Bear’s First Show!

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I was up bright and early at 5am on Saturday to take Bear to his first combined test at Sandstone Farm. We entered the first timers division, which is Intro Test A and 18″ jumps.

Lisa and I decided it would be best to do the lower fences, even though he’s jumping 2′ to 2’6″ now at home. He tends to get distracted, so he could at least trot over everything if needed!

We were the first trailer there, but people slowly trickled in, which was an ideal situation. I didn’t want to get there in the middle of the day and drop him into “chaos” so to speak.

He had a look around, neighed a few times, then wanted to eat grass, so that was a good start. We hand walked around a bit, then I got on about an hour before my test. When Lisa got there, we did a little warmup, but it was on grass and the dew made it a bit slippery, so  we mostly stayed in trot, but got a little canter going up the hill because it definitely helps his trot after.

We were allowed to trot around the outside of the ring before the show started and since we were the first ones in, it was good to be able to do that. In our warmup, Lisa talked about making sure to keep a solid connection from my leg to hand so he stayed focused on me. She also reminded me to watch his floppy donkey ears to make sure they were relaxed!

He lost focus, as expected, a few times when a trailer came rattling up the driveway or when there were dogs barking in the distance, but he really didn’t seem to mind the other horses milling about, which was surprising since we mostly ride alone at home and in lessons off property.

Luckily the warm up was pretty quite when we went, about 2 other horses, so it was the perfect introduction.

The test itself felt pretty close to what we get at home and once he trotted up centerline, he seemed to settle right in. It’s a pretty anti-climactic test, with two trot circles and a diagonal, but we made it through! We got straight 6s on everything except for the final centerline and the “Geometry” score in the collectives where we got 7s.

I can’t be too picky for his first show, but I was hoping for more 7s. I know his gait scores are never going to be as high as Oh So’s, but he certainly had submission and I thought everything looked fairly steady.

The judged remarked that his rhythm and connection was a bit inconsistent, which is normal for a 4-year-old, so I guess that’s where we lost the points on each movement. Oh well, we stayed in the ring and he wasn’t nervous or tense like Oh So can be, so that’s all I can ask for!

The jumps were kind of pathetically small, but that wasn’t the point for the first time out. The warm up was again a bit slippery, so we just did a few jumps and went in. I was really pleased with his confidence once we got on course and in a rhythm. For going in cold-turkey over some brightly colored jumps, he was a star. I got a little stiff in my body, as I do in show jumping, so I didn’t ride as effectively as I could have and we missed some of our leads when I threw my upper body a bit.

We went back in for an unplanned second round to try to fix those mistakes, but it was sort of the same type of round. Oh well. More practice for both of us!

I was really happy that once he was in the ring, he let the outside distractions go. I know it won’t be like that every time, but for the first time, I’d say it was a pretty big accomplishment. I was also really excited to be back showing again. The last time I trotted down centerline was in July. Even though I don’t like those horse show jitters the night before and on the way to the venue, I missed it!

It was pretty funny when we tried to load him to go home. He didn’t want to leave!

We’re going to try another CT in two weeks at Hunt Club Farm and maybe play around on their cross-country course afterwards.

I’m finally allowed to do a bit more with Oh So, so we’ve taken a few excitable walks outside the ring and down the driveway and I tried trot poles for the first time yesterday. Yeah…that didn’t happen! I had three set up 9 feet apart and we bounced through them about three times before I quit for the day.

Today I did one trot set, then immediately did the poles while he was still relaxed and he was fine through them. We’re also allowed to start doing one minute of canter this week, so today I did about one long and one short side. He was a fire-breathing dragon, but I was just laughing and smiling the whole time. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt his canter and I was happy to even have 30 seconds of it. Coming back to trot was interesting as we had a pretty nice collected canter for several strides!

Bear’s first cross-country schooling and other musings

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It’s been a long time coming, but I was finally able to get Bear out for his first cross-country schooling today!

His shoes were on, the footing and weather was perfect and we were off to Gordonsdale. I gave him a cc of Ace in case it was crazy when we got there, but I think everyone did their schoolings yesterday because it was very quiet.

He was mostly interested in eating grass when we got off the trailer and stood nicely for tacking up, which is a work in progress! Thankfully we had a buddy there, so we started off following her around and sniffing some jumps. He was a little spooked by them at first, but my trainer Lisa sat on a few of them and fed him grass and he got over that pretty quickly!

We followed our lead over some logs and trotted in to most of them and cantered away. He has a good natural balance and I think he’s learned a lot being turned out on a hillside, so it was easy to get up off his back and let him move up the hill and sit down a bit coming down the slopes.

We walked and trotted up a bank no problem and walked very confidently off a bank. When it came time for the water, we just walked by the edge a few times with our buddy, then followed her in. He was a little hesitant and first, but didn’t put up much of a fight. He had a drink and then we walked up and out over a small bank.

They didn’t have any small, appropriate ditches, so we ended on that note. I haven’t been cross-country schooling or galloping since Oh So’s last event in July, so it was fun to be out and about again.

I sort of knew Bear would have no problems with the jumps when I saw him galloping back and forth over our water-filled drainage ditch in his paddock a few weeks ago, so I was happy for a nice outing! It was also a relief to see that he enjoyed it and might just want to be an eventer like we’d hoped!

I’m sending in our first entry for a combined test next weekend and I’m a little nervous! It’s just a walk/trot test and 18 inch jumps, but the key will be keeping his focus while there’s a lot going on. Now to go practice our centerlines and halts!

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Yesterday I took Toppers and Rocky to Belmont, a historic home in Fredericksburg where my dad is executive director. They were hosting a beeping egg hunt for blind children for the third year and the director of educational activities asked if we could bring the minis. They’re pretty good with children, and with so much grass, they were happy to oblige!

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Some of the children were very excited to pet them and feel their clipped coats, while others were quite reluctant and scared. It was so neat that many of these parents drove from Northern Virginia, stuck in traffic for four hours on I-95, to bring their children. The smiles on their faces were definitely worth it.

Dad, Mom and Rocky and Toppers got to meet the Easter Bunny!
Dad, Mom and Rocky and Toppers got to meet the Easter Bunny!

Working backwards, on Friday the vet came out for what turned out to be Oh So’s final ultrasound. She said the injury site looked very good, probably 95% of what it should be, and that it might never look 100% perfect because of scar tissue. Now we’ll continue our trotting work and will add one minute of canter at a time in two weeks when we get to 20 minutes trot.

He’s his usual difficult self under saddle and we’re not supposed to do small circles quite yet, so it will probably be a few more months of my arms suffering!

Here’s a quick video of us trotting on Friday. You might not be able to tell, but my arms are being pulled very strongly!

The Fork
The Fork

Last weekend I headed down to the middle-of-nowhere Norwood, N.C., for The Fork Horse Trials. I covered the CIC***, CIC** and advanced divisions with one of our interns. The weather was perfect and we got to see most of the top horses in the U.S., of which several were heading to Rolex.

Sadly, there were two horse deaths over the weekend. A two-star horse collapsed after walking back to the stables after show jumping and Will Coleman’s three-star horse Conair collapsed after a fall on the advanced cross-country.

I’d seen him go through the water and I saw him at Carolina a few weeks ago and he was a pretty cool horse. I’m so sad for both riders and their connections. It’s a tough sport and it happens sometimes. I hope the necropsy results will give them some sense of closure. A lot has been written in the aftermath of the tragedies so I won’t add much else except to say that event horses are not forced to do this. If you’ve ever sat on one that loves it’s job, it’s an incredible feeling and accidents can and do happen. Thankfully the USEA requires necropsies so we can learn more about why these types of deaths are happening and learn from them.

You can check out our coverage of the weekend here.

A few of my favorite things

It’s spring shopping season and I’ve picked up a few things for myself and my horses recently that I’m really loving. Here are a few of my favorite items so far.

2014-04-12 08.22.45Higher Standards Leather Care – I kept seeing a topic on the Chronicle Forums pop up about a user who started her own business making saddle soap. Someone in the office tried it when we wrote a story about her, and with plenty of rave reviews on the Forums, I decided to try some.

The soap is made of natural ingredients and you can choose your scent from rosemary mint, lavender vanilla, citrus ginger or unscented. I picked lavender vanilla, which is pleasant, but not over-powering. The 8oz jar, which will last me a really long time, comes with a nice sponge. I’ve barely made a dent so far, but it does clean my tack and leaves it moisturized. It’s not too sudsy, which is a pet peeve of mine. I hate when suds get in the holes of my bridles and stirrup leathers, so this is perfect!

2014-04-12 08.13.35Shedding block – I didn’t clip Oh So for the first time ever this spring and this is a miracle worker for getting all of his hair out. Just scrape off the hair, brush on the concrete aisle to rough up the edges, and repeat.

 

 

2014-04-12 09.17.45Back On Track Polo Wraps

As Oh So has come back into work, I decided to start using polo wraps for our trot work and decided to invest in a pair of Back On Track ones. Similar to the BOT blanket and hock boots I have, I’ve never really seen a night and day difference with the ceramic-infused fabric, but I figure, why not?

I tried the 12ft and they were way to long, so I went with 9ft, which are plenty for Oh So’s average leg. They claim to be stretchier than traditional wraps, but I’ve found they’re not because the edges are stitched. They need to be put on perfectly even and straight or you’ll get some looser spots. They stay on through our workout though and his legs are warm when we finish, which is a result of the ceramic fabric reflecting the heat back into the leg.

Pile Lined Boots-500x500Horze Pile-Lined Boots

Ever since Oh So had a bad skin reaction from wearing neoprene boots last summer, I’ve been on the lookout for a different kind of turn out boot. I found these at Horze.com for a reasonable price and decided to try them for Bear first.

They’re lined with fleece and extremely lightweight. They have two velco straps, which are much easier than trying to do three hook and loop straps every morning. His legs were pretty dry after a few warm days outside, but I haven’t tested them in wet weather yet. They don’t have a big shock absorber on the inside like some splint boots have, but they’re thick enough that I think the trade-off for no neoprene is worth it. They run a little large, so I bought mediums for Oh So and Bear’s front legs. The large’s were very large.

advancedbellbootdove_1Horze Advanced Bell Boots

Bear was in need of some durable bell boots for jumping so I tried these affordable no-turn boots from Horze.com. They’re made of a thick neoprene and also run a bit large. The double-lock velcro is very strong and they stay in place. They also feature ventilation holes to keep air flowing. So far, so good for riding and I think they would be a good choice for turn out too.

Like night and day

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I’ve realized as Oh So has been starting his trotting work and Bear has been progressing that they truly are different horses, in every aspect, but it’s a fun challenge to be riding two horses again.

Oh So has always had a “dramatic” personality, hence his name. He does everything to the extreme. He’s been an absolute handful (and kind of an a**hole sometimes!) as I’ve started his trotting work over the last month. The vet wanted us to do 30 second trot sets and add two minutes per week. The whole 30 second increment thing lasted about two weeks before he decided he’d had enough and was basically trantering and coming close to having a meltdown every day.

I compromised by letting him trot for a minute at a time and now I’ve added a few 2 minute sets. His hind end feels back to normal after he got used to using it again. We’re up to 12 minutes of trot this week and every day is sort of hit or miss. Sometimes I’m being run off with down the long side (no circles allowed yet) and other times I get glimmers of what he was like before the injury.

At the end of my last minute of trot today, I pretended I was trotting down centerline on one of the quarterlines and then asked him to walk and then halt, which he made perfectly square. The training is still in there somewhere!

I think once we can canter things will get better, although I’m sure he’ll be just as pissed to start with only a minute at a time!

Bear on the other hand, is decidedly non-dramatic (except in the morning when he goes out and bucks like nothing I’ve ever seen before!). He’s actually a little lazy, but I think he’s still learning about the meaning of “go.” I’m hoping once we can get out cross-country schooling in the next few weeks that he’ll find his “forward” button.

It’s interesting to have a horse that likes to be groomed. Oh So is so fidgety, but Bear actually has spots he likes.

After we jump a course with Lisa, we’ll stop to talk about it and Bear will just fall asleep in the sun. It took Oh So awhile to stand still while we were chatting and even today, he’s more likely to be thinking, “Let’s do it again!” or “I was awesome, wasn’t I?”

Sam was always in between when he was competing. He could definitely get hyped up and is sensitive/spooky about grooming, but he wasn’t really tense and didn’t internalize things like Oh So does. He was good off the leg and not overly lazy or sensitive.

As Bear has been learning about flatwork, my dressage trainer, Nicky, had me use my seat to sort of urge him into the upward transition from walk to trot. He’s getting sharper about it now from my leg and seat, but I accidentally used that aid on Oh So the other day. Big mistake! I just have to “whisper” to him with my leg and he’s off in a big trot down the long side.

Since Sam retired from full work about a year and a half ago, I’ve only been riding Oh So and now that he’s back in more work, I’ve also realized the challenge in adjusting my riding style. Oh So has such a huge stride and has been mistaken for a Warmblood before. He’s got a neck that’s a mile long and shark withers. Bear is a decent sized horse, about 16.1 hands I think but I haven’t measured him, and has a much shorter/average stride. I think his stride will continue to get better as he gets stronger and uses himself more, but for now, the difference between the two is kind of startling.

I realized that last week when Nicky came on Saturday for a lesson. Since we had time, she brought over her 6-year-old 1st/2nd level Warmblood and schooled him while I rode Oh So. He was on his best behavior that day (perhaps because he knew teacher was there?) and we had some really nice trot sets.

I got on Bear after that and I felt so out of balance and slow. I think I chased him a bit and after watching some video that my mom took, I realized I was way too active with my leg, practically urging him on every step. I just need to trust that he’s going to go forward and not pinch with my knee, which seems to slow him down a bit unintentionally.

Sun For A Change

The new Stonehenge complex.
The new Stonehenge complex at the Carolina International.

This weekend, I headed down to Southern Pines to cover the inaugural Carolina CIC for COTH. It felt a little odd driving down in a car and not turning into the stabling entrance, but I was happy to watch most of the top eventers in the country all in one place.

I saw a lot of my media friends and even got a sunburn! And now we might get snow again on Tuesday! Will it ever end?

I’m getting antsy to get Bear out to school cross-country. I’m hoping if we don’t get too much snow this week that we’ll be able to go. I’m also excitedly plotting a schedule of unrecognized dressage shows and combined tests. First we need to go hang out at a couple of shows, so I’m hoping we can go to one this weekend.

This was last Monday!
This was last Monday!
I'm so over it!!!
I’m so over it!!!
Rocky got a clip two weeks ago.
Rocky got a clip two weeks ago.

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.

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas and happy holidays! I’m currently enjoying a week off from work and spending lots of time outside and riding.

I had the best Christmas present I could ask for on Monday when the vet came to re-ultrasound Oh So. The tear on his accessory ligament and the minor blip on the suspensory were barely visible. I asked her to give me a percentage number so I could quantify it in my head, and she said that while technically an injury will never be 100 percent healed, he’s at about 75 percent.

I was hoping I might be able to start trotting, but she wants him to be walking another 6-8 weeks until he’s up to 40 minutes (he’s at 20 right now), then I can start to introduce it before his next ultrasound.

She also agreed to let him start staying out on all-day turnout in a small paddock on Ace. Today was the first day I’ve let him stay out the whole day and so far, he seems to be content and quite. We really don’t want him trotting or cantering, but I know I won’t be able to stop it. I’ll be around this week and my dad will be around next week to monitor him, then after that I know I’ll start to get a little nervous.

A couple of weeks ago he got a large lump on his neck, most likely a reaction to an injection, and his entire next has been stiff ever since. I feel so bad, but he really can’t go 1DSC_0898out without sedation of some kind, and giving Ace orally isn’t very effective on him. I’ve been putting Surpass cream on his neck and giving him some Previcox for a few days and  he’s now able to lower his head and graze, so that’s good.

I’ve starting giving his injections in his chest and the vet showed me where to give them in his hindquarters too, although that’s playing with fire!

Bear has been getting very consistent in his lunging with the rope and has even started to do some walk-trot transitions where he doesn’t stop and turn in, which is definitely progress.

I had a lesson with Lisa on Saturday at a ring he hasn’t been to before and after some initial vocals, he settled in and we trotted some flower boxes, a green box and a one-stride with no issues.

Lisa said he’s definitely smart and understands and retains concepts quickly, so we don’t need to drill him, as much as I need drilling to work on my jumping position. It’s a little frustrating only getting to jump once a week, but he really shouldn’t be doing any more than that.

We had a conversation about teaching him to jump on a fairly loose rein and “canter around like a hunter”, because when we do sell him, who knows where he might go. When I bought him, I assumed we’d be selling him to an eventer because I know Lisa can find someone who will be a good match for him. We won’t know whether he wants to be an eventer until we take him cross-country schooling for the first time, but I guess I just 1DSC_0933hadn’t entertained the idea of selling him as anything other than an eventer.

Other than working the minis and riding, I went to see The Hobbit with my dad, which was great, save for the abrupt ending.

My brother and his fiancee came down on Christmas Eve and we went to church, then went out to eat, which was a fun new tradition I hope we can continue.

This morning, we opened presents and I rode Bear and took him for a solo walk down the driveway. He was a little hesitant, but it’s a short walk, so we made it there and back in one piece. I got a new pair of half chaps, Oh So got a new jumping bridle (since Bear took over his) and I got a pair of Premiere Equine magnetic wraps that I’m hoping to use on Oh So.

Tonight we’re all heading out to see Elf at the Kennedy Center which should be fun. Other than that, I have no plans, which feels a little weird! I’m heading down to Wellington, Fla., on the 30th and will be spending my New Year’s covering a George Morris clinic until the 4th. I got a last minute call up to do it so I’m excited to spend some time in the warmth!

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Lessons Learned

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Things are finally settling down after my last trip of the season.

I headed to Galway Downs on Halloween to cover the CCI divisions. I flew into San Diego and headed north to Temecula for a quick interview with Gina Miles on Thursday and pretty much crashed at the hotel after that due to some jet lag!

Friday was dressage day. The facility is really beautiful, albeit a bit dusty! It’s nestled at the base of some mountains and the dressage rings are set right near the cross-country course. In fact, one division galloped through the arenas and to a water jump right on the edge.

The cross-country course at Galway is pretty much on a dirt track. There’s a training track with stables and a polo field in the middle of the track. The course started on the polo field and crossed out over the track onto dirt. It was pretty flat except for parts where the course went up onto the track again, then back down into the polo field. I thought it was quite strange that they actually drag the course before.

The CCI*** was quite small, which was unfortunate because I didn’t get to see much of the course as I was shooting, but I talked to some nice people and thought my coverage came out well.

Here’s a link to my coverage.

My flight back on Monday got delayed in Denver for 4 hours, so it turned out to be a

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longer day than I’d expected.

On Wednesday, which also happened to be my birthday (!), I went to Morningside to cover a William Fox-Pitt clinic for the website.

His ideas weren’t earth-shattering, but served as a good reminder of the basics. I was reminded of a few things I can work on with Oh So once he’s back jumping to keep his footwork up to speed.

I’ve had a couple of lessons with Bear since my last update and he’s progressing really nicely.

With Nicky, we decided to build a round pen out of jumps in the corner of the ring because he was turning in to the circle a lot and I was having trouble staying behind him and keeping him forward. The round-pen definitely helped and we were able to put both side reins on and have some nice work on the circle.

It was kind of neat when he did come round a bit and I could see glimmers of what he can be a few months down the road.

We worked a little bit on making circles by opening the inside rein and applying inside leg. Towards the end of the lesson, we walked up at an angle to the fence line and asked him to step over a little bit in a mini-turn on the forehand.

He seems very willing to take on each new task so far, but when we ride at night, sometimes things are too interesting to put his head down!

I took him to his first off-property lesson on Sunday. He was a bit tough to get on the trailer since he’d slipped the day before when we practiced, but we figured out a way to keep him from slipping on the ramp, and with the help of the lunge line behind his butt, he finally got on. Once he was on, he was fine, but he’s a little apprehensive to step the whole way William Fox-Pitton.

I gave him a tiny bit of Ace for this first time off property, but he seemed to act pretty much like he usually does.

We walked around the arena at Maresfield by hand, and he neighed a lot looking for the other horses. Once I got on, it was kind of the same story, but he still did what I asked of him, so that was a good start.

We trotted over three poles in a row, which he didn’t seem to care about, and then Lisa decided it was time to canter (!!!). I was in my dressage saddle, so I was a little worried that my leg wouldn’t be out in front of me if he put in a buck, but once he got going, he was just fine. His canter is actually pretty comfortable and feels ground-covering, so I’m excited for him to gain some more strength.

He got on the trailer a little better for the ride home and settled back into his stall, probably pretty tired!

I tried cantering at home tonight and he was much quicker to pick it up, but he didn’t get the right lead every time, which is understandable. Lisa wants me to start working him on some small hills to strengthen his stifles and I’d like to start taking him for short hacks with my mom, but she won’t be home this weekend so that will have to wait a bit.

Oh So continues to be an ass on stall rest. He really does want to make my life difficult! He got extremely upset when I was putting tack on the trailer on Sunday and started running circles in his stall. I did get on him for the first time since the injury over the weekend because the vet said I could start doing some walk work to keep his mind busy. We’re only doing 5 minutes right now, but he seemed happy to be doing his job again.

No cocktail of drugs seems to work for him for small paddock turnout. He nibbles some hay, then takes off bucking and screeching to a halt– everything he’s not supposed to do.

I’m at the point now, since it’s getting so cold and dark and he’s becoming more unruly, of just letting him go and hoping he settles down when he’s out with Sam. Trying to put him in a small paddock just makes it worse, and the paddocks are only going to get muddier as the winter wears on.

He’s not due for another ultrasound until Christmas, when he’ll be walking under saddle for 24 minutes a few times a week. I’m just torn. Do I let him go and be done with it, possibly undoing the healing we’ve achieved so far, or do I continue on with the plan and possibly get my teeth kicked out and freeze to death every day twice a day?B

I’m fine if it takes him an extra month to get back into real work if he goes out now, but the problem is that whenever we turn him out, be it tomorrow or 3 months from now, he’s still going to run. The vet just wants him walking more so the leg is stronger before he gets real turnout. She’s fine with him in a small paddock, but that’s obviously not working.

Thoughts?

Introducing The French Bear and some random updates

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It took more than two months to find him, but I’m excited to introduce everyone to The French Bear, or “Bear”, my new project horse.

Lisa found him for me via Diana McClure of DMC Carousel Racing Stables in Berryville, Va.

Bear is a 2010 bay Thoroughbred gelding (Gators N Bears–Femme De Diable, Devil His Due). He raced 16 times this year and was about to race again when Diana convinced his owner to sell him.

According to Diana, who also broke him, Bear tried very hard on the track, but his best wasn’t good enough. He never won, but he did get several thirds and won about $16,000.

I brought him home last Wednesday and Oh So was immediately jealous, of course!

I gave Bear Ace for the first few times in turnout, but he was fairly quiet. I put him out with Sam this weekend and they seem fine together. Sam actually seems uninterested, maybe because he doesn’t want to deal with a “kid” in his old age! Bear seems independent and happy to graze away from him, but he didn’t like being in a paddock by himself the first two days, so that’s when we decided to put them together.

Our first ride on Thursday started when my jump saddle slipped under his belly when I

Sam's enjoying his new buddy.
Sam’s enjoying his new buddy.

tried to mount! Thankfully, he just stood there, but I clearly need a different girth or a different saddle. I’m looking into a more narrow saddle, but I wasn’t expecting to have this expense. He’s so narrow right now though, so we need to find something. He’s about 16 hands, but I think he’ll grow a bit more.

Our second ride started well enough, but then he started being a bit nappy by the gate. A dressage whip helped, so that’s our new tool! I’ve been walking and trotting him over poles and working on very large circles.

On Tuesday night, I had my first lesson with my dressage trainer, Nicky. We started with some basic lungeing, which he knows, but we added an outside side rein. He was very good to the left, but to the right, he was a little reluctant and kicked out a bit when she asked him to go forward. We ended it on a good note though and then got on.

The first thing Nicky noticed was I need to define exactly where I’m going with him, instead of just trotting around the ring on big circles and straight lines. She said I need to decide which letter I’m turning in and think of square turns for a while so he doesn’t learn to fall in and so he learns to listen to both my leg aids.

We worked a little on dropping my weight into my inside seat bone when turning and she gave me a tool to get him to move forward past the gate instead of stopping and refusing to turn right, which is the only direction it occurs.

She wanted me to prepare for the disobedience by lowering my inside hand a bit, then wave the whip, which would be in my left hand, near his shoulder so he sees it. That seemed to correct the behavior, so we’ll keep going with that!

I’m excited and a little nervous to start with “raw clay”, so-to-speak. I’ve never had a horse so green or young, and Oh So was my first OTTB, but he already had his basics on him and was jumping small things.

I think Bear’s willing attitude will make it a lot more fun. He seems intelligent and willing to try things and I think he’s a real cuddlier, a bit different than Oh So for sure! He actually enjoys being groomed and doesn’t fidget, and he doesn’t try to kick my teeth out when I put on his blanket.

I’ll be sad when the time comes to sell him, but I can’t afford to keep and compete two horses at once. I think we both have a lot to learn from each other. I’ll try to update the blog whenever I can with some videos and/or photos after my lessons.

This fall has been kind of weird for me. On the one hand, I’ve been traveling so much that I haven’t had much time to miss riding, but on the other hand, this is the longest I’ve ever gone without riding regularly in my life and I still just feel a little lost.

I never thought at the beginning of the year that I’d be bringing home a new horse and taking on a challenge like this.

My life thrives on routine, which can be good, but can also be a little bit of a detriment. For the last 10 years of my life, fall has been the time I look forward to the most. The weather gets cooler and I start my competition season in September, move on to Morven Park in October, take a weekend at Fair Hill, then finish up the season with a great time with my

My view for Harrisburg

friends and trainer at VA Horse Trials.

I’ll be missing VA for the first time since I can remember, but it gives me a chance to go to Galway Downs instead, so I’m excited about that. I’m just really missing the competition season.

I won’t be able to get to a lesson with Lisa until next weekend, but I think it’s good for Bear to have a few weeks to settle before we put him back on the trailer.

I had a quiet weekend this week after Harrisburg to get to know Bear and relax a bit. Although it was a long week at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, full of 8am-11pm

days with little to no downtime, I felt that the coverage that me and our intern, Taylor, provided was pretty good. We had fun shooting, especially the jumpers, and we

ended up getting some decent hunter people to talk with, which was a what I was worried about.

A Corn Husk horse at Fair Hill.
A Corn Husk horse at Fair Hill.

Check out our Pennsylvania National Horse Show coverage.

We drove over to Fair Hill for a few hours on Sunday and although I was disappointed to miss cross-country, I was glad just to be there and be outside for a bit after a week indoors.

On Sunday, I went to see Cavalia with my mom at National Harbor, which was a lot of fun. We went to see it a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and this show was similar, but with a little bit different theme. I really love watching the acrobatics. It’s basically like Cirque Du S’Olei with horses.

Toppers and Rocky had a fun trip down to the vet on Thursday so Toppers could have a couple of teeth removed. Rocky went for moral support and so I wouldn’t have to deal with him screaming at home while simultaneously dealing with a new horse and Oh So on stall rest.

The surgery was successful and the vet even gave us his two teeth, one of which was rotted and the other fractured. They shared a stall at the clinic and apparently Rocky tried to help by pulling out Toppers’ catheter!

Now I’m off on my final trip for COTH this year, Galway Downs in Temecula, Calif. I’ve been to one event in northern California as an intern, so I’m excited to see some SoCal eventing. I’m flying into San Diego, and I wish I had some time to check out the city, but I have a pretty packed few days. I’ll be flying home on Monday, then heading to day 2 of the William Fox-Pitt clinic at Morningside in Warrenton where I’ll cover it for our website.