Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

And The Results Are In!

We know our showmanship! LOL! We got to the showgrounds right at 11AM and unloaded into the small Aqua Barn, which was the only outside facing stall left. Thank goodness there was one because the shavings/sawdust they use there is DUSTY... The AM classes were moving slowly enough so I decided to do showmanship before riding her. I groomed Mercy up (I hadn't bathed her, oops...) and headed over to look at the pattern. I just about crapped my pants when I saw the pattern. It was ALL on the offside. I have never practiced that with Star, let alone Mercy. After practicing a little and going back and forth over and over again, I decided to buck up and do the class. So what if we didn't do well. I was there to get Mercy comfortable and experienced with shows. So, after cleaning up (and figuring out what I had forgotten, like a belt and bobby pins) we headed into the arena for the showmanship 19 and over class.

Here is the pattern:

1) Step up at cone A. When acknowledged, move to the offside and back 3 steps.

2) Remaining on the offside, trot halfway to the judge, halt, and perform a 360* haunch turn to the left.
3) Continue to cone B and set up for inspection, on the offside. After inspection, trot into line on the nearside.
Well, after all of that stress about our performance and completing the pattern correctly, we were rewarded with a blue ribbon, 1st place! Apparently, there was only one other exhibitor, besides us, that completed the pattern correctly. Thank goodness for 4H drilling showmanship patterns into your head, lol! I'm pretty proud of our morning accomplishment. We weren't decked out in sparkly jewels and multi-hundred dollar outfits and halters. We just showed up, plain and simply, and paid attention to details. Showmanship is our thing!

Mercy had a short break at the stall to drink and pee while I went to pick up my 1st place prize. A prize table was set up with all sorts of stuff, from sample shampoos to candles to car stuff. I grabbed a microfiber towel. I've always wanted one for some reason. Back at the stall, I saddled Mercy up and headed out to the main outdoor arena to warm her up. Little did I know of the problems we would have there. *Sigh*
The arena was packed with trainers and other riders doing what they wanted with their horses. I had no problem with that, it is what it is. Mercy, however, lost it. Our first class was a walk only eq. class, so that's all I wanted her to do. Nope. She wasn't going to walk. She gigged and swerved and threatened to rear as I asked her to slowdown, stop, or turn. I tried asking her to serpentine and make small circles, but there was honestly no room to maneuver. So we left the arena instead. At that point, I decided that we might not make a rail class. We needed to work through this. While I was waiting for the arena to clear out a little, I headed over to the trail arena. That is what we have been practicing lately at home anyway.
Since we didn't get a chance to lope, let alone trot on a loose rein, I was NOT expecting anything from Mercy as we entered the trail course. It was going to be for fun only. In fact, I laughed and talked out loud most of the time. We started by walking over some poles and around cones (all at the same time) when the tree at the end of the course fell over. We were asked to stop (even though I didn't really want to, lol!) until the tree was put back into place. After we resumed our pattern, we made our way over more poles and onto a bridge. The only interesting part about that were the poles at the other side of the bridge. But of course, Mercy could care less. After picking up the trot, we headed over more pole and into a chute, stopping before hitting some flowers. We took it slow backing through the chute, even though it was really wide. I don't think we could have hit the poles even if we tried!
From there, we were supposed to pick up the left lead and lope over the fan poles and around the tree. Well, Mercy didn't lope, but we trotted over all of the poles. *shrug* Trotting back over the chute was uneventful and Mercy actually picked up a lope over the next set of fan poles! However, it was the wrong lead, so when we turned it was difficult for her to trot out and around the cone before trotting into the box. We settled while I talked to Mercy and then completed a 360* haunch turn to the left inside of the VERY small box. Mercy is a long bodied horse and there was no way we were going to make it clean. Oh well! I think she was relieved to walk to the next obstacle. She side passed to the right beautifully and completed a quick, but smooth 180* right haunch turn, placing us at the gate, our last obstacle. The rope gate was too easy. we whipped through that in no time and acknowledged the judge. All I could do was laugh! :)
After that great performance, we headed back into the warm-up arena, where it had finally cleared out a little. There were only a few riders and most of them were trainers. We took a lap or two around the arena on a loose rein, both at a walk and trot. Since all was back to the way I knew it, behavior-wise, we loped some circles for a while. We started on the left lead and after letting her lope out of a while, I asked her to come back down in speed and try for some collection. HOLY DROPPED SHOULDERS BATMAN!!!!! Argh! After a simple lead change to the right, we stopped to air up. After some discussion from a friend, we headed back out. After quite some time things started feeling a little better and we quit.
Since we had missed all of the eq. classes (one of my other specialties) we headed into the western pleasure 19 and over class. It was FULL of trainers and finish pleasure horses, and considering we hadn't ridden in the covered arena at all that day, we did great. We didn't place, but whatever. She jogged nicely and walked patiently even in the crowded arena.
After that class, which was the last walk/trot class they were offering, we headed back over to the trail course. I had one more ticket and didn't want to enter a lope class. Of course once we got there, the course closed. I was going to take Mercy back into the warm-up arena to lope more, but I had become frustrated and knew I was at my limit for the day. So we packed up and went home.
I have a feeling that this will be the last performance show we attend. Mercy just isn't comfortable around so many other horses in the arena and it just becomes a fight. Since she is doing so well in individual events (gaming and reining) I think we will steer clear of these shows unless I know they will be very small in attendance. Someday we will try again, but until then, thank goodness for individual events (and showmanship! LMAO!!!) ;)
PS~ Is anyone else having issues with Blogger?!? I cannot for the life of me get it to make a break between paragraghs! Let me know if you can help me, please!

Monday, August 17, 2009

It Wasn't Reining After All...

On Saturday, one day before our reining debut, a certain vehicle came to a screeching (well, more like rumbling, clanking) halt. We were headed over to our friends' place to fit in one last practice. I had just pulled onto the highway and was asking our F150 to get up and go because traffic was horrid and there were already other cars behind me. We were almost to 50mph when all of a sudden the truck quit accelerating. Then, the most hideous sound and knocking racked the truck. I quickly put on my turn signal and guided the truck to the shoulder. Up ahead was a business with a decent sized parking lot, a perfect place to pull off the highway. I pressed the gas pedal and it gave me enough to get us there.

Once I got into the empty lot I called my dad. He raced over to inspect the damage. He quickly determined that the spark plugs had met their end. Great. Normally, this wouldn't have been that big of a deal. Yeah, they're expensive to replace, but it isn't major damage. But, for my family, we have already had the pleasure of experiencing the curse of the F150 at least 3 times, with my sister's Lariat. *sigh*

Luckily my sister was home, so I called her and asked her to bring her truck over. When she pulled in, she immediately asked me if the truck had "angry gremlins under the hood." Yup, that's exactly how I would describe it, lmao! After blocking the trailer tires and raising the hitch, we unhooked "Pepe" and backed "Big Red" up. Thank goodness I reloaded the hay bag for this trip. Mercy stood completely content eating her hay throughout the whole ordeal. I think she knew she wasn't going to be worked, lol! ;)

My sister drove my dad's truck, "Old Blue," an older Dodge Dakota, home while I drove "Big Red" and Mercy home. What a weird feeling driving a 'different' F150. "Pepe" is a crew cab and "Big Red" is a super cab and I could tell. We took it slow getting home to avoid breaking another vehicle, quickly unloaded Mercy, and unhooked the trailer. Kimberly headed back out to tow "Pepe" home... and, of course, to rescue my dad, lol!

So, in the driveway "Pepe" remains. Hmmm... Yup. I decided not to drive to the reining show the next day, even though I could have used Kim's truck. I just don't trust it as a hauling vehicle. Plus, the freeway up there was reduced from 4 lanes to 1, for a couple of miles. It wasn't worth it. I still have a chance to attend a reining show this year. It's a weekend show in Lynden, which is quite a bit further away, but I want to rein!!!!! We'll have to wait to see what happens. Until then, I have a performance show on Saturday. I'm really excited for this show; they added a few trail classes! Our specialty! And thank goodness for walk/jog classes. I'll make sure to get some pics and write up a good post once I recover. ;)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reining and Relaxation

On Monday, Mercy and I headed over to a friend's outdoor arena to prepare for our upcoming reining show! Magical things happen for us over there every time we go. Neither of us have to work very hard to do our best. I started out just asking Mercy to collect and shape up at the walk. Once that came easily, we started trotting some nice large circles. After we were both loosened up and listening to each other, we worked on our loping. I had to stop her once for taking the wrong lead, but she picked it up when we started again. I feel like I am really pulling hard on her to prevent her from speeding up, but she also needs to know how to give to the bit even at the lope. I tried adding more leg to encourage her to move into the bit, which eventually worked for a stride or two. When I asked her to stop in the dead center of the arena, I tried making sure her body was straight, and not curved into the circle, before asking her to stop.

After we both aired up (it's been a while since I have loped for so long, lol!!!) we loped to the other direction. Going to the left was much easier for us, thank goodness! Since she was doing so good I practiced making the large fast more prominent than the slow small circles. After airing up again, we loped to the right one more time. Once we stopped we immediately went into some nice solid spins. They weren't fast, but that's not what I was looking for. I want them to be correct, with the inside hind foot planted and the fronts stepping over in front.
We ended the evening ride practicing some 'sliding stops.' In reality, since she is NOT ready for that, and is not shod properly for it. So we worked on stopping square and deep at the walk and trot. It only took twice at the walk and once at the trot and she gave me a nice deep stop, immediately backing up after it was completed! I jumped off and kissed her on the nose.

Then, today, we went for a short relaxing ride. It was brisk her this morning, so I was sure she would be 'up,' but she was lazy, lazy, lazy. That's odd too, because Star ponied with us. Oh well, it's nice to meander sometimes. Here are some pics I took from our ride this morning:

Leaves?!? On the ground already!?!: *sigh*
Even the Scotch Broom that I was complaining about this spring isn't making it:And I have NEVER seen this before. I don't think you can pass by a tree out in the trails that aren't turning brown/red and loosing needles right now:
Things are getting browner, not "fall"ier in color:

Washington's beautiful Vine Maples aren't going to get a chance to turn glowing red or yellow this year if the leaves keep dying: :'(

Monday, August 3, 2009

I've been bad...

... and Mercy's been great! Summer is definitely a hard time to blog I have to admit. So much going on, yet when it comes down to sitting down to type, I have no energy. Oh well, that's life.

Since gaming season is over (for Mercy and I at least) I have decided to focus on reining, roping, trail riding, and preparing for an upcoming performance show. I would like to take the spotted one to a really basic, beginner reining show on August 16th, but we have a few things to work out still before I want to commit to that. I know we won't have a sliding stop, but that's OK. I am more concerned about our circles. Since we have just recently just started figuring out the loping thing, it could be a worst maneuver. I haven't worked on varying our speed at the lope at all. Luckily, I am heading over to my friend's place to ride with them this evening. They rein competitively in the NRHA, so I am hoping to pick up a few more pointers before I decide whether to go to the show or not.

Mercy got worked yesterday evening. I set up a few cones in a straight line, three barrels in a very close barrel pattern, and an 'L' pole pattern. We started out weaving through the cones at a walk and then a trot, focusing on bending and shoulder/hind end control. When I was satisfied we moved onto the three barrels. I used these to practice backing in circles and in nice flowing arcs. It is also a well used obstacle in trail classes at performance shows, so the more practice the better.

By the end on that activity I thought Mercy was really paying attention to my cues, whether to give her head, shoulders, barrel, or hip. I was incredibly wrong.

At the 'L,' I tried backing her through it, one step at a time. Nope. She didn't want anything to do with that. She backed fine, but as soon as I put some leg on her to straighten her out she would speed up her backing or fling her shoulders over instead. Ugh.... I tried to straighten her out again and start over, but things got increasingly worse from there. She just has NO patience! Once she is rushed, it is very hard to get her focused again. no matter how slow my movements and cues are, she just looses it.

At some point she wouldn't calm down or stand still, so I whooped her butt into a lope from a standstill (yes, I lost control of the situation and was frustrated). It actually worked out though... this time. It got her mind off of whatever she was so worried about and it gave me time to figure out my next step. Mercy made that easy for me because her lope was wonderful! I just let her continue in a few circles and asked for a stop. And then, she stood, calm and relaxed.

After a short breather, we went to an area of my pasture that is a little less rocky. Within the next 20 minutes or so I worked on making my cues clear. Forehand turns, haunch turns, and side passing. I practices full circles and an exercise where you complete a 180*forehand turn and then follow through with another 180* turn, but on the haunches. We had it going for us really quick actually. After another short breather we headed back to the poles. This time was much different. We were able to get one movement at a time. No need to rush. And that's where we stopped for the day.

So that's where I plan to pick up this evening at the arena. Thank goodness not all of our rides are like that. On Saturday morning TrailRidinRN and I headed out on the trail. Star was doing better (my mom was too!) and it was a decently cool morning. We headed to the lake and when we got there we discovered one of those speed readers! You know, the kind that get placed on the side of the roads to tell you how fast you're going?! How'd that get there, lol!? Mercy wanted nothing to do with it (she was convinced it was going to get her, plus there was a fisherman in the bushes behind us...) so I jumped off and led her to it. It really wasn't such a big deal, silly girl. That's when it hit us that the annual bike races must be taking place soon. Uh... The bike clubs in the area get together and have a day of racing on the trails. Good thing it wasn't on that day!

We continued to the old train track taking some less traveled trails. The trees are so dry that many branches needed to by broken to pass. Of course Mercy and I were leading, so we got home covered in pine needles! The bikers had set up their course in preparation for the race, which included while plastic ribbons, chalk on the ground, and signs on the trees. Last year was the first year we had encountered this, so this time it was really no big deal. It was amusing though because Mercy felt the need to inspect every single chalk mark on the ground. We probably pasted 20+ spots where she had to 'see it!' It sure was nice to see the horses sweat a bit. They enjoy the good work out too.

As a few side notes-

The barn swallows are nesting for the second time this year. The parents sure were hot during our recent heat wave:

Mercy got her (kinda) mane braided last week to see if we could get it to lay down. She wasn't thrilled with having to stand still, but she got through it. And her neck looks thinner!:

Hope you all have a good week! ;)