Things I’m Loving In June

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We had an absolute deluge all day on Friday, and as a result, Surefire was canceled! I am so bummed. It was going to be the easiest commute to an event ever, and I was excited to do a course I hadn’t done in awhile.

Of course today was dry and tomorrow should be too, but with the amount of rain we got and all three phases on grass, I guess I’m kind of glad they made the decision for me.

Oh well. On to the next. They’re hosting a schooling day on July 4, so I guess we’ll do that instead.

With all of the rain this spring and early summer, Oh So has been breaking out in hives, and I’ve been battling rain rot and crud on his legs and haunches.

I pulled out a product I’d tested for COTH before, Coat Defense powder. I kind of avoided using it before because it’s a bit messy compared to a spray.

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When I was getting Oh So ready for the PVDA show before his rain rot blew up, he was acting super weird when I groomed him. He flinched practically to the ground when I brushed over his back and hindquarters, but I couldn’t find any signs of rain rot. I could barely do his top few braids because he wouldn’t let me touch his poll area. Of course I feared the worst–did he get kicked or pull a muscle?

After doing some research I determined it might be a skin thing, maybe dew poisoning since he sleeps outside on the grass now whereas at the last barn he was living in hock-deep mud most of the time. It seemed his skin was just on fire and super sensitive.

I sprinkled the Coat Defense on and brushed it in, and I swear, the next day when I went to get him ready for the show again, he was back to normal. I think the peppermint oil, bentonite clay and other ingredients acted as a soothing agent.

I’ve since been using it a few times a week as a preventative, although I slacked off recently and he’s back to hives again since we just had more rain. So I slathered him again today after a medicated shampoo bath. We’ll see! Coat Defense has many other uses and comes in a paste form too.

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I’ve been really disappointed with Smartpak’s Piper Breeches lately. Every pair I’ve had wears holes through the full seat at the upper thigh, rendering them useless because they start to rub.

I actually contacted Smartpak about a pair I bought in November that I wear once or twice a week, and while they wouldn’t refund me, to their credit, they offered me 30% off any other kind of breeches.

I decided to give the Smartpak Hadleys a try because I liked the ocean blue color. They’re a bit pricier than the Pipers, but still a decent mid-range price. They definitely seem higher quality. The outer material is moisture wicking and stain and water resistant, and the fit is slightly higher rise so I can wear them without a belt. Yay!

The breeches have four-way stretch and a front zip.

My only complaint is that the back pockets are zippered and quite shallow and narrow, so I can’t fit my phone. The front ones are also super shallow and can’t hold my phone at all 😦

Time will tell if the full seat holds up better than the Pipers, but it seems to feel a bit sturdier so fingers crossed.

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Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials Recap

I spent Father’s Day like so many before, at Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials with my dad!

I had super early ride times and was done by 10:30, which I was grumbling about at 4 a.m. when I woke up, but I’m glad we got done before it got unbearably hot.

Bittersweet Field, where the event is held, had some damage due to cars and tons of rain this spring, and they ended up cancelling the prelim and intermediate. As a result, there were some rutty spots on course and the dressage warm up was half the size and not super great.

He’s been coming out quite relaxed at his competitions, bar the first one at Loudoun when it was cold and windy, so I’ve been doing about 20 minutes of warm up for the novice test.

I think I ended up doing less this time because of the footing, and as a result we were actually lacking a little impulsion in the test. We got a 27.4, and could have actually gotten better had my centerline been a bit straighter and my accuracy a bit better in my canter transition up. We did get a 6.5 for impulsion, but scored an 8 on gaits and 7.5 on submission and my position, so that was good, but lesson learned on the impulsion.

When he’s so relaxed like that, which he was not for 95% of his career, I get lulled into, “Oh, this is nice and calm,” and forget to “show him off” a bit.

Show jumping went pretty well save for two oxers where I got him a bit close, but he kept everything up. It’s a big, open grassy area with a slight hill, but at novice height it didn’t really change the way I rode each fence much.

Cross-country at Seneca is always open and gallopy and with not much terrain, so it was a good one for fitness for him with it being so humid and warm.

The second fence I had a little discussion and we weren’t in a totally perfect spot, then the third fence we started getting a bit close. I wasn’t seeing a good stride and the first few fences just didn’t feel as smooth and out of stride as they could have. It’s like the last five strides or so the energy gets transferred to my hand and my leg comes off.

It took me until about fence 6 where I said, “OK, now seriously, you can’t ride every fence like this,” and had a nice one out of stride. The next one was good, then the steeplechase fence was way long, then we set up nicely for a bending line.

The table before the water was nice, and the downhill rails towards the water was good. The jump out of water was a bit short, and the rest of the course we finished well to be about 20 seconds under time.

We ended up winning and winning the TIP Award for novice. Yay!

Now we’ve got Surefire this weekend, literally across the driveway from Oh So’s paddock, so as long as the footing isn’t too wet I’m hoping to be a little more supportive with my lower leg and a bit smoother on cross-country. It’s all about perfect practice these days since we don’t have any move up goals anymore.

I’m excited to be back at Surefire. I haven’t competed him there since he was going novice in 2009!

No show jumping video because my dad forgot to hit record!

A Love Letter To Bromont

Last weekend I covered the Mars Incorporated Bromont International for COTH, and I just had to gush about how wonderful it is!

I really missed going last year while I was laid up, but I’d been the couple of years before and fell in love with the area and the event so I was super excited to go back.

I’d done a day in Montreal before the start of the event last time I was there, and now I really wish I’d done it again, but with Oh So needing to stay in work with two upcoming events, I decided not to.

I fly into Burlington, Vermont, which is a pretty small airport right near the border with Canada. I guess it was fate, but former presidential candidate and senator Bernie Sanders was on my flight up and back between DCA and Vermont! It’s a small state!

I snapped this paparazzi photo in DC.

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As you drive out of Burlington and towards the border, the countryside really opens up. You can smell the cows and get little glances at Lake Champlain through the trees.

The border crossing into Canada is usually pretty quick, then it’s another hour or so over paved and unpaved roads through rural Quebec as the signs turn to French and the miles turn to kilometers.

I stay in a little town called Granby about 20 minutes from Bromont because there’s a nice hotel and civilization. One of my favorite restaurants is La Casa Du Spaghetti, but this year I ventured into downtown Granby and found decent Indian food. There are so many cute restaurants downtown and so little time!

Sadly I didn’t make it to Chez Ben, which apparently has world-famous poutine, which is a must in Quebec, because the line was literally out the door when I drove back through on Sunday night.

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Granby has several cute churches.

My routine is to get Tim Horton’s for breakfast because they have cool bagel flavors, and of course, the donuts!

It’s pretty hit or miss as to whether someone is going to speak English in this part of Quebec, so I rely on what I remember of my high school and college French to get by, plus a lot of hand gestures!

Driving on the road in front of the event site, which served as the equestrian venue for the 1976 Olympics, the scenery hits you immediately, and it’s stunning. Lush green, blue skies and gorgeous views with the iconic Bromont sign in the background.

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The weather was just divine, 70 degrees with a slight chill but bright sunshine. Perfect jacket weather, and it’s June!

The cross-country course is one of the most beautiful in the world, and the footing is usually quite good. The CCI*** is grueling with the terrain and challenging with the jumps, so it’s a true test.

Here’s a link to my coverage.

It’s the most relaxing event with just the four divisions going and an overall chill feel. You also get a giant bag of Mars candy, which definitely weighed down my suitcase!

I drove back to Vermont on Sunday night to catch a Monday flight. I had a few minutes in the morning to go downtown and take a walk along the waterfront, which is lovely. Maybe I’ll do a vacation day there next time.

I came back from Bromont actually feeling refreshed, mentally and physically, which usually doesn’t happen after being on assignment. Now it’s back to the brutal Virginia summer…sigh.

I’ll have a recap of Seneca Valley Horse Trials soon!

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Sweltering At Loch Moy Starter 3

I can’t remember a Memorial Day weekend where it wasn’t hideously hot in Virginia, and this year was no different. I competed at the third Loch Moy Starter Trial after missing the second one last month due to Oh So’s injury. As much as I missed being at Virginia Horse Trials, I was glad I made the choice I did, because we won!

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GRC Photo

It was basically gross and humid from the time I got to the barn at 7am until I got home that night at 7pm which really just exhausts me. I’ve never been a hot weather person, and this was the first weekend where we were eventing in the heat. We’d gotten a taste of it the week before at the PVDA show and didn’t like it then either!

We did a very short warmup, about 20 minutes, and maybe it was because he was hot, or maybe it was because we’d done the dressage show the weekend before, but he was quite relaxed, and we carried that right into the ring. Our troublesome free walk to medium walk was the best he’s ever done, and he got an 8 on the transition. Who is this horse?! His frame was a bit more open too, and we didn’t get any comments about him coming behind the vertical.

We ended up with a 24.3 to lead by 8 points.

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GRC Photo

I’d walked the course the day before, so I had a few hours to sit and fry. It got a bit cloudy for a second, but the sun was pretty much baking us all day even though it wasn’t crazy hot, just the humidity.

We had a very minimal show jump warm up because I was really feeling the humidity by then. I didn’t pick, he didn’t hit anything, so in we went, and we carried that feeling the whole way around the course.

I got a bit close to the second one and he tapped it, but it stayed up, and the second part of the first line was a bit close, but otherwise I was actually happy with my riding for once! He really rocks back and waits through the in and outs, so that was a good feeling.

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Over the out of the two-stride. GRC Photo
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GRC Photo

I was just barely hanging on as we went to cross-country. I kept telling myself that I just had to make it another 5 minutes! He was excited and pranced around the start box. The first three jumps were lovely, and the fourth was a small rolltop down a hill. I sat up, he came back, but I did not back him up with my leg, and he kind of scrambled over it. It was pretty embarrassing honestly!

When I get tired I get loose, and with the heat, I think he really needed me to be there with my leg more so than usual. He’s not going to stop, but he’s not the same youthful crazy that he used to be, as much as he’d like to be, so I’m not actually being run off with like I sometimes think I am! I actually need to, not kick, but nudge a bit sometimes to help him off the ground.

The next few fences were good until we got to a roll top with a hole in it right before the water. A lot of horses had stopped at it, and I really should have ridden with more leg, but instead I picked, and he trotted a few steps, then cantered over it. Not the most beautiful jump. Then we needed a bit more go through the water to get out over a log, and I was undecided as we hit the edge of the water, which was about a stride back from the log. He went long, and I was planning to wait with no leg to back up the short spot, so I got left behind and then got thrown up on his neck on landing. Good lord. I know better than that!

The last three fences I got my shit together, and he finished up well to take the win and the TIP award for novice.

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GRC Photo

So lesson learned. Dig deep and be more secure even if I’m dying in the heat, and make sure to cross-country school closer to an event. I hadn’t schooled anywhere since competing at Loudoun, and he certainly doesn’t need it, but I do.

I’m hoping to school this weekend somewhere where we can work on jumping stuff up and down hills. I’m off to Bromont next week for some cooler Canadian weather, then hopefully Seneca and Surefire.

Operation Bronze Medal: Partway There!

We’ve had crazy amounts of rain over the last week, and I was kind of glad I wasn’t entered at an event because there was no way we would have run.

But I didn’t really expect the brand new fancy all-weather rings at Morven Park to be unrideable on Saturday.

I’d entered the PVDA Spring Dressage Show, and had planned to do two first level tests on Saturday and two second level tests on Sunday to knock those scores out and start really working on the third level tests for my bronze medal.

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Picsofyou.com photo

By the time my first ride time came around on Saturday afternoon the rain had stopped, but the warm up footing was just horrendous–uneven, deep and sloppy. It’s similar to the footing at Morningside, sort of a wax-coated sand, and if it rains a lot the week before a Morningside CT, I don’t go.

The minute we stepped in the ring Oh So started tripping in walk. I tried a bit of trot and canter, and it wasn’t much better, so I tried trotting on the bluestone outside the rings. He was a bit tense and unhappy at that point, and with no warmup, even for a first level test, I wasn’t feeling good about it either.

I trotted around the outside of the competition ring when it was my time, and it was similar, so I told the judge I was scratching.

I was pretty upset about that. Just more money down the drain, but I have to keep his soundness in mind. Deep is not good for him. It’s just frustrating since the bluestone and rubber ring at the barn was fine, and the indoor at Morven was unavailable. Sometimes fancy footing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Luckily in dressage if you scratch, it doesn’t mean your whole show is over, so I came back the next day cautiously optimistic. It was quite hot and sunny, and the ring was 95% better, so we went for it.

I think he doesn’t love that kind of footing either way because he tripped a couple of times, but it was much more even, and there were no holes.

I think because it was so hot he was a little more willing to work with me, so I felt for both tests that he was fairly rideable and not tense, just anticipating a couple of things.

We’ve always had issues with him wanting to jig after a canter/walk transition, just anticipating the next upwards transition, but I thought his serpentine with simple changes across the centerline were decent. One was a bit abrupt down, but he didn’t anticipate. He did flip his head in the upwards transition at C after a medium walk in the corner, so that wasn’t helpful, but that was the only serious mistake.

The medium trots sitting are difficult for me, and I definitely bounced, so it wasn’t the prettiest picture. I need to continue to school those at home, and the judge commented that I need to flow more with him. Noted!

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Picsofyou.com photo

The second test felt about the same, but I thought the pattern was a bit more difficult. I wasn’t confident in my geometry, so I think my half turns on the haunches were a bit off in particular.

The judge wanted to see more angle in the haunches in as well. We scored a 63% on the first test and a 65% on the second test. We ended up winning the first class and getting second in the other!

Our scores were mostly 6s and 7s. We did get one 8 on our first centerline and one 5.5 on the rider score for my bouncing, which was sad, but not undeserved. I’m hoping we can turn a few of those 6s into 7s and maybe get a few more 8s next time, but now that we have those two second level scores we needed for the bronze, we’re going to leave that level behind for now until we can get through the third level stuff, especially the flying changes.

He’s been offering them when we school the second level counter canter, which is appreciated, but not needed, so hopefully we can cut down on his confusion now. I’m bummed that I have to try to find another show to get those first level scores out of the way though, but I feel a sense of accomplishment to have gotten our scores at a licensed show and won! I wasn’t expecting that.

All photos by Picsofyou.com.

 

 

Things I’m Loving In May

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Rambo Plus Fly Mask

Oh So has decided this year that he can’t simply be bothered to wear a fly mask, so I’ve been trying a couple of different brands hoping to find one that will stay on.

I thought for sure the Rambo Plus Fly Mask would be “the one,” but alas, he got it off too! Maybe it’s because he knows he looks so silly in it? Either way, I still like the mask, no matter how dorky it makes him look. You’d think the raised eye area would alleviate any irritation around his eyes and ensure he wouldn’t try to rub it off, but nope! But I still like that it doesn’t sit so close to his eyes. With other fly masks I’m concerned about trapping dirt so close to his eyes when he rolls in mud and it crusts on.

The mask has a detachable nose cover, which I took off when I bought it, but it’s a great idea for horses that tend to sunburn.

The mask runs a bit large, so he wears the cob size. Even then, the ears are a bit large, but it seems it was designed that way. It has two Velcro enclosures under the jaw, one that slips through a keeper and attaches back to itself, but that didn’t help keep it any more secure on him.

I honestly like the fly mask despite that. I think he’s having some help in the field from his friends, so I can’t place the blame on the fly mask!

EDITED TO ADD: After the first day of trying the mask it has stayed on ever since! I think I just needed to find the right tightness under his jaw.

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Grand Champion Fly Repellent and Show Ring Shine

I got a full size bottle of this with my latest A Horse Box, and I’m glad I did because I was really curious about it.

I like to keep a bottle of fly spray in the trailer, and this is perfect since I can use it as a touch up at shows.

I sprayed it on Oh So this weekend at a dressage show and was immediately blinded by the shine! Wow. It’s an aerosol spray, and the directions say to wipe or brush it into the coat.

It’s made with citronella and lanolin for a soft, shiny coat and pyrethins for fly control.

The spray has a pleasant citronella scent, and seemed to keep the flies at bay for a while.

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Joules Official Badminton Women’s T-Shirt

I picked up this shirt at Badminton, but you can get it online. What’s better than a stylish eventing T-shirt? I love stripes, and that’s Joules’ signature. They had it displayed with an olive green jacket, and I loved the way it was styled, so I’m going to try it with one I have that’s similar when the weather cools down again.

Badminton: Checking Off The Bucket List

I gave up a trip to Kentucky this year so I could check off a big bucket list item; going to the Badminton Horse Trials!

I’ve watched my VHS tapes and DVDs of the event from as far back as the mid-90s and never dreamed I’d ever go, but I decided this was the year.

A photographer friend who’d always wanted to go met me in London, and we started with a quick adventure in the city. It’s strange since I was just there in November, but I had a pretty good feel for how to get around.

Continue reading “Badminton: Checking Off The Bucket List”