Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dressage Loops & Riding Training Level Test 3!

 Saturday, I Chester in his snaffle bit since Meghan thinks I'm ready to try him in that, which will make getting him on the bit easier since the bit is less severe than what I normally ride him in. To begin with, I worked on testing my brakes. I rode on a circle and did some walk-halt transitions. Those went well enough, so I began the trot. I worked on connecting Chester to the bit. He is a lot more willing to use his back and connect when I use this bit, which is because it doesn't hurt his mouth if I use too much pressure. It still wasn't easy, but I was able to get him to connect much faster than last time.

 Once I had tried this I both directions, on a circle, I asked for the canter. Chester did seem ready to canter yet a took off, giving a small buck(just a small one---not even close to a rodeo buck). I managed to stay and wasn't very tense afterward. A month ago I would've come off, but I have developed a better seat since then.

 After the unsuccessful canter, I began working on controlling Chester's tempo in the trot. He tends to run off if his tempo is checked, so I gave him a lot of strong half-halts, nearly bringing him to a halt before pushing him forward. I then did this same thing on a serpentine, giving the strong half-halts on the parts in between each part of the serpentine. Once I had a controlled trot, I cantered on a circle left at A. Chester's canter was controlled and balanced. I even managed to get a fairly balanced canter the other way.

 Next, I went through Training Test 1. The test still needs some polishing, but it is a work in progress. When I had finished the test, I began learning a new skill: loops. A loop goes something like: Start at H(or F, M, or K) reach X, then turn towards K. If you start at F, you hit X and head to M, and so on. The pattern itself is pretty straightforward, but the tricky part is having the correct flexion. The horse has to look the way he is going without going off course, so you need to add leg to keep on track. I rode several loops, from H to X to K, then the FXM loop. The flexion part is what I need to practice.

 Once I had ridden several loops, I learned a new test: Training Test 3. It goes like this: Enter A working tort, X halt salute. At C, track left, ride a HXK loop, then canter at the corner before F. Head down the long side, circle at B, round the corner after M, making a diagonal from H to F. At X is the trot transition. Medium walk at A, then free walk the KXH loop. Trot at C, ride a MXF loop, canter in the corner before K. Head down the long side, circle at E, trot at C. Stretchy circle at B, then up centerline.

 This test is much longer and more complicated than Test 1. It asks more from the horse and rider because the horse must have the correct flexion and not just go through the movements. The flexion is still a thing to work on, and I went off course a couple times but I am beginning to remember it. I tried it twice that day. As I familiarize myself with the pattern, the test will become more smooth. By looking through the test, I realize that the judges ask a lot for good geometry and balanced gaits, transitions,and turns. These are what I should focus on once I have the test memorized. I'm looking forward to practicing it.

WEG Eventing Recap

 All the excitement from the eventing competition at the World Equestrian Games has concluded. Though I was not able to watch it, I have followed the updates to hear everything that went on. The competition as definitely exciting with some surprises, so I have written the highlights  for you to read.

 The first day of dressage ended with William Fox-Pitt and his mount, Chilli Morning, leading with a score of 37.5. Micheal Jung and FischerRocana FST second with a score of 40.7, and Ingrid Klimke earned 3rd place, scoring 41.2 on FRH Escada JS. Only three of the U.S had ridden that day: Phillip Dutton, who earned 43.8 and 6th place on Trading Aces; Buck Davidson, who scored 48.7 and placed 11th; and Sinead Halpin on Manoir de Carneville, who earned 50.8. Boyd Martin, Kim Severson, and Lynn Symansky had yet to ride.

 On day two, German rider Sandra Auffarth on her horse, Opgun Louvo, took the lead with their score of 35.2. William went to second place, and Micheal Jung third. Boyd rode Shamwari to 17th place in dressage, earning a score of 46.3 only because his test, which started out smoothly, ended with a few mistakes. Lynn Symansky and Donner completed the dressage with a score of 53 and a placing of 47th. As many of the riders said, though, it was not a dressage competition and they hoped to prove it the next day.

 The U.S. riders went into cross country with a third place national rating. Germany, which had two riders in the top three, was in first place, followed by New Zealand. The going was muddy from the huge amounts of rain, so many riders couldn't ride as fast as they wanted to. U.S. entered the phase hoping to move up in individual or team rankings, but ended up disappointed. Rider after rider ended up getting eliminated from the tough course. Buck Davidson retired his mount, Ballynoe Castle RM, from the course after two refusals. 

 Buck said, “It’s exhausting. This last water, it’s serious. Where they cut the new turn up the hill [after removing two fences and a loop from the course] is like a plowed field. Poor old Reggie, he gave me every ounce that he had like he always does, and if I had to do it over again I would have aimed him at just the bank [at 30B] and gone to the log [option at 30C], but I probably would have just pulled up after that anyway. Yes, it’s the World Championships, but still he’s my pet, and he’s still one of the greatest horses ever, and I would never want anything to happen to him. I’m really, really proud of him. He jumped perfect; he tried his heart out.”

Phillip retired Trading Aces from the course after the horse ran out gas. The horse is young and simply wasn't used to such a difficult course.

Sinead Halpin was the first U.S rider to finish, yet not without a runout at one of the fences. Lynn Symanksy also finished, yet she, too experienced a few runouts. She said, “I’m frustrated with my ride. He was great in the beginning. I had tons of horse, even to the end I had a lot of horse, so it wasn’t that he got tired. At the second water we were really bold coming in, and he just ducked out of the second element of the one-stride at the very last minute. I thought I was on my line, and I thought he understood it, but at the last moment he sort of had a cheeky duckout. My second 20 was at the trakehner to the corner that I actually wasn’t worried about. I was just a little bit quiet in, and it was a little bit of a reaching distance for him, and he went out to the right again. I ended with a healthy horse. We made it to the finish, but obviously not the result I was looking for."

Boyd Martin and Shamwari, taken by Shannon Brinkman. Photo via USEA on Facebook.
Kim Severson was not displeased with her ride on her mount, Fernhill Fearless, despite earning 20 penalty points. She was proud of her horse.

 The one shining star of the U.S. team was Boyd Martin. Though he started out slow to conserve Shamwari's the horse had plenty of strength left at the end. Boyd received 13.6 time faults, yet rode the course clear and was able to move from 17th place to 9th.

 Boyd says, My horse is a real trier. My plan was to set out and be really steady and see what my horse had left at the end. In hindsight, I probably should have pushed him a bit more at the beginning because he was full of running at the end. Coming in I expected this to be the toughest competition in the world, and I think that’s exactly what it was. I am well mounted on a wonderful horse that has the heart the size of Australia, so I knew it would be a good show. I feel like we are a team of great horses and great riders, but with this course, even the best combinations were having difficulty. I think everyone tried their hearts out, and they should all hold their heads high.”

On August 31, the show jumping ended the eventing part of the 2014 World Equestrian Games. William Fox-Pitt ended up knocking down one rail, earning him extra penalty points that prevented him from winning the Worlds. Sinead Halpin ended up knocking down two rails, while Boyd had one rail down. The day ended with Sandra Auffarth riding to victory with a clean round. The final placing's are Sandra and Opgun Louvo for gold, Micheal Jung and Fischerrocana for silver, and William Fox-Pitt for bronze. Not bad for Jung considering the fact he was riding a reserve horse. The national rankings are Germany in first place because the country has two riders in the top three, Great Britian silver, and the Netherlands bronze. Boyd Martin ended eighth overall. Unfortunately, this means that U.S. hasn't secured a place in Rio's 2016 Olympics.
Sandra Auffarth by Jenni Auty credit

 This year's Games had many ups and downs for the sport of eventing. An new top rider, Sandra, has come out and defeated more experienced top riders, giving the eventing world surprising news. Overall I'd say the Normandy 2014 WEG was very exciting. Congratulations to Sandra Auffarth and everyone else!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lots of on the Bit Work

 For Friday's lesson, I worked mostly and getting Chester on the bit, which can be a hard skill to learn. He knows how to bend his neck very well, but often doesn't use his back and really connect to the bit. I spent most of the lesson trotting Chester on a circle and trying to get him on the bit.  I supported with my outside rein and squeezed with the inside rein, holding my hands apart to keep connection with the bit. It is important that the reins are not floppy, a way to tell if you have a connection. After a lot of effort, I was able to briefly feel what Have a horse to truly on the bit feels like. The reins are straight and taut, not loose, and you feel a gentle, steady pressure from the bit.

Toward the beginning
 I had only experienced it briefly, so I continued to work on the skill, heeding in the other direction this time. Chester was getting a bit irritated about working and began evading to the side and not moving forward. My outside hand had followed his head,of course giving him what he wanted. Since he didn't quite want to stay on the circle, Meghan had me ride him around the dressage arena instead.

Trying to get him on bit.
 This made him happier, so I continued to work on getting him on the bit. Those brief moments that he did actually round up and come on the bit, I rewarded him. I was able to, even for short moments, connect him, so I began working on cantering instead to give him something fun to do.

This looks nice!
 I cantered on a circle at A, trying to achieve his slow canter, managing to be successful before heading across the diagonal to ride a circle at A in the opposite direction. I had to ride this circle several times because I needed to use more leg to keep him in canter.

 Next, I rode through the dressage test I'm working on. Since I already know the pattern well, I focused on fine tuning it by fixing little details, such as taking my time, going into the corners, and making the geometry perfect. Some of my figures were more accurate than others, and I made it into the corners better for the second half, but though it still needs a lot more improvement, it went fairly well.

 It's exciting to be learning all this new things, especially considering the fact that I have only been riding consistently since the beginning of the summer.

Controlling the Canter

 Wednesday, I worked more on controlling the canter, one of my goals, so Chester doesn't go full speed. I did this by working on a serpentine, cantering for the middle section. It took quite a few tries, but I was finally able to get that slow, easy canter I had achieved earlier this week. I rode the same serpentine a few more times because I had lost the perfect geometry and wasn't pushing Chester to all the points, particularly at the canter parts, but I before long I got a better serpentine.
This one looks beautiful!

 I then changed directions, doing the same exercise, except in the other directions. This time I was heading left, toward Chester's faster side. Again it took some tries, with Chester getting a bit irritated when I asked too strongly with my legs, so I then began asking using mostly my voice. Things were better after that, and with a few half-halts I was able to slow him down before begin my dressage test.

 The first time through, I felt that Chester was too fast and energetic, causing me to focusing to much on controlling his tempo rather than making a good test. The next time around, however, I worked on maintaining an consistent, slow tempo. I went into the corners and tried to reach all the points on the pattern. It turned out better than before and wasn't as rushed. I seem to be good at riding through the pattern correctly, I just need to work on the finer details, Meghan says, such as going into the corners and maintaining a consistent tempo. All this will come in time.

 I ended the lesson with a hack around the property, which Chester enjoys. Besides being a little energetic, Chester was good for the lesson.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Roundness and New Riding Goals

 For Monday's lesson, I worked on my position, mostly on gripping with my calves to give my body more support. I rode Chester on a trot circle as I tried this. It's amazing how much better and easier posting becomes when I actually support myself with my calves rather than the stirrup irons. I also focused on landing lightly in the saddle when I post the trot and not going up so high,which takes a lot of thigh muscles and a solid support from my calves gripping Chester's sides.

Next, I worked more on getting Chester on the bit. Luckily, Chester is fairly easy to get on the bit, yet it still takes a lot of work and coordination to get things right. If I don't add enough leg, he would go into a slow trot. Too much and he almost canters. Not holding the outside rein would make Chester's head go to the inside. After a few minutes, I was able to get him to round up for a little at a time. Once I began squeezing the inside rein until he lowers his head, rather than using short bursts, I discovered that getting him to round up became a little bit easier. He also held it for longer once he noticed that I would stop asking when he rounded up. It's such a nice and rewarding experience to have a horse that is round and connected.

 I did this exercise on a circle in both directions, then tried it on straight. I wasn't able to get him round as well on the straight; I need to work on that and remember that rounding him is the same on the straight or on a circle. To help, I probably need to hold the outside rein more so he doesn't turn to the inside. Nevertheless, I am still learning and connecting a horse perfectly takes years of practice. I'm going to look in my dressage book to see if I can get better understanding of the subject.

 Next did some cantering, also on a circle to begin. I am improving at relaxing into the canter and letting myself flow with the motion, one of the goals I had for myself, though it still needs a bit more work. As long as I remember to sit up, put my shoulders back, and grip with my calves, my position is better. There's a reason why we are all told that.

 After a short walk break, I cantered again, this time working on half-halt for a more controlled canter. I was able to have more influence on what speed Chester cantered, rather than riding the pace he chose, thus become a more active of a rider. I was even able to control his left lead canter, which is faster than his right lead canter, ending on that good note.

 Meghan and I also discussed some goals for the next six months, coming with these ones together:
-Swing my hips with the motion of the canter and have better control of the canter
This one Meghan thinks it won't take too long to achieve. I already almost there.
-Be more comfortable riding in groups
Another easily attainable one seeing as I will take group lessons soon.
-Reach Pony Club D-3 level
At this level I can actually canter in Pony Club and thus be able to participate more
-Do more jumping and improve at that
-Get my first few shows under my belt, even if they are the small local flat classes.
-Possibly get me my own horse.
Meghan thinks that I'm getting to the point that I need my own horse pretty soon(next six months)

That is what I will be working these next six months. The first two are easily attainable and would likely be accomplished long before February, but the last four are more long term. What are you working toward these next six months?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Getting Chester on the Bit

  For Wednesday's lesson, I practiced getting Chester to round up and connect to the bit, I new skill that Meghan thinks I am ready to learn. Before that, I started my lesson by warming up around the dressage arena, trotting across diagonals and riding several serpentines. Chester was being nice, which was good.

  After the warm up, I went through my Training level test. It went smoothly, though I still need to make him straight when cantering down the long sides. Also, I need to swing my hips with the motion of the gait. It needs some work, but I am much more comfortable and confident and mostly need to work on my position, such as learning to keep my shoulders back.

 I finished the test, letting Chester stretch before working on leg yields. I did them trotting now that I have been able to accomplish them walking. The patter I rode went like this: start at K, leg yield to centerline, head to C, track right, then at M leg yield back to centerline. At A, track right to begin the pattern once more. I rode through pattern a few times, pushing Chester over with my leg. The leg yields are starting to improve from how they were about a month ago, when they were more like diagonals. By using more leg and slowing Chester done with half halts, I can get better leg yields.

 After the leg yields, I made a circle to the right at C and began learning how to make a horse round and connected. You do this by holding the outside rein and squeezing the inside rein. When the horse listens and lowers his head, stop asking and reward him with softness, which doesn't mean loosen or give Chester the reins back, losing all you work for, which is what I did at first. It took a few minutes to get Chester to understand what I wanted. He thought something like, "Slow down? Turn to the inside? Go faster?" Before long he began to lower his head for a little bit at a time. As he found that rounding up with earn him softness, he held it for a bit longer. I did this at the walk and then the trot. The tricky part with doing it at the trot is that you must be able to balance with your legs and body and not your hands; hanging on the horse's mouth is uncomfortable for him and can make him irritated. I'm at a level now that I balance without hanging on the reins.
Look at his frame is rounding up. 
Looking nice. This is what I need to create in the test.

 There were a fews time that Chester went in on the circle because I didn't push him out with my inside leg, or slowed because I didn't use enough leg, but I soon found a good balance. When I did, Meghan told me to practice my test and try to keep this feeling throughout(except for the canter parts; I'm not ready to try it cantering yet.). The test feels smoother when Chester is connected like that. For the canter parts and stretchy circle, I loosened my reins. Chester even lowered his head for the stretchy circle, which is nice. While he wasn't connected throughout the entire test, there were parts that he was.

Riding Romeo

 Monday I test rode a bay gelding by the name of Romeo, who is being sold by an operation that resells unwanted horses. He is an older 18-year-old gelding that has competed in both hunters and eventing, reaching all the way to Preliminary level for eventing. Though he may be a bit old, he still can do a lot of jumping and has a lot of go left in. My parents and I didn't plan on getting him, but Meghan thought it would be good to ride different horses and build a portfolio of what I want in a horse.

 One of the people working there rode Romeo first, then Meghan, and finally me. When I rode him, I made a small circle in the huge arena. After getting a feel for his walk, I trotted him, switching directions after several circles. His tempo is consistent in both directions; I don't need to constantly adjust his speed, which is good. Next, I cantered him. heading left first. His canter isn't very hard to sit, though I had a little trouble stopping him when heading to the right. It's amazing how much go he has for his age.

After the ride
 Romeo seemed like a nice horse. He was friendly, his tempo was consistent, and he didn't at all act like he was old. However, there were some downsides that made us decide against him. He doesn't have papers, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but that means that the only things we know about his history is what we were told: he raced a little, went to a hunter barn, then was sold to eventer. Somewhere along the line something bad must have happened to him because he came to the facility a bit swaybacked, caused by a long period of time not being worked, and underweight. The question is, why wasn't he worked for so long? He also has a trouble with one of his ears being touched when bridling, proving that he might have been mistreated at one point.
A cute face.

 I'm passing on this horse. In the mean time, the hunt for the right horse continues.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jumping Course!

 I had another great lesson Friday, riding with Anica for part of it again. First, though, I warmed Chester up in the arena and trotted around the dressage part. I worked on lengthening and shortening his trot(not really extending like in dressage test, just making his gait a bit bigger or smaller) as I rode across diagonals and around the arena. I also did some trot leg yields in both directions. I got Chester to leg yield, though I need to slow him down a bit so he goes a bit more sideways. Other than that, it was successful and not just a diagonal.

 Next, I started a serpentine, heading right on the outside circles and left in the middle part. When I reach the P-V(or S-R on the way back) I asked for the canter transitions. My transitions are getting a lot better and more immediate, which is good. I rode several serpentines, then headed across the diagonal of the arena to change directions, making a serpentine the other way. I did the same thing, this time cantering the right for the middle part. Since I would be jumping later that lesson, Meghan had me hold my two-point for the canter part and for several trot steps. I'm getting better at holding my two-point trotting, though it took a little bit to find my balance in the canter until I put my hands more forward as I remembered from a previous lesson. Now that I've done a lot of cantering throughout my lessons, I am much more comfortable at that gait.

 Once I had done some canter work, I began the Training Level Test that I am working on, test 1. The upward and downward transitions were better than last time, which is good, but I need to work on relaxing a bit more and not rushing through the test. As Meghan said, my test time at a show is my time in the arena, so I can take my time. For the second half of the test, after going across the diagonal from F to H at the walk, I focused on taking my time, not cutting corners, and making the 20 m circles the correct size. This part went better. I  also found that I'm better at controlling Chester's fast canter tempo.

Chester decides the jump is too small and steps over it.

 After I finished my test, Anica came in on Roxy and we began practicing a small jump course consisting of four jumps. We started out with just ground poles, though. The course went like this: go over one jump, then another several strides away, turn left after the second and looping back, in between the first two jumps, over another one placed near the rail, and final over the last one around the corner. It probably sounds complicated so I'll share a diagram.
Here's how the course looked like. Note: Image not subject to scale; it's just a picture to give you an idea how it looked.

 I rode through it several times at the trot without any jumps in it. After both Anica and I had gone through it several times, Meghan began adding one jump at a time until there were four jumps, two cross rails and a small vertical that was a foot and a half to two feet(all the jumps were about that range; I'm just estimating.
More like jumping! This looks like the slightly bigger one.
 I kept Chester at a good tempo as I rode through the course. It's fun doing an course of jumps. As I rode I learn to focus on safely and efficiently maneuvering the course and lining Chester up for the jumps. For example, I needed to take one turn wide to line Chester up for one cross rail, so when I started doing that he was able to jump more easily and get better aligned for the last cross rail. The last cross rail was a bit bigger than the others, so he needed to to get to it straight. Jumping it was fun!


After going through the course quite a few times, I started cooling Chester out. He had been bumping several of the jumps with his hind end, which we suspect is because he is sore from all the times he has been out this week. He was even more sore Saturday, but he should be okay after a day off.

 The lesson was really fun. It's great that I can progress at this rate, which is partly because I get to ride with a more experienced rider, watch her, and do the same thing. Meghan plans something that's sufficiently challenging for both of us. I'll be riding with others more often this fall because all the girls come out for a weekly group lesson during school time. While taking private lessons is great, riding in groups is fun as well since you can learn from what others do. It's not going to be a very huge group either so I can still get personal instruction as I ride. I'm looking forward to these lessons!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Two Rides, One Day(Ride on Ronnie)

 For Wednesday's lesson I rode Ronnie, the bay mare I mentioned earlier, riding Chester on my own just before so he wouldn't sit until my next lesson. On Chester I didn't do any hard work, just letting him stretch his legs in walk and trot. I did walk leg yields, which are improving, serpentines, and rode through my test pattern. Then, after putting him away, I got on Ronnie for my lesson.

 Ronnie had been ridden earlier and was a little tired, not moving very quickly, so Meghan let me use a crop just in case Ronnie needed some encouraging to get her going. I used is several times, but only when she didn't respond to my leg.

 I started the lesson as I often do, riding around the dressage arena and across several diagonals to change directions. Then, I did some serpentines on her in the trot, working on keeping her looking to the inside as I do with Chester. Meghan says my position seems better in the dressage saddle, possibly because I'm more supported and balancing is easier.

 I tried my new dressage test on Ronnie. The downward transitions from the canter weren't really good at first; it took a couple strides to slow her down. The other parts went more smoothly, though I needed to used a bit more leg to keep her going to the points of the circle. Ronnie really stretched down for the stretchy trot part, as the test says. I went through the test twice. At one point I needed to circle again and give her a tap because she didn't canter right away, but the other upward transitions were good.

 Then I made a serpentine to work on the canter to trot transitions, which needed some work before I tried my test again. I trotted the outside parts of the serpentine, the picked up the right lead canter upon reaching the middle part. When I asked for the downward transition to the trot, I tried using my voice to slow Ronnie, which worked well. The transitions became more smooth as I rode the serpentines, though somewhere along the line I lost my geometry and wasn't going straight on the lines in between the circles of the serpentines. I adjusted that, did another serpentine, and let Ronnie walk before beginning the test.

 The next time trying the test was a lot better. Though her canter was a little fast on the straight parts and half circles, I was able to slow her down to the trot right away using my voice. Ronnie is trained to respond well to voice commands, so she listened when I used them.

 I like Ronnie. She's a sweet, level-headed mare and I enjoy riding her.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Moving up to Training Level! And Barn Slumber Party

 Friday I rode without my trainer again because some of the other girls were at a show, preparing for dressage championships. I trotted around the dressage arena, working on serpentines and then leg yields at the walk. They are getting better! I'm able to get Chester to actually go sideways, which is good. After a successful one, I did some more trotting to reward Chester, then went through my dressage test, Intro Test C, without cantering because Meghan wasn't there. I've been doing a lot of cantering lately though so maybe next time I can do a little bit without my trainer. As I rode I worked more on getting Chester to look to the inside.

 Monday, I had a really good lesson. Before trotting, I did some walk legs-yields in both directions. I seem to be better at going right, but I am improving at getting Chester to go over not take a diagonal. After some trotting and serpentines, I began a new dressage test, Training Level 1. Meghan says I should work on this one so that when I do get a horse, I can start competing at Training and skip Intro altogether. Training level tests have a lot more cantering. The test goes like this: Enter at A working trot, X halt salute. At C, track left, circle at E, then begin another circle at A. When at centerline, canter the rest of the circle, down the long side of the arena, doing a half circle at B, trotting at E, and heading back to A. Stretchy trot at A and walk at the corner by F. Head across the diagonal to H and do the same thing the other way, heading up centerline after the stretchy trot.

  The test went fairly well the first time I went through, except for me loosing my stirrup during the circle right. I continued to canter because I hadn't really lost my balance, but at E Chester began evading the circle. I pushed him back on the circle and continued the test.

 The second time through was better. The canter transitions were good and my geometry was for the most part correct. I focused on getting ready for the half circle at E before I reached the letter so Chester wouldn't move to the side again. I also pushed him with my outside leg. I love this test and can't wait to try it some more.

 After the test, I put Chester on a circle left at A and worked on getting his head to lower for the stretchy trot. It is much like getting a horse one the bit; I squeezed the inside rein to encourage him to lower his head. He doesn't always lower his head because it's harder form him to balance, but I managed to get his head to lower a bit.

 I stayed after my lesson because all the girls Meghan trained were sleeping at the barn that night. I gave Chester a shampoo bath, then Anica and I washed the lesson horses to cool them down. We also helped feed them grain and supplements before cleaning tack. When everyone was there, all the girls got on bareback, including myself. Chester has a bareback pad so it's more comfortable than without. We all took turns trying to see if we could sit the trot all the way around. I gave it a try, and manage to do it. It's fun, though it makes my legs sore.
After swapping mounts. I'm on Roxy, the bay with the blue ear bonnet.

 The more experienced girls cantered, and then we all swapped mounts until everyone had gotten a chance to ride every horse, except two of them(one had come home from a show the day before and was tired, and other is a more hot tempered Thoroughbred). I rode a bay gelding named Bentley first. Bentley is trained to 2nd level and has smooth gaits. Next, I rode Roxy, the speedy bay Thoroughbred mare that Anica owns. I had to slow her down because she went so fast she half-cantered. Finally, I rode Frankie, an older bay that doesn't have a lot of go. His back was a bit bony, but his trot is smooth and easy to sit.

 Swapping mounts was fun; we all gained experience riding a new horse, especially bareback.We cooled out around the property on our own mounts and had a scavenger hunt at night.

 In the morning, several other girls and I rode(with saddles, except for Anica) and took turns practicing our dressage tests. It was nice to ride together. I had a lot of fun and I love the new dressage test.

 Also, if any of you are on Facebook you can find me here. Just let me know that you read my blog and I'll accept your request.

WEG 2014 U.S. Dressage Team

 With the WEG almost here, it's time to look at the dressage U.S. Team and see what horse and rider combinations will represent our country in these coming weeks. Let's take a look!

 For the first horse and rider combination, we have Laura Graves, currently training in Florida, on her 2002 Dutch warmblood gelding, Verdades. In 2002, Laura's mom bought Verdades as a yearling from Holland after only watching sales video. In 2013, the pair started competing in Grand Prix. Earlier this year, Laura and Verdades competed in the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. There she met Olympic dressage rider Debbie McDonald, who became her trainer. Laura believes that without the help of Debbie, she would not have made it to WEG. Soon, Laura made it to the U.S. WEG qualifying competition. Though she placed out of the top fifteen that would be invited to qualify for the team, several riders dropped out and she earned a spot. After that, she travelled to Gladstone for another competition, where she placed 2nd behind Steffen Peters on Legolas. With that high placing, Laura earned her spot on the WEG Dressage Team.

 Next on the team is Steffen Peters on Legolas 92, a 2002 Westphalian gelding. Steffen has been competing for the past eight, earning an impressive record. He placed fourth in the 2006 Aachen WEG on Floriano. For the 2008 Olympics he placed fourth on Ravel, a year later becoming the second U.S. rider to win the World Cup, also riding Ravel. In his previous WEG in Kentucky(2010), he won two individual medals on the same horse. In 2011 he earned double gold on Weltino's Magic. Most recently, he won the national championships at Gladstone on Legolas, qualifying for WEG.
Laura Grave and Verdades credit

Our next rider is Adrienne Lyle, who will be riding Peggy Thomas' 1999 Oldenburg gelding, Wizard. Originally, Debbie McDonald rode Wizard, but upon recognizing the talent of young working student Adrienne, she handed the reins over the Wizard's present rider. according to Adrienne, the pair clicked and in 2008, they won the Brentina Cup. In 2009, the pair competed in Grand Prix for the first time-neither of them had done it before. I love this pair because it shows you don't need an top rider to get a horse to that level, or vice versa.

 The final team member is Tina Konyot and Calecto V, her 1998 Danish warmblood stallion. Tina has competed in the WEG before, in 2010 in Kentucky, and is experienced at competing at this level. She also competed in the Olympics in London. She has qualified for 2014 WEG, her second one.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

US WEG 2014 Eventing Team

 The World Equestrian Games, held in Normandy this year, is just around the corner, running August 23rd to September 7th. For those of you who don't know, the World Equestrian Games is like the Olympics for horses. In addition to the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing, and show jumping, other popular disciplines are included. They are combined driving, endurance, reining, vaulting, and para-dressage. Over a thousand horse and rider pairs will compete, and more than 60 countries will be represented. Most of the competitions will take place in Caen, the capital of Normandy.

  On the US WEG Eventing are Phillip Dutton on Trading Aces, Boyd Martin on Shamwari 4, Lynn Symansky on Donner, Kim Severson on Fernhill Fearless, Buck Davidson on Ballynoe Castle RM, and Sinead Halpin on Manoir de Carneville

 Phillip Dutton is an Australian rider competing for Team USA. As of this year, he has been selected to ride in every WEG and Olympic since 1994. However, after this year's Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, Dutton's mount, Mr. Medicott, aggravated an old tendon, making it impossible for the horse to compete in 2014's World Equestrian Games. With one of his best horse unable to compete, Phillip would have trouble qualifying for the Worlds. The horse he ended up making it to the Worlds on is Trading Aces, a 2004 Irish Sport gelding that Boyd Martin rides. Phillip had ridden Trading Aces in Rolex earlier this year when Boyd was sidelined due to a broken leg. Since Boyd ended up qualifying on Shamwari 4 after a third place finish at Luhmuhlen on that horse, Phillip was able to join this year's WEG Team on Trading Aces. Phillip is also an alternate with his horse, Mighty Nice.
Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4 by Shannon Brinkman credit

 The second rider on 2014's WEG Team is Boyd Martin, also from Australia, riding Shamwari 4, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding that place 20th for Team Sweden at London in 2012. Boyd placed third at Luhmuhlen on Shamwari 4, qualifying for the WEG. At the WEG Prep Trial, Boyd rode Shamwari carefully so the horse would be ready for WEG, placing fifth overall. Boyd believes that Shamwari is one of the world's greatest event horses and is ready for the WEG.

 Next is Lynn Symansky on Donner, a 2003 Thoroughbred gelding that she bought in 2008. Since then, the pair has moved up to CCI4 level and has qualified for 2014's WEG. Lynn didn't ride Donner in this year's Rolex so she could keep him sound for WEG, but she did compete in Jersey Fresh, where she unfortunately fell off her eventing partner during cross country, getting her leg stepped on by the horse as well. Lynn ended up competing at Bromont several weeks later, despite her injuries, and will compete in the Games later this month.

 Kim Severson will be competing in the WEG on her 2000 Irish Sport Horse gelding, Fernhill Fearless. Fernhill went to the London 2012 with another rider but was given to Kim last year, beginning there partnership together. Since then, the pair has placed 11th at Rolex, earning them a spot on the 2014 WEG Team.

 Buck Davidson also qualified and will the the horse Ballynoe Castle RM, a 2000 Irish Thoroughbred gelding. He has previously competed in the 2010 WEG, also with Ballynoe Castle, as well as the 2011 Pan American Games upon another horse. 

 Finally, Sinead Halpin will be competing on the Selle Francais gelding, Manoir de Carneville. Sinead failed to make the London Olympic team, so she is happy to have qualified for Normandy's WEG on the horse she only started riding last year. 

Best of luck to the U.S. WEG eventing team. It seems like the is great and has amazing talent among both horses and riders. Stay tuned for more on WEG.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Leg Yields and More Jumping

  For Wednesday's lesson, I worked a lot on leg yields, a new skill I'm working on. I first trotted Chester around the dressage arena and across several diagonals. Then I did some serpentines, working on making Chester look to the inside of the circle as I rode, using my inside leg to keep him on the correct path. I'm getting better, but it still needs some work.

 I started practicing the leg yields at the trot, heading up centerline every time I reached A or C. At first I began heading left in the dressage arena. When I reached A, I turned up centerline and tried pushing Chester over to B. Then at C I again went up centerline and pushed him over to E, and so on. I had trouble doing this at first. Chester mostly tried to do a diagonal, not a leg yield, so Meghan told me to slow him down with some half halts when I was leg yielding.

 After trying quite a few times in each direction without a real leg yield, Meghan suggested trying the same thing at a walk. She said to not let Chester go forward unless he went sideways and to increase my leg aid to push him over. Meghan helped me a couple times by pushing over. Finally, when I tried on my own, I got Chester to do a leg yield to the right. To reward Chester, I changed the subject and began trotting him around the dressage arena.
Trying to do a leg yield

 After that, I did more canter work, heading both directions all the way around the dressage arena. I'm getting much more confident at the canter, which is good, but I still need to work on controlling Chester when cantering straight; his canter is pretty fast. Additionally, I need to find my rhythm at the canter and work on letting my hips swing with the motion. All that will come with more practice. Anica had joined the lesson again, so she showed me how to ride the canter. Now I have a visual so I can do it better.
Cantering left lead

 Next, Anica and I both did jumping again. I approached the cross rail a slow trot like last time, this time landing in the canter left and slowing back to the trot as I neared the jump again. I tried to keep my eyes up, though I couple times I glanced at the jump as I approached it. The jumps turn out better if I keep my eyes up, which of course is why I'm told that.
Jumping.  I behind me is another cross rail I had jumped.

 After jumping several jumps, I changed directions. This time I would be riding toward the gate. the challenge with this is that horses tend to go faster as they near the gate. Luckily, I didn't seem to have a problem.While I jumped I worked on putting my hands forward so I didn't yank chester in the mouth. There were several times that went very smoothly: my hands were forward, my eyes were up, my heels down, and I didn't slam into Chester back as he landed. I didn't even grab his mane for balance. I had a lot of fun.
Landing from the cross rail.

 I ended by jumping to cross rails placed close enough together that Chester would land then jump the next one. When I went fairly well over the two jumps, I ended the lesson on that good note and cooled Chester out with Anica and her horse, Roxie. I enjoy jumping. It's especially good that Chester doesn't over-jump and clear the jump with feet to spare as some horses may do. That way it's easier for me to find my balance while I learn to jump. The lesson was fun and successful.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: Roma Sheepskin All Purpose Saddle Pad

 Since I started riding Chester, I had to try out different saddle pads to find one that fit without slipping during the ride. Slipping saddles and pads can be uncomfortable for Chester and really any horse, so finding a good pad is important. Chester gets irritated and grouchy when his pad doesn't fit properly, making him harder to ride, which is probably why I took a few spills on him. The one I ended up getting works really well. It is the Roma Sheepskin Saddle Pad, a product that I am very pleased with. It fits Chester perfectly, and the saddle doesn't slip at all when I ride in it. Chester is very happy when I ride with it.

 I got the product for $72.00(it has gone up a bit since then) through Stateline Tack and I'd say it is worth the money. It is of good quality, the sheepskin underneath it is soft, and the pad seems to be comfortable for Chester. The pad even has some sheepskin on the part that goes right in front of the pommel, making it easy to align with the saddle to put it on well. Another plus is that the pad is just the right thickness; not too thick or too thin.

This is how it looks like when on Chester.

It looks nice with the saddle and I love the product. I would recommend it to others looking for a good quality sheepskin pad at a decent price.

Note: I am in no way compensated by Stateline Tack or Roma for writing this post. These are my own thoughts on the product.

Jumping for the First Time!

 I had a great, successful lesson Monday. It started with me practicing my two point at the walk on a circle. At first it was hard to find my balance, but I got a little bit better as I went on.  After doing it at the walk, I rode two point at the trot and leaned over like I am going over a jump. Then, I rode through three sets of jump standards with ground poles in between each. I held my two point and leaned forward as I went through the jump standards. I had to go through the sequence quite a few times before I was balanced and relaxed.

 After trying it both directions, Meghan raised the last pole in the sequence just a bit. Chester wasn't very impressed and merely trotted over the pole, so Meghan made a small cross rail instead. The next time I went around, Chester jumped over it. It was fun jumping for the first time! I went over the small jump several times  before Anica joined the lesson. We both trotted and worked on holding the two point all the way around the arena. It's hard to hold it that long! When I was about half way I had to sit for a little bit and try again. I was finally able to hold it for most of the way around the arena.

 Then, I started heading left and began cantering around the entire arena. Chester's canter is fast when not on a circle, probably due to his thoroughbred blood. I'm a lot better at sitting the canter than I was a few weeks ago, but I have to work on controlling his speed more. After going all the way around, Chester slowed to the trot. I began cantering again and worked on my cantering two point, which is easier than trotting. I was bounced around a bit as I two pointed and lost my balance. when I had almost done two laps, Meghan instructed me to shorten my reins, put my hands higher up on Chester's neck, and bend my elbows more, which helped. I cantered around the arena like that for a little more than a lap.

Next, I watched Anica ride the two point. She was putting her hands higher up on her horse's(Roxie) neck and shortening the reins as she did it, which is what Meghan told me to do but it is great to have a visual. I did some more two point, then cantered right several laps in the dressage arena. two pointing for some of it.
I'm jumping a small cross rail!

 Then, Anica and I both worked on jumping. I only trotted over the jumps, though Chester landed cantering a couple times. There were several times when Chester was going a bit fast, so I had to slow him. He knocked down the jump one time because I hadn't slowed him down and hadn't balanced well. I tried to keep him in a slow trot so he would go over the jumps carefully. Once, I even walked through the first two sets of standards, then trotted just before the last one.
Jumping! My position looks better in this picture
 As the lesson progressed, Meghan added a slanting rail to the in the middle and made the last one a bit bigger. Chester would jumped the middle one, take a stride, the jump the next one. I need to work on looking up though, because once I looked down over the first jump and ended up banging Chester's back as I landed. The next time around, I looked up at the mountains ahead, and the jump was much better. It's amazing how much a difference looking up makes.

 Toward the end of the lesson, Meghan made two cross rails, one on the last jump and one of the first, so I would jump, take a few strides, then jump again. The last time through, when I focused on looking up again, was the best. I love jumping and enjoy riding with Anica. Riding with someone more experienced than myself let's me have good visuals. Also, I am pushed more because I do the same things Anica does, except at a little lower level. I had a lot of fun this lesson and have lots of videos to study so I become better.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Canter Serpentines and Cantering Straight

I had a great, productive lesson today with lots of cantering, even in a straight line for the first time on Chester. Another girl, Anica, was riding with me on her horse, Roxie. Other than not having much go and acting a little bit lazy(I had to push him a lot to get him to canter), Chester was nice today.

 I started with a trot circle to the left at A. As I have been for these past few lessons, I worked on getting Chester to look to the inside and get to all the points on the circle. I did fairly good for just that circle, but when I started a serpentine a little later after trotting around the dressage arena, I didn't always go completely  to the points while keeping his head to the inside. I need to use a lot more inside leg to keep him on the serpentine.
This picture is nice.

  After that, I watched Anica ride a canter serpentine with simple changes of a walk stride in between each part of the serpentine. Then, I gave it a try, except with a trot transition to change leads in between. It took quite a bit of kicking to get Chester going because he wasn't as fresh and energetic as usual. This time I put my outside leg behind the girth and squeezed rather than using mainly my voice to get him to canter. It went well, though I had to do it several times because I couldn't get him to canter for the last circle of the serpentine. The other parts went well though. Finally, I managed to get the full serpentine with cantering in the right places. It was great!
Part of my serpentine
 The next exercise Anica and I worked on went like this: Trot up centerline, leg yield to B, then canter through the corner to H and head across the short diagonal back to B. Next, canter to the corner, turn up centerline, and do a canter leg yield to E. At C, walk.
I'm sitting up in the saddle, but I love this picture. Chester's head position even looks nice.

 I had to practice this pattern quite a few times to get it right. The first two times I looked down at B and ran into the cone, so I focused and started another time. At B I put my leg back and kicked him into the canter. There were a couple times when he just trotted quickly, but the final time I rode the pattern it went as planned. I leg yielded to B by putting my leg behind the girth and pushing him over. Then, I kicked him into the canter, rode around the corner, and crossed the diagonal to B after reaching H. Next, I cantered around the corner and up centerline, pushing Chester over to E while still cantering. Finally, I reached C and walked.
 It's fun cantering straight and off the circle, and I really enjoyed the serpentine and pattern. I watched Annica ride her 2nd level test, then ended the lesson by riding through my Intro level test. The halt at X was nice, the temp was great, but I took a few circles at A to get him to canter, even with putting my leg behind the girth. The circle left went much better; he cantered right away.
Cantering around the corner, heading toward H.

 After ending my test, I rode around the property with Anica to cool out both horses. We went behind the paddocks, passed some trees, which is a way I haven't gone before, then after turning at the barn we went around the arena and towards the dirt track the girls sometimes ride on. We hosed our horses off then put them away. I gave Chester four cookies for working so hard. It was a fun lesson. I can't wait to do more cantering straight and on serpentines like I did.