Whirlwind Weekend

Shout out to Michele for not only making the trek to KY, but for trusting us with her horse for the past couple of months! I know it was a massive leap of faith, even with the amount of media I know she received from me and my trainer.

I think I spent more time at the barn over this past weekend than I have in MONTHS… and I never rode my horse hahahah.

Friday night, everyone managed to sneak in a XC schooling at the venue the barn was showing at this week. Since it was my part leaser’s first horse trial with May on Sunday, she got to take her for the XC schooling. The schooling was fairly quick, since all the horses were pretty accustom to the level they were schooling.

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Remus got to go too, but I won’t spoil that fun for Michele. 😉

Then, I proceeded to totally not sleep on Friday night. I guess my lack of sleep was due to like… a whole plethora of stuff going on. A vast chunk of it is work. We are in desperate need of help, but I can’t seem to find anyone to interview. Much less hire! Apparently, it is impossible to find someone with a bachelors degree (of some sort) and some financial services experience in KY. Tips anyone? We have been looking for 6 months, and the work just keep piling on.

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Two was anxiety about someone else showing May. I know this is dumb. These two have been taking lessons together for the last 7 months, and their XC schooling went off without a hitch. May is a total professional, AND they have done a CT together. Oh well, our feelings about our horses aren’t always rational.

Finally, I was super nervous about Michele coming. Like I said, she took a MASSIVE leap of faith when she threw her horse on a trailer and sent him up to KY. What if she got her and was super upset with the barn (not fancy), the training on her horse, or Remus’s condition? Or a MILLION other things?!

Either way, my mind kept working over these things, and I was pretty thankful when the sun finally came up, and I could get on with the day.

I met Michele at the barn early, and she got to see Remus and drop off her truck and trailer. Remus got pets and a promise that we would be back that night. We hit up a local tack shop, where I kept it pretty rational and only got May a new fly mask (needed), a new hoof pick (kind of needed), and a bonnet (not needed at all).

After lunch, we went back to my house and CRASHED until dinner. Then, it was back to the barn for Michele’s lesson. Again, no spoilers from me. 😉

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Sunday was show day! Luckily, my trainer was nice enough to take the early division first, so we didn’t need to be at the barn until after 8AM. Remus stayed clean, so we did a few barn chores before heading over to the show. I am not sure what Michele expected, but I am SURE it was not the CARAVAN of people my barn seemed to bring.

We had 5 horses showing… but we had 3 trailers and probably another half a dozen cars tucked away in the back of the field everyone parked at. The show was great. We got rained on a bit, but the ponies were perfect.

May and her part leaser put in a great Dressage test, putting them in third. They caught the first rail in Stadium, when May decided she would rather stare at the other horses than the jump, but the rest of the round was Hoof Perfect! XC is May’s best phase, and the two of them had a great run to keep their third place position in the BN division. Yay! Super sad to see that partnership end, but glad they went out with some success.

After all that, I slept HARD on Sunday night, and I am sure May did too! I have my own lesson tonight, and then May is getting a few days off, while I go visit my mom in Florida. More updates, hopefully before I leave.

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2019 Spring Bay Horse Trial – Cross Country

Yay Cross Country Day! Right? Right! Except…. we left the barn at 6:30AM to make my trainer’s ride time and… it rained most of our drive. I anxiously watched the weather report, and that wasn’t looking promising either. My 3:46PM ride time was right smack in the peak of the anticipated thunderstorms. Plus, if there were lightning delays, we might run out of sunlight before my division could run. UGH UGH.

No matter what though, our team would not be deterred! We all hopped out of the truck and hustled to get my trainer on. It was super fun watching the Prelim and Training level riders go out and come back on course. Although, I was kind of shocked at how many of them were going out in muddy, hilly conditions without breastplates on. Is this a thing? Let me know.

Things wrapped up pretty early, and the sun started to come out. We have a few hours until the BN riders had their rounds (around 2PM), so we got the horses all settled with hay and water and then grabbed some lunch. Honestly, those few hours were BEAUTIFUL.

After lunch, we decided to walk the course again with our trainer, since we had walked it on Saturday night without her. There were very few things to talk about on the Starter course, but we did have a short discussion about the water complex for starter. I really should have gone back and read the rule book about it. The water complex was marked S1, but the flags were snugged up around the water with no way to go around it.

Future reference, this is a compulsory passage. Here’s the rule:

Numbers and Letters – Each obstacle shall be numbered. Obstacles with elements or options (see EV140.2) shall in addition be lettered (A, B, C, etc.). Each compulsory passage shall be marked with the first letter of the level and numbered consecutively.

ERRORS OF COURSE. All compulsory passages and all obstacles, including all elements and/or options, must be passed or jumped in order, under penalty of elimination.

However… I couldn’t find anything about if you can even get a refusal in a compulsory passage? I wish I had known the answer, because if it was no (which I think it is), then I would have schooled the water. Oh well. More on that later. I figured I would throw the pics of the whole course below, so you can see it in SUNLIGHT. You know, the way I saw it before I left the startbox.

Around 1:15PM… it started to thunderstorm and BAD. We all ended up huddled in the dressing room of the trailer with the door closed because it was raining sideways. At this point, I texted the husband and told him not to try and come. The last thing I wanted was him spending nearly 3 hours in the car on a Sunday, driving through torrential rain, to see me NOT ride. The radar looked miserable and only one BN rider had gone out at that point.

Luckily, there was only one round of lightning delays. Once it was lifted, everyone moved quickly to get the BN riders out and on course before weather could roll in again. At this point, I have to give so much credit to the organizers, volunteers, and competitors at this competition. Everyone HUSTLED, but there was NO chaos. Riders showed up in warm-up, got their place in line (seemed to be 4 – 6 horses out), got warmed up, and went. No one complained, got angry, or even seemed all that frazzled.

The footing though… was pretty shot. As a result, there were a lot of refusals and a few eliminations, so I was rethinking my plan.

Once our BN riders were done, I looked around and realized that they seemed to be almost done with BN, so I hustled back to the trailer and threw tack on May.  How quickly did I get ready? I put my riding pants on OVER the leggings I was wearing, and I wore my trainer’s C4 belt because I couldn’t find mine.

We power walked up to the XC area, and I felt my little fear bird show up.

Yes – I picture my fear as a little baby chick.

The mud was deep. My horse is barefoot. The course was soft and easy for her but I don’t think I have ever ridden this horse in conditions like this. Then, I walked my way through my fear. The truth is, I spent my younger teen years hunter pacing very green horses over WHATEVER in the Spring and Fall in NY/NJ. We never used studs, and I had definitely ridden in worse weather. I just needed to take my time, ride the rhythm, and keep May’s hind end under her.

I warmed up on the flat as quickly as possible, since the footing in warm-up was fetlock deep mud at this point. NT advised me to pop over the crossrail… and I told her I couldn’t. the takeoff and landing for the crossrail was pretty much gone. Deep skid marks crisscrossed through the mud on both sides and at all angles. We decided to just pop over the small coop and then the log. May was ON her game and taking me to the fences, despite the footing. I felt good, so we headed to the start gate. On the way to the start gate, someone commented to me that my horse looked totally unfazed by the footing and was definitely a mudder. I couldn’t agree more.

Then… as we were standing by the start gate, the water flag conversation came up again. I guess people weren’t going through the compulsory crossing by the water. We were coming up with a plan for it (i.e. just go through the flags no matter what), and then all of sudden I got the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” countdown… and I was probably 20′ from the actual box. DAMN! I pulled May around, trotted into the box. Stopped, set my watch, and went!

Jump one rode great, but she quickly fell right on me. We had a discussion about NOT doing that… and then she did it again at jump 2. I guess the starter jumps were too easy, so she needed to add her own level of difficulty.

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Pic Cred: Vic’s Pics

Jump three was a VERY small jump, but it was off a tight left hand turn. It also had a steep hill right after it that crossed over both the BN and Novice paths from earlier in the day. Since I wasn’t sure about the footing there and the jump was so small, I trotted the turn and kept May in a collected canter over it.

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Awkward baby jump. PC: Vic’s Pics

We swept down the hill to the brush at 4. There’s a picture of this somewhere… I didn’t totally get our rhythm back by it, and I didn’t want to make any big moves in this footing. As a result, it rode pretty awkward. Oh well, May could care less.

Jump 5 was a little roll top on the hill. May was looking back at the warm up and we jumped it weird. Oops. Jump 6 was shared with BN, but they took the brush off the top for us. It was a bright blue roll top that rode GREAT.

Jump 7 was a little oxer thing. By this point, we were getting into a rhythm. The rhythm was simple. Pitter patter canter on the long stretches. Then, I would pick her up and get her moving forward maybe 8 strides before the fence. Then land and back to pitter patter. We had SEVEN minutes to finish this course, so I was in ZERO rush.

Jump 8 was a little red coop that she jumped great… with her eyes mostly closed.

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PC: Vic’s Pics

Jump 8 was a cute little cabin going downhill. I kept her canter super collected so that we didn’t launch ourselves down the hill in the mud.

After Jump 9 was the water crossing. As I got closer, I saw that the flags had been moved so that you could go around the water. Again, I wasn’t sure about the rules here, so I went around the water but through the flags. May took a hard look at it, since it was now deep, dirty, and a bit slick, but she went through. At this point, I had 3 jumps left in a mostly straight line, and I had a 4:15 on my watch. The penalty time was 5:00, so I decided to grab a quick trot circle. (Of course, now I realize my watch was slightly behind but whatever). Either way, I am glad I did because it led to some cute pics (PC: Vic’s Pics).

After wasting maybe 30 seconds, I continued on. Jump 10 was tiny. like TINY, so that was fine. Jump 11 was a cute little saddle rack. Then, it was over the last, through the flags, and within time!

 

Neither May nor I was at all winded, but it was just starting to rain again. While I chatted with my teammates a bit, May got to walking around. I saw the girl in 1st place coming through the finish line after me. It was a junior rider, who was just BEAMING ear to ear. I congratulated her on a good weekend before walking my own pony back to the trailer.

Overall, we finished on our Dressage score of 29.3 and in second place. I couldn’t have been happier with my little yellow mare, who was a total professional the whole weekend. I guess it’s time for the BN move up. 🙂

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2019 Show Season – Hopes and Dreams

While we have our first show this weekend, I figured I would break down what the plan is this season. The plan is a bit finicky because I want to make sure my part leaser gets plenty of opportunities to get out and play (her and May look AMAZING!), but I also have some pretty big goals.

April 5-6
Spring Bay Horse Trials
Level: Starter

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We’re just going starter this weekend, but it’s a beefier starter than what we did at schooling trials last year. The omnibus ranks the cross country as “Terrain: Rolling hills, mostly open; water & up/down banks at all levels. Good early season or beginning of the year courses; but NOT move-up courses for horses with no experience at their new level.” With a max height of 2’5″ for both stadium and XC, I have no doubt that May and I will have a fun weekend.

This is one of the stranger recognized events. Since we are so close to KY3DE, they run the XC on Sunday at Masterson Station Park ~15 minutes from the horse park. Either way, it will be fun to get out and do Dressage and SJ at the KY horse park and then see another Lexington venue for the XC.

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I have no plans to show May in May…. sometimes I really regret giving her that name haha. Matt and I are traveling mid month, and my part leaser is going to take her out to get her feet wet. We are going to take the time to polish those SJ skills for BN.

June 9
Spring Run Schooling Trials 
Level: Beginner Novice

Spring Run Farm used to run recognized horse trials. If you remember, it was this venue that we did starter out last year:

We might even get the chance to school here before the June competition. Either way, I had a ton of fun there last year, and I figured it’s legit enough to give us a sense of where we stand for a real BN competition.

June 21 – 23
Midsouth Pony Club Horse Trials
Level: Beginner Novice

We have one recognized BN event on our record, but I really think this is the year that we get back to that, at least. May feels great, she will have three events under her belt at three different venues before this event. In theory, it will only be 2″ higher than what we do this weekend. The goal would be to be schooling Novice height in lessons before getting to this event. 2 and a half months. Seems doable.

So here is where things start to kind of… divert. If Midsouth goes REALLY WELL, we might set our eyes on Novice. Below is that plan:

July 17
Flying Cross Farm Jumper Derby
Level: Novice

This is the same venue we rode at on Tuesday night. Its just down the street, and they do a jumper derby series on Wednesday nights throughout the season. Seems like a good place to get our feet wet.

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“The Jumper Derby Series is a mixture of natural stadium jumps and cross country jumps. The competitor will go from an arena to open fields.”

August 18
Spring Run Schooling Trails
Level: Novice

It seems to make sense to go back to this venue to do our first full horse trial at Novice. It’s a big beefier than your typical schooling trial, but it is softer/more forgiving/not on May’s permanent record. >.<

And again, it’s a venue we can school at ahead of time. Win. Win.

September 13 – 15
Flying Cross Farm USEA Horse Trials
Level: Novice

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Again, this is a venue that we will be intimately familiar with beforehand. Last year’s omnibus stated “Set on a horse farm so galloping through several paddock openings. Educational for all levels.” By this time of year, most of the events at the horse park are pushing the championship level courses, so this is the softest move up. That, coupled with our familiarity of the venue, should set us up for success.

If we don’t move up to Novice, I will skip this horse trial and aim for Hagyard MidSouth instead.

October 16-20
Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event and Team Challenge
Level: Beginner Novice

Let’s be honest, this is just a fun event with my teammates. However, it is most definitely NOT a move up course. The omnibus says: “All courses: Moderate to Challenging. Open rolling terrain. Good galloping courses with water, ditches & banks and combinations at all levels.” BUT if you read the link above, it is clearly described as “The cross-country courses can be quite strong – fair, but strong.”

By this point, however, we should be well prepared to rock it at BN.

Finally, there is one last schooling trial at Flying Cross at Novice in November. Honestly, I will probably be too burned out by that point to even think about it, but it is there if we decide to go for it.

What do you all think? I have never really had the opportunity to plan out a whole season like this. Do you all think it is doable? Do you try to plan out you season in advance too?

April 2019 – Cross Country Schooling

With our first event coming up this weekend, I began to doubt if we would be able to squeak in a XC schooling. I figured that, with us doing Starter, May and I would be totally ok. However, I got a text around 2PM asking if I would be open to going schooling instead of a lesson. All of NT’s lessons that afternoon were going to the show, so it was easy enough to organize a quick XC schooling. The joys of being in KY, this venue was only a 3 minute trailer ride from my barn!

We were able to throw everything on the trailer and get going by 6PM, which for us, is a huge accomplishment. We figured we had until at least 7:30PM before the light got too dim to get anything accomplished. This was my first time going XC schooling with NT, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect.

I quickly learned that NT has a preference for putting together courses vs. schooling individual elements. Part of this is probably due to the fact that we had 3 fairly experienced horses with us. (May and one of the geldings have both gone BN, annnnnd the other gelding had done a 1* haha). However, the courses were built to be inviting at first and harder after you got your groove on.

The first course, NT started out really easy on me and May. We went over a little baby log, popped over a house in the shade, down the hill to a little roll top, over a bigger coup, and finished up over some stacked logs.

Feedback? I needed to ride a bit more forward. NT had us go out again, but told us to take the BN option at the end.

Other than getting left behind a bit at jump 2, where I totally didn’t trust the big spot in the shade, it rode great!

The next round, we started with the starter house, over a larger house, down the hill, through the brush, over the ditch, up the coop, over the BN open oxer, and finished through the 2 stride line. This was kind of a funny line because the height was BN, but the question was not a BN question.

Before starting this course, NT asked me if May had any problem with ditches. I gave her a quick “nope” and then immediately thought, “Please do not make me a liar horse.”

I was really happy with our execution of this course! (and the ditch was a complete non-issue.) I was really guarding against the right shoulder drift through the two stride and probably was a little too aggressive, and I ended up riding her a bit left through the combination. Either way though, she jumped FANTASTIC over the out brush.

At this point, I was kind of dying. I somehow developed a pretty nasty sinus infection that came to a head yesterday, so my ability to get breath into my lungs was severely comprised. I actually felt a bit dizzy and overall just not great. I decided at that point to forgo any long courses. We didn’t need a repeat of last week, and May felt great!

We moved on to the “water” complex… which hadn’t really been filled with water for the year. Oh well, we splashed through the puddles and then practiced the banks. Again, NT asked me if she cared about ditches. My response? “Nope, but she’s going to make me a liar if you keep asking.” Luckily, she didn’t!

First we came down the bank we did at last year’s starter event at this venue and then up the out bank of what should have been the water complex. We then looped around and came back through.

Not super surprising that May just popped right through it. The part of this exercise that was caught on video was better than the beginning. May wasn’t super thrilled to be trotting over the rocks of the water complex with no water in it. Oh well. Still adorable.

The last exercise we participated in was working on terrain in less than ideal footing. The footing was considerably deeper in this field than the other one, and there were some good patches of mud. We worked on coming up and down a steep hill and then over a little roll top. Issues? Nope.

Overall, it was a really fun outing. It feels great to be a part of a barn team again. In every video, you can hear people cheering and egging us on. It was a beautiful night, and I am super excited to show this weekend!

Volunteering at Flying Cross Farm

Last Sunday, I spent the day XC jump judging for Flying Cross Farm’s horse trial. Despite the plethora of schooling trials in the area, this farm features the immediate area’s ONLY recognized event, and it features levels ranging from Starter to Prelim. It even features a collegiate challenge for the University of Louisville, so a fun show with local flair! Since I couldn’t ride in it this year, I wanted to support as a volunteer, and I am glad I did.

Let me start by saying, it was a LONG DAY. I probably should have heeded everyone’s advice and done half a day, but I knew the event needed the volunteers AND the weather was going to be pretty good. So, I hopped out of bed at 6AM (and the wonderful husband got up to and packed me a cooler), and I drove the 16 minutes to Flying Cross Farm… in the pitch black.

The event organizers were nice enough to let us bring our cars out on course, which was an absolute godsend given that 1- they weren’t sure if it was going to start raining mid day; 2 – I had to move to a new jumps area every division; 3 – I wanted to have my cooler with me. I have been REALLY in control of my diet for the last month and a half, and I didn’t want to rely on the (totally generous and awesome) volunteer lunches.

First up was Prelim, and I got to sit at a nice, straight forward jump, fairly early in the course (jump 6). It even looked mostly jump-able to me! So you know it was friendly for Prelim. There were (unsurprisingly) no issues at this fence.

Next up was Training, where one of my barn mates was taking on her First Training Horse Trial!!! (not going to lie, this was part of the reason I was volunteering). She let me share her go-pro video with everyone, so enjoy! You can see how much support she had from the various non-go-pro videos sprinkled throughout. It was truly awesome!

Needless to say, she did a great job and was clear but not everyone was as lucky at my fence. The longish grass, combined with the downhill approach and even more downhill landing, caused a couple of refusals and one girl to retire. It was a new jump to the course, so I’m not even sure most local people had ridden over it yet. Either way, Training ended up being the SECOND most-interest jump judging division for me.

At both Novice and BN, I had the first jump of a line of jumps that were basically a stretched out coffin question. Novice had zero issues, and BN only saw one refusal at the ditch. I think most horses actually benefited from being able to get their eye on something before and after the ditches.

Starter was just a baby roll top next to the Novice and BN jumps I just judged. It actually caused the most problems out of any of the jumps I judged that day. I saw a couple of run outs and even one poor rider who completely forgot about the jump previously. My day ended up ending right before 6PM, so long, but I got so much out of it.

Overall, it was a great day, where the temps hovered about 80 degrees and the sun stayed mostly behind the clouds. Although, I did get a RIDICULOUS sock tan… so no skirts or dresses for me at work this week. (COME ON FALL – MAMA NEEDS TIGHTS) And… I found that I really didn’t think the Novice XC course was unattainable for me. Show Jumping needs a ton of work for us to get there (or even to get back in the ring at BN), but it really gave me the bug to get out and at least school XC again soon.

How about you? Do you enjoy volunteering/jump judging?

2018 Fall Mini Trial – XC

Who’s ready to party on Cross Country?! (that kind of rhymes, right?) I was able to give the XC course a good walk by myself well before I needed to be on May, so I took my time and took lots of pictures. Overall theme? Jumps were very small, but there were some good questions asked. Below is the full course:

Nice course map. I still got lost between 11 and 12. 

I didn’t bother rewarming up between SJ and XC, since they pretty much rode one right after the other. Also, the first jump in Starter looked like this:

It was then a straight shot to jump 2, which was at least more interesting.

We had a tight uphill rollback to jump 3:

Then, we had a bit of a straightaway downhill to jump 4:

You can see the SJ warmup just to the right here. The start gate to the top left was for N and BN.

After jump 4, we cantered along the “galloping lane” which ran next to the warm-up for SJ and jumped 5 and 6 in the fenceline.

We had another steep downhill. to jump 7, where May took a GOOD look at the bright gravel behind it.

The gravel doesn’t look like anything in this pic, but it was a lot more apparent in the helmet cam. 

Jump 8 was a bit narrow and uphill, and led right up to jump 9, which was wider but a bit spooky going into the woods.

I thought it was nice to have a clear bending line at Starter. 

We then went back down hill and up again to jump 10. I trotted down this hill to make sure we kept our line and didn’t risk slipping.

Hills are always steeper in real life than they appear in pictures. 

We had some time before jump 11, which really wasn’t an issue.

Interesting they put bright shavings in the middle of a dark bench. Oh well, May didn’t care. 

Jump 12 was apparently set for another division when I walked the course, which made me sad because it looked fun set a bit higher.

You can see the flags for other divisions jumping this in the opposite direction. 

Then… the water. One of the reasons why I wanted to do this event, and why I wanted to do it at Starter, is because this event has a pretty spooky water complex. It is mostly in the shade (by the time I rode), it has a lot of jumps surrounding it, and the entrance is very narrow and away from the barns.

Then, I found myself sitting in third place in the division, the competitive side of me came out, and the water had a go-around option. I had jumped my first clear SJ round with May EVER, and I wanted satin. This is a terrible way to feel, and I really should stop checking scores during competition. I asked NT what she thought. She told me that, if all was going well and May was feeling confident, to give it a try. I nodded. Sure. I can do that. Here is two views of it, so you can get an idea of how it looked both when I walked it, and when I rode it:

 

 

 

 

The entrance was to the right of this red roll top, which was away from the barn and a bit narrow. You can just BARELY see the green and white Starter flag ALL the way to the right. 
The sun went behind the clouds for our ride, so I think this gives you a better idea of what the water looked like during our course. Dark, a bit claustrophobic, which a tight entrance that was tough to get straight to. 

Jump 14 was a small bank going uphill, which was fun. Right after Jump 14 I checked my watch. Optimum time was 5:18 with speed penalties being below 3:20. I was sitting at just under 4 minutes, so no worries there. I had WAY too much fun just kicking on to the last 2 jumps, and the jump judge at the end definitely got a kick out of me whooping along.

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Isn’t this adorable?

We left the woods and went into an open field where the last two jumps were. Jumps 15 and 16 were fairly straight forward, with more stuff sitting in the bench of jump 15.

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Again, random junk in the bench. 
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Sorry for the terrible pic. The sun was wild early in the morning. 

So how did it go? See below!

When all was said and done, the person in 2nd ended up with a few time penalties, and we moved up to finish 2nd out of 17! Super proud of wonder mare. She was… less than impressed with the whole thing and, as soon as she was cooled down, went back to napping by the trailer.

May was seriously suspicious of the white gravel anytime we came across it, and looking at the video, I am really not surprised. It’s got to be pretty hard for a horse to read. Not a big deal though, and she was super game over all the fences.

We ended up doing the water. She sucked ALL THE WAY back to the walk, but she didn’t stop, back up, or go sideways. She got lots of pats and loose reins in the water. Until I had to steer away from where I knew a drainage pipe was hidden.

We ended up finishing with a time around 4:25, although the video below clocks in at 4:20. Either way, well within both time limits.

Our First Hunter Pace

Now, this post is going to be full of old photos because, when I was a young teenager, I went on A LOT of hunter paces. I took barely broke youngsters on easier paces with manicured, rolling fields and jumps larger than 2’6″ marked with cute little cones. (Just in case my future-weenie self didn’t know a jump was “big”) I took school horses that needed a bit of schooling over the tough landscapes set by my local fox hunting clubs.

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Check that helmet cover, crappy t-shit, suede half chaps, and an Appy who was probably not the best XC horse.

It was seriously my favorite thing to do on horseback. However, I changed barns (a couple of times) and then ended up in KY, where manicured eventing fields greatly outnumbered rough and tumble trails that highlighted the hunter pacing of my teenage years.

During my first lesson with her, NT asked me if I would like to hunter pace May. “Yes. Absolutely.” the words were out of my mouth without a second consideration. May had never been on a hunter pace, but she had always been reliable over fences and strong but manageable traveling in a group. Then, I promptly forgot about it.

The Monday before the hunter pace, I asked NT for a lesson, and she mentioned that we could do Thursday or Friday… but that Friday was probably too close to the hunter pace. It took a solid minute for the phrase to make sense in my brain. “Am I going to that?”

“I thought you wanted to…”

“Yes… Yes! I do!” A quick, but excited, text was sent to the husband to update him on my weekend plans, the entry form was filled out, and we were in business! I did not wear a helmet cover, a t shirt, or suede half-chaps. I pulled out my white sun-shirt, polished up my boots, cleaned my tack, and then stared at my bridle.

The D-ring Myler with the hooks is a great bit for May for eventing. It gives us a lot of help getting balance, but it doesn’t have a lot of “whoa” to it. (It doesn’t need to. I do enough unnecessary “whoa-ing” in stadium all by myself.) Would I even need more whoa on May? We were going about 5 miles in a group of 7 horses including at least 4 thoroughbreds. May is not a thoroughbred, but she likes to play one on TV.

I reached into my bit box and pulled out this bit. A 3 ring, Copper elevator bit with copper. (Thanks old horse for having the same mouth size as May.)

 

Bit

I threw two reins on, one on the snaffle ring, and one on the milder gag ring. I figured that,  if she’s good and easy, I can just ride off the snaffle, but if she is strong, I have the gag bit. Then, I did something another trainer had taught me. I vet-wrapped the buckles of the reins together. (The ends farthest from the horse… not sure why this is so hard to explain… The buckles that are included in the bight of your reins… I hope you get the idea). The idea here is I could  hold just the snaffle bit without risking losing the curb rein or creating too much of a loop. If I dropped my reins, it would be MUCH easier to get them back, and I minimize the likelihood of a rein going over May’s head. Quick, Easy, Safe.

So on to the actual pace. I didn’t charge/pack my cambox because there had been a chance of rain. Of course, my luck, it was sunny and warm all day. Oh well. Next year! (Tried to find someone else’s video on youtube, but couldn’t find a single one!)

We tacked up the horses, and May was her usual calm, happy self, munching on grass while I tacked up. I hopped on, and she even stood like a statue at the mounting block… I almost threw myself off the other side. I figured out my 2 reins (luckily a smooth curb rein feels a LOT different from my pebbled, rubber reins). We even snapped a quick pic before heading to the start box.

Hunter Pace Team
See? Barely a cloud in the sky…

My biggest concern going out was May’s fitness. I had been on hunter paces that had stretched to over 2 hours and covered roads, rivers, etc. I was assured that this hunter pace was 5 miles and optimum time was likely right around 55 minutes. Great. We could do that. Headed to the start box. Started off… and May’s shoe came FLYING off. She must have loosened it during the trailer ride over.

Now, NT is VERY familiar with the farm, and she had already ridden the course once that morning on another horse. I trotted May off. She was TOTALLY sound. I was assured the footing was super forgiving, so we decided to continue. I would just avoid jumping anything of any real size. (i.e. anything larger than 2′ LOL). How did May feel? Like a screaming ball of fire. She kept up with the thoroughbreds on every gallop, big hill, little jump, etc that we found.

Buddy2Then, we came up on an ITTY BITTY stream at the bottom of a TEENY TINY hill. I brought her back to a walk, so that she could walk over it. I grabbed my neck strap with one hand, kept my body back, and waited for her to figure it out. And she LEAPED over it, snapping her head up.

Luckily, her head doesn’t come that far up, but it did bring my right hand up at an alarming rate of speed… It also brought the butt of my crop, in my right hand, up to my face at an alarming rate of speed. I ended up smashing the butt of my crop into my chin/lower set of teeth. My teeth took off the skin on the inside of my lip, and I immediately tasted blood.

A quick “tongue check” of my teeth found them all still in my head and undamaged. So I kicked on. I ended up sporting a sweet face bruise/fat lip for a few days after.

Near the end of the pace, May was definitely tired. Still sound, but tired, and she politely trotted/loped the last couple of jumps. There was a LARGE stack of barrels I really wanted to try, but it will have to wait for a time when we have our shoes on (or are really acclimated to going barefoot.) After crossing the finish line, I spent some time trying to find her shoe near the start, but I had no luck. Oh well. It was hot, and I wanted to untack, hose May, get her (and me) in the shade a bit. As for my bit choice? Considering that I am sporting at least 4 different blisters, I am glad I upgraded this once.

Sunny
How cute is this dude? Pulled out of a trailer from (or going to) Mexico with all skin and bones. Quickly developed into the most reliable school horse one could dream of. During this pace, I trotted a 2’6″ coup… from a trot… while looking backwards because I didn’t see it and was checking in on a teammate.

We ended up coming close enough to the optimum time to come in second! Second apparently included a whole bunch of swag including: gift certificates to the local tack shop, t shirts, bags, medals, and a pair of slippers. Our barn brought 14 riders and 4 teams, and three teams ended up in the “medals”. Super fun day with the barn family.

As for aftercare, May got her hooves packed with magic cushion and was rubbed down before being turned out for the night. I am a big believer that turnout is the most important thing you can do for recovery. Even after being fully cooled out and spending time standing on the trailer, all of May’s legs were tight and cool.

Her foot looked a bit broken up, but it was mostly from losing the shoe. The magic cushion was probably more for me then her since the ride was 80% grass, 15% mud/dirt, and 5% minimal gravel (where we walked), but hey, it couldn’t hurt. May got her shoe put back on Monday, and I rode her on Tuesday. She came out fresh, happy, and totally sound.

Now I remember why I love hunterpaces. Both horses and riders tend to really enjoy them. Looking forward to our horse trial this weekend!

The Next Four Weeks…

For probably the first time since May and I moved to KY, we have a real calendar building out for the next several weeks.

Saturday, August 11 – Long Run Woodford Hounds Hunter Pace

Hilariously, this might be the thing I am most excited about. I hunter paced A LOT during my early teen years. I took green horses, babies that were barely backed, school horses that needed their heads screwed back on straight. Whatever was offered to me, I would hunter pace.

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Other than one pace maybe 3 years ago, I haven’t done it in more than 10 years, and I have never done it on a horse like May. Something that is sensible but game, and a horse that I know like the back of my hand. I am also going with a great group of people, which definitely makes the whole thing a lot more fun!

As long as it’s not raining, I’ll bring the cambox along.

Sunday, August 19 – Spring Run Farm Mini Trial

This barn is actually a barn I looked at to board May at before I moved to KY. It is a beautiful facility that used to host USEA rated events. While it wasn’t the perfect fit for us, boarding wise, I have definitely wanted to take a run at their really awesome XC course.

May

Since the courses tend to be bigger than your average schooling show, we are just going to play it safe and stick with starter. I definitely want to have a solid SJ and XC round in before trying to move back up. (Of course, I accidentally entered BN through their online entry portal, instead of starter. A call is in to the secretary to fix it.)

Sunday, September 9 – Blackhorse Stables Mini Trial

Hoping to move back up to BN here to end our season. I have been told that SJ and XC is a little more forgiving at this venue, and while it’s actually another barn I had looked at for boarding, I didn’t get a great sense of their XC facility when I went there. Luckily I have some time with this one, as the closing date isn’t until the end of the month. Yay schooling shows!

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After that? I will probably need to lick my financial wounds for a bit. These things aren’t crazy expensive, but it’s still extra money out of my wallet. I really need to take the time to list some extra items I have for sale this weekend…

What about you? How is your late summer/early fall schedule shaping up?

05.13.18 Horse Trial – Cross Country

It is probably fair to say that about 90% of people do eventing because of cross country. It is just… fun. May and I had gone xc schooling once since moving to KY, and we hadn’t really done a full XC course since our last horse trial. Again, due to the late start, we didn’t get a chance to walk the course ahead of time. Luckily, most of the jumps were visible from either the Dressage arena or the SJ area. There were 13 efforts in total. I didn’t wear a watch, so I have 0 idea how long it took us.

There was no formal start box. I decided to pick up my canter a bit before the start line so that we could have some momentum into the first jump. May, of course, wanted to throw herself on her forehand instead of creating power from behind, so we had an argument all the way to jump one.. and then onto jump two…

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Jump 1 – Itty Bitty Brush

Jump 2 was a bit downhill, so again, I had a conversation with May about how that was not permission to fall flat on her face. Either way, we were up and over it.

You can see us trotting at the end of the clip, as I tried to find my way to jump 3. Jump 3 was a small down bank, but it was in line with a bunch of other banks through the trees. Of course, I lined up with the larger bank that we had schooled the other week, so I had to correct my course. Either way, May dropped down like a rockstar.

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Best sassy mare in the world 😊#may #crosscountry #eventing

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Immediately after jump 3 was the water. The water was flagged generously, so you could go around it on the left. I took that option, since I didn’t have enough time to land off the bank, get May squared up to the water, and create impulsion towards the water. Either way, May bent her body so far away from the water that we almost missed our flags.

We galloped through a fence line and up a small hill to the 5th jump on course, this little red house we had schooled the week before. (somehow, this venue managed to move all the jumps around in just a week. It was really impressive.)

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I galloped to the end of the field, looking for the only jump on course I hadn’t been able to find when I was scoping things out. It was described as a “stack of logs.” Cool, I thought, it will just be a little pyramid of logs on the ground. No big deal.

The approach was a bit odd, as the fence line kind of curved away from the jump and then back to it. I managed to find it on google maps, so you all can see what I mean!

Log Jump

Of course, what I didn’t anticipate, was that the “stack of logs” wouldn’t be sitting on the ground. They were actually raised about a foot off the ground, making this both a bit of a looky jump, and the biggest jump on course. Cool. I didn’t look at it too long, just found my line, looked up, and kicked. May popped over it beautifully.

We had a bit of a gallop to fence 7… which I honestly can’t even remember. I am pretty sure it was just a small, brown coop. Then… I got a bit lost… I almost jumped the BN number 8, before I found my number 8. It looked tiny, so I cantered over to it. As I came upon it though, I realized why it looked so tiny. It was at the bottom of a very steep, short hill. Maybe two strides down the hill to the log. May could care less, and we were over.

We came back through the woods to number 9. Jump 9 was a cute, baby roll top.

However, you can see May land and start drifting back toward the trailers (towards the camera.) Our approach to jump 10 was a bit crooked, and then we had to re-balance, turn left, and go down hill to jump 11. As a result, we had a bit of an argument over jump 10, and a not-so-flattering moment. Oh well. It was fine.

Jump 11 and 12 jumped great, and we had a nice stretch uphill to jump 13, so I asked May to give me a bit of a gallop. She did, and I got lots of compliments from people after about how much fun our course looked. Jump 13 was the last jump. It was a cute train jump, which May popped over, and then got lots and lots of pats for.

The event still had several hours to go, and the barn was only 10 minutes away. I decided it would be best to cool May off, take her home, and then come back for the final results. (especially since May decided that any of the water presented to her at the show was poison.) May hopped back onto the trailer and was all settled in at home again within an hour. I drank lots of water, and we headed back to the show for, hopefully, a ribbon.

And we got one! We finished 6th out of 19 horses, adding just 4 jump penalties to our Dressage score. When I went to get my ribbon, I told them I came in 6th and asked for my ribbon… then thought about it and asked what place they give ribbons up to. Tenth! They give ribbons up through TENTH place at a schooling show! Awesome. Definitely, 10 out of 10, will be returning. 🙂

Return to XC

Last Wednesday, I received a text from my trainer, “Thinking about going XC schooling on Friday afternoon. Are you interested?”

Excuse me? Interested? I was DYING to go. My immediate response was, “I’d love to!” Cue panic. See, I work 8 – 5, M-F, and I really don’t have extra vacation days sitting around this year for various reasons. Luckily, it was Derby week, and I live in Louisville, KY. As a result, the whole city shuts down at around 12PM on the Friday before Derby; however, I work at a company that is heavily tied to the stock market, which DOES NOT close on Oaks Day.

So what does a still-pony-crazy, 20-something do? She slyly asks her boss and the rest of their team what their Friday plans were (after she had already committed to the XC schooling with her trainer). Luckily, everyone seemed to have plans to either take Friday off or leave around lunchtime. Woohoo!

So on 1PM on Friday, I packed up my bags, changed into some of my nicer riding clothes in the bathroom, and hopped in the car on a mad dash to the barn. I got about halfway there before the thought of, “I should really eat” popped into my head. A quick stop at a nice gas station, 1 protein bar, and 1 giant bottle of water later, and I was off again! So eager in fact that I was at the barn about an hour before anyone else would be ready to go. Oh well, May could use the extra grooming time to try and get MORE HAIR off of her.

But then, of course,  my mind wandered, as I have never actually trailered off the property with my current trainer. Would she want May’s saddle on for the 3 minute drive? (no joke, that’s how far we were going) Should she wear her XC boots for the trip? Should I used the lead rope with a chain or without one? Etc. Etc. Etc. Turns out, I don’t really think my trainer cares much, as long as I have some kind of plan and logic. Ultimately, May shipped sans-saddle, but with boots.

When we arrived at the XC venue, I had another thought. My horse hasn’t been off the property since we moved there more than a year and a half ago. Would she be a total beast while I was trying to get ready? Nope. She was perfect. She hung out by the back of my SUV, eating grass while I tacked up. She even stood mostly still to let me get on. Then, she pranced her way towards the XC jumps.

We started at the water, an old nemesis of ours. The water was big and dark with whatever grows in those ponds. I put my leg on. I kept my eyes up… and May wandered into the water as if she has never had a problem with it… Cool horse. Real Cool. We splashed around a bit, as our XC partners for the day were my trainer on a thoroughbred and another boarder on her standardbred. Neither of those horses had ever gone XC schooling before. After splashing a bit, my trainer walked her horse out of the water and over one of the smallest log I had ever seen. It looked fun, so we followed.

We then headed to the main field with jumps, and we walked over a few more really boring logs. My trainer explained that, for the less experienced horses, we didn’t want to make XC a big deal. It should just be like trail riding with things in the way that you go over. May and I hung out a bit, while they continued to familiarize themselves with the itty bitty logs.

 

Then, my trainer told me it was my turn. She immediately gave us a small course of 4 jumps. We started at the bottom of a hill, did two jumps, climbed up the hill, jumped a jump, then proceeded on mostly flat ground to the last jump. Feedback of the day? Don’t throw your body with your horse. Let the horse come up to you. I am not sure I mastered it at all the whole day.

We ended up adding the red house to the mix, a small combination (that was set for a nothing distance, and then two slightly larger green houses (which were actually set to a real 4 stride line. May didn’t look at anything, took me to each jump, and cantered politely in-between fences. The biggest feedback was to try and get May’s balance back WAY before the jump, like 8 – 10 strides. This way, I could get the balance back and then allow up to the fences, instead of getting into a fight at the base. I think it worked!

 

We only did it a couple of times as the big hills took a lot out of May, and the whole point was to just have a positive experience. We walked around a lot while the other riders put together a course with some smaller jumps and easier terrain questions. Once everyone was feeling especially confident, we went on a long trot to the ditches. Now, this venue is great because it has the baby-ist of baby ditches. I mean, this thing is about 12″ wide and 12″ deep. I pointed May at it, not making a big deal about it, kept the eyes up, my hands forward, and my leg on.

What did May do? She stepped in it. Just very politely, down into the ditch, and then up out of the ditch. My trainer just stared at me for a second and then said, “well, that’s not really right.” We tried again, with more leg, and she stepped over it. I even popped over the larger ditch a few times. We might have 99 problems, but a ditch ain’t one!

 

Overall, I was over the moon with Ms. May. She, as usually, was the exact same horse off the property as she is at home. Have you been able to get off the farm and do anything fun lately?