Monday, April 16, 2012

Mystic Combined Test Results

Hello everyone! This post is now officially really late and I apologize!

So, combined test...

Ben started off really calmly, he walked off the trailer, looked around a little, and started grazing. This is particularly good for him because he normally comes flying off the trailer, and prances around for a good twenty minutes before finally semi-settling down.

He got a little more revved when I went to lunge him and there was some bucking and calling and galloping around on the lunge line, but he did calm down eventually. I got on him and he was jigging all over the place like he used to do all the time. So I just took a deep breath and pushed him into a trot and he calmed right down and was absolutely perfect. He warmed up fantastically, didn't spook or buck or freak out once, and just felt amazing!

Our test was really quite good. Our centerline was calm, quiet, and on the bit although a tad wiggly. We nailed our turn across the middle that makes me hate Novice B oh so much, and we got 7s on both of them (yay!), our left 20 meter circle was good except for one little blunder in the first 1/4 where he lost his balance a bit and took somewhat of a tranter stride. Then came our left canter transition where Ben decided to show his dislike for dressage by kicking out into it and then picking up the wrong lead. We understandably earned a 4 on that particular movement. We got our act together and did our left canter circle pretty nicely and had an okay trot transition. Then we nailed out other turn across the middle, and our right 20 meter circle, and our right canter transition, and our right canter circle was pretty good too. The trot transition was alright and the walk transition was slightly late but still pretty good. The free walk was great until he decided to trot... And the last centerline and halt were decent too. We earned a 40.5 which put us into fifth out of eight, which I was pleased with. I thought maybe the judge was a little harsh on a couple of things but its okay, I was thrilled with Ben and at that point, I didn't really care what our score was!!

So here is out test:

After that, we went and walked stadium which seemed to be a very straightforward course. 'Seemed' being the operative word there... Your basic diaganol, diaganol line, outside line, diaganol line, outside combination. But we'll get to that later...

We rode Beginner Novice Test A because I wanted to get some feedback on it because that is the test we will be doing for the first two events of the season. He was fabulous for it! Our entrance was good although he braced slightly in the first corner which cut our score for that to a 6. He was super good for his first trot circle and decided that he again really didn't like the left canter transition. I swear he didn't give me one issue with it in warm up all day! But our left canter circle was pretty good and our trot transition was great (even though we got a 6... okay then). His trot-walk transition was fabulous! (Again though, a 6... with the comment "needs to be more active." Err... I don't know what horse she was watching because it certainly couldn't have been mine...) I kept the free walk really quiet and conservative so he wouldn't trot so we got a five which was fine. Our transition up and trot to C was awesome and we got the comments "prompt and fluid" but we only got a 7. I know some judges almost never give an 8+ but friends of mine got 8s on their tests and I think if any of my movements deserved an 8, it was that one. Not entirely sure what the judge had against us but I really felt jipped. Our right trot circle was good aside from another itty bitty loss of balance, and our right canter transition was perfect. Again only earning a 7 with no comments. Right canter circle was pretty good, scored a 7 which I think was deserved. Canter-trot was great again, even though we still only got a 6... Last centerline was good and halt was square. We scored a 39.5 which, under normal circumstances, I would be thrilled with because it starts with a 3. But I really think that we should have scored between 35 and 37 and I couldn't help but feel annoyed that we put in such good tests and we got a higher score than we deserved. There were three of us doing this test and I tied for first place but the other rider's collective marks were a point higher, so we placed 2nd.

Here's the test:

Then came stadium. He warmed up really well. We went third in our division, and the two people before me had really rough rides around a seemingly simple course, particularly the last combination. Ben was a little looky to the first fence, it was a skinny, upright vertical, going away from the crowd but we cleared it fine. He got a little close to the first of the first line but jumped out fine. He looked a little hard at the fillers under the next line but also cleared those without issue. The last line rode very well. Then came the combination. In hindsight, there was a really dark shadow in front of the first of the two-stride. All of the horses peeked, a few had rails, one stopped, and one fell off. Ben peeked but went, but then had no impulsion for the second, a fairly solid 2'9" oxer. I figured we would circle around and try again, but Ben had other ideas. He basically jumped it from a standstill, and cleared it. Silly, crazy, freakishly athletic horse... So we jumped clean and ended in fifth.

Annoyingly enough, I didn't know my score until the end when they pinned us. They pinned me sixth, which I was fine with. And then I looked at the results online and realized I was actually fifth. I had a 40.5 final score and the girl they pinned ahead of me had a 41.5 final score. So that was annoying but what are you going to do?

So here is our stadium video:

And here is Ben and I with our (wrong colored!) ribbon:

So, in all I had a great day and am incredibly proud of my horse and I absolutely can't wait for eventing season to start! I have a jump school tomorrow with my trainer so I should have videos from that which I will share with you all at some point.

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This Is Why We Do It

So we went cross country schooling yesterday and Ben was an absolute STAR! He was so perfect, only bucked a handful of times, jumped everything without even peeking, and was so quiet!

We started off taking the trail to the little field that we warm up in. Its about a mile to the cross country course so we trotted along the trails to get there. Then we did some basic flatwork on varied terrain which he was awesome for! He was in this gorgeous frame the entire time which bodes extremely well for his behavior off property at shows. Here's hoping he's this good on Saturday for the combined test!

Then we trotted and cantered over a little log and then cantered a bending line from the log to a stone wall to warm up. Then we put a couple of little courses together where I jumped the log to stone wall bending line, left turn to another stone wall with a significant drop on the other sides, handful of strides to a bank up. Then we turned around and dropped down the bank, did some on-the-buckle Lucinda Green steering back over the stone wall, to a log vertical, to a hogsback type fence. He was awesome for that, even though I basically had no reins and therefore no control. I was just praying that he wouldn't buck, because if he did I would've been a goner!

After that we moved on into the woods where we popped over some stacked logs and a cordwood a bunch of times. He was super for that too despite one moment where he got a little excited because he chipped and jumped over his shoulder. Then we moved out into the fields where the main cross country course is. This is where the video picks up.

We started jumping a coop to a hanging log then wrapping around what is called "The Point" and coming back to the hanging log to the helsinki fence. He was super for all of this except for a brief moment when he got halfway through the course and realized the group was way back there, stopped, and tried to turn and run back. After a brief discussion, we were back on track and he wasn't going to try that again ;-)

Then we put together another course involving a log set at the top of a short incline, right turn to a road crossing combination where the approach to the second fence is significantly downhill. He was really good about that. Then we went up a steep hill to a bank up, to a mini-trakehner, three strides to a plank fence. Sharp left turn to some stacked logs, an even sharper left turn to a coop. Then back down the bank and back over the road crossing the other direction. Then we put the first and second courses together. He was a star for all of this!

Then we went out of the start box and over the first two fences of the cross country course which he was super about, except for getting close to the first log and jumping over his shoulder. Then we jumped a sawmill fence at the top of the hill, galloped down the hill (It's been my goal to trust him to gallop downhill forever and we did it!), over a house then down the road over a barn jump.

Lastly, we jumped a coffin! Ditch and all! So that was super exciting because he hardly gave me any trouble at all. We walked up to just the ditch first and he launched himself over it, clearing it by about 3 feet (unfortunately I do not have that on video!), and then we just put the coffin together and cantered up to it. He looked but went! And the second time he barely peeked. As a matter of fact he got a little over confident and got a little bucky coming down to the ditch the last time which you will see on the video.

I am SO pleased with him, I can't wait for Saturday, I can't wait for the first event of the season in a month, and I think we are going to have a good season!

Without further ado, here is the video:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Goal Review

I was looking over my short term goals that I had listed under the 'Goals' tab on the blog homepage and I decided that the timeframe I gave myself to complete those goals is pretty much up. So I figured I would list them and go over them to see what I accomplished and what I did not.

Goal 1: Compete Well In The Jumpers This Year

Check! Funnily enough, all I meant by this was to jump around calm and clear. I never dreamed of doing as well as we did this year!

Goal 2: Perfect Walk-Canter-Walk Transitions And Counter-Canter

Ehh. Well, the walk to canter is pretty much perfected. We still have to work really hard to get anything slightly resembling canter-walk. However, in Ben's defense, I hardly ever work on canter-walk so it truly is my fault that he isn't better at them by now. I think if I had been working on those as religiously as I had been working on walk-canter, he'd have perfected those too. As for counter-canter... far from perfected. It was really coming along until I taught him his changes. He now sees no need for counter canter. No matter how hard I try to get him to keep his lead, he changes. So we're working on that... He can pick up either lead from the walk, he just won't keep the counter canter for more than a few strides before changing. We'll figure it out!

Goal 3: Start Teaching Ben His Changes

Well we started and finished. He's got them down now. We even did three-tempis down the diaganol the other day. (Not very prettily but whose complaining?) So this goal is a big fat check as well.

Goal 4: Show Dressage At First Level

This goal really should have gone in Mid-Term Goals, and I am putting it there now because my dressage trainer doesn't even show in the winter. I am not entirely sure why I put it in the Short-Term Goals in the first place. We have been working on a few movements from the First Level tests, but have not even come close to showing it.

Goal 5: Get More Consistent In Dressage Work

CHECK! Seriously, this just started to come together and I can't even explain how excited I am about it. We have worked so long and so hard and to finally be able to feel like he really knows what he is doing is amazing. He has been absolutely fantastic the past couple of weeks and I am so excited for show season. I really believe that we are ready to step it up this season.

Goal 6: Stay Motivated Throughout The Winter

Check. There were only very few times when I felt like I had nothing to do and didn't feel like riding. And when that happened I just thought about how lucky I was to have such a mild winter and have such a nice ring to ride in. Then I would pull out some book, find something to work on that looked interesting, and trudge on. I thought it would be a lot more difficult to keep up the motivation for the entire winter.

Goal 7: Really Work On Building An Uphill Canter With A Steady But Forward Rhythm

This is not a complete check but we're almost there. He has a pretty decent canter for the first few transitions up, but then he gets tired and starts to fall apart. Which is fine for now, he'll start to build up the muscles to hold himself up for longer periods and in the mean time, I just have to know that we can't do too much cantering in the warm up before a test. His canter is definitely more uphill, he is definitely more consistent in his frame, and he bends fairly nicely to the left. The right bend is a little sticky but we've been overcoming that issue. He does still struggle a bit with keeping a quiet rhythm without "trantering" and losing the purity of the gait. I do a lot of forward and back when this happens which seems to help a lot. So this goal is still a work in progress, but is coming along nicely.

Goal 8: Jump A Lot Of Gymnastics This Winter

I wouldn't say that we jumped A LOT of gymnastics this winter. We did some, and we did other exercises to improve his jumping like placing poles and the like, but I probably didn't do as much as I originally intended to do when I wrote that goal.

So, overall, I think we did fairly well at accomplishing our Short Term Goals and I think we had a very successful winter. I will be updating the goals because now, most of the Mid Term Goals will end up being Short Term Goals.

I threw together a short little video of our jump school the other day. The jump school was from last Wednesday, the 4th. He was a saint and saved my butt numerous times because I kept burying the poor thing into every single fence. He is so honest! Jumps ranged from 2'6" to 3'3". I had a 2'9" one stride which he helped me out of A LOT. The first time I buried him and he jumped crooked, and actually just ended up jumping over the blocks of the second fence (!), the second time he just couldn't get his legs out of the way and took the whole jump with him, third time he made it out clear even though I completely buried him yet again, and the final time we went through was actually really decent. Buried him into the 3'3" so he jumped it really badly over his shoulder but somehow still managed to clear it, and he got a bit close to the oxer everytime (which was about 2'9" high, 3' wide) but jumped it well enough anyway. So not the prettiest thing you will ever watch but its the first time we've jumped a course over 2'6" in quite a while.

Today we're off to cross country school. It will be the debut of the Point Two vest and I am hoping NOT to inflate it! I also got my helmet cam up and running yesterday but still haven't decided if I will wear it today or not because I really hate the helmet that it is attached to. I would love to have the footage, but can't decide if its worth it. We shall see!

As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Ben!

Ben turned 10 today!

I tried to give him a cupcake but he's always hated people food, so it ended up spat onto the ground. He was far happier with the carrots!

I then gave him an awesome groom, he was so shiny and soft, only to turn him back out and have him immediately roll... Ehh, its his birthday, he can do what he wants today :-)

He got the day off, partly because its his birthday, but mainly because he has been SUCH a superstar the past few days. His dressage work is coming along so nicely and I am so incredibly excited for show season to start. We're going cross country schooling at Lord Creek Farm on April 10th and then we have the combined test on the 14th. We're off to Rolex (my first time ever!) on the 26th and then the first event of the year is on May 12th! The early spring is definitely a busy time of year!

In honor of Ben's birthday, I thought I would share some old pictures from when we first bought him:

A lesson early on in our training. This is how he went around all of the time, we've come a LONG way!
Sunbathing out in his paddock.
A clinic at Lord Creek, our very first off property outing together. Also where I discovered I had bought  a bit of a psycho horse!
Dressage warm-up at his very first show, a combined test at Mystic Valley Hunt Club.
Before heading out on cross country at his very first event, where we placed 3rd after finishing on our dressage score!

The first day of our trial period, look at the size of his neck!

So that was a bit of a walk down memory lane. Its awesome to be able to look back and see how far we have come. I'll be around with updates and hopefully videos. As always, thanks for reading, you guys are the best!