SRG's musings

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bad Blogger

I'm usually much better at sticking to a new project so I'm not really sure how it can be a full month since my last blog. Well, it might have something to do with how BUSY I've been on the farm (mowing and riding), at work (working and many business trips) and eating and sleeping some of the time!

Let's see...I survived the Loch Moy show with a less than stellar score thanks to really messing up the last two movements of the test which were double coeffs. I actually took an error and re-did on the movements, which didn't help my score any, but hopefully will pay off in future shows when Ness blows off an aid because she "is in a test."

I loved the way she warmed up at the show and I had many compliments from my PVDA buddies who hadn't seen me ride in a few years. We nailed all the lateral work and changes and the walk pirouettes weren't as bad as they could be. I was more than a little excited that I would be riding my first test in eons where I was required to enter in collected canter. Fourth Level, here we are!

Down the centerline and we are off! The halt was OK except I felt Ness swing her haunches to the left in the halt. My right leg dominates too much so I need to work on this more. But I scored a 6 and that was fine. The medium trot/collected trot movement couldn't have been better! We got a 7 on that which I thought was a little stingy. The trot half passes felt great but the judge didn't think we had enough bend. I got severely dinged with 5s on both. The extended trot also felt pretty nice, the judge thought a little hurried, and we earned a 6 on that. The shoulder in/rein back/shoulder in sequence earned all 6s. The halt felt square but the RB was not diagonal so we lost some points there.

The damn walk pirouettes were 5s--she stepped back in the one to the right and wide in the one to the left. Some more 6s and 7s on the rest of the walk work and the transition to canter. And then the "fun" began. Ness, being the overachiever that she is, knew the half pass was coming and I had a hard time preventing her haunches from leading. While this is a better problem than I used to have of not being able to move the haunches at all, the net result was a 4. I thought this was harsh but it is what it is. Another 4 for the half pass to the left--now her poll was too low. Got scores of 7s in the counter canter and flying changes in between. The very collected canter on the circle was only a 5 because I lost both the straightness and roundness in the circle. A costly double coeff.

At this point in the test, I could feel Ness was getting more tense and more behind my leg. If only schooling at home, I would've done some 10 meter circles to get her poll up and sitting more on her hind end. But in a test, you have to ride the next movement, and fortunately these were the last two of the test--the flying changes on the two short diagonals. I can chuckle about this now recounting it, but at the time, I wanted to clobber my dear, sweet, domineering mare.

The first change is from right to left and always, always, always, our easier change. I rode towards L with great confidence and slid my right leg back (you know, the one that works!!), half halted on the right rein and ...... NOTHING. Ness completely ignored the aid which I repeated again and again until we almost reached B. Now we are practically at B in the counter canter about to get a ZERO (double coeff) for the movement. Thinking quickly, I circled for the error and attempted the movement again. Again, she blew off the aid, but now I was prepared to back it up with both spur and whip. SQUEAL! BUCK! SQUEAL! We got a rather boisterous change and a 3. I was a bit discombulated, and frankly not feeling very confident, when I asked for the second change, which earned a 4 (x2) and the comment, "not through." A 6 on our final c/l and halt and we are now done with Fourth Level test 1. The collectives were 7 on gaits, 6 on impulsion, 5 on submission (thanks, Ness!) and a 6 on rider. End result was a 55% with a judge known to be less-than-generous. In fact, she did not hand out a score more than 61% in Fourth Level and above all day. The up side of all of this, is we can improve on everything and I was just stoked to be in the arena, looking like I belonged somewhat, and actually *thinking* in the test, rather than deer-in-the-headlights riding through it.

Missy came down for a clinic at my farm September 20 & 21. It was a blast and I was happy to show Missy how Ness works at home, as well as introduce her to many of my friends who rode in the clinic, too. The big insight in the clinic was glueing my inside elbow to my hip in the half pass to really anchor those inside aids for better bend.

Next up: Siobhan rides Ness in the Steffen Peters clinic this weekend. I'm so excited for all 3 of us. Steffen typically rides every horse the first day. I will definitely get pictures and video!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Busy week!!

I went back up to Blue Hill Farm for a couple of lessons with Missy before she leaves for Burghley later in the week. Go, Missy!! Go, B.G.!! Run fast, jump high (not in dressage, please) and most of all, be SAFE!!

Missy had a lot of helpful advice me on Fourth Level, Test 1 which I will be riding in a few weeks at PVDA's show at Loch Moy. This is a wonderful test--it flows nicely and highlights many of Baronessa's strengths. You can see the movements required here:

If Nessie is being her usual self, I will enter in left lead canter. She tends to travel straighter in this direction. I will remember to put her in a very collected canter before the halt at X. Since she will just have cantered into the halt, I need to be clear that I want a trot in the move-off after X. For the medium trot across the diagonal with 6-7 steps of collected trot centered over X, I need to start the movement deep in the corner. To keep her soft for the collected trot steps, I will slightly flex her jaw and resume the medium trot. Again, I will go deep into the corner so I can make the turn slightly early at A to start the half pass right. Fortunately, this is our better direction and the natural attraction of the wall should help things along! Finish the half pass before B so I have a couple of strides of shoulder in to start the half pass left. This is our more difficult direction, but we have done it well in practice so we can do it! The half pass finishes on the center line at G, so there is time to straighten the bend and go deep into the corner for the extended trot across the diagonal.

This next sequence proves mmore difficult to ride then it appears on paper. Probably because Ness, in general, would prefer not to bend left and my not-working left leg doesn't help matters one bit! After the extended trot, we come around the short side and I need to go deep into the corner and establish the best left bend we can muster. The left shoulder in goes halfway down the long side and then we turn left and halt at X. Ness only did this one time before she knew the halt was coming and she just petered out before X and did a lousy halt through the walk. So, I need to ride really forward to X (can I fool her into thinking there is no halt there, after all??) to get a square halt, which will make the rein back straight and smooth. Rein back 4 strides and prepare to turn right and shoulder in right the rest of the long side. Walk at C (not halt, which is what Ness thinks ought to be the next movement!!) and begin the walk pirouette sequence. Turn right, piro right, piro left. I don't have too much to say about the walk piros except this is not a highlight of ours and my goal will be to keep her forward and active. Right before the piro left might be a good time to switch my whip to the right hand for the canter sequence coming up and also to back up my outside leg for the piro left.

Extended walk across the short diagonal and a chance to catch our breath before the canter tour. We have been working super hard on the collected canter, keeping Ness' poll up, and active behind. We can do it!!! Right lead canter in the corner, taking care not to let her swing her haunches to the inside, and straight up the center line and half pass right. This movement should be another highlight--we are doing incredibly well on this! I was surprised when practicing this test with Missy that Ness was resisting changing to the left lead in the corner. I need to really sit up and back and keep Ness on her hind legs for the counter canter sequence and back up the change aids with the whip if necessary.

The next movement is either going to be a highlight or a real bummer as it is a double coeff. I need to pick up a slightly more forward canter to show the difference in the VERY collected canter ridden from quarterline to quarterline. I will take care to not get a downward transition or the bunny hop canter Ness sometimes does. From there we get to do a medium canter, which should freshen things up a bit before the half pass left, which is our more difficult way. Flying change right in the corner to the extended canter down the next long side. Deep into both corners to get our wits about us before the flying change sequence on the two short diagonals. Whew! We are almost done!! Trot at C, turn at R and halt salute at G.

I mentally rehearse this test a lot. Sounds a little nutty, but in my mind, I ride through any potential problems and I always fix them!!

Flyball is getting very interesting and exciting now that we practice with the team on Saturday nights. Abbey continues to excel and is having the time of her life. I cannot use a flash which makes it difficult to get a good quality picture but here is one from last Saturday. We are practicing with another team in Fredericksburg, VA on Sunday and I cannot wait to see how Abbey reacts to racing different dogs and a strange location. It should be a good insight into how things will go if we are able to compete in the future.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Better every day!

Since the main purpose of my blog was to help me remember all of the things I'm learning riding on my own as well as in the lessons I am taking, I have been remiss in my documentation. Before my addled brain forgets it all, here are some things that are helping me, especially with the elusive half-passes.

1) Small circles in trot, but especially in canter, to help collect and re-balance. (Jessica)

2) In half-pass, lean a little in the direction I am going. Do not take my eye off the letter I am traveling to. (Jessica)

3) When beginning a half-pass that will travel from the center-line to the wall, make sure to turn with the outside aids and begin with a shoulder-in. Take care not to let the haunches lead. (Missy)

4) Tap, tap, tap with the whip to remind Ness to bring haunches over--do not wait to tap with the whip until it has all fallen apart. (Missy)

5) Leaning doesn't look so great in the half-pass so try lowering my inside shoulder. (Kerstin)

6) When asking for the flying change, lift a tiny bit on the new outside rein. This is probably the most meaningful and effective thing anyone has ever said to me in relation to getting straight, quiet changes!! Seriously, try it! (Bent)

Still aiming to show Fourth Level, Test 1 at the Loch Moy show September 5th. Got a lot of work to do!!!

On to Flyball. Having "graduated" from the regular classes, we are now practicing with the team! We had our first practice last Saturday and Abbey was a super-star! The combination of working on her swimmer's turn on the chute as well as the regular flyball thingy-mabob that releases the ball in competition, has really helped. Abbey is uber-fast when racing other dogs and seems to know to pair the command, "hold it"with hanging onto the ball until she reaches me. String cheese is a great motivator, and hey, I get hungry, too, during the lengthy classes. I much prefer cheese to the dried liver treats.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Woohoo!! The elusive half pass

I'm posting from the Holiday Inn in West Chester where I just arrived after a phenomenal lesson with Missy Ransehousen. OMG, the Ransehousens are AWESOME to ride with, I'm sure whether all your body parts are working properly or not.

Today, I rode half passes in trot and canter in both directions. Not a big deal for some, but a HUGE accomplishment for me as my left leg doesn't work properly from the mid-thigh down. Re-learning the shoulder in and haunches in came easier than the half-pass. Don't get me started on my frustration that I couldn't get the half pass which is just one step beyond the SI and HI. Half-passing to the left would turn into a leg yield because I couldn't maintain the left bend and couldn't quite get my weight to the inside. In the half pass to the right I didn't get Baronessa moving off my left leg and the movement would turn into a diagonal line.

Missy and Jessica taught me to use my weight to tell my mare what I wanted. At first it was obvious to anyone watching--now, not so much. They told me "now, now, now" to help me get the timing of using the whip to tap my mare over. They told me to get longer spurs so I didn't have to twist my foot around to use this aid when needed. They gave me exercises to get control of my mare's shoulders and haunches which are the building blocks of a successful half pass. I'm sure their lessons would improve anyone's riding, but for me, they seem to understand there are some things I just cannot physically do in the saddle so they keep at it until an exercise gets the desired response.

I cannot wait for tomorrow's lesson!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Staying Focused!

It's been a crazy couple of weeks since I started my blog. My job has been more demanding than usual as we have an entirely new management team and there has been a huge effort on their part to get to know us and what we do. This has generated a visit to the corporate office in New York as well as some team meetings at the Baltimore office. I remain hopeful that some good will come out of all this extra work! I manage one of our largest and most profitable contracts so I was able to share what has worked successfully for me. My contributions to the bottom line were recognized in a public forum and that always feels good.

It has been raining like crazy here lately so I have been spending a lot of time riding--the John Deere mower, that is!! I took a little dressage riding hiatus last week as Siobhan prepared to show Ness at PSG at the EEMI show at Morven Park. Shiv was sick all week but "soldiered on" preparing for the show with Ness and a lovely TB she has in training. We had torrential downpours getting to the show. I'm sure the hot, muggy, wet weather didn't help, and Shiv still wasn't feeling great at the show. She ultimately scratched all of her classes except for the first one on Saturday with Ness. They scored a 58% which wasn't bad considering the circumstances. But I know they can both do so much better when Shiv is in top form. Here is one of the pictures I took. Shiv looks lovely on Ness--don't you agree??

The Ransehousens were at the show, so on Sunday morning, before I trailered the horses home, I took the opportunity to school Ness in the warm-up under Missy's watchful eye. The rain on the roof of the indoor made it hard to hear everything Missy had to say, but somehow I caught enough of the pearls of wisdom to do some decent trot and canter half-passes. I'm due a few vacation days so tomorrow I trailer up to the Ransehousens' Blue Hill Farm for a Tuesday and Wednesday lesson (Ness had the day off today) and I know I will get some more great exercises and homework then!

I was absolutely awestruck watching James Dwyer ride PSG with his beautiful Dutch Warmblood, Orlando, aka Ben. James has an above-the-knee amputation of the right leg but he rides flawlessly. It is inspiring to watch him ride and also to pick his brain about he uses his weight and seat aids to take the place of his missing leg. James had a great show with scores in the mid and high 60s! Way to go, James!! Don't these gentlemen look spiffy!

Missy had a nice, but sometimes exuberant ride at Third-1 with her Advanced Event Horse, "Critical Decision." Missy's position is incredible and I am going to keep the following picture in mind whenever I sit the trot.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


My other hobby, much newer than the dressage pursuits, is Flyball! I needed to find some healthy outlet for my retrieving-obsessed AussieX, named Abbey. My "old" friend, Debbie, (she is always saying she is my *oldest* friend--plus, we've been friends a long time) and I decided to enroll our dogs this past Winter in a beginner Flyball class.

Debbie's Curly Coated Retriever, Patty, is lively and obedient. Abbey is also lively, but perhaps not as obedient. Major understatement, there, We are all having a great time in this new sport and I hope to get some pictures soon of the girls in action.

In the meantime, here is a picture of Abbey. My mom calls her "DearAbbey" as she loves to cuddle.

Speaking of Mom, she is the most talented artist! She painted this portrait (below) of Abbey on my grandmother's china plate from the picture above.

Missing Sonja

I just concluded the most wonderful visit with my friend, Sonja, who lives in Oldenburg, Germany. We met almost 10 years ago when Sonja was in Maryland through an agricultural exchange program. Sonja and her parents came to Maryland the first week of July. Sonja's parents left the 4th of July for a fabulous U.S. tour which they are still enjoying as I write.

Sonja, her family and I have managed to keep in contact pretty well via email and in-person visits. I love my trips to Germany, where Sonja graciously navigates and translates. I get totally spoiled when Sonja comes to visit me in Maryland, as she is such good company and a tremendous help around the farm.

Sonja is an accomplished and dedicated equestrienne, in spite of only riding once a week, now that she is out of school and working full time. She loves Baronessa (who doesn't??) and took her for a gallop in the track I mowed into one of the unfenced fields. (Yes, there really is a track in between all that tall grass!!)

My Dad always says to me that he misses he even more after a visit then before he had seen me, even if it had been a long time since we were together in person. I know exactly what he means! I can't wait to see you again, Sonja! Don't worry! I will have the chocolate chip cookies, corn bread and peanut butter ready!