Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bastian's New Years Resolutions

December 31st, 2012. Its been a long year, filled with measures of success and measures of WTF was that? Bastian and I have grown exponentially and have barely even scratched the surface of what he is capable of and what I hope to be capable of. Thank you to each and every person who has believed in us and helped us out along the way, without you I would never have gotten as far as I have so far.

Highlights of 2012

1) Jumping 3' while in a lesson. Yup, we sure did that! Still keeping my fingers crossed that para-jumping becomes a part of the WEG/Olympics. Bastian would be a Rock-a-saurus rex.

2) Competing in 3 recognized events, 2 at the Starter Level and 1 at Beginner Novice. They were tough, but I truly love eventing and perhaps one day I'll get to do it again. But the important part is that I proved I could and Bastian could. Which is proof that if you want something badly enough, you will accomplish it no matter what your limitations are.

3) Earning 70% at Training Level at the NODA show in July and a 68% at First Level at The Region Champs to bring home 8th place out of 45 entries. I have to give most of the credit to my phenomenal trainer, Kristin Stein. Not only did she have me galloping my cross country courses and jumps, but she got both Bastian and I into super dressage pony mode. Without her guidance and expertise I'd still be a training level rider trotting (with a look of sheer panic on my face) cross rails (really low cross rails....lol)

4) Getting to ride Hugh Knows while in Philadelphia and taking a lesson with Missy Ransehousen. It was my brush with fame! I got to ride a Rolex event horse and we did a pretty snazzy flying change (by accident, but still snazzy)

5) Riding my first 2nd Level test and totally botching it. Yup, I had like 3 errors and really did not make a good first impression at 2nd Level with my 51% percent....I can't wait to redeem myself in 2013!

Looking to the new year, B and I have a lot of work to do. I'm not sure which of us has more to do, but I'm gonna go with me. He by no means has the easy job, but its up to me to bring out his best so I've got to be up to snuff. I'd like to reference David O'Connor's lecture at the USEA convention (as found on Eventing Nation-awesome website!). Here are David's thoughts on what it will take the USA to become number one in the world in equestrian events:

What does it take to the top? 1) Ambition — Ambition is the driver. 2) Intelligence/emotional control — You need intelligence because you need to figure out the game to beat the game. 3) Technique 4) Selecting Appropriate Horses — In the horse/rider importance scale, the horse is most important 5) Horse Management/time management — Competitors have to set aside time for just them and the horses. He said he doesn’t believe this is all day, and that he understands riders have business, but top riders should take 2-3 hours a day to shut out all else in the barn. 6) Talent — The least important part, according to David. He said the top 5 principles are much more important than talent.

Ambition- I have it. I want to compete at the International Level, I want to represent my country at the WEG and the Olympics. I have the drive to do this.

Intelligence/Emotional Control- This one is going to be tough for me, but I am determined to overcome it. I'm a fairly intelligent person who usually looks at things in a logical way, but I'm also very emotional. My foray back into the world of eventing really helped me with this, I had to focus or else I was going to be a disaster on course. And now when i get nervous in the dressage ring I not so kindly remind myself that I galloped cross country and getting through a test ain't no thing. But on the same token, when I make a mistake I take it hard and get rather moody. I need to learn to let it go, learn from it and make myself better.

Technique- We are working very hard on this. We have to be precise and effective. I need to have better core strength and keep my right shoulder back and bring my left shoulder forward. I need to be precise with what I ask Bastian to do and control every muscle and every hoof.

Selecting Appropriate Horses- Mentally, Bastian is such a good fit for me and so appropriate. He handles life without too much crazy, which is saying a lot for a young thoroughbred who is insanely fit. Is he going to knock the socks off of international competition, probably not. Thats not saying we can't be competitive and do well, but the truth of the matter is that there are lots of lovely horses out there with better gaits. I want nothing more than to make this entire journey with Bastian, but if a more appropriate horse comes along and I'm in the position to utilize it, then that is road I will take.

Horse Management/time management- Another one that will be difficult, but I will make happen. With one full time job and multiple part time jobs, sometimes Bastian gets pushed to the side because without said jobs Bastian will no longer exist in my world. But I need to make the effort to fill every other empty moment with Bastian. I have to get my butt out of bed at 6 AM after getting home from work at 2 AM so that I can ride and get back home to be ready for work at Noon. Not easy, but 2013 will be filled with less sleeping in :o(

Talent- What can I say, with talent like this, I could ride a llama and still win....okay, that was a complete joke. I'm not a talented rider, as much as I thought I was when I was younger, I'm not. Its taken me nearly 20 years of riding (including some major setbacks) to get to this point. I would say I'm fairly low on the talent scale, but I make up for in the determination/ambition/tenacity division. This is something that is going to change, I'm not to wake up one morning having been suddenly blessed by the talent fairy. But I will continue to work hard make up for my lack of talent with hard work.

Two more parting words of wisdom from David (I'm sure to be referencing his lecture throughout the new year):

Awareness — Perceiving things as they actually are. Self awareness is recognizing those internal factors that distort one’s own perception of reality. Responsibility — The correct action taken in a moment. The correct action to set up a required feeling.

Both of these are vitally important to any rider, not just those pursuing upper level competition. I'm working on both.

We're gearing up to somehow make it down to Wellington. I applied to the American Horse Trials Foundation for grant money and with the help of wonderful family members and wonderful friends things are starting to roll along. Bastian will soon be micro-chipped and applying for his passport. We're also working on developing our Musical Freestyle so that we can rock it in March. Aside from that we're still looking for sponsors and help to make Wellington a reality.

I have to give a shout out to Hastilow Saddle Company as well, we have been riding in our new Concept Saddle for a few weeks and aside from some minor tweaking by the saddle fitter Bastian is loving it and so am I. So much more comfortable than my Wintec and it's helping me to maintain a better position.

Thats all for now! Happy New Year and we'll be checking in regularly to keep everyone apprised of our progress.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mark Your Calendars....

For Bastian's Winter Fun Show featuring the first ever Egg N' Spoon Off Championship!!! Yup, you read that right an Egg N' Spoon Off. Right here in Brookfield Ohio, Bauer Equestrian Center will be hosting the Egg N' Spoon Smackdowns of Smackdowns, winner receives bragging rights, a custom Egg N' Spoon Crown and a cup of victory wine (provided the winner is old enough to partake of said wine). I can already tell how insanely jealous all of you who live no where near hear are.... lol

So that's the highlight of the evening, but there are lots of other classes to be involved in as well! Here is the class list:

1) Barrel Race

2)Flag Race

3)Potato Race

4)Holiday Spirit Class

5)Trail

6)**Egg N' Spoon**

7)Catalog Race

8) 18" Jumpers

9)Choose your Own height Jumpers (2'3" and above!)

The Cost is $30 per entry-you get to ride in whatever classes you want, ribbons and prizes for each class and there will be a junior and senior division :)

The show will be on December 28th at 5:30 PM. We're also hosting a pot-luck at the same time so bring a dish to pass and let the good times roll! If you would like an officail show flyer, just send me an email at bastiandressagedragon@gmail.com

This is out kickoff fundraiser event as we start to work towards making it to Wellington Florida March 14-17 for our first ever CPEDI***. Bastian really has his heart set on going, so lets not disappoint him! lol

Come out and visit even if you don't plan on riding, you aren't going to want to miss the Egg N' Spoon Championships of the World!

And one more friendly PSA: Saddle pads and Polo Shirts are still available for purchase, look sharp in your next riding lesson as you sport some "Luck Be a Dragon in France" wear ;P Email me for order forms!

See you at the show!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Of Boot Camp and WEF

I need to start off by saying I am exhausted! This past weekend was phenomenal and both Bastian and I got our asses kicked. I was feeling pretty good when we got home last night, but this morning I woke up sore and tired and it was a struggle to get through the day, all I wanted to do was take a nap.....

So Kristin and I pulled out of the barn around 11:30 on Friday and began our trek to Coatesville PA and Blue Hill Farm. The weather was great and we made good time until we hit Route 30 at 5:00 on a Friday night...holy traffic batman! It took forever. My first riding lesson was set for 6:30 PM, we rolled into the barn around 6:18....nothing like cutting it close. LOL

No worries though, Kristin and I tag teamed Bastian (and when I say tag team I mean Kristin pretty much did everything, she was fabulous!) and I was in their lovely indoor with fantastically foof-a-licious footing by 6:35.

Our first lesson was a bit of an evaluation, seeing what I could and couldn't do, where my weakness were and where Bastian's weaknesses were. I think I can sum it all up by saying we have quite a bit of homework to do! We rode again early Saturday AM and we really got down to business. Missy had me focusing on my body position, keeping my shoulders back, staying centered, keeping my eyes up and turning with my hips. She had us working very hard. I had to keep Bastian between my legs, pushing forward, putting more weight on his hind end along with being steady and rhythmical. Easy-peasy! NOT! By the time we got to our lesson on Sunday morning, both of us were exhausted, we had done some intense work, I have to step up what we're doing at home! For as exhausted as we both were on Sunday I felt like we showed progress from where we had started on Friday, I was sitting up better and was feeling it quicker when I dropped my shoulders or wasn't moving my hips or shoulders in my turns. Bastian was trying his enormous Thoroughbred heart out, not only to listen to my not always so clear directions, but trying to make his stride more collected and rock back on his hind end.

On Saturday night I also got to take a lesson one of Missy's horses that was donated to the Para-Program. His name was Hugh, Hugh Knows. So if you're an eventing fan you should recognize that name. He was one of Karen O'Connor's Rolex Mounts.
So given my current situation, I doubt I am ever going to get to cruise around the Rolex course, so this has to count vicariously somehow....lol. But I digress, Hugh was awesome, very responsive to my seat and light off of my legs while at the same time being very accepting of my excessive leg movement. His canter was to die for! Super fabulous. And as soon as lost my position, he changed so he was really great for keeping me focused! I got to school trot half-pass, turn on the haunches and counter canter. I even managed to do an unintentional flying lead change, a quite nice unintentional flying change if I do say so.... lol He was just an ideal lesson horse, he didn't get frustrated as we went around and around I tried to figure him out and he figured me out, no crazy reactions to my mistakes. It was quite the honour to have the opportunity to ride such a great horse.

The lessons and the riding were phenomenal, but pale in comparison to how welcoming, supportive and kind everyone was at Blue Hill. I got to meet Rebecca Hart and James Dwyer, two wonderful people who made me feel right at home and were incredibly friendly :) Missy Ransehousen is a great instructor! She was easy to follow while she was giving instruction and kept everything positive and upbeat. Everything she had me doing was right in line with what I have been doing-just more intense, more precise. I really liked this-its always nerve-wracking when you ride with a new instructor: are they going to change everything you're doing or are they on the same page as you (or in this case, are you on the same page as them). I also got to meet Hope Hand, one of the most important people in keeping the Para-program going and keeping everyone informed as far as which shows to go to and rule changes and deadlines. Like I said, everyone was so friendly and supportive, it was wonderful! Not to mention everyone has the greatest sense of humour. Not to mention all the others we met in the aisle and in the arena at the farm. Thank you everyone for making our stay at Blue Hill Farm so wonderful.

So, you may be asking what is on the agenda for Team Bastian now. Well, if we can manage to swing it, we're headed to Wellington, FL in March 2013 to compete in our first CPEDI***. All I have to figure out is how to raise enough money to get it done. Saddle pads and polo shirts are still available and we're having a fun show at BEC at the end of December. But that still leaves me quite a bit short....I'm estimating costs of about $4000 so I want to try and raise $5000 so that I don't have to take any shortcuts with B and he can have the best of the best care.

So that's our story. We're going to try and hit the Chagrin Valley Farms Dressage Schooling shows in December, January and March so I can ride my test and get my geometry and flow down. Oh I almost forgot, the new 2013 Para Test are in the large arena!!! I'm soooooooo excited that I don't have to cram everything into a small arena ;P

More updates soon! Thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bastian's Rakish Regional Review

It is with both sadness and a huge sense of relaxation that we finish our 2012 Competiton year. I love to show, it focuses me and drives me to ride and we won't be doing any more showing until 2013. At the same time, I have close to three months to relax and get our Second Level act together before we start test driving it again at the Winter Schooling Show series.

USDF Regional Championships for Region 2 was pretty amazing. This was the highest caliber of competition that Bastian and I have faced so far and I have to say that for the majority of it, we held our own. The only place where we didn't was totally my fault, Bastian on the other hand stepped it up and was a joy to ride.

Wednesday

On Wednesday I bundled up the amazing dragon and we were off to Kentucky. He's such a great traveler, I really lucked out on that. The weather was dismal, it was about 48 degrees, rainy and windy, yuck. We pulled into the horse park around 3:30 and moved into our temporary home, Rolex Tent Stabling 2. Bastian was nestled between my tack stall and Shannon's horse Leo, his new best friend. Or maybe he just liked him because he had some delicious hay in haybag and Bastian spent all weekend working his little nose off trying to get first between the bars of his stall and then between the tiny holes of Leo's slow-fee haynet. I lunged him for a good half hour before I got on because it was so cold and he had a bit of a hairy eyeball walking out of his stall. Which was good thing because it was a LONG and SCARY walk from our stabling to the Dressage Complex. We got to walk on the galloping track for the cross country course, which was pretty cool and then we had to make it through the Land of the Paso Finos, which kinda freaked him out too, but he handled it well.

He ended up warming up like a dream and was sooooo fantastic, he was light and fluffy and very responsive to my seat, I couldn't have been happier and I was just hoping I would be able to get the same result tomorrow when we got to show First 3 in the Rolex Arena. I decided to not school in the Rolex arena on Wednesday night because it was CRAZY in there! Horses galloping everywhere and I wanted no part of that craziness.

Thursday

Thursday was our big debut in the Rolex Arena riding First Level 3. The footing was amazing, I can't say enough about it and Bastian seemed to really like it as well as he was moving quite nicely. We warmed up and headed in.
Here we are going into the arena for the first time, Bastian was completely non-plussed by the whole thing, but that didn't stop Kristin from giving him some last minute warnings about taking care of his mom....lol
We went in to put in a fantastic test. We were doing great and then on my second canter lengthen I lost my left stirrup :( There was no stopping though and I managed to pull of a pretty decent canter loopy followed by a so-so trot lengthening and got my halt and salute in. We scored 65% and I managed to place 5 out of 18 entries. I was quite pleased with my handsome boy, we scored a 65% in Kentucky against a lot of my soon to be Championship Competition.

Friday

Friday was another warm up day, we rode Training Level Test 2 and scored a lovely 70% which was good enough to get us a second place ribbon. Kristin has finally gotten me to understand how important getting him to bend is and I employed that knowledge on Friday. It worked! First place went to Bastian's new BFF, Leo. I think that this means there is something to be said for our Trainer/Instructor Kristin, I mean how much better can it get when both of your students take the top to places in a class. Not to mention that I scored a 70% in Kentucky, so again, very pleased with my handsome, handsome boy.
Shannon and I with our ribbons!

Saturday

Saturday was unfortunately, our bad day. I wasn't riding well, I was getting jerky and over-compensatey (is that a word?) instead of soft and subtle and while we earned a respectable 66% in our Training Level AA Championship, it was far from our best performance and was not good enough for anything near a good placing...we finished 18th out of 51. I was extremely disappointed with myself, I had no excuse to ride so poorly.

But all was not lost, Shannon and Leo did lovely and were named Reserve Champ and Shari and Isaac finished just out of the ribbons by a 5th of a percent were in the top ten. Again, I think that this speaks volumes about Kristin's training and Instruction. Three students who all did well out of 51 tough competitors.

Sunday

Sunday was a new day, I had to shake off the bad mojo from Saturday, this was our last chance to shine and Bastian deserved a better ride. It was warm outside but very very windy, like 20 mph winds with 40+ mph gusts. Crazy! He wasn't bothered by the wind though, he's such a good, reliable guy. We made our way into the Rolex Arena one more time and put in our best ever First level test yet. Our combined average score was 67%. We did some awesome canter loopies in both directions and our leg yields were spectacular. I was so pleased with him.

We were sitting in 8th place and it was a nerve-wracking hour and a half while we waited for the rest of the competitors to go and have their scores posted. Finally they were up and we had managed to hold onto 8th place. 8th out of 45 entries, not to shabby for the bargain basement TB from Maryland.
We got to lead the division into the arena for the awards ceremony to Darth Vader's intro music in Star Wars...AWESOME! Then for our victory trot lap (of which we were at the tail end :) )we got to strut our stuff to Lady Gaga's "Pokerface." I'm glad they picked good music, lol
Thank you Donna for all the fabulous pictures! Thank you Gwen for all your help and support over the weekend. Thank you Shari for the support, awesome advice and delicious snacks and beverages. Thank you Shannon for your support, words of wisdom, golf cart and willingness to live on the wild side and off road it! Thank you Kristin for your relentless instruction that has helped to get Bastian and I to where we are today, Bastian and I could not do it with out you. Thank you Char, Leslie, Rachel, Cindy, Gwen, Shannon, Caitlin, Anna, Thomas, Hastilow Saddlery, and my mom and dad for placing ads in the show book and helping me to earn a free stall. Bastian and I are truly appreciative of your support and belief in our abilities.

Monday, September 17, 2012

So You Think You Can Dressage Part II

As promised, here is Part II of the "So You Think You Can Dressage" Saga. :)

The first order of business is to welcome Hastilow Competition Saddlery as my first official sponsor! They've helped me to trick out my ride with a Hastilow Adjustable Concept Dressage Elevation Saddle
I am super excited about this (I mean who isn't excited about a new saddle!) The Elevation is built to be completely adjustable, which will be great as Bastian continues to change through his back and develop more and more topline. Its built on a Bio-Kinetic Tree that employs Simatree technology, this means the tree is laterally flexible providing more comfort for both the horse and rider. It also features 3 different panel types based on your horses build as well as an adjustable gullet, ergonomic knee block, a deep seat and is wool flocked. If I haven't convinced you yet, head over to their website to check out more information and to look at the other high quality saddles they offer. They are also providing me with a lovely new bridle. Thank you Hastilow Saddlery!!

I haven't owned a Hastilow in several years, but I had both a dressage and jumping saddle when I was in College and loved riding in them both. Bastian was measures for his new equipment and now we are just anxiously awaiting their arrival. He doesn't even know how much more awesome its going to be. The saddle I currently ride in is okay, it doesn't fit him poorly, but it doesn't fit him well either. It gets the job done. I can't wait to feel how much better he'll go in his new saddle.

I'm still in need of sponsors and help! This is only the beginning of the journey ;P I am selling polo shirts and saddle pads, please contact me (bastiandressagedragon@gmail.com) if you are interested in ordering anything! I will have photos soon...just ordered a proto-type the other day. I'm hoping to begin riding with Missy Ransehousen in October and begin full time training with Kristin in either December or January so that we are ready to rock the Para-Dressage world in 2013!!!

So, you're probably asking yourself, how did an crazy eventer type like me end up riding Para-Dressage? Well, here's our story....

This picture is the from the day I bought Bastian. Ain't he a cutie!

In May of 2007 I was riding a very green gelding, he only had a handful of rides on him. We had successfully walked and trotted on the lunge line and I went to dismount. While dismounting, he spooked, I grabbed onto the saddle to stick with him which spooked him more, he bucked and threw me over top of his back up into the air and I came down like an arrow right on my head(yes, I was wearing my helmet-I honestly believe it saved my life that day!), I was instantly numb from the waist down. I wasn't in a lot of pain, and I tried to keep myself calm by repeating "its only a pinched nerve" inside my head. 911 was called and then the Life Flight Hellicopter.

They flew me to the hospital where the doctors quickly assessed my condition, took x-rays and I was rushed into surgery. The first surgery was to alleviate the swelling and insert pins into my spine-I had a burst fracture of my first lumbar vertabra. 24 hours later I was back into surgery, this time to insert a metal cage around my spinal cord where all of the bone fragments were placed to "re-create" my vertabra. I don't remember much of that week in intensive care other than how stressed out my parents were and not knowing what feeling or use of my legs I would actually regain. I couldn't move anything on my left side and only slightly better on my right.

From there I spent just over a month in the hospital, going to physicial therapy everyday and working to relearn how to walk and move again. Finally I was released to go home, there was a lot of adjusting to do, I had always been active and independent and know I was relying on so many people for basic aspects of living. Also at the back of my mind was the big question of "When was I going to ride again?"

Not riding again had never crossed my mind. I was going to get back in the saddle, I wasn't sure how well I would be able to ride and what I would be capable of, but I always knew for sure that I would get back on. I was banned from riding for 9 months by my doctor. At 7 months, I started "riding" again and by riding I mean I tacked up my 26 year old pony and sat on her. We didn't actually go anywhere, I just sat on her while she munched on hay. It was a glorious feeling to be back on a horse. At 9 months I started actually riding again, nothing like a 26 year old pony to restore your faith in the equine world!

Throughout this time, Bastian was also constantly lurking on the edge of my mind. I had bought him as an untouched 3 year old directly from his breeder just two weeks before my accident. I had bought him as my event horse prospect and had been looking forward to starting him myself and storming the event world... now I wasn't going to be physically able to do that. Bastian is quite the level headed guy, always has been, but he was also a baby thoroughbred and he may be level headed, but damn is he athletic! Watching him play in the paddock is amazing, he can do some pretty cool tricks! So I was constantly struggling with what to do with him. I was already in love with his personality, he let me in his stall with my walker to groom him and love on him and he never snorted the wrong way or gave me the wonky eye, that's pretty good for any 3 year old, much less a thoroughbred ;P

Our very first dressage show at Grand Haven together. We showed in an Intro Class. He was very good!

Luckily I had some excellent people to work with and in the Spring Bastian was officially started under saddle. Bastian went through his own trials and tribulations before he started his real training. In the fall of 2007, he was diagnosed with EPM. With proper medical attention, he was able to make a full recovery, but he has a permanent memory of his disease. When you view him from the back, you can see that his left side has much less muscle development than his right and for almost two years after his recovery he was always a little uneven. Through a lot of hard work and careful development, he now tracks up evenly. You would never know unless you stand behind him that he has difference between his right and left side.

In 2009 I moved to Hermitage, PA and started riding with Kristin Stein (www.steinequine.com). Through her instruction and training Bastian and I began to excel and find our place in the dressage world. I showed all year at recognized Dressage Competitions without being a Graded Para-Equestrian and while we managed to get our qualifying scores at Training level, I was always getting comments on my test about how I had a kind horse and I needed to stop my "excessive" kicking. Finally before Regionals that year, I was classified as a Grade III Para-Equestrian. The main compensations that I use are carrying two whips and securing my feet into the stirrups via velcro. I'm also allowed to carry my whips during Championship Classes.

So began my career as a Para-Equestrian. This year I had the pleasure of riding under the wonderful eye of Kristi Wysocki, an FEI*** Para Equestrian judge who was impressed by Bastian and I's performance and pulled us aside to encourage us to pursue getting my FEI Para-card and working towards making the selection trials for the 2014 WEG. You can read the whole blog about that show here: http://www.bastianthewonderdragon.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html

So that is how we came to be. This year has been an amazing year so far for Bastian and I, not only have we made huge strides in our dressage work, but we successfully completed 3 recognized events, 2 at the starter level and one BN. Eventing does not recognize my para-equestrian status so I competed in those events without any of my normal compensations. Bastian LOVES to jump and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Para-Equestrian jumping makes it way to this side of the pond soon, Bastian would rock it. Still to come this year is our Regional Championship Show at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. Bastian and I are showing in both the Training Level and First Level AA Championships. This is our last time showing Training Level, a bittersweet parting, but we're ready to move onward and upward. Watch out Second Level, we've dipped our toes into the deep end of dressage and we're ready to dive in head first!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

So You Think You Can Dressage Part I

Bastian and I have begun a a brand new chapter of our Dressage career. We are officially Second Level competitors. It was far from the illustrious beginning that I hoped for, but it was all rider error and errors I don't intend to make next time. Our final score was a 51% I went off course twice during the canter work in the test, I made a poor choice about missing our right lead depart which led to me becoming quite frazzled and then botching the remainder of the test, I wasn't able to recollect ourselves to the needed level, we recollected to Training Level horse instead of Second Level horse. So after the 2 for our right lead canter depart and the 2 for our 10 meter circle at S, we scored some 4's and some 5s. The 2's given for the depart and the circle were generous as there was never a canter depart and we "walked" our circle. So thank you Ms. Freeman for your kind 2s! lol

I would like to add that Margaret Freeman is an excellent judge, she nailed us on all sorts of things, but they were all correct. It was a bit tough to stomach when I read my first test (First 1) but by my second level test I knew that it was simply fact and each and every comment was true. It was odd having all three of my tests judged by the same judge all weekend, but it was also nice to have one person's opinion three times and to try and improve on that one person's comments. I know because I've done it and because I have seen other people do it, we read the judges comments and we wonder how much brandy they added to their coffee that morning because we just can't see how our little Muffin didn't score better because that was the best 20 meter stretchy circle EVER.

Competition in Kentucy was tough. And amazing. I got to ride at THE Kentucky Horse Park. My little champion was stabled just outside of the "Big Barn" and its Aisle of Champions. He was a bit looky on Thursday, just taking everything in, but he handled it all so well! There is so much going on and to take in, he's never been in such a busy environment. I put our spring eventing training into action and whenever I got nervous because I thought Bastian might look at something or spook I put my leg on and imagined galloping cross country at Stonegate and Erie Hunt and Saddle Club. This really helped at the canter because he wanted to get stuck behind my leg a few times.

The weather was horrid on Saturday, cold and rainy. They ended up delaying the start of the show for an hour, so my ride times got bumped from 8:56 and 5:34 to 9:56 and 6:34. It was one looooong day! My first test went well, I scored a 65% and took first, later in the day I had Bastian more collected, but we ended up behind the vertical one too many times and came away with a 62% and third place. Our First Place Prize:

Kristin and Zoe scored a brilliant 73% in their Third Level 3 class on Friday, smoking the competition. Unfortunately, they didn't count Friday's scores in the tally for High-Point. Shari and Isaac had a rough weekend too, but came out on top by earning a 66% and their final qualifying score for First Level. Unfortunately, Bastian's partner in Chestnut Dressage Crime couldn't make it to the show do to a mild leg injury, Bastian is definitely looking forward to hanging out with Leo at Regionals and I am looking forward to hanging out with Shannon, so fingers are crossed that everything is better on their end!

Its just 3 and 1/2 weeks until we return for Regionals. I am very excited about going and am working very hard to give Bastian the best ride that I can. This is our moment to shine and I want all the focus to be on him, the phenomenal, awesomest, most fantastical horse in the world!

Well, this wraps up So You Think You Can Dressage Part I. Part II will follow shortly and involves the announcement of my first Major sponsor, a look back at how Bastian and I came to be and information on how you can help to make my goal of becoming selected for the 2014 WEG Para-Equestrian team a reality.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Look out Second Level, Bastian is on the move!

Thank you. I don't think it would be right to start today's blog out any other way but with a thank you to everyone that is rallying to support me and Bastian. Let me say it once more:

THANK YOU!

I've gotten my entry ready for the USDF Region 2 Championships and am $50 away from getting the sponserships I need for a free stall. :) I am overwhelmed by so many people offering to help us out! So cool!

Secondly, I have got some major company sponserships in the works as well. I don't want to reveal any details other than that until the details are hashed out, but its making this entire venture real. And THANK YOU to the individuals that have been working on those. Bastian and I truly appreciate you support!

Currently we are getting ready for the MSEDA Dressage Show at the Kentucky Horse Park September 7-9. We're showing First Level on Saturday and doing our first ever Second Level test on Sunday. EEEKK! I am so excited, I'm finally moving beyond Training and First!

But wow, the move up to Second Level is crazy! Kristin has us working very hard and I am beginning to realize why so many people never advance past First Level. Training and First pose their own questions and difficulties, but its questions that are just confirming the basic training of the horse-go forward, accept the bridle and respond to leg. Now I've got to get Bastian more supple, rocked back onto his hocks, in an uphill frame and I personally have to sit all that crazy medium trot! LOL

My goal is to stay in the 60%s with my score, but I know its gonna be tough. I feel pretty good about our shoulder ins and super good about our 3 halts, the reinback and our free walk. Our canter-walks have potential if I keep it together, as do our mediums. The counter canter shouldn't be too bad....he's very confirmed there, I just need to be able to do counter canter in collected canter, that's the hitch, LOL. But the upswing is that our First Level Work is becoming amazing! That little canter loopy of counter canter, it ain't no thing! Lol

But I'm pretty excited anyway. Next year Bastian and I will be rocking the USDF Dover Second Level Medal Classes whilst chasing our Para-Equestrian goals. To flip back to that topic, I am going to be doing both custom saddle pads and I think Polo shirts (not entirely sure on the shirt aspect yet). Once I consult my design team I'll get order forms ready. I have some ideas for a slogan/logo, but am very open to suggestions so if you have any ideas message me or post them in the comments below ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mai oui, Bastian est tres formidable!

Sorry I haven't kept up with my blogging, its been a rather crazy 2 months and I have no excuse, but believe you me, this post should more than make up for :)

So last time we left our struggling hero, Bastian, he had two refusals XC at the Lost Hounds Pony Club horse trials because his rider didn't do her job and get him around with confidence. I had already sent in my entry for South Farm for BN, but contacted them and asked to be put into the Starter Division. I needed to get my confidence up. So with that done we concentrated on riding forward and me not grabbing him with my right hand. It was like my right hand had a mind of its own and going up to a fence I would yank it back and out repeatedly and I had no idea I was doing it. Kristin made me jump with my right hand holding my left hand and you know what, it was perfect! Really weird feeling, but perfect. I wasn't interfering with him.

So off we went to South Farm with Cindy and Banff. I wasn't 100% there for Dressage, he was a little stuck behind my leg and I didn't put in the best test, we came away with a 30.5 and were sitting in second place. XC was next and I kept my warm-up perfect. All I needed was about 5 minutes, we popped over the warm-ups and did the warm-up log they had. He was forward and I felt good.

5....4...3...2..2..Have a great ride! My plan was to trot our first fence...Bastian decided he wanted to canter so I panicked for a stride then said okay and off we went. Jumped it like a champ, the only one he looked at was fence 2 and he just took a little peek, after that we actually cantered all of our fences, I was with him, we didn't take any from a standstill and we didn't hit any. So much improvement! Here is the video:

Did you see how AWESOME that was????? I actually rode, I was so happy :) So we maintained our second place spot. On Sunday we came back for Stadium. A pretty technical course, but still very inviting fence-wise. Check out our first two fences, they were perfect!

Again, we didn't jump any from a standstill and we didn't hit any. This was what we needed, we needed to just get our gallop on and go without being intimidated by anything. We finished in 2nd by just one point (1st had a 29), so close.....So our last event of the year ended quite well :)

After South Farm, I had just two weeks until the NODA Dressage Shows at Grand Haven. This was my big chance to get my Qualifying scores for Training and First for Regionals, no pressure or anything. LOL. Kristin kicked our butts in lessons and we got a lot sorted out, like the elusive element of straightness and making my corrections more subtle. Well all I have to say is that it worked!

I got all my qualifying scores and am Kentucky bound in October! Woot! Bastian and I owned Training Level, we scored a 70% on Saturday and a 73.2% on Sunday, placing first both times. Oh yeah, we did. :P He felt sooooo good. Our Sunday Score also earned us the Training Level Reserve Champion Award for the AA division (Champion had a 73.5%, again...so close!)We got a 65% and 63% for first level on Saturday and Sunday respectively. We placed 2nd in both of those classes. Sunday's score would have been fabulous, but on our first canter loop I half halted too much at X and he did a brilliant trot transistion :( Otherwise it was really really great!

So Bastian was a champ. Now, here is the cool part. Are you ready? Should I build the suspense more? Maybe do a whole 'nother paragraph about the awesome food that they offer at Grand Haven or how well everyone did and how awesome Kristin is as a trainer and instructor to have gotten me to the point where I can score 70s in Training Level....or maybe I should just tell you. Or maybe wait? I just can't seem to decide what to do.....

Okay, here it is: My judge on Saturday for First Level and Sunday for Training Level was an FEI*** Para-Equestrian Judge. After our Training Level test when the runner went to go get the tests (the runner happened to be the Show Secretary at that moment)she told her that she wanted to speak with me during lunch and that she felt that me AND my horse had a lot of potential and she wanted to see us work toward being selected for the 2012 WEG.

How friggin' awesome is that! All my hard work has finally gotten me noticed (and I have to give a HUGE hats off to Kristin because without her guidance and no-nonsense work hard kick ass lessons we would NOT be here). So Kristin and I spoke with her and she kept saying how much potential she thought we had and I mentioned that I would start looking for a more suitable horse and she was like "why?". Even better than thinking that I have potential, she feels that Bastian has the ability to be competitive. We earned an 8 on Harmony between horse and rider on our test, how about them apples?! Not just a safe ride and not just a nice score, but COMPETITIVE!!!! My lil' Bastian boy an international pony! Riding planes and learning how to wear a beret and speak French....lol, okay maybe I'm getting ahead of myself!

So she said Kristin should start riding Bastian and getting him schooled on the second level stuff that is in my test (shoulder in, mediums, simple transitions, collected gaits,etc) and I should start riding horses that can do those things so I can learn how do them. Next year I should ride the tests as often as possible so I get a year of experience and attend a couple of CPDI/CDI, (I don't really know the abbreviations yet, but big time shows!) so I get comfortable with that kind of pressure and work towards getting on the selection list at the end of 2013 beginning of 2014.

Grand Haven's secretary said they would add the tests to the shows next year for me :) So now I have to get an FEI passport for Bastian and I need to get my Classification changed from just USEF to FEI. I am soooooo excited. Lots of details to work out and I've got to start seeking out sponsorships and donations to make all of this economically feasible, but I'm gonna get it done one way or another.

Our next show is the MSEDA Show in Kentucky in September. I'm taking Bastian and doing not only First Level, but we're making our Second Level debut with Second One. I don't expect to dazzle anyone, but I'm hoping I can hold my own. I've watched others make the move to Second Level and its one of those funky levels that a lot of people seem to struggle with. Bastian and I have to learn how to ROCK second level. I'm pretty excited about it.

So that's my news! I'm hoping to start serious training in January as the next two months are devoted to prepping for Regionals and I'll probably give him about a month off of real work (as in light hacks a few days a week) then get ourselves ready for serious boot camp starting in January! If anyone wants to help out send me a message! I've got some great fund raising ideas in mind and am hoping to try and secure some sponsors. Kerrits, watch out, cause you are getting a letter seeing as how I pretty much exclusively wear your clothes! LOL

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chalking it up

Where to begin? At the beginning of course, but that would take too long, so we'll just start with Friday.

Cindy and I drove up to Erie to walk the XC course. I wasn't worried about any of them (well thats a lie, I was worried about fence 8, the green flower box, but it was entirely my worry-it just freaks me out) I walked the course, had a plan and told myself how I was going to gallop every fence and use my legs and whip and rock it. Same thing with Stadium, Stadium had a few oddly set fences, but we had a plan and again, it involved galloping FORWARD!

On Saturday, Cindy and I rolled out of the barn at 6:00 AM, with one very handsome chestnut Thoroughbred tucked in the trailer. The farrier cut Banff a bit too short and Cindy made the decision to not risk him on the hard ground at Erie and blow her entire season. They'll be up and running for South Farm so no worries there :) My dressage was at 8:40. We arrive and are right on time as far as getting ready and warmed up. Bastian feels great and we put in a very solid test, I thought the judge was a bit picky, but I'm also of course biased (lol). We came away with a 33 and were sitting in third place.

Unfortunately for me, that was the easy part. I'm totally backwards for eventing because dressage is my strongest phase...lol. My stadium time was at 1:12, I was exhausted so I took an awesome nap for about 2 hours-I was out. I decided I needed to be on at 12:30, I wasn't sure how to plan my stadium warm-up. Lots of factors going on, what if the warm up was crazy and I couldn't find my own space (Bastian has a thing about horses coming towards him that we haven't completely addressed yet, thank you dumb friesan at Regionals...grrrr). What if I couldn't get him forward enough? What if..... so I decided that more time was better. I didn't need it. We came to the warm up and I had him awesome, forward and kicking those fence's asses. Now we had about 30 minutes to wait until I actually went in...lesson learned, shorter warm up time, I go into the warm up with my game face on and get it done, I can't worry about all the other stuff. There is no other option but to DO IT. We started out okay, then lost it for fence 2, fence 3 was okay, four was horrible, lucky for me taking out the whole fence still only counts as one "rail." Then it was the moment of truth. I got my shit together and rode the rest of the course.

This was a big thing for me and thank you Kristin for bringing it to my attention in my lesson on Friday. I ride one fence and then I stop. I get so elated by the fact that I got over it and (hopefully) rode mostly well that I just let B stop. Which is or isn't good for schooling, but at a show over a course will not work. I have a crappy fence and I shut down and don't realize that the rest could be okay. But I have to ride and keep riding, one crappy fence doesn't mean the rest have to be crappy. So I manned up and I got us over fence 5 and took much more control over the rest of the course. See for yourself. Better than Buckeye CT and lots of room for us to improve-but at least there is improvement (and I think we looked super cute at least with the grey jacket and his little braids....)

So we had a rail, but no time penalties so we bumped our score up to 37, but managed to stay in 3rd place, a lot of people were having rails.

XC was scheduled just 1 hour later, at 2:12, so back to trailer where Cindy took care of my awesome little Luck Dragon and I drank some more brandy and got myself dressed for XC.

What to say about XC, fence one was iffy, but we got over it and took fence two for granted, we lost our pace way far out, fence three I was lucky he went over, same for four, the bank, then we had another stop at five, this one was a bit dirty, but after four iffy fences, he thought he had figured out what was going on, he's a quick learner and while he LOVES jumping, he really does need my help and when I don't do my job I can't say I blame him for being a bit naughty. But at this point I said enough, I whapped him good and we got over it on the second try and the next five fences were awesome. I galloped him and focused him and myself and he didn't bat an eye. I'm really hoping that the photographer was at the green flower stand, because that was our fence. I GALLOPED him up to it. As in I had two outcomes for this fence in my mind, one he was going to slam on the brakes and I would take the fence independently of Bastian and two he was going to take it like an old pro. I was seriously afraid of how fast we were going, but it was our best fence. This was the pace I need. This is what I have to learn. Through the water, over the stone wall (another pretty good fence) then over the log. Then a long gallop to the ditch. I was tired, but we kept going. We trotted the ditch, which he peeked at, but jumped. Then over another little log where I lost my stirrup and had to stop and it took me a good 20 seconds to get my stirrup back-more time faults) then galloped on to my last fence, didn't have enough pace, but had enough to get over and we were done.

My initial reaction was a mixture of about to be sick and pissed off. The stops were my fault, I hadn't done enough, I made mistakes that should never have happened, dumb simple mistakes that I know better than to make. I have got to get my mind in the game.

Here is the link to my XC video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9fY0Vc2mVk&feature=youtu.be

Upon further reflection I don't feel as pissed off, am I still disappointed in myself, yes. Thats me. I don't accept those mistakes in myself and the only option in my world is perfection (see the dressage diva coming out!!!) But looking at the facts, we did alright. I have not evented in 5 years. My last two events I was eliminated in dressage both times. Bastian has been to one event prior to this, Winona HT, everything at Winona was much quieter and low key. LHPC was the first time we actually galloped a course (and I use the term gallop loosely!), at Winona we trotted the whole thing. There were hardly any people on the course, at LHPC, there were people and chairs and tents and ambulances and OMG all sorts of things for Bastian to look at and look he did, his attention was everywhere for those first five fences until I got us together. We finished the course and believe you me, there were several times when the idea of retiring popped into my head, but I overruled it. I said no, you are here and you are not stopping just because you are a wimp, if you have a good reason, then stop, but you don't so you had better keep going. And go we did.

I need to be more fit. I was tired and having trouble keeping up my end of the bargain in riding Bastian, he on the other hand was super fit and could have gone out a second time! The fitness thing is frustrating for me because I have to do everything twice as much as a normal person to get even a normal fitness level. Please don't think I'm whining or pulling a oh poor me moment, but you know what, it sucks. So somewhere in my schedule I need to find time to walk more and fit in the SITS DVDs that I have (which are awesome, its just a consistency problem for me- I know, shut up with the whining and just do it....). Another option might be only doing events where its divided up over two days, doing all three phases in one day might just be too much for me. Some food for thought for sure.

We ended up in 11th place out of 15 starters with a penalty score of 94.2 :( Yikes! But we finished and all in all it gave me a lot of good experience and I intend to learn from all of it.

South Farm HT is in two weeks, we've always had good rides at South Farm, so I'm looking forward to putting my galloping into practice and getting it done. Wish us luck!

I leave it with a quote from the one and only Augustus McCrae:

Old Codger: Augustus McCrae, you won't walk 40 miles on that busted leg.

Gus: I might fool you.

Augustus McCrae, you are one of my heros and despite the obstacles that keep being thrown in my path, I hope to fool everyone too. :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Of Spiders and Novel Ideas

Okay, so I tried to ride the other day after not seeing my horse for 10 days. I was also having a horrible three weeks day. There is some stuff going on at work which I am not happy with, its really rocking my world and then on top of that, my financial situation hit what might be considered rock bottom. Basically I was relying on my horse to be the bright beacon of hope in the dark dark tunnel that was my current life. It is after all, his fault that I am in this position, if he weren't such a free-loading mooch and actually paid for his own upkeep....... but I digress :P

So our ride started out innocuously enough, I had him moving forward and then balancing back, forward and back, forward and back and he was really responding. Super. So we tackle the X-rail and we kick its ass! Then I put it up to a low vertical, like 2'1" and we proceed to rock it, he's actually moving forward so I decide I'm gonna put it up and tackle BN height just to get it out of the way and get it done. Well.....

The first time I actually rode it, but he wasn't ready for the height and he brought the rail down. The second time I took my leg off, brought my hand back and we only barely made it over, no impulsion. The next two fences were just as bad. At this point Kristin came into the arena and I got the forward lecture, which I needed and she dropped the height back down to where I had it before and she got me over the fence and for that I am very thankful. Its wonderful to know that my instructor cares enough about me to step in when I make bad decisions and I'm not even riding in a lesson..... :) Everyone should be so lucky.

So this just added to my craptastically fabulous day so it was suggested I go on a little trail ride to just decompress and get it all together not to mention end on a good note. Well, it almost worked until the end. I was almost back to the barn when I looked down at my watch to see a HUGE tarantula normal sized daddy long legs crawling on my hand. I do not like spiders, no that's and understatement, I detest spiders and in my current mood I was not able to keep my cool and deal with it. I took a rather dramatic swipe at it with my right hand which B mistook as goodness only knows what causing him to buck and take off. I only had one rein, I lost both stirrups, but thank you Kerrits Sit Tights, my butt stayed glued to the saddle. I was saying "whoa" but in a slightly panicked voice so it didn't help, he kept spinning/bucking left because that was the rein I had and eventually spun himself into a grove of trees. As in he literally slammed into three trees and a sappling that were growing together. He stopped, I panicked again wondering if he was impaled somehow but then he realized that he was surrounded by leaves and started to eat the trees so I figured he was okay. He ended up with a little scrape on his nose and I ended with some scratches on my arms, a scratch under my eye and a swollen upper lip. Yeah, great trail ride.

As we walk back to the barn I start contemplating other sports that I might be better at....tennis, ping pong, curling....

The day ended with some much needed friend therapy and delicious sangrias. I slept quite well. :)

Fast forward.....my ride was awesome! I started out the same way pushing him forward, balancing him back, we actually had a pretty nice lengthening on one of our diagonals at one point. So things were just so-so I wasn't getting him forward enough, I had the vertical at a nice comfy 2'1" again. Then we were coming in and I really have no idea if my leg was on or not, I am thinking its on, but he's not doing anything so it probably wasn't and I did perhaps the most logical thing ever. Seriously, are you ready for my solution to this problem of not enough impulsion to the fence? I used my whip. Yup, that beautiful custom jockey bat that I have in yellow and navy that I diligently carry with me every time I jump. I actually let go of the reins with my left hand and tapped him behind my leg and he said, oh you want me to move up? Okay and we hit our spot. Damn. I mean really, who would have ever thought?

So I'm pretty satisfied and I want to say that again, I was not riding in a lesson, although Kristin was teaching my friend Gwen. I'm ready to call it quits and I come around the corner and see the jump again and someone mysteriously put the rail back up to the height I had been trying to jump yesterday. Hmmmmm, I wonder how that happened? I have learned that it is pointless to argue with your trainer. They know best. Period. I pay this woman to make decisions about me and my horse, if I don't trust her, then why the hell am I paying her? So I say nothing, aside from asking Gwen if I can take that jump just one time before she canters, to which I get an enthusiastic "yes." Lol So I get my canter and we turn towards the jump and I feel us starting to suck back and again I employ the "whip trick" and guess what, he moves up, soars over it and it is lovely. Kristin says nice job, but I still need a bit more. My response. "I was really just concentrating on the whole one handed jumping not dying thing, but okay, I'll work on it."

Long story short (too late!) this ride was soooooo much better! We ended with a five minute gallop on the outdoor working on my two point and keeping up that rolling galloping that I will need XC. After I got him put away I made it back into the arena to measure the fence because I wanted to know what I jumped and was hoping it was something kinda insane so I would feel really good about myself....it was 2'9"! Woot. The rail was already down, so I measured to the bottom of the jump cup and that was 2'8". I have to say that I was pretty proud of myself. I only have to jump 2'6 for BN.

So hopefully I can remember my little trick and actually utilize my whip instead of just holding onto it like a fashion accessory. This weekend is the WPDA and Grand Haven Dressage Shows, B and I aren't showing, but a lot of others from the team are, we have 15 rides everyday between everyone. So good luck to everyone, I'll be running the barn and keeping everyone tacked up and ready to go on Saturday and Sunday, I take my grooming job pretty seriously. If you are out at Grand Haven stop by the main barn and see us!

Also of note, my friend Jessica is competing at Bromont this weekend in the CCI***, She's currently sitting in 9th place. Go Jess and Bug, Bastian and I are totally cheering you on! Rock it on the XC course!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Drifting Right.......

Well, I haven't seen my handsome boy for a full week now and I still have two more days before I finally make it out to the barn. The school year is almost over, my summer vacation is so close I can taste it. while I spent the past week pulling 12 hours days and stressing out over work and finances, I finally to do some fun horsey type things over the weekend. Everything is right on par. LOL

This past weekend, I was supposed to take B to Erie for their Combined Test, financially I wasn't able to make it happen, but I still went because Kristin was judging the dressage on Saturday and Sunday and I was planning on scribing for her. It was a blast, the weather was less then super and I have to say if you are going to a show where its cold and rainy, then being the judge's scribe, warm and toasty in the car, is the place to be.

The Doodle loved the breeze in Kristin's car on the ride home, she was sooooo happy!

Being a scribe was very educational. Sitting at C and seeing the test from the judge's perspective is so different. Once I got familiar with the tests I was able to snatch looks at pieces of everybody's rides to see what a 6, 7, or 5 might look like. If you have not ever volunteered and scribed, I highly recommend doing it. I have to admit that after nearly 8 hours of scribing on Saturday and another 8 hours on Sun, I was a little fried. There were a couple times I spaced out and Kristin was like, "Are you okay?" I of course said, yeah, I'm fine. To which she said, you haven't written down the last two scores..... and then I was putting comments where the scores went and scores in the comments sections. So I don't recommend doing that many hours of scribing, maybe 4? That way you still stay fresh...lol

On Saturday after we got done, we headed out to Presque Isle Downs for dinner and racing. I bet on a horse named "Lucky Dragon" in the 7th race, I figured it was fate. However he came in 6th. For a while he was in 2nd, but he faded in the backstretch. Oh well, all I lost was $2. Hopefully I'll be luckier next time! LOL

This coming week, aside from getting to finally ride B, we're headed to Grand Haven Stables for the recognized Dressage Show and I get to play Barn Manager/Head Groom :) I'm very excited aside from the fact that Bastian is staying home (again) I keep trying to show at the WPDA/Grand Haven June show, but it never seems to work out...hopefully next year??? But getting to Groom for everybody is fun and Grand Haven is quite a nice facility, I have no doubts that our crew is going to kick ass.

Then after Grand Haven its just one week until the LHPC HT. I'm offically doing BN! Buckeye was successful, so I should be okay :) Stadium is first so I figure if I have any major stadium problems I can pull out before XC, but I don't foresee any problems, I am going to keep my leg on and keep him forward. He will jump everything, he's a super star. We're gonna fit in a XC schooling day from the event too. I'm excited about it!

And just in case I doubt it, check out this awesome picture of us over our last fence at Winona:

I'm pretty sure Bastian can handle the additional 6" that make it BN....lol

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Supa-Star!

OMG!! I showed BN at the Up and Over CT at Buckeye Horse Park today and Bastian was beyond amazazing. Seriously. Great way to go into my financial abyss. Here is how it went down:

Saturday

I got myself all packed up and ready to go. I had a lesson at 6 since I hadn't ridden since last Saturday. Had a amazing lesson, as in we had forward, fluffy, pace. I warmed up over only a few little fences before Kristin cranked them to 2'6". We rocked it. It was an awesome lesson and a great way to end before the show.

Sunday

Got up and headed out the barn to bath and braid Bastian. Yeah, I know it was just a schooling show, but B looks unfriggin' believable with a braided mane and I wanted him to look good :) It was hot and muggy. We got to the show and checked in then I walked stadium with Cindy. None of the fences worried me and even though a few looked a bit big (as in Novice height) they weren't intimidating. I was feeling pretty good. We headed back to the trailer where we had an hour and a a half wait before I could even start thinking about tacking up for dressage. Finally it was time! Kristin did my hair up and I got Bastian tacked up and ready to go.

Dressage He warmed up splendidly, nice transistions, steady in the bridle and moving forward. A little pushy with my half halts, so we did lots of transitions until he was listening more to my seat and body than my hands. In we go for our test (best part was they were using a duck call as the "whistle"!). We got 7's on our first three movements, then 8's on everything else, including the collective remarks. He was unbelievable, we scored a 21.5!! It was such a nice consistent test. The judge was quite friendly and talking to everyone after their test. She motioned me forward and said "There is just one thing I want to say....(I got pretty nervous at this point)and then she started to say how my feet were really shoved home in the stirrups and how it really detracted from the overall picture. At which point I told her about being a grade III para-equestrian and how the eventing and CT world does not recognize my dispensation card. Her reaction was "really!! that is excellent! (as in excellent that I was out there doing it, not that I was a para-equestrian), it was really cool to see such a positive reaction, so we briefly discussed my normal compensating aides and she suggested that I get black stirrups to help minimize my legs drawing attention. :) how nice!

Stadium

Show time! After a quick tack change assisted by the fabulous Pablo Williams I headed over to the stadium warm up. Our warm up was okay, I needed more pace but we were getting to the fences and getting over them. On to course! We went in and up to this point, my nerves had not kicked in. As soon as we went in that gate boy did they ever! I started to trot in the general direction of the first few fences intending to do a little tour of the arena when I hear the whistle to start. EEP! I ask for my canter and perhaps could have won a western pleasure class...I needed some serious leg and then I had it and then we got to the fence and I said whoa with my hands, he looked at it then popped over it. Which was better than I expected, I honestly expected a refusal. Okay I tried to shake it off, but it didn't work and fences two and three and four were just as spotty. Then around to the 4 stride line, we came into it poorly, I panicked and said whoa and he basically stopped at the oxer then said, "um aren't we supposed to jump this????" and proceeded to get us to the other side and take down the back rail in the process. I totally deserved that rail, my riding was craptastic. Fence six was pretty much the same, almost a dead stop then popped over it. Seven was slightly better and then I cowboyed right up to eight, a max height (or bigger, it looked HUGE) oxer and it was actually pretty decent because I used my leg and stayed out of his face.

The moral of the story is that after today my horse may be eligible for Saint Hood. Watch the video, I think you'll agree. I made the decision to stay in and do a schooling round. Wow what a difference! Again, refer to the video. I didn't have the same nerves because we had successfully made it over everything once so I went for it and it was so. much. better. I only did the fences up through the line and then called it quits, I wanted to make sure I ended on a good note. It could have been fluffier, but it was at least forward! Amazing how debilitating show nerves can be.

But we did it! We made it around a BN stadium course. I am so proud of both my horse and of myself. I conquered a lot of stuff today-new courses and new heights. Things are obviously not going entirely the way I want them to go, but B and I are going to keep fighting to become successful eventers.

Everyone who showed today from my barn was awesome! Cindy and Shae won their divison, Katie and Kailu brought home a second and a third, Wyatt and Angel brought home a third and Chloe and Angel brought home a fourth. Kristin also showed Rosie and they came home with a second. and Colleen and Sexy-Texy just did some schooling jumper rounds, but they were awesome too! A very successful day all around filled with good company and good food. Couldn't ask for anything better (except for riding more forward-I'm on it!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fun while it lasted

Well, I seem to be the Queen of the short show season. Mine is over, indefinitely. Bastian is healthy, looking awesome and fit. I'm fine, could be fitter, could be healthier, but I'm fine. Its my nemesis, money that is rearing its ugly head again.

I'm working. A lot. Full time, part time, Friday nights, Sunday mornings and whenever else I can. I am currently working every day for the current and next two weeks with the exception of my weekends on which I am attending horse shows. That means up at 5, work from 6:30-2:45, run home to let the dogs out, then on to job #2 from 4-9. Then home. Rinse, Lather, Repeat. You get the idea. Everyday.

Which means I'm not getting any riding in before my show, which is usually how my life goes. But pah, I don't have to practice, I mean I'm only moving up to BN at the CT this weekend. No biggie.... I don't have any problems over fences or anything....

But that is beside the point.

So much like last year, my season is over before it even had the chance to get going. At least this year we were successful, and won something and had some fun. Last year I put in a craptastic dressage test and my horse was slightly lame. I guess that's improvement right, I should be happy?

There is a lot involved here. Here is what pisses me off. First off, I work my ass off and I never seem to get ahead financially. Yes I own a horse and yes I didn't always make the best financial decisions. I take full credit for getting myself to where I am, to a point. After that, its just BS. Like months ago I was given a schedule of when I would get my stipends for extra-curricular activities I do at the school, I was told that I would receive my last payment on May 25. Today I get an email saying that that payment is now put off until June 10. Right. I had plans for that $$$$ as in getting caught up on some bills and being able to pay association and entry fees. Now that isn't going to happen :(

I'm stressed. Which involves its own symptoms and unhappyness, no one should have to live like this. I can't cut out anything else. I'm already down to eating lettuce and dressing (with cranberries, I have a huge ass bag of cranberries I bought at Sam's Club a while ago and it has lasted forever!) for lunch and dinner. I have a couple of other random things in my cupboard, but aside from buying more lettuce and dressing from Aldi's grocery shopping is out. I've sold off pretty much anything I have that is of value and that someone would actually buy. I've been eligible for a new phone since November, haven't updated although I am in need of a phone that actually works correctly more than 75% of the time. I've got pretty strict electric/water rules (thankfully I live alone!) and I turned my heat off pretty early in the spring.

I know, I'm whining. But I really don't have a life outside of my horse (I know, again, my fault for not being a social butterfly, but whatever) And my life with my horse revolves around competitions. I LOVE competing. LOVE IT. If I don't have a competition to get ready for, I don't see a point to pushing myself to ride. Yes I love riding for riding's sake, and I can spend hours just brushing and lovin' on my Bastian but I'm a competition junkie. Now I get to spend yet another summer sitting on the sidelines, cheering on everybody else. Which again, I love. I love being a groom and I love seeing my friends compete and kick ass, but the whole time I'm insanely jealous because its not me and Bastian.

I've spent the past two years fighting for myself and Bastian, every step of the way. I've had some great people helping me out along the way, but at the same time, I can't keep this pace up, working all the time and not getting anywhere. I've struggled to balance my horse life with my dismal financial situation. Currently that involves no shows. I'm holding out that maybe I can pull off the NODA show at Grand Haven in July. Its a double show weekend, so I could still get my qualifying scores for Regionals provided nothing goes wrong during my tests, its a one time shot. I want to qualify for Regionals, its at the Horse Park this year.

Not to mention that Bastian and I had a stellar first event. Now I've got to abandon that momentum, maybe I'll get to event next year? I've already signed up for Buckeye, so I'm going to show this weekend, I hope I can make it count before I put away all of my show things and become a fixture doing loops in the arena with no purpose. Unless I magically come up with $500 by Friday. Which is pretty doubtful.

Sorry for the vent, but I needed to get it out. It won't make it better, but its allowed me to process through it more. This was supposed to be our year, the year of the dragon and now it is nothing. Here's to 2013. Maybe we'll actually do something and get to actually show.....

This is me (on the bay) and my friend Agent 009 at a Hunter Pace long long ago when I actually had some money....one day.....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Winona Horse Trials Domination :)

Well……

Bastian and I had an AWESOME weekend at the Winona Horse Trials hosted by Stone Gate Farm in Hanoverton, Ohio. We won our division, finishing on our dressage score of 29.5. Yeah, that’s right. We won. Pardon my 5 year old bragging moment, but WE WON!!!! I never expected to do so well, yes, I wanted to win (who doesn’t?), but I was realistically aiming for a top 5 finish and figured that would be difficult enough with 17 people in my division and riding against professionals that have more experience and more guts than me. So I'm thinking this could be the start of something new....Para-Equestrian Eventing.

We had great rides everyday leading up to the show and had a fantastic dressage tune up on Friday morning with Kristin. On Thursday we jumped two new jumps out in the ring and he never looked at them, just said yes ma’am and jumped them.

My dressage time wasn’t until 2:35. Which if you know me, you know that I don’t eat on show day until after I ride, for various reasons, one of which is nerves. Unfortunately, after walking XC in the morning (not enough time to walk in on Friday!) I was exhausted, that’s a lot of walking, and not only that but its on rough terrain. I have enough trouble walking on the sidewalk and now I am walking through fields with uneven footing and tall grass. (Not to mention Stone Gates fabulous hills…lol). I hobbled my butt back to the trailer and ended up taking a nap in the back seat of Elvis (Cindy’s hauling rig).

During my nap, Cindy and Banff put in a solid dressage test to score a 30.9. While she went to walk the stadium course, I had some lunch. Which I was nervous about because goodness only knows how eating was going to turn out….but I needed some energy so I didn’t have much of a choice. Then I started getting Bastian ready for Dressage. I pulled him off the trailer and you would have thought he owned the place. He stood quietly while I tacked him and redid my hair about three times before I finally thought it was passable. Then we mounted up and headed down to the warm up!

He warmed up like a dream. The warm up was in one of the lower XC fields (not being used on the course on Saturday), he handled the uneven terrain and chaos of the warm-up pretty well, I was very much on the defensive so our warm up happened in little spurts-like 5 strides of trot then walk because someone was coming towards us, then canter a few strides, then walk. Let’s just say that we had our transitions nailed.

He put in a very nice test, I wasn’t even bothered by being in the small arena! LOL We scored a majority of 7s with two 8s and just one or two 6s. I was really looking forward to the rest of the day because Bastian felt soooooo good. Our score after dressage was 29.5. 

Then it was time for jumping! Super excited. I got to wear my vest. I got to wear my medical arm-band. I got to wear my new paper-pinney holder. Yes, I am a geek. I was the fourth to go in stadium and in an effort to avoid any warm-up shenanigans I got there early. He took all the fences wonderfully, we jumped the warm up oxer lots, I was having trouble getting him forward enough, but he was taking the oxer just fine in spite of me. Then we headed down to the stadium ring so I could learn my course.

Bastian was amazing in the ring. This was our first time jumping a course that we had not schooled before. He never questioned a thing, never looked at anything and behaved like quite the gentlemanly hunter in the ring. I needed more pace and more forward and I was thinking it, even if it didn’t actually happen. Progress for sure! Next time maybe I’ll actually have him forward. He saved me over fence 5 and fence 8. I just brought him in funky, but he got to the other side and didn’t touch the rails! So clear it was for us. Did I mention that we CANTERED almost all the fences??? Yup, sure did!

I came out of stadium beaming. On to XC! Just 10 fences stood between Bastian and I and finishing on our dressage score. I had a plan for XC that involved lots of cantering…well that didn’t happen, we actually trotted all of our fences except the last one…lol. The XC was straightforward, but challenging, all of the fences were inviting and Stone Gate did a great job!! There wasn't anything I was particularly concerned with, just wondering how he was going to behave overall, but I had nothing to worry about, he was a machine, he trotted up to each one and hopped right over and then cantered quietly on. I only had to pull him up once after the feeder (fence 4) when he blew through my half halt, so I made him stop then we continued on. His least graceful fence was fence 6, the roll-top. He clunked right on top of it and over it. What a crazy guy. Our best fences were the log in the pavilion (#3), the stumps (#7), and fence #10 (can’t remember the name). He went over everything!!!! I had a blast and although I was riding defensively, he remained the wonderful gentleman he is and really took care of me.

The photographer got some great pictures. (Brant Gamma) When the pictures are posted online, check out my pictures over the feeder. The first picture is us over the fence. Bastian looks great, I have a look of terror on my face because I wasn’t sure about the fence. The next shot is the landing and I look slightly less terrified, then the next shot is one stride out and I have a huge smile because we were still alive! It was pretty funny.

So we did it! We ended on our dressage score of 29.5 and won our division, which also included winning the Thoroughbred Incentive Program award for our division. I got two hugely awesome ribbons and a saddle pad. Cindy and Banff won the TIP award for the Novice division. Team BEC rocked this weekend!!!

We had such a great day on Saturday, it really boosted my confidence. And I have to say that I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be, I managed to stay pretty calm and cool and focused all day long. I still need to push B forward more, but we will get it. We can fit in more XC schooling now that the summer is upon us. Next we have two schooling CT, one at Buckeye Horse Park and one at EHSC. I’m doing the BN division at both, as long as Buckeye goes well, I plan on entering the LHPC HT in Erie for the BN division. We also have the Grand Haven dressage show coming up the second weekend in June. Its gonna be a crazy three weeks!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Falling off SUCKS

Just when you think that things are going well and everything is going to be fine, they change. Bastian and I ended up not going to the hunter schooling show on Saturday. :(

Here's how it all went down. I got to the barn for my lesson on Friday night at 6:00. Bastian felt GREAT. He warmed up nicely, I had him in front of my leg and we were getting the energy and forwardness we needed but keeping it contained (aka PACE). So we started jumping, everything was going great, x-rails, then verticals, we were doing it and it was going well. Then we came over an oxer (for the second time) and Bastian kinda popped over it, it wasn't even that big of a jump (and believe me he can throw in some BIG ones). I lost my left stirrup and my balance shifted left. According to Kristin I then kicked him with my right leg which made him scoot and I threw my body right to compensate for the left-ness. I might have managed to stay on had my left stirrup not then whipped back and cracked him causing him to say WTF and take off bucking and galloping. I hit the dirt hard on my right side (I have to get a new helmet....) and twisted my right ankle in the process.

I was pissed. At myself, yes it would have been nice if Bastian hadn't reacted the way he did and just said oh, my mom's off balance I'm gonna stand still!, but he didn't and I can't really say I blame him for saying "Ow" when the stirrup hit him. It was just such a simple thing, all that happened was I lost my stirrup and then my balance followed. It wasn't like B was being crazy or he had been biding his time waiting to toss me off, it was just pure dumb luck (the story of my life when it comes to falling off horses).

But it rattled me. I got back on, we jumped the offending jump again, A LOT and ended really nicely, but I started to go back to the "whoa whoa whoa whoa" jump method (we jumped the oxer from a practical standstill at one point- good to know that he knows his job is to get from side A to side B of the fence). My ankle really hurt when we were done, which for me is a big thing since I have such limited feeling in my lower legs from my spinal cord injury. I put B on cross ties and limped down the barn aisle to a chair and took off my boot. It was swollen and had some serious fluid build up. Kristin and Cindy convinced me to be on the safe side and go the ER for x-rays to make sure I hadn't broken it. Because I really wouldn't be able to tell if it was a minor hairline break -I'd never feel it. Two years ago I broke my foot, never felt a thing, it was swollen and purple and looked horrible, but did not hurt. This spinal injury thing has benefits sometimes.

I got out of the ER around 9 PM and went home. We decided that the schooling show could wait, it would be better to go when I'm 100% then when I already have a weak ankle, that was just asking for trouble. Saturday was spent hanging out with my mom, who was a great mom and didn't say too much about me and my equine activities that always seem to end in me getting ouchy.

So now I am re-evaluating my show season and training program. I still want to event, but I think I need to slow down. I am not going to try and enter May-Daze and do BN. If things progress the way I want them to, LHPC HT will be our first BN. I'm still doing the Starter event at Winona and will do the dressage shows I have planned. But everything else is going to be schooling schooling schooling. I still want to take him to Erie and do their CT at the beginning of June and hopefully we'll end up at South Farm on May 5th for their schooling CT. (we always seem to do well at South Farm)

Falling off is part of the business. Its not pleasant, but it happens. All I can do is use it to improve my riding and re-adjust my training program. I still have my goal of being able to jump 3' in the ring by the beginning of June, I think that it is possible for me. I know it is possible for me. So onward and upward. I've encountered more traffic on the road of life, but will patiently wait for it to clear instead of trying to force my way down the berm of the road. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Progress!!!!!!

I had the chance to go XC Schooling again today so Cindy and I loaded Banff and Bastian onto the trailer and off we went! My overall plan was to try and get myself relaxed enough so that Bastian would feel relaxed. He is very keyed in to whatever his rider is feeling. We've come a long way and almost mastered our in the ring jumping jitters, now I need to apply that same principle to the big bad outside world.

We spent the first 10 minutes or so walking. He's started doing this walk -jig-walk-jig-walk thing when I first get on (even in the ring) its weird, I need to figure out why he's doing this and get it stopped. Anyway, he did this a few times, but I just kept talking to him and eventually he was walking around and not being too much of a looky-lou. Then we trotted. A lot. He spend most of his time trotting behind my leg, but I was willing to overlook it as long as he stayed quiet, soft and slow. I was also having a stirrup debaucle. (I just got new stirrup leathers and I did not have them adjusted properly, I went up two holes after I had mounted and then just left them where they were, but they needed to go up a bit more). My leg was really slipping forward and I was very hunched over in my shoulders as revealed by the video. I was not the best rider today, lol!

We had spent about 25 minutes and walking and trotting before I finally tried a tiny log. I did not plan well. Its the first jump we take in the video. I meant to steer out of the line and only do the tiny log, but Bastian knows his job and is an awesome guy. He locked onto the second log and in a panicked moment I said "okay" and we went. I got left behind and it looks horrible, but what a horse I have! After that we managed several better jumps, then Cindy helped me just canter around (we hadn't cantered in the big scary field yet). We cantered up hill, down hill and he was wonderful, he never once got crazy. He was still behind my leg, but like I said we both needed to just realize that the field wasn't going to eat us. Every now and then he would get quicker, but he wasn't being grabby andhe wasn't even really being that quick, I just thought he was because of my own timidness.

We had some rough jumps, and we has some pretty nice jumps. I almost came off at one point, but managed to hang on by the seat of my pants literally, my Kerrits Sit-Tights played a part in my sticking on his back. Thank goodness he has an impeccable one-rein stop. I managed to pull myself back on. Unfortunately that meant we had to do the offending jump again. We did and we ended beautifully for us! Here is a recap video: (and let me just say that Cindy and Banff were awesome!)

We still have a ways to go until we get to that happy-confident-ready-to-gallop-xc-fences-and-go-feeling, but for being our third time total cross country schooling and the fact that this was a brand new place where we had never been before Bastian and I were awesome! And I am fully aware that it is all my fault. I don't entirely trust him outside because its new for us and I have this irrational fear that he will take off with me. I mean he has never not stopped when I've asked him to, ever. I need to put on my big girl panties and get over it. I need to relax more, my tension makes him say "ok mom, where is the danger? I'm on the lookout for it. omg, is it under that log? wait, I think I hear something in that tree way over there, is that what's wrong....." When I relax and focus on our job, he relaxes and focuses. Its a total mind game. We ended really well and the last thing I did was to canter all the way around the field. I was very proud of him and of myself. I made a lot of mistakes and I have stuff to work on, but all in all we made HUGE progress today. I hope we can get out at least once more before Winona.

Next Saturday is the last Hunter Schooling Show at Chagrin, we're doing the 2'3" division again and we are going to rock it. I will keep my leg on, stay out of his feet.

Ride Awesome my friends, Ride Awesome.
Bastian (in the stunning yellow and blue argyle) and Banff back on the trailer after their awesome XC Schools! Photot courtesy of our lovely groundsperson: Samantha Channell!