Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Downeast Congress PHOTOS!


DRESSAGE TESTS (Training 2 and 4)

EASY DOES IT HUNTER you can see, she overjumped everything like a crazy woman!

ROADSTER UNDER SADDLE!  **Can anyone guess what the significance of my silks are...???**

This is my stall and tack room...

My ribbons are on the left and my friend ST's ribbons are on the right!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Downeast Horse Congress - June 18-20, 2010

This past weekend was one of the best horse shows here in Maine!  It is the 31st annual Downeast Horse Congress, put on by the Maine Horse Association (MHA).  DEC is one of the largest "A" rated shows here in Maine and it is held at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds.  This year we had three rings running.....hunters, pleasure, and dressage!  The manager called it "Maine's only three ring circus!"  LOL!!!!

Last year, Dreamy was the champion 2-gait Standardbred of the weekend.  YAY!  I played a large role in reinstating the Standardbred division as well as soliciting division sponsors at DEC in 2009, and we had four classes.  This year we were able to have seven classes: STB In-Hand, STB 2-gait Pleasure, STB 2-gait Equitation, STB 2-gait Championship,  STB 3-gait Pleasure, STB 3-gait Equitation, and STB 3-gait Championship! 

And this year......drum roll....Dreamy was the champion 3-gait Standardbred!  YAY!!!!!  :D

We had so much fun!  I love this show because there is so much to do, the grounds are great, and my show buddies are just awesome.  Also, it is double judged, so you get TWO SETS of ribbons for each class!  (Pretty cool, huh OTB???)  That means that I entered 10 classes and came home with 18 ribbons!!!!!  (The two dressage tests were single judged, hence the reason for only 18 and not 20 ribbons....)  There is the "call" judge (NEHC judge) and then the second judge is just an MHA judge.

We had a lobster bake on Saturday night and a pancake breakfast on Sunday morning.  My friend ST helped organize the lobster bake, which was yummy even though I only ate the chicken!  (Sad I was raised on the coast of Maine but don't eat seafood!)  And we were both asked to help with the pancake breakfast, which I was happy to do.  I was encouraged to take on a more active volunteer role in MHA, as many of the people who run things have been doing so for MANY years and of course, get burned out.  So that is something fun to look forward to!  :)

I trucked my mare up with my best horsey friend ST (whose horse was the 2010 STB 2-gait champion BTW) on Thursday night.  We arrived late and got our stalls all set up.  My classes were spread out over the three days of the show, but Saturday was definitely my busiest day with seven classes.  Last year it POURED the entire time but this year it was gorgeous and sunny, but a bit hot.  We did get a crazy 30 minute thunder and lightening rain storm that postponed the show for a while on Sunday afternoon though.....that was nuts!  :O

Anyway, here are the results:
  • Double Blues - Champion STB 3-Gait Championship!
  • 1st STB In-Hand (NEHC judge)
  • 5th STB In-Hand
  • 1st STB 3-Gait Equitation (NEHC judge)
  • 2nd STB 3-Gait Equitation 
  • Double 2nd STB 3-Gait Pleasure
  • 3rd Training Level Test 2 (57.5%)
  • 3rd Training Level Test 4 (61.2%)
  • Double 4th Roadster Under Saddle
  • 3rd Easy Does It Hunter Under Saddle (NEHC judge)
  • 5th Easy Does It Hunter Under Saddle
  • 5th Easy Does It Hunter O/F
  • 6th Easy Does It Hunter O/F
  • 5th Easy Does It Hunter O/F Stake
  • 6th Easy Does It Hunter O/F Stake
I like how well we placed with the NEHC judge.  Overall, it was a great weekend, lots of laugh and funny stories, and one very GOOD mare.  She did have to spook at everything again on Friday, exactly the same as last year.  The covered ring is scary to her for the first few trips, for whatever reason.  :p

She did very well in the STB division, and I had to laugh by her win and a 5th in In-Hand!  LOL!  It was perfect proof that for in-hand classes some judges LOVE her while others do not.  (Though I have to say these two judges were more often that not completely different from one 2009 the two judges were almost always unanimous).  

We did OK in the Easy Does It hunters, though I am not a fan of jumping in that ring.....she gets very strong and spooky.  I did it mostly because we could, the jumps were tiny, and I figured it would be good to get her in the ring.  If we go next year, I don't think I will bother with the hunter ring at all (which ran on Saturday) and just do the STB division, dressage, and roadster instead.

We did OK in the dressage on Saturday (which was new this year...).  There was the "Relay for Life" going on about 20 yards from the dressage ring, which was, well, REALLY STUPID.  I mean, I know no one thought much about it while planning it, but it was nearly impossible to focus on a dressage test while masses of people were milling around, there was loud rock music blaring, and constant PA announcements from the head Relay people.  It was such a sensory overload that we both completely fell apart in Training 2.  She was tight, I was scared shitless of forgetting my test because I could not hear anything but the loud music, and it was not a pretty test at all.  I knew it was not above a 60%, and I figured I would be lucky to score 55%.  

I was PISSED about it, so I tried really hard to ride a better test for Training 4.  I was thinking, come on, dressage is our THING.  We should be able to nail this!  I schooled her for a bit right next to the Relay commotion and she did calm down quite a bit.  I just blocked out everything as much as I could.  I wanted to do a good T4 test.  I wanted to break 60%.  The judge was tough but fair (I have shown under her before with both Sparky and Dreamy) and I wanted to do the best we could.  I knew she would not inflate scores, just because it was a schooling show.  The test went SO MUCH better than T2, but I still had a heavy heart.  

I was floored to see we did indeed break 60% for the first time at T4!!!  We got mostly sevens and no fours.  I thought it was funny that we got 8s on both submission and rider position in the collectives.  On the T2 test, just 30 minutes beforehand, we had 6s on these two!  LOL!  Not sure how I became that much of a better rider, or how Dreamy became that much more submissive, but hey, I'll take it!  :D  

The judge wrote, "Lovely horse (underlined three times) and "A bit more impulsion will bring her poll up" on our T2 test.  I was riding her VERY conservatively and we were kind of slow.......I rather be tactful with the RELAY CRAP freaking us both out.  We got our only four between the two tests on our right lead canter in T2.

And on our T4 test she wrote, "I just love your mare.  Good luck and have fun!"  So even though Dreamy was nutty, and I was rattled, I was pleased with our comments and scores.  :)

But the BEST part of my weekend was the new Roadster Under Saddle class!!!!  It was late in the Saturday night evening session, so we ended up riding around 10:45 PM.  I have done this class a few times at the local SPHO schooling shows, but never like this one at DEC.  Roadster Under Saddle is a class where you show off three distinct trots. You must wear silks, the horse must have an English saddle, martingale, open bridle with snaffle, and white quarter (or bell) boots. 

You enter in a "jog trot" (which is waaaay faster than a western jog) going clockwise. Then you move into the “road trot” and switch directions at the trot. Then you show the jog trot and road trot going counterclockwise. And then……you SHOW YOUR HORSES! This is at speed where you FLY! It is SOOOOO fun! Then you come back to the jog trot and trot into the lineup. Basically you never stop trotting!  LOL!

It is judged on performance, speed, quality, and manners (in that order). I am breathless at the end…..being under the lights in the coliseum was such a rush and I could not come down from my adrenaline high until after 1AM….not for lack of trying to sleep and being utterly exhausted! LOL!  I liken this class to jumping a cross country course...same rush and excitement!  The first words out of my mouth when we retired to the rail was....."I wanna do that AGAIN!" which is just what I say at the end of a XC course!  LOL!

I was a bit worried about how Dreamy might feel about being in the class at night.  We went from near darkness in the warm up to BRIGHT LIGHTS and people screaming!  But she was PERFECT!  I swear to gosh she is smiling in her pics....ears forward and happy eyes.  But hearing the crowd screaming, hooting, and hollering was the best feeling.  We all had fun...there was a Hackney, Saddlebred, and a Friesian with us. I knew we did not have a prayer in doing better than double fourths, but that was fine.  We were all four excited in the warm up and ready to have fun.  Dreamy has an amazing trot, despite being a pacer (!), but there was no way would be able to compete with the high stepping action of the other three horses.  I did not care if I got a ribbon or not, to tell the truth.  I just had a BALL!  :D

I have a ton of photos to upload but will do that in a separate post.  I have tons of stories and other things that I could share, but part of me wants to keep that off the blog.  Not because I don't want to tell you all, but some of the silly things that had me and my show buddies (new and old) rolling on the floor, tears coming from our eyes, just would not be as funny on here.  :)  This blog is about my HORSE not the silly things I do/say with my friends.  LOL!  None of it is  inappropriate or anything, just not for here.  :)  Just so you can imagine, some of the funny stories include: The Carrot Pony, The Toothbrush Incident, The Lady with The Tooth, Stuck in the Bathroom During Dressage, "My Horse Looks Like Breaded Chicken!".....among others.  X-D

I love showing at DEC and will be anxiously awaiting the 2011 show!!!  :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Deworming is such a lovely chore....

The other day all three of the mares were dewormed.....with a double dose of Strongid (pyrantel pamoate)!  YUM!  LOL!  At least they are all very good about it.  They make faces at me, but stand nicely with their heads down and accept it.  One tube for each side of the mouth! 
It is funny, in a sadistic kind of way, how they smack their lips like they are eating peanut butter.  But of course, dewormer cannot taste good.  :P

Each of them dug into their dinners with a small spot of light green smudge on the side of their mouths.  :D  Good mares.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Reva becomes a Big Girl - aka Chris Lombard Clinic

My biggest goal with Reva this year is to get her out and about, off the farm, having good positive experiences.  I planned to do some clinics, perhaps do a "schooling on the grounds" entry at the local dressage show, and bring her to my instructor's farm for a lesson or two.

On June 13, I brought Reva to her first ever off the farm experience.  We attended a clinic with local horseman Chris Lombard.  He is not a "natural horsemanship" person like Parelli (gag), but just a well grounded cowboy who teaches good horsemanship.  (Fun side note: Chris went to high school with my husband.....small world!!  LOL)  I wanted to get Chris' opinion of Reva and just see what she could do.  It was a 90 minute session, with the beginning on the ground and then riding at the end if I wanted to.  The farm where the clinic was held is a pretty low key boarding barn in New Gloucester, White Birch Farm, about 50 minutes from my farm.  I was excited and to be honest had high expectations of my big little filly.  :)

Here we are during the clinic!  :)

Reva was easy to load but as soon as we rolled out of the drive, I realized I may have bitten off more than I was bargaining for.  She BELLOWED for the first five miles or so, in her little high pitched filly voice.  She moved around a ton in the trailer and I got a little worried.  This was NOT how I wanted our day to go.  I picked up my horsey partner in crime, ST, and by then Reva seemed much calmer.  I figured she would be a mass of sweat and raring to go when we arrived.

We arrived and unloaded Reva; she was completely dry.  All she did was smear her manure all around on the floor of the trailer.....LOL!  Messy but easy to clean.  She was FINE.  She looked all around, sniffing and wondering where she was.  She was calm and interested in everything.  We arrived about 45 minutes before my lesson, because I figured it would be better to have time to kill than have to rush.  The farm owner allowed me to turn Reva out in a large paddock across from the ring.  I was sure Reva would bolt and cavort all over the paddock, but instead she walked the entire perimeter, visited the neighboring horses, and just hung out.  I was floored!  She was being SOOOOO good!  Here she is just checking things out.

ST and I sat and watched the last part of the lesson before mine.  Soon it was time to get Reva ready, so I went to catch her and bring her to the (outside) ring.  All my tack was already at the ring, and I just put her rope halter on her to start.  I brought her in as the last horse was finishing up with a tarp.  I walked her around the perimeter of the large ring, showing her the blue barrels at one end (she did not care.)  I walked her up to the small audience, which was behind a small crossrail.  Oh course, she started blowing and being silly.  She touched the pole with her nose and it fell.  LOL!  But she stood there nicely afterwards while Chris asked me the normal questions.  I told him about Reva, how I got her, what we had done to this point.  He asked me things about her level of confidence, how she interacted with people, other horses, etc.  I told him that she was pretty confident and curious, but she looked to me for reassurance.  He asked what I wanted to work on and I just said I wanted her to have a good experience off the farm for the first time.  He asked what the most difficult part of her training was so far.......I thought for a few seconds.  When I really could not think of anything, Chris responded to my silence with, "Well that answers that!"  So honestly, I really did not have a "problem" horse here, just a green mare who needed to learn something new.  And I wanted her to learn that getting on the trailer and going somewhere was fun.

Chris had me move Reva off on a lunging circle so he could see her move.  She has never been lunged before, so I did my best.  She was a little excited but calmed down quickly.  Chris seemed impressed that she had never been lunged before but did such a good job.  He then took her from me to show me some of the things he begins every horse with (and then he gave her back to me to try).

The first thing was to see if she would follow her handler.  Each time he moved, he wanted her to follow.  And of course, being the pocket pony that I told him she is, she latched right on to him.   She loves her people, and as Chris said, it was rare that she would start out already so latched on, especially to someone she had never met.  He explained that if she was not paying attention, he would have had her move out on almost a turn on the forehand around him, so that he could control where her feet/hind end were.  But Reva being Ms. SuperStar Mare, latched onto Chris without any prompting.

Then he did some backing with her....asking her to back by just lightly moving the lead and moving his hand in a backwards pointing motion.  She planted her feet and lifted her head....he asked with more energy in the rope....she finally took a few steps.  She had NO idea what he was asking, but she caught on more quickly than I thought she would.


He moved her off on a lunging circle, and she was much quieter, going up to the trot when asked and back down to the walk.  She stopped and faced him when she asked.  It was neat to see my little girl being so polite, listening and responding exactly how she was supposed to.  I think Chris was impressed, because he made comments about how most horses are not this "easy" and if he could show me a video of the average 10 horses doing this I would see a big difference.  I have always said Reva was super easy, but it was neat to see such real validation of that.

So then I got to work her a bit more.  She backed when I asked, but I had to remember not to move towards her.  He wanted me to ask her to back and nearly get to the end of the lead.  I wanted to move back with her.  And asking her to go out on the lunge circle was a bit of a re-learning experience too.  I have always been taught to move around behind the horse's shoulder and then drive them forward at their hindquarters, making a "pie" slice shape between me, the lunge line to the horse's head, and my lunge whip (or bight of the extra lunge line).  I asked Chris about this, since he seemed to do it differently.  He explained that he wanted the hand on the horse's head (let's say we are going counterclockwise here...) so the left hand to almost point the head in the direction.  So I would raise my left arm perpendicular to the ground and "point" her head in the direction I want her to go, while pushing her away at her girth area.  OK....that was different, but it made sense.  He explained that instead of ME moving out of HER way, but going back to her shoulder, I should teach her that SHE moves around ME.  Makes sense.

The first time was a little funny, because I wanted to move my feet.  LOL!  But then I tried it again and Reva moved her shoulders and then body perfectly away from me.  Once I saw and felt it, I understood.  Reva wanted to do the right thing, I just had to ask properly!  (Hmmmm....sounds a lot like my dressage lessons!!!  LOL)  She was awesome, just truly awesome.

Such a good girl!!  :)

Next Chris moved us onto the desensitizing and working with the horse's flight instinct.  I handed Reva back over to him and he started by just throwing the lead rope over Reva's body so that it landed on her opposite side.  She stood there.  LOL!  Her ears flickered but she ultimately was completely unfazed.  He then gently threw the rope so that it wrapped around her legs, both front and back.  She moved a little but again was ultimately unfazed.  By the third try she was standing completely still.  He threw the rope all around in the air, and the look on her face was priceless.  I said as much aloud, and Chris joked that she was "wondering what this guy with the really bad rope skills was doing."  LOL!  He said she figured she would just stand here and look pretty to distract from his bad skills.  She was perfect yet again.  I had such a feeling of pride for my little girl.  She was being SOOO good and seemed pretty happy.  :)

Chris decided to bring out the infamous plastic bag on a crop.  My husband used to make fun of a woman at a local barn where I boarded for a short time before the horses came home, as she always had her bag on a stick.  It is sorta funny, because when is a horse going to have to worry about a bag on a stick?  But it makes a good point with your horse to accept "scary" things.  While I am not going to lead my horses around 100% of the time with a bag on a stick (LOL), I do think the desensitizing value is good.  At first, Chris just walked around waving the crunchy sounding bag in front of him, bringing Reva along behind.  He explained that a horse should be able to "chase" the scary thing first.  Then he stopped her and allowed her to sniff it.  She lipped at it, wondering I am sure, if there were any treats inside!  He then began to wave it to the side of her.

I love her ears in this one.....  :)

This was probably the funniest part of the clinic to me.  Instead of being scared, Reva bobbed her head up and down as Chris waved the bag up and down.  ROFL!  And she did it on both sides!   I have never seen a horse do that before.  He explained that he was moving faster than he normally would, as she was being so good.  He put it on her shoulder and back.  Again she was fine.

I got to try the bag with her myself.  She did not bob her head up and down this time though; I think she was bored with the game.  :)  I did put it further back on her side, on her haunches and legs.  Again Chris told me and the audience about how most horses are not this "easy" and if he could show me a video of the average 10 horses doing this I would see a big difference.  She accepted the scary bag much more quickly than he thought she would.

So then Chris had me move her off on a lunge circle while he really waved the bag out on the edge of the circle.  She had a moment of WOW and bucked a bit on the circle.  Nothing major though.  Soon Reva was trotting and then walking quietly around me.  He waved the bag and she would startle, but not bolt.  She would go all the way around the circle in a happy easy walk, and then as soon as he was behind her on one spot of the circle, he would wave it a bunch of times.  She would startle just a tiny bit and then keep walking.  He did that about five times, waving it at the same spot in the circle.  Finally he said that she was not afraid, she would just forget about him and the bag so quickly in the seven or so strides before she got to that part of the circle.  LOL!

I kind of wanted to try the tarp too, but then Chris was asking me if I wanted to ride.  I only had about 20 minutes left of my lesson!  I was impressed with Reva's attention span for that amount of time already!  I really wanted to get on her at a strange new place though, and I knew she was mentally fine.  ST helped me tack her up and I mounted with no problems.  Again Chris said he was impressed because her expression never changed when I mounted.  She went forward at an easy walk and he had me go through his "pre-flight check" as it was.  Now I cannot remember exactly what he said besides checking to see if the horse moves off the leg, stops easily, and bends....LOL!  But I do remember that Reva had no problem bending her nose to my left boot, but had a very hard time bending her neck to the right.  And she has a harder time moving around in a turn on the forehand to the right.  This is what we are working on anyways.....bending and flexing.  Chris reminded me to work on this on the ground.  We trotted around the ring, and Chris told me she looked ready to show.  LOL!  Next year, next year.....

After doing some trotting and working on bending, Chris asked me on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, what my confidence level was about cantering.  I grinned and said 10!  I wanted to see how Reva would act, and as I told Chris, the footing in the ring looked really soft (it was a nice thick layer of shredded rubber!)  She picked up her left lead with no issues and we actually got a nice easy canter.  I wanted to canter to the right, but Chris wanted me to get off so he could quickly show me how to work on bending her neck on the ground.  It was already 12 noon, time for my lesson to be over and time for him to have a lunch break before his afternoon session!

Yeehaw, motorcycle mare!  LOL!

I must say this was one of the best clinics I have attended.  It was fun to work with Reva with Chris.  And I am SO PROUD OF REVA!  She was a rockstar.  Chris shook my hand when I dismounted, telling me I was a good rider and had done a great job with Reva so far.  He told me to continue exactly what I have been doing and that next he would recommend we work on bending and lateral flexion, which he acknowledged I already was working on.  I admitted it had been almost 2 weeks since I had ridden Reva and he looked shocked.   He told me for a four year old who had only had about 25 rides on her, I was way ahead of the game.  He also told me that one of the audience members had remarked how good Reva looked under saddle and another had said, "Well look at her rider."  That is a nice compliment.  :)  I know I have my equitation faults, but I am also confident in the saddle and I know that is why Reva is so good.  Chris admitted to me that he did not believe me in the beginning when I said Reva was confident.  He figured she would be timid, just from seeing her in the first few moments in the ring, spooking at the crossrail in front of the audience.  He was happy to say he was wrong.  He said that she was confident because I was confident.  He said that with a nervous or timid rider/handler, he was not sure that Reva would be so calm.  That was pretty cool to hear as well.

Reva was barely sweating as I untacked her, happy to have her face stuffed with horse cookies at the trailer.  LOL!  She drank her water and was pretty happy overall.  I am just so proud of my filly.  I guess she is really a big girl now....LOL!  She was happy to be back home and whinnied to Sparky and Dreamy, who whinnied loudly right back.  :)  Reva got to spend the afternoon in her grass pasture, which was a nice end to her day.  This morning Reva was COVERED with shavings on her right side, which made me laugh.  She always lays on her right side at night, but she must have been a tired horse!  She had shavings covering her body from her ears to her tail.

Thank you to ST for accompanying me to the clinic and taking tons of pictures!  :D  She told me she thought she had taken about 100 photos....I got a text later in the evening telling me she had taken 198!!!!  HOLY CRAP!  LOL!  :)  Here is the entire album....

I rode Dreamy when I got home after the clinic, and she was awesome.  Excellent stetchy trot circles, SLOW canters, and a relaxing walk down the trail at the end to cool out.  Life is good!!!!!!  :) :)