Austen plans to continue to move up the levels of dressage, with an end goal of getting her Gold Medal and trying to be competitive. She hopes to stick with thoroughbred types, showing off their athleticism and love of working in the dressage ring.
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know Bast went to the vet on Tuesday. He’d been a little irregular for a week, and I was concerned enough to haul him up to Fair Hill for a full lameness exam. I’m going to get to the findings soon, but rest your mind that he’s not in serious condition and should be just fine. In the meantime, let’s take a minute to talk about identifying lameness.
A group of bloggers and I recently talked about how our beliefs about lameness were hilariously wrong as a kid. As a group, we grew up thinking a horse’s lameness would be obvious, easily identified, and that you were an idiot to miss it. We also laughed at our younger selves, who thought the lameness would always be in the leg and we’d always be able to tell which leg was affected just by quickly looking or riding.
Guys. As an adult with a lot of experience with a lame horse, this is so funny to me.
How it often feels I'm trying to diagnose some kind of weirdness.
My experience with lameness is completely different. Unless the horse has an abscess or something acute, lameness seems to rarely be obvious or easily identified. It’s much more common for a horse to present with a multitude of mysterious symptoms. Mine also tend to exhibit mental stress way before physical issues become apparent. This makes it almost impossible to tell for awhile if what I'm feeling is training, tension, or actually some kind of lameness.
Bast helps me out. He's a complete wuss, and cannot handle pain in the slightest. Anything that bothers him is a huge issue. That makes it much easier to identify when things are cropping up. Meanwhile Pig ... he's basically unable to admit he feels poorly.
That old horse is the most stoic of creatures. While that probably is a big reason he's still around and kicking (hard) at his age, it made it incredibly difficult to assess his soundness during his career. He taught me early that you really had to get to know your horse well to understand the difference between tension and him being "off". He also taught me that you might know when a horse was off, but be completely unable to identify which leg was actually the problem of the day.
Looking sound AF here...
Following in Pig's footsteps, Bast's first bout with lameness showed up really difficult to narrow down. Below is a video of Bast's movement on the day his irregularity became noticeable. Let's play a game. Watch the video and let me know what you see in the comments. I'll let you know next week what the vet found!
Bast Lameness 7-9-19 - YouTube
In the meantime, anyone else find your ideas of what lameness looks like and how it's found change as you've grown in your experience with horses?
When you jump your dressage horse and he turns out to kinda like it.
One of my goals for this quarter was to get Bast jumping two feet. Thankfully the local Pony Club puts on the world's lowest key schooling shows in our front field. I resolved to get him out there and jump a small course or two this past weekend.
It was a total success.
Bast is still mainly a dressage horse. However, as I've talked about many times, I think teaching him to jump around a basic course with proficiency is just smart for building his overall education, value, and my enjoyment. I like using jumping, poles, or gallops as mental breaks from more focused work in the ring. While Bast thrives on his ring work, I want to make sure he's equally comfortable doing his "fun" activities.
So we jump, and it is so fun.
We had schooled some individual fences recently at and slightly above 2ft. With that in mind, I asked for a course to be set around 2ft. Off we went!
As you can see, we have little to no clue what we are doing. I've said before that I don't feel comfortable jumping a horse before it's schooling first level, and I think this video shows why. Honestly, I'm not a strong jumping rider. I have a dressage rider's typical loose and long leg. My balance is so firmly rooted in the vertical. I struggle to stay with my horse's efforts over fences. It would be totally unfair to ask a horse with less training to leap around.
Bast knows enough now to understand that he is going to go where I point, whatever that ends up entailing. My job is to get him to the fences as balanced as possible, which I am capable of doing. Together we aren't going to be on a fast track to upper level eventing, but we are safe and having fun at low fences.
Maybe someday I'll learn to ride in shorter stirrups again. Haha.
I know my training methods aren't for everyone. Plus, about a million people could train a horse to jump with less mistakes and more style. But, I'm heartened to see this little horse I took off the track turning into such a solid citizen. It always feels good when a horse I trained makes me look like the weak link. He's turning into such a good pony, and it pleases me greatly! (See if you can spot the lead change that was the absolute highlight of my evening.)
Now we just need more experience, and I need to remember to close my hip angle and legs. Nbd, just two things that were very hard for me to get over in my dressage journey. Ha!
This weekend the temperatures skyrocketed. Walking outside felt like jumping into a pot of boiling water (and based on my sunburns, my lobster jokes weren't far off). Riding my own horses seemed like the worst idea, so instead Emma and I headed over to Loch Moy Farm to tailgate the Maryland International 3* cross country.
We packed a huge cooler, and resolved to stick around until it was empty and our media cards were full. Based on the fact that we were the last spectators on the property, I think we succeeded. (Total aside. If you walk into the VTO Saddlery tent "on your way out" you will definitely get stuck there for a long time and maybe buy things that weren't on your list. Whoops!)
Lauren Kieffer and the always adorable Anglo-Arabian Vermiculus
Enough about us and our adventures (of which there were many), what we and everyone else flocked to rural Maryland to see was the US Pan Am team in their final outing. We were not disappointed.
The 3* winners Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg made quick work of a brush fence midway through the 3* XC.
While my eye is still adjusting to the reordering of the levels, this particular 3* had some questions that seemed particularly interesting from a spectator point of view. Loch Moy has worked hard to put in a new sunken road complex, where many horses seemed quite green when it came to negotiating the jump in and out.
Courtney Sendak and DGE Kiss Prints leaping into the sunken road.
But the sunken road wasn't the only terrain question that proved interesting to watch. Loch Moy's property is rather hilly on its own, and the terrain and heat looked to be a formidable opponent for everyone all day. In fact, the time on the 3* cross country proved to be rather influential. I assume plenty of riders were making the choice to ride more slowly due to the extreme temperatures and (completely absurd) humidity.
Speaking of making the time. We overheard a hilarious moment in the woods when Doug Payne and Starr Witness came galloping down to this big trakehner. Starr Witness must have felt backed off in the woods, as Doug reached back and cracked his whip, encouraging the horse to get to the jump on a forward stride. At that moment, Doug and this horse were sitting in a close second to Boyd Martin (pictured here watching Doug and Starr Witness). As they passed, Boyd made a comment about Doug's encouragement, all in good humor. Doug ended up having 20 more seconds of time than Boyd, leaving Boyd the lead and eventual win. I love seeing these moments in competitions. Horse sports are all about a bit of good natured ribbing and camaraderie.
The most influential question on course for many came quite early on course, at jump four. Nestled deep in the woods, a down bank combination resulted in a few refusals and even ended the day for some.
Not Phillip Dutton and Sea of Clouds, though! I swear to god, Phillip didn't move an inch as he and his horse plummeted down this massive downhill.
I can't imagine what riding up to this thing must have felt like for both riders and horses. Walking by you could barely see the drop. Judging by the horses who noped right out of that situation, they weren't thrilled by the prospect of leaping down into the steep AF "Leaf Pit".
Covert Rights said he'd rather not today, thanks. But rider Colleen Rutledge tactfully convinced him to take a chance. Once Covert Rights tapped his way down the front of the drop, they were on their way with narry a problem, finishing in second. They were also the only pair to finish without time faults!
While plenty of pairs came to trouble at the drop, many negotiated it smoothly. I have to hand it to every one of the riders. The level of confidence I'm sure they had to maintain for that particular part of the course seemed exhausting, especially with the conditions of the day.
Alexa Gartenberg and the absolutely stunning Louis M came through the Leaf Pit looking like complete stars.
Thankfully, the rest of the course was more galloping and straightforward questions. Two water complexes kept things interesting, though I never saw a single problem at either all day. With the heat, I assume all the horses were more than happy to leap and splash about. I know my huskies were... well, okay. Only sorta.
Tamra Smith and Mai Baum taking a cool dip in the main water complex.
The course was a long one, winding the entire length of Loch Moy's back field. It even dipped into the new arena complex for a hot minute. Horses had another opportunity to splash through some water before charging up (another) hill and leaping the fence line of the arena in first a corner and then a log. I love the way Loch Moy is building their arenas into the XC, but didn't make it over to see these jumps. If you're interested, be sure to click through to Emma's awesome recap video. She made sure to get a clip of ever jump on course, so you won't want to miss it! (I'll put it below, too.)
Lynn Symansky and RF Cool Play looking amazing.
I want to give a shout out to the people of Loch Moy. I was here almost exactly a month ago showing Bast at the dressage show, and it looked completely different. Since then they have finished a grandstand area for the smaller competition ring, installed wash stalls in the parking lot, and overall done a lot of regrading and turf maintenance, not to mention the course layout and design. This facility is so fabulous, and they just keep getting better. The fact that it's 20 minutes from where I board makes spectating or volunteering at these events a no-brainer. I was so excited when my schedule cleared enough to make this weekend possible.
Seriously. This trakehner was so massive and airy. Made for great photos, but it was definitely a rider-frightener of a fence. Here is Will Faudree and Pfun soaring over it like NBD.
I'm so lucky to have so many really amazing events within close distance here, including Fair Hill and Great Meadow. I always try to make it out for at least one of the "big ones." Do any of you have plans to get out and watch any big events this year? Do you spectate in disciplines that you don't ride in? I feel like eventing is super popular, no matter what. I'm not sure if that's my own bias talking there, though.
Mia Braundel and Cashmere motoring up one of the many hillsides at Maryland International.
If eventing is your thing, you'll definitely want to catch Emma's recap of the 3* below. See if you can pick out some of the moments I talked about above. I hope I did an okay job of describing them! I feel like photos and video can tell a very different story sometimes, so it's really cool to have her video to reference alongside my photos! What do you think?
Maryland Horse Trials CCI3*-S Cross Country Compilation - YouTube
If you ask anyone in the English riding world what the hottest bits are on the market, you'll hear about Neue Schule immediately. They are quickly gaining a reputation for being the best, but also have a reputation for being incredibly expensive and incredibly complicated. Basically there's about a million different snaffles all with slight design differences. Even if you're prepared to splurge, it's hard to tell which pricey bit you should choose.
This collection might be pretty, but it's also more money than I actually make in a month.
Of course, a ton of riders swear by these bits. They are excellent quality, my own weymouth shows almost no wear after several years of regular use. The design and research seems to hold up to scrutiny, but doesn't necessarily help the complicated decision of which bit is best for which pony.
These two bits are basically the same, only one has holes for the rings bored at a 45 degree angle, and the other has them at a more traditional 90 degree. That sort of difference requires a bit of explanation and handling to really understand.
That's where bit clinics come in, I suppose. My barn hosted one this weekend with an expert. The price of the clinic was way too steep for me, which is sad. The information the clinician offered was incredibly useful and otherwise difficult to find.
Beyond the more traditional and basic bit sizing, the clinician spent time evaluating each horse's musculature, teeth and lips. She gave personalized feedback to each owner about any abnormalities she found, like calluses on the lips or thickening of the tongue muscle. Each item she found helped her make a call about how the horse responded to bits in general and the bit in which the horse was typically ridden.
This horse had a mouth very typical of a thoroughbred, not surprising as his damsire is a thoroughbred. His lips are fleshy, his "smile" is short, his bars are sharp, and his mouth is low on space.
One thing I found fascinating was changes in the muscle of the tongue. The clinician discussed how many horses will cup their tongue behind the bit to stabilize it within the mouth. She explained is is not always due to discomfort, but can be. Many horses who seemed to accept the bit well had these changes in the tongue.
The other thing I found fascinating was her comments about thoroughbred-type bars. She explained they are very "sharp" in the thoroughbred, and lightly covered with skin. These things make them very sensitive to pressure in this breed, often requiring a bit that takes the pressure off the bars and puts it more on the tongue. When I think about my own horse's preferences, they seem to back this up. Pig and Bast both prefer bits that have large center lozenges and curved sides, taking the pressure of the bars, and instead placing the bit pressure on the back of the tongue.
She was big on showing how the bit moved in the mouth when the rider picked up the reins, as opposed to when the bit was simply sitting in the mouth.
Based on her assessments of other horses, I have an idea of a couple of bits I'd like to try on Bast, namely the Turtle Top eggbutt. Apparently this bit sits very similarly to the JP Korsteel curved eggbutt I currently use. It is designed to take pressure off the bars, positioning it further to the back of the tongue. I'm sad I wasn't able to have Bast sized and examined by the clinician. However, his behavioral setback would have made evaluation more difficult anyway.
Some horses went drastically differently in different bits. It was really cool to see horses become visibly more free in their shoulders as they found more comfort in seeking the contact.
The bit I have my eye on costs way more than the ulcer meds I'm currently burning my spare funds to purchase. You can trial many types of these, but this particular bit is new and hard to find. And so, it seems like Bast might be foregoing a bit glow-up. Fortunately for us, a lot of our barn mates are purchasing new bits. So, perhaps we'll have a big supply to trial from locally soon.
Have any of you been to a bitting clinic? Have you ever measured your horse for a bit? Is this something you'd be interested in trying?
Three weeks ago, Bast under saddle was amazing. He was growing in suppleness and submission each day. We were schooling some second level, trying to finesse first, and pulling a 67% at Training. Two weeks ago, he snuggled up to me while I sat on the pasture fence, falling asleep with his head in my lap. Then he went out and bravely led on a new gallop track and schooled his first water complex.
This week? He turned into a rage monster under saddle and hid from me in the field.
F this. F you. And F the world. -- Bast, apparently
Yep, just like that my lovely young horse reverted to his bolting and spooky ulcer-ridden alter ego.
On the plus side, I immediately know how to fix this issue. I ran to Tractor Supply immediately and bought several tubes of Ulcergard, texting the barn to continue his dosing until further notice. Ulcers are a PITA, but Bast does respond very favorably to 1/4 tube of the good stuff.
On the negative side, Bast's behavior recessed so badly we nearly bolted into another rider in the ring and completely embarrassed ourselves in the middle of a big clinic. I love riding a horse who looks lovely going to the right but absolutely can not turn left or canter without losing it. Oh wait, no I don't. No one does.
THIS IS MY ANGRY FACE.
Overall the constant forward and back we have with ulcers and training is frustrating. While I know this setback will be brief, I can't help but wish I had a better long term management set up. I have a call in to my vet to get the little guy put on Sucralfate for a bit, just in case what we are seeing can be healed more completely.
EVERYTHING HURTS AND I'M DYING.
Fingers crossed this treatment gets my happy go lucky young horse back on my side. It's really fun to work on moving up our training, but not when he feels badly and spends all his mental power thinking of ways to escape both myself and pressure. He's come a long way from his blind bolting, but it's still not fun to ride when he tries to exit stage left.
I'm so frustrated, but it does help to have a plan in place to treat and consult. I can't wait to see what else my vet has to say when we chat. Hopefully we can come up with a good maintenance plan going forward.
I feel like one of the most common phrases used to describe thoroughbreds is "hard keeper." They're often portrayed as lean muscled, rib showing, thin-necked creatures. I suppose that is what they look like when coming off the track, all tight angular muscle and bones.
Not exactly right off the track, but not exactly looking like a dressage prospect.
However, the horse coming off the track is often quite young. A two, three, four or five year old horse is going to look much different than a mature specimen. On top of that, a racehorse is fed and conditioned for lean muscle. They are exercised regularly to develop that strong but fit look. The thoroughbred in the dressage horse home, however? It can (and probably should) look much different.
Yes, this is a much younger Pig (around 11). He's not as ribby as many young TBs, but he's not exactly living up to his potential.
I've met a lot of people who assume because their horse is a thoroughbred, he is destined to live life as skinny horse. Owners who figure their horses have too high of a metabolism to bulk up like a warmblood or other "easy keeping" breed.
Sorry, guys. I soundly disagree.
This 18 year old cow of a horse was getting two pounds of grain he clearly didn't need. Most of it ration balancer.
This doesn't mean I haven't struggled to keep weight on my horses. Oh no.
Over the last two years, my horses have seen a lot of change in their lives. Bast came off the track, into a show barn and a completely different style of riding and program. He fought with ulcers, and me. He moved to a lower key barn, with very different feed. And finally moved back to the show barn, and excellent pasture. Finally we hit the jackpot, and he gained weight.
Again, yes. This is a thoroughbred. The same bay as above, actually.
Pig retired, got depressed, moved barns three times before settling in a lower key barn with really terrible pastures for over a year. He lost weight. He fought a tick disease. He fought ulcers. He moved back "home" to excellent pasture. He once again blossomed.
His muscle may not be where it once was, but his weight and coat are fantastic.
What do these stories have in common? Ulcers and pasture. In my experience, thoroughbreds can not put on weight without good pasture and ulcer management. Those are the very basic needs of the breed that must be met to have them look their best. A thoroughbred can be a very hard keeper when those two needs are not met.
Here he is in his full muscled glory. The hunk.
But there's more to it. Once the thoroughbred has the rich forage required by their bodies, they also need protein. I'm yet to meet a thoroughbred who does not need a high level of protein to put on muscle and maintain weight. With my two, I feed a ration balancer as a supplement. Others feed actual protein supplements. Both see excellent results.
Of course, you do actually have to ride your thoroughbred on occasion to spur correct muscle development. However, the protein and high forage diets are necessary to provide the breed everything they need to put on weight.
Now here's my caveat. Just because a grain is high in calories, doesn't mean it will put weight on a thoroughbred. I've literally poured grain into my horses with no result. Too little forage and a diet higher in fat than protein leads to a thin and ribby horse, in my experience. Bast especially exemplifies this, as he was eating an absurd amount of Ultium and still looking weedy and thin. Once his pasture improved? He his grain has been halved, but he still gains weight. Now his diet is higher in protein than fat, something I have found to be essential for this breed in this sport.
I'm about to fall off the back, but dear god look at this glorious #fatblood. He was getting a handful of ration balancer here. A handful.
Bast is legitimately a harder keeper than Pig. Part of which is due to age. Pig was working 6 days a week at 4th level for an hour minimum on barely 2 pounds of grain, and getting fat. That's not my definition of a hard keeper. Actually, my thoroughbreds tend to eat a lot less grain than the warmbloods on the property in similar work. The difference in the dietary needs of the warmblood and thoroughbred is really interesting and apparent.
Not hard keepers. Are hard headed, though.All three of us.
The details aside, I love taking my round muscled thoroughbreds out into the world. I enjoy showing people how an ex-racehorse really can look. It's rare for people to identify the breeding on my horses in the first or second guess, just because they don't look like the thin-necked and skinny horse typically pictured. They are dressage horses, and I want them to have the muscle needed to support the discipline.
Not the typical thoroughbred.
Stumping people is fun, but I wish more thoroughbreds were out in the dressage world being shiny and fat #notwarmbloods. The breed is too amazing to be held down by the stereotype of the skinny and under muscled horse.
Last weekend I loaded up Bast along with a friend and her older horse. We headed off to Loch Moy's cross country schooling playground. We'd been invited to run their brand new galloping track (more on that coming, as I get the video spliced), but couldn't resist the call of the water jump...
Leaping right into the Head of the Lake pond.
As you guys saw last week, Bast is not yet a confident water buffalo. Because of this, we started off by following our friend into the water. It only took a second of hesitation before Bast splashed in after his buddy.
Basically the cutest.
As always, my goal was to make the experience very positive for Bast. All movement in the water resulted in a ton of praise. We also took our time in the water. It was a hot day, and I am sure it felt quite nice for the horses, serving as its own praise.
Horses that thrive on praise are basically the best.
In no time at all, my little guy was happily dashing in and out of the water. Only the slightest of encouragement was needed to get him to start cantering in and out. I could almost feel his confidence start brimming through his ears.
That hiked up front leg freaking kills me.
My favorite part about this whole exercise was how Bast immediately accepted the water. While he gave some resistance initially, once he figured out how to move in the water he completely ignored it. We actually came back to the water several times, and he never even blinked. I've not had a young horse take to water this easily and confidently.
I'm so excited about this schooling event. While I am still not sure Bast actually enjoys jumping or cross country, his bravery is so thrilling. My plan is still to teach him the basics of eventing, if for no other reason than to ensure his future prospects and value. In this area especially, a thoroughbred who can easily get around the lower eventing levels is valued.
For baby event horse, just add water!
I think the plan will be to get him out next year for some actual events. For now, we play around with building our skills! Anyone else out there spending time in the water with their ponies?
It's no secret Bast is not a confident trail horse. He very suited to the dressage ring's order and repetition. He finds that environment safe. While it's awesome he enjoys his main job, sometimes a girl just needs to get out in the woods with her horse... and not die.
Even in the pouring rain...
As such, I made it one of my goals this year to get Bast out on the trails more regularly. When Liz was here, we jumped at the opportunity to get out on the more wild trails behind my barn.
These trails really are wild in places. Seriously. I've been on endurance rides with horse eating mud holes that are easier than these. Unfortunately, most of the truly difficult stuff was completely trashed in the flooding we had last year. Liz and I (and Pig and Bast) mostly stuck to the fields and more open byways.
Wet but happy.
The ride was a complete blast. We were gone for a good long time, starting the ride in the pouring rain and finishing with lovely cool dusk weather-- seriously lucky for May in Washington D.C.
All that awesomeness aside, we had some, uh, bloopers...
To start, Bast decided bolting up a steep hill on the property in the driving rain sounded fun. Honestly, by that point I didn't really care. So I let him wear out his excitement on the hill and managed to bring him back at the top.
Of course getting to the hill also required a low-level bolt across the entire property...
Liz joined us on Pig and we headed out to the trails, which almost immediately required a water crossing.
Thank god not this water crossing...
I warned Liz that Pig will jump every water crossing, and that Bast also leaps water. I told her it might get exciting. However, I don't think she expected to have Pig cross the creek only for Bast to leap wildly over the creek and skitter-skatter past her on the muddy trail. Meanwhile, I had forgotten to shorten my stirrups and was launched over the front of the saddle, and found myself riding Bast's neck.
Thank god my horses are both super honest. Neither one has learned to put their heads down when I end up awkwardly hanging on them. Bast slowed down quickly, but before I could right myself, Liz reached up and literally hauled my ass back into the saddle.
Literally ass-saving champion!
We giggled over that save, and continued on our way. Shortly finding another water crossing. Then another. It was pouring down rain after all.
Every single water crossing Bast crossed in the same way. He hesitated for a moment on the edge before HURTLING himself straight legged at the water, landing with a jarring thud in the water, then leaping forward again. Liz and I could not stop giggling at his hilarious behavior. She even caught it on video:
Bast the Jarring Water Leaper - YouTube
Beyond the water leaping, Pig did his damnest to give Liz a concussion. He spooked at something (a house? a leaf? the wind?), and slammed his head right into hers. To her great credit, she both stayed on, didn't cry, and let the dumb orange kid live. I'm not sure I would've had the same reaction. He's done that to me before, and it sucks.
Look over there, Liz! That's where Pig is going to try to bash your brains out!
Luckily we all survived to tell the tale, and even ended the day laughing. What more can you ask for of an eventful ride? Well... maybe a less sore back from those stiff legged jumps.
Alternate titles for this post include: "Return of the Mouth Chomper"; "Geometry Is My Nemesis"; and "When Tension Strikes"
Though we look pretty good here...
Honestly riding back to back tests is not my favorite way to show. I like a minute to remove the bridle, get a drink of water (for both my horse and myself), and stress out about learning my next test somewhere where I'm not bugging my horse. With Bast, I find he's still green enough to showing that he'll quickly go from on fire to literally shooting sparks from his burned out brain if his ride goes on too long.
Unfortunately for us, we reached the point in our second test. I'm calling it "Baby Brain". Basically, our Training 3 test did not have as mature of a horse as the Training 2 test. Some of that is me, I was getting tired and dealing with adrenaline fall out. That made my position less strong, and made my hands and legs less supporting. If Bast needs anything, it's hand holding and support with my entire body in the ring.
Yes, he looks brilliant here. But what am I doing with my left hand? And why?
All this to say, I'm not at all disappointed with the test we laid down. I feel like it's more where I expected our efforts to be. Here's the video if you want to follow along in the recap:
Training 3 - Loch Moy 1 - YouTube
Our centerline was wiggly, but overall straighter than our T2 entry. I managed to stop him from falling off to the left as hard as he had in the previous test, but at a sacrifice of even front legs and riding forward. Ah well. I'm absurdly proud of how he struck out from the halt. It took me years to get a strike off that nice on Pig. Like, seriously. I think it took me until 3rd level.
Almost immediately there was an issue pretty apparent... I had very little access to my left bend. Also, my horse was clearly tired and not wanting to move forward in as open and balanced frame as he had in the first test. He kept falling on his forehand and pulling on me. Note the second half of the first diagonal.
A lot more open mouth in this test, too.
So basically, I felt more like I was wrangling a young horse around a training level test. You know, not completely surprising.
What was awful? The moment I realized I hadn't practiced the 3 loop serpentine in an appropriately sized ring since the last time I rode this test. Eek! I sat for a long time before going in just trying to figure out where to place my loops.
"In a perfect world, I'd put on there, and there, and there... I think?"
I don't hate the first serpentine placement, but I do hate the lack of bend. When I did finally get Bast to yield his ribcage, he stepped right into the canter. Lovely, buddy. But not what was actually required. More training needed to access ribcage without triggering canter transitions.
When it did finally come time for him to canter, he was a little self conscious and thus did a mini leap into the gait. I'm proud that I didn't get as left behind as I remember.
One stride later, we're in balance again.
The canter work just amplified what I mostly able to smooth over in the trot ... my horse is actually 7 going on 2.
He was wiggly, he wanted to drag himself with his shoulders, he wanted to gap his mouth and lean for a minute to see if we could be done. He also clearly wanted to break. My impulsion was gone.
Riding downhill in a level ring. It's a talent, that we have.
This basically describes what happens in both directions of work. The down transition from the canter was a bit unorganized and messy, but the walk transition made me quite happy.
Also, once we lost the impulsion of the trot and canter, his mouthing really amped up in the walk. Also he felt the need to sing the song of his people ... which comes out hilariously whiny in the ring, as he knows he's not supposed to do it. Apparently the judge laughed at him. That's cool, I did too.
I AM A TRUMPET -- Bast.
When it came time for the free walk, I wanted to show the judge the open mouth wasn't me, just tension and baby brain coming out. I made sure to show a full release of the reins. Bast, love him, stretched, but left his mouth open in angry baby basilisk protest.
I mean, the walk is lovely, tho?
We had a bubble in the second canter work where he pulled, broke, and I thought he swapped behind, pulling him up to fix it. Unfortunately for me, it was just a moment where his rhythm got choppy and I felt things wrong.
HORSE! You must stop doing this and expecting me not to boot you forward. Srsly.
The whole thing felt like foreverlong in the moment of the test, but lookls like just a blip of time on the video. Ah well. We continued in the right lead and finished the movement. By this time, however, I was flustered and he was flustered. When we came down the long side in the trot for the stretchy circle, I tried to straighten him and he broke to the canter again. My fault entirely.
The stretch was okay. I'm proud he's figuring out to stretch down and out. Even when baby basiliking. (Yes, that's a verb now)
Oh baby horse.
And just like that, the test was over. Our final centerline was very drunk, but the halt was much more forward and square. Overall a mixed bag.
I had no idea what the score would look like on that mess. So, I was pleasantly surprised to walk out with a 61.2%. I'd signed us up for a qualifying attempt during this test, which this technically qualifies for. I guess I'll take it.
I think we both look happy at an overall positive first recognized experience.
Obviously little baby Bast brain needs more miles, and I need to actually do my test riding homework. However, I do think we're mostly there when it comes to Training level. Bast's acceptance of the aids is much better on the average than this second test. Knowing that, I think we're looking at a possible successful move up to 1st by the end of the year.
When I rolled into the showgrounds at Loch Moy last Saturday, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from Bast. The day before we'd had a disagreement about listening when working alone and not launching into canter departs. He'd finished that ride much calmer and relaxed, but that didn't bode well for a show.
I shouldn't have worried. He arrived at the show grounds and acted like a seasoned professional from the first moment. Of course, I did not. It's been a minute since I've shown recognized. (Holy cow, it's been exactly 2 years. This is the last show Pig and I ever did.) My timing is very off, and I ended up running to the ring as the bell rang for my ride time. How stupidly unprofessional of me.
Thank god for the awesome volunteers at Loch Moy, though. Those ladies sent another rider in my place and slotted me right into a scratch later on. Bast and I had one Training Level Test 2 in which to warm up, and off we went.
I think the warm up was effective, though.
Honestly, I didn't do much with him. He came right out of the gate forward and willing, and I didn't want to jeopardize us by messing with him too much. We trotted a figure eight, cantered each direction, and walked up to the ring. Boom. Done.
The bell rang after a walk around the spooky side of the ring, and we trotted right in. Somehow I remembered the whole test, and Bast was so tuned in it flowed nicely. Other than flubbing the first halt (I took my left leg off, and we went very left into the halt.), I was super happy with the whole thing.
Did not flub the final halt, though. We learned our lesson on the first one.
Turns out I had every right to be happy. Bast and I pulled out a 67% and a first out of a class of three. Watch the test below (or click here).
Training Test 2, Loch Moy 1 - YouTube
When it comes to improvements, obviously there are a few. I'm very happy with how quiet Bast was in the mouth in this test. He had moments of gaping, mostly in the second half of the first centerline, but as long as I held his hand with my seat and legs, he was content to quietly mouth and go forward in a lovely outline.
That said, I couldn't had better geometry. I need to ride more tests in the small ring. Bast is fine, and will go wherever I point him, but I'm too ready to make my 20m circles 15m right now. Perhaps I should test ride on Pig for more practice without burning out the baby.
His head looks so dainty here, wtf.
The medium walk was weak. We've been struggling to relax into contact in the medium walk for awhile now, and it showed here. Bast's anxieties are less obvious in the more forward gaits, so he tends to waver in the walk.
The judge wanted to see more impulsion, which is fair. I was very pleased I didn't push Bast past his rhythm in most of this test, however. The impulsion will come as we continue to develop, so I'm not worried.
His canter felt like a highlight to me in this test. He picked up his leads nicely and quietly. He had a lovely rhythm in both directions, and was very obedient. Right now, I can't ask for much more. As we continue to develop, though, I'd like to see straightness become more accessible in the gait.
A more uphill tendency would be nice, too. I am pretty sure I'm blocking that, though.
Basically test one was more than I could have imagined, and I am so lucky my friends helped get my time-management-impaired self to the ring on time. It helped that coats had been waived, so I only had to get half dressed. But my boots would not zip over my sweaty breeches, which didn't help me speed my way to the ring. See if you can notice my right boot slowly work itself more open as the ride progressed. Ugh.
After this test I only had a half an hour before my Training 3 test, so I opted to hop off but stay ringside. I tried to zip my boots again and borrowed a phone to learn my tests (what?! I'm only capable of memorizing for a few moments.), and asked my family to bring me my jacket and stock tie. Even if we went off course in T3, we were going to look nice.