Fork CT Show Prep

Somehow, it’s June already, and the Combined Training show that seemed so far away is now just days off.

Right now, I’m feeling a lot of pressure, and I know it’s because I will have an unusual audience this weekend- my family. While my mum has come to a couple of my horse shows over the past several years, it’s basically been since high school that my parents really came to watch me compete. It should be noted that my mother taught me almost everything I know about horses, and spent many, many years successfully reselling OTT TB’s, and then running a just as successful warmblood breeding program. Her good opinion means a lot to me.

Mum meets Foster for the first time, about 30 days into my owning him

Mum meets Foster for the first time, about 30 days into my owning him

Add to that, that the last time my mother saw Foster a couple years ago (she’s only met him twice), he decided to be an uncharacteristic brat and actually ran away (kind of) with my sister. So we’ve got to prove that I did not buy myself a crazy, pig headed animal and that he is in fact the awesome-tastic beast that we all know and love.

After his bout of naughtiness, I give my sister a mini-lesson and we ended on a good note!

After being a naughty pony, Foster calms down and teaches sister about stretching.

So, I’m trying to tell myself to keep it simple, stupid, and stick with the plan of having just a couple goals for the show. The first is to again ride every corner, every turn, every fence. While my parents know I can be a ditz, let’s not go showing it off for them! I’m going to change up my warm up a little by doing a little less stretching (like, 10 minutes instead of 20) and incorporate some bright transitions instead.

And then for jumping- maintain a forward but uphill rhythm to each fence. This in addition to last show’s goal of soft elbows. I had an absolutely craptastic jump school this weekend (not his fault, but mine), which has made me lose confidence a bit, so this week I am going to get A to come check me out jumping and make sure I don’t eff up my horse before the show. Ugh.

I is good pony, I swear.

I is good pony, I swear.

Tonight, we ride dressage!

 

 

Holy Hamstrings

… and quads, for that matter.

Well, I finally got my jump school in, after setting up 5 jumps in the small sand arena between 2’9″ and 3′. Foster was a really good boy and was jumping well with some pace (I think, at least it felt like a good pace) but I was a hot mess. I got left behind. My lower leg swung all over the place. I roached my back. Ugly.

Regressing back to 2012, when this was taken... Oh hello swinging leg!

Regressing back to 2012, when this was taken… Oh hello swinging leg!

To be a little fair to myself, it’s quite a tight space, with enough wiggle room for 3 strides before and after the jump at the widest part, so I was mostly focused on A) getting over the fence and B) not dying in the process. But I do wish all that muscle memory for jumping position was still there while I was at it!

So I went out there again last night and set up a gymnastic that I could work over. With no measuring tape I just walked the distances, and set up a crossrail-to-crossrail bounce, one stride to a 2’7″ vertical, two strides to a 3′ vertical.

After dashing out there this morning before work I hopped on and had a go of it. I remembered quite quickly that Foster doesn’t have a 12′ stride when the bounce became a one stride (what? woops!) and the two stride became 2 1/2. Ugh! So I interrupted my ride to shuffle fences around and try it again. We went through it a couple times, and I was somewhat able to focus on my position, and I felt my leg and shoulders improve quite a bit.


(Grid struggles from the clinic)

As I was cantering around, I was trying to remember all the handy pointers from the clinic, and ride with a longer rein, lower hands, and get my butt out of the saddle. While somewhat successful remembering the first two, the latter was still just as difficult. I just flat out haven’t practiced two point due to my lack of jumping for the past few weeks, and man, does it show.

Even Foster gets tired sometimes of carting my butt around...

Even Foster gets tired sometimes of carting my butt around…

So that’s where we are- a heavy butt, sore legs, and arms that feel black and blue from moving 54,230 jump standards around this week. But luckily, I’m not so worried about Foster’s stamina as much as mine for this weekend! While I know it will really only come with practice and time…if you have a magic Hulk formula for riding stamina… Please share!

 

Clinic Preparation

After getting back from being out of town for a week (due to Pittsburgh work stuff, then our amazeballs Savannah trip), I wasn’t sure what to expect with Foster. My buddy A rode him a few times and commented on how straight and stretchy he felt, compared to last year when he wanted to be neither straight nor stretch. This is great news, and I really welcomed another opinion on how he is going!

Dirty pony is dirty.

Dirty pony is dirty.

Happily, I can also report that he is indeed gaining some more weight. Still not plump, but definitely not ribby anymore. I am hoping to further encourage weight gain by switching to SmartGain supplements (he was on Cocosoya before) and switching his feed to a higher quality mix. On the flip side, he has a bit of a puffy fetlock, but he’s sound on it, so we’re monitoring it closely. It seems somewhat superficial, thankfully!

Foster’s been going well on the flat, and last night I added some proper canter work in the mix. It’s still coming back, and he felt a little braced through the jaw in transitions, but I was happily surprised at the quality for the most part. He does seem to be slobbering a lot lately (a good sign!), and its been making all his polos nice and green. But I like happy, chewing Foster a lot. Slobber away, buddy.

Trying to share slobber

Trying to share slobber

Otherwise, we are still getting ready for a clinic with Holly Hudspeth. We’ll be taking 2 lessons on Saturday (1 showjumping, 1 cross country), and a second cross country lesson Sunday. So I must get in a jump school tonight, since we haven’t jumped since the last show, weeks ago! I’m hopeful that he will go well nonetheless, as I’m feeling pretty confident at Novice right now. I do want to tackle trakehner and scary type fences cross country if we can, and I’m positive I’ll need work on my eye, straightness, and timing during the showjumping. Ok let’s be serious, I’ll probably have to work on everything, but that’s alright!

Also in the mix for this week is a saddle fitting presentation at Dover! I am very interested to go to this, since as you guys know, I’m in the market for a new saddle! And I may have found one, too! It is the right size for me, but too narrow for Foster, so I just need to decide if I should get it and invest in making it his size… Decisions, decisions! Either way, the presentation should be very informative, and bonus! We get $5 Dover gift certificates for attending! Maybe I’ll go crazy and buy myself… a carabiner or something!

Next post coming Monday- a recap of the clinic! 😀

[Flying] Changes a comin’!

It’s been a mostly uneventful week in the world of horses, since the husband and I went down to visit my parents over the weekend, leaving Foster to eat to his heart’s content and work on bulking up a bit. In that department, luckily you can’t see his ribs anymore, but he still needs more poundage.

Not *as* ribby, but still a bit skinny

Not *as* ribby, but still a bit skinny

My great buddy A has offered to ride Foster while I travel once again, and after I complained to her that we are a cross cantering mess in the jumper ring, she decided to give me a mini lesson on flying changes.

Let me start by admitting, I have never done a flying change on purpose. Somehow it just hasn’t happened yet in my riding career, and simple changes have sufficed. But how many times do we land on the wrong lead/cross canter in this video? A lot.

With that in mind, we set up a relatively simple exercise of a figure 8 at the canter, with a 1′ cavaletti at the center. So, canter a 15 meter circle left, and ‘jump’ the cavaletti, ideally landing right, then reverse, rinse, and repeat. I understood the concept of shifting your weight midair in order to encourage the change, but I felt like some sort of monkey cowboy throwing my body around over the cavaletti.

After several attempts though, we did get our first change! It appears the name of the game for the moment is a way over exaggerated open rein and using my new outside leg as we go over the jump. Also, I must come in to the fence at an angle and correctly bent- every time I came in straight, or with his neck cocked to the side, we didn’t get it.

No pictures unfortunately!

No pictures unfortunately!

While at the end of the session we still weren’t getting them every time, it was much more consistent as I began to get the feel of changing my rein over the fence. Ideally, we will turn the fence into a pole, and then remove the pole and voila! Changes.

Looking forward to working on this fun new skill, and putting it in practice over real fences! Yay!

Finally jumping again

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This weekend was unusually beautiful (aside: do you like how every post these days starts out by describing the weather?), so of course I spent as much time as possible out at the barn. On the flat we are still mostly stretching, and working up to a training level frame to get his conditioning back. Once we is warmed up we have had some really nice trot work, and I’m hoping this will carry through to the canter once he gains more fitness. I’m also working on getting his weight up a bit to help with the muscle building process, so he is getting alfalfa mush and just started on a Cocosoya supplement as well. This is the first time I have tried the latter (previously I have gone with Cool Calories, but I liked that description for the Cocosoya), so if anyone has feedback I’d love to hear it!

Rabid green foamy pony monster wants more alfalfa cubes!

Rabid green foamy pony monster wants more alfalfa cubes!

Yesterday we jumped for the first time in ages, and had oh so much fun. He was a little behind my leg (understandably), especially over the cross rails and smaller fences. There were a couple fences set up at 2’9″ and 2’11”-3′ and once he went over those he pepped up quite a bit. After doing a small course, we were talked into trying our hand at the gymnastic that was set up – a crossrail/crossrail bounce, one stride to a vertical, one stride to a 2’9″ish oxer. At first we took out the vertical, as Foster (and maybe even myself) has never done a bounce before and didn’t want to over complicate it. I had visions of him stumbling through (especially after our raised pole confusion a while back), but I was shocked to see how easily he picked up it up, even the first time. We ended up added the vertical back in, and he popped through the whole thing easy-breezy.

Doing this really reminded me how helpful gymnastics can be- I tend to be intimidated by them because I haven’t been really exposed to them, and I worry about not setting them up right and creating a disaster. Luckily, this one was set up by a fellow boarder for her coming-Prelim horse, so I knew she would have the distances right. Going through this exercise really helped us find our spots (the couple single fences I jumped afterwards were so much nicer as a result!), and I could really work on my position over the fence. Will have to start setting up more of these in the future!

Anyways, outside of the barn, life continues to be a little bit of a struggle. My poor father-in-law is still in the hospital, although moved out of the ICU there is no news of his leaving anytime soon. Elliot has a UTI, which is probably caused by stress/separation anxiety and we are now plugging in a Feliway and he is sporting a fancy purple pheromone collar to help him be chill kitty instead of clingy kitty. Here’s hoping that works!

Elliot aka Snaggletooth and his new pretty purple collar

Elliot aka Snaggletooth and his new pretty purple collar

This week looks to be a crazy-fest, with more snow/slush/wintry mix crap coming, traveling to Pittsburgh, a wedding, and a cross country schooling lesson this weekend! More updates to come!

Throwback Thursday

Yes, this is a bit of a cop-out post. But, I was inspired by a coworker to share these photos, one of my mum on her Appaloosa jumper, Blue Boy, and another of her and her sister jumping cross country back in England. Different times!

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Mum in the yellow/black and my aunt in pink

Learning new tricks

This weekend was was one the most beautiful weekends this year. If you have never experienced fall in the Carolinas, you are missing out. The colors on the trees were stunning, and at a lovely 65 degrees, well, you get the idea. 

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Gorgeous.

Saturday my best friend Nikki came out and gave me a lesson on Foster. Nikki is a lovely rider that traded off with me as student coach in our Dressage Team days, so I knew she would give me great advice. I gained a couple very helpful visualization tips to help us with dressage, aiming to reduce the bracing in the upward transitions as well as lift Foster’s back and increase his swing through the walk.

After about 20 minutes or so of dressage, we switched up tack and played around with fences. Nikki has a good idea of what we have been doing, and went ahead and raised the fences so we could really have some fun. Ranging from 3′ to 3’6″, the course we did included a triple combination (one-stride to a two stride with a 3’6″ oxer) and a heck of a tight rollback to a 3’4″ish chevron fence. I was so proud of my boy for handling everything with good grace, and got another excellent visualization tip that will better my equitation over fences. Nikki then hopped on Foster and hopped over a few fences, giggling over each one as she did! Having not jumped in years, it was great to see her have so much fun!

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What are you doing with me today??

After all the fun Saturday, we kept it easy Sunday, with a long and low session that went really well. Then Foster got his bath and out came the clippers! I did a simple trace clip on him, switching it up a bit from last year in that I used more curves than angles.

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Foster’s clip last year, more of an Irish Clip with angles

Tonight we will do a not-to-demanding dressage school and tomorrow he will have off. With all these great tips up our sleeves I am really excited about the horse trials this weekend! At the very least I can say we are prepared for success!

I’ll be tidying up the clip job tonight and will be sure to post photos tomorrow!

Trotting down memory lane

A book should never be judged by its cover- we hear this all the time, and often applied to the horse world as well. But the fact still remains that there are people out there who have very strong prejudices about colors and breeds and all sorts of things. Ever heard someone say “Hell hath no fury like a chestnut thoroughbred mare”? Well, I’m not here to judge anybody’s opinions on colors, breeds, whatever, but it got me thinking about the unique horses I have grown up with over the years, and I thought I would chronicle them here for you!

Heidi (Shetland Pony)
Heidi was my first pony, I was probably 4 or so when we got her and she’s the one that started me riding and even showing. I remember riding in the walk trot classes with 20 or so other horses, and being the only pony. Definitely a saint of a pony, and she lived out the rest of her life well into her twenties with our family.

Heidi in her youth and enjoying retirement in her twenties

Heidi in her youth and enjoying retirement in her old age

Tanner (Haflinger)
We had several haflingers over the years, but Tanner was especially important to me. He was a trail riding machine, and a fantastic jumper. We foxhunted first flight together and did tons of parades, fun shows, even barrel racing! For a draft type pony this guy was super athletic and a real confidence builder for me.

Tanner in a July 4th Parade and in a Jumper Show

Tanner in a July 4th Parade and in a Jumper Show

Merry (Irish Sporthorse mare)
Merry was my first real horse. While she was probably way too much horse for me at the time, she taught me a ton. She was a straight show jumper in England and together we learned about dressage and eventing. Merry never touched a rail, and definitely had a bit of that fire-breathing-showjumper in her that never translated well in the dressage ring, but we still navigated successfully up the levels to Training. When I left for college we bred her to a Friesian stud and she produced one of the prettiest fillies I have seen to this day.

Portrait with Merry and at one of our first events

Portrait with Merry and at one of our first events

Mac (Haflinger stallion/gelding)
Mac was a stunning horse that we bought as a stallion from Ohio. He was a former National Driving Champion, but had less than 10 rides on him when he arrived. He was a super fun horse, whose naughtiness landed him as a gelding after a while. I evented him through Beginner Novice. It was always funny that he seemed to do no wrong in dressage, judges seemed to be fascinated by his dark liver chestnut color and snowy white mane. He also did very well in the breed shows in Raleigh (only time we could win money through showing) which were so much fun!

Mac, our first ride, and on the beach

Mac, our first ride, and on the beach

Ivan (Irish Draught stallion/gelding)
I was never really meant to ride Ivan, as he came to us as a two year old stud and was meant as a sales prospect. To make a long story short though, he ended up coming home as a gelding and spent the next several years with me at school. He was exceptionally talented in jumping and dressage, but had a definite naughty streak that kept me from eventing him. Ivan was a big personality though and my heart horse for a long time. He was the first horse that I was truly competitive on, and we cleaned up in local dressage shows. I only sold him because I really wanted to event and at the time, was between college and career and hadn’t a full time job to support a horse.

Ivan (the sometimes terrible) dressage and jumping

Ivan (the sometimes terrible) dressage and jumping

Foster (Oldenburg x Appendix gelding)
After Ivan sold, I of course landed a permanent position and almost immediately went on the hunt for another horse. It took months of obsessive searching, but when I first saw Foster online, I headed out that weekend to Maryland with checkbook in hand. I had been looking for a 5-7 year old with enough experience that I wouldn’t have to start from scratch again and Foster was a supposedly 3 4 year old at the time. More importantly though, he had a fantastic brain and the build I was looking for in a horse (after years of drafts I wanted something super uphill!) and the match was made. If you’ve read this blog at all you probably know that we are currently competing at Training level dressage/Beginner Novice eventing and intend to move a level in each by the end of the year.