Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Riding Miss Sunny...

So Sunny got 3 weeks off after our last event. Usually I give her more, but I frankly have been going NUTS sitting at home after work and I didn't know what to do with myself, so I figured I'd better start riding again! Plus I don't want Sunny to lose any muscle if I can help it, she is actually sort of getting a topline finally and doesn't have a huge dip in front of her withers anymore, so I'd like to hold onto as much of that as I can over the winter, haha.

I went out and rode Saturday morning, expecting a bit of a rodeo, but Sunny was actually really good. Sunday Kris came out and took some photos of me riding, which was awesome since I've got lots of event and clinic pics this year, but I don't have any of just schooling. We just had a short ride, I didn't push for too much, but I was fairly happy with it since she was pretty relaxed overall and that is our biggest hurdle. Sunny is tons better on the flat than she was in the spring, we still have a LOT of work and things to improve on, but if we keep making progress like this we are going to ROCK IT next year:D

Constructive criticism always welcome! I have been working a TON my own position as well lately and I am still seeing a bazillion things in these photos that make me cringe, so I'd love to hear what others say too:) Photobucket Our best canter work was when I was wearing my sweater at the beginning of the ride! I couldn't believe how far Sunny is splitting her hind legs and stepping under herself in the canter, she NEVER has cantered like that before!! She just used to kind of bunny hop with her hind end with both hind feet like a foot apart, so you guys really have NO IDEA how friggin excited I am to finally see her doing it more correctly!! :D Photobucket Photobucket Please ignore my half chap malfunction!! I seriously rode the whole time with it like that, I am so confused how I did NOT EVEN NOTICE IT!! Lol. And Kris didn't notice it either, silly boy;) Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Second half of the ride... Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket And a short video of the very end of our ride.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Alhambra Fall Event Recap (Not Quite How It Was Supposed To Go)

The eventing year didn't end quite like I'd hoped, but then again this whole summer of eventing has actually kind of been the shits in general. A little disappointing that I only ended up actually completing 2 events out of 6 this year. I try not to think about it like that though. Because obviously I can't control things like the weather, and anyone who works with horses absolutely knows that shit DOES just happen. So. I've taken some time to reflect on this year, and while I'm still not HAPPY with our last event last weekend, I've come to terms with it, and I know what I need to work on over the winter so we can ROCK IT OUT next year:) Photobucket  
 Dressage last weekend, however, was AWESOME. Still crap on the real scale of dressage, mind you, but for Sunny, it was LOVELY!! Did kind of a very short and to the point warm up, Sunny was actually being amazingly good, so I didn't want to push things. Then we stood around for 20 minutes watching a few of my other friends' dressage tests, before walking up to my ring. I had a little trot around for like 2 minutes, and then in we went. I knew as soon as I was halfway around the ring doing my warm up lap before they rang the bell, that this was going to be an awesome test. Never does Sunny just come into the ring and be like, perfect. And she was.

I was SO happy with our test. Sunny was calm and relaxed, almost a bit too dull to my leg. But that is GREAT, because 95% of the time she is the polar opposite, hot, tense, fighting, and over-reactive to the aids. I have been working SO hard on leg yield lately, and it totally paid off because we nailed them! Canter work was good, we could have been a little rounder through it all, but hey, Sunny wasn't rushing with her head in the air like she's known to do, so I'll take it!! Free walk was not as loose and forward as I would have liked, and Sunny flipped her head a bit, but our stretchy trot circle was LOVELY. VERY happy with that test!! Now we just need to take that and build on it!! Be more accurate and precise, a tad more forward but still relaxed. More consistent in the bridle, which is finally coming!! When everything is right, she does actually sit behind and start to push, instead of plonking around on her forehand. Lots of work to be done on that!! 

It was hilarious, because I finished my test, and Kris was walking with me, heading back to the stalls. We had only been walking for a minute or two, we had gotten about 200 m from the dressage ring, and Sunny LOST. HER. SHIT. Seriously, I was laughing as she crow hopped and kept trying to spin and bolt away, I know she wasn't spooking because there was nothing around, we'd walked all over the place at Alhambra a million times, and Sunny is NOT spooky! It was so funny, I was like "Thank you for doing this NOW, and not in the ring!!!!" Maybe she was trying really hard to be good during our test and then she just had to let it all out, who knows, haha.

Was pretty disappointed when I picked up my dressage tests later. They always have 2 judges at this event for the Championships and average the 2 scores, and I was pretty surprised to see the scores from both judges were nearly 10% apart! One judge had scored about how I expected, 56 percent-ish, but from the other judge I barely made 47%. Which is definitely the worst score I've gotten all year, even worse that my horrifying "worst test ever" at Beaumont where Sunny was wound up so tight we couldn't even *walk* during our free walk:P So I thought that was fairly brutal, but dressage is subjective and it's just one person's opinion so whatever. I find that the dressage scores fluctuate so much at events that I can't really go by them anyways. So I mostly just go by how I find the test. I know what is "good" or "bad" for Sunny and the judges can only mark against what they see that day, and how they think a dressage horse should go, which is fair enough. I'm just lucky that at Prelim here, the stadium and cross country phases definitely level the playing field, so to speak. 

Dressage photos...this first one was from our warm up lap around the ring... Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket 

Stadium went alright, considering. The footing was HARD HARD HARD, and SLICK, which we didn't find out until after a few horses had got in there. The first couple people in barely made it around, lots of rails and a couple stops, and once they came back out they were yelling at everyone else to be CAREFUL in there!! Another thing I love about eventing. No one wants to see anyone get hurt, even if it costs them a ribbon. Riders are forever talking to others and helping them out like that.

My round started off ok, 1, 2, 3 were good, then you rolled back to 4, and despite my conservative turn, Sunny had a HUGE slip just a couple strides before 4, totally lost her back end. But I steadied her and we jumped it as best we could, rubbing it hard but it didn't come down. A few strides after there was a one stride combination of tall verticals going uphill, and it was messy. From the photos it looks like Sunny's hinds slipped on takeoff, and she nailed the top rail of the first vertical. I clucked and Sunny scrambled to cover the distance, and I was laying somewhere way up her neck near her ears at this point, definitely not where I should've been, and she amazingly jumped the second vertical anyways, knocking it, and I lost both stirrups in the process. I took a very large turn to our next jump, I knew we needed time to regroup and get my stirrups back, and we made it through the rest of the course with a couple minor slips, but no other major problems. The triple combination was a bit rough, but Sunny was jumping with all her might to make it through there for me! So despite our one messy combination, I was pretty happy with how it went otherwise, ending with just 2 rails down and no time faults. The liverpool, which came right after the messy combination. I had JUST got my stirrups back a stride or two before the jump, so I wasn't being picky about WHERE we jumped it, as long as we made it over!! Photobucket
The triple bar, from 2 different angles... Photobucket Photobucket A couple pics though the triple combination... Photobucket Photobucket Over the last fence! Photobucket 

Helmet Cam of my stadium round...

 I was excited for cross country on Sunday. Here is the photo course walk...Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket 
So this was our 6 and 7, I was so fucking excited about it. I'll let you guys ponder for a minute about which way we jumped it;) Where I'm taking the photo from might give it away though... Photobucket 
8A was set right on the very edge of the hill, I should've taken a pic from the bottom! Photobucket 
Not sure why this photo is stretched, the B and C elements were extremely skinny. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket 
Big corner to little corner! This photo is stretched weird too:P Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket 
So our 15ABCD element was very similar to the water line we rode at the summer event here, except they set the A element out to the left of where it is in these pics and on an angle. They raised the B log up about 6 inches as well. Other than that it was basically the same. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket 
 I was so excited they used this jump, it's one of the few usable OLD jumps at this facility. We had to make a VERY sharp left hand turn a few strides after:P Photobucket  Photobucket 
Combination, big rolltop to the sunken road, then 2 strides to the huge brushy chevron. All set on a funky bending line.
And I have no idea where the photo of our last jump went on my phone, but this bench was our final jump, #21.

The course looked AWESOME, and we got to go up the hill, which is very rare now as the footing doesn't usually hold up with the rain we get. My helmet cam (OF COURSE) died just before I headed out of the start box:P We started off ok, Sunny was drifting hard to the left, which we've been working on a lot. The first 7 jumps rode really well. I had decided to take the direct route through 6 and 7 in one stride, instead of circling and doing them separately. It was huge risk, but I decided to go for it anyways. And we ROCKED it!!! I lined Sunny up from way back, we were arrow straight and it rode PERFECTLY!! We had to head up a slight hill to 8ABC, and Sunny popped her shoulder going up the hill and was drifting so hard to the left 10 or 12 strides back, where we should have been looping around nice and big right to left, and I just couldn't get it back in time to get her straight to 8A. When that happens she throws her head in the air and starts to fight me, and doesn't pay attention AT ALL to what is coming up. Lord knows I was trying though, and that's another big thing we have to work on over the winter. So on the approach we were in no way set up to take the jump properly, we weren't straight or forward and Sunny was not looking at what we were supposed to be doing, so I circled and re approached, instead of forcing her to jump anyways, which she WOULD have done, but it would have been super messy and we probably would have screwed up the rest of the combination anyways:P 

 Sunny jumped hard to the left over 8A, but I got her straight to B and C and they rode well. Basically everything else in between then and 17 rode extremely well. The double corners were cake, the water line rode great, except for a bit of a long spot jumping the bank out. We cruised over 16 and galloped up the hill. 17 rode well, and that's when Sunny and I had a misunderstanding about where we were going. You could either gallop straight and follow the very obvious trail, which was the WRONG way for us to go. We were supposed to make a very sharp left hand turn a couple strides after and continue on to jump 18. Whether Sunny couldn't see where she was supposed to turn, or maybe she just wasn't able to turn because I noticed later she had lost a hind shoe in the process, we basically ended up kind of skidding off the path around the corner, and she unseated me, where I kind of half rolled off, and half almost thought I could catch myself before I came off, and kinda fell into a tree. I hopped up immediately, and realized that the jump judge at 17 had not seen what had happened AT ALL, and I'll be honest the thought DID cross my mind just to hop back on and keep going. But I couldn't do that. I definitely believe in the one fall rule, even when it's bullshit and the rider is totally fine. You fall off, no matter how minor, you're done. So I walked back to jump 17 where the jump judge proceeded to freak out and start yelling "OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED ARE YOU OK?!?!?!?!?!?!" I calmed her down and waited until the next rider passed, then headed over to the vet check, and then down to the ambulance. They didn't even examine me, I explained exactly what happened and how I fell and I hadn't hit my head or anything and obviously I was fine so they let me go. 

Once I got back down I got positively SWARMED by people, half had heard I fell on the radios and wanted to know what had happened, and the other half thought I looked great on course from what they'd seen and wanted to congratulate me, but had no idea I had fallen off. Even the course designer ran up and was like "OMG WHAT HAPPENED???" That was a very cool conversation actually, after he found out it was just a stupid fall and not actually at a jump he proceeded to tell me that he was so impressed how well I rode 6 and 7 direct in one stride, was the best through there out of everyone, and that he had thought I looked great at the double corners and through the water as well. Here's some pics... Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket So through all that day and even part of the next day I was just sort of laughing everything off and was just like "Yeah, shit happens..." and it didn't kick in until later that I was actually horribly, horribly disappointed in myself. Just mad that we could go out and rock those big jumps, all the difficult lines, but we couldn't even ride a  CORNER. I probably would have been less bothered by the whole thing if I HAD fallen off at a jump, because then it would be easy for me to say THIS happened or THAT happened, and the problems were A, B and C. I've come to terms with it now, shit does happen, and I guess I'm lucky that it WAS just a stupid turning problem, not a "my horse hates water/ditches/whatever" problem, or an "I totally fucked up the approach to that jump and fell off" problem. Shit happens, that's just the nature of the beast with horses.

So moving forward. Homework for the winter. Bending, moving off the leg, lateral work, just everything dressagey in general. Improvement there will all translate to our over fences work. Me being more correct in my body position, my stupid LEG that is always doing funky things over fences, I hate it, body control, and being more consistent with my outside aids. Expecting more from Sunny. We are old enough to not have tantrums all the time. She's a big girl now. That's hard for me because she was my project for so long and I just kind of expect her to be bad, instead of expecting her to be GOOD. She CAN do all this stuff, I just have to EXPECT and INSIST that she does. We'll actually be able to jump over the winter so that will help immensely as well.

For next season, we'll be trying to rock the shit out of every Prelim event!! Possibly Rebecca Farms, possibly a 1 star! Don't want to say that out loud too much, that will depend on a LOT of things. But ultimately working towards doing the Intermediate next September, if everything works out like it should. So crazy, that I'd ever be TALKING about possibly doing Intermediate!! This little horse has done so much more than I ever imagined she would, she's amazing. The bigger the jumps get, the better she jumps. It's so crazy. ♥♥♥

 So those are the plans. We definitely made some awesome progress this year, had some awesome events and clinics, but always moving forward, always trying to get better!! We'll be back and better than ever next spring, I'm sure of it:)

Sunny gets her remaining 3 shoes pulled in a couple days, and will get a couple weeks of a well deserved rest!! She has definitely jumped her heart out for me this year!! ♥♥♥