Saturday, 20 January 2018

Raincoast Updates

Sad update: I had to cancel the clinic planned for this weekend, multiple riders needed to back out last minute for legit reasons (side note, can you believe our town currently has NO farrier, so if your horse throws a shoe you are SOL until they visit again in two weeks? Crazy!) While there were a couple of people interested in the spots, without a firm commitment the week before I didn't want to risk EC being out those $. Also, to be honest, I've been pretty busy and didn't feel like breaking out the cat herding skills sometime needed for organizing horse people. We organized a ride anyway, just a get together at the ring to school together and then go for a trail ride, but the weather is being extra special right now.

Not inspiring confidence...ha ha, Weather Network, why the eye catching drama weather in big font so you notice it before the real weather? While I do live on the coast, we are tucked in behind Vancouver Island, so the winds and waves are yucky right now, but they are no where near as impressive as the little blurb above would have you you can see, it actually feels like freezing, with wind gusts at 57km/hr. I can ride in that!
I'm working on either rescheduling EC to come in a couple of weeks time, or figuring out a plan to take Bridget there for a few days. In the meantime, we had a fantastic ride in the magical indoor last night, and an average one outside in the wind and rain this morning. B was a little tense and on the muscle, but who can blame her? Hope everyone else is having a good weekend!

B is feeling good!

Friday, 19 January 2018

Things To Watch

If you're looking for entertainment or inspiration this weekend, there are a few recent equestrian media options available.

-I've already mentioned the Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic. USEF Network in general is always a good place to check for live stream and on demand videos of clinics and competitions. I signed up for a free fan membership a couple of months ago and that seems to be all I need to watch all the videos.

-Down The Fence. New on Netflix. Documentary about reined cowhorse. Made me miss Alberta! I boarded at a barn specializing in reined cowhorse, and the few times I rode their horses, and watched their events, it was pretty amazing! I could see myself getting into it.  While I still question the whole starting horses super young for futurity classes thing, this isn't  about that, more a documentary about the people involved in and so passionate about the sport. The cinematography was gorgeous.

-Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival. Livestreams on their Facebook page. I'm loving this because along with good filming angles, they've got commentary from Axel Steiner. I'm learning a lot! Tuning in last night was 100% worth it just to see Steffan Peters and Suppenkasper, wow, nicely done and so much more potential there, too. It's also pretty neat to see a few of our local coaches and people I met at shows last year down there competing. It's inspiring!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

RD Clinic Notes

Notes from the USEF Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic (viewable on demand here). I've only had time to watch a couple of the riders each day, but there's been a TON of information I'm wanting to make note of because it's directly applicable to my riding and Bridget's way of going. Apologies, this post is just my own notes for future reference, but I thought I'd put them here in case anyone else gleans anything from them

Re: Energy/Intention:

-Hug the horse's side if you want 'more'. No kicking!

-You should feel like anything can happen from collected gaits. Extended trot, collected canter, halt piaffe, passage, the horse should feel balanced and ready for anything. If you can't get whatever it is you're thinking of next, it's not a collected walk.

-Very fine line between positive and negative tension. Our job is to make the line farther apart.

-Everything has to be in everything else. Ie: In every step of piaffe, the extended trot should be alive, in extended trot, the piaffe should be a thought away. If it's not there, you are not present enough. You need to feel everything, all the possibilities, in all the gaits.

-Don't be afraid to ask for more. If the horse quits or you get a response you didn't want, no big deal, correct and try again. How much/how far can I go? You won't know unless you ask/try, envision the possibilities and opportunities.

Re: Balance:

-Horse's balance: visualize a cat ready to jump up on something.

-Half halt: calling horse to balance and attention. "Wake up!"

Re: Mental game:

-"What artist can create what they can't see in their mind?" Ie you need to imagine how fabulous your ride is going to be, visualize only the best things happening, then create it.

-Connection isn't just your hands and their mouth. It's in the bridge of their back, your brain and the horses brain.

-Good trainers are always thinking. What if I do this? What reaction will I get? Why am I getting this response? Why are my hands moving there when I ask for that?

Re: General riding and training:

-Lots of petting, sugar, and 'good girl!'s. So much verbal praising and communication.

-Again with the collected walk, horse should be pulling and have similar feel in bridle to extended trot. "Can you feel an extended trot in that walk?"

-Collected trot. Is a BIG trot. Think the feel of medium trot.

-Really uses corners, rides into them and uses them to half halt/collect/balance.

-Straightness for suspension. Adding bend can make shoulders 'attached to the ground', create flatter movement. (Discussed on canter circle, in relation to keeping shoulders and neck straight on circle)

Monday, 15 January 2018

Show Season

Have I posted my proposed show schedule yet? I don't think so. If I have, too bad, we're going to talk about it again because I'm EXCITED! Here are my big goal shows:

March 22-24: Thunderbird Gateway Dressage Show

June 15-17: Touch of Class Dressage. (Also @ Tbird)

July: Canada Cup Dressage (@ MREC)

September: Pacific Regional Dressage Championships (@ TBird)

Before you think I've gone all super accomplished and fancy, yes, they are rated shows at nice facilities, for horses and riders I associate being in another stratosphere than Midge and myself.. BUT, for normal people like me, they offer EC Bronze level classes concurrent with the EC Gold upper level and FEI tests us Canadians associate with the "fancy" shows. Since the judges and amenities are the same at these shows regardless of your EC license level, it makes sense for me to save money on entries and memberships by attending the bronze classes as long as they're offered (I think until Second Level, then I have to suck it up and purchase a gold membership). So, in short, yep, showing rated, but only just, lol.

Hey, those two look familiar. If I was doing the website advertising I might have picked a more accomplished pair for the opening image for my dressage show page. Maybe even someone who doesn't have a big drapy outside rein and above the bit pony. Just sayin. 
As for eventing, August is open, as is April if we do have the desire to hit an event and the annual spring camp. I'm undecided, but I think it's unlikely I'll go to the spring XC camp this year, since I'm not planning to move up at all - if we compete it will just be at starter or pre-entry, and likely a one off, for fun.

Won't lie, I'm wishing for a nice warm day and a dry XC course right now. Bottom pic is an old one, Bridget and Ginger serving as jump wings, spring 2016. Top pic is both of our first event, also 2016. Never too old to try something new, right?

Other than that, we're keeping on board with monthly clinics with my coach, plus I'll likely trailer to her barn the week before our shows for a couple of extra lessons.

Of course, we've got a few local fun days I always attend. There are always a couple of trail challenge/games days, a monthly group trail ride, and of course the annual poker ride weekend. I'm in for all that because variety is good, and there is little to no cost for local club members to attend.

 A little further afield, we have a couple of percent days and clear rounds days...basically those are the ones local to my coach's barn and 'just' one ferry ride away. I'll tag along to those with EC's crew anytime trailer space and my schedule/finances permit..

2018 is hopefully going to be one of big variety and lots of fun! No big goals moving up wise, basically show First Level until it's boring, maybe delve a little into Second, but mostly lots of just getting out there and doing all the things.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Another Week

One more horsey weekend in the books. I'll be sad tomorrow morning as I drive off to the early ferry and onwards to work on the south coast. I return Wednesday night, but sadly the ferries aren't lining up super well. I get home quite late at night right now, so Thursday evening will be the next time I can ride.

I LOVED taking lessons with EC on her horse Audrey while I am working there,  but as with all things West Coast and horses, the prices have been going up, up, up, and I simply can't justify the expenditure. The current cost is almost $80 a lesson, which is still a good deal for quality instruction on a talented horse. But, that adds up to over $300 a month over and above any costs for Bridget and clinics on her. So, I sadly declined further lessons as of last week. On the plus side that money can go towards my new trailer and pony fund, and I will of course keep taking monthly clinics and working hard with Bridget.
Things they don't mention in the tourist brochures: It rains here all winter. When it's not raining, and sunny everywhere else, being this close to the ocean means the sun is somewhere above that layer of fog. This was at 2:00. Not gloomy at all, right? 
My rides on Bridget this week were a little...weird. She had a ton of energy Fri/Sat, but was pretty much wanting to use it for evil, pushing into my leg and running through my hand. I got her going nicely walk/trot both days via lots of lateral work and spirals, but the canter really wasn't the best and I had to be satisfied with ending on a few good strides each day. Her answer to everything I asked in canter was to run off through my hand. Fun times. I pulled out a couple of "cowboy" tricks I've never needed to use on her, one of which is the good old halt and back up, then canter off from a standstill every time they run off on you. I added in some rollbacks too.

Relaxing after, looking all happy and innocent

We had an interesting ride too, in which G led the adorable mini, Lily, out with Bridget in hopes of me eventually being able to pony her like Cathryn does with Spud. Lily is adorable, and so, so well behaved. She loves Bridget, and made it clear right away that Bridget is her hero, and she'll do anything she says. Sadly, for now Bridget wants to abuse that power and there was a bit of tail swishing and ear pinning. Nothing overly worrying, but out of character for Bridget so I played it safe.  Lily is too small to risk an inadvertent kick, so G just led her beside at a safe distance. It's weird, normally Bridget could care less about other equines, but she has a strange fixation with Lily. It's not even that she hates her, because she's always wanting to stop and say hi when we walk past her field (which never happens with other horses, B is really not a very social creature). So, for now it's more of a love/hate thing from Bridget's perspective, but I think she'll come around.

Maybe she saw The Fog, and scary movies get in her head?

Sunday B was a weird combination of super spooky and a bit tired feeling. I have no idea what her problem was - we ride past the same trailhead every time we head to the arena, and more often than not there are vehicles there with bike racks, quad trailers, dogs, whatever. This time, there was a black Ford pickup with a quad trailer that was totally making her mind exit the building. Rearing, spinning, trying to bolt for home. So odd. Particulary as there were multiple other trucks and trailers there, and the one immediately adjacent was a black ford too? So why was that one extra special? She got in trouble because her drama over it was totally not a reasonable response. Stopping to look is fine, walking past and looking, better. Eventually, she walked past, and I thought I won.
Who ever really knows what's cooking in that pony brain.

Except, wouldn't you know? You could almost, just about see that truck up on the road behind the trees while we were in the outdoor arena. It was literally half a km away or more, but ponies have sharp eyes, I guess. And she was obsessed with the thing. Could not focus. I'd give her difficult tasks to keep her focused, and she'd be fine, but the instant I gave an inch she was back looking for the evil truck. Ughhh, ponies, lol. We found a happy note to end on, and chalked the whole thing up as good practice for all the distractions in show season, also a mental note that rather than just hating on 2000's era F150's, what she might actually be saying is that dressage was boring/too hard today and that 3 days out of 4 this week was probably too much.
Cowboy trick number 2: Riding past the announcers booth was driving her nuts because omg she couldn't see the evil truck. Compromise: We stay here and relax, this is your new happy place. You can listen for evil trucks, but you cannot move, or else we go right back to work.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Thursday Nights

My current favorite night of the week!

Due to me working away Mon-Wed, Thursdays are my first night back in my barn week.

This time of year, that means mucking and filling buckets  in the dark, which is pretty much novice level stuff for us horse girls. Grooming and tacking up is a bit tricker, definitely more intermediate level skills required!

My little battery powered headlamp has been proving invaluable! Definitely recommend if you're at the barn or riding in the dark on a regular basis.

Luckily, the actual riding part of my Thursdays is not so difficult, thanks to a nice, well lit indoor a 15min hack down the road.  I'm still looking forward to the longer days and some kinder weather, though. Tonight's freezing rain was a little too refreshing, unless you're in to the whole being pressure washed with ice pellets thing :)

Since it's pretty much a guarantee that Midge will have a ton of energy and also that we'll be the only ones out and about and we'll have the place to ourselves, Thursday nights are the perfect nights to practice dressage tests.

I'm trying out some different things. EC is not big on running through tests, or even schooling parts of tests. Individual movements, sometimes. At most, we'll run through a test once a few days before hand. I'm not sure if that's just how she is, or more a reflection of the level I ride at (ie its not overly complicated). She's way more about giving you the tools to train and ride and understand the concepts of the level...much less about giving you tips on actual test riding!

I'm a bit different. I like to feel prepared. I like to know how the test is going to ride, how the pieces fit together. I feel like I am not an overly quick-thinking rider, so it's good for me to practice tests and to prepare and make things happen where they're supposed to. This might be a little "out there" but I think Midge, too, benefits from knowing the tests before hand. As we know, she can be on the lazy side, and is also not the sharpest thinking pony. So, if she knows there's a canter transition coming at C, she doesn't get silly about it, she's just prepared and ready (instead of her still too frequent "Wait! What?...we're doing that NOW?!" response). The only part I do fudge is the down transitions...I never let her know where those are actually located and always ride past them or add a circle first. (please let 2018 be the year she finally doesn't burn me even once by breaking to trot a stride or two early in a test!) And of course, I reserve the right to circle and redo pretty much anything I'm not happy with.

Our test of the last couple of Thursday nights has been 1-1. Like I said, nothing complicated or earth shattering there. It's taken us this long because 15m canter circles weren't a pretty thing last spring. I feel like it's a very good test for us to ride, all those transitions within the gait, and half circles and changes of direction keep her forward but also are a nice way of getting her to use her inside hind and sit a little more without making a big deal of it. I'm happy with it, my only wish would be for it to be a little smoother...there's always at least one point where she gets a little stuck or a bit too forward and the rhythm is lost temporarily.

Next week, we're going to go back to 1-2. I'm looking forward to it! We've got 1-3 to practice as well because I'll need to tackle that at our June show (stupid "must ride the highest test of the level in at least one class" requirements ;) ...those counter canter loops are still tricky for us and something I work a little on every single ride.

Maybe You Are Ready?

This story coincidentally popped up on my facebook feed after I posted about a lot of my local riding friends seeming to never 'be ready' to attend clinics or shows. No excuses now, guys :)

Equestrian Canada (EC) is pleased to introduce the Am I Ready Program

Excerpt from the linked article:

Equestrian Canada (EC) is pleased to introduce the Am I Ready Program, created as a tool for EC Dressage Affiliates to receive feedback from certified officials without leaving the comfort of their home stable.
Am I Ready features an online portal that allows athletes to record their performances of EC Dressage Tests at their own stable, and upload the videos for review and evaluation from an EC certified dressage judge. Tests of all levels can be uploaded, from Training to FEI.
Available exclusively to EC Dressage Affiliates, at no additional fee, Am I Ready is a user-friendly, cost-effective and convenient development resource for Canadian dressage athletes from coast-to-coast – or anywhere in the world!
I know there are a lot of similar apps and programs out there, but I like that this one is provided by our national program and your test will be evaluated from the same judge you might have at a 'real' EC rated show.
I think this could make a super 'fun' day or even clinic day idea for our group. We all lesson/practice together, ride our tests, and video each other. Send the videos in, and everyone gets their own individual feedback sent to them personally. I like that it takes away any potential awkwardness someone might feel about being evaluated 'in public' and show nerves shouldn't factor in as much.