Monday, April 18, 2011

Combined Test Results (videos are finally uploaded!)

Yes, this post is really late because I said that I would write how the show went the day of or day after and, well, it's Monday night and that was Saturday morning. Sorry!

Well, as far as placings go we didn't place well (12th out of 15th I think we ended up) but as far as our performance went, we did pretty well! Unfortunately, we did not reach our goal of a dressage score that began with a 3 but we came close: we got a 41. And while that is not the best dressage score in the world, we got some decent scores on things that I have been working hard on improving such as our halts and our canter to trot transitions. It was 39 degrees out, cold, windy, breezy, the dressage warm-up was small and there were a lot of horses. All that did not equal a calm, sane, soft, relaxed Ben. Rather that equaled a tight, tense, ticking bomb, bucking, spooking, resistant Ben that couldn't pay attention to me for more than 3 seconds at a time...

So I was pretty happy with the test considering. We also had to ride in the standard size dressage arena because there were some upper level straight dressage tests being ridden in our arena later in the day. I didn't think that I would like riding in the ring, but it gave me a lot of time to prepare transitions and rebalance him so I think it worked in our favor. I'm going to post the video of my test. We did Novice Test B which I'm not exactly a fan of: last time we did that test we got a 51... A ten point improvement isn't so bad!

We had a little temper tantrum in a corner early on, a little buck in our right canter which understandably earned us a 5 on that movement, especially because it caused me to make our circle rather egg shaped, his roundness was certainly inconsistent and I was a little hunched over instead of sitting up straight, but there were definitely some good moments. However, this is certainly not as good as we can be. When Ben is on his best behavior, we could probably march into a dressage ring and score a 20-something but Ben is hardly ever on his best behavior at shows...

So with due warning here is our test:

Now for stadium...
I walked the stadium course when it was set for Training height. Normal Training height, all the fences were between 3 feet and 3'3". Well, then they go to lower the jumps for Novice and they put them down at least 5 holes... I don't think one of those jumps was bigger than 2'3", 2'6" tops. That was frustrating because this is my only outing before our first event that is going to be real Novice height. A lot of people were frustrated with it.

The course was really simple as well, lots of lines, of course every single line walked a half-stride distance which was not great for me and Ben. I decided I was just going to ride each jump of the line like a single fence and not worry about the distance in between, just the distance to each fence. The course was a single vertical on the diagonal, to a line vertical to oxer on the other diagonal, to a line on the long side, to another line on the diagonal, to a two-stride combination on the other long side, to a vertical on the diagonal. Nothing special...

We had quite the interesting ride and there was a lot of funky distances, extra strides, and a little bit of bucking involved but we came out alive and double clear. I'll post the video of that too. The bucking came after fence three but my friend was taping and only caught the beginning and the end of it...

So here you go:

For the first outing of the season I would say it was a success although I am trying to find another combined test to do that is actually Novice height so that I'll feel more comfortable going cross country at the first event of the season next month. Once again, sorry I was a little late on the update!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Sorry I missed a few days... Life has been busy!

May I just tell you that my horse had been absolutely AMAZING since I last posted? It's like he's a completely different horse! Although I am sure that it is more I am just riding him better because I have been sore after riding him for a few days in a row now so I must be riding him differently. He has also developed quite a bit more muscle and Mr. Benjamin actually has a topline now! YAY!

So hopefully he will keep all this up at least until after our dressage test at the 2-phase tomorrow... I am so excited for the show season to start! I'm just getting all of my stuff organized to bring to the barn and then I'm headed up there to get Ben all handsomefied for the show tomorrow. I have a 9:30 am dressage time which isn't terrible and the farm the show is at is only a little less than an hour away so all is good! My stadium is about 11:30 and I'm one of the last people in my division to go so we should be out of there by noon.

There are fourteen people in my division which surprised me quite a bit because this is just a tiny little schooling combined test. I believe that last year at a similar combined test at the same place there were only four in the Novice. I guess everybody is ready for the show season to begin!

A few of my goals for this show:
- I would really really really really really like a dressage score that starts with a 3. I don't even care if it was a 39.9 as long as it starts with a three. My lowest dressage score I've ever had with Ben was a 37. I've gotten a 37 twice. Ironically enough, that was at our first two shows, a combined test and full horse trials both at Beginner Novice. 

-Another goal is to have a clean stadium round. That should be simple because even though this is a Novice combined test the prizelist says that the jumps aren't going to be higher than 2'9" as opposed to the normal Novice level height of 2'11". It'd be nice if we had a nice rhythmical round as well.

-And I wouldn't really call this a goal because I'm not one of those people who only shows for the ribbons but it'd be nice to bring one home, even a sixth place one!

So I'm off to finish being obsessive compulsive about organizing everything for the show. My living room is absolutely covered in everything from show shirts, to horse boots, to saddle pads, and everything else you can imagine... I will be sure to give a show update tomorrow with pictures and videos!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rain, rain, go away...

I hate this weather. It's April, it needs to be warm and sunny!

So I won't be riding today as we only have an outdoor and, as the title of this post suggests, it's kind of raining outside. Yuck!

So we had our jumping lesson on Saturday as planned. Flatwork was pretty good actually especially since he had Friday off due to, you guessed it, more rain... Then we started jumping and we warmed up over a tiny vertical with placing poles on either side. We trotted in, cantered out. That really got Ben jumping with a nice, round bascule. Then the jump went up to 2'6" and we cantered into it. The first few times went well. We met the pole nicely, and while the distance was certainly tight for him (that was the point of the exercise) he managed to do it correctly every time.

Of course, nothing can go perfectly all of the time...

That being said, we of course came around the corner, met the pole on a perfect half-stride, then proceeded to stretch over the placing pole and crash through the fence. Then I proceeded to slide up his neck, catch myself, attempt to sit back, scare the crap out of my horse because I was hanging off the side of him, cause him to spook and jump right out from underneath me, and that is how I ended up on the ground.

We were both fine and I hopped right back on and my trainer put the combination into three cantering poles which we popped through twice, then she put it back up. We popped through two more times without a problem and then we did a course which actually went fantastically!

We did a vertical on the outside, oxer on the diagonal, bending line back to the first vertical in the opposite direction, outside line (same one that we failed at Tuesday night), then other diagonal to a skinny that we had a really long approach to.

The first jump went fantastically. Then it was a really tight turn to the oxer on the diagonal so we got there kind of close but he jumped UP and OVER instead of throwing his shoulders over, which is such a nice improvement! Back to the vertical in 4 strides which also went very nicely. Then we turned to the outside line, where he added a stride before the first of the line like a good boy. Then we jumped down the line in a quiet, even, balanced four strides. Who is this horse? Finished up with the skinny on the long approach where he was a tad wiggly but jumped it just fine.

So besides the whole falling off thing, it was a very successful lesson and I feel much better about his jumping! Then yesterday I woke up kind of sore from the fall so I passed on my original plans of doing conditioning sets on the loop and lunged him in the surcingle with side reins instead. He was a very good, quiet boy for that and he looked fantastic.

So tomorrow we have a jumping lesson and Wednesday a dressage lesson. Then Thursday is spring shots day. Busy week! Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jumping Update and a Dressage Lesson. PLUS: It's Ben's Birthday!

So happy 9th birthday to Ben! Someone needs to tell him he's not a baby anymore and he can't do silly baby things and get away with them...

Well I didn't get pictures or videos because I didn't do much with my gridwork session because Ben thought it would be a fabulous day to be all spooky and bucky and sidewaysey. We did do a little bit but not a terrible amount and nothing that I really thought was worth filming.

The grid I set up was placing pole, 9 feet to crossrail, 9 feet to placing pole, 9 feet to vertical, 10.5 feet to placing pole, 10.5 feet to oxer. So in other words it was crossrail, one stride, vertical, one stride, oxer, with placing poles in between the fences. Original, I know, but it ended up working well for him. I originally planned to warm him up over the grid with lowish jumps and then maybe hike them up to 3' - 3'3" but we ended up not doing that because I wanted to end on a good note and he was jumping through really well. So we had just the crossrail, the vertical was like 2'3" and the oxer was like 2'6". Nothing terribly special or exciting but like I said, it worked well for him and he was really rounding over the fences nicely. I would have appreciated if he hadn't decided to buck after every time we went through the grid but I guess you win some, you lose some...

On a less stellar note, we had a dressage lesson yesterday just as we do every Thursday afternoon. Trailered over to my trainer's place, tacked up in the indoor because it was pouring out, started to lunge. Now, he was actually pretty good for lunging considering there were three horses in the ring that is only 20 x 40 meters, one which he had never seen before, and it was pouring on the TIN roof so that was quite a distraction. So, while lunging was a little quick and disorganized, I was proud of him for keeping his head for the most part.

So we did a little in-hand work and hopped on. The walk work was pretty good, as was the trot work. He was a little quick and rushy and definitely not as good as he can be but he was okay and I was willing to take it. And then it was our turn to canter...

We were going to do our "serpentine exercise" where you make one 20 meter circle at one end, cut across, walk at X, change direction, canter a 20 meter circle in the new direction, walk at X, change direction, canter 20 meter circle in new direction, and so on. Well, Ben wanted nothing to do with the whole cantering thing because all his friends were standing on the whole other side of the ring and besides, this whole walk-canter-walk thing is hard! Well, I told him he had to do it anyway, and once his objections with bucking and spinning fits were not getting him anywhere, he just decided he was going to either stop or back up, and not go forward. At all. Well, needless to say he did not get his way and we actually had a few decent transitions but the whole not wanting to go forward thing lasted a good 10 minutes. Silly horse. He's lucky its his birthday today...

Today its rainy and yucky which means poor Ben is stuck inside on his birthday. I was also going to do some conditioning with him on the 'loop' as we call it. It's a little circular dirt path that goes around our grass field. It's about 1/8th of a mile long and it has two short but steep hills, so we condition on that. Ben enjoys getting to gallop around out there (sometimes a little too much...) and I haven't really galloped since our last event of the season in October so I was looking forward to it too. But I'm sure it's nice and muddy and it's not worth it to risk damaging his legs. Maybe the footing in the ring will be nice enough to do some walk/trot stuff for a bit.

Saturday we have another jumping lesson which will hopefully go better than the first one of this week did. I'll let you know about that. Only 15 days until out first show of the season! Can't wait!