Sunday, June 26, 2011

Momma was a rolling stone

I have a rare easy weekend this week. Despite downtime, the next two upcoming trips (and a few projects) are weighing heavily on me.

The pony is on a small arena hiatus. The weather is too nice not to play out the fields, so the focus has been cleaning up the forward and back transitions. We'll be back in it by this week in the arena running through third two.

I know summer means traveling. If you're a horse person, it means your trailer never gets unpacked and your social life becomes slim pickings.

I had forgotten what it means to be a gypsy or at least a temporary one. I forgot what it means to live out of a bag, with a mobile and a laptop.

There would be summers before I was 16 where I would spend weeks away from home. When I was 18, and became a working student there was a time where I and the horses would be on the road once a week for at least four days at a clip. When I was a regular journalist, it became weeks.

Over the years, I and the herd grew roots. Leaving town became a pill, packing became a chore, the crowds became too much, gas became expensive and frankly I tended to like my hermit status (not to mention bed).

Last weekend we went north to compete, this time we went south to condition and to prep up for Virginia.

I had never been south of Kentucky before with a trailer, I haven't personally hauled by myself over that much of a strange distance or for that long of a time or over mountains. It was well worth it. I loved seeing everything and meeting everyone. It was nice being on the other side of the fence, if just for a little bit.

It was a good productive week leading into the weekend. I got Sinari over the mouth thing and had someone pointed out that my curb was too low. Have to punch some holes and chop some billets. Was left with a bunch of things to work on, and a few more problems to resolve. Met the loveliest, most generous people in the sport and saw what could be the most inspiring view to practice around in a long time (but sorry no photos or video!!)

The next few weeks will be concentrating on what we lacked during the Ohio trip. I also am in the process of finishing up the kur music. In the interim, she was adjusted and got back to business with Sincere. But the summer is going to be a long one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sister golden hair

I took a two year hiatus from showing, namely to figure out what I wanted to do, get re-organized and to figure out if we were cut out for the upper levels.

The weeks spent with JK proved we could hack the training, the two years allowed me to obtain transport, solid education and a new team, and all that was left was to enter to figure out whether or not we could still pull a test off.

We slipped off last weekend to Ohio for the first time since Pony Cup. Paxton, now called Majestic hosts a regular series of dressage shows throughout the year. 

The show itself was as small, laid back show, especially for a CDI* in a qualifying year. 15 CDI competitors and the majority of regulars from around the region. Despite the laid back nature of the show, the judge panel wasn't handing out any freebies. Very few people broke above 60 percent at second and above on Saturday and Sunday, and even the people who were regularly scoring well into the 60's and low 70's a few weeks ago were struggling with the panel.

The first day was done cold turkey with mistakes and we were properly hazed for it.

On our way up we hit a four car pile-up that held us for three hours, we didn't arrive until nine. This was coupled by high winds, torrential rain, thunder and hail. So no practice. Her being in heat didn't help. During second level she popped a change during the counter canter and in third level she broke after the extended canter.

The second day, we redeemed ourselves. She put in two solid consistent tests, despite slipping in and out of tension, that I'm extremely proud of. We broke the 60 percent barrier and managed to salvage a little bit of the goals I had set out for us. We ended well in the collectives. She earned no less than 7's on her gaits and 7's on harmony and impulsion. Sinari was also really consistent in her balance and I was consistent in my position.

I also need to obtain more wardrobe. Namely breeches, a few shirts and I need to take my jacket in to have a few inches shaved off.

Along the way, I finally figured out that showing is different from training. The idea and concept of preparing and entering the arena for a test instead of a session is something I'm still working to master. In the 10 years I've ridden the sport, I've maybe shown three to four seasons total and it shows.

In the end the summary is: good to be back, have some items to work on, we're going to make it.
This week, we're taking it a little easier, going to be hacking and galloping out on the fields until Thursday

In the meantime, yes, photos and video will be up as soon as I get to it. This weekend we're out of town again.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fortunate son

The more I play with Sincere the happier he is.

He becomes intensely jealous of Sinari whenever she goes out and works and seems to skulk about the idea of a day without getting attention.

So with that, I started throwing more variety at him. In the normal addition of going in and out of the barn, eating and sleeping, he now has a minor job description.

He wears a sursingle (no side reins), a saddle pad, wears an in-hand bridle with his chifney, goes for long walks, knows his vocals pretty well, and is being worked more frequently on the triangle. No two days are the same, and the sessions maybe last 10 minutes.

He has no trouble doing any of these things, in fact none of the routine bothers him and he doesn't mind obliging to the requests, where the other two year olds in the barn is more reactive and far less tolerant.

The next step with him is to develop his consistency in the same short sessions.

He has three good, uphill gaits, however because of his maturity he doesn't always have the strength to sustain for more than a little while. I want to develop his topline and more elasticity and suppleness. This is a lifetime of emphasis, but the more he can develop on the ground the better it will serve when he is under saddle.

Devil in the details

T-minus six days until show season kicks off and I feel a hair under prepared. The pony however is primed and as ready as she'll ever be, putting in consistent works for the last week.

Possibly because it's been two years, tests have changed, facilities, people and my team have changed. Everything is different. Now there is the added expectation of completing out my goals in finite time.

Or it could be that I've been running around like mad trying to find where all my show equipment actually went. Found my coat, stock tie, pants, gloves, had to order a pair of tall boots, can't find my nice sunglasses, my last good Fleck whip was stolen, my stock pin is probably in the black hole under the bed and my bucket and bridle hooks seem to have gone AWOL as well.

Until yesterday I haven't memorized the full tests (normally I would have them memorized forwards and backwards) that I'll be riding. Just have been stringing bits and elements together and should be running through the full things this week. I'm very thankful that both have large canter tours and the trot work is uncomplicated and in good spots. 

Also in a change, I've loaded the tests onto iPad to practice on the whiteboard application, and because I'm not helping, volunteering, sitting and only showing one, I loaded books onto the iBook reader. Heck, if the show office has wireless, I can even watch Netflix between rounds. Also loaded the little camera up for hopefully some video.

Expecting a bit of a curve rejoining competitive society (not to mention a full schedule), I actually began packing today. I did a quick clean over the equipment, unpacked the box which hadn't been touched since we got back in early May, emptied the contents and began to sort.

With horse shows, you need doubles of everything you have at home and a few bits of specialized equipment that stay with the trailer. I'm lucky that Sincere and Sinari now share a regular grooming kit and I can augment the left over brushes shampoos and other items into a new bucket. But eventually, more things will probably become permanent fixtures in the trailer and new supplies will need to be purchased.

Made up new grooming buckets and bath buckets, checked the levels of the supplies (it should get me through July, or worse case scenario, end of June). Found Sinari's show halter and lead, shipping boots, found the snaffle bridle, loaded the trailer down with the spare buckets, extra basic supplies and started with the other items. I still need to copy my paperwork, and stick that in the portable folio, find the saddle cover and bridle bags, the shipping fuzzies and a few other items.

In between, working with Pennfields and a few other people we've developed a nutritional plan for the pony to create peak performance before and during the show. So far, it's worked out great. 

All in all, it seems like we're on the right track, but the real devil is in the details.