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!

August Catch Up

Sorry for the delay in posting. Things got busy after my last post from Toronto.

Show jumping ended up with a jump-off for the medals and in the end, McLain Ward and Rothchild got the gold. I love that little horse and it’s McLain’s first medal. I somehow knew it would be his weekend when we got there and I’m glad I predicted right! I also got my second COTH cover ever out of it!

I had half a day to tour Toronto, so I went on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat tour of the islands and to see the skyline. I wish I’d had more time, but I got a great view of the city for next time. I think a vacation of Canada’s biggest cities is now on my bucket list.

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Before I left for Toronto, I had a great gallop/cross-country school with Oh So that Sunday, but by the Wednesday before I left, he felt off. My trainer confirmed my fears when she tried riding him while I was gone and promptly asked my dad to take him to the vet at Morven Park.

He was diagnosed with some stress/wear and tear on his left deep digital flexor tendon sheath, so they injected it. He also flexed off on his right hind, even though he’d had hock injections 10 days before. They elected not to pursue the right hind until I got back.

We gave him two weeks off while I was gone and when I got back I walked him for a week up until Sunday when I tried trotting. He felt pretty good, but on Monday my trainer thought he still felt off, but maybe from the right hind. I rode him again tonight and I felt right hind also. Not bad, but it’s there.

I’m a little unsure right now as to what I should do. I think I’ll probably keep working in more trot work for a week or so, and if it’s not getting better by then, I’ll have to have the right hind checked out.

I think he aggravated the deep digital flexor with the gallop. He’d had a mysterious lameness back in April where we ultrasounded and saw some change in that area, but it was never called an actual injury. We gave him two weeks off, he came sound, and went on to do a dressage show and Waredaca, as well as a couple of gallops and cross-country schools.

I’m starting to believe that this is the beginning of the end for him, unfortunately. We tried so carefully to bring him back from his right front issue and had a few good months before little things kept happening. I’m not sure why he can’t keep it together, other than that he raced until he was 7. He’s the type of horse that seemed like he would go into his 20s, but his body is just not holding up.

It’s really hard for me to accept it because he’ll be my only horse once Bear is sold. If I have to do dressage for the rest of his career, I’d be OK with that, but I don’t want to give up jumping and I really don’t think he wants to either.

I thrive on having goals and achieving those goals through showing and it just doesn’t look like I’ll ever be able to make plans with him again.

I’m trying not to be a Debbie Downer about it all, but with each day that passes, I lose a little more hope.

Lisa posing Bear for his photo shoot.
Lisa posing Bear for his photo shoot.

As for Bear, he had a shoeing change while I was gone and is really feeling great about himself! He’s been quite forward and even a little 5-year-old-ish, which is kind of funny.

We took some glamour shots for his sales ad and he’s officially on the market. We took him to Gordonsdale for a cross-country school on Saturday and had the first person try him. I thought it went well, but’ll see what happens!

I’ve got a fairly quiet August until my vacation in September, then it’s full steam ahead with the AECs, moving myself and my horses and then Fair Hill. I’m hoping to enter Bear in another event for fun, maybe Marlborough in September, but it will depend on how everything goes.

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Crazy wall jump for Pan Am show jumping.
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Pachi the Pan Am mascot.
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Pan Am flame in Toronto.

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Checking In From Toronto!

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OK, so I’m not actually in Toronto, but Orangeville, Ontario, covering the Pan American Games for COTH with my co-worker Lisa. The equestrian disciplines are being held at the Caledon Equestrian Park and it’s lovely, but we’re feeling a bit disconnected from the rest of the Pan Ams, most of which are held downtown.

I was a little hesitant leaving my horses behind for two weeks, but how could I pass up the opportunity to visit a city I’ve never been to? Who knew I’d be going to Canada twice in one year?

We arrived on Thursday July 9 and drove out to Orangeville, about an hour and a half from Toronto, to our AirBNB house. I’ve never used AirBNB before, but Lisa has, so I trusted her judgement! We actually met the family before they headed out the door so they could give us a tour. We’re in a neighborhood off the one main street in the town, but it’s quite a maze and both of us have nearly gotten lost when we go walking or running. Each house seems to have it’s own beautiful, unique landscaping too, so I can usually find my way back based on what flowers or sculpture they have in their front yard (is that normal for suburbia? Or is it just me?)

Our home away from home.
Our home away from home.

It is really bizarre living in someone’s home–sleeping in their bed, using their kitchen, sitting on their coach. I feel like I’m in an alternate suburban reality and I’m living someone else’s life, or maybe the life I could be living if I didn’t have horses (and in this alternate life, I also have a baby with baby proof cabinets. So annoying!)

When we come back to the house after a long day of work, we make dinner if we haven’t eaten out, do laundry, go walking through the neighborhood, watch TV…I can’t say I’m bored yet even with all that extra time I might be spending riding because of the mostly long days where we come home and want to crash.

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Our first full day in Canada was spent finding the horse park, then driving to Toronto to get our press credentials validated at the MPC. It was sort of illogical to have to drive all the way back there because there was no satellite office near the horse park. We were advised not to drive into the city because of traffic, so we took a GoBus from a station about 45 minutes from our house. Well, the buses only run once every hour during the day and the trains only run at rush hour, so we had lots of waiting to do. It took about an hour on the air conditioned coach  to get to Union Station where we then hailed a cab to get to the MPC. Our cab driver was super nice and helpful, find of like every Canadian we’ve come across so far!

MPC
MPC

We stopped inside the MPC, which was inside a convention center with lots of food, space to work, air conditioning, journalists from other sports…that was our one and only look because we have our own media center on the grounds of the horse park. It would have been fun to talk to other journalists. Ah well, the people we did meet who gave us our photo vests and swag were very nice.

Opening Ceremony
Opening Ceremony

We had a quick bite and made our way over to the Rogers Center where the opening ceremonies were held. Our seats were so-so, but we had the 300mm lens so we took a few photos without totally whacking people in the back of the head! Cirque Du Soleil performed basically a world dance party, then the athletes came out. We stayed until the United States came out, cheered, then walked back through town to catch the bus so we wouldn’t be too tired in the morning.

Canadian Exchange on the way to the MPC
Canadian Exchange on the way to the MPC

Things at the venue for dressage went fairly smoothly. There were lots of complaints about no live streaming, no food for the media, and not being allowed to bring certain items in through security, but otherwise it was lots of fun to watch Steffen Peters and Laura Graves do so well. The U.S. team won gold!

We only had the eventing jog on Thursday, but I went out to check out the cross-country course. It was beautifulyl built with lots of little Canadian touches and you could see quite a bit from one place. The jumps weren’t that big, but they were technical.

2015-07-16 09.51.26Eventing dressage day on Friday was fairly uneventful and a little bit of a letdown after watching Grand Prix dressage. Cross-country day was hot, about 87, but the local weather made it sound like it was the apocalypse with heat advisories. There was a bit of a breeze and some occasional cloud cover that made it bearable, but the walk to the media center, which was so far out of the way in the most illogical place, was tough. It was a safe day of sport with not too many scary rides.

Show jumping day was full of tension and my heart was beating in my chest each time a U.S. rider came in. It was down to the wire, but we got gold and Marilyn Little got individual gold.

The press conferences have been a bit disorganized, but I got what I needed for my magazine story, which I worked on all today. We’ve got jumping starting tomorrow through the end of the week, so that should be exciting. I haven’t covered a grand prix in awhile and we’ve got some heavy hitters coming up. We’re hoping to get back to Toronto to do the tourist thing on Friday and home on Sunday!

It’s been going by so fast and I can feel my riding muscles wasting away, but it’s been lots of fun so far. Maybe a tad hot, but certainly better than at home. Everyone we’ve met has been super friendly and it’s been interesting seeing a slice of daily life in Canada.

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.

Homework and basics–keeping things interesting in the winter

As Oh So has come back into jumping after his hip injury, Lisa and I have come up with some small exercises that still challenge him without stressing him too much or too soon.

A couple of weeks ago, she set up three small verticals that he could basically canter over at three strides apart on the short side of the ring we went to. She also had a jump on the short side, so we made a circle of three jumps at three strides, then about 5 or 6 strides, over the jump, then 5 or 6 strides back to the short side. It was meant to make jumping seem “blah” for him and to work on his canter stride and my position.

I’ve recreated that in my ring on a smaller scale these past few weeks. I’ve made them small cavaletti with one stride in between so I can just canter him over them (see first two clips in the video above where he is actually relaxed!). My plan is to make them small bounces on a smaller circle next time to really get his hind legs active and strong. I feel like I’m behind in his legging up because I don’t have much of a hill at home and it’s been so wet, so this is the best I can do for now.

This past weekend, I took him to an indoor, which is always challenging. Indoors make you tend to ride backwards and this time, we were actually jumping solid beginner novice/novice fences.

We trotted over a low, wide oxer, which was beneficial for me since I had to follow through with my hands and wait with my upper body. It also helped him stretch his topline and use his back.

It took me a few tries to get my feel back as we cantered over it, then we continued on to a tall cross-rail across the diagonal, three strides angled over an oxer that was part of a gymnastic on the centerline, then three more strides to a tall cross-rail at the end of the diagonal.

The first time, he actually waited and listened because it’s been awhile since we’ve jumped such an acute angle. The next time, the first two were good, then he tried to plow off over the last.

So, we had a very strong half halt the next time, and by the final try, he actually backed off and listened! He knows how to do this and just wants to jump bigger and get on with it, so I’ve accepted the fact that it will take several rides before we get our “whoa” button back. I certainly can’t fault him for wanting to jump again!

We finished by trotting into a bounce, one stride, one stride, bounce, which really made him sit up and listen. I tend to build things gradually at home for my own sake, but the more times you do things with him, the worse it can sometimes get, so it can be a good strategy to go right through.

On New Year’s Day I took Bear cross-country schooling since the footing seemed to be the best it’s probably going to be for awhile.

He was certainly happy to be out and it took him about 20 minutes to focus. I was worried since we didn’t have stud holes that he might slip, but he stayed quite balanced the whole time.

As you can see from the video, he was quite good. The brush jump tickled his foot I think, so he kicked out on landing, but the bounce bank was great considering he’d never done it before.

He was even happy to trudge through the water with ice on top, but we unfortunately couldn’t do much more than that at the water jump.

On Sunday I jumped him before taking Oh So to his lesson. I just cantered a few things, like the spooky Christmas tree, which he could care less about, and did a double bounce to a one-stride, which he just loped over.

I’ve got two new books with tons of cavaletti and grids in them, so I’ll set something up this weekend after the deep freeze comes and goes this week and write reviews.

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.

 

 

Baby Bear Gets His Call Up At Seneca Valley Horse Trials

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Since I scratched Oh So from Seneca due to his SI pain, my coach Lisa suggested I enter Bear in the beginner novice in his place so I didn’t lose my money. I was a little hesitant because he just did his first three-phase the week before, but we’ve been jumping beginner novice height at home in the ring, so I nervously agreed.

I had planned on having another couple of cross-country schools over solid beginner novice height jumps, but since the opportunity presented itself, Lisa and I went into Seneca with the idea of schooling.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

We ended up parked right by the cross-country warm up, which I thought would be terrible, but Bear just hung out and watched people go by all day while eating out of his hay net, which was a nice surprise.

The dressage was a bit of a walk and he got a little nervous as we approached the warm up ring. I hadn’t competed at Seneca since they moved the dressage rings and I like where they are now, very isolated from the jumping. There were four rings, but there was enough space so it wasn’t too crazy. He was quite tight and up for the first 10 minutes or so and then he settled and decided to get behind my leg!

I moved him over to a more isolated spot as our time approached in an effort to diffuse any separation anxiety. He did one neigh and a hop, but then settled. The ground was so hard and this was his first time doing dressage on grass, so I think he was a little short in his stride throughout the test.

I stupidly didn’t look over my test one last time before dressage so I ended up with two errors, which I’ve never done in my life, in the simplest test known to man!

Besides my dumb errors, he was just a bit behind my leg. It didn’t look so bad on the video, but he did seem a bit uneven in the contact and his push from behind.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

We had four hours to wait until show jumping, and I actually kept myself quite calm!

The show jumping course, also on grass, looked pretty doable for us. The cross-country definitely looked a bit bigger though.

He did not like the hard ground in show jumping and felt a little four-beat and stiff around some of the turns, but he was jumping well. We’ll need to work more on bending through our turns in the coming weeks.

I asked for one long one, which he actually obliged, and a short one that he tapped but it stayed up, and the rest were pretty spot on. He was swapping leads a bit and swishing his tail (I think due to my spurs), so it wasn’t the smoothest round in between the jumps, but he was clearly seeking the fences.

Lisa took my spurs off for cross-country, we did a warmup roll top and it was off to the start box! I’ve definitely missed the countdown and the butterflies as the starter says “go!”

The first jump was a cabin and he met that nicely but got the wrong lead to number 2, which was a pretty big roll top with brush on top.

I think it caused some issues for others and he definitely hesitated on takeoff and in the air, but once we landed, he seemed to be happy to canter away to the next jump.

The next several jumps were good and I just worked on keeping my leg forward and my upper body back in case he did anything silly. I need to be conscious of my upper body because we weren’t getting the correct lead most of the time because he follows my weight.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

I flubbed a couple of them and got him too close, but I now have a better feel of when he gets long and strung out in his canter, so hopefully I can correct that next time.

We got over the first 11 fences well and then came the water…he stopped dead, which I expected he might, and after three step backs, we were eliminated.

The jump judge kindly let Lisa lead him in and then we trotted back in once more so we could end on a good note. There was only a ditch and two jumps left, so while I’m bummed we didn’t complete, it wasn’t totally unexpected. He still needs some time to get in the water and when they flag it at the beginning like that, you’re SOL if they take a few tries to get in.

So, on paper, it looks bad, but I think it turned out to be a great schooling opportunity. If I had to do it differently, I would have taken him in another water before, but there was no water on our elementary course at Loch Moy.

He showed me that he seems to be enjoying his job and he definitely has the scope and gallop to go higher, and I got to head out of the start box at a recognized event for the first time in over a year. What more could I ask for?

I’m hoping to do Waredaca and maybe VA Horse Trials in October after we get a bit more

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

cross-country schooling in.

Oh So is starting his work back a few days early today because he’s been a jerk in the barn and needs a job. I walked him and trotted a bit and he felt a little uneven, but I’m hoping that goes away as he works more.

Here’s the video of Bear at Seneca. I edited it to get rid of my mistakes in the dressage and my mom had a camera issue, so she only got one jump on cross-country 😦

Book Review: Schooling For Success With William Fox-Pitt

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The basics of horse training never go out of style, and with bringing along a baby this year who’s learning everything for the first time, I was inspired to pick up William Fox Pitt’s 2004 book, Schooling For Success recently.

William needs no introduction, but the book does a good job with one about how he got started in eventing and features a first-hand account written by him about some of his top horses and some of their quirks.

It’s obviously not up to date at this point, but I remember many of the horses he writes about–Moon Man, Tamarillo, Chaka–all horses I watched on my Badminton and Burghley DVDs years ago.

I’m a big visual learner, and considering I take photos for a living, I’m really interested in studying a rider’s and horse’s form at each pivotal moment. William’s book relies heavily on unique photo sequences and examples of correct and incorrect form.

He starts with a primer on the rider’s position, the paces and pole work. In fact, these sections are the most photo heavy of the book. William notes that the most important thing for any horse is to establish forwardness and freedom in every pace. He likes to use long and low exercises in his warm up before collecting more.

Sadly the pole work section is only one page. I would love to know more about what exercises he uses, especially with his youngsters.

In the jumping section, William uses about two pages on average to touch on things like grid work, introducing spooky jumps, angles and accuracy and riding a course. Throughout the entire book, he has handy tidbit boxes to summarize the main points of the text and to offer other useful pointers.

After watching William teach a clinic last fall, it was clear to me that he values a systematic training process when bringing along young horses and that comes across in his book. He notes that he uses a gradual and thorough teaching process, views a refusal as a sin to be avoided, introduces young horses to new concepts with a lead, and that a horse should associate going cross-country with having fun.

In the cross-country section, he goes over each kind of fence you might encounter, from basic banks to trakehners and ditches. Most of the photos feature photos of riders going over huge fences, which can be inspiring, but not always useful to the lower level rider that the book appears aimed at, so that would be my only real criticism.

Towards the end of the book, William offers troubleshooting tips for each phase, as well as a quick look into his daily life with his novice level horses.

Schooling For Success offers common sense training tips, explained clearly that will benefit visual learners best. Ten years on, I think it’s time for an updated version, perhaps with a bit more text!