Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

Ever wonder why you ride?
Ever wonder what your life would be like without riding?
Ever imagine what you would be doing instead to fill your time?

Sometimes I wonder these kinds of things. And for one week, I got a taste of what that would be like. And it was not fun at all.

After a week of rest and cuperation, I climbed back up into the saddle. And, oh my, how great it felt!

So, if all goes well --- KNOCK WOOD !!! --- the competition season will now resume for me and the boy, and it will finish off nicely without further incidents. One can hope. Meanwhile.....


Friday, July 22, 2011

Sidelined by Injury

Yes, the game continues.....

Entries for the Regional Championships are due in this week. However, we are only half qualified for 1st Level Open, 2nd Level Open, and 1st Level Freestyle. So the question is, for which Regional Championships will we complete our qualifications and which do we actually want to contest if we do qualify?

We only have 3 shows left on our calendar. GMHA July's 3 day show is our best chance to complete qualifications. Entries went in early, as usual. The show starts today, July 22nd.

But not for us.

Sidelined By Injury

After a normal weekend, rolling out of bed this past Monday morning was excruciatingly painful. My right leg wanted nothing to do with walking, let alone riding. By Tuesday, the pain was no better and a visit to the Doctor was in order.

After examination, it was decided that I had either torn or strained an adductor muscle (shown in red in the drawing to the left). Pain killers, anti inflammatories, and muscle relaxants were prescribed. Lots of rest. And of course, no riding. If the pain did not subside within a few days, x-rays and / or an MRI would be ordered.

This week, I have to send in entries for the Regional Championships....

Waiting Game

My horse show binder was open and ready. My favorite little Black NEDA Omnibus Book was earmarked and potential classes I might enter were circled. However, until I knew how my new situation was going to play out, I was not going to write any more checks towards non-refundable show entries. I needed to wait. I needed to be patient.

Tuesday and Wednesday were depressing. I was starting to envision a life without riding. Giving the horses away. Selling the farm. Curling up on the couch, eating bon-bons all day, getting massively fat, working my way to a heart attack, and dying. Yup. It was depressing. My pain was not going away.

Thursday, in comparison, was wonderful. I could walk again! With only a few tweaks of sharp pain. Okay, I was not completely better, but I apparently had NOT torn any of the adductor muscles. Just pulled or strained. I was going to be okay. I was going to get back into the saddle.

Friday was even better. And so show entries went out the door. First Level Championships only, as I predict we will complete our qualifications for those. Second Level is too much of a stretch. Next year, we will shoot for Second and probably Third Level Championships. But then, who knows what next year will bring?

Happy 40th Anniversary GMHA Dressage!

While I miss the fun 40th Anniversary Party at GMHA for exhibitors, members, and supporters, I will sit at home resting my leg for another day, knowing that I will ride again. Very soon.

So, for the next 3 weeks, I will focus on completing our qualifications for 1st Level Open and 1st Level Freestyle. And while doing so, I will be extra careful to warm up my legs before riding, stretch them gently, cool down slowly, and drink plenty of fluids. I really don't want to go through this kind of pain ever again.

Half Qualifications

The season didn't start great.  But at GMHA June Dressage in Vermont, Piper and I had a fairly good show.

To qualify for the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships, 2 qualifying scores must be earned in qualifying classes at 2 different shows under 2 different judge juries. Qualifying scores differ from level to level, and also by rider category: Junior Rider / Young Rider (JR/YR), Adult Amateur (AA), Open / Professional. As a barn owner and ARIA certified riding instructor, I am in the Open category. Professionals are expected to do better in dressage than the under 21's and adult amateurs (even though this is often not the case in reality) and therefore have higher qualifying score targets to meet.

For Training Level, the qualifying score is 68% for Open Riders, 63% for the JR/YR and AA Riders. That's a full 5% difference.
For First Level, the Open qualifying score is 66%. For everyone else, it is 62%. The gap is 4%.
For Second Level, the Open qualifying score is 64% and 61% for everyone else. The gap closes to 3%.
For Third and Fourth Levels, the Open qualifying scores are 62%, 60% for the others. 2% gap.
For the FEI levels, 60% is the qualifying score for all riders for all levels.
The complete Regional Championship rules can be read here.

Last month, at the 3 day long GMHA June Dressage Show in Vermont, we earned our first 2011 qualifying score for First Level Open. The test also earned us the Show High Point Award for KWPN Dutch Warmbloods.

Second Level? Sure, Why Not?

One joy of dressage shows in the USA - or at least in this region - is that riders must send in their entries well in advance of the actual show. The most popular shows fill up very quickly, so entries really need to be mailed in closer to the opening date than the closing date.

For GMHA shows, which are very popular, entries must be posted early. And with that, one must decide whether to only compete well within their current dressage level or to predict their readiness for the next level. I decided to chance it and see what Piper could do at the next level: Second Level.

Piper's lateral work is reliably in the 6 to 7 range. Leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, and half pass. His reinback, a movement introduced at 2nd Level, was learned a long time ago and is good. And his turns on the haunches, which also debut in the 2nd Level Tests, are pretty good and could earn 7's at Third Level.

However, from a Second Level requirements perspective, his medium work is marginal, but coming along nicely. Whereas 5's were the usual score for his trot and canter lengthenings at 1st Level, now we get 6's and 7's. However, there is a lot more he needs to do, and a lot LESS he needs to do, to earn 7's and 8's in true medium paces at 2nd Level.

Would we be ready for Second Level at GMHA? Maybe. So my entries for GMHA June included Second Level Test 3. (I like the flow of Test 3 compared to the "easier" Test 1 and Test 2 tests. Also, Test 3 is the qualifier test, and when given a choice, I prefer to ride qualifiers.)

As our Second Level debut test got underway, I was feeling pretty confident. There were no goals set, just an experience to get under the belt. But Piper felt good and put in a respectable test, earning a 64% qualifying score! Very unexpected.

Three Half Qualifications

It's July and we are sitting on half qualifications for 1st Level Open, 1st Level Freestyle, and 2nd Level Open. Pretty exciting. The USDF Regional Championships are in September. Qualifications close on August 15. Entries for the Regionals, however, have to be sent in by July 23. Yes. August 15 is the last day to qualify, but entries are due in 3 weeks earlier. Fun, eh?

The game continues....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dressage Lingo

I've got rhythm!

I've got music!

I've got Piper!

Who could ask for anything more!?

Well, maybe one thing more. If competing in dressage, it really helps to know the lingo. Over the years, the United States Dressage Federation has developed a really good glossary for judges which competitors can benefit from reading, as well. The updated 2011 version of the USDF Glossary of Judging Terms can be found here, in pdf format, and makes for great bedtime reading!

Now. Where was I? Oh yeah, I've got rhythm....