Committing to dressage

One of the clinicians for GCD’s junior rider camp offered to teach private and semi-private lessons Friday morning before the camp got underway. Because I’ve been spending far too much time with dressage people, I signed myself up for a semi-private lesson with a friend.

I debated briefly on which horse to take. I ultimately decided on Moe for a couple of reasons: one, I’ve gotten plenty of feedback lately on what I need to be doing with Gina; two, I need more help with Moe’s particular styles of evasion.

“CANNOT LISTEN RIGHT NOW MUST SEE OTHER ARENAS”

Dressage is not Moe’s strong point. It’s never been our best phase, which I’ll fully admit is my fault. When I was younger, I never dedicated much time to it because dressage is lame as hell when you have a horse who enjoys jumping as much as Moe does. But I want to be competitive next year. I don’t want to go to an event and be tied for last place after dressage. I don’t want to move up the placings solely because someone screwed up on cross country or stadium. I want to put in a good dressage test and maintain my placing through the next two phases.

Moe’s had a lot of time to develop bad habits and evasions in his dressage work. (Hilariously, one of them is bucking his lesson children off at the canter when they do something he really dislikes.) He starts by poking along at western pleasure speed until he’s bumped with my nubby little spurs. Then he throws his head up indignantly and minces along at a slightly faster pace. He eventually loosens up and relaxes into a bigger, springier step, lowers his head and begins to stretch over his back. This feels so good, apparently, that he feels the need to stretch and stretch and stretch downward until I attempt to gently bring him into a less stretchy, more on-the-bit frame, at which point he’s back to indignant flailing. Transitions are a hot mess no matter how balanced he feels before they’re asked for. The best things I can say about his dressage are that his halts are square and he’s straight down center line.

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“IS THIS HOW U DRESSAGE LESSON CHILD?? I DONT KNOW”

Tomorrow, I want discuss what I can do to help Moe have better transitions, how to ask him to come on the bit after stretching, and how to get more forward gaits. I want advice on how to ride Moe more effectively so we can go to recognized events next year and score well in dressage.

I’m planning to spend most of the winter working on dressage with Moe. It’s not an exciting prospect, but it’s the only way to get better.

Product Review: Horze Grand Prix breeches

I’ve done some serious upgrading on my breech wardrobe in the last year. I’ve tried Kerrits, Montar, and SmartPak’s Piper line, but the best breech I’ve acquired is Horze’s Grand Prix knee patch breech. They’re the most durable and most comfortable breech I’ve ever owned.

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I picked mine up during a close-out sale last year for about $20; they’re an old model with Velcro closures at the ankle instead of svelte new elastic bottoms but are otherwise identical to the current model.

They’re made from a tough fabric that’s thick enough to smooth lumps and bumps while offering enough stretch to be comfortable and form-fitting. The fabric practically repels dust and dirt; anything that doesn’t brush off immediately (like liquids) comes out in the wash.

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Comfortable in the saddle.

The Grand Prix breeches have a moderately high waist. There’s never any worry about them slipping down enough to reveal undies or cause a shirt to become untucked. On me, the crotch fits a little funny, but it’s fine in the saddle and isn’t inappropriate on the ground- just sort of unflattering.

Even in a regular length, these breeches are plenty long. I’m 5’9 (although my legs are fairly stubby) and the regular length falls squarely at my ankle. Horze offers this style in a long length, too, for the leggy among us.

These breeches also have great front pockets- they’re big enough to hold a smartphone or a couple of horse treats. The euroseat styling is on-trend and mostly flattering, as is the wide waistband.

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Excellent for lounging around in shipping, as one does.

The stitching is tight and flat throughout, and the zipper and hook closures are sturdy. Overall, they’re an extremely well made breech that’s hard-wearing and durable. They’re available in several colors appropriate for both schooling and show. My pair is steel gray, which is a pleasant medium gray color that matches every color of shirt I own.

The Grand Prix breech has a size run of US 22-34 in both regular and long lengths. They run a little generous; if you’re between sizes, I’d recommend going down. With an MSRP of $112.95, I think they’re a good value, but if that’s out of your price range, just wait. Horze frequently has sales and offers coupons.

I love these breeches, and they’ve held up better than any other brand I own. You can bet that once my self-imposed spending moratorium is overturned, I’ll be adding more to my collection!

Two-Pointober Update

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Adhering to my plan for two point improvement, I hopped on Gina Sunday while Johnny worked on trotting with Moe. I clocked in at 6:36, a 2:30 improvement from last Tuesday’s time! It was possibly the most boring six and a half minutes I’ve ever had; cantering endless loops around the outdoor arena is much less exciting than cantering around the hay meadow!

Johnny rocking the Tailored Sportsmans, paddock boots, and crew socks.

I’ve had to amend my plan just a little bit; two-pointing in the morning and jogging in the evening isn’t working very well. I also won’t be able to ride this Sunday, since both horses are attending Junior Camp with lesson kids. For this week at least, I’ll get practice in on Wednesday; I’d practice on Friday, too, but Moe and I are signed up for a dressage clinic. I have a feeling there won’t be a lot of two-point going on there…

At any rate, I’m enthusiastic about my progress and determined to fit in practice wherever I can!

Why I volunteer

I’m on the board of Green Country Dressage, which is a chapter of the USDF Group Member Organization Oklahoma Dressage Society. I’m the membership chair; I’m certain I was elected to this post because I’m generally friendly and pleasant, I know how to use the internet to communicate, and no one else wanted to do it.

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You might wonder why I wanted to do it. There’s no pay, a lot of time required, and I don’t even really like dressage, or at least not the way some people like dressage! Sometimes it’s not even fun (e.g. when a cranky judge is adamant you need to shift the entire dressage arena two feet to the left five minutes before the first scheduled ride).

For me, the rewards are worth the time and effort.

I’ve made friends through Green Country Dressage. The English riding community in northeastern Oklahoma is small; the percentage of riders competing in something other than hunter/jumpers is tiny. Finding other equestrians who know what is dressage is and want to promote the sport has been a huge relief to me. Club members are supportive of one another while being competitive in a friendly way. They’re even glad to hear about how my combined tests or events are going, even if they have zero desire to jump or minimal knowledge of eventing.

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I’ve learned more about dressage in the last year than all the previous years of my life combined. I had no idea the USDF had a medals program, an online learning center, or grants available to its members. I used to think First Level was something that fancy people who are amazing riders did; now I’ve competed at that level at lived to tell the tale! Being involved with my local GMO has helped me learn more about a sport I had a passing familiarity with and has motivated me to set new goals for myself and my riding.

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As a member of Green Country Dressage, I help ensure the future of dressage by organizing and volunteering at activities for young members. Last night, the board met to finalize the schedule and logistics for the club’s Junior Rider Camp. The camp is three days long (it takes place during Fall Break) and includes twice-daily lessons with two excellent clinicians, educational lectures from area vets and other equine experts, plus housing, meals, and a goodie bag stuffed with swag. This is such a great opportunity for young riders and a bargain at $150; it’s possible because the club uses earnings from the rated show’s silent auction plus a grant from USDF to make it affordable. I’m glad I give my time to an organization that focuses its efforts on young riders.

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But mostly, I volunteer because I want to make sure that Green Country Dressage keeps going. I like the incredibly low-key, low cost schooling shows. I like the club’s low-cost clinics for members. I like how much the club does for its junior members. I love the friends I’ve made. I love meeting new people who are just as enthusiastic about equestrian sports as I am. I volunteer because I want to ensure that in a year, or five, or fifty, that Green Country Dressage will be around for people who want to try a new sport or make new friends or take their horse to a show without breaking the bank.

I’d encourage you to get involved with an organization you care about! Jump judge at an event. Run tests at a schooling show. Offer to play jump crew. Your help makes a difference- not just for you, but for everyone involved!

Friday Five

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I’m excited for the weekend, y’all: I have a haircut scheduled for tomorrow morning. I’ve had exactly one haircut this year, and for a few years before that, I cut my own hair. The thought of going to a salon is almost too luxurious for me to stand.

When I haven’t been dreaming of haircuts, here’s what’s been on my radar this week:

ONE Improve Your Horse’s Topline

This article from August’s Practical Horseman is full of great advice on how to build your horse’s topline. The steps are slow, methodical, and simple, and guess what? Two point is on there, just in time for Two-Pointober.

TWO Facebook testing reaction buttons

Sadly, it doesn’t sound like a “dislike” button is coming anytime soon; that’s a real shame, because ‘dislike’ would be so much easier than directing people to Snopes. Sigh.

THREE New York Times 36 hour guides

I’m a big fan of weekend trips- there’s a lot you can do over a weekend, it’s less expensive than going away for several days, and it’s just long enough to feel like a break. I just discovered the NYT has a whole series on weekend getaways to all sorts of locations, from Pittsburgh to Croatia. I feel like Albuquerque might be in our future!

FOUR GoPro Chilean horse rescue

I don’t even know what I would do if I found a horse stranded in the snow!

FIVE Kentucky Shooting Star Coat

Kentucky apparel is one of those things that my workplace sells that I rarely get to see. It’s usually on the dressage trailer or sent directly to a customer, so when one of these Shooting Star coats appeared in the shipping room last week, I couldn’t help checking it out! It’s absolutely stunning in person- the crystals, the buttons, the softshell fabric! Le sigh- it’s out of my budget even with the employee discount, so I’ll just admire from afar.

What are y’all up to this weekend? Anything exciting on your radar?