May 27, 2011

Day 2 - Rainy Days

Ok, so the first day was a wash, but the second day would be better right?  Nope, a wash too.... almost literally....

The second day we got there much earlier, no rushing today we were going to ride until he got it right.  I even planned it so I could ride for a while, give him a break, then do a quick warm up just prior to the test.  So we get there ~3 hrs before my first ride and I notice the warm-up is half under water.  I guess it had rained quite a bit.  The warm-up has moved to the indoor, which is half taken up by temporary stalls, so it is slightly larger than a small dressage arena.  I'm not complaining, no one can control the weather, it was just an unfortunate set up for such a large show. 

By the time we started our pre-warm up there were about 10-12 horses in this small arena, all about the size of Dexter.... huge.  So we were more focused on how to steer and dodge vs relaxing.  After about 15 minutes I realized it wasn't working and went outside to walk in the muddy warm-up.  We would at least take some time to look around and get that out of the way.

For our real warm up they had moved the warm-up ring back outside, mud puddles or not.  I'm guessing after watching a few too many close calls between novices and gran prix riders they thought it would be best.  This is where I realized Dexter's real fear of mud.  I knew he had an aversion to it, and always thought it was cute how he would steer around the wet spots in the pasture.  But now I saw it, he would not canter through the mud, and he would shorten his stride at the trot.  I get it, when I first got Dexter he wasn't all that balanced and he used to slip all the time with his back legs, even on dry dirt.  So he's smart, and doesn't want to slip.  I let it go being as the test arena looked better.... I was wrong.

First test of the second day actually started out pretty good.  He was relaxed across the back or better than the day before and he was paying attention, probably because he didn't want to slip.  Then we came to the canter section.... or to Dexter, the canter-break-canter-break-buck-canter-break-lengthen trot section.  Every time we had to turn he broke into the trot, and was completely tense and anxious the rest of the test.... drat.

We had about an hour between tests so before I gave him a rest we went back to the warm-up and I MADE him canter through the mud and puddles to prove that he in fact could now do it.  He wasn't the same lanky uncoordinated horse he was 8 months ago.  I'm sure I scared a few people in the warm up as it took quite a bit of momentum to keep him going. But he did it, it took some convincing, but he made it through the mud with no falls, hopefully I had proven to him he could do it, short term anyway.

Second test started out good... again.  Then the canter, again.  This time at least he kept going, only breaking twice, once after he decided to leap over a suspicious spot in the ring vs go through it.  But in order to keep him going we weren't all that pretty.  And we ended up with the lowest score I've ever gotten with Dexter.... worse than his very first show.  Every now and then you get a comment from a judge that sticks with you.  Hopefully its a positive one, this one was not.  "Need to work on canter basics for the safety of all involved."  - OUCH!

Over all the show was pretty disappointing.  Yes, the weather was a huge factor, and it was evident it affected a lot of the horses.  But I feel Dexter and I were more affected than most.  I'm sure I was affected by the weather and other horses, there by losing Dexter's confidence in me.  And its disappointing to fall so far back from where you've come. 

To top it off, I'm pretty sure that was my last show this season.  Between his high spirits, the energy involved and my growing belly, I think I'll be staying local until the baby is born.  Most of the time Dexter is fine at shows, but all it takes is one rainy day, one slip/buck and my center of gravity being altered to take a fall, and that's a chance I dont' think I can take anymore.  I still plan on riding and still plan on taking lessons, but showing is done.

I think it was a good first season, although short.  We both learned, grew and developed.  We were starting to get some confidence near the end, maybe we will just erase this last show from our collective consciousness.

May 26, 2011

It's Been a While...

So I haven't been blogging much because not much  has been going on, other than rain and wind.  Plus I went to my first recognized show 2 weeks ago, and have been totally bummed about the experience I haven't figured out how I wanted to share it.  Do I want to have a pity party about how the weather ruined all our rides? or how about a humorous internal dialogue from Dexter and his fear of mud puddles?  or maybe the judges u"un0fficial" comments that didn't make the test about what the hell we were doing there?

Ehh, I'll just tell it like it is.... it was not fun, for several reasons.  To start, the week before the show, it started raining, so we hadn't ridden for a few days.  This was our first 2-day show where we would be staying over night, and we showed up a little late the first day so i didn't have a whole lot of time to warm up.

The first day we got there and I knew I needed to lunge him, he was acting full of himself like he had the very first show.  We lunged for a while and he calmed down a bit, but not as much as I would have liked.  It was cold and wet and I think the weather was getting to him. I rushed to get dressed and got on with about 15 minutes to warm up.  Every show we go to we get the same comment, relax over the back.  So that's all I focused on, transitions will come, the bend could be better, but for now, just relax.  As this was a bigger show than we've ever been to before, there was just too much for Dexter to look at, relax wasn't going to come. 

So ok, I only entered opportunity classes the first day for this reason. We would just school through this first day to get ready for tomorrow.  We started out ok, he was straight down the center line and halted on cue.  Overall the test was okay, but it was a huge leap back from what we had done in the last show and at home.  He was counter bent, leaning on my hands, tense and just not paying attention.  Same for the second test of the day.  Oh well, like I said, we will school today and show tomorrow.

Day 2 - Tomorrow

May 3, 2011

Half Way There and Still Going!

I'm 20 weeks pregnant at the end of this week and happy to report still riding.  No falls or kicks yet that all the experts warn about.  We've modified our routine only a little bit, no more sitting trot, more canter work as it's much more comfortable, and shorter and slightly fewer sessions.

I will admit I'm more picky on what days I ride, Dexter gets a little frisky on windy cold days, so we stick to the warmer calmer days, which lately are few and far between.  And our sessions only last 30-40 min vs 45-60 before.  This is partly due to my energy level at the end of the day.  And if Dexter is acting less attentive, we get some quick good work in and end the session early.

But overall everything has been great with the riding while expecting.  I still have my balance and most of my core muscles.  I can feel my abdominal ligaments starting to stretch and I know at some point your ab muscles start to separate (really looking forward to that) so I know at some point I won't have the tools to ride correctly, and I've decided that's when I'll stop.... or at least downgrade to walking and working on side passes, turn on the haunches, etc.

I took a lesson last weekend and it was actually one of the most productive lessons we've had in a long while.  The past several shows, the comments have been about loosening Dexter's top line, so all we've been working on is getting him in the right frame and really letting him stretch and reach.  And in the last lesson we got it more consistently than we have in the past.

I'm really lucky to have such an understanding trainer who recently had her own baby so knows what I'm going through and knows what I can and can't do.

I know there are people out there who may think I am taking an unnecessary risk by riding while pregnant, and I don't disagree.  We are all taking on a certain amount of risk every time we mount a horse, pregnant or not.  As of yet the pregnancy hasn't affected my ability to ride so I don't feel that I'm at any greater risk of falling or getting injured that I was before I got pregnant.  Once I feel my balance shift and my muscles give way I'll have to re-evaluate what I can and can't do and go from there.  But I wanted to share some of my progress since there are so few people talking about riding while pregnant other than general time lines.  No one really talks about when and why they quit riding.  I know I'm no expert on horses or babies, but I feel I can at least provide my own journey and experience for those looking for more information.

Next week we find out if its going to be a boy or girl, either way they've already won a few blue ribbons!  Not many babies can say that coming out of the womb. :).