Catching Up On A Busy Fall

It’s been awhile since I’ve written because I’ve been quite busy the last several weekends. I went to Fair Hill to cover it for COTH and was a bit disappointed to have some camera equipment issues, but Jennie Brannigan was a gracious winner and made for a good story.

I also got my first COTH cover after nearly three years of working here! It just takes the right timing and being in the right place to get that “cover shot” and I’m glad I dragged myself up to Morven Park to take photos.


Oh So got his SI injected about 3 weeks ago but was not getting much better, so I finally took him to get his hip injected after the vet flexed his hip joint and determined that that was where the initial injury probably was. I’m just frustrated to have spent the money on the SI, although when he palpated it, there was no pain, so at least that helped.

I feel like he’s come back so well from the initial suspensory/check ligament injury and to have this happen just when we were getting going is just a little cruel! Back to more flatwork for awhile, but the vet is confident that the hip injection will help, so fingers crossed.

I had hoped to take Bear to another event between Seneca and Waredaca, but it didn’t work out with my schedule and Lisa’s schedule, so I went into Waredaca feeling like Bear shouldn’t have had so much time in between.

Here’s us schooling the weekend before Fair Hill.

It was super windy and chilly at Waredaca and we got there early to let him hang for a bit. He seemed happy to watch the world go by, but when I got on for dressage warm up, he was clearly up. Within the first 20 minutes of warming up on the grass, he stepped out of his shoe, so I had to get off and get it tacked back on, leaving me with about 15 minutes left of warmup.

He was as steady as I could have asked for by then, but the test was just not very polished, so we ended up with a 38.0.

Show jumping was quite spooky for him because the ring is a bit raised up above the property. When we got in, there were horses in paddocks, the trade fair and the warm up to see outside the ring, so I needed to get him a bit more focused than he was. Every jump had some kind of filler and that’s where I wished we’d been able to go somewhere else and school after Seneca since the places we usually have lessons at have pretty plain jumps.


He popped over the first jump and I lost my position a bit, then we turned to the second jump off an awkward line and he started to take off, but then put his feet down and knocked the jump down. I think I rode the line badly and didn’t press him off the ground when he was maybe a bit insecure, so we represented and he pinged way up in the air and landed all four feet at once! We headed to fence 3, which also had a filler in it, and he was cross cantering and stopped again, I think because he was flustered and I didn’t ride him hard enough to it.

We re-presented and finished the course much better. I’m disappointed that I didn’t give him the ride he needed when I should have expected he might back off, but I’m glad he was willing to keep trying for me–that just shows how much of an amateur horse he’s turning out to be!

I knew I’d need to be proactive on cross-country and he was definitely backed off some of the jumps because he’s just never seen anything like them. We don’t get a chance to school the courses because the schooling days are always during the week, so we’ve had to make due with the few schooling courses we have access too.

Here are some of the highlights from Waredaca.

I knew he might have a second look at the down bank, which was fence 6 on course, so I brought him back to a trot, but he still stopped, so I re-presented and he popped off just fine. The next few jumps were good and then we got to a log that was in complete shade and surrounded by a fence on one side and tall pine trees on the other. I rode to the bottom of it and he stopped.

We got over it the second time, then did a nice roll top before the water jump and came back to a trot for the water. He looked, but he kept going in! I was sure we’d be eliminated, so I didn’t stick to my plan to get to the jump that was one stride out of the water and up a steep incline–another question he’s never seen.

Lisa and I said if he went right in the water in trot, that I would circle back out of the water onto the grass and approach that jump from the grass on a slight angle. I’m not sure why I thought trotting with no impulsion up and out of the water to a question he’s never seen was a good idea, but I did it anyways, he stopped and I came off over his shoulder…dumb!

It also turned out he’d lost the other shoe somewhere on course. Have you ever had an event where just about everything that can go wrong does? I never had until Waredaca!

The Virginia Horse Trials as an overnight wouldn’t have been my first choice for his third recognized event ever, but it’s one of my favorites and the last one of the year and I knew the course would be inviting for him.


I was slightly nervous about our bad outing at Waredaca but I was glad to be able to get right back out there and hopefully correct it.

We drove down on Friday and I got on him as soon as we’d unpacked. He was a bit wide-eyed as I rode to the top of the hill to school, but we went for a walk around the grounds after and he was as well-behaved as I could have asked.

We put his hay net outside his stall when we were there and he enjoyed eating and people/horse watching. Our dressage wasn’t until 4pm on Saturday so I schooled him a bit in our warm up ring in the morning. He was impressed again, but I’m glad we worked a bit so he could get used to seeing horses below him and having a view of the whole facility from on top of the hill.

webVF4C3140I did about 30 minutes of warmup for the actual test and then we had to walk halfway down the hill to a ring by itself. I was worried he might be distracted with horses above and below him, but since the riders before and after us were still there, he kept his focus and put in a pretty good test for a 32, his best score yet. We got an 8 on our first centerline and 6s and 7s for the rest. Now we just need to turn those 6s into 7s.

I’ve discovered that I need to start seriously schooling in the enclosed 20 x 40 ring because he seems to shut down a bit and fall through the corners, so that will be on my list of things to work on until he’s sold. I have one set up in the ring at home, but I usually end up in the 20 x 60 area.

We were up bright and early on Sunday to jump the biggest beginner novice show jumping course I’ve ever seen! It was shared with the championships, so it was beefy, mostly oxers and a few of them square.

When I get nervous, my lower leg gets a bit loose, so my position was a bit lacking and our flow wasn’t very smooth, but we got the job done and jumped clear, moving up from 8th after dressage to 4th. Lisa keeps reminding me that he is 4 still. He’s mostly changing his leads if I get them wrong and I trotted once, but I would say the last four jumps were the best, a vertical to a two-stride to a square oxer to finish.

We then had to wait five hours for cross-country when I think we would have gone a lot webVF4P3589better if we’d gone straight over from show jumping.

He got to the cross-country warm up and was quite impressed and up. We walked over the the start box and my first mistake was not getting a running start on a horse that can get behind my leg.

We had an ugly spot to the first jump and I ended up on his neck. Embarrassing! I thought it was all over before it even started, but we righted ourselves and headed to the second, a simple cabin. I should have really gotten after him so he didn’t second guess that jump after a crappy first one, and he ran out.

I think I was riding him down to it with not enough leg and gumption to back it up, so it was definitely my fault and very frustrating.

I came around again and used my stick a bit and we popped over it. I had to ride the rest of the course a lot stronger than I expected, but I think it was mostly because I took away a bit of his confidence after that bad first jump. He’s never seen hills quite like those at Virginia, so going down them was challenging, but he never said no, just more like, ‘Are you sure? OK.’

We trotted into the water and trotted out over a small jump, then the last three fences were the best out of stride.

webVF4P3602Even with the stop we finished a more than a minute fast. I haven’t really thought much about time on him, but since we were able to cross through the finish flags this time, it was cool to see how easy he made the time. His stride is quite big.

We ended up last, but that’s ok. He’s done a lot of growing up this fall and even if I didn’t have the best results each time, he learned something new every time out and came out a better horse for it. I think he actually started figuring out what the start box was at Virginia because he was jigging a bit as we circled it, and that’s a pretty cool feeling. He definitely enjoys his job, he just hasn’t done it enough and I need to rise to the occasion and let him know how much fun eventing can be. I also need to ride every fence and not take any of them for granted because he is a baby and might have a look. I need to get better about pressing him off the ground or having my leg there in case he does back off. Riding a baby is hard! Oh So just never said no when I was bringing him along and Bear is definitely a different ride, but in a good way because it’s making me be a better, more proactive rider.

I wish we could do another event this fall but that’s about it for Area II. Now we’ll buckle down and work on some gymnastics and his form over fences as we keep advertising him for sale.

If you’re interested, we’re asking $15,000. Give me a call at (540) 903-6483 or email

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