Moving Along

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It’s been a snowy day here in Virginia, and just when the mud was starting to dry (as you can see from the above photo of my boys!).

It’s been a struggle getting used to not having Ramsey here. We’ve all had to adjust to not being greeted every time we walk in the door or having a cold nose in our laps at dinner, but life is still moving along.

Oh So’s walking has been going well. We’re up to about 30 minutes now, just 10 more to go until we can trot!

Bear is coming along very nicely. He has some days when he wants to be silly, but he comes around quite quickly as the ride goes on. I’ve been working on turns on the forehand and have been “thinking” that concept in trot too to get him moving off my inside leg and into my outside rein.

His jumping is coming in leaps and bounds, both literally and figuratively! He really seems to understand a concept quickly. If we have a crooked or funny jump the first time, he corrects it the second time and that’s it.

Lisa introduced a small gymnastic for him this week. We did a bounce of cross-rails, one stride to to oxer. He was a little crooked over the bounce the first time, then was stick straight the next.

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Walking with Oh So.

We’ve been cantering short courses of fences about 2′. We’ve jumped roll tops, gates and flower boxes with no problem and we introduced a rollback turn this week too. It’s a lot of fun for me to be jumping again, even if it is only once a week. I’ve found that because I have to sit in more of a deeper seat to guide him to the fences securely, my lower leg and upper body are more stable.

I need to get my dad out to video me since I have no idea what we look like jumping. I think Lisa is surprised by the horse that’s emerging. He’s got a lot of talent for jumping and has a lovely way of going between the fences, which is not something we predicted when we first saw him trotting around an indoor ring clobbering poles on the ground. He has a very good natural rhythm and a desire to stay balanced, so he almost always lands on the correct lead, or changes by himself.

Other than riding, I’ve been keeping busy writing a lot for COTH. I think I’ll try to do a roundup post once a month with links to what I’ve had on our website. I still write weekly for the magazine, but I’ve found myself writing a lot for the website over the last 6 months. Here’s my first roundup, featuring stories going back to November that I think might interest people.

If you want to see all of the stories I’ve written for the Chronicle’s website, check them out here.

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George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Sessions, Dec. 31-Jan. 4 – I traveled to Florida to cover the 5-day clinic.

I’ve Been Ripped Is Making His Mark In The Dressage Ring – A Paint/Arab competing at the FEI levels.

AECs May Seek Permanent Home In Texas – Should the AECs stay in Texas?

Brian Ross Retires – A popular dressage judge retires.

Haidaseeker Playboy Wears Several Different Hats–And Shoes – A Quarter Horse who competes in reining and the FEI levels of dressage.

Emma Ford Returns To Phillip Dutton Eventing – Phillip’s longtime groom returns.

Switzerland Bans Hyperflexion – The country passes a new law at the government level.

Buck Davidson Bids Goodbye To Santa’s Keeper – Buck’s promising two-star horse dies suddenly.

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Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas and happy holidays! I’m currently enjoying a week off from work and spending lots of time outside and riding.

I had the best Christmas present I could ask for on Monday when the vet came to re-ultrasound Oh So. The tear on his accessory ligament and the minor blip on the suspensory were barely visible. I asked her to give me a percentage number so I could quantify it in my head, and she said that while technically an injury will never be 100 percent healed, he’s at about 75 percent.

I was hoping I might be able to start trotting, but she wants him to be walking another 6-8 weeks until he’s up to 40 minutes (he’s at 20 right now), then I can start to introduce it before his next ultrasound.

She also agreed to let him start staying out on all-day turnout in a small paddock on Ace. Today was the first day I’ve let him stay out the whole day and so far, he seems to be content and quite. We really don’t want him trotting or cantering, but I know I won’t be able to stop it. I’ll be around this week and my dad will be around next week to monitor him, then after that I know I’ll start to get a little nervous.

A couple of weeks ago he got a large lump on his neck, most likely a reaction to an injection, and his entire next has been stiff ever since. I feel so bad, but he really can’t go 1DSC_0898out without sedation of some kind, and giving Ace orally isn’t very effective on him. I’ve been putting Surpass cream on his neck and giving him some Previcox for a few days and  he’s now able to lower his head and graze, so that’s good.

I’ve starting giving his injections in his chest and the vet showed me where to give them in his hindquarters too, although that’s playing with fire!

Bear has been getting very consistent in his lunging with the rope and has even started to do some walk-trot transitions where he doesn’t stop and turn in, which is definitely progress.

I had a lesson with Lisa on Saturday at a ring he hasn’t been to before and after some initial vocals, he settled in and we trotted some flower boxes, a green box and a one-stride with no issues.

Lisa said he’s definitely smart and understands and retains concepts quickly, so we don’t need to drill him, as much as I need drilling to work on my jumping position. It’s a little frustrating only getting to jump once a week, but he really shouldn’t be doing any more than that.

We had a conversation about teaching him to jump on a fairly loose rein and “canter around like a hunter”, because when we do sell him, who knows where he might go. When I bought him, I assumed we’d be selling him to an eventer because I know Lisa can find someone who will be a good match for him. We won’t know whether he wants to be an eventer until we take him cross-country schooling for the first time, but I guess I just 1DSC_0933hadn’t entertained the idea of selling him as anything other than an eventer.

Other than working the minis and riding, I went to see The Hobbit with my dad, which was great, save for the abrupt ending.

My brother and his fiancee came down on Christmas Eve and we went to church, then went out to eat, which was a fun new tradition I hope we can continue.

This morning, we opened presents and I rode Bear and took him for a solo walk down the driveway. He was a little hesitant, but it’s a short walk, so we made it there and back in one piece. I got a new pair of half chaps, Oh So got a new jumping bridle (since Bear took over his) and I got a pair of Premiere Equine magnetic wraps that I’m hoping to use on Oh So.

Tonight we’re all heading out to see Elf at the Kennedy Center which should be fun. Other than that, I have no plans, which feels a little weird! I’m heading down to Wellington, Fla., on the 30th and will be spending my New Year’s covering a George Morris clinic until the 4th. I got a last minute call up to do it so I’m excited to spend some time in the warmth!

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Lessons Learned

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Things are finally settling down after my last trip of the season.

I headed to Galway Downs on Halloween to cover the CCI divisions. I flew into San Diego and headed north to Temecula for a quick interview with Gina Miles on Thursday and pretty much crashed at the hotel after that due to some jet lag!

Friday was dressage day. The facility is really beautiful, albeit a bit dusty! It’s nestled at the base of some mountains and the dressage rings are set right near the cross-country course. In fact, one division galloped through the arenas and to a water jump right on the edge.

The cross-country course at Galway is pretty much on a dirt track. There’s a training track with stables and a polo field in the middle of the track. The course started on the polo field and crossed out over the track onto dirt. It was pretty flat except for parts where the course went up onto the track again, then back down into the polo field. I thought it was quite strange that they actually drag the course before.

The CCI*** was quite small, which was unfortunate because I didn’t get to see much of the course as I was shooting, but I talked to some nice people and thought my coverage came out well.

Here’s a link to my coverage.

My flight back on Monday got delayed in Denver for 4 hours, so it turned out to be a

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longer day than I’d expected.

On Wednesday, which also happened to be my birthday (!), I went to Morningside to cover a William Fox-Pitt clinic for the website.

His ideas weren’t earth-shattering, but served as a good reminder of the basics. I was reminded of a few things I can work on with Oh So once he’s back jumping to keep his footwork up to speed.

I’ve had a couple of lessons with Bear since my last update and he’s progressing really nicely.

With Nicky, we decided to build a round pen out of jumps in the corner of the ring because he was turning in to the circle a lot and I was having trouble staying behind him and keeping him forward. The round-pen definitely helped and we were able to put both side reins on and have some nice work on the circle.

It was kind of neat when he did come round a bit and I could see glimmers of what he can be a few months down the road.

We worked a little bit on making circles by opening the inside rein and applying inside leg. Towards the end of the lesson, we walked up at an angle to the fence line and asked him to step over a little bit in a mini-turn on the forehand.

He seems very willing to take on each new task so far, but when we ride at night, sometimes things are too interesting to put his head down!

I took him to his first off-property lesson on Sunday. He was a bit tough to get on the trailer since he’d slipped the day before when we practiced, but we figured out a way to keep him from slipping on the ramp, and with the help of the lunge line behind his butt, he finally got on. Once he was on, he was fine, but he’s a little apprehensive to step the whole way William Fox-Pitton.

I gave him a tiny bit of Ace for this first time off property, but he seemed to act pretty much like he usually does.

We walked around the arena at Maresfield by hand, and he neighed a lot looking for the other horses. Once I got on, it was kind of the same story, but he still did what I asked of him, so that was a good start.

We trotted over three poles in a row, which he didn’t seem to care about, and then Lisa decided it was time to canter (!!!). I was in my dressage saddle, so I was a little worried that my leg wouldn’t be out in front of me if he put in a buck, but once he got going, he was just fine. His canter is actually pretty comfortable and feels ground-covering, so I’m excited for him to gain some more strength.

He got on the trailer a little better for the ride home and settled back into his stall, probably pretty tired!

I tried cantering at home tonight and he was much quicker to pick it up, but he didn’t get the right lead every time, which is understandable. Lisa wants me to start working him on some small hills to strengthen his stifles and I’d like to start taking him for short hacks with my mom, but she won’t be home this weekend so that will have to wait a bit.

Oh So continues to be an ass on stall rest. He really does want to make my life difficult! He got extremely upset when I was putting tack on the trailer on Sunday and started running circles in his stall. I did get on him for the first time since the injury over the weekend because the vet said I could start doing some walk work to keep his mind busy. We’re only doing 5 minutes right now, but he seemed happy to be doing his job again.

No cocktail of drugs seems to work for him for small paddock turnout. He nibbles some hay, then takes off bucking and screeching to a halt– everything he’s not supposed to do.

I’m at the point now, since it’s getting so cold and dark and he’s becoming more unruly, of just letting him go and hoping he settles down when he’s out with Sam. Trying to put him in a small paddock just makes it worse, and the paddocks are only going to get muddier as the winter wears on.

He’s not due for another ultrasound until Christmas, when he’ll be walking under saddle for 24 minutes a few times a week. I’m just torn. Do I let him go and be done with it, possibly undoing the healing we’ve achieved so far, or do I continue on with the plan and possibly get my teeth kicked out and freeze to death every day twice a day?B

I’m fine if it takes him an extra month to get back into real work if he goes out now, but the problem is that whenever we turn him out, be it tomorrow or 3 months from now, he’s still going to run. The vet just wants him walking more so the leg is stronger before he gets real turnout. She’s fine with him in a small paddock, but that’s obviously not working.

Thoughts?

The Fork CIC recap

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I headed down to The Fork CIC last Friday to cover it for The Chronicle. I’d never been before, so was a little concerned about the long drive, but it ended up being fairly uneventful. I knew I was in the south when the cashier at Chik-Fil-A told me to have “a blessed day”!

I shot a little bit of dressage that afternoon, and got to see the winning test, ridden by Phillip Dutton on Mighty Nice.

The event ran in accordance with the new FEI rules for CICs, with cross-country on the final day. I’m not sure how I feel about this, and I know several of the riders I talked to were not fans. I personally enjoy the show jumping finale and think it makes for a more nail-biting finish. Plus, it’s the way eventing is supposed to be. How far will the FEI keep moving us away from the original meaning of the sport?

24650_10100928865687667_1080213131_nSome of the riders said that they didn’t like not being able to practice show jumping their horses after cross-country. Where will they get to learn the feeling their horses give them except when it counts at a big CCI?

It also made for a disappointing finale on Sunday when all of the riders were back at the barn taking care of their horses after cross-country and not at the awards ceremony. Sponsors and owners are the backbone of the sport and you’ve got to cater to them. There was hardly anyone left in the VIP tent on cross-country where the “awards ceremony” was supposed to take place, and in the end, only a few top placed riders actually showed up.

OK, rant over. Other than that, I had a really great time. The weather was beautiful and cross-country day was safe, which is the most important thing. The farm was gorgeous, but the layout was tough and everything was soooo far away from everything else. The 150453_10100928169427977_1425436798_nstabling and horse paths were an absolute mess due to heavy rain on Thursday, but the cross-country course dried out nicely for the weekend.

Here’s a link to all of my coverage. I was really happy with my photos and I’m sad I can’t show the world everything I got!

As for Oh So, he had a horrible skin reaction to a newish pair of turnout boots on Monday and I thought I had it under control, but his legs really blew up yesterday and I had to call the vet out to give him some Dex. He’s really sore and the skin is cracking on one leg, so no lesson for us on my day off. It kind of throws off everything for the next two weeks because I had planned on competing at the Morningside combined test this weekend.

If he’s not sound by Saturday, I’ll scratch and enter next weekend’s CT instead, but I really need a jump lesson and have now lost the place I used to take him to during the week occasionally, so I’m kind of freaking out.

I892381_10100930390581767_649375013_o walked him today and his legs went down, but he wasn’t comfortable enough to trot. I’m just mad at myself for not getting on top of this sooner and maybe salvaging my weekend.

Year-End Recap

Now that my eventing season is over, I wanted to take a look back at the year and look ahead to the next with some goals for the winter.

Our best dressage test at Waredaca.

We started at Southern Pines in March, where Oh So skipped around the training level cross-country and proved he was definitely ready for prelim after our successful debut last fall. And then came Morven Park. It was quite a big track for our second prelim ever, and in general for the first prelim in our area. I know my trainer Lisa knew it was tough, but she has a good trick where she’ll walk the course with me as if it’s just another prelim, then after I’m done, she’ll admit it was tough. It helps keep me calm I think!

Oh So tried his hardest on cross-country at Morven, but he got a bit surprised at the drop into water and hit his stifles. As a result, for the rest of the course he was quite backed off and I was taken aback, but he still tried even though he was hurting (although I didn’t know it at the time). That run didn’t give me a lot of confidence going forth, but Lisa kept reminding me that we could both do it, so I had to convince myself too.

Show jumping has been really tough for me this year, although I know he’s trying for me. I think our best show jumping round would be at Virginia in the spring when he came out and tried very hard and only had one rail. Even though we had time penalties (everyone seems to in that coliseum), it stood out to me as a smooth ride. And, we ended up winning

One of our best show jumping rounds at Virginia.

in a big division, so that was really exciting. I never expected that, especially so early in our prelim career together.

Over the summer we went through some bitting issues, which resulted in some less-than-stellar show jumping results. It was quite discouraging and a little embarrassing to have 3 or 4 rails down, but his dressage was getting better simultaneously, so that was a bright spot. We broke into the 20’s twice and were leading the dressage or in the top 5 almost every time. At the same time, we made our second level debut at some dressage schooling shows. Doing back to back tests really helped both of us get more comfortable in the ring. I’d say my best dressage test was at Waredaca in August. He warmed up average, but I was able to keep him calm and he got better right as we were getting ready to go in the ring. Even though I had a brain fart and we had an error, he stayed the exact same in the ring as he did in warm up.

Our best cross-country round was at Maryland in July. We were only 2 seconds over time and he made everything on course feel so easy. We hit every fence at the perfect spot and it was a lot of fun. Obviously our low point was at Maryland in October when we had the first stop he’s ever had in his life. But that served as a wake up call on my position and I was able to correct that with the time that I had before Virginia in November, where he was also awesome cross-country and we had one of our better show jumping rounds at prelim. I was also able to ride on my first ATCs team, which was a lot of fun.

My goal at the beginning of the season was to just get around at prelim, and I feel like by the middle of the season, my anxieties were starting to ease. Oh So just makes everything seem so easy, no matter how difficult. Whereas at the beginning of the season, I would gulp when I walked my courses and saw huge tables, corners and big drops, by the summer, I honestly didn’t notice. I think I was subconsciously telling myself that once I was out on course galloping at those big, wide, tables, he had enough scope to jump them. I also hadn’t planned on trying to make time for our first season, and we definitely racked up some time penalties, but towards the end, we were getting pretty close.

So, in the spirit of the holiday, I have to say I’m thankful to have a sound, happy and healthy horse at the end of our first season at prelim. I’ve been thinking about my goals for the winter and of course, they consist of getting more comfortable at the prelim height. I also need to force myself to work on my lower leg by riding without stirrups and working up and down hills. With our flatwork, I’d like to get him more confirmed at second level. That includes working more with our canter/walk and walk/canter transitions and our haunches in and medium trot. I’d also like to get him more confirmed in his flying changes

Our best cross-country round was at Loch Moy.

and start to work a little more with half pass.

On a personal level, 2012 was a big year for me. I left the NSLM and returned to The Chronicle, but this time as a full-time staff member. It’s my first real job and it’s definitely been an adjustment as far as making time for my horses, but I really enjoy working with a group of people who are as passionate about horses as I am. I’ve been able to travel a bit this year and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more in the coming year. I’ve talked with some really interesting and passionate people, as well as some…interesting people, but that’s just a part of the job!

I also got to travel to Spain, which was really eye-opening and fascinating. I’m saving up for a trip to Ireland next year, so now’s the time to start planning!

Now that I don’t have an immediate goal to prepare for, I’m feeling a bit lost in my training, but it’s normal for me. Getting used to slowing down for a few months takes some time. I’m doing a couple of show jumping rounds at Morningside’s combined test on Sunday and I was just a demo rider for the USDF’s L program, which was interesting. I wasn’t expecting to ride in front of 60 people and an “I” judge, but Oh So was quite happy to show off once he got used to being in an indoor with a loudspeaker.

CDCTA Schooling Show At Warrenton Recap

I made it out to the last CDCTA schooling show at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds on Thursday night. I wanted to get Oh So back in the ring before Marlborough, but we did second level tests 1 and 2. I think the judge was quite generous, because we ended up with a 68 and 70%! She was very complimentary of him at the end of both tests, which was nice.

He’s been a bit tense on the flat this week, probably because he’s been doing it since I left for AECs.  I had to get my jump saddle stitched in a few places, so I haven’t jumped since the combined test. It took me awhile in the warm up to be able to sit the trot. His back was a bit tight, but when they ended up running a bit late, it gave me a few more minutes to work him. By the time I went in for my test, it was much better. The medium trots in sitting felt better than usual, but they didn’t look very good on the video. I haven’t been practicing  those enough at home.

With both tests, I knew there would be some parts that weren’t totally confirmed. We had a slight miscommunication in a couple of the canter-walk transitions where he almost halted because my leg wasn’t totally on, and the same in one of the walk pirouettes. He’s still a bit unsteady with his head in the walk-canter transitions, but he was fairly obedient. He was also less reactive when I brought my outside leg back for the traverse, and I was able to show a bit more angle this time out.

Overall, he was very obedient and gave me a lot to work with and practice on while riding through the tests.

Today we went out for some fitness work and I jumped a couple of cross-country jumps while I was there in preparation for Marlborough next weekend. I have a jump lesson tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes. I also wanted to put a link in here to Oh So’s pedigree. I was randomly looking at it the other day, and I’m not sure everyone out there has seen it. http://www.pedigreequery.com/private+pleasure2