Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Jump Daze

In an attempt to manage the mare's new energy & fitness levels, and maximize our schools, we've re-worked our schedule a little. I've grouped the jump schools together and the flat schools & hacks together, with every flat school being preceded by either a hack or lunge day. This way she never flats after a day off, and hopefully grouping flat & jump schools will allow us to build off the previous day's work more effectively.

We had our first set of jump schools on Mon & Tues, and Cadence was brilliant. Monday we hopped through a gymnastic, set at 18 to 21 (a tight 1 to a tight 1) with the final jump being raised to over 4'

My goal for the ride was primarily to focus on Cadence's straightness, and my form. However we also focused a bit on responsiveness and my 'after ride' from the fences. Overall it was a great ride, but I noticed the biggest difference the next day when I had a polite, responsive, and engaged horse. Yay!
Yesterday we kept it pretty simple. We hopped over some tiny (2'3) verticals on a serpentine to work on lead changes and pace, and then cantered over a single 3' vertical, focusing on rhythm & pace, and staying balanced & not barging off on the right lead. We also hopped over one angled fence which Cadence jumped like it was at least 8'wide! But she was polite & sand about it, so we just moved on. Overall, it was a great 2 rides.

Cadence chilling in the indoor while I set up jumps :)

- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Testing...Testing... 1 2 3

So before our last show, Cadence and I trailered out to another farm so that we could run through a few tests in their dressage ring.  A 'get your head back in the game' type experience, aimed at brushing off the cobwebs built up over the winter.  And although the Mare-Face was a little hot headed, she was (overall) pretty damn good.  Until we got half way through the first test. At that point in time, she had a series of mini-meltdowns over basic things like trotting a circle, doing a medium walk, and riding walk-trot transitions.  Fun times. Eventually she settled a bit, and we finished on a positive note thinking that these mid-test meltdowns would soon be left behind.
Unfortunately, at our show the next day, we basically had a repeat of the previous day's test.  Cadence was quite good (a bit tense, but we were in the ring next to the scary forest of doom...) and got predominantly 8s, with the odd 7 thrown in for the first half of the test.  And then, she melted down. Again. I rode through it as well as I could, and my coach agreed that I'd basically made the best of the situation, but most of the second half of the test was pretty abysmal.  6's, a few 5's, and a 4 for good measure.  The judge did say that she was a lovely mover and had a very 'active and engaged' hind end though.... but the coach & I felt that some remedial test work would be necessary, as we were basically 0 for 3 in terms of dressage tests.
So yesterday we trailered over to a local farm (that also happens to be my favourite place to school because they have a separate jumper course, hunter course, dressage ring, schooling ring, and lesson ring all readily available) to use their dressage ring and work out our test issues.. but lo and behold, Cadence was brilliant.  She was coming off of 4 days solid work (Stretch, jump, lunge, flat) but she was still hot and energetic- enough so that I lunged her before we even put er on the trailer.  But she warmed out of it and put in two lovely tests. We rode Entry (BN) test 2 and Training 2, and aside from a little tension in the middle of Entry 2 that she worked out of in 1 or 2 movements, the tests were brilliant.  So here's hoping the sound check's over, and our testing is now back on track!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Catching Up on Lessons and Shows

Lets go in chronological order. First up I have the video from last weeks show:
I have footage of the dressage warm up, but the video was long enough as it is & the footage was basically just me riding poorly as I attempted to navigate puddles and the hill we were warming up on (we warmed up on a hill because it was the only dry-ish place to ride) her spooking at stuff as we attempted to warm up on a hill. Overall, a pretty unsuccessful warm up so the awful quality of the test doesn't really surprise me.
XC is also a bit of an awkward moment, as we'd basically caught up to the horse in front of us and I wasn't sure what the etiquette was in that situation, since the jump judges hadn't held them to let us pass.... so we just trotted since we were a bit up on the clock anyway, and you get faults for being too fast.

Next- we had a lesson with my coach at a farm I used to ride at when I was a kid! It was fun being back there and seeing some of the old lesson ponies, but it was REALLY fun to get to take advantage of the awesome facility they've got.  We warmed up in their massive jumper ring, before heading over and schooling some tests in their full 20x60 dressage ring.... which is next to their grass ring, which is next to their XC field, which is near their massively long indoor, which looks out onto their front (outdoor) lesson ring.  Also, the part I really love about this facility is that for a facility with 5 fully functional arenas and a XC field, they're quite a small operation. Off topic though. So I digress- the lesson was really helpful, and we spent most of our time focusing on isolating the ideal warm-up.  What we've discovered is that as Cadence gets more training and matures into a fit, somewhat hot-headed, highly opinionated event horse, we need a MUCH different warm up than our minimalist warm ups of yesteryear.  Basically, we need a 'chill out and let off some steam' period in which we basically just trot around focusing on relaxing into the contact.  Then we need a 'stretch and relax' period, and then a 'okay, pick back up and supple' phase completes our pre-dressage test warm up.  However, those three phases each take 10-15 minutes minimum, so you've got a solid 45 minutes of work before every dressage test were before we had maybe 10-15.

Finally, on Saturday I got up at 3:30am to go haul my horse to our show. This meant that on Saturday morning, I woke up at the same time I went to bed the previous night! Which is not a fun experience.  And over those two nights, only managed a total of 6 hours of sleep. So I was really freaking exhausted, not to mention somewhat unenthused about driving 2.5 hours to a horse show for my crack of dawn start time. Next time I have early ride times (and parties in the days before my shows) I need to make sure I have someone who can drive the trailer up for me so I'm not so worried about falling asleep at the wheel! I made my poor mum (who'd come along to help me at the show) play 'guess that tune' with me on my phone for most of the 2.5 hour drive up and the 2.5 hour drive home, since that was just about the only thing that would keep me awake.  It was fun times.  I was even nodding off as we stood by the start box waiting to go out XC!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Quick Show Recap

In the midst of the insanity that is my life, blogging should be the last thing I have time for... and yet here I am at 11:30 at night, blogging. Anyway, first show of the season was last Sat.  The weather was gross- cold and rainy- and as a result the dressage and stadium rings were absolute soup.  The dressage warm up ring was so bad (like 4inches of water on top of 6 inches of mud) we decided to warm up on a semi-flat, relatively dry hill near the dressage rings.  Cadence wasn't too thrilled with this arrangement, and I never managed to fully unlock her neck and body.  Then, we had a major freak out at something as we were trotting around the dressage ring, so Cadence was would up heading into the test, and she was NOT happy with the footing in the ring, which was shoe-sucking mud that splattered all the way up to my thighs as we trotted and cantered through it. All in all, it was the worst dressage test we've ever done.  We cantered on one of our trot circles, almost missed one of our walk transitions it was so late, and jogged through our free walk.  Also, I was so focused on trying to get her to walk for the free walk, I rode MXK across the diagonal instead of BXE, which was what was in the test. Oops! In spite of that, we got what has to be the nicest comment I've ever gotten from a judge. Her comment was "You have a talented horse, and are a talented rider. The conditions are awful, and as a result the marks on the test don't reflect that talent.  It isn't really fair, but I have to mark what  I'm gievn." :)
So after dressage I had less than one hour to walk stadium (which was a solid 10 minute walk away... minimum) change clothes, change tack, and warm up.  I ended up hopping on Cadence 12 minutes before our ride time (!!!) and trotting down to the stadium ring, which turned out to be a great decision, as the footing on the jog over was way better than the rings! Anyway, they were running 2 minutes behind, so we arrived in time for  tack check, a quick canter, and to hop over 4 or 5 warm up fences. Clearly this type of warm up suits Cadence really well, as we had the nicest warm up and by far the best stadium course we've EVER had! It was like I was riding a trained horse... how odd!  Unfortunately, this new found sanity didn't carry over into XC. Cadence was bold, which was good, but she was strong as hell and by the time we were galloping to fence 4 I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it to the fence, let alone finish the 16 fence course! Alas, somehow I managed to stay on, and not get killed in the process. Cadence took most of the 2'9 fences as speed bumps, and was quick enough that I had to pull her back to trot for a section, as we'd caught up to the horse in front of us (who brought home 20 time faults).
Overall though, it was a great show & I won my first truly green ribbon! All my other 5th place ribbons are aqua, or various semi-green colours.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring XC Schools

A video of our XC school last Sunday. We had a brilliant time, and it was fun to see how bold & confident Cadence was.  The big lesson of the day for me was to 'release' Cadence completely before the fences, and trust her to 1. not rush the fence in the last 2 strides, and 2. actually jump the fence!  It was a challenge for me because I've spent our whole partnership with me constantly focusing on slowing her down so  relinquishing that control and just letting her go was like breaking every habit I've formed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Riding in the Rain

"The difference between determination and stupidity is knowing when to stop"
Many variations on the above quote have been penned and spoken, but I have no idea by whom. Regardless, I tend to trip neatly over the boundary for determination and fall face first into stupid. Why is this on my mind? Because my determination to ride outside over the weekend meant I spent Sunday schooling dressage in the pouring rain.
The footing in the outdoor was the best its been since last summer, with almost 2/3 of the ring being good and the other 1/3 being decent if a bit soggy. Personally, I have a bit of a paranoia of tendon-sucking footing and thus tend to be very picky about where I ride & when. But my determination to ride outside allowed me to (temporarily) put aside that fear.
So Saturday I had to ride inside because we were jumping, and starting Monday it was supposed to rain all week. So in my mind, Sunday afternoon was going to br my only chance to make it out before the outdoor was once again unrideable. However, I couldn't go out to the barn till Rolex show jumping was finished, and by the time the awards ceremony was over the storm clouds had rolled in.
The first drops of rain fall as I drove out to the barn, and as I tacked up the drizzle turned to full on rain. Still, it was far from a torrential downpour... so I popped on my dressage saddle, apologized profusely to it for what it was about to endure, and walked out of the barn. I should probably add that I was without any type of rain gear, aside from an old helmet cover that I dug up to save my velvet cap from being ruined, so we were thoroughly unprepared to face the elements.  Anywho, in spite of getting completely drenched, we actually had a brilliant ride.  We got awesome canter-trot transitions, Cadence was (for the most part) really steady in the contact, and aside from being a bit dull to lateral aids from my right leg, she was light & responsive to my aids. The canter work itself was perhaps a little more gawky than I would have liked, as she was a wee bit prone to distraction, but really there wasn't much to complain about.  So overall, in spite of getting rather soaked, we actually had a brilliant ride. And afterward my dressage saddle got a thorough cleaning & oiling as an appology ;)