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

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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.

First XC Schooling at the Kentucky Horse Park

Alternative Title: Denial is a Powerful Force

After hacking around on Saturday morning, my plan on Sunday was to give May the day off while I got my closet organized. Seriously, my life is that exciting guys. Then, I got a text from my trainer:

“Hey, I’m contemplating running down to KHP to school after the show. Any interest in going with?”

Ermmmm Yes! I knew my trainer wanted to go to school her own horse, but I figured it would be a fun opportunity to hack around the XC course and pop over a few questions. My main goal was to get May’s feet into a couple of different water complexes.

I arrived at the barn just as one storm cloud decided to open up over us. No big deal. The weather at the horse park is usually way different than whatever we get in Louisville. It delayed us about 20 minutes getting out of the barn, but again, not a big deal.

As we drove through the rain, I double, triple, and quadruple checked the radar. Everything indicated that storms would kick up in Lexington around 5:30PM. We were planning to be on the XC course by 4PM, so that was PLENTY of time. We laughed about summer storms and were more concerned about how busy it all would be.

When we got to the horse park, we basically threw cash at the secretary and ran to tack up. I don’t think I have ever thrown equipment on my horse that quickly. While I had grabbed my ogilvy pad and my cambox… I left both of them in the trailer as clouds looked a little closer than they should be.

As I hopped on, I told NT that it’s always good to practice in less than ideal conditions. She agreed, and we were off! We saw several people trotting towards the XC fields, and a dozen more already out on course, jumping stuff. I even commented, “We can’t be that crazy if we’re not alone!”

We warmed up near the start gate for the event. I popped over a Starter/BN log a few times. As usual, May felt great and game. Fun!

MayXC Jump2

NT turned to me and asked me what I wanted to do. I waved her off and reminded her that we were there for her to school, so I would just jump whatever around her. We trotted out to one water complex with the Rolex Arena hanging around in the background (iconic). As we headed that way, I jumped basically every Starter jump I could find (most of the BN stuff was occupied by trainers and groups of horses). I even strung together some Starter jumps in more technical ways than they would be done for an actual starter trial.

By this point, the wind was picking up… and so was the rain… I think at one point I felt a piece of hail nail me in the back of the neck. But again, we weren’t alone. We even passed a kid on a very upset cute pony. May kind of flicked an ear at me, but honestly, she loves hanging out in the rain in her field at home, even though she has a covered shed.

We gamely trotted into the first water complex… and saw some lightning. Cool. A group of horses and people were hiding behind a couple of trees, so we traveled to the next copse of trees and figured we would wait out the wind and rain there. We were at least 10 minutes from our trailer anyway.

Part of me wishes we had taken pictures at this point… part of me is happy we didn’t. Despite being out of the worst of it, water streamed down our helmets and tack. However, both the horses just rested their back feet and chilled while the storm moved through. It took maybe 15 minutes for it all to blow through.

When we emerged from behind our tree… everyone else had left. I am not sure how many people can say they got a private XC school at the Kentucky Horse Park, but I can officially say that I am one of them!

MayXC Trot1We played around a bit more in the water complex we started at. I told NT that she just HAD to jump the ditch with a stream running through it. The jump was literally part of a creek that had been structured up to be a little jump. And… NT’s horse just could not figure out what the answer to the question was. We spend so much time teaching horses to step calmly into water… that when a question asks them to jump OVER water, sometimes it just doesn’t click.

May, however, really dislikes stepping in water. Even on trail rides, she greatly prefers to LEAP over small creeks and such, so I knew she would jump over it. So… after watching NT’s horse struggle to figure out the answer, I asked her if she wanted a lead. We figured it couldn’t hurt, so I headed to the side of the ditch she was one, picked up the trot, and faced May at this thing.

I grabbed my neck strap with my right hand and took the back seat… because no one wants to end up in the water… no matter how wet I already was. May trotted up to the ditch, stuck her face down at it, and then LAUNCHED herself over it. Jumped me out of my wet and slippery tack, and then politely loped away. Luckily, I stayed on (thanks neck strap), but I definitely jammed my thumb in its joint.

NT’s horse followed merrily behind us, and that seemed to completely help him figure out the answer. You could see him grow in confidence after that one question. Honestly, at this point, I can’t even remember if it was still raining… we were so damn soaked. I DO remember the way my breeches squelched against my saddle. Yum.

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We moved on to another water complex. It had a nice up bank to a semi-narrow option and a Prelim-level coffin pretty close together for NT, and it had some BN and Starter jumps for me. I cantered off and jumped the Starter stuff. Of note, probably best not to jump TOWARDS the trailers when your horse has been standing in the rain for the last hour… They might try to run towards it. 😉

After reining May back in, I watched NT jump the bank combination. I popped through the water and over the BN coup without an issue. Then NT gave me a little course. Through the water, over the N coup, left turn, BN coup back to the water. Coming out of the water, I lost May’s right shoulder, and she LAUNCHED over the N coup. Thanks Mare. It gave my knee a good torque in my… again… really wet tack. We still looped back to the BN coup and popped over that and through the water without an issue.

MayXC Jump7

Not surprisingly, NT had us do it again. This time, I nailed it, and it felt easy and fun, even in the muck. I was proud of May for cantering through the water, a skill she has just recently required.

NT jumped through the Prelim coffin a couple of times, and then asked if there was anything else I wanted to do. Nope! We tackled some water stuff, a lot of single jumps, and a few more technical questions. I was happy to get back to the trailer.

As we rode back… still in the rain… we saw no one else mounted. When we got back to the trailer, we snapped this picture, while trying to hold in our hysterical laughter. It was an… unconventional schooling… but it was a good one.

 

That’s my velvet helmet… which was so wet it looks Matte.

On the way home, I checked the radar one more time… I guess it was a little more serious than we had thought. 😉

Once home, the ponies got dinner and got to go out… in what was then a beautiful 75 degree evening with little humidity and even fewer bugs. Obviously, there was no way to get media in that weather, but I am 100% certain that it is a day that I will never forget.

 

Another Lesson – Another Fall?

A quick background for this lesson, my left ankle has always been a mess. I messed it up a long time ago, and it likes to act up. If you remember a couple of lessons ago, I made my trainer get on because my ankle was in ridiculous pain. WELL on Sunday, I got up off the couch… and found myself in SERIOUS pain. Like got back on the couch, took an anti-inflammatory and was still WRITHING in pain.

By Tuesday, the ankle seemed fine, but I had it wrapped and warned my trainer that I wasn’t sure how long it would last. Since my trainer is awesome, her response was “alright, then let’s make the most out of whatever time we can get.”

We started over a fairly simple grid. A cross rail, bounce to vertical, bounce to crossrail, three strides, crossrail, bounce to vertical, bounce to crossrail. The idea was to keep the momentum coming forward through the bounces to make the three strides work. There was a fairly tight turn to the grid, so again, keep the momentum through the turn. Got it? Good!

The first time through, May was kind of like WTF when we turned the corner.

As a result, she sucked back a bit. I kept my leg on, and we made it work. Coming through the other direction, she was better, and it worked out a bit easier. NT put the crossrails up, and we worked through it a couple more times. Our distances weren’t always perfect coming into it, but May was jumping great. Sooo we didn’t drill it. I also admitted that the grid was putting a lot of stress on my ankle, and it was starting to ache. UGH

So we moved onto a little baby course. Diagonal, around to an oxer on the quarter line, then a roll back to another diagonal vertical. Easy peasy. And it was. Soooo the verticals got pushed up a bit higher, and we moved onto a longer course.

The course was one of those courses where you never really ride on the rail… Lots of distances just kind of floating around in space hahaha. So you have to be pretty deliberate about your line, pace, and balance to make things work.

To the first jump… I just didn’t have enough pace and kind of just did nothing. Cool Em. The pace LOOKS ok and FELT ok, but looking at the video, May wasn’t actually covering enough ground. Alright then, I fixed it coming around the corner to the square oxer. With the better pace, I could get the more open distance, and it was fine.

Same May… Same…

NT had warned me that the four strides on the diagonal line were a true four, and then the one stride was about 2ft short. As a result, the goal was to jump STRAIGHT and ACROSS the oxer into the line, and then keep my shoulders back through the verticals at the end.

If I throw my shoulders forward, do the distances come up better?

This… could have been ridden a touch better. I didn’t get May’s shoulders square until the VERY LAST stride before the oxer. (not a great feeling) Then, I got kind of ACTIVE with  my whole body down the line. As a result, I almost got TOO much step through the line. However, I kept my shoulders back and let May figure out the one stride.

We rolled back to the vertical. It was a good ride, and May just tapped the top rail. I think it was the highest jump on course, so she just misjudged it a bit. Since the spot was just “there”, I leaned forward a touch early, encouraging her front end to be a bit slow. Oh well.

I rode forward off of that… towards the triple bar. Have we ever jumped a triple bar? Maybe? Several years ago? Oh well. I just remind myself that horse’s jump triple bars well, and I rode at it.

My jump was pretty good. It was just a TOUCH close, which is kind of what you want with a triple bar. I actually BENT the line (versus SLICING it… like I love to do) and the seven strides worked out great.

Overall? Really happy with it. It was a course with a lot of different questions being asked, and we stepped up and answered each one as a team. I only got one real “head toss”, because a sassy queen realized she almost made it all the way through the horse without one.

My ankle was KILLING me by this point, so we called it a day. So? Where’s the fall?

WELLLLLLLLLL, while I was untacking May, it was only me and NT in the barn. I didn’t bother cross-tying May, and she was just chilling while I untacked. Well, I put the saddle on a saddle rack, and turned back towards May… then tripped over the end of a rubber mat.

I went FLYING at my horse, and I managed to HEADBUTT her on the side of the ass. Literally, there is a bruise on my head from this today. Poor May was BEWILDERED by the whole thing and spun around to snort at me. I ended up going ALL THE WAY DOWN, bruising the knuckles on my right hand, and scraping my knee bad enough for it to bleed through my breeches.

FEELINGS!

Honestly, I am just super thankful for two things:

  1. May didn’t kick me. Seriously – she would have had every right, but she didn’t. She didn’t even leave the barn. Just was… very confused. Someone got all the cookies last night.
  2. My breeches didn’t rip. I was wearing my forest green Sarafina breeches, and they… look as if nothing happened. Hopefully, the blood comes out, but at least they’re a dark color. I can’t believe my knee looks like something chewed on it, but my breeches are barely even scuffed.

I guess I live to fight another day. Maybe next time, I should keep my helmet on a little longer. 😉

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.

4 Years with May & Updates

Four Years of May as Well

Last Friday marked 4 YEARS with Ms. May. This mare has redefined my relationship with horses. She helped me become an eventer. And, honestly, she owes me nothing. And Yet, she comes out almost every day and does better, just because I ask. It hasn’t always been fun and easy, but it has been so incredibly rewarding to be this mare’s partner.

If you’ve never considered yourself a mare person, May might just change your mind.

A couple of days later, I got a memory of what, at the time, we considered our fancy prancing haha. I had to compare it to our last show.

The last four years might not be filled with ribbons and trophies (although… this mare has never left an event WITHOUT a ribbon), but it is filled with a lot of laughter:

img_1331About a week after I first got May, she SAT DOWN on the crossties, snapping both of them. Not because she was scared. Not because she didn’t know how to tie. She sat down because she heard that dinner was being served, and she was NOT to be forgotten.

My barn in NJ used to offer two types of hay: a super rich, nutritional hay and a decent hay that was fed in bulk since there was no grass. At the last night check, my trainer was throwing the good hay, but not the great hay. May was nickering at her and making the “feed me” puppy dog eyes. Trainer threw her the good hay. May sniffed it and started nickering again. It was her way of saying, “Excuse me, but this is not what I ordered.”

When my sister came to visit last year, we arrived to the barn to find no people there, but May hanging out in another stall that she had deemed to be “better” than her actual stall. I think both of us ended up near tears with laughter

I guess I could go on and on, but I am just so thankful for all the joy this little mare has brought me. For a horse I bought on a drunken whim, with full intentions of likely flipping her in a few months for something “better” to the pony of a lifetime.

Updates

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster. For personal reasons, my part leaser has decided to end her lease after her show this weekend. I am sad about it, but I think we can all say that we have been where she is. She and May made a ton of progress together, and I am super thankful to have had her as part of the team for the last several months.

Tav Images Photography | www.tavimages.com
Tav Images Photography | http://www.tavimages.com

Then last week, my dog started acting a bit funny. In case any of you didn’t know, Hannah is truly the child in our family. She comes on family vacations, she gets special treatment… I mean, we basically bought a house with a great yard because I had promised her that when we lived in the apartment.

Over the weekend, she had started acting just… not herself. She had energy. She had her appetite. But something was just off. Then on Tuesday, she had an accident in the house, her second time in a week. The first one we had chalked up to stress after the groomers, but prior to that week, the dog had two accidents in the entire time I had known her.

By Wednesday morning, her belly was distinctly distended. Her energy and appetite were still fine, but we took her to the vet. As usual, every disaster scenario possible was flowing through my head. I am somewhat shocked that I had the wherewithal to get a urine sample and actually drive the dog to the vet.

They did a urine test, x-rays, bloodwork… and it was all pretty inconclusive. They referred us to a larger clinic for an abdominal ultrasound… which we couldn’t get until Thursday morning. My husband took that day off of work. The ultrasound came up clean, so we tested for cushings.

We had our diagnosis. Cushings. Did you know that cushings is more prevalent in dogs than horses? It’s just that most people attribute cushing symptoms in dogs to just getting older, so don’t get them tested as often. Go figure. It will probably take multiple, repeat tests and some playing around the dosage levels of the medication, but the vets were fairly confident that we could manage her symptoms.

So What Now?

Well… obviously, both of these events mean a pretty significant hit to the bank account. I debated half leasing May out again, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s fair to ask the mare to switch to another new rider in the middle of show season, especially with me planning on some pretty significant achievements. As a result, I am just excited to spend more time in the saddle again, but I think I have to rethink my show schedule. It would still be great to go Novice, but I am going to leave some rated shows on the sidelines for the next couple of months.

I am trying to sell my Dressage saddle. If I can sell it for a decent price, maybe I can swing getting a new jump saddle that fits both of us better. Then, I’ll sell off my Stubben jump saddle. However, this has fallen down near the bottom of the priority list for now.

As always, I will keep you all posted!

Grid Redemption – Jump Lesson Recap

I’m not sure if you all remember my last grid attempt, but I sure do. In case you forgot, it went something like this:

So when I saw a long grid set up in the middle of the arena (complete with guide poles), I found myself a bit hesitant. You have to turn away from the barn to it off the short side, so again, super important to control the shoulders while keeping the energy coming forward. Soooo similar to the last grid. Fun.

I warmed up quickly with a focus on getting May supple. Supple both going forward and coming back, as well as from side to side. We actually had a bit of an argument about that right shoulder on the flat. Cue some more nerves.

So I had a quick chat with my fear bird, and then turned on the helmet cam.

The grid started pretty small, so it ended up requiring a super quiet ride for me as May thought about just plowing through the whole thing.

We approached from one direction, then the other. Down the long side, I tried to just get out of the tack and let May coast along a bit (like she would through most of XC) and then sat and rebalanced before the turn. I do like taking opportunities to let horses carry their own balance as much as possible, and I like to think it’s a habit that has helped improve May’s balance over the last few years.

We only went through it once at this lower height since… well it just went really well. We popped the rails up a bit, and I went through it again. Same results, so we moved onto courses! Since the gymnastic is obviously a bit tough on the horses, the courses were fairly short with an emphasis on riding accurate lines on a forward step. You know… show jumping haha.

A for Effort from Ms. May!

For our first course, the gymnastic was first.( I made the ground poles light blue and the actual jumps dark blue). Right turn to an oxer set on a turn off the rail. You know, the type I LOVE to cut the corner to. Left turn to a 7 or 8 stride bending line from the swedish oxer to vertical.

April2019Course1

Tuesday was also the day of needing the second try for me. Both times, May landed from the grid on the left lead (probably because that is how we turned while warming up).

First time through this course, I pulled May around the corner to jump two, pulling her off the counter canter in the front. The jump was fiiiiiiiine, but we didn’t get the lead over the jump (because I was pulling right). Sooo the swedish came up super awkward, and I slipped my reins. As a result, I rode with super long reins to the pink vertical in 8 squirrelly strides.

So then we tried again. The second time through, I kept the left lead to the square oxer (yay), but just didn’t see anything coming to the swedish and didn’t insist on the forward and straight, so she chipped and fell right. (Leave it to us to jump the highest part of a swedish oxer) Falling right made the bending 7 strides to the vertical a bit long; however,  I rode forward and straight (hah), so it was fine. You can see that round in the first slide of the below insta:

The next course is in the second slide of that insta. No grid this time, so had to set our own rhythm right off the bat.

April2019Course2

First jump was the pink vertical bending to the swedish, which rode great. Then… she jumped a bit right and faded right after the swedish, so our turn was super awkward to the square oxer. Again though, forward and straight. The LONG (see below for how long) distance towards the rail ended up with May cross cantering after the fence

I had basically…. 12 strides of complete indecision. (future self, just let her get straight). She fixed it (with no help from me) when we got straight to the fence… but again, I saw nothing and kind of did nothing. The awkward distance to fence four meant the four bending strides to fence five came up SUPER quick… and I didn’t do anything to fix the distance. So it was also awkward. (Yay for consistency?)

I am proud of the fact that I didn’t just throw my body at her when things got weird. It helped her keep a bit of confidence and get over the fences without any rails coming down. I circled around (also in the video above) and did that line again. It rode great, so we finished on that!

Honestly, my nerves are starting to feel WAY MORE within my control at this point. I didn’t have that numb, panicky feeling before every course. However, I did make a note to let NT know when I was getting towards the end of my physical limit, since I think the accident a few weeks ago was partially due to my own fatigue.

Either way, we already feel ready for our move up to BN in the beginning of June, so I am excited to fine tune my issues before then.

“Real Eventing” & Imposter Syndrome

Apologies in advance for a rather rambly, stream of consciousness post.

Riding at the horse park for our competition was a bit surreal. Spring Bay is a bit of a unique horse trial in a lot of ways. Obviously, running XC at a different venue than SJ and Dressage is interesting, but it is more than that.

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As we walked from the trailers to Dressage or SJ at the horse park, you could see the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event coming together. Crews worked to build tents and platforms around Rolex Stadium. The grass on the XC field was being mowed and tended to. Even the barns not being used for our event were cleaned and prepped, ready for the 5* horses to show up.

It’s easy enough to go to a schooling show, especially in eventing, and feel like you belong. Most everyone is on either an OTTB or a QH or a mutt of some kind. (sorry May). It’s pretty rare to see the newest or the best tack/equipment etc on the school ponies poking around baby starter. If you go often enough, you get to know most of the riders/trainers/horses on sight.

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So I have gotten… pretty comfortable in that atmosphere.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I ventured to the Kentucky Horse Park, as it preps for KY3DE, my over-sized thelwell pony siting in the trailer, ready for Starter. I watched the Prelim riders perform their long and complicated Dressage tests (to me anyway). I walked the SJ course when it included 3 combinations, a triple bar, and was set to full prelim height. Thinking back on it, it was the first time I have ever been in a competition ring with jumps set to that height.

Then I picked up on the chatter, which horses were just out to do the CT to start off their season, and which horses were stepping down for a confidence building start. Confidence building?!

So the feelings started to creep in. This wasn’t really eventing. Who was I to call myself an eventer? Even a recent article on Eventing Nation seemed to acknowledged it:

I think we should respect the person that chooses to compete at Novice because that’s where they are happy and are enjoying the sport just as much as the person who is running around Kentucky.

Against the Move Up Mentality 

HAH! NOVICE?! Girl, those BN jumps look big right now. Did this person purposefully skip the very lowest levels of our sport? The levels that run multiple divisions in nearly every event and help pay for the judges, venues, secretaries etc etc etc? I like to think not…

I have told myself for years that getting to Novice would be really eventing, but the truth is, a couple of weeks ago, me and my horse went to compete three times in three different phases. And we were competent and competitive in each phase. To me, that is eventing.

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And you know what? I had FUN! By Sunday, I was eyeing the BN XC fences with excitement instead of anxiety. (May still thinks it would have been WAY MORE fun to “gallop” through the mud over the bigger fences.)

So I look my own doubts head on, and I remind them that being an eventer and a horseperson means showing off your horse to the best of your abilities in that moment. My choice to run Starter doesn’t need any explanation beyond the choice to set myself and my horse up for success. In fact, it needs FAR LESS explanation then anyone who pushes their horses up the level without proper fitness or training.

Moral of this story? Do right by your horse, and the eventing community will always support you.

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 Spring Bay Horse Trials – Show Jumping

While my background is completely hunter jumper (from ages 6 – 23), somehow, show jumping is the only phase that wants to give me pause. However, this time I was armed with some new rider psychology tips via the Brain Training for Riders. (Big thanks to Amanda for the recommendation)

I did have one advantage on Show Jump day though. We walked the course when it was set for Prelim. In case you are wondering, walking a course when it is set for Prelim makes Starter look REALLY small. Still though, it was a complicated course with 0 straight lines in it… I wish I was kidding.

However, I had a plan. I was going to ride May forward enough that I wanted to pull… and then not pull… Other than that, I was going to get her body straight and square to ever fence. I wasn’t going to worry about distances but concentrate on my pace, line, and balance.

Spring Bay Show Jump

I also got the whole thing on video! (Sorry for Youtube killing the quality.)

All photo credit goes to Vic’s Pics. They had an AMAZING deal at the show to get ALL your pics for $50 on a USB. And honestly, they got so many great pics, especially in SJ, that I put in my order before I even ran XC (and when I was questioning if XC was even going to happen). Oh and that cambox you see? I forgot to turn it on for SJ. >.<

Jump 1 was the best jump 1 I think I have ever ridden in my life, and May jumped it so well. (It’s the top pic of this post). Then, we bent around to get a great jump at 2…. and again to jump 3. It felt AWESOME. Usually, my first three jumps on course are me getting into a rhythm and don’t flow great. This time, I HAD the rhythm, balance, and line, and they jumped GREAT.

So here I am. So super excited about how things are going. I made a great turn to Jump 4… I got her square… and she suddenly decided to RUN at it. It’s really hard to see in the video, but she wanted to get flat on me. I halt halted, but it threw us off enough to tap 4 pretty hard (I am shocked it didn’t come down). That also meant that we didn’t land as balanced as we needed to in order to get a good turn to 5. I didn’t put my leg on as soon as I should have, and the distance came up ugly. She jumped that one awkwardly but kept it up.

The turn to 6 was seriously what jumping dreams are made of, and she jumped it out of stride. Then an easy bending line to 7. Despite our cross cantering, the rhythm and line were good, so she popped over it easily. Then… we made kind of an awkward turn to 8, so she jumped it kind of funky. Oh well, it was still easy for her.

Jump 9 just came up out of stride, and we made a sweeping turn to jump 10. I had to put my leg on for the big spot, and she jumped it great.

Obviously, I was super happy to have a double clear round. I think that it, honestly, would have rode BETTER if the jumps had been a little bigger. May was super unconcerned with distances to the point where it actually made things more difficult. She was also very unconcerned with what any of the jumps looked like. There was no peaking or over jumping. Just happily cantering around.

However, I am VERY VERY happy that I managed to execute my plan. I am also happy that, in the pics, when the distances got ugly, I kept my shoulder back and my body over her center of gravity… instead of throwing my whole body up her neck.

As a result, we maintained our 29.3 score and 2nd place standing going into cross country on Sunday!