Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our very first dressage show!

Okay, up this morning and went to get the pony ready (more grooming, yay!). Thinned his mane some more. Loaded everything up, and went off to the horse show. Turned out to be a nice facility (which...I expected) tucked back off the road a ways. We were one of the first people there though we didn't ride for a while (because we wanted to ensure we got there with plenty of time). Everyone we spoke to was really nice and pleasant and there was no snootiness about our non-fancy horses and tack. ;) (I only point this out because Christina commented on just how nice everyone was. expect people to be nice but these folks were exceptional about it. On top of the "reputation" of dressage folks for being snooty. ;)) I also pointed out the tack thing because I was kicking myself. I have a nice, black Mattes pad I wanted to ride with. I thought about it last night, "don't forget the pad" (because I've kept it put away so it'd stay nice), and this morning, "don't forget the pad". I got halfway to the farm and realized I'd forgotten the pad! So I ended up borrowing a black pad from the barn to put under my half pad but it was faded and dusty and I was grumpy about it. ;)

For intro A, we were the last two riders in our class. Christina went, and then it was my turn. Kieran did get a bit antsy at being left but was overall okay about it (one thing we need to work on is him standing for mounting when away from home. At home? He's great. At shows? He often refuses to stand still, either swinging away from the block or walking in circles around it. Of course, we really need to work on doing stuff away from home (but "working", not just moseying down a trail) period.)

Then it was my turn and hey...we weren't bad! I remembered the test (something I was SO WORRIED I'd get to X, salute, and then think "now what???") and Kieran was generally good. He whinnied (because he was "alone") a couple times, and he did want very badly to go out the open door by A (they didn't have a gate up) but he listened to me about staying in the ring. Anyway, here's what the judge commented for us:

1. (6 points) Energetic, some loss of balance. Haunches left at halt, not quite straight centerline.
2. (5 points) Not to track.
3. (5 points) Accurate transition. Needs more energy.
4. (5 points) Circle not quite round. Losing energy.
5. (6 points) Some drifting from long side.
6. (5 points) needs to go all to long side, loss of line, needs more energy
7. (5 points) obed. haunches to inside.
8. (6 points) Circle not quite round. better energy.
9. (6 points) Fairly straight, needs more energy. Fairly square.


Nice effort! Horse needs more energy in order to keep straight and bended lines.

Score: 52.5%

So.....anyone think we need to work more on being forward? Ahem.

After that was a long wait until the dressage equitation class (which I should not have signed up for, but was interesting). I'm so used to other shows where you kinda have to wait near the ring till it's your turn and finally someone was like, "you know that class isn't scheduled until 12:26, right?" so then I was like, "oh? That's like a half hour! Okay....going back to the trailer for a snack then." When it it came time for the class, there were four of us in there, and during the warm-up bit right before, I knew right away, "okay, those two will be 1st and 2nd...that girl's probably going to be 3rd, and I will be 4th." Which wasn't a big deal to me, just something I noticed. Everyone else in the class (I think) was there doing tests at a higher level than me and Kieran and were just...better schooled than us. So they started at a free walk, then asked for a posting trot, then had us change directions (which they said to change directions on the short diagonal which I'd never heard before...does that just mean cross the ring diagonally [but not a really long diagonal] because that's all everybody seemed to do...). Then the brought me and one girl into the center of the ring and had the other two canter, then trot across the ring and pick up a canter going the other way. Then we switched and they had us do sitting trot before asking for the canter and Kieran (who had been a slug the whole class and dumb me had thought I wouldn't need a whip because he's usually fairly perky in shows) wouldn't pick up a canter quickly and I was just like...."forget it, I don't want to hold up the class and look like an idiot kicking away at my horse," so I just chose to go back to the center of the ring and let the other girl finish. It occurs to me, later, that part of that problem is that while he normally doesn't require so much kicking (anymore) to canter...I usually smooch to him. *face.desk.* So he likely was going, "but the canter aid has a smooch!" Plus being a slug. ;)

After that, I was the first one in the intro B class and this time, I borrowed a dressage whip from the barn. (though that turned out to not be very helpful either, mostly because it's longer than my dressage whip and I just didn't know what to do with the damn thing) Our scores did not improve from the first test and even with a whip in my hand (which is usually enough to get him to perk up a bit) he was still a slug so it was a lot of work to keep him moving. Anyway, here is the results from that test.

1. (5 points) Straight, square halt. Fairly active, some fading from center line.
2. (5 points) needs more energy
3. (4 points) head bent to outside, needs more forward thinking, broke
4. (5 points) nose to outside
5. (4 points) transition early (I think I was thinking the transition was right at C, between C and M)
6. (5 points) needs more stretch and energy
7. (4 points) transition late (because A was by the door and he wanted to go out, not trot forward), drifting from rail, nose to outside, circle large
8. (5 points) fairly active, not quite to K
9. (6 points) very square halt

Further remarks:

Great effort! Work on getting him more forward thinking.

Score: 46% least we have square halts?

We did, also...pretty much fulfill what I set out to do. For me not to forget the test in the middle (either of them). And for Kieran to get over having to ride away from his buddy and alone in a strange ring and still (more or less) do what I ask. Generally, we had a really good time. I think I like this style of show a lot. It's nice to know what time you're supposed to ride (and they were very good about keeping things on schedule), nor did we have to rush this morning to get ready (though I imagine if we come back with a bigger group, that will change). Oh, and there was free food! Which we found out about late in the day. But it was still tasty!

Everybody really liked the horses (I got a lot of comments about how nice Kieran looks). And it looks like we're planning on going back for the next show in three weeks, I want to improve my test scores. ;) A couple other people from the barn want to go too (we were the guinea pigs).

And finally, here are some pictures:




This is from intro A (only time we had a photo-person). And my first halt, with "haunches left".







I think this is actually when we were leaving the ring.



He's not wearing a noseband because when I put it on, I couldn't for the life of me get it to sit right (way too close to the bit and just...awkward, I need to punch holes in it).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My horse canters circles around your horse!

Today's lesson, we warmed up with some serpentines (both walking and trotting and the trotting I had to do posting without stirrups. Ow.) Then we did trotting around the rail but doing 10 meter circles in the corners (sitting the circles, posting along the wall, still without stirrups).

Then we worked on going over the intro A and B dressage tests (the old ones, not the new ones) as we'll be showing in them this coming Saturday. Mostly that involved us riding around and Christina calling out the movements whenever she felt like it (as opposed to doing the tests straight through over and over). We did run through each test once in full, though.

I continually have to remind myself (or be reminded) that if I pull on his head with my outside rein, it doesn't actually help (as he braces against the pressure and tries even harder to fall inward) but if I just keep a steady, light contact and "bump bump bump" with the outside rein AND not forget to keep light contact with the inside rein, he goes pretty straight and where I want him to go.

Near the end of the lesson, we also did some cantering, basically, cantering all the way around the ring once, then continuing to do a 20 meter circle at B or E still cantering. And as long as I kept weight in my outside stirrup and kept my inside shoulder back, Kieran did really really well. I'm very proud of him. We'll probably start working on the new canter movement for the intro C test soon (basically: go into a 20 meter circle at A or C [I forget which] at a trot, cue for the canter, and before you come out of the circle, go back down to a trot) as so far, we've really only asked him to start cantering [i]then[/i] go into a turn or a circle, but not canter while already having started the circle.

Also had a nice ride yesterday on my own. Mostly we rode around the farm and in the woods and did some cantering up hills and some trotting on not perfectly even ground (one of the driveways along the barn and arena). Then we went back into the arena and I convinced him to chase the horse soccer ball around a bit. He still doesn't really get that it's supposed to be a game, but he humors me. ;)

In non-riding-training news, I did some work with Kieran today on accepting the presence of the clippers (for everything else he's so unflappable about, the fact that he doesn't go for the clippers [even sedated] is a little odd. Or funny, I haven't decided which. Maybe both). I took him into the round pen so we'd have a relatively open space that was still enclosed in case he got away from me, two pockets full of treats, and my little battery operated clippers. First I just worked on getting him to stand still with the clippers buzzing near his face. We had quite a bit of him walking in circles around me but if he'd stop and stand, I'd cut the clippers off and treat him. Once he was doing that relatively reliably (if snorting and giving me the hairy eyeball still a bit), we progressed to him letting the non-blade part touch him while on. If he'd stand for that, I'd cut them off and treat him. A couple times I treated him while the clippers were still running (see? you can get good things even when the evil nasty clippers are on!). Finally, I got him to tolerate the blade end (he can tell the difference) of the clippers touching him and we pretty much let it end there.

All in all, we probably weren't at it more than ten or fifteen minutes. He still doesn't trust them, but he didn't continually jerk his head away when they touched him (what he tried to do when I tried to clip his goat hairs before a show a while back) so I figure a few more treats sessions and me not acting like there's anything to be afraid of, and he'll settle right in to it.

Anyone have any suggestions on anything else I should have done?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Horse Soccer!

Introduced Kieran to the horse soccer ball yesterday. As you can see, he was terrified:

Now, to just teach him he's supposed to push it around...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Great Ride on Saturday!

This past Saturday, I spent mostly up at the barn and late in the afternoon, I got to ride Kieran. Soon enough, we'll be well into "crappy weather" season meaning if I want to ride, I'll practically have to only ride in the ring. So, to stave off the day when Kieran gets completely fed up with riding in there (and believe you me, we try to come up with a little something different to do with him for every lesson so he doesn't get bored and sour of working in there), we went for a hack around the farm. Which was something I haven't really gotten to do in a while since up until recently, I had no free weekends to go hang out at the barn and ride and it would be too late in the day on the weeknights when I got there.

Now, the last time before this that I'd ridden him alone around the farm, he was pretty insecure about the whole thing. Nervous to walk down behind the ring toward the hay barn, nervous to go up the hill toward the trail entrance. Whinnying for his friends every few minutes. He didn't do anything bad, but he was definitely reluctant.

Not on Saturday!

First we rode up the driveway toward the mailbox, just moseying along so I could get a feel for how he was doing. Then we walked back up the driveway toward the house and along the fence toward the trail entrance. Still fine, even with the horses in the field over there watching very intently. There's an open, relatively flat, spot up there, so we did some 20 meter circles at the trot.

Then I looked over at the woods and the entrance to the trail and figured "what the hell?" and rode him in. He was really ready to go, walking forward and paying attention and not at all worried that we'd left his friends behind. Even when we scared a herd of deer into running off through the woods, he just stood and watched them go by.

We didn't do the whole trail, just down the hill, across the creek (dry right now), and down to where it usually gets kind of mucky and I always have to wander around till I pick up the trail again. Didn't want to go all the way through because we'd end up down behind the hay barn near the round pen where Mattie is being kept and then she'd get herself all worked up (had surgery, can't be running around and whinnying but wigs out too much if she's kept all the time in a stall, so the round pen during the day is a good compromise). So we just turned around and followed our tracks back except, after you cross the creek again, instead of going around and up the hill, you can go straight up it. So Kieran and I cantered up it. He even cantered smoothly over a low log in the way (I saw it coming, was thinking "crap, I should probably slow him down...except he's going to end up cantering right over it and he's done poles in the ring before..." and indeed, that's what he did). It was such a nice canter, too.

After that, we walked down the driveway again to the mailbox, then came back up the driveway at a trot (and a bit of canter up the hill part [the driveway isn't paved]). Did some more trot circles up in the flat area then went around to the other side of the house and went about halfway down the hill over there (again, didn't want to go too far down and either get all the horses in the field riled up or set Mattie off) and trotted back up.

That was mostly it. We also went back into the ring (I closed the ring gate from horseback ;) ) and did some cantering both ways and continued to work on going deep into the corners. Then we just cooled out by walking and did lots of turns instead of just going around at the rail.

It was a very good ride.

And on Sunday, I had my lesson and for a while wasn't so good. Because we were back to diving into the ring (mostly when trying to do those twenty meter circles) and stuff. I was getting frustrated Kieran was getting frustrated because I was getting frustrated, etc. So our instructor got on him so she could feel what I was complaining about. She didn't have nearly as much trouble, but she did say he felt really stiff through his neck.

The verdict on the sticking-nose-out-diving-into-the-middle-of-the-ring issue? I'm grabbing and holding too much with the outside rein and if I'd just let go a bit and give and release with that rein (or even just think of kind of wiggling my hand), he doesn't feel the need to brace against my hand (hence, diving in when given an opening, to get away from the pressure). I feel like a dumbass, but the lesson got much better after I became aware of what I was doing and started focusing on not just holding on with the outside rein (which, I knew I was doing to an extent, because I felt like I "had to" to keep him from diving in...but I was just perpetuating the issue).

And, there we go and there you have it.

No riding pics from his weekend, but here's a picture of the pony in his field.