Friday, May 31, 2019

Marshfield Day 1: Sweat is the brain's lubricant

What is it about Marshfield?  Completely civilized experienced show horses suddenly flip their tiny lids and commence with screaming and flailing.  Including Theo.

Especially Theo.

So much for him being experienced and ready to go after his outing at the Big E grounds.  There's something about the walk from stabling up to the rings that makes all of the horses certain they are going to be tortured and killed.  They need help!  They need friends!  They need to scream and spin for home!  Even Theo who generally doesn't care who's around so long as he's not alone.  He was calling for his Friesian neighbor and spinning every time he got a response.  I walked him in hand for an hour.  With his rope halter due to his inability to deal with himself.  He was actually doing really well, but every time he went to stabling his brain broke again.

I went to get on and realized Theo was unrideable.  Completely lit, explosive, actively looking for a shot to explode.  He started to spin and fly backwards and I got the hell off.  I borrowed a lunge line from my neighbor and he spent a full thirty minutes cantering.  A little trotting, but it was pretty much all cantering.  He'd start to look tired but I'd move or shake the whip and he'd start with the head snaking and scooting again.  I didn't let him stop until he was actively trying to stop.  Then I got on and went back to the competition rings.

Like magic the brain worked!  He was rideable!  Sweat truly is the brain's lubricant.  I sent him right down centerline so he understood the game when we got there, but after doing yet another 30 minutes of work, he was ready to mosey around on the buckle.  That shivering skin was gone.  I did dismount for the walk back since he had to pass his Friesian friend who was having his turn flailing on the lunge line.

Completely soaked saddle pad

Almost three hours of work to get Theo through ring acclimatization.  I was exhausted and I'd worked right through lunch.  I was starving and so utterly done with the horse show.  I went to my sound check and that went fine, then took off for my hotel to check in.

The hotel had the expiration date of my card wrong in their file and it took 45 minutes and a phone call to my bank to get it all sorted.  I didn't get my dinner until after night check.

It was a well earned margarita with a rib eye steak.  The salad I got was the best tasting thing I've ever eaten.  That's how you know I was starving, I woofed down a salad.

Tomorrow's plan is to handwalk in the morning when I get there, then school for an hour once the warm up rings are buzzing so he's not alone up there.  I ride at 1:30 and 3:30, so he'll get some nice breaks but it's going to be all about keeping the energy levels down to the point I can actually ride him.  And hope that all of his neighbors stop screaming for each other.  Seriously, what is it with this place?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Prep time

I know I went to an away show just a couple weeks ago, but I still feel utterly unprepared for my show this weekend.  It doesn't help that work went ballistic for reasons outside of anyone's control.  Three clients going live and pretty much the entire team is out on a planned vacation or a family/medical emergency.  Double back ups and we're still unable to cover.  It's statistically wildly improbable that this would happen but here we are, with me pulling two jobs and client facing calls while prepping for a horse show.

Wheeee, adulting!


At least my trailer is ready.  The truck is gassed up and road ready.  I did clean my tack this weekend so it just needs a touch up.  Laundry still needs to be run, but I'll work from home tomorrow to take care of that.  The pony?


Pony was described as 'spicy' today when Trainer A rode him.  While having his shoes done, he overreacted wildly to his hot shoeing, broke his cross ties, hurt my farrier, and ran off down the road with no front shoes on.  What the hell?

Glad to see all the body work paying off, but less levades would be awesome

He was in for a couple nights in the last week while I combated some very stubborn thrush.  He, like most horses, will happily stand in the rain and mud while his dry shed sits waiting.  I had to take the choice away from him to dry out his feet with this ridiculously wet spring.  We made it five nights with a stall at night and daytime turn out before he flipped his lid.  That's actually a new record for him.

Tonight he's back out in his field full time with my farrier's blessing.  The thrush is on the ropes and his sanity has to take priority.  Tomorrow I'll be riding him for as long as it takes to find the bottom.  It will be a long ride.  Hopefully he'll be less twitchy and crazy after being in his field for 24 hours.

Friday I leave at 11:30am, so I'll probably ride briefly on Friday morning to keep the sass levels to a manageable level.  Then I'll hack out and school the rings at the show grounds.  Only two rings to school and they're right next to each other.  Sound check is 6pm for my freestyle.  It's the first time I have to go to a sound check, so that's an exciting addition to the schedule.  I have no idea how that works, but I'll be one of two freestyles each day so it won't be a crowd.  The show is looking pretty small which is a surprise.  NEDA is not a small GMO and the last time I did this show, it was bigger.  I hope this isn't a sign of shows fading away in the area.

My goals for the show are very realistic.  62% for my First 3, 65% for my freestyle.  I'm strictly going for those qualifying scores.  Since my large arena has a round pen in the middle of it right now (I really am too cranky for words about that) I haven't been able to ride my updated choreography.  I'll be sticking with the one I know for this show.  I haven't ridden through First 3, either, but I'll manage.  It's similar enough to the old First 3 test.

Survival is our goal.  It's a good goal.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Life with an aluminum trailer

This is one of those 'learn from my mistakes' posts.  I have found very little information out there for just what to do with an aluminum floor trailer to keep it in good condition.  I figured I'd be good about sweeping and pulling my mats once or twice a year and I'd be fine.  Aluminum doesn't rust, right?

Last winter hit very suddenly and we got buried in snow right out the gate.  I'd cleaned out my trailer, but snuck in one more use with the intent of pulling my mats for the winter afterward.  When my trailer got buried, I shrugged and let it be.  I'd just cleaned my trailer, surely it would be fine through the winter.

Fast forward to April when I finally got my trailer free of the snow and ice.  I pulled the mats for a quick spring clean up and got an unpleasant surprise.  A slow leak due to snow melt had let water into my trailer.  It had run under the mats heading to the drainage hole (good news, trailer was at least angled the right way so the water drained out).  Since I didn't pull the mats after the last use, the water mixed with some used shavings that had worked their way under the mats.  Gross.  I swept the mess out, hosed off my floor, and reset.  I noted some white powder while sweeping, but with all of the mess, it didn't really register.  I was more upset about the set of Dansko clogs in the gooseneck that got ruined in the leak.

It looks like a safe, well maintained trailer, right?

I did some research on products to clean up the aluminum floor properly and realized that I had corrosion on my hands.  Huh.  I ordered up some products and scheduled this weekend for giving my trailer a thorough scrub to make sure it didn't get damaged.  I parked it, pulled up my mats, and stared in horror.  I hadn't done a good job getting my floor dry before and it was a royal mess under the mats.

White is corrosion, black is from the mats, brown is from old shavings working their way underneath and grinding into the metal

I thought I'd ruined my trailer.  Now that I knew what I was looking at, I was in a panic that I'd put my horse on that trailer.  I called my husband and told him my trailer was done, my show season was cancelled, etc.  Fortunately he does metal working and told me to clean it up so he could check it out when he got home. I agreed and got out my supplies.

L to R:  Car washing supplies, nitrile gloves, drill with brush, clear goggles, Bio Kleen Alum Kleen, Oxi-X Oxidation Barrier, Bug and Goo remover, car wash

First thing was to hose out the trailer.  I attacked the floor with the brush on the drill to take care of the spots where the water/shavings had turned into a paste and adhered to the floor.  Goggles are important if you're using a drill brush while removing manure/urine soaked muck.  Things were already looking better.

I hit the floor with a 50:50 dilution of the Bio Kleen as an acid wash.  I let it sit six minutes, then hosed out the trailer.

Excellent progress.  The oxidation is very visible, but at least I know what I'm dealing with.  The half of the floor that doesn't usually have a horse is already looking very shiny, so Bio Kleen is a great way to clean up a floor with minimal scrubbing.  For the damaged half?  Well, I've got a lot of work to do.  I tried the drill brush to remove the brown muck and oxidation.  No dice, had to go manual.

RIP kitchen sponge

My secret weapon for this battle was my jar of Bar Keepers Friend and the scrubby sponge from the kitchen.  With these as my companions, I was able to attack the floor and remove all of the muck and oxidation so I could truly see what the state of my floor was.  Yes, I sat on my butt in my trailer for the better part of an hour and scrubbed out the floor by hand.  That sponge had a hard, hard life.  I hosed everything out again and gave it another hit of Bio Kleen at a 4:1 dilution.  One last touch up scrub, then I final hit of Bio Kleen at the weaker dilution.

At this point, my floor is clean enough to eat off of.  Any discoloration is from the damage to the aluminum making it not reflect light the same way.  This was when I had to walk away because I was still convinced my trailer was ruined.  The hubby and the neighbor that does auto body came over to inspect my trailer.

Did you know that you test structural integrity of an aluminum floor by having two grown men hit it with a phillips screwdriver to see if they can punch through or if it sounds different?  I didn't until the two of them started hitting my poor trailer floor.  After this highly scientific inspection, followed by me crawling around with a flash light to inspect the floor in detail, the trailer was declared ugly but totally sound.  Yes, there was some pitting on the surface, but no pin holes or soft spots.  I'd caught it in time.  Or I got lucky, depending on who you ask.  Either way, I still have a functioning trailer and a very important life lesson.  PULL YOUR MATS.

Since my floor was completely pristine, I went ahead and washed the walls using my car wash.  I hit the padding with some Amor All wipes and was happy to see them come right back to life.  I followed that with my Oxi-X protective coating for the floor.

Knee pads and gloves are important when putting a coat of sealer down on your trailer floor

It's for marine use to protect aluminium from salt water.  It's a clear coat that goes on like a thin paint.  I figured why not, I'd give it a try.  I let my trailer completely dry over night (fun fact, the oxidation is much harder to see once dry), then attacked it with my protective coating.  I put down two coats, very grateful that mats were going over top.  Hay kept blowing from my gooseneck onto my coating, so the finish is not exactly pristine.  But who cares, so long as it protects my aluminum for a season or two.

The finished product:

Looks like a completely different trailer

It took me hours and hours of work, but my floor is clean, inspected, and sealed.  My mats got a wash with some Simple Green, then dried in the sun (completely bone dry, both sides, I checked very closely).  I dragged them back in, then ran some black duct tape along the seams to keep the sawdust out from under my mats as I will be doing three horse show weekends in a row.  I can promise my trailer won't get another serious clean out until July, I just won't have the time or energy.  I've learned all about the importance of prevention.

All my goodies went back in and my trailer is ready to hit the road again!

Mission accomplished

I finally got some hooks up front, it is a wonderful thing and keeps me much more organized when showing out of the trailer.

I learned some very important lessons.

1.  ALWAYS pull your mats before putting your trailer away for the winter.  So important.  Totally worth doing even if you have to dig it out of the snow to do it.

2.  Cover the dang trailer when it's chilling during the winter if you get a lot of snow.  Snow melt has this nasty way of oozing into seams that are usually water tight.

3. Pull the mats more often and scrub out your floor.  Yes, mats are heavy, but spending hours undoing the damage is worse.

I'm glad that's over and I can carry on with my show season.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

And then there was one

Theo's had a second rider for well over a year now.  He likes her, she gives him lots of cookies and respects his need for autonomy and minimal effort.  She's learned a lot from him as well, as evidenced by their performance last weekend.

Today, his other rider bought her very first horse.  And it's a very familiar face.

Ratbag pony has found his person and Theo's other rider has found her pony.  Apparently she and I have similar tastes (and Ratbag pony is a lot less ratbag these days).  I still giggle that I'm the rider in his sales video and the owner of her current partner.

So that's very exciting news for her.  He's passed the vet and everything.  But what does that mean for Theo?

It means that I'm Theo's only dance partner for the first time in two years.  It's going to take some adjustment.  He still gets ridden once a week by Trainer A so it's five days a week that he needs exercise and attention.  He does very poorly with time off.  I may have to add to my budget and get him a second ride with Trainer A each week so I can see my husband on occasion.  This will be good for Theo since he won't have any mixed signals.  It will be the same set of rules every ride.  He'll miss his slacker rides, but I do want to keep this as simple for his pony brain as possible.

On the one hand, I can stop feeling guilty for taking him away for shows this summer and making him unavailable.  I can also stop having moments of control freak rage when things aren't the way I want every single time.  But it also means that I'm back to being a full time partner and that will require some changes in my schedule.  I'm going to have chats with the hubby and boss to come up with a plan.  Somehow, some way, I will keep Theo from getting even chubbier than he is currently.

He looks like a broodmare right now, not gonna lie.  I know dressage horses are chunkier than their eventing equivalents but geeze.  That is a substantial booty that would not fit in a trailer that is not warmblood sized.  Pony got put on a ration balancer instead of regular grain to control the growth going on.  I don't need to buy more girths.

I was trying to get a picture of the chickens following him around to get the bugs he stirs up but mostly got his belly

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Shut up and dance with me

I love having a schooling show facility right down the road.  We get to practice packing, trailering, warming up, and showing without the same level of freak out or expense.  Theo has been to Oakrise so many times that he might as well have a stall there.  He gets off the trailer, looks around, and goes 'oh, cool, the food booth is open' and gets to work.

Our goal for the day was to let his other rider practice her First level tests (she moved up!) before her rated debut with him.  I threw my stuff in the truck so I could do a run through of my freestyle in a show setting at the end of the day, but not competing.  I'm good friends with the secretary and she let me enter as a Test of Choice with freestyle.

Theo's other rider warming up, went with the solid black PSoS browband to go with her beautiful coat, Smartpak saddle pad with black and silver piping

First was Theo being a school master and showing his rider the ropes at First.  I coached in warm up for how Theo warms up best.  Keep it minimal.  Get him forward and off your leg, but make sure you leave all the good stuff in the tank for your test.  He did about about 15 - 20 minutes of actual work and he was ready to roll.  His rider was a bit nervous with the small warm up, but she trusted me and went with it.
Still the best tail in the region

The first test had some navigation issues, not helped by me reading the test and Theo sometimes transitioning on my cue, not his rider.  58% for purely technical reasons (blew by a letter, didn't transition at X, etc).  Her second test, however, I got someone else to read.  Someone Theo doesn't know.  63% and High Point for First.  Woohoo, school master Theo!

Still sticks his tongue out for the picture

Tough judge, but nice and her comments are all very solid.  She taps you hard when you deserve it, but she's generous with the 7's.  She's an 'r' judge and judges schooling shows the same as rated shows, which I appreciate.  The test looked like a 63% and she got it.  His other rider is feeling more confident about going First with him in a month after he carted her around for both tests.  Leg yield was sticky, but his lengthens were much bigger than what he does for her at home.  Good she got to experience that.

And then it was my turn. Theo got grass and time to chill while I got dressed.  I did about five minutes of warm up total, enough to let him know mom was on board and the requirements had changed a bit.  I had a friend video taping, I had the sound guy ready, and I bombed down centerline.

First take away:  EARNET!!!  I gooped him up with Swat but his other rider was nervous about his history of shaking off his bridle when in an ear net so I left it off.  We were doing good until the head shaking started.  You can see it starting in the second leg yield and I was simply trying to keep his bridle on during the walk.  I couldn't really steer through that section of the test.  He's not a head shaker, there was a bug in his ear and he was super upset.  I corrected the head shaking in the canter and that was the blow up.  MOM there is a bug in my ear and I need it fixed NOW!  Ugh, Theo.  Ugh.  I made him run the test again afterward as schooling and it was spot on fantastic.  No bug in the ear = totally peaceful test.

Second take away:  The choreography can be completed even when I have a massive resistance which makes me much more confident.  Theo completely blew that 15m circle and yet we completed with our music and we hit our markers.  Whew.

Third take away:  The canter section needs work.  It is tight and does not flow as well.  The judge (who I didn't know was judging, whoops) commented on the canter pattern needing more flow.  Part of it was me hitting markers with our blow up at the start so things were rushed or a hair behind the music, but the first half of the canter work is not very flowing.  I've already sat down with my freestyle app to rework the canter, using the fact that he's very good at counter canter to move the lead changes to spaces where we have more room to breathe and we won't interrupt the flow.  Also giving the movements more time as his more collected canter has slowed slightly.  Not usually noticeable, but it adds up in a freestyle.

Fourth take away:  You can totally tell I'm in pain.  My SI was out and I kept trying to sit the trot out of habit and it was just too much.  Thank goodness for First level tests and being able to post.

Artistic and music both got 7's, getting us to 64.1 despite some of our technical issues.  AKA pony temper tantrum in two movements he usually scores well in while I tried to not move my lower back.  I'm overall happy with his performance and am way more confident in our next outing where I'll do my freestyle twice.  I feel like survival is set, now I can polish.  And buy more earnets.  And visit a chiro.

We took papi home and tucked him into bed with many cookies.  He was a good pony and there were many compliments on his correct, forward self.  Hopefully my SI will settle and I'll be able to sit trot again soon.  Two weeks until NEDA Spring!

Still planning on taking this dork out in public

Friday, May 17, 2019

Learning to flail

So that First level freestyle I was so excited about?  That's a hell of a lot harder than I thought.

I did my first attempt at a full run through last night.  I thought it would be easier since I'd have music to help me remember my test.  NOPE.  Instead I'm aiming for letters because my figures need to be spot on while listening for musical cues to tell me if I'm off course.  It's not the music telling me when to go, because when I ride like that, my figures get inconsistent and the timing goes to hell in a handbasket.  So it's a perfectly memorized test that I can ride identically every single time, then add music.

I didn't didn't have a perfectly memorized test that I can ride identically every single time.  I had a hot mess that involved a lot of 'wait, that's my lengthen!' and 'how was I supposed to be there already?!' and 'sorry, Theo'.  A friend was spectating and I think I've ruined her for ever wanting to do a freestyle.  She watched me careen around and swear to music, shaking her head.

So I'm turning the music back off and drilling that test to make sure it is exactly as laid out every.  single.  time.  I'm actually okay with Theo learning this test right now because if both of us know it, we might stand a chance.  Once I can ride the whole thing without even thinking about what letter I'm aiming for, I can turn my music back on.

This is not what I thought it would be like.  This is freaking hard!  Dressage is all about precision, yes, but when you start adding musical phrasing it gets even more precise.  Not only do I need the figure to be the right size, it needs to take the right amount of time to complete so no deviations in pace are allowed.  No firing up, no dragging along.

I'll try to get video of our run through on the 19th.  I'm only hoping to complete the test around the same time the music stops right now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Showtime, Part Three

Saturday was awesome.  Super awesome.  But I fell asleep to the sound of pouring rain and that was not what I wanted.  On Sunday I was slopping through the rain on the way into stabling.  I wanted a good spot for my trailer so I hitched up from the overnight parking and moved it around first thing in the morning and I soaked my jeans climbing around in my truck bed.

It was also freezing so my friend and I were quickly rummaging around for more layers.  I got dressed early for my class because chinks are nice and warm.  I realized my new western saddle was going to get soaked and cried a little about that.

We still had to walk Theo and we took a pass around the competition ring to check out where it had been rearranged.  The judge's booth was removed and replaced by a car, probably due to the judge freezing.  While walking around, I could see that the rings were quickly going under water.  They didn't drain worth a darn and the warm up was all standing water.  The footing was still giving way under my feet and the first bit of doubt started to filter in.  Why was I even going into the ring?

I talked to my western dressage friends and we all convinced each other to go for it.  We'd all driven a long way, it seemed dumb to pack it in without even trying.  There was an indoor arena for warm up for the coliseum, but as I discovered when I tried to go in there, saddle seat warm up is a unique experience.  I walked Theo in hand while trainers glared at me for being there and whooped and hyped up the horses.  After hand walking for ten minutes under a sheet, I gave up and took Theo outside.

It was so cold.  So, so cold.  40* or so and with the wind, it felt like it was going to snow.  The rain was coming down hard and I was out in warm up completely alone.  Everyone else was hidden inside and Theo was pretty sure this was the hands down dumbest thing ever.  We slopped around warm up, trying to get his muscles warm while not slipping in the footing.  After ten minutes, lunch break ended and I got the green light to go in whenever I wanted.

I headed straight for the ring.  Theo was just getting pissed in the rain and we were so cold.  If we were going to try it, might as well try it.  He entered beautifully and I am super proud of him for that.  Not properly warmed up, alone, in the driving cold rain, and he marched down center line.  It wasn't until we tried to canter into C and the water was up to his fetlocks that he broke and started to give me trouble.  He swapped leads, then refused to canter through the lake.  He's not an eventer, it's not like we practice that sort of thing.  I'm good with mud and rain, I jumped him in a soaked ring on sand just a week ago.  This was different.  This wasn't a nice sand ring that was full of puddles.  C was completely underwater, Theo was slipping, and I put my hand up.  Another withdrawal.  I felt dumb for trying to show in that mess.

Theo went back in his stall to be toweled down and bundled up while we packed up for departure.  The show announcer sent out a warning about ice on bridges and I felt better about my decision to scratch.  We got the stall stripped and Theo loaded up with no trouble.  On the drive back, we had sleet.  Gross.

So my show did not go at all to plan with Sunday being a complete wash out, but it wasn't a total loss.

Pony's got all the moves for Level 2 and started the season in a very reasonable way.  I'm going to focus on the good stuff and let the problems from Mother Nature just roll off of me.  Was I a quitter to withdraw twice in one weekend?  Probably, but Theo had such a good weekend that I feel more confident going into our next outings.  That was our goal.

There will be other days and other shows.  We got what we needed, which was some good trips in an all new facility.  Onward and upward.

Showtime, part two

Saturday dawned absolutely glorious.  Sunny, warm, and my friend that volunteered to groom arrived.  All of a sudden I had another pair of hands.  She took Theo out for a 30 minute hand walk while I cleaned his stall.  It's the little things that help with a show.  I don't need a lot of help, just someone to entertain the heathen while I do the day to day chores.  When I didn't have pins for my number, she ran out to buy some so I didn't have to descend into a panic.  She was a life saver in so many little ways.

Theo was delighted to have another human to annoy and coax into providing treats.

Kisses for his new best friend ever that learned to carry cookies in her pocket

I rode him in the morning to see what I had in the tank and ended up doing about 30 minutes to burn off some of the excess energy from being in a stall.  Interesting discovery, western and English riders are not supposed to warm up together under USEF rules.  This is due to differences in equipment rules and makes it easier for the stewards to watch us.  Half of the warm up was a sea of mud with water standing on top due to the previous night's storm.  The temp rings just didn't drain at all.  Yeah, it rained hard, but that was over twelve hours ago!  And the footing was more like mud, not wet sand.  I don't care about wet sand, I'll even jump in that, but this was sucking mud.  Guess which side the western dressage got?  Yeah, it was gross.  I should have gotten a picture of Theo after his warm up.  Mud up to his midline and all over my tack. I also noticed that the footing was sliding and we couldn't canter much, but the competition ring was in good shape with just one muddy corner so I didn't worry too much.  Theo doesn't need to school movements, he knows them by heart.  I can burn energy safely in trot.

Theo went straight to the wash rack for a bath after that work and then back to his stall for more hay and a nap.  I cleaned my tack and changed into my show clothes, finally getting all of my new show look together.

Pro show pony knows when to chill and save energy.  He looks like a total mule in this picture.

Cream shirt with purple flowers, my new chinks from Buckaroo Leather, my new shorter boots, my brown Troxel, and a purple saddle blanket.  I'm in my English spurs since they work fine with my boot cut jeans and are more precise than my rowels.  You really can't tell with my jeans over top.  Theo has the same hideous bridle since the color matches.  That's my next thing to replace.

Level 2 Test 1 was up first.

Considering some of the melt downs he had the day before around that competition ring?  I was so, so, so proud of him for that test.  As soon as he hit centerline, it was show time.  It is such a pleasure to ride a horse that understands the job and is happy to do it.  He broke when he found the mud next to C but it felt like he was genuinely surprised to have the footing slip under his feet.  I had to forgive it and he cantered through it each time afterward.  We got rapped hard for our halt that didn't really commit and our shoulder ins that didn't have enough bend, but we still got a 65% and won the class.  I am not complaining at all.  He looked so good down that final centerline, so happy and relaxed while bouncing along.

Level 1 Test 2 was next.

They decided that setting up all of the office work in the second judge booth was a good idea, so Theo was struggling with all of the noise coming from that cave.  People arriving and leaving, the printing calculator, moving equipment, etc.  I heard a noise from the booth right before he bucked so I know what happened.  He came right back and only one score was affected.  We got another 65% and won the class with comments about our leg yields needing better bending.  Yeah, I know.  I know that right down to my soul.

For the first time ever, I tried doing three tests at a show.  I wanted to see if he could handle it since western dressage is point based.  You get awards based on accumulated points.  Doing three tests would make it easier to get to his bronze in western dressage.

Level 2 Test 2

You can hear that screeching sound on the video.  That was a trailer jack knifing next to the ring (right next to that arch in the background).  I startled badly because it was sudden and I thought it was an injured animal.  When I startle, Theo startles badly.  You can't hear the staff yelling at the driver and the driver yelling back while they (noisily) tried to get things straightened out.  I did try to pick my canter back up, but Theo wasn't having it since I was still rattled.  Neither of us do well with sudden, scary noises.  I put my hand up and withdrew.  There was no positive experience to be had in that situation.  The trailer and yelling staff weren't going anywhere and Theo was distracted at a level I couldn't work through while doing a Level 2 test.  Our next movement was a simple change at X, followed by a lengthened lope heading back toward the commotion.  Hahaha, no.  I walked out rather than give him a bad experience after being so good.  He didn't try to dump me or leave, so it's still progress.

The judge flagged me down to ask what happened and I told her that there was no positive experience to be had, so I was stopping.  She complimented me for choosing my horse over the test and said she was looking forward to seeing the test the next day since it had started so well.  We did discuss whether or not he was a personality that could handle three tests and I'm leaning toward no.  It's still hard for him to march out there by himself and three may be too much for him to handle mentally.  I'm thinking that he'll always be a two test pony, which is a disadvantage at western dressage shows.  But whatever, he's a super star and we're becoming known in the local western dressage crowd.  He's made for this discipline and tough to beat.

I tucked my tired dressage pony into bed and went to watch the Arabian show in the coliseum for a couple hours.  Interesting, but not my cup of tea.  Especially the saddle seat classes.  Just . . . not for me.

We headed out when the show wound up around 10pm (can you imagine showing that late at night?!) and managed to snag six hours of sleep.  The forecast was for cold and rain on Sunday.  The rain was already starting when we went to bed.

Tomorrow, Theo vs. the mud!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Showtime, Part One

Three day show, so not going to try to fit it all in one post.  I'm still recovering from my post horse show hangover and the idea of that much typing makes me want to go to bed, crawl under the blankets, and never come out.

On Friday I packed up the beast and hauled him two hours to the Eastern States Exposition for the Arabian Horse Club of Conneticut's annual show.  It's a huge facility.  I took Allen there many years ago for an equitation final.  I took Fiona there to be a demo horse at Equine Affaire.  It was Theo's turn to experience the chaos.

Theo did not approve, especially as our first show of the season. 

The usual dressage ring was under construction, so we were in a temp set up in a field.  The footing was fine, but it all seemed a bit cobbled together.  There were big cement blocks holding up the fencing around the warm up area.  We were right next to the pallets full of bedding and had cars/trailers/even the occasional semi going by the ring. 

The view from the warmup ring

While tacking up I realized I forgot my wool pad for my western saddle.  Fortunately my new saddle has silicone cushioning and I could ride him in just a saddle blanket for the weekend.  Not how I wanted to ride and not something I ever want to do again, but at least I didn't have to bribe someone to rush my saddle pad down so I could ride.

I worked him in the warm up for about an hour when we got there.  It was nerve wrecking at first because he was so distracted and very quick to spook and spin.  But then I put my leg on and asked him to come back to me and he actually freaking did it.  The spooking dropped away to nothing and he let me give him a little bump to refocus him when he tried to jump away from the fire hydrant for the tenth time.  It was massive progress for him (and me) that I was able to work him through his distraction in a positive way.  Walk, trot, canter with no attempts to unload me and just some spooking at things like pallets being moved and unloaded.  Which is pretty fair, let's be honest.

No schooling allowed in the competition ring, but I did take Theo for a walk around it after the Arabian dressage show was done.  He did fine until he realized he was the only horse in sight in any direction since everyone else had left for dinner.  He then had a small meltdown.  Twenty more minutes of convincing him that he was not going to die got him walking around calmly enough that I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get launched. 

The behavior in the stall has not changed at all.  Much angry head shaking and demanding to be let out.  I put about 30k steps on my Fitbit on Friday, much of it handwalking to avoid the stall being destroyed.

The best grass was next to warm up,, the pallets of bedding are just out of frame on the right

I also found a restaurant where I could get street style tacos and a margarita.  That helped the weekend get off to a solid start.

All hail the well made margarita

During dinner we had a band of storms go through with torrential rain, but it was over in an hour.  Didn't seem like a big deal and Saturday was forecasted to be 66* and sunny.  Just perfect.  Overall the first day went about as well as I could have hoped.  We settled in the stabling, we worked, and no one completely melted down.  I kissed my pony goodnight, went to my motel that was only .25 miles away from the facility, and proceeded to not sleep a wink because I'm bad at sleeping in motels.

Next post:  Saturday, our Level 2 debut!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Final wardrobe choices

The tail is trimmed, the chestnuts have been hacked and filed into shape, and the mane has been conditioned.  That must mean it's show time.

Since I made a lot of changes in the off season, I'm still practicing riding in my new show gear.  That means it's time for some dirty mirror selfies!

The outfit still feels foreign to me, but I'm getting used to it.  The helmet is a Troxel which is far from my favorite brand, but I'll give them credit.  This doesn't feel like the flimsy thing I was wearing when I took my serious concussion back in the early 2000's.  It's comfy and light while blending with my ranch pleasure inspired look.  My chaps/chinks are such a nice color and I love the conchos with no extra strings or bling.  The conchos look a lot like the ones on my saddle and I'm thinking about getting a bridle with matching conchos so we're all coordinated.  You can just barely see my new Ariat boots.  The rowels are the ones I got last year with the very gentle flower rowel.

The shirt was a random plaid shirt I got for $3 at Walmart years ago.  I've got some different shirts for showing and some colored saddle blankets to go with them, but I actually really like the natural color saddle pad with this outfit.  He looks like a genuine, functional western horse.

I, on the other hand, am struggling to figure out how to wear my lovely chaps and get my saddle in the right spot on his back on the first try.  I keep pushing the saddle too far forward and I never get the chinks on in the same place twice which means a lot of adjusting and wiggling around in the saddle, ugh.  Where the heck are these things supposed to rest, anyway?  I feel like I'm that stereotypical older gentleman with my pants hauled up far too high.

Health paperwork was finished today so the show is on.  Friday morning we take off for a weekend full of Arabian horses and brand new dressage tests.  Should be an adventure.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Play time

With all of my focus on getting ready for the show season, I have to remember that it's not a hobby for Theo.  It's his job.  This means that he's going to want to do something other than drill tests in the ring every day.

On Saturday we ran away to jumpa da jumps.  This meant getting the trailer out of winter storage.

I totally stacked the deck on this trip.  Hard ride the night before, a ride in the morning, and then zipped out the 20 minutes to the jump school.  Also Ulcerguard and a lot of cookies.  He walked around quite nicely on a long rein even though he was completely by his lonesome and hadn't been off property in almost six months.  He didn't buck, spin, or refuse any fences.  He did pat the ground an extra time for some of the ones he thought were spooky (like the little barrels while he didn't even look at the birch, wtf), but I'll take that answer over stopping or spinning.

He looked very happy to play the jumping game.

It was standing water in about half the arena with water logged sand everywhere else so we left the jumps at 2'3".  No need to risk injury a week before an away show.  We need it to stop raining!  Please, stop raining!  We need to dry out!