adventure time

I’ve gone on a little holiday for a few weeks.

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Just a quick trip back to the homeland to visit friends and family. And eat meat pies.

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As many meat pies as I can stuff into my belly.

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All my family have been very pleased at the oh-so-Australian name of my horse.
The Murray is our largest and longest river, an important ecological region, and also a great name for goofy kids.

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I even found this shockingly realistic artists rendition of him in a wine tasting room.

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The long flights have left me with plenty of rumination time. And, of course, lots of daydreams about riding my horse and snuggling the Jellybabby. Thanks to a cheap and generous data plan though, I should easily be able to stay caught up on here. If I can find time between all the meat pies.

on the right track

One of the best compliments you can receive as someone training a young horse is that you’re doing a good job with them.  Last week I was lucky enough to hear this from both Yves and Megan (though Megan may have said it in a more roundabout way).  This had me pretty chuffed, since really, taking on such a green project as a fairly green rider was not necessarily the best choice ever.  But it was one that I could afford, and I am nothing if not practical.

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My lesson with Yves was not one of deep problem solving. (Which is good, because I really didn’t think that we were in the position where I needed to pay a LOT of money to have someone tell me to jump more cross rails at a slower pace.  I’m perfectly willing to do that, of course, but it just isn’t where I think my efforts should be focused at the moment.).  But the lesson was a very fair assessment of where Murray and I are right now – semi-competently jumping around 2’6”, but with a few little confidence bobbles here and there.  For Murray, that means he backs off to fences.  For me, it means that I have to recognize when he is backing off and when he is rebalancing, and give him enough supporting leg to arrive at the fence with the speed and power needed.

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Murray also threw in enough sass that Yves could see quite well what I was dealing with.  He got a read on Murray’s personality quite quickly, and really encouraged me to be very consistent in my training.  Little sassybritches will never learn that we have to sit up and focus on the next fence even if he’s feeling silly if I let him be silly sometimes and then come down harshly upon him at other times.  Which is true.  I know that I need to encourage Murray to be more serious in our rides, but it’s hard for me to squash his joy when he is feeling so good.  For a horse that loses confidence quickly, I want him feeling confident and a little sassy to the fences – like those fences are a teenaged working student he doesn’t want to play with.  But even with that sass, Murray sat up and listened to me when I asked him to, moved forward to all the fences, even when he was a teensy bit concerned, and jumped beautifully.

IMG_8878A few weeks ago I was jumping someone else’s mare in a lesson with B (by request of the owner).  The mare in question was putting quite a bit of effort into sassing me, and I struggled so much to put her together.  When I first asked her to steady with my seat, she dropped her back and scooted out from under me.  When I added a little rein pressure and attempted to push her into the bridle, she braced into my hand and bolted.  She was very responsive to my cues to change gait or speed up, but getting into a steady rhythm at any speed was challenging.  All of these things were doubly irritating to me because they are what Murray does seemingly without thinking.  The entirety of the mare’s attitude was “LET ME DO IT MY WAY” even if her way was unbalanced, unsteady, and in no way what I would want to approach anything 2’6” or above with.  Murray might want to do things his way, but at least he’s willing to take some input.

yves10I’m not trying to disparage this other rider’s training – she has a more challenging mare than I do, and I know that her schedule is more limited.  But this was the first time I’ve ridden another horse and known, really known, that my horse was in a better place in his training than a somewhat comparable horse.  I always think of Murray as less than his peers – less well behaved, less well trained, less capable, less reasonable… I know this is not his fault, our progress is due to a combination of his personality and my at-times inaccurate training.  But recently he has been proving to me that we aren’t quite as behind the times as I had thought.  We are, evidently, on the way to becoming a very rideable horse.

bestieland goes cross country schooling

To cap off my mighty nice weekend, I went XC schooling on Monday with my trainer and my RBFs.  It was so awesome that the trip turned out to just be the four of us, as it really suited each horse and rider’s needs perfectly.  Trainer B took one of her OTTB projects, RBF-Q took her baby OTTB she got in January, and original RBF took her moving-toward-BN-baby OTTB.  It was an OTTB-tastic adventure!

yves11I don’t have XC schooling media so enjoy some excess pics from this weekend

Ever since I got to watch all that cross country running at the event I was desperate to have a go at the WSS course, and even more desperate to have a go at the Novice course there.  WSS is a great move up venue because the course is on the soft side for the level — there are full size fences, of course, and some good questions for every level, but overall the entire course is not full of level-sized questions.  Which means that it was PERFECT for me and Murray to get some Novice schooling chops at!

We started out warming up over low logs, as usual.  RBF-Q has never taken her baby (Logan) schooling, and he’s been struggling a little with understanding jumping at home.  He’s very smart but not the most confident boy in the world, so if he struggles to understand a question it really knocks his confidence down.  Logan was quite convinced that logs are not for jumping, so B took RBF-Q and the baby over to some even tinier logs on the ground and they practiced just walking back and forth over them.  RBF and I watched from afar as Q and Logan walked, then trotted, then cantered over some teeny logs and then had a nice little gallop back to us.

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Both Murray and G, RBF’s dark handsome supermodel horse, were full of the sass out on XC — kicking out and jumping around and shaking their heads.  Murray even tried to pull some G-man moves, throwing his head down between his legs and shaking it and wiggling his body.  It was absolutely hysterical, as this is NOT a typical Murray move, but a very common Gryphon move.  Gryphon was just as celebratory.

The fourth fence on the Novice course is probably the biggest question on the Novice course, a full height-and-width table on a very slight uphill slope.  B told me to push him forward to the fence and ride it in an open stride.  Murray had been super active and forward so far so I thought that would be easily done, and when I sent him toward the table he was in attack mode.  The last three strides to the fence I could feel him shrinking his stride, so I rebalanced a bit, and then we got SUPER deep and he launched over it and climbed it.  I think he hit the table in front and behind, and I could do nothing but pat him and commend him for pushing through my fuckup.  B told me to try again, but this time push forward to the spot — even if it was a deeper spot, ride forward to it instead of picking back to it.

IMG_8878Why can’t we have uphill XC canter in dressage?!

I opted to jump the smaller BN option next to the big table for my do-over, to avoid the stop I thought Murray might throw in if he had bad feelings about the big table.  It was the right call, because I felt him shrink back away from the BN table about five strides out, so I really pushed him forward and even though he took it deep, we got there on a good stride with a good pace.

We also hit up our old nemesis the downhill log, and I had absolutely zero qualms about trotting it after seeing plenty of pros doing so at the event and hearing Yves advice.  When we were course building I had also laid out a VERY generous ground line with bark (which was pretty bright red), and it was absolutely not a problem.

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In the meantime, RBF and G were happily schooling lots of BN options!  G was like “what is the big deal, guys?” and cheerfully attacking all the fences.  G had a bit of a dork moment at the up bank where he took it super long and then landed a bit funny behind and used it as an excuse to party down a little bit.  When she went back to the fence G got the perfect spot and was like “wait, I want to party but I don’t seem to have a reason to….”  I had so much fun watching RBF and G take on the bigger fences, they both were so joyful when they succeeded — which was every time.

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RBF-Q and Logan got the chance to school a few more little logs as we moved back to the water, and after a few more fences Logan was like “OH FUCK YEAH I GET THIS NOW!!”  It was awesome to watch the cogs turning and see him grow in confidence and understanding.  I love seeing how baby horses learn!

Murray and I did have one stop, when I saw a really open-strided spot to a ramp coming out of the water and didn’t keep my leg on.  But I turned him around and we went right back to it without issue.  The brand new coffin complex also posed us a bit of issue, but since the ditch is reaaaallly wide I just kept pushing him toward it until he decided that it was, in fact, jumpable.  I guess black-painted ditches are a bit scarier than the others we have encountered so far!

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Basically, Bestieland schooling was a huge success.  All the baby horses got their learn on, and Murray and I schooled the entire Novice course!!

yves sauvignon clinic

On Saturday, before I rode with Megan, I got to ride with Yves Sauvignon, who is a local trainer (based in Sebastopol/Santa Rosa area), 3* rider and trainer, and all around awesome guy.  In addition to being French, Yves is a great coach.  His standard coaching technique both encourages you and pushes you to keep doing better, and his ride philosophy includes a lot of technical elements and precision.  At the same time he’s really understanding of different horses’ strengths, weaknesses, and uniqueness, and helps you play to their strengths.

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We started out with a trot placement pole, which Yves usually places 9ft out from the base and often serves as a canter pole as well.  Murray was on point.  At first Murray needed to get a bit more forward in the trot, so Yves suggested that I loosen up/relax my knees a little.  I learned a few months ago to distribute my weight into my thighs to help balance and regulate one of the speedier ponies I rode, and have apparently incorporated that into my riding of Murray pretty thoroughly!  Yves explained that this squeeze through the knees* is part of the half halt, so while I was trying to push Murray forward I was also rebalancing him, and needed to relax my knees a bit to allow him forward a bit more.  It took me a minute to figure out how to ride with loose knees again (uhhh apparently I’ve been weighting my thighs a lot more than I ever realised), but after that it was smooth sailing.

yves1* I don’t (think) I pinch my knees — I feel like I would have been cured of that really quickly by being absolutely launched over Murray’s shoulder — but will be investigating this more.

yves3Murray, in addition to being on point, was also on one and expressed many and varied opinions.  Through both vocal and body language.  Fortunately his opinions did not detract from Murray’s desire to jump the jumps.  So jump we did.

Yves has a strong philosophy of show-and-tell for horses that are a little less confident, and doesn’t think that surprising horses a lot does them much good in the long run.  He wants his horses, especially young ones, to be brave with all different types of fences.  Fortunately for us, Murray didn’t require any show-and-telling, and while he was a little backed off to some flowers the first time we saw them,  he jumped them beautifully and in stride.

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One of Yves’ big suggestions was to put a bit of a lid on Murray’s antics.  While it’s nice to know your horse is feeling good and has a sense of humor, it is (apparently) not so much fun to ride a goofy possibly bucking horse through the lines and not know if there’s some extra goofy behavior coming.

yves7Y u not want to ride dis on XC?

Yves also really appreciated Murray’s ability to balance himself up to the fences and add strides where needed.  Even better — during the lesson, Murray was also taking the long spots when I asked him to, and even changed leads a few times (though only when I tricked him).  Overall Murray was super responsive to my leg, both laterally and in terms of speed and power — he would step up the pace the moment I put my leg on, and it resulted in a ton of adjustability.

yves5Can’t complain about jumping with this backdrop!

It was a short lesson but a very good one. Murray was feeling awesome, and Yves said I had done a great job with him so far.  I so love riding this forward, game horse!  Yves also validated my slow-it-down strategy with Murray, and said that he likes to slow it down even more with horses like this, and keep cross country to a controlled canter and trot the fences where necessary.  I worried to Yves about making the time, and he said he’s made it at Novice while still trotting quite a few fences, and assured me that Murray’s canter was more than adequate to make time without any freaking out or galloping needed.  I’m not sure I tooootally believed him (based on experience and the fact that it feels so slow!), but it was a good, powerful, rhythmic pace so I couldn’t complain.

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Maybe not the biggest fences in the world, but some solid coursing that was totally confidence building for both of us!  Yves also said that I have done a great job with Murray, which made me feel awesome.  It’s incredibly rewarding to hear that I am taking this little quirk ball in the right direction!

A Enter Spooking Clinic

If you’re like me, if you’ve read some of Megan’s really interesting, fun, and educational posts on dressage theory and mechanics, you’ve thought “damn*, it would be cool to take a lesson with her!”  Well friends, you are correct.  IT IS COOL TO TAKE A LESSON WITH HER.

IMG_8822-2um HELLO DRESSAGE HORSE

* I actually intended to write “man” and somehow my fingers just typed out “damn” instead.  Take that as part of my review of her teaching, not of my potty mouth.

The day itself was an adventure, but that part of the story I will save for another blog.  For now, I’ll talk about the nitty gritty of my lesson, which was all about getting Murray’s body parts lined up in a reasonable way, and not in the way he wants them to be.  You see, Murray has too much lateral movement — far too much — and instead of carrying his body so that his hind legs are in line with his front legs (or even so that they are really carrying weight),  he wants to fishtail his hind end around and carry all his weight on his front feet.  Almost as if he is pivoting around his inside front a tiny bit in each step was how Megan put it.  Instead of this pivoting, Megan wanted him to take some more weight on the outside hind and pick up his inside front a little faster.  Those pesky diagonal pairs.

IMG_8795(Little warm up trot pic for comparison to our more put together pics later!)

Even on a 20-ish meter circle Murray is  busily working to evade using his body properly.  So instead of me holding him together with “even” pressure on both reins, Megan had me lighten up on the inside rein and really push Murray over into the outside rein.  But since he’s so wiggly I had to catch his haunches with my outside leg, and even encourage them to be a tad to the inside.  She said (not just to me, but also to other riders) to think of having the ribcage more on the outside than any of his feet.  I was to bring his outside hind towards the middle and his inside hind toward the middle.

IMG_8849This involved a lot of “haunches inside a little more, push him into the outside rein, open the inside rein and move your hand forward, inside leg at the girth, catch him with the outside leg, that’s too much haunches in but it was beautiful…” etc.  Megan gives A LOT of instruction — she said she only expects you to take in a third of it — and it’s true that it’s a lot to hear and process.  But it really helps you ride every step more correctly and keep you on the right “feel”.  A huge part of the problem for me is that Murray’s crookedness is what I’m used to, so I really have to reprogram myself to feeling Murray’s body when it is going the correct way.  Lots of reminders helped me keep putting Murray into the right shape, and reminded me not to rely on my old squeeze — the inside rein.

IMG_8830-2After I got the feel of this straighter body shape in the trot, we moved on to some transitions.  Murray likes to bounce around in the walk even more than he does at the trot, so I had to really pick my moment to ask him to trot.  Most importantly, I wasn’t allowed to hang on the inside rein, and even if we lost our straightness a bit in the transition I had to work immediately to regain it and not tug on that inside rein.  Unfortunately, this new way of going pretty much trashed the smoothness of the transitions.  Murray felt that I was no longer there fore him with the inside rein and bounced up into the trot instead of stepping smoothly into it.  But as I continued to push his body into the right shape with my legs (“You can go to the inside rein,” Megan said, “But only after you’ve done everything else right with his body to make him get round.”), moving his ribcage out and keeping those haunches from falling too far out, and helping him bring his outside shoulder over with the outside rein, he got more and more used to the idea of the up transition without the oh-so-desireable inside rein.

IMG_8845The same thing happened for the trot-canter transitions,  but since Murray is less wiggly in the canter it was easier to put him together.  Megan called me on one of my oldest weaknesses immediately, and reminded me not to lean in to the canter transition.  Murray was even less on board with filling the outside rein in the canter, so I had to work a lot harder to get him moved over with my legs and seat without going to the inside hand. And then suddenly his gait got really big.  He had been forward all lesson without too much urging from my legs, but we went from a little canter to an “oh crap I don’t know if we’re going to be able to turn” canter.  And I grabbed the inside rein.  Megan and I were both laughing about that in the next walk break, because I quite literally said “It was scary!” and she said “You jump cross country, it’s not that scary!”

IMG_8883Murray does not appreciate this new way of going

But it was!  His gait got HUGE and I didn’t have control of it in the way that I was used to (inside rein), and all I could do to control it was push him out with my inside thigh and catch him with that outside rein and it wasn’t doing anything except making him canter BIGGER AND BIGGER AND BIGGER.  Fortunately, Megan also had me sit back more on my right seat bone to help get Murray’s right hind under him, and with that alignment in place all I really had to do was think “trot” and boom — down to the trot.  Only it was a giant trot that I was not used to and I got scared and pulled back on that too.

IMG_8886 IMG_8887Murray was really very honest and straightforward in our lesson, which was somewhat miraculous given the start we had to the day.  He didn’t like that I was pushing him into the outside rein and not letting his haunches swing around willy nilly, but he took it fairly well and only tried each evasion once (or twice).  And I have lots and lots of homework!  I haven’t even gotten down to everything I learned from watching Megan teach Peony and another rider, or even everything from my ride!  There were a few subtle adjustments to my position as well, which Megan explained really well using Murray’s crookedness and position to help me understand why I was pointing that way or sitting that way.

(How funnily identical are the two above pictures?  Extra special thanks to Andy for taking pictures of both me and Peony!)

IMG_8875Body almost lined up the way we want!

I’m excited to get Murray straighter and stronger and more through without relying on the inside rein so I can start employing it for more of the fun stuff!

it’s a kind of magic

I borrowed a friend’s Stubben Roxanne for Murray’s first ride back after Showpocalypse 2016 on Wednesday, and was pleasantly surprised by the ride in all ways.  First, and most entertaining, I put my friend’s stirrups down 8 holes (and nearly ran out of leather!) to get them to the right length.  That gave me a good cackle while we were warming up, and to my even greater surprise Murray was really forward at the walk.  I didn’t have to nag him at all, he just marched all over the place while I twiddled the stirrups, and before I got around to picking up any contact.

tiny horseMurray was a little bit fussy and stiff as we started working, but he was happy to stretch out over his topline and maintained his forward pace and through the transitions and the stretchy work.  I, however, was another story.  I was huffing and puffing after our warm up, which is exactly what not riding for two weeks.  But I persevered — even when we almost stepped on a precocial fledgling who was squatting in a really inconvenient place of the arena.

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Since Murray was being pretty responsive I thought I would run through all of our “movements” to make sure they were all there in prep for a clinic this weekend, and call it good.  Better than drilling and pissing him off, right?  Tired Nicole thought so.  We did some shoulder-in,  haunches in, leg yield, and tiiiiny circles (15 meter) each way, a couple of canter transitions, a canter lengthening, and even a simple change.  Murray was astonishing the entire time — forward, relaxed, listening.  Sometimes listening a little too well — I tried a trot lengthening and got a perfect canter transition instead.  Possibly too far on the anticipatory side, but I wasn’t complaining: as I crossed the diagonal at the canter and down-transitioned to trot Murray immediately picked up the opposite canter lead TWICE.  WITHIN ONE STRIDE.  HE TAUGHT HIMSELF SIMPLE CHANGES THROUGH THE TROT WUT.

So after all that glory I was like “maybe we try for the flying change?” and decided that tired Nicole was not in the best place to try that.

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This weekend Murray has a very exciting schedule planned — jump clinic Saturday, dressage clinic Sunday, and possibly an XC school Monday.  He will be a tired boy next Tuesday (which is lucky for him, because that’s my long teaching day so he will get to sleep).

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horse show hangover XXL

The horse show at WSS was super.  Super tiring, and for much more than the day of the show.  I’m not sure what we were thinking, trying to organize a one-day as our first event, but we did it!  Phew.  I am so grateful to everyone who came out to help and anyone who offered to help — even if you couldn’t come.  Just knowing we had so much support was incredible!

wp-1463587279209.jpgMurray worked on his nap game while I worked on the XC course

There were some unfortunate scheduling miscommunications with the facility owner that led to us mulching, flowering, and numbering the course until it was, quite literally, too dark to continue.  And then we did it again the night before the show with the stadium course.  The worst part of the day was walking into the show office at 6 AM only to be told that the dressage test times had been messed up on StartBox and the rider interval was now only 2 minutes apart.  Cue abject terror.  Fortunately, it turns out that the stickers were simply organized in the wrong order and the interval was just. fine.  I even got to scribe a bit, which (as I told the dressage judge) was my dream come true.  Once our actual scribe showed up, I went back to my other duties, but it was good while it lasted!!

There were growing pains, for sure, but because we worked our asses off leading up to the show the day of went really, quite smoothly. And I absolutely cannot thank those people who came out to jump judge for me enough.  They sat out in the sun for seven hours making sure horses were supervised, jumps got judged, and scores got to the office in a timely fashion!

All the work leading up to the show has affirmed in my mind that if you go to horse shows and don’t ever volunteer (or donate your money if you are too busy), you are, in fact, an asshole.  It’s an irrefutable fact.  The amount of time it took to get this horse show running smoothly would have necessitated at least double entry fees if we wanted to pay people to do all those jobs, and I don’t think anyone wants that.  So go forth and volunteer!

Four days later I think I’ve finally caught up on all that missing sleep (and homework grading for my students! oops), and have recovered from my biggest horse show hangover yet.  And I can’t wait to do it again!!!  Also, I will finally get to ride my horse for the first time in two weeks!  Happiness is here again.

alfalfaMurray spent his time napping and stealing alfalfa from his neighbor so I’m not sure he minded

the rider adapts: how to become great at just about anything

(Sorry for hijacking your post title, Karen! But it was far too perfect for me to leave it!)

While I’m busily painting, painting, painting away (many poles must be beautified, standards, panels, and flower boxes too!), plus cleaning dressage courts (yes those vinyl pieces do require cleaning, unfortunately!), and generally making merry with the event planning, I’ve been listening to a LOT of podcasts.  And this one in particular resonated with me.

IMG_8427Freakonomics — How to Become Great at Just About Anything

If you don’t already listen to Freakonomics (or haven’t read the book), in it Steven Dubner and Steven Levitt explore the hidden side of everything.  Everything!  (They haven’t done racehorses yet… I need to get them on that.)  In this particuar episode they discuss the difference between hard work and talent, a dichotomy of which I am sure all riders are ALL very aware.  In the podcast Dubner talks with experts both in sports psychology and sports themselves about how to deliberately practice a skill to improve, and the best ways to approach improvement in any area of your life.  (It’s self improvement month on the Freakonomics podcast!)

So while I’m setting up the XC course tomorrow, you guys should give it a listen.  And listen to other Freakonomics podcasts!  They are awesome!

Also, I am a big podcast head, and I am always looking for new things to listen to!  feb dressage canter 4I already regularly download America’s Test Kitchen, The Splendid Table (food podcasts), The USEA podcast, Horse Radio Network’s Eventing and Dressage radio shows (horsey podcasts, obviously), You Bet your Garden (gardening), This American Life, Snap Judgment, Radiolab (umm… life category?), Wait Wait Don’t Tell me, and a few other seasonal podcasts.  Share what you listen to with me so I have more painting fodder!!

Friday Five

When I took March off of riding to write my thesis I thought nothing but that desperately, terrifically, incredibly important document could rip me away from riding for so many days on end.  I was wrong.  It turns out that helping organize a one-day event, teaching 75%, AND trying to finish my thesis will do it too.

Helping to organize the WSS one-day has been a lot of fun and a lot of work (and we are still  looking for volunteers if you’re local!!!).  I’m honing my skills in all kinds of non-science related areas — graphic design, painting, negotiating, inventory, entering information into little fields on the computer…. the overlap with my thesis is a little astonishing, now that I think about it.  Based on my experience organizing the event, here’s my Hand Gallop rip-off

Friday Five: Things your Show Organizer Wants You To Know.

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1. Online entries are the best entries

USEA offers online entries for all rated events, and there are even online entries for some unrated events.  I use the online module whenever possible (unless it incurs a higher fee), but I’ve had some interesting discussions with people who absolutely love filling in their entries by hand (not just the paperwork, the entry too).  After sitting in front of the computer and looking up peoples’ and horses’ USEA and USEF numbers to populate the entries for our event, I just about hate people who send in their entries on paper only.  One night sorting out 30 entries took three of us three hours (to be fair, we were dealing with lots of paperwork, incomplete entries, and waitlisting issues, but still!  I am an efficient mofo, and that was a really long time!)

Sometimes funny things do happen in this.  Like a couple of riders who you know to be husband and wife, where Mrs. enters online and Mr. sends in a hand-written entry on the last post date.  Or looking at the postmark sticker on a Fedex flat envelope mailed at 4 PM on closing day and knowing that they probably spent as much money on overnight postage as they would have on the post date fees.

2. Your entry fees don’t go as far as you think

Camelot Horse Trials -- but mostly tribulations!I have never personally thought that the USEA fees of 225-ish for a rated event at Training or below are particularly steep, but pretty much anyone can multiple $225 x 100 riders and come up with A Lot of Money.  So where does all that money go, you may wonder?  Shockingly, not into event manager or owner pockets.  First, it costs a lot to build, maintain, and manage a cross country course.  Those fences take a beating sometimes, and cost $350 at the low end to build, and $800 for a pretty standard prelim fence.  That’s 1.-3 riders’ entries per fence!  There are the professionals you pay to be at the show, professionals you pay to prep the grounds before the show, and lots and lots and lots of supplies to buy (60 entries right there).  Even with sponsors,things add up quick!  (Good quality satin actually also somewhat costly.)

3. The eventing elders are amazingly supportive

We would not have been able to run this event without the guidance of many area officials, technical delegates, course designers, officials, and other “elders” of the eventing community who have more experience at this than we do.  And those elders have been incredibly generous with their time and expertise.  To run this event I have cold-called more Big Name Trainers/Riders/Judges/Officials than I care to count, and not one of them has been ungenerous with their time or blown me off for asking what seems (to me) like a silly question that I should have been able to answer on my own.  That. Is. Awesome.

IMG_20150829_1943014. This is not a one-man job

I’m just one person on a team working towards getting this show up and running, and this absolutely would not be possible without the rest of us.  Though I consider myself a pretty competent (nay, highly efficient and fairly intelligent) there are still things that slip past me, and the other team members catch those.  Then there are things that slip past them that I catch.  Maybe someone who has done this a LOT can run a show on her own, but I certainly couldn’t!

5. Volunteers really are the heart and soul of the show

For a single one day event, running only three dressage courts and one SJ ring, we need something like 50 volunteers for the day.  I have no idea how many volunteers the big three-day events need, or (honestly more scary) the big one-day events run on the East coast.  How do you get through 300 riders in ONE DAY??  Absurdity.  I have always been willing to volunteer at shows as long as I don’t have to drive too far, but this honestly makes me willing to volunteer at so many more shows!

(I also heard that USEA is considering rewarding volunteers who contribute the most to shows during the year.  We ALL KNOW that the shows couldn’t run without them!)

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getting the right bend

After bitching and kvetching about my lack of right bend and right hind engagement, I told trainer that I wanted to just focus on getting the correct bend and engagement for my dressage lesson.  And man, it was thrilling.

soexcited

I explained my problems to B at the start of the lesson.  Murray doesn’t want to bend right, or track up with his right hind, and I can kinda feel him poking his right hind to the inside tracking right, up until the moment I get so sick of it that I push him over too hard, and then he fishtails his haunches all the way around until he’s having the opposite problem, but I don’t even know what a real 20m or 15m bend should feel like, especially to the right, and my body is all weird to the right anyway, and so could she please just fix us?

We started on a 20 meter circle, and our problem was pretty apparent.  Funny that Murray does it more on a 20 than a 15.  Geometry was also a problem, but that wasn’t that important.  I stayed at least 2 meters away from the walls at all times to avoid Murray getting glued to them, which only exacerbates our problems.  B had me shrink the circle down to a 15 and put Murray together a bit more, and Murray really groaned with the effort.  B also had push Murray into the left rein (especially to help avoid the left-rein evasive maneuvers he loves), and then consistently apply my outside leg every few strides to keep his haunches from floating too far out.  It wasn’t perfectly consistent, but we definitely had moments where we weren’t haunches-in and weren’t haunches-out and all four legs were tracking up in the same space.  It felt like everything I had hoped and dreamed!!

After getting Murray bent correctly on a 15, B had me move back out to the 20 meter circle and give the reins so that Murray could stretch out his outline a bit more.  Not quite a real stretchy trot (though we  could go there if we wanted to), but something a little less packaged.  Interestingly, Murray was more capable of bending when he stretched his neck and body a little more.

We did the same thing at the canter, which was especially hard for Murray.  His canter has somehow become simultaneous slow and flat and hideous and a garbage dump… I might be overreacting a little, but damn, Murray thinks it is sooooo hard to be round and canter at the same time.  Like, impossible.  The most impossiblest thing.  You don’t even know.

But with plenty of outside leg and a few cow kicks we managed to get it done, and then when I let Murray stretch out a little more on a larger circle he was happy to bend himself correctly.

The ride after my lesson I tried Megan‘s suggestion and picked up a shoulder-in at the walk and transitioned to trot, and then pushed Murray up and down within the gait to find out where it broke down.  Going left we were pretty solid, actually — which was fascinating! Poor Murray will be subject to a little more shoulder-in with transitions in the future — but tracking right Murray wiggled in almost all phases of the shoulder-in: walk and trot, medium and collected.  I actually had to boot his body back on to the line of travel as he tried to leg-yield towards the beloved wall instead of doing a shoulder-in.  I got a pretty magnificent GHHHUUURHHH from him when I booted him, but it didn’t break his concentration and he took it pretty well.

At dressage camp MIL told me that Murray will always have a weaker side, and I will always have to ride movements on that side more precisely, which makes me sad.  I wish that I could make Murray’s right side as strong as his left and never have to worry about it again.  But even though it may never be as strong as his left side, he is getting stronger.  Albeit…. slowly.