Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Good Rides.

I have had a bunch of good rides this week. Did some dressage schooling on Monday and Thursday (tonight). Monday's canters were excellent. We also did a bunch of trot poles and small gymnastic jumps.

Thursday's canter to the right was fabulous, soft and easy and no scrambling. I did a half of a 20 m. circle at the canter, and then half at the trot, then canter in the same spot, then trot. We did it four times and she stayed soft and round for the FIRST TIME EVER! And her pacing steps were very minimal, which was exciting.

Dreamy did, however, have a really hard time picking up the left canter lead. It has been weeks since she has refused to canter to the left. I hate when she does the pace-pace-pace-pace, throw my head racehorse thing. It is so ugly and hard to sit. So we went back to something she COULD do easily (trotting long and low on the circle) and then tried again. I also did some turns on the forehand to get her ready to canter.

She picked up the left lead canter twice as soon as I asked. So I quit cantering and did some walking/halting/backing. That was enough for one night.

Tuesday was a day off. Wednesday we JUMPED a full 2'3" - 2'6" course! Yeah! We have not jumped a full course since October 2007 and that was 2' and under. Her canter between jumps is SO MUCH better. I did use the trot as a half-halt, instead of allowing her to get strung out in the canter. No use approaching a jump in a strung out and unbalanced canter. That would be one ugly looking jump.

Our steering over fences has improved a lot. Dreamy's forwardness and boldness have increased as well. She did not look twice at anything. She actually did hesitant for a second on the second jump of the two stride the first time through, but it only lasted a second.

It is funny though.....our dressage has improved because of our lessons (aka improving MY equitation). Now we need jumping lessons because I know my elbows are sticking out and my seat is too far out of the saddle! Oh well....one step at a time.

I plan to hack her out tomorrow (Friday) and then give her Saturday off. She is always better at a show when she has the day before off (or just has a light hack). Sometimes she is so different than any other horse I have owned/leased/competed/ridden. LOL! I hope the SPHO show goes well, especially with J coming up. We shall see.

I need a RING!!!

OK, so I have been dealing now for 5 years without a ring. FIVE YEARS is a LONG time. I have had to ride on the back lawn. It is small and has trees on it, so therefore it is less than ideal. I also take down part of a fence (yes, every night) so that I can ride in part of the pasture. It is hilly and rocky. Again, less than ideal.


This spring I have been doing a lot of canter work with Dreamy, which is churning up the lawn enough to make a dirt track around the perimeter. Previous years the grass held up OK. So now S is complaining about how I anm ruining the lawn.


Well, my response? Yeah you guessed it...."Then BUILD ME A RING!"




It is not like we do not have the equipment. S can cut and yard the trees with his chainsaw and skidder, he can stump with the backhoe, and he can bring in sand with the dumptruck. We will make money on the trees to pay for the sand.


UGGGG. I used to jokingly say, "Wow I do so well in competition without a ring. Imagine how much better I could do with one to work in every day!" That joke is so old. When you are riding a horse who has a hard time balancing (at the canter) it makes NO sense to ride her on an area that is completely unlevel.


There. I feel better. Still no ring, but it felt good to complain. ;-)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Riding at Different Times of Day

Yesterday morning my dad took C for the morning, so I was able to ride at 9AM. Dreamy loves routine, but I never gave this any thought when I went to ride. We usually have to wait and ride after dinner, so being able to ride in the morning sun was a treat for me.

Dreamy was SO UGLY at me. She would not stand on the crossties, she would not stand to be mounted, and was so foolish under saddle as soon as I mounted. So I figured we needed a fitness day anyway......we did trot sets and TONS of bending at the walk and trot. I made her snotty little self WORK and WORK SHE DID!

By 30 minutes into our hour long ride, she finally settled. As if to say, OH all right, I guess I can behave now. I finally did not have to DEMAND her attention, as she gave it willingly. It was a good ride eventually, but we both had to work hard to make it happen.

Then tonight.....I go out and ride at our usual time of 7PM. She was all lazy and statue-like on the crossties, had an easy warm up, and was completely paying attention. Now I realize horses can have off days and yesterday may have been her day.

BUT....I got to thinking that maybe it had something to do with the way Dreamy craves routine and get VERY annoyed when things are altered. This is weird to me, because Sparky is so laid back and new things/new routines do not bother her at all. Actually I think Sparky kind of likes new routines. Example: Sometimes I would switch the mares' paddocks for a day or half day. Sparky LOVED this and would explore the new paddock, eat the remnant hay that Dreamy deemed unsuitable for consumption, and generally have a perky attitude. Now Dreamy on the other hand, would get wound up and trot around the gate for a while, finally eat some hay but always have a nervous edge to her movements. She would keep her eye on Sparky and HER paddock. One horse was very obviously happy and the other was really annoyed.

Tonight we did some trotting poles and an easy gymnastic series. Dreamy LOVED that. I plan to do some more gymnastics with her this week and set up a full course to do on Wednesday or Thursday in preparation for this weekend's SPHO-ME show (June 1).

Nickers

As of the end of this month, I will have owned Dreamy for 5 years. :)

She has never "talked" to me....whinny, nicker, snort, nothing. Sparky nickers to me all the time; actually she does it every time I enter the barn. She especially nickers at feed time, of course! ;-)

So I am walking out of the house yesterday mid-morning and headed to the barn. Dreamy is watching me (she is in the front paddock/pasture) like she always does. All of a sudden, she NICKERS! It was so cute! LOL! It is funny, but after 5 years I figured she would never be a talker like Sparky. But she finally did it.

And then today, she nickered a couple of times. Not every time I stepped out of the house like my other girl, but enough that I know it was not a fluke yesterday.

Ah, it is funny how us horse people get excited over something like this. My husband thinks I am foolish. But I like that she is now "communicating" with me.

Watch.....now she will not do it again! ROFL!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Good ride

Dreamy is such a good mare. :) We had a great ride tonight. I almost thought I was not going to get to ride.....as it began to rain/thunder during dinner. :( But 20 minutes later, the sun was out. Gotta love spring showers.

She was so forward and relaxed and SOFT! For the first time she is actually accepting contact all of the time! (Well, except right after her canter to the left, as that is when she wants to ignore all aids and blow through my half halts. Oh joy.) It is amazing what "Riding Correctly" can do for your horse! LOL! :D I knew I was the one holding her back and I am happy I am fixing my bad habits....mostly my elbows and hands.

I put my stirrups up one hole. Seemed to help my leg a bit. This set-back stirrup bar thingy feels weird. Hopefully after a while I can put my stirrups back to where they need to be.

The satisfaction of a good ride is like nothing else. :)

To Canter or not to Canter....

Now that I have moved up to Training level with my extremely talented STB mare.......there are folks who think I should move up at the SPHO shows too. Hmmmm....something to definitely think about. Are we ready???

I am not sure yet if we are going to move up to 3-Gait at the SPHO shows. There is a BIG difference between cantering a 20 m. circle versus maintaining a canter all the way around the big Hollis ring 2+ times in an under saddle class.

So I may stick with 2-Gait at the SPHO shows this year (and move up in 2009), but do WTC at my dressage and 3-phase events. Time will tell. I do have a few more weeks to prepare. I could always do 2-gait in June and 3-Gait in August. Dreamy will tell me what she is ready to do.

Strength and balance are the keys to Dreamy's canter right now. So then should I be cantering her for long stretches, with the idea that the more I canter her, the stronger her canter will become???? If I allow her to continue cantering and cantering around the ring (as in a 3-gait class at a show), her canter deteriorates to the point that I start basically training her to have an awful canter. It is not so much about her getting hot/excited, but after 10 strides, her canter gets all strung out, becomes 4 beat and she is nearly falling on her face she gets so heavy on the forehand.

My instructor Judy has me doing specific exercises to help her take 5-6 strides of a "decent" canter, then back to trot, then canter again. We work on a 20 m. figure eight....trot the figure eight, walk steps through X, then trot the other side of the figure 8, then at one point through X we canter for just one circle. Back to trot at X and trot circle the other side of the figure 8 and ask for canter again on the same lead.

We are not yet ready to do the simple change through X but that would be the next step. Right now I WANT her to anticipate the canter cue in this exercise, not to do it before I ask, but the anticipation right now is helping her to balance her body and ready herself for the transition. It is working well and she has learned to wait for my cue, but at the same time she gets her hind end underneath her to be ready "in case I ask this time".

My instructor also has me doing turn on the forehand (and haunches) then trotting off, beginning a circle and asking for the canter. The lateral movement helps adjust her balance to her hind end so that the transition is clean and easier for her to accomplish.

Also I have to remember that Dreamy is 17 years old. I only jump her once a week (have not jumped yet this spring, but will in the next week or so) because I know this horse only has so many jumps in her. Plus based on the look of her back suspensories, it may only be a matter of time before she drops those. I mean, she is 100% sound right now, but I have to always be thinking about how to plan my conditioning schedule to keep her moving forward in her training and at the same time account for her limitations.

So I may end up only cantering 3 times a week for example, and as long as she is progressing, not to drill her in the canter and risk her becoming sore. I am not sure yet how we will structure her rides. I know the more I canter the stronger she will become, but I am worried that cantering every time I ride (5-6 times a week) might just be too much. Dreamy will tell me.

Just my thoughts on cantering right now.......

SMDA Show results 5/11/08

Dreamy and I attended the Southern Maine Dressage Association's show on May 11, 2008. It was our first show of 2008.

Dreamy is a fantastic horse. I truly lucked out with her. I am proud that despite the fact STB are not bred to be dressage horses, she is proving that STBs indeed can do dressage (or anything else you want them to do!)

We placed 2nd in Intro B Senior out of 6 riders with a 68.5%. Not our best test, but we had just about all 7's with a couple 6's.

We placed 4th in Training Level Test 1 Senior out of 4 riders with a 55.65%. My goals for TLT1 were to get both canter transitions correctly and immediately and score at least 50%. I do not care at all about the ribbon or how I placed, I am just so pleased she cantered when I asked in the tests. No it was NOT pretty, but it is a START.


We actually got an 8 on our entrance, lots of 7s, but then a 5 and a 3 on our canters. Her worse direction is right..cross cantering....hence the 3. I am motivated to make that at least a 5, if not a 6 or 7 eventually!!!

After winning what we won last year, there was no way I was going to stay at Intro level again. It would not have felt good to me to just win everything again (not that I think we would, but I just did not want/need to try....and let's face it, usually to do well you just have to SHOW UP...LOL!). I mean, competing to me is not just ribbons but it is the challenge and the WORK involved.


SO.....my goal is to have a SOLID Training level horse by this fall. Right now, we are not *really* ready to ride Training level, but I know we will get there. Starting out in May with a 55.65% was amazing, and if we break 60% by the end of the season, that would make me very pleased....and probably make me cry! I want to see progress in my horse, not winning ribbons just to win ribbons.

So far, not bad for a 17 year old who was a broodmare for 8 years!

On Being a Student Again....FINALLY!

I have not taken a riding lesson since I graduated from college in 2001. I did take driving lessons within the past 7 years however. I miss being a student of riding. :(

I started Dreamy under saddle in 2003, but did not actually start doing anything "for real" until the end of 2006. We were successful at the "ameoba" levels in 2007, but I knew I had taken her as far I as could without an instructor. There were holes in her training that I knew I needed help with. Mostly I knew I was not riding her correctly, as seven years without instruction does lend itself to BAD HABITS. And boy do I have some.
Look at those ELBOWS! UGGGG.....

Riding HUNT SEAT in a dressage saddle! UGGGGG!


I love the area I live in....usually. There are downfalls, such as finding a (good) dressage instructor. Not only do I NOT want to drive 45-60 minutes to take a lesson, with gas prices I just cannot afford it.

So I finally found an instructor about 20 minutes from me in the neighboring town. Judy is fantastic. So far we have taken 2 lessons: May 6 and May 20. I can only budget two lessons a month (every other week) for now. My instructor is very willing to work within my budget and gives me lots of homework. :)

The first lesson was mostly about getting my hands where they should be. I tend to ride with "piano hands", where I basically break the line in my wrist to the bit. And I tend to ride with my reins too long. And think about seven years worth of riding this way every day. :)

And of course Dreamy decides she cannot pick up the canter. Oh fun! So we did a bunch of transitions, mostly her running through all of my aids. But at least Judy got to see us at our worst and she did not kick me out of the ring! :)

Our May 20 lesson (last night) was SO MUCH BETTER. We actually have canter transitions now! :) I worked very hard getting Dreamy to engage and balance and step into the canter, rather than plow into it. ;-) And Judy could tell! Yeah! We did some leg yielding and canter exercises. Things are starting to look up.

Next lesson is June 3. :)

Well, I guess I now have a blog...

I have been thinking about doing a blog for a while, but never really got around to it. :)

Where shall I start???

Last year brought about a lot of changes. Joydale Sparklerslas (Sparky) was officially retired from showing at age 25. I have owned Sparky since she was 10 and I was 13 years old. We have been through a lot together: middle school, high school, college, grad school, marriage, motherhood....she is my first horse and have taught me so much.It was hard to make the decision to retire Sparky, as she loves the show ring and does not look or act her age. But I knew it was time. Sparky now gives gentle leadline rides to my four year old son Clarence.



Dreamy Starlet (Dreamy) made her show ring debut in 2007. We tried a liitle dressage and a little eventing, just to see what she was capable of. Or more accurately, what she was happy with. We ended up with nineteen year end awards for 2007 (with 9 of them being championships). WHOO-HOO! I was rather impressed. ;-) Check out our website at www.freewebs.com/standardbredexcellence/index.htm. It has our results and pics, etc.


So I suppose I will use my blog to chronicle what I am doing with the mares. Hopefully I will be able to see progress!! :)