Thursday, May 4, 2017

Catch-Up Post IV: Heart of Texas WE Series Show #2

I'm pretty certain that most of the blogs I follow are all writing about their epic Rolex adventure with one another. And you all SUCK. I wanted to be there too. Maybe next year.... which is what I have been saying since 2009, which is the last time I went, but I digress.

The second show in our five show Heart of Texas Working Equitation series was held on the weekend of the 22nd-23rd, outside of Austin. Since I had to scratch halfway through the first one, and you need to complete three of the five in order to be eligible for end of year awards, I was determined to make sure this one counted for something. I spent the week gettings things ready a little at a time every day, and by Friday we were ready to go. We pulled in to the show grounds at a reasonable time, I settled Dylan into his stall, and then bathed and readied him for the following morning. There was a minor snafu in the office - they had accidentally put us in the Intro division, when we were actually supposed to be in Intermediate B... only separated by 5 divisions, no biggie!! - but they got it sorted out and had us in the right place in no time.

A good stallion doesn't care about a bunch of bathing nude mares standing next to him

It had been almost 90 and humid the day before. with severe storms to the north of us. I'm glad I bathed Dylan the night before, because by the morning, a cold front had rolled in and dropped the temperature into the 40's. There was a free clinic being held by the judge before the show started, and I tossed some clothes on Dylan before bundling up in all the sweaters I had brought. The conference room was freezing, but the talk was very interesting. It was basic, but covered many points that newer competitiors might not know about. Not that I'm any kind of experienced competitors, but I have scoured the rules pretty thoroughly, so I had a good idea of what was going on. It was really great that the judge was there to educate us on his point of view, and help us see what he was looking for - and all for free!

Our dressage time was a little after 2pm. They were running about half an hour behind as we neared our ride time, so I hung around in the barn for awhile before getting on to warm up. It was still freezing and the wind was howling, so Dylan was a bit more amped up than I was hoping, but he managed to settle for the most part before our dressage. We had an especially good set of changes and canterwork, had good pirouettes, and held the walk work together for the most part, which wasn't easy given how windy and cold it was. We have been doing a lot of practicing with our halts and stand stills, which is surprisingly hard to do, but he has been nailing all his halts bang on. The only real stutter we had was during our first walk half pass, when I didn't quite trust him to let him really step over into it - I held him through it in order to keep him walking. All in all, we scored a 66.4%! That's pretty impressive. Considering the last several WE shows we have done have all scored a consistant 58% because of the crappy changes and poor pirouettes, this is a great improvement. Well done Dylan! And well done me for actually riding like I know how to sometimes. After that, I watched the Children's division do their Ease of Handling test following the dressage, then tucked Dylan in for the night. We were set to ride around noon on Sunday, with Ease of Handling first and then Speed following (they always run in that order).

Super nice facility!

On Sunday, it was still very cold in the morning. This made for some exciting rodeos in the warmup, and an even more exciting moment that happened in the morning as I was just driving in to feed Dylan. As I was coming up the (very long and sizeable) driveway, a palomino horse with an orange blanket walked across the road, wearing his halter and lead rope - no owner in sight. I slowed down, and the horse took off, zooming away across a corn field heading in the direction of a farmhouse. The showgrounds were conveniently situated in the middle of nowhere, but there were some main roads and a town nearby. I recoginized the horse as one that was stabled in the aisle across from us, and I was the only one out there who had seen the direction he happened to take, so I turned my truck around and followed him as best I could. I made it over to the farmhouse via a backroad, and the horse was nowhere in sight. I started up the next main road, straining my eyes to see if I could catch a spot of orange blanket moving. There! He was way down the road, with a pickup truck following him. He happened to stop and slow down to investigate the pickup, but just as the people were getting out, he took off again. Now several miles away from the showgrounds, and heading towards the main road, I went "oh crap!!" and sped off down the road to try and cut him off before he made it out there. Luckily, I spotted a fence between him and the road, so I turned around once again and found a place to park so that I could try and catch him. His mother spotted my truck as I was stopping and putting my hazards on, and together we went and managed to corner him. As she was leading him back towards me, she started telling me that he just waits until she's not paying attention and then just gallops off - and as she was saying it, he did just that, turning and just bolting off. She just let go, and I don't blame her - she had one of those Parelli sadist lead ropes, the poly ones that burn your skin right off if you try and hold a bolting horse. He was caught a second time, and I held one side of his halter while she held the other and the lead rope. We walked him back to her truck, and she put a chain on him (thankfully). We then began the slow process of ponying him in convoy back to the arena, several miles away.

Tiny building in the distance is the arena

With that all over, I fed Dylan and ran back to the arena just in time to catch the coursewalk for Ease of Handling. Thankfully I made it!! Like with jumper courses, you want to walk your lines to see what your best routes are (and there can be several, which you can use to your advantage to play to your horse's strengths). Intermediate B, also known as Level 5, is the level at which flying changes become compulsory. All of the work in EOH is done at the canter and the walk, with flying changes - no trotting or simple changes allowed. Believe me, it's even harder than it sounds, especially if you're on one that doesn't have easy changes.

Ease of Handling has been kind of a bugaboo for us. Up until this point, I've never completed an EOH course - eliminations, course errors, and a mare foaling inconveniently. As such I think this course gave me more anxiety than I really realized, and when I get anxious I slip back into all my defensive bad habits, none of which Dylan will tolerate. I could not get him to settle in the warm-up which should have been my first clue. As such I had a super hot and not particularly rideable horse -- BUT we did complete the course! Not only did we complete, but we scored a 64.5%, which is not too bad. EOH seems to score a lot higher than the dressage does, with people regularly getting scores in the 70s, but I'm not sure why that is. I will take my 64.5% and be very happy with it!

Dylan thinks a 2' jump needs that much effort put into it.... unfortunately the judge marked him down for his, uhhh, enthusiasm

On course in order (which you will see on the video, so you can reference back to this list if you have questions about what we are doing in the video):

1) Double barrels, which were plants this time - did a simple change instead of a flying
2) Double slalom - hit most of the changes cleanly but had two where he swapped out behind briefly
Jump - launched but that's Dylan!
3) Sidepass poles - had never done them before in an L configuration. Considering this is the first time and considering sidepass poles used to blow his mind I think that went really well!
4) Cloverleaf barrels - considering we *just* started schooling them with changes like a month ago, they went well
5) Gate - Dylan got eliminated at a metal gate over the winter because he could NOT figure it out. This time I let go of the gate so he could see to go through the space, and while that dinged our score we did make it through!
6) Bell corridor - apparently his bonnet was irritating him because he had one ear flat on his head and shook it as we exited.
7) Cup corridor - you have to pick up a cup and then weave backwards in a slalom to exit the corridor. We have practiced this going to the left, but not the right. Imagine my horror when I saw there was only one cup - usually there are two and you can pick. It wasn't pretty but we made it happen!
8-9) Garrocha and spearing a ring - did great, speared the ring but of course the video went blurry at that moment
10) Bridge - hot and jiggy but did it fine
11) Livestock pen - not sure what happened here but I think I had my left rein tighter than my right, I don't ride with one hand often enough and I can't say he steers with one hand at all! Was not great but we got out of there in one piece
12) Replace pole - great
12) Switch cups - I think I was relieved at nearing the end and he of course broke and trotted, which is a strict no-no that severely dinged our collective marks.

Apologies for the upright video. One of the ladies who was stabled across from me videoed for me, since I videoed for her in the morning! 

I thought it felt horrible, but it looks a lot better on video than it felt. But again, I completed the course, for the first time ever, and didn't get too terrible of a score even with our mistakes. 

The last thing of the day was, of course, Speed. I warmed Dylan up briefly, mostly walking with some stretchy canter, and then we were ready. Speed is exactly what it sounds like - just go fast, and get timed - so you don't have to worry about leads or gaits or looking pretty. You just have to not knock anything over, or hit anything. If you do, you get points added to your time. If your spear the ring, you get ten seconds off your final time, so if you can do you want to get that! 

Dylan of course flew through the course. We even cantered the bridge, and speared the ring to boot. He did great! It went a lot smoother than EOH, and of course was buckets of fun. And we got some great pictures from Speed too:

Cloverleaf barrels

Spearing the ring (the black thing is the bull but it's hard to see from this angle)

Really Dylan....

Zooming through the double slalom

Bridge, with garrocha and ring, which we had to carry through a few obstacles

I'd say it was a pretty awesome weekend. 

One of the cool things about WE United and the new Confederation for Working Equitation is the fact that they are in no way stingy with their prizes. There are ALL sorts of things you can win at the end of the year. Both programs maintain a leaderboard, which I love, and both programs also have a medal program similar to the one that runs through USDF. It's still hard to keep track of which is which, and what goes where, but I have an idea of what I need in order to get some medals and prizes. 

The Heart of Texas series of course is it's own entity, and as a series there are year end prizes for each division.

The Confederation for WE (which I think is just WEIAUSA and USAWEA combined into one thing... yes it really is that confusing) has a leaderboard and a medal program. At Intermediate Level, you can earn a Silver medal:

Silver Medal Rider Award – Intermediate (L4 & L5)
3 Scores of 60% or higher
3 Scores of 64% or higher
Three (3) scores must be earned in L5 (Intermediate B)

You can also earn a Horse Performance Certificate at each level:
10 Scores of 60% or higher for Introductory though Master’s
4 Scores from a minimum of 4 different USFWE/WEIAUSA (Confederation) licensed competitions
4 Scores from highest test of the level that are 64% or higher

WE United also has a leaderboard and a medal program. At Intermediate Level, it's also a Silver medal:

Silver Medalist Riders – Intermediate Level
Must have three (3) Dressage scores at the Intermediate level of 62% or higher from at least (3) three different rides and two (2) different WE United “r,” “R,” or “S” judges.
Must have three (3) Ease of Handling scores at the Intermediate level of 62% or higher from at least two (2) different WE United “r,” “R,” or “S” judges.
In addition to the above six scores, must have one (1) Dressage score and one (1) Ease of Handling score at the Intermediate level of 65% or higher for a total of eight eligible scores.
Scores for all of the above are only eligible if the rider successfully completed all trials in the competition in which the score was earned.

The Confederation separates each level out (like Intermediate A and Intermediate B) while WE United has both levels scored together on the leaderboard. There are hardly ever people that compete against us - they're all in Intermediate A here - so the Intermediate A people automatically get more points, due to the number of people in their division. They'll always accumulate more points than I will, so I have no hope of ending up on the Leaderboard for WE United. I DO have hope - and am on - the Leaderboard for the Confederation though!

We have the next series show mid-May.... man that's coming up fast!!!



  2. SO awesome - well done!! :D
    Okay - two things: those jump pics (!), and what sort of whitening products do you use on Dylan - he looks almost pearlescent and glowy in a couple of shots?

  3. Isn't it funny how much smoother the Speed can be than the EOH, just cuz we can let the poneh go? Congrats on getting your first score towards your silver!! And on leading the rankings for Intermediate B.

    The Confederation is a combination of WEIAUSA and USFWE. They offer both individual and group memberships, but you can only earn awards as an individual member.

  4. All I'm hearing is "I'm Andrea and I should have gotten in Stephanie's car and come to Rolex".


    1. This! This was even a discussion point on Sunday.

    2. Obviously I just HAVE to next year