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.

Homework and basics–keeping things interesting in the winter

As Oh So has come back into jumping after his hip injury, Lisa and I have come up with some small exercises that still challenge him without stressing him too much or too soon.

A couple of weeks ago, she set up three small verticals that he could basically canter over at three strides apart on the short side of the ring we went to. She also had a jump on the short side, so we made a circle of three jumps at three strides, then about 5 or 6 strides, over the jump, then 5 or 6 strides back to the short side. It was meant to make jumping seem “blah” for him and to work on his canter stride and my position.

I’ve recreated that in my ring on a smaller scale these past few weeks. I’ve made them small cavaletti with one stride in between so I can just canter him over them (see first two clips in the video above where he is actually relaxed!). My plan is to make them small bounces on a smaller circle next time to really get his hind legs active and strong. I feel like I’m behind in his legging up because I don’t have much of a hill at home and it’s been so wet, so this is the best I can do for now.

This past weekend, I took him to an indoor, which is always challenging. Indoors make you tend to ride backwards and this time, we were actually jumping solid beginner novice/novice fences.

We trotted over a low, wide oxer, which was beneficial for me since I had to follow through with my hands and wait with my upper body. It also helped him stretch his topline and use his back.

It took me a few tries to get my feel back as we cantered over it, then we continued on to a tall cross-rail across the diagonal, three strides angled over an oxer that was part of a gymnastic on the centerline, then three more strides to a tall cross-rail at the end of the diagonal.

The first time, he actually waited and listened because it’s been awhile since we’ve jumped such an acute angle. The next time, the first two were good, then he tried to plow off over the last.

So, we had a very strong half halt the next time, and by the final try, he actually backed off and listened! He knows how to do this and just wants to jump bigger and get on with it, so I’ve accepted the fact that it will take several rides before we get our “whoa” button back. I certainly can’t fault him for wanting to jump again!

We finished by trotting into a bounce, one stride, one stride, bounce, which really made him sit up and listen. I tend to build things gradually at home for my own sake, but the more times you do things with him, the worse it can sometimes get, so it can be a good strategy to go right through.

On New Year’s Day I took Bear cross-country schooling since the footing seemed to be the best it’s probably going to be for awhile.

He was certainly happy to be out and it took him about 20 minutes to focus. I was worried since we didn’t have stud holes that he might slip, but he stayed quite balanced the whole time.

As you can see from the video, he was quite good. The brush jump tickled his foot I think, so he kicked out on landing, but the bounce bank was great considering he’d never done it before.

He was even happy to trudge through the water with ice on top, but we unfortunately couldn’t do much more than that at the water jump.

On Sunday I jumped him before taking Oh So to his lesson. I just cantered a few things, like the spooky Christmas tree, which he could care less about, and did a double bounce to a one-stride, which he just loped over.

I’ve got two new books with tons of cavaletti and grids in them, so I’ll set something up this weekend after the deep freeze comes and goes this week and write reviews.

2014 Recap – Some pretty high highs, but some pretty low lows

 

Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.

When I decided to write a year-end recap, I had initially decided to title it something like, “2014–the year that never was” or, “2014 Sucked”, but once I started looking back, I realized that while 2014 was full of lots of lows, it was also full of plenty of highs.

I was feeling pretty good heading into the year–I spent New Years covering a George Morris clinic in Florida–five days of beautiful, sunny weather and lots of learning–but as I prepared to board my flight to go home, I found out my English Pointer Ramsey had died suddenly. My parents tried to keep him comfortable so I could say goodbye, but he just couldn’t hold on.

It was devastating to lose a member of our family and I still think about him everyday. This is the first Christmas in awhile where he won’t be there.

Most of January and February were spent surviving one of the coldest and most miserable winters we’ve had in awhile, all while trying to start Oh So’s rehab under saddle and transitioning him to some turnout after being on stall rest. It was odd not preparing for Southern Pines in March, but I did have something to look forward to with Bear, who turned four in February.

He made quite a bit of progress over the winter and we were finally able to get out and cross-country school in March, where he proved that he had the aptitude for eventing. We did several combined tests and he surprised me with his willing attitude. It was such a difference to Oh So–no drama!

We did out first real event in early September at Loch Moy, and save for a little drama in dressage, had a good time.

Over the summer, Oh So returned to full work and we had a few cross-country schools under our belts before deciding to try for a novice and a couple of trainings in the fall season. I was feeling a bit out of practice over the bigger fences but towards the end of the summer, I really felt like I was back in sync with him.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Unfortunately, he did something to his right hip/SI joint around the same time and it took awhile to figure that out. I was so close to being able to compete with him that I could taste it! We’re now starting to jump again and I’m hoping to compete again in the spring.

As a result of Oh So’s injury, Bear got to start his recognized eventing career sooner than I’d thought. I was pretty nervous but he did very well at his first beginner novice at Seneca Valley, save for being eliminated at the water!

We had a longer gap than I wanted between that and Waredaca, which was full of drama and ended in me falling off, but we rebounded for Virginia the next weekend and completed (and went through the water!).

AEC Texas-style!

This is the first year of my life since I started eventing where I really haven’t had a “season”. At times I felt lost, both in my training because I didn’t have a goal to work towards, but also with what to do when my whole life has revolved around the eventing season.

But as a result, I got to travel quite a bit and learn through osmosis. Watching the best horses and riders in the U.S. as part of my job is a treat, whether it’s eventing, dressage or show jumping.

Riding Bear has taught me a lot more about riding than I imagined. He might be mentally quieter than Oh So, but I have to sit tighter from time to time since he is still four!

I’ve also learned to savor every ride. Before Oh So’s injury, I got worked up about this or that as we prepared for an event, but to be honest, I’m lucky he came back from his injury and that I can still ride him. I’m looking forward to that moment as the starter counts us down in the box in our first event back.

The view from San Gimignano

Outside of horses, I got a sister-in-law when my brother got married in May and I learned I’m becoming an aunt next year to a little girl!

I also traveled to Italy for 10 days. I love traveling and find I always come back a much more educated person. I’m not sure where I’ll go in 2015, but I’m thinking maybe Germany later in the year.

On a sad note, we had to put down one of our cats, Winnie, who we inherited with our farm back in 2002. He was quite old and developed cancer cells on his lungs, so it was time, but sad none the less.

Professionally, I took a step up at COTH this year and really felt like I found my place and became a part of the team. I traveled A LOT, which is my favorite part of the job.

I met interesting people, saw cool places and took lots of photos.

Here’s a recap with links to my coverage-

George Morris clinic
Nations Cup Wellington
Global Dressage Forum North America
Carolina International
The Fork
Jersey Fresh
WEG Prep Trial
National Young Horse Championships
Plantation Field
AECs
Fair Hill
Mary King Clinic
USEA Convention

I’ve got a lot of cool things lined up for next year, including a trip to the Pan American Games in Toronto and a big life change that I’ll post about when it happens.

I’m looking forward to next year and I’m glad to say goodbye to 2014. Here’s to hoping for Oh So’s return to competition, finding Bear a good home and a little bit of luck.

Winter Doldrums

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I haven’t written in about a month since things with Oh So and Bear are just trudging along as we go further into winter.

Oh So has been cantering for a couple of weeks now and feels pretty good so I’ve been working on trot poles and if it ever dries up a bit, I need to be getting out on the hills.

He’s had a bit of a cold/respiratory thing this week with some snot and a slight cough, so I’ve been keeping his work pretty easy.

Bear unfortunately had a heel bruise that’s taken some time, but I think he’s finally come sound this week. He hasn’t quite forgotten everything he knows, but he does feel a bit rusty! I’m hoping to maybe pop over a few jumps this weekend if my dressage trainer Nicky thinks he looks good. The lameness is so slight at this point, but I want to make doubly sure that he’s going well.

I do think the little forced break has helped him. He feels stronger and more forward, possibly because he’s been quite bored out in the field. I think he really enjoys having a job, so fingers crossed we can move forward. Of course I got a couple of calls on him over the last few weeks…

At work, I got to cover a day of the Mary King clinic at Morven Park which was really cool. She unfortunately did the same exact lesson for every group/level, but I did get a few new exercises to try.

I’ve been working on using four canter poles on a 20 meter circle with Oh So this week and I think it will be good for Bear too. It’s so basic, but can be so hard!.

I’ve been really yearning to jump. I can’t believe I have two horses out of commission at the same time. I’m ready for this year to be over!

I traveled back to Texas this past weekend to cover the USEA Convention in Fort Worth. I got to visit my former co-worker Megan, who lives nearby and she took me for a quick tour of the city, which was quite modern save for the Stockyards, which were the historical part of town.

It was pretty cool to see governance in action and I got to sit in on some private high performance meetings with chef d’equipe David O’Connor, which made me feel pretty cool!

I don’t have much else going on for now until Oh So and Bear start jumping and going off the property, so I’ll update again soon.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 lindsay.berreth@gmail.com.

Horse Trials and Tribulations

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted because I’ve been busy, busy, busy!

After Seneca, I gave Bear an easy week and a half, then went for a quick overnight trip to Plantation Field for the CIC divisions.

It wasn’t an official work trip, but I found the photos I took last year to be useful so I borrowed a lens and went to the press conference. Buck Davidson won the CIC** and was a gracious interview as always. He and Boyd Martin have been criticized recently because they took their WEG horses to Plantation three weeks after failing to complete in France, but they both gave honest and reasonable answers to my questions about why.

Buck knows his horse better than anyone and shares a special partnership with him, one I’ve seen and heard him talk about first hand on multiple occasions, so it was sad to see him ripped apart for it. He was able to finish the season on a good note on a happy and sound horse. Isn’t that something we all hope for after a bad go?

Check out a photo gallery from Plantation Field.

Plantation Field
Plantation Field

I left for Texas for the American Eventing Championships the Thursday after Plantation. Sadly, the day before I left, my family made the decision to put our cat Winnie to sleep. We’ve had him since we inherited him when we moved to our farm in 2002 and he was about 2.

He’s lived a long, healthy life, but over the last two months, he started coughing. We took him to the vet and she found cancer cells on his lungs on an X-ray. We treated him with antibiotics and he seemed a little better–moving and eating normally but coughing a little. A few days before I left for the AEC he had some blood coming out of his nose and was uncomfortable eating. We made the decision to take him to the vet, but I decided I didn’t want to go. I’ve never been in the room for that before and I just didn’t think I could handle it. My dad went and held his paw during his final breaths.

10687219_10101805294891517_7728162552678193557_nI’ve never had the opportunity to choose when one of my animals is put down because they’ve always either died tragically or gotten sick or injured very suddenly, so I was glad that we had the choice this time to end his suffering, but it’s still sad nonetheless.

He was a sweet kitty and I’ll miss watching him lay in the sun with our other cats or dip his paws in the water bowl to get them clean. I hope he’s hanging out in the sun with Ramsey somewhere.

I headed off to Texas with a heavy heart, but I enjoyed my trip. My friend Megan, who used to work at COTH, freelanced for us and helped me out. She lives in Ft Worth now and works for the APHA. We had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Thursday night and had three full days ahead of us.

It was hot, but not too sticky. I was sad to see a small group in the advanced division, especially when they get the bulk of the prize money. There’s been a lot of talk in recent weeks about what the AEC should be and if they should move around or stay in Texas.

I can only say that I was disappointed to have the Adult Team Challenge move there. I really enjoyed my first and only ATC in 2012 at the VA HTs and wish they would stay regional. It’s just not viable for most amateurs to go to Texas, especially when it’s that hot in September.

That being said, the ATC riders I spoke to were all really fun. As much as I enjoy speaking

AEC Texas-style!
AEC Texas-style!

to the professionals on a weekly basis, I like finding out other people’s stories and telling them.

Here’s a link to all of our coverage.

 I had an uneventful trip back from Tyler through Houston and came back to Oh So feeling not quite right from behind again.

Before I left for Texas, he had started back walking and trotting under saddle after his SI injection and felt much improved for the first four days, then felt off again. I gave him the weekend while I was gone, hoping for the rest to do him good, but it didn’t.

I had the vet out again and she said he looked improved from behind, but still weak. She thought maybe he needed another week of before we started riding again, so we worked out a plan of lunging for a week and walking under saddle. I’ll start trotting under saddle this week and see what happens.

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Morven Park

Needless to say, I’m really disappointed that we won’t even be able to get to one event this year. I’m just hoping he comes sound again and that this isn’t going to be a battle from here on out. His check ligament and suspensory look good and feel good, but the more I think about it, the more I think he did something in the field to make himself so ouchy from behind. I’m hoping slow work will help him recover.

I had a busy weekend taking Bear for a jump lesson and cross-country school with Lisa at Morningside. He hadn’t been off the property in three weeks and I thought the fact that it was 35 degrees and we were alone would bother him, but he stood quietly while I put studs in and tacked up. He was a bit up as we trotted around the ring, but settled nicely and I surprised myself by not feeling totally out of practice.

We popped over a ditch, went down a bank and went up and down the hills a few times before we went through the water to end on a good note. I slowed things down a bit by trotting to the water the first time and letting him stop, then calmly asking him to walk in and he was fine. Lisa said not to make him flustered by using my whip or kicking for now. I’m hoping to try that strategy at Waredaca in a few weeks so we don’t get eliminated!

I also went to Morven Park on Saturday to watch the advanced and the CIC***. There weren’t that many riders unfortunately, but there were more than last year, which had about 5 start cross-country.

I was really bummed about not being able to compete Oh So there. The prelim course looked nice, although I’m not happy that they keep holding the show jumping on the muddy grass in the fall. There were apparently a lot of problems over the weekend.

Check our photos from Morven Park.

I’ hoping to take Bear cross-country schooling again this weekend while Lisa is out of town, then I’m off to Fair Hill next weekend to cover it for COTH, then Waredaca and VA HT to close out the season. Fingers crossed for sound horses and dry weather!

Morningside at 7:30am.
Morningside at 7:30am.

Baby Bear Gets His Call Up At Seneca Valley Horse Trials

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Since I scratched Oh So from Seneca due to his SI pain, my coach Lisa suggested I enter Bear in the beginner novice in his place so I didn’t lose my money. I was a little hesitant because he just did his first three-phase the week before, but we’ve been jumping beginner novice height at home in the ring, so I nervously agreed.

I had planned on having another couple of cross-country schools over solid beginner novice height jumps, but since the opportunity presented itself, Lisa and I went into Seneca with the idea of schooling.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

We ended up parked right by the cross-country warm up, which I thought would be terrible, but Bear just hung out and watched people go by all day while eating out of his hay net, which was a nice surprise.

The dressage was a bit of a walk and he got a little nervous as we approached the warm up ring. I hadn’t competed at Seneca since they moved the dressage rings and I like where they are now, very isolated from the jumping. There were four rings, but there was enough space so it wasn’t too crazy. He was quite tight and up for the first 10 minutes or so and then he settled and decided to get behind my leg!

I moved him over to a more isolated spot as our time approached in an effort to diffuse any separation anxiety. He did one neigh and a hop, but then settled. The ground was so hard and this was his first time doing dressage on grass, so I think he was a little short in his stride throughout the test.

I stupidly didn’t look over my test one last time before dressage so I ended up with two errors, which I’ve never done in my life, in the simplest test known to man!

Besides my dumb errors, he was just a bit behind my leg. It didn’t look so bad on the video, but he did seem a bit uneven in the contact and his push from behind.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

We had four hours to wait until show jumping, and I actually kept myself quite calm!

The show jumping course, also on grass, looked pretty doable for us. The cross-country definitely looked a bit bigger though.

He did not like the hard ground in show jumping and felt a little four-beat and stiff around some of the turns, but he was jumping well. We’ll need to work more on bending through our turns in the coming weeks.

I asked for one long one, which he actually obliged, and a short one that he tapped but it stayed up, and the rest were pretty spot on. He was swapping leads a bit and swishing his tail (I think due to my spurs), so it wasn’t the smoothest round in between the jumps, but he was clearly seeking the fences.

Lisa took my spurs off for cross-country, we did a warmup roll top and it was off to the start box! I’ve definitely missed the countdown and the butterflies as the starter says “go!”

The first jump was a cabin and he met that nicely but got the wrong lead to number 2, which was a pretty big roll top with brush on top.

I think it caused some issues for others and he definitely hesitated on takeoff and in the air, but once we landed, he seemed to be happy to canter away to the next jump.

The next several jumps were good and I just worked on keeping my leg forward and my upper body back in case he did anything silly. I need to be conscious of my upper body because we weren’t getting the correct lead most of the time because he follows my weight.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

I flubbed a couple of them and got him too close, but I now have a better feel of when he gets long and strung out in his canter, so hopefully I can correct that next time.

We got over the first 11 fences well and then came the water…he stopped dead, which I expected he might, and after three step backs, we were eliminated.

The jump judge kindly let Lisa lead him in and then we trotted back in once more so we could end on a good note. There was only a ditch and two jumps left, so while I’m bummed we didn’t complete, it wasn’t totally unexpected. He still needs some time to get in the water and when they flag it at the beginning like that, you’re SOL if they take a few tries to get in.

So, on paper, it looks bad, but I think it turned out to be a great schooling opportunity. If I had to do it differently, I would have taken him in another water before, but there was no water on our elementary course at Loch Moy.

He showed me that he seems to be enjoying his job and he definitely has the scope and gallop to go higher, and I got to head out of the start box at a recognized event for the first time in over a year. What more could I ask for?

I’m hoping to do Waredaca and maybe VA Horse Trials in October after we get a bit more

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

cross-country schooling in.

Oh So is starting his work back a few days early today because he’s been a jerk in the barn and needs a job. I walked him and trotted a bit and he felt a little uneven, but I’m hoping that goes away as he works more.

Here’s the video of Bear at Seneca. I edited it to get rid of my mistakes in the dressage and my mom had a camera issue, so she only got one jump on cross-country 😦

Bear’s Eventing Debut! (and a setback for Oh So)

2014-09-07 11.06.57-2

It’s been over a year, but I finally got to head out of the start box, even if it was to jump 2’3″ fences!

Bear stood nicely for his first braid job (only 11 instead of the 16 or 17 that Oh So requires!) and my dad and I headed up to Loch Moy for their fall starter trials.

He was great to hang out while I walked my courses, even though the atmosphere was quite big–think 4 dressage rings, 2 show jumping rings, 2 cross-country courses going at once and a trade fair area.

He didn’t seem too overwhelmed when I went into the expansive warm up ring for dressage. He was a little distracted, which was to be expected, but for the most part he put his head down and went to work.

I trotted around the ring a few times and let him take a peak at the trade fair area at the C end of the ring and he didn’t seem to mind too much. We started off the test well, did our centerline, trot circle and change of rein on the diagonal, and as we came around to do our left trot circle, he must have heard a horse that sounded like someone he knew, because he neighed, bucked and then carried on as best he could.

Warming up over an intro fence. Nice knees! GRC Photo.
Warming up over an intro fence. Nice knees! GRC Photo.

I was definitely not expecting the buck! I tried to settle him for the canter work, and it wasn’t pretty, but we got it done. I should have kept him on the bit and round in the free walk, but I let the reins go for some reason and he caught wind of the horse again and kept screaming. The final centerline was a little rough and he wouldn’t stop neighing while the judge tried to talk to us (she did that for everyone). She was sympathetic to my cause and just said to make sure to ride every step when he acts like that.

The ride back to the trailer featured more screaming and a rear and spin, and it took awhile for him to stop screaming back at the trailer. But he was just neighing, not being fidgety, dancy or silly.

Oh well…he is four and he decided to choose his dressage test to act that way. I guess I’d rather it be there than during the jumping.

He neighed a bit during his jumping warmup, but once we actually started jumping, he was fine. He did one neigh as we went into the ring, but then settled in to his job. The jumps were so small that he kind of puked over a couple, but as Lisa said, it was all about going through the motions that day.

We were the last ones to go cross-country for our division and the starter let us pop over a couple warmup jumps by using the intro level ones, then we were off!

He really didn’t back off anything over our little 10 jump course. It was tough to get in a rhythm, since it was just a loop basically and I took my leg off and got him close to a couple of them, but he wasn’t going to stop or runout.C RWN14-0737508

We ended up with a 38 in dressage for 6th place. Yay! We survived and now it’s time to move on to beginner novice. He’s jumping bigger at home so now we need to take those skills to the real world.

Oh So has been doing well…until this week. I’ve learned that every time I mention a show these days, he comes up lame. We had planned on doing a schooling show at CDCTA this Thursday to run through a couple of dressage tests, then do Seneca novice on Sunday.

I had a great jumping lesson on Saturday with Lisa. We set the jumps up to solid training and maybe a bit bigger and I really felt that we were back in sync. It was fun! He had a day off Sunday, then Monday he just didn’t feel quite right from behind, so now I’ve scratched from both shows.

The vet came out on Thursday and did complete flexions with no real issues, but when she palpated his SI joint on the right side, he kept in the air and nearly kicked her teeth out!

She recommended an injection, so he went down to the clinic on Friday and got a little chiropractic adjustment too.

To say I’m discouraged is an understatement. We’ve been very careful bringing him back slowly, and while I’m relieved it’s not a front leg or the same tendon he injured, I was so close to being able to compete that I could taste it! We were ready, but now I wonder if maybe the increase in intensity of jumping and galloping (although just novice XC fences and training show jumps) was too much? Or maybe he did something in the field? Or it could be a combination of both.

Ever since he’s come back into work, we’ve been working on strengthening his hind end, but maybe he’s saying he needs more hill work, which is a pain to do, but I’ve always tried to make the time to do it. I’ve also felt that he’s starting to feel “old” since he’s come back. I know he’s 14, but before his injury last year, he’d hardly taken a lame step in his life and always acted like a 5 year old. Maybe the time off has accelerated his aging, or maybe he really does just need more time to get his hind end back.

Either way, the idea of a fall season, even just the three events I’d planned at novice and training, is looking unlikely. I’ve scratched Morven and now with a week off, then slowly coming back into work for the next two weeks after that, we’ll be lucky if we make it to one event.

Less Is More

Seneca prelim last year.
Seneca prelim last year.

I’ve been grappling with the idea of “less is more” as Oh So has come back into work after his injury.

As he’s gotten older, it’s definitely a realization that I’ve been coming to, but since his injury, I’ve had to be careful about how much jumping I do and where I do it.

It’s been a year since I’ve jumped even novice height, and over the last few months as I’ve bumped the jumps up to training height (and eventually prelim), I find myself wanting to jump a line or a single big fence more than I might have in the past so I can “catch up” or get my feel back and work on my position.

But because I want to save him for as many years to come, I have to be satisfied with fewer jumping efforts.

My perfectionist nature leaves me always wanting to jump through a gymnastic or line several times to fix things, but I’ve not always been able to do that because Oh So tends to build as we keep jumping the same thing over and over, resulting in pulling or just jumping in bad form. Jumping fewer fences leaves me feeling like I didn’t quite master something, but it’s often necessary so things don’t spiral out of control. Over the years, Lisa and I have tried jumping the same thing several times in a row to get him to “give it up”, but we learned that strategy just doesn’t work.

In a jumping session at home last week, I set up a few bigger exercises but had no one to help me. I usually like to build up a gymnastic line, but this time out, I trotted my warmup fence four times, then kept my canter going and did a bounce to a one stride over a big double X.

Going straight into a gymnastic exercise cold seems to get his attention, and even if I was worried about screwing it up, he jumped it very well the first time. I couldn’t help myself, so I did it a second time and it was fine–he was listening to me and the double X really made him use himself.

I kept my canter going and did a training-height wide oxer, which surprised him at first, so he didn’t use his head and neck as well as he could have. I came around again and it was better, kept my canter and did a one stride vertical to square oxer nicely.

I let him walk, then picked up my canter and had a beautiful jump over the single oxer and almost kept going to the one stride again, but ultimately decided to end on a good note before he got too wound up. What would be the point other than for me to practice? He knows how to jump a training level one stride.

Did I want to jump more? Absolutely! Did he want to jump more? Yes! But I exercised restraint on my part and trusted myself and him that we could get the job done in fewer fences.

I tend not to have a lot of self confidence, in my real life or my riding life, which is why I think I feel the need to “get it perfect” with more jumps. When I’m on a role during the competition season, I tend to do better. Trusting in both of our skills is difficult for me.

We had a similar experience two weeks ago during his first cross-country school back with Lisa. We jumped a bit in the arena, then went out to the course. She picked a few fences for us to do, we did them, and that was that. He was raring to go, I wanted to do more, but we just stopped. We know we can both do it.

With Bear, I’m more apt to repeat things so he understands and can practice. In our lesson last weekend, we did a few good size beginner novice fences in the ring, about once time each, then went out to school cross-country. We decided to try a few bigger fences and he was a little surprised at a bench/rolltop jump that was solid BN. He ran out, not badly, and I re-presented. He had a slightly awkward jump with his hind end, but did it, then we did it a third time nearly perfect.

Lisa was pleased with how he handled himself the second time. She said that shows a lot about his character that he was willing to try again.

This lesson did not start on time, but Bear learned a lot about patience!
This lesson did not start on time, but Bear learned a lot about patience!

I’ve had some good flat lessons with both boys recently. With Oh So, I’m working on keeping him a bit deeper than I might like in our warmup in hopes of keeping his neck soft throughout our ride.

With Bear, I’ve been working on halts, centerlines and general test riding in preparation for his official eventing debut this weekend at the Maryland Starter Trials. We’re doing baby novice/2’3″ for the first time out, especially considering how he reacted when we did some bigger fences on cross-country last weekend. He needs them small enough that he can trot them and not get into trouble since there will be so much more going on that he’ll probably be focused on!

He has really turned into a “real horse” this summer with solid muscling and a bit of a growth spurt. His canter is coming along nicely and his trot just keeps getting better. And all with no tension! It’s just a very different ride going from Oh So to him every day.

I took Oh So to the Loudoun Hunt HT schooling day on Monday with Lisa and we had our first serious schooling. He thought the novice jumps were silly, but I needed to do them to get my feel back a bit. I started out a bit tentative and looking for a spot, but by the end, I felt back in the groove with him and he put up with me thankfully!

His first event back will be novice at Seneca next weekend. I’m excited to be back out and I hope the footing holds up–I’d rather it be a bit firm. But first, we’ll do a couple of first level tests at CDCTA next week for practice.

Lamplight
Lamplight

I was in Chicago two weekends ago to cover the USEF Developing Horse Championships for COTH. It was super hot and humid, but the Lamplight Equestrian Center was very pretty and I saw a lot of very nice young horses. Check out my coverage here – http://www.chronofhorse.com/content/2014-developing-horse-championships