Sunday, May 27, 2012

If You Can't Stand the Heat

Well, summer is here and it's officially time to get out of Texas!

Kind of.

About a billion things have happened in my life since I updated after Greenwood. The biggest thing is that I have graduated and accepted a job in Alexandria, VA near D.C. that will start August 1st. So what does this mean for my riding?

Well first of all, hooray for moving into the heart of Area II. I won't be forced to take a week off for every horse show as I do in Area V, what with all the horse shows in that area. However, I get zero vacation time my first year, so riding is going to go on hiatus for at least six months while I get my bearings.

Normally, this would bum me out. I'm so close to qualifying for the Big Game (which shall not be named and heretofore will always be referred to as the Big Game). Dante and I are so in sync on cross country that I'm in danger of becoming too cocky (my coach keeps my head from swelling too large to fit through doorways though). I think we're about to have a mental breakthrough for both of us for dressage. Area II would also give us a chance to refine our show jumping.

However, Dante has been competing quite steadily since he was five. It's time for a break. It's time for him to have his shoes pulled and allow his poor contracted heels to relax. It's time for him to roll around in the KY bluegrass all day, every day (or night, whichever). It's time for him to be a fat, roly-poly horse.

Dante demonstrates his love for the KY bluegrass as a five year old.

Before that happens, we have one more challenge.

Remember how I said it's time to get out of the oven kitchen Texas? In two days time we will be headed up to Colorado to make our next attempt at a QR in the CCI**. Third time's a charm right? Hard ground thwarted us at Jersey, and pneumonia defeated us at Galway, but here's to hoping our upcoming trip is issue-free. We've got good karma at the CO Horse Park, having run our first successful Training there in 2008 and our first CCI* in 2009, finishing 3rd on our dressage score. I've got a good feeling going, and that's always a confidence builder.

And it won't be as hot in Colorado!

(Seriously, hate the heat with a passion, as does Dante.)

After CO, Dante will get to go live with my old college roommate at Graystone Stable in Georgetown, KY. He'll have his shoes pulled and hopefully will finally defeat his age old foe, thrush. He'll see the farriers at the podiatry center of Rood and Riddle and be subject to the phenomenal eye of Dr. Chris Newton. Hopefully he'll come to VA in mid-winter, after spending some time swimming at Kesmarc to put condition on him before going back to work.

That's the plan anyways.

Unfortunately I'll be headed to San Antonio for a month to stay with my parents to save some money for a month, regroup, recover, and then head to VA the end of July. That means I have to stay in the oven for a month longer, but better me than Dante.

So here's to persistence (and cooler weather)!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bigger, Faster, Stronger

It's that time of year again; Dante and I have embarked on CCI** fitness sets!

The thing about fitness sets is that they're very boring here in Texas. We have flat, flat, and more flat land.   Since our show is in Colorado, it is on the side of a mountain. Also, the altitude plays in and becomes a factor. So, Dante needs to be very, very fit.

Officially we are now galloping every five days, something I have never really done before. It has always been a schedule of every seven days, to work in with school and work. However, now I have a few weeks break after graduating, so I am taking advantage of that to gallop every five days as recommended by most top riders. We are also doing trot sets as well.

Our schedule reads trot sets, flat, jump, gallop, day off. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tomorrow we will embark to the track for the first time this season. Although the Texas weather has actually provided us with a bit of rain and moderate temperatures this spring, the ground has migrated to being just hard enough to leave me feeling uncomfortable about galloping on it, particularly for the long sets that I have to do.

To ramp up Dante's fitness, we have gradually increased our sets from 3 x 5 to 3 x 7 sets. Only in the month of May did I start galloping every five days, and we will do one more 3 x 7 sets and two 3 x 8 sets before Colorado. The trot sets have ramped up from 2 x 15 to 2 x 25 and will up to 2 x 30.

Man, trot sets are boring. Pandora Radio helps.

In any case, the hope is that we will arrive in Colorado fit to fight.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Something I have been working on for a very long time, particularly in dressage, is my mental game. I used to get extremely worked up before dressage, because I just knew it was going to go badly. As a result, it usually did.

Shockingly, this past weekend at Greenwood, my mental game finally came through for dressage. We entered the ring calm and collected after having a wonderful warm up. Our trot work was really lovely, and even the walk was decent. Unfortunately, he then lost his mind a bit in the canter, swapping across the first diagonal and refusing to pick up the correct lead, then swapping on the final canter down center line, then refusing to trot to the final halt. It was relatively atrocious. I can sum that test up with the statement that it was both the best and worst test I have ever done. Still, I was so thrilled with his trot work, that I forgave him for his canter work. He's still playing with his lead changes like they are a new toy. Now I am trying to take that toy away from him, so he forgets about it a little. It's going well at home and in warmup, but apparently not so much in the actual test. We'll work on that. In the end, we were tied for first shockingly, but on our usual low 40s score. I'm positive we would have broken into the 30s if he hadn't melted down in the canter, so hopefully we can pull that together before Colorado.

Cross country, as usual, he was amazing. We were forward and bold to all of the fences, and very much in sync. At first, he was quite on the muscle, and I found myself with rather long distances to the first four fences, as if he were attempting to make the fences larger. He soon settled, and we went along to a comfortable pace.  I wasn't planning on trying for time, so I was pleasantly surprised when our leisurely gallop (at least it felt rather leisurely to me, I never once pushed him) turned out to be the fastest of the division, putting us into first by almost 10 points.

So going into show jumping, I was feeling rather good about have two rails in hand. Unfortunately, my mental game failed me, and I sucked. Again. Just like at Poplar. We had two rails relatively early when I got him a touch deep to a couple of verticals, and then I just bombed going into the triple combination. Almost fell off while Dante climbed through all three fences. It was just all kinds of bad. Then I missed badly going to the final fence as well, so I ended up with six rails. Not exactly a confidence building ride, having two of these awful, non-qualifying rounds before my two star....

My game plan is very much to work on my mental game. Mike is going to set up some jumps in the field for me, so I can feel the difference of jumping in a large space, rather than his very small arena. I thought about attending a schooling jumper show, but unfortunately the only jumper shows around here in the month of May are 'A' rated, and would cost me $300 or more to even get there. I'm not sure I'm ready to shell out that much for a couple of schooling rounds. I've also got a couple of sports psychology books, and I'm going to do some digging in those.

Once again, back to square one.