Sunday, May 27, 2012


Here's the video from our Intro A test at the horse trials last weekend. He hadn't ever stepped foot on this part of the property, so hadn't seen the ring or the two rings next to it or the cows across the street. Considering what we went through the evening before, I was pretty pleased with him!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Well if I post the good I guess I should post the bad, too...

I had signed Mac and I up for our first horse trials last weekend. Coming off a great dressage show debut I was excited for the HT, where we were entered in the elementary division.

Mac has been to this venue a couple times before - once for a clinic and once for schooling when we happened to be the only people there (with his girlfriend Bugzy). Since he's been there before and has been so good at the past couple of show venues we've been to, I didn't give it a second thought that we might have any problems.

Boy was I wrong.

We got there on Friday afternoon so he'd have time to settle in and we could go out for a nice hack the day before the show started. He seemed to be fine when I got on, although a bit distracted. Then, when we went to the creek area, a woman was coming out of the creek on a young, green horse. When she got out of the creek and up the hill, her horse spooked and spun. And so Mac spun. And that was the beginning of the end. I could not get him to pay attention to me and settle. He came completely undone. I decided to get off and do some ground work, but I was too late. I don't know if something happened that I didn't see, but he started leaping in the air and bolted forward, bucking at the same time. As hard as I tried, there was no way for me to stay on. I came off and landed on my back. OUCH!!!! Mac ran away to some paddocks which, oddly enough, were not the paddocks where he was stabled. Someone caught him and brought him back to me.

Ouch. Did I say that? I was very sore. Did I say that?

But after a little chat I got back on. And Mac then decided that he was able to pay attention to me. We had the "sweaty saddle pad" schooling session where we basically trotted on the bit (with circles, changes of direction, transitions) for an hour. Found a friend with ibuprofen or something like that, took a couple, had a beer, and went to bed. Ouch. Did I say that? I couldn't sleep well because I could barely move. Turning over was such an effort that it caused much moaning and groaning and time to get my body moved over to one side. It was a very fitful night. I don't think Mac had trouble sleeping, though.

The next day was dressage and stadium jumping. I gave myself a good 45 minutes to warm up but of course he was perfect and only required 20 minutes. And his canter felt fabulous! The few riders before me were nowhere to be found so the judge let me ride my test early. Mac didn't have a chance to even have a peek at that arena ahead of time but he was sooooo good and held himself together and we put in a good test. As I went to the judge to thank her, she commented that my test was "very well ridden!" So that was good news. Turns out we got a 26.3 score (which would be a 73.7 in regular dressage). Good job, Mac.

Put him up after that and let him chill for a while, took him out to graze for a while, put him up again...we had a long wait until stadium.

Finally the time came for us to warm up for stadium. Again, he was really good. This was the first time he'd been in a jumping warm-up arena, with horses coming at him from all directions, and people jumping fences in the middle of the arena. He did a great job of handling it all and keeping his wits about him. Unfortunately, when we went into the actual show ring, he was bothered by the change of scenery, all the people in the stands, the shadows, the creek crossing, the crazy jumps. We got eliminated. Thankfully the judge was really nice and let us finish the course so I got him over all the jumps.

We could have requested to do XC the next day, but given how much pain I was in, it wasn't worth it. If anything else happened to me, I don't know that my body could have handled it, so we packed up and came home. I'm quite sure Mac didn't care!

I don't mind being eliminated, but I was bummed by being thrown on Friday night. And I'm still feeling it. Doing yoga every day, plus going to the chiropractor, has definitely helped and I DO feel better; I just wish I could go back in time and have tried a different approach. Maybe it would have worked; maybe not.

Anyway, I was very proud of him for his performance on Saturday! Colin got some video of the dressage but isn't finished uploading it yet so it will have to wait a few days.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

First dressage show and two blue ribbons!

Yesterday I took Mac to his first dressage show, where we did Intro B and Intro C. I thought he'd probably be well behaved on the show grounds because he likes to be in an atmosphere where there are other horses around. What I wasn't sure of, though, was how he'd be in the dressage arena itself, since he'd have to leave the company of any horses (or mares, more likely) that he made friends with and he'd be going into a covered arena where he had never been before and that had light and dark areas and a judge's booth and whatnot.

When we got there we let him graze for a bit, which he enjoyed, and we watched the trailers coming in with horses and unloading and all the commotion going on. I was so lucky to have an amazing team to support me - Colin was my groom extraordinaire, and my friends Kali and Kevin came up to be photographer and videographer. While Colin was grooming Mac I went to check out the arena and it was huge! I don't have an opportunity to practice in a "full court," which is 20m x 60m. Our arena at home is oddly shaped and not quite the size of a small court (20m x 40m) - our arena is a bit shorter and a bit wider. So the show arena to me looked very long and narrow!!! I had to plan my geometry out ahead of time and check where the points of my circle would be.

I gave myself plenty of time to warm up, just in case he would be excited or nervous. Turns out he was so good and relaxed that I only needed to warm up for 20 minutes or so. Here are some pictures from the warm-up arena.

We were told the judge was ready for us a few minutes early, which made me happy since I was ready to go a couple minutes early! This was his very first time in the ring and while he gave the judge the hairy eyeball as he walked in, he was fantastic after that - he trucked around like he had done it many times before, he was SO rideable, and even though we were a little wiggly at a couple parts (oh and had to poop as we trotted in), he was such a champion with a great attitude! Here's a video of our Intro B test - we got 64.357%. Judge's comments were "Lovely presentation!" and "Nice harmony between horse and rider."

Then a little break for Mac and I before the Intro C test. I loosened his girth and his noseband so Colin could graze him while I reviewed my next test.

I hopped on for another quick warm up so we could practice our canter work (which is in this test but not in the Intro B test - these tests are for green horses and/or green riders new to the sport of dressage so they are basically geometry, transitions, establishing contact, etc. - no fancy movements at all). I wondered how he'd be for the second test because usually once his quarter runs out he's done and I haven't practiced riding him, getting off and letting him chill out, then getting back on and asking him for more work. But he was again such a good boy. During our first warm up session he fell in love with a little pony mare in the arena with us and so at the beginning of this test you can hear him calling for her but he got over it and went to work.

Here he's cantering.

His canter is not his best gait, although his transitions are generally prompt. Going in a circle and maintaining the correct straightness is hard, especially going to the left. So imagine my surprise when the score I got on my left canter circle was a 7.5! The judge's comment for that was "prompt, better roundness." We also got a 7.5 on our change of rein (changing direction by going down the long diagonal) and our final halt/salute.

Here's the video from the Intro C test.

Our final score for the Intro C test was 67%; the judge's comments on this test were "Well-matched pair!" and "Good potential."

I'm just so proud of him! And of me, too! He's the first horse I've brought along from not having any basic dressage or flatwork training and he was so well behaved and rideable. What makes me most thrilled, though, is what a happy horse he is and he seems to enjoy the work we do together - whether riding the trails or going to a dressage show or learning how to jump, which is what we've got going on next weekend. We're going to do our first horse trials at the Elementary level (walk/trot dressage, jumping over small crossrails, and jumping over small logs on the ground)!

Kali got some shots at the end with Mac and his blue ribbons.