Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Old Fool Gets A BooBoo

At 26 years old, you'd think that Vinny would have had enough with youthful shenanigans.  Or, you'd at least think that he's wise enough to not get into scrapes anymore.  But, That's not Vinny's style.

Just look at that saucy mug.  

When I went out to feed on Sunday morning, I found Vinny covered in blood from a huge, ugly gash to his forehead.  My first thought was, "I have not had enough coffee yet to deal with this!"  My second thought was, "How did he do that?!"

This is after cleaning.  Yuck!

I checked the stalls, I checked the fence posts.  No signs of damage there.  The only thing I can figure is that Spider and Vinny must have been playing a little too rough and Vinny got kicked in the face.

The vet decided that the edges of the wound were too rough and the skin too thin to really hold sutures, so we're just letting it be.  He'll have a scar, but that will just add to his character.  He's on antibiotics, and I'm smearing antibiotic ointment on it a few times a day.  He's supposed to be wearing a fly mask, but that's not really going so well....

Come to NJ, see the Amazing Three Eared Horse!
Truly, there is no fool like an old fool!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Skipping Levels

Drunk on my first experience inside the judge's box, and feeling frustrated by my inability to reliably conquer the simple changes, I have decided to skip 2nd level.

That's right!  I say to 2nd level, "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!  Now, go away or I shall taunt you a second time!"  (I hope you guys get that reference, because if you don't I just look weird......er)

I'm not doing this all willy nilly, either.  I have pondered it.  I have discussed it with others.  I have come to the conclusion that the 2nd level tests don't make much sense, I don't like them and I don't want to do them.  Spider already has a flying change, courtesy of his jumper training.  We have a haunches in, a shoulder in and volte.  We have the beginnings of half-pass.  There is absolutely no reason we should be schooling 2nd level ad nauseum.  It's time to move on.

I decided to break this news to my trainer a few hours before my last lesson via text (because that is really the best way to tell someone something they may not want to hear).  I figured he would not be in love with the idea, and he wasn't.

I got: "Fine.  Be prepared to school flying changes and half pass.  We will see if you change your mind".  Which seemed fine, that's what I wanted to do.  So I responded "Good, I want a challenge".

Then, a few minutes later, I got:  "Actually, let's school piaffe instead".

Figuring he was being sarcastic, I responded "Actually, I was thinking Spanish walk".  My trainer responded, "I wasn't kidding.  We're schooling piaffe".  And that's when I knew I was in trouble.

Now, we did not actually school piaffe.  He was just making me sweat (and sweat I did!).  What we did  was encourage Spider to engage.  I rode Spider at walk down the long side and he walked next to us with a whip.  As we went, I asked for more collection and he tapped Spider's hind legs with the whip.  It's the same method that is used to teach piaffe, but we weren't looking for actual piaffe steps.  Spider isn't ready for that, yet.  What we were looking for was more engagement.  Spider needs to bring his hind legs under him more.

Conformationally, Spider is a typical Thoroughbred.  His hocks are pretty straight, he does not naturally "sit down" behind.  It must be trained for him, more-so than with the "typical" dressage breeds.  But, I can't train it by myself without knowing what it feels like, hence the "piaffe training".

Spider has numerous conformational flaws. But the mud washes off.

Once I had the feeling, my trainer stepped back and we picked up the trot.  I took up a small circle around him, and he encouraged Spider with the whip.  He didn't touch him with it, he didn't have to.  Spider had the idea now.  But when Spider started to get strung out and I was having trouble fixing it, he would raise the whip a little to remind him.

So then Spider started with the tricks.  His major evasion is cantering.  And canter he did.  Every time I would ask him to sit down, he would canter.  And I'd have to bring him back and start over.  But it was a nice canter.  Oh, it was a nice canter!  And the trot was nice, too.  Because, engagement!

Eventually, we were able to move off a small circle and use the whole arena while still maintaining that level of engagement.  The transitions were balanced, the lateral work became soft and fluid, as though we were floating across the arena.  It was something to aspire too.

But, how do you get that engagement without having someone on the ground to encourage it?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dressage Is Fancy

That chicken is demonstrating a very nice free walk for us.

I just made myself a proper dressage arena.  I measured it out and everything.  You need to have a proper arena to really "do" dressage.  Every Dressage Queen knows that.

I made mine out of milk jugs and my cavaletti poles (which are actually just leftover fence posts).

The view from C

Dressage is a very fancy sport.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Well, That Was Sort Of A Flop

So, my mobile blogging experiment was a bit of a flop.  I need the app so that I can make paragraphs and post comments on other people's blogs, but now I'm out of data minutes, so it will need to wait until next month.

On the bright side, I've got intermittent internet again.  Anytime it rains, the internet works.  I'm not sure why that is, but I'm sure it has something to do with current or increased conductivity, blah, blah.  I didn't do very well in physics class.  It's not raining today, but we have one billion percent humidity, which seems to be doing the trick.

Not that you're missing much.  The East Coast is having a wicked heatwave, which is putting a bit of a cramp in my training schedule.  I actually wish it would rain, it might cool us off!  Plus, like I said, I have internet when it rains.

Stop teasing us!
And now, I'm off to feverishly write a few posts I've had floating in my head while I can, so that I can maybe post them at some point.  *fingers crossed*

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Trying Something Out

My Internet connection is still being naughty. It's a hardware issue, and not the provider's fault. Our cable and phone lines connect into the far side of our garage. From there, they run under the garage, then under a cement slab carport and then into the basement of our house. Somewhere between the far side of the garage and the basement of the house, both the cable and phone lines are bad. For obvious reasons, we won't be digging them up. We are working on a solution, though. We have plenty of duct tape, baling twine and chicken wire.... And if that won't fix the Internet, what will? In the meantime, I have an iPhone and an iPad that can connect to the Internet through cellular data plans, so I'm going to try to post from those. The problem is, I'm really not that great at doing stuff on them. I guess I'm the new generation of "old fashioned". I just can't get the hang of writing on a touch screen. Plus, I find navigating the features for adding pictures and links frustrating and obtuse. Don't get me wrong, I love my smartphone. I love the apps that streamline my email, Facebook and twitter accounts. I love how easy it is to share information amongst all those accounts. I have even started to love texting, because of how easy it is on a smartphone. But, I just don't love writing on one. I like the feel of the keyboard. For me, writing is not a natural thing. I can't just write something whenever or however. My words come out dead and dry when I do that. I have to wait until I am compelled to write. And when I am compelled, I must write, or else I lose my ideas. When I try to recreate the post after the inspiration is passed it comes out sounding forced. I've lost quite a few posts to my sketchy Internet of late, so I guess I'm just going to have to embrace this new technology. Thus, this is my maiden post from one of these new-fangled apparatuses. If it looks like crap, it's Steve Jobs fault! Also, if you have any pointers on posting from these things, please leave them in the comments. Especially picture posting advice, I can't figure out how to get a picture to post on here. Also, why can't I post comments on some blogs from these things? It's very annoying. Oh, and why does autocorrect hate me? It can automatically correct "Internet", "iPhone", and "iPad" to their appropriate spellings and capitalization. But, it just corrected "its" to "Iran". Not cool, autocorrect. Not cool. Anyway, here goes nothing..... Please forgive any errors!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


An example of a test (First Level Test 3) with scores and comments.  This was one of our better performances, but I still feel bad for the scribe who had to write down all my mistakes.  She probably got a hand cramp!

Well, I got my first scribing job out of the way. I will freely admit that I was a bit daunted by the task at first.  I had to scribe for Training through Fourth level, all the tests (US dressage has three tests for each level). In spite of all your good advice, I still wasn't sure what to expect. Plus, I've never shown the new (2011) tests past First level, and thus never bothered to learn them. Or even familiarize myself with most of them.

I spent the evening before the show reading through the tests to get a feel for them.  I didn't memorize them or anything, just read through them to see what movements were called for, what the directives were and such.  I also read through the USDF's Guide For Scribes a few times.

The morning of the show I made sure to tell the judge that I had never scribed before, so she took a bit of time to give me some pointers.  The judge was very supportive and happy to help me learn.  The entire day went smoothly, without any catastrophic failures on my part.  I had a blast doing it, too.  I will definitely be volunteering again.

 Seriously, if you ever have the opportunity to scribe, do it! I learned so much just listening to the judge. I wasn't able to watch any of the tests because I was too busy writing, but I was able to get a real "feel" for the tests anyway.

 So, what did I learn? It turns out that judges aren't horrible monsters that lurk at C just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting competitors (I will have to convince Spider of this).  The judges really do want us to do well in the ring and they want to give us good scores.  

Ride the lengthenings/mediums/extensions.  So many riders didn't even try to do the lenthenings, they just kept on riding around in working or collected trot.  For many of the tests, you're scored twice on those movements: once for the movement and once for the transitions.  If you don't do it, you just blew two scores.  Plus, the judge wants to see you try.  Even if you don't do it well, or your horse careens out of control around the corner or out of the ring, it's still better than not trying it at all.  Speaking of careening out of control.....

Don't sweat the errors. If you make a mistake, the judge doesn't care. They just ring the bell and you do it again. There were quite a few errors in the tests that day, and they were no big deal.  The judge didn't get mad, or even annoyed.  People make mistakes.  And, since judges need to have a pretty impressive show record before they're even allowed to try to become judges, your judge has probably done some pretty dumb stuff in the ring, too.  They understand.

I was very surprised when it came time to score the 4th level tests.  I thought for sure I was going to get behind and miss scores or comments, but they were actually much easier than the lower level tests.  They flow better and there's much less "dead space", places where you're just trying to get from point A to B.  Less dead space means less time to zone out and screw something up (I am frequently guilty of this).  It also means you need to be sharper with the aids, which translates into better riding overall.

Overall, now that I've sat in the judges box and listened to the comments, I feel a lot better about showing.  Also, now that I've heard the comments and scores for several 3rd and 4th level tests, I don't find them so scary anymore.  I'm not ready to go out and show 3rd and 4th tomorrow, or even next month, but I don't think it's out of reach for us anymore.  I'm a lot more comfortable with them than I was, just from sitting in the judge's box for a day.

I can't wait to do it again with a different judge.  Who knows, maybe I'll set my sights on PSG!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How Engaging....

I promise I am not neglecting the blogosphere. My internet is being wretched, I get little bits and pieces written, then lose it because the connection craps out. No Fair! We have exciting things afoot here, though. I scribed for the first time, Spider's training has been stepped up several levels, I've started training Spider in-hand, and in July I'll get to go help a friend of mine bring her babies to an Oldenburg inspection(I've never been to an inspection before!). The most exciting news is that Spider and I are finally starting to develop the engagement we need to do the upper levels. It's taken us forever to finally get the motivation we needed to start training this seriously, and how we got there is a story unto itself. Actually, it's probably a few stories..... I just need to get my Internet connection to cooperate long enough to post them!


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