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...