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.

Seneca Valley Recap

I was a little nervous heading into the Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials this weekend. We moved back up to prelim and I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy course.

I’ve had a few decent jump lessons leading up to the event, so I was feeling alright, but certainly not brimming with confidence.

1C EKB13-0194011We’ve had a lot of rain the last week and Seneca is fairly flat, which leads to some wet spots. Since I last competed there last spring, they’ve moved the dressage in an effort to be further away from the cross-country, thus eliminating the banks on the cross-country for the time being. I’ve always been lucky that he hasn’t been too bothered by having the cross-country in sight of the dressage, but it looks like in the fall they’ll have some nicely graded grass rings away from all of the activity.

The dressage warmup was soft, but not bad. I’m not sure why I got on an hour ahead of my test, because he really didn’t need it. There was quite a hack to the warmup, but it didn’t take me as long as I thought it would.

So I was stuck with trying to hold him together with lots of short bursts of work, then walk breaks. Thankfully, he really didn’t seem to mind. The bugs were bothering him a bit, so he was shaking his head occasionally, but we had a pretty decent, no drama warmup.

As I started trotting around the ring, I had an “Oh shit” moment when I realized the footing was a lot worse. I tried to stay down near the A end until the judge rang the bell, but unfortunately the footing in the ring was just as bad. He was a little lazy off my leg out of the first halt, so we lost a point there, and I thought he made a good effort in the lengthened trot, but we only got a 6 for it. He did lose some rhythm after X because of some 1C RJ13-0194858particularly sucky footing on the diagonal.

We’ve been really schooling the leg yields at home, but I can never quite get the scores I want on them. We got 6s on both, mostly because he took a few steps to get going sideways. His canter work got all 8s, and his lengthenings could have been better if we hadn’t gotten bogged down in the footing.

He shook his head in the free walk and lost the rhythm and was a little tight going back into trot again. Overall, I think he was really paying attention and was very workmanlike in the test, which is all I can ask for when the footing is tough. He didn’t shorten his gait or get choppy like a lot of horses did. We ended up with a 31 for fourth place in a division full of professionals.

When Lisa and I walked the cross-country, I started to get a little queasy. There were 7 tables, most of them max height and width and shared with the intermediate.

My show jumping warmup was actually alright. I tried not to touch him and we had a few nice jumps. The footing was a little tacky, so we didn’t do a ton.

I liked where they had the show jumping, which was on a pretty flat surface where the dressage used to be. The course didn’t seem to be totally max, which I think made it the perfect course for me to try to get my confidence back up. The first fence I asked for a bit of a long one, but then we got in a pretty good forward rhythm. That was definitely the theme of the course.

I almost took back too much to the triple bar, but I caught myself doing it and let him go. In my 1C RJC13-0192926photos and videos, I realize I need to learn to ride show jumping fences and release more with my arm since I think I’m inhibiting his head and neck too much. I look much more comfortable on cross-country with a following hand in my photos.

We had one rail down in the middle of the triple combination. He just caught it on the way up because I didn’t sit up enough after the A element. Overall though, it was one of the best rounds we’ve done and it was a relief to get through it confidently.

Lisa told me to ride forward on cross-country because of the footing. In the mud, you simply can’t take back, and I think that really helped me mentally. The first fence was a little long and ugly, but after that, we got in a good rhythm. The fourth fence was huge, and I could feel him scoping it out as we were in the air over it.

5ab was an extremely angled brush in the fence line, four strides to a table. The other option was to jump to the left side and make a bending line. Apparently a lot of people took the left side and had trouble to the table, but when Lisa and I walked it, there was never any question to what the best line was. I think I could have gone a little further out, but he locked on once we got closer and it rode well.

He was slightly backed off to the half coffin in the shadows, but did it well, then I had to sit down and ride forward to a skinny log going into the woods. I would have liked to have landed better in my heels as we went down into the woods though.

We had a trakehner shared with the intermediate in the woods and the footing was kind of 1C JC13-0195483wet, but they’d put down some bluestone to help. He jumped boldly over that and we were on to another max table.

After angling the big table in the woods, we were meant to jump up a bank and over a ramp, but the footing was so bad that they took out the bank up, so I kind of had to pull him over to the left to canter up the side of the bank to get to the ramp. After that, the footing got really deep on the way up the hill to a giant picnic table.

We met that right out of stride and had to do a sharp right turn down to an easy angled set of coops.

After another giant brush table, we jumped a coop, three strides over a small log drop into water and then out over a triple brush, which we don’t do very often. He locked right on and sailed over it.

The last combination was another option of the left or right side, and we chose the right side, four strides to a corner.

We were about 10 seconds over time, which was one of the fastest times of our division, but I honestly didn’t even look at my watch once. I was more concerned about a forward, positive ride.

We ended up with 4 time penalties to finish in fourth place, and we were the top amateurs in the division, which was pretty cool. Of course, afterwards, Lisa told me it was one of the hardest courses we’d done. She likes to downplay everything when we walk so I don’t get nervous. It’s a sneaky, but effective tactic!

She said she thought our show jumping would be the indicator as to how cross-country would go and she was glad I rode forward and knew we’d be fine.

I’m really proud of my horse for powering through the tough going when it was causing a lot of other horses problems. He felt slightly tired towards the end because of the footing (think 90% capacity instead of 100%) and he really tried. We hit every fence almost perfectly and I was pretty happy with my riding, which is hardly ever the case.

I’m glad we proved to ourselves and others that we are competent at this level and I’m hoping to leave my bad memories of Fair Hill in the dust. Lisa left me a very uplifting message on Saturday night, saying that I have to go into this looking at the glass half full, not half empty, because in Oh So’s mind, his glass is overflowing.

1C EKB13-0194016Now I can head off on my vacation to Ireland next week on the high of a good event and hopefully come back refreshed for MD HT II.

On a sad note, my officemate and friend Megan has left COTH for other opportunities and I’m feeling a little lonely today without her here. She was a great confidante and sounding board, and although it’s going to be sad not to spend 8 hours a day every day with her, I’m wishing her luck at the Paint Horse Journal in Texas.

I also wanted to note that my blog is featured on Outside The Horse Box, a website devoted to eventers. Check them out for more great eventing blogs!

Motoring At Morven Park

Despite the crummy weather, I had a pretty good time at Morven Park this weekend. I tried to stay as relaxed as I could in dressage warmup, but he was holding in himself a little bit and once I started trotting around the ring, he tightened up. So much for that awesome, relaxed ride at the combined test. His trot work was tight, but we managed to get a couple A PMB13-0829607of eights in the canter work for a 34 and second place after dressage.

I was surprisingly not that nervous for show jumping, and it helped that I was at the end of the prelim division, so the warmup calmed down considerably by the time I went in the ring. We actually only jumped a few fences in the warmup, including a tall vertical and a lower oxer, and we were good to go.

I didn’t get a chance to walk the course, so I watched a few and went in. We ended up with one rail, fence 3. We stepped over fence 2 quietly, then went for what looked to be  a forward five strides, but he ended up getting there pretty quickly, and we had the front rail of the oxer down. There was a tight turn to fence 4, then five strides to set you up to an in and out that he ticked, but waited for the B element.

I got him a bit close to the next oxer, but we got that line better and he actually tried pretty hard in the triple too.

After greasing him up and checking our tack, we were off to cross-country. It had started raining again, but it wasn’t a heavy rain. After the first fence, he was off, and I pretty much had no control for the rest of the ride. I’m guessing it was because I didn’t take off the padded cover I had on the curb chain. He’d had a rub leftover from Southern Pines, and 1C JAC13-0833467I’d been riding with it on, but I think he really needed it on Sunday!

We had our usual funny jump over fence 3, a picture frame, where he always ducks. There was a new combination at 5ab, which was a log on a mound, four strides to a big table. He popped over that nicely and made the four easily, then he was off again across the field. My reins had started to get slippery and I barely got him back for the elephant trap at 6. That’s a fence that I remember seeing when I was younger and thinking it was huge. It’s a big slanted open timber fence with a ditch on the backside; very old school. We took it on a bit of an angle to get to the next fence, and he jumped it well, but pecked a bit on landing and I’m almost certain he pulled his left front shoe there.

Again, I had no control to the keyhole, but he jumped it efficiently and was off for another long gallop before a new, very wide table. He did that well, but I fell forward on landing. Luckily, I got situated in time for a turn to a drop into water. He jumped that confidently, but again, I was pitched forward a bit on landing. I had started to tire some by that point from fighting him and my slippery reins, which I knew was a bad sign.

B GFC13-0832715Immediately after the water was a set of new jumps on an angle. We got a little close to the first one, but he popped out over the second one well and then really took off. I regained control enough to have a nice jump over the mushrooms before heading to the canyon.

I’d ridden the canyon combination terribly in the spring and he had backed off it due to his greeness, so I was determined to get a better ride. It kind of sucks you in with the giant boulders on either side that form a path, then up a hill and up a bank where you can’t see anything but sky.

He jumped big in, then we jumped up the bank well and popped over a skinny three strides later. The last major combination was at the quarry. We stepped in over a new log, then did four strides like a roller coaster to another log. I’ve never felt him power over a fence as much as I did over the B element. It felt like we were flying!

We ended up about 13 seconds over the time and slotted into third place. Had we been a little bit faster, we could have won since we were only 3 points off the leader. I’ve never been so exhausted after a course before, so I think we’ll be making sure the curb chain is ON next time.

I was really pleased though with both of us. For the first time, I’m really thinking that the C AST13-0834128one-star at Virginia this fall wouldn’t be such a stretch. We’ve come out this year more confident in each other in both jumping phases and I know he can do the dressage, it just depends on if he wants to let the tension go that day or not.

I’m headed off to cover the The Fork CIC for The Chronicle this weekend in North Carolina, then the weekend after I’m planning on doing a CT at Morningside, then back to Morven for Loudoun Hunt Horse Trials.

A sunny and successful weekend at Southern Pines I

Southern Pines was a mixed bag, which I sort of expected since it was our first event of the year. We made it down on Friday at about 2pm and I took him for a hack before I did some flatwork, but he got so wound up on the hack, that I cut it short and worked him in the ring. It wasn’t my plan to work him for an hour, but he was so tight in his back and tense. I finally got him to stretch at the end, but it wasn’t the ride  was hoping for.

480106_10100892244846127_1532515796_nMy warmup for my test the next day was better, but still tense. The warmup ring at Southern Pines is pretty chaotic, so he held it together, and tried to hold it together in the test. There were some ok moments, and not some so good moments. He had a good medium trot until he got a little unbalanced at X, but we scored a 7. His leg yield right is always a little weaker, and due to his tenseness, he didn’t cross over as well as he could have.

The free walk was a mess as usual, and we avoided an explosion, but it wasn’t pretty. We ended up with a 37.4 to be tied for tenth place. Yuck.

The show jumping course wasn’t causing many problems and actually set you up for success. Our warmup was not great. I was starting to pick a little bit and he was starting to pull on landing. We jumped the first fence on course beautifully, then we did a bending line of seven strides to an oxer. He got a little close to that one, but kept it up. He waited nicely for the skinny at three, then we came around and stepped in quietly to an two stride, but I


didn’t sit up fast enough to ‘whoa’ in between, so he had the front rail of the oxer down, then we did five strides to a vertical that he also had down because he didn’t ‘whoa’ and Itipped right a bit.


We came around to an oxer at six that was six strides to the triple. It was good for me because I tend to get to triples either too short or too long, but as we jumped the A oxer, I lost my right rein completely for some unknown reason, and we went down the line with only left rein. He did the best he could, but had the last part down. We took a longer turn to get to the next fence and incurred three time penalties. Oh well. Although the result doesn’t look good on paper, I was pleased with the way I rode and the way he jumped

My trainer, Lisa, giving Oh So a pep talk.
My trainer, Lisa, giving Oh So a pep talk.

most of the fences.

I was particularly nervous for cross-country on Sunday, probably because it was the first run of the season, but I also thought the course was quite big.

I was slightly out of control after the first fence, but he settled in to a rhythm well. We used the snaffle pelham, and I’m still not convinced it’s the right bit.

The combination at 4ab was a very tight two strides, so we stepped in quietly, but still had a slightly awkward jump out.

The coffin at 7 was quite big and somewhat downhill, so I made sure to keep my lower leg forward. He was a little bit backed off, but the ditch in the middle was small, so once we got over the first element, he skipped right through the rest. We had a beautiful jump over a trekehner at the bottom of the hill in the woods, and a decent ride through an angled five stride bending line.

I asked for a bit of a flyer to the table before the water, so we took a moment to get our turn, but he jumped nicely over the roll top and fit in a perfect six strides up the bank and out over another rolltop. I could have actually let him go a bit more and trusted him over the first roll top. I think I shortened him a little too much and didn’t ride as boldly as I could have.

S13P1210After a few galloping fences, we got to the last combination, a corner, four strides to a skinny. He locked on to the corner well, but I didn’t use my inside left rein in as much of an opening manor as I could have, so he bobbled for a stride before he locked on to the skinny.

We finished about 20 seconds over time. I was happy with him, but didn’t think I rode as well as I could have. I needed to be less in my knee over the galloping fences. But for the first event of the season, I thought it was a good result. We ended up .2 points out of the ribbons. It was quite a competitive group down there because I think a lot of people have been competing for awhile, so I certainly wasn’t expecting to place well.

Next up is a combined test at Morven Park this weekend, then the Morven Park Horse Trials at the end of the month.

Here’s a couple of links to my most recent stories on COTH.

Sydney Conley Elliott Is A One-Woman Band At Advanced 

A Pint-Sized Prelim Debutante

Spring schedule

I'm glad this winter has been more mild!

I’ve got my early schedule together for this season. Since I’m headed to Rolex on a mini-vacation and to Spain in May, it’s a little light on recognized competitions, but I think this year I really want to work on getting comfortable at the preliminary height, so I think my money will be better spent doing a few small schooling shows, in place of a recognized show. I’m going to try not to worry about placings and ribbons and concentrate more on a smooth show jumping round!

Feb. 26 – Bascule Farm jumper show
March 4 – Bascule Farm dressage show
March 10-11 – Southern Pines I (training)
March 25 – Loch Moy Combined Test (prelim)
March 31-April 1 – Morven Park Horse Trials (prelim)
April ? Combined test?
May 5-6 – MCTA Horse Trials (prelim)