Sometimes, you go schooling and end up looking like you stepped out of a Looney Tunes spot.
Emma is winning at getting me to post twice in one day, but MAN is this Eventing Bingo challenge one and a freaking half. I mean, damn! My cards are not smiling upon me for likelihood. But since my bingo entry is allowed to be a work of fiction…
It was a bad day — awful day, really. Just the worst day that anyone has ever had happen to them! And nobody knows more about bad days than me. First of all we were competing in heavy rain — an absolute deluge of rain. I haven’t seen rain like this in my entire life. There was so much rain everywhere, it probably broke the drought in California.
We went in to dressage and the judge — good guy, really. A great friend, just a real quality human being — gave me straight 6s across the board. Of course, this was enough to land us a score of 0%! Not that it was to anyone’s surprise, of course. Nobody knows more about dressage than me.
This amazing score was enough to land us in first place after dressage. In a huge class! There were hundreds of people there! Our show was going so well, right up until cross country. We got lost in the woods on course, and it took a whole search and rescue team to find us again. No joke! They were looking for us for weeks in there. Murray and I survived by foraging for nuts and berries, and eating a lot of grass and shrubbery. I never knew that humans could survive on shrubbery, but we can, and we did.
When we finally got back out of the woods, another show had conveniently started and we were just in time for the stadium rounds! The show officials decided that they would let me run stadium in this division since I never got to complete at the previous show, due to being lost in the woods for several weeks. I was feeling great, as good as you can after being lost in the woods for a few weeks. Murray, likewise, was full of sass. He was the sassiest he’s ever been! He was so sassy that I fell off in warm up.
Despite that, we went on to win our class. Because that’s what winners do. And we’re winners.
I was riding a friend’s pony last week, I’ve mentioned him before. He is a very fun and rather different ride from Murray. They are both overthinkers, but it seems to express itself in different ways. (Or perhaps I just think it comes out differently because I’m so close to Murray?)
Murray thinks so much that he’s always trying to anticipate my next move, and any movement of my leg or seat or hands can result in drastic direction changes. Logan is busy thinking about what we are doing that direction changes almost seem to sneak up on him, and if I surprise him with one he tenses and inverts. When I put poles down for Murray he wants to look at them for as long as he can, and then flings his feet around in an attempt to get there on the stride he wants. When I put poles down for Logan, he sometimes seemed surprised that they suddenly appeared in front of him — he’s perfectly willing and happy to go over them, but I couldn’t really get it to feel good when I did it.
All of this really got me thinking about catering to the busy pony mind. A lot of the crappy advice I see floating around the internet is to do lots of transitions and poles to “keep your OTTB’s mind busy”. (Oh all right, you caught me, I’m mostly shit-talking OTTB connect. SprinklerBandit mentioned this in passing the other day and it made me lol absurdly.) Which has always struck me as wildly TERRIBLE and FANTASTIC advice a the same time. Of course, in my jaded little world, that means it falls squarely in the “terrible” camp, since I don’t trust the execution skills of people looking for training advice on OTTB connect (or other horse fora, honestly).
The trick with Murray is keeping his mind engaged enough, such that exercises are actually doing something. There’s nothing actually useful in Murray flying in a so-called leg yield from the centerline to the wall like the gravitational force of the sun is pulling him there — nothing gymnasticizing, and certainly nothing thoughtful. Likewise I’m not doing anything by letting him flail his way up to a set of poles instead of waiting, thinking, and lifting his way to them. Transitions on a circle are super when Murray can maintain a forward and powerful enough gait to respond to them quickly and when I ask him to — not when he bloody well feels like it because he knows it may or may not be coming.
Lots of transitions or poles quickly crosses the line from “a useful exercise” into “drilling incessantly”, which is where the problem arises with Murray. Inaccurate leg yields build bad habits, and all of it misses the point: learning. Busy minds aren’t learning, they are just responding. And in my experience surprising your horse with a ton of transitions they aren’t ready for or throwing random poles in their path just to keep them “paying attention” just makes them stiff and anticipatory (hmm, and how might I know that….?). Plus it all ties in with a lesson it took me a long time to learn, which is to do things well when you do them, instead of just because you can.
It was more of a challenge to find the same balance on Logan, who I don’t know as well. So I stuck with the base of the dressage pyramid – keeping things slow so he could just relax, relax, relax through direction changes, small circles, and transitions. When in doubt, more relaxation will never hurt things. I think.
The Woodland Stallion Station Horse Trials wants YOU to come out and help us run our event! We are putting on Northern California’s only one-day event and it is going to be INCREDIBLE!
But to make it incredible, we need volunteers, and since bloggers and blog readers are among the most competent, capable people I know, I really really really really really want you to help. Please.
Things I can offer you: food, a volunteer shirt, and tons of fun at the event. Plus: a place to stay (with me), and time with these incredible creatures:
Comment or email me for details! WE NEED YOU!
(email is confetti [dot] airplane [at] gmail [dot] com)
I have a few major goals this year that pertain to showing, and they are pretty much all geared towards getting me and Murray in sync when we jump or dressage at a new place. This is our greatest shortcoming. If Murray is feeling good and confident, we’re fine! I can handle that. I can handle enthusiastically forward, I can handle bucking with feels, I can handle him being a little bit backed off or behind my leg. What I have so far failed to handle, especially in the context of a whole course, is when he is scared and getting a little shut down. That I am not so good at handling.
I would also like to be able to show in one of the many venues California has to offer. I mean, we can run around XC at CEPF until the day we die, but that doesn’t mean we are going to have a successful run at a different show with different challenges. I’m interested in being able to handle all of those challenges. So with that in mind, here’s my proposed show schedule for this year. I color-coded by jumper, dressage, or event.
February 7 — Jumper show at WSS (possible)
March 6 — Jumper show at WSS (unrated) — 2’6″, 2’9″
March 19 — Combined Test at WSS (unrated) — Beginner Novice
March 18,19 — March Mania Dressage at Rancho Murieta (rated) — T-3, 1-1
March 20 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show (unrated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2
April 16, 17 — Horse Trials at CEPF (unrated) — Beginner Novice
April 24 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show (unrated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2
May ?? — Event Derby at UCD (unrated) — Beginner Novice
May 13, 14, 15 — Starr Vaughn Dressage (rated) — T3, 1-1, possibly 1-2
May 27, 28, 29 — Woodside Horse Trials (rated) — Beginner Novice
July 9, 10 — Dressage at Pacific Equestrian Center (rated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2
September 11 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show (unrated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2
September 24, 25 — Hiskens Horse Trials (unrated) — Novice
October 9 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show Championships (unrated) — wtf they have coolers and neck ribbons! shut the front door!
October 21, 22, 23 — Fresno County Horse Park Horse Trials (rated) — Novice
November 18, 19, 20 — Fresno County Horse Park Horse Trials (rated) — Novice
November 12, 13 — Starr Vaughn Dressage (rated) — T3, 1-1
Shows in Italics are the ones that only might happen, so I have my sights set on fewer shows than are actually on this schedule. And there aren’t even any rated dressage shows (one of my goals… oops) that are more than “maybes”, but looking at the shows available to me it seemed like it might behoove me to show at a few unrated shows before trying to bust out my rated dressage show chops. But perhaps I can squeeze a rated show in there at the end of the year.
I would like to show at Camelot (April), because it’s awesome, I love it there, we school there all the time, and I need some redemption on that XC course. And Woodside (May) is, believe it or not, one of the cheaper places in California for me to show at, despite the astronomical costs of getting there and schooling there, because my parents live close enough nearby that I can void all hotel costs. In a perfect world I’d get a bit more time between Camelot and Woodside but I have some external travel plans that make that impossible… so if I’m going to show Woodside, it has to be in May. Woodside is going to be a challenging show environment for both of us, as it’s busy, has lots of people there, and neither of us has been there much. But it’s the good kind of challenge, and while their BN course is solid, it’s essentially the same as what we jumped (most of) at Camelot last year.
My hopeful plans to move up at the end of the year… well, we’ll see how that goes. I’m pretty interested in keeping Murray confident and happy, but I do want to push things a little bit. So I picked Hiskens as a move up in September, as they are known for having a slightly softer course with a few legitimate Novice questions. Another place that Murray and I have never shown, and they have grass dressage courts (terrifying). After that, I’d like to try showing at Fresno at Novice, which is also a pretty good move-up course — not super challenging terrain- or environment-wise, and not too expensive. I am not tied to the goal of moving up. If my lack of experience showing means that we can’t, then we can’t. Then we just ride those venues at BN instead of Novice. It’s not like I’m running out of time
To 2016! Onward and upward.
Little Peanut Project is going well. Her transition from polo pony to eventing pony is progressing smoothly, and it is a pleasure to work with such a mature, intelligent horse*. I love her!
Figuring out connection after just a few rides — now for some relaxation! I can’t wait to see what her gaits are like when she supples through her back. I’m not a mare person, but this mare, guys… sassy AND classy.
* Yes, in fact, the implication here is that someone else is not mature or intelligent. Fun, yes. Challenging, always. Sweet, adorable, and very clever? Check. Mature and intelligent? Uhh….
I’m attempting to get back to something of a normal blogging schedule. School is starting back up, so now I will be juggling my time between my jobs and school a bit more, but I honestly think I can manage it. As long as I don’t waste too much time driving between places…. I think.
Anyway, this weekend I celebrated a couple of anniversaries. First, mine! I had my golden birthday (turned 27 on the 27th!) and one of my friends made me the most magnificent cake EVER.
That this cake coincided with team Always Be A Unicorn’s victory at the AECs is no coincidence, I am sure. Unicorns are majikal.
It looked even better with 27 candles.
And then I sacrificed the horn to the gods. i.e. I put it on my head and my friends took pictures.
And photoshopped them.
My birthday is also, almost, Murray’s and my anniversary of starting to work together. I was technically out of the country on my birthday in 2014, and started working with Murray on the 29th of September, but I call them close enough. This year, I was lucky enough to ride my horse on my birthday. A first. It felt pretty awesome. I’m trying to come up with some kind of fitting ode to Murray this year. Other than feeding him unicorn cake, of course.
Horse Junkies United, where I also blog, just underwent a remodel. One of the things we released with the remodel was a series of blogs about why we blog, and I wrote one that was pretty hard. I sorted out a lot of my feelings about Murray post-Camelot (much of which I did on here, and with your help) and came to a pretty awesome-feeling conclusion: that I was being a giant cockhead. I’ve written about much of that on here already, but this blog put it all together in one place and was really soul-cleansing to write.
Also, Ecogold is doing two half pad giveaways right now, if you’re interested. One over at Heels Down Magazine, which is a pretty fucking swank swag bag for the winner, and one on The Legal Equestrian.
And that is it for me, for now. Tonight I will recap some jumping exercises and progress Murray and I have made, and tomorrow I TEACH. Oh undergrads, fear me.