Monday, June 30, 2008

Marshaling at Scarborough Downs 6/29/08

I LOVE to marshal at Scarborough Downs. It is so much fun! Here is what they had on their website:

Sunday, June 29 - Scarborough Downs Anniversary PARTY! Come have a blast with us as we celebrate our 58th year of business! Sponsored by Pepsi. Things kick off at 12:30. Great giveaways. Live National Anthem by 11-year-old Sydney Martin. The Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Maine will perform demos on the track with some lovely retired race horses - come see the show! Also, Breeders Stake Races: 3 Year Old Colt Pacers race. Live racing post time begins at 1:30 pm. Player Rewards Card holders earn 3 points on Scarborough Downs live races! Admission is FREE.

So one of the lovely retired racehorses was Ms. Dreamy Starlet. :) We did a jumping demo on the track.....I wanted to start with a crossrail and go up to a larger vertical....but after going over the crossrail I felt how hard the track was and decided not to go higher. I thought the track was "wet" enough to provide more cushion, but man it was hard on the landing. I jumped the X three times and called it good. :)

Then we marshaled 12 races along with McKeever and Shelly and Treat and Deb. We had a blast. Dreamy was a ball of nerves when we got off the trailer. She is not disobedient AT ALL, nor did I feel unsafe AT ALL, she just gets wound up being back at the track. SO we had no halt or walk until Race 3. LOL! But we did have our half halts as least. Foolish mare. The best thing I have ever learned about marshaling is that you HAVE to be calm despite your horse. I know my horse well enough to know she will calm down and that she is still safe. Therefore, I do NOT yell or use a whip or yank her around angrily (as I have seen other marshals do in years past.....grrrr.) You get what you expect......I expected her to be OK and she was. Now, did I demand that she halt at first? No. I expected her to halt for one second and then I moved her off. But I kept her going FORWARD the entire time. Eventually we were halted for 3 mins. at a time while the race was going. But had I demanded she halt for 3 mins. in the beginning? We would've had one hell of a pulling match for the entire day and we both would have been ugly.

After the qualifiers but before the actual race card, Shelly and I trotted around the track. I have never ridden over the entire half mile, so it was pretty cool. McKeever and Dreamy were matched stride for stride almost all the way around (except when Mc would do his shuffle gait..LOL). They almost look alike too. :) The track would be a cool place to come and do some canter/gallop intervals. LOL! I wonder if I could get permission for that...... but alas it would probably be too hard anyway.

I let her do a HUGE lofty extended trot in the post parade the first 3 times and boy that did the trick! ;-) She tuckered out and decided maybe she ought to WALK and then HALT while we waited between races. We even got some gorgeous 3 beat canters down in front of the grandstand going back.

And the most amazing part? NO PACING at ALL! I was rather dumbfounded, since in the past she will trot down during post parade and as soon as the #1 horse comes up to her shoulder she would automatically switch to pace. But none of that. She just trotted and cantered and LISTENED to me. It was awesome.

We are both tired today. Our demo was at 12:45, races started at 1:30 and we dismounted at 5:30ish PM. Home by 7PM. Long day, but I cannot wait to do it again! :) Dreamy gets today off and maybe even tomorrow! :) We have our horse trial this Sunday, so I will try to ride the rest of the week.

So I bought two pics from the track photographer, Ed.
Before our Stadium Jumping Demo

Here we are! I am on the far right.

Photos by EJS Photography


AND......Dreamy made it onto the Scarborough Downs website! :) Thanks Susan H.!


Dreamy Starlet, a 17-year-old retired Standardbred mare, owned by Elizabeth Tewksbury, gets a bath after her performance on the track Sunday for our anniversary celebration. Dreamy, along with McKeever Hanover and Treat with Passion, performed out on the track with the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Maine,doing jumps and demonstrations of various gaits. Photo by S. Higgins.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Clinic 6/28/08

Today was my stadium jumping clinic with Steuart Pittman. It was misting on and off, but all in all the weather was fine. Dreamy was fantastic of course. Steuart really liked her. He was amazed at her age and the fact that she has only been under saddle for such a short amount of time. I made a joke about her having a young mind but an old body.....and he said he thought she had a young body (fluidity and range of motion) and an old mind. She was so calm and ready to work.

He also said she was a nice jumper, really used her knees and back, and often really gave each fence a good look. She never rushes, she just takes a good look and listens to me.....so nice compared to the hot Morgans I grew up riding. You had better be hanging on well when you were jumping a Morgan! LOL!

Steuart started all the fences low......the crossrails were probably 18" and the verticals were from 2 feet to 2 foot 6. He even did a spread, which I have never done with her. Oh and we did a rolltop too, which she has never done. It was the "scary" fence.....LOL.....but she just went over it like nothing. She did everything perfectly really. :D He asked about her confidence level before we started and I said she was better than last year but I would still not call her "bold". Well she proved me wrong by being very bold to each fence! I even got some nice canter from her, before and after fences. She did a combination where she trotted in to the first fence (rolltop) and then cantered 4 strides to a gate. It was LOVELY! We did a couple different courses and all went well.

Then he decided to raise the fences. Hmmm.....it was almost like it was "too easy" and we were doing so well there was really nothing to work on. The larger fences were harder for her, because she had to use her hind end more......and it still needs strengthening. I WISH I had hills to work her on, as that would REALLY help. Anyway she did OK over the higher fences, and we even did the spread at about 2'9" and 4 feet across. Holy cow she jumped that thing! Now when the jumps were higher he said she was hurling herself over them, rather than rocking back and using her hind end. Yup, that is exactly what I am working on, getting her to use her hind end by strengthening it. And then when she "hurled" herself, it made me lose stability and my lower leg would swing back. UGGG. So while he said my equitation was great and I had good balance, when Dreamy started hurling, I got sloppy.

So we worked over a larger vertical a couple times and he had me thinking about staying more upright and widening my hands.....it was hard and while I only got it once, I do understand what he was teaching me and can try it at home.

Steuart agreed that Dreamy was happy and very good at her job......when the fences were under 2'6". When we raised them, it showed the weakness in her hind. BUT.....for being not yet strong in her hind end, as well as being green over fences, and not to mention the fact that I have no desire to take her past 2'6" at her age........she was perfect and I am a very happy rider! He kept forgetting she was 17 and that I do not want to compete at the higher levels with her. My dream is Beginner Novice....LOL! Now if she were 5 years old right now, SURE I would have loftier goals. But I want to be realistic in my goals with her. And I know I will go higher in dressage than jumping with her....simply because it is less wear and tear on her legs.

So all in all, a very good day. Worth the $$? Well.....most of what he told me was stuff I already knew, BUT it was good to have someone of his level to solidify what I already knew and what I was already doing with Dreamy. It is always worth getting someone's knowledgeable opinion. I did learn how to handle the "hurling" by sitting up.

Geez, two lessons in one week! I love this! I wish I could take a jumping lesson once a month........I wonder if I could swing that. :D It would only be July, August and Sept really. I would at least like to take another lesson with someone before Nationals. It is just hard to find someone to take jumping lessons with. I DO NOT want to ride with a hunter instructor. I have no problems with hunters but I do not want to be taught/expected to lay on her neck. I am not looking to sit pretty and let the horse do the work. I want to be able to be SAFE on XC and my personal opinion is that the current "popular" hunter form is NOT safe for XC.

So the search is on.........I wonder if it would be easier to do a clinic each month rather than a lesson. Because let's face it, I MUCH rather do the dressage lessons on a regular basis. Time will tell.

Was I Dreaming.....??

Wow, we had a FANTASTIC ride tonight. I wanted to just take it easy and have a nice forward, light and soft in the bridle dressage ride. Because of our upcoming busy weekend, I did not want to work on anything new or have a fitness ride.

Well I'll be darned if I got exactly the kind of ride I wanted....she was forward (of course, usually I have to work to keep her from being too forward) but also light and soft. NO fighting, come-to-Jesus moments, or fussy head fit moments...especially in our trot work after the canter. I was floored. This is the FIRST TIME that has happened since we started canter work....so realistically since last year.

She also trotted well after our canters. There was no fussiness in the connection, no bulging against my inside leg, no running through my aids, no blowing through my half halts. We just trotted.....cantered....and then trotted again. Full field and then 20 m circles. I was worried she would suddenly FREAK out or something....LOL!!!! She was almost too good. But I enjoyed every second because I worked my tail off to have a ride like this. Tonight's ride was a culmination of 2 year's worth of blood, sweat, and tears....and a few swear words. ;-)

Dreamy's left side has definitely gotten stronger. Instead of her left lead making her right seem SO MUCH better, it made them seem almost equally. VERY COOL!

Funny how horses (and kids) always do what you expect of them. What is that, a self fulfilling prophecy? If you go into the ride expecting a fight (and let's face it, this year I have gone into most rides thinking, "I am GOING TO get that canter BOTH ways!") and it does result in a fight. I think was different tonight because of my positive mindset and Dreamy's (less steep) learning curve. There were many light bulb moments tonight. :D Especially in the counterbending and then the supple....release. Extended time where Dreamy was in balance, on the bit, and holding herself up. SO NICE! Rather than the fleeting 2 secs. worth of wow.

Tomorrow is the stadium jumping clinic with Steuart Pittman. I am excited for my lesson, and a tad nervous. But I am mostly excited to hear what he has to say, both good AND bad. I hope I can get my base of support correct and stop swinging my lower legs back over fences. I look at pics from high school and college and think WHY DID I ALLOW MYSELF to stop riding like that????? My equitation is now crap.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just Another Canter.....

Today Dreamy and I did some jumping and I did some work in my half seat in preparation for this weekend's clinic. We are riding with Steuart Pittman, an Advanced level event rider from Maryland. I am SO EXCITED and a teeny bit nervous. :D http://www.dodonfarm.com/

So yeah my legs are a bit sore from the stirrups being SO HIGH compared to when I am in my dressage saddle. And my knees are achy from balancing myself over my center of gravity during my trot half seat intervals.

Dreamy was a good girl. I think overall it was a good ride, actually. She was easy to warm up and then we did our walk/trot/walk transitions from last night's lesson. She was 60/40 on her leaning coming down to the walk and 100 on her upwards. No hopping into the trot! I am sure the leaning is partly my fault, but I also think she has a harder time working here at home compared to the nice flat sand ring where we have our lessons.

I did some canter work before we started jumping. In my mind, I figured I would see what I got for canter, then jump a bit, and then go back and work on the canter more. WELLLLLL......surprise of all surprises! Dreamy picked up both leads correctly and EXACTLY when I asked. HUH! I started to the left and really focused on counterbending her and keeping her straight. And she completely caught me off guard by shifting her weight back and stepping/hopping right into the left canter! :D :D :D It was so darn coo to feel her use her hindquarters like that! YAY! So I tried it 2 more times and she did it correctly ONCE AGAIN. I changed rein and tried the right canter.....SAME THING! I nearly got off right then and there, only 20 mins into my ride! LOL!!!!

So I made a fuss over her and gave her a good scratch. We walked around on a long rein for a while. Then I fixed my stirrups and did the crossrail, gate, and bounce. She was forward and attentive. My leg kept slipping back, which is one of the things I need to work on this weekend. GRRRR....I am so mad at myself for allowing my equitation to get so crappy! I got some nice canters after each fence and even maintained it once between fences. That was a huge improvement! :)

We walked around again and then started some trotting in half seat. I worked until I thought my legs were going to burn right off. And then another walk break and more trotting....this time I wanted her to just relax into the bit and give me a nice energetic trot. OK to the right, but leaning like a madwoman to the left. UGGGG, exactly the same old stuff. And then hops into the canter. OK, I had to really concentrate on what Judy said last night when this happened....and remember to keep breathing and stay calm. I knew I could work her through this. I put her on a 20 m circle rather than the larger 40 m and it seemed to help. I focused on suppling, then release.........suppling, then release.........and eventually we got this nice forward trot with steady contact! Once I got that steady connection for a full 2 circles, I came back to the walk and praised! :)

Because it was waaaay earlier than my normal rides (usually I have to ride after 7:30 and get done between anywhere between 8:15-8:45) I took Dreamy down the dirt road to cool out. Sparky was snoozing in the barn aisle, so she did not even realize we had left. I am proud of my old girl for becoming so calm about Dreamy being out of her pasture. :D Dreamy did her big old walk down the road and back. It was cool and shady in the woods, so it was nice. I miss not having time to get out of the ring more often. It is just too unsafe to go out after 7:30, because while it is still light out, it is rather dark on the dirt road which is very wooded.

We did encounter a mud puddle....so did a little water charm school. Dreamy is NOT afraid of water, but when there is a puddle on the side of the road, she much rather just keep her toes dry and go around it. She does not get excited or jumpy or anything. Actually she is completely calm about water. Just does amazing feats of body contortion to avoid having to get her hooves actually in the puddle.

We went from the typical "I-am-contorting-my-body-in-a-pretzel-to-keep-out-of-the-water" horse to "Oh all right MOM, if you are going to be that insistent! " I made her do it about 30 times, just back and forth through the puddle. Finally I got a bunch of straight body movements through the center of the puddle. GOOD HORSE! And we walked home. :)

My Inspiration

Recently I was lucky enough to meet a fantastic horsewoman and her Standardbred mare. They are a pair I have looked up to for some time. Melissa has owned Muffin (now 30 years young!) for 25 years. They competed together up through Second Level dressage in the early nineties and earned their USDF Silver Medal.

Not only is that a huge accomplsihment with any horse, it is even more exciting because it was done with a Standardbred. And come to find out, Muffin was NOT able to trot when Melissa got her. That's right folks, a free legged pacer.

So here I am with my inspiration Honest Apprasial aka Muffin. Thank you Muffin and Melissa! :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lesson 6/24/08

My lesson tonight was great and this post is very long! LOL! So many things came together well. We started with some walk/halt/walk transitions and then walk/trot/walk on the 20 m circle to improve our connection.

I have found that I brace my arms outward in downward transitions as a way of keeping my body upright when Dreamy lugs on the bit as she slows down. Not pretty. AND on the upward trot transitions she likes to do the STB hop into the trot as though she is pulling a sulky. So not good for dressage. :P And because I am always bringing her right back down and trying again, she has become dead to my leg.....as in the transition does not happen as soon as I apply leg.....it takes her a moment to decide what I mean. Grrr.....so then in that few seconds she gets all flung out on her forehand and the transition stinks.

SO......Judy had me actually doing a step or two of leg yield into both my upward and downward transitions. Ah, now we were onto something. Suddenly we had these smooth transitions with no lugging, no head tossing, no arm bracing (usually). Just need to hear Judy remind me to "DO IT NICE!" LOL!

It makes sense to me why this works. We are activating her inside hind leg, making her step underneath herself, and engaging her hindquarters. This occurs and WOW she is fluid and nice and a real dressage horse! I just need to remember to organize MYSELF to do this every transition. After a while I am hoping Dreamy will not need the actual leg yield, but be strong enough to do it with just my normal leg and hand aids. :)

Then we moved into doing half a circle in a collected trot and then half in an extended trot. I got some nice moments in the trot. Suddenly we had a nice connection and it all came together. It is so amazing to feel the correct things after working so hard to achieve them! YAY Dreamy! And instead of the nice moments being fleeting half seconds (LOL) they were actually a few seconds! And sometimes even the entire circuit around!

At one point Dreamy did this big floaty trot for about 3-4 strides. I was like WHAT? Judy said she actually had some suspension in her trot! COOL!

We did a lot of walk breaks of course. Judy told me that the walk is the hardest gait to keep pure. I never knew that. I guess you should never work too much in a medium walk because then it can get pacey and lateral. But you need to do plenty of loose swinging free walk. This makes sense to me because a true walk should be a four beat, swinging, marching along kind of gait. I think Dreamy has a great walk....she oversteps well and can use her back. For some reason we get great free walks at home but then over the diagonal in a test she will never poke her nose out and really stretch like she will at home. Not sure about this yet......

So then we went into canter, with the right lead (stronger side) first. Judy wanted me to do 1/4 of the circle in trot, next 1/4 in canter, next 1/4 in trot, and next 1/4 in canter. Whew, it made my head hurt just thinking about it! LOL! That meant a ton of organization from ME. Thinking about it now, that is literally like 3-4 steps of each gait. To the left it actually went well. She did not rush or lug on me which was awesome. I thought about my leg yield into the transitions and I think it went well.

The canter to the left was a bit different. Dreamy was getting tired, so she made the decision that maintaining the right lead would be waaaay easier. We had a couple of wrong leads, but then we did get a nice canter. Then she started with the fussy head thing. I was actually pleased she was going to be a poop in our lesson, because this is exactly what gets me so frustrated at home. I don't so much get frustrated with her, but with me and MY riding. But of course, that makes her upset. :( So having Judy being calm and telling me it was OK made me feel so much better. I was still frustrated, but she was able to work us through it and remind me that it really was not as bad as I thought it was. That helped TREMENDOUSLY. I need to keep her voice in my head the next time this happens at home. Judy is fabulous, by the way, and I am not just saying this because she'll probably read this (HI JUDY!) LOL! I know we would never be at this point in our training had Judy not been willing to take me on as a student. AND give a little Standardbred mare a chance. :) Thanks Judy! Just wait until I go back to work and can take WEEKLY lessons..... ;-) I would move Dreamy right over there if I could. LOL!

Anyway, so the cantering was good in many ways. The "hundreds" of trot/canter transitions is going to help us both. It will make Dreamy stronger and therefore more able to canter correctly, while it will also make ME stronger and more able to organize myself and apply the aids correctly and ON TIME. Also when we were cantering to the left, Judy was having me counter bend Dreamy, because often I am thinking so much about Inside Leg to Outside Hand (it is even my screen name...LOL) that she pops her right shoulder and her hind end gets all messy out to the right. Then she is unable to step into the canter properly with that outside hind. HMMMM....makes sense to me! So I have to not only think about supporting her with my outside hand but ALSO with my outside LEG. DUH to me. And it made a real difference when we got it all right. :)

At the end we talked about how I am having trouble with my 10 m turns to and from center line. It bums me out because I know we have to score 7s and 8s on our walk and trot work in Training 1 to make up for our low canter scores. So Judy told me that it was just a matter of counter bend there too! AH HA!!!!!!!! Now that makes so much more sense to me now. I was allowing her to lose her back end and fishtail all over the place......and the worst part is that every single darn center line in Intro B and Training 1 is a LEFT turn....her worse side! LOL! Judy teased me and said I had to do T2 instead. LOL! Yeah, well, I told her next year we would aim for T1 and T2 or T2 and T3. She said, "Or 4 and First 1." That caught me off guard. I am sure she was teasing, but it still is cool that she said that. :D :D :D I was thinking First Level in 2010! Dreamy could probably do it, but it ups the stakes enough to make me feel SCARED! LOL! Not really.....but something to think about. It is all about what the Dream Girl is ready to do. If she shows me she can, we will do it. But I want to be scoring solid 60% tests at Training before I even think of moving up to First. And not score less than a 6 consistently on our canters. OK OK, granted we did get 2 5s on our left canters and 2 6s on our right canters at HBF. But I said CONSISTENT. :D

I love my lessons. I wish I could take 2 a week. :) I love my little mare too. She tries so hard!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Horses' Various Names

OK this always cracks me up. Dreamy's registered name is "Dreamy Starlet" which I think is a whole lot easier than Sparky's registered name, which is "Joydale Sparklerslas". Yup, you guessed it....at shows the announcer would call her Joydale Sparkler's Ass. I hated it when I was younger and now I just think it is funny as all get out.

So I figured Dreamy Starlet was easy! Guess again!

So far she has been:
  • Dreamy Starlight
  • Dreamy Scarlet
Hmmm.....wonder what else we might get???? LOL!!!!!!!!!!

Hidden Brook Farm Show results 6/21/08

Today we competed at Hidden Brook Farm in Norway, ME. This is a MDS/WMDEA show so will not count towards our SMDA year ends, just for state points. To qualify at two levels, I need to do 6 shows (6 tests at each level). Last year I was able to do just the four SMDA shows because I only qualified at one level. Luckily I realized this before it was too late......LOL! Gotta get those year end awards!

Here are our results:
Intro B = 61.5%, fourth place (out of 6)
Training 1 = 57.8261%, second place (out of 4)

HOLY COW!!!! We may just earn a 60% someday at Training level! :D

Dreamy warmed up well, but then tensed up as soon as we entered the ring. The judge was in a horse trailer, which stressed her out. :( Silly girl. So being tense affected our tempo, which made the test rushed and a bit sloppy. I think I am so focused on the Training test that I am "throwing away" my Intro test. It is almost like I am thinking, this is the "easy" test and our "warm-up".....which is NOT true. I want to ride the Intro test just as well as any other test. So I need to fix my thinking about the tests......AND I need help slowing our tempo! Sometimes when I half-halt to slow/re-balance she just roots on the bit and I cannot seem to use my legs enough to push her out into the bridle. Not sure on this one.....something for my lesson this Tuesday. Plus she really flipped her head around in both tests today. I need to figure out what I am doing incorrectly.

I also had a hard time with my 10 m turn onto the center line. I think I need to do some of the test movements during a lesson sometime so I can fine tune the movements. I was frustrated with myself becuase I REALLY thought about keeping my outside hand, but nevertheless each time we turned onto the center line (final salute) it was NOT a straight turn.

Training 1 was FABULOUS. We scored all 6s and 7s, with two 8s, and just a couple 5s!!!! We even got a SIX on our right lead canter (and a 5 on the left....her bad side). I was in the game this time, our half halts were there, etc etc and I was much more focused. She did anticipate the canter yet again, but only got a couple of little "hops" in, not an actual canter stride. :) She hopped in our last trot circle and then all the way up the center line. Need help with this! Good thing I have a lesson in three days!

The judge really liked Dreamy (big surprise, LOL!) and said she was a nice mover. Told me to do hundreds of trot/canter transitions, and then after that do hundreds more. I laughed and she said, "NO really, do hundreds of them. You will get bored before she does." She said, "She'll get it and she will become balanced and she will have a gorgeous canter. You just wait."

So I am pretty pleased with my horse and her efforts! :) I just have to FIX ME!

USDF Intro B



Training Level Test 1




Stills from the videos....click to enlarge.

And of course, my completely adorable C! :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Jekyll and Hyde" Rides

Sometimes I am amazed at how different two rides can be.

Dreamy had Monday off because of the show on Sunday. It is her typical day off. Then Tuesday afternoon/evening it was thunderstorming and HAILING, so no ride. :(

Last night, Wed. June 18, I had a fantastic ride. We just did flat work, including some lateral work. Dreamy was forward and light in the bridle, she cantered both directions as soon as I asked, and we actually had HALF HALTS after our canters! It was absolutely astounding. I quite honestly think it was one of our best rides yet. Her left canter felt a bit more balanced than usual, which was exciting. I only rode for about 45 mins., seeing as I did not get on until 8PM and it was getting rather dark by 8:45PM! LOL!

THEN....tonight was the exact opposite. I wanted to do some of the movements from my tests this weekend. But forget it. It was an obedience ride. She ran through my aids, no half halts, and could NOT canter to the left. And hell, the second time I asked for a right canter, she could not do that either. UGGGG. It was so awful, I really should not have even ridden. It was not worth the time it took to tack her up. I did NOT want to just give up and put her away without some sort of positive....so I worked her in the trot until she settled down a little. Then we tried the canter again....no dice.....so I walked and trotted and walked and trotted......tried again and we got a canter in each direction. It was very rushed and unbalanced, but at least I got it immediately. She was honestly a completely different horse.

I had to keep telling myself in the past half hour since I got off, that this is what training is all about. Two steps forward, four steps back. One step forward, three steps back. UGGGG....it is just so frustrating, because on Wednesday night she PROVED she can do it. I told her she was a shit, but I still loved her.....but I did want more consistency. LOL! And you know, maybe she is hurting. I wish I could have gotten the chiro vet out here sooner. But he cannot make it until the middle of July. Oh well.

I have been doing carrot stretches with her for the time being. She was really stiff the first time I tried, but then since she has been much more flexible. I wonder how much of that is because I used those apple wafers the first time I tried and now I am using real pieces of carrot. ROFL! I think she is more flexible because she likes the treat more.

Deep breath......it will be OK.....this is how training progresses.....you cannot have perfect rides all the time.....Saturday's show will go just fine......just think of how far you have already brought her along.....she tries really hard (OK, well....except when she loses her mind after cantering). AND I am taking lessons which is so fabulous and has helped us out so much.

Alright, I will NOT get down about this. Wish me luck for this weekend's show! :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Standardbreds at the WEG 2010

Hmmm.....I am not sure yet if I should apply. I need a jumping video in order to do so. I am CROSSING FINGERS that I can get a good video of dressage. XC, and stadium at our first event of the year on July 6.

Here is the press release from the USTA:

Calling all Standardbred Pleasure Horse enthusiasts

Monday, May 05, 2008 - by Deveau Zubrod, USTA Advertising Director

Columbus, OH --- The USTA is now accepting applications for Standardbreds to be included in a breed demonstration to be held at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Sept. 25–Oct. 10, 2010 in Lexington, Ky.

The 2010 Games will be the first of its kind held in North America and we need you to be a part of the Standardbred’s representation at this prestigious event.

Although the event runs for 16 days, we will only be doing one demo, so it is not necessary to be at the entire event. The demonstration will likely run for 15-20 minutes and will highlight the best of what your horse has to offer in its respective discipline.

We are looking for Standardbreds who compete in the pleasure horse arena (dressage, hunter jumper, barrel racing, endurance, pleasure and/or combined driving, roadster horses, etc.).

If you are interested in being a part of this once-in-a lifetime Standardbred breed demonstration, please submit the following information:

Your name, address, phone number and contact information
Your horse’s USTA registered name
A brief resum√© of you and your horse’s accomplishments, including any credentials or awards you have won together and the discipline you compete in
A brief statement on why you think you can best represent the Standardbred in the World Equestrian Games and why you think the Standardbred should be represented
A DVD of your Standardbred competing in his respective discipline

Please note, owners will be responsible for their costs of participating in this event. The USTA will provide a small award for all those who are chosen to participate.

Send all information to Jamie Coffy, USTA Outreach Administrator, 750 Michigan Ave., Columbus, OH 43215 by July 15. For questions call Coffy at 1.877.800.8782, ext. 3260, or e-mail jamie.coffy@ustrotting.com.

If you know of anyone in the Lexington area who would be willing to house horses/people during the World Equestrian Games, please provide this information.

SMDA Show results 6/15/08

Dreamy and I competed in the Southern Maine Dressage Association's second show of the season on June 15, 2008. We had a great (if a bit soggy) day! It was pouring but Dreamy was a trooper. The rings (both warm-up and competition) were a MESS, so her gait was a little "big"....as in she wanted to T-R-O-T over the puddles! LOL! And my breeches were a wee bit wet (um...soaked) so I felt a little slippy. It was like I could not get my body organized. So not at the top of our game.....though I had fun!!!

I am SO PROUD of my Dream Girl. We scored a 61.5% in Intro B.....had a few fishtail moments where she lost her back end and I was not ready for it with my outside rein. :( Needless to say it drove our score down a bit....so we ended up 8th out of 12. Not particularly pleased with that, but hey....she was obedient and forward, what more can a girl ask for??

Then we scored a 54.350% on Training 1. We placed 2nd of of 3 riders! YAY I beat someone! LOL! And I got to bring a ribbon home! :D Again, her balance was not great. I was super careful with my canter circles in the sloppy mud. The judge wrote that her canter was a little flat, and I would have to agree...since I held in her in a bit to keep her upright. :P

I REALLY wanted to break 55% BUT......she was forward, she cantered on the correct leads, AND she cantered immediately when I asked her to. All week she has been doing her "throw-my-head-in-the-air-and-pace-like-a-racehorse-what's-a-canter-anyway" routine into the canter to the left......I swear she KNOWS when we have a show coming up and likes to make me stress over the canter! LOL! So again, she spent the week "unable" to go straight into the canter from the trot and then at the show she was a rock star. She was super obedient which pleased me. :)

So.......while scores and ribbons and all that are nice (and if ribbons meant so much to me I would have stayed at Intro level too! A-HEM!) I am more impressed with what the judge said to me after each test...and wrote on the bottom of each. She said I had a "lovely" horse with "fantastic" gaits. And to continue doing exactly what I am doing.....but to be patient. She said "once this horse becomes more balanced, you are going to be scoring 8s and 9s" (rather than the 5s and 6s....and a 4 on the left canter). She said to be PATIENT because this horse has what it takes to do very well at Training and BEYOND.....but just needs to find her balance. She said to continue giving her confidence and not to push her. She said, "It will take time, but just keep doing what you are doing....you are on the right track!" She asked how long I had been cantering her....I said only a few months, since she is a 17 yo STB and has only been under saddle for about 2 years. Her face broke into a huge grin and she said, "OH WOW! She is absolutely lovely and you have great potential here!"

I swear to god, I nearly cried. I was so proud of my girl! And hearing a judge say exactly what N, J, and Judy have been saying all along really felt awesome. :) :) :) It is like when my mom or dad would always say how great I was or how well I did something.....and I would think "yeah, yeah, but you are my mom...you are SUPPOSED to say that." ROFL! So to hear someone say it whom I don't know and who is completely objective was cool.

So no matter the ribbons, scores, the fact that I will be beaten in year ends by riders who are not brave enough to move up......GRRR....I am just so pleased to hear that this judge really loved my horse.....as a DRESSAGE horse who is also a STB! YAY!

No photos this time, as I had S videotape us instead. But I do hope the pro photographer got a few! Waiting to hear back from her....

USDF Intro B


Training Level Test 1

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rushing at home :(

So tonight's ride started out well. It was a jumping night. :) We warmed up and Dreamy was really settled into a nice relaxed rhythm. The connection to the bit was good and she was not doing the teeny head toss thing.

I warmed up over a small crossrail. Then we went to an easy gymnastic: 18" vertical, ground pole, 2' crossrail. Each had a stride between. She wants to drift to the left, which is fine, I can correct that. She was a bit sticky, so I did it a couple times each direction. We got a good rhythm and she cantered easily through it.

Then we went to the "big" 2'7" gate. I like this jump. :) She did fine, each direction. Her bascule is such that I get bumped out of the saddle over the fence. I KNOW my leg slips back and I KNOW I need some jumping equitation help! GRRR....it is just like my dressage equitation, as it is all shot to hell from not having had a lesson in 7 years. Oh well, have to fix one thing at a time....

SO, anyway, I then did the combination to the crossrail, to the gate. Did that twice and called it good. She is jumping much better, picking up a nice easy canter both ways, and all that needs help is ME. :)

Then I get the bright idea to try my canter circles. I should have just called it a night and put her up....but NO I have to push myself. Uggg......

And I start to the left, her worst side. Oh boy, we get a nice flat out RUN into the pace each time I ask for the canter. WHY OH WHY does she NOT do this rushing thing at my lessons???? I have to work so hard not to get frustrated. Mostly I feel as though if we only had a RING to work in, these problems would not happen. I HATE THAT!

So I ditch the cantering and just try to get a nice trot in this direction. But she looses her mind momentarily and has to be an idiot. So we do 3 strides of trot, 8 strides of WALK. And halt. And a teeny bit of trotting and HALT. We have not had this type of stress for a long time.

Then I switch direction once I get a halfway decent trot. She is FINE to canter to the right. Of course......

So I figure we better get a left lead canter before I call it a night. I get the bright idea to use the crossrail to get a canter....it works. I trot in and canter out 3 times. The last time her canter is actually quite nice. :)

Dreamy ended up working much harder than I planned on tonight. Oh well. Her own fault. Tomorrow will be a dressage ride in preparation for our SMDA show in Sunday. We have Intro B at 9:23AM and Training 1 at 10:55. HUGE classes.....Intro B has 12 riders and Training 1 has 16. Probably no shot at a ribbon (SIGH). I am such a ribbon ho. I know, I know it is not about the ribbons. ROFL! I will just be happy to break 55% on the Training test. Over 60% for Intro B would be nice. :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lesson 6/10/08

My lesson tonight went well. After two nights of the Waterford, I put Dreamy back in the loose ring and she was FINE. Just needs a little reminder now and again not to LUG on me, especially to the left. Plus she always does SOOOOOO much better in a FLAT arena, rather than my hilly uneven field. Ya THINK????

We did a lot of walk trot transitions at first. Then Judy had me do a figure eight...10 m trot circle to a 20 m (or larger if needed) canter circle. We started with trotting to the left and then cantering to the right (her good side). It was UNBELIEVABLE! Soft and round and NO RUSHING or hopping behind! I was pretty happy.

Then we did the trot to the right and canter to the left.....I was not doing a good job getting her straight at X and then changing her bend.....so silly mare kept picking up the wrong lead (her easier lead). That was OK with me as at least she was TRYING and picking up this really nice canter despite the lead! So I finally got my act together and we did 3 nice left canters. The nice thing about the exercise it that doing the 10 m circle right afterwards gave us something to do and kept her mind calm. She did not rush at the left lead, but she did get her neck/head all bent to the left and POP that outside shoulder. I had to really think about using my outside aids to almost (as Judy put it) "turn on the haunches" around my circle. She was not able to be "round" in this direction (still using her neck for balance, so it is all lugged out in front of her). But that is OK. I was just really happy at how well she did. And nearly NO pace strides. A couple of times on the downward transition she actually went straight to trot!!!!!!! :D

I said something like, "Well it must be the heat that is making her so relaxed/sluggish at the canter (as opposed to rushing)." Judy laughed and said, "Yeah but maybe she is GETTING it!" LOL! Yeah, that is true. And by 6PM is was much cooler and the entire ring was shaded. :)

Judy said doing the smaller trot circles especially to the right will help strengthen her off hind leg, which is her lead leg in the left canter. She also was impressed at how much better my posture has become at the canter. I am actually sitting up like a real rider, rather than nearly getting into 2-point at the canter! LOL! I think my leaning forward was me unconsciously "encouraging" her to canter, canter, canter!

She also said we are LIGHT YEARS ahead of where we were just the beginning of May. She said she was amazed at the progress we have already made. She admitted she was a little worried during that first lesson! LOL! But I would have never known and I told her that. I told her I appreciated her encouragement and willingness to work with a gaited horse. I told her I wish I could take weekly lessons, but she said something about the fact that obviously I listen and work hard at home in between so it is working for us to have 2x month lessons.

OH and we were talking about Dreamy's age, and maybe she might need some chiro work due to her lopsidedness (which may be a MUCH better route than the Adequan)...and I joked about her being a First Level horse. Judy said she seriously thought we could do First Level with no problems, but that Second would be pushing it. She said if Dreamy were 6 or 7, then yes we could go further than First, but her age is limiting her. I agree.....no use making her do something she physically cannot do. My really big lofty dream is to do First, so I was happy to hear that really would be within our reach. Yeah! :) I feel pretty darn good about my ride tonight. :)

Now that we have ridden 4 days in a row, I think tomorrow is her well-deserved day off. :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Difference in Outline

There has been a marked improvement in Dreamy's overall outline and the way she uses her hind end.
This was taken August 2006, after only two months of steady work under saddle. Downhill and back legs are WAAY out there. Hook this gal to a sulky! LOL!


And this was taken September 2007. More level, coming up from behind, some acceptance of the bit. Nice Intro/Training outline.


And then this was taken May 2008. Actively engaged hind end/hocks, more acceptance of the bit, is she a little uphill? :) Ahhh, we are slowly becoming a real dressage horse.


Ignore my position....UGG, on the up beat of the trot, PLUS this is what I get for doing dressage in my jumping saddle.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Too Lopsided

Dreamy's canter is coming along quitely nicely....to the right! She is no longer rushing into the canter or afterwards when we transition down to the trot. It is actually becoming quite nice.

But her left lead canter is still awful. It has always been her weaker side, but I am amazed (not in a good way) at how lopsided she now is. She is still running into the left canter, still lugging on me, and still blowing through my aids in the trot work AFTER the canter. UGGG.

I have been conditioned (brainwashed? LOL) to always work my horse equally on each side. So I have to really make a conscious effort to do more work to the left. I know her canter will get stronger as SHE gets stronger. So lots of trotting, transitions, lateral work.....

Still it makes me worried. I was unable to get a lesson in last week, so it has been 3 weeks since I had a lesson. I really hope I can get one this Tuesday. I need help!

Clipping Woes

OK, so I have been full clipping Sparky for the past few years due to her Cushings. This spring, she surprisingly shed out almost all of her wooly coat! I was shocked. Plus we had a cold spring, so while I usually clip her in April, I waited longer this year.

So yesterday it was so hot and humid that I figured it was time. I bathed her first (which makes no sense.....bathe a horse to only then CLIP all the hair OFF!) but I had to because she was so filthy from the rain (read: mud) earlier in the week. My clipper blades would have been dull in about 2.2 seconds.

So she is squeaky clean and I put her out on the back lawn to graze on the nice grass. If I put her in her pasture, she would have rolled. But for some reason the back lawn is ROLL FREE territory. LOL!

When she is dry, I bring her in the barn to clip her. But instead of doing a full clip like I usually do, I figure I ought to leave her legs (I already clipped them last week) and a saddle shaped area. Oh how fancy!

Well the off side went well. I used an actual saddle pad for the outline. It looked OK for my first time......then to the near side.

I am clipping along, thinking how good I am getting at this body clipping stuff. Just clipping everything like usual.....OH CRAP! I clipped off most of her "saddle mark" on the near side! UGGGG! So I try to save it, but honestly, it looks horrible. The off side looks like a normal sized AP saddle mark, while the near side looks like a teeny tiny dressage saddle mark.

Poor Sparky. At least she did not seem to mind, as I gave her plenty of carrots.

It will grow in and look normal again.......in the meantime I might just have to clip the entire saddle mark off. :(

The Weather Grounds Us

Well, we got unwanted and unexpected time off from riding last week. :( Monday after the SPHO show was Dreamy's day off, of course. But then it rained Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! UGGG. I got to the point where I was just going to break out the Wintec and ride in the rain. However, the grass was just too slippery to ride. And why soak myself and my horse for a walk ride?

I was starting to go crazy.....kind of like this winter!

And then this weekend it is up into the 90s with pretty heavy humidity! Good grief! Nothing like going from 50-55 degree weather to 90+!!

OK, rant over....

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

SPHO-ME Spring Fling show 2008

The Dream Girl's knee ended up being fine on Saturday morning. My vet on retainer (aka Judi from RI...LOL) took a look at it on Saturday night and agreed it was fine.

I did decide to NOT do any jumping, barrels, or poles at the show. Why risk it? Why push her? In a way it was also good that she is not quite ready for 3-Gait. I am hoping we can do 3-Gait in August, but if not, then I will be patient....good things come to those who wait right??

So anyway, Dreamy and I had a blast. It was especially fun to show out of side-by-side trailers with Judi, Chris, and Joanne from RI.

We ended up:
Open Showmanship - 1st out of 14
STB in Hand - 1st out of 8
STB 2-Gait Pleasure, Seniors - 4th out of 6
Open 2-Gait Pleasure, Seniors - 1st out of 10
Open 2-Gait Equitation, Seniors - 1st out of 7
Roadster Under Saddle - 3rd out of 4
Open Trail class - 3rd out of 15

The funny part is I almost did not do Showmanship and In Hand....LOL! I am glad I did!

In class 3 (STB 2-Gait Pleasure, Seniors) Dreamy spooked (bucked) at a bunch of jump standards outside the ring next to the dressage judges booth (this is the same ring where we do our SMDA shows and they are NOT there for SMDA shows). Heaven forbid! This horse is SO routine oriented! I was lucky to stay on and the rest of the class she had her tail flipped over her back and was barely able to keep control of herself. Her trot was extended and "floaty", her walk was a jig and her halt was non-existent. LOL! She was making that loud blowing noise that horses make to "warn" other horses. Too funny! I figured I had the 6th place ribbon, no problem. But how we pulled off 4th is a mystery. Everyone was asking WHAT HAPPENED??? I said, well that is showing for you! You never know if your steady eddy horse might blow up!!!

So I took her outside the ring and showed her the standards. OH!!! Those are not scary after all. So I did some warm-up before our next class #6 Open Pleasure......she was great. Then we nailed the next two classes.

Not matter the ribbons, I was most pleased with how Dreamy actually stood still in the line up of our rail classes (well except for class #3) which she was unable to do last year. She was pleasant to Duncan, who was tied near her at the trailers. She drank a ton of water and ate all her hay.....which is great. Showed me she was relaxed and happy. She did end up peeing on the trailer on the ride home, poor thing. She must not have been able to hold it in any longer.

I wasn't planning to do either of the SPHO-ME shows this year. But when Judi decided to come up and do the June 1 one, I knew I had to show. And now, having done the first one I might as well do the August show. Year end awards are always fun! LOL!!!

Accident Prone...

Dreamy injured her off knee on Friday, May 30. Just two days before the June 1 SPHO-ME Spring Fling Show! :(

Here is what I wrote on Friday:

Depending on what it looks like in 24 hours, we may not be showing on Sunday. She broke through an electric fence (my fault, not her's, as I moved the fence and she did not realize) and after a couple hours, the outside of her knee was swollen. No heat or lameness, which is good. I am hoping she will be OK to show, but if it does not look completely normal by tomorrow night, she is staying home. Stinks to have to do what is right by your horse. Oh well, there are many other shows for us this year!