On April 20 my family said goodbye to Sam. Over the last few years he’s developed severe arthritis in his right knee, and while he was still full of life at age 24, his body just couldn’t keep up, and we were unable to manage his pain.
We’ve never euthanized a horse before, so this was a new and emotional experience, but I’m happy we were able to choose his time. He’s now resting peacefully in his paddock overlooking our farm. He always did like to know everything that was going on in his domain.
I haven’t said much about Thomas since my accident, mostly because I’ve only been able to see him a handful of times on the weekends, but also because I’ve had a lot of thoughts floating around in my ahead. Unfortunately I’m a chronic over-thinker, as evidenced by my last post, which is the worst thing I can be in this situation.
I’ve found that just not thinking about him is helpful, which sounds awful and is completely against my nature! I can’t control what’s going on with him, which is hard, so I just don’t even think about it. But I know he’s in good hands with Dustin and Michelle Craig at WestWind Farms in Upperville, learning all about the world.
He’s gone to a couple of local schooling facilities with a group of horses in the trailer and by all reports has been getting on the trailer fine and standing to wait his turn and when he’s done.
I thought I’d join in on the Throwback Thursday fun occasionally, so here’s my inaugural post. I forgot to post yesterday, so here it is on Forgot About It Friday!
I continue to get new followers to this blog every week and I really can’t believe there are people out there who care about my rambling thoughts, but thank you and welcome!
This Throwback Thursday post is for those who might not know a lot about my previous riding history. I keep meaning to do a comprehensive post, but that would involve digging up and scanning a lot of photos, so I just haven’t done it yet!
So for now, here’s a video of my one and only time competing at the USEA American Eventing Championships on my now retired horse, What The Heck, or Sam.
If you want to know Sam’s whole story, click on his name at the top of the blog.
2006 was probably the most successful season I’ve ever had on any horse, results-wise.
It was the first full year I’d been training with Lisa Reid, who is still my trainer today. She revamped my riding with Sam and had us drop back to training when we’d been doing prelim pretty unsuccessfully on our own. I thought at the time that once you did training, prelim was next, but I didn’t have a true event coach at the time.
We ended up winning three training level events, finishing fourth and second in the others, finishing second at the Waredaca Training Three-Day and winning our first prelim back at the end of the year at the VA Horse Trials, all with mostly clear rounds in show jumping, which was our nemesis.
We’d gone down to Southern Pines in March and finished fourth in a huge open training division, scoring in the 20s in dressage.
So when we went back to Southern Pines for the AECs, I was confident in our abilities.
I can’t remember exactly where we placed after dressage, top ten I think, but we had an awesome cross-country and moved into fourth.
I was confident going into show jumping but he dropped a rail, and I knew I could afford one to stay in the top 10, but I lost my focus and we dropped another to finish in 21st in the junior training.
I was devastated and pretty much cried the whole way home. We’d been doing so well and the one time we had a chance at prizes and prize money, I blew it.
We went on to finish second at the Waredaca Training Three-Day, losing the lead with a rail, but we won our prelim at Lexington to end the year on a good note.
I’ve learned a lot since then, mostly that it doesn’t really matter! Show jumping is still my nemesis, but in the last few years, as much as I love being competitive, I’m just happy to be out there competing. Yeah, I get down in the dumps when we have three rails, but the thrill of cross-country usually makes up for it!
Sam has been retired from eventing since his last competition in 2009 and we had several years of fun doing dressage at first and second level and jumping a bit at home before I ultimately retired him this year at age 21.
It’s been a snowy day here in Virginia, and just when the mud was starting to dry (as you can see from the above photo of my boys!).
It’s been a struggle getting used to not having Ramsey here. We’ve all had to adjust to not being greeted every time we walk in the door or having a cold nose in our laps at dinner, but life is still moving along.
Oh So’s walking has been going well. We’re up to about 30 minutes now, just 10 more to go until we can trot!
Bear is coming along very nicely. He has some days when he wants to be silly, but he comes around quite quickly as the ride goes on. I’ve been working on turns on the forehand and have been “thinking” that concept in trot too to get him moving off my inside leg and into my outside rein.
His jumping is coming in leaps and bounds, both literally and figuratively! He really seems to understand a concept quickly. If we have a crooked or funny jump the first time, he corrects it the second time and that’s it.
Lisa introduced a small gymnastic for him this week. We did a bounce of cross-rails, one stride to to oxer. He was a little crooked over the bounce the first time, then was stick straight the next.
We’ve been cantering short courses of fences about 2′. We’ve jumped roll tops, gates and flower boxes with no problem and we introduced a rollback turn this week too. It’s a lot of fun for me to be jumping again, even if it is only once a week. I’ve found that because I have to sit in more of a deeper seat to guide him to the fences securely, my lower leg and upper body are more stable.
I need to get my dad out to video me since I have no idea what we look like jumping. I think Lisa is surprised by the horse that’s emerging. He’s got a lot of talent for jumping and has a lovely way of going between the fences, which is not something we predicted when we first saw him trotting around an indoor ring clobbering poles on the ground. He has a very good natural rhythm and a desire to stay balanced, so he almost always lands on the correct lead, or changes by himself.
Other than riding, I’ve been keeping busy writing a lot for COTH. I think I’ll try to do a roundup post once a month with links to what I’ve had on our website. I still write weekly for the magazine, but I’ve found myself writing a lot for the website over the last 6 months. Here’s my first roundup, featuring stories going back to November that I think might interest people.
If you want to see all of the stories I’ve written for the Chronicle’s website, check them out here.
My entry to Southern Pines 1 is in and it’s time to get fit! I took Oh So for his first gallop on Sunday at Morningside and he was really loving it. I was beginning to get worried about our abilities like I always do at the beginning of the season, but as we galloped up the hillside and I sat up to balance him, I could feel that we hadn’t missed a beat. Sure, we might need to go back to a stronger bit, but he was (sort of) listening and felt ready to go.
We did a short jump school in the ring with Lisa before we went out. That’s where I’m still a little worried, because we haven’t jumped prelim height since December. But, the things we have been doing over smaller fences has been good. We’ve been doing gymnastics, bending lines, skinnies and related distances. I just need the practice at the bigger heights. He was quite nice and soft on Sunday though, so that left me with a good feeling.
I’m going to try to get him out every ten days for a gallop depending on the weather. I’m heading off to Rocking Horse horse trials in Florida for a couple of days for COTH, so my dressage trainer Nicky is going to ride him for me while I’m gone.
I’ve just realized that there are no combined tests before Southern Pines and that also has me worried. There is a local jumper show on March 2 that I might consider going to, and we’re entered in a dressage show in the 24th. So far, this winter has been kind of a bust as far as getting out and about.
I’ll try to check in from Florida in a few days. It should be interesting!
***The photos at the top are of me and Sam schooling over the weekend. I actually popped him over an 18″ jump last week for fun and he turned back into his fire-breathing former self, which was fun.
Things are looking a little better with Oh So this week. He feels almost 100%, but I still feel like there’s something going on behind the saddle. After consulting with both of my trainers, we all think he must have tweaked himself in the paddock, so we’re trying a 5-day bute regimen to see if it helps bring down any inflammation. I’m not sure I want to rush back to the vet quite yet, so we’ll see how this goes. So far, he feels ok, but warms up a bit stiff to the left and doesn’t want to work his right hind as well as he can.
I tried using a Dr. Bristol for our flat lesson on Sunday and actually liked it. He still got a bit strong, but he didn’t mess with his tongue. We had some good moments and I think he was trying hard, considering our ride on Saturday was a meltdown after not being able to ride for four days. I entered another dressage show at Morningside this weekend where we’ll do Second 1 and 2, and Nicky is going to be there, so I feel fairly prepared.
Last week was basically a wash because of extremely cold weather and a couple of small snowfalls. I was pretty grouchy about not being able to ride, let alone exercise, so I made do with a stationary bike and an exercise ball.
I had a good ride on Sam on Saturday, but haven’t ridden him since. I’m considering it a mini-vacation due to my schedule, the weather and my energy level. I’m going to try to get on tomorrow, unless we get thunderstorms (in January?).
On Sunday, I attended the CDCTA Awards Banquet at the Fauquier Springs Country Club. My mom came with me so we could celebrate my win and Lisa’s eventing trainer of the year award. I hadn’t been in many years, so it was nice to pick up my huge trophy and ribbon in person and see some friends. The food was great too! We also got our reserve champion ribbon in the mail for USEA Area 2 adult amateur prelim.
I finally got out to a jump lesson today. It was literally 75 degrees, so a little warm, but no complaints from me! We didn’t do anything huge, but he kept a nice rhythm and I didn’t screw it up too much. Lisa casually made a comment about how we would do “a couple of intermediates” before our first CCI* this fall, which made me a little bit speechless. Intermediate is certainly not a goal of mine right now- I just want to jump a consistent show jumping round at prelim- but if she thinks we can do it and wants me to go for it, I guess I should. I’ve got the horse who would do anything I asked, I just need to get more fit and get over some mental blocks.
I’m coming to the end of my winter break and head back to work tomorrow. It’s been refreshing to have some time off, ride in the light and wake up knowing I have the whole day at my leisure. Unfortunately, at the beginning of my break, my jump trainer called to say she had a family emergency and wouldn’t be teaching until after the new year. I was disappointed to have alot of time off and not feel productive with my jumping, but come the new year, we’ll start back fresh.
My break started by sitting through horrendous traffic on the Beltway on Dec. 21 so I could see my favorite band, Go Radio, at The FIllmore in Silver Spring, Md. There weren’t that many people there, which was surprising for a show put on by DC101, but it made for a nice, intimate feeling, even on the bigger stage. I did photos for avoidthescene.com, and those are up now on my Flickr page.
On Sunday, I had a really good flat lesson with Oh So. He was quiet enough that we could school some walk-canter and canter-walk transitions. My trainer brought her young horse over to school him in a different arena, so that made for some excitement.
On Christmas eve, I went to see Lincoln with my parents. It was a bit slow and talky, but I can see why it will probably win every Oscar. My mom decided she didn’t want to go to church that night, which makes it only the second time in my life that we’ve missed Christmas Eve service. It’s the only time every year that we go to church, but I think we were all missing my brother, who spent Christmas with his fiancee and her family in Ohio.
Christmas morning was sort of a non-event without my brother there. It took us all of a half hour to open our gifts, then my mom and I went for a hack. I did get some pretty cool stuff though. I had been wanting a new lens for shooting concerts and I got a 24-85mm f/2.8, which is really exciting. I’ve pretty much been shooting with just my 50mm f/1.4, but now I have the flexibility of a zoom too. I also got a nice set of different flavored hot chocolates to try. I’m not a coffee person, so I’m excited to take these to work.
Throughout the break, I also got a chance to clip Rocky again and work both him and Toppers quite a bit, which I’m not so sure they appreciated! Toppers in particular was looking and feeling quite good for his 21 years!
On Wednesday, we had pretty awful rain, so my dad and I went up to DC to go to some museums. I usually don’t have the time or energy during the year to go, so it was nice to spend a day not doing horse stuff. We went to the Museum of the American Indian first to see the “A Song For The Horse Nation” exhibition. COTH featured a couple of pieces from it in a recent issue, so it was cool to see the whole thing. We also went to the Air and Space museum briefly and the National Gallery, which had a really cool Roy Lichtenstein exhibition.
Thursday was jam-packed with another flat lesson on Oh So and one on Sam. He was good again. We worked on some trot lengthenings and lateral work with minimal tension, which is a win in my book. I haven’t done lessons on Sam regularly for awhile since he’s not consistently sound, so it was nice to have a few reminders on my position and his pace. I tend to lean “at” him a bit since he warms up quite stiff and high-headed. We worked on some counter leg yields and leg yields in walk and trot with more bend than usual to help free up his shoulders, and to my surprise, he came nice and round and got steadier in the contact.
That afternoon, my dad came with me to a travel agency in Fredericksburg so I could start planning my trip to Ireland next year. I came home with quite a few brochures and a lot to think about, but I’m really excited to start researching.
Thatnight, I took my dad to see The Hobbit in 3D since he’s never seen a 3D movie. I probably should have watched the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy first to refresh my memory, but I thought it was pretty good, and now I have to wait an entire year for the next one!
Friday I spent most of the day outside working all four horses. I had a good jump school with Oh So on my own. I just set up some fences with canter poles before and after them and a few small gymnastics, and he stayed nice and steady and waiting. It’s often a challenge to jump at home because our ring is smaller then the places we usually go, so setting up gymnastics is usually better for both of us.
Yesterday and today were just more of the same. After working everyone each day, I’ve been working on little things that need to be done, but I keep putting off- fixing my music website, cleaning my room and closet, organizing my computer, etc. Now I’m off to work for one day, then off on New Year’s Day, and ready for whatever 2013 brings.
I feel like I should be posting more, but since life has slowed down a bit, I haven’t been too inspired. I have a hard time making myself sit down to read a book for a book review, even though I have a big stack of them in my room.
I had a new saddle fitter out for Oh So last weekend and she did a really good job getting his (Sam’s old) jumping saddle to fit better. Now with a new half pad and some flocking, it isn’t slipping anymore, so I’m happy we were able to find a solution for now. I’d still like to get him something custom fit, but I just don’t have the money right now.
About a week and a half ago, we had planning meetings at The Chronicle. It was two long days of sitting in the conference room, but I had so much fun brainstorming with the whole team all in one room. It was informational to me to hear little bits of of how everything works and to hear other people’s processes and thoughts. It was also decided that I needed to do a holiday pets photo for our holiday issue, so with the help of my mom, we put together a couple of costumes for Toppers and Rocky (see above).
We also discussed travel plans for the year and I’ll be heading to the Rocking Horse Winter II horse trials in Florida in February first. I’m excited since I’ve never seen eventing in Florida before. I’m also tentatively going to Jersey Fresh.
Sam’s been feeling pretty good lately. I had a really nice ride on Saturday where we were able to do a lot of sitting trot, some half passes and even some walk/canter and canter/walk transitions, which I haven’t been doing lately because they can be quite demanding.
Oh So has been going quite nicely on the flat and we’re starting to work on our flying changes a bit. I noticed that Fox Chase Farm is going to be hosting some CTs and dressage shows next year, so I’m excited to get going.
My weekend was pretty non-stop and I’m finally getting a chance to relax a bit. It started with a 6am wakeup call for an 8:30 lesson in Middleburg with Oh So. We tried a new Pelham/Myler bit with a port, and I think we have a winner…for now! He was very respectful of it and we had a really good ride at a place we don’t go very often. They had some good little gymnastics and bending lines set up, so it was a nice change.
When I got home, it was off to ride Sam and work the minis. I don’t have a ton of time during the week to work the minis, so I try to work them on the weekends whenever possible. I had done a short flat lesson with Sam earlier in the week just to talk with my trainer about how he looked and to have her remind me of some points with my position, including my terrible left hand. As I anticipated, I’ve started to lean forward “at” him a bit, partly because I think his neck is so short compared to Oh So, but also because I think I sub-consciously don’t want to sit “into” him and stress him too much. She reminded me that I’d be doing him a disservice by not riding him correctly, so now I have some things to think about. I had my dad snap some photos on Saturday since it’s been awhile since I’ve seen myself on Sam.
Yesterday I went on assignment for The Chronicle to the Capital Challenge Horse Show at the Prince Georges Equestrian Center in Upper Marlborough, Md. I had competed there ages ago as a junior on a dressage team. As most people know, I’m not a fan of hunters, so I’m not too educated about them, although I’ve had it thoroughly explained to me in the office, so I think I’m starting to get it!
I was covering three equitation finals for juniors and amateurs at 3′ and 3’6″. I have to say I was impressed at the two finalists for the 3’6″ junior class, who had to come back and do an extra test involving cantering a course without stirrups, trotting a fence and counter cantering one, straight into a halt.
I was also there to practice shooting indoors, so you can check out my work here. I thought I did an ok job, but I think I should have tried a 300mm fixed lens in addition to the 70-200mm one I had. It almost felt like I wasn’t at a horse show though. No mud, water or dust to slop through, no hills to climb, no blazing sun. Just perfectly coifed and clean kids sitting in the stands and watching after their rides while the grooms took the horses. Definitely different than eventing! The amateur I spoke to was quite good. She was a re-rider, getting back into the sport after 20 years away from it working for Estee Lauder. Now she’s starting her own company so she can have more time to ride. I like that idea!
I have a flat lesson with Oh So today, then we’re jumping on Wednesday in preparation for Morven Park on Sunday. I’ll be without Lisa for the first time at an event, so I’m a bit nervous, but we’ll do our best. I’m planning on going up on Saturday to watch the advanced cross-country, then walking my own course.
We also got our prelim bronze medal in the mail the other day from USEA!
I feel like I haven’t said much about Sam since my depressing post back in the early summer. He’d been feeling quite bad from behind and I was contemplating retiring him completely. Well, we took a few weeks of just hacking and only trotting if he felt ok, and since late July, he’s felt pretty good. I’ve been able to work on some canter lengthenings, started sitting the trot some more again, and I’ve done some basic lateral work in trot, which ends up making him go better.
We’ve also been hacking quite a bit, although he still acts like a 2-year-old most of the time, so I know he’s not feeling that bad! My mom and I cleared an old trail across the street that follows a gas line, and it makes for a good hour-long ride, so he’s been enjoying that. I’ve also been doing some trot and canter pole work, which usually gets him really excited. I’m going to try to get my dad to take some photos of us sometime this week.
Here’s a blast from the past video of one of our more successful prelims at the VA Horse Trials where we won our division.