Winding Down The Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Operation Bronze Medal: Partway There!

We’ve had crazy amounts of rain over the last week, and I was kind of glad I wasn’t entered at an event because there was no way we would have run.

But I didn’t really expect the brand new fancy all-weather rings at Morven Park to be unrideable on Saturday.

I’d entered the PVDA Spring Dressage Show, and had planned to do two first level tests on Saturday and two second level tests on Sunday to knock those scores out and start really working on the third level tests for my bronze medal.

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Picsofyou.com photo

Continue reading “Operation Bronze Medal: Partway There!”

We Made It To A Recognized Event! Loudoun Recap

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GRC Photo

It was looking iffy that we would make it to the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials last week with Oh So having time off for his injury and losing some riding time, plus tons of rain the week before, but I’m happy to say we made it!

I walked the course on Saturday evening because Morven Park is literally five minutes from my house! The footing looked a bit deep in spots, especially at crossings, and I thought for sure Lisa would say we shouldn’t run, so I mentally prepared for the disappointment of just doing a combined test. To be honest, having not done a recognized event at any level for nearly two years, even some of the novice tables looked kind of big to me!

He stayed in overnight to keep clean, and I was there bright and early the next morning to braid, which I also haven’t done for awhile!

Continue reading “We Made It To A Recognized Event! Loudoun Recap”

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!”

Out And About (And An Abscess)

Spring has finally spring in Virginia, and I’m ready to start competing and getting Thomas out and about!

After my last post, I took Oh So to Morven Park to see Dr. Adams assuming we’d get his hock or stifles done.

Upon flexions though, he was very good from behind and mildly positive on his right front ankle. He had some mild inflammation there that Dr. Adams thought was some minor arthritis, so we injected that and a few areas in his back behind the saddle where he palpated a bit sore.

The good news is his left front ankle and the areas around his windpuff and deep digital flexor tendon sheath flexed 100 percent negative! Dr. Adams admitted he was a little nervous to see him considering our last appointment he was not feeling positive about his overall soundness and ability to continue competing, but he said he looked better than ever. He’s gained 100 pounds since August too thanks to a good feeding program from my barn owner.

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Valerie Durbon Photo.

I entered Morven Park with the assumption that it would be wet and we might not be able to run cross-country, and unfortunately a ton of rain on the Friday before meant the footing wasn’t going to be ideal for him. Any other year I would say the footing was pretty darn good for Morven, especially by the time I would have gone on Sunday, but there were too many spots of concern on course for Lisa to want to risk him.

I’m bummed it became an expensive combined test, especially considering we were leading after show jumping!

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GRC Photo.

He was a little up as we headed down to the dressage warmup with atmosphere, but as soon as I picked up the reins he went to work. He was a little tight as we got to the main arena and started trotting around, but I tried to stay as relaxed as I could. He can be forgiven for being a bit tense for our first outing of the year! Unfortunately he got me again in our free walk and anticipated the medium walk and jigged, so there will be some dressage schooling shows in our future to get that under control again.

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GRC Photo.

I was remarkably relaxed for show jumping, and we warmed up quite well actually. He was jumping big and I wasn’t picking! The round was quite good–no picking, no rails and he got all his leads because I wasn’t ducking. I was really pleased considering we’d had a bit of a tough lesson the week before. Not bad, just the fact that he didn’t want to sit and rock back over the jumps. We ended up putting some ground rails in front of a few of them to make him wait, but I counted on him backing off the jumps at the show.

I decided against entering MCTA in May because everything is on grass and it can often be wet. Such is life these days for us. Instead, I’m going back to Morven to try my hand at a recognized dressage show.

The last time I did a recognized dressage show I had Palais and was in the junior division, so it will be interesting to see how we stack up. I’m expecting it to be tougher for sure, but maybe we can win a TIP Award?

We’re doing First 2 and 3. I’m hoping two tests in a day will get him a little more rideable in the ring. If that goes well there’s a recognized show at Loch Moy in June that would be fun to try.

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Not sure what’s going on with my leg here, but it’s not slipped back, so that’s good! GRC Photo.

Next up for us though is the CDCTA schooling day on Saturday and the Loch Moy starter trials next week.

Thomas has been going well, but unfortunately at the end of March I felt some funny steps from behind. I did a couple of days of bute thinking it was because he had run around a lot one day when I was there, and then he came sound and had a great lesson with Lisa that weekend.

My farrier came on the 29th and he was sore on his left hind foot and heel in particular, but the farrier thought it was the way his alignment and gait was as he’s been working to correct it.

He was still sound until last week when he was not wanting to walk on it. While I was away at The Fork my barn manager’s farrier came out and found an abscess. I’ve been soaking it this week, and my farrier comes tomorrow, so fingers crossed we can put a shoe back on because I’m home for two weekends in a row, and it’s time to get him off property! He’s also bored and ready to get back to work so I’ve been trying to mess with him in one way or anther every night. We’ve groomed, hand grazed he’s helped me set up jumps in the ring!

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Tiny jumps! GRC Photo.

As far as travel, I’ve since been to the Carolina International and The Fork since my last update. Carolina is always lovely, and the weather was perfect. I got some great photos too, but I was really envious of those who got to ride the training course. The Carolina Horse Park is one of my favorite venues, and I really want to go back and compete.

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The Fork derby field.

The Fork was held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and it was my first time there. Let’s just say it was definitely better than driving to podunk Norwood, N.C.!

I’m not sure I totally agree with the main venue’s courses. Many of the lower level jumps were set in the arenas and in a derby field, although I found myself thinking it would be the perfect place for Oh So because you can guarantee the footing will be good! But it just didn’t feel like eventing to me.

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Carolina International.

The brand new three-star course was pretty cool though. It was open and gallopy and the footing felt like carpet. They’ve barely scratched the surface of what the World Equestrian Games’ course will be, and it was exciting to be there to watch it christened. I loved my photos too!

Now I’ve got a couple of weeks until the big one…Rolex!

Here’s a few photos I took of the boys with my nice camera recently. Oh So’s in his ugly phase right now, but once his summer coat comes in, he’ll look great!

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!

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.