T1 & T2 Schooling Show – Details and Reflection

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I want to put a few more show details down here for my own documentation purposes. It’s a lame post – I know – but I really value this blog as a journal as well.

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I know that our halts need work – getting square is really a matter of luck at this point – so I feel like a 6.5 on our first halt is both generous and lucky. I’m also happy with a 7 on our free walk; as Robbye has gotten stronger and rounder, she’s lost a bit of the fantastic stretch she used to have.

A 4 on our left lead canter feels generous. We botched the lead twice and only ended up cantering on the left lead for probably 5 strides. I was proud of myself for maintaining nice geometry in my circle even as I struggled to pick up the correct lead. I’m hoping that I learned from this particular mistake and that it won’t happen again.

That final halt 10, though. #schoolingshows!

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I felt all of these were very fair, and the “very patient correction to L canter” comment gave me a warm fuzzy. I really appreciate judges (and trainers, and bosses, and … everyone) who can turn a failure or mistake into a compliment or gentle lesson.

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I am very happy with these numbers. All of the scores below 7 are issues I know I need to work on – the halt (I lost her haunches), the canter to trot transition (it’s still a bit of a “run her into the ground” type transition, instead of being back-to-front), the trot to canter transitions (still a tad hollow), and the stretchy movements (need more stretch!).

The 8 on our medium walk is reassuring; I’ve always felt that Robbye’s weakest gait is her walk, and I really struggle to get any impulsion out of her since she prefers to walk as slowly as possible. We really worked it for this walk section and I’m happy the scores reflect that fact.

And there’s another high score for our final halt! I need to figure out what we do differently in our final halt and do it in our initial one. I bet you anything it has something to do with the tension I release for the second one…

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Again I felt these scores were fair for a schooling show. Truly, to get three 7s and a 6.5 on impulsion and submission is huge for me and especially for Robbye.

The “obvious leg aids” are just something I need to deal with until 1) Robbye is more sensitive and forward and 2) I’m a better rider. I’m very happy to have more obvious aids if it means replicating the work we got in this test, and I’ll willingly sacrifice my Rider Aids score for it, at least for now 🙂

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Our final scores are just…mind-blowing. From reading your blogs, I feel that these would have been perhaps 60%-65% at a recognized show – scores I would be extremely pleased to earn.

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The rankings, too, are very heartening for me. There were 8 people in T1 and ten in T2. When I saw these numbers, I just hoped to placed in both classes – I know it shouldn’t be, but being competitive is important to me. Along the same lines of “don’t embarrass myself” and “make my trainer proud”, I want people to see my partnership with my horse and recognize it as a good one. The recognition that comes with ribbons is validating for me. So to beat ~15 other scores is huge.

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Yes, I fell off at this show. Well, no, I didn’t fall off – I got dumped. And that really sucks. I heard later that Robbye was a huge disruption as she galloped through the warmup arena to get back to her stall.

That’s embarrassing, and embarrassing is the last thing I want at a show (especially one where I’m there representing my trainer).

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After crashing into a fence at a jumper round more than a year ago and subsequently taking a huge step back from jumping entirely, I never imagined that a fall could make me stronger.

But this particular crash awoke some passion that I don’t think I’ve felt before, and that passion led to a quality of work that I definitely haven’t felt before. I used the fall and the way I felt after it for me.

My goal for this winter is to make that quality of work my every day. Every day should be passionate and 100% committed – like I’m heading into the ring to score a 70%, or to win in a class of 10.

And if I don’t have the passion every day – that’s okay! But I won’t be riding. I want that work I got after my fall, and I’m not willing to let Robbye compromise at 50% anymore. If I’ve learned anything from the struggles – and now success! – that she and I have endured as partners, it’s that I am in charge. When I decide what happens, we’re both happier.

 

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So I may be riding less than 6 days a week this winter. And yes, this goal completely contradicts my 2015 goals to have zero days.

But the fact is that I want to work hard. I want to devote 100% to this relationship and to our progress, even if it means fighting sometimes, or falling off sometimes, or taking days off sometimes.

I know what I’m chasing after now, and I know how good it feels to catch it.

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Show Time: It was all worth it

I haven’t been blogging or journaling. I have a backlog of posts I want to edit and publish (and I still intend to), but obviously I’m not going to journal the past month and a half. I wish I had, because I learned a ton, but life was just too crazy. Hopefully my year-end review at work will make it all worth it.

I was inspired to come back to the blog because of the incredible experience I had at a schooling show this past weekend. The short story is: it was all worth it. The money spent on training and lessons. The three years of work where it felt like we didn’t make any progress. The agonizing over training decisions, and the crying over failures.

I made every effort this weekend to set myself up for success. This was our first show since Rob returned home from her dressage boot camp, and my first since I attended my own boot camp, and I wanted it to be successful. I wanted it to usher in a new era for our relationship – one where we like going to shows, where we’re successful at shows, and where we’re happy working together even away from home. So I hired my trainer to come coach us (a trainer! At a show! How novel!), I planned to dress casually even in the show ring, and we trailered down the night before to school in the show ring. I also didn’t invite any family to watch, which explains my sad dearth of media.

So we arrived the night before, something I’ve never done. She got on the trailer great – it was her first time on this particular trailer and she walked right on like it was her own stall. Portentous for the rest of the weekend, maybe?

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When she got out of the trailer at the showgrounds, I expected her to blow me off. She usually does – letting her anxiety completely take over until she forgets I exist. Instead, she calmly lowered her head like I asked, with perked ears and a happy eye but also with a nice focus on her boss mare. (That’s me! Boss mare 100% of the time. I’ll just keep repeating it to myself until I believe it.)

Immediately after unloading we tacked up to school. We were the only humans there and the farm was very dark. It’s a nice, large, showgrounds – probably six rings, plus a couple of warm-up areas. The stalls feel luxurious, the footing is always impeccable, and the farm is always spotless. It’s also where I showed as a kid, so it has a special nostalgia.

It was the perfect environment for me to focus 100% on getting some decent work at a new location.

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And decent work was achieved! We had neither perfect roundness nor great forward, but we had enough of each that I was very pleased. My expectations have definitely been raised in the past few months – six months ago that late-night school would have been the best ride we ever had.

We tucked the ponies into their stalls and headed to a very late dinner and an even later bedtime. But staying at a hotel nearby means a later start in the morning, apparently. Post-4:30, even! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me!?

The morning of the show, Robbye was again well-behaved in her stall. No screaming, no anxiety, lots of eating and drinking and pooping. We tacked up and prepared for our first test – Training 1.

And it went…alright. My trainer was preparing for her own ride so couldn’t coach us, which in hindsight was probably good for me to experience. Now I know what the difference is between my instincts and what Kim wants me to do, and I can actively work to warm up on my own the way that will get us the best work.

So the first test was just okay. We botched a lead twice, which is weird, but I’m sure it was just a lack of forward and/or impulsion. That was the theme of the test – slow – though the judge didn’t seem to see it as much as I felt it.

Robbye got to rest for an hour or so while I tried to get over my disappointment. That ride hadn’t been the incredibly overwhelming improvement I’d fantasized about. Where was the pride? Where was the glow in my stomach?

Soon it was time to warm up for Training 2, and I headed with my entourage (showing with a trainer is so fun! You get a whole fan club, and get to be a part of a fan club for your teammates!) to the outdoor warm-up arena. Rob hadn’t been out here yet but I wasn’t worried; she was so well-behaved and quiet that we just..did it. We just warmed up. It was a mediocre warm-up, again, but it was fairly-round and fairly-forward, so I was content!

Until she dumped me – right on my head. She even galloped away without checking to see if I was okay. Horses never do that in the Facebook videos!

At this point I’m on the ground hyperventilating because I’m just. So. Upset. Sad, embarrassed, and overwhelmingly disappointed. Why have I been doing all this work? Why did I pay for all of the training and the new gear? Our boot camp was supposed to mean we wouldn’t humiliate ourselves at shows and events anymore – like we have been for the past two and a half years. I’m tired of having the crazy horse. I’m tired of falling off or of bucking across the dressage court.

And yet here I am, crouched on the ground with a split lip, unable to catch my breath because of debilitating disappointment.

I think I hit a turning point on the ground there, guys. Usually, I don’t get angry. Angry, for me, quickly turns to tears and humiliation and apologies.

But this time, sitting in the sand, with everyone looking at me and with my ride time quickly approaching, I felt a fire start in my belly. My breathing slowed and the pain from the cut in my lip faded away.

I. Got. Mad.

So I got back on and absolutely rode the snot out of the rest of our warm-up.

And then I rode the snot out of the test, too.

And as we trotted down centerline, the anger faded and the anxiety faded and the embarrassment faded, and all that was left was an overpowering, absolutely glowing sense of pride. I managed to hold back tears of happiness until we saluted the judge, and then I broke down in relief.

We had nailed the roundness. We had nailed the forward. We had nailed the transitions and the geometry and that silly canter lead. I had anchored my seat in that saddle and she had said Yes ma’am and I had responded Good!

This is what we’ve been working toward. This is what teamwork feels like. This is what submission and impulsion and rhythm and success feel like.

And hey, apparently this is what winning feels like, too.

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It’s Show Time! Beginner Horse Hunter Division at Greenstone

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One braid on her body! Looooooved having the roached mane at this show.

I went into this show thinking three things:

  1. I was excited to try out the lessons I had learned at the Hunter Pace the week before.
  2. The 2’3″ jumps in my home arena were looking big, and I was scared of the fence height.
  3. It was really hot and really muggy and I was afraid of having enough horse.

The show was only about a ten minute drive from our barn, and we were entered in the first afternoon class of the day, so it was a very late morning, as shows go! Getting up at 9 is way better than getting up at 4:30 – no complaints there.

Robbye got on the trailer on her first try – using her big girl brain right away! – and when we got to the venue I put her chain over her nose before we got out of the trailer. This strategy worked really well – though she was much less dramatic than she has been before, I still was able to feel well in control when she started screaming and her brain shut off.

We took a long walk around the venue, and received lots of compliments on my crazy horse. I have to admit, Robbye’s certainly nice to look at when she’s all puffed up.

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Puffed up Robbye at the hunter pace. There was a professional photographer at the show, which I was super pumped about – I love buying photos! – but she seems to have disappeared and I can’t get in touch with anyone to find her name 😦

By the time we returned to our trailer, Rob was much calmer (!!!) and our warm-up round was being called to prepare. Perfect timing; I wanted to do most of my warm-up in the ring to preserve her energy…and mine.

Our warm-up in the warm-up ring was completely undramatic. No bucking, no bolting, no screaming. Nice transitions, nicely forward, just a couple small fences then it was time for our warm-up round in the ring!

…And it was great. Robbye enjoyed the hell out of the round. She galloped out, locked onto every fence, and completed very cute little simple changes. She didn’t even consider running out of anything, until we approached a slightly weird-looking fence and I chickened out. I saw it and just knew she was going to run out, and I’m sure that’s the only reason she did! But she took it on our second try, and I was very pleased.

Best of all, the jumps didn’t look large to me at all. The fill didn’t frighten me, and I was much more nervous about the show environment than I was about the fence height. Confidence wise, I hope I’m finally getting back to where I was before my fall.

At this point the heat was just unbearable, and you could practically swim in the air it was so humid. I knew I wasn’t going to have any chance of qualifying for the division high points, and I really was just there for the jumping experience, so I scratched from the flat class. I’m very happy with that decision, since Robbye got to get entirely untacked while we waited for jumping to resume.

For our first judged round, Rob was just as awesome as in her warm-up round. Very forward, nice little simple changes when she didn’t land on her leads, and having a lot of fun. Sadly, there was a weird, scary sound on our approach to the same fence she had run out on the warm-up round, and I really just let her run out on it again. GAH!

For our second judged course, I was determined to earn a clear round. Didn’t have to be pretty – damn it I’m never going to be a hunter and neither is she! – but I wanted it to be a zero-fault round.

The “Annye-thinks-it’s-scary” fence was the second to last jump. We had jumped clear up to there.

As I landed from the fence before it, I immediately began talking to myself. “We’re going to get this jump, Annye. First try, Rob. It’s not scary. It’s like 2′ tall. We want a clean round!”

And…over we went.

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Why yes, this is the best photo I got of Robbye. >.<

As we landed, I yelled, “Good GIRL, Rob!”. Maybe we would have placed better without it, but I was just so happy. We haven’t had a jumping round without any runouts, stops, or rails in…two years, probably. We’re finally getting to the point where I’m brave enough and she’s submissive enough to complete courses without making those kinds of silly mistakes.

That feels SO. GOOD.

And we ended up placing fifth out of nine, which I’m quite pleased with. Simple changes, yelling, and all.

I still feel silly celebrating such a little fence when last year I was doing 3′ courses. But I’m trying to get over it. Truly, we’re at a better place now than we were last summer, even after our crash.

And it really does feel good to get “not-last-place”, too.

It’s Show Time! Ohio Standardbreds and Friends Hunter Pace

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In case you were thinking my horse was small – here’s proof to the contrary >.<

Immediately off of the trailer, Robbye was…out of control. Her anxiety just completely takes over her, and she can’t focus on me to save her life. She doesn’t bolt or kick, but she completely ignores me, screaming and trotting in circles, to the point of running into and over me. That’s just absolutely not acceptable for any horse, much less for one as big as her.

(I don’t understand where all of this anxiety comes from. Since I bought her at barely three years old, Rob and I have traveled frequently. Trail rides, shows, fun little events like this hunter pace. Why does my calm, cold-blooded mare get so scared when we go somewhere new?! Maybe it’s because I get so scared. That’s probably it. )

And she was so distracted and nervous that I couldn’t get a chain over her nose to be able to control her. I have lots of “lessons learned” from this trip, and one is that I’m going to put the chain on in the trailer, right before she gets off, from now on. She respects the chain and I usually only have to bop her with it once, so…it’s worth it for my safety.

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Slowly reconnecting with her brain…

Ordinarily at this point at a show I’d tie Rob to a trailer and let her scream herself silly. Well I’m trying to learn from you all, and not just from the people I watch in real life, and I know many of you use hand-walks to calm your horses at strange locations. Why have I always just left Robbye to cry herself silly? Probably because I was busy crying MYSELF silly! But the hand-walking worked very well; as we made our way among the trailers and lots of sane, happy horses, Robbye inched away from insanity and back toward grazing and her usual cold-bloodedness. By the time we got back to the trailer she was only crying once in a while, and was willing to eat hay like the big girl she is.

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The pace course was gorgeous.

(I also used the hand-walking as a sort of dominance warm-up time, since her submission is our #1 issue right now. We’d take a few steps, halt, then back. Take a few steps, halt, then do a turn on the forehand. Walk a few steps, then graze for a minute. This got her paying attention to me, submitting to me, and relaxing.)

Anyway, I know this is all super riveting, but it was actually a great break-through for both of us!

I had decided, knowing that there would be an empty dressage court, a warm up arena looking a lot like a stadium course, and a hunter pace covered in cross country jumps, that I was going to pretend this was a horse trial. So we tacked up for dressage, then proceeded to absolutely rock our “dressage test”.

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Sane horses can eat at the trailer.

This is the first time ever that I’ve been able to replicate our under saddle work away from home. Ever. And considering the way this day started – completely out of control – I am absolutely thrilled. She was round, forward, willing, and happy. I felt confident, brave, and really really proud of my horse. After a long dressage school, we walked straight through the trailer parking – with zero drama! – and popped over the warm up jumps for our “stadium round”. They were only about a foot high, and I was in my dressage saddle so I’m sure I wasn’t pretty…but man, was it fun. When Rob realized it was time to jump she just lit up, and happily galloped over the little fences. I’m calling it a clear round!

At this point she was completely pooped and so was I.

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Aren’t we a cute team!

We each got a short break, then it was time for our actual pace. We didn’t do all of the fences – just the small ones – but I am just so proud of both myself and my mare. Though she was tired, she was very willing, and offered some gallop even at the end of the 30 minute trail ride.

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We care more about documentation than winning the pace. Selfie break!

(It really was a great workout for both of us, too. I really pushed her to keep working even when she was tired, and pushed myself to not feel guilty about it!)

Really, I would have been happy if we had headed home after our dressage school. We got past her new-place-crazies, I got on by myself and worked through her giraffe stage, ending with the quality of work I would expect at home. The fact that we followed that up with a great little jumping round, and then followed that up with a trail ride, and on that trail ride jumped some more!? 

What a successful day. I was brave. She was brave. We had fun and definitely learned a lot.

TOABH: Worth 1k Words

ForBeka

Let’s share our favorite photos of our stud muffins.  No limit.
This will be fun; since for 99% of this blog’s life it was private, I haven’t gotten to really share any of my favorite photos! Let’s see if I can do this in moderation…
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Possibly my all-time favorite photo of us. For some reason she saluted the judge with me all year that year.
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Looking through my photos and seeing the fences in the “look what we jumped!” photos get bigger and bigger is very satisfying.
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Harnessed and hitched!
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This was pre-reformed seat, I think. My leg would be so much more forward now.
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Always wear a helmet! And boots. Especially when you’re on the road.
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We look so sporty!

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Jumping bareback like a boss.
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Our o/f debut – hunter classes at 18″.
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I was crying at this moment because I was so proud of her.
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It’s not a photo of Robbye, except for that great butt, but it’s too great of a photo to leave out 🙂
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One of my best friends, Paul, Robbye, and my husband, Zeke
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My husband Zeke, looking majestic. Robbye is bored.

BN CT at Twin Towers

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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.

Bad Show and a Week Off

Well, the CT was horrible. Pretty much every part of it went wrong in some way, and I just do not want to write about it. Lessons learned:

  • I really need to learn how to commit – to everything. To kicking butt, to fences, to my own cofidence in general.
  • Robbye is fit. I need to stop worrying about her running out of steam. I need to wear her into the ground, when it’s necessary!

The only time I rode this week was Monday – I had a “kick butt” dressage ride, where I tried Yogi’s bit. It has a little leverage, so it was nice to see how she reacted to it. Overall, I didn’t feel like it made much of a difference. I don’t really need stopping power anyway – I just need to teach Robbye that she needs to always listen to me.

Maybe I need to take what I learned about her bucking – ride through it, then make her work harder – and apply that to all of her misbehavior. I’ll try that next time she’s a turd.

We have a dressage lesson tonight and a jumping lesson Sunday. Exciting!