April 19, 2021

Show Recap: Heartland (2-3)

Friday afternoon, the night before the show, my only goal was to run through 2-3 in the full court at the showgrounds. This show allows you to school in the show rings the night before, which was awesome, since I've never ridden 2-3 in a proper court before.

This giant raven was sitting on Connor's gate when I went to get him. I joked it was a poor omen, but L. Williams said she believes they're good luck, so I'm rolling with that

Aaaaaaand my schooling ride was absolutely horrible. Almost from the moment I picked the reins up, he got his tongue over the bit - something that, all of a sudden, he's started doing a lot. As soon as I blocked him from running through my right side, boom, it's over.

Ended up parking the World's Tiniest Horse Trailer next to my old (and JenJ's old) KieferBuilt, which is still owned and loved by the same adult amateur and her Pony Club daughter that bought it from me

 

After getting off to raise his bit a hole and tighten his drop a hole, we managed to stumble through 2-3, but the whole thing didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence, and I messaged several friends saying I was considering retiring Connor from Dressage (Not really but...the thought was tempting in the moment).

Dinner Friday night, lol

The next morning, I had to feed and turnout at home, and didn't end up leaving myself enough time to braid. I always braid, even though braiding wasn't required for this show, but something in me just said F it, spend the time relaxing and mentally riding your test instead. So that's what I did. It's the first time we've shown unbraided since 2014.

"This beats being tied to the wall for an hour while you pull my hair." - Connor
 

I went into the warmup with a game plan: I was going to prioritize relaxation and stretching into the contact above all else, and I was going to ride as if my reins were a weapon of last resort. If I felt myself trying to get against him, I threw in a turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, shoulder in or haunches in rather than grabbing at him.

And you know what? It worked! We went into the ring and laid down a GREAT test for our first attempt at 2-3. We had one big error in the second canter serpentine where he broke and it caught me off guard, because those canter serpentines always ride really easily for us, and I couldn't remember which lead he was supposed to be on, but that's exactly why we do it at a schooling show first. Now I know.

New purple show coat gets an A+ against Connor's shade of chestnut. It has three buttons, so sue me, Dressage coat makers need to catch up to my fashion sense!

Was it perfect outside of that? No. The simple changes had trot steps, the left SI is just difficult, and the judge wanted "more difference" in my mediums - meanwhile I'm sitting on him like "WOW that's the biggest difference we've ever shown in the medium gaits!" 

That was pretty much my attitude about the whole test - amazement and gratitude. I can't believe we're showing 2-3, I can't believe he has mediums, I can't believe I've learned what it means to use my body to move between collected and medium gaits, I can't believe I'm remembering to half halt, I can't believe how smooth this test rides, I can't believe he feels so good in the contact and didn't get his tongue over. I'm just so happy to be here showing and progressing and doing what I'm doing. And then when I got the scores back and found we'd scored a 62.619% for first out of two, that was just the icing on the cake.

Had to change out of my breeches for this photo because I STARTED MY PERIOD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TEST WHILE WEARING WHITE BREECHES what the f*** body! Three days early, I might add.

This horse is hard to ride, and he demands I improve, and even if that's occasionally VERY frustrating, I love him for it. And for the first time EVER, the judge didn't write something about needing more half halts or more collection one single time.

I ended up scratching our second test, partly because I inexplicably entered him for 2-2 (which is a horrible test for Connor and we'll probably never do it) and then also because that ride time was six hours after the first. Nope, pass, we'll make our one hard thing today 2-3 and add a second hard thing (riding two tests in one day) at our next show in May.

Show season has begun!

April 16, 2021

My First Massage

 I am 33 years old, and yesterday I had my first ever massage.


My PT, chiro and now the masseuse are all incredulous and amused by the fact that my horse gets all this stuff done to him, but I had never done any of it myself until last year and this year. But I won a 60 minute massage through my Pilates studio in December, and finally got around to cashing in on it.

It was interesting. She was middle of the road in terms of intensity, not too hard and not too soft which was great for an introduction to massage. She read my intake form and asked me if I was a PT, because she said I described my issues like a PT would. No ma'am, just a Dressage biomechanics nerd with side passions for CrossFit and Pilates.

Desensitizing Meatloaf to large crowds with the help of this track meet two blocks from our house

She paid particular attention to my stuck right scapula that my PT friend diagnosed last month, and really struggled with it. It hurt in ways the same actions on the left didn't - not in a pain way, but in a slowly pulling tissues that have been stuck together and immobile for a long time kind of way. Like when I bent my knee for the first time in three weeks after getting kicked by a horse in college while riding.

No filter, just spring in my architecture-obsessed city

After, I noticed an immediately improved range of motion on the right, which my PT friend said might happen with a massage. Was it fixed completely? No, but it was better. She said I might be a bit sore there the next day, and I am, all around the lower part of my scapula. Nothing else is really sore or feels much different.

 

Am I going to do it again? Probably. Am I going to do it regularly? Probably not, but I do see where it fits into the overall recovery/pre-hab spectrum, for both me and Connor (who LOVES his bodyworker in Cincinnati). 

I will also be more in tune with the fact that Connor might be a bit sore after his bodywork, which always makes a huge difference in the way he goes. I turn him into a pretzel, and bodywork makes him straight again, and that can't be an easy transition on his body.

Meatloaf's hackles run the entire length of her back down to this spot on her tail, which was the only hackle she raised at a dog she spotted 150ft away at the track meet


Hauling in to the show today! I'm probably only riding 2-3 tomorrow morning and scratching my second test which is scheduled for 6 hours after the first - partially because of the scheduling and partially because I'm an idiot and signed up for 2-2 for my TOC for some dumb reason, which is just not a good test for Connor. Wish us luck and have a good weekend, everyone!

April 13, 2021

Entered

Just entered my first rated show in two years.

*gulp*

If we can do our tests in a rhombus-shaped half-assed 20x60 with no fence and grass up to Connor's knees and undulating terrain, doing it on manicured sand should be easy, right?


It's a 3 day show at the HHP 20 minutes from my house, and GP trainer is coming, which will make it the first time EVER I've had a coach to warm me up at a rated show, and the first time ever she'll be the one coaching me.

There are a lot of unknowns with this show, which is in mid-May. 

Will I have my amateur status back by then? 

I'm currently in the process of getting that done and damn that is an involved process. I had to write a letter explaining my whole situation and how it's changed, get that notarized, and ship that off with a $50 check. Additionally, I had to get two active senior USEF members to write letters stating the same on my behalf, and they both had to get that notarized, and THEN when the USEF receives all of that, there's a hearing to determine if I can be an amateur again. Good times.

Rainbow after the storm on Saturday


Will Connor be able to do two tests in one day? 

I haven't done two tests in one day since 2017, and the 4th test of that weekend is the only time we scored below 60 at a rated show. But GP trainer pointed out a lot has changed for both of us since then. So on this coming Saturday at the annual kick-off-the-season schooling show, I'm entered for two tests (2-1 and 2-3). If that goes well, I'll ride two tests a day at the rated show in May, but if it doesn't, I'll cherry pick what I want to ride based on times and how he feels.

Updated conformation photos because I'm about to have a second go-around with Eq Saddle Science because I JUST CAN'T QUIT THEM OKAY. More on this later.

 

Are we ready for 2-3?

I entered 2-3 over 2-2 for a number of reasons. It's a qualifying test and if I'm becoming an amateur again, well, let's try to qualify for stuff. 2-2 is a less friendly test mentally to both of us - it's less symmetrical to memorize, and it offers a lot of places for Connor to check out mentally in the canter work. Plus, the canter work in 2-3 is actually easier than 2-2 for him - his counter canter work is suddenly amazing, and simple changes on the short diagonal are better for us than trying to manage both the serpentine shape and the mid-serpentine changes in 2-2. That said, we're not going to score 70% on it, and I don't know how GP trainer will feel about that. It's a whole new ball game actually having a coach for rated shows (reminder that my previous trainer was an eventing trainer, and with few exceptions, typically didn't attend straight Dressage shows to warm me up).

This canter, for like five whole minutes, twice a day. Doable, right?

 

Are they going to allow spectators by then?

USEF hasn't updated it's COVID show rules since what, last May? We know a LOT more about the virus by now, including that outdoor transmission is extremely unlikely as the viral particulates dissipate into the air. I sure hope they update the rules by then to allow spectators, since this is a "home show" for me, but who knows.

It looks like he's wearing a Cardinals hat backwards in this photo and that makes me laugh. We're slowly filling in that right side!

 

A few things I do know:

- It's a 3 day show, but I'm only entering for Saturday/Sunday because it's Nick's birthday on Friday.

- I'm going to be riding in my brown jump saddle and black bridle. All those fears I used to have in 2017 about not looking legit enough for a rated Dressage show...lol.

- I'm excited to be a part of a show team again, with banners, and teammates that will be staying the night at my house (we'll be fully vaccinated with full antibodies by then!), and we're hosting dinner for them one night that weekend.

- EquestrianEntries.com felt like a foreign land to me after 2 years away from it. Someone please go be their UX designer and copy editor, there are a lot of easy wins to make that more user friendly.

Here goes nothing!

April 12, 2021

An Adjustability Lesson with Mary

On Saturday, Mary came down without Annie for once, so we spent a long, relaxing afternoon playing with multiple ponies. Up first was me on Connor. Mary asked what I was working on in Dressage, and I said "straightness and collection." 

She got to work building a line of two jumps that we ended up leaving as piles of poles the entire time, because it was just as productive that way. Once I was warmed up, she told me to come at them in a medium canter, and to count out loud, and I got it in an easy 5.

My Pivo is currently on a private beta firmware they shared with me and only me since they're finally taking me up on my offer to help them troubleshoot the S21 Ultra problem. It did good for the most part! I think I should've set it up a little further from the jumps and moved it down to "fast" from "frenzy", but I cannot complain about having Pivo media for the first time since January.

Pretty quickly, she started asking me to do it in 6.

Which was hard, but not impossible. Mary didn't like the way he was tipping his wither coming into the turn and bulging through my right leg though, which are his two cardinal sins in both jumping and Dressage, so she set up cones at both ends and told me I had to make the turn square.

 This was hard.

Vroom, I'm a motorcycle

As I've learned in my lessons with CGP, everything is harder when he's the type of "straight" that I formerly thought of as straight, and now know is banana shaped. If you aren't able to see the tipping and bulging in the GIFs, look at where we end up over the poles - we're not over the middle (white) part on the second set, we're over the green.

Very hard to ride correct related distances if your horse is not traveling straight.

As if the 6 wasn't hard enough, after we got it reasonably well, she told me to ride it in 7.

We're such a good team, when we're wrong about a distance, at least we're always on the same page about being wrong about that distance, lol

I laughed out loud. Was that for real, 7 strides in a line that ride as a 5 stride in a working canter? Yes, she was for real and thought we could actually do that. I was skeptical.

Tipping round the corner we go...

At first, I tried to make the 7 happen with my hands, because that's my default answer for everything. But this is why I love canter poles: I can kinda fake Second Level collected canter with too much hand on the flat, but I absolutely cannot do that over canter poles or jumps. I have to use my seat, my torso position, my thighs and my calves, because I just don't have enough control if I'm riding from my hands. And as CGP said to me in my lesson this week, "You can't just let him take you, you have to be in control of your own body in the collected work."

His wither is finally tipping less on this attempt, but you can clearly see I'm still trying to make it happen from my hand too much.

Finally, I put a lot of effort into controlling my body and stopped pulling, and we NAILED IT:

I am working so hard in this GIF it's not even funny

I mean, helloooooo, look at this boy go:

Can has this canter all the time please?

You can see in the last GIF that he almost looks taller, that he's not diving down with his chest, and that my hands really are following. It was an absolutely fantastic lesson that translated directly into what I'm working on in Dressage right now, and I am so lucky to have a BFF and wingman that can coach me through this!

Good pony


April 7, 2021

Grazing Muzzle Season

Muzzle season is upon us once more.

Hooray. Look how excited I am.

This year, Greengard came out with proper corner straps for their muzzles. In the past, they recommended using baling twine to keep sneaky pony noses inside the muzzle, but the Velcro straps are a huge upgrade over that. That said, we still went through our usual new muzzle fitting rodeo, where I think I have it right, and he outwits me, and then I adjust it, and he realizes he can't get it off anymore and gets annoyed.

Um, halp.


Halp, plz.


That's uh, not how I wanted you to solve this

He also went through his annual shock-denial-anger-acceptance cycle with it.

Get. Off. My. Face. You. Stupid. Basket.

 Before finally giving up and eating like a civilized pony.

Sorry buddy, it's for your own good.

"Thanks I hate it"