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We get to test our work!

February 27, 2012

Sunday both April and I rode in a schooling show. I did I1 and April did PSG. Our trainer the Great Jim K, felt that we needed to get out and show our new skills to a knowlegeble person and have them assessed so so off we went.

We have been working on getting X rounder and more consistently on the bit, so that I can put a leg on and get a forward response without him lifting his head and tensing his back. It does seem to have worked. he stayed rounder and softer, I got a forward trot, which Halleluja! I was able to sit! He didn’t drop his shoulders in the flying changes so his right hind came through properly. No late changes or short stepping ones even in the two tempis. I still can’t sit the extended trot but I can now sit his collected and some of the medium. I did ride backwards in the right pirrouette and let him get out of rythmn, but otherwise we were pretty respectable. Even April said so.

On the bit is such a poor phrase for it, it’s the back and the tension of the back and neck muscles which need to be soft and loose, it really hasn’t anything to do with the bit!

April rode Levi who did not have a good day.We knew we were in trouble when he refused an apple treat! He broke away when unloaded and did a tour of the parking lot! Thankfully there were only a few trailers in it! Then he warmed up fine, but as soon as he went into the arena he decided that ALL the letters were just too scary! I mean seriously, how many dressage letter has this horse seen in his life! They battled on and finally finished. Oh well there will be other shows.

It’s down to our final week. We go home a week from today.
I have really enjoyed it, and I have learned so much. My horse is going so much better, I have made new friends and reconnected with old ones. But it is time to go home. I can feel it.

It’s getting warm down here and I do not enjoy heat, plus the the things I need to do are piling up at home. But I am very glad we came.
Hopefully I’ll get to return next year.

All the worlds a stage…..

February 15, 2012

A good friend came down from Orlando to West Palm to visit me and to watch us train. What a weekend, on Saturday we went and watched Jim in the High Performance Dressage clinic, Eye opening to see such minutae of detail in the corrections. Then we went to the Jim Brandon Center to watch the afternoon GP classes in the show. Sat night we went to WEF and watched part of the Showjumping GP, a class of 80 competing for a purse of $125k!
Sunday she watched my lesson with Jim. Then we had the choice of another HP session with Jim riding or we could go and watch a Polo Match at the Polo Grounds.
Now where else in the World can you watch GP dressage and Jumpers, and Polo all withing a 20 mile radius? That’s part of the charm of South Florida, all this high level horse stuff going on so close by!

Quote of the week;
Today X and rode through the I1 test, we didn’t do too badly, so Koford decides that we need to work on the 1 tempi’s. Well I couldn’t ride a line of 1 tempi’s to save my life. Huffing and puffing and kicking like mad, I finally got 2 lines of 3 X 1 but barely got that. “Oh Boy” says I, “we really have some work to do”. Says Koford “Xavoy and I are doing just fine, YOU have lots of work to do”… Uh huh! Oh well.

Ruminations on the GP work

February 14, 2012

There’s nothing like being able to go and watch riders who are expert, riding at the level you are struggling to attain. We work at something and I make a complete hash of it, so Jim sends us off to the shows to watch the top riders doing it, I see how smoothly they perform what ever it is that I struggling with and a light bulb goes off! Ah ha, that’s how it should look. One of the most beneficial aspects of the extended time in So Fl training, is that you can every weekend go to a show, in less than an hours drive, and watch really good riders doing the exercises.
And then you get to come home and work at them yourself, with such short period of time between exposure and practice there is a greater possibility that you retain the information and can actually put it to use.
Plus it helps no end that Jim is riding at GP everyday on 2 horses and there are others all at or above my level so that I get to watch better riders than I, doing what I need to learn to do. They say the best way to improve is to be the worst rider in the barn! Well it sure fits for me here!

One thing that I come to appreciate is the sheer hard work for both horse and rider in generating a performance at this level. No wonder so many do not make it this far. The sheer work load to get strong enough to carry means that some horses are just not strong enough or sound enough to be able to do this level of work day after day, and over and over.
GP horses are not always pretty, but they always have a fantastic work ethic and are so willing to put out such an effort. This is truly not an art for a weekend rider. Even a good workout leaves you drained and weak. Euphoric, but weak!

One thing you have to do is to schedule enough down time for the horses. We do trail rides and walks at least twice a week. turn out is limited and not the best, but they have to have the relaxation both mental and physical or it is to easy to burn them out. Fortunately the facility we are at has a lot of trail riding available.

Phew what a weekend

January 29, 2012

This weekend we went to watch the World Masters Dressage at the Jim Brandon Center. Jim Koford our trainer/coach showed Holly Shook’s Pharoh in the 3* on the Thursday and was high enough placed to earn one of the “wild card” rides in the 5* event on Fri and Sat. So while we would have gone to watch anyway, now we doubly had a reason to go.

What an amazing group of horses and riders. We got to see Stephan Peters, Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, Tina Konyot, and a host of others. A really world class competition. Stephan Peters and Ravel won, but only just, Charlotte was so close in score that it was basically a tie. The Olympics in London are going to be really interesting.!

Watching all that world class riding seems to have helped us. well me anyway. X was so good today, I not only got 4 X 1tempi. eg 4 flip flops, but then I tried and almost made a 3 X 1 tempis. as in actually 3 1’s. But only almost, the best I could do was a flip, flop, one stride and then another flip! Sitting back while you use you legs that fast is HARD!
X is getting stronger and is more willing to be through and over his back. He did a few steps of Piaffe as well and a respectable attempt at passage. I can feel him learning to stay round and to begining to really sit and lift up his shoulders.

Arwen is getting stronger as well, she can now do the shoulder-in to half-pass pretty well and without losing balance or running. She is starting the changes, but April rather than me.

Halifax has learned how to do changes, he is so proud of himself. He sometimes does a flip flop just show off! We are making progress. The days can be hot but at least the nights are cool.

I am so tired after our busy weekend, so more tomorrow.

The work goes on!

January 14, 2012

Jim teaching April in the dressage arena at Sunshine Meadows.

We are settling into a pretty good routine. In the mornings I get up and feed. Then we turn one set of horses out in their paddock. April starts on stalls while I do any therapy that the horses need. Therapy plate, laser or what ever.
Then we start tacking up and riding. We meet Koford in the dressage arena, and just keep on coming as he keeps on teaching.

We bring in the horses who have been turned out if it gets hot. And the next set get turned out in the afternoon/evening.

Halifax goes out in the roundpen for about 30mins-1 hr depending on the demand.

Lessons are short but intense.
Yesterday X and I were working on the canter zig-zags from I2/GP. It took me the longest time to workout what Jim was wanting me to do.
Half-pass, straiten (leg yield) shoulder in 1 stride, change and immediately the new half pass, rinse and repeat! I finally had to practice the sequence at walk and then trot before I could organize the coordination to do it in canter! No way could I do the 3-6-6-3 or the 4-8-8-4 that the test requires. It took all of my coordination to do two sequences in each centerline pass. We definitely need to work on this. Jim got on X to show me and had no problem doing all of them, so it clearly is not X’s problem!

April and Arwen got to stat flying changes yesterday, poor Arwen, it takes a lot of coordinating the hind legs, and are a long way away from the head for her!

Curiosa is getting more settled, it has all been quite an experience for her. But she is starting to realise that it isn’t terminal and is beginning to relax and work over her back.

Curiosa and April work on trot lengthenings

Olive had a day off after her intense jumping training.

Halifax is having a blast, he gets to show all of these people what a superior fellow he is, even if the humans are not in agreement! He sees so many different horses in the course of the day and he whinnies to all of them in case someone wants him!.

Morning workouts at Sunshine Meadows, the racetracks, busy with trotters.

X had a slight run in with cellulitis, the fungus lives in the sand and you have to be really vigilant about washing the sand off when they come in, but even then he got a hot swollen leg, thank goodness for the laser and the medi tek shampoo, we got it under control before he got too bad.

Settling down in Florida

January 12, 2012

The facility here is mostly for trotters and pacers, horses who race in harness, so it has a very workmanlike atmosphere . Every morning early the trotters go out onto the race track and do their training. From about 6 am you can hear the sound of hooves on the hard packed sand as they past the barn.

Since I took 6 stalls I got an end room. These are rooms at the end of the barn aisle, which have an ensuite bathroom, other than that they are very basic. 4 walls, a roof, 2 windows, a door. No AC, but it is carpeted. Our other room is in the dormitories, which are a couple of buildings where instead of stalls they have rooms, exactly the same size as a stall! There are shared bathrooms and laundry facilities. There is a kitchen/restaurant/store at the end of the dormitory building. I scored the end room, and April is making do in the dormitory.
A few trips to Goodwill and Target and we got both rooms very liveable in..
As I took a number of stalls we get our own designated turnout paddock. It’s about 200 feet by 100 feet, mostly sand of course. The fencing is only about 3 ft high, so Halifax can’t go out there (he’d just laugh at a fence that small). But the 3 mares can go out together for a few hours and then the two geldings. It is quite a hike though, almost 1/4 of a mile from the barn. But it is a turnout and it’s all ours. There are turnouts even further down the road that ours so I won’t complain!

This south Florida sun is fierce, so we turn out in the early am and in the evening.

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