Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Longing as a brief training technique

I am not a fan of longing horses.  In fact, before this past Sunday, I cannot remember the last time I longed a horse.  But with Reva's canter being a bit wonky at times (she will pick it up but has a hard time maintaining it whereas other times she is fine...) my instructor Judy recommended trying to build her canter on the longe for a short time. 

My "ring" where I ride is really just a (not very level) area of Dreamy's grass pasture.  It is certainly not ideal to ride in, much less longe a horse!  Add to that my dislike of longing and I made the choice to bring Reva to Judy's for her first longing lesson.  While I feel as though I am a capable horsewoman, I wanted to be with Judy in her level ring with excellent footing.  And plus, I figured I would need help teaching Reva how to longe and would need another person.  There is always the scary fact that a horse can fall on the longe line, so I wanted to be with Judy for support and help.

Judy offered to try her out first, which was fine with me.  I really wasn't nervous, but I did want Reva to have a good first experience and I knew for a fact that Judy could do that.

Reva acted like she had been longed before.  I highly doubt that, but she was so calm and quiet.  I realized she had done some baby longing at the Chris Lombard clinic back in 2010, but even then she acted like she knew what she was doing. 

Chris Lombard clinic in 2010...

Here we are on Sunday morning at Judy's farm....

Being a complete pain and pawing while I try to take a pic.  She is a good girl, but she does have the 5 yo ADD problem at times!
Just starting on her first circle!  Good girl!
And here she is trotting for the first time!!  :-)

She was so good!  When in doubt, she stops.  I love it.  I much rather have a horse who stops and thinks than bolts, bucks, and farts.  LOL!  She is super sensitive on the longe, meaning she is very aware of your body language and will easily move or stop with only subtle prompting.  I love that!

I brought her over to Judy's again on Tuesday to use her ring and Reva was excellent.  I think longing might be a key to helping her canter.  :-)  I will ride her the next few times and go back to longing in a few days.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marshaling at Scarborough Downs - Oct. 16, 2011

What a fantastic way to end the horse show season!  Back in July, my friend Shelly and I were asked to marshal at the 3yo Maine Sire Stakes Final at Scarborough Downs.  Marshaling at the track is one of my most favorite things to do!  It was a windy and chilly day, but at least the sun was out.  Post time was at 12:05, so we arrived early to get our horses ready.  Our horses are very similar looking and we wear identical clothing, so we always look snazzy as we bring down the post parades.  Dreamy and McKeever are best buds and know their job on the track.  They are calm and happy, which adds to the FUN!

There were 14 races, which made for a very long day in the saddle!  Thankfully, much of what we do is standing around.  LOL!  We bring down the post parade (we trot down), stand off to the side of the track while the race goes, then we bring the winner back to the winner's circle.  Then we stand at the fence by the apron and chat up the crowd!  The horses love the attention from everyone.  Once the next race is coming down the chute from the paddock, we go up and bring them down again.  It is a lot of fun watching the horses race, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones!  

Dreamy is just chillin' and watchin' a race...nbd.  She is so good at the track!

McKeever (left) and Dreamy.  Can you tell which of our two horses was more competitive back in the day?  LOL!
Shelly and McKeever!
We switched horses!  I am on McKeever, who appears to be asleep!
And Shelly on Dreamy.  My mare looks so impressed!  LOL!  Shelly is on her phone....big surprise!  ;-D
This year we got a bit bored and decided for the last two races to switch horses!  HA HA HA!  For all the years we have been friends, we have never ridden each other's horses.  So I climbed aboard McKeever (who is MUCH wider than Dreamy, by the way!) and Shelly got on Dreamy. We giggled and laughed about how SAFE we were.....great idea to ride a new unfamiliar horse for the first time on the TRACK!  LOL!!!  Of course, our horses are very well behaved and both of us are decent riders, so I knew it would be fine when I suggested it.  McKeever likes to pace, so I had a funny time at first trying to get him to trot rather than pace.  He was so good though!  :-)  Such a sweet horse.  Dreamy was good for Shelly too.  While we waited for the 13th race, Shelly cantered her on the back part of the old TB mile track and I took a video.  LOL!  It is funny to see your horse with someone else riding!

Shelly cantering Dreamy! from Elizabeth Tewksbury on Vimeo.

We had so much fun, as usual!  I love being asked to marshal!  Thanks to Diann P., Susan H., and all the horsemen for a great day!  :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sunset Farm 2-phase - Oct. 15, 2011

This past Saturday, Dreamy and I competed in a two phase at Sunset Farm in Waterford, Maine.  After many successful events at Elementary, I figured we might as well try to move up to Beginner Novice and see what happened.  I entered both the Elementary and Beginner Novice divisions, figuring that two dressage tests and two stadium jump courses would not be that taxing.  

My first ride time was not until around 2:30, so I did not have to leave until noon time!  It is so bizarre to leave for a horse show that late!  LOL!  I cleaned the house and barn, went grocery shopping, bought grain, and still had time to bathe Dreamy and pack the trailer!  :-P  My friend Amber came along to help and take pics!  My camera died during the first jumping round (of course!) so there are not many pics.  

Dreamy was super good, as usual.  Sunset Farm is small and there is a lot of stuff close to the ring, but she was fine.  One poor young rider fell off her pony when it tripped right before our test, and was sitting directly outside the ring at A being taken care of, but Dreamy never noticed and was focused the entire ride.  She did decide in our second test that she might as well do some trot lengthenings during our three trot changes of rein.  Silly mare!  This is not First level!  LOL!!!  Apparently, Dreamy has decided that all dressage tests are now First level tests, seeing as we did F1 and F2 this year.  :-p  But other than wanting to lengthen her trot, I was really happy with how we did.  There was even a HUGE puddle at M that she trotted and cantered through....not happily, but without a fuss.  She is pretty convinced that puddles do NOT belong in dressage rings!!  LOL!

I always make the decisions about what tests to ride when I am weeks away from the show, in order to mail in my entry on the opening date.  Things that sound good while sitting at my desk are not always smart choices when actually at the show!  LOL!  I had planned to memorize the jump courses when I first arrived at 1PM before I rode my dressage.  Sadly, the courses were not yet set up!  Ugggg!  So I had to change my game plan.

I warmed up for BN Test A and felt pretty confident.  The warm up is small, but I knew that ahead of time and tried to coordinate my cantering when it was not as full.  I have ridden this test a few times in the last two years.  As long as I did not completely mess up and HALT on the first center line, I knew I would be OK.  (See story HERE!)  LOL!)  We ended up tied for first with a 33.5 in our Elementary division.  Good marks, a few 6s, seven 7s, three 8s and a few 5s on canter circles.  The judge wrote, "Super reach in walk! Canter needs to improve suppleness."

Dreamy does NOT want to get her hooves wet!  LOL!  I love my face!

Trot, trot, trot.......whoops!  She does a slow motion trot into the puddle!

Look Mom!  I do very BIG trot on the diagonals, right??
I had about an hour between dressage tests and had planned to return to the trailer and let Dreamy relax.  Thankfully it was a cooler day, so I did not feel bad that I instead had to walk over to the jump field to memorize both my courses.  There was a hand drawn map of the courses on a poster sized paper, but it was completely not to scale and made me confused.  So I had Amber hold Dreamy (thank goodness she was there to help!) and I went in and scurried about to figure out the course.  I had hoped the Elementary and Beginner Novice courses would be the same, just with different heights.  NOPE!!!!  :-(  They were different courses!  Oh crap!  So I did my best to figure them out, which took forever.  I had to run all over the place, checking fence numbers, and then try to differentiate between the two courses.  I had forgotten to have Amber bring a pen and paper from the trailer (which was parked waaay down the road), which would have helped tremendously as I am a visual learner.  Oh well.  Just suck it up and just do it was all I could tell myself. 

As soon as I felt somewhat comfortable with the courses, I had to memorize BN test B!  I had never ridden it or even looked at it before that moment.  LOL!  I love that all my tests are right on my iPhone, so it was simple enough to look at the diagrams, remount Dreamy, and give it a try!  I spent some time walking and trotting her around, with a few small 15 m. canter circles.  This is when Dreamy decided she ought to do her trot lengthenings on each diagonal  and I know I made some awful faces as I struggled to remember the test!  LOL!  But I remembered it all just fine, despite a few moments of panic about where to go next and at which gait.  We were in second place with a 39 for our Beginner Novice division.  This time we scored two 5s, six 6s, eight 7s, and four 8s!  We did well on much of our trot work and of course the stretchy walk in both tests for those 8s!  Judge wrote, "Elegant horse!  Appears to need more strength over topline to help support a more pure canter rhythm."  Or maybe she's just a pacer.....  ;-D  In all serious though, her canter has really improved and I think it is just what it is.  There are time we have gotten 6s on our canter circles which was exciting and when the canter depart is a single score, we have even gotten 7s.  But the canter is what it is.  And I am OK with that.  :-)

I had a short amount of time to return to the trailer to change tack and clothing in order to jump.  It was starting to get later in the day and the clouds were rolling in.  It had sprinkled here and there, but I really did not think it would rain.  I made the bad choice to only wear my short sleeved dressage shirt under my jumping vest.  I was hot at the time I was changing everything around to jump, not thinking about how it might cool off more as the sun went down.  Dreamy warmed up well over a few fences and then it began to rain.  And rain, rain, rain.  It poured while the sun was out, causing a pretty rainbow to appear!  That was cool....but I was FROZEN!!!  My teeth were chattering, my hands felt like ice cubes, and I was just miserably cold!  

Our first jumping round was just 2' in the Elementary, and I knew the course pretty well.  There were just nine jumps (or maybe 10...) but despite the rain and footing, I knew we would be OK.  Many horses had trouble at one of the fences, a blue, pink, and white gate.  Dreamy just sailed over it!  :-D  We ended up going clean, tied for first, but the collective marks on our dressage test were just a bit lower, so we ended up second.  Yay Dreamy!

Our second jumping round was raised up to 2'6" for Beginner Novice.  We also had twelve jumps and a one stride combination.  I was a bit nervous, as I knew the footing was getting slippery and the jumps were higher than anything we have done at a show before.  I had Amber hold Dreamy again while I walked the course, as I wanted to make double sure I knew it.  It took a minute for them to raise the jumps, so I had plenty of time.  It started to DOWNPOUR, but I just memorized it quickly, hopped on, and went first!

Dreamy was perfect!!!  She never hesitated and jumped everything without any problems.  I am sure I got in her way and my position was not the best, but I am so proud of her for doing so well our first time out at Beginner Novice!!  She was the only horse who went clean, so we easily moved up to first place!  Yay!!!  All I wanted to do was have fun and go clean our first time out at BN, so to win was just amazing.  We even ended up winning the overall high point senior rider award!  That is so cool!  We won a pretty autumn themed basket with lots of Halloween candy!  Our ribbon were cute, as they were all purple with just the placing written on them.  I have never won a purple ribbon before!  LOL!  I think the farm was trying to get rid of old ribbons, and must have had a ton of purple ones so they just restapled the middle part on them with the placing listed, but it was still kind of fun.  Who cares about the ribbons!!  We won our first ever Beginner Novice 2-phase!  Yay Dreamy!  Hopefully next year we can try a Beginner Novice event at Hilltop or Green Acres and maybe even try the USEA rated Snowfields next August!  I know that is a lofty dream, but who knows??

Gotta love my camera on the wrong setting.  LOL!

Whee!  Love her tail!

Despite the fact that I was frozen, soaked, and got home long after dark, I would say Dreamy and I had a very successful last show of 2011!  :-)  Professional pics are here!

Friday, October 21, 2011


"...the mares teach folks at horse shows all over New England just what a Standardbred can do – in every imaginable discipline."
Thanks to Ellen Harvey at the USTA for the shout-out in her blog!  I love when my mares are featured!  Ellen is a wonderful supporter of the Standardbred athlete, both on the track and off!  :-D

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ever After Mustang Benefit Show - Oct. 8, 2011

Reva and I went to the Ever After Mustang Benefit Show on Saturday, October 8, 2011.  It was held at the Hollis Equestrian Park on one of the most gorgeous fall days.  I showed here before with Dreamy and have always enjoyed this laid back show.  The judge was a great horsewoman Jan Neil, and while I cannot remember why/how I know her, I was really happy to show under her.  I think she is a fair and knowledgeable judge.  It was Reva's last show for 2011, which has been her first year of showing.  To say I am proud of her is an understatement.  She has been so good this year and allowed me to have a great time bringing along a young horse.

None of my friends decided to show that day, so I had to go alone.  So of course, I have no pics save for a few crappy ones from my iPhone.  :-(  Oh well.  I was not nearly as nervous as I was with Reva back in May, when I had NO idea how she would act.  So I was pretty comfortable showing her alone for the first time.  I knew she would be OK, but I also knew there would be decent people there to help if something went wrong.  The Hollis Equestrian Park is also only 30 minutes from my house, so my family was close by just in case.

We started the day with class #1 Open Fitting and Showmanship.  While I freely admit I do not like in-hand or showmanship classes, we have done them all year so I figured I might as well just suck it up and do it one last time.  LOL!  Reva was super good, standing quietly in the line up and moving correctly when I asked.  There were seven horses in the class, all sizes, breeds, and all ages of handlers.  There were a few that I knew would not be much competition (one horse was very dirty, for example) but a few of them looked really good.  We were at the end of the line, so I got to watch five horses before we were asked to walk, trot, and set up for the judge.

I noticed that Jan would give each handler a comment or two after they showed their horse.  For me, she just smiled and said "Very nice job!"  After she sent in her card, she came back through the line up and all she had for me was another smile and an "Excellent turnout."  I had high hopes of placing well.  They started with 7th place and went up, so I kept waiting to hear my name.  YAY for Reva mare as she placed first!  :-)  It was a great start to the day.

We did not have much time for the next class #6 Walk Trot Adult English Pleasure.  I tacked her up quickly in her hunt tack, having decided to stick with hunt seat since there was a hunter under saddle class right afterward.  No time to change from saddleseat to hunt seat!  There were four riders in the class: two were on Standardbreds (yay!) and the other was on a young Friesian mare (she ended up knowing me from SMDA shows which was cool).  I knew that Reva could be competitive, but at the same time she can be naughty and buck, so it could go either way.  Reva seemed very happy and relaxed.  She has shown at Hollis three other times this year, so it was not a new venue.  I was pleased with how she went, though she was a little stronger in the trot than I would have liked.  The warm up ring had been packed and I do not yet feel comfortable working her in a crowded warm up like that yet.  But all in all, when we arrived into the line up I was feeling very good about our ride.  Even if we placed last, I was still happy with her. 

But we placed first!  Yay again!  We were on a roll.  The next class #7 was Walk Trot Open Hunter Under Saddle.  There were five riders this time.  I had to ask the ribbon girl to hang onto the ribbon from the pleasure class since I had no one with me to take it and had to stay right in the ring to show again.  I felt that if I could keep Reva slow and steady, we had a shot at another win. 

We were doing well until the judge asked for an extended trot.  :-P  I know Reva has a nice big trot, but I have not really worked on it at all.  Everything this year has been about SLOW, SLOW, and MORE SLOW.  Hahahaha!  I did my best to ease her into a bigger trot, but whoa boy, that mare wants to move out.  She is a TROTTER after all!  LOL!  I rode her very tactfully and she only tried to buck once.  I do give her credit, as she tried to buck but actually listened to me and my driving aids.........that was pretty cool!  I figured the judge would not appreciate her moments of "exuberance" in the extended trot so we would not place well.  Either that, or she would forgive us a bit since it was a hunter class after all.  I had no idea what the others looked like, since I am very focused when I show, especially on a young horse like Reva.

In the line up the judge said, "What a gorgeous extended trot!"  That was pretty neat.  We placed first again!  Wooo!  It felt really good to be placing so well.  Reva was certainly showing me she understood what this showing thing was all about and seemed to be having fun.  The ribbon girl was very sweet and took our ribbons and prize bags (more on that later) back to my truck which was very close to the secretary's booth where she was working.

We had a short break until class #10 Walk Trot Adult Equitation.  We walked around, I gave her a drink of water, and we practiced the art of "doing nothing".  I have been teaching Reva that it is OK to just stand still under saddle, without having to fuss or shift her weight around.  She seemed happy despite the fact that it was a bit hot for October and her winter coat is getting thick.  Again, there were the same four of us from the Adult English Pleasure class.  Reva was excellent, with very decent trot work and only a small bit of initial rushing in the first trot (Do you want to see more of my extended trot? she seemed to be saying....)  We won again.  I almost started to feel embarrassed for winning all four of our classes.  LOL!  A few people made comments, teasing me to give others a chance to win, and while I knew it was meant to be funny it still didn't sit right with me.  Although I am competitive and enjoy winning ribbons, I am not a show off and I think I am very humble.  Besides here on my blog, I don't write about my horses.  I clap for everyone and say good job/nice work/congratulations to others.  Oh well.  The next class proved that we don't always win, which was good.  :-D

Reva was starting to get a little fussy.  We had to stay in the ring again, for class #10 Walk Trot Command Class.  There were 10 of us in the class, which meant that all the youth riders came back into the ring.  I was a little worried, since Reva has never done well in larger classes.  Showing with little kids makes me worried too, since if Reva is naughty I don't want to cause a problem for a young rider.  It never dawned on me until they called for the first trot that the kids might trot right up next to her, instead of staying well spaced.  A small pony came right up next to her left shoulder and she BUCKED all the way down the long side.  I knew it was bound to happen based on her slight attitude change in the beginning of the class.  Of course, we were called out since the command was to "trot" not "buck".  HA HA HA!  Though one of the spotters told me she couldn't believe I stayed on.  It is funny because Reva's bucks never feel that big to me, but apparently they are.  The only bummer is that because it was a command class, we had to go stand in the center, so it felt to me like I was teaching her that if she bucks she gets to be finished and go stand.  Oh well.  That is the way life is sometimes.  :-)  We placed 7th out of ten, which I was still happy with based on her silly bucking.  It taught me that 1. maybe back-to-back classes are not a good idea with her and 2. we have GOT TO work on having other horses trot up behind us.  I know she is young, but she needs to learn some ring etiquette.  It is time!  Sadly, I rarely ride with others, but I am guessing my friend Tania and her horse Otis might be able to practice with us.  At least if we can't do it this fall, we can work on it next spring.

Thankfully we had a break until class #18 Adult Walk Trot Over Fences (18") so Reva got to chill at the trailer, eat some hay, and drink plenty of water.  She is great at taking care of herself at shows, drinking and eating without any issues.  I was able to eat lunch and relax too.  It was hot and there was not much shade, but I had to remind myself that it was one of the nicest days we will see until next summer!  Winter is coming!  :-(

I did not have high expectations for the jumping class.  I have not worked on jumping with Reva that much and besides the one time at Nationals this past August, we have never shown over jumps.  I wanted to get her into the ring for the experience, and the jumps were teeny tiny (definitely lower than 18"!)  I don't believe in over jumping any horse, especially a five year old, but going over eight cross rails is not going to hurt her.  She is not a natural jumper, I don't think.  She tends to hesitate right before the fence as she learns to use and bounce off from her hocks.  Though much of that is simply strength and experience, so who knows.  She was willing and did not try to buck, take off, or have a rail down like she did at Nationals.  But she was not nearly as steady as I would eventually like her to be.  She got a little wiggly in some of her approaches, but again, that will get better.  We placed third out of three, which I was happy with.  We went clean and calm and that is all I can ask for right now.  :-)  (Side note: a fellow STB rider placed first which was great!  She was nervous about jumping but had a great round!  Yay!)

We were only supposed to have three classes left, but they added in two barrels classes.  I entered Reva in the walk trot one, since they needed at least five to run the class and I got talked into it.  I retacked her up in our Western gear and changed my clothes...I decided to try her Western since they had two Walk Trot Western classes at this show.  It was sort of a silly last minute decision but I figured why not.  LOL!  I tried her out Western for the first time on Tuesday just four days before this show.  It was sort of a silly last minute decision but I figured why not.  LOL!  I tried her out Western for the first time on Tuesday that week and she was super good.  My saddle fit her well and I was able to ride her in her normal snaffle and show with two hands since she is only five.  She picked up on the jog very quickly, which was surprising.  I figured she would want to careen around at the trot and I would scrap the entire idea.  I rode her Western again on Thursday and she was perfect.  Seriously had a perfect, slow, comfortable Western jog!  Who would have thunk!?!?!  ;-D  

We did the Walk Trot Barrels class and Egg and Spoon in our western tack.  I don't think my orange colors that I used with Dreamy looked quite as nice on Reva, but that doesn't matter.  She was such a good sport about trying barrels.  She had no idea what I wanted, but she tried her best.  We were not terribly fast and I had to post in my Western saddle (LOL) but we ended up second out of 6 riders!  So I guess we were fast enough!  Egg and Spoon made me giggle the entire time.  I have not done that class in forever!  I was pretty sure the egg would come off immediately, but I made it around at the walk and then into the trot for half the ring until it popped out!  LOL!  I ended up in second out of five riders.  That was pretty funny.  The young rider who won would have trotted around all day, as she had her thumb beside the egg.  ;-D  But I thought it was neat to see her smile at having won, so it is totally a non issue.  Ha ha ha.  

Lastly we had our two Western classes: Adult Walk Jog Pleasure and Adult Walk Jog Equitation.  I was seriously bummed that we were the only ones (so of course we won) because I wanted actual competition!  Reva was perfect, walking and jogging like we had been doing it all summer.  I was so impressed with her jog.  Even the judge was surprised, commenting to me in the line up that she couldn't believe how good she looked Western.  I love that Reva has successfully shown hunt seat, saddleseat, dressage, and now Western and all the judges have made comments about how she looks good.  :-D

Reva ended up winning the Walk Trot High Point Champion of the day!  Yay!  We were given a very nice black Rambo saddle pad from Dover Saddlery. 

So overall it was a very successful day!  We earned great ribbons in large and small classes, I showed Reva all by myself for the first time, and we debuted in Western tack after just two practice sessions earlier that week!  As much as I wonder if I should have "specialized" in just one seat with her, I am happy we tried a but of everything.  Her basic training has been solely dressage and I truly feel that is the best way to start a young horse.  And Reva picked up on everything so quickly, I thought it would be fun to try lots of different things to keep it interesting for her.  As her canter improves, I have hopes of going walk/trot/canter with her next year, but time will tell.  I don't want to push her and I won't show her 3 gait until her canter is correct.  I have time, lots of time, and I want to train her correctly.

We won lots of cool stuff!  For each first place ribbon, we won a bag of goodies or a saddle pad!
We won some really cool stuff!  I love receiving items I will actually use instead of plastic trophies.
  • Black Rambo pad with the Dover Saddlery emblem (for the high point award)
  • Two white Centuar saddle pads (perfect for embroidering something!)
  • Bag of Applezz N' Oats horse treats
  • Bottle of Absorbine liniment
  • Two bottles of Cowboy Magic detangler and shine (never tried it, but it looks cool!)
  • A small jar of Lederbalsam (love this stuff!)
  • Two small spray bottles of Eqyss Marigold Rehydrant Spray (never tried this either)
  • Two Farnam health care record sheets
  • Equimax magnet
  • Nutrena heart girth tape measure
  • Two gift certificates to Andy's Agway (totaling $20)
  • A large sponge
I asked a young rider to take our photo at the end of the day!
She is so darn cute!
Ha ha ha, not impressed with the photo taking!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

RIP Gogo Fatale

I have no words for the sadness I feel for Andrea and her beloved mare Gogo.  Rest easy, beautiful girl.  Andrea, you are not alone...please know you are doing the right thing and I admire your strength.  

Somewhere...somewhere in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some Paradise where horses go.
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.

~Stanley Harrison

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hidden Brook Farm Dressage Show - Oct. 1, 2011

On Saturday, Oct. 11, 2011, I brought Reva to her second ever dressage show at Hidden Brook Farm in Norway, ME.  The first time she ever did a dressage test was back in August at the National Standardbred Show.  She was such a good mare that I thought it would try one more with her this season.  I had decided that if she showed improvement all year (which she did) that I would try a dressage test or two at least at Nationals.  I really did not expect to even ride a test with her this year, much less four of them!  I am glad we did it and it means that she will be ready to rock the dressage ring in 2012.  ;-)  We did not earn any dressage year end awards this year, since we did not do enough dressage shows to qualify.  But year end awards and ribbons were not my goals, but instead I wanted her to have a positive experience.

In our two dressage shows this year, we did both Intro A and B.  I think that Intro B is easier than A.  I also dislike the walking and no halting on the centerlines, but whatever.  :-P  At least the Intro tests are easier to remember than my First level tests with Dreamy this year!  LOL!

I woke up on Saturday morning with an awful stomach ache and had to run to the bathroom numerous times, which almost made me cancel.  But I really wanted to ride her in a dressage test again, so I sucked it up.  And sucked down numerous Pepto Bismol tablets!  (BTW, it was nothing to do with nerves and everything to do with a pizza I ate the night before!  BLAH!!!)

My friend Amber came along again as my helper and photographer.  I was happy to ride early at 9:18 and then again at 10:12.  We were back home by just after noon time!  Yay for showing at Intro level instead of First level!  ;-D  It was overcast and threatening rain all morning, but did not start to pour until just as we were leaving the show!  Yay again!  I love to show at Hidden Brook Farm as it is very relaxed and laid back.  Plus the judge Yvonn Coleman-Larson is one of my favorite judges ever.

Parking is tight at HBF, and with my big trailer I was a bit worried.  But we were the first ones there!  :-)  It gave me plenty of time to walk Reva around the farm, the warm up, and around the outside of the dressage ring.  After showing Sparky and then Dreamy for so many years, I had forgotten how a young horse needs time to settle before they compete, especially in a new place.  But she settled in beautifully and I set about grooming, tacking, and getting ready for our first ride. 

Reva was excellent for the first few minutes of our warm up.  I had just begun to trot when a young rider entered the warm up area to lunge her horse.  Now, the warm up at HBF is not that big, but it is plenty large enough for numerous horses to ride around safely.  It is NOT big enough for a horse to be lunged as well.  The horse being lunged was all worked up and whinnying at its friend back at the trailer, so I tried my best to stay out of its way.  Reva is pretty laid back for a five year old, but she is still only a five year old!  Of course, the young rider had a difficult time lunging the horse, and soon they were all over the warm up area instead of sticking to one end or corner or what-have-you.  Well great.  I figured I still had about 20 minutes left, so I might as well just wait it out.  We walked as quietly as we could and stayed out of the way.

Oh no.  ANOTHER horse was brought into the warm up to be lunged!  AHHHHH!  Now there was seriously no room to ride even at a walk.  I rode over to the warm up steward to see if she would ask the handlers to go to the indoor to lunge.  She agreed she did not think it was a good idea for them to be in the warm up, but she was hesitant and did not want to speak up (AHHHH!  That is your job!!!).  So I was stuck; I had nowhere to trot, much less walk around.  I could have gone over to the indoor myself, but Reva has never been in an indoor and 10 minutes before the third test of her life did not seem like a good time to try it.  And of course, by now both horses were bucking, farting, and generally being idiots on the lunge lines.  Reva started to get very interested in their misbehavior......

The first rider was finishing up her test.  I was to be the third rider of the day.  The warm up steward asked if I wanted to switch places and go second, as the third rider (she had to be about 8 years old...) had just gotten on her pony.  I really did not want to go in to ride a test without a decent warm up, but it was either go NOW or go back to the warm up with the crazy horses being lunged.  I sighed inwardly, bit my tongue, and said I would ride early.

I truly think Reva would have been fine despite the lack of warm up if there had not been two horses bucking wildly around their handlers in the warm up, just 50 feet away from the dressage ring.  I asked for a trot while waiting for the judge to ring the bell, and HOLY SH!T!!  My horse grew about a foot and a half.  She was so close to explosion I almost scratched.  But I figured I would at least give it a try.  I knew that unless I truly felt unsafe, I had to ride her through it.  She had to learn to deal with distractions (even BIG BUCKING ONES) and still perform.  If I had thought she would have truly had a bad experience, I would have stopped as well.

I willed my body to ride as tactfully and quietly as possible.  Reva wanted to spook and be naughty so badly, but I have to hand it to her.  She kept her head and all four hooves on the ground.  We entered at A and had the most twisted pretzel shaped center line of my life.  She was trying so hard to be a good girl and listen to me, but she twisted her haunches and shoulders all around almost as though she was trying not to buck.  I could feel her underneath me, and all I could think was please don't let me fall off....

I figured the test would be completely awful.  She did start to settle in the first half of the first trot circle, only to come around to face the warm up and pretzel her body again with tension.  She would go from a lovely swinging Training level trot to a short little rushing Awful trot.  There were some nice moments, but her tension was such that we could not relax or travel straight.  I knew I would ride the free walk very tactfully, so we would not get as good of a stretch and swing as I wanted to show.  I started to let out the reins carefully and bless her, she went down to accept the contact and sighed loudly.  I was still very cautious, but I was glad she was able to relax in that movement.  We finished the test in a slightly less rushed manner and all I could do at the last halt was laugh.  At least we had made it through.  Maybe we had done it at Mach 10 trotter speed, with a completely pretzel shaped body, but we did it.  The judge was complimentary, reminding me that with better tempo we would have more relaxation and straightness.  I thanked her and told her it was Reva's second dressage show and, with a laugh, that usually our tempo was not quite that fast!  She acted surprised and said I was on the right track, that with more conditioning and experience we would do well.  :-)

Starting the free walk...
And finishing the free walk!
There were eight Intro A riders and they split it into two divisions: junior and senior.  I was in the senior division of course, with four riders.  I was very surprised to place third behind two professional riders on young horses (who both scored in the 70s!) with a 60.6%!!  I did not feel that we had broken 60% at all, but we did earn two 5s, ten 6s, and  three 7s (right trot circle, change of rein, and rider position!)  :-)

Thankfully the horses were no longer being lunged once we were done.  I had planned to allow Reva to relax at the trailer briefly between tests, but since we had not had much of a warm up beforehand, I figured I might as well ride her until our next test.  I let her walk around and chill for a few minutes before I picked her up and asked for the trot.  She wanted to be rushy and tense, but within a few moments of transitions, I had my sensible mare back underneath me.  We had a very very good warm up!  I was pleased that she was not only so well behaved and going along like her old self, but also that she was doing this with five other horses in the warm up.  It was a good experience and totally made up for the defeat I felt after Intro A!  I gave her lots of walk breaks and time to stand around at one point to chill. 

We were both in a much better state of mind for Intro B.  I knew it would be a much better test!  I don't have any pics, but I do have a video!  Yay!

Hidden Brook Farm Dressage Show from Elizabeth Tewksbury on Vimeo.

I was much happier with her overall, despite a few moments of loss of balance and slight changes in her tempo.  It cracked me up with she almost left the ring during our walk.....look at 1:18.  HA HA HA!  I was not expecting it and when I went to correct her with my right leg she just bulged into me.  Oh Reva!  :-P  We ended up with six 6s and nine 7s!  We had all 7s on our collectives except a 6 on gaits (since she has a bit of irregularity in her walk when she gets tense).  But the word "tension" did not appear ONCE (while it appeared three times in Intro A!)!  Yay! Our comments were that we were much more relaxed and "would like to see horse reaching still more over topline into contact."

The photos are stills from the video so they are poor quality.  I will leave them small.  But she looks good for her second show, I think!


We ended up placing third again (against the same riders), with the two professionals placing waaaay high above us.  I was very pleased with the 66.3%!  My only goals were to stay on (the horse) and stay in (the ring), have a positive experience for Reva, and maybe break 60%!  After seeing that 60.6% for such a lousy test, I secretly hoped to break 65% on the second one...and we did!  I would say it was a very good outing for the young mare!

"Trotter ears" only a mother could love....LOL!

One of our two ribbons.

I love my girl!  :-)
Big thanks to Amber for her help and her photography skills!  There are more pics here on my Facebook page.  :-)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sending love and support...

One of my favorite blogger friends, Andrea, is facing a very difficult decision right now with her gorgeous mare Gogo.  After several successful years of eventing, Gogo sustained an injury at the AECs two years ago.  Andrea has done absolutely everything in her power to help Gogo heal, but sadly it sounds like she might have to make the difficult decision to let her go.  I really admire Andrea as a horse person, rider, and woman.  It is completely heartbreaking to me to read her blog posts and Facebook statuses lately.  I never understand why bad things happen to great people and horses.

Please take a moment to visit Andrea's blog and leave her a message.  I know fellow horse folks understand what it is like to have to make the kindest and most difficult decision for their beloved horse.

We are all thinking of you, Andrea and Gogo.  xoxox