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!

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2014 Recap – Some pretty high highs, but some pretty low lows

 

Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.

When I decided to write a year-end recap, I had initially decided to title it something like, “2014–the year that never was” or, “2014 Sucked”, but once I started looking back, I realized that while 2014 was full of lots of lows, it was also full of plenty of highs.

I was feeling pretty good heading into the year–I spent New Years covering a George Morris clinic in Florida–five days of beautiful, sunny weather and lots of learning–but as I prepared to board my flight to go home, I found out my English Pointer Ramsey had died suddenly. My parents tried to keep him comfortable so I could say goodbye, but he just couldn’t hold on.

It was devastating to lose a member of our family and I still think about him everyday. This is the first Christmas in awhile where he won’t be there.

Most of January and February were spent surviving one of the coldest and most miserable winters we’ve had in awhile, all while trying to start Oh So’s rehab under saddle and transitioning him to some turnout after being on stall rest. It was odd not preparing for Southern Pines in March, but I did have something to look forward to with Bear, who turned four in February.

He made quite a bit of progress over the winter and we were finally able to get out and cross-country school in March, where he proved that he had the aptitude for eventing. We did several combined tests and he surprised me with his willing attitude. It was such a difference to Oh So–no drama!

We did out first real event in early September at Loch Moy, and save for a little drama in dressage, had a good time.

Over the summer, Oh So returned to full work and we had a few cross-country schools under our belts before deciding to try for a novice and a couple of trainings in the fall season. I was feeling a bit out of practice over the bigger fences but towards the end of the summer, I really felt like I was back in sync with him.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Unfortunately, he did something to his right hip/SI joint around the same time and it took awhile to figure that out. I was so close to being able to compete with him that I could taste it! We’re now starting to jump again and I’m hoping to compete again in the spring.

As a result of Oh So’s injury, Bear got to start his recognized eventing career sooner than I’d thought. I was pretty nervous but he did very well at his first beginner novice at Seneca Valley, save for being eliminated at the water!

We had a longer gap than I wanted between that and Waredaca, which was full of drama and ended in me falling off, but we rebounded for Virginia the next weekend and completed (and went through the water!).

AEC Texas-style!

This is the first year of my life since I started eventing where I really haven’t had a “season”. At times I felt lost, both in my training because I didn’t have a goal to work towards, but also with what to do when my whole life has revolved around the eventing season.

But as a result, I got to travel quite a bit and learn through osmosis. Watching the best horses and riders in the U.S. as part of my job is a treat, whether it’s eventing, dressage or show jumping.

Riding Bear has taught me a lot more about riding than I imagined. He might be mentally quieter than Oh So, but I have to sit tighter from time to time since he is still four!

I’ve also learned to savor every ride. Before Oh So’s injury, I got worked up about this or that as we prepared for an event, but to be honest, I’m lucky he came back from his injury and that I can still ride him. I’m looking forward to that moment as the starter counts us down in the box in our first event back.

The view from San Gimignano

Outside of horses, I got a sister-in-law when my brother got married in May and I learned I’m becoming an aunt next year to a little girl!

I also traveled to Italy for 10 days. I love traveling and find I always come back a much more educated person. I’m not sure where I’ll go in 2015, but I’m thinking maybe Germany later in the year.

On a sad note, we had to put down one of our cats, Winnie, who we inherited with our farm back in 2002. He was quite old and developed cancer cells on his lungs, so it was time, but sad none the less.

Professionally, I took a step up at COTH this year and really felt like I found my place and became a part of the team. I traveled A LOT, which is my favorite part of the job.

I met interesting people, saw cool places and took lots of photos.

Here’s a recap with links to my coverage-

George Morris clinic
Nations Cup Wellington
Global Dressage Forum North America
Carolina International
The Fork
Jersey Fresh
WEG Prep Trial
National Young Horse Championships
Plantation Field
AECs
Fair Hill
Mary King Clinic
USEA Convention

I’ve got a lot of cool things lined up for next year, including a trip to the Pan American Games in Toronto and a big life change that I’ll post about when it happens.

I’m looking forward to next year and I’m glad to say goodbye to 2014. Here’s to hoping for Oh So’s return to competition, finding Bear a good home and a little bit of luck.

Horse Trials and Tribulations

2014-09-28 09.47.25-1

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.

2014-10-04 11.36.30
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.

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!

Timber!

Unfortunately, that was the sound as Oh So and I made our way around the show jumping at the Seneca Valley Pony Club horse trials this past weekend.

Let’s start from the beginning. I shortened our dressage warmup just for fun because he’s been getting a lot more confirmed, even at home, in his flatwork. We did about 35 minutes, and almost didn’t need that long. At home, Nicky and I have been working on picking him from his stretchy warmup sooner rather than let him trot around unengaged from behind. It seems to be working because he’s been producing some nice work.

I mostly worked on leg yields in the warmup because we were riding test A which has them from the track to the centerline, and those can be difficult for us. I also played with some lengthened strides in canter and some counter canter. I was wearing spurs for the first time at a show and he didn’t seem to mind, so that helped.

I thought he was quite willing in the test and we salvaged the free walk to medium walk to trot to canter sequence with just a little resistance. We ended up with a 34.1 for fifth place, which was fine, but there were just a few too many 6’s for my liking.

They moved the show jumping warmup, which was nice. We had had a pretty awful lesson on Thursday where he just had this attitude. I had hoped that things would be different at the show, but unfortunately they were about the same. Our warmup wasn’t horrible, but once we got in the ring, I made one error and had fence 2 down, then fence 3 came down, then my bad habits started creeping in and he had the attitude. We had a vertical down that a lot of people had down, then the last part of the triple that just seemed unlucky. He was fussy and I was letting my hands get too low, so then he jumped more into my hand than round over the fences. Back to the drawing board I guess, plus more jumper shows, whether I like it or not.

The cross-country was a bit different this year with a new mowed path and a few things we hadn’t seen yet. I made two mistakes in an otherwise good round. At fence 5abc, there was a very vertical fence, hard bending line left, down a drop and over a skinny. I was worried about him hanging a leg on the vertical if we got too close, so what did we do? We got too close! But he righted himself and I had to pull hard left to get over the drop. Once we landed, he saw the skinny and we kicked on quite nicely. We had a bit of a big one into an angled two stride and the drop into the water rode well, but I need to sit up afterwards and gather him a bit, because we got too close to the skinny coop out. He was clever, but this is the second time I’ve made that mistake, so it’s time to get it right!

The final combination was a left corner, five strides to a right corner. I was freaked out because the second corner was quite narrow with the way the flags were placed. Once he got over the first part though, he saw the out quite easily. We finished about 18 seconds over time. I know I lost a bit because I really set him up for some of the combinations, but at this point, I’m more concerned with getting a good ride to the difficult stuff.

We ended up eighth, but got a pretty brown ribbon! So, notes for next time: keep the show jumps up and trust him a bit more. Our video is coming soon.

This weekend we’re making our Second level debut at a schooling show. Nicky will be there, so that will be helpful. I rarely get her help warming up for dressage, so I’m excited. I sent off my entry for the CDCTA schooling show in July and we’ll try Second 1 and 2 then.