Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hidden Brook Farm Dressage Schooling Show - June 17, 2018

Ellie has been really settling into the horse show routine, and this past weekend we were able to do our fourth show of the year at my lesson barn.  I love these little local schooling shows where we can be gone for only a few hours and not break the bank either.  I have videos of the tests but I cannot seem to get them uploaded to Vimeo at the moment.  I basically forced my 14 year old to come along to capture media hahaha.

The show didn't start until 9:30 and our first ride time wasn't until quarter of 11.  Ellie unloaded off the trailer slightly up because they were moving around haying equipment to go off to the fields.  She couldn't see what was making the racket and she was slightly on edge.  I had given myself plenty of time (probably too much time), so instead of immediately tying her to the trailer and dealing with her being a nuisance, we headed down to the indoor to just walk around.  This did the trick for her, as she immediately quieted down and realized where she was.  She's super calm at lessons, so a leisurely walk around in the cool, shady indoor reset her brain.  Plus, she likes to look at herself in the indoor's mirrors haha.  

I am thankful she is past the need for lunging now, but I am still aware that she needs time and patience.  Every time we go off farm, I want her to have a good experience and work quietly through any nervousness.  Laying that foundation now will give me a totally laid back horse in the future, I hope!  By the time we came back out of the indoor, the haying equipment and big trucks had left the small barnyard area where trailers were parked and she was quite happy to stand at the trailer and eat hay.  I somehow lucked out into parking exactly where the one shade tree is in the driveway, so we did not have to stand in the hot sun all morning.

I decided to start our warm up in the indoor, since it was empty and I wasn't quite ready to be in the intense sun just yet haha.  We have had such a weird spring that I am not acclimated to the heat, especially wearing show clothes!  There is a small warm up area near the competition ring, so I figured a short warm up in the indoor would be a good start, and then we could mosey over to the actual warm up area when we were ready.

Our warm up was perfect.  She was soft and willing to accept contact and just felt lovely.  It was one of those rides that had we been at home I would have either introduced a new concept to work on or just gotten off because she was THAT good.  I swear, she loves that indoor haha.  I worried we would leave our best work in the warm up, so I practiced a few halts and centerlines after warming up and figured I might as well stop while I was ahead.  We took our time getting to the actual outdoor warm up area, and I still had plenty of time to get some decent trot circles out there before we went in for Intro B.  So far, she has not been the type of horse to act differently between the warm up and the actual show ring, which is nice.

I felt as though we had nailed the test and I was happy to see all 7s and 8s with a 6.5 on our medium walk (comment: tight in topline) and right trot circle (comment: tempo gets a little quick).  We had all 7s on collective marks except impulsion (6.5 with steady tempo underlined and the comment "little quick at times") for a total score of 70%!  Judge's final comment was Beautiful horse!  Could be a little steadier in trot tempo, gets a bit quick sometimes.  Good luck!  However, I did not see scores until after we were done, so I did not know this yet.  I was pretty excited to see our first 70% though!
posing with our Intro B ribbon while waiting for Intro C to be scored

she rocked her first 70% and I rocked some serious helmet hair haha
We only had twenty minutes until Intro C, so I headed down to the indoor to canter a bit.  This seems silly in a way to go all the way back down there, but because she often likes to not pick up the right lead, I did not want to deal with this in a small warm up area with lots of horses and under the scorching sun.  As I suspected, she did NOT want to pick up the right lead and kept picking up the left lead and doing a flying change a few strides in.  Ugggg.  This is something we really need to work on.  I am not convinced it is anything physical, but I have the chiro vet scheduled to come out just in case and this is going to be the topic of our next lesson this weekend!  Left lead was fine and quite nice.

I headed over to my trailer for a brief break in the shade.  Ellie was happy to stand and I had a drink of water.  She still won't drink away from home (though she drank half her tub when I turned her out later on...oh mare), so I am hoping she will overcome this.  And this is even with my lugging along her own water from home, so it is not like she is refusing strange water.
Soon it was time for Intro C.  I was starting to feel overheated and have been battling a nasty chest cold for the past week, so I had to rally myself a bit.  I love to show and normally do not mind the heat, but feeling a bit yucky didn't help me at all.  I still think we rode a decent test though I was wilting and despite the right lead problem (4 on that movement ugg), and won again with a 64.75%.  This test was all 6.5s with 7s on our right trot circle, medium walk and all collectives.  Judge's final comments: Capable pair on the right track. Work on further developing consistent tempo in trot and balance in canter.  Good luck!

I could not be any happier with Ellie's willingness to do what I ask of her.  We have a lot of things to work on, but I think we have some solid basics right now.  She's happy and willing in her work, even when I am asking her to do things that she is learning for the first time.  As I picked up my tests and ribbons from the scorer (my instructor Beth haha), we chatted about how the rides went.  Of course, the biggest thing is to get that right lead fixed, but she also said she is going to have me do Training 1 at our next lesson.  I guess I better learn that this week haha.  Everything else is in place to try Training level this year, so maybe we will be doing that later in July instead of in the fall as I had first figured.  There really isn't much glory staying at Intro level and winning all the things (though it has been quite fun to be undefeated with eight blue ribbons at her first four dressage shows haha), so we might as well give it a try!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Overcoming the NOPE

On the whole, Ellie has been a fairly reasonable mare who has agreed to most of the things I have asked her to do.  She's really not the type of horse to refuse something (at least not so far) unless she is worried or is truly green about the situation.

A few weeks ago, I introduced her to a small stream on a her first real solo trail ride.  She had no issue, mostly because it wasn't steep and there was very little water.

Yesterday, we went a little further out on the trail to the second water crossing.  This is much more technical question for her.  There is a snowmobile bridge over the stream, which is not safe at all, so in order to continue down the trail, we have to go down to the left of the bridge.  It is a little steep and narrow, and there is more water though it doesn't move fast at all.  I have crossed it many times with both Snappy and Dreamy, so I know it is safe and doable.  
The not safe snowmobile bridge over the stream
(facing towards home - so the stream crossing is on the right)
Ellie decided she'd rather not try.  I got a pretty big NOPE from her as soon as she got to the edge.  She walked right up, took one look at the water, and tried to whirl around and go back the way we came from haha.  I turned her back around, sat calmly, and encouraged her to move forward.  I rewarded her with big pats and verbal praise each time she made the choice to move forward or stand still instead of backing up.  She wasn't scared and she wasn't nervous, she just had made up her mind she wasn't going to go.  If we had a horse to follow, I think she would have just gone over without thinking about it.  But alas, we were alone.

It soon became clear that in order to get her over this water crossing, I was going to have to dismount.  I wasn't really prepared to dismount and lead her across, without a long lead rope or appropriate boots haha.  I really did not want to step in water with my tall riding boots on.  But there comes a point where you know that giving up will only reward the horse for the wrong behavior, so I was committed at this point.

I unbuckled the right side rein from her bit in order to give me a longer lead.  It's probably not the best choice in the world, but it was what I had and I know my horse isn't crazy.  There was definitely an oh shit moment right before she decided to follow me over the stream, where I realized that if I fell in the water and let go of the rein, she would probably run off haha.  I stood on the other bank way off to the side and encouraged her, keeping a firm pressure if she tried to back up but giving slack when she stood still or took a step forward.  
the stream that elicited the NOPE
Suddenly she gave this huge leap over the stream (which was rather silly and unnecessary, since it is not really that wide haha) and I had to laugh.  After lots of petting and good girls, I took her back over (she jumped it again) and then back over again she realized she could just step over it respectfully.  Then I remounted her (thank goodness for small 14.1 horses haha) and did it a few times on her back.  I never had to step in the actual water and she definitely just needed to be convinced that if I went first, she would be fine haha.

That seemed to be enough pony thinking for the day, so we headed back to the house.  About halfway home, she realized she was alone and let out a sad loud whinny.  Otherwise she was forward and happy.  We did spook a mama turkey hen on the way home, and suddenly there were like ten little chicks underfoot (sorry babies!), but other than looking closely at them all, Ellie didn't seem to mind.  

She definitely has a good brain in there and wants to do the right thing, even when her initial reaction is NOPE!  She's gotta be brave to be an event pony someday!

There is not much I'd rather do than ride through the Maine woods on my horse!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

State of Maine Dressage Schooling Show - June 10, 2018

Off we went to our third show of the year this past Sunday.  I was MUCH LESS nervous than the first SMDA show back in May, because I felt much more confident in Ellie's ability to act like a big girl haha.  She turned six the day beforehand, so obviously she's gotta grow up now!  ;-)
unicorn birthday cookies for the unicorn
Instead of arriving two hours ahead of our first ride time, I opted to get there with just over an hour.  I checked in and we took a quick walk around the show grounds.  Ellie was perfectly calm and happy, so I tied her to the trailer and spent time brushing and tacking her up.  She warmed up easily and didn't act nervous at all, which was really great.  She definitely seemed to remember being there before and went right to work without worrying about a thing. 

Intro B is an easy test for us, but it is the perfect warm up test right now.  The nine movements earned us all 7s, one 7.5 for a walk to trot transition, and then a 5 on the final center line haha.  We halted and she totally swung her hind end to the left (whoops) and because she has never done that and I did not expect it, I was not quick enough to correct it.  I walked her forward a stride and halted again, this time straight, which earned us the comment "halt not sustained". Ah well.  Gotta ride every stride until the END!  All 7s on the collective marks, with a 7,5 on rider position (whoooo!), and a 6.5 on impulsion (she underlined suppleness of the back).  The judge's further remarks said: Elegant pair! Stellar turnout by rider with a well ridden test - slightly may anticipate - so careful to prepare until the end!  I thought it was a well deserved 68.7% and a first place ribbon out of three riders.

We had a short break in between tests, but we had a lot of visitors to take up our time!  My husband and the two year old swung over to watch, and my first ever riding instructor Joy and her husband Doug had arrived just as we were entering the ring for Intro B.  I knew they would get a kick out of meeting Ellie, and with both of them now into their 80's, I enjoy any time I get to spend with them.

Soon it was time for our Intro C test, so we went over to the warm up to do a bit of trot and canter.  Ellie had picked up the correct right lead all week leading up to the show, but sadly in the warm up, she kept striking off incorrectly.  It was super frustrating because she kept wanting to throw her right shoulder out and was totally tuning out my right side aids.  Finally I just made her canter a small enough circle that she HAD to pick up the correct lead (not ideal in my world), and we had to go off for the test.  Uggg.  I know I can ride like a monkey at times when showing, but I really couldn't figure out what was going on with her.  Left lead, no problem (obviously, since that is all she wanted to take when going on the right rein).

This test was mostly all 6.5s, a few 6s, and a few 7s on our trot turn off centerline, trot change of rein, medium walk transition, rider position, and gaits, and 7.5 on the left trot circle.  Our first canter transition was the right lead, and yup, she picked it up wrong.  The scribe wrote 4 on the test, but then the judge wrote over it (and initialed) with a 6 and the comment "needs better balance".  


A 6 for a wrong lead....???

I jokingly texted my instructor later in the day that maybe the judge was blind in this case because we totally had the wrong lead, but whatever LOL!  I seem to have had weird judge things this year.  The judge wrote: Elegant pair - work to develop better prep and balance in and out of canter transitions.  Left trot circle was awesome!  We earned a 65.2% and another first place out of just two riders.

I thought the judge was right on, except for the ridiculously generous 6 on the wrong lead!  ;-)  It also makes me giggle when we get the words "elegant pair" because of Ellie's registered name LOL.  

Despite the fact my husband was there, my former riding instructor and her husband, and then my grandfather showed up at the end, I got exactly ZERO media!  Oh well.  There are only so many photos of us in Intro level tests one can have until they all look alike!  I would have liked the tests to be videotaped, because I do like to watch how we did, but without my 14 year old son around (who is my official videographer), I've got nothing.

Overall, I am really thrilled with how calm and willing Ellie acted this time out.  I could not have asked for a better horse (well, maybe picking up the correct right lead would have been nice, but we will get there!). She has really grown up a lot in the past few months, and it is clear she is starting to understand this showing thing.  

Next we are off to a XC jumping clinic with Daryl Kinney (Denny Emerson's former barn manager!) just after school gets out.  Speaking of, only one week until I start summer vacation yay!!!  

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What's in YOUR Tack Room? Series

I love reading about what other people use in their horsekeeping arrangements, and last summer I started a little series "What's in YOUR Tack Room?"

I didn't get very far...

Showing Edition (show tack and clothing, which has changed slightly with the new pony)

Trailer Edition (what is in the trailer tack room)

First Aid Kit Edition

Grooming Tote Edition

What else should I write about?  School is winding down, and I am not taking any graduate courses this summer, so I am going to need to do some writing haha!

Weird weather in Maine yesterday, as it was raining at the house/barn but not in the fields haha.  This is what happens when the storm follows the river on the opposite side of the property.  We got in a good 45 minute ride before I hurried home because the entire sky darkened.  Just as I was untacking in the barn, it POURED! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Improving Communication

As with any relationship, good communication is key.  With Ellie being so green under saddle when I first bought her last fall, it took time to install the basics of communication.  She mostly understood leg meant go and reins meant turn or stop, but it was super basic and the human equivalent of baby babble haha.

Obviously, the longer she has been under saddle, the more she has learned about communicating under saddle.  We have come a long way, but there is still much to learn.  At times, she still doesn't want to believe that leg can mean sideways and not just forward.  She doesn't always believe me that when I open my inside rein, I really mean for her to bend forward and down rather than throw her head up.  She's starting to understand how the outside rein controls her shoulder.

such a cookie monster
All of this is good and she is progressing as one would expect.  However, being an adult amateur who rides alone, I have developed habits that don't always allow the best communication.  ;-)  I know this, which is why I have enlisted Beth's help in (just about) weekly lessons.  I know that in order to train this mare well and to not have any holes in her training because of my own weaknesses, I need eyes on the ground.

Beth is a really great instructor and I am finding we are making progress much more easily with her guidance.  This is not to say it is easy or simple, but having someone help improve our communication is important.  The problems we have had are mostly my own fault, though at times Ellie likes to see what she can get away with too haha.  She is a redheaded mare after all!  ;-)  I have to remember not to communicate things incorrectly to her, because I inadvertently have given her mixed signals at times.  And as Beth has said, we are still writing in crayon at this point, as we are in solidly in kindergarten.

For example, as much as Beth has praised my steady outside rein, I have a BAD habit of hanging on the left rein when it is my outside rein.  Tracking right is our weaker side anyway, and by hanging too much on the left rein, Ellie cannot properly bend right.  Now, she doesn't bend as well to the right anyway, being stiffer through the left side, but I am exacerbating the issue.  Letting go of that left rein has been a challenge for me, because apparently I use it as an emergency brake too often.  Whoops, sorry Ellie (though I know I also did this with Snappy and Dreamy, so sorry all my lovely mares.)  This is not the first time I have been told this about myself, but it became more of a problem with Ellie because she was so much greener than my Standardbreds who already had experience in harness.  At this point, we have worked through much of the issue as long as I remember not to hang on that left rein.  It is 90% improved at this point.  Muscle memory is hard, man!
being super cute in her new drop noseband - more on that later
Also, related to this bending issue is that I like to keep my right leg on.  Like I have decided it is just a crutch there to keep Ellie bent right, which is a problem I totally created and Ellie allowed it because it meant less work for her.  Because our walk and trot work as this point is mostly:

Ellie: throws head up to evade contact and bending
Me: opening rein and inside leg for a few strides
the heavens open and we have a lovely walk (or trot) with appropriate connection for a stride (maybe two)
Ellie: throws head up to evade contact and bending
Me: opening rein and inside leg for a few strides
lather rinse repeat ad infinitum

So the problem is that I forget to relax my inside leg during that "the heavens open" moment.  As Beth reminds me, it is never OK to just sit there and do nothing, I still have to be present and ride every stride. But there is a difference between being present with my leg and actively using it.  Beth had me halt at our lesson this past Saturday and pushed on Ellie's right shoulder and my right boot at the same time.  She didn't put much pressure at all, but she held it for several seconds.  The minute she released, Ellie fell out to the right so much she probably moved two inches!  Ellie was simply pushing back against the pressure as she does with my leg.  Suddenly, it became incredibly obvious how much I am overusing my inside leg.  She needs to learn to move and bend properly and hold it on her own without my constant leg aid.  Because the constant leg meant she just pushes back against me, and when I try to just be "present", she falls in which starts the cycle all over again.

Ellie, probably
I would not have believed my incessant leg aid really made that much of a difference.  It was a light bulb moment for me.  I HAVE to ride her correctly and I cannot mix signals with my aids.  Huh, imagine that haha.  Gotta ride properly for the horse to move properly.  Could I fudge along and do well enough at the low levels?  Yep.  But I want to do this right and train her correctly, not just enough to squeak through tests.

There is certainly an amount of humility one must have in the saddle.  It can be hard to admit mistakes, but I fully take ownership that for all my horses I have trained, their good is all mine and their bad is all mine too haha.  I am thankful to be at a place in life where I have a horse I can build from the ground up, and I have help fixing my own rider mistakes to train her correctly.  It is exciting and overwhelming and not a place I have been before, since I have never had a horse with such a clean slate!

One of my favorite quotes is from John Lyons, "There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle: one is a sense of humor and the other is patience."  That could not be more true to my current journey!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Product Review: Miraculous Trailer Cleaner

Ok, so it is not really called that, but this stuff is pretty freaking miraculous.  It is actually called LA's Totally Awesome Cleaner, and well, it is totally awesome.  And it is super cheap!  

Our trailer has developed gross black marks in the white aluminum skin over the past two years since we bought it and NOTHING we tried removed it.  Soap and water, Softscrub, and even Comet did nothing.  I was super frustrated because it looks gross.  In an internet search, this video popped up.  I was like nahhhh, there is no way this stuff works so well!

Oh, but it does!!

so gross

hate it


gross black streaks plus bugs haha

I was feeling rich the day I stopped at the local dollar store, because instead of the small $1 bottle, I splurged on the larger 64 ounce bottle for $3.  I know, I know, big spender!  ;-)

My husband finally had a chance to give it a shot yesterday afternoon.  And it was amazing.  It didn't take much effort at all and the black crap is gone!  It looks so much better!  

so pretty and clean (there is water on it, as he washed the trailer afterwards with soap and water)

much better!
It did fade the red sticker a little, which my husband didn't realize until afterwards. 
Oh well!  We have thought about having the sticker removed and our farm logo put on instead.

Tiny child had to help wash the rest of the trailer (with soap and water), of course haha

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Please Buy My Stuff

Alright, help me clean out my basement!

Eight days worth of SmartCombo Ultimate Pellets ($170/month) $40

 VHS tapes - does anyone even use these anymore?  I will throw them in if you buy something else haha
Essex Signature Collection Show Shirt, size 30, excellent used condition, two collars (one has Kermit the Frog) $15
Rambo winter jacket, brown, size small, excellent used condition, $25
If the Bonnet Fits fly bonnet, cob sized, embroidery "Grab mane/Kick on" on back side of ears, hunter green with orange/white, used once, $25
Toklat Classics III custom saddle pad, hunter green with orange/white, never used because it didn't fit my tiny saddle, 22x40" with forward flap, $50

FITS riding shirt, size small, excellent used condition, $10

Dover trunk cover (standard size), black with tan/white piping and tan monogram, perfect condition,  20 1/2"H x 32 1/2"L x 20 1/2"D. $25

If the Bonnet Fits fly bonnet, cob sized, embriodery "Grab mane/Kick on" on back side of ears, hunter green with orange/white, used once, $25

Toklat Classics III custom saddle pad, hunter green with orange/white, never used because it didn't fit my tiny saddle, 22x40" with forward flap, $50

Shaped fleece saddle pad with cling-on non-slip patches underneath, clean and good used condition, $15

Roma AP saddle pad, burgundy with navy/yellow, excellent used condition, $15

 Equigel gel pad, fits 17" saddle, excellent used condition, comes with white cover, $60

Pink XC bat, $2 but would rather combine with another item 

Handmade browbands, horse size 16", black with silver and the other is burgundy/white/gold, $15 each

Leather lead with chain, needs a good conditioning but nothing wrong with it, $5

Small rounded end spurs, with nylon spur straps, $10

Child sized black stirrup leathers, 46", excellent used condition but needs conditioning, $10

Horse sized crown piece and flash noseband, black, great condition but needs conditioning, $10

Burgundy cotton lead rope 8', $5
Four different crossties: two are white bungee and match, one is burgundy bungee, and one is adjustable burgundy cotton, all for $10

Kerrits Flow Rise riding tights, knee patch, teal color, size medium, worn once but didn't fit me well, excellent condition, $30

I will do my best to ship in the small sized flat rate box I can. $14 medium box, $20 large box. If you buy multiple items, I will cram as much as I can into the smallest box possible! Paypal only.