Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Those 4th Level Show Moves

Horse showing is serious business. You gotta focus.
The weekend Liz came out for cross country schooling, my barn was hosting a small dressage schooling show. I knew I would be there excitedly cheering on Liz, so I figured I would sign Pig up for a test or two as well. I decided on 3-3 and 4-1.

Well, our blogger and friend group spent a bit more time watching polo and chatting the night before than I had hoped. The early wake up call for my 8am ride time was not fun.
This, however, was quite fun.
At 7:20am, I was hungover tacking up my horse. I had no problem winging 3-3, but I hadn't reviewed the test in forever. I was trying to find some shred of it in my fuzzy head, but it wasn't in there.
Perhaps Pig's mouth held the key to learning the test?
Getting ready was definitely a group effort. I was trying to go through the test, kept forgetting things, and was overall a giant mess.
Thank god Emma was there to keep Pig occupied with selfies.
By the time I finally managed to get down to the rings, it was nearly time for my test. I made a snap decision not to show 3-3, notifying the scribe and ring steward. Instead I gathered my wits and headed into the warm up to walk Pig around to loosen up.

We ended up doing the world's least intensive warm up. With the way Pig has been feeling stiff all season, I didn't want to keep him in collection too much. However, I did want to make sure he was on my aids enough for the test. I knew I needed to touch the half pass and flying changes, so I strategized.
This photo and all other lovely ones in this post by Liz.
I picked up the canter and touched the half pass to counter canter, throwing in a flying change. On the other lead I went right into a 20 meter circle and half pass, again touching the counter canter. From there I did a lead change the other way and went into a 20 meter circle. I downshifted to the trot and did a quick and shallow half pass zig zag. Then we walked on a loose rein for awhile.

I was purposefully not asking for much collection. This show was very much a blow off show for me. Schooling shows just don't count for us, and I wanted to just go out there and have fun without pressure on either of us.

Before going back in I picked up the canter again and asked for a line of changes across the diagonal. They were messy, but we got them all. We were ready for action, and headed to the ring.
All smiles and fat butts on the way around.
I stopped to ask the judge if she minded me showing Pig in his polo wraps. With this being a schooling show, I didn't think she'd mind. Thankfully she did not. We proceeded around the ring, picking up a nice relaxed canter for our centerline entry.
There is, like, no room to make that turn up centerline. 
Despite the less than adequate room to negotiate a turn up centerline, I thought we managed a fairly straight entry and halt. The judge gave me a 6.5 with the comment "Right of center but straight in halt."
I'd say that's pretty straight, if wide in front.
Coming out of the halt I had a brief moment of panic, but did remember to turn left at C, and thus knew I would remember my test. Thank the lord.
Note the loose reins. It was a strategy for the day, to keep me from over-collecting.
We turned into the medium trot. Having not actually done much warm-up, I had no idea how the half halt in the middle would go. It wasn't very uphill, but it was clear. I'll take it.
C: Track left / HXF: Change rein, medium trot / Over X: 6-7 steps collected trot / F: Collected trot
6.0
"Minimal change of frame"
I knew we had sideways installed, but since I wasn't asking for much collection I knew our bend wouldn't be on point. Ah well... it's still the most fun movement to ride on this horse.
K-X: Half pass right
6.5
"Fairly good crossing on uneven step" (? What does this even mean?)
I remember the 10m circle being ridden completely off my seat, as my reins were too long. I guess the judge liked it, because it came away with a 7.5 and no comment. However, we didn't bring the circle quality in to the shoulder in. It felt like too much angle and not enough bend.
X-G: Shoulder-in right / C: Track right
6.0
"Needs to sit more and carry"
Finally we came around to the extended trot. Again, without collection, I wasn't expecting much. Honestly, I probably got a lot more bounce and push than I was expecting, though!
MXK: Change rein, extended trot / K: Collected trot
6.5
"Needs longer not quicker"
(Transitions M & K)
6.0
"Needs more definition at M&K"
We came around for our half pass left, which again, is just my favorite thing to do on this horse. I'm going to keep saying that till I'm blue in the face.
F-X: Half pass left
6.5
"Could sit more"
Our 10 meter circle doesn't really stand out to me, but again the judge liked it. She gave us a 7.0 without comment. The shoulder in this direction felt better, though I guess we struggled to hold it together when I went to straighten him.
X-G: Shoulder-in left / C: Track right
6.5
"Losing haunches at G"
Now it was time for some walk stuff...
H: Collected walk / S-R: Half circle 20m in extended walk / R: Collected walk
6.0
"Needs more stretch out and down for longer step"
I'm going to disagree with this judge here. I don't think the extended walk necessarily needs more "out and down". It does, however, need more engagement, which we overall did not have and I was not asking for in this test.

We moved into the turn on the haunches, which I felt we surprisingly nailed in our first go...
M: Turn left / Between G & H: Half pirouette left, proceed collected walk
6.0
"Traveling"
I guess the judge disagreed and was expecting us to suddenly sit more than the rest of the test. Hilarious, and definitely not going to happen. I love the activity in it, though. The second one? Not so much to love.
Between G & M: Half pirouette right, proceed collected walk
6.0
"Stepped out"
See what I mean? Definitely a lot stickier. Overall our collected walk scored at 6.5 with the comment "could be more active." Want activity? Onward to the canter!
G: Collected canter left lead / H: Turn left
7.5
No comment. Cool.
Our medium canter was ... meh.
S-K: Medium canter / K: Collected canter
6.0
"Conservative"
Our half pass left was immensely fun to ride and lacking collection entirely. Whee!
A: Down centerline / D-E: Half pass left
6.0
"Could have more bend"
I struggled a bit to keep the counter canter straight and forward without prompting an early change, but we pulled it together. The change itself was kind of a rocket launch moment, which made me giggle.
E-H: Counter canter / H: Flying change of lead
7.0
Clean
I barely got a semblance of a collected canter back before it was time to press the gas pedal again for the extended canter.
AND WE GO!
This movement might have been the most fun of the whole test. Pig was just so very game. It felt like I smiled and laughed down the whole long side (especially through the somewhat biffed transition).
M-F: Extended canter / F: Collected canter
7.0
No comment
(Transitions M&F)
6.0
"Needs more definition"
We did make it up the centerline (barely) for our half pass right, which brought some of the bouncy fun of the extended canter into its action.
A: Down centerline / D-B: Half pass right
8.0 (HOLY CRAP)
"Lovely half pass"
The counter canter following the half pass felt amazing, but the change was unfortunately exceptionally late behind. I think Pig literally just forgot he had a hind leg.
B-M: Counter canter / M: Flying change of lead
5.0
"Very late"
A late change usually means less dramatics, however. This translated into better preparation for our very collected canter circle. Having not asked Pig to really sit all day, I was not optimistic we would manage this well. Those realistic expectations proved wholly accurate.
C: Circle left 20m, 5-6 strides of very collected canter between quarterlines
6.5
"Needs more self carriage"
With the very end of the test looming, we turned down the diagonal for our final line of changes.

HXF: Change rein, three single flying changes of lead, near first quarterline, near X, and near last quarterline.
7.0 (WHOA)
No comment

Can we talk about that line of changes for a moment? We came so far from the last show. Not only did we get all three changes here, but they were each fairly clean and pretty well spaced. I'm basically the proudest Pig mama over here.

Of course, we couldn't keep that kind of luck going. Thus we embarked on the world's wonkiest centerline and most scattered (but sitting!) halt in history. Somehow this scored better than our first centerline. I'm going to guess the judge had a bee fly into her eye.
A: Down centerline / X: Halt, salute
7.0
Straight and square, slight resistance.
With that dramatic halt, our test was OVER.
It really doesn't get much squarer than than for us. I'm especially proud his right hind is tucked up further under him. Typically he leaves that one out behind.
Here's the whole test for your viewing pleasure:

I really had a lot of fun riding Pig in this test. It was fun to ride the whole thing on what was basically a loose rein, and know that all the training was in the horse. He felt so confident in what I was asking, especially the lateral work. The whole day just made me so proud of him.
The best boy.

Click to see collective scores and remarks in detail.
When I picked up the scores, I was not expecting to have pulled down the 64.73% listed next to my name. While I know this was just a schooling show, it made me feel really good to have a test I didn't try on score so high. I know this horse of mine is confirmed in this test, and this little schooling show where we had so much fun only proved that point to me more.

Of course, the photo session we did afterwards was maybe the best part of the day...
Teaser! More coming soon...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Dressage Horse Goes Eventing

Surprise! He jumps, too!
When I bought Guinness (way back in 2009), I intended him to be my eventing partner. As many of you know, I later decided to retire him from jumping and focus on dressage. The transition was hard for Pig, who truly enjoyed and understood his job as a jumping horse.

I always said I wanted to event him, maybe taking him beginner novice before retiring him. With his retirement looming ever closer, I figured I should get him out and go xc schooling. It seems prudent to make sure your event horse remembers how to jump before signing up for a show... I guess.
The event horse in waiting.
We planned an xc excursion with Liz and Griffin for mid July, hoping the two of them could get some good instruction from a friend of mine.
I am so excited guys. Liz looks mildly worried, though.
I told Liz my main focus was for her and Griffin to get good experience, since they want to legitimately be competitive. I didn't want her to worry about what I was doing, or wait for me at all. Pig and I do our own thing, and we weren't exactly looking to do anything but have fun.
Fun fact! Our local xc schooling property is also a historic county park, complete with sweet old stone buildings. Be still my history-loving heart.
Liz wrote up her great lesson here. She and Griffin really learned a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them completely change over the lesson, both gaining confidence and picking up style tips. Pig and I, though? We just ran around like fools and jumped whatever looked fun.
Including this ditch.
I honestly can't remember what cross country questions Pig and I have schooled in the past. Plus, those schoolings were so many years ago, I don't think they're really valid anymore. Thankfully, we spend a lot of time trail riding over some extreme terrain.
Ditches ain't no thang!
I think all that time spent navigating those tough trails has helped solidify Pig's trust in me. Whatever I point him at, he'll pretty much go over.
Okay, we may have had to have a discussion about going over this instead of around it... 
Watching Pig's ears perk up at fences again, made me smile. It was clear he and I were both having a total blast. Don't believe me? Just have a look... 
Houston! We have takeoff!

The majesty of the massive dressage horse in flight.
Happy horse. Rider trying desperately not to slip off the back end.
My weaknesses jumping were clearly indicated as the issue that would hold us back. While my following in my hands and upper body was pretty solid, my leg seems to have forgotten how to hold on to a jumping horse.

Whoops! I guess that's what I get for doing dressage for so long!
Starting off okay...ish
Beginning to worry my leg might not actually be made of muscle, but instead jello...
Note rider wishing the cantle of this saddle was as high as her dressage saddle, so as to catch her before she flies off the back of the horse.
Pig didn't seem to mind my weaknesses, though. He was overjoyed to get out there and leap over things again. After some jumps he'd give the head toss of jumping old, giving a few extra leaps of pure joy.
Let's GO!
I really miss jumping this horse. He is so game, and so athletic. His joy is infectious. 
That neat hind end. I love it.
He truly has been the horse of a lifetime. I'm so glad we got to go out and jump around again, just enjoying our partnership and being happy. It's super fun to school something where there is absolutely no pressure. Pig clearly felt like he was a conquering champion at the end of the day, and that brought a big smile to my face. Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Just Having Fun

At the end of our not-great test at Loch Moy II in June, Pig and I decided we needed a bit of a win. Any win.
ARE WE WINNING YET?!
Jan looked around and suggested we go for a gallop around the Loch Moy xc course. Or maybe go play in the water.

Obviously we chose the water.
I JUST WANNA DANCE! (But maybe not in the dressage ring today...)
Pig has never been great about water, so I half expected to be dumped in the mud, white breeches and all.
SUCH HAPPY!
But Pig surprised me. I guess all the random water we've been tramping through on our trails has helped him become a bit braver about having wet feet. 
MUCH WIN
It only took a small bit of encouragement to get him into the water. In no time at all we were galloping in and out of the pool.
DAT HIND END DOH
I felt a little ridiculous for about a half a second. After all, it's a little weird to be decked out in your show gear and playing around in a pond.
TRAINING LIKE MICHAEL JUNG
That ridiculous feeling lasted all of about two seconds after we dove into the water. After that, I'm pretty sure only an insane person wouldn't feel giddy with joy.
SMILES!
This was clearly the highlight of both Pig and I's day. I'm so glad we took the time to make a crazy joyful memory at the end of this show.
The fun crew.
Anyone ever feel like you need to salvage a day in a joyful way? What did you do?