Sunday, April 26, 2015

FENCE Horse Trials Recap- 2 weeks later....

Chimi hanging out in my mom's front field

Ok so I am not the best at getting my posts written and up in a timely fashion. I must say cudos to those that do! But here is a quick little blurb about how our first horse trials of the year/season went! Even if it is two weeks late.... though I do have a good excuse! The blogger app on an iPad sucks and I was on a work trip all last week and didn't take my computer. So my plans to write were foiled because I couldn't get pictures and words to co-operate which made my mental capacity to even care at a staggering level of -5. So sorry bout that, but here it really is: FENCE HT BooYa!

What? Can I just eat grass please...

Going into the FENCE HT if you had asked me what I was the most worried about I would of told you hands down the cross country. I wasn't sure what to expect from Chimi, and a stop is a pretty beasty amount of penalty points. Epecially at Beginner Novice adding 20 points to your dressage score can really mean the difference between 1st place and not even getting a ribbon. Chimi's confidence has been getting better and better but until you're out on course you don't always know what is going to happen. So because of this, and our score of 26.something or other at the Long Shadows Mini Practice Event- I really wasn't all to worried about the Dressage. Well as we all know horses are the most humbling of creatures. Our warm up was ok- he was super tight and tense at the start and then he relaxed into the trot and we even had some nice canter circles. Our Dressage test was suppose to be in the covered arena and I wanted to get over there and watch the 2 horses in front of us go. But of course the best laid plans don't go as planned. I completely messed up on the order of go and thought there was 1 more person in front of me then there was. As soon as we got to the covered arena the horse in front of us was walking out and we were being called to go in- crap! As we proceed towards A, Chimi freaks out at a decretive fern and the ring steward had to move it so we could go into the dressage ring. But that was just the start of it- I could never get him to totally relax and I ended up using a good bit of my 45 seconds after the bell to get him somewhat prepared to trot down centerline. We did have some good moments- but we also had really bad moments. He broke in both canters and I was ready to pinch his stupid little head because I know he can do all of this perfectly. As soon as we left the arena I had visions of our worst score ever and was annoyed with myself for not getting over to the covered arena sooner. After a moment of annoyance I brushed off the test and said- what's done is done and cross country is next. Out of totally curiosity I did check the scores when they posted- I was worried that it would say 50 next to my name but at the same time I didn't care. Surprisingly there was a 39.2 next to my name! I breathed a sigh of relief and then thought WTF? How was that test a 39.2 and scanned to see what place I was in- yep there is was- 20th out of 20 riders. Our judge must of been scoring super low but at least I was in the place I felt like I deserved after that test. Either way- onwards to CROSS COUNTRY!!!!

Ready for Cross Country!

After having a break between dressage and cross country it was finally time to tackle the phase I was the most nervous about. But I was also rejoicing over my last place placing after dressage because there was ZERO pressure. I could completely focus on having a positive ride without that niggling feeling of I have to do well so I can get a ribbon! My coach Annie was suppose to meet me in the warm up but she sadly wasn't able to make it- she was head of the cross country and thought she would be able to pass the job onto someone else for the 15 minutes of warmup but I think to much was going on that she had to stay. It ended up being a very good thing that she stayed where she was because she was able to watch most of our cross country ride instead of seeing only the first jump. Plus the warm up ride was so chaotic that she wouldn't of been able to help me anyways. There were so many kids running around on their ponies trying to maintain something resembling control, one horse with a professional rider was having bucking fits and his rider was doing everything possibly to have a positive ride without running all of the small children on their ponies over. Basically the warm up was a swirling mass of horses and shouting and bright colors. I stood off to the side for a bit and then picked up a trot and cantered both directions before popping over a couple of jumps. Chimi was a bit freaked out at all the horses headed towards him so we walked a lot on the edge of the field and when I saw an opening would ask him to trot and head towards a jump. He felt really strong and confident when we were jumping and that was all I wanted going out on cross country. Finally it was our turn to head over to the start box.

Jello, beer, and Morris the Horse- jump #4 on XC

 My plan was to trot the first jump to establish confidence in Chimi and so he would understand what we were doing. In the past he's to busy not looking at where we're going that he doesn't realize we're about to jump until its to late and he stops because he was clueless about my intentions. I have found that if I trot the first jump, or at least trot towards the first jump, he's going slow enough that he can look around and then his brain will click into gear as he realizes what we're about to do. So as the count down begins and I hear "Go" we calmly trot out of the box and towards the first jump. Chimi was a bit distracted and was wanting to charge about and take over but I made him trot until the last couple of strides where I felt like he knew which jump we were going for. He leaped over it and took off at a very brisk canter through the woods and up the hill to our next jump. If we had a bad first jump I had planned to jump Starter's #2 jump to help establish a rhythm before the twisty part of the course- from jump 3 to 4 to 5 and to 6 you basically followed a snake and wiggled around the course before getting a chance to canter straight ahead. Since our first jump was ok but not stellar I decided to jump the very inviting baby log and then continued to canter up the hill towards my jump #2. All my worries were soon washed away because Chimi hit beasty mode and clicked on to every jump and took me towards them. He got a bit strong so after we jumped #3 I circled to the right to regain some control because it was a VERY tight left then right turn to #4 and Chimi was a bit on the wild side at that point. I was able to collect him back together and away we went. Trot/canter through water? No problem. Up the bank? No problem. Canter up FENCE Hill to the bending line towards the ditch, totally got it- oh wait what is that hole???? Guess this means jump HIGHER- yeah we probably jumped 4 ft over the ditch. But the good thing was the next jump was a bit away so I could gather myself back together and finish up the ride. Chimi jumped fabulous over the house on the hill (not Britt's blog- but an actual jump! ha!), clear over the last roll top and proudly blasted his way through the finish flags. I was so happy with how well Chimi just jumped around the cross country course that I couldn't stop patting his neck and giving him lots of hugs and telling him what a good boy he was! It was a break through in our riding and I felt like we were finally figuring out the game plan together. Yes there are still things to work on, but over all it was such successful run around Beginner Novice that he totally redeemed himself for the melt down in dressage :) I didn't care what place we were in after the weekend was over because to me we had just finished 1st with the way he ran around the cross country course. On out walk back we saw Annie and she was so proud of Chimi and was glad she had been able to watch most of the course. She thought he looked great out there and that we were definitely headed in the right direction with him! That was the best complement I could of received from her and I think Chimi knew it to. He felt very proud of himself too! After we got back to the trailer I untacked him and we headed home for a nice dinner a good roll followed by a good nights rest out in the pasture.

Jello standing on the "roof" of the House on a Hill with a View Jump- and what a view!!!!

The next afternoon was show jumping. They gave us all a time to ride and I was scheduled to go at 12:16. We had moved up from 20th to 14th after cross country, but I really wasn't interested in a placing- I just wanted a good ride around the stadium course. Annie helped us a little bit with our warm up but mostly she was there to remind me to keep my elbows soft and follow Chimi's head instead of get tight and restrictive. Chimi was fine with or without Annie standing there, but I'm sure he appreciated her reminding me not to get in his way! We were probably the 4th or 5th rider to go in the BN division (since we were towards the end of the placings...) and when it was our turn we headed in. It was a great course with a nice balance of turns and straight/bending lines. We wiggled our way through the other jumps and found a nice canter rhythm towards jump 1. Chimi jumped great and quickly figured out what we were doing. In the corners I brought him back and did some simple changes to make sure he stayed balanced towards the next jump and rode as smart as I could. We had one "flyer" jump where I wasn't sure where he was going to take off from and apparently it was from the long spot. Even with that he cleared all the jumps and we ended up double clear. Over all we moved up one place and finished up 13th overall.

weeeee!!! trotting around the field with Gus Sunday afternoon- guess he wasn't to tired after the HT!
As with all shows, you leave knowing what you were successful with and knowing where you need to focus and do some homework at home. Dressage is something very easy for Chimi (especially at the lower levels) but the atmosphere was the killer for us. I need to make sure I take him to plenty of schooling shows so he can get use to all the craziness that a show is. Just because we can do it at home doesn't mean for a successful weekend at a show. But on the other side of that, Chimi's jumping has come such a long way from where we started. He is so much more confident and his confidence is only growing. As his rider, I need to make sure I keep building his confidence so that when the questions get more complicated he will know how to answer them. Ribbons are icing on the cake but having a successful weekend is worth all the time, money, and energy spent preparing. I know what to work on and we will just see where it goes from here!!!!
The Faces of Chimi

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pre-Show Panic Jitters

Trying to keep my pre show panic jitters at bay! I'm a bit psyched out about all the things I have left to do and doubts about how ready I am for the show. I tend to talk myself through things- below is my inner dialog- excuse bad grammar- I'm conflicted between being 1st person and 2nd person! lol
Chimi not amused

So what if I forgot how to ride my horse today? After flopping around like a sack of potatoes and somehow expecting my horse to magically start cantering because I leaned, pulled, and tried to kick my way into the canter. Nope- he's not going to do that. But when I sit up and stop riding like a sack of tubers my horse suddenly becomes quite fancy and CAN canter on the right lead. Ride strong with a soft following elbow. 

Johnny- FENCE 1999

So what if I've forgotten to take my show coat to the dry cleaners. It's just a jacket and the cleaners can clean it up for me in a day. The show is local so no worries about being 5+ hours away from your show coat. Or if they can't get it clean in time just take a damp cloth and wipe what you can off. It doesn't look that bad

Blue saddle pads are easier to keep clean- to bad my horse looks FABULOUS in white!

So what if I couldn't find my brand new WHITE Back on Track saddle pad that was purposefully bought for shows so it could stay white and I wouldn't be panicking over how gross it looks from daily use- thats why I have a brown one. Just ask for help looking for it and magically it will appear still in the same box you left it in to keep it safe from bad things.

Gus at FENCE 2013

So what if you're worried about fitting into your show breeches because your weight crept up on you and suddenly you found yourself not fitting into your old clothes. You still have a pair of pants stashed away just for such occasions and are working on reversing the number on the scale so it goes down. Just because I didn't make it to where I wanted to before the show- no big deal. Keep up the work and you will be successful soon. 

Team Beebee at FENCE 1999

So what if you haven't been able to show consistently in years? What is important is that you are finally getting back out there. Just take it one show at a time. Just be time conscience and make sure you arrive on time/early for your dressage test. After that the show is in motion and you just ride the momentum.  

Sugar to Starter jumps is like Chimi to Novice jumps- we can so do BN

So what if the cross country course is different then the years past. You know it changes yearly and Chimi has jumped a lot of the jumps out there. Ride confidently and trust that the jumps are small enough that he could walk over them if he had to. After all Chimi is 17h and the beginner novice jumps are only 2'7"ish. 

Brit and Foster pants making Novice dressage look easy

So what if you haven't practiced your dressage test enough times. It's BN test A. You trot circles, canter circles, and walk straight lines. Ride with a smile and whatever happens happens. You can't fix anything the week of so just ride the horse that shows up to the show. There is plenty of time in the future to perfect small details. Just ride.

We gots this mom!!!

Enjoy the weekend and imagine safely finishing up the weekend. The ribbon color doesn't matter- or a ribbon at all. Yes a really pretty blue would be the icing on the cake but what is really important is giving Chimi a successful ride and building his confidence. He is a nice enough horse that one day he could be winning blue ribbons with ease, but it takes time and patience to get there. Ride confidently and your horse will be confident. 

Here's to the last couple of days before the first show of the season.