Behind the Silence

If you’re wondering why this blog sort of dropped off a cliff activity-wise last year, you got a fairly good explanation in my last post. Fretting over Jack and dealing with his bubble-boy tendencies took up a lot of mental headspace that left me too drained to blog.

And then, when I wasn’t at the barn, often times I was behind a camera (trying to work off all those damn vet bills!). I did more than 40 photoshoots last year, and when you add up the tasks of scheduling, editing, and traveling to/from the session itself… well- I was busy. In a good way, but busy nonetheless. In looking back I recently put together the below graphic of an image from each session I did in 2018, and after posting it on my BGD page I of course immediately realized I have left off at least 2 sessions, and likely a few more.

2018 wasn’t all work and no play, though, because I did some traveling as well- fun stuff like WEG….

Where we ooooh’d and awwww’d over the magnificent ponies and enjoyed fun times with horsey friends. We also went to Paris!

Where we got in front of a camera for once! Shot by an Irish showjumper no less!

Oh, and then there was a trip to Great Meadows, supporting our insanely talented friend Ema conquer the tough XC track!

Not XC- hearts were too much in our throats to bother photographing

So there you have a small picture of why RotR (formerly House on a Hill) got little attention last year. I am hoping that Jack gets his ish together and that I have enough brainpower left to get this little blog up and running again though! So please stay tuned!

A List of 2018 Things I’d Rather not Happen Again

I purchased Jack in the summer of 2017, and was told the age-old adage about how thin skinned dilutes can be. (Thin/sensitive skin, thin soles, etc etc)

But it wasn’t until 2018 that I realized just how true that was, and what a fragile flower Jack really is. So in honor of my Sensitive Sally, here is a look back at the trouble the giant yellow pony has been in these last 12 months.

February 2018
Jack went off his food for several days and had a nasty runny nose. Not cool given that I’d been working so hard to put weight back on him after discovering that he’s a hard keeper in winter.

March 2018
Some slight NQRness up front ended up leading to a lameness workup and hock injections. Bye money, nice knowing you! (let’s be serious- did I ever have a surplus of cash since purchasing Jack (or ever) – no!). He also kicked himself in the hock at some point this month, right before a show, so I learned to do a double wrap that was changed every few hours to get us through.

April 2018
Hives. SO MANY FUCKING HIVES.

Halp! My horse is mutating!

May 2018
As soon as we weaned off the Dex, the hives started returning. Also, we had a small trailering accident which left some seriously jangled nerves for me and some scrape ups for Jack. Also I developed a stomach bug that left me incapable of eating for 4 days straight (and I love eating).

June 2018
June was an absolute shit show. Jack started having trouble catching his breath and so we introduced the horsey inhaler. Then he injured his eye and had to get an obscene amount of meds to heal him. Then he went NQR again and we thought we had collateral ligament damage.

July 2018
We took a fun (not) trip to Tryon where I had a standing MRI done on Jack and luckily most of the issues were in his fetlocks/coffin joint and some bone edema, which is better (respectively) than soft tissue. We started IRAP in the coffin joints and created a rehab plan that contained Jack to a teeny-tiny paddock outside to limit his movement.

August 2018
We started tack walking, only to get into trouble and interrupt our rehab plans. A massive tick attached itself to his front left pastern, causing considerable irritation and swelling in the area. We got that down, and then the fool creature kicked himself in that leg, scraping it and inducing a round of cellulitis. Giant fat leg, no riding, lots of stress.

Cellulitis that followed

September 2018
I traveled a TON, which meant that I couldn’t keep a solid eye on the creature. And apparently he behaved himself.

November 2018
Jack lost a shoe while I was gone, which was super inconvenient, since those shoes cost a small fortune and require ordering ahead of time. He tore up his foot while waiting for the shoe to come in, and ended up with lots of bruising aka more time off and a new obsession in how his feet look.

$$$$$

December 2018
We finally start to get back into lessons (jumping, since the dressage trainer was in Welly world). Jack seems tight/tense and I realized he was probably due to get his hocks injected again. Soooo that happened.

January 2018
Well, here we are. We’re still getting back into the swing of things. Jack gave us a colic scare on Monday after the show, but some banamine and a close eye from our barn manager got him back to rights.

 

So…. umm. Now that I’ve typed that all out. I’m slightly scared. PLEASE Jack, stay in one piece!!!

Show Recap: Pipe Opener BN – SJ

So apparently after dressage we were somehow able to hold our heads high. But of course, dressage is my strongest phase and there were plenty of opportunities for gaffs in showjumping – right now Jack and I’s weakest phase.

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Trainer had us start jumping when we were 5 riders out, since there was little point in overjumping him. He felt substantially more relaxed, and when we started jumping we were catching good(ish) distances and clearing the warmup fences with room to spare. The course looked like a good sort for us, lots of changes in direction to keep the yellow pony from gaining too much speed and snowballing as we went along.

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We didn’t.

Did I mention that the course looked good for us? Well yes, it did. In fact I was feeling pretty confident about it. The fences looked small (hallelujah!), the turns were nice, and the trainer and I were discussing about using this as an opportunity to take tighter turns. I may have taken that slightly too much to heart.

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See the below diagram for my might mistake. The grey dotted line represents the sane, though tight rollback that we were supposed to execute. The purple line… represents my amateur moment. Yes, not even two fences into the course I presented my horse face-first into the wing of a fence, and then decided to ask him to jump it anyways. Which he did. Good lord, I didn’t deserve that but many, many thanks, Jack.oops-01.jpg

Annnnnd after immediately seeing the humor of the situation and vocally apologizing to my coach, I proceeded to allow my brain to melt out of my ears and ride like shite for the rest of the course. Pretty sure there is only one line where we are actually on the correct lead. Because you know, besides eventing, embarrassing myself is like my next best hobby.

So enjoy the below video, where we go double clear despite my obvious attempts to sabotage us from fence 2. Where we solidify our second place finish out of 20 competitors. Where I feel sorry for the people who had to watch us (listen to the audio), and get confused about how they were supposed to go from 1 to 2 (hint: don’t do what I did).

Sorry Jack, I’ll do better next time.

Show Recap: Pipe Opener CT – BN – Dressage

Seriously, y’all, if we wanted an eventful first show, well this one delivered.

The week of was an absolute comedy of errors, with my day-job being turned upside down thanks to some executive decisions, a couple late-night benders including one that ended in a flat tire, and a lesson that included Jack and I both almost eating dirt (sand) in one spectacular miss.

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But I digress.

We arrived at the show in good time, and Jack seemed content to munch hay outside the trailer while I did some seriously last minute cleaning (because, see above: flat tire) so I looked presentable enough not to embarrass the trainer at our first outing in 8 months. Ha! I was worried about tack- that’s funny. That’s tomorrow’s post.

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Jack and I entered the warm up with about 25 minutes before our test. Not as much time as I’d like, but still enough for a schooling BN CT. He was fairly tense, and walking wasn’t quite the distraction he needed, so I quickly warmed up enough to canter and just let him move those muscles, and surely enough he started the settle some.

The person ahead of me headed over to the dressage court, and the ring steward hollered that I was on deck, and then all hell broke loose.

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Almost accurate representation of the events, except the dino ends up in the dirt

Yup. 25′ from us, one hot headed MF started bucking, sending his rider up onto his neck where she somehow stuck on for 3 bucks before hitting the dirt.

The now riderless horse goes careening around the busy warmup, dodging other horses and even running into a pair of riders standing next to the exit. And of course Jack is standing in the middle of the arena all:

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I dismounted, not trying to be some hero and realizing that I might be the next rider off, given that my 17h yellow creature was blowing at everything in sight and his tail was straight up in the air. That’s a long way to fall, thank you very much.

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It wasn’t.

At that point, there was no real way to get back to any sort of relaxation. I got back on and attempted to soften Jack’s bran with some leg yielding circles and transitions, but all of the sudden I was sitting on a rather long, tall, yellow brick with anxiety coursing through its veins.

I can’t tell you in detail how the test went, but I can tell you that I exited thinking I had earned my first 40. I knew there were a couple good moments, but it was definitely only 50% compared to the tests we’d been practicing at home. I was bummed knowing that we weren’t getting a score that reflected all the hard work of late.

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Imagine my surprise that the judge loved us. What can I say- maybe she likes yellow ponies. Maybe our turnout gave us bonus points. Maybe the few good moments were in all the right places. I don’t know. But we were in 2nd after dressage out of 20 competitors, and I honestly wondered if they had switched my score with someone else’s accidentally.

 

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And so ended the dressage phase of our first show back.

The NOT-so Steady Eddie

Jack is lovely. Like, the more I get to know the giant yellow pony, the more I love him. And it’s been 1.5 years officially now, so you know, he’s grown on me.

But one thing both my trainers have always told me, as if I needed to know, (though I hang on their every word- after all I respect it enough to pay for it by the hour), is that- well, this horse is not exactly a dead head. In fact, more often he is just an outright spaz.

See last night’s BN-A practice:

This was our second attempt at the test that we are doing this weekend. The first run-through was okay but marred by lots of tension and a little rushy. Since I felt like the next attempt would be better, I asked a barnmate to record before I went down centerline again.

For Jack this is fairly typical- we’re getting more and more moments of relaxation, but homeboy is always on alert to some degree, hence the spooks. What I’m most pleased about in watching this is how quickly he settles back into work- early in our relationship he would spook, then I would get tense, then he would get more tense, and, well, you can see that would be difficult to resolve.

Knowing that there won’t be mirrors around the dressage court at CHP, nor cell phones appearing out of nowhere, hopefully there’s a shot at getting a more confident test out of him on Saturday. We’ll see 🙂

Product Review: Stubben Easy Control Gag

So, if you recall, my next step after pissing off Jack (by demanding he not go hollow before jumping) was to purchase a gag bit, specifically, the Stubben Easy Control 3 Ring Gag Bit. Try saying that one 3 times fast!

Luckily, Riding Warehouse had exactly what I needed. I didn’t want to spend a fortune (defined as >$100) on a bit, and I really didn’t want to have to change out the cheek pieces on my bridle to accommodate a more traditional gag. The latter mostly because we have fussed with Jack’s bridle setup so much that I didn’t want to do it all over again.

The 3 ring gag allows for you to attach the cheek piece to the small ring, and the rein goes on the bottom, larger ring. The gag action is then only activated when enough rein is applied that the edge of the mouthpiece cannot slide further up (or down) the shaft. To describe it more fully, RW’s description states thus:

When the reins are engaged with light pressure, the mouthpiece acts as a snaffle, but as pressure increases, it functions as a mullen mouth. The ergonomically shaped mouthpiece fits comfortably in the horse’s mouth, while the three-piece design eliminates the nutcracker effect or palate pressure for a more comfortable ride.

The unique cheekpieces offer the traditional “gag” action through a sliding mouthpiece which promotes stronger poll pressure, providing the rider with more control. Also, a stronger lateral effect is achieved due to the center connection of the mouthpiece to the cheek pieces. This aids in avoidance of the bit and provides correction to resistance of direct rein pressure. The sliding gag mechanism is quicker due to the center fulcrum for enhanced communication between horse and rider.

This works well for us, since on the flat Jack has a very nice, polite mouth and a stronger bit isn’t needed. When the gag was activated as we approached a fence, however, he was definitely surprised.

I admit, the first lesson trying out this bit over fences wasn’t pretty. All of the sudden I did have so much more control, and he was no longer charging at the fences like a lunatic giraffe. Instead, we were able to quietly canter up to each jump, then Jack would occasionally throw his head up, hit the gag, surprise himself, but still jump the fence. By the end of the lesson there were less ‘surprise’ fences and overall Jack was learning that using his back in a bascule was a much more pleasant experience for us both.

While the bit is obviously well made (I trust Stubben in many things, and this piece of equipment is no exception), my only complaint was that it seemed on the small size for a 5.5″. While it fit well enough to test, I ended up going back to the site to check into exchanging it for a larger size. And sure enough, saw this fine print in the Product Details that I had missed:

Please Note: To protect your horse from possible pinching, use one size larger than your normal snaffle.

Yup. Thar she blows.

In yesterday’s lesson, I had him in the larger size of the bit, but with the addition of bit guards to keep a close feel on his mouth. You can see he’s still fighting with me a bit, particularly when I go to push him off my left leg/flex him left, but overall it’s a HUGE difference from the monstrosity that he was just a month ago.

Overall, this bit may be our saving grace. I give it a hearty A+, for giving us the ‘easy control’ it promised!

 

Playing with Fire: 2019 HOPEFUL Schedule

Just in case you didn’t see my disclaimer already, I’m posting it again. Because one cannot knock on wood too many times, yes? (Unless you’re OCD like me, then the answer is probably definitely yes)

Disclaimer: Dear Lord, if you happen to read this blog, or see into my thoughts, or what have you, please know that these are hopes and I’m not overly ambitious. Or I’m hoping not. I will work hard towards all the ideas that are to follow, and should you deem that my more lofty goals be too much, I only ask you please spare my horse’s soundness. Please keep him safe on the roads that he travels with me. And I apologize for the over-indulgence in wine for the last several years. Amen.

So, assuming that all the riding/training goals of yesterday’s post get accomplished, here is my wish list of events to attend this year. Written in the digital version of the most erasable pencil ever.

Jan 12 – Pipe Opener CTBN
We’re signed up for this already, and we’re hopefully just going to pop around at BN and get our sea legs back!

Feb 3 – Sporting Days Recognized HTBN
Maaaaaaybe. 
Depends on how he’s going, if it’s financially feasible, and a lot of other poop. It’s in Aiken, which is an almost 5 hour haul. And I hate driving that much.

Feb 16 – Pipe Opener CT IINovice
If all goes to plan (again, see disclaimer) I would love to get back to Novice level at this show

March 9 – Southern Pines Recognized HTNovice
Eeeek this is where I scare myself.

April 20 – Longleaf Recognized HTNovice


May 11 – May War Horse Schooling HTNovice
Includes the possibility of just schooling XC in case I decide to do option B

OR

May 25 – Paradise Farm Recognized HTNovice
Because I’ve heard such good things about this place, I’d love to fit it in!


June 15 –War Horse Schooling HTNovice

OR

June 22 – Stable View Recognized HTNovice
Another gorgeous facility in Aiken. This one will depend on how we are doing competitively because….


Aug 27 – AMERICAN EVENTING CHAMPIONSHIPNovice
OK now I’m terrified. But I said it. Wrote it. Typed it. Whatever. I’d be fulfilling a life dream if I can make this happen. And it’s at the Kentucky Horse Park!

The sloth hath spoken.

2019 Goals

Disclaimer: Dear Lord, if you happen to read this blog, or see into my thoughts, or what have you, please know that these are hopes and I’m not overly ambitious. Or I’m hoping not. I will work hard towards all the ideas that are to follow, and should you deem that my more lofty goals be too much, I only ask you please spare my horse’s soundness. Please keep him safe on the roads that he travels with me. And I apologize for the over-indulgence in wine for the last several years. Amen.

OK, now that I’ve done as much as I know how, in terms of not jinxing myself…. Here is what I hope to accomplish in 2019. Always, always, with a caveat though.

Dressage:

  • Get out walk-canter departs down easy-peasy
  • Start incorporating counter-canter into our rides
  • Show at first level at a show
  • Get a sub-30 score at an event

Gonna rock out centerline like…

Cross Country:

  • Get quicker about making adjustments
  • Make ditches boring
  • Get back up to Novice, maybe school an occasional Training level fence

Showjumping:

  • Go double clear in a show (for Heaven’s sake? Please!)
  • Get my leg strong again
  • Don’t lean at the fences/ be better with my position

Pretty much every round we’ve ever had

You ready 2019? Let’s do this.

 

 

2018: A Year in Review

This year was… tough. But also exciting? Mostly tough though.

To recap:

We started out the year at BN, because honestly the half year before (since I bought him in June) had been about getting to know him, getting to trust him (since he’s such a spooky yellow moose) and then finally growing our skills.

I realize I didn’t post this on its own page, but I did apparently capture my 2018 goals in a post, and it’s worth revisiting them here.

The Horse

Get his weight up.
Done, well, for the most part. A chat with the vet today decided it would be better to get even more weight on him. I figured out what it takes to keep a gigantic worrywort of a horse in decent weight, and the key is: a shit ton of food. Alfalfa hay, alfalfa pellets, boost, rice bran… it’s obscene.

Gain confidence cross country.
Our last trip across the country, I really felt this, and was thrilled. He was hunting fences. He was game, and forward, and I actually had to think about settling him rather than taking the temptation to let him rip and go more forward. It was a great feeling, and I hope that despite his time off it won’t take him long to get back there.

March 2018 BN

Go penalty free at a recognized show.
Well, not yet. We only had 2 recognized shows, but both were not clear in the SJ phase. More work to do there!

Move up to Novice.
Done and dusted this one!

Ride a First Level test
Yeah, this didn’t happen because of us ended our season in May. Hoping to move this to 2019!!

The Photography

Book 1 Gold Session/month from March – November
I’m going to mark this as a success, having done a minimum of the equivalent of a Gold session each month except for September (and I was gone to WEG and Paris that month- can’t shoot if I’m not here!)

Implement a referral program.
Eh, sort of but didn’t put much effort into getting it off the ground.

This was such a fun shoot!

Plan at least one out-of-state photog trip.
Another sort of success. I shot Bette and Chimi while at WEG, and in the process of booking a trip to Welly world right now!

Save up for the Holy Grail of lenses
Done! Jury’s out on whether or not she’s a lemon though. Unfortunately.

Start shooting with more precision.
I haven’t gotten around to back-button focusing yet, but am definitely making the most of all those focus points on the D750. Give myself a B- on this one!

The Blog

Commit to 3 posts each week
Bahahahaha Obviously this didn’t happen. It’s hard to come up with content when months of your horse’s year were just chilling in the field.

Try and get back in the groove of reading everyone’s blogs.
Also a big nope. Work really took off this year, and I pretty much had zero brain cells left for thinking about other people’s blogs. I did what I could, and hope to get back to it in 2019!

Lots of fails/mixed successes in this category. But hey, we went to Paris and dressed up!

Write some posts for The Plaid Horse!
Done! Didn’t write all the posts on the docket, but these came out:

Host my first giveaway!
This was also done! What a super way to collaborate with other awesome Horsey brands! I hope the winners still enjoy their spoils 😀

 

Overall, this year wasn’t perfect, though I guess what year is? I hope 2019 will be a lot more successful. Goals in a post to come!

Blogger Secret Santa and Small Victories

I’ve been totally remiss in blogging, and I definitely can’t forget to blog about my awesome Secret Santa gift! This is always a fun activity that I look forward to each year – Tracy does such a good job connecting folks, and I love discovering new blogs and learning about other equestrian bloggers through their descriptions!

This year was another new blog to me, and Nadia from 3 Day Adventures obviously did her research, and I simply adore this wine bag (made by also Equestrian blogger Beljoeor!) and will absolutely be rocking it at our first CT on Jan 12th!

Annnnnnd then you can pretty much NEVER go wrong with a picture of someone’s pony, and I love seeing this photo of Jack in mousepad form! It reminds me of how deliciously golden he gets and what he looks like in peak (or what was peak) condition. I absolutely treasure seeing this every time I sit down at my computer (which is to say, a lot). Thank you SO much Nadia for the sweet gifts- I love how practical these are and will absolutely be using them tons in 2019!

Isn’t he cute??? Though I prefer golden Jack to creamsicle Jack…

In other news, Christmas was a super fun time of connecting with the family, but I’m looking forward to planning 2019 and seeing what it has in store for Jack and I. A lot has changed since my last post, and I am pleased to announce that my horse no longer hates me. The bit I ordered has seen a lot of action, and I have some strong opinions on it that I will be sharing soon in a review post.

Annnnnd I’ll also be posting about those 2019 goals, though I admit I’m somewhat scared of putting them down “on paper”, so expect lots of caveats (LOTS – this being the digital way to knock on wood, I suppose) as that one comes out.

In truth, I really hope that 2019 represents a bit of a return to blogging. If my goals (wishes? outermost desires? please universe don’t jinx me) work out then there will be lots to write about!