Thursday, July 27, 2017

Glacier and Dressage Day

What magic looks like.
On Monday, we headed out to Glacier National Park. This was my first visit there, and it is BEAUTIFUL. The views were incredible the whole drive through the park until we got to Lunch Creek. We hiked along the melting snow flowing down the mountain, with wildflowers popping up all around us. I am always at the back of the pack, because you know, arthritis and asthma make hiking a little more difficult. But we still trekked right along.
The start of the hike.
Headed toward the first waterfall. Apparently it was a blue kind of day.

Made it to the first one!
We got to the first waterfall, but kept on going. Up above it was a great big bowl surrounding you. I was hoping the edge of the mountain side was going to be dotted with mountain goats or big horn sheep, but I couldn't see any. But far off in the distance was another waterfall. So we boogied towards it so two of the boys could get under it. I went and stood next to a small fall and that was cold enough! We also hung out with a rock chuck of some sort. But my legs were dying and we still needed to ride our ponies later that day. Uphill is pretty hard on the lungs, but downhill feels like someone is stabbing me in the knees.
See that waterfall in the back? That's the second one.

Hey there, buddy.

One of the boys by some frozen water hell.
Our ride that day was not great. It started out as a nice hack through the canola field and Bacon was excellent through there. But when we got to the arena, she lost that nice relaxation and I worked through some of her tenseness. In the end, she put in some nice stuff and called it good. Tuesday was another long and tense ride, but again we ended with work I was happy with.
Next to a smaller fall. Good enough. Fricken cold.
Nope. Don't sign me up.

The fast way to get back down. Warning: hands will freeze, warming them on the rocks is best. 

Snow slide!
Wednesday was dressage day. Based on my couple of rides there, I knew I wanted a fairly long warm up and I wanted to start with a nice, calm hack through the canola. We were all alone out there, and it felt very nice. Well, except for the deer that was out there, but Bacon did not care about it. Or the bird that flew at her face. I thought maybe we would have a nice test. We got to the ring and checked in, with the gate keeper asking if I wanted to go in early for my test. I told her no, I would like to stick with my ride time because Bacon needed as long of a warm up as possible. We were out there for about 5 minutes when they called me over and told me that I needed to head over to bit check. I was confused, but headed over. Once checked, they told me I could go in and do my test. I looked at the clock sitting there and it was 22 minutes before my test. Ummm. No?
It looks like we were starting out ok.

I think we got an overbent remark for this. 

Stupid saddle of doom.
I asked if I could head back to warm up because I wasn't going to go until my ride time and they told me no. I asked if I could ride in front of the dressage ring like I had seen other people doing, and was told no. I could only ride in the grass next to the ring. Unfortunately, the grass area isn't really meant for riding and is very uneven and shaped a little like a skate ramp. Any bit of relaxation I had with Bacon vanished as I tried to get her to soften and bend. I was frustrated, especially with one particular rider who kept buzzing up behind us and making things worse, so I just entered into the ring a few minutes before my test.
This is not how we do a downward?

At least our outfit is good?

She likes her freewalk. Need more stretch out, but I'll take this.
This was probably one of our worst tests to date. Bacon was bracing from the start and wanted nothing to do with downward transitions or remaining soft or bending or any of that. I felt like I was riding a vibrating board and just aiming it at letters and hoping it would cooperate. I tried to have a little longer rein, as that usually helps a lot for keeping some relaxation, but I think that may have hindered some. Our stretchy trot was the worst, as she likes to race around on the forehand and cut in the circle anyways. But there was no putting the head down and stretching, just very awkward speeding around the circle and me just trying to get through it. A stark difference from Camelot.
Nah, I don't want to put my head back down. That's dumb.

Canter was mostly downhill, but there was a little bit of good in there.
We ended the day with a 42.3 and nearly last place. I am pretty competitive and I knew that crappy score was coming, so I didn't want to know until after xc where we were. I think a few factors were at play here (I do not like the saddle I am borrowing at all, tense horse naturally, not a long enough warm up) but I think the biggest was being called over so early and not allowed to go back into any ring for continued warm up. I wish I was a more effective rider at getting Bacon to relax, but I am not there yet. I am incredibly thankful for the volunteers everywhere there, but I am not sure these ones understood how it all works and seemed a little peeved that I wanted to wait until my ride time. But, it is what it is now, and I can try to learn from it to better prepare for future shows. Sorry Bacon!
Moving during halt, because we wanted the hell out of there.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Whew, What a Trip

Canola field!
Some of you know that I was lucky enough to take Bacon to Rebecca Farm this year. After spectating last year, I knew it would be quite the goal to get us there. The place is kind of magical. There were over 700 horses there, with an electric atmosphere, bazillion rings with great footing, canola fields and the best cross country course around. With Bacon being a very sensitive and nervous girl, I wasn't sure how she was going to do with all of this. So of course, that made a knot in my stomach as we headed out with her and her traveling buddy, Justin.
That is not an effective bell boot.
Our first stop was Spokane for a dressage show and cross country schooling the weekend before. Bacon and I did not compete in the dressage show (need more funds, this crap is expensive), but we got to watch and cheer on E and Justin. The first night I rode her, she was on FIRE. Head shaking, no softness or relaxtion, threatening to rear. We were riding in a borrowed dressage saddle that seemed to fit her well enough, but hurt the hell out of me. I moved her out into the big ring to just make her go FORWARD and after a bit of that, we got some more behaved stuff out of her. I was exhausted. She had a quick lunge the next day, and then we schooled xc on Sunday before we headed towards Kalispell.
No hesitation.
Bacon was feeling more appropriate and polite for xc, thank god. She warmed up nicely, was a little spicy to the first jump, but settled quickly. We got to work playing around by the water again, practicing over the prelim jump in, the large bank in, etc. E was working with Justin on the intermediate chevron, but he was having some issues with straightness and not feeling that confident with it, so she switched it up to not hurt confidence for future jumps. Me being the curious turd I am wanted to see if Bacon thought it was doable. We dropped into the water and I rode her straight to it. The size caught her by surprise a little bit, but she sprung over it and gave me a laugh. Well, I guess those won't be a problem, but I don't forsee ever doing intermediate.
Yep. That is attractive.
She loves to splish splash.

There was a large prelim table that I had been in awe of since going to Spokane, and E thought we were very capable of doing it. I gulped, made a nice gallop to it with leg on and shoulders up, and she sailed over it. My legs were a little stupid over it, so I wanted to do it again. Once again, Bacon made it feel like cake. That kind of fun is dangerous. We headed over to the coffin and she pinged over it. Next, we wanted to test the bank combo. I think she expected that table to be as big as the last because she flew over it. Then it was down the bank, then up a bank and over the wood wagon. Of course, she did it easily. Lastly, we headed over to the corner and tested her out over that. Again, she thought that was easy. I felt pretty ready for Rebecca, so we called that good.
I swear, it looks bigger in person.


Still don't know what my leg is doing.
Once we cooled the ponies off, we loaded them up and headed towards Kalispell. Most of the trip was uneventful, but we chose a different route to get there than usual. This meant lots of up and downhill on very windy roads. The truck pulling the rather large living quarters trailer had had enough of that and started billowing white smoke out of the hood when we pulled over to let it cool off. We were on an uphill slope, with a truck with no parking brake. Turning off the truck meant eliminating the trailer brakes as well (this truck is perhaps not the best truck) and that meant relying on the transmission to hold us up. I thought the truck was feeling a little weird when Erin asked if we were moving backwards. All of the boys and the 13yr old girl travelling with us were out of the truck and trailer, and Blake promptly noticed the tires moving and said yes. So, they began a scramble to place rocks and logs under all of the tires. My heart got a little fast with that moment, but we got the truck cooled and limped it the 20 miles to Rebecca. Reinforcements were called to bring a different truck to the show so we could haul with it home. That Ford was toast. Chevy to the rescue!
Yeah, I think we cleared this one Bacon.

Cute wood wagon.
We hurried out, snagged a pic in front of the competitor entrance, and got our ponies tucked into their new digs for the week. Bacon seemed to be one cool costumer so far, but we were some of the first people there. I wasn't sure if she was going to wind up once more horses and trucks and trailers showed up or not, but I tried to not think about it. I was exhausted and the show hadn't even started!
We made it!