Fling's Training Diary

Background: Brooke Cramton, a local trainer, started coming to the farm once a week in April 2003 to start Fling. Brooke was very good for Fling and Fling absolutely adores Brooke. When Fling sees Brooke's car coming down the street, she runs along the fenceline and follows her all the way to th barn!

January 14, 2006

Between the holidays and trying to get my little pink house and farm in shape to re-lease, riding had to take a back seat...and of course the weather has been beautiful. Yes, it's a drought...but I sure am loving the dry weather and sunshine in January. (We'll probably pay for it in February or March!)

So, it's a new year with a new set of goals and back to work. Fling did not seem to suffer much for the sabbatical! It's going to be one of those 'in-between' years, though. We showed First level test 1 and 2 at local schooling shows and did well, but are not quite ready for the canter lengthenings and increased collection for test 4 yet. So we have a bit of work to do before she's ready to show First Level at recognized shows, but don't really want to show at schooling shows until she's ready to do Second level - which may or may not happen by this fall.  As always, _I_ can make plans, but the horse ultimately decides the course. The HDS year end banquet is Feb. 4 and we've been notified that we've won "something." 

We're also thinking about going to the Pinto World Championships in June in Oklahoma. They offer dressage. Fling and her mom, Sonnys Mona Lisa, would both go and show. It's a goal. We'll see how they're working by May when I have to send in the entries.

November 3, 2005

The 2005 USDF All Breed Awards have been announced, and Fling ended up fourth at Training Level open for the International Sporthorse Registery (a division of Oldenburg NA).  Her median was a 65.383.  We went to a schooling show this past weekend and showed First 1 and 2 and she got a 64 and a 71.4%. I think the judge was rather generous. We had the highest score for an amateur for the whole show.  But we're still "faking" the canter lengthenings and I'm still working on trying to keep my darn hands quieter and to quit working so hard at the canter and just SIT there! Such is the nature of dressage! The neverending  journey. We'll do one or two more schooling shows this year and hopefully by next year we'll be ready to show First at recognized shows.

September 28, 2005

What a wild week. Take it from me, you just haven't lived until you've evacuated from a hurricane with six horses and five cats. When I have time, and energy to  THINK about it again, I'll write about the whole saga and post it here somewhere. It's been hard to get back to "real life." The house was  a wreck since we rolled up all the rugs and stacked furniture before we left, and when we got home we just unloaded the trailers and tossed things in the barn. The house is pretty well back together but the barn is still a wreck. Fling got ridden for the first time today in ten days - probably a record of some sorts! She was a good girl, tho. We are done with our recognized shows for the year and she ended up with a 65.383 median at Training Level.  Considering she just turned five in August, and she's not even in partial training, not too shabby. We're hoping it's high enough to get an All Breed Award from the International Sporthorse Registry. We've got two more schooling shows this year and we'll show First 1 and 2 at both of them. The First 1 work  is pretty solid but we're still sort of 'faking' the canter lengthening in First 2. Her shoulder-in is getting better and better, though. I've pretty much decided not to show at the championships. I'm fairly sick of recognized shows at the moment. They sound like a good idea when I'm entering them, but by the time they roll around I remember just how much work they are with all the bathing, packing, etc. If I ever win the lottery I'm going to hire a groom to do all that stuff for me. :)

NEW - video of  Fling under saddle. We're riding in the pasture, and the footing's a little uneven, so not her best work, but we like to get out of the arena sometimes. After this was filmed we had a nice gallop in the field.

August 21, 2005

Fling went to a schooling show today and showed Training 4 with a 67% and First 1 with a 68% and won both her classes. We are now DONE with Training Level at schooling shows - I'm showing her at Training Level at two more recognized shows this year so I can get enough scores to qualify for USDF all breed awards and after those, we'll be done with Training Level altogether. For the rest of the year at schooling shows I'll show her First Level. She can do a decent canter lengthening, and there's really nothing in First Level she can't do. She's even doing some shoulder-in and she can already do 10m circles - both Second Level work. Hopefully by next summer she'll be showing Second Level at schooling shows.

August 15, 2005

Fling continues to work well but it sure is hard to find motivation to ride when it's SO hot and humid. I swear the other day I needed gills to breathe. I had a really good lesson on her tonight. She's doing everything in First Level pretty well now. The lengthenings have come very easily for her - she just understood the concept right off the bat. Her mom would just get quicker steps instead of longer steps when I first tried to teach them to her, and it took what seemed like a long time for her to 'get it.'   Fling is a quick study. So far she's just moved right along in her training.  Her basic trot work is feeling very 'second-level-ish" now - she's a powerful little package with lots of push from behind.  Her canter still feels a bit 'strung out' to me, but that's usually the last gait to develop.  Fling's birthday was Aug. 5 and she got lots of treats and a lovely new pink and brown antisweat sheet that looks very good on her. I suspect she appreciated the cookies far more than the new clothes. ;)

July, 2005

July 25 - Fling went to her Windy Knoll Farm in Magnolia  - her second recognized show - and her first-ever "sleepover" show.  It turned out to be a HUGE show and a HUGE success for me and my trainer, Brooke Cramton. Brooke, who started Fling under saddle, and now coaches me riding her, showed her own horse, Ducati CH, a six-year-old Friesan/TB cross. She showed second and third level and got the scores she needed to complete her USDF  bronze medal on the FIRST try!  She's taken "Duke" from "zero" to third level in under two years! Woo hoo! WTG, Brooke! On to the Silver Medal - she's already got one score toward it from a client horse.

Fling did a great job, too. She showed two tests each day - four in all - and she WON ALL HER CLASSES. Ok, that was the most important part...you can skip the rest of this report if you're in a hurry. ;)

 She was quite intimidated by the warm-up area and the crowd of horses and balked at entering the 'fray' each morning for her warmup..but after a little airs above the ground, and "encouragement" (read: spurs!)  -  she made her wayinto the crowd (think trying to enter a crowded skating rink!) and settled right down and got to business. The toughest thing for me, and my horses, is the warmup arena at shows. We are used to riding at home, alone, in our own arena and not having to worry about running into anyone when we ride! :) The funniest thing is, she was SUPER connected, right from the get go, whereas at home sometimes it takes 10 minutes of warmup to achieve that. I think she felt the steady connection to the reins was her "safe place" admist the hubbub! And once we entered the competition arena, she was all business save for a plaintive, non-interfering little whinny once or twice to her new "buddies" back in the barn. Fling can whinny very politely without even lifting her head!

Between the professionals, juniors and amateurs, there were 25 rides in Training 4 on Sat. She scored a 66.1 and won her amateur division and  had the third highest score of all of them! Her Training 2 ride was just a tad better (same judge) and she got a 66.5 with same results - won the amateur division and also outscored everyone else but one other pro.

Sunday a.m. I was a little frazzled due to a ride time confusion (who wouldn't be, with a 7:04 am ride!) and we got a 63 on T4 but still won the amateur division...we came back calmer for T2 and got a 65.67 and another win! 

Plus, I was really pleased that she traveled really well - ate, drank, was actively curious about all the coming and goings, amicable toward all horses and people and did not fret in the stall. She's used to 24/7 turnout in the summer so being cooped up for all that time is quite a change for her. It did help that she could see the warm up area from her stall, so it was a bit like "Horse TV."

 Fling got home Sunday afternoon, had a shower, some cookies and took off like a rocket in the pasture, and headed straight for the herd, probably to tell them how important she now is! I don't think they were much impressed. ;) (Don't tell her that I got on the phone with my insurance agent this morning and  increased her coverage!) :)  

So, she's qualified for the Regional Championships in November - but I don't know if we'll go. I'll just have to see how she works between now and then. There will be some very fancy horses at the championships and a lot of older ones with more training and experience, and Fling has to be at the top of her game to be competitive. Her canter still needs more jump and roundness. So we'll just play it by ear. I am very happy with her, though and this sure gives Faeryn some big  horseshoes to fill in a few years!

Oh, and Fling would like to add that her 5th birthday is next week (August 5 - she's a Leo) and she loves lump sugar, peppermint Manna mini-wafers, alfalfa, and her favorite color is lavender. :)

June, 2005

(June 19) Another first for Fling today. Mike and I hauled up to a friend's, who has a place within riding distance of the Sam Houston National Forest. A group of six of us spent 2.5 hours riding through the forest - mostly trotting. Fling will turn 5 in August, and that's the longest time she's been ridden at one pop - and her first time riding with that many horses. Our usual outings are to the beach and a nearby park that has a trail along a bayou, so she's not used to trees. In many places, the trail was so narrow through the woods, if your horse didn't make the turns allowing for the parts of you sticking out (your knees!)  that unfortunate part of your anatomy would get slammed against a tree. I can't tell you how painful that can be, even at only about 7 miles per hour!  I am happy to say I did not get my 'knees knocked' even once, and she also had the good sense to drink out of a pond when she was thirsty, although she spent as much time blowing bubbles and splashing in the water as drinking. It may not seem like such a big deal, but you wouldn't believe how many domesticated horses are aghast at the prospect of drinking out of anything other than a plastic bucket or a shiny water trough! And go figure - we have a pond in our pasture but I've never ONCE seen any of our horses get in it, much less (GASP!) drink out of it!  She also handled the ravines and steep little hills like a little mountain goat. Not bad for a "prissy" dressage horse! :)

(June 5) Fling had a very successful First Level debut at the Solstice Farms Young Rider benefit schooling show. She got a 65.5% from R judge Joan Darnell! I think it was one of the highest First Level scores of the day, and she won her class. She also won her Training 4 class with a 64.231 - despite seriously running out of gas! We did the First 1 test first, and it's probably a good thing. If I had not worn my spurs I think we would have definitely 'died' during the canter! Miss Fling needs to be much fitter for the harder work to come!

May, 2005
Fling had a big Memorial Day! Mike and I decided to take our horses down to Quintana Beach, near Freeport. I wondered about the wisdom of taking them to the beach on Memorial Day, but the few times I've been there before, even on the weekend, it's been pretty quietMike also assured me that there is one direction where they have been dredging sand from the ocean and dumping it on the beach (trying to preserve the shoreline) and it's too deep for cars, so at worst, we'd ride in that direction. When we got there, I could not believe my eyes - there were cars parked solid as far as  you could see - lined up along the shore, and lined up along the dunes, with a 'road' in the middle for traffic. So much for our 'secret' beach! We wedged the horse trailer in a spot and I anxiously unloaded Fling, not even sure what she would do just seeing all the cars and noise and people. She actually did not even seem to mind or notice the extra activity... it was probably very helpful that Mike's horse, Thor has 'been there, done that.'  I saddled her up with no problem, got on her and we headed for the deep sandy beach, away from the crowds. This was about her fourth time to the beach - but the first time with so much activity.First obstacle:  seaweed. Piles, and piles of seaweed. There was a solid line of it about two feet high all along the shore between the beach and the waterline. Phew, it STUNK, too. The beach was REALLY deep with newly dumped sand, so we had to actually ride them in the water to avoid the really deep footing that Fling was floundering in.... Fling did NOT want to cross that nasty pile of seaweed, but she did... after prodding with my spurs - glad I wore them!   We rode along the beach and encountered screaming kids running toward us with huge neon rafts..no problem there... barking unleashed dogs..ho hum...flapping tents...looked but didn't jump.....blue portapotties..ho hum.....OOPS... beached CATAMARRAN with FULL SAILS straight ahead... LOL! Now, you don't see that on the trails very often. ;)  She would have been just fine until its crew started pushing the beached boat along - TOWARD her, and it made a big scraping sound on the sand... Fling lost her nerve at that, but she didn't bolt ...she just stopped dead ( "uh oh, it's CHASING ME!!!") and started backing up......so we just made a left and went up onto the beach and went around... I was laughing the whole time... who can blame her? HOw many horses do you know that are catamarran broke?? LOL! We rode about 2 hours, and when we came back to the trailer, we went on past it and actually rode on the busy part of the beach for about 15 minutes..she was absolutely fine with all of it. I think she figured once she'd lived through the catamarran, everything else was pretty boring! ;) 

Fling went to her third schooling show of the year, again at Sienna Stables. (Hey, it's only 30 minutes from home!) She showed Training 2 under Donna Meyer and got a 64+ and in Training 4 under Diane Rochau she got a 65%. And, again, she won both her classes. She was a very good girl - she's getting the hang of this show thing. I was going to move her up to First Level but realized we didn't have enough scores at Training Level yet to compete for the Houston Dressage Society year-end awards. Her next show will be June 5 and I think we'll do First 1 and see how it goes.

April, 2005
Fling showed again at Sienna Stables April 3 and came home with a 72.3 on Training 2 and a 64.6 on Training 4 and won both classes. This was her first time to show Training 4 and the serpentines were a little funky! She was one tired puppy by Training 4, since there was six hours between our two rides! On April 9 we drove to College Station to show in the recognized Topsider Farm show - Fling's first recognized show. Can you say disaster? I should have known better to haul a 4-year-old in to a strange arena the day of the show and expect her to not be looky without first having had a chance to school there. But, since it was Parents Weekend at A&M, there were absolutely no hotel rooms to be found within a 50-mile radius. And did I mention she was in raging heat? - which is usually not a problem at all - but Ms. Fling had never seen a stallion in her life and there was a VERY ill-behaved one screaming the entire time. Fling was rattled, I was rattled. She got a 57 in her first class - tense and spooking at the letters and judges' stand. I actually thought the score would be much lower! After lunch the stallion was gone and she got a 61+ in Training 4 - at least she scored high enough to get a qualifying score so the trip wasn't a total waste of time and money!

February, 2005
Fling's first show of the year was a great success. She went to the Sienna Stables Show Feb. 6 and showed Training Level Test 1 and 2 and won both her classes and was Training Level Champion. She got a 72.2 on Training Level Test One - my personal best - and a 68% at Training 2 despite picking up the wrong lead at one of the canter departs. My goal is to start showing her First Level by summer. She's already doing fairly good trot lengthenings and leg yields. She's even started shoulder-in and really BIG (but correct) turns on haunches.  She's definitely progressed faster than any other horse I've ever had. She had a really good start, though. Her training has been very correct right from the start, thanks to my trainer, Brooke Cramton.  What I am happiest about, though, is her super attitude toward her work. She is very, very serious about her 'studies.'  She tries very hard to do exactly as she is asked and seems to like her job.

October, 2004
Fling went to the Solstice Farm Halloween show Oct. 31 and showed training level Training Level 1 and 2. She won both her classes. November turned out to be one of the wettest on the record books and we missed a lot of riding time - so that will be our last show of the year.

September, 2004
Fling competed at the Friendswood English Riding Club Dressage Schooling Show on Sept. 26. Since she'd cut her foot  right after the Pecan Tree show, and was off for nearly a month, we didn't show Training Level. She earned a 67.5 and a 64.6 in Intro A and B under "R" Judge Sherry Arndt and also won the high score Houston Dressage Society Adult Amateur medal. Her next competition will most likely be in November at the Topsider Schooling Show in College Station, where she'll show Training Level.

August, 2004
Fling had a birthday Aug. 5 and turned 4 years old! She also made her Training Level debut at Pecan Tree Farms Aug. 15. Very apropos, since, in the last 15 years,  I think every single one of my youngsters has started their career there. Fling was a good girl - I got there early enough to hand walk her around the arena and she was very relaxed and calm when it came time for our test. She didn't see any monsters sitting at C!  She earned a 2nd place ribbon with a score of 63.6%. Her next show will be the FERC show in September.

June 7, 2004
Fling went to another schooling show May 30.  She was very brave at this totally new place and just marched around the arena. She scored a 64.5 in Intro A and a 67.1 in Intro B and  earned the Houston Dressage Society Amateur Champion award for the highest score of the show. .

April 24, 2004 Update
Fling went to another dressage schooling show on April 4, and although STILL afraid of the judge, managed two thirds and was Reserve Champion in the division. She got 7 on gaits, 7s on her trot circles and 3's whenever she had to go near the judge! LOL!  I was amazed to see the photos from the show because I had not seen any photos or video of me riding her, and Brooke hasn't ridden her since about December. She looks like a grown-up horse! Her mom would be proud. (Speaking of her mom, Sonny's Mona Lisa is going to have another 'date' with Frohwind this spring. Keep your fingers crossed for another bay pinto filly!)

And in another 'first' Fling went on her first trail ride last weekend at Jack Brooks park. My husband, Mike, took his steady endurance horse Rock and we rode along the trails in back of the park that follow a large bayou. Fling was not quite sure she could really walk down a (GASP!) HILL - but she did manage it, and was far less nervous than her rider.  We had some nice periods of trot, and she didn't spook at anything - even a dog that bounded unexpectedly out onto the trail.

2/15/04 Fling's Show Debut!
She was a good girl but was afraid of the flowers and judge's stand.  She settled into her stall very well. (Home is where the hay net is, is her motto) and warmed up very quietly in the large outdoor arena. However, when it came time to show, she was a bit overwhelmed by the stuff in the competition arena. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to school in there before our actual rides.  So, our first 'test' consisted of just riding in the far end that she deemed a safe distance from the very scary judge's stand and the flowerboxes along the sides of the arena.   Our second test she was a bit braver, and got through half the test - but when it came time to go toward the judge's stand for the second time she chickened out.  Despite getting three zeros for movements not performed, and 8 error points for use of voice (me talking to her telling her it was ok!)  she still managed a 50%.  She handled the other horses, crowd of people and everything very well, considering she's been raised on a private farm and this was more people and more horses than she'd seen in one place her entire life.

12/26/03 Update
She grew! She grew! After about a year of being just a hair over 15H... she finally had a growth spurt and is now almost 15.2!  Thanks, Santa!  After a few months of Brooke riding her once a week, I took over the riding, with Brooke coaching from the ground. In addition to our once-a-week lesson wtih Brooke, I've been riding her once or twice a week now, and she's a quick study. I would guess that she's been ridden about 40-50 times now. She's got a good grasp of the 'stay on the outside rein' concept and our 20 meter circles are approaching ROUND!  So much so, that we're planning to make our first outing Feb. 1st at a local schooling show to do the USDF Intro test. (But first, mom has to make a real effort to get her to a public arena so she gets a taste of the big world!)

And in another milestone moment, on Christmas Eve, we cantered for the first time! Well, of course, she's cantered on the lunge line, and with Brooke a few times, but I've been putting off any real canter work until our steering got a tad more.. um.. predictable! :)  Anyway, I told Fling to be good, because I had 24 people coming to my house the next day for Christmas dinner!  She has a HUGE canter - I felt like I was riding a porpoise leaping over the waves! Her back was round, round, round, and she is so easy to sit. She's going to be great fun, I think. So far, so good!

7/3/03 Well, today was the moment of truth. Fling cantered. Brooke had me stand in the center of the arena and hold the whip llike I was lunging her, and gently urge her into a fast trot - hoping she would just break into a canter. It worked. She only took a few strides the first time, but next time I was ready and keep at her to urge her on. She still does not appreciate any leg on her, but she is learning to accept it. Brooke says that is a very normal part of the trainign process, especially for mares.

6/4/03 WOW! I didn't expect it so soon, but Brooke trotted Fling under saddle today! She was in raging heat and very sluggish when Brooke first got on her. Fling kept wanting to stop. I think she was saying to Brooke, "Please, do we have to do this TODAY?"  Finally, after thumping her good with her heels a few times (well, so much for worrying about how she will react when we put leg on her! LOL!) Fling finally got the message she had to ignore the hormones and focus on work. When Fling was nice and forward at the walk, Brooke had me gently wave the lunge whip at her as she circled around me, and Fling promptly struck off into a calm, rhythmic trot! I was able to stop jumping up and down with glee long enough to take the photos below:

5/27/03 A giant leap forward in progress this week. Brooke got on Fling in the 'big arena' and walked her around for 15 minutes or so. Fling was quite unconcerned and totally obedient - even managing a few perfectly square halts that would have made any dressage horse envious! She also was noticeably better balanced and didn't seem to be having any trouble compensating for the weight of a rider. Next week I'll take photos!
5/20/03 Fling 'breaks her maiden."  Brooke, the trainer who is working with her, quietly got on her and I walked her around the round pen. Fling pouted and made some faces but never gave any indication of doing anything naughty... but she obviously was having a difficult time dealing with her balance.. she looked a little drunk! I can't wait for next week's session!
In series of photos below, Fling is being ridden for just the third time in her life. Brooke Cramton, a local trainer, is riding.   Check out the "Britney Spears" saddle pad! Fling is, after all, a teenager!

Fling manages an 'almost square' halt.And at the end of the session, Fling gets a "good girl" pat from Brooke and about a half a box of sugar cubes from "mom." :)
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