Checking In

2014-07-25 08.51.25

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated, but I’ve been sort of non-stop since I got back from Italy. I’m still working on a blog post about that (procrastinate much?), but for now, let’s talk about the horses!

I finally got my new Black Country jump saddle two weeks ago and I’m loving it so far. Miraculously, it works on both horses. For Bear, it goes straight on over the saddle pad and Oh So just needs a shim pad, like he does for every saddle, no matter how good the fit, due to a hollow behind his withers.

I’ve had a couple of cross-country schoolings in it with Bear and he seems to like it. He was very good in our school with Lisa a week and a half ago at Gordonsdale. It had been a month since he’d been out due to his bruise and he picked right up on it.

I took him again on Sunday to Morningside and even though he was alone, he was very good. We popped over a few jumps, a ditch and went into the water and over a log into water without any peeks.

I felt like I had a better feel for him up and down the hills too, which the saddle is definitely helping with.

I’ve been really busy over the last 2 weeks because my parents were out of town and I had to take care of everything at home.

I decided to take Oh So to Morningside on the 19th and do two first level tests, but that was a pretty bad idea! He’d had a couple of bad rides before and I’m not sure why I thought it would be better at a show?

He warmed up ok on the polo field, but once I got up to the ring and had to disrupt our rhythm to wait for our turn, I lost him. Add the fact that we were the last ride of the day and there were no horses left and it was pretty awful. The judge appeared in a rush, so I just scratched my last test and schooled in the ring a bit, but he was pretty wound up, so I didn’t really have him where I wanted him by the end.

I have him entered in an evening schooling show in a couple of weeks, so I’m hoping that will be a bit better.

My plan for the weekend is to take Bear to a jump lesson and take Oh So for a moderate cross-country schooling and hill work.

Here’s a video of Bear warming up over some jumps at Morningside on Sunday and Oh So schooling at home yesterday.

Last week I took Tuesday off to go to Warped Tour in Columbia, Md., at Merriweather Post Pavillion. It was my 11th year going and I felt really old, but I always have a good time!

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On Saturday and Sunday I covered the World Equestrian Games Prep Trials at Great Meadow. I drive by Great Meadow twice a day everyday and it’s been ages since I competed at the CDCTA Horse Trials there, so it was fun to see eventing return.

Memories came flooding back of my time there with Sam and the places were we got eliminated! Everything looked a little smaller though for sure, like the stone wall/coffin area and the main water jump.

I remember going to watch the old CCI** there and the 2002 WEG Selection Trials with David O’Connor on Custom Made and Amy Tryon on Poggio.There’s a lot of history there and I guess if I’ll never be able to ride there again, I’m glad that future team riders will be.

It was fun to see all the team riders together in one place and the atmosphere was electric with thousands of fans.

Here’s my coverage – Dressage, Show Jumping, Cross-Country.

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Two Steps Forward

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Things are quietly turning around for Bear since my last post. Once he got his shoe back on, he seemed fairly sound. I had Nicky come over on Saturday for a lesson with Oh So and she lunged Bear and walked him around under saddle.

She thought he was still unsound on the lunge, perhaps a little stifle-y due to a growth spurt in combination with a little leftover soreness from the bruise, and suggested I have a different vet look at him with a fresh set of eyes.

I could barely tell on the lunge and when I rode him today, I just couldn’t feel anything. I had my dad video us to show to Lisa today when I took Oh So to his first jump lesson since his injury.

She thought he looked fine, but still advised I get a second opinion before we start up jumping again, so I’m going to try to make an appointment for this week.

As for Oh So, we had a nice flat lesson, focusing on keeping his neck out at the base and starting to think more about test riding.

Today I took him for our first jump lesson since his injury. Lisa hasn’t seen him in person since last August, and she thought he looked good in his weight, but noticed he’s lacking a bit of strength from behind when he tripped a couple of times upon landing.

We didn’t jump more than 2’6″ since I’m still in my dressage saddle, but Lisa actually thought my position looked pretty good!

We just focused on keeping a steady pace and cantered over some hunter-type lines. I found myself riding him a bit like he was Bear, slow and steady, and he actually waited in most of the lines. He almost got me “making a move” a few times, but I tried just to stay relaxed.

I’ve found that riding Bear, who is very “hunter-like” over fences, makes me wait with my upper body and let the fences come to me. It will be interesting once he gets going again to see if I can continue to let that positively influence my rides on Oh So.

The plan now is to keep working on Oh So’s fitness by working on some hills and continuing to raise the fences. My new jumping saddle should be here this weekend, so that will be good to get back into a proper fitting one!

I’m taking it one day at a time with Bear, but I’m hoping we’re over this bruise and that we can continue on to the fall season. I’m excited to hopefully have two horses to compete.


Bear is sound! I took him to another vet who specializes in racehorses today and after a 10 minute lameness exam he determined he looked great, so we’re ready to go full steam ahead again.

Now to start picking out competitions…

A Quick Update Plus My Summer Staples

I’ve had a crappy last few weeks with Bear. After his hock swelled up and we missed our last event, he became nearly three-legged lame the Monday after. The vet came out, took X-rays and found nothing except a very sore foot, so we kept the shoe off, wrapped and soaked it.

He appeared sound by Friday, so I had the farrier put the shoe back on Saturday, but he went lame again, so we took it off the following Monday. The vet came back out and blocked his foot and determined it to be just a bad bruise. Since I was leaving for Italy for 10 days, we decided to keep him on limited turnout and keep the shoe off, which brings us to today. He seems sound again on a straight line, but not so much to the right on the lunge., The farrier came out today and put his shoe back on in hopes that he’s just off from not having the shoe on. What next? Ugh.

My trainer said maybe it was good timing for him to have some time off, just being a young  horse and because of some back pain caused by my saddle (which turned out to be irreparably broken :( )

I agree, but I also don’t like losing time with him. My plan isn’t to keep him forever and I want to be competing! It’s been nearly a year since my last event and I’m getting antsy! His saddle situation is also up in the air since I don’t have one now for him and can’t try any until he’s sound.

Either way, she’s confident that he’ll be fine when he comes back and that he won’t forget anything. I just have to keep telling myself that! I’m still thinking it’s just a bad bruise and that he’s just not a very stoic horse!

Oh So is doing well. My dressage trainer, Nicky, rode him while I was gone and I had a nice flat session this morning. I’m thinking of entering a dressage schooling show in the next few weeks and I’m going to take him to see my jump trainer, Lisa, this weekend for a little gymnastic session in my dressage saddle (the new one is coming soon). He’s ready to start jumping higher, but I don’t want to in that saddle!

My Summer Staples

As I stepped out of the airport and onto the curb on Monday, I was reminded that while I was sweating everyday during my vacation to Italy, at least it wasn’t so oppressively humid!

So, I decided to put together a list of some of my summer essentials in the barn.

I’ll write up a separate post about my vacation, but for now, here’s my list.

shoppingEnduraCool Towel

I sweat, a lot, so this refreshing towel is just the trick after I ride. You just get it wet, squeeze it out and snap it to “activate the cooling properties” and it’s instantly cool. It doesn’t really stay cool for hours as the company claims, but it sure beats a normal towel!


a207919143e4491c0af262_mAbsorbine Botanicals Natural Liniment

I was excited to see a new liniment on the market this season, and considering it’s from Absorbine, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. While their Veterinary Liniment is a bit too strong for both me and my horses, I do like their products and the new Botanicals line is much more mild. Absorbine calls both the Massage Foam and Body Rinse “aromatherapy”, and they both certainly have a pleasant minty smell that’s not overpowering.

The Massage Foam comes in a drip-free pump bottle, while the Body Rinse comes in a convenient squeeze bottle with measurement lines on the side. One squeeze is enough concentrate for an after-workout bath, and one bottle makes 24 gallons.

I’ve used the Body Rinse on Oh So several times and under his wraps with no adverse effects, probably because it contains natural herbs and aloe vera. Bear loves the Massage Foam, which you apply directly onto the coat and massage into the skin.

KerritsIceFilSShirtSeaglassKerrits Ice Fil Mesh Shirt

I’ve always liked Kerrits’ show shirts to use under my riding jacket at shows, so I decided to try their new Ice Fil t-shirt. Kerrits claims the Ice Fil fabric will lower your body temperature up to five degrees and will leave behind a cooling sensation.

I found that the fabric is definitely lightweight and thin, but it’s held up to many rides in the summer heat. It definitely does breath more than my Under Armour shirts, but since I sweat so much, it also soaks through quicker, thus cooling me with my own sweat I guess?

Either way, it dries fast and comes in lots of pretty colors (including white for use under a show coat)!

10183029Under Armour UA Tech Shirt

As any athlete knows, breathable fabric is essential, so I’ve stocked up on several Under Armour shirts for the summer. Smartpak carries these with their logo on the sleeve, but I found several more color options on


51SIuE1zt0L._SX300_Roma Ecole Double Diamond Saddle Pad

When it came time to go to Bear’s first show, I needed to find an affordable saddle pad, so I tried out Roma’s dressage pad. It’s softly quilted, long enough for my saddle and comes in a variety of color combinations (Oh So has black with red trim for schooling). It also dries fast, which is a plus in the summer!

Book Review: The Riding Horse Repair Manual


This review ran in the July 7 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. I’m a great admirer of Doug Payne and his ability to ride so many horses. Perhaps this book will come in handy as Bear progresses through his training!

Trafalgar Square Books, Box 257, Howe Hill Road, North Pomfret, VT 05053. 2014. 224 PAGES. HORSEANDRIDERBOOKS.COM. $29.95.

 While he’s best known as a top-level event rider, Doug Payne has ridden just about every kind of horse and ridden in several different disciplines—from upper level dressage to grand prix show jumping and from well-schooled packers to wild buckers and stubborn ponies.

So it’s no surprise that his debut book, The Riding Horse Repair Manual, covers solutions for nearly every kind of riding problem you could encounter.

Payne starts the book with an important reminder about bad behavior in horses—“Many times these behaviors have their root in poor riding and training. Nearly always, such problems can be fixed with correct riding and retraining so these horses can be ‘reclaimed,’ and enjoy their intended job.”

In the first few chapters, Payne covers how to start a green horse by suggesting groundwork exercises and explaining his methods for backing, longeing and how to get through the first few rides.

The remainder of the book is split into neat sections like “Contact Issues,” “Unruly Outbursts” and “Jumping Issues” to make it easy to reference a particular problem.

Payne explains the issue clearly, offers one or two reasons why it may be happening, then offers a couple of solutions with step-by-step instructions.

There are several tips scattered throughout each page, as well as photo sequences of disobediences in action (those must have been fun to capture!) and diagrams of jumping exercises.

The last section features several stories of horses Payne’s ridden, including his top mount, Crown Talisman, who overcame a fear of loud noises and tension to become a winning advanced horse.

Payne’s advice and solutions show an honest, thoughtful horseman who always looks for the good in any horse but doesn’t shy away from a serious “problem child.”

If you’ve ever come across an issue with a horse young or old, experienced or not, you’re sure to find an answer in The Riding Horse Repair Manual.

Throwback Thursday – Oh So’s First Event

I got Oh So in September of 2007, He’d been started over small fences after being off the track for a couple of months.

By April 2008, we were doing our first combined tests and derby-crosses and by the fall, we were ready for our first recognized event!

GRC Photo

GRC Photo

I was a little nervous because we’d had a hurricane during the week before the Seneca Valley Horse Trials in Maryland and in the end, the event scrambled to move the show jumping to higher ground. It ended up being on the inside of the steeplechase track on a slight slope- a challenge I wasn’t quite expecting.

Beginner novice always goes last, so I think my dressage time was about 2:30 and I’m sure it was hot, but I’m wearing my coat in the video, so maybe it wasn’t. I can’t remember!

I do know that I was nervous about doing my dressage there because the rings are right by the cross-country, but I got lucky in that they were changing over to the next level when I went, so it was fairly quiet.

GRC Photo

GRC Photo

He kept his head down and did a good test for where he was at, and considering the footing was a bit tacky.

Show jumping went well but we had one rail in the in and out. It was right as we cantered past the in gate, so Lisa said he just got distracted and dropped his hind end.

He rocked around cross-country and ended up in sixth place!

I actually didn’t have a lot of experience at beginner novice since I just did novice with my first event horse and training and prelim with Sam, so it was interesting to be stepping over such small jumps, but now I’m back there again with Bear!

Scratch That

The last week has not been a good one for me horse-speaking. Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to give you a sign? Maybe it’s just shit luck, but I ended up scratching Bear from the starter trial at Waredaca today due to a series of issues that cropped up this week.

It started last Sunday when he was being a bit spooky during our jumping warmup in the ring at a lesson. He jumped well but was spooking at external things- basically choosing that day to act like a 4-year-old. OK, fine.

We went out to school cross-country after warming up and he was especially silly, but focused when it came to the jumps. “A new side of Bear,” I thought.

We came around to jump a fence before the water and on the way to the turn, he spooked right and I went left, landing on the ground in the process. I think he was surprised, so he ran off and almost came when called, but decided to gallop back to the trailer, which was down a narrow gravel road probably half a mile away.

After trudging after him and getting some help from another of Lisa’s students who ponied him back towards us, I got back on and just worked a little on the hill. I was mad at myself for not having my leg enough in front of me, mad that Lisa was telling me the obvious and frustrated that my saddle has been slipping right on him and was clearly not working.

We finished the lesson with the decision that I needed a new saddle ASAP because we both thought my Albion was causing some kind of issue.

Fast forward to Wednesday when I had the saddle fitter come out to look at one I’d found at the Middleburg Tack Exchange and she took one look at my Albion and said, “Do not ride in this.” There had been a piece of metal popping out of the pommel area, but just barely. I’d hoped I could get it fixed while I’m gone for a couple of weeks in Italy, but apparently it was an important part of the head plate and was causing the tree to spread open and become wider every time we jumped or cantered. I never felt it, but I think he was and it added up–he’d been fidgety when tacking up and mounting and now seemed overly playful on cross-country up and down the hills. Sorry Bear!

I felt horrible. It also dawned on me quickly that we had no jump saddle for our eventing debut in a few days.

On Thursday I brought Bear out for my flat lesson and saw that his right hock was swollen and quite painful. It appeared he was kicked or knocked himself in some way because there was a light scrape.

Bear's hock on Thursday night.

Bear’s hock on Thursday night.

I went ahead and did a lesson with Oh So, who was quite good actually! But I was pretty discouraged at that point. We started him on Bute and Dex and I Furasone-wrapped it the next day. He never appeared very lame thankfully.

By yesterday, it had gone down significantly, but I decided to scratch because he could be bruised and I hadn’t ridden for a couple of days.

So, here I am today, totally bummed not only about losing $110 (hey, at least it’s not a recognized event I guess!) but also because there’s really not much in the way of quality starter horse trials until Loch Moy in September. I was looking forward to Bear’s eventing debut, even if it was 2’3/Elementary. I want to see what he’s made of! And I’m itching to get back out there myself considering it’s been almost a year since Oh So’s last event.

September feels like it’s so far away. I know there’s plenty of combined tests and dressage shows to do and maybe if he’s ready, we’ll come out recognized beginner novice in the fall, but it would be nice to have a low-key event first.

So the plan now is to find a saddle that fits first and foremost, then I’m hoping he’ll feel better by this coming weekend to do a jump lesson. Lisa wants me to do some of the recognized event schooling days like Maryland Horse Trials in July, but that requires taking a day off of work, so I’ll have to plan accordingly.

That's one happy horse!

That’s one happy horse!

So, with nothing to do today, I decided to take Oh So out for some hill work at Wingreen. This was his second time off property since his injury and he acted like he hadn’t missed a day! There were two large groups schooling, which I was worried might rile him up, and he was definitely strong, but not acting silly.

We must have looked pretty crazy in our cross-country boots, dressage saddle (now that I don’t have a jumping one!) and martingale (so I don’t get my nose broken), but we worked up and down the hills in trot and did a little canter before splashing through the water at the end.

So now I’ve got two weeks before I head off to Italy for vacation and I’m hoping I can regroup, find a saddle and figure out a schedule for summer combined tests!


Forgot About It Friday – Sam At The AECs (2006)

I thought I’d join in on the Throwback Thursday fun occasionally, so here’s my inaugural post. I forgot to post yesterday, so here it is on Forgot About It Friday!

I continue to get new followers to this blog every week and I really can’t believe there are people out there who care about my rambling thoughts, but thank you and welcome!

This Throwback Thursday post is for those who might not know a lot about my previous riding history. I keep meaning to do a comprehensive post, but that would involve digging up and scanning a lot of photos, so I just haven’t done it yet!

So for now, here’s a video of my one and only time competing at the USEA American Eventing Championships on my now retired horse, What The Heck, or Sam.

If you want to know Sam’s whole story, click on his name at the top of the blog.

2006 was probably the most successful season I’ve ever had on any horse, results-wise.

It was the first full year I’d been training with Lisa Reid, who is still my trainer today. She revamped my riding with Sam and had us drop back to training when we’d been doing prelim pretty unsuccessfully on our own. I thought at the time that once you did training, prelim was next, but I didn’t have a true event coach at the time.

We ended up winning three training level events, finishing fourth and second in the others, finishing second at the Waredaca Training Three-Day and winning our first prelim back at the end of the year at the VA Horse Trials, all with mostly clear rounds in show jumping, which was our nemesis.

We’d gone down to Southern Pines in March and finished fourth in a huge open training division, scoring in the 20s in dressage.

So when we went back to Southern Pines for the AECs, I was confident in our abilities.

I can’t remember exactly where we placed after dressage, top ten I think, but we had an awesome cross-country and moved into fourth.

I was confident going into show jumping but he dropped a rail, and I knew I could afford one to stay in the top 10, but I lost my focus and we dropped another to finish in 21st in the junior training.

I was devastated and pretty much cried the whole way home. We’d been doing so well and the one time we had a chance at prizes and prize money, I blew it.

We went on to finish second at the Waredaca Training Three-Day, losing the lead with a rail, but we won our prelim at Lexington to end the year on a good note.

I’ve learned a lot since then, mostly that it doesn’t really matter! Show jumping is still my nemesis, but in the last few years, as much as I love being competitive, I’m just happy to be out there competing. Yeah, I get down in the dumps when we have three rails, but the thrill of cross-country usually makes up for it!

Sam has been retired from eventing since his last competition in 2009 and we had several years of fun doing dressage at first and second level and jumping a bit at home before I ultimately retired him this year at age 21.