Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Two weeks after the February show, I attended another show in Las Vegas, this one hosted by La Madre Equestrian Center and organized by Desert Dressage Association, a new GMO. I rode only one test each day, both days riding Second Level Test 4, in an attempt to get our second qualifying score for Regional championships. The judge was General Jonathan Burton. We earned very good scores both days, and I am thrilled with our overall improvement in accuracy. Charisma has become much more rideable and submissive, and I have put a lot more effort into expecting her to accept the work. It is funny how horses(read-people) will very often live up(or down) to our expectations. In the past, my prior trainers would have called her unwilling, unable, unsubmissive, and not rideable. I've had a very reknowned international judge and clinician stand on the ground and tell me "She just doesn't try for you." Who am I to argue with such an authority? And Charisma would inevitably live up to these expectations. But, she is not a pair of old jeans, to be thrown out and replaced with a fancier, more spectacular pair that will make my butt look good no matter how big it gets. And so, I made a conscious decision to set aside all negative thoughts, and simply work on what I COULD fix: me. Could I ride better? Absolutely! Could my position improve? Definitely! Could I be more precise in my aids? No question! Could I be more thorough in my daily training? Positively! How many times have I been told: Charisma can't do the work; She can't carry herself uphill; She doesn't try; She doesn't have the right kind of movement. And she lived down to these expectations, without fail. But, once my attitude changed, once I decided scores no longer mattered, whether or not Charisma could ever look like "those" horses no longer mattered, as soon as I decided to just work on ME, I suddenly had a very willing, focused partner. All that mattered was...the journey; the education; the bonding; the pride. And for the third show in a row, that horse layed down the best effort she had in her body, FOR ME. Did we get our second qualifying score? No, not quite. Four tenths of a percentage shy on Saturday(63.6%), and, two tenths of a percentage shy on Sunday(63.8%). While I can't deny I was initially disappointed, the reality is, at no point in our career together have we ever worked this much in harmony or been this undeniably consistent. And not just run of the mill consistent, but, consistently GOOD. I was actually happier with some aspects of the rides than I was about the ride at the prior show that earned us a 64.2. And the most important improvement of all, that tells me we are finally on the right track in the training, is that, at neither of the last two shows did we receive a single comment that the carriage was not uphill enough for the level. I now feel very strongly that, while we are doing very well, we can still do better. "It can always be better" is no question the mantra of dressage...but, while I always understood "it" needed to be "better", I never thought we could be better. That feeling, that we CAN, has created a quantum shift in my approach to training my horse, and all horses. Success is relative. For the likes of Courtney King-Dye, consistently scoring above 60% at Second level would seem very inconsequential. But, we all have to start somewhere, and it isn't as easy as it may seem, when you are not riding a horse with extravagent gaits and extreme talent for the sport. I know one thing, I will never doubt a horse's abilities again, but will instead look more to the intangibles: character; heart; the rider's influence; diet and overall happiness; and a basic desire to please.
NEWSFLASH-WE EARNED THE OPEN HIGH POINT AWARD AT THE LAS VEGAS WINTER FLING II, FEB. 21/22, UNDER MELISSA CRESWICK.
After the January show, I set about to work on the things that did not go as well as they needed to in the Second level tests. I needed to improve the overall uphill balance, and, submission. I also needed greater obedience and accuracy. I used video almost daily to be certain that what I felt in the saddle looked like it needed to look to the judge. Perception and reality are often very far apart! By the time the February show rolled around, I felt we could break into the 60s at Second level. I was even bold enough to pay the qualifier fee on the test 4, both days. I had a lesson on Friday, Feb. 20, with Charlotte Nord-Nielson, and then rode Second level tests 3 & 4 on Saturday under Judge Melissa Creswick. It went pretty well, Charisma was obedient and reliable. I was really happy with how much more reliable she has become in the show ring. We earned a 60.930 on test 3, and, 59.524 on test 4. So, PROGRESS, once again. We continued to show improvement. I had my rides video'd, and studied them that night, reading through my tests, to see how best to impress Judge Creswick the next day, and to also analyze myself what areas I wanted to work on. It occurred to me, as I was watching the video, and reading the test comments, that there were actually a lot of "dead zones" where the judge wasn't scoring. I realized I was missing out on lots of great opportunities to really check that Charisma was paying attention to me. I don't know why I've never realized this before. I was leaving way too much on the table! Sunday, I entered the ring bound and determined to use every step to my advantage. It went really well, and by the time I halted and saluted, my thought was "Huh, that went pretty well, but I actually think we can do even better." It was not a thought of ungratefulness, just, very matter of fact: not bad, but better is still possible for us, and frankly it was exciting to feel that way. I've honestly never felt so hopeful about our future. The ride wound up earning us a 64.286! Good enough to earn our first qualifying score to attend the Regional Championships. This show, I feel, was a pivotal show for me as a rider.
NEWSFLASH: TANNER AND I WERE NAMED COLOR COUNTRY EQUESTRIAN CLUB'S 2008 OPEN TRAINING LEVEL DRESSAGE CHAMPIONS!
Feb 28, I organized a "Ride a Test" fun day at the barn and invited a few friends out to practice their tests. In attendance were Brenda Whitely, Beth Hart, Suzannah Hanson, Sarah Glidden, Jenny Campos, Arly Cunningham, Gail Veley and two of her students, and Laura and Deni Lojko. I rode Charisma through Third Level test 1; and I also rode Dancer(Suzannah), and Daz(Sarah). Dancer had just been in training with me since Feb. 1, so, it was a little early to expect much of him, other than, to introduce him to the idea of there being people sitting around the arena and more excitement in the air in general. He struggled a little bit to stay attentive, but, he lacked enough tools in his toolbox at such an early stage in our work. I am very hopeful for this horse, he's a real tryer, and very neat mover. He's got some physical issues he's had to overcome in life, and yet, he still is willing to give it a try. That's all I ask. Daz and I rode through First level test 3, and overall I was pretty happy with him. That horse has the heart of a lion, a lot of horse in a small package, and I'm so happy to have him in my life. I've been working with him since November. He came to me for training after recovering from a very bad colic, and about half a year off from work. He was so weak at first that holding the lead behind was very difficult. He's really muscling out now. Brenda did really well on her mare, Ruby, and we are hoping to begin showing her at the Las Vegas shows this spring. Here they are practicing Training Level test 3 a week later:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQhhg9PK6JA I was really excited to get to know Beth's horse, Clu, better. He's super cute. All in all, everyone seemed to have a good time, and, it was good experience for the horses and riders to get out and work under a little bit of pressure, without there being so much on the line.