Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Finally in Holland!!

After an exceedingly long trip, I finally made it to my destination near Borculo this morning. I left Boise Monday afternoon at 2:30pm and flew 2 and 1/2 hours to Minneapolis. From there, I took a direct flight to Amsterdam, which was rerouted to New York City over Greenland after some mechanical problems with the plane. There was some sort of generator problem on the Airbus and we only had 2 engines. We landed in NYC at 4am on Tuesday, then I had to sit in the airport and wait for the new flight, which left at 4:30pm that afternoon. Thankfully that flight went smoothly, and we arrived in Amsterdam this morning at 6am.
From there I rented a car, and drove to the hotel, which was about 1 and 1/2 hours from the airport. That was a bit of a rough drive, since I was sleep deprived from the last couple days, driving a manual (which I very rarely drive), and in a country I haven't traveled in for several years. I had no trouble finding my destination however, thanks to all my preplanning and my helpful GPS.

I had forgotten how old Europe really is. For some reason this trip I more aware of the weight of history in this area, it is much more palpable to me this trip that it has been in the past. Amidst very modern automobiles and other technologies, you can drive by old churches that are probably hundreds of years old (some possibly older). I didn't get to do much sightseeing today, mostly because I am totally exhausted and having a hard time focusing on much at all, but I will definitely try to do some more after the auction tomorrow.

Today I met Dutch breeder Emmy de Jeu, who has had several horses with Edward Gal, including Sisther de Jeu. She showed me a local farm that specializes in raising young horses in case I decide to buy a foal and keep it here for a period of time to grow up. It was interesting how they raise them, they have large "stalls" (more like indoor paddocks) that house 5-10 babies all of the same age. They are fed much like cattle here in the United States, with the medal gates the horses can poke their heads through to eat hay, and the hay in put in a long heap out in front of the stall. In the winter they go outside for a short period of time in sand paddocks, and in the summer they go out on pasture. The weather in the winter is kind of nasty, and I think mostly they get a lot of rain and moisture so the horses don't stay out long.

As yearlings they are split by gender, so as an example they had a large group of yearling mares and a large group of yearling colts. The owner also foals out mares, and had a pasture full of about 10 mare/foal combinations. The babies grow up there and then move on to a training facility or sales or whatever when they are late 2 and 1/2 year olds. Some of the better colts are prepared for the stallion licensing which will take place this fall.
I did take a short nap in the late afternoon and then had dinner with some of the guests and committee members from the auction. Dutch people (at least this group) are a jovial and talkative bunch, and they were very interested to hear about me and my story.

Tomorrow is the auction. The foals will all arrive at the facility early in the morning, between 7:30 and 8:30, and I was advised to get there early to get extra time to see them arrive and see them in the stable (sage advice!). The foals are presented to everyone at 10am (which will likely take several hours, since there are 75 to go through), but the auction itself doesn't start until the early afternoon. I have a general idea of which foals I particularly like, what my budget is like, how much I would be willing to spend on certain horses, etc. I will nail that down tomorrow morning after I see them in person.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I-1 Freestyle at CDI Estes Park--last day of the show!!

Today was the last day of the CDI Estes Park here in Colorado. The Intermediare I freestyle was again very competitive, with riders vying for the Festival of Champions later this fall trying to get their freestyle qualifying scores. In order to qualify for Festival, riders only have to ride one I-1 freestyle at a CDI and score 62% or better. Even though it doesn't count towards your overall average, it is a good opportunity to show your freestyle to the tough CDI judges and see what they think!

This test was Victor's first-ever freestyle in competition, and he handled the music and the atmosphere like a champ. The freestyle itself went quite well, I rode pretty spot on to the music and the music itself was very well-received. The trot work is to a piece from the Sherlock Holmes movies and the canter work is to a familiar piece from Pirates of the Carribean, and both pieces go together very well. The music is very substantial and a little dark, and it fits Victor's gaits perfectly. Cindy Seburn did the music, and she did an excellent job putting it together and editing it.

Unfortunately we weren't on top form technically today and had several expensive mistakes, starting with a botched left canter pirouette which earned us 4s and mistakes in both lines of 2 tempis. We also didn't show enough collected walk in our freestyle (the rules specify a 20m minimum), so we earned straight 3s on our collected walk. That also pulled down our choreography score. Also the harmony score went down because of the mistakes. In spite of all that we were still able to score 65.8 from that tough panel because there were a lot of good things in the test. With some work on the walk section, and cleaning up the other technical issues, I think this freestyle could score over 70%. We finished 5th, but only 1 percent separated 3rd from 5th.

It was a little bit of a disappointing end to an otherwise good show. The horses have definitely improved their basic way of going, and I'm getting better about showing them to the best of their ability from the get-go. Certainly I rode the PSG with much more impulsion and flair than I ever do. I also have a very good sense of what needs to be done in the warm-up and how much time it will likely take.

Tomorrow we make the long trek back home to Eagle, Idaho. It's been nice to be in a little bit cooler climate and only have two horses to deal with!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Intermediare I at the CDI Estes Park

Today went much better for both horses here in Estes Park. Majek drew the enviable (not) time of first to go at 8am. That made for an early morning. We've been pretty spoiled recently with late morning/early afternoon rides at the last couple shows. He warmed up very, very well, much better than yesterday although slightly on the edge of a meltdown. That is typical for Majek (at least recently), if you go for more power, expression, and uphill carriage, he gets dangerously close to throwing a fit.
Unfortunately he lost quite a bit of that expression in the test. I think I miscalculated my warm-up around the outside of the show arena, and rode walk-trot-walk transitions thinking that would help keep him on my aids and not too overpowered (and hence avoid meltdown-status). Instead it had the effect of putting him increasingly on the forehand and subsequently much of the test was relatively flat and uninspired compared to the warmup. That said, it was a clean, accurate go and was reflected in the improved marks of 64.5% and an overall 4th place finish. I wasn't happy with the test (relative to my goals for him), but I was happy with how it was scored. Although I did like the test on video, even though it was flat relative to the warmup he is much more up and expressive than he was at the last CDI.
Victor I warmed up similar to yesterday, and he felt a little better in the back than yesterday right from the get-go. I got him razor-sharp to the piaffe in the warmup (not that I need that for the I-1, but it is nice thinking forward to next year), super active and easy. Pirouettes felt safer too today, probably because he was more active and in front of the leg. He got a little tense in the test, but I was able to work through most of it. In general though he was very, very solid, and the canter work was much better today (pirouettes were active and small, better uphill carriage in half-passes, more expressive changes). I was happy with my score of 66.5 to place 3rd, although I would have liked to score higher it was definitely an improvement from yesterday.
We also watched the Dressage Seat Finals today for 13 and under. I was relieved to see the pattern was much more technical today and it showed a little more accurately how effective (or not) the riders were about planning their rides and balancing their horses.
Tomorrow Victor has the freestyle at 10:20. It will be our maiden voyage in the freestyle, should be interesting. I plan to warm up similar, although I think I will have to take into account that he's been getting a little tense in the show ring, perhaps ride him a little lower and longer in the canter particularly.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Today's PSG at the CDI Estes Park

I was super happy with both horses today in their PSG tests. My main goal for today was to ride with more power and expression from the get-go, rather than starting conservatively (which is what I normally do). Both horses were much better, particularly Victor was really "on" and had a brilliant test despite a few bobbles. Majek is getting much more ridable on the double and less defensive about the contact, so I can push the envelope more. It wasn't long ago that trying to add power to the equation made him likely to have a meltdown!

I was a little disappointed to end up with only a 63 on Victor, although we did end up 3rd in that pretty competitive class. First and second were pretty close both with 66. The judges were mostly critical of the engagement problem in the trot particularly and the slight tension over the back. I also got killed on the little bobbles. Oh well. I was happy I met my goals for myself!

Majek was close behind Victor with a 62 (although 7th, so quite a few horses in that range). Generally needs more power and engagement.

Later that day, we watched the first group of the Dressage Seat medal finals, which I think is a great program to get junior riders focusing on improving their position and seat. It also gives them a big goal to work towards (competing at a national final). The riders definitely sit quietly and well, with suppleness, low quiet hands, and nice posture. That was one thing I was very impressed by the Junior riders in Gladstone last year, they all sat rather well.

That said, the program needs to improve the difficulty of the "test" the riders have to ride. The pattern should demonstrate the effectiveness of the rider, which is why it should be more complex and technical. In 4-H we always had a pretty difficult pattern, which typically included halts, reinback of prescribed number of steps, turn on the forehand and/or haunches, transitions between trot and canter, serpentines, etc. The pattern for the Dressage seat finals consisted of trotting down the centerline, riding a 10m circle right at X, followed by a 10m circle left at X, continuing down the centerline, turning left at C, then walking in the corner. That was it!! Particularly at a National Final, the expectations for degree of difficulty in the test need to be much, much higher.

Tomorrow we start early, Majek goes first in the I-1 at 8am and Victor follows at 9:37. I'm looking to improve Majek's uphill carriage for tomorrow, and clean up a few of the little bobbles with Victor. I also need to ride the transitions within the gait with Victor a little more clearly.

Good night all!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting ready for show day tomorrow!!

Today was the pre-show preparations for the CDI, starting with the in-barn inspection in the morning and finiahing with the FEI jog. The boys schooled well today, a little more settled in their work and ready to go. Majek was in a busy, pissy mood when we arrived in the morning so I got him out as soon as I could.

The CDI short tour (Prix St. Georges and Intermediare I) is looking to be very competitive at this show, with 4 separate combinations currently in the top 15 in the National rankings. Victor and I are just outside the top 15 at 22nd. We are all separated by only a few percent. There aren't any real "big name riders" here (no one who has been to the Olympics or WEG), but several very talented younger professionals with nice quality horses and plenty of CDI experience. It will be an exciting show!!

My main goal for this show is to ride with more impulsion and "go for it" more in both tests, particularly in the Prix St. Georges. I tend to start a little conservative on the first day (which is always the PSG), and then the Intermediare I is always better because I'm more settled and comfortable with pushing more. But you can't get the really high marks doing that in this caliber of competition. Plus it sets a precedent I think for the second day and how the judges view you. I want to get out of that rut, so I am going to make more calculated risks. Majek is getting much, much better on the double, so he tolerates more pressure now. Victor is pretty solid, so I just have to have more confidence to really go for it.

The thunderstorms held off this afternoon for the jog, thankfully. We didn't need a light-show replay of yesterday!! Both horses passed with flying colors and are ready to go for tomorrow. Victor goes at 10:01am and Majek at 11:40. Perfect ride times, not too early, not too late. Relatively close together without being too close. Should be a great show tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On the way to the CDI Estes Park

Lana and I left Idaho with the two monsters (Majek and Victor) yesterday morning at 6am for the long drive to Estes Park, Colorado. I have to say, I've never traveled through Wyoming and I was impressed with how desolate it is! The entire state is basically a large plateau of rolling hills in the Rockies. Hundreds of miles of not much at all. We went over one pass where the elevation topped 8600 feet and then went through a signicant thunderstorm where the temperature dropped to 50 degrees. In mid-August!! I can't imagine that place during the winter!

Unfortunately, not far outside of Rock Springs a tire blew out on my horse trailer. I was trying to pass a semi at the time, and heard this loud *bang* which I knew was a blow out. It bent the crap out of my fender and smacked the side of my trailer. Due to my super contientious dad, I found my jack and lugnut wrench and due to all my gym workouts with my personal trainer, I was able to loosen all the lugnuts on the tire. They put those things on tight!! Being young and female has its perks however, so pretty quick we had a highway worker stop to help us and soon afterwards a state patrolman. Watching the cop put the tire on made me think that he spends a signicant portion of his time helping people change flat tires. Wyoming patrolmen probably spend most of their time (1) changing flat tires (2) giving speeding tickets and (3) chasing cows off the freeway.

After stopping at the next town (200 miles later LOL) to get a new spare, we continued on the long drive. Finally we made it into Colorado. But the last 30 miles of the trip just drug on and was up a very winding canyon into the Rockies where I couldn't get my rig above 40 mph the entire way, and many of the turns were 25 or 30mph. Talk about a long ending to a long trip! We finally pulled into Estes Park about 9pm and got the horses all settled in their stalls.

The next day started pretty quietly, we recuperated well from trip and did a little exploring around Estes Park. It is very similar to Sun Valley, being a large mountain resort with tons of tourism, although not quite as upscale. We drove by the Stanley Park Hotel, which was the inspiration for Stephen King's "The Shining". It is an impressive place in person and definitely ominous.

I rode Majek and Victor in the main arena in the late afternoon. Majek was good although a little looky. As I got on Victor the weather was starting to look a little ominous, with some rain clouds rolling in around the mountains surrounding the valley. I had just started walking Victor around the outside of the show arena when I saw a huge lightning bolt touch down a few thousand feet in front of me and simultaneously a HUGE thunderclap cracked overhead!! I jumped about a foot out of the saddle! The other rider and several onlookers saw a bolt of lightning strike one of the lights surrounding the arena, about 20-30 feet behind me!!! I felt it crawl through my scalp and down my back, it was so bizarre. The management ran out and yelled at everyone to get off their horses and get back to the barn NOW!! I, of course, disobeyed by staying on my horse and we did medium trot back to the barn. Good thing, too, because in a minute or so the heavy rain and hail hit. It was deafening on the roof it was so loud. It only lasted a few minutes and then was sunny again.

What was so amazing was how quickly the storm came through. The storms were around the valley at that point, and it was sunny where we were, so I have no idea where the lightning bolts came from. I guess they can travel between thunderclouds? Or move diagonally? Those who were familiar with Colorado storms said that the thunderstorms can move in extremely fast. Evidently they have had riders struck by lightning while riding. Luckily for me Victor has no shoes so he's not a very good conductor of electricity LOL.

The day ended with a very large bug that took a joy ride on the hood of my truck. It had feelers about as long as it was (total length probably 2 inches). It hung on for the drive back to the hotel, so I took a picture (which turned out to be an extremely nice shot!) and posted it on facebook. It's been an eventful couple of days!! Hopefully the next few days are a little more boring. :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Home at last

Lana and I left Bishop this morning about 9am, and we pulled into OUAH at about 9pm.  So a solid 11 hour trip (plus adding one hour for the time change).  It was long and fairly boring (the good kind of long trip), but we did have some pretty significant wind in Northern Nevada, Southeastern Oregon, and Idaho.  Otherwise the horses rode well and were happy to be back home in their stalls.
Tomorrow I will unpack and get my life re-organized again!!  Have to get ready for the next show at Idaho Center in a couple of weeks. :)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CDI I-1 and Homeward bound!!

Saturday I rode the boys in the CDI Intermediare I.  Victor had a very nice test with solid trot work and better uphill balance and jump in the canter.  The pirouettes worked pretty well, they have definitely improved in ridability with the help from Christine.  I finished with 65.789 and 7th place, although I was really thrilled to score 67.500 from "O" judge Stephen Clarke, who had me right up amongst the top finishers in the scores.  I still need more hind leg in the trot, as is always the case with Victor, and better connection through the back.  But I was very happy with the test and how it rode.
Majek started out a little more tense in the warm-up and a little defensive on the double.  So the connection didn't feel as ridable and he kept wanting to tighten and try to drop the contact.  The test felt a little tentative, mostly because I couldn't really ride him the way I want to.  That said, it was actually pretty well balanced and mistake-free (with one exception, wrong lead on the canter depart) when I watched it on the video.  I was in some ways surprised to score the same as yesterday, and he actually looked much more solid in the contact and the test was much cleaner than in the PSG.  He scored 64.474 from the judges and ended up in 9th place.
I was very happy with both Majek and Victor at this show.  The cream of the crop in terms of FEI short tour horses was here in Del Mar, and some very good riders.  To finish with solid scores and solid rides on two horses I've trained from youngsters was a really great feeling.
That evening we watched the CDI GP freestyles.  Jan Ebeling had a fantastic ride on a much-improved Rafalca, who has really matured and grown into herself since Gladstone and London.  He won the class with dynamic music and much activity and expression, I think his score was around 76%.  Guenter rode his new mount Wylea, who is a super amazing and electric mare.  I think once the two of them get in sync they will be a huge asset to the American team.  The piaffe/passage tour shows all sorts of talent!  An unfortunate expensive mistake in the left pirouette dropped them to 2nd with 73%. 
The evening was capped off with Ravel's retirement ceremony.  Steffen rode his freestyle one last time, and Ravel looked solid as a rock.  He makes the test and difficult movements look so fluid and easy.  It is sad to see him retired, but Steffen has a very worthy successor in Legolas.
Today we made the drive from Del Mar to Bishop, CA.  The horses are all settled in their stalls at the Tri County Fairgrounds, and we are resting at the hotel.  It was a long day, although only a 6-7 hour drive, it was hot through the desert.  Temperatures were pretty consistently above 90.  Not that I'm complaining!  Tomorrow we'll finish the drive to Boise.  This trip has been very interesting and fruitful, and I'm amazed at how quickly it has gone by!

Friday, April 26, 2013

CDI PSG in Del Mar

Really good day today in Del Mar.  Both Majek and Victor did the CDI PSG.  Majek kicked off the fun as second to go in the (very large) PSG class.  He warmed up very well, and has been getting better and better in the connection which has helped him tolerate the double bridle.  I got him very up and active by the end of the warm-up, although I (expectedly) lost some of that in the test.  I also had a couple small mistakes in an otherwise very nice test (trotted into first halt, small rhythm bobble in first extension, tension before canter depart, pirouettes a bit large, mistake in the 3s).  I was happy with the pirouettes, which were definitely more elastic and ridable, and the 4s were fantastic--big, forward, uphill, and dead straight.  In general he tolerates contact on the double much better now, so I can ride with much more confidence than before.  I remember last year in San Juan Capistrano I rode the tests without touching the reins, because he was sooo defensive!  So he is much improved.  I plan to do the same warm-up for tomorrow, and see if I can push the engagement a little bit more.  I expected to get an ok score, probably 62 or so, with all the mistakes, but was pleasantly surprised to finish with a 64.8 and 9th place overall.
Victor warmed up very, very well, lots more forward and pizazz than he had the schooling day.  I really tried to go for it in the test, and I was very happy with how well he went and how well he responded.  The trot work was very nice, very expressive, active, and ground covering.  I tried to watch his hind legs (which he likes to drag behind him), and keep him quick behind.  I did have some issues with the canter, as I didn't really get it uphill and jumping enough so the canter and therefore the changes were a little flat.  I did ride the pirouettes much better on Victor than on Majek (much smaller and therefore much more risky).  Christine watched it and told Lana that I rode the test very well but that the canter needed to be more uphill and out of the shoulder.  I was disappointed with his score of 65.2, I was really hoping to end up with a 67 or so, but it was not to be.  We finished 7th overall. 
The winner scored 68%, and there were a couple 67s and a 66.  Then several 65s.  So both my horses were right in there, and I'm super pleased with that.
Bolero warmed up much, much better for his test today than yesterday.  He was much more relaxed and ridable, and not trying to leap in the air whenever a horse trotted by him LOL.  I was really pleased with how he felt, and happy that I felt like I could ride him instead of being worried about being launched.  However, he was scared to death of the show arena and spent my entire test spooking, spinning, and whirling around and every little everything LOL.  Someone needs to spend the entire summer going from arena to arena learning to deal with changes in the environment.  He scored 62 in second level 2.
I scratched Bolero's test 8am test tomorrow, and willl school him later in the morning.  The FEI horses go at almost 2 and 4pm in the Intermediare I.  Looking forward to putting in some good rides in the CDI again tomorrow!! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Exciting day for the boys at Del Mar

Today was the first day of the Del Mar show, although the CDI doesn't start until tomorrow the National show started today.  Mom made it down here last night, after she got lost looking for the hotel.  LOL
This morning I rode Victor and Majek, so they would get out before the jog in the afternoon.  Unfortunately my saddle has been having issues...somehow the head plate cracked (in the pommel under the tree), so I had to get a loaner saddle from Custom Saddlery to ride in today.  The Custom Saddlery rep had only seen two other instances of this kind of failure on one of their saddles.  That saddle gets a ton of use (I ride probably 5 horses a day in it), so maybe that played a role.  The loaner saddle is brand new, but actually very, very nice to ride in!  Thank God, since I have to show two horses in it this weekend!
Bolero's first test today was 2nd level test 1.  His test was at 2:36pm, then the jog was right afterwards at 3pm (with Majek and Victor 4th and 5th to go in the order).  I lunged him briefly first; he was actually pretty settled on the lunge line.  The warm-up arena, however, was a different story.  The warm-up arena is a fairly large space on the racetrack, but it serves as a warm-up for three separate National show arenas.  So it was super busy!  Bolero handled it ok, but got more and more tense as he went and then started leaping through the air when another horse got too close to him.  He carried that tension through his test and spent much of the canter work leaping, thinking about bucking, doing unscheduled flying changes, etc.  In between his tension and antics the test was very nice, and even the judge commented afterwards that when he was good he was *really* good.  I was surprised to score 68.8% on the test.  Hopefully he will be more settled tomorrow.  But that's why he's get more show experience!
Majek and Victor were both pretty wild for the jog.  The jog is generally pretty exciting anyway, for some reason the horses all want to jump around.  Normally riders dress up for the jog, but since I had just gotten off Bolero, I had to be content to jog in my show clothes.  Majek spent most of his time leaping around, so I actually had to re-jog him to show that he can trot.  Victor had the opposite problem, he trotted like a million bucks, but tried to jump on top of me when he went by a bunch of flowers.  What a couple of goofballs!
Tomorrow starts with the CDI Prix St. Georges, with Majek going at 10:09 and Victor at 11:45.  Bolero does another Second level test later in the day at around 5:20.  Looking forward to getting going tomorrow!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Move in day at Del Mar National!

Today we took the boys over to the Del Mar Fairgrounds/Racetrack to settle in before the show starts.  The weather has cooled off a bit, it was overcast all day and in the low 60s.  The nice thing about the weather here is that it never really gets too cold or too hot!  The marine influence from the ocean (you can see the ocean from the Fairgrounds) keeps it very temperate.  It did feel a little cool, but I'm not complaining as I know Boise is much, much cooler right now (at least at night).
There are tons and tons of stalls here.  It is truly amazing to drive down the aisle through the barns towards the horse trailer storage area, literally you go from barn A to barn U in alphabetical order.  There are barns on both sides of the aisle.  I remember reading that during the fires in San Diego some years ago, they had filled every stall with evacuated horses, which was probably a few thousand.  Luckily for us, being located in the CDI barn, we are right next to the CDI warm-up arena and the show arenas.  Others have a longer walk.
For some reason, Majek's left hind leg was swollen when we arrived.  I hadn't noticed it when I loaded him in the trailer, but he felt fine to ride and the swelling went down after I rode him.  He was very settled in the arenas and surprisingly focused and relaxed.  They were even putting big black tarps around the judges' stands while I was riding, and he hardly even noticed.  Victor was a little more wound up, but that is actually good for him anyways as he can be a little lazy in general.  I lunged Bolero for a while, he was pretty wild on the lunge line which was to be expected.  He was pretty good to ride, and actually less spooky than he was at Seabreeze Farm.
Unfortunately I found out Monkey has an abscess so he won't be competing this weekend.  Bummer!!  I was looking forward to seeing him at the show (although not looking forward to having him in my classes LOL).
Tomorrow is the FEI jog for Majek and Victor, and Bolero is supposed to show at 2:36pm.  I still don't know when the jog is, but it is normally in the mid to late afternoon.  Hopefully it will be after Bolero's ride, which will make my life much easier.  We have some prep work in the morning, between riding the boys and then getting them all prettied-up for the jog.  Looking forward to tomorrow!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back to work in San Diego

I suppose I can't have too many nice rest days down here in the sun, so today we were back to work!  I made a few final arrangements for this weekend (ordering shavings, securing my overnight accomodations for my return trip, etc) and rode the boys.  Bolero is getting better, his spookiness is diminishing each day and his overall balance is improving as well. 
Christine came out to Seabreeze Farm today to give lessons to both myself and Shaun McLaughlin (a Washington-based trainer who also made the trip down here for the Del Mar National).  Majek and Victor were both very good, we worked on a few finishing touches for this coming weekend.  I ran through the PSG on both horses, and got some good tips on riding the pirouettes better and presenting the horses better (specifically on the short sides of the arena, where the judges evaluate the horse's overall frame and quality of gait).  Sometimes I will have rhythm bobbles in the extended trot with Majek, and she told me to make sure I kept a good soft contact with both my legs to the horse's hindlegs and keep my seat and hands supporting.  That helped me maintain a steadier rhythm in the trot extensions.  For Victor I need to activate his hind legs a little more after the trot extensions so he doesn't look so strung out on the short side of the arena.
We happened by a bookstore this morning and I picked up a book my Malcolm Gladwell.  I have read Outliers and Blink, and now am reading through a collection of his essays.  I highly recommend Outliers.  It is an engaging and well-written book about successful and high-achieving people and what makes them successful. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Visit to Balboa Park

Today was another rest day for everyone, the boys all got handwalked and another day to relax and get geared up for the coming week.  They are definitely more rested than they were yesterday; I think the two days off have been very good for them.  I'm sure they'll be very happy to get back to work tomorrow!
Lana and I spent the afternoon in San Diego at Balboa Park, a huge (1,500 acre) park that includes the San Diego Zoo and multiple museums and other attractions.  There was some sort of Earth Day celebration going on today, so there were just a ton of vendors and people in the park.  The sheer numbers of people were a little overwhelming.  We visited the San Diego Museum of Art, which had a few nice pieces, and the Natural History museum.  I had hoped to see some dinosaur fossils, but had to be content with a sabre tooth tiger fossil from the La Brea tar pits, which was a neat alternative.  Afterwards we wandered through the Rose Garden and also saw a ton of cacti and succulents in the nearby gardens.  I've always wanted to try growing succulents, but I worry that I will kill them!
Ride times are finally up for the show on  The CDI short tour (PSG/I-1) is relatively large, with probably 15 horses entered.  I won't know the CDI times until the draw (which typically happens the night before the class).  However I will be competing against my old friend Monkey (aka Escorial), whom David has entered in the CDI short tour.  It will be good to see Monk again, although I'm not too enthusiastic to have to compete against him!!
Tomorrow the boys will go back to work again, and I have another couple of lessons with Christine in the afternoon.  Then Tuesday will likely be a day of schooling at home (unless I try to squeeze in another couple of lessons from Christine, depending on her schedule).  Wednesday morning we will trailer the boys over to the Fairgrounds, and the show starts on Thursday for Bolero and Friday for Majek and Victor.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rest day

Today was an easy day for Majek and Victor, who both needed a day off after a few intense training days.  However, I did ride Bolero.  He went fairly well, he is definitely settling down and becoming less spooky.  He just needs more miles and more experience at different facilities and then he will be fine.  Lana gave Victor and Bolero a bath, Majek spent much of the morning napping so we held off on his bath until tomorrow.  Nice to have a relatively quiet day, as it seems we've been very busy this entire trip!

Friday, April 19, 2013

An Idyllic Morning at Arroyo Del Mar and Day 2 with Christine

This morning Lana and I visited Arroyo Del Mar, Steffen and Shannon Peters' training facility (in addition to housing several other trainers, including David Blake).   I have to say their farm is probably the nicest dressage facility I have ever visited.  I don't mean in terms of expense or luxury, but more in terms of general layout and atmosphere.  They have been at the facility for 7 or 8 years, and have done extensive renovations to make the facility what it is today.  First of all, the farm is set back from the road in a small canyon.  So you have to drive off the main road probably a quarter mile or so, winding down the hill into the canyon.  It is so quiet and peaceful that you don't realize that you are only minutes away from downtown San Diego and the craziness of I-5.  The main barn, which is probably 60 stalls or so, overlooks small turnout paddocks, a couple of roundpens for lunging, and the two main outdoor arenas (one standard dressage arena with mirrors, the other a larger converted jumping arena).  A small creek runs right through the center of it all.  It is a totally relaxing and non-pretentious place, where one can sit on the lawn under a shade tree and watch riding, without feeling out of place or like an imposition.  I am much appreciative to Shannon for letting Lana and I visit!  Arroyo Del Mar really is a little piece of heaven.
Afterwards I trailered the boys over to Albert Court for Day 2 with Christine.  Both horses were much improved today from yesterday.  With Majek we started with basic loosening work, including trot-canter-trot transitions and really thinking about getting him rounded into the outside rein (in other words, not always checking the suppleness on the inside, but also the suppleness and submissiveness to the outside rein).  I should always have the feeling that the horse's withers are the apex of the roundness, not the poll.  The poll needs to come up, of course, but only as a function of the hind leg stepping forwards under the weight, not because it is artificially raised and the withers drop.
After the warm-up, we worked on test-specific exercises for the I-1, and Christine gave me some great pointers for improving my test.  Specifically for the pirouettes she wanted me to feel that although we have to ride the pirouettes from straightness, I need to be able to always access the haunches-in before the pirouettes (otherwise he tries to spin around and I lose control of the turn).  I also need to ride the zig-zag half-pass more clearly, with a clearer start and definition to the half-passes (I tend to be a little wishy-washy there).  Generally I need to be careful that the half-halts don't bring his neck backwards towards me, but rather than they activate his hind legs forwards towards the bridle, particularly when riding towards the pirouettes.
With Victor we worked on getting the canter more active and in front of the leg and much more through and rounded into the outside rein.  Lots and lots of tempo changes in the canter, making sure that he is really thinking forward and active in the hind legs.  I really need to ramp up the RPMs in the canter, particularly in the shorter, pirouette canter.  Once again she reminded me that I need to be able to feel the impulsion in the collection (activity behind as the horse shortens) and the collection in the impulsion (containment and power as the horse pushes forward for more amplitude).  Christine reminded me that a kick with the leg should produce a forward reaction, rather than being a reminder to not drop behind the leg (sometimes I use it as such). 
As far as exercises go, we rode some lateral variations in the canter, for instance shoulder fore on the long-side, then transitioning into haunches-in on a 20m half-circle between B and E.  We also rode a large rectangle with quarter pirouettes, riding out of the 1/4 pirouette into medium canter on the long sides.  Again, the biggest challenge is keeping him thinking forward and in front of the leg in the turns.  Throughout all of this work, I was to keep him much more rounded into the outside rein.  Rather than checking the suppleness on the inside, she wanted me to check the suppleness on the outside.  Eventually he started to feel much more over the back and more reaching forwards/downwards towards the bit with a higher degree of reliability.  We finished with some basic trot work (shoulder-in and half-passes), which were much, much better after all the canter work. 
I have decided that every moron driver in California should be required to drive a truck pulling a heavy trailer through the Grapevine (the windy, steep mountain pass to get into Los Angeles on I-5) at least once a year.  I suspect most of these drivers have never driven a truck, much less one pulling a 10,000 pound trailer with horses in it.  Today was particularly bad (probably because it was Friday, and all the drivers were pissy that they weren't home yet??).  I was actually honked at by some f#$%$$ idiot in a Mercedes who had probably never driven anything more challenging than a Prius, because I evidently wasn't driving fast enough.  Seriously????  He's lucky I didn't have a deer guard on the front of my truck, otherwise I would've shoved his car up an embankment.
Idiot drivers aside, Lana and I finished our day at a fantastic Mexican restaurant right on the beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.  Literally the Pacific Ocean is right across the street.  It was a busy place, but excellent food as is to be expected of Mexican food here in San Diego.  Not a bad ending to another beautiful day in San Diego.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dressage Lessons with Christine Traurig, or, How 4-H prepared me for the Big Time

Today Lana and I hauled Victor and Majek over to Albert Court for a couple of lessons with Christine Traurig.  Albert Court is an unbelievably gorgeous facility near Rancho Santa Fe, with huge expansive beautifully manicured pastures and polo fields, and a palm tree-lined driveway that reminds me of Palm Drive at Stanford University.  The whole facility looks like Club Med for horses.
The facility, however, is extremely full and therefore no place to put one horse while riding the other.  Neither of my horses are particularly used to the "tack-up out of the trailer" routine, and even less so when one horse has to stand in the trailer while the other gets ridden.  Of course it is not a difficult thing to teach a horse, after all if you can teach a horse to flying changes on command learning to stand by a horse trailer shouldn't be all that hard.  But when you never do it, you shouldn't be surprised if it is difficult!  Luckily Lana was with me, and could take care of the one horse while I rode the other. 
My lessons themselves were both very good.  Christine focused very much on improving the engagement and longitudinal roundness in both horses, particularly with Majek.  She started by improving my basic walk-canter-walk transitions with Majek, by making sure he stayed in front of the leg and rounded into the outside rein all the way through the transitions.  She also noted how his right hind is weaker than the left, and how he tries to unload it in the transitions.  She also wanted me to think about keeping the impulsion in the collection (ie, keep him active and in front of the leg) and the collection in the impulsion (ie, when riding forward keep thinking about keeping him on his hind legs).  Thinking about that, and the roundness, helped to get him more solid in the connection to the bit.  She also wanted more jump in the canter and wanted me to ride the changes with more impulsion and jump.  Also in preparation for the pirouettes I was to keep him more active behind, so he doesn't unload his hind legs.
With Victor we worked on the basic adjustability of the canter.  Victor tends to be a little lazy behind, so she wanted me to ride a lot of tempo changes in the canter to improve the overall collection and jump.  She had me ride a lot of small variations in the canter, forward and back, but really focusing on keeping the impulsion in collection and collection in the impulsion. We also rode some haunches-in and shoulder-in in the canter, to help with the lateral control for the pirouettes.  Also with Victor she was a stickler for the basic transitions, particularly that he kept marching forward and engaged into the walk (he loves to "splat" in the transitions). 
Tomorrow I have another couple of lessons, which will likely build on what we did today.  The boys were pretty tired, partly from the work and partly from the stress of being at (yet another) new place.  They seemed pretty happy to be back in their "hotel rooms" for the night.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Settling in in Del Mar

Today was my first riding day here in Del Mar.  The horses were all pretty good, a little spooky and "up", but that was to be expected.  I decided to terrorize the hunter/jumper riders in the jumping arena; I always like riding in jumping arenas because they are bigger and more open than dressage arenas so the horses feel more freely forward.  Plus they have jumps to steer around which makes life more interesting.  Bolero particularly found the jumping arena scary, but then he finds everything scary.  Victor was great, as usual.  Majek was a little worried about where Bolero was, evidently Bolero is now his best friend. 
We also found an Albertson's (grocery stores are hard to find around here!) and an excellent Mexican restaurant for lunch.  I'm very impressed with the quality of the Mexican food down here, the ingredients are always very fresh and the guacamole is excellent.  I'm a huge Mexican food fan and even more so here!  In honor of our new-found amazing Mexican cuisine, we made home-made guacamole and pico de gallo and served it over some pan-fried chicken with mexican cheeses and lettuce. 
Tomorrow is my first couple of lessons with Christine, so we have an excursion to Albert Court planned probably mid-day.  The weather continues to be beautiful, although a little windy.  But who's complaining!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The drive to Del Mar and resulting recuperation day

Yesterday we made the drive from Santa Rosa to Del Mar.  We left Lilo Fore's facility at 7am, and finally arrived at Seabreeze Farm in Del Mar at around 8pm.  It would have been shorter had I not (a) taken the long way out of the wine country, (b) taken the long route around the bay area in an attempt to avoid bay area traffic, (b) taken I-5 instead of Hwy 99 through central CA, which is much more windy and hilly and (c) hit Los Angeles during rush hour.  Ick!  I was exhausted by the time we made it to Del Mar, and the horses were pretty pissed off.  Majek spent much of the final few hours kicking the crap out of the horse trailer to express his displeasure with the whole situation.
I did have a minor emergency this morning when I discovered the in-room coffeemaker was broken.  Trying to get going in the morning without coffee doesn't happen in my world.  Luckily the issue was very quickly resolved by trekking down to the lobby for my coffee.  First world problems and all. 
The boys seem very happy in their cushy stalls at Seabreeze Farms.  The stalls are 12x16 feet and bedded with probably 10 bags of shavings.  They better not get too used to this much luxury!  The manager is extremely nice and very accomodating, which always makes traveling much more pleasant.  We hand-walked them this afternoon around the show grounds, and they were all pretty impressed by the big palm trees and activity.  The dressage arena is set on a small hill-top, on three sides outside the fence it drops into a ravine.  Don't jump out of that arena!  There are a couple of jumping arenas as well.
We also wandered around and found Albert Court, which is where Christine Traurig and Guenter Seidel are based.  I'm going to take a few lessons from Christine while I'm down here and see how that goes.  Thank God we figured out where the farm is before I tried to drive over there with my horse trailer, as my initial directions sent me right into downtown Rancho Santa Fe.  I've gotten very, very good at steering the 5 horse trailer around, but not that good! 
We are having some water problems in the hotel room.  I love having an Extended Stay hotel, as they come with a full size fridge/freezer and stove top for cooking, but sometimes they are a little cheap.  I finally figured out how to turn the water off in the bathtub.  Unfortunately there is water leaking from the fridge.  We have a nice puddle under the fridge.  Hopefully we can get that fixed tomorrow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Conrad clinic days 2 and 3

Busy relaxing after an intense weekend here in Santa Rosa!  All three horses were really super and worked Generally we worked on getting the horses more open in the body and better over the back so the haunches could come better under. 
With Victor we specifically worked on getting his hind legs closer together (the inside hind leg stepping forward between the front legs) as he likes to get a little wide behind.  On day 2 we started with trotting and cantering over poles, which were set on the circle points.  I can really feel a good difference when he goes over the back, as the spacing works easily, whereas when he is a little more tight and blocked it doesn't go fluidly.  Conrad also got on my case about his down transitions, which have always been difficult (trot-walk and canter-trot specifically), as Victor tends to block and try to quit.  Generally he is better in the neck than last clinic, but he still wants to come too high and block in his back.  By the end the piaffe/passage was very good, and he became much more active on his own.  He also had me ride some half-steps on a 10m circle on day 2, specifically so I could ride him a little more from inside towards outside to help close his hind legs.  We also went to the one-times again today, but unfortunately they didn't work very well.  He did have me ride the two times, then ride a few one-times at the end which seemed to help some.  Otherwise they still need a lot of work.
Majek started also with the canter poles on day 2, but he tends to want to get too running and wild through them, so it helps to ride only a couple after a turn on the forehand in the walk to a canter depart.  That keeps him more civilized through the poles.  Again we worked on getting the neck really rounded, and getting him flowing better over the back.  On day 3 we started with trot poles, and again riding a turn on the forehand beforehand helped to get him flowing better over the back and less stiff through the poles.
He wanted me to tap him with the whip on the shoulder, especially the left shoulder in both trot and canter, which helped to get him more up and in front of me.  It also carried into the half-steps, and he had me ride him in trot yielding from the quarterline to haunches in left at the rail and then half-steps (he blocks on the left hind leg at times, and that helped to keep it stepping forward in rhythm). 
Also we worked some on the one-times, Sunday he even had me doing them on a 20m circle (again to the left).  It was actually a little easier to do them on the circle than on the straight line for some reason.  They work generally pretty well with Majek, but he has been wanting to drift a little to the left with the haunches and then mistakes creep in.
He wanted to see the changes with Bolero, which I had just barely started a few months ago.  Of course they worked perfectly the first time I tried them, beautiful straight clean and quiet, so we left them alone and worked instead on getting the canter shorter and more organized.  We started with walk-canter-walk transitions and some reinbacks as well, then we went to the counter canter with medium canter on the long side.  To improve the straightness on the right lead he had me ride shoulder fore, which worked best when I flexed him a little to the left.
The warming up with Bolero consisted of big forward riding, "brisk forwards" which helped his overall activity.  He also had me ride over some walk cavalettis in between to improve the activity in the walk (he tends to be rather lazy in the walk).  On day 2 we worked on getting him a little more on the haunches with quick trot-walk-trot transitions and reinbacks.  He also had me give him a well-timed kick with the left leg on the inside to help the activity of the left hind leg, which has recently been his slower hind leg.  We also did some simple changes through the center of the circle, and finished with the flying changes again on day 3.  They didn't work through the center of the circle, but when I set them up like I do normally (on the short diagonal), again they worked beautifully.  When the canter is well-balanced they are surprisingly easy.
This is a very technical blog post, as I'm trying to record as much of the information and exercises as I can.  Luckily, thanks to Lana, we got some of it on video!  Tomorrow on to Del Mar!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Conrad Schumacher clinic Day 1

Great first day at the Conrad clinic here in Santa Rosa!  Gorgeous weather at Lilo Fore's idyllic facility in the Northern California's wine country provided a beautiful backdrop for great horses and great rides.  The drive on Wednesday was beautiful and uneventful, with weather in the 60s pretty much the entire way (although it hit 90 in Sacramento!!).  Lana and I aren't much used to the warm weather over here, although it is a nice change from the cold nights in Boise.  Thanks to Lana, the horses have been very well-cared for and everything ran very smoothly today.
First off was Majek, who impressed everyone with his flamboyant trot and easy progression towards the GP work.  I typically start him out a little under-powered and on the snaffle, in addition he lost some weight on the trip, so he looks a little young and baby-like.  He was also a little spunky first thing in the morning, as I had ridden him very lightly the day before.  Conrad had an interesting exercise to get him more expressive in the shoulders (after getting him a little more supple in the back and longer in the neck), which was as simple as tapping him on the shoulder with the whip in the right moment.  Then he trotted like an Olympic champion, and the half-steps were very active and expressive.  I got several comments from spectators about what a change they had seen in him; he can go from looking nice to looking absolutely spectacular in a very short hurry.
Next was Victor, who has made much head-way since last fall.  We have had difficulties with the one-times since February, but the piaffe/passage have come along very well.  We've also gotten the pirouettes much more under control and much more ridable.  He is also much more active on his own and stays rounded much more easily.  The biggest task for the next couple days, according to Conrad, is to try and narrow his hind legs in piaffe (he tends to want to be wide and go balance' in piaffe), which he thinks will help everything else including the one-times.  Additionally Victor had very good energy today, which was really nice as he can often be a little lazy.
I added Bolero to the clinic last minute, as there was a drop-out.  Normally I like to wait until the horses are pretty solid 3rd level or above to ride with someone like Conrad, but decided it would be helpful and good experience for him.  Yesterday Bolero was an absolute idiot, and acted like he had never been anywhere before in his life.  I could barely hand-walk him around Lilo's arena while she was teaching; he was passaging sideways and leaping and bolting and almost rearing.  Lilo called him a "3 year old 7 year old" LOL.  He was absolutely wild on the lunge line and I was a little concerned that he was going to be a maniac today.  Luckily he was more back to his normal self.  Having never seen him, Conrad got acquainted with him today, we ran through all his lateral work and his canter work.  I think he really liked him, but we can't really push him yet until he is more focused on the rider and less focused on spooking at his surroundings.
Looking forward to Day 2 and another beautiful day in California wine country!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gearing up for April California trip!!

After what seems to be an abnormally long winter, I'm very much looking forward to my upcoming trip to California.  This year I decided to attend the Del Mar National CDI in late April, since it is an observation competition for the USEF coaches.  I'll be taking the two FEI horses, Victor and Majek ("Charismatique") as well as the young horse Bolero who needs the experience anyhow.
My first stop is Santa Rosa, California, to attend a Conrad clinic.  I'm hoping this clinic will give me a much needed boost for the two FEI horses, who are going well but could always go better.  I especially want to focus on the GP work, which is coming along but not sufficiently "there" for competition.  It is one thing to get a decent passage, or a line of one-times, but a whole 'nuther thing to get it reliably well and when you want it!
From there I will head to San Diego for a week or so before the show, which will be a nice break for me (only 3 horses to ride, not 8-10 a day!!).  I'm still debating about which classes I will enter, but likely I will show the two FEI horses in the CDI short tour and Bolero in second level.  I was really hoping to be further along with them by now and ready to move to the next level, but such is training.