Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In which I putter on about lots of things

Whinge.  To whine or complain.  Today I am whinging because I smashed my little toe this morning on the dining room table.  It's turning a lovely shade of purple.  It throbs.  It hurts to but a shoe on.  I probably have cracked something. 

I realized this morning it has been ages since my last blog promoting drinking and driving.  The 12 year old scotch did the trick once again in early May.  Monster Pony, the 'gator and I traveled to Tryon to the Carolina Carriage Club HDT.  New location, and lots of new location issues, but a really fun show with clever and challenging courses.  Dressage was by far the MOST challenging, with warm up on a hillside, and a half mile hack down the road to a stone dust dressage ring carved out of the woods.  It was level.  It was dusty. It was deep.  Not our best score, although I was quite pleased with how Bryn went.  Cones was challenging and showed really good use of the terrain.  We had a silly ball down at 18, two from home.  I was just thinking. . . YES!  double clear is within my grasp!!  That will teach me to think! Marathon was a blast, with some wide open hazards that allowed us to really put the pedal down.  Scoring took forever, and we finally packed up and headed home without knowing results.  Thirty mintutes from home I got the phone call from Alicia Henderson, the organizer, telling me we had won our first recognized driving competition!!

Bryn has had a light summer, and we are just now getting stuck into work for our fall competition schedule.  I have just two on the calendar - love both events and am looking forward to both of them!

The new face in the paddock is Fred.  Fred is a five year old welsh gelding, and I am having a lot of fun starting him from scratch (with lots of help from trainer and friend Craig Kellogg).  We have progressed over the last four months from being halter broken (Fred led a sheltered life until he moved to Raeford) to dragging a tire around in the woods. Fred has had several name changes - migrating from Feral Fred to Friendly Fred.  Fred meets carriage in September and I am really looking forward to working with and competing this flashy guy. 

Another new face at the farm is JR's Boy.  Boy is a nine year old dark brindle greyhound and the track record holder at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Florida.  We weren't really on the look out for a second greyhound, but I have always had a soft spot for the seniors, particularly after having Pops spend the end of his days with us.  I mention Pops because he is the reason Boy had to come to us.  Pops was JR's Proud, racer extraordinaire with a fantastic stakes winning record and 91 recorded get to his credit.  Pops sired many top racers - and one of his best was Boy.  When I saw Boy's name listed on the up for adoption roster at Senior Sanctuary I knew he had to come to us.  He is funny, LOUD, boisterous, and larger than life.  We hold regular conversations at five in the morning, I am usually in the bathroom and he is intently doing the staredown, playbowing and demanding snappy comebacks.  I don't do snappy at five am.  It's a challenge. 

The big horse is in the house for awhile. . . or at least in the neighborhood.  He is enjoying a protracted visit with the Queen of Darkness, whose name shall be changing to Annie Sullivan The Miracle Worker shortly.  Thanks to Lynn Doki and Dr. Megan Ross Bo has got the beat.  Three that is.  Shaken, not stirred.  Can flying changes be just around the corner?  Our goal is to bring that charming Australian an easier horse to ride on the flat, and hopefully in the end reunite Bo with the guy he brought to the dance to start with. 

I have lots more to blog about - but will save Diemer International for next week.  In closing, the lovely photographs were done by our good friend Meri Hyoky.  She is in town for a short while longer before returning to her new home in Lesotho and is available for photo shoots.  Great eye and great to work with!  Two thumbs up!

Monday, April 16, 2012

In which I discover the secret of a great dressage test

I won't keep you in suspense.  Scotch.  12 year old Scotch.  The Queen of Darkness agreed to function as a carriage appointment last Friday in what ended up being our season opener.  She showed up, booze in hand, and said "Here, have a snort".  Being the obedient student, I did.  I have sort of suspected that being half lit was the answer, the last dressage test I drove was enhanced by marshmellow flavored vodka and cranberry juice.  Thanks Reba. . . but the scotch is da bomb!

While giving new meaning to "driving drunk" we managed to produce a soft and relaxed test and a carrer best score of 51 and change.  Bryn's driveability remained the entire weekend - we planted ourselves firmly in third place.  Stubbornly stayed put the entire weekend, including going into cones with three balls plus in hand. 

Next time I am giving the scotch to the pony as well!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In which I have a lightbulb moment

Not a nerve, not a chord.  Not sure what. . . . but a recent post on a driving digest by a noted judge struck something in me. The gentleman wrote at length about the concept of "tracking up".  His judging premise du jour is tracking up above all else.  I know this to be true as he was the judge at C in my last recognized driving competition and we were heavily  penalized at every movement.  One comment in almost every box.  Not tracking up.  At the same time, the judge at E, a classically trained dressage rider well on her way to Senior status, pinged the pony for lack of impulsion (not tracking up) , but also rewarded his relaxation, rhythm and submisson. Judge at C - thumbs down,  Judge at E - thumbs up.  I haven't decided whether the practice of having multiple opinions in dressage is an encouraging or discouraging situation.  Of  course, someone is surely apt to make at least one positive comment, thus rendering the other judges' outlooks as warped, uneducated or otherwise ignorant.  Insert disclaimer here:  Judging is never easy, and I hope that if I ever get the opportunity to sit at C, I can come up with observtions and scoring that will help competitors better their partners. It took me 3 1/2 months to realize the judge at C, in a convoluted sort of way, did just that. 

Which brings me to Dressage Anonymous and the Six Step Program.  While pondering all of this, coupled with my irritation over "not tracking up" - don't tell me what you see, tell me what I need for a better score! and tempering all that with the knowledge judges must comment on what they see on the day - so unfair!  Can't I just bring a video in of my last lesson with the Queen of Darkness and let them judge that!!  I dug up an old eventing book by Jane Wallace called The Less Than Perfect Horse.  It's out of print now, but well worth re-reading.  The early chapters are all devoted to the six steps to self carriage, and NOW finally, I am beginning to have a grasp of what all that means.  It's a little like being able to speak a foreign language, but not truly understand what you are saying.  There has been something lost in the translation for sure, and finally, 20 years after I bought the book, I have stumbled across the rosetta stone to intrepret it. 

Relaxation, Rhythym, Contact, Straightness, Impulsion, Collection. 

Brynnie and I spend a lot of time stuttering up and down the first four steps.  Sometimes we get them out of order.  A lot of times step one and step four are a struggle.  More and more we get to the point each day where we can take the next step up to impulsion, teetering there precariously, trying to find our balance.  It's exciting to think that maybe, just maybe, we can plant ourselves firmly on that next rung.  Take the pledge.  Stand up and say hello, our names are Bryn and Dana and we are on the road to recovery. So while I have to thank the judge at E for confirming where I am on the training ladder, I must also acknowledge the judge at C for reminding me there is a training ladder, to understand where I am on that ladder, and to acknowledge that steps on the ladder can't be skipped.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In which I expand on random thoughts

I have decided that my dressage lesson yesterday is a living reenactment of Robin Williams' famous treatment on the origins of golf.  His piece starts out with an explanation of how incredibly difficult it is to understand the average Scotsman, and segues into a long winded explanation on the creation of golf.  Mr. Williams expounds at length about hacking away through the gorse, getting so mad "yewl have a stroke".  Wait, that's what we'll call it  - stroke.  And at the end there will be a little white flag - "jes' ta give ya hope." 

I think that is what dressage is.  Hacking away in the underbrush, having strokes and every once in awhile getting a view of that little white flag.  Hope lives!

Driving is all about scribing the arc.  If you can be accurate on a circle you can be a combined driver.

See above - except for the part where you have to REMEMBER everything.  Dresage test, the way to drive through six obstacles, plus alternate routes, and back up plans for the oh shit that ain't gonna work moments and then 20 something sets of orange cones with yellow balls on top of them.  20 something sets of orange cones that look EXACTLY alike.

I walk more doing CDEs than I ever did walking cross country courses. 

One of my favorite lines from any movie - "I am older and have more insurance!"

Trying to help my spouse learn a dressage test is painful. He is also hacking through the underbrush.

I like dance lessons.

I hate that the instant I start on a diet my body goes into survival mode and stubbornly refuses to part with one ounce.

I am very happy my son got the job he was looking for, and more relieved that his father and I won't have to foot the bill for his upcoming trek to Zambia.  Go Team USA!!

My kitty has tortitude.

My pony does not.

Florida in 34 days!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

In which I ponder the necessity for dressage.

Ok.  I admit it.  I think dressage is really a four letter word.  And I think my dressage instructor is the Queen of Darkness.  And I am not at all sure that it was a wise thing to engage a USDF Grand Prix rider to help out with driven dressage. Isn't driven dressage all about the hats and the outfits anyway?

 The Queen of Darkness keeps coming up with all these ideas that would make the average combined driver roll over in the grave.  Leg yield, rapid fire transitions from the shoulder fore position, upper body positioning (mine), shoulder positioning (his), canter transitions (we don't even canter in driven dressage until Advanced - Hellooo), canter work to strengthen back muscles and build topline, thumbs on top, don't collapse your ribcage, stop contorting your body to the left, get him more on the outside rein, yes I know he is heavy right now - it's where he is at, six pack pony abs, half halt from your stomach. . .

The latest torture was the introduction of a shallow serpentine at the canter.  Seriously.  In preparation for mastering the counter canter.  Inside shoulder back.  Half halt on the third beat.  I can't count that fast - this is a 13.2 pony after all! What do you mean you want this driven from the outside rein.  Brynnie - are you listening to ANY of this?  Think you might cooperate a little???

And yet. . . I have been working with Queenie for about four months.  Pony boy is getting six pack abs.  I can sit up straight, keep my thumbs on top.  He can actually use his back - the space between the back strap and his back is miniscule.  All this in a forward frame with throughness.  And how we laugh.  She has the best phrases - his hind quarters are not just a friend following closely behind.  Expand the toolbox.  If all you have is a screwdriver then everything has to look like a screw. 

So, after yesterday's beat down, I will gird my loins, put to the presentation carriage and head back out for another round.  Because, just like his eventing cousins, Brynnie's ability to make those quick turns, and hold the line in smooth arcs really does all begin in the dressage court.