Great Expectations

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

Posts Tagged ‘Horses’

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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A pony needs a home…

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 14, 2009

louie-faceThe farm where I keep Dancer is kind enough to take in rescue horses when the need arises.  When I first arrived, there were two little stallions in quarantine.  They were taken from a home where they had been injured and starving.  They looked like little skeletons.  They were nicknamed Huey and Louie.  Gradually, they grew round in the belly again (as ponies should be). When they were strong enough, they were gelded.  I offered to take one on as a project and so I began working with Louie. 

At first he was very nervous.  He did not know how to hold up his feet so that I could clean them.  He didn’t understand being brushed.  He had never been given a treat.  We began work in the round pen and he proved to be a quick learner.  I have been working with him for a little over 4 months now.  His ground manners have improved dramatically.  He has learned to trust people.  Just yesterday I gave him his first bath, trimmed up his whiskers and the shaggy fur around his ankles and under his chin, and a friend pulled his mane.  Through all of these strange and sometimes uncomfortable treatments, he stood kindly, patiently trusting me.  Although I have not been able to ride him as much as I would like or as much as he really deserves, he has progressed under saddle.  He walks and trots nicely.  For the most part, he also steers.  Usually, once things are explained to him, he is happy to comply.  I have even ridden him out on the trails at a walk, where he remained calm and proceeded on a loose rein once he was used to being off the farm.

Everyone was very excited at the barn when the grandfather of a little girl decided to adopt him.  Unfortunately, however, the family now finds that they are unable to continue to pay for his upkeep and need to sell him.  If they can not find a buyer for him, they are planning to take him to the auction (where he will likely go to the slaughter) or they may put him out in a “pasture” somewhere.  This might put him right back to where he was when we first found him.  This would break my heart! 

The barn owner has given his owner one month’s worth of board for free to give us the opportunity to try to find another buyer for him.  We are planning to take him with us to the dressage show next week to give him some exposure.   Of course, he probably won’t do very well at the show, as he is still too green to know much.  But, we are hoping that someone will see the kind heart and willing spirit that will make him a superb pony once his training is complete.

 So, if you know of anyone who is looking for a very nice pony, please let them know about Louie.  I believe his owners are asking $1,500 for him, but I am sure they would not refuse any offer.  I would love to buy him myself, continue his training and then sell him to the right little girl (a pony-clubber or 4-H’er) who could give him a loving home.  But, as I want to stay married 🙂 and as we are preparing to move in a few months, this is not the right time for us to be buying another horse.  louie-walking

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