Monday, June 12, 2023

Media Dump: NEDA Spring

 Minimal words, mostly just pictures of our adventures at NEDA's first winter dressage festival.  Held in June.

This first set are all courtesy of Meg McGuire Photography, the show photographer.

These are from Marielle Watson, one of Trainer Z's students who is also a photographer.  Yes, those are pictures of me as the groom, bundled up in many layers and escorting my fancy show pony about.

He's suddenly decided to go so grey.  It's so cute but at the same time breaks my heart.  Not yet, Theo, we've got stuff to do!  The photos of me in the saddle are probably a couple weeks away but I've heard rumor that there may be video.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I will enjoy all of these pictures of Theo with Trainer Z.  They make such a great pair.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

The horsiest time of the year

 This whole couple of weeks has been a whirlwind.  The show season in New Hampshire is short, particularly when you ride a black, very muscley draft cross.  We tend to show in June, break for all of July, do a show late in August, and then a couple outings in fall before the snow flies at the end of October.  June is prime show season as well as clinic season.  Combine that with commencement season at the university and I've been sleeping in hotels and driving all over New England.

First was Theo's trip to NEDA Spring.  I went as the groom so I could get back into the swing of things while Trainer Z debuted Theo's freestyle.  Warm up day was 91* and very sunny.  Both Theo and Schrodie warmed up beautifully for Trainer Z.  It's still whacky to me that she has two completely different horses as her competition horses:  Mr. Fancy Pants Grand Prix Stallion Schrodie and . . . Theo.

Over dinner Friday night, the cold front arrived.  We spent the rest of the weekend huddling for warmth as the wind blasted and the rain fell.  It was 50* for a high and drizzling for two days straight.  Theo had to wear his heavy Baker to stay warm.  We were thanking all of our lucky stars that we didn't clip him in the spring so he still had some protection from the ridiculous weather.  Schrodie couldn't have asked for worse conditions for his return to Grand Prix competition.  The energy was too much for him on Saturday but on Sunday, he had a very nice trip with Trainer Z.  

Given the conditions, I was very proud of Theo going into the ring like a total gentleman and not giving Trainer Z too much flack.  He was tight in his back and jaw because it was raining and cold damn it!  Theo does not like to work in the rain and the cold.  Both of his tests went well but it was Trainer Z's first freestyle so there are some tweaks to the choreography in mind now that she's done it in competition.

But she got the scores for her freestyle bar and qualified for regionals so mission accomplished!  Many more photos are coming of their tests, they're being processed by the photographer right now.  The video was a complete bust since you can't hear anything over the wind.  It demonstrates the conditions folks were dealing with at this show that video wasn't possible.  It was utterly miserable and I heard that one ring had 8 eliminations in one day.  That didn't include the folks that didn't make it out of warmup.  Considering the conditions, it was a great success.

The very next weekend saw me loading up the trailer to take Theo to a local show for our first show together in almost four years.  Nervous?  Me?  What would make you think that?  Might be the green shade of my face that made strangers tell me 'good luck' and 'you'll be great!' as I walked to the ring.  Grooming the weekend before did help as I'd at least been to a show recently and the old habits kicked in.  I schooled the night before and realized Second 3 is easy for us now.  I can do a 15 meter circle in counter canter, I can certainly manage that serpentine.

Theo was an absolute saint.  Warmed up just like we were at home.  I was actually wishing I hadn't wimped out and had put on my rowels and picked up my whip.  I chickened out because I didn't want more horse than I could handle.  Then I saw the two big puddles in the competition ring.  Damn it, I could have used the bigger spurs.  Theo does not like to go through ankle deep water and with it in the corners, I wouldn't be able to use them to set up for my movements.  Sigh.

I was proud of my test.  No errors, no major issues, just a cute draft that was not having it with cantering through the puddles and a judge with a (justified) reputation for being harsh.  At one point I growled at him audibly and got an error for using my voice but I needed him to just go through the puddle already!  Kicking like a pony clubber does not go over well at Second.  I got fours for his 'lack of forward' or cutting the corner on any movement going into or coming out of a puddle.  Which was two corners so . . . half my test.  One judge gave me a 56%, the other gave me a 61%.  Theo is always polarizing, no matter how far he goes in his training.  Many pictures are coming of this test as well.  I'm definitely doing my part to support the show photographers.

I am honestly content with my results.  I got it done, looked like I had a clue, and definitely reinforced the idea in my head that I am ready and able to show again.  Which seems insane given the professionals that thought my riding career was over.  I was all smiles during my test because the score didn't matter, I was going down centerline.  That was already a win.  Folks commented that we clearly knew each other and he looked quite content to do his job.  Except for splashing through puddles.

And then I had a clinic the next day.  The plan was to hand my feedback to the clinician and work on that but that plan was made before we had our little puddle problem.  Hard to replicate those issues in an indoor arena!  Turns out I didn't need to worry, she'd seen our test.  She was right, the test was completely fair because everyone had to conquer the puddles.  Some did it better then us, some did it worse.  But as I was reminded during my ride, how could I expect to get through the puddles when I still let Theo spook out of the corners on a typical ride?  He has to go where I want him to go every single ride.  I was also put on blast for my jiggley hands.  I might be getting my possessed right arm tied down with a polo in future lessons.  Not sure but she was definitely discussing some sort of plan with Trainer Z to address that issue.

All of that aside, we got a clean flying change in each direction with no drama.  So I guess we're still on our way to Third!

Now I get a weekend off.  I'll ride Saturday and Sunday as usual but no activities planned.  The following weekend is a handling clinic where Kiki will be learning about her new job as a fancy dressage prospect.  Being fancy is kind of natural for her but doing it in hand?  That may take some work.  Kiki likes to be fancy on her own terms.