Thursday, June 30, 2011

As Predicted

Our performance at the show was less than spectacular.  I started warming up too early, about 40 minutes before the test was to start.  Then my test started about ten minutes late.  I really had no horse by the time I entered the ring.  At home I rarely ride longer than 45 minutes, and I never ride that long in the heat (it was nearly 90 degrees F yesterday).  So, that was mistake number one.

Even though he was tired, we were still putting in a pretty mediocre test.  Which is OK by me, mediocrity is my greatest strength.  The lengthenings were terrible, because he was tired he was just quickening his stride, rather than actually lengthening.  We got 5's on all of them (that's "sufficient" in dressage speak).  The rest of the movements were 6's ("Satisfactory").  Pretty good for the first time out in four years, at a rated show and not having ever actually done the test before. 

And then we got to the second shallow canter serpentine.  This is the movement where you come off the rail to X, then back to the rail without changing lead.  Spider and I have been working on counter-canter a lot lately, and he's getting pretty good at it.  He can do full circles in counter canter, I figured that shallow serpentine was in the bag.  The first serpentine, in left lead, was fine.  Spider is less balanced tracking left, so I wasn't all that worried about the second serpentine in right lead canter.  Except that he was getting tired, and tired Thoroughbreds like to rush.  He rushed to X and I failed to correct it before the counter canter.

And then he did a beautiful flying lead change at X.  Crap!  I tried to get him to change back, but he was already rushing towards the corner.  Then I made another miscalculation.  I decided it would be better to just counter-canter around the corner and do the transition to trot at C, rather than try to break him to trot early and pick up the correct lead.  I wasn't sure I would be able to get him cantering again in the corner.  So, we did a lovely little counter-canter through the corner, transitioned to trot at C and finished up our test.  Unfortunately, the movement calls for a transition from right lead canter to trot, not left lead, so we got a bad mark for that movement as well as the counter-canter.  The judge was quite generous, though, and we received 4's for the counter-canter and canter-trot transition (they really should have been 2's, "bad").

In the end, we scored 57%.  Not very good, but a hell of a lot better than it could have been.  The 5's on the lengthenings hurt our score, as one of the lengthenings has a coefficient of 2 (meaning that score is actually worth double the points).  And that lovely flying lead change really sunk us (the counter-canter also has a coefficient of 2).  But, now we know what we need to work on.  First order of business, getting the arena back in order so I can actually practice the tests properly!

Oh, and the battery in the camera died, so there are no pictures.  Which is kind of a good thing, I suppose.  No need to preserve that train wreck for posterity!  Next time I'll be sure to charge the batteries before I go out, though.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cutting Corners

"Ride the corners!"

Dressage riders hear this all the time.  It's a good practice to be in.  Riding fully into the corners of an arena gives you extra space to prepare for movements and a nice place to half halt before lengthenings or lateral movements.  How many of us actually use the corners fully every day, though?  I know I don't.  And my corner cutting has come back to bite me.

I went out to set up my letters, so as to practice my test before the show.  As I was measuring for the length, I kept coming up 20' short.  I measured several times.  Always short.  I was quite confused.  Until I noticed that my arena was oval shaped, not rectangular.  Aha! 

Weeds are always a bad sign.
When I set my arena up, it was a rectangle.  What happened?  Every time I rode, I cut the corner a little.  Then, every time I took the drag through, I cut the corner a little because I was following the horse's tracks.  Over time, the arena became an oval and I lost ten feet on either end.  Crap!

It's not the end of the world, as it's easy to fix.  I just need to bring the footing back out to the corners again.  (This also solves the mystery of why the footing was getting a little deep in the middle, by the way.)  It will only require a few hours on the tractor.  Unfortunately, I don't really have time for that before the show.  So, I guess I'll be going into this test pretty much cold.  I've done pieces of it, but never the whole thing through.  Luckily it's not a complicated test, so I should be fine. 

^ ^ ^ ^ Famous Last Words ^ ^ ^ ^

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I hate bureaucratic nonsense.

For the first time in four years I'm taking Spider out to show.  Which means I need to do our memberships. Trying to figure out what I need for a recognized show is frustrating.  Really frustrating.  But, while scouring the USDF website, trying to make sense of the bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, I came across this page:

It's a handy little guide to what memberships you need to compete and qualify for different shows and awards.

Spider and I have decided that we're going to do First Level Test 3.  Mostly because if I'm having a bad back day I'll need to post.  Right now I just want to get him out and back into "show mode".  We'll conquer the harder stuff later in the season.  Maybe....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hunger And Hope

Fragile as a spider's web
hanging in space
between tall grasses,
it is torn again and again.
A passing dog
or simply the wind can do it.
Several times a day
I gather myself together
and spin it again.

Spiders are patient weavers.
They never give up.
And who knows
what keeps them at it?
Hunger, no doubt,
and hope.

May Sarton 1912-1995

I came across that poem last week at Desert Canyon Living and it immediately struck a chord with me.  Partly because my horse is named Spider.  I won't lie, since acquiring Spider I have developed a definite affinity for the little creatures.  But, also because it illustrates so perfectly where I am at right now in my life.  I am fragile, my horse's training is fragile.  The slightest disturbance can and does destroy everything I have built.  But, like the spider, I pick up the pieces and start again.  To some it seems that we're running in circles.  Sometimes even I think that I should just give up.  But I have a hunger.  Without horses, without riding, I feel empty.  And so I gather myself and begin spinning again.  My hunger drives me and I can only hope for a positive outcome.

I have good days with my back and I have bad days.  It's frustrating, but that's just the way it is.

Yesterday I had my first appointment with the physiatrist.  Being a specialist, he won't really say anything until the full barrage of tests are done.  Being a specialist, that will take forever.  I need to get an MRI and an EMG done, then I'll be back in to see him in August.  August!  That's half of show season, right there!  I had intended to be starting 3rd level by the end of this show season, but something tells me my back won't be fixed by then.  Actually, the diagnostics won't even be done by then.  This specialist only wants to work on part of my back at once, starting with the lower.  Which makes sense, since the lower back is what's causing all the problems, but it's just so tedious.  I'll have the MRI done of my lower back, the EMG done on my left leg (EMG is to diagnose and locate nerve damage), then meet with the Dr. to discuss those results and treatment plan.  Then I'll have an MRI done of my upper back and neck and an EMG on my left arm, then meet to discuss treatment plans for that.  At this rate, it will be 2012 before I get an answer!  Well, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration.  It feels like it will take forever, though.

On the bright side, the Dr. didn't say anything about limiting my physical activity (not that I asked, but still...).  So, I guess my show season is still open.  My saddle is pretty heavy, I figure if I can lift over my head to get it on my horse's back, then I'm OK to ride!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Catching Up

Yeesh, the computer has been giving me fits lately.  Blogger has been acting up, not letting me upload pics, post comments or edit posts, and my home DSL is being naughty, too.  That's the price I pay for living in the boonies, I suppose.  Something is always going on out here: trees go down, reckless drivers hit poles, errant groundhogs cause a ruckus.  Well, I don't know about the groundhogs, but the other things happen on a regular basis, frequently knocking out power, cable and phone lines.  We switched from cable to satellite because the cable was always going out and we thought that having a satellite dish would fix that.  Evidently not.

In horse related news, Spider continues to do well.  It took a few days for both of us to adjust to the new saddle fit, but once we did his canter improved tremendously.  Right now we're working on counter-canter to build up his strength and flexibility in canter.  He still throws flying changes out when he becomes unbalanced, but they're becoming less frequent.  The changes he does throw out are cleaner, too.  Less of a "fall" into the new lead and more of a collected "leap" into the new lead.  Before I ask for counter-canter, I've been asking for shoulder-in (if we're walking and I'm going to ask for the "wrong" lead) or shoulder-fore (if we're already cantering and I'm just going to change rein) to establish and/or exaggerate the bend.  Seems to be doing the trick.  The canter is still not quite good enough to get a canter-walk transition from, but it's getting there.

I've also re-introduced the half pass.  I had started working on it a few years ago, then abandoned it because I wasn't riding consistently enough.  I saw a clinic with Conrad Schumacher (on RFDTV) in which he was showing someone how to introduce half-pass.  He had them begin with a volte at walk, then half-pass at walk and about halfway across the ring ask for trot (still half-passing).  I thought that was interesting, I've never seen it trained that way.  When I began teaching it to Spider years ago, I just went for it straight from trot: volte, then think "shoulder-fore", but ask for a sideways movement, too.  Sometimes I'd get a little half pass, sometimes I'd lose the bend and end up with a leg-yield.  Schumacher recommended starting at walk because you can clearly establish the aids and the bend more easily at walk, then when you feel the horse is ready, ask for trot.  I haven't felt that Spider is "ready" yet, so I've only done it at walk.  Eventually, we'll graduate to trot, I'm sure (maybe).

Actually, my sitting trot is abysmal because of my back and neck.  I can't sustain it for very long without becoming stiff and painful.  I've made an appointment for the 16th of this month to see a group of spine specialists.  Previously I've always seen orthopedists and neurosurgeons, who divide patients into two groups: "Good Surgical Candidates" and "Go Away".  I'm always in the "Go Away" group.  This time, I will be seeing a doctor who specializes in rehabilitative medicine.  We'll see what he says.

Spider doesn't care about sitting trot, half pass or counter canter.  He only cares about green grass!


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