Monday, April 14, 2014

Hello Grass Ridge

I know everyone is eagerly awaiting the news of how we did in Sonoita over the weekend. Welllllllll....

Going down there I had a few ideas in place of things we need to work on but I figured they can wait until afterwards. It's not a good idea to be changing things right before a show or the day of. Things may not be going well or certainly not perfect, but change them at home when you have time to work on it or thru it and let the horse adjust to it before going to a show and expecting everything to have not only sunk in but to work.

 After the blowout speeds in the cones in Coolidge, I have decided I need to work on them in two ways. One I need to practice with them set as narrow as I can and I also need to practice with him going slow. As in walking only then some trotting. No getting jacked up and batshit crazy, just relaxed, controlled speed that we can use when necessary and leave it alone when it's not.

Another thing we need to work on is our dressage. We have never been on top or even close in the standings after our dressage tests. This is where it starts and if you can nail down a great score there, then the rest will help you hang onto it. We cannot have a mediocre test and hope to 'fix' it and move up, by smokin' 'em in the cones and the hazards. It just doesn't happen that way, hasn't all along and the future isn't looking too bright for it to change to our advantage any time soon. Hmpf! One of our biggest problems with this, is I can do it well in the lines, but when I get in the cart, it's like I lose my mind and forget everything we've worked on. I accept less and he delivers. Boy does THAT need to change...

When we got down there, it was like the theme for the day was to "Miss all of your turns."  Going down I-83, I missed the turn onto Curly Horse Road to get to the facility. Now it is only slightly before you get into town and there is a small hill in front of it, but it really didn't inhibit my view of the sign as I looked right at it and we sailed right on by......   I turned around and came back, made the turn and when we got to the host facility- wouldn't you know it? I did the same. damn. thing.

I looked right at all of the horse trailers and went past not just the first driveway, but also the barns and second driveway before we finally reached the third one so I could pull in, back the trailer out onto the street and turn around to go back.  Several people said they seen us go by, watched us turn around and were quite impressed with my backing skills. Some days I can put that little trailer anywhere- other days it seems like its a wonder I manage to go forward with it.  *eyeroll*

As per usual, I left Kat in the trailer and went to find the dressage and cones arenas. We had a little time before things were starting and once the first horse goes, you are S.O.L. and can't walk either test or course. I walked my test twice and figured I had it nailed down.  Then I went to walk the cones course. Looking at it on paper- it looked horribly tough and beyond challenging. Walking it in person was completely different. It flowed and had some nice easy turns to it with the exception of one, but even that wasn't all that bad or hard to do. The only person expecting to have any issue with it was Frank with his pair of Percheron crosses and they are gorgeous to watch. I walked it twice and stood back to draw my way through it in the air with my finger. I might have even walked it again, I don't remember, but it was good in my mind. So now it was time to go back and unload Kat so I could check in and get ready for the day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


With the upcoming ADT being a two day event instead of only one, there is sure to be plenty to post about surrounding it. It is a two day event as it will be the last driving event to be held at Grass Ridge. The CDE in October has been cancelled and this is it. There is a potluck on Saturday night following dressage and cones. Hazards will be run on Sunday and it looks to be a FUN event all around.  There will be 6 hazards instead of the usual 4, two of them being water hazards. #6 has no alternative dry route for training level so they can try it if they'd like to, but won't be marked down if they don't complete it. It's all about FUN remember?

Because of the time and travel involved with the next two upcoming ADT's, I will be posting about ground driving over on my other blog, The Well Groomed Horse. I finally have my dressage test for this one memorized (in one day, as of Monday) and have been studying the cones and hazards. One of my good friends looked at the cones course and said- "Holy Crap! How are you supposed to remember all of that?" That's just one part of it.

Moving up has proven mentally challenging since the test at each one changes. We also picked up one more gate in the hazards, have to go thru the water and we are not only timed in the hazards, but it also counts. Am I glad we moved up? Definitely! If I want to be competitive, tougher competition makes me work harder for it. For as little time as I have to put into my pony- I think he's done pretty dang well. Especially since we have been going it alone for the most part, with no real outside help. Will I have the same fire breathing dragon in the cones again? Who knows. Will he be the same in the hazards after getting the afternoon off? Anything can happen. As long as he's under control- I'm just going to let him RUN!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

ADT#2 Obstacles

The last part of the ADT's is obstacles or hazards. They really don't like calling them hazards anymore because hazards sounds hazardous and I'm sure the insurance companies have themselves a heyday over these things. Either way, four hazards to navigate is just never enough. Everyone crosses the finish line and is disappointed that its over and they are done for the day. Unless of course your horse/pony gets out there and goes a bit stupid on you. If you're fighting them the whole way, you might be glad there's only 4 hazards to get thru and you pray you survive.

After the insane speed Kat had in cones, when I walked the hazards... I made sure to leave plenty of room for him to run. Wider turns, straighter shots at the gates- it all meant that if we hit warp speed again, I could let him go with it. And after looking at our scores in each one, comparing them to the rest, well we, wait. Scratch that. I may need to rethink that plan.

Kat was again amped up for the hazards, but he didn't get up to the speed he dished out in the cones. One thing he did want to do was to run from one hazard to the next. Time in between doesn't count, at least not in the ADT's. In the CDE your time on the whole course counts as well as your time in each hazard. This makes it tricky. You want to rip thru the hazards with quick times, but relax and just cruise casually along between them so you don't get time penalties for going too fast.

The challenge to the hazards is that there are just the gates, the proper direction you go thru each one and not much else. I can look at the map and have one idea of how to do it. Several other people may see the exact same route thru it all. Someone else sees it and thinks of another way to do it. Who's idea is better? Well, the fastest one is, but you often don't get to watch anyone really go thru their test, so you stick with your plan and hope it works. You're too busy tacking up, putting to and warming up to be watching anyone go thru them. Even when you're done, you are unhitching and taking care of the horse(s), to see anyone else go and can only ask how it went. Bummer!

Best laid plans and all of that? Yeah, that can and sometimes does go right out the window in the moment of competition. My daughter Robin was my 'gator and she was riding with another entry so I hung out with Kat in the shade, waiting for them to complete their course. They were in training level and only allowed to trot, but also their times in the hazards don't count either. When they got back, she hopped off their cart and into ours and we were on our way. We were behind Ron and his pair of minis and a couple of times we were waiting for them to come out of a hazard so we could go in. It gave Kat a short breather and a chance to relax and get ready.

We went into and thru each hazard saying the letters of the gates as I guided Kat thru each one. As we blasted thru hazard 2 and came out the finish line, the timer and scribe said, "Nicely done" as I thanked them while we sped off to the other hazards. Going thru #2, I did feel the wheels on the cart break loose so we slid sideways thru the dirt. I love feeling it do that. My friend Sheri with her pony Treasure, got her cart up on one wheel going thru there. Her hubby/photographer got it on film and the crazy thing about that pic- they were both leaning into the turn and over the wheel on the ground. How they didn't flip it? Yeah, they were lucky.

We were doing well up until the last hazard. I had walked it with Sharan and gone thru what route I was going to take a few times before I realized by watching her, that I was going thru C the wrong way. Red on the Right! I had to change my plan a little, I walked it correctly a few more times. I stood on the edge and traced my way thru it with my finger in the air. I repeated it a few times, drawing the correct path for that hazard in the air... And when we got into #4, damned if I didn't head right into C the. wrong. flippin. way! As Kat went into it, I looked up at the red C on our left and a few things happened at that split second. Robin said "Uh, Mom?" I had just realized what was going on and said "Whoa" and Kat shut down instantly. Thankfully he stops like he does! I backed him up a few steps, turned him to the left just enough to clear the pole and sent him forward. We went around the pole and thru C the right way, circled around and came back thru D and out the finish line. After stopping the watch and noting the time, as I thanked the volunteers, they told me- "Nice save. You had about 1 foot to go and you would have E'ed out." Whew... That was close.

For having such a fast time in cones, our times in the hazards were comparably s.l.o.w. We were either in the middle or towards the end on every single one. I'm going to have to rethink this one a little... Obviously there is room for improvement there. One of my good friends told me to view the hazards as cones, just without the balls to knock down. This works in a way, since the space allowed in the hazards is not according to the width of the wheels on the cart, but a set width. Because there are no balls to fall down, you can get a little more loose as to how you approach and go thru the gates. We can take them at more of an angle than the larger ponies and horses because of the overall length of the turnout, from the tip of Kat's nose to the back if the cart.

I have also been asked if we win anything for our effort for the day. Nope. There are no ribbons, no prizes and our single scores for this ADT, don't really compare to the single scores from any of the other ADT's for this year or last year. We do get points for each placing that count towards the year end awards. The y/e prizes are usually pretty awesome, so yeah, its definitely worth the effort if you're a points chaser. The length of the cones course changes at each event with the change of the course. They are rarely the same one, but if you are consistently on the top of the board for fast speeds, you're doing something right. Of course fast and clear rounds (no balls down) are what you are shooting for because if you're fast but have multiple balls down, the penalties, 3 points per ball, are going to dramatically offset your speed. What good is fast if you're out of control?

Dressage isn't about speed anyways and if your horse isn't moving correctly to begin with, they aren't submissive or responsive to you as the driver and you aren't in control as their leader, as a competitor you both are more prone to accidents and injuries in the other two parts of the event. It all lends itself to the other parts of the competition. Even the CDE's aren't about the money. You get a beautiful ribbon for your efforts, the scores you bust your butt for and the knowledge of how well you think you did, what you need to work on and of what you learned out there being a competitor. As Hardy Zantke asked me at the end of section E on the marathon at our first CDE- "Did you have fun out there, that nothing anyone ever says can take away from you?" You just can't put a price on that!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

ADT #2 Wow

When we reached the arena for cones, there were a few people lined up around the edge of the grass to watch. There was a few couples who hadn't seen any such type of competitions and boy were they in for a treat. Jim had laid out another challenging course, that apparently tripped a couple of us up on cone 3.

My friend Sharan had completed her course and unhitched her mare so she was standing by to watch and cheer us on. My daughter Robin was my 'gator and she went to stand with Sharan since gators are only required in the obstacles. The pony before us was finishing up and when it was our turn, I trotted Kat into the arena on the grass and could tell he was ready to GO! We trotted towards the start/finish line, halted and saluted the judge and were ready to go. I kissed to Kat and encouraged him on and off we went.

Thru the start/finish and headed to #1 a multiple in a line the width of the arena. This was a breeze since you weave thru it like running poles in a gymkhanna. Kat had picked up a canter and since the cones are set wide enough for horses with their carts, we whipped thru them with ease. Cone #2 was dead ahead and as I kissed to Kat to keep him cantering along, it was like all of a sudden he hit another gear that I. didn't. even. know. he. had! What a Rush! He took off like a SHOT! The only thing I could think of was HO-LY HELL!

Kat was still under control but we were hauling ass, balls to the wall and running like hell. It's like my pony's tail and feet were on fire. We shot thru 2 so fast that I lost track of 3 and went the wrong way around 12 to get to it. We weren't lined up like we should've been and took 3 down but there was no time for looking back or worrying about it. We lined up for 4, when I realized I was sitting on the right headed into a left turn. I had to slide over on the seat to make sure our left wheel was going to stay on the ground as we went thru it.

It was a mad dash on to 5, 6 and so on. Kat was running and we were Smokin Hot as we went thru 7 and 8 at the far end and looped our way around. It was about then that I told him, "I know you wanted to run, but DAMN!!!" BLASTING thru 9, 10 and 11 I still had a slight hold of him and wasn't really encouraging him and said "You can slow down some." Yeah, slowing down was NOT on his agenda for cones. Banish the thought!

We rocketed thru the the course at crazy speed. I know I kept telling Kat easy, easy, easy, and was trying to slow him down, but still allowing him to run. I never once asked for anything more from him, instead I was hoping for a little less! I have never felt him run like that before and had no idea he could even go that fast. After we crossed the finish line I let him keep going and circled him around to make an extra lap of the arena. He did ease up and started to slow down and I even considered letting him make another lap to help him regain his mind, but he came back to me and eased into a trot as nice as could be.

Jim had stepped down off the bed of his truck and was waiting for us. He knows I always come back to hear my time and assess the damages (penalties for balls down) so he was ready with what I wanted to hear. He had this strange grin on his face as we stopped so I could shake his hand as I always do and thank him for another awesome course. I knew we had wiped out #3 in a big way and that turned out to be the only one. Jim was grinning when he said, "You guys did it in under 2 minutes." I asked what the time allowed was. "3 minutes." Our time was 1:59.62 seconds. That made me think again HOLY CRAP!

There have been times we were dang close to going over and getting time faults, so to be that far under? WOW! For all of his speed and whipping around on the course, Kat wasn't even breathing hard at all. In fact he was ready to go again and didn't want to stand still. He may have been able to do it, but I wasn't about to ask him for it. I was still just amazed at his speed and how easy he was to handle thru everything. I'm not sure if anyone got any pictures and if they did, I wanna see them! I'm not sure if the people watching were ready for that, but they sure got to see some action! Lol

Later when I checked the board, we had the fastest time in the cones for the day. The next closest was one of the mini's with a time of 2:03.2 seconds. We were the only entry to do it under 2 minutes. Had I not missed #3 and lined up for it the right way and just let him run, not asking him to slow down at all, I have no idea how fast we could've done it or what our time would've been. I'm not even sure I want to find out.

I know that as we move up, the cones will be narrower and time will still be a factor. As long as he's under control and responding, I can get him lined up and aimed at the cones like he should be- asking for or adding more speed will never be a problem. He sure proved that! I'm still reeling a bit from his performance, even now almost a week later. I have been asked if there is pony racing, if we are entered in the upcoming Kentucky Derby and a host of other similar questions because of his speed on Saturday in the cones. He's definitely a little adrenaline junky and from now on I may have to channel my inner Formula 1 driver for the cones courses. Sheesh!

Monday, March 31, 2014

ADT #2

The best way to describe this one is Wow! Just WOW!

I didn't get to drive Kat last weekend or really even work him. Things came up and it just didn't happen. Such is life. After Apache Junction, I had thought of making a few changes since he has sorta seemed 'flat' and a bit almost lethargic in his work. If anyone recalls, in AJ I was pushing him thru the cones and pushing him thru the obstacles. Cindy was my 'gator and can attest that when I pushed him a little in the obstacles, he popped his butt up in protest. It worked because I backed off of him and let him go at his own pace from there on.

I wasn't quite sure what to do to change his energy levels or interest in things or what was going on to cause it. I have started to use the butterfly instead of the snaffle and as per Gary's suggestion, switched my reins to the top ring instead of the bottom one. He seemed better as he was more forward in the butterfly now, more confident and more accepting of it. He also wasn't blowing thru it and ignoring me either like he may do in the snaffle so we were making progress. Also the few times I have taken him out to work, he has never been exuberant about doing things to the point of me needing to lunge him before we went, or letting anything ruffle him while we are out.

After his performance at the ADT in Coolidge? I'm still not sure of what to make of things. If there's anything to leave me questioning everything about my pony- this certainly did it! It's going to take a lot of thought, at least a phone call to Gary and a very solid plan to work on.

Dressage has never been his strong suit. He hates arena work and being too smart for his own good, this is where we can get into trouble easily. I have sorta worked this one out by only letting Kat walk the pattern once or twice before doing it in the ring, before the judge. Our judge was tough as hell, but fair and did not give high marks away at all. No, no, you definitely had to earn them. Our scores of mostly 6's, a 5 and a 7 weren't as high of numbers as I would have liked to have seen, but the comments were dead on and were things that we did or needed to work on. It turned out, this is this judges first driving show, but dressage is dressage and proper movement is a must. Your horse is either doing it right or they're not. She wasn't giving things away and I can respect that. I actually like that in a judge. Kudos to her and I would like to show under her again.

Our 7 was for the movement of coming down the right side of the arena from H to E, turning left and going across to B, turning right and going down the length of the arena, making the corner and going towards A. Essentially we were working to the left and then to the right. Us scoring well on this made sense since we were going from his 'bad' side to his good one. Kat was forward, he wasn't screaming his head off, I didn't Vicks him and although he got a little pissy here and there, he wasn't dogging along on me either. I lunged him before I put him to the cart and it took him a while to blow off his extra steam. Sure he was creeping when I hitched him, (which I know I shouldn't have mentioned it in my post before the event) but otherwise he gave me no indication of what was about to come.

Before our dressage test, Kat got the chance to pee. Sometimes this is a good sign that he is now going to be relaxed and behaved like he should be. He was given a drink to refill his 'tank' and keep him going. After our test, I headed back to our bucket under the trees in the warm up area and gave him another chance to drink and he did. The cones course was next and in the other grass field at the front of the property, the next driveway down. My 'gator jumped on the cart and we headed over there. Kat was excited and trotted boldly down the road and even loped some on the way. He was calm, relaxed and loose in his movement. Things were going well...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ground driving 101

Sometimes you do have to 'back up' to move forward.

After Nuzzling Muzzles posted pic's of the last ADT on her blog I have exchanged a few emails with Lytha, a Horse crazy American in Germany about starting her horse for driving. Recently Cindy was having some issues with her horse and it was recommended she do some long line work with him as well. Nuzz was also having some issues with Rock a while ago and again, I threw out the suggestion to back up and ground drive/long line him.

Can I just say the benefits of ground driving and long line work are HUGE! Because, yeah. They most definitely are. Especially for me and Kat as well as my mares. I am a visual learner. I learn by seeing it happen, but also from hands on. If I can see what they are doing, see them doing it right, I can picture it in my mind when I am on them and then get a better feel for it when it happens right and like it should.

I was told by one of the ladies in the driving club that she does more ground driving than actual driving in the cart. She always seems to k.i.c.k. some serious a.s.s. in dressage in that respect, so obviously her words have their merit. MiKael of Rising Rainbow also told me one time to do more ground driving and long line work with Kat. Make him really work in the lines, then when he is put to the cart he will have life a little easier because of the shafts, but he should still be able to move properly either way.

I can clearly see the benefits of when I do more ground work than actually taking the cart out for a spin. One thing I have found myself doing though- I ask for certain things, particular movements in the long lines, but toss it aside when the cart is attached. WHY? I have no idea! It's one of those WTF moments if there ever was one. He can do it without the cart and he can certainly do it with the cart, if I had only asked him to. DUH!!!

I have been able to sort out my issues in my mares saddle work, by working her in the long lines as well. I can see what she is doing and fix it from there. The long ling work has improved my riding and in turn the riding improves my driving if that makes any sense to anyone. Clear as mud? I thought so. The long line work fixes the horse. When trying to sort out how to ask for something when driving, I ride my mare and think about what and how I am asking for things. The long low work in hunters for example. I know how to ride for it, but driving for it? Really wasn't all that different when I rode it and thought about how I asked for it.

On another note about driving, when starting the horse in harness, you get him used to things touching his body all over and them being able to handle it and let it go without incident. The harness is essentially a whole bunch of straps. They hang down, rub against the horse and sometimes they break. Stuff happens and who knows when it will fall apart, but if you can get the horse used to as much of it as you can, in a controlled environment, little steps at a time within their comfort level- you will be able to reach them mentally in a lot of otherwise scary situations and they will look to you for 'advice' on what to do next. You want to sort of have them experience every scenario of straps dangling around their legs and such so that when the day comes that a strap comes loose or breaks, they are fine with it and wait to let you sort it out.

Stopping is a HUGE issue with driving. How many times do you hit the brakes in your car, just running to the store? How many times do you expect those brakes to work? The horse is no different. Whoa means stop everything NOW and don't move. When starting the horse to drive, you will or at least should do a lot of stopping, standing for various lengths of time and waiting. Walk a serpentine, stop and stand, walk a circle or two, stop and stand. There should be no effort to move forward until you are ready and ask for it. You don't know how long you may have to wait in traffic or for it to clear if you ride or drive near roads. Kat admittedly likes to creep on me. It drives me nuts and I can't stand it when he does it. Your horse should also stand quietly for hitching and unhitching. This is when Kat's creeping really sets me off. He knows he shouldn't move, but one step, two steps and slowly before you notice, we're halfway across the parking lot.

Another thing I did with Kat was to push him to his limits. This was for a few different reasons. 1) To see how much he could take before he blew and 2) to see How he would blow when he did. 3) I also needed to know what his 'trigger points' were. What was going to set him off? Even still, does everyone remember his ***epic tantrum*** at the horsepark? I still wish that had been recorded. Kat blew up in a big way and nobody seen it coming. It happens. It really sucked at the moment, but we survived and moved on. One of the women that was there for it, is still amazed by what happened and how far we've come since then, when she sees us at the ADT in AJ.

If you know your horses trigger points, warning signs and what they do leading up to a meltdown, you can divert the energy and Hopefully avoid the meltdown before it happens. You will know when you are trading on thin ice with their delicate minds. You can also begin to work them through things leading up to what might have caused the epic meltdowns before. It all takes time. Sometimes you have to slow down and back off to make progress, if that makes sense. If anyone wants tips on how to ground drive or long line work, let me know in the comments and I will try to get photos more hands on type stuff.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We're gettin' there

I didn't get to go to the CDE this weekend. Heck I didn't even get to go watch. I was bummed about this so I did what anyone else might do. I took Kat out for a drive. He needed it and we drove in a new area.

There wasn't a lot of wide open spaces to work with so we took off down the road. At first Kat wasn't too sure about the lines on the pavement. They probably looked funny, but he quickly got over it and off we went. He was happy to be out exploring. We logged just under 3.5 miles and the majority of it was alongside busy roads. We were passed by all sorts of cars, & SUV's, a few motorhomes, trucks pulling trailers & boats, motorcycles of all kinds, joggers, bicycles and we also seen plenty of barking dogs, birds flying up out of bushes, jackrabbits, swaying real estate signs and all but the kitchen sink. There was plenty to get Kat fired up about, plenty for him to Be fired up about... But my little man just trucked along like it was nobody's business and was his good old, steady as he goes, bad ass self.

Of the few cars that slowed down for us, many of the drivers and passengers waved, made comments of how gorgeous he is, he must be cheaper on gas and a group of guys yelled who knows what from across their yard as we cruised on by. I had set my reins on the upper ring of the butterfly as Gary had told me to do and it seems to have done the trick. Kat was light in the bridle, but never once did I feel like he was intimidated by the bit. He was soft, bending and although he looked around a lot, when I asked for his head to straighten out and he move over a little, he did willingly and beautifully. He is still a work in progress some days, but when we go for a drive and he was that good... Dang he makes it easy to love him that much more.