Saturday, June 26, 2010

Helmets & Results Updates

No Brain, No Pain

I mentioned before that during the 2nd day of the GMHA 3 day dressage show, my brain was baking inside my very nice helmet.   It was not until someone said I looked unwell that I realized how much I was overheating.   It was not a good thing.

After a bit of debate with myself, I decided I really wanted to ride in a lightweight schooling helmet.   Something with vents.   Something that looked like a normal black velvet covered approved helmet.   But did they exist yet?   A trip to the local tack store was now a necessity.

Sure enough, I found the perfect helmet, with a perfect fit.   Lightweight, vented, fully approved meeting safety standards, and from a few feet away, it looked like my show helmet.   More importantly, it felt wonderful, even in the heat of the 3rd day of the show.

Helmets have come a long way since the thin hunt caps I grew up with.   Today, you can better protect your skull, get a bit of air conditioning, and still look smart.   And that's a good thing.

Runner Up is Good, Too

GMHA has posted the final results of the 3 day show.   And come to find out, in the end, Piper was 3rd highest First Level Open horse of the show, not Reserve Champion.   Still, a fabulous result at his 1st Level DEBUT!

Sometimes final results are not the same as on the day.   I've seen this before.   Little things can happen which make a difference.....   Type-os when putting scores into a computer, coefficients not considered when adding scores manually, errors not substracted, sorting errors, and even difficulties reading the scribes writing!   And sometimes, just reading a list can go wrong.   All sorts of little glitches are possible.   It happens.

Whatever the source, the competitor's job is to take it in stride and be thankful for the hard work of those who put on the shows.   I've run dressage shows before.   Personally, I'd rather compete!   :-)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Awesome Success at GMHA June!

I just returned from GMHA's June three day USDF dressage show in South Woodstock, Vermont.   As usual, the show was extremely well run and the weather was hot & sultry.

Day One - One Qualifying Score

Contesting qualifier classes only, Piper was entered into Training Level Test 4 and was making his First Level debut with Test 4.   Our first ride was the First Level test.   At home, we've run through the test a few times, with varying success.   Piper has not yet experienced "the light bulb moment" when it comes to lengthening the stride at trot.   Instead of slowing the tempo and lengthening the stride with more air time, he can still get a bit rushed.   But it is getting better slowly.

And canter lengthenings we only started training recently.   He does lengthen, but the challenge is in getting him back to the working canter!   And of course, the counter canter loop to and from X is still a new movement for him, testing his suppleness, balance, and obedience.   Coming straight after the lengthening, he tends to bring too much blood into the counter canter movements.   Sticking a 15 metre circle between the two movements would help recollect him mentally as well as physically.   (Something to remember when I start to design his freestyle!)

So, with First Level Test 4 being our first ride of the show, I rode with as much care as I could muster.   And Piper performed well, and much to my delight, completely spook free!   His debut earned him 65.789% or 250 points.   Fabulous.   And rather overachieving on the 58% target score needed to sign up for our First Level Freestyles.   But maybe best of all was his complete confidence approaching the judges booth!

Riding Training Level Test 4 a couple hours later, the pressure was on to nail a qualifying score of 68%.   But knowing how well he did earlier in the day at the more difficult level, I entered the ring with confidence.   Together, we did a really nicely flowing test and earned 70.8%.   Success and we are half way to the USDF Region 8 Training Level Open Championships!

And, to boot, we earned High Point of the Day at Training Level Open and a gorgeous huge ribbon!

Day 2 - One Point

Piper spent the night in GMHA's newly renovated stables.   Very well rebuilt.   Our rides were later in the day, with Training Level first.   It was hot.   We were both a bit tired.   And my brain was baking in my heavy duty, but safe show helmet.

We earned 68% at Training Level Test 4 and another 65.789% at First Level Test 4.   The first test went well.   However, in the second test, Piper decided to throw in a flying change at X during the counter canter loop!   I brought him back to trot and picked up the correct canter lead again before the next movement....   which was...   what?

Sure enough, I went off course.   Usually, if I go off course, it is after a major disruption to the test.   A big spook, a break in gait, a buck, or some other distraction.   This was no expection.   And so, 2 points were forfeited for going off course.   Ugh.   Again, 250 points earned.   251 points would have pushed us over the 66% qualifier score!   You can't get closer than that!

The Accident - One Second

I really wanted one more shot at trying for the elusive 66% qualifying score at First Level.   While there were no scratches yet for Sunday, I suspected the predicted thunderstorms would cause at least one scratch.   So, I decided to keep Piper at GMHA another night and see what happened.   But first, I wanted to call home and see if that was okay....

GMHA does not receive mobile phone service.   So, I hopped in the truck (sans trailer) and headed to town.   As I approached a narrow bridge on Rt 106, I saw another bigger cargo truck coming from the other direction.   I backed off the accelerator as I approached, as I don't like sharing this bridge.   And thank goodness!

The front right corner of the truck struck the cement bridge wall, HARD, causing the rear of the truck to swing into my lane, right into my path.   Then, the truck fell onto its side and continued sliding towards me!

I slammed on the brakes and started backing up as the truck continued to slide.   The driver of the little car behind me, thankfully not tailgating, saw what was happening, stopped and backed up as well.

When everything came to a stop, the truck driver, bleeding from his forehead, crawled out of his rig.   Other road users soon arrived and went back to the little country store up the road to call 911.   I gave the driver the flannel pillowcase cover off my naptime pillow to hold against his wound.   Ambulance, fire, and police all soon arrived, tending to the driver, inspecting the situation, diverting traffic, and collecting statements.   The incident was very scary and left me thinking how a difference of one second could have spelled disaster for me.

Day 3 - One More Time

Sunday morning, an opening appeared in the First Level Test 4 class.   First on the wait list, I got it.   I rode the test like a woman with a renewed appreciation for life!   264 points, 69.474% and our first qualifier score for First Level.

We rode Training Level Test 4 one more time, just for grins.   We won the class with a high 60's score again.   Day 3's rides earned us the Reserve High Point at Training Level and High Point at First Level, both for the Open Division.

As the show wound down to a close, we learned that we won Reserve Champion for First Level Open for the 3 days.   A massive ribbon!   And Piper was the show's High Score Champion for KWPN Dutch Warmbloods, for which we earned an orange sashed ribbon!

Wrap Up

Piper was really on his best behaviour this weekend!   I was thrilled with the results.   I doubt we'll ever see such a successful show like this one ever again.   It was truly a unique experience!

Monday, June 14, 2010

June & Adjusting the Goals

A lot has happened in the last couple weeks....

Since NEDA Spring, Piper Warrior has continued to improve in both his dressage and his jumping.  At the New Hampshire High School Equestrian Teams State Finals held at the Hopkinton Fairgrounds in May, he and Eliza finished 2nd in the WTC Dressage.  A fabulous NHHSET season debut for both of them!  We're already talking about Piper's possible role on the Kearsarge Regional High School Equestrian Team next season.

With the High School season behind us, focus is back on Piper's USDF dressage calendar and training.  And work is progressing well.  Transitions are good 90% of the time.  Lengthening of strides at both trot and canter are coming along.  Leg yields and shoulder ins are solid.  And his counter canter is fairly well balanced and improving everyday.  Good progress indeed.

Last year, while competing Jeddien at 3rd and 4th levels, I discovered the challenge, fun, hard work, and joy of competing in USDF Musical Freestyle classes.  Now as the USDF Region 8 2010 competition season races to its mid-August close, I'm finding myself really itchy to compete to music with Piper.  But before contesting a USDF freestyle class, the horse must show success at the highest test of the level being entered.  Since USDF Freestyles start at First Level, we can not enter a freestyle until after Piper earns 58% at First Level Test 4.

Sooo, you may have already guessed it....  Yes, the goals are changing!

As entries get sent off to various shows, the classes I'm now entering Piper into are Training Level Test 4 and First Level Test 4, the qualifiers for the two levels.  For the USDF Open Division (professionals), the minimum scores needed to qualify are 68% for Training Level and 66% for First Level.  These are fairly hefty scores, not really easy to earn.  The horse and rider really need to be on their game, earning more 7's than 6's.  To qualify for USDF Freestyle Championships, the score is 65%.  In all cases, two qualifying scores are needed, earned at different shows, and under different judges.

The race to qualify is on !

Meanwhile, the 2011 season, which opens in mid-August 2010, runs through October, takes a winter break, then resumes in March 2011, is already on the radar.  GMHA in Vermont (one of our local USDF shows) is putting on a new show in October which gives everyone a chance to get their qualifications started early!

Meanwhile, Jeddien is enjoying retirement.  Her daughter Bea will be celebrating her 4th birthday later this month.  She's now under saddle.  Big Ben, also 4, is working well under saddle and may go to his first competition in October.

But for now, the focus is on Piper.  The woose.  The family pet.  The show jumper.  The dressage horse.  The warrior.