Plugging Away

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The snow finally melted, but not before it made my life a hassle when I tried to get down to Florida for the Red Hills Horse Trials.

After driving through the snow to the Richmond airport, my flight was promptly canceled and I made the decision to drive to the Charlotte airport since there were no flights out of any area airports the next day.

Five hours later, I got a hotel, slept and was on a plane the next day to Tallahassee and at the show by lunchtime. Whew!

It was a lovely event marred only by the sad death of Kyle Carter’s horse, Conahy’s Courage. I don’t have anything else to add to the conversation that’s been swirling since it happened, except that it happened at a pretty simple fence and just seemed like a freak accident, not anything involving course design, speed or experience.

Here’s a link to my coverage.

Once I got back, it was full steam ahead with both boys. Oh So has been feeling really good from behind–back to his normal self since before his hip injury, so now I feel like we can press on and finally get to an event!

The footing is drying out so I’m planning on getting him out on some hills to really strengthen his hind end before we do anything. I’m looking at a combined test in April to get going and then maybe his first event late April or in May.

On the flat, he’s been getting more consistent about his work, meaning he doesn’t always get tense, which has sort of always been him. I’ve found I can ask for a lateral movement or a change in gait or pace and he’s tolerating it and I’m not “losing him” and spending the rest of the ride getting him quiet again.

For awhile, I thought he might never be the same after having so much time off, but he’s coming around. He is getting a bit strong in my hand as the ride goes on though, so I’m trying to make sure he listens to my half halts and that I don’t get tense in my arms trying to hold him. I think that’s the last piece that needs to be polished after his time off, so to speak.

Bear has been going well but I’ve had to modify our plans since we haven’t been able to school cross-country because of the weather. I’m hoping to take him to an unrecognized event in April if we can get a couple of schools in.

I had a conversation with Lisa last week about starting to treat him like an adult and not so much a baby anymore, which means he must move off my leg when I ask, he needs to start moving away from the jumps quicker and he needs to start learning to shorten and lengthen his canter stride. We worked on that in our lesson last week by asking him to shorten his stride across the short side of the indoor ring to a vertical with ground rails on either side, similar to what we did a few weeks ago.

I played around with it in my flat lesson the other day too, but he misinterpreted my aid to mean trot instead of shorten, so that’s something I’ll be working on in the next few weeks.

Here’s a video of both boys this last week. In the flat session with Bear, Nicky and I worked on leg yielding on a straight line in canter to get him to sit a bit from behind and not canter wide behind. He seemed to get it and now we’ll start working more on some counter canter loops.

Oh So’s lesson shows his warmup, which was nice and quiet. We worked on leg yielding to warm him up and keeping a little more inside flexion in trot and canter and the leg yields to make sure he stayed soft.

Doing A Whole Lotta Nothing

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As the title implies, the last week has been a total waste when it comes to riding. It started a week ago Sunday when we had an absolutely bitter day, with temperatures in the teens and wind chills below zero at night. I can’t remember the last time we had 60 mph wind gusts, and we had to barricade the barn doors because of how strong they were.

I actually had a very good lesson with Bear the day before where we worked on shortening his stride. I guess I’ve always thought that the concept of shortening the stride was a little too advanced for Baby Bear, but Lisa said it was time.

We’re not exactly working on it yet in canter on the flat (mostly just working on proper bend on the circle both directions, some short bursts of counter canter and some lengthening down the longside to get him moving forward), but when we set up a simple vertical on the short side of an indoor ring with a placing pole on both sides set a little short, as long as I kept my leg on around the turn and sat up a bit, he grasped the concept easily.

Oh So actually got a bath before the big snow storm!
Oh So actually got a bath before the big snow storm!

I was excited and inspired to continue with some homework later in the week, but that never happened because of the Polar Vortex 2015 edition!

The ring was quite dry and unfrozen last Sunday despite the temperature being in the low 20s and I could have ridden if I wanted to deal with the horrible wind. On Monday late afternoon, we got our first serious winter snow storm–about 5 inches that fell over night, luckily.

And ever since, it’s remained below freezing, save for this Sunday, so no riding! I’m bummed that we had to get pretty much all of our winter weather within the span of a week. We got another 3 or 4 inches of snow on Saturday, canceling any plans I may have had to trailer out to an indoor to see Lisa.

I walked Oh So up and down the driveway one day and actually took him to an indoor about 5 minutes away on Sunday, but the footing was not good, so I decided not to take Bear and ended up walking him around the outside of the ring where my dad had plowed and it had melted because it was 50 degrees (!!!). We went up and down the driveway a few times and that was that, unfortunately.

It’s not looking like we’ll get much melting until later in the week and I scratched the dressage show Bear was going to do last weekend and the derby cross for Oh So this weekend.

Will it ever end? 😦

I’m more concerned about Oh So losing fitness since he’s ring fit, but is lacking with hill fitness. Bear will be the same when I get back on him as he was the last time I rode, which is a strange feeling for me!

My tentative plan, depending on how much we can get out to school cross-country, is to enter Bear in a combined test at Morningside in March and then Morven Park beginner novice, but only if he feels very confident and I don’t feel too rusty! We can always make it a CT if the footing is bad or we’re not totally ready. If he’s not sold by then, he could do CDCTA or a starter trial at Loch Moy in April.

Oh So is going to need to regain his fitness on the hills since he wasn’t quite there last year after he did something to his hip. We’re going to be very careful about when we start competing and probably won’t do a full event until late April, maybe Loudoun Hunt HT.

I’m a planner by nature, so it’s really hard for me to not have a schedule for Oh So, but roughly, we’ll do a couple of novices, mostly to get me back into jumping the bigger fences, and do training for most of the year and see how he goes. The vet was pretty confident about the strength of his tendon last year and as long as we’re careful about what kind of footing he goes on, I don’t see why he couldn’t do prelim again. I’m actually more concerned about his hind end now that he’s older and had that injury to his hip. I hope that was a one time thing, but I’m guessing he has some arthritic changes in his hocks too, so we’ll be continuing with hock injections once a year like we’ve been doing for a few years.

But this all hinges on the snow melting and actually getting out to school cross-country and see how he feels.

A circus world at WEF.
A circus world at WEF.

As for my trip to Florida a couple of weeks ago, I had a really awesome time, save for it being quite chilly, but I guess it doesn’t even compare to the -1 we had last week at night!

I covered the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI 3* and 5* and unfortunately the winners were the usual suspects and a bit boring to interview, but how can you complain about watching some of the best horses and riders in the world?

I went over to the WEF showgrounds on Saturday night and watched the Great Charity Challenge, a fun costume class run like a relay against the clock. I hadn’t been to WEF since 2004 when I won an award from the American Hanoverian Society, and it’s changed so much. It’s pretty much a circus world, like, literally there were fire throwers and circus food!

I had to miss a big jumper class the next day because of my flight, but it was fun to get a little glimpse into a world that I will probably never be able to participate in.

It was a wet weekend in Florida.
It was a wet weekend in Florida.

2014 Recap – Some pretty high highs, but some pretty low lows

 

Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.

When I decided to write a year-end recap, I had initially decided to title it something like, “2014–the year that never was” or, “2014 Sucked”, but once I started looking back, I realized that while 2014 was full of lots of lows, it was also full of plenty of highs.

I was feeling pretty good heading into the year–I spent New Years covering a George Morris clinic in Florida–five days of beautiful, sunny weather and lots of learning–but as I prepared to board my flight to go home, I found out my English Pointer Ramsey had died suddenly. My parents tried to keep him comfortable so I could say goodbye, but he just couldn’t hold on.

It was devastating to lose a member of our family and I still think about him everyday. This is the first Christmas in awhile where he won’t be there.

Most of January and February were spent surviving one of the coldest and most miserable winters we’ve had in awhile, all while trying to start Oh So’s rehab under saddle and transitioning him to some turnout after being on stall rest. It was odd not preparing for Southern Pines in March, but I did have something to look forward to with Bear, who turned four in February.

He made quite a bit of progress over the winter and we were finally able to get out and cross-country school in March, where he proved that he had the aptitude for eventing. We did several combined tests and he surprised me with his willing attitude. It was such a difference to Oh So–no drama!

We did out first real event in early September at Loch Moy, and save for a little drama in dressage, had a good time.

Over the summer, Oh So returned to full work and we had a few cross-country schools under our belts before deciding to try for a novice and a couple of trainings in the fall season. I was feeling a bit out of practice over the bigger fences but towards the end of the summer, I really felt like I was back in sync with him.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Unfortunately, he did something to his right hip/SI joint around the same time and it took awhile to figure that out. I was so close to being able to compete with him that I could taste it! We’re now starting to jump again and I’m hoping to compete again in the spring.

As a result of Oh So’s injury, Bear got to start his recognized eventing career sooner than I’d thought. I was pretty nervous but he did very well at his first beginner novice at Seneca Valley, save for being eliminated at the water!

We had a longer gap than I wanted between that and Waredaca, which was full of drama and ended in me falling off, but we rebounded for Virginia the next weekend and completed (and went through the water!).

AEC Texas-style!

This is the first year of my life since I started eventing where I really haven’t had a “season”. At times I felt lost, both in my training because I didn’t have a goal to work towards, but also with what to do when my whole life has revolved around the eventing season.

But as a result, I got to travel quite a bit and learn through osmosis. Watching the best horses and riders in the U.S. as part of my job is a treat, whether it’s eventing, dressage or show jumping.

Riding Bear has taught me a lot more about riding than I imagined. He might be mentally quieter than Oh So, but I have to sit tighter from time to time since he is still four!

I’ve also learned to savor every ride. Before Oh So’s injury, I got worked up about this or that as we prepared for an event, but to be honest, I’m lucky he came back from his injury and that I can still ride him. I’m looking forward to that moment as the starter counts us down in the box in our first event back.

The view from San Gimignano

Outside of horses, I got a sister-in-law when my brother got married in May and I learned I’m becoming an aunt next year to a little girl!

I also traveled to Italy for 10 days. I love traveling and find I always come back a much more educated person. I’m not sure where I’ll go in 2015, but I’m thinking maybe Germany later in the year.

On a sad note, we had to put down one of our cats, Winnie, who we inherited with our farm back in 2002. He was quite old and developed cancer cells on his lungs, so it was time, but sad none the less.

Professionally, I took a step up at COTH this year and really felt like I found my place and became a part of the team. I traveled A LOT, which is my favorite part of the job.

I met interesting people, saw cool places and took lots of photos.

Here’s a recap with links to my coverage-

George Morris clinic
Nations Cup Wellington
Global Dressage Forum North America
Carolina International
The Fork
Jersey Fresh
WEG Prep Trial
National Young Horse Championships
Plantation Field
AECs
Fair Hill
Mary King Clinic
USEA Convention

I’ve got a lot of cool things lined up for next year, including a trip to the Pan American Games in Toronto and a big life change that I’ll post about when it happens.

I’m looking forward to next year and I’m glad to say goodbye to 2014. Here’s to hoping for Oh So’s return to competition, finding Bear a good home and a little bit of luck.

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.

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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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.

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.

A week of sunshine and good news!

Goodbye Miami!
Goodbye Miami!

I’m getting back into the groove at home after spending 8 days in Welington, Fla. covering the Global Dressage Forum North America and the Wellington Nations Cup CDIO***.

We had a mini-Snowmageddon the day before I left and for a minute I thought my flight on Valentine’s day might be delayed, but Dulles miraculously cleared a foot of snow from the runway and my plane was perfectly on time!

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Lucky wanted to come to Florida with me!

I flew into Miami, which I’ve never done and will never do again. The traffic on I-95 was horrendous and the airport is gigantic. The line for security when I flew home was over an hour wait, hot and sweaty and my gate was a mile walk.

GDFNA
GDFNA

But, other than travel woes, I really enjoyed my second trip to Florida this year. The first weekend was devoted to the GDFNA, a two-day forum featuring a ton of top riders, trainers and “masters” of dressage at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. The amount of people was unfortunately a lot less than last year, and I feel like if the lowered the cost of the ticket prices (about $300), they might get more people to come. Either way, it was a lot of fun to see how different teachers ended up focusing on the basics, whether they were working with young horses or Grand Prix horses. I was really impressed with Canadian Olympian Christilot Boylen’s demonstration, as well as Conrad Schumacher’s clarity when laying out exercises and Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven’s riding. You can check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my online coverage which includes photos.

Palm Beach
Palm Beach

I had two days before the Nations Cup started on Wednesday, so I worked on my story at a kind of sketchy La Quinta Inn in West Palm Beach and took a few drives around the city and crossed the bridge over to Palm Beach to see how the rich and famous live.

Did you know that the average yacht in Palm Beach costs $35 million and that most of the United States’ billionaires live there during this time of year?

I did a quick drive by the Flagler Museum, the beach and Worth Ave and only wished I could have spent some time on the beach!

City Place shopping area in West Palm Beach
City Place shopping area in West Palm Beach

The Nations Cup went from Wednesday through Friday and it was quite hot, at 85 and humid. The press were treated really well with great seats at the end of the VIP tent, free food and drinks and rides on a golf cart to our cars!

I haven’t seen upper level dressage in person for quite a while and have only covered it once in person for COTH, so I enjoyed taking photos and watching the freestyles on Friday night under the nights. I also loved checking out the European-inspired fashion, especially the blingy brow bands, custom saddles and boots and crazy shadbellies. I even saw a woman wearing pink breeches with glittery grey full seats! That may have been a bit too far…

You can check out all of my stories and photos here.

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I was really inspired (and a little envious) to get back to work with my horses, which brings me to the good news.

On the Wednesday before I left, my vet came out to check Oh So. We jogged him in a straight line and on a circle in hand and then ultra sounded him. She said his leg looked very good and that there was only a small spot of irregularity towards the outside of the accessory ligament, so we got permission to start trotting.

Unfortunately, it’s only in 30 second increments, which Oh So thinks is unacceptable. His first few trots have felt pretty awful and he’s quite off from behind, but Nicky rode him while I was gone and both she and the vet agree that he’ll get better as he starts using his hind end again. He hasn’t really trotted since August!

He felt better last night, which was his fifth time trotting since the vet came, but he’s so excitable and tense that he’s not helping the situation by trying to run off. Ah well, it will hopefully get better in the next couple of weeks as we add more trotting.

Bear had his fourth birthday yesterday. Nicky rode him a couple of times when I was gone and said he was very good. She worked a bit on bending and walk-trot transitions. We had a good lesson on Monday night and started to work a little more on his canter and the transitions into and out of it. He has more trouble bending left and I tend to try to “hold” him to the outside of the circle with my outside rein, so we worked on just softly flexing my inside hand inwards and using my inside leg to push him out, which worked well. I had a couple of really nice circles in my ride tonight.

Hopefully this weekend we can get out to a jump lesson!

Three Shows, One Week

TexasRose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out a few more photos here.

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

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