Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Finale!

Hi everyone! Sorry it's taken me so long to get this last post up! It seems like life has gotten carried away since I got home from the finals. However, I wrote this update a long time ago - just never had a chance to post it. So, here ya go!


Holy cow! Sangria and I scored 8th in the Riding Course earlier in the day, which qualified us for the Top 10 Finals competition that evening in front of 5,000 people! We were most definitely not prepared for this! I didn't have music picked out, I didn't have any idea of what to do once in the arena, other than our required maneuvers. But I had to think of something and quick! The evening show was starting in just a couple hours!

In the end, I decided to play it safe, and I'm glad I did! By the time Sangria and I got in the arena, it was dusk out and the bright arena lights made the arena a forbidding place, not to mention all the people in the stands! I can only imagine what she felt, as I had stage fright myself!

The required maneuvers for this competition freestyle were: walk, trot, canter or lope, lead change, halt, back up and spin in both directions. We were allowed to use props and artistic style but since I hadn't prepared for this, I only had the Cowgirl Spirit team flag and the ball. I also took advantage of the offered cow to use, knowing that it could end in disaster since Sangria had never chased cows before. Maybe that isn't playing it safe! LOL

All in all, we did ok. Our ride could have been cleaner as we were both tired and nervous, but given everything she had been through in the past three days, I thought she was a superstar! We entered the arena at a walk carrying the flag. Halfway down the rail, we attempted to sidepass to the right and the set the flag down. This wasn't particularly pretty or graceful as we were riding one handed, but we got it accomplished. We then went through our required maneuvers. She spooked at our ball that was in the center of the arena, so our 'lead change' was sloppy.

Once we had completed our required maneuvers, we chased the ball around for a minute or two which seemed like a crowd pleaser. Then it was time for our cow! Oh boy! As soon as Sangria saw it, she perked up but hesitated.

As soon as I pushed her towards the cow, it started moving away from us. This is when Sangria transformed! She immediately dove after the cow, ears pinned! I was actually worried she might hurt the cow and had to keep her back a bit! I was having so much fun, I actually forgot about the crowd! I just wanted to chase cows all night! Why hadn't I done that with her before!? :)

All in all, I was thrilled with her performance, even though we didn't get great scores. In the Finals competition, we ended up placing 8th out of the Top 11 (yes, there were 11 in the finals since only a half point separated the 10th and 11th place contestants).

When it came time for the auction, Sangria was one of the highest purchased horses, I think. She went to a lovely family who I am sure loves her as much as I do! Congratulations to Sangria and her new family!

This has been a wonderful experience and I'd love to participate again. I am very pleased with the BLM and the Mustang Heritage Foundation for all that they are doing for the wild mustangs. Special thanks goes to my wonderful boyfriend for his amazing support during this hectic weekend!

Here's a few photos of the final's competition from professional photographer, © Charles E. Brooks/BROOKS/ Photography/2009.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Riding Course Competition

On Saturday morning, all of the EMM trainers participated in the Riding Course portion of the competition. This consisted of leading your horse into the arena, mounting, walking over a bridge, trotting a serpentine, trotting into a box, executing a 360 degree turn in both directions, backing through an "L", then cantering in both directions including a simple lead change. This sounded challenging and I was worried about how we'd do! I was pleased when Sangria performed well to my requests - it actually felt like she was competitive!

After our ride, there was a news crew waiting to interview us as soon as we exited the arena. My boyfriend, JC and I were included in that evening's news report about the Extreme Mustang Makeover. Here's the link to the news video:

Here are some pictures from our Riding Course competition. Doesn't Sangria look great? Stay tuned for the conclusion of the competition to see if we made it to the Top 10 Finals! :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sangria's In Hand & Body Conditioning‏ Course

On Friday morning, Sangria and I participated in our In Hand and Body Conditioning event. I was nervous that we might not perform our tasks well, such as backing through an "L", trotting around a serpentine and picking up her feet. Surprisingly, Sangria did very well. I believe she did step out of the "L", and she broke to a walk when we were supposed to trot the entire path. But she was perfect at trailer loading (and unloading), picking up an object and carrying it a short distance and standing quietly as I picked up all four feet.

I was also nervous about how she would score in the Body Conditioning event. I've had other people familiar with how they score tell me that Sangria was too round. Yikes!

However, when the scoresheets came out later that day, I saw that Sangria and I had placed 8th in the In Hand course and 2nd in the Body Conditioning event!! I was so proud of her and also very surprised as the competition was pretty steep against the other horses. These scores put us in 6th place overall! I quickly realized that if we had a decent ride in the Riding Course the next morning, then there was a chance we might make the Top 10 Finals! Uh oh! I definitley wasn't prepared for that situation!

I went out and rode Sangria that evening - she was really great, though I had a pretty bad headache so I didn't push her very hard. I figured there wasn't any last minute schooling that I could do to make her any better. In fact, I figured riding her hard would only fry her and make her less willing to do well the next morning. So, our ride was short and sweet before putting her away for the night. Here's a few pics from Friday morning's In Hand & Body Conditioning event.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Extreme Mustang Makeover has started!

We are finally here and settled in! It was a long drive, and poor Jenny had to drive it all on her own. I was feeling particularly ill and kept falling asleep as soon as we started driving. Sorry Jenny! We got to the expo fairgrounds yesterday afternoon and unloaded horses, tack and feed. Then we bathed and clipped the horses. After that, we had an opportunity to play in the In-Hand course arena with some of the obstacles. Sangria was great, and after going over the bridge multiple times, I went ahead and saddled her up. She was just as great under saddle as she was on the ground. There is a ton of commotion going on at the fairgrounds; other horses, people setting up booths, etc. It's going to be a long weekend!

This morning is the first competition - the 'In-Hand' and 'Conditioning' courses. After the trainer meeting last night, I am hopeful that my 'fat' mare won't score too badly in the conditioning course! :) I have been surprised at some of the horses' conditions. It seems like there are alot of them that have ribs showing and their topline showing. It will be interesting to see how these horses place. I know mine is definitely pudgy, but I'd rather she look like that than skinny!

Here are a few pictures from yesterday - will try to post again tonight or tomorrow with updated results :) Thanks for all of the support everyone!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Almost time!

Wow, has it really been more than two weeks since my last post? I'm sorry for the lack of updates! I'm still working with Sangria daily (if possible). I am feeling really good with where she is at in her training - she's not as far along as I had hoped she would be for the competition, but with the obstacles we've faced, she's farther along than I expected the both of us to be. To be honest, our biggest block has been my fear of her since our accident. Every single time I step into the saddle, I am hit with a pretty major anxiety attack - what if she bucks, rears, bolts or worse? She hasn't acted the way she did back in April since that fateful day, but the images sure float through my mind when I get on. I wonder if that will ever go away? Luckily, it doesn't happen when I ride other horses! :)

Over the past two weeks, I've worked on continuing to build her solid foundation. We walk, trot and canter with ease now. I've been riding her with Cowgirl Spirit Rescue Drill Team a couple times a week. We've been to a competition where we faced a very dark arena, loud music and lots of people. We've been on lots of trail rides, been swimming in the river and have even gone back to the scene of the crime - the beach. I was able to walk, trot and canter along the waves. That was a huge milestone for us!

I've also had three other people ride Sangria, after a BLM inspector (who came out to verify Sangria was being properly cared for) asked if I felt Sangria was safe for other people to ride. I quickly realized that I needed to have others ride her. If anything, Sangria does better with a rider who doesn't have the baggage I have with her. While Sangria is solid and safe, she's also very dull and unresponsive. I don't know if this is just who she is (dead sided, not soft in the bit, etc), or if it's a result of my timidness with her, or a combination of both. Either way, I have started to ride her with more energy - demanding responsiveness right away.

Things that I am going to work on in the next week before we leave for Sacramento: quicker response times, correct leads and picking up a canter from a halt. We are able to side pass, haunch turn and fore turn, though they are slow and sluggish. She has an amazing stop on her, but I think that's primarily because she loves to stop working! LOL

Either way, I am proud of Sangria's and my progress. I don't think we will be competitive in Sacramento, but I have done my best with the situation we were dealt and couldn't be happier. She is going to make someone a very, very fine horse! Here are a few pictures over the last couple weeks!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Less than a month!!!

Oh my, how time flies. When I first brought Sangria home from the BLM corrals, I was bold, confident and sure of my ability to win this competition. So confident was I, that I skipped many basic steps, leading to my being severely injured a month ago due to my ignorance. Since then, I have been extremely timid about moving forward and making any progress. While she has not given me any reason since that fateful day to fear her, I am terrified of her. Every time I mount up, I have an anxiety attack. My heart beats a million miles an hour, I break out in a cold sweat and I feel weak. Ugh! Each time I work with her, I get better - but it still takes me a good 5-10 minutes to finally feel comfortable riding and training her.

One of the techniques that often helps me distract myself from my fear is focusing on chasing the ball. I hope this doesn't hinder our skills, but it keeps my attention on something other than my fear of her reactions to my cues. So far, it's helped tremendously. Tonight, I asked a friend to give me instructions - just tell me what to do to keep us busy and schooling. This helped almost as well as following the ball. From walk/trot/halt transitions, to small circles at a trot to working over trot poles. Sangria was a superstar and I am incredibly grateful for my girlfriend's help!

Cowgirl Spirit Rescue Drill Team is attending our next competition on May 23rd. My goal is to be able to ride Sangria in a low-key quad drill at that competition. We would trot and be extremely laid back. Just entering the arena with loud music and other horses is enough of a goal, but to actually perform quad manuevers will be amazing! Our first real 'drill practice' is going to be on Saturday. Wish me luck!

I am still excited, but also very worried about the competition. Our riding skills are behind schedule, our ground work is coming along ok, but we also probably won't place well in the body conditioning score - my mare is FAT! She is an extremely easy keeper and only gets two flakes of timothy hay per day. Yikes! Oh well - she's healthy and beautiful, so if I can help her find a wonderful home then I will have accomplished my mission!

In the video below, you will notice that Sangria starts out kind of busy, fidgety and distracted. After riding for approximately 30 minutes, she really started to focus. I am thinking she is the kind of horse that will need plenty of warm up time in order to be ready to work. Some of the issues I am working on with her are responsiveness to my legs and focusing on my requests. However, I am very proud of her - I had my first canter on her the other night, but it took all of my strength in leg pressure and kicks as well as Jenny flagging her from behind just to get a few strides at a lope. Sangria tends to become very dead-sided the more she works.

In reading Mugwump's blog, I have read a tip on 'over/under' when trying to get a green colt to respond to forward requests. I am not sure if this is the right solution for Sangria and I. One, I'm terrified she will buck me off again, and two - I've only done the over/under thing once or twice. Is there another way to get her to canter when I request it? I've thought about putting bumper spurs on when she becomes dull, or perhaps carrying a crop. Thoughts?

Here's some pics and a video - sorry the video is so long, about 10 minutes - I didn't want to cut anything out, good or bad:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Building our confidence with baby steps

Sangria and I are slowly but surely continuing our saddle training. She hasn't exhibited her bucking and bolting behavior since the beach ride 3 weeks ago, though I am still extremely nervous working with her under saddle. When I feel comfortable in my surroundings and with her mentality during a certain session, I will ride her in the saddle. However, when I am not so sure of her on a certain day, I will ride her bareback.

She has completely succeeded at all of her groundwork exercises, but seems to need them each session as a prelude to riding. Last night, I hauled her to the Tacoma Unit and rode her bareback. She had been jumpy and snorty during our typical groundwork, and I was not in my usual kind, quiet mood. Instead, I pushed her harder than before, demanding responses immediately. I think this had her on edge.
With a few other riders in the arena, I climbed on Sangria bareback and again headed towards our ball. While the ball is still something that I feel like I need, it doesn't seem to be as much of a crutch as before. It keeps us focused on something, but after pushing it around the arena once or twice, I was comfortable riding her away from it.

I suppose at this point, baby steps for both of us is the best I can ask for - to keep us safe and moving forward :)