Thursday, February 28, 2019

Charleston: A girls weekend, beach ride, first recognized dressage show with Dan, first attempt at second level extravaganza!!!

Whew!! It was a whirlwind of a long weekend! But so much fun! Kelli and her friends had decided to go to Charleston for the recognized dressage show and also stay a day and ride on the beach. They were nice enough to include me so I said yes please!!! I will be honest.. I sort of only went because of the beach ride. But I'm so glad I did. I wasn't quite sure Dan and I would be ready for second level by the time the show rolled around. But I'm a cheapskate and wasn't about to spend recognized dressage show money on scores that wouldn't get me my bronze. Fleck and I have our first level scores and one of our second level scores already. So I only needed one more second level score and then the third level scores. So poor Dan had to step up and go out at second level at his first recognized dressage show. But... at the time I decided, we had three months to prep. Well then... it rained. And rained some more. And kept raining. And kept raining. And then Dan went lame. And then we injected his stifle and he had to have time off. And then more rain. And more rain. And suddenly I had like 5 rides to get him ready. Okay, so not really, we had been prepping but I really was not feeling as prepared as I wanted. But it was a done deal so, it was happening. Besides, Cindy had been coaching me steadily all along and I was able to get in some lessons with Kelly Eaton and she hopped on Dan for me. So we were not as unprepared as I felt. 

We packed and packed and left Thursday morning. I was a little late to begin with and then I got sort of stuck at Kelli's house and it took us 45 minutes to get me turned around in her driveway and get her and horse loaded. And 30 of those minutes was getting me turned around. Doh! But we got to Charleston uneventfully and got the horses unloaded. It's a beautiful facility. I was giggling because it's "Mullet Hall Equestrian Center". Quite appropriate for Mullet Horse. Hee hee. We grazed them for a tiny bit and got them settled. I was so tempted to take them for a trail ride as the facility had some trails that looked awesome. Unfortunately by the time we got everything unloaded and the ponies settled, we had to go to the house we had rented and get dinner. And by the time we finished with that it was dark. Drats. But oh well. The house we had rented was gorgeous. It was on Kiawah Island and was basically a resort place. So nice!! We found dinner at the diner there and I had two amazing sandwhich halves. I totally cheated on my gluten free and dairy free dinner. But it was so good!! I had a goat cheese, mushroom, balsamic vinagrette spinach panninni and then a ham and melted brie cheese pannini. SOOOOO delicious. Totally made up for not getting to ride. :) Oh, and I was laughing because Kelli had put her fan extension cord over Dan's door to reach the plug. And Dan immediately pulled the "Do not Remove under penalty of Law" tag off of it. ;) Doh! We also got to sport his D-rex sign!

The place we stayed at was great. Kelli and I shared the upstairs guest room with two twin beds. It was lovely but Kelli kept me up most of the night and I kept her up most of the night. And that went on for almost every night, so we were exhausted! We got up fairly early but not too bad Friday and went and fed ponies. Amber was teaching and offered to teach me. But I was sort of thinking that for timing, it would be better if I rode when they were riding. The tentative plan was to school, go get lunch, then come back and trail ride. And I really wanted to hit the trails. So... I got on while the others were getting their lessons and Dan was a pack of dynamite! Those stalls were tiny and because there was so many of us girls, I couldn't get as much hand grazing in as I wanted. So... I got on and we walked around a bit. Luckily there was a huge open field on the back side of the arenas. Meg was out there as she had just finished with Quin and Dan was bouncing in place. He leapt up into a rear at one point. So I asked Meg if she thought if Lou would mind if Dan and I went for a little gallop in the field. Because it was either that or put Dan to work in the arena's and at that point, the only arena that looked available was the one Lou was taking her lesson in. Meg said she thought Lou would be fine, so... off we went. I intended to trot and then canter, but.... as is often the case with Dan.. I had no choice in the matter. We were galloping. And it was so much fun! It was a bit squishy in spots so we tried to be careful. And I meant to only do a few laps, but I think we ended up doing about 8 or 9 before I could get him settled enough to simmer down. Poor Lou... I didn't realize that she had to stop her lesson. She was so polite about it but I felt terrible. I don't think he was being that bad but... it made her nervous. So I felt awful. After that I was able to work Dan some in the arena. He was on the muscle but a good boy and we got some good work in. Afterwards it was so warm that I just went ahead and gave him a bath. I figured I might do another one later but since I had to hose him anyways. (And I'm glad I did as it got colder later).  So then we went for lunch. We ate at a Roadside Seafood place that was delicious. And so cool. They had a feral cat colony with a huge kitty playhouse. So neat! And the she crab soup was pretty good and the grilled shrimp was amazing! We had a great time. The girls I went with are hilarious! We were talking about make up and lipstick for the show and I laughed and pulled out my "lipstick" which happened to be my poofy unicorn sparkly hot pink lipgloss. And not only that, but it was open and had chunks of debris in it. The one lady was mortified (laughingly) and we all were laughing so hard at me that we were crying. It was pretty funny. So then we went back to ride and.... holy moly!! It went from a nice fun chilled laid back atmosphere with sun shining and green grass to.... a dark, windy, overcast place filled with commotion. Everyone was arriving for the show and horses were neighing and freaking out...And some woman was having a hissy fit and basically screaming at the staff about something or other. It put all of us on edge. Really on edge. Like... we couldn't trail ride on edge. Carly couldn't even get the bridle on Rudy he was so upset. Kelli and I went to walk around the property but Arwyn was so on edge she didn't want to try the trails. And even Dan was jumpy and started doing his tongue thing again. It was upsetting me and then we were all so jumpy because of the dramatic terrible change of energy there. So we basically just walked around the arena's and moseyed. At the end of our ride, they had settled a little. Kelli went into the arena so I followed. I was tempted to do some dressage work, but managed to keep myself under control and just walked, trotted, and cantered on the buckle. Enough to let him move and stretch. And we avoided conflict and stress and his tongue stayed in his mouth and he settled. And when we got back to the barns, the lady had quit yelling and the horses had settled a little so the atmosphere was better.  

Show Day! We got up early and even though I didn't ride til 11:16, I had plenty to do. I had to spot bathe Dan if needed, braid him, and get myself ready! Danny was a bit wild and our conversation went like this... 
Me: Daniel... we galloped do NOT get to gallop again.. this is a dressage show!
Dan: Meh.... I wanna go fast
Me: You did yesterday
Dan: Wheeeeee
Me: How about this... how about you be a super good boy so that we can show the dressage world that Appaloosa's can dressage.. that eventers can dressage and that... we can dressage?! Please!!
Dan: Hold my beer!
Dan: Lays down a freakin' 70.54 at second level!!! *mic drop*. 

ha ha!! Seriously... what the heck?!?! How did that happen?!? We warmed up and he felt pretty good and then it was our turn and in we went. He was lovely. It wasn't perfect... and looking back at the video I'm picking myself apart for not asking for a bit more flexion in his neck. I realize that he needs to be a bit more collected and it's not created by neck flexion, BUT.... for purposes of a slightly prettier picture and almost faking it a bit better for the show and realizing that he's not strong enough to get more collected without bouncing yet... it would have created a prettier picture. And we had some trot steps in our transitions... he was haunches in on the left lead counter canter. I didn't get as much sit and collection. And basically.. he did everything I asked, I just didn't quite ask for as much as he can do. But... I'm quite pleased with him and quite proud of us. There was a lot of good stuff in there too. We got an 8 on our rein back, an 8 on our free walk, an 8 on our collected trot at the end, and an 8 on our halt. We also got a 7.5 on his gaits, a 7 on impulsion, a 7 on submission, and lo and behold, I got an 8 on riders position and seat (THANK YOU CINDY!!! AND THANK YOU COUNTY SADDLES!!!!), and a 7.5 on riders correct and effective use of aids. WOW!! I think the judge was pretty generous, but I'll take it. Holy moly!! How's that for getting our score!!! We won the class of 5 too. :) 

Dan got a little breather and then it was time to tack back up again for our 2-2 class. We were the only ones in it. And it was a really fun test! He was tired, so it wasn't as nice as it could have been. But we did well with it. The judge even commented that he was a bit tired for that test. We still did well and scored a 64.6. Again, quite generous, but he had some good stuff. We had some bad stuff too, but... a 7 and a 5 on our travers, 7's on all our simple changes (which... was way too generous!!), and an 8 and 7 on our turn on the forehands! We won that class too, but.. hee hee.. we were the only ones in it. (I figured out why the next day). So after that, we took care of the ponies. Me and Meg opted to stay behind and not do the competitors party as we were tired and I was getting a migraine. We had shrimp and hashbrowns and cornbread at the house. It was delicious. Man how I miss cornbread. 

 Sunday morning was another early morning. I got smart and went to sleep on the couch one floor down so that Kelli and I could get more sleep. It helped, but it was still not a good nights sleep as I had show nerves. Danny was definitely tired as was I and the footing was getting pretty deep. In retrospect, I think I should have just turned up the volume and had both of us put on our big kid panties and suck it up. But... he was tired and I was tired and hormonal. And because we did the simple changes, I lost the counter canter. I didn't quite understand why, as we had practiced both at home, but suddenly I couldn't even do a shallow serpentine without him swapping. I started to freak out.... was tempted to scratch as I already had my scores. I was hormonal, but I really was upset too. I started to cry that I had confused my poor horse and frustrated him. And the footing was deep, and I was just drilling the counter canter trying to salvage it and it wasn't happening. It kept getting worse and worse. And I didn't want to embarass ourselves by going in and flopping the counter canter. Especially when he had been doing it quite well at home. We had finally figured out how to do it without flinging around or cheating. Sigh... But I decided to just give it a go and see what happened. So we did. It wasn't great. We kept it on the first counter canter but it wasn't a very pretty loop, and he swapped on the second one. And then I couldn't get the correct lead picked back up. But... there were some good moments in the test too. And we ended up scoring a 62.2 despite it. Our travers didn't show enough bend, so we got 4's. And our turn on the forehands weren't as good so we got 6 and 7. But there was some decent stuff too. We ended up 3rd out of 5, so... not too shabby I guess. I was just frustrated because I felt terrible for my confused horse and frustrated that we weren't able to show off how nice he can be. I almost scratched the next test but I figured maybe we could go out and do a great job and make myself feel better. Ha!! It got colder and the wind picked up, which should have helped me. And maybe it did, as far as energy. But... at this point, Dan was done. His attention span was gone and he was tired. It started to rain. Our test was pretty terrible. He flung his head around to look at the halt during the rein back. Then I had to go to the whip to get him to walk out of it. He broke in the counter canter. And... it was just bad. We still scored a 63.2 somehow. And poor Kelli had an even worse ride, so I beat her. It was just the two of us in that class. So much for redemption for my earlier test. Oh well. Overall, I was quite proud of the beast and myself even. I was not expecting to come away with 4 scores! And again, while the judges were generous, we had some really good stuff in there and I know there is more to show too. :)

Yep.. this sums up Dan's thoughts by the time our final class rolled around. "Come On Mommmmm..... we do dressage, we jump, we jump, we're done. What's with the FOURTH dressage test nonsense!?!?!". Ha ha... Sorry Dan... we'll go back to eventer land soon. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Polo Wrap Hack

Awesome ride.

Polo wrap hack as an equiband.... under the girth and to my hands.. helped change my proprioception and feel when Dan was throwing his barrel or shoulders into me... and help me direct my hands to lift mode instead of pull back or cross the neck mode. Soooo helpful!!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

SOOOO rusty!!!

Oh man.. no more jumping only once a month. That was awful!!! But we got it eventually. :) And much quicker this time. It didn't take us the entire lesson to get it. :)

But it started off terrible. Sigh. Beth set up two trot poles to a small cross rail. It was on the rail so it had a very slight bend/curve to it, but very slight. We started off and I couldn't get him in front of my leg. I couldn't stay with him, I was rowing with my hands... aghhhh... Finally we got it together. I had to push my hands forward. Think T-Rex arms. :) Ha!! It didn't work for me to think of pushing my hands forward, a that just made me tip forward with my shoulders. BUT... if I thought about lifting my hands up.... it was better. And I was trying to keep my leg in front of me too. So then Beth pointed out that I was counter bending him too much. I told her that it felt like he was throwing his right shoulder out so I was wanting to half halt on the right rein to shorten his right side. Beth said that he was not bulging out the right shoulder and that if anything, he was counter bent. She said to look at his ears. His left ear was lower, which meant that I needed to use my left rein to help straighten him. I'll be honest. I didn't believe her. It just felt so counter intuitive to what I was wanting to do but CLEARLY my efforts were NOT working. So I tried it. And.... lo and behold... she was right! It was almost like magic. He suddenly jumped correctly and smoothly and out of stride and I was able to stay with him. Magic!! So then we did it a few more times and went on to the roll top. And we choked at the roll top. UGH.... When I circled back, it was fine. So then we figured out that when he landed on the right lead, and I brought him down to a trot to fix it and then back to the canter, I let him get too behind my leg and the jump was poopy. But when Beth had me do it again and get my medium canter... it worked. :)

And then we added a fake corner (triple bar with a single pole on one side) and wide oxer and another vertical. And.. I started throwing myself at him and/or dropping him. So Beth tied knots in my reins. Yep... that way my hands had to stay forward AND I couldn't drop him. Well.. in theory. Once I did and just basically dropped the reins since I couldn't slip them. Doh! BUT... when I started counting AND had the knots in my reins.. it was like "Oh..... OOOOOHHHHH... I see!". I could actually see the distances and knew that I still had two left.. or one left.... not "I have no idea so go now!". And it got better and stayed better. And when I was counting, it distracted my brain enough that the thought tornado's couldn't take hold and fling me into craziness. I was like "One... that ear is down... two... so half halt on that rein.... one..... there's one more... two.... take of...oh hey.. that was nice"!.  Ha ha. So.. yep, Nothing exciting as far as height or loveliness. But it was quite nice because we finished well and became effective and it was a good ride. But I definitely need to not wait so long between jump lessons. We've got one more week until the dressage show and then it's back to eventing prepping!! We've got AEC's coming up!! Time to get in gear. :)

After our lesson I took Dan for a hack. We were tour guides for two other girls so Dan was excited to have company again. I left my jacket and vest at the arena though because I was hot while I was jumping. But just walking the trails I got soooo cold. My hands were frozen... and I even had gloves on!


Glorious Sunshine!!!

What a beautiful day today!! It was HOT! I was in a t-shirt by 10 am. And... we reveled in it because the forecast for the rest of the month (literally) is rain, rain, and more rain. Unfortunately today was a long busy full day. I had to go get hay in Athens. I had to unload the hay before the rain hit. And then at 2 I was going to Peri's Moms' funeral. And then after that I was hanging out with Mike. So as much as I wanted to ride for hours and take Fleck and ride him... I had to cut it short. I got up early to go get hay but that took forever!! Way longer than I thought it would. So I got to Ashland later than I wanted.

But I managed a fairly quick and rushed dressage ride. I wanted to run through the 2-2 test since we've never even run through it before, much less really played with it. And I desperately wanted to trail ride too, so... we warmed up fairly quickly. He was pretty good though. And then we ran through the test twice. It wasn't bad. Our canter/walk/canters still need a lot of work. But it's a fun test! I'm really glad I chose to ride it. The 3 loop serpentine with simple changes won't be great, but a lot of the double coefficients should be stuff that we can score well on. And Danny LOVES the medium down centerline! Coming back to the working and then halting is tough, but fun. :) And the second run through... WOW!! Danny had what felt like an amazing true medium trot!! Like... hubba hubba medium trot. So much fun!!!

Kelli was able to come ride too and managed to watch my last run through. She had some great advice. She did point out to not nit pick so much. When he messed up, just ignore it and carry on rather than make a point. Because when I made a point, I just made him more tense and braced and then it carried through. But if I just let it go, he stayed soft and supple and we didn't mess up the next movement. And.. she's right. Granted, in the show ring I wouldn't make a point, but... I did maybe over react. And I wasn't being terrible (Like I can be and hate about myself). But he's trying. Mostly. I mean, I should reward the try, or at least not punish the try. And besides.. it might be a great life philosophy for Dan anyways. He likes attention, whether it's good or bad attention. So.. maybe if i just ignore the mouthyness and pinned ears.. he'll just drop it. Especially if I reward the good behaviors. So... whether or not I can actually follow through with that... we'll see. Anyways, some other things Kelli pointed out were to take one stride before and after the mediums on the diagonal to make sure I'm straight. Because if he's crooked, there's no way we can have a nice medium. In the reinback, it's Halt and remain immobile for 3 seconds, then 3-4 STEPS (not strides) backwards. She also said that my canter mediums were good. One of them was even fantastic!! However, while there is a difference shown in my downwards from the medium to working, my walk to canter to working canter to medium canters were not clear. Basically because I'm so stressed about getting the correct lead in the upward transition, the canter is not put together and then I almost have to go straight to the medium. So instead I need to get the transition and immediately shorten and collect the canter and then go for the medium. That way they can see the transition in the beginning and in the end. And to achieve that.... she pointed out (just like Kelly, Beth, and Cindy..... sigh) that I was stopping him with my inside hand. So... if I thought about lifting that inside hand up and out, it helped me not restrict him. But I still need to keep my right hand steady and at my side. Apparently I've been dropping my left rein a good 6 inches below my right hand and throwing Dan off. Basically blocking his outside hind from stepping under and starting the canter. Which explains why he feels like he starts to pick up the other lead and then swaps. Because exactly what I keep saying is happening is happening. He KNOWS I want the left lead as we're tracking left but I'm blocking him/asking wrong so he isn't sure whether to give me the other lead and then does and swaps or can't give me the other lead until he does some fancy footwork and gets it despite me. Sigh. So yeah.. if I get him straight, get his head between his shoulders and then just open and lift my left hand and open and lift my left seat bone... viola! Lovely left lead canter. Then if I just close my right hand into a soft halt halt when the outside seat bone comes forward and sink my butt into the saddle but CLOSE MY LEG because it's hard... we get a lovely lovely engaged balanced fantastic canter. So fantastic that he can't quite hold it and tries to throw changes. ;) Hee hee. We were giggling at how funny he was with it. But yep... quite a lovely canter. It's just SOOOO much leg. And it's not a bad thing. He's just listening and isn't used to my butt being in the saddle so he's thinking I'm asking him to stop vs sit. And I probably am with my weak little leg. So... yeah. But it's a fun thing to play with and build on. :)

And we had a lovely short hack. Dan wanted to splash in the water and got me soaked! Man it was so hard to get off and go home.

Kelly Lesson

Tracking Right: keep the outside browband keeper/nugget in sight... ie to keep him straight in the neck. Right thigh against the saddle so riding shoulder fore. Move hands as a whole to the inside to help PUSH the shoulder over.. not pull it over. The correction is INSIDE LEG not inside rein. But the outside aids help. Don't let the outside hand creep forward... make sure it's the same height as the other hand.

Tracking Left: I want more bend to the inside.. should see his eyeball and browband. Encourage the rib cage bend... Hands as a whole go to the outside... so bring inside hand to withers, outside hand away, but make sure I'm not letting my outside hand creep forward..

Good canter to walk to canters. Really get that sitting canter!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Or... a benefit to being an eventer going to a dressage show..

Truck in the shop... missed my lesson.. rode in the rain... apparently a tornado happened earlier in another part of GA... meanwhile we're just beebopping around in the rain...

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Oh man........

Well.. that sucks... But I am grateful to God for making it also not so sucky. 
I got up to ride this morning before Mike and I went to the Optimist for Oyster Happy Hour. It's COLD!! Like bitter cold...  and damp out and starting to mist a smidge. BUT.. it was cool because I was appropriately clothed and so excited about playing with some more dressage and then taking a long trail ride as Dan has been so good lately. 

So... we loaded up and got out the driveway and I noticed my "overdrive off" light flickered a few times despite me not touching it... And then we got to the fork in the road by Mr. Yorks and.... my engine tried to die. It sounded terrible and I lost most of my engine power.... So I stopped in the middle of the road and was trying to figure out what to do. I turned it off, turned it on, turned it off, turned it on... pulled off to the side of the road as best as I could and... shut it off. It was so bad I wasn't sure I could drive it back home. 

I ended up unloading Dan and walking him home. Thank goodness I had stuck the rope halter on him instead of his regular halter. Because did I mention it was cold, it was windy, and he's feeling super good with all of his recent vet work? And then there was flapping tarps in the woods... But he was SUPER and managed to keep all four feet on the ground the entire way. Even when the jerky girl in the mustang wouldn't slow down enough for us. 

I got him back in the pasture and Mike and I drove back up and the engine oil was fine.... so I cranked it back up and it sounded like normal, so... I turned it around and unhitched and home and drove it to the mechanic. I stopped to get gas even as I was getting sort of low and it started up fine again. Sigh... So frustrating. As now I was tempted to go ride anyways. BUT.. i was a good girl and took it to the mechanic. They aren't open today but it'll be there first thing in the morning. So... fingers crossed that it's an easy quick fix and I can get it back before my lesson Tuesday morning.