Looking back on 2015

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2015 was a sort of uneven year for me. While I got to travel to some amazing places for work and pleasure, I didn’t quite get back into the competing groove with my horses like I’d been hoping.

Oh So’s year started out positive, and I’d had hopes of getting back to training level. I’ve sort of given up hope of ever going prelim on him again because his body came back from his injury a little weaker than I’d expected. The right front leg has held up well, but then his left front developed an issue on his deep digital flexor tendon sheath, which is now a constant worry for me since we had it injected in July. Every time I get on him, I’m cognizant of how he’s walking, and when we pick up trot, I worry if what I’m feeling is a front lameness or just some stiffness from behind.

We did one novice event at Waredaca and a dressage schooling show before that started bothering him, then spent the rest of the summer and fall keeping him in work but not really aiming for any events. He’s had some cross-country schools and jumps schools and did a novice CT at Waredaca, and now we’re here–at a point where I’m not sure what to do with him for fear of breaking him.

It’s hard to make goals like the ones I’d set out for in 2015 because then he’d have a little niggling soundness thing, whether it was his hind end or the left front.

I want to compete, and I know he loves to go and do, but do I keep riding knowing someday could be the last straw, or do I keep things light and not event, which is what I’m really missing?

It was a huge shock to my system when he was first injured in August 2013–my life revolved around competing him and preparing for the next event. I got Bear as a project to fill the void, but then he had some foot soreness issues this summer too, so our season didn’t go as planned.

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I don’t like the fact that I’m getting used to not competing or having a “season”. My goal is to remain a competent training level rider (I’ll tackle prelim again someday), and with Oh So possibly not jumping at that level anymore, I’m afraid my skills will degrade. I guess I’m fearful of becoming a timid re-rider should I make it to that level again someday. The perfectionist is me gets very irritated when I make dumb mistakes over novice level fences on a horse that I’ve ridden to prelim. I guess I have to accept that I’m in a trough, a low point in my riding career, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to pull myself out of it.

I’m also coming to terms with the fact that Bear will likely be sold soon, then I’m left with a horse who may or may not be able to compete, let alone last much longer. Then what will I do? I can’t afford board on two horses. I’m a generally pessimistic person in real life (could you tell?), and trying to remain optimistic over the last year with Oh So has been really tiring.

But as my trainer Lisa keeps reminding me, we should be happy for every ride we have left with him, and truly I am. He doesn’t care whether he jumps beginner novice or prelim height, just that he’s jumping, so I hope we can keep that up. He’s really come into his own on the flat and is very solid now, so it’s fun to play with him. Lowering my expectations has been very hard, but it’s only fair to him.

I’ve had a couple of really good lessons recently with Heidi Berry, a trainer I’ve reconnected with since moving to Leesburg. She helped me with Oh So while we were going training level as we worked through his tension. It’s been a few years since she’s seen him, and she’s really impressed, which is awesome to hear from an S dressage judge.

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I told her my goal was to get solid with the 2nd level stuff, and if it comes to the point where he shouldn’t be jumping, competing at recognized dressage shows would be a fun goal. She even thinks we could try third level if we get his changes.

Last week we touched base with turns on the haunches, medium trots and canter/walk and walk/canter transitions. He was really collecting nicely on a smaller circle, and we asked him to halt a few times from canter to really make sure we didn’t get the odd trot step. I felt like the timing with my seat was better too. She said to think of a canter/walk transition as a feather floating to the ground, soft and quiet.

We also had a good jump lesson with Lisa where we worked on me sitting in a more three-point position. I’m hoping to take him up to Loch Moy to school their cross-country course that runs in their arenas. It would be perfect for him.

As for Bear, I’ve taken a few lessons with Heidi on him and it’s been a big change, but one that will be good in the long run. The first thing she said when she saw us trot around was “body awareness,” so we’ve been working on bending him to the inside more than I’m comfortable with, and working some steep leg yields and counter leg yields to get him to move his shoulders up and over. I’ve also been thinking leg yield every time we do a downwards transition. Combine that with riding him more forward, and it’s a lot to work on!

We made it out to Gordonsdale to school cross-country two weekends ago and while it was cold and windy, he had a good time and we jumped some bigger fences. We also worked on some down banks into water, which we hadn’t really tackled yet, and he was very brave.

So as I head into 2016, I’m happy for two sound horses (at the moment), and really excited to travel. I’m going to cover several events for COTH, including the Olympics in Rio, which will be amazing and probably pretty crazy!

First up though, I’m going on a quick vacation to Wellington, Fla. I won a trip via Practical Horseman magazine to a World Cup show jumping qualifier. I’m going with my friend and officemate Kimberly and we’re planning on watching the Eventing Showcase, doing something non-horsey, and not working!

Then I head back down to Wellington three days after I get back to cover the GDF CDI***** dressage show, and on to more events during the spring. Whew!

 

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