Santos and Me

Riding Journal Part 3: August 1998 - September 1998

[ Santos and Me ] [ Journal Part 1 ] [ Journal Part 2 ] [Journal Part 3 ]
[ Journal Part 4 ] [ Journal Part 5 ] [ Journal Part 6 ]



August 15-16: Dressage at Foxcroft - Second & Third levels
Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA

I kept Cortney guessing all weekend! I warmed up perfect every test, but that never means that I will be like that in the test, and of course I wasn't. On Sunday it rained and the big horse devouring flies came out, so I was pretty mad, but we managed a respectable 3rd 1 test anyway, and had a pretty good 2nd 4 on Saturday, and our last test of the show I just refused to work, I was pouting because Cortney spent too much time shopping and not enough time doting on me. But Cortney came home with 2 blues and a red ribbon. Bet we'll work on 3rd level from here on. Cortney hasn't even attempted canter halfpass yet. But she has figured out trot halfpass reasonably well, if she would just relax about it.....

Third 1     Carter Bass    55.610%
Second 4    Carter Bass    61.591%
Third 1     Carter Bass    57.560%
Second 4    J. McDonald    53.368%

Demonstrating our halt to judge Carter Bass.

Santos was really quite a good guy all weekend. For the most part, he was nicely forward, attentive, and well-behaved. I was so paranoid about having him shut down in the ring that I rode forward-forward-forward but in the first test neglected to capture the energy and so we were a bit...well....strung out. But, it was a relatively mistake-free test and forward and I breathed a sigh of relief. For the second test on Saturday, Frances had me get him more in my hands into his "chewy" trot! What a difference. We went from a 55.61% on Third 1 to a 61.591 on Second 4.

My last test of the weekend was Second 4 in the indoor, with less than an hour between it and the last test. It was hot and muggy and the sweat never seemed to evaporate from Santos or me. Our few warmup laps seemed fine, but when I got in the ring, I had no horse. Santos was clearly laboring but I managed to ride an aggressive test and kept it from being worse than it was. Though it should have been a horrible flashback to Morven Park it wasn't. The heat had affected him and he at least tried to keep going, and I had a bigger bag of tricks for dealing with it this time.

Perhaps my biggest accomplishment of the weekend was that Frances and I went to FOUR tack shops in the area over the course of the weekend and I managed not to buy a single thing!

My last ride gives the audience plenty to chuckle about! Frances (in chair), Megan, Fred, Mrs. Oliver

Aug 20: Still more half-pass

Finally......she gets it!!! GOOD halfpass trot and canter!! Hope it sticks! Cortney and I are going to be "allowed" to do my famous flying changes now, not that I wasn't doing them every chance I got anyway. I do love my flying changes, and I am always eager to show them off, it's hard for me to wait when there are so many opportunities to do 3, even if only one is called for.

Halfpass continues to improve - well, Santos seems to be doing them better in spite of me. I still have a horrible tendency to do the complete opposite thing of what I should - hands and body falling to the outside instead of inside. Canter halfpass seems to be coming a bit more easily, and I'm not sure why. One interesting result of the canter halfpass work is that suddenly I've figured out canter-to-walk transitions! As has happened with so many other movements, they have gone from being a loathesome thing to one that is so much fun!

Early September: Frustrations

Well, I do actually feel a little mean for having brought tears to the eyes of someone who treats me so well the last two times, so today I stayed really well behaved. Even when the Ride Across America bicyclists rode by, all 2 million of them, I didn't squeal or buck, and if they weren't an opportunity to play rodeo I don't know what is! I suppose it could be considered a sign of maturity....but it's just plain smart on my part! What if I kept her so frustrated that she didn't want to come back? I'll just save the hijinks for another day when she forgets that I am not to be totally trusted! Cortney does get better and better in her riding, the work we do now is much harder and it makes little problems really show up and she is such a perfectionist it is hard on her. But that is my job, and I take it seriously, to make her into a really good, effective and smart rider. I'm doing a good job of it too! I think she forgets how far we have come together in a very short time, but I am giving her such a wide array of tools that when she really figures me out, she'll be able to ride any horse really well. And I know there will come a time that she will be glad that I taught her how to deal with so many different things, she just thinks she wants me to be easier to deal with!

Frances video taped one of my recent lessons then tortured me with it!! I am appalled at my whole left side. I knew it was a problem but I'll confess I'd not focused on it too much lately. Alas, my toe sticks straight out, my shoulder and arm are forward, and my left hand is always higher than my left. I decide simply that I must change and I won't allow my mutant left side to misbehave any more. I wish it were that easy. My husband came out to the barn with me and was a groundperson while I practiced my position on Excalibur. He yelled toe and hand about a thousand times. I'm uncomfortable when I am correct but have to somehow just get through it.

In the next lesson we focused more on my position. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but Santos was MUCH more forward than he's ever been despite the heat and humidity. At any rate, it's extra incentive to get correct.

Things are getting even tougher now - staying more round, more forward, and keeping it through every transition and every movement especially those #(#&$) lateral ones. I have more than a few moments of utter despair, but it only serves to refuel my motivation, I won't give up!

The "mutant" left arm and side.

Mid September: A new appreciation for shoulder-in and other breakthroughs

Wow! If Cortney can convince me this weekend at the show that she really wants me to go like she had me going tonight, we will be fabulous! But it will take some convincing on her part. She doesn't think she gets nervous at shows, but I can tell that she gets a little tense, and she reverts to safe and conservative. I might, and I stress the word might, be willing to really show those judges what I am capable of if Cortney really decides to ride an aggressive test. We'll see! At home, she's relaxed and really riding, she's able to get me to "impulse", and most of her quirks disappear. Most of mine do too, when we work that hard, I'm too busy to be very naughty, and Cortney's too busy just staying one step ahead of me. Of course it's always a draw as to whose in charge! If anyone ever were to be so silly as to think that they are really in control of me, you can bet I'm going to give them a lesson in cooperation. Maybe I'll even be cooperative this weekend....

Hooray!! The lightbulb went off on shoulder-in. I thought I knew and understood that the outside rein directs the shoulders off the rail and maintains the positioning but I kept getting too much bend in the neck and not enough displacement of the shoulders. One time I really squeezed then released that outside rein and his neck straightened, and the shoulders came off the rail to the proper position!! I finally realized I was just hanging on the outside rein trying to neck rein him (with brute force I guess!) into the shoulder-in. We did one beautiful shoulder-in after another, even our our bad side (to the right). I know Frances has explained this concept to me probably fifty times but she is right that it takes doing it and feeling the result for it to take root.

Half-pass is less dreadful. Frances has me do zig-zags so that I don't have so much time to freak out about it and over-adjust reins, legs, seat, and contort my body into a pretzel! I can even keep him round for most of it.

My body aligment is squaring up. Everything feels better. My legs and all my joints are more relaxed and I no longer feel like I am battling myself. I'm sitting in the center of the saddle and though my left hand still wants to creep up, it's not nearly so bad. I need to think of keeping my hands steady and pushing my hips toward my hands, especially in medium trot.

I rode through Third 1 & 2 and they were my best EVER. I sure hope I can do at least that well this weekend at the Morven Park show and reverse that bad karma from the last show there.

September 19-20: Morven Park Dressage - Third level
Leesburg, VA

Saturday the weather is perfect and I am more than willing to put in the extra effort! I have a Porsche motor today, and Cortney and I are going great guns. We are incredible! Of course the added impulsion causes some technical difficulties for certain areas, but Cortney managed to cope in most of them beautifully. I am a technically difficult horse to ride, (and proud of it) and Cortney is starting to really ride and plan ahead to show me off to my best. She makes some misjudgements on how to prepare me sometimes, but that's how it goes with me. The judge tells Cortney I am sluggish..WHAT? I'm on the verge of running away! So the next day, we go much slower and the same judge says nothing about sluggishness, hmmm....Ah well, it's good for Cortney to realize that the judges aren't always perfect, some are just plain stingy with numbers, and she and I know we are fabulous together. It was a bit disappointing to have put in our best tests ever together, and receive the lowest scores so far. One more show for this season and I think I'll give those judges one more chance to see if they will appreciate it when I do really work for them.

Third 2    Kem Barbosa    56.512%
Third 1    Brian Ross     51.220%
Third 2    Brian Ross     52.791%
Third 1    Kem Barbosa    57.805%

Zooming by with SO much impulsion!

Well, what can I say? My scores don't reflect how I felt about our performance this weekend. Santos and I are really clicking on many levels, he was relaxed, forward, willing and obedient the entire weekend. Who could ask for more? Apparently the judges could...and did!

Saturday's warmup in the indoor was chaotic, I wasn't used to having to share the ring with all those crazy dressage riders! But, Santos and I got right to work and the only glitch was the tempi-changes I got when I asked for medium canter. Oops. We assumed/hoped that problem would resolve itself during the test and it did. My first test, Third 2 under Kem, was without any major mistakes, and VERY energetic. Frances said it was the first time she could relax while watching me because she didn't have the urge to scream "Forward!" every stride. Rather, she was hoping I would not extended-canter myself right out of the ring and into the next county. I was really aiming for a higher score, but there was room for improvement with a slight haunches-in on canter, not enough flexion in half-passes, etc. I did get 8's on my final center line in both tests Saturday...guess the judges were both happy to seem me go!

Brian Ross was a tough judge but he did give me three 8's on my first three movements in Third 2; UNfortunately it was downhill from there. I was most excited by the 7 he gave me on a left half-pass in trot which has been such a struggle.

The coolest thing about the weekend was that my trust in Santos has reached a point where he no longer feels like a scary fire-breathing dragon, ready to spook at the least little thing. I trust him, he trusts me, and we are both so much happier and it is so much more FUN! We even went for our own little personal-victory gallop around the field to celebrate our newfound partnership.

Despite a bit of disappointment, it was a great weekend. My parents came up to watch on Saturday and my friends Beckie and Blanche from my chapter were there showing too. We gave each other lots of moral support and plenty of laughs. I think Beckie summed up the weekend when she said dressage is a "testament to the resilience of the human spirit!" I know we will all be back for more!

On to Part 4...

Copyright 1998 Cortney Martin and Frances Yeardley
Graphics by Frances Yeardley

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