Remember when I used to ride?

These days, this is me. Well… actually in all truth, maybe it’s more like this:

Werk.

But still, all the relevant information you need to know is here:

Basically, I was on my way back from Chicago when I got the news that Jack had lost his shoe Friday. Amazingly my farrier came out and tacked it back on Saturday morning, but without the pour-in pad since homie was due to be reshod anyways. Sunday when I finally saw my pony and hopped aboard, it was evident that he was lame. Like ouchy at the trot. He needed a trim, and new shoes, badly, but since his oh-so-special shoes were not in we had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Because in that time (meaning Monday to Friday the following week) my A team had to agree on what direction to go with his special fairy dust shoes, and then order them. Even with them being overnighted, Jack didn’t get shod until Friday- a whole 6.5 weeks into the shoe cycle, when he’s meant to go 4. EFFFFF.

Of course when he finally got shod, his soles were bruised and he was short up front. Jack’s got himself some sensitive little tootsies, y’all.

Jack.

After a long diatribe to my vet about how even a week after being shod he still looks the teensiest bit short up front, I was told that it might take half a shoeing cycle to get back on track, since his going so long messed up all the mechanics of what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.

Jack’s super fancy shoes, and some mud.

So I might have just spent the equivalent of a clinic fee in farrier work, all for the pleasure of waiting for my horse’s feet to grow. Yes, first world problems, and yes, I’m whining about it. Judge me.

So that’s me. I’ve either been not here or not able to ride. My dreams of doing the Phillip Dutton clinic in December are likely crushed, and my hopes of jumping again are temporarily dashed.

At least there’s wine at the barn though… amirite?

Happy Friday!

The Journey out of Rehab

I’m breaking my radio silence today with another update on the Golden boy’s progress.

We completed all 3 IRAP injections with only one hiccup (that being he got turned out in a 5 acre field with other horses right after an injection, instead of the rehab paddock he was meant to go in- cue inner hysteria on my part). But all seemed to check out fine, and we were approved for tack walking last week.

The goal was to start at 20 minutes, and progress to 35 minutes over the next two weeks. Right now we’re right around the 27 minute mark, and I hope to be at 35 minutes this Thursday. Then we get to add in short bursts of trot, for about 15 seconds to start and building up to 2 minutes over another 2 weeks.

It’s hard to make almost half an hour of walk work interesting, but I’ve been doing my best. I found that despite only walking, homeboy still needs his inhaler before riding, and the super sticky hot weather probably isn’t helping a certain large creature get back into shape.

Then 30 minutes later, I hop on and ask him to walk forward and stretch some. It takes him about 10 minutes to really start rolling, and I try to keep up the pace as much as possible, which actually takes a lot of work at the moment. At the end of our ride though, he’s got a real tempo built, his back is swinging, and he is definitely getting a workout.

Boy you better hustle

In the last couple rides I’ve started including some slow leg yields, working on asking him to take wide sideways steps to get those hammys stretched, and introducing some lateral work to help him get straight. The vet also advised that I start to introduce some collected walk into our routine, putting him on his hind end in short bursts before going back to a stretchy walk. Which is great- because even though it’s definitely work, 35 min of just stretchy walk sounds fairly awful.

I also hope to start doing some cavaletti for the same reason- to start strengthening his hind end and get some engagement there that way. It’s walk boot camp for another couple weeks, for sure!

I can’t wait to start trotting and build up that cardio fitness. But we’re back on the right path, which is feeling great! You really don’t appreciate how nice it is to have your own horse until you’ve gone without for a couple months!

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!

A Jack Update

Jack and I are gearing up for our first show of the year this weekend, a Combined Training event at Beginner Novice. What I thought would be a small show actually has ~25 competitors in my division (maybe they’ll split it? probably not), but I’m hopeful that we’ll be competitive. I hope I’m not jinxing myself right there.

The dressage test is pretty straight forward and flows nicely with the exception of that stupid first centerline. A enter working trot, then at X turn onto a half diagonal to M? That’s right judges, because the best way to make a good first impression is by starting to exit stage right halfway into the arena. I’ve been starting to repeat the pattern with Jack, but each time it catches him off guard. Probably because centerlines were only recently becoming an obvious thing for him, now we throw him for a loop.

Overall Gaits
Our canter transitions are starting to come along, and though there’s tension in the depart, he no longer goes totally inverted like he used to. Once in canter he is so much more balanced, and I can start to maneuver his shoulders more and more. I haven’t gotten to asking for more jump in the trot, but in general he is steadier in the connection.

No idea what height this was,?

The Fun Stuff
In my last lesson, my dressage trainer [gladly] kicked my butt, and we introduced half-pass as well as tuning our renvers, shoulder-in and haunches-in. We’ve also come back to the walk-canter departs, something we avoided in order to establish the trot-canter depart (which didn’t exist before with any quality). Jumping-wise, we’re working on related distances, getting the correct lead on landing, and not snowballing down lines in general. Fences are creeping between the BN and N level depending on the technicality.


Weight Woes
The above picture was taken December 22. The temperatures started dropping around then, and my guess is that the lack of grass, cold/thin-skinned TB part of him, and the regular work schedule just took its toll. Lest you think he’s neglected or abused in any way- Jack eats almost twice as much as any other horse in the barn. He’s a big guy at just a hair under 17h, but with the coldest months just getting started I really want him chunky. After discussing with my vet, homeboy is now on:

  • 2 flakes compressed alfalfa once/day
  • 3 quarts Pro Force Fiber 2x/day
  • 1.5 quarts Empower Boost (fat supplement) 2x day
  • 1 quart alfalfa pellets 2x day
  • Free choice orchard hay at night (~5 flakes)

And finally in the last few days he’s starting to look like a normal horse again (see below picture on right). I’m hopeful that the return of grass in the spring will mean we can back off some of the new additions to his meals, but we’ll obviously do what it takes to keep him in good weight.

That’s the latest on everyone’s favorite Barbie Dream Horse!

XC Schooling Recap

Last week’s revisit to the cross country course was perhaps not as amazing as I had hoped for. I think in general ending on a not-as-great note with our ditch and water-drop issues at the Boyd clinic hurt Jack’s (and probably my) confidence a bit, and a couple exercises that had been easy for him before, like the baby up bank, were a little tougher this time around.

And we definitely ended on a good note this time- stringing together the new-to-us cabin, water, and coop and maintaining a steady rhythm throughout.

Jack continues to make his opinions well known, and I can’t help but giggle every time I see that tail flying high in the videos. So much so that I made a highlight reel of Jack’s latest opinions:

We need a solid outing and some real confidence boosting at our next cross country schooling, which is this weekend. No time like the present to nip some of these issues in the bud!

Boyd Martin Clinic: Day 2 Recap Continued

When we left off yesterday, we had just gone up and down banks, and Jack was having plenty of green moments throughout the day. Well sadly, those green moments only increased from there.

Our next exercise was over ditches. Oh lordy. Jack and I had yet to do a ditch together, and I suspect that the last time he did a ditch was last winter. We warmed up over a tiny (like, green-as-grass) “ditch” and then moved on to the only other ditch on the property- a max-Novice (maybe even Training) ditch.

Boyd schooled us through the introduction first- coming at it with more steam than necessary to just get them over it, and then slow things down on each subsequent approach. We were to have long reins, with our hands essentially in our lap in order to have our crop at a place that we could tap the horse on the ribs if need be. Again, not only am I bad at the whole long reins thing, but I also could not reach Jack’s ribs with my pony bat. After explaining to Boyd that A) I had fat thighs (yes I said this) and B) I had a short bat so C) that wasn’t working for us and D) oh yeah, and I have no idea what this horse is like with ditches, he then made me trade with another for a crop that could actually reach and sent us on our way. Below is the result of that.

And yup, I nearly ran Boyd over. Multiple times. But we finally got over it, and Jack Jack got lots of pats for being a brave ponykins. You can see that we got over it a couple more times, and then we had to move on to the next thing. We have a schooling planned for a different venue in a couple weeks that has different levels of ditches, and this is definitely one of the goals for that session. Get ready for moar ditches, Jack!

At that point, I won’t lie, I was a little brain dead. But we kept rolling, and next on the agenda was the bowl. We were told to keep an up hill, showjumping canter through the base of the bowl, and once we got to the sharp hill (with a small fence at the top), we were to accelerate and not pick to any kind of spot. Then the task was to roll back to a small log going back down the hill, and then reverse the order. Welp, you can see how that went for us.

I should have fought for it more, in truth. He tried spooking at the hanging log on the way back down as well, but I got him over it the first time. Pony- stop being such a spaz!

We wrapped up the day at the water complex. Going through at trot to get their toes wet, and then trotting up and out up a bank to a small log, which happily rode really well for the golden boy. Doing that in reverse… well, not so good. Again we got in a pickle of there not being a baby-version of the drop into water to work with, and despite trying a leader and lots of encouragement, Boyd suggested I come back and school that another time. We finished by cantering through in order to end on a good note.

Overall I found Boyd to be a very positive instructor, whose knowledge and experience really shine in showing how to approach different fences based on the type of horse you are riding. He definitely showed us where there are holes in our training, particularly on cross country, and I now have a plan on how to fill those holes and prepare for competition settings. Thanks to all the folks who came out to audit and take the video/media you see on the blog this week, and thanks to Boyd for kicking our butts and still giving us hope!

Boyd Martin Clinic: Day 2 Recap

Day 2 of the Boyd Clinic was cross country- which I admit is probably my weakest phase. Probably because my education in the 3 phases is balanced like this:

And even that may be generous for XC

So I was a bit nervous going into XC with Boyd. My goal was to do my best, given that I had schooled Jack XC exactly 3 times, and try not to run over Boyd Martin.

We started out looking at our galloping position, with Boyd describing how on cross country it’s better to keep a longer rein throughout the course rather than be constantly adjusting, and how to plant our hands at our horses withers so that we had 4 points of balance (2 hands, 2 legs) while galloping along. I will be the first to say I am bad at this, and throughout these videos you’ll hear Boyd yell at me to lengthen my reins.

We then moved on to some small fences. Jack decided XC day would be the day to bring out his spook, and we had quite a few of them- at jumps, shadows, even different colored grass. Granted we had never jumped the tires before, but it was a little annoying to be that person after feeling so good the day before. But that’s why we train, and it was all a learning opportunity!

After that we strung together even more fences, practicing our gallop between the log and the coop. He’s subtle about it, but Jack continued to be a bit of a looker through this and the rest of the day as well. After thinking about stopping to the final fence (which looks so much smaller in the video than in person!), I asked to come again. Like I said yesterday, Boyd doesn’t seem to mind if a pair isn’t picture perfect- the goal is more about being effective, fair, and getting the job done. But he allowed me to do the last two fences again and suggested trying to take out a stride between the two. I got corrected on how I “perch” a little forward in my gallop position, and I need to sit up and shoulder back on XC. I think I improved on this throughout the day, and a lot of it I’m sure is being weak in my core and legs- lots to work on!

Banks came next, and he had us focus on getting a deep spot to the up-bank out of stride, and anchoring our hands up the horse’s neck, almost getting ahead of the motion for this one type of fence. Then Boyd talked us through 2 approaches to going down a drop. One being leaning forward slightly and going with the horse down the drop, and the second, which we practiced, was leaning back, with long reins and getting behind the motion of the horse.

I’ll save the rest of XC day for tomorrow’s post, which will include the infamous ditch video you may have seen on instagram, and describe in detail how I almost did fail my goal of not running over an Olympian. Until then!

In which Jack expresses his opinions

Jack has been a busy boy recently… each week we have been both a dressage and a jump lesson (that we trailer out for), sprinkling in massage and chiro appointments to keep him comfortable. But still, going from light work to being in a program like that takes some getting used to. The golden boy has changed so much physically that the saddles I got fit to him upon purchase in June no longer are a perfect fit. This plus other things have made him a little sore, so while I’m off to Fair Hill this week he’s going to get some down time. And a reflocked saddle. And a shoulder relief girth. Seriously, the things we do for horses.

opinions, we has them.

One of the fun habits Jack has picked up that has specifically shown me where he’s sore is shoving. Like craning his neck to wherever you are, putting his nose into you, and pushing you with that big noggin of his. While not so charming (and I have been consistently telling him this, to no avail), it has been helpful (silver lining?) in indicating to me exactly his likes and dislikes. Things that will earn you a shove include putting the saddle on, pressing on anywhere sore (i.e, his back), bath time, and tying him in the trailer. Some of this I am attempting to remedy the situation, other times I am forced to tell him how expressing his opinions that way is going to be rewarded with my own opinions- and he isn’t going to like it. We’re still working on communicating with each other, and hopefully after his couple weeks off will instill a better attitude in him.

Documenting Fair Hill 2015 | PC: JP

Meanwhile, Fair Hill. I’m heading up north Wednesday to support a friend in her Young Event Horse competition, and staying through the 3*** and beyond. My plan is to do some photo shoots while I’m in the area, and I can’t wait to see actual sweater weather and all the fall colors. I would love to connect with any other bloggers out there too, so please let me know if we can meet up!

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!