Monday, July 3, 2023

Learning to fly

 It seems that the flying change has become my theme or my nemesis.  I'm not sure which.  I write about it all the time as I get closer and then I fall back.  It's this weird, ephemeral thing that low level dressage riders like myself see as a sort of witchcraft.  That's what the big kid dressage riders do, not us.  Somehow, over all of the years and false starts, it's remained out of grasp.  

Except it's actually within grasp now.  Sort of.  Or as was recently said, it was in my power the whole time, I just had to click my heels three times.  Theo's right to left change is completely good, confirmed, takes relatively minimal set up.  He's happy to do it and it's pretty much always clean.  He prefers his left lead so these days, keeping him from changing is more work than asking for the change.  The left to right change is good about 50% of the time.  It's the weirdest thing, Theo really seems to struggle with figuring out how to get all four feet moved through the change from left to right.  We've seen every variation under the sun.  In my last lesson, Trainer Z tried to explain what he did and came up with 'I think he just did one tempis up front and moonwalked behind'.  Neither of us knew horses could moonwalk.  My horse is here to educate us all.

One of our better iterations of mistakes, a little weird up front but not bad.  That's Pam Goodrich  coaching us (love her, there will probably be more clips)

Right now, we are using a ground pole and sugar cubes to help Theo get that maneuver locked in.  Minus the moonwalk, of course.  He has a lovely, clean, uphill change when he mentally computes what it is that he's supposed to do.  These days he knows it's coming, it's just a matter of making it physically make sense for him.  And making it so rewarding that he wants to get it right.  I'm going through a lot of sugar cubes.  

This feels different because Theo is stronger, he knows what we want, and he really is trying.  I've also got enough iterations at this point that I feel like I know how to ask.  I have confidence when setting up and asking for the change.  In my last lesson I succeeded in waking up Big Boy Theo complete with some bucking, jigging, and leaping.  And it was fine.  Riding multiple times a week has finally kicked in and for a shining few moments I was old me.  We half passed from center line to the rail, set up despite Theo's surging and bouncing, and then had a big beautiful change from left to right.  I lost both stirrups but was too busy petting and fussing to care.  I'd stuffed him full of sugar before I picked up my stirrups.

We have a plan for the Third Level debut.  I barely dare to type it after so many years but with one change locked down and the other looking to be well on it's way even when it's me and not Trainer Z in the saddle, an October debut feels comfortable.  Let's face it, if I wait for it to be perfect I will never do it.  Having one change very confident and the other 50% awesome and 50% 'creative' is not the worst thing a judge will see at Third 1.  He knows what he needs to do and gives it the good old college try, he simply screws up the footwork sometimes.  His half pass is lovely in both trot and canter, I'll be struggling to keep him from going sideways too fast.  His extended will get us a laugh and a 5 but time isn't going to change that.  Shoulder in to renvers he can do in his sleep so we may just skip to Third 2 in order to get that nice set up for the change.  But after so many years of fussing and thinking and dreaming, we're setting a date.  October 2023, we're going to start trying for those last two scores for my Bronze.


Sunday, July 2, 2023

Baby's first clinic

 Kiki got to attend her first clinic!  We were lucky enough to have a sporthorse handling clinic at the barn where clinicians learned from professional handlers how to show horses of different ages.  It made for a long day for the barn team as we provided all of the demo horses from foals next to their dams up to mature stallions.  Theo was a piece of cake since he's very good about trotting along with a handler.  He got braided up and that was it.  Kiki, on the other hand, was a multi-day project.

Day one was standing in the pouring rain while wrestling her cob mane into braids.  

Oh, this pony is going to have some hair.  I asked her sire's owner if he happens to have a full double mane and she replied 'Welcome to the world of cob manes!'.  Oh dear.  You can see her bestie Viv watching us work.  You'll also notice my yearling is standing like a saint for braiding with a human holding her slack lead rope.  She tried to get fussy at the start and got her halter shaken which was enough correction for her.  She thought this was all odd but getting her mane and tail brushed out was nice so she was down for it.  We got both of the ladies braided up easily as they both stood very well and turned them out for the night with orders to make good choices.  

The next day we were pleasantly surprised to see the braids were still in.  We didn't pull them up until the last minute since we could loop them up quickly with bands.  The girls only had to walk a short distance to go up to the indoor but it was the first trip for both of them.  We kept them together as a pair the whole time so they would have a nice experience.  Kiki was still not sure about this whole thing.

Bombastic side eye

We did have to have a brief talk about her standing politely while waiting for Viv to have her turn.  She would just start walking forward and was indignant when we backed her up.  About a dozen times.  Ever wrangle a several hundred pound toddler that is politely insisting they want to go see their friend?  Yeah, I was sore the next day.  She was never rude, just stubbornly insistent.  After a dozen iterations she gave up and stood politely.  

The barn's intern was doing the clinic and she was trusted to take Kiki around the triangle.  Kiki was confused but tried very hard to be good even though some stranger was behind her and clearly needed watching.

You might notice her socks are completely covered in mud.  The 2022 girls were turned out briefly while we were wrangling the 2023 girls and of course they went straight into the mud.  The liver chestnut was easy to clean up but the buckskin with four socks?  Thank goodness it was a clinic.  Everyone was surprised by the polite yearlings that just trotted around and accepted pats from everyone that wanted to meet them.  After that arduous outing that took about 10 minutes in the indoor, it was back to the field for the babies.

It was such a perfect outing.  They saw a crowd, got handled by several people, got braided, had to stand quietly for minutes at a time, had to trot along with a stranger, and then went right back into their field.  Now we know what we need to work on.  Kiki has a big trot and she needs to get used to showing it off alongside a human.  

We also need to work on that mane.  This baby has so much hair already!  Another month until her first breed show and she's a very quick study, I suspect she'll understand the game by the time we get there.  Whether or not I can make it around the triangle without falling on my face?  That's a whole other matter.

The entire mare band out enjoying their field.  Three broodmares, two yearlings, and two fillies.  6 of them are fancy, inspected Hanoverians from similar bloodlines, several are related as mother/daughter or half sisters.  Then there's Kiki, the buckskin pony.