Sunday, August 21, 2016

Quick Catch Up: Evergreen Classic

I'm way delinquent on show reports.  We are now two weeks into an unprecedented 3 weeks straight of showing with Windsor. 

The first week was a last minute add - and our only show close enough to home that I got to sleep in my own bed. 

I wouldn't have added it to the calendar, except the schedule was such that Winds could be done with classes and sneak in a few days of pasture before shipping to Thunderbird. 

So it was an easy way to log a few rounds, get in a derby and have some family there to cheer us on.

Except that Evergreen is a cursed show for me.  The last 3 years in a row I've had intentions of showing it - only to have something come up that kept us away.  In one instance it was an unplanned surgery, then pregnancy, then lameness... life just didn't want me to ever get in the ring at that show.

But anyway, we signed up and the dark cloud of Evergreens past lurked in my brain.

Best thing about this show was for sure getting this pic of Winds over the Trot Fence

The schedule was such that both my Eq, Hunter and the Pre-Greens were running on Wednesday and Thursday.  In the name of not showing everything under the sun, I opted to do only my Eq and not jump Windsor's legs off.

It was a good decision because Winds was not feeling like his normal self.  He was a bit stiff, jumping flat and very, very unimpressed with the show. 

Very Bored.  Total Wow.
He jumped his first 3'3" round like he'd been there for a month, and while he was technically accurate, he just wasn't very captivating to watch.  Bear in mind, this is with ZERO prep.  No lunge. No hack, no perfect prep.  NOTHING.  Not a lot of pep to his step.

Then, the show was running so long that there was a THREE HOUR delay in my ring (which was poorly managed) and resulted in me getting on three separate times only to scratch and leave because I had a meeting I had to get to downtown. 

I was feeling like the Evergreen curse was in full swing, but Thursday showed some redemption, and while the PG rounds were still lackluster I managed to win my second Eq over fences as well as the Eq on the flat for a championship. 

There is no video evidence of the Eq - but trust me when I say it was adequate, but not spectacular.  The division was pretty small and the Eq rounds were normal Hunter line-diagonal-line-singles. 

Friday, the only Hunter classes were Derbies.  Two Amateur ones, and then a National and International.

The National ran in the morning, and Windsor had a HUGE cheering section. My parents, my kid, my husband, my in laws and more than one non-horsey friend were in attendance.

The class was large (maybe 35?), which was great, but the announcing was lackluster and overall the show just felt very quiet and underwhelming.  No atmosphere, no music, no... energy.  So I felt a little guilty that so many people showed up, but it was great to have them. 

I was disappointed that the derby ran in the Grand Hunter ring with no changes... no additional space or grass or whatever. 

That said, the course was set really nicely and I thought made for an interesting track.  Winds was relatively late in the order and we had the benefit of seeing how the Judge was scoring - which was helpful since they seemed to be really penalizing a slow pace and stalling in front of the fences.

Winds put in a good round - but again, not brilliant.  My trainer gave him a great ride, he just wasn't giving his biggest, prettiest effort over the jumps.  He fought about a lead for a few strides toward the end (maybe between 10 and 11?) but otherwise it was tidy.  They scored an 86.5

Also - Toddlers, good lord they know when to throw a fit....

The handy was a fun track.  I don't know if it's a normal thing, but for the first two fences you could jump them in any order, going any direction.  A bit of a Gambler's Choice. 

It could have been a fun option if there actually was more than one option....  But everyone rode the same direction, in the same order, so that wasn't as exciting as I had hoped.  It was a nice track, and while I didn't see any crazy slices, the inside turns demanded a lot of softness and control, especially if you wanted to catch the high options. 

We came back in 3rd and held the position with a score of 88 in the handy. 

It wasn't his finest work - I thought he looked petty stiff in the bridle and though you can't see it on the video he drifted to the last fence and the distance got a bit stretchy.  All in all, good - but not great.

Afterward, Winds got his braids out, a bite of grass, and a quick bath before hopping on the trailer for a few well deserved days off.

In digesting the show, I felt a bit sour about the Pre-Greens, and irritated in general with the overall schedule and culture of the show.

I felt great about the 3rd place finish in the derby, but not so great about how flat Winds seemed at the show.  He was dull, bored and overall just felt a bit sour. 

Also, the show was a bit disappointing overall.  The Evergreen Classic used to be the crown jewel in our local show circuit.  But it's bounced locations a few times, struggled with footing and ultimately lost a lot of its draw.  I think it's on the right track to making a comeback, but entries were low, prizes (and ribbons) were mediocre at best, and no aspect of it oozed AA anything. I hope it continues to develop, but I can easily say that for one of the most expensive shows we attend - it wasn't a great value from any perspective.

We decided we would still head to Third, but if we needed to scratch the second week and end our season a bit early - it would be an easy option.

Stay tuned for week two (and some redemption).

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Driving Rein (or Dumbo's Magic Feather)

The photos from Milner (and insta) showed me consistently using a Driving Rein in my classes. 

Driving Rein (and a cute gray boy)
I had previously convinced myself that no one notices... but uhhh I guess that's not true :)

So, since everyone gets super-duper-bonus points for noticing my weird rein hold - I figure it deserves some explanation (as I understand it).

Use of a Driving Rein is something that I've done on and off over the years.

Up to this point, I had only ever used it in clinics and with a couple of my dressage trainers when I was (much) younger.  Bernie Traurig is known for having a major fondness for a Driving Rein, and even noted that with some young horses he would ride that way for a year to establish honest, true contact.

As a tool in clinics I've always seen it applied to discourage those of us who like to brace our hands or break our wrists (I'm guilty of both).

By bringing the rein in over the top of the hand, the only way to increase pressure on the rerun is to pull straight back with your shoulder and elbow. 

With a traditional grip (entering between the pinky and ring finger) a naughty rider can increase pressure by playing with their fingers (gasp) or bending their wrists (double gasp). 

You also have the option of bracing your hand down toward the wither (with a locked elbow) to give yourself some leverage against a heavy horse, or perhaps if trying to contain a bolting maniac (who would do that I wonder????).

My last couple of horses have given me reason to guard against sudden desires to bolt/spin/whatever - and that defensive mindset often leads me to stiffen my arm and brace in my hands - even when there is no bolt or misbehavior in sight.

The problem with this particular habit on a horse that doesn't bolt forward is that when I try to maintain a steady contact, I end up holding too much, not following the mouth and bottling a certain pretty Gray pony up in the corners (or in the last stride to a fence).

So, by flipping the rein and forcing my elbow to unlock, I keep a softer feel of the mouth and am forced to rely on straightening from my leg as well as pushing more sincerely to my half halts.

It's not a bad thing.

However, it can make the line on a crest release a bit silly...
For those of you who are trying to figure out how in the hell such a small adjustment can change how well you follow with your elbow or shoulder.. I encourage you to have a little National Velvet moment and find some baling twine, or ribbon or an extension cord to loop around your feet and hold like reins.

( I just spent a REALLY long time trying to find a picture or clip from that scene of the movie and am somewhat shocked I can't find one... am I the only one who remembers that?)


Hold the reins normally, and give yourself some contact.  Pretend you are trying to soften then mouth and see how much wiggling and breaking your wrists can do.

Then flip the reins, so they enter your hand between your thumb and forefinger, do the same thing and notice how all the movement has to come form the elbow. 

Ideally try this on an actual horse... but you know... most people aren't reading blogs while they are riding (are they?).

The Driving Rein also naturally lifts my contact a bit and helps me carry a higher line of contact/balance.  I might be overdoing this now - as there were a few moments in Canada where my hands were getting precariously close to my chin - but for now that's better than my preferred alternative of burying my hands and creating a stiff connection.

artificially raising the balance a bit... but..... I'll take it
So for now it's a helpful tool for me to break bad, defensive habits.  Already my softer elbow is translating to my traditional rein hold, but if I get in trouble I revert to bracing, so I'm still being required to use a Driving hold in the ring.  old habits die hard, but hopefully I'm on a path to improvement...

It's also making it easier for me to separate my hands if I need to offer some help landing a lead.  I don't know why it's easier than with a traditional rein - but maybe because my shoulder is already soft, I am more likely to utilize my hands separately in the air.
staying low, with contact on the right, releasing forward on the left
So, while it probably isn't a tool for everyone - there is a method to this particular madness for me - and it's likely to stick around for a little while until my panic buttons change a bit.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Milner - Ammy Hour

Well, it's been long enough that all my highs and lows have dulled into a fog - which means I can watch my videos again without the self-talk getting out of control. 

Thank god Windsor looks like he knows what he's doing
The loss of detail in my memory after just a week makes me wonder what the hell people who don't blog or journal do. 

at least I'm in my heel?
I feel like if I didn't go through the act of writing summaries (or have them to look back on) if someone asked me how my season was, or what we do, I'd be hard pressed to answer with much more than,

"uhhhhh.  we.... jump things.....  Usually 8 things.... but sometimes 10 things! and we..... get better... at... it.  Unless we don't..... Lead changes are hard...... oxers are easy....?"

And that would be a totally accurate, if entirely boring description. 

if that's not a "stop it, Mom" face, I don't know what is....
I'll try to do slightly better than that - but zero promises because, the more I reread that sentence, the more I think it pretty much sums up Milner (and Cle Elum, and Tbird, and Blenheim...).  Oops.

2'9" - very small. much boring.
So, ammy days. 

The schedule was friendly for us floppy ammys because they offered us an open card EVERY DAY before our rounds.  So even though my divisions was spread out over Thursday and Friday and Saturday and Sunday - I had two rounds to ride each day if I wanted to.

I scratched Friday for the Derby - but that was only an Eq round and a Low warm up - so I didn't miss it much.

Thursday was interesting - I was grateful for the spin around the ring for Windsor's Pre Green Under Saddle as it gave me a chance to scope out the shape of the (not rectangular) ring and eyeball the slightly offset angles some of the jumps had.

My first round was a Low 2'9".  our warm up was potentially the best ever.  Even riding ont he downhill slope to the fences Winds was up un front of me and SO ADJUSTABLE.  we nailed everything.  Of course that meant I had to chip my first fence on course (duh).  First line was lovely, second line was one of my favs to date as we really moved up to it.  Judge's line was fine - but a bit tight out... then the single oxer (which we usually rock) was tight also and I let winds jump over himself instead of really rocking back.  Somehow we won it.

Second round (first of the division) was very similar.  Still tight in the judge's line, but we fixed our single oxer and kept a pretty consistent rhythm (for us) the entire time.  He just looks so lovely in a big grass field...

Saturday I came back for two more rounds.  The Low was okay. I was still tight out of the Judge's line (learning is hard). and tight into the outside line... I liked my two stride and uh, that's about it. We finished 2nd.

My division Round is one of my favorites (I saw that a lot) to date.  It flowed, we moved up to bigger distances without looking weird and we got all our changes without bottling up too much. these are probably the two most consistent rounds I've done with Winds back to back.  I felt pretty competent until I saw the video and realized how much I'm still opening up and cutting off his jump.  Sorry dude.  We won this one though - go team.

Then we hacked - and managed a 2nd place which is really good for us!

Sunday you get a thrilling change in perspective for videoing (oooohhhhh ahhhhh). but sadly the rounds were a tad lackluster.  In my Low (thank god there was a low) We were lackluster. First fence was great... but then I was tight both in and out (wtf?) of the first line.  Single oxer to the judge was okay... but I rode a bit backwards to it.  Then, I totally misread the diagonal line away and pretty much missed the turn. I zig zagged back to it and lost my straightness so the distance (and our rhythm) just evaporated.  I opted to add instead of spuring the crap out of him so that was too bad... but we finished ok on the two stride.  We somehow got 6th (out of 8) even with the add...

My last round for the show was a bummer.  First fence was fine - but then I fought about our change allllll the way around the corner until the mailbox (also, mailbox?).  That was a bummer since the rest of the course was pretty decent.  Frustrating way to end the show.  But, alas - if I could just get my act together on not leaning in... it probably wouldn't be a problem...

We got a 3rd - which much like earlier in the week felt kind for such a late change.  But the judge's clearly liked Windsy and were kind to him all week.  The 2nd, 1st, and 3rd over fences, plus 2nd on the flat held on for Champion and Winds collected another lovely blanket.  (sidenote - Milner did champion SHEETS instead of coolers which feels very useful!).

Lalo is the BEST, and always so proud of the horses.

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