2016 Year End Awards

At the show last weekend, Liz and I finally managed to sync up so she could give me the Indiana Dressage Society year end awards she picked up for me at the banquet I couldn't attend in November.  I was just expecting a single ribbon for Reserve High Percentage First Level Adult Amateur, but...

It ended up being the biggest satin haul of my life!

The red ribbon and the platter are for the Reserve High Percentage award, and the fifth place ribbon is in memoriam of my dismal Championship test that caused me to sob every time I thought about it for a week or two.  But, that's what gave me the drive to really buckle down over the winter, so no hard feelings, giant pink ribbon.  You can stay.

"K thanks"
Also this bronze IDS pin, although I am genuinely not sure what this is in recognition for.
Obviously I won't be eligible for the adult amateur awards this year after declaring as a pro to take the Majyk Equipe sponsorship, so it makes it that much sweeter to have earned these last year.


(The funniest part of Liz giving these to me at Heartland was walking through this schooling show, which gives out understandably small ribbons, holding these giant ribbons.  People kept staring at me to the point where I felt I had to explain myself.  Probably crushed some dreams when folks realized no, they weren't handing out three foot long tassled ribbons.)


Heartland Test

The test was honestly not my focus of Heartland, but it still deserves a mention.  We got 3rd in a class of probably 9 or 10, with a 67%.  It could easily have broken 70%, but someone turned into a fire breathing dragon the second he realized we were showing, and we lost several accuracy points as a result.

This down transition was supposed to happen at M, but happened a few feet late.  My too-long reins and too far back elbows did not help here.

When we were going around the outside of the ring, he started prancing, and also crow hopped and did a squeal/whinny combo.  I don't mind his extra energy, which he often gets in the show ring, but I do need to learn how to channel it.  I did a good job with that on Saturday in every part except the canter.

We are so braced against each other here, although at least my body is forward instead of back, and it's just my arms contributing.  (That's a partial position win compared to normal).

Our scores ranged from 5.5 (that late transition in the first picture) to 8.0's for the left lead canter and final halt.  Our negative comments were things like "rushing", "hurried", "late".  One time the "late" was because of pilot error, but two other times they were due to Connor being a challenging ride.

I will take that 7.5 for rider position, thank you very much!
All in all, I was so happy with how the test went, I didn't care how we scored.  Almost everything we got knocked for is pretty easily fixable or we've done better in the past, and I feel like the doors are opening to fix the rest now that my position is getting stronger and I'm more mentally present in tests.  I mean, I actually remembered to shorten my reins multiple times in the test - that's huge!

We still like the stretchy trot. Also, my PRI pony pad shifted during the canter.  Need to figure that one out.

The biggest thing is going to be relaxing my position at the canter so that we can resolve the rushing issues.  Controlling the canter is going to be key for us in the move to Second.


Heartland Warm Up

The whole point of going to Heartland was to 1. Show Dressage with my trainer there to warm us up for the first time ever, 2. Figure out a good warm-up plan and length, 3. Have a confidence building outing with our favorite test, 1-2.

Our warm-up ended being 25 minutes long, and looked like this:

1. Length: 5 minutes. Mount in stabling and walk over to warm-up ring.  Focus on my position and try to get Connor's attention.

Photos do not tell the entire story.  This pony was UP for this test.

2. Length: 5 minutes. Walk circles of varying sizes and directions while waiting on my trainer.  Try to get the pony to relax in an unusual warm-up ring.  Focus on my position and getting good bend.  Extra attention paid to sitting "up" and my hands being forward and following with short reins.

3. Length: 10 minutes. Trainer gets there and quickly OK's the walk, we didn't want to beat it to death.  Move on to lots of walk/trot transitions on circles of varying sizes, changing direction often.  Focus on getting good bend and good position.  We would only trot as long as the trot was good and then go back down to walk.  In the beginning, that was just a few strides.  Toward the end of the 10 minutes, we were trotting entire circles with good quality.

4. Length: 5 minutes. A couple of longer canters, both to release some energy and to work on getting him to stand up and me to be in the correct place in the saddle.

A sassy tail swish.

It went by so quickly, I felt like I time traveled when we pulled up from the last canter and my trainer told me it was time to go in.  He felt GOOD after that warm-up, and I knew the test would be good.

I think the focus on position and the transitions were the biggest differences from my normal non-trainer warm-up.  I'm looking forward to playing with (but not rigidly sticking to) this recipe both at home and at shows this year.



What happened at Heartland goes back to my lesson on Thursday.

Photos from schooling ride on Friday.
I wouldn't say Connor was running away with me, but he was strong at the canter and very difficult to pull up.  He finally relaxed when I figured out three things: I was gripping with my thighs, I had too much inside rein, and I wasn't tall/firm enough in my core.

(My trainer also constantly nailed me for my hands being too far back/reins being too long the entire lesson, which helped a lot.)

The first two, gripping with the thighs and the inside rein, affected the canter.  He softened, relaxed and stopped running through my hands when I fixed those.

(It goes back to something Nancy K told me, which is that something about the way I sit naturally, particularly in my thighs, doesn't encourage him to think he can go "up", which makes our transitions flat and the quality of our gaits poor and quick.  You can see it in most of our photos, especially at shows, I just look tense through my whole body.)

August of 2015: TENSE.

My core affected our upward transitions and the gaits that followed.  If I 'sat on my pockets', moved the tension from my thighs to my glutes and abs, and thought "up" with my ribcage, his transition and the subsequent trot was awesome.  Every. Time.

I schooled just long enough Friday night to cement those ideas from Thursday in my brain, and I have the photos to prove it stuck on Saturday.  My default position usually includes hunched shoulders, a floppy core, long reins/elbows too far back, and lower leg nowhere near it's supposed to be.  Even if I was aware of those issues in lessons, I was never present enough in the show ring to fix them, so when Connor needed me most I was not physically helping him out:

August of 2015:

And in the test on Saturday:

I finally feel, and can see in the pictures, that I am actually sitting on this horse and not death grip perching on top of him.  PROGRESS!



Oh hey, I have a horse show coming up this weekend!

And before then, I have a whole bunch of work stuff to get through that's weighing so heavily on my mind that I can't sleep, so I'm blogging.  How bout that.

My official "we're keeping it" photo.  I look like I've just seen a ghost because I had just received a phone call that a customer five hours away from me was about to go down hard due to a power outage, and I am asked which out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of gear should my team prioritize to shut down gracefully because we didn't have enough battery backup runtime to save it all.  Poor pony.  I literally jumped on long enough for my trainer to look at the saddle and ran.

We're headed to a "knock the rust off" schooling CT held in April of every year that's really everyone's first chance to get out in this area, unless you go to an indoor Dressage show over the winter.

(Which, after coming inches away from rolling down a hill in the truck and trailer last year when I went to one of those, I am never doing again.  Winters off, period, end of story.  Doesn't even matter if it's a freak 60 and sunny day in February, I am out.)

Shadows make the gullet hard to see here, but just trust me, it's beautiful.
It's also going to be my first opportunity for my trainer to warm me up since I started doing straight Dressage, and the first time in almost two years she's warmed me up at anything.  I still don't feel like I have a good warmup plan for Connor at shows, so I'm taking the opportunity to win the warmup and ride just one test that I know we're aces at, 1-2.

The shows come hard and fast in May, so I'm not worried about being lazy at this one.  If I ask myself "What do I want to get out of this show?" I want a good warmup plan more than anything else.

Found my favorite braiding needles at JoAnn Fabrics when I went in for a new roll of yarn.  
Just gotta make it through the week first...


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