Friday, 23 June 2017

2017 Chinook Country Dressage Show Recap II

I was quite pleased with how Saturday went, Kachina was chill in her stall, and I felt ready for the next day so I was able to have a nice relaxing evening and night on Saturday. I woke up refreshed Sunday morning ready to tackle Day 2 of the show.


I had 3 rides scheduled for Sunday as well. T2 @ 10:48am, Dr. Eq. T1 @ 1:20pm, and TOC-T2 @ 2:46pm.

All riding photos courtesy of KateRose
and all are from my Training Test 2

I learned my lesson with the too early warm-up Saturday afternoon, so I brought Kachina for a bit of a hand walk and graze before tacking up. I ended up getting on about 30 minutes before my test. This was shorter than the day before, but still more time than I needed. Kachina immediately was ready to work and gave me some excellent work in all three gaits. I did a run through of my entire test and despite some bobbles where I had to steer around other people, it was pretty solid. She gave me great canter transitions in the practice test so I didn't want to drill the canter anymore. One reoccuring comment from the judge on Day 1 was our need for better upright balance, so I worked on some trot figures focusing on keeping her balanced with proper bend and position. I made sure to keep her moving right up until our test, but I could feel that she was starting to get a bit tense and anticipating.

I was really happy with this trot diagonal

We went in for Training Test 2. I felt like I was doing a good job of actively riding through the test and it gave us some nice movements. However we had a few issues: First, she wouldn't stand immobile for our first halt. Just before I asked for my canter transition to the left, a door slammed shut in the building and Kachina threw her head up in the air, I didn't have time to get her back before the transition so her canter started quite hollow and above the bit. Then, in the walk work we felt like we were yoyoing between almost trotting and almost stopping. Finally, she ended up cantering for about 1/4 of our final trot 20m circle. I figured these mistakes would cost a lot of marks so I wasn't optimistic about our score.

On right is the moment when the door slammed, right before C

KateRose from Peace & Carrots came to watch and had arrived just in time for my test. I didn't see her before my ride but she came and found me in the barn afterwards, her two friendly dogs in tow. We chatted about the test and she showed me some video clips she had taken of it. I was interested to see and hear that the test didn't look as bad as it felt. The judge must have agreed.

I know it's blurry, but I absolutely love this screenshot,
her canter has come so far! 

Training Test 2
AA: 2nd/4

I was really happy to have received another 63+% score. I think the judge was particularly kind to give me a 5.0 and a comment of "lost trot rhythm" for our circle that was 1/4 cantering. When I turned the test over I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kachina had earned a 7.5 for gaits!

I have to admit, her gaits aren't too shabby

KateRose stuck around for a bit to chat until she had to go meet a friend for lunch. I was glad to see her again, meet her dogs, and for her to meet Kachina. I should have taken photos but I totally spaced. I need to meet her horses next time!

After lunch it was time for me to tack up again for my next test. This test was for the Dressage Equitation division, it's still just the standard Training Level Test 1, just scored for a different division. I shortened my warm-up time yet again to just 20 minutes. This time I chose to not canter to avoid anticipation and just do lots of walk and trot.

Free walk on left
The first stride of our canter transition on right
(still hollowing, but much better than it used to be)

In the test itself I really focused on controlling Kachina's position and balance. Unfortunately the more frequent corrections came at the expense of some rhythm and relaxation. I aimed to make a change though and I succeeded at making a change. Our canter transitions were passable, but Kachina's sensitivity was winning again and so I wasn't able to really aid for the canter, more just think about it and let it happen. This is going to be a fine balance that I think we'll struggle with for quite some time. I was proud of Kachina again for the test. I'm nitpicking little things but really Kachina was super rideable all weekend and I was happy with her every minute.

Dressage Equitation Training TOC (Test 1)
AA: 1st/1

When the tests were scored, they combined the marks from both days and determined the Dressage Equitation Division champions. I was the only AA rider in the division so my ribbon was basically by default, but it's a super pretty ribbon, and I did earn it with scores above 60% so I'll take it!

Kachina wasn't sure about the ribbon

Between my last two tests I had an appointment with a saddle fitter. I've been trying to schedule an assessment with her for quite a while, but my location makes things tricky. It worked out really well to schedule her to look at my horse during the show because she was able to book a few other appointments at the same time and it greatly saved on travel costs. I had my old and current saddles, two half pads, and my entire stack of girths on hand, hoping that something would be deemed acceptable. I thought my saddle was good but I had prepared myself to hear otherwise. Turns out that my saddle is a great fit, that doesn't need any flocking adjustments at all, and the girth and half pad I had already been using work perfectly with it. The peace of mind I get from an expert opinion was well worth the money for the assessment and I'm super stoked that I don't need to spend any more money of changing or replacing things. Yay!

Since I was happy with my first two tests of the day, I had been debating scratching from my last class, just because I didn't think Kachina or I had anything left to prove. The saddle fit appointment ended up ending pretty soon before my test, and I hadn't had a chance to go to the office to tell them I was scratching. I finally decided that it would almost be quicker and easier to just go ride instead of scratching. I did a whole 5 minutes of warm-up for my last test. That's all I had time for, but it was also all Kachina needed, which was amazing to me.

In the test I just had a few simple goals, like to get two good halts, and to push her out into a slightly longer rein. I felt like I succeeded at these goals and it felt like a good test to me. I was actually a bit disappointed when I got the results back as I thought it was one of my best tests. Really though, 61% isn't a bad mark. We did get 7.0s on both halts, and it was the lower coefficient marks that brought us down a bit.

Training TOC (Test 2)
AA: 2nd/4

Overall, our scores were good enough to snag AA Training Level Reserve Champion, we had met our stretch goal! The blue ribbon (2nd place in Canada), means more to me than the red one because that one wasn't a shoe-in! We finally felt at home at the level and our scores were 5% higher on average compared to this show in 2016. I was also really proud of the fact that I scored 6.5s across the board for rider position at this show. The ribbons and scores were the icing on the cake, but even without them I was so proud of how well Kachina went for me and how much we have both improved from last year.


Post-show 'fro

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

2017 Chinook Country Dressage Show Recap I

First, I invite you to review how this same show went last year (here and here), all weekend I was blown away by how much progress Kachina and I had made since last year and how much more smoothly everything went this time around.

My cats apparently didn't want me to leave


I didn't work on Friday so I was able to spend the morning getting all my stuff together and making food for the weekend, as well as doing a couple errands. I got to the barn around 1pm, hooked up the trailer, packed hay and tack, bathed Kachina, and loaded up. I was so happy to be able to give Kachina a good shampooing. This was her first bath of the year and so it was really nice to be able to get all the winter crud off. Kachina was less impressed. I imagine the ice cold water doesn't feel amazing, but at least it was a reasonably warm day and there was a strong wind so she dried off in record time. There were a few shows last year where I didn't have time to bathe so that made me appreciate my soft and shiny horse this time around so much more.

The dirt monster is white! 

The haul to the show grounds was thankfully uneventful. I pulled into the show grounds at around 6:45pm. I had been hoping to go for a ride in the ring where the competition would be held, but unfortunately when I checked in I learned that they had closed the ring at 6:30pm (little annoyed that that information hadn't been posted beforehand). It ended up kind of working out though because the braider that I had hired showed up early. I thought Kachina might want to kill me after being bathed, stuck in a trailer for 3.5 hours, and then having to go almost straight into standing still yet again for braiding. Kachina was surprisingly chill though, the braider commented multiple times on what a good girl she was being throughout the process. I showed up with Kachina's mane clean but otherwise pretty wild, and the braider trimmed it up for me first before making really neat braids that stayed in excellently all weekend. It was nice for me that I didn't have to worry about doing any mane prep or braiding myself.  I don't know if I will use a professional braider in the future but I had zero regrets about going that route this time. I didn't end up riding Friday, but I did lead her around and lunge her in the warm-up a little bit.


I was stabled with a friendly group of people from the Chinook Country club. It makes a show so much nicer when you have people to chat with and cheer each other on. I was especially inspired by the lady I was sharing a tack stall with. She is 70 years old, her horse is 22, and they put in two really solid Prix St. George tests!


On Saturday I had three rides, T1 @ 9:12am, Dressage Equitation @ 9:47am (stayed on between these two), and T3 @ 1:57pm.

I planned for a nice long warm-up before my first test so I could work on the relaxation, do some canter work, and then have time to get her re-relaxed if needed. This worked well, because the first time I asked for canter she flew sideways to the outside of the arena. She did the same thing the second time as well. This is a new issue so I was concerned. Thankfully the fix was pretty easy, I think she was feeling a bit too blocked, so I closed the outside rein but left the inside door a bit open for her during the transition, this did the trick and I got a few excellent canter transitions in the warm-up ring.

A costume Kur entry, so many gold sparkles!!

We went into the indoor arena for our first test Training Level Test 1. I usually find the first test at a show is a bit of a throwaway for Kachina and I, it always takes us a little to find our groove. However this time, we went right in and put in a good test. It wasn't perfect, it was wiggly in spots, but it was generally good. We also got correct leads both directions and had our best ever canter transitions in front of a judge (which doesn't mean they were great, but not the usual llama impression). In fact one of our biggest mistakes was breaking from canter to trot for a few strides before picking it up again. The fact that Kachina was calm enough to break, and then do another good canter transition to get back into it was a success in my books so I wasn't upset about it.

This ad was hanging up in the arena. I've never seen a casket ad before and to have
one in a rodeo arena where people could legitimately die seemed to me like it was
logical, pragmatic, morbid and bizarre all at the same time

Since Kachina was doing so well, I didn't drill anything more before my next class, we mostly just walked around and stood to watch a couple other tests.

Next came the Dressage Equitation Flat Class. The flat class has everyone ride together, going around the arena rail and following the commands of the judge. Then the score from the flat class gets added to your test score on Sunday for the overall results. The flat class just included myself and two juniors. As well as walk, trot, and canter around the outside, we also had demonstrate sitting trot, free walk across the diagonal, and a halt with immobility. Kachina put in some really good work during the flat class, but she also spooked hard at the end of free walk, went back to llama mode for both canter transitions (partly because I couldn't set her up nicely in a corner or circle), and got a little fast in the later trot work. Still, doing rail work with other horses isn't common for us and Kachina kept things together so I was happy with how it went. I came out of the class, got her to give me two nice relaxed trot circles in warm-up and then dismounted and brought her back to the barn.

Who's the best girl?!

I went to pick up my tests and found that I got the following results:

Training Test 1
AA: 2nd/4

Dressage Equitation Flat Class
(Placings determined with Sunday's test)

I was thrilled with my score for T1! I had accomplished all of my goals for the show in just the first test (getting good canter transitions and putting in a test that made me feel like we belonged at the level). The placing was also a nice surprise. For some reason I thought that this show had JR/AA/Open riders all lumped together (which would have put me 6th/11), but they actually were split out. I decided then that I would be happy with the show no matter what but I would make myself a new stretch goal of getting Reserve Champion at Training Level.

After a nice long break I tacked up to warm up again for my afternoon test. The warm-up went great, I was able to get relaxation quickly and I even did a full run through of the test in the warm-up area which went really well. Unfortunately, I had given myself too much time to warm-up, so I ended up just standing around on Kachina for longer than ideal. This time when we went into our test it was a lot more tense and racing. We still did all the right things in the right places at least though.

Training Test 3
AA: 4th/5

I wasn't too disappointed when I saw my score because it felt like a high 50s kind of test (I had actually told myself 57-58% when I did my last salute). I'm okay with low marks when I know that we can do better, and I was really happy with the work she put in during warm-up.

Pawing at her slow feed net to get the good stuff out

Sunday's summary tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Local Dressage Show Media!

So, before I post about my most recent show, here is some media from my last show!

(Recap post from show)

To review, I rode Walk Trot Test B and Training Test 2, both Hors Concours. My scores were 58% and 57%, and these were not great tests, with much tension from both Kachina and I. Despite it being a less than stellar performance, I wanted to buy photos both to support the show photographer, and because I wanted something to remember the first show that I organized.

All photos by The Buckin' Photographer, she more normally does rodeo photos but she did a great job capturing some nice moments at the dressage show.

Please excuse the hair, ain't no way I could run the show, ride in it, AND braid haha. Also I made a stupid mistake with my own hair, I was putting it up in a two step process that was different from usual, and I totally forgot to do step number two before sticking my helmet on!

Trotting up center-line to start my first test
(with my best "fake it 'til you make it" grin)

First halt - nice and square, unfortunately nowhere near X
(this was after she ran backwards and sideways off center-line)

I love the look of her power and tail in this one, though I need to fix my hands and her neck

Getting some bend, which we couldn't do this time last year

Actually looking up and where we need to go

One of my favorite photos from the day

"We survived!" pats after the first test

I like this head shot, a soft eye is much harder to capture
with Kachina's blue eyes, but I think this photo nails it

This was during my warm up lap right before my second test,
my smile is huge because I know we rocked the warm-up and
Kachina was going super well, if only I could've held it together
once the bell rang =P

I needed one canter photo, this was the best one there was. Canter is hard y'all

Medium walk
My homemade dressage letters visible in background
(duct tape on pylons for the win)

Free walk

Monday, 19 June 2017

Horse Showing is Fun?!

I had a fantastic weekend at the Chinook Country Dressage Show this weekend! Great people, great times, great rides, and the best mare ever!

I show for lots of reasons: motivation to push for a goal, exposure to new places and experiences, getting an independent review of where we are in our training, figuring out our strengths and weaknesses, using judge's feedback to learn what we need to improve, etc. This weekend was all that, plus, for maybe the first time, I actually had a lot of fun doing it!

Full recap to come.

Kachina had fun being spoiled with a near endless supply of carrots

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Chinook Country - Here We Come!

Tomorrow Kachina and I will be on our way to the Chinook Country Bronze Dressage Show. This is one of our main rated shows planned for the season. I'm looking forward to it but I'm also wishing I was more prepared.

The plan is to compete in the following:

- Training 1
- Dressage Equitation flat class
- Training 3

- Training 2
- Dressage Equitation TOC - Training 1
- TOC - Training 2

Us at the same show last year

Here's what I feel good about:
- It lined up that I have tomorrow (Friday) off work so I will have lots of time to pack and can get to the show grounds early (it's about a 3 hour haul)
- For the first time in my life I have hired someone to prep and braid Kachina's mane for me (rates were reasonable, two less things for me to worry about, and I'm also planning to watch and learn)
I was actually pretty proud of these braids, but they didn't stay in very well
- 6 tests in a weekend gives me a good chance of having at least one decent test, and the ride times are pretty nicely spread out
- KateRose might be coming to watch
- I was at the show last year and it's a nice size show with a good atmosphere
Getting some good feedback from the judge last year
- We succeeded in getting our best ever canter transitions last week
- We have a solid warm-up plan
- She's been to this venue before, and I've taken her several new places in the last year so riding away from home isn't much of a concern
- I've arranged for a saddle fitter to do a saddle fit assessment for us at the show. I've wanted get a second opinion on my saddle for a while now, and this saves me significant travel costs compared to bringing a fitter down to where I live. I think my saddle fits well, but I'd like confirmation, and I also want some girth answers.

Here's what I'm nervous about:
- We went to the show last year and won for "best rodeo" in the fun warm-up class, not looking for a repeat of that! (I did not enter said warm-up class this year, but I don't want any rodeo moments during my tests either)
Let's not have a repeat of this
(this was just a canter transition, actual rodeo moves not captured on camera)
- The show doesn't offer Walk/Trot tests so I have to tackle the canter every class
- While we are figuring out canter transitions finally, it's far from confirmed and I haven't done it off a circle yet
- The saddle fitting isn't happening until Sunday and so it doesn't really help for the show itself
- Last year Kachina freaked out every time the steward tried to check her bit (it was our first and only show so far that had a tack check). I have been practicing with her on having her mouth prodded, and have some methods I can use, but she's still nervous about strangers going near her face, especially men

Laying it out this way is useful for me, now that I see that the first list is longer than the second, I'm not so worried!

The most important thing to me is having a positive show experience for both of us. Second priority is putting in the best effort that Kachina and I are capable of right now. How we shape up compared to the competition is much farther down the list.... but, I also love me some satin and I have to admit that I would love to earn some. I need to temper my expectations though because this show has 14 entries in Training Level, some of whom are excellent pairs, and last year only the division and reserve champs got ribbons (but the ace up my sleeve is the dressage equitation division ;-), I like having an extra couple classes but it's a fairly new and unknown option so there's only 3 of us in it)

I managed to squeak out a win in Dr Eq last year
out of two people, despite poor performance,
and if you can win a ribbon, they are beautiful

Wish us luck! Anyone else showing this weekend?