Rio’s In The Rearview and An Oh So Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Copacabana Beach

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

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

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

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View from Sugarloaf

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

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

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

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Sugarloaf Cable Cars
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Christ the Redeemer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seneca. GRC Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catching Up On March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Good Day At Seneca Valley HT

This post is a bit late since I’ve been swamped lately at work and home and just haven’t had the inspiration to sit in front of my computer!

Almost two weeks ago, I took Bear to Seneca Valley HT to do the beginner novice. It was super hot and I had later ride times, but somehow I survived. We did minimal dressage warm up and the test itself I felt wasn’t our best–maybe a bit hurried in trot, but we scored a 31 to be 10th in a big open division.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Show jumping was on grass in a nice, big area, so I was able to have a bit more pace. Bear was just fine over everything and stayed very focused, but I was a bit inconsistent and took a couple of long ones and a couple of short ones. We ended up having fence two down which was in a related line. I just held the contact in my hand a bit too long as he took off and didn’t soften, so he had the front rail down of the oxer.

The fences I did get right were quite nice though, including the in and out and a bending line on the right lead from 5 to 6 and a five stride from 7 to 8.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

On the walk over to cross-country, I was feeling a bit weak from the heat–not sick or faint, just weak. I tend to avoid competing in the summer because when that happens, I feel I’m not as effective as I could be and I don’t want to let me horse down. I rallied as we circled the box and cantered a few circles as they counted us down. I think doing that works better for Bear since we can have a good, forward canter going to the first fence. With Oh So, it’s more about keeping him calm and just walking.

I have to say, nearly every fence was perfect on cross-country. It was a nice course that had us galloping the first half and then doing three fences in the woods. One was a light to dark question going into the woods and he backed off into my leg just the right amount. The other two fences in the woods were around somewhat sharp turns and he did those probably the best of all.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

He did come back to trot for the water, but he wasn’t hesitant about it and I was able to canter out.

We finished in 9th place, just out of the ribbons. I think it was a good learning course for him and I feel like he could go do novice tomorrow–it’s just me and the show jumping that needs work!

Great Meadow XC day
Great Meadow XC day

I had Oh So entered at Surefire the following weekend, but they changed the schedule on me and I had to work the new Great Meadow event nearby, so I scratched. It’s too darn hot anyways. We’ve been having an absolute heat wave lately and I’m so over it!

Last weekend was definitely crazy as I covered Great Meadow on Friday until late, went cross-country schooling at Seneca with Oh So on Saturday early, went back to Great Meadow on Saturday night, then went back the next morning. There were crazy storms on Saturday at Great Meadow and I was stuck in the press tent with a few other journalists when a mini tornado or microburst hit. It was one of the more terrifying experiences I’ve had with lightning, rain, wind and tornado warnings. It cleared for an hour and I got a beautiful shot of a double rainbow, then they evacuated the place and more rain hit as I drove home.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Here’s a video of Oh So schooling at Seneca. We did some training stuff at the end that’s not on there. He was great and I was pretty on point over the novice stuff. I felt like we really got our groove back, but I needed a bit more pace at the training fences.

I also had a lovely time at Bromont in Quebec, Canada three weeks ago. I had to remember a bit of my French, but it’s definitely become one of my favorite events. Next up is my big trip to the Pan Ams in July!

Morningside CT recap

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Bear schooling at home.

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!

 

Throwback Thursday – Oh So’s First Event

I got Oh So in September of 2007, He’d been started over small fences after being off the track for a couple of months.

By April 2008, we were doing our first combined tests and derby-crosses and by the fall, we were ready for our first recognized event!

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

I was a little nervous because we’d had a hurricane during the week before the Seneca Valley Horse Trials in Maryland and in the end, the event scrambled to move the show jumping to higher ground. It ended up being on the inside of the steeplechase track on a slight slope- a challenge I wasn’t quite expecting.

Beginner novice always goes last, so I think my dressage time was about 2:30 and I’m sure it was hot, but I’m wearing my coat in the video, so maybe it wasn’t. I can’t remember!

I do know that I was nervous about doing my dressage there because the rings are right by the cross-country, but I got lucky in that they were changing over to the next level when I went, so it was fairly quiet.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

He kept his head down and did a good test for where he was at, and considering the footing was a bit tacky.

Show jumping went well but we had one rail in the in and out. It was right as we cantered past the in gate, so Lisa said he just got distracted and dropped his hind end.

He rocked around cross-country and ended up in sixth place!

I actually didn’t have a lot of experience at beginner novice since I just did novice with my first event horse and training and prelim with Sam, so it was interesting to be stepping over such small jumps, but now I’m back there again with Bear!

A few of my favorite things

It’s spring shopping season and I’ve picked up a few things for myself and my horses recently that I’m really loving. Here are a few of my favorite items so far.

2014-04-12 08.22.45Higher Standards Leather Care – I kept seeing a topic on the Chronicle Forums pop up about a user who started her own business making saddle soap. Someone in the office tried it when we wrote a story about her, and with plenty of rave reviews on the Forums, I decided to try some.

The soap is made of natural ingredients and you can choose your scent from rosemary mint, lavender vanilla, citrus ginger or unscented. I picked lavender vanilla, which is pleasant, but not over-powering. The 8oz jar, which will last me a really long time, comes with a nice sponge. I’ve barely made a dent so far, but it does clean my tack and leaves it moisturized. It’s not too sudsy, which is a pet peeve of mine. I hate when suds get in the holes of my bridles and stirrup leathers, so this is perfect!

2014-04-12 08.13.35Shedding block – I didn’t clip Oh So for the first time ever this spring and this is a miracle worker for getting all of his hair out. Just scrape off the hair, brush on the concrete aisle to rough up the edges, and repeat.

 

 

2014-04-12 09.17.45Back On Track Polo Wraps

As Oh So has come back into work, I decided to start using polo wraps for our trot work and decided to invest in a pair of Back On Track ones. Similar to the BOT blanket and hock boots I have, I’ve never really seen a night and day difference with the ceramic-infused fabric, but I figure, why not?

I tried the 12ft and they were way to long, so I went with 9ft, which are plenty for Oh So’s average leg. They claim to be stretchier than traditional wraps, but I’ve found they’re not because the edges are stitched. They need to be put on perfectly even and straight or you’ll get some looser spots. They stay on through our workout though and his legs are warm when we finish, which is a result of the ceramic fabric reflecting the heat back into the leg.

Pile Lined Boots-500x500Horze Pile-Lined Boots

Ever since Oh So had a bad skin reaction from wearing neoprene boots last summer, I’ve been on the lookout for a different kind of turn out boot. I found these at Horze.com for a reasonable price and decided to try them for Bear first.

They’re lined with fleece and extremely lightweight. They have two velco straps, which are much easier than trying to do three hook and loop straps every morning. His legs were pretty dry after a few warm days outside, but I haven’t tested them in wet weather yet. They don’t have a big shock absorber on the inside like some splint boots have, but they’re thick enough that I think the trade-off for no neoprene is worth it. They run a little large, so I bought mediums for Oh So and Bear’s front legs. The large’s were very large.

advancedbellbootdove_1Horze Advanced Bell Boots

Bear was in need of some durable bell boots for jumping so I tried these affordable no-turn boots from Horze.com. They’re made of a thick neoprene and also run a bit large. The double-lock velcro is very strong and they stay in place. They also feature ventilation holes to keep air flowing. So far, so good for riding and I think they would be a good choice for turn out too.