Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Picture Perfect

Georg got some great photos of Piper at the MRF Dressage schooling competition last week. View here on PicasaWeb.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

18 Minutes

Today, Piper and I enjoyed a day at MRF Dressage in Nottingham, NH, at a schooling show. The facilities were perfect for the event. The environment was low key. The organisers and fellow competitors were all friendly and upbeat despite the warmth and humidity.

But, once again, Piper wanted nothing to do with the judge's booth! It took following Mary, another dressage rider, walking in front of Piper past the cute little gazebo in which the judge and scribe sat for him to find his bravery. Even then, it was with quiet snorts.

But, in the end, he entered the ring, did the test whilst avoiding getting too close to C (nearest the judge). But he did the test.

The second and third rides, he went past the judge without a lead, but with hesitation and snorts. Progress. And best of all, during the third test, he snuggled right up against C towards the end of the test without resistance or extreme coaxing.

Score wise, once again Piper demonstrated the dilemma. Scores were 67, 70, and 73. Granted, it was a schooling show, but the judge is "L" rated, so they should be fairly accurate within 5%. It is difficult for a trained rated judge to modify their scoring. Anyway, the dilemma. He doesn't always enter the arena. But when he does, and when he is good, he gets lots of 7's and 8's. 3's and 4's for spooking, 7's and 8's for when he is paying attention. He is one of those horses who, when he gets it all together, will get big scores.

To top of the day, Piper "self-loaded" into the trailer for lunch while I stayed to the left side of the ramp. Later, after our final ride, he self-loaded again, but then unloaded, reloaded, unloaded, reloaded, quite a few times.... I think he sees life as a series of games... But we didn't mind. It was the first time he had self-loaded at a show. More good progress.

Thanks go to Michelle and family and team for a lovely schooling competition. It was a pleasurable day out, and at just over an hour away, a venue we will visit again in the future.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Moonlight Serenade

Yesterday was hot, humid, and borderline horrible for riding. But by 8pm, after the horses had eaten dinner, as the sun was sinking down behind the trees and a full moon was rising in the east, things had cooled down quite a bit.

Starting indoors, Piper and I worked on suppling exercises and transitions. Then we ventured outside, into the cooler evening air.

Piper marched right down the driveway, approached the outdoor arena, did not so much as look twice at the tent at C, entered the arena, and was ready to work! Amazing really.

So, with no bugs, a moon and malibu lights for lighting, we worked on our trot to canter and canter to trot transitions.

Somewhere in the past few sessions, we have magically made the shift from the temporary canter aid I needed to use in May to the canter aid I want to use. Outside leg only. A quick swinging tap with my lower leg. Straight body, straight rider. Balance. Forward. Instant canter. Fabulous.

Hacking back to the barn in the moonlight, I fell in love with the black horse once again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Trail Riding & Stubborn Streaks

Our outdoor dressage arena now sports a screened tent, placed a mere metre away from "C". Piper has somewhat gotten used to it, but still goes through a period of hesitation and refusal before moving forward. So more work is needed.

Meanwhile, however, we have also been working on mileage and his ability to just keep moving forward. How? Trail riding!

Sunday, we went on a 3+ hour trail ride, the longest one so far, with some friends. Since we have a shortage of riding trails, most of the ride involved walking on the road. However, a good couple miles was on mountain snowmobile trails near Mount Kearsarge.

Piper's stubborn streak reared its ugly little head a few times. While leading the ride, he would suddenly decide to stop, turn around, and "head home". To get him to continue forward, another horse would have to take the lead.

This occasional stubborn behaviour seems to be part of his character and shows in other ways as well, and shows up even when doing things as routine as lifting a hoof for cleaning. The challenge is to get past these stubborn moments... quickly...

In the case of a dressage test, that means within 20 seconds. Work continues.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Adjusting the Goals

The USDF Region 8 Dressage Competition Season whizzes by awfully quick in, especially for those who get started in April.

Actually, the season goes from mid-August to mid-August. Yes, August. And the USDF Championships are in September. However, between October and April, there are no competitions. Dressage shuts down for the winter in New England, New York, and New Jersey.

Piper and I started training for competition in April, a mere 11 weeks ago. With the USDF Region 8 calendar being what it is, we have a very limited number of local competitions to enter. Unfortunately, of those, we failed to get into the two closest ones. Our entry never arrived at one. The other was filled before closing.

And, considering that Piper's behaviour at his first 2 competitions was much greener than expected, we have revisited our goals. Earning a ticket to the 2008 USDF Region 8 Championships with Piper is no longer a goal.

New 2008 Season Goal: 1 hour of competition arena time

At an average of 6 minutes per test, that's 10 tests. And so, we are now entering schooling shows as well as USDF recognised shows. And, even though there are not enough local opportunities to qualify in 2008, Piper will be in Saugerties at the Fall Festival anyway, competing in the Open Show while Jeddien competes in the USDF Region 8 3rd Level Open Championships.

Piper won't know the difference. :-)