The Move Up

Until I get to walk the course Friday afternoon, my feelings about our move up to Novice are running quite the gambit. Even though I know we have been jumping at that height for some time, occasionally it still happens that I get off Jack and stand next to the fence and go:

Riding both a behemoth of a horse, and never setting the fences myself (since I don’t really jump outside of lessons these days) will do that to you I guess. My trainer believes in me though, and feels like this is totally doable. Hell- we even jumped the ditch (yes, that ditch) in our lesson the other day with minimal drama. That was a major win in and of itself, no matter how this weekend goes.

It was November of 2013 that I last went Novice, and I remember how much fun I was having, right up until I got that TE for missing a fence.

…and there it goes.

So redemption would be pretty awesome. Which is why my only goals for this show are:

  • Jump all the jumps
  • Jump them in the right order
  • Don’t fall off (pleasssse)

Besides that, I just need to remember to breathe.

PS is anyone else stupid excited about the new JP movie? I am.

PLANS ((plans))

After our successful outing at the Southern Pines Horse Trials, I can’t help but turn my attentions to what’s next. Of course everything, and I do mean everything, when it comes to horses has to be written in pencil instead of pen, but still it is good to have goals.

So happy because he thinks we’re galloping back to the barns

Speaking of goals, I realized that my Goals and Results pages have been thoroughly neglected ever since things with Foster fell apart. Expect updates there shortly!
After SPHT, the next big thing on the schedule is another show at the Horse Park, this one April 21-22- the Longleaf Pine HT. Sorry not sorry if you’re bored by how often I go to the Carolina Horse Park. I freaking love that place.

So trainer and I discussed what to sign up for, and she feels confident that Novice should be very doable. So, with that said, one month from now we’ll be eyeing our official move up.

So blasé about this height

Hearing that recommendation from my trainer made for 1 part eye bulge, and another part relief that BN could be a thing of the past. This is where the whole pencil spiel comes in, because who the heck knows what could happen in the next month, so this should all be taken with a heavy does of salt. Because, you know, horses.
So now I’ve got a new test to start memorizing, and prepping to do. Not only does Novice B have another stupid diagonal-centerline combo, but it also has the dumb turns from B to E right across the arena. But even still, I’m tentatively excited to be maybe (maybe maybe maybe) back at Novice next month!

Show Recap: SPHT XC

Sunday morning I did my final walk through of the cross country with the trainer, and got a bit of a knowledge drop on how best to navigate what was a very friendly looking course. We discussed the need to really ride to fence 4, which was giving some people trouble with its spooky grain bags. Likewise to swing wide to fence 7 so the right run-out towards the barns wasn’t so tempting.

Bank to rolltop combination I was worried about

Though we went screaming and prancing all the way out to the course, we actually had a brilliant warmup and I went out to the start box feeling confident that we could execute our plan. Here’s how it went (and please forgive the language about halfway through):

All in all, it was a great run. While he needed a little convincing in the beginning, we eventually found a rhythm. It was a blast letting him go a bit up the big hill after fence 10, and I can feel that Novice speed is going to be nothing for Jack. In fact, we did our course at 375 meters/min which was the marked Novice speed for the event. Hence my wondering about speed faults at the end of our round.

PC: Brant Gamma

Each outing, Jack gets more and more confident, and throwing down a double clear round and became more and more rideable as we went along was an amazing feeling. He still needs support and confidence from me, but we’re feeling more like a team. Because I blazed around the XC, we lost the tie breaker for 2nd, and the yellow pony earned a matching yellow ribbon for his efforts. But to be competitive at his first recognized show is an awesome feeling, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the weekend.

Show Recap: SPHT Stadium

After learning that we were at the top of the charts after dressage, that really put the pressure on to go clear in the jumping phases. And you know what they say… when you’re at the top, the only way to go is down. And you know what comes down? Brightly colored sticks.

The showjumping course- very friendly overall

Our warm up went pretty well, but as we now know, that doesn’t mean that Jack will go in the ring all calm and collected-like. So the plan was to go in the ring and go– forward and packaged and get him thinking straight where possible. We expected 4 to be a little sticky because it was an oxer that appeared to be jumping into the stands, and 9a-9b was giving folks trouble all day because of the astroturf filler, but otherwise thinking positive and moving seemed to provide rewarding rides.

Even though we had a rail down (dammmmmmit), this was still our best round to date in terms of how obedient and relaxed Jack was once we found a rhythm. I did have to growl at him approaching 5 when I felt him back off a bit, but that’s just kind of how Jack is at the moment so I won’t fault him for that.

Our rail bumped us from 1st to tied for 2nd- still in the ribbons heading to XC and a fun course there awaiting us as well! Tomorrow we wrap it up!

Show Recap: Pinehurst Schooling Dressage

Sunday we went to the Pinehurst Harness Track to get some more mileage at Beginner Novice Test B, which is the test for the big recognized doozie this weekend. Instead of doing 2 different tests, I actually chose to do BN-B twice, and save some precious brain cells in the process.

We got to the Harness Track and squeezed into a spot along the rail (thank goodness for my teeny rig), got Jack tacked up and hustled to the warmup. He had gotten Perfect Prep Gold the day before, and PP Supreme before getting on the trailer, and I don’t know if it was that or just happenstance but while alert and looking around, once I was in the tack he gave me the best warm up to date.

Our first test was obedient with moments of tension, namely in the corner at K where he fixated on departing trailers and other new things. We scored a 70.5% (29.5) for this one, and the video is below:

Following that, we had roughly 15 minutes before going back in, and made good use of a warm up area just outside the ring so that we could get his attention focused on me near scary K. It worked, and while test B felt better in many ways, Jack got the idea to start hollering through pieces of it, which apparently the judge didn’t like. We got a 70.25% (29.75) for that one. Nothing like being consistent, eh?

As you can see, the highlights in both tests were the left trot circle, left lead canter, free walk, and final centerline. Everywhere else there are subtle differences, as he was tense in different places between the two tests.

In general, I’m pretty thrilled with the outing. Jack got some more experience in the dressage court, I got to test out Perfect Prep products, and we achieved our goal (albeit barely) of scoring in the 20s. Our dressage trainer got to see him in a show environment and help us formulate a plan for the warm up at the Southern Pines HT. So all in all, despite no blue ribbons, it was a big win-win!

Pipe Opener Recap: Jumping

Expanding on yesterday’s dressage recap, after dressage I was slightly meh about my test, but determined to still give a good go of the showjumping. I paid in advance for an extra round, with the expectation that he would be his normally spooky self in the show arena (which he was) and give him a more confidence building experience the second time round.

Since Jack started out being looky at the lakes puddles that dominated the facility that day, I purposely got his feet wet over and over again in the warmup ring- not hard to do when the “puddles” are almost 20′ wide. This gave me hope that I wouldn’t be swimming once we got into the arena proper, since there was literally no approach from 6B to fence 7 that avoided a splash zone.

After confidently navigating the water, we had a beautiful warmup, thanks to friend C channeling the trainer’s words from Tuesday’s lesson. I actually felt like my leg was under me, and for the most part that my shoulders were back, and Jack felt lovely and supple and relaxed. Where is that horse for dressage??

She helps me tack, warm up, and video- also her hair is fabulous!

But all that relaxation went away as predicted the moment we stepped into the competition ring. Just like all the previous times, he would basically ping off of all the fences while I tried to assure him these were fences of the non-horse-eating variety. Enter again lots of verbal praise to calm the big weenie.

Accurate representation of Jack on course

Beyond that, we had a decent go.

Except for this. Right here. On the last fence, and the last foot over- cost us a rail that moved us from a potential 3rd place to tied for 7th.

Oh well.

We sat around for 20 minutes and came back in for our schooling round, and I was shocked to find Jack more spooky on re-entry than before. I can only figure that he was tired at this point and backed off. So we really didn’t get to smooth anything out until after fence 4. You’ll see in the video that he comes back to a trot, and I think the adrenaline wore off and I actually was able to give him more of a decent ride than before.

Overall, I’m really happy with the big blondie. We got all our leads, and even though we got a couple wonky spots (including a deep one I asked him for- sorry buddy but waiting is a thing), in general it felt way smoother than our last time there in November.

I believe the plan is to shoot for Novice height at the next SJ outing at the end of January. We’ve also got a cross country schooling this weekend if the weather cooperates! All the things!!!

Show Recap: November War Horse BN XC

Having walked my course three times I felt confident that THIS time, I had no excuse for any kind of amateur moment. I knew that thing backwards and forwards, and though my feet hated me, I was sure I would remember my way around all 17 obstacles.

The course was nice in that it built in difficulty as it went along. Fences 1-4 were really straight forward, with the first question being a log pile on a slanted hill at fence 5. From there you went through the water and out over an inviting roll top, straight on to the world’s widest BN fence, and then a nice gallop up and down terrain to some combinations.

The second combination was what I was most unsure about- a log pile, followed by a U-turn left to a down bank and then slight bending line to a roll top. The only time I had ever done a bank with Jack was during the trial period, and that was only once down a baby (18″) bank. But I figured if I kicked on we would be fine.

One thing I noticed he struggled with at the last show was cantering down hills- Jack wants to come back to a trot immediately- so I decided this was an excellent thing we could practice to stay in rhythm through this course.

We had a bee-yutiful warm up and we felt really synced as I left the start box, and from there you can ride along with us:

My constant nattering will tune you in to where he shined, though it’s hard to tell from this vantage point where I felt him backing off or losing straightness as he made his way around the course. Fence 4 may have been “not cute” because we both got distracted by a person walking behind it, and a car driving behind it that you can’t see on video. The bank was a little bit of a scramble as well.

All in all I was beyond thrilled with how he built confidence through the course, and I admit I’m proud of myself for kicking on, even if I wish I was a little less talkative on course.

Our double clear round helped us stay in 3rd place- just .5 points out of contention for the bottle of wine that was 2nd place’s prize, and a healthy 10 points behind 1st- but considering Bobby Meyerhoff ran Rolex this year, I’m OK with that.

The show was a great way to end our short little season, and I have to say- I’m becoming a heck of a fan of the big banana boat!

Looking ahead: Goals for November War Horse HT

This weekend marks what may be our final competition of the year. I’ve got a recognized event penciled in on the calendar, but I suspect we are not quite ready to make that kind of commitment, though I am sorely tempted.

So, with that in mind, and knowing a bit more about Jack with 3 shows under our belts, I have a few goals in mind for our second Beginner Novice Horse Trials.

  1. End on a number and not a letter.
    This is priority number one. No goofing and getting a technical elimination on my part, no tossing me off into the dirt on Jack’s part. Just stick together and jump all the jumps in the right order.
  2. Score in the low 30s dressage.
    We’re still refining those dressage skillz, but I feel like I should be able to ask more of him than in September. Depending on how tired he is, I may even wear spurs (gasp!) to get a little more oomph. The main goal is not to receive a comment about needing more push from behind.
  3. Double clear SJ and XC
    This is totally doable, and mostly requires me to keep my head in the game and my leg on. For XC, I would really like to get a good momentum going and keep it through the course rather than have the stutter-stop rhythm we had before.
  4. Have Jack be a happier creature in his stall
    I’m going to have some Perfect Prep, and Ulcergard, handy and at the ready for the show. Since we will be sans friends on the trailer, I hope the experience will be a slightly less stressful one for everyone.

Fingers crossed!

 

 

Show Recap: Running Start BN Combined Training

Saturday, Jack and I (with the help of our amazing friend C) headed out to do a quick Combined Training event in Southern Pines. The goal was to get a little more exposure and get a confidence building round. Essentially we were to do our dressage test, go back to the trailer for a tack change, jump, and head home again.

Jack’s dressage test was okay. The next time I take him out I’ll be adding spurs, because I feel as though his tension translates into getting behind my leg, and I definitely was not able to be nearly as quiet as I am at home. Still, the judge liked him well enough, giving him an 8 on the following movements, as well as his gaits:

  • Trot circle right
  • Change rein KXM
  • Trot circle left
  • Change rein HXF
  • Downward transition to trot
  • Free walk
  • Upward trot transition + turn down centerline

We got dinged overall for our hollow moments which was not surprising- again I know that we are going to have hollow canter transitions for some time until we re-wire Jack to use his hind end instead of his massive shoulders to change gait. The test scored a 29 (71%) with plenty of room for improvement.

Our jump warm up was also just okay, and I needed a swift kick in the butt to hold to the base of the fence. Our jumping round was then the total opposite, as each fence impressed Jack more and more and we got ugly chippy distances and even a stop at the swedish oxer (which is fine- that’s a new question to him and no ground line). So after having cowboyed him through the course, I was not satisfied and quickly requested a schooling round, which is what you see below.

It’s amazing what change you can effect when you actually ride. I was really thrilled with the result and felt like Jack would have a very positive note to end on. The pony got lots of pats and stuffed full of treats and we were homeward bound.

Thanks to a brain fart on my part, we likely won’t be competing in October, but definitely lots of lessons and hopefully even a clinic with a certain former trainer of ours. The more miles the better!

Show Recap: September War Horse Final Thoughts

Our only real goal for the War Horse Show was to end on a number and not a letter with Jack. With Riley, it was to show him off to potential buyers and just have fun. The other goal with Jack was just to experience our first overnight show together, which was exceptionally revealing in helping me understand my new horse’s brain.

Things I learned my horse will get anxious about:

  • Being left in his stall
  • Other horses whinnying
  • A random fence not on course in the showjumping ring
  • Footing, particularly going downhill
  • Leaving his buddies

Things I learned my horse will not get anxious about (even if I do):

  • Horses galloping toward him and away
  • Crazy horses in warmup
  • Tents/bikes/dogs
  • Being put to work

Things I learned/remembered about myself:

  • Seriously, I must walk my course 3 times. 3 TIMES!!!
  • My friends are the bomb-diggity
  • If I tell myself to dig deep, I can and will. No more excuses for riding like a sack of potatoes!
  • I really need to find my damn pinny holder
  • Porta-potty advertising is the best advertising (as a show that is)
  • I can ask more of Jack and expect him to rise to the occasion

There are so many things that I walked away from the show knowing that I can implement next time. The more exposure and miles we get together, the better off we are going to be!