Thursday, April 28, 2016

Klein on Horse Nation

Yesterday I got a notification that Horse Nation tagged The Jumping Percheron Facebook page.  Turns out they had posted my helmet cam with a quick write up about it!  Very cool!  You can check it out here:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dancing in the Sandbox For a Day: Dressage Show Success

With the goals in mind to compete in a new place that Klein has never seen and to halt ON x this weekend we headed to a local dressage show last Sunday. 

The weekend prior Klein had been slightly distracted with taking in all the new sights at Plantation and also that one little tiny spot of freight training me slightly past x thus getting points deducted from an otherwise PERFECT halt, getting us a 33.30 on that test (which is not bad, I know, but we can do better). 

The barn we went to was a dressage only barn so I thought that would be a GREAT place for some legit criticism for us.  I was excited to get some report cards in the form of dressage test feedback.

We rode three USEA eventing tests.  We did the Novice 3 Day long format dressage test for the first time, Training A as a refresher, and Preliminary A which I have been DYING to ride.  We went alone, so, no video from the day.

I also wanted to use this show as a some time management practice, so we left a little early and actually, because I had never been to this farm and Google maps sucks sometimes, I drove right by it the first time.  I found it 15 mins later and we still had plenty of time to check in and warm up.  Funny thing though, as I pulled in a lady walked into the middle of the drive way waving for me to stop.  I thought she was just going to direct me to parking.  She told me I had to wait to drive in because there was a test being ridden and I couldn't drive my truck and trailer by the ring until it was done.  I'm sorry, but that's funny.  DQs sure do crack me up sometimes.  I will respect anyone's rules at their facility, of course, no questions asked, but that was just silly.  I know they are not all like that, but a good bit of them are.  Klein and I would ride our tests with a marching band marching around the ring.  Event horse in the hizzouse people!  A circus bear on a motorcycle could ride wheelies around the ring and we'd still go in there and get our business done.

We warmed up in their indoor and Klein had to check herself out periodically in the mirrors.  I kept telling her yes, she IS the most beautimous mare in the world, and that yes, her ear bonnet was on straight and she looked perfect.  Her warm up was great for all three tests, she didn't take notice of anything that day despite it being a completely new place with all unfamiliar horses.  We almost got run into once by a slightly out of control horse in the warm up, but things like that never seem to bother her either.  She has dealt with much crazier things like babies and crazy racehorses bouncing off of her when we were ponying them and she would just look annoyed more than anything, not spooked or freaked out by it.  More of, "what's wrong with this horse??"

Schooling shows are great times for experiments.  My experiments for that day was riding with and without my whip and rising for lengthenings on one test and sitting for them on the other test.

She warmed up great.  I stuck to the components we needed for each test.  For example, there were no lengthenings while warming up for our first test, the N3D test.  There was no need to get it in her head that there was a possibility of lengthening across the diagonal when we changed rein over it in the N3D test.  Sometimes Klein can anticipate stuff once you work on a certain movement during a ride.  It is something we are working on at home, but it's not something to play with during warm up at a show. 

I rode without my whip for the N3D and it went great.  I felt like Klein was slightly dull to the aids, responsive to my leg but a little dull to the aids for transitions.  I could have done more transitions in the warm up and that would have helped.  But overall I was very happy with it.  This was the first time we had ridden that test.  Although, during our free walk someone walked by with something that made a crinkling noise like a granola bar wrapper and Klein slightly perked up to look for it, it was pretty funny!  I was trying not to laugh!!

We had a little time to relax before our next two tests.  We went back to the trailer and I got Klein some water.  I looked over Training A to make sure I remembered it since it had been a while since we had ridden it, but it is pretty stuck in my head.  After that I put Klein's bridle back on and we went back in the warm up.

I rode with my whip for this test.  I felt like she was a little more forward just by having it in my hand.  She used to have a terrible habit of running from it if I had it in my hand, not even ever touching her with it.  Ever since she was a baby it is just something that has very easily offended her and as the years have passed this is finally starting to fade.  My crop for jumping, no big deal.  My dressage whip, O...M...G... mom, no you didn't!

This time we did throw just a couple lengthenings into the warm up.  I wanted to make sure that switch was flipped on with her.  She gave me some really nice down transitions and I really felt like we didn't need much more warm up, so we watched the ring for a couple rides while we waited. 

In we went and I felt pretty good about that test.  The only thing I knew we didn't do well was our 15m canter circles.  I KNEW we went too big and thought to myself, well we look like we were sleeping in geometry class.

We only had a few minutes before we were heading back into the warm up before our next test so I looked at Prelim A one more time and we went back in to the warm up.  For this warm up we added in some leg yields, since they are in our test, and more sitting trot since that whole test is ridden sitting.  Klein felt great.  The whole day I had been applying a new method Lainey had taught me in our lesson.  When it comes to the outside rein and half halting think of your elbow trying to touch your horses hip.  Of course you're not pulling that far back but in your head if you think of that, it just works.  It made for a better connection for us, and we have been using it every ride since our lesson with her.

We went in for Prelim A and it went great!  The only thing I had a bit of a tough time with is the fact that these eventing tests all the way to Prelim B are ridden in a 20 X 40.  So some movements had a little distance added on to them by being in a 20 X 60 ring.  One of these was the leg yields. The leg yields on Prelim A are from D - H and then D - M.  In a 20 X 60 you have 20 more meters of length to cross over. That's too much for a leg yield from the center line.  So we had to be very careful not to end up on the other side of the ring before H and M.  A little extra challenge, but, we managed.  I felt like we gave it our best effort for our first time riding that test and that being our first test where I sat the entire thing.

Throughout the day people asked what Klein was.  No one guessed her to be full Perch.  When I was picking up my tests the owner of the facility told me she was pleasantly surprised by Klein.  She said she doesn't look like she is the lightest but she can really get her front end up.  That was a very nice compliment coming from this very nice dressage barn.  Everyone was great there.  It was a very well organized show and I will definitely go back to that facility for some more dressage report cards.  The owner also came and checked with me while I was warming up to make sure they had the right test for the N3D test.  I really appreciated that she came to double check, that was very nice of her.

So, our scores? 

N3D:  23.86 (76.13% in dressage scoring)
Training A:  30.47 (69.52% in dressage scoring)
Preliminary A:  26.81 (73.18% in dressage scoring)

I was blown away.  The 23.86 is a personal best for us.  Prior to that our best score was a 26.1 on Novice A.  Training, those 15m canter circles that we made too big got us or that would have been in the 20's too, but I am NOT complaining about that score for Training!  A 26.81 for our first time riding Prelim A?!  So soooo proud of my Klein mare.  SO proud!  It's not the most complicated test in the world, but it is the highest USEA test we have ridden at a show yet.  I want to do some Prelim CTs for funsies and this was another step toward that goal.

We have been working our asses off with dressage and I think this weekend proved that our work is paying off.

Working on our dressage in the sunset last week.

All three tests had a lot of 8's.  We had some comments about our canter being nicely balanced, some saying how straight we were both down the center line and across the diagonals.  I was proud of the fact that our loop to the quarter line at the canter on Prelim A earned us a comment about it being nicely balance and we got an 8 on it.  Our halt on each test got an 8. 

The marks that weren't so great?  When Klein's attention was taken for split second by the crinkling noise during our free walk, that got us a 6.5 and a "more reach, stretch more."  Bet if there was a granola bar on the ground she'd be stretching more!  Our 15m canter circles killed us on training and got us a 6 with a comment of "a bit large" and a 5 with a comment of "way too big."  Oops.  Clearly we know what a 15m circle is though because our 15m trot circles scored 8's and our 10m circles on Prelim A were 8's with comments of "nice bend."  Our stretchy circle wasn't great and got a 5.5 on Training A.  That's something we have struggled with and some days are better than others.  That day it wasn't there and I should have warmed up with atleast one, and I didn't for no apparent reason. 

Also, lengthenings on both Training A and Prelim A, but we knew that.  That's the thorn in our side.  Lainey helped us have a breakthrough with them as far as schooling them and improving but it is not something that will be fixed in two weeks.  We are on our way to improvement with them and I got a 6 and 6.5 on lengthenings on Training where I was posting for them and two 6's on Prelim A where I sat them.  Basically same difference.  The comments said we need to show longer strides.  We're working on it!  I WILL get a 7 on these damn things before this year is over!  We are armed with the tools we need now after riding with Lainey!

See, working on it!  This is us working on lengthenings last week!

We ended up being 1st, 2nd, and 3rd to ourselves in that division.  All Eventing TOC was combined. Klein won a bag of carrots which she enjoyed some of immediately.  It was a successful day, my goals were accomplished and I got my report cards I wanted.  I'm proud of our scores coming from DQ land!  We had another great day together improving our skills and strategies. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Plantation Field Spring HTs

 Galloping by the stone ruins on xc.  So pretty!

Klein and I competed at the recognized Plantation Field HTs this past weekend.  We had an absolute blast!  The weather was perfect and the event was very well organized.

Professional Horse Hubby right here.

It took place over two days.  Dressage and stadium the first day and xc the second.  I rode later in the day on both days.  Klein and I were in the NR division.

Klein warmed up for dressage a little tense.  There was a lot to look at.  She had never been to Plantation before, neither had I.  The warm up for dressage was up on top of a big hill and you could look out over the hills for miles, it is a beautiful venue.  Klein just wanted to see the sights, and I couldn't blame her!  We warmed up for about 20 minutes and in we went.

I felt like we had a pretty good test, a little tense, not nervous tense but just like wanting to see the sights and not particularly concentrating on dressage tense.  Next time we will head to the warm up a little earlier so we can just walk around and observe things for a few extra minutes.  The only two things that I had an issue with was the second down transition from canter to trot and our halt.  She tuned out to my half halt and really we are supposed to be transitioning from canter to trot between B and F, but we transitioned about one step in front of F, but hey that's still between B and F and being that we are traveling away from the judge on that movement, it probably didn't look as bad to the judge.

She was slightly freight training me down the center line.  I'm not sure what had her attention but we stopped in front of X.  Despite that, she NAILED her halt to the point that The Other Half said there were audible gasps from spectators standing near him with comments of "OMG did you see THAT HALT???"  One lady was clapping wildly at the end of our test from behind the judge.  So I was like well, with two other rings going on at the same time, never seeing this place prior to 20 mins before going in the ring, how bad can it be, right?  Not bad at all, a 33.3.  I'll take it.  But, we did get a 5 on that halt.  Damn it!  If we had halted accurately and had a little more bend we would have easily been in the high 20's.  Her personal best at Novice is a 26.0, and her dressage is better than that now.

The Other Half putting Klein back on the trailer to have a snack and nap in the shade.

Stadium was late that afternoon.  The course had a lot of room in it and was very hilly.  I wasn't worried about that because I would say the majority of our schooling at home and even at shows has been in arenas that are not flat, so a hilly course wouldn't make me give a second thought to it.  There were a lot of rails coming down throughout the day in Training and Novice.  Prelim and Intermediate went before we got there so I missed them.

Klein warmed up great in stadium.  She was happy to be in the ring with some jumps.  We also watched the stadium ring for a few rounds as we came down the hill from our dressage test.  Klein is adorable when we watch the stadium ring.  She actually will WATCH the horses go.  You can watch her ears follow them around the course.  Then when she's seen what she needs to see, she goes into super chill mode and takes a nap.

She had a great pace right off the bat and jumped everything nicely on each lead.  We jumped a vertical and oxer that were set up and that is all she needs for warm-up.  I had some extra time after our warm up for stadium so we watched the ring for a few minutes.  Klein watched a couple rounds then started her normal nap.  With about four riders to go I went and trotted her around the warm up a couple times then got right in line for our round.

She was great in stadium, wasn't interested in looking at anything, she normally isn't bothered by anything in stadium no matter how decorative they try to make it.  Everything was pretty plain that day anyway, just regular colorful jumps.  A small brick wall but nothing crazy.  As soon as we came around after fence 1 I thought to myself, "hmm, this is probably the scenic route, I probably should have cut in front of #4.  I did correct her lead once after the third fence too.  There was a lot of room between 4 and 5 and I kind of unintentionally took the scenic route around to 5.  There was a two stride she nailed at 9a & b going uphill.  We left everything up and I thought we were double clear because we have NEVER had time in stadium EVER in our lives.

Random life lesson, something the military taught me in a combat skills course before my first deployment was "Complacency Kills" and I apply that to my every day life, except it went out the window for some reason on Saturday in the stadium ring.  First off, I walked the course once, half paying attention to it, then decided to watch the riders.  That wasn't a good idea on a course that was that hilly.  I should have looked at my lines closer.

I used to have a bad habit of cutting corners in stadium and now I am much better at giving Klein as much notice as I can to fences to make her job easier, but I think I took that a little too far on Saturday.  Also, they time stadium at recognized events differently than they do at the CTs in FL that we have been competing at non-stop for the last year.  So, in my head, I was by default thinking of that timing.  Oops.  Because of this complacency, I killed our double clear.  Part of me was just thoroughly enjoying being at the event in perfect weather at a beautiful venue, on my Heart Horse, with The Other Half there.  2012 was our last recognized event so, stadium timing was not fresh in my mind at all.  I was just like, we're going to go out there, and jump this course, it's going to be easy and we're going to enjoy ourselves.  Goal accomplished, with 8 time penalties.  What a rookie mistake, I will NOT make that one again.  I know better than that!  But that's ok, because there are a lot worse problems to have in stadium than the rider being a little complacent and in lala land just enjoying the ride.  That's an easy fix!

Family photo after stadium!

VTO Saddlery was there and I had went looking through their tent earlier that day.  I told The Other Half a couple weeks ago I need to order a xc watch.  We've done a bit of recognized and unrecognized events and I have never worn a watch.  I have a pretty good idea of what Klein's pace is because I ride with a GPS that tells me our pace on our gallops and I have a pretty good feel for Novice and Training speeds.  Actually I DID wear a friend's xc watch ONCE at the Area X championships, and I never even looked at it.  I forgot I even had it on until we came through the finish flags and it started beeping after we were trotting around.  Oops.  Klein and I have a lot of recognized events coming up this year, it's time to stop being a slacker and wear a damn watch, AND pay attention to it.

When I came back from my first trip to the VTO tent I said "Yeah, they have a blue watch...I should just go buy it, yeah, I'm going to go back and get it."  This was somewhere between dressage and stadium.  I remember as I was getting ready for stadium The Other Half said "What's the box on your seat in the truck??" and me saying "I don't know!!!"  I was focused on getting Klein ready and getting to the warm-up, I had no idea what random thing I set on the driver's seat of my truck.  I didn't think anything else of it.

I also have been saying I need a new helmet because my current Charles Owen has been through a couple South Georgia summers and it's just getting kind of gross.  I clean the lining regularly with the CO cleaners but, seriously, it was time for a new one.  I had been looking at the J3, the Pro II Skull, or the 4 Star.  The Other Half had noticed the helmet display earlier when we walked by the VTO tent.  He said "Hey, so, they have helmets!  Did you see any you liked?"  I said, yeah they have a couple CO models out and he said, "Well, if they have the one you want, I'll get it for you."  ...say what?  He asked me my size and went back over there to ask the guy if he had the 4Star in my size and he did.

So after stadium I went and tried it on and it fit amazingly.  It is SO comfortable, soooo...I got a new CO 4 Star!!  The 4 Star is the nicest of the three models and has maximum airflow, which my previous CO definitely did not.  I noticed and IMMEDIATE difference when I put it on for XC the next day.  Lighter, cooler, and more comfortable.  I LOVE IT.  So, there I was, obliviously walking back to my truck with my 4 Star in a bear hug to my chest and I open my truck and...there's a blue event watch on my seat...aka "the box" on my front seat.

This guy...I honestly hit the man lottery with him.  He spoils me on a constant basis and I don't know what I did to deserve him and I can only hope that I take as good of care of him as he does me.  I am thankful every single day for him.  Not only because of everything he does for me and how he treats me, but because you all know how invaluable it is to have a significant other that actually acknowledges how much your hobby means to you.

Klein was wrapped and loaded by this point so we got in the truck and headed home.  It is nice to be close to so much recognized stuff now where I can take my girl home for the night.  Not only do I not have to pay stabling and for a hotel, most importantly Klein is not in lock up in a stall for a day or two.  The barn there was a temp barn, and that, 99.9% of the time from our experiences at recognized events, means 10x10s!!  Klein doesn't lay down in 10x10s, they're like a jail cell for her.  So, I am SO happy I can take her home and put her out for the night and her routine isn't disturbed at all.  She gets all the rest she normally would get instead of going three days without ever laying down and getting good sleep in addition to being on the trailer for hours.

The next day my xc ride wasn't until 4:04.  My plan was to get there an hour and a half prior to ride time.  Well, Hi-Run tires had a different plan.  There were were, having a good old time driving down the highway, talking about planning a mini beach/casino vacay when we hear an explosion.  I knew IMMEDIATELY what it was and my response was immediately, "WTFFFF...seriously?!?!" and I started downshifting my truck and pulling over.  Ok, you all remember my Hi-Run tire warning and what has been happening with them.  Well I put Carlisles on the back two axles right after that, and the plan was to do the front two axles next month, then my two spares the month after.  Well, that was a dumb plan. I should have just bought my six Carlisles at once because a front axle Hi-Run exploded.  Again, a tire that is less than a year old.  Absolutely beyond ridiculous!!!!!!  Four new Carlisles will be here tomorrow, two for the front axles and the other two to replace both of my spares.  My trailer will be 100% Hi-Run free by this Friday night.


The Other Half is a car guy, and after our recent battles with trailer tires he through his fully charged impact gun in the tack room just in case.  Good looking out...because we needed it.  Unreal.  Poor Klein had to be like "AGAIN???"  But she was quietly eating her hay like nothing happened.  I have gotten more use out of my Trailer Aid 2 than I ever hoped.  The Other Half had the tire changed in five minutes and we were back on our way.

The universe had other plans.  There are three ways I can get to Plantation, all of which take you through suburbs.  There is no other option.  I have no idea why a semi was on one of these roads, his GPS must have taken him a random way, but, of course I got stuck behind him on a one lane road with nowhere to pass and on a bunch of hills with a bunch of stop lights.  My blood pressure was on the rise and The Other Half had to keep telling me to breathe.  Every minute he slowed us down robbed a minute of warm-up from Klein and I.

Also, I walked my xc course once and needed to walk it again where I was actually paying attention and planning my lines.  I was going to walk it again before I tacked up but with each passing minute that looked more and more like it wasn't going to happen.  Finally, the semi went straight and we had to turn right.  I rolled into Plantation with 40 mins until our ride.  I jumped out of the truck and power walked my ass up that hill to the xc course as quick as I could.  I decided I knew where I was going until the drop at 8.  I was PRETTY sure I took a left, then I knew where to go until after the water where I was PRETTY sure I took a right, but pretty sure is not going to cut it.  I walked to where I could see 8 and then figured the rest out from there then power walked right back up the hill and down to the truck to get Klein ready.

Once tacked up I had TWELVE minutes until I was to be leaving the start box.  TWELVE people, as in 12.  I just decided we will make every minute count and went trotting up the hill to the warm up.  I trotted a couple circles in each direction, cantered a couple in each direction to get her moving out, apologizing to her the entire time of course. We jumped the vertical twice, the oxer once, and the actual xc warm up jump once then I walked her toward where she could start to see out over the course.  Right as I did that the guy goes "189, you're in the hole."  About 45 seconds later was, "you can head to the start box anytime."

The Other Half was like "Take a combat breath in the start box and just go."  I wasn't nervous about the course, I felt like an ahole for only having 12 minutes to warm my horse up for a hilly course and again at a place she has never seen before.  Are we learning yet?  I will be leaving two hours earlier than I think I need to from now on.

We were counted down and off we went.  Here is the course:

She was a bit lookie to this, but I blame that on a crap warm up because I had no time to really get her moving out but I sat, squeezed, put my leg on and my girl was there like she always is, and we were over and on our way to get moving down to #2.

As you'll see in the helmet cam video, we galloped down hill to this one with a lot of scenery.  It took her a second to realize we were going to this one but once she did, she was locked.

And again we were downhill to this and she was looking beyond but once she realized we were going to this, she was like, OH...yeah, got it.

No problem.

We got rolling for a few from 4 to 5, it was a good gallop stretch.  You'll hear me tell her easy on the helmet cam video because I wanted her to start taking notice that it was there and that was our next one.  She did want to back off a little to this, maybe it looked a little strange to her but I was not about to let that happen.  I sat and squeezed, gave her a tap and she got her butt up on it then immediately to the right to go over 6.

 This was on a right angle from 5 and Klein got to it nicely.

 By this point, we had our groove.  Klein was clocked in for work and we were just out cruising ready to jump whatever I put her in front of.

 Our drop.  I did slow her up a little bit to this just to be fair and make sure she had notice, but she didn't need it.  She's great about drops.  We turned to the left and I felt a couple steps of counter canter and you'll hear me on the video say "Oh oh oh!"  That's me slowing her to change her and make sure we got set up for 9 because it was a decently wide fence.

 One of the wider fences, but it rode beautifully.  After this one on the video, you'll hear me talk about her doing burnouts.  She just had a little extra lift in her front end right before take off to this, that's what the burnout comment was for.  She was ready to tear the course up by this point, once her switch is flipped, she's ON.

This was probably my favorite, it just rode beautifully and you can jump it on such a great pace.

 Another view of it, this was about how wide 9 was too, 9 might have been a little wider.  After this one we had a little open gallop stretch up hill to 11a & b.

 Very small fence, but you immediately dropped down into a ditch and went back up the other side to b for this one.


 Nbd here.

 Uphill to this one, nbd again.

 This was on a pretty steep downhill and I didn't sit as early as I should have. I could have helped her more over this, and next time I'll do a better job for her.  But, of course she was there for me and it was not an issue.

15 was through the water that you can see behind #14, then it was a right turn uphill to 16.

 By this point I couldn't believe it was almost over!!  The course went by too quick!  When I looked at my watch here I realized we were a little quick and made a longer line around to the last fence.

 Easy last fence.

 Uphill to through the finish flags!  That longer line paid off and we came in at 4:39.  Optimum time was 4:40.  I have never been so close to the optimum.  Normally we are pretty close to being too quick.  I wanted to actually TRY to get close to the optimum time and learn to pay attention to my watch!  I slowed Klein up at a couple points around the course because I KNEW we were a little too quick.  In the end, we had the closest time to the optimum time for our division.

On the helmet cam video, I talk to her a lot.   I do that normally though.   So if I were to be quiet it would make it weird and she would probably think something was wrong.   I don’t even notice I cluck to her, it’s an involuntary reaction for the most part.  I’ll do it to stuff she doesn’t need it because it’s just habit.  But I guess if I needed it for backup, it’s there.  Same thing with “good girlllll!”  I mean come on, we have run through, dropped into, and jumped out of water about 245,683,204 times.  She has never had issues with water, yet I still tell her good girl because it’s just a habit.   I never thought for a second she’d care one bit about water, or whatever other thing I said good girl after, good girl just comes out on its own.

You can ask The Other Half about my course walk with him.  I was out there like “Pshhhh, yeah…she’ll fly over this, oh yeah, this is easy, oh this one will be no big deal, pfffft, easy, oh these hills?  Shit, this course won’t put a dent in Klein, she’s fit as a fiddle right now.”   I think on one hand you can’t go out there with an ego, but on the other hand, if you don’t go out there EXPECTING your horse to clear everything, then you might have some problems.  Having a confident ride and being egotistical are two different things.

Here are a couple pictures someone took and was nice enough to tag me in on FB.  I'm still waiting for the code to my gallery from the show photographer.  In the previews it looks like she got some good ones.


That course was super fun, and it definitely did go by too fast.  I wish we could have went right back to the start box and went again.  Klein would have been up for it! 

 All done and double clear!

From what I had heard, I expected the terrain to be harder.  It was hilly, but it was no match for Klein's conditioning program.  She was completely fine running around those hills.  We have competed on tougher courses in New Mexico.  The Event at Goose Downs' xc basically runs you up the side of a mountain and snakes you back down.  Klein had NO problem being under the time for that and there were light horses not making the time that day.  I actually had to slow Klein up a couple times on that one too because I knew we were just out there blasting around it like we had no sense...because of course, I had no watch on, we were just having a good time and ended up second in that event, only a point behind first on our dressage score.

Overall, I am very happy with how our weekend went since this was our first time back at a recognized HT since the end of 2012.  I have to admit, I am a little embarrassed ending up with something over a 40 at Novice, my time I picked up in stadium made our final score 41.30, finishing in 6th.  That’s not normal for us, but man what a great start to the season.  This was a great event to get back in the mindset for recognized.  And our score was due to my own complacency, nothing that Klein was having an issue with.

I am especially proud of our xc after having 12 minutes to warm up.  Our teamwork is on lock down. The first couple fences where she was spacing out looking at the sights, as soon as I said “no, no, we’re going here, look…jump…this one, we’re jumping this one…” through my aids she was like “oh…yeah…we’re not here to sight see right now…got it.”  And after #5 we were in our normal cruising mode.  Now, if the me that I was last year at this time was riding, #5 would have been a stop. I am proud of my hard work to improve my accuracy and my ability to commit and make a decision.  I left NO room for Klein to wonder what I wanted. I wanted her butt UP that bank and she went UP that bank, immediately through a 90 degree right turn and over the next fence with no hesitation.  The old me wasn’t afraid of anything out there, Klein has just begun to rely on me more to lead and be an equal partner.  She is looking for me to step up when she needs me to and lead us if she has a question.  If I didn’t 100% commit to something, she would second guess it too.  I want to be there for her, because when I am, that girl would jump through a ring of fire for me.  I had to up my game for her because she deserves that more than I can say.   I am forever thankful to her for making me a better rider.

This guy...Klein is a great drinker but wasn't interested in water from me after xc but HE offers her water and she drinks it.  I'm confused.

I can’t thank Klein enough for being there for me that day when it ultimately came down to a bit of poor planning on my part that got us that 12 minute warm up.  So, guess what we are doing?   An unrecognized before our next recognized next month.  We actually have two recognized HTs in May. Both of which take place on one day, so, let me practice my time management by going to an unrecognized where all three phases take place over one day.  I will also walk my stadium course and pay attention to it, and walk my xc course more than once.   Oh and as far as dressage, guess where we are going this weekend?  A dressage show at a farm we have never been to.  That way we can have a longer warm up and I can have her full attention in the ring.

Huge thanks again to The Other Half for being there with us!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dressage Lesson With Lainey Ashker

 Lainey with her Jumping Percheron polo (yes merchandise is coming SOON), that she said she will wear with pride!

Our clinic with Lainey Ashker was this past weekend.   Of course, the weather had to be nice up until it was clinic time.  It had been in the 60’s, the week before we hit 72.   Then Saturday rolled around and it was 34 degrees and rain/snowing.  My jumping group was in an outdoor arena on Saturday and I wimped out for that.  34 degrees in a downpour of rain with snow mixed in just was not my idea of fun.  I didn’t want to go and be distracted the entire time by freezing to death.  I know, once you get moving you typically warm up, but what happens when you stop to wait for others to do their rounds and you’re soaking wet?  I wanted to jump with Lainey BAD.  We were signed up for her Training level jumper group.  But, I was more than happy to donate my lesson fee that day to Lainey’s Rolex fund and stay inside.  The next day Lainey said she didn’t blame me because it was pretty miserable.

I get that we are eventers and that horse trials don’t easily get cancelled in crappy weather.  But, that is different if you are there trying to obtain a qualifying score for something.  If the weather was like that at a horse trials, I would man up and ride.  It’s also a bit different when you warm-up for 15 minutes, and go in the ring/down the xc course for six minutes, or less (stadium).  This would be an hour or more of stop and go.  Also, I KNOW Klein has no problem going in a sloppy mess, snow, a downpour, or even 55+ mph winds.  We’ve done it.  We even done it in thunderstorms with lightning crashing around us because we were out riding when a storm came out of nowhere.  It would have been different if Klein was a big baby in crappy conditions and needed to get out there and school in them.  Speaking of horse trials, we have one this weekend so I also didn’t want to take the risk of getting sick from being in the cold, wet weather.

I was equally excited for my dressage lesson with her.  That lesson was a private lesson on Sunday and the weather was much improved.  It was a little cold, but sunny and beautiful out.   Lainey immediately loved Klein to death as soon as we walked up.  She asked me what we were currently working on, what we have done, and what our plans were for the season.   I gave her a quick run-down.

As soon as Klein and I began trotting she said she was really impressed with how she carried herself and she was very happy with my position.  She said we were going to work on getting Klein super collected.  She had us work on haunches-in on a circle at the trot and really getting Klein loaded on her hind end.  Klein gave me the most collected work she EVER has.  It was AWESOME!  It was pretty easy too, this was a classic example of the rider not knowing how to explain something to a horse.  Lainey gave us the missing pieces we needed to step up our connection and the degree of collection Klein is capable of.

She also had us working on haunches-in at the canter on a circle and I felt a distinct difference when Klein would collect to a higher degree.  I could feel the individual steps, it was pretty amazing.  She kept saying to think of slowing her down almost to the walk, but keep the canter.  She had me sit toward the back of my saddle and lean back a little more than usual, but stay centered and that was just the right amount of seat aid combined with a little outside rein and outside leg for Klein to take those new steps.  Then we would spiral in to her and leg yield out of the spiral.

I told her we also needed to sharpen our down transitions into the walk and she had me really control my posting and Klein responded immediately.  This lesson was quickly proving to be everything I hoped it would.

She had us work on our stretchy trot and making sure Klein didn’t speed up for even a half step.  That was also controlled by just changing my posting.  Klein responded immediately again to that.

We worked on keeping our connection in our leg yields and worked on our lengthenings.  For leg yields she had us doing the most collected, controlled steps we’ve ever taken.  She had some cavaletti set up for us to work over for some exercises with leg yielding.  Same thing at the trot.  She had us in a marching, collected trot, it was amazing!  It was so easy too.

She also was making comparisons to things you do in the gym.  I was like ahhh you're speaking my language there!  I knew exactly what she meant and I know exactly how it feels, so I knew exactly what Klein was dealing with as far as the exercise we were doing.  As seriously as I take rider fitness it was really nice to hear those terms coming from her.  I asked her what she does to prepare for Rolex, and for her fitness in general, and she told me she meets with a nutritionist regularly, is in the gym, and that she likes to run.

I really loved the way Lainey teaches.  She is the type of person overall that if she wasn’t a big name rider/trainer I would be taking regular lessons with anyway because everything she says makes sense.  I’m sure we have all been to an instructor or two that you just don’t quite mesh with, or the way they explain things is confusing or hard to follow.  I had one dressage instructor that I stopped riding with in New Mexico because we just were not improving.  I found an I1 rider to train with and she had an issue I had been trying to work on fixed in 20 minutes of riding with her that was not accomplished in after two months with the other instructor.  You have to recognize when to say when and go somewhere else if you want to achieve your goals with instructors.

For lengthenings, she had me drop my reins and give her the biggest trot I could get.  She just kept yelling “MORE MORE MORE BIGGER MORE KEEP GOING MORE!!!!”  Once again, no surprise, I felt an immediate difference.  I really wish I would have got video of that.  I was alone, so, no video of any of our ride, sorry guys.  On the other end of the big trot was having us get a super suspended trot over the cavaletti she had set up for us.

Every single thing Lainey had us do got an immediate and noticeable response from Klein.  That was hands down the best dressage lesson I’ve ever had.  She gave me some GREAT tools and homework.

It sounds like she will be in our area again this summer, so of course, count me in.  Next time we won’t miss out on our jumping lesson either.

I was already a big Lainey fan, but after this weekend, I’m an even bigger fan.  She’s just a very cool person in addition to one of the best eventers out there.  Her mom, Valerie, is also one of the nicest ladies I have ever talked to.

I did get one other picture from that day…  The trainer that organized the clinic (thank you again to Livv Lynn Eventing!) texted me this while I was at work yesterday and I started laughing my ass off in my office.  I had to pee before our ride, and since I had no one to hold Klein, I unbuckled one of her reins and held that end while I was in the port-o-potty.  While I was in there, someone rolled up on a Gator and took a picture!

P.S.  Lainey is headed to Florida today with Al for some last minute Rolex prep.  I got a message from her saying she packed her Jumping Percheron polo!!  Love it!!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Why it's Dangerous to be The Jumping Percheron

(Excuse my ugly leg in this pic, and focus on Klein's insane, better-than-most-light-horses knees)

This post stems from another common question I get from other draft owners that ride their draft:  how did you train Klein to where she is at now?

Obviously there is no simple, single sentence answer for that.  There is no magical program.  The bottom line is I took my time with her and trained her like you would any other horse, except I put a huge emphasis on conditioning.  There can be no slacking in that department.

The training is the same as any other horse because she thinks the same as any other horse, she doesn't see fences differently because she's a draft.  Honestly, she has no idea she is a breed that you typically don't see out doing these types of things.  I bought her as a two year old that was barely halter broke.  She had never spent time hitched to anything, never been put to work on a farm, or anything like that.  I think that plays a HUGE part in her abilities.  She never learned to use her body like a driving draft.

 If she had a tail and you saw this picture, would your first guess be full Percheron?

Athleticism, she's got it.  She nailed her lengthenings last night. 

I think a lot of people (especially draft people) think that by doing what I do with Klein, I am out trying to make some blanket statement that EVERY draft can jump like she does.  That is not even remotely close to being true.  That is not what I'm trying to say at all.  When I breed her in a few years, I won't even be breeding her to another Perch (and no, not a TB either).  I never set out with the goal of eventing her.

I have worked with Clydes, Shires, Perches, and Belgians and I fell in love Percherons and Belgians.  I love their mind, their work ethic, their dispositions, etc...  I knew they could be good riding horses so I bought Klein with the intention of riding her and maybe doing some low jumpers if she was up to it.  If she was out there struggling and bulldozing 2' fences then we would have stayed with flat work. But, she wasn't.

 From our first 2'3" course in Hawaii when she was 5.  Would YOU keep THAT front end on the flat??  I didn't think so.

Her enthusiasm and athletic ability piqued my curiosity to see what this girl could really do. So, I gave her a chance.
3'9", I know, this picture keeps popping up, because it is one of my favorites.  I'll get a new 3'9" favorite soon.

Here's a 3'9" blurry oxer (damn you iPhone in evening light).  This one shows she has room to spare over this.  The standard was doing the gangster lean because a leg was coming off, clearly not because she came anywhere close to touching it.

I knew I was in for some pretty great surprises with her over fences after I saw that 2'3" picture.

However, to this day, if there is ever a time that I start to feel like maybe she's not enjoying her work, then she doesn't have to do it anymore.  I am NOT about making her do anything she doesn't want to do.  But look at her out on the xc course:

That is not the face of a mare that is being pushed around a course saying fml.  That is a happy mare, enjoying her work.

Warming up for dressage, happy and relaxed.

So, why do I think it is a bit dangerous to be The Jumping Percheron?  I think sometimes we might put a false idea out there, unintentionally of course, along the lines of what I mentioned before.  I think some people see her on this blog, at shows, on our FB page, on Instagram, and where ever else and think "Oh look, Percherons CAN jump, time to get a Percheron!"  THAT is dangerous.  Or I at least hope that when people are influenced by her when horse shopping that they take a HARD look at the important things you would look at on any light horse, like confirmation.  I hope that there are not any drafts out there that people are trying to turn into jumpers/eventers that gave no second thought to the actual quality of the horse.

Just looking at Klein and Wes together, they are two completely different types of drafts.  Not only because of the obvious, they're different breeds, but they are built completely different.  There are modern type drafts and there are traditional type drafts.  Wes is the latter and he is the type that I would never want to take off the ground.

Here is Klein's great grandsire (on her sire's side), Lo Lynd Joe Laet:

CLEARLY he would NEVER be out jumping a course!  Now let's look at Klein's grandpa (on her dam's side), Windy Hills Batman:

I think Klein gets a lot of her refinement from this guy.  Now would I test him out over a course?  Absolutely.  THAT is the kind of Percheron I would be on the lookout for if I was in the market.

I don't have any pictures of Klein's dam or sire, unfortunately.  I know her sire, Rose Hill Blayne, died about a year and a half after she was born.  I believe her mom, Crow's of Rose Hill Damara is still in Canada.  I think Rose Hill Blayne must have had a special, particular refined look to him as well.  I have never seen him but the man I bought Klein from contacted me a few years after I bought her and said he had her half sister for sale and wanted me to get first pick if I was interested.  I wish I could have.  I just wasn't in a position to buy another horse, I was still in Hawaii and did not want to worry about shipping another one out there and then two back.  Anyway, Westbank Paige is her name and she had the SAME refined look to her, her face especially, just like Klein.  Klein and Paige shared the same sire, so there was something special about Rose Hill Blayne, and it is too bad he isn't around anymore.  If anyone out there has a picture of him, I would love to see it.

Here is her full pedigree if anyone is interested:

Here is 7 year old Klein.  She is as mature as she is going to get, and she is still not built like a tank.

Now, for comparison's sake, here is me haltering Wes, they are day and night in their build.

Here he is fresh off the street from working a busy Christmas season. 

 Look at his neck compared to Klein's.  Look at his head compared to the head shot of Klein below.  Day and night.  Yes, different breeds but I use his pictures because he's mine and because there are plenty of Percherons that look just like Wes in their build.

A good head shot.  Not a particularly drafty head either.

It's easy to see that there are some drastic differences in drafts.  But I will say, there is a reason that most crosses out there in eventer and jumper land are Perch crosses.  They are by far the most common draft cross.  Did you know Perches have Arabians way back in their breeding origin?  Pretty interesting.

In closing, am I saying everyone look at me, I have the only athletic Percheron on the planet, and the rest of you are out of luck?  No, absolutely not.  I am sure there are others out there.  I am just trying to put a little education, perspective, and encouragement of a little extra thought out there and avoid having Percherons be put in situations they don't belong.