Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Well, I've decided to bite the bullet and show USDF this year. We're tentatively planning to do three of the USDF shows in Indiana from June - September. In May, we're planning to hit a schooling show or two just to get a feel for showing again.

I really think the increased judge feedback and heavier competition are important for me to get out of showing what I put in. I believe in really training my horse. Unfortunately, the feedback at the local level just isn't as useful to me. Now, I'm busy trying to wade through all the applications for the USEF, USDF and the show bills. (Could they make this any harder to do in my limited time? I even took these on vacation with me last week. Still aren't done ... )

I've also been finessing Guinness' workout plan. He's a little out of shape, and we have some basics we need to get in order before I feel comfortable showing. In fact, the idea of showing is giving me butterflies. We've been doing our own thing for so long, it will be different to have rides organized for exacting purposes again!

Right now, I'm looking at a 4-5 ride a week schedule. I'm leaning towards four. GP is a thoroughbred, and keeps a lot of natural fitness. His arthritis makes me want to ride him less, to avoid stressing his joints. We aren't going to be working on anything completely new for a long time, so drilling isn't really something I see us needing to do. When we conquer more complicated things, I'll look at upping our rides.

Now, our ride schedule looks something like this:
  • Monday: Arena Schooling
  • Thursday: Poles / Strength Work
  • Saturday: Arena Schooling
  • Sunday: Long Hack / Fitness Work
Of course, the fact that my work schedule can change in a heartbeat (I work in marketing for a local university arts & athletics complex. Talk about lots of events!) means that the days of the week I head out to the barn may change. As Guinness builds up strength, these may need adjusting too. 

This week, weather affected our training the most. I came back from a beautiful ski trip (Yay! Honeymoon!) to find that the temperature in Indiana had shot up to a balmy (?) 80 some degrees. Holy Sh--! I'm not one for heat (thus I own Siberian Huskies and honeymoon in the snowy, snowy mountains!). My poor horse is trying his best to shed his winter coat, but workouts are short while he adjusts. The first day I rode him in the heat, he was just a horrid mess. We had NO impulsion and he ended up tired after about 20 min of trot work. Needless to say, we'll be starting off slow.

But anyway ... here's to a good show season! Hope to see some of you out there!

Gratuitous cute pony cell phone pictures, you're welcome!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Qualifying? What is this "Qualifying" business.

Part of my resolve for competing this year is to enjoy the time I have with my horse to the fullest, to really experience a lot and get miles out of our relationship. That brings me directly to the issue at hand.

How hard should we compete? And how seriously?

It's been years since I've shown, and longer than I'd like to admit since I've done any showing beyond IHSA (that's intercollegiate hunt seat ... for the uninformed). I don't have all the time or money in the world to go jetting around to shows, but luckily dressage does have a large enough following out here for there to be plenty  of opportunities to choose from within 1-3 hours of travel. Plus, the barn I keep Guinness at is into dressage, and often takes students to schooling shows in the area. Hitching a ride is much cheaper than renting the whole rig on my own.
Guinness and I working hard at a Todd Bryan clinic in 2010.

The question is, do I want to focus on the smaller (and much cheaper!) local schooling shows, or do I want to be able to challenge myself with the larger competitions of USDF sponsored shows? And, if I decided to go to these sponsored shows, do I want to join to be able to qualify for awards? I can't even decide if that's something I care about.

Part of my wants to go to a few schooling shows early in the season, and see how capable we are, then decide. My thoughts on the issue are complicated:

  • I feel confident, as my experiences with trailering and riding Guinness has been excellent. He's usually a little more "up" in a new location, but not crazy. He trusts me implicitly, so we typically have very good rides while away from "home".
  • My main drive in thinking about doing recognized shows is wanting to do well. I respond well to criticism, especially in horse training. I love it when people pick apart my riding, or see a sticky moment and point it out for me. It's very helpful, and I find I learn more from doing things a little wrong than always right. I feel the competition at these bigger shows will be better, and the judges better. It might be a crazy thought, but it's still one I'm having.
  • We are schooling a solid Training, and I know that my horse is fully capable of First Level. I don't know if that's something I could do without lots of critique, and that's not really available locally.
  • I'd also like to show at the Horse Park, since it's right down the street from Cob Jockey. Maybe I could bribe her to take photos ;)
What do you think? Any experiences with recognized shows that you would like to share?

Stay tuned for video from GP and I's lesson a couple weeks ago with a visiting trainer. It was nice to get some feedback on my riding and my horse's ability. Highlights to come!

Monday, March 5, 2012

A New Focus

Last Monday, Guinness had another set of fetlock injections. Before the injections he was worse than ever, and I was feeling pretty terrible. I think everyone can understand the helplessness you feel when an animal under your care is in pain, and you can't fix the problem. Luckily, injections seem to ease his pain and keep the heat/swelling down in his ankles. While I know this is only going to be a temporary fix (the next few years are going to get rougher), for now he is happy and mobile.

A happy, mobile horse means a happy owner.

I think I've finally come to terms with my horse's physically disability. It's sad, but DJD just isn't something you recover from. As such, I'm happy to report that we are going to try to go as far as we can in the dressage world. My horse is built for dressage, and we do both enjoy the training. So, while I am still sad, I'm happier to focus on a future that will bring us a partnership for a few more years.

That being said, stay tuned for training (of both me and Pig), tack & gear reviews and show updates as we get ourselves into shape for the upcoming season.

Looking forward again ...