Monday, June 28, 2010

Pictures from the Event!

Here's a few pictures of the weekend. Haven't taken a look at the event photographer's site yet, I'm sure he'll have stuff up soon.

My cute little dressage horse! Look how much more relaxed she is. We're getting there.

I was happy with my ride. Can you tell?

Over the first one in the 8a-b combo. We got a weird spot to this one, but rode out just fine.

Making our way through the field toward the water complex.

Kicking ass over our first trakehner. McKinna is becoming quite the XC rockstar!

Rinsing out her mouth with water before bridling up for stadium. Keeps green slime off your bit and their lips.

Lovely first fence on the stadium course. She looks so relaxed. (She wasn't.)

The fateful fence #4. This was the second of our three stops...apparently she has a thing against pianos. 

I'll see what other photos I can round up - these are all from my grandpa's camera. I think my dad got some, and my mom got some video, and then there's the official photographer...and of course the full report is yet to come!

McKinna's getting a well-deserved day off today. I'm not even going out to see her, and I trust she's thoroughly enjoying a day out in the field stuffing her face with grass. Tomorrow we'll head out to say hi and check her over, but I don't think I'll be back in the saddle till Wednesday or Thursday.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Horse Trials!!

Guys, I had so much fun this weekend. It was awesome.

Here's the quick rundown: we got a very respectable 35.2 in dressage - 6s and 7s mostly, one 5 and one 8 - which left us tied for 8th. A kickass double clear cross country round (one of only two!) bumped us up to 2nd. My 8th-place-partner also went double clear but I got closer to optimum. Then I got eliminated at fence 4 in stadium for three stops. Terrible, right?

I think she needs more miles. We schooled the course at the end of the day and Devin helped me very systematically work McKinna through it to show her what her job is.

I promise I'll explain more thoroughly. I'm disappointed, but I'm not horribly upset. XC was absolutely amazing. It was the best five minutes I've ever spent on a horse. Maybe even the best five minutes ever.

The course was pretty tough for novice. It even had a little trakehner! I was ecstatic because I've wanted to jump a trakehner forever, but it took out a huge chunk of my division. Almost half the riders were eliminated on XC. There was some other really fun stuff, like a big brush fence in the woods that McKinna jumped all the way over. She was just on the whole time. Forward, calm, steady, really in-tune with me. I rode the first three fences hard to make sure she knew her job, and after that she just settled in and took care of business.

We got a perfect spot to nearly every fence, except the last one, a vertical with brush on top. Funny because Devin is ALL about having a nice last fence and jumping from a nice balanced canter. We came on a half-stride, she thought about adding, and then changed her mind....pretty ugly, she whacked her back legs. But we got over fine, she was fine (yay for cannon guards on the hind boots!) and she cooled out very well. I was actually impressed with how easy it seemed for her, especially since the course had lots of hills.

Anyway, I have lots more to share and hopefully my crew got some good pictures, but I thought I'd give the overall update. Even though we ended up eliminated, I'm so proud of my wonderpony. She was a very good girl this weekend and I can't wait to keep working on everything.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Inavale Camp

Grooming for Devin at Aspen was a fun and exhausting experience. It really didn't help that I came down with a cold over the weekend! She brought two horses, Batey who is her competition horse and Landish who is a client horse. Batey was going Prelim and is moving up to Intermediate at Inavale next weekend, and Landish is going Novice. She had me hack both of them before her rides, which was lots of fun! Except I didn't bring breeches, so I rode in jeans. I used to ride in jeans ALL the time, but somewhere along the line I got used to riding in breeches and now it's extremely uncomfortable to wear jeans.

I learned a lot- how to stud, how to poultice, how to rubber-band braid, and so on. Devin also took me on her course walks and explained the courses, what questions the fences were asking, and how she planned to ride them. Educational for the Novice course, very educational for the Prelim course!

Next weekend is the Inavale event. I'm excited and nervous and (this is terrible) I'm looking forward to resting a little afterward! It's just this big huge goal that I've had for forever, and McKinna and I have made SO much progress in the last six months, and after it we can wind down a little. But only a little. My summer is jam-packed with trips and camps and various horse and non-horse events.

Here's some stuff from the first Inavale camp day. No pictures from AM show jumping...but I do have stuff from XC! I'll stick some videos up as soon as I get the from my mom's laptop.

Day 1 SJ with Kelsey focused on gridwork and position...something I'm quite familiar with, as a Pony Clubber. She didn't have much to say about my position, which I took as a good thing. I actually didn't have the best ride, probably for several reasons but I'm guessing a big chunk was the grid itself. Unfortunately the grid was set for a solid horse stride and designed to get a bit longer through the fences, so - especially in the beginning when they were just ground poles and not fences - McKinna had to really lengthen her stride to get through. It's not something she normally has to do in grids. Now, I'm all for teaching the pony to lengthen her stride, because it's something she needs to learn how to do...but I don't think this was the time or place to do so, nor was that what the grid's intention was. Instead, she just got fired up through the grid and by the time we were finished, she was really blocking me with the base of her neck and just not wanting to listen to half-halts.

Then we did a four-stride line. The first time I did it in a polite five, which I knew I would get, because I know my horse. Kelsey wanted four, so I discussed the difference in McKinna's striding and how I don't mind asking for four, but since I'm low on the half-halt spectrum today I wanted to intersperse it with getting the additional stride. She agreed with me, so I got another nice five, then the next time pushed for a forward but nice four. The rest of the lesson was so-so. I feel like we had some reasonable rides, but she just wasn't as adjustable as I'd prefer.

Later that day, we headed out to XC with Devin. We started out with galloping position and adjustability, followed by course work. Since I ride with Devin regularly, I knew the position/adjustability drill, but it was the first time I've had a chance to test it out with McKinna. What a great way to reinstall my temporarily lost half-halt! After a few big loops of "fold angles to go faster, open angles to balance and slow," we were really in tune and I could easily adjust our speed and canter shape with my body. I exaggerated the differences between 'go' and 'balance' to really get the point across to her. Devin remarked that during our 'forward' phases we were "on course at Training and making the time," which made me laugh, but hey - at least McKinna was understanding the difference! It's an awesome feeling to be able to control her with my body. No head-tossing, no strong rein aids, just a supporting half-halt and my body telling her what to do. Very cool feeling to have a horse who's game but not too strong on XC.

What a good pony.
Coursework was wonderful and confidence-building, and generally consisted of: get your canter/gallop, get your line, then chill out and support as needed while your horse jumps the fence. McKinna was a rock star and jumped everything with a laid-back attitude, though she was still focused about them. Not lazy, but not attacking the fences either. Probably for an upper-level horse you want more attack, but she is just perfect for me where I'm at. She's bold, but I don't have to waste energy controlling her. In fact, it all felt very in-sync.

 Over the big table (with shiny acorn shells on top!)

We ended with a few interesting accuracy questions (jump this rolltop at a 45 degree angle; jump directly over the far left quarter of this rolltop) that rode very well for all in my Novice group. In fact, that last question was my favorite picture of all time, which I put up a post or two ago. It's definitely getting made into a new header for the blog. Another rider and I got to hop over one very inviting Training fence, a three-log pile. It felt very easy to ride and McKinna just soared over it with no problems. Man, I love the feeling of extra air-time.

Towards the end, McKinna tended to want to add in a short stride and jump pretty deep rather than take off a little bit long. I think she was getting tired, and her default response is to add. That's great, but she needs to be able to do both, and sometimes it made for a bit of an ugly fence. So at the end I asked for more move-up and leap, and she responded by taking the longer (but still reasonable) spot for me. It's a skill we'll need to work on.

Love this mare.

Overall it was a wonderful first day! The other people in my group were great fun and I think we were a really well-matched group. There was a lady on a Paint mare who'd been a rescue - they were so much fun, just a great big tank of a mare who was game for anything out there on course. Then a very handsome dapple grey Selle Francais gelding, who was very green on XC but quite willing and a quick study about all the terrain and new questions like banks. Rounding out the group was a handsome dark bay Quarter Horse, though I'm pretty sure something jumped the fence somewhere and his dam was sleeping around with the warmblood next door, because he's the least QH-like Quarter Horse I've ever seen. Tall, elegant, very nice horse with a great attitude.

Rest of the report later :-)

Hanging out at the Training log pile we jumped

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Inavale Derby Report

Hi all - I know you're still waiting for the camp report, but you will have to wait just a bit longer. I want to do it justice with good pictures and video, so it takes larger chunks of time to put the whole thing together. I promise you that by the end of the week you will see material about camp.

In the meantime, let me tell you about the derby at Inavale this weekend!

Going into it, I basically had no idea what kind of horse I was going to have in the ring. Sure, we've been to Inavale and ridden there quite a bit, and I took McKinna to the show jumping rally a couple months ago - but really I haven't done any showing with her in several years, and she's a completely different horse now. Would we see fire-breathing monsters in every corner, or at every dressage letter? Would she be quite displeased with the bright stadium jumps out in the XC field like she was last time? So mostly, I was glad to have this chance to get a better idea of what McKinna's going to act like at bigger shows (i.e., the horse trials).

So on Saturday morning, I tacked up my (sparklingly clean, gorgeous, wonderful) horse for dressage and headed out to the warmup area. I got lucky and the dressage ring I rode in was the one out on grass. It was a little soft from the rain, but good practice for the horse trials since they hold dressage on grass there. Plus, there was plenty of room to warm up, which was a very good thing for my warmup policy.

See, at my dressage lesson on Wednesday, Leslie showed me how to longe McKinna in side reins. I'd never tried it before, but it didn't take long to learn how I could use the side reins and longe line to ask her to soften and supple at the base of her neck just like I do from the saddle. So I headed out to the faaaaaaar corner of the great big grass field, let her warm up a bit at all gaits with her nose poked out as usual, and then stuck the side reins on. I had practiced a few times, so she knew the drill.

I'd say the side reins definitely did their job. McKinna was a little 'up' and wanted to go faster than I really preferred, but better too much forward than not enough. I alternated short periods of side reins on, asking her to round and carry herself, then giving her a break by unhooking them for a bit. It's still pretty hard for her to canter with her back up and the base of her neck soft, but she's getting there. I just asked for a little bit at a time.

Then I hopped on and alternated trotting around with walking on a loose rein, and a few canters here and there to check my transitions without getting her too worked up. It seemed to work. At times she wanted to just power through me at warp-speed trot, but I concentrated on keeping my elbows soft and bent and half-halting with my body, and she responded well.

I hung out and chatted with the arena steward for a moment, a very nice lady, and watched the test a few horses before me to make sure I hadn't memorized anything wrong in the test. Then I went up for one last bit of trotting, where McKinna started off wanting to run through my aids but then came back for some lovely, connected, polite work. Then it was my turn to trot around the ring!

I said hello to the judge and trotted several laps. I admit that on my first one I rode close to every letter, saying, "Look - this is A, it's a friendly letter. And this is F, this is also a friendly letter. And this one is B, also very friendly. Here's M, a nice letter...oh look, here are the judges, they're very friendly!"

I did say these things QUIETLY, at least. And besides, I think it worked.

Then the bell rang and we headed in! My first centerline was a little crooked. But, lo and behold, McKinna's head did NOT shoot straight up in the air as soon as we entered the ring! "Breathe," I kept reminding myself (silently) as we headed down the line. Left turn, where McKinna locked on to the little fence and kind of wanted to jump it. It made for a little bit of an abrupt turn and we walked for a step before picking it up. Okay, so I know better for the next centerline. Trot circle, then up the centerline again, this time much better (we got an 8 on that one!), turn right, and though she wanted to lock on to the fence again it wasn't as bad.

Anyway, we went through the rest of our test and all things considered it was pretty darn good. The canter work was a little "hectic," as the judge put it, but for a horse who could barely put together a decent canter a few months ago, I will take it. At least it had three beats! I was surprised that I had a hard time getting her to come back to me in the canter-trot transitions. Normally she's only too happy to come back, but in this case she got so worked up about the canter that she had kind of tuned me out. So both our downward transitions were pretty abrupt and she threw her head up. Good thing to know: next time, really work for the softness in the last quarter of the canter circle so my aids go through instead of stopping at a braced neck.

Overall I was really pleased with dressage. It's the first time the horse I have INSIDE the ring is actually similar to the horse I had OUTSIDE the ring! And when I was able to soften and relax, like on the long centerlines, she responded very well. I think if we can continue improving the canter and her relaxation, we'll do pretty well. We scored a 38, and hey, I'm happy to break into the 30s.

Jumping was awesome, except when it wasn't. Let me explain.

The course was holding up well but pretty soft in places. Water was actually running through the ditches, if that tells you anything.

McKinna was awesome over the first fence, a black-and-white stadium vertical. Last time I did a derby, she was fine with the XC fences but really spooky about the stadium fences - not this time. Bold and confident. Sweet. Then a turn to a big rolltop, which was fine, and another stadium fence snuggled up perpendicular to the Training trakehner, which proved to be spooky for some horses. McKinna ignored the trakehner and jumped the stadium fence just fine. Then through the extreeemely deep water, which we trotted, and canter forward off a big down bank, McKinna's forte. Then another stadium fence and a turn to...the evil fences.

It was a one-stride combination with the first element set in the ditch like a mini-trakehner. Well, that's no issue for us, but remember how I said there was water in the ditch? The ground around the ditch had a lot of that water in it too. The footing right in front of it was pretty chewed up. McKinna stopped at the first element and slid at least a foot with her forelegs. Not good. Turned around, re-presented, got her over it, but then (I'm not entirely sure what happened) she landed already stopping and moved a bit to the side, where I popped off. I landed fine, had to untangle my leg from the fence but didn't knock anything down and didn't hurt myself.

I remounted and they allowed me to finish the course. I skipped the evil combination and the rest of it rode brilliantly - a big house on top of the hill, long downhill to a big quarter round, then over the Novice ditch and one last stadium fence. McKinna was confident and easy to control, which also makes me think the combination problems were because she was just uncomfortable with the footing. The mud was thick enough that even horses with studs all around were sliding and having refusals.

So, overall, I was very happy with my rides. I still have a brave, honest horse, just one that's not quite used to jumping in mud! And it was a great way to scope out what McKinna might be like at the horse trials.

I just finished my last final this morning. Tomorrow morning I'm headed up to Washington with my boyfriend's parents to help him move out for the summer. I'll stay the night, we'll go out to breakfast, and then boyfriend will drop me off in Yelm on the way home, where I'll stay for the rest of the weekend grooming for my trainer Devin at Aspen Horse Trials. I'm really looking forward to it. Then it's headlong into summer!
Related Posts with Thumbnails