Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Next Step: Lesson Recap 6/20

No new riding pictures so here are some adorable puppy pictures
This was the weirdest I've felt during and after a lesson in a long time. I went into it feeling sort of emotional and vulnerable. Still not sure what's up with me lately but I think it's a combination of things from my previous post. At any rate, it probably wasn't a good time to bring up show plans for the rest of the year but I need to at some point so I asked Jane.

To make a short story shorter, we're sticking with Training level for the rest of the year. She's completely right and I don't quite know why I've been pushing for 1st. I'm totally in this for fun and I want to build a strong foundation with Katai which means making sure she's comfortable at shows and I'm comfortable riding her at shows before we increase the difficulty. I've mentioned before how goals turn me into a lunatic and this is one example since after we discussed this I felt completely defeated and just completely lost all motivation.

Luckily the beginning of the lesson was just about getting Katai moving forward, stepping under behind, and getting her rhythmic. For the past month or so our warmup has been to start with serpentines and get her bending but now we're in a different place (already) so using the full arena and getting her cruising is the answer. We also worked on changing the rein length at the walk and getting her to stretch down and then come back up without a pony melt down. Happily the answer on this is to just do it many times since she just doesn't know that sometimes the correct answer is a medium walk.
Doggy trifecta, tennis ball, rawhide, and sun spot
We got such nice work that I started to realize what a ninny I was being and was feeling better by our first real walk break. At that point Jane brought up that we were going to work on walk/canter/walk transitions!

Talk about an emotional roller coaster...

I had been planning a post on how I've been practicing these with Katai occasionally on the lunge. It felt very "exercising the Black Stallion at midnight" since at that point we hadn't even talked about walk/canter transitions. I just hoped that by introducing them there she'd understand them when we went to do them under saddle. On Sunday this past week she had NAILED them and gave me one, textbook perfect, transition on each side.

I mentioned this to Jane but neither of us were confident about what we'd get. I was betting on these transitions making Katai hot and explosive and tense and I think that Jane felt like we'd get that or just lots of running trot. However, Katai surprised both of us and stayed extremely rideable, mostly waited until I gave her the cue to transition, didn't run into the trot before the transition, and I was able to keep her fairly soft in the poll in the downward transitions.
Yeah, he's not spoiled at all...
Of course they weren't perfect. There were some trot steps, some tightness, some rushing in the walk, and going to the left she really struggled to step down into walk without some running in the trot first but they were really, really, really good for her first tries. Most importantly to me she stayed with me and didn't get explosive but she also did some really decent walk/trot/walks in each direction.

We ended on that but for some reason I still just felt sort of dull. I KNOW what a big deal that was but I was just struggling to be happy about it in the moment. Katai got lots of pets, a peppermint, and Jane and I talked more about the show schedule. She's going to look at the calendar and figure out when she can drive me. It sounds like there's a show at the middle of August that she's bringing her young horse to.

It will be interesting since her young horse hasn't shown before or even been off property much and this will be Katai's fourth show so two noisy baby mares. I'll be bringing earplugs and taking lots of Advil I'm sure haha. I'm hoping I can do at least one more show after that. The show in August is rated so my options will be Training 1 and 2 again. Hopefully that will be good enough that we could consider doing Training 3 at a schooling show later this year.

This is from last year (Veggie is two from the left)
but we've been doing more dog parks this year
Again, I'm really not unhappy with where we're at. I'm actually so, so, so happy and having so much fun. I love my time at the barn, I've been so motivated to go, and this past week I've been to the barn 5 days in a row and rode 4 of those days which would have been unheard of not that long ago. It's just this other stuff that's coloring my time at the barn and I think because I don't feel like I can make progress there I'm pushing that much harder at riding.

I'm working on perspective and finding other things that I can obsess and make goals about such as getting the Vegetable to the dog park every weekend :) Also, I want to mention that even though my last couple of posts have been a bit whiny and negative that's not really how my last couple of weeks have gone. It's just been a small part of how I'm feeling recently  and happened, in this case, to come up during my lesson.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Life Update

Trying to remember this on the daily
I also have a post about my lesson this week that I want to get typed up but I felt like I wanted to do this post first to catch up.

This has been a weird year for me in a couple of ways. The weather has been odd and it was a long, cold spring, then we had extreme (for us) heat. Now for the next 7-10 days it looks like our highs will be in the upper 60s with rain which is cold for us at this time of year. The weather has been so bipolar that it's tough to make plans or get in any sort of rhythm.

It's also been sort of a weird year for me personally. The weather certainly hasn't helped but on top of that I think I've felt a bit aimless. I've always had something like 7 big items on a list that I wanted to accomplish. For so long they felt so far away and I was constantly striving for them. Now I've got something like 5 of the seven checked off (and those are better than I imagined they'd be) but the two things left which haven't been prioritized to this point feel really important.

I'm struggling a bit with where to go from here since it feels like one of those things (a relationship) isn't something I can necessarily achieve with hard work and I suck at sitting back and letting things happen. It's also been really tough to still be alone and I've been struggling a lot with it recently especially as more of my friends fall off the map as they get more involved with kids and their spouses and have less time for doing things with friends.

The other thing is moving away from MN and it's always felt weirdly dependent on the relationship being accomplished first. Not sure why, maybe I want to have that support person before I leave home or maybe it's that it would be a lot easier financially. Either way, while I have a plan to accomplish this it's still a bit further out and the only thing I can do now is prioritize paying debt and figure out where I'll want to look for jobs when/if I decide to take action on my plan.
Both exciting and sad to think of leaving
this beautiful, green paradise.
Other little things have put me in a weird place as well. I love my job so much that I can't imagine leaving it to move (and yet don't want to spend the rest of my life living in MN), same with Jane and my current barn. However, Jane is going to likely be retiring from boarding at some time in the near future and while I hope she'd still teach lessons that's a bit up in the air. She's allowing some of her things (like her truck) to come to the end of their life and so while it's amazing that she's willing to trailer me places for shows I'm also really sensitive to the fact that every mile she trailers me is a mile she can't trailer her own horse to a clinic. I prioritized paying bills this year over buying a trailer but now I'm sort of in a place where I feel stuck and can't do as much as I'd like.

I was really looking forward to trailering to shows with my fellow boarder, K, but now very sadly and a bit suddenly she's needing to make a tough decision about retiring her horse. It's not my story to tell and I don't want to share the details but it's tough on everyone at the barn especially since her mare is the nicest, sweetest thing on the face of the earth. At the very least there isn't much hope or any plans for her to show with her again.

I'm certainly not posting this to complain, mainly it's a post about how everything is going so well (other than feeling a bit lonely haha) that I'm just feeling a little lost without all of my goals and wants. Also, things with Katai are going great! I'm slowly improving my riding and Katai is continuing to be more ridable. I can't believe the difference in her quiet, sweet, well behaved attitude recently. She tries so hard every. single. ride. and I never wonder what I'm going to get when I show up at the barn.

I'm also continuing to get healthier and fitter and still really loving being vegan. My job is great and I have a really fun (they aren't always but this one will be!) work trip at the end of July for a week that I'm looking forward to. I'm SO excited about going to Pony Cup again this year and can't believe that I'll be flying out two weeks from tomorrow. I'm also rapidly paying off debt and still managed a (well deserved) small shopping binge for things that I'd told myself I could get after my first successful show with Katai. I can't wait to get that stuff and will share it in a post soon!

Overall it's all so good but I've just been struggling a bit recently and since it's been reflected in how I feel about my rides and lessons and how much I'm blogging I figured I'd share.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


I don't typically do these but I was looking for a specific picture (which I haven't found yet) and stumbled over these.

I started with a different blog about my Arab who was named Sora. I don't know that I've ever shared pictures of her on this blog although I know I've mentioned her a few times. She really was a once in a lifetime horse who, despite some pretty serious issues with spooking that made her a poor fit for me, I really loved. She unfortunately fell and broke her hip which was tragic. It was after that happened that I got Katai and switched over to this blog. As you can see, I've also changed a bit since these pictures were taken :)

That's my sister and her horse, Jackson, in the background
Also weird to see the barn still standing in the background of this one
She was an amazing horse and I miss her but Katai and I are much better together. Looking at these photos though it's tough not to wonder what we could have accomplished if not for her accident.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rhythm: Lesson Recap 6/18

My favorite view :)
First, as I was typing in the title to this I realized that we're nearly half way through the year. Where has it gone?!? It seems like just yesterday that it was December.

Anyway, back to the lesson recap. My lesson yesterday (which was rescheduled from last Tuesday because of the heat) was amazing! It was another one where all the hard work we've been doing paid off.

To start off we were unsure what Katai's mood would be like since apparently she'd been horrid for Jane that morning. Because of that we started off with an extended warmup with a few laps of the ring at the trot in either direction (after lots of walk) and then circles before we added in serpentines. It paid off and Katai's stride length was great and I was able to keep her really pushing from behind for the most part.

For this lesson Jane was talking about getting and keeping her "soft at the poll" rather than talking specifically about round or bend and it really helped me. I can feel when she get's tight but sometimes I don't do anything about it because everything else is going well. This lesson, by focusing on that feeling rather than some of the pieces that come from it I was able to keep her much softer and more through over her back. We even had some really nice transitions!

I think the tough thing is that I know it's leg before hand and that I need to always push her forward into the contact. The problem is that being a greenie myself when it comes to dressage means that sometimes I'm trying to do that when Katai is so tight through the poll that it doesn't do anything productive and that's when she starts to rush. Being tight through the poll is something that is so normal for Katai that I almost always need to get her to give first and then push her forward with MANY reminders to give along the way. It's not that I can't do that, it's that I didn't always know I was supposed to since to me that's hand/rein first and then pushing forward and that's certainly not what the books/clinicians/experts tell you. At least not in the black and white way that I was thinking about it :)

Next we worked on shoulder in again. It's been awhile since we tackled this (shows and back to basics) so I was pretty rusty. However, the skills I've gained in the meantime were extremely helpful and with some coaching from Jane I was able to much more effectively control the rhythm and be more correct with my rein aids. Well, at least to the right. To the left it was a hot mess that only got slightly better before we quit but we did identify some of what I was doing wrong which means that I know what to work on.

Hanging out with the Vegetable in the backyard
enjoying our now beautiful weather :)
Finally we went to canter. To the right Katai did fairly well and had a decently slow rhythm with long strides (this was her tougher side a month ago) but she was struggling to the left. In that direction it was all quick footfalls and rushing. She even got bolty on me once, then broke, and when I asked for canter again all I could get was a trot. Jane got really quiet and I thought I'd really messed up (typically she doesn't get quiet) but once we took a walk break (after I finally got some canter) we talked and apparently it was an AMAZING trot. Jane said that she couldn't believe that Katai could produce that with her tiny body and now if we could only get half that trot for her lengthenings :) At least we know it's in there somewhere!

It was great timing since one of my goals is to continue to practice the shoulder in (and other lateral work) and now I have more things to work on. It was also encouraging that Jane was really happy with my position (overall) and how effective I was with my seat. It wasn't that long ago that I would have been unable to control Katai's rhythm at the trot or canter and this lesson it felt easier and Jane said it looked much better and that she was happy with it. High praise coming from Jane!

Saturday, June 17, 2017


I've always kind of wondered if Katai likes me. Obviously it doesn't really matter but since she's my partner in this dressage journey I'd really like for her to enjoy her time with me. Often when I look at her she'll look a bit crabby so, while she whinnies to me as I drive up and walks up to me in the pasture, I've just assumed that she's not particularly fond of me.

Then I watched this video that I took to show Katai's progress with the hose and the wash rack. I can see here how connected she is to me and how, while she is looking for peppermints she's also looking to me for reassurance. So fun to be able to see this and to know that maybe she is sort of fond of me :)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Riding Update

I haven't really done an update on my rides recently, partially because I didn't end up having a lesson this past week and the lesson before that I did briefly recap.

Since that lesson I've been working on getting the impulsion 100% of the time like Jane wants. At the first show Katai was slow and sticky because she wanted to quite like you saw in the video. At the second show she was really using it as an evasion and was working so differently than at home that I was really getting backwards in trying to get the bend. Jane wants this to be more established before we do anything else.

Until recently we couldn't ask for more without just getting lots of rushing footsteps but now that she's understanding the concept we just have to ask for it more of the time. Of course it's not like a switch just flips so she still gets rushy sometimes which means that I'm really having to remain solid in my core and keep my posting as consistent as possible. It's tough, and our rhythm is all over the place at times but we are getting more active steps with her hind legs.

The other thing we've been focused on is doing lots of canter and increasing the sit while getting it more rhythmic. Katai has been working really hard and getting tired but we're pressing on. Building muscles is tough sometimes.

I've also been trying to work on the other things on my list. I made a ton of progress with the spray bottle yesterday afternoon and we've been working with the hose and wash stall. I've also been working on riding more outside both in the grassy space outside the barn and down the road. We had our first solo road ride this year (or ever?) yesterday and it was fun but SOOOO mosquito-y that I'm pretty sure we both have malaria. At any rate it was beautiful and really nice to get out of the arena for awhile.

I've got a lesson scheduled tomorrow morning and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Jane thinks of our progress!

Yesterday I also got to go watch H ride in a lesson again. She had a great ride and she and her pony have made tons of progress since I was there last. They really looked great and it was fun to be able to talk horses with her. She's got a few busy weeks but I'll be looking forward to seeing her at Pony Cup!
Looking so good! Plus, her barn is so ritzy :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Weather and Updates

This weather reallllllly sucks. One would think that the benefit of living in a part of the country where we deal with cold temps for 7 or so months of the year is that we would at least have really nice summer temperatures. That would be wrong.

You can sort of see the damage to my (grandparent's) roof
Around 3 weeks ago we were still in the 60s for highs and now in the last week we've had two days with a heat index in the 100s and more days in the upper 80s with high humidity. We've also had a few really bad thunder storms and some tornado warnings.

Hail from Sunday. This is what was
left over 4 hours after the storm so it was bigger
There is just no way that any of us (including the horses) can get used to that huge swing in temperature that quickly. Tonight, with a heat index of 102*, we decided to reschedule my lesson. Apparently the dew point was 73% which is extremely humid and it's like trying to breath underwater. We certainly aren't going to expect the pony to work in this soup so instead we're going to do my lesson early in the morning this weekend when it's a bit cooler.

Despite all of the weather stuff something really clicked a few weeks ago. I think that most of you are aware of the struggles I've had with riding consistently. It's both a lack of motivation and babying my pony and giving her more breaks then she really needs. I'm not sure what happened but I've been riding consistently and not using every little indication of Katai being tired to give her a day off.

Still not sure what happened but it's been so good to just go and ride and work on stuff and not worry about it or doubt myself all the time. Of course then the weather goes and does this and I need to take a couple days off and reschedule my lesson because of it...

I really like this picture :)
This is hotter than average for us at this point in the year and if it continues I may need to get creative with my riding schedule. Luckily Jane is fine with me being at the barn at any hour and has told me that she doesn't believe in having "hours" so that we can see our horses whenever we want :) However, if I ride early in the morning I'll be driving a good distance during rush hour and I'm already not leaving the house until nearly 7:30. If I leave closer to 8:30 it would be slightly cooler but I wouldn't get home until nearly midnight.

Oh well, we'll adjust and get it figured out. It's just such a big thing to get used to a 50* difference in a matter of weeks.

Monday, June 12, 2017


I also got video of our Intro C test from the schooling show over Memorial Day weekend. Fun fact is that my co-worker who was there with friends is holding the video camera and you can see my photographer friend to her right and my Jane to the left. I have such amazing friends :)

I have a huge smile on my face both because I'm sort of stunned with how well the test is going and because for the first time I feel like I have a pony since she is tired and keeps trying to quit on me. Especially on the last center line you can really see her try to stop.

Despite the fact that she keeps trying to stop and interrupting the rhythm I'm really happy with the improvement to her gaits

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Learning From Media

Alternate title: We Do Actually Have 100 Problems

Back in April, Jen from Cob Jockey did another of her amazing posts about biomechanics . I almost always learn something from these posts and often really think about this stuff at my next ride. This time I read through it and basically thought, "we've got 99 problems but this isn't one" (pinching with my thighs).

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when I got media from the second show.

The first show media makes me happy. It clearly shows some rough moments and tension but overall there's some harmony between me and Katai and while she's a bit hollow mostly she's pretty good for a scary show environment.

Case in point
 However, when I got the media from the second show I was really disappointed. Partially I think that the photographer (a boarder from my previous barn) just happened to catch more of the rough moments than the good moments but between the few rough pictures from the first show and most of the photos from the second show I noticed something in my position that still isn't good. I don't see this as much at home (probably because we're less tense) but I still see it so it's clearly a pattern. It was also something that I couldn't identify just from a picture beyond being unhappy with how it looked haha.

An uncomfortable picture to share but there it is plus...

An example of a similar thing from the first show
At least here she looks pretty good
So, when I went to the barn on Friday evening I started messing around with position stuff. Jane had already started working on the pony and my position at the canter but I wanted to figure out what was going on at the trot. I've thought that it's coming from my hip flexors and core but as I messed around I just happened to do something that changed everything and that was to stop gripping with my thighs!!

There it was, this whole time and it's such a habit that I've been COMPLETELY unaware of it. I would imagine that probably 60-80% of my rides I'm carrying some amount of tension in my thighs which means that I post like Barbie haha. I have to rotate back from that point which leads to my legs coming forward and my seat going to the back of the saddle and my shoulders coming forward to balance and compensate. Plus, then as you can see above my hands to weird things so that I can still post. I'm not pulling per say but I am certainly unable to allow her to come forward in that moment.

As soon as I released that tension I was able to sit down around my pony and be more effective in practically every way. Katai didn't even know what was going on since it's a huge change but I'm really curious to see how it effects her as I get more consistent since there were brilliant moments where I felt her back come up more than is typical for her. My legs were so sore afterwards from using different muscles that this is clearly a big, important change for me to make and one that I'm excited to show Jane.

I'll end the post with my favorite picture from the rated show :)

Saturday, June 10, 2017


I don't have media very often so I'm SLOWLY spreading
these out over my next few posts :)
Apparently it get's to be summer and I become a horrible blogger. It's only because I'm doing all the things instead of writing about all the things but I really need to try to make time to post so here goes.

The other reason that this post has taken me awhile is that I've been trying to figure out how to make a couple of concise posts that cover everything that I want to talk about but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. Instead you get this one slightly messy post but some of this stuff I really want to document so I wanted to find it some sort of place.

First off, Katai was MUCH better about the trailer for Spring Party (the second show) but there was still some drama. She loaded the way a horse is supposed to (after a decent amount of rearing and drama) by walking into the two horse straight load all the way so that we could get the butt bar up. In the morning she ran back into the butt bar twice but then stood without further incident. On the way home once we got her into the trailer (after a similar amount of drama) she let us put the butt bar up and didn't run back into it. Hopefully it was a good learning experience for her and she won't try running into the butt bar again as she certainly gave her butt muscles (at the top of her haunches since she's short) a good beating. Sometimes HULK PONY smashing doesn't actually work.

I'm right back to practicing and I really want to get her self loading. I actually think this will take some of the fear out of it for her by turning it into more of a game. I started working on it last night and she was already walking 3/4 of the way in on her own. Of course that last 1/4 is the tough part but I'm really impressed that I got that far already!

Second, I really need to figure out braiding. I had her really adorably braided that morning (she seriously looked like a cute little European sport pony haha) but by the first class they were starting to get floppy and I had to pull them before the second. I'm going to try a few things including knotting them in better and/or using waxed thread instead of yarn. She has a tricky stiff and thick mane that doesn't have a lot of grip (even though I used copious amounts of hair jell) so I'm just going to need to experiment with what works.

Still not quite sure why I forgot to
take my hoodie off for this show 
Third, I've started to put some thoughts into what I want to do for shows for the rest of the year. It hasn't come up with Jane yet but I'm going to run this past her at some point and then it may change. However, my tentative plans include at least a couple of the following;

- 8/19 - NRF Schooling Show
- and/or 8/26 Northern Lights Rated Show
- 9/2 - Dog Days Schooling Show
- 9/16 - NRF Schooling Show
- 10/1 - Rocking R Farms Schooling Show

I chose these for several reasons including location since I'm relying on someone else (probably Jane) to trailer me. The other main reason is that I've decided not to invest in joining all of the organizations this year (for a couple of reasons) which leaves me with opportunity classes and schooling shows. Since opportunity classes don't "count towards" anything and are still more expensive, schooling shows are a great option for this year.

The main reason I don't have anything planned for the next couple of months is that I don't want to deal with the heat. Also, I'd like to really work on some of the things that I know I need to improve and since I'm not chasing awards it makes more sense to take a break and establish some of that first.

Also, at the beginning of the year I had planned a lot of rated shows since that's what my barn mate (who was going to trailer me) was doing. However, we haven't been able to get Katai in her trailer so Jane has been trailering me. Yep, we've had two trailers at both of these shows...

From last year's NDPC. Look at that sky!
Since schooling shows are at least $60-$70 cheaper than opportunity classes at rated shows and since I've found out that I have THREE friends/acquaintances going to National Dressage Pony Cup including Jen from Cob Jocky, Emilie from BecausePony, and my friend H with one of her instructor's baby GRPs I'm planning (at this point) to go as well! As a spectator of course :) My plan to not go originally was more because I wanted to do more shows this year but this way I can sort of have my cake and eat it too, plus I just can't miss watching three of my friends ride at NDPC!!

*The first two pictures are by my amazing friend M :) I still don't know how she got such amazing pictures in the indoor although her camera lens is at least a foot long lol

Monday, June 5, 2017

May Goals Review and June Goals - With Show Media!!

I love this one :) There aren't many from outside (this was warmup)
since my friend who took these wasn't available until we did our Intro C indoors.
I'll post more of those soon!

Goals Recap for May:

More Trailer Loading Practice: Success!! I took full advantage of having the ability to practice with Jane's trailer and loaded Katai at least once per week. We struggled a bit at the first show (but got her on both times) and then it was better at the second show.

More Consistency: Yes! If nothing else, with the show we were back to the basics and I really was able to focus on things like maintaining bend and roundness even when Katai had lots of reasons to not listen and not make it easy.

Have a Successful Show(s): This is a two parter for me. I'm also going to role both shows into this one even though one actually happened in June.

1. Success will mean Katai being more relaxed, less frantic, and thus the ability for us to have more fun. Meh, not especially. She was a bit more relaxed at the schooling show but less so at the rated show and she really wasn't relaxed at either.
2. My other goal this year is to win our Intro C class. Nope not our Intro C class but both Training classes at a rated show so I think I surpassed this one :)

And this one!

Goals for June:

Practice More Lateral Work: I've been letting my perfectionist tendencies get in the way and not practicing this since I know we struggle. Instead we just need to practice more of it so that we actually improve. This is the same thing that happened with the canter and now I just need to make these movements as consistent as our canter has gotten.

Continue With Trailer Loading Practice: This was the largest point of stress for me about both shows (whether we'd get her back in the trailer and how much stress it would be). My future goal is to get Katai self loading so that at some point I'd be able to trailer her myself. We're a long way away from that but we're going to just keep right on practicing until we get there.

Practice Other Show Skills: Not that we don't need general riding practice but I have Jane to work with me on that. I want to work on/continue working on the other things that were stressful this weekend such as the hose and baths, riding outside, riding near the trailer, and putting any sort of "gunk" (show sheen, green spot remover, coat conditioner) on the pony without her freaking out. I also want to work on having a bridle number on her bridle so that I don't need to wear it on my boot next time.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Look What We Did!

All those baby steps paid off :)
Of course those ribbons don't tell the full story. Due to a scratch and an elimination my Training 1 opportunity class had only 1 other person in it. Training 2 opportunity was larger and had more experienced and even professional riders but with lots of baby horses and lots of "baby's first show" scenarios. I'm still proud though because I got great scores and was a nonprofessional that got my very difficult pony through her 3rd show in one piece!

However, my main goal was to have a rideable pony, outside, with the judges' "booth" at the end and I had that in both tests!

First I rode Training 1 for, what I later learned was, the "friendly" judge. The ring was off in a farm field and was quiet. There weren't many distractions and the judges were in a truck at one end instead of a horse trailer which I knew would go better. I felt really ready for this test and very confident even though, while Katai had loaded pretty well that morning, she was a fire breathing dragon pony when we got to the show grounds. She quieted down once we started warming up and I did LOTS of bending. We ended up being able to go a bit early and we took it. I had a really great ride with just a couple of bobbles and scored a 62.826%.

I can't believe that I got a 7 on position!!!
That would certainly not have been the case before Jane :)
I was SOOO happy and it was so unexpected, especially the blue ribbon which just made it that much sweeter. After the first test I found out that the judge I had for the next test was the "unfriendly" judge and heard some horror stories. Sounds like she'd had some pointed remarks about some of the other riders and my friend H who was there to watch my first test warned me not to feel bad or lose hope if I didn't score well for the second test. 

My first test was just after 10am and my second wasn't until just after 4pm so not only did I have a long day to wait but Katai's buddy left part way through so she was by herself. It was also SOOOOO hot and was forecast to get up to 89*! They waived jackets (probably MN is the only place where they waive coats at 76* ;) I know for many of you that wouldn't be that hot but last week we were still getting highs in the 60s so this was just such a huge swing for everyone to deal with. I don't handle heat well on the best of occasions and with some stress and the first hot day of the year I was really worried. I thought multiple times about just scratching my second test but I really wanted to get Katai some more show miles and this next arena was MUCH busier (right in the middle of everything) and had the trailer of DOOM so I wanted to try it out.

I am SOO glad I stuck it out! Besides a 4 on our halt (which wasn't even close to the center line and barely happened) we did SOOO well! The judge also had more great comments for us and we got another 1st with a score of 65.769%!!

This time I also got a 7 on effectiveness!!
I also can't believe that Katai got 6.5 on gaits in both and she was tight enough that they weren't even seeing her true gaits :) Plus I'm really happy with the improvement in her walk scores since that's the roughest part of the test for us right now. So happy!! I really can't believe that we did this well at my first rated show. I clearly understand that the firsts in both tests had more to do with the small classes than anything else but those scores make me SOOO happy! Of course the satin and glassware is pretty darn amazing too.

Another friend let me know that she got a few pictures so once I get those I'll share. I'm still waiting on the pictures from the last show but will share those as well and hopefully soon!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Baby Steps

We're a bit beaten but we're not broken! Well, except my nose, that may be broken... I'm extremely happy with about 90% of what happened on Sunday and the more I've thought back on everything the happier I am. It was a long tough day though and I was extremely sore on Monday, like I couldn't even straighten my arms.

So, despite my best intentions to at least get Katai back in the trailer on Monday I just couldn't do it. I pretty much just lay around all day and watched tv and did some clean up from the show.

Tuesday I got back out to the barn for my lesson in the evening and Jane and I had a chance to debrief on what happened on Sunday. I had a few more observations for her and primarily wanted to ask her about the bend. I really thought I had enough bend for most of the Intro C test (other than when I changed rein across the diagonal) but the judge didn't think so. Jane and I talked through where I had enough and where I needed more. We also discussed how Katai's coloring makes it tough for Jane to see the bend sometimes so that could be a piece of it.

Mostly we tried to get her a bit more supple again and focused on lateral work and lots of changes of direction with focus on the bend since pony was also pretty tight and sore. We also kept it short since the plan for the next day (today) was to get her outside to ride near the trailer *OF DOOM*.

I think what was especially cool for me about this show is that before this (because of how rough it was last year) we felt like we were at 0 and needed to get to 100 and by 100 I mean having a nice, decently calm show experience where I at least felt like I could keep my pony under control and in the arena. Now, I feel like we're at 60% and just need to work on about 40% which is so exciting because that means we know what we need to work on!!

Right now, mainly, that's everything to do with the trailer so that was the goal today. I started out by loading Katai on the trailer. We had quite a few discussions but ended in a really nice place. She wasn't as calm as she had been prior to the show but that's to be expected. We also have the insides of the trailer back in so instead of having a completely open trailer to walk into she needs to walk into the two horse straight load stall. 

After that we tried lunging near the trailer (Jane was right there with me from just after I started trailer loading practice. Seriously, how did I get so lucky :) but that wasn't working. Katai was doing her best race horse impression and I didn't have the ability to calm her down on the lunge. Instead we went straight to riding.

Both Jane and I thought it was going to take a long time to be able to successfully ride near the trailer but although it did take some work, it didn't really take that long. After maybe about 20 minutes of circling gradually closer with lots of bend we were able to do a center line and ride almost all the way up to the trailer. I'm planning to do a bit of work with this as well Thursday and Friday and hopefully we'll have a bit of progress at the show on Saturday. 

Also, still no pictures but I'll share as soon as I get them!

Monday, May 29, 2017

There Will Be Blood: 3 Ring Circus Show Recap

*No ponies were harmed in pursuit of this schooling show ;)

This weekend was pretty rough and I certainly wasn't having the best of luck during prep for the show. First, on Friday night for some reason I shut a door that I don't normally close and then proceed to walk into it head first. I really banged up the bridge of my nose and sort of wondered if I'd have a black eye the next day. I'm writing this on Monday and my nose is still swollen and quite sore. I've also still been recovering from my cold so let's just say that I haven't been feeling my best.

On Saturday I went to the barn in the morning for a lesson. The beginning of it was "interrupted" by a horse outside having a meltdown and Katai was very bothered by it so I actually had a great opportunity to practice what it would be like to ride her at the show. We ran through both Intro C and Training 1 and they were great! That evening I went back and gave her a bath so that she'd have as little time as possible to get dirty again.

I don't think I had mentioned it by my ride times for Sunday were 7:44 and 11:04 and the person who trailered us didn't ride until 3:16 so we knew it would be a long day. Due to pony trailering issues (even though she'd been walking in on a loose lead rope prior she realized we were going somewhere and refused to get in) we showed up with an extra trailer about 20 minutes later than I would have liked and I pretty much needed to throw the tack on her and jump on. I did end up doing about 10 minutes of warm up which went well and then we headed into the outdoor ring for our Training 1 test.

With the prep we've been doing I was hopeful that it would go better than our test last year which was Intro C in the same arena. Unfortunately the judge was in a trailer at C again and that proved to be our kryptonite. The judge this year is a fixture in our local dressage community and a really incredible woman. When I finished my test I thanked her and she said it was one of the most dramatic tests she'd seen that day which made me smile. I was smiling and giggling through most of the test actually because stubborn Katai showed up in full force.

Parts of the test were actually worse than last year but I rode WAY better, and actually got a canter in each direction on the correct lead (probably the best part of the test) and most of the movements so we scored much better and received a 50.22%. We also have a new nickname, Drama at C lol.

Reading drama at C still makes me giggle
Reluctant entry, much evasion makes me giggle too because I ended up doing two 10 meter circles trying to get some bend and forward with no luck.

I've been getting as much practice riding Katai with scary things as possible. I've thought that I'm prepared to deal with it but at this test Katai grew roots into the ground and literally would. not. go. forward so all of my aids were pretty useless. Oh well, Jane is going to park the trailer outside and we're going to ride near it to get her used to it. Katai was just scared so pushing her wasn't going to do anything I don't even cary a dressage whip. I did pony club kick her a few times with Jane whooping from the sidelines (lol, I love my instructor) but it really didn't have much effect.

Afterwards Jane said that I looked cool and confident though and I really was grinning through the whole thing. This is Katai's second show and she's always been a difficult ride so what can you do, she just needs more miles and not a beating (more on that later).

I brought her back to the trailer and we relaxed for a little while. She was actually REALLY good about standing there, even when her friend left, and there was way less drama and rearing than I expected. Poor pony baby did get quite exhausted from stress though and fell asleep a few times which was AMAZING to see!

Katai with her "mommy mare" who showed 3rd level this weekend :)
Finally once we got closer to our second test, I got tacked up (with Katai at the trailer by herself woot woot!) and headed to the warmup ring to prep for our Intro C ride. It was in the indoor so I wasn't worried. I warmed up and Katai was on the aids and ready to go and then we went in and rode our test!

I ended up having a bunch of friends at this show. My co-worker happened to be there, the women who took the amazing photos from the show last year was there and took pictures again this year (which I'll share in my next post since I don't have access to them quite yet), plus just a whole bunch of other riding friends that I've made over the past few years. Most of them were standing at the door to the arena, along with Jane, while I rode and after I finished they were all cheering. It was so amazing to have so many wonderful people there routing me on because this has felt like a tough time trying to get Katai to this point and they all recognize that and have seen us at various points in our struggles.

J was also there (the rough instructor that I left) with a few students and one of her students rode Intro C right before I did. We pretty much ignored each other all day (at least until later that day...) but even though I don't really care, it meant something to me that she saw me riding my AMAZING pony at this show and doing well with her. It was even more amazing to have my absolutely incredibly wonderful trainer there with me all day, supporting me and Katai and talking us through this show. I can't believe how lucky I am to have this amazing person in my life.

After that test I got Katai tied back to the trailer and untacked and then went to watch some people ride. Jane went to pick up my test(s) and when she came back to me her face was stormy. She had picked up my Training test but thought it was Intro C. I reminded her that it was Intro C that I did better on and she said "thanks for stopping me because I was about to go shoot that judge". Have I mentioned how much I love having a coach like her? I ended up scoring 64% for my Intro C test which was awesome! We would have scored higher I think but Katai picked up the wrong lead for the second canter circle and was pretty tired by that point so she kept trying to stop. She goes from trot to walk so quickly that even though I was doing my best to keep her in front of my leg, there kept being these weird pauses in our trot rhythm and she actually broke from canter once before I got her going again. Going down the center line at the end of the test she tried to stop 5-6 times and it took everything I had to keep her going. Poor tired baby pony.

I feel like an alternative title to this post could be More Bend Needed
Jane was very happy with this score and felt like it was really accurate. I'm really happy about the 7s and if I can just keep her in front of my leg, and do this more so it's not so exhausting for pony brains we'll be in a good place :)

Finally I tied her up to the trailer and we hung out for an hour or so. By 12:30 we were ready to be done but still had at least 3-4 more hours to go. We alternated walking and hand grazing and sitting by the trailers. I'm hoping that between all the grass she got to eat, the peppermints I shoved in her face, the grooming, and pettings, and all the people that admired her (she seriously collects fans wherever she goes), that she'll have good memories of this show and be even more relaxed next time.

If you look closely you can actually see the brains oozing out of her ears
Finally K went to warm up and I hung out with Katai for awhile. Katai was calling a lot (I think I went a bit deaf yesterday) but was mostly being a really good girl. After awhile Jane came back and said that K's horse was calling a lot too so instead of bringing her back to the trailer they were going to switch to the double over by the ring. I pulled Katai off the trailer and found her some grass to help get her quieter and hopefully remove the distraction from K's horse. Eventually we worked our way past the tree line that you can see in the picture above to where the rings are so that I could watch K's horse from afar.

While I was hanging out I happened to look up and see a horse that I recognized in the ring. The rider prior to K was one of J's students but even from that far away it was clear that J was actually riding. The horse was very clearly upset and there was quite a bit of whip being used. At one point the horse froze up by A (and by froze up I mean it was dancing and rearing and freaking out but unwilling to go forward) and then it bolted. It went straight forward and leapt out of the ring (that happens) but was so panicked in it's bolt that it kept going and went straight over the wooden arena fence RIGHT past K and onto a gravel path between arenas. J got it back into the arena and then got called over by the judge for a talk. They talked for awhile and  while she, of course, got eliminated I'm hoping the judge was pretty firm about how inappropriate that was.  It's just my opinion but I'm really, really, really glad that I'm not working with J anymore.

K ended up having a really great ride!! She doesn't show a ton and is hoping to receive her last two bronze medal scores this year. For not riding in a ton of shows she got a very impressive 60% and is well on the way to getting those scores, hopefully, next weekend!

Finally we went to load pony for the ride home. I'd had my fingers crossed all day that she would be so tired that she'd just walk on but unfortunately it wasn't to be. We tried first to see if she'd ride home in the trailer with K's horse but that wasn't happening (it's a 2 horse straight load with a step up) so we tried Jane's trailer instead (larger two horse straight load with a ramp and with the ability to swing the center divider). She still put up a fight but I will say that she gave in quicker and didn't escalate quite as bad. She still had some bad rears (I actually worried that she was going over backwards at least once) but we ended up getting her on after about 15-20 minutes. Just not the way we're supposed to. Unfortunately I did something stupid and tore up my hand. I ALWAYS wear heavy gloves when I'm doing this and I've had enough rope burns that I know to not try to hold on. I was tired though and also had a long day so I grabbed and held the rope at one point and lost some skin.

Before I got it cleaned up
It actually doesn't hurt that much all things considered or maybe my nose just hurts enough that I don't even care about this lol.  Overall I'm very happy with how this show went. For Katai's second show (away from home) and my fourth dressage show I'm really pleased with our rides and I feel like I've become much more effective. We have some things to work on (all things involving the trailer) but I feel like those just need some continued work and we'll be in a good place to have decent (anything above 50% would feel good to me for next weekend) tests on Saturday!!

I'll share pictures in a followup post once I have access to them. I can't wait to see them!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

Nope, not getting married but where most girls seem to dream about their weddings, I've dreamed  about doing my first rated show.

I've been slowly putting together a set (or two) of show clothes since I've known for awhile that I couldn't afford to invest in the things I wanted when I finally found out I'd be doing a rated show. I am SO GLAD I DID because I had no idea that I'd be doing a rated show on June 3rd this year until just over a month ago and there's no way I could have bought all this stuff at the beginning of this year. Without further ado, here is what I have so far!

Something Old:

The friend that I lived with and rented from when I first got Katai and I exchanged Christmas gifts a couple of years ago. She got me this incredibly pretty stock pin for Christmas in 2012 so it's not that old but I've never had a reason to use it until now :)

I also have this Horze show shirt that I bought early last year (so not that old but I haven't worn it yet) that I will be wearing this year likely.

Something New:

Most of my stuff could go into this category honestly but these are my newest.

This is the shirt I got at the World Cup! It just showed up yesterday and I LOVE it just as much as I did when I tried it on at the show. With my shape I always struggle with finding tops that look good but breeches are easier. Show shirts in particular have been tough for me and this is easily the nicest one I've found. The fabric is technical and light without being clingy and cut really nice! It was also under $100 which is tough to find in cute show shirts (for my body type) it seems.

There are quite a few things that I'm happy to invest money in from a riding outfit perspective however, a stock tie isn't one. If we start showing more and "earn" a cute one then I'd invest in a nice one but otherwise I didn't want to spend that much. The problem was that even the cheaper ones were expensive in my mind and they had poor reviews. Between spending $35 for something with bad reviews and $60 for something that's amazing I'd rather spend $60 but I just couldn't make myself actually buy the thing. So I went to Etsy and found this for $13! With shipping from Europe it was just over $20 but it's amazing. Really nice fabric and fluffy enough. I went with the pre-tied option because I just don't want to fuss with it but they have untied versions as well. I would definitely recommend them if you want a nice stock tie that isn't too expensive. They have lots of options at great prices and awesome reviews!

Something Borrowed:

Well not borrowed but I bought this from another blogger, Amanda, over at $900FacebookPony. When she listed it for sale and it happened to be dark blue and in my size, and an Equiline coat I messaged her right away. I was really excited about the amazing deal I found but now what I'm actually excited about is that this is an experienced show coat and hopefully it will help me and Katai have a great show experience ;) Oh, and it's GORGEOUS!

Something Blue:

I've got navy blue throughout my show clothes closet. Eventually I want to get Katai a grey saddle pad and then I'll wear something navy blue as a show shirt or jacket. I think it will be cute but not too different or shocking to anyone who's more traditional.

Or the seat of my breeches ;)

Modeling my outfits!:

So sorry for my murderous expression. I wasn't feeling that well on Friday morning but I knew I wouldn't have much time this weekend to do this so I went with it.

First two pictures: EGO7 Show Shirt and B Vertigo Rachel breeches
Third picture: Equiline show coat from Amanda and Horze Desiree breeches
Fourth picture: Back to the Equiline show coat, EGO7 shirt, and B Vertigo Rachel breeches
Fifth picture: Old Navy polo (this was $5 so if anyone is looking for a cheap but cute polo this is a good place to check) and Ovation breeches

I'm pretty happy with this! The fifth picture is what I'm going to wear to the schooling show and will probably go with the fourth picture for my first rated show. No pictures of me wearing the stock tie since it didn't get here until Tuesday and the lighting has been horrible for pictures. I'm sure I'll get some pictures from our upcoming show though!