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.

 

Product Review: One Summer, Three Fly Sheets

With Oh So living out for the first time this summer and Thomas needing his own fly sheet, I’ve been researching the best kind for fit and price. Oh So has worn a Weatherbeeta fly sheet, similar to this Comfitec one for the past few years at home, but only occasionally since he lived in part of the day and because he’s black and sweated a lot.

Horseware Amigo Mio Fly Sheet

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Amigo Mio Combo Fly Sheet

I’d had an Amigo Mio Combo fly sheet for Sam that I brought with me for Oh So when I moved, and it had held up well over a few years, albeit not worn every day.

For the price, I decided to get Oh So his own when it finally kicked the bucket earlier this summer with a few tears in the attached neck and on the trim.

Continue reading “Product Review: One Summer, Three Fly Sheets”

Product Review: Pre-Tied Stock Ties

I recently got the chance to try a bunch of pre-tied stock ties for the Chronicle’s Untacked magazine.

I’ve been really inspired to look into custom things for me and my horses since spending so much time at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and watching all of the dressage queens sparkle and shine, so searching for companies that did stock ties was a lot of fun.

Continue reading “Product Review: Pre-Tied Stock Ties”

Adventures In Rio: The Olympic Spirit Is Alive, And We’re Making The Most Of It

This blog originally appeared on coth.com.

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Our home away from home.

When I was first asked by my editors if I wanted to cover the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, I’ll admit I asked for 24 hours to think about it.

Most people would jump at the chance to go to an Olympics, but like most people, the things I’d heard through the mainstream media worried me—Zika, dirty water and crime.

But once I thought about it, I realized I’d better not pass up the opportunity. Besides, my co-worker Mollie Bailey has lived in the city, knows the language and has experienced several international championships, so that eased my mind a little.

As we got closer to our departure I began to feel a little more nervous as the media started to ramp up the stories about Rio’s crime and unpreparedness, terrorism threats and the spread of Zika.

On the day of my flight, I was feeling even more nervous, despite being an experienced international traveler. Would there be signs in the airport in English? Would my huge Pelican case full of camera gear be stolen right off the baggage claim? Would someone brush against me and steal my phone or purse?

Luckily Mollie went ahead a few days before me and was texting and sending me email updates about exactly what I should expect.

The airline had lost her luggage (more on that later), but she seemed to be having a great time crashing with our photographer friend Shannon Brinkman, who’d rented an apartment in Barra.

So, I anxiously stepped off the plane, followed my fellow travelers down a long corridor, and around the last bend, we were greeted by several people in Olympic gear. I went through the customs line very quickly, then made my way to get my luggage, which was there!

I grabbed a cart, was ushered by more friendly volunteers to the exit, and felt like a celebrity walking the red carpet as I walked out of the airport surrounded by people holding signs for their friends and customers.

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Our dorm room before we got our twin beds.

The bus to Deodoro Village arrived almost immediately, and I hopped on with two other people and was off in about an hour from landing.

I’ve never traveled to South America, but I knew about the poverty surrounding Rio so I wasn’t totally surprised by the landscape—favelas, dilapidated buildings, graffiti, dirt and trash, flanked by the beautiful mountains in the background, higher than any I’ve seen in the U.S.

There were no Walmarts, chain restaurants or open fields alongside the highway, just the urban sprawl of Rio.

As the bus pulled in to Deodoro, which is a military base, I saw several colorful buildings decorated with tanks, airplanes and statues, and armed men at every corner.

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Check in was in a temporary tent that was attached to a small convenience store. It was very easy, and the staff were very helpful. I was escorted to my room and given help with my bags.

When I opened the door to our home away from home for the next two and a half weeks I was a little taken aback. A double bed sat inside a tiny dorm room with a small bathroom attached. With barely enough room to turn around with my luggage, I turned around and asked a staff member if there were any bigger rooms because we’d requested a room with twin beds.

Nope. This was it. But they were able to quickly change the bed situation so Mollie and I won’t have to literally sleep on top of each other! Now we’re about three feet away.

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Deodoro accommodation village.

The good news is our room is part of a small apartment that has two other bedrooms (we’ve met one of our roommates, a field hockey photographer from Canada), a lounge area with a balcony and couches and a kitchen so we can spread out a little.

The kitchen only has a microwave and fridge, which might come in handy if it comes down to eating the Ramen they have for sale at the convenience store, but we’re not to that point yet! We’re hoping to find a grocery store and buy some healthier food than what’s available in the cafeteria on site, but for the last three nights we’ve only been able to make it that far. If we want restaurants or grocery stores we’ll have to find a taxi and make our way back towards Rio.

We’ve promised ourselves we won’t eat at the cafeteria every night!

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The main stadium and mixed zone.

I met up with Mollie at the equestrian venue on Thursday after dealing with our accommodations. We hit the ground running and went on a stable tour where we were able to play fan girls and get lots of photos of horse and human stars. It’s funny because I see our U.S. eventers on a monthly basis and have gotten to know some of them well over the years, but in this setting, Mollie and I became like paparazzi, shouting, “Boyd, Boyd! Over here!” or, “Go Glen!” as they walked by.

Our timing was well enough that we saw the U.S. eventers coming back from a flat school in the main arena. It was good to see everyone settling in, smiling and happy.

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Marmosets greeted us by our bus every morning.

The show jumpers are trickling in, so within the next few days, every Olympic horse will be on site. Where else can you see the U.S. eventers, then walk around the corner and see Valegro playing with his groom Alan Davies’ and be passed by Michael Jung on his way to walk his cross-country course?

At the entrance to the stables and into the venue itself, everyone, including the horses, have to walk over a squishy disinfectant pad each time in an effort to keep things sanitary.

We went on to a media course walk with the course designer Pierre Michelet, who explained that the track is twisty, so time will be influential. The word in the stables from riders is that it’s a lot bigger than they expected, so I don’t think this will be a dressage show!

The venue is first class, as many riders have already reported, and our media tent is right by the main arena.

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Locals waiting for the torch to pass through.

The photo staff are very helpful, and we have almost full run of the place as far as shooting locations. Unfortunately after day 1, it seems the best locations are facing the sides of the arena with no spectators in the stands, but I promise, despite my photos, there were people! It was a little sparse for eventing dressage, but it seems like a good mix of eventing fans and Brazilians, who got a bit rowdy when their first rider, Marcio Appel came in the ring.

They were cheering and shouting for him during the test, which didn’t help his horse, but I can understand. They are true sports fans and so proud to have the Olympics in their country.

As we were standing outside waiting for our bus on Thursday, the street was filling up with locals hoping to catch a glimpse of the torch on its way through.

A young girl went up to Shannon, who was standing nearby, and handed her a note in English that read, “Welcome to Brazil” with a heart.

How cool is that?

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The rest of our Thursday involved taking a bus to the Main Press Center to get my photo vest, which took about a minute, getting some food from their more expansive cafeteria, then catching a bus to Shannon’s apartment to pick up Mollie’s rogue luggage which had finally arrived, then back on a bus to the MPC, then on another bus back to Deodoro.

In general the transportation has been very easy, with buses coming on time every 20-40 minutes. We were getting to the end of that period waiting to go back to the MPC when we started discussing taxis straight back to Deodoro instead.

I’m really glad we didn’t do that because after we finally made it back to the MPC and on another bus to Deodoro we met some friendly field hockey commentators who told us they’d tried to get a cab to Deodoro but the driver couldn’t find the place (apparently there is no address) and when he did was unable to get very close. Thanks to our field hockey friends, who Mollie helped learn to pronounce several Portuguese names on our bus ride back, we learned that only one cab company is allowed on site. Good to know!

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A view from the cross-country. (Notice the blimp!)

It is kind of cool to be able to interact with journalists from other sports. At the Pan Ams, we never saw any other sports, and at the World Games, it’s only equestrian journalists, so we’ve been chatting up several people, including our field hockey friends, who are from Ireland and New Zealand and were fascinated by Donald Trump!

We arrived to the first day of competition full of energy and excitement and were promptly greeted by a broken metal detector. With a bus full of journalists needing to get in and get set up, it wasn’t the best way to start a morning, so Mollie did some Portuguese sweet talking and found her way in with a smaller backpack, but I was stuck in line for another 15 minutes until they let us go through another line. Apparently the second scanner broke right after I went through…

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Disinfecting!

All was going well until the lunch break when those in the media center heard a loud noise. I jumped, but thought someone just dropped a camera or something. I was gathering my things to head back out to shoot and thought nothing of it until I was told a stray bullet had pierced the tent!

We’ve felt very safe since we’ve been here, with armed military and police with their fingers near the trigger on every corner, but that was a little alarming. The official story is that there is none, but a lot of people believe it was a stray bullet from a military training exercise. We may never know, but we would really like to!

I’ll check back in a few days with, I’m sure, more stories. We’re trying to keep a sense of humor because it’s still early days, but as with every international championship, there’s always something!

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Product Review: Sun Shirts

The idea of wearing long sleeve shirts in the summer makes me want to faint, but with a big trip to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro coming up I thought it would be wise to invest in some sun shirts to protect myself from mosquitoes.

We’ve had a miserable heat wave the last week, so I took mercy on myself and wore sleeveless shirts, but before then I was able to test out a few different brands.

Ariat Sun Stopper Shirt

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sunshirt

Ariat is one of my favorite brands, so I picked up a few colors of their classic sun shirts with 1/4 zip tops. They also make several of the above colors in polo versions.

I know it totally goes against the idea of keeping you cool in the summer, but I bought the navy and red (so I can be patriotic!) and the navy geo. I like the look of the white striped one but I just don’t love wearing light colors to the barn, and I wanted to make sure that what I invested in could be used throughout the year.

The technical polyester/spandex fabric was very light and the shirt has fine mesh panels under the arms to help with airflow. Ariat’s Moisture Movement Technology is supposed to keep you cooler by pulling moisture away from the skin.

When you hold the shirt up to the light you can see through it, but it’s not too revealing. The 1/4 zip tops have a mock collar and stock tie loop, so the plain white shirt would work well for a show shirt.

I found the shirt to fit true to size and was stylish enough to wear out and to the barn. It was long enough to tuck in if needed and had flattering seams on the sides.

The fabric isn’t the softest compared to some of the other brands I tried, but it’s very light, and I felt it cooled my skin even when I sweat.

I wish they made a red and black one, then I’d be all set for those cooler cross-country days!

SmartPak EQology 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve Top

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I’ve been really impressed with SmartPak’s clothing, especially their breeches, and after trying an EQology short sleeve top I decided to try their budget sun shirt.

The tencel/bamboo material is eco-friendly and very light weight and has UV protection. I bought the turquoise first and thought it was too sheer, so I exchanged for the navy.  I don’t think it wicked moisture away as well as some of the other tops I tried.

The shirt has Raglan sleeves and thumb loops. I was not a fan of the fit of the sleeves, especially towards the bottom where they were quite baggy. I ended up rolling them up several times. They sort of felt like they’d been stretched out, but that’s just the design of the shirt. The rest of the shirt fit true to size on me.

Tuff Rider Ventilated Tech Shirt

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The Tuff Rider Ventilated Tech Shirt immediately felt heavier when I opened the package. The material also felt cheaper, but I think it’s just a different technology. It’s a thicker mesh with lighter mesh on the underside of the sleeves, and I felt a little “stuffier” when I rode. It’s not as sheer, so I think that contributes to the lower breathability factor.

It wasn’t my favorite for super hot days, but it comes in several sizes and with a good price!

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Kastel Denmark Signature Sun Shirt

Maybe it’s the $75 original price tag, but I feel so sophisticated and European wearing the Kastel Denmark Signature Sun Shirt.

They’re on sale on eBay for $25-$30 each though, so jump on it quick!

I have a zip up and 1/4 zip top one, and these are a close second favorite to the Ariat shirts. The material, which has a slightly pocked underside to aid in moisture wicking, is very soft and has a UPF 30 factor as well as anti-microbial agents to help keep the smell down.

The shirt looks very fitted in the promo photos, but I ordered my usual size and it wasn’t tight, which I prefer. The sleeves have fitted cuffs, which felt weird at first, but I much prefer that to the loose SmartPak sleeves. They also have a very fine mesh on the underside.

I think these did the best job with cooling. When I walked in my air-conditioned house after sweating through during a ride I almost immediately felt chilled! It was also very breathable during the ride.

I bought the royal blue and dark blue, and they’re thin, but not sheer thankfully!

Product Review: Bell Boots

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a product review here, then I remembered I’d done two recently for Untacked!

Here is my bell boots Test Lab. I would like to amend one thing though with the Woof boots. I used them for a full show jump lesson on Bear this fall and the bulb on the back that helps them stay in place actually rubbed him raw! So, negative points on those.

I’m going to try to find some time this week to write up a post on what I’ve been up to with the boys, but until then…

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September Catch Up – France, Marlborough, Plantation, Dallas and the AECs. Phew!

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A lot has happened this month. I had a really awesome vacation in France, but I’ll write a separate blog post about that soon. When I got back, I did a quick lesson with Bear that Monday at Morningside. Unfortunately, they put blue dye in the water jump, and he was quite unnerved about it. We spent some time trotting around in it, but he was very suspicious about putting his feet down.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

I felt good about the rest of the cross-country school and show jump part of the lesson and we headed into Marlborough feeling pretty good. The warm up for dressage was on grass that had just been mowed and he doesn’t have a lot of practice with warming up on it, so combined with the clumps of grass, I don’t think he was as fluid in his movement as he could have been. I still don’t have a good warm up plan for him, other than to not do more than half an hour so I don’t make him a flat tire, but I realized after the fact that I really needed him to be more forward and better bent. I expected he might be more forward since he hadn’t been out in a busy warm up ring in awhile, but that was not the case since it was a bit hot. So, I need to work more on circles and asking for some lengthened, forward steps, which is something we do at home all the time.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo
GRC Photo
GRC Photo

He was a bit excitable in the show jumping warm up. It’s hard because whenever we go to lessons, it’s usually just us, so he hadn’t been in a busy warm up ring for awhile in that situation either. He was certainly jumping well, just being a 5-year-old upon landing and going to the jumps, so I took him away from that area and let him have a good gallop in an open area of the field right before we went in.

The round was more about getting it done than making it look pretty. Since it was in an open area, I think I rode much better, but he thought it was pretty hilarious to swap leads in front of a couple of the jumps. He did get all his leads on landing though, which was a big improvement. Maybe I wasn’t throwing my upper body to the inside?

GRC Photo
GRC Photo
GRC Photo
GRC Photo

We did have the last rail down. I let him get a little flat going up a hill to a max oxer and he ticked it from behind as he was cantering away. We also had some random time faults, but I was more concerned with making good turns and letting him really see the jumps. Otherwise, I was happy with the round. For not having been in the ring since June, I didn’t totally mess it up and he felt like he had scope to spare over the bigger jumps.

I was feeling good for cross-country, but knew I’d need to give him a strong ride since there were a few things he’d never seen before. The first combination at 4ab was a max new wood ramp off a tight turn in the woods, three strides to another ramp. It was more of a training level question and was the thing I was most worried about, but he had no problem with it!

There was a log before the water and when he saw the water, he stopped at the edge. It wasn’t numbered, so it didn’t count against us when I turned him around and asked him to canter in. That actually worked and he broke to trot when he got in, but he was still clearly unnerved from his school at Morningside. He jumped the ramp out good, then did a bank up, two strides to another jump very well. A few more questions later, we came out of the woods into another open field, made a left turn and headed to the bank where he promptly stopped and I fell off, but landed on my feet.

I was honestly not expecting an issue at the bank. He’s been going off them confidently all year. I got back on, but he wasn’t having it, so we were eliminated a few fences from home.

I’m really disappointed about it since he was on track to have a really good finish. I feel like we’ve taken a slight step back, so we’re going to do the beginner novice at MD Horse Trials in October and try to school at Morven or Surefire in the next week to get him through some unfamiliar water and off a few more banks.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Lisa reminded me that he’s still green, but I’m also worried that issues like these blot his record as I’m trying to sell him. I can only hope people realize he’s still a green OTTB. Yes, some horses his age are going prelim, but he might be one that needs to spend some more time at novice. If I could cross-country school more often that would help, and if I could do an event every other week, that would help us both get in a rhythm, but that was just not to be this year because of travel and the summer heat.

I think it’s more about the process than the actual jumps. He has no problem over the jumps, but when there’s so much going on when he’s on course or in the warm up, that’s where his greenness shows. Lisa watched him stop at the bank at Marlborough and thought he was overwhelmed with the people and the fact that it was a big bank in the middle of nowhere.

After Marlborough I went up to Plantation Field for the day to take photos, and this past weekend I went to Texas for the AECs. It was hot, buggy and dusty, as usual, but I did a vacation day in Dallas on Thursday and at least got to see most of the big city sights. It’s definitely a contrast to Paris!

Oh So is feeling good and we’e started jumping little stuff again. I came home to Sam with a giant, painful abscess coming out his hind coronet band that we’re still battling with. What next?…