Equivest Show and More

Y’all.

Tunder5
halt, salute, stare at judge

My God? He’s amazing.

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Every time I enter a dressage show I feel vaguely guilty about spending time and money on something that isn’t expressly helping other people. I know, intellectually, that God wouldn’t have sent me Faith, or made my scruffy homebred really quite talented, if He wanted me to stop. I know I gave it to Him. But knowing something in your head and having faith in it in your soul isn’t always the same thing.

But these past few days have been one step deeper into faith.

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The dream team set off: Superdad, Wonderbird and the Dragon, at a leisurely hour on Sunday morning (things I love about dressage). We were there in good time and I plopped Arwen’s tack on and off we went. I was expecting a dragon, but she was really, really good. Relaxed and quiet from the word go, but forward and enthusiastic. Our warmup was very relaxed, but as mediocre as usual. I was focusing hard on trying to develop an actual medium trot instead of a piggy little run, and she was focusing hard on bucking through the counter canter at one point, but then we were off and I was cautiously optimistic.

Our first halt felt OK, it was steady, square and on the bit, but it was 5.5 for quarters to left. The serpentine XA felt good as well for 6.5, which is about as good as we get. I’ve been working hard on the leg-yield and FX felt good – and was good, for 6.0 – but it all came to bits XM and I tried to sort it out but couldn’t really so that was a 5.0: “too much sideways”. At that point I started to realise that Arwen, while not exhausted, was slightly tired. After so many years of having her so, so fit, I’ve forgotten how flat she can be when she’s not jumping out of her skin. Arwen has to be hot to be her best, and she didn’t have the oomph.

Still, she didn’t feel at all reluctant, just a little tired, so I felt it was OK to finish the test and we soldiered on. We picked up a few more 6.0s for the halt and rein back (“steps not quite clear”) and the two turns on the haunches (“little too hurried”) – both better than before. The extended walk was 6.0 too, “lacking purpose”. She has a fabulous walk, so I blame that on being a little flat, too. And then at A she struck off on the wrong leg for a well-deserved 4.0. Really, Arwen? A wrong lead, in an Elementary test? But once again, she never, ever does that at home. Her brain was tired.

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like I say. Superdad.

We got it together though for our best marks of the test; 7.0 for both the 10m canter circle and – get this – the simple change! I suppose we can cross “survive the simple changes” off our goals list. The counter canter was back to 6.0 for lacking engagement, and then the medium was a 4.5. I thought it was OK, but this judge evidently laid great emphasis on correct extensions/mediums, so that’s fair.  Our circle at R was down to a 5.0 (“more jump”) and then the next change she picked up the wrong leg again, for 4.0. The counter canter was another 5.0 with “more jump”, and then the medium trot, obviosuly, was a 4.0. I didn’t let her hurry this time, but we didn’t really do much medium-ing, so yeah. The halt was fine except she fussed and made herself extra-square at the last moment, earning a 6.0, “not quite steady”.

The final mark was 54.1%. I do wish we’d gotten 55% and that final grading point, but it was fair, and I loved the judge’s comments. He asked for more jump, more engagement, noting that she was a little flat and lost unnecessary marks (two incorrect strike-offs – ya think?). But he also said “Rider tried hard on an obedient horse”, which I felt was true and complimentary.

Ultimately I think she could have done better and will once she is fitter. I think she did go better in the double, especially in her changes and transitions and rein back (we almost got our goal of more than 6.0 for the rein back). I also think she will never be competitive at Elementary because I was twelve years old and entirely clueless when I started riding her, with practically no guidance. She’s done wonders considering the hand she’s been dealt, and I remember thinking as we walked out of the arena that this horse would run through fire for me. I’ve given her second-rate training and she has given me her heart, and that’s what makes it worth it despite the occasional disaster.

Thunder6
sassy? Nope. A fly.

Moving onto Thunder, we decided for my dad to stand by the warmup and the show arena with Arwen this time. I wanted to give Thun the best possible chance at a good test considering it was a level up and I wanted to build his confidence with the new movements, and I knew Arwen would be impossible alone anyway, so it was just easier.

Warming up, I knew immediately he was going well. He was relaxed and forward, going down into my hand instead of having to be held at all, and there was a suppleness in his back that makes me excited. As we went on, I noticed that a rider who had also ridden in the Elementary had just come charging into the warmup, looking a bit flustered. She was number 113 and we were number 114, but had already been warming up for a little while. I had done my basic warmup – large, lengthenings, a stretchy circle, some transitions and circles and lengthenings in canter – and was just about to start riding my test movements to finish the warmup when I heard the announcer calling number 113, who hadn’t even cantered yet.

“Can’t you go?” she asked me.

It was a knee-jerk reaction. “No, sorry. I’m not quite ready.”

I headed off, leaving flustered lady to her warmup, but something didn’t feel good in my soul. I paused, and I reluctantly listened to that still small voice. I really wanted a good mark. I really believed Thunder would go better if I could just have another ten minutes. But I knew what Jesus would do, and we dance for Him.

“It’s OK!” I yelled, inelegantly booting poor old Thun across the warmup. “We’re going!”

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I don’t write this to boast, because what’s one tiny kindness compared to the ocean of my sin, or to the extravagance of the Love that went to the cross for it? I write it because I want to tell you all how big my God is. I felt His pleasure, and we went in and I rode the best test of my entire life. And my horse was right there with me, doing his very best.

The first centreline and halt was 7.5; he was a little unbalanced, but stepped forward to a square halt. Then our turns at C and B and walk/trot transition at X was an 8.5. Yup. Comment “obedient”. So he is; I wish I was as obedient to the call of my Master as that good-hearted horse is to the touch of my hand. The serpentine was a 7, comment “needs to show more change of bend in body; accurate”. We had a 6 for the stretchy trot, a better mark than before; he maintained his rhythm and did actually offer a tiny stretch for the first time ever in the show ring, so I was happy. His stretchy trot is getting good at home – it’s just a matter of time before he relaxes in the ring.

We were back to a 7.5 for the free walk and a 7 for the first transition and canter circle. Our lengthening wasn’t terribly good, getting a 6 with comment “could be more balanced”. He was on his forehand and stayed there for the transition at A. I panicked about the lengthening and kicked him, so he gave half a canter step and I took a few strides to sort myself out and get a bit of lengthening, so that was a 6: “could show more balance at A and more ground cover”.

The canter transition at C and circle at B was a 7, asking for more uphill and jump. And our last halt was an 8. The final mark was 72.5%. You could say I was quite happy with that.

Thunder1
so so so much better through the neck

The second test started with a 7 for the centreline (“straight; halt could be more balanced”) and for the rein change with half circle (“could show more bend through body”). I fluffed the second rein change with half circle for a 6 (“not quite to X, could show more bend through body”). By this point my brain was also getting kinda tired – I had vowed to focus this time without being nervous, and I did, but it was starting to take a little strain. Our lengthening once again started with a tranter step and got a 6.0, comment “needs to show more push from behind to cover more ground”. And then we had our free walk. And then we got our first 9.0.

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Not even kidding. It was fantastic.

The canter transition at M that I had been dreading was an 8.0, “obedient”, and the 15m circle was a 7.5, “could be more uphill”. I got the geometry right this time, though. The KXM rein change with a trot at X and canter at M was a 7.0, again asking for more uphill, but it was better than our downwards from canter to trot have been. The next 15m circle was another 7.5, the canter lengthening another 6.0. By the half circle onto the centreline, I was cooked. I sort of pulled him around any old how and we fell in a heap for 6.5.

Still, it was 71.8%, with super collectives: 7.0 for paces, 7.5 for impulsion (on Mr. Lazybones nonetheless), 7.0 for submission, 8.0 for rider position and aids. I have no idea where he placed because two tired Hydes really wanted to go home, so I just asked for my tests and they were nice enough to give me a couple of placed ribbons (cheers, Equivest!). “What a super horse,” the judge wrote. “Well ridden.” I was so chuffed.

But the story doesn’t end there. Oh no! There were a few more miracles in store for us. As we were waiting for my test and lunch, the owner of a top Friesian stud in our area beckoned me over.

“Who teaches you?” he enquired.

“I jump with Coach K,” I said, “but I don’t really get dressage lessons.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, I can see that.”

I was just about to feel hurt when he offered for me to come over and join his riders in a lesson with their Very Big Name Trainer. Around this time Very Big Name Trainer popped up (I almost wet myself) and announced that this was a good idea and I could even get a very good price “if you do your homework”. I vowed to do my homework, and the next thing I know, this morning Thunder and I found ourselves in the middle of the very fancy arena at very fancy Friesian place with Very Big Name Trainer – OK, fine, I’ll call him Coach J – yelling at us.

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I originally wanted to cry because I thought we’d never get good lessons ever again except once a year with Coach S when she fits his saddle, and here all of a sudden we were getting lessons from Coach J and cheaply and I was a little overwhelmed by what God is doing for us. But within the first two minutes I was way too busy to feel anything very much.

Despite seeing mirrors for the first time in his life, Thunny was perfect. We dragged Jamaica along to babysit but Jamaica chilled in the fancy stable and Thunder didn’t miss him at all – he didn’t even whinny once. And Coach J totally failed to hate my fabulous purple bandages. He did, however, roundly kick our behinds.

We didn’t actually do anything that hard, except that we had to do everything perfectly so it was all ridiculously hard. Once Thunny had walked around to have a look at everything and been asked to go long and low and a bit deep to stretch his back, we did a tiny little serpentine down the long side. And then we did a square with turns on the forehand that almost killed us, and then we trotted a 15m circle. That was it. My brain is overflowing with new stuff, and also I am very uncoordinated.

Basically:

  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • When Thunder wants to be looky, put him in shoulder-fore, flexing him away from the scary thing. This worked well for him because he isn’t really that scared, and being given a job and asked to soften helps him relax.
  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • Tiny, tiny turns to help him bend through the body more (seeing a recurring theme yet?). They don’t have to be perfectly balanced, but 5m or smaller circles/serpentines in walk to help him release his back.
  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • On small turns, inside hand to my belly button, not to my knee, to lift his shoulder.
  • Inside leg to outside rein.
  • Absolutely no seesawing on the bit; only solid contact, or small sponges within the contact. I say this to my kids about four thousand times every afternoon. I can’t believe I actually still do it myself. Urgh.
  • INSIDE LEG TO OUTSIDE REIN.
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coach J: srsly girl let go of your inside rein already

At this point Coach J had had enough of yelling at me about my inside rein and started the turn on the forehand exercise. We walked a little square, with a quarter turn on the forehand at each end. The catch? No inside rein. NONE. He wanted it hanging, to show me that I don’t need to pull it the whole time. It was at this point that my brain started to fry. It’s so automatic to hang on that inside rein – poor Coach J shouted about it like a million times. Eventually we were doing shoulder-in to turn on the forehand to shoulder-in to turn on the forehand with the inside rein dangling completely loose. Well, most of the time. Except when I was panicking and Coach J had to start all over again.

We moved on then to trotting a 15m circle, spiralling it in and out now and then, with no inside rein – but with bend and connection. It was so hard, but it so worked. Thunder was super willing – as soon as he understood, he obeyed. My inside hand, less so. It’s amazing how one’s own body parts can be less obedient than the half-ton prey animal that is my dance partner.

With that, we were done, and given loads of homework, and sent off ridiculously excited. Thunder has done so well all by himself, with only one lesson ever. Imagine what he can do with the help we have now. We might even do the bigger levels someday; Coach J seemed to think we could do more than EM. I would love so much to even do EM!

Thanks to our beloved King, Whose mighty plan prevails. I am so excited to see where my God is going with this. No detail is too small for Him. I have long since stopped dreaming: I have found that He dreams much, much bigger than I ever could.

Thank You, Abba. Glory to the King.

Thunder2
this salute is only for One ❤

 

CHG Leg 7

The last leg of the CHG Series was two days before Thunder’s seventh birthday.

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I had to leave Arwen at home because she was still unfit and not quite sound after a bit of a dodgy trim, so it was Thunny and Rene for it. (Who came second in their Prelim 4 with K, a hard-earned place. I’m so proud of them).

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we’re the one with the giant cross on the horse’s face and the other one always wins, except that one time that we did

I decided to ask Thunder to be a bit grown up today and didn’t have K bring Rene over so that he could have a friend while he was warming up. And he responded by being the quietest and calmest he’s been in the warmup. He had a look around when we walked around the first time and then that was it. Straight to work.

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I also have inordinate amounts of media for once, so prepare to be bombarded. Here he looks like seventeen hands until you realise I’m a hobbit.

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My soul does dressage but let’s be real, my seat still thinks it’s eventing. Sigh. Maybe, just maybe the horse is tight in his neck because my hands are bracing? Ya think?

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He had some truly superb moments in the warmup, though. As usual for a show, he was a little stiff and tense though his back and neck. Not usual for a show, he was really, really behind my leg. I wasn’t really concentrating on it because usually at shows I’m all panicking about if any of my whoa and turn buttons still work, so before I knew it, he was BADLY behind my leg and I was nagging madly. Nagging, for the record, does not and never will work on this horse.

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His tail is so dressage-y. I love it. The judge made a comment about our amazing earmuffs (more on them later!) and then off we went. The trot work was OK, a little behind my leg but OK. The free walk kind of, well, wasn’t. He can free walk for an 8 (and has in the past) but as soon as he’s slightly tense, distracted, or (you guessed it) behind the leg it becomes a bit of a mess. This judge has a thing about free walk so we got  5.5 for it. Ouch.

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In this photo he looks really offended because when I asked for my A-F corner canter left he sort of speeded up his trot and fell on the forehand. I asked again just after F and he ignored me, and then I decided the movement was a disaster anyway so I took the whip behind my leg and gave him a big hiding. He does not need to learn that I won’t hit him for blatant disobedience in the show ring. To be fair, he was a little distracted, and I could have prepared him better, but when I ask for canter he’d better canter. Of course then he struck off on the wrong leg and wobbled all the way off the track, but we sorted it out and managed to put in a circle. It was too late, though, and landed us a well-deserved 4 for that movement.

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I felt it coming down around my ears a bit at that point, but I knew that it was one bad moment in what had so far otherwise been a solid test, so we scraped it together and earned a string of 7s for the rest of our trot and canter work, barring a 5 for the stretchy trot (he barely does it at home – definitely not at shows). That was still good enough for 66%, getting us third place. So it was nice to get a ribbon even if we’d had a little disaster in there.

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As we headed out of the Prelim 3 arena, the rider before us was only just going in for Prelim 4, so I walked him up and down the path doing walk-halt-walk until he was in front of my leg. I can get him really nicely in front of my leg now, but I have to be very, very diligent about keeping my leg OFF until I actually want something. Then the deal is that I give a tiny squeeze and he must respond. He got one tap with the whip and then realised I had stopped nagging, so then we were back on the same page and went in for Prelim 4 feeling quite chirpy.

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Evidently I was still not terribly focused, however. Nothing was truly horrible at first, but nothing was that brilliant throughout the test, either; 6.0s and 6.5s except for a 7 for our final halt and centreline (that was quite nice). The serpentines had the comment “show more bend”, which was disappointing because I know I can get a really nice serpentine from him, he likes the movement and is good at it. I actually really like this test for him but I think I just wasn’t really there for him at that point. I also forgot the test halfway through the canter work and got the -2 there with comment “broke” even though he didn’t break, I asked him to trot. Poor chap.

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He also was a tiny bit hesitant going to canter left again, so he got a tap and we managed to get it accurately this time but still lost some marks for the loss of rhythm and balance. Also, almost every movement had the comment “tight neck” and I can really see it in this photo. He’s on the bit, he’s just not connected really, short in the neck, tight in the throat and breaking in the third. He often gets this comment at shows and I’d like to get photos at home again and see if it’s at shows or always. I do feel like he wants to go above the bit at shows and it looks like I respond by jamming my hand down and pulling, which definitely doesn’t help.

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I feel like getting his neck long is the key to fixing the other comments the judges keep giving us, like nailing us on the collectives for suppleness of the back and asking for more bend. Anyway, we moved on to his lengthening, where I panicked a little and kicked him and he shot off. It was a 6.0 with comment “hurried” and I know he can do better, so I’m actually quite OK with the mark. If I ride it properly I think it could be a 7 already, which is huge for me because I’ve struggled with lengthenings for ever.

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hands!!

At the end of the day it was good enough for 63.8% and 4th. And honestly, between God and Thunny, I’m being taken to a completely new place with shows. At the beginning of the year that minor disaster in Prelim 3 would have brought my world crashing down for a few days and opened the door for major self-doubt and anxiety. But it just wasn’t a big deal. I thought, “Well, that was a disaster” and carried on. I have so much more confidence on this horse. I have so much more confidence and enjoyment since I gave it to God. I look forward to shows instead of facing them with fear and dread; I enjoy them instead of enduring them and whatever place I get, I can hug my horse afterwards because he’s so amazing and God is amazing and I love dressage. I take myself so much less seriously, and thus can compete so much more seriously because I breathe in the sport and breathe out the negativity.

It’s so hard to be anxious, stressed, doubtful, and negative when with every stride I feel this overwhelming gratitude and wonder at the Amazing Grace that saved my soul, let alone put me on the back of a horse with a heart as big as a mountain.

God is with us! Glory to the King.

Thunder3
my boy ❤

 

CHG Leg 5 (finally)

We set off to Fairfields with three bays and one dragon. The dragon was plaited, which was a good thing because we were very late. I had enough time to warm up a dressage horse; I did not have enough time to tame a dragon, and thus resigned myself to riding Elementary 1 and 2 on a feral dragon.

However, when we unloaded Arwen, she took a little look around and then went to sleep. I was able to toss on her tack, hop on and warm up a sane and well-behaved animal that actually felt like it had been ridden before.

We had fun. Our warmup was just perfect, complete with four good simple changes in a row, and I was walking her around on the buckle when the steward called us.

In the tests themselves, she felt good but not quite like she is at home; not tense, just a bit scattered and distracted. I think it’s a result of just not competing as much as we always used to. She has never been the quietest and most at ease at shows – always trustworthy, and always does her job, but there is often a bit of dragonishness lurking.

This time, it manifested in a couple of silly mistakes. Our first change was an unmitigated disaster – she trotted down, trotted hollowly up into a disunited canter, flailed around a bit, trotted a step to fix it, and then plopped forth, earning a well-deserved 4. Her second change was very solid for a 6 and the rest of the test was smoother and more consistent. We even got the halt immobility for 5 seconds without any trouble. Mostly sixes and a few 6.5s earned us 62%, our second time breaking 60% at graded elementary.

The second test was judged by a lady who is always very, very strict, so I was not expecting any miracles. But our shoulder-ins were 6 to the left and 6.5 to the right, both of which had been under 6 with the same judge, with comment “good position”. And both our simple changes were tense and messy. She jogged through one, then stopped in the other and trotted up, so those were 5.5s. Still, the trot work was good enough for 60%, making it our first time getting over 60 for both tests at a graded show. And 60 from this judge is not to be sniffed at – not for us, anyway.

I’ve long since made peace with the fact that we are never going to be brilliant at Elementary. In fact, Arwen will probably not even be brilliant at Prelim. The basics are mediocre, so nothing can be really good. But I’m also over obsessing about it because to be fair I produced her myself with a total of maybe four dressage lessons together in our entire career. I have no experience at the level and I’m riding based off trial and error, guessing at how to improve things, guessing at how to train the new movements, reading stuff on the Internet and trying to make that make sense. And I think considering that, Arwen tries very hard, and has done more than most horses probably could.

She’s the best dragon and a gift straight from God. ❤

We had like 3 hours to wait before Thunder’s turn, so K, Dad and I put the horses in stables and plaited leisurely. At this point I must confess that Fairfields has become my second favourite venue ever (after Winstead because I love Winstead). There are many reasons why:

  1. Stables. And they weren’t even expensive.
  2. The people are SO friendly and helpful.
  3. It has a good vibe. I feel at ease there, and as a rule, so do the horses. The judges seem to feel it and be friendlier, too.
  4. It is super super close – 35 minutes’ drive.
  5. Did I mention everyone is nice?

K and I quickly scrubbed our horses’ socks and then hopped on and headed to the warmup. Regrettably we had ended up with only one horse going between Thunder and Renè, but we figured we could make it; I just had to switch my bridle number onto Renè, give K my whip (shoestring budget = everyone shares everything), and call her test.

Thunder was both better and worse than he’d been at Weltmeyer. He never spooked or bucked or bolted, but he screamed. all. the. time. Separation anxiety is strong with this one. It was annoying, I’ll be honest, but as always he never, ever quit on me. He stayed obedient, he stayed willing, he even stayed on the bit even when he was screaming. I resigned myself to poor scores, but I was grateful for how hard he was trying for me despite it all.

He called through the whole first test, but he did everything I asked almost as nicely as he does at home. Because he was tense he got really tight and short in his neck – the Friesian was showing a bit – but didn’t go against my hand, so the frame was present but not supple. We held it together and the worst he did was move during the halt.

He was much more relaxed when we headed into the second test, albeit wanting to get stiff laterally now and then because a horse in the field nearby decided it was going to shriek back at him (thanks for nothing, horse). He was still calmer, so I expected a better test and came optimistically down centreline. And then I looked up at the other arena, and it all came to bits. K was about to go in – sans number, whip, and caller.

It turns out the horse that was meant to go between us didn’t show up and K didn’t know she was allowed to wait for her ride time. Thank God, a nice random person called her test (what did I say about Fairfields again?) and they were fine but my world came crashing down. I felt terrible letting the poor kid down and my whole test all I could think was I should have given her the whip. Poor Thun basically had to do everything by himself, with me reduced to kick or pull. He managed, though, and we finished the test, and I got off almost in tears and abandoned the poor soul with Dad to sprint over to K. Who was utterly unperturbed because caller and whip or no, Renè had just pulled out the best test of their career so far for 61.9%. Guess I’m not so essential, after all.

Their second test was going so well until Renè broke in the second canter set, then picked up the wrong lead, then broke again. That cost them, but they still got 58% from strict judge lady, so that’s fine.

It was good enough for third place in test 1, their first real placing in dressage, hard-earned and well-deserved.

don’t judge the cream; shoestring, remember?

To my great shock, Thunder was second in both. He had 71% for his first test and 64 point something for the second, getting hammered with a couple of 5s for the final stretchy circle (it didn’t) and the halt (he moved). Those are both just a matter of show nerves, and I’m so happy that he could pull out those placings in good company even when he was tense. Thank you Thunny dude, I owe you one.

We were beaten by coach K’s mom, who also won the Elementary and has several decades more experience. She got like 76% so that was fine by me.

I actually can’t believe how brilliant our floofy homebred beast has turned out to be. He exceeded all my expectations and that’s saying something. This was a school pony for more than a year. I wish I’d given him a chance earlier, but I’m grateful now that he gets his time to shine. ❤

Last of the day was Trooper, three hours later. I’ll be honest, once I got on him, I was kind of tired and over it, but he was amazing. Just like he is at home. He napped toward the gate a couple of times, but otherwise warmed up beautifully.

We doddled down centreline and I was thinking I might stay and get my test after all because he really felt good. All was peachy, we even had bend on our circle, and then suddenly as we headed into the F-A corner, the steering broke. We fetched up just outside the arena at F. He didn’t jump, he didn’t duck, he just sort of kept on going when turning was supposed to happen.

I may have squeaked in horror. The crowd (who loved him) may have laughed. But the bell didn’t ring, so I put him back in the arena and went on. He promptly napped out at K, almost falling onto V, but then got a bit of a hiding and proceeded to finish his test in fine style.

Turns out the border of the arena was less than 25cm high, so even though he put all four feet out, it was a 0 instead of an elimination. The rest of it was good, but by that point I was ready to ride him up the ramp and home without bothering to get off, so I have no idea what he scored.

I’m still happy with him, though, because flopping out of the arena is really not the worst thing a four-year-old with practically no training can do at its first show.

Further Trooper news is that Lisna has been sold to a lovely forever home as a hack, so we have decided to keep him and give him to E. He is much better suited to her than Lisna was and they look amazing together. So I’ll ride him at the next show and then hand him over.

And, as another win, I finally rode all five tests from memory without making any mistakes. Which is always good.

So excited for what God has done, is doing, and will do. Glory to the King.

SANESA Q3

Well, firstly, this show was amazing. I’m so proud of how hard my students all tried, and their hard work and talent is paying off. The ponies were super and God was with us, as always. Even the venue, which I was ranting about last time, really stepped up its game and I was suitably impressed. It ran really well for all concerned. We had our hiccups, but we all went home safe, sound and satisfied.

Saturday kicked off the qualifier with all the little primary school riders, who were brilliant. Liana and her child had two main goals: remember the course, and don’t fall off. Both were achieved with resounding success even though the poor child’s last practice before the show on Friday night included a nosedive in front of a fence. Kids are made of rubber, so this kid just bounced right back and they jumped great. Liana got quite hot in her first class (50cm showjumping) so the kid showed huge maturity in pulling her out and making a circle. They got penalties for that, but it definitely kept things safe and under control, for which they were rewarded with a big fat blue ribbon in their ideal time class.

They also showed a great improvement in their Prix Caprilli scores, which neither of them like very much, but it’s good for both of their training so I’m chuffed.

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Meanwhile, having to cope largely by herself as I ran from calling a test to coaching Liana’s kid to dragging Lulu about on the lead rein, Vastrap and his kid carried on happily by themselves. I only managed to watch one of their classes (listening to the announcer in their other class while I was trotting around the dressage myself on Midas), but I’m glad I did because it was brilliant. VT showed no ill effects after his tying-up episode, demonstrated by a resounding second place in their competitive A2 speed class. They were fourth in the competition round and as happy as piggies in poo. This combination has the necessary qualifiers to go to Gauteng Finals, so that’s pretty awesome.

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Our next little primary school rider was the littlest of all of them, a truly adorable five-year-old riding at her first show. She was doing POG equitation on the lead rein, accompanied by myself and dear old Lullaby. Dear old Lullaby absolutely LAUNCHED herself over the first ground pole, but the kid sat it out just fine and even remembered her little course for third in her 9-and-under class of 11 kids. Pretty impressive. Lulu was super well behaved apart from that, um, little moment, so hopefully there will be a whole horde of kiddos attending the next one with their equine teacher.

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melting the judge’s bones with cuteness

In light of the little kids’ successes, the high school kids had a lot to live up to, but they absolutely knocked it out of the park. K and Thunder had dressage on Saturday and equitation on Sunday. Thunny was much less tense than normal and got lots of “obedient” comments in Prelim 3 and 4, but regrettably they got a little lost with their canter leads and the 6’s and 7’s of their walk/trot work got disappointed by the 4.5’s and 5’s of their canter work. It was still good enough for fourth place. Their equitation also got them a placing with some lovely comments in a very competitive class.

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no touchy trotting poles

Zorro started his show by flinging Z-kid’s family’s gardener-cum-groom into the air (according to eyewitness; I’m not sure how that happened), dislocating the poor man’s thumb rather painfully in the process. I patched him up (perhaps a little over-enthusiastically) and sent him off to hospital, but at least Zorro appeared to have used up all his naughty for the day. He and Z-kid headed into their working hunter without me, while I was calling K’s tests, so I was sweating for them as I heard the announcer call them in over my shouting, but it was totally unnecessary. Zorro wiggled down to the first fence and Z-kid had had enough of his nonsense and gave him a hiding he won’t forget. He didn’t offer up a single wiggle for the rest of the show, getting first in the working hunter, third in the competition, and two poles down in the A2 speed (he took the “speed” part rather seriously). This combination just goes from strength to strength. The poor groom was very stoical about it all.

Pennie and G also started their qualifier with working hunter, and proceeded to have another show without any stops at all. When Pennie doesn’t stop, she places. This little mare is just the best showjumper I know. She had second place in the working hunter, won both her showjumping classes at 90cm by absolute streets, and came second in equitation despite an unlucky pole. They’ll also probably get to Finals, so far for both WH and EQ.

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That leaves my crew, who were also impressive. Midas started my personal weekend off with a bang when, with a total of three and a half minutes’ warmup (part of which was spent spooking at a horse in a nearby field that chose that moment to completely lose its snot), he scored first 60.8% in Prelim 3 and then 68.4% in Prelim 4. It’s a personal best for the both of us, and considering the poor little chap was quite stressed out at the time, I’m rather chuffed.

He continued to be quite wonderful for his showjumping, winning both 60cm classes in fine style. Admittedly this was not very hard considering his competition consisted of one other rider and Lancey, but he still went clear and quiet in the ideal time and clear and quick in the A2 speed. I made him take some very tight turns in the speed, more as an educational exercise than anything else, and apparently tight turns ain’t no thing if you’re 13.1.

Lancey jumped both 60cm classes as well; I entered 60 as a precautionary measure since I thought the buzz that is SANESA might scramble his little Arabian brain, but I needn’t have worried. He came out totally ready to do his job and did it well over the first eight fences of the first class. Then both of us had a lapse of concentration, took the pole at number nine, climbed through 10A and ran out at 10B. I brought him back over 10B by itself like a newb so we had the technical elimination but that’s what happens when you didn’t get a competitive education.

His second class, though, was wonderful. We both focused and he put in his first totally clear round in a long time, not even breathing on a single pole and brave to every last fence, so that ended us on a high note.

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this picture makes me so happy

Then came the 80cm, which looks ridiculously small in this picture for some reason, and I was more or less OK until Jamaica landed from the oxer in the warmup and then took off like a shot. He made it all the way outside the arena and through a bunch of unwitting spectators (none were harmed in the making of this episode of Morning Star Madness) before I managed to stop him. I brought him back and popped him over it again and he was OK, so I thought it was a once-off right up until we were actually in the arena and our bell had gone. I asked for canter and I got several rather melodramatic handstands instead.

The last time this thing bucked with a rider, bones were broken. I hung on for dear life, or didn’t since that never seems to work, instead choosing to try and pull his head up for dear life. Mercifully, that did work. He stopped, I stopped, I stared at the judge in panic and in that wobbly moment I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to putting my hand up and retiring. I’m still not really sure why I didn’t. Instead we cantered another circle and headed for the next jump, reciting. “The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want.” The first two were OK. He landed from number three and took off again down the related distance to number four; I pulled him off it and circled desperately because I was fairly convinced I was going to die. We scraped over that, and then we had something like control for a while again, although I made it all the way through Psalm 23 (rather loudly over the combination) by number ten. Then I panicked because I had run out of psalm, but luckily Jamaica had run out of steam and we made it. It may just have been the most terrifying showjumping class I’ve ever ridden, but on the plus side, the height was not the problem. Also, stopping was never in the equation. He jumped everything without any question. It was all the galloping and bucking in between that worried me.

I sort of schooled him around for a bit before the second class and again strongly considered scratching from it, but again didn’t. It took every shred of guts I had, and even then it was only by the grace of God that we walked back into the arena, but by then he’d gotten a very solid one-rein stop which had made him rethink his life choices and settled down from whatever had worried him so much, so he was himself again. Looking at the pictures later, I realised I buried that poor animal to every single fence and he patiently jumped every single fence carefully and quietly. This is why I lease this beast. He’s rather funny-looking and has the odd psychotic break, but at the end of the day he jumps the first time every time and I can cope with his drama. He’s the one thing that my beloved Magic just isn’t – resilient to rider error. I can mess up as much as I please and he’ll still jump.

He jumped clear, which dismayed me a little because it meant I had to go back in and do it all over again for the jump-off. By this point, Jamaica was completely chilled and he was holding my hand again. The other rider had a very quick mare and they were good and I was still kinda panicking so any form of being competitive wasn’t in the equation at all. Then, rather unluckily, the other mare crashed straight through the first fence and I figured I may as well try since I had hopefully used up my near-death experiences for the day. (Did I mention how nerves exaggerate a situation?) So he popped around clear and slightly faster than slug-esque, and we got a ribbon. Which was nice.

It was, in many ways, a tough qualifier for all of us and it challenged all of our patience and courage. It was our busiest yet, but our riders absolutely rose to face every giant that met them and they won.

Blessed to be where I am, and most undeservedly so. Glory to the King.

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2016 Goals: Nell

Oh, Nell. It’s just kind of unfair to have a horse like Nell in your life.

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You sit down to look at her goals and sort of go, “Well…” because this horse is schooling and showing higher level Novice, and she just turned five. For the record, in our country, that’s kind of on track for a top level prospect. It’s the level required of five-year-olds in our young horse performance series… so I entered it.

Honestly when I got the schedule I kind of regretted the idea (apparently big names also like young horse series, like WEG kind of big names) but hey, the mare can do the test – has done the test at shows multiple times – so why not? She will be one little grey Nooitie in a whole class of Friesians and Warmbloods, she’ll at least draw some attention to the breed.

Nell’s goals are also a little wobbly because she’s not mine. Her owner has every right to decide at the end of the year that she has done quite well enough, and then take her back and breed glorious little dressage Nooities. Still, if it’s his will (and God’s will) the judges who’ve seen the horse believe she could go to a pretty high level, so we’re going to work towards that. It might not happen… but if it does, we’ll be ready to go and do it.

Nell’s 2016 Goals

  • Qualify for the Provincials at the Young Horse Performance Series. All we need here is to complete at two of the three qualifiers. The tests will increase in difficulty within the Novice level as the series go on, but I’m not too worried about that – she’s already entered for Novice 4 and 5 at the Nooities’ dressage this weekend, so she can deal with it. IF she keeps her brain in her pretty head, she should be able to do this.
  • Compete, graded, at the higher Novice tests. Getting our points for Elementary would be ideal, but that’ll also depend on our show calendar for the year. I’d like to get at least a few points, so we have to score 55% or above.
  • Go to a jumping training show at a low level. Nell’s not just an awesome dressage diva – the little lady has a careful but confident jump, too. She’s no showjumper, but my ultimate jumping goal with her would be to do working hunter at next Horse of the Year, too. Because Nooities rock the versatility thing.
  • School lower level Elementary successfully. We have most of the required moves – they just need polishing. The 2017 goal would be to compete in Elementary, starting with the 6-year-old classes at YHPS.
  • Compete in any available Nooitgedachter shows. Nell needs some more mileage before she’s going to be a winning show horse under saddle, but she’s proven that she can kick butt in hand already.

Most of Nellie’s goals this year are going to be about reinforcing, polishing, and improving on training she already has. I’m taking off the pressure in terms of learning the higher level movements quickly, unless she gets bored or offers them; she’s learning very fast, and the last thing we want to do is cook this promising brain and body. If we’re careful about how we lay this foundation, it’ll stand us in good stead through the levels.

God willing. Always… God willing.

2016 Goals: Magic

More than any of the others, I’ve learned to make Magic’s goals flexible. Force isn’t an option with him, but he’s made so much progress nonetheless that just going with the flow seems to work for him. Nevertheless, we shall make a plan, if only so that we can do the exact opposite.

Magic’s 2015 Goals

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  • Improve fitness – Done. He gets and stays fit very easily, and has so much nervous energy anyway that he never tires out at shows.
  • Tie up – Done, well enough. Magic will never be the type you can tie to whatever and forget about, because forgetting about Magic is just a dumb idea, but he no longer habitually flies back. One can tie him and groom him and all will be OK as long as nothing terrifies him.
  • Load – Again, never going to be the type that just plods along in, but he loads in half a minute so no worries here.
  • School Novice – Done. We’ve trained up to Novice 3, snaffle and all, completing all the figures and transitions obediently and in good rhythm, frame and straightness.
  • Survive a hack – Well, we did this. But we’re not awfully likely to do this again. It’s just not something I need to deal with right now, and as a competing horse, hacking is a thing that should be done for relaxation and a change of scenery for the horse. For Magic, it’s a torture session. Not his thing.
  • Be confident at 80cm – Done! He skips over 80cm like nobody’s business.
  • Show graded at 70cm showjumping – Halfway done. He’s shown at 70-75cm in training shows five times now with all clear rounds, and he’s ready to go up. But his getting sick in September put the brakes on showing for the rest of the year, so we never registered for graded.

2016 Goals

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  • Finish getting back the topline muscle he lost when he was sick. His butt and back are good again, but his neck still needs to develop all over again.
  • School Novice 4, 5, and 6. He’s no dressage horse, but he needs these basics. Lateral work, counter canter, and medium canter can only help him.
  • Make 90cm our comfort zone at home. 80cm is now where we’re happy. We do 90cm from time to time, but it’s kind of pushing my nerves. He has miles and miles of scope and guts to spare at this height, so if we can just ease into jumping this by the end of the year, we can keep on going up and up.
  • Show graded at 70cm. We could do this really easily if he keeps his brain in his head at the next show. We’re doing another training show at 70cm this month, and if it goes well, we’ll sign up for graded.
  • Show at 80cm, graded or training. This will more than likely be graded, but if I’m not up to that pressure, I’m not going to sweat it. Height has never been an issue for Magic so we can cope with this just fine.

Lord, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.

 

2016 Goals: Arwen

I realise it’s kind of late to be setting goals, but they’ve been in my head for a while, so I may as well now put them down on paper. Screen. Whatever. I enjoy having a plan for the year with each horse, but God’s plan is sovereign – and He always knows best.

Arwen’s 2015 Goals

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  • Get her fit – Done. She was easily fit enough for our last event.
  • Build her upper neck muscles – Done. Her muscle tone has never been this good, to the point where I asked the Mutterer what muscles need building up for the upcoming showing show and he replied in tones of deep disappointment, “Well, actually, none.”
  • School Elementary Medium successfully – Failure there, but our Elementary work is a lot more solid. Her schooling has improved, just not to EM level.
  • Introduce scary-looking jumps – Done. While we have been having really disappointing stops in competition, at home she’s jumping the spookiest things I can build without batting an eye.
  • Have her go through water more easily – Done. She didn’t stop at water all year.
  • Show graded in EV70 – Done. We showed in three, but only completed two.

2016 Goals

  • Go double clear at EV70. Face it – at this level, you win on your dressage score. Arwen’s dressage is very solid. We could do really well if we’d just stop incurring jumping penalties, especially stops on cross-country. This will take a whole lot of schooling, and a bunch more cross-country lessons, so I’m pretty cool with only eventing again in midwinter or spring. Another jumping show or two can also only help our confidence, or even competing at EV60 once or twice more.
  • School Elementary Medium 1 and 2. This is very achievable, especially with how solid her Elementary work is getting. It is, however, going to depend on how soon we get our new 20×60 arena done. Our current one is about 15×50, making it impossible to make an accurate half 10m canter circle. The more complex the figures get the harder it becomes to ride them here. She will also have to make the transition to a double bridle, which might be a bit tough.
  • Compete Elementary. We can totally do this. She could do Elementary 1 with her eyes closed. We just need to get enough qualifying rounds at Novice first, so this will also be an end of the year thing. Even if we just do the ungraded class at the Pretoria Nooitie show – it’s something.
  • Gallop through water. She goes into water just fine, but she always drops to a walk. Now we just need to school her confidence with keeping her gallop rhythm through the water and we’re good.

Lord, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.