April 5, 2009

Where to start?  It has been such a long time since I made an entry in my journal.  I am embarrassed about this but life does seem to get in the way.  Please bear with me as I have almost a year to get through.  It's been almost 1 year and much has happened in this time. 

Last fall, Cassidy and I continued showing with much success.  I think the biggest highlight is when she won Res. Champion at training level in our Region 3 finals.  I have to say that I was so proud of her.  She has come so far with Hannah.  Hannah is a very sensitive mare with much of an attitude.  Cassidy rode a very clean and correct test.  She had gone off course the year before and really had a mediocre test.  What a difference 1 year can make.  I watched my little girl in the victory gallop and tears of joy and amazement rolled down my face.  I always thought how wonderful it would be if she could get to take a victory gallop.  Well in Oct. 2008, my dream came true. 

Vincere had a very successful year.  He won Res. Champion Dutch Horse of the Year at 1st level.  He was 13th over all in the country.  I never played the "who's judging" game.  I just went to shows, did our thing and had an awesome year.  I also won Vintage Champion at 1st level in the Dutch and over all Horse of the Year awards.  I really shouldn't brag about being a vintage rider though.:)

Vinny never ceases to amaze me.  At the Region 3 finals we rode in the worst conditions I have ever competed in.  Please go to YouTube and watch Vincere's Raindance.   He was able to hold it together throughout the test.  We ended up tying for 4th place out of a good field of horses.  Considering this was his fourth, 2nd level test, I was quite pleased.  We had a wonderful 1st level championship ride but one judge had me at 65.00 and the other at 73.00.  Go figure.  We ended up 3rd out of a huge class.  That was the end of our undefeated season.  Vinny came home with a yellow ribbon. 

I went to the Young Horse Symposium taught by Scott Hassler.  Vinny, once again went into the ring with a business like attitude.  Scott was very complimentary of his training. It is hard when you work so much on your own to not second-guess yourself as you train a horse up the levels. 

The week after that, I rode Vinny for the first time in front of Walter Zettl.  He too was pleased with his basic work.  He told the auditors "This is they way a young horse's mouth should look".  Vinny always manages to get a lot of nice foam on his mouth.  By this time Vinny had had enough of the intense work. 

I gave him 2 weeks off and took sometime for me as well.  I was so looking forward to the winter to continue training and get Vinny stronger in his lateral work and start his changes.  I cannot tell you how the weather can put a damper on that.  It seemed we had rain every other day.  If it wasn't raining, the ring was frozen.  When it was nice, I was away giving a clinic.  It was quite a frustrating winter for all of us. 

It is so important to remember that just because a horse is doing well; it can easily take a back slide without continuous work.  When I had some decent weeks to improve his canter, walk transitions we started our changes.  It did not take anytime for him to get his right to left change.  The other one............. was a nightmare.  At first he would change 6 strides late behind.  After a month I think we got it at least one stride late.  I kept analyzing his mechanics and realized that I had to get him aligned better on the left.  He has always wanted to fall into my left leg a tad.  It is nothing a grounds person can see but I can feel it.  So, I took a few weeks to really work shoulder left and haunches right, to improve his strength on the left hind.  I think I managed to get it right.  When I started asking for changes, he changed with the hind leg first.  That was FINE by me.  It would just take me a bit to keep his left shoulder and I knew the right change would be complete. 

Now, he is doing little serpentines changing right to left, left to right, clean each way.  I also went back to counter canter after the change work.  I purposely did not counter canter too much.  Vinny is a very smart horse.  Actually, he is the first horse I felt like I needed to keep the counter canter on a small scale until he learned his changes.  So now, when I ask him to hold the lead he does and will often mix up the changes with the counter canter. 

I am still having problems with the walk.  He gets so tense when we start repeating transitions.  It doesn't matter if it is walk, trot, walk, or canter, walk, canter........he just wants to be ahead of my thinking.  The tension is not a hot tension, it is just him saying "I know what you are going to ask for now let me alone darn it".  The walk was great in the shows because I kept my training more focused on 1st level.  But with the 2nd and 3rd level work, the walk has come back to haunt me.  I KNOW I have to keep working on this.  I do believe with time and patience that it will get better.  It got better last year when he understood his job.  I believe it will get better once again when all this new stuff is old stuff.  I do take much time with him sometimes I am on him for a good hour, not that I am working him so much at the faster paces, just that I am doing a lot of walk in between them. 

I have written off showing this spring and maybe even the fall.  I really want to get my training right and when we are ready, go out and compete at 3rd and 4th level.  I need to keep taking him to clinics and shows to ride as a non-competing horse.  A horse needs to keep going places in order for them to stay solid in the show ring.  

For now, I am so content to stay home and train.  I am still having fun with Vinny and as Cassidy puts it, "You are like an old husband and wife team".  I suppose she means we grump at each other but when all is said and done, I wouldn't want any other horse.