Sunday, August 28, 2011

SMDA Dressage Show – August 7, 2011

Sunday, August 7 was our fourth SMDA show of the year.  The judge was Bill McMullin (r).  I was happy to have a “little r” judge instead of a “learner” because I think they are better judges.  Dreamy has been going so well and I was anxious to see how we would do at First level again.  Of course, it had to rain AGAIN!  LOL!  Oh well.  At least it was not super hot, but it was a bit damp.  My young horse friend Amber came along with me, which was nice.  I usually show alone at dressage shows, so to have someone to talk to and help me out if needed was great!  She had never been to a dressage show, so it was neat to explain things to her.  And of course, she took some great pics despite the rain!

I had decided to ride Prix Caprilli again, but also do Training 3 and First 2.  It was a weird combination, but I am trying to qualify for SMDA year end awards and you need to ride a test three times to qualify, hence the reason I rode two tests that were not adjacent. 

Getting ready to ride!

We started with Training 3 and I was pleased with the ride.  I had not ridden it for a while, but I was able to memorize it and not go off course!  LOL!  I have the worst time memorizing dressage tests.  (I ought to write a product review on my dressage test apps on my iPhone….BEST way to memorize tests!!!)  We ended up with a 64.4% and a second out of nine riders!  We got 7s on our right lead canter, and a 6 and 5 on the left.  We had two 8s, one on our first centerline and of course the freewalk.  The rest was mostly 6s and 7s with one 5.  I have been getting 7s on rider position too, which is cool.  The comment was, “Some very nice walk and trot work. Canter needing more support from rider’s seat and back to maintain better engagement. Good luck!”
Warming up

Going in for Training 3

Training 3

Training 3

Next was Prix Caprilli.  I got a bit nervous because we have won this test three times already this year and I REALLY wanted to win again!  LOL!  So of course, I psyched myself out and we ended up with a rail down over the last jump.  DUH.  The test was going SUPER well, we had good jumps, great transitions, and I think I just lost my focus and let her get too close on the take off.  We even had a cool canter lead change: we had to canter between A and K, change rein at the canter over a fence diagonally at X, and then land in canter.  We cantered into the fence on the right lead and landed in the left!  WHOOO!  We had to trot to the left at M anyway, but I was proud that she actually was able to make the change.  I think it helped that we cantered in with her stronger lead.  (Funny note: my friend Amber overheard people on the rail saying things about how I was not supposed to switch leads.  Amber asked me about it since she didn’t really understand what they were talking about.  If the test had specified which lead to land on, it might have mattered.  But all it says is, “land in working canter”.  I was happy she understood how to switch leads over the fence.  Railbirds are always interesting…)

We ended up placing first DESPITE the rail down!  WHOOO!  We just got a 5 on that movement, while the rest of the test was all 7s and two 8s (first centerline and freewalk AGAIN!)  We scored a great score of 68.900% and first out of three.  Good mare!  Still undefeated after four tries at Prix Caprilli!
First jump in Prix Caprilli

This was the last fence, and as you can see from her right foreleg, we hit it down.
And last was First 2.  We had an AWESOME warm up.  She was so good, excellent canter work, prompt and straight leg yields, and her trot lengthenings felt powerful and balanced.  I was a little worried we were leaving our test in the warm up and I was right.  She was tired and perhaps I could have warmed her up a bit less.  We lost our left lead canter midway around the 15 m. circle and had to trot to rebalance.  That was a 3.  Whoops.  The rest of the test was all over the place, from a 5 on the right leg yield to a 7 on the left one.  We had a few 6s and 7s with an 8 free walk.  I knew it was not a great test, but I was still pleased with Dreamy’s effort after two previous tests.  First 2 is hard for us and I was happy with the 57.100% and a sixth place out of eight riders.  Our comment was again praising our walk and trot work but that I need to support her more for the left lead canter.  I like when the judge’s comments are spot on to what I am already working on.  It reinforces what I already know and what my instructor is telling me.  It tells me the judge knows what he is talking about!  LOL!

First 2 warm up

Waiting patiently for First 2...Dreamy looks super impressed!  LOL!

Good mare!  :-)

Trot lengthening in First 2 would be MUCH better if I were not leaning forward like a hunt rider!  ARGH!

Canter lengthening in First 2

Final halt in First 2
So we had a great show, despite the dreary weather.  We even had a cute cartoon drawn of us…there is often an older man at the SMDA warm up ring drawing gorgeous sketches of the horses.  I have seen him give cartoons to other riders, but I have never had the chance to really speak with him.  He made a point to remark positively on my mare (and told me I would win a blue….hahaha he was right!) and asked if he had ever made me a cartoon.  I thought it was very cute!

Posing with our Prix Caprilli and Training 3 ribbons...this was before we got our 6th in Frist 2 as they had not finished scoring that test yet.

Love her!
Untacking at the end of a successful day!
Thanks to Amber for taking pics!  More are here...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hilltop Horse Trial – July 31, 2011

I always enjoy competing at the Hilltop Equestrian Center in Somersworth, NH each year.  They run very nice schooling horse trials and have a great facility.  I went down on Sunday, July 31 for the day with Dreamy.  I brought along my friend Tania and her horse Otis for their debut event!  You can read about her adventures here.

Dreamy seems to enjoy jumping, and even at age 20, she is sound and jumps well.  I am careful to limit the number of jumps we do both at home and at shows.  I am smart and recognize that there is no reason to over jump her.  I also like to keep her around 2’3”; she seems most comfortable there.

We had a decent dressage warm up and I felt really good in our test.  We had a very nice right lead canter, with a 7 on the transition and a 6 on the circle.  Our left lead has been tougher this year, with a 6 on the transition and a 5 on the circle.  But that was our only 5, while the rest of the test was a few 6s, a bunch of 7s, and FOUR 8s (first centerline, first trot movement, our free walk, and the last halt)!!!  I was very pleased with the 31.5 next to our names on the score sheet.  We were sitting in first place after dressage! 

Pretty mare!

Up the centerline...
...and halt at X.
Cross-country went fine as well, with out only bobble over the first fence.  It was a large downhill log and Dreamy tripped right before the take off.  Uh oh.  A bit of a wobbly start, but we recovered easily and the rest of the course was FUN!  The first part was very technical, with lots of rollbacks in a big field, so I had to ride accurately and kept her in a slow canter and even trotted at one point.  The other half of the course was out in the woods, so we were able to canter along.  We had no faults and were still in first place!

Right before cross country.  There are no pics from the course, since Tania was doing her dressage while I was jumping.  I had to rush to get ready for XC so I had to leave her braids in.  It felt funny to jump with her braids in!
Stadium went well too.  I chose to trot most of the course, as a lot of it was on the left lead.  I rather trot the course and maintain Dreamy’s balance rather than make her canter badly.  I know we will probably never be able to accurately canter an entire stadium course in balance, but that’s OK.  I am still very happy with my retired broodmare!!  LOL!

First fence...

Last fence!  Quite the face!  LOL!
In the end, we remained in first place and won our (modified) Beginner Novice division!  I was very happy with my wonderful mare.  I would love to move her up to Beginner Novice, which is 2’7”, because I know we could handle the dressage but I am not sure I should ask her to jump four inches higher.  


My friend Tania had a great time, despite some bobbles on cross-country that resulted in elimination.  I think I have helped convert a new eventer to the dark side!  Yay!  

Tania warming up for XC....that's me on the right give moral support!
Yay!  Fun day!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Acadia National Park!

I took the BEST trip EVER this summer to Acadia National Park here in Maine.  I have been hiking there before, but never with a horse, and I have always wanted to ride the gorgeous carriage trails.  Last year, my friend Shelly and I decided we would make the trip there in 2011.  We had to book our reservations back in January and it felt like the weekend of July 22-24 would never arrive!  We both own Standardbreds who are 20 this year, so we wanted it to be our own special trip on our 20 year olds!  :-)  Our horses, my Dreamy and her McKeever, get along very well.  

We left on Friday morning and arrived at the stables mid afternoon.  We settled the horses in and took a ride later on that night, just an easy 2.7 mile ride around Day Mountain.  It was super hot, but it did cool down for a nice ride.

We stayed at Wildwood.  Great facility!
Shelly and McKeever are on the left, Dreamy and I are on the right.  This was before our last ride on Sunday.
Pretending to be a cowgirl!  ;-)  There were three barns and they were super nice!  Fully matted stalls, airy and safe!  That weird rectangle thing is my iPhone....LOL!!
Headed out on the Access Road on our first ride that Friday night - 2.7 mile loop around Day Mountain
Yay!  We are in Acadia!

Best view ever.  :-)
On Saturday, we woke up early to ride in the morning.  I think we headed out by 8AM and rode until almost noon time.  This time we did a big loop up around Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond, which was 8.3 miles total.  It was overcast and a bit misty, but it was a welcome change from the intense heat of the week before.  We met a ton of hikers and bikers, but they were all polite and interested in the horses.  Many of them took photos of us, or even asked us to stop for a photo, which completely cracked me up.  I told Shelly I felt like a movie star, and in the next group of bikers to come up behind me, one of the women said, "Hi movie stars!"  LOL!  Made me laugh!  I am sure our small brush with paparazzi was quite enough to last me for the rest of forever.  :-D

This cracks me up!  I am taking a pic with my iPhone.  Ah, technology...

Admiring the gorgeous view of Jordan Pond.  This place was magnificent! 

Posing near Bubble Pond...
This trail along Bubble Pond was the most narrow of all the carriage trails.

Bubble Pond was gorgeous as well.  The color of the water was really neat!  

After our Saturday morning ride, we decided to let the horses chill in their stalls while we got cleaned up and had lunch.  It was beginning to clear and becoming sunny and HOT again.  The horses were happy to relax and eat hay in their stalls throughout the middle of the day.  Since we were staying in a tent at the stables, and there was only a toilet and sink at the barn, I really wanted a shower.  I had washed my hair with the hose on Friday night, but it was time to actually get clean!  LOL!  I am not that tough to go without being clean.  We found a place just down the road that had showers for $2, and it was clean and comfortable.   After much needed showers, Shelly and I decided to wander around downtown Bar Harbor for a while.  It was crazy busy with tourists, and in hindsight we will never drive down there again but take the bus from the stable (plus it is free to ride the bus!)!  We found an expensive but yummy restaurant for lunch and wandered around in the many shops.  I bought two small Acadia National Park sew-on patches (I have one from a trip back in college that I put on a backpack...same patch from the same shop...LOL!) and I plan to put them on a saddle pad for Dreamy!  :-)  We bought ice cream and fudge and had a nice walk around pretending to be tourists with too much money to spend.  ;-)  We bought steaks and corn-on-the-cob for our dinner at Hannafords and headed back to the camp/stable.

I was exhausted, as we had stayed up way too late the night before.  I want to say it was 2AM before we fell asleep.  We met some nice people and stayed up chatting and laughing at the communal fire pit.  I desperately needed to rest if we were going to ride again that day.  I slept for almost two hours, and then we fed horses and got ready for a sunset ride.  We decided to go up Day Mountain, which was an easy trail and we knew we would be OK if it got a little dark on the ride back.  It was 5.7 miles total, which included the summit.

Almost to the summit!
We made it!  It was soooooo incredibly gorgeous up there!  You could see everything and the sunset was perfect.  It was hard to capture on film.
The colors were stunning...

...and they kept changing.

Dreamy was hard to photograph as the light kept changing and well, it is only an iPhone 4 camera!  LOL!
Unbelievable  :-)
As much as we were admiring the view, it suddenly dawned on us that we still had to ride down the mountain (1.5 miles) and back around the base to the stable (1.2 miles).  Whoops!  So of course, you can just see where this is going.  It was pretty dark when we got back down into the trees and pitch black by the time we got onto the base trail.  It is amazing how the eyes can adjust to the darkness and we did just fine.  The trail is such a light colored gravel that it was not difficult to stay on the trail.  And our horses were rock stars.  They stayed happy and content, if a bit mystified, about riding in the dark.  I just prayed no wild animal would jump out of the woods!  LOL!  I can't remember what made me decide to put on my iPod in my phone, but we sung "Mean" by Taylor Swift which was kind of fun.  LOL!  Now whenever I hear that song, it brings me back to the very dark forest, riding along on my wonderful mare with my BFF and her horse.  :-)  What a neat feeling to ride in the dark and feel so safe and comfortable with your horse.  That is not something I will ever forget.

We still had to cook our dinner when we got back, so after taking care of our horses and getting them settled for the night, we ate and relaxed around the fire.  It was such a good time.  I am not a big fan of sleeping in a tent, but I would do it in Acadia again in a heartbeat.  

Another pic...I loved the signage everywhere!
The next day we rode early, and thankfully no one was coming into the stables so while we would normally have to leave by 10AM, they said we could stay as late in the day up until 5PM as we wanted.  We did end up leaving by 11AM because we both wanted to get home at a reasonable hour in the afternoon, but we had a very nice last ride.

We went down into the private carriage roads along Jordan Stream, and we rode about 6 miles.  Bikers are prohibited from the private roads, so we never saw anyone through those trails.  We went over some beautiful stone bridges and wooden bridges too.  What amazes me is that the trails and bridges were all built just after the turn of the century from 1915-33 by JD Rockefeller.  Everything is meticulously maintained, the trails are dragged and watered, and even the horse manure is picked up!

Here is one of the gatehouses/gate lodges.  Gorgeous!
At the gatehouses was the only spot we had to cross a paved road.  Motorists were polite to us.
You can see we are going around the gate, to the right.  McKeever's ears are green.  ;-)
We even found a natural XC JUMP out in the private carriage roads!  WHOOO!
Overall, this trip was absolutely perfect and so much fun.  We rode 22 miles over the three days.  I wish we could have stayed longer!  But I know for sure that we will go back.  We are already taking about "next year's trip" and hopefully we will bring friends along with us this time.  If any of you ever get the chance to ride your horse in Acadia, DO IT!  If I had something like that to ride in every day, I am pretty sure I would never enter a ring or do dressage again!  Well, OK, maybe not ever...LOL!  

More pics are here in my FaceBook album.