Monday, September 30, 2013

Dressage at Devon 2013, Thursday and Friday

So, the live blogging at Dressage at Devon (DAD) thing did not work so well.  The WiFi was intermittent at best and non-existant at worst.  I thought about Tweeting but decided against it since actual experts would likely be doing that.  Instead I typed some notes on my iPad.  My first thought was to critique the rides....but then I decided that most people would say "Well who is SHE to critique the rides!"  So I have decided to write some highlights and overall impressions.  I have some photos but will take more of riders on Saturday night during the freestyle and Sunday during the day.  I think I will get a hotel room next year so that I can spend more time at the show.  A hotel would allow me to escape for an hour or two and refresh for the evenings.  There is one hotel within a block of the show grounds while the majority are 6-10 miles away.  I'd better make my reservations now! I live 45 minutes from Devon but rush hour traffic extends that and makes me not want to go back once I get home.....

Thursday, September 26, 2013
I rode early on Thursday morning so after a quick shower I was out the door.

Driving to Devon I always get excited as I get closer.  A road was closed nearby but fortunately I am quite familiar with the area and was back on track quickly.  On Thursday and Friday I always park across the street at the bank.  I have been parking there for years.  A few years ago they started charging for parking in that section on Friday nights and Saturday afternoon and evening.  The air was cool and crisp with bright sunshine and as I looked up the flags were flapping in the breeze on the Devon show grounds cupolas.  Darting across route 30 (not always an easy feat!) I could hear the announcer in the Dixon Oval (that is the main arena at Devon) where a sign declares "Where Champions Meet".

The souvenir stand had many new items this year but I opted for a sweatshirt for Isaiah, car magnet and hand painted DAD mug.

There was still awhile before Louise was going to show her 2 year old Knabstrupper in hand so I stopped to have one of favorite DAD foods: cheese fries!  They are fresh, hand cut fries with awesome cheese on top.  My guilty pleasure.  So I went up to the box that I share with a friend (Bobbi, who owns Whisby, the mare that was in the fire with Suki) and watched a few breed classes enjoying my fries.  I have not attended the breed show portion of DAD in several years observing the classes I was reminded how important it is for the handler to match the stride when they are exhibiting the horse.  A few lovely horses were not presented at their best because the handler was either not tall enough or just didn't run well.

The crowd favorite of the day was a tiny Appaloosa colt representing the Appaloosa Sport Horse division.  The pint sized boy had been rescued from the New Holland auction, while still inside his mama.  His owners proudly clutched their blue ribbon accompanied by rousing applause from the audience.  Lucky mom and baby to be snatched from the auction pen for a safe and happy life!

In Barn 12 I found Louise and Captain.  He was braided and bathed standing quietly in his stall wearing an Irish knit sweat, looking handsome and relaxed.  Louise was nervous, but aren't we always when it is time to show our "children"?

Louise holding Captain
Posing for the camera with Ken

The breed classes are difficult, I think.  Subjective and a little political I suspect.  Louise hired Ken Borman, known for breeding Oldenburgs and bringing young horses along, to maximize the show ring experience.  We were all so impressed with Ken.  He took Captain around to show him all the things that might be scary, patting him frequently and talking to him softly.
When Captain went into the arena he was holding back a little going toward the grand stand (it's a bit intimidating) but really showed his stuff coming home.
In the arena
They were rewarded with 4th place.  Louise decided to take Captain in for the award ceremony instead of Ken (I would have done the same!).

Next I made my way over to the Gold Ring for the FEI 5 year old test.  First, I will get my petty idiosyncrasies out of the way.  I hate, hate, hate the short jackets that have been trending for the past few years.  I understand that it gives the illusion of lengthening the leg, but who wants to see a big white butt?  Even stick thin women do not look good in this jacket.  Yes, I am a traditionalist!  I did see a woman wearing a traditional length dressage coat in a cornflower blue which was somewhat attractive because she was slim (go ahead, slam me!) but I really did not like it.  Dressage coats should be black or at the very least navy.  I love my black Pikeur dressage coat with the red silk lining and traditional cut.  It is pure and classic.  Must we mess with tradition??? I am all for fashion forward.  My Vogue September issue, which I refer to as "the Bible" sits in my family room.  But I truly believe that tradition should be maintained.  I do embrace some change but if totally unflattering....well...NO!  Also.  If you are going to wear white breeches and shirt, with a white saddle pad, please, please, please do not wear ivory gloves!  Okay.  Rant finished.

There were a few 5 year olds that were very impressive, but others who seemed just not ready for the task.  Not that they weren't nice.  But simply not ready to compete in the FEI test for 5 year olds.  I have never been truly certain about these tests.  Suki as a 5 year old was still quite gangly and not balanced enough for that test.  She was really just trying to figure out where to put all of those REALLY LONG legs!  It had improved by age 5, of course, but I think it would have been a lot of pressure for her.  The test confuses me a little though.  There isn't any lateral work.  However, it does include a turn on the haunches, which most horses did not execute very well.

The two standouts were ridden byNadine Buberl of Germany.  Her two Oldenburgs were very lovely and correct and she is a skilled and refined rider, rewarded highly by the judges.  The wonderful feature of the tests for 4, 5 and 6 year olds is that the judges critique each ride over the loudspeaker at the end of the test.  This is quite informative as it offers a view of what they are looking for and what areas need improvement.  When horses are disobedient they acknowledge that these are youngsters and sometimes tension and distractions occur.  One rider was told that perhaps she needed to revisit the training scale because it was thought by the judges that perhaps she was not helping her very willing and nice horse because of lack of understanding.  The critique was offered kindly but firmly.  I applaud the rider for putting herself out there.  She was probably a bit upset as it is such a public display of judging, but I am also certain that it was a learning experience.

There were some very nice 4 year olds as well.  One seemed particularly mature for his age in attitude and skill.
One thing that I noticed also was the inability of many riders to really sit the trot well.  This observation was even more evident when watching those who sat the trot well.   Standing outside the schooling area I was able to observe a vast variety of riders, as even those not competing on Thursday were riding in preparation for the next few days of competition.  The schooling area at Devon can be difficult because it is always busy with riders, trainers and spectators.
On Thursday it was pretty mellow.  For those not familiar with the Devon venue, it is on the Main Line right on Route 30.  Over the past several decades office buildings sprouted around it, and one can here the train arriving at the Devon station and school buses behind the Gold Ring.
Anyway, there were just far too many riders bouncing in the saddle with stiff backs, not helping the horse at all.  I do think that in the US this is something that is not given enough attention.  Once again, thank you Rema, for putting me on a lunge line without reins or stirrups for the first few months of my riding lessons.  At the time, my 15 year old self wanted t "just ride", but that start was the best thing for me as a new rider.

Friday, September 27, 2013
Another crisp morning.  Louise rode Nikki for me so I put Isaiah on the school bus and headed to Devon. At the early hour, the Devon midway was peaceful, still waking up to a full competition day.  I really do love the weekdays for that reason, and in spite of my sore throat, ear ache and low grade fever I was planning on making it a great day!
Early mornings at the show grounds always makes me think about what the day can bring.  Show days are filled with preparation, anticipation and anxiety, culminating in just a few minutes in the arena.  But truly it is what we live for.  The sound of the announcer echoes through the still morning air, while grooms and riders pull off blankets and coolers for final preparations.  Horses feet are picked, legs are wrapped and riders don jackets in the cool morning air.  Sleepily the grounds awaken to the aroma of breakfast sandwiches and coffee mixing with hay, grain and mashes....just the right mix for everyone's preferences and special needs!

In the Dixon Oval the 4 year old test was under way to be followed by the 6 year old (which I did not see on Thursday) and the 5 year old tests.  The Gold Ring would be consumed by the very large Prix St. Georges class, so my plan was to visit both arenas and observe the schooling area.  First stop: secretary office to pick up the day sheets.  I headed to my box to watch the 4 year old tests, which had been held in the Gold Ring the day before.  The Gold Ring is definitely less intimidating than the Dixon Oval, but early on Friday morning the spectator mass was small and quiet.  I still think that for a 4 year old it is probably quite intimidating though!
There were some nice horses, but training holes were obvious.  And some were just too immature to perform these tests well.

The 6 year old class also had some nice horses, but again there were a few that in my opinion were really not physically ready for the challenge.

Prix St Georges offered up some very nice tests, some very bad tests and everything in between.  Some horses are so correctly trained that it is nice to see.  One of my pet peeves is when the rider sways with the flying changes....I have ridded the 4'3, 3's, 2's and 1's, so I know that it is not easy to keep still.  But I was also taught how not to do that.  I find it distracting as a spectator and wonder how the horse feels. At the Andreas Hausberger clinic he emphasized repeatedly the importance of less is more.  Do not over drive, over ride or over think.  Observing tests and schooling there was quite a bit of over driving. Since that clinic I have become more aware of it in my own riding and when watching there.  Sometimes I think people do not realize that they are doing it, as it becomes habit.  I am finding that Nikki really does respond better when I don't over think everything!

For the PSG I really enjoyed Tom Dvorak of Canada on Ribot and Patrick Tigchelaar of the Netherlands on Davidor 4.  Their tests were clean and correct.  I was less than impressed with George Williams of the Us test on Cleopatra, but he finished 7th in the vey large class!

More tomorrow....

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gearing up for Dressage at Devon

For the past few years I have missed Dressage at Devon due to a European oncology conference.  Since I am not attending the conference this year I will be joining the throngs of dressage fans at one of the most popular venues on the east coast.  Wishing that I was riding, I will instead be a spectator, thinking about how I might get to participate a few years from now with Nikki.  For those unfamiliar with the show, there are no lower level classes as they start at 4th level and go through Grand Prix.  There are the FEI 5 and 6 year old tests the USDF 4 year old test and of course the breed show under saddle classes.  Junior and Young Rider classes are included and a dressage equitation class.  So right now there really is not anything for me to compete in for the next few years.  Yes, Nikki is 6, but I did not participate in the classes during the year because she is simply not ready.  That is my own fault with career obligations and Nikki's winter off putting a dent in her training and development.  We have been working steadily since spring and though pleased with Nikki's progress we still have a long way to go.

So this year at Devon I am planning to attend Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to watch as many classes as possible.  One of my favorite things to do is watch the warm up area to see how people prepare.  The warm up at Devon is difficult because there is not a large area and it can get quite busy.  WiFi is available at Devon but I am not sure how well it works so I may need a hot spot.  With any luck there will be a good signal in the stands from which the current plan is to publish a blog post at the end of each class.  At the end of the day I will add a wrap up post and general impressions.

Sunday September 22, 2013
Arriving at the barn following heavy over night rain I was welcomed by a chorus of nickers when i opened the barn door.  All of the horses were in because of the rain and they were oh so hopeful that I was there to feed them.  Looking to see where the horses were in the field next to the arena (with the hope of avoiding the antics of the day before) I was thrilled to see that they were already closed in their paddock.  In spite of the chilly air and being inside during the night Nikki was in a very workable frame of mind!  There were some puddles in the arena but overall the footing was not bad.  I thought that it felt a little slippery in spots so I did not push with the more forward tempos within each gait.  Pleased with my ride and comfortable with the footing I decided to lunge Suki.  I really didn't push her, but just let her use herself the way she wanted to.  There was stiffness at the start again but having been in her stall overnight and somewhat stocked up behind I expected that.  Suki worked out of the stiffness and her hind legs returned to normal.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
A beautiful chilly morning but Nikki decided to remove her sheet sometime during the night.  Yes, the new sheet.  Legstraps and surcingles were intact but she broke the front clip to get out of it, and apparently threw it in the mud as well!

Today was the start of the breed show at DAD and for once it was not a rainy day, and did not rain yesterday.  Often the breed show seems to be plagued by either rain during the competition or torrential rain the day before causing sloppy footing.  The temperatures were also warm but not hot and the evenings promise to be cool.
Here are the day sheets for the performance division:

And the breed show:

Stay tuned for impressions, results and test observations beginning Thursday!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Beautiful riding days!

 Sunday, September 15, 2013
Another beautiful morning to ride!  This is my favorite time of year.  Suki decided to stop halfway down the field but moved forward again with minimal urging.  I did a few exercises with her on the way to the gate to make her more responsive.  She likes the leading exercises and her reactions are sharp.  Of course she then nudged me for a sugar cube at the gate!  Nikki followed and stepped back while I took Suki so I felt like we were all on track for a good day!

My original plan was to just lunge Nikki because I had a bit of a time constraint.  Instead I decided to lunge briefly to warm her up and ride for 30 minutes.  In spite of the chilly air Nikki was wonderful.  I kept things simple, choosing to focus on transitions and large figures.

Suki enjoyed her spa treatment and I have now added Olay for sensitive skin to her facial routine.  It has sunscreen in it as well as moisturizing so I think it is a good choice.  The petroleum jelly based moisturizer tht I used on the covered parts of Suki body is not good for her face when the sun is out.  But I am finding that the sunscreen is not keeping her face well moisturized.  The Olay seems to be working well so far.  Is Suki the new "Olay woman"?  : )
I am also worried that my favorite exfoliation mitt is not going to be available much longer.  It s very difficult to find...this particular one is a soft, Rite-Aid brand model and I love it!  But lately it seems that they are in short supply.  For my use they last 5-6 months.

On the way home from the barn (and on a mission to return my mom home to the Poconos) I got a flat tire.  I thought I could limp home (it is only a 5 minute drive after all) but I had to pull over and into The Stonersville Inn parking lot (it is closed Sun-Wed).  Now, I consider myself an independent woman.  And my father (rest his soul) taught me how to change a tire, etc. But ya know, I just really don't remember the jack part (yes, I am horribly embarrassed!).  The husband was away with the child for the weekend, so I called J, the owner of the barn where I board, and whom I had just seen.  No answer.  Called the husband at the beach to have him contact our neighbor.  He said to try J again, who I finally reached.  He and R came to my rescue.  Universal spare donut did not fit (I guess it is universal for AMERICAN cars, not Swedish : (  ) . Had to wait for the husband to return with his Volvo spare tire.  Buying J and R case of beer this weekend, though I am sure I will never live it down!

Monday, September 16, 2013
40 degrees F and breezy at 7:45 AM.  Like those horse show days that start off quite chilly but warm up nicely.  The crispness felt wonderful, but again I wondered about the silliness of the girls in the cold morning air!  Fortunately they came in willingly.  Once again the temperatures hovered near 40 (F) and the stiff breeze made it feel even cooler.  But there is something about the cool air that feels healthy, for some reason.  My breath formed puffs of steam in the air, as did Nikki's but we set to work warming muscles.  In spite of the rustling leaves which are now beginning to change color, ever so slightly Nikki worked well and focused.  I have always loved the sound that some horses make through their noses as they canter along.  Nikki was doing that this morning making it easy to maintain the rhythm of the canter.  A number of years ago I had a little thoroughbred gelding who enjoyed working in the orchard behind the arena at the barn where I was boarding. One snowy morning (he was wearing snow pads on his shoes) I rode him through the orchards.  The muffled footfall and the sound of his breath were all that could be heard.  It was so peaceful.  I remember breathing in the cold air, and the feeling of it being just me and my horse, cantering through the snow at dawn.

Suki worked well on the lunge, again focusing on the sharpness of transitions, her Teddy Bear ears twitching as she listened for her next command.  I thought she seemed slightly stiff at the start but  after a bit of forward canter that seemed to resolve.  I forget sometimes that Suki is 13 and stiffness is a part of life.  It's good that she gets out a lot to move around.  It's possible that I may have to add Adequan injections if she shows any signs of discomfort as we start using side reins and add collection.

The chilly air has prompted other changes as well.  I noticed that the grapes on the rolling hills of a local winery were shrouded in protection from the low temperatures, dew on the clinging fabric shimmering in the morning sunlight.

Temperatures are expected to climb again later in the week, likely summer's last hurrah.  We typically see a brief Indian summer in October but the chill of autumn returns each night.

Friday, September 20, 2013
After a slight midweek warm up it was chilly once again.  Fog covered the Oley Valley and I was met with an interesting surprise when I drove down the driveway to the barn.  Intricate spider webs EVERYWHERE!  It was so amazing!

Suki and Nikki grazed peacefully in the early morning light.

Suki trotted eagerly to the gate, and by the time I had her in her stall Nikki had arrived there as well!
I only worked Nikki because Isaiah had early dismissal and I had a million things to do before he came home.  But Isaiah was very excited because his teacher had seen the article in the Reading Eagle and had posted it on the board in the classroom.

Saturday, September 21, 2013
Beautiful morning to ride!  I had to walk out into the field to retrieve Suki, but Nikki was once again at the gate by the time I had put Suki in her stall.  While walking the girls into the barn, I thought about the sounds of their footfall. As horseman we deveop an ear for certain sounds.  Uneven footfall indicates a possible lameness.  The clinking of a shoe on the paved aisle usually  means a loose shoe.  Thank you again, Rema, my first instructor, for teaching me to run my hands over my horse's legs every day to recognize changes!
Nikki was a bit on edge in the arena because the two horses in the field that parallels the arena were running back and forth.  Their regular field is being rested.  The running is clearly a game for them, as they stop as soon as you go back to the barn!  It took Nikki awhile to relax, but eventually it was fine.  Tomorrow morning I will lock them in their paddock!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

From hot to cool to hot to cool! (I will not go in the barn, round 2)

September 2, 2013
Now that the hot, humid weather has turned to cool breezes I am sitting outside writing instead of in front of the window facing the bird feeder.  I can still watch the birds come and go, with doves roosting in the grass.  The first leaves are beginning to descend from the trees, and I am beginning to feel a chill in the air that has been absent in recent days.  Every so often I pause and lift my face into the breeze, savoring the peacefulness.  I'm sure that we still have warm days ahead before autumn settles in, but for now I am going to enjoy the break.

September 2, 2013
US Labor Day, means a holiday.  I take advantage of this by riding early for the third day in a row! In spite of the overcast skies and moderate temperatures the bugs were bad already!  Suki and Nikki were anxious to come in.  Morning is my favorite time of day, and fortunately most of the boarders are turned off by the early hour, so the farm is quite peaceful.  My friend Amanda sometimes rides in the morning as well, and I welcome her company.  It is good for Nikki to share the arena and I enjoy riding with Amanda.
I decided to do a bit of lateral work again by performing a variety of figures in the arena then throwing in a leg yield or shoulder in from time to time.  For my leg yield off my right leg I focused on relaxing and not trying too hard.  My right leg is weaker so sometimes I tend to over ride movements off that leg to compensate.  As a result of doing less, the leg yields were much more correct.  Yay!  I was less successful on the right shoulder steps!  Nikki was a willing partner and i finished with something I rarely do,but should probably do more frequently; I got up in a slight two-point (not easy in a dressage saddle!) and did a nice forward canter around the arena.  We both needed that!

Suki called to us while Nikki and I were on our way back to the barn.  I aways announce our arrival into the barn with "We're back Mama...told you we wouldn't be too long!" Suki settled back into her hay and waited for her turn.  I decided to just let Suki move forward on the lunge at the trot and canter with some transitions.  It just seemed like that forward kind of day! I finished with a small amount of in hand work and some leading exercises back to the barn.  Unfortunately the new lunging surcingle that I ordered was not to my liking, so back it goes.

Sunday, September 8, 2013
Well the heat and the bugs are back!  I arrived at the barn early and Nikki was grazing near the fence by the driveway.  I put down the window and called to her.  She is so funny!  Nikki looked up strolled closer to the fence and looked in the car at me.  I believe if there was not electric across the top rail she would have stuck her head in the window!
I had asked Jenn to help me with Suki while I pulled her mane today.  Suki is notoriously bad about this, and always has been.  Lately I have been razoring her mane, but I really don't like the way that looks and Suki's mane is really too thick to do that successfully.  So with assistance hopefully Suki will keep the body slamming to a minimum.  She is not shy about expressing her opinions, that's for sure.

Since Jenn has not been able to ride for awhile due to some health issues, I suggested that she come to the barn early and walk around on Nikki.  Riding always helps the soul, doesn't it?
Nikki walked happily out to the arena happily seemingly looking forward to our work.  Since she had Saturday off I lunged for a slightly longer period focusing on transitions.  With good energy we moved through the gaits and finished with a big pat and a sugar cube.  Standing quietly for me to mount, I moved Nikki off on a long rein for our first lap around the arena.  Picking up the reins to a working contact we set to work.  Nikki was nicely forward and attentive so did a bit of transitions within the gaits on the serpentine.  Louise has been doing some counter canter so I worked a bit on that as well.  She only through in one flying change on me which was likely my fault as I shifted my weight.  Just as I began my finishing work Jenn came down the driveway.  She took a few pictures of us, then it was her turn.  Because Nikki worked quietly and well, I knew that she would be fine for Jenn.

Jenn and Nikki
Nikki was a star and Jenn enjoyed being on a horse again!

Me and Nikki
Obviously Jenn is quite a bit taller than me!  Nikki is 17.2 (Louise says 17.3)

Then we set to the task at hand....Suki's mane.  Chain over nose I went to lead Suki out of her stall.  She stuck out her head first as if she was looking for a trailer, which would have made her back up and refuse to come out!  All clear, so out she walked.  Jenn held the lead rope and kept Suki occupied as I started my work.  Taking very small sections at a time I made my way up her neck.  Suki would lip Jenn occasionally, but overall was amazingly well behaved!  We rewarded her with sugar cubes every now and again.  SUCCESS!

Full week ahead at the barn.  Vet on Tuesday for fall shots, farrier on Thursday with some riding in between.

Saturday, September 14, 2013
Perfect morning to ride!  Temperatures in the upper 40's with a slight breeze. Nikki probably could have used a light sheet over night, but it did not get that cool until much later in the evening.  I walked out to get Suki and she willingly walked to the gate.  Nikki remained where she was and continued to graze.  All seemed to be going fine until I tried to bring Suki into the barn.  She planted her feet and refused to enter.  Last time this happened it took awhile for me to get her inside.  Whacking her with the lead behind me the stubborn girl would not walk in the barn.  A carrot bribery finally worked and into the barn we went.  Suki's stall is the first one at that entrance and she planted her feet again!  We walked down to another stall and she went right in.  So I brought her out and down to her stall again.  Nope!  She was not going in.  So I put her in the other stall and went out to get Nikki.

We had a lovely ride.  Low key and easy as I offered a few pointers and suggestions to Amanda.  It was good for Nikki to be in the arena with another horse and even with the crisp autumn air and cool breeze she was quiet and relaxed.  When I finished with Nikki I brought out Suki to be groomed and she willingly walked into her own stall.  Maybe she just wanted a better view of the arena! I had lunged her on Friday so decided to skip today.  Friday, too, was breezy which can often make Suki behave a bit silly when out n the arena.  She was relaxed and nicely forward....a happy girl!  It brought a smile to my face to see her so full of life.  The courage that Suki has demonstrated over the past several years still amazes me.  All too often we take the everyday joys and privileges for granted until we almost lose them?  While I am not always successful, I do try to appreciate life's gifts.

This morning I looked in my garage and saw what a disaster my horse supplies section was.  Walking past it everyday on my way into the house I must have just blocked it!  In the spring I had all of the heavy horse blankets cleaned, but never had the sheets done because they were still in use.  The pile of sheets became covered by the ever rotating pile of saddle pads, wraps and animal towels.  So this afternoon I folded the sheets and put them in a pile, followed by an email to my fabulous blanket lady, Donna.  Next I made a pile of dirty saddle pads to be vacuumed before getting washed.  Six sets of dirty polos into the laundry crate.  Ready for action!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dancing with my girls

August 31, 2013
Hot and humid.  Thankfully, Suki and Nikki were at the gate when I arrived at the barn and came in willingly.  The bugs were already annoying and it was only 7:15 in the morning!  Uggh.  I know.  It's summer, shouldn't I expect it to be hot?  Actually, during the month of August the temperature has not been higher than 87, but we have had a few days of ridiculously high humidity.  Today was one of them.  Of course at the moment I am sitting at Isaiah's table in the air conditioned house so it is not quite as unpleasant as it was a few hours ago!  And there is our red-tailed squirrel in the feeder.  We primarily see gray squirrels, but there is one red-tailed little guy/girl who takes meals in our yard.

In spite of already being a little sweaty by the time I finished getting Nikki ready for work, and I was looking forward to my ride.  As we exited the barn Nikki did an arabesque stretch on both hind legs.  Ears forward off we went!  Nikki had good energy, which I took advantage of by asking for medium gaits.  Pleased with my results I did a little shoulder in, channeling my inner felt like I was getting a good angling and step, and not just doing a "head or neck in".  By doing 10 meter circle-6 steps shoulder in-10 meter worked nicely.  Left better than right, but that's more me than Nikki.   For canter I did the spiraling in exercise to try to overcome the tendency for Nikki to hang on the hand to the right.  I felt a bit of lift in the shoulder, so the exercise was quite successful.  During the finishing trot work Nikki was a bit heavy but I think she was getting a little tired.  I know that I was!  All in all a lovely ride.

Due to Isaiah's lesson, Suki simply received a thorough grooming and some stretching exercises.  She too, did arabesque stretches coming out of her stall!
Riding Rusty for the second time Louise took them up to the dressage arena after spending some time in the round pen.  Isaiah seemed pleased with his lesson.  I did not watch this week.  He is typically more focused when I don't watch so I only watch occasionally.  Isaiah seemed pleased with his ride and after he and Louise went to check out a praying mantis in the garden.
Next stop, Oley Valley Feed.  Louise's parents are visiting from the UK and had left to capture some photographs of the two covered bridges in Oley.  Isaiah and I drive through one all of the time, but I had not yet seen the second one.  So leaving Oley Valley Feed we made a slight detour to the other covered bridge.  Just before we reached it Isaiah shouted "Blue Heron!" and there it was standing the field while the dairy cows stood near the barn waiting for their milking date.  I only had my phone so was unable to get a good photo.  There is one at my barn as well, and I see it sometimes when I ride.  I hate when it takes flight while I am riding because...well let's just say it is not quiet!  Not as bad as the turkey that Jenny and I encountered on a hack when I lived in Norwich, NY, but startling for sure!
And then we happened upon the bridge.  I love the hex sign at the top. Obviously I need a better picture to see which one it is!

Sunday, September 1, 2013
Muggy, buggy, yucky!  Another humid morning. Once again I could see that the girls were at the gate when I came down the driveway, a good indication that they were ready to come in.  I parked and walked through the barn to access the gate to Suki and Nikki's pasture.  But they were not there!  No, instead Suki was herding Nikki up to the far fence line.  I could tell that Nikki wanted to come in, but Suki wouldn't allow her to pass to get to the gate.  So out to the field I went.  Suki came right to me so I led her while Nikki trotted behind.  Miss Suki, of course, decided to grow to 18+ hands (okay, when you are already 17.3, that is not too far!) and passage next to me.  Nikki stayed to the rear and began to passage as well. WHY DID I NOT HAVE MY CAMERA! And although I know it is a bit of a disobedience, I find it hard to squash it when it is offered naturally and at liberty. I joined in the passage and the three of us continued to the gate dancing together.  I don't know about Suki and Nikki, but I was sure smiling!  Not even humidity (97%!) and bugs were going to contain that!  Suki was very restless in her stall while I got Nikki ready, not wanting to settle and eat hay.  Eventually she did relax, but not as much as I would have liked.   Prince was in the barn to keep her company so I continued to tack up Nikki.  As I put on Nikki's bridle I thought back to my early riding lessons.  My very first instructor, Rema, demonstrated bridling and saddling a horse during my first riding lesson.  During my second lesson she assisted me in tacking up Louis.  At my third lesson she said: "I'll meet you in the arena".   Aaaah... life's lessons!
In spite of the weather conditions, Nikki was a willing participant.  Once again I could see the lift while on the lunge.  I kept that part brief, and as I prepared to mount Nikki tapped my pocket with her nose expecting a sugar cube.  Staring into those soulful eyes and furrowed brow, I acquiesced.  It is no wonder that my girls are such divas.  Then, just as I swung my leg over the saddle a gnat flew into my eye.  Direct hit!  Nikki stood still while I fished the little bugger out and my vision returned! I kept the work light, with transitions and lateral work. Finishing with big stretchy figure eights, I was pleased with my ride.
Suki still seemed a bit unsettled when we got back in the barn, and when I checked her she was sweaty.    I hosed off Nikki and brought Suki out of her stall.  She seemed to relax while I had her on crossties so I decided to lunge her lightly.  My thought was that it could go either way.  Suki would come completely undone away from the barn or relax and worked.  Of course I hoped for the latter!  To keep her focused we worked in leading exercises between the barn and the arena.  She stood quietly while I closed the gate but had a fixed gaze on the barn.  Once on the lunge she was somewhat anxious at the walk so I moved her into the trot to give her more to think about.  With that, Suki dropped her head, blew out a snort and relaxed into work.  I kept the session short and simple due to the heat, but was really quite pleased with what we had accomplished. Breakfast for both girls was going to have to wait.  I took that opportunity to clean my tack, organize my boxes and relax. Eventually they were ready for breakfast and I headed off to Frecon Farm in Boyertown to buy fresh, local produce to try some kickin' recipes.
On my way over to the farm stand I noticed another sign of summer's end.  The older corn fields had been cut back, no doubt on their way to be sold as decorative accessories around the area (I too use them to decorate my porch in autumn).  One season's end marks another's beginning.
And so, Suki and I prepare for the next phase of work....adding the surcingle.  Stay tuned.