Fancy Prancing

Oh So and I have spent the last month working on our Third Level tests at three dressage shows. We started off at By Chance Farm in July. It was pretty hot, but we got up before dawn to get there and ride before 9am! At least we were done early.

We rode Third 1 and 2. Last year we only ended up getting to one dressage show, and we scored in the low 60s in both tests, so I was hoping to see some improvement this year.

Heidi and I know he’ll never have a clean right to left change at this point, so we accept it will be a 3 or 4, but there’s so many other things he does well.

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At By Chance Farm. InFocus By Bruce photo

I struggle to sit his medium/extended trots, so those are always a weak point, but I was surprised how well we scored on our canter half passes and our good change. We got 8s!

He has a pretty good rein back, but he kind of resisted in the test, so that ended up with a 6. He got a 7 on his gaits, but 6.5s on the other collectives. His poll can get low in trot, so the judge commented on that. It’s not that I’m forcing him down that way, it’s just that he naturally wants to leave his head there, so I constantly have to remind myself to lift him up.

The second test we got a few more 8s, including on our entry and our shoulder-in right and renvers right. We ended up with a 63.81 on test 2 and a 64.45 on test 1! Our highest scores yet. We won one class and were second in the other.

The next weekend we went to Loch Moy and ended up with a 63.78 on test 1 and a 64.07 on test 2. So, consistent! Heidi was able to be there to warm us up, which was nice.

We turned a few 5s into 6s and 6s into 7s, and got another 8 on our left to right change from one judge. Similar comments though–keep him more up and more engaged. I got a 7 on my position and one judge commented that I had good hands. We ended up second in both of our amateur classes and won the TIP award for our level!

Yesterday we did our last show of the summer at Beverly Equestrian. I rode in the indoor for both tests, and he did feel slightly tighter for the first test. We weren’t able to trot around the outside, so we started in the ring. I saw our reflection in the mirror and thought he looked more up in his frame.

We ended up with a 62.36 on test 2 and rode test 3 for the first time and got a 60.87. I was disappointed with the marks because he felt pretty much the same as the last two shows. Unfortunately I didn’t have a video to compare. Maybe the first test felt slightly less polished in the transitions. The judge dinged us for the extended/medium gaits and the transitions. Fair enough when he doesn’t have huge extended gaits to start with. It makes it harder to show a clear transition. She saw some irregular steps in the trot half pass right, which Heidi had actually noticed too during our lesson this week. Not sure what that’s about.

She said his haunches were leading in the canter half passes and while I felt the rein back was smoother in test 3, she said he wasn’t square behind. In test 2, she wanted more flexion and bend in the renvers and more bend but less angle in the shoulder-ins.

We were first and fifth in our classes and won the TIP award for our level. One rider walked by before our test and asked who Oh So’s sire was! That was quite the compliment.

So, not the improvement I’d hoped to see after three shows, but I know what we need to work on. More power in the extended/medium gaits, show more change in the transitions between gaits, and watch the hindquarters and bend/angle on lateral work.

My goal had been to reach 65 percent, and we got close! I think he could get maybe 67 percent if everything went perfectly, but isn’t that what dressage is about? Trying to put everything together on the day. We’ll keep working, but for now, back to running and jumping!

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Back On Course

It’s been a really bizarre last few months since the world has been on lockdown. What I assumed might be two months at most is now stretching into July with no end in sight. For me, it’s been lonely and stressful at times, but I’m so thankful I was able to continue visiting my horses and riding.

We’ve been able to regularly cross-country school, and Oh So has been feeling really good. Now that things have started up again, we’re fit and ready to go, but it’s so hot! We did a mid-week combined test at Loch Moy back in June, and he felt pretty good in the jumping, but I let him get a bit low in the poll in the dressage, and I wasn’t happy with the test.

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The new normal.

We went to Morningside for a few jumper rounds 10 days later, and the first round was awesome, which is what I wanted since we only get one shot at the events. The second round I started to get a bit picky in places, but it was still good.

My parents came to town last week to visit, and we had a nice time wandering around Frederick, Maryland, and Harper’s Ferry and visiting in Annapolis with my aunt and uncle.

They groomed for me at our first event of the season at Loch Moy, which was still hot, but mercifully not as humid. We were third after dressage with a 28. The judge noticed his head tilt to the right going left, but really only commented on it and didn’t mark us down for every movement. He felt relaxed and steady though, so that’s what mattered to me.

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We’ve been cross-country schooling a lot.

I had a decent warm up for show jumping, but once I got in the ring I felt like I was a bit off and couldn’t see a distance! I started taking some long spots in an effort to not pick, which is my usual issue, and I had the most embarrassing miss at fence 7. I asked for a long one, he added, and crash!

We finished up OK, but I was kicking myself. I said I get one of those a year, so at least I got it out of the way!

I felt a little off on cross-country too. It was a pretty simple course, but had a big hanging log off a turn as the fourth fence, then directly to a half coffin. They reversed the course in a way I’d never been, and I felt it didn’t really flow as well.

With the rail we ended up fourth.

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Happy days schooling!

Now we have a dressage show next weekend and two more planned for August. I didn’t get to do much dressage last year, so I’m hoping to see where we stack up with our Third Level scores this year.

It’s been a real adjustment working from home. I do appreciate being able to workout a bit easier and just get up an do some exercises or stretches without being looked at strangely in the office! But it’s been a process to find a routine and stay motivated without being able to travel. I thrive on being busy and changing things up, and it’s dragging on me a bit. But I’m definitely thankful I’m gainfully employed during this time.

I really don’t know what the plan is for the rest of the year, like most of the world. It’s looking less and less likely that we’ll be traveling for work, which is a bummer. We’ll be lucky if shows are able to continue with the different COVID-10 spikes happening across the country now. I’m crossing my fingers I’ll be able to event more in the fall.

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Rocky celebrated his 21st in April!

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Cricket is settling in well.

 

Winding Down The Season

And just like that, my fall season is done! I decided to wait to write until I had all three events done, so here we go (I’ll work on a Burghley blog when I get some more time)!

We started out with CDCTA in September. I had only been back from England for a few days, so not ideal, but I had a friend hack him a bit while I was gone to keep him moving.

It’s been a long, hot summer, and by September we were not getting much rain, so the ground was definitely firm. I hadn’t actually ever competed at the new CDCTA site, just schooled a few times. Everything is on grass, which can definitely be a challenge.

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I was a bit nervous because I ended up getting my old dressage trainer as my judge. She’s never judged me before, but we worked together from about age 12 until four years ago. I was able to put it out of my mind and put in a decent test for a 30.2.

Show jumping was on a bit of a hill and was in a tightly roped space. I wasn’t super pleased with our round, but we got the job done clear, which a lot of people didn’t.

Cross-country felt pretty good, and we ended up winning and taking home the reserve TIP award. We were also the highest-placed CDCTA member, so we won $600! We got to do a little victory gallop with our neck sash, which was fun. It was fun to see a lot of friends at that event, and I was able to catch up with my former trainer afterwards and we had a nice chat. She thought Oh So looked really well, which was nice to hear.

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He was not super into getting tacked up again for his ribbons!

We had a cross-country school at Surefire the week before Morven, and it was hot! The heat was just relentless, right up until two days before Morven when fall finally arrived.

I entered the Area 2 novice championship having never done any area championship at all. I was a little disappointed we didn’t have two dressage judges and that the cross-country was the same as the regular novice. So basically I paid $300 for the privilege of show jumping last.

Dressage was nice and steady, and we got a 29.8 to be fourth out of 48 people! Cross-country was one of the best rounds we’ve had in awhile; I didn’t mess with him, and everything came up nearly perfect. It was a bit odd to go straight to cross-country and have to do show jumping last, but I think he enjoyed himself.

We had about an hour to get ready for show jumping, and I didn’t get a chance to walk the course because the course walks never seem to happen when I cam actually make them!

We came around the turn to fence 4, and while it felt a little short, it didn’t feel bad, but he had the front rail down behind. That’s the first rail he’s had in probably two years. Lisa says I just lost some impulsion around the turn, and with him maybe being a bit flat and/or tired after cross-country, I needed to just squeeze him off the ground a tiny bit more.

It was a real bummer because we plummeted to 14th place when we had moved up to third after cross-country. In the end, we were the fourth-best amateur, so we got a few points out of it.

I had really wanted to do well at Morven, and I’m still really happy with everything, cross-country especially, but it’s just tough when we don’t ever get to practice show jumping last. I think we maybe did it once or twice a Virginia Horse Trials.

I was also bummed they didn’t at least give separate amateur or Area 2 Adult Rider ribbons to the top amateurs. They really should have split the class into amateur or rider and open. I know I didn’t earn a ribbon that weekend, but it would have been to nice to have been recognized considering that may be our one and only time doing a championship.

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We headed straight to Loch Moy last weekend for the Maryland Horse Trials 3 as our last event. Dressage was nice and steady, and I worked a bit on riding a more forward trot and canter after a lesson I had with Heidi earlier in the week. She asked me why I don’t try taking a risk in the ring, and I figured, why not if he’s relaxed? At home she has me riding a pretty big, almost medium trot in warmup to get him to use his body and open up his step more in trot. At Loch Moy I definitely didn’t ride that big, but a fraction more, and I think it showed. He tends to get comments that he is steady and beautiful, but needs to use his back more and sometimes that we need a bit more impulsion, which is funny considering how he used to around very tight and tense! We scored a 27.6 to lead.

Show jumping was fine, maybe not the smoothest I’ve ever had. I was adding in a few lines for some reason and got in my knee a bit, which is the habit I’m always fighting.

Unfortunately that carried over to cross-country, and I had a few fences where I really needed to support him with my leg better, and I didn’t. He’ll still jump the jumps, but sometimes I can tell after having a fence where I didn’t support him as much that he’ll be slightly backed off to the next one. It was also a huge contrast to Morven’s nice galloping course. At Loch Moy it’s very twisty and turny, and the fences come up really fast.

We ended up winning and getting the TIP award and a bottle of wine! A great way to finish the season.

Now we’ll head into the off season working more on our Third Level movements, maybe riding without stirrups and going back to Loch Moy to school the derby course in the arena. My hope had been to do a few more dressage shows, but we did a lot this year, and I traveled a lot, so I think I’m good for now! I’m just tired; I’ve been at a horse show in some capacity pretty much every weekend since June.

It looks like we’ll end the season on the USEA national leaderboard somewhere, which is super cool, and we’ll win the CDCTA and Area 2 novice amateur year-end awards too!

I’m so grateful every time I get to ride Oh So, and to be able to have another winning season is just icing on the cake.

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Finishing Out The Summer Season And Saying Goodbye

It’s been a relatively busy summer for me with lots of changes, but I finally have a couple of minutes to sit down for an update!

After Seneca, Oh So and I had a decent cross-country schooling at Surefire and headed to Oatlands in Leesburg for the new Loudoun Hunt PC Horse Trial date at the end of June. I hadn’t competed there for years, since Sam was going prelim, so I was a bit nervous honestly!

The dressage rings were near the highway, and we had a pretty decent storm the day before I rode, so my test ended up being not-so-great. He was a bit spooky about the sound of the cars/trucks/motorcycles through the trees, then the footing in the grass ring was actually a bit sucky. We rode a different test than we’ve been doing, and I forgot the stretchy trot circle! Oops. We ended up with a 35, even though I thought the work wasn’t horrible. Definitely not our best test, but I don’t think it was 35-bad. Oh well!

Show jumping was on a grassy slope, and I don’t know why, but I was so nervous! It wasn’t the smoothest ride we’ve ever had, but after watching my video, it definitely didn’t look so bad.

Cross-country was also not so smooth. I just couldn’t really find my rhythm, but thankfully he doesn’t care and carried on! We ended up third.

 

 

After spending the weekend sweltering at the Maryland International to cover the Pan Am team final outing for COTH, I headed back to Loch Moy for MD HT 2. It was still horribly hot, but we ended up with a good second-place finish and the TIP award for novice!

We got a 27.4 in dressage, and had the excitement of jumping in the big ring over some new fences Loch Moy had used for the international classes the week before; think lots of fancy standards and fillers. I barely had time or energy in the heat to walk the course before I had to get on, but somehow it ended up being one of our nicest rounds in recent history. I didn’t touch his face, we kept the same rhythm and a decent pace, and he was jumping really well.

Cross-country felt pretty good, save for one fence were I missed my line and had to weave through some trees!

 

 

It also marked the last time my parents will likely see us compete together since they’ve now made the move to Kentucky. I’m never saying never, but at least for the rest of this season I’ll be on my own, which will definitely be strange.

I had one free weekend to hang out at my parents’ farm before I was off to Rebecca Farm for a week. We dropped Rocky off at his new boarding barn on that Sunday, which is about 15 minutes from where Oh So is, and he promptly had a colic episode by Thursday which required tubing.

So while I truly enjoyed my trip to Rebecca Farm, I was trying to deal with that, plus my parents’ uncertainty about actually moving by Aug. 1 due to some issues on the buyer’s end, and just endless days with lots of work to do.

I did get a chance to have a relaxing vacation day in Glacier National Park before this all went down though, and I stayed with a couple of good media friends, so in the end, it was a great trip.

Of course on my way home on Monday I was told Oh So sprung a shoe. No big deal I thought. The farrier put the shoe on on Tuesday, but when I rode on Wednesday he was very lame.

Me being me, I immediately thought the worst, but after hoof testing and pressing on his heel, I realized he was likely lame due to a heel grab. He gradually got better over the week, but unfortunately, we’d had a dressage show scheduled for Sunday, and that wasn’t going to happen.

Add in a ton of work to do in the office and the stress of my parents moving with only one cat, and last week was not fun. I honestly felt like I was headed towards a mental breakdown.

 

 

About three weeks ago one of our cats, Lucky, disappeared. It’s unfathomable to my parents and I, and unfortunately, they had to leave for Kentucky without him last week. He’s never been gone for more than a day or two, and we just don’t know. He was 15, but in good health.

He was always “my” cat and a bit of a weirdo/anti-social, so the only thing we can think of is that with the increased activity, like packing, around the house, maybe he was freaked out. Maybe it was his way of telling us he didn’t want to go. We’ve had him since he was left in a box on the steps of the Fredericksburg SPCA as a kitten. I was in high school! I know it would have been hard to transition him to being a mostly indoor cat with a small backyard, but to leave him behind, wherever he is, is truly heartbreaking, and the not knowing will haunt me. I haven’t been able to look at any photos of him because I know it will just hit me that he’s gone, and I’ve kind of been trying to avoid any other stress at the moment.

The silver lining to this is that our other 15-year-old cat Oliver did make the trip successfully and is currently hanging out in a swanky cat hotel until my parents move in next week from their temporary apartment. I hope having his family with him with help make the transition to a new house easier. I’m going to miss seeing him every weekend, but I’ll do my best to get down there as often as I can. I wish I could take him, but forcing him to live in a tiny apartment just didn’t seem fair.

We’ve been talking about this move for four years, and now that it’s finally happened, I feel a sense of relief, but just extreme sadness about Lucky. I’m really sad to be leaving behind my home of 17 years and officially closing the chapter of our lives together with horses. Walking through the empty barn and looking at the fields where Sam, Lad and Toppers are buried, I was sad to leave them, and most of my childhood and young adult life, behind.

I’m happy for my parents to get a fresh start closer to their grandchildren, but feel a little lonely without my family close by. I may follow them eventually, but for now it’s just me and Oh So and Rocky for awhile.

Luckily Rocky’s been having a good week after another mild colic last week that we managed with some Banamine. Oh So is sound, and we’re looking towards another dressage show to try to improve our third level scores next weekend. I’m actually headed to Lexington this weekend to help cover Pony Finals (there’s a first time for everything I guess!) so I’ll stop by to say hi to Oliver and see my parents and the house quickly.

Getting The Ball Rolling

Finally we’re into our eventing season! We’ve done three events since my last update, so here’s a recap:

We started off with the starter trial at Loch Moy on Memorial Day weekend. It wasn’t too hot, but definitely humid, and we just dodged thunderstorms in the afternoon.

He was a little bit dry-mouthed in the warmup, which wasn’t a terrible thing, just not usual for him. He was perhaps slightly holding his neck, so I worked on some suppling exercises like leg yielding in trot and canter to get him a bit softer. He ended up with a 23.8, but I took that with a grain of salt considering it was a schooling show.

Continue reading “Getting The Ball Rolling”

Winding Down The Season

The 2018 season’s gone out with a bit of a whimper and not a bang for me unfortunately. With Seneca being canceled and now Waredaca getting a few inches of rain, I decided to scratch today.

I knew at the beginning of the week that I likely wouldn’t be running cross-country because of the wet weather forecasted, but with reports and photos coming in yesterday of trucks being towed in and out and knowing that the dressage and show jumping warm up are on grass, plus having to get up at 4:30 a.m., I decided not to risk it for a combined test that wouldn’t count for anything.

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Hanging out at Loch Moy.

My trainer asked me to consider what I would get out of it, and honestly, probably not much. We’re both bored with the novice test and don’t *need* to do it, and we’re looking ahead to some local winter jumper shows for practice. I hate to throw another $200 down the toilet, but that seems to be the nature of this year for everyone. I just wish Waredaca would have made that call for me. I was still undecided right up until I went to bed last night, and really could have gone either way, but I also think I needed a quiet day where I can get some stuff done around my apartment, have a nice ride and probably clip him again since he grew his hair back so fast!

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Soggy September

Well, things didn’t go according to plan at Seneca. It was pouring rain on Saturday when I went up to walk my course, and Lisa and I pretty much knew we wouldn’t be running the next day.

Fortunately they made the decision a little easier for me when they cancelled all competition on Sunday, but it was a real bummer for me and for the event!

I had to head to WEG the next day with my co-worker and friend Kimberly. We arrived late afternoon to check out the venue and get our credentials, which went pretty seamlessly.

The venue was a complete mess, but the two main stadiums and the footing were great. I keep telling everyone who asks how WEG was that I went in not expecting a lot of polish, and we definitely didn’t get that. The media center was not ready for us on Monday, but by Tuesday it was functional. There was air conditioning, power and WiFi, which was about all we really needed. They fed us two meals a day plus a generous afternoon snack, which is more than we could have asked for and very much appreciated.

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CDCTA Dressage At Morningside: Operation Bronze Medal Achieved!

Oh So and I headed to CDCTA Dressage At Morningside on Aug. 18, and I’m happy to report we got our final score for our bronze medal!

We had later ride times, so it was pretty warm, but luckily overcast. We rode Third 2 twice, once in the regular class and once in the Test Of Choice class because I didn’t want to have to learn Third 3 with only two weeks.

Unfortunately Heidi wasn’t available for a lesson the week after Loch Moy, so I worked on my own a bit just riding lots of haunches in in canter to prepare for the half passes.

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Continue reading “CDCTA Dressage At Morningside: Operation Bronze Medal Achieved!”

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.

Continue reading “Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials Recap”