Everything’s Fine. Eek

How have things been going since the last installment, you ask?

Everything’s fine.

I now have the most collected canter possible on Joy.

In fact, I can’t seem to get her unstuck.

We’re walk, trot, and bounce in place (then sputter out and fall to pieces).

I have completely lost the left lead.

I have no idea what I’m doing and have no business training a horse.

I have a lesson this coming Saturday, and the plan was to introduce flying changes to Joy. This has been my dream for decades… to learn how to teach a correct flying change. I’m on the cusp of learning… and I have ruined my horse’s canter 5 days before the lesson. Aaaarrrgghh!

Also, this lesson is the last lesson I can have this year. If we can’t work on flying changes this lesson, then I have to wait 7 months for my next lesson (and hope like hell the trainer still wants to train me and is still willing to come to our area).

Either way… I went from low 60’s to high 60’s at First Level this year with only 4 lessons from this trainer. Pretty darn impressive.

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As the Judge Groans

Show Day…

The day started off with me waking up at 1:30 am for no reason and unable to fall back to sleep.

At 5:00 am, I braid up Joy and try a new technique I read about. I give her a thorough brushing, brush out her tail, and stand back to admire this glossy and beautiful pony. I almost take a pic of her, but decide not to.

I run inside to change and grab something to eat. 

It’s load up time (which is always kind of hit or miss with Joy). I run out to the barn to grab Joy and she’s COVERED in poop. Top to bottom coated in it. 

Now we’re running behind.  

It’s STILL DARK OUT!!!!

I grab the pony and head over to the trailer to load. The trailer is a black pit. Joy balks. 

I finally convince her to get in. My other horse, Levi, is hollering his fool head off. Joy’s hollering back. Everyone’s upset. I’m rattled. We’re late. I’m freaking! And our running lights refuse to work. Did I mention it’s still dark out.

Ugh!

By the time we pull in to the show grounds, it’s finally light out. I see SA there already. She was looking calm and cool. Her majestic mare was unloaded and calmly eating hay. 

We pull in and I feel like a too-wired coffee fanatic with a semi-feral pony. My heart is pounding, my hands are shaking, Joy’s screaming inside the trailer.

The slope on the parking spot was so great that I felt like I hurled Joy off a cliff to unload her.

It is at this point we realize we have lights INSIDE of the trailer. That would’ve been useful to know an hour earlier.

Joy was a ball of nerves. Her whinnies are ear shattering.  I decided to hop on and put her through a warm-up to settle her down. It’s either that or lose my hearing.  

Oh, and Joy’s braids are slowly popping out, one by one. 

First Level Test 3.

Why would a show host put Test 3 first thing in the morning?! So sadistic!

I’ve got my test memorized. My pony is responsive and feeling good. My body is working fairly well for the lack of sleep and earliness of the day. I’m a little tense, but I’m okay.

And then I realized I would have to approach the judge’s booth to give my number. The booth where my old trainer sits. The one I’ve burnt my bridge with….

Eek!!!

Wait… it was…. pleasant!

Whew!

The whistle blows! 

I entered at A.

First center line and I’m feeling okay about this. We’re fairly straight. Halt, salute. All good. Ask to trot forward and Joy decides she has the world’s worst itch that she has to scratch right at that moment.

We recover.  

I get to about the half-way point in the test and my brain blanks. What comes next?!?! Suddenly all I can think is ‘Please don’t let her blow the whistle for off course.’

Aaaaahhhh!!

Just as I’m at max freak out, I remember the rest of the test.

Whew!

Joy and I spent the rest of the test bouncing between stalling out and rushing forward, but we nail the leg yields and do passably well on the canter loops. Yay!

Then it was SA’s turn.

She enters the arena looking poised and elegant in her maroon jacket and matching fly bonnet.

And that is the exact moment someone wanted to talk to me and I missed the rest of her ride. 

I caught moments of it. She does a better lengthen. Her canter is better. I can’t tell from my view point, but her centerline and halts look better.

The scores take forever to come out, and it’s a hike to go get them, so I have no idea how I’ve done by the time the second class starts.

I’m pretty certain at this point that the whole thing is moot. I didn’t feel like the first ride went very well. There’s no way I can beat SA or SC’s highest percentage scores for year end awards (I had NEVER gotten a score higher than a 63 all year). It’s hot, I’m tired, and I can barely remember the tests.

First Level Test 1

Why am I always first to go?

Another braid popped out.

I put my game face on. I enter the arena.

Our trot work goes okay. Again, our canter work was lacking. 

We get through it. The test seems easy in comparison to the first ride. I’m tired. Joy’s tired. Some good spots, some bad.

I noticed Joy HAD to take one final step at EVERY SINGLE HALT at this show. 

At this point, I’m still under the impression that I’m just putting in the face time to get the Year End Reserve Points spot because SC didn’t show up. 

We finish the test and I hop off. Joy’s soaked in sweat. Lathered. When I scratch her neck it turns white. It’s hot and she’s been working on building her winter coat for a few weeks now.

I pull her tack, hose her off and cool her down, and then run over to the office to scratch the last test.

When I tell the office manager I’m scratching the last test, she screeches “WHAT?!?!”

I thought “Oh, how sweet, she’s worried about my pony”.

Instead she says, “Your going to win High Point if you do the last test. Get back on your pony!!” She said it with such conviction and authority that I damn near ran back to tack up my pony. lol!

I take a moment to consider how much I love ribbons, but I love my pony more and she’s been so good that I’d rather we end the show season at this point.

I tell her again I’m scratching, hand her my bridle number. 

Results:

First Level Test 3: 67.361% – https://youtu.be/VXihZHfaCYE

First Level Test 1: 68.793% – https://youtu.be/Cr-OQoPuNzE

Plus….

We won Champion High Percentage and Champion High Point.

I found that twist highly ironic.

The final scores for all the riders:

One last thing.. and more important than the show…

SA did really well with her mare. She has a horse that I highly doubt anyone else could’ve gotten to this point, and even though I have no doubt SA will be able to move the mare up the levels, she will always struggle with this mare…  And, this is the first horse SA has trained herself. Joy is my fourth I think.  SA is not only a very talented rider, but a great sportswoman and wonderful friend.  She’s someone I feel really honored to be able to compete against, and she’s a strong competitor who brings out the best in me.

At the show, we parked next to each other. After SA’s second ride she tells me that some jerk bystander (not riding) made an extremely rude and derogatory comment about her size. I mean, horrible comment. SA took it in stride. I lost my shit about it. SA rode her final test (Test 2) after the comment. I can’t even express how much I admire her. 

While she was riding her final test, I reported the jerkoff to the show managers and they scurried him off the show grounds. 

For everyone else out there showing or riding, and you’re not feeling the most confident about your weight… You’re amazing! Go ride, and I’ll flying tackle the basement dwelling jerkoffs when they show up.   

The Twists Keep Coming

It’s T minus 1 day ’til show day.

We’ve just received word of a Judge change for my classes.

The new judge is the old trainer I had a seriously bad falling out with….

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu *k!

The show Saturday, the one where everything rides on me scoring well, just got harder.

As someone who already turns into a ball of nerves wrapped in anxiety on show days, this new development adds an extra special sauce of EEEK to the experience.

Will I be able to hold it together well enough to pull out a passable rendition of First Level, WHILE being judged by the old trainer I pissed off?!?

Will I forget my all of my tests and be DQ’d for off course, sending myself into a humiliation spiral for our final show?!?

Will the judge spit on us as we turn at C?!?

Stay tuned for more of “Avandarre Really Knows How to Burn a Bridge”.

….

I’m eagerly awaiting how all this plays out on Saturday! 😂

Recap of Lesson

I should’ve written this right away, while it was all fresh… but here goes.

Joy’s first time in an arena with mirrors! It didn’t occur to me that this would be an issue. I’ve never had a horse react very much to mirrors.

It took a good 15 minutes of airs above the grounds before she settled enough to listen to me again. Didn’t stop the constant nickering to her reflection, but at least her feet were closer to the ground.

I wish I’d gotten some pics of it. She was quite the sight. Prancing and preening to herself in the mirror.

I put her back in her stall while we waited for our lesson and she screamed her fool head off. I assure you, this pony has a good set of lungs on her.

Oh.. i bought some splint/dressage boots, all white with the fluffy fake wool, for the lesson. I figured if we couldn’t awe them with our riding skills, then we could dazzle them with fashy stuff, right?

For some reason, it was really important for me to convince them she was a nice dressage pony. I guess because I’ve invested so much effort into her training, and have done it all myself… it wasn’t really about the pony.

Anyway, they looked sharp on her.

We start the lesson, and of course new trainer is feeling us out and I’m not riding all that sophisticated.. but she’s offering good suggestions and I’m seeing where I need to improve.

All good stuff.

Then she gets on the pony (I asked her too).

My God! She made Joy look like a million bucks! Like those fancy horses you see that are light years out of your budget. Just beautiful. Fluid, and soft, and powerful.

Trainer on Joy

Look at that hind leg!

She even got Joy to do a really nice lengthen on the first try. A lengthen I have never come anywhere near creating. It was so awesome!!!

What was really nice to hear:

She said Joy had a great walk and trot. Great shoulder in. Great lateral work. Was one of the few ponies she’s ridden that you could ride with your core. That she thought Joy would do Piaffe easily (once there). And that if I decide to sell her, to let her know. 😁

But her canter sucks.

Which I knew. No shocker there.(she didn’t really say it sucked, she was far too nice to put it that way).

And then I got back on…

I tried to replicate the lengthen and failed miserable. She said my hips were too tight. Which embarresed me, because I don’t want to be one of those old people with tight hips, but apparently I am (will work on this).

I did get great suggestions on improving the stretchy circle, leg yields, lengthens, and the trot overall.

And she gave me homework for the canter.

When I rode Joy again, after the lesson, I tried applying the homework she gave me for the canter and found i could duplicate a good canter at home. I think spending more time focusing on the canter overall will help a great deal over time.

Anyway, what I liked most was that this instructor was able to make quite significant changes and effect change within the first 15 minutes of my lesson, that she saw Joy as a pony with potential, and that she was excited to work with us.

I’m really digging the new trainer!

We go back again July 6th. Hopefully I’ll have everything we covered this lesson addressed and we can start working towards bigger goals!

Also, I have vid, but my video editing software is a pain and I’m lazy, so you’ll get it later…

Joy’s First Dressage Show

Our first dressage show is completed!

We survived!!

Joy loaded and hauled like a champ. <- That was actually my main concern for the show.

She hopped right on and I latched her in with ease. She hauled quietly and without issues. Whew!

Once we got to the show, she was a million times better than I expected her to be. She was hyped, but easily controllable. She listened to me. I bet a few more shows and she’ll be completely unfazed by it all.

The only thing that wigged her out the entire show was when a horse unloaded from a trailer next to her. She wigged out… as in, all four feet left the ground, she started bucking and leaping around. I was walking next to her, so I just ignored it and kept walking. She was back to normal a moment later, but I didn’t stand her near unloading trailers after that. 😮😁

The actual test scores weren’t very good. The rides, while riding them, felt awesome! Not perfect, but the stretchy trot felt balanced and as if she had massive stretch. The lengthens felt like she lengthened well (for her and where she’s at right now). It felt… Good.

The scores and video show it was was not good. It was crap. Rushing, braced, unbalanced… not good at all.

That disconnect between how it felt and how it scored/looked, really had me bummed.

Final Scores:

  • First Level Test 1 – 60.172%
    • 4th place out of 5
  • First Level Test 2 – 63.286%
    • 2nd place out of 4
  • First Level Test 3 – 62.22%
    • 3rd place out of 4

We somehow eeked out a Reserve Champion High Point tie with the girl that womped our butts in test 2 and 3. Don’t ask me how.

The overall theme in the comments on each test was: Tension, bracing, lack of suppleness, lack of balance, lack of bend.
That pretty much describes all three tests in a nut-shell.

First Level Test 1 Video Link: https://youtu.be/1P4VtMRlWUI

First Level Test 1 Score Sheet:

First Level Test 1 Collective Marks

 

First Level Test 2 Video Link:  https://youtu.be/fzAVGxnhHP0

First Level Test 2 Score Sheet:

First Level Test 2 Collective Marks

 

First Level Test 3 Video Link: https://youtu.be/haGVdILY98Q

First Level Test 3 Score Sheet:

First Level Test 3 Collective Marks

 

My friend takes beautiful photographs!

The joy of being an AA

Work has been killing me. 50 to 70 hour weeks for over a month. I am exhausted. Burnt out.

I also don’t get anything for all this overtime. No overtime pay, no extra time off..

I can’t even reap extra money for all this hard work. *sigh* No new brushing boots for Joy again this year.

My first show is a week away. I’m not sure what to expect.

I’m still struggling every ride with either making her too hot and tense, yet better balanced, or supple and relaxed, yet horribly on her forehand. I can’t seem to get balanced, supple, forward, and relaxed all in one ride.

We have some fabulous moments though.

Our lengthen canter (aka go fast) elludes me, but we have a very nice downward transition. She engages well under herself. It’s quite neat to feel. There’s not much length of back on a pony so you really feel the back coil and the haunches come under.

Our lengthen trot has gotten a wee bit better. More lengthen in the stride. However, we can’t hold it long. Not long enough even for a short diagonal.

You know what’s really improved? We can do simple transistions down the quarter line like nobody’s business. Not exactly a staple of dressage tests though. Super fun to ride though! Weeee!!!

Anyway, I just don’t know how this whole show will go. We’re not really ready for First Level Test 3. We’ve got the canter loops and leg yields, but no real lengthens. I can’t get a stretchy trot at all if she gets tense. It’s so easy to accidentally make her tense, and so hard to relax her again.

Since this will be her first time off property in 2 years, and only the second show she’s ever been to, I’m not expecting it to go all that well…

But… I’m hoping to take her to a few more shows this year, and I think she’ll get used to it pretty fast. She’s always had a really fantastic brain on her. Adapts well. Maybe the second show we can show off our training a bit better, or the third. We’ll see.

First Dressage Show

My first dressage show, ever, on Joy is in 3 weeks.

I’ve been freaking out ever since I signed up for it. A combination of excited and scared to death.

I have such high hopes for our debut in public and at First level.

However, since this will be Joy’s second show (first was 2 years ago at a local open show), I’m expecting her to be tense, distracted, and spooky.

I’m more nervous that we’ll do poorly because my training sucks. This is the first horse I’ve trained solely on my own, without lessons (I did have 2 on her a couple years ago).

She is entirely a reflection of my level of knowledge. Not a trainers, not my ability to do as told, not any outside influence… mine and mine alone.

It means a lot to me that we do well.

Add on to that… I am highly competitive. So I’m bouncing back and forth between “It’s just for fun. We’ll have fun and who cares how we do!” to “Crush the competition! I must bury them in the dust of my success!”

And on top of that…

My anxiety riddled brain is coming up with ever horrible event that could possibly happen the day of the show. Pony freaks out and runs off with me, tosses me, freaks in trailer, won’t load in trailer, freaks at judges stand and refuses to go near it, etc. etc. etc..

Oh, and add in that I’ve idiotically decided I can’t buy a new show coat and will lose enough weight in 3 weeks to fit my old show coat (a goal I’m not convinced I can achieve), and we’ve got an amazing recipe for total disaster!!

Really all I’m saying is I’m a mental basket case.

Stay tuned for more “How can Mia screw this up?” adventures!!

Those rides where it all goes right

I’ve been working on walk/canter transitions the past couple of months, but our canter/walk attempts have been HORRIBLE!

I got the BEST canter to walk transition today! It was… a big girl canter to walk trans! Balanced, engaged, and she just walked forward into the transition.

I was so floored and happy I immediately hopped off and quit. I figured we couldn’t possibly top that today.

Ultimate effort from this pony!

She’s just amazing!

New photos:

As you can see, we’re still too short in the neck. I get more moments of longer neck, but not consistent (yet).

Leg Yield

Springing into Possibilities

The great white north. Where 45 degrees is t-shirt weather.

The ponies are shedding hair faster than lazy people run from work.

The ticks have made their descent on critters and humans alike. They had gathered their armies and attacked before the last snow had even melted.

And me? I am tubby and out of shape, still suffering from cabin fever and a horrendous cold/flu.

But over there.. just past the horizon, is the possibility of Show Season. That glorious time where horse and human become one athletic team, stunning audiences with their grace and skill, wowing judges with their grasp of core dressage concepts, signing autographs for their adoring fans…

Oh wait, that’s other people…

I’ll be the chubby one on the plain brown pony who is desperately trying to ride a 20m something that should resemble a circle instead of an egg.

I hate to even suggest we might go to a show, or lesson, or whatever this year. It seems like every time I plan something, the horses end up lame. So finger’s crossed this year works out for us! I have high hopes, but I’m also a horrendous pessimist.

Actually, I’m beginning to get a bit superstitious about even mentioning I’m planning something. The moment I commit is the moment the horse goes horribly lame.

So, for now, I’ll leave you with the idea that if all goes well, then we’ve got fun times ahead of us!