Donerail Farm
                                                              Dressage and Sport Horses

                                                       Flying Colorz                                                   

2006 Training Diary

2005 Highlights:

December 16, 2006
Well, Fling didn't get to make her second level debut this year. She had a nasty abscess and has been off for more than three weeks. At least it was just an abscess. At first we thought she had something mortally wrong with her, she was so lame. The abscess finally burst out at her heel bulb after about 9 days of being three-legged lame and then we spent another week soaking and wrapping it. She has a huge 'slit' in her heel bulb and it's a tough place to bandage. She is still the teeniest bit 'off' since every time she takes a step, the cut opens a bit. It's been a very slow process. I think this has been the longest she's been off since she was started under saddle.  She's working welll, though - or was before the abcess. I have been riding her at a walk and probably in the next day or so I'll start riding her on a normal schedule. So it looks like our Second level debut is delayed to February.

November 2, 2006
Fling ended the year in 4th place in the USDF All Breed Awards-Oldenburg NA at First Level Amateur. Her median was 63.8 which was not as high as I'd hoped, but that's showing. She did manage to get the four of the highest first level scores I've ever gotten at a recognized shows...69.5%, 68.5%, and two 67%.  We've gotten a ton of the rain in the last month and have not been able to ride as much as I hoped. But she's coming along nicely. The trot work is light years from where it was at the beginning of the show season. She has much more suspension and 'power' now. Her canter is improving but still has a ways to go. The canter/walk transition is the one 'sticking point' for us in second level. She can do everything else quite capably. And some days the canter/walk is there. Her mediums are getting really big and she comes back so easily. She is more 'on my seat' than any horse I've ever had.  I probably am going to show her second level at a schooling show in December. I hope we use the new tests because I really like the new Second level tests better than the old ones! She remains such a joy to ride. Always eager, always cooperative and super focused on me. Lately, my two yearlings  have decided that when I show up in the arena to ride means it's time to zoom around the pasture (just on the other side of the fence!) and act like hooligans. Most horses would be super distracted by this. Not Fling. She totally ignores them and keeps one ear cocked back, just listening to me the whole time. Such a good girl! 

October 7, 2006
Well, our show season is over.  USDF is finalizing their year end standings. Fling's median is a 63.8% for First Level. This year, they did not drop the lowest 20% of your scores like they have done in the past. To compare apples to apples, she had a 65.3% median at Training Level last year. If we had been able to drop the lowest 20% of our scores like last year, Fling would have had a 67.0% median at First Level. So, that's improvement, really. We rode 11 tests in recognized competition and had no scores below 60% and had a high score of 69% which is my personal best at First Level. Actually, she had four of the highest scores I've ever gotten in recognized competition at First Level. She placed first in five of the 11 tests, got, I think, two second places and I forget after that, except I know she didn't place at all twice. So not bad for my little home-grown spotty pony. Now the work is to make the jump from First to Second level. So this winter we'll work on strengthening exercises and try to get her canter more collected with a bit more 'sit' to it. To me, the degree of difficulty between First and Second seems much more so than the difference between Second and Third. 

October 2, 2006
Fling and I competed at Windy Knoll this past weekend.  Each day counted as a separate show in order to give competitors more chances to complete their qualification scores for the Championships in November. We were not trying to qualify, but just trying to get one more good score to improve our First Level median. I had already decided after this show we were DONE for the year. Shows sound like a good idea when I'm filling out the entry form, but invariably by the time I actually have to pack everything up and go, it seems like just a big lot of work. ;)

On Saturday we showed First 1.  In the past few weeks Fling's canter has turned a corner and it was particularly nice when I got on her Saturday. Suddenly she feels like she has a second level canter. I was thrilled and we had a very businesslike warmup with no real 'issues' to address, and went in and had a good ride and got a 68.5%. We won our class, and ended up having the high score for the day, out of around 120 rides. 

Sunday  she was pretty flat when I got on her. Our rides were late in the day and Fling had been locked in a stall (with hand walking and visits to the round pen) for two days and she is used to being out 24/7 at home. She definitely gets cranky standing in a stall. The footing in the warm up area is quite hard, and the footing in the outdoor arena was quite deep, so the horses just go "splat" when they hit that difference. She also just wasn't quite as connected as she usually is and she broke to canter during one of our trot lengthenings. We ended up with a 61.8, but amazingly enough, again won our class.  We had about 30 minutes before our First 4 ride, so I went back out and did a lot of lateral work to try and get her better connected. Our next ride would be in the covered arena, which had much better footing. I could tell immediately when we trotted into it that she felt much better than she had in our first ride. I still managed to rush her too much in the trot work and we again had a stride or two of canter during one of our trot lengthenings. But, we  really "went" for both our trot and canter lengthenings in this test. By and large I was happy with the ride. Our mistakes were purely my mistakes and not hers. We got a 63.88 and I was happy with that. And again we won our class, and even outscored most of the juniors and professionals. 

So I was thrilled with my girl for being such a team player. Fling is so much 'my child' to me that it's always particularly satisfying when she's done well. It's been a wonderful journey, from seeing her little nose first poke into the world, to now standing on the brink of showing second level. It's been a heck of a ride. Now, for the next few months we're just going to train hard and reach for second level. If she continues to improve, I might test the waters at some schooling shows this fall.

The show was a great success for my trainer, Brooke Cramton as well. She showed her horse, Ducati CH, a TB/Friesan cross, Prix St. Georges for the second time and got the last scores she needed for her USDF Silver Medal - with a 66% no less! Brooke has taken "Duke" from "standing in a pasture" to PSG in only about three years. Duke adores Brooke and tries very hard to please her.

July 22, 2006
Fling and I have had a busy few months. In mid-June we went to the Pinto World Championships in Tulsa. (If you want to read the full account of our adventure, click HERE.) Lisa did great - at 17, she's 'been there, done that' including a few trips to the Houston Livestock Show. Fling, unfortunately, has only gone to dressage shows and as a general rule, they're pretty quiet, calm affairs. NOT the Pinto show. It was at a huge venue - there were 1300 horses there - and nowhere "quiet" to warm up. The warmup arena we had access to on the day of the show was basically sand dumped in a parking lot with motorized traffic of all sorts zooming by. It was sort of like warming up on the feeder road of a major highway!  Adding to the pandemonium were the other riders - reiners who would be cantering in front of you and suddenly stop and back up - with no warning whatsoever. And on top of all that, by the time we actually showed, Fling had spent one entire day in a trailer, and two more standing in a 10x10 stall. Fling may be a pinto but she is certainly not a Paint - she is a high energy horse (which makes her so super for dressage - she is quite forward and 'self-propelled') but it also means she needs an OUTLET for that energy. At home, she is out 24/7, weather permitting. She is not treated like a hothouse flower and she thrives on that. So, by the time we actually showed, she was a bit fried. She did OK in her first test, First level test 1. She was tenser than normal and had some small spooks on one side of the arena - the scores were all very close and she came out with a 64.something and was third. Her tenseness showed up in the worst possible place -she jigged in her free walk across the diagonal, which was a double co-efficient, and she just would not stretch down in the stretchy circle, also a double co-efficient.  The show started running very late after our second ride, and the stalls were so far from the actual competition arena it was almost impossible to check. We ended up spending more than an hour in the wacked-out warmup arena prior to our second test, and Fling just got fried. By the time we walked over to the competition arena, she was wired and ended up spooking along one entire long side of the arena. Everything that was supposed to be done on that side of the arena ended up somewhere near the CENTER of the arena, so we got a 56 and were sixth. I had also entered her in Second Level Test 1. We'd never actually ridden through the entire test at home, but we'd done all the parts of it. There were six horses in it. The spooking was even worse in this test and she got a 50%. And was third. Barely. The "winner" had a 52%, second place had a 51%.  She actually beat three horses. ;)  The judge was Wayne Quarles, who is an R licensed judge and he did a great job.  Will I go back? Doubtful. It's just not anything that we can 'practice' for and it's a long, long way from home. Lisa earned a Championship and a Reserve, so I have my 'honking big belt buckles."  I don't think I need to put Fling through that again! LOL!

In July we went to Windy Knoll in Magnolia. It ended up being a HUGE show - 320 rides over two days - and I was most apprehensive, wondering how Fling would do after her Pinto experience. I didn't need to worry. She likes Windy Knoll. The warm up area is a big field and she had a stall that looked out on the warm up. We showed First 4 for the first time, and of course, it seems like once we got back from the Pinto show all it did was RAIN and we missed a lot of riding. We were really not prepared to show First 4 - the canter lengthenings still need work.  But that's showing. She was a good girl - relaxed and happy for the whole thing. I was really happy about that. I was worried that the Pinto experience might have 'soured' her on horse showing. The first day we got a 67% in Test 1 and were 5th out of around 11 and a 60% on Test 4 and did not place in a large class. I thought the Test 4 ride was better than that, and so did friends watching it, but that's the way it goes. Sunday I did almost everything wrong that I possibly could have in Test 1 - we went off course, she tried to leap out of the arena at A when we did our canter depart and, in fact, did get her two front feet outside, and swapped leads in the process and I never noticed and did a (according to Brooke) really bang up 15-meter circle in lovely counter canter. ;)  I was thinking our score would be in the 50s, based on our 60% we'd gotten for what I thought was a solid ride the day before - nope, I got a 61.8 and we were second. Go figure.  Then, in First 4 we had another solid but not spectacular ride and got a 67% and ended up 4th in a fairly large class. This was the first time in a long time where I felt the judging was a bit wonky. I got higher scores than I deserved (as did everyone else I think) from one judge, and almost "random" scores from the other judge. Most of the time I feel like I score and place right about where I should have. But that's horse showing!  As much as I love her, I also realize she also is not a big fancy mover, (although she gets 7s on gaits when I ride her correctly) and there are horses that are going to beat us, no matter how well she performs. However, gaits will count less and the quality of the training and movements will count for more as we go up the levels. From the beginning, I had clinicians tell me not to get discouraged if we did not do well in Training/First, since she would be more competitive at Second level and above. She has good natural collection and self-carriage and a terrific work ethic.  She's not far from being ready to show Second level. She's still a blast to ride every day and totally happy in her work. That's a good thing! Even at the Windy Knoll show, as hot as it was, and as late as our last class ran - she was just a happy camper. Oh, and the photographer at Windy Knoll, Jill Garrett, got some terrific shots of her. I have not seen pictures or video of me riding her in almost a year. I was quite pleased with what I saw in the photos. As soon as I buy some, I'll post them here. She's really starting to look like an upper level horse!

May 28, 2006
Fling went to the HDS recognized Spring show the end of April and showed First level for the first time at a rated show. It was definitely the biggest show she's ever been to. She had OK rides and got a respectable 61 and 60 and placed fourth in one class of 11 and just missed placing in another.
We had a small training breakthrough this past week. I learned to make my half halts really go through and then LET GO after they do and I discovered when I do this I can really get her on my seat. That just improves the quality of everything. This weekend Brooke and I went to College Station for the Topsider recognized show. Brooke showed her Fresian/TB cross, Ducati CH,  Fourth level 1 and 3 for the first time and she got 60s on both rides. Duke looked great - really rhythmical and the entire  tests just flowed. 

Fling showed First 1 and 2 and was super. She went right to work in the warmup arena and was really connected and on my seat. Her trot is really getting some airtime, too.. She got a 69.2% on First 1 - my all-time highest first level score  for a rated show, and won her class. (And of course, I didn't get it on tape! ;) ) We missed a canter lead in First 2 and she was just a little 'down' and a little 'flatter'  than the first test, but scored a 63.8, and another first. We were tired but happy campers! When we left around 4:30 p.m., Fling's score was the highest one for the day so far.

We are leaving for the Pinto World Championships June 14. Fling will show First 1 and 3 there. When we get home we'll start seriously working toward finding the 'holes' that stand between us and showing Second Level. I also need to show 1st 4 so I can get my qualifying scores for the SWDC and GAIC championships - held here in November. 

April 9, 2006
It was a beautiful day with cool temps and low humidity so we went to the beach with the horses. I took Fling (naturally, since she has now become my 'official trail horse' and Lisa is lame.) We are about an hour from the coast. Our favorite beach for horseback riding is in the tiny town of Quintana, which was occupied by native Indians as early as the 1500s. Quintana is technically in Freeport. From where we park on the beach (it is also one of the few beaches left around here where you can actually drive on the beach) we can ride about four miles to where the Brazos River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river itself is only about 200 feet wide there, and we can ride upriver to fresh water to let the horses drink. We got there around 10 so it was not too crowded - just serious fishermen (and women) and campers since the water is still a bit chilly for swimming or surfing. Each time we go, Fling has to learn again that the waves rushing toward her are harmless. It doesn't take long. The packed sand makes perfect footing and it's some kind of fun to trot along splashing in the shallow water along the shore. There were LOTS of jellyfish washed up on the beach - huge bell-shaped clear ones with no discerable tentacles. If I were more ambitious I'd search to see what kind they were. We rode for about two hours and then had lunch. I had packed a picnic lunch for the humans and Mike had packed hay nets for the horses.  It was fun - and I think Fling thought so too.

April 6, 2006
Super ride on Fling last night.  She is like a little sportscar - so maneuverable and responsive. She's getting more and more "connected" and dependably "through." We're getting more and more "centaur moments" - you know, those brief times when you feel like you are part of the horse - the horse's legs are your legs and you just THINK about a movement and the horse does it like it was their own idea. Her  leg yield and shoulder in are getting reliably good and we worked on  haunches in along the rail. She is such a little worker bee. Her younger siblings have very large hoofprints to fill.

March 15, 2006
Show season is here and I'm trying to decide on a "plan." Our goals are to get all the scores we need at First level to compete for national All Breed Awards, and for local HDS year end awards. I also want to qualify her for our regional championships at First level. And, I am really hoping she's redy to show second level before the end of the year.  It's looking pretty good now. On a lark I did the canter serpentine from Second Level Test 1 last week and it wasn't bad! She needs work on her medium trot and medium canter. The lateral work is pretty solid. We've started 'baby' half pass already. She catches on very quickly and is very, very serious about her job. I'm also hoping to take her and her mom, Lisa, to the Pinto World Championships in June in Oklahoma. They have classes in Training, First and Second level dressage. I need to start going to the gym to get ready to show two horses in six dressage tests in one day!!

February 16, 2006
We continue to "up the ante" on Fling's training. And she just keeps saying "Sure, I can do that!"  Her lateral work is getting better...leg yields are reliably good, her shoulder-in is getting there and this week we started half pass. She's doing 10m trot circles and working on medium gaits - basically schooling first and second level. Her canter has a ways to go for second level. Her walk/canter transitions are pretty good most of the time. Canter/walk is always tougher..she hasn't nailed one yet but the downwards are reliably GOOD even if they have trot steps still..she's staying on the aids and "up" throughout the transitions. She just needs more strength for the canter work and especially when we do the counter canter. We've just started working on the canter serpentines. I'm really hoping she'll be ready to show second level - at least at schooling shows - by the end of this year. She's definitely progressed faster than any horse I've ever had. But she's had good training from the get go and I am a little more educated than I was even 3-4 years ago. And it doesn't hurt that she's like the kid on the front row with their hand waving in the air going "Oooh, ooh, ..pick me! pick me!" :) 

February 5, 2006
Woo hoo! Fling won two championships in the Houston Dressage Society Year End Awards - Training Level Amateur/Schooling Show Division with a  69%+ average and First Level Amateur/Schooling Show Division with a 67+% average. She JUST missed winning Champion or Reserve at Training Level Amateur/Recognized Shows - she had a 66%+ average and so did the Champion and Res. Champion horse, but they were higher by just a few hundreths of a point! They gave beautiful leather halters with brass nameplates on them. Sure beats all the plaques they used to always give!  She also ended up fourth nationally at Training Level open for the International Sporthorse Registry (a division of Oldenburg NA). Her median was 65.383.