Back In Business!

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Apologies for the length between updates. All of a sudden I have a horrible case of strep throat and am pretty much incapacitated!

I’ve tried to ride a bit this week but it’s been miserable with the humidity and the inability to breathe properly!

Last week I took Oh So to his first show since his injury nearly two years ago. We started small by going to Warrenton for the CDCTA Evening Dressage series and did First 2 and 3.

I didn’t have a ton of chance to practice the tests, so I was pretty much just trying to remember them! He hadn’t been out in about a month since he knocked himself/did something in the field. Unfortunately, that injury took two solid weeks to get better, but he got a clean bill of health at his last appointment, so all we can surmise is he twisted an ankle. Also unfortunately, that meant I lost two entries, including our supposed first event back at Loudoun.

So, I had no expectations going into the show, other than to maybe get a 65% on both tests. His warmup was decent, but I think maybe I should have worked on flexing him a bit more to the inside than I’m comfortable with to help keep some tension at bay. I’ve also gotten into the habit of straightening my elbows and carrying my hands low as a result of Bear’s shorter neck and the judge ended up dinging me on that with a 6.5 for the rider score on both tests. Ouch! I was totally clueless I was doing it of course!

The first test was just a bit yucky. He tensed up and I felt a bit rusty riding him in the big ring. He thought it would be fun to run off with me down the long side in lengthened canter  and on the diagonals for changes of lead through canter.

The second test, shown above, was better as far as him listening to me. The simple change was still a bit rough and he was back to his old ways of trying to jig after the free walk going from left to right, so that was ugly. I didn’t go for it in the lengthened canters as much as I could have because I haven’t been schooling that at home and he wanted to run off and I was also a bit conservative in the lengthened trot. But the overall picture and connection was much more steady.

We ended up with a 64% on the first test and a 67% on the second test. Good enough for me! We’ve got a ways to go to be back where we were before his injury, but I feel like we’re on our way.

I’m just thrilled to have him back and I hope our next show will be a real event. I took him for a jump lesson on Sunday and it took a few fences, but we were back in a rhythm quickly and he was enjoying himself.

Bear has been going well too and we’re preparing for the unrecognized event at Loch Moy this weekend followed by Waredaca’s recognized event.

Ten days ago, I went to Jersey Fresh for a nice weekend of work. I love the event and would love to compete there some day in their horse trials.

Here’s a link to our coverage.

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Finally! The first event of the season at Loudoun Hunt

The weather cleared, the footing dried up and it all came together this weekend for my first event of the season with Bear.  Lisa and I have been working hard with Bear this winter teaching him to jump in a better shape, shorten and lengthen a bit and have a quality canter in between the fences and I think it paid off at Loudoun.

The event was fairly quiet, which helped my nerves a bit. We had a simple warm up for dressage and Bear was not fazed by any of the other horses whizzing by him. The test was steady and the only thing I would have changed were my upward and downward transitions. I tend to freak out a bit as I sit the trot to get into canter, worrying he might not be sharp off my leg, so the second canter transition was a bit hurried in my opinion.

1A PMB15-0206747The downward transitions are tough for me to teach him at home since I don’t have the best feel for them. As a result, I sometimes don’t ride them as forward as they should be and he tends to be a bit abrupt with the hind legs.

He was very steady and focused in the test to score a 29.7 for second place behind a Hanoverian that looked like he was ready to go third level!

Bear's loot.

Bear’s loot.

I let my nerves get the best of me a bit in the show jumping and the round wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped for. It’s a smaller ring than at Morningside, so I let him get a bit unbalanced in some of the turns instead of keeping his inside shoulder up. He cross cantered around one turn after a big effort and I screwed up the distance to the first jump, but overall, he was focused, careful and not looky.

He was raring to go in the start box and I set off with the goal of jumping clear since we hadn’t done that in our three previous events. He was focused on every fence and was willing to jump everything out of stride or even a bit long when I made those moves.

There were a couple of moments when he got his lead over a jump but then had to change on the flat to get to the next jump where he missed since he’s not really confirmed with his changes yet, so we did counter canter a couple, but we finished and he was very confident the whole way around. He even went right in the water.1C RWN15-0210809

I’m going to need to work on his gallop in between fences and downhill though because he was getting a bit low. I had to give him several upward pulls on the reins to remind him to stay up and we took our time down the hills in canter, but that’s all part of the learning process.

His stride is deceptively large so we made it home in plenty of time to keep second place. We also won the TIP Award for the beginner novice level, which included a ribbon, backpack and $75! I’ve always wanted to win one and I’ve come close with Oh So, so that was pretty cool. I’ve never won money before at an event.

That money helps make the sting of losing Oh So’s entry for Loudoun hurt a little less. It’s going on two weeks now and he’s still a bit off in trot so I’ve got an appointment on Wednesday to find out what’s going on. To say this is discouraging is an understatement. I’ve waited for nearly two years to get back to an event with him and we’re still not there yet. Fingers crossed it’s not something too serious.

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First show of the season!

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I was finally able to make it out to my first show of the season with Bear at Morningside last Saturday.

It was quite windy, but he settled right in when we got to the show. The warmup on the polo field was pretty sucky so we had to warm up on the track and in the tiny little warm up ring, which always bothers me, but he seemed just fine with it.

The person ahead of us scratched, so we were able to warm up near our ring on good footing. The test itself was pretty good for the first time out. He was a bit spooky near the judge’s stand because there was a tarp flapping on the side of the hut. He took exception to that during his right lead canter circle at C, but the judge was quite kind and gave us a 25.3, with a 9 on our final centerline!

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I think the biggest thing to think of in the tests with him is to push him into the corners and really “show off” of those circles since it’s such a simple test. Our free walk and the transition to medium walk then trot needs some work and his final halt was square but not quite round and soft, so we’ll be working on those things before Loudoun. In watching myself, I’m still too active and trying to “push him along”. My heel was drawn up a bit and I was tipped forward in some photos, so I’ll be working on keeping a longer leg and a taller, more upright body position.

We went out on the hill after and had a short cross-country school. I’ll be taking him for a jump lesson tomorrow since my plans with Oh So have now changed.

I had a lovely jump school in the ring at Morningside on Sunday morning with Lisa and we went out on the hill to do a slow canter, Oh So’s first of the year. The footing wasn’t the best at some fences, so we literally jumped two jumps, the coffin and a small log into the water.

He had Monday off and was fooling around in the mud on Tuesday according to my mom. When I went to ride, he was most definitely off and I had the vet scheduled to come for chiropractic work, but we ended up doing a lameness exam instead. Sigh.

We isolated it to the left front and blocked it. He got better after we had blocked the lower fetlock/suspensory area and then ultrasounded. Thankfully there was nothing obvious on the ultrasound so we determined he probably tweaked his leg in the field. He’ll have a few days off and I’ll watch him go and decide what to do.

Unfortunately, I had planned on doing a combined test at Morningside this weekend, which will now not happen. I’m keeping my entry to Loudoun for now since we’re 10 days out and I’m hopeful, but really discouraged about the whole situation. I wish I had a real answer as to what it was, but now it’s a wait and see. Will I ever get to go to an event again?

He feels about as good as he’s ever been and his hind end feels really good too, so now I just cross my fingers and wait. And never speak out loud about any competition plans ever again.

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A Whirlwind of Travel

The Fork.

The Fork.

Things are finally quieting down now that I’ve finished up my travel for the time being. I went down to Southern Pines two weeks ago to cover the Carolina International with a co-worker and had a great time. It’s one of my favorite venues and I really wished I had my horses with me since the courses looked so tempting!

USEF Network live streamed the event, which was really cool and I was happy with my photos.

Carolina International

Carolina International

Two weeks later, I went down to The Fork to cover it and had perfect weather again. I’ve really lucked out this year!

Before I went down to The Fork, I had a few really good lessons with both boys. Oh So had a good jump lesson and we went out on the hills of a local cross-country course and we did three five minute trot sets. The hills were pretty steep, but he came back the next day on the flat feeling great. That was a real test for him after a long winter of not being able to ride outside the ring much and after his hip injury last fall, so I’m feeling confident heading into our first show.

That’s right, I said show! My entry is in for a CT at Morningside next weekend and Loudoun Hunt Horse Trials the week after at novice. Don’t tell him though! I’m super excited to get out, but first we have to do a couple of cross-country schoolings.

I also had a great flat lesson before I left. We were working on collecting his canter and Nicky suggested I come down to a 10 meter circle in counter canter and do a flying change the other direction. I was not expecting to try something like that, but the timing was right in the moment and he had a nice, clean change. I’ve never attempted a change that way and it definitely benefitted him since he tries to anticipate.

Oh So's getting bored of jumping novice height.

Oh So’s getting bored of jumping novice height.

Bear went to his first cross country schooling of the year at Morven Park’s schooling day before I left for The Fork and he was a star. It was super windy and the parking lot was full to the brim with people and horses, so a little overwhelming, but it was good to get him out in public again.

Bear enjoyed his cross-country schooling at Morven Park.

Bear enjoyed his cross-country schooling at Morven Park.

He neighed once or twice while tacking up, but he was very settled. Once we got on, there was a lot to look at with horses popping up over the hills and leaves swirling, but he jumped everything I asked very easily. He even went in the water on the first try and up and down the banks.

Now I feel confident taking him to do the beginner novice at Loudoun in a couple weeks. I think all the work we’ve done over the winter to teach him about lengthening and shortening and working on his form has paid off and I’m excited to test it out.

We’re doing a CT at Morningside on Saturday and will go for another school on their cross-country course after.

Here’s a short video of Oh So having a jump school at home.

And last but not least, I became an aunt right before I left for Carolina! Meet Ava Berreth! I finally got to hold her when I got back from The Fork and she came for an Easter visit.

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Plugging Away

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The snow finally melted, but not before it made my life a hassle when I tried to get down to Florida for the Red Hills Horse Trials.

After driving through the snow to the Richmond airport, my flight was promptly canceled and I made the decision to drive to the Charlotte airport since there were no flights out of any area airports the next day.

Five hours later, I got a hotel, slept and was on a plane the next day to Tallahassee and at the show by lunchtime. Whew!

It was a lovely event marred only by the sad death of Kyle Carter’s horse, Conahy’s Courage. I don’t have anything else to add to the conversation that’s been swirling since it happened, except that it happened at a pretty simple fence and just seemed like a freak accident, not anything involving course design, speed or experience.

Here’s a link to my coverage.

Once I got back, it was full steam ahead with both boys. Oh So has been feeling really good from behind–back to his normal self since before his hip injury, so now I feel like we can press on and finally get to an event!

The footing is drying out so I’m planning on getting him out on some hills to really strengthen his hind end before we do anything. I’m looking at a combined test in April to get going and then maybe his first event late April or in May.

On the flat, he’s been getting more consistent about his work, meaning he doesn’t always get tense, which has sort of always been him. I’ve found I can ask for a lateral movement or a change in gait or pace and he’s tolerating it and I’m not “losing him” and spending the rest of the ride getting him quiet again.

For awhile, I thought he might never be the same after having so much time off, but he’s coming around. He is getting a bit strong in my hand as the ride goes on though, so I’m trying to make sure he listens to my half halts and that I don’t get tense in my arms trying to hold him. I think that’s the last piece that needs to be polished after his time off, so to speak.

Bear has been going well but I’ve had to modify our plans since we haven’t been able to school cross-country because of the weather. I’m hoping to take him to an unrecognized event in April if we can get a couple of schools in.

I had a conversation with Lisa last week about starting to treat him like an adult and not so much a baby anymore, which means he must move off my leg when I ask, he needs to start moving away from the jumps quicker and he needs to start learning to shorten and lengthen his canter stride. We worked on that in our lesson last week by asking him to shorten his stride across the short side of the indoor ring to a vertical with ground rails on either side, similar to what we did a few weeks ago.

I played around with it in my flat lesson the other day too, but he misinterpreted my aid to mean trot instead of shorten, so that’s something I’ll be working on in the next few weeks.

Here’s a video of both boys this last week. In the flat session with Bear, Nicky and I worked on leg yielding on a straight line in canter to get him to sit a bit from behind and not canter wide behind. He seemed to get it and now we’ll start working more on some counter canter loops.

Oh So’s lesson shows his warmup, which was nice and quiet. We worked on leg yielding to warm him up and keeping a little more inside flexion in trot and canter and the leg yields to make sure he stayed soft.

Product Review: No Slip Pads Put To The Test

Here’s a short feature I did for The Chronicle’s Untacked magazine on no-slip pads. I wrote about the Ogilvy, Success and Nunn Finer pads. I own an Ecogold pad as well and love it, but I think my new favorite is the Success pad.

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Doing A Whole Lotta Nothing

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As the title implies, the last week has been a total waste when it comes to riding. It started a week ago Sunday when we had an absolutely bitter day, with temperatures in the teens and wind chills below zero at night. I can’t remember the last time we had 60 mph wind gusts, and we had to barricade the barn doors because of how strong they were.

I actually had a very good lesson with Bear the day before where we worked on shortening his stride. I guess I’ve always thought that the concept of shortening the stride was a little too advanced for Baby Bear, but Lisa said it was time.

We’re not exactly working on it yet in canter on the flat (mostly just working on proper bend on the circle both directions, some short bursts of counter canter and some lengthening down the longside to get him moving forward), but when we set up a simple vertical on the short side of an indoor ring with a placing pole on both sides set a little short, as long as I kept my leg on around the turn and sat up a bit, he grasped the concept easily.

Oh So actually got a bath before the big snow storm!

Oh So actually got a bath before the big snow storm!

I was excited and inspired to continue with some homework later in the week, but that never happened because of the Polar Vortex 2015 edition!

The ring was quite dry and unfrozen last Sunday despite the temperature being in the low 20s and I could have ridden if I wanted to deal with the horrible wind. On Monday late afternoon, we got our first serious winter snow storm–about 5 inches that fell over night, luckily.

And ever since, it’s remained below freezing, save for this Sunday, so no riding! I’m bummed that we had to get pretty much all of our winter weather within the span of a week. We got another 3 or 4 inches of snow on Saturday, canceling any plans I may have had to trailer out to an indoor to see Lisa.

I walked Oh So up and down the driveway one day and actually took him to an indoor about 5 minutes away on Sunday, but the footing was not good, so I decided not to take Bear and ended up walking him around the outside of the ring where my dad had plowed and it had melted because it was 50 degrees (!!!). We went up and down the driveway a few times and that was that, unfortunately.

It’s not looking like we’ll get much melting until later in the week and I scratched the dressage show Bear was going to do last weekend and the derby cross for Oh So this weekend.

Will it ever end? :(

I’m more concerned about Oh So losing fitness since he’s ring fit, but is lacking with hill fitness. Bear will be the same when I get back on him as he was the last time I rode, which is a strange feeling for me!

My tentative plan, depending on how much we can get out to school cross-country, is to enter Bear in a combined test at Morningside in March and then Morven Park beginner novice, but only if he feels very confident and I don’t feel too rusty! We can always make it a CT if the footing is bad or we’re not totally ready. If he’s not sold by then, he could do CDCTA or a starter trial at Loch Moy in April.

Oh So is going to need to regain his fitness on the hills since he wasn’t quite there last year after he did something to his hip. We’re going to be very careful about when we start competing and probably won’t do a full event until late April, maybe Loudoun Hunt HT.

I’m a planner by nature, so it’s really hard for me to not have a schedule for Oh So, but roughly, we’ll do a couple of novices, mostly to get me back into jumping the bigger fences, and do training for most of the year and see how he goes. The vet was pretty confident about the strength of his tendon last year and as long as we’re careful about what kind of footing he goes on, I don’t see why he couldn’t do prelim again. I’m actually more concerned about his hind end now that he’s older and had that injury to his hip. I hope that was a one time thing, but I’m guessing he has some arthritic changes in his hocks too, so we’ll be continuing with hock injections once a year like we’ve been doing for a few years.

But this all hinges on the snow melting and actually getting out to school cross-country and see how he feels.

A circus world at WEF.

A circus world at WEF.

As for my trip to Florida a couple of weeks ago, I had a really awesome time, save for it being quite chilly, but I guess it doesn’t even compare to the -1 we had last week at night!

I covered the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI 3* and 5* and unfortunately the winners were the usual suspects and a bit boring to interview, but how can you complain about watching some of the best horses and riders in the world?

I went over to the WEF showgrounds on Saturday night and watched the Great Charity Challenge, a fun costume class run like a relay against the clock. I hadn’t been to WEF since 2004 when I won an award from the American Hanoverian Society, and it’s changed so much. It’s pretty much a circus world, like, literally there were fire throwers and circus food!

I had to miss a big jumper class the next day because of my flight, but it was fun to get a little glimpse into a world that I will probably never be able to participate in.

It was a wet weekend in Florida.

It was a wet weekend in Florida.