Monday, August 22, 2016

State of Maine Dressage Association Show - August 21, 2016

Coming off last weekend's strong showing at Scarlet Day Farm, Snappy and I headed to another SMDA show at the Hollis Equestrian Park.  We did the May and June shows there, so I knew she would be comfortable at the venue.  Snappy was great yet again, earning two more blues for her growing collection.  

Intro A - 1st place out of 4 with a 67.813%
Intro B - 1st place out of 5 with a 68.438%

The tests were obedient and accurate.  I really want to clean things up enough to move up to Intro C and Training 1 next year, but time will tell.  It is tough to have a time frame in the back of your head because horses progress at their own pace.  And I am certainly no professional trainer, so it takes me double the time to teach my horses anything LOL!

I am still extremely pleased with this mare, but I will honestly say that I just wanted to break 70% again and would have been happy to come in dead last at this show in order to do so LOL! It's not about the ribbons, it's about the scores!  I know, I know, still really strong scores.  But now we have completed four SMDA shows, which is the minimum to qualify for year end awards.  I plan to skip the September and October shows and just do a few 2-phases and maybe a full event before we quit for the winter.  (And the September SMDA show is the same day my husband pulls his cattle at Farmington Fair, so I opted to get my scores early enough so he could attend that pull.) Man, I wanted to have a 70% average in both tests!  We are sooooo close! Our Intro A average is 69.92% and Intro B is 69.84%.  Such first world problems hahahaha!!  

Dressage Show
Intro A
Intro B

SMDA May 22
1st place out of 3
2nd place out of 6
High Point Senior Rider
SMDA June 12
1st place out of 6
2nd place out of 9
High Point Standardbred
SMDA August 14
1st place out of 4
1st place out of 5
Reserve High Point Rider
SMDA August 21
1st place out of 4
1st place out of 5

Overall average

But enough foolish complaining!!!  We had an AWESOME first year of showing dressage.  If you had told me a year ago we would have this much success, I would not have believed you.  Heck, just five months ago I was unsure this horse would be able to do a respectable dressage test, never mind earn great scores and ribbons!  I seem to have a knack for taking unridden Standardbred mares and getting them started at low levels.  :-)  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Scarlet Day Farm SMDA Dressage Show - August 14, 2016

I took Snappy to her third dressage show last weekend, at a farm I have never been to (seems to be a theme with me this year, to try new venues!).  The new owners have done a great job with the older facility, and I really liked the superb footing and easy parking.  All the volunteers were friendly and helpful, which is always a huge plus to me.  And I knew it was a good place when I saw the huge sign in the indoor (their warmup area) that said BE KIND.  Not a common trait for much of the horse world, so it was refreshing to see!!

For years, SMDA only held their shows at the local equestrian park, but recently have been allowing private farms to host affiliated shows, so there are now TONS of opportunities for riders to earn year end awards.  I did not attend Scarlet Day Farm's first affiliated show this summer in July and I cannot attend their September show, but I do hope they will host shows again next year!  

Snappy is such a pain in the ass to prepare for a horse show, but she totally redeems herself in the ring LOL!  She cannot eat her hay or grain the morning of the show, because OMG I AM IN MY STALL AND NOT TURNED OUT SO SOMETHING BAD MUST BE HAPPENING.  She stands there and chews her tongue (her only vice) the entire time.  Once we arrived, I did take her for a walk around the back of the indoor to the outdoor (competition) ring so she could take in the sights.  She did settle into the new environment well, but she still stands there at the trailer with a full hay bag and chews her tongue instead. Sometimes she will paw the ground.  SIGH.  This is just her and it really hasn't gotten any worse or better this year, and I will say this is exactly what she used to do in the paddock before a race.  So whatever, mare.  I do give her a tube of Gastrogard the morning of a show in an effort not to allow her ulcers to completely regenerate LOL.  

As soon as I tacked her up and got on, she was fine.  There was someone lunging a horse at the canter at one end of the indoor (even though the show paperwork said NO LUNGING) and there was a nervous horse on the other end trotting a circle.  So it was not the ideal setting to begin a warm up, but I have to hand it to this mare, she marched around like she knew exactly what was expected of her.  Once the lunging was over and we had space, we had a great warmup.  

Intro A - 1st out of four with a 67.5% (our lowest score so far LOL)
Intro B - 1st out of five with a 70.94%

Right before I left, I ran into the current president of SMDA, there to compete at First Level with her new horse I hadn't met yet.  I haven't seen her in a few years, especially since I haven't shown since 2013, so it was nice to catch up with her!  She took a pic of us with our ribbons and asked if I would do a write up for the "Member Profile" section of the upcoming club newsletter.  Sounds good to me!  :-)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Would You Like the 25 Cent Tour?

In my effort to catch up the poor, neglected blog back in January, I did a catch up post in photos.  I have kept a huge Facebook album (only 349 photos haha) from the beginning to end of our house and barn project.  I finally remembered to get updated photos of the barn the other day (last ones I had were from December 2015 when we moved the animals home), so I figured I might as well share them here, too!  

I love looking at other people's barns and there are many things about my tiny barn that I really like.  I wish it were bigger (of course!) but for what we had to work with for a budget (not large haha), I think we did a heck of a job!  It is easy to still look around our property and think, geez, I wish we could finish this or I wish we could fix that, but it's a work in progress!  

Year End Ribbons I could not bear to cut!  You can see Reva and Sparky's year end ribbons on the wire wreaths (upper right).

Dreamy's year end ribbons on wire wreaths

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Searching for the Elusive Canter...AGAIN!

I spent YEARS and YEARS working on Dreamy's canter, as I was always working against her breeding and race training years.  I wrote an entire post about cantering your Standardbred back in 2009.  I am not saying it wasn't worth it, but I had believed that my next "show horse" after her would be anything but a Standardbred.  Don't get me wrong, I love the breed, but it's really time for me to move on.

Of course, what we think it going to happen in our life and what actually happens it not always the same!!  LOL!  I could write a book about that!  Snap Dancer fell into my lap and I couldn't say no.  Now that I am down to two horses, Dreamy being the other one at age 25 this year, it's not as though I have a lot of choice if I want to show.  It's either don't show or show Snappy.  I didn't show for two summers, both 2014 (deliberately took the year off, save for two little shows, one for each horse) and 2015 (pregnant!).  Obviously, if I wanted to hit the show ring again, it would be with Snappy.

Now, I love this little mare.  She's easy to ride, despite the fact that I have not put THAT much time into her before this year.  We spent the late winter and spring just becoming steady enough to do Intro level tests and that has been fun!  Maybe I should just be happy with that and be done.  But I could realistically have her as my "show horse" for several more years.  I AM NOT EVER becoming one of those riders I see on Standardbreds that stays at walk/trot for the rest of forever.  If this mare cannot handle cantering at shows, then I won't show.  But see, I like to show and well, I guess we might as well try cantering and see what happens.  If I am going to canter in 2017, I've got to work on it now.

2 August 2016
As like it was with Dreamy, once you begin working on the canter, the trot (and sometimes everything else) goes to hell.  Snappy is not confident AT ALL in the canter yet, so it makes anything after the canter just horrible.  We forget how to trot like a normal horse, we forget that we know how to bend, we think we need to chew our metal bit in half (tension in the jaw OMG!), and everything is just AWFUL in her little world.  I have to remind myself this is all normal and that Dreamy was the same way.  Trot pics taken BEFORE we cantered that night, BTW.

2 August 2016
The first time I cantered Snappy was the fall of 2014.  Remember, she sat for the entirety of 2015, as I got pregnant in January, had the baby in September, and I think I toddled around on her five times at the walk for 20 mins before winter hit.  My body wasn't exactly in riding shape, nor was her's!  So I probably cantered her ten times total (MAYBE?  I am being generous) before this year.  Her canter in 2014 was actually kind of frightening.  At the time, our barn was not finished, so I was keeping her at my husband's great grandmother's farm, where our riding area was a large field.  If she had wanted to dump me, it wouldn't have been a good time.  I mean, it was a lovely field and I miss having it to ride in, but it wasn't exactly a confidence building round pen or flat, safe, fenced riding ring LOL!  I would ask her to canter and she would TROT as fast as she could possibly go on unlevel grass.  It was as though I had turned her to go a mile.  I knew this was obviously because of her breeding and race training, and she had NO idea what a canter cue was, so it was just about getting something resembling a canter stride and praising her profusely.  I also used a large hill in the back of the field to encourage her to canter, but it still wasn't great.  It felt as though both her hind legs were pushing off the ground at the same time.  I'm not a huge fan of longing, so I just did this under saddle every few rides or so and called it good.  

This year in 2016, I only focused on what our Intro A and B tests would require, other than basic lateral work and sitting trot kind of stuff.  When I realized she was going to pan out as a low level show horse, I also realized that it meant I should teach her to canter.  It was the end of the June when I finally bit the bullet and asked her to canter.  She wasn't horrible, it wasn't as scary as it was in 2014, but it was still going to be a lot of work.  sigh  

2 August 2016 - not horrible but not great
I sometimes wish she could just be easy, but then I remember that there is no fun in that (right?  right).  Her left lead is actually not horrible, just needs balance and a MUCH better transition.  But she can actually hold the gait well enough to go 2-3 times around our little riding ring area.  Her right lead is much weaker and she can hold it almost once around.  Twenty meter circles still stress her out a bit, as she did fall on the longe line (hate them) cantering to the right and while I know it would be good for her to practice the gait without me on her, I am just not a fan of longing.

2 August 2016
So far, she has been picking up the correct leads (I hate writing that because now I have jinxed myself and she won't haha).  Right now is just a matter of building strength and confidence, and I know I can do this.  I am pretty sure SHE can do this.  Worse case, we stay at Intro B and C next year, as Intro C has just enough canter for us to not feel like total walk/trot losers LOL.  I'd love to do Training level in 2017, but I am keeping it real.  Who knows and maybe I will look back at this and laugh at myself for being so worried (or maybe for being naive haha).  But I like to keep track of my progress and this helps!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Esprit Equestrian Center 2-Phase - July 24, 2016

On Sunday, July 24, Snappy and I headed to our second 2-phase event of the year.  It was held at a farm here in Maine that I have surprisingly never been to before.  I was happy to find it was a well run show at a great venue, and I do plan to go back for a few more of their 2-phases this year!

We arrived and I quickly realized the dressage was held in their indoor.  That's not a problem at all, however Miss Snap Dancer has never been inside an indoor, so I was unsure how she might react.  She was again calm and easy to tack up and we had a super nice warm up.  We headed towards the indoor for our test and she stopped dead at the door.  No way, no how was she entering that ring. LOL!  I stayed calm, of course, and just kept my leg on her and encouraged her forward.  The barn manager happened to be in the ring at the time to collect tests from the judge, and took pity on me haha.  She headed over to help lead us into the ring and just before she got to us, Snappy decided to enter on her own.  Yay mare!  She was Not Happy about it though and I immediately walked her to the opposite end to see the scary people sitting there.  She was wide eyed and snorty, but I walked her around the ring both directions.  The judge is a very kind and encouraging type of person, so she gave me time to settle the mare.  I picked up the trot once I could feel her start breathing again haha, and we did a few 20 meter circles in both directions.  OK, we've got this.  The judge rang the bell and we put in a super test, earning a 33.44 and second place after dressage.  We improved our score by nearly 6 points from our first 2-phase, so I was really pleased.  The entire test was 6.5s, 7s and a 7.5 on rider position.  Not only did we put in a solid test, but I was really happy with how Snappy was able to rely on my calmness and trust me enough to settle down so quickly and easily.  That was worth more than any score.

I walked my jump course and then had a bit of wait time until we had to jump.  The course was really nice and flowy, in a gorgeous field with slightly rolling hills.  The jumps were considerably more decorated than at Green Acres, with brush boxes, blue barrels, and even tires, so Snappy was Very Alert for our first two jumps haha.  She got really wiggly over the second jump, where we landed and rode parallel through fences 7 and 8 (which were set as a three stride).  I was looking straight ahead and very clearly was not going to steer her into a fence standard, but she got sticky and darted left and then sharply back to the right and I was like NO I AM NOT FALLING OFF YOU MARE!  I have much more willpower to stay on than I think I do LOL!  I was able to keep her much straighter through fences three and four (though four had the scary barrels!) and then by fence five she was fine.  There was a skinny vertical for fence six, which I thought could have been interesting, but she was fine.  Tiny 18" jumps are no match for a determined rider with a driving seat haha!  

We ended up second overall, losing to a professional rider on a pony at its first show, so that was ok LOL!  ;-)  I was so pleased with Snappy's attitude, which started off as NO WAY WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE and quickly transformed into bravery.  That is what I want to see, a horse who trusts me enough to know I am not going to put her in a bad spot or situation and trusts me enough to stay calm even if she's nervous.  GOOD MARE!

My super duper 12 year old videographer/photographer was off with his father, so you'll have to make due with this pic I snapped myself haha!  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Top photo is from 2013, when Snappy encountered her first cross rail.

Middle photo is from 2014, when she started to understand the idea of jumping and not just awkwardly trotting over it LOL!

She had 2015 mostly off (save a few little toddles around in the late fall) as I had a baby in September.

Bottom is from tonight's jump school.  :-)
Love this mare!

Monday, July 18, 2016

What To Do With All Those Ribbons...!!!

It's no secret that I enjoy showing my horses and have often called myself a "ribbon ho" haha.  Obviously, I do not do bad things in order to win ribbons, and I am definitely the type of person who would MUCH rather have a solid "personal best" type of ride than win a ribbon, but who can deny the fact that winning a ribbon is fun!?  It is a sort of validation to me as a rider, since I do this for fun and not as a professional, so it gives me an idea of where my horse and I stand against others.  Showing is also a way to always try to improve upon our last show or our previous "best" ribbon or score.

So basically, what I am trying to say is that I have a lot of ribbons.  I mean A SHIT TON. Yes, that is a real unit of measure!  LOL!!  What does one do with all these ribbons?

I have several Pinterest pins on my "Equine" board of cute ideas, from wall hangings, shadow boxes, vases full of ribbons, and while they are all neat ideas, none really worked for me.  I don't really want to decorate my house with ribbons.  There is no way I can fit them all into my tack room.  I can barely fit the year end ribbons and awards in the tack room, so trying to figure out what to do with the regular horse show ribbons was daunting.  They have all been in a huge plastic tote since 2012 and I didn't think leaving them there forever was that much fun.  I mean, I worked my TAIL off for those things LOL!  I wanted to at least be able to enjoy them a little bit!  And throwing them out just seemed blasphemous!  Haha! 

Ultimately, I made a choice, after staring at this blank wall since we moved into our new home in April 2015.  We have a daylight basement and while part of it is a garage, the rest is a spot where we do have storage but also we hang our coats and leave our shoes.  I see this wall several times a day.  Hey, wait a minute...I hatched a plan!

I gathered inspiration from both of these blogs, Diary of an Overanxious Horse Owner and Been There Dunne That.  I thought their methods of using gimp braid and upholstery tacks was a good bet.  However, with SO MANY ribbons, I knew I would not be able to create the same look by allowing anything but the round rosette parts to show.  

It took some time.  Approximately five hours to be exact, and about 3o minutes per row LOL!  Tough to find time with a very active nine month old, so it took me several sittings to get it down, but it looks pretty good!  

This is every single ribbon I have won since I started showing in 1988, in the (pretty close) exact order I won them.  It is missing about ten special ribbons (special to me for various reasons and displayed in either Sparky's shadowbox or will be in Dreamy's shadowbox someday).  I did not show much during college and took two summers off when each of my boys were born.  It doesn't have this year's 2016 ribbons yet.  And this doesn't include the over 100 year end ribbons either!  That is a different plan, different post LOL!  I think I can fit about two more rows after I finish the tenth one (you can see it is only halfway across - ends with a third place ribbon).  Clearly, I am going to run out of space in the next year or two and then I have NO IDEA what I will do!!!