Monday, May 13, 2013

Goals Met ... mostly

I can unequivocally say that we had a BLAST at the Come Again Farm May Flowers schooling show.  Lee Ann does a phenominal job at her farm and everything was wonderful and yet relaxed.  So... on to the recap.

Shirley was entered in 2 Event Derby divisions: Green as Grass (18") and Starter (2'3").  We did both dressage tests before any jumping.  I can't say they were outstanding tests.  I think the first was in the 44 penalty point range (56%) and the second was around a 48 (52%), but there were MOMENTS... fleeting for sure, but definitely moments, that were lovely... especially in the 2nd test.  I have to disagree with the word choice that the judge used often in that test: "unbalanced".  There isn't an unbalanced bone in that mare's body.  I am not arguing the score... simply the description.  Above the bit for sure.  Unfocused, definitely.  Unbalanced?  Not a chance.  Either way, it put us in 3rd in GAG and 7th in Starter going into our jumping rounds.

I've never done an Event Derby before.  The jumping is part show jumping, part cross country.  Figured it should be interesting.  Our first round was the 3rd time I'd tacked up Shirley that morning.  She was less than thrilled and preferred a nap at that point.  But she was a good girl.  Our warmups were VERY limited.  She was already warmed up and I didn't feel the need to overdo it.  Remember... Goal #1 at this show was to give her a good experience. 

The first and last part of the 2 courses were the same with only the adjustment in height being different.  GAG was crossrails, while Starter was verticals and an oxer.  2 stadium fences in the sand arena then out to the field to jump 3 fences, then off the bank, then back into the ring for the last 3 stadium fences.  Shirley was very good overall.  She jumped like a champ, though she would rush a bit after the fences and was spooking at everything else (there were MANY jumps in this field).  Shirley is also convinced at this point in her education that steering is merely a suggestion.  GAG went EXTREMELY well.  She even went off the drop bank!  We trotted a LOT but ... see Goal #1.  Starter went really well too in the beginning.  Unfortunately, we had our first refusal at the biggest fence on the course -- a red roofed cabin.  It was in a lovely spot but there were other jumps and with the steering/focus issues we were having, we did not get straight to it and thus Shirley did not really see it until we were on top of it.  It was too big to take like that.  A small trot to approach it straight and she sailed over it.  In the arena she was jumping well over the bigger fences.  Fence 8, the next to last, was an oxer.  I remember thinking it was a fantastic jump.  Unfortunately, I didn't ride well afterwards and combined with our steering/focus issues meant that I rolled over her left shoulder and was promptly deposited on my butt.  Shirley was an angel and stood still while I got up and led her off.

We did a small bit of XC schooling after the jumping was done that afternoon.  She went in and out of the water like a champ (a green champ at first but settled nicely), even doing an up bank out of the water.  We had some issues with horses cantering too closely behind us.  More focus issues I think.

I learned a lot about Shirley and about what she needs and where I am in regards to providing it.  First, whatever conclusions I come to post-event have no bearing on how proud I am of her performance this weekend.  She was a wonderful.  She was the patient and kind Shirley to work around as I tacked and untacked her *5* times in the course of 6 hours.  She was the athletic and talented Shirley I've come to love when we were competing.  What she needs is focus and experience.  What I need to do is give her the ride she needs to be able to focus.  I have gotten into the bad habit of looking at her and not focusing myself on where we're going, both when she's needing correction as well as when on course.  In a stadium round it's a bit easier because the fences come up faster.  What this showed me is that I need to have a specific and definite plan on landing even off XC fences or Shirley will make up her own at this point.  I also need to continue to work on my fitness and balance.  I think I did ok... except when I lost my balance as she spooked as well as when she LAUNCHED herself off the banks.  I can only apologize to my big girl and hope we can get past my mistakes.

I do believe I accomplished Goal #1.  This show was low key and positive.  I think she had a good experience and gained a lot of knowledge that will help us going forward.  Goal #2 was to complete our rounds.  Well... we mostly did that.  Everything but 1 jump.  I can live with that.  Of course wanting to do WELL was in the back of my mind as a hope, not a goal.  That hope was fulfilled in the Green As Grass division where we finished 2nd.

Ella and Thumper did the Starter and Beginner Novice Derbies and did well -- finishing 6th in Starter and 3rd in Beginner Novice.  Anita and Cerveza came to "practice" showing and did 3rd level Test 1 and 4th Level Test 1.... finishing 4th and 3rd respectively.  Again, we all had a FANTASTIC time at the show and are looking forward to going back to Come Again Farm for another show.  Thank you Lee Ann, and everyone at the show that made it work.

Here are some pictures... all taken by Lee Ann Zobbe.

Ella & Thumper at Fence 9 in the Beginner Novice Event Derby -- on their way to a 3rd Place finish!

The amazingly infectious smile of a 12yo having fun.

Shirley over Fence 2 in the Green as Grass Event Derby

Shirley on her way to our first bank.

LAUNCHING off said bank.  Yes, I was bad and didn't ride properly.  I think I apologized to her all the way to the next fence.  I think we may have been the only ones to take the drop in that division.  And we finished 2nd!

Fence 2 on the Starter course... looking to head out to the XC field next.

Shirley coming off the bank in the Starter Event Derby (our 2nd ride off the bank)

another LAUNCH off the small bank.  And yes, we did need to turn left... I just could have done it a bit more politely.

What I think was our best fence... Fence 8 on the Starter course. Just wish I would have ridden better this so we could have finished.

Friday, May 10, 2013

New goals?

Just a quick brain dump on what's going on.  I'd like to start using this blog a bit better to track our progress.  Let's face it.  We have 2 very talented mares who are just getting started but learning quickly.  And with show season now upon us, there's going to be a lot going on.  It will be fun to look back and see how far we've come.

So here we are... May 10th with Shirley and Spider.

Spider has been working a LOT on her dressage.  She's not as brave a jumper as Shirley is and Anita LOVES her so she's been concentrating on her flatwork.  Anita said she quickly ran through the First Level Test 1 in the indoor the other day and thought Spider did really well with the movements.  Her canter transitions are SO much better and Anita was beaming at what she was able to get for a medium canter as well as the transition back to working.  I think we're going to get her out soon to a DLSC dressage show, but probably at Training level to start.  No sense in pushing her physical limits along with the mental ones of going to a show.  I think we're going to start jumping her again as well.  See what she can do and what she wants to do.  Plus of course, good weather means trail rides! 

Shirley is heading to her 2nd show with us later today.  We'll be doing the Green as Grass (18") and the Starter (2'3") Event Derby divisions at the Come Again Farm Spring Show tomorrow.  We haven't been able to specifically school cross country, and our flatwork is coming but far from confirmed.  Just going to A) have a good experience that sets up more good experiences... then B) finish our divisions.  I have no doubt we can actually accomplish both... but to me, the order of the goals is important.

Both girls saw Dr Lieck yesterday (chiropractor).  They both had some significant work that needed to be done. Shirley's was all along her back as well as her stifles.  Spi was out in a few places in her back as well as her left shoulder and left knee.  The plan for today is for a short acclimation ride when we get to the farm tonight so it will be interesting to see how Shirley is after her adjustment (she had the rest of yesterday off and both of them thoroughly enjoyed a couple hours out on the grass).

Tomorrow looks to be a long but nicely paced day.  Ella is taking Thumper and doing the Starter and Beginner Novice Event Derby divisions, and Anita is bringing Cerveza to practice their Third and Fourth level tests.  We start with our first test (me and Shirley) at 8:50am... and end with Anita and Veza doing 4th - Test 1 at 5:10.  In between we have another 4 dressage tests, 4 jumping rounds and a short session of cross country schooling.

Here's hoping my next entry will have plenty of pictures as well as a recap of the event.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shirley meets Joe

I'm almost a week late in posting this recap of my lesson with New Zealand eventer Joe Meyer.  Antia and I had watched a couple lessons he gave locally a few months ago.  Since then, I've been wanting to get to him for a lesson, but the timing and finances never worked out.  Thankfully, his schedule allowed him an inpromptu visit to Greenstone last Thursday before he headed to Louisville for a weekend clinic.

I had initially requested a group lesson (easier on the checkbook) but am SO thankful now that I ended up with a private lesson, even if it did cost a bit more.  I'm also thrilled that Anita was able to go with me and watch.  She said she learned as much if not more by watching than I did by riding.

So what happened?  Well, first we had to settle down.  I introduced Shirley to Joe.  She was a bit keyed up so he got on and worked her on the flat for about 15 or 20 minutes.  He was calm, cool, insistent but not rude about it... just kept asking over and over and over... as much as it took.  Shirley started to settle quite nicely in both trot and canter as time went on.  I got on then and tried to replicate what he had done with her, working first on keeping the rhythm in the gait the same all the way around the circle (not to mention actually making the circle as circle... have I mentioned we're geometrically challeneged?).  Both directions... both trot and canter.  Keeping the contact the same no matter what she's doing in front, just keeping the forward and rhythm... the relaxation and roundness will come.  He also warned that as she came round in the canter, her stride would get bigger.  It definitely did!

We didn't jump much.  Couple times over an X and a few over a small verticle.  Not what I expected coming into this lesson, but the lesson was EXACTLY what we needed.  Our homework is to continue to expand on what we were doing in the lesson.  Maintaining rhythm in the gait, keeping contact with a slight inside bend, allowing her to be round (releasing the pressure if she does) and then start working on adjustability within the gait.  Also, getting her out to do things.  We were supposed to school cross country today at KHP with Megan Moore, but they had too much rain and cancelled it.  One of my fears, as I told Joe, is that Shirley loves jumping and has never refused a fence, and I don't want to take advantage of that and push her too far.  He suggested to do lots of little stuff and once I have the adjustability as well as the her confidence, then we can start getting bigger.  He really liked her (and he said he doesn't usually say that about horses he can't get to go on the bit) -- that made my day.

Also, through the lesson and in the discussion afterwards on what we needed to do, I had a "come to jesus" epiphany about me.  I've known I need to work on my fitness for a while.  Last Tuesday morning, I did SOMETHING to my back.  I have no idea what.  I went to sit on a chair and put my shoes on and almost started crying it hurt so bad.  Dealt with it Tuesday (thank you Naproxen).  Scheduled a wonderful massage on Wednesday (I think I need more of those regardless of anything actually hurting).  Managed to get an appointment with a chiropractor on Thursday with a followup on Friday.  Things finally started moving.  I'm still having some issues with it and am wearing a mild brace for anything like "work" (riding, grooming, walking, gardening, etc.) and it's doing MUCH better.  Lots of yoga stretches!  But Joe made some comments about my balance and such during the lesson.  He never asked what I'd done as far as riding so he didn't know if I was new to the sport or (correctly) ridden through CCI*.  But between the comments and the issues with my back, it's past time for serious.  If I want to do right by Shirley, I need to be fit and have the balance/core strength to give her the ride she needs and not "hurt" her because I don't have the physical ability to do what needs to be done.  Right now exercising is limited as I nurse my back, but I've started walking as well as riding, plus still doing lots of yoga stretches.  "The game is won in the gym but lost in the kitchen."  Yep, getting the junk food/comfort food eating under control again too.  I want both me AND Shirley to be better the next time we see Joe.  Last night's ride was a good one.

Unfortunately no pictures of the lesson.  But here is a pic from the Hilltop show a couple weeks ago... the first is one that Jen took.  The 2nd is from Intelligent Design Photography & Graphic Design (the show photographer).

In other (very quick since this blog post has been long) news:
  • Had an absolute blast playing show groom for Anita and Cerveza at the Majestic Farm show last weekend.  Didn't quite turn out as they'd have liked, but I think they looked fabulous and am so proud of them.  Dressage shows definitely aren't the same as Events, but I still had a great time.
  • Working on the garden more -- currently have spinach, lettuce, snow peas, broccoli planted... and just added tomatoes and a couple peppers.
  • Looking forward to the Come Again Farm spring show this weekend.  Shirley and I will tackle the Green As Grass and Starter level Event Derbies, Ella and Thumper will be doing the Starter and Beginner Novice level Derbies, and Anita is bringing Cerveza to practice 3rd and 4th level dressage tests.