Another Day Another Horse Show – Dressage Phase

Sealed In Black Blue

This is the real title of this post, but I couldn’t get the strike through to work in the headline

It has been a trying week, my family has been dealing with some sad news and our availability to actually show on the weekend was very up in the air until the very last minute.  the practical side of my brain was saying “just scratch, it will be one less thing to think about” but my I can do it all side was saying – “we can make alternate plans to make this work.”  Of course, I should have known that my barn family would also be making a contingency plan to spring into action if I reached out for help. Of course it NEVER occurred to me to call anyone to let them know what was going on so you an imagine my surprise, relief and gratefulness when Nancy called and said – I heard what was going on – what do you need us to do?  Just knowing someone’s “got your back” somehow takes the weight of the world off of you.

As usual, Molly had a school function the day before so that left me wearing the groom’s hat and getting, horse, trailer and tack ready.  One of these days I’m going to be able to just show up at a show ready to ride.  Okay, who am I kidding – that’s NEVER going to happen!

I had a great lesson the day before and talked to my trainer about my frustration with Seal being so different at horseshows.  IF I had the same horse at a show that I have at home it would just be SO much easier for me.  I had already decided that I should go back to lunging him before getting on even though he seems pretty nonchalant at the show.  My trainer said the exact same thing! So that pretty much cemented my plan.

Seal was pretty disinterested in being lunged, but he did get out one decent buck.  I think he needs that just to blow off some pent up anxiety.  He only lasted 5-7 minutes on the lunge line but it was just enough for him to take that proverbial breath and just settle.  I quick threw on my stock tie and jacket and headed over to the dressage ring.The first ride of the day was nowhere to be found so I had the whole area to myself including the track around the judges box – what a luxury! We walked back and forth on a loose rein several times before I took some contact and started to warm up.  The boy was fantastic and came right to the party ready to work – very much like the horse I have at home! I warmed up for a quick 10 minutes and decided we were ready- only problem was the first ride was still not around.  By know, she should have at least been circling the ring.  I decided that I was ready – right then – and did not want to wait so I  asked the starter if I could go but of course she was clueless as to how dressage works if you miss your time.  So, being the DQ that I am, I TOLD her that  I would go tell the judge that we were switching times and away I trotted toward the judge leaving the poor starter somewhat speechless.  The judge, on the other hand, was quite happy to see some activity and gladly whistled me into the ring.

Seal Was Spectacular!! Totally focused, consistent, and relaxed.  It was SO easy to be accurate that the test was just lovely.  There were only 2 things that I wanted to do differently for the next test…1) put on spurs to keep him just a touch more forward and 2) keep more outside leg on the circles to encourage him to stay forward and not bulge when coming off the rail.  You see, Seal LOVES the rail.  He actually has some form of agoraphobia about being alone in the middle of the ring.  He immediately sucks back and tries to bulge back to the rail.  I think its actually kind of comical.  Usually you struggle to keep them ON the rail! Clearly, my boy is “special”.

The spurs were just right for the second test. I was extra careful not to jab at him because I really wanted to keep the nice relaxed horse I had.  In fact, he was so relaxed that he decided less than 1/2 way through the first canter circle that that was enough canter and started to get behind my leg.  I thought for sure he was going to break and we really needed at least 2 maybe 3 more strides at canter before the transition.  So, what would be an appropriate correction?  Maybe close my leg a little more?  Maybe soften my hand a little more?  Maybe cluck, oh so quietly, under my breath (I know a big dressage no no, but hey whatever works)? Now don’t be silly, I of course, did NONE of those things! I…, drove my seat into his back and dug my spurs into him.  A very appropriate response to a little change in tempo right?  Seal replied to my command with a nice little buck and then kept on cantering like nothing had happened.  Translation ” F you Mom – you didn’t have to be so mean about it!” Okay, point taken.  However,  since we had now come to an understanding, the other canter circle and rest of the test were lovely.

Despite  the one minor disobedience. we were rewarded with great scores of 69% in Intro B and 68% in Intro C.  The best part was the lovely compliments from the judge as well as her recommendation that we move up to Training Level.  AND,,,not only did we win BOTH classes, we were also the Hi Score of the day! Yes, my boy was Sealed In Blue!

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A Good Time Was Had By All (Part II)

After a quick tack change we headed over to the hunter ring and was there with time to spare.  Nancy hopped on Seal to give him a quick school before handing over the reins to Molly.  He was a PERFECT gentleman despite the chaos going on during schooling.  Despite not having any show mileage, he does “hanging out” by the ring really well.  He’s is perfectly content to just stand there, Molly thinks he actually watches the horses in the ring.  He must have been studying because when it was his turn, he went right to work – no fooling around.

The division was a full class of 9 with good competition.  The thing about the beginner hunters is that you can be either a beginner rider on a seasoned horse or a seasoned rider on a beginner horse.  So, for a beginner horse to compete with the seasoned horses can be tough.  Molly and Seal definitely held their own.  Little mistakes kept them out of the ribbons in all but one class but they were little and will just get better with experience.  This pair has come such a long way that I was just thrilled to see them march around like it was no big deal.

molly seal kiss

Although we were done early, we stayed to cheer on the rest of our barn mates showing later in the day.  Seal was happy to hang out and eat grass and true to form, his striking handsomeness garnered the attention of many people who came up to ask about him.  Our barn had a GREAT “hospitality” tent set up for all of our riders with food, shade, beverages and a comfortable place to relax.  I have to take a minute to gush about my barn family.  I LOVE my Best Chance Farm family.  We have an incredibly great group of people who are kind, generous, supportive and caring.  Both Molly and I are SO lucky to have this support system. It is a pleasure to know each and every one of them and a privilege to call them my friends!

bcf crew

Best Chance Farm had a GREAT day – I think the team took home something like 9 Champions! Yup, a Good Time was Had By All!!!

bcf banner

A Good Time Was Had By All

This weekend was the “opening day” for our local show series.  And what a BEAUTIFUL day it was!!! After the miserable cold and icy winter we had and so far negligible Spring, the weather god’s BEAMED down and sent a perfect day. I think the mercury topped off at 78 for the !day and all sun.

Seal had a full dance card – morning with me in the dressage ring then a super fast costume change into his hunter character for the afternoon ywith Molly. The boy deserves an award for versatility!

The dressage ring at this show has a lot of distractions – behind C is the secretary stand, awards table, food vendors and tack vendors and what I think was the only water source.  So, needless to say – a lot of activity and commotion as you are heading up center line.  Also, directly behind C is a clearing through the tree line offering a limited view to the parking area and all the comings and goings happening there.  Not the best scenario for a green horse prone to ADD.  Seal was very nonchalant when we took him off the trailer so I decided he didn’t need to be lunged and after a short walk over to the dressage ring to retrieve our number and watch a barn mate, I just tacked up and got one.  Big mistake.  He wasn’t wild but just tense and as I learned from one of my old horses, that is not my favorite kind of ride. I couldn’t figure out how to get that “flow” that we get at home.  He was just tense and either behind my leg or pulling me – it was really frustrating.  That was the major comment from the judge – ” he just seemed tense and tight” – You got that right sister.  After that I decided that the boy needed to go canter and loosen up a bit.  And, well actually practice a little canter since it was in the next test?  He was still uptight and decided that Molly bending over to tie her shoe was overwhelmingly threatening and warranted a good spook (JERK).  Then, the strange person walking across the parking lot also warranted a spook (Double Jerk).  Okay buddy how about you just canter and get your mind back on me???  Seal “I have a better idea, how about I try to buck you off?” (Now he’s approaching A-Hole territory) Remember the movie Stuart Little and the cat Snowball tries to eat Stuart? (Snowball, we DONT eat family members!)  Seal, you DONT buck Mom off!!!  Fortunately I had a pretty good feel of his face so he didn’t get me off but with what I felt was a crummy first test and now this little shenanigan, I was done, but I sucked it up and trotted over for the next test.  Wouldn’t you know it, but the canters were the best part of the whole test!  Especially the left lead.  He just relaxed and rocked along it was one of our best canters ever!  And the moral of the story? Even though Seal seems relaxed, he probably needs a few spins on the lunge in case there are any play bucks lurking.

We headed back to the trailer to get ready for the hunter portion of our day and learned that Molly’s ring was moving pretty quick so we had to hustle a little.  Of course, Molly still had to get dressed so that left me to change Seal’s tack while trying to keep a safe distance between Mr. Slobber Mouth and my white clothes.

To be continued….

Just Molly and Me…And Sealy Makes Three….

we’re happy in our blue heaven….

4-12-15 molly n me

Awesome Sunday last weekend,  Our first outdoor show of the season and as you will see from the pics, it was a GORGEOUS Day!!!  This little show series has been plagued with nasty weather (although what do you expect when you try to show in NJ in the winter right?) but FINALLY they got a beautiful day and we were able to be outside.  Of course, that presented it’s own challenges.  First show outside…need I say more?  I was really thinking this would be no big deal but Seal definitely had another opinion.  First, one would think early April to be the perfect time to ride outside since it is virtually bug free.  The operative word there being “virtually”.  There were 2  – I counted them- 2 bugs at the show and of course they both found Seal.  Probably the one horse there that has Entomophobia!  I had his tail in a loose braid to keep it clean in the trailer.  While walking up to get our numbers, bug 1 decided to start sniffing around.  Seal started whipping his tail around like a bull whip and actually whipping himself which in turn upset him even more until he was kicking out and bucking like an lunatic.  It was actually kind of funny.  Molly managed to scoot herself away leaving me to deal with the crazy man while rolling her eyes and shaking her head…”he is SOooo Stupid”.  I could tell by the look on her face she was thinking “I’m NOT getting on that thing!” I managed to get his tail unbraided so at least he could use it for its intended purpose and then he seemed to settle down.  Just to be on the safe side and to reassure Molly that he wasn’t going to be a bucking bronco, I sent him for a few spins on the lunge line before we tacked up.  One buck at the canter and then he was done – that was too much work!  He was actually pretty good albeit distracted during warm up but he was a good boy.  We just did a quick 10 min warm up and headed into the ring.

4-12-15 halt

 Intro B was first and other than the distraction, he was a very good boy.  I really felt like once we turned the corner and headed down center line, he figured it was time to go to work.  The judge LOVED him and we got a pretty decent score – my second best of all time….

4-12-15 test

We had a long time between tests and Seal got bored and decided that he must be done and that we were just hanging out for the heck of it because when I went to warm him up again he was NOT INTERESTED in the least.  He attention was everywhere BUT on me – looking at the tractors on the driveway, the other horses in the ring, then…he spots the barrel racing clinic going on in an adjacent ring!  Seal: “Hey Mom,,,Mom..Look..over there..OVER THERE!!!!  Those are my people!!!  ET Phone home!  ET PHONE HOOOOMMMMEEEE!!!!!!”  Me: “Dude FORGET IT! You’re a DRESSAGE horse now!” (insert  eye roll).  Needless to say, our C test was not as spectacular as our B test.  I have worked really hard on our geometry and accuracy, but Seal was so in some other world that when I asked him to turn for the 20m circles at B & E he didn’t  even respond.  Instead, he stayed on the rail for about 2 or 3 more strides than I had wanted thereby making our circles slightly off center.  The judge even noticed it and made a bit of a joke about it – “got stuck on the rail there huh?”  Lady you have NO idea!! It was a little funny as it was happening because I planned the turn, turned my head put my inside leg just behind the girth, outside leg at the girth, squeezed my inside hand and…..nothing.  In my mind we were about a quarter way into the circle when it occurred to me we were still on the rail  Uh…recalculating….talk about having to think on your feet. Seal did turn – eventually, but by then the circle was off the center of X – I decided to make it a correctly shaped 20m circle that was about 6 m misplaced rather than make a properly placed but incorrectly sized or not round circle.  Turns out this was the right decision because while she commented on the placement she still gave me a 7. Overall it was OK.

4-12-15 salute

Molly rounded out the day by throwing her hat into the dressage ring for the first time in like 4 years with a training 1 test.  Seal was still Very ADD for her but she rode well and earned a very respectable 60.5.  Not bad At ALL for a kid who only ran through the test twice in her lesson and with a horse that has never done T-1. Between the 2 of us, we did 3 tests and came home with 3 blue ribbons.  Yup, not a bad day at all!

4-12-15 ribbons

 

Goldilocks and the 3 Distances

I spent so much time trying to decide what to write about last week that I never got around to writing anything at all.  I was kind of hung up  thinking that my horse can’t be wonderful all the time – if he was, my blog would eventually end up sounding like every ride was like a trip to Disneyland. Seal has been quite good this past month – it seems like he has really taken a step up in his training, but Molly’s lesson last week was a bit of a reality check as to just how green he still is and how far he still has to go.  If I had to choose just one thing that is his biggest problem I would have a hard time deciding between going straight and going forward.  The two seem to go hand in hand.  If you get him forward he tends to be straighter – if you get him straight he tends to stay forward.  So…take you pick.  Last week, Molly just couldn’t seem to find “medium” and Seal seemed just as clueless.  He was either behind her leg going nowhere and just chipping or unbalanced and running and…chipping – or  he would go for the looong distance and that wasn’t pretty either.  “Medium” just seemed to elude them. So, it was a long lesson – but by the end they started to figure it out and actually ended with a pretty decent course. Hopefully this link to youtube works

All By Myself….

Seal and I had our first solo mission this weekend – no trainer, no help, no reader.  Just me and Seal.  And it was great!  It was great for a lot of reasons, but when I sat down to reflect on the day I realized that the reasons that made the day so good all stemmed from the fact that I have been properly prepared for this day by my trainer.  I don’t mean just this show, but the ability to go to any show alone and hold my own.  There are a lot of trainers out there that would not even consider supporting a student going off and doing his/her own thing.  Why, I’m not 100% sure.  I’ve been in that situation at a previous barn when Molly was doing the Marshall & Sterling and we were chasing points.  We were willing to go out almost every weekend – the trainer at that time had other students and basically other interests.  Having our own pony and transportation, I saw no reason why it should be a big deal to go on our own to shows.  This trainer really had an issue with that.  It really made no sense to me, but I do suspect there was some insecurity – did it reflect badly on them if Molly won when the trainer wasn’t there?  Would we be solicited by another trainer if we were consistently seen without one?  I don’t know the exact reasons, but I thought they were pretty stupid. Growing up with Nancy Bloom, I was taught to be independent and think for myself.  Being at a show, properly turned out, prepped, polite and workmanlike doesn’t make the trainer or the farm look bad, it’s just the opposite and Nancy knows this.  A well trained student, not just on a horse, makes her and her farm look good.  So, thank you, Nancy, for giving me the guidance, encouragement and support to know that I can go it alone if necessary!

Seal is really starting to get the whole “hang” of horseshowing.  It was COLD today, but he handled it like a big boy – we were both wearing our “big girl/boy” breeches today!  He was a little tense all day and definitely spooky during the first test.  But I dealt with it as best I could, didn’t make a big deal about it and tried to be encouraging for him.  We managed to pull it off with a 66% so I guess it didn’t look as bad as it felt. He seemed to relax a bit for the second test but I just couldn’t get him to come out to my hand as nicely as he has been.  We  did get a 68% in the second test and while it sounds good, it really wasn’t our best.  Oh, well, some days will just be better than others.

I am thrilled at all the progress Seal has made – especially over the last month.  Every time I ride him – l fall more and more in love with him.  He’s a good boy, with a good heart and he is teaching me to become a better rider.  What more could I ask for – really?

I was also lucky today to get to see an old friend of mine who was showing.  It was so great to meet up with Marissa and Tucker (aka Tucker the Wunderkind)!  This pair is really looking great and I am hoping to meet up with them at some future shows so we can tailgate!

So all in all, it was a good day – but then isn’t any day spent on a horse a good day?

seal 3-28-15

Lucky to be “In the Business” (and some shameless plugs for my employers)

In order to pay for mine and Molly’s lavish lifestyle with the horses, I work – two jobs to be precise.  I am a paralegal at a small law firm and it is a job that I absolutely love!  I had no legal background prior to this job but they took a chance on me and it has been a really good match for both the firm and I.  I feel really lucky and fortunate to have stumbled into this. (BTW if anyone in NJ needs a good divorce attorney, lmk!) new waldhausen logoMy “other job” I have been doing for almost 15 years.  I manage the US business for Waldhausen, one of Europe’s oldest distributors of riding equipment and apparel.  Again, another job I LOVE!  I have been involved in the tack business since I graduated college in one form or another from running a small tack shop in high school, to my first job out of college at MIller’s Harness Co (I know, I am dating myself!) to now running Waldhausen’s US business.  I have a fantastic team of 4 sales reps that work for me and basically make the magic happen.  I am essentially just the wizard behind the curtain.  Believe me, working for a tack company definitely has it’s perks.  The first is the access to all the equipment I could possibly need.  Hence the reason Molly and Seal are never lacking for anything.  Another is that I get to attend the industry trade show twice a year.  As an exhibitor it is a lot of work.  We have a 400 sq ft booth that the reps and I set up and merchandise.  However, the trade show is the cats meow for the horse person.  It is trade only so you must be a retailer to get in but there are aisles and aisles of all the latest and greatest in the tack industry.

waldhausen booth 2 jan 15

Apparel “dept” of our booth from January (note I worked in a picture of Molly and Tappy!)

waldhausen booth jan 15

A little broader view of the January booth

My background in the tack business makes me a little biased when it comes to brands.  In case anyone hasn’t already figured this out, there are a limited number of factories throughout the world in which tack and equipment are made.  When I was a child, I remember being on vacation and going on a tour of a Mister Salty Pretzel factory.  As a child of not older than 6 or 7, I was absolutely astounded when we got to the packaging department and watched the EXACT same pretzels being poured into bags that said, Mister Salty, Shoprite, Giant and Pathmark.  Hey wait one minute!  You mean the SAME pretzels are in BOTH the Shoprite AND Mister Salty bags???  What the heck???  Guess what, the same is true in the tack business.  The same factories are making the SAME products for everyone and just slapping a different label or stamping a different name on each one.  The only difference is which brand has the courage to charge more thereby making their brand seem more exclusive. With that little piece of wisdom imparted to you, I want to share some of my favorite Waldhausen items.  You may not recognize the brands but they are indeed made in the same factories as the all the other items that they look like. waldhausen feb waldhausen march  waldhausen blue waldhausen aqua waldhauen patent diamond bridle waldhausen orange I really do love and use many of our products.  I find the quality is great, they are stylish and competitively priced. So, the next time you are in your local tack shop, be sure to ask them if they have anything from Waldhausen because, you know, every six weeks Seal needs a new pair of shoes baby!