Tuesday, 15 August 2017

$900 FB Pony Hop: Dealbreakers

Thank you, $900 Facebook Pony, for a topic that ties in nicely with yesterday's post about riding all the horses offered to me.

Her question:

Any dealbreakers that make you not even want to ride a particular kind of horse?

Shut your little ears, Midge. No ideas to get out of work here....none at all....

Yes! Rearing scares me. Not so much the -"I'm green and not sure where else to go" kind, but the kind that's learned and means business. Nope, no thanks, not getting on that.

Somewhere in this novel of a post from our last show, I mention helping out a rider on the XC field whose horse went over on her. What I'm not sure I conveyed well enough was the horse literally jumped up off the ground on her hind legs before slamming down on her back. Like when a person tries to do a backflip and doesn't quite pull it off. No idea if it was intentional, but it was fast and athletic and horsey didn't look overly concerned....so not something I'd ever be into riding.

Midge reared and fell on me once, I think last winter? She was being quite braced and fussy and running through my hand. I thought maybe incorporating some backing up might be useful. Midge thought maybe popping up a bit might be a good alternative, and...Midge being Midge, totally misjudged the footing/her athletic talents and kind of slipped and fell over on her side in slo mo. And, learned her lesson and never, ever thought about rearing again. I also learned mine, so if she's being really silly and tough, we just move into canter and incorporate some lateral work there to burn off steam and get her less heavy. 
Pic from around that time frame. Midge is often opinionated, but never mean. Sidenote: I see so much progress since then!

Another type of horse I'd never get on are the ones that are tricky and just beyond my abilities. There's one I know that I try to avoid even handling on the ground. He's very much into testing boundaries and will get very dangerous about it and really doesn't mind upping his game when you discipline him. I don't think he's inherently nasty, I think it all probably started as playful intelligent gelding games that scared someone and got him out of work.For whatever reason he now is who he is and I'm not interested in trying to play the game. He goes great for a couple of riders in the barn, but I've seen them have some pretty epic showdowns with him too, and yeah, the stuff he tries out is way above my abilities, not to mention could seriously hurt someone like me. 

Final category: Baby's first rides. Used to be OK with this, now if they're not mine I'm not going to. I like to know they've been productive members of equine society for at least a little while first.

And, in all honesty, I'm not very brave on new horses. Never have been. So, any time I'm on a horse that I don't know super well and they feel too fresh or like there's bit of a buck in there, I get off and lunge a bit. Obviously they don't fall into the 'never ride' category, but a 'don't ride sometimes' one for sure!

Monday, 14 August 2017


Is the spice of life and all that.

But, when we consider it in the context of riding and handling other horses, it not only keeps life interesting, it:

- Keeps me honest. Those bad habits Midge (somewhat) tolerates? Yeah, other horses are like "WTF are you doing with your outside seatbone?!"

- Keeps me sane. Although it would be a pretty spectacular event to see, thankfully all the horses in the barn don't tend to have a bad day at once. There's always one good apple to brighten my day!

-Helps me learn. Each horse is different, each requires a different ride. The ability to "read" each horse and feel the tiny changes needed to adapt to and bring out the best in each is a big goal, but a worthy one, I think.

-Gives me confidence. Getting a bit outside my comfort zone on a new horse is good for me!

-Helps me narrow down my own personal preferences a bit more. Although it's a bit of a running joke in the barn that I love every horse I get on, some are definitely more 'my type' than others.

-Makes me appreciate Midge. It's getting to the point where we're very tuned into each other - all the hours spent have built up a pretty solid partnership - it's cool to feel those results.

Like here - we did some gymnastics the other night and Midge totally aced the angled one stride with the super narrow line. She also, somehow, consistently made it ever so slightly bending between because..pony, and because the striding was working better for her. Smart, but also I had no doubt she'd be OK with this, even tho it was a first.
In short, if someone offers you you a riding opportunity and A: You have the time, and B: The horse is unlikely to kill you, just go do it!

Friday, 11 August 2017

Lesson Recap

I had to reschedule my lesson this week, and unfortunately that means I missed out on a jumping lesson and was there for a dressage one...again.  Between prepping for the dessage show, and our super smoky weather, I havent jumped at all in a while. I noticed my jump saddle still had my day pass from our xc schooling that was on July 22nd, so yeah, I better make some jump schooling a priority soon since I'm going away to an event next week!
They made a neat poster this year.

At any rate, our lesson was still a good one, and tied in nicely with the discussion Jen at Cob Jockey started about how reliant (or not) we all are on our trainers.

In the 2 years I've been riding with EC, she has always been very hands on and eagle eyed, giving me stream of consciousness feedback and directing me for the vast majority of the lesson. Lately, though, there's been a real shift in that.

It started gradually in our lessons leading up to the dressage show, but I really noticed it at the show, where before the classes where she normally warms us up she was like "You've got this. Don't underestimate yourself,  you know what you need to do." And after " That was well done, are you happy? Did it feel good to you?" Since I'm notoriously bad about having show nerves and being my own worst critic, I chalked that up as an effort on her part to sort of let me be and give me confidence, plus, she was incredibly busy riding and teaching and being a mom so I wasn't really expecting anything anyway.

Tonight, though was more of the same. She started out by outlining what she'd like to see me to accomplish in the lesson and the things she felt I could work on with Midge.

In relation to yesterday's post, all three of these pairs of breeches are labelled the exact same size. And yet...

Then, she sent me off with a "go get started, feel where she's at tonight,  and just do what you feel you need to" Ummm...OK?

So, off I went, creating the Midge I wanted in walk, where it's easiest. Then adding in some trot transitions, insisting she stay in the same round and forward mindset. I added in some suppling exercises to get her softer in the poll, and then some transitions within the trot...collect, move out again, now do that in a shoulder in position to get her hind end more active, etc, etc. Back down to walk and added in some walk pirouettes to remind her about keeping her shoulders up.  I kind of got lost in my own little world, and failed to notice the trainer feedback was...fairly non existent.

Until she was like, "There, that's enough. That's exactly what you want, now let's see if you can create that same feeling in the canter" "OK", I thought, "here comes the lesson!" And, yes, there were a few more tips and tricks shared since the left lead canter is still a bit difficult to really get her round and sitting. But generally, overall, the vibe was more "hanging out with a helpful, more experienced riding buddy" than "you are in a lesson and must do as I say". I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it, to be honest, it's a pretty big shift from when we were getting direction every second of the ride. The negative part of me wonders if she's just given up up me...this was honestly my main thought at the start of the ride because it was rough...Midge wasn't pleased about working in the heat.
"it's too warm for riding, right?!"

But then, it turned into the best ride ever. Midge became forward and really pushing, and we got a few really nice medium trot transitions and some really lovely moments in canter where she was coming forward and back just off my seat...big progress for headstrong, unbalanced ponies!  I'm pretty familiar with the program at this point, so maybe the silence was just because there really wasn't much to add. Also, EC is nothing if not professional and good at her job. So....IDK, the jury's out. I'm pleased that I do, indeed have all the tools and judgement to meet current lesson goals fairly independently. But it felt weird to be focusing more and relying more on myself rather than the outside input I'm now so used to.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Show Gear: What Not To Wear Edition

(Not in keeping with this post at A Enter Spooking where she and TC look so gorgeous and professional - check it out if you actually wanted to see how to look good while dressagin' :)

I have zero excuses for my haphazard rated dressage show look...I had plenty of time to shop for appropriate items, I just never quite got around to it. I could have stayed in a hotel and showered like a normal person, instead I opted to camp and swim in the river, and generally be sweaty and filthy for 3 days straight, lol

My only (tiny) excuse is that the show organizers told me in the morning they were waiving jackets because it was too hot. Then, when I went to enter the ring, the steward was like "Um no, you need a jacket." So I had two minutes to ride over to my camping spot, (praying Midge would ground tie) and dig out my jacket and assemble myself in it, with the back number they also insisted we wear and get back in the ring before the bell. I made it, but it wasn't pretty, and a stock tie wasn't happening lol.

Um yes, that's my unbuttoned shirt collar hanging out. But, hey, I'm wearing a coat!
Breeches: Irideon Bellisima full seats. My other white breeches were stained, so I ordered these last minute, on a super (like $20 super) clearance sale. They were a size larger than I normally wear, but for $20 I was OK with that. And...they arrived 3 days prior to the show and were really, really big...like 2-3 sizes big. I have no idea who designs and sizes their breeches, but they are generous, to say the least. And, the disappointment continued because they literally fell apart over the course of one day. The full seat material just sort of disintegrated and is now pretty much see through where it contacts the saddle. Also, baggy breeches = blisters. Ughhh. So, back to the old stained and grubby breeches it was.

Show Shirts: This was my one success. I have a couple of Asmar shirts I bought on sale last year. they somehow were breathable, repelled dirt, and actually fit decently.

Stock tie: Just a plain old Shires brand one. I hate stuff around my neck and I'm not a huge fan of frills and bling so really I'm not a real dressage rider  I'm OK with my current tie.

Show Jacket: This was embarrassingly bad. We were going to go shopping earlier in the week so I could try stuff on in person, but then, as mentioned, the show organizers were like "it's forecasted record breaking temperatures, so jackets will be waived for the weekend "And I was like "Yay, saved myself money and time, now I don't need to shop and can wait for a sale!" I packed my ancient black wool hunt coat just in case the weather forecast was wrong...and discovered upon my frantic journey back to the campsite to put it on for the first time in years that it's way too small. Like, teenage me small. Should have just brought my tried and true navy blue one (or stuck with eventing, lol).

Boots: Adequate. They're Mountain Horse field boots, and on the older side, but they're comfy and clean up well. When they die, I'll get a pair of dressage boots.

Saddle: County Competitor. Presentable, but is starting to need a reflocking and definitely due for an adjustment. I hate it for me, but Midge approves, so we're good. It's going in for an overhaul this fall, fingers crossed she can tweak things to make me happier too.

Girth: Another fail. That beautiful Schockemohle girth I bought over the winter is now borderline too large for a dieting Midge, plus somehow the keepers on both sides managed to come unstitched over the weekend. It's seen a lot of use over the last 6 months, but yeah, not pleased about it needing repairs already.

Saddle pad: I ended up using an all purpose white pad with a sqare-ish cut, because I have yet to find a nice dressage pad that is 14.2hh cob size...the big horse stuff is huge on her and the pony stuff too short for an adult saddle.
Why no, that's not an all purpose pad, this is dressage! ;)

Bridle: Standard Bobby's dressage bridle. Cleans up nice, and is basic, but good enough quality.

On the plus side, I'm living proof that you can show at a rated show with super budget, unflattering wardrobe, and non fancy tack and your scores will still be exactly the same. I wouldn't recommend it though, because seriously, you'll feel so much better if you're comfortable and know you look the part. I'm starting with shopping for a nicely fitting coat and breeches as we speak, no more procrastinating!

Side note, Kitty Customs is a real problem in our house. My parcels might get delivered, but they are inspected and defended by BK for undetermined amounts of time. The struggle for show gear is neverending, guys.
G sent me these pics this morning. Yay, hopefully boxes containing new show clothes!

Ok, yeah, that's fine, nevermind,  I don't need to open the box or try those clothes on. What could possibly go wrong?;)

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Blog Hop: Change

 I'm contemplating some change in this corner of the blogosphere. I know what I want and where I want to be equestrian goals wise, but the part between here and there is a little hazy.

So, for our very first blog hop, I'm shamelessly hoping you'll share your life experience so those of us struggling with similar decisions can learn from your mistakes and be inspired by your successes.

Look! I even made a special picture ;)

My question(s) to you:

Have you at some point moved on to a different horse, trainer, stable, etc with the purpose of advancing your progress? What made you realize the time was right for a change? Or did you opt to adjust your goals in order to stay with what you know is working? How did either choice work out in the long run?

My reason for asking is that I'm contemplating purchase or lease of either a talented/willing/forgiving prospect or (more likely) a been there/done that horse/pony to move up on and learn with. I'm still going to keep on keepin' on with Midge, because she's fun, but I'm wanting to progress a little quicker in my own riding and experience levels. Midge is happy enough doing all the things, and is even showing some good potential for dressage...but honestly she's just not that into it and being consistently inconsistent on whether the pony shows up to work with a good attitude is a thing I'm finding a bit harder to accept as time goes on. It also makes for uber slow progress. We ARE making progress, for sure, as our 'bad days' at our most recent show didn't result in overly bad scores (BUT we also did move down a level, so...). If you can't guess I'm conflicted about 'giving up' and putting some focus elsewhere because I do still believe we'll get there...but the time frame is a bit of an issue and I feel kind of stuck in a rut. Also, it's not fair to the pony to try to force it and make dressage the sole focus when she's happier doing a bit of everything.

The plan is to breed her in the spring of 2018. I'm regretting not doing it this year, but on the flip side I'm also glad we've had another year of showing and fun under our belts without any other distractions or commitments! Obviously Midge is here for life, too, so no worries about any of that changing....she's definitely my pony of a lifetime and means the world to me.

I'm very, very lucky to have an excellent coach, so that part of the equation won't be changing!

(You might be wondering "but what about Ginger?" Ginger is fabulous and awesome too, but honestly, dressage wise we have the opposite issue as B - she is more than willing, but physically not as gifted. Jumping wise she's super cute and would definitely be a nice move up for me, but I'm trusting EC's opinion here that unless my heart is set on Ginger, there is a more suitable prospect for me that would be a better longer term fit, particularly as my big goals are more dressage oriented. Ginger is a super intermediate mount for the kids moving up, they love her, and she's happy. I won't mess with that by bringing my baggage into the equation. I'm not ruling out selling her to the perfect home, but for now she's got a lease girl who adores her and I'm happy)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Canada Cup Dressage: Photos and Final Thoughts

As a short recap, I:

-Survived being potential bear food
-Lived like a homeless person successfully
-Competed at a 'real' dressage show and survived
-Met all sorts of lovely people
-Nearly collided with an Olympian and her horse on my pony.
-Nailed the braids by day 3
-Did not panic when things got weird
-Took pony swimming!
-Even won ribbons and prizes!

Yep, posting this pic again. I'm still so excited about them!
Show photos! I tried to pick photos that show how things "felt". There were better moments and many worse ones too, that these, but these felt the most representative of the weekend :)

Final Thoughts:

-Schooling show (and eventing dressage) marks. Is it just me, or are they wildly different than 'real' shows?  I get that they're trying to be encouraging and eventing dressage is I guess it's own thing,  but myself, I'd prefer consistency between it all. My tests this weekend felt fairly marked, and I was happy with them. But, I'd be happier if I had a benchmark from last year to compare them to. I don't, because honestly, I feel like the previous shows we've done to date were comparatively way generous in their scoring.
This looks how the canter work generally felt. Midge was a bit tight in her top line,  and I was working really (too) hard.

-While I can't afford (and don't actually wish to) embrace the entire dressage queen lifestyle - dressage is my happy place. I love eventing, and won't be giving up my jumping lessons any day soon,  but watching even the intermediate eventing levels I'm like "Wow, cool, but no thanks...I'm good". Upper levels? I can't even anymore, just in case someone dies. Upper level dressage? I'm like "PLEASE, this is so cool, TEACH ME NOW I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO TRAIN MY HORSE THOSE THINGS IMMEDIATELY thank you!"

-Midge was a superstar, but IDK, I don't think this is her happy place. Just because she could theoretically do this at higher levels, doesn't mean she wants to, or even should. Our scores got progressively lower as the weekend went on, and she was actually a bit sticky at the ring gate, which has never happened before. You should have seen her perk up when I took her out on the XC field after and the look of complete bliss when the kids at the swimming spot were loving on her. Not so in our tests, she just sort of went out and did the thing, businesslike and sort of 'meh'. This is going to be a long thought process, and an emotional one too. My heart wants to do this thing with Midge as far as we can take it...but perhaps that's selfish of me. Looking around this past weekend, the 'real' dressage horses out there weren't just talented, they LOVED their jobs, and many were excited to show off on the same level the event horses get out on XC.
"Where are the jumps?!"
"OK fine, we dressage now."

-Whatever the future holds, I'm proud of the pony for all she did this weekend. I feel very lucky to have a pony I can take to all these shows and events, allowing me to participate in those worlds. Most of all though, I appreciate that she's sensible and kind and such a good partner in crime. I think the horse or pony that can go out there and do a little bit of everything, maybe not always well, but well enough to have fun with, is a highly underrated thing. This one's worth her weight in gold, as far as I'm concerned.

Please Midge, would it kill you to stop bracing? And yet, she's so cute :)

Saturday, 5 August 2017


I was a bit disappointed in the dressage show photos (can't blame the photographer - I rode at the same time as the GP tests, so I imagine it would be hard to cover both well...also honestly most of my dislike was how I look in the pics, which is not her fault at all!), but have ordered a few 'fun' ones to share...just waiting for them to come and then I'll post a final show update. We're prepping now for our event coming up in 2 weeks. I am actually excited about it (and pre ordered photos this time, lol)

In other, related, news, Midge is still on her diet, in hopes being lighter will equal being faster at our events! At a recent visit, the vet was unimpressed with the rate of weight loss, although pleased with her fitness. So Midge has now been living in her own diet 'condo' 24/7 instead of just overnight. She is eating only a small amount of hay double netted twice daily.

The other day, I went to the barn to ride, and thought "Ughh, she looks like she's GAINED weight today. How is that even possible? Must talk to the girls feeding."

And then, I noticed her gate was tied shut with a large, thick, rope instead of the normal thinner rope attached to a clip. Inconvenient, but hey, whatever works.

So, the story as I understand it? She CHEWED THROUGH the previous rope latching the gate, then set herself free in the main paddock. Then she went all hangry, booted the other horses away from their breakfasts, and stuffed herself all morning before EC noticed. I found proof in the form of a chewed up rope somewhat near the crime scene. Also, an empty haynet in her pen. The little beastie ate her own breakfast first before making her big escape, of course. Naughty, naughty, pony.
Dramatic reenactment of the great escape.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Smokin' Hot

I've pretty much done nothing with Midge all week. We've been hit with a double whammy - a heat wave that's breaking records, combined with terrible air quality from a bad (also breaking records) wildfire season. More often than not, our sky has been looking like this:

Are we living on Mars, or BC in fire season? Photo from here
You can taste the smoke in the air, and there is a light coating of ash over everything. Since Midge and I both have suffered in the past from our fair share of respiratory issues, it seems unwise to do much work right now.

We've been for a few neighbourhood hacks, just to stretch her legs at the walk, but that's it.
No matter the weather, hanging out with Midge is always a good thing to do
I feel very lucky *knocking on wood* that our area is unaffected otherwise. It seems horrible to complain about crappy air quality when so many are dealing with so much worse. Being evacuated without a chance to get my animals out would be one of my worst nightmares...so many people were forced to cut their fences and hope for the best. I have donated what I can to the livestock rescues in the evacuated areas. Huge thanks and kudos to all the volunteers rounding up livestock and pets and getting them to safety. Fingers crossed hard everyone stays safe and rain is in the forecast soon!

Picture from a ferry commute in the spring, so much rain we were breaking records then too! It's been a crazy year for weather.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Canada Cup Dressage Days 3&4

I should note I am awaiting pro photos of my rides, so no, this is (hopefully) not the only media you'll see :)

Saturday morning dawned far too early. Like, literally dawned way too early. Tents need a blackout option or something. Again, up early to muck, feed, groom and braid, then get myself presentable for our first class of the day.

I again felt a little out of place as I am not sure there is a way to do all that and then tack up without looking slightly disheveled/sweaty/grubby. The "real" riders were rolling in in their nice cars, already dressed to the nines, looking immaculate as their grooms legged them up onto their perfectly turned out horses. That's not to say there weren't several of the more "do it yourself types", but most still seemed to have help or had at least worked out a better system than me! Also, I think they all had a far larger budget for horses, tack, and apparel than me. I know it shouldn't really matter, but again, just one of those things you can't help but notice and that could make you feel out of place.

 Good morning, I hope you didn't want to park your Mercedes where I'm currently living, lol
That being said, every single person was chatty and friendly and generally super welcoming! A couple of our big name riders wanted to know all about Bridget and thought she was the cutest thing ever. I know dressage has a rep for being snobby, but seriously the people were even friendlier than the eventers we've met. So, hard to be envious or feel too out of place when everyone was just so darn nice to us :)

EC shared similar ride times to me, so no warming me up on this day. She had two horses to ride, and another person to coach, plus her son to keep an eye on, so I didn't ever truly expect help, but still all weekend she managed to take plenty of time for me and was calling over tips as she warmed up on her lovely mare next to me. The lady is pretty amazing at being in all the places and doing all the things at once!

I had a few moments in the warm up where life was a little surreal...."Oh hi, Olympian,  please don't my feeble attempts at a 20m circle throw you off your line of one tempis!" I thought warming up at a jumper show was hard, but dressage horses are one place, then the next thing you know they've half passed or piroutted their way somewhere completely different and you're inadvertently in their way.

No big deal, just warming up with Leslie Reid and trying not to make a fool of myself :) Photo credit here

My first test was at 9am, the second at 3pm. It was another ridiculously hot day so I kept the warm ups to a minimum.

Our first test rode OK, but again she got in there and the relaxation was gone and replaced with tension. There was surreal moment when I realized I was the first person in the ring because the only tracks I saw were bear tracks, probably again from our friend from Thursday night...either that or the place is infested with them, not sure. Anyway, I was actually feeling pretty confident about the test and not worried at all about Midge being difficult - I just sort of dealt with it as it came, so our theory of me tensing up and creating it is maybe not the entire picture. Pony might just need more show miles and/or a different job!

We scored another 65 point something, which seemed slightly generous to me. Our test was accurate and error free, but Midge was resisting the contact here and there and generally tight through her back. I do believe she got a 5.5 for submission, lol, but the rest of the marks were fairly decent - lots of 7.5's mixed with about the same number of 6's - it was all either pretty good or OK - no in between :)
Um, what! We still won the class? We don't win stuff?!!!?So proud of the pony.

Our second test felt fantastic (or maybe it was just the beer I had downed in the meantime making me feel like life was great)! I was actually smiling and having a great time riding the test. The only real thing I felt might be a bit of a problem was that she was a bit too relaxed and maybe a bit heavy/on the forehand. But again, super accurate, and no obvious errors. Definitely my favorite test to date. But, that test scored only a 63-ish. It was a bit odd, because it was the same judge as the previous test. The comments were all pretty good and very helpful, but a few were like "still not enough bend at K" and .5 a mark less than in the morning's test. Apparently she just likes up and tense B over relaxed and slightly too heavy B, or possibly expected us to take her previous test advice and implement it immediately :) Whichever, I felt like it was one of our better tests of the weekend, so I will choose to remember it as such...it might be telling we still placed second, and I watched a couple of decent tests before me, so maybe this judge was just a bit tough.

After all that hard work, we went for a hack and a swim in the river. I feel very lucky to own a pony that I can take to all these events, but still do things like that on. She's definitely not going to set the competition world on fire, but being sensible enough to hack out bareback in a new place and stand quietly while all the kids say hi to her and swim around her on their floaties is pretty special.
Best trails! That's a completely horse friendly trail and bridge over our swimming spot. Also, maybe this is where the mystery bear came from? I did see tracks on the trail in.

On our way back, we rode adjacent to the facility's xc field and for whatever reason I looked over just in time to see a horse literally flip over on someone. I've seen them rear up and fall over, but this one actually randomly jumped up off the ground and slammed down on it's back. So scary! I ran over with Midge in tow. The rider was awake and talking, but needed a medic to check her out. I was on the phone with 911 for so long, because I truly had no idea where, exactly we were! Luckily, they were able to get in touch with the dressage show medic who came to help while they routed an ambulance. I think the rider is going to be OK, but wow, what a reminder to always wear your hard hat and vest. Also, I am overdue to update my first aid, better get it done! The whole incident really made me appreciate Bridget even more. Such a good pony for just standing there patiently while I was on the phone and attempting to be helpful to the poor rider.

Phew, this is getting long. On to day 4!

I had opted to ride just once on Sunday, which was awesome. I had a slight bit of regret because in doing so I forfeited any chance at championship ribbons and prizes, but really, who would have thought we'd be competitive at all, and also it was still way too hot and I was tired and ready to go home.

We rode T-3 in our final class, and this time rode in front of the FEI judge. The test was our worst of the weekend. I stayed too late watching the GP freestyles all morning, and pulled Midge out thinking she'd be tired and need a minimal warming up in the heat, but really she was full of it and needed about 20 more minutes of warmup. Oh well, live and learn! That one netted us a 63%, I think, and somehow, yet another second place ribbon. The winning rider in that class scored a 72% or something similar to aspire to, and the rest of us were all in the low 60's - I guess B wasn't the only horse kind of mentally 'done' with dressage that morning.
Ribbons from the weekend. I hope no one was hoping for second place, because Bridget pretty much took all those ;) I still can't actually believe we did so well, so these might stay out on my table for a while yet.

All in all, a pretty eventful and fantastic weekend!

One more post coming about my final thoughts on this whole adventure into dressage land...

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Canada Cup Dressage - Days 1&2

Wow, what a crazy weekend! I'm going to have to break the recap into two posts...4 full days of "horsin' around", there is just too much to say! Our first "real" dressage show was a blast!

Thursday was our travel and warmup day. We left first thing in the morning and got to the show grounds around lunch time. I think I've mentioned before, geographically we're super close to Vancouver, but since we're separated by a large ocean inlet with no road going completely around it, and no bridge as yet, we need to take a short ferry everytime we venture away from home. This ferry thing adds hours to our trip, because you need to get to the terminal at least 30min before sailing and of course in the summer there always seems to be some kind of delay or issue with the boat! Not to mention it's about $300 to take a horse trailer on the thing. It's a good thing I like where I live, because it's neither convenient or cheap to escape!

Anyway, Bridget being Bridget, she travelled and settled in just fine. It was freaking hot out though, oh my! I'm grateful this particular venue has permanent show stalls - so much nicer for the horses, not to mention cooler!
She still wishes the stall doors were lower, tho.

The dressage rings were open for schooling, which was nice...the one I was riding in the following day is kind of in the corner next to the xc course and a public park walkway and parking (partially hidden behind a row of trees) so a bit spooky for the horses.

B was on her game, I had a really nice lesson in late afternoon, then we all went out for dinner - benefits to showing near civilization!

Me, being comparatively uncivilized, camped for the weekend. There were a couple of living quarters trailers there, but nothing compared to an event! Dressage people stay in hotels, apparently. I actually slept in my trusty tent, pretty sure I was the only competitor doing so, lol.

True story, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a large, heavy breathing dog raiding my food supply for the weekend! Grrr, I assumed it was EC's dog who is notoriously sneaky about such things. I went to chase it off, but EC's dogs were both actually innocent and got wind of it first and scared it away. Good thing, because the large dog was actually a large bear running away.
He raided a container in that blue bucket. And that's my tent right there, my head was next to the bucket, no wonder he sounded so loud, lol. Am I freaking you out yet? I was told the next day he's "not aggressive" so, OK,  but in the back of my mind I was still "do we really know for sure it's the same one, and if so, how do we define not aggressive. Also, what is he even doing here in the first place?!"

So, I didn't sleep that well after that. The dressage people sleeping soundly in their hotels maybe were on to a good thing after all :)

Morning came too soon, as did my first ride time. On the plus side, I was actually too tired to be nervous! I got B all braided up in record time, and hit the warmup. And, oh my were there some fancy, fancy horses and beautiful, accomplished  riders there.  Midge and I definitely did not fit in...although I was relieved later to note that the riders sharing our warmup were the grand prix ones and were not warming up for Training level, lol!
Midge with her game face on

Our first test netted us a respectable 64%, with plenty of favorable comments. Midge was not on her best behaviour and was quite tense through her back, but I felt like I didn't panic, fixed what I could, and made the best of it. A huge win, right there. Also, an 8 on one of our changes of rein. That's a riding win for me on a wiggly, behind the leg pony. Still, I was pleased with Midge - she went out and did the thing in a very busy, noisy atmosphere with minimal actual drama.

I watched some of the upper level rides after that and was super inspired. It was a real treat for me to see some of the best of our west coast riders in action. YouTube is great, but it just isn't the same as watching the real thing :)
Thank you, judge, you made my year with this.

Test 2 went a couple of hours later. Midge was like "are you kidding me right now, it's hot and I've already done the thing!!!" But, then she got over it and acted all grown up and went back to work. This test felt way better and earned us a 67 point something. I was super happy with that, because I feel like it was pretty much the best test we'll get from her. It was consistent, accurate, and obedient. She is not a big flashy mover so at Training level this is a good score for us...really there was very little on the test comments that I could improve on any day soon, a couple of remarks about wishing she was freer through the shoulder and more supple, but hey, she is who she is and I am just grateful she is willing to try :)

Icing on the cake, this very unexpedtedly, happened!Second in both classes, and there were even a few other horses there too, lol. 

On to Part Two...

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

All The Feels

Thank you for all the well wishes for G, he's feeling much better. Fingers crossed the rest of the tests come back somewhere in the realm of normal and we can come up with a good plan and keep on living our lives and not worry about anything for a few more years :)

Anyway, horses. This blog is about horses.

I opted out of my normal lesson last night because they were jumping and I need to practice some dressage for our show this weekend. I joined in with some other adult ladies later in the evening, which was a nice change...I love the teens, but the adults are more my speed as far as goals and progress. I still sat and watched the jump lesson and actually got quite a bit out of it - it was interesting to really be able to watch the others tackle the courses and see that we really are all working on similar things. I sometimes feel like I'm the only one struggling out there, particularly as the kids are so brave, and I'm...not!

I ended up having a fantastic ride. Everything just felt smooth and flowing, and B was that wonderful combination of forward and relaxed. We did a bit of work on keeping the pony straight while being able to flex her neck and poll, in all three gaits. Perfect exercises for unlocking her and stopping the Gumby pony routine.
Until I wrote that, I forgot Gumby actually had a horse, Pokey. Missed naming opportunity right there...B pretty much IS a real life Pokey.

 EC tends to very blunt and honest while still remaining encouraging.It's rare that she makes any big generalizations about your riding or your horse, good or bad, preferring instead to just take whats in front of her on the day and discuss goals and plans and exercises to help you feel and improve what she's seeing in the moment. Unconditional praise is extremely rare, because let's face it, there's always something to improve!

So, imagine my surprise when some really, really nice compliments were thrown my way. I'm terrible at accepting compliments, because I'm my own worst critic. But, just this once,  I'm going to take them at face value, believe them and not overthink it.
B is very talented at rolling. Just kidding, right now for some reason I have 50 pics of her rolling and zero pics of her being normal (or clean), so here you go, rolling pony pic.

Of course, the Law of Pony Averages pretty much states that I have to pay for a good ride with my soul or something. The timing of this good ride, right before our "big" dressage show?...slightly concerning, lol. Add in the fact her vet ordered diet has been further restricted (although I got great feedback on her fitness, yay!), and well...the Pony Apocolypse is likely imminent.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

A Good XC Outing

I had the most stressful week, poor G had to go to the hospital and while he's feeling better now there was/is some uncertainty there pending more tests. So, I spent some time at home this week because hubby's health > work and horses, obviously. 

So, as you can imagine, I went into today's xc outing with two conflicting thoughts running through my mind: Life is short, you never know what might happen, so yolo, go for it and have fun! (But also, don't get hurt/ take unnecessary risks because G needs you right now!)
Kind of a grey day out there, but the rain is much needed, so no complaints!

 I ended up with the mindset that we'd gallop around and have fun, but keep it conservative as far as actually pushing the boundaries. 
Yes, totally stealing media from previous coursewalks,  lol. This is not a big drop, but still scary to me!

We started at the down bank. Of all the things out there, down banks or jumping on a steep downhill scare me the most. We made huge progress confidence wise today though, cantering up and off like no big deal. I think I finally figured out how to ride them earlier this spring (simple, actually, for the love of everything just STOP LOOKING DOWN already!) so now it's just a matter of more miles where they feel as easy as they have been this spring.
Rock pile. B loves this because it's open and easy to read, plus coming back up the hill towards the trailer parking.
Everything in the bottom field was entry height or above, so we just did the "little" rock pile log and then up and down the bank. Midge was a star, she came out excited and forward - I think she's figured out the xc game now and she approves!

We moved on to the ditches, which for whatever reason have never worried either of us. Training level ditch, check, ha ha, go Midge! Then loop back to the log pile between the ditches, again, fine, although she backed off a bit the first time as it's a more solid looking thing than we normally encounter.
Log pile between the ditches

Next, water, which again pony has zero issues with. We even cantered off the drop into water because I found some courage.
Little drop into water

Then, I was set loose to string together some lines and courses. Again, proud of the both of us because we didn't just stick to little logs,  we jumped some bigger ones, some log piles, a little palisade, and even some stuff going downhill.
Tiny palisade

By the time we were both tired, we'd jumped almost all the Pre-Entry stuff out there, plus a number of Entry fences that rode just fine.
This log pile...scene of our 20 penalties last year. I think she dislikes it because it's at the top of a long hill heading away from everyone. So, she's tired and less than charitable by the time we get here. You'd better believe we popped over this a few times today!

The one thing I didn't push was the houses...B is not a fan at all of those and there wasn't anything small enough where I felt like we could still hop over it from an awkward distance or even a standstill and get her confident.  They would have all required a forward, confident pony on a good rythym, so I opted to not pick that battle. Because let's be real, there are no houses at Starter level anyway and pony was being so good that sometimes you just need to reward that :)
Hard to see, but this has a little drop in terrain behind and therefore I  needed to be brave.

With the ferries and driving, our two hour lesson was a 12 hour day. But, totally worth it, there's nothing better than galloping along on my favorite pony. 

Does this trailer make my pony look small? ;)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Lesson Recap

Our lesson slot started off with further scheming re: the future of Ms Ginger and Bridget. Result: I'm incapable of making any horsey decisions at the moment! Breed B or buy a prospect next spring? Sell or lease Ginger? Or keep her and breed next spring? The great thing about all of this discussion is that I don't think there's a bad decision to be made, they're all solid choices. Plus, I have a super experienced and supportive coach to discuss it all with, so while it is getting time to make a firm decision and start planning to follow that path, I'm not overly worried about it, just excited. I know she has a better handle on my abilities and the most likely paths to achieve my goals than I do, and I'm very appreciative of that. Also..Bridget. She's not going anywhere, so I have a fun pony to play around on no matter what level we end up at.

Then, we rode! We ran through some walk pirouettes to start, because Midge could not possibly bend left. We then moved them out onto a larger circle, so essentially like so:
Back legs on the inside track, pony bent around my inside leg, front legs come around on the outside track. Spiral in and out as needed.

Then, up into trot. Practicing letting her stretch/take the reins and then picking the contact back up without any pony 'tude. That's tough for Midge, but she was actually stellar (for her) about keeping a consistent, forward, pace and being steady in the bridle. Then we moved up to canter and practiced some trot/canter transitions which were a bit 'meh'...she's still popping that outside shoulder (my fault - too slow catching her with my outside aids!) slightly as I ask, so there's a moment where she's wiggly and above the bit, but then the canter itself is lovely. So, baby steps - we've got the transition in the walk to canter really nice, so I'm sure we'll get back there from the trot too. We sort of messed things up a bit when we added lengthening and collecting and all that lateral work this winter...the wheels fell off elsewhere because I feel like B is really overthinking things now and anticipating me asking for a change in pace or bend and potentially her balance when we don't need one....much pony drama results because of course she knows best and thinks boring straight lines with nothing else to do are beneath her obvious talents...best to invent some new moves like any other dedicated Welsh Cob ;)
Ginger with her besties this morning

I was sort of left a bit by myself for all the above. Not to say there wasn't attention being paid or guidance being offered, but I was kind of trusted to sort out the little things myself and just use the exercise and get to work  I'm good with that...it's been the same program for so long now I feel like I recognize what is needed and have the tools I need a lot of the time. It's confidence boosting for me because I take her silence to mean I'm using those tools effectively.

Finally, the place where we needed help - riding through some dressage tests! Our centerlines are actually quite straight, but for now I feel like I need to sit the trot and really push her forward to keep her connected....see above about wiggly giraffe pony. We cantered a couple to emphasize forward and straight in her mind, then went outside the box and turned the opposite way in counter canter to keep her guessing. Fun times.
Treats for being a good girl?

Changing the left bend as we ran through the tests was also a current weak point. It's not bad, per say, but it's not her favorite side, so anywhere there is a change of bend or transition to the left we get that above mentioned moment of trying to pop to the outside and brace above the bit. At least it's minimal, but certainly something to work on as I'm sure it's not a very appealing picture to see the pony resist, even momentarily. I need to prep better for it and generally just school on a left bend a bit more, I think. It used to be our good side, but such is life :) 

We finished with some discussion on how to ride the loops in Training 3...I've seen different things suggested, and even had different feedback from different judges on this last summer. EC suggests more of a triangle shape, ie turn and go straight for a few strides as if you're going across the diagonal, before changing the bend for a half circle over x, then straight again "across the diagonal" before changing back just after the quarterline. Think of the exercise as like riding two short diagonals. That seems like it would keep life simple for me.
This deer is just cute...same one that has been living in or around the yard for a year or two now. We don't feed him, but he seems to stay and has a nest he sleeps in near the gate.  It's ridiculous here - so many deer. He and his buddies in the area are smart enough to wait for traffic and walk in the bike lanes when they travel by road, they're kind of suburban deer now.