The Training Moveup

My absence recently hasn’t been due to lack of riding, I can tell you guys that! And since this last weekend included our [soft] move up to Training level, I figured that would be more interesting to capture than the XC at BRHT (though maybe I’ll get back to that).

We signed up for the Training CT at the October War Horse, with the plan of schooling the Training cross country course since Jack hasn’t seen some of the questions that are now at this level. My goal for this weekend wasn’t necessarily to be competitive, but more to focus on building confidence over larger fences and different combinations.

Because of my habit of running around like an idiot these days, I didn’t get to put the time into the dressage preparation that I normally would. There were a few things that were somewhat tricky for Jack, including the 10m circles from B to X and X to E. I wasn’t sure how well we would execute the canter lengthening on the circle, nor the trot lengthening, which would likely be dependent on how loose his back was.

As it turned out, the judge has a bit of yellow fever (is that funny? Probably not) and scored us much better than expected. Though our class was small, our 31.4 landed us in 2nd behind Becky Holder, a longtime idol of mine. [photo of test to come!]

I’d like to encompass all of my learnings from the cross country in a separate post, so I’ll focus on just the CT for now. But let’s just summarize by saying that the dressage seemed somewhat lackluster, but the jumping made up for it all.

The course was actually somewhat tricky in my opinion, with the only straight line being from 3 to 4. All was maxed out in typical War Horse fashion.

I wasn’t sure if the warmup would change as a result of moving up a level, but it didn’t, which ended up being reassuring. Essentially we started over an x, went to a vertical, then an over, and built it up until we were set to go in.

I think this was one of those courses where I found myself actually riding the course, focusing on the balance of his canter while making sure he jumped all the things, because as you’ll see in the video- he wasn’t keen on the mini gates filling the rainbow color fences, and took a hard peek at the liverpool as well.

In the end, our one rail down didn’t change our position in the line up, since everyone had at least one rail in our division. But Jack successfully finished his first Training course, and we are on our way towards really considering ourselves a Training level pair, which is the goal!

Show Recap: BRHT Showjumping

Showjumping followed pretty darn close to dressage, and basically I had just enough time to wander into the showjumping ring and look vaguely around before having to go tack up again. If it’s one thing I hate, it’s not being able to walk my SJ course. But somehow I have the worst luck when it comes to walking, and the announcer was chivying everyone out of the ring even as I was frantically learning my course at a distance.

What was cool though, was that the showjumping was in the same fancy arena that the dressage at WEG had been in. It was a fairly huge arena, one that could easily house at least 4 dressage courts at any given show, if not more. And the course, though fairly inviting, didn’t let up at any point. It pretty much only consisted of rollbacks and bending lines, and I admit I wondered what Jack would feel like in this different venue.

This ring!

As it turned out, despite not having actually walked the course, it rode quite well. Thinking about the rail we had down at AECs had me really focusing on getting him up a hill and balanced for the two stride combination (which is where the video starts- they missed the first several fences, oops). If only I had focused that hard on the long (12 stride!) approach to the vertical- my bogey fence from Virginia.

Unfortunately, that was my bogey fence again. Of course the trainer who had worked with me at Virginia also got to see me repeat my mistake here as he was waiting at the in gate with his own student. Cue a reminder on leaving to play with the canter more in that long approach so he doesn’t get flat. Oi. Fair, but it stings- why can’t I get that long approach down?

As I entered the ring, the announcer had said that I was tied for first with that 17.9 dressage score, and I heard it and thought that had to be wrong- like, what? There’s no way. But of course my 1 down cost me my lead, despite feeling like I had a fairly decent round in a new atmosphere and venue.

Show Recap: Blue Ridge Horse Trials Dressage

The Blue Ridge Horse Trials were the second recognized horse trials to go on the calendar at Tryon, and it was exciting to not only have a new local fall recognized horse trial, since the Five Points stopped offering a full HT below Prelim for the last few years.

I signed up for the BRHT mostly because A) they advertised said horse trial as having the XC on the WEG course and B) they were discounting the stabling by $100. The fact that I have yet to be refunded said $100 is… annoying. And we’ll see- if they don’t pay me back be sure I will pitch an absolute fit. Ahem, anyways.

But really.

We arrived the day before the competition, and after the more recent memories of the too-small stalls at KYHP, it was pretty much amazing to find that Jack looked normal sized in the stalls at TIEC. And not only that, but there were ample (read: more than I could use) hooks on the walls for the various accruements that come with traveling and horses- I was easily able to set up my water buckets, hay net, and stall guard without pulling out any of the normal Tom-foolery (aka double sided hooks and the like). Not only that, but each stall already had a fan built in (though I added my own since the temps were/are still in the 90s) but that was a wonderful and unexpected bonus.

Handsome bathorse in his spacious batcave

I walked Jack around the grounds to show him the way of things, since we don’t typically see such venues like Tryon, and he seemed to take it all in hand. The thing we seemed to dislike most was getting near the [previously named George Morris] Tryon Stadium, which has a pagoda for the humans, and high walls surrounding the warm up ring, as well as all sorts of jump standards being stored and trucks parked and in general, just lots to look at. Luckily the event was cornered off to one end of the facility, so this was not of consequence, but still got Jack a bit riled nonetheless.

Jack in a less riled state

The day of dressage (and showjumping, but that’s another post), I took him into a “temporary” tent ring to do our pre-ride, though much of this included watching a rather feral horse being lunged at one end. Once that horse left, I was less distracted and Jack gave me some really nice work (it’s occasionally my fault for being ADD/spooky, and I’ll own it in this case). Then a couple hours later I went out for my actual warm up for the test, giving ourselves 20 min to just refresh some of the things we’d been working on- namely the free walk, and transitions from walk-trot and trot-canter.

If I had to judge my test just as I finished it, I would have put it at a 27. And this is only based on the scores that I’ve had before- but I was really happy with the balance and the straightness, both things I have been working hard on at home. I decided to forego some of the ‘forward’ that I had in my AEC test because I felt like at times I was running him off his feet, and focused on using bend and geometry to put together the best test that had the most relaxation (or at least what was possible given the environment). So while I felt like it was good, I did not in any way expect that judge to like us quite as much as she did.

A 17.9, then, put us tied for 1st. As it happened, our partner in the tie was a familiar pair- they had schooled with us the day that I fell off the second time at Will Faudree’s amazing facility. Considering he’s gone intermediate, I am pretty okay with that!

 

 

 

 

 

Photography Friday: AEC Show Pictures

This week has been… busy. So while I want to get started on the next show recap, I’d much rather share a bunch of pretty [ish] photos with you all.

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With over 1,000 riders at the AECs, it was no small wonder that it took so long to deliver all the images, but they are finally here!

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These are just my favorites, since thankfully the photographer (Shannon Brinkman) was able to capture everything, which was phenomenal and will make for such wonderful memories that I am beyond grateful.

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Happy Friday y’all!

Trailering to Kentucky: What Worked and What Didn’t

Probably the thing that stressed me out the most about my trip to Kentucky was the trailer ride. It was 8.5 hours through lots of twisty mountain highways, and I was worried about both my ability to stay awake/focused and poor Jack standing in the trailer for that long without incident. You guys were super helpful in giving me lots of tips and tricks, so I want to share how the ride actually went.

Podcasts
These were the biggest winner of the day. I downloaded a whole bunch of them, and loved listening to the Schramm fam’s interview with Practical Horseman and Lynn Symansky’s chat with Major League Eventing, but then had to switch to something more distracting. The Shrink Next Door ended up being what hooked me for the majority of the ride there, and it helped me out on the way back as well. Highly recommend.

Horse Quencher
I asked the barn staff to put Horse Quencher in one of Jack’s buckets 2 days before we left, so he could get used to it and hopefully figure out how tasty it was before seeing it on the trailer. And while he absolutely sucked it down (like really- licked his bucket dry) in the stall, this ended up being a failed experiment in the trailer. Sadly, he didn’t touch it during the entire drive to KY. But, when I transferred the contents into a bucket in his stall, he immediately drank half the bucket. Going forward I will be giving him horse quencher the night before we drive a long way and hope that at least gets him moderately hydrated.

Hay
My trailer comes with removable canvas mangers, but in order to accommodate the water bucket so Jack could reach it, I took those out and used a hanging hay net instead. This also ended up being somewhat useless. Jack doesn’t normally eat hay on the trailer, but I had hoped that with the many hours of staring face to face with munchies would tempt him. Nope, apparently not. I know that I can get him to eat with fancy hay (aka alfalfa, either straight or chopped/mixed) but that doesn’t do well in a hay net (read: it falls out/goes everywhere), so on my trip to Tryon last weekend I opted to go back to mangers with a chopped Alfalfa mix in them- sure enough, Jack ate a good bit of it. So I’ll be going back to the bucketless manger set up with his favorite treats for long trips.

Fescue is so beneath him

To break up the drive I made sure to stop every 2 hours at a gas station, so I could top off the gas and give him a short break from the rumbling effects of travel. Despite unloading in a hurry, he seemed to handle the long trip rather well, but I definitely learned a bit more about my horse and his preferences as a result of our adventure!

Show Recap: AEC Conclusion

I know this post has taken me a while to write. As most of you know, moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone so I’ve already even competed again, but that’s a post (or several) for another day.

There were both a lot of emotions at the end of my showjumping round, and few. I honestly think I was just so personally overwhelmed and not sure of how to feel now that it was over. I’d been thinking and planning and fretting about getting to Kentucky for so long, and had basically convinced myself that it wasn’t going to happen, so having completed it was… a shock.

It took me some time then, standing outside the stadium, to process all these things in my head. I was thrilled to have completed, annoyed about that darn rail, even slightly embarrassed by it given that my teammates all went double clear, but still proud of how Jack handled the big arena and sort of just amazed by the fact that I had actually ridden at in the Rolex stadium.

I don’t think life is like a Disney movie, even if I wish it was

So given that, I realize it is ridiculous to lament a rail, though I do… along with that darn break in the free walk in dressage, or my over enthusiasm that resulted in the speed faults XC. My friends are quick to put things in perspective for me though, which I am so appreciative of…

…and they threw me a welcome back party when I arrived, which was pretty freaking awesome.

One of the absolute best things about the AECs was the friends I made through the various teams, and I think it was especially the team experience that made this not-just-another-horse-show. My fellow members of #teamadultbeverages were amazing, including the member from another state who helped me when Jack knocked water all over me before the awards ceremony. Seeing everyone in their #TeamAB gear at home and at the park honestly made my heart swell with happiness, and I’ve even gotten to catch up with everyone after the fact- something that I’m positive will continue for years.

Another #TeamAdultBeverages member and I enjoying the competitors party

Besides that there was the fabulous support of the Area 2 Adult Rider program, including sweet swag that I look forward to repping. You inevitably make friends with your neighbors in the barns as well, and it was great exchanging advice regarding the course, or lending one another a hand or heart congrats when each of us completed another milestone. These are the things that make me love eventing so much.

Hands down, if I were to qualify again, I would go [if I can afford it]. The camaraderie of the people, the beautiful grounds and the chance to experience a competition of that caliber absolutely made the AECs a week I will never forget. And if I had to sum up my feelings now that I’m on the other side of it all, I would say I most identify with this:

Don’t be sad that it’s over. Smile because it happened.

 

 

 

Show Recap: AECs Showjumping

Ah, the epic conclusion.

After coming down from the high that was XC at the Kentucky Horse Park, it was time to focus on the end game. Showjumping in the stunning Rolex Stadium was honestly one of the major reasons I signed up for the AECs in the first place. And it didn’t disappoint.

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Despite the fact that the ring was chock full of fences, only 11 of them were ours to jump. And they were beautifully decorated, as you can see above. But beautiful or not, fence two in particular was causing issues. Even as I was waiting my turn to enter the ring I was hearing stories of people having stops and even getting eliminated by horses not wanting to get near it, which could be understood by the bright blue water, horse-eating wheel at the left standard, and max-height and width of the thing. My own plan was to give Jack a tap with the bat to let him know stopping was not an option, and back up that assertion by keeping him between my hands and legs. The rest of the course, though big and spooky, I felt mostly OK about- Jack was either going to be with it or he wasn’t.

To say I’m proud of how this horse handled the atmosphere would be an understatement. Though (because of my bat) we got a really hollow jump at fence 2, he still went over it, and I was pleased as punch about that. The rail at 6B was frustrating, and still haunts me a bit, but take a second to appreciate how shallow the cups are and how unforgivingly placed (which is fair for a championship, but still):

He probably could have been a bit more careful about his back feet and we would have gone clean, but I’m doing my best to avoid the coulda-woulda-shoulda game. For a spooky horse who couldn’t handle ground poles two years ago, this was absolutely a milestone for us.

Conquered.

That rail dropped us to 7th, which I found out in true nail-biting fashion as they tried to determine if the rider in 6th got time (which would have bumped me up into the cash prizes). So we ended our AECs journey with the biggest most purplest ribbon there ever was. And you know what? Purple and yellow are complimentary colors, so I’m cool with it.

More on the lap of honor, details on how it was run, and more to come!

Show Recap: AEC Cross Country

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I know so many of you have been waiting for this. The AEC XC recap!

Let me start by just saying how in awe of that course I was. It was simply incredible to walk around the grounds, getting up close and personal with the giant log fence, the head of the lake, and the other LRKY features that I see on live stream every year. But despite the excitement, I was also slightly nervous- this was a championship of course, and I think the only fence that wasn’t maxed out was the very last fence (which I didn’t even get a picture of- a small cabin).

My biggest concern, however, was the pathfinding from fence 4 through 7.

After fences 3-4 (a bending line of solid, wide blue roll tops), I had a wide drift left to a max table. Then riders could choose left (long route) or right (short route) to a tall coop that required a hard 90* approach, lest you could somehow ride through a hundred year old oak on the direct line. Fence 7 I expected a strong peak at as well, since 2 strides out from the coop, you turned right through some trees and 7 was right on top of you- a large table with cut outs. This definitely did catch us out a bit, but I rode really positively to it and he jumped it fine.

7

Then it was a fun gallop up and over fence 8, a maxed out 3’6″ brush fence, up the bank and a bend left to 10, focus on getting the line to 11 which was another spooky cut out fence, through the water and up to the faux ditch. Fitch?

I won’t lie, whatever you want to call it- it was weird.

12

I fully expected a half coffin on course. In fact, in stalking Novice courses there just months before the AECs I saw half coffins on course- with actual ditches. But at the AEC’s, BN through Training all had these- basically wooden trays filled with gravel, maybe 7″ deep. Surprising, if not strange. In any case, I ended up not giving it much thought because I was having so much fun galloping away from the water. Like, that was a blast and I have no regrets, y’all.

Anyways- from there it was across the road, over a bench and up to the head of the lake- where there was a slatted log thing leading downhill to the water. Jack peeked hard at the water, which is not normal for him but likely a result of the light changing so abruptly from light to dark, coupled with the descent to the water.

At this point in the course, I looked at my watch again. I knew I was ahead of the clock at the ditch, but after going through the water I was WAY ahead of it- like 3 fences to go and 90 seconds to optimum time. So I came back to a showjumping canter as much as possible (the open oxer needed a forward ride, as did the giant fiesta table), but I’d already done the damage by having too much fun out there. We conquered the last max jump out there and then petered in to the finish.

Though I should have slowed up a bit, that course will forever stand out as an absolute blast. Jack was solid in almost every regard, and was running ears pricked around the whole thing. I loved riding knowing I was on a team that was so supportive (woot woot #teamadultbeverages) and was lucky enough that they even got most of the course on video!

Therefore, I leave you with this. Enjoy the commentary and maybe turn the volume down 🙂

Show Recap: AEC Dressage

Holy moly, I have so much to share with you guys!

But first, let me first shout out to the awesome people I have met so far because of this blog- from Hannah the Bates rep, to Hillary and Emily! Hearing that my voice [any voice] is relevant is so uplifting and I love love love the experience of meeting people irl that I know from the inter webs.

Anyways.

Jack was a freaking STAR. With the exception of the night before dressage, in which he was a total idiot, planting his feet and snorting at the horse-eating-hoomans and flipping out about his tail (why is this a thing?), but since his brain was fully in its box when it mattered, I will forgive him these things.

Overall he was much more chill about the whole KY Horse Park atmosphere than I expected, though the hack out to the rings did get increasingly tense as the days passed. But in general, Jack really settled every time I put him to work, even if it was just a long and low walk to stretch his legs- if I asked something of him, his mind was so much more at ease.

So we arrived Monday evening, and by the time we has somewhat unpacked it was too late to do more than a cursory walk around the barns. Therefore Tuesday and Wednesday were our days for exploring, gaining confidence, and trying to navigate the huge horse park. This all well swimmingly until we got to our dressage warm up ring, which was not only somewhat remote and required crossing a very busy street (within the horse park, but still overrun with bikes, golf carts, and people in a hurry), but it was also adjacent to the Egyptian Arabian show that was going on. Jack would start to relax and then we would hear whooping and hollering from inside the indoor ring, or a hotter-than-hell Arab would pop out of the entrance with its tail flagged and screaming its tiny head off. This caused Jack to go into the afore mentioned melt down- not a great premonition for the actual test the next morning.

And yet somehow the eventing gods smiled down on us, and our start time of 9:24am was minutes before the Arabian show started (9:30) so we got to warm up in relative peace and quiet compared to the days before. The other ~4-5 riders in the warm up were polite and everyone was communicating well, basically a rare delight at any show, let alone a championship competition. I went through Jack’s warm up routine as planned- lots and lots of walk, asking him to go forward and back in that gait and adding in halts, then picking up to trot and a little canter before giving him another 5 min walk break. When we had about 5 minutes left, I picked him up and started asking for suppling and forward in the trot, and threw in a couple canter transitions to make sure they were crisp, and we headed up.

Immediately some of the tension returned when Jack saw the cameras, the volunteers, test runners, and what not that hadn’t been there the day before. So I gave him tons of pats and walked him over to the judge, said our hello’s, and got him cantering to loosen his back. Then away we went.

My first centerline isn’t captured in this video, but I did fill out the paperwork to get the official RNS copy. Overall I was trying to go for forward and relaxed, which I think we mostly achieved. Nerves got the better of me with some of our geometry, and then there’s the free walk. The simple truth is, Jack got behind my leg, and when I squeezed with both legs he took it as a cue to trot. Luckily he was obedient in coming back, which one judge gave us kudos for, but that particular part of the test may or may not haunt me from that day.

I think my scores from the 2 judges had the largest spread of the division- a 71.9 and a 65.2. The closest spread between scores was 4 points… so apparently the big yellow pony was somewhat controversial between the judges, and their vantage points.

Still, we were tied for 4th after dressage- but this was no dressage show!

Road to the AECs: Last Preparations

How are we here, in the final days at home? All of the sudden it’s go time for all the last-minute prep stuff that I’ve been waiting to do!

Today I hang up Jack’s inhaler, since albuterol isn’t legal for competition, and start him on a low dose of dex to help keep inflammation down in his lungs. He’s also getting Horse Quencher today so he can acclimate to the idea and hopefully like it enough that he’ll drink on the long haul Monday.

all the things to pack.. and I got distracted before I even finished my list.

He also got new kicks yesterday, so he’s not wearing old shoes at the show. I’ve got the old shoes labeled and ready to be packed as his back-up pair just in case.

Tonight I’m heading out to pack, which includes playing a game of Tetris inside my trailer:

Gotta figure out how to hold all the things

I’m also going to test out a tip that a Pro-groom shared for Jack’s tail – spraying white touch up spray into it and lightly brushing it. I want to see just how messy it might be so I can plan for Thursday… because…

I got my ride times!

A 9:24am dressage time means that I need to get up super early to feed, then pre-ride, then braid, spray his tail, get changed, and warm up. I’m avoiding thinking about how early that means I’ll need to wake up, but it’s sure to still be dark outside.

In addition to this, we’re also doing our own version of a test event at the Carolina Horse Park this weekend. Saturday I intend to do a ride-a-test type school with my trainer, followed by a schooling round in the showjump ring. We’ll then ride as a non-compete pair on Sunday doing the CT with the Novice B test so I can get scores and feedback to make a gameplan for KY. Oh, and I had to specifically ask not to ride in front of a certain judge so I could get actually useful feedback.

An example of NOT helpful feedback

Then Monday, the vet comes to do an IV injection (Legend) and his health certificate… and off we go!