Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dusting off the Cobwebs

The first show of the season has come and gone. Dante and I competed at Rocking Horse this past weekend, and adequately got all the bugs out of our systems before the big move-up. Rocking Horse always runs a tight ship in terms of show organization, which is great. I love nothing more than efficiency and organization. Shocking, I know.

The week leading up to RH1 was hot, hot, hot (not compared to Texas summers, but come on, it's January!). I am a complete wuss when it comes to heat and will complain about it as soon as I start sweating. Between the heat and the humidity, I was sweating a lot. I realize that everyone comes to Florida to escape the winter, but I just want to be able to wear long sleeves or a sweatshirt. It came as a huge relief when the 'cold front' arrived in Altoona, bringing lots and lots of rain on Friday.

As a result, Dante and I got very, very wet during our test. It was a chilly rain as well, and Dante was pretty tight as a result. However, I'm not really sure whether he was tight because of the cold rain, or because it was dressage. In any case, I was extremely happy with how well he listened to me despite his tenseness and I thought we put forth a very accurate, decently performed test. We did break in the first medium trot pretty badly simply because Dante wanted more and more trot, even as I asked him to maintain what he already had. Eventually he broke about halfway down the diagonal. However, the rest of the test was pretty mistake free.

I was very proud of two things in my test. The first was how consistent in the bridle Dante has become, both during extensions and lateral work. The second was my thought process, which I have been specifically practicing. I have never had a very good mental game, and tend to freeze up quite a bit in the dressage ring. I have started mentally running through my test and deciding what I will be thinking at during each moving, and practicing my thought process. It absolutely helped me. After Dante broke in his first medium, instead of dwelling on it, I immediately moved onto thinking about bending through the turn. It truly worked, and I look forward to further developing my mental game.

We scored a 43.6, which is a touch higher than I was hoping for, but they seemed to be rewarding relaxation quite a bit, and Dante was definitely tense. I hope that in the coming weeks, he will being relaxing at Rocking Horse, and that for the Advanced it will basically be a test at home.

Show jumping is still a work in progress. I thought the course was very nice. Last year there seemed to be lots of lines with huge striding, but this year there was only one line with a large step. Dante was nice and spring in warm up with a quality canter, but the instant we stepped into the ring, his head went straight up and he stopped listening. I managed to wrestle him into a quality canter about a third of the time during our course, but the rest was a bit of a battle, resulting in misses on my part and rail rubs on his. It's the hole in our training that we discovered at Greenwood. We've been working on it in lessons, and have made progress (or I wouldn't have been able to get a quality canter at all), but obviously he needs to learn that this lesson applies to shows as well as lessons. Hopefully, a few jumper classes at Rocking Horse next Saturday will help continue his education.

We did still finish with a double clear, our first at this level. Quite exciting! However we played jump by braille quite a bit and hit one fence particularly hard, but it stayed in the cups. I'd like to rely on something other than luck for my clear rounds, thank you very much.

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. I am very seldom nervous anymore for cross country, because Dante is simply so good at it. I'm sure I'll be nervous in a couple of weeks at the Advanced, but this Intermediate was on the soft side to begin with. After tackling the course at Jersey, not much at this level intimidates me anymore! We had a couple of tough corner questions at the very beginning, but other than that it seemed sailing.

It did end up to be cake for Dante, but I was having one of those days where I was either seeing long or short spots all day long! Argh. I missed badly to a couple fences at the beginning (including the in to the toughest corner combo) and was gapping or putting Dante right to the base at several others. My eye finally kicked in for good at fence 15 and I didn't miss again after that. I'm confident that all the rust is knocked off now, and have to keep telling myself that I haven't actually had a run since late September! Dante was an absolute star, taking everything in stride and leaving when I asked him to, whether it be long or short. He never looked once at anything (which he often does at the beginning of the season), and took a bounce bank combo and the water with absolute confidence. He is so wonderful to ride cross country, and I came off the course with a giant grin on my face.

(Dante jumps happily into the water.)

(Of course, he did refuse to slow down between fences for the first half of the course, despite my intention to simply cruise around. Although he slows down and sets up for the fences, there is not much I can do to contain his enthusiasm for galloping between until the edge comes off. So we only came in fourteen seconds over time despite my intention of coming in around thirty over time.)

All in all, it was a great, educational outing that knocked off the rust from our skills this year. Next up is a schooling show here at Rocking Horse next Saturday, where Dante will be practicing the Advanced test A and B, and jumping in the 3'9'' and 3'11'' jumper rounds. Perfect practice makes perfect!

Monday, January 23, 2012


We have arrived in sunny Altoona! The nineteen hour drive was uneventful for me and Raphael, my trusty red Jeep. I arrived yesterday afternoon and proceeded to set up my hotel room the way I like it. I may not be a princess type, but I definitely don't sleep well with crappy bedding! So a comforter, a sheet, and two pillows made the trip with me, along with plenty of other necessities.

This morning, I woke up and went for a jog around a neighborhood bordering a lake right next to my motel. It was a lovely view while running, and made the mile (yes, only a mile!) go by very quickly. I'm hoping to make the morning run a habit before heading down to Rocking Horse.

Rocking Horse is only a five minute drive, which is lovely because I spend twenty minutes at least commuting at home. Twenty minutes isn't a long commute, but five minutes is really going to spoil me!

One thing I do not love is the weather. Ironically, I am one of the few people who love the cold and winter. Obviously, we come to Florida to escape the cold! So the fact that it is hitting eighty every day doesn't really thrill me. However, this is where the shows are, and so this is where we are.  (And yes, one day I would love to go to Aiken instead of Ocala, but it's not been in the cards yet.)

The four of us already there then proceeded to attempt to jury rig a ladder to hang up a tack hook in our tack stall. I truly wish someone had video taped it, as it quickly devolved into the old gem "how many eventers does it take to hang a tack hook?.." Unfortunately, we never did get it hung, so we are still unsure how many it actually takes! (My guess is two and an actual ladder....)

Mike's rig pulled into RH around eleven, and we quickly got to work pulling off trunks, tack, and of course twelve horses! Dante gets immediately put in his stall with his door shut after he gets off the trailer. He tends to be very on a mission, and its much better for him to unwind in his stall for ten minutes than to barge around the grounds. He also immediately sucked down his entire water bucket, then made slurping sounds until I obligingly refilled it.

(Dante surveys his new surroundings during his turnout time.)

By five o'clock, the horses had all had turnout, the stalls were all setup, the tack was hung, the turnout and lesson schedules were made, and the trainers were fed. Tomorrow, the real work starts! Show season begins Friday...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Details, Details

It's been all quiet on the Texan front lately, which is why I haven't blogged much. The holidays were spent quietly with family, while I traversed across Texas from Dallas to San Antonio to Dallas to Austin to Dallas. I'm relieved to be done driving for a few weeks, but of course in late January I will be driving my trust Jeep Raphael down to Altoona.

So now I join the plethora of other blogs detailing their migration south. This will be the first (and likely only) year that I get to stay in the south with my horse. In my final semester this spring, I have only one class to contest with, and it has no classes, homework, lectures, or tests. Lucky me! I really couldn't have arranged it better. Of course, logistically, this is the toughest trip for me. I'm having to think about laundromats, bedding, even whether I need to bring a loufa, as well as what I'll need for Dante. Trying to combine my regular tack trunk and show tack trunk has occupied my thoughts for many a driving hour.

Don't let anyone fool you, I love organizing things. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself.

Dante had his winter clip on December 29 and is now a lovely shade of ?????. (That means no one can really pin down what color he is now, but I think it's closest to dun. Definitely not red though.) His dressage has been stellar lately and our jumping is starting to come together as well as we hit our stride in our schedule after the holidays.

This past Sunday we went out to Greenwood for an XC school and knocked some rust off. Dante had one learning moment over the weird sunken road thing they have there (Greenwood goers, you know exactly what I'm talking about), but went through without any problems the second time. I've never jumped through the sunken part in competition, always done the corner trakehner which is generally considered more difficult anyways, because I knew Dante might have an issue with the sunken road option. The sunken part is very brushy, angled each way, and is next to a pond, so I have a strong feeling Dante wasn't sure if it was a water jump or a ditch or what. In any case, I was fully prepared for his confusion and I also know he has no problem with sunken roads in general. I also had a brain fart moment on the bounce banks up, but Dante was a star there and everywhere else.

(Dante jumps a prelim corner during XC schooling at Greenwood.)

Next weekend is a two day Jean Moyer clinic, where I desperately need some advice on Dante's walk. Then I'll head to Florida on the 21st and the ponies will follow on the 22nd.

Currently, we're entered for Intermediate at Rocking I and then Advanced at Rocking II! Bring on the big leagues, baby.