Friday, December 23, 2011

Making sense of things

One of the things I noticed early on about driving- any deviation in where you are going, be it straight down the rail, circles or diagonals- your wheel tracks show it. If the horse moves slightly to one side or the other, even a step or two- it shows in your wheel tracks.  As you come back around the arena you can see where you have been, when your horse moved this way or that, even a step or two before you corrected it- your wheel tracks will show every bit of it. When riding? Unless you are the first one out there using a freshly groomed arena- not so much.  Good luck with finding your horses hoof prints in there otherwise.

Which is why, when I know Kat was being resistant, leaning on the bit, refusing to bend one way or the other, moving with little or no contact or whatever he was doing or not doing as we made those circles- it should certainly show up in the dirt! Right? Yet the tracks I see are nice and round. No egg shapes, no points or bends where he suddenly moved over, no 'wobbly' or curvy lines, none of that... No, no, our tracks are nice, clean, very round- CIRCLES. Which makes me wonder how the hell he does it?

Yes he is talented, athletic and also quite gifted. Which may be part of the problem of WHY he gets bored working on such easy-peasy things as he may see them. But if we are going to do any of the bigger competitions- (ADT's & CDE's) he has to do the dressage portion and since the scores there help or hurt your overall, he has to do them well enough for us to get by so we can advance and move on.  Besides, it all carries over to the marathon and cones courses too.

In 3 Day Eventing, I know there are horse and riders alike who don't score so well in dressage. Maybe the stadium jumping isn't their strong suit, but they manage to pull it together long enough to get through that particular phase and still end up near or at the top in the standings. I get it.  The other two phases are strong enough to carry you and make up for it.

One of the other blogs I read, the writer was asking for ideas since they had done everything in the dressage tests for the level they were competing. Another poster commented and said to start working on things for the next level.  While that's a good idea and all, (and I may try it with Kat) I have my own set of concerns, particularly with him, on this.

Because he is a gifted and talented pony, I just hope he doesn't get bored with that stuff too, before we even move up to that level. Driving has 4 levels, Training, Prelim, Intermediate & Advanced.   If he is bored with preliminary level work while we are still showing training level, do we start working on Intermediate, just to give him something else to focus on?  If he is bored at home doing prelim or intermediate work, when we move up to prelim at the shows, is he going to revert back to being bored?  Is his boredom going to lead to him misbeaving in the ring?   Yeah, that's not good.... but it does happen.

Another thing I wonder about in all of this- Will I be able to keep up with him? I'm still learning a lot A LOT, as we go along.  This is only the second horse/pony I have trained to drive. Yeah, can you guys believe that? The first one was Pi and after our Epic Fail accident when she crashed into a car, bolted down the street and ended up completely destroying the cart, she made it very, very clear, she was never to be put to a cart again.  My track record so far is not what most people would call 'Stellar' by any means. Probably not even close by some judgement scale...  LOL! 

Did I mention Kat and I have never had any formal lessons? Nope. We haven't. Everything so far has been a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants effort. For the most part it has been the work we have been able to fit in at home, hubby sharing input here and there along the way, the advice from Gary at the Darby in August, the driving club free clinic in November, whatever you guys point out here from the pictures (that I sometimes miss) and that's it.  Hubby has also teld me Kat is doing or not doing something, (dropping his hip or shoulder) yet I just don't see it and I certainly can't feel it. He may as well tell me the sky is purple for that matter because sometimes it just doesn't compute. That's all me. How do you fix things that just don't make sense?

Don't get me wrong. I am pretty damn impressed with everything we have done and how far we have come in a short time with barely any work.  For not having a lot of guidance or outside help- I think we are doing all right.  I don't expect to just go shooting straight to the top either. It would be nice, but let's be realistic here, can we? 

I have also had quite a few people ask us, "Who is your trainer?", followed by reccommendations to use theirs.  Our first ADT is in February with a dressage test, followed by a course with a few obstacles and cones. I guess our scores there will be a good place to start evaluating where we are at and what we do need help on, IF we do need help that is...
Sending Kat out to someone else is just not going to happen. Although I know there are people that could certainly do a lot more with him than I can, funding is an issue.  I don't have a bottomless bank account and the lotto gods have not smiled on me yet... Maybe some day they will, but I'm not holding my breath.

For now we are getting by, attending clinics and events when and where we can as time and money allows. The driving events, beside the gear and everything else- are kind of pricey. I will do a post on just that factor alone pretty soon to give you all an idea of what I'm talking about. Some of it, I know right now, you guys are going to suffer. serious. sticker. shock!  I know I look at some of these things and think Seriously? HOW MUCH? For Thaaaat????  Are you people crazy? Yes, yes we driving folks are. We don't suffer from our insanity, instead we rather enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Doesn't that just figure?

I was able to drive Kat on Sunday this weekend. It has been raining a bit lately here. Not that we are complaining, because it makes for some nice puddles to train in, but at the same time... yeah. Footing can be slick, horses can go down and things can go wrong in a multitude of ways.  Luckily our arena was not soaked and the footing was good.

It looked like things had cleared up for a bit, so I grabbed the box with the harness in it and headed out. The girls wanted to come along, so hubby and I got them dressed & bundled up, grabbing their mittens & hats just in case...

It was clear while I got Kat out and groomed him up. Clear while I lunged him out back. In fact it was clear until we got back up under the shop and I busted out the harness. *grumbles*  But since the driving club runs things rain or shine- he's gotta get used to working through it all. Besides, what's a little rain? It's just water.

The girls stayed up under the cover for the most part while Kat and I braved the rain. It wasn't coming down too hard, but hard enough that every once in a while, I would turn or tilt my head and it would all run off that side of my helmet, onto the seat and under me. Kat wasn't too impressed with the weather either, but he did well enough and trudged along like the good little trooper that he is.

He was still leaning heavily on the left (inside) rein when going to the left and he was also still managing to make round circles, in spite of this.  How he pulls this off- I do not know. He was also being a bit lazy for the most part and pretty much wouldn't drive up into the bridle and look for any contact. Do you know what it is like trying to steer with a wet noodle?  It's like trying to shoot pool with a rope. 

For now we are going to back up and do some long line work. He needs to re-learn how to bend to the left (which is now his problem side because I wasn't letting him and because that side was fine so we focused more on the right...) and he needs to start moving forward again with impulsion, driving from behind and up into the bridle looking for contact.  Contact is one thing, driving without it is another. 

Oh and before I forget, as I was driving him back over to the shop to unhook him and put everything away, I said to hubby, You watch. As soon as everything is undone and put away, the rain will stop. Sure enough- it did! Argh!  And for playing in the rain, I have again, come down with a craptastic cold and have felt miserable the past couple of days.  

So for now, I leave you with pictures of him from the morning of the horse show last month. He was all braided up and wearing a sheet I had made for our other pony Pi. It doesn't fit him like it should, but it kept him dry which was the main reason for putting it on him. He needs his own clothes so I will need to get busy and make him something...  A guy has to look the part if we are going to do this!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Circles, circles and more circles

For a long time the idea or thought of working in continuous circles, was a concept I just didn't get. Why all the work on circles? Don't the horses travel straight when going down the rail??? Isn't that where you ride when you show? When you go around the arena, aren't you working in one big circle?

I am still feeling the lingering effects of my cold and getting out to work pony man is still a process, but it is fun and sitting in the cart as he goes cruising around- it's just awesome.

So Saturday I figured we would start out working on our circles. It may be what boosted our chances at the show, but it is never a bad thing to practice. Since we will be competing at our first ADT in February (which includes a dressage test) we need to work on all of the movements that will be in it. 

Kat was working pretty well, but I could tell that him having all the time off he has gotten- is not helping us any.  He seems to do better with steady work. Then again, maybe it's me that needs the steady work. Who knows, but yeah. I'm sure it doesn't hurt either of us. 

We worked for a while in the 'arena', making circles, doing serpentines, cutting across on the diagonals and Kat seems to just trot on forever. I finally stopped him and figured it would be best to let him walk and cool out as we went out in the neighborhood.  He got a bit amped up here and there. We didn't go our usual long route and by the time we got back home he was acting like he was ready to go again.

One of the things I though of while we were out, we may expect our horses to be 'right where we left off last time' with our training, be it riding or driving, but to be fair, they probably expect the same from us as well.  How many times can we honestly say our ride/drive today was as good if not better than the last one? Sometimes they are. Sometimes we steadily progress. Then one day it all goes down the drain in the blink of an eye.  It happens to everyone at some point...  Some days it is us, some days it is the horse and some days both of us are 'off'.

When we got back home, since Kat was wound up again, I took him out back and put him to work some more. We worked on bending to the inside and making 'round' circles.  Amazingly enough, even if he was being a brat, judging by our wheel tracks in the dirt- our circles were pretty damn round!  He was being a total brat too. Going to the left he was hanging on the bit. Going to the right he would not bend or tip his nose to the inside of the circle.

Yet somehow through it all, our circles were still fairly round, which makes no sense to me at all.  I mean if things are going well, everything is flowing like it should, they should be round. But if something is not right, there is resistance, a tug of war or craziness going on- the circles should be anything BUT round, right?  That's how it makes sense in my world anyways, but looking at the wheel tracks was telling me different.

Before we finished up and called it good, Kat did give and soften going to the left. Or maybe I did, but at least we came to an agreeable middle and left it alone. He also tipped his nose to the inside when going to the right. He was bending in a beautiful arc, at least as much as the shafts would allow and it was all like it should be. At least for a few strides before I stopped him so it couldn't fall apart from there.

Maybe this weekend we can work on another part of the dressage test and see what else needs help.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Whole lotta FUN!

The local driving club hosts a few Darby's throughout the year and I have to say, they are wicked, Wicked FUN!  There are 3 divisions, VSE, pony and horse- two levels each, training or expert.  Training you are only allowed to trot, expert- galloping is allowed and encouraged.  Oddly enough, the minis or VSE's seem to throw down some seriously fast times.  Sometimes they are quicker than the ponies and horses.  Crazy I know, right? But it happens. 

The Darbies are a good way to get into the competitions and get comfortable competing before moving on to the ADT's & CDE's.  They are also just a lot of fun for you both, even when you do start competing and move up.  You maneuver through the obstacles, have to go through the cones without knocking down any balls and you have to remember your chosen course, navigating it all as you go. You may change where you decide to turn, take sharper or wider turns, all depending on how your horse/pony/VSE is doing when you get there...

I am trying to post the course or a picture of the course map here, so everyone would have an idea of what it was. As soon as I find my map, I will get it up here.

When we were on course, Kat was ready to go. He walked in and stood still while I saluted the judge and looked ahead to the first obstacle. We started off and the whistle blew as we went through the start/finish gate.  I let Kat go and work at a good strong trot as I turned him to aim through gate #1. My intention was to go through it, make a sharp left and head off to circle around left and through gate 2. That was the idea anyways and it only sort of happened like that. 

We made the turn, just not as sharp as we needed too. The right shaft tip slammed into the pole and the cart stopped dead! So did Kat and so did we. Kind of. I think hubby and I both slid forward a bit on the seat.  (Go ahead and laugh. You know you want to!)  When we hit the pole I may have said 'whoa', or maybe not?  I really don't remember, but I do remember thinking, "He handled that well enough!" as I looked at my pony's back and rear end.  I backed Kat a couple of steps, turned him to the left enough to clear the pole this time and we took off again.   

We made it through gate two, three and four, then we headed off for the gate to number five. As we neared the gate between the fields  I realized my right hand hurt.  I must have hit the rein rail with it when we hit the pole after gate number one. No time to worry about it now... We went through gates 5, 6 & 7 and headed back to the gate and into the field for the rest of the course. For all of the 'big scary objects' on the course, Kat spooked a little bit at the person judging the gates around the covered wagons as we went by them.  Seriously?  He ducked out a few strides to the left before I got him straightened out and back on track.

We went through 8, made a left and went through 9, circled around to the right and went through 10, circled left around 8 and back through 11... headed off for #12, through it, and back around to the right for 13, sharp left for 14 and "Whoa!" I stopped him dead again just before Kat would have ran plowed over the red cone on the right... Back a few steps, 'get around' to the left and off we went again through 14, circling around right to 15 and seen one of the balls was down before we got there... It was ok though because we were clean going through it anyways. 

We turned to the right and headed out for gate 16- through the pipes. I had never thought about it and whether or not Kat would spook at some of this stuff and the trooper that he is, he blasted through it all unfazed. Sharp left and through 17, sharp right and into 18.  I was going for it and so far we were clear.  Our turn in 18 wasn't as tight as it could have been and I had to stop Kat again, back him and turn hard to the right so we didn't hit another pole.  What is it with the stupid Poles???

We went through 19 and headed for 20. I circled around it to inform the judge/timer a ball on #15 was down before we went through it and came around lined up at 20 headed the wrong direction! I realized it and called out "Pilot Error!" as we turned at the last minute, swung around and went through the cones the Right Way!!!  and out through the start/finish gate.

I was feeling quite pleased with our performance. I managed to pull off a clear round for once!  Even with slamming into the one pole, almost hitting another one (on #18) and nearly plowing over the cone at #14, I figured we did pretty good.  Until....

One of the guys there on the sidelines come over and told me I went through #9 the wrong way. I had been eliminated as soon as I went through #10 because I hadn't corrected it before going on. Dammit! Again, I had to sit there and stare at the cones, think about the way I went through that one, LOOK at the red one sitting there on the right- had I gone through like I should have and it finally, Finally sank in. RED ON RIGHT!  I had even said this out loud just before we almost went through #20 the wrong way.  

I realized what I had done. And started to laugh. WTH??? Maybe if I stopped looking at my pony all the time and watched the course?  Because this is another thing I do a lot and shouldn't.  But it is sooo easy watching him as he works and I forget to pay attention to what I should be doing, where we are supposed to be going and yeah. This is the result.

The gentleman who told us about our error on #9 also asked if we had hit the pole after gate #1. Um, yes. Yes, we did!  He wondered because all he could see was the cart moving and then all of a sudden it wasn't! *snork* 

This weekend I will be going over the cart and checking everything to make sure there was no damage done and if so, what needs to be fixed and how?  It's always a good idea to check things over once in a while. After something like that- it's kind of important that you do it. I am also going to look for a red light or red tape or something to put on the right side of the cart as a reminder of which way I am supposed to go through the gates. Maybe that will help ME get it right. Or maybe not?  I guess we will find out at the ADT in February.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Last Darby of the season

I should have known something was up... When I was hauling down to the host facility, I had two copies of the Darby course maps in the truck.  I was trying to get the route in mind of how I would navigate, while I was driving to get there. Does that EVER work?  I was looking down towards the back of the facility for the other trailers and didn't see them, so I kept on going.... past the driveway. The first time.

I came to a 4 way stop, turned  the truck & trailer around, came back and went past it again. This time I managed to see the club logo in giant size on the side of a cargo type trailer as I went on past the driveway. The second time.  Once I was turned back around, I went in this driveway and headed back to where I seen people already walking the course. The driveway I was on, had a small space to park which turned out to be sort of in the middle of the course.  Yep I was really doing well so far.

Walking the course and keeping in mind the RED cones go on the RIGHT, a few of us found #9 to have the cones backwards. Number 4 also had the red/white, left/right mixed up too.  We were told to go by the printed route map and someone would come around and make sure things were right before any horses were on course.  I walked the course a few times, going through the gates and cones as mapped out, plotting my route, thinking it through and where I could change it if need be.

I lunged Kat before doing anything with him. He. was. wound. even though he had been turned out overnight. I haven't done anything with him since the show, partly to give him a rest, partly because I have been sick as a dog! The weekend following the show I was supposed to attend a clinic and take a lesson from one of the trainers in the club.  I was hesitant about signing up, since I had originally planned to give Kat a break. After the show, I emailed and cancelled. I just couldn't afford it.

Then during the week, it was a good thing I had cancelled because I got really sick. I had been sick off and on since October. I brought it home, then I was sorta over it and hubby got it. Then he would get over it and I got it again.  The weekend of the clinic in Paulden- he had it. Then it seemed to finally clear up and go away. The week after the show- I got it again only this time it hit with something different and hard! Fever, headache, congestion, sore throat, all over achy everything.  I even lost my voice for about a week and would cough so hard at times I would throw up...  This was not what I had in mind for Thanksgiving!

After lunging Kat he had seemed to settle down and was ready to work. Hubby had arrived after dropping the girls off and walked the course with me so now we needed to get Kat ready and put to the cart.  There were 8 people in the VSE divisions to go before us, which worked well since I needed to work Kat and get a feel for where his mind was that day.

He started out pretty quiet, but as we got closer and he seen the course, the other horses, minis and ponies, Kat started getting a bit amped up again.  We made our way towards the obstacles and found a few not included in the Darby. We put them to use and started warming him up and wearing him down some. Kat was warming up all right, wearing down?  Well he he doesn't always seem to see it that way...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Working on the basics

Winning the Reinsmanship class at the show was a big thing for me. I thought I was a bit crazy for entering, a bit out of my leage for being there and once we were in the ring, I figured I was working for third or fourth place.  Yes when they called out the judges placings, I was a bit shocked.

One of the few things this class did for me was to reinforce the idea of going over the basics and building from there. When the foundation of basics is solid, you can always go back to the beginning to fix things as needed and rebuild. Going over the basics is a good refresher for not only you, but also the horse. 

What the judge seemed to be looking for, was a strong grasp on the basics. Not just in the pony class, but the mini's, horse and open divisions as well.  The drivers and horses who made large circles that were reasonably round, had good quality in the halt, and let their horse travel a bit straight in the center before changing directions- they were the ones rewarded with the win.

A few years ago, there was a show on one of the cable networks called Horse Power:  Road to Maclay.  In one of the episodes they feature the riders completing their compulsory rounds of equitation, doing a pattern of basic circles, changing diagonals at the posting trot, stop, rein back, etc. The one trainer comments how basic the pattern is and for those who have a solid foundation in basics- it should be easy for them. Driving is really no different. 

In both ridden and driven dressage, you start out at training level and work your way up as the horse is ready and able to. When you are competing and doing well at this level, you begin schooling the next and eventually showing there too. If the horse becomes confused in what you are asking, you can always stop, drop back a few steps, go over something they know as a refresher and try again.  The movements have a way of each leading into another as you progress.

Overall it was a good show, in that we may have started out rough, but we moved on and worked our way up in the placings as the day went on.  Those are much nicer than making a grand showing the first few classes and falling flat from there on out.  Of course the shows where you consistantly place at the top are nice... but they don't always happen for everyone.  If you have taken your time and done your work correctly, they happen more often than not and you become one of those people that everyone else tries to beat. We may all want to be at that level but even still, once you are there- things happen and we have to suck it up, take our licks and move on.  Getting to the top is one thing. Staying there takes just as much hard work if not more.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pleasure show, part 3

As we made our way over to the games arena to scratch our final class, Kat made it clear he had other ideas and scratching was NOT on his list. He seen the cones from a distance and just lit up. He came to life and started bouncing around like a monkey on crack.  He started jigging, hopping around in place, prancing, dancing from side to side and showing me that he was ready to go! He certainly didn't want to stand around while I looked at the course and plotted where to go.  I was pretty sure that my pony had lost his mind.  It's sure nice to know he had an untapped 'reserve' in there somewhere...

There were 10 sets of cones, salute the judge on the way in, go through the start finish gate, go through all the cones in any order, any direction and back through the start finish gate- got it. Trotting only- check. I had my plan, saluted the judge, aimed for the start finish gate and off we went.

There was no need to encourage Kat at all. The minute I let him go- he did! In a few places the dirt was deep and the footing soft. The cart slid s-i-d-e-w-a-y-s around some of the corners and a few times he broke gait, going into an all out gallop. Kat was definitely in it to win it and giving it his all.  He did respond and come back down to a trot within a few strides each time so we were not penalized for it, but wow.  He wanted to rock-n-roll. So much for him being wiped out??? LOL!

I wish I could say we had a clear round, but we didn't. We knocked down one ball which put us in third place out of four entries.  Some of the cones were wider apart than others, making it challenging for everyone, minis to large horses.  Each course is different and you just try to get through the cones quick and clean.

Maybe one of these days we will get it right.  Maybe Kat will settle down enough saving his energy for IN the ring? Who knows.  For now I am thinking he may be a serious contender in the CDE's and just be glad dressage is on the first day of the competitions. As for the ADT's, we may have to wing it for a while in some portions. We shall see. There's is a Darby on Dec 3, and an ADT in February.  We are hitting both events.  It may get a little crazy but damn it is fun! Addicting? Maybe a little....

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all have a fabulous weekend.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pleasure show part 2

When the afternoon session started up, we watered Kat again before putting the harness on for the last hurrah! And what a Hurrah it was...

He was noticeably tired, but still wanted to go. We headed over to the main arena for the reinsmanship pony class. There were four entries, two of which were drivers and horses that have been doing this a while. The other lady, this was her first show too...

We headed in and Kat was doing well. We circled the arena at the working trot, stong trot, slow trot, walk, change direction, strong trot, slow trot, working trot, back down to the walk and line up at the far end of the arena. We had to trot to catch up and went into the line as what would be the second to go in the pattern portion. As the judge started to explain the pattern, the lady with the horse next to me, pulled out of the lineup and went to the other end where she would be last to go. I thought nothing of it and shrugged it off. I was first in line and at least we would get it over with and be out of our misery soon enough.

The judge explained that we were to take up a working trot, go down the rail on the right side of the ring to the other end of the arena. Along the fenceline in the center of that end there was a cone. We were to turn left at the cone going up the center of the arena, (towards the judges gazebo) then make a large circle to the right. As we came back around into the center, we were to make a large circle to the left completing a figure eight. As we came up the center completing the figure eight we were to trot straight towards the judge. She would be standing behind two cones and we were to stop at the cones, back a few steps, come forward and salute. 

The judge asked if we were ready and I told her "As ready as we'll ever be" and guided Kat off to the rail. I had to push him a little to get him to trot, but he did and we made our circles. He was tired so I let him work on a loose rein and be comfortable. I also didn't want him mistaking any cue as an excuse to stop.  Judging by the lines up the center each time we came around, we overlapped to the left and right each time.  At least going first, you can see Your one lines and not everyone elses.  We trotted up to the cones by the judge and Kat stopped dead and square!  We backed our five steps, came forward, halted and saluted.  The judge thanked us and we went back into line.

The other two seasoned drivers had their go and the lady next to me took her turn. She was visibly rattled and had told me she wasn't sure why she had entered the class at all. (I thought to myslf, Boy do I know that feeling!) It looked like she had a decent go, but the judge could tell she was nervous as could be. As she came back into line next to me, the judge told her she really needed to work on her confidence.  Me and the other competitors applauded her effort and told her she did it and survived the experience.  Back at the trailers, the lady apologized to me. "I am so sorry for 'throwing you to the wolves' like that, but I'm dislexic and had no idea what the pattern was supposed to be until I could see it being done. Even then I can still get confused."

As the announcer called the placings, I was sure I was getting third or fourth. Surely she could tell Kat was tired, I didn't think my circles were great and what else could I come up with that wasn't as good as the others?  When they called the numbers for fourth, then third and finally second, none of them being mine, I was a bit shocked. Seriously did I win?  That was about when they called my number for first place. 

Talk about a moment of OMFG! I had just won a class against a couple of people and their horses, who have all been driving longer than we have. A class I had seriously  thought about scratching out of and I felt I was maybe a bit out of my mind league for even entering.  As we made our way past the judge and out of the arena, Kat stopped a couple of times. The judge said he was cute and she liked him.  I thanked her for the class and admitted we had a rough start this morning.  Kat stopped and I thought he was finally pooped.

We walked over to the games arena as we still had the scurry to complete. I figured as much as I had to push him in the reinsmanship class, he was done. We would just walk over and quietly scratch the class.  Kat had his own ideas on that of course...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Festival of Driving Pleasure Show

The driving club here in AZ, Arizona Driving & Carriage Society, has put on yet another wonderful driving show again this year. For once I got to enter and compete in it. We went to watch last year and there was things to learn, people to see, horses to watch and turnouts to admire.

This year the number of entries was down, but hopefully the club will host another one next year. It takes money to put on an event, pay for ribbons, order shirts, print programs and competitor numbers, secure a facility and on and on. Payment for everything comes for the most part, from the entry fees. 

The judge had come in from out of state and was very, very awesome. She knew what she wanted to see and placed the classes accordingly. Some of the other competitors said she offered tips to them, maybe I'm lucky because somehow I only got one. I had competed in one of the games classes, then went back into the main ring. There was a considerable amount of dust on the breeching of my harness.  She merely touched it, made a disapproving sound and I knew... Note to self! From then on I was sure to wipe everything down with a wet rag before coming back into her ring.  Little things like that are sometimes what makes or breaks you in a class. 

On a happy note, Gary had sent a whip for me to use with one of the other competitors.  It is a nice whip and a good fit for us. It also made for a bit nicer appearance in our turnout, which I really, really need to work on.  My sweater, a cowboy hat and borrowed gloves just doesn't cut it.

Our first class of the morning was working pony. There were four entries and we headed in. Kat was a bit wound up and fresh, even though I had lunged him before putting him to the cart, driven him around the facility's track and worked him good to warm him up and wear him down a little.  He was still, anything but consistent in his gaits. He had all the gears and wanted to use them at will. He sped up and slowed down in the slow, working and extended trot, he cantered a few strides a couple of times, and like I said, was anything but consistent or steady.  

His walk was nice, we all reversed and it started all over again for him.  Before the judge asked for a walk the second time he started to throw one of his tantrums. He leaped forward, bowed his neck, arched his back, did a four point landing and was about to get rowdy when I urged him on and gave him his head. He gave it up, walked on and at least the judge hadn't seen it. We got fourth of four in that class and honestly, I didn't expect anything more because we didn't deserve to place any better than that.  Not exactly a great start, but we can always improve, right?

From there we went over to the games ring and was going to do the your route, my route class. Until I FUBARED in a big way! One driver goes one direction then the other driver goes back through the course the opposite direction. Without even looking at the course map, I headed into the arena, finding the numbers, plotting my course as I drove in to salute the judge. We headed off through the start finish gate, found our way to cone #1 went through it and headed for #2. As soon as we went through #2, I heard a whistle blow.  WTH??? I stopped Kat and looked at the judge. "What did I do?"

"You went through cone #1 the wrong direction." I looked at the cones. The white one was on the left, red on the right. At least they were- looking at them from THIS direction... and it still took me a minute to realize this.  "Awww crap!" 

The judge was kind enough to let me finish the course as practice now that we were eliminated, which I also flaked out on and skipped the last cone before going through the start/finish, thanking the judge and heading for the gate.  I guess if you are going to screw up, you may as well do it in a BIG way and do it right! Why wait? Yay me! *Facepalm*   Not one of my finer moments... not at all.

From there we headed back over to the main arena for the Ladies to drive class.  While we were waiting Kat was standing around and finally urinated. I had parked him in the middle of a muddy spot so no biggie. He had walked right into the mud without hesitation. He's finally starting to just move forward where I put him, trusting me more with things like bridges, water, mud... Going into the Ladies to drive class were 7 entries. Hopefully things would go better now that he got the pee & vinegar out of his system.

Besides us, there were two minis, a Morgan, a half-Arab, a QH horse (?) and a Trakehner mare. The minis and I stuck to the inside where we could not only be seen but also not get in the way of the horses. Kat was much better this time around, he was steady in his gaits and more consistent in his paces. He did better, but in the lineup was when the judge touched the breeching and noticed the layer of dust.  We still managed to get 5th place,  and I was pleased with that. I was glad that he was settling down and working like he should and knows how to... 

When Jr was ready they went in for the Gentlemen to drive class. There were three entries, JR & Kat, Kevin with his Haflinger and Bob driving his team of Morgan cross ponies.  It may have felt like Kat was wearing down and JR thought he was losing momentum, but when they asked for the extended trot- Kat was letting them fly.  From the rail, it looked as if Kat was still going strong. 

Which was about when I realized I hadn't told hubby what my cues for extending him were, that the edges of the arena were a little deeper, it would be easier for Kat to stay towards the inside and a few other things that may have helped.  As it was they kept it all together and placed second. 

There were a few more classes before the lunch break and as we took Kat back to the trailer for a well deserved break, hubby was trying to talk me into dropping the last two classes of the day- reinsmanship and the scurry.  I was debating about dropping the reinsmaship class for a couple of reasons.  One, I would be competing against people who had been doing this a lot longer than I have, and two, Kat was getting tired.  I figured we would give him a break and when we hitched up again, see what we had to work with and then decide what to do.

We unhitched and watered Kat again before tying him to the trailer in the shade.  We headed off to find something to drink and nixed the idea of unhooking the trailer and going for food. It wasn't that far and we could have gotten something more substantial, but sometimes you just don't.  So we found a seat, had a good chat with a few of the people who were at the clinic last weekend and enjoyed the day. It was starting to get a bit warm, which was far from the rain they had been forecasting all week...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday at the clinic

Sunday morning started off with watching a video- The Road to Gladstone. For anyone who doesn't know, Gladstone NJ hosts a BIG driving event every year. The video featured some of the top drivers, (Chester Weber, Tucker Johnson, Hardy Zantke) many of which I do not know, while others in the room were saying, "Oh wow. Look how young he looks there..."  Do I have some catching up to do? You bet. Another thing the seasoned competitors noticed- in the video, the drivers and navigators were not wearing helmets or the safety vests, both of which are required now under ADS rules.

The two guys who put on the clinic, Gary Gang and Allen Funderburgh have been driving for a number of years each and both are well accomplished in the sport. Gary just won Preliminary Pair with a team at the competition in Sonoita at the Grass Ridge CDE last month and Allen has been competing at all levels going to places like Fair Hill and having been the USEF National Champion for Single Horse in 1990. Allen also won in Sonoita at Grass Ridge in Intermediate Single Pony.

After the video there were plenty of questions. How do you do this, when do you do that, what is _____?  Lots of questions and answers to everything. At one point Gary and Allen both said, they could sit and discuss different aspects of driving, competition, etc. all day long and yes, they certainly could. With riding, there is plenty of room for discussion on impulsion, collection, extension, the training scale, which competitions to enter and what level... It's no different with driving. 

After lunch we went outside and discussed the different carts, carriages, harness features, how to put the horse to, what the bonuses and drawbacks of each had and things like that. Again there was plenty of questions to go around. When it came to discussing the harnesses, I remembered I had the old one I started Kat with, in a box in the trailer. I drug it out and Gary and Allen pointed out the good, bad and otherwise about it. I had acquired it years ago with a cart and now that I have the new harness, it just sits collecting dust.

I have thought about selling it or giving it away, but both men said hang onto it. They each have harnesses like it, collecting dust, but they are wonderful to get young horses started with.  Your good harness is not compromised if the young horse has a bad day. Mine is good for days when I ground drive, so I guess it can stay a little while...

I was able to lunge Kat before harnessing up and putting him to the cart. It was a chilly 45 degrees out with a breeze so he was feeling it. There was a team of Morgan cross ponies, a couple horses pulling a roadcart & a meadowbrook, a mini with the hyperbike and us. Gary had gone to pick up another horse that needed work and brought it with a 4 wheel carriage.  We were all going different directions, warming our horses up, zipping around and through the obstacles, cruising around on the path at the edge of the property and working in the dressage arena.

I let Kat trot and get out all his extra energy and when we went into the dressage arena, the mini Allen were in there as well. I pushed Kat up into the bridle and asked for the extended trot, figuring that would burn it off quickly. As he settled down we changed direction and headed diagonally across the arena. Allen was walking across the arena and I thought he was headed for us. As we came up to him I halted Kat and asked Allen, "Okay, what? Is there something I need to do different?"

Expecting to hear corrections on how I was or wasn't doing something, I was a bit surprised when Allen said, "Oh, no. No, no. Nothing. He looks fine and is a nice mover. You're doing a good job with him and he's a fancy little guy. I was headed over to work with the mini and we can all work in here together." 

I sat there kinda dazed for a minute. He thought everything was good and we were just fine? No more, no less and don't we need to change anything????  For someone who has competed horses and ponies from training level through advanced, singles and pairs to say we were fine... I was a little blown away.
Since I didn't want to think I had just gotten a pat on the head and a "Good job" even if it wasn't, I sought out Gary and went to find out if there Was anything I needed to do different.  "Nope, not really, just keep practicing using your half-halts to keep him from dropping a shoulder in the turns, use your whip on the inside to reinforce it and you're good."  He also said I needed a different whip (which I DO!) and he had one for me that would fit the bill.  As with the turnout post, I was using what I had until I could get what I needed, which is perfectly fine. 

Since there was an ADT last month at the facility hosting the clinic, they had left the cones course out for us to use.  Not having a clue what the pattern was, I looked for the order of cones as they were each numbered.  No time, no pressure, we went through it for fun.

Ooops! "You just killed the cone!" It was good thing we weren't competing, but even if we were... it happens to everyone, because later Gary "killed" a cone too.  And so it goes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saturday at the clinic

Saturday was a fun drive in the morning and then the afternoon would be open for instruction in the dressage arena. I wanted to get an early start and the fun drive wasn't so much on my schedule as working in the dressage arena was... Neither one happened as it turned out.

We didn't get there until around 1 pm.  I pulled Kat off the trailer and hooked him up as Gary was there, but had to leave soon.  I drove Kat down off the hill to where Gary was by the one obstacle and he checked things over before sending us off to warm up. It was a bit breezy and cold so Kat was sure feeling it. Add in the other two horses trotting around and the mini with the hyperbike (which is wicked cool) and he was rarin' to go.

I took him over to the one obstacle and mainly we just walked. Around the 'gates' through this way, out over here, making him bend and flex, give and take and finally I let him go into a trot. He wanted to move, but I didn't want him getting wound up too much.  When we got back over to Gary and the other obstacle, Kat was still a bit fresh. He was listening though, so I took what I could get. We wove through the poles and Gary told me to use more half halts. Somehow, part of my bad habit of holding on while asking to turn was a good thing. 

When maneuvering through the obstacles the inside rein signals the turn, while the half halts with the outside rein, keeps the horse upright and prevents a dropped shoulder or hip. Makes sense and we tried it again a few more times, tightening the turns and maintaining forward momentum.  At one point though, making a right turn, we sorta overshot where we were supposed to go through. I stopped Kat, then asked him to turn to the right. He got frustrated and reared to show his feelings. 

Knowing this is how he expresses himself I cracked him on the butt for it. He can be frustrated, but rearing is not the way out. Gary laughed and turned to hubby who was videoing the episode and said "She sure knows how to handle stallions." 

We eventually moved to another part of the obstacle and as we came around to go through the posts- to read railroad ties, Kat aimed directly for one of them. I stopped him just before he would have beaned himself good on it right in the forehead. Good thing he has excellent brakes!  We worked a bit more and Gary had to go so then I took Kat out and let him trot to burn off energy. He still had a lot of it too.

We trotted around the outside path of the property and called it a day. The wind was picking up and I was cold. Kat was still a bit wound and could have kept going for a while even though the other drivers and horses had already packed it in and left.   I wanted to get off the cart and warm up. Besides there would be plenty of time to play tomorrow and I could lunge him before we got started.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sorting thoughts

At the moment I am still reeling over the weekends' clinic. Still trying to process some of the things I learned, or maybe that I was told is a better way to put it.  There are things I had under control and others only sort of. One of the biggest issues so far is how I hold my reins. 

Saturday afternoon when we arrived, one of the clinicians was still there but would be leaving soon. If we wanted to work with him at all, we needed to get harnessed up and down the hill to where he was. There was no time for lunging and it was hook and go. Kat handled it all really well even though he had just come off the trailer.

As we walked away from the trailer I thought of what Gary had asked me back in August. Is that how you hold your reins when you ride? This time I held my reins as if I were ON the horse and not behind him.  One of my biggest personal issues with reins, I like them to lay flat. I don't like seeing the reins all twisted between the bit and the riders hands or in driving between the bit, the turrets and the hands. Straight flat reins just make cleaner lines and a neater appearance to me.

Once I had my reins in hand as if I were on the horse, I had to remember to sit up, slide back in the seat, bend my elbows and bring my pony 'back to me' as I seen from the photos from the show.  Why was I reaching like that?  The funniest thing is, once I positioned and organized myself- my hands were even on the reins.  It all fell into place without even thinking about it. At least something felt sorted out and we hadn't even started to really work yet.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Photo finished

Kat got the weekend off since we are going to be taking him at the clinic this weekend, then showing him the following weekend. Two big weekends back to back. I am hoping his feet grow out some and he isn't so tenderfooted for everything coming up. Here's a few pics from the show Oct 8th, for everyone to enjoy, critique and if you look closely at my elbows, the reins and my hands you can see exactly what I spoke of in the last post.

I know everyone has been waiting for these for a while and if you have ideas or suggestions about my turnout- please by all means say something in the comments.


I need to bend my elbows and drive him up into the bridle more. 

This one is probably one of my favorite pictures so far. He has the reach and now he needs bell boots...

Coming into the lineup...

The judge walking around us.


I admit, my braiding was not all that great this time around.

His first blues in driving. We are on our way...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Old habits die hard

Last weekend I worked Kat on Saturday, then pulled his shoes and trimmed his feet. I admit to getting him a little short and he is now tender footed in the front. Especially on the right front...  This gave me a chance to go back and fix something that has been nagging at me for a little while.

Kat does not readily 'give' on the left side like he used to. Going to the right used to be our problem, but now it is the left. Fix one thing and something else pops up right? Since Kat was too tender for driving on Sunday it gave me the chance to put him in long lines and ground drive. He could comfortably walk around the arena in the soft footing, so all was not lost. 

We worked on lengthening the walk, bending to the left, bending his nose to the inside while going to the left and so the right wouldn't go back to the old ways, we worked a little to the right as well.  Before I worked him at all though, I like to see if there is a pain issue involved or if he is just refusing to give and being a brat.

I will stand at his side, back by the girth, place my left hand on his nose and gently ask him to turn his head to the left. I hold the left rein in my right hand and as he brings his head around, I will take up slack in the rein, then gently tug so he gets the idea that the tugs mean turn your head. If he is comfortable and relaxed, I will take my left hand off his nose, but tug gently on the left rein to keep his head where it is.  I will also praise him verbally then release him and let him straighten out.

I will then try it again, more rein and less hand, but with my hand still on his nose for guidance and reinforcement. Kat learns quickly so usually two or three times and he has reached a good understanding of what is being asked.

If there is any resistance when turning his head with just my hand on his nose, I will let go and ask again. If there is still resistance, he is a bit tight, maybe stiff or even sore and this needs to be addressed before moving on.  If I were to proceed with his work when he is stiff or even sore, it may compound into bigger issues needing to be resolved before moving on. 

We made several laps around the arena at a walk, bending both directions and he seemed to get the idea he was to tip his nose to the inside whichever direction we were going.  Everything was good or so I thought.

This weekend I took him out Saturday morning and we went for a walk around the neighborhood.  We logged about 3.5 miles this time, but it wasn't until we were nearly home that I finally realized what the real problem in all of this is. It's Me!  I have created this issue with him not giving to the left by reverting back to an old habit I used to have about 20 years ago in my dark ages of beginning to ride. I had discharged and overcome it when the trainer I was working for pointed it out. Now it has reared it's ugly head and come back to nag at me.

While we were out walking, I noticed two habits I have. My back started to hurt a little so I sat up straight, lengthened my spine, took a deep breath and brought my shoulders back. I have a habit of hunching over as if to hide my chest.  My right shoulder gives me issue because of this and when riding, I do it and also tend to twist at the trot while posting. 

Once that was sorted out, I thought I was good. Until I noticed my right rein was always shorter than the left. I would slide my hands up or back on the reins, shortening or lengthening, but it always seemed to be shorter. An even length of reins just felt weird and foreign.

All this time, even if Kat had wanted to turn his nose to the left, the way I was holding my reins- I wasn't letting him. I may have asked for it, but I still wasn't letting him.  I would try to turn him to the left, but still hold firm with the right rein.  I'm pretty sure, knowing him, the whole time he has been thinking "WTH??????" 

The trainer I was working for all those years ago, had asked me if I had ever ridden a bicycle. Of course, but what does that have to do with horses?  Holding on to the handlebars, when you turn right, where does your right hand go?  Where does your left hand go?  You don't let go of the handlebars and equally, you don't let go of the rein. But you do 'let go' of that side and ALLOW the horse to turn their head the direction you are turning.  It all made perfect sense when it was explained that way. 

Once the light came on in my head and I realized what I was doing, I figured the easiest way to fix it, just happened to be in my hands. I let my whip drop over and put my left thumb over the top of it. It was almost like a pair of bicycle handlebars. Now my reins were even, (like it or not) and whenever I asked him to bend, right or left, the other hand went forward without question.

Since we had been on the pavement for most of our walk, Kat got Sunday off to help keep him from wearing any more hoof down and so he could also relax knowing I have finally figured out how to give him a chance without getting in his way at the same time. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Schooling Shows, part 4

Our class was called and I headed for the gate with Kat. I urged him on, he picked up the trot and we headed down the rail.  Since we were the only diving entry I just let him go into a nice long relaxed frame. As long as he was balanced, and moving like he should, I wasn't going to push for too much. 

We circled to the left, using about 3/4 or the arena. No use going the full length if we were the only horse in the class.  The footing was deep, there were divots galore from the horses in the halter classes and my pony was doing well enough.  I think we made one complete lap of the arena before the judge asked for a walk.  It didn't take much and Kat made a nice downward transition.  We didn't seem to go very far down the rail before the judge asked for a reverse at the walk.

Going to the left has been a bit tricky for Kat lately. He is not as soft, he doesn't tip his nose in the the left as we go around and I have been meaning to work on that with him. (I managed to slip in some long line work this weekend and corrected it. At least for now.)    Once we had reversed  the judge asked for the trot again.

I urged him on and Kat willingly picked up the pace again.  As we came down the length of the arena in front of the stands, I felt my left hnd start to shake.  I have had this happen before when riding, but it is usually one of my legs. It's like I get a nervous adrenaline rush and something quivers as a result. When it is a leg, I just push my weight down into my heel. This steadies my leg and the quivering stops. Since it was my hand this time, it was different. 

What didn't help matters was for some strange reason I also felt like a little old lady sitting in the cart as we went around the arena. I could have been 80 something years old for all that mattered, the way I felt.  That was a strange feeling to say the least.  I took a slightly firmer grip on the left rein and my hand stopped shaking. I wondered as we went around, if anyone watching had seen it?

About then the judge called for us to trot in and line up. We turned and headed straight for the judge. Kat was starting to tire, but he was solid as he trotted right up to the ring steward and stopped dead with the slightest mutter of 'whoa'.

The judge liked him. She loved his markings, his movement and everything about him.  While we were waiting for the announcer to 'pin the class' I had thought about how it was worded on the entry form. The novice class was for novice drivers or horses. Since he is by all means a novice horse in performance classes, I asked them to let the staff know I wanted to switch the novice class to showing instead of just schooling. I would pay the difference when I picked up the ribbon. 

The judge also asked how long we had been driving? When I said only since April, she was a bit surprised and though he had been doing it much longer. She asked if I wanted her to call for an extended trot. Sure, why not? He can do it.  She also mentioned she doesn't like asking for too much, since she is never sure how far along in training any horse or rider is.  I told her to call for what she wants. It's her arena, she's the judge, she's in charge.

With that we headed back out onto the rail for our second class. It went pretty well, Kat was starting to tire and as we came around the arena he hesitated then scooted a few steps as we went over the shadow on the ground of the light fixtures from above us.  The judge asked for the extended trot, but he was slowly fading and didn't have a lot more to give. I pushed for what he had and called it good. The footing was deep, he was wearing down and this was our last class.

Again they asked for the walk, reverse at the walk, trot and extended trot. As we came along in front of the stands, my hand started to shake again. I found myself taking a firmer grip on the reins again to make it stop. As we turned to go into the line up, Kat was pooped. He broke down to a walk and I let him. As long as we made it into the line up, I let him go at his own pace.  The judge could see he was tired and our classes were done. He did a nice square halt and stood patiently waiting for the placings.   She was impressed with him and mentioned again how much she liked him.  

The photographer was busy snapping pictures and asked if we wanted to do a couple of shots with the ribbons.  I have yet to find them online, but our paparazzi was able to get some video and a couple of pics of us before we exited the arena. Which I have been unable to transition over to post here.  :(

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

All in all though, he did well and we both survived. The next date on the horizon is November 5th & 6th.  There is a clinic in Paulden for beginner drivers.  Saturday morning is a pleasure drive, Saturday afternoon is dressage practice, Sunday morning is the clinic and Sunday afternoon is help with the obstacles.  Although I doubt we will make the pleasure drive, I hope to be able to join in for the dressage. If we can stay for the obstacle work, I will try to focus on getting Kat in the water.  We will see how it goes and what happens.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Schooling shows, Part 3

With the water truck headed our way, I turned Kat off the roadway into a small open spot and dismounted the cart. Standing by his head and holding him while the truck went by, he was fine. Just like at home in the neighborhood with the garbage truck. It's good to practice everything, even if it is unintentional or you think you will never do it or use it.  I was going to get back into the cart and continue warming up when a truck and trailer from the cutting show came around the corner headed our way, so I waited for them to pass too. 

As I got back into the cart and headed back to the warm up arena, Kat was really behaving well.  He was quiet, calm and relaxed. We walked through the small area between the show and warm up arenas. As we did, one of the show staff personel walked along behind us and warned us to be on the lookout for horses spooking at the sight of us.   I was well aware of that and already on the look out, thanks... 

We eased our way into the warm up arena and started walking around the rail. There were a few horses taking a good look at us, a couple of paints that were not to sure about us and the rest, well they could care less.  There was one trainer on a horse schooling in the center of the arena. He was in there before us and still there long after we left. Spur, spank, yank and crank is his game. 

Kat was really doing well at the walk so when we reached the far end of the arena with no horses near us, I pushed him into a trot. He settled into it just like he does at home.  I tried to keep plenty of distance between us and any horse that looked unsettled by our appearance. The two paints seemd to think we were out to get them for sure. I also called out to the other riders "On your left" or "On your right", which seems to be a long lost common courtesy anymore. 

As we changed direction and came around past the gate going to the right, the woman from the entry desk called out to us. They had decided to bump the two driving classes up to follow halter, then have the break followed by lead line and walk trot. We would not be exiting the arena into the lead line entries.  This would lessen the risk of any of their horses being spooked by us.  This was not a problem, but meant we would be going into the arena soon. I still needed to finish getting ready so we headed out of the warm up arena and found JR by the gate.

He went to the truck to grab my hat, sweater and apron, but I forgot to mention my gloves...  OOOPS!  Since this is a schooling show and we were the only driving horse on the grounds, this was not a big deal.  It was a minor oversight, but not one to be made at the driving show next month.  The show staff woman asked if I needed help, but since JR was on his way back with everything, I assured her we would be ready when the class was called. A few simple changes and we were headed for the gate...

Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Schooling shows, part 2

After getting the entries sorted out I headed back to the trailer to unload Kat and get started. Cleaned his feet, dusted him off and took him into the warm up arena to lunge and loosen up.  As he started to work he let out with a loud high pitched whinny to let everyone know he was there.

If everyone liked the one picture of him working from before, had they been able to see him on the lunge line showing off, you would all be picking your jaws up off the ground.  Kat rocked back on his rear end and let his hooves fly as he cantered around on the end of the line. His knees were coming up level with his elbows, yet he never sacrificed or lost any movement in the rear end either. His hocks were also coming up level with his stifles. Talk about POP! 

Because of his whinnying, people along the rail were looking. Everyone was staring at him as he went around on the end of the lunge line. When he dropped down to a trot, he still had that same fluid, graceful movement with a ton of action in it. His legs and hooves came up and out with an extra amount of reach in each stride. This was the kind of movement I had gotten in the dressage arena when warming up for the Darby back in August. 

Since he was a bit excited and this was his first show, I lunged him a little longer and was sure to take the edge off of him.  I'm just not up for the same kind of excitement we had back in our early days of training and our first few trips to the horse park. With other horses and riders around, I didn't want to be the talk of the show for the wrong reasons.

When Kat had settled down enough I took him back to the trailer to harness him up. We were parked along the rail of the warm up arena and could hear as the classes were slowly proceeding. I think there was one horse in the stallion/gelding halter classes, a decent amount in the mares sport horse class and none in the stallion/gelding sport horse class.

Once harnessed, I took Kat back into the warm up arena. I figured by ground driving him a few laps around in both directions, we would slowly help accustom the other horses and riders/handlers to the idea that we would be driving and coming in with the cart at some point.  It would also give me a feel for how he was behaving and which horses were disturbed by our appearance.  Since there was also a cutting show going on in the covered arena, JR had disappeared to go watch.  He did ask before he left if I would be needing help, but I assured him we were fine as he went to watch. 

Everything was going smoothly ground driving so we headed back to get the cart.  I have worked with Kat a lot at home when it comes to putting him to the cart alone. Some people advise leaving the horse tied, others hobble their horses but with Kat I have always worked on whoa means whoa and you don't move.  He stood nice and quiet as everything was buckled and fastened into place.  JR came back in time to do a few of the straps for us and then hold Kat as I got into the cart.

Did I mention we were parked on a slight hill? And going down that hill onto the 'roadway' Kat did fine. Even stepped over the curbing like it wasn't even there. We walked off down the driveway behind a few other trailers parked near us. Looking up- here come the water truck, sprinklers on full tilt to wet things down and settle the dust...

Schooling shows- Part 1

Monday, October 10, 2011

Schooling shows...

Kat and I hit the schooling show over the weekend. Although I like having other entries in our classes, for this being his first time in the show ring doing a pleasure class, the first time being in a warm up arena with horses being longed, ridden and otherwise moving around, it was a big day for him and I took the two 'exhibition' classes as a good thing.

There is a lot to be said about schooling shows. Some things good, some things bad, but in the end, you are there to practice.  Only by practicing do you improve.  Of course there are also well run shows or the poorly organized.  Helpful judges that offer tips and ideas or those who say nothing and expect you to guess. There are also shows that fall in between in every aspect and in the end, they really are all, " a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get."

I have been going through the ADS, American Driving Society rulebook and reading up on things as they pertain to the classes and shows I plan to attend. Under the ADS rules, General Regulations, Chapter 8, Article 14 Section 3. Junior, maiden, novice and limit drivers are prohibited from driving stallions.   Pretty much spells it out, plain and simple.   We will come back to this later for more discussion, but for now, with this in mind, the schooling show we were attending is run under USEF rules.  Which admittedly, I haven't exactly been reading up on...

When we arrived on the show grounds, they hadn't yet gotten started, which was good for us, since we got a little bit of a late start.  Some shows are notorious for late starts and this is one of them.  However, there are always skipped classes due to no entries and show staff may decide to combine classes to help speed things along.  This is a good reason to try and be a little early if not on time. Knowing the last few times I have shown Kat in hand, we were the only stallion in our class, I figured these classes would be skipped and they were.

I parked the truck and headed over to get us entered.  As I filled out the forms I let the women working the desk know I had a couple of questions. One of them being the ruling on stallions being allowed in their novice class.  ADS doesn't allow it, but you run under USEF rules- what do they say about it?  The one woman looked at me like I spoke a foreign language or had a tree growing out of the top of my head... 

She wondered if my pony was 'wild', 'unmanagable', difficult to control because he is a stallion, etc. and if so, why did I bring him?   All righty then...  I entered him in the novice class to 'school' and figured that would rule out any issues.  That would later change and I will explain why.  As I handed her the papers to process my entry, she looked at his name and said "Oh, I have heard of him before." That's because we have shown here before in hand...

My other question was more of a safety issue. Not so much for me, but more for others. The halter and sport horse in hand classes were followed by a short break. Then there were the two driving classes, lead line, two walk trot western classes and another short break.  I asked them if something could be done so we would not be exiting the arena headed right into their class of lead line entries waiting to enter.  Since not all horses are used to ponies or minis pulling carts, I did not want to set off any of the horses resulting in lead line kids getting dumped on the hard ground.  They agreed and said they would figure something out.

I had my number and headed off to unload my pony and get him warmed up. Halter classes were starting and hopefully I had enough time. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's not always good

I rode Pal again last weekend. Saturday night he was pretty good with the exception of one 'bobble'. He pulled something that was a bit new for me. I had lengthened my stirrups a hole and we started out walking while doing some bending and softening exercises. Hand back to my hip, inside leg back, push the hip over. Circles to the left, circles to the right...

And while we were walking, I also worked on me. A few deep breaths, lengthen my spine. Reach down through my heels, deepen my seat and lengthen my legs. Soft and relaxed was on order for both of us...

Things were going well and I decided it was time to move on to the trot. Pal was responsive and light in the bridle, yet on the bit too and we were progressing.  We were going around to the left and working on the rail. At about the middle of the arena I used my seat, legs and rein and turned him into the fence. As he made the turn I released the rein and urged him on, clucking to him and squeezing with both legs.

Mondo in the foreground playing with Pal.

I may have gotten one or two strides of a trot before Pal had other ideas in mind.  He started crow hopping. He got about 3 hops in before I turned him into the fence again and made him stop. What the Hell was that all about?  His usually reaction of pouting was to stop, stomp a foot, raise his head up and to the right, then kick out with his right hind foot. That was his idea of defiance. This?  This was something new.

Apparently in Pal's mind he wasn't ready to move along yet. All righty then...  We did some more walking. More stops, rock back a half step then push off and go forward with impulsion. It was slow going, but progress is progress and sometimes slow is all you get. When that happens, you accept it and work with it.  You will get more later, but you have time to work towards that. With that in mind and our daylight fading fast, we stopped there and called it good. Things were looking up.

Mondo coming down the stretch...

Sunday night was a bit different.  We were a little crunched for time. By the time I had Pal tacked and ready to go, the sun was already on the horizon. It was still light out enough to get some work in, but we would be in a pinch and pushing it to get much done.  Something is usually better than nothing so I lunged him and got on.  Things were fine. Pal was relaxed, head down, he was balanced, on the bit, light in the bridle and moved off my leg without any issue or indication of what was to come.  We did a few stops, rock back, push forward and he walked on... 

Lucky for us we were in the middle of the arena at that point. I had him bent to the left and was working on our stretches and softening work, breathing, deepening my seat and lengthening my legs when he started to blow.  It was as if he tried to bolt, but then threw in the crow hopping again.  He got about three or four jumps in before he was at the fence and found his common sense again.

Yes my hands were up in my lap out of position. No I'm sure it was not graceful on my part, but I stuck with him and when he stopped at the fence I dropped my left hand, pulled him around and he started to walk off.  I let him because a moving horse has a bit of limited options as far as which direction they can go if they decide to get squirrelly again. A horse that is standing still- can go off in any direction. You may not be ready for it and could easily come off.

Hubby Johnie Rotten had been at the fence and seen this latest episode. What he seen and what I felt and remember are a bit different.  When Pal stopped at the fence he turned but then started shifting his weight back and forth on the front end. He looked as if he were ready to go up.  By dropping my hand and pulling him off and out to the side, I had diffused the situation and kept the option of up (and possibly over) out of the question.

We did some more walking, more bending and turning both directions and called it good. The extent of his 'punishment' was hearing me ask- "What the Hell was that and where did it come from? You know better than that." We were about out of light by then and going on would have been pointless. 

A good friend of mine told me I should wear my helmet from now on. I am definitely keeping it in mind, so I will keep my mind in!  Getting hurt or even doing an unplanned dismount is not exactly my idea of fun...  I doubt it is anybody elses plan either!

Monday, September 26, 2011


Well I got in two good workouts with both Kat and Pal over the weekend.  Yesterday, Kat Rocked it! He had one of his best workouts to date.  I had thrown out two wooden lids from produce boxes that I had and used them as a 'bridge' for him to get used to going over things. Then I had also turned on the hose for our homemade puddle as a water hazard.  I left two of pasture gates open and we started working.

Before taking Kat over to brush him off, I led him out to the 'bridge'. I walked up to and over it as if it were not even there. Because of this, Kat followed without any hesitation. When I lunged him, I lined him up a few times so he could go over the bridge by himself. Not even missing a step, over he went. One time though, he trotted on, then jumped off and went into a canter. Apparently he was having fun with it.

I harnessed him up, put him to the cart and off we went.  Recently there was a CDE in California. A few or the club members here, went there to compete. I received a few photos in my inbox of horses doing the extended trot that were drool worthy....  man were those horses Moving!

We worked a bit on our extended trot, I took a hold of Kat, pushed him on and he did just that.  He was just gliding around the arena. When we came down to a walk, I guided Kat over to the bridge. He walked right over it with no problem.  We went over it both directions and he never missed a step.

Once we got a bit of the 'work' finished, I guided him out the gate and headed for the water. The hose was still running, which can be an issue for him.  The water in the irrigation ditch had him slightly rattled on one of our outings, so I figured that letting the hose run will help him get over this. Twice through the water at a walk each direction and I shut it off.

Then as we were playing around, we went through the gates, around the stalls and trotted through the muddy water.  We trotted through the water a few times each direction and Kat went through it with no hesitation at all.  As we came around the front of the stalls, through the gate back into the pasture and down the slight hill, the neighbor behind us was out with a couple of his friends and seen us. They had been watching us and he said the pony was really looking good.  Words I was happy to hear, considering how well he had worked. Awesome!

I moved on to working Pal. I have lunged him a few more times and figured it is time to start getting on him and we can work on things at the walk.  Plenty of walking, stopping (by his choice), turning, walking off and plenty of circles.  I honestly have not been on this horse for nearly two and a half years, yet the worst he did was stop and wait to be prompted to move on. How is that for a crazy Arab stallion?  He still had plenty of energy, he hadn't even broken a sweat, he just chose not to bother using it if he didn't have to.  

Even while lunging, he was not exactly 'energetic'. He was a bit lazy until I put the camera away and pushed him to actually work.

I like this picture, but he is not moving like he should. His head is raised to help 'lighten the load' on the front end. If he were more balanced, it would quite different.

I have also FINALLY gotten my hands on the book Centered Riding, by Sally Swift. For anyone who rides, this is one of those books you glance through and KNOW it is full of useful information. I have not gotten all the way through it yet, but using a few of the things she describes, I was able to ride with no lower back issues.  Sure I feel it in a few places- inner leg and a bit in my calves- muscles that haven't been used in a while, but for the most part, it all went well. My seat felt deep, my legs felt longer and I think I need to drop my stirrups a hole... Talk about instant results.

Afterwards I got a few close up shots of his head.  I have also gotten a book called Bodywork for Horses. I forget the authors name, but in the book it mentions massage, shiatsu, TTouch techniques and a few things on grooming. It also mentions how to make and use a hay wisp. I haven't tried it yet, but I may, just to see how it works. I'll post about that on the other blog when I do.  I worked on Pal Saturday morning and He was so relaxed, he stood there half asleep, halter around his neck, rope looped over the rail and was really, really enjoying it.  Naw, our horses aren't spoiled! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Progress has slowed down with Kat recently. My time has been cut short on the weekends, and what time I have during the week- well daylight has been slowly disappearing on me as well.  Add to that, that I am going to be working with Pal a bit more and get him going under saddle again, we need to get my big mare going under saddle and shown and it becomes a bit crazy at times keeping up with everything going on.

I looked at the show schedule for Pal. There are upcoming shows in November, December, March and April.  The Scottsdale show in February? Is mighty damn expensive to enter, so I am not even considering it. Entries close usually mid December, right in the middle of the holiday season... Not a good combination.

One of the websites I found concerning conditioning for the CDE's had made mention of a notebook. The notebook contains a calendar. On the calendar, you note the competition dates, when entries open and close as well as any other important dates you need to know about. Something that is sure to help keep you organized throughout the year...  Something that I could put the competition dates for each horse on in one spot and hopefully not have any more sneak up on me again... 

For now I am gearing up with Kat for the next schooling show. There was an ADT last weekend. But if I enter two or more as a green driver, the following year we must move up to the green pony class and compete with everyone else. By skipping these last two of a six part competition- it saves us in gas, expenses and mileage for one, but it will also allow us to compete in the greenie division all next year, really giving Kat some time to figure it all out, before we have to move up and compete with everyone else who has been doing this for a while. 

Pal? Well he is broke to ride. The driving has not been coming along so well. I really haven't been able to get out and get anything done with him since the last time. For now, I will focus with him on getting him going under saddle. We'll see where it takes us. He could be a nice hunter or dressage horse, but time will tell.

I also have to check my girths and bridles to see if we have anything that fits. To get him going though, it will be western tack. Both of us are comfortable in it, it's there, so why not?  I was thinking to maybe take him to the schooling show next month. Cutting it kinda close so he will have to pass.  Right now we are just working on getting him into shape. Round is just not that flattering...  not when he isn't moving anyways.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interval Training

I have found a few things lately on Interval Training in my quest for ways to condition Kat for the marathon course. Pretty much all of them state that once your horse is fit, they are really, really FIT!

Article on IT in relation to race horses

A TB racing blog post discussing IT and different aspects including weight

For the most part, it is a strong workout, followed by a quick break, another quick strong workout, a break then push for another stronger workout, before bringing the horse down to relax for the day.

It is definitely something to consider as I prepare Kat for the marathon course for the CDE's, but also the one day ADT's. For the moment, I am focused on keeping him working at a strong trot and not getting lazy on me because he is bored. He is really coming along and every drive, proves to be a bit longer and encouraging.

It is also something for me to consider as well. We bought a new scale over the weekend. I am not impressed with the numbers. :(

Friday, September 9, 2011

On Course!

I know I promised to post this a while back and I am finally getting around to it.  This was the course for the Darby in Paulden last month. Doesn't quite seem like it was that long ago, but I guess it was. Time flies when you are having fun, huh?

Click on it to enlarge for better understanding of what it entailed. Time was from when you crossed the start / finish line in the center.  You could only go through the cones once in the direction allowed. Going through a cone again or in the wrong direction- Elimination. Knocking a ball down off the cone- 10 second penalty. Going through the gates in an obstacle out of order (A,C) but then correcting (A,C,B,C) - 10 second penalty.  Skiping or missing a gate (A,C and continuing on)- Elimination. Training level- trotting only. Pretty simple and straightforward rules.  We were free to walk the course as many times as we wanted to choose our path and decide what route we would take.

Not shown on the diagram to the left was a full sized dressage arena. I was warming up Kat out there while the other pony in our class / group / division was competing.  He picked up a few strides of canter since he was a bit wound up about being somewhere new and another horse being around. Remember, this was his first real time out and working in harness...

When Meg and her pony Jose headed into the water, I headed over to pick up hubby Johnie Rotten, because soon it would be our turn to go. They turned in a time that even with their one penalty and without ours, still put them clearly ahead of us.  Our big sweeping turns and taking time at the water hazard trying to get Kat into the water- were what killed it for us.  Otherwise it may have been pretty close. Or not? Who knows! lol

Anyways, as we headed over I heard that they had one penalty. Cone 17 was it for them.  We went through the start / finish markers and headed off to obstacle 1.  We made a big wide turn and headed through gate A, went straight past the next part of the obstacle and made another big wide left turn lining up and heading through gate B.  We went past the next part of the obstacle and out on the right, another big wide left turn coming back through C and straight ahead and out of the obstacle.

We made a right hand turn and headed back to cone #2. Lined up and headed through. That was baout where the first photo was taken.  I then swung Kat out to the left a bit, allowing him plenty of room for the right turn around  the end of cone 5 so I could line him up for cone #3. Coming out of cone #3, I swung him out to the right a bit too soon, to allow for another big wide left turn to #4. We knocked down the ball on #3. I turned my head and watched it fall. Dammit! Oh well, nothing I could do about it now, but just go on. Live, drive and learn!

A big wide turn and we went through #4, veered left, another big wide turn and we went through #5. A wide right turn and we headed out to obstacle #6.  I went a little past obstacle 6 and made another wide right, lining up for gate A with plenty of room. We went around the left side of gate B, swung out and around with plenty of room to line up for B.  We veered left a bit and came out of the obstacle with plenty of room for another wide left and we went through gate C. Another left, out of obstacle 6 and off to find cone #7...

I aimed in the direction of cone #7 and loosened up on Kat. I let him flatten out and relax at the trot. He was covering some ground and was happy to do it.  Approaching #7 I gathered him up, shortened my reins and brought him back to a slower trot. The one ball down was still on my mind and I didn't want any more falling. Through #7 and a big right turn around and lined up for #8. We ducked through between #7 and #9, made another right turn, lining up for #9. Through there and ducked between #7 and #8, wide left turn lined up for #10.  Once through #10 we made a hard right turn coming back around to go into the side of Fort Atonna for obstacle #11.

We were one of the few who went through the middle entrance on the side of the obstacle that day. We came in, veered left and headed for gate A, made another big turn to the right.  Swung around, found our way through the posts and boards to gate B,, through gat A again which is now considered 'dead', a left turn out of the 'fort' a right turn around the side to gate C, another right turn and out of the obstacle looking for the serpentine of cones #12-15...

Again I loosened the reins and let Kat relax and trot. Off we went covering some ground. More big, wide easy turns as we wove through the cones. I was again, careful to line him up, let him go through, wait until the cart wheels cleared he cones before swinging out for another wide turn. I wasn't having any more penalties... 

We wove our way through the cones #16, #17, #18, and #19, being careful not to get to close, leave plenty of room for turns, don't go back through any of the other cones, line up for the cone ahead... and finally make another hard right heading for the water hazard...  Cone #18 is where pic #2 came in. 

Then as we came through gate A on obstacle 20 is pic #3. I made sure to take it a bit wide again, allowing for plenty of room to make a right turn around the small mound with the mermaid statue, which would line us up for gate B if we headed straight thru the water. Which we obviously did not! Kat got to the edge and balked. Unlike jumping- refusals don't count. He squirmed left, he squirmed right, back to the left again and I gave up. We went tot he right, around the pond, slipped through gate B, a hard right, around the posts tot he left, through gate C and back past gate A before making another hard right and heading off to find the finish line.

Once we were aimed in that direction I loosened the reins and let Kat go again. He relaxed into his lengthy trot and we breezed easily through the marker. Our time was 5:42, with a penalty- 5:52. Meg and Jose had 4:39. with penalty 4:49.  The fastest time on the course for the day? A blistering 2:78 with a clean round. Half the time it took us. That was a mini in the expert class where galloping is allowed- which they did! It also happens to be the woman I bought my cart from. How cool is that?

The funny part I forgot to mention before, happened the night before. We were the only people there with a horse, so we took Kat out to drive him a bit and help him settle in. I walked him out and down the hill behind the barn and we headed out to the dressage arena.

Kat was a bit strung and was really picking his feet up and letting them fly. He was light in the bridle and really turning it ON! Hubby JR said if everyone from the blogs had liked him so much from the one picture before, if they could have seen him then, they would be beside themselves and freaking out. Thanks to his dead cell phone battery- we had no camera to catch it.  After he settled down and we finished our workout, Hubby got on the cart for the walk back to the barn. The course was between us and the barn so we walked down the road through the start / finish line.

Markers for the darby were the same as for jumping. Red on the right, white on the left. As we approached the start / finish, Kat was giving the red marker a long hard look. So much so he was drifting to the left. He drifted enough that he was headed right at the white marker. I stopped him before he ran right into it and as I pulled his head around to the left so we could go around the marker, he looked at it, spooked a little and backed up a few steps. Kat shook his head as if to say "Oh Crap! Where'd that come from and how did it get in front of me?"  Next time he knew to listen to me and we went right through it with no problem. Gotta watch out for those spooky white signs ya know... They pop up out of nowhere!