Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Floppy Ears and Fun

The recent Cochrane Dressage Show was a turning point for me in a few ways. I have a full show recap in the works but still waiting for photos from the pro photographer.

A small but interesting development for me was seeing Kachina develop floppy ears. I've often found the floppy ears of top dressage horses intriguing. On some level I thought it was a warmblood feature more than one of dressage training. During my warmup on Sunday at the show I suddenly noticed that Kachina's ears were doing that relaxed flop as we were trotting around. I've never seen that from the saddle before. It's a fairly superficial thing but it was cool to me and said we were doing something right. Does anyone actually know the physiological reason behind "floppy ears"?

The other turning point was finally getting the contact piece that I was missing before as I talked about in my last post. We still need to improve the consistency a lot but we finally had some really good moments during the show, especially in my last 2 tests of the weekend.

As Megan at A Enter Spooking recently posted about, "You Don't Win Dressage". That is a true statement, dressage really is all about the journey and you have to enjoy the journey. I do enjoy the journey overall, however I think it is fair to enjoy certain parts of the journey more than others. Now that I finally have the contact piece that I was missing on Kachina, I am in the part of the dressage journey that I find the most fun.

As I wait for new media, lets take a look back at some less fun moments in our journey to date...
Here is massive ducking behind the vertical from February 2016

Hollow giraffe running (aka a canter transition) from June 2016

I was first introduced to dressage on my last horse Ellie. While I didn't know anything about the sport of dressage specifically, I had already ridden Ellie for several years and we had the basics to a number of disciplines. That meant that I had a lot of the basics needed for dressage as well and it didn't take us too long to be able to really focus on things like connection and impulsion, and even collection and lateral movements. That didn't mean we progressed quickly, my own lack of knowledge held us back, as well as pesky external factors like university, work, and lameness. However I loved the type of work we were doing and it's what made me fall in love with dressage. It was an addicting experience the first time I felt the preliminary versions of collection and throughness. I was happy to spend time working to slow down lengthens, adjust our shoulder-in angle etc, because I loved that feeling of having my horse between my aids and everything else felt possible (except flying changes, those alluded me despite the best efforts of several people).

Long before Ellie and I did dressage we did English Pleasure,...

... jumping, ...

... Western Pleasure, and more English performance classes 

I have so few photos from my dressage time with Ellie but this is circa 2007.
At that time we were getting reasonably good scores at First Level but more importantly,
I could consistently ride my horse between the aids and that felt amazing

When I got Kachina I thought that I would be able to get back to that point fairly quickly, after all I had already been there once before. Unfortunately that was far from the truth. For starters, Kachina was a very different type of horse and it seemed like very little that I thought I knew was transferable. Additionally, both Kachina and I had a lot of holes in our basic foundation, more than I expected, and it took a long time to fill those holes. I don't think I appreciated enough the level of training Ellie had had before we started dressage. It didn't help that I was a different body type and had to relearn my position from scratch, or that we didn't have a regular instructor to work with. It's been 4 years to the week since I bought Kachina now. I hardly resemble the rider I was 6 years ago when I last competed in First and Second Level dressage. I've forgotten so much but also learned so much. The one thing I didn't forget though is how great it feels to have a horse truly between the aids. At the show I finally felt that with Kachina for the first time and I'm so excited to be back in this part of the dressage journey that I love so much =D

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Connection Forest

This post is about my July lesson with Elaine, but also about some related revelations that I have had about connection.

If you remember, at my last show I found out from my low scores and from watching videos that I did not have proper connection with Kachina.

Let's start at the beginning, and some definitions (from the USDF Glossary):
(note: please don't feel patronized by this, I'm just taking you through the thought process I needed to go through, I literally looked up the definitions of these terms because I was getting way too hung up on the extremes of what I didn't want to do that I lost sight of what I was actually trying to achieve, I lost the forest for the trees)

CONTACT
The reins are stretched so that they form a straight line, not a loop. “Correct contact” or “acceptance of contact” is determined by the elasticity of the connection between horse and rider.

The reins do form a straight line, I knew to take the slack out, but I rode the edge of looseness.
The reins didn't have any weight/stretch/elasticity in them so it wasn't really contact or connection.

CONNECTION/CONNECTED
State in which there is no blockage, break, or slack in the circuit that joins horse and rider into a single, harmonious, elastic unit. A prerequisite for throughness.

ON THE BIT
Acceptance of contact (without resistance or evasion) with a stretched topline and with lateral and longitudinal flexion as required. The horse’s face line is, as a rule, slightly in front of the vertical.

THROUGHNESS/THROUGH
State in which the rider’s aids/influences go freely through to all parts of the horse, from back to front and front to back (e.g. the rein aids go through to reach and influence the hind legs). Prerequisites for this state are good connection and positive mental/emotional state.

SELF-CARRIAGE
State in which the horse carries itself in balance without taking support or balancing on the rider’s hand.

Bottom line: in order to have contact or connection, I need tension on the reins. Period. That may sound super basic and it is, but I needed that clarification. I also need connection in order to achieve throughness. Previously I had to learn to stop pulling and that took a lot of work especially when Kachina and I used to carry a lot more tension. I have worked that a lot and I've now successfully eliminated pulling for the most part. However, having "no pulling" circulating in my head so much, combined with "self carriage", "don't force a horse into a false frame" and "you don't want your horse leaning on the bit" had me believing that I was aiming for some feather-light, barely-there feel on the reins. That in turn made me think that the feel of Kachina above the bit but steady, and my reins on the edge of looseness was correct. It was not.

Reviewing the Dressage Pyramid is also always a good idea

Let's go back to some of those terms that were circulating in my brain, the metaphorical trees that were distracting me from the forest...
Self-carriage:
- self carriage is something that you move onto after the basics of contact, so I shouldn't obsess about it now, leave this until later
- self carriage means the horse is not balancing on the rider's hand, doesn't mean there isn't tension in the reins.
Pulling:
- pulling is a backward movement, I can have tension on the reins while using a holding motion rather than a pulling one. Create weight in the reins by pushing Kachina into the contact instead of pulling back to take up the slack.
Leaning:
- yes, it is correct that you don't want a horse who leans on the reins or is heavy in the contact, but that has never ever been my problem with Kachina. She has ducked behind the bit, held herself above the bit, and tried to wiggle sideways out of contact, but she has never leaned her way through it. Therefore, it is insane for me to place such strong emphasis on avoiding leaning that I don't let/promote her reaching for the bit. Kachina is not a horse who leans so just delete this worry entirely for now.
False Frame:
- Another extreme that I was trying too hard to avoid. I know that it is incorrect to artificially force the horse's head to be in a frame without also working on the other basics, but somehow I warped that idea into thinking that the only way to achieve a true frame was to do it all from the back end, encouraging relaxation, impulsion etc. That's not how it works. The concept of "back to front" is worded that way for a reason, things have to come from the back but there must be some rein tension in the front to channel things and create a frame. A horse's head is never going to stay near that vertical position if there's slack on the reins (unless you train them by bumping them there with a curb bit like in some western events, but that's a whole different kettle of fish).

My lesson with Elaine started with some brief discussion on the above. Elaine is not one to go intensely into terminology and theory so it helped that I had already come to a lot of the above realizations on my own, but it helped me a lot to have her give quick confirmations that a) I need weight in the reins, b) heaviness is not a problem with this horse, and c) I need to develop the connection first before I get too concerned with improving impulsion, self carriage, or bend, those things are important too but we will come to those later.

We spent the rest of the lesson at the walk and trot having me hold contact. This was a new feeling for Kachina so she struggled at first to figure out what the correct answer was. First I had to convince her that she could move forward with weight in the reins. Then she tried to wiggle out of it by moving all parts of her body from side to side. I had to keep contact on both reins but use small adjustments in tension to encourage her to stay straight between the aids (think elastic side reins). She also tried going faster or slower. Despite the evasions, this lesson showed me that Kachina is ready for this type of work. She never once got freaked out by the contact or hid behind it, she just tried different things to find the right answer and the process got faster and faster to get to the correct response. It was a big mental task for me to not throw the contact away when she gave to it. I needed to reward her response by being quiet with my aids, not by releasing them. I still need to fine tune my understanding of this part. It was a mentally tough lesson for both of us but it was clear to me that getting this contact needs to be our priority and we can accomplish it if we are consistent.

The other thing I got Elaine to do in my lesson was to tell me when I had a moment where things were correct. I don't know if I've explained any of this well on paper, but ultimately this was about re-evaluating my feel and adjusting what type of feel I am aiming for. I think I achieved that. As long as I know what feel to aim for, I can do a lot of work on my own so that is always what I try and get out of a lesson (especially since my situation means lessons are at least a month apart). 

Note: I have to give Elaine credit, she tried to teach me this lesson before, by using terms like "don't throw away the contact", "give smaller releases" etc., but I just didn't fundamentally understand that that meant keeping some tension/weight in the reins at all times.

Finally, another thing I tried to avoid to extremes was the use of training tools. I have heard and read so many bad stories about the use and abuse of training aids, that I shied away from the idea pretty hard. However, the more I went over this lesson in my head, the more I realized that I needed to create the feel of side reins with my hands: elastic and always there, but gently allowing Kachina to find the easiest position to stay in. If I wanted to feel like side reins, wouldn't side reins be a useful tool to help Kachina learn the concept with taking my own imperfections out of the mix? I messaged Elaine a week after my lesson to ask about side reins and she agreed that this was a good application for them. I've done a few brief lunge sessions with them since and it really has helped propel both of our understandings about what we are looking for under saddle.

Have you ever had a major revelation about something that you feel you should have already known, or avoided an extreme to such an extent that you ended up at the other extreme? Have you ever gotten lost in the connection forest?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

All Breed Show 2018

Show #2 of 2018 is now in the books. This was a one day show for me as Friday was dressage day and I went to see Charlotte Dujardin instead of competing in the general performance classes on Saturday.

Yes, I am reusing photos from yesterday
Entering on centerline for my first test

The morning started off very early as a thunderstorm had derailed my plans to bathe the night before. I bathed, let Kachina dry in her stall while I packed up, and then hauled to the show grounds. At both of the last two shows in this location Kachina seriously balked as soon as I mounted up and took a while to get moving forward. Kachina has a good fitting saddle and shows no soreness in her back on palpation, but she seems like she does need some time to let the saddle settle and her back to warm up before I jump on. This is maybe exacerbated by higher stress environments. I lunged her for a couple minutes to cover my bases and was thrilled when Kachina calmly and normally walked off from the mounting block.

First 3 photos from Training 2 (unbraided)

The other problem at this show last year was the lack of a warm-up area. Thankfully the show committee elected to just have one competition ring this year so the other arena was kept clear for warm-up. The sand footing in that arena is deeper than ideal, and pocked with gopher holes along the edge, but it was still useable at least. I warmed up walk/trot/canter and was thrilled with how calm and rideable Kachina was. I didn't want to tire her out in the deep footing so we kept it fairly brief.

Since this was a local show, my husband and mom both came to watch the first two tests before they had to work. This is the first time my husband (still have to get used to that word lol) has ever seen me compete (he generally works weekends so can't make it to shows), and my mom has only come a handful of times and usually witnesses Kachina being a crazy horse. I was really glad that Kachina was having a good day so I could show them the positive side of showing. It was also a very hot day (33°C/94°F) and actually having a crew to hand me my coat and a drink of water between warm-up and my test was freaking amazing! I've always been very solo at shows but I could definitely get used to help (even non-horse-person help)! It also meant I got videos of my rides!

I'm so happy with her canter this year!

My first test got the day off to a good start. The judge took her time finishing comments on the last rider's test so I got several minutes to work around the outside of the ring and ensure that none of the sights or sounds were going to be an issue. I did my test and while I knew it wasn't perfect, I felt it clearly showed the level of work we are capable of right now. My only initial concern was that I was scared we had picked up the wrong lead to the left. I know it sounds ridiculous that I don't know but Kachina's canter feels different than any other horse I've ridden. I'm used to telling the lead by feeling which front leg takes the bigger stride, but Kachina's shoulders feel like they swing the same amount. It's hard to trust the back legs either as she can sometimes go lateral. I'm getting better at feeling her leads at home (and she's been pretty reliable with her leads lately), but at the show there was a niggling part of my brain that was worried about it. I'm glad I trusted my gut and didn't bring Kachina back to trot though as when I watched the video afterwards I could see the that we were in a nice looking correct left lead. Other than that, I was really happy with my ride, especially the relaxation and ridablility.

Training Level Test 2
61.74%
3rd/6

(Video cuts off first minute of my test)


(And yes, I know all my halts suck in the videos, but I was focused on keeping her straight and having no backwards motion. At home when I've insisted more on immobility she has started swinging her quarters which is way more obvious to the judge so I kind of cheated during the show)

As soon as my test finished, I brought Kachina into the barn to get out of the hot sun. It was just over an hour until my next test so I loosened the girth and took Kachina's bridle off but left the saddle on. While Kachina chilled I braided her mane quickly. My original plan had been to bathe the night before and braid morning of show, but the thunderstorm meant bathing in the morning and doing braiding as well would have cut my warmup short since I rode so early in the day. I was happy with how Kachina was going so I didn't feel the need to do much work before my next test.

Free walk from Training Level Test 3

My next training level test also went fairly well in my opinion. I could feel that we lost the bend in some corners and she wasn't bending around my inside leg, but I felt her rhythm and connection were pretty steady and I was happy with it. I also could feel that both canters were correct this time around. I actually thought we might do quite well when it came to scores.

This is a rodeo photographer but she is getting great at nailing the uphill
part of the canter stride for dressage shows!

Training Level Test 3
59.54%
2nd/6



After my second test we had a several hour break before First Level so I untacked Kachina and let her chill in the shaded stall. I picked up my morning tests during lunch. I was initially very disappointed in my low scores. First of all because I had thought they had been better rides, but also because I didn't achieve my 63% and that automatically took me out of the running for ADA year end awards as there aren't enough shows left in the season (I would require 3 scores at 3 different shows). At that time no other scores were posted so I assumed that my 2nd and 3rd placings meant that scores were low across the board. That turned out to only be half true (the scores of the day went the full range from 50%-73%, however there were almost twice as many scores below 60% as there were above 65%). I then watched the videos of my morning rides and I saw that what I had been feeling during the test did not match how it looked. It was true that our rhythm was steadier that it was in the past, but what I had felt as a soft round connection was actually Kachina going around with her nose poked out and me having too loose of reins. She used to go to extremes of curling behind the contact or having her head straight in the air. She is much steadier now and I took that to mean good things but she is actually steadily a bit above the bit (and not actually as steady as I first thought). I constantly have to re-evaluate my feel on this horse. Re-evaluating my feel can only be done through the help of video or an instructor on the ground and I haven't had nearly enough of either lately. While part of why I show is that I want to do well (and get ribbons!), a bigger reason for showing is to get an objective check on how we are doing. We got that at this show and that's how I'm going to improve.

Stretchy trot from second test (T3)
I know the judge wants to see more but this IS a stretch for Kachina
(photographer left for the day before my First Level test so all photos from Training Level)

At this point, I knew our score at First Level was likely going to be low, but I still wanted to go out and get the feedback.

We did a fairly short warm-up for the First Level test, in large part to the unrelenting sun and the fact that it was the hottest part of the day. I did practice a few trot lengthens and was disappointed when Kachina broke into canter during the first attempts.

We went in for our final test of the day and it had a combination of bad and good. On the negative side, our lengthens were conservative (because I was worried about breaking), and Kachina spooked hard during our first canter transition which resulted in a wrong lead and two botched movements (the spook seemed out of nowhere to me but later the gate person told me it had happened right as some workers stood up on the edge of the grandstand roof which was in Kachina's field of view). Our canter work was a bit tense in general after that, and it's hard for me to sit the canter well when her back is tight. However, on the bright side, I was proud of myself for riding through the issues, our leg yields were the best we've done, and I could feel Kachina stretching for a good portion of the stretchy circle.

First Level Test 2
56.56%
5th/7


After exiting at A, I did one brief left lead canter to leave Kachina with the memory of that transition rather than the spook one, but as soon as I was out of the arena I hopped off to let her be done and give her lots of pets and treats.

By the time I had packed up the trailer and was ready to roll out, they still didn't have the First Level results in so I had to come grab my test on Sunday after I got back from seeing Charlotte in Calgary. The Charlotte clinic gave me a fresh perspective on my scores; I'll expound on that more in the next post. However, in general, despite the low scores I was happy with Kachina's performance. She was relaxed and obedient and it finally feels like we have a solid base on which to grow. I mean, there is a lot to work on for sure, but we've been dealing with tension and filling in training holes (both mine and hers) for so long that it feels awesome to think about moving forward even if it's at a glacial pace.

My ribbon haul when all was said and done

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

WW: Show Photos

I love having a pro photographer at shows! Here are a few images I bought, full recap in the works







<3

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Dressage, Dressage, Dressage!

This past weekend was jammed full of lots of dressage activities!

It started off on Friday with dressage day at the local All Breed Horse Show. I competed in two training level tests and one first level test. Overall I was really pleased with my rides and our improvement from last year though my scores were lower than I had hoped.

On Saturday I joined a few friends on a trip to Calgary for Charlotte Dujardin's Masterclass Clinic! It was an inspiring day and also seemed to be a gathering of almost everyone in the Alberta dressage world. 

Sunday I had a much-needed lesson with Elaine, followed by a conference call meeting of the Alberta Dressage Association executive. 

I will write fuller recaps of the show, clinic, and lesson but overall it was a cool combination of all facets of my involvement with dressage in one weekend. I truly love this sport and the last few days have left me more inspired and determined than ever to work hard and progress as best I can. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

2018 Chinook Country Dressage Show Recap

This is late but I still want a record of it so here is the details about how my show went on the weekend of June 16-17. Sorry, this is long and wordy but again it is a lot for my own records (and it's late enough already so I didn't feel like breaking it into parts)

Friday


I had the day off work so luckily I had time to ride Kachina, bathe her and pack all my gear on Friday before leaving.

My ride was great. I hadn't ridden in a few days so she was pretty up and it took some time to focus but once we got into a groove everything we've been working on over the winter was there and accessible. I was also able to add some new work without losing too many marbles. For instance, this was the first ride of the year where I practised canter lengthens. I will reiterate that practising a movement for the first time the day before debuting it at a show is not the recommended plan but it kind of worked. I've definitely made some mistakes in my riding before but I feel like we are on a good path now. The fact that we can pick up after some time off, get as good of quality of connection and transitions as we are capable of, and be able to push the envelope to boot was pretty nice.

The bath was a little more eventful than I wanted it to be. I was so excited to use the wash rack in the barn complete with hot water. However once we got in there after our ride Kachina started slipping on the wet concrete like crazy. There was a bit of a dicey moment there as I was trying to keep Kachina calm and stable while also getting the water turned off. That flooring isn't normally that slippery; I think it was just that Kachina's bare hooves are so extra hard from they dry weather that they had no traction on the hard surface. We ended up doing an abbreviated rinse with cold water out on the grass instead.

I then turned out Kachina briefly while I packed my stuff and loaded the trailer (of course she rolled multiple times). We left pretty much right on schedule and had an uneventful haul to Claresholm.

Once we arrived on the show grounds I got Kachina settled, brought her on a hand walk, and trimmed her mane and tail (first show of the season).

Checking out the warmup arena Friday night

Saturday


I woke up Saturday morning to find that it had rained a lot overnight and was still coming down steadily. The show ring was indoors but the only warm-up was outside so this was not good news. I braided Kachina quickly (and badly, tried using braideez braiding wires but the lengths were off and I didn't have time to redo). We then tacked up and went for warmup. I was the very first ride-time of the show, but due to a smaller number of entries that was at the very reasonable time of 10:00am. Since I was up first and like a longer warmup than many people, we had the warmup ring to ourselves for the most part. My warmup coincided perfectly with a short break from the rain. The footing was very wet and heavy but there was no standing water and the traction seemed good. We had a productive warmup and were actually able to practice all the test elements before I went in to perform them for the judge.

First show of the year!

10:00am
Training Level Test 1
62.609%

Goof

This test felt fine but not great to me. We made no mistakes but it felt like it was missing some polish. I was surprised that this ended up being our high score of the weekend. I was also a bit surprised to see many comments asking for more active and more energy. I know we've made big improvements to relaxation and rhythm and had felt like we had started to work on allowing the gaits to be bigger but I took this feedback to mean that we needed to amp this up more. I do try to read my tests as soon as possible in a show so I can try and tweak things for subsequent tests, but that can have negative impacts as well. I was super happy to see that none of our movements scored less than a 6.0 for this test, that is a new achievement for us!

Goof

It was raining hard again by this point so I mostly waited inside on Kachina until our next class:

10:35am
Dressage Equitation Flat Class
67.667%

The Dressage Equitation division is one I've competed in before. You do a flat group class and a Training level test and your scores are added together to determine the winner. This was the flat class. There were only two of us in it. The judge had us walk, trot and canter both directions and also demonstrate diagonals, free walk and stretchy trot. This class showed me that I don't work on the rail enough at home - along the long sides Kachina would start to drift off the rail, likely expecting a circle, this was a reoccurring problem at the show so I've been trying to do more straight lines at home ever since. I felt like a rode pretty well in the class and was happy with how we did but I know leaning forward and having open hands are bad habits of mine so I don't dispute those comments.

Dignified Goof

After Dressage Equitation finished I went back out to the rainy warmup to practice some lengthens in preparation for our First Level debut! This was Kachina's first time ever showing at First Level, and my first time competing in the level at a recognized show (competed in schooling shows years ago with my last horse). I knew we weren't confirmed at the level but it was a big deal for me to finally just feel like we could attempt it!

11:14am
First Level Test 1
57.778%

Obviously 58% is not a great score, but as a debut it tells me that we are ready for this work and I just need to keep working on the level. I was actually pretty happy with my score, especially as that was despite an error where I tried to skip half the movements in the test for some stupid reason. This was our first test with lengthens and we got 6.0 on three out of 4 of them (both trot and canter). Clearly room for improvement but I'm happy we aren't way out to lunch on the movement.

Having fun

Finally, after a long morning, I untacked Kachina and put her back in her stall for lunch and a well earned break. This is also when I picked up and reviewed my morning tests. I saw the comments about needing more activity so I planned to increase the energy for my next test. However, once I got back on again I found that I didn't have a lot of horse. I know that 4 tests in a day is more than many people choose to do, but Kachina and I have done it many times before. She is not a horse who generally tires out, and in fact usually does better as the day goes on. She has shown me her almost boundless energy multiple times before, both in dressage rides and long days in the saddle on demanding trail rides. In almost 4 years of ownership this is the first and only time I've ever felt Kachina tired. I think the heavy wet footing in the warm up arena was a big factor that drained her energy. It was unfortunate timing though as I was trying to push for more forward in my test and for the first time ever, my go button didn't work.


1:21pm
Training Level Test 3
57.727%

I was so focused on forward on my sluggish horse that I clearly lost some balance and connection. We picked up the wrong lead to the right (which I fixed but not before it impacted the scores for two movements), and also had a poor stretch trot circle. I could feel it was a bad test, however other bloggers have said before that they don't mind having new problems, they just don't want to repeat old problems. Well that was us in our last test of the day so I guess that's okay.

My winnings from Saturday

Sunday


Sunday dawned bright and clear, but the ground was pretty saturated with rain. The entries for the morning Prix Caprilli class all scratched so I found myself again being the first rider of the day. The warmup was sloppier than it had been the previous day so I kept my warmup fairly short and basic before going in for T2.

Sloppy warm up

9:39am
Training Level Test 2
60.577%

This test felt really good to me so I was a bit disappointed in the score. It felt representative of the work we do at home which I thought was where we were supposed to be. While this score was lower than Training 1 on Saturday, it was mostly just less consistent. My 62.4% then was made up of almost entirely 6.0s and 6.5s, while this time around I got four 5.5s but also four 7.0s. I'm glad I had a clinic with the judge after the show because otherwise I would have been confused about what I should be doing differently.

I felt ready for my next test so I just parked at the rail until my ride time (also due to the sloppy warmup and not wanting to tire Kachina out again).

The best at parking by the rail
(and yes, she did rub out several inches of mane a week before the show)

10:24am
Dressage Equitation Training TOC - T1
60.652%

This test also felt pretty good to me. Kachina was against my inside leg a bit in on the long sides and corners though which the judge clearly noticed. We'll work on that. This test scored mostly 6s.

We took another long lunch break and Kachina chilled in her stall before the afternoon. By the time I got on again the warmup was starting to dry a little bit but was still sloppy enough that we couldn't work well on lengthens or leg yields but Kachina was doing well otherwise.

1:31pm
First Level Test 2
57.656%

My final test of the show was First Level Test 2. I have never shown this test before which means I have never done it in a full size court (arenas at home are only short court length). This is totally my fault for not figuring out the geometry better but I realized too late that our leg yields are not nearly steep enough and I struggled to get her all the way over before the letter. This is something I can fix so its good to know. I also struggled to keep Kachina straight during the canter lengthens (pushing against my inside leg again). These are still fairly new movements for us so I am okay with the mistakes. However, one thing that really sucked was seeing that we got a 4.0 on the stretchy trot circle that I had been so proud of! A 4.0 on a double coefficient really does make a difference to your score. I had actually scored badly on my stretchy trot all weekend but didn't know what I was doing wrong. I've since learned so that will be the subject of a future post.

Muddy legs

Awards


My goal for the weekend had been to get over 63% on a test to qualify for year end ADA awards. Unfortunately I was 0.4% away from achieving my goal.

While the scores weren't what I was hoping for, I did do better than expected on the placing front.  Sadly for this satin aficionado, this show gives money instead of ribbons for classes. Ribbons are reserved for divisions only. However, I did get cash for almost every test, and ended up as Grand Champion for Adult Amateur Dressage Equitation. I narrowly missed Reserve Champion for Training Level but surprising clinched Reserve Champion for First Level! Granted, some of the divisions were pretty small, but there was still competition so I'm pretty happy for my ribbons. And, as I wrote before, I was thrilled with my awesome horse :-)

Kachina had no patience for ribbon photos

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

30 Before 30

I turned the big 3-0 last weekend. It was pretty low key but a good birthday. As seems typical for new decades, it did lead me to have a bit of introspection about where I am in my life. In general I am happy with how things are at this point in my time on Earth so that feels pretty good.

Back in January 2015 when I was 26 (and a year before I started blogging), I made a 30 Before 30 list of thirty things I wanted to do before now. This was just for fun, I try and always be cognizant of the fact that life moves us in unexpected directions, but it's still good to have goals. The 30 items spanned all facets of my life, but I will just go into the horse-related ones here. So, how did I do?

1. Compete in 2nd level dressage
- Nope - I had very unrealistic expectations when I got Kachina about how quickly we'd be able to move up the levels. We both had to fill in a LOT of holes, but we are finally showing First Level this year :-)

2. Show Kachina at a horse show
- Yes - Yes x 11 shows actually!
Our first show
Our most recent show

3. Attend a recognized CDI dressage show
- Yes - I scribed at 3 of these and learned so so much!
View from the judge's box at a CDI

4. Play with horses in water
- Yes - we didn't actually swim but I did play in the Milk River with Kachina on our Writing on Stone ride
Playing in the shallows (we also crossed multiple times under saddle)

5. Ride under instruction of Grand Prix level rider
- Yes - I've actually done this with 5 different trainers who have ridden at Grand Prix! Not all riders at that level are good trainers but they do have a different view of dressage than previous instructors I had who had only ridden up to 2nd or 3rd. I've also found a couple really good trainers so I think it has been useful to search out this experience
Kachina and my first lesson with Sandra - this was a transforming experience for us
and we've both come a long way since then

6. Trail ride somewhere other than fields
- Yes - I've ridden by the river as well as in Writing on Stone and the Cypress Hills which were both great (but challenging) experiences
This photo still makes me feel like a badass

On the Writing on Stone ride
Coming back to base from Cypress Hills ride


7. Become a certified pair for mounted Search and Rescue
- Nope - we can do a lot of the stuff but I never pursued the testing. Kachina is a great trail horse but Search and Rescue is better suited to a different personality of horse I think. Also, while I appreciate cross training and the versatile horse, at this time it would hurt our dressage training to switch to doing one-handed maneuvers etc.

8. Gallop
- Sort of - when I wrote this down I meant do a full out gallop at top speed. We have had forward open canters in the field which were great but I didn't trust our balance/the footing enough to go full out.

I still want to go for a full out gallop on Kachina and compete at second level (and beyond!) but I'm pretty pleased with how much I accomplished. Also, in the last few years I've had some amazing opportunities that I never even dreamed of back when I created the list. Blogging, blogger meetups, organizing clinics, running a horse show, and being involved with the Alberta Dressage Association are all things I didn't even have on my radar but that have made my equestrian life richer.

Morning prep for 2nd annual dressage show

Have you ever made any similar kinds of lists? 30 Before 30, Bucket List, etc. What is on it? What would change if you made a new list today?