Thursday, August 31, 2017

BVX 2017: Friday - Sunday; Flat Class + Groundwork

Friday was more of a lax day in terms of riding – our class didn’t start until 1:30 and after that, we would be done showing for the week. Show Buddy fed for me in the morning, because apparently I sleep like the dead and didn’t even hear her get up!

I got myself together slowly and after watching Show Buddy’s western Dressage with her mare, I puttered over to the stalls and started to get Annie ready. She seemed really amped for whatever reason and would NOT stand still at the trailer. She wasn’t pulling back or rearing, but she was so focused on where other horses were that she swung herself around, pawed, and carried on. I ended up dosing her with Chill just to see if it could take the edge off. Fun fact – it didn’t.

So fancy. So Thoroughbred-y!
In all the months I have owned Annie, I have never seen her like that at the trailer before. My gut tells me this isn’t a “forever” thing, and is only a blip in our progress. The restlessness and anxiety she felt at the show could have been a mixture of several elements – we have never been to an overnight show before and certainly not in the capacity that this show was at. I did have to end up walking away and letting a friend finish tacking her up for me, as I was starting to get impatient with her shenanigans and was a little mortified and embarrassed. Baby horses… so fun.

We did some ground-work before heading back over to the warm up ring and once I got on her, she was fabulous to ride. We did walk, trot and canter all over the arena with some mixture of extensions (more like trotting fast lol) and a ton of transitions. She quickened her trot after we did our canter work, which is normal for her, and was compliant when I brought her back and asked her to be a bit more rhythmic. She felt good, although a bit behind the leg (I sense a theme here…) and her mind was trying very hard to be with me but I could feel it wandering. She stared hard at several things – namely the large wagon filled with people two Clydesdales were pulling around the perimeter of the fair – and just seemed really tense and nervous.

I hopped off since I had quite a ways to wait for my class (I had gotten on well in advance just to be on the safe side) and my friend, N, held Annie while I chatted with a friend’s mom. It turned out we migrated pretty close to the Dressage ring which was holding the freestyles and while talking with Trainer K (who was competing), a small kid came running up with an umbrella. It spooked Annie hard and she whirled around to take a look at it. Annie stared at it and blew a few times before the kid’s mom asked him to put it away and I made a mental note to desensitize her to umbrellas.  Just as I was about to move back to the other ring, the bit check lady from Dressage came over and reamed us out for being too close to the ring. I agree, we were too close, but so were several other spectators and competitors. The woman also mentioned that when Annie spooked, she apparently almost knocked over a woman who was standing behind her? I didn’t see anyone there, but the lady very blatantly told me that if my horse is going to spook, she shouldn’t be standing around spectators. Uh… okay then. I felt bad, mostly because we were in the wrong by being too close to the ring so we wandered away to the warm up ring and stood there until it was time to get back on.

Annie seemed to calm down by this point and was quiet as I hopped back up and entered the warm up ring. As the wagon with the Clydesdales passed us, she spooked hard at it (probably the biggest spook I’ve ever ridden on her). I ignored the spook and let her look at it before returning her back to work. She really didn’t feel like herself – she felt really insecure and nervous.

Our class was called and we had to be led to the outside of the ring – we made it a few steps out of the warm up ring before Annie just would not go forward. I didn’t have my whip with me, as I wasn’t allowed to use it in the class, so just asked N to tug us forwards a few steps. Annie complied and entered the ring on her own with another girl and her horse behind us.

Just keep trotting... just keep trotting...

As we entered, I realized then that I had never ridden Annie in this ring. It was the Jumper ring and it was HUGE, especially without jumps in it. Annie was trying hard to be good, but I could feel her wigging out – not in a bad way, but she was sucking back hard and really nervous about the grand-stands and spectators. The announcer’s booth spooked her as well.

I did my best to keep her together and for the most part, she was really trying hard to be a good girl. As we marched down the ring, I could feel her starting to get nervous about going to the far end of the arena. I don’t think she realized another horse was in the ring with us, so I decided to cut across the ring and start heading back towards the gate. I didn’t need to fight her to go to the end of the ring and I wanted to show her there was someone else in there with us without being blatantly obvious about it. And when we came towards the announcer’s booth, because she had already spooked at it, I asked her to leg yield away from it and back again. While I realize that asking a horse to leg yield away from something scary might be counter productive, I had read something really interesting quite a few years back about a Dutch rider who had done a similar thing with her horse during a competition and ended up being the only rider to go clear in the stadium jumping. The idea is that before the horse spooks, you ask it to yield away from whatever it is and in turn, are suppling and relaxing the horse vs trying to make it head to whatever is bothering it straight on. As you work the horse, you will start to yield towards the Scary Thing and just carry on with whatever you are doing. I don’t use this method often, but I felt it was helpful in the show ring to keep her mind focused on something else.

Tense, hence the chomping.

 She did really well and even stood quiet when they asked us to line-up for the final placings. Her back was hollow and rigid, but she still did the thing. So what more could I ask for? We ended up placing first out of two in this class – the other horse was an older horse, but in his first show ever. The young rider did a really good job with him.

Good pony.
So much tongue-action over the weekend!

Back at the trailer, Annie kept wigging out. I could barely get the saddle off because she just kept swinging her haunches all over the place. At one point, I was kind of sandwiched between her shoulder and the trailer. I gave her a smack and she didn’t even react to it – just kept staring off into space and whirling her head around to try and find a horse buddy. I will admit; I did lose my cool with her. N told me to go get changed, so I did and I am glad she was there to bring me back down to Earth a little bit. You guys, it was really frustrating. While I got changed, I left her tied for a little while to see if she would end up just giving up and standing, but I also didn’t want to tie her too long and have her damage Show Buddy’s trailer. So in the end, I relented and untied her when she was acting quiet and brought her back to her stall sans blankets and braids.

Aside from the anxiety and nervousness on Annie’s part, I was pretty happy that she didn’t completely lose her cool. I have a feeling the trailer and stall stuff will all come in due time, especially as she gets into the rhythm about what showing is all about. As Show Buddy said, five days is a LONG time to be stalled in an unfamiliar place that has tons of outside stimuli.

After my class, an older lady came up and complimented how
beautiful Annie is. I smiled and thanked her.
Overall, for a first “big” overnight (make that multiple overnights, lol) show, I was really happy. Yes, the stall stuff and trailer stuff was annoying and frustrating, but the horse was RIDEABLE. I didn’t have to lunge her or ride her down for any of her classes. She did everything I asked in the saddle (maybe with a bit of flair on some occasions) and didn’t toss me. So I count the whole thing as a win. Default ribbons aside, I really think we earned them.

So while I am still sad I couldn’t bring Spud, I am happy that I ended up bringing Annie and “doing the thing”. I didn’t ride her on the Saturday or Sunday, but did some groundwork and round-penning with an umbrella. Hilariously enough, Annie was spooked by the umbrella, but not to the degree she was earlier. It also didn’t take her long to be calm, quiet, and submissive during our groundwork exercises. I will have to remember to do some purposeful groundwork prior to getting her tacked up. She rolled in the arena as well, which was nice to see although I did notice she had dropped some weight (*sigh* Thoroughbreds…). She had been eating well the entire week, but on Sunday I noticed she did not finish her Saturday night’s grain. I tried to get her to eat the left-overs, but she had no interest.  I figured that a lot of this extra stress was due to the fact both horsey neighbors on either side of her had left to go home and do classes. I brought her down some extra hay during lunch time to see if I could get her to keep eating to keep her mind off of being alone (well, not really alone… there were other horses across from her and up the aisleway beside her), but she wouldn’t touch it. Boyfriend and I brought her out and hand-grazed her for a bit before returning her to her stall and she nibbled at the hay a bit, but not much.

This was on Sunday, before we loaded up to leave.
I am a big fan of just letting them figure shit out, so I
just stood far enough away to monitor her. 
After Show Buddy was done her Reining classes, we packed up the horses and got ready to leave. I walked Annie back to the trailer and tied her – she was quieter than she had been at the trailer, but was still refusing to stand still. Even when Show Buddy brought her two horses up, Annie still pawed and carried on. She seemed relieved when we loaded her up in the trailer tho, and was more than happy to get off of Show Buddy’s rig and into ours to head the final leg home.

Terrible photo of us, but both of us were tired, cranky and soaking wet.
FYI - red in Canada is first. This show doesn't follow the color
trends for other ribbons, hence the reason my 3rd place ribbon is
purple, but I kinda dig it because it's Annie's color. I didn't receive a
2nd place ribbon for our SMS, I got the lunge whip instead.
Has anyone else had similar issues at horse shows with their horses being tied? Does your horse's anxiety get worse as the show goes on, or better? Does your horse have anxiety in the stalls? Did you find repetition helped that horse? 

I'm sure the process of repetition will be our best friend in this case - it was a lot to ask of a horse that was just broke to ride not even 10 months ago. And for all of that, she did really, really well. Lots of things to keep improving on (as always), but she is teaching me more and more about taking risks (within reason, obv) and not getting too offended by the baby stuff.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

BVX 2017: Thursday; Dressage and In-Hand

Thursday morning came bright and early – I didn’t ride until 9:30, which would be the first ride of the day – but Show Buddy and I were up to feed the horses ahead of time. It was brisk and cold out, which meant that after the long walk to the barns, I was more or less awake and with nerves settling in, I wasn’t able to get back to sleep. Instead, I cleaned my tack and got things ready before wandering back down to the barn and grabbing Annie.

She was wiggly at the trailer, wondering where her friends were no doubt, and I had to remind her a few times to stand quiet. She was good to tack up though, and after I got changed I saw we were well ahead of schedule. Instead of hanging out at the trailer, I opted to wander to the warm up arena. No one else was really around and we were the only pair in the ring, which was kind of nice. Unfortunately tho, I had some issues mounting because my tall boots still aren’t completely broken in and I couldn’t even reach my leg up into my stirrup. I had to drop my stirrup down a few holes and managed to clamber on – have I ever mentioned I hate mounting from the ground?

Looking like we know what we're doing.
Annie was a bit tense when I got on, jogging a few strides before settling down into a nice forward walk. I opted to stick with a walk/trot only warm up in case she needed some extra time and didn’t want to fool around with the canter too much since we wouldn’t be utilizing it anyways. I remember feeling pretty good about the warm up and asked a friend what time it was – we still had twenty minutes. I kept Annie walking around and engaged vs standing ring-side. I didn’t want to lose her or have my own nervous energy bubble up just standing there.

When they called for us, I marched Annie around the outside perimeter of the fence and by the Judge’s booth – she had no problem with any of it and didn’t even so much as blink at the Judge. I said good morning and continued on my way until the bell rang. Picking up my trot on the long side, we went around the bit check building and down towards A.

Our first test felt pretty good – she was rideable, although felt behind the leg. Because I don’t really have a Dressage arena to practice in, our figures were not that great. All in all though, I was pretty pleased aside from whatever weird thing she did during our second 20m circle. After the test, I asked a few people what she did and no one was really sure if she was preparing to buck, was just throwing her head, tripping, or trying to scratch herself. My best guess is a little of each? 

Or maybe her and Levi had some weird telepathic conversation going on that Olivia and I didn't know about

PC: Olivia

During the test, it felt like she was throwing her head down in protest, but it almost looks like she tripped in the video. In any case, you will see that shortly after her weirdness, she protested to the tap of the whip I gave her. I do love that after the tap of the whip she was like, “NO, fuck YOU.” and then, “OK let’s trot.” I kind of botched the final centerline by not riding into my corners, but we managed to get it done.

The Judge asked me if I wanted to ride my tests back to back, since I was the only competitor in that level. I said yes and we wandered back to the far side of the ring and waited for the bell to ring.

The second test was my favorite, aside from the obvious lack of steering and pilot errors (esp for the turn at E and X). The last trot circle felt SO wonderful and although she wasn’t connected in the bridle, she felt really great. She did still feel behind the leg, but she seemed more “in tune” with me. I was happy with her performance; and even happier when I learned that apparently a 4-H cow got loose during our test and made its way to the warm up arena where all the Dressage riders promptly dismounted, haha. Clearly Annie and I didn’t even notice, because a few people mentioned it and I don’t even recall any kind of commotion happening.

That halt tho.

Overall, very happy that pony showed up to work even tho we were by ourselves for the first test and the show grounds was starting to bustle with activity by the time we did our second test.

With the two tests finished, we went to get ready for our Halter and Showmanship classes. I didn’t necessarily want to do the in-hand classes, but figured it would be good practice and exposure for Annie. In hindsight, it was good that we did them, but also frustrating due to the poor time management. We stood around the Halter ring for a good hour or so before Show Management was realizing almost every Dressage rider had conflicting times with the Halter ring. So, the Show Management decided to just let people “show up” when they were done their tests.  I gritted my teeth and suited Annie back up and put her away in her stall, as I had already finished my tests and knew there would be a long wait time. I had spoken to Show Management and they told me to just “watch” for the other competitors I would be in the Halter class with and join them when they were ready. Which, would have been fine and all, except they were skipping over classes and going back to other classes as people showed up so I couldn’t really keep track of what class they were on since it was all mixed up.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind waiting. But I was supposed to read for a friend (which the Halter classes wouldn’t have conflicted with if they had run at the appropriate time) and instead ended up having to ditch her (don’t worry, I found her another reader) and sprint to my stall to get Annie because everyone was waiting for me in the other arena! I didn’t even realize the last few riders from that class had made their way over and apologized profusely for making them and the judge wait. Everyone was pretty chill about it and a few ladies ran over to me and started ripping off Annie’s blankets and slinky while I ran to the trailer to grab my boots. It was embarrassing, but it happened quite a few times to various people. We were in a class of five and placed third, which I was pretty pleased about. Annie stood quiet for it and I was happy that even after having strangers rip off her blankets and such, she was pretty chill. She didn’t stand square tho, which was annoying but wasn’t something we have actively practiced so I couldn’t really get too upset about.

See all the digging she did?
After Halter, we stood by the rail to wait for Showmanship. My feet were starting to hurt, as I had forgotten to put long boot socks on and my heels were rubbed raw by my boots. After looking at the program and back into the ring, I asked the Ring Steward how long it would be until Showmanship. I tried the fact I was annoyed when she said, “About two hours.”

With all the running back and forth and putting blankets on and off, I opted to keep Annie out. I figured it would be good for her to just graze ring-side and take in the sights and sounds. But maybe it was a bad idea, because by the time Showmanship rolled around Annie just did NOT want to play anymore. Before we had gone into the ring, Annie kept trying to doze off but would snap back awake when she heard a horse neigh or the loud speaker go off. In the class, she wasn’t dangerous or downright naughty, just was wiggly and not wanting to stand. We placed 2/2 in the class and instead of ribbons, we got to pick a prize. I picked a hot pink lunge whip because #priorities.

No pictures of the lunge whip or our in-hand classes,
so enjoy some more Dressage.
I don’t know if it was the long wait times or if it was because she hadn’t slept much during the night, but she was just DONE for the day. Show Buddy and I were talking about it later on that evening and we basically said the same thing – despite the fact we didn’t do much riding work, it was still a lot of mental stimulation for Annie. She is still learning and I am sure there was a lot to pay attention to while she was trying so hard to be a good girl.

Still, I was ecstatic with our Dressage tests. We showed up, did the thing (didn't leave the arena!!), and looked pretty decent doing it. I was looking forward to our flat (and final) class Friday afternoon.

Anyone else have a horse that gets mentally tired before physically? 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

BVX 2017: Wednesday Preparations

I’d like to think I can roll with the punches – I mean, if my ownership of Suzie was any indication, I’d say I can stop, drop, and roll with the best of them. So when I received a call the Thursday before the show stating they were going to be cancelling the Driving, I did my best not to pout. Due to the wildfires in the area and a few unexpected family crisis’, a lot of drivers were unable to attend the event. Unfortunately, the lack of entries and the fact the Judge was in the fire zone was enough to close the division entirely for the weekend.

The show committee contacted me, stating that I was welcome to bring another horse sans late fees, or could be reimbursed.

"What do you mean I don't get to strut my stuff?"
-Spud, always
I strongly contemplated not bringing a horse, but in the end (with much cajoling from Show Buddy and the Boyfriend) I decided to take Annie and enter her in the few walk/trot classes the fair provided. I signed up for two Walk/Trot Dressage tests, one Walk/Trot flat class and two in-hand classes. The key would be to not burn her out and make the experience as carefree and quiet as possible – not that she had major issues at the last show. I just wanted to make it as easy as possible for the both of us. The BVX is not just a horse show – there is a carnival, rodeos, all kinds of farm animals, tractors, and concerts. It’s like sensory overload in some cases.

I managed to school her the day before we left, as I hadn’t been able to work in the ring much due to the area being rented out for other events. She was really lovely – we had some issues establishing our quiet and forward trot, but managed to eek some out and work on her suppleness. The canter work was really great – she even managed to pick up her right leads on the first try! She felt maneuverable and workable, although a little behind the leg (story of my life). I was pleased to end it there and was apprehensively excited to travel the next morning.

As we do every year, the Boyfriend and I loaded and hitched up both trucks – one attached to the horse trailer and the other attached to the camper – and drove over to the next town to meet up with Show Buddy.  There, we parked the truck and horse trailer and transferred Annie into Show Buddy’s rig to make the final leg of our journey. Annie unloaded and reloaded like a champ, and I was pleased to see she remembered the drill when it came to slant-loads. The Boyfriend and I arrived before Show Buddy and got the trailer situated while we waited. The plan was to ride as soon as possible and expose the horses to the rings we would be riding in, as we were both riding green horses.

Annie was a bit uncertain about unloading, probably because we were backed up on a bit of an incline and it made the trailer higher in the back end. Regardless, she didn’t seem too phased when she finally worked up the courage to exit the rig. She tied to the trailer quietly as I tacked up and did her best to look around and check out the new surroundings.

Photo is from Thursday, but I lacked Wednesday media.
I got on in the warm up ring and worked on just maintaining my breathing and relaxing down into the tack. She jogged a few steps before settling into a nice walk and looking around at all the other arenas and horses. She felt good in the warm up arena – was surprisingly (to me) listening without being too affected by the commotion all over the grounds. We did a lot of different figures in the arena, establishing our trot and working on her bending through her corners instead of looking out.

Because I would be doing walk/trot all weekend, I hesitated to canter her. She can get frazzled and frustrated when she gets the wrong lead or can be insistent that we just keep cantering for all of eternity. I figured no time like the present to practice, so off we went and she did just fine. Her left lead took a few tries to get the correct lead, which resulted in some giggles from a friend who was watching the following dialogue:

Me:  “Ok, just push your shoulder in and bend…. Andddd canter.”
Annie: “Wrong lead?”
Me: “No no, just trot for a second…. Shoulders pushed over… bend… leg yield…. And canter.”
Annie: “Wrong lead.”
Me: “K, just for a second. Ok, now trot and let’s try it again.”
Annie: “YOU WANT THE RIGHT LEAD?” *leaps into air* “I’LL GIVE YOU THE RIGHT LEAD” *jumps into the right lead complete with sassy tail*

I made a concise decision to re-school the trot after the canter. I am terrible for leaving the canter for last and ending our schooling after that – something I need to work more on so that Annie doesn’t anticipate and doesn’t get used to. It took a few minutes of convincing, but we got it done and were back to a happy quiet trot in no time.

Show Buddy and I hacked out of the ring and over to the Dressage arena, which was adjacent to the warm up ring. We did a lot of walking around the perimeter, checking out the letters, and schooling walk/trot in the ring. Annie didn’t bat an eye at anything. In fact, she was much more concerned with where her new BFF was (she was walking right behind us).

Annie, on Saturday after our classes were done. The poster
was done by a friend - isn't it cute?!
I was really happy with how she handled everything and after stripping our tack, we wandered to the wash rack to bathe the ponies and get them ready for the morning. Annie was SO GOOD in the wash rack. She stood, stock- still, and barely even moved as I washed her with super cold water (the weather wasn’t the best either, so I felt bad for her). A friend braided her as she dried off and although she was a little wiggly (“Can I eats grass now?”) she was pretty good.

Once bath time was over, we fed the horses and put them away in their stalls. Because of where I purchased Annie from, I was certain she had been stalled at one point in her life, but she seemed kind of stressed out. Unfortunately, all weekend she was kind of not herself and would quickly snatch hay from her hay bag and peek over the huge stall door to check what was going on outside. I don’t know if she would have been more comfortable with a lower door or if it was quieter. At Copperside, I’ve stalled her twice, and the first time she was super quiet and the second time she took about ten minutes to settle. New sights and sounds tho, so I understand all of that.

Forget the harlem shake, this is the Annie shake.

Before we left for dinner, I figured it was only natural for her to want to see all these horses and people and dogs wandering about.  But it did make me a little worried about how she’d fair throughout the weekend (if anything, I am a chronic worrier). We would be staying from Wednesday through to Sunday and I was secretly hoping she’d get less frantic in her stall by the time we left (spoiler alert: while she didn’t necessarily get worse or better, it didn’t really improve much).

I did a last check on her before bed and she seemed OK - she was still grabbing her hay and hanging her head over the stall to eat, but otherwise was happy. She also ate her mash and was drinking. I checked the show program and noted that we'd be the first in the ring for Dressage in the morning, so prepared my alarm to feed three hours before I'd need to tack up and crossed my fingers things would go smoothly.

**Also, don't forget to check out Olivia's awesome Total Saddle Fit girth give-away! One lucky winner will receive a Total Saddle Fit girth!**

Friday, August 18, 2017


One of the things I have learned while riding Annie and attempting to turn her into a reliable and solid citizen, is that a lot of our training is unlocking certain movements, motions, or ideas.

It's kind of like walking down a hallway and coming to a door. The door is firmly shut and is locked. You can waste your time knocking on the door, or even try to kick the door down, but the fact remains that you can't force the door open.

And riding young horses - heck, even the seasoned horses - is a lot of unlocking their potential by making small increments of advancement in various other areas.

I think purple is her color.
Gaining accessibility.

This doesn't mean just twisting the door handle of the door and you are magically in. There are many components to the door, just as the horse has many components to it's body. Teaching a horse a subtle cue, like tipping their haunches slightly to the inside or moving their shoulder to the outside while keeping the remainder of their body straight, is a very difficult thing to do, especially on a baby horse that doesn't really understand.

So we take these ideas and start off simple.

Like teaching them to yield their haunches. I started off with teaching Annie to sidepass - I didn't want to isolate JUST her haunches yet. I just wanted to keep it simple - pressure on the girth or just behind the girth = move away without forward motion. So, we started off in-hand and against a fence to incorporate the sideways motion without forwards.

Once she understood sideways, I incorporated the lungeline and started asking her to tip her haunches to the outside of the circle (because I do not want to encourage her to tip her haunches towards me on the lunge). This isn't something I asked her to do at more than a walk - it isn't to make her travel differently or have her off balance. It's simply unlocking her body and showing her that each part is maneuverable on it's own. We also played with the shoulder and it's positioning while on the line.

Video evidence of Annie running into the trees, lol.

The baby-renvers we had been doing on the lunge and in hand was then transferred into the saddle. We'd walk straight and then I'd ask her to isolate that single portion of her body. It was difficult, as she wanted to drift and lead with her shoulders, but eventually we got a few good steps.

It was a short ride - I had initially lunged her and we worked on some things, namely the canter and her rhythm at the trot. I don't really like to lunge very much, but when limited on time and without a decent place to school, it felt like the right thing to do. She is starting to become so much more balanced at the trot and although we still had lead issues, I found that she has started to swap in the front (not the back tho) when she knows she's gotten the wrong one. Interesting tidbit.

After lunging I rode her out to cool her out and she was really good - I did some haunches in down the road, leg yielding, and even some trotting. She had a brief #babymoment when we came upon another horse - the family was leading their daughter on the horse and we were behind them. They turned down one of the streets and Annie was like, "BUT Y HE LEAVE US" and started to prance and jig. When we turned down the same street (because that was the route we were going anyways), she was really confused as to why this horse was not stopping for her, and even more confused when he turned down to where he lived and we kept going. She got over it within a milisecond though and was like, "Oh... I guess he's not with us." and just marched on. Good girl.

Good pony.
Yes, I know her one boot is on backwards - it must have
slipped and turned right around while she was lunging. 
As far as the rest of the cooling out ride, I was kind of shocked as to how accessible she had become. I felt like I could move her shoulders on their own (although, she is a baby and still offers up the wrong answer while searching for the right one) and it was interesting to see how it played into riding a faster gait, like the trot.

Now, it's important to understand that Annie doesn't do haunches in/out. But the idea of it is starting to eek through and that's what is important here. She is learning that each component of her body moves independently and with the rider's various aids, we can isolate that single section of her body and redirect it onto something else.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fall is Coming

The weather changed drastically in the last few days - from being unbearably hot, to leveling out into decent weather, to going Full Blown Autumn. I've started wearing a coat over my usual hoodie and it's kind of painful that our summer disappeared that fast. In a way though, I am kind of glad the weather has gotten colder - a good portion of British Columbia has been fighting a losing battle with wild-fires and I am sure the cooler/rainy weather is helping.

With the anticipation of Fall steadily approaching, I've been upping Spud's workload in preparation for the BVX. I am aiming to do similar classes to what I did last year, but have entered the open category as opposed to "1st Year Driver" like I did last year. This will make me eligible to compete for Driving High Point as well as the Arena Driving Trial. I am unsure if going into this competitively is a good idea though, mostly because there are no hitch divisions in this show - all hitches  are in the same category. For example, in most driving shows, VSE (Very Small Equines) are in their own separate category and Ponies are in their own category. At this show, due to the low level of competitors, everyone is sandwiched together. 

It really throws things off, especially when some of the events are timed and there are certain restrictions. At this show, we are only allowed to trot the cones course. This is sort of a catch 22, because the Ponies can trot much faster than any other hitch AND they have the ability to make tight turns. The Horse hitches just can't make the same time they can, and as I found out last year, neither can Spud.

We will do our best though, and obviously cheer on the other competitors just like last year!

We put in a 6k mostly trotting drive with the BF in
the passenger seat ;)
For the BVX, I had considered taking both horses, but the finances just wouldn't allow the wiggle room to bring both. I had to make a decision as to who I'd bring and what I'd enter, and in the end, I chose to bring Spud. 

My reasoning for leaving Annie behind doesn't have anything to do with the Timberland show - in fact, the Timberland show was a good sounding board in showing us where we stood. Unfortunately, the BVX has a very short class-list for walk/trot, so I would be limited to four classes essentially. 

For some, packing up and heading out for a weekend (or in this case, 5 days) and showing 4 classes is the norm. For me, the effort and $$ it takes to make it happen just isn't there this year. 

There is the option to take her and just not ride in any classes and instead school the arenas but I decided against this, purely for the fact that the BVX is BUSY.

Plus, Suzie would be lonely if she were all by herself.
And I don't mean that Annie couldn't handle it - I mean there is more going on than just horse showing. There are dog shows, parades, rodeos, eating contests, magic performances, concerts, etc. When we go, we go to have fun and watch the bucking broncs and eat corn on a stick. Last year, when I wanted to school Spud the day before our classes, I had a hard time finding an open arena until it was later in the evening (which caused us to miss some of the rodeo). I don't like interrupting people's rides, especially if they are warming up or schooling before their tests. 

I'd much rather prefer to take her next year, or even the year after that, when we can ride in the open classes with everyone else and when both of us have more experience and confidence in the arena to make it a positive and successful outing. 

She tried to tell me how this ride was gonna go
when I tacked her up...
Anyways - we've been dabbling our toes back into the arena again. It was interesting, given the fact that Annie had about six days off and was borderline neglected during that time. She was good though - she stopped once while coming out of the street onto the roadway and protested when I asked her to walk off. I gave her a good tap with the whip and she tried to be adamant that we should just go back to the barn - I declined, she accepted, and we carried on.  I didn't need to remind her again and she was happy to tug Spud along for the remainder of the session.

We met up with N and AJ and wandered to the arena. N was wanted to trail ride, so I wasn't able to put in a true school in the arena but we went through her paces. After two botched attempts I got her canter, but she was hopping in the front like an idiot every time I brought her back to trot to try to get the lead again. I basically just rode it out and kept trotting along until her brain re-installed and then we tried it again. 

The Western saddle is the best for ponying.
It wasn't the best ride - she was sucking to the gate when N and AJ left and was really behind the leg. I was riding in the Western saddle, so I don't know if I just don't have the ability to fully get my legs on her when I'm in it. The behind the leg feeling was more at the canter - it felt SO collected and bunched up - so I really tried to just kick her forwards and let her gallop. She didn't really oblige, but I did get some lengthen of her stride. N called out that it looked like she wasn't really stepping under herself in her haunches - I'm not sure why she lacked forward, as I've never felt that before in her, but it could have been attributed to the fact AJ made Annie go into full blown heat again and her lover was outside of the arena without her.

I was happy though - no bucking, bolting, or theatrics. Walk, trot, canter with some sass and then we headed out on the trails. 

I made Annie follow this time and she did really good, especially considering she was ponying Spud along. We ended up going along a shallow loop and headed back into the subdivision and took the long way home along the road. Annie was quiet and plodded along on a loose rein the entire way - she even walked slow enough that Spud could walk for once! Poor guy is always trotting to catch up.

It doesn't even look like Summer anymore.
N and I parted ways by the dirt road and Annie turned around to go home nice and quiet. I even got her to sidepass up to the truck's tailgate to get off (something we had issues with in the past). 

Not the best, or maybe most productive ride, but it was interesting to see how she was after some time off and extra calories (I've been revamping my feeding to help her gain some weight). I have three more days of work and then hopefully I can get some good schools on both Annie and Spud before we travel to the BVX!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Annie's First Show: Final Thoughts, But Mostly Media

I finally have ALL the media from the show - the jumping photos, the dressage tests, and a video of one of our jumping rounds that I somehow forgot to upload into my previous post.

Anyways, this is mostly going to be a media heavy post with some epiphanies and thoughts about how it all went and how I feel about it. 

First up, the Dressage tests. I went and grabbed them last week from a friend and was surprised to find we had placed in our first two tests - it was more or less a default ribbon tho since only two of us were in that class, but it was kind of nice to have some satin to bring home anyways.

For the most part, I feel like her assessment is fair although I am confused with the
3 we garnered for movement 11 (Circle right 20m trot). I asked a few friends if they remember
it being that bad and no one recalls anything other than me trotting a circle... so not sure about that altho
I'm sure it was deserved somewhere in the test.

Training Level Test 2
Again, I feel like this is a good representation of our abilities. I think
the judge may have been a touch generous in some aspects, but not too far off. Again
I had a 3, but I'm not sure what the judge meant by careful positioning - to
obtain the right lead or??

Second page of Training Level Test 2.
I agree with the judge stating Annie was behind my leg - unfortunately,
when she gets worried/hotter than usual, she kind of just flails and I resort
to sitting quietly vs actually riding her.
I did go off course - I thought my reader said MXH not FXH - not her
fault tho, I was so nervous I forgot my test.

The show organizers were nice enough to give me a
4th place ribbon even though I was technically eliminated. I appreciated the gesture
and I also appreciated the judge let me continue the test AND still scored it.
Again, I feel like this was a good representation of our abilities with perhaps
a bit of sympathy points, lol.
I don't remember going off course in Movement 4, so not sure what is going on there.

The comment she left actually made me cry - in a good way, haha.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the bad that happened that
we don't appreciate what good we DID achieve. 
All in all, after seeing the comments and the scores, I feel better about everything. Yes, our canters are messy and yes they need work, but the trot work and walk work for the most part was right in line with where I figured we would be. There was a bit of generosity with the judging, but for the most part I feel like she was bang on on what she called us out for (being behind the leg). I feel like Annie is generally pretty good about the leg, but when you add in a tense situation and a young horse, a lot of things go out the window.

I had loved the commentary the judge left me - the heartfelt memo at the bottom of my last and most disastrous test was like a beacon of hope. It sounds really stupid and cheesy, but it made me realize that one bad test does not equate to being a bad rider. I did also think to myself, "Wow, we could have been competitive with the other horses if we had our canter leads" - it was just a cool feeling that even though we are wiggly and not as broke as other competitors, we could've been somewhere in the same league as the rest of them. It's something to work towards and something to strive for.

For Dressage, I've put the whole leaving the ring thing behind me. As my Dad said while I was growing up, "Shit happens."

There were no photos from our walk/trot flat classes, so onto the jumping media!

^ A good friend of mine took the video while I was doing my 18" Equitation course. You can see
how I start out tentative and just let her pick her pace before asking her to canter and
bringing her back down where I need her in order to make straighter lines. As my confidence boosts,
so does hers. We had to come back down to trot after the blue line against the fence
to do a simple change - I had no intentions of being competitive about it, I just wanted
to try it out. And we got it! A shame about the dropped rail due to my pilot errors and Annie's
wigglys down the brown line, but I was SO happy. This horse has had three rides where I've jumped her - that's it. And she gives me this kind of a ride? Yup, my whole weekend was made right here.

And I finally have the pictures from our rounds - ignore what is going on with my hands, idk where this super weird defensive hand position is coming from...

I wish this one wasn't blurry, but I love her expression here.

That tail tho

A bit of mouth gaping - but look at that hind leg tho.

Loving the forward expression she has here. 

Our "bad" lead doesn't look so bad... esp with that hind end reach ;)
Untidy, but good baby for not even blinking an eye at the
boxes and flowers!

I believe this is the jump where we took down the front rail
of the oxer - she was drifting right and I corrected her too late.

A swingy-trot.

This picture is my favorite of the entire weekend - she looks so balanced 
and the amount of lift she is achieving is beautiful.

I was happy to see I was more or less generous with my reins - something
I forget.

She really loved hunting the fences down <3

Wishing my hands were lower, but I really like this photo. 

All in all - I am super proud of the progress we've made thus far. It can be hard to see how far you've come, but the proof is in the pictures and videos, and those don't lie. Yah, we have a ton of stuff to work on, but we'll get there.

Right now, Annie is enjoying some much-deserved time off while I am slaving away at work and prepping Spud for the BVX. Regular scheduled riding will commence shortly, and I can't wait to get back at it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Our area has been in the midst of a fluctuating heat wave for the past week and a half. It's kind of been a warm (pun not intended) welcome though, because our Summer weather this year has been severely lacking. But in some cases, it's annoying because it makes it virtually impossible to sleep at night and puts a damper on pony-time.

Regardless of the weather, I've been able to play around with the ponies a few times over the week. Most of last week I spent revisiting some ground-manners and in-hand exercises, as well as ponying Spud off of Annie bareback to a watering hole because what else does a person do when their horse has had 4 days off and it's too hot to really ride? 

^ The bugs are absolutely TERRIBLE in the evening. They
don't really bother Suzie or Spud much, but they drive Annie

Thankfully Annie mostly acquiesced to my requests despite a few moments where she just would not go forward because "omg, scary puddle". It was kind of frustrating tho, because Spud had decided to stop and try to eat every-fucking-thing on the sides of the trail so I kept getting whip-lashed. Not a great feeling when you're on a greenie that is a little bit fresh and spooky. I survived tho, and didn't get dumped, so I guess that's a win? 

We crossed the pool a few times and Annie was good about it. I wasn't there long tho, as a family had wandered down the path to enjoy the water so I went through once or twice and then puttered back home. 

Funny thing about the water hole was that there was a family who was just leaving and had brought their pet duck with them. I kid you not - it was the most hilarious thing I have ever seen in my life. It legit just walked home with them like it was the most normal thing in the world.

We also started to work on side-passing from the ground because when we got back to the barn from our bareback adventure, Annie just could not compute sideways (I had wanted her to sidepass to the truck tailgate so I could get off instead of jumping). It's gone really well and I can see how it has translated under saddle for her - she understands the cues are the same and that my legs don't always necessarily mean forwards. I don't think we have really practiced sidepassing, altho we have practiced leg yielding so maybe that is where her confusion is coming from? 

This is not from our bareback adventure - it's from another night
I had hand-walked him to the water. I don't think I would trust
myself to take pics over a body of water while on a horse lol.
The time off has been good for the both of us - I haven't really been "itching" to ride, as terrible as that sounds. It started to feel more like work vs enjoyment because I HAD to get that canter going, I HAD to work on XYZ. It can burn you out, esp when there are a bunch of other things going on in life that I can't control.

I still enjoy the horse and I am still playing around with her and making plans for the future. But we are just taking a vacation, and I've learned that that is okay. She's only four and she's done so much these past three months that letting her decompress and relax is just as beneficial for her as it is for me. Plus, the fairgrounds I typically ride at has been rented out for various events and occasions, so I haven't had access to do any schooling. Which is maybe a good thing?

A friend of mine had also mentioned re: being difficult to maintain weight may have to do with all the traveling and event stress I have put her under for the last few months. It's a good stress, but stress nonetheless. 

I have also been playing around with Spud more - with the BVX coming up, I've been trying to up his work-out regime because he hasn't gotten out much in the cart this year. The timing of the heat wave is unfortunate tho, as I don't like to work my horses in the heat too much. He doesn't seem to mind in the least and enjoyed when a friend and I took him to the watering hole to cool off one evening after I had picked poo.

I asked him to lay down - and he stayed there... and started to sleep.
This past weekend, in trying to keep up with the R&R theme - N and AJ took Annie and I out on our first REAL trail riding adventure!

I say "real" trail riding because although we have done several loops around the fairgrounds and the path we take to get to the grounds is literally a trail, my definition of trail riding is very different than most. I'm talking about crossing rivers, streams, over rocks, up onto sandy beaches, through endless rows of trees and down steep banks. I'm talking about three hours of nothing but plodding along and hearing the sound of your horse's soft footfalls in the dirt.

First, we went down to the river.
We kind of wandered all over and had some major bodies of water to cross. Annie was apprehensive, especially because AJ was like "lol no" when we got to the water. We did it tho, and Annie even led 99% of the way. She wandered on a loose rein and seemed to grasp the concept of changing terrain quite quickly. Her least favorite was walking over the river rocks, but to be honest, I hate it too. 

I was interested to see she became more and more aware of her footing as we went - she hasn't shown to be the most reliable with her feet in the past and I wasn't sure if we would trip or slip. She tripped a few times, but that was more or less because of the deep divets made by 4x4s. Hilariously enough, AJ was super naughty for N and I felt bad that my mare, who has had a week off from riding was taking to the whole trail riding thing like a pig in shit.

We ended up going just over 7km in about an hour and twenty minutes with some trotting and cantering but mostly just walking. And when AJ turned around to leave us and head home? Annie just plodded along like a good baby horse - she turned her head once or twice but was kind of just "meh" about it all.

Hands down one of the best rides I've had in a long, long time. Something about just walking around in nature, surrounded by nothing but trees and wilderness just makes my heart flutter.

Post-ride. "Gimme my foods."
Sidenote: that shoulder muscle tho!