Thursday, May 31, 2012

Five is for Fabulous!

No party, no cake, no special treats...but I did sing Happy Birthday to Riva on Sunday.  She turned the big 5! 

Riva is now 16.1 hands and weighs 1150 lbs.  She has filled out in the shoulders this past year, developed her top line, more muscle in the neck and rump.  Her coat is more brown and white than black and white - every summer she turns more brown like her sire.

Lex and I went out and rode her on Sunday and she was super!  Lex is loving trying out all her new skills on the Diva - she gets to ride several young green horses at her working student position and this has made a world of difference.  Since last summer when we got Riva checked out by the vet and she had our farrier make shoeing changes and when I got her new saddle in February - we have seen a complete change in Riva.  While she still has, and most likely always will have, her opinionated moments...we feel she is enjoying her job and tries to please us. 

Lex started working on a few new things last weekend - she got to ride her twice over the holiday weekend.  She worked on several new movements in canter - canter circle to canter circle, with a simple trot change at X - moving on and off the wall in canter, while not changing leads, and asking for walk-canter transitions.  Lex also helped me with canter and started working with me on 20 meter canter circles.  And she had me try the moving on and off the wall in canter - so fun!

I had a lesson last night and for the first time, was able to canter both leads during my warm up!  Woo hoo :)  I am liking this gait more and more.  I really have to concentrate on weighting my right leg when asking for and maintaining left lead canter.  I have scoliosis - I wore a back brace for 4 years as a teenager - and have trouble staying straight in the saddle (always looks like I am leaning to the left).

So my trainer had me work on serpentines during my lesson - first in walk then trot.  This helped me concentrate on keeping my body straight while asking for change of bend.  Riva did not like this exercise at walk -  while she is getting a nice walk, it takes me keeping on top of it at all times.  When I started concentrating on my body position, keeping Riva staight, asking for the bend - I forget about walking with my body to keep Riva's pace up and she gets wobbly and slow...which seems to appear to Riva that what we are doing is not important so lets just stop or go faster!  (including exiting the dressage arena - twice!)

While this was a difficult lesson for both of us - I think mentally almost more than physically - we both needed that lesson.  Once I moved up to trot the serpentines, it all fell in to place and I was more aware of my body position.  We finished out with canter both ways and my trainer was much happier with my position. 

My grown up, 5 yr old girl:

Yes - we are cantering :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Too Hot to Write...Never Too Hot for Pics!

Wow - summer came early to Indiana this year.  90 degrees right breeze, high humidity...just not right for May.  Give me a sunny, cool, breezy day - about 75 degrees.  That is my ideal summer day.

My youngest, Lex, graduated from high school last night.  Well - she went thru commencement...she was actually finished with school early October.  But she came home to walk in the ceremony - with her class of over 500 - and spend some time with friends, stopping by open houses, and of course, riding her favorite mare.

Few pics from her ride on Riva and graduation:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Real Quick!

Life, esp work, has been too hectic the past few weeks.  But wanted to post a few pics from last weekend.  Alexis was in her first sanctioned dressage show at HHP - Harmony in the Park - on Sat & Sun.  Husband and I were only able to go watch (ie, get put to work!) on Sunday.  Lex showed Emerald - one of the horses in training at her employer's facility.  Emerald is a 5 yr old Draft cross that Lex has been riding since she started her working student position in October.

They showed Training Level Test 3 - twice on Sat and one on Sun.  She had qualifying scores, all 3 rides, and will compete at Regionals in October - yeah!

Brag time - Lex took Junior High Point award on Saturday, High Point award for Training Level on Saturday, and Reserve High Point for Training Level on Sunday.  She took home two huge ribbons, an engraved plate, and 2 blues and 1 red.  Very proud of her!  Of course, Emerald's owner was over the moon with the scores :)

Saturday only ribbons for the barn

Monday, May 14, 2012

A True Schooling Show

First off, I have not posted for awhile...but I still read everyone else's blogs.  Since my last post, I have continued to work on steady contact, forward, and bend.  I have worked canter some and I am becoming much more secure in this gait.  I have had two lessons with my trainer and a few lessons with my daughter.

My last two lessons with my trainer have left me discouraged and with a feeling that dressage is the wrong sport for me.  I had a bit of a breakdown last week while riding and my husband graciously reminded me of a few things that reestablished my self confidence.

On Saturday, Riva and I went to our third schooling show for this year.  I don't think I truly understood the meaning or purpose of a schooling show until this weekend.  My test score was not my highest and I received my first '2' in a movement...but what I took away from this show beats not taking home a ribbon.

I made the choice to attend this particular show because Lex was showing one of her trainers' client's horses.  Several women from her trainer's barn were attending and showing.  Great group of women...and they all obviously think very highly of my daughter.  Always good to hear that your daughter is a hard worker & a gem!

My test time was not until 2:41 pm on Saturday.  We arrived early enough on Friday evening to school in both indoor warm-up arenas and the outdoor test arena.  Lex rode her first and them coached me thru my ride.

On Saturday morning, I took Riva for a hand walk around the property and then got on to school about 9:30 am.  I had a good ride on her in both indoor warm up areas and was walking out back to the barn when my husband suggested taking her in the jump warm up area.  My daughter's trainer, 'J', came over to the fence to talk with my husband.  This was her first time seeing Riva.  I was struggling a bit with Riva in the jump warm up - large open field...fairly tall grass...eventing horses warming up around us, etc.   'J' started giving me some instructions from the fence - which lead to her coming in to the warm up for an impromptu schooling session for Riva & I.

J instructed me on walk, trot, walk, halt circles with contact.  She was very clear and concise with her coaching - I understood what she was telling me and it worked.  I have heard the term 'don't change the question' many times before but never had it explained to me.  She used this term the most at halt - Riva was distracted and fussing...throwing her head, pawing, wanted to move and not stand at halt.  J said just hold - keep holding until she gives - don't change the question because you are not getting the correct answer. 

J also coached me on leg yielding on the circle to get bend.  My trainer has been working on this with me in lesson - but it was not clicking.  With J - I got it and Riva was bending around my leg and moving away from it. 

She then sent me back out around the field on my own - with instructions to trot big with contact, throw in walks without giving away the contact, and halts with contact.  And it was great!  Riva was powering up and down that field with confidence!

I got back on Riva about 40 minutes before my test.  I again schooled her in both indoor arenas briefly before heading out to the grass dressage warm up.  J was out coaching some of her students that were also entered in the same test as me.  She included me in her instructing session - reminding me to keep Riva moving forward with energy and maintain the contact - leg yielding in the corners - to throw in lots of transitions.  I felt very prepared when Lex told me it was time for my test.

Riva trotted right in to the dressage arena.  We had to halt and wait for the previous competitor to finish talking with the judge.  Once she walked off, I went to greet the judge and give my name and number.  We trotted off to wait for the bell to begin.  So...the judge was taking her time finishing  up the previous testers comments and I felt like to waited an eternity for that bell.

Let's just say I wish the warm up was our test.  I turned Riva up the center line to halt at X - and she did not want to stop.  I finally got a semi halt - way off center and forward of X and it did not get better from there.  Although, our free walk was really good and I got a '7' for that move.  Riva just got more sluggish as the test went...she just seemed to run out of steam.

Lex said her trainer, J, commented to her as I was walking out of the test arena, "that one has a time limit, now doesn't she!'  While Riva's endurance, and mine, has increased dramatically this year, I believe it was too much for her.  Throw in that the horses were switched to night turn out a week ago and maybe that takes adjusting to.  Whatever the reason for Riva losing steam, I did not waste much time blaming myself for a less than stellar score.  What I took away from the schooling with J made this show a success in my mind.