2014 Shows and What I Learned From Them

Here are the shows Robbye and I attended in 2014:

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There may or may not have been some bucking at our first show.

Majestic Farms CT 2/16. This was at Starter, I think. Rob was very nervous and we didn’t place particularly well, although the show jumping round was good, with zero runouts.

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Walnut Creek Stables CT 3/30. We completed two rounds here – one at Starter and another at BN. According to their website we placed 8th and 6th, but I can’t believe we finished both show jumping rounds? We probably had runouts.

Old Stone Riding Center CT and Hunter Derby 6/08. This may have been where I lost all of my confidence. We entered the BN CT, had okay dressage, but bombed the SJ when she repeatedly refused at one jump (admittedly, it was a semi-scary one). Julie entered us into a hunter derby, which was fun and we were having a great ride until she repeatedly refused a cross country-like fence. We stayed to school that fence after the show was over and she ended up dumping me. We did go over it successfully, though.

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Serenity Valley Farm CT at Twin Towers 6/20. I honestly don’t remember how this show went. We probably were really tense and refused a bunch of crap. I think this was the one where we entered a Novice jumpers class and ended up way over-faced.

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New Vocations Charity Horse Show 07/04. This was the show where I realized what I was doing wrong. We ended up with zero ribbons from 2’6″ and 2’9″ series.

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Serenity Valley Farm CT and Gambler’s Choice at Twin Towers 10/04. I don’t remember our placings here but I remember being very, very pleased. I tried to make the show as simple as possible for myself – only one dressage test to learn, only one jumping round to learn, and another I could make up. I remember in particular our Gambler’s Choice round was really nice and smooth, though we didn’t place.

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Standardbred World Show (jumpers and u/s classes) 10/11. We had two great rounds at 2′ and 2’6″, then half an AMAZING round at 3′. I can’t even describe how amazing this round was. Flowing, forward, effortless. And then she saw a strange jump and screeched to a halt (not typical of her – she usually runs out), and I came off hard. And apparently was scarred by crashing into the jump. We did have a fairly successful Gambler’s Choice round at 2’6″ right after, which I was proud of doing. We had no great successes in the u/s classes, especially since she didn’t want to pick up her right lead.

The year was crappy. I felt like every show I was going for either “complete with a number” or “don’t get last place”. And even those didn’t happen very often.
Typing this now is making me want to cry because I’m realizing that everything I learned this year…I forgot it all again after my fall at the STB World show. I spent nine months struggling with disobedience, runouts, and craziness…then at New Vocations I learned that it’s all up to me. If I’m confident and happy, she’s confident and happy. If I know we can do it, she does it. I can ride through bucks and bolts. I can ride 3′ courses. And if I can’t and I come off…so what. It really doesn’t hurt that much. There’s nothing to lose by riding confidently: forward, and brave.
I need to take what I learned at New Vocations and use it. I used it at SVF and at the STB World show and it worked. I used it to drastically improve our dressage this fall and it worked. What am I doing trying to rebuild what I lost by falling off when I already learned it this year?!
Come on, Annye.
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Holidays and the End of the Year

It’s December 30, and I’m not feeling any better about my situation with Robbye. It’s so frustrating because I was feeling SO AWESOME about our progress before the indoor was closed for a week. How can we lose so much in a week?

It’s also the end of the year which means I’m sad about the goals I made for 2014:

Easily Achievable
1.       Jump 3’ bareback and bridleless – Got up to 2’6″ish, which I guess is pretty good.
2.      Complete a dressage test with happy results – Walnut Creek Stables CT 3/30
3.       Complete a show jumping course with happy results – Walnut Creek Stables CT 3/30
Stretch
1.       Complete a horse trial – Entered but scratched
2.       Complete a recognized event (horse trial or dressage) – Same as above
3.       Complete a Novice CT – Did begin a Novice jumper round, but we were over-faced. Did complete half of a 3′ jumper round, before I fell off. Our dressage wasn’t even close to Novice level. Or even BN.
 Get us Both More Experience
1.       Trailer out 20 times – Ended with 17, with the final being my traumatic trip to the STB World Show.
2.       Compete or exhibit 8 times – Ended with 7, with the final being that same traumatic show.

So ya, only crossed off 2 of the 8.

But then I’ve been reading all the bloggers talking about their years in review…and so many people are disappointed. Which makes me feel better about our failures at jumping and dressage. We ARE moving slowly and I’ve always said that I’m okay with it. Why suddenly is it bothering me so much? Maybe because I got a taste of what I will have, dressage-wise, a few weeks ago.

I did have a (comparatively) really good ride last week. We jumped around the indoor and I focused on relaxing, paying attention to my equitation and letting Robbye manage herself. I put one jump up “high” – which was probably 2′ – and a vertical with no fill. And this fall I was doing 3′ with fill! Ugh. Anyway, it was a step in the right direction I guess.

We had a lesson on Friday where Michele confirmed that we’ve lost ground. At least now I know that I wasn’t making it up! She did say that our downward transitions are much better – which now that she’s pointed it out, I can see it too. It used to take us 15 strides to go from a trot to a halt, and now it takes us probably 4. Improvement! She also said that even though we’ve lost the wonderful frame, we haven’t lost the build up to that frame. So we still have the bending/straightness, the engaged hind end and the tracking up. We just need the round back and lowered poll/relaxed throatlatch again.

I think I’m going to try to longe in sidereins for a few days during this second round of holiday days. Maybe that will remind her what her dressage job is.

Hoping 2015 brings us a new beginning!

Christmas Gifts and Misc Photos

So pleased with how my Christmas gifts for my barnmates came out this year!
Got creative with Rob’s second clip this year with a checkerboard…
And a candy cane!
She looks so big in this photo, even though I’m slightly uphill and closer to the camera.
Gorgeous. Can’t wait until we can get this without gadgets. Also – tri-color Rob!
I also made Rob a quarter sheet this year! Total spent – $10 and 3 hours.
Charllye helped.

Brave

Outdoor proof!
Yesterday I began my Christmas/New Year mission to increase my own relaxation and bravery. I’m proud of how I did and how Robbye did, though there’s definitely a ton of room for improvement.
First, we rode in the outdoor as “on-the-buckle” as I could manage. I focused on sitting on my butt in a deep seat instead of the light, two-pointish seat that I use defensively. Robbye didn’t feel like stretching down – I think she wanted to work with some contact…which I’m not going to argue about! When I picked up the right lead canter she bounced into a round canter with her head low and her nose in. I decided to end our arena work there!
We headed out to the back field and I was very nervous. She crossed the creek perfectly, but picked up some tension as we entered the field. There were lots of mildly scary noises, but I focused on my deep seat and tried to breath normally. We got about halfway around the field, then decided that was great for our first day back and turned back. One corner of the field was particularly scary and I didn’t want to make any bad experiences, so I got off and hand-walked her past it. Once we were past the corner though, she let me mount from the ground and we rode past the barn! Neither of us was ever really relaxed, but it was a cold, blowy day with lots of weird noises, so I’d say it was a great start.
I also jumped Dallas last night. He’s very forward and picks his own spots, which is nice to ride. Since it’s been raining all day, I’m going to try to jump Robbye tonight. Maybe I’ll set a fence at 2′ and jump it ten times.

Back to Journaling

I need to start journaling again. Rob and I have hit a small funk, and after making a bunch of Christmas gifts I’ve realized how much better I feel when I have a creative outlet. Plus, reading my journal entries from last year are helping me with the funk I’m in now!

So, it’s been almost a year since I last wrote here. Rob and I spent the year doing a lot of learning, although it wasn’t really anything you could see from watching her.

  • I really need to be brave, confident, and relaxed at all times. I learned this lesson the hard way – almost exclusively through the shows we did this summer. The more brave and confident I am, the less likely she is to misbehave. The more relaxed I am, the better she’ll perform.
  • My own education is 90% of what’s holding us back right now. We’re still working on what we were last year – a confirmed, on the bit frame – but that frame has really been upgraded to a true dressage frame. We were going very well until about a week ago, when the indoor was closed for new footing. We then managed to lose a lot of our recent progress, which caused me to get upset and make it worse. It all comes back to relaxation.
  • Missing a week of riding made me realize how much I rely on it for stress relief.
  • Rob is really turning into a nice horse. She has great ground manners nowadays, is still great for pony rides and newbies, and is really very sweet. Mary-Lou asked me to clip Zap’s chest a couple weeks ago and that really made me appreciate Robbye. Man, it’s nice to have a tolerant, patient horse. Not that I would have used those words two years ago!
  • Rob is great on the longe. She’s fairly consistent with her transitions, even within gaits. This is huge progress from the beginning of the year.
  • I’ve been riding Newton a bit as he get trained and it’s making me really introspect about my riding and communication styles. He needs a light, steady, deep ride – something Robbye could benefit from as well. It all comes back to RELAXATION!
Unfortunately, Rob and I also had a crash a few months ago that seems to have introduced a lot of fear into my riding. We were making our debut at 3′ (jumpers) at the World Standardbred Show and she was doing incredible. Forward, effortless, flawless round. Then…something happened at one of the fences. I think the fence was weird – I don’t think she was being disobedient, since other horses also reacted oddly to this fence. Plus, she stopped, which I don’t think she has EVER done before or since – she’s always run out instead of stopping. Anyway, I instantly flew over her shoulder and crash into the fence. It hurt, it was embarrassing, and it was scary. We did go back and complete a 2’6″ round that same day, but I haven’t felt 100% confident since. Ugh. Something I definitely need to work on ASAP if I ever want to jump competitively (or even non-competitively) again.
It’s Christmas time, which means two weeks of inconsistent work. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to take us back to our foundations – long and low, RELAX, work from the seat, RELAX, move forward, RELAX. I’d also like to get out of the ring a few times to work on getting my bravery back. Once the new year is past and we can work more consistently, we can get back to our frame and our jumping.
If I don’t write before then, I WILL be back to write in the new year!