Monday, May 30, 2016

Act II: Show Recap 5/29

After a horrible night of sleep I woke up to my alarm at 5:30am and rolled out of bed. I put on my show clothes, made coffee and loaded myself into my car. I was running pretty early (nerves?) so I got to the barn earlier than planned at around 6:15am.

One of my other barn mates had arrived earlier and fed all three horses from our barn so Katai already had her grain and hay and was calmly eating. L got there right around me and we spent a little time getting our tack back out of our cars and in the isle. Of course, as soon as we got everything out it started to rain, first light and then fairly heavy. We were crossing our fingers that it would end by 7:30 when we planned to pull the horses out for some lunging/hand walking.

Luckily, almost on cue, the rain stopped and switched to some random spots of mist so we took that as a sign and got tacked up. Katai was decent in her stall and listened while I got her saddle on. She even snacked on her hay and drank some water while I was there. L finished first so she pulled her youngster (who was still quite calm) out and brought him to a back field to lunge. Since lunging isn't part of Katai's routine and it often just causes her to gallop and spin like a top, I elected to just walk her over to the cluster of show rings and into the midst of everything.

One of the quieter moments
On Saturday she had been quite calm, not sure if it was the relatively quieter environment or the Quietex, but on Sunday that wasn't the case. Pony was quite prancy, did some rearing and carrying on, and fussed in general. She was a little worried about umbrellas but mainly she just was high as a kite and didn't want to listen or pay attention to me.

I knew that it would be better if I just got on so that I could allow her to move forward. Only problem was getting on since she didn't want to stand by the mounting block for more than half a second. I just kept her moving, did some schooling and pats for standing for even a moment in that corner, and eventually got her to stand for a very brief period of time so that I could jump on.

Warmup - small dressage ring in the background
As soon as I got my second stirrup picked up I got her into a trot and had nothing to fault her for in the warmup. She was, again, really, really, really good! She was a little nervy about the horses running around in warmup (there were a bunch of kids on hunter/jumper ponies that were doing a lot of random canter shapes and coming up behind us) but really listened. She was forward and didn't have any tantrums and was evening listening to my half halts and slowing cues. We did some walk and trot and it was a huge success. I was riding right after L in the big ring, across from the warm up we were in, and my goal was to trot the whole time that L was riding so that she'd be quiet when we crossed over to the big ring.

I judged it as a huge success that I actually got her in the big ring since there was a LOT to look at over there. Then it became a bit rough. On Saturday Katai was fine with the closed up trailer that would serve as the judge's stand but I figured she'd have an issue with the open trailer with people in it. I was right and she slammed on the brakes as I went to pass it while we were still warming up outside the ring. I decided to pick my battle and looped her back around the other way. It paid off and I got her past in that direction but it still wasn't good and she was hot and upset. She started to spin and went to rear and I let the judge know that I was "ready" since I figured getting her in and moving was better than continuing to do loops at that point.

One of the good moments
Again I was proud that I actually got her in the ring and then we did our own version of the test including a shoulder in (or was it a haunches out) all the way to the halt at X where we did actually sort of halt. I sort of did a salute and then did a trot but sort of didn't make it to C. Whenever we were going away from the judge's trailer she was quite good but going towards it she was very reluctant and worried.

Another really nice moment - L's 4 year old in the background looking like an expert show horse
We did another sort of shoulder in thing, sideways to the final halt (which in test C is of course very close to the judge) and again, we actually halted, probably only because Katai wasn't willing to get any closer to that trailer.

Pretty square based on our trajectory!

It felt a bit like a disaster based on how well she'd done in the warmup but mainly I'm just glad that we pretty much got through the test, sans canter. L congratulated me and let me know that she was very proud and that I should be too. She said that we had moments of brilliance :)

At any rate I decided to scratch Intro A. We would have had to put Katai back in her stall for about an hour and then go back out there. I doubted that I could do it, plus I wanted to make this as positive and easy as possible and getting untacked and tacked again plus just trying to mount the fire breathing dragon just didn't seem possible at that point. What you can't see in these photos is that as soon as I dismounted after our test she quickly lathered up with sweat and was clearly at her limit.

I was reading for L's second test, Intro B, and we didn't have much time so we got both horses back to their stalls. At that point Katai's brain had completed the process of oozing out of her ears and she completely lost it in her stall.

Tantrum level Unicorn
She spent nearly the entire half hour we spent back at stabling on her hind legs. We think that she was so in heat that she NEEDED other horses and was trying to see over the partition. It was painful to stand there and, thankfully, while she can be a bit nuts she's also intelligent and very aware of herself so she never actually does anything stupid. Plus we knew that once I left she'd be better so I headed over to the small ring to wait for L and find someone with a test B for me to read from.

L had a REALLY good intro test B on her baby and we found out later that she scored a 65% with a couple of 8s and despite at least one 4. By that point her horse had lost his brain a little as well only for him it meant being tired and withdrawn. L and I brought him back to the barn, witnessed more craziness from Katai, and got our tests. I ended up with a 35.25% on my test which was very fair and accurate based on how Katai behaved.

The smily face shows me that we were crap this time and she gave us an accurate score but she has hope for us ;)
We quickly moved to load up and, based on how things went the previous day we loaded up L's horse first. He took about 10 minutes and then I walked Katai right in. I was really proud of her and despite all of her circling, screaming, calling, trying to run me over, rearing, rearing and flailing into me, and just generally loosing her crap, we got there and did what we meant to do.

We got back to the barn by around 10:30am so our show day was short and sweet (don't ask Katai cause I'm sure she'll have a different story). I went home and chilled the rest of the evening and was really glad that it was Memorial Day weekend so that I'd have another day off.

** The beautiful photos were taken by a friend who we used to board with at the last barn and who also takes lessons from L.

She also took this photo and her horse is the bay Arabian

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Act I: Show Recap 5/29

First off, we survived!! There were some rough moments but I'm pumped to have finished our first show together and nothing will be tougher than this first time.

To start off my show "weekend" I planned to get to the barn around 2:30pm on Saturday, bathe the pony, give her some Quietex, and give her a chance to dry before leaving for the show grounds around 4:30pm. On the drive up there I decided that my only goal for the show was to try to make it as good of experience for Katai as I could and to focus on being in the moment and not worrying about anything.

I started off on the right foot when I got to the barn. L was there and I just set to getting my stuff packed and Katai bathed. She was quite offended that I gave her half the tube of paste but then went to a "drugged out" happy place pretty quick. I gave her a bath with no small amount of my purple whitening shampoo and then put her back in her stall with a cooler to dry out.

While I finished getting my tack packed in my car I heard that there was an issue with the hitch for the trailer that L was borrowing and her SO, who was hauling us with his truck, was trying to find a different ball or hitch. There were several phone calls back and forth and then he found a solution and was on his way. He got to the barn pretty quick and we started loading just before 5:00 right after a downpour went through which was a good indicator of how our Sunday would go.

I have been extremely confident that Katai would load (based on the last few experiences) but of course she decided to prove me wrong. We tried the "nice" way first with some grain bribes but eventually I asked for a dressage whip and we had a bit of a "come to jesus" meeting. It wasn't the way that I wanted to start our weekend but eventually she stepped politely on the trailer. She bounced around while L loaded her very quiet and well behaved 4 year old gelding and then we were off.

At the show ground both horses unloaded well, except that Katai was fairly stressy and sweating from her eyeballs, and we put them in their stalls. Katai started eating right away which I was happy about because normally she won't eat at all if she's stressed. She did some screaming and pacing but mostly she wasn't bad. Since she was still pretty stressy we decided to tack up both horses and lunge/walk them over to the ring and see who they were doing before we decided if/when we were going to ride.

Overnight show stabling
Katai was prancy and a bit bratty, but mainly remembering her manners, on the way over to the ring but L's 4 year old was calm and cool as a cucumber. He was calm and sweet and didn't put a foot wrong so was a good example for my 8 year old :) It was drizzling a bit but luckily not raining, which we had been expecting, which was nice!

Main barn
Amazingly, after a little lunging at a walk/trot in each direction in the warm up ring Katai was doing well enough that I climbed on. She was actually really, really, really good once I was on. She listened, was calm, and I rode her all over the warm up ring and small show ring as well as the large show ring. She didn't balk at anything and didn't have any real spooks. I did a bunch of walk, mostly on a loose rein and a bunch of trot. Both L and I kept it pretty short and sweet since we wanted to end while they were still behaving well.

Actually from Sunday while we were hiding from the rain but it's a good picture of the pony in her stall.
We put them back in their stalls and Katai lost her mind. She was throwing herself against the walls and screaming. She nearly took out her bucket twice and wouldn't eat. We fed her her grain and she quieted down and ate and then we left, hoping that she would do better without us standing outside of her stall. Indeed, as we stood out of her site by our vehicles and talked we only heard a scream or two. L and her SO left to get food and I stuck around a little longer to spy on her a little and make sure that she was getting quieter.

I checked on her again after getting my car organized and she was quiet until she spotted me and then got a bit wild again so I made the call to leave and crossed my fingers that I wouldn't get a call that my pony was still wild and screaming later that night. I got home around 8:45, got a few more things organized and packed for the next day and then crawled into bed around 10:00 with an alarm set to wake up around 5:30am.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Big Show

It's nearly here!!!

Katai and my first show is tomorrow and I'm freaking out a little. Tonight will actually be the scariest part of the experience since L and I are going to trailer our young horses over and she's going to give me a lesson. Katai has never been ridden right after being trailered somewhere and she can be a handful even in her normal environment.

Kissable Nose :-)
In fact, last night I did a ride and my goal was to just trot forward, not nag or micro manage, and do some canter in each direction. That, however, was not Katai's plan and she came out of her stall in quite a mood. Even in the cross ties she was abnormally crabby and even though I was baby talking to her and really taking things easy she wasn't all about that.

Our ride was pretty rough. I was proud of myself because I didn't escalate but I did continue to have expectations of her and didn't throw my hands in the air at any point. I was actually proud of the way she handled it because other than not being willing to travel straight at the walk she was really listening to my corrections and changing her way of going based on my feedback. I also suspect that she may have been in heat which might actually be ok since I'm sure she'll go into heat at the show tomorrow no matter what.

Little hussy ;)

I've got most of my stuff together and just finishing up packing now. I'm leaving around 2:00pm so that I can bathe her and get all my tack together before 4:30 when we're going to trailer over to the grounds.

Wish us luck!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Different Experience: Lesson Recap 5/22

Right at the start of my lesson L asked if I'd like to ride her 4 year old warmblood while she's out of town. I feel like that's such a compliment since 4 year olds in particular are so moldable. I feel like it's a huge compliment to my riding that L trusts me to ride her greenie.

She is having a trainer ride him two days per week but wants me to put the other two rides on him for two weeks while she is out since that's what she would normally be doing. Next week we're going to swap rides one evening and she'll ride Katai while I ride her horse. That way she can give me some tips and make sure that I'll be on the right track with him for her time away.

Minor mare meltdown, maybe she didn't think she was having a good hair day?
I will be gone for awhile during that time as well, June 6th - June 10th, so the weekend before and the weekend after I'll be riding/lunging two horses each day. Because of that unfortunately L won't be able to give Katai any trainer rides during that time but we're going to find a way for her to do some at some point soon.

I had a great lesson this weekend. Katai is getting to be such a grown up and really becoming a fun ride. We worked primarily on trot and did just a bit of canter with lots of walk breaks since we had another 30 degree temperature swing that put us in the 80s that day. Inside it was cooler but still hot and humid and pony got pretty sweated up pretty quick.

Sunny hand grazing this evening after a great ride
After a nice long walk break we went back to trot, L wanted to make sure that Katai can roll with the punches, and we had an AMAZING trot!!! It was seriously nice and L said, with a big smile on her face, that if we could get that trot we'd do VERY well.

Love that little drizzle of white down her jaw
So that's my goal, get that trot at the show, even if it's not in the ring I'd like to get that trot.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Getting Ready For the Shit Show

First I just want to explain that I'm not actually as negative about this as I've been coming off in my blog. I'm seriously thrilled just to have the opportunity to trailer Katai off property much less the fact that we are finally SHOWING!!! I'm so freaking excited about that that I can't even tell you.

The reason that I'm talking about the show like this is that honestly that's what I'm expecting. I'm putting on my horse training hat (for the first time in awhile it feels like) and going into this with the idea that there are going to be lots of great teachable moments and while that's a win, it won't be the show as much the environment around the show. I KNOW that Katai will be a handful, I also know that I can handle everything she throws at me.

I'm also thinking and talking about it this way so that I don't have any unrealistic expectations. I'm hoping that she's going to surprise me and be sort of laid back, but I don't think she will be. If she is It will be a happy surprise and I'll change my expectations.

I'm also not going at this with any sort of negativity or hopelessness. I've been doing a lot of visualization of things going really well, Katai being really calm and listening, and getting successfully through each test just as though we were at home. I'm firmly confident that we'll get completely through at least our second test and I have no concerns about falling off, getting hurt, or not being able to get her on the trailer for example. Only that, like I mentioned, there will be lots of good teachable moments.

Moving on, I've had a lot to do since I've never really shown before. I didn't have any type of shirt to wear or a saddle pad or anything. I'd picked up a few things ahead of time like this extremely "cool" sleazy hood (pony is primarily white after all)

and this saddle pad from Horze
plus a white polo shirt type show shirt but pretty much everything else will just be what I already had. For schooling shows at least my field boots, Katai's saddle, and bridle will all be perfectly fine. My helmet is the fanciest thing I have but unfortunately if it's warm out I may end up needing to wear my old helmet so I don't get a headache.

I didn't love the idea of wearing white breaches and a white shirt so I got a black, short sleeved show shirt from Kerrits.
Then ended up not being able to find a pair of white breeches that fit and that weren't ugly and weren't incredibly expensive and of course I don't need them so I'll be wearing some of my regular grey breeches and either the white or black show shirt. I'll be excited to do some more shopping for show clothes this winter as I'm planning for a, hopefully, slightly more competitive 2017 show season.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Vets and Farriers

*My post from yesterday has formatting issues that I'm having trouble fixing. I'm going to go back and get it fixed but I pulled it for now until I can.

It's the time of year for spring shots and of course this year I needed my Coggins by the first show (actually going to drop it off today so that I don't have to remember it next weekend) so Katai was seen by the vet last month. Because a mistake was made with paperwork processing I didn't get my paperwork until just last week (this happened to me last year too).

I looked it over when it got here and was surprised to see this.

Of course she had to roll and give herself these spots before her pictures. In the second photo you can tell that she's second guessing it though. Also, not a bad conformation shot in the first one ;)
It's not like I really know how old Katai is so I wouldn't be at all surprised if I got her age wrong but I've been pretty sure that she's 7-8 and not 9. First of all, these pictures in 2013 from about 6 months after I got her.

Look at how butt high she is here
She does not look like a 6 year old pony here. Maybe a 6 year old warmblood but not a 6 year old pony. I would have guessed 3-4 honestly between her physical and mental maturity. However, the vet was at the barn without me and no one at the barn remembers Katai's age so I can only imagine that he looked at her teeth. I know that teeth don't lie and honestly it doesn't really matter to me what her age is. She's as old as she is and she will get as old as she'll get, knowing her actual age doesn't change it.

However, I was so surprised that I looked back through her records to see if I could find any additional information and I found this.

Sorry it's blurry but it has her birthdate as 1/1/2008
There are three big vet clinics in the area. One is the very highly respected University of MN vet hospital. This is where most people send their horses for major surgery if they have the choice and it's just known, locally anyway, for it's amazing care. That is who this age came from and again, no one would have told the her age so they would have been aging her by her teeth. This would make her 8 this year which is closer to what I was thinking. The vet that saw her this spring is the other most respected vet in the area and is the other place that people will take horses for surgery or emergencies so I trust them as well.

Finally, I went back to the first Coggins I got on her (again from the clinic that just saw her this spring) and saw this. 

Another 1/1/2007 birthdate
I was at this appointment but I remember that he checked her teeth. I actually don't think that I ever really looked at this age and certainly don't remember it coming up but at the time I had two ponies and a dog being seen and Katai was a handful so I maybe just didn't retain it.

Either way, it really doesn't matter, I just think it's interesting and one of the reasons that I'd like to get a pony that's registered next time, just to take some of the guesswork out of it.

Then yesterday I had planned for the trimmer and was going to get off work a bit early to head to the barn when I got this.

Whatever her age is, she's really becoming a mature lady and that makes me very happy.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Trainer Ride: Lesson Recap 5/15

I really enjoy having an instructor that can ride my horse occasionally since I feel like it's such a great way for her to really feel what's going on in a way that she may not always be able to see from the ground (although L is damn good at seeing what's going on from the ground). It was actually part of why I decided to take lessons with L since not only was she willing and able to ride but she was small enough to ride my smallish dressage pony in a way that another instructor might not have been.

With that in mind, I really don't want to go more than a few months without having her hop on and make sure that I'm not setting Katai up with any habits. I have a pretty good feel for when something isn't going the way that it should but I'm not nearly the rider that L is. So, at my last lesson I brought up that I wanted L to ride Katai again soon. I mentioned that we could wait until after the show but L said that she wanted to ride at the lesson today instead. Then I'll have two more (since I'm getting a lesson at the show grounds) lessons before the show.

Love the extra fluffy mane in this one
In the meantime L had three lessons scheduled to ride with Susanne Winslade but found out that two of her client horses that she'd planned on riding were lame. When she mentioned it to Susanne apparently Susanne made a comment along the lines of, "Too bad you can't ride that spectacular little pony that your student rode on Monday." L messaged me on Tuesday but unfortunately it just wasn't in the budget for me to pay for any additional lessons. At any rate I was thrilled to hear that Susanne really liked Katai and that L would have wanted to ride her in a lesson. The only comment that Susanne made was that Katai was really locked up on the left side which both L and I are aware of.

L started off working on just kind of figuring out where Katai was at since it's been quite some time since she rode last. Then she started working on getting her to release to the left. At first there was some not so pretty stuff but then she really did it and L really got her back up in that direction which is tough impossible for me to do.

After that she was working on doing some sitting trot, transitions within the trot, shoulder in, haunches in, and canter in each direction. There were some great moments, good moments, and not so good moments but Katai tried everything that L challenged her with. She had a few minor moments but absolutely no melt downs. I asked L how she felt and was extremely flattered when L said that I'd been doing a good job with her and that Katai felt great :-) L also mentioned that everything she was schooling was from 1st level! She said that some of it wasn't very good yet but still, it made me so happy to hear that she's getting to the point where we can at least school it!

A moment of sass
However, we were both annoyed to see that my saddle is really sliding forward again. Katai has lost some weight (in a totally good way as you can see from the photos) but it means that her saddle is sliding again and not necessarily a great fit anyway. We talked about getting the Prestige Lucky trial again (I'll be calling on Monday) and I'm really hoping that it will be the answer. L had to get off twice to adjust my saddle today which is demoralizing at best. I'll be riding her with the half pad again until I can get a saddle that fits.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Spring Favorites

It's maybe a little early for this since it's still feeling like spring here but to break up my monotonous, pony pictureless posts it would be good to do a review post. This time I'm going to do this a little differently since I've been trying to be careful with my budget recently and so haven't been buying much. I do, however, have a few not favorites that I'd like to share.

The Good

TuffRider Outer Armor High Neck Turnout

I have both the heavy and medium version of the blankets and I LOVE them. They fit my pony perfectly since they aren't made particularly deep (Katai looks like she's wearing her mom's dress in some other blankets) plus they make her look badass! I love the colors and details and the reflective strips make her easy to see in the dark :-) I've had the medium one (in navy) since 2013 and it still looks just like new. I got the black one more recently, 2015 maybe?, but that one has been holding up just as well so far.

Old, old picture but here is the blanket on my pretty girl

Higher Standards Leather Soap

Another one that I don't think I've talked about much but had for awhile. In fact my container is almost gone so I'm going to need to order some more soon!

Like everyone else that I've ever read a review from about this stuff I LOVE it. It works so well and smells fabulous, I've got the Rosemary Mint version. I'm weird and actually enjoy cleaning my tack but this soap makes me look forward to it even more since it just smells so nice and leaves my tack so clean and soft. I would highly recommend this over any other saddle soap that I've used.

Neue Schule Eggbutt

This one I know that I've talked about before but I haven't really done a review. I LOVE this bit. It's the only bit that I could find that actually sized the diameter of their mouth piece specifically for a pony's lower pallet. Otherwise I was looking at bridoons and hoping that I could find one in a narrow enough mouthpiece which was tough since Katai wears a 4.5" bit.

When I found the Neue Schule bits they were exactly what I was looking for, basically a pony friendly Sprenger so even though the price was pretty high I went ahead and decided to try them. I'm so glad that I did! Katai instantly was quiet and happy in this bit and it's never changed. I've never had the feeling that it would make sense to try a different bit and normally if she's having any type of evasion it's because I'm doing something funky with my hands and not because of anything I can actually attribute to the bit. She always has a nice, appropriately foamy mouth and normally just softly mouths the bit. Sometimes when we're asking her for something that's a little tougher she'll chomp a little but I'm not blaming that on the bit at all, just normal for my pony who can be a tough little nugget sometimes.

The only thing I can ever imagine doing to change out this bit is buying another of the same once this gets a bit more chewed up. Otherwise I think it's perfect!

My bit on Katai's old bridle

The Bad

Rambo Rain Sheet (no link since this is an older version that I can't find online)

I have nothing bad to say at all about Rambo blankets and sheets in general but this thing just doesn't fit my pony at all. It's a 66" (her normal blanket size) that I got second hand on Facebook. Unfortunately it's just too deep and gaps and binds at the chest. She's wearing it for now since my favorite plaid rainsheet, pictured here;

is getting to the point where it just has too many holes to be usable. However, as soon as I don't feel guilty about it the Rambo is going right back up for sale and I'll be buying a Schneiders or something  that isn't so deep and actually fits her.

Ovation White Breeches

I have a pair of this same exact style of breeches in a dark brown that I love so when I saw them on Riding Warehouse in white I decided to get these for my show breeches. I honestly don't absolutely love the ones I have but they're made of a fairly thick material that I felt good about having in white since I didn't feel like they'd show every little thing, plus I already knew that they fit decently.

However, unfortunately they showed up with an unstitched hole in the crotch (not a good surprise when I tried them on) and I think the sizing was off. Every single pair of breeches that I have is a 26 which is what I ordered these in. However, when I tried them on the waistband felt like it was going to break my hips when I was trying to get it closed. All I can imagine is that they're actually a mislabeled 24. I even went and tried on the exact same breeches that I have in a 26 wondering if I'd suddenly gained a whole bunch of weight or something, those fit perfectly so it wasn't that.

Riding Warehouse was awesome, of course, and immediately took them back and sent me a refund but when I was thinking about it I realized that I like the way that Dover breeches fit better and they have a cheaper white pair that I'm going to try instead.

The Ugly

F.O.A.L. Show Shirt

I've seriously never found a show shirt that I think is the least attractive so when I saw this one on someone's Youtube I was excited and put it on my wishlist. Then when I saw that Riding Warehouse was carrying them I decided to go ahead and get one.

I struggle a little with shirts in general since I have a large chest which most show shirts seem to not accommodate well. Because of that I ordered this shirt a little large but when I tried it on I wanted to barf. It added lumps and bumps where there weren't any to begin with and just was not at all flattering. I tried it on a few times and then finally decided to return it. If you are flatter chested or have fewer curves than I do this shirt might work. My only real negative for this shirt in general is that it has a zipper up the front under the buttons and because of the thin, silky fabric, the rather heavy duty zipper tended to create bulges.

I'm going to find some time to go to a tack store and try on more show shirts (I haven't tried some on in the past but never very seriously) to see if there's a brand that's better for someone with some curves but for now I'm just going to plan on wearing polo shirts since I've only got schooling shows coming up anyway.

Cute right? Oh well...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Clinic Recap 5/9

I’ve had a weird couple of weeks. Just personal stuff going on (#datingproblems) but I’ve felt a little out of touch with riding and I’ve had less direction and motivation to ride and blog. However, the clinic with Susanne Winslade went really well!

However, we did have an interesting start since there had been a driving horse (combined driving Haflinger) scheduled before Katai and I started so not only did Katai get a little nervous in the crossties trying to figure out what was going on in the ring but when they drove out they left the door at the end of the arena open. When I was at J’s place open arena doors always led to a mini Katai meltdown and the doors on this area have never been open so I was curious how she would be. I took the time to walk her down there before I mounted up and she was up and curious but not losing her mind so I wasn’t that worried. However, as soon as I mounted up she lost her mind a little.

Thankfully Susanne was of the same opinion that I am and expressed that Katai was just going to need to get over it. We worked on getting and keeping at least one ear on me for the first several minutes and after a few great, forward, connected, directed 20 meter circles in each direction Katai was doing quite well. Susanne wanted me to get her head and neck a little lower than I’ve been getting it. Luckily after all our homework since the last clinic we were able to get there easily and I could immediately feel her start swinging better over her back.

After a few circles and straights with lower ears and a nice connection, Susanne had us start another exercise where we were supposed to spiral in and then leg yield out. Neither Katai or I are good at leg yielding so after a couple times in each direction, as Susanne saw how stuck we were on the struggle bus, she changed it to a "head to the wall" leg yield.

That’s when I started to get a little frustrated with myself. I’ve never learned how to properly do a leg yield and always struggled plus Katai hasn’t ever really learned to do them correctly. She actually used to rear as soon as you put her head to the wall so it wasn’t an effective way to teach this to her previously. During the clinic I was extremely proud that she not only didn’t rear but didn’t lose her mind with the amount of pressure we were putting on her. However, it didn’t mean that we were able to get anywhere ourselves. Poor Susanne had to watch us drunkenly and incorrectly try to accomplish this for a full arena before I let her know that I really didn’t know what I was doing and needed help.

Susanne came over and assisted on the ground and after almost another full arena Katai got it! She really is a smart cookie  After that we did it in the other direction and it was a little rough but we got it, she got the concept of moving her haunches without blowing through her shoulder and I was able to start to understand how to keep her neck straight, not let her blow through her shoulder, and keep her haunches at the correct angle.

What was really interesting is that there is this bodyworker lady (she works more with musculature, not so much chiro) that has attended the last couple of clinics with Susanne and she made an observation, along with Susanne, once we got back that Katai is built like a little body builder but that it’s her "external musculature" and not her internal. She said that the "Internal Musculature" will be strengthened more by stretching and that the occasional slight shortness that I had mentioned (left hind) previously would likely be helped by this stretchy work of getting Katai to cross over properly behind. She also mentioned that she thinks the shortness is coming from Katai’s stifle and maybe fetlock which at least helps me know a little more about where to watch. She didn’t think that it was time to call the vet but suggested that if it goes on for much longer despite doing additional/different work it might be good to get Katai a massage and maybe some body work.

This lady is doing some specific work with horses and riders on Monday and I’m going to do everything I can to get there and have a "lesson" since I think it would be SOO helpful!

Finally, right at the end of our lesson, we went to canter. Susanne wanted me to do three circles and do our best. Unfortunately as I cued for it, Katai actually bucked again which was disappointing since she hasn’t in a while and then half way around the second circle had a big, random spook. Because of that I never really got her on the bit and straight so we didn’t get to show our best work. After our disastrous canter Susanne wanted us to work on straightness and I think that we’ve been over bending the pony. Susanne was having me keep her neck straighter and wanted her haunches out more on the circle. She said that Katai has been throwing her haunches in on the transitions which is likely caused by us trying to keep her bent for the transitions. I’m sure I’m the culprit since I tend to exaggerate and if a little is good, more will be better right? Oops!

I’m going to chat about this with L so that she can help me understand what Susanne was seeing. Last time I thought, for example, that Susanne wanted me to turn my upper body out on the circle (confusing since that’s not what I thought I was supposed to be doing) but after talking to L realized that I was turning and collapsing in so bad that Susanne was just using it as a tool. Indeed, this time it didn’t come up at all since I’ve been working on being straighter myself.

Unfortunately H wasn’t able to make it since I rode right in the middle of the day so I didn’t get pictures. I’ll have to find someone to take some at one of my next rides so that I have some more content since this blog is getting boring without it!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hands: Lesson Recap 5/7

I had my lesson on Saturday this week since I was riding in the clinic on Monday and we wanted to be sure to give Katai a day off in between. I got to the barn nice and early and it was gorgeous out. I was hoping to ride outside but there was thick, heavy smoke in the air from the Canadian wildfires so we decided to ride inside where they had the fans going and the air was a little clearer.

Katai has been on a roll recently and the lesson started off really well. She's starting to get the idea of walking nicely on the bit and using it as a breather rather than just always wanting to go as quickly as she can. We were focusing on getting the correct bend and again, doing movements from training level tests, just not in the order of training level tests.

One of my biggest take-aways was that I really need to have my reins shorter. I've been leaving them longer but then I end up with my elbows back too far when I need to shorten. As soon as I shortened them and put my arms further forward Katai relaxed and was more steady on the contact. I also tend to flatten my left hand so we worked on that.

The other big thing that I learned was to start preparing for the bend earlier. We were working on doing the 20 meter circle at B and I was on the turning struggle bus. It either took me half way around the circle to get the proper bend or I was doing too much with the reins. L told me to focus on getting her in shoulder fore before the 20 meter circle and it clicked.

Finally we did some transitions into canter and at the first one L said, "your body is so much better than it was!". It made me happy because I've been working really hard on getting my hip bones more even.

I'll have a recap of the clinic up soon!

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Real Dressage Training Period

The real dressage training pyramid

Yep, that's right I'm still shopping for a saddle again. I'm still waiting on the Prestige dealer in the US to get a new Prestige lucky in for a trial. I'd be more actively looking while I wait except both L and I think theres a really good chance that the Lucky will be a great fit for both Katai and myself.

I have to admit that a very small part of the appeal for me is that it comes in brown.

I don't know why but I've always loved brown tack and when I started seeing people with brown dressage tack I was very envious. When I figured out that it actually looked better on Katai than black tack I knew that my next saddle was going to be brown. I love my current brown dressage tack but my goal for next year is to find a saddle that fits (hopefully in brown) and get a PS of Sweden bridle that matches. If it can be brown I'll be even happier.

My current saddle isn't horrible but it still slides forward and I've noticed a patch of messed up hair on the middle of the left side of her back more than once. I've got a reminder on my calendar on the 16th of this month to reach back out about the saddle and hopefully they can ship it my way for a trial. I'm really hoping that this might be the answer for us!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bubbles, Bell Curves, and Lesson Recaps

I had a couple of posts figured out and then had a couple of things going on so didn't get anything posted for awhile. Because of that you get all of the posts in one!

Last week I was going to post about how I feel like as I'm finding these little holes in my riding and Katai's training that it's sort of like these little bubbles. One example of these is that when she gets quick I pull my legs off. Then I don't support her and when I ask for something there's that slight gap where she isn't supported (the air in the bubble) and then as the contact picks up on the other side she over reacts (sort of like the bubble popping). I've been working to make sure that I'm removing those little gaps and/or only using them appropriately.

Then after reading this post over at SprinklerBandits I started thinking about how a bell curve could help me stop freaking out about Katai's small sorenesses.

I realized as I was reading that post that if I focus on Katai's normal rather than freaking out about things I've read about other horse's normal I'll be more keyed in to what is actually going on and not over-reacting. I started thinking about this tonight when I was at the barn and had a great ride despite some initial stiffness :)

Then I had a great lesson on Sunday! We're continuing to put together different pieces of training level tests. Katai was very good and we had some great work. There was more bucking and I think we identified that I'm tensing up as I ask which is causing her to feel stuck. However, we got to a great place and overall she was really great. We did uncover my complete inability to turn down the center line so I have some work to do there but otherwise it went really well.

This coming Monday is the Suzanne Winslade clinic so we moved my lesson to Saturday so that Katai can have a rest day between my normal lesson and the clinic. More updates to follow!


With my current decision to move I didn't have to think that long to decide which barn I would move to if I could. The barn I'm movi...