On April 20 my family said goodbye to Sam. Over the last few years he’s developed severe arthritis in his right knee, and while he was still full of life at age 24, his body just couldn’t keep up, and we were unable to manage his pain.
We’ve never euthanized a horse before, so this was a new and emotional experience, but I’m happy we were able to choose his time. He’s now resting peacefully in his paddock overlooking our farm. He always did like to know everything that was going on in his domain.
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.
I’ve realized as Oh So has been starting his trotting work and Bear has been progressing that they truly are different horses, in every aspect, but it’s a fun challenge to be riding two horses again.
Oh So has always had a “dramatic” personality, hence his name. He does everything to the extreme. He’s been an absolute handful (and kind of an a**hole sometimes!) as I’ve started his trotting work over the last month. The vet wanted us to do 30 second trot sets and add two minutes per week. The whole 30 second increment thing lasted about two weeks before he decided he’d had enough and was basically trantering and coming close to having a meltdown every day.
I compromised by letting him trot for a minute at a time and now I’ve added a few 2 minute sets. His hind end feels back to normal after he got used to using it again. We’re up to 12 minutes of trot this week and every day is sort of hit or miss. Sometimes I’m being run off with down the long side (no circles allowed yet) and other times I get glimmers of what he was like before the injury.
At the end of my last minute of trot today, I pretended I was trotting down centerline on one of the quarterlines and then asked him to walk and then halt, which he made perfectly square. The training is still in there somewhere!
I think once we can canter things will get better, although I’m sure he’ll be just as pissed to start with only a minute at a time!
Bear on the other hand, is decidedly non-dramatic (except in the morning when he goes out and bucks like nothing I’ve ever seen before!). He’s actually a little lazy, but I think he’s still learning about the meaning of “go.” I’m hoping once we can get out cross-country schooling in the next few weeks that he’ll find his “forward” button.
It’s interesting to have a horse that likes to be groomed. Oh So is so fidgety, but Bear actually has spots he likes.
After we jump a course with Lisa, we’ll stop to talk about it and Bear will just fall asleep in the sun. It took Oh So awhile to stand still while we were chatting and even today, he’s more likely to be thinking, “Let’s do it again!” or “I was awesome, wasn’t I?”
Sam was always in between when he was competing. He could definitely get hyped up and is sensitive/spooky about grooming, but he wasn’t really tense and didn’t internalize things like Oh So does. He was good off the leg and not overly lazy or sensitive.
As Bear has been learning about flatwork, my dressage trainer, Nicky, had me use my seat to sort of urge him into the upward transition from walk to trot. He’s getting sharper about it now from my leg and seat, but I accidentally used that aid on Oh So the other day. Big mistake! I just have to “whisper” to him with my leg and he’s off in a big trot down the long side.
Since Sam retired from full work about a year and a half ago, I’ve only been riding Oh So and now that he’s back in more work, I’ve also realized the challenge in adjusting my riding style. Oh So has such a huge stride and has been mistaken for a Warmblood before. He’s got a neck that’s a mile long and shark withers. Bear is a decent sized horse, about 16.1 hands I think but I haven’t measured him, and has a much shorter/average stride. I think his stride will continue to get better as he gets stronger and uses himself more, but for now, the difference between the two is kind of startling.
I realized that last week when Nicky came on Saturday for a lesson. Since we had time, she brought over her 6-year-old 1st/2nd level Warmblood and schooled him while I rode Oh So. He was on his best behavior that day (perhaps because he knew teacher was there?) and we had some really nice trot sets.
I got on Bear after that and I felt so out of balance and slow. I think I chased him a bit and after watching some video that my mom took, I realized I was way too active with my leg, practically urging him on every step. I just need to trust that he’s going to go forward and not pinch with my knee, which seems to slow him down a bit unintentionally.
Sun For A Change
This weekend, I headed down to Southern Pines to cover the inaugural Carolina CIC for COTH. It felt a little odd driving down in a car and not turning into the stabling entrance, but I was happy to watch most of the top eventers in the country all in one place.
I saw a lot of my media friends and even got a sunburn! And now we might get snow again on Tuesday! Will it ever end?
I’m getting antsy to get Bear out to school cross-country. I’m hoping if we don’t get too much snow this week that we’ll be able to go. I’m also excitedly plotting a schedule of unrecognized dressage shows and combined tests. First we need to go hang out at a couple of shows, so I’m hoping we can go to one this weekend.
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.
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.
I feel like I should be posting more, but since life has slowed down a bit, I haven’t been too inspired. I have a hard time making myself sit down to read a book for a book review, even though I have a big stack of them in my room.
I had a new saddle fitter out for Oh So last weekend and she did a really good job getting his (Sam’s old) jumping saddle to fit better. Now with a new half pad and some flocking, it isn’t slipping anymore, so I’m happy we were able to find a solution for now. I’d still like to get him something custom fit, but I just don’t have the money right now.
About a week and a half ago, we had planning meetings at The Chronicle. It was two long days of sitting in the conference room, but I had so much fun brainstorming with the whole team all in one room. It was informational to me to hear little bits of of how everything works and to hear other people’s processes and thoughts. It was also decided that I needed to do a holiday pets photo for our holiday issue, so with the help of my mom, we put together a couple of costumes for Toppers and Rocky (see above).
We also discussed travel plans for the year and I’ll be heading to the Rocking Horse Winter II horse trials in Florida in February first. I’m excited since I’ve never seen eventing in Florida before. I’m also tentatively going to Jersey Fresh.
Sam’s been feeling pretty good lately. I had a really nice ride on Saturday where we were able to do a lot of sitting trot, some half passes and even some walk/canter and canter/walk transitions, which I haven’t been doing lately because they can be quite demanding.
Oh So has been going quite nicely on the flat and we’re starting to work on our flying changes a bit. I noticed that Fox Chase Farm is going to be hosting some CTs and dressage shows next year, so I’m excited to get going.
I feel like I haven’t said much about Sam since my depressing post back in the early summer. He’d been feeling quite bad from behind and I was contemplating retiring him completely. Well, we took a few weeks of just hacking and only trotting if he felt ok, and since late July, he’s felt pretty good. I’ve been able to work on some canter lengthenings, started sitting the trot some more again, and I’ve done some basic lateral work in trot, which ends up making him go better.
We’ve also been hacking quite a bit, although he still acts like a 2-year-old most of the time, so I know he’s not feeling that bad! My mom and I cleared an old trail across the street that follows a gas line, and it makes for a good hour-long ride, so he’s been enjoying that. I’ve also been doing some trot and canter pole work, which usually gets him really excited. I’m going to try to get my dad to take some photos of us sometime this week.
Here’s a blast from the past video of one of our more successful prelims at the VA Horse Trials where we won our division.
So, this weekend I went to DC to see comedian Christian Finnegan with my brother. I bought the tickets in December, and the show was rescheduled twice, so it was nice to finely get there. He did a lot of new material, which was nice.
On Sunday, my mom and I went up to Morven Park for a historic trail ride with Sam and her horse Lad. I took my camera along and got some photos, but they are not perfectly composed because I was holding it one-handed while riding! Here are some photos.
Sam and Lad freaked out at a donkey that was being ridden by a lady. Sam wanted to jump the cross country fences we passed, and it was so tempting! The ride went all around the property through the cross country courses and ended in front of the mansion. We got to stare down into the famous Leaf Pit on the advanced course. It doesn’t look so bad when you’re on a horse. There were also Civil War re-enactors lecturing about the significance of the property during the 1860’s.