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…

Image may contain: horse, grass, tree, sky, outdoor and nature
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.

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. 🙂

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05.13.18 Horse Trial – Show Jumping

After Dressage, I had nearly 2 hours until Show Jumping. I took a look at both the show jumping and cross country course, but I wasn’t able to fully walk either due to the late start we had in the morning. Oh well, show jumping was 8 jumps with 1 related distance, and XC was basically one big loop.

May got to hang out in the shade and enjoy the breeze and grass, while I got to actually eat some real food. It might have been 10:30 in the morning, but I needed lunch! Once we were about a half hour to my SJ time, I pulled May off the trailer, threw on our jumping stuff, and got back on. Given that XC was running immediately after SJ, I just put all of May’s XC gear on and wore my vest. And then promptly forgot my armband. Whomp Whomp.

Too Cute For Words. 

The husband ran back to the trailer while I warmed up again. It was a short, but good warmup, so I cut it a bit short. I wanted to watch a couple of rounds before I went in. Unfortunately, May had other plans and wasn’t super interested in just standing at the in gate, so while I caught bits and pieces of other rounds, I wasn’t able to watch the whole thing through. I do not think I saw anyone go through the related distance line (remember how I didn’t get a chance to walk it?)

SJ Course.jpg

Entering the ring for the round was a bit awkward, as you had to check in with the volunteer at the in gate, and then trot to the other end of the SJ field to check in with the judge. I also wanted to trot by 7 because, for BN, there was a 7B. As a result, right after 7 there were a bunch of poles in the grass, and I wanted to make sure May saw them before we were at the base of 7.

So once we checked in with the judge, I trotted along past 5, since that was a couple of hay bales and sometimes hay bales are scary. I picked up my canter, and May immediately started throwing her head around. Ugh. I got her attention back somewhere around 4, as I made my turn to jump 1. Unfortunately, our lack of focus meant my line wasn’t as crisp as I wanted, as May drifted behind my leg and towards the in gate. What does this all mean? It means we pretty much clobbered jump 1.

I think this is between Jump 7 and Jump 8.

I kicked forward and got a slightly better rhythm and line to jump 2. We jumped in a touch weak, so I decided to balance up and do the add. Except I HADN’T WALKED the line. SO I got 3/4 of the way down the line, and I realized it was SET SHORT. It was also too late to chase her for what would have been a MASSIVE distance, or just faster shuffling corgi steps toward the nothing distance we already had lined up. Oops… we got to the oxer with no step, no impulsion, and no distance. Cool. May HEFTED herself over it, somehow leaving it up. Seriously, there is video evidence of this that I need to upload for you all.

Jump 4

By this point, I was pretty angry at myself for riding the first 3 jumps like a monkey. I kicked on to 4 and actually had a pretty nice jump. I keep kicking to 5. I am DETERMINED to have almost a “hunter gap” to this fence. We. Will. Not. Chip. For some reason, I had it in my head that she might look at that one, so I needed to ride strong. It was an oxer, which I hate, and it had some hay bales under it. Now, I am not sure we have ever jumped hay bales, but I know many horses that have taken offense to them. (I got an awesome nose bleed once after a horse took serious offense to some hay bales.)

Jump 5… I really need to be doing BN lol

I think it went fine though. 😉 It ended up probably being our nicest jump on course. Jump 6 I don’t even remember jumping. I probably stopped breathing that point. At 7, I was determined not to have the same issue I had at 1, and I rode more determined through my line. As a result, 7 was a non issue. I turned to 8. Kicked on, and was over. So SJ finished with just one jump down, but I was pretty frustrated for myself for not starting the round well.

Jump 8. May thinks the jumps are way too small. 

SJ was pretty messy for a lot of people, and I later heard that the first jump when down a lot for people. Overall, we moved from 4th to 6th out of 19. No matter the score though, I was determined to go out and attack XC.

Of note, all the professional photos were purchased by me from Bluegrass Equine Photography for digital use. I am a big believer in supporting horse show photographers, so I was more than happy to pay for these happy memories!

05.13.18 Horse Trial – Dressage (and May’s Fan Club)

Let me start my saying, my horse is a magnet for attention. More than once, I found myself surrounded by multiple girls, as they asked questions, petted May, and even gave her kisses. The horse, who is usually so aloof, really loves all this at shows. Go figure.

Our day got off to a bit of a rough start, as a scheduling conflict at the barn meant that we couldn’t get on the road until 9AM, vs. the 8:30AM I had been planning on. Luckily, the show venue was maybe 10 minutes down the road, so we weren’t in danger of missing my 10:06 ride time. I did, however, change into my boots, my hairnet, and my helmet while we drove.

As soon as we got to the venue, I sent my husband off the office to get my number and whatever information he could glean from the staff there. This was the same place we had went to for XC schooling the prior week, but I wasn’t sure where everything was set up for the actual competition. While he was gone, I pulled May off the trailer myself. For some reason, she isn’t a fan of my trainer’s 2+1 trailer, but she was patient as I worked out how to get her off of it myself.

The husband arrived back in time to help me finish tacking up, and then May decided to be a total beast to get on. Now, my husband is not a small man, and May full body shoved him out of the way as I was swinging a leg over… I guess It’s truly time to get serious about the standing at the mounting block thing at home.

I then wandered aimlessly around where SJ and XC were, trying to figure out how one gets to the Dressage arena on the other side of the pond. I finally found someone to ask, and it turns out you had to go down what looked like a private driveway, take a right onto a dirt path past a hot walker, walk up into a random field and around the fence line to the dressage arena. I am not going to lie, being lost like that and on a bit of a time crunch really stressed me out.

Whew! When we finally found the Dressage warm-up, it was broken into two areas: a big grassy field that was mostly flat, and an actual dressage court. I rode around in the field for a while before the Dressage court emptied. Then, I moved to the court. Of course, as soon as I got in there, someone else, let’s call her Competition Crazy (CC), decided she needed to run through her WHOLE test in that little court multiple times in a row. Maybe I am naive, but I feel like there is no scrubbing a test right before you go in. Practice the movements to get your horse as connected and tuned in as possible, and then go into the ring. (more on CC later too)

With a couple of riders left to go, I just let her walk around in the shade for a bit, hoping that would help relieve her of some of our combined tenseness. As I was watching the last rider go before me, a couple of girls came up to pet May. It’s amazing how just talking to people about my pony helps keep my nerves at bay. The rider before me wasn’t ready, so I happily agreed to go a bit early.

I wandered down to the arena and gave the judge and scribe my number. ANNNND they couldn’t find me. They asked for my name, and I gave it. They said my number didn’t match my name… cool. Then I gave them my horse’s name, and they were like “OOOHHHH. We thought YOU were May”. I may be a bit short, a bit round, and quite pale, but I am definitely not May.

We got it sorted out, and I got to trot a bit around the arena before they honked the horn, and we headed down centerline for the first time in 2 years. Below is how it went.

(a copy of the test can be found here, I am just going to give the scores and comments for each movement below)

Movement Scores

  1. 8.0 – No Comment
  2. 8.0 – Nice Energy
  3. 7.5 – Slight Head Tossing
  4. 7.0 – Could Have More Balance
  5. 7.0 – Slight Loss of Bend
  6. 6.5 – Could Have More march
  7. 8.0 – 2-3 jiggy steps, but very nice stretch (This was VERY generous)
  8. 6.0 – Could March More. Slight Tension
  9. 8.0 – No Comment
  10. 7.0 – Could Have Been Cleaner
  11. 6.5 – Losing Bend. Slight Loss of Balance
  12. 7.0 – No Comment
  13. 8.0 – No Comment
  14. 9.0 – No Comment

Collective Marks:

  • Gaits: 7.0
  • Impulsion: 8.0
  • Submission: 8.0
  • Rider: 8.0
  • Overall Comments: Well Matched Pair. Lovely Test. Work on Canter transitions and tension.
  • Final Score: 24.1

So my thoughts? The scoring was CLEARLY generous, but it was equally generous for everyone. I was happy with how May stayed connected and engaged throughout the trot work, and I thought the canter work was a lot less scrambly then the last time we competed. However, the tension in the walk is definitely something we need to work on, as it comes up at home too.

The score was good enough to put us in 4th place out of 19, so that was very encouraging. Either way, we had about 2 hours to cool off. Then it was going to be time for jumping!

Making a Wishlist

With my sister’s birthday approaching, I was determined to get her a great gift. She has a very specific style and taste that keeps up with trends enough to be “on trend”, but most of her items are classic enough to stand the test of time. I also can’t just buy her horse stuff… since she hasn’t ridden in more than a decade and has no plans to start again. (boo)

After spending much too much time scanning through the websites of places I rarely visit (department stores, beauty boutiques, anything that shows up in a mall), I finally caved a bit and asked her if there was anything she wanted. She had a list… on a Department stores website. She forwarded it along to me, and while I didn’t have to search out the perfect gift, I did get to pick something out of a (rather long) list of things that I knew she would love. I could get her someone she wouldn’t just have to return, and I could cater my gift to my budget. Awesome! (budgets are important… unless a pony really needs something)

Since most of my family is 90% unfamiliar with my sport (especially if it is eventing specific), I figured this might actually be a helpful tool for them! I checked around on various equestrian sites (riding warehouse, dover, smartpak, horze, greenhawk, bit of britain), and it looked like only Smartpak, bit of britain, and Dover offered these features. While Dover has an amazing return policy, there isn’t a single actual store in Kentucky and the shipping costs can be a bit outrageous (and slow). Bit of Britain is also somewhere I have ordered form multiple times, but never actually returned anything to. So I decided to build a list on Smartpak!

26 Items made the list. Here are the highlights and why:

Schooling Breeches – Romfh Sarafina & Smartpak Hadley

Schooling Breeches

I own both pairs of these breeches in other colors. The Romfh Sarafina breeches are my favorite pair of pants (ANY KIND OF PANTS) I have ever owned. They are flattering, they are comfortable, they stay up on their own. And they should… They’re incredibly expensive. As a result, I only own one pair, in beige for clinics and shows where I don’t want to wear white (and we’ll get to that in a second).

The Hadley’s are much more affordable. They are SLICK though and not as flattering of a shape. However, I appreciate the fairly classic styling and, for schooling pants, they hit the mark for me. The colors aren’t too crazy without being beige, black, and brown. The rise is a bit higher than the Piper’s, which I like, but they also definitely need a belt, as (you can even see this from the pictures) they are not nearly as high rise as the Sarafina’s.

I did throw in one pair of the Kerrits “power sculpt” riding tights. I haven’t ridden in Kerrits in forever… or tights for that matter, but the marketing ploy of “Power sculpt” got me, and they’re a reasonable under $100 option.

Sunshirts – Kastel & Goode Rider

Kastel Sunshirt

I own 1 Kastel sunshirt, 2 of the Dover Cool Blast sunshirts, 1 tailored sportsman sunshirt, and 1 ariat sunshirt. The Kastel (in a light, butter color) is BY FAR MY

FAVORITE. It is the only one that I actually feel is cooler than a plain cotton t-shirt, it looks flattering, and it actually protects my skin from the sun. I got my original one for an incredible deal, and I would love to add more to my collection.

I was shocked to find that the Goode Rider sunshirt was more expensive than the Kastel’s, but I figured it would worth adding as just another option to try.

Various Show Stuff – Romfh, Ice Horse, Competition Pinny, Tredstep

White BreechesRemember when I mentioned white breeches? Yeah – I have one pair, and I absolutely detest them. I think I might still own them out of a sense of obligation for needing white breeches. (There’s no rule that says you have to wear white, any light, neutral color works). However, I am still shamed into owning a pair of pants that I hate and that hate me. Enter the Romfh Sarafina pants in white… full seat… and beautiful.

I also don’t own a single pair of ice boots. (I know, I am terrible). When I needed to ice May last year, I took the liner out of my BOT quick wraps, filled them with ice, and left that on. It worked and was effective, but I probably shouldn’t be seen in public in them. The Ice Horse Evendura Wraps would just be a nice thing to have. Oh – and laugh you hearts out – I don’t own a pinny. I have begged and borrowed (but never stole) one when I needed one, but it’s probably about time I spend the $14 and get one… I really don’t need a custom one… right?

CollarAnother “wish list” item, would be an interchangeable collar for my tredstep solo pro coat. This is a total whim item. Like, why is this thing $50? But I still think it would look nice on my Navy coat with May in a white saddle pad… without being too much. 

Items I Couldn’t Find

This was a strange thing. There are 11 breastplates on SmartPak’s website (Bit of Britain has 20 and Dover has 12) and not a single one was even the style I was looking for. Every single one attaches to the front D’s of the saddle. (not a great setup for a horse like May, where it is more likely to just pull the front of the saddle down, rather than hold the entire saddle forward). I would much prefer one that attaches to the girth. Like this one from Dover, or this one from Bit of Britain.

Also – my favorite saddle pad is the EcoGold Secure XC Saddle Pad. Smartpak apparently only sells it in White, where Dover had both black and blue, and riding wearhouse had the black version. The blue is really the one I have been eyeing.

Finally, XC boots. I put the outdated version of the professional choice XC boots on my list at smartpak, but it is the new ones you can get from riding warehouse that I am really interested in. I current have the majyk equipe boots (the Gen II versions), but I have been using them for a couple of years now, and they aren’t really in “show” condition anymore. In fact, the one boot is missing almost all of the fabric edging near the bottom. I wouldn’t mind something that fits a bit better. I have been eyeing both the Professional’s Choice Performance Elite XC Front Boots and their Performance Hybrid Splint Boots. Let’s be honest, at BN, we probably would be totally fine with just the splint boots, and they may fit May’s corgi-legs better.

Whew! Well that was a lot. Tell me – what’s topping your wish list right now?

Thankful Thursday

Amidst all the driving back and forth to the barn, I have had an opportunity to reflect on what I am more thankful for in my riding career. However, the thing I am most thankful for, is the mare that turned out to be much more than she was ever supposed to be.

I have talked a lot in the past about how May was a complete impulse buy. You can read the full story here: A May As Well Purchase However, I am not really sure I ever explained what I was expecting. Originally, when I bought her home, we joked that I had overpaid for her. After all, she couldn’t even do a 20M circle before she popped her shoulder and ran in the opposite direction, a canter took nearly 20 steps of trot to pick up, and I quickly learned that she had never seen a gymnastic.

To be honest, my original thought for buying her was that, if she didn’t work out, I could recoup most of my money and just sell her as a trail horse. She was sane, and sensible, and had color. All the things trail people want. Right? I mean, she could comfortable carry a larger rider for miles without discomfort. Then, we went to our first CT. It was a W/T Dressage Test and 18″ stadium round.

And we had SO MUCH FUN. She was a champion, and I finished with a giant smile on my face. I was hooked on competing this horse, and I think the man in this situation finally understood what it was all about. She never was supposed to be as cool as she is, but gosh… she is really cool…

 

I think she has turned out to be really cool… And I can’t wait to see what more she has to show me.

2016 – A Review

There are few years I can think of that have had a larger impact on my life than 2016. Maybe 1990 🙂

The year started off fairly slow with January consisting of trail rides, bareback rides, and a trip to the fiance’s hometown in Kansas. However, maybe January was just the perfect synopsis of the rest of the year – a big of downtown surrounded by the farthest trip West I have ever gone.

trail.jpg

February got a bit more exciting. I got engaged on the 3rd… in the barn of course! Then, not even two weeks later, I participated in a clinic with Marilyn Payne… by far the biggest name I have ever ridden with. And I proceeded to fall off, and then actually start riding.

March saw us start to get serious about the upcoming season. Jumps got bigger and I started this blog! We also had our first cross country schooling of the year, where May was a touch wild but completely game. My confidence wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but I had recovered quite a bit from falling off in front of Marilyn.

April consisted of my birthday and my (and May’s) first Beginner Novice horse trial! We completed with a rail and a stop at the water on XC, but after having to convince our trainer to let us try it, I couldn’t have been happier with the result.

Early May marked one year with May, and I still can’t believe how far we’ve come! The end of May marked a new goal with our (both of our) first recognized horse trial! We were second after Dressage and clear XC, but added penalties in stadium to land us 7th out of 10. It was a lesson in humility where I worked on my ability to leave my mistakes behind. The very next week, we got another opportunity, as we ran BN at a schooling horse trial. While the jumps were significantly smaller, I was very proud of my ability to just. keep. riding. We got our best Dressage score of the year (which was perhaps a bit generous) and ended up third. Best of all, our team took home first place and some prizes!

June allowed things to slow down a bit, as my trainer was now nearing the birth of her first child. However, we did get to participate in a clinic with Meg Kepferle. May put on her sassy pants for that one, but I am still happy with how we performed. It definitely put a few extra tools in our toolbox!

We spent our Fourth of July on the longest trail ride we have ever taken! We also got amazing engagement photos taken by Tav Images Photography!

August opened up hot and we spent some time on our Dressage work before getting back to jumping! However some uncharacteristic unevenness behind made us decide that it was time to call out the vet and get some hock injections.

September was very slow as May recovered and my fiance and I faced some life changing decisions, but, by the end of the month. I was able to share the news. We were moving to Kentucky! Early in October, we officially moved. By the end of the month, we were able to have our first jumping lesson, where I jumped more than I had since our first clinic with Meg.

In early November, I found a new job and was able to start putting money back into the pony piggy-bank. Then in December, we had our first Dressage lesson with the new trainer.

It was a crazy year full of new experiences and adventures. Looking back at it all is a bit exhausting, so I am so happy with how far we have come… both in and out of the ring. Here’s to an even better 2017!

05/29/16 Burgundy Hollow Horse Trials – Recap

If you hadn’t noticed, I didn’t post goals for this show. Mostly because they didn’t change. I still wanted a low 30’s score in Dressage. Again, this show was on grass. It’s a bit hard to get May to show off her trot work on grass because, if she slips, she gets quite disgruntled. I still wanted a clear SJ round, but this goal did get tweaked a bit. I wanted to ride forward, even if it meant we got a rail. Finally for XC, I still wanted to go clear. This show had a flagged water complex, a slightly skinny bank, and a true ditch, so even though some of the jumps were undersized, I knew I had to really ride for these obstacles.

 

Our official Dressage time was 11:24AM. We got ready with the other members of our team who had slightly later times and wandered over to the warmup area. We walked around a bit, and I checked in with the ring steward. (do they have different names in eventing? I honestly have no idea). She told me that they were giving some people time where they needed it, but they were running ahead of schedule and I could go in when I was ready. Perfect.

  May doesn’t need a lot of work to go into the Dressage ring, and it was hot (about 90 degrees and humid). In an effort to keep the riding to a minimum, I waved over the fiance, who waved over my trainer, and we got warmed up. We did maybe three circles in each directly. May was moving off my leg, but was having some problems falling on her forehand at the canter. This is something we are working on and not something that was going to be fixed in the warmup ring. So with that, we headed in!

 

This show gives you the option of choosing which test to do. While May rides better in BN B, I thought it would be good to switch up the test on her and do A. Of course this meant that as I trotted down centerline, I was seriously debating with myself it it was a right turn or a left turn. I decided it must be left, and it worked out!

Our beginning few moves were really nice, and I have to say I am happy with them. The left is where she likes to ignore my inside leg and get stiff, so I am happy with the amount of bend I got through the circle. The canter transition wasn’t great. It was going downhill, and she seemed to disagree with me as I tried to explain that she could pick up an uphill canter while going downhill. She also slipped a bit in the corner, but I do really like the second half of that circle.

The walk work was… meh. She got a bit distracted at the beginning of it and never really stretched. The right trot work was solid and about where I can expect it. I can’t let her bend as much in this direction or I lose her shoulder. I managed not to lose her shoulder, but I did have to remind her to come off her forehand.
The last canter transition was meh. She again didn’t believe that she could canter uphill while going downhill and was still cautious from slipping on the grass, but we got it done and it was fine. The judge had some nice comments (calling it a very determined test immediately after my salute), and we came in 2nd in the Dressage:

“Fairly correct test effort. Great Pair 🙂 Work to maintain steady balance through test.”


Now, I do think the judge was a touch generous with the scores. It was a solid test, but I don’t think it was 6 points better than last week. (although, feel free to correct me if I am wrong!)

We then had a good amount of time until show jumping, so May go completely untacked and got to hang out and eat grass and hay. I hid in the shade and tried to stay cool, calm and composed. This was my downfall last weekend, sitting and waiting for show jumping.. and thinking. WAY too much thinking. So this time I did every reasonable thing I could think of to avoid thinking about it.

Then, it was time to get ready for show jumping and XC. At this show XC would run immediately after the SJ, so we just got ready for both. One of my favorite parts of this show probably makes no sense to any hunter/jumper types out there. The warm up jumps are set on a hill. A steep hill, about halfway up. The great thing about this? I have to kick to get up the hill, so I end up kicking the whole way to the base of the jump. It’s like magic!

When we originally walked down to the SJ field, I remember thinking that the jumps looked tiny. And they were, they were set for starter. (damn!) We wandered around a bit as they finished that division and then they put the jumps up. And I remember thinking they still looked small (yay!). They were undersized for BN, but that was exactly what I needed.

 

Overall, the round was good. I was able to have some influence on the spots we took, and we mostly kept a steady, forward pace. I should’ve fixed the lead to the jump on the far side of the ring, but again, my goal was forward. I am ok with the rail. It wasn’t clear, but it was a MUCH better ride than I gave May last week. At this point, I am thrilled with that!

Then it was off to XC! Sorry there aren’t pictures of almost every fence like last time. The first fence was a coop a few strides from the start gate. Then up a hill (Burgundy Hollow is basically on one big hill) to a half roll top, then a small gate at the top of the hill. May pretty much jumped me out of the tack over all three of these. She is really getting the hang of her job!


I recently read somewhere (sorry I can’t remember where) that you are most-likely to have problems at the fifth jump because that is where you start to feel comfortable. We had problems at the 4th jump. It was a well undersized (maybe 2’3″) vertical brush fence. But it was under a line of trees and faced directly into the field where all the trailers were parked. May backed off a bit, but I balanced her up and put my leg on and we were over it…

And towards one of the larger jumps on the course. A red table on a downward sloping hill. May wanted to look at it so bad that she ended up sneaking it another stride right before it, but she was honest and jumped it. Then down the hill and across the dirt road to the ditch and another up hill. May leaped across the ditch, and we charged up the hill as fast as her corgi legs could take us!


Up the hill was a small log and a standard sized bank. The face of the bank was narrow, so we had to steer a bit. May seems to really like banks, so it wasn’t an issue. I just had to make sure she locked onto the right section!


There was a hanging log at the top of the hill. Then we started to go down the hill and over a large rolltop. At this jump you started turning back towards all the trailers and other horses, and you were kind of overlooking them from the top of the hill. May got a big wiggly and distracted, but I rode to the base and she jumped.

The rest I mostly have video of!

She was not coming back like I was asking coming down the hill, so we got an awkward jump over the log. She sucked back going into the water, but did it. Then I had to give her a tap with the stick to get her refocused for number 13. Then we had a drunken gallop to number 14 where she was totally distracted, but honest.

So where did that leave us?

In Third!

And our barn’s team ended up winning, so we got some great “team champ” hats!

My friend also got 5th in her division, so we got to take pictures with satin that wasn’t even ours!


Thanks to Mark Hirschfeld Lewis for the Picture!

Overall, it was a really fun day where we accomplished our goals. We don’t have another show planned until the fall, as my trainer is having a baby, but we have plenty to work on at home, so stay tuned!

05/22/16 Kent School Horse Trials – Recap

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

I apologize for the fact that it has taken me so long to write a recap of this one. The show itself was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and my feelings about it are following the same trend. First though, the logistics of the day!

3:00AM – Wake up

3:30AM – Leave House

5:00AM – Leave Barn

7:15AM – Arrive at Kent

9:00AM – Friend’s Dressage Ride Time (and the reason we were up before dawn)

11:20AM – My Dressage Ride Time

2:00PM – My SJ Time

2:30PM – My XC Time

3:00PM – Done showing, horses back on trailer

4:15PM – Ribbons released

6:30PM – Arrive back at Barn

7:30PM – Arrive Home

So in short, LONG DAY!

We actually braided for this show, and I was very impressed with how well May’s braids stayed in, especially considering how unamused she was by them.

 

After convincing her to get on the trailer in the dark, which she was convinced she would never fit in, we were on our way! The morning started out damn and cool, but the forecast promised better weather once we got to the show. For the next three hours, we just hung out. I got to watch my friend ride Dressage and some of the Training level riders jump their SJ. May got to eat lots of hay, which she appreciated.

Then, it was time to get ready for Dressage! May stood like a superstar, and I got to wear my new show coat and stock tie! (pre-tied, because ex-hunter-princesses don’t know how to tie a stock tie) I also actually busted out my Dressage saddle and a brand new white pad. Overall, we looked pretty legit.

Dres2.jpg

May was great wandering away from the trailer… but then our friend started screaming. May’s response was to scream back and prance up and down the hill by the stadium ring. My response? Sit like a ton of bricks. Fighting with her face was just going to get her more agitated and convince her that this whole thing was a bad idea. So I just sat there and made her go up hill when she wanted to jig.

The result? She stood quietly next to the stadium ring after about 10 minutes. I also got to meet Amelia Pitts from Dark Jewel Designs Browbands (check out her awesome stuff here). May is definitely getting one of these once I am less poor!

Dressage warmup was a bit tough, as there were probably ~20 horses at any given time also trying to warm up. The hill and slick grass were also a challenge, but May handled the atmosphere well. Our timing got pushed back a bit, so she stood longer than I had planned. Unfortunately, that meant we did lose a bit of focus.

I managed to get it back as we trotted over to the ring we would be showing in from the warmup ring… I then waiting 3 minutes for the girl in front of me to finish her salute. So there went that round of attention-getting. After she exited the arena, we did another quick warmup, and May felt really good and on my aids. She wasn’t looking at the busy warm up ring, or the judges cars, or the road right through the trees next to the ring.

Overall, the test was really good. Given the slick grass and slight hill, I couldn’t open up her step as much as I wanted to, so our scores suffered a bit. She slipped at the canter, which left her tense through the end of the test, which showed up in our walk. Overall, I was very happy, and we scored a 34, putting us in 2nd place! (For the record, I stopped trotting too soon at the end of the test, so walked a few steps to try and get as close as I could to x without looking obvious)
We then had about 3 hours before stadium. So May went back in the trailer, and we all ate and hung out for a while. My friend went before me in stadium and had a great, clear round! I, however, was starting to think too much. I started to feel pretty nauseous, but I tried to convince myself that it was the hotdog and heat and not the high jumps stuffed very close together in the stadium ring.
SJs

See, when I was younger, I had a very bad habit of “blacking out” during my jumping rounds. I didn’t pass out, but I would hold my breath and wouldn’t be able to remember anything about my courses after I rode them. I was starting to feel like that. Maybe it was the fatigue from the early morning wake up and sitting around for a long time or the pressure of being at our first recognized event around all these people I didn’t know on a horse that stands out quite a bit, but I was really too far into my own head. This is me too far in my own head, and my fiance being supportive. We are not nearly as judgy as we look in this picture…
Judgey

We got May ready (she looked fantastic with curly hair), and we headed down to the warmup ring. Also with 20 horses in it. It was chaos. They were running 25 – 30 minutes behind schedule, so there were horses there waiting for their rounds and horses that thought they were riding soon but were really really early.

We warmed up on the flat, and we jumped some jumps. She moved up to the jumps when I asked, and took the long spots when I asked, but she wasn’t really hunting the jumps like she usually does. She wasn’t taking me and letting me sit and regulate the rhythm. As a result, I was having to create the rhythm, keep the energy moving forward, hold her balance together, try to find distances, and avoid other horses. It was a good warmup, but she just didn’t feel like she was into it.

Then we had to go stand. At the in gate. Even writing this now, I feel that blackout kind of felling washing over me again. Not good. May got fidgety, but not in an excited way. I could tell she was feeding off of me a bit.

Finally, it was our turn to go in. First, the below is how it went:

The photographer got a full series of pictures at fence 3. They were not pretty, and the photos are public. Oh well.

We trotted into the arena in a bold, confident way. And then May saw all the people standing on the hill above us, and she didn’t take a look at the combination I had us trot through. She got tense and I, like a nervous genius, took my leg off. We got over the first to fences fine, and I started to feel like myself in the tack again. Then, we just missed to the third jump. Everyone was missing it all day, so I knew it would likely be an issue. May dropped behind my leg, and I jumped up her neck. It was ugly and unfair to my horse, and I felt her confidence drop. Of course, the next jump was a big square oxer off a short approach. I got nervous and chased her.

SJ1.jpg

She was a good girl and jumped it. We then came around to the combination, and she just sucked back. I tried to kick her through the line, but her balance had already fallen forward and we got 2 and an eighth strides (calling it a quarter or a half a stride would be too generous). By this point, May’s confidence was pretty shot (as was my own). My turn was bad to jump 6, and she decided she didn’t want to jump it. I don’t blame her, by this point, I didn’t really want to jump it either.


SJ7

We circled back, and I was determined to ride forward. And I did. By the last 3 jumps, May was back to being May. She jumped great down the long diagonal like, and did well around the last turn to the bright vertical. She even balance up enough to correct the cross canter landing off of jump 10. We trotted boldly out of the arena.

For those who are curious, we kept the right lead from 6 to 7 for two reasons: 1. Forward and rhythm were the most important things I needed at that moment, and breaking to the trot accomplished neither of these. 2. May has a habit of throwing her right shoulder through me as an evasion. It is much more difficult for her to do that in a counter canter. It got her off my right leg for the turn to the diagonal line and helped keep her from falling in before the last jump.

SJ8

I will be honest here. I felt pretty defeated walking out of stadium. Before showing up at Kent, I had felt like our stadium is where we had made the most progress in the last month. May was learning to balance herself differently, and I was figuring out how to help her with that balance. So to have it all come crashing down at fence 3 (pretty much literally) was very disappointing. I have a really good horse, and I got that distinct, crushing feeling that I was ruining her. I think all riders (and especially Adult Amateurs) have this feeling at one point or another and having it at a show was not conducive to success on XC.

I pulled off my coat while listening to my trainer tell me that the refusal was due to her loss of confidence after fences 3, 4, 5a, and 5b. As a true AA, all I heard was, “the stop was all your fault for riding so badly and you’re ruining your horse.”

We swapped out my nubblet spurs for larger ones (but still soft touch ones because the princess doesn’t like getting jabbed), and I traded in my jacket for my XC vest. My friend was back at the trailer after a good XC round on her horse. She said it was really fun and not too difficult. All I heard was “the course is really easy, and if you mess up, you’re going to be screwing up your horse even more.”

Here’s the thing: this course had a (very small) down back, an up bank, related distances, an unflagged water crossing and a half ditch. The water has not gone well for us this year, and we haven’t done ditches/banks since the one time we schooled them last year. This, along with our less than confident SJ round, was not making me feel like we were set up for success. The course was long, and I knew my corgi would tire out.

To put it bluntly, I was near tears. My trainer (at about 7 months pregnant) waddled up to me and asked if I was good. I shook my head and had trouble speaking. I told her about my concerns with the terrain questions and the length of the course. She told me that she can’t school me anymore. The only way to get the experience I need at this point is to go out and do it. She coached me on how to get May’s head in the game as they counted me down and off we went.

The first jump was a blue house off of a turn. My trainer got a shot of it with her camera, but I apologize for the poor quality.

XC1.jpg
Then we had a short gallop to a VERY steep hill. The hill had to be walked down, and May took her sweet time walking it. At the bottom of the hill was a few trot steps and the world’s smallest downbank. We cleared it without an issue then had a long canter stretch to the third jump. I realized that, with the time lost on the ditch, we kind of needed to boogie a bit. I let May pick up the pace, and just set her up a few strides before the third jump.

Redxc

The rest of the course went similarly. Set her up, jump the jump, make her go forward.

XCG

The fourth and fifth jumps were a related distance of a narrow(er) log to a stone wall. May was a bit impressed by the log:

Log

5

The sixth jump was a red roll top that we shared with Novice. We had no issues with it and made the turn toward the up bank at a trot. May locked onto the blue log behind it and took me over the ditch and the log. We were going at a really good click as we approached jump 9, a hanging log with some brush over it that was about 5 strides from a stone wall. We jumped 9 and she fell through my left leg. I steered back to 10 and we took it at a bit of an angle, but it was clear.

Jump 11 was a gray house before the woods.

HOuse XCThen a few strides to a hedge jump (something we’ve never done), then a few more strides to a log-type jump. (Jump descriptions at BN are super boring) She sucked back at 11, so I rode her super forward to 12, giving up a good distance for a closer one because I didn’t trust her not to fall behind me leg if I used my hand at all.

Hedge xc

Jump 13 came up ok, but my mind was already on jump 14: the ditch. There were no less than 4 people sitting along the ditch jump.

 

brushxc

I trotted around the corner to make sure we were straight, but I didn’t need to worry. May saw the groundline and locked right onto the jump. She even locked on to the raised log after it.

May did stop at the water, so I will have to devote some time to puddles in the near future. The last jump was a very plain, slightly raised log, that we barely even paused at. Overall, we came in 9 seconds under time with a clear round. I was so happy with her and so proud of myself for going through with it.

At the end of the day, my friend and I exchanged the world’s most awkward congratulatory hug, and May and I finished in 7th out of 10. Without the penalties in Stadium, we would have been 2nd, which would have been really cool.

As I reflected on the day with my fiance, I brought up how guilty I feel about the amount of time and money I spend on this sport when I get so upset about it, and I questioned why I do it. He reminded me of two things: 1. I love this sport. That includes my horse, the challenges, my friends, horse shows, late night rides, early rides, galloping, XC, and even Dressage. 2. My first lesson with May was a year ago, and she tried to run out of the arena with me.

So what does it all mean? It means that on Sunday we have our next BN horse trial (and the last for a while) at Burgundy Hollow! (And then I am spending Memorial Day in bed).

~ Special shout out to Matt, Sarah, Ashley and Cole for the pictures/video/support/psychotherapy/awkward hugs ~

Show Prep and Show Goals

I am one of those people that uses my show prep time as a time to get myself feeling prepared, motivated, and competent. May and I will be facing our first recognized horse trial this Sunday at Kent School in CT. To be honest, this really shouldn’t be a significant step up from our last event, as the omnibus is listed as such:

“All courses: Inviting, for horses with some experience at each levels or as a first event at a move up level.”

And I have heard from a variety of sources that this holds true. That being said, I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to between the last show and this one. Namely – I didn’t get to go XC schooling to tackle our water issues. However, there were a lot of things I did do.

We put some pretty serious work into our canter transitions and our bending, and I have to say they have made great improvements. We have also found a lot of balance when jumping that should help us approach stadium and XC in a more confident manner. It’s even becoming very consistent! I even have proof!

 

The goal of my lesson last night was to warm up over only the far outside line and then put a full course together without piecing it together. We were then going to go back and correct the tricky parts. The problem with that plan? Our first attempt ended up being strong enough that both my trainer and I thought those should be our last jumps before the show! So without further ado, show goals:

Dressage: Score in the low 30s. I know I know, I scored a 30.3 last time out and I said we were improving. I did and we are, but this is our first recognized event and I would rather put in a relaxed, consistent test than try to push and end up with a tense test. Without pushing May, we likely won’t score in the 20s.

Show Jumping: Jump a clear round. Notice what you didn’t see above? You didn’t see any poles come down or any super close distances. May has been jumping better and rounder than ever before, and I just don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t ride to go clear.

Cross Country: I want to go clear. It doesn’t need to be perfect or smooth or inside the time, but I would like to ride every jump for a clear.

Attitude: Stay positive! This has been the biggest influence on my riding recently. I have implemented visualizing my courses, and I keep running through them until my mind doesn’t picture any mishaps. I have more than enough time for this on Sunday.

One Year – Reflection

One year ago today, I drove with my trainer out to PA, and I traded my very handsome, 16.2, papered AQHA gelding for a 15.2, draft cross mare of undetermined breeding and pretty much unknown age. I wish I could say I never doubted myself for the decision, but I will admit, there was a lot of doubt in the first few weeks. Especially when I first put her in the stall, and this was the best picture I could get of her:

 

Our first ride looked a bit like this. My saddle didn’t really fit her, and she found my leg on her sides super offensive:

There are very few pictures from our first lessons together, as it was literally us attempting to steer in a circle. We did jump that first lesson, practically sideways through a gymnastic, but May showed off how honest and game she is!


We did go play around at a show in the area. May was a touch confused, and we got a lot of stares from the fancy warmblood people. I was over the moon though:

Our first time through a gymnastic, she bobbed and weaved. Our first show, we did a 2′ combined test. We scored somewhere in the high 40s (eventing scores) but had a very positive day. I ended up first… out of two.

Our first XC schooling was easy, but I was terrified. We barely jumped anything, and I apparently had an affinity for jumping up her neck.



We did a modified event for our next show… and I almost fell off in front of Marilyn Payne (see instagram below!). Our Dressage score barely improved.

https://instagram.com/p/6paAZAnsnr/

Then we started to hit our stride. We did a full horse trial at the Starter (2’3″) level and had an absolute blast. I am not sure where we finished, but I made it into the mid-30s with my Dressage score. The next show was less successful. Dressage and XC was great, but we seriously struggled in the Stadium. I am fairly certain we took down 4 rails… I continued to jump up her neck.

Over the winter, we put a lot of work into our Dressage, but we also did fun stuff – like bareback.

In February, we went to a clinic with Marilyn Payne. I actually did fall off that time… for the first time in nearly 4 years and gave my fiance the worst Valentines Day gift by scaring him like that. (I also learned to stop jumping up her neck). 
I got my big girl panties back, and started schooling BN sized XC fences:


(Just kidding… still jumping up her neck)

But didn’t get a whole lot of practice before our first full BN horse trial. We rocked it anyway:

It wasn’t a flawless year. I am sure a pro could’ve gotten her to BN a lot faster than I have and her basics would probably be more solid (instead of still a work in progress), but we have had a lot of fun getting here!