Thursday, May 29, 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Makin' Babies

Love this blog hop topic! So fun to see all the imaginary crosses out there :)

This is perfect because I already have Jetta's baby daddies all worked out!

First is Mirabeau. My dream is to have a buckskin warmblood some day so breeding her to a cremello would guarantee that (unless they have a smoky black gene which I'm not sure if he does or not).

I like his conformation and bone. Things I'd like to improve in Jetta are her neck and length of pastern. I'd also love a nicer trot and canter. He's got a lovely trot, not too sure about his canter but he's got an awesome jump. Plus I adore every single baby that he's produced. I just want a baby I can bring up to do eventing/dressage/jumpers whatever they are best at, I don't care.

If I was breeding for a more dressage only baby I would breed her to Diamond Hit. Lovely stallion, he's got the neck I want and his movement is great. Love his breeding.

Now if I was interested in breeding Misty, I would either find a thoroughbred to add some height and athleticism, or if I was sticking with paint, I would definitely choose this guy, Forest Midnight Comet. They would produce adorable roan paint babies! He'd improve her cowiness a bit and athleticism in reining and cowhorse, maybe add a little height since he's 16hh. There's not too much conformationally I'd change about Misty. I'd just make sure that if I was breeding to a stockhorse that they had good bone and feet, and none of that ridiculous exaggerated rump high/weak loin.

Not too completely awful conformationally

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Look What I Can Do!"

I took Misty xc schooling again today and while she was still good, it was definitely a different experience from last time. Last time Misty was like, "Look what I can do, I can jump all the jumps!" and this time it was more like, "Look what I can do, I can jump from an almost standstill!"

I decided to not wear spurs this time around since she was so reactive to them last time, but I also forgot my crop this time too. I could have used at least one of them this time around!

I was a little more ambitious this time and I wanted to jump the things that I didn't last time and do it without first approaching them to sniff. We had more refusals this time around, mostly because I asked her for some bigger fences and also the whole no impulsion thing definitely didn't help.

We did get over the A-frame coop that was the Novice version of the one we jumped last time. Stuck with the small barn still, jumped the blue house/barn thing (which was really scary to Misty!), jumped the actual Novice trakehner, not just the baby log/ditch version, lots of logs and this big brush fence. It looked huge to me, but I'm sure it was still just the Beginner Novice fence we jumped at the recognized HT last year.

"Are pictures really necessary?"

Misty decided to taste test the brush. Obviously it does not taste good lol

It looks ginormous compared to little Misty. We jumped it!

Where'd the Misty go?

Also, she cantered through the water immediately with no prompting, so that was good. The one-day trial this Sunday is going to be... interesting. The stadium jumps are going  to be super bright and fun looking so they might be a tad scary considering we've jumped only a handful of times ever. Plus cross country will also be interesting because a) she's not quite in cross country shape, b) everything looks ginormous to me, c) she's done cross country twice. So yeah. It's going to be FUN!!

Love this sport

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Drill and Dressage Ponies

First off, an update on Mr. Tux (I keep forgetting they call him Tuck now). I absolutely love getting updates on past horses. It makes me so happy!

"Sorry I still haven't gotten pics of Tuck up yet. He's still training up well and looking great. He's in perfect weight about 1400# with no belly. We put him back in his own bit and I bought him a nice bridle with a cavesson and flash - just over $100 from England on Ebay - Rheingold brand. He is a real favorite in the barn. We were very pleased with the job you did with Tuck. Have a good summer."

His "own bit" would be the Myler loose ring, versus they had him in a Sprenger loose ring for a while. Not sure why the bridle is relevant, lol but I'm thrilled that he's going well! He is such a fancy dressage horse, I can't wait to see pictures and I hope she starts showing him soon. And hey, they might be interested in Misty so I could have two horses in the same area! I need to take them up on their offer to come up and stay a weekend to visit Tux and take lessons with his owner's sister who's a dressage trainer. 

In my current horse land... Monday I rode Jetta, the poor ponies were completely forgotten last week with the busyness. Two and a half weeks till summer!! She wasn't as amazing as she'd been the past few rides. She warmed up quite spooky and full of herself on the lunge line. Probably didn't help that I'd decided to lunge at the spooky end of the arena. 

It kind of set the tone for the rest of the ride. She wasn't bad, she was just tense and didn't want to soften or unlock her jaw so we ended up doing a lot of serpentines and counterbending to get her to relax. The counterbending helped a lot and by the end she was a lo more supple doing the serpentines than at first, but it was still just an eh sort of ride. I can't wait till I can ride her more regularly as I'm sure that's 90% of the problem. 

Jetta looks fat too. Geez. But what I was hoping you could see (but can't) is that she's got some nice sweat at the base of her withers. Yay, lifting at the base of her neck!

How Jetta feels about baths

Misty was very good today. I think she needs to have her grain drastically cut though, lol. She's definitely a chunk at the moment and after watching her gallop around me for about 5 minutes on the lunge... she certainly doesn't need the extra energy! It's funny what a change this past year has brought! Last year I was stuffing her full of all sorts of orchard grass hay and alfalfa and grain and still pondering what else I could give her to boost her energy levels. 

We had a nice dressage ride, until I discovered a major training hole. We have absolutely zero ability to do a counter canter. Like none. First off it's so hard it's nearly impossible to get her to pick up the "wrong" lead. You cue for it, she gets it for a stride then immediately switches to the "correct" lead. Finally I convinced her that she could canter in a straight line on the wrong lead. Then as soon as she'd get any sort of "turn" going, she'd switch. By the end, we could make it halfway around a corner before switching, so I just called it good. We'll come back to that. 

So to end the ride, I picked up the flag again. I think she'll make a nice drill horse! She could care less about the flag and we cantered around with it snapping in the wind. I've always wanted to try drill! Jazz was the only horse I could have ever done it with and the absolute one thing she was terrified (this is the horse that would go through, over, under, between anything) was flags. 

Flag pony!

Then I decided to play around on her back to make sure she'd tolerate any shenanigans likely to be thrown at her if she gets a young rider. She could care less, but note to self: apparently I am too old now to slide off the butts of my horses because I tweaked my knee coming off. Oww. 

The result of the butt-sliding. Misty's going through round 2 of shedding I think...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Clicker Training Horses

Clicker training horses is a very interesting topic. Lots of people have very strong opinions for or against it. Personally, I was interested in it having seen some neat things that people had trained for, however I wasn't that motivated to try it since traditional methods worked for me and it's what I'd always done. Two bloggers that I know of use clicker training though, first is Matt the Cowpony who I've seen has a clicker-trained spin on the ground (really neat to watch). Secondly, just recently Bad Eventer posted about her success in using clicker training with her monster pony. Neat stuff!

Enter my animal learning class where our term project is to clicker train an animal. I am actually really enjoying this class contrary to how I thought it would be. I just find training so fascinating and I've loved training animals since I was little. Our family dog knows at least 15 different commands as a result of having to hang out at my family's store every day when I was between 8 and 10 years old. Boredom often has great results, haha.

First, some terminology. I didn't know the distinction between these terms before this class, though we so often use them in general life incorrectly.

Positive = adding something to the environment. Not good or bad, just the addition of a stimuli or object.

Negative = removing something from the environment.

Punishment = anything that makes an animal perform the specified action less

Reinforcement = anything that makes an animal perform the specified action more

So therefore positive reinforcement is adding something to the environment (such as treats or praise) to make the animal perform the behavior more often, negative reinforcement is removing something from the environment (such as pressure or an annoying sound) to get an animal to perform a behavior more often. Negative punishment is removing something (such as a child's favorite toy) to make them perform a behavior less often and positive punishment is adding something (an aversive stimuli such as a shock or slap) to make them perform the behavior less often.

The majority of horse training is done through negative reinforcement. Put pressure on the reins to get the horse to give to the bit, pressure on the sides with your calf to get the horse to move forward or turn, etc. There's some positive reinforcement through praise, but mostly it's negative. The reward is removing the pressure. For the most part I don't see too much punishment in training horses and it's something that is generally avoided in my experience, but the most common I've experienced is smacking a horse with a crop for refusing a fence.

Clicker training is all about positive reinforcement. You don't have to use a clicker, but the reason it is used is to mark a positive behavior as soon as it happens. I think many people have experienced training a dog to sit and as soon as they do, you reach down to give them a treat and they immediately jump up to get the food, thus getting rewarded for standing up. Usually in training dogs (without a clicker) you still mark the good behavior as soon as it happens with a "good dog!" so they know exactly what is getting them that reward.

The most common arguments I've heard against clicker training horses are that the horse will become pushy and rude to get the treats (common argument against hand-feeding treats), that the horse will perform the trained behavior even when it's not asked for, and that the horse will only perform for treats, so if you don't have the treat forget it.

My opinion (notice it's an opinion!) is that these are both very untrue if done correctly. You can read another completely different opinion here. (Note: this was my first introduction to a view on clicker training horses several years ago. I'd never really considered using clicker training on horses before. Somehow I ran across this woman's blog. I really hope that this piece is intended to be more sarcastic than educational).

Anyways. The first argument against clicker training: the horse will become pushy and rude to get treats. They really shouldn't actually. I was slightly worried about this because Jetta is, well, apt to become just that: rude and pushy. But, the thing is that after the first session, where she sniffed me up and down and rifled through my clothes pockets to get the treats (which she got reprimanded for "positive punishment" because that is rude and not allowed) she quickly figured out the ONLY way to get a treat was to perform the behavior I wanted. In this case, she only got a treat if she touched the traffic cone and heard a click. And she's not going to "take off my hand" trying to get the treat, because as soon as I click to mark the behavior I basically shoved the treat in her face where she politely took it. There's no opportunity to bite even if she thought that was appropriate behavior, which she doesn't. If I had to struggle to get the treat out of my pocket, Jetta waited somewhat patiently because she knew that she's not allowed to beg for a treat. That doesn't get her anywhere.

Second argument, the horse will perform the trained behavior even when it's not asked for. If that is the case, then by definition, this behavior is not correctly or completely trained. A behavior is only completely trained when the animal performs it immediately upon command, it never occurs when not commanded, it never occurs in response to a different command (such as telling a dog to lie down and they sit instead), and no other behavior occurs in response to this command (so telling a dog to sit wouldn't result in them jumping up). If a behavior is completely trained, then the animal knows that they will receive no reinforcement for a behavior that is unasked for. In the beginning of training, yes the animal must offer behaviors that you will choose to reinforce, but by the end of training you can attach a verbal, visual or tactile cue and then animal will learn to ONLY perform that behavior when that cue is given.

Third argument, the horse will only perform for treats so if you don't have treats, forget it. Also a very common thought. What I never realized is that there are two basic schedules of reinforcement, meaning how often you reinforce for something. There is fixed ratio (FR) and variable ratio (VR). Initially, you'll use an FR1 schedule of reinforcement, meaning that every time the behavior is performed, the animal will be reinforced. Other types of FR schedules could be FR5, meaning that the behavior has to be performed five times to get one reinforcement. A VR schedule of reinforcement means that the number of times the behavior must be performed to get reinforced varies each time. A VR5 schedule means that the behavior must be performed an AVERAGE of 5 times. This could mean they do it once to get a treat or do it ten times to get a treat. They never know how many times it will take to get the treat. The great thing about this is that once a behavior is established, you can change from an FR1 schedule to a variable schedule. VR schedules are great because they create behaviors that are also really resistant to extinction, meaning if you forget treats, that behavior will still be performed when asked because eventually the animal knows that they will get reinforced.

Extinction is the decrease or disappearance of a behavior that was previously reinforced once reinforcement stops. So if a horse is reinforced for, let's say, laying down. All of the sudden if you stop giving them treats whenever they lay down then eventually that behavior will decrease or stop altogether. However, it's not something that happens immediately. Commonly there is an "extinction burst" where the animal will increase the behavior at first to try to get reinforced before slowly decreasing the behavior. This is something that I think a lot of people don't realize, but makes a lot of sense if you think about it. I think a great example is with little kids. If you're on a road trip and they ask "Are we there yet?" and you respond, giving them attention (reinforcement) then they will continue to ask this question throughout the trip. However, if you all of the sudden stop responding to them and start ignoring the question to try and get them to stop bugging you, at first they will increase their rate of asking, often escalating their obnoxiousness levels trying to get that attention back. However, if you wait it out long enough, they'll lose interest and eventually learn to stop asking because they won't get attention that way.

So that's my basic overview of clicker training. I'm still having a blast doing it with Jetta and plan to continue to use it after the class is over. Next thing on the list is teaching her to stand still in the wash stall cross ties. Still not something we've mastered over the past six years...

If you're interested in reading more, one of the required books for the class I'm in is Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog". Easy to understand and an easy read.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Other Good Pony

Poor Jetta has been getting the short end. With me trying to get Misty all ready to sell and show, I've been riding her way more often. I haven't ridden Jetta since last Monday during our not-so-good jump school (if you can even call it schooling).

But despite the jumping fail, she's actually been REALLY good lately. I wrote about our last awesome ride and how I could definitely see us getting to second level by the end of this year. And after our ride today, I can say that should be the case!

I finally have my sweet, hard-working (if not still a little bit hard-headed and stubborn) horse back. Can't believe a month ago we were dealing with bucking, bolting, rearing and spooking. No more! She didn't hardly put a foot wrong.

I started out with our clicker training session. The due date on our class project is coming up quickly and I'm afraid we're not going to have enough time to get to our goal behavior. But, she learns so fast that hopefully it won't be a big problem. This was only our second session and there was a huge gap between the two so I was bracing myself for her having forgotten everything. I needn't have worried because she immediately started touching the cone to get her treat even when it was sitting on the ground, so I started shaping for a new behavior.

She was touching the cone for a second. But the end goal is to get her to pick up the cone and hold it in her mouth, so I started waiting for her to hold her nose to the cone for a couple seconds instead of just a split-second. She quickly picked that up so I started waiting for her to mouth the cone a little bit. She caught onto that fairly quickly, but unfortunately when I thought I was reinforcing her for mouthing the cone, she thought she was getting reinforced for wiggling her lips all over it. I wanted the next step to be her biting the cone, but she was happily going to town with her camel lips all over the cone so there wasn't the opportunity to reinforce her for the new behavior.

I ended up having to hold the cone for her and wait for her to bite it out of being upset lol. She got kind of offended a couple times and left when she didn't get her treat (we were in the roundpen) but she always came back. Ended it on a good note when she bit the cone three times in a row.

Next time we'll hopefully get the biting the cone behavior more set then if I can get her to actually pick it up off the ground I'll be happy.

After the clicker session I lunged her and got on. I was expecting her to be a witch because I haven't ridden (or even lunged) her for a week plus she's in heat. But I couldn't even tell when I got in the saddle. She warmed up really well so I decided to run through some second level movements. 10 meter circles are really nice. She has great rein-backs and a nice collected trot. Shoulder-in wasn't quite as nice as our last ride (where they were literally perfect) but still acceptable. Medium gaits need lots more work. Simple changes are ok, but she still gives about three trot strides before she walks and I usually have to give a bigger half halt than I'd like. But she picks up her leads from the walk perfectly. The canter serpentines on the same lead are a little interesting. She gets kind of worried and braces, but doesn't try to change so we'll keep working on those.

Overall, an awesome ride. We're going to keep chipping away at second level and start putting all the pieces together to ride a test at a show and hopefully once summer rolls around we'll get a lesson or two to clean up any loose ends. I'm excited!

And, here are the pics of Jetta jumping last week.

Can we just say how good she's looking? That neck!

Proof that we can actually jump 3'3" like normal people. Except where on Earth is my leg??

Warming up over the 2'9" I think this is the one picture where Jetta deigned to actually pick up her feet over the jump.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wonder Pony

I cannot express how amazing Misty is. She just continually surprises me in how game she is to try new things and how trusting she can be. Case in point, going cross country schooling.

I don't think we've actually jumped since the little hunter/jumper show we did several months ago... I feel kind of bad admitting that, lol. I popped her over a single jump on Thursday. She was a little squirrely at first (meaning she wiggled her way into and over the jump instead of going over straight). But by the end she was much more confident going into the jump straight.

That was it for our preparation. Friday was the first day (or maybe the second, not sure) that the cross country course was open. We got out there and immediately started trotting over a little intro log that was more like a pole on the ground. She did that fine, so we moved up to the larger log which she jumped great, then the even larger log.

The largest log in the set of three

We walked over to another part of the field to jump a little coop. I let Misty sniff it first and had to pull her off of it before she decided to climb over it, lol. I guess this is what happens when you have a trail horse! She jumped it absolutely perfectly the first time from trotting in. Unfortunately PM was trying to figure out the settings a bit on my camera (it's funny how different Canon vs Nikon is in some ways) so the photos came out blurry. Bummer. Especially because next I set my eye on a larger square coop. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to go over it since it looked HUGE (downside of not jumping at all recently is that absolutely everything looks giant). Misty politely refused it the first time. I say politely because she just sort of fizzled out instead of pulling a dirty stop like Jetta would. We tried again and she slowed down and chipped in, bunny hopping over it. Of course I felt super bad because not only did I catch her in the mouth but also hit her with my spurs because it was so unexpected. So we took it one more time and she jumped it perfectly!

I am the best at compensating for hitting her in the mouth the first time. Extra release!

Moved onto jumping the ditch (definitely the scariest obstacle out there! but she quickly got over it). She didn't hesitate for a second doing the bank up or down. Then moved to the next field to jump the little red barn and the baby trakehner. Also, a cool A-frame coop.

Up the bank
Down the bank
Red Barn

Then the water! Of course Misty doesn't mind water at all, the challenge was getting her to canter through it. So much fun! I just couldn't wipe the ridiculous grin off my face.

Overall, I had so much fun and I'm just in love with all the pictures PM got. It has me seriously reconsidering selling her because she's just so dang EASY. I love this horse.

I am going to take her to the one-day horse trial on the first of June. Unfortunately I've come to the conclusion that I just don't have enough money to do the recognized horse trial at the end of June this year. So incredibly disappointed. But maybe by the end of summer I'll have saved enough to go out of state to an event in Washington hopefully.

Getting spunky


Friday, May 16, 2014


So many things happening this week, but I've just been waiting for all the pieces to come together so I can write some more complete posts! Here's a not-so-brief synopsis.

Monday a friend came out to take pictures for a class project. She's taking a journalism class and has to do an article on a sport, so of course she chose horses. The plan was to get some pics of me riding Misty dressage and then do some jumping pictures of Jetta.

Neither horse was on their best behavior. But it was probably my fault with both horses. With Misty, I just didn't give her a solid enough warm-up so she was resistant the whole time and the only thing she wanted to do was open her mouth and chew on the bit. But she wasn't otherwise awful and tolerated PM laying on the ground and us trotting right next to her so she could get some "dramatic" shots.

Now with Jetta... I haven't jumped in MONTHS. I was worried my ankle wouldn't do well with it, but I thought Jetta would be totally fine. After all, she LIKES jumping which of course I told PM this exact thing. I think I jinxed it! (though my ankle was totally fine) Warmed up over a 2'9" cross rail just fine, so I set it up to a 3'3" vertical. She refused it a couple times, not badly, I knew they were coming, more my fault than anything for being wishy-washy with putting my leg on. Finally I got her over. First few jumps weren't super smooth, so I took her back over until we got two perfect jumps. I was going to stop, after all it was ending on a good note, we haven't jumped in forever... but then of course I decided "one more time" for the camera. Bad idea. Enter monster pony. She stopped DIRTY. Multiple times. I thought she'd be going over it but at the very last second she'd slam on the brakes and toss her head back catching me in the face. Fuuuun. So we dropped it back to 2'9" and popped over it a couple times then called it good. But I was not pleased.

Pictures will hopefully be coming soon though!

A couple pics to tide you over in the meantime:

Both smilin' for the camera

Tuesday I had a great ride on Misty. We rode western, warmed up in the snaffle then put the curb in and worked on our reining stuff. She's improved so much in this area. It's just so much fun. We were practicing our rollbacks and she spun around so quickly I tweaked my ankle. Was definitely not expecting that and now it hurts :( I call it my half-sprained ankle. I just want it to heal and get back to normal!

No ride Wednesday (last physics midterm ever!!)

Thursday was another awesome day. For my animal learning class we have to do a clicker training project, so of course I'm working with Jetta. The goal is to get her to learn to "fetch" a cone. I don't know how successful I'll be, but already after our first session, I'm excited. I'll do a more complete post on clicker training, what I've learned in class and my observations so far soon. But, I just have to share how neat it is. The first step in training this behavior is to get Jetta to touch her nose to the cone to get a click and a treat. We "loaded" the clicker and then started with me holding the cone close to me. She was super determined to get treats out of my hand, but she'd only get a treat if she first touched the cone. Gradually as she figured out that touching the cone was the only way to get a treat I moved the cone further and further away until it was sitting on the ground and she'd have to touch it then get her click and treat. So cool to see the wheels in her head turning as she'd look at my hand with the treats in it, then at the cone sitting several feet away. I'm really excited to see how this goes!

Then I had a great jump school on Misty. I just set up a single jump out of barrels in the outdoor. She did awesome! Definitely have to keep my leg on and really drive her forward to get her to go over straight and not chip in, but she is so willing and I just love that about her! Plus having flying changes/most always landing on the correct lead is so nice, when compared with Jetta. Just way easier in general.

And then, the most awesome, amazing cross country school happened today. Details and pictures to follow :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


So excited. The pictures of Misty taken by the professional photographer at the show just got posted. I was apprehensive that I had paid $25 to get our photo taken and to not have any good ones, but I needn't have worried. It is sooo expensive having this photographer do pics, but oh well. They turned out really well. I was just going to buy one (because for a low quality digital file it's $40) but now I can't decide if I want to dish out more money. Maybe I can convince my parents that they need to help me buy pics ;)

Votes? I'm currently loving the third pic of her trotting up centerline. The second cantering pic, the one of us randomly walking (second to last) and also the one of my brother and I chatting on the way back from my last test (I think my parents need to buy that pic. It's a miracle he came to my horse show).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Heart of the Valley - Part 2

Super long recap of Friday/Saturday here

Day 2 of the show was much sunnier and nicer than the day before. Luckily I didn't have to ride until 9:55am so I had a little bit of time to sleep in before showing up and giving Misty breakfast, cleaning her stall, etc.

She was being such a beggar!

My first ride was in the terrace arena unfortunately. I heard of a lot of people scratching their rides in that arena because of the deep footing and supposedly one horse tore its suspensory during their ride. Yikes.

Misty was pretty good though. I lunged her first this time around so she could get all her bucks out without me on her back, resulting in a much quieter warm-up. I would have rather have ridden in the sand arena which had dried out, but at least the terrace ride was the first ride of the day so she wasn't too tired. Still had a moment or two where she wanted to canter to get out of the deep footing, but better than the day before. One more bobble in the last corner before turning up the centerline where it was like a sinkhole and she tried to walk, meaning we got marked down half a point from a 7 to a 6.5. The test was all 6's and 7's except for one 5 where she jumped into the canter before I brought her back down.

All 6.5's for collective marks except for a 7 for rider and the final comments: "Maintain verticle balance in canter circles. Tension in back creates some irregular steps at times. Work to supple this and develop a consistant reach to bit. Energetic ride."

I was super happy to see we got a 65%. Of course, only person in this class = automatic first place. Oh well. I think this was our best ride (well, not just because of the score, but how it felt). I wish we had gotten a video but my camera died.

We had a little time so she got to hang out in her stall for a bit then we got back on. She warmed up really well, before we took a group picture then we headed down to the indoor. Once in the indoor warm-up arena... Misty was AMPED. I don't think she's ever had this much energy in her entire life. I thought she'd be tired but noooo, she was a little fireball. We did serpentines and long and low and transitions. Nope. Nothing calmed her down. So we zooooomed around the indoor arena in our final test. She didn't make any mistakes but she was TENSE.

And our score of course reflected that. 60% and last place. Bummer. All the comments were "tight" "tense" and "hollow". Final comments: "Attractive horse who must be more relaxed and balanced and reaching to the contact. Too tense today. Keep working!" I don't think it was just the indoor that made her so tense because she's not typically scared of new places. Honestly I think it was the hot walker that terrified her! (They have one of those awesome Eurocisers). She just couldn't tear her eyes off of it whenever it was in her view and she was so antsy after seeing it. She was convinced the horses were being tortured and needed to be rescued!

Doesn't get any better. Hanging in the sunshine watching the 3rd level classes.

Overall, a really fun weekend. It was a great learning experience for Misty. I love that every show something new finally "clicks" with her. The last show it was transitions, this show it was the free walk. By the end she was finally "getting" what she was supposed to do. Great group of people I was with and I was happy with how Misty did. I just wish I could afford to do more recognized shows now!

No pictures of us riding. I wanted to take screenshots from the video, but apparently my video-editing software doesn't actually have that capability even though I thought it did? Still waiting on proofs to be loaded from the professional photographer. I plan on buying one or two from her. I'll post the link when it's available!

Video from Saturday:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Heart of the Valley - Part 1

Such a fun weekend! Thoroughly exhausted by it all, but I think that our first recognized show was a success!


I had 6 hours to get everything done, from finishing loading the trailer, cleaning stalls, loading all my stuff in the truck, bathing Misty, etc. I got to the barn and hooked up the trailer and pulled it forward to finish loading it and... there was a flat tire. And my spare tire is still flat. Gah! Not helpful. I sent a frantic text to my friend that boards at the same barn and she said to just take her trailer. We have the same trailer in fact. Perfect! Only non-perfect thing is that my freshly cleaned and organized trailer would not be going with me and instead I would be taking my friend's very unorganized, full-of-basically-everything trailer. There just simply wasn't time (or space for that matter!) to take all of her stuff out and put it elsewhere. It was overwhelming the amount of things she has been able to cram in that trailer.

Anyhow, everything else went perfectly smoothly and I was able to get everything done in the amount of time I had before leaving the barn and picking up a friend who was going to groom for me on the way to Devonwood!

We arrived without a hitch and easily checked in and got Misty unloaded and settled in. She acted like a normal horse this time around in her stall, versus the last show were she was ping-ponging off the walls like she'd never been confined before. I opted not to ride her because the arenas were so muddy and she was SO CLEAN. Plus it was alternately sprinkling and pouring down rain. Awful excuse, I know, but I just couldn't do it. I had already spent at least an hour scrubbing those white legs to get the stains off. Instead we strolled around the grounds then she got dinner and I left. Devonwood is incredibly gorgeous and I was so excited to ride!


Morning came wayyy too early. My first ride was at 8am so I woke up at 5:30am to make the half hour drive from my friends' house to the show. Misty was still nice and clean for the most part, so a quick rinse and then we tacked up and warmed up. My first test was Training 1 and I was the only rider in that class since the other one scratched. I was kind of bummed to have no competition even though we'd get an automatic first place.

Getting all ready!

We warmed up and I kind of regretted not lunging beforehand. Misty decided that she was going to be a bronc horse. There was all sorts of leaping and jumping around the warm-up ring. Geez. She normally doesn't buck under saddle (unless you use a whip) but she was certainly feeling good! Finally she settled down and we were able to do an actual warm-up. I was just glad that I didn't fall off (Misty's "bucks" are pretty easy to sit) but someone else did end up getting bucked off and then their horse ran around the warm-up arena like a racehorse for 5 minutes until she decided she was done. Misty stood like a rock the whole time watching the mare run around in circles, bucking and doing sliding stops. Nice to have a chill horse sometimes!

Our first ride was in the sand arena which was nice and flooded in several areas. Misty doesn't mind water, but she didn't particularly enjoy trotting through it. It was kind of cute how high she picked up her feet when trotting through the water. It was not a great test. Misty hadn't quite settled into contact yet, especially in her bad direction to the right, and she threw in a buck during one canter transition and dropped to the trot in another area. But overall, not too bad for the first test of the day, which is always a warm-up test for me anyways.

Splish-splashing around

Surprisingly we got a 63.75% which I thought was fairly generous. I did have a momentary heart attack when I saw the score online to be 27%. Uhhh, how did I manage to get 2's and 3's across the board?! Luckily, it was a (major) typo and when I picked up my test I asked about it and they fixed it online so it wouldn't be send to USDF that way. Whew.

Mostly 6.5's with a few 7's and 6's. She halted suuuper crookedly both times which was a little frustrating after all our work. Comments mostly consisted of noting when she was tense or unsteady. Free walk wasn't very good (she still didn't understand the concept). I got a 7 on rider position which made me super happy since I struggle so much with sitting up straight and not rolling my shoulders. Overall comment: "Attractive, capable horse who needs a more supple back and topline and reach out to contact, especially outside rein. Watch use of spurs in canter transition so she stays more relaxed."

I know that contact is going to be a forever battle that I'm not sure will every be won, just because of the way she was started under saddle, though she's certainly improved in leaps and bounds from where I got her. But, suppling the back is certainly something that we can work on and improve now.

Gorgeous facilities

Second test was shortly after so I stayed on and worked on getting her a little softer in the bridle and straighter on our halts, with no explosiveness in our canter transitions before heading to the terrace arena for Training 2.

The terrace arena just had brand new footing installed and it was DEEP. I was warned about it previously but didn't think it would have too much of an effect until I actually rode in it. Geez. Now if it was Jetta, she would have been perfectly happy. She actually likes deeper footing and works well in it. Misty on the other hand is still not quite where I want her fitness-wise and she definitely got tired out in it.

I thought this was a much better test, despite having to really push her through the second half. She had a nice stretchy walk and trot, transitions were mostly good (one late canter transition), straight halts and she was steadier in the bridle this time around. She did try to canter several times during the trot work because she was tired (easier to canter than to trot). We ended up with a 62.14% which wasn't as high as I had hoped, but I was still quite pleased with Misty. Mostly 6's with a few 7's for all of our canter and trot transitions and the last halt. A couple 5.5's for the stretchy trot and a trot circle. This judge was a stickler for perfect circles which was the reason for the 5.5's. Overall comment: "Energetic ride. Be careful not to ride past his balance. Horse is still developing in connection. Pair is learning here. He needs confidence to consistently reach to bit from a supple hand." Hmm. Well, I guess you can't always have the most helpful comments.

At least we didn't place last, but I thought that we had gotten sixth place, but unfortunately the final results put us in 7th, just out of a ribbon :(

Misty got untacked, stuffed with carrots and given lunch hay before we went to watch the rest of the dressage team members. Two girls riding first/second level and one riding fourth level. JM, who was riding fourth, also had a musical freestyle. So much fun to watch, she did awesome. I think it would be so much fun to someday do a freestyle.

Overall, a really good first day to the show!

Since videos are taking forever to upload, I will put them up tomorrow and in the meantime you just get cell phone pictures and pictures I took of other people! Hopefully higher quality pictures of Misty and I will be following shortly.

That medium trot... One of the dressage team girls' sister

AH and Tova

JB and Bob