Playing with Fire: 2019 HOPEFUL Schedule

Just in case you didn’t see my disclaimer already, I’m posting it again. Because one cannot knock on wood too many times, yes? (Unless you’re OCD like me, then the answer is probably definitely yes)

Disclaimer: Dear Lord, if you happen to read this blog, or see into my thoughts, or what have you, please know that these are hopes and I’m not overly ambitious. Or I’m hoping not. I will work hard towards all the ideas that are to follow, and should you deem that my more lofty goals be too much, I only ask you please spare my horse’s soundness. Please keep him safe on the roads that he travels with me. And I apologize for the over-indulgence in wine for the last several years. Amen.

So, assuming that all the riding/training goals of yesterday’s post get accomplished, here is my wish list of events to attend this year. Written in the digital version of the most erasable pencil ever.

Jan 12 – Pipe Opener CTBN
We’re signed up for this already, and we’re hopefully just going to pop around at BN and get our sea legs back!

Feb 3 – Sporting Days Recognized HTBN
Maaaaaaybe. 
Depends on how he’s going, if it’s financially feasible, and a lot of other poop. It’s in Aiken, which is an almost 5 hour haul. And I hate driving that much.

Feb 16 – Pipe Opener CT IINovice
If all goes to plan (again, see disclaimer) I would love to get back to Novice level at this show

March 9 – Southern Pines Recognized HTNovice
Eeeek this is where I scare myself.

April 20 – Longleaf Recognized HTNovice


May 11 – May War Horse Schooling HTNovice
Includes the possibility of just schooling XC in case I decide to do option B

OR

May 25 – Paradise Farm Recognized HTNovice
Because I’ve heard such good things about this place, I’d love to fit it in!


June 15 –War Horse Schooling HTNovice

OR

June 22 – Stable View Recognized HTNovice
Another gorgeous facility in Aiken. This one will depend on how we are doing competitively because….


Aug 27 – AMERICAN EVENTING CHAMPIONSHIPNovice
OK now I’m terrified. But I said it. Wrote it. Typed it. Whatever. I’d be fulfilling a life dream if I can make this happen. And it’s at the Kentucky Horse Park!

The sloth hath spoken.

Show Season: Revised

Every year I map out our show season, and always tell myself it’s written in pencil- things happen rapidly with horses and there’s no sense getting attached to plans that can and probably will change.

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So it is in that sense no surprise that our season now looks completely different from the one I planned at the beginning of the year. Though I had an unwritten rule about not posting planned shows, I figure, what the hell. It’s going to change again anyways.

  • March 15 MacNair’s CT (Novice)
  • April 12 MacNair’s CT (Training)
  • May 9 – 10 Carolina Horse Park Schooling HT (Novice)
  • May 22 – 24 Recognized Virginia Horse Trials (Novice)
  • May 30 – 31 NCDCTA Capital Dressage Classic
  • June 20 – 21 Dom Schramm Clinic (??)
  • July 11 – 12 Carolina Horse Park Schooling HT (Novice)
  • September 4 – 6 Five Points (CHP) Recognized HT
  • October 11 Carolina Horse Park Schooling HT (Training)
  • October 30 – November 1 Virginia Horse Trials (??)
  • November 8 Carolina Horse Park Schooling HT (Training)
  • November 22 MacNair’s CT (2nd)

The first four shows of the year are cancelled for us, thanks to the ulcers from hell. Two of course are now in the past, and the other horse trials are simply not doable due to his likely ongoing medication and even if they were gone in a poof today, there still wouldn’t be time to physically prepare for them.

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So, as far as the other items tentatively on our calendar…

*If* he is really feeling better, and funds fall into place, and a whole lot of other things fall into place, maybe we will start our season off at our first recognized dressage show in forever. Actually, maybe ever? Foster has never been to the State fairgrounds and it would be fun to check in with a pure dressage judge to see where we are, probably with a couple First level tests.

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Pending fitness and a whole lot more, then there’s the Dom Schramm clinic in June, but it’s hella far away and might be tricky to get to. Or I might just get lazy and not want to drive all the way there. Who knows.

After that it’s a ramshackle list of horse trials. The last three are a bit close for my taste, and I wonder if burnout could happen with traveling every couple weeks to a show. But they are all options at this point, and probably something will get crossed off the list eventually.

And lastly, I threw the last MacNair’s Combined Training show on the list because… that could be the perfect venue to try out a Second level dressage test. How exciting could that be?!

Until May, we will be simply focusing on channeling more positive thoughts and getting back to 100%, and then it will be a matter of seeing how things go from there! Happy planning 🙂

Quality Times

I spent the weekend focusing on the house and horses, and it was a pleasant reminder of what life can be like when not constantly chasing a season. Not that I don’t love competing, I do, but there is something just so nice about not having any real plans or schedule to worry about.

This coming from the girl that was champing at the bit to plan our potential glorious Training debut. Well, that’s horses for you folks, and we all find peace where we can.

Part of my non-competing weekend including supporting J at MacNair’s for a Novice CT, and playing photographer with a continuingly crap-focusing camera. I really enjoyed watching Jasper go and catching up with a lot of folks I know from the equestrian community. Bonus that I got to see a couple logo projects being displayed on various shirts and fleeces being worn about the show.

Even a bling squirrel finds a nut though

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes (aka the adorable OTTB Jasper in dressage mode)

I then got to go visit with my BFF, A, and her amazing Appendix gelding, Bo. These guys are a real comeback kid story- from Hunter/Jumper glory to eventing, and after multiple mishaps (not eventing related btw), to being almost retired with one functioning leg of the four. Now Bo is learning to be a dressage horse, and the transformation from broken horse to where he is now left me awed. The wonders of dressage, people!

Jasper again

Jasper again

The weekend wrapped with heading out to my own barn for some quiet time with Fosterpants. I love being met with a whinny when he first spots me, and spent a long time just sitting in the grass and watching him be. I did hop on for a whopping 25 minutes, and while he started off a bit stunted and eh, he settled into the work and we did long and low at trot and canter before I put him in for the evening. Joy of all joys!

I hope everyone else had a peaceful or fun weekend, and got lots of similar quality pony time. It’s good for the soul!

Horse Show First Aid Kit

I’m going to admit something here- I have failed at this, completely. and utterly. failed.

As in besides the Blue Lotion that makes Foster all shiny and white for a show, my horse doctoring stuff stays at home. I realize that I compete in one of the more dangerous equestrian disciplines, and that being around horses, even showing in hand (hell even leaving a horse in a stall) can lead to disasters. Up until now I have relied on that there is always a vet on hand at a horse trial, and surely they have everything I might need.

Like I said- fail.

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So, I’m determined to go through catalogs and start ear-marking the essential items that I should bring to shows in case of an emergency. Vet wrap, diaper, duct tape at the top of the list, and several other items I have in mind.

This Mini First Aid kit runs for $16 at SmartPak

This Mini First Aid kit runs for $16 at SmartPak

But I’d like to hear from you guys- what goes into your horse-show first aid kit? Knowing that of course you probably can’t bring everything with you to a competition, what are your priority items? How do you store them for a travel environment? Any recommendations on getting these items on a budget?

Show Recap: Dressage at MacNair’s

I know many people, including myself, were expecting to see a complete show recap today.

Surprise! I didn’t go to the show. Or rather, I did, but Foster did not.

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Saturday I went out to the barn to prepare, and before giving him a bath I hopped on him. Since the horses had been stuck inside due to rain all day, I gave him a long (10-15 min) walk warmup before asking to trot. Normal trot seemed an impossibility to Foster- instead his options were short choppy pony trot, short choppy up-and-down canter, or walk.

I did what I could to coax him through it, offering stretchy trot and canter, and staying in two-point to get off his back (as much as you can two-point in a dressage saddle, that is).

I gave him a walk break before deciding to try one last thing- sitting. Making my seat as quiet as possible, we trotted around the arena in relative peace. I ended it on a good note and put him up.

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All night I wondered what to do, if I should scratch or continue on with the show as planned. As I was giving a ride to the show to a friend as well, I went ahead the next morning and hooked up the trailer.

Sometimes talking through your issues is the best way to bring clarity to the situation. As I consoled the few people there about where or not I should take my (potentially/probably?) ulcery horse to the show, it became obvious- Foster should stay home.

I asked A to document Foster's cleanliness, since he certainly won't look like this on our next visit!

I asked A to document Foster’s cleanliness, since he certainly won’t look like this on our next visit!

So, my ultra clean, beautifully trimmed horse spent Sunday in the sunshine instead of the dressage court. My friend had an excellent day, scoring a blue ribbon in her second ever dressage test and giving her horse a positive showing experience. I immediately made peace with my decision to leave Foster home and have contacted the vet to get him scoped. My desperate hope is that we will find ulcers and can begin treatment as quickly as possible.

fb_DSC7176While it would have been nice to ride at the show, in front of my favorite judge (she’s a tough cookie but great feedback!), the day ended up being a success even without any saddle time.

 

Show Recap: Novice @ Carolina Horse Walk – Competition day

After walking the cross country course Saturday, the sky opened up and it poured. And poured. And poured. Luckily this provided excellent opportunity to huddle in Foster’s stall, do a bit of braiding, mentally run through my test, and try not to think about what was happening to the footing all through the deluge.

No dressage photos, so look at us in our snazzy new colors!

No dressage photos, so look at us in our snazzy new colors!

Dressage
Needless to say, it was still very very wet Sunday morning. The dressage warm-up quickly turned to slop, which my poor pony is not so used to working in. I attribute his being slightly stiff in his neck because of this, as he attempted to pick his way through the mud and muck. Still, I was happy with the test he put in, and I was pretty confident it would score in the low 30’s.

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The test earned us a 31.7, good for 5th place. Looking at the test, I’m pleased with the number of 8’s on there, and it appears we were off to a pretty good start. I am, however, a little bummed with how the test finished, and I didn’t feel some of the things the judge remarked on. Similarly, I wish I could have seen my ride, so I could understand why our overall scores dropped so much from the last show just a couple weeks ago. So we’ll be chalking it up to experience and trying to improve even more for the next outing.

Showjumping
Because of the slop, I was a little worried about how showjumping would go. Foster looked just a hair too relaxed hanging out in his stall, and I knew he would need some extra oomph to push out of the steadily deteriorating footing. I gave myself about 15 minutes of warm up, starting by trying to get him really moving forward (kind of successful), before hopping over a couple fences. He was a bit sticky to the fences, but I decided to take the risk of not jumping further in order to save our energy for the fences that would count.

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I’ll say this in regards to our round- thank goodness you don’t get pretty points in eventing. He jumped me out of the tack over fence 7, which I got him a little unprepared to and he made a huge effort over. He didn’t pick up the correct leads 100% of the time, and once I brought him back to a trot to switch leads. Because of this, I think, we got 1 time fault, but went otherwise clear through a course that was definitely taking names. I saw 1 fall, and 2 refusals just while I was waiting- an unusual pattern for these lower levels.

Fence 7

Fence 7

Cross Country
When I got to cross country, I was more than a little worried about the footing on course. Foster does not have studs, and though the sandy footing holds up pretty well, I still wondered about jumping these large fences like #3 right from the start. Combine that with watching 2 different horses have refusals at that fence, and thought I was going to puke. But a quick hop over the couple cross country warm-up fences and Foster perked up substantially, and I decided to give it a go.

I won’t rehash the entire experience, when you can watch the helmet cam!

Obviously the course ran pretty well. Other than getting in deep to 8A, we got all our spots and while being forward, Foster was adjustable and able to come back to me when I needed to rebalance him, such as down the hill and through some turns. We came in right under time because of my more conservative ride.

Breezing over fence 3

Breezing over fence 3

In Conclusion
Overall, we finished 4th out of a field of 15 or so horses. I am super happy with how the day went, and again, know there are things to improve which is a great place to be. It was a great relief to finally conquer the trakehner and brush that have been worrying me all year.  We’re still waiting to break into the 20s for dressage, but between this and the last show I feel like Foster can confidently be described as a solid Novice horse. I’m thankful for the opportunity to put in another confidence-giving run, and look forward to our last show of the season, next month!

Recognized Show Recap: Course Walk + Dressage

Because this weekend was long and certainly adventure filled, I’ll be breaking up this recap into sections. Trying to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and all that.

Thanks B for the photos!

Thanks B for the photos!

So we start our journey Friday morning, where J picked us up in her awesome rig to make the 4 hr trip down to Tryon. Minus one instance of yelling at rude drivers honking into our horses’ ears, the drive was rather uneventful. We settled the boys in briefly before hopping on to school some dressage. Foster had a lovely dressage school, and was attentive and extremely supple in the bridle, and I was definitely pleased with his attitude, and truly looking forward to dressage in the morning!

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Then we headed out to walk the cross country course.

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YIKES.

From fence 2, it was immediately clear we weren’t at a schooling show any longer. Fence 2 was a tactical question, where the rider had to choose their approach carefully- a straightish approach that required a ride around another fence, or a more direct angled approach. From fence 3 on, the course was max height and held still further questions. A combination at 5A and B, four strides from a barn to a log but with lots to look at surrounding it. A 3’2″ (ish) brush fence at fence 7, two strides before the water. A half coffin at 12A and B, ditch then two strides to a fence. A hairpin turn to fence 13. A rather scary fence 14 that just beckoned for a run-out left. This course was going to demand an active ride, and had little let up in between questions.

I was pretty much terrified. So while nightmares of getting eliminated at the brush fence simmered in my mind, I did my best to ignore all and focus on dressage in the morning.

Luckily, a great friend and former dressage teammate came and visited me Saturday morning, which did a lot to distract me from visions of lawn darting on course.  We were having so much fun chatting that I ended up running just a tad behind schedule for the dressage, but still had a nice warmup for the test. He wasn’t quite as supple as he has been the night before, and I think if I had given him 5 more minutes of good work I would have gotten the quality that I wanted. But he was relaxed, and listening, and I felt like he would put in a pretty good test!

And old photo of B and I from our IDA days!

And old photo of B and I from our IDA days!

The test itself did end up feeling pretty nice. As I was riding, I knew there were places where I was maybe leaving some points on the table, so I tried to make the test as accurate as possible. I was a bit bummed with the free walk, as it wasn’t nearly as nice as what I have been achieving at home, but otherwise put in a workman-like effort. I tried to remind myself to keep my elbows by my side and practice better equitation, which ended up paying off.

Drop it like it's hot

Attempts at equitation

As you can see below, there are parts that were super successful (8 on a canter circle! The work is starting to pay off!) and also- my first 8 on rider (ah, that’s me?!), and Foster’s first 8 on gaits (yay pony!). Also an 8 on the medium walk transition. For the rest, I feel confident that we can bring up the 6’s will soon become 7’s and the free walk will become an 8. The test as is earned us a 30, which is also a new best score for us as a team. Our first 70% dressage score since debuting at Intro when I first bought him!

Sorry for the video quality/don’t watch if you are epileptic!

Whereas at a normal show (i.e, no prize money), a 30 would land me near the top of the leaderboard, my awesome-for-me score landed us in a 3-way tie for 6th place. Sitting at the top were scores of 16, 18, 19, and 20 – a couple of these ridden by former professional riders who are now (I’m told, I don’t know these people personally) too scared to move up to Training. But, whatever! My pony put in a great show and now we were out to tackle the daunting cross country course!

 

Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Overall Impressions

So now you’ve read the run down of our first and second days at our first real hunter/jumper show, and you’re probably sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation wondering, “what now? Will they make the jump (pun intended) to hunter/jumper land permanently? *gasp*”.

Let me end your pretend anxiety and say, probably not. However, I was thoroughly surprised to find that I did not see evidence of many stereotypes I had in my head of the hunter/jumper crowd, and that I would certainly be willing to enter a hunter/jumper show again, if only for a day rather than the weekend-long shebang.

Here are the overall Pro’s and Con’s I experienced over the weekend. In hopes that I won’t offend any hunters out there, keep in mind that this is a first real H/J experience for someone who has only done Dressage and Eventing for the last 10 years.

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The Pro’s:

Warm up
These trainers have obviously taken the time to school their students in proper warm-up ring etiquette, and it showed. Calling fences or inside/outside, as well as staying out of the way when standing, were all observed. Considering that I was warming up with people mostly half my age (yay 2’6″ classes!), this was all the more impressive. I feel like at any typical event I am the lone voice in the warm up arena and have been known to yell at more than one person for not calling out their warm-up fences. So, eventers, let’s get our act together.

No snobbery
I’ll be honest, I fully expected to see a bit of hunter/jumper princessness while I was here. Instead, I saw a lot of down-to-earth people and comraderie amongst the competitors.

Adding/scratching classes is awesome
Especially for people who can’t make up their minds (*cough* like myself, Sunday morning), this was a great feature to the show. The downside of course being that nothing can be scheduled down to the minute like at an event, but it still comes in handy.

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part of our badly abuse class-sheet

Legit Jumper Courses
This was pretty cool to see. The level of difficulty was exactly what was expected, and I thought it was still fair throughout the different heights. It might have been neat to ride through a triple combination, but that’s about all that was missing from the courses. Thumbs up from me!

Footing
Also known as water/drag all the things! These people mean business about footing, and the water trucks and tractors came and went so much they had it down to a science.

Turnout
All the pretty ponies, and all the pretty people! And even though I am fond of wearing my Ugly Boots and Ugly Pants to horse shows, it was kind of nice to pretend to be part of the fancy crowd all weekend.

The Ugly Boots (shown here) came along for the trip, luckily the Ugly Pants (also shown here) stayed at home

The Ugly Boots (shown here) came along for the trip, luckily the Ugly Pants (also shown here) stayed at home

No timers
Obviously for the hunter classes, there’s no obnoxious buzzer sending you on your merry way. Not gonna lie, at the end of day 2, this was something Foster and I were seriously appreciating. Thank you, hunter gods, for not asking us to be relaxed and fast. Thank you.

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The Con’s:

The Wait
I know you were expecting this. Waiting around with no schedule sucks. To be fair, I understand why (note my earlier comment about scratching classes), but there is definitely something to be said for knowing exactly when you are going, and being able to plan your day accordingly.

Inconsistent Judging
Maybe it’s my uneducated eye, but I could not find rhyme or reason between the  different judges. And really, I’m talking about flat classes. Where I thought I saw a relaxed ‘hunter-type’ with big strides, swinging movement, and relaxed demeanor, the horse that was clenching it’s jaw and avoiding contact by head-tilting pinned. Or in another arena, when I though a horse and rider produced a nice outline/frame, the horse that had it’s nose to the sky placed. I just couldn’t understand how the scoring was done, and this was a bit frustrating- adding to the mysteries of hunteryness.

The Clothes
And specifically, the rules about what’s OK and what’s not. Your boots need non-functioning laces, the saddle pad must be fitted (or non-existent, the route we went), your breeches must be knee patch, etc, etc. In the (mostly) form-follows-function world of eventing wardrobe, some of these things just made my eyes roll.

Feeling sneaky riding in Full-seats that don't look like Full-Seats!

Feeling sneaky riding in Full-seats that don’t look like Full-Seats!

Confusing class descriptions
Again, totally based on my ignorance as an eventer, but seriously- who comes up with these names? Even checking the state’s Hunter-Jumper Association doesn’t immediately describe what a Special Hunter was, and asking multiple people about the difference between Special Hunter and Pre-Green Hunter didn’t seem to clear up the difference. So. much. confusion.

Photography
It was pretty amazing to see how much more expensive the photography was at this C rated show than it is at any event. And sure, maybe it’s because the clientele are willing to pay that prices, in which case, good for the photographer. But hot damn, that’s a lot of money! Maybe I’m just bitter because they got 4 photos of me, and they were some of the worst photos I have seen in my life. I watched the videos, I know our level of awkwardness wasn’t quite that bad. Maybe next time, Mr. Photographer.

Foster and one of our 2 4th place ribbons!

Foster and one of our 2 4th place ribbons!

Overall Take-away
When it really comes down to it, this weekend was a wonderful opportunity to get in the jump arena in a low-pressure kind of way. I was able to somewhat successfully implement and learn a new technique, expose Foster to new types of fences, and take in a lot of knowledge about a new discipline. I learned a lot about what my horse can handle, and where his fitness limits are, which, though frustrating at the time, is really useful in preparing for future competitions.  So all-in-all, this was a good experience and I’ll be keeping an eye on the hunter/jumper calendar next year in case another opportunity comes up to visit hunter/jumper land again!

Tonight, we return to the world of dressage with another lesson with Eliza. Until next time, hunter/jumper land!

Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Day 2

So, having already established that poor baby Foster was almost debilitated with exhaustion from the day before, I had to come up with a new game plan for Day 2 of our Hunter/Jumper experience. The original plan was to do a couple more jumper classes, but I knew ‘go fast’ and ‘jump big’ were not tools in our tool box that day, so a change of plan was needed.

Foster naps in his stall

Foster naps in his stall

At first, after much discussion, we decided to do 2’9″ Schooling Hunters, and be damned that we would be up against professionals. Not like we were going to place anyways. Then there were concerns that we wouldn’t have time to get ready, and switched to Adult Amateurs. I got on and soon saw that there was no waking up Foster enough to do the 2’9″ fences (that ring also was the one decked out in astro-turf, filler galore). So I scratched again. I suppose there’s something to be said for being able to swap classes, even if you’re driving yourself absolutely bonkers over it all (I despise wishy-washyness, even in myself).

Another day of hunters! Also, tents. We like tents.

Another day of hunters! Also, tents. We like tents.

The final decision was that it would be best for him if we took it all the way back to 2’6″ and do the Special Hunter division. Our first flat class, yay!

Cue the waiting around, and getting hot and bothered about hearing that our arena was being held for 30 minutes at a time. But finally, our time came.

I was relatively pleased with our first round, in that at least we weren’t moving at a complete snail’s pace (though admittedly, still pretty slow), and we got about half our leads (the video chopped off the first half). My friend C had just shared with me a wonderful trick that I decided to implement- Step, Lift, Look. So for trying out something new for the first time in a show arena, I was pretty OK with that! Otherwise, obviously, we got in pretty darn deep to a couple fences, but whatevs, we had a mulligan another round coming up!

Round 2 made me really happy. We got all but one of our leads, and I am debating tattooing Step, Lift, Look on my body. One deepish distance that resulted in him jumping totally over his shoulder again, but I’ll take it! Who knows, maybe my horse could do the hunter thing.

Last came the flat round. Since I came off of our second round huffing like a grampus (seriously, I was as winded as when I come off XC! Not pretty!), I was just kind of going to let him poke around wherever he felt comfortable. So we loped around, and earned ourselves a pretty little 4th place ribbon for our efforts.

After that, I took poor pony back to his stall to cover him in liniment from head to toe, and bubble wrapped him for the ride home. Since then, he’s had two days to chill and recuperate, and tonight he’ll get a nice stretchy walk/trot session and lots of carrots and pats from me.

Next up, I’ll share with you my eventer’s perspective on the whole show, and would I do it again. Until tomorrow!

Quick update

Not much really has been going on since my last update last week regarding my decision to attend a hunter/jumper show in a couple weeks. Basically I’m just trying to get my ducks in a row so I won’t embarrass myself once I’m there quite as much. Mostly this means tracking down tack that hasn’t been used in a while (oh, hello, plain brown bridle) and buy a whole bunch of other junk.

Plain brown bridle's last appearance, 2 years ago

Plain brown bridle’s last appearance

These purchases include open front boots (because Brushing boots don’t seem necessary for straight jumpers), ratcatcher shirt for me (thank you Tack of the Day, now please send it to me in time!), and tan full seats.

Obviously not Foster's legs.. Foster's legs are white, in case you hadn't noticed :)

Obviously not Foster’s legs.. Foster’s legs are white, in case you hadn’t noticed 🙂

And I suppose since I felt like I hadn’t spent enough money already, I have set up two lessons- another dressage lesson with Eliza for later in the month, and one with a new-to-me trainer who also happens to be an up-and-coming international eventer! This exciting event happens Wednesday, and I’m super hopeful that they like Foster and impart plenty of jumping wisdom on us. We need it!

Lesson recap to come!