Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gorgeous New Saddle or Ugly Old One to the Show?

Yesterday, in my new saddle for the second time, I was so crooked on the center line it looked like a huge snake had crawled up the middle of my riding ring when I looked down on it from my upstairs office window. Very discouraging. Today we got our center line back, but the circles went - what's up with that? I wonder if my new saddle, which I love, is causing me to inadvertently give unclear aids to Rogo, since he isn't used to it either? Maybe after a few rides we'll be back to normal? Hope so. Rogo is very relaxed in the new saddle and gives no sign of even noticing it; the problem is me. The new saddle fits both of us better, I'm very comfortable in it, but I am in a different position (and needed to be).
This leading to the burning question - since I'm about to go to his very first show, should I:
a. go with the gorgeous new saddle and look good while standing still?
b. go with the ugly old saddle and feel sorta embarrassed?
c. scratch

Seriously. I'd love to know what others would do. I think I'm going with the new saddle. I can't resist.
Lesson to remember - when I thought about keeping my leg lightly on all the time, and just adding more inside pressure when needed, he stayed with me much better on the circles. I tend to let it rest too passively and then ask heavily when the circle starts to fall in.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can't Resist Dressage Fashion

I found this great Riding Couture site. I love it, but haven't actually ordered anything.
I also found this short video clip re a 2010 show outfit on the Horse and Rider UK YouTube site. There are lots of interesting videos there, i.e. more clothes, plaiting how to's, training, etc.
Another favorite for dressage clothes, this time a blog - Sho Clothes - Dressage Cothes and Accessories
I think I'll have to make a fashion page! Hmm, I'll add to this page and create a tab. Ideas? Suggestions?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another Blainville Post

I still have some Blainville pictures I want to post.

This is a picture of the people in the judge's clinic. Mai Riives, a fellow RIDERS Board member and her teacher / trainer Wiley Roberts are in the second row, far left. Cheryl is in the front row, far right.

This is Santana Royakkers, a Maritime rider, doing the Young Riders free style. They did very well.

This is Alexandra Hosien, a NS rider, doing GP on gorgeous Lucky Star

All in all we had a great time and saw some great riding. It wasn't as well organized as last year though and Dressage Canada still doesn't have all results available (apparently the organizers are having software problems). It was difficult to find out who was riding where, etc.
The Thai food close to our hotel was a highlight again! The hotel restaurant was a disappointment this year though, after being good last year.
We're looking forward to next year. Maybe we'll take the horses?

Horse Show Clipping

Here's a good article on clipping for a show. I've put it in the Show Prep Tools page as well.
I'll be digging out my packing check list and perhaps adding to it.
Doug is showing for the first time next weekend, on Savanah. My first time with Rogo. Time to get the trailer cleaned and packed, groceries, tack cleaned, grooming kit cleaned and restocked, etc. etc. Also id what supplies need to be doubled up on - feed tubs, buckets, ...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rogo is a bad boy tonight

I did something stupid tonight. My green horse inexperience came through badly. In preparation for taking Rogo to Joan’s tomorrow I decided to lead him around outside the fenced area (at home). Of course I should have been doing this all along, but didn’t think about it. I used to lead him back in the woods when he was a 2 year old, so it didn’t seem like that big a deal. Anyway, after leading him around the yard and down the road to the beach everything was going beautifully. He was completely calm, and even though the other horses were calling to him quite agitatedly  he didn’t answer once or even glance at them. I took carrot pieces to make it enjoyable and we stopped for those. Also practiced whoa and backing up and everything worked great. By the time we got to the beach my confidence in him was such that I thought “we’ll go for a nice sunset walk on the beach”. We walked up the beach no problem but when we turned to come back he only took a few steps before squealing, spinning, bucking and ripped the line out of my hand. (My arm is now killing me.) He galloped back up the beach, not to the horses but to a nice patch of clover where I got the lead line back and brought him home. The bad part is that now I know he has it in his head, just like running off on the longe line. Now that I’ve written it maybe it doesn’t sound that bad?  I just had a regular lead clipped to his halter so had no control (didn’t think I needed any). For his safety I need to learn some other methods that give me more control until he is more predictable.
Yuk. This is killing my confidence to go to the show, and maybe it should. I have no experience or knowledge of how to handle a 17 hand 5 year old from the ground when he decides to take over being boss. Guess  I better get some supports in place or stay home.
It's hard to know when you should push out of your comfort zone a bit for the sake of progress and when you should work on more repetition and being absolutely cautious. The plan has been not to compete for the first day of the show. If it isn't going well we can always scratch for the second day when we are entered in Walk Trot A and B. Cheryl thinks it's time to get him out there and get some experience with show environments and I agree in theory. 
I'm so traumatized I forgot about our lesson today! It went well - he did his first test ever - walk trot A, and it wasn't too bad for a first test. Cheryl said we passed, so if we can do that at the show we'll be laughing! Once I get him moving off my inside leg reliably he'll  be doing very well. Also did a short canter in each direction and transitions were very good.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blainville Dressage CDI and Gold Show Horses

I loved that there was a wide selection of horses and breeds at Blainville, more so this year than last I'd say. While warm bloods were predominant (as you'd expect), anyone could feel comfortable and welcome bringing any breed. Here are a few examples:

Of course I have a soft spot for palominos. This little guy couldn't have been over 14 hands and his adult amateur rider showed him beautifully at level 4. My guess is mostly quarter horse. He wasn't an Arabian.

Back to Rogo

I was able to ride Rogo yesterday, after returning from Blainville Mon. night. Megan lunged and rode him while I was away. She said in a text that he was spunky - hmmm, what does that mean? Ha ha. Forward is good
Yesterday it was hot and there were tons of flies, but he was very patient. Doug was having a lesson with Joan, so I 'honed in' as Doug put it :) Too bad, I'm not giving up riding with Joan! She has to take us to FEI levels!!
We worked on circles. Rogo is making progress. For me, I must stop digging in my heels and use the calf of my leg for my aids. This has been a bad habit for me for a long time. Also I need to keep my hands closer together.
That's it. We kept it short because of the heat. Circles went quite well and Rogo was forward without being over the top.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blainville Grand Prix Freestyle Videos

Here's a link to the Blainville Grand Prix freestyles - well worth watching. Victoria Winters and Proton (Neil Ishoy's horse) won the class.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dressage Show Fashion (do's and don'ts?)

It's really interesting being at a big dressage show. Suddenly the Kerrits tights and biker T-shirt I usually ride in at home seem the height of lameness / loserness. I've always loved fashion, but coming late to riding I haven't honed the delicious sense of dressage style I'd like. I saw some very nicely turned out riders today. Here are a few examples. (Keep in mind this is written a tad tongue in cheek.)

It isn't really apparent here, but the breeches and tie are cream not white. It stands out quite remarkably in the crowd and paired with the navy jacket she showed in, it was quite attractive. She was riding a dark bay horse and while it looked very nice, I think it would have been even nicer on a chestnut.

Here's a men's version of cream and navy - very nicely coordinated with his mount's accessories and the whole look is very show ring ready (hmmm - is it better on a chestnut?). This rider was from Mexico, and while his horse seemed to have a few wrinkles to iron out at GP, the over-all impression I had was that they had lots of potential - good hind quarter engagement, in front of or on the vertical, forward thinking / impulsion, etc. But I digress...

Here's a nice red and white warm up ring combo. Bad moment re horse's head position but not how she rode.

Pale blue and white, with navy and gold accessories on the horse. Lovely.

Classic white, she got it right - young girl and pony stallion.

This gray and lavendar ensemble would be stunning on Rogo. Alas, my budget won't allow right now.

Look I like least? Big old wrap skirts to keep white breeches clean. Saw it here for the first time and it looks frumpy. Pull on a pair of yoga pants!

To the man in the lime green shirt in the warm up ring doing hyper-flexion after everyone left - you'd look awful no matter what you were wearing and I was going to report you in another second. Wish your horse had succeeded in bucking you off.
A final note re attire - my impression is that there were far fewer top hats and many more hard hats this year than last. Courtney King-Dye's accident seems to  have had an affect on people. The group who seemed most attached to their top hats were the Young Riders.
My next blog is all about the horses - what happened to Harma and Wiscalina? Which breeds are showing here? Is the 5 year old test too hard? ...

Friday, June 18, 2010

BLAINVILLE 2010 - June 18 Update

We're here! Drove up in the smart car with Cheryl and met Doug here (he was coming in on his Harley from motorcycle week in Laconia).
Doug and I came to the Blainville Dressage Show last year for the first time. This is Cheryl's first time here (tomorrow and Sun. she'll take a clinic to update her judging training - Developing the Eye).
I'm hoping to run into Mies Riives (a fellow RIDERS Board member) and her trainer / teacher Wiley Roberts, who are here on a mini vacation and to audit the same clinic Cheryl is taking.
Doug and I are in heaven here! The facility is absolutely beautiful, the people are very nice and we get to see Canada's top riders and horses, along with those starting out. There are a few riders from the Maritimes here. Rather than try to describe everything, here are some pictures with notes:

This is Alexandra Hosein from Nova Scotia and her stunning Grand Prix mount Lucky Star. I had the privilege of scribing for judge Linda Trenholme when Alexandra rode the Grand Prix test at the Windsor NS gold show on Labour Day weekend 2009. They did very well, but I saw an even better ride today. You could have set a metronome with their one tempis and the ride in general was very smooth and mature. I heard a bystander remark on his beauty and unusual coloring (all chocolate brown including mane and tail).

This is Jacqueline Brooks, Canadian Olympian, on her Prix St. George horse (name escapes me). My original intention was to post Maritime Riders, but I love watching Jacqueline ride. She has a very sweet air about her, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. She has an obvious enjoyment of her horses and riding and it's a pleasure to watch. She didn't win the class, but they were a great combo and I'm sure we'll see them at GP. We saw her ride her two GP mounts last year (Grand Gesto was one, can't remember the other - was it Balmoral?).

This is Sanatana Royakkers, a Maritime rider. She's doing YRI (Young Riders Individual). They looked gorgeous and had a great ride. I don't know anything about them but I've seen them show in NS. So great to see them here. I think I saw them here last year too.

Catch the chrome! This is a great story. On the way here, Cheryl was telling me about seeing a 20 something year old rider, about 20 years ago. She was so impressed that she contacted him and arranged to trailer her horse (Casablanca) to Ont. to work with him for a month. She hasn't kept in touch, but I asked her "do you think he'll be at Blainville", to which she responded "I have no idea". Turns out he had two PSG rides today and placed 1st and 2nd out of a big, competitive class (including Jacqueline Brooks). Boy, does Cheryl know how to pick them!

This is Linda Trenholme who I scribed for late last summer when she judged the Windsor bronze and gold shows - strict but fair, and very kind and giving when it came to providing feedback to help the riders. Man these older gals are tough as nails! She'd recently had a hip replacement and planned to train the horse she'd recently purchased to GP. I thought I was strong until I met Joan, Cheryl and Linda (I'm sure there are lots more), but beside them I'm a sniveling princess.
On a related note - scribing is a tremendous education!
More coming tomorrow.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Great Day with the Horses

I had a great day with the horses today. Darlene came over to groom with me and that was fun. I think it was her first time grooming a horse. She loves Rogo so she did him and I did Dan.
Then Megan and Greg came down and Megan worked with Rogo and I while Greg and Darlene watched. Greg very kindly took some pictures of us. I've posted a few of them below. Since Rogo would rather canter straight than in a circle (balance?), I got Megan to lunge us at the canter. He did very well. I was really happy with him. He is transitioning extremely well - getting it 100% - and with only minimal encouragement from Megan he held the canter as long as is practical for his level of training at this point (2 or 3 rounds and then a trot break before doing it again). He did both directions quite well, although he is leaning in quite a bit at times despite my strong outside rein.
Megan and Greg stayed for lunch and then we took the dogs swimming - a great afternoon. Now back to work on the dressage association (RIDERS) plan. Here are the pictures.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Doug Leaves for Laconia

Doug left for Laconia Motorcycle Week this morning with our Harley Club friends. I'm happy he's off to have a good time, but sad I'm not going. I'll miss him. Maybe I'll go another year. I don't want to leave Rogo out of training too long this year. Doug is riding the bike I bought him for his 50th birthday. So now I have 3 cats, 3 dogs and 3 horses to look after on my own - should keep me out of trouble. I rode at 7:30 this morning to get a ride in before he left. Both Rogo and I were lazy. Then I went to Cheryl's and she rode La Casa and Dancer. They're the daughter and grand daughter of Cassablanca, her horse of a lifetime (Hanoverian mare imported from Germany). They are coming along nicely. I finally have a little breathing room after being crazy busy with work. It is GREAT.

-- Sent from my Palm Prē

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Which Test?

Had a good lesson with Cheryl this morning. We looked at all the Intro tests to decide which one(s) Rogo should do at his first show. I'm going to study them again and I should memorize and ride a couple. Doug had a lesson with Joan after my lesson. He leaves for Laconia (motor cycle rally) tomorrow and we'll meet at the dressage show in Blainville next week.
And now for something more light...
10 Signs Your Dressage Test Needs Some Work
1. Under judges remarks the only comment is: "Nice plaits."
2. Your horse confuses the dressage arena boards for a cavaletti and exits at K. This is a distinct possibility for Rogo's first show!
3. Your 20 metre circle shape reminds the judge that she should buy eggs on her way home.
4. Your serpentine was perfect, except that it was supposed to be a straight entry on the centre line.
5. Sitting trot has caused some of your fillings to come loose.
6. Your horse believes "free walk" means leaving the arena and heading towards the nearest patch of grass.
7. You work harder than your horse does in working trot.
8. During the salute, your inadvertently use your whip hand and your horse performs "airs above the ground".
9. Your horse's walk appears to be more "rare" than "medium."
10. Impulsion is improved only after the horse sees monsters in the decorative conifers near letters marking the dressage arena.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Great Lesson

I had a really good lesson with Cheryl on Tues. before leaving for Shelburne (work meetings). I put together the stuff she'd been teaching me, with the input I'd had a few days earlier from Joan, and it all worked. Rogo was soft and forward, starting to bend in the corners, more responsive to my legs, etc. We did trot / walk transitions, trotting, and started some leg yielding. We got a few decent steps! This was a new exercise for him. 
Then we went to work on canter transitions. He did them very well. I hadn't planned to hold him in it, but he was going so well I asked for a circle to the right and after a couple of tries he did an excellent (for a sorta baby) canter circle. It felt like he was really trying to please and give me what I wanted. This is a developing trait for him, but one I had hoped and somewhat, on my more optimistic days, expected to see growing in him. He is very self confident, is a herd leader and quietly believes in himself (pushes back, but benignly), but he is also a huge people horse and demonstrates this to such a great degree that it's often remarked on. He'll walk away from food to be with people. From day one he has followed me wherever I went if he is at liberty, without ever being taught to do this. So it isn't surprising that he would develop the trait of wanting to please under saddle. Mind you, I'm just beginning to see the first traces of it and I may eat my words, but I think that once 'learning' becomes a habit that he'll be a willing and engaged partner. For the most part, he hasn't been a bad partner in training at all, just an indifferent one a great deal of the time -  as in "yeah, I guess I'll do that, but only to humor you" :) And his confidence makes him laid back when snow comes off the roof in the winter or when having a lesson in 100 km / hr winds, so he's the best partner an inexperienced woman my age could have when deciding to start a dressage horse!
Anyway, it was a great lesson / ride and I was very happy with him. Cheryl was so pleased with our lesson that she called and left me a really nice voice mail telling me that we'd done well and roads were now opening up to us or something like that (we've been stuck on the corners for way too long). All in all it was a great session. 
I think what I need to take away from this is that I process what my teacher(s) is/are telling me in different ways. Cheryl has been telling me for months to stop hanging on the inside rein. She also tells me to keep my position, use my legs, etc. but the problem for the most part was the rein. All good stuff and I've been trying really hard. Then when Joan was here I told her I could use help with the corners. She watched me ride them for a few minutes and then broke it down - as I'm coming up to the corner, keep him on the rail and going into the corner by looking to the outside, weighing the outside stirrup, etc. (he was cutting them off and counter bending). Then as I'm going into the corner, inside leg at girth, outside leg back, etc., etc.... You get the picture. I'd been focusing so much on my reins that I now realize I was almost paralyzing my left rein. When I took the focus off of that, I did it more correctly.  So, lesson in summary - drill the needed weaknesses (within reason, which we did) and then let it go a bit, focus on other pieces and let my body feel what's needed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Challenges and Opportunties

At the request of the Board, I did a survey of our Provincial Dressage Association - RIDERS (Riders Interested in Dressage and English Riding Society) membership this spring and presented the results at the AGM yesterday. Although not a scientific sample (the mailing list self selected who would fill it out), the results were that people are most interested in the association continuing their focus on competitions and clinics. People want opportunities to get started in dressage and also opportunities for socializing and recreation. All in all there was a lot of support for the organization.
We used the information as the basis for a strategic planning session which I facilitated. Check out the RIDERS website in a week or so for plan results.
Allison Kelland and I are going to be co-chairs of the Board! I hadn't planned on that, but Claire Milton didn't want to do it anymore and she has done TONS for RIDERS. She has so generously offered to continue as Secretary / Treasurer which I think would be harder than Chair (maybe I'm the most naive person in the world). We all owe Claire a huge debt - she's done so much for the horse world I can't possibly cover it (and probably don't know half of it). It's a good thing she's staying on the Board! It will be great to co-chair with Allison as she has tons of experience and I don't and she is very nice.
There are at least 5 new Board members (the call went out that help was needed) so there should be some good energy that comes with new blood, mixed with the great Board that we had who were starting to get tired. I even talked Megan into joining the Board and she's sent me some ideas already. Yeah! Now to find more time in the day.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I've been crazy busy writing a proposal for work (and should be working on it now :), so riding time has suffered a little. There are a few things happening though. Megan came to ride Rogo. She is going to keep him in training while I go (as a spectator) to the Blainville Dressage show in Quebec. Several riders from the Maritimes go and I hope that Doug and I will show Savanah and Rogo there in years to come. Cheryl, one of our teachers, is coming with us to take a judging clinic. I think we're going to do some scribing for her which will be a great educational opportunity. It's going to be fun (June 18 to 20).
Back to Rogo and Megan. I'm the only one who has ridden Rogo except for Megan once when he was still on the longe line (I wanted to see someone else on him) and Doug at the walk for a few minutes this winter. Her ride with him went very well. He wasn't the least bit concerned about someone new on his back. She pointed out the same things that Cheryl is working on with us - get my legs working right and get him listening to my legs! Until that happens it's hard to move forward as I'm not getting a consistent bend to the left. Here are a couple of pictures of Megan riding Rogo:


I also managed to get some riding time in with my old teacher Joan when she was here to give Doug a lesson. Joan is WONDERFUL and for some reason seems able to calm me when I ride. Here are a couple of pictures of riding with Joan:

Megan commented that Rogo is softer now and taking a better contact. In looking at the pictures of her riding and my riding just now I see that she is asking for and happily getting more contact / a better frame from him. Interesting... Pictures speak a 1,000 words yet again!
Both Joan and Megan commented that Rogo is still lacking balance and Cheryl agrees with this as well. It's unanimous! I honestly think his balance has gotten a bit worse lately. Could it be the growth spurt? Having never worked with a growing horse before I just don't know. He grew more than 2" over the winter (he's 17 hands now) and is still growing. He's hind end high again and his joints haven't closed yet.
He did the funniest thing when I was longing him yesterday. He was being absolutely sweet and I thought great - it's going to be one of those rare, awesome days where everything is going to come together. Suddenly he took off, pulled the longe line out of my hand, ran through the gate to the field (that I'd forgotten to close) and went galloping, bucking and farting down to the end of the field, circled back, continued the galloping and bucking and started whinnying really loudly (he NEVER calls other horses when working and pretty much ignores them - this was a first) and galloped right back to my side where he came to a dead stop. I picked up the longe line, went and closed the gate and we continued our lesson. He was perfectly behaved again. Go figure. Guess he needed to blow off steam but he'd been turned out 24/7 before we went to work. He never fails to surprise me.
Doug had a great lesson with Joan and is getting ready to show Training 1 and 2. Here is a picture of them getting to work at the start of the lesson:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June Training Goals and May Results

Training area
April 1, 2010
April 30, 2010
Goal, May 31, 2010
Goal, June 30, 2010
Contact (accepting contact with the bit)
Working trot

  • Transition
  • Carry
  • Steer





2/3 –
Free walk
4 / 5
Straight on center line
Precise transitions

Cheryl and I worked on these before my lesson today, waiting for the rain to stop.

Focus will be on starred item – anything that needs to go from a 3 to a 5.

Seems like I didn't improve much in May, but I feel okay about it. We got much better in corners, he is starting to steer at the canter and is carrying it better, etc., and I'm sure we'll have a break through any day now lol
To do:
  • longe at canter and don't let him stop on his own - keep him cantering beyond what he wants to do, i.e. let him get a bit tired and then ask for a little more
  • canter under saddle on longe to help him get used to carrying me on a circle
  • practice on my own using side reins to improve contact - take and give (donut) without losing contact. Contact was so much easier with Savanah. She stays in your hands and is steady on the bit. Who knew starting a horse could be so tricky :)
Also, my goal is to go in a Walk Trot  in July to get him used to a show environment, but he may not be ready even for that. I'm determined to do Training Level before the show season ends!
My personal goals for June? Again - lose 5 lbs.! That I didn't lose in May :(