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Highest score ever!

26 Aug

I couldn’t be more pleased with Corona, even if I tried. Our show on Saturday gave us our highest score ever and we took home two third-place ribbons!

First of all, as we were loading to go to the show Corona practically ran into the trailer himself which left me with a huge grin on my face even before we left the Boss’ property. I’m so proud of how far he has come over the last few months, especially when I consider the chaos of the first show trailer loading incident. I’m actually going to do another trailer loading session with Corona at some point in the near future to see if I can get him to load and unload without me having to go into the trailer with him; I’m pretty confident he would do it, it’s just a matter of me feeling confident enough to let him without worrying about all the things that could go wrong.

Oh – I forgot to mention – when the ride times came out for the show, I nearly had a heart attack. Since the show had so many classes and riders, they were running two rings at the same time. I had visions of Corona and I being responsible for ruining others’ show experiences if he carried on the way he did at the last show. I convinced myself that the rings wouldn’t be side-by-side and that everything would be great.

Upon pulling into the venue, all of my self-convincing turned into, “oh shit”; there was only about 10 feet separating the two rings. There was also a very small warm-up ring, tents flapping in the wind, a variety of flowerpots and garden decorations, lawn chairs, strollers, and lots of bushes.

We got our numbers at the registration desk, tacked up and took the horses to the warm-up ring before our first tests. I don’t even think the warm up ring was 20m x 40m but there were already about 8 horses in there. I just did my thing and focussed on staying calm and avoiding crashing into anyone. Corona was definitely looking at things and was hesitant at times, but he was actually quite a bit more relaxed than I had expected – I just went with it. There was a woman in there with a cute grey horse that was having a hard time calming him down, needless to say, I really felt for her as I know all too well what that feels like! Lucky for her, her coach was there so was walking her through a “calming” routine (and yes, I eavesdropped to learn a thing or two)!

Before long, I was up for Training Test 1. We had to walk past the end of the small ring (where someone was doing their test already) to the big ring where I’d be riding. I walked Corona around the outside and he spooked just before the judges booth, but carried on without too much of a fuss. The bell rang for us to start out test so I circled back to A to enter the ring. We went in and Corona felt a bit stiff, but not nearly as giraffe-like as he can be. Our halt wasn’t super, but hey, it was immobile. We continued our test and I was very pleased with how things were going! Corona was hesitating so a bit sluggish off the leg, but to be honest, I much prefer pushing him on than hanging onto his alter-ego, “Bull-in-china-shop.” He did something that is very unusual for him – we were cantering and as we were going down the long side from A to E, he broke to a trot(?!) I picked up the canter again and he picked up the wrong lead (??!!), I corrected it and we continued. We finished the test without any more indiscretions.

We had about an hour before our second test, so we parked ourselves at the end of the warm up ring so that we could watch the others in our class. There were some really excellent riders and really nice horses. There was one girl who I really felt for (a different one from the warm up ring). She was on this GORGEOUS black Hanoverian who had the floatiest movement I’ve ever seen. It was the horse’s first show and he was terrified of the judges box. He wouldn’t go near it. Aside from that, her test was mesmerizing, but due to the judges box issue, she came last in the class. On a complimentary note however – someone from the host barn offered to buy her horse right then and there!

In my opinion, my second test was on par with the first. Corona was still quite hesitant at times, but there were no major meltdowns. At one point, the judge from the other ring rang her bell for that rider, and Corona spooked and leapt forward, but to his credit, he recovered really quickly and we continued on as if nothing had happened. Our halts were much better in this test, especially our final one.

After we had untacked, we walked the horses back up to the rings to see our scores. I was shocked to see that I had come third in both classes! In my first test, I got a 57.5% which I thought was a bit low to be honest…I got a 58% in the first show of the season when Corona was a raging maniac. The girl who placed first got a 67%, the second place got a 66.4% and then there was me, and the lowest of 6 scores was a 52%. In the second test however, we got a 64.8% – the highest score we’ve ever received! The scores were all much higher in the second test, with the 1st place winner getting 67.8% and the last place out of 7 getting a score of 60.71%. I know I’m no dressage judge, but I honestly didn’t think there was THAT much of a difference between my two tests – I’m not complaining at all, it’s just interesting and I suppose, is one of the things that comes with the territory of dressage.

We let the horses graze for a while before loading up and heading home. At some point throughout the day, the Boss decided that Corona had finally figured this show thing out, and subsequently convinced me to do one more show with him. There’s one coming up this weekend, but it’s at the same venue as the last disaster so I’m not keen on going. There one the weekend after at a venue I’ve never been to, but is supposedly very nice and calm so we’ve signed up to go there on Sept 1.

Remember how I mentioned Corona broke from canter to trot in the first test and then picked up the wrong lead? Well, Murphy’s Law struck and when I rode him the other night, he was off! Not overly lame, but definitely had some head-bobbing going on a the trot. I really hope it’s nothing and all will be well. The blacksmith is coming out Monday so will be able to take a look at things if they haven’t improved by then. I didn’t feel any heat or swelling, so maybe he just was a bit sore (fingers crossed!!).

**UPDATE** – so it seems I forgot to post this blog once I wrote it – the good news is that yesterday Corona seemed MUCH better. I lunged him prior to riding to see the status and he looked fine. I tacked him up and got on and he felt 100% to the left, but still slightly off to the right. I soaked both of his front feet in an Epsom salt tub for a good half hour, then packed him hooves with poultice and wrapped them. Blacksmith is out today, I wonder if he’ll find anything?

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Report of Show #2

18 Jun

I would have had this post up earlier, except I somehow deleted the draft copy and had to start from scratch!

I’m thrilled to say that the show on Saturday was more than I could have asked for! I am so proud of Corona that I’ve been grinning ever since!

The day started out great, with Corona loading into the trailer with only a slight hesitation. I was so relieved at this because I’ve been working with him on loading and unloading since the great trailer meltdown of Show #1. Roller also was a very good boy and loaded without causing any rope burn injuries. Both horses were rewarded with maple crunchies for their bravery.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the venue as it was brand new and we’d never been there before. They had it set up with three HUGE sand rings, the first for trailer parking, the middle for the warm up ring, and then the third as the competition ring. With the venue being brand new, there wasn’t much landscaping done so it looked a bit vast, however I think this worked to my advantage because there were no trees or bushes to hide Corona-eating monsters that seem to follow us at shows. In the show ring, there were only 2 flower pots by the judges booth and while Corona looked at them, I guess they passed his scrutiny and he didn’t seem too bothered.

Our warm up went very smoothly. At one point, Corona squealed like a pig when I asked him to work away from Roller (yes, he literally squeals when he disagrees with something), but he quickly settled again and was very responsive and attentive to what I was asking. When we were called into the show ring, I took advantage of the previous riders’ slow exit from the ring, and took Corona on a walking lap around the outside of the ring so that he could have a look at things. He was a bit hesitant in some places, but there were no huge spooks. The judge rang the bell and we were up! I picked up our trot and immediately felt Corona tense up as we headed down centreline. His head went up like a giraffe and I thought, “oh no, not again!” We managed a halt with immobility at X (more than I could say for Show #1) and proceeded to C in working trot. I decided to do sitting trot for the test because I could feel how tense Corona was, and he tends to settle more with a lot of seat. Once we tracked left at C and began our first 20m circle at E, I could feel him begin to settle. I was very conscious of my breathing and trying to stay relaxed. It seemed to pay off because Corona was amazing for the rest of the test! The only spook we had was when a bird flew over and the shadow went right in front of his feet. It was during a canter to trot transition at F and Corona jumped a bit to the right going into the corner. I managed to flex him to the inside and then get our correct bend back before turning down the centreline at C however, so it was a good recovery! I was absolutely thrilled with our performance and was grinning like a fool once we completed our final halt at X. We left the ring and even the Boss said how happy she was with us.

We ended up scoring a 61.666% in our first test, which earned us 4th place in the class. The girl who came first blew us all away with a 68.333%, and then the scores for 2nd and 3rd place were 63.531% and 62.500% respectively. The comments I received on the test were not surprising to me. We lost marks for tension, suppleness and acceptance of the bridle and the judge noted that I should push Corona more forward to an elastic contact. I definitely agree with the comments and I think that as we work through our “show nerves” these things will get better and better.

My goal for the second test was to improve my scores and see what I could do to push Corona forwards. I was hoping to be able to ride the test in posting trot to assist with this but decided I’d see how he felt going into the ring and go from there. When it was our turn to go again, I once again took Corona on a walk around the outside of the ring and noticed immediately how much more relaxed he felt compared to the first time. The bell rang and I picked up the rising trot to see how it felt. He felt wonderful! I kept it up as we approached A and decided to go for it. We entered the ring at posting trot and there were no giraffes in sight! Halted at X, hindquarters bulged to the right (my bad) but immobility was achieved! Proceeded to track right at C and things just got better and better. I was focussing on keeping a good forward rhythm and at the slightest feel of hesitation I just did a few little plays on the bit to keep him focussed. We had an incredible ride and I could feel the difference in our free walk as well as with our 20m circle where we had to ask the horse to stretch forwards and downwards. This time, I was grinning like a fool from about a third of the way in! We finished our test and left the ring and I couldn’t stop praising my wonderful Corona! I was thrilled, the Boss was thrilled, and I’m pretty sure Corona was proud of himself.

We earned ourselves a 63.928% which put us in second place! The same girl won first place again with a score of 66.607% and the other scores ranged from 56.250% to 62.142%. As if this didn’t make me happy enough, I then found out that we had just missed being the reserve AA champion by 0.04%! Not too shabby!!!

Needless to say, I’m so proud of Corona and the effort that he put in from beginning to end. He was an absolute star all day, inside and outside of the show ring. His trailer loading was more than commendable, he stayed relaxed at a strange venue with lots of other horses around (some of which were being a bit naughty!) and together we achieved our goals!

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Success with my steed!

6 Jun

Corona and I have been having quite a bit of fun lately, and I feel like a breakthrough was made when I decided “no more x-ties!” I’m not swearing them off completely, as I’m sure there’ll be some instances where he’ll be on them (ex: for the blacksmith etc.), but I’m making a concerted effort to not use them at all right now. Up until last weekend, I’d never had to contend with having dogs/people around while working on this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when more distractions / excitement/ dogs (Corona hates dogs) were added to the mix. Last weekend, CG came to the barn with her 2 dogs, Gus- who is quite well-mannered around the horses and who is terrified of Corona (but not the other horses) and Meesha – who is relatively new and can be considered non-horsified. Since their doggie friends were out to visit, the Boss also had her three dogs out. Of the dogs, only one is a small dog (sheltie), the other 4 are medium to large (German shepherd, lab/Burmese mix, springer spaniel and a border collie). When all five of them run around, it’s like a circus and they haven’t quite mastered the art of staying outside and not running though the barn like a pack of hooligans at any given moment.

I had Corona in the aisle and was grooming him while keeping a close eye out for any dog-attacking thoughts to enter his mind. I had wondered if all the excitement would make him dance around in the aisle, but he was so well-behaved!!! He gave stink eye a couple of times, and he had an indiscretion where he actually lunged at Meesha, however, a) she stood in front of him and barked at his face and b) after he surged forward, he jumped right back into place where he was supposed to be even before I had finished yelling, “no!”

Once we had tacked up, CG and I had a nice relaxing ride with both Gus and Meesha. It was really interesting because the entire time, Gus was trying to teach Meesha the proper riding etiquette. Any time she would get out of line (getting too close to the horses, trying to chase them etc.) he would pull rank on her and put her in her place. I think having a relaxed ride with both the horses and the dogs was a good idea as it let them get used to each other and allowed for any necessary corrections to be made a lot easier than if we had been having a more formal schooling session.

The past few rides, I’ve been taking Corona’s saddle off and riding bareback for our cool-down. He’s surprisingly comfortable even though he has a really high wither and isn’t the chunkiest of horses. He actually seems to enjoy it as well as I find he’s very eager to stretch down and just relax without a saddle. This has made me question whether his saddle isn’t comfortable, but I’m pretty sure it fits him correctly and I haven’t noticed any issues previously. Maybe my seat bones are like a nice massage on his back?!?

After our ride on Sunday, I convinced CG to give bareback a try on Roller and she reluctantly did it. Once she was on she was happy about it, but I think she had some reservations about even being able to get on him without the assistance of stirrups (he’s rather high). Once she was on, I then convinced her to try trotting and she collapsed in fit of laughter as Roller picked up the trot. It was quite funny to watch and I think CG has added “practice sitting trot” to her “to do” list.

I rode again last night, this time with one of the Boss’ friends (M) who trucks in her young horses to the Boss’ property sometimes. We had a good ride and I found it good to ride with unfamiliar horses as it allowed me to practice getting and holding Corona’s attention. He did very well and M even said how well-behaved he was, i.e.: “Did he even notice the new horse? All mine wanted to do was go and say hi and yours just ignored!” M said this in front of the Boss and I was beaming in my proud horse-mama fashion. M and the Boss were talking about how M’s horses don’t really stand still and run around giraffe-like sometimes since they’re so green…And then it happened. The Boss said, “Corona used to be like that, but now he’s good and will stand still”. WHAT????? A COMPLIMENT????? ABOUT CORONA???????? Sure it’s not like she said he should go in the Horse Hall of Fame, but it means a lot considering she wanted the horse put down 2 months ago and she only ever tells me what an @sshole he is. It didn’t even stop there. After M left, I was saying how well behaved Corona was and then the Boss said, “Yes, he was good.” Lightning struck twice in one night! Time for me to buy a lottery ticket!

And just to save the best for last – recall the trailer incident of 2 weeks ago – the one where Corona wouldn’t load and ended up galloping around the track? Well, I’ve been working on this in hopes that loading for the show on the 15th will be a bit less chaotic. On our way out to the field after our ride, I stopped by the trailer for some practice. Who loaded 3 times in a row with only 1 mild hesitation? That’s right, Corona – my vote for the next inductee into the Horse Hall of Fame!!!!!

C is for Contentment

30 May

Yep, those eyes are closed! Have I mentioned how much I love Corona?!?!

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A shining moment of accomplishment

23 May

I am a gushing horse-mama, I am so proud of Corona!!

I went to the barn last night after work. By the time I arrived, the horses had been turned out for the night. I walked over to the field where Corona and Roller get turned out and they were both at the opposite end grazing to their heart’s content. I whistled at the gate and they both looked up and ignored me, the delicious grass was clearly more appealing than I was. I started to open the gate to go into the field and at that moment Corona decided to abandon his grass-guzzling frenzy and he cantered over to me! I’ve never had him canter over to me – ever. There have been a couple times when he’s mooched over or trotted over, but last night he came over so eagerly that it really was something else to behold.

I brought him into his stall and put on his rope halter as we were going to do some groundwork a) because I love groundwork, b) because he was caked in wet mud and there was defintely not going to be any riding going on and c) to switch things up after our focus on preparing for the dressage tests of last weekend.

We went into the coverall and started with some friendly game, followed by the porcupine and driving games, then the yo-yo and then circling. I was getting some really nice responses but I definitely have to do some DVD-review to up our games. For the first time, I also introduced the sideways game and I was completely shocked at how quickly Corona seemed to get it. We played around the mounting block as well, as I’d like to start working on mounting from both sides. There is some definitely hesitation from Corona to have someone standing on the mounting block on his right side. Right now, he won’t stand square and tends to walk forwards or move his hindquarters over. After a few attempts however, I was able to stand on the mounting block and lean on his back from the right side.

Over the last few months, I’ve been putting Corona on x-ties in the barn when I’ve been working around him (previously I’d work on him in his stall but that stopped when he began being aggressive). He’s pretty well behaved on x-ties, but he has this habit of tossing his head up and down – it’s like a nervous tick and he’s done it since he arrived. The previous owner told us about it and said how they tried a variety of things to try to get him to stop, but were unsuccessful. I’ve never liked that he’s done it, because I know that he does it out of stress, but I have noticed that he has improved a bit since first arriving, and he tends to do it less after being worked. To be honest, I somewhat just accepted that it’s one of his quirks and hoped that with time, he’s just do it less and less until it stopped. Over the last few weeks, when I’ve been finished with him on the x-ties, I’ve been unclipping him and asking him to stand still for a few minutes at a time before turning him out. He’s done quite well and has responded to my corrections (ie: backing him up using the porcupine game when he walks forward).

Last night, I decided that I wasn’t going to put him on x-ties at all. I was going to take this “standing still” game up a notch and do it while I brushed him. This horse blew my mind. He stood like a gentleman the entire time and I hardly had to correct him at all. I couldn’t believe it. At first, I held the rope, but he was doing so well that I lay the rope over his back. I brushed him and brushed him and brushed him…then I picked out all of his feet and he didn’t move an inch! To say I was elated would be an understatement, I couldn’t believe how polite he was being….and…there was NO head tossing. None. Not even a shake! He was so relaxed…yawning, resting a hind leg, he was really just happily standing while I worked around him. Even when I fiddling with equipment beside him and not touching him, he was totally complacent. I gave him some carrots – no problem, no pushiness, no rude head butts, just standing still, happily embracing whatever I was doing.

I love this horse. A lot.

I took photos too…and have been staring at them with pride ever since!

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Corona’s springtime tune-up

3 May

So yesterday I decided to take the day off work to get in some much-needed spring cleaning and tune-up work at the barn.

The vet was coming out to do vaccinations, Coggins, and float teeth so I thought I’d take advantage of the sedation and do Corona’s sheath at the same time.

I’ve never actually witnessed Corona with the vet because I have a 9-5 job during the week. I do, however, always hear the, “that Corona is such an @ss!” stories of how he won’t stand still and how he lunges away from needles. I was interested to see this for myself, because I find that there is a bit of a bias towards my Corona in general at the barn, in the sense that if he’s naughty once, then people tend to generalize the he’s ALWAYS naughty. I was actually having a conversation with CG on the weekend that somewhat related to this– I was telling her that I’ve found that since Corona had his aggression issues, the degree of negative comments about him has really increased, despite those issues being resolved (knock on wood). Normally I just let them go and don’t think anything of them, but when you hear negative things all the time, I think it’s human nature to start to listen to them, even if it’s just a little bit. On several occasions I found myself questioning whether Corona and I were a good fit together and whether he really is the @sshole horse that others tell me he is. I’m not going to say he is the most perfectly behaved horse out there, but he is not a mean horse whatsoever. He’s just what I’d call a “high maintenance” horse in the sense that he’s not for beginner, and you need to have his attention on you when you’re working around him, otherwise he’ll do what he likes.

Anyways, back to the vet – I was the assistant yesterday, holding the horses for the vet as the Boss isn’t strong enough if any of them act up. I brought Corona out, the vet took a vial of blood from his neck for his Coggins test, gave him his vaccine in the bum and that was that! Corona stood like a gentleman without any issue! This also included standing still while we chatted to the vet about his leg and while the vet took down his markings for the Coggins. I was so proud of him and so proud that the Boss was standing right there and saw the whole thing. At one point I turned to the Boss and said, “that was really good, you had me a bit worried that he was going to misbehave, he was perfect!”

We finished up the vaccines on the rest of the horses and then moved onto teeth. We saved Corona for last so that I could do his sheath while he was still a bit dopey. I knew his teeth needed done as he’s been leaning on the bit lately, especially on the right rein, he’s also been grinding his jaw a little bit too. The vet found quite a few sharp edges and we discussed doing his teeth every 9 months instead of 12, which is a-ok with me.

That was the end of the vet work and so I started on the lovely job of sheath cleaning. I’d say it was about 95% successful, but was a tad difficult because even with the sedation, Corona didn’t ahem, “drop”. This is likely TMI – but I was quite surprised at how strong those muscles are as I tried to hold it a couple of times when it did make an appearance, but only for about 10 seconds at a time before he pulled it up again…I tried holding on, but it escaped every time. I still got a lot of gunk out of there and heard an interesting tip from the vet – he said to put some KY jelly up there once/week to keep it clean…never would have thought of that. I may or may not do it, as I don’t imagine that it would be terribly comfortable to always have it up there.

I took a couple of photos of Corona while he was under the influence…these are towards the end so he’s not as dopey looking as he was, but I still find them pretty funny. Never mind the wonky halter/x-tie job…the vet did him up on one side, and I clipped him on the other and we used different rings…and the chin strap on his halter was still undone and clipped on the other side from his teeth floating.

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Redemption!

30 Apr

It seems as though Corona and I are back on track! We had a superb weekend of riding and groundwork that more than made up for our issues last week.

On Saturday, the weather was very “blah” – really grey and dreary with some rain. I did the barn work and decided that I’d focus on doing some groundwork with Corona. I had watched a portion of my Level 1 Parelli DVD and was feeling pretty inspired. Corona didn’t disappoint in the least. I have been focussing on games 1-3, but decided to add in games 4 and 5. Corona was a gem. In Parelli, you use an incremental set of requests when you’re playing with your horse. Level 1 is considered a suggestion, level 2 is a request, level 3 is to tell and level 4 is to follow through…they also explain it as adding pressure through the hair, skin, muscle, bone. Corona is normally pretty good at responding by level 3 (I’ve got level 1 and 2 before, but very inconsistently). On Saturday, he was consistently responding by level 2 once he figured out what I was requesting. It’s really great to watch him showing signs of relaxation and curiosity as well. I introduced a game called, “touch it” where you ask your horse to touch an object with the aim of encouraging their curiosity and play instincts which in turn supports their confidence. While my “driving aids” left quite a bit to be desired, Corona happily investigated the objects (large metal barrel, part of a wooden skid, pilon) and wasn’t spooky towards them at all.

After our groundwork I decided that I’d tack him up and take him for a walk around the track (and by the scary horse-eating corner). Off we went and, while there were no squirrels around, there were about 50 Canada geese in the same corner!! Just our luck. Corona was hesitant, and I can’t really blame him, but I tried to just coax him on….all was going relatively well and then the buggers took off!!!!!!! Off we went down the track snorting like a fire breathing dragon. He wasn’t as wound-up as he had been with the squirrel and I was able to get him moving more relaxed once we got to the other end of the track. I decided that instead of going back over to the geese, I would ride in the in-field (ie: the middle of the track). This way, we were about 50m from the geese – far enough away so that it wouldn’t cause a heart attack, but close enough that perhaps we could have a teaching moment.

The walk went so well, that I inevitably decided to trot…then that went so well that I asked for a canter. I’m so happy I did because we had a wonderful relaxed canter around part of the field with zero issues! I let him cool down after that and called it a day.

On Sunday, the awesomeness continued. I didn’t do any groundwork but rode with CG and Roller. Off we went around the track when I heard something…I turned around to see an ATV coming our way with a trailer on the back. Super…and where was this all happening?? Oh yes, in THE SCARY CORNER! The ATV passed us on the other side of the ditch (there’s a ditch with a few trees/bushes separating the Boss’ property from her neighbours), the driver got off and started throwing wood into the trailer! He looked at us, I thought he was going to offer to stop while we went passed, but no….he continued. The horses were AMAZING! They looked, Corona hesitated for a minute and needed some strong leg to move forward instead of spinning around, but after a bit of encouragement, he just walked by. We then decided to stay down at the other end as we didn’t want to jinx things. We decided to go and ride in the in-field again…and good thing we did because the guy then started up his chainsaw! I guess he decided it was a good day to clear brush and cut down a couple of trees.

Corona was excellent…and I don’t mean excellent “all things considered,” I mean he was truly outstanding. CG and I had lots of fun, and da-da-da…Corona and I cantered some large circles on a long rein while the chainsaw was going! I was grinning from ear to ear.

What made the day even better was that we officially declared it Spring at the barn – that means taking the blankets off the horses and watching them indulge in their newfound nakedness…it was rolls all around and I’m pretty sure I saw the horses smiling too.

Spring also means moving water troughs with help of two-legged and four-legged friends 🙂

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