Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 3- Cones

Heading into day 3 and the cones, because of the mistakes we had made the day before, we had slipped down into 4th place. The cones course was set up on Saturday and we all had a chance to walk it in the afternoon, before the banquet dinner that night. I had a brief talk with the course designer and he confirmed that cones #9 and #10 were across from each other, but both were to be taken heading into the box maze of straw bales, not just go in through #9 and out through #10 as would be tempting to do.  The red cone is on the right to remind you not to go through things the wrong way, but on occasion it happens. Ask me, I have done it plenty.

One of the tips I had been given early on by Gary was to set the cones narrow at home when practicing. Don't give yourself much if any room to slip through them. One of the side effects of this however, is thinking about how much easier it is with so much extra space and getting caught up in that, losing track of where you are and going off your intended course. It happens to a lot of people though and we all live and learn...

In the ADS rulebook, you are to use the same cart for section A (dressage) and C (cones) and therefore be dressed accordingly.  Although we were not required to braid for cones or wear our aprons, the apron was to be on the cart and that meant pretty much everybody wore them. We as competitors, were all to be 'properly dressed' an hour before the day started. Walking the cones, you were to be wearing your outfit you would be showing in. Frank Luetz was the only one properly dressed as Hardy Zantke pointed out and announced to the rest of us.  I felt bad for not having put on at least the shirt and my hat, but as there were several seasoned competitors out there dressed in their everyday clothes, I didn't stand out from the crowd even though I wasn't properly dressed.

This time around I was able to lunge Kat for as long as he needed it. I didn't get to the day before and he was a bit wound but handled it well enough for being pulled out and put straight to the cart. I don't often do that at home. But then at home, I am usually not rushed or pinched on time either. Kat circled around on the line for quite a while before finally relaxing and slowing down to a comfortable jog. I turned him and he started off a little fast, but soon settled down to the same jog. I let him keep going and made sure he was relaxed, because I know how he lights up when he sees the cones.

When we checked in before the cones, we were asked if this was the same cart we used for dressage, our harness was given a once over glance and we were then pointed over to where we were to do our vet check OTM or 'On The Move'. The vet attendant would look the horse over on both sides, then we were to do a large figure eight where they could look for any soundness issues. Kat was fine and we were given the ok to go. I took him out to the warmup area and let him work a bit more to relax. I threw in a few tight circles, some serpentines and made sure he was responding like he should. Then we went over and found a place in the shade to stand and wait our turn.

It all went so quickly and we came in within the time allowed. We managed to only knock down 3 balls for a total of 9 penalty points, but again it was partially due to pilot error and another glitch I would find out about later on.  In between the cones, if there was a long line from one to the next, I let Kat go. He would trot on handsome, badass and bold, really throwing his feet up there and out there in the way he can and does.  When I would try to rein him in and bring him back down, a few times he resisted, we got a bit squirrelly and down went the ball as we didn't hit our line straight through the cone. 

We did not get eliminated, but with the penalties, we locked in our position of 4th in Training Level, Single Pony. Had we taken our time, not letting Kat get loose in between the cones, we may not have had those penalties to add to the penalties from the day before.   Without the penalties from both days, we would have been 2nd for the competition. The smallest mistakes can cost you big. In the cones, the order of go changes up a bit. Whoever is in last place, goes first and on up the rankings of placings.

After completing the cones course we were to wait in the holding area until all of the Training Level entries had completed the course. Scores were figured and placings were noted for the VSE Single, VSE Pairs, Single Pony and Pony Pairs.  There were no entries for training level single or pairs horse. While waiting around for the Pony Pairs to go and placings to be figured, several people had begun gathering in the holding area.

As we were waiting around on the rest of the Single Pony entries, then the two Pony Pairs entries to go, Kat happened to be standing pretty close to Frank Luetz.  It wasn't long before Frank took notice, kept looking at him and finally came over to pet him. He asked how long we had been driving, how old Kat is and how we did out there. When I told him that Kat has had 11 years to do nothing but eat, play and grow up, he commented how he wished he could find a life of leisure like that. (Don't we all?) Then he looked at Kat again, took a light hold of the right rein as Kat's head came up and turned towards him, as Frank said in his thick German accent, "He is a nice looking pony and you can see by how he is built, dat he can really elevate and has got da movement of a Big horse, ya?" 

I stood there next to my pony, grinning and thinking about the picture above, that I had posted of him on my other blog, back when he was in long lines, where everyone was complimenting him and commenting on how he looked like a big horse until you seen something nearby to bring him back to scale.   I nodded and said to Frank, "Yes, he has the movement of a big horse. In pictures you can easily forget his size until you see something next to him to scale."

Frank then went on to say it looks like Kat is getting his tongue over the bit and recommended something else. A mullen mouth bit with a slight port to it if possible, which would prevent him from doing that anymore. That one statement made a LOT of sense to me too. It would explain why he was resistant in coming back down under control in the cones, why he was such a brat on Friday headed off to the dressage arena and I ticked off a number of times in my head that his tongue over the bit, could have likely been the reason behind things happening the way they did. Yes I had one of these DUH! or maybe A-HA! moments...  and now, thanks to Ideal Harness, whose giant orange semi was at the show, LOADED WITH STUFF! I have a loose cheek, mullen mouth, butterfly bit for Kat to wear as well as having punched another hole in the leather to bring the blinders up where they belong. 

I have yet to try it on him as we only got to drive on Sunday of last weekend and I want to ground drive him first and see where we are both at. It is easier to take this route and be safe, than to jump in the cart, have an accident and then deal with the whole recovery process, IF the horse is not ruined for life afterwards.  It is always better to be safe than sorry.  I want to replace the curb chain on it and get one of those rubber covers for it too.  We did drive on Sunday though and the neighbor came over to see the differences in her cart and mine, her harness and mine and get some more insight into driving. It was the last time I could slip a workout in before our next ADT on Saturday.  Hopefully with the knowledge of slowing things down, we will do better this time.       

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 2, Part 2

Part 1

Section E is to be no less than 6,000m, no more than 9,000m. This includes the obstacles. When we were heading out we had our choice to go or wait another minute and a half. We chose to go and the countdown began. In what seemed like nothing we were already heading to obstacle 1. Through the In/Out gate, find gate A, then B, followed by C and back through the In/Out gate. We were headed in to Obstacle 3 since training level skipped Obstacle 2. Again, through gates A, B & C, out the In/Out gate, thank the volunteer for timing and stop grinning so you didn't get bugs in your teeth. Yes, this could be a problem...

Obstacle 4 was the water hazard. Since the new ADS rules require an alternate dry route for training level and this one is not set up for that, again training level skipped it and turned right where everyone else went left and went to find their way into the water. From there you wound around in the south 40 and found your way back to the last obstacles. 5, 6, & 7. Obstacle 5 was the Single Tree. It is literally a tree in the center of posts and boards that make up a wagon wheel of sorts.

Going into this one we were rockin' it and really blasting along. Which ended up costing us dearly. I had planned to go in at one spot and we overshot it. Kat was just going too fast and there was no way to hit our mark and go into the obstacle without literally hitting something- in this case a large pole. So I adjusted and we went in the next opening we found (which happened to be gate C and cost us 20 penalty points. Damn!) We reconfigured the alphabet to our taste, blasted through C, then A, B, C and out the In/Out gate without realizing what I had done. We headed over to Obstacle 6 & 7, zipped around an through them and headed off to the finish line and end of Section E.

Kat was feeling good and really trotting along nicely. I let him go and as we approached the end of the line I figured Why not finish strong? So we did! Making another costly mistake... Right after the end of Section E, the TD Hardy Zantke met us with a big smile. He shook my hand, congratulated me for finishing and asked if I had fun? Did the HUGE grin on my face give it away?
Me- "Oh yeah! It was a blast!"
TD- "Did you have a great time, that no matter what anyone says, they can never take Anything from this day away from you?"
Me- "You had better believe it!"
TD- "Did you have any breaks of pace longer than 5 seconds, miss any gates or markers that you would like to admit to now?"
Me- "Nope, I counted them all out loud as we went through them and my pony knows he is not allowed to canter with the cart yet."
TD- "All right then, let's look at how you did..."

For some reason whenever a judge, in this case Hardy, points out somewhere that I messed up, it takes a minute or two for things to sink in and I realize the error of my ways. Even staring at the cones in the My route/your route class last November, hearing I went through them the wrong way, looking at the cones, I just didn't see that right off.  I knew I overshot the one opening on obstacle 5, but I didn't think I had gone through C to get to A. Looking at the map of the obstacle, then later the obstacle itself, Yes, yes I did rearrange the alphabet that day.... 

Then we looked at the time on the course. Section A was fine, no penalties, Section D was fine, no penalties, Section E... pause while Hardy was figuring it out... We finished strong all right. A bit too strong in fact. We came in 34 seconds under the minimum time allowed. Aw Crap! More penalty points. You are allowed and also encouraged to WALK the last 500 meters of Section E. But when you are having so much fun, blasting along and your pony feels great- you get caught up in the moment and everything sensible can go right out the window on you.  It sure did for me! (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Looking back at the score cards as posted, had we slowed down and NOT overshot the one entrance into Obstacle 5, Not gathering the penalty points there, slowed down and WALKED the last 500 meters of Section E, we may have come in within the time allowed and NOT gathered those penalty points either. Had we slowed down and done things RIGHT like we should have and were supposed to- We would have been in 2nd place going into Day 3 and the cones. 

In light of all of this, I was and still am, thrilled with how Kat had done. Hubby and the girls were there to see and cheer on Mommy and their Kat Man!  They thought it was really cool.   One of the other competitors, his father is a photographer and caught the action in the obstacles on digital and posted them online. Cal Photography We are photos #39, 40, 41, 43 & 44 in obstacle 6.  If there is a picture of a team or single horse/pony that you like, email me or ask in the comments and I will probably know who it is/was and can tell you about them, their horse, etc. 

There were people in from Northern California, New Mexico and Texas for the event. The four-in-hand of ponies is Frank Luetz, who competer at the CAI Live Oak International CDE in Ocala, FL this weekend.  Everyone had a great time and I know I am sure looking forward to the next one.  I have already been working on planning my outfit for it. It is in October...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 2, The Marathon

This one seemed to loom on my radar before we even entered. It seemed much tougher than it actually was.  Last year when we went to watch this CDE, there was a horse pulled off the course just before the last couple of obstacles. Why? The horse was clearly spent. Watching from the sidelines, the horse was tripping here and there and displaying a few other noticeable signs that s/he was just wiped out. As the TD (Technical Delegate) pulled them off the course, they were told to walk the horse back to the vet check area, where water is available and cool the horse out. They were done. The groom dismounted the cart and off they went.  I vowed to myself, I don't ever want to be 'that horse' in any competition.  Ever.

In defense of the competitor, they may have been from out of state and just not acclimated to our weather. There have been years when the rain just pours down constantly, other years when it is already warming up and Hot out there. This year the wind blew constantly on Friday & Saturday, with big gusts and immense dust- to the point you couldn't see 5 feet in front of you at times... so anything is possible out there.  I also don't know what level they were showing at, but for my first time out there, I can honestly say, it is VERY easy to get caught up in the moment, the heat of things and not notice the subtle things and ways your horse lets you know they have had enough.

For those who don't know, the marathon is set up in three sections. A, D & E. Each section has a minimum time allowed and a maximum time allowed. You go too fast, coming in under the minimum time allowed- you get penalized. You go too slow, going over the maximum time allowed- you get penalized.  It is a pace, not a race. In section E when you go through the obstacles, you are timed at each one.  Your time in the obstacles at training level do not count. The only thing that really counts is that you go through the gates in order and you get through and out of the obstacle in Under 5 minutes, which is really easy considering....

For the marathon you must have a SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle) sign on your cart. You must also have on your medical info armband, somewhere to put your green 'time card' and you absolutely must have a body protector ON for section E.  My number holder pulled double duty that day and was strapped on the rein rail for the green time card to go in. I need to do something else, because the wind kept blowing it off either side and I found myself holding it in place with my boot as we trucked along.  I also heard the small bar in the bottom of my SMV sign "ping" against the cart a few times. I was looking on the ground to see what we went over and Kat stepped on, hoping it wouldn't bruise his feet or anything and knock us out of competition...  it took us 3 or 4 pings before I finally figured out what it was.

Section A is to be no less than 5,000m and no more than 8,000m. Ours was about 5 km and any pace was allowed for all levels. Kat was bouncing around and ready to go when we got over to the starting area. As with dressage, you have a set order of go and a start time. When we got going I checked my watch, but had no real idea of how long we had to complete this section.  We had between 23 & 25 minutes. We did okay and did not get any penalty points. Kat was fresh, wound and ready to GO! If we were headed into the wind, he was blasting along like nobodies business. We were cruising. When we turned to where the wind was at our back however, he scaled it way back on the speed. A few times he tried to slow down and walk. I kept an eye on the horse ahead of us and tried to keep the distance between us steady and consistent. If they were on time, we would be too. At the end of section A you hand the attendees your green card and they write the time on it that you crossed the line.

At the beginning of section A, there was a white plastic bag in a tree that caught Kat's attention. It was on the left side of the road and he spooked hard to the right. We ended up in the plowed field and made a big right hand circle, lining up to face the bag again. I took him on the left hand side of the road past it this time. For whatever reason, he was ok with that, but still gave the bag a mean, hard look with the stink eye.  Past that we started trucking along again and on the left side of the road was a small burrowing owl. As we went by that, it was screeching at us with its wings spread wide apart. I just hoped it stayed put and didn't fly up out of the hole. Thankfully the screeching was all it did.

Section D is to be no less than 800m, no more than 1,000m. In Section D, all levels- you are to walk the horse(s). Again there is a minimum and maximum time allowed. A few times Kat tried to trot when he seen other horses and also because we were headed back onto the property towards the barns.  Again at the start and finish of Section D, you hand off your green time card for times to be written down on it. 

After Section D, you head over to the vet check area for the mandatory 10 minute rest break. You check in and the time starts while your horses' heart rate and respiration are taken, they are given an all over glance to see if there is anything wrong and from there you head over to wherever you stashed your bucket of water. I stashed my vest with the water and while Kat was drinking and looking around I was putting it on for Section E. We were also given penny's to wear with our numbers on them. Getting the vest under the penny while holding the reins proved interesting, but I managed to get it done.  Your horse can stand or you can walk them around. They can and should be offered a drink and you can also sponge them down if you'd like. If you are a small pony entry you do not need a groom, but if you have a header, someone has to be holding the reins at all times.

To be continued...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Getting there and Day 1

I had hoped to get Kat to the showgrounds early enough on Thursday to get him settled in, get checked in and maybe walk the obstacles on the marathon course. The course opened at 4pm.  I was also hoping to have time (and daylight) to braid Kat before coming home. That was not to be.

As it was, my daughter had gone to the mall with her friends and I was home with the girls and no car seats. We blew bubbles to pass the time until hubby came home and I could leave to get going. I still had to hitch the trailer and get gas- (found I had left my card at home in my other jeans and thankfully had cash to cover it) and we pulled in at dark. The barn manager was out getting dinner, the show office was closed and I found our stall, by the light of my cell phone. This was not starting off well.

Friday morning, my brother and sister-in-law picked up the girls and my daughter Robin and I hopped in the truck and headed out. Her to Germany, me to the show.  We are close enough that I would be coming home every night to sleep in my own bed, could leave the trailer at home and just drive back and forth. Hubby had to work and so Friday I was on my own.

When I got to the showgrounds, I fed Kat and left him alone to eat. He was pacing the stall and had mixed the shavings into the dirt, rolled in it and was filthy. There wasn't a whole lot of time to be nervous or anything like that and I'm normally not, but once I got there I honestly felt like I could throw up. It was a good thing I hadn't eaten anything, but maybe if I had it could have helped.  I left to find the show office and get checked in. I still needed to walk the dressage course and settle my own nerves.  Hanging around Kat would only set him off more, which was something neither of us needed.

We were to be in the ring at 10:41 am. It was already rapidly approaching 9 am and I was feeling pinched for time. We also had to go through the Safety Check area, approximately half an hour before our time in the ring.  I hadn't gotten to oil my harness as I had wanted to, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The wind blew all weekend. So did the dirt. Had I oiled my harness, I'm pretty sure it would be coated in dirt and needing it again. I had packed a couple of dish towels (Dollar store!), soaked them and wiped down Kat, then everything on the harness as I put it on him. It was as clean as things were going to get. 

I took him out to lunge him and he was W.O.U.N.D. He galloped around and around and around... He finally started to settle down and brought it down to a trot, but when we reversed directions- off he went again and seemed to wind himself up in the process.  Finally he settled down and started to relax. I was feeling rushed for time and had seen a few people in our division were harnessed, hooked and heading off to warm up. I was swearing profusely on the inside as we headed back to the barn to get ready. I still needed to get dressed too.

I tied Kat to the stall front and went to change. Then I threw my jacket on over everything and went to harness up and get Kat hooked. I had to take a few seconds and breathe to settle my mind before going near Kat. He feeds off of me and if I am not settled, he isn't either. When I got back to the barn and started harnessing up, Kat was goosey as hell when I buckled the girth. That's never happened before and I was trying to be gentle, go slow and he was still goosey. I had to fasten the girth loosely, put everything else on and then adjust the girth later before putting him to the cart.

One of the things that I also hadn't done was to put the strap through the apron to fasten it. It wasn't going through either... I have a wide piece of nylon webbing with Velcro on it that I use as a waistband. The aprons have a big looped piece on top it slides through and it is adjustable for all sizes. I remembered that hubby had left a tool in the truck for grabbing things that drop and are out of reach. We went to the truck and I grabbed it. It worked perfectly and I was able to slip my apron on and we headed out.

We went through the safety check with no problems except that we had forgotten our Safety Check Form. They said to bring it back to them after our dressage test and we headed over to warm up. Kat was being an all out JERK! He was again wound up and rarin' to go. I had nothing on the right rein but a death grip and he was fighting that and being an absolute twit. I was checking him with the left rein and trying to release the right, but he just was not responding like he should. His jaw was set and so was my hand because of it. I had to stop him and make him stand several times and he was not happy about it.  I spotted one of my friends and told her he was being a total jerk and she said he looked really good.  WTH???

He was incredibly forward and really let his hooves fly. He felt so much better than the test last month.  He did not dawdle in his walk, but he also did not reach forward and down when we walked on the loose rein. (We got dinged for that) I honestly don't remember much from the notes on our tests, but we received a score of 71.44 for our efforts.  I know there were notes about me not using the proper salute- reins in left hand, whip in the right and the right hand holds the whip in front of your face either vertically or horizontally. I held it straight out to the right side. OOPS!  We completed our test and again I failed the proper salute before leaving the arena.  As it was we were in 3rd place after dressage. I was thrilled with that!

Heading back to the barn I ran into Gary and one of the first things he said was "The turnout looks great but Hardy will mark you down for this." as he grabbed the pant leg of my jeans. Jeans are not a good thing, so either wear a skirt, slacks or make the apron long enough to cover everything. (Got it!)
He also asked how we did and if I had walked the hazards on the marathon course? "Nope. Today was all about dressage. I would be walking the hazards that afternoon."

Good thing too, because there were a few tricky spots where the advanced divisions went one way and training level went the other.   I was told- "You had better get your ass out there and go though it as many times as needed so you have it in your mind where to turn, how to go through the hazards and NOT screw up."  I really appreciate Gary's blunt honesty like that.  Because of the wind and dust, I ended up driving the entire course in the truck, except for the obstacles of course. Those I had to get out and walk through... I think I ate some dirt in the process.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chaos, before the CHAOS!

For the CDE you need a complete outfit for the dressage portion and you will be wearing it again in cones.  Since my 'turnout' for the show in November didn't even compare... I hit the store to find something else. I already had the black jacket and hat, just needed something to 'wake it up' so as not to be looking like part of a funeral procession.

I found the material for my apron pretty easily.  A gorgeous two tone green upholstery fabric with leaves on it.  It was and is, at least in my mind- gorgeous. Plus it matches well with the green seat upholstery on my cart. Yay!

Then I needed something to go with the apron, but bring color to the top of the ensemble.  I had originally picked out a light shade of solid green which went beautifully with the leaves, but it was too green and the leafy fabric was a shade more teal... The lady at the cutting table said- "Let's go see what else we can find." So we did and we found a more teal shade of cotton fabric. I figured I would make the shirt and hatband from that and call it good. Then I headed over to the craft section to find flowers or something??? to dress up the hat and add some 'flair' to it. 

Front of the hat....

I found the most beautiful clip/pin that matched the shade of teal of the shirt/hatband fabric- P.E.R.F.E.C.T.L.Y!  Big sigh of relief. It would clip on and hold everything in place or I could pin it if things needed more security.

I also thought the plain shirt under the jacket needed something a little bit 'more'. It was just too plain. So I wandered around the bead section and found one or two strands that were pretty, matched and looked great, but I would need 3 strands to make what I needed... As I was beginning to feel anxious and frustrated again- I found the perfect answer. A long string of beads that turned out to match the apron fabric perfectly.  There were plenty there, looped around several times, to make a necklace of a few strands to wrap together. It turned out there were some left over and I was able to make earrings to match too.

(Earrings are the loops on the bottom hanging down off the necklace.) 

Now I just had to go home and sew it all together... (Which happened the weekend before the event.)  The 'shirt' was originally going to be just a piece of fabric that attached to the inside of the coat and allowed me to wear a tank top or t-shirt underneath. But then I got creative and grabbed one of my t-shirts from the closet to use as a pattern and whipped out a complete top. I figured- why not? Then I could wear it with other things at other times as needed. It's pretty enough, so now I have more to hang in the closet...  

I still needed to order a protective vest for Section E of the marathon. It is a requirement, as is the medical info armband and slow moving vehicle sign... None of which- I had.  Carriage Driving Essentials offered a 5-10% discount to all competitors and threw in free shipping. I also needed gloves for the dressage portion. So I placed my order and everything arrived on Wednesday. Whew!

Jeffers happened to be running a sale on their protective vests. They too offered free shipping on orders over a certain amount.  I ordered mine on Friday and it came in the following Thursday, just in time as I needed to have it Saturday. Another Whew! moment.

Thursday before the event I still needed to make a number holder. I had gotten up at 4:30 am to run across town and pick up my cart from work where they had finished the modifications to the shafts (and prayed like Hell all the way home that they were going to work!)...  Which they did because I hooked him later that morning to be sure. Hooray!

Round 2 on the number holder and that was completed and off the list. My mom was adding two more button holes to the front of the coat and I still needed to coordinate picking it up, but was waiting to hear that the vest had been delivered...

To add to the whirlwind of things needing to be done, getting stuff organized and packed up, planning what time we would be leaving and all of this- my daughter was home getting ready herself to leave for her trip to Germany. Yeah, talk about crazy days at our place.  I was to drop her off Friday morning, then head down to feed Kat, get checked in and walk the dressage course. That was how I planned to pull it off anyways....  She's in Germany now and comes home Sunday night. I hope she is having as much fun as I did over the weekend.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Words fail me....

I had such a great time at the CDE this weekend. HOLY COW!!!! I am still reeling from the excitement, the fun, the compliments, the fun, the awesome people involved- both organizing and competing, the fun, the food and the fun... Did I mention this was A.  LOT.  OF.  F.U.N!!!????

The last couple of weeks, everything has been up in the air, but coming together too in an alternating sort of way. A few moments of AW CRAP! I need this, I have to have one of those... and the list was endless at times. Adding to my nerves as I scrambled to order stuff, figure out how to pay for it (???), where to find it, would it be here in time if I ordered it????  Can I make one of those instead??? AAAAAaaaaaccckkkk!  Then things would happen, stuff was ordered, stuff was made and I found a few seconds to breathe before the next wave of Aw Crap! would hit.

Last weekend I worked on my outfit. I needed to sew my apron, a shirt, new buttons on the coat, a hatband to tie everything together, something to add a bit of flair on the hat, a little something to dress up the shirt... and a big Hooray for the store JoAnn's!  In one fell swoop, I bought everything needed for under $35. Add in the cost of the hat and coat- the turnout was less than $100 total. SCORE!

I will get a picture or two of it all put together and on after I wash it, or if I can find the show photographers website, I will post a link! Some of the reviews I got for all of this was- Stunning, Smashing, Elegant, Beautiful and so on.  I felt 'all put together' with it on. When some of the other competitors learned I had made it- they were quite impressed. Yay!

Beyond that, there was a lot of people impressed with Kat. He ROCKED! Our dressage test was MUCH improved from last months ADT test and although he started the day as a fretting little monster, our 'pep talk' in the warm up area seemed to work, as did working him and letting him blow off some steam. He was very forward and I thought he did brilliantly. Our  scores from the two judges put us in 3rd for starters. There were 5 entries in our division. I was thrilled with that!  The judges were Hardy Zantke from Germany and Pauline Scott from England.

There were a lot of folks I wanted to watch their 'go' in the ring and some of the big names in driving were there too, like Frank Luetz, a German trainer and International level competitor. He had a gorgeous four-in-hand of bay German Riding Ponies. Ooooh were they awesome to watch!  I got to briefly talk with Frank and he is a wonderful man. Very kind, down to earth and just really a nice person to be around. I would have LOVED to have been able to stay and have a lesson with him today, but it just wasn't happening.  DAMN!

Gary and Allen who presented the clinic back in November were there and both won their divisions. Drew Callahan who is the trainer for a friend of mine and fellow blogger Liz's horse, won with her mare and also won with another client horse in another division.  Melanie that I met online recently through a Yahoo group was there and won the training division with her pony... Way to go!  and besides all of them, I got to meet a lot of the other competitors and people who were volunteering, watching and helping or hanging out. 

One of the competitors- Diane, was in a wheelchair unless she was on her carriage.  She drove a pair of handsome bay geldings, both Section D Welsh Cobs in the Advanced Pairs division.  This was awesome to watch as she guided them around the dressage ring, marathon course and through the cones.  Her competition in that division was Walt with a pair of 17.1 hand horses.  Man were they cool to watch too!

And what show is complete without Food? Oh yeah. I may have skipped breakfast every day, but lunch and dinners? The people providing their food service were great. Good food and reasonable prices.  How can that be bad?

The main thing I noticed was everyone was beaming with a lot of positive energy. They were helping each other out, offering tips and suggestions, and the big question everyone seemed to open with- "How did you do out there today?"  Sunday as things wrapped up, everyone was asking how it went? "Did you have a great time?", wishing each other a safe trip home and looking forward to the next one...  I know I am! Now that I have all the necessary stuff, it should go a lot more smoothly the week or two before.  Grass Ridge in Sonoita in October.... Oh yeah!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A toast

You have been invited to attend a virtual bridal shower as spread through email.   More can be found on Debby's blog Life's Funny Like That. So today, even though I am down in Coolidge competing and likely on course when she sees this, I raise my bottle (hey it's glass!) to both Mikey and Wade.  If you don't know who Mikey is, she blogged about their crazy life on Postcards from Arizona.

May you always wake up in love with each other and have plenty of sunshine in your lives. You are blessed to have each other and may that last a long, long time.

From our house to yours....

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Down to the wire

I had a busy weekend and here's what is going on.  I am still getting things done, finding stuff, ordered stuff, packing stuff, washing stuff, oiling stuff, cleaning stuff, fitting stuff, buying stuff and hopefully it will all come together for us by this weekend. HOPEFULLY!  That's the plan anyways...

My cart is in getting changes made to it. The shafts have been an ongoing fit issue. First they were too short and too narrow. Then they were too long and still too narrow. Then the length is finally right, but the angles are off and the width is again too narrow. Round 3 and hopefully things are on track because my nerves on this one are about shot, besides running out of time on top of it all.

Turnout is a BIG thing at these events. Mine for the show last November? In one word- sucked. It didn't come close to comparing to what others had on.  This time? I love it! The hat could be a tad different, but for the most part, it will work for now. 

I spent Friday night in the fabric store trying to match things, find accents and piece it all together in my mind. Saturday I sewed the apron, made my hatband, necklace and earrings.  Sunday I cut out my top and sewed it together while watching "Into the Wild" too many times with the girls as it has become their latest favorite to watch repeatedly. We also blew bubbles and then went to ride my mare. 

Last week one of the driving supply companies offered a discount to all competitors and free shipping. I ordered my gloves, a medical armband and slow moving vehicle sign.  I also needed a protective vest for the marathon which happened to be on sale at Jeffers Equine. I also ordered another bit to have as a spare since this one is looking like it is on it's way out. Free shipping again and it should all be in on Thursday, fingers crossed, because I need have to have it on Saturday.

Crazy thing is, I am taking Thursday off and haven't yet figured out exactly what is going on that day. I will be taking Kat to the showgrounds and dropping him off there. It's close enough I can stay at home. I will be braiding him Thursday night before coming home. I will also be taking my bicycle so I can 'walk' the whole course for the marathon portion. Good thing I have been riding it more lately...

Friday morning I will take the cart, harness and everything else down to the showgrounds after dropping my daughter off for her trip to Germany. I am soooo jealous and wish I could go with her! The order of go puts us in the ring at around 10:30am. Plenty of time to feed the little man, check the braids and redo any that need it, (found yarn that matches my outfit precisely. Yay!) lunge him and warm him up, get dressed, etc.  A good friend of mine had mentioned to me the need to breathe during all of this. I hope I don't forget to do that...  That would be bad.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Driving dressage explained

In all honesty, the dressage score was my main focus at the ADT. Besides a clear round in the cones and obstacles, I wanted to see where we stood, what needed work on and how we did. I also wanted to see how we would compare to those in the next level up- Training Level.  We will be up against them next year, or this year if we are ready to move up sooner, but I hope we are ready to compete seriously before we get there.

In driving, you look for the lower scores in dressage. Where a higher score in ridden is great- driven it means you did lousy.  Our scores were ok and fair for what we did.  Overall we received a 57.18%. If it were ridden, that would be pretty dang cool.  For driven- it is still pretty dang cool considering it was our first event, I didn't get to walk the pattern and we weren't prepared as best as we should have been.  My next post will be about things I have been told to do, ways to change things and hopefully make some big improvements.  The good news- it's already happening!

Training Level Test 4 from the American Driving Society.

Enter at A, working trot, Halt at X. We didn't get a really straight shot at entering at A, ended up a bit off to one side of the centerline and the games begin. He halted at X and took a step back with one foot. We received a 5 for this movement.

Proceed working trot to C, track left C to E.  The biggest thing here was our lack of bending. I drove him deep into the corners which was not what I should have done. It accentuated and magnified what little bit of bend we had. We got a 6 here.

E Circle left 40 meters, E to A working trot. Little man was a bit resistant, gaping at the mouth and again we lacked sufficient bend. (bending to the left is not one of his strong points anymore). Although he was pretty steady, he was not exactly consistent and another 6 was noted.

A working walk, F to X free walk on long rein, X working walk. We didn't exactly bring it down to a walk at A- totally my fault since I was trying to remember the pattern correctly at this point. The free walk from F to X, Kat man was looking around and drifting back and forth as I corrected, overcorrected and gawd our tracks went back and forth like no tomorrow. Another 6 handed down.

Between X to H develop a working trot, H to B working trot. Another 6, more notes about lack of bend, gaping at the mouth and not being on the rail along the shortside of the arena. He shied a touch at the judges pop-up shade tent.

B circle right 40 meters, B to A working trot. We did a bit better on this one, he is softer to the right and less gaping at the mouth.  Another 6.

Working walk at A, K to X free walk on long rein, X develop working walk.  We received a 7 this time on the walk. He was a bit more straight, consistent and stately in his free walk. Moving out more and a bit more focused on where we were going.

Between X & M develop working trot, M to E continue working trot. Another 5 or a 6 for this one. Not so much bending in the turns, more gaping at the mouth and Kat being a bit resistant to comply.

E turn left, B turn right, A down centerline. Our turn at E was wide, our change of bend was not so noticable and we were a bit straighter coming down the centerline this time... another 5 or 6.

Halt at X, wait 3-5 seconds, back 2-4 steps, proceed at working walk. We nailed it with an 8 on this one. Little man knows how to STOP! at the slightest utterance of whoa. Stood like a rock, backed willingly and straight... walked on calmly and quietly.

Working walk X to G, G halt & salute.  Another 6 as we weren't exactly straight, but better than before. Still a bit off of the centerline as I was looking at my pony again, not ahead and where we were supposed to be going.  

I forget what our collective remarks were, but I know they were somewhere in the 5-7 or 8 range. I need to look at the score sheet again and then post those and the comments along with them.

Overall there were a total of 210 points possible. We received 130 points. From there you multiply your score by 0.714, (92.82) then subtract that from 150- giving you your final score (57.18).  Our movements were ranked "Marginal",  "Satisfactory", "Fairly Good" and "Good".  I am not at all upset by any of this. Sure we could have done better and if we had, the scores would have reflected that. But as it is, this is how we did on that day. 

I have since talked to a few people who have all had good advice and tips on how to improve. Ground driving two weeks ago was something I knew we needed to do but I had been putting it off. Why? Well my ego had gotten the best of me and I didn't think we really needed to do it.  I also put Kat back into the half cheek snaffle, which also helped exaggerate the cues for me and make it clear to him precisely what I was asking... Walking along the fence line haunches in, was another way of making it crystal clear to Kat, you can turn your head and bend your neck while still going straight. The whip helps reinforce this.

This weekend I get to try out the cart with the latest round of adjustments having been made to it. We will most likely be puttering around out back, but still, arena work is never a bad thing. Only if you don't change it up enough and do your transitions to keep your horses mind occupied with the question of What next?  Let's hope it all goes well!