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!

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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.

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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.

 

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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. 😉

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.

MayXC Jump2
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.

MayXC Jump3
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.

MayXC Jump7
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!

2019 Spring Bay Horse Trails – Dressage

I want to start the recap of this weekend’s event with so many “thank you”s. I am not sure who I can thank first or even the most.

Obviously, a massive shout out goes to my friend that really pushed me to sign up for this event. Over the last several months, she has gone from a girl I knew at the barn, to the girl I go to the gym with, to one of my biggest cheerleaders. She got 5,000 questions from me about pretty much everything, and she had to reassure me maybe another 5,000 times. However, I am so happy she pushed me to do this horse trial. Hereby, she shall be dubbed “Motivational Friend” hahaha.

I woke up poor Remus on Sunday morning 🙂

On that note, I need to thank the rest of the barn family. We had tons of people show up both days of the show to watch and help. We had people help out at the barn while we were gone. Our younger riders volunteered both days and were a massive help to the show. My teammates all stepped up to help one another and make sure our ponies were as comfortable as possible over a crazy weather weekend.

My trainer gets a HUGE shout out. Not only did she compete her own horse, but she was completely committed to each of us competing in the lower divisions. She took my warmups and prep just as seriously as everyone else, even though I was only doing starter. It was only my second time showing with her and the first show was a super soft schooling show. At this show, between the atmosphere and the weather, it was an incredible experience. It really is an amazing confidence boost to have a pro in your corner who knows you, knows your horse, and totally has faith.

Finally, I am so incredibly thankful for my amazing husband. I ended up recommending that he stay home on XC day due to the weather (more on that later), but as soon as I got home, he was combing through the pro pictures with me and watching my helmet cam footage. He was so proud of me and excited for me that he posted some of the pics (all purchased) on his facebook. If that doesn’t make your heart grow, I’m not sure what will.

ALRIGHT – ON TO THE COMPETITION

Both days were super long days since we had riders and horses in the first division of each day, and I was in the last division. Since Saturday and Sunday were held at different venues, we trailered out both days instead of stabling. However, that meant that May was on the trailer at 6AM on Saturday, and our first ride time was at nearly 2:30PM. May didn’t seem to mind. She drank really well all day and had plenty of grazing breaks throughout the day… and she took a few naps. All in all, a pretty good way to spend the day in May’s book.

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Bahaha… where am I going?

Since day parking at the KYHP is so far from the Dressage complex, we got on pretty early to walk over… and then got lost. Oops. Luckily, Best Husband Ever was there, and he helped navigate me in the right direction. I started warming up quickly, thinking I was running late. May felt AMAZING. We had floppy Dressage ears. Does anyone know what I am talking about? She was ON IT.

Then, there was a delay in our ring. so I let her walk on a long rein. Then, when we were one out, I picked her back up, did a few walk/trot transitions, as per my trainer’s recommendation. I threw in a quick canter transition, and we were ready to go in!

(Below are the movements, score, and a version of what the judge wrote. It’s not verbatim because… drawings. Any of my comments are in italics)

Movement Scores

  1. Entrance, Halt, Proceed at Working Trot: 7.0 – Obedient to Halt. Square. I am surprised this scored so well. There was a ring and warmup running behind the judge’s booth… As soon as we came down centerline, May REALLY wanted to watch those rings. 
  2. Track Right at C: 7.0 – Smooth Turn
  3. Circle Right 20M at B: 7.5 – Active Trot Steps. Well Shaped Circle
  4. Circle Right 20M at A, with Canter: 6.0 – Prompt Transition. Lack of Bend and Poor Circle Shape.  I got so excited about a decent up transition into the right lead canter, that I almost forgot to circle. 
  5. Transition in and out of Canter: 6.0 – Well planned up transition. Unbalanced down transition.
  6. Change Rein at working trot: 8.0 – Good quality trot shown
  7. Circle Left 20M at E: 7.0 – Becomes a bit rushed. Loses shape a bit. She actually thought about giving me a canter transition here… hence the loss of rhythm. 
  8. Circle Left 20M at A, with Canter: 7.0 – Better plan to start circle. Better quality canter.
  9. Transition in and out of Canter: 7.5 – Fairly good prep for transition.
  10. Medium Walk: 7.0 – Keep marching walk I was just super happy that she didn’t jig because she was getting VERY jiggy in warm-up. 
  11. Free Walk: 7.0 – Covers Ground in FW. Show more stretch down. Agreed. 
  12. Working Trot: 7.5 – Smooth and Forward
  13. Center line and Halt: 8.0 – Straight and Square.

Collective Marks:

Gaits: 7.0 – Some stiffness in Canter
Impulsion: 7.0 – No Comment
Submission: 7.0 – No Comment
Rider’s Position: 6.5 – Keep eyes up!
Rider’s Effectiveness: 7.0 – Effective Rider
Geometry and Accuracy: 7.5 – Well executed test

Overall Score: 29.3

How could I be anything other than thrilled with that? Scores at schooling shows tend to be pretty soft, so I wasn’t sure where we were going to end up. However, I was really pleasantly surprised to see that 29.3, and it put us in second going into SJ!

Worst Accident I’ve Witnessed

First of all, thank you for all the comments regarding yesterday’s post. Hope you all enjoyed some April Fool’s Day Fun. 🙂

In the nearly 25 years I have spent around horses and in barns, I have witnessed many people fall off. From green horses having green moments to finished horses having serious opinion issues to the stuff that falls under the category of “stuff happens.”

This weekend, I witnesses one of the scariest accidents I have seen in a long time, and it definitely fell under the “stuff happens” category. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I was riding in the indoor with 2 other riders. One was on her upper level Dressage horse and the other was riding her green, but lovely hony (not sure if he actually measures under 15h, but he’s adorable).

Down the center of the arena was a line of trot poles. The sides of each trot poles were raised in those ikea potty training things:

Image result for ikea potty training
These dudes

So the poles were barely off the ground. They weren’t painted poles, but they were a light brown against the super dark brown/almost black footing of our indoor.

As May and I came down the long side of the arena, preparing to run through our Dressage test for this weekend, I heard the poles clatter, and May pretty much exploded. Now, my first thought was “you’ve heard poles scatter before, May. You actually occasionally do that yourself.”

However, when she spun around, I heard the screaming and saw both horse and rider on the ground. The horse seemed stunned and was laying on the rider’s left leg and the rider yelled and shoved at the massive horse on her.

I kicked my feet out of my stirrups and scrambled out of the saddle. I could see from the white in May’s eyes that she was completely freaked by this. I pulled the reins over May’s head just as the horse regained her feet and got up. The other rider in the ring with us was also off and closer to the rider.

I pulled May over to the stunned horse and grabbed her reins before she could think about taking off. Our indoor is open at both ends, and I know how dangerous it can be for a scared and stunned horse to just take off. The rider was trying to get up, on her hands and knees, and I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely hurt or just really shocked.

I walked both her horse and May around the arena for a while, noting the initial stiffness in the mare’s left stifle. Luckily, it seemed to abate a bit as she moved. Once she had calmed down a bit, her rider was back on her feet. I rolled up the stirrups of the saddle (May’s ground manners really have come a long way), and offered to untack the mare for her.

Overall, she seemed sore, but not seriously injured. The other woman in the arena is a magnawave tech, so she offered to come over and treat both horse and rider and to check in on her. While the accident could have been so much worse, it is always a bit unnerving to see such a big accident from a well schooled pair doing a fairly simple exercise.

At this point, I have to ask, was it a full moon last week?! Pat your ponies people and always wear your helmets!

The Rest of the Jump Lesson

I kind of hesitated yesterday when I posted the “fail” part of the lesson first. To be honest, it was one of the best lessons May and I have had in a LONG time, and it would be pretty short sighted to define the whole lesson by 18 seconds. Either way though, I knew that the rest of the lesson needed its own post!

I showed up to the barn on Tuesday to find a freshly dragged ring and a new course. (No joke, I have never known a trainer who moves her courses around so often!)

The inspiration for the lesson was a grid that Lainey Ashker had shared on her instagram. In fact, my trainer said that she really thought of May with this one’s focus on a horse jumping over their back and really sitting before fences.

View this post on Instagram

Now that spring has arrived it’s time for another #GOTD! This easy to set up exercise works on sitting the horse down on his/her hind quarters simultaneously tightening up the front end! The ground poles keep the horse working over his/her back and the “Vees” encourage he/she to slow and sit over the GATE. The idea is for the rider to compliment this “sit” and hopefully be able to maintain this feel throughout the rest of the coursework! Enjoy the cameo from my longtime student @rheventing and her OTTB Dadarewethereyet. Hope you like this one friends! Feel free to comment below and share away! Will post a picture or grid in my albums as well👌🏽#mondaymotivation #læsquad #traintobegreat

A post shared by Lainey Ashker (@laineyea) on

Obviously… we didn’t jump it that big. We started with the two oxers practically on the ground, and we first worked from the longer approach into the grid. We nailed it a few times in each direction before trying it the other direction. The short approach off the left consistently caused issues, so we decided to keep working on that turn before each course.

The nice thing about the grid was it forced you to set your rhythm early and then maintain it throughout the course.

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The course came through the grid off the short approach, a sweeping left turn to a narrowish oxer, 6 or 7 strides bending line to another oxer, long approach to a vertical, finishing with a right turn around to a wide oxer.

Our first time around the course was just a bit choppy. Obviously, I missed coming into that grid (story of my life). She didn’t really respect the small, narrow oxer at 2, so just kind of rolled past my half halt. I was thinking seven through the bending line and it was fine, but maybe a touch tight. The vertical was fine. Then I made some weird line decision to the last oxer? Like got ahead of myself, came off the rail, didn’t see a distance, and just kind of puttered over it. None of it was TERRIBLE, but it wasn’t good.

NT raised up the narrow oxer to more like BN height (I think?), and we tried again.

To me, that shows big improvement! I was able to make adjustments to the oxer to oxer line, a better distance made the 6 really easy.

I landed off the oxer line and rode… really forward? Like what I am thinking in this picture?

Me: “XC here we come!” May: “uh… ok crazy lady”

So I had to whoa pretty good coming into the vertical, so May didn’t get her lead. She DID end up fixing it before the oxer, but the counter cantering pushed us off our rhythm juuuuuust enough to mess up the distance. However, I rode forward and she gave me the long spot. Yay!

At this point, the camera died, so no more media hahaha. Our last course was the gymnastic, right turn to the pink (set a bit bigger), right turn bending around to the yellow and black oxer, right turn to the purple and blue plank we hadn’t jumped yet and finishing over the oxer to oxer line.

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Shocker… I messed up the intro to the gymnastic. Then… I kind of got lost on my way to 2. I kind of rode to nothing again, but it was fine. When my pace, balance, and line are good, May can easily deal with a less than ideal distance. Amazing how that works, right? 😉

However, I rode forward after 2 and had a GREAT distance to 3. The loop to 4 was easy, so we turned before the gymnastic to get back to the oxer to oxer line. Seriously, as much as I get weird feelings about oxers, I LOVED that oxer to oxer line all day.

At this point, we decided to just try the gymnastic one more time, and I think I said I would try the right turn to number 2 again, since I messed that up last time. Welp, as you all know, I never made it to 2. By the end though, we had figured it out, but I don’t think anyone wanted to jinx it by trying to get it on video at that point! haha

All in all though, it was a really great lesson, and I feel good heading into Spring Bay in like 10 days!

Jump Lesson Recap!

So yesterday our weekly lesson was a jumping one. One I was REALLY excited about. May has been feeling great since she got her hocks injected, and I was looking forward to trying the upgrade over some fences. I even threw on May’s breastplate and neck strap because I started a new rule for myself: I cannot ask my trainer to lower fences. She sets them – I ride them.

Buuuuuuut I took a new fitness class on Monday night. My spin class instructor had recommended that my friend and I try the new piloxing class. “It’s a mix of pilates and kick boxing. You’ll love it!” In my head, this meant that it would be cycles of kickboxing to get your heart rate up, followed by sets of Pilates exercises. Right? NOPE. It was 45 minutes of NON STOP, HIGH IMPACT CARDIO… my least favorite thing in the world. We got 10 second breaks every few minutes, but the goal was to never let our heart rate come down? No clue, but half the class left mid-way through.

The result? I was damn near crippled before my lesson even started. This feeling of overall stiffness and lack of strength definitely didn’t help my confidence, but I promised myself that if I got nervous and felt myself riding backwards, I would just grab my neck strap.

The lesson started out simple enough. We just did a figure 8 over a vertical with maybe 15M circles crossing over the jump. At first, the jump was set at maybe 2’3″, but after a few reps, my trainer raised it to around BN height. It was actually significantly harder to ride at the smaller height. May just didn’t respect it and wanted to add the extra stride whenever possible. Then, the first time the height was raised, I overcompensated and pushed her really ACROSS the jump… and blew past our turn. Once we had it figured out, it ended up being the perfect exercise to get us in the right rhythm and balance for our course!

This lesson was really about building a course, so our first course ended up being the first half of our second course.

Course3201

The course was over the single natural, left turn before 4A to get to the oxer (2), right turn to 3, seven strides to 4A and 4B. 4 was a one stride combination. Before my round, NT noted that since the jumps were small, I would likely get 8 strides from 3 to four. However, I was not allowed to get 2 strides in the combination. Cool.

Well – I never got straight to one, so we added an extra step there. Two rode great. My turn to 3 was a little funky, but I kept her with me and she jumped across it nicely. I kept that forward rhythm, and we got down to 4A in seven easy strides. As a result, the combination rode really well. Yay!

We caught our breath as NT raised some jumps. Our second course started with the first course. After 4B, It was a squared off left turn to 5, bending to 6, a fairly tight turn to the oxer at 7, and then a SLIGHTLY bending line to finish over 8.

Course3202

How’d it go? Well check out the video below!

 

Jump 1 rode better this time, despite me almost running over the dog. 2 was easy, but she felt a bit behind my leg. I moved her forward around the corner to 3 and she jumped that great. Then I kind of definitely overrode the line to 4A. After 4 strides… I realized I was in danger of doing 6 and taking a flyer into the combination. A quickly half halt and we got in on a short stride, but not a total ship or flyer. Obviously, the one stride rode great after that.

NT warned me that everyone had been messing up the corner to 5, so I made sure to square it off and ride her shoulder through the turn… Then instead of bending to 6, I rode STRAIGHT to it, resulting in an awkward chip. Oops. My turn to 7 was great, and the five strides to 8 was easy peasy.

After, we were both out of breath. May had a busy weekend going to the combined test with her half leaser (they finished on their Dressage score!), and whatever was left in my muscles had left around jump 6. So, I decided to call it a day on that.

While my body is even MORE sore today (anyone ever been woken up at 3AM by their own soreness?), I can’t help but bask in a successful jump lesson. This post is long enough, so more fun updates coming later this week!