The week before last was both low key and a lead up to a show. After Packy and I rocked around the Eric Smiley Clinic the following Monday was a good let down for her and myself. Granted I still got to muck the trailer and haul all of my stuff out of it to then clean and regroup for the week and the schooling trials on Saturday.
Elvis made some “modifications” from when he went out
On Tuesday we puttered around on the flat and didn’t do all of that much. It sort of became the theme of the week as we spent it slowly puttering around and hacking around.
When Wednesday rolled around we managed to sneak in a little gallop after the fields had dried out enough.
Goodbye yucky metal, hello cedar and vinyl
Thursday and Friday ended up being prep days so Packy ran amok happily with the boys in the high field. Our indoor was also having the vinyl put up on the last side so it felt like we were dodging construction as they worked to put up the vinyl.
Saturday morning Packy, Ruby and I loaded up and headed up to Hitching Post Farm for what would hopefully be my last run at Introductory. I’ve found that Ruby is effective at curbing my nerves so having her along is very helpful. She was just excited to be invited along. We rolled in and after I made sure Packy was settled Ruby and I went to collect my packet and walk my course. When I walk my course alone I start wishing I have a trainer or at least another person walking with me, but I didn’t, so Ruby was my stand in. It’s hard to get nervous when Ruby is happily trotting over the jumps.
After we got back I looked at my phone and realized that I was late tacking Packy up. One speed dressing and tacking later we hit the dressage warm up with eight minutes until our time. Luckily everything was running a bit behind so I had enough time to at least feign a warm up. Packy wasn’t impressed though. She felt stuck, behind my leg and wasn’t impressed with some of the juniors that had their trainers in the middle of the warm up practically teaching a lesson. After trying a couple of things to get her to go forward I finally lightened my seat and told her to just go. Usually Packy will then happily go into a nice extended canter, but I still ended up with a slightly soggy canter that transitioned into an okay canter. During that I couldn’t get my thighs to relax and just lay like they were supposed to. We then went down to the dressage ring to watch the end of the test before mine. Stephanie was there to watch and she came to the rescue by quickly working some massage magic on my thighs. I’m not sure what she did but I went from feeling like my thighs were tight blocks to actually feeling like muscles that could relax or tightened as needed. Packy was tense and hollow for most of our test which hurt our score, but I was able to focus on actually riding which meant our shapes were fairly accurate and our transitions were correct, although a few were “prompt”. We ended up tied for fifth with a 43.2, but true to form I had no idea because I refuse to check my scores until I’m completely done so I can’t wig myself out.
hanging out after dressage
I was able to watch some friends go and then I went to tack up for XC with help from my friends because yet again I was running late (do you see a theme here?). Luckily Packy is easy to warm up for jumping. It’s sort of magical how she changes from a very relaxed mare into a spicy fiery tamale ready to go and jump all of the jumps at the fastest speed I’ll allow. I did have a sacrifice fence in the warm up where a certain mare decided to ignore my half halt. That quickly got her listening and we went over to the box to start the course. As we cantered out of the box and towards the first jump I felt good. Packy started to suck back a little bit from the first jump, a pole with tires, and when I went to tap her with my crop I realized that I’d left it hanging in my trailer. Luckily with a little leg and a good kiss squeak Packy locked on and over we went. I was then able to put her in cruise and we easily hopped the “small log” and carried on down to the “brown log” after that we had to make a weird right hand turn to go over the mound.
small log to the brown log
Packy landed on the left lead so we popped down into a trot until the mound where we picked the the canter again and easily went up and over the mound and then up to the “large log”.
mound to the big log
At that point we looped back to go through the water. Our schooling with Ava paid off as Packy easily cantered through the water and then I put on a little speed to carry us to the “brown coop”.
With a good half half Packy easily powered over the cool and then we blasted away from the coop, up the hill and over the final “small log”.
brown coop to small log and finish
It was easy, and took us all of ninety seconds to do. Show jumping was similar. The course flowed and we easily puttered along it, keeping our regularity, going double clear. It was satisfying at how focused I was on the riding and that I was able to keep my nerves at bay. It was also rewarding that our double clear round moved us up to fourth after some people placed ahead of me had rails, were eliminated, or as I was told: had issues with the water.
not half bad
This gave Packy a well deserved Sunday off while I puttered around the barn after I cleaned all of my tack at home the night before.
As Monday rolled around I knew I needed to get a good dressage lesson in before GMHA. Sue Berrill had been the judge for dressage and I had previously chatted with her about getting some lessons, so a quick exchange of messages later Sue was going to let me know if she had time to fit me in before she left to teach a camp. In the mean time the trails had dried up so Packy and I just hacked, and hacked.
doing our favorite “butt blaster” loop
No motivation to ride? Go for a hack. On Wednesday we got a short gallop breeze in on a trail loop that we’d been riding. The hacking and little breezes are perfect for getting Packy fit with a low impact on her and she relaxes while we hack so it helps to build the correct muscles we struggle to build in the ring.
Thursday rolled around and it seemed I’d caught a cold from work. I made it through the farrier in the morning, but after lunch I just needed to sleep and try to fight whatever cold I had. So home I went and on Friday I slept for most of the day. I managed to drag myself to pay my entry for GMHA and by the time PM turn in rolled around I was feeling quite a bit better.
Ruby “helping” with chores
In the mean time Sue had gotten back to me and we planned on meeting at GMHA the next day for a lesson. When I went to hitch up I was greeted with a slightly frightening sight of the trailer jack precariously gripping into the block I use to prop the jack. Apparently with some of the torrential rain we’d had in the previous week the trailer shifted forward. Luckily the chocks caught it, so combined with the large block I was able to carefully hitch up with Emily’s help without having to detour to get the tractor.
Packy easily loaded up on the trailer and we hit the road to GMHA. Normally it takes me 30-45 minutes to get to GMHA, with traffic in Woodstock it took me over an hour. Sue met us there and we popped over to the dressage rings to work on our dressage. Sue instantly began working on my position. She took the point of having a flat pelvic floor and expanded the concept to having three points of contact to focus on, the pelvic bone, and both seat bones. She then encouraged my knee to drop and relax away from the thigh block while my heel went towards Packy’s stifle. That shifted me forward and better into balance. In the mean time, Sue asked me to open and drop my shoulders while keeping good contact. I can find it challenging to open my shoulder some days with the mystery that’s brewing in my left shoulder, when it’s flared and has created a mass that physically keeps my left shoulder from opening my sternum and rib cage. So I kept trying to open my shoulders and keep them opened. It then became a game of me trying to keep the corrections with my body that Sue had made while maintaining a good tempo of pace with Packy. Sue was able by correcting my body to get Packy moving through her body and connecting to my hand via the bit. Packy still wasn’t “on the bit” but the change was definite in how she was moving. There was a half second of extra lift as Packy lifted under and loaded more weight behind lightening her front. It wasn’t a drastic difference, but it was there. Throughout the lesson Sue would ask me different questions to help keep me aware, how was my tempo, was she straight enough, what were my hands doing. All of these little things that needed to constantly happen. It was slightly overwhelming at first, but it felt right once I’d been doing it for a little while. Sue also got after my poor habit of letting my fingers loosen and just use my pointer fingers to really hold and use the reins. She informed me that the pointer finger connects to the pecs which creates a closed and tight contact, while the ring finger connects to the traps and back to the scapula and back to create an open and strong contact based more in the properly opened shoulders and sternum. So basically you can use the wrong finger. As the lesson progressed Sue asked me to move Packy along with my outside leg. She’d mentioned it before and it made no sense as to why I’d use my outside leg to get Packy moving and turning. So I asked why. The answer made total sense. Sue explained that the outside leg needed to more larger in order to keep pace with the inside leg as it turns to keep balanced. Sue explained it like manual wheel chair turning which made sense. Sue elaborated that the hind legs are interdependent in each other for moving and creating a powering force to load and engage. She also reminded me to gently cue with my leg and “don’t squash her”. The whole lesson was so dynamic and full of good information. The best part was that Sue gave me homework and an overarching idea of how to continue the work we did in the lesson on my own. After we finished Kate and Emily had brought Mic and Kissa over so I cooled Packy out by walking them over to the first cross country field. I then used the brook that runs through the campus to my advantage by doing some cold therapy in a deeper part of the water.
waiting for the rest of the herd to come in for dinner after our lesson
When Sunday rolled around I went over in the evening when everything had cooled off and took Packy for a good canter and light gallop set. It was wonderful to let her stretch her legs and work on maintaining a set pace, not that I have any clue as to the speed we were going, Packy wasn’t happy that she couldn’t just gallop but she came back easily so after a couple of back and forths and I asked her to go on our last length. Packy responded almost joyfully by blasting into a strong gallop. The experience of just letting her go and flatten out and she speeds across the field is one of my favorites and helps to cement why I love eventing. Going fast is fun. Now to prep for the starter trials at GMHA, and my first beginner novice.