January 16, 2019

WW: My Joined at the Brain Soulmate

They would make a movie about how much this dog worships the ground I walk on, if only they knew about us <3

January 15, 2019

Snow Ride

When Connor was at my old barn, I rarely got the chance to ride him when it snowed.  It was just too risky to make a drive that was 45 minutes on a good day when the roads were covered in snow.

But now that he's three miles away...

We really didn't get much snow last winter, so this was my first opportunity to really ride him in the snow at this barn.

We had about 4" on the ground here, this grass is pretty tall.

We just walked and trotted, but it was gorgeous out there.

January 14, 2019

Lesson Wrap-Up: Megan Lesson (With a Guest Appearance from Kate)

One thing I've always wanted to do on a work trip is take a lesson - both to take advantage of briefly being local to other instructors, and to feel like I'm accomplishing something while I'm away from Connor for five days at a time.

Nothing productive ever happens without alcohol in the high tech industry.

Last week, Megan, Kate and The Ginger Pony were kind enough to make that happen for me.  Technically Megan taught the lesson but Kate jumped in with some really insightful stuff too.

The only photo I could find of Ginger, shamelessly stolen from Kate's blog.  She's second from the right.

(And we took zero photos, like the experienced bloggers we are 😂.  All of the following photos in this post are from weeks before this lesson, courtesy of Austen.)

If you were an outsider looking in at that lesson, it probably didn't look like much more than an up-downer on a school pony doing 20m circles until forever.  I have no ego, so I didn't care what it looked like, or what I looked like.  I was there to learn and that was it!

The only pictures I took in CA were of my hair, which decided it likes the sea breeze and curled like crazy!

It took me a while to write this post because it took until my ride yesterday for me to really "get" some of the things I learned - and boy did it make a difference for me on Connor.  This is by no means an exhaustive list of things I learned, but they are the ones that most hit home for me:

I'm (Still) Pulling ARGH
In the lesson: I KNOW this has improved by a lot, but the extent to which it's still a problem surprised me.  Megan described my tendency as "You pull, and you pull at the worst possible moments, like right when she is about to come onto the bit."  She is not wrong!

On Connor: That was a really helpful description.  This is going to sound weird, but I can't identify when I'm pulling, but I can sense when the worst possible moment to pull in a movement/stride/exercise would be, so I'm able to think "hands forward" at the moments I would otherwise pull.  This is always going to be a problem for me, but thinking that way helped so much.

Seat Things, Part 1
In the lesson: Megan described getting Ginger to lift her back using my seat "like a suction cup," which I admitted I didn't really understand.  We stopped, and both she and Kate helped me identify which muscles I should be using for that - and the fact that I was almost incapable of using those muscles independently from my glutes.  Hmmm.

Hoo boy this is some good eq.  Turns out my suction cup isn't even on the horse.

Seat Things, Part 2
In the lesson: Kate pushed the outside of my boot heel and asked me to resist.  When I did, the whole inside of my leg made even contact with the horse from top to bottom, and I was able to understand the "suction cup" muscles a little better, along with what my leg should feel like.

On Connor: Those two things combined led me down an interesting and ultimately super productive path.  I thought "push into Kate's hand" while in my saddle, and suddenly my stirrups felt way too short when they had felt fine seconds earlier.  With my stirrups one hole longer, I could both "push into Kate's hand" and get my upper inner thigh on him.  Connor responded so well to this - turns out I have had no upper inner thigh contact since I shortened my stirrups earlier this year.

Leg not on horse.

"You have no abs over here!"
In the lesson: Kate had me stop and asked if it was okay to touch me, Mary Wanless-style.  She poked and pushed and suddenly said, "You have no abs over here!" talking about my left obliques.  Suddenly a lot of things made sense.  They are definitely weaker and smaller than the right and need to be strengthened, but I "fixed" this by getting firm in my core as if I was wearing a weightlifting belt.

On Connor: At the walk it's very noticeable.  He's able to "push" me to the right farther than the left when my abs are not engaged, because that's the stronger side.  If I engage my core like I'm wearing my weight belt, it evens the "push" out.

We are the picture of evenness /s

"You're Not Engaging Your Lats"
In the lesson: Megan pointed out I wasn't engaging my lats enough.  This is more of a problem on the left than the right, both in and out of the saddle.  From one Dressage CrossFitter to another, I was able to ask "How much should they be engaged?" and got a really helpful answer.

On Connor: Between engaging my lats evenly and not pulling, it was the most balanced he's been in ages.  Looking down and seeing his shoulders working evenly on both sides of his body without one popping out was just astounding.  Super helpful.

Pretty obvious that there is zero lat engagement here.

In the lesson: This was at the end and we really didn't get to explore it enough for me to get it completely, but Megan pointed out that I was following the motion with my seat instead of influencing the motion with the way I sat.  I'm not even going to try to half-ass explain her explanation here, but I did physically understand it.  I would love to explore this more at some point.

On Connor: It seriously made a difference.  I had him on a pretty long rein/wasn't pulling and was able to adjust the canter just by changing the way I reacted to his motion.  As the person who has spent the last year interrogating every 3rd+ Level rider I've met on "How do you collect the canter?", even this rudimentary level of understanding on how to influence the canter with my seat is important.

All in all, I'm thrilled with that lesson, and I seriously wish I could get them both out to Indiana so they could help me explore this with Connor.  Plus, I can't argue with the evening ending with getting to meet TC and eating fish tacos!  (The only two food groups in California are sushi and fish tacos, as far as I'm concerned!)

January 8, 2019

"Coats Waived" Attire

Okay stylish Dressage people, coming at you with a question today: what is your 'coats waived' show outfit?  Specifically, what color is your shirt?

Mine is white, and there's a story behind that.  I wear it almost superstitiously after getting kicked out of the warmup at my first Dressage show ever in 2012 for wearing a solid navy show shirt I borrowed from Austen.  And yes, it was a non-rated schooling show put on by the local GMO.

Early 2017 look

As if I looked like I knew what I was doing anyway, out there in a 15 year old brown jump saddle and field boots on a green pony, nervous as hell trying a new sport for the first time.  Then to be sent back to the barns to change shirts and have my warm-up halved on top of it all - it was a terrible way to encourage newcomers to try Dressage.  I wouldn't try another straight Dressage show for years after that, not until I basically had to.

Luckily Austen happened to be traveling with a brand new white show shirt, so I raced back to the barn and changed in record time.

I don't think "white shirts only" is true, at least not anymore, because I see people a lot more fashionably dressed than me at shows when coats are waived.  But the rule book is pretty ambiguous about it, so I'm asking you guys: What do YOU wear?

January 7, 2019

Tentative 2018 Show Plans

It's been fun to think ahead to 2019's show season.  I'm planning to mainly stick to schooling shows, with a couple of rated shows thrown in strictly because they're fun.  I may add another rated show in toward the end of the year if I feel like things are really going well, but mainly, my goal for this year is to feel confident at Second - and we don't need to pay the big bucks to do that (thankfully!)

February 9 - Majestic Farms Schooling Show (2-1)
Why: Get out and knock the rust off.  Show in a place Connor has historically been pretty difficult to show in (indoor arena, unfamiliar place).  2-1 is our sweet spot right now with no simple changes, even though I hope to spend the least amount of time doing this test this year.
Got some demons to exorcise from this ring
February 2017

April 13 - Heartland Pony Club Schooling Show (2-2)
Why: 20 minutes from my house, cheap, and it'll be a good opportunity to "move up" to the new 2-2 test. 
April 2017

May 11 - IDS Schooling Show (2-2, 2-3?)
Why: 20 minutes from my house, cheap, and maybe I want to play with doing two tests in a day at this one?
May 2017

June 1-2 - Balmoral Rated Show (We'll see how May's show goes before deciding what to enter here)
Why: I've wanted to show at the new Balmoral facility since HITS transformed it from a racetrack to a sporthorse facility a couple years ago.  It's a pretty easy 3 hour drive from home, and I love showing near friends in the Chicago area.

Heartland, 2014

July 13 - Majestic Farms Schooling Show (1-2, 1-3)
Why: IF we do decide to drop back to First Level for NDPC, I will probably use this show as a test run of those tests before NDPC the following weekend.  If we decide we're suddenly championship-caliber at Second, I may not go to this show at all.

IDS July, July 2012 (Awww)

July 18-21 - National Dressage Pony Cup (First Level?)
Why: It was so much fun in 2017, and I've never shown at Lamplight before.  Gotta represent those Dressage ponies!
NDPC 2017

*August 17-18 - Indiana Dressage Festival (2-2, 2-3)
Why: This one is a "maybe", but if I feel like we stand a good chance of getting our Second Level Bronze scores by this point in the season, I'll do it.  Again it's only 20 minutes from my house, which makes logistics easy.

It was pouring rain, hot and humid for this show, blegh.

September 28 - IDS Fall Schooling Show (2-2, 2-3)
Why: I doubt I'll be in the rideoffs this year, but this is still a good end-of-year show.

2018 IDS Fall Show

Anyone else planning on attending any of these?