Friday, May 15, 2015

I've got dem packing skillz

I am the queen of packing efficiently. A childhood spent making long car trips and flying across the country taught me to pack carefully. I think hard about all the possibilities I could encounter on a trip, make concessions for issues that could arise, and pack my bags with consideration. I keep the items I may need to access quickly within easy reach, and ensure they slide in and out of my bag nicely. After all, no one wants to be the guy holding up an airport security line because you can't get your laptop out of your bag without unpacking all your underwear.

I also tend to pack extremely light. Most of my clothes on a trip do double duty. If I am going to stay for a long time, I'll plan to do laundry rather than pack. My bags are usually 3/4 to 1/2 full when leaving on a trip. You never know when you'll need room for souvenirs or gifts.

These packing traits are important to remember when I tell you that I walked into The Surrey Tack Shop in Darnestown, Maryland on Monday afternoon. I was looking for recommendations for boarding barns, and maybe a new pair of summer gloves. While I found all of that (A shout out to everyone at The Surrey! You guys were great!), I also discovered a great consignment area… and a Rambo Newmarket cooler in Pig's size with a ticket on it asking for $50.

$50. For a $200 cooler I've been drooling over for 5 years.

Yeah. Was there even a question? I bought that… even though I traveled to DC with only a purse and a carry on suitcase. Uh. Whoops? The cashier at the Surrey and I joked that I could carry the cooler on the plane as a "comfort blanket" or wear it as a fancy poncho/cape. Honestly, I think that could be a new superhero look: Rambo Woman! Bringer of comfort to clipped equines everywhere! (Hire me, Rambo!)
Just like Darkwing Duck ... 
 Fortunately for my fellow air travelers, my frugal packing techniques yielded the perfect amount of space in my carry on luggage bag to cram in the cooler.
Totally fits. I don't know what the problem was.
Sure my sundresses will be covered with some random gray horse's hair, but...
I mean, really. This is the best buy of the year.
Rambo Woman, signing out...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The realities of Third Level

Third Level introduces a few newly required skills to the Second Level repertoire. You may have heard of them:

1. Half Pass
2. Flying Change
3. Extended Gaits
4. Release of Reins at Canter
5. Renvers (note: this used to be part of Second Level until the 2015 test revamp)

So. Yeah.

For 3-1 (the only Third Level test I feel capable of semi-accomplishing right now), the only new movements are the half pass, flying change, and extended gaits. But let's not also forget the increased collection expected for Third. Now, let's break down how I feel about those…

Half Pass
Pig is baller at half pass. He's better at the canter than the trot, but is honestly capable in both. He picked these up super quickly and is a total champ. If these go poorly it's either a connection issue or total rider error. I need to keep my head in the game 100% and make sure Pig is listening to my outside half halts and leading with his shoulder. The bend and sideways is the easy part. As you see below, the issues come in when I brain fart something and stop supporting the outside.
And this is our bad direction... 
Flying Changes
Let's be honest, I ride a TB. He's always had changes, but they weren't "dressage" changes. I'm not 100% sure what kind of aid he was taught to do changes, as his were automatic by the time I got him. Two years ago I worked hard to train out the auto-changes. When I started asking for them again, he wasn't quite sure what my aids meant and would get very nervous when offering a change -- worried it was wrong, I assume. I tried to build up his confidence by heaping on the praise whenever he would make a change attempt, even if all he did was leap up in the air (and come down on the same lead) or change a stride or two late behind. I just wanted him to equate my cue with a change.

At this point he understands the cue, if I ride very clearly. However, he's a smart cookie and has started to assume I want auto changes again, and will begin to anticipate the change. His intelligence shows through in that he understands and readily accepts a counter canter cue to mean "no change here." Unfortunately, riding him straight into a change can make him pretty bargy and bolty (extremely scientific dressage terms there). I have to have lots of half halts and ride with an open and forward seat, without leaning at him to ensure he stays over his hocks instead of impersonating a dolphin.
Dearest Guinness. It's a "horse" show. Not a "dolphin" show.
The big things for me to remember when it comes to show time are: 1. The flying changes are a separate score, meaning I can totally flub them and be okay on my other movements. So I shouldn't panic if we totally blow them, as we probably will. 2. Don't school them too much. Pig will get too anticipatory. Plus, the early changes are usually the better ones. Do one or two so that he remembers I can ask for them, but that's all. I'm not going to fix any issues at the show. 2. Collect, collect, collect. And sit up. And half halt. And aid clearly. Keep a clear mind and this will come together. 3. Straighten with tact, and move the shoulder out of the way. Most of the time, the position of the shoulder dictates whether the change is clean.

Extended Gaits
This one is a total wash. We've only ever been mildly adequate at medium gaits, so the extended are going to be lucky to pull anything over a 5. I have to ride much more forward and in the front of the saddle than I feel capable of right now, and Pig needs to be a bit more flexible and balanced that he really feels. Right now, if we get them, I lose the connection. Bleh.
If we get anything half this good, I'll be pleased as hell.
Increased Collection
I'm actually feeling pretty good here. We worked on our canter collection hard over the last month, and it is in a really good position. The trot collection is much better, but probably still not to the level the judges want to see. If our connection is better than we had in April, I'm hoping we can pull off "adequate" collection.

I guess it's obvious I'm not expecting to go in and rock out 3-1. However, I wouldn't have signed up for it if I didn't think we had a chance to take a crack at it. I'll be thrilled with a score above 50%, and don't really expect a score toward my bronze at all. However with my move making this my last definite chance to ride 3rd this year, I had to leap at it.

I'll leave you with our awesome half pass right.
Now, don't panic...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Here goes nothing...

At the start of the month my trainer asked, "So what classes did you sign up for at Harmony?"

"Well, 2-3. And … well … I … uh … may have … um … I did a dumb."


"Yeah. Um. I… uh. I also signed up for 3-1."

"Why did you do that?"

"Obviously because 40% is my favorite score."

"Obviously... Okay. Well, I guess we're cleaning up those half passes."

So. Yeah. We head out for our Third Level debut on Friday. Wish us luck. I am so screwed …
I guess that's why they call it a "flying" change... not sure why I'm riding like that, though.