Thursday, August 31, 2017

August Goals Recap and September Goals

Wow, I really can't believe we're at this point of the year already, it seemed like just yesterday that it was May.

August Goals Recap:

Continue to Ride Longer: Mostly yes, with my weird travel schedule and needing to bring her back to work and then show prepping it was less about pushing forward this month and more about picking things back up and then maintaining. I would say this is still improved though!

Continue to Practice the Tough Things: Yep! I have a much better trainer mindset with all of the work. If a transition is crap I go back and do it again rather than just accepting it. I've also been doing a lot more of the things we're struggling with which means we aren't struggling with them as much. Funny how that works ;)

Have a Successful Show: Yep! For still not feeling completely ready to show at 1st level (despite everything feeling pretty easy at home) and for having pretty soupy conditions which was a first for both Katai and myself this show went fantastic and was easily our "win" of the month.

Position so improved, beyond that darn right toe

September Goals:

Continue to Ride Outside: I've been doing a bit better this summer but need to keep pushing for more. September is the last month for us where we can assume we'll have pretty decent weather. I want to take advantage of that and make sure we're getting out there as much as possible.

Start 2nd Level Work: I know this is where Jane's going to take us so, while I have a vague idea of what we'll be working on, I'm going to keep this pretty vague since I don't have enough knowledge of what we'll work on day to day. I know that part of this will address the BTV stuff though which is good.

Continue to Ride Longer/Building Strength: This is still a big one for us and for me to continue to help Katai (and myself) build the strength we need I need to make sure that I'm tackling this as/when appropriate. Still working to make 45 minute(ish) rides our normal while still utilizing shorter rides just as appropriate. It's also working her over trot poles and doing other exercises that push her to build muscle.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday [lack of] Motivation

I figured Olivia's comment needed it's own post this week because there was a behind the scenes moment that I had to share when I read her comment.


"Good job! I have to say she looks so white and clean despite all the mud. I can't even keep my non white horses clean; I don't know how you do it."

I really wish I had some fantastic story about how much elbow grease I put into keeping Katai so white and shiny but the truth is that she's had two baths this year and those were both prior to August...

Yeah, I didn't bathe my pony before this show. She was just still so white that it seemed silly! I probably still would have given her a bath if I hadn't expected the rain but as it was it seemed silly to put any more time in when I knew she was going to get covered in mud. Deeefffinetly won laziest horse owner award especially since I didn't even use a spot remover, just went through our normal grooming routine before we left. 

Katai really is just a princess pony and doesn't like to lay in her own poop :)


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Alphabet Soup: Show Recap 8/26

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS we did the thing, we showed at First level at a rated show in very soupy conditions and my pony tried her heart out.

We looked pretty good doing it too :) Still a little shocked by that actually since I'm the queen of crazy faces and awkward outfits.

Somehow (still not sure how) we ended up being able to load, trailer to the show grounds, warm up, ride our test, and load to head home in a break in the rain. As soon as we left the show grounds it started raining again which was fine by me.

I'm pretty sure now that my unicorn (pooping rainbows) socks and Stubborn Together bracelet are lucky and my pink toes just kicked it up the extra notch we needed today ;)

Katai loaded first try, no hysterics, (since the trailer was completely open like a stock trailer) and we headed out. At the grounds she was pretty good but just a few minutes in started rearing which caused the show secretary to tell me that if she didn't quit I needed to get her a stall. I wasn't against it but I'm not sure it would have helped much beyond containing her. Mostly it just upped my stress level and I felt so bad that we caused her to need to give us a talking to. I untied her and took her to graze over near the ring we'd be riding in.

I was watching the warm up and keeping an eye on how things were going. It was soupy and at first I wanted to try it out to make sure I could actually ride in the equally soupy ring but after seeing multiple horses slipping around I changed my mind. L was showing in the same space and ended up warming up in this driveway area near a building and advised me to do the same.

Warmup
I also took the time to walk her through a few puddles. It's not like she doesn't do that in her pen but I've probably only ridden her in a wet arena once in her life and that's when meltdowns were a common thing so I'm not sure I schooled her through puddles at all.


In this part of the show grounds she was pretty relaxed and quiet. We ended up doing a pretty short warmup and then just walking around and standing a bit. When I first rode her into the arena for First Level test 1 it was pretty clear it was going to be tough to get a good test. She stopped dead at the first puddle and I needed to pony club kick her forward. I took advantage of the chance to walk/trot/canter (although the canter took a few pony club kicks to get going and was so rough) around the ring and then let the judge know I was ready. 

I knew I was doing a lot of bending and being busier with my hands than I like and she was trying to get tense and braced. She's definitely behind the vertical in a lot of these pictures but we're not riding that way at home and Jane isn't too concerned about it. It's just the next thing we need to deal with.

Little on the forehand but MOVING IN THE MUD!!!
So much freer in the shoulder than she was!
We got stretch!!!!
BTV but more lifted in front
We got medium walk and free walk without breaking to trot!!
She thought about it but I shut it down and she listened.
Little tight but we're cantering!
I'm definitely tight through my elbows here so even more btv
The hock action was certainly improved ;)
Love my face here as I was going OH SHIT. There was a
HUGE puddle right along the long side in the middle of
where we needed to do our canter lengthening.
It was either jump over it or go around it at that point for Katai
#notaneventer so I was very thankful when she sort of went around it
Then she was back to business (Darn right toe still didn't want to behave)
and btv (darn elbows)
#actuallygotalengthening Jane was squealing about this one after :)
This is sort of a weird angle but you can see how much higher her front leg is!
Finally, we nailed the halt :)
 In the end we had a few mistakes. She broke to canter in the first lengthening (at least that's a good mistake as far as mistakes go), she broke to trot in our second 15 meter canter circle and then picked up the wrong lead so I needed to shut it down and try again, and then went around the puddle. Not completely a mistake but almost off course. I also had a couple of sloppy corners. I was trying not to upset her or pick a fight over anything especially with the mud.

My judge was great and fair with the conditions and the mistake that was purely condition related (going around the puddle) didn't reduce our score much.

In the end.
Another blue and some more glassware
We're 3 for 3 and while it's awesome and encouraging to win these classes this one was only two people and the other rider was a junior :) However, I did get a really great score of 64.074%!!! If this weren't opportunity that would have been my first Bronze Medal score but/and also certainly not competitive enough for first place. However, with that score at this show, I'm even more confident that we can get our 1st level Bronze scores next year!

Katai got STUFFED FULL of all the treats after since this time I'd remembered to have some in my pocket. After getting her untacked, I walked her around and let her graze and she was really pretty good despite turning into a pony kite a few times. We finally loaded her (she walked right on again) and then went to pick up my tests.

That first halt seems to kill us every time
8 for the final halt and 7.5 for the lengthening!!!!
I'm also happy with 7 for Rider's position despite me feeling floppy with all
the corrections I was needing to give to keep her going the right direction at the right speed haha.
Jane's comment was "yeah for a 70%+, otherwise that's 2nd level".
I love how sassy and protective she is of her students :)
Also, everyone always thinks Katai is a boy...
We had an uneventful ride home with lots of rainy dressage show stories and then I got Katai unloaded, cleaned the trailer and let her roll in the arena a few times before I got her mostly sprayed off. She got even more treats, granola bars this time, and hay and was looking better and less stressed by the time I left.

I'm so so so pleased with how this went. I had almost thought about not braiding because I was just meh about dealing with it in the rain but I'm so glad I did and so glad that I had my friend M there to take all the amazing riding photos. She's not a professional photographer but she's got an AMAZING eye and camera and because she also rides dressage she knows which pictures to take when. It's so incredible to have these pictures and so amazing to have her there to support me. She was really shocked with how much we've improved (so am I) and it was nice to have someone who's seen Katai at her worst (we boarded together right after I left J's) notice how much different she looks.

Now, of course, that this went so well and it was my last planned show I'm already looking forward to next year and to a winter of pushing both of us for the next step. This was certainly even better than the way I hoped to end our 2017 show season :)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Showing Progress

Thank you all for your comments on my last post. It means a lot knowing that so many of you are following along and supporting me and Katai :)

Running in the background this whole summer has been a really stressful few months at work. Two tough trips out west weren't the whole of it and things haven't really gotten any quieter. I never really got a chance to de-stress when I got back from my last two week trip and it's wearing on me. My mom showed up for a surprise visit yesterday just to stop by and initially because I wasn't expecting her and just wanted to crash on the couch in my pjs and maybe have a glass of wine or do some whining I wasn't very nice. To all of you who are parents I commend you for all the crap you put up with from your kids. My mom just stuck around, I apologized and got a hug and some time to talk through what was going on. I've told other people about it but there's nothing like having a good cry with my mom to make me feel better. It surprised me how much lighter I felt after especially since all she did was listen but it did help so much.

After that it was back to show prep and I finished cleaning my tack and assembled my bridle to show by adding the throat latch and plain browband.


While I was cleaning my boots I also got a reminder of how much my position has improved. I'm sure some of you remember my rouge right foot.

If not, here's a picture for reference and this was a good day.
This was one of the first things that Jane tackled and while that leg is still a work in progress since I have a tough time sinking weight into my heel, Jane no longer has to tell me to turn my toe/knee in.

Picture from this winter, also a good day and not very consistent
However, I hadn't really realized how far I've come until I saw the wear marks on my boots. Previously the left boot had a wear mark fairly far back on the upper calf and the right boot had no wear marks since it was the back of my calf that I most often had contact with against Katai's side.

Now they look like this :)

Left boot, the wear mark toward the front is completely new
Right boot, not as much wear towards the back since
I skipped to more wear toward the middle/front
I'm really happy with how even they are! Also happy that I'm riding enough to cause this much wear to my boots. Those fancy boots may be closer than I think haha.

But back to show prep!

I got the majority of my stuff packed, located my coggins paperwork (whew!), and have a shopping list of stuff to pick up tonight/on the way to the barn tomorrow morning. Unfortunately the forecast has continued to show all day rain so it looks like we'll be getting wet. I'm still glad that it's going to be chilly and wet rather than extremely hot and humid but we'll see how quickly I start complaining tomorrow ;)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Prepping


I've been weirdly ambivalent about prepping for this upcoming show. I just haven't put the amount of attention into getting everything together that I have in the past. I think part of it was being out of town for two weeks recently since I feel like I'm just getting caught up in my personal life much less getting show things together.

I also just feel like work has been so nuts that my energy for anything outside of work has been fairly limited. It's not that I won't have things ready, I just won't have it ready as early as I typically do and I've just been putting less attention into it.

I am extremely happy that my ride times are 1:40ish and 2:40ish! No early mornings and not having to deal with the 4-6 hour wait between tests will be fantastic :)

I have been doing important things like painting my toenails pink
(pony solidarity) and washing my lucky unicorn socks of course ;)
I've got my first level test memorized but need a refresher on training 2. I was really hoping my Mattes pad was going to get here but it won't so I'll likely use my black pad since I like that more than the white one. I've just got to swap out Katai's broadband, finish cleaning tack, remember my training level test, and bathe the pony. I also have to decide if I'm going to braid.

Unfortunately it's supposed to be cold and rainy (which I actually prefer to extreme heat) and possibly stormy (which isn't so great). Normally it wouldn't be a huge deal but Katai is tough enough to deal with at a show on a good day that trying to deal with her if it's pouring rain is going to be quite the experience.

I'm also sort of just trusting my pony and I'm hoping it will pay off. I had a meh ride with her in the outdoor arena where she was more tense than I'd hoped she would be at this point. I also know that my standards have gone way up in the last few months so that's part of it. I loaded her the other day and she was really pretty good so I'm sort of trusting that too. The rain won't help but I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping it doesn't rain while we're scheduled for our test or just doesn't rain in general.

Who knows, we might crash and burn but I'm guessing she'll be as good as I ride and I'm really just hoping that she doesn't go backwards after a few months away from the show ring.


Monday, August 21, 2017

What's On The Menu

A couple of people did this sort of post quite awhile ago but I wrote this up and then just sat on it for awhile. I've done some posts in the past I have a few updates so I thought I would post an update about Katai's current diet.

The "Grain":

Katai currently doesn't get any sort of grain beyond a couple handfuls of alfalfa pellets to bulk out her supplements but for the purpose of this post I'm going to include that and supplements in this category.

Smartvite Perform - Katai has been getting this for some time and I really like it as a ration balancer especially since it contains the amount of Magnesium she needs without needing to provide that separately.

MSM Pellets - Every vet I've ever worked with has recommended MSM for performance horses and it's a relatively cheap supplement so I have her on it.

SmartHoof Circulate - This is a new one I'm trying out. I've heard some good things and Katai has always had at least minor hoof issues. This stuff is supposed to help with multiple things so I'm curious if I see any changes in the next few months.

Raspberry Leaf - I'm actually out of this right now but will be ordering another big bag. They last for so long that I forgot how low I was! This is of course meant to help with hormones so I should probably order more sooner rather than later ;)

G.U.T. - This is also a new one that I added when I was concerned about Katai acting like she had ulcers. I also gave her three tubes of Ulcer guard (double the maintenance dose for the most part) and added this. All of her ulcer symptoms went away and my plan for now is to have her on this during show/clinic season and then take her off it in the winter. This is based on the instructions for use allowing for it to not be a constant feedthrough and I feel that it will be most useful when fed during times when she'll be stressed.

Gaps - I'd like to get her back on something specifically for her coat. I'm thinking Omega Horseshine but adding that to my Smartpaks bumps them up above what I'm comfortable spending right now so I may see about adding it when I take her off G.U.T. or if I decide that the SmartHoof Circulate isn't doing anything for her hooves I may swap it out.

The Hay:

Right now Katai is getting almost all alfalfa. I thought it was nuts when Jane mentioned it the first time but I trusted her (she's got a couple of "ancient" horses that look FANTASTIC and are still in full work so I trust that she knows what she's doing) and we started to add it to Katai's ration. Then, as Katai's work continued to increase we continued to increase the % of alfalfa until now she's getting almost all alfalfa and very little grass hay.

Katai's Weight:

Part of why I thought it might be interesting to share this information again is that Katai's weight/diet came up at one of my lessons. Both Jane and I are really happy with how she's looking but don't want her to lose any additional weight. She's been maintaining/losing and getting worked 5-6 times per week. I'm really sensitive to it and didn't notice but when Jane pointed it out I could see it. She's certainly not thin but for her to be able to continue to build muscle she needs to be getting enough groceries and we're right on the edge.

Because of that we've talked about adding a bit of grain. I NEVER thought I'd say that with this pony but here we are and she is working really hard and building muscle. Jane got some higher % alfalfa so we're going to see if that helps and if not we'll be adding some additional feed.

I'm thinking she looks pretty good :)
Speaking of Katai's weight and strength, whenever we're working on something new and working to build her strength I like to make sure that what we're asking is fair. Since I ride a pony and am more likely to face questions/criticism I try to make sure I have a pretty good idea of what percentage she's carrying around. I've always measured her with a weight tape and then weighed myself and my saddle. However, I know that weight tapes aren't that accurate so when I was reminded of the formula you can use to determine a horse's weight I finally checked her that way. 

[(L x L x H)/330] + 50 = weight 
where L is their length shoulder to hip and H is the heart girth measurement

With that calculation and my current weight and the saddle's weight I come in just over 18% of her body weight. When I hit my goal weight I'll be closer to 17% of her body weight. I stick with the 20% rule especially since we're asking her to be fairly athletic but I know a lot of people say ponies are closer to 25%. I've never felt that she struggles with me but sometimes when we're working to build strength it's easy to wonder especially since this is certainly an atypical arrangement for dressage :)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

500th Post!!

I just can't believe that this is my 500th post! I was going to do a recap of my past posts but I'll do that for my end of year posts instead.

This is really more of a celebration of this blog :) I was hoping to have some nice new media, I don't really, but I did get some screen grabs of a ride I did outside at the neighbor's arena.

It would appear that I've posted an average of just over 100 times each year since my 5 year anniversary with this blog and Katai is coming up in a out a month and a half. Stay tuned for more celebratory posts!

So happy with that hind leg!
Starting to feel like I can share canter photos. Also, I really need to listen
to my trainer when she tells me to shorten my reins haha.
Again with that hind leg :)
Slightly BTV, her favorite go to when she's tense in a new place
She's definitely starting to get looser through the shoulder



Flying :)
Love this pony so much


Also, I don't remember if I mentioned that this neighbor has a pot belly pig. She'd warned me that horses are typically terrified of it and the last couple of times I've ridden over there she's put it in the barn. This was the first time it was out when we showed up and Katai made a beeline straight for it. I teased that they bonded over their similar love of eating all the things. She was fascinated and curious and just wanted to hang out by it, not nervous at all.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blog Hop: Show Gear Goals

I've enjoyed reading the show gear blog posts that have been shared so far and since this is the first year that I really showed (if you can count one schooling show and two shows doing opportunity classes as "really" showing haha) so I thought it might be fun to post on what I have that's working or not working.

What I Have That I LOVE:

  • Most of Katai's tack including;
    • Saddle - Prestige Lucky
    • Bridle - PS of Sweden Flying Change
    • Girth - TSF StretchTec in black 22"
    • Reins - Cheap flat Horze black leather reins
    • Browband - for shows I use the plain black broadband that came with the bridle
    • Stirrup Irons - plain medal irons that I bought cheap ($5!!) second hand
  • Most of my outfit including;
    • Breeches - Full seat white B Vertigo from Horze
    • Show shirt - from EGO7 in grey
    • Jacket - Equiline navy blue  bought second hand from Amanda at $900Facebook Pony)
    • Stock Pin - gifted from a friend
    • Stock Tie - from Etsy with little polka dots :)
    • Helmet - OneK in black matte
    • Gloves - Roeckl gloves in black with white binding

What I Have That Should Be Replaced:

  • Brown stirrup leathers - not a big deal since they're really dark leather but I'd really like to get a black pair to match my saddle
  • Neue Schule bit - I want the same exact one (4.5" Eggbutt pony performance bit), it just needs to be replaced since it's getting chewed up

Things I Plan to Upgrade or Upgraded Since The Last Show:

  • Saddle Pad - I don't love the black saddle pad I have (especially with the little crown logo on it) and really didn't like the white one so I've got a grey Mattes pad on the way :)
  • Hairnet/bun holder thing - I have a ton of hair and it went all over the place at my last show. I already ordered a net so that I can put it in a bun and keep it all in place.
  • Boots - Big expensive item so I'm not sure when this will happen but I would like to get dress boots here at some point
  • Gloves - At some point I'll upgrade to white gloves, still Roeckl since they're all I can stand to ride in
That's it for now! At some point I'll likely get another jacket since it's getting slightly loose on me and of course I'd like to pick up another show shirt and another pair of white breeches but with how seldom I showed this year it just seems unnecessary at this point. I'm going to guess that I'll also need spurs at some point but they certainly wouldn't be helpful right now.
Or I could get boring cheaper boots for
showing and fun boots for schooling!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back On Track: Lesson Recap 8/15

Back on track from a lesson schedule perspective, way ahead of where I thought we'd be at this point.


Hopefully I can get better media soon!
I've never been one to think that taking more than one lesson per week would be helpful for me. I like to work on things between lessons and I enjoy time to get my "homework" done. I'm also a really independent person so I enjoy that time that I can work on my own. However, after just having 4 lessons in 10 days I can certainly say that we made more progress than we would have in that time otherwise.

This lesson was already pushing the boundaries and taking a step towards developing a second level balance. We worked on half halts, and "making the bend happen" rather than spending the entire lesson developing the appropriate bend. We also practiced our trot/canter transitions and getting the same quality of trot before and after the transition, did a few SI in each direction, stretchy trot circles, serpentines, and lots more sitting trot while asking for push from behind.

Not sure if I shared this yet or not. Katai doesn't think her
ears can go forward with her bonnet on. Poor pony, so tortured
We're definitely a work in progress (of course) but Katai really stepped up to what we were asking of her. She got tight a few times and definitely had more moments where she said no or questioned what we were asking than she has had but overall she was really fantastic. Plus those moments were few and far between and were just her locking up at the wither rather than rearing or flailing which is huge progress.

The canter trot transitions are what I'm happiest with. Of course fundamentally dressage is about making the horse more rideable and those moments where Katai has the skills and knowledge to do what I'm asking, when I'm asking, in the way I'm asking without any flailing are the moments I LOVE. The canter transitions are starting to really get there. I can sit down and ask and she just goes into canter, no muss no fuss. It's not always brilliant but it is soft and rideable which is also HUGE progress for both of us.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The S Word: Lesson Recap 8/13

First, no we're not talking about sex.

Second, yes I totally did fall off the face of the planet for a few days. Namely so that I could binge watch a few tv shows (OMG I'm loving the second season of Quantico!!!) and spend LOTS of time listening to Bon Iver's new album which I'm unusually addicted to. Which is saying something because I'm already very addicted to Bon Iver.

Third, if you're counting I have had a bunch of lessons over the past week or so. I pay for lessons with Jane as part of my board and she's amazingly generous about rescheduling even when it's on me that I couldn't make my lesson in the first place. Because of that I had a lesson last weekend, last Tuesday, this Sunday, and I'll have another lesson tomorrow on Tuesday. Then we should be back on track.
Wishing her rider would just stop with the pictures already
This lesson Jane wanted to have me run through a couple of tests. She was using an old test book so it wasn't accurate to what we'll be doing but similar movements and it was good for me and Katai to have to think on our feet and just follow her directions without much prep. I'll be memorizing the tests I will be riding (Training 2 and First 1) over the next week or so and then we'll be able to practice those instead.

First we did First level test 1. Honestly, it felt a bit easy. At home, of course, we're schooling much more complex things so riding through the test felt simple. The toughest thing is still the center line and Katai is so wiggly that she wants to throw her haunches left in the worst way possible at the halt.
Literally this...
She's also not a fan of me picking up contact in the walk but overall it wasn't too tough. Then Jane read another test and I found out after that it was First test 2 which apparently was a dreaded test before they changed it. It did feel like things were coming up fast and the lengthening in the canter for half the long side down to trot right after felt tricky. It happened though, just not as smoothly as I'd like. However, we aren't doing that test so something to worry about for next year haha.

We had done quite a bit of warming up with lots of bendy work to start so after the second test we called it a day. At that point Jane and I spent a lot of time talking. We discussed how amazing it is that we've come as far as we have in such a short time and how much fun we're having working with each other. Then Jane said that our project for the winter is working on second level!!!

Blurry but proof that pony really
enjoys black licorice after our rides :)
Of course that's the next step, it's just that this will be our first show at First so I honestly wouldn't have been too surprised if the plan had been to work on firming up First over the winter and just dabbling at 2nd. The fact that Jane want's to start prepping us to show Second next year (even if it's towards the end of the show season) is so freaking exciting to me!