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.