On one hand this winter has positively flown and I can't believe we leave so soon, and on the other hand I can not wait to just get down there!! Everyone keeps saying "Oh, you must be so excited!!", and I partly am, but right now I am mostly stressing about everything we need to get done before we leave! I think once we actually get on the road I will start to be genuinely excited, but even still it hasn't *really* sank in yet that I'm ACTUALLY GOING TO CALIFORNIA. I *know* I'm going, but I haven't really *REALIZED* that I'm going. I have honestly never been anywhere. I've done a 12 hour road trip to Winnipeg once, and I did do a 6 week working student stint in Ontario 10 years ago, but other than that I've been pretty sheltered travel wise!! I'm scared that I'm going to get down there and just not want to come home. I LOVE Canada, don't get me wrong, but I'll be completely honest, I'd trade our 8 months of crappy winter for someplace warmer and a longer eventing season in a heartbeat!
I'm most worried about packing the trailer. Fitting as much horse feed as we can will be interesting, we're going to take as much as we possibly can. I need to start making lists of everything so we don't forget or overlook anything! Horse stuff, show stuff, our stuff, camping stuff, ugh. And it wouldn't be so bad but we're borrowing a trailer, so we don't have the luxury of being able to pack much in advance. We are actually leaving from Jenn's place which is 2 hours south of me, so I am planning on making a trip down next weekend with some stuff, so I'm not in a mad rush with everything packed to the brim heading down there on March 7th, after work, to pack the trailer and leave super early on the 8th!
I still need to make an appointment for Sunny's vet stuff, I will do that next week. I was putting it off in the hopes that my fei passport would come so I could kill 2 birds with one stone and get her first flu vaccination done at the same time, but we're inside the 2 week window so I can't do any vaccinations now anyways.
Gosh what else? There's lots of just regular life stuff I need to take care of before I go too, work and bills and things like that. I need to switch my cell phone plan so it doesn't cost me a million dollars when I'm down there too! Haha. And I'm riding tons and busting my butt at the barn in the hopes that we will be ready!!
Back in January our high performance team coach, Lynda Ramsay, came up and we had a clinic one weekend. I was very fortunate to have her come right to my barn for my lessons, and I chose to have 2 flat lessons, instead of a flat & a jumping lesson, as the dressage is definitely our weakest phase! Day 1 went well, Lynda noticed right away that I was kind of stuck at the third level of the training pyramid, contact & connection! So we did a lot of different exercises to work on that, me keeping the connection and getting Sunny steadier in the bridle. Lynda also manipulated my body position during, so I was able to get a clear feel where I was currently compared to where I need to be, and gave me some good tips to keep improving little by little. Day 2 was a bit rough, just one of those days where I felt a little all over the place. We worked some more on contact and connection, transitions both between and within the gaits, bending throughout the body (not just through the neck!), and creating and keeping more energy and being more forward in general, especially at the trot. Even though it wasn't the best ride ever I came away with a lot.
It was my first time riding with Lynda, although I have watched her teach a few times before. She was absolutely fabulous, and very knowledgeable and offered a huge amount of help and information in a short amount of time. I made nearly a full page of notes after each ride! A few other things she suggested that I found really helpful were to think of leg yielding on a circle to achieve the bend and suppleness, and using the counter bend to my advantage. I have applied a lot of the things she talked about to my riding and I feel like she helped a lot. I am definitely excited to ride with her again in the spring!
The weekend after the Lynda clinic, I decided to switch bits with Sunny, just to see. I have had her in a french link baucher for a good few years now. I REALLY liked how she went in it when I first tried it, and I even jumped her in it for several years before switching to a 2 ring happy mouth elevator for jumping. The baucher was great, but I had noticed lately that she had started becoming really heavy and lugging on the reins sometimes, and was just sort of inconsistent in the bridle in general. So I dug out a french link loose ring and threw it on not expecting much, and HOLY CRAP I got on a totally different horse that day!!! I honestly could NOT believe that something that simple could make that huge of a difference!! All of a sudden I had a horse that was chewing and salivating, she was light in my hands and so soft and supple and just THERE with me. I was absolutely SHOCKED. It was such a huge difference that for the next few rides I would have someone walk into the barn and immediately comment on how nice Sunny was going, or how happy she looked, without them knowing I had I changed anything! And I found myself accidentally riding for like an hour and a half a few times, I would totally zone out, we'd just be trotting around and she'd be on the bit and for once I just rode and enjoyed it, the softness and connection. So now I am kicking myself for not switching bits before the Lynda clinic, I'm sure we would have gotten a lot more accomplished! Hindsight is 20/20 though;)
Funny how such a little change can make such a big difference! The new bit on the left, old bit on the right!
In the beginning of Feb we had a clinic at my barn, taught by dressage trainer Inge Sumanik from the Yukon. That was another great clinic that Sunny and I got a lot out of. She was very open to what I wanted to work on, so it ended up being a bit different from a regular clinic, which was good! I told her I wanted to work on lateral work, leg yield, shoulder in, and haunches in, and sitting the god damn trot! Lol. And on day 2 we worked on some specific movements from the dressage test I will be doing in California, and she gave me tips on how to get a better score, turn a 6 into a 7, things like that. We started with some leg yield and shoulder in, working on straightness and getting the proper track. Inge actually got on Sunny to show me where Sunny and I actually needed to be for haunches in, which was very cool and helpful to actually SEE from the ground what her and I were supposed to be doing. Haunches in is one thing I've been kind of struggling with, because I've never had the luxury of an actual schoolmaster to learn things on first. So it's me and Sunny fumbling our way through things, and me thinking "Well, I'm doing something that I'm pretty sure vaguely resembles some sort of haunches in" but not having any way to tell if it's what the dressage judges actually want to see!
Inge also tweaked my position a bunch in the sitting trot, and I actually had a lightbulb moment about where my body needed to be to make sitting the trot way easier! Shoulder blades back and down, bellybutton forward, chest up, hands like I was carrying a tray, and somewhere in there it clicked! And since then my sitting trot has become WAY easier, now I actually feel like I am semi-presentable when I do it! She also encouraged me to "be friends with the bounce", because we're all going to bounce at times when we're sitting, we just have to ride through it and work it out, and that helped me a lot, as I'd usually just start posting or transition down when things got a little rough. But Inge told be that even the best dressage riders bounce and just know how to hide it, or they have little tricks so the judges don't notice, so that made me feel a lot better, and I've just started riding out the rough spots instead of avoiding them. At one point Inge said "Ok now change rein and lengthen across the diagonal, keep sitting!" and I started laughing and I was like "Oh god!! I might die!" And Inge laughed and she talked me through it. And I did it a few times, it wasn't pretty at all and I felt like the hugest sack of potatoes, and we all laughed, but you don't learn anything from just staying inside your safe little box!
So things have been really good lately! Sunny is in great shape, she is currently going twice a week on the most difficult treadmill program, 30 mins of hill intervals, and she doesn't even break a sweat! Monday I went for a hack, had a nice dressage school, and then she went on the treadmill immediately after, and it seemed like a nice easy cool down for her, haha. So I think we will be ready!! :)
Ready for our dressage clinic!
Sunny's frosty nose, I think she is excited for warmer California too!
It was a gorgeous morning heading out to the barn, the sun dogs actually made a full circle above the sun but my iphone couldn't capture it properly! It was so beautiful though!
Some photos from hacking last weekend. I go out for hacks whenever I possibly can, if the weather is co-operating, we get out there! Hacked 2 days in a row last weekend:)
Brittany and her mare Uma out for a hack with Sunny and I on Monday:)
Working it out on the treadmill!
I did resize the photos because they were HUGE but not sure if that worked properly because Photobucket is not co-operating! :P