Saturday, March 31, 2012

CDI Intermediare I at San Juan Capistrano

I had another early day today, Victor drew the first ride in the Intermediare I at 8am. It was very overcast and misty at the show grounds all morning, and kept threatening to rain. Not exactly Southern California weather.

Yesterday the judges had been critical of Victor's lack of suppleness and bracing throughout the test, so I decided to warm him up a bit deeper to make sure he gave a little more in his back. He warmed up very well although I had to be a little tougher on him to get him better through. His test went very well and he scored 65.395. For his first I-1 I was thrilled! He ended up 7th in the I-1, just outside of the ribbons.

Monkey was next. In the warm-up he felt a little flat in the trot but the canter was really super. I tried to get him a little more up and active in the trot, but I wasn't very successful. The test itself was accurate and solid, but he didn't feel quite as inspired and uphill as he was in the PSG. He scored 65.132.

Majek rounded out the class. He felt much, much better in the warm-up. More active and uphill and much more accepting of the connection with the double bridle. The pirouettes weren't very good in the warm-up, I did what I could to get them a bit better on the aids. The changes were super though. The test itself went fairly well, I bungled the left pirouette but the changes were all quite good. Some of the trot work generally lacks lateral suppleness, so we lost marks there as well. All in all I was happy with how it rode, and again, it was his first Intermediare I in competition. He scored 62.412.

David Blake won the class again on Royal Prinz, scoring above 70%, Steffen and Sundance were 2nd with 68, and Mette Rosencranz was third with 67. The next 6 or so horses were all in the 65 to 67 range, so Victor and Monk were right up there in the pack. A very good result for the day! Victor and Majek are done for this show. Monkey has the I-1 freestyle tomorrow. The sun finally came out over here!

Friday, March 30, 2012

CDI PSG at San Juan Capistrano

The CDI PSG today took up much of the morning, it started at 8am and finished around 11am. I had all three in the class, so it was a bit of a marathon but then all over before lunchtime!

First to go was Majek, who went surprisingly well despite having to deal with the double bridle. Our tactic to surprise him today with the double (I've ridden him on snaffle for the past 2 weeks) worked, he was pretty good on it and relatively ridable. I had a nice test, it had some issues but I was very happy with how it rode relative to how he's been going on the double recently. On the double he tends to back off more and not want to take the connection. As a result, I had to ride a little conservatively. We ended up with a 62.8%.

Monkey was next. I was very happy with how he warmed up, much more active and uphill today without all the extra tension from yesterday. The test was equally good, and I felt like I could ride close to full power at the trot. He threw in a couple of one-time changes in the threes again, that has always been a problem in the PSG. But he was so much more solidly uphill, active, and on the aids, everything else felt absolutely solid. I was very happy with the test! I expected to be able to break 67 or 68 percent, but was disappointed to see I had only scored a 64.2. Grrrr. That's dressage shows for you.

I finished with Victor. He was really super in the warm-up, I got him much more consistently uphill and active throughout the work. The pirouettes are still a little dicey, he can easily drop behind the leg, so I ride them conservatively as a result. The trot work in my test was very good, with a few little bobbles, but he got a little bracing in the canter work. I was able to ride relatively clean, but it wasn't as fluid and supple as I would like. He ended with a disappointing 61.5% today.

The winning ride was David Blake and the Oldenburg stallion Royal Prinz, with 69 percent. The next two placings were 68%, so the scores weren't super high anyway.

I went and watched the CDI Grand Prix later in the day, which was won by an absolutely amazing ride by Steffen Peters and his new mount Legolas. The horse is unbelievable and Steffen rides him so well. I think they scored 75% or something insane like that. Guenter also had a very nice ride on Fandango, scoring close to 70%. He had a few unfortunate mistakes in the changes, but the horse was beautifully uphill and cadenced in the rhythm throughout. I think Ralfalca and Jan Ebeling were 2nd; they also had a beautiful ride.

The Intermediare I is tomorrow, both Majek and Victor will be doing their first Intermediare I in competition. My goal is to put out a relatively workable and harmonious test on those guys. I'm hoping to bring Monkey's score up a bit tomorrow a few percent. I have a few ideas to improve my warm-ups for tomorrow. On to the next show day!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

FEI jog and Vet inspection

I had a very good day today with the horses, everyone went very well in warm-up in the morning. We had to get started early because we had the vet inspection at the barns and the FEI jog at 3:30 in the afternoon. All three horses needed to get out and get ridden, then braided and cleaned up for the jog.

Monkey was first to go; I was on him around 8am. We still had a marine layer over San Juan, so it was a little cooler than it had been yesterday. He was very energetic and kind of spooky today. Everything worked well, the trot was good, the canter work was pretty solid (except he threw in a few ones in the tempis). However, he did get weirdly nervous in the CDI warm-up arena for some reason--he behaved, but felt very tense and worried. He calmed down somewhat after we finished.

I rode Victor next, he was fantastic. Super energetic and uphill, we worked on getting him a bit slower and more uphill in the canter in the mediums, then worked on getting the changes a little more through the back and less bracing. The trot work was super.

Majek was also very good, much more supple in his body today and very solid in the canter work. Changes were much better than yesterday and the pirouettes were quite good. We kept him on snaffle today (although I rode the other two on the double). He's been a bit difficult on the double the past month, initially I just rode him on it expecting him to get used to it. That didn't work, in fact he got worse, so the new tactic is to ride him on snaffle so he's confident then pull a last-minute-switch on him before the CDI. We'll see how that works.

Monkey and Victor passed the jog with no problem, but the judges made me re-jog Majek. I could by their expressions that they didn't like how he trotted; boy did I start getting nervous! At FEI competitions the jog can be a deal-breaker--if the judges think your horse is off at all, you can be excused and unable to participate in the show. The first time I trotted him he was super quiet and slow and wandering, the second time I made him go forward more. Thankfully in the end they passed him. Whew! One bullet dodged.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday in San Juan

Today was another lazy day for me here in San Juan Capistrano with the boys. Most of the dressage riders arrived today, creating a bit of chaos in the barn area. Everything in the stabling area is pretty packed in, so it doesn't take much additional activity to create a major traffic jam. Not that this feature is unlike the rest of Southern California. Mayhem and traffic jams go with the territory down here.

The CDI arena was all set up today, complete with flags all along the "C" end, little potted trees (that kept falling over in the breeze), little plastic plants around the letters, and a row of tables (with flapping tablecloths) along one long side. San Juan has a perpetual breeze, so we seem to have quite a few scary flapping objects at any one time. All three of my guys were great, they all seemed very much at home in the arena. Other CDI horses weren't so settled, in fact, one rider got off their horse because he was being so unruly.

It is quite a trek from our stalls to the dressage competition arena. I clocked it today using the stopwatch on my phone; it is about 6 and a half minutes one-way on horseback. Quite the walk! Not only is it long, but it also goes directly by the lunging area, so you have to walk by a bunch of nutty, leaping horses as well on the way. I'm definitely going to be putting that into my warm-up time.

Tomorrow is the in-barn inspection and the FEI jog. It'll be a busy day, between getting everyone out and ridden in the am, braiding, getting the FEI vet to look at my passports, getting the horses prepped for the jog, etc. Ernie got in tonight just fine. It will be nice to have one more person to help.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

First riding day at San Juan

Today was our first full day in San Juan Capistrano; it was sooo nice to be able to sleep in a little bit and not have to drive for half a day or more! I thankfully slept very well (aside from Mom waking me with her snoring at 2am). My back felt much, much better today as well.

The show grounds here at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park are huge. I haven't counted the number of show arenas and warm-ups, but I'm sure the number is more than 10 between the hunter/jumper and dressage shows. The grounds are beautifully manicured, and much of the hunter/jumper portion is being held on turf. The CDI arena for the dressage show was being set up today as well, luckily for me they also set up a bunch of brightly colored flags along the back side of the "C" end behind the judges' stands. Good for added impulsion (particularly since it is perpetually breezy here).

There must be 20 separate barns, some permanent, others portable (we're in the portable stalls). When we first got here yesterday, the stalls were total mud from the nasty little rainstorm that had come through the night before. Having no other options, we laid down the shavings and put the horses up, thinking we would probably have to totally redo them today. I was surprised at how well they held up!

The trek from the show office to the dressage arenas to the stalls rivals my trip from the barn at home to the local Starbucks! I got my golf cart today, and am proceeding to get entirely too comfortable zipping around in it amongst horse trailers, other golf carts, pedestrians, small dogs, trees, and various other obstacles. If you've heard of the infamous Thermal golf cart incident, you know I can be very dangerous with a golf cart.

I rode all three horses today, starting with Majek who was the most tense and goofy of the three (not unsurprisingly). To his credit, he had to deal with the most hectic environment; about the time I got him in one of the arenas a host of jumper riders decided to join me. Majek was already wanting to leap around and that only made him more wound up. Mom said he looked fantastic, he felt like a bomb waiting to go off!

Next was Monkey, who was quite good. We winnied quite a bit during the ride, which is totally unsurprising given how much he winnies at shows anyway. He hates to be away from his buddies. Luckily his whining doesn't destract him too much from his job. In fact, the added energy tends to help him to be more uphill, active, and expressive.

Finally Victor. He was a bit wound up but generally well behaved. We did have a few spooks and goofy moments when someone would walk out of a trailer that was parked next to the arena or someone's horse would jump around behind the bushes. Otherwise he was very "boingy" (someone watching him commented on how springy he was).

In general everyone settled in very well. Thankfully tomorrow I'm having a glass guy come out to the show grounds and fix the window in my truck!! Tomorrow is one more "lazy" day here; Thursday is the vet inspection and FEI jog, then the CDI competition starts on Friday. Looking forward to it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trip to San Juan Capistrano complete!

This year I opted to split up my trip to the Festival of the Horse CDI in Southern California into two days. Normally the show has been held in Burbank, which is a good 15 hours from Boise. This year it was moved to San Juan Capistrano, a little bit further south and more west (through LA). The travel time wasn't significantly longer (only 16 to 16.5 hours) but enough that I decided to split it. Those last few hours on a super-long trip get exponentially worse; it is rather like the Richter scale that way (the difference between a 1.0 and 2.0 earthquake is much smaller than the difference between an 8.0 and 9.0).

So Leg #1 took place yesterday. Mom and I drove (actually, I drove) from Boise to Bishop, California, and overnighted at the Tri-County Fairgrounds, home of the Bishop "Mule Days". The facility was recommended by some eventer-friends of mine, the Culligans, who live right next door to Once Upon a Horse. Several event riders from the Boise area travel to a big event in Temecula, and regularly use Bishop as their overnight rest stop.

The first part of Leg #1 was beautiful, southwestern Idaho and northern Nevada were in the 60s with bright sunshine and clear skies. Ironically and irritatingly enough, the weather deteriorated as I traveled south; a fairly nasty spring storm came through Southern California just in time for our trip. It started with wind, the rain picked up, and eventually we started getting snow flurries as we climbed in elevation. We had a surprisingly high mountain pass to cross in western Nevada (elevation 7600 feet) which was getting pretty significant snow flurries that was even sticking to the ground. We got through just fine, although I'm always a little nervous when the snow starts sticking! It is a fairly desolate two lane highway, literally you can drive for an hour or more and not see a car or any evidence of civilization. Just lots of sagebrush.

We arrived in Bishop after about 11 hours. Ironically enough our eventer friends also happened to be overnighting the same evening on their way to Temecula. The Culligans came through the same route a couple of hours after us, and evidently the snow had gotten significantly worse. Kevin said it was near white-out conditions with visibility of only a few hundred feet. He white-knuckled it at 15 miles an hour. Nevada driving can become very scary in a quick hurry--it is not a nice feeling to be out in the middle of nowhere, not a soul or car for the past hour, no evidence of civilization, and snow coming down.

I destroyed the rear window in my truck that evening, trying to turn my trailer around in a very tight spot. The trailer is not easy to maneuver around; particularly on a rainy, dark evening after having driven for 11 hours (yes, it was raining in Bishop; we even got some hail). I was focusing too much on where I was putting the trailer and not enough on how close it was getting to my cab. Ooops. Mom and I spent the rest of the evening fashioning a make-shift window with plastic and duct tape (which does not stick to the outside of my truck, by the way).

Leg #2 of our trip took place today; we traveled from Bishop down here to San Juan Capistrano. It was a relatively short trip, only about 6 hours, but seemed quite a bit longer. I think it was partially because I'd driven 11 hours the day before and partially because much of it was through various (busy) suburbs of Los Angeles. The roads are also total crap, particularly in some of the more traffic-laden areas, so the truck and trailer are bouncing all over the place as we're careening down the freeway. We also had the plastic window making a boatload of noise, and no way to keep out all the extra road-noise! The plastic window held surprisingly well on the entire trip.

We found the facility, settled the horses in, and got ourselves settled into our hotel. I'm exhausted tonight and I'm sure Mom is too. It is very hard to maintain concentration for that long and not be totally worn out. My body isn't very happy about sitting in a truck for that long either. Here's hoping a couple of beers and a good night's sleep will help me be rested for tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thursday update!

Getting closer to leaving! Rode Majek today on snaffle, the connection is so much easier and more confident than on the double. I think I'll try a couple of different doubles on him in the next few days and see if I can find something that works better. I'm starting to regret entering him in the CDI; the Intermediare I will be hard enough for us in the snaffle, much less adding the double to the mix (he's never done one in competition before). Oh well, we'll just have to make it work the best we can.
Victor was a super star yesterday; it was snowing sideways and windy, blowing into the indoor, which made him super fiesty and expressive. Pirouettes are getting better, trot was phenomenal. Victor (V-man, as he is affectionately known) has also never done an Intermediare I in competition.
Victor and Monkey had the day off today, mostly to try and save my body. My back and left hip have been on-again-off-again bothering me, so I've been trying to plan my rides to keep things as easy as possible on me physically. Every morning I do a series of stretches for my back and hips, which tend to get really tight and sore, that has been keeping me functional. The two of them were nutcases in turn-out today, which is generally a good levels are high with lots of reserves!
I have quite a lot of volunteer help this year with tack cleaning, organizing, and packing for Friday/Saturday which sure is nice! Last year it was a one-woman job (namely me), and since my body hates me it will be a huge help. Thanks guys!
Ride times are out for Festival of the Horse; of course I'm the only one with three horses in the CDI PSG/I-1 (and the only one with multiple horses). Ride times will be determined by a draw the night before the actual competition, so I only know a general time-frame at this point. Both PSG and I-1 are between 8 and 11am on Friday and Saturday, respectively, which means time for afternoon naps and/or runs to California Adventure.
Mom gets in Saturday at 2:15pm. I'm planning on leaving early Sunday, although not super early, since I only have to drive to Bishop (11 hours). Weather is looking good, today it got up to 65 degrees and was very dry. I think that is supposed to hold through the rest of the week and weekend, which will be great for the drive.

Monday, March 19, 2012

T minus 6

Gearing up for the big trip south, leaving in just under a week. I'm less stressed about this trip than I have been in the past, but that's probably because I've made the drive many times now and know more or less what to expect. This year I will be overnighting (normally I drive straight through to Burbank, 15 hours in one day, bleeeeech!!). Festival of the Horse is in San Juan Capistrano this year, which is a little bit further away (and through Los Angeles). So, since I hate the super long drive anyway, I decided to split it up for the first time. Mom and I will be staying at the Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop, CA, (home of Mule Days) on Sunday evening.
Now is just a matter of getting all the details squared away. Horses are all body-clipped and ready to go, I got health certificates/coggins from my vet, FEI passports all up to date, got directions to various show facilities, some very cool stall cards are made, ball-bearings repacked in the horse trailer, oil change and general check-up for the truck, etc. I always check the tire pressure in both truck and trailer (including the spares) a couple of days before I leave, and I also check the oil level in the truck.
I made a list of things I need to bring or to do; that helps keep me organized. I hate to get down there and forget something important!
The horses will continue to get worked this week, I keep everything pretty much the same work-wise. I plan on running through my freestyle with Monkey again this week (since I haven't ridden it since last June), to make sure everything works with his new-found super trot. Majek is getting better about the double, still not very happy and a little touchy, but accepting it better than he was. Victor is also going well, we've been working on the pirouettes a bit, trying to get them cleaned up somewhat. His changes have started to come together again (they were a little crooked and bracing for a while) and he's been spunky as heck in turnout and warming up, which is great!
Saturday I'll work the guys in the morning relatively lightly, get everything loaded up, then pick up Mom at the airport in the evening. Then we leave early Sunday morning!! I'm keeping an eye on the weather report; that's always another stressor for me. So far looks like it will start to clear up around here towards the end of the week and through the weekend. Hopefully it will be clear for my drive (particularly through Idaho and Northern Nevada, those are always the places I worry about most).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CA bound in 2 weeks...

I sent out my entries for California yesterday. Three horses in the CDI PSG/I-1 at Festival of the Horse and the Golden State Dressage Festival. Crazy!!

Monkey has been fantastic in training, his trot is gaining expression and I have been able to keep the tempo a little slower by riding passage--medium trot--passage transitions. I typically have a hard time to keep him pushing through with his hind legs while keeping him slow in the tempo and uphill in carriage. I haven't worked on the piaffe/passage much recently, but the thought of it helps the basic trot work. Monk is currently 15th on the list for Gladstone for 2012 (top 15 get invites), so I decided to do PSG/I-1 again in hopes I can get a shot at going (I only have one score from last June, and need another). We'll see how it goes. Last year you had to have a solid 68% average at PSG/I-1 at CDIs to even be invited. Tough competition!

Victor has been fantastic in training, he's really started to consistently carry himself well in the trot through all the lateral work. I have a hard time keeping him straight before the pirouettes, and he likes to get a little bracing in the changes sometimes. I feel like I've gotten a good system of communication built up with him though. I think I'm more confident that I know how to get everything going in the direction that I need for a good test. He's a horse that has to be "fired up", it's always nice to ride him during a wind storm or thunderstorm or other such drama. A lot of applause helps too.

Majek hates the double, and thinks it is a huge affront to his self-image. Actually, he's not quite that bad, but he's definitely much more touchy and defensive on it. He's super easy to ride on snaffle, unfortunately you don't get to do that in a CDI. Some things are actually better on double, he's more uphill and expressive, but just be careful not to touch him! He's such a different ride than the other two, so much more sensitive and forward-thinking. It is a mental challenge to warm up one for a test then get on the next one.

It will be interesting to see what the CDI judges do with these horses. The expectations are quite a bit different than at national shows. I kind of know what they think about Monkey (having shown him quite a bit at that level), but not sure what they'll think of the other 2. Will be interesting!

The shows are looking to be super busy, between all the extra CDI-related activities (in-barn inspection, jogs, possible awards ceremonies, etc) and the actual tests themselves. Although I'll only be riding 3 a day it will likely feel much more busy than that!! I've got Mom suckered into coming down and helping me.

It will be nice to be in the sun for at least a little while. Yesterday here in Boise it was 65 degrees, today it barely reached 40 and was windy and occasionally snowed. I'm looking forward to some nicer weather!!