Donation Derby Fun!

It’s been a crazy busy month with my vacation, a trip to Ocala and Thanksgiving, so I haven’t had much time to blog. Now I’m off to California tomorrow for the USEA Convention and for a quick visit to L.A.!

But before that I was able to get Oh So out to the Loch Moy Donation Derby on Sunday.

I was super excited to ride Saturday, but after I fed him his breakfast and went to clean his legs up I realized he’d sprung a shoe! He lives out in a decent amount of mud and hasn’t lost a shoe for a very long time, and it was quite dry, so I was pretty upset.

Luckily the derby ran a second day, so if I could find a farrier to tack it back on I’d be OK.

I spent the day calling about 10 farriers with no luck, and by 4 p.m., I’d resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be going- a great way to cap a pretty horrible year of wasted money and disappointment as far as my riding goals.

But a local farrier came through in the end by some miracle at 5 p.m. and we got it back on!

There was open schooling before each level, but we basically used the time to warm him up on the flat, then popped over a few jumps. He was a little disconcerted by the people in Christmas costumes with bells jingling as the galloped around him!

The course seemed quite big to me in spots for novice, but I guess I’m just out of practice. It was a little weird going from show jumps to cross-country and back again, and I just felt a little rough. I can sometimes fall into my bad habits at shows, and with being so rusty, I didn’t sit upright as much as I could, and I ducked right a bit causing us to miss some leads. He seemed to always be on the wrong lead. I also didn’t keep a consistent rhythm to every jump, but it got better as we went along.

We’re still working on getting his right to left change on the flat, so the one time I asked on course I didn’t get it. He seems to have lost it naturally over time as he’s aged, although it’s always been easier left to right.

In the end, I think he had fun, and we ended up winning by being closest to the optimum time! We got a schooling pass to use at Loch Moy too, which basically meant we won our money back. Yay!

24173669_10104115581618397_5903500631337246552_o

So as I cap off a pretty crappy year of not being able to compete much, I’m really thankful I got to do this and have this little accomplishment; a thing to hold on to until the spring where we can try again once the mud dries up!

I’ll have an extensive blog on my Europe trip soon, but until then, off to California!

Advertisements

Winding Down

I debated titling this post, “There Goes The Season,” or “What Season?” so please excuse the following whine session!

I was prepped and ready to go today to the only event this fall that I could get to, the Waredaca Starter Trials.

Between travel and making sure I felt absolutely ready as far as my ankles go, it just took us awhile to get to this point, and last night they decided to postpone to a weekend I’m not available due to the possibility of inclement weather (which didn’t start coming in until well after my ride times would have been today).

It’s been exceptionally dry this fall, so of course the one day I could get to an event it had to rain!

I’ve moved past the sad phase of what happened to me this year, and now I’m just mad–mad that it’s caused my whole year to go up in flames.

I spend my days interviewing people and writing about their amazing weekends, and it’s really starting to hurt that I can’t be out there competing and accomplishing things myself.

Of course I don’t know how long Oh So will last, so I’m living on borrowed time with him. Each day that ticks by I feel like I’m getting further away from ever being able to event or have a “season.”

Now we’re getting into winter, so the next opportunity to do an actual event won’t be until late March.

Thankfully we’ll soon have Loch Moy’s arena cross-country course set up, so I guess we’ll be schooling that a lot this season when the footing gets bad. They do have a Donation Derby in December so that’s my last chance of doing any kind of competition for the year.

I put together a video of our last few cross-country schoolings with a jump school at home thrown in for fun. I’m hoping we can get out and school a couple more times before the winter weather really sets in.

As usual, he’s always perfect, and the last few times even I’ve been OK!

A Tale Of Two Shows

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve taken Oh So to two schooling dressage shows. We started with Morningside on Sept. 23, where we did First Level 2 and 3.

Unfortunately they were running behind, so I was probably on a bit too long, and it was hot! But he was OK with it and stayed quite calm. Luckily they were finished with the second ring by the time I went at the end of the day, so I was able to school in it before my test, which was really helpful for both of us.

Since I was the last ride of the day though, literally everyone was gone by the time I went in for my second test! It’s always something right? But he was extremely relaxed and rideable, so I was able to really go for it.

The judge really liked him, save for him being a bit behind the vertical at times. It’s hard for me to really feel that consistently unless I have someone on the ground or mirrors.

The judge was very impressed with how good he was despite all the horses being gone. We were literally the last trailer in the parking lot too!

21994152_10103974015707617_8371614256527468833_o
Jennifer Ashley Photography photo.
21994145_10103974023207587_8297347502405064856_o
Jennifer Ashley Photography photo.
21994238_10103974016471087_8324645846230622652_o
Jennifer Ashley Photography photo.

This past weekend we went to a new venue for me, Compass Rose Farm in Haymarket, and rode the same two tests. They had a nice outdoor warm up ring and a Coverall ring, then a bit of a walk to the actual outdoor competition ring, so that was another good test. He tends to build if he has to stop work and get to the competition ring. There was also not a lot of space around the arena, like at Morven, so he could have gotten right with no room to make a circle and bend and keep his back soft, but he didn’t.

22291343_10103997018265307_8012403982133664487_o

The ‘L’ judge was absolutely smitten with him, saying it was the best test she’d judged all day, if ever. I mean, we’re not exactly God’s gift to dressage, but I’ll take it! She said the thing she noticed the most was the harmony between us, which really meant a lot. As with many event horses, showing that harmony can be difficult at times!

Now I’m at Fair Hill for the weekend and looking towards the starter trial at Waredaca in a few weeks. We’ve had a couple of good jump and cross-country schoolings, so I’m feeling ready other than a little weak and painful in my right ankle, but that will get better with time.

I’m so excited to back in the show ring and to have some goals to work towards, and I think Oh So is too.

I had a lesson with Heidi last week before Compass Rose, and she had no complaints about any of our first level work, and I’m feeling a bit bored with it, so we’re going to push on with the second level work again now that we’re both fit enough.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Celebrating 10 Years With Oh So

This post is a little late, but here goes!

Ten years ago on Sept. 28 I drove out of Michelle and Dustin Craig’s barn with Oh So in tow. It’s been a life-changing experience to bring along my first OTTB, and he’s certainly taught me a lot about patience, being brave and most of all, living every day to the fullest, because after all, that’s how he got his name, Oh So Extreme. Everything he does is to the extreme.

He’s been there through the tough times and many life changes, and looking between his ears remains a privilege.

While he can sometimes get tense on the flat and I’ve certainly not helped him in the show jumping over the years, on cross-country he never says no, and that’s really what it’s all about in this sport. From the biggest drop I’ve ever seen to the skinniest angled brush, he relishes jumping and galloping, whether I’m ready to go or not!

While he still believes he should be jumping around prelim, Lisa and I must insist he take it easy as he gets older so he’ll stay sound and happy.

So, we’ll continue to compete as we can, even if it’s only at novice, and he’ll take it just as seriously. Like Lisa has always said, he’s a man on a mission!

Here are some of my favorite photos of us over the years.

Out And About (And An Abscess)

Spring has finally spring in Virginia, and I’m ready to start competing and getting Thomas out and about!

After my last post, I took Oh So to Morven Park to see Dr. Adams assuming we’d get his hock or stifles done.

Upon flexions though, he was very good from behind and mildly positive on his right front ankle. He had some mild inflammation there that Dr. Adams thought was some minor arthritis, so we injected that and a few areas in his back behind the saddle where he palpated a bit sore.

The good news is his left front ankle and the areas around his windpuff and deep digital flexor tendon sheath flexed 100 percent negative! Dr. Adams admitted he was a little nervous to see him considering our last appointment he was not feeling positive about his overall soundness and ability to continue competing, but he said he looked better than ever. He’s gained 100 pounds since August too thanks to a good feeding program from my barn owner.

17758960_1618347974862014_478471679_o
Valerie Durbon Photo.

I entered Morven Park with the assumption that it would be wet and we might not be able to run cross-country, and unfortunately a ton of rain on the Friday before meant the footing wasn’t going to be ideal for him. Any other year I would say the footing was pretty darn good for Morven, especially by the time I would have gone on Sunday, but there were too many spots of concern on course for Lisa to want to risk him.

I’m bummed it became an expensive combined test, especially considering we were leading after show jumping!

1A PMB17-0173906
GRC Photo.

He was a little up as we headed down to the dressage warmup with atmosphere, but as soon as I picked up the reins he went to work. He was a little tight as we got to the main arena and started trotting around, but I tried to stay as relaxed as I could. He can be forgiven for being a bit tense for our first outing of the year! Unfortunately he got me again in our free walk and anticipated the medium walk and jigged, so there will be some dressage schooling shows in our future to get that under control again.

1A PMB17-0173926
GRC Photo.

I was remarkably relaxed for show jumping, and we warmed up quite well actually. He was jumping big and I wasn’t picking! The round was quite good–no picking, no rails and he got all his leads because I wasn’t ducking. I was really pleased considering we’d had a bit of a tough lesson the week before. Not bad, just the fact that he didn’t want to sit and rock back over the jumps. We ended up putting some ground rails in front of a few of them to make him wait, but I counted on him backing off the jumps at the show.

I decided against entering MCTA in May because everything is on grass and it can often be wet. Such is life these days for us. Instead, I’m going back to Morven to try my hand at a recognized dressage show.

The last time I did a recognized dressage show I had Palais and was in the junior division, so it will be interesting to see how we stack up. I’m expecting it to be tougher for sure, but maybe we can win a TIP Award?

We’re doing First 2 and 3. I’m hoping two tests in a day will get him a little more rideable in the ring. If that goes well there’s a recognized show at Loch Moy in June that would be fun to try.

1B ECS17-0179314
Not sure what’s going on with my leg here, but it’s not slipped back, so that’s good! GRC Photo.

Next up for us though is the CDCTA schooling day on Saturday and the Loch Moy starter trials next week.

Thomas has been going well, but unfortunately at the end of March I felt some funny steps from behind. I did a couple of days of bute thinking it was because he had run around a lot one day when I was there, and then he came sound and had a great lesson with Lisa that weekend.

My farrier came on the 29th and he was sore on his left hind foot and heel in particular, but the farrier thought it was the way his alignment and gait was as he’s been working to correct it.

He was still sound until last week when he was not wanting to walk on it. While I was away at The Fork my barn manager’s farrier came out and found an abscess. I’ve been soaking it this week, and my farrier comes tomorrow, so fingers crossed we can put a shoe back on because I’m home for two weekends in a row, and it’s time to get him off property! He’s also bored and ready to get back to work so I’ve been trying to mess with him in one way or anther every night. We’ve groomed, hand grazed he’s helped me set up jumps in the ring!

1B ECS17-0179334
Tiny jumps! GRC Photo.

As far as travel, I’ve since been to the Carolina International and The Fork since my last update. Carolina is always lovely, and the weather was perfect. I got some great photos too, but I was really envious of those who got to ride the training course. The Carolina Horse Park is one of my favorite venues, and I really want to go back and compete.

17522614_10103509615838677_4759686926545897873_n
The Fork derby field.

The Fork was held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and it was my first time there. Let’s just say it was definitely better than driving to podunk Norwood, N.C.!

I’m not sure I totally agree with the main venue’s courses. Many of the lower level jumps were set in the arenas and in a derby field, although I found myself thinking it would be the perfect place for Oh So because you can guarantee the footing will be good! But it just didn’t feel like eventing to me.

17504504_10103476499394297_8769042966361310426_o
Carolina International.

The brand new three-star course was pretty cool though. It was open and gallopy and the footing felt like carpet. They’ve barely scratched the surface of what the World Equestrian Games’ course will be, and it was exciting to be there to watch it christened. I loved my photos too!

Now I’ve got a couple of weeks until the big one…Rolex!

Here’s a few photos I took of the boys with my nice camera recently. Oh So’s in his ugly phase right now, but once his summer coat comes in, he’ll look great!

Reflecting on 2016

I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by! I’m ending it in a very different place than I expected to, but a better place for sure! It was a year of travel and new discoveries, but also a little sadness and less competing than I’d hoped.

It was the first full year I’ve been living in Leesburg and the first year of being a boarder. While I do enjoy living on my own, being a boarder is still a difficult adjustment. I miss having having my horses in my backyard and being able to see them multiple times a day. I miss seeing them first thing when I wake up and even the late night checks when it’s freezing outside!

14468504_10103045669939977_8627181042699842528_o
GRC Photo

I started the year in one barn and moved to another in the summer that I thought would be a good fit. It didn’t end up being what I thought it would be, so I moved Oh So to a field boarding situation in November.

I’ve never done field board in my life, so I was pretty nervous the first month, but he’s taken to it well and enjoys being dirty all the time! The good news is he’s moving around a lot more so his front legs look very good.

I’m slowly learning to let go of some of my more “type A” tendencies when it comes to horse care, and it hasn’t backfired yet, so fingers crossed!

12841340_10102690803225717_1967852921736771965_o-2
Bear went to a new home in April.

I always knew Bear would have to be sold so I could replenish my savings account as I adjusted to living on my own, but it didn’t make it any less painful to say goodbye to him in April when I finally sold him.

I thought I would be able to focus my time and money on Oh So this year and at least do some novices, but after we did two events, he had a minor injury, and the vet advised us to take it easy over the summer, so there went my fall plans.

But, I’ve been learning to find silver linings in life, and while it sucked to not be able to compete, I met some great friends over the summer, and it allowed me to ride Harley for a few months. I even got to compete him on my birthday, which gave me such joy to be back out on course again. Working with him gave me more confidence bringing along a baby, and I was able to use what I learned from Bear to get him to his first event. I’m happy I was able to show his owner Meghan what he’s capable of, and now she’s ready to have some fun and come to the dark side!

15194325_10103165574879517_8159194542781987263_o
Harley on course at Loch Moy. GRC Photo.

After I competed him in November and moved to my new barn, I had planned to stick to my idea of maybe getting a baby in the spring and seeing how Oh So felt to compete, but of course my trainer Lisa had her eye out and found Forward Thinking in December. It was a whirlwind, but now I have a new horse to work with and goals to start thinking about.

I have no idea if Thomas will become my next “horse of a lifetime” like Oh So is, but so far he seems like a willing partner, and I’m excited to start jumping him soon.

15724655_10103252818477647_2745262376583003996_o
Thomas is enjoying his new life so far!

As for the rest of my life, I’ve become an aunt for the second time this year, but I haven’t been able to meet my new niece yet since my brother and sister in law moved to Ohio. I’ve never been more than a few hours from my brother, so it’s been hard, but probably harder on my parents who are enjoying being grandparents.

I traveled more than ever this year, and to be honest, I felt a little burned out by the end of the year, but more creatively than physically. I love my job, and I’ve been covering mostly eventing over the last few years, but sometimes it gets hard to think of new and different ways to write about the same people that keep winning. I find that the few months I don’t travel from November until January usually help me recover and refresh a bit, so by February, I think I’ll be ready to tackle another year!

2016-08-04-15-41-40-2

Here’s where I’ve been this year for work:

Global Dressage Festival CDI*****/WEF CSI***** (Fla.)
Red Hills CIC*** (Fla.)
Carolina International CIC*** (N.C.)
The Fork CIC*** (N.C.)
Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Ky.)
Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.)
Bromont CCI*** (Quebec)
Great Meadow International CICO*** (Va.)
Olympics (Brazil)
Plantation Field CIC*** (Pa.)
Dressage At Devon (Pa.)
Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.)
Ocala Jockey Club CIC*** (Fla.)
USEA Convention (Fla.)

Most of what I wrote for the web can be seen here. These are only stories with just my byline though. I did a lot of writing with co-workers as well.

Obviously the most amazing trip was to Rio for the Olympics. I never imagined I would cover an Olympic Games, and it’s still sinking in that I was there. I went to the Newseum this week with my dad for the first time in many years, and in one display case they had examples of photographer credentials over the years. They had one from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and it was cool to think that I have one too now!

It was also refreshing to talk to new and different people, especially since I enjoy covering dressage and show jumping, but don’t get to do it that often.

My travel wasn’t all fun and games though. There was tragedy at Jersey Fresh when a horse and human died on cross-country day. I had never interviewed Philippa Humphreys, but her death still hurt just as much. It was a somber, eerie feel on show jumping day, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

I was excited to go to Rolex and Dressage At Devon for the first time as a member of the media. I’ve been going to both for a long time as a spectator, but to be able to take photos was the best feeling.

13242077_10206579486547107_955508325_o
On the job at Rolex! Kasey Mueller/Rare Air Photography

I love exploring other cultures and their history, but I decided with a big trip to Rio this year that I wouldn’t go to Europe. But since I turned 3o in November, I gave myself a gift, and I’ll be going on a 10-day trip in May with stops in London, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Paris.

Looking ahead to 2017, I’m hoping it will be my year to get back out there and compete regularly and grow more both professionally and personally.

My first trip is to Florida for the Wellington Eventing Showcase and GDF CDI*****, then possibly Pine Top CIC***, and the usual suspects of Red Hills, Carolina International and The Fork. We had a very exciting planning meeting this month with the whole staff, and I think we’re all excited to tackle the next year.

Surprise! I Bought A Horse.

photo-dec-12-3-54-40-pm

I wasn’t quite expecting to get another horse so soon, but when my trainer Lisa said she found one for a really cheap price earlier this month, I decided to take a look.

I was hoping to wait until at least the spring, see how Oh So made it through the winter and try to compete a bit next year, but sometimes life throws things your way, and I’m trying to take things in stride.

photo-dec-01-8-51-22-am

Lisa found Forward Thinking via a trainer friend at Charlestown Race Track. Apparently his owner/trainer had been arrested for fraud, so his horses needed to be dispersed.

His last race was on Nov. 3, and he was actually a pretty good race horse. He raced about 30 times and won seven times, taking home over $100,000. This year he was slowing down though and only raced a handful of times, finishing middle of the pack.

My biggest hesitation was that he’s 7, and will be 8 in May. That makes him almost the exact age that Oh So was when I got him, but he was already working under saddle and jumping little things.

I’ve always regretted those “lost years” I could have had with Oh So, but this horse was $700, has great conformation and seems very sweet, so I decided to take a chance on him.

I’m hoping he’ll be my next Oh So–one I can take through prelim, or at least training. I have lots of goals I want to accomplish, and I’m ready to feel motivated again.

I looked at him at the track on Dec. 1, vetted him on Dec. 3 and he came home on Dec. 12 after my trip to the USEA Convention, so this has all been quite a whirlwind.

I was nervous to turn him out since it’s probably been awhile since he’s had that luxury, but I had no options at my barn other than to put him out with Oh So on the first day. Lisa and I gave them both a little Ace, hand walked them around the field and let them go. Luckily there wasn’t a ton of running and they seemed to bond pretty quickly. Now the challenge will be to make sure they both get used to being separated, especially when one goes away in the trailer, because the barn is situated so they can’t see the other horses on the other side of the property.

photo-dec-12-3-55-38-pm

He’s settled in well so far. I feel kind of bad because he probably got the shock of a lifetime being thrown into field board on one of the worst weather weeks we’ll probably have all winter. They weathered an ice storm last night and highs in the 20s earlier this week, but he seems to be taking it in stride and hasn’t lost his (considerable) appetite!

Lisa and I were able to work with him only once this week because of letting him settle in and the weather, so I’m a little anxious to get going, but next week is looking better.

We started by teaching him about lunging. He was a little tentative at first, but once he got the hang of it, Lisa was able to take him over a couple of trot poles. He seems like a willing and fast learner, so I’m hoping with my experience now we can move along a little faster than I did with Oh So and Bear.

I’ve spent the last few days just bonding on the ground and trying to think of a barn name. I still haven’t found one, and it’s a little weird calling him “new horse!”

I’m excited at the prospect of being able to compete next year, so fingers crossed he starts to enjoy his job!