Some brief riding recaps, before I forget what happened

Sunday March 15th:
Went to the High Point Open Schooling with Maggie and the boys. It was awesome, but I think we already recapped this sufficiently.

Monday March 16th:
Rode Knots in a jumping lesson. He went in the D-ring snaffle and without the running martingale. We worked on rushing the fences, which is a combination of body position and horse inexperience. Amanda (the instructor, not me :p) suggested we grab the running martingale, which she then temporarily made into a very loose standing martingale. He could no longer throw his head up, and he was a different horse. We rode the exercises and ended on a fantastic note.

Tuesday March 17th:
Dressage lesson with Sarah. Knots was doing really well at the walk and trot, and Sarah asked if we wanted to see how the canter went. So we attempted to canter 20m circles. I was focused on keeping my upper body position correct and pushing him off my inside leg. He responded by running away from my inside leg on circle left, but on circle right he was more unbalanced and actually used my inside leg to stand up straighter. I was really pleased with this ride, because it was a nice show of the improvement we have made in the last few weeks.

Thursday March 19th:
Mom was here, and we had a dressage school for the boys before the show (which was later rescheduled to April 4th). I did not warm Knots up in side reins, because I wanted to see how he would respond. He was mediocre, but after the boys finished riding we went in the freshly drug (empty) jump field and worked on cantering in a larger area/circle. It was ok, I don’t think it was as good as Tuesday, but we had some good moments.

Thursday March 26th:
Knots and I got to jump the course I had students jumping Tuesday. It was half 2′ and half 2’3″, but technically challenging. I don’t have time to draw it out, but it had a lot of turns and bending lines. We were working as a team, but I am still having trouble getting my butt back over the fences.

Whew. Life is kind of crazy right now, everything is breaking at the house and cars, so we are just trying to make it to the April 4th schooling horse trials with Gracie and Robert.

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Gracie and I go off the reservation (a.k.a. First XC schooling together)

I take it all back, all of it, every single snarky comment about getting somewhere on time with horses in tow….  Sorry to everyone out there.

We took five horses, yes five, to a open schooling at High Point Farm on Sunday.  I was under the impression that this was a low key endeavor and would be accomplished with minimal fuss.  Show up to the barn at 7am load some tack and a horse and be on the road at 8am.  Well, my naivete has been thoroughly squashed and replaced with a healthy respect for everything that goes in to loading for a trip away from your local riding facility. What follows is a moderately funny, completely true recap of my first ever cross-country schooling event away from our home barn.

Sunday morning starts early (relatively) for a horse trip. The alarm went off at 6 am and I was excited. So, I practically leap out of bed and Amanda would swear I slept in my breaches I was ready so fast.  (lies for dramatic effect, I wanted to sleep in.)  We crawl in to the car at 6:45 and are off to find some breakfast.  As we leave the neighborhood, “Dang! I forgot Gracie’s boots in MY car.”  We turn around and I am certain I hear a repressed sigh from the driver’s seat…  I get the brushing boots and we are back on the road to McDonalds.  Through the drive through and as they hand Amanda her coffee she turns to meandsays, “don’t worry they always get it wrong.” I know this isgoing to turn out to be a good day.

The day is dawning as we roll up the driveway to the barn. There is movement at the end of the driveway and this bodes well!  The trailer is getting hooked up and most likely our comrades for the day’s ride are also moving and getting ready.  I decide to take the high road and get Gracie from the pasture and then proactively start gathering all the tack for our little adventure.  (This is where reality starts to deviate from expectation.)  Never did I think about all the STUFF needed by a horse and rider for a little bit of jumping.  I found myself sitting on an imaginary horse in my head and tacking it up from my head to the horse’s hooves.  after loading all the tack to the trailer I got the lesson in loading horses.  At least one will refuse to load and cause problems all morning.  This time it was Simon. He thought the trailer was scary!  We tried to reset his mind, then we tried bribery (food), then a whip.  What finally worked you might ask? a swinging lead rope.  not even contact with the rope…. just the swinging. horses are weird.  Now we are loaded and ready to roll.

The drive was about an hour long and there  were three boys and two women in the cab of the truck.  As an aside, there is not much chance of boys outnumbering women in an equestrian endeavor so, we felt empowered and had “guy” talk most of the trip. Much to Amanda and Maggie’s dismay.  The drive was uneventful until our arrival at High Point. The driver of our rig took a nice wide turn to pull into a parking area on the grounds (that were mostly soggy from rain) and promptly bogged down in the soft topsoil.  thankfully there was a helpful tractor on hand to give us a small tug.   It is now tack up time!

After an uneventful tack up and warm up it was off to the jumps!  The excitement is palpable as we walk over to the first jump.  Being a bit nervous myself, Gracie is prancing around and being nervous too.  Her ears were twitching everywhere!  We trot up to the first “Green as Grass” jump and BOOM!  over the log we go!  didn’t even catch her in the mouth thanks to a new and improved device called a neck strap!   Woooo!  First jump down. Now we repeat and work on pace, timing, body position, all of the things we talk about at home…. but now, away.  Amanda then suggests I try the log next to the GAG jump… its only a few inches higher…. why not.  No questioning, I just trot up to it and BOOM! up and over the orange signed jump.  Goldilock’s jump done!  not too hard!  We move through a couple more jumps easy peasy.  Jump the GAG, jump the goldilocks jump beside it.  thinking to myself…. should have gone goldilocks if this is the size difference…

Suddenly a wild bank jump appears!

Auggie going up!

Maggie going up!

This is not an up and over jump but just an UP jump.  I am encouraged to do  it so, (never question your trainer) up I go!  The first one is a bit rough and I catch a horse head to the chest.  I forgot there was no “Down” to this jump.  We circled and did it a few more times and it was a cakewalk after that.

We all did the up bank and then our resident hotshot 14 year old saw a miniature house and of course, wanted to jump over the house.  Maybe the house was bigger than his horse thought, maybe it was bigger than the boy thought. Either way, it was informative seeing the hotshot have his horse run out on a jump.

Little bit of a run out. Photobombed by Gracie’s ears.

After three refusals we moved on to making a course.  Log, coop, then up bank.  This was fun. There was a good bit of riding between jumps and a good chance to work on timing and pace.  Then it was up to the really fun part of the day… the water obstacle!

The Water!!!!!

This water obstacle is nothing more than a 18 inch deep pond…. apparently this terrifies horses. They can’t see the footing and sometimes refuse to go in.  Now, in case you did not know, Gracie is a bit of a diva and hates mud and water.  So, I was greatly and pleasantly surprised when she chugged straight through the water and threw not a single fit!  We all played in the water for about 10 minutes and then decided it was a good place to call it a day.   Everyone stayed on. Everyone jumped their jumps. Everyone had fun.  Un-tacking, reloading, and driving home are rarely eventful.  So it was today.

Cav being awesome.

At lunch later, Amanda asked how I felt.  I told her I felt great!  and going over the goldilocks jumps REALLY boosted my confidence.  Her response kind of stunned me.  “There is no goldilocks course there.  Those were the Beginner Novice jumps.”  

Amanda and Knots doing their thing

So it turns out that I jumped two classes high than what I am registered for… Even bigger confidence boost!  
For a first off site adventure I had a fantastic time.  I think I am ready for this Derby event and can not wait to do this for real!

After Jumping

Jellybean revolts against the bridle and shows off her backing skills

This weekend I got to ride Jellybean. Sporadic I know. I grabbed her from the paddock and groomed her really well, since it has been a little while (bad mom award here). She was covered in dirt, but otherwise looked great. Being in the larger pasture has headed off the almost thrush that was trying to develop.

I tacked her up in a western saddle (because why not) and stood back for a second. Jellybean looks really great. She is about 15.2ish and really looking like a grown up. She definitely looks more appendix-y. She hasn’t stopped growing yet, and she is still a bit downhill. I really hope she will continue growing up in the front, but if she doesn’t I will be ok with that too.

I used a different bridle with her. I have been using a bridle with a regular cavesson noseband and a full cheek snaffle. This day I decided to use Knot’s dressage bridle, with a flash noseband and an eggbutt snaffle. I didn’t adjust the flash noseband very tight, just enough so it wouldn’t move around or fall off the front of her nose. This is important.

Anyways, we got set up with the lunge line in the arena and I got started. Jellybean must have remembered our review from the previous week, because she was spot on. She didn’t have any problems paying attention to me or my voice commands. I cantered her a little bit and declared her ready to ride. I walked back over to the mounting block where she stood perfectly still for me to mount.

She walked off, and I quickly got my feet into the stirrups. She seemed a little bit peppy, so I started trotting her. I tried to turn, and bam, resistance. She craned her neck to the right and locked her jaw and stopped moving. Uh oh. She starting turning into the bit I was briefly concerned that she was going to do something dumb, so I started using my legs and then dressage whip to get her thinking forward again.

This same sequence of events happened about three more times while I tried to figure out what was going on. Was it the left turn? Right turn? One side or another of the arena? Nope. It was just turning. She didn’t want to turn one way or another. So I got more demanding that she should turn, and she got a little more resistant. Then suddenly she stopped fighting and turned. Done. We finished up our walk/trot/cantering and then worked on more turning. Crazy how the argue button suddenly turns off.

After our flatwork, we ventured outside of the arena over to our new dressage arena (!). This dressage arena is especially awesome because it should be located in a fairly permanent location that should be free of nasty flooding problems :D. And so I decided to run through an Intro A-like test and see where it got us. And it got us through. It definitely wasn’t the worst test I have ever ridden. Which I found surprising. Maybe Jellybean will get to debut with Sarah sooner than expected… stay tuned.

And so to finish up the evening, we were standing talking to some other boarders and one of the brothers. This brother has spent some time telling me he can’t get his horse to back up. I have talked with him about how to work on this multiple times, but he is a teenager and knows everything. So I got Jellybean to back halfway down the dressage arena with minimal fuss. His horse was not quite so willing, even with some different equipment and it being part of the horse’s job. Mission accomplished. Successfully showed up a teenage boy :p

This is her everyday face. RBF anyone?

A guest post about winning and dreams of eventing fame

Hello all,

I do not usually write in my own voice here because it is more fun to be the comic relief that is our horses.  Today though I want to give a bit of insight to my mind as I prepare for my first ever equine competition!

The preparation is starting to get to me a bit.  When I get nervous about things I start to have dreams about them.  A couple of nights ago I had my first dream about the derby I am competing in on the 22nd of March.  It started as an innocent dream of things to come but my bravado took over and it ended in a dramatic boost of confidence.  Here is the retelling of the dream:

It begins at the show.  I am warming up for my dressage test and I have Amanda coaching me through the warm up. “relax your seat. pick the pace. put your heels down. shoulders back.”  All of the usual reminders of the little things that slip my mind.  Maggie is there too. She is offering ideas and reminders and the whole scene is quite chaotic.  Then the steward says that I am next.  Cue the butterflies….

Gracie and leave our coaches and venture over to the arena.  Thankfully we remember to trot around the arena both ways so Gracie can see the truck.  Then out of nowhere the whistle blows and it is TIME!  Mostly the dressage test itself a blur, all I really remember is that our canter circles were not the best and that we had some”resistance” to aids. But, we finished and I did not fall off.  Good job!

As we head out of the arena I see Maggie and Amanda coming over and they look moderately pleased. I get some feedback from my coaches. “That was OK. This is your first show. That was a good effort for your first time.  There is always the next show. We’ll keep working”  I know! It sounds like I lost or something! Never mind that we still have to jump!

I take Gracie over to the trailer to cool her down and do all the important horse things between rounds. The whole time I am worried that my dressage is not good enough… so I wait patiently (at the score table) for my score to get posted, After several agonizing minutes…. a 46! Not great but certainly not as awful as Amanda and Maggie made it out to be!  AND…. I am in 5th place! I saunter back to the trailer with my score in tow… I am proud of my 46.   Now we prep for jumping!

The jumping is even more blurry than the dressage, I have NEVER jumped in any competition so my mind has no clue what it is like.  Suffice to say we went clean through both the cross country AND the stadium….  much to my surprise. A cool down and bite of hay for Gracie. Let the waiting begin.  Amanda and Maggie have more words of encouragement that to me, seem to say there is always tomorrow…. I am not a tomorrow competitor, I want it now.  We wait, and wait, it seems like the faster the competition the longer it takes to tally scores.  Maggie and Amanda are seasoned at this waiting thing. I am hovering around the score table while they are at the trailer.

The scores are posted!  I “calmly” look at the list and claim my ribbon. Glumly I walk back up to the trailer, head hung in shame. My coaches see me and start giving platitudes about how we finished and there will be other shows, and room for improvement.  It really doesn’t help my mood.  So, I pull the ribbon from behind my back and them that I got SECOND PLACE!!!!  “BOOM!!!!!”

Let’s just hope and pray that it goes this well in real life on March 22.

From the last Playday. When we were covered in ribbons!

New Opportunities

Everyone has goals and dreams. Dreams are those things you hope will fall into your lap. You aren’t actively doing anything to achieve, but you’re hopeful that one day divine intervention will bring you your heart’s desire. Goals though. Those things are serious. Goals are those things you write down on a piece of paper and make a plan to achieve. Start small, break down into manageable chunks, and then bam! Achievement.

That’s how all this works. You start with an idea or a dream, and change it into a goal by making a plan to achieve. One step at a time, day by day. And one of our instructors at Three Brothers is moving off to a new opportunity to reach her personal goals. She has decided to focus on making it to the American Eventing Championships as an adult amateur, which means no teaching or coaching. She was an instrumental part of our show team program and now she’s going to go on to her next big thing. Its going to be sad without her around the farm. I might even miss her crazy dog a little bit :p. Best of luck to her in reaching her goals, and hopefully we will see her competing at the AECs!

Another episode of social problems

During my lessons on Tuesday, I got to help deal with a minor crisis. I was chatting with Maggie while we watched Bubba (a lesson horse who was colicky) when I heard someone calling my name. It sounded fairly urgent, so I walked over. One of my students keep calling my name with increasing urgency. I finally got close enough to call to her and she told me Robert needed some wire cutters.

We have been upgrading fence lines around the farm, and lots of fence is now high tinsel wire, which I have written about in other blogs. There are a few fence lines with woven wire. So Maggie and I briskly walked to grab some wire cutters from the shed and figure out what type of trapped horse situation we were going to have. I walked one way around the house and Maggie walked the other way while we were looking for Robert and the horse. My guess was that the black gelding tried to jump out of a pasture and got stuck in the fence.

I found Robert in the front pasture. He was taking Gracie out to her pasture when he saw two horses fighting over the fence. The black gelding again. He was fighting with a boarder’s horse who had front shoes. Well as the boarder’s horse was coming down, he got the top line of the woven wire fence caught between his shoe and his hoof. And so he was stuck. Robert was trying to hold him/keep him near the fence and stop him from freaking out until the wire cutters arrive. Of course Jellybean and the black gelding were trying to “help.” Big sigh.

The first thing we did was cut the fence so the horse could let his leg down. Then we held his hoof and tried to get rid of the wire piece. I tried to knock it out with no success, so I passed the foot to Maggie and tried to keep Jellybean and the black gelding away from the situation. All the horses in both pastures were extremely interested in what was going on. Gracie was off socializing with Knots and enjoying exploring the new pasture.

Eventually Maggie and Robert were able to finagle the wire out from between the shoe and hoof and let the horse wander off. Whew. Another crisis averted. And Bubba’s colic resolved itself with a little banamine. Hopefully things will settle down.

This cat is crazy.