Hunter Pace Fun

This Saturday practically the entire barn emptied out in order to attend a hunter pace put on by a local hunt group. The day was nearly perfect with temps in the mid 80s, sunshine, dry ground, a little bit of a breeze, and low humidity.

From last year, I knew that the course would be about 45 – 50 minutes long with a few water crossing and a bunch of jumps, almost all of which were jump-able for May and I. Last year, we lost a shoe, which kept us from jumping most things, but this year, my goal was to jump pretty much everything.

This year, I also remembered to grab my cambox! While I have the ENTIRE 45 minutes pace on video, I picked out a few clips that are, in my opinion, the most interesting. Eventually, I will get the whole video up on youtube, but that is a project for another weekend. I figure, as a result, it makes sense for this post to follow a similar highlights reel haha.

The start of the pace was a line of a few, smaller jumps, which I think everyone in my group easily popped over. Actually, now that I think about it, May was the least experiences horse in the group, as every other horse had gone at least Training. Oh well, she was the best as far as I am concerned. 😉

When we got to the first water crossing, I had a slight spike in nerves. Last year, May launched herself awkwardly over every water crossing. One of which ended up with the butt of my crop colliding with my lip and lower teeth… which of course left a GIANT bruise and a nearly busted lip. This year, I have a new set of head-shots scheduled at work on Thursday so… COULD NOT afford to have a busted face.

animated-5Luckily, all the work we have been doing with water obstacles seems to have paid off. May took a look at the water, decided where to put her feet, and then stepped carefully through the mud/water/rocks. Good girl!

One of the big elements of this hunter pace is this GIANT HILL coming out of the woods. You can see the video of it in the below instagram post. BUT what you can’t really tell is the fact that May’s ego got a bit bigger than her legs. Halfway up the hill, one of the teammates went to pass us on the OTTB she was riding. Normally, this makes total sense. Big OTTB has a huge gallop stride vs. May and May isn’t one to get pissy.

EXCEPT, this time, May decided she was going to RACE the nearly 17h OTTB. Halfway up the hill, she suddenly SUNK down and TOOK OFF. I took the audio off the video because it was literally just me HOWLING with laughter. Oh mare. ❤

The middle of the pace kind of went along similarly. Although, I could tell May got pretty frustrated towards the middle with the stop/go/stop/go rhythm we had. Luckily, my group was great so we took a nice long walk break in the middle and then spent most of the last few minutes just going forward.

In fact, so forward, that I jumped the biggest XC jump I have ever jumped on May… As we cantered towards the coup in the below video, I was convinced that it was only like BN height. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why two of our teammates were skipped it. I figured they just weren’t interested in jumping on the slight downhill. So I cantered down to it… and about the time the below GIF starts, I realized it was quite a bit bigger than I anticipated. In true adult amateur form, I proceeded to chip into it.

I later learned that it was about Novice height, but the downhill approach may make it more of a training level fence… go figure. May, as usual, couldn’t have cared less and thought all the jumping was great.

All in all, it was a SUPER fun day. I am hoping to get more media, so maybe you all will get a wordless Wednesday out of the rest of it.

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Riding Through the Ugly

It’s always interesting to compare how training is so different from showing. At shows, the goals is to keep all the rails in the cups (and do the million other things required to  make this one thing happen). However, in training, we sometimes need to correct the issues that sometimes pop up and cause those rails to go down. When I got May, the biggest issue was balance.

Then, we started trying to get more forward while maintaining this balance, and things fell apart for a while.

Then… we moved to KY hahaha. So this really didn’t get fixed for a while. Recently though, this balance and forward thing has REALLY been coming together.

However, when I was watching Mandy ride May last Tuesday, I realized that she was having to make some pretty clear corrections. Almost all of these corrections were keeping the straightness to the base of the jumps.

Go back, rewatch that last video. Do you see what I see? I see a rider who tries to get her horse straight coming out of the corner, and then about three strides away from the fence, just gets soft and let’s her horse get crooked. That rider is me hahaha. I don’t hold May to any real standard as we get to the base of the jumps, and many times, it costs us our balance over the fence and on the landing side. When the jumps get bigger, it gets even more obvious.

So when I showed up to my lesson on Tuesday, I asked for one thing: Teach me to make corrections to the base of fences even if it means an ugly jump. As I soften over those last three strides, I just invite May’s right shoulder over. Sooo we want to land on our left lead and fall a bit right through our turns after our fences. UGH

The lesson started out pretty conservatively. We went down the line near the seating area next to the ring that Mandy did last week. It was set on a short turn to an open 3 strides. So Mandy had us come in with more collected canter, get super straight, and stay straight and collected for four strides.

First time? A bit rough, as she popped her shoulder right over the first fence. Second time? She tried to blow through me and we got 3.5 strides. Third time? Finally nailed it in a soft and even four. Then we had to get it in three, and I sliced around the corner and made it all ugly and ugh. We finally nailed that though, and went out to do a course.

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Mandy clearly being more influential over fences than I am. 

The course had several jumps set off the short side of the arena, so you really had to square your turns, get straight, and be prepared for another square turn after. May though? She felt she had all the time in the world and could counter canter all the things. (We did A LOT Of jumping out of counter canter this week by pure default). We did the same vertical to oxer line Mandy did and then beant it to the three stride we warmed up through and… I COULD NOT nail this.

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Cute pic, but even here she is pushing through my right leg. 

I could not get the right lead over either of the jumps set off the short side. I kept pushing too much through the bending line to the oxer, almost getting 4 strides instead of 5 at one point, and I kept slicing the turn to the last line. At times, May threw her head up and had full meltdowns when I insisted that she not fall through her right shoulder. It was… not pretty, but I could feel the holes in our training. As a result, Mandy and I figured out a plan to fix them, complete with my own homework.

For now, the plan is to continue to work on her responsiveness on the flat and to add in smaller verticals or large crossrails and loop through them with straight approaches and lots of changes in direction.

Definitely not the jump lesson that leaves you on a high of confidence, but it was so necessary at this point.

The Horsey Part of the Equation

Last night, as I got changed at work for my lesson, I realized I was missing one of the most important part of my riding wardrobe… a sport bra. Damn… At first, I was debating what to do. Do I try to run home and get one, putting me half an hour behind schedule at LEAST? Do I ride without one?  Do I wrap my chest in a polo wrap?!

In the end, I realized that it was probably a great opportunity to give May another pro ride. While warm last night, there was a good breeze that kept it from being ungodly hot, and Mandy has set up a new course in the arena. On top of that, it has been more than two months since she has sat on my horse, and as we are looking at some bigger heights (for us), I wanted to get her opinion on where May’s confidence/ability really was.

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Lucky for me, Mandy was happy to hop on and put May through her paces. Of course… May first decided to try to run away as she was getting on… which was met with a reminder that, “unicorns don’t run away with their riders.” That got a quick correction, dismount, remount. And then… May proceeded to be pretty spicy warming up.

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Sassy Tail Swish

As a result, they started with an exercise that I have actually done quite a bit with May, but not in a while. They looped back and forth over a vertical with a placing pole 9.5′ behind the jump. The idea was two fold, get May to rock back over fences, and get her to take the cue on what lead to land on. The first few times, she tried to blow through the half half and required a solid halt and back, but then they got into a rhythm.

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They moved onto a full course, and honestly, May just popped around like she had jumped that course a thousand times. Was it perfect? No. Mandy puts a lot more pressure on May to be straight and adjustable (vs. me just trying to get out of the damn way). When May softened and listened, the jumps were smooth and easy. When she locked up like a donkey, the distances weren’t as nice.

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The left turn to this oxer apparently meant that outside aids and half halts meant nothing. 

Eventually, we pushed the yellow and black oxer up to closer to training height, as she was consistently nailing the bending five to that jump. Mandy wanted to give her a bit of confidence over a slightly bigger height without pushing her too much over a fence that they weren’t 100% agreeing on.

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You mean a left turn PAST the gate??

At the same time, Mandy also mentioned that she was going to jump the chevron. My response? “She’s never jumped the chevrons so… just steer.” Like… yes… my pro rider is definitely going to steer to the narrow chevron jump… Luckily, Mandy humors me and allows me to pretend like I am helpful.

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Mandy “You need to take off at the base.” May “Hold my beer”

The full video is below. Of course, the very first jump didn’t come up quite the way Mandy wanted it to. However, May still easily moved forward down the five line to the larger oxer and popped over it. The rest of the course went super well, so they just repeated the last line one more time, and they nailed it. You can see both courses at the bottom of this post, but I just had to share the last line they did.

Overall, I got some really good feedback from Mandy. She’s definitely not as finished as she needs to be to do a full course at Novice height. Mandy pointed out that she probably could get around, but it might rock her confidence, which is just so important. She said that, for right now, our goal should be to fix the straightness/balance issues at the height where May can “figure it out” when it goes wrong, and then move May up when she is a bit more reliable. However, it’s not that she has any difficulty with the Novice height, but we don’t want her to start feeling like her job is hard or not fun. I couldn’t agree more and am so thankful to have a pro that enjoys my “spicy dijon” pony.

Getting Comfortable with More Height

This lesson was a bit different than our usual lessons because we ended up doing a semi-private instead of a private lesson! The girl in the lesson before me jumps a bit bigger than I do on her horse, but when her horse lost a shoe while she was warming up yesterday, she ended up taking a catch ride on another friend’s horse (barefoot horses for the win).

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Since I was already pretty much tacked up, a bit behind schedule, and it was 90-something degrees out with humidity, I asked her if she wanted to share the lesson. Luckily, she said yes!

I gave May a super light warm up, since the heat really isn’t her friend. Then, the lesson started really simply. We just looped a figure 8 back and forth over two verticals. The idea was so keep the balance through the turn and get straight before the jumps. It was a good exercise to get me focused on managing that right shoulder.

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This face says it all. 

When we reversed the exercise, Mandy put the jumps up a bit. May and I are pretty comfortable with the whole 2’3″ to 2’6″ thing. However, this lesson ended up pushing a little over the upper end of that. Honestly, I think if it was a private, I would have chickened out.

Once we figured out our rhythm, balance, and straightness over the figure 8, we moved onto course work. We did the same course as last week, but we added the two stride combination to it.

Good thing this little mare is game…

Now, the set up of that two stride was REALLY hard for me. We jumped big over the corner… then I CHASED her to try to get 6 strides… which didn’t work… then I jumped up her neck… (enjoy the below pic)

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Can I say again how lucky I am to have this little mare?

Luckily, I have mostly fixed my historic reaction to this mistake. Not so long ago, I would have pulled to try to shove 3 strides into the two stride… Now, I kicked on and focused on getting her super straight. Guess what? We were able to jump out of it fine. I kept that rhythm around the rest of the course, and everything else worked out really well. The jumps I was the most concerned about (the corner and the triple bar) rode the best.

Then, we did the same course again. May, by this point, was hot and tired, so you can see her just kind of getting lazy with the verticals, but I was super happy with this course. Perfect? Nope, but I made the necessary changes and smoothed most of it out really well.

You can see the full video below:

Flashback Friday Feels

We are approached three years since I moved to NJ. Ever since moving, I have been striving to get back to a place where I felt I was when we left. We had been competing at BN and, in my head, were totally comfortable cruising around that height. The other day, I shared a post on my insta from a clinic I took around that time (full blog post here).

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And it’s a decent photo. That saddle never did me any favors, but you can clearly see our efforts to move down the line. In a moment of nostalgia, I decided to dig up the video and give it a watch.

Wait… what? I remember it being VERY hot and humid that day, but there is a lot going on here not related to the heat. Mainly, why on green Earth are we SO crooked. AND, as always, I remember the jumps being bigger hahaha.

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Clearly, this jump was not as good as I remember hahaha

This can’t be right, I decided, so I looked up another video from that time.

What do I see? A horse that is pretty far behind my leg. One that isn’t comfortable in a more uphill balance with power, and a rider who has decided that sucking back around corners and gunning it down lines is the best way to ride… oops.

None of this is a reflection of my trainer at the time. May really only had a few months of eventing training under her belt at this point, and I had some serious PTSD from my previous horse. (aka – riding forward was NOT my thing). Honestly, it is shocking that she got me to jump anything larger than 2′ at all at this point.

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Prime form May…

Then I had a moment of… maybe my lessons recently haven’t been going as well as I thought. So I went back and watched one…

And this is why media is so important. That last video shows a forward horse who is clearly more comfortable at that balance (and not DIVING at fences) and a rider who has learned to put her leg on.

So my advice to everyone this weekend? Just keep on trying. I promise, you are getting somewhere. Happy Friday friends!

A Not Bad, Very Good Lesson

Let me start out by saying that… I did not want to ride last night. I did not want to see my horse last night. I did not want to interact with the world last night. If it was actually a thing that dark clouds follow you when you are in a bad mood, mine had lightning, tornadoes, and hail.

This is about right. 

I thought about canceling. I thought about just doing a Dressage lesson. I thought about asking NT to keep it simple and boring. I thought about a million ways to make sure I just didn’t make things worse. And then, I did none of those things.

I threw on my jump tack and headed over to the ring. Let NT know I was in a shitty mood in general, since I was oddly quiet and reserved starting out. And then I just did what she told me to. May… started out like a total lug head. She just wanted to LEAN on that right shoulder like her life depended on it.

So again, we started with the nice long approaches to the gymnastic set in the middle. This time, they were set as low verticals, so we just looped around, asking for shorter and longer distances until I felt like she was mostly settled.

Then, we moved onto the more straight forward gymnastic along the outside of the arena. Four verticals set on slightly short two strides, loop through the middle to catch the vertical and change direction and then back up the same gymnastic going the other way. Nice easy and something we actually jumped on our own a few weeks ago. The jumps were set super small, maybe 2′.

after we raised the gymnastic… 

So maybe I rode into it a little lackadaisical… and May was still dead set on running through that right shoulder. So… we jumped into the gymnastic, and she fell right. I kicked on, and she decided to jump SUPER big and SUPER round through it… Ummm ok mare. The vertical was fine. Then back up the gymnastic the other way… I over compensated for the right drift and we went left… Just ride STRAIGHT hahaha.

We did the same gymnastic to vertical on the diagonal combination to fix the right drift issue. Then, we turned right and looped around to another vertical. Left turn and over the oxer. It’s the first clip in the video at the bottom. (Sorry the first clip is so dark… not totally sure what happened there)

Weee!

Honestly, it all went swimmingly and I was really happy about it. May was still kind of being a lug head after fences, but at least she wasn’t dragging me down to everything anymore. I am proud of myself for putting my leg on to the oxer. Coming around the corner… I saw nothing, so I just put my leg on and it worked out. NT pointed out that I am a bit lucky that May is forward thinking because a horse that is less confident probably wouldn’t have just stepped up like that.

Since May was just kind of running through the gymnastic (not the point of a gymnastic), NT raised them up 2 holes. I wanted to throw up, but threw that feeling into my back pocket. This time, we went down the two, then looped left to the oxer. We took the inside turn to the corner fence… which I jumped conservatively… Then fixed the lead and did basically nothing going to the vertical on the diagonal. Hard miss there.

Then… I decided to just canter over one of the poles marking the dressage arena… and May hopped over it in the most awkward manner and landed cross cantering. Cool mare. Soooo then I realized I kind of needed to hustle that cross canter forward to get to the gymnastic ok. I did that… and then just had to balance through the combination. THEN, we jumped over our makeshift “water jump” hahaha. It was a skinny into a puddle. But, it was good to practice because May REALLY wanted to drift left to avoid getting her toes wet.

Since we decided that May had the hang of the gymnastic and oxer, we decided to just do the corner jump, vertical and “water” jump. I really smoothed out the first two (yay!) but was still jumping the water awkwardly. I did it one last time, smoothed it out, and we were done!

After a lesson like that, it was no surprise that my little black cloud lifted. I know it’s pretty rare to have a mare that you can depend on day in and day out, but I am so thankful for mine. ❤

I did actually remember to put my helmet cam on, so hopefully I will be able to share that footage later this week… Wordless Friday? hahaha

25 More – Blog Hop

Jumping on the blog hop train. L found the questions on Tumblr, and after a few other people chimed in (Amanda & Olivia among others) I just had to join.

1. What is the first thing you do when you get to the barn?

My work is incredibly… non social. I work with a lot of analytical types, so when I get to the barn, I want to actually interact with people. So usually, I seek out the peoples first! haha. I think it gives May a chance to adjust to the reality of having to work again.

2. Is there a breed that you would never own?

Gosh… Probably a paso fino. I LOVE them. When I did Welsh breed shows, they were often around, and they are the COOLEST. However, if we got a gaited horse, it would be something my husband could ride. At 6’6″ish… a paso fino is just too small.

3. Describe your last ride?

Our jump lesson this week! Still on cloud nine from it! Even if all my muscles and joints hate me.

4. Have any irrational riding fears?

Oh so many. Because May isn’t the MOST athletic, I am convinced that we will miss big to an oxer one day, and we will both get seriously injured. Clearly… that fear is pretty unfounded at the heights I have any interest in.

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5. Describe your favorite lesson horse?

Oh definitely Buddy. I rode him on and off for like… a decade. So much love for that little thoroughbred. Because of him, I will never rule out owning an OTTB.

6. Would you ever lease out your horse?

Yeah. I probably will when Matt and I start a family. I think she would be a great horse for a pony club kid to play around with.

7. Mares: Yay or neigh?

Uh duh… hahaha. I have ridden and loved MANY mares. If they are smart mares, I tend to really enjoy them.

8. How many time per week do you get to see your horse?

I shoot for five days… which means that I typically make it there 4 days a week.

9. Favorite thing to do on an “easy day” with your pony?

Trail rides. We both love just wandering around wherever. It’s been a while since I hopped on bareback. Maybe I will this week. 🙂

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10. Conformational flaw that bothers you the most?

Ahahahaha…. well, my horse is kind of a conformation train wreck. That being said, a horse that is downhill would be pretty tough for what I want to do. Cantering downhill to a Novice oxer on something downhill? Just doesn’t sound fun to me, and I think it makes Dressage miserable for everyone

May Jump911. Thing about your riding that you’re most self conscious about?

My weight. I feel like being on the bigger side of the rider spectrum makes every flaw so much more noticeable.

12. Will you be participating in no stirrup November?

I actually dropped my stirrups this weekend for a while. I am not sure if I will totally leave my stirrups in November because I don’t think that’s fair to May. But I will definitely increase my focus on it.

13. What is your grooming routine?

Curry all over, brush with a hard brush, maybe a soft brush… wipe down with fly wipes. Pick feet. Either apply durasole or keratex depending on what we are dealing with. If I have time or before a lesson, I brush out her tail.

14. Describe a day in the life of your horse?

She gets night turnout. So she comes in for breakfast typically in the late morning. She hangs out in her stall in the afternoon. I ride in the early evening. Then she gets fed dinner and turned back out for the night. Most days, she spends less than 6 hours in a stall, which I LOVE.

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Lets roll CLOSER to the fence. 🙄🙃🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

15. Favorite season for riding?

I love the fall. Part of it is the weather, as it tends to be beautiful in KY. But a lot of it is how we feel in the fall. After a full season of lessons, hacking out, XC schoolings, shows etc, we feel pretty solid and in sync in summer. May is always super fit, and it’s just a really fun time of year for us.

16. If you could only have 1 ring: indoor or outdoor?

Outdoor. Always outdoor. I ride in the indoor at my barn so rarely, and I would probably ride in it even less if the outdoor was bigger. When we were at our old barn, I only rode in the indoor when it was too dark to ride outside (no lights).

17. What impresses you most about the opposite discipline (english vs. western)?

I think its incredible how quarter horse people have been able to breed these SUPER specialized horses with incredible instincts. Like cutting horses or western pleasure horses. It’s really interesting to me.

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My Wenglish Attempts lol

18. You have unlimited funds to buy one entire tack set for your horse, what is he/she wearing?

Oh gosh. I don’t even know. May is such special body type, that I think finding the saddle would be the biggest issue… even with a huge budget. Can I just go with custom everything that actually fits her? lol

19. How many blankets do you have? When do you blanket?

She has 4. A sheet, two mediums, and a heavy with a hood. I have two mediums because they tend to get the most wear in our climate. Especially since I just do a bib clip. We blanket when it gets cold? lol. May is a yak, so her tolerance for cold is pretty high, and she had a round bale in her field at night. However, we also get a lot of wet, so the blankets are more used to keep her dry and comfortable.

20. What is your horse’s favorite treat? Favorite place to be scratched?

Everything? Awkwardly, I think she loves probios cookies the most. Go figure. At this point, if I don’t cross tie her, she will creep towards my tack trunk when I go over there, hoping for a cookie. Confession time: I know it’s a bad habit.. but it’s cute so I don’t correct it. Oops.

As for scratches, she likes the inside of her ears rubbed and her tail. But only on her terms. When she is done with you, she would rather you just not. Ok?

21. Something about your barn that drives you crazy?

Gosh. Sometimes it is a damn zoo hahaha. We have horses and kids and dogs and a cat. It can be a lot, so I have learned what times/days are a bit quieter. At the same time, I really love all the activity and May just EATS it up. I think we both prefer it to all the nights we spent alone at my old barn.

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22. Roached manes, pulled manes, or long flowing manes?

I actually really prefer pulled manes, but May hates having her mane pulled. I really do think it is painful for her. I decided to roach to save her from that experience and because she gets SO HOT in the summer, a roached mane helps her stay cool.

23. Can you handle a buck or a rear better?

I used to be able to sit a buck, but honestly, it has been a while… I rode a couple of horses that rear, and I could ride it… but it’s not fun.

24. I would never buy a horse who ___________________?

Reared haha. I am with Amanda on this one. It is a deal breaker for me. It is just too dangerous.

25. Favorite facial marking?

Oh I love snips. Just too cute for words.

If you made it this far, you get a shameless plug to please buy my Dressage saddle. 😉
Ebay Link

A Lesson in Adjust-ability and Balance

Have you ever felt like you have been eating really well/clean, and then you track your food and it turns out you are basically eating like a 18 yr old their first week of college? No? Just me? Well, I feel like we have been super consistent with our lessons, but as always, the blog is here with the truth.

 The truth? Our last jump lesson as 5/15… which was our first jump lesson since 4/23. Oops. Part of this was my wonderful and much needed Florida vacation… and part of this was us being derailed by our super fun XC schooling at KHP. Worth it.

Knowing this gap, I had actually jumped May on Friday afternoon. I don’t jump when we are totally alone, but the woman doing evening barn chores showed up just as I was considering ending my ride, so we popped through the cross rail line and then some vertical gymnastics. The problem? I had my Dressage bit in instead of my jumping bit, so May kind of dragged me around. Oh well. We would fix it on Tuesday.

AND FIX IT WE DID.

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I don’t think my trainer specifically set this course to fix all my issues… but damn if it didn’t go a great job of it. We started with three crossrails set in the middle of the ring at angles. The distance between each crossrail if you rode straight through them (center to center to center) was two strides.

We started by just looping through the crossrails, taking the long approaches. And you know what? It was pretty bad. May wanted to just rock along on her forehand and drag me to distances that weren’t there. This issue always becomes a bit prevalent whenever we do accuracy exercises over small jumps.

Ahhhh the right shoulder drift. My favorite.

Over larger jumps, she rocks herself back a bit. But when they are little, she treats them like the suggestion of a speed bump. Sooo I wrangled back control, and we did a lot of halting, leg yielding, backing exercises after fences. NT wanted me to focus on getting a lot of control over her shoulders and balance.

We then added to the three crossrail exercise. I looped through with the long approaches, and then jumped the first jump, did a circle to the right, jumped the second one, did a circle to the left, and then jumped the last one. I struggled to get May to land on the left lead over the second one.

Eventually though, she was listening and landing in a better balance for me. Sooooo we then moved to what was, honestly, the hardest part for me. Jump in, bending three strides to right to the second cross rail, then bending three strides to the left over the third crossrail. The first time through… I got a big distance to the first… made the second happen… and then missed the third.

Ugh. Second time? Got the first one, took down one of the rails in the second jump… and got two strides to the first jump. UGH! Finally, we nailed it, and I really felt May rocking back on her hind end and wrapping herself around my inside leg. Sweet!

So then we moved to jumping straight through the exercise. Two strides between crossrails. EASY PEASY! May lined up and went. I worked on staying tall with my body and keeping her shoulders lined up nice and straight.

 

Much happier to just go straight through

At this point, we had a pretty long lesson, but hadn’t jumped anything of height. Sooo we put together a course. Bending 3 crossrails, long approach to middle crossrail, straight through crossrails in 2 strides, loop around to the left and grab the oxer, then loop around to the right for the barrel jump, bending 6 strides to the other oxer. (sorry the first jump got cut out below… damn 60 seconds on instagram)

Super happy with it! At this point, she decided she didn’t want to land on the right lead anymore. Oh well. We fixed it pretty easily. The 6 strides were easy peasy, even when she sucked back and jumped a little round over the barrel. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had my horse back. Forward to the fences and easily getting the distances without her flinging her head around or me having to chase her around.

Room for improvement? Always! But definitely something positive to build on next week.

IEA Horse Trials – View from the SJ Ring

The Hoosier Horse Park is… in a lot of ways, the exactly opposite of the Kentucky Horse Park. Where the Kentucky Horse Park prides itself on museums, offices, and it’s general “horse amusement park” theme, the Hoosier Horse Park bring me back to when I was a kid. There’s a little less polish, but a whole lot of heart.

It’s that heart that is so clearly visible at IEA Horse Trials. I showed up to the facility at 7:30AM… Yes… remember that post that said the first ride was at 10AM? WELL, with threatening weather, the first ride got moved down to a little after 9AM. There was still some morning-of prep, so I showed up bright and early.

As usually, I parked about as far from SJ as physically possible. Part of me always forgets that I can park right next to the SJ booth… Oh well. A quick greeting to like… everyone, and I made my way to SJ. The place was alive with activity. No one had any idea if the weather would hold out, but everyone was still showing up with their A game. I crept through the trailer parking… doing a bit of window shopping as I did.

IEA has a long format for both Novice and Training, and in the more rustic setting, it feels like what eventing might have felt like a couple of decades ago. The jumps that I have seen from XC (practically none of them outside of pictures) favor a more natural style. Buuuut it also has some of the amenities we all know and love at this point: permanent stalls, sand arenas, and air conditioning in the SJ booth. 😉

Scribing show jumping all day (I mean ALL DAY 9AM – 6PM) is always an experience. I think the number 4 is permanently inscribed on my brain. SJ was really good though. We saw some great rounds, and some rounds that definitely fell short of rider’s expectations.

My favorite is always the commentary in the booth. Sure, between the four people in there, we typically know quite a few people in the ring (and/or their trainer, horse’s breeder, etc etc). However, every single rider had at least us four cheering for them. A sticky horse had us all quietly cheering and encouraging it forward with “Come on!” “Kick on!” and “You got it!” A rail near the end of a great round garnered a groan from all of us… and then we would frantically check scores to see if that person maybe just MAYBE had a rail in hand.

Any bad luck, from our first I/P riders all the way to our Jr Starters was met with sympathy. Great rounds were met with pure joy. It didn’t matter who that person was. We loved the hairy ponies of unknown breeding as much as the OTTBs and as much as the fancier warmblood types. We weren’t looking for flash. We appreciated the horse that looked like a fun, confidence building type.

Then, as the show rolled into the Jr. Starter division, it was after 5PM. XC had wrapped up. Dressage had wrapped up. We were the only ring still going. And where was everyone? Around the SJ arena. The bleachers were packed. People stood around all sides of the arena. And we all cheered on our Jr. Starters.

Everyone was tired, dirty, and ready for a drink, but we were more ready to support one another. On a day it should have rained, the sun shone on. At the end of the day, that’s why IEA is on my “Bucket list” of horse trials. For 3 days out of the year, it’s all about the horses, riders, and the sport.

If you want to read about the history of the Hoosier Horse Park and IEA, check out this US Eventing’s article.

For more about the IEA Horse Trials long format divisions, click here.

Come See Me at IEA!

Hey everyone!

No clue if anyone plans on being at IEA this weekend, but I will be there on Saturday. I volunteered again as the SJ scribe for the day.

It is definitely going to be a LONG day with the first ride at 10AM and the last rider at 6:06PM. However, IEA is one of my FAVORITE events, and while I didn’t get to compete at it this year, I am still super stoked to be a part of it again.

If you’re going to be there, or in the area, definitely come say hi in the SJ booth!