August 19, 2016


As the David Bowie song goes "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange".

That kinda sums up my flying change training technique. Granted I can't take credit for it. I was inspired to try this method when I was watching a Buck Brannaman clinic in Bozeman a year and a half ago. He randomly talked to the crowd about teaching western horses their flying changes. I liked his method more than what I'd been taught to do in the past. That being ride straight toward a wall and make the horse swap...or ride into a wall. Really, I've never been a big fan. Buck's method used small baby steps that slowly and successfully get built on until the horse naturally does the change. I absorbed everything he said and filed it away, knowing that I would be putting it to use one day.

That day was yesterday.

I have been working up to asking Gentry for a flying change over the past couple of weeks. I knew he was capable, as he does them in the pasture all the time and on occasion would do one voluntarily after picking up the wrong lead. Given that caveat, by dressage trainer suggested that we train him to do flying changes now, and capitalize on his malleability.

So I did. I can't wait until she gets back from Germany so I can show her!

What I've been doing to work up to the flying change:

Ride down the long side at the canter. Do a 10m half circle and canter back to the long-side on the diagonal. At the rail break into trot and do a simple change picking up the canter again in the other direction. Repeat in each direction a few times.

I did this a for a few different sessions until it was clear that Gentry had memorized the pattern and knew what to expect.

Then I went for it. After changing direction by cantering down the diagonal, just before the rail, instead of a simple change I and asked for the flying change. KABOOM! He picked it up perfectly. I was so proud of him we quit on that good note. I can't wait to try it out again.

Hooray for changes.

July 17, 2016

A new first!

After two months solid of rather intense dressage training, I felt we both needed a break from the routine. Today I dusted off my jump tack and set up some jumps.

Gentry has some limited jumping experience from his 30 day start three years ago, but I haven't jumped him over anything but the occasional log while in my dressage saddle.

So I set up an exe and an 18" vertical. We started with that and went over a few times in each direction. He didn't even put out effort to jump the exe; just trotted over it. We moved on to the little vertical. He nicely trotted in, jumped and cantered out on the correct lead!

I was so pleased with him that we ended on that good note. I think I will try and have a jump day once a week to mix it up. It was a nice break for both of us. And hey; I had fun jumping my pony!

July 15, 2016

The Results

It has taken me all week to catch up on sleep, work, and life. Actually, I still have some catch-up to do on the life end, but I'm getting there. The important stuff is all sorted out at least.

The dressage show this weekend was a big success. Not only was I competing both days, but I am one of the organizers of the show, so I've been extreamly busy with all things show related for the last month. It went well though, and we are planning to hold the show again next year.

While I didn't feel that we were fully prepared for the show, I couldn't have been happier with how Gentry performed. We could have used another month in training prior to the show, but those were the cards that were dealt us. Thank goodness we busted our bums the past two months getting regular lessons though. We had a respectable performance and it was a great learning experience for us both. 

TLDR: At training level we brought home two seconds and one fourth, with decent scores. 

This was Gentry's first recognized dressage show, and my first one since 2011. Even at that I've never shown training level at a recognized show, just the material classes. A material class is basically a group rail class in dressage tack, not so different from ye old hunter flat classes. 

The whole new and different thing was no big deal to me getting ready for the show, because I'm good at talking the talk to myself. Plus I've ridden training level in schooling shows, just not on Gentry. So I was cool as a cucumber going leading up to the show. However, on the morning of the show I woke up (not that I actually slept a wink) with a pit in my stomach and proceeded to act like a brainless idiot during our first test which was at 9:21am. 

Shockingly we got away with a 58% on Training 1. Honestly, it could have been worse, and thank goodness it wasn't. While there was room for improvement across the board, the big mistake I made was that I rode a long diagonal instead of the short. I even had a reader. Who was my trainer. Boy was she annoyed with me. The problem is that I have been practicing the darn test with a long diagonal, so I did what I had practiced, not what was read. I seriously had no clue that it was supposed to be the short diagonal. Like I said, brainless idiot. Gentry was a little lookey and tense in the indoor, but he was a good boy. I think he was probably only tense because I was. I schooled him in there the night before and he was perfect. Our sucky score was all 100% on me. Not so shockingly at 58% and 9 riders, no ribbon.  

Because I am a competitive person and I hate when I mess something up, and hell I am good at showing and I don't have stage fright (WTF?), I proceeded to spend the next four hours until my next test neurotically practicing the test in the showbarn isle dirt. Practicing with my reader, practicing it alone, and practicing it some more. You get the idea. Let me tell you, I rode the heck out of that test and listened to my reader. It was the Training Level Rider test and we got a 68%, and a second place. Much better!

Day two was much improved. After our second test the first day I felt like I got my show groove back. The nerves were gone. We rode Training 1 much better. Unfortunately Gentry picked up the wrong lead in our first canter circle, but otherwise I couldn't have been happier with how he went. We ended up with a 61% and fourth place. After the first day's performance, I was very happy with that. Later that afternoon we rode our Training Level Rider test again and spanked it with a 71%, and again second place. 

So, all in all it was a successful venture and I am very proud of Gentry. I wish that we could do more recognized shows this summer, but it just isn't in the cards for me in terms of free time or cash flow. Our club is putting on another schooling show in October, so I think I will take Gentry to that before we turn into marshmallows again for the winter. Next year though, we are going to rock Training Level..maybe even try to qualify for Regionals, and start schooling first level. I can't wait!


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