Friday, April 10, 2015

April Adventures Recap: Day 2

Getting out of bed was even harder on Sunday. I broke one of my cardinal horse show rules and ordered coffee instead of tea with my breakfast. Usually coffee gives me the jitters, but I was so exhausted on Sunday, all it did was keep my eyes open.

Unfortunately, when I checked in on Pig I found him practically shivering in his stall. He was obviously cold and uncomfortable, not even interested in eating his hay. I immediately threw his cooler on him, and took him out to walk a bit and eat some grass in the sun to warm up.
Frozen Pig warming up in the morning sun.
After about an hour bundled up and in the sun, Guinness had warmed up and was looking a lot happier. We headed back into the barn to braid and get ready for our first class.

Unfortunately, I don't think the tension from being cold ever really left Guinness. He was even worse in the contact than the day before, though tired and less reactive. My goal for the day was just to keep my % at each level in the 60s, so I wasn't feeling too pressured to go out there and lay down a spectacular test and stress out my horse.

However, I did end up getting after Pig more in the warm-up. I think that helped me get him slightly more in front of my leg, but he wasn't having anything to do with my left rein. He was just incredibly stiff. I didn't push the envelope, and just worked on straightness and getting him to relax a little. I went into the ring knowing I had a ball of tension under me, again.

Our 1-2 test felt much flatter than the day before. I felt our halt was more prepared than the day before, but still wasn't straight. The bit of trot after the halt was just as terrible as normal. We pulled a 6. The leg yields were still fairly on point. We managed a 7 on the one to the right, despite losing straightness in parts. The judge really liked how nicely he was in my outside rein. Our second lengthening was also nice, getting us a 6.5. I ended up posting it because Pig was lengthening his stride nicely, but wasn't through enough to make it a "sitable" trot.

The second leg yield scored a 7, despite me being unable to keep our flexion correct. It was fairly straight, and dramatic in points. I ended up riding too much sideways in the middle and needing to kind of boot Pig forward to hit the letter. Oops!

Our walk work started with a slightly backwards walk transition right in front of the judge. She was generous and gave us a 6 on that. I think I would have given us a 5, maybe. The free walk took a lot longer to develop than on Saturday, and the stretch wasn't as good. We ended up with a 7 on that.

At this point every single comment on my sheet reads "+ round". Pig was really having none of being a dressage horse. His canter depart is leapy, not because I surprised him like last time, but instead because he wanted to pick up the right lead instead and I corrected him mid-leap. Once in the canter, it was very flat, especially for us.

Every single score from the moment we finish the free walk is a 6. After watching the test, I can't even argue. We did all the movements, but without any brilliance. There were little flaws in everything. Our connection was incredibly flawed, and his back was so tight he couldn't really move. We did manage a 7 on our final centerline and halt. I can only imagine this was because the judge was as happy the test was over as we were!

Here's the test!


Again, the overall feeling of this test is that we have it. Nothing about First feels hard for us, it's just difficult to get all of our points without full cooperation on the part of my horse. We pulled a 61.875%. I'm not even disappointed with that score, just kind of amazed that we held things together as well as we did.

We had slightly less time between classes than the day before, but I didn't want Pig to sit in his stall and get cold. We ended up heading back outside for a bit of a walk and graze to keep warm while we decompressed.
Is there anything prettier than a chestnut in the warm sunshine? I mean really...
As we warmed up for 2-2, I quickly realized this was going to be a true test of whose will was stronger. Pig was incredibly stiff at the base of his neck. Getting him to move his shoulders right was impossible, and so was moving his haunches left. I actually didn't pick a fight in the warm up. I stopped working on getting a connection and instead focused entirely on transitions. We did a transition every 4-5 strides for the last 5 minutes before going in for our test. That helped get Pig in front of my leg for a bit and listening to my seat. We lost some of that in the ring, but I think it helped get us through the first half of the test.

The entrance and first halt was probably some of the most connected work we had all weekend, and the halt was nicely stepped into. We pulled a 7 for this. As typical, Pig again started trying to make his own decisions about the turn after the halt, and was just ugly for this portion.

I'm actually really happy with his medium trot. He was lifting off the ground. We wiggled a bit, but it's not "non-existent" which is our usual problem. We managed a 6 (way better than a 5!). Our shoulder-in left fell victim to our normal issue of "too much bend." It's obvious when you watch the video that he just isn't engaged enough to support the straightness. Oops.

In another "oops" moment, we have a fight about changing bend in the second 10m circle half, and that persists into the travers. Pig fights me so much here he almost looks lame. I promise. He's not. He's just considering slamming on the brakes and rearing.

Our turns on the haunches (6s) are not the worst things ever, but the good steps are few and far between. At this point, it's pretty obvious I'm just trying to keep a lid on my firecracker of attitude masquerading as a horse. The free walk pulled a 7, which is amazing because I didn't feel like he stretched at all. Maybe the judge felt bad for us and noticed I was basically trying as hard as I could.

After we pick up the trot (6.5 for transition), things get really interesting. We head into the shoulder-in right where ... nothing happens. Seriously. We end up with a 5 for this movement, which is super generous. I was actually laughing a little bit, because my horse just totally flipped me the bird there. His neck is turned, but, I promise, his shoulder is still pretty much stuck to the wall.

At this point, I'm kind of holding together Pig's mental state with super glue and hope. Our half circles and travers left are solid 6s. We get through them, but barely. Pig tries to throw a fit about changing bend, and I just kind of push him off balance to get the transition. He's so far behind my leg in the travers, it's almost not funny. Almost. No wait... who am I kidding? It's funny.

We finally get to pick up a canter (6, inverted) and somehow manage a 7 on our half 10m circle and counter canter in the left lead. On the counter canter the judge noted "ridden to wrong side of horse." She isn't wrong, but in all honesty-- she gave me a 7, and sometimes you gotta do what it takes to get the job done. I was just happy he didn't swap.

Our simple change is a 5, but at least we end up with the correct lead. The counter canter in the right lead is another 7, and really the highlight of our test. The second simple change is a well deserved 4 again, as we flub the lead a second time. I cannot believe that. We're a mess. We pull off 6s for the rest of the test, and end with a very grateful halt.

Here's the test:


I've never been so happy to get off after a test. Pig was fried and tired, and I was fried from dealing with him. I was pretty sure we'd managed maybe a 55% on that disaster of a test, but was floored to walk away with a 60.128%. Clearly all those 7s saved us, big time.

We did end up with two more blue ribbons (yay small show!). I felt like we kind of deserved them after all the tension I had tried to mask all weekend.
Pig is screaming. I am laughing. I feel like this is pretty much the sum of the weekend.
On top of everything, just as we had just finished packing up, the secretary (I think?) came out to our truck and asked to see my spurs. She said that I wasn't in trouble, but that the judge and TD had questioned my spurs. I said "they're swan neck spurs and allowed." She said that "some types of swan neck spurs need to be worn upside down," which made no sense. She said it wasn't a problem this time, but that I needed to be careful at my next show. I just smiled and nodded, jumped back in the truck and headed home. Everyone I've asked about this has zero idea what the problem is. The USEF rules clearly state that swan neck spurs are allowed. There is even a picture right there in the rule book. I don't think it gets clearer than that. I guess I'll be bringing my spurs to the TD before my next show, just to make sure there aren't problems. Frustrating.

Overall, I'm really happy with how this show went. It was basically a schooling show, but with the benefit of having USDF scores. We kept our %s in the 60s and managed one of our highest First Level scores ever, despite being totally disunited all weekend. I can't wait for summer so we can show when it's warmer and hopefully have a little more equine cooperation!

** Note: I'm the feature on Ammy Hour over at SprinklerBandits. Check it out!

27 comments:

  1. Rough show!! I'm impressed with the graciousness you always show to Pig even when he's being a... pig. You truly made the best of it, plus you got to take home blue ribbons anyway!

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    2. Truth! Blue satin makes up for Piggy ponies. ;) Plus, I can't take it out on him. He tried when he could.

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  2. Some wan neck spurs can look a bit weird apparently, but definitely legal. Man, your patience impresses me! Congrats on surviving the weekend :)

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    1. Aw, thanks. This horse has certainly taught me a lot of lessons about patience! :)

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  3. Love the last picture :) Yeah for scores toward your Bronze!

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    1. That last picture made me laugh, so hard. :)

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  4. Congrats on a good weekend and making the best of a tough day! I never trust show management when the weather could be cool. I've stuck a blanket (the rambo fleece you have) on Mikey in June at shows if there was a chance the temperatures will be going below 60. I know he will be a complete uncooperative jerk if he gets cold, so I don't chance it. I'd rather he be too warm, he might sweat a bit, but he's not unnerved by it. It's how I blanket him all winter- you know he's cold if he's acting up in the field and jumping around. I am that lady who over blankets her horse. But you know what, that horse happily shoves his head into his clothes and even wiggles the blankets until his hood is high enough that his ears get under it. I've watched him make a point to do it. He's happy, I'm happy!

    I made the rounds to TDs last year with both sets of my spurs- I have a smooth rowel that I couldn't get a straight answer on if it's legal or not (I've seen pointy rowels at 3rd, so I would think my smooth ones would be fine), but one TD didn't care for them because the center of the rowel is off-center (more on the downward side of the spur) so she asked me not to use them (a side note, my trainer got the OK to use them at Fair Hill CCI 3*, so they are FEI legal). I also have a pair of rolly ball spurs that I couldn't find anywhere in the USEF/USDF rules, but I know they're USEF/USEA legal, but I took them down just to make sure. I'll probably stop asking about the rolly ball spurs and just use them. I haven't even used my rowels in the last year because I couldn't use them in public, so no reason to practice with them unless I was trying to make a point to Mikey.

    Aren't all swan neck spurs supposed to be used pointed upwards? I kind of thought that was the point of them. Long and upwards. And I agree, the rule book clearly shows them as being allowed.

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    1. Yeah, the whole thing with the spurs was super shady. I've heard people having problems with being pulled at shows for them, but most of those were in eventing dressage, not USDF where they've always been legal. I know in USEA there's a length limit to spurs, but such a thing doesn't seem to exist in USDF. Ugh. RULES! These are a cheap knock-off brand, and the brand name is stamped upside down on the arms of the spurs, so the secretary tried to tell me that meant they were upside down. But, really? Have you ever seen spurs that look like swan necks used upside down? Really? I haven't. That would look super dumb. Plus, the end of a swan neck spur is kind of teardropped down. So if they were upside down, they'd be pointing a little up. Grrr.

      I know rowels have to be smooth, not pointy. I can see how if they aren't exactly straight a TD might pull them. That's sort of towing the line. I think rowels are much more humane than those long squared off spurs, though. And no one ever questions those!

      Pig HATES blankets. He eats them in stalls, so I hate blanketing him in stalls. You have to use a turnout, or he'll just shred the front of the blanket and tangle himself up in it. Such a primadonna. I had this feeling I should have blanketed him, and I should have stuck with it. The new body clip has him colder and more ticklish than I thought it would. Totally my mistake!

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  5. Um can we see a demonstration of swan necks upside down just for kicks and giggles? I worked at a tack booth at a usdf championship show and someone bought a pair of swan necks and then returned them because the judge said they weren't allowed. Um..weeird

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    1. Ha! Totally! I've heard of people using swan necks upside down just because they thought they were cruel the other way. Again, I think the squared off spurs are the worst ones, but no one ever thinks twice about those!

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  6. You really kept it together despite him not wanting to play. That's a huge accomplishment in itself!

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    1. I am inclined to agree with you, thanks! :)

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  7. Good for you for reading the rule book and being knowledgeable about your equipment! Maybe she was mistaking them for curved shank spurs that are supposed to worn down?

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    1. It's always weird to me when people don't read the rule book. I mean ... why would you waste money by doing something possibly illegal? Plus there's a ton of great info on movements and what judges are looking for in there!

      Maybe she was confusing them, but I don't know how. These have a clear swan curve to them. All the other curved spurs I've seen curve straight off from the arms of the spur and are straightish through the shank. Is there another variety I'm missing out there?

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  8. It was still a good way to start the show scene. I know how much of a pain hot horses can be, but they are the ones that get better with every class in hotter than hell heat while most of the quiter ones get lazier and dull. You guys will rock it this summer :)

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    1. *season, not scene. I can't even blame it on the phone thus time. It was the beer.

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    2. Haha! "Beer-correct" maybe? ;)

      I agree with you. I'm not upset with Pig, that's just how he is. I'm actually really happy with how well we made things work as a pair to overcome all the tension. You're right, though. My horse never quits when the going gets tough. I love that about him!

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  9. I've had shows like that where everything is 10x the effort required at home. Good for you for perseverance.

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    1. It's so hard to keep your head in the game when it seems like everything is against you, isn't it?

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  10. Well done keeping it together. The last picture is AWESOME!

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  11. nice job - congrats again! it's actually kinda awesome how well you guys held it together despite not really being on the same page. definitely a testament to a solid training foundation. hopefully Pig will soon decide that it's more fun to show off his best side for the judges too :)

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    1. He's such a show off naturally, you'd think he'd like being fancy in front of judges. ;)

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  12. Firstly: You know, chestnuts in warm sunshine is probably the most beautiful thing in the world.

    Secondly: High five for making it through the weekend. Rough time but I think you made the most of it! You seem to have handled it well and got the most out of the movements that you could. Can't wait to read about your next competition - it'll be so good!

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    1. 1. Duh! :)

      2. I hope it is! My fingers are crossed!

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  13. Fab results despite not being on the same page. I cannot wait to hear how ya'll improve over the spring/summer!
    Weird about the spur thing at the end

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