Saturday, February 22, 2014

Really, Baby, really?

Through a series of complicated and odd events, I ended up going to a schooling show this weekend. I can say, without a doubt, that it was worth it, but man I was not having it with the refusals.

Wall twerking on Friday night
We took a reasonable amount of students this time as Miss S has been drinking decaf coffee for a few days, accidentally of course, and she came to her senses at one point. Lots of leadliners and walk/trotters, but they all rode in the morning, and, by noon, it was just the advanced riders plus Hannah left to show. Hannah is at the same point in her riding as I was a year ago, still trying to figure out the canter and perfecting trot overs. I have to give her credit though, she did awesome today and had the best canter I've seen her do ever (and I've been riding with her for over a year now). Poor thing couldn't do her over fences classes though because Baby would not trot through the whole thing. That morning, Baby was refusing everything, and it took a while, but I finally got her to go through a line without any ducking, completely straight. I brushed off the refusals, and she was great on the flat with both me and Hannah. Transitions were spot on, she had her rhythm, she was on the bit and moving willingly, but over fences, good Lord.

She's a special kind of unicorn
I had originally planned to ride in equitation and low hunter, but I was the only one to sign up for low hunter (can't nobody take the 2'3" heat *snaps fingers in a Z formation*), so I ended up switching from that to pleasure. However, as I was making this switch, I forgot that Hannah was supposed to ride in the flat class for pleasure. I ended up giving her my number and just paying for the class, no matter how much opposition she presented. I actually got to ride in my first class this time (of course that had nothing to do with the fact that my horse was already in the ring and all I had to do was switch my number and get on, totes nothing to do with that). First class for me was Pleasure Horse o/f, and don't even get me started. First jump, refusal. Go back around, refusal. Back around again, refusal. I was so lucky that this was a schooling show because anything bigger and I would have been eliminated then and had my ass laughed at on the way out of the ring. But, no, I was lucky this one time, and I can assure you that this type of incident won't ever happen again so long as I am alive and well. It's not like I was afraid of any of the jumps; there were no oxers, and I was actually pleased with my fence selection because they were a nice, clean white with green fillers. It doesn't feel like I'm jumping a jump then, it just feels like I'm jumping stuff, and stuff is easy to jump. We placed last in the class, as well as both of my other o/f classes.
Sir Festus

But, let me tell you something about that Open Equitation w/t/c. I'm not going to lie, I think I have killer equitation on the flat, especially when I'm relaxed and enjoying my ride. Generally speaking, I ride better at shows (don't ask me why or how, it just happens), so I'm a serious competitor in flat equitation. First place, a blue ribbon plus a trophy. If only that carried over to my jumping.

Mid he haw
I will now tell you about my auto release which was more of a "Take this lack of contact as a sign that I am begging you to jump so I don't look like an idiot" release. I can't even tell you what the rest of my body was doing, but I am 99.9% sure that it would have given most reputable trainers a heart attack. Miss S is alive simply because she has learned to tolerate my short comings (and long distances). A special shoutout also goes to Miss Terry for helping me out so much today. I swear I would be lost without her!

Overall, it was a good day. Despite Baby refusing, she was very slow and relaxed during our courses, and ended up landing most of her leads when she finally got over the jumps. I'd estimate anywhere between 10 and 20 refusals happened throughout the course of the day, and I am disappointed about that, but I guess it's just another challenge on my plate. Besides, no one said this horse thing would be easy.

I have to include my outfit of the day, as well. I wore a fabulous shirt, a fabulous helmet, plus a fabulous pair of pants, and fabulous half chaps. I call it "Fabulous".

Now you know what fabulous looks like.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It didn't snow

But it was ridiculously cold yesterday at that show! I think the highest that it got was 34°F. Lucky for me, I had about four layers on most parts of my body. I'm not the biggest fan of the cold; I never have been and I never will be, and the next time you see me showing in the winter it will be at Wellington, thank you very much.
I'm coming for you . . .
The show was part of a winter series that I wasn't going to do, but somehow the insane individuals who I ride with managed to talk me into going to this one. I was still a bit apprehensive; the usual "Week Before Nerves" showed up, and it took me all of five days to put together my show bag. After this show, I learned two things. One, showing is like a vacation. No matter how nicely my bag is packed the day before, it ends up being a mess of multiple pairs of pants, gloves, and random sheets of paper in a tote bag. The second revelation will come later in this post.

At this particular show, there are two rings that run, despite it technically being a schooling show. There's an indoor ring and an outdoor ring. The indoor ring is usually for the beginner/younger/hunter pony rider group, while the outdoor ring is for the teenager/adult/hunter horse riders. I usually ride in the outdoor ring, but, the ground was entirely frozen in the ring. They tried plowing it multiple times, and it was still hard as a rock. They had two divisions out there before they moved everything inside, and I literally mean everything. Leadline, long stirrup, open hunter, jumpers, you name it, it was happening inside, and the class list just was not designed for this. Outside of the regular classes, there were still riders who had to do their medal and classic courses, which I'm completely fine with. If you've been aiming for those points the whole series, heck yeah you go for it even when things don't go according to schedule. But, still, it was a very cold and very slow day. Low speeds and temperatures are not things that I am usually a fan of. To put things into perspective, we are usually done with classes at this show around 4pm. I didn't get on until 5:30pm. Most people had just scratched and left because they didn't want to wait any longer, and I don't blame them. We didn't leave the show grounds until 9:30pm; that's a record.

When time was looking a bit more practical in the morning, I did my usual schooling. Baby was forward, but I wasn't helping much. The toes were turning out more, and it was causing my lower to be on her the entire time. Miss S got on and settled Baby down a bit, then I got on to go over some fences. We trot in and tried to canter out of a line, but I got a refusal. I was kinda bummed but I just went around and tried it again. Baby went over it just fine, then we did another line at a full canter. Then we attempted a brightly colored yellow single at the sight of which, Baby picked up the pace, and we weren't getting to a nice distance, so I tried to hold her back, but she took it long, and now I think I finally understand why they call it the "Oh Sh*t" distance. Long distance plus an overjump was more than enough to unseat me. My usual reaction when I feel like I'm about to fall is to go forward and grab the neck. It gives me more control over how and where I hit the ground. That's exactly what I did in this case; I grabbed Baby's neck, but I put myself so far forward that my rear end left the saddle entirely, and by the time I sat up, I was sitting in front of the withers. Momentarily, I was terrified, but then I thought about how funny I must have looked, and I started laughing. I could not stop laughing. Just imagining how I looked was hilarious. I didn't fall off, and when I got back in the saddle, I finished my warm up without any issues.

From that point until 5:00pm, I was basically hanging around and taking pictures. My camera (I got a new one! But it's temporary) batteries died (all six of them), so Izz graciously let me use her camera. I must say, for as small and insulting as my new camera is, it takes better indoor pictures than my old camera, a lot better, but Izz's trumps both of them. Unfortunately, her camera puts both a picture and a copy on the SD card. That ended up leading to 15 minutes worth of data transfers.

I took the Hopeful Hunter division to get ready, but I forgot that I'd have to zip up my crappy, $80 boots that should be burned at the steak, so I ended up missing my first class, which means I either have to take more time to get ready or buy better tall boots. The latter sounds a lot better. Green walk/trot/canter ended up being my first ride. Unfortunately, I hadn't pulled my pants up far enough, so there was a whole bunch of extra fabric between the legs, plus my leg muscles basically quit on me, so the canter was not very pretty. I ended up half seating for the rest of the division.We got a fifth in w/t/c, sixth in combination, and another fifth in over fences. She was awesome during our course with the exception of one lead that she just didn't want to switch for. Both of our courses for the day were the same, and they were entirely left lead courses. I'm surprised that she didn't buck her way back home.

Our next division was pleasure horse. We placed back and forth between fourth and fifth place mostly, but then we got a third in one of the classes. She was much better about her leads during this course, and easily broke down and switched twice. Then we got to the last jump. It was, you guessed it, an oxer! I'm pretty sure that I subconsciously pulled her away from it because when I was going up to it the first time I was saying to myself, "It's not an oxer, it's not an oxer, it's not an oxer," but, alas, it was an oxer. Black and white with green flowers was it, and that particular jump was my favorite when it was just a vertical, but, as an oxer, well, it's like when you have a boyfriend that you really love, but then he tells you that he's a serial killer. Stabs you right in the trust. Needless to say, the first time was a refusal, but it was warranted, and the second time, we went over it, and we were not getting close to it.

All in all, it was a good day. Baby received many compliments on how pretty she was, and I got a thumbs up for my neck riding. As for that second revelation, I learned that I walk differently when I'm happy about how I ride. Bigger step, more schwung; I could be a top Dressage horse with that kind of movement.

Thank you to my camera people! Your assistance is much appreciated!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Add this to the list of reasons as to why I hate oxers

 The inescapable hell that is spreads was quick to throw off my groove and my back. Our jumping today can only be described as sub-sub-par. First off, for our first course, Baby decided to duck out on the very first jump. We got up to it right, we were going a nice pace, and then she just jumped right. Considering the fact that the first jump was more of a glorified ground pole, I wasn't having that. Nope, no reason to duck out. We went around again and I made her go over it, then we did the second jump just fine, then it was a tight turn to an oxer. I took the turn too tightly, and, long story short, those couple of strides felt like a one way ticket to Death Valley. I fell, not hard, but I turned enough to cause my back to go the wrong way, and now I'm sitting here with sore muscles. Ugh, we were doing so well for so long! The rest of the course was poopy; the second time around would have made Richard Spooner look like an equitation god. All in all, five refusals for the day. I blame oxers. 
Outside of jumping, which wasn't the focus of the lesson, our flatwork was great. Still trying to get those hands in the right place, but it'd getting better. Baby was listening to my leg well and moving out without any issues. Transitions into the canter from a walk are needing a brushing up on. Too many trot strides, and half if them were hollow. Other than that, her canter was great. She was moving forward and relaxed, but came right back down when I asked. My lower leg was right where it needed to be for the most part (it came apart during the last half of our right circle). 
I'd say I'm 50/50 about tonight. It was one of my best rides flatwork wise, but now I've got to start my damn refusal counter over again.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

That's right, move off of my leg.

Sometimes you've just gotta put the leg on and keep it there. I've been getting annoyed with Baby always cutting to the inside; she has a lot of little kids ride her, so it's not really her fault, but she's just been clear about the fact that she wants to ignore my leg. Today, I took my warm-up time, and made her bend in the corners and in a circle at the walk and the trot. She fought me for the first few times, especially considering that we were the first in the ring and she had spent her entire day relaxing, but, they all give at some point, and she did (eventually).

I must say, outside of our disagreement at the start, she did exceptionally well today. She became very soft and responsive in her mouth, and she's already got a fairly soft mouth. I don't recall having any jumps into our transitions. Downward transitions weren't great, and I was surprised considering how well she's done with them our past few rides. That'll be something to focus on when I ride on Thursday. I've been paying more attention to that pendulum-like lower leg of mine. I am so close to getting it at the trot; it is almost habit! The canter is looking really nice too, but I still have to think about it.

Miss S decided that today was the day to torture me about my hands and how separate they get. Look, my left hand and my right hand are like a married couple: they hate each other and don't like to be forced to work together. Okay, maybe not a married couple, more like disagreeable office mates. Putting them together makes them practically useless for me, which I know is bad, but I just like to have independent hands.

Things got really good when we moved onto jumping. My gymnastics were almost perfect. We missed one lead, and she was a butt about breaking down and switching. For our course, I had Miss S set up a Swedish oxer because ascending oxers are gross and overrated, and that is a fact. It wasn't even a big one, maybe 2' at the ends and 2' wide. Just a little youngin Swede, but Baby was making a big deal out of it. Oddly enough, I was okay with it. I mean, it was an oxer, all wide and what not, but it was different. It was, like, half oxer, half cross bar. I think I might actually like Swedish oxe. See that? Do you see what I did there? Go read that sentence again. Now did you see it? Yes, you did. I refuse to say what you think I was going to say because I don't need you saying that I said it for my own comfort in censoring things that I am not okay with saying. If that didn't make sense, the translation would be that I refuse to give anyone the option to directly quote me as saying that I like oxe. See? I did it again. You shall not have your day.

Our first course was perfect excluding one close distance. Every lead, every jump, it was all perfect. Even her pace was slower. Unfortunately, our second course was a disaster. Missed every lead and most of the distances, but, hey, I had one good ride to be on a high from. Izz took some pictures and video taped my course, but of course she got the second one on camera. I'm still grateful. When I will get those photos is uncertain; I'm still waiting for the ones from Ms. Irwin's clinic, but at least someone is taking pictures of me.
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