Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Secretary-ing 101

Well, I got my first show as secretary/manager off without too many hitches.  There was only one major screw-up on my part, but it was caught and fixed before it could really become a problem.

Thankfully, the GMO I was secretary-ing the show for is a really great group of people who watch out for each other and are more than happy to volunteer.  That's a real plus, because I really couldn't have done it without them.

Managing and secretary-ing a show doesn't take a lot of smarts, but it does take a lot of organizational skills.  As the show entries arrived, I made sure to assign each one a bridle tag, and then put everything into a big envelope thingy with a clasp.  That way, everything stayed together and nothing was misplaced.

I honestly have no clue what these envelopes are called.

Once the closing date arrived, I just gathered up my envelopes and pulled out all the entries forms to make up the schedule.  I sorted everybody out by class, took note of any special requests (a few people requested early ride times), and also took note of which tests they were riding.  Most people rode two tests, so I had to schedule the classes in such a way that they had at least 20-30 minutes between each ride to get ready.

I scheduled 8 minutes for each test. I arrived at that number by looking at the day sheets from show venues I had been to that were well run and didn't get behind schedule.  They all seemed to use around 8 minutes, so that's what I went with!  It was a good call, we ran on time for the entire show.

Once I had the schedule done, I printed out tests for every ride and filled out the entry information for each rider.  I also printed up additional copies for the judge.  Most judges carry their own book of tests with them, but it's always nice to have extras, just in case.  I also printed extra copies of the day sheets for my volunteers.

For volunteers, I had: Two ring stewards (one for the warm-up ring, one for the show ring), one runner, one scribe, two scorers, and a couple floaters to fill in wherever.  I also had volunteers who made food and coffee for the competitors. We were well covered.

On show day, I had everything organized.  And, I had a great group of volunteers to help me get everything squared away!  We were ready by show time, and started off without a hitch!

And then the screw-up came in......  At one point I was left by myself to score, because the scorers got called away for other things.  I stink at math, and I know I stink at math. I made my best effort to calculate it correctly, but I still screwed it up royally.  Thankfully, one of the scorers came back and caught my errors!  So, the crisis was averted and I have learned to make sure I have three scorers for the next show, just in case!

For next time, I'm also going to make sure that I include GMO Membership forms in the show packets.  I had a couple requests for them, and didn't have any copies, so I had to refer people to the website.  I also should have included entry forms for the next show.  So, those will be going in the packets next time.

In summary, I must say that good volunteers make all the difference.  This was my first time doing something like this, and without the volunteers it would have been a disaster!

I'm a little disappointed that nobody noticed the big difference in the picture I put in my last post.  It was a clue to my big news.  I'll try again:

Do you see it now?

Friday, April 26, 2013


So, I haven't updated with my results from last weekend's show.  That's because there wasn't one, not for me anyway.

Remember how I was late for the schooling show?  I was late for this one, too.  Except, this one was USEF recognized and if you aren't ready at the recognized show they just go on without you.  So, I was scratched.  Never even got into the ring.

I was very disappointed with myself.  My time management skills stink.  Next time, I'm going to allot myself a lot more time for getting ready and travel!

So, I paid my "idiot tax" in show fees for a show I didn't compete in.  But, in the spirit of positive thinking and learning, it wasn't all bad!  I may not have gotten there in time to perform my test, but we still got there.  I took Spider out and he got to eat grass at the showgrounds while I schmoozed with people I knew there.  He had a very low key day, then got back in the trailer and went home.  I hope he learned from this experience that shows aren't always manic, crazy events.  His show nerves are worse than mine, so I think this experience was probably good for him!

Most of this week has been dedicated to getting ready for the show I'm secretary-ing tomorrow.  It's been really fun and, after I get it all done, I'm going to write up my whole experience!

I have other big news as well, but we'll save that for another post.

Can you spot the difference?

Thursday, April 18, 2013


One of my April activities is being the Show Secretary/Manager for a local schooling show series.  As part of that job, I get to pick out the first place/champion prizes.  Which should be fun because it's shopping with someone else's money!

But, I'm a little stumped.  I've gotten some really rotten prizes at shows. You could tell that the prizes were just an afterthought, like the organizers thought, "Oh crap! We're supposed to give prizes, right? What've we got laying around?".

I want this show to be different.  I want really good, thoughtful prizes that will make people want to come back and show with us again.

So, I'm asking you guys for ideas....

What was the best prize you've ever won?

What would you like to win?

Does the prize even matter?  Are you more likely to show somewhere again because they offer great prizes? Or is the prize just "meh..."?

Another pic of Spider from last weekend's show!  This was the beginning of the medium trot.  I got a 6.0 and the comment "needs more".

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

57% With Pictures!

You know you probably didn't ride a very good test when the judge's first comment is "Great smile".

A lot of things went wrong.  First, I was late getting off the farm.  So, when I got to the show, I rushed around getting tacked up and then rushed through my warm-up.  I didn't get Spider as supple and on the aids as I would have liked.

This is what a 5.0 flying change looks like, in case you were wondering what not to do.
Then, when I entered the ring, I rode poorly and that's all there is to it.  I lost a lot of points by just not getting to the letters.  Accuracy is a big part of the tests.  You may ride a brilliant movement, but if you don't hit the marks you're going to get dinged.

This is what a 4.0 looks like for a 10m circle in canter.  Note the lack of cantering.

I also allowed Spider to break in the 10m canter circles.  Not that I actually rode them as 10m, the judge pointed out that they were closer to 8m.  Oops.  I lost a lot of points there.  Plus, because he broke the canter we were all discomboobulated going into the flying changes.  Just poor riding on my part.

But, we did have some good moments!

This was a 7.0

This shoulder-in was a 6.5.

This medium canter was a 6.0
And there was one moment that I was really, really proud of.  As I came around the corner to do my extended canter, Spider stumbled and I lost my outside rein.  But, I knew I needed to do that extension.  So, I did it with no outside rein.

I gathered my outside rein while doing the extension.

If you look very carefully, you might be able to guess which curse-word I'm uttering.
I don't have a good photo of the full extension, but I got a 6.5!  And I'm really, really proud of that.

It's obvious from my position in the pictures that I'm tense.  That's not how I ride at home, and I'm sure my tension had a lot to do with our poor performance at this show.  I need to relax, let my leg drape down his side and sit up tall in the saddle.

Next Sunday we'll be doing a recognized show.  That's the real deal.  So, we need to put some polish on the work.  I need to get my head in the game during the warm-up.  I need to ride the test accurately. I need to relax.  

I'm going to keep my great smile, though.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

First Show Is 24 Hours Away

And my flying changes stink!

And it's totally my fault.....

Spider had a flying change when I bought him.  But, because he was a jumper, he had been taught to change automatically whenever you changed direction.  In dressage, this isn't really desirable.  Dressage tests call for counter canter and flying changes at specific points, the horse can't just do them by himself as soon as you change direction.

So, I spent a couple years teaching Spider not to change (Yes, it took years. He was really well programmed).  During that time I didn't touch the flying changes.  Even after he had a solid counter canter, I didn't touch the changes. He had them, and surely they would still be there when I needed them again.

Last year when I decided to move up to 3rd Level, I played with the changes a bit.  They were OK, a little flat, but there.  We did our 3rd Level show and he missed one change, but there were extenuating circumstances.  I wasn't too worried about it. Then winter set in and I abandoned the changes.

Last week I had my trainer out to put some polish on our movements for my upcoming shows.  The shoulder in and half pass were great.  The turn on the haunches was lovely.  The trot was elegant, the walk marched, the canter jumped.  And then we tried the changes. The changes were disunited.  I was horrified.  We tried several different approaches, with no success. The changes were no good.

It's not the fault of the exercises that they didn't work.  It's the fault of the rider.  I didn't train the changes.  I spent years training the changes out, but never put them back on.  Sure, I played with them a couple times last fall, but I had a horse who was in good shape last fall.  He had the strength, and he figured it out.

Now it's spring, and he isn't as fit.  And he's still confused about the changes.  And that's why he's disunited.  He needs more strength, I need to be a lot more clear about what we're doing.

My trainer left me with homework: Practice the changes every ride.  And I've been doing that, but nothing happens overnight with horses (if it does, be very suspicious).  My changes are still a bit dodgy, but they're getting better!

I have to concentrate on keeping him straight, not letting him anticipate, and being crystal clear with my aids.

These are the exercises I've been using for the changes:

1) Pick up a counter canter on the short side of the arena, counter canter through the corner, then ask for the change on the long side.  This one is nice because you're changing to the "correct" diagonal and the edge of the arena helps keep the horse straight.

2) (In canter) Ride a 10m circle on the long side, then ride across the short diagonal. After you cross centerline, ask for the change. (This is the exact movement from 3rd Level Test 1)  This exercise is good because the 10m circle helps the horse collect, but you don't have the long side to help you keep the horse straight.  Plus, for Spider, the trek across the diagonal causes him to anticipate.  To combat his anticipation, I abandon the change and ride a volte every time I feel like he's getting rammy.  The idea is that he'll learn to wait for my aids, and the volte re-balances him.

3) (In canter) Down centerline, half pass back to the long side, straighten, ask for the change.  (This is the exact movement from 3rd Level Test 2)  I really like this one, because the half pass sets him up for the change nicely, and the edge of the arena helps him with his straightness.

We're not at 100%, yet.  But Spider's strength is building and he's starting to understand what the aids are for a flying change.

Hopefully his new show pad will distract the judge from seeing our terrible changes.  I bought it because it has a flame pattern embroidered into it.  It's either a metaphor for us setting the dressage scene on fire, or for us going down in flames.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Show Season Is Upon Us

It's that time again of year again.

Do you think the judges would object to this hat?
Time for the shows to begin....  I haven't even completed my entry forms yet, and I'm already wondering what I was thinking!

Spider and I are doing two shows this month, a schooling show on the 14th and a USEF recognized show on the 21st.  We're taking another crack at 3rd level, this time not during a hurricane.  Hopefully it will go better.  Now I just have to decide which test I want to do....

And, because two shows in one month just wasn't enough of a challenge, I'm also the show manager/secretary for one of the local schooling shows.  I won't be competing in that one, obviously, but I'm sure I'll have my fill of shows for the month of April.

What was I thinking?

So, that's where we're at for the month of April.  I'm going to try to update on the process of getting ready for all these shows, especially the manager/secretary business since there is a serious lack of educational material available for that.


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