Great Expectations

or “My Life in Blog Sounds Much Cooler Than It Really Is”

Archive for March, 2009

Day three…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 31, 2009

Today, I was back to work.  So, kind and gentle hubby took the girls to lunch (Taco Bell) and to our lovely outdoor shopping center where he said they went crazy when they saw Hollister.  As soon as he parked – they jumped out and ran off.  He took his laptop to the bakery and waited for the shopping frenzy to abate (about 3 hours, I think).  This evening we left them at home alone for a few hours while I went to ride and hubby went to the gym.  Everything was still intact when we got home.  🙂  I marinated some chicken breasts in a garlic vinaigrette and we grilled them for dinner.  Roasted fingerling potatoes, arugula salad, garden peas, sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms, and fresh baked (from frozen) french rolls were our accompaniments. 

Here is a cumulative total of “funny” things which I plan to expand as the trip progresses:

4 trips to the grocery store, 3 loads of laundry, 1 backed-up toilet

Barn update: Dancer has a mysterious swelling on her abdomen.  Luckily, a team of vets and vet students are coming to our stable today to give spring shots, so hopefully they can have a look.  More vet bills – yay!   And, speaking of vet bills, one arrived in the mail yesterday all the way from Germany.  How interesting that he should have my new address while his niece is visiting me.  The bill is for 637 Euros – almost $1,000.  Nice.  There is no description of the services provided, just a list of two invoices.  One is dates April 24th and matches an invoice that I already paid before I left Germany.  The other is dated August 4th.  I would like to know how he treated my horse two months after she left the country.  Luckily, I have a German speaking person staying in my house to help me sort it out.   She sent an email on my behalf and we will see what happens.

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Day two…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 29, 2009

Today we had Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for breakfast and a trip to Starbucks for coffee.  The girls chose frappucinos, and at first I was worried that they wouldn’t realize they were getting something cold.  They knew exactly what they were getting and they were very pleased with their choices. 

I had a lesson to teach this morning at 10:30, so they suited up in some of my riding pants (Elena brought her own) and we headed out to the stables.  Max the goat was a big hit – he fell in love with Julia and wanted to follow her everywhere.  We had a lot of fun laughing and teasing her about this.  I slopped out in the mud to catch Louie and they were kind enough to brush him and wash him for me while I was teaching my lesson.  That was quite a lot of work.  He was a mess.  And, that pretty much guarantees that if I ask them if they want to go back out to the stables again, they will most likely say, “no thank you!”  They also had brush their own mounts, Tiki and Bayla. 

After the lesson, I got all the horses tacked up (quite an undertaking – finding saddles, pads, girths, bridles and helmets for the girls) and took everyone out to the arena.   They rode for a bit in the ring getting used to things (Elena looked lovely riding Dancer – I wish I could have watcher her more) and then we went for a walk down the dirt road, through a bit of woods and meadows and then back home again.  It turned out to be a lovely, sunny afternoon.  Such luck.  What wasn’t lucky is that I ended up having to put Louie back in his stall and go on foot.  He was acting a little silly and the two girls who hadn’t ridden before were having trouble keeping their horses out of the grass and onto the road.  I thought it would be better if I could help catch them and lead their horses from time to time.  I didn’t really mind and I think it made them feel better.  There were a few times the horses would all spook, one of the girls would scream and it would take a moment to get everything settled back down and moving again.  I think by the end, I might have created a horsebackriding fan out of one of them.

We came home and had some lunch and watched “The Break Up” – which is fun because it was filmed in Chicago and we will be there in less than a week.  After resting, they were ready to go to the park and have a “run” with Colin which he promised to do.  They took Copper with them.  This should be interesting…

Tonight we are having dinner at the Japanese steakhouse and we have invited some friends with a teenaged daughter.  In fact, this daughter has agreed to take the girls to school with her one day this week.  I hope that works out because I know the girls really want to experience an American high school.  I hope they aren’t expecting “High School Musical,” which sounds silly, but in Europe they see so many American TV shows and movies that they really feel like they get a sense of what it is like to be here.  In some ways it is true…when they saw how many televisions we have in the house (4), they said, “oh it is just like on tv – you really do have a television in every room of your house.”  Hmmmm.  Also, I remember when we lived in Germany, one of our German friends had seen people using a stick to roast marshmallows over a fire.  So, when we were invited to a barbecue, we offered to bring things to make s’mores.  They all wanted to try them, but they really didn’t realize that marshmallows are just balls of sugar that come in a bag.  They thought maybe they were something that grew on a tree.  Too funny!  The girls also think our neighborhood is like “Wisteria Lane.”  Not quite…but the idea of a subdivision doesn’t really exist in Germany, so I do see what they mean.

It really is interesting to visit other countries and have people from other countries visit you.  It makes you look at what you have in a different way.

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Day One…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 29, 2009

Last night, Elena, Svenja and Julia arrived from Germany.  My husband picked them up from the airport in Atlanta and unfortunately the arrived at our house before I finished vacuuming.  Whoops!  I “made” them some chocolate chip cookies (the American way, of course, which consists of plopping spoonfuls of pre-made dough onto a cookie sheet) and I think they found them delicious.  They brought me a Thomas Sabo charm necklace as a gift – it is really cute, a sterling silver high heeled shoe – and so, so nice of them. 

This morning I got up early so that hopefully I would be awake before them, but if not, they wouldn’t have to be awake forever waiting for us to get up.  I made some pancakes for breakfast using the Bellagem waffle mix from William Sonoma.  This is truly delicious – if you have not tried it – you should run right out and get some.  Don’t be afraid of the $9.50 price tag – they are worth every penny.  I think these were a success too.  After breakfast, the girls cycled through the bathroom and got ready for the day while I ran to the barn to take care of Dancer.  When I got back and got myself ready – they were ready too.  Then we headed out to get pedis, or pedis and manis or in one case just a mani.  They had never done this before, and having lived in Germany, I can confirm that America corners the market on little Asian run nail salons.  Yay America!  (Or maybe that should be yay Asia!)  Anyway, they loved it – from picking out the nail polish – to sitting in the massage chair – to trying on shoes at Target later with our beautified toes  (more on that in a minute).

Then, we went to Publix, which they have now dubbed a “paradise.”  How fun to watch them squeal over Cheetos and BBQ flavored chips the way I used to react at the German grocery store.  We came home and I lovingly prepared an all-American lunch – hotdogs, mac’n’cheese and potato chips.  If these girls don’t take home a little 10 lbs.+ souvenir, I will be surprised.  🙂  Lunch dessert – Ben & Jerry’s by special request.  Then we headed out to Target.  We did kill almost two hours there (very reminiscent of trips my sister and  I make to Target together), but unlike my sister and I, they did not each spend $100.  Then, we headed to TJMaxx where the squeals of delight really kicked up a notch in honor of Tommy Hilfiger flip-flops, Adidas work out clothes, and Roxy tshirts on the cheap.  These are girls after my own heart who can appreciate a good deal (see my description of shopping here https://mandyhuckins.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/if-shopping-were-a-sport/).  I can’t wait to get them to the outlets in Myrtle Beach.

Tonight we stayed in, grilled hamburgers and watched Twilighton Blu-Ray.  Just like American teenage girls (and my sister-in-law who is in her 30s), they knew every word of this movie, but were thrilled to watch it on our big screen.

So far, so good!

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Something I hate…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 27, 2009

The speed limit on the frontage road leading to my neighborhood is 50 miles per hour.  That is probably fast enough, but I will usually push it and drive about 60.  How is that not good enough for people?!?  I hate tailgaters!  If you want to drive 80 mph, why don’t you get on the interstate right beside us?  To make it worse, this has happened to me twice in the past two days and both times the offending driver had a handicapped tag hanging from their rear-view mirror.  One guy even passed me and I could see that the whole back end of his car was smashed in.  Nice.

If you are physically handicapped already and your car is nearly destroyed, do you just think you have nothing left to lose and so you drive like a maniac?

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A rough night and an even rougher morning…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 27, 2009

The rain eased off around mid-day yesterday and I was able to get out to the stable and teach one of my adorable little beginning riders.  The arena was very wet (of course) and because it is sand, the footing was very iffy.  Poor girl – she basically had about a 20 meter circle around me in which to ride and I told her there would be no cantering.  She dutifully rode without her stirrups at the sitting trot and then practiced posting with her stirrups, but without holding on to the reins (obviously, I had her on the lunge line at this point.)  Do you know she posted on the correct diagonal every time?  She doesn’t even know she is doing it…could that be extraordinarily good natural feel or is she just the luckiest kid on earth? 

I decided not to ride Dancer in that really sloppy footing and besides, I needed to come home and prepare for the Deutschland Invasion.  What is that, you ask?  I have three German teenage girls coming to visit for two weeks.  One is the daughter of my riding instructor in Germany and the other two are her friends, whom I have never met.  They are very nice girls and I am really happy to be able to extend some American/Southern hospitality as the Germans did for us when we were in their country, but I am worried that I won’t know what to do with them while they are here.  I enjoy living in Alabama, but I admit that it might not be the most exciting place to come on a vacation and/or the best representive of America as a whole.  So, I have worked out a travel plan.  The girls arrive today and we will spend the first week here in Montgomery.  I think I can keep them entertained with American television and junk food for at least a few days – throw in a few trips to the mall, a day spent at a local high school with the daughter of a friend of mine, maybe a trip or two to the stables and hopefully, Saturday will be here before I know it.

On Saturday, we will drive to Atlanta and then fly to Chicago.  As fortune would have it, my sister and her husband will be out of the country visiting his sister in England.  They have graciously agreed to let me bring the girls to stay in their apartment during their absence.  (Sad that I won’t see my sister, but then there really wouldn’t be room for us all.) So, Saturday through Wednesday, we will be enjoying the fruits of the big city.  Then, on Wednesday, we fly back to Atlanta and get in the car to drive to my parent’s house in Myrtle Beach.  Myrtle Beach is always a good time and my parent’s have a pool in their neighborhood and live about 10 mintues from the ocean.  On Sunday, Easter, I drive them back to Atlanta to catch their flight back to Germany and return to Montgomery.  Hopefully a good time will be had by all (I know I will be exhausted by then!).

So, last night, we had to try to make our guest room accomodate three.  We pushed the bed to the side of the room, added an airmattress set up and removed the bedside table, a wardrobe and another wooden cabinet.  Hopefully, this will give them some room to put their suitcases in there.  But, if they each bring two (which is what they are allowed on an overseas flight) it is not going to work.  Poor them – I think about how hard it is to sleep when you have jet lag and I just imagine being crammed three to a room like sardines.  Welcome to America!  It certainly isn’t going to get any better when we get to Chicago and one of us has to sleep on the living room couch (probably me).  I also had hubby install a new shower head in the guest bathroom.  When my sister came to visit a few weeks ago, she said that the water pressure was so intense, she thought it was going to strip the skin off.  Here is a photo of what the guest room looks like:

spare-room1

They are going to have to be little acrobats to wind their way through what is sure to be the suitcase obstacle course and climb into bed.

We fell into bed around 11:30 only to be awakened sometime around 3:00 am with violent thunderstorms and a terrified dog.  Copper always has and always will be afraid of loud noises.  Thunderstorms and firworks and shotguns top the list of things she is afraid of (with champagne corks and people popping chewing gum coming in close seconds).  So, she was running around, trembling and crying.  She also likes to jump up and put her feet on Colin’s side of the bed, shaking the matress with her trembling and then run around and do the same thing on my side.  Nothing we do can comfort her.  So, not a lot of sleeping going on in the early  morning hours and I am not the kind of girl who does well without my sleep.  I was also laying there worrying about Dancer.  Because it looked pretty clear when I left the barn, I had them go ahead and put her outside in the pasture.  I was terrified thinking of her being struck by lightening or galloping around in the dark with debris flying all around.

So, when I did get up and get out to the stables this morning, she was soaking wet, covered in leaves and dirt and pretty hyped up.  I rinsed her off as thoroughly but as quickly as I could, seeming to get more water on me than on her.  What a mess.

Luckily, my sweet hubby has volunteered (well, I did ask him, but he said yes) to drive the 2 and a half hours to go pick up the girls.  This means that I can work a full day, go out to give Dancer her meds and have some time to finish getting the house ready for visitors.  I hope the weather doesn’t cause any problems with their flight.

Check back for more updates on how the visit goes!

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A sneaky ride…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 26, 2009

I did sneak in a ride (but don’t worry, I worked late to make up for the time at the barn during the middle of the day.)  I was just so worried that the rain would move in for the next few days and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to ride at all.  (Boy, do I miss the indoor riding hall in Germany – add that to the long list of many things I miss about Germany.)  It was cloudy all morning, so at 11:00 I threw on some riding pants and dashed outside.  As I got in my car, the first rain drops started to fall.  But, it was such a light sprinkle and I was already dressed….so, I headed on out.  The drizzle increased to a steady rain the closer I got to the barn.  I almost turned around, but I figured since I was already almost there, I might as well say hello to everyone.  By the time I pulled up and parked, it wasn’t raining.  So, I pulled Dancer out of her stall and tossed her saddle on (I had already brushed her and picked her feet during the 6 am medicine run).  By the time I put on my boots and helmet and came out of the tack room with her bridle, I heard the WHOOSH of a torrential downpour on the metal roof of the barn.  I actually had a fit in the middle of the aisle – jumping up and down, stomping my foot and pouting.  Everyone thought that was really funny. 

I took off Dancer’s stuff and my stuff and put everything away.  I stood around and gossiped a little bit with my friend.  Just as I was about to leave, I noticed it wasn’t raining.  Not only that, but the sky was lighter.  Hmmm.  I waited another 5 minutes without the weather getting worse, then I pulled poor Dancer out of her stall and did the whole thing again.  By this point, I knew I wouldn’t have too long to ride, but I figured 30 minutes or so would let me test out the things I worked on during my dressage lesson.  (Read about that from Monday’s post.)

It was pretty interesting.  After letting her walk around for about 5 minutes, I went to pick up the reins and she remembered what we had been doing and immediately lifted her head (not sure that is a good thing….).  The ride felt better than when I first started in the lesson on Monday, but not as good as it had felt at the end.  However, I am super excited about the canter.  It is so nice to have her slow and balanced and standing up straight.  It was a good thing I only had 30 minutes, because the muscles in my arms were burning and exhausted by then.  In dressage, the goal is to have the horse carry himself – the rider should not have to “hold” the horse’s head.  And, if you compare the size of my arm muscles to the size of Dancer’s neck muscle, you will know why.  Instead, the feeling should be more like a handshake.  The rider should be able to feel the horse with a slight pressure on the reins, so I know I am working toward getting her away from this feeling of holding, but that may take some time. 

Bottom line – she was a good girl today and I am very glad I was able to get on her.  Later in the afternoon, it really did start to rain steadily. 

Also, after the ride, she was just standing, tied outside of her stall, relaxing.  I was overcome with love for her.  I asked the assorted ladies standing around to look at her – “even just standing here, doesn’t she look pretty?  She isn’t unimpressive, right?”  They all dutifully sung her praises and told me how lovely she is.  They may have been keeping their real opinions to themselves (if so, probably smart on their part), but to me, she is the most beautiful horse in the whole world.  I am totally head over heels.

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I’m sore…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 25, 2009

It is Wednesday morning and my muscles are still sore from Monday night’s ride.  Now, that is a good lesson!  I let Dancer have the day off yesterday, but I did ride Jack – a cute little red dun Quarter Horse that I am helping to retrain from western to english.  He did fine.  I also taught two lessons because it is supposed to start raining and everyone was scared they were going to miss out if they waited until Thursday.  Both lessons were very satisfying – a young student who only started riding two months ago (tops) is now trotting around all over the place with her hands in the correct position, on the correct diagonal.  She has made amazing progress and is shaping up to be quite an elegant little rider.  She is preparing for two horse shows in which she will ride in walk-trot and over trot poles.  I can’t wait to see how she does.  My adult dressage student also did very well last night.  She is able to put Tempo on the bit much earlier in the lesson so that we are able to ride circles, figure 8s and serpentines.  She has been working hard on her sitting trot (which is difficult on a short stepping, pogo-stick trotting thoroughbred) and she even did some on the lunge without her stirrups.  Hard – but totally worth it. 

I came  home and got stuck reading back-posts from a fellow horse blogger Dressage Mom.  I am completely addicted!  Here is the link if you like reading about horses (in particular about Dressage) http://dressagemom.blogspot.com/.  I have been reading her recent posts for several months now, but she has been blogging since 2006 – so I started from the beginning last night and am working my way forward. 

I would like to ride Dancer today to try some of the new techniques at home, but it is looking very cloudy and I know the rain is coming.  I am considering skipping out at lunch….if it isn’t raining already.

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A very revealing riding lesson…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 24, 2009

One of the many sad things about leaving Germany was that I had to give up my weekly riding instruction.  While dressage is catching on (even in Alabama), I have been unable to find a local dressage trainer.  Most of the people I have met who do this type of riding have a trainer come in from somewhere else (even as far away as California) twice a year or something.  Since I knew I would only be here for a year, I just figured that I would struggle along until we moved.  On Sunday night, a fellow rider (let’s call her “C”) called to let me know that a big time event rider was coming to a local farm to give lessons – she had signed up and did I want to bring Dancer along and ride in her time slot with her?  Yes, I certainly did!

So, away we went yesterday afternoon.  Luckily, the farm where the lessons were being given was only 10 minutes down the road from our barn.  Which was good, because poor Dancer was crammed in C’s trailer like a sardine.  I got a little nervous on the way there – the trainer is a very accomplished rider who competes at Rolex and Burghley.  Would she like us?  Would she be mean?  Would she think we were wasting her time? 

There was a slight snafu when we arrived – C’s horse, Nate, jumped off the trailer like a champ and then we spent 15 minutes trying to get Dancer to come out.  She really would rather turn around and walk out of a trailer, so that she can see where she is going, but this trailer was too tight and when she tried to turn around inside, she kept getting stuck and scared.  I was worried she was going to wedge herself in there and get hurt.  I climbed in and tried to back her, but she was so nervous she wouldn’t budge.  Whenever she did take a few steps back, she would rocket forward again.  Even when I brought a whip inside and tried tapping her with it to make her go back, she would not.  Finally, finally, finally with much tail pulling and treats and encouragement, she came out backwards.  Of course, by this time she was a sweaty, quaking mess.  Time to mount up!

Luckily, the trainer needed some time to breastfeed her 6 week old baby (!) and we learned later that she had competed at an event four weeks after giving birth.  Wow!  So, I got Dancer tacked up and out to the arena.  I had her walk around and look at everything.  When we started trotting, I was worried I was going to have the rocket underneath me that I had at the horse show this weekend, but she seemed pretty calm.  I was thinking about keeping her loose and relaxed and letting her muscles warm up.   In about 15 minutes, the trainer came out to the ring.  She wanted to know a bit about us and our horses and what we wanted to do with them.  When I told her that I had taken Dancer to her first show this past weekend and that we got a 68% on our test, a very shocked look flew across her face.  I admitted that I felt this was a generous score, but it was just a schooling show and the judge had been gracious enough to write lots of comments for us.  The trainer agreed that scores at schooling shows are not indicative of what will happen at a recognized show, but that they are very good for getting the horse in the arena and having the chance to practice the test.

Then, it was time to work.  The very first thing she had me do was shorten my reins.  I mean REALLY shorten them.  I took up probably 6 inches.  She kept saying, “shorten them, shorten them more, shorten them, really shorten them Mandy.”  I felt like I was about to get rid of the reins entirely and just hold Dancer directly by the bit.  She explained that because Dancer is “9 miles long”, I really have to shorten her base.  I can’t let her trail out behind.  I need to get her hocks engaged and move her weight from the front to the back.  I agree with all of those things, but it just felt so weird to hold Dancer like that.  She also had me widen my hands and elbows.  It felt very, very akward at first.  I know poor Dancer was thinking “WTF?  Why all the holding woman?”  It was evident that the trainer really liked Nate.  She had some very complimentary (and very true) things to say about his movement.  He is very nice.  I was trying not to get my feelings hurt that she didn’t like my horse, but I am a very protective mother hen. 

Well, the more and more she worked us and taught me how to really keep her shoulders and neck straight and really and truly hold her with the outside rein, the more complimentary she became.  I think she could tell that I was worried about Dancer’s raised head and hollow back – she told me that the roundness will come after Dancer learns how to carry herself in this way.  In fact, she was helping me to get her more round towards the end, but still riding this new way.  It did start to feel amazing – like we could do anything.  I felt like a completely new horse was underneath me and I felt like I was a much better, more effective rider.  Our last few transitions from trot to canter and back again (on the left, her bad sad) earned some high praise from the trainer.  And, while I was walking around to cool Dancer down, she told me that when she first entered the arena, she found my horse to be “completely unimpressive” but that when I put her together she was “just lovely” and she thinks she will be “spectacular.”  Wow!  And, she also told me that I have an “excellent natural feel” and a “very strong seat.”  Hooray!  I would have given anything to have a video camera there so that I could have seen how we looked.  How am I ever going to be able to keep that up at home without the trainer there correcting me?  I am going to give Dancer the day off today – she deserves it (and judging by how sore I am today, I am sure she is too) and I have some other horses I need to ride – and then try it again tomorrow. 

I hope this trainer comes back to our area again before we move.  And, I hope to be able to find a dressage trainer in Wichita so that I can continue to progress.

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The Show!

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 22, 2009

Our first show is behind us!  It was exhausting and stressful at times, but over all very fun.  Windtanzerin and I received a score of 68.33.  I know this might not sound like a lot, but for those of you who know dressage, you know that this is pretty good.  It was enough for me to win my class – Olympic dressage riders win with scores in the 70s.  (Of course, they are riding MUCH more difficult tests than I am.)  Now, saying I won first place is a little deceiving – there were only two of us riding at my level.  When I learned that, I could just see my blog entry (“We placed second, or in other words: we came in dead last!). 

The day dawned at 4:30, when I got out of bed, took a shower, fixed my hair and loaded my car with my clean saddle, bridle, new saddle pad, my cleaned show clothes and other essentials I might need during the day.  I arrived at the barn at 6:00 am, before sun-up and bathed Dancer and braided her main.  At a quarter to 8:00 the others arrived at the barn.  We fed the horses and loaded the trailers.  We were pulling out of the stable at 8:30.  Unfortunately, two of our riders had ride times at 9:10 and 9:17, so we were running a little late.  We pulled into the showgrounds a little before 9:00 and unloaded the first two horses and tacked them in record time.  Our leader went to sign us all in and get our numbers while the riders changed into their show clothes.  I took one of the horses, Ranger, into the warm up ring and started walking around.  The show managers allowed our riders to move to the back of their class to give them a little more time to warm up.  I helped the teenaged girl who was going to ride Louie (let’s call her M), but whom we switched to a paint pony named Jessie.  The pony was behaving better at the show ground than she had been at home the day before!  That helped give M a lot of confidence.  She rode both of her tests just the way I had coached her and she received a 67.5 and a 68.5 – blue ribbons (first place) in both Intro A and Intro B!  Hooray! 

I didn’t sit down all day.  I was coaching, tacking and untacking, calling tests, lungeing….before I knew it, it was time to get Dancer ready.  Aside from a walk around the premises in the morning, she had been tied to the trailer all day.  So, by 2:00 pm, she was a little anxious to be able to do something.  After walking her around in the warm up ring for awhile, I could sense that she was too keyed up – so I called for the lunge.  She galloped around me for quite a long time in both directions – even bucking one good time.  After that she was sweating profusely with nostrils distended.  She was better, but still keyed up.  I walked for awhile trying to get her settle in.  We did walk-trot and trot-walk transitions to get her listening.  I tried some halts and she wouldn’t stand still for more than a second and a half at a time.  I wanted to practice some canter, but I was worried that I would lose control of her completely if I did.  My competitor was warming up at the same time and whenever I cut my eyes over to her, her beautiful horse looked calm and responsive.  When they called her, I rode over to the competition ring to watch.  I also wanted Dancer to stand and look at the arena before we had to go in.  My competitor rode a beautiful and very technically correct test all the way through.  I knew she had beaten us before we began.  My horse was too busy trying to trample people watching in the wings and chew her way through her bit to notice what was going on in the show ring.  All too soon, it was our turn. 

I rode in at a calm walk straight down the center line so that she could see how it would look to head straight toward the judges table.  My plan was to then turn left (so her good eye would be toward them) to allow her to see everything – judges and crowd.  This is what I did, but the judge blew the whistle right as I passed her, so it was time to start.  Dancer’s trot down that side was the shortest stride of her life and she was craning her neck to look at everyone to her left.  Luckily by the time I turned down the centerline again she was moving forward more and paying a bit more attention to me.  Our first halt was not quite square, but I didn’t dare ask her to move her feet again once she was stopped for fear that she wouldn’t stop again!  The rest of the test flowed on – she never broke out of the correct gait, she never spooked, or did anything too bad.  At times she was not bent correctly and she was sometimes squirrely (dropping her shoulder or swinging her quarters around).  But, we did get two scores of 8 on free walk and medium walk.  There were lots of 7s and 6s and only one 5.  Here is the breakdown of the 18 movements – test instructions first, then the numerical score, then the judge’s comments in quotes, my commentary in parens:

Enter Working Trot, Halt Salute, Proceed Working Trot / 7 / “Straight Center Line, balanced halt”  (at least she did halt!)

Track left, Half Circle 10 m at E, Return to Track at H / 6 /  “Overshot turn, Steady Tempo”  (whoops!)

Half Circle 10 M at B, Return to Track at M / 5 /  “Losing quarters before B, lost outside shoulder”  (bigger whoops!)

Lengthen stride in Trot accross diagonal / 6 / “difference shown, topline needs more elasticity” (yes, giraffe, but heading towards the crowd)

3 loop serpentine width of arena / 7 /  “clear change of bend”  (here I felt she finally started listening)

Medium walk at C  /  6  /  “Transition needs to be straighter”  (yes, but she had to look at you)

Free walk from M to E  / 8 / “Lovely ”  (it really was)

Medium walk from E to F / 8 /  “clear rhythm, good quality”  (hooray Dancer!)

Transition from Free Walk to Medium Walk  /  7  /   “clearly shown”

Working Trot at F Working Canter at A   /  7   / “needs bigger steps in trot”  (who thought someone would say that about Dancer)

Cirle right 15 m  /  7  /  “good balance, but losing bend in corners” (this was kind, I wasn’t  even in the corners at all)

Change rein across diagonal, trot at X  / 6 /   “need to be prepared for down trans. ride forward into trot”

Canter Left Lead /   6   /   “counterbent”  (amen, sister, but she was cantering and not racing around)

Cirle left 15m  /  6  /  “slight loss of balance inside shoulder” (yes, but for the left, not bad)

Change rein across diagonal, trot at X   /  7  / “better”

Lengthen trot accross diagonal  /   7  /   “better”

Stretchy trot circle at C 20m, sit at C   /   7  /   “could show more letting go” (sure, if I want to shoot off towards A)

Half circle 10 m to X, up center line, halt at G  /   7  / “not square, but good turn up center line”

The overall marks were 7 on Gaits, 7 on Impulsion, 7 on Submission, and 7 for the rider.  Not bad!  She wrote “Test got better as your test went on.  Watch to keep control of shoulders to keep horse straight.  GOOD JOB!”  And, we won!  I was so surprised to see my friend coming toward me with the blue ribbon in her hand.

Here is the link to the video on Youtube (I really need to learn how to embed videos here so I won’t have to link):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ2ODQVYKUc

Be aware that the quality of this video is pretty poor – it is just a Flipvideo and is being taken from too far away.  But, it will give you a visual.

Thank goodness it is over!

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One exhausted mare and one bad, bad pony

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 20, 2009

I think I have been pushing Dancer a little to hard in preparation for this show.  Today, she just seemed worn out.  To be honest, I was too after teaching a lesson and riding the bad, bad pony (more on that in a second).  So, I just rode her long and low today for about 25 minutes.  We also practiced some halts.   I think I won’t ride her tomorrow.  I will just bathe her and get her ready to go.  So, the next time I am on her – it will be at the show! 

The pony, Louie, is not coming with us.  He has been steadily getting worse all week.  He was a horror for the teen-aged girl who was riding him today and when I got on him this evening, he tried some mean tricks he has never tried with me before: really tossing his head and threatening to buck, grabbing the bit and kind of running away and “giraffing” his neck.  He is an un-happy boy.  I spoke with the barn owner and we both agree that he is not ready to go to a show.  We don’t want him to have a bad experience.  And, it looks like I am back to being his only rider.  I am going to have to start over at square one I think and build his trust back and stop him from doing mean things.  With horses, you expect to have some progress and then some regression, but I wouldn’t have expected him to regress past the point where we started when I first put a saddle on him.  Poor boy.  He has such a good heart – I think he is just trying to tell me that he needs more of my calm, patient attention.  That will be next week’s project I suppose.

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