanimous and temporarily lifted his ban on filming flat classes.  I feel like I haven't posted a clip of Winds' gaits in a while, so it's going up for posterity.

Ultimately, a 2nd and 1st from our last two rounds were enough to snag Champion since the pinnings were very all over the place for almost everyone.

Winds is restocking the ribbon wall like a boss.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Derby Double Down

Spoiler Alert
After a couple days of what seemed like Windsor performing at 90% I wasn't too sure what to expect for the Derby on Friday Night. 

He wasn't able to sneak a massage in before the class, so he had to settle for some long hand walks and a good grooming.

I got myself stuck in traffic on the way back to the show (that's what I get for trying to sneak home for a day) and was busy having a panic attack for two hours over the fact that I might actually never make it out of the mountain pass and I'd never get to see my horse go again (drama much?).

But, the traffic finally broke loose (though only after I had the pleasure of watching at least one dude pee out the side of his truck...) and I made it in time to check out the course and watch the walk.

The course was set much bigger (maxed out high options, whee!) and quite a bit bolder than last week. I know things can't get that technical on a Classic Derby Round, but the questions were there and I thought we'd see a bigger separation in scores. 

For one thing, there were a few new jumps that were brought out (always exciting), and they made use of some straw bales for the two stride, which (for non eventers) is sort of exciting and definitely looks more visually imposing than just a single straw jump..  I also felt that some of the high options were placed such that a bad jump off a big fence would make your next question a bit harder.

To top it off, the sun was shining brightly giving some life to the color on course, and the wind had picked up - so if nothing else I was expecting the horses to be a bit more.... up... for the class.

Winds took a quick spin on the lunge and showed zero interest in working harder than necessary, so it was a pretty short session (no joke, two laps each way).

Winds was 8th in, which was remarkably similar to his draw last week.  We got to watch a couple rounds before hitting the warm up and solidifying a game plan.

I never thought *not* riding could be so fun
The sun and wind proved to be a bit energizing, and I definitely saw several horses get more than a tad hot about the ring.  The high options did prove a bit tougher and fewer people seemed to casually take all four.  Lots of people got one or two, some avoided them all together and only a couple horses tackled them all.

Another major change from  last week was that instead of incorporating jumps into the chain that divided the two hunter rings all week, they opened up two larger gaps to gallop through on your way to the next fence. 

My human brain assumed this would be far less spooky and preferable for most horses, but NOPE.  Apparently being asked to jump a "barrier" that's been there all week was NBD, but cantering though a large, groomed gap where once there was a small chain... that was just too much for some horses.  They huffed and puffed, some downright refused to cross over to the far side of the ring and others bucked as they made the transition. 

Just another example of how my own thought process does a crap job of translating to pony brains...

Anyway, back to the warm up. 

Winds was stuck behind the leg again.  He would move up when he was straight, but quite sulky in the corners.  We decided to avoid the high options and hope that he was a bit more willing to move out in the bigger ring. (warm up has a pretty short runway and Winds for sure doesn't enjoy that..).

Once he stepped into the ring, he picked up and moving out was certainly not a concern.  If anything, he was a bit on the muscle and significantly more explosive (relative, lol) than I'm used to seeing. N opted to stay low on all except one option and did a great job of covering up his desire to play...

Ultimately the extra energy made his jump pretty snappy and he scored a 85 + 1 high option for an 86.

Unlike last week, that held the top spot after the first round, which meant Windsor would return last in the Handy.

I preferred this week's Handy course, but again - not that many opportunities for crazy options. After last week when the judges didn't seem to really reward inside turns - we opted to plan for a conservative course, staying low and outside for a nice, consistent trip.  Winds seemed just lit enough that too much turning-and-burning (lol) or high fences, might throw him over the Jumper Ledge into crazy town.

However, this week the judges were definitely awarding points for handiness and people were posting some Big Scores including the horse in the #2 spot who threw up an 88 in the Handy which combined with their 85 from the first round gave them a pretty comfortable score that would be tough to beat. 

I gave Winds a final pat - told the trainer to just ride what she thought was right for the horse that day, and tried to remove any owner-pressure from the round.

As I walked back to the side of the ring to watch, I told a few other barn mates "he's a little fresh so I think she's going to keep is simple and hope for the best."

Well, after Jump 1, when she went for the inside turn and then the high option for #2  I knew it was on.  The conservative plan was out the window, and she was definitely in it to win it.

Winds looked pretty damn good.  I couldn't see any of his playfulness and he was jumping beautifully.  He really rounded softly over the oxers and offered a good trot jump.  There was a stride of cross lead after the high options at fence 6 (eeeeek) but then he had a lovely turn and approach to 7.  The final fence (also a high option) was supposed to be taken on a Hand Gallop and I got a tad nervous when I didn't see Winds really move up, but then N let him out after he passed the gap in the arena fencing.  She stayed low for the final fence (which I can appreciate) and finished smoothly.

They grabbed a base score of 86 + 3 high options for a 89 and then win.  I definitely squealed (again) and (again) was totally surprised.  I mean, I know this horse is awesome, but when he's not at his sparkliest self, and it's really only his third outing as a hunter - it just blows my mind how well he tackles the job.

Trainer gets huge points and credit for giving him such a slick ride.  She covered up his tension and stickiness masterfully and definitely knows how to make him stand out. 

It was great evening, made all the more fun by one of my friends coming out to watch.  I always get a tad apprehensive when non-horsey friends spectate the Hunters.  I mean they're slow.... and boring... and it's really hard to understand who's winning when you're watching 67 rounds on 5 open cards..

She was a great sport though, and after about 6 rounds she was able to offer disdain at an unusually low score, or agree with high marks for a nice horse. 

I guess Derbies are about as exciting as it gets in Hunter Land - and the announced scores are about as spectator friendly as we get...

Anyway, lovely evening, capped by a lovely dinner in town and about a million treats for Mr. Windsor man. 

What. A. Dude.

The only downside to back-to-back Derby wins is that it's painfully obvious who's fault it is when I don't put in a good trip.... (hint: not the horse's)

Next up.... Ammy Days!

(practicing for leadline 2017)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Alpine Perview - Pre Greens

A fortuitous break in my schedule is allowing for some more timely blogging... which is helpful for both my thought process and analysis.

The Pre Greens this week were not quite as spectacular as last week - and in fact leave me with a few questions.

Yesterday, Winds had a mediocre warm up, and we saw a return of the cross-lead on landing.  I haven't seen much of the dreaded cross lead since the second week of The Oaks, and I haven't missed it.
In California, we thought that perhaps the cross lead showed up because the PG's moved from a big pretty grass field, into a small sand ring.  But here - we've been in the same (smallish) sand ring both weeks.  No change in footing or ring size.  That makes me think that Winds might be the teensiest stiff or sore, or just annoyed about life.

Anyway - So yesterday - bad warm up, and then three decent(ish) rounds where he landed cross out of a four stride in two of them, and got pretty nailed for it.  He won the round that he managed to land on true leads, but overall he was a bit sulky to the leg and not jumping quite as brilliantly as last week.

still good with his ears though!
The hack also not fabulous and we pulled a 7th in a field of 10.  Winds never really got through his back and moved out like he did up at Tbird... and there were for sure some lovely movers he would have a hard time beating on his best day.

Here's video of the first round - which he threw in a cross lead going out of the four away from the camera.  Twit.  You'll notice he's willing and still going nicely... but not his usual unicorn self.

Today, he finished the division with two more rounds.  Warm up was similar.  A bit sulky behind the leg and stabbing a bit on landing. 

But he went much better in the actual show ring.  No cross leads (thankfully) and a bit more forward - but still not his shiniest moment. 

He won his third round:

And pulled 3rd in the 4th:
(please enjoy my riveting commentary on lost change the ring crew found..)

We still managed Reserve, as the leaderboard was pretty all over the place and that worked in our favor.  There were only two horses at 3'3" so the Pre Greens combined with the 3' section which I always think is weird.  I *know* the judge is capable of keeping track of the horses, but the notion of collapsing division across height always seems odd to me... not complaining - just an observation on the system.

Anyway, this lackluster start to Week Two leaves me thinking a few things...

One - he's a bit girthy, and the sulky to the leg makes me wonder about ulcers.  Our barn was supposed to participate in a study for a new medication (which... free), but that has been held up and I'm not sure I'm willing to wait much longer.  So Mr. Man might be getting scoped when we go home.

Two - a short warm up ring makes him ball up and turn into a turtle, which is easy to push past the first week - but a bit harder to manage the second.  He's obviously stiff or uncomfortable somewhere - but whether its the lack of turnout, footing, or exhaustion - I don't know. 

This is only the second time we've shown him two weeks in a row - but it's also the second time week two has been a bit bumpy. 

So, he'll get a workup when we get home and make sure that nothing is majorly bothering him.  I also ordered him some bodywork at the show in case it's simply stiff and sore from being a rock star. 

So, that's where we are.  He's being good - but not brilliant.

Tomorrow he doesn't have anything to do until the Derby (!) again in the evening.  Hoping that the bigger ring and longer track will work to our advantage in coaxing him out into a bigger step.

If it doesn't - that's good info to have as we move forward. 

Blurry - but super cute!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Windsor's First Derby - Cliff Notes

Apologies for the massive, poorly curated, rambling post on last week.  Seems like with the blog I've either had nothing to say, or too much - and both of those scenarios result in lackluster posts.

For posterity reasons, I'm giving (/tagging) Windsor's first Derby with it's own post so I can find it easily and watch it over and over (and over) again.

He looks good in a neck ribbon..

So here is a quick, cut down mash-up of his two rounds.  82+4 and 86+4 for a winning score of 176.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Swiftwater Invitational - Monster Post

The first week of our June shows is officially in the books - and it was a great one.  I am struggling with horse show hangover, so here's a massive dump of videos, pics and anything else I can remember...

super stoked.
It's been three years since I last showed at Swiftwater (two years since I was running around preggo watching Prair go around..) so it was great to be back at the Washington State Horse Park enjoying some fun showing (relatively) close to home.

This venue isn't super developed, (mostly tents, open rings, etc) and it has a very homey, fun, hospitable vibe.   It almost feels like summer camp - which makes me a very happy horse-show-er.

Winds' week stated on Wednesday with the 3'3" Pre Greens.  For being a sold out show, I was a little sad to see only three entered in the division, but since the other two were from a really lovely barn, it was still pretty stiff competition.

Winds had one warm up round, which went decently, but he was a tad playful so it was a wise entry.

His first PG round was beautiful and focused:

I didn't tape his second one - but it was also lovely.  Cause he's lovely. 

He also hacked for the division on Wednesday and managed a Blue is all three classes. 

Thursday he came out for two final rounds of the PG.  Also pretty good.  I think this video is his 3rd round of the division... but I can't remember because unlike Prair, Winds mostly just does his job without a lot of antics.  So there aero fewer.... um... punctuation marks to differentiate the different trips with.

He was 2nd and 1st, which made for his first (official) Champion ribbon and, dummmm da dummm - COOLER.

so feigning cute.
The entire barn finished the day pretty early - so we took advantage of the best part of this venue - the trails, and headed out for a ride. 

This was my first real trail ride with Windsor, and he was predictably easy.  He definitely wants to lead and/or go faster.  But zero spook, zero anxiety, zero problems.  Shocking I know, but I was really pleased.  It's awesome to be able to take your fancy show pony out into the woods and feel like they can still be a good, normal horse.

There was some discussion as to what to do Friday.  Winds was showing well at the venue (some horses find it a tad spooky), and I tossed out the idea of him doing the Derby Friday evening.  All I had on the books was my 2'9" Eq division (two rounds and a flat), but that's still a lot of trips (assuming he would make it back for the Handy). 

Ultimately we decided to scratch my rounds over fences, and try the Derby (with my trainer in the irons, not me, lol). 

Prair did a few smaller non-sanctioned derbies, but never quite made it to the actual big (medium?) leagues.   So I was really excited to see one of my very own ponies (especially one who could take all the high options) go around a longer track.

The show had a nice hosted party for the class, so we all grabbed dinner, some spots on the side of the ring where we could see as much as possible, and got ready to watch some lovely rounds.

Winds drew 9th in the order (out of 21) and one of our juniors drew 18th.  Winds headed down to the ring early for the walk (it cracks me up that the horses get to walk the course).  Winds was unconcerned, but did try to eat most of the jumps he investigated. 

The only question mark I had in my mind was surrounding the hay bale jumps.  Not because Winds doesn't normally jump hay bales, but because they had been stacked all week at the divider between the two hunter rings.  The Derby takes up both rings, and you jump the hay bales to cross in and out of the second ring for a few fences.  I knew the jump wouldn't be spooky, but I thought it would be possible that Winds would be backed off since all week the bales had been a "fence" that you don't jump and now they were fences 6 and 9 in a course...

Anyway, we watched the first few horses go, with no major issues, and when we left to go warm up over fences the high score was an 80.

Winds warmed up great, forward, perky and attentive.  We set a few big oxers and then headed to the gate.

I was thrilled with a 82 + 4. 

Winds was a stud.  Nice forward stride, solid jumping efforts and zero concern over the "tricky" parts of the course.  He just might be a Derby Boy after all...

The score held the top spot until the last horse went and posted a 86 + 4 with a really LOVELY round. 

There was a quick reset for the Handy and we had the luxury of watching (almost) everyone else go.  It wasn't the handiest track, and options for slick inside turns were limited. 

After watching the first few trips where riders opted for some flashy tracks - it seemed like the judges weren't hugely rewarding the risk.  Lots of nice horses with nice trips wee scoring in the 70's even with risky options.  So we debated how hard to push for the handy options if it wasn't going to bring down a huge score. 

Ultimately I told N to do what she felt was best for Winds.  I wasn't expecting him to win, so if she wanted a solid, conservative experience - then fine.  On the other hand, if he felt like he could pull off the tighter turns, I told her to go for it and if he botched it - I wouldn't really care....

So, she took the high options, and some tighter turns, but not anything crazy handy....

And an EIGHTY SIX. + 4... for a 90 in the second round.  The horse ahead of us was returning with a 90, so we needed them to score an 85 or lower in order to leapfrog them..

I trotted down to the back gate to watch the final ride go and congratulate my trainer on such a well ridden first Derby with Winds.  She really does do such a lovely job with him - it's a pleasure to watch.

Anyway, the final ride looked smooth, with no major mistakes, but I couldn't see the far end of the course from the back gate.  They took 3 of the high options and received a base score of 82 for a total of 85, which gave Winds the win by one point.

I squealed, and fueled by a couple glasses of wine proceeded to run around like a slightly crazy person videoing the victory gallop, trying to find my husband, and doing god knows what else.

apparently dragging my child into pictures
I think the whole thing was so exciting because I truly had no expectations of his performance.  I thought we'd get some good experience, maybe have a couple bobbles and feel good about trying... so what a great surprise.

Anyway, there were some celebratory toasts and merriment, but the week wasn't over.

Saturday I rode a warm up 2'9" round, and two of my 2'9" low adult rounds. 

It had POURED overnight and the ring was a giant puddle.  In an attempt to make thing better, the ring crew had raked the footing right in front of the jumps, which essentially created a perfectly even rectangular puddle, which Winds was 99% sure was a Liverpool.

So the first round was... interesting as we jumped everything, including the 4' puddles in front of each fence.  I didn't blame him, but I was a tad thrown off and got pretty tight trying to negotiate putting Windsor's feet in the puddles instead of just in front of them...

The following round was better - with a couple late changes, but no puddle jumping.  The third round was GREAT, except as we were moving up on the long gallop to an oxer, I felt his right hind slip in the mud and I pulled out. 

Apparently the judge later told the steward "I don't know why that girl pulled the Derby Horse out of his jump, but her makeup was impeccable."

So, uh... points for that I guess.

There were eight riding in my division, so our 4th, 3rd and 6th ribbons were solid indications of how tough of a time other horses were having with the puddles as well...

Sunday, the rings were even soggier, and a ton of people scratched the day.  I waited it out and since things started to dry out, I decided to try it - totally ready to retire if Winds didn't feel great in the footing.

When I was still deciding if it was worth it to ride or not - one of the ladies in the barn said that she always uses the saying "I'd rather look back and say I wish I had, than I wish I hadn't."

I'm sure that's a well known adage, but I hadn't heard it before and it struck a cord with me.

Anyway, the first round went pretty well, and the footing held up much better than I thought it would.  We had some late changes again, maybe a chip to the first fence... second round was similar and we pulled a 3rd and 4th. 

Finally we rode our Classic (which thankfully did not include our last division round) and pulled it all together.  We stayed balanced and forward and nailed our changes for an 86.  Which is hands down the best score I've ever gotten in the irons.

It was good enough for 1st, and if we were only going to win one round I'm so excited it was the Classic, because it happened to be sponsored by Voltaire and came with a really pretty platter and a NEW HUNTER GIRTH.

I haven't bitten the bullet on a good leather girth for Windsor, so it was an incredibly useful prize, as well as a much nicer one than I would have gotten for myself, so whee!

Winds wanted treats on that platter...
I don't have any footage from my rides since, although I dragged the husband out to watch, he was mostly busy doing this the entire time:

The kiddo was exceptionally cute at the show this time, she really wanted to meet all the horses, sit on them and play around... Dare I try leadline next week?!?

insisting on holding the "leash"

my helmet looks oddly appropriate on her, huge head much?

So even though some of my rides were lackluster, Windsor certainly wasn't and he more than earned his keep!

A few days off, then we wash, rinse and repeat for the second week!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tbird - annnnnnnnnd the Hunters

I am for sure lacking clever commentary, but I also hate having photos and videos to post and.... not posting them.

So here we go.

extremely wet horse. not actually this dappled

I have mentioned (several times now) that the last two days (of the first week) at Tbird were apocalyptic.  There was so much rain that many barns opted to scratch all together and play another day. 

I, however- wasn't able to stay for the second week of showing which was (of course) forecasted to have sunny weather in the 70's and 80's.  Instead there was a run on all raingear (I legit saw one lady take the "sale" sign off her winter clothing rack... lolz) and we all whined and complained and felt a little better when we realized that putting some Bailey's in our coffee was totally allowed (sorta).

Winds was ticked.  The drizzle from Friday had turned into an all our downpour and while he had been tolerating it (kinda) before, he wasn't a thrilled horse.  I didn't blame him, so we kept the warm up short and sweet hoping to be in and out and back in a mostly dry stall as quickly as possible.

The first trip was beautiful.  All the rain meant that (once again) I didn't hack or lunge or do anything extra outside that wasn't absolutely necessary, so Windsy was (still) pretty forward thinking.  I deliberately tried to not choke him to death and fortified by my (huge) coffee with a (little) Bailey's, I succeeded.  We stayed smooth, and forward and given how many people fell, off that's all it took for a first place.

(new fav picture)
The second round was also gorgeous, but I had a slightly late change (pilot error), which dropped us to 5th.  On any other day we wouldn't have been anywhere near a ribbon - but again, lots of opinionated horses had large complaints about the weather/jump d├ęcor/etc.

Only 10 came back for the hack, which I totally get because the rain somehow got even worse for that.  In fact as a bunch of us were all waiting around at the back gate for the final few rounds to finish, we were all questioning our collective sanity.

It became downright comedic when after the class was called to the center of the arena, we realized our announcer was also calling another flat class in the adjacent ring and there was zero chance he was going to pin our class until that one was also waiting in the middle of the arena (in the pouring rain).

So we stood. 

In the pouring rain. 

All the horses had flopped out ears and droopy necks and we all looked like a collectively defeated bunch.

It was absurd.  I wish I could have taken a picture of the soggy line up of the drenched horses and very wet riders. 

Showing, man.  I really don't know why we do it...

Anyway, the class itself was awesome and Winds was really moving out nicely.  He floats so well to the right, that it's a bummer we don't start that direction as I think our first impression would be stronger.  Somehow we snagged a 2nd (sensing a theme here?) behind a really lovely mover that I'm not sure even Prair would have beat...

Going into Sunday I was only a couple points behind the hack winner for the division, but you know... who's counting.

I thought I had two rounds left and a classic, but apparently there was only one round left for the division.... and the classic, so it was a light day.

Again the rain, and again Winds was upset but not demonstrative.  Again we warmed up in 3 seconds flat and again we did pretty well.

The clouds actually parted a bit and we rode our final rounds in a sprinkle which felt down right lovely after the crazy weather.

My first round has a gerat first fence, then I cut my next two corners which caused us to drift and lose my distance.  I fixed that particular issue and the rest of the course was pretty tidy.  We managed a 77 which, after watching the video back seemed a bit generous.

The second round I made a point of really holding my lines and staying straight out of the corner.  Winds was adjustable and lovely and we pulled down an 84 for a total of 161.  I love when they announce scores for a class (be it a WCHR week or a derby or a classic or whatever) it just is so education for me, especially when I watch other rounds in the same class.  I'm still relatively new to the whole hunter thing and I enjoy seeing the differences in judges and what they emphasize...

This is a round I'm proud of.  I love how consistent our balance is getting, and I'm loving Winds' frame.  He's light and forward and easy to find the jumps on when I keep him there. What a dude.

Anyway, 161 held on for a 2nd out of 18 and (another) blue ribbon which is awesome and will help rebuild the ribbon wall, lol.

(I remain conflicted about how to arrange the weird Canadian ribbons... by color or by placing??? What do you guys do?)

The first round 77 was good enough for 5th and grabbing (another) reserve.  So, we are nothing if not consistent!!!

Really though I feel fabulous about the week and how Winds performed.  I also feel good about the progress I'm making in my own riding and feeling more confident on him. 

Horses leave Monday for the next couple of weeks showing, so we get to go right back in and keep working at it!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tbird - Ammy Eq

Life is whirling at approximately a million miles per hour and I'm losing days and weeks faster than I can catch up. 

Recapping Thunderbird has totally fallen between the cracks, but with another two weeks of showing starting next week - I really could use the review and reminder of what went well, and what didn't.

My rides at Thunderbird started with my full Eq division on Friday afternoon.  Two rounds over fences and a flat.

With the slight drizzle, N talked me into warming up in the Jumper ring, which - while totally insane - shared the same (great) footing as the ring I was competing in, which was not only better in the damp - but would give me a better sense of how Windsy would ride in it.

I nearly called it quits while I was going through my flatwork due to flailing, panicking jumpers and what is apparently a total disregard for the who left-to-left thing, but Winds was unconcerned, so I tried to be unconcerned and get on with it.

His jumps we spot on. He moved up nicely, stayed uphill and when we nailed three in a row, we decided we weren't going to do any better and headed for the ring.

pre-round treats
I didn't have an opportunity to ride a Low round before my division started - which, as I've explained I love/hate.  However I had ridden Winds in his Pre-Green Under Saddle so I was at least vaguely aware of how the ring was riding and the slope.  The first Eq course was interesting.  Single on the short diagonal, broken line, outside line, rollback.

obligatory arm-wavey-course-visualization
Windsy really picked up in the ring and while you can't really see it on the footage - I panicked a tad about him wanting to take me to the fences, and went to my hand. 

But, we put in a pretty even round, if a bit conservative in my rollback (I should have left one out) and managed a 3rd in a class of 15.

Second round was similar.  Single on the short diagonal (new lead!), long gallop to the oxer, rollback, line, rollback.

Again, I was in my hand and throttling him back too much. He feels so overpowered when I'm mid-course but the videos make it painfully obviously how dialed down I have him.  I liked our first fence and our oxer, the rollback was ok, but I could have shaped it a bit more.  Too quiet into the judge's line, but we got out okay and an okay final rollback, though we took the scenic route (whoops).

We snagged a 3rd again purely because some other lovely riders had some really unfortunate issues with horses who were not interested in the rain (this was a theme for the weekend.  I have never seen so many stops, bucks, pinned ears and general "eff you" moments from otherwise steady mounts).

But whateves, I'll take the ribbon ;)

I let Winds go pee before we did our flat, which whittled to 12 after a few riders decided to avoid the rain (or go school some fences instead). Windsy was awesome, and I was feeling much more confident than I did about my Eq on the flat in Cali.  I stayed down around him and less tense and was rewarded with a 2nd which put us Reserve for the Division.

Love this horse. and really enjoying figuring out how to be a better rider on him.  I feel like we're getting closer... ever so slowly. 

Stay tuned for the Hunters, errrr I mean Competitive Horse Swimming...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

tbird - Pro Days

If I happened to intrigue you with my (very) general summary of the show - then I hope that I can remember enough details to make these more specific posts worthwhile..

I didn't get up to the show for Windsy's first day of Low Hunter rounds.  The plan was to show him in a 3' round, which was in the ring the Pre-Greens (and my divisions) would run in, as well as a 3'3" round in a different ring, but to see how the height felt.

Apparently in his first 3' round, Winds jumped the crap out of fence one - and was cantering boldly down to fence two when he slammed on the brakes for no apparent reason.  He jumped the rest of the course fine - but the stop was out of character so a second round at 3' was added. 

He must have jumped around nicely, because he pulled down a 2nd place in a big, open class.

Then he moved over to the other ring (where we wouldn't be showing) to pop around at 3'3" and laid down a nice trip, but swapped off his lead while he looked at something outside the ring, which kept him out of the ribbons in the 45 horse class.

I zoomed up to the show grounds early on Wednesday so I would be sure to catch his trips.  Which I did - but I forgot my camera.  So... that sorta sucked.

But it looked like this

Our barn had two horses showing in the 3'3" PGs so I actually got to see a majority of the division go which was educational, and a bit intimidating as I watched lovely round, after lovely round go by. 

I had to remind myself that lots of these barns put in at least half a circuit at Thermal and have had 3-4 weeks of additional shows since then.  Where as we had two lovely weeks in CA, but those were instead of our "normal" spring shows, not really a pre-season warmup...

But, both our horses were lovely and Windsy managed a 2nd and 3rd, while our barnmate won the second class.

Then I got dressed so I would be ready for the Under Saddle, which is about when I remembered that in Canada they jog the Pre-Greens. I have literally not spent one minute working with Winds in hand, so I wasn't too sure how it would go.  He was baffled as to why we were jogging back into the ring, but he was a decent sport, if a bit lazy. 

The Under Saddle was uneventful - as they tend to be.  But I managed to nearly pick up the wrong lead to the left and spent about 6 strides trying to re organize and strike off.   Either the judge didn't see us - or he didn't care, because we managed a 5th in a class where I was pretty sure we wouldn't ribbon (why do they only ribbon to 6th up here?).

Winds then decided to eat his bandages overnight, which led to a very grumpy purchase of new wraps as well as a Likit holder so that he could amuse himself with something more appropriate. He made his way through nearly the entire thing before his classes in the afternoon - but all wraps were left intact so I consider it a worthwhile investment. 

The temp also dropped a ton overnight and even through the monsoon's hadn't set in yet, I was literally wearing every layer I had packed in an attempt to stay warm.

also coffee. all the coffee.
I did actually remember to keep my phone in my pocket on Thursday, so you can all ooh and ahh over the lovely boringness of a beautiful Hunter round filmed poorly on a phone.  Winds nailed his first round with an 87 and won it.  Even with a conservative 10 strides in the bending line. 

Everyone was squishing in 10. So it was disappointing when in the second round, N laid down a gorgeous trip and a beautiful 9 in the bending, only to have a rail dropped in the judge's line (dang it!). 

I didn't even notice the rail while I was filming, so I was totally confused when they announced a score of 46.  Dropped us out of ribbons in that class, and meant that we missed champion by 3 points. I'd be more disappointed if I wasn't so freaking thrilled with how Windsy jumped.

We were presented with our (absurdly large) ribbon for Reserve and took all the prom pictures we could. 

This ribbon is legit taller than my toddler.
Overall it was awesome to feel like the move up to 3'3" was really easy for Winds.  We knew scope wouldn't be an issue, but having him stay soft and relaxed is a big victory - as is getting up the lines and cleaning up our changes.

I think we'll probably hold him in the 3'3" PGs for the rest of the season.  No real reason to move up and I think he can get some great mileage in the ring without beating up his legs too much.

As the rain set in I was getting extremely excited about stepping back into the ring myself and Friday would bring my Eq division with two rounds over fences and a flat.....

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