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!

 

 

 

 

Road to the AECs is Lined with Shopping Bags

In just under a week, I will undertake the ~9 hour journey to that place that many eventers considered hallowed grounds- the Kentucky Horse Park.

Knowing the adventure that is just days away, I completely admit that my heart is in my throat, and I find myself constantly swaying between emotional eating (hello, breakroom wheat thins) or retail therapy. Since the latter is more fun and has less consequences for the white breeches I’ll be sporting soon, let’s break down the many purchases I have made of late.

Since conditioning has been the name of the game for a certain large yellow horse with respiratory concerns, Flair nose strips were one of my first purchases. Not only are they actually a lot easier than I imagined to apply, I also don’t have to employ the stealth needed one very desperate night my husband’s snores became too much (sorry honey, I have no idea how that nose strip got there!). The brown is actually rather light and so while I hardly notice it there, I do notice a big difference in Jack’s breathing!

// just breathe //

Similarly in the interest of helping Jack recover, and because so many people recommended it, I also have stocked up on Horse Quencher, or what in my head I have been calling Pony Kool-Aid. I can’t wait to try it out and see if their claim of ‘you bring the horse, we’ll make it drink’ is the real deal.

Of course while working hard, it’s important we look good- so the #BarbieDreamHorse got to complete his set of Kavalcade Wool Open Fronts– because these things are gorgeous and I’m only slightly obsessed with imagining how nice that fluff must feel on his legs.

And since we’re talking Kavalcade and making Jack look #superfly, my pre-AECs shopping also included this beautiful bonnet in our eventing colors. Even if you’re not a color-obsessed eventer, it’s hard to go wrong with navy and burgundy.

Then there’s the retail therapy just for me, and let’s be honest, I am not a tall, beautiful blond with legs for days (that would be the horse) and therefore I need a lot more help. So to control the curves, I invested in some equestrian spanx FITS Wunder Breech Underwear, because white breeches are not my go-to wardrobe choice… ever.

my hero. no shame

While I was appeasing my vanity I also picked up some new no-knot hairnets, since those things are the bomb and my current hair net says more ‘lunch lady past her prime’ than ‘born to shine on the centerline’. And you know, casually decided to take advantage of an awesome sale RW was having and picked up a pair of dark brown Mountain Horse Sovereign boots to match my brunette hairnet. Just kidding- I have been coveting those beauties forever and they are just as gorgeous in person.

Now feeling totally wild and reckless, I rounded out my order with a bag of Jack’s favorite Low-sugar Horse treat in Apple flavor to seal the deal (and hopefully win me brownie points with my mount- can’t hurt can it?).

There, now you can see the evidence of my retail therapy plunder, which I regret not one bit. While it may have caused some angst with the afore-mentioned husband (also wondering where all those boxes on the front step are coming from), it’s worth it in the end. Because once I get to Kentucky, I’ll know that I will do my best, or at worst, look good trying.

Jack the Jumping Bean: XC lesson

Sunday was our cross country school, and we had a lesson on what our is our home turf these days. It was myself and one of my #TeamAdultBeverages team members in the lesson- just two yellow ponies doing what they love.

I won’t lie, I came out fairly groggy that morning, despite having gouged 1.5 Matis (seriously- are these available outside of NC? Because if not y’all are missing out!). It took me a little bit to wake up and get my act together, and I felt bad that I was giving my horse such a lackadaisical ride despite jumping over solid fences.

I woke up when my trainer called me out on my loose leg. I have a slightly different feeling in the irons after using the TSR stirrup leathers- but more on that in a different post.

We warmed up over a small series of fences, stringing obstacles together 4-5 at a time. We did finally get to do the training roll top, and a couple other fences we hadn’t done before, but the trainer likes to keep the fences at the level before a big show (which I agree is the best game plan- no need to knock confidence by making things difficult!).

I was glad that we were able to incorporate the half coffin into our XC school, even more so because it showed me the same weakness that had cropped up the day before- running through the right shoulder.

I didn’t have the shoulder, so didn’t have the straightness, and in one attempt completely blew by the ditch because he wasn’t appreciating my ‘somewhat-there’ right rein aid. Telling? Yes, a bit. We also had a super wonky line the day before when he bulged through my right rein and got really crooked into a fence- so this is obviously something I need to work on.

Otherwise, I am mostly disappointed in how active my hands were and how rushed my upper body was. I don’t know why these couple habits have decided to reintroduce themselves- I can only guess that with my rising anxiety of the AECs that my stress is bringing to surface my bad habits. Thus, I have a casual XC schooling planned where we will just do XC elements- ditches, water, banks- to try and calm both Jack and (mostly) my nerves. I’m especially hoping to make ditches less sticky and way more boring. Nothing like putting a ditch on a circle to accomplish that!

Overall though I feel fairly confident in the XC portion of Novice level questions. Time will tell what Kentucky has to offer!

Jack the Jumping Bean: SJ lesson

Jack had back to back jump lessons this weekend, which means there’s a lot to cover if I’m going to do both justice here, but dang it I’m going to try to remember everything! Today I’ll recap our showjumping lesson.

Saturday was showjumping in Southern Pines with BC who generally takes no prisoners in his lessons- do or die baby! Our warm up typically includes an exercise of achieving various canters within a set distance- a favorite amongst eventing riders, I’ve noticed. Compressing Jack’s canter though is one of the hardest things to do, and I really have to fight for it and keep my upper body back to make the smaller steps happen. Here’s a video of us putting in 5 and then 6 strides in a 67′ line of cavalettis:

Then we moved on to a one stride combination- starting by just angling the out vertical so he saw something bigger than cavaletti and quickly moving to going through the exercise. It was again my job to make sure the canter stayed compressed to a 12′ stride, but active- too flat and long and we wouldn’t make the 1 stride, but if I had a smaller canter without activity we would just eat it over the large oxer- which happened once, though luckily before it got to training height.

We then moved on to course work, stringing lots of things together and making sure I didn’t let the canter get long (which I do). I don’t know why I was getting a bit busy with my hands around the course, but I support I’ll have to think on that.

Eventually we put all the things together, and as you can see I was definitely struggling to keep the canter contained. Jack was really fighting me, tilting his head and pulling and making me work was harder than I should. There’s plenty to figure out between keeping the canter small, keeping the shape of his body, and getting him sharper to my cues and not just blowing me off when I ask for a change (simple or otherwise).

LOTS and LOTS of homework here- just wonder if I can fit it all in!

Product Review: Roeckl Melbourne Glove

Hi I’m Britt, and I’m a bit of a glove snob.

So I was super excited to get the opportunity to review Roeckl’s new eco-friendly glove, the Melbourne.

The gloves feature a new fabric on the palm that Roeckl calls Roeck-air, described as follows on their website:

The particularly thin fabric used on the palm is hard-wearing, provides superb sensitivity on the reins, and is highly breathable thanks to micro perforation. You’ll barely feel as though you’re wearing a glove. The fabric is also completely TOUCHSCREEN COMPATIBLE. This new material is combined with the equally new smooth and elastic Lycra made with ECONYL® yarn and elastane on the back of the hand. Made entirely from regenerated nylon waste (e.g. old fishing nets), ECONYL® yarn is infinitely recyclable without sacrificing quality.

Per their claim, I can definitely attest that these are the thinnest gloves yet that I’ve ever tried- something I absolutely adore given my abhorrence for thick gloves. I occasionally struggle with keeping my fists closed around the reins, and these gloves literally have zero bulk to get in my way- winning! They are also the perfect weight for sticky North Carolina summers, a handy feature for this southern gal.

Unlike many of the other gloves on the market, the Melbourne style also features a longer cuff in absence of a velcro closure. For me, I appreciate that this makes them fairly easy on and off, but I think I personally prefer the velcro over the added length. This is mostly vanity – in the summer I often ride in tank tops and the longer length makes those glove tan lines that much more prominent. Also re:my vanity, I am not a pink person. It’s just not my thing. And the pink on these is… well- there’s no avoiding it, unless covering it up with long sleeves. The video below shows off their length on my t-rex arms:

Still, despite my personal pink problems, I’ve been using these gloves a lot and have been really impressed by the new Roeck-Air fabric. I daresay it has held up better than other Roeckl gloves in the NC humidity and constant wear, and has even survived a wash coming out looking brand new: that’s a huge win in my books!

Post-wash picture

Besides their great functionality, the Melbourne gloves also give peace of mind to the environmentally-conscious. As described above, a yarn made from old fishing nets goes into the new Roeck-Air material, though you’d never know it. I enjoy knowing that there I’m supporting an equestrian brand that is putting effort into eco-products, without sacrificing quality in any way.

To sum up my review of the Melbourne gloves, I would say these are the best summer schooling gloves I’ve ever worn in terms of both durability and weight. Though I wish they came in more color combinations, they are worth the price for a glove that will last through many humid rides and trips to the washer. All this, and eco-friendly as well.

For this, the Melbourne gloves get an A- from me!

Road to the AECs: Adult Team Challenge

OK, so I’ve done a lot of whining about all my various anxieties around the AECs. But obviously there are things to look forward to- else, why go?

So today starts a new series about why, despite my fears, that I am excited about the chance to go to Kentucky. Let’s start with one of the reasons: the Adult Team Challenge.

Every USEA region has its own Adult Rider group, which generally just means you paid a little more with your US Eventing membership to enroll, and in return you get included in lots of fun programs, swag, and of course, the opportunity to participate in the ATC.

My new team mate making it look easy at the Dutton clinic

At the Eventing Championships, each area gets a certain number of teams per level (I believe it’s 2), and each team consists of 4 riders. Initially, we set up our team to include another of my trainer’s students, plus a participant from the Phillip Dutton clinic some months ago, and the last was randomly assigned to us.

Surely the loudest team in terms of color – where’s the award for that?

Not knowing who our 4th member would be, we joked that as long as they enjoyed adult beverages, they were in. Eventers- we like our wine (and beer, and mimosas, and you get the picture). So, when we started talking about team names, #TeamAdultBeverages was thrown out as an option. Also considered were Simply Southern and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. But being as boozy as we apparently are, Adult Beverages won the day.

After designing the logo, a friend suggested we make t-shirts- because hell yeah we wanted to represent our AAness (uh, that’s Adult Amateur to you!)!

My friends are the best

If you want to support #adultteambeverages in our quest to dominate the Novice level of the Adult Team Champs, buy your swag here!

I’m excited to be on a team with other Adult riders, who all share the love of the sport but also understand that as amateurs, we are always balancing the call of riding with the need to make a living, and the challenges that come with that. I can’t wait to share in the joy of just being at KHP with those people and know that there are so many back home (and all over) who are cheering us on, ideally wearing a cute shirt or at the least, enjoying an adult beverage themselves!

Here’s hoping for lots of memories made and if we’re lucky, a victory lap for #teamadultbeverages- surely the most fun team at the AECs!

 

 

Road to the AECs- A Review of my Worries: Part 3

First of all, let me just say that watching multiple episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale does nothing positive for the mood.

I make dumb mistakes. Mistakes I will regret for the rest of my life. The biggest one that comes to mind is my last cross country run on Foster. I was having the time of my life, flying (for Foster at least) across the country, when I was pulled up 4 fences from home- I had missed an insignificant fence on the course. The fact that I never got to feel that sense of completion on what was to be his last run makes me sad.

I’m worried that I will make this investment- time, money, emotion, and I will do something classically dumb to mess it all up.

still the best gif ever

I’m very good at that, after all. Remember when I forgot where to go and jumped a BN fence from a standstill? Here’s the video to jog your memory.

I hope I don’t disappoint myself. Disappoint all the people supporting me. The people that plan on watching the live stream. My coach traveling to KY. My dressage coach here in NC. I want to make them proud.

If it comes to laughing or crying, I’ll pick laughing every time. But I am desperately hoping that this will not be that time!

But first, we gotta get there.

 

 

Road to the AECs- A Review of my Worries: Part 2

My absolute greatest fear in signing Jack and I up for the AECs has been the challenge of keeping us both healthy until we get there.

My vet and farrier both agree- Jack could be the world world bubble boy

It’s no secret that Jack is accident prone.  But more on that in a moment. As you all know, my first steps in getting us (him) prepared for even the idea of the AECs included getting my saddles re-fitted to him (after 2 years that seemed prudent anyways) and had him adjusted by a chiropractor. Since the chiropractor, I have noticed some changes- notably with how easily he bends right now (and also how he struggles a little more to the left), so I’m glad I did it so far out from the big event to allow us both to settle into those adjustments.

I also started Jack on an electrolyte to help him deal with workouts in the heat of summer. He’s definitely drinking more (and peeing more- sorry to the folks who clean his stall!) as a result. Ideally I would add Horse Quencher to his water a day or 2 before we travel so it’s not foreign to him and he will drink on the long trailer ride.

And then, because I felt like his topline/muscle tone wasn’t where it should be given the amount of work he’s in, I also added in an amino acid supplement for muscle support and to help him recover from the conditioning sets that I’ve introduced recently.

Speaking of conditioning sets, that’s also part of my plan to help keep him healthy, as well as prepare for the physical taxation caused by the long trailer ride and 3 days of competition. Our last set looked like this, with 2 min breaks between each burst, and I was really encouraged to see him recover in less than 10 min- a new record for him.

  • 3 x 5min trot sets
  • 2 x 5min slow canters

Because Jack has some respiratory complaints, the conditioning sets are meant to get him extra fit- with the theory being that a fit horse with a breathing issue should handle the summer temps much better than an only-somewhat fit horse. We’re using his inhaler before every ride right now, but soon I’ll start introducing small amounts of Dex (I’ve already called the USEF to find out legal parameters to be safe), and the steroid should help calm some of the inflammation in his lungs and help him stay comfortable since his inhaler (Albuterol) isn’t legal at recognized competition. I also plan on stocking up on Flair nose strips since that seemed to help at our last horse trial, and hell- it can’t hurt!

Then, in terms of just monitoring him at home, I am so lucky to have excellent barn staff that appreciate how important a goal this is for me. They are very kindly wetting his feed so he gets all those expensive supplements (otherwise he picks through them), putting on stable wraps on his back legs (which tend to get stocked up in the heat while standing), and best of all, not judging me for the amount of crazy I must seem these days.

And to top it all off, after every big workout (mostly considering this to be jumping or a conditioning day), Jack gets to wear his ice boots for a minimum of 20 minutes. I’m lucky that he’s used to them and will happily free graze with them on while I finish other chores (or have a glass of wine) as we both decompress from the ride. Helping us both recover from workouts (me mentally, him physically) has been key for keeping his fugly legs from getting any fuglier.

There you have it. My OCD/Type A personality bringing all the crazy to the barn. And even still, I’m scared to say I’m going to Kentucky- just hoping that we’ll have the option at this point.