Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I won't be having a Thanksgiving dinner this year but I will be giving thanks that Donneur has had an epiphany about how to do the one tempi changes! Once he figured out how to manage that big canter of his in this new situation, he has never looked back. In fact, the miraculous thing is that he does the ones easier than the twos and threes. What a thrill to have been there every step of the way of his journey from a five year old to a Grand Prix horse. Mary Anne will tell you that I lamented over every new movement worrying that it would be possible from leg yields to piaffe. But one thing I have to say for Donneur, even though it has been a big job for him to get control over his big gaits, once he understands what to do, he owns it for life.
It is a long and difficult journey from the lower levels to Grand Prix and it is different for each horse. It is important to remember that all the 90% of perspiration and 10% inspiration that it takes to get to Grand Prix with a horse makes it oh so sweet in the end. I am so looking forward to making it official by riding him down the centerline in his first Grand Prix test. I had hoped to be able to do that next week at the show we are going to, but the Grand Prix test for young horses is not being offered at that show. So, we will go PSG and INT 1 for the last time.
My horses get a gold star for being able to function in a 20 x 50 arena with 8 other horses. There are 3 tracks happening at any one time. The track closest to the middle is for handwalking horses, the 2nd track is for riders that are only walking and the rail is for horses moving at a faster pace. It requires as much attention as driving on the Autobahn, if fact, I could have used a rear view mirror on the pommel on more than one occasion. When you are in a lesson with Hubertus and he tells you to do a pirouette on the diagonal, it doesn't matter if you are within inches of another horse, you go on about your business. And just because there might be someone bearing down on you from the opposite direction on the diagonal, don't leave your line when you are doing the tempi changes. I have to say when we were at the show in Paderborn, being in a 20 x 60 arena for my test felt like I had a whole football field. I think it is much easier to go from a small ring to a larger one instead of the other way around.
Next weekend we get to try our hand in the competition arena again and we are looking forward to another successful show. Stay tuned for the results!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

After having a couple of days off, we are back to work after the horse show. We have our sights set on another show Dec. 1,2 and will be very happy to have Mary Anne here visiting at the time and helping us out. This week of training we have gotten back to working on piaffe, passage and one time changes since we had put these things on the back burner 10 days before the last show. Both horses are doing well on the piaffe and passage, starting to make transitions between the two. The highlight of the week was on Saturday for me when I made 8 beautiful ones on Donneur. How sweet it is!
We are going to have to get the ark out soon, we have had rain every day and night for about a week now, with only short periods of sunshine. The horses have not been able to get outside since the horse show and I am sure they are missing their turnout time.
It is so nice to be at a stable where no matter what country you are from, we are all there for the same reason. My Japanese friend, Mieko, gave my horses an interesting compliment. She said that she likes the way they trot, they have a lot of expression, like Michael Jackson doing the Moon Walk. Could that be a new way to describe horses that move with more cadence?
It must be Saturday morning because there is a man that comes to the barn each weekend in his motorized wheel chair, even on rainy days, he gets suited up in rain gear. He must be really a dedicated dressage enthusiast. NOT!!! He is coming to get a beer out of the vending machine. I wonder if his wife knows what he is up to? With all of this wet weather, it is hard to get the horses cooled off and their coats dried after work. Even after being clipped 3 weeks ago, they have grown back quite a bit of hair. I have been changing their coolers for a few hours afterwards trying to get them dry but now I have discovered the wonders of the Solarium. The only problem is that my horses are a little afraid of it because they have to stand in a very narrow space and it makes quite a bit of noise blowing warm air on them. Dolly took to it faster than Donneur because I told her it was a beauty treatment and we all know how women like to go to the spa. Next, she'll be asking to get her feet done while she is in the Solarium. Donneur on the other hand, has different ideas. I turned the Solarium on first and tried to back him in, to no avail. He came out rather forcefully and of course hit the Emergency Off Switch with his nose in the process. Are we surprised by that? But you know what? Now that he is doing his one time changes, he can have anything he wants! I feel a Grand Prix test just around the corner. Hopefully, we can do our first one soon. They have a wonderful Grand Prix test for 8,9 and 10 year old horses here in Germany that is very user friendly that we hope to try soon. The only bad news is that Hubertus cracked a vertebrae in his back and is not allowed on a horse for 8 weeks. His wife, Doris, has a big job ahead of her keeping him under wraps until he gets the all clear from his doctor.......

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What a horse show it was! First I would like to thank all of you that sent e-mails to cheer us on, it was greatly appreciated. The horse show was located in Paderborn, only about 30 minutes away, so that meant that we trailered the horses back and forth each day. It was a good size show, with participants from 9 countries and 48 horses entered in my first class. We trailered over on Thursday to school and imagine my surprise to be stabled next to 2 other Americans that were showing there, Sue Blinks and Jan Ebeling. It was really nice to have other American riders there and I must say everyone was very good about supporting each other.
The competition was indoors with the arena beautifully decorated with plants, flowers and many banners. My class had 3 judges sitting at H, C and M. Dolly was my first ride and she put in a good solid test with no mistakes and handled the 20 x 40 warm up area with no problem. We just put our elbows out and went for it. Donneur was also quite comfortable in the warm up, we even had our best pirouettes since we have been in Germany, according to Hubertus. I had a head set on which made the warm up alot easier. Donneur also put in a good solid test, no major mistakes. Over all, I was well pleased with the horses. Hubertus was also complimentary and said that the tests were well ridden technically and that the horses did a good job. Klaus Balkenhol was also there and watched both horses perform and spoke to me afterwards about the rides. Here comes the reality check. Dolly scored a 60% and Donneur 61% which placed them in the middle of the pack. Hubertus and Klaus thought that the judges were too tough on us and that each horse should have been 4 or 5 % higher. But here is the thing: 1) I am an auslander (foreign rider) that they do not know and 2) the Germans have an incredibly high standard for what they want to see. It is assumed that you will do a clean test and then the marks go up from there. They are judging on all of the fine points, is the neck too short, the walk active enough, was the horse crooked. In America, if the horse does the flying change we give a 7, here it would be a 5 for doing it and it would have to be big, expressive and straight to get a 7. But after all, that is why we are here! I want to be measured by the strictest standard and I am willing to knock on the door until they know who I am!
Since I was one of the top 20 riders in the S3 test( equivilent to PSG), I qualified for the Prix St. George Special the next day and had to choose which horse to ride. I rode Donneur and again, he had a good test, very consistent, no major mistakes, and placed 10th, tying with Jan Ebeling. So, we did get to participate in the prize giving and the victory gallop and will bring back a ribbon from Germany!
I was really impressed that my horses could trailer back and forth each day in a van that was a slant load and the spot where Donneur had to ride was about the size of the back seat of a VW. We didn't get back to our stable until 10:00 Friday night and had to leave early the next morning to go back over for our other class. They did tests that they have never ridden before( I only got a copy 4 days before the show) and they had to warm up in a small area. The horse shows here are so different, you don't know until 6:30 the night before you ride what time your test will be the following day. No one checks your tack or the length of your whip, etc. It was kind of like going to a horse show for the first time because you don't know the protocol and it is hard to find out when you aren't fluent in German! I almost missed the prize giving because the class before they placed to 8th but for some reason that I still don't know, the Prix St. George Special placed to 10th. Thank you Sue Blinks for tacking Donneur up while I quickly changed back into my show clothes. We made it with not a moment to spare! The good news is we won a little cash to help cover the entries and now I know that if you can survive a show in Germany, you can do anything! Other results from Americans, Sue Blinks 63% in GP, Jan Ebeling 57 and 59% in S3, Todd Flettrich 60% at GP. It was a great experience and I look forward to uping my game to be able to score the way I know my horses are capable of in the future.