Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Finding Balance: A Griffin Update

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We're ~10 days out from our first dressage show. It is both very exciting and very intimidating!

Our recent work feels really good though. Grif is giving me his best each time we ride. Perhaps not the whole ride, but pieces of each ride display really wonderful moments.

When I look back on our first work that was loosely dressage-focused two years ago and compare it to now, the differences in Griffin are striking:

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He is so much more balanced through his body, steadier in the contact, and working through his hind end more than he once did. Funny what a little bit of time and focused effort will do.

I was honestly surprised watching the video after this little workout. I knew he felt better and his transitions were relatively fluid and he was steadier in the contact than in the past. But despite knowing those things, some part of me just figured I was inflating the good feelings to be bigger than the reality.

Trotting...

Cantering...

But then I watched the video. My jaw didn't drop in total shock, but my brain did stall out for a few moments as I watched Griffin's movement. He was so much more solid and balanced than I ever fathomed! And while my position absolutely needs work, I was also surprised at my own riding. We looked like a pretty good little team.

Walking...

And more trotting...

I've discussed the video this post's media revolves around with Austen to glean pointers and homework. We've been focusing on those things since and I definitely feel improvements in the short time since.

Down transitions...

Up transitions...

I don't know that we're ready for the show. But I don't know that we're not ready either.

See, I'm an endurance rider first. My background is all in conditioning for endurance. Feeling "ready" for an endurance ride meant that I was confident my horse could complete the distance with plenty of "go" left in the tank at the end.

Dressage - especially at the level we are pursuing - definitely isn't the same as endurance! Griffin doesn't need to be in the absolute most peak condition. He needs to be attentive and have a good mind that is ready to work; he needs to be responsive to the aids when I use them; he needs to be able to maintain a steady rhythm within each gait; he needs to show some semblance of bend in his circles; he needs to demonstrate straightness; his transitions should be calm.

When I rearrange my thought process to check in with each of the above points, Griffin is very close to achieving all of those things right now. So, uh, I guess we're ready?

And even walk to canter departs sometimes....

The biggest wild card with our entry into the world of showing is simply the time and miles that come with travel.

Grif has traveled very little so far in his career. He's been to a small local show, a few endurance rides, and one dressage clinic. As with most horses, when you plop them down in the center of a formerly-unknown environment, he's a bit frazzled! Things that aren't scary at home are scary at the new place, horses he doesn't know he MUST talk to and try to make friends with, and the general hustle and bustle around him garners more of his attention than he'll give to me.

None of these things are surprising and none are too crazy. They're very typical of a horse who has spent most of his time working from home.

And so, knowing Griffin won't be the horse he is at home, I have very low expectations for the actual show.

Counter canter may unintentionally debut in our tests...

I'm confident he has the pieces needed to succeed, but I have no idea if he'll be able to be present when the judge is watching to put those pieces together when I ask.

And you know what? That's okay. We've got to start somewhere. It probably won't be pretty at first, but if I ever want to achieve my goals, we have to get out there and give it our best. I know from experience with Q at endurance rides that it WILL get better. Time and miles (both literally and figuratively) fix most problems.

And he's capable of a flying change...now to do it on purpose?
I participated in 4-H shows as a kid, but this will be the first show show of my life. And while I'm nervous, I'm also really, really excited to debut my little mystery horse of questionable breeding next weekend.

Grif, let's just strive to stay inside the sandbox - anything else is gravy. Can you handle that?

22 comments:

  1. So excited for you! It's been really awesome to see Griffin's transformation over the last couple of years, and he looks amazing. I hope you guys have a really good show...like you said, it'll be a learning experience, no matter what. Plus, it's another new avenue to explore!

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    1. He's such a good horse. I hope he handles the show environment okay!

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  2. eeeee this is so exciting! you guys look freakin fantastic - even just the changes since watching you work with Stephen are pretty incredible. Grif looks like he likes the work too! good luck at the show - you're so right that there's so much more to it than just entering at A, but that's all part of the experience. good luck!

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    1. Right? Stephen's clinic may have been a year ago, but we've been trying to do our homework! I think our lesson with him helped a ton. Fingers crossed we can execute it.

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  3. GOOD LUCK! I'm so excited for you two! You guys look AMAZING in the little video clips here; you'll be rockstars!

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    1. Thank you! We're gonna give it our best shot.

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  4. Oooooh good luck at the show!! It's a whole different world. :-)

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    1. Hopefully we'll be able to survive in the new world enough to keep our heads above water =)

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  5. I can't wait for a show report! You guys are gonna rock it!

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    1. So long as he doesn't execute the airs above ground he attempted the last "show" experience he had when you were here ;-)

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  6. Good luck!!! You two look amazing and I'm sure it will show through on your test. I can't wait to read about it. Have fun!!!

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    1. As long as Griffin isn't pulling his signature scream-at-all-the-horses-who-might-want-to-be-my-new-bff we should, in theory, have a decent test lol

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  7. I am so excited about this! and I love your attitude- you are so right to focus on the 'show miles' rather then 'show performance'. Take it as you go and just support him. I bet you will have a great experience!

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    1. Miles miles miles. They take time but they're a better teacher than anything else. Beginnings just give me the jitters.

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  8. Yay! You can do it. Remember to have fun.

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    1. Will do my best! I WANT to have fun, but I know my subconscious nerves may influence me in the moment. Fake it till you make it?

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  9. I love how you don't let him curl his chin to his chest. What a refreshing thing to see, you just brightened my day.

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    1. Can't force them to move correctly by jerking their heads to their chests! I hate the look of that, too. Grif did go behind the vertical a lot in the beginning when he figured stuff out, but that was him doing it not me haha. Now we ride forward into the contact. He'll figure it out and look more classical with time and strength.

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  10. You both look ready!! Good luck

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