Thursday, October 18, 2012

ADT- Obstacles

After a break for lunch we got ready for the obstacle portion of the ADT. At the CDE's there is a whole day for this and there are longer parts to it including a walk session and there are of course, more obstacles involved.  No matter which event you are doing, the obstacle portions always seem to go too damn fast. It is all over and done in the blink of an eye and you want to do it all again, just because.

Having a horse that enjoys it as much as you do- isn't always a good thing. They can get a bit jacked up and not listen or be as responsive as you need them to be. It is a learned experience to go from just getting through the course, to going through correctly, with precision and accuracy while putting up a blazing fast time in the process. Thing is, the precision and accuracy lends itself to the faster times. You speed through without the thought of "I need to go fast" putting it's ugly head in the way and confusing your thoughts. You just DO IT!

While we were all supposed to take our turn at the obstacles in the 'order of go' as listed, it turned into more of- get in line and take a number. The person timing the obstacles had a list with your name, number and division so as you apprached, you called out to them, waited as they found you on the sheet and gave you an "OK" nod or signal to start. From there it was up to you to go through your gates in each hazard, in order and out through the out gate. In green driver, your times in the hazards don't really count unless it comes to the placings. Since I was the only one in TPGD, I could go as fast or slow as need be, even walking if that's what we had to do.

Obstacles found here.

The first obstacle had quite the line of competitors waiting at it, each eager for their turn to go.We got in line and waited and would be going after several of the mini folks went through. One of the more advanced level ponies was waiting in line when my friend Cheryl & her mini PJ came out of the obstacle right towards them. More advanced or not, this mini galloping right at them, made the pony have serious doubts about being where she was and she tried hard to spin and leave the area ASAP. Her driver handled it well and they stuck around with the rest of us.

When the pony went throught the obstacle- man was the dust FLYING! You could hardly see anything of their course because of it. They kept turning and churning up the dirt and the dust swirled into the air. Then before you knew it, out of the dust cloud they came. I had thought best of it to start walking Kat and circle him around so that when they came out of the 'out gate' he would be headed and looking the other direction and avoid him gitting the idea of bolting out of their way being a good one . It worked too I might add.

When it was our turn to finally go, the dirt was pretty loose and a few times we slid the cart sideways around our corners. I have always thought this was fun. Sometimes other people don't find the thrill in it that I do. My daughter Robin was my 'gator in the obstacles and she still hasn't said one way or the other if she thought it was fun or scary.  Our time on the first obstacle was 44 seconds, the two training level ponies had times o 42 & 56 seconds.

The second obstacle consisted of poles and winding your way through them. ne of the first people to go through it had effectively hit one of the poles and snapped it off not too far above ground level. This would be Gary Lowell and his horse Spritzer, who at the Darby in August, found out after completing the course with an increasingly 'springy' seat had discovered one of the welds on the cart had snapped.  Spritzer handled it well and just stepped over the downed pole like it was a nuisance to be there.  We managed to weave our way through the poles, literally at one point between gates B & C and out the out gate in one minute. The other two training level pony drivers did it in 52 & 69 seconds.

These first two obstacles were on the north side of the property and the other two were on the south side. Kat was feeling pretty proud of himself and we galloped most of the way in between, getting to obstacle #3, Fort Atonna.  I had plotted one course through here and walking it with my friend Sharan, she pointed out another option. Through A, back through the "In gate" around to B, sharp right and out through another opening which gave you a straight shot coming back in and right through C headed for the "Out" gate. We slid the cart sideways around the turn back through the In gate and whipped through the obstacle in 36 seconds. The only other horse to put down a faster time was Mary Jane & Mack in 35 seconds. From there it was 43 seconds, two at 45 seconds and longer.  Which only left the water obstacle on our list of things to do.

Since this ADT was at Atonna's and we have been there 4 times now, the last time actually getting Kat INTO the water WITH the cart, I had high hopes that he would go in with little to no fuss. It was the last obstacle of the day and I figured we would take our time and go in the water one way or another.  While watching the people in line before me go, I seen they were using another route than I had even thought of. They were coming in to the left side of B and making a left handed U turn to come back through it, essentially going around the pole of it.  I figured I would give it a look when we got closer to it on course and if there was a chance we could do it and get away with it- why not?

So we went up and over the hill through A, whipped around the pole on B and headed off to the end of the water to give it a shot at going INTO it. Which is right about where Kat stopped and then spun out to the left in his protesting answer of "Not just No, but OH HELL F'ING NO!" To which I responeded out loud, "I don't think so little man" as he was stopped. We circled back around to face the water again for another try. We were being timed, but it doesn't really count so I was determined that he was going in the water one way or another, no matter how long it took to get him there.

The second time we faced the water, Kat decided there was no point in resisting or refusing. If he did he was sure to be corrected andwe would end up right back in the same spot pointed at the water. He took a deep breath, lowered his head and walked right in. Everyone watching from the sidelines cheered as I praised him and we went in the water at a walk. Our time of 77 seconds was pretty much in the middle for the day as some people pulled it off in 40 seconds, 44, a few in and around the 60's while others took a minute or more and some didn't go through the water at all and would. not. budge.

After it was all over and the last horse had gone through the water, a few of us joined forces at the waters edge and played a bit of follow the leader going through it again and again. This time around, no pressure to perform, no frills and other horses going in in front of him, Kat went in without a problem. We went in the shallow end and out the deep end, even turned around and went into the water IN the deep end a couple of times and no fuss, no muss, pony man was gettin his feet wet.

I am proud of Kat and how he did even after his less than stellar start in the dressage ring. I mean, we can't all be perfect, all the time, every time and since we are both still fairly new to all of this, what more can I expect? He tries, he has fun, I let him express this when I can in hopes he will be a bit more in control later when I need him to be- it's all give and take. Enjoy it while you can.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

ADT #5 part 2

After leaving the dressage arena you head over to the cones course. You would have had plenty of time to look it over on paper and walk the course so everyone should know it, right? Well some of us still got lost. Namely me.

I also did a few things wrong, but when you are out there on course, you don't really have a lot of time to think. As you walk the course you need to look for long straight lines. Give your horse a chance to set up well in advance of going through the cones.  One thing I have learned from riding, blogging and also from watching others, Do not look back. Don't even look down at the cones. If you do- you will screw up and hit them.

In jumping you always look to the center of the jump. It's all in the approach. Ride to your fence and look past it as the horse goes over it. After you land, look for the next jump.  In cones- always look to the center of the two cones. It's all in the approach. Drive to and through the cone, looking past it as you go through it. After you are through the cone, look for the next one. 

Hardy Zantke told me at the CDE in March, in a very stern voice- Always halt to salute the judge. I halted and saluted the cones judge. She said I was only the second person to do that so far. Good first impression there. Link to the maps of cones and hazards.

When the course was set and ready I headed off through the in gate and through cone#1. After going through it, I SHOULD have turned around to the right giving Kat a longer straight shot at #2. What I did? Was ask for a sharp, hairpin left coming back almost across in front of 1, then a sharp hairpin right going back to line up for #2.  We were still clean going through the first two, but that little fudge made for time penalties later.

We were fine through #3 and #4, but as I came through 4 I forgot where 5 was. I looked around, cirling left and still moving, hoping to find it somewhere closeby. If I had circled right, I may have found it sooner and would have actually been better aligned for it too. Instead I now had to go back and figure it out while trying to make up for my error.

Kat was his usual light and responsive self, but I could tell he wanted to just take off and run. I have learned that if I want to have a clean round- a steady pace will give us just that. Letting Kat blast off between cones to cover the distance, even if it is an extended trot, it will be tough to bring him back and line him up for the next cone. We will take it out every time.

We wound our way around and through the rest of the course without any more issues. No getting lost, no crazy ideas of sharp short turns, and no letting Kat just go and crash through stuff. We managed to finish with a clean round and 4 time penalty points for being 14 seconds over the time allowed. By the time we went, nobody had made it under the time allowed and the fastest so far was 5 seconds over.  By the end of the day, only 1 person completed the course within the time allowed with a horse or pony. The mini's- almost all of them did it. They are smaller and can cut corners where the horses and ponies just can't because of their size.

Once we were through the last cone and crossed the finish line, I pushed Kat for a canter. He enjoys doing it and it let's him relax a little so why not. Once over the finish line, we are done and it doesn't count against us.  I let Kat have his head and kissed to him. He was a little hesitant, but finally picked up a swift canter on the left lead. He was enjoying that and when I asked him to stop- we had brakes again! 

And here is a couple of photos from the event.

The first one is during our first 40m circle in the dressage arena.

This one is somewhere on the cones course. Notice #4 behind us, but I can't seem to place us and where we were at that point.

Monday, October 8, 2012

ADT #5

I added a calendar at the side of the blog here, and as you can see, the 5th ADT in the series was this weekend. What a blast! They are similar to the CDE's only it is all in one day instead of spaced out over three. First up you have dressage, followed by cones, then a break for lunch and then it is a free for all on the obstacles.

What cracked me up the most was the end. When everything was said and done, it was almost a race to throw everything in the truck or trailer and SCRAM!  People came off the course and seemed to unhitch in record time, pack it all up, throw it in and bail. We did the same thing because we had no trailer lights. NONE!  Before we had all running lights, all of the time so I had thought it wise to buy a new plug the day before and try to have brake lights and turn signals. Instead what we got was no lights at all and locked up brakes. Fun, fun, fun.  We are not sure if it is the truck, the trailer or both, but something is obviously not wired right.

We got a late start and headed up without issue. I had hoped to get up there early enough for a lesson with Gary, but it wasn't in the cards. I did have time to walk the cones course a couple of times, walk my dressage test and also walk each hazard twice. By then it was pretty dark, we were tired and hungry so we headed into town to the hotel for the night. 

Our order of go was given and we were to be on course in the dressage arena at 9:50, but when I got down there things were running a little behind and it was more like 10 am. No big deal, I had worked Kat on the way down to the arena, but still needed to work him a tad more. There was plenty of time and space to work him so we did some circles in both directions, changes of rein in the center of our figure eights and he was really responding well. I called it good and parked him near a friend of ours Meg with her pony Jose to wait our turn.

We scored a 54.844 overall which isn't bad. I haven't looked at the training pony scores yet to compare, but I do know one of them also scored a 54.0 something. This was her pony's first outing and they did really well. Cute little bay mare and Kat was in love... We did Test 2

Anyways our lowest scores were for our entry and exit. Awesome huh? Enter at A, working trot, halt at X. Simple enough and oh so bad... We entered at A all right- at a canter! With me checking the reins and scolding Kat to bring it back down. I must have corrected it under the allowed '5 strides' because we weren't nailed too harshly, and those awesome stops we have at home? My brakes completely FAILED at X.

I asked for the halt as his nose would have reached X, but by the time we stopped, amid the huge dust cloud- he was off to the left and I believe the cart was sitting over the top of  the markers for X. I had to haul him in with the reins to the point, I pulled myself off the back of the seat, he had his chin to his chest and as I swore and repeated my request for 'whoa', he seemed to fold up into nothing before he finally stopped. The 4 (Insufficient) we were granted for this- I feel it was a gift.  Talk about a first impression!  I rolled my eyes, took a breath before I saluted and went about finishing the test.

We managed to pull off a 5, a 6, several 7's and our extended walk brought in an 8 as well as our trot from B down the left side of the arena, turn at A up the centerline to X. When we picked up the working trot at C again, right in front of the judge, her comment was Prompt trot! All I had to do was say the word and we were off and moving. 

Our halt at X again was better this time. He was still a little off center but he did stop when asked. He stood for the 3-5 seconds, and backed up on his own when I said back up. It wasn't exactly straight, but he did it. For this movement we received the 5 (Marginal).

We walked forward to G to halt and salute. He wobbled and staggered back and forth. Kat stopped, but did not relax or stand still. He figeted and wiggled, squirming all over the place. I asked for whoa about 3 times before giving up, saluting a leaving at the trot.  We were gifted a 3 for that one.  I asked Kat what was up? Because his stops today in the ring were for total shit.  My friends standing by the rail were clapping and laughing as I stuck my tongue out and blew them a raspberry.  I had hoped they had caught that on film, but they didn't and later when I asked them about it we all had a good laugh.

It seems everyone's horse had a different idea of things and a few of them had a bug up their ass about something. The one horse had no gears. He stopped and that was it. His driver really had to get after him to get him to move. Another horse did everything fine up until the last halt, salute. Which is where he spun to the left and trotted out of the arena of his own accord. He had decided he was done. Another horse halted and spun to the left in the blink of an eye. He was facing the judge and suddenly was not. I am just glad at this point it wasn't just us having an 'off day'...  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Changing gears

I had been planning on entering the Grass Ridge CDE at the end of the month. It has only recently been announced that it has been cancelled due to a family emergency. While I am disappointed, I will be all right. I had made my jacket, apron and the hat is still in the works, but it is not all the end of my world. There are other events going on, I just had to decide which one we would be going to instead. No big deal, it happens.  I have a little more time to work on the hat and the driving show in November has a 'turnout' class so we may be doing that instead.

With Kat improving in his long line work and yet still being just a little 'off the mark' when put to the cart, I decided to have my husband work him and see if he found the same issues or if it is me? Sometimes it is nice to have someone else work your horse. It is nice to be able to watch, nicer still to see the horse respond to someone else as well or better and find out where the holes are in your work.  Sometimes it is all YOU, the rider/driver, sometimes it is the horse, but together, you have hit a roadblock and not sure where to go, how to proceed or what to do to get past it.  It happens to all of us at some time or another. If both of you (rider/driver & trainer) are on the same page as far as abilities and method of doing things, it is much easier for the trainer to fix things, then explain to you how to cue or signal the horse for what you want and you can move on from there. 

Sometimes what YOU think is happening- really isn't or at least maybe not to the magnatude you think it is. You may think itis a big deal or issue, while someone watching may not see things "falling apart" to the degree that you the rider perceives it happening.  When going to the left, it seems to me like Kat was 'falling into his turns', dropping his shoulder and giving too much or even diving into them at times... Then when corrected with the outside rein- he counterbends. Counterbends is one thing we got nailed for on one of our dressage tests. If I remembered anything, I will always remember that. Still it seems no matter how light I cue him to keep him straight or straighten him out- I end up with my pony counterbent.

What JR found was that while I thought I needed to work on softening and get the left side more supple, Kat is fine both right and left. What Kat needs now is support. When going to the left I needed to support him with the outside rein. He is driving up into the bridle, he is on the bit and moving forward, he just needs the contact and support with the outside rein a little more now.  He also noted that Kat is moving straight with a slight bend to the inside, but his mane is covering that and keeping me from seeing it.

He also found that Kat is about as soft as he can get and maybe a bit too much in fact. When you take a hold of the reins, he gives to the point of tucking his nose all the way to his chest and holding it there as long as you ask him to. This would be similar to Rolkur, which is NOT what I want to be doing with or rather to my pony. It is similar, but the difference lies in how it is applied.

While I may take a hold of the reins and ask, I do not hold it more than a few seconds before I release.  People doing Rolkur just take a hold and hang on for dear life. This is where you get the photos of horses with blue  tongues hanging out the side of their mouth. By hanging onto the horse like this and still pushing them for forward movement- these people are inadvertantly teaching their horse to run through the bit.

When you apply common sense and logic you get this- The Rolkur rider is telling the horse "It is okay to go forward no matter how hard they pull on the reins, no matter how harsh the bit they use. Pulling back on the reins or even giving the slightest of cues with one rein or the other is to be completely ignored by you, the horse."  Not exactly what any of us want and pretty much exlpains clearly WHY Anky's horses are known to be 'hot' and keep running away with her. What a concept?

In all actuallity it is good that Kat is soft, but too much of a good thing is not always good either. There is that fine line in there of good, but not too good, soft, but not too soft.  When I take a hold of the reins, there is some level of contact to be reached, some form of communication to be coming from me to the horse and some reaction will be achieved.  My husband has told me for some time that we are not as far along as we should be by now. Kat is soft, he is balanced, he is moving forward with ease and his stops are very good. He backs up nicely and goes forward with little encouragement, now I need to start training him. We have been playing long enough, getting the miles, trotting and walking plenty, now it is time to ask for more...