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”

Thomas Goes Schooling Again, And I Go To A Show!

The last two weeks have been pretty crazy busy and exhausting. It all started at the American Eventing Championships at Tryon where I drove 7 hours with our intern and put in four 15 hour days before driving 7 hours home.

It’s not often that I get stressed on assignment, but I can say I was extremely overwhelmed and fatigued by the end of each day with 21 divisions plus trying to pay attention to other interesting people. There just wasn’t enough time or manpower to get to everyone. I made a dozen or more trips up and down the media center steps every day, so I can say I’m getting better at that with my ankles!

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A rainbow at Tryon!

I went to the barn when we got back on Monday and was unpleasantly surprised to find Oh So with a nasty puncture wound on his upper leg.

Continue reading “Thomas Goes Schooling Again, And I Go To A Show!”

Rio’s In The Rearview and An Oh So Update

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Life is back to normal finally after my trip to Rio! Oh So got the go ahead to start ramping up his work again, which is awesome, but we’re only adding 5 minutes of trot per week, so the going will be slow for awhile.

He flexed and palpated pretty well, so the vet decided not to do ultrasound and just told us to start adding trot. He also got his back injected in the areas where he has kissing spine, so hopefully that will help him feel a little better.

In the mean time I’ve been having a lot of fun riding my friend Meghan’s 5-year-old OTTB Harley, who is wise beyond his years.

He only raced twice and then was used to pony horses at the track, and while he’s very green in his body and education, he’s willing to take instruction, and he’s come along quickly over the last two months that I’ve been riding him a couple of times a week.

We’ve taken him off property to cross-country school three times and show jumped twice, and he keeps getting better. He’s pretty willing to jump anything, but sometimes it’s the other jumps on cross-country or the things going on outside the ring that catch his attention.

I’m really enjoying the process of working with a young horse again. I wasn’t sure I was ready to start over after Bear, but we’re slowly starting to trust each other, and it’s fun when it clicks for him.

On the flat he just needs to learn to take the contact forward, down and out. He’s been ridden in draw reins before, and he seemed afraid of the contact at first. Now he’s taking the bit tentatively, but still comes behind the vertical in trot on occasion. In canter he wants to raise his head and hollow his back, especially to the jumps, so we’re keeping them small right now while we work on his flatwork.

Meghan has felt a difference in him, which makes me feel confident that I’ve been doing the right thing despite no proper flat lessons and riding in my jump saddle!

The hope is to get him to a starter trial this fall. I don’t think the jumps will be the problem, just the activity, but we’ll keep working hard!

 

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Copacabana Beach

I’ve had a couple of weeks to think about Rio, and it’s coming a little more in to focus now that I’m not in the thick of it.

I watched all of the cross-country on the NBC replays when I got back to the U.S., and it really helped me understand the course better and how grueling it really was.

While I was out on course, I really had no idea what was going on because of the terrible announcing, so it helped to see it again.

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View from Sugarloaf

Being there and focusing just on getting the best photos made it almost seem like another horse show until the medal ceremonies. I’ll admit I had a tear in my eye when the U.S. team got on the podium in dressage!

I wish I’d had more time to explore the city, but the day off I did have was amazing. I went to Sugarloaf Mountain and was the highest into the sky I think I’ve ever been. I’ve been to a lot of castles and mountain ranges in my life, but that was so high my legs were getting a little wobbly.

I had a ticket to see Christ the Redeemer that afternoon but the clouds came in, and I didn’t get the view I wanted. Ah well. Now I can say I’ve been there!

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Sugarloaf Cable Cars
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Christ the Redeemer

I spent the weekend at Plantation Field and now I’m off to Cincinnati to visit my brother and sister-in-law, see my niece and eat chili!

Next week is Dressage at Devon and then on to Fair Hill in the October.

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Rocky loves to ham it up!
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Toppers and Rocky
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Plantation Field
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Sam!

July Thoughts: Rio’s Becoming A Reality and Still Walking

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I’ve been soldiering on through the July heat and humidity, counting down the days until I head off to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and until Oh So’s next appointment.

I worked at Great Meadow last weekend, a great local event that’s made lots of improvements in the three years since its inception.

Before that, I got to meet Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen in person, which was really cool. I’ve spoken over the phone with Clark over the last two years, and he’s always been very honest and open about the highs and lows of his partnership with Glen, so it was nice to meet him and Glen in person.

The event was brutally hot for dressage day, but cross-country was much cooler thankfully. It was a good day of sport and Clark and Glen easily got the win.

It was also fun to see the U.S. team off to Rio. They had about 15,000 spectators over the three days, which gave the event a big atmosphere, something that’s great for them, but not for the girl with the 300mm fixed lens!

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The new arena at the Great Meadow International.

At this point, the reality of Rio has finally hit. I’ve got my credentials, my vaccinations (six in one day!), I’ve stocked up on sun shirts (reviews to come), now all I need are the little things–bug spray, money belt, call the bank and get a phone plan.

I think I’ve downplayed the Olympics in my mind. I’m of the opinion that horse sports will be fine without the Olympics, and I don’t love the fact that the FEI is trying to change them, and eventing in particular, to suit the masses who will just never care. I’ve just never thought of them as the pinnacle of horse sport, but I’m coming to realize they’re still a big deal! The Pan Ams felt like just a puffed up horse show, but I think the Olympics are going to be a whole different ball game.

While it’s been a lot of work, I’ve enjoyed working on the eventing roster for our Olympic Preview issue because I’ve been Googling people from the smaller countries to find out who’s officially on their teams, fun facts and hometowns.

I’d love to know more about CCI*** events in Moscow or how the girl from Belarus ended up eventing. Hopefully I’ll be able to meet some people from smaller countries once we get there. One of my favorite parts of the Pan Ams was learning about riders from smaller countries who were so proud to bring attention to equestrian sports in their countries. I guess that’s why the Olympics could still be good for equestrian sports, but not at the expense of changing the heart of them.

I’m nervous and excited for my first trip to South America.

I’m always nervous to leave my horses, and this will be the longest I’ve ever been gone.

I know nothing about the language, but I’ve downloaded a phrase book, and I’m also going to find a book on the culture to read before I go (better late than never!). I’ve also got to read up on the food so I’ll know what to order since I’m kind of picky.

I’d love to do some sightseeing, but I have no idea if that will be possible. My hope is we can find a large group to go with at some point. I just want to see Christ the Redeemer, and I’ll be set!

This will be my bigger test as a journalist, and I’m excited to tackle it. We’re going to have some nice rented equipment from Nikon which will be amazing.

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Rocky and Lucky have a chat.

Everyone keeps asking me about Oh So, and I keep telling them, we’re still walking! We’re bored to death, and we’re doing a short bit of trotting each day so he doesn’t totally fall apart, but I am really struggling. A couple of nice friends have offered for me to ride their horses, but only on occasion, so I still feel very unfit, as if I’m wasting away just like Oh So.

I put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone had a horse to ride or half-lease, and no replies unfortunately, so I can only hope that Oh So’s appointment next month brings good news.

This horse has been my life for the last 9 years, for better or worse. When I’m not able to do what I love, what I work hard for and work hard at, I feel helpless and adrift, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to it, at least with him.

It’s been really hard to get a grip on not doing the thing that I live for, the thing I’ve been doing for the last 20 years of my life.

I won’t be making any decisions until his next appointment, but I’ve certainly had enough to ponder on our long walks each day.

 

Highs And Lows

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As with most things in life, horses are full of ups and downs. I’ve been on a slow and gradual downhill slide with Oh So since his original injury in 2013 as we’ve dealt with  little injuries here and there stemming from his age and recovery.

After a really amazing event at Seneca last weekend, we’ve unfortunately hit another bump on the way down.

He’s actually been going better than ever on the flat, as I’ve written about recently, and I was thinking of playing around at some dressage shows to do something a little more challenging than the novice tests. He’s felt sound under saddle, but I’ve noticed he’s been resting both of his front legs on the toe a little more often than usual. He’s done it at seemingly random intervals over the last year or two, but has always been sound. I decided to make an appointment with Morven Park though anyways to see if there was something else going on, and to get his back checked for kissing spine, which the chiropractor suggested at our last appointment.

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Seneca. GRC Photo.

Because he’s been going well though, Lisa and I decided to keep going with Seneca since the footing and weather was good.

We had a super early wakeup call, so maybe that’s why were both so relaxed, but we scored a 17.6 in the open novice division! It ended up being the lowest score of the whole show across any division. I have no idea why he was so relaxed, but I can count on one hand the number of times he’s been that rideable in a test. And it’s an added bonus that he’s been very relaxed in his warm ups lately so I don’t need more than about 25 mins of warmup.

The show jumping was OK. He was a little bit heavy in my hand and was tapping rails, but they all stayed up! The open course at Seneca is much better for me because it makes me ride forward.

The cross-country went well. Not much else to say about a novice course! I wish it was a little bigger, but it was well-designed and flowed nicely. We ended up winning by almost 10 points and won the TIP Award too!

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He had the Monday after Seneca off, then I did a little flatwork on Tuesday, and he felt OK-maybe a little stiff behind, but that’s normal for him.

My appointment was on Wednesday with Dr. Adams at Morven Park, who saw him about a two months ago when he needed his teeth done and was a little wonky behind (probably from being chased by a nasty horse at the old barn).

I wanted to have him check the DDFT sheath, and expected we might need to inject it to make him more comfortable, even if he wasn’t unsound, since it’s been about a year since the original DDFT sheath issue.

He flexed off on both front legs and was sore on palpation, which wasn’t surprising considering he’s been holding his legs up on occasion. Dr. Adams decided that we should inject the tendon sheath, but before we decided on that, we X-rayed his back.

Unsurprisingly, he has kissing spine and some arthritis in his back. I’m guessing he’s always had it, but in my inexperience I never thought about that and always worked on saddle fit before thinking about X-rays. He’s also been going very well, but Dr. Adams said he seems to have learned to live with it. He said we could inject his back, which I might do sometime, but that’s the least of my worries right now!

 We were about to just inject the tendon sheath on the left and be done with it, but I asked if we should have an updated ultrasound image. He said he didn’t feel it was necessary but did it anyways because I asked.

I’m now kind of sad I asked for it because he found a small core lesion near the suspensory branch on the right front, which was the leg with the original suspensory (that was located higher up).

He said it looked like fresh inflammation, but couldn’t really say for sure because he hadn’t seen the original injury. I’m having the vet who treated the original injury send him some images, but until then, he suspects it’s new. I’m also not sure how helpful they’ll be because his last ultrasound on that leg was probably mid-2014.

I doubt he did it when he was at Seneca. I think it’s just wear and tear, and while it could be nothing, the vet would prefer we’re cautious and wants me to let him have 2 months of walking and trotting then have it rechecked. 😦 I might pursue shockwave too to help it along.

His overall impression was that Oh So is beginning a pattern of injury that shows he compensating for pain elsewhere.

I know the day will come one day when he will no longer be able to be ridden, but I’m not ready for that yet, and I don’t think he is either. It just doesn’t seem right that a 16-year-old horse should be retired!

While I wait to hear from the vet, I’ve been pondering what to do with a lot of people I trust, and I still just don’t have the answer. Some people think I should just keep riding him until he is lame, which may not be for a long time., but what if I make the lesion worse? He can’t go through anymore stall rest, so if it comes to that, he’ll have to be retired totally.

The problem with letting him have any kind of downtime is that other parts of his body will start to weaken, like his hind end, then we never get anywhere as we work to build it up again.

I just have to decide how many more times I want to go through with the whole letting him down and legging him back up cycle. It’s exhausting and frustrating that I (selfishly) can’t have goals or anything to look forward to. I’m kind of just living on a wing and prayer right now that he comes out sound every day.

My second option is to let him have his two months of light work, hope he doesn’t break down elsewhere or get too bored, and pursue other horses to ride, which is sort of what I’m leaning towards. I’m just not quite ready to get another horse yet because it’s sort of an either or situation. Either he retires and I get another horse or he stays in work going through the the same cycle of frustration.

I can’t afford to board two riding horses, and I’m just not sure about leasing him to someone who’s not familiar with his issues, but I also don’t think he’s ready to sit in a field yet.

Once I’m done with the Olympics in August, we can ultrasound again and see where we’re at, then maybe pursue another horse, which I want to be my next Oh So. I don’t think I’m cut out for the business of selling. It’s just too painful.

It’s been a weird couple of months since I sold Bear. I do best when I’m busy, and two horses was just enough for me. I’ve gradually gotten used to having one (fragile) horse, which is an uncomfortable feeling, and now I’m sort of screwed. I’m a planner, and now I have no plans. I’m goal-oriented, and I have no goals for the first time in my riding career.  My horse(s) and my job are my life. I see people posting on social media about how awesome their weekends are with their horses, and I’m not sure of the next time we’ll even have a lesson.

I had a nice, quiet visit home this weekend to just spend time with Sam and the minis and my cats, which helped me think, but the decision is still cloudy in my mind. I wish it could just be made for me!

I’d love to hear in the comments if anyone has been through a similar situation. I’m just afraid of making the wrong decision.

In other news, I had a nice visit up to Bromont in Canada earlier this month. I spent a day in Montreal, which seemed like a nice city to live in, but was a little low on actual things to do. Next up is the Nations Cup at Great Meadow, then the Olympics!

Product Review: Smartpak Piper Breech With Silicone Grip Fullseat

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The minute I saw Smartpak’s new Piper Silicone Fullest breeches, I had to have them. I’m a fan of their original Pipers and have several colors. They’ve become my go-to schooling breeches, and I use a dark brown pair for cross-country at events and a black pair for dressage schooling shows.

I was intrigued by the silicone grippers on the new Pipers, and picked the black and white pair to try, but there are so many other fun colors I would love to have.

They’re very similar to the original Pipers in fit (a mid-rise on me that requires a belt to fit the best) and just a little more expensive.

I’ll admit, it was a weird feeling sitting the saddle for the first time in these. I felt like I had a little less give in my seat, and they actually squeaked a little in the leg area as I broke them in during the first few rides. Maybe it was because I tend to grip with my knees a little? I guess that’s a good reason not to!

When I got off, I noticed little squares imprinted on the seat of my saddle, but those went away after a few minutes.

I’ve found my other pairs of Pipers wear out in the crotch through the full seat material very quickly and tend to pill a little, but I wear them ALOT. These don’t have the same material in the full seat so I’ll be curious to see how they hold up.

If you’re worried about them imprinting in very soft leather, these might not be for you, but if you want a fun pop of color at a good price, these are a good buy.

Available at Smartpak.com for $99.95 or a little less with a USEF discount. Smartpak also makes a knee patch version.

Catching Up On May

It’s been a very interesting month that started with me finishing up an awesome weekend at Rolex and took a hard turn at Jersey Fresh.

A lot has already been said about the tragedies at Jersey Fresh where Philippa Humphreys died in a fall on cross-country and a horse was euthanized due to an injury, so I won’t add much else.

It was an eerie feeling to be there on Sunday morning, unlike any event I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to a few events where a horse has been euthanized, but it was just a totally different feeling in the air when a person died. It was somber and quiet for show jumping, and the event became a challenge to write about, knowing that while the winners were happy with their horses, there was still a dark cloud hanging over the weekend.

I’m proud of how the story turned out for the magazine though. I spoke with a few riders and people involved with the event, and got some interesting responses about safety in the sport and dealing with a tragedy.

Unfortunately my  co-worker and friend Kimberly was at the fence when it happened, and I can only imagine what she’s going through. As an enthusiast of the sport and someone who wants to try it, I hope it doesn’t dampen her spirit. In the end, we’re all out there knowing the risks but loving the reward. There’s no better feeling than coming off a cross-country course, knowing maybe you were a little scared before and getting it done when you thought you couldn’t, or breezing around on a young horse who’s finally “getting it.”

There are people out there working to make the sport safer but it takes time and money. I don’t think galloping at solid fences on a 1,000lb animal will ever be totally safe, but things can get safer.

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Oh So has been feeling as good as ever on the flat. I’ve been able to have several flat lessons over the last few weeks, and we’ve been working on our walk/canter and canter/walk transitions and just really being able to stretch him down in trot and canter.

I had a chiropractor out to work on him about 2 weeks ago, and he was quite sore over his back, which he sort of always has been despite frequent saddle fits. The vet thought he might have a mild case of kissing spine, which he may have always had, but it’s hard to know when his work has been getting better under saddle.

I’ve started him on Robaxin to see if that helps him, but I think I’m going to pursue a spinal X-ray and see if injecting his back might make him more comfortable.

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I took him to Morningside for a novice CT two weekends ago, and it was pouring rain the whole time! I can’t seem to luck out there this year. Three out of the four times I’ve been it’s been miserable.

The footing was horrendous, but the base was OK, so we went ahead and competed. I hardly had much of a planned warm up since I was so worried about the footing. He was tripping a bit during the test, and we were both just trying to get through it. We scored a 27.5, but it was far from a fluid test. He just felt a bit tight and unhappy, sort of like me!

The show jumping warm up on the track was basically a giant puddle, so we jumped two fences, literally, and then waited about 15 minutes for our turn. I hate the jumper show-type schedule, but he was remarkably good for waiting around, and I didn’t screw it up too bad! I picked to fence 4, and he landed on the wrong lead,, and I brought him back to trot to get it, but other than that, it was an OK round. We ended up winning! He feels really good so I’m hoping we can try a training CT next time, at the very least for the more interesting dressage test.

On Sunday we finally got out to an event! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since his last one at Waredaca.

Unfortunately it was just the starter trial at Loch Moy, so the fences were quite small and the course design was a bit twisty. I feel like we could have done the training, but just to be out was a gift in itself.

Our dressage of course ended up in the newer ring of five, which had the deepest footing. Neither of us liked it, so again, our test was just trying to get through. We scored a 27.8. My dad missed our test though, so no video!

Show jumping was a bit inconsistent on my part. I just need to be able to get in the ring frequently or I start freaking out and picking or taking long ones.

Cross-country was pretty good too. I had a beautiful jump out of the water and turned the wrong way…oops! I realized my mistake and had to make an awkward turn back to a random loop on course, but the rest of it was good.

Everything felt out of stride, all I had to do was lift up my chest a bit as a I came to the jumps and he rocked back and found them, just like old times!

We ended up winning and got the TIP reserve award!

On Monday I moved him to a new barn in Waterford, about 20 minutes from my place but not really on the way to work unfortunately. It’s brand new, and there’s a nice indoor, but at the moment the footing is too deep for him. I’m hoping it will settle by the winter.

The areas around the barn are under construction, as is the interior of the barn, but it will be done soon. He’s settled in seemingly well and is out with an older gelding and two mares, the first time he’s ever even touched a mare I think! So far so good though. He seems to have met his doppleganger in one of them. It’s hard to tell them apart.

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Who’s who?

I’ll miss my friends at the other barn, but I learned a lot about boarding and what I can live with and without while I was there. The main reason I started looking was because he was being beaten up by a recently gelded jerk of a horse. When a paddock finally opened up for that horse and then Bear sold, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a fresh start.

I’m happy to be at a place now where I feel comfortable about everything involving my horse’s care and have a barn owner who lives on site and treats each horse individually, so I know he’ll be in good hands.2016-06-01 17.59.05This month I’m planning on running the novice at Seneca and maybe doing a couple of first level tests at a dressage schooling show because I’m getting tired of doing the same boring novice test!

I’m also heading off to Bromont next week, which is one of my favorites!

 

Starting A New Chapter

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It’s taken me a couple of weeks to sit down and write this blog, mostly because I’ve been super busy with a trip to Rolex (more on that later), but also because it’s been hard to put into words how I feel about Bear being sold.

It happened very fast. I got an email from a mother asking if he would be suitable for her 12-year-old daughter. At first, I thought it didn’t sound like a good match, but I let Lisa talk to them, and she thought it sounded promising so we went ahead and set up a time to meet.

The girl was very mature for her age, and seems like a perfectionist (sound like anyone??), and when she got on Bear and rode him around with a loose rein like a hunter, he just plodded along, no problems.

Lisa thought it was a good match, the girl loved him, and we set up a vetting for the following Monday. He passed with flying colors, and I dropped him off that evening, less than a week after they tried him. We hadn’t had any serious interest in him all winter or spring, so it was surprising.

I hardly had time to think about it before I set off for Rolex on Wednesday!

As all horse people know, our horses are like our children, and we want what we think is best for them. I can’t say I imagined Bear going to be a schoolmaster for a junior with no concrete eventing goals as a 6-year-old, but that’s just a testament to the kind of quiet, good soul he is.

I thought I’d find him another amateur like me, or, in the back of my mind, I thought of the countless stories I hear when interviewing riders every week–of how they had their horse for sale, and no one came to see him or he didn’t pass the vet, and they ended up taking him through the levels–like it was destiny that they keep him.

I feel like I had a lot more to learn from Bear and that his education was far from complete. I feel like I hadn’t quite unlocked his potential in dressage. Even though my dressage trainer Heidi said his trot was never going to be huge, there were glimmers of what he could be.

The same with the jumping. He was just getting to the point where he was really enjoying his job, becoming braver and really taking charge on course. I really had hoped to complete a novice successfully before he was sold. He felt the same over a training level fence as he did over a beginner novice fence, so I know there was so much more potential in there.

But when I dropped him off at his new home, I knew he’d be in good hands. It was a smaller barn, like mine at home, and he has a kid who will love on him and learn from him.

When I said goodbye, he was just quietly grazing in the small paddock they set aside for him, greeting his new buddies over the fence, and seemed perfectly content.

In the end, he doesn’t care whether he goes prelim or putters around beginner novice the rest of his life, but it’s hard to not see him through his full potential, if only to prove to myself I can do it.

All of my friends and acquaintances asked why I was selling him, and why I didn’t keep him while Oh So was slowly moving towards retirement age. In the end, it’s about the cost of keeping two horses going and some poor timing.

Oh So is 16 this year, and I’m not sure how long he’ll keep going. In his mind, he’ll go until he’s 25, but his body won’t hold up. We take it one day at a time and hope he stays sound.

I wish everything in life didn’t have to come down to money, but with horses, it always seems to. To have two horses competing, plus paying for board, farrier, vet, lessons and shows for both is just not feasible for me at this point.

But now I have some money to put away for my next horse, which I don’t plan on selling. It’s just too painful. I’m now left with a lot of free time on my hands, which in a way is good–maybe I can pursue other things outside of horses.

I’ve been going kind of non-stop with either one or two riding horses, plus taking care of the farm since we bought the place in 2002. This is the first time in my life that I only have one horse to worry about, and it feels a little empty right now.

But at the same time, I’m happy to be back with my partner in crime as we move on to our next adventure. For now, that means a combined test at Morningside in May, then the starter trials at Loch Moy to get going. I’d love to do Seneca and Surefire in June, but I can’t plan too far ahead with him.

I’m keeping my eye out for another boarding barn, something smaller, so if you know of anything near Leesburg/Purcellville/Middleburg, please let me know! I’m also keeping my eye out for other riding opportunities to keep myself fit.

Here’s a video of my last show with Bear at Morningside. He was second in the novice CT with a 30 in dressage. Our show jumping round was in the rain again, and was a little rough around the edges, but he jumped clear! That plus our win at Morven Park and the TIP Award was a perfect way to cap off our career together.

Rolex was a whirlwind trip, but I got a chance to visit my brother, sister in law and niece at their new house in Cincinnati, eat lots of chili and watch Michael Jung be amazing! It was my first time as a member of the media, and it was fun and kind of chilling to stand in the middle of the ring for dressage and show jumping, something I’ve only ever watch on TV or from afar.

Cross-country day was pretty gross and wet, but it was a safe day overall, and I was really happy with my photos and got a cover shot out of it!

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Off to Jersey Fresh this weekend!

Catching Up On March

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It’s been a busy month as my travel schedule and show schedule has ramped up. I went to a combined test with Bear at Morningside on the 19th to do the novice, and it ended up being cold and miserable, but we survived!

His test was quite steady, but he was a little low in the poll in trot. We’ve been working on lots of bending on circles at home getting him to use his body, especially to the right, but sometimes he gets low as a result. We scored a 36, which I thought was too high, but oh well!

I didn’t get a chance to walk the whole show jumping course, but I know the ring well enough. We had the first rail down, which was a tall vertical. He was a little distracted going around the ring, and I let him get a bit flat, so he trailed his hind end. The round got better as it went on though, and by the triple combination at the end, he was jumping very nicely and I didn’t screw it up!

We wanted to go out on the hill after, but it started snowing, so those plans got scrapped!

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We did get a chance to go schooling the next week though at Gordonsdale, and we popped over some bigger stuff, as well as some drops into water and banks, which he was very brave about.

I headed off to Red Hills at the beginning of the month. It’s a really unique event in Tallahassee, Fla., where I think the non-horsey public ratio is higher than the eventing enthusiasts who attend. They redesigned the course this year, which I think the riders appreciated. Since it was my second time there, I had a better idea of where I wanted to shoot, and I was really happy with my photos.

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The Carolina International at the Carolina Horse Park last weekend was my next stop for one of my favorite events to cover and ride at. It was a bit warm for the first two days, then kind of cold and dull for cross-country day, but I got tons of great photos. I really wish I could have packed my horses for the trip!

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Bear went schooling again on Tuesday this week at Loch Moy. He’s never done their schooling course, and it’s been awhile since I’ve done it, but there was a ton of stuff to do on some decent hills, so we worked a lot on jumps up and down, as well as jumps before and after the water. He also did his first baby keyhole jump and ducked just like Oh So does!

What that school revealed is that he needs to get stronger cantering down the hills, and I need to sit in the correct balance and not let him get too much in my hand, which results in me taking my leg off as we approach a jump at the bottom of a hill.

We had our first event of the season this weekend at Morven Park, which is my hometown event now that I live literally five minutes away!

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His dressage was very steady, and I worked to keep his poll up this time. We had one bobble in the free walk to medium walk transition where he anticipated, but otherwise, I worked on riding some shoulder fore on the long sides and tried to trot from canter as soon as I came off my circles to help him step under with his inside hind and make the transitions smoother. His final halt was a little more unbalanced than usual (i.e. not square), but he ended up with a 29.5 for first place!

The show jumping course was about as flowing as it could be for the shape and size of the ring at Morven, and he was feeling pretty good about himself! He was jumping around the fences nicely, but was a little bullish about his inside shoulder around the turns, and I was working on stepping into my outside stirrup and not touching the inside rein.

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He jumped clear there and got pretty excited about going to the start box when we got down to cross-country. It’s fun that he’s starting to know the routine, even if he’s a little unsure of some of the fences sometimes.

The beginner novice course was on the “Big kids” side of the property this year, which gave it a lot more galloping space. I asked for a bit of a long one to the second fence and unfortunately set the tone for the next few jumps and the gallop stretches. He’s still learning to gallop in between the fences, and I had to work had to keep him from getting too much on his forehand, especially as I got about 10 strides away from the jumps, but the jumps themselves he was brave about. I couldn’t seem to find a rhythm until the end, but he was motoring along and finished confidently.

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The water question was a big one with a log coming out, then straight down into a gully in the shadows, and he thought about it a little, but when I asked he went.

We finished well and ended up winning! He also won the TIP Award for beginner novice. I kind of wish we’d entered the novice, but we ended up with the better weather day, and I’m glad we got a confident run in. Now we continue to school and put the jumps up more as we look to MCTA possibly for a novice move up.

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Oh So had his first jump lesson in a couple of weeks after he felt a little weird behind the saddle, right hind. I think it’s stifles, so he has an appointment with the vet this week. He’s felt fantastic this week though, so hopefully it’s just some maintenance, then we can get on with planning some cross-country schools and some shows with him.

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I’m off to The Fork this weekend, then a few weeks until my first work trip to Rolex!

 

Looking back on 2015

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2015 was a sort of uneven year for me. While I got to travel to some amazing places for work and pleasure, I didn’t quite get back into the competing groove with my horses like I’d been hoping.

Oh So’s year started out positive, and I’d had hopes of getting back to training level. I’ve sort of given up hope of ever going prelim on him again because his body came back from his injury a little weaker than I’d expected. The right front leg has held up well, but then his left front developed an issue on his deep digital flexor tendon sheath, which is now a constant worry for me since we had it injected in July. Every time I get on him, I’m cognizant of how he’s walking, and when we pick up trot, I worry if what I’m feeling is a front lameness or just some stiffness from behind.

We did one novice event at Waredaca and a dressage schooling show before that started bothering him, then spent the rest of the summer and fall keeping him in work but not really aiming for any events. He’s had some cross-country schools and jumps schools and did a novice CT at Waredaca, and now we’re here–at a point where I’m not sure what to do with him for fear of breaking him.

It’s hard to make goals like the ones I’d set out for in 2015 because then he’d have a little niggling soundness thing, whether it was his hind end or the left front.

I want to compete, and I know he loves to go and do, but do I keep riding knowing someday could be the last straw, or do I keep things light and not event, which is what I’m really missing?

It was a huge shock to my system when he was first injured in August 2013–my life revolved around competing him and preparing for the next event. I got Bear as a project to fill the void, but then he had some foot soreness issues this summer too, so our season didn’t go as planned.

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I don’t like the fact that I’m getting used to not competing or having a “season”. My goal is to remain a competent training level rider (I’ll tackle prelim again someday), and with Oh So possibly not jumping at that level anymore, I’m afraid my skills will degrade. I guess I’m fearful of becoming a timid re-rider should I make it to that level again someday. The perfectionist is me gets very irritated when I make dumb mistakes over novice level fences on a horse that I’ve ridden to prelim. I guess I have to accept that I’m in a trough, a low point in my riding career, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to pull myself out of it.

I’m also coming to terms with the fact that Bear will likely be sold soon, then I’m left with a horse who may or may not be able to compete, let alone last much longer. Then what will I do? I can’t afford board on two horses. I’m a generally pessimistic person in real life (could you tell?), and trying to remain optimistic over the last year with Oh So has been really tiring.

But as my trainer Lisa keeps reminding me, we should be happy for every ride we have left with him, and truly I am. He doesn’t care whether he jumps beginner novice or prelim height, just that he’s jumping, so I hope we can keep that up. He’s really come into his own on the flat and is very solid now, so it’s fun to play with him. Lowering my expectations has been very hard, but it’s only fair to him.

I’ve had a couple of really good lessons recently with Heidi Berry, a trainer I’ve reconnected with since moving to Leesburg. She helped me with Oh So while we were going training level as we worked through his tension. It’s been a few years since she’s seen him, and she’s really impressed, which is awesome to hear from an S dressage judge.

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I told her my goal was to get solid with the 2nd level stuff, and if it comes to the point where he shouldn’t be jumping, competing at recognized dressage shows would be a fun goal. She even thinks we could try third level if we get his changes.

Last week we touched base with turns on the haunches, medium trots and canter/walk and walk/canter transitions. He was really collecting nicely on a smaller circle, and we asked him to halt a few times from canter to really make sure we didn’t get the odd trot step. I felt like the timing with my seat was better too. She said to think of a canter/walk transition as a feather floating to the ground, soft and quiet.

We also had a good jump lesson with Lisa where we worked on me sitting in a more three-point position. I’m hoping to take him up to Loch Moy to school their cross-country course that runs in their arenas. It would be perfect for him.

As for Bear, I’ve taken a few lessons with Heidi on him and it’s been a big change, but one that will be good in the long run. The first thing she said when she saw us trot around was “body awareness,” so we’ve been working on bending him to the inside more than I’m comfortable with, and working some steep leg yields and counter leg yields to get him to move his shoulders up and over. I’ve also been thinking leg yield every time we do a downwards transition. Combine that with riding him more forward, and it’s a lot to work on!

We made it out to Gordonsdale to school cross-country two weekends ago and while it was cold and windy, he had a good time and we jumped some bigger fences. We also worked on some down banks into water, which we hadn’t really tackled yet, and he was very brave.

So as I head into 2016, I’m happy for two sound horses (at the moment), and really excited to travel. I’m going to cover several events for COTH, including the Olympics in Rio, which will be amazing and probably pretty crazy!

First up though, I’m going on a quick vacation to Wellington, Fla. I won a trip via Practical Horseman magazine to a World Cup show jumping qualifier. I’m going with my friend and officemate Kimberly and we’re planning on watching the Eventing Showcase, doing something non-horsey, and not working!

Then I head back down to Wellington three days after I get back to cover the GDF CDI***** dressage show, and on to more events during the spring. Whew!