Wednesday, February 29, 2012

That was close!

I didn't get a chance to work Kat or ride Aruba over the weekend.  Although I wanted to and things were lined up for both, it didn't happen.  A lot of other things did though, not all of them good, but it has made an impact as far as driving Kat is concerned.

We went down to Tucson to visit family. We got a late start headed back and about 20 miles outside Oracle Junction- we had an issue with the van. Four of the five wheel lugs sheered off the front passenger side wheel. While waiting for help to arrive, I tried to start the van and an electrical whatever went off causing the lights to flash and horn to honk. I got it shut off, tried starting it again and it all went berserk again. Third time was a charm and it started up without issue.
Help arrived, we spent the night in Tucson, got everyone and everything situated and home again. The van was repaired and goes into the shop tomorrow for a thorough 'once over'.  I have a renewed respect for the small things that can cause big problems. In thinking about climbing into the cart for the upcoming CDE? Well nothing can go wrong to the extent of what could have happened with the van.  I have found a strange kind of 'settled calm' with this.

Add to that the rush of getting everything in order, needing to buy stuff, make stuff and find stuff for the CDE... and yeah. The next two weeks are going to be a bit crazy for me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Backing up

These two words semed to be the epitome and theme of my weekend. I went to watch my mare being ridden and the woman asked me how I asked a horse to back? Ummm, she is not at the point where backing is a big concern for me, right now it is all about going forward...  She does have a nice reverse and when I explained how I do it, she did it and the mare backed softly and she felt a huge difference. I am going this Sunday to ride her myself. 

Another thing I have been avoiding with Kat is backing up and doing some ground driving...   It needs to be done and after our dressage scores, well, there is no going forward without taking a step back once in a while and readjusting things.  So last night we did just that.

I drug out the old beater harness and found it has no bit on it. I grabbed the half cheek that was too big to fit right on the good harness and as luck would be on my side- everything fit perfect for a change. I also changed where we would be working. Up front in the smaller turnout, instead of out back in the large one. Part of this was a change in scenery and work area, the other part sheer laziness that I didn't want to move horses around so we could work out back.

Since a lot of the notes on our dressage score was 'gaping at the mouth' I was glad this bridle does not have a noseband. Instead it has an overcheck, which I don't like, is not allowed and about the only good it does is keep him from grabbing a snack of weeds while we work. Once he settled in and really started working, I unhooked the overcheck and snapped it to the throatlatch. Boy did he work!

We started with bending exercises. Another thing we had a few helpful notes on. Very little bend, not enough bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend....  Kat was not exactly sure what I wanted when I asked him to bend to the left. The left had been the good side and when I focused on the right to bring him along, then the left seemed to fall apart. It also didn't help that when I was asking for a left turn, I hardly released the left rein and vis-versa... All things considered- I had lost the bend to the left and contributed to it's slow deterioration and demise.

It was an easy enough fix, we walked along the fenceline doing a haunches in manuver.  I could turn his head into the fence and ask him to keep moving forward. I would slowly ask for more bend, move the hips further in towards the center and BAM! Next thing we know he was two tracking with his left hind moving towards his right front. Later we worked on shoulders in too, again along the fenceline.  Once we came off the fence, he was more willing and able to bend to one side or the other and still keep moving forward. He also bent into his turns without dropping a hip or shoulder.  If he dropped either one, I could either tap the shoulder with the whip or drop my rein around his hip and move things over that way. He would return to upright and we kept going.

Then I let him trot. I moved him out to the ends of my lines and did a few "Ups & Downs" or up and down transitions. Trot, halt, trot, strong trot, slow trot, walk, and I also started using the phrase for strong trot that works on the obstacle courses- "Rock -N-Roll little man, Rock-N-Roll!  Telling him to R-N-R means move out. I am letting him let go and we need to get to the next one, he responds and he flies. Hits a nice stride and cruises. 

It might be a bit unconventional, but then who has ever known Me to be super PC and play by the book? Who wrote the book anyways and did they forget that not everything works for every horse? LOL! He was hitting that sweet stride of his, not quite like in the one pic, but close. He was also soft, bent to the inside (both directions) and moving out.  A car coming down the street even pulled up, stopping to watch us as we worked.  A few more Ups & Downs and we called it good. 

He was soft, bending and did everything well-  so we quit there.  It will be at least next weekend before I can put him to the cart again, but the differences were big and we made a lot of progress. We moved forwards by backing up, if that makes any sense...   My cart is undergoing round 2 of more changes and hopefully this time it will be better balanced for him, he will have more room in between the shafts to work with and it will no longer remind me of something you might see on The Munsters.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Making sense of things

Since the cones course as it was displayed on the last post created  some confusion, I hope I can clear it up for everyone in this post. I admit I got a little lost myself while on course, even though I had walked it twice and thought I had everything under control.  The judge was above things in the bed of his pick up truck. You entered from the left side of the course as it is on the map. Salute the judge before going through the start finish gate and proceed to cones 1, 2 and 3 on the right heading towards the bottom. 

#4 A,B, C & D is where it got a bit tricky. You circled around to the right to go through cone 4A, then go past cone 11A on your left, turning left to go through cone 4B and 4C which is the two black dots with B next to them and C above them with the red dot.  Circle around to cone 11D on your right and head through cone 4D. Clear as mud yet? Then you turn left to cone 5 going back towards the top. Shown below in Blue highlighter.  

The start finish gate is dead once you go through it to start, so blow through that to get to cone 6.  Veer left to line up for cone 7 headed towards the bottom, turn left to cone 8, right to cone 9, left along the bottom to cone 10 and then right to cone 11A.  Is everyone still with me on this one? LOL

Go through cone 11A, make a left U-turn to come back through the B & C cones and a right to go through the 11D cone. (This is one part I got a little lost while on course. Why? I dunno since the tricky parts were over.)  You then swing around to the left again to go through cone #12 right by the start finish. Shown below in Pink highlighter.

Left to go through 13, head down to the bottom and left to go through 14, left and up the side to 15, off to the right to line up for 16, past the judge and over to 17, left down to 18, left again and circling down to 19, up the right side to 20 and now back through the start/finish gate to end it. 

The map is not to scale and there was a place where you could cut across through the 4 & 11 turnpike to get to some of the other cones. Normally you cannot go through the cones, but when they are multiples like this- once you go through them, they are now 'dead' and cutting through them later is not a problem. The start finish gate is also considered dead once you go through it and start the course. After you go through 20 (the last cone) it is now 'live' again and you must go through the right direction.

I was amazed I got through all of this and only went 30 seconds over on the time allowed. The time penalty is a half point for each second over.  I also realized heading into cone 2, I wasn't holding the reins right. When I tried to fix it, we came close to plowing over the cone. Not wanting to do that, I stopped Kat, moved him over and took off again. Problem is, stopping gets you 5 penalty point- wiping out the cone is only 3. Lesson learned- mow it down!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Plot your course

So the ADT is tomorrow... I am anticipating the event and yet, sort of dreading it too.  Dreading it only because I hope I can get it right, go through everything the right way, have a clear round and not get eliminated or 'E' out. 

This week they posted the maps for the Cones course and the obstacle course as well as the order of go.  There are two dressage arenas, one for horses & ponies, the other one for minis. I am second in the line up and since there were so many entries- 41 of us, they bumped up the start time to 8:30am.  If I want to walk  the course- I have to be there pretty early because I still have to lunge the little man, get him harnessed and hooked and work him down to the point of behaving. Which also means keeping him away from the cones in the process. He sees them and gets. all. jacked. up.  Knowing all of this and the fact I didn't get to drive him last weekend- I turned him out last night. Let him work out his own kinks and settle down.

So Everyone has an idea of what goes on at an ADT here is the run down-

Link to the ADCS website with all the information as shown below.

Dressage pattern-

Training Level Test 4
It looks easy enough, RIGHT? Trot in, halt salute, trot, track left, big circle, down to a walk, diagonal across the arena, pick up the trot, go right, another big circle, walk, another diagonal, trot, sort of serpentine across the arena, come back up to X halt, back a few steps, walk to G, halt, salute and leave at the working trot.  Not so much in those terms, no idea where the letters go, but I know the pattern in my head and hopefully I can pull it off.  I am interested to see our scores on this part the most.  Just to see how our training is paying off and if we have strayed any.

From the dressage arena we head directly over to the cones course- Let the games begin!

Always salute the judge before going through the start/finish gate. Always. Then it is 20 cones to go through and remember which way to do it! The cones do have numbers by them and a red number on the right, white number on the left...  You would think it should be pretty easy to do it right, but there were a few of us at the Darby in December that messed up and blew it.  Blame it on being caught up in the excitement of competition, but we didn't do it all right.

Tip from another competitor and friend Liz, she breaks it down into groups of 5 cones. I hadn't thought of this, but it sounds like a good idea.  Each cone has a ball on top and knocking down the ball gets you 3 penalty points each. Clear rounds are not exactly easy to do either. Gary suggested practicing at home with the cones really close together. Then when you are in the arena at the competition with the wider spacing, it is sooo much easier to go through. Makes sense too.

After all of the entries have completed their dressage tests and done the cones, there is a generous lunch break.  Gotta give the ponies a rest and let them catch their second wind before going on to the Obstacles....

You must go through the In/Out gates on each obstacle. Training level no more than trotting is allowed. Breaks in gate must be taken care of within 5 seconds or you are DQ'ed.  Although there is no set pattern you have to follow, you must go through the gates in order, you must go through them the indicated direction. However unlike the cones, once you go through a gate it is now 'dead' and you can go back through it in either direction to get to the next gate. Training level only uses gates A, B & C or at least they did at the last ADT as notes on the maps.


I have an idea already where I want to go and how I plan to go through the obstacles... There may be some tight turns, going through gates at an angle and the main objective will be keeping the wheels on the ground and Kat at a trot.  Little monster that he is, he really enjoys these type events.

You are timed from when the horses nose goes through the 'In' gate until their nose reaches the 'Out' gate in the obstacles. I have seen a few places that we may be doing a bit of 'off roading' and it could get interesting. Yes, I tend to push the limits a little now and then. Kat is forgiving or else he hasn't gotten the idea to refuse yet. As long as he trusts me, we should be all right... I hope.

The fun part about all of this and what I thinks makes it all really interesting is this. I look at the map and see a way to go through the obstacles. Somebody else looks at the map and sees a totally different way of doing things. Sometimes their route is shorter and quicker, but the turns are tighter and it could get pretty hairy if things don't go so well.  Could we have done it that way? Maybe. Could they have done it on our route- they may not have even thought of it...

Remember our first event, the Darby back in August? How I was taking it easy with nice, big, loopy circles... at least until the first ball fell down on cone #3. From there it was 'Game On' and I wasn't letting another one fall. The competitive streak in me kicked it into overdrive and that was it.  I have to remember to keep that in check this time. At least I hope to, but then maybe that is what helps me to remain a bit more careful and not get too close to stuff. (Like POLES, that seem to pop up here and there... LOL) At least this time the obstacles all seem to be trees. Things with branches that stick out, keeping the horses and carts away from the trunk of the things. There is hope for us this time in that respect.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The fashionable budget

After going through the list of things needed for driving, seeing hats for $250 and more, *call for pricing* and all that jazz, I have been looking for something to change things up. Being so under dressed at the festival of driving pleasure show and seeing what I need to do to step it up a few notches on my turnout, I went shopping. Because that's what I needed to do!

After Thanksgiving I went to one of the Antique Malls we have here. Actually I went to two of them, but the first one was a total bust and I didn't find anything I could work with or that I wanted. For those of you not familiar with our 'Antique Malls', basically it is a huge store with several aisles inside. Each aisle has a large number of 'booths' or spaces that people can rent to display their stuff, in hopes of selling it. Their stuff is all tagged with a price and booth number. When you buy something, the people at the front register note which booth number it came from so that the right people get paid. It's kind of like a giant indoor swap meet or yard sale, only you don't have to be there 24/7 to sell stuff. It is also heated or air conditioned which is a huge Bonus here in the summer. Since each booth belongs to someone else- the assortment of stuff varies by their hobbies and interests. It's a bargain hunters paradise and although it is called an Antique Mall, not everything inside is an antique.

I was mainly looking for and at Hats.  The one turnout review that had posted information about 'building the right look' for your turnout, suggested to start with the hat and work from there.  Although it said that a complete outfit in black looks like a funeral procession, black goes with everything and can be easily accessorized to change the look several different ways.  One of the things I found in the AM was a couple of hats I could work with.  Well one of them I could anyways. 

It's a small black hat with a narrow brim and even came with a decorative gold and white flower shaped pin. I'm not too sure on the pin. I like it, but I can still change it or leave it off if I want/need to.

The bonus in this hat is that I can make a brightly colored hat band to match my shirt as well as something to go on or with the driving apron.

Then there is this atrocity, sorry- hat.

I had to take it outside in the sunlight to get a better pic that is closer to the actual shade of BRIGHT DAMN ORANGE that it really is. Even blogger doesn't have anything close to that shade. I can't imagine anyone wearing a hat or clothes this color and being able to successfully pull it off, but whatever.  For $8 it is a cute enough hat and put together in a way that it will make a great pattern. From there I can reproduce the look but in a color that will go well with my skin tone. 

Which was one of the hard parts for me, about shopping for a hat. Reds, maroons, and pinks are pretty much out as a general rule. Some shades of purples- not even a consideration.  Don't see too many in yellow... Mostly what works for me is earth tones- blues, tans, browns, dark greens, grays and of course black. What did I find a lot of- colors that didn't work, styles that didn't work and just plain hats that were not very flattering.  Big brims tend to flop when you move, trotting can make them fold down over your face- not good for obvious reasons and the lighter colored hats sort of scream LOOK AT ME!  Besides that, light colors around horses tend to attract slobber, dirt and horse grime.

Once I had the two hats, I took the liberty of looking at a few jackets. I found one that fit for a reasonable price. Although it is again- black- it will work because I can wear a different colored camisole under it, matching the hatband to it and tying in the driving apron as well. WIN!

What was even more amazing was finding the original price tag still on it the jacket. I don't remember the brand but the tag read $225.00 and I got it for a Lot less than that.  It is a tailored fit, nice quality fabric, but $225 for a jacket?  All totaled the trip to the Antique Mall proved to be a good one. I got the two hats and the jacket for just under $45. Not a bad day shopping and hopefully a nice enough look for our turnout at upcoming events.