So in 2017, I earned my bronze.
This was actually rather early in the year as Vana was ridiculous when we tried 3rd and 4th level (getting our 4th level scores but being a spooky weirdo during the 3rd level tests) so we had to retry the 3rd level at Haras again and earned the Bronze. Our goal this year was going to be to get the Silver really and while we knocked out our 4th level scores in 2 straight goes, we haven't hit it at PSG just yet. Close, but no dice. Honestly, PSG is an "easy" test for us and so I feel like it's the 3rd level curse again as Intermediare earned us a really close score at the CDI under International judges so yeah. We like the harder things ><
Also, Hurricane Harvey put a damper on us getting our PSG scores and our Fall 2017 showing in general so I'm pretty pleased with where we are although I feel a bit like I'm in a bottle neck as I keep us able to do PSG, I1, I2, and GP at any given time. It's going to be some thinking for the Spring but in the meantime, I'm going to appreciate this token of our hard work after waiting all year to receive it!
A couple of years back, my main mascot and travel companion was Gracie, the cracked out squirrel of a Papillon. She was so amazing and filled a hole in our life that we didn't know we had. Sadly we lost Gracie and I've tried to avoid thinking about it. As mentioned before, I bit the bullet at the beginning of the year to put my name on a wait list and we finally got Mr KC two weeks ago. Here's a grouping of pictures we've taken of the little guy. While Gracie was an amazing intro to the breed, KC is like owning a ray of sunshine. He's happy all the time, eager to do things with you, and just impossible to not smile at when you're around him.
So it snowed in Texas. More specifically OUR part of Texas which is unheard of, especially when you would be able to call it "snow." Normally it's like sleet that happens to stick around long enough to make an inch or two of covering and freak everyone out so they drive like nutsos. This time though, well, it really did snow. I tried to hide in the house under covers doing work on the computer while Sarah and Hannah suffered outside but in the end, I decided to honor the snow and head outside for a quick tour before retreating again.
Documenting on point. Sort of. It was legit snowing. Go figure. Luckily it IS Texas, so it melted the next day.
We were going to do this show, then not, then yes, then not. Final answer was not. However, we advertised Nessie and someone REALLY wanted to see her and despite my rule of saying "no, come see us instead," I decided to see if Pine Hill would allow us to enter Piper last minute in Starter and make the trip sort of worthwhile. They ended up having room and so we entered and packed all the things in a hurry for Sunday.
After schooling Beginner Novice the previous weekend, we opted to do Starter since Hannah had exams all week and we weren't working on show prep for the whole week anyhow. Rain was in the forecast for the PM so we sort of made arrangements to be prepared and headed out to the show early Sunday AM. At this point, I'd driven to Jonesboro and back on Friday, I can't even recall what happened on Saturday, and now we were heading to a show on Sunday.
Oh and we also have a new long awaited mascot so I was toting him around.
There's not a lot for this update as our goals weren't really to blow the world away. Hannah needs to learn to really show off her horse DURING the test instead of being REALLY good outside the ring. I didn't care what she did, so long as she actually RODE. Dressage was in a misting rain and Hannah really DID ride as I could tell that her circles suffered and then she ended up making a more difficult test and earning a rider error and a reset. Honestly, I knew she was thinking and trying in order to earn that so I was satisfied. Riding a good dressage test is really hard and trying for a great one is just a mental workout. She ended up with about a 40 (38 without the error), which was right about in the middle of the pack.
Next up of course was Stadium but first we had to show Nessie to the interested party. They were a largish group with many junior riders and ultimately after Nessie had to navigate the super crowded warm up and perform her 3rd ever jumping event, they decided to not follow up with getting her. Selling horses man. So the whole reason in us coming was done in less than an hour tops and 10 minutes of riding which solidifies my "no, please come see us" unless we're already showing thing but whatever. We had stadium to do!
Piper was super jazzed about FINALLY getting to jump after being SO good in dressage (honestly she really was) and wanted to reward herself by jumping ALL THE THINGS. Well, she did and Hannah (once more) had a refusal at jump 2 when she didn't pick a line and go for it. After that Piper gave up on Hannah and just did the course with Hannah hanging on.
Another short break and then we were up for XC. The skies had opened up and it had REALLY rained for a bit so a lot of people were skipping out and the remaining ones were getting sloppy in the XC warm up. We'd made a pit stop at the vendor to look at bits as I decided to "bit up" Piper a little for Hannah. She wasn't trying to run off with Hannah, but with the rain and slop, I wanted Hannah to be able to half halt her more effectively for safety. We can work on Hannah's core and timing later. We tried out the bit and Piper was a little offended but figured it out quickly and Hannah had better control for the slippery conditions.
I had them just hop a few things and then get out of the chaos.
They had their turn on XC and I had told her to trot when she could and she did (earning the time faults but staying safe and in control). There was a log pile that Hannah botched her entry and commitment on, earning a refusal and some corrections from me, but otherwise they stayed safe and did a good workmanlike job.
So we didn't do a great job with results, but we didn't fail at all. Hannah still needs to be better with her lines in jumping and making decisions, but she's getting there slowly. Considering we'd just schooled last weekend, then exams all this week, and focusing on prepping for Jan shows and not Dec shows, I feel we did ok. The most important part was that she RODE her dressage test and I'm happy with that. Not sure the trip was worth using that money for show fees vs barn lumber, but it is what it is.
Next up... Jan things? TBD.
I'm going to consider this post a "pre-review" as I'm just so damn thankful the thing ACTUALLY showed up after almost 2 years. Good grief....
So basically, this thing was showing up all over YouTube advertisements for a bit at the end of 2015/early 2016 and I thought man, that would be amazing for horses!
So I pre-ordered, but being the paranoid consumer, I bought mine through B and H Photography "just in case" and began the wait. And boy was it a wait. There was a ton of drama online with this thing NOT shipping and well, I was conflicted on cancelling my order or waiting it out. Bottom line, I WANTED this thing and could really USE it so I hung in there. In Sept(ish), the company would FINALLY begin shipping and collectively all us SoloShotters waited without baited breaths.
I saw online people were getting theirs and since I bought mine through another company, I was going to be ready to receive it maybe New Years. Shockingly, a mystery box arrived on this day and as I opened it I realized what it was and squealed a bit. Maybe a lot. Sure, knowing it was SHIPPED or PROCESSED would have been nice, but well, it was here so yay.
I tore it open and... that was about all I had time for as it needed to be charged and I needed to go out and ride or teach dog training or something.
So it wasn't until the next day that I was able to play with it and I started with something I needed to do and something I thought would be fairly easy for the robot - tracking a dog training session. I set everything up and through some set up struggling, I finally got the thing coordinated and let it start calibrating. Well, at this point it looked like a drunk camera as it looked alllll around the place (especially the sky) before finally finding me. (tag is in my pocket) OK, whew. I began the training session and hoped for the best.
So it tracked me ok, but it didn't zoom. It also "lost the plot" a couple of times so we ended our training session and I went in the house to get ready to ride. For riding, I had my rider put the tag on her arm and we challenged the camera by putting it under the covered. This basically meant that GPS to the tag and/or the camera would be weak at best. Sadly, this is what I bought the camera for, so we gave it a shot. I also tweaked the zoom to "encourage" it to zoom more. I didn't end up uploading this video (apparently) to YouTube so I'll highlight that it had issues with keeping the rider when we got to the far (uncovered) side of the arena. where the GPS should be the best. Go figure.
At this point I could tell it was "learning" and it began to feel like a "baby" robot and I accepted that as I got on my horses. I wore the tag on my leg this time to see if that made a difference. It still had issues on the FAR side tracking but it does improve steadily from horse to horse. I'm not sure why it didn't want to track on the area to the front right of the camera, but whatever. At the very end it ends up going over there so who knows. Drunk baby robot is the name of the game at this point at our farm.
That was the end of the first day of using it. The battery was low, but we'd gotten about 1.5 hours of footage and the tag was still good on battery life. I downloaded the videos and we moved on with our busy lives.
The next weekend we went schooling cross country and as I was the only ground crew, I was hesitant to take all the media gear, but I did it anyhow. The SoloShot "should" have done a great job as it was in the open, good GPS availability, and all those good things. I tried to convince it to zoom more, but I feel it's a combination of it "learning" and the limitations of the "25" model.
The entire schooling video is below. In the beginning, I was adjusting and leveling the tripod at each stop but once we got to the young horses, I was just plopping it down and letting it do it's thing. I basically walked around the course and just tossed it down, let it recalibrate, and then hoped that it caught some of the action. If we were in a spot for less than 5 minutes, it didn't usually have time to calibrate and track so we missed those parts of the school. It DID do a great job of realizing it was being moved and saved the battery and locked back onto the tagged person provided it was given time to calibrate and do it's thing.
Overall, it was a worthwhile purchase for us, but it's not a slam dunk. Hopefully as we get better at picking settings AND it gets better at "learning" then it'll be better but as is, it's good. I just hope it can get to be a "great" unit as it has a lot of potential.
Way to leave people in suspense, right?
OK, so honestly, there wasn't much said in this Masterclass that had me reconsidering my life's direction. I'm an avid stalker online and well, much of what she covered is available online with other masterclass things from over the years. This was nice because it was live and well, I got to say I audited CD, but in reality, I didn't get too much from this except a boost of confidence in what I do with my horses (more on that later). I won't go into huge details about the clinic and a transcription of what CD said because well, it's much the same as what she's said before as well as Carl.
The first pair to go was the youngest horse and then she worked her way up through the horses. The main emphasis in my mind was quality of transitions and not just the "tricks." Well, as someone that is retraining a "trick trained" upper level horse, I get this. I so get this. The ability to adjust and change things during any point of any ride is paramount to getting the "tricks" right.
Watching the 5 and 6 year old horses go, I felt good about how I've restarted Jade and where we are right now. When I look at where "it" says we should be with her, I'm a little disheartened in the 6 year old test (although we'd rock her FHANA IBOP sooo...) at times so it was nice to see someone that produces upper level horses say not to worry and take your time to develop the gaits and transitions. For the young horses, transitions are mainly going to be between gaits (like we normally think of when someone says transitions) but also transitions within the gait. Develop that collected, working, and lengthened gaits within as able and make it fun. Also, "yeehaw" to get them forward. Again, the "yeehaw" is covered extensively in other online clinics with her but basically, push the horse to GO. I like to use the "yeehaw" to "reward" horses too when we've done something really hard for them, really collected, etc so there's a release from that pressure as well as keeping the "forward" in the movement.
So yeah, transitions and transitions. I felt good about where my young horse was after this so that was probably worth the price of admission.
Now we moved onward to the upper level horses slowly but surely and man, the yeehaw made it's appearance. She also dinged the riders for being a little "T-Rexy" in their arms (especially to the left with most everyone interestingly enough) and how that affected things. Most of the riders were not comfortable "yeehawing" so that was interesting to see. One poor open rider really got a tough go of it as he was pushed WAY out of his comfort zone and made plenty of mistakes but his horse improved a lot despite him being mentally pushed. I saw a lot of what I'm trying to fix in Nirvana, but well, I got the impression that I'm running out of time as I saw how long these things took to actually fix.
Riding an older horse is hard without a crystal ball :/
I felt this feeling of dread and began contemplating the time frame I may or may not have to work on Vana to get him ready for GP as the next rider went. Once we started with the final rider, Grand Prix, level, I knew I was going to be backing Vana down to PSG/I1 and just calling it a career. Funny thing though, the GP horse was like watching Vana. He was hot, fun, wobbly back and forth in his balance and well, I could relate to him so well. I enjoyed this ride the most and came away with some good exercises that I've enjoyed trying out (zig zag on the wall rather than always in the center) and how to keep playing with the horses as well as pushing them even when they're being sassy (hai, practically an expert on that).
So at the end of it, I realized that Jade was bang on for being an upper level horse, but behind in being a "young horse champion." I didn't really care about that so it was nice. Vana I had feelings up and down all night until the GP rider went and it made me feel good and a reminder to enjoy the journey. I've done a pretty good job of this but it was reassuring to see someone with a sense of humor riding their GP horse and "putting it out there."
I originally applied to ride in this clinic and while I would have loved to be selected, this was NOT your usual "be selected and look pretty" clinic. The riders worked HARD and were pushed HARD in their sessions in front of 1000 people. They made mistakes and were called on them. Everyone had issues with basic transitions and earned "that is disgusting" comments all night from CD. The GP rider had to work HARD on her canter-walk transitions and everyone was reprimanded for failing at these basic transitions (CD was looking for a forward movement into the downward transitions and most of the rider/horses just fell into it).
Everyone was reminded to push the boundaries all the time, make it enjoyable and fair for the horses, and reward the horses even during the tests. Just remember that it's hard to pat or praise in front of 7 FEI judges in competition. luls.
I definitely enjoyed attending this clinic and felt reassured more than inspired with what we do at the farm. It'll all work out someday if we keep doing what's best for the horses and pushing ourselves to always be better in a predictable and consistent way.