Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Carriage House 2014: The Ribboning

Optional Musical Accompaniment To This Post:

So, Carriage House was an unprecedented success. This is our 4 or 5 year going, and for the most part, it's just a bit of fun. I've never figured us in the running for ribbons or anything; it's just a fun outing for the beginning of the year to see where we are, competition-wise. But, this year, it changed.

The week prior was full of its usual drama, which I'll write about later, but long story short, we didn't get a lot of prep beforehand. I jumped him a bit on Saturday, the first time in months, and he was pulling me to the jump which I took as a good sign. It was a short session, and we hadn't been able to get much dressage practice in either.

I only got about 5 hours of sleep Saturday night before waking up at 4:30am to go get Royal. I got the trailer hooked up, Royal hopped right in, we almost got flattened by the newspaper-carrier, and we were off.

I had originally entered us in Intro A & B, as well as both 2'6" jumpers. I decided to switch to one 2' jumper to give us an easier start. Our first dressage ride was at 8:12 in the large dressage ring, and we got there at 7. So I had plenty of time to let Royal stretch his legs out on the 22' line, and he settled right in. We both know Carriage House rather well, and had no reason to be bothered by the other horses carrying on.

One point of relief is that I couldn't see Psycho McCrazypants anywhere. Maybe she decided the judges are All Out To Get Her, and decided to grace us with the absence. A gift I, for one, shall cherish. I got Royal cleaned and saddled up, and we headed to the warm-up. He was a bit bracy, so I asked him to move his hindquarters and shoulders around, and it seemed to help. He was relaxed and ready to go, so we headed out to the large dressage arena... just in time to see the horse in the arena bolting away. Oops. The rider got him/her until control and they finished their test, but Royal was watching the whole thing.

Our test started ok, but when we turned to go up the long side of the arena, Royal started cantering in his "big arena, run fast, wheeee!" way. I managed to get him to trot, and he cantered again, and I got him to trot, and the rest of the test was him going "Is big arena, why we no go fast?" So, I figured it was not going to be good, score-wise.

Afterward, we had a bit of a break. My mom arrived, and then my sister and her kidlets, and I met up with Parelli Instructor Fran Latane and her student Arianna, who were entered in the hunters and jumpers. I checked in at the jumper ring, but they weren't able to give me a ride time before my second dressage ride, so we headed over the the dressage arena. I mostly just let Royal mosey around on a long rein and we manged to go a little earlier than our scheduled time, due to some scratches. This test went a lot better. Royal really like Intro B, and he was much more focused. We had some fussy transitions and I would have like more bend in the circles, but overall I was pleased.

Then I was time to head back to the jumper arena, and take our place in line. We ended up in the spot after Fran, so we got to watch her and Princess go. They had a double clear in the first round and the jump-off (yay!) and then it was our turn.

Double-clear! It was a somewhat disjointed, and it was clear we're both rusty, but he tried his heart out and overall I was pleased with my equitation and balance. I was mostly just happy to have not made a stupid mistake and gotten us eliminated. Happy times!

So, then we had more waiting until they reset for the 2'6" jumpers. We went fairly early in that class, and had another double double-clear, but I could tell Royal was getting tired. He was both chipping and leaving long, which he doesn't do unless he's tired. But the try was still there, and it got us through. He still was happy and eager to jump.

So, the ribbons:

6th out of 9 in Intro A; 57.50%
4th out of 12 in Intro B: 64.38%
3rd out of 30(??) in the 2' jumpers.
Not sure about the 2'6" jumpers yet. I left while the class was still going on. I'll know more when they post the results this week. But hey! Not eliminated! That's pretty awesome.

Royal seemed please with himself, as he should be.

The next day we just hung out, I did some basic massage on him and hosed out the trailer. Next outing is in a couple of weeks, and I think we're ready.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Helmets: Less Stick, More Carrot

Wanna know a secret? Of course you do. C'mere.

No, closer.


Ok, too close. Back up.

I'll tell you something, but you must never ever tell the Helmet Fanatics. Ok? Ok.

I like wearing my helmet. No, really. I do. I love my AYR8, the way it looks, the way it feels, the whole thing. When the time comes that I have to replace it (sometime in the next year or so), I'll most likely get the exact same thing. I LOVE that helmet.

That's why it takes no pressure for me to put it on. There's nothing holding me back. It's comfortable, stylish, and sleek. I love the the way it completes the whole picture, while giving me extra bonuses of sun visor and vents. I LOVE that helmet.

Which is another one of my big frustrations with the Helmet Fanatics. They see helmets as an obligation and a chore, something you because you have to, not because you want to. And I think that's a big mistake. You don't sell something by saying it's a burden and it sucks, but you do it because of insurance premiums and you love your family and THE CHILDREN THAT NOBODY (BUT YOU!!!!!) THINKS ABOUT!!!111!!1!!!!!1ELEVENTYONE!!!!!!! Ugh, what a drag.

You know what's not a drag?


That's Charlotte Dujardin, double gold-medalist from the 2012 Olympics. But look at that helmet. I'm not a particular fan of the smooth leather helmets (I'm a suede lady myself), but doesn't that helmet look amazing? Much much better than a top hat. She looks like an athlete, not a weird throwback to an 18th century gentlemen. Now, that's how you sell helmets.

I've noticed a trend when it comes to a large portion of Helmet Fanatics. There's a lot of sighing and moaning and tsking when it comes to How Dare You Not Wear A Helmet When I Deem It Necessary, but lot of them would gleefully check them off at the slightest provocation. A show? Photographing a sale ad? Riding in a big name clinic? Off goes the helmet, quick as you please. You can call it hypocrisy, but I think it goes deeper than that. When you constantly make the argument that helmets are Just A Thing You Gotta Do But Really Everyone Hates Them, it's not a stretch to say that you may really believe that. So, take the opposite track. Helmets are awesome, and they make you look awesome. Don't you look great in that GPA/CO/One K/Samshield? Doesn't it fit your head like a glove? Why wouldn't you want to look and feel that fabulous?

This is also where the helmet companies need to step up. Right now, there's a wide variety of choices when it comes to English helmets, but western-style helmets are few and far in between. So, I think it would be majorly helpful if they could design some more western-friendly helmets, pay professional barrel racers and reiners and the like to wear them, and market the crap out of them. Make cowboy hats the equivalent on hunt caps: traditional, a throwback to the roots of the sport, but best left for exhibitions and award ceremonies. Make helmets become the cool thing, not the dork signifier.

More Carrot, Less Stick.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Royal Finds His Courage

Optional musical accompaniment to this post:

So, it's been an interesting few weeks. The Horse Expo came and went, and because of the EHV-1 scare, there weren't very many horse. Only select presenter and rodeo horses were allowed, but the Horse Barn was empty.

Creepy, but on the upside it's been over a month since the last positive case in this area. We seem to be in the clear.

Carriage House is fast approaching, so I've been trying to get Royal and me up to speed. I'm planning on entering us in Intro A & B and the 2'6" jumpers. He's fitting up like crazy and it'll hopefully be a walk in the park. It's been raining on and off, so most of the pasture is flooded and we're having to practice the tests in, say, unusual places. But Intro A & B are pretty simple, so even if I just glance at them before we go in, we should be fine.

The big news is that Royal seems to have found his courage. We've been having some problems with the neighboring cows breaking into our pasture and generally causing havoc. It's seems to be fixed for now, but usually once they figure a trick works, they keep using it. But one made the bad decision to break into the pasture where the horses currently are. And Royal. Charged. Them. Puffed out his chest, arched his neck, and power trotted over to the intruder, scaring them back into their own pasture.

*sniffle* My baby boy, all grown up and scaring cows. I'm so proud.

So last Sunday, I decided to test the waters. We went for a ride and after practicing dressage in a *ahem* undisclosed location, we went up to the Sheep of Death. They were in the front area, so Royal at first went all bug-eyed, but after a few passes, walked past them like they weren't there. And they were looking right at us.

*sniffle* *sniffle*

So proud.

So, yeah, it's a good sign. He's still one of the spookiest horses I've met, but any improvement is welcome.