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Sunday, June 29, 2008

My new favorite photos and June 28th show

Scott took some great photos this weekend at the local show in Vacaville! Here is my new favorite:

Extended canter in the warm up before 3-3 test

The show went well. We didn't do as well as we have been doing (or I should say I didn't do as well as I have been doing - MP was great) but I think that is a blessing in disguise as I learned several good lessons:
1. Only show in your own saddle - mine is "in the shop" and so I'm riding in a loaner;
2. Don't show unprepared - we've only ridden two times in two weeks because of the smoke and poor air quality;
3. Don't "perfect" MP at a show - she's already perfect and she knows what she's doing.

MP hanging out at "her" trailer - this is a new concept

The day started off better than expected. We got to the show extra early because I wanted to be extra prepared since I hadn't really ridden for two weeks. I expected MP to be a little tight and wound up from all the time off, but she was neither. She was super relaxed and focused which encouraged me to relax and focus.

5 minutes into the 1st warm up

My first test was the FEI Para Equestrian Individual test. I had practiced the test a few times before but not in its entirety. The test also has to be ridden from memory so I couldn't have it called the first time. This left me scrambling to sear it into my brain right before the class.

We go where? When?

You can tell I'm riding the Para tests when I have a helmet on not the top hat

Right before I entered the show ring I decided to enter from the left rather than right to see if it changed our entry. Well I felt like it did. I felt like MP was a little backed off, but now I think that I just got tense and so I wasn't "feeling" for the right things. In fact I don't think I was feeling at all.

Two bobbles arose in the test. The first was in the walk work - she trotted! So I got a 5. The second was my left to right simple changes. I nailed the canter to walk but then couldn't seem to get the right lead canter transition. Another 5.

Because of me not really knowing what happened in that test and assuming it was MP who was backed off, I went straight back to the warm up after my first test to "ramp her up" for the second. I also needed to review my 3-3 test and ride some flying changes since I hadn't in two weeks.

Ramping up in the warm up for 3-3

After ramping - collected canter in the warm up

Going over 3-3 test

All my ramping paid off because I had some of the best trot and canter work I've ever the warm up. When I tried to take it into the show ring I rode a little too aggressive and MP got tight, tense and rushed. So my score suffered. The judge stopped me after the test and told me "You two are a lovely pair and your rhythm, balance, engagement and forward were darn near perfect in your first test. You rushed her in your second test and your score will reflect that."

At the time I did not agree. I thought the second test went much better than the first and I had no bobbles whatsoever so I was a little dismayed when I saw the 64%. But then I watched my video. The first test was FAR superior as far as MP was concerned. I didn't ride very well which is why I had mistakes and I was tight so I don't look so good, but MP looks phenomenal. In the second test, my riding looks better but MP looks as if she's saying "would you just let me do the trotting!". The first place ride had a 64.8% so had I left her alone and relaxed, I bet my score would have been another 68 or so.

I learned a very valuable lesson in that test. Again, the two of us are just starting to know one another, so I still can't quite measure my feel on her. But she knows what she's doing and if I stay relaxed, focused, and do my job and ride accurately she'll take care of the rest. Once I know what I'm feeling for, then I can push the envelope at shows - but if I don't have the feel I'm just nagging. And I don't want to be a nag!

Extended trot in the warm up - the best I've had!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Too lazy to ride

It has been H-O-T here. Like 100+ degrees. My plan was to ride Friday night once it cooled down, but the heat throughout the day zapped me. I was going to give MP another day off (I typically ride her Tues, Wes, Fri, Sat, Sun with Mon and Thurs off) thinking she too would appreciate this because of the heat, but she wasn't having it. She was banging on her door in true "I demand to go out!" fashion. So me being lazy and she being eager to do something landed us on her getting flagged in the outdoor arena. Remember how I talked about Secretariat in my last post? Well here she is doing best best impression!

I rode last night (Sat) and she was awesome! I'm not sure what I'm going to do today, there is a big fire over the hill in Napa County and the wind has inundated us with smoke. I don't want to open up her lungs to all that smoke with cardio vascular activity, so I'm thinking a half-hour in the hot walker may be in order. Or maybe the smoke will blow elsewhere by night time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Whip it good!

Ellen, ready with whip in hand

We had a great clinic with Ellen this weekend! David Hillman happened to be here too as were my parents, so it was like the old days when I was a kid with Tom Dorrance, Ellen, David my dad and me. See previous post to hear about the clinic with Dave and an update on Amigo.

I learned a new feel this weekend. Every time I think I get the "in front of you leg" feeling I learn there is more to it. This weekend was the first taste I've had of MP's FEI gaits. Ellen started off by letting us do our normal putsy putsy warm up and then proceeded to get out the lunge whip and bring out the Corvette within MP. Ellen had me collect MP's front steps a bit and then when MP would really sit to push off, Ellen would ask for more with the lunge whip. The results felt dramatic. And looked that way too. MP went from being half asleep and imitating E-Or to a bright-eyed, perked ears dressage version of Secretariat. Varrooommmmm! Needless to say it was a blast.

New and improved trot. Right shoulder blade back and down - NOT!

My position is yucky in this picture, but you can see why she gets 8's on her flying changes

MP is so forgiving. I'm still just learning how to ride her. You will see from some of the pictures, my position is a constant project. Old habits, hard pulling saddlebreds and not enough saddle time through college have created some position "ruts" that are hard to get out of. And I also want to over ride her, that it do too much with my body rather than just let her take me with her. I think in part that habit is the control freak within me. But I'm getting there and I'm working on it every day. Thank goodness MP is patient. I know some days she's thinking "is this girl ever going to learn how to ride me properly?"

What we hope to look like 100% of the time

I've entered a local show on June 29th and I will officially ride the Para Equestrian tests for the first time. Thus far I've just been riding third level to gain experience and get qualified for CDS Championships in LA. the Para tests are the ones I will have to ride as I go through the process of trying out for the team, National Champs, etc.

All the new pics are taken by Scott on his new spiffy Nikon DX40. It shoots 2.5 frames per second so he can get some really cool shots. There will be more to come on that front in the next few weeks.

The value of horsemanship

Dave working Federica's 2 yo, Bel Canto (he's for sale!)

This weekend we had two clinics going at one time. Ellen Eckstein (our national coach) was here teaching riding lessons and our good friend David Hillman (who introduced us to Ellen through Tom Dorrance) was here to help us out with young horses and general horsemanship.

It is enlightening when Dave comes. He's always working on new ideas to work with horses in a way that does not require force. He requires respect which means submission at times, but not in a way that "breaks" the horse of their inner spirit.

Amigo being "aired out" - all four feet are off the ground

Amigo being flagged - all four feet still off the ground

We worked Amigo for three days, the first being a "refresher" from Amigo's time with Dave in April. The second day, Dave got on Amigo in the big indoor arena. He got on him from the ground from both sides. Amigo was great and very willing. The third day we worked Amigo in the big outdoor, first with flagging and then Dave rode him until he dried off. That is my homework: to work him until he's not silly and then ride him until he's dry!

Amigo with Dave - does this picture look familiar to you Tom Dorrance fans?

Dave also taught Federica and me to tie rope halters, so I'm officially in the halter tying business!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Change in show schedule

It looks as though the stars will not be aligning to allow us to go to Woodside in July. But fear not! I'm looking into alternative show dates either in late July or early August. And I'm also looking into alternative dates to debut our freestyle.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Freestyle Underway

The music has been selected! Now just the choreography and fine tuning are needed. I'll post an update after Ellen comes this weekend. And I'll post new pics. Horse-show-husband got a very fancy camera that can take 2.5 pictures per second!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Professional Pictures from last show

I have good news! At the last show a professional photographer shots photos during one of my tests. If you would like to see them or order any (Mom? Dad?), go to :

They are in order by last name.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Freestyle Update

I heard from the freestyle choreographer today and it looks like we're close to having our freestyle! She's going to send me music this week and I'll get try it out and see if MP likes it. Her opinion is by far the most important!

Dressage Derby = 2 good scores & 2 more blue

Unfortunately, I have no pictures from this show, but fortunately we got two more really good scores and won both of our classes. We got a 66.3% at 3-3 and a 68.9% at 3-2! We just need one more score at 3-3 and we'll be qualified for regional championships.

For this show my goal was to improve my walk scores, which we did. We went from dreaded 5's and 6's to 7's & 8's. The only down side was that we worked so much on the walk that we neglected the trot and so our trot scores suffered a bit. The canter work was solid as usual. The best improvement was on my "rider" score (one of the collective marks given for the overall impression of the rider's ability) which I received a 7 from one judge and an 8 from another. Overall, all of the collective marks showed improvement. The next step is to try and put it all together in one solid test!