Thursday, May 19, 2022

Lesson Recap: the Missing Piece

Sunday I was able to meet up with TrainerB for my first lesson in a month! Unfortunately due to some circumstances outside my control (the fucking continuing ridiculous price of gas and the fact that she's currently working out of a facility that is a longer/far more inconvenient drive for me), I am definitely not going to be able to keep up weekly (or even twice a month at this rate) lessons, which sort of sucks. We're exploring the options for some remote/virtual lessons in the interim. Eventually she will be at a facility that is a much easier drive for me, but I don't have a timeline on that yet so sort of in a holding pattern there (which is fine). Disappointing in the sense that I was really digging the weekly lessons, but I'm trying to be more zen about the things I can't control haha.  

At the end of our lesson, I threw the cell phone shots in first lol.


The weather Sunday was a bit dicey, as storms were rolling through the area at around the same time I had my lesson scheduled. The facility I hauled to had a decent sized outdoor, and a fairly small indoor, so we opted to start outside and see how much we could get done before the rain started (ended up being about 2/3 of the lesson, which was great!). 

Screenshots from video, I'll drop them at the bottom of the post if you want to watch. 



I must say this was a SUPERB matchy matchy outfit. I may have outdone myself lol. 

When I posted some stills on IG, one astute follower called the saddle "the missing piece", and the phrase has just been bouncing around my head ever since. I was super excited to get a full lesson using it, and TrainerB was nearly as excited as I as about it (how is that even possible, right?). And because a new saddle wasn't enough of a change, it was also our first lesson (and only like my 6th or 7th real ride) in the Turtle Top. Both pieces of tack got a resounding thumbs up by the end :) Between not being able to hang on my hands in the Turtle Top, and the new saddle being SO SUPPORTIVE so Ruby couldn't yank me out of position at the canter, I felt like I was completely "plugged in" and able to ride so much more effectively.... predictably, Ruby was unamused, haha. We both worked HARD.   




Quite a bit of the work in the trot was aimed at helping Ruby complete the full length of stride (touched on at this lesson), but something about TrainerB using the phrase "think about bringing your hips to your elbows" Sunday clicked for my brain and helped me give Ruby the space she needed to come allllll the way through. She was a bit fussy in the contact since she couldn't lean, but we definitely had some nice moments where she acknowledged that she could be responsible for carrying her own damn self lol. I've gotten a bit reliant on riding in the dressage arena at the old facility and was very used to the letters as landmarks and not having to navigate around jumps, so this lesson was good practice for me in terms of getting out of that rut! And honestly aside from a general hairy eyeball to everything going on outside the arena (horses coming in and out of turnouts, etc), Ruby worked fairly well in a completely new place. She had more of a tendency to giraffe than usual, but it was manageable. 


So I know this is like the only trot photo tracking right, I swear we did both directions fairly equally but DH was alternating between photos and videos and apparently set the camera down a lot lol. 





We only got to canter about a circle each way in the outdoor before our luck ran out with the rain and we had to dash for the indoor. TrainerB decided to kill two birds with one stone and introduce a leg yield to canter depart exercise that initially sort of broke my brain and then once I had successfully done it (and gotten one of the nicest departs and then adjustable canter circles EVER), I brought Ruby back down to a walk and just stared at TrainerB and told her she was a wizard, haha. OFC DH wasn't videoing then, so I yelled at him asked him nicely to film me doing the exercise a few more times. I need to work on my timing for changing the bend and asking for the depart, but when we got it right it felt SO GOOD! And really encouraged Ruby to stand up on that right side instead of overbending her neck left and letting the right side trail out into oblivion. Some outside videos below, and then two from the end of the lesson in the indoor below!






TrainerB is taking clients up to a show in Iowa next month the week after my birthday that she thinks might be a good fit for us - I dug up the prize list and the show itself is reasonably affordable (office fee and shavings are cheaper than the April show), but gas is the big unknown right now (plus I'd definitely have to get a hotel room)... sigh. Entries don't close until the end of the month so I have some time to think about it (or sell my organs on the black market, only sort of kidding). I'm unbelievably frustrated that I FINALLLLLLLLY have the time, coaching, and drive to start doing recognized shows and gas has fucking doubled in price making it impossible to GO to said shows (or lessons). Blergh. Plus I still don't know how/when I'm going to be able to use my Gifted Grant since TrainerB is no longer at the facility we based the budget on. I recognize this is a uniquely first world problem and I should just be grateful for all the opportunities I DO have, but just... damn.... Ugh. Anyway. I'm glad this was such a good lesson because it's going to have to tide me over for a while :( :(

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Showing Recognized: Cost Breakdown

BUCKLE UP, IT'S GONNA BE A LONG ONE! (also legit sorry it's so late, I was waiting for some last figures and then finally decided it could go without but forgot to schedule, whoops)

Showing recognized has been a goal of mine for actual years, but it just seemed so unattainable to me. I considered it years ago with Topaz and made it as far as printing out an entry for one that used to be held locally, but then was so overwhelmed/intimidated/confused by the paperwork that I threw it away and vowed not to try it again until I was working regularly with a trainer. So. Here we are and I have my first one under my belt. I'm going to write the kind of post I would have wanted to read when I was hoping to try this for the first time! Let's break it down into manageable chunks, which was the only way I could deal with this, otherwise I found it overwhelming. Thank you lizard brain. 

Cute sleepy noodle blep to break up the text wall here. 

At my last lesson of 2021, my trainer helpfully included some info re: necessary memberships in my Christmas card that gave me a jumping off point - so the first week of January I started slowly making my way through the list.

Memberships

USEF-

  • Active Amateur Membership (me): $80
  • Lifetime Registration (Ruby): $300 

USDF-

  • Participating Membership (me): $90
  • Lifetime Registration (Ruby): $115
  • All-Breeds Declaration (Ruby): $35
  • SLADS (GMO): $65 ($60 for the membership and $5 to process it online)
  • CDCTA (GMO): $45 (apparently I can fill out a form to get a $12 refund from USDF for being a member of multiple GMOs but at this point I'm so tired of paperwork I literally don't care)

In order to be eligible for All Breeds, I also had to re-join IALHA (which made me IRRATIONALLY RAGE-Y BECAUSE I DESPISE THEM) for another $50.

Total: $780 (plus the FIVE FUCKING HOURS it took me to get through the stupid SafeSport training, which could be a whole 'nother post but I digress lol)

Sidebar: could I have spent less on this? Could I have done an annual USEF registration for Ruby, or just a GMO membership for myself instead of a USDF Participating Membership? Sure. Could I have paid the non-member fees and just shown in some Opportunity classes? Absolutely. In fact, that was my plan the first time I thought about doing this, many years ago, lol. But I went all in, and I'll explain why - this method isn't one-size fits all and what makes sense for me might not make sense for you, so YMMV. 

But here's the deal. I've been showing (unrecognized) dressage for years. I enjoy it. My horse has an aptitude for it. I'm not talented but I'm also not afraid to work hard. I'm finally in a place in my life where I have the free time and discretionary income to lesson regularly and then track our improvements by showing, so I want to do it. I'm a competitive person. Showing gives me a goal, and I thrive with goals. Ruby's lifetime USEF registration will pay for itself if I show her for three years. She's only 11, so I (crosses fingers) hope to have many more years showing her. Regionals for my region (region four) is at our "home" show venue (aka the closest recognized show to me, at the National Equestrian Center) this fall, so on the completely OFF chance we're marginally competent our first year trying this and manage to snag qualifying scores, I don't want the only thing stopping me from showing at Regionals to be the fact that I cheaped out and just got a GMO membership instead of a Participating Membership. And I nominated for All Breeds because the Andalusian breed is not that large, and my horse is hella fancy when I don't ride like a monkey. I looked up the All Breeds winners at First for our breed association, and those scores don't seem out of the realm of possibility at the end of a solid year lessoning and showing, so why not? The declaration is good for the rest of her show career, so might as well get it out of the way now lol. 


I paid most of the fees in early January to give my pocketbook a little time to recover, and the registration fees for Ruby at least won't have to be paid again, so next year (and the year after, etc.) will just be my memberships, and will be significantly cheaper. Also, note to self, on my next foal, register it lifetime at birth, which is a whopping TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS instead of $300. I opted to join my trainer's GMO because they are more active and seem to have a lot more support for showing, whereas my local GMO is currently focusing more on educational events. Which is great, and I will absolutely attend the events that I can and continue to participate/support/be their webmaster, but they suspended their year-end awards during the pandemic and don't seem to have much interest in reinstating them and I'm back to showing now so I'm trying to put my dollars where they can have the most impact for me. (Haha jokes on me I wrote all of that and then attended my local GMO meeting and got shamed into rejoining so I ended up spending more than $100 on GMO memberships when I already paid out the ass to USDF for a participating membership, le sigh)  

First Recognized Show Fees

  • Stall: $130 for the weekend
  • Shavings: $33 (3 bags @ $11/bag - facility minimum is 2; thankfully Ruby is fairly tidy in a stall)
  • USEF drug fee: $23
  • Office fee: $70 ($35 x 2, since it's run as two separate shows for the purposes of qualifying scores)
  • Classes: $160 (two classes each day [four total] at $40 each - I don't want to attempt any qualifying scores until we've gotten our feet wet at the level a little more, but every qualifying class will add another $15). 
  • My share of the tack stall: $38 (one of the perks to showing with my trainer's barn is that I can go in on their group tack stalls. If I were showing solo, it would be another $100 for the tack stall, or a whooooooooole lot of walking back and forth to my trailer lol)
  • Coaching: Obviously YMMV as this will vary by trainer, or maybe you're gonna show solo, who knows

Total: $454+ coaching 

Another sleepy noodle text break

Miscellaneous

I'm going to set aside tack for the purpose of this post, because I've been showing unrecognized (schooling) dressage shows for actual years at this point, and I basically owned everything I needed. I did pick up some new stock ties and white breeches over the winter, but I didn't NEED the white breeches since they finally relaxed the dressage attire rules lol. I school in exclusively dressage legal bridles/bits, and I already owned several fancy white saddle pads I'd been saving "for a recognized show" for years, because that's the type of person I am. What can I say? 

As a long-time horse owner and schooling show enthusiast (as well as confirmed pack rat lol), I didn't need to buy a ton of other stuff to feel prepared to travel/set up for my first "away" show. I have travelled for the weekend with Ruby before (our amazing trail adventure at Von Holten!), so extra hay nets/bucket straps/buckets/pitchforks/manure bucket/etc. all already live in my trailer. I did post last fall asking for anyone's "can't live without" items and picked up some of the suggestions between then and now, and I've also helped a few friends out at shows so I had a decent idea of what I needed to bring. I think the only thing I wished I had for this show that I didn't have was one of those canvas collapsible wagon things to move things back and forth - and its on my list, I just haven't gotten to it yet because money is a thing, sigh. 

Originally I didn't plan to get a hotel (because $$$$) but then gas prices went through the roof. I drafted 90% of this post several weeks before the show and then worked myself into a tizzy trying to figure out exactly how to manage driving my big ass truck back and forth the entire weekend with $$$$$ gas prices after I found out DH couldn't attend Saturday due to a work event, considered and discarded the idea of sleeping in my uninsulated horse trailer on a weekend the lows were in the mid-30s, and basically was well on my way to a full on panic meltdown when two of THE VERY BEST FRIENDS booked me a hotel 10 minutes from the venue for the entire weekend on the DL and then got to giggle at my absolute speechless gratitude ♥️

I was able to (thankfully) offset my gas costs for this show by picking up two horses on my way and bringing them along to the venue. It only added a small amount of headache to work out the logistics to pick them up and then take them back home at the end of the show (they were stabled at the barn one mile down the road, that I had to drive past anyway to go to the show). 

Last text break, we're almost done!

Resources

Aside from a handful of blogger friends that I questioned incessantly (you know who you are, sorry not sorry lol) and kind ladies from my barn who walked through some questions I had about our specific entries, I also read very carefully through this (thanks Austen!) and it was very helpful, even when there were times it gave me instructions diametrically opposed to what I also found in terms of the USDF resources here (specifically the "New to Dressage" section) lol. I have a pathological fear of filling out forms incorrectly, so I did send copies to my trainer to review before sending them off, and now that I got through the first one successfully (my show packet had no angry notes about missing stuff when I arrived at the show lol), I feel much more secure in filling out future ones! I was also more than a little nervous about providing the documentation about the flu/rhino vaccines, since I do that myself, but no issues at my first show, so fingers crossed for future ones!

Seemed like a good time to publish it as I'm looking at more shows this summer! :)

Friday, May 13, 2022

First Ride

Despite it being approximately one million degrees by the time I got off work in the afternoon, you know I still had to go out and saddle Ruby up and try the saddle!


Because I like to make my life as difficult as possible, I also had my heart set on getting some Pivo footage as well. You know, despite not having used it in... like 6 months, haha. Ruby very patiently stood in the middle of the arena while I fussed with it for what felt like an overwhelming amount of time (but was probably five minutes) and I did eventually get it to start recording. Apparently in the time I haven't been using it, they shifted their resources towards one of the other Pivo apps (why are there like five now?!).


Still obsessed with these boots too, in case you were wondering. 


I was a little nervous as I swung a leg over - what if I didn't love it? What if it wasn't as magical as I remembered? WHAT IF I SPENT ALL THAT MONEY FOR NO REASON?!?!?! (yes, it's exhausting to live inside my lizard brain, okay). Thankfully, none of that was an issue. I loved it as much (more?) as the fitting appointment. I have never in my life felt so plugged in and stable in the canter. Because neither of us is acclimated to exercising in triple digit heat indexes yet (thanks MO, for going from like 50 to 90 damn near overnight), I kept things short and sweet, opting to mostly walk and just do a few circles of trot and canter each direction to get a feel for things. 






When I pulled the video off the Pivo, it was literally so jerky it gave me motion sickness to watch, so I just grabbed a few screenshots. At least this ride it mostly followed me, even though Cinna and Jack were turned out in the dry lot adjacent to the arena, so I guess I should swap to the more supported app and give it another go. At any rate -- maiden voyage in the new saddle was a success and I am like DOUBLY excited for my lesson Sunday!!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

New Saddle!

Alright well a not-insignificant amount of you already know what my mystery package was (not that I tried terribly hard to keep it a secret, lol). A few weeks ago (wow it literally feels like forever but it wasn't!), Ruby and I had an appointment with an independent saddle fitter and we both fell madly in love with a Fairfax World Class. I didn't actually even HAVE a budget for saddle shopping when I showed up to the appointment, because I had what to me at the time felt like a perfectly acceptable, if not exciting, saddle. Cue spending several weeks doing nothing but obsessing about the World Class in my spare time, and annoying the ever loving daylights out of DH (and also my friends) talking about it (because fundamentally that's who I am as a human being, lol). 

WHAT'S IN THE BOX

I also took the opportunity at Rolex (errrr, Land Rover) to talk shop with Mary a bit. For those of you who don't know Mary, she is Jen's saddle fitting wizard friend -- I feel like at some point Jen maybe shared how to get in contact with her for remote saddle fitting advice, but I am striking out on finding it, so if either of them wants to chime in in the comments, sweet. I showed her the pictures and then the Fairfax info about the saddle and she was excited, like in a way I don't think she generally gets about dressage saddles (see Jen's MANY MANY posts over the course of several YEARS about trying to find the right saddle for both her and Connor's build and preferences and how many of the popular saddle brands just cannot modify saddles outside a very set standard). I ended that conversation fairly elated, because she really loved the design -- I believe her exact words may have been "unconditional stamp of approval", but that could be the booze from XC day fogging up my memory, who knows, lol. 

The Fairfax covers have the little girth holder I love and have always wanted!

But as always, the stumbling block was the cost. Oh and also the fact that someone else at the barn bought the demo I was hoping to save up for (minor details, lolol). After many (literally countless, everyone was sick of me) heart-to-hearts with my friends and also DH, I decided to divert the money I had earmarked for arena footing/drag improvements this summer to a new saddle instead. I'm at a point where I'm serious enough about this that riding in a saddle that actively hinders my progress doesn't make financial sense - why keep spending $$$$ and time on lessons and shows and essentially spin my wheels (good analogy Kate!) when I know perfectly well this saddle will make things easier for both me and my horse. DH was actually way more on board than I thought he'd be - in less than a week he was commenting that he knew I was going to buy it (while I halfheartedly protested, haha), and then after I got back from Rolex and was sad someone else bought the demo he said "I don't know why you didn't just buy the damn thing that day and have it adjusted, it would have saved us all this trouble".... who are you and what have you done with my husband?! ;) 

He really is the best <3

So, with the demo I wanted no longer available, and brand new still being out of budget, even using my arena upgrade money, I went back to the drawing board. The day after the fitting appointment, I found a demo for sale in the UK, but at the time the conversion rate made it comparable to the demo here, so it didn't make a ton of sense when I thought I could just buy a demo here. However, after the demo here sold, it got a lot more appealing! And the day I finally decided to bite the bullet and get it, the conversion rate had fallen even more and it made it cheaper than the demo here (we won't talk about how that savings got eaten up by a "foreign transaction fee" on my credit card and then getting bitch slapped by unexpected customs import fees, SOB). It felt like a sign :) so after confirming with my fitter that the specs were the same and that I could have her adjust it the next time she was in town, I BOUGHT IT. It originally was supposed to arrive Monday but got stuck in customs hell (seriously I've been in agony all week dealing with UPS and hoping for it to start moving again), but it finally arrived yesterday! Naturally the UPS man showed up like 5 hours earlier than I expected and knocked on my door right as my division director called on me in a meeting to give an update, but that's sort of how my life goes at this point so whatever lol. 


Literally the only bit of customization this saddle offers - plain leather, or croc. Mine is the croc, haha. 


I literally just wanted to crawl into the box with it when I opened it. And you KNOW I immediately ran out to the barn at lunch to throw it on Ruby and take some photos to send Mary (and TrainerB!). And for the 'gram because let's be real, blogger here!






My friend who bought the other demo calls these the kung fu lions and I laugh every time. It's definitely an interesting logo and slapping it so prominently on the flap is a CHOICE but hey, I'll make some allowances for something that I like this much haha. 

Mary was quite impressed with the fit right out of the box (that's a direct quote lol) - she thinks the back may need some padding to level out the seat, but I can address that with a shimmable half pad for now and see how I like the ride both with and without it. I have a lesson scheduled Sunday so TrainerB can see it, and then I will have the fitter look at it next time she's in town to make those little adjustments it will need to be perfect for us <3 (also venmo'd Mary some money for her time because it was SO worth it to me to have that peace of mind, I can't even explain). Of course it's literally hotter than HADES outside right now, but you know I dragged poor Ruby out to the arena to try it out last night anyway! Stay tuned ;) 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

WW: Heat Wave

As I continue to wait (im)patiently for my package (MAYBE TODAY?!?!), we're still being productive!

Spectating my GMO's dressage camp last weekend was so fun! Penny continues to be the best little doggo. She quietly watched all the lessons, didn't mind getting passed around to stranger's laps when I needed to photograph, and generally was just a tiny rockstar. 

Had to pop her basket into the backseat when I ran a friend into town to grab lunch on the break. 

Modeling some of the swag!

Potty break before the Derby - mmmmm mint juleps!

The old men are still holding on to some winter hair despite regular dates with the shedding blade. Fairly tickled with how this guy looks at 27 <3


Surrounded by hair I pulled off him, lol. I was unhappy with how he came out of winter, but like our vet said, he has perked right back up and is steadily gaining weight now that the grass is in!

Penny took her first boat ride. 

She was nonchalant about it, as you can see... lol. 

Mostly she just napped! Sandbar was pretty underwater so we didn't take her there, maybe next time. 

I was starting to worry summer dapples weren't coming this year, but apparently they're just late! (Google Memories keeps taunting me with far dapplier photos from previous years, lol)

New cross-ties finally came in! Teal biothane, so the weather won't hurt them, lol. 

With temps in the 90s all week, there's been a lot of sunrise rides. 

And middday snoozes. 

New fly masks!

Have to document them being clean and pretty for the .02 seconds before the horses rub dirt into them. 

Ruby was the only one who didn't murder her fly mask last year so she didn't get a pretty new one lol. 

Accurate representation of how humid it's been.  


Smol turtle fren

Still rocking the endurance saddle, although I mayyyyyyyy work towards getting her back into a dressage saddle soon. Details to come. Possibly. Who knows. 

It took Penny approximately 48 hours to learn the routine when I WFH - she was the first one in here curled up in her bed by my computer this morning.