Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh Deer...

"Oh man, I'm tired. That reining show kicked my butt this morning... or maybe I did it to myself... nah."
"OH! What's that!?!"

"Hey, Hey Star! Come here and look at these!"

"No? OK, I'll go check it out!"

"Oh no, it saw me! Act occupied... Umm. Oh! Look at this little blade of grass here!" Nom.

"Nice! I tricked it! Now what?"

"Wish I could herd them around or cut them down the fence..." *sigh*

"Another time maybe. For now, I'll just eat some spring grass too."


Friday, April 23, 2010

March Reining Show

At 8:30AM, my friend M pulled up to my house with his 4 horse gooseneck. I had all of my tack ready to load and just had to grab Mercy away from her breakfast. Star had been dosed with a little Quietex, so she wasn't as on edge as she usually is when I take 'her' horse away from her.

Mercy only took a minute or two to get loaded and we were on our way to the Tacoma Unit for a full day of reining! Last time we tried going to the reining show M and A got a late start and we didn't make it there early enough to give the horses enough warm up time. Not this time! We got there plenty early.

When we arrived we headed straight over to the show office to register for our classes. I wasn't sure I was even going to make it into the arena, so I only entered one class: green horse. Once saddled up, M headed into the indoor 'show' arena to warm up and I chose to ride Mercy in the covered warm up pen since that is where, during our last show, we didn't have such a good time.

What a surprise it was that Mercy behaved herself when we entered the ring. We were able to immediately lope both directions, weaving in and out of other horses, right away! No kicking, squealing, bolting, or bucking. We worked on speed control and eventually stopped in the middle of the circle to practice our spins. They weren't so great...

The show was about to start so they kicked people warming up in the indoor arena out, so M was able to join me and help us out with our spins. And right as the show was about to begin, the cattle truck pulled up... The truck, which usually is there and gone by the time the first truck and trailer show up in the morning, was running late and needed to unload before we could start. The next day was cutting and sorting, so the steers need off now. And of course they had to unload into the covered arena, where we were riding...

It would be a major understatement to say that Mercy doesn't like diesel trucks, of any kind. Semis, RVs, and even 1-ton pickups will make her freak out. Tractors don't, but who knows?! Anyway, everyone backed up along the rail and they trucker unloaded the cattle. Once Mercy figured out that the truck wasn't coming any closer she was able to relax a little and just stand there, watching as the cattle unloaded and wandered into their pens. *sigh*

One more freak out as the trailer left and then it was back to work. There must have been 50 riders in the first class, so it took hours until it was our turn. I took it easy with her, just loping every now and then and spinning when she looked asleep. We practiced some rollbacks one the warm up arena cleared out a little. It was close to 1PM by the time my class started.

They didn't have any draw sheets up, so I just had to listen for my name. And I wasn't hearing it. I was still just standing around on Mercy when I heard something: Haggie. That is how they were pronouncing my name... My name does have an 'a' and an 'i' in it, but that's it. It doesn't have a 'h,' 'e,' or 'g' and it certainly doesn't start with a 'h.' Apparently that is too hard to comprehend. I even wrote it out VERY clearly on the sign up sheets... How they got Haggie from MY name, I will never know.

Panic set in, but I tried to keep it down because now I only had about 3-5 minutes to warm up again. I was the next draw. Both M and I hadn't picked up on the announcer's mistake. Mercy wasn't fooled by my attempt to stay calm. When I asked her to just trot out and round up, she started to crow hop and in general be really bad. I couldn't stop her, back her, move her hind or front quarters at ALL, she was completely uncooperative. Oh shit.

Then I heard Haggie again. I was up and they were waiting for me. M was trying to help me get Mercy focused again and didn't understand why I was leaving already, lol! It was time to show!

The gate was open. I took a deep breath and (somehow) walked Mercy into the arena. Our pattern is AQHA Reining Pattern 6, a pattern where you start in the dead center of the arena. Usually competitors walk all the way around the outside of the first large, fast circle to make it to the middle. I wasn't their to waste any one's time, so I just walked straight to it from the gate.

The lady judge was sitting right in front of us in the arena, along the rail. I looked at her, took another deep breath, and cued Mercy to spin to the right.

What was I thinking...

We spun right... all the way to the left, toward the gate. After our four spins were complete we had moved to the left and had stopped in the middle of our soon to be large circle. :/

Ok, well that 's what it is. Now to spin to the left. I was going to attempt to spin her back toward the middle of the arena, even if it meant taking a penalty hit. She cannot decide where we go. It kinda worked. We didn't make it quite back to dead center, but it was not in the middle of our circle either. Since we had just been spinning left, thinking left, it was easy for Mercy to pick up her left lead as we took off on our large, fast circles.

As we made it around back toward the middle of the arena, Mercy suddenly noticed the dark lit bleachers and the people sitting there. Luckily she just looked and continued to lope. I actually had to push her to lope fast, and once we lapped another time coming down to a slow, small circle was easy.

In order to make a lead change in the middle of the arena, I asked Mercy to slow down to a trot 3/4 around the slow. small. She did break down and when I asked her for the right lead she basically said no. She pushed her shoulder to the left and at the last second, right before running over the judge, she corrected herself and took the right lead. We are nowhere near being ready to complete flying lead changes so simples are the best there are right now.

Once loping to the right, it took little time for her to notice the cook shack in the corner of the arena and panic slightly. Our right circles were just going to be smaller than our left ones were, and we were loping still so I didn't push that issue. Another large, fast and a small, slow and it was time to change leads again. This time she didn't get the left lead as we headed into the circle to the left for our rundown and "slide." I had to break her down to the trot once more. Luckily she picked up the lead easily once corrected and right on time! It was time to stop!

Normally, you ask the horse to speed up during the straight away and then ask for a sliding stop. For us, I was just going to be happy to stop. So I loped her down and simply asked her to stop. It was square and prompt. Perfect. We rolled back to the right and got the right lead. Around the end of the arena and back down the arena rail for our second stop. It wasn't as good as the first one, but it was as solid as I would expect at this time. She took a long time to get the left lead once we rolled back, so I knew we would get a hefty trot penalty. Oh well.

We rounded the corner for the last stop and made it count. Instead of rolling back this time we were to back up 5 feet. No problem for Mercy, she was all about the back up! I barely picked up the rein and she was flying backwards. And we were done!

Mercy could care less that the spectators were clapping, she wanted out of the arena. We walked out and met M at the warm up. He had watched my run, but needed to warm up too because he was up soon too. I jumped off, loosened Mercy's cinch and walked her around for a while. She wasn't breathing hard or sweaty, but I needed to get out of the saddle and think about our run.

Our run was everything I could ask for really. She went into the arena calm and collected after a horrible warm up. She loped and didn't buck. She didn't spook or bolt. We stopped and backed and completed the run. We didn't get a 0 for our first show!

I couldn't have been more thrilled with Mercy or our run. She isn't reining trained yet, and we managed to survive. Before heading home, M and I went to the show office to pay up. I checked the score sheet for my class and we scored a 55 1/2. That score is not great, in fact, it sucks. But it's a score and it's a place to start. I can now base my future shows of off a number. I now have a place to make goals for future shows.

I wish I had written down where I was marked for penalties, but we had to get going. M had to be home by 3PM and it was already 2PM. I know our spins were horrific, our circles weren't even in size, we trotted our transitions, and we had a wrong lead in there too. I guess it can only get better from there!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Of Barrel Saddles and Warm-Up Pens

Earlier in February I borrowed my friend's barrel saddle to try on Mercy. Mine, a Big Horn brand barrel saddle, does not fit Mercy at all! It's too narrow and rides right on her shoulders... not good. Plus, quite honestly, it doesn't fit me either. I bought the 15" while in 4H; I just needed something to get going in. But really I need a 14 or 14.5" to stay in the saddle better. The saddle I borrowed is a Rico brand and it was supposedly a full QH bar. I compared the two, measurement wise, and they were the same... hummm. Well, I finally got it on and slapped on the breast collar. This is what it looked like:

The saddle pad is a full sized saddle pad, so it looks huge. I see a saddle that still isn't quite perfect. It isn't resting on her shoulders as severely as my Big Horn, but it still pops up in the back. I should try it again without the breast collar some time, maybe that would make a difference. I think I might have to just take her into the local saddle place if I choose to pursue this further. But first I have to sell my saddle. Boo.

Fast forward a month and we found ourselves at Donida Farm to practice or warm-up etiquette. There was a schooling show taking place this day so it was a perfect chance to figure out why we were having issues in the warm-up arena and how to fix them.

We got there around 9 or 10 in the morning and there was almost no one there! Maybe ten participants, if that! This was nice because then I have more room to work Mercy, but we came here to work on high pressure situations. OK...

As soon as I got Mercy saddled and into the arena she immediately tried taking off into a lope. Umm... no, that's not acceptable. I took hold and worked her into tight circles at the trot until she cooled down. It took quite a while, but she finally let up, for a while.

I finally got her to collect a little bit and asked her for the lope going to the left. Her circles got continually larger and larger. And when we got to one side of the arena she would shoulder out and ram toward the fence. I was finally able to realize that she needed more direction BEFORE the issue showed itself. So a couple of strides before that one sticky spot I made a point to direct her into the circle and voila! She didn't shoulder out! And she smoothed out:

She wasn't collected, but I wasn't worried about that because she wasn't fighting me, kicking out at other horses riding by, or trying to run off.
Better yet, when I asked her to reverse and some back to a jog, this was the result:

Dang she looks good when she gets it together! After a few laps jogging out I stopped her for a break (for me, lol!). I really haven't had good ground to practice spins in for a while so I took the opportunity to while I was there. It didn't go too well...

She was super touchy and she let me know it with her awful facial expressions. But as soon as I just let her rest again she was fine. I think she just wasn't ready to get back to work again:

After the good long break, I asked Mercy to lope again to the left. She took off at more of a gallop. I truly think she is race bred; this pic proves it to me:

She eventually found the nice controlled lope and we moved off to the other end of the arena to lope the other direction. The right lead is her worst. She is so incredibly unbalanced and feels the need to rush through every corner. Fortunately it didn't take too long for her to find a groove.

It still wasn't as nice as the left lead, but we found some balance and even though we were moving a lot faster than I would have preferred, I found a good place to stop her and call it good for the day. She ultimately did exactly what our goal for the day was: to enter the warm-up pen and behave around other riders! After walking a few laps around the super large arena to cool off, we headed home.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Mercy!

Mercedes is 'unofficially' 7 today! I say unofficially because as many of you know I don't have papers for her. I was told by her previous owner that she was born in April, but the exact date was not known. Since 15 is my favorite number, that's her 'new' birth date!

7 is not old for a horse by any means, and sometimes I get discouraged about our progress, but what I have to remember is that not only did she come to me with 'baggage,' I was also in school across the state for over a year before I could really work with her like she should have been. So really, at 7 she is right where she should be. And that's fine with me!

Enjoy your birthday mash, sweetie!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Short Vacation From Blogger

I was almost caught up on all of my big riding stories... and now I am going to take another break. We have had a lot going on, from hitting up some local schooling shows to making it to our first reining show to getting ready for a horsemanship clinic with Ricky Quinn! Mercy and I will be heading out Friday morning and will be riding, riding, riding until late Monday. I promise a great write up and hopefully a whole bunch of pictures when I return next week!

Wish us luck! :)