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.

Dressage Lesson Recap

Since I had Jack fully looked over, I noticed some major changes in him. First he was beautifully relaxed and swinging through his body. But he was also stiff through the left side of his neck, whereas he used to be more flexible to the left and stiffer to the right. There’s always been a stiffness in his left front, and a sensitivity in his right shoulder. In any case, there are more upsides than downsides, but since getting him totally checked out he’s been a little different in the bridle and the saddle, and some adjustments have been needed.

Combining that with the outright (repeat) slap in the face that was my last dressage test, I was having some major confidence issues. Though in previous lessons we’ve been focusing on moving up the levels, I asked to specifically look into certain aspects of the test that I knew would make it or break it in the Championships.

In this particular lesson, it was transitions that we discussed, since I’ve been frustrated with how bracing he’s been in transitions in the last couple weeks.

So at the beginning of our lesson, I asked E to get on and feel him out. Our first nugget came when she explained that she was feeling out his medium walk to free walk transition, where any tension in the transition is sure to first come up. Within each step of walk, she wants me to feel like I have the option to halt, so that he is sitting (versus leaning over his shoulders), and within that more correct balance ask for the trot depart.

I may be biased but gosh he’s purty

We then looked into working on my contact- many people let go with their fingers more than they realize, and even though that may feel “soft” to us, it can be confusing to the horse- much like having a conversation with someone on the phone and their voice is going in and out. Having a consistent connection is a much more palatable experience for the horse, and so we worked on my connection.

For this, she wrapped a straw in a tack sponge and placed that combination in each hand. The straws were meant to point up his neck, never to cross or point in. It’s a great visual indicator of what my hands are doing, since they are mostly in my peripheral vision and I can immediately see when they go astray. The sponge was to help me hold and keep a steadier connection.

I learned pretty quickly how difficult it was for me to truly keep my right hand closed- since it’s the more dextrous hand, it opens and moves more easily. So I had to work to keep my hand closed and my elbow soft, and using just my elbows to lengthen his neck made for a much better connection than I’ve had lately. Below if you look closely (and ignore the side conversation of my sweet and ridiculous barn family who are kindly videoing me) you can see the straws sticking out as I ride:

We also looked into his canter departs, both up and down to/from trot. These have also been a little sticky, and I have a hard time avoiding comments about him falling into the trot even when it feels pretty balanced. However, as you’ll hear in the video, I learned that’s not uncommon for big horses to struggle with that transition, and while I can manage it as much as possible it’s probably not going to be the highlight of the test- so aim for a 7 and move on. Also, enjoy more side commentary from the barn fam.

In general it was a good check in and some helpful reminders of the basics for Jack and I. With all the conditioning and focus on jumping we’ve been doing lately, the dressage work has been a bit neglected. But this lesson helped me get inspired to work on cleaning up some moments and making myself a better rider, hopefully to put our best foot forward at the AECs and also to be a better partner to him going forward.

 

 

Road to the AECs- A Review of my Worries: Part 1

If horses have taught me anything in life, it’s to take nothing for granted. So despite the fact that I have worked very hard, put lots of hours and certainly lots of dollars towards the goal that is the AECS, I’m all too aware of the fact that Jack could get an abscess at the last minute and all of my planning could go up in smoke. I realize that’s a bit of a cup half empty sort of approach, but that’s my current mindset.

There’s lot of little things that need to add up and go well to get to Kentucky and be able to participate, so I figured I would share a little bit of where my brain is / aka ask you to join in the anxiety that is my reality these days.

 

One of my main concerns, if indeed we make it to the point of actually traveling to Kentucky, is the trailer ride there. I’ve never [by myself] hauled a horse more than a few hours, and currently I am positioned to drive the better part of a day to another state.

Jack is an excellent loader, but not the world’s most casual rider. He doesn’t tend to eat in the trailer (in fact very rarely does he take a few bites even) and his typical MO includes peeing as soon as he gets on board. So, dehydration is an issues as well as keeping his stomach filled.

Not on the menu: Hands

I intend to load him up on omeprazole to keep his tummy happy, but I’m worried about how I’m going to get him to drink in the trailer. I was thinking I would have water in a large gas can (never used for gas of course) so that I could offer him water in a small bucket at stops, but I’m doubtful that he would actually accept such an offer.

I also am just straight up worried about him standing on a trailer for so many hours. I was thinking of investing in trailer eyes, but given the many costs of getting to this point, I’m having a hard time justifying it. To those who have trailer cameras- do you find it gives you peace of mind? Is it possible to find such things second hand?

And then, there’s the fact that I’ll more than likely be in the cab by myself, focusing on staying focused (a conundrum) and trying to keep myself from going insane. My truck doesn’t have bluetooth, but I’ll be looking into podcasts or audio books that I can download to my phone. I really enjoyed the Root of Evil podcasts, which was fascinating and macabre, and would love suggestions on your most entertaining ways to pass the time in the car.

Please, tell me your best practices for trailering such long distances! I hate driving, and all this is freaking me out!

 

Let’s Discuss: Speaking Up

As a competitive rider, I have probably been lucky to have only ever once had to explore my options for contesting anything in the world of eventing.

In that particular instance, I ended up talking with a TD, and in their role was able to understand better what the circumstances are and why they are so. It may have been born out of frustration, but I was satisfied to have had the opportunity to exercise my voice.

Recently, I have been frustrated by another competitive aspect- what I perceive to be unfair judging. And yes, if you were wondering, it relates to my most recent show; so I have decided not to go into details on what happened. Instead, I think it’s much more beneficial, not to mention interesting, to talk about the avenues that amateurs have in voicing their opinions.

We live in an exciting age, where social media is a double edged sword of empowerment and destruction.

Sometimes, it’s a force of evil- such as when a video of a high schooler smiling at a Native American went viral and people assumed he was being arrogant and confrontational. Many death threats ensued, among many other things, before it came to light that the aggressor instead had a different face and the young man was cleared of his assumed charges, though I’m sure he will long be judged by those that don’t know the full story.

Other times, social media helps stand up for those that have no voices. Most recently, social backlash prompted the FEI to look into what was clearly a case of neglect on the part of stewards, owners, and others. I’m thinking of Carollo, the horse that won a 5* jumping competition one day and then blundered his way through a derby course the next, obviously exhausted and without interference from the staff/stewards/etc at large. Now the rider is being investigated, and hopefully future riders will consider their horses more lest they rick public backlash of that magnitude.

But what happens when the stage is so much smaller? What happens when discrepancies and injustices happen at the local level? What would you do? What have you done?

I admit, I’m not even close to a TD- I don’t know the rule book back to front. I doubt myself and what I am doing if I speak up, and wonder if it will even matter.

But I’ve talked to the pros about my complaints, and despite my lack of formal education in the sport I am officially an amateur in, they are encouraging me to speak up. Because the amateur perspective is special in equestrian disciplines- horse sport isn’t up there with football and soccer and baseball or any other sport that has thousands (millions) of fans willing to just spectate while they support the sport with their dollars, our sport relies on the amateur riders who put their hard earned funds towards participation as its foundation of support. Without amateurs, it’s hard to imagine where eventing might be- Fair Hill, LRKY3DE… I’m not sure that any of the big events would exist without amateurs funding the way.

Eventing without amateurs be like…

So for the first time in my entire life, I am putting my mouth where my money is. I have a complaint, and as a long standing (albeit annual) member of the USEA and USEF, I have a right to exercise my voice. I feel inadequate doing it, and like I have to list every caveat in the world to explain myself… But dammit I know it’s worth doing.

Tell me, friends- when have you spoken up against (or for) leaders or practices in horse sport? How did you do it? Did you see results? Was it worth it? What were the stumbling blocks you encountered? What were the avenues you took?

 

Show Recap: July War Horse XC

I’m somewhat annoyed right now at how dressage went for our show yesterday, so I’m going to skip right ahead to the cross country element of the July Horse Trials we did yesterday.

The XC was soft, like, uncharacteristically soft for a War Horse show- normally it feels like they are out for blood with the course design, and while Training was super technical (2 full coffins for example), Novice was easy as pie. In fact, it was shorter than the Beginner Novice course.

The course itself was simple too- we had two separate 2 stride combinations, and a sunken road.

My only concern was really regarding the heat, and how Jack would recover. So I used his inhaler before heading out to jump (since it’s a schooling show), and added the Flair Nose Strip (thank you all for your suggestions- I read through the instructions several times and was able to figure it out!). Long story short, he came in feeling great. Puffing, but not heaving, despite the temps being in the 90s.

I finally brought out the GoPro again, so here’s your bird’s eye view of our short, easy, Novice outing.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have the energy to bitch about the dressage. Stay tuned.