Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday- Winter Edition

With Winter recently deciding to be wintery- here are some fun snowy pictures from this past snow. Enjoy the mostly Wordless Wednesday post!

Zion, Nova, Vida, Hope, and Jello playing in the snow

Chimi's full of beans!

Zion's face says it all

Nova in her "natural" habitat

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chimi completes the Mini Practice Event at Long Shadows

This past weekend was a great start to the #yearofdoing! Not only did we finish a Beginner Novice "mini" event but we had an amazing dressage score and stadium round. Cross Country is still our weakest link but with more chances to go XC schooling I know Chimi will pick it up and it'll get easier and easier for him.

Chimi's ready

First up Saturday- We had a pony club mounted meeting with Jamey Price at Brights Creek. We worked on show jumping and it was a perfect way to prep before Sunday's mini event. I need to remember to stay in 3 point so I'm not constantly driving him to the jumps but if he starts to get squirrelly and backs off I can quickly drop down into the saddle and use my seat to keep him moving forward to the jump. We worked on trotting into a grid at the beginning and by the end of the lesson he was actually trotting the first jump! This was a major breakthrough because he is Mr. I MUST Canter!!! Even with trot poles he attempts to canter but I think he finally started to figure it out on Saturday.

Feeling a bit more prepared for our first outing at Beginner Novice, Sunday morning Becks and I drove over to Long Shadows for the practice event. We were both going BN and neither one of us had practiced our Dressage test before the show. But not to worry, BN test B is fairly straight forward and I wasn't to concerned. Plus this being a practice event I wasn't even sure if there were going to be ribbons and placings. Was more worried about making it through than about our final placing if there was one. (Ended up no final scores/placings but you could figure your own score)

Long Shadows Farm Mini Practice Event
Sunday February 8, 2015

Organizers:  Amy Barrington and Beth Perkins
Divisions:  Starter, Beginner Novice, Novice and Training 
Judges:  Dressage - Stephanie Gibson
               Stadium - Amy Barrington
               Cross Country - Beth Perkins

All participants will do a dressage test once, receive helpful advice about how to better your score, leave the ring and when ready perform the test a second time. Only the second test will be scored. At assigned times, riders will move on to the cross country phase with a course of no more than 10 jumps and be given the opportunity to do a do over, if they wish. The same format will be used for the show jumping phase. This event is intended to be educational but scores will be given as in any event and only the best scores will count. No phase will be timed.
Starter:  USEA 2014 Beginner Novice Test A
Jumps will be no higher than 2 ft.
Beginner Novice:  USEA 2014  Beginner Novice Test B
Jumps no higher than 2' 6"
Novice: USEA 2014 Test A
Jumps no higher than 2' 9"
Training:  USEA 2014 Test A
Jumps no higher than 3' 3"
Test of choice may be performed.

The Dressage Test:

While waiting for our turn in the Dressage ring I did a very basic warmup with Chimi. Walk, trot, canter both directions, and ran through the canter parts of my test and final halt. He was wanting to run through me in the halt so we worked on that for a few minutes and then waited for our turn.

I've been trying to rotate this picture but for some reason it won't rotate on here- it's cropped and edited in iPhoto just not here!!! Annoying computer crap.... First Test Scores

 For the most part he was nice and soft and responsive even though I could feel him tense up a little at the size of the arena. We don't have a dressage ring at home, heck we don't have a ring period, and the smallest arena we ride in is a little bit bigger than a large dressage- maybe 25x80ish meters? It feels a little bit bigger than a large dressage arena... Anyways there was a little claustrophobic feelings in the small arena for Chimi but he kept his cool and as the test went on he started to relax more. Our free walk was awful, and we had a bobble in our right lead canter, but the rest of the test felt pretty solid. After halting at X the judge got out of her truck and came over to talk to us about the test. She was really pleased with it over all and said we needed to work on our free walk. He wasn't tracking up behind and the judges are really going to look for the hind end over stepping the front end. After we talked with the judge for a few minutes she asked if we were ready to ride it again- sure!

Second Test Scores
Second test was much improved and at a show I need to try and make the 2nd test our first test since we only get once chance in normal circumstances!!! If I did my math correctly we got a 29.75 on our first test and a friction 24.5 on our 2nd!!!!!!! They only had collective marks for the second test so I used the same marks for both tests to get my final score. 

The Stadium Course:

After a quick tack change we headed to the stadium warmup. After finishing up with Beck's 2nd course Amy came over and helped us in warmup. Chimi was being super strong so we worked on him staying balanced in the turns and me just sitting calmly in the saddle. When he finally stopped leaving strides out and over jumping all the warmup fences and became more manageable we headed over to the course. I don't know if it was all the filler bits in the course but Chimi was frickin PERFECT. He was responsive, didn't over jump anything, and stayed mostly rhythmical the entire course! He was so good that Amy and I decided he didn't need to do it again because there was nothing he needed to do over! 

Cross Country

This was by far our weakest link. But to give Chimi some credit this was our 4th time attempting any sort of cross country schooling/showing. Plus the last time we had been cross country was at the WindRidge HT in May 2014 where we went Starter. So this was Chimi's first time in 9 months seeing a cross country jump. 

The Cross Country Map

After discussing my plan with Beth, I popped Chimi over a simple log and then headed to the start. I was planning on trotting the first fence unless he started cantering and then I would let him canter the last couple of strides before the first jump. Well this was a great plan but I didn't do a very good job of executing it. Chimi trotted out of the start box and then immediately started cantering. He had been so good in stadium and over the log that I figured he was listening and would just jump over the first jump- whoops- not so much! I think Chimi was so excited to be out in a gigantic field that his cantering was just him wanting to run around like a crazy pony. As we approached the first jump it totally took him by surprise and he stopped. I tapped him on the shoulder (he HATES it behind my leg and I wanted to stay on) and circled back. Forcing him to trot and not drag me around he figured out what he was suppose to do and popped awkwardly over the first jump and continued to the 2nd. I brought him back to a trot for the 2nd fence because he had been so wobbly on the first and he gave me another awkward jump over a very scary black pipe jump. Then something seemed to click in his brain and it was like the light bulb finally went off in his head that we were JUMPING. He settled into a really nice canter and started taking the jumps in stride. I made him trot the 5th jump which was a very solid looking brick wall (painted that way) box jump that I thought he might need to look at more carefully. He didn't care and continued over it like it was nothing. He was looking for the next jump and started to really feel like a cross country horse by the time we got to the end of the course. I made him walk through the water because he's not 100% sure about water yet but other than that he never slowed down after the 5th jump. 

I went back to talk with Beth about the course and how it rode and she agreed that it got better as it went on. So on that note we decided to do the whole thing again. I made sure he trotted to the first jump but I probably could of let him canter because his "light bulb" had already gone off and he was feeling great. He jumped up the up bank, trotted though the water, didn't blink an eye, basically he did everything he was suppose to!!! Lots of pats and cookies for Chimi!!!

As soon as we got back to the trailer Chimi fell asleep. He was tired from a very busy weekend but I couldn't of been happier with him! Even with the stop on course I feel much better tackling a real event this spring. FENCE HT are in April so with a couple of cross country schooling opportunities and a couple of dressage schooling shows, I think we have half a chance of completing. You never know until the show is over how you did but if you go into it as prepared as possible there is a chance for success!!!! Here's to the continuation of THE YEAR OF DOING!!!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Week Late Weekend Recap- Grids and Courses

After my long winded flat work post I'm sure you guys are like geez there's more??? Well Yes. There is. Though I'm going to do my best to keep it brief and filled with pictures and videos instead of words.
Becks and Finn. I don't think I've ever seen him jump with his nose out- he's just that strange I guess...

Pony Club Winter Camp
***Pictures are from the group before mine. Becks and Finn were in the group and I got a few good pictures of them but better ones of the other kids. Figures that I'd have bad camera timing when Becks was riding!****

Grid Work
Last jump in the grid

On Sunday we had two lessons and in the first one we worked on some grid work. First jump was a skinny flower box that made us keep the horse between our leg and going straight. It was a particularly scary flower box and had really tall wispy fake grass coming out of the top with red tall flowers instead of the normal short bunchy flowers you see. This caused all of the horses to stop because it was something they've never seen before. Chimi trotted up and then went "THOSE AREN'T NORMAL WHAT DO I DO?!?!?!?!" I let him look at them and after that he never blinked an eye at them. So note to self I need really weird flower arrangements to school at home...

After the flower box we moved on to the grid. The grid wasn't anything over the top or complicated but was very helpful to develop the canter we wanted in our course work that afternoon. It consisted of a flower box bounce to an X, 1 stride to a vertical, and then 2 strides to an oxer. So it went trot approach, bounce, 1 stride, 2 stride, canter away. This was a perfect grid for everyone's level of fitness in the middle of winter. Chimi was perfect through the grid every time though he was really bad about wanting to canter in instead of trot. He always prefers to canter jumps and in the past I've let him do what he wanted because we were working on building his confidence not dictating how he should jump. Now that he's much more confident in his jumping I need to start saying "Hey! We're suppose to trot this!" More homework for us...

Course Work

For the afternoon lesson we expanded upon the grid and worked on some course work. After warming up over the no longer scary flower box and a vertical we started piecing together a course. It ended up being a really long course which was great except there was a lot to remember! Plus it was exhausting and further reminded me I need to really work on my fitness before show season starts! I was really happy with how Chimi did with the long course and we only had a mishap when we tried the in and out for the first time. This is where Chimi's greenness/confidence issues come in. I don't think I've done a 1 stride in and out with him before, especially one with lots of filler (gates, flower boxes, etc) and when we came around the corner to the in and out he panicked and was like "holy crap I don't understand! I don't understand! What do I do, I don't understand!" and thus I barely managed to squeeze him over the first jump and no way in hell were we going to make it over the 2nd. In hindsight I should of brought him down to the trot and let him look at what we were about to jump. But instead I kept him cantering and thus caused the mini panic attack. Jamie lowered the back jump for him and he made it over the 2nd time. And then later on in the course when we did the same in and out backwards he didn't even care. I just have to remember to take it slow with him and get lots of confident building milage on him. There is no skipping steps with this guy!

The course started and ended with the gymnastic we'd worked on that morning. This was so we could establish the correct canter before the course and to end on a nice canter. To save time I edited out the part where I turned the wrong way after the brick jump and the part right after the refusal. Otherwise there would of been a lot of boring trotting around as I navigated my way back to the jumps. Snooze. So here you guys go- the course!

So that about covers the week late weekend recap. Overall was really happy with how Chimi did and know we have a lot to improve on. But he's getting better every day and that's all I can ask for!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Weekend Recap- a week late...

I've been meaning to write this post for a week now but between general life and trying to upload videos onto YouTube using the slowest internet connection possible (excluding dial up that is) so I could include them in this post.... well this is what you get- a Weekend Recap a Week Late!

My group from Winter Camp

The weekend of January 22-23, 2015 was my Horsemasters/Pony Club's Winter Camp. It was suppose to be Jan 2-3 but really cold rainy weather postponed the clinic until the 22nd. The clinician/camp instructor was Jamie Price, an upper level eventer who is wintering in this area until the first of April. 

Flat/Dressage Lesson on Saturday Recap

******Pictures below are not from the Winter Camp- I didn't get any riding pictures from the first day so to break up text I give you random other Dressage pictures!*******

We were suppose to have 2 lessons on Saturday but rainy weather on Friday created a 2 hour delay in the schedule and leaving only enough time for everyone to have 1 lesson. My group was the first to go and there were 4 of us cramped into a large dressage area. It actually worked out really well because we had to be mindful of each other and keep our horses in control. Jamie had us all trot around the arena and think about how our horses were going. Are they moving off our leg? Are they to quick (ok this wasn't anyone in our group- we had LAZY ponies!!!) From there she wanted us to work on making our horses more adjustable using our seat and legs. Simple enough but an exercise that can be easily forgotten about. 
Gus is Mr Fancy Pants Dressage Pony

As we were trotting around, Jamie wanted us to use our post to change the length of our horses trot. If you wanted to shorten their stride you simply posted more up instead of forward and really used your legs to keep them engaged and not let them break to a walk. To lengthen their strides we had to post more forward and think of posting with our hips going through our hands. (Ok she said it much more eloquently but it's a week and a day after the lesson and I've forgotten her exact words) Chimi is really good about listening to my seat so this exercise was really easy for him. But it was really fun to watch the green TB in the lesson progress from being tight and choppy to starting to stretch more through his top line and become comfortable within his gaits. He has a short neck to begin with but once his rider stopped worrying about trying to get him in a frame and just work on his rhythm and responsiveness he settled down and came round on his own accord. This is all information that has been drilled in my head time and time again so I didn't learn anything new per say, but I love watching it work every time. With green horses this is such an important step in their training so that later on you're not having to back pedal and go oh crap, guess I forgot to teach him how to listen to me!
Marley in a rare Dressage-y moment

Since the basic working trot to short trot, back to working trot, then to lengthening trot was super easy for Chimi, we started to skip the working trot and just go from short trot to lengthening trot and then back to short trot. This was great because I had to keep myself from flopping all over the place and keep Chimi connected so he wouldn't lose his balance. He was such a good boy and stayed responsive to my seat the whole time. Sometimes Chimi ignores my half halts and just runs through me but having to shorten and then lengthen really had him much more responsive and he was listening instead of charging around. I think this will be great thing to keep in mind at shows because he's so busy looking at everything going on that hopefully this'll help him focus on me and we'll be able to put in a descent dressage test!!!! Guess we'll find out soon enough if this plan will work or not!
Gus and I at an FRC Show- photo by Erik Olsen Photography
After everyone was happy with their trot work we continued with this exercise in the canter. Chimi was good but started to lose his balance in the corners and would swap behind. I think the sloppy footing contributed to this being more of an issue because it felt like he would slip and then catch him self by swapping behind. I'm also working on strengthening his hind end because he doesn't have a lot of strength back there. Changing his trim really helped with the swapping behind back in December and he went from always swapping to only swapping when I got him out of balance. So I really do think that the swapping he was doing in the lesson was a result from the slippery footing. Even with that, he was really good at listening to my seat and when I'd ask him to go forward he would and then came back when I slowed my hips down. Shortening his canter stride back after lengthening it was the trickiest for us but I think it is more of s strength issue than a listening one. He tried to but with the arena being a Large Dressage ring we only has 60 meters to do all of that in and not run into the other horses PLUS he's a BIG horse! He's really quick for his size but he's not tiny and compact. There is a lot of horse to slow down! This is something we'll be working on at home so that if I decide to take him to straight dressage shows we'll be ready for first level! 

Mom's horse Alec at NC State's IDA Show- loved this horse!

I ended up writing a lot more about the flat lesson than I thought I was going to so I'm going to break this post up into two parts.... Sunday Jumping Recap later with video- didn't bring my camera the first day :(