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!”

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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.

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.