The 2018 season’s gone out with a bit of a whimper and not a bang for me unfortunately. With Seneca being canceled and now Waredaca getting a few inches of rain, I decided to scratch today.
I knew at the beginning of the week that I likely wouldn’t be running cross-country because of the wet weather forecasted, but with reports and photos coming in yesterday of trucks being towed in and out and knowing that the dressage and show jumping warm up are on grass, plus having to get up at 4:30 a.m., I decided not to risk it for a combined test that wouldn’t count for anything.
My trainer asked me to consider what I would get out of it, and honestly, probably not much. We’re both bored with the novice test and don’t *need* to do it, and we’re looking ahead to some local winter jumper shows for practice. I hate to throw another $200 down the toilet, but that seems to be the nature of this year for everyone. I just wish Waredaca would have made that call for me. I was still undecided right up until I went to bed last night, and really could have gone either way, but I also think I needed a quiet day where I can get some stuff done around my apartment, have a nice ride and probably clip him again since he grew his hair back so fast!
It’s been pretty non-stop since I got back from Fair Hill in October. I made a pretty major life change and became a boarder for the first time in 13 years.
While I was perfectly happy with my life, my parents thought it was time for me to move out and be closer to my job. They want to retire eventually and not take care of two crazy OTTBs, so here we are. Sam and the minis are still at home, along with my two cats. I really miss having them around, but I’ve been able to get home about once a week or every ten days to get my fix.
Boarding after taking care of my own horses for so long has been a major adjustment. I like controlling every aspect of my horse’s care and now I can’t, and that really irritates me. From how much hay they get to which paddock they go in to how many times the arena gets dragged, I’m struggling a bit and my OCD is freaking out.
The good news is the place I’ve found is about as good as I can get for my budget and is close to my apartment in Leesburg. I can stop by on my way to work to turn them out and ride on the way home. I’ve got friends nearby who can help me out and the barn owner comes highly recommended. It’s not the fanciest place, but there’s tons of rideout, an indoor and a little cross-country course, which Oh So has been loving.
The boys are both in a small paddock together right now but will be going out in a group next week, another thing I’m freaking out about.
They were pretty awful about being separated at first, but they’re slowly getting better–just screaming now, no running.
The good news about being in the area I’m in is that it’s closer to a lot more things. On my first weekend, I took Bear cross-country schooling at Loch Moy, which is now only 45 minutes away. We worked through some of his “teenage” moments at the water and down banks that weekend and he finished really well.
The next weekend I took him to school at Hunt Club Farm. He did his first ever combined test there, but now they’ve got a nice cross-country course. I think doing the two back-to-back weekends of schooling really helped both of our confidence and we went to the starter trial at Loch Moy and won our beginner novice division on his dressage score of 26!
I wasn’t really happy with our dressage warmup because it was so crazy and I just didn’t have a plan. He felt behind the leg, but he was mentally handling everything. We had a few minutes to work near our ring and after watching our video, I think we actually looked a little quick in trot. Sometimes I think I look for more out of him compared to Oh So, but I need to just take it down a notch and trust we’re actually moving forward. As a result, I drew my heel up a bit as I was kicking/using my spur, so I looked awful!
I got a little rapid in my show jumping, taking a few “bids” three strides away and he thought that was great fun! He was a bit wild and I just didn’t keep an even pace, so not the prettiest round, but he was certainly going and enjoying himself.
Cross-country was much more steady and he was very brave and attacked each fence. A few in the woods backed him off just enough to make for some nice jumps, and he went right in the water.
The week before Loch Moy I took Oh So for an outing at Waredaca’s Starter Trial. He wasn’t quite ready to do the full thing since he hasn’t cross-country schooled since this summer before his tendon sheath issue, so we did a novice CT.
His warm up was quite good, but once we got onto the bluestone near our ring he tightened up a bit and got very strong in my hand. We must have faked it well because we got a 27! Lisa made some good points in our warmup about downgrading our work for the novice test. It’s so easy and while we both prefer a test with more to do, for now, we can warmup with more transitions and a more open frame, rather than counter canter and lateral work.
Our show jumping round was a bit rough in between the fences since he was so eager to go, but we got it done. In fact, he was almost a bit backed off, which was a weird feeling. I think just not being out for awhile had him quite up.
We ended up winning the combined CT division and a Waredaca gift card!
Last weekend I took Bear to a new event for me, Full Moon Farm. It’s been ages since I’ve been to a new event, so I had a little tinge of nervousness.
We warmed up mostly on the grass to get him thinking forward and finished up on the sand near our ring. I still didn’t really have a plan, other than thinking forward and working on our transitions, but we ended up with a 26.8. I was a little surprised since I thought the score might be a bit higher due to the recognized element and the fact that the test felt similar to the one at Loch Moy, but I’ll take it!
Show jumping was on a grassy hill, so Lisa and I talked a lot about how we would ride the turns and slopes. It was quite open, but as a result of focusing on my turns, we had 2 time faults! Oops. It was a smoother round than Loch Moy, but we didn’t get all of our leads like I was hoping. He did a few cleaner flying changes though, so that was cool. He doesn’t quite know how to do them on command, so the fact that he was balancing himself was good.
We’ve been lucky this fall to be able to event this far into November, and the footing on cross-country was about as good as it could have been. It was a little tacky, something Bear’s never seen before.
He was a little wide-eyed as we started since the course is kind of like a roller coaster and goes by the parking and the show jumping. There’s a lot to look at, but once we got to fence 5, a jump with a roof over it, he seemed to be pretty on. He did the little down bank to a roll top well, a bending line, an up bank and the water and ditch perfectly. We actually picked a line to the water to get the best footing, so he barely had to put a foot in it, but we were still between the flags!
We ended up winning the open beginner novice division, which was a great way to end the season. I feel like with some consistency over the last few weeks, we hammered it home to him and he gets it now. With me traveling so much this year and dealing with getting his feet right, we were just inconsistent. He probably could have been going novice by now, but it’s OK. He is still only five (and still for sale!).
Yesterday I took Oh So cross-country schooling and he had so much fun. He just wants to run and jump and was actually frustrated that we were walking around with a group of babies before our lesson! He was jigging and prancing and generally being silly, but it makes me smile. Every day I can still ride him is a blessing, so we’ll take it one day and one jump at a time. I’m hoping to take him to a derby at Loch Moy in December which is entirely run in their arenas.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
I’ve been grappling with the idea of “less is more” as Oh So has come back into work after his injury.
As he’s gotten older, it’s definitely a realization that I’ve been coming to, but since his injury, I’ve had to be careful about how much jumping I do and where I do it.
It’s been a year since I’ve jumped even novice height, and over the last few months as I’ve bumped the jumps up to training height (and eventually prelim), I find myself wanting to jump a line or a single big fence more than I might have in the past so I can “catch up” or get my feel back and work on my position.
But because I want to save him for as many years to come, I have to be satisfied with fewer jumping efforts.
My perfectionist nature leaves me always wanting to jump through a gymnastic or line several times to fix things, but I’ve not always been able to do that because Oh So tends to build as we keep jumping the same thing over and over, resulting in pulling or just jumping in bad form. Jumping fewer fences leaves me feeling like I didn’t quite master something, but it’s often necessary so things don’t spiral out of control. Over the years, Lisa and I have tried jumping the same thing several times in a row to get him to “give it up”, but we learned that strategy just doesn’t work.
In a jumping session at home last week, I set up a few bigger exercises but had no one to help me. I usually like to build up a gymnastic line, but this time out, I trotted my warmup fence four times, then kept my canter going and did a bounce to a one stride over a big double X.
Going straight into a gymnastic exercise cold seems to get his attention, and even if I was worried about screwing it up, he jumped it very well the first time. I couldn’t help myself, so I did it a second time and it was fine–he was listening to me and the double X really made him use himself.
I kept my canter going and did a training-height wide oxer, which surprised him at first, so he didn’t use his head and neck as well as he could have. I came around again and it was better, kept my canter and did a one stride vertical to square oxer nicely.
I let him walk, then picked up my canter and had a beautiful jump over the single oxer and almost kept going to the one stride again, but ultimately decided to end on a good note before he got too wound up. What would be the point other than for me to practice? He knows how to jump a training level one stride.
Did I want to jump more? Absolutely! Did he want to jump more? Yes! But I exercised restraint on my part and trusted myself and him that we could get the job done in fewer fences.
I tend not to have a lot of self confidence, in my real life or my riding life, which is why I think I feel the need to “get it perfect” with more jumps. When I’m on a role during the competition season, I tend to do better. Trusting in both of our skills is difficult for me.
We had a similar experience two weeks ago during his first cross-country school back with Lisa. We jumped a bit in the arena, then went out to the course. She picked a few fences for us to do, we did them, and that was that. He was raring to go, I wanted to do more, but we just stopped. We know we can both do it.
With Bear, I’m more apt to repeat things so he understands and can practice. In our lesson last weekend, we did a few good size beginner novice fences in the ring, about once time each, then went out to school cross-country. We decided to try a few bigger fences and he was a little surprised at a bench/rolltop jump that was solid BN. He ran out, not badly, and I re-presented. He had a slightly awkward jump with his hind end, but did it, then we did it a third time nearly perfect.
Lisa was pleased with how he handled himself the second time. She said that shows a lot about his character that he was willing to try again.
I’ve had some good flat lessons with both boys recently. With Oh So, I’m working on keeping him a bit deeper than I might like in our warmup in hopes of keeping his neck soft throughout our ride.
With Bear, I’ve been working on halts, centerlines and general test riding in preparation for his official eventing debut this weekend at the Maryland Starter Trials. We’re doing baby novice/2’3″ for the first time out, especially considering how he reacted when we did some bigger fences on cross-country last weekend. He needs them small enough that he can trot them and not get into trouble since there will be so much more going on that he’ll probably be focused on!
He has really turned into a “real horse” this summer with solid muscling and a bit of a growth spurt. His canter is coming along nicely and his trot just keeps getting better. And all with no tension! It’s just a very different ride going from Oh So to him every day.
I took Oh So to the Loudoun Hunt HT schooling day on Monday with Lisa and we had our first serious schooling. He thought the novice jumps were silly, but I needed to do them to get my feel back a bit. I started out a bit tentative and looking for a spot, but by the end, I felt back in the groove with him and he put up with me thankfully!
His first event back will be novice at Seneca next weekend. I’m excited to be back out and I hope the footing holds up–I’d rather it be a bit firm. But first, we’ll do a couple of first level tests at CDCTA next week for practice.
I was in Chicago two weekends ago to cover the USEF Developing Horse Championships for COTH. It was super hot and humid, but the Lamplight Equestrian Center was very pretty and I saw a lot of very nice young horses. Check out my coverage here – http://www.chronofhorse.com/content/2014-developing-horse-championships
It’s been about two months since Bear was last out at a show due to his foot bruise, my travels and just getting him legged up again, but we made it to Morningside on Sunday for a combined test.
We decided to do baby novice one more time and he was pretty good. I don’t think he’s going to be one to need a lot of dressage warmup, which is nice, because it’s exhausting riding him compared to Oh So! He’s still learning to get off my leg but I decided against spurs since he’s been ultra sensitive to them at home lately, and I really could have used them by the time I trotted down centerline.
As a result, in our first canter transition, I freaked out a bit and chased him, so we got a 5 for that. His downwards transition was also rough as he swung his hindquarters in. Those are hard to do on the long side!
After the free walk, the test was steadier and we picked up a few 7s and 8s to finish with a 32.0. It was probably a little generous, but hey, it made me feel good!
He cantered easily around the baby novice course, but I was throwing my upper body left a little on landing so we didn’t get every lead. I’m not sure why I do it to the left on him but to the right on Oh So.
They had quite a few people sign up for baby novice and beginner novice jumping rounds, so after warming up on the track for our beginner novice round, which is awful because you can’t get into a rhythm, we had to sit around and wait for probably 40 minutes. He was fine with it, but I think I should have done a couple of jumps before we went in since I work best off the momentum of a few rhythmic jumps.
They put in the panels and fillers for the beginner novice division and in hindsight, I should have let him have a peek at some of them. He started off ok over the first fence, but then I asked for a long one to the second and he popped in an extra stride, while I stupidly jumped ahead for a pretty ugly effort.
We regained our composure quickly for the next two jumps, but I did the same stupid thing again to a vertical with a stone wall, and pretty much almost fell off! We regained our composure again and finished a lot better than we started!
So, moral of the story- I’m still figuring out my balance on him compared to Oh So. We’ve only recently started putting the jumps up to serious beginner novice height, and while Oh So made them seem tiny when I started him, Bear is smaller and I have less in front of me. His neck comes out of his shoulders at less of an upwards angle and I don’t have huge withers and a long neck to “catch me” should I jump ahead.
Oh So also finds long spots quite fun, so I’ve been able to get away with jumping ahead with my upper body. He’s rarely chipped in in the years I’ve had him.
So, Bear will teach me not to jump ahead I hope, because otherwise I’ll end up on the ground! He’s also been so saintly, quiet and almost bored jumping at home and in our lessons that I think I’ve trusted that too much. He was slightly surprised by the fillers at Morningside, so he added a stride instead of taking off long. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to mind as I right myself after the jump. A true amateurs horse, even at 4 years old!
For now we’ll just work on getting comfortable jumping at the height. I’ve done a ton of prelims but beginner novice feels big on him to me. He doesn’t seem to care, but I need to get brave now!
I included the second half of our BN round here since it was much better than the first!
Well, I survived the heat at the Maryland Horse Trials II, but didn’t turn in the performance I’d hoped for. Oh So was fairly calm for our dressage warmup but perhaps not as supple as he could have been in his back in the trot work. We did test A, which is much simpler, especially compared to the two second level tests we did on Thursday, but he stayed pretty focused. We got an 8 on our canter lengthening and sevens on both leg yields. We also got an 8 on our change of lead through trot, and ended up in second place after dressage with a 31.8, just a fraction of a point out of the lead.
I wasn’t able to get a show jumping school in after my vacation because a gallop and cross-country school took precedence, and silly me thought we’d be fine. Not. He was little careless in my jump school at home on Tuesday and although our warmup at the show was fine, he proceeded to take down the first fence on course, which rattled us both (to be fair, it was a vertical and was coming down a lot apparently).
We got a little close to fence 3, a skinny, and he didn’t forgive me for it, so he had the back rail of the oxer at 4a down, then randomly had a vertical down at 6. He jumped the triple combination beautifully and proved to me that he does know how to jump, but then I’m not sure what happened as we came around to a simple liverpool vertical. He asked for a bit of a long one and he added a stride, thus throwing me up on his neck. Thank goodness he still jumped, but we had that one down and I had to regain my stirrup, which cost us 3 time penalties on our way to the last, which he also had down.
I’m a little bit at a loss except to say that I was out of practice and we both got upset after the first fence down. I think he got offended after fence 3 and was really backed off after that. Lisa and I talked about it and she said we never really got into a rhythm and that he decided to peek at the liverpool, which he’s never done.
The cross-country was meant to be a “move-up course”, but I never take any prelim
course lightly. The jumps in the combinations weren’t all max height, but almost all of them were angled, which luckily he does very well.
There was a cabin to a left-handed corner that I thought we could have done a little bit smoother, but he was honest to it. The water jump was just a cabin at the lip of it, then a bending line to a cabin out, so not too much there. At that point, which was fence 13, I was starting to feel a little like I did at Seneca. I was a little weak and my position was starting to soften a bit. He jumped the giant cordwood table beautifully and GRC got a great photo, but I look terrible with my lower leg. They also got a great photo at the table afterwards, but again, I look inexcusably awful.
After the table was a log down into a canyon, then out over a roll-top, which we haven’t seen too often. He jumped that well and popped over the last two fences to finish easily inside the time, and I wasn’t even trying for it! We ended up in eighth place.
So, I was pleased with 2 of the phases, but yet again, we embarrassed ourselves in show jumping. He’s turning into a heartbreaker I think. How is it that we can have a nice round like we did at Seneca, then a round like this one?
I feel like the dressage is pretty confirmed now and he’s very reliable cross-country. There’s not much he hasn’t seen at this point.
Until our next event in September, I’m planning on trying the Dr. Bristol again for jumping to see if I have enough control. I think the Pelhem is fine, but in certain instances, it does more harm then good if I don’t follow him completely with my hand. I’m planning on doing the CDCTA August schooling dressage show in Warrenton and I’m going to try to get to some jumper shows or do some jumper rounds at Morningside. I’m also thinking of trying a lesson with a jumper trainer or maybe trying Stephen Bradley again and asking him if he could sit on him for me and give me an assessment.
Tomorrow I’m off to Young Rider’s Championships to cover it for COTH, just in time for the massive heat wave we’re having. It will still be hot in Kentucky, but not as bad as here.