Winding Down The Season

And just like that, my fall season is done! I decided to wait to write until I had all three events done, so here we go (I’ll work on a Burghley blog when I get some more time)!

We started out with CDCTA in September. I had only been back from England for a few days, so not ideal, but I had a friend hack him a bit while I was gone to keep him moving.

It’s been a long, hot summer, and by September we were not getting much rain, so the ground was definitely firm. I hadn’t actually ever competed at the new CDCTA site, just schooled a few times. Everything is on grass, which can definitely be a challenge.

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I was a bit nervous because I ended up getting my old dressage trainer as my judge. She’s never judged me before, but we worked together from about age 12 until four years ago. I was able to put it out of my mind and put in a decent test for a 30.2.

Show jumping was on a bit of a hill and was in a tightly roped space. I wasn’t super pleased with our round, but we got the job done clear, which a lot of people didn’t.

Cross-country felt pretty good, and we ended up winning and taking home the reserve TIP award. We were also the highest-placed CDCTA member, so we won $600! We got to do a little victory gallop with our neck sash, which was fun. It was fun to see a lot of friends at that event, and I was able to catch up with my former trainer afterwards and we had a nice chat. She thought Oh So looked really well, which was nice to hear.

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He was not super into getting tacked up again for his ribbons!

We had a cross-country school at Surefire the week before Morven, and it was hot! The heat was just relentless, right up until two days before Morven when fall finally arrived.

I entered the Area 2 novice championship having never done any area championship at all. I was a little disappointed we didn’t have two dressage judges and that the cross-country was the same as the regular novice. So basically I paid $300 for the privilege of show jumping last.

Dressage was nice and steady, and we got a 29.8 to be fourth out of 48 people! Cross-country was one of the best rounds we’ve had in awhile; I didn’t mess with him, and everything came up nearly perfect. It was a bit odd to go straight to cross-country and have to do show jumping last, but I think he enjoyed himself.

We had about an hour to get ready for show jumping, and I didn’t get a chance to walk the course because the course walks never seem to happen when I cam actually make them!

We came around the turn to fence 4, and while it felt a little short, it didn’t feel bad, but he had the front rail down behind. That’s the first rail he’s had in probably two years. Lisa says I just lost some impulsion around the turn, and with him maybe being a bit flat and/or tired after cross-country, I needed to just squeeze him off the ground a tiny bit more.

It was a real bummer because we plummeted to 14th place when we had moved up to third after cross-country. In the end, we were the fourth-best amateur, so we got a few points out of it.

I had really wanted to do well at Morven, and I’m still really happy with everything, cross-country especially, but it’s just tough when we don’t ever get to practice show jumping last. I think we maybe did it once or twice a Virginia Horse Trials.

I was also bummed they didn’t at least give separate amateur or Area 2 Adult Rider ribbons to the top amateurs. They really should have split the class into amateur or rider and open. I know I didn’t earn a ribbon that weekend, but it would have been to nice to have been recognized considering that may be our one and only time doing a championship.

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We headed straight to Loch Moy last weekend for the Maryland Horse Trials 3 as our last event. Dressage was nice and steady, and I worked a bit on riding a more forward trot and canter after a lesson I had with Heidi earlier in the week. She asked me why I don’t try taking a risk in the ring, and I figured, why not if he’s relaxed? At home she has me riding a pretty big, almost medium trot in warmup to get him to use his body and open up his step more in trot. At Loch Moy I definitely didn’t ride that big, but a fraction more, and I think it showed. He tends to get comments that he is steady and beautiful, but needs to use his back more and sometimes that we need a bit more impulsion, which is funny considering how he used to around very tight and tense! We scored a 27.6 to lead.

Show jumping was fine, maybe not the smoothest I’ve ever had. I was adding in a few lines for some reason and got in my knee a bit, which is the habit I’m always fighting.

Unfortunately that carried over to cross-country, and I had a few fences where I really needed to support him with my leg better, and I didn’t. He’ll still jump the jumps, but sometimes I can tell after having a fence where I didn’t support him as much that he’ll be slightly backed off to the next one. It was also a huge contrast to Morven’s nice galloping course. At Loch Moy it’s very twisty and turny, and the fences come up really fast.

We ended up winning and getting the TIP award and a bottle of wine! A great way to finish the season.

Now we’ll head into the off season working more on our Third Level movements, maybe riding without stirrups and going back to Loch Moy to school the derby course in the arena. My hope had been to do a few more dressage shows, but we did a lot this year, and I traveled a lot, so I think I’m good for now! I’m just tired; I’ve been at a horse show in some capacity pretty much every weekend since June.

It looks like we’ll end the season on the USEA national leaderboard somewhere, which is super cool, and we’ll win the CDCTA and Area 2 novice amateur year-end awards too!

I’m so grateful every time I get to ride Oh So, and to be able to have another winning season is just icing on the cake.

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Soggy September

Well, things didn’t go according to plan at Seneca. It was pouring rain on Saturday when I went up to walk my course, and Lisa and I pretty much knew we wouldn’t be running the next day.

Fortunately they made the decision a little easier for me when they cancelled all competition on Sunday, but it was a real bummer for me and for the event!

I had to head to WEG the next day with my co-worker and friend Kimberly. We arrived late afternoon to check out the venue and get our credentials, which went pretty seamlessly.

The venue was a complete mess, but the two main stadiums and the footing were great. I keep telling everyone who asks how WEG was that I went in not expecting a lot of polish, and we definitely didn’t get that. The media center was not ready for us on Monday, but by Tuesday it was functional. There was air conditioning, power and WiFi, which was about all we really needed. They fed us two meals a day plus a generous afternoon snack, which is more than we could have asked for and very much appreciated.

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CDCTA Dressage At Morningside: Operation Bronze Medal Achieved!

Oh So and I headed to CDCTA Dressage At Morningside on Aug. 18, and I’m happy to report we got our final score for our bronze medal!

We had later ride times, so it was pretty warm, but luckily overcast. We rode Third 2 twice, once in the regular class and once in the Test Of Choice class because I didn’t want to have to learn Third 3 with only two weeks.

Unfortunately Heidi wasn’t available for a lesson the week after Loch Moy, so I worked on my own a bit just riding lots of haunches in in canter to prepare for the half passes.

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Continue reading “CDCTA Dressage At Morningside: Operation Bronze Medal Achieved!”

Winding Down

I debated titling this post, “There Goes The Season,” or “What Season?” so please excuse the following whine session!

I was prepped and ready to go today to the only event this fall that I could get to, the Waredaca Starter Trials.

Between travel and making sure I felt absolutely ready as far as my ankles go, it just took us awhile to get to this point, and last night they decided to postpone to a weekend I’m not available due to the possibility of inclement weather (which didn’t start coming in until well after my ride times would have been today).

It’s been exceptionally dry this fall, so of course the one day I could get to an event it had to rain!

Continue reading “Winding Down”

Stepping It Up With Baby Bear

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A few weeks ago I took Bear to an evening dressage show at Warrenton to do Training 1 and 2 in the dusty ring at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds. It’s been SO dry lately, we are just starving for rain, but despite the dust, the footing was OK for what we were doing.

Our first test was at dusk, and we hadn’t been out in awhile or ridden under the lights, so he was a little distracted in the warm up, but once we got into our work and then went into the ring, he was pretty focused.

His stretchy circle is obviously a work in progress at his age, but overall, the test felt very forward, almost too forward for me, but apparently that was him actually using himself and opening up his stride! I asked the judge at the end of the first test if it was too quick, and she said you can never be too forward, so I took that to heart for the next test.

Our downward transitions from trot to canter are also a work in progress. I just don’t have a feel for riding them correctly all the time, so sometimes he’ll stab the ground with his hind legs a bit, especially if it’s on the longside like in the tests. I find myself wanting to sit up and collect his canter a bit more like I would do with Oh So, but he misinterprets that and usually trots early. I’m trying to find a happy medium between riding them forward enough, but also trying to close my leg and give him the idea of rocking back and slowing his canter a bit.

I need to shorten my reins, it was pretty awful watching myself on video! The halts were pretty good, save for the last one in Test 2 where the tripped a bit, but overall, it was fun to get back out there. I’ve been traveling a lot this summer and then the ground has been so hard, we decided not to compete in August.

We’ve had two people try him so far, but no calls back unfortunately. He was very good for both though, so now I have a better idea of what he thinks of other rides besides me and my dressage trainer, Nicky!

In between people trying him we’ve had some pretty good jump lessons. We bumped the fences up to novice height a couple of weeks ago in a small ring where I had to ride with a bit more pace and he really stepped up to the plate.

Warming up at Warrenton.
Warming up at Warrenton.

On Sunday, we went to Morningside and jumped a bunch of cross-country exercises that had been set up in the ring by Leslie Law, who’d been there earlier in the week for a clinic.

We jumped a small arrowhead bending to a vertical and did a five-stride angled line of a vertical to an oxer.

Then we went on to a faux half coffin of a skinny barrel, bending four strides to a liverpool with a small rail on top, one stride to a vertical. He didn’t even bat an eye!

We finished off with a right corner, five strides to a left corner, a skinny bounce, and the grand finale, a bending line of training level difficulty over two skinny green rolltops that I was freaking out over.

They were pretty big and wide, but he just stepped across them and I felt no difference in his jump. It’s crazy to think about his potential if he barely made an effort over those. I thought for sure he’d peak at them too!

I’m at the point now with him where it’s time to start trusting him. He’s still a baby and might do baby things at times, but 95% of the time, he knows his job and doesn’t care whether I screw something up. We’re entered for our first novice at Marlborough when I get back from my vacation in France, so I’m hoping it’s a soft one!

My dad's artsy interpretation after I failed to up the shutter speed!
My dad’s artsy interpretation after I failed to up the shutter speed!

Oh So has been on and off since I returned from the Pan Ams. His left front is doing well after we injected the digital flexor tendon sheath, but then his right hind all of a sudden had an issue. I got his stifles done and took an X-ray of the right stifle just in case, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. We’re trotting and doing a bit of canter now to let the injections take effect and if he’s still not better, we’ll look at the right hip, which he had injected last year. He’s never been diagnosed with anything back there, but the injection helped last year.

Each day that passes I just lose a little bit more hope that we’ll ever compete again. At this point, I just want him sound for flat work, but I really would like him to be able to jump, for both of our sanity!

I’m off on an adventure to France this coming week, so look for a blog when I get back! Then it’s full steam ahead with Marlborough, possibly taking photos at Plantation Field, AECs in Texas work trip, possibly shooting at Morven, competing at Maryland, a work trip to Fair Hill, moving myself to Leesburg and horses to Purcellville, and if Bear is still with me, finishing off the season at VA Horse Trials! Whew!

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!