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? ūüė¶

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.
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Horse Trials and Tribulations

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted because I’ve been busy, busy, busy!

After Seneca, I gave Bear an easy week and a half, then went for a quick overnight trip to Plantation Field for the CIC divisions.

It wasn’t an official work trip, but I found the photos I took last year to be useful so I borrowed a lens and went to the press conference. Buck Davidson won the CIC** and was a gracious interview as always. He and Boyd Martin have been criticized recently because they took their WEG horses to Plantation three weeks after failing to complete in France, but they both gave honest and reasonable answers to my questions about why.

Buck knows his horse better than anyone and shares a special partnership with him, one I’ve seen and heard him talk about first hand on multiple occasions, so it was sad to see him ripped apart for it. He was able to finish the season on a good note on a happy and sound horse. Isn’t that something we all hope for after a bad go?

Check out a photo gallery from Plantation Field.

Plantation Field
Plantation Field

I left for Texas for the American Eventing Championships the Thursday after Plantation. Sadly, the day before I left, my family made the decision to put our cat Winnie to sleep. We’ve had him since we inherited him when we moved to our farm in 2002 and he was about 2.

He’s lived a long, healthy life, but over the last two months, he started coughing. We took him to the vet and she found cancer cells on his lungs on an X-ray. We treated him with antibiotics and he seemed a little better–moving and eating normally but coughing a little. A few days before I left for the AEC he had some blood coming out of his nose and was uncomfortable eating. We made the decision to take him to the vet, but I decided I didn’t want to go. I’ve never been in the room for that before and I just didn’t think I could handle it. My dad went and held his paw during his final breaths.

10687219_10101805294891517_7728162552678193557_nI’ve never had the opportunity to choose when one of my animals is put down because they’ve always either died tragically or gotten sick or injured very suddenly, so I was glad that we had the choice this time to end his suffering, but it’s still sad nonetheless.

He was a sweet kitty and I’ll miss watching him lay in the sun with our other cats or dip his paws in the water bowl to get them clean. I hope he’s hanging out in the sun with Ramsey somewhere.

I headed off to Texas with a heavy heart, but I enjoyed my trip. My friend Megan, who used to work at COTH, freelanced for us and helped me out. She lives in Ft Worth now and works for the APHA. We had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Thursday night and had three full days ahead of us.

It was hot, but not too sticky. I was sad to see a small group in the advanced division, especially when they get the bulk of the prize money. There’s been a lot of talk in recent weeks about what the AEC should be and if they should move around or stay in Texas.

I can only say that I was disappointed to have the Adult Team Challenge move there. I really enjoyed my first and only ATC in 2012 at the VA HTs and wish they would stay regional. It’s just not viable for most amateurs to go to Texas, especially when it’s that hot in September.

That being said, the ATC riders I spoke to were all really fun. As much as I enjoy speaking

AEC Texas-style!
AEC Texas-style!

to the professionals on a weekly basis, I like finding out other people’s stories and telling them.

Here’s a link to all of our coverage.

 I had an uneventful trip back from Tyler through Houston and came back to Oh So feeling not quite right from behind again.

Before I left for Texas, he had started back walking and trotting under saddle after his SI injection and felt much improved for the first four days, then felt off again. I gave him the weekend while I was gone, hoping for the rest to do him good, but it didn’t.

I had the vet out again and she said he looked improved from behind, but still weak. She thought maybe he needed another week of before we started riding again, so we worked out a plan of lunging for a week and walking under saddle. I’ll start trotting under saddle this week and see what happens.

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Morven Park

Needless to say, I’m really disappointed that we won’t even be able to get to one event this year. I’m just hoping he comes sound again and that this isn’t going to be a battle from here on out. His check ligament and suspensory look good and feel good, but the more I think about it, the more I think he did something in the field to make himself so ouchy¬†from behind. I’m hoping slow work will help him recover.

I had a busy weekend taking Bear for a jump lesson and cross-country school with Lisa at Morningside. He hadn’t been off the property in three weeks and I thought the fact that it was 35 degrees and we were alone would bother him, but he stood quietly while I put studs in and tacked up. He was a bit up as we trotted around the ring, but settled nicely and I surprised myself by not feeling totally out of practice.

We popped over a ditch, went down a bank and went up and down the hills a few times before we went through the water to end on a good note. I slowed things down a bit by trotting to the water the first time and letting him stop, then calmly asking him to walk in and he was fine. Lisa said not to make him flustered by using my whip or kicking for now. I’m hoping to try that strategy at Waredaca in a few weeks so we don’t get eliminated!

I also went to Morven Park on Saturday to watch the advanced and the CIC***. There weren’t that many riders unfortunately, but there were more than last year, which had about 5 start cross-country.

I was really bummed about not being able to compete Oh So there. The prelim course looked nice, although I’m not happy that they keep holding the show jumping on the muddy grass in the fall. There were apparently a lot of problems over the weekend.

Check our photos from Morven Park.

I’ hoping to take Bear cross-country schooling again this weekend while Lisa is out of town, then I’m off to Fair Hill next weekend to cover it for COTH, then Waredaca and VA HT to close out the season. Fingers crossed for sound horses and dry weather!

Morningside at 7:30am.
Morningside at 7:30am.

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!

 

Forgot About It Friday – Sam At The AECs (2006)

I thought I’d join in on the Throwback Thursday fun occasionally, so here’s my inaugural post. I forgot to post yesterday, so here it is on Forgot About It Friday!

I continue to get new followers to this blog every week and I really can’t believe there are people out there who care about my rambling thoughts, but thank you and welcome!

This Throwback Thursday post is for those who might not know a lot about my previous riding history. I keep meaning to do a comprehensive post, but that would involve digging up and scanning a lot of photos, so I just haven’t done it yet!

So for now, here’s a video of my one and only time competing at the USEA American Eventing Championships on my now retired horse, What The Heck, or Sam.

If you want to know Sam’s whole story, click on his name at the top of the blog.

2006 was probably the most successful season I’ve ever had on any horse, results-wise.

It was the first full year I’d been training with Lisa Reid, who is still my trainer today. She revamped my riding with Sam and had us drop back to training when we’d been doing prelim pretty unsuccessfully on our own. I thought at the time that once you did training, prelim was next, but I didn’t have a true event coach at the time.

We ended up winning three training level events, finishing fourth and second in the others, finishing second at the Waredaca Training Three-Day and winning our first prelim back at the end of the year at the VA Horse Trials, all with mostly clear rounds in show jumping, which was our nemesis.

We’d gone down to Southern Pines in March and finished fourth in a huge open training division, scoring in the 20s in dressage.

So when we went back to Southern Pines for the AECs, I was confident in our abilities.

I can’t remember exactly where we placed after dressage, top ten I think, but we had an awesome cross-country and moved into fourth.

I was confident going into show jumping but he dropped a rail, and I knew I could afford one to stay in the top 10, but I lost my focus and we dropped another to finish in 21st in the junior training.

I was devastated and pretty much cried the whole way home. We’d been doing so well and the one time we had a chance at prizes and prize money, I blew it.

We went on to finish second at the Waredaca Training Three-Day, losing the lead with a rail, but we won our prelim at Lexington to end the year on a good note.

I’ve learned a lot since then, mostly that it doesn’t really matter! Show jumping is still my nemesis, but in the last few years, as much as I love being competitive, I’m just happy to be out there competing. Yeah, I get down in the dumps when we have three rails, but the thrill of cross-country usually makes up for it!

Sam has been retired from eventing since his last competition in 2009 and we had several years of fun doing dressage at first and second level and jumping a bit at home before I ultimately retired him this year at age 21.

Back In Business

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I got the best news I could have hoped for last week when the vet cleared Oh So to start jumping!

We jumped our first cross rail on Thursday and he was a wild man as expected. It’s hard to describe my feelings after jumping him for the first time in 9 months. I’m overjoyed that we’re back to doing what we love and his enthusiasm clearly hasn’t waned!

It’s been a long, and sometimes frustrating recovery and rehab, but I’m thankful it’s gone according to plan so far with no setbacks and very strong healing according to the ultrasound.

Of course, it’s going to take some getting used to on my end after jumping Bear, who’s pretty quiet and prefers to lope over show jumps. Maybe riding him will help me wait with my upper body on Oh So!

Oh So is¬†also allowed to start trotting up and down hills, so that will make our hacks a little more interesting. He needs to regain the strength in his hind end, so we’ll be working on that over the summer.

If all goes to plan, the vet said we could be back competing in the fall. My goal would be to ¬†do some dressage shows over the summer, maybe by July, and my trainer Lisa wants us to start back by doing a novice or two (Haha! That will be fun holding him back), then we should be able to end the year with training. I don’t want to push to get to prelim this year.

I also took Oh So off property for the first time this weekend. I went to one of my dressage trainer Nicky’s student’s farms about 45 minutes away. He hasn’t been off property since I took him to get his PRP done in September, but he walked right on the trailer and was very well behaved for our flat lesson.

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He was a bit tense, as to be expected, but I think he was happy to be out and was practically grinning the whole time.

So now life starts to get a bit more complicated as Oh So starts to come¬†back in full work and Bear starts competing a bit more. I’m going to try to get Oh So out every other week or so, but I don’t think it’s a good idea right now to take them both together, so my weekends will be full!

I’m preparing to take Bear to his first real event at the Waredaca starter trial on Sunday, so that should be exciting!

MD HT II – Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

Well, I survived the heat at the Maryland Horse Trials II, but didn’t turn in the performance I’d hoped for. Oh So was fairly calm for our dressage warmup but perhaps not as supple as he could have been in his back in the trot work. We did test A, which is much simpler, especially compared to the two second level tests we did on Thursday, but he stayed pretty focused. We got an 8 on our canter lengthening and sevens on both leg yields. We also got an 8 on our change of lead through trot, and ended up in second place after dressage with a 31.8, just a fraction of a point out of the lead.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

I wasn’t able to get a show jumping school in after my vacation because a gallop and cross-country school took precedence, and silly me thought we’d be fine. Not. He was little careless in my jump school at home on Tuesday and although our warmup at the show was fine, he proceeded to take down the first fence on course, which rattled us both (to be fair, it was a vertical and was coming down a lot apparently).

We got a little close to fence 3, a skinny, and he didn’t forgive me for it, so he had the back rail of the oxer at 4a down, then randomly had a vertical down at 6. He jumped the triple combination beautifully and proved to me that he does know how to jump, but then I’m not sure what happened as we came around to a simple liverpool vertical. He asked for a bit of a long one and he added a stride, thus throwing me up on his neck. Thank goodness he still jumped, but we had that one down and I had to regain my stirrup, which cost us 3 time penalties on our way to the last, which he also had down.

I’m a little bit at a loss except to say that I was out of practice and we both got upset after the first fence down. I think he got offended after fence 3 and was really backed off after that. Lisa and I talked about it and she said we never really got into a rhythm and that he decided to peek at the liverpool, which he’s never done.

The cross-country was meant to be a “move-up course”, but I never take any prelim

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

course lightly. The jumps in the combinations weren’t all max height, but almost all of them were angled, which luckily he does very well.

There was a cabin to a left-handed corner that I thought we could have done a little bit smoother, but he was honest to it. The water jump was just a cabin at the lip of it, then a bending line to a cabin out, so not too much there. At that point, which was fence 13, I was starting to feel a little like I did at Seneca. I was a little weak and my position was starting to soften a bit. He jumped the giant cordwood table beautifully and GRC got a great photo, but I look terrible with my lower leg. They also got a great photo at the table afterwards, but again, I look inexcusably awful.

After the table was a log down into a canyon, then out over a roll-top, which we haven’t seen too often. He jumped that well and popped over the last two fences to finish easily inside the time, and I wasn’t even trying for it! We ended up in eighth place.

So, I was pleased with 2 of the phases, but yet again, we embarrassed ourselves in show jumping. He’s turning into a heartbreaker I think. How is it that we can have a nice round like we did at Seneca, then a round like this one?

I feel like the dressage is pretty confirmed now and he’s very reliable cross-country. There’s not much he hasn’t seen at this point.

1C RJC13-0325063Until our next event in September, I’m planning on trying the Dr. Bristol again for jumping to see if I have enough control. I think the Pelhem is fine, but in certain instances, it does more harm then good if I don’t follow him completely with my hand. I’m planning on doing the CDCTA August schooling dressage show in Warrenton and I’m going to try to get to some jumper shows or do some jumper rounds at Morningside. I’m also thinking of trying a lesson with a jumper trainer or maybe trying Stephen Bradley again and asking him if he could sit on him for me and give me an assessment.

Tomorrow I’m off to Young Rider’s Championships to cover it for COTH, just in time for the massive heat wave we’re having. It will still be hot in Kentucky, but not as bad as here.

Loudoun Hunt PC HT Recap

I was up bright and early at 4:30am on Sunday to compete at the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials at Morven Park with Oh So. I wasn’t feeling too confident about my jumping because of our previous performance at Morningside and a mediocre jump lesson on Friday, but I had a nice, short flat school on Saturday. I decided to warm him up for

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dressage in mostly posting trot. He came out fairly relaxed and I didn’t make a lot of demands. We did touch base with the leg yields as they come in the test and some walk-trot transitions, as well as a little bit of sitting trot.

Once I started trotting around the ring, I sat the trot and he seemed to be focused. He made a really good effort in the lengthened trot (we got an 8!) and the leg yields were a little crooked, so we lost a couple of points there. I made a concerted effort to push out his free walk and he actually did stretch down consistently for a 7, and when I gathered him into medium walk, he was still a little tight, but held it together for the most part. He got a little unbalanced in the final halt, so he stepped backwards, which he’s never done. We ended up getting all 8’s on our collectives, which has never happened. We also got a nine on our half circle in canter going right and ended up with a 26.5 from a “purist” dressage judge. I was floored! We ended up in second place after

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dressage and the third place person had a 32, so that was neat to have such a lead.

The show jumping course was sort of weird, starting on a curve, then making a circle back towards the start again. We had the second fence down, I think because I tipped a little left in the air and he touched it with his front foot.

He waited in the combinations well, but we also had a second fence down, an oxer after a long gallop on the diagonal. I started looking for a spot and we got a little close to it, so he had trouble making the width and had it down his a hind foot.

That was slightly disappointing, and in the end, the second rail cost us the win. The cross-country course was almost exactly the same as Morven, which was also disappointing. I’m ready for the course to be reversed. It hasn’t changed much in a few years.

I was riding a little backwards for some reason, so the second fence didn’t make for the best photo. He backed off nicely to the picture frame at 3 and did his usual duck, which always makes me laugh. I rode a little tentatively to the log on a lump combination and then again to the elephant trap.

I practiced using my whip at the drop into water, but I still tipped forward on landing like I

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did last month. Luckily, we gathered our composure and got to the angled brushes better, but I feel like I could have slipped my reins more in the air.

One difference from last month was the bounce bank to the corner. I feel like I could have had a little more power to the up bank, because I got a little left behind the motion in the air, but I think it was also because I don’t ride a lot of questions like that, so I don’t have the feel for it.

We had a better, forward ride over the trekhener and the next couple of gallop fences and had a nice ride through the quarry at the top of the hill. We ended up finishing exactly on the optimum time. We’ve never made time before at prelim, so that was exciting. Had I not ridden backwards to a few fences, we would have had a little more breathing room.

We ended up in fourth place and got a nice set of polo wraps and a gift certificate from GRC for a farm call photo shoot. Maybe we’ll get some glamour shots done!

I’m not happy with the way I rode on cross-country, and I know part of it is my balance in my saddle. I’ve realized this spring that I’m going to have to start a quest for a new one, but the thought of it is daunting and I’m broke!

Next up for us is Fair Hill in three weeks. I’m excited to ride a course I’ve never done before, but slightly nervous because my trainer won’t be able to be there.

I’m also heading to Jersey Fresh next weekend to cover it for COTH, so it will be exciting to go for the first time in a few years.