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?…

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Moving Along

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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.

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Walking with Oh So.

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.

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George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Sessions, Dec. 31-Jan. 4 – I traveled to Florida to cover the 5-day clinic.

I’ve Been Ripped Is Making His Mark In The Dressage Ring – A Paint/Arab competing at the FEI levels.

AECs May Seek Permanent Home In Texas – Should the AECs stay in Texas?

Brian Ross Retires – A popular dressage judge retires.

Haidaseeker Playboy Wears Several Different Hats–And Shoes – A Quarter Horse who competes in reining and the FEI levels of dressage.

Emma Ford Returns To Phillip Dutton Eventing – Phillip’s longtime groom returns.

Switzerland Bans Hyperflexion – The country passes a new law at the government level.

Buck Davidson Bids Goodbye To Santa’s Keeper – Buck’s promising two-star horse dies suddenly.

Three Shows, One Week

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Whew! I’ve finally got some time to sit down and relax after traveling to three shows in a week.

It all started with the American Eventing Championships in Tyler, Texas. After some schedule shuffling, I made it down late Thursday, but ended up having to drive from Dallas to Tyler, which was about a two-hour drive in traffic. At least I got to see Dallas up close!

It wasn’t deathly hot, but still hotter then I’ve been used to after our cool late summer. The Texas Rose Horse Park was workmanlike and tidy, but not what I would call “stunningly beautiful.” It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, amongst cows and open fields, but apparently Tyler has a population of close to 100,000.

The cross-country featured a ton of brand new jumps and I thought the courses looked challenging and up to the standard that we’re used to in Area II, but with a little less terrain. It was quite dry, but they aerated.

I got to have some help from my former officemate and friend, Megan Brincks, who moved to Fort Worth to work for the American Paint Horse Association. We had a great time and I wish we’d had more time to just hang out and have dinner, but we were so busy. Here’s a link to all of our coverage.2013-09-27 09.15.58

It cooled down a bit on Sunday after some storms, so I was able to go to the tiny Tyler airport minimally sweaty and with only one fire ant bite! My flight to Dallas was all of 20 minutes in the air, which was pretty funny, but there were no direct flights from Tyler to D.C.

I wrote my story on Monday and Tuesday and headed up to the Prince Georges Equestrian Center on Wednesday to cover the WCHR Professional Challenge and WCHR Developing Professional Challenge.

I’m still learning about the hunters, but from what I could gather, the WCHR (World Champion Hunter Rider) program is kind of like the Adequan Gold Cup series in eventing. Certain shows are designated WCHR shows and riders can gain points for the final each year. I still don’t know how some riders could qualify to ride in both classes, but hey, what’s another ribbon?

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Greg Crolick won the Developing Pro class and he was a pleasure to talk to. I find that a lot of hunter riders are tough to talk to because they ride so many horses and compete in so many classes that they really don’t develop a relationship with the horses they ride. So when I ask, “What makes him so special?”, I don’t often get a good answer.

I also find it tough interviewing hunter and jumper riders because I don’t follow that scene as closely, so I don’t always know the background of the horse or rider before I interviewthem as they come out of the in gate.

The night ended pretty late, but I was happy with my photos and coverage.

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I’m not sure why I decided to go, but I dragged myself out of bed early on Saturday to drive up to Morven Park to take photos of the advanced cross-country. I was really tired and it was really hot, but Morven is one of my favorites and the advanced only runs once a year now.

As expected, several pairs withdrew due to the hard ground, but about 15 still went. I had planned to stay up and watch some of the intermediate too, but I was fading fast.

Check out a few more photos here.

Now I’ve had the rest of the weekend to recover and get ready for Harrisburg next week.

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The Insanity Begins

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There really hasn’t been much to say the last few weeks. Oh So is fairly calm on stall rest and I’m really getting the urge to ride. I am physically aching to ride, which is driving me nuts! I’ve only ever gone 2 weeks without riding in my entire life.

Lisa found me the perfect project horse, an OTTB that was 7 and had been started under saddle, like Oh So, but hadn’t done much since he stopped racing at 4.

We had him vetted last week and he was totally sound and perfect…until we got to the X-rays. He ended up having OCDs on his hocks, so no go, unfortunately.

I was so close I could taste it, and now I’m just feeling a little down in the dumps. I just want a horse to ride! How hard can that be? Lisa is back on the hunt again and has a couple of leads that she’s checking out this weekend. I just feel like I flushed $1,000 down the toilet.

Oh So had an ultrasound yesterday and the vet said she saw about 15% improvement on the accessory ligament and 25% improvement on the suspensory. She had hoped for more improvement on the accessory, but overall, we’re moving forward positively.

Since I had nothing to do last weekend, on Sept. 22, I made my first trip to the Plantation  Field International Horse Trials in Unionville, Pa. (check out my photos here.)

2013-09-22 07.53.45The self-proclaimed “best event ever” is in it’s sixth year hosting CIC divisions and while I’ve been to many of the east coast’s top FEI-events as a spectator or reporting for The Chronicle, for some reason, I’d never made the trip. Plus, we have so many events in Virginia and Maryland that a four hour drive to compete and stay overnight seems like a lot of effort!

Nestled in the heart of the Brandywine Valley, Plantation Field is smack dab in the middle of eventing and hunt country and since it’s inception, is starting to become riders’ last run before the fall three-days.

In striving to be the “best event ever”, Plantation Field engages the community. Several local business and riders sponsored cross-country fences, donated money, or set up booths in the trade fair.

Bringing more interest from the public is a constant battle for horse sports, so this year, the Plantation Field team stepped up the trade fair and held “a weekend in the country”, that included a Kid’s Corner, Wine Bistro, Beer Garden, and to top it all off, a Downton-Abbey themed tailgating contest where spectators came in their poshest tweeds.

The event is taylor-made for the spectator, with the trade fair at the crest of a hill 2013-09-22 10.34.23-1overlooking the cross-country course on one side and the show jumping arena on the other.

While there were several spectators that made their way down to the water jump, many were just as happy to sit under the food tent, drink a beer and watch from the top of the hill.

I took photos of the CIC divisions, and the three-star division got dramatic when 7 horses and riders fell at the A element of the water jump and officials ultimately decided to take out the A and B.

Plantation was the start of a pretty insane next 6 weeks. I’m off to the AECs in Texas today, then home for a couple of days, then up to Capital Challenge in Md. for a day, then Morven Park.

I’ll have a weekend off before spending an entire week in Harrisburg, Pa. covering the Pennsylvania National. Unfortunately, that falls on Fair Hill weekend, which is celebrating its 25th year. I’ve gone for the last 11 years of my life, and I’m devastated to miss it, but we’re short-staffed, so I have to fill in.

I’m hoping to drive from Harrisburg to Fair Hill on Sunday morning so I can at least catch some of the show jumping.

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