4.26.2016

HOC Schooling Show - 4/24

12

So much to say about this show! But I'm going to condense it down to a few small points to avoid any potential whiny ramblings.

We got to the showgrounds early. It was cold but Fiction was super chill. I got on to warm-up in the outdoor arena with 30 minutes until my first test. Fiction decided he didn't want to play. He began to pull out all of his old tricks - throwing his outside shoulder, drifting, llammaing....the works. I had a very serious conversation with him and by the time we were ready to enter the ring for Intro C he was actually behaving relatively well. I was proud of him.

Not sure what my hands are doing here. He's tense but forward - the theme of our first warm-up ride as you'll see in the following pictures. Our second and third warm-ups were far more successful.

Intro C

The very moment we entered the indoor arena, Fiction's head shot up, his ears went forward, and I could feel his entire body go rigid.

Ok. I can work with this. This is just a throwaway. Totally cool.

I tried my best to contain him during the test. We had some OK moments, but he was really power-housing his way through the movements with little regard given to me. It was as if I wasn't even on his back.

We ended up with a 63%, or 2nd place out of 4 riders.

The moment we went back outside he noticeably relaxed. In fact, we hacked around the entire show property on the buckle. Then back into his stall he went.

Perching was my downfall for most of the show. Fiction loves to pull me forward and I have a hard time fixing myself.


T-1

I pulled Fiction out another 30 minutes before our test to warm-up again. I worked his butt off. Leg yields, transitions, long/straight lines. Sitting and posting trot. Haunches in. He was performing like an angel by the time we needed to head up for our test.

Into the arena we went and again, he gave me the finger, gnashed at the bit, threw his head around, and turned into a nervous, fire breathing dragon. The only way I could keep him under control was at the sitting trot with some seriously engaged core muscles and some crazy half halting. Otherwise he seemed intent to just leave the arena.

When we finished, the judge made a point to ask me if I knew I could post the trot. I told her that he performs better at the sitting, in which she responded to with a light scoff.

Oddly enough, we can in 1st/3 people in this test with a score of 56.52%.

Outside we went again and Fiction relaxed completely.

Still tense. Hands still doing weird things. I swear, for our second/third warm-ups, we were performing much better. But this is indicative of what we had in the arena, only 100000x worse.


T-2


We had a beautiful 20 minute schooling in the grass near the arena, which is far spookier than the sand warm-up arena. Figure-8s, lots of bending, concentration on collected, calm gaits. He was flawless.

I decided before going in for T-2 that I would post the trot since the judge seemed quite unhappy with my decision to sit in the prior test. And, cue repeat of previous test only WORSE. Fiction was unbearably crazy. Fought me the entire time. I, deservedly, got the equivalent to 'Rider too tense and does not release when horse does something right. Releasing will allow the horse to calm down' on my test paper.

Admittedly, I was in survival mode. The moment I give him an inch when he is in this mood, he takes a mile. Case in point - the stretchy trot circle at A. Fiction's stretchy trot circles are fantastic. I even practiced them outside right before the test and he was gorgeous. You know what he did during the test? Dove onto his face and broke into a canter. I had to rush gather up my reins and pull him back before it turned into a gallop.

We had a mishap in the final canter circle, where he picked up the wrong lead, I got flustered and circled at C instead of B. I realized it once I was heading down the straight side, said screw it, and just finished up the test. The judge didn't even notice the mistake.

We ended with a 2nd/3 people with a score of 56.15%.

Again, I probably sound like a broken record right now, but the moment we left the arena, Fiction was calm, happy, and relaxed. We went for another long hack on the buckle around the property. I then untacked him, gave him some peppermints, pulled out his braids, and loved on him.

I can tell from my hands and legs that he was trying hard to fall in and I was over-compensating. As is life ><;


Analysis


I'm at a complete and serious loss right now. There are a few things that may be happening here.

    • Fiction hates foreign indoor arenas. This makes the most sense, honestly. Our best dressage scores to date have been done in an outdoor arena. He rides the best when riding outside at home. Even the clinic we went to last year, he was calm and perfect from the get-go in the outdoor arena. The very fact that I felt his body go rigid the moment we entered the arena leads me to believe it is the arena itself that freaks him out.
    • It's all me. When you look up a problem like this on the internet, the majority of the answers seem to be: he's responding to your anxiety. But I don't feel anxious. I don't feel nervous. I know my tests. I know what I have to do. If anything, I feel determined. And I know for a fact that I start off my tests riding him as I would ride him at home. Only when he is horridly bad (as in completely ignoring me unless I get in his face about it otherwise he will leave the arena in a heartbeat, guaranteed), do I change the way I normally ride him, and then it all spirals downwards. But what else can I do? Retire him from the ring? How am I supposed to get him positive experiences in an arena when he is so freaking dead-set on ignoring me and motoring through my aids?
    • He's not confident enough in himself. I saw a lot of answers state that nervous thoroughbreds like to drill the test over and over and over again. I avoid this method because for Fiction, all it seems to do is encourage disobedience. He will decide that he knows the test better than me and will pick up the movements before I ask. So how can I get him more confident? He can do all of the movements. We've schooled them all individually. The only thing we don't have access too is a dressage arena (like a white chain-like or pole one to use in the correct dimensions), but honestly, in this show, he didn't even give the actual arena a second glance and we had zero issues with corners like we usually do.
    • He needs more experience. Is this really the answer? I'm fine if it is. It seems to be the most logical reason behind his craziness, because this horse schools all of these movements beautifully, so there is absolutely no excuse for the shenanigans that he pulls.

I did afford myself a small pity party. I mean, after all, we've worked so hard and he does so well normally, so I really wanted to show him off. He knows this stuff, he really does.

So, the tentative plan right now is to keep trekking along as we always do. He's improved so much at home that we should start schooling T-3 and hopefully some First Level movements soon. At shows we will keep with Intro-C and T-1 & T-2 until something changes with his behavior.

Our Instructor got a chance to see us at the show and is interested in hopping on him to get a feel for what kind of buttons I can try and push to get him to stop ignoring me/relax. We've made tentative plans to start training rides/lessons twice a month (possibly 3x a month) instead of the 1x a month lesson we currently do.

4.25.2016

Frowny Face

8

Apparently, acting like a moron makes him tired.

How could I possibly be upset with pretty ribbons?
Well, stay tuned for the show recap, which I am currently trying to make less of a rant and more of an upbeat 'I-don't-actually-hate-my-horse' post.

Note: It was a good experience, just an exhausting one! Far more exhausting than it should have been :P

4.19.2016

High on Good Rides

7

Sorry for the lack of blog posts. I've been out riding & lots of things have happened, but I just haven't had time to sit down and condense it all until now.

So, for a basic summary:

Supplements

I recently switched up our supplement game. I quit supplements for a while but when Fiction stubbornly refused to put on weight or muscle, I put him back on some basic supplements: Tri-Amino for muscle building (he's bulked up like crazy in a few months and I get so many compliments on his build now), SmartGut for pro- + pre-biotics and yeast for a happy stomach (he was acting a bit girthy previously and I'm so paranoid when it comes to colic now), and I tried him on one month of CocoSoya oil to try and fill in those ribs. No luck!

Stolen from J because I lack horse media.
So, off the CocoSoya oil he went and instead I switched him over to DuMor Ultra Shine, which the BO swears by. She keeps all her hard keepers on it and and they look fantastic. Cheaper than the oil and has added minerals + vitamins. He also gets 2 cups of soaked alfalfa pellets before each ride to keep the acid in his stomach occupied, and all the hay he could possibly want (though he's not particularly good about actually eating it).

Finally, after doing some research, I decided to try out Mare Magic on him in an attempt to find something to get him to focus during our rides. We're almost 10 days in (during which he is on the loading dose of 2 scoops) and the change in Fiction has been dramatic.

Riding

Since Fiction was placed on Mare Magic, each ride has gotten progressively better. When I get on him, he immediately goes to work. No longer do we need a 20+ minute warm-up. We still warm-up, of course, but he is responsive, attentive, and soft. Our actual work is simply fantastic. We're finally able to go down the long side without craziness. When we work outside, he no longer shoots his head off every which way to look at the other horses. Instead, his ears remained focused back on me.

Of course, he's not perfect, and we have some moments of tenseness and small tantrums, but he works through them far faster than ever before. The majority of our rides now can be spent actually working rather than getting to a state in which we can work.

Lots of dog walking has been going on lately~
Shopping

I finally, finally, bought myself a boot bag haha. I also nabbed some boot trees, new brushes, clipper blade cleaner, and some Effax saddle soap/ledersbalsam. Up until this point I had been using Albion products and while I enjoy the balm, I really don't care for the soap. It just doesn't seem to get my tack clean enough for my liking.

---

Anyways, I hope to get some riding media soon - perhaps from our show this weekend. With how he has been behaving and progressing (in such an amazingly short period of time!), I am pretty enthusiastic about our chances at this show.

4.10.2016

Getting Out There

6

On Sunday, J and I hauled over to Instructor's barn for some trail riding. It was incredibly cold and pretty muddy, but I was excited to get Fiction off of barn property. The only time Fiction has been off property and on trails has been for hunter paces and cross country schooling.

Fiction loaded and unloaded fine. We practiced ground tying as we tacked up, since I didn't trust him in the crossties at a foreign place (I usually don't trust him in crossties period). Then we were off!

We wandered around the outside arena first, which was set up with jumps. Fiction started to get a bit looky but wasn't bad. When we actually started on the trails, he fed off of the energy of the third horse that came with us and jigged for half of the ride.


By the second half of the trail, Fiction was relaxed and I was able to ride him on the buckle. The change in this horse on the trails has been phenomenal. I can relax and enjoy the ride now instead of worrying about dying and ending the trail ride completely exhausted. I love it.

He was a good boy and stood still while I untacked him and tossed his trailering clothes back on. He got to much some grass before we headed back out. So very proud of him.

We'll be hauling back to the same place next weekend for a lesson with Instructor on her own turf. I'm hoping that the more Fiction gets out, the more relaxed he will be. Thus far he seems to be doing very well.

I sent in my entry for the next dressage schooling show on April 24th. We'll be doing Intro C (throwaway test), T1, and T2.

4.08.2016

Riding Schedules

5

In the three years that I've owned Fiction, I've come to realize that hard work is just not his cup of tea. He has energy for days, but the moment you ask him to concentrate that energy, he tends to nope out. It takes a very patient rider to get him through his ear-pinning and tail-swishing protests when hard work comes into play.

With this in mind, I have a pretty lax schedule for him. We ride 3-4 days a week, depending on weather and time availability. When he is very good in a ride, like he was last night, I end after about 20 minutes and give him lots of love. When he is bad, I make the work harder and harder until he finally chills out.

Old pic. This horse loves his down time.
After shows I tend to give him 2-3 days off in a row. When we evented, he would get a week off. I find that these prolonged periods of rest and ample rest in-between rides (I rarely ride 2 days in a row, and if I do, it is usually the weekend and one of those rides is a trail ride) keep him very sound and happy. The few times we have experienced work-related soreness or injury has been when I have not followed these rules.

For example: When he was in training with our last Trainer, 3x a week, + my rides (including a lesson a week), his back was perpetually sore - to the point that he buckled under when I would touch it. Last summer, when I rode in a clinic for three days straight, he developed stifle pain and was lame on the third day (at this point, he was actually out of shape, so this development was not particularly out of the ordinary). After the next 3-day clinic, he colicked.

Horse likes to horse, not work :P
Even on this 'lazy' schedule, Fiction has built a substantial amount of muscle and is very capable of strenuous work. He has zero muscle soreness, zero lameness issues, and his mind stays relatively happy. We've made quite a bit of progress in a few months on this schedule (now that we're in correct work), so I'm content to continue along this path. When we start doing more advanced work, this schedule may need to change, but for now it is what keeps my horse's mind and body sound.

So, what about you? What is your working schedule for your horse? Are there are particular reasons you decided on that sort of schedule?

4.06.2016

Schooling Show #2 - 4/3/2016

7

J and I were up at 6:00am, grabbed breakfast, and headed out in the frigid weather across ice-slicked roads to the show grounds.

The boys were comfy and warm and happy to see us. Well, probably more happy to see food.

I changed my clothes, tacked up, and hopped on with about an hour to spare before my ride time at 9:18. I fully intended to do what Instructor told me to do - ride the snot out of my horse until he was too tired to be ignorant in the arena. My horse can XC school and gallop for hours on end, so this was a daunting task.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Fiction was a complete gentlemen. In fact, he was perfection. He maintained steady, light contact at all three gaits. He carried himself. He gave me zero sass. He listened and responded promptly to everything I asked of him. He was the horse I've always dreamed of having at a competition. A horse that could easily take first place without even trying.

His braids look horrendous. I blame frozen fingers and lack of energy.
So I faced a dilemma. I know from experience that pushing him further would result in an angry horse. Getting off, chilling, then getting back on would also make for an angry horse. So, I meandered around at the free walk, practicing dropping and collecting my reins (because this action royally pisses him off for some reason), until about 10 minutes before my ride, when I started running him through his paces again.

He was still calm, but a bit upset at him, because apparently he had thought he was done (despite the fact that I tried to prevent this mindset). He got a bit sassy with me, but nothing horrible. I had high hopes for the arena.

These hopes, of course, were not realized.

The first test (T1) was a wash. I had hoped that schooling in the arena the night before would have helped, but Fiction honestly abhors dressage rings. Especially their tiny corners. And it doesn't help that the far side of this particular arena is petrifying to a horse - dark corners, big judges table at ringside, huge viewing room with tons of people milling about, etc. Fiction flat-out refused to go into those corners.

Even though Fiction did a complete 180 from the horse I had in warm-up, this test was a definite improvement over our last venture. He didn't crane his neck up quite as high. We had less outside bend. Tempo wasn't bad. Our circles were nice. And he was pretty responsive to my cues, save for the downward transition to walk at C which he absolutely refused to comply to.

While the test wasn't great, we did improve our score by about 10 points - to a 56.6%.

There were three tests between our T1 and T2. I used the time to school him.

Very tired pony.
Into the arena we went. This test went a fair bit smoother. We actually had instances of connection, roundness, and relaxation. The first half of the test was mediocre - especially the stretchy trot circle, understandable since he was a bit wired. However, the second part of the test was pretty nice. No bending to the outside. I got him somewhat into the far corners but didn't push the issue too hard. Our circles were beautiful. His canter was nice. His diagonals were excellent - soft and compliant. All in all, it wasn't too shabby.

We came out of it with a 60.8%.

So, there has been progress. What kind of takeaways are there? I'm not entirely sure. I do know the following:

    • I never know what kind of horse I'm going to get until I get on. Always best to opt for more warm-up time than less.
    • He needs a throwaway test.
    • He needs WAY more practice in a standard arena. Especially in corners.
    • He is more than capable of knocking out crazy good scores. He is simply lacking experience. The improvement from the last show is quite substantial.
    • I don't get nervous in the dressage arena, but I do get firmer with him. If only in reaction to the fact that he can't seem to hold it together in an arena. I'm not sure how to rectify this. I think experience is the only answer.
    • I opted for sitting trot for my tests. This is the right decision. I should probably aim for this for every test from now on.
Anyways, we didn't walk away with any ribbons, but we didn't come in last place either. 10th/12 in each test. It was the championships and everyone really brought their A-game. Still, no scores in the 70s though, so if we continue in our pattern of improvement, the next show should result in ribbons.

I'm very proud of my boy. He has come a long way in a few short months.

4.04.2016

Schooling Show Prep - Saturday

2

This weekend was exhausting and warrants two posts. Primarily because I'm too tired to condense everything into a nicely worded singular post.

Saturday started off as late as I could possibly let it, as I intended to shove as much sleep into my body as time would allow. Packing for the show was a pretty random process - I just shoved things into a bag and hoped I had the essentials. I used to be the type that prepared for everything that could possibly go wrong, but now I just simply don't care enough. Excessive lists stressed me out more than not having something. As long as I have the essentials, I'm fine.

Then it was off to the barn for an early morning lesson with the Instructor.

Fiction was psychotic. I was sick this past week, so I only managed a ride on him on Wednesday night, and all we did was jump around because why bother to practice tests, right?

We spent the entire lesson zooming around at the sitting trot. Instructor's compliments in regards to my ability to sit lightly and effectively even when zooming were not enough to quell my absolute hatred for the exercise...if only because my core and arms were burning from effort.

All we wanted to do was get Fiction to focus. So, sitting trot, think walk, then before he breaks to a walk, push him forward, repeat. Half halts using both reins are a no-no because he loses his mind. So, instead, half halt with outside rein, apply inside leg, and occasionally wiggle inside rein when he locks up.


We managed to get through T2 (my first time riding it) once before the end of the short lesson. It was atrocious, but the exercise helped cement the test in my brain, so there's that.

Instructor's advice for me at the show was to ride the piss out of him that night, and then ride the piss out of him in warm-up, and continue to ride the piss out of him between tests. I accomplished half of this, but more on that later.

I let the pony chill in his cooler for a long time while I cleaned all of my tack and packed up the trailer. We finally hit the road around 2:30pm, and arrived on the show grounds around 6:30pm. Right as we got there it started snowing fiercely and by the time we had unpacked the trailer there was already an inch of snow covering everything.

We immediately tacked up and went to ride in the arena. Fiction, again, was crazy. I rode him a solid 45 minutes or longer, until he was soaked with sweat. He was pretty bug-eyed at the arena, unfortunately, but there wasn't much I could do to assuage his anxiety.

Fiction chilled in his cooler while I braided, shaking from cold, exhaustion, and possibly low blood sugar (food is hard sometimes -.-). I wrapped him in a sheet and medium stable blanket for the night and then J and I headed out around 9:30pm to get to our hotel. By the time we finished traversing the treacherous roads (seriously, a blizzard!), made a pit stop at Wendy's, showered, and hopped into bed, it was close to midnight.