Sunday, October 29, 2023

Tiny tumble

 You can't ride horses if you're not willing to fall off.  Yes, I'm supposed to be limiting my exposure to rapid decelerations assisted by the ground but the reality of riding is that it's going to happen eventually.  I have only fallen off Theo once and it was for a ridiculous reason while I was goofing off.  I've sat all of his rodeo worthy broncs over the years but while not paying attention, I tipped out of the saddle and landed on my butt.

Did that again today except today it was during a botched flying change heading into the end of the arena.  We had a miscommunication, Theo had no idea what I wanted, tried to do a last minute change with a leap/buck and then had to turn to avoid hitting the end of the arena.  The overly flying change was not a surprise but I thought we were going right.  Theo thought we were going left.  We had a parting of the ways as I expected to have a horse under me to the right while he was trying to carry me to the left but my butt wasn't really in the saddle.  I basically flopped off much to the surprise of Theo, Trainer Z, and me.

Theo enjoying a snack with his PRE stallion neighbor who is ridiculously sweet

I was laying on the ground, looking up at my worried horse, and all I felt was relief.  I'd gotten it out of the way.  Theo didn't try to unload me or do anything bad, we just had a miscommunication and I lost my balance when he scrambled.  I landed on my lower back with not much momentum since we'd been in a collected canter.  Head and neck were not involved.  It wasn't scary in any way.  Painful to fall off a 16h cantering horse but once I'd taken stock of my body, I got up and got back on.  

Poor Theo was horrified.  The first thing I saw when I looked up was his gigantic nose squished against me with the whites showing in his eyes.  I immediately started petting his nose and telling him he was okay.  When Trainer Z reached for his bridle to back him up I swear he shook.  Poor baby, he really thought he'd screwed up.  People so rarely fall off of him and he really hates it.  He'll unload people with full intent but his people?  His special people?  He never, ever drops his people.  Even if I didn't want to get back on, I needed to for his sake.  He was seriously shook.  I got back on, assessed the situation, and then we went back to the canter.  We did most of the exercise again but skipped the change since I was sore and he was rattled.  Then he got a nice groom and back to bed.

And now I'm on the couch with a heating pad for my poor back.  Chiro appointment is tomorrow.  I'm going to have a spectacular bruise.  And here I thought I was going to get hurt putting blankets on all of the babies but that went perfectly.  Kiki is already outgrowing her borrowed 63" so I'm getting her some ridiculous blankets that she will probably destroy.

Such an elegant filly, pity her mom likes silly blankets

Someone is looking pretty cobby these days.  And feral.  Of course she walked into the barn and got blanketed with no drama but then she led the babies on a 'let's try to get rid of our blankets' run once she was loose.  It's now four fillies in that field, the two yearlings and the two weanlings.  I held the weanlings while they got their first blankets on.  The drama was limited but appropriately dramatic.  Glad we did that before I encountered the ground, I don't think I could contain a rearing, spinning weanling right now.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Princess Keekanator

 Now that I'm done fussing over that Third level debut, I can double back and show off what the Keekanator did at her last show of the season.

A small hint of what my future dressage mare will look like

No one knew how much fun we were going to have with this poor filly's name.  Quillane Marqui is such an elegant name but no, she's Kiki-kins, the Keekanator, Cheeky Kiki, Kiki Monster, etc.  She definitely knows her name is Kiki and will happily trot up to anyone in her field that says her name.  She is quite convinced she is a beloved princess and you know what, she's right.

A quick photo before putting my phone away so I could receive the enthusiastic filly brigade that came hustling when I called for Kiki.  L to R, Let's Begin WPF 'Lottie' (current year WB filly), Kiki, and La Vie en Rose WPF 'Viv' (yearling WB filly).  A lot of Grand Prix potential in this picture.

She handled her second show very much like she did her first.  She stood for her bath, got on the trailer with two adult geldings she'd never met with nothing more than a weird look (it helped that the gelding next to her is very sweet and submissive, they were immediate buddies), and settled into her stall.  For whatever reason she was put in an extra large stall and she looked a bit ridiculous.

She could practically practice her triangle in this stall

We walked every where and checked out everything.  No need for a chain shank or rope halter, Kiki understands the drill.  We go places, we look at things, and we eat.  We eat a lot.  Got to love that native pony common sense.

Really could not care less so long as there was grass

Once in her stall for the night, the naps commenced.  Baby pony requires at least two lay down naps a day when showing plus sleeping at night.

Please hold, Keekanator is recharging

So how did the actual showing go?  Great!  She left her braids in all day!  It helped that I grazed her between classes to help keep her distracted but she didn't try to systematically remove them.  We practiced being tied for grooming and braiding which she accepted gracefully after all of our work on releasing to pressure from the halter.  She is already very easy to handle in a stall and enjoys all of the grooming and fussing.  So much fussing, she's learning to live with an ammy that likes to hug, kiss, and generally love on her pony.  It's not my fault she has a very kissable nose.  I had complete conversations with people while draped over her butt.  She ignored me and ate her hay.

Kiki still doesn't get the idea of being big and sassy in the ring, she still trots along very politely with the person leading her.  She understands that she's going places with people but she isn't in a hurry.  It seems her base reaction to something new or overwhelming is to stop and look.  Her spooks are in place for the most part.  While trotting a bunch of geese coming from behind spooked her and she scooted for a couple steps before stopping to stare.  For a future performance horse, I'm quite cool with her spook being mostly stationary followed by cautious investigation.

Her breeder mentioned that her 'stranger danger' response to new people is quite common in Welsh cobs and that I might as well get used to handling her myself at breed shows.  She will probably always trot off better for me.  Guess I have to swap out my endurance running for some sprint training before next season.  I had the professional handle her for pony filly but when the handler was double booked, I filled in for the Welsh breed class.  Her movement scored better with me handling.

So pretty, so polite

I didn't use a whip person in my amateur handler because she trots just fine coming along with me.  She already understands no one is actually going to hit her.  I tapped her on the hip with the dressage whip at one point and her eyes got very big.  Little girl is very sensitive to correction, I will have to remember that in the future.  

So relaxed that she looks ready to doze off

We won the amateur handler with a 77% and comments from the judge on what a lovely bond we have.  Showing the handler class with a yearling is a bit of a challenge but Miss Kiki is very smart and seems to enjoy all of the people admiring her.  She knows how to hit her marks.

She knows to change stance when I touch her chest, next year hoping we can do it with a bit of bridle pressure

And then she went back home and went back to her feral, swamp creature life.  We got dinged on presentation for her socks not being white enough and I shrugged.  She is a swamp creature, no shampoo is going to turn those things back to shining white.  And she's happy this way so it's fine.

Still the best of friends and about to be big sisters to two WB weanling fillies

Her first year of showing is done and was a complete success.  Sure, no crazy placings or champion ribbons, but she got very respectable scores and comments from lots of people about her calm mind and excellent behavior.  She now loads into the trailer like a champ, sleeps in a stall away from home, and marches into strange rings because she knows that it's not a big deal.  For a future performance horse, it's everything I could want.  I had her help me pack the trailer on the last day so she walked with me while I carried all sorts of big, noisy, odd things and threw them in the dressing room.  By the last trip, I was draping things over her for her to carry.  She considers me odd but harmless and I'm delighted with that.  I can't say enough about what a good start the breed shows have been.  By the time she goes into the ring for her first under saddle test, she's going to think it's a complete non-issue.

We also got an email from the USDF today.  #16 for yearling fillies in DSHB horse of the year and #1 Welsh yearling filly.  So she'll get some fancy satin after all.

Thursday, October 12, 2023


 It's been a bit but I didn't want to jinx myself by talking about my attempt at Third.  I had at least a dozen times where I wanted to back out and a couple times I really almost changed my mind.  But I did it!  I went in the ring and I did the thing!

We had a bit of a tough time with the weather.  The rain rolled in Friday night and stuck around most of the weekend.  Saturday was still relatively warm but bands of rain were coming through.  The footing was getting a bit dicey while I warmed up in a crowd with the rain pouring down.  Grateful for my eventing background that sent me hustling to the tack shop to get some tech gloves.  My reins stayed in my hands where they belonged even when it poured on our test!

It wasn't a weekend for bronze medal scores, it was about getting that first test out of the way and convincing myself I could do it.  And that we did!  My scores were very fair and we got a 55.6%.  We got 6.5s for a lot of our trot work and a 7 for gaits.  We were definitely ready for the level.  We also got a 1 for our second flying change because Theo decided to be an over achiever and do that while still in the half passe so I didn't get to show one.  Sigh.  He also bucked at the start of our release in the canter move which did not help our scores.  But we were still first in our class of 4.  On the day, in the terrible conditions, we were the best.

He added some flair in places such as his first flying change.  Got a 6.  At least it was clean?

Shoulder-in and renver are so easy for him, it's ridiculous.  6.5s across the board with smooth transitions between movements.  4.0 for our first turn on the haunches because he just noped out in the middle.  We can work on that over the winter.  

You can see the mucky conditions.  The footing at GMHA is generally good but nothing holds up under the amount of rain we've had this year.  Theo was not enjoying it but he did march around well.  Got conservative on our extended canter because I didn't want him to slip.

I did my final salute and it took me a couple hours to really realize that we'd done it.  We'd moved up and survived.  And then I totally cried on my tolerant pony's shoulder because that was a long, long time coming.

It poured Saturday night to the point that groundskeepers were out monitoring the flooding to make sure they didn't need to evacuate stabling.  Good news is that the water stayed out of stabling, the bad news is that the footing became soup.  I scratched on Sunday after watching a beautiful, balanced mare retire in the middle of her Third level test because she was slipping too much to do her canter work.  Theo and I are very new to the level, we're not ready to take on the added challenge of footing sliding when he's trying to jump up into his movements.

So the 2023 season is over and we finally, finally moved up to Third.  The judge's comments were very encouraging and since they're from an S judge, I feel like we demonstrated that we are ready.  No, not 60%, but I was very nervous and made some silly mistakes (hard to set up the half pass nicely when you completely miss center line).  We demonstrated that we can do all of the movements in an acceptable way and even got a 6 for the extended trot.  A little more confidence and some dryer footing?  Yeah, we'll get those scores.  

Someone might have talked me into shooting for regionals next year since I'll be done with school.  It sounds like a great way to celebrate my doctorate.