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Finally! (and some drama)

I did it! Part of the reason for my long silence, though not all of it, was that I kept trying to take Strider in a dressage show. The first one I had to scratch due to a death in the family, the second one I entered and the whole show was canceled because of the EHV-1 outbreak. I was starting to sense a trend. I decided to risk it and try entering a third show though. It was last weekend and there was no apocalypse, a lot of drama though.

First, Strider’s saddle fit became a really big issue. It had been a small issue and had seemed correctable with shims and pads- and then more pads, and more pads. We were at four pads and my calling him, “princess and the pea horse” was a little too apropos for comfort. He was starting to get back sore as well. I was not ok with that and it did nothing good for our suppleness or transitions to say the least. He is already conformationally challenged so I didn’t want any other issues. I also go into the horse version of panicked parent mode when I know my horse is uncomfortable.

As soon as I could I started saddle shopping. Thankfully one of the mobile tack stores has a large used selection and was going to be close by; I was able to try six saddles in one weekend! Even better one of them actually seemed to be a great fit for Strider. The only downside was that it was a bit of a gamble because my trainer couldn’t check it for me. Based on my own knowledge and how my horse felt in it I decided to go with it (trainer is still out of the country- I will let you know if that was a good gamble when she gets back!). Worst case it has improved his royal highness’ back, doesn’t require four pads, and is, in my opinion, and based on some quick digging on the internet, a better value than what I had before. Now I can just hope my old saddle sells quickly so I can replenish my somewhat drained savings.

The new saddle came just in time. In fact, I got it exactly a week before the show. Less than ideal timing, but at least I got it before the show, since my old saddle was definitely not helping us out. I was worried I would be riding my dressage tests in my jumping saddle. But thankfully that didn’t end up happening.

 More surprises were in order though as the Thursday before the show I had to leave work early and go see my doctor because I was having intense stomach pain. There were no clear answers, as usual, but we treated the pain and set an appointment for a ct scan. Not eating in preparation for the ct scan calmed things down a little and though I didn’t get the results of the scan before the show I was able to make it through thanks to the wonders of modern medicine.

 I will spare you the rest of the drama involving warm up arena melt downs (Strider: “ZOMGWTFBBQ there are more than three horses in the arena), boot disasters (one fit and not the other- no kidding), and missing tractor parts.

 I will be honest: my first ride was terrible and it was all my fault. Poor Strider tolerated my show nerves fabulously though and between his generally being good and a somewhat nice judge we managed to eke out a 64% on t-3. It got better as the test went on, but I am pretty sure a drunken sailor on a unicycle could have done a better center line and halt, salute.

 Somewhat miraculously (it’s me we’re talking about here- historically I haven’t shown very well. Even when I have scored well I am usually an absolute basketcase), I gathered my wits, drank some sports drink and actually breathed a little before my next test. I admit I was worried since it was First level, but I figured I may as well relax and enjoy rather than freak out if the results would be the same. My old trainer used to hate it when I would say, “I have to stop caring,” because she didn’t understand what I meant. I am realizing that in order to show well I have to be able to let go of the outcome. I ride far better when I don’t care. It’s not bad in my case, because then I actually ride. Not caring for me doesn’t mean I stop trying; it enables me to try. We went in and though I rode conservatively, we ended up with a 67%. I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

 The next day we had a different judge and the scores, on average, were lower. We managed a 68% on T-3 (and it felt amazing!!) and a 61% on First 1. Both rides felt incredibly steady though and I was absolutely thrilled.

Vanya has not been sitting around all this time either. He has been doing western. I jokingly say that he “has a 4-Her.” I think in theory the 4-Her has him but if you ask him I am sure it is the other way around. He has done well at remembering what little western he knew and improving on it and has even become vaguely decent as a showmanship horse. He still needs work but western is good for him in his old age. I am sure he will be excited when fair is over and we can start focusing more on getting him and his 4-Her ready for barrels and poles though. He also is going to get his own little kid after fair and I cannot wait for him to get some lead line action.

 My RA has been pretty bad which is really why I haven’t been posting much. I am determined to push through it to the extent that I can, but often I have the energy to work, ride, etc. and then posting falls by the wayside. I will do my best to update more frequently whenever I can. I am trying acupuncture to help with some of the side issues that have been nagging at me so we’ll see if that helps. Even my knitting has been slower than usual. Oh well….always have to keep pushing on!! RAWR!!!!

 

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Good Times…

Sometimes things just seem to go your way. The last few days have been that way for me. Not to brag or anything, but really, it’s been pretty awesome if I do say so myself. So why exactly has life been so good? I’m glad you asked!

We had a dressage show on Saturday, and I started off very tense and stressed and had a bit of a rough time. However, I had gotten some help in the form of eyes on the ground and some instruction in riding my tests correctly (Oh, you mean the curving line in the canter in First level Test 4 is supposed to be bending in the direction of your lead, not changing bend like a nice hunter line!?) so I did my best to just chill and quickly get past it. It must have worked, because though we were tense on our first test, First Level, test 1, we got more relaxed as the test went on and it wasn’t awful. Our next test, First Level, test 2, was even better, but still needed more relaxation, but overall I was happy because we got some trot lengthen, some canter lengthen, and decent leg yields, which those three things have been to some extent the bane of our tests from day one. Though I should remind myself that day one wasn’t that long ago. I rode my first Dressage test on Strider in August. His leg yields, though gorgeous as far as crossover, have a tendency to be overbent and they were much better on that this time. So, a little more relaxed and getting happier by the minute, we moved on to First Level, test 4. This was our first attempt at it in a show, and only our second time riding through the whole test as I hadn’t been able to memorize it and hadn’t had anyone available to read for me. It was amazing!! It would have been our best score of the day, and as it is it was close, if we hadn’t had a jig in our free walk. I have to say having a jig in the free walk is super weird for Strider too, but overall I was still very happy. After our test the judge told me she thought I was doing a good job riding a “difficult horse.” Though I disagree with that characterization of Strider, I appreciated the comment very much especially as she had not been as complimentary to some of the other riders in my level and above. I was super excited! Our scores, though still not at my goal of consistently above 60% are getting more consistent and much closer to that level. I am very interested to see how we do at the show on September 19th after some lessons.

 On that note, the next exciting thing that happened was I got a lesson! Jo, from the Tapestry Institute (http://www.tapestryinstitute.org/horsehuman/riding.html), came out to my barn to give me a lesson and I had a great time. She really worked on my position and helped me to relax and breathe, (You mean I should breathe more than once every ten minutes when I ride? What a novel concept!) and I could feel the difference it made in Strider’s movement and suppleness in even just a few minutes. It’s not magic, and I may not agree with everything Jo believes, but I appreciate that her goals for the horse and rider are to work as an effective team and she really needed all the help it could get! I hope I can get more lessons in with her as I think it will help Strider and I in the suppleness and relaxation element that I struggle with so much.

I also sold my boots that I hate, loathe, and despise. Don’t get me wrong- they are not bad boots; they were amazing and they are the closest boots I have ever had to fitting me. But, they were not very comfortable, especially not after I lost 50 pounds and my claves shrunk. So, I sold them to someone who needed them fairly badly for RMDS Championships as her boots were not comfortable for her and were not broken in. These should be far more comfortable for her and are somewhat broken in. I now can go on the hunt for boots that actually fit me. Weird. The amazing thing is I hadn’t even put my boots for sale. Now if only I can sell my two extra saddles that way!

But for now I am basking in the glory of good things and remembering how wonderful it felt when Strider really relaxed and loosened up….I love good rides! I can’t wait to get out and ride tonight! Until next time: RAWR!

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