Show Recap: Longleaf HT Novice Dressage

By now I feel fairly confident in Jack’s show routine, and he’s starting to feel a little more confident in it too.

He needs time to get to the venue and take it all in, so Friday we got there nice and early (before the potentially-tornado-holding-storms arrived) and went on a long flat ride. I made myself do a full 20 minutes of work at the walk- which normally means lateral work (shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yield, walk half pass in each direction) until he settles, and then work on stretchy walk and medium walk transitions. When he feels loose, we start doing a baby trot and working in almost-walk and actual walk transitions to get him listening to my half halts. This also so far is exactly what my ‘pre-ride’ looks like the next day.

Eventually I’ll start doing canter transitions and work through a few elements of my test before finding a quiet calm note to end on. Jack was really good and relaxed Friday, and came back mentally very quickly despite the fact that the tent catching the wind like a sail occasionally caused a spook or two.

Saturday, I got him out of his stall and went for a walk around the grounds before tacking him up and doing said pre-ride. We stopped after one canter depart in each direction and a centerline, so that he still had plenty of gas in the tank for our dressage test later.

So by the time we got to our actual dressage warm-up, Jack had seen the rings from a riding point of view twice. He felt relaxed, even a tish lazy, so I was careful not to go too crazy getting him really forward in the warmup and leave nothing for us in the dressage court. A quick glance from the coach to make sure we didn’t look terrible, and we went over to the ring.

Jack being a spooky guy, I made sure to walk him around the perimeter of the arena a couple times and give him lots of scratches next to the judge. I felt pretty confident going down centerline, and was disappointed when we had 2 decent sized spooks mar our test.

The judge practically had to score us down for the one approaching E since it was so obvious, which was unfortunate. Otherwise the test felt obedient and I made sure to show good geometry as much as possible.

I knew I didn’t have the free walk I really wanted, but didn’t want to put too much leg on and break gait, so subsided with getting the reach and swing without having the forward I would have liked. I also overshot centerline slightly, but overall was happy with the quality of the test, despite the couple bobbles.

The judge rewarded us with a 26.4, putting us at the top of the leaderboard going into cross country.

But more on cross country tomorrow!

Show Recap: SPHT Novice XC

Sunday the sun finally came out, and it warmed up enough to make everything feel a bit cheerier. While the footing out on the course was definitely torn up in some places, for the most part it actually helped to churn up the grass in the slickest places.

The warm up ring was a huge improvement over the day before (thank goodness, because I’m not sure I could have survived another), and we had a quick canter and gallop about before tossing in a couple fences and heading to the start box. Holly had me thinking about galloping away from the jump, which admittedly I can forget to do in the excitement of having reached the other side of the fence. Oops.

Overall though, the course was a nice first go back, and featured a couple long gallops between spurts of fences (fences 1-4 were together, then 6-11, then 12-16). Because of the wetness I just let him cruise without pushing down the long stretch after fence 4 (some of which you can see in the video), and brought him to a trot where there were tighter turns to fences since we don’t have studs.

While a couple fences felt a little rusty (he jumped me out of the tack over 1 that we got in deep to, and then hit a big table at the end fairly hard that was at the top of a hill), overall it was a pretty confidence building run. We came in more than 30 seconds under the optimum time and though tired, Jack was convinced he could keep on running. He pranced back to the barn hollering his head off, and looked no worse for wear under strong scrutiny.

Could care less about the ribbon- more interested in wondering where all his friends are going

Thanks to our clear jumping rounds, we finished in second place. The most exciting thing about this is of course that it qualifies us for the AEC’s later this year, which has been a dream of mine since FOREVER.

Now to keep the golden boy in one piece, and get another couple recognized shows in to seal the deal!

Show Recap: SPHT Novice Showjumping

Friday night around 4pm, it started raining.

I walked my XC course in a downpour. Poor souls tried to ride their horses or unload their trailers in the wet, and slowly our showgrounds turned into a city of drowned rats. Where there were puddles, lakes appeared, and the only upside was that the water complexes were looking more and more inviting as our horses desensitized themselves to wet toes.

This was all fine for the moment, as I smugly enjoyed hiding under the overhang cleaning tack, having already ridden and unpacked. And then I realized that we were warming up for showjumping on grass that was getting slicker by the minute.

And though the next day it had stopped raining, it didn’t get any dryer. So this is pretty much how the warmup went:

And of course I shared my SJ warmup with a couple of folks riding horses that were hellbent at killing us all. They went sideways, they went up, there was head tossing and rearing and cursing, and it was so slick that I couldn’t turn fast to get out of the way.

Jack handled it amazingly well- but as for me, well:

all while shooting bullets at people with my eyes

The trainer was wondering what the hell was wrong with me, while my brain was quietly cooking inside my head. I was relieved then when it was time to head over to the ring and leave that hot mess behind us.

Despite all that, our course was actually one of our best to date. Jack is really settling into his role as show horse, and bar a dumb spook turning to the final line, was fairly rideable throughout. For myself, I am finally learning to sit up, but still got a little leany about halfway through, causing Jack to pick up the pace and put in less balanced approaches. #mybad

So, coming in almost 10 seconds under, we survived wrapped up showjumping and then sat in second before cross country.

It’s a miracle!

 

Show Recap: SPHT Novice dressage

It’s been a hell of a week. And at times when I wanted to blog most I had either no time, no brainpower, or no computer handy. #firstworldproblems amirite?!

But onto the show.

For the last couple months, I’d been working though the Novice B test in a committed way- something about those changes of direction from B to E and vice versa give me a certain form of heartburn. Add in that out right lead center depart had been, let’s say, a bit dramatic/erratic, and I was more than a little worried.

As most horse folks know, recognized shows are not exactly cheap. They represent a significant investment monetarily,  and of course also occupy a decent chunk of mental space and hours preparing to boot. They aren’t exactly a throw-away scenario, and I wanted this show to count, as much as possible. Feeling like I hadn’t prepared enough was the scenario I wanted to avoid most.

Anyways, that is all to say that I schooled the hell out of that test. Mostly not all at once but in pieces, because I’ve discovered that this is the best way to avoid serious frustration and make for a better test in the long run.

We arrived at the show Friday just after lunch, and had plenty of time to do a long walk warmup (like 25 min) before running through a test situation. Saturday I did my pre-ride as planned, and though tense at first, felt like Jack settled fairly well.

Our warmup for the actual event was not quite as relaxed, but with a bit of coaching he felt as good as possible and we entered the ring early.

Bar the free walk, I really am quite happy with the test. There were moments when I felt like I could have asked for more impulsion, but at the risk of getting tense, I feel ok with the result. The only part that really fries me is the free walk- normally this is an easy 8 or 9 for us. But as you can hear in the video, our OK-ish free walk was also interrrupted by a big spook in the ring next to us, just out of sight of the camera. Jack looked up understandably, then came back to me like the good boy he is, but in a short arena even that blip was enough to earn us a 6.5.

In the end, we ended up scoring a 27.4, which earned us 3rd place in a pack of 16. I won’t lie that the free walk score sort of sticks in my craw, but luckily some well meaning Instagram folks have been good about giving me a better way of looking at things.

I guess, when you’ve been building up for a return like this, or a show that you’ve been preparing for for months at a time, you let it become this gargantuan goal that it should never be. Horses are animals, and even if yours is perfect, it doesn’t mean that someone else’s isn’t going to be a distraction. That ended up being true for show jumping as well, which I’ll get into tomorrow.

Horses, man. Always a teaching opportunity. Always giving us an opening to become a better, wiser human being. Gosh darn it, we have to love them and hate them for that. Anyways, tomorrow (if I’m lucky), I’ll recap SJ!

Show Recap: Jack’s Novice CT with another pilot

While I was in sunny Florida stalking gorgeous [$$$] ponies, my own pony was trudging through the mud and muck, competing with another rider. Before the show she had taken a jumping lesson on him, and flatted him once on her own. Luckily though, she’s a talented rider (just placed 2nd at Pine Top’s Prelim!) and sensitive enough to absolutely have no problem with my occasionally spastic yellow pony.

Since I wasn’t there, I can’t go into the day in detail, but obviously it didn’t go too shabby. Together they scored a 27.9 in Dressage, which was fourth after a 3-way tie for 1st place (score 27.1 – dang it!). The video shows a test that is accurate with only small moments of tension, and I’m pleased that Jack had a fairly confidence boosting experience.

Then there was showjumping. Jack typically warms up beautifully for showjumping, then goes into the arena and ‘pings’ off all the fences in total sensory overload (the colors! the ferns! the poles! ah!). And you can see that A had a bit of that ride herself, though she implements the gag bit better than I to get his frame in a better shape so we wouldn’t go hollow over the fences.

They did get one rail, as you can see- where he got hollow on the approach and took out the back rail of an oxer. But overall, again, a really nice round that looked more settled than normal. Which is all I wanted!

Fake news

They accidentally recorded an extra rail, but Jack would have placed 5th overall. Since it’s a CT, and I wasn’t riding, I could care less, but it was good to see that overall he did fairly well in a course that looked like it caused lots of rails down.

In general, I’m happy with the experience that this rider gave him. I would say I would have preferred myself to be in the tack, but given the weather conditions, I won’t – Florida was glorious and that show looked wet and miserable. #sorrynotsorry

The next time we hit up the horse park it will be for a recognized show- and there’s a lot to prep between now and then! Thanks A for the great ride 🙂

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.

gotthis

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.

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 🙂

Show Recap: May WHES Novice HT

This past weekend is admittedly a bit of a blur. I finally started feeling better late Saturday evening. Our XC school that day had gone pretty well, but Jack was definitely being a bit of a spook- not unusual for him after not jumping for a couple weeks. I was struggling with the sudden ~90* temperatures, particularly after being already dehydrated from several days with a stomach flu.

But the show goes on, and we found ourselves doing a short warmup and heading into the dressage.

All in all I’m happy with our effort. A pair of volunteers that decided my entering the ring was the perfect time to move things behind the judge’s truck are to blame for the distraction down centerline (but what can you do, we’re thankful for volunteers no matter what). He tripped in the transition from trot to medium walk. And our right lead canter transition- well that’s still a work in progress. A score of 28.1 put us in 3rd out of 16 after the dressage, and Jack earned himself a snooze before getting ready for the jumping phases.

The Novice SJ course

After walking the SJ course, and visiting the XC course one more time, it was ready to showjump. And quite frankly, I don’t know what to say about SJ. I know that I panicked. I know that my brain was melting out of my ears, and my horse felt tired. I know that I jumped all the jumps in the correct order. And I know that I got 3 poles down. I couldn’t even tell you where. Totally my fault.

Basically a showjumping lollipop

After coming out of my SJ stupor, I realized I probably couldn’t/shouldn’t ride XC like that. So I gathered up the remnants of my brain, stuffed it back in my head, and went out determined to give him a great ride around a fair course with a lot of terrain questions.

And I remembered my GoPro!

The course was so fun. Jack is feeling like a confident Novice horse, and hunting the jumps. Sure, he’s not point and shoot, but he probably never will be. And yet- those ears tell the whole tale.

In the end, my bowling for rails in SJ denied us a top-2 finish… by a long shot. But he’s getting so much more relaxed in all 3 phases, and didn’t lose his marbles when friends left the stable- huge wins for a horse that was a nervous nelly at the same venue less than a year ago. And really, with all the shite that we had to deal with the last couple weeks, getting out and having a positive experience was the biggest win of all.

Show Recap: Longleaf Horse Trials SJ

Having won the tie for third place in the XC phase, I was fairly nervous that I was going to screw things up in the showjumping. Jack came out and warmed up beautifully, and somehow the gears in my head were still working enough to tell me to stay quiet and keep my shoulders back, despite my inner voice screaming “lean at it! Go go go!”.

Our tie-partner went into the ring before us, and I watched them put in a beautiful double clear round. Alright, so the pressure was really on now.

Then Jack and I got on course. We circled an oxer towards the middle of the arena, and after a few steps of his typical “holy sh*t, where am I?!” nonsense, he actually settled and started listening to me.

Fence 1 felt great, but as I got him straight into the approach to an oxer-to-oxer line he started snowballing into the first fence. A hard half halt to remind him that we don’t do that sort of thing and he came back enough for the third fence on course.

Fence 3

Fences 4 and 5 came up fine, and though we were booking we somehow made the rollback turn back to 6. This is where I went wrong- I let the canter get too strung out, and as a result he took out the top rail with his knees. I can tell you, there were a number of four letter words rolling through my head at that point, and after watching the video I’m glad that I didn’t actually say them out loud.

Fence 7B out of the 2 stride combo

The rest of the course rode beautifully, but our unfortunate rail cost us 2 places. Still, as seemed the trend for the rest of the show up to that point, I was just thrilled that Jack felt more relaxed and rideable than he had before. And Novice didn’t feel so big as it seemed back in February at the schooling day.

Fence 8 and a happy poneh

I’m also starting to learn to think and ride in showjumping, which is a big win for me- normally I’m so focused on the order of the fences there’s little room for anything else. We may have wrapped up the weekend a little lower in the standings that I had hoped (my yellow ribbon collection was coming along so nicely), but all in all it was a super debut at a new level for Jack, and he came back a little wiser and a little more confident as a result. For that I’m incredibly thankful.

Show Recap: Longleaf Horse Trials XC

As far as a move up course, this one couldn’t have been better. In many ways it was simply a larger version of the BN course, but with a couple interesting lines/combos thrown in for good measure. It included a drop at 7, then an interesting terrain combination at 9AB, and a 2 stride combination at 15AB.

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Despite my cross country nerves (which I think will never go away), I felt fairly confident that as long as I rode every fence that this would be a good course for Jack. We did get deep spots in a couple places, and he definitely bobbled going into the 9AB combo (lots to look at, including the training ditch right next to our question). BUT overall this was the most locked-on and confident he has felt on XC. How do I know?? The Golden Boy actually started hunting down a skinny Prelim brush coming out of the first water. As you’ll hear me say on camera, “Are you crazy?”

I also got good practice looking at my watch (something I definitely didn’t do last time), since I was tied going into XC and wanted to be close-ish to the optimum time. I still came in 20 seconds under, but was able to make decisions about trotting in a couple places and collecting him to the last fences to try and let the clock run up a bit. Who knew it was possible to think and ride at the same time?!

Maybe you wouldn’t have to jump like that Jack if you opened your eyes?

Seriously though, it was awesome to come off the course feeling like Jack had grown in confidence and experience over the last 5 minutes. And that’s how he officially became a Novice horse!