Elton easily attended his shows in Florida and with aplomb warmed up in the “big” rings with lots of horse traffic with “the big boys”. His scores ranged handily from 66 to 72 % at Training level.
There was only one difficult day where he succumbed to a dehydration colic on the arrival day of his third show. It was the first really hot day of the season and neith horses or riders were really expecting it. It was hard to determine what brought it on as Elton is generally a good drinker but whether it was the trailer ride, change of water or unusually hot day so early in the season is hard to say. The vet came and gave him fluids through the night and his first day of show Friday was scratched. By Saturday he was feeling well enough to be “fresh” and a little spoiled from me hovering over him. The vet said she thought he should be ridden . He appeared to have no aftereffects and put in an errorless test. I must say he was fine.. I was exhausted!
I had given up measuring Elton as he had not grown from the time I had picked him up from his breeders, Tylord Farms as a two year old. I hate to admit it but I was starting to get discouraged. Mid-way through the winter I tried it again and there was no change so I gave up and stopped measuring him. Exactly 30 days later one of the participants of the Florida Dressage Experience program insisted he had grown! Since I had measured him just 30 days ago I KNEW there couldn’t be a change…. But one should never say never! In just 30 days he had sprouted ¾ of an inch! Amazing! Thankfully The Saddle Doctor, Gary Severson called on us in Florida and adjusted all our saddles including Elton’s! It was clear that his body had become longer and he looked rangier. Thank fully his shoulders were developing and coming up-hill. I also had to let his bridle cheek pieces out a hole. His head had grown.
Elton finished up his last Florida competition In February and I had decided to just work on training in March and April. He had no issues with the environment at competitions and I felt he is “show broke”. It was amazing to me that one day we were working on getting a good trot-canter depart in the corner for Training level test three ..( struggling with balance trying to get a 7 in the test ) and less that 30 days later after this growing spell Elton EASILY accomplished walk/canter/walk in ONE DAY. In fact the very first day I asked for it .. He did it and he has done it every time. No mistakes. No problems .
Since Elton is so supple I had never forced a lot of discipline on him a about his canter leads as he can counter canter as easily as true canter. Therefore in the competitions I needed to be sure his flexion and balance was correct or we might get the counter canter in the trot/canter transitions. I felt that I might have to work a lot on him taking the correct leads in the walk to canter but he accomplished that in one day also. It was the same scenario. He has never taken the wrong one from the day I first asked.
Elton will have his fourth birthday June 26 so he is not technically four yet. Since I school so many horses for the flying change and I had been focused all winter on getting several horse to that point where the canter felt “ready” I nearly asked Elton for a change one day when I ‘forgot” I was riding him. He felt like one of the older horses. . He feels balanced and I have actually been holding off asking him. Just yesterday I again did all the second level counter canter to be sure that he would do it willingly because I am going to ask him soon for a flying change if he continues to feel like this.
Elton has settled into Winterberry Farm in Maine well . The weather transition was tough as we went from temperatures of 88 day and 70 nights to 60 days and 35 nights here in Maine. Blankets went back on and our Florida horses are sleek… very little hair! Maine needs rain and it has been raining a lot since we got home. Fortunately the footing and drainage at Winterberry Farm is fantastic. Work continues.
Elton’s routine while we were in Florida was still under saddle only 4 days a week , weight bearing not more than 45 minutes ( weight not to exceed 150 plus tack). . The 5th day long ling or other work. Here at Winterberry Farm I am thrilled to have some long grades up hill on dirt road and trail riding for him. For the next two months my judging will be demanding. The flights across the country mean that Friday and Mondays as well as the weekend can be lost (no training) so he actually has a lighter training schedule here for a bit. I am long lining him over cavalletti – some flat-/some raised to develop lift and strength , joint articulation as well as push from behind. We are going out long lining down the country roads to deal with environmental training and will follow up with trail riding. I will need the long grades of the hills to trot and canter in a round frame to develop impulsion and back strength. It will take a least a month to be ready to do that easily and confidently. At this point he does regular ring work for his dressage two days a week and cross training 2 days a week.
In addition, twice a week I ask Elton for a few steps in- hand of piaffe. During our move to Maine he had had three weeks off from this and when I asked him for it the other day he had an epiphany.. one of those ”uh huh “ moments and just snapped out 3 or 4 steps easily and crisply. Since then he has been doing just the same thing. The piaffe is at the point where it is clear diagonals, the whip gives very gently taps on his legs, no stress involved and we will be able to develop it to have more lift and brilliance as he gains strength and grows.
It is an exciting time and Elton is developing faster than I can write to you all about it! Until next time…. J .