Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Just A Rib (But it hurts like hell)

The past week and a half we have been experiencing some "wonderful" winter weather here in the Seattle area. Looking outside my window I can see about 10 inches on the ground. I cannot remember when I grew up here, such a long sustained period of sub freezing temperatures and snow storms.

Because of the snow, and more importantly the cold weather, I haven't been able to work my guys as normal. Most of this is because the footing froze at both arenas. So that has limited the work down to hand walking for a couple of days. In terms of their respective training programs this down time isn't a big deal for the horses as it's only December. It will only take a week or so to be back on track.

However................yesterday, I took out one of my young horses and began to lunge him first to make sure that he wasn't too high when I got on him.

Being cooped up, he immediately tried to get down and roll. I got him going and then 4 steps later he's down on the ground. I got over to him quickly, at his side, so he wouldn't roll on the saddle. Well he popped up and then popped me in the chest with one of his hind legs. I don't know how he pivoted so quickly and got me because I was not in a danger spot when I was at his side.

Regardless, I now have a broken rib (8th rib) on my right side. Frankly, I'm pretty fortunate that it is just a rib and that he didn't kick me higher up in my face, or on the my left chest (heart) or lower and cause an injury to an organ.

So.......I'm laid up here for a little while. It honestly hurts more than I expected. I hope to get out to the farms tomorrow and at least teach a lesson or two. I'm already a little stir crazy laying down all day. It's up in the air on when I'll get back on a horse. Basically, when I feel comfortable enough pain wise. I'm hoping sometime next week.

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Clinic at Mandloin Dressage

A little late on this post: over the last weekend of November, I traveled down to Gardnerville, NV to teach a clinic at Mandolin Dressage. It was a very successful weekend for everyone!! In late March I went to the Rancho Murrieta Horse Show with some of these guys. It was a real treat to work with them again and more importantly to see the progress they had made over the past 6 months.

Below are some pictures from the 3 days:

Monday, November 17, 2008

November Henrik Johansen Clinic

This past Thursday and Friday I rode with Heinrich Johansen again. I was able to ride three different horses this time. I would have had four, but with River Run flooding again, we weren't able to get out there for the clinic.

First things first, this clinic was one of the best I've been to and I was able to take many new theories and skills away from it. Usually if I can get one or two ideas I find it quite a success.

I started off with Cinzano, Wendy Hsue's 4 year old Swedish stallion prospect. First, Heinrich really like him and confirmed that I have him on the right track. Heinrich had me "run" the horse down the long side to get him forward and then once Cinzano was forward to then put the leg on. This will allow the horse to understand what the leg is meant for. Previously Cinzano was a slightly resistance to the leg and now Cinzano is riding off the leg better. The other thing Heinrich had me do was use a little more outside rein (just barely lifting the outside rein momentarily) then I had on previously ridden on circles and corners to keep the outside shoulder in line. The use of a little more outside rein actually played a big difference in the canter!

My second ride was on Deborah Hauk's Hanovarian gelding Nick. The first thing Heinrich introduced me was applying the "Gear System" to the horse. In another blog I'll explain this theory a little bit more. Once warmed up, Heinrich had me start Nick in a extremely collected walk. The pursposed being to get him collected up, but also to have Nick listen to the rhythm I was asking for from my seat. This was challenging for both of us, to hold this collection for long periods of time. From this walk, depending how collected I had it, I could put Nick into a turn on the haunches or piroutte extremely easy.

After we had that down, we moved up to the trot. Again, we held an extremely collected trot that if we had the power and strength could be a "schooling" passage. At moments Nick would come through and actually have some "baby" passage steps! From this extremely collected trot, I would take Nick into a true collected trot, back to the extremely collected trot, out to a medium/extention, back to extremely collected trot, etc. All of the changes within the gait was with my seat.

Once I understood what Heinrich wanted, I started getting some quality work and it felt fantastic. After the lesson, Deborah come up to me and said, "I've never understood why owner's have their trainers ride the horses in clinics and in shows. After watching you and Nick, I completely understand why!". She was so proud of her horse!

On Thursday I rode Joyce Morimoto's 14 year old Swedish gelding, Jumanji. This would be a good lesson for me as I've only ridden Jumanji once a week for the past two months after him coming off a 2 month lay off.

Like the Nick lesson, we applied the gear system to this ride as well. Again, things went really well. We also worked on some half pass schooling and Heinrich gave me a couple of clues on schooling the half pass to keep the forward movement while still maintaining the lateral direction. By taking the shoulder a little more forward at moments on the diagonal line I was eventually able to get a good bend around my inside leg and have the shoulders at a good angle.

Because of the flood at River Run we were unable to hold parts of the clinic there, which meant I couldn't clinic with Cindy Bucceri's gelding Claudius. It would have been nice to work with Claudius, but I am able to take a lot of what I learned over the two days and apply it to Claudius. The last three rides on Claudius have been our best yet where I have gotten Claudius to listen to me and then actually come through in the rhythm that I want. I now have greater confidence in the goals I have set with Claudius ( riding at the FEI level) next year.

I will be taking Cinzano to another farm on Thursday to clinic again with Heinrich which I'm looking forward to.

A big thank you to Wendy Hsue, Deborah Hauk, and Joyce Morimoto for allowing me to clinic their respective horses with Heinrich!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Logo Created

I finally got the logo for Emerald City Dressage created! I'll work on getting the website up and running over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Day I Took A Boat To Work

This past week we have received a fair amount of rain. A couple of days we received over an inch of rain each day.

One of the farms I work at, River Run Ranch, lies in the flood plain of the Snoqualmie River. On rains like this, the Snoqualmie will flood. The severity of the flood ranges from wet roadways to the barn being completely flooded out. The later is the 100 year flood range, which happened 3 years ago.

Yesterday, we had the roads underwater making it impossible to travel by car. Some sections of the road and parts of the farm were under 4-5 feet of water. Fortunately, the water did not rise that far to the farm. It only got within maybe 100m of the barn and arena and only partially flooded a couple of the pastures.

The owners of the farm have a small motor boat and used it to shuttle me and the other boarders to come in and ride.

It was slightly surreal to see how quickly the water comes up. When I left the farm midday on Friday, the river was rising close to the road, and now two days later, there is 4 feet of water. In situations like this, it's always a little humbling to know what mother nature can do and how quickly she can do it.

It was kind of fun to take the boat in and see everything. But, I am sure the next time this happens I won't find it so fun and more of an inconvenience.

The horses are fine and more out of sorts because they weren't turned out in their individual acre of pasture all day as they are accustomed to. Yes, they are spoiled.

Below are some pics and a short video of the flood.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqcFlqUCRXI

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Off-Season News Part I

Sorry for the long time between posts. I'm going to do a two part off-season blog update. The first part will detail what I've been up to and the second part will talk about what I'm going to be working on through the winter months for the 2009 season.

Since returning from Championships, I've been trying to keep things a little more "balanced" as I've been taking heat from many people for not having too exciting of a life. For those of you who have known me for awhile, you know that this can be hard for me to do sometimes. I really thrive on the pressure of the show season and now since I'm done I'm feeling a little empty. I'm still motivated each time I ride/teach and not having the immediate pressure on my shoulders is nice not to have.

The good news is, I have been making time to get out and see some friends (with still a lot more of you to see!). Without the pressure of the show season, I've been going out and coming home way too late. Fun times nonetheless.

I spent the past weekend in Boulder, catching up with old friends and former athletes. I had a great time and maybe had a little too epic of a night on Halloween. It really was a world wind trip for the 3 days. Each day I basically met different friends for breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner, etc. I didn't realize it was so exhausting being social! I also swam Friday morning with my old masters swim group. I had only swam 2 times since I moved in May and those swims where only in the past two weeks. I didn't suffer anywhere near I thought I would, but definitely not in swim shape anymore.

After leaving Boulder, I had not realized how much of a page I have turned in terms of my life. Since moving 5 1/2 months ago, I haven't looked back and spending time back there made me realize that I am absolutely, positively happy with where I am at right now!

I'll try to get a post up in the next few days on how my horses are going and what the "rough" goals are for next year.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

USDF Regional Championships

I got back home last night from the USDF Region 6 Championships. This was something I was shooting for the moment I began working with Vienna. It was a lot of hard work (and some hardship) to get her to this show, but what transpired over the weekend was well worth all of it!

With our training the past 4 weeks I knew I could be competitive with Vienna in our Championship classes. But I wasn't too concerned with that. My main goal was to present and ride a horse that was listening and through with me. If we placed well, then that would be the icing on the cake.

We left on 10/1 for the 9 hour drive. We traveled with Vienna's owner Deb, River Run Ranch owner Julie Bennett and her horse Piero, and our friends from KGF Equestrian: Siggi, Kristen and Sandi. It was a safe and thankfully uneventful trip. Vienna got off the trailer in the dark and was looking around, but nothing out of the ordinary.

On Thursday we spent the morning getting completely settled in to the show grounds and walking Vienna a lot around the grounds to get her adjusted to her new environment.

Our schooling session in the afternoon went okay. Honestly, I pretty much "slept walked" through the ride. The past few weeks and the travel had taken a toll on me. Getting feedback from Wendy and watching the video of the ride showed me it wasn't all bad, but I needed to get back on track.

The show started on Friday, but I didn't have a class this day. I wanted to spend another day schooling Vienna to ensure that I was in control of how long we rode for and could make adjustments on the fly. This ride went well. We schooled for a short period of time 15-20 minutes and then went through the Training Level 4 test. I had told Wendy prior to the ride, to really push me and not hold back. So after a couple of F-bombs dropped my way to look up and to stop riding like an amateur I got things together and put together a good ride.

On Saturday, we were planning on riding in the Training Level 3 class as a warm up for the Championship classes on Sunday. I woke up to rain and wind in the morning. During the midday hours all was well weather wise. Then ominous black clouds began rolling in. For about an hour and a half we had two brief, but potent thunderstorm came through delaying my ride for about 2 hours. After looking at the footing that got drenched I quickly scratched the ride and elected to school Vienna in the indoor arena later that evening. By doing so, I would be showing Vienna in the championships without going into the show ring.

The schooling in the indoor ring started after almost disastrously as Vienna was spooky and tense with all of the "things" to look at. I was wondering if I could get the mare back together and actually have a good ride. After about 15 minutes Vienna started to relax and started to trust me. For the next 30 minutes we put together some of our best work. It felt great and it was fun to show off in front of a fair amount of people. Getting off the horse, I had a big smile on my face and felt very confident about tomorrow.

Well, it turned out to be a good thing to elect to school indoors on Saturday as our first Championship class (Northwest Championship) was moved from outdoors to the indoor arena. If we hadn't schooled the night before then we would have had big problems in the test.

Vienna was still a little nervous while warming up, but in the show ring she put together a solid test. The only mistakes we made were in the free walk and the stretching trot circle where she became momentarily distracted. I left the arena happy with our ride.

I knew going into this show that the Open (Pro) classes would be extremely competitive. I just didn't think it would be very close. We placed 5th in the class with 349 points (69.6%). We were 1 pt behind 3rd place which had 350 points (4th too). Even though 2nd place was 11 points ahead, we actually were placed higher than them by one judge. Click here for results.

Our second championship class (USDF Regional Championship) went well too. This class was held in one of the outdoor arenas. Although the weather was good, the footing was a complete muddy mess from the rains the day before. This was Vienna's first experience in muddy footing so I wasn't too sure how she would ride. In warm up, she actually rode well. In the show ring she had a very big slip in the first canter circle, leaving a huge divet. From that point on, I rode her a little more conservative as I didn't want to risk her health.

After the final halt/salute, I felt happy with the ride, but knew it wasn't as good as the test earlier. We finished 5th again in the class and were 2 points out of 4th place. We were still in the thick of things and that meant a lot to me. Click here for results.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with how the show transpired. I have been riding this horse for 4 months and only 3 days a week. To bring this horse along to this point has been a wonderful experience and very rewarding. Thank you Deb for the opportunity to train and show your horse.

This brings a conclusion to the show season. In the next couple of weeks, I'll provide a more thorough recap of everything that has transpired since the move and what I'll be working on during the off-season.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Swedish Warmblood Inspection

This past Saturday (9/27), I presented Cinzano at the Swedish Warmblood inspection.

We began the inspection with him getting his measurements done to make sure his confirmation was correct. After that we began the free jumping segment. The first round through he wasn't too sure what was going on, but after that he was all for it. The inspectors raised the jumps successfully up to 4'2". On that jump Cinzano had to put in a big effort to get over and kicked backed with his hind legs aggressively to get over (more on that).

After that I trotted him in hand. All of this went really well.

The final component of the inspection was me presenting Cinzano under saddle. We showed in an arena with the two inspectors in the middle and about 20 people watching on the side. This was quite unnerving to the horse as he had not been in that situation at all. I was asked to show him at walk, trot, canter in both directions (plus lengthening of the trot and canter). From the get go, he felt different. On the left rein he was feeling okay but to the right he was all over the place. In the canter Cinzano was swapping leads, throwing his head, and even rearing. I was sitting on top, thinking "What the hell is going on". I tried everything I could by not sitting deeply and trying to keep his neck as long as possible.

After that we had the inspectors give their scores and opinions of the horse. Overall, they like Cinzano a lot and repeated this a couple of more times verbally and in writing. He received 7 and 8's in all of his scores, except for under saddle where he scored a 6. His total point total gave him a Class I status, but to be approved as a stallion all scores need to be above a 7. The inspectors repeated a couple of times to bring back Cinzano next year as he shold be able to pass.

Needless I was disappointed that I could not get Cinzano passed and couldn't figure out what happened under saddle. In prior rides he never rode like that. I thought something felt wrong in his back but couldn't pinpoint it.

The next day, Cinzano received a chiropractic exam. The chiropractor found, and adjusted, a rib that was out of place on the right side. More importantly, Cinzano's pelvis was severely rotated. This is what caused the misbehavior on Saturday. How the pelvis became out of place, came from the free jumping in the inspection. On that 4'2" jump he injured his pelvis. With the adjustment, Cinzano is now fine and ready to come back to work!

It was slightly frustrating to loose a confirmation because of something that was out of my hands. But that's the beauty of horses sometimes :).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preview of Upcoming Attractions

A quick update on the two competitions coming up for me:

Sweedish Warmblood Inspection:
This Saturday (9/27) I will be presenting Cinzano for inspection as a stallion into the Sweedish Studbook. We've doing a lot of work with him and it is beginning to show. Each time I ride this young horse, the more and more I like him. He is starting to express his gaits and figure out that under saddle throwing the head around from time to time is not good.

For his age, he is well balanced and is starting to come from behind. After watching him in trot while free, passage should be no issue for this horse!

I'll be showing him in hand and then under saddle. We'll also be free jumping him as well.

Here are a couple of short videos of us working:


Regional Championships:
This comes up in a week and a half. Vienna is starting to really show her stuff. Today I asked her to engage even more in the hindend and start to show off her gaits. More so from what I would expect a 2nd level horse to do. While she can hold this for short moments right now, it felt absolutely wonderful!! Her canter is becoming much more well balanced and when she stops pulling on me she can really float in the air.

From now until the show we are going to focus on transitions as this is our achilles heel. We did a ton of walk-trot, trot-walk, walk-halt transitions. With about 95% of the halts instantly square. If I can get her to come through on the canter transitions we will show very well!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Horses

In the last two weeks I have taken on 3 new horses to my list.

Is a Dutch Warmblood who was trained through the FEI lower levels in Europe before being imported 5 years ago. He is owned by Cindy Bucceri. Over the past couple of years Claudius has been showing 2nd and 3rd level; with one show at 4th level this year. I will be working to get Claudius back up to the FEI level with the goal of showing Prix St Georges and Intermerdiare I at some point in the 2009 season. His training will include me riding 2-4 times per week and giving lessons to Cindy and Emily (who successively showed him this season).

Is a 4 year old stallion owned by Wendy Hsue. I will be presenting Cinzano at the end of the month, both in hand and under saddle, for inspection into the Sweedish Warmblood Studbook. I've only been working with Cinzano for a little over a week and I really like this horse. Very sweet and is starting to move better and better with each ride.

Is a 4 year old owned by Rebecca Chatfield. Dutch is extremely green and I've been working with him under saddle to give him the basics of under saddle work with the goal of having Rebecca riding him in the very near future. As of today we are walk, trot, cantering with no problems and he is an extremely smooth ride. He shall be fun!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Whidbey Island End of Summer Show

Last weekend, we hauled back up to Whidbey with Vienna to try and get one last qualifying score for the Regional Championships. Plus, it was good to get Vienna some more show experience.

I knew all I needed to do was get the mare through and then ride a mistake free test and all would be taken care of.

I was only going to show her Friday and Saturday as I didn't want to go through another 3 day show. If we couldn't get one score out of two rides, then in my opinion we didn't deserve to go to Championships.

On the Thursday warm up day Vienna went pretty well. At the end of the session we schooled in the ring (lower sand ring) where we would be showing on Friday and she was a little tense and looking around. There are a lot of noises from the nearby highway that you can hear from that ring and she wasn't too comfortable with that. We tried to get her listening the best we could.

On Friday we rode in the late afternoon. Vienna felt a little tired to me on Thursday and I elected not to school her in the morning on Friday to ensure I had enough energy in her. So I spent the drizzly, misty day hand walking and grazing her a lot. She was taking in everything like a pro and I was thinking if she keeps this up we'll be fine.

Instead of rehashing the warm up and ride, I'll give you the quick version. The horse got tense in the ring and I rode her terribly. I didn't ride proactively and instead rode passively hoping to just get through the test without any bobbles. Well that approached backfired as we had a couple of leaps in the right lead canter. Needless to say we didn't get the score. Once again, without the errors we had it. On the bright side we did receive on 8 for gaits.

I immediately went back to the warm up and schooled her and we got going well. I was furious afterwards, mostly at myself, for not riding well. I knew better and yet I didn't step up. I went to bed that night vowing not to let that happen again.

Again, we had a late afternoon ride and this time I schooled her in the morning. In that schooling session, I put the mare in a deep frame and got her coming up through the back. We had a fabulous ride with no issues. Deb helped me through the ride and was very impressed with what she saw.

Flash forward to the warmup for the test in the afternoon, and we immediately picked up where we left off in the morning. I had a horse tuned into me, so much so that she was picking up the canter with the slightest seat aid.

Right as we were about to enter the ring for the test Vienna started thinking canter and I aborted the entrance at the last second, literally, and circled back around. Doing that probably saved the day.

In this test I had the mare the most attentive I have ever had and we had great test. We had a couple of minor errors where we picked up the canter early and bobbled for a section in the trot. Other than that, I was very happy with the mare. This is the horse we've been working towards for the past 10 weeks.

We got the score, 69.6%, and will be traveling to Nampa, ID for the Region 6 Championships the first weekend of October.

What I'm really excited about is I still haven't gotten this mare to ride her best. With 4 weeks between now and Championships I know that I can get Vienna going much better and I know that we will be competitive in the Open Division.

A big thank you to Deb Reinhart for allowing me the opportunity to train and show this mare.
To Wendy Meyers for coming up and coaching me before each ride. Also to my parents, Alanna, Sharon, Nancy, Norma, Roxanne, Cindy, Claudio, and Adrianna for coming up to cheer us on. The support is greatly appreciated!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Whidbey Island Summer Show

This past weekend (8/15-17) we traveled up to the Whidbey Island Equestrian Center for their summer show.

I traveled up with Vienna, Vienna's owner Deb, and River Run Ranch owner Julie Bennett and her horse Pierro.

The fun part about traveling to this show is you take a ferry boat to reach the island. The alternative is to drive a couple of hours north and go around over Deception Pass. I'm always nervous about taking horses onto the ferry boat, because if something were to happen to the horses, you can't do anything about it. Nothing happened at all on the ferry boat, except when waiting to unload off the ferry Vienna felt bored and gave the trailer a very big kick. Sitting in the truck when this happened, I thought something had broke because of the noise she made. Fortunately, everything was alright.

The warm up ride on Thursday went really well. Vienna felt very good and was taking in her new surroundings in stride. Compared to our first show 3 weeks ago, this horse was much more calm and you could tell/feel she was starting to understand what her job is.

Our goals for this show were pretty simple:
Have a solid show where the horse was calm and listening to me in the tests
To get our qualifying rides for championships

To get the qualifying scores, you must have 2 scores, from 2 different shows, from 2 different judges. At Training Level in the Open (Pro) division your score must be greater than 68%. Because we did not get a score at Donida that meant we needed to get both scores at this show. At this show, Friday counted as one show and Saturday-Sunday was counted as a another show. So we needed to get a score on Friday and then get another score on either Saturday or Sunday.

On Friday our ride was not until 5:30pm. So we took the mare out and schooled her around 10am. She felt absolutely fantastic and we kept the ride to around 20 minutes.

In the warm up for the test the mare again felt really good. Deb and Julie kept saying to me, "Matt she looks wonderful".

The first part of the test went really well. She was attentive, moving nicely, and giving an overall lovely picture. However, after the walk work I felt Vienna mentally check out on me. When we started the canter work, I was beginning to loose the connection in the horse and she was getting a little strung out. When we got to the second half of the canter work on the left lead, we lost the lead (trotted) way too early. I gambled and did not pick up the canter again as I did not want to risk having a blow up trying to get the canter again. By playing it conservative I was banking on getting good scores on the last part of the test and not have a horse that was frustrated and not listening to me and receiving low marks for the rest of the test.

After the final halt, I knew we missed the score by a little and turned around to Deb and Julie and with my hand, squeezed my thumb and index finger close together signaling "We were this close".

Indeed we were. We score a 64.8% and that was with a 2 for a score in the canter and a 4 somewhere else. Without the error we would have had our score and won the class.

We rode two classes on Saturday. In the morning we rode Training Level Test 3 for practice and in the evening Training Level Test 4. The evening ride would also be a qualifier.

Throughout both warm ups and rides, Vienna felt tired. When taking her out in the morning her haunches were noticeably sore (just slightly). Because of that, I would not be able to get her to engage as well as I would have liked. Because of that, we did have a buck in a canter depart in each test.

Again, just like yesterday, a big mistake cost us valuable points and placings. Without the errors we would have been scoreing 67-69% and placing 2nd or 1st in the respective classes.

At the end of the day I was slightly frustrated because we weren't showing our potential. In all, I was very happy with Vienna's overall demeanor; especially in the warm up ring with 8 other horses.

So, with no qualifying score yet, that meant we needed to score one on Sunday's ride.

We rode in the late morning. Vienna came out much better than Saturday, but still I could feel was not 100%. I adjusted the warm up and only rode her for about 10 minutes enabling us to get loosened up and have enough energy for the test.

While warming up around the ring waiting for the bell I kept working on riding with the loosest hips possibly to keep her engaged. She felt a little strung out and I was trying to keep everything together. Just keep it smooth I kept reminding myself.

We went through the test without any errors. I was very happy with that. When we got out of the arena, Wendy and I were chatting that this was the best test the mare had put in yet, but probably was a point or two away from the score. Julie walked up and said, "Matt, you got your score". I didn't believe her thinking we probably score around 67%. But a lot of people were saying we looked a lot better than what I felt.

Well, they were right. We score a 68.000% to get the score! In addition we also won the class. This put Deb in very high spirits which was great to see.

Overall, this was a extremely successful show for Vienna. We had no blowups like we did 3 weeks ago; we stayed in the arena each time; and Vienna handled the experience like a pro. This was seen in the warm up arena when we had to navigate around at least 8 other horses for each ride. At this show, it seemed that no one could ride correctly in warm up and we had a couple of close calls. Each time, Vienna brushed off the horse coming close to her and rode like a pro.

We really want to take this mare to Championships. We are now entered in the last Whidbey Island show of the summer on Labor Day weekend. We just need to get one score out of two rides.

We'll be leaving on Thursday the 28th and showing just on Friday and Saturday.

Thanks for the support!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Karla Spiritus Clinic

Since the Thursday of the Donida Show, almost each ride with Vienna has shown me a better and better horse. Enough that some people who initial thought she was an alright horse are now telling me different.

This past weekend proved no different. On Saturday I rode Vienna in a clinic with German Grand Prix Rider and trainer, Karla Spiritus. Prior to the clinic, I knew nothing of Karla other than from a couple of other riders that they found her clinics very helpful to their riding and horses.

Now, the first 15-20 minutes weren't that good as Karla's English is good but not very great. When she couldn't express what she wanted, I would then get an English translation from trainer Siggi Wolff. Additionally, the radio headset I was wearing would go out from time to time. For a lot of that time I wasn't too sure in what Karla wanted. So to help she hoped on Vienna for about 10 minutes. Just watching what Karla wanted I knew exactly what to do.

From that point on, the ride went fantastic. Karla had me get Vienna deeper than I had been riding her previously and then the horse responded beautifully. I had Vienna going with a ton of self expression and carry. We began fully schooling shoulder ins, mediums, and counter canter.

Afterwards I was very happy with the ride and became even more excited about the mare.

The next day Karla and I were chatting (as best we could). She told me that next time she comes to Seattle, she wants me on Vienna for at least two days and to bring any other horses I have in training because she thought I am a strong rider. She continued this praise to Vienna's owner as well.

This meant a lot to me as I'm always a little apprehensive when riding for someone the first time. I'm pretty confident about my riding, but because of some things that happened 10+ years ago, I always have a little self doubt. It's nothing bad, but it's always there.

Big thanks to Julie Bennett for holding the clinic at River Run; and of course to Vienna's wonderful owner Deb Reinhart, for the opportunity to ride and clinic with the horse.

We're now gearing up for the Whidbey Island Equestrian Center Summer Dressage Show 8/15-8/17.

The other horses that I have in full and half training are going wonderfully and I'll have news about them in the coming weeks.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Donida Show

This past weekend, I took Vienna to the Donida Show.

Coming into the show I honestly didn't know what to expect. Most of the time I have a good idea what to expect from the horse and how the horse will ride. With Vienna, I had no clue how the rides would go. The first reason being she is only 5; the second reason being this was her first ever show (and only the 3rd time she has been off property since being imported over a year ago); and finally, the fact I've only been riding the horse 3 days a week for the past 6 weeks.

Fortunately for us, this show was extremely small so the atmosphere was low key. When I used to show here back in the early 90's there were 200 to 250 horses at this show. This year, for a variety of reasons, so were only 60+ horses.

Below is a brief synapse of each day:

Thursday (Warm Up Day):
We drove down from River Run mid-day and got to the show grounds in the mid afternoon.

I planned on riding Vienna about 30 minutes in all three arenas for her to get a look at each, so that when we began showing, she would be accustomed to the new environment.

All in all, the first 90% of the warm up went really well. Vienna was responsive to what I was asking and for the most part adjusting to her new settings just fine.

As noted in previous blogs, we have had some "issues" in the canter departs. Today, there were absolutely no bucks. Each time I asked for the canter, she cantered on without a hint of a buck. The last canter depart I asked for went cleanly and I thought to myself (with a small smile on my face) "Yes, we've got it". However, I then put her on a circle, and the moment when began the circle she knocked her back ankles together and launched the largest buck I've had with her. The buck was so big, my right foot came out of the stirrup. The second buck came right away and this time I was airborne. Fortunately, the buck was so big that I was able to come over her left shoulder and landed squarely on both feet still holding the horse; like I planned a trick dismount. Immediately I got back on, to Vienna's surprise, and finished schooling.

Afterwards, I was laughing to myself about what happened. Mostly because I was lucky. Lucky in that I wasn't hurt.

Warm up went well for the test. I had a horse that was energetic, but I could tell she wasn't comfortable in her surroundings. Still no bucks in the warm up, giving me a lot of confidence.

When we started to go around the ring before being rung in, Vienna was becoming nervous. Nervous because she was in a new situation and didn't know what to do. You could literally feel her going, "What the hell is going on?".

Once the bell rung and we turned up the center line. we jumped around and reared a little. The comment from the judge was "dramatic entrance".

We got through the first part of the test fine. Then at the end of the ring, directly in front of the judge, Vienna shied at something and jumped out of the arena. In dressage, if you leave the arena you are eliminated. Fortunately, the judge recognized that Vienna was a young horse and allowed us to "school" the rest of the test. In all of the years I have ridden I have never had a horse jump out of the ring.

We then "schooled" the second part of the test and it went really smooth, which was a little frustrating. The judge gave us scores as if the ride counted and we scored a lot of 7's and one 8. For those of you not familiar with the scoring, when you are eliminated your score is counted as an "E".

Originally we had planned to just ride the one test. Quickly, my trainer Wendy Meyers ran over to the show office and we were able to pick up a second ride a couple of hours later.

In the time between the two rides, Deb Reinhart, Vienna's owner, lunged her for about 30 minutes and then I hoped back on for another 30 minutes of schooling before the next test began. The plan was simple: tire the horse out so she wouldn't have the energy to leave the ring.

That is absolutely what happened in the second test. We rode in a different arena than in the morning. This arena is notoriously spooky with a lot of foliage around the arena. For the most part Vienna took things in stride.

In the test I had a dead tired horse. She was flat and not really responsive to the leg. Because of this she fell out of the canter early on both strides and was a little sloppy. She didn't show her flashiness. BUT we went through the test cleanly with no errors and did not leave the arena. Because of this, Vienna began to understand what her job is.

We got slaughtered on the score, but that didn't matter because Vienna went better.

For Saturday and Sunday we signed up for the Training Level 4 Qualifying classes. The qualifying classes are to qualify for the Regional Championships in October. For the Open Division that means getting a score of 68% or greater from two tests at two different shows.

I lunged Vienna for about 20 minutes before getting on. During the warm up I could tell I had a horse that was going to do better than yesterday. She was starting to listen to me and was stopping some of her evasions to work.

While doing the final preparations I was telling myself that all I needed to do was ride accurately and things would happen.

As we began to walk to the arena Wendy says, "She looks super, just stay in the ring". That was followed by a glare from me and her then responding, "Shit I hope I didn't jinx you". We had the same judge from Friday when we left then arena. Whe we walked by the judge's booth, she tells me, "Wow she looks relaxed, you'll stay in ring".

The test went well. I had a horse that was in front of my leg, moving freely and expressively. I was riding more and more confident as the test progressed, until she spooked in the corner by K and took a hard right out of the arena. I won't lie, the F-Bomb dropped a couple of times from me. I immediately turned her around and asked for permission from the judge to finish the test; which she let me. Again, the last 1/4 of the test went well.

Needless to say, I was furious. I had the test I wanted and couldn't get it. The judge gave us the scores, minus the collective marks. Estimating what the collective marks would have been we would have scored a 67.5-69%. Ugh!!!

Immediately I tried to ride another qualifying ride but couldn't. I decided not to pick up another ride that day that was not a qualifier because I was still very pleased with how she went. The test we rode was good and at about 80% of what she could do. Her demeanor, the warm up, and her gaits were a hell of a lot better than the previous two days and I was very pleased with the improvement. Vienna was trying hard and I knew that we on the right track in terms of her progression.

Once again, we rode Training 4 as a qualifying test. At this point, I was unconcerned with getting the score and instead wanted to stay in the ring and be consistent.

The warm up we did was the best she has gone for me in the short time that I have ridden Vienna. She started coming up through the shoulder better and could start to feel her hind end engage more and more. A couple of friends watching commented that she was looking better than yesterday.

The test itself went alright. Most importantly we stayed in the ring and the trot work itself was consistent. Unfortunately the canter work was not. We broke/lost the canter way too early on the left lead. Additionally, in the spot in the test where the horse is asked to stretch down in the neck we started off perfectly and then she became distracted and looked up and around for the rest of the circle.

After the final half (which we scored an 8) I felt very happy about Vienna's first show. The amount of improvement that she showed in the 4 days was more than I've had at any moment with her. Because of that I gave her a very big praise when leaving the arena.

Because of the mistakes we only scored a 64% and would have been really close to the qualifying score without them.

Final Thoughts:
I cannot express how excited I am about the upcoming training with Vienna. We took a horse to a show that was inconsistent in her work (specifically the canter departs) and left the show with a horse that was really trusting me and was starting to show her gaits in a more consistent manner. We maybe only showed 80% of our potential and when she was consistent we scored 8's. The 9's, and maybe a few 10's, will come soon!

Our next show is in 3 weeks and the time in between should be extremely productive as this horse will come to that show ready to go!

A big thank you to Vienna's owner Deb Reinhart for the opportunity to show the mare and for Deb's fantastic job grooming for me. Thanks to Wendy Meyers for coaching me this weekend. It was a treat to have her warm me up for each class, as the last time she was able to do this for me was July of 1995. And finally a thank you to everyone who traveled down to watch me ride. The support is always greatly appreciated!!

Upcoming for us is a clinic this weekend with German trainer Karla Spiritus and then the Whidbey Island August Show (8/15-8/17). We'll try to get our qualifying scores here as it is considered two different shows.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Henrik Johansen Clinic

This past Wednesday I rode in a clinic taught by Danish instructor Heinrich Johansen. I had previously ridden with Heinrich just a short time ago: 1993. In this clinic I rode Vienna.

We began the session at the walk and did a lot of work establishing a contact and connection from the inside leg to the outside rein. The purpose being to activate Vienna's inside hind leg so that she could release her back and then come through up to the bridle.

Most of the work was done on a small serpentine with bending lines. We really started to get Vienna up through the shoulders and she started to lay off the bit a little too.

In the trot work, the first emphasis was on going forward. Because she is a young horse, you want the young horses going forward. Heinrich asked me a lot to keep sending her forward and when we finally got what he wanted it felt great. I was also thinking in the back of my head, "Shit, I don't know if I can control this!". Again, we worked a lot on bending lines, especially through a change of rein across the diagonal. This exercise helped me out a lot in terms of timing my aids.

As mentioned in prior blogs, canter departs have been a limiter for us. Again, we dealt with some bucks coming into the canter. Heinrich put us on a 20m circle at the trot and then had me ride a diamond shape within the circle to control the outside front shoulder. Once I was able to get that connection we had some good departs.

Just like the trot, Heinrich asked for a bigger, more forward canter than I had been previously riding. Again the movement felt great and again I was wondering from time to time if I could control the horse.

In the clinic I wore an ear piece to hear Heinrich's instructions. Numerous times I lost the ear piece because of Vienna's movements so I was having to ride one handed while trying to put the ear piece in. Maybe that's why I thought I couldn't steer ;).

Overall, I was very pleased with the lesson. Not only to I realize I was riding Vienna too conservatively, but that I could ride this horse well. I was really pleased to get the timing of my aids down better.

The big highlight for me was the next day when Heinrich was talking to Vienna's owner and told her basically that when he saw Vienna 3 months ago he wasn't terribly impressed. But after seeing her the day before with me, he was very happy with the horse's progress! That felt good to hear.

We show in 3 weeks!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Getting Into The Groove

Here's an update on where I'm at right now with the horses that I have in full-training:

We had a buyer from Portland come out on Friday to take a look at him and she absolutely loved him (who wouldn't?). So, the buyer will be doing a pre-purchase vet exam on Wednesday, and if he checks out (should be no problem) then he should be sold!! If Paesano is sold, we'll then begin looking for a new horse for his owner, Virginia Rhoads.

Vienna is the 5 year old, owned by Deb Reinhart, that I've been riding for about 2 weeks now. Vienna is starting to understand more what her job is and one of those is not trying to buck me off. Actually, the bucking is not a big thing, as she only does it occasionally in the canter departs; and only when she is not confident in what her body is doing. The last two rides with her I've really gotten some consistent quality trot and canter work with her. When she is "on" it is quite remarkable. I'll try to get a short video posted of us together as she is a remarkable horse to watch.

We'll be debuting her at the Donida Farm show July 25-27. Our first objective is to have a clean, error free test and from there work on qualifying for the Regional Championships.

We will also be riding in the Heinrik Johansen clinic, at River Run Ranch, July 3rd. I'll post pictures and videos from that.

Falcon is a 6 year old who I have been working with for the past 2 weeks. He is owned by Alana Danna. Previously Falcon had been "roughed" up by a previous trainer and was sorely lacking in self-confidence. Over the past two weeks Falcon has turned into a completely new horse.
Previously, he would spook and bolt at anything. Now, through just simple, positive training, I have him working confidently and smoothly in the outdoor arena with no spooks.
I've also gotten Alana to do the same with him.
Falcon is a talented mover, so it will be interesting to see what he can do over the next 6-8 weeks.
This horse has (and will continue to be) been a very rewarding experience.

Other than that, I have another 4 horses that I work with part time and/or a couple of times a week with riding them and instructing their owners on them.

I have a couple of more prospects in the works that I'll be trying out next weekend.

Thanks for the support!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ITU World Championship (Race Day)

Today was an interesting day to say the least.
The day started off with no problems. However, Dave and Cedric's wave started at 8:55 when the race started at 6:30. During that time the wind kicked up a lot causing huge swells in the bay. Halfway through the race, the race organizers cancelled the swim for the remaining athletes. About 600 did the swim and 1000 didn't swim. Dave and Cedric were about 2-3 minutes from getting into the water when the word came out.
So, it turned into a 3K run instead of the swim and then the 40K bike and 10K run. I have no idea right now what they are going to do for the overall rankings.
Cedric came off the first run in the front group with Dave about 30 seconds behind. During the bike Cedric stayed in the top 5 of his division through the first 3 laps. On the 4th lap, Cedric had a minor bike crash (no injuries) and then while trying to catch up got caught in one of the big bike packs (there were so many it wasn't funny) and got a stop and go drafting penalty, where he lost another 45 seconds or so. Dave rode very strong throughout without the aid of any draft back coming in about 2 minutes behind the leaders.
On the run, Cedric started off about 8th and Dave in the 20's.
In the run, both Dave and Cedric ran strong with Cedric finishing 13th in the age group and Dave 33rd. Overall, I'm very happy with their races.