Winter Doldrums

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I haven’t written in about a month since things with Oh So and Bear are just trudging along as we go further into winter.

Oh So has been cantering for a couple of weeks now and feels pretty good so I’ve been working on trot poles and if it ever dries up a bit, I need to be getting out on the hills.

He’s had a bit of a cold/respiratory thing this week with some snot and a slight cough, so I’ve been keeping his work pretty easy.

Bear unfortunately had a heel bruise that’s taken some time, but I think he’s finally come sound this week. He hasn’t quite forgotten everything he knows, but he does feel a bit rusty! I’m hoping to maybe pop over a few jumps this weekend if my dressage trainer Nicky thinks he looks good. The lameness is so slight at this point, but I want to make doubly sure that he’s going well.

I do think the little forced break has helped him. He feels stronger and more forward, possibly because he’s been quite bored out in the field. I think he really enjoys having a job, so fingers crossed we can move forward. Of course I got a couple of calls on him over the last few weeks…

At work, I got to cover a day of the Mary King clinic at Morven Park which was really cool. She unfortunately did the same exact lesson for every group/level, but I did get a few new exercises to try.

I’ve been working on using four canter poles on a 20 meter circle with Oh So this week and I think it will be good for Bear too. It’s so basic, but can be so hard!.

I’ve been really yearning to jump. I can’t believe I have two horses out of commission at the same time. I’m ready for this year to be over!

I traveled back to Texas this past weekend to cover the USEA Convention in Fort Worth. I got to visit my former co-worker Megan, who lives nearby and she took me for a quick tour of the city, which was quite modern save for the Stockyards, which were the historical part of town.

It was pretty cool to see governance in action and I got to sit in on some private high performance meetings with chef d’equipe David O’Connor, which made me feel pretty cool!

I don’t have much else going on for now until Oh So and Bear start jumping and going off the property, so I’ll update again soon.

 

 

Horse Trials and Tribulations

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted because I’ve been busy, busy, busy!

After Seneca, I gave Bear an easy week and a half, then went for a quick overnight trip to Plantation Field for the CIC divisions.

It wasn’t an official work trip, but I found the photos I took last year to be useful so I borrowed a lens and went to the press conference. Buck Davidson won the CIC** and was a gracious interview as always. He and Boyd Martin have been criticized recently because they took their WEG horses to Plantation three weeks after failing to complete in France, but they both gave honest and reasonable answers to my questions about why.

Buck knows his horse better than anyone and shares a special partnership with him, one I’ve seen and heard him talk about first hand on multiple occasions, so it was sad to see him ripped apart for it. He was able to finish the season on a good note on a happy and sound horse. Isn’t that something we all hope for after a bad go?

Check out a photo gallery from Plantation Field.

Plantation Field
Plantation Field

I left for Texas for the American Eventing Championships the Thursday after Plantation. Sadly, the day before I left, my family made the decision to put our cat Winnie to sleep. We’ve had him since we inherited him when we moved to our farm in 2002 and he was about 2.

He’s lived a long, healthy life, but over the last two months, he started coughing. We took him to the vet and she found cancer cells on his lungs on an X-ray. We treated him with antibiotics and he seemed a little better–moving and eating normally but coughing a little. A few days before I left for the AEC he had some blood coming out of his nose and was uncomfortable eating. We made the decision to take him to the vet, but I decided I didn’t want to go. I’ve never been in the room for that before and I just didn’t think I could handle it. My dad went and held his paw during his final breaths.

10687219_10101805294891517_7728162552678193557_nI’ve never had the opportunity to choose when one of my animals is put down because they’ve always either died tragically or gotten sick or injured very suddenly, so I was glad that we had the choice this time to end his suffering, but it’s still sad nonetheless.

He was a sweet kitty and I’ll miss watching him lay in the sun with our other cats or dip his paws in the water bowl to get them clean. I hope he’s hanging out in the sun with Ramsey somewhere.

I headed off to Texas with a heavy heart, but I enjoyed my trip. My friend Megan, who used to work at COTH, freelanced for us and helped me out. She lives in Ft Worth now and works for the APHA. We had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Thursday night and had three full days ahead of us.

It was hot, but not too sticky. I was sad to see a small group in the advanced division, especially when they get the bulk of the prize money. There’s been a lot of talk in recent weeks about what the AEC should be and if they should move around or stay in Texas.

I can only say that I was disappointed to have the Adult Team Challenge move there. I really enjoyed my first and only ATC in 2012 at the VA HTs and wish they would stay regional. It’s just not viable for most amateurs to go to Texas, especially when it’s that hot in September.

That being said, the ATC riders I spoke to were all really fun. As much as I enjoy speaking

AEC Texas-style!
AEC Texas-style!

to the professionals on a weekly basis, I like finding out other people’s stories and telling them.

Here’s a link to all of our coverage.

 I had an uneventful trip back from Tyler through Houston and came back to Oh So feeling not quite right from behind again.

Before I left for Texas, he had started back walking and trotting under saddle after his SI injection and felt much improved for the first four days, then felt off again. I gave him the weekend while I was gone, hoping for the rest to do him good, but it didn’t.

I had the vet out again and she said he looked improved from behind, but still weak. She thought maybe he needed another week of before we started riding again, so we worked out a plan of lunging for a week and walking under saddle. I’ll start trotting under saddle this week and see what happens.

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Morven Park

Needless to say, I’m really disappointed that we won’t even be able to get to one event this year. I’m just hoping he comes sound again and that this isn’t going to be a battle from here on out. His check ligament and suspensory look good and feel good, but the more I think about it, the more I think he did something in the field to make himself so ouchy from behind. I’m hoping slow work will help him recover.

I had a busy weekend taking Bear for a jump lesson and cross-country school with Lisa at Morningside. He hadn’t been off the property in three weeks and I thought the fact that it was 35 degrees and we were alone would bother him, but he stood quietly while I put studs in and tacked up. He was a bit up as we trotted around the ring, but settled nicely and I surprised myself by not feeling totally out of practice.

We popped over a ditch, went down a bank and went up and down the hills a few times before we went through the water to end on a good note. I slowed things down a bit by trotting to the water the first time and letting him stop, then calmly asking him to walk in and he was fine. Lisa said not to make him flustered by using my whip or kicking for now. I’m hoping to try that strategy at Waredaca in a few weeks so we don’t get eliminated!

I also went to Morven Park on Saturday to watch the advanced and the CIC***. There weren’t that many riders unfortunately, but there were more than last year, which had about 5 start cross-country.

I was really bummed about not being able to compete Oh So there. The prelim course looked nice, although I’m not happy that they keep holding the show jumping on the muddy grass in the fall. There were apparently a lot of problems over the weekend.

Check our photos from Morven Park.

I’ hoping to take Bear cross-country schooling again this weekend while Lisa is out of town, then I’m off to Fair Hill next weekend to cover it for COTH, then Waredaca and VA HT to close out the season. Fingers crossed for sound horses and dry weather!

Morningside at 7:30am.
Morningside at 7:30am.

Less Is More

Seneca prelim last year.
Seneca prelim last year.

I’ve been grappling with the idea of “less is more” as Oh So has come back into work after his injury.

As he’s gotten older, it’s definitely a realization that I’ve been coming to, but since his injury, I’ve had to be careful about how much jumping I do and where I do it.

It’s been a year since I’ve jumped even novice height, and over the last few months as I’ve bumped the jumps up to training height (and eventually prelim), I find myself wanting to jump a line or a single big fence more than I might have in the past so I can “catch up” or get my feel back and work on my position.

But because I want to save him for as many years to come, I have to be satisfied with fewer jumping efforts.

My perfectionist nature leaves me always wanting to jump through a gymnastic or line several times to fix things, but I’ve not always been able to do that because Oh So tends to build as we keep jumping the same thing over and over, resulting in pulling or just jumping in bad form. Jumping fewer fences leaves me feeling like I didn’t quite master something, but it’s often necessary so things don’t spiral out of control. Over the years, Lisa and I have tried jumping the same thing several times in a row to get him to “give it up”, but we learned that strategy just doesn’t work.

In a jumping session at home last week, I set up a few bigger exercises but had no one to help me. I usually like to build up a gymnastic line, but this time out, I trotted my warmup fence four times, then kept my canter going and did a bounce to a one stride over a big double X.

Going straight into a gymnastic exercise cold seems to get his attention, and even if I was worried about screwing it up, he jumped it very well the first time. I couldn’t help myself, so I did it a second time and it was fine–he was listening to me and the double X really made him use himself.

I kept my canter going and did a training-height wide oxer, which surprised him at first, so he didn’t use his head and neck as well as he could have. I came around again and it was better, kept my canter and did a one stride vertical to square oxer nicely.

I let him walk, then picked up my canter and had a beautiful jump over the single oxer and almost kept going to the one stride again, but ultimately decided to end on a good note before he got too wound up. What would be the point other than for me to practice? He knows how to jump a training level one stride.

Did I want to jump more? Absolutely! Did he want to jump more? Yes! But I exercised restraint on my part and trusted myself and him that we could get the job done in fewer fences.

I tend not to have a lot of self confidence, in my real life or my riding life, which is why I think I feel the need to “get it perfect” with more jumps. When I’m on a role during the competition season, I tend to do better. Trusting in both of our skills is difficult for me.

We had a similar experience two weeks ago during his first cross-country school back with Lisa. We jumped a bit in the arena, then went out to the course. She picked a few fences for us to do, we did them, and that was that. He was raring to go, I wanted to do more, but we just stopped. We know we can both do it.

With Bear, I’m more apt to repeat things so he understands and can practice. In our lesson last weekend, we did a few good size beginner novice fences in the ring, about once time each, then went out to school cross-country. We decided to try a few bigger fences and he was a little surprised at a bench/rolltop jump that was solid BN. He ran out, not badly, and I re-presented. He had a slightly awkward jump with his hind end, but did it, then we did it a third time nearly perfect.

Lisa was pleased with how he handled himself the second time. She said that shows a lot about his character that he was willing to try again.

This lesson did not start on time, but Bear learned a lot about patience!
This lesson did not start on time, but Bear learned a lot about patience!

I’ve had some good flat lessons with both boys recently. With Oh So, I’m working on keeping him a bit deeper than I might like in our warmup in hopes of keeping his neck soft throughout our ride.

With Bear, I’ve been working on halts, centerlines and general test riding in preparation for his official eventing debut this weekend at the Maryland Starter Trials. We’re doing baby novice/2’3″ for the first time out, especially considering how he reacted when we did some bigger fences on cross-country last weekend. He needs them small enough that he can trot them and not get into trouble since there will be so much more going on that he’ll probably be focused on!

He has really turned into a “real horse” this summer with solid muscling and a bit of a growth spurt. His canter is coming along nicely and his trot just keeps getting better. And all with no tension! It’s just a very different ride going from Oh So to him every day.

I took Oh So to the Loudoun Hunt HT schooling day on Monday with Lisa and we had our first serious schooling. He thought the novice jumps were silly, but I needed to do them to get my feel back a bit. I started out a bit tentative and looking for a spot, but by the end, I felt back in the groove with him and he put up with me thankfully!

His first event back will be novice at Seneca next weekend. I’m excited to be back out and I hope the footing holds up–I’d rather it be a bit firm. But first, we’ll do a couple of first level tests at CDCTA next week for practice.

Lamplight
Lamplight

I was in Chicago two weekends ago to cover the USEF Developing Horse Championships for COTH. It was super hot and humid, but the Lamplight Equestrian Center was very pretty and I saw a lot of very nice young horses. Check out my coverage here – http://www.chronofhorse.com/content/2014-developing-horse-championships

A Last Minute Switch At CDCTA Dressage Show

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Bear at the show.

I was excited to get Oh So out for his first dressage show back since his injury (I’m not counting our failed attempt at Morningside in July) at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds, ironically on the exact date of his diagnosis a year ago.

That is, until he was holding his right front foot off the ground in the stall that day! Why oh why did it have to be the right front, and on such an important day?

We had a very good lesson the night before and I was feeling prepared and confident, but his shoe was barely holding on that morning, so I had to get the farrier out on the day of the show. He went ahead and did all four feet since he was due and less than an hour after he left, my mom noticed Oh So was holding his right front off the ground and resting his toe. He would put weight on all four feet, but then he’d rest the right front again.

He seemed a little short walking back out of the stall but looked great on the lunge. I frantically called the farrier, who turned around and came back to test all the nails. He had no reaction anywhere on the foot, which made me worry even more. What if he’d done something to the tendon again?

By dinner time, he appeared to have stopped resting the foot, but I didn’t want to take the risk and decided to take Bear to the show at the last minute.

Oh So was sound yesterday under saddle and had a great jump school/cross-country school today, so I think maybe the shoe felt “tight” on his foot? Or, as my farrier said, he just didn’t want to go to a dressage show! I’m hoping it’s behind us now, but he’s never been sensitive after getting his feet done, so it was a bit alarming.

Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.
Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.

So, I memorized Training Test 1 and 2 really fast and put Bear on the trailer. He was good about taking everything in. The ring is near a busy road and there were tents set up for a future show, a grandstand and a park behind some hedges that he could hear noises from, but could’t see.

I decided to shorten his warm up to about 35 minutes and that seemed fine. He was a bit distracted, understandably, at first but settled into his work.

The first test he was a little distracted and I wasn’t completely accurate in my figures, but we got it done! I tried to push out his free walk, but he lifted his head and jigged. We haven’t practiced the stretchy circle diligently at home, so he has an idea about it, but I wasn’t expecting it in the ring.

His halts and trot-walk transitions are still a bit abrupt because when I start sitting, he thinks it means stop. We scored a 62% on that test with mostly 6’s and 6.5s and a few 7s and an 8. Our collective marks were 6s and 6.5s with a 7 on “harmony between horse and rider.”

The second test was a bit more accurate with a few more 8s and 7s. I was kicking a bit by then, so my rider score suffered, as did the impulsion score. The judge suggested spurs, which I will definitely use next time. He’s been a pretty forward at home recently but I do wear spurs most days. He’s been kicking out a bit at them in canter if my leg isn’t totally quiet, so I wanted to keep things quiet at the show, but now I know better!

We scored a 65.89% on that test. I’m not sure where we ended up in the class, but I was just happy we made it through! I’m a planner, so last minute changes are not my thing, but I’m proud of us both for getting it done.

I’m going to try to enter Oh So in the September show before his first event, which will be Seneca Valley!

Morningside CT recap

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Bear schooling at home.

It’s been about two months since Bear was last out at a show due to his foot bruise, my travels and just getting him legged up again, but we made it to Morningside on Sunday for a combined test.

We decided to do baby novice one more time and he was pretty good. I don’t think he’s going to be one to need a lot of dressage warmup, which is nice, because it’s exhausting riding him compared to Oh So! He’s still learning to get off my leg but I decided against spurs since he’s been ultra sensitive to them at home lately, and I really could have used them by the time I trotted down centerline.

As a result, in our first canter transition, I freaked out a bit and chased him, so we got a 5 for that. His downwards transition was also rough as he swung his hindquarters in. Those are hard to do on the long side!

After the free walk, the test was steadier and we picked up a few 7s and 8s to finish with a 32.0. It was probably a little generous, but hey, it made me feel good!

He cantered easily around the baby novice course, but I was throwing my upper body left a little on landing so we didn’t get every lead. I’m not sure why I do it to the left on him but to the right on Oh So.

They had quite a few people sign up for baby novice and beginner novice jumping rounds, so after warming up on the track for our beginner novice round, which is awful because you can’t get into a rhythm, we had to sit around and wait for probably 40 minutes. He was fine with it, but I think I should have done a couple of jumps before we went in since I work best off the momentum of a few rhythmic jumps.

They put in the panels and fillers for the beginner novice division and in hindsight, I should have let him have a peek at some of them. He started off ok over the first fence, but then I asked for a long one to the second and he popped in an extra stride, while I stupidly jumped ahead for a pretty ugly effort.

We regained our composure quickly for the next two jumps, but I did the same stupid thing again to a vertical with a stone wall, and pretty much almost fell off! We regained our composure again and finished a lot better than we started!

So, moral of the story- I’m still figuring out my balance on him compared to Oh So. We’ve only recently started putting the jumps up to serious beginner novice height, and while Oh So made them seem tiny when I started him, Bear is smaller and I have less in front of me. His neck comes out of his shoulders at less of an upwards angle and I don’t have huge withers and a long neck to “catch me” should I jump ahead.

Oh So also finds long spots quite fun, so I’ve been able to get away with jumping ahead with my upper body. He’s rarely chipped in in the years I’ve had him.

So, Bear will teach me not to jump ahead I hope, because otherwise I’ll end up on the ground! He’s also been so saintly, quiet and almost bored jumping at home and in our lessons that I think I’ve trusted that too much. He was slightly surprised by the fillers at Morningside, so he added a stride instead of taking off long. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to mind as I right myself after the jump. A true amateurs horse, even at 4 years old!

For now we’ll just work on getting comfortable jumping at the height. I’ve done a ton of prelims but beginner novice feels big on him to me. He doesn’t seem to care, but I need to get brave now!

I included the second half of our BN round here since it was much better than the first!

 

Two Steps Forward

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Things are quietly turning around for Bear since my last post. Once he got his shoe back on, he seemed fairly sound. I had Nicky come over on Saturday for a lesson with Oh So and she lunged Bear and walked him around under saddle.

She thought he was still unsound on the lunge, perhaps a little stifle-y due to a growth spurt in combination with a little leftover soreness from the bruise, and suggested I have a different vet look at him with a fresh set of eyes.

I could barely tell on the lunge and when I rode him today, I just couldn’t feel anything. I had my dad video us to show to Lisa today when I took Oh So to his first jump lesson since his injury.

She thought he looked fine, but still advised I get a second opinion before we start up jumping again, so I’m going to try to make an appointment for this week.

As for Oh So, we had a nice flat lesson, focusing on keeping his neck out at the base and starting to think more about test riding.

Today I took him for our first jump lesson since his injury. Lisa hasn’t seen him in person since last August, and she thought he looked good in his weight, but noticed he’s lacking a bit of strength from behind when he tripped a couple of times upon landing.

We didn’t jump more than 2’6″ since I’m still in my dressage saddle, but Lisa actually thought my position looked pretty good!

We just focused on keeping a steady pace and cantered over some hunter-type lines. I found myself riding him a bit like he was Bear, slow and steady, and he actually waited in most of the lines. He almost got me “making a move” a few times, but I tried just to stay relaxed.

I’ve found that riding Bear, who is very “hunter-like” over fences, makes me wait with my upper body and let the fences come to me. It will be interesting once he gets going again to see if I can continue to let that positively influence my rides on Oh So.

The plan now is to keep working on Oh So’s fitness by working on some hills and continuing to raise the fences. My new jumping saddle should be here this weekend, so that will be good to get back into a proper fitting one!

I’m taking it one day at a time with Bear, but I’m hoping we’re over this bruise and that we can continue on to the fall season. I’m excited to hopefully have two horses to compete.

EDITED JULY 9

Bear is sound! I took him to another vet who specializes in racehorses today and after a 10 minute lameness exam he determined he looked great, so we’re ready to go full steam ahead again.

Now to start picking out competitions…

Scratch That

The last week has not been a good one for me horse-speaking. Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to give you a sign? Maybe it’s just shit luck, but I ended up scratching Bear from the starter trial at Waredaca today due to a series of issues that cropped up this week.

It started last Sunday when he was being a bit spooky during our jumping warmup in the ring at a lesson. He jumped well but was spooking at external things- basically choosing that day to act like a 4-year-old. OK, fine.

We went out to school cross-country after warming up and he was especially silly, but focused when it came to the jumps. “A new side of Bear,” I thought.

We came around to jump a fence before the water and on the way to the turn, he spooked right and I went left, landing on the ground in the process. I think he was surprised, so he ran off and almost came when called, but decided to gallop back to the trailer, which was down a narrow gravel road probably half a mile away.

After trudging after him and getting some help from another of Lisa’s students who ponied him back towards us, I got back on and just worked a little on the hill. I was mad at myself for not having my leg enough in front of me, mad that Lisa was telling me the obvious and frustrated that my saddle has been slipping right on him and was clearly not working.

We finished the lesson with the decision that I needed a new saddle ASAP because we both thought my Albion was causing some kind of issue.

Fast forward to Wednesday when I had the saddle fitter come out to look at one I’d found at the Middleburg Tack Exchange and she took one look at my Albion and said, “Do not ride in this.” There had been a piece of metal popping out of the pommel area, but just barely. I’d hoped I could get it fixed while I’m gone for a couple of weeks in Italy, but apparently it was an important part of the head plate and was causing the tree to spread open and become wider every time we jumped or cantered. I never felt it, but I think he was and it added up–he’d been fidgety when tacking up and mounting and now seemed overly playful on cross-country up and down the hills. Sorry Bear!

I felt horrible. It also dawned on me quickly that we had no jump saddle for our eventing debut in a few days.

On Thursday I brought Bear out for my flat lesson and saw that his right hock was swollen and quite painful. It appeared he was kicked or knocked himself in some way because there was a light scrape.

Bear's hock on Thursday night.
Bear’s hock on Thursday night.

I went ahead and did a lesson with Oh So, who was quite good actually! But I was pretty discouraged at that point. We started him on Bute and Dex and I Furasone-wrapped it the next day. He never appeared very lame thankfully.

By yesterday, it had gone down significantly, but I decided to scratch because he could be bruised and I hadn’t ridden for a couple of days.

So, here I am today, totally bummed not only about losing $110 (hey, at least it’s not a recognized event I guess!) but also because there’s really not much in the way of quality starter horse trials until Loch Moy in September. I was looking forward to Bear’s eventing debut, even if it was 2’3/Elementary. I want to see what he’s made of! And I’m itching to get back out there myself considering it’s been almost a year since Oh So’s last event.

September feels like it’s so far away. I know there’s plenty of combined tests and dressage shows to do and maybe if he’s ready, we’ll come out recognized beginner novice in the fall, but it would be nice to have a low-key event first.

So the plan now is to find a saddle that fits first and foremost, then I’m hoping he’ll feel better by this coming weekend to do a jump lesson. Lisa wants me to do some of the recognized event schooling days like Maryland Horse Trials in July, but that requires taking a day off of work, so I’ll have to plan accordingly.

That's one happy horse!
That’s one happy horse!

So, with nothing to do today, I decided to take Oh So out for some hill work at Wingreen. This was his second time off property since his injury and he acted like he hadn’t missed a day! There were two large groups schooling, which I was worried might rile him up, and he was definitely strong, but not acting silly.

We must have looked pretty crazy in our cross-country boots, dressage saddle (now that I don’t have a jumping one!) and martingale (so I don’t get my nose broken), but we worked up and down the hills in trot and did a little canter before splashing through the water at the end.

So now I’ve got two weeks before I head off to Italy for vacation and I’m hoping I can regroup, find a saddle and figure out a schedule for summer combined tests!

 

Back In Business

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I got the best news I could have hoped for last week when the vet cleared Oh So to start jumping!

We jumped our first cross rail on Thursday and he was a wild man as expected. It’s hard to describe my feelings after jumping him for the first time in 9 months. I’m overjoyed that we’re back to doing what we love and his enthusiasm clearly hasn’t waned!

It’s been a long, and sometimes frustrating recovery and rehab, but I’m thankful it’s gone according to plan so far with no setbacks and very strong healing according to the ultrasound.

Of course, it’s going to take some getting used to on my end after jumping Bear, who’s pretty quiet and prefers to lope over show jumps. Maybe riding him will help me wait with my upper body on Oh So!

Oh So is also allowed to start trotting up and down hills, so that will make our hacks a little more interesting. He needs to regain the strength in his hind end, so we’ll be working on that over the summer.

If all goes to plan, the vet said we could be back competing in the fall. My goal would be to  do some dressage shows over the summer, maybe by July, and my trainer Lisa wants us to start back by doing a novice or two (Haha! That will be fun holding him back), then we should be able to end the year with training. I don’t want to push to get to prelim this year.

I also took Oh So off property for the first time this weekend. I went to one of my dressage trainer Nicky’s student’s farms about 45 minutes away. He hasn’t been off property since I took him to get his PRP done in September, but he walked right on the trailer and was very well behaved for our flat lesson.

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He was a bit tense, as to be expected, but I think he was happy to be out and was practically grinning the whole time.

So now life starts to get a bit more complicated as Oh So starts to come back in full work and Bear starts competing a bit more. I’m going to try to get Oh So out every other week or so, but I don’t think it’s a good idea right now to take them both together, so my weekends will be full!

I’m preparing to take Bear to his first real event at the Waredaca starter trial on Sunday, so that should be exciting!

Bouncing Around Baby Novice

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OK, so I’ve run out of creative titles and am going with alliteration!

But that title pretty accurately represents my Saturday with Bear at Morningside.

We had another early ride time before 9am and I kept him in the night before after a couple hours of turnout in the evening. Combined with the cool weather and the bigger atmosphere at Morningside, I knew he’d be a little up first thing in the morning.

There were a few trailers when we pulled in and he was definitely looky. I decided to get on about an hour before our test to walk over to the show area and let him have a look.

He was on his toes on the way over there, definitely a different side of him I haven’t seen before!

We watched a few horses do their dressage tests, then walked back and by that point, he was building. We had a few “baby” moments in the warmup ring where I wish I’d had my martingale on, then Lisa got there and we got down to business.

Once he was moving he focused the best he could considering the stimuli. He was grinding his teeth a bit, but we worked through walk, trot and canter, keeping the connection and making sure he was staying slower rather than quickening.

We walked over to the ring a few minutes before our test and worked in the arena on footing. He was totally focused by that point, but in hindsight, I should have asked for another couple of canter transitions before we went in for the test because he wasn’t sharp off my leg.

We got 8s on the centerline and the first trot circle, which was pretty cool. As we got to the corner for our left canter transition, he was totally dead to my leg and I had to kick and squeeze to get him into it. 4. Oops!

I also had to give him a reminder tap with the whip during the circle. 5. Resistant.

We don’t quite have a free walk yet so we got a 6 on that, but when I gathered him up for the trot transition, he stayed fairly connected in walk, which is good for him at this point in his training. I haven’t been insisting on that connection in walk because my dressage trainer Nicky doesn’t think he needs to be that connected yet, but Lisa wanted to see a little more, so I asked and he yielded.

I had some more trouble getting into the right lead canter and clucked at him, and the judge noticed. Oops. 6.

We had a good transition down to trot on the long side, which I think is sort of difficult since I always ask on a circle, then couldn’t quite stayed balanced enough to turn down centerline, so we got a 5 on that and the halt since he was against my hand. Again, something we need to keep practicing.

We ended up with a 37.4 on Beginner Novice Test A. I think if we can fix the canter work, he could easily score below 35 and I’d be perfectly happy. He got a 7 on his gaits, so that was nice.

So now for the over-analyzing-even-though-he’s-4-and-I-should-just-be-happy-that-we-stayed-in-the-ring:

I’m at the point now in his training where he needs to be sharper off my leg. He always feels slow to me compared to Oh So, so I have to keep his natural rhythm in mind, but he can be a little lazy. Lisa suggested a small pair of spurs now. I’m working at home on getting him more forward and sharper off my leg, but it just didn’t translate at the show.

Of course, I’d rather have him slower than faster, but I literally got a cramp in my leg from asking him to canter during the test!

We also need to work on smoother turns onto the centerline and smoother transitions through walk into the halt.

I didn’t get a chance to walk the show jumping, so I was a little nervous. We warmed up on the track, which is tough because it’s hard to get in a rhythm, but he didn’t seem to mind. We hung out for a bit while other’s went before us, then went in.

We was a little high-headed and looking around but we made it over all the jumps and got all the distances! We didn’t get every lead, but we got some of them and he tried to change for others, so I think it was our smoothest round yet.

We ended up fourth.

We went up on the hill to play on the cross-country course, but there weren’t a ton of small jumps for us, so we worked over a small ditch and up and down some hills. He went in to the water on the first try and we trotted and cantered over a log on the edge of the water. Training level here we come! 😉

So overall, I was really happy with how he handled the atmosphere. It was a lot to throw at him with two dressage rings going, horses in the distances, tons of trailers and more than one horse in the warmup.

He keeps getting better every outing, so I’m dropping our first entry in the mail tomorrow for the Waredaca Starter Trial on June 8 at beginner novice.

I think we need a couple more cross-country schools, but at this point it’s time to bite the bullet and just do it. There aren’t any convenient unrecognized events until September and by that point, I think we’ll be ready for recognized beginner novice.

I’m off to my brother’s wedding in Dayton, Ohio this weekend, so the horses will have a few days off. Oh So is up to five minutes canter and his work ethic/submission is slowly coming back. I’ve got the vet coming soon to watch us ride and determine when we can start adding more work and maybe jumping.

I went to Jersey Fresh last weekend to cover it for COTH. It was a pretty nice weekend and I was happy with our coverage. It was a shame so many didn’t make it around the CCI*** course and that there were so few entries to start with. I did an extensive analysis of the event in the issue out this week.

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Second Show Success

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Another 5am wakeup call awaited me on Saturday for Bear’s second show, this time at Hunt Club Farm in Berryville, Va.

I’ll back up a bit to last weekend for a minute though, when we took him for his second cross-country schooling at Locochee Farm in Middleburg. They have a nice cross-country course with lots of baby logs and things, but first we warmed up in the ring over some jumps with flower boxes.

He was a bit distracted, being a new ring, and Lisa had us trot to a white panel with the farm name across it. He took one look as we approached and dove sideways, so I let him go look at it, then represented and he did it just fine.

The cross-country course is on a huge hill, but it flattens out at the top a bit where the water jump and banks are. He got to the top of the hill and was quite impressed with the view. We had a buddy with us who was more experienced, which was nice to have.

Lisa had me start by going back to the bottom of the hill and cantering up over three logs in a row, about five strides apart. He was a little all over the place, but we jumped them and did it a second time with better impulsion. It was very weird to be kicking, but he has no concept of jumping UP a hill, so that was a good exercise.

She had me canter him up a bank for the first time (this one was a double bank with a one stride) and again, it was a little awkward and crooked, but he tried. We walked down a single bank as well and followed our buddy into the water.

I was a bit disappointed in myself by the way I rode a three-stride combination of logs in a mock sunken road. I didn’t take him far enough away for a really long approach like Lisa wanted and he ran out at the first log as it crested a small hill. I almost fell off to one side, but we approached again with more distance and had a much better ride. Lesson learned: give the baby horse more distance than you think to approach a jump for the first time.

Lisa felt like we “blew his mind” a bit, not in a bad way, but that we introduced a lot of new things in a new venue with a lot of atmosphere. He handled it as well as he could have,  I just need to make sure to give him the benefit of the doubt and not start riding him like a horse with a lot of experience.

It’s just a different experience for me because Oh So has never questioned a jump, even during his first schoolings. He’s stopped at two cross-country fences in his life (and both were my fault), and although he was older when we started him, he just never says “no.” Bear is obviously very green and has less “life experience”, and he’s maybe a bit more timid right now, but as long as we take our time and teach him correctly, I have no doubt he’ll rise to the occasion.

In fact, I think he really did at the combined test yesterday. We decided to stay at the intro level (18″-2′) for one more show since he’d never been to this venue. We were the first (and only one) in our division and I got on about 45 minutes before our test. We had a nice area to warmup on footing and were able to ride around in the covered ring before our test since the judge was late.

It’s a strange feeling to be able to work a bit, let him walk on no contact, then pick him up and have him be pretty much the same. With Oh So, it’s all about keeping him working until it’s time to go in for our test.

I wasn’t as happy with this test, just because the indoor ring made it feel a little claustrophobic and I think we lost some impulsion. The footing was also a bit deep. We scored a 33, which is definitely an improvement from the first show. The judge just said she’d like to see a more steady contact, and I’m partly to blame for that since I tend to let my reins get long with him for some reason.

The show jumping course had quite a few bright jumps with fillers, and I walked him by a couple of spooky ones, anticipating a similar reaction to the one at Locochee, but he didn’t care and jumped everything confidently. We missed a couple of leads again and got a bit close to a couple of jumps, but we made it through! In the warmup out in the field, he was shaking his head and wanted to buck a little, so I think he’s really started to enjoy himself and that gave me a good feeling going into the ring.

After that, we went out to play on their cross-country course, but they really didn’t have any tiny jumps for us. They did have a good intro ditch though and we jumped that a few times, then did the actual riveted one and he was awesome.

Overall, it was a great experience. I think I’ll enter him at Morningside in a couple of weeks and do an intro test and a training level test with canter because Lisa will be out of town.

I’m off to Jersey Fresh this weekend, so fingers crossed it doesn’t rain!