Friday, June 26, 2015

Getting back into a groove

Being "funemployed" (great term, Megan!) has really been cramping my style. I'm a type A do-all-the-things sort of person. Having large expanses of open time seems to break my brain.

I need a job, guys.

Until then, I've been organizing the new house, buying an arranging furnishings, and exploring my new neighborhood. I've already discovered riding is going to be a major time investment, especially if I end up employed downtown. It's easily an hour drive with traffic, and then a couple of hours at the barn. I'm working on discovering shortcuts. Unfortunately those explorations have caused me to become lost during rush hour traffic a couple of times.

The swearing coming out of my mouth when stuck in traffic. It blisters the ears.
Part of my drive offers this surreal view... feels like you are driving into OZ or something.
I'm also working on getting lessons set up. My barn has a ton of resident trainers, and I plan to audit and take a few experimental lessons with a few in order to suss out which one is the best fit for Pig and I. I have few recommendations, and have watched a few lessons. Fingers crossed this process doesn't take too long. I need to get back into a program with instruction!

Pig has actually been working great. The footing here is impeccable, and I think that's helped his dainty feet and arthritic joints immensely. He's springy, opinionated, and sound. I both love and hate it. His opinions have started to get a little out of hand. There's nothing more embarrassing than introducing yourself and your "schooling 3rd" thoroughbred to a new group of riders as your horse backs down the length of the arena refusing to turn right or go nicely into contact.

Oh, Pig.

At least he's still pretty ... ;)
Right now our rides seem to flip back and forth between great and horrible. One day great, the next horrid. I can't help but assume he's getting a little sore and tired on the 2nd day, but I'm positive that isn't all of it. You guys know Pig. He's a moody bastard horse, and this is just normal.

I'm sure part of the problem is my jello-like abs. I have the weakest abs right now, as moving doesn't really give you time to get in killer workouts (unless you count carrying 10,000 items up and down stairs and scrubbing rental kitchens...). This is making the sitting trot extremely hard, especially as Pig has gotten 10x bouncier. I am not an elegant rider right now, and my picky horse would like me to get back to work...

So anyway. That's your update. I won't promise my writing will come more regularly, but I'll try. Today I should be finishing up my office. That'll help. Maybe. Or maybe I'll just skip out and go to the Folger Shakespeare Library instead....

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

We have arrived!

I interrupt my tortuously drawn-out recap of my May show to share with you images from Pig's arrival at our new barn, and also photos of an exceptionally happy dog. You're preemptively welcome for the happy faces on a Monday Tuesday (the internet at the hospital did not cooperate).

A happy Napkin Bandit.
All of our stuff arrived the day before Guinness, so the house has been a complete catastrophe of packing paper and boxes. Luckily, we own one of the most paper-loving dogs in history. We filled the dining room completely with packing paper and watched him go to town: ripping up paper, digging holes, and burying himself. This dog, man. We call him the Napkin Bandit for his propensity to steal and eat napkins off of people's laps. He's very discrete. One minute you have a napkin, the next it is gone. Needless to say, a room full of napkins basically broke his mind.

Happy (and wet!) Pig
Guinness rolled up to the new farm at exactly 8 am. How reasonable! The driver was worried about him because of how much he was sweating, but I made sure to tell him that was completely normal and that I wasn't concerned. Pig is such a nervous traveler.

Overall, he looked great! A little tired, but not really stiff and absolutely sound. I couldn't be happier. I've seen that horse come off a trailer a stiff mess from a much shorter trip. Brook Ledge really did a great job with him.

Pig meets one of his new pasture mates...
We decided just toss Pig out with  his new pasture group. He's out with two warmblood babies (6 and 7 year old monsters), and an older draft cross mare. It's actually a pretty quiet group, and he has settled in pretty peacefully. I think he knows he can outrun all three of the huge-boned monsters out there with him...
A view of the farm from the front of Pig's turnout.
Field board is funny. You are mainly just dealing with your horse, so even though the facilities can change drastically you often still feel very comfortable. The only change I made to Pig's turnout at this barn was to add a flymask. The gnats here are terrible, and were driving him nuts.
Yes, there's a horse out there... somewhere.
Pig's pasture is at the front of the property, and is the first thing you see when you drive up to the barn. It's been really fun to see my horse greet me at the entrance, and to come running to me when I call his name. It's the little things in horse ownership.

Our first ride around the property.
This barn is set up so that you can ride between the individual turnouts, and the barns themselves. When Pig arrived, I couldn't resist hopping on him. He was super tired, so we kept the ride to a quiet exploration of the property. It's gorgeous here!

"What is this magical wonderland?!"
The dogs and I have also been exploring at home. Our house is right down the street from a main trail connection, and we have been spending our mornings exploring the trail as it winds through the city. The dogs are loving all of the exploration activity. There's something wonderful about huskies, in that they are always up for a new adventure. They are the best dogs.

The best of the best dogs, overlooking Sligo Creek. Such a happy face!
In other news, my internet is now up and working at home. As soon as I locate a table, I'll be up and posting the rest of the show recap and other posts I've been working on. Fingers crossed, tables are in short supply here!

Monday, June 8, 2015

That Time I Debuted Third Level, and Other Stories (Harmony I)

Saturday at Harmony dawned much too early. My trip to the show grounds had been delayed (have you ever packed for a horse show while living in a house mid-cross country move packed? Wow. Word of advice: Don't.), and we got in much later than I'd hoped. In addition, I'd added to my sleep deficit by staying up much too late visiting with Jen and her husband. Nonetheless, there was a horse show to do and I used my excitement and nerves to propel me into the day.

I started by braiding my trainer's lovely Friesian/Wamblood gelding. I'd promised her free braids all weekend. Then I moved on to braiding my own horse. I have to say, Khan's thicker mane certainly helped make the braids even better. They looked stunning on his periscope of a Friesian neck, too.
I'll miss watching this pair!
My first ride was my Third Level test, of course. I had been hoping the 3rd test would be after the 2nd level test, so that I wouldn't confuse Pig by asking for changes. Of course, my luck, I was going to have to depend on his smarts and my training to get us through. Always a dicey bet.

The moment I picked up my reins in the warm up, I knew I'd made a mistake. I had come out my usual 30 minutes before my ride time, but my horse was perfection. He didn't need a warm up at all. Not wanting to tire him, I simply walked around for long stretches of time, picking up the reins every once in awhile to put him together and keep him limber and working. He seemed to be mentally handling everything fine. Honestly, I'd rather have too much time in the warm up than not enough, I suppose. We worked all the buttons I would need in the test, except for lead changes. I kept my warm up work to counter canter to simple change work, and figured we would either get the changes in the ring or not. It wasn't really a big deal.
Look at that uphill canter! It might have taken a whole year, but we have finally started to conquer the "lift your withers" training block!
My trainer had bid me luck with the inspiring "just have fun with it," and I fully intended to take her advice. In the ring, Pig was probably the most relaxed and responsive he's ever been at a show. That said, our entry was still terrible. I mentally biffed the halt and we missed X and sort of came to a jumble of a halt.

The movements from 1-4 were scored at either a 5.5 or a 5, including our half pass left. The judge felt that Guinness was very tense, and our bend in the half pass and shoulder in were not consistent enough. Those comments are completely fair. On top of our greeneness at the level, I entered the ring a little mentally intimidated and was a little too worried about remembering my test and not screwing up to focus on actually riding my horse.

Luckily, the half pass to the right managed to set us back on track with a 6.5 and a comment of "smooth" from the judge.
Let's face it. Half pass right is basically our best movement ever. I wish there was a test JUST for half pass right. We would wipe the floor with people...
From there we headed into the medium trot, which is coming along so well, but just isn't quite where it needs to be yet. More on that later, we are really hitting breakthrough after breakthrough here. Unfortunately, those breakthroughs are not smoothly put together enough for this test and we ended up with a 5.5 from the judge who commented that Pig was "hollow." Yep. Fair assessment.
Still, his overall reach is so much better than it used to be. I think we're really on to something here...
Directly after the medium trot in this test is the halt and rein back, which we nailed with a 7. I haven't really worked these at all, so I am so pleased we were able to work together and pull out a good score. Still there's always something to improve, and here I need to make sure our rein back is straighter. Pig tends to come off the rail with his haunches, rather than truly rock back and sit into the movement. With a little work, I think we can get rid of that little evasion.

I don't really want to talk about our walk work for this test, as I rider-errored the crap out of it. The turns on the haunches lost bend and were absolutely huge. In addition, Pig lost all forward momentum and actually started to come to a halt in the middle of both turns! I will admit to completely losing my focus here and assuming Pig could just do these without me. I'm not sure why I would ever think that as turns on the haunches are always supremely difficult for us. With the walk work acting as a coefficient score, I immediately knew I had just completely blown my score. It's just too hard to recover from a coefficient of 4.

Still, I tried to put my brain back in and have fun with the rest of the test. We managed to pull a 7 on our medium canter, and 6s on the rest of our canter movements. The change was a 4, as expected as Pig was late behind. Still, he did the change on my aids and did not anticipate. I am happy with that, for now.
Canter work. Perpetually our best section.
We gathered another 7 for our 10 meter circle left, immediately followed by another 4 for our second flying change. In this change, Pig went full porpoise. I'm so sad we don't have it on video, but Jen managed to capture the whole thing on burst mode with her camera, so we have a brilliant break down of where things go hilariously wrong. I'll share that soon.

We redeemed ourselves with a 6 for our last medium trot, with the comment "modest effort" (Gee. Thanks.), and strolled up the centerline to wrap up the test.
Nothing "modest" about the effort here. I can tell you with certainty that I am completely out of breath here...
The verdict? A total score of 55.909%. Is it weird to say I was pleased with this? In fact, I was so happy that I snapped a photo of the test and sent it to about 20 people. Guys. We didn't fail at 3rd level. In fact, we did not even come in last!

Beyond all that, I was so pleased with how adjustable and pleasant Guinness was during the warm up and the test. He was such a solid gentleman, and was so rideable. I couldn't have been more proud of him.
Love him.
Hours later, I tacked back up for my 2nd level test. I hoped that long hours between my rides would "reset" Guinness, and he wouldn’t be expecting a change. What I should have done was hope the hours between the tests wouldn’t bring about a change in Captain Bipolar. I had gotten on with 15 minutes before my ride, figuring I would have the same horse I had ridden in the morning.

Unfortunately, when I picked up the reins in the second warm up, Guinness was a completely different horse. The forward and adjustable horse from earlier was gone. Now he was both behind the leg and the bridle. No amount of pushing forward  could get him to go back into the rein reliably, and using the whip resulted in a tantrum. What I should have done (hindsight being awesome), was really get after him and ride through the tantrum to get to the more cooperative horse in there. Of course, I didn't do that...

The whole test, I was so sure Pig would break that I had my legs clamped on to his side like crazy. I felt that if I took my legs off just a little, we would dawdle right into a stumbling halt and just never get started again. As it turns out, I wasn't wrong. Still, riding a test with your legs clamped on as hard as possible does not make for a smooth ride.

Our first halt scored a 7, probably because all Pig wanted to do was stop. The medium trot that followed was a 4, which I actually thought was a bit low. I thought it at least deserved a 5, though probably not higher.
Sorry for the blurry start!
Though all of our circling and straight work was dinged on our iffy connection, the both of the shoulder in movements pulled a 6. The travers scored slightly better with a 6.5 to the right and a 7 for the left. I'm actually floored we pulled a 7 for the travers left. I didn't feel it was that good at all.
Seriously. How is this a 7?
All of our halt, rein back, and walk work was solid 6s and 6.5s. I was careful to keep Pig moving during the turns on the haunches (not to repeat the same mistakes as earlier!), but I lost control of the size of the turns again. Without Pig in the bridle, those turns were really 100% off the seat, which made them a little difficult to contain.

Let's talk about what I am proud of during this test. See, the 2-3 test calls for a canter serpentine maintaining the same lead, meaning you must hold the counter canter for what turns out to be one very small diameter circle. (I'm currently writing this slightly tipsy in a DC Starbucks. Please forgive me if I cannot remember if this is a 10m circle or a 15. Please. Someone. Remind me. My brain is mush.) If you were smart (which, clearly, I am not), you would never enter a horse in both a test that called for lead changes and 2-3. You're just setting yourself up to fail.

Or you would think you would be.

My horse? He was a stellar kid. We did those serpentines, and they were kind of ugly, but they were all on the same lead. He did not change on me. He did not fight. He just did what he was told.

Doesn't that deserve some kind of special award?

Apparently this judge did not think so, as our 2-3 test scored an utterly unimpressive and slightly embarrassing 58.2%. Ouch.

After finally finishing my test, I was done with the day. I met up with some friends and cracked open a bottle of wine. So did they. Several bottles... that, friends, is how you end up taking a tipsy ride back to Jen's house with Karen in tow and end up passing out from sheer exhaustion and wine inhalation at early o'clock. Epic blogger party? Yes. Do I wish I hadn't been so tired and such a lightweight? Double yes.

Dear Karen and Jen, let's do it again sometime!
So. Much. Fun.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Reasons I Love Horse Showing

Once, a long, long time ago ... (okay, so really about three weeks ago), I packed up my horse, husband, dogs and goods. We ventured into the land of the Recognized Dressage Show to do what I had always imagined was only a dream, show Third Level on my cantankerous old racehorse.

Guys. This was one of the best horse shows ever. I also never actually broke the 60% mark. Weird. I know. Bear with me...

We went to Harmony in the Park Spring, which is one of my favorite shows in Indiana. The crew who puts on the show puts in sweat, blood, tears, and time. It shows. I've volunteered for these guys a ton, and they always make the experience wonderful. This show is one of the biggest reasons I have felt so welcomed and loved in the Indiana dressage community. I'm going to miss everything about this show: the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and the lasting friendships I've made.

One of the other reasons I love Harmony is it's attraction of big name riders and their young horses. Angela Jackson, Reese Koffler-Stanfield, and Rebecca Knollman all brought young rides. My reason for loving this was illustrated brilliantly while I was ring stewarding the quiet Sunday morning ring. I sat listening to Angela describe in detail her preferred methods for educating a young horse to the double bridle, and I realized this sort of education and idea exchange is one of the best things about going to recognized shows (as a rider or a volunteer). There is so much to learn, and so much access to great riding and experiences.
Angela Jackson on Allure behind me at Harmony in the Park 2014
It was also fun when JT Burnley watched me walk Guinness to the warm up ring early on Sunday morning. Guinness was on a totally free rein, walking relaxed. Meanwhile, I pulled on my gloves and quietly recited my test to myself. I noticed JT smiling and watching me, so I waved.

"I'm enjoying a view of my future with this three year old," he said. "There's not a lot of hands-free moments going on right now."

"You'll get there!" I called back.

When I saw him ride his three year old later, I was just as impressed as ever with JT's quiet reassuring ride and the pure athleticism and beauty of his young horse. The need for patience and a sense of humor seemed to be the theme of the weekend, and really, aren't those lessons we all appreciate learning from time around horses?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Moving = Doing Paperwork with a Sleepless Brain

The cross country move is in full swing, so I apologize for the delay in writing up our last show! I'll get to it in a bit (there's a lot to get to with it! Probably two whole posts!), but first I wanted talk about the preparation for our in Maryland/D.C.
Here's a teaser...

The week before my Third Level debut, I ended up heading to D.C. for a three day housing and exploration trip. My husband and I marathoned visits to 11 rental homes, 5 barns, and a side trip to Georgetown for an amazing dinner. This is when I visited the tack store and bought my infamous Darkwing Duck cape...
Unfortunately, the rental we chose fell through on the flight home. While devastated, I put it behind me to get through the weekend of horse showing. We made plans to return to D.C. on the Monday following the show.
Flying over NYC, and this massive cemetery. Not creepy at all. Nope.
That's right kids. The timeline was total bananas:
Monday thru Wednesday -- D.C. Marathon Housing Trip
Wednesday -- Get home in the evening and frantically search Craigslist/Zillow/ for new rentals. Email for new appointments.
Thursday -- Work, late. Find out a marketing emergency cropped up while I was gone. Frantically get that as taken care of as much as possible before...
Friday thru Sunday, late -- HORSE SHOW TIME
Sunday night thru early hours of Monday -- Frantically pack for emergency D.C. housing trip
Monday -- Super early flight to D.C., followed by terrible flight delays. Once in D.C. visit two homes and eat a super late dinner. Tried not to pass out from exhaustion. Continue working on marketing emergency on the plane.
Tuesday -- See two more homes and stop back by the tack store. Set up three stellar renal possibilities. On a plane by 2pm. Get stuck in LaGuardia for 5 hours. Eventually land back in Indiana. Get to bed sometime by 2am.
Wednesday thru Friday -- Wrap up all my duties at work before leaving for good.

Yeah. Basically, I'm sorry for not writing more, but I've been running a little ragged. Since that timeline, we've been trying to get the house in order for packing. Finally yesterday and today was the packing and moving out days. Tomorrow we leave Indiana for good and embark for D.C. (Here we come Liz & Emma & Alli!)
"Who put these boxes here? Where is my couch? Are we there yet?" -- Lyra
As for Pig, except for a brief break following the show, he's stayed in full work. I've been making an effort to get out and ride him almost every day. He is doing wonderfully, and I'll update more about that in a bit.

Honestly, my biggest concern with Pig is getting his trip to Maryland in order. We ended up scoring a field board slot at our top choice barn, and I booked his trip last week. After that, I've been rushing to book his vet appointments (extra shots, health certificate, fecal exam -- the usual), get his paperwork organized (Wait a minute... the movers want my original coggins?! I have a serious hang up about parting with that), and pack up the trunk shipping with him. At home, I had to organize and clean all of his things. That included his disgusting winter blankets. No one wants a urine soaked turnout blanket marinating in a moving truck with their mattress for a week.

No one.

So a couple of hours of backbreaking scrubbing in the driveway and several loads of laundry later, all of Pig's wearable were clean and ready to pack.
There is no smell worse than three disgusting turnout blankets marinating in the driveway.
With all of my things laid out to dry, it was pointed out to me that maybe I have a problem with buying coordinating outfits for my horse...
I say, there's no such thing as "too much coordination." Especially when you're trying to carry heavy boxes up steep basement steps...
As I type this, I see all of Pig's things being loaded into the moving truck. Onward to D.C. my friends!