Thursday 31 August 2017

2017 Time Out

When I last posted, I was happy to be finished our show season and eagerly plotting all the schooling I want to do in preparation for next spring. 

But, I've literally done nothing beyond hacking out. I'm tired, and just kind of needing a mental break.

I recently put some feelers out re: breeding Bridget in the spring, and got distracted and went down the path of looking at the breeder's current sales list aka "Why breed when I could just buy the most fantastic and talented foal  I could ever want?" Warmblood/Welsh Cob crosses: they're not only adorable, they're FANCY. So much fancier than what I imagine a purebred from Bridget would be. They cost more money for sure, but so much less risk, and not having to worry about anything happening to Bridget in the process. Should be a win, right?

But, you know what? The money I'd be looking at, particularly the cost of simply keeping him or her until a rideable age? Giving me huge second thoughts. I don't know if I really want to do this riding thing/gamble on a prospect THAT bad. Which led to thoughts of banking that purchase price and monthly budget for 2 or 3 years and buying something ready to go at that point in time. Which, when I did the math, made me think "Oh hell, no, I could never spend that much money on a horse!" And yet, a healthy, sound, youngish, third level or above prospect to replace Bridget is probably going to cost about that much. There's no getting around it. I guess I'm burnt out, because that's led to evaluating what I'm really spending on this hobby as is, not just financially, but time wise too. So many sacrifices!

When someone like me, who lives and breathes this thing and normally has no lack of goals and motivation, starts to question how bad they really want it, I think it means a time out is in order. I need to take a break, step back, spend time and energy elsewhere, and do some other fun things for a bit. Check in with myself, re assess those priorities. Spend some money on all things NOT horses.

Great timing, because I've got vacation planned and a week away starting Friday.

Catch up with you later! :)


Friday 25 August 2017

Workin' Hard

No rest for the wicked! We jumped right back into things with a dressage lesson last night.

B brought all the energy, but started out by using it for evil rather than good. Super braced against my hand, and wanting to run through the bridle and go faster rather than actually bringing those hind legs under and adding power.

Standard Bridget MO. It's odd to ride because she's actually behind the leg and stuck...yet she's running away with you.

A million transitions later we had polite, soft pony back. A further million transitions beyond that, and we were able to use half halts in the manner they're intended and get down to the real work.

The real work of late consists of all the counter canter, because we have dreams of moving up the levels and apparently it's a thing there ;) Mostly though, it's just a great exercise for building strength and suppleness in the pony. Remember how yucky her true canter was last year? And how long it's taken to get reasonably balanced? Well, we get to do it all over again, only this time in counter canter. I'm envious of all those whose horses are cordinated and balanced enough naturally, but luckily I'm a sucker for punishment and don't mind teaching B how to canter....again,  On the plus side, I know what I'm looking for, and Bridget knows what we want, she's just not strong enough yet to carry herself very long, It will come. For now though, we're permanent members of the renvers thru to transition club!
Best pony awaiting her post ride treats.
I've said it before, but it's worth saying again...for all my joking about the ponypocalypse and pony 'tude, B is remarkably tolerant of all we ask her. Yes, she'll say it's impossibly hard and she truly can't even, and find all sorts of ways to express those opinions, making her quite unreliable day to day, BUT I do feel very lucky in that she's excellent for me to learn on. The fact that this doesn't come easy for either of us, I think means our training has to be very correct and methodical.  I need to learn to ride and ask precisely and effectively, and be able to problem solve on the go too. All good things!

Proof you CAN improve the canter with a lot of hard work. This time last year we were getting 6's on gaits in the collectives, and 5's in all the canter work. Now it's all 7's and 7.5's ! And yes, we can argue it was in there all along, but truly, I think most people would have looked at the "before" canter/tranter/gallopy thing and walked away. Myself included, had I actually been shopping for a dressage prospect when I bought her, lol.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Happy Near Year?

This last event marked the end of the big outings we had planned for this calendar year. There are still a few small, local, ones left on the calendar, but the goal type shows are over and done with for another year. As a result, this time of year feels, to me at least, like Horsey New Year. The show season is behind us, and now we're going to get back into more of a training and learning groove until early next spring, when our competition outings begin anew.

To recap our horsey calendar year, we had a great Fall 2016, then hit a pretty rough patch training wise this past winter. Spring brought some improvement in us both, but also a need for 2 new to us saddles and some budget constraints due to that. It also brought far too much rain, meaning most of our proposed outings were cancelled anyway. Then the weather decided to make up for all that wet and opted for record breaking heat and dryness all summer, meaning even more cancelled shows. My bank account still needed to recover from buying that tack anyway. 

And Midge. Like all good ponies, Midge does things on her own schedule. As for me, well, life. I admit to being distracted and while I've been consistent about putting the saddle time in, my efforts at improving just haven't been as focused as they were last year. Still we HAVE improved. We've improved hugely, just not in the results based/moving up the levels way I had originally set out as goals. 

But you know what? I really have very few regrets about how things have played out. We made it to our interior BC eventing camp in the spring, we made it to a combined test, a second XC clinic, a multi day dressage show, and most recently, a 'proper' event in the city. We even fit in local dressage and hunter/jumper shows - not bad for being very limited by scheduling and finances.

Showing a level or two or three (lol) below what we school at home has been huge for me. Our biggest problem at shows has been my nerves, so just going to shows where I really truly don't worry at all about fence heights or dressage tests or moving up has been great for my confidence. I can ride in the moment, think through what I'm doing and make appropriate adjustments. Weird stuff can happen and I can handle it. We've had some great show results this year, and that's also been huge for me. As an adult who didn't show at anything beyond local level or have regular coaching until recently, I've been feeling like I really don't belong and pretty overwhelmed at the bigger shows. I still feel that way at times, but looking around and knowing we've competitive against some really nice pairs has made me feel a bit more like we're actually, just maybe, right where we need to be and not just freakishly lucky sometimes :)

Moving forward, we train and learn as much as we can. We plan for next season. We're still working hard on that counter canter. I need to up my game on left lead transitions. We'll keep working on reliably unlocking her neck and back when she's tense/we're in a show environment. Also, keep enforcing that she has to go to work in the show arena, just as she does at home. I'm going to keep riding other horses as much as possible, and keep working away on my jump position and confidence. We're still exploring breeding options for Midge in spring 2018. I still feel like dressage is not her true happy place, but I'm confident that we keep enough variety in her routine (we still have jump lessons, fitness rides, hacks, and vaulting too every week) to keep her interested for another season before she hopefully gets a time out to be a baby mama.

On our schedule next: Dressage % Day Sept 23. (local club show)


Monday 21 August 2017

CVES Horse Trials

Whew, where to start?

I'm using up all my vacation time horse showing and this weekend added to the tally. Campbell Valley is a 'proper' three day event, with dressage on Friday, XC on Saturday, and show jumping on Sunday. Because we needed travel time and time to settle in, we left on Thursday morning, and arrived early afternoon.

G came this year, which was such a treat, it's not very often we have the same days off work! Campbell Valley is a Metro Vancouver park featuring some historic farmland and green space with some equestrian amenities and multi use trails. It's not an actual show grounds, so camping there with horses isn't normally something you're allowed to do. G and I found a nice little spot on the edge of a field to camp in - shady, quiet, and cool, which was much appreciated. I also upped my camping game this year by buying Midge a tent of her own. She loved it and it kept her so much cooler than last year.

Thursday evening we had a dressage lesson, but Midge was way too keyed up. There's a little hog fuel track around the rings, so nixed the dressage practice and just cantered around that for a bit while I just generally enjoyed having a very fresh and forward pony.

My ride time for dressage was first thing (8:45am) Friday morning. I really didn't sleep well because I had a bad attack of nerves. So weird because I've been doing so well with that!

Once again, I got in trouble with the tack check. I had no idea that spurs with moving parts are not allowed below Prelim. So, since my roller ball ones were the only ones I brought - no spurs for my dressage test! A potential recipe for disaster. Luckily, while we definitely felt the effects of a not-quite-so-sharp Midge, she stayed fairly honest and steady and put in a nice test. The canter work in particular is getting hugely improved - someone got 7's and 7.5's on her canter work, and a 7.5 for gaits in the collectives! There were a couple of low points - one icky transition up, and one down, for 5.5's and for the high marks, she got 8's on her walk. The rest of the marks were all 6's and 7's for a score of 67.5%, which in Canadian eventing = 48.8 penalty points. The put her in 6th place out of a division of 25. I was thrilled!

Our cross country ride was again super early - 8:15 am. I slept well and wasn't too worried, it was pretty much the same course we did last year: a little palisade jump, a water option, some log piles, and just a whole bunch of simple logs set on various terrains and angles. Midge wiggled and wobbled pretty much the whole way around the course - she was really spooky which I didn't expect. I guess the decorations were scary? And the jump judges? And the photographer? And the spectators? LOL, you never know what you're going to get with the pony. It was still fun, even though Midge was absolutely convinced the water = a place to rest and have a drink and we slowed to a crawl through there. We had no jump penalties, but accumulated a bit of time as Midge just isn't built for galloping (or even fast cantering) 1.6 km on terrain. Also, the water was a bad choice, lol, It was at the end of the course and I should have known the temptation would have been too much for her :) Somehow though we still were the 4th fastest time of the division and moved up two spots to 4th place. Crazy, right?
She thought this one was super spooky...its at the end of a big uphill heading away from the stabling, there's an announcer and scaffolding off to the left, plus people watching just over the lip of the hill when you land. Also, it had little fake mushrooms around it, lol

Show jumping on Sunday wasn't until 3:00, and my nerves got to me big time. All day to wait around isn't my thing, I guess. Also, I had zero expectations of a ribbon or being competitive, until suddenly I was in 4th place and desperately wanted to stay I was working myself up over that. So silly.

Midge had zero gas in the tank and it was hot, so I got on with 10 min to spare, walked around a bit, galloped one lap, then jumped the warm up jump and went in the ring.

Again, Midge was backed off and spooky. I rode pretty boldly for me but jumps 1-2 were still a bit less forward than I would have liked, but OK. Jump 3 came up on a short 5 stride, so I really booted Midge forward to get the pony 5. Jump 4 was a little wall (she hates those) on a 4 stride and I could feel her backing off even as we cleared 3. Since I had all the adrenaline in the world going on, she got a timely smack on the bottom and then gamely galloped up to it. The rest of the course rode fine - I cut all the corners and galloped everything I could because everyone had said the distances and course rode better that way. And so it did! Midge went double clear and well inside the time! The course designer guy came over later to compliment our round. So proud of Midge!

So, in the end we moved up and got a pretty 3rd place ribbon. And prizes, so many nice prizes. They spoiled us with a really nice saddle pad, a full set of jumping boots, a box of Omega Alpha products, and some horse cookies.

On a related note, Ginger and her rider got 5th place in an equally large Entry division! Go cobs :)


Tuesday 15 August 2017

$900 FB Pony Hop: Dealbreakers

Thank you, $900 Facebook Pony, for a topic that ties in nicely with yesterday's post about riding all the horses offered to me.

Her question:

Any dealbreakers that make you not even want to ride a particular kind of horse?

Shut your little ears, Midge. No ideas to get out of work here....none at all....

Yes! Rearing scares me. Not so much the -"I'm green and not sure where else to go" kind, but the kind that's learned and means business. Nope, no thanks, not getting on that.

Somewhere in this novel of a post from our last show, I mention helping out a rider on the XC field whose horse went over on her. What I'm not sure I conveyed well enough was the horse literally jumped up off the ground on her hind legs before slamming down on her back. Like when a person tries to do a backflip and doesn't quite pull it off. No idea if it was intentional, but it was fast and athletic and horsey didn't look overly not something I'd ever be into riding.

Midge reared and fell on me once, I think last winter? She was being quite braced and fussy and running through my hand. I thought maybe incorporating some backing up might be useful. Midge thought maybe popping up a bit might be a good alternative, and...Midge being Midge, totally misjudged the footing/her athletic talents and kind of slipped and fell over on her side in slo mo. And, learned her lesson and never, ever thought about rearing again. I also learned mine, so if she's being really silly and tough, we just move into canter and incorporate some lateral work there to burn off steam and get her less heavy. 
Pic from around that time frame. Midge is often opinionated, but never mean. Sidenote: I see so much progress since then!

Another type of horse I'd never get on are the ones that are tricky and just beyond my abilities. There's one I know that I try to avoid even handling on the ground. He's very much into testing boundaries and will get very dangerous about it and really doesn't mind upping his game when you discipline him. I don't think he's inherently nasty, I think it all probably started as playful intelligent gelding games that scared someone and got him out of work.For whatever reason he now is who he is and I'm not interested in trying to play the game. He goes great for a couple of riders in the barn, but I've seen them have some pretty epic showdowns with him too, and yeah, the stuff he tries out is way above my abilities, not to mention could seriously hurt someone like me. 

Final category: Baby's first rides. Used to be OK with this, now if they're not mine I'm not going to. I like to know they've been productive members of equine society for at least a little while first.

And, in all honesty, I'm not very brave on new horses. Never have been. So, any time I'm on a horse that I don't know super well and they feel too fresh or like there's bit of a buck in there, I get off and lunge a bit. Obviously they don't fall into the 'never ride' category, but a 'don't ride sometimes' one for sure!


Monday 14 August 2017


Is the spice of life and all that.

But, when we consider it in the context of riding and handling other horses, it not only keeps life interesting, it:

- Keeps me honest. Those bad habits Midge (somewhat) tolerates? Yeah, other horses are like "WTF are you doing with your outside seatbone?!"

- Keeps me sane. Although it would be a pretty spectacular event to see, thankfully all the horses in the barn don't tend to have a bad day at once. There's always one good apple to brighten my day!

-Helps me learn. Each horse is different, each requires a different ride. The ability to "read" each horse and feel the tiny changes needed to adapt to and bring out the best in each is a big goal, but a worthy one, I think.

-Gives me confidence. Getting a bit outside my comfort zone on a new horse is good for me!

-Helps me narrow down my own personal preferences a bit more. Although it's a bit of a running joke in the barn that I love every horse I get on, some are definitely more 'my type' than others.

-Makes me appreciate Midge. It's getting to the point where we're very tuned into each other - all the hours spent have built up a pretty solid partnership - it's cool to feel those results.

Like here - we did some gymnastics the other night and Midge totally aced the angled one stride with the super narrow line. She also, somehow, consistently made it ever so slightly bending between because..pony, and because the striding was working better for her. Smart, but also I had no doubt she'd be OK with this, even tho it was a first.
In short, if someone offers you you a riding opportunity and A: You have the time, and B: The horse is unlikely to kill you, just go do it!

Friday 11 August 2017

Lesson Recap

I had to reschedule my lesson this week, and unfortunately that means I missed out on a jumping lesson and was there for a dressage one...again.  Between prepping for the dessage show, and our super smoky weather, I havent jumped at all in a while. I noticed my jump saddle still had my day pass from our xc schooling that was on July 22nd, so yeah, I better make some jump schooling a priority soon since I'm going away to an event next week!
They made a neat poster this year.

At any rate, our lesson was still a good one, and tied in nicely with the discussion Jen at Cob Jockey started about how reliant (or not) we all are on our trainers.

In the 2 years I've been riding with EC, she has always been very hands on and eagle eyed, giving me stream of consciousness feedback and directing me for the vast majority of the lesson. Lately, though, there's been a real shift in that.

It started gradually in our lessons leading up to the dressage show, but I really noticed it at the show, where before the classes where she normally warms us up she was like "You've got this. Don't underestimate yourself,  you know what you need to do." And after " That was well done, are you happy? Did it feel good to you?" Since I'm notoriously bad about having show nerves and being my own worst critic, I chalked that up as an effort on her part to sort of let me be and give me confidence, plus, she was incredibly busy riding and teaching and being a mom so I wasn't really expecting anything anyway.

Tonight, though was more of the same. She started out by outlining what she'd like to see me to accomplish in the lesson and the things she felt I could work on with Midge.

In relation to yesterday's post, all three of these pairs of breeches are labelled the exact same size. And yet...

Then, she sent me off with a "go get started, feel where she's at tonight,  and just do what you feel you need to" Ummm...OK?

So, off I went, creating the Midge I wanted in walk, where it's easiest. Then adding in some trot transitions, insisting she stay in the same round and forward mindset. I added in some suppling exercises to get her softer in the poll, and then some transitions within the trot...collect, move out again, now do that in a shoulder in position to get her hind end more active, etc, etc. Back down to walk and added in some walk pirouettes to remind her about keeping her shoulders up.  I kind of got lost in my own little world, and failed to notice the trainer feedback was...fairly non existent.

Until she was like, "There, that's enough. That's exactly what you want, now let's see if you can create that same feeling in the canter" "OK", I thought, "here comes the lesson!" And, yes, there were a few more tips and tricks shared since the left lead canter is still a bit difficult to really get her round and sitting. But generally, overall, the vibe was more "hanging out with a helpful, more experienced riding buddy" than "you are in a lesson and must do as I say". I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it, to be honest, it's a pretty big shift from when we were getting direction every second of the ride. The negative part of me wonders if she's just given up up me...this was honestly my main thought at the start of the ride because it was rough...Midge wasn't pleased about working in the heat.
"it's too warm for riding, right?!"

But then, it turned into the best ride ever. Midge became forward and really pushing, and we got a few really nice medium trot transitions and some really lovely moments in canter where she was coming forward and back just off my seat...big progress for headstrong, unbalanced ponies!  I'm pretty familiar with the program at this point, so maybe the silence was just because there really wasn't much to add. Also, EC is nothing if not professional and good at her job. So....IDK, the jury's out. I'm pleased that I do, indeed have all the tools and judgement to meet current lesson goals fairly independently. But it felt weird to be focusing more and relying more on myself rather than the outside input I'm now so used to.


Thursday 10 August 2017

Show Gear: What Not To Wear Edition

(Not in keeping with this post at A Enter Spooking where she and TC look so gorgeous and professional - check it out if you actually wanted to see how to look good while dressagin' :)

I have zero excuses for my haphazard rated dressage show look...I had plenty of time to shop for appropriate items, I just never quite got around to it. I could have stayed in a hotel and showered like a normal person, instead I opted to camp and swim in the river, and generally be sweaty and filthy for 3 days straight, lol

My only (tiny) excuse is that the show organizers told me in the morning they were waiving jackets because it was too hot. Then, when I went to enter the ring, the steward was like "Um no, you need a jacket." So I had two minutes to ride over to my camping spot, (praying Midge would ground tie) and dig out my jacket and assemble myself in it, with the back number they also insisted we wear and get back in the ring before the bell. I made it, but it wasn't pretty, and a stock tie wasn't happening lol.

Um yes, that's my unbuttoned shirt collar hanging out. But, hey, I'm wearing a coat!
Breeches: Irideon Bellisima full seats. My other white breeches were stained, so I ordered these last minute, on a super (like $20 super) clearance sale. They were a size larger than I normally wear, but for $20 I was OK with that. And...they arrived 3 days prior to the show and were really, really 2-3 sizes big. I have no idea who designs and sizes their breeches, but they are generous, to say the least. And, the disappointment continued because they literally fell apart over the course of one day. The full seat material just sort of disintegrated and is now pretty much see through where it contacts the saddle. Also, baggy breeches = blisters. Ughhh. So, back to the old stained and grubby breeches it was.

Show Shirts: This was my one success. I have a couple of Asmar shirts I bought on sale last year. they somehow were breathable, repelled dirt, and actually fit decently.

Stock tie: Just a plain old Shires brand one. I hate stuff around my neck and I'm not a huge fan of frills and bling so really I'm not a real dressage rider  I'm OK with my current tie.

Show Jacket: This was embarrassingly bad. We were going to go shopping earlier in the week so I could try stuff on in person, but then, as mentioned, the show organizers were like "it's forecasted record breaking temperatures, so jackets will be waived for the weekend "And I was like "Yay, saved myself money and time, now I don't need to shop and can wait for a sale!" I packed my ancient black wool hunt coat just in case the weather forecast was wrong...and discovered upon my frantic journey back to the campsite to put it on for the first time in years that it's way too small. Like, teenage me small. Should have just brought my tried and true navy blue one (or stuck with eventing, lol).

Boots: Adequate. They're Mountain Horse field boots, and on the older side, but they're comfy and clean up well. When they die, I'll get a pair of dressage boots.

Saddle: County Competitor. Presentable, but is starting to need a reflocking and definitely due for an adjustment. I hate it for me, but Midge approves, so we're good. It's going in for an overhaul this fall, fingers crossed she can tweak things to make me happier too.

Girth: Another fail. That beautiful Schockemohle girth I bought over the winter is now borderline too large for a dieting Midge, plus somehow the keepers on both sides managed to come unstitched over the weekend. It's seen a lot of use over the last 6 months, but yeah, not pleased about it needing repairs already.

Saddle pad: I ended up using an all purpose white pad with a sqare-ish cut, because I have yet to find a nice dressage pad that is 14.2hh cob size...the big horse stuff is huge on her and the pony stuff too short for an adult saddle.
Why no, that's not an all purpose pad, this is dressage! ;)

Bridle: Standard Bobby's dressage bridle. Cleans up nice, and is basic, but good enough quality.

On the plus side, I'm living proof that you can show at a rated show with super budget, unflattering wardrobe, and non fancy tack and your scores will still be exactly the same. I wouldn't recommend it though, because seriously, you'll feel so much better if you're comfortable and know you look the part. I'm starting with shopping for a nicely fitting coat and breeches as we speak, no more procrastinating!

Side note, Kitty Customs is a real problem in our house. My parcels might get delivered, but they are inspected and defended by BK for undetermined amounts of time. The struggle for show gear is neverending, guys.
G sent me these pics this morning. Yay, hopefully boxes containing new show clothes!

Ok, yeah, that's fine, nevermind,  I don't need to open the box or try those clothes on. What could possibly go wrong?;)


Wednesday 9 August 2017

Blog Hop: Change

 I'm contemplating some change in this corner of the blogosphere. I know what I want and where I want to be equestrian goals wise, but the part between here and there is a little hazy.

So, for our very first blog hop, I'm shamelessly hoping you'll share your life experience so those of us struggling with similar decisions can learn from your mistakes and be inspired by your successes.

Look! I even made a special picture ;)

My question(s) to you:

Have you at some point moved on to a different horse, trainer, stable, etc with the purpose of advancing your progress? What made you realize the time was right for a change? Or did you opt to adjust your goals in order to stay with what you know is working? How did either choice work out in the long run?

My reason for asking is that I'm contemplating purchase or lease of either a talented/willing/forgiving prospect or (more likely) a been there/done that horse/pony to move up on and learn with. I'm still going to keep on keepin' on with Midge, because she's fun, but I'm wanting to progress a little quicker in my own riding and experience levels. Midge is happy enough doing all the things, and is even showing some good potential for dressage...but honestly she's just not that into it and being consistently inconsistent on whether the pony shows up to work with a good attitude is a thing I'm finding a bit harder to accept as time goes on. It also makes for uber slow progress. We ARE making progress, for sure, as our 'bad days' at our most recent show didn't result in overly bad scores (BUT we also did move down a level, so...). If you can't guess I'm conflicted about 'giving up' and putting some focus elsewhere because I do still believe we'll get there...but the time frame is a bit of an issue and I feel kind of stuck in a rut. Also, it's not fair to the pony to try to force it and make dressage the sole focus when she's happier doing a bit of everything.

The plan is to breed her in the spring of 2018. I'm regretting not doing it this year, but on the flip side I'm also glad we've had another year of showing and fun under our belts without any other distractions or commitments! Obviously Midge is here for life, too, so no worries about any of that changing....she's definitely my pony of a lifetime and means the world to me.

I'm very, very lucky to have an excellent coach, so that part of the equation won't be changing!

(You might be wondering "but what about Ginger?" Ginger is fabulous and awesome too, but honestly, dressage wise we have the opposite issue as B - she is more than willing, but physically not as gifted. Jumping wise she's super cute and would definitely be a nice move up for me, but I'm trusting EC's opinion here that unless my heart is set on Ginger, there is a more suitable prospect for me that would be a better longer term fit, particularly as my big goals are more dressage oriented. Ginger is a super intermediate mount for the kids moving up, they love her, and she's happy. I won't mess with that by bringing my baggage into the equation. I'm not ruling out selling her to the perfect home, but for now she's got a lease girl who adores her and I'm happy)


Monday 7 August 2017

Canada Cup Dressage: Photos and Final Thoughts

As a short recap, I:

-Survived being potential bear food
-Lived like a homeless person successfully
-Competed at a 'real' dressage show and survived
-Met all sorts of lovely people
-Nearly collided with an Olympian and her horse on my pony.
-Nailed the braids by day 3
-Did not panic when things got weird
-Took pony swimming!
-Even won ribbons and prizes!

Yep, posting this pic again. I'm still so excited about them!
Show photos! I tried to pick photos that show how things "felt". There were better moments and many worse ones too, that these, but these felt the most representative of the weekend :)

Final Thoughts:

-Schooling show (and eventing dressage) marks. Is it just me, or are they wildly different than 'real' shows?  I get that they're trying to be encouraging and eventing dressage is I guess it's own thing,  but myself, I'd prefer consistency between it all. My tests this weekend felt fairly marked, and I was happy with them. But, I'd be happier if I had a benchmark from last year to compare them to. I don't, because honestly, I feel like the previous shows we've done to date were comparatively way generous in their scoring.
This looks how the canter work generally felt. Midge was a bit tight in her top line,  and I was working really (too) hard.

-While I can't afford (and don't actually wish to) embrace the entire dressage queen lifestyle - dressage is my happy place. I love eventing, and won't be giving up my jumping lessons any day soon,  but watching even the intermediate eventing levels I'm like "Wow, cool, but no thanks...I'm good". Upper levels? I can't even anymore, just in case someone dies. Upper level dressage? I'm like "PLEASE, this is so cool, TEACH ME NOW I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO TRAIN MY HORSE THOSE THINGS IMMEDIATELY thank you!"

-Midge was a superstar, but IDK, I don't think this is her happy place. Just because she could theoretically do this at higher levels, doesn't mean she wants to, or even should. Our scores got progressively lower as the weekend went on, and she was actually a bit sticky at the ring gate, which has never happened before. You should have seen her perk up when I took her out on the XC field after and the look of complete bliss when the kids at the swimming spot were loving on her. Not so in our tests, she just sort of went out and did the thing, businesslike and sort of 'meh'. This is going to be a long thought process, and an emotional one too. My heart wants to do this thing with Midge as far as we can take it...but perhaps that's selfish of me. Looking around this past weekend, the 'real' dressage horses out there weren't just talented, they LOVED their jobs, and many were excited to show off on the same level the event horses get out on XC.
"Where are the jumps?!"
"OK fine, we dressage now."

-Whatever the future holds, I'm proud of the pony for all she did this weekend. I feel very lucky to have a pony I can take to all these shows and events, allowing me to participate in those worlds. Most of all though, I appreciate that she's sensible and kind and such a good partner in crime. I think the horse or pony that can go out there and do a little bit of everything, maybe not always well, but well enough to have fun with, is a highly underrated thing. This one's worth her weight in gold, as far as I'm concerned.

Please Midge, would it kill you to stop bracing? And yet, she's so cute :)


Saturday 5 August 2017


I was a bit disappointed in the dressage show photos (can't blame the photographer - I rode at the same time as the GP tests, so I imagine it would be hard to cover both well...also honestly most of my dislike was how I look in the pics, which is not her fault at all!), but have ordered a few 'fun' ones to share...just waiting for them to come and then I'll post a final show update. We're prepping now for our event coming up in 2 weeks. I am actually excited about it (and pre ordered photos this time, lol)

In other, related, news, Midge is still on her diet, in hopes being lighter will equal being faster at our events! At a recent visit, the vet was unimpressed with the rate of weight loss, although pleased with her fitness. So Midge has now been living in her own diet 'condo' 24/7 instead of just overnight. She is eating only a small amount of hay double netted twice daily.

The other day, I went to the barn to ride, and thought "Ughh, she looks like she's GAINED weight today. How is that even possible? Must talk to the girls feeding."

And then, I noticed her gate was tied shut with a large, thick, rope instead of the normal thinner rope attached to a clip. Inconvenient, but hey, whatever works.

So, the story as I understand it? She CHEWED THROUGH the previous rope latching the gate, then set herself free in the main paddock. Then she went all hangry, booted the other horses away from their breakfasts, and stuffed herself all morning before EC noticed. I found proof in the form of a chewed up rope somewhat near the crime scene. Also, an empty haynet in her pen. The little beastie ate her own breakfast first before making her big escape, of course. Naughty, naughty, pony.
Dramatic reenactment of the great escape.


Friday 4 August 2017

Smokin' Hot

I've pretty much done nothing with Midge all week. We've been hit with a double whammy - a heat wave that's breaking records, combined with terrible air quality from a bad (also breaking records) wildfire season. More often than not, our sky has been looking like this:

Are we living on Mars, or BC in fire season? Photo from here
You can taste the smoke in the air, and there is a light coating of ash over everything. Since Midge and I both have suffered in the past from our fair share of respiratory issues, it seems unwise to do much work right now.

We've been for a few neighbourhood hacks, just to stretch her legs at the walk, but that's it.
No matter the weather, hanging out with Midge is always a good thing to do
I feel very lucky *knocking on wood* that our area is unaffected otherwise. It seems horrible to complain about crappy air quality when so many are dealing with so much worse. Being evacuated without a chance to get my animals out would be one of my worst many people were forced to cut their fences and hope for the best. I have donated what I can to the livestock rescues in the evacuated areas. Huge thanks and kudos to all the volunteers rounding up livestock and pets and getting them to safety. Fingers crossed hard everyone stays safe and rain is in the forecast soon!

Picture from a ferry commute in the spring, so much rain we were breaking records then too! It's been a crazy year for weather.


Tuesday 1 August 2017

Canada Cup Dressage Days 3&4

I should note I am awaiting pro photos of my rides, so no, this is (hopefully) not the only media you'll see :)

Saturday morning dawned far too early. Like, literally dawned way too early. Tents need a blackout option or something. Again, up early to muck, feed, groom and braid, then get myself presentable for our first class of the day.

I again felt a little out of place as I am not sure there is a way to do all that and then tack up without looking slightly disheveled/sweaty/grubby. The "real" riders were rolling in in their nice cars, already dressed to the nines, looking immaculate as their grooms legged them up onto their perfectly turned out horses. That's not to say there weren't several of the more "do it yourself types", but most still seemed to have help or had at least worked out a better system than me! Also, I think they all had a far larger budget for horses, tack, and apparel than me. I know it shouldn't really matter, but again, just one of those things you can't help but notice and that could make you feel out of place.

 Good morning, I hope you didn't want to park your Mercedes where I'm currently living, lol
That being said, every single person was chatty and friendly and generally super welcoming! A couple of our big name riders wanted to know all about Bridget and thought she was the cutest thing ever. I know dressage has a rep for being snobby, but seriously the people were even friendlier than the eventers we've met. So, hard to be envious or feel too out of place when everyone was just so darn nice to us :)

EC shared similar ride times to me, so no warming me up on this day. She had two horses to ride, and another person to coach, plus her son to keep an eye on, so I didn't ever truly expect help, but still all weekend she managed to take plenty of time for me and was calling over tips as she warmed up on her lovely mare next to me. The lady is pretty amazing at being in all the places and doing all the things at once!

I had a few moments in the warm up where life was a little surreal...."Oh hi, Olympian,  please don't my feeble attempts at a 20m circle throw you off your line of one tempis!" I thought warming up at a jumper show was hard, but dressage horses are one place, then the next thing you know they've half passed or piroutted their way somewhere completely different and you're inadvertently in their way.

No big deal, just warming up with Leslie Reid and trying not to make a fool of myself :) Photo credit here

My first test was at 9am, the second at 3pm. It was another ridiculously hot day so I kept the warm ups to a minimum.

Our first test rode OK, but again she got in there and the relaxation was gone and replaced with tension. There was surreal moment when I realized I was the first person in the ring because the only tracks I saw were bear tracks, probably again from our friend from Thursday night...either that or the place is infested with them, not sure. Anyway, I was actually feeling pretty confident about the test and not worried at all about Midge being difficult - I just sort of dealt with it as it came, so our theory of me tensing up and creating it is maybe not the entire picture. Pony might just need more show miles and/or a different job!

We scored another 65 point something, which seemed slightly generous to me. Our test was accurate and error free, but Midge was resisting the contact here and there and generally tight through her back. I do believe she got a 5.5 for submission, lol, but the rest of the marks were fairly decent - lots of 7.5's mixed with about the same number of 6's - it was all either pretty good or OK - no in between :)
Um, what! We still won the class? We don't win stuff?!!!?So proud of the pony.

Our second test felt fantastic (or maybe it was just the beer I had downed in the meantime making me feel like life was great)! I was actually smiling and having a great time riding the test. The only real thing I felt might be a bit of a problem was that she was a bit too relaxed and maybe a bit heavy/on the forehand. But again, super accurate, and no obvious errors. Definitely my favorite test to date. But, that test scored only a 63-ish. It was a bit odd, because it was the same judge as the previous test. The comments were all pretty good and very helpful, but a few were like "still not enough bend at K" and .5 a mark less than in the morning's test. Apparently she just likes up and tense B over relaxed and slightly too heavy B, or possibly expected us to take her previous test advice and implement it immediately :) Whichever, I felt like it was one of our better tests of the weekend, so I will choose to remember it as might be telling we still placed second, and I watched a couple of decent tests before me, so maybe this judge was just a bit tough.

After all that hard work, we went for a hack and a swim in the river. I feel very lucky to own a pony that I can take to all these events, but still do things like that on. She's definitely not going to set the competition world on fire, but being sensible enough to hack out bareback in a new place and stand quietly while all the kids say hi to her and swim around her on their floaties is pretty special.
Best trails! That's a completely horse friendly trail and bridge over our swimming spot. Also, maybe this is where the mystery bear came from? I did see tracks on the trail in.

On our way back, we rode adjacent to the facility's xc field and for whatever reason I looked over just in time to see a horse literally flip over on someone. I've seen them rear up and fall over, but this one actually randomly jumped up off the ground and slammed down on it's back. So scary! I ran over with Midge in tow. The rider was awake and talking, but needed a medic to check her out. I was on the phone with 911 for so long, because I truly had no idea where, exactly we were! Luckily, they were able to get in touch with the dressage show medic who came to help while they routed an ambulance. I think the rider is going to be OK, but wow, what a reminder to always wear your hard hat and vest. Also, I am overdue to update my first aid, better get it done! The whole incident really made me appreciate Bridget even more. Such a good pony for just standing there patiently while I was on the phone and attempting to be helpful to the poor rider.

Phew, this is getting long. On to day 4!

I had opted to ride just once on Sunday, which was awesome. I had a slight bit of regret because in doing so I forfeited any chance at championship ribbons and prizes, but really, who would have thought we'd be competitive at all, and also it was still way too hot and I was tired and ready to go home.

We rode T-3 in our final class, and this time rode in front of the FEI judge. The test was our worst of the weekend. I stayed too late watching the GP freestyles all morning, and pulled Midge out thinking she'd be tired and need a minimal warming up in the heat, but really she was full of it and needed about 20 more minutes of warmup. Oh well, live and learn! That one netted us a 63%, I think, and somehow, yet another second place ribbon. The winning rider in that class scored a 72% or something similar to aspire to, and the rest of us were all in the low 60's - I guess B wasn't the only horse kind of mentally 'done' with dressage that morning.
Ribbons from the weekend. I hope no one was hoping for second place, because Bridget pretty much took all those ;) I still can't actually believe we did so well, so these might stay out on my table for a while yet.

All in all, a pretty eventful and fantastic weekend!

One more post coming about my final thoughts on this whole adventure into dressage land...