Show Recap: Fork CT

Saturday seems like a crazy blur in my mind, it all happened so quickly! Maybe the time went by so fast because my watch died en route to the show (I kid you not- talk about bad timing, har har), and so I had very little grasp on what was happening when.

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Dressage
After getting to the show and letting Foster munch on some hay for a few minutes (he doesn’t eat in the trailer, but digs into the same hay net at the show- weird?), we got tacked up and boogied on down the road to the show arenas. The horse I had for the day was surprisingly fresh, and just a little tense. Still, I liked the energy I had, even though he was being a little fussy in the bridle. I decided to post the trot to allow his back to come up and release some of the tension in his topline, and I think this was the right decision.

Our test felt pretty good. The couple places I know we could improve are in one corner that I didn’t prepare enough for, and those dern canter transitions. The stretchy walk didn’t have its usual stretch either, partially because Foster got distracted by the jumping going on right in front of him. Looking at the test, the judge nailed us on this- just think of what our final score would have been otherwise! Also, you’ll notice that he decided to step out in our final halt- bummer! On the bright side though, I thought the test was more forward than CHP and that in general, he was straighter and more obedient to my leg. The test earned us a 31, good for 3rd after being trumped by a stunning 20 and 24 in 1st and 2nd place.

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Showjumping
Showjumping is the most blurry part of the day. After being distracted by the comings and goings of the day, I didn’t find time to walk the course before jumping. Go figure that it was probably the most intense showjumping course we have done to date. Serious bending lines, intense roll backs, and no less than 2 one-stride combinations. What the what?! I thought we were doing Novice! Walking the course was pretty much vital here, but I did without. Where I regretted it most was in the rollback from 5 to 6AB (a one-stride)- you can actually hear my “Geez!” trying to make that turn and get straight into the one-stride. Because of our disorganization, he didn’t find his spot to the first fence and then brought down the second element rail with his hind end. Add to that, a sprinkling of cross-canter, because that’s what Foster does at shows, and that was our course.

Leg needs to be more forward, but otherwise getting better!

Leg needs to be more forward, but otherwise getting better! Also.. does this look big for a Novice fence to anyone?

Cross Country Schooling
After all of the memory-taxing activities were over, we went out to the cross country course! I wasn’t sure how many jumps would be available, since the Fork seems to employ mostly portable XC fences in their course. There definitely was not an endless supply of fences, but there was enough to play over, given that Foster was already somewhat tired from dressage and showjumping. So we played around the water complex for a while, and Foster was an absolute champ over everything. I felt like I was actually riding, instead of coasting around to the next fence like I had done in showjumping. With a smile on our faces, we called it a day and headed for home.

Upbank combination:

Water-upbank-fence:

More water complex fun:

Impression on the parents
I think it’s safe to say that Foster redeemed himself this weekend. He put on his game face for sure, and showed off his chill demeanor and sweet disposition. While you can hear my mother’s gasping and um, other exclamations on the videos, she was impressed by his rideability and quietness. Bonus, that Foster did right by my sister as well, even ponying her back to the barn. I wish my dad was able to meet Foster, but it was not meant to be. Also, unfortunately, Foster managed pulled off both front shoes in the water complex, so he will be having the next few days off anyway- he earned it!

All of us with Foster at the end of the day

All of us with Foster at the end of the day

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!

 

 

Show Recap: Novice at Carolina Horse Park

Spoiler alert- I’m about to brag on my horse.

But before that, let’s recap on the goal(s) for this show. Primarily, don’t do anything stupid. Ride every fence/movement. And then secondly, allow for the forward pace (i.e, go pony go!) and have soft elbows.

Dressage
We arrived on Saturday and first thing I hopped on and schooled dressage, which turned out to be OK, but exhibiting some tension in his neck and back. So Sunday before our test I spent the first 15-20 minutes solely on stretching work. This definitely helped with the relaxation, but got him a little flat with his movement. I made the decision to sit the trot and use my seat to get him moving a little more up. So with that, we went in to do our test.

Overall, I felt like the test was pretty good. Sure, we had a bobble in our canter depart, and he ran into the fence in our walk/trot transition (at least he didn’t take it out this time!), but I was really proud of myself for riding every corner, and preparing at every diagonal and centerline. I think the judge was a little rewarding, but here’s what she thought:

5 8's! Booyah!

5 8’s! Booyah!

And here’s the video of the test.. Other than my chair seat, I know we could improve a bit with the impulsion and forward energy, but otherwise a respectable test in my book. Also- I have to call out the ‘beautiful turnout’ comment by the judge. My friend A was my eyes on the ground, coach, and groom, and every time she helps me get ready for a show we get this comment! Kudos to her!

 

Showjumping
There were a ton of professionals in my large division of 18, so my 31.3 test landed me tied for 7th headed into showjumping. Watching the showjumping go, we noticed a lot of people getting either poles or time penalties. I have faith in Foster’s handiness to get around the course, so our warm up focused on getting a good pace and keeping my elbows soft and following. I think the pace held up through the course (with again unfortunate counter cantering from 6 to 7), though we got seriously stuck heading into the 2 stride combination, and the last 3 fences are as a result… fugly. But clean and clear and onto XC!

 

Cross Country
After walking the course twice (I was not going to get lost this time), I felt like this was a nice, inviting course to build confidence in horse and rider, and the technical and terrain questions were really appropriate to the Novice level. Here’s a look at the jumps:

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Goofing off while looking at the jumps.. we’re not in Beginner Novice anymore!

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The fences I was worried about, and planned to ride aggressively to, were 3 (the skinny), element 9A of the sunken road, and the second bank. But as I rode through the course, I don’t remembering using my bat at all! Foster locked on to every fence and I didn’t feel an ounce of hesitation- he ate it up! All the photos show his ears perked and a confident expression on his face, which makes me swell inside with happiness. We came through the finish flags with 1 second to spare!

Wrapping up

Ending on our dressage score of 31.3 earned us a fourth place ribbon. Considering the seriously stiff competition, I never imagined placing, and feel really good about future Novices this year. I am heartened by the thought that we can definitely improve on our score, and… we checked off our major goal for 2014!

  • Get a 65% or better on dressage and go double clear in show jumping and cross country.

Check!

I also need to give credit where credit is due… This weekend would not have been nearly as successful or fun without A by my side! And if you are reading this, A, thank you again!

Next horse trials, maybe this summer!

A Show Recap: MacNair’s Combined Training

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Let me start by saying that if I wasn’t prepared for the Running Start Horse Trials, then I really wasn’t prepared for the Combined Training show yesterday. But I thought hey, it doesn’t get much cheaper and easier than 1 dressage test and 1 jumping round at a barn only 25 minutes away, right? So I went, even though Foster had only been ridden three times in just as many weeks (due to my travel adventures, moving barns, one rainstorm from Hell, and one lost shoe).

After getting stuck in the hellstorm..

After getting stuck in the hellstorm..

Anyways, the show went better than expected. We notoriously struggle with the warmup at this facility, as the jump warmup (read: kids on ponies trying to jump fences both directions) and dressage warmup share the same smallish space. But luckily our warmup was only mildly heinous. I tried to focus on relaxation, and spent 20 of my 25 minute warmup encouraging stretchy walk, trot, and canter. Thankfully this approach did help some, though Foster retained some of the tension (I theorize that the tension is also a bit due to lack of muscle and therefore balance in the working paces), but was about 75% alleviated before the test.

Trotty trot trot

Trotty trot trot

So other than having a few tense moments, the test was passable. He felt a little more lateral than usual, which the judge picked up on, but again I put this down to simple loss of conditioning. We are going to have to work to build the strength back up in that right hind in order to achieve perfect straightness. But the test was obedient, and my geometry pretty decent. Foster earned himself two 8’s (20 meter circle trot and our diagonal), and even got a 7 on his right lead canter depart (not expected!). To top it off, we both got 7’s on the collective marks, which I was fairly pleased with as well! (below is a blurry video of the first part of the test)

Following this, I did a hasty tack change, ran around my course on foot (not a single straight line! yikes!) and hopped over a few fences to warm him up. It was apparent that he was lacking a bit of energy, but I hoped he would wake up in my round.

We went in, and noting that the first fence was a nice brick wall, I tapped him on the shoulder to let him know his job. We then proceeded to go around the course like a cross cantering whirlydirvish! It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was forward! He did hit one pole with his backend that I was a bit disappointed about- very uncharacteristic of him but I imagine he was just getting tired. Watching the video makes me cringe a bit, as it’s apparent that I wasn’t really riding the fences- just pointing him at them like a monkey on his back! This is something I seriously need to work on, because I don’t want to give him any bad habits because of my ineptitude. I think a show where I can get in the jumping ring a few times to get my act together would be perfect- maybe a Hunter show is in my future?

Anyways- here is the video so you can see my bad riding (and Foster’s mostly clever footwork) for yourself. Foster, I promise I will do better by you next time! Until then, I need to work on landing on the correct lead, and maybe even trying to teach changes to my horse who wants to change but hasn’t figured out yet how to change the back as well as the front!

It turns out that silly pole cost us 1st place, but we earned ourselves a pretty red ribbon for our efforts! Yay Foster!

What a cutie :)

What a cutie 🙂

Our next plans include hopefully getting a lesson in (haven’t had one at all this year!) and then I’m debating between a clinic and another horse trial (at Denny Emerson’s farm in Southern Pines). Heading to Pittsburgh again this week, and when I get back we will be working on our fitness! Let’s whip our butts into gear!

Post-Move, Pre-Show

The move went relatively smoothly, and Foster has spent the last few days settling in with a couple attempted rides in there for good measure. Monday I decided we would actually even work a little, and he felt a bit rusty with his lateral work and I felt rusty all over- but it was a new arena and he hadn’t really done anything in over 2 weeks, so I’m not to upset about it.

Foster checks out the new place

Foster checks out the new place

Meanwhile, the fact that I am sore (even two days after my ride) makes me feel like a ball of flubber – I have seriously got to get my own fitness under control! No way am I going to have a lovely, tight position over fences when I feel like this…

flub

Tonight we will be riding through our dressage test (hopefully), which is the test I accidentally memorized for the last show! Novice A is nice and flowy, with only a couple trixy moments where you start a circle at E, canter, then start a new circle at B (never finishing your E circle). Let’s hope we don’ts forget this.

Foster has never shown well in his 2 previous visits to MacNair’s, where we will be competing this weekend, but hopefully 3rd times a charm! Assuming I can get a little jump school in, we will be just about as prepared as we were for Running Start- which is to say we won’t be very prepared. So we will just see how things go! If I go off course or forget my damn test, I will be upset though.

Our last time at MacNair's

Our last time at MacNair’s

So anyways, that’s about it here on the horse front. The weather is supposed to turn a little scary tonight- winds of up to 25 mph, so here’s hoping I don’t die inside the indoor arena! Woo!

 

Show Recap: Running Start Horse Trials

We could rename this blog “Stupid Things Britt Does With a Horse”, and it would be a more descriptive title than the current version.

But let’s start at the beginning. I arrived home from Pittsburgh Friday night about 7:30, convinced the husband to take me straight to the barn where I cleaned the white bits of Foster and packed the last remaining details for the show. Proceeded home about 10:30pm, and unsuccessfully tried to sleep. Got to barn at 5:30 Saturday morning, hooked up and rolled out around 6:20 am. About 15 minutes before arriving at the show, I asked my buddy to look up the test for me so I could go over it once more in my head [most of my test practice had been mental to date, as riding time has been limited by my geographical location and/or weather]. Found out the test I had ridden once physically, and many more times mentally, was the wrong test, and started memorizing the new one.

One thing I love about my horse is that he brings his A game to shows. He tends to get really tense and anxious at home when he sees the trailer, becomes a bit spooky in the cross ties as I put on his shipping boots and fairly prances his way to the trailer. But once he gets to the show, he unloads casually and is always cool as a cucumber. I had the most relaxed horse under me during warm up, and I felt awesome about his dressage test. Beyond coming above the bit in his canter transitions (which we have practiced absolutely nil in the last month), he felt extremely obedient throughout and soft as butter. My hands are a little low, but I allowed his frame to be more Training dressage like, and so since there is a straight elbow-to-bit line, I’m okay with that. When we checked the scoreboard, the placings reflected a strong test- 2nd out of 13!

Screenshot from dressage

Screenshot from dressage

In the showjumping warmup, Foster continued to be really relaxed- almost too relaxed in fact! Julieann acted as my coach and tried to get me into a more forward canter, and while we got it in the end, I was a bit worried that he wouldn’t be able to maintain that pace through the course, but I pledged to try.

Imagine my surprise when Foster came out guns blazing in the arena! I thought the first fence was a bit spooky (and recalling our last horse trail there), decided to ride aggressively with a couple warning taps on the shoulder which may have gotten him a bit revved up. I may have also not held the soft knee I was striving for, and so he sensed my tension and got a bit carried away. Either way, it was a point and shoot kind of round, and he jumped me out of the tack a couple times for sure! But clean and clear and heading to XC!

Overjumping.. just a little!

Overjumping.. just a little!

Cross country was where I of course had the most concerns leading up to the show, because of both technical and fitness related questions. He knocked a pole pretty hard in the warmup and overreacted a little bit (with of course the timers yelling at me to get in the start box), so I chose to approach fence 1 with a more collected canter that I could control. After that he really opened up, and we had a fantastic run all the way through the water fence. After that, I breathed a big sigh of relief and mentally went on cruise control. This was a bit of a mistake.

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I approached the half coffin, cruising along and thinking nothing of it, and Foster saw that there was a second element (it was a jump, 2 strides to a reasonably sized ditch), and hesitated. Had I been thinking at all, I am 100% sure he would have gone straight over it, but that’s just it- I wasn’t thinking. So we had a run out, whereupon I brought him back to it and he went straight over. Over one more fence, and we were done. I pulled him up, told him he was a good good boy, and basked in the knowledge that we finished our first Novice course.

Over fence 2

Over fence 2

Then I realized (by way of whispers), that I hadn’t gone through the finish flags.

Palm to forehead, then hopped into a canter and backtracked to go through the flags. Word of advice- don’t leave your brain at jump 15. Whoops! In any case, Foster behaved better than I could ever have imagined, and  my stupid mistakes cost us a beautiful red ribbon! But in the end though, it wasn’t about the ribbon- it was about getting around and giving Foster a positive experience at the Novice level. I am so proud of him and how he behaved, and can’t wait to take him to the next one!

I do want to take a moment to thank Julieann for coming with me, being a source of positivity that I really needed, and taking the lovely video for us! You’re the best!

OMG the show is tomorrow!

I knew this would happen, (with me being in Pittsburgh and not being able to help but think about the competition tomorrow) but I had nightmares last night about the show last night. As in, oh no, I overslept and now I’m two hours behind for my dressage test! Do you think I can go from dressage directly to cross country? Yeah, stupid, I know.

Other than being in a different state the day before, I feel pretty good about it now that I’ve seen the course map-

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XC course map

It’s technical, as expected (6-14 will require all of my brain cells to be operating!), but with the exception of maybe 2 fences, we schooled the entire course on Monday. We even did the exact same pattern for jumps 7 – 12. I’ll be interested to see how he handles the half coffin, but he schooled the ditch by itself without question, so I’ll just have to ride with a balanced approach and half halt to let him know something is coming up, and trust him to do his job. The only fence on there that I am a little worried about is #9- which is a decent sized brush jump with trees for standards- Foster hesitated at this during schooling and I need to remember to come into it with my stick in hand for some extra “we’re doing this” sort of confidence.

Otherwise, I have ridden through my test once, maybe twice in the past two weeks, so I won’t be too sad if our score isn’t as lovely as usual. It will be what it will be. And that’s all there is to it! Que sera, sera!

Running Start XC Schooling

So, I am back in Raleigh again, for the time being at least. We did indeed make it to the dinner and reception of the wedding, which was really special! Then Sunday I was able to spend some quality time catching up with Foster, pulling his mane to an actually desirable length and getting him otherwise trimmed up. Then yesterday, thanks to warmer temps melting the snow, we were able to go school XC!

XC schooling last year

XC schooling last year

I went down by myself (therefore no photos), as my original partner in crime’s horse came up dead lame 2 days prior, and had scheduled a lesson with a trainer I’ve never worked with before. I will admit there were some differences in communication, and I felt like a pretty big dummy at several times. I’ll further admit that I even got a little emotional, as I know I tend to do when I am feeling sick (which I was/am, fighting off a nasty cold and having stomach issues to boot).

dumb

In any case, here is what I did manage to learn from the lesson:

  • Sit into the saddle longer while posting to encourage him to use his backend
  • Always imagine keeping the hind end underneath me (especially through turns)
  • Soft, bent knees – no standing in the stirrups!
  • Make him maintain a rythym (particularly on terrain)
  • No pulling on the away side of the fence
  • Ride the canter, don’t just allow it to happen
  • Swing my hips and connect to him as I ride to the fence (don’t stop riding!)

While I was trying to learn/remember all of this, Foster was thankfully proving himself a mature, solid citizen. He warmed up really nicely, and took to the fences like he’d done it yesterday, not 3 months ago. There was no hesitation at all jumping the Novice questions. The two fences I was most concerned about, the jump over a log into water (he has only done a cross rail version of this), and the trakehner, were ridiculously easy.

What I thought would happen at the water jump

What I thought would happen at the water jump

He attacked the water jump. Where I thought I’d be saying Go, I was saying WHOA! Definitely not going to be a problem, and it felt really great to see how confident he has become.

Ali and Baron jumping out over the log jump last summer

Ali and Baron jumping out over the log jump last summer

The trakehner was also excellent. This was a super friendly jump, where the ditch was not boxed in but still gave the impression of a taller fence and something to look at. There was still a bit of snow on the ground around the fence, so I was a little apprehensive that things might get slippy if he were to suddenly react. Once again, my fears were completely unfounded, and he went over it beautifully. If only I had a photo to prove it!

Because he was so good, and surprisingly peppy even at the end of our schooling, I have committed to the show this weekend. I know we won’t be as prepared as I would like, but I think it will be a good first outing for him at the Novice level. The course will be maxed out technically speaking (there will be a half coffin, bank to pheasant feeder, terrain questions, and of course the water jump), but it won’t be maxed out with height and width. Tonight Foster is going to get an easy stretchy ride and we will prepare as much as possible for a crazy week! Get excited!

So much for that!

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Foster and his most favorite friend, Baron, playing over the fence

If I could virtually stamp my foot, I would. Last week I had one ride on a sound but increasingly unfit horse, and then pouted about the weather for the next several days. Then yesterday, as I’m making plans for the next 5 gloriously sunny days, I trot off, and something’s wrong. Headbobbing, ugly, three legged wrong.

My well founded guess is that it’s another abcess, but in the other front foot. All the same symptoms- lots of wet conditions and no heat, no swelling, but head bobbing specifically on the front right- therefore I’m going to treat it as such (unfortunately the farrier is out of town). So we will be more than likely, missing our first jumper show that is next weekend, and cutting it closer than I would like in preparing for our first horse trial. In the mean time, the silver lining is that at least it will be sunny, and therefore dry up all the crud that keeps making my poor pony lame.

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More soaking…

Other than that, I’m off today on an adventure to take my trailer in for a well needed service!

Please send more sound thoughts to Foster, and maybe generous thoughts to the trailer guys so I have enough money to compete in the spring after they’re done!

Abhorrent Abcesses

Grumpy

Abhorrent abcesses are abhorrent.

Sorry for being incognito for a couple days. I’ve been slogging through the orientations, introductions, and efforts of trying not to look like the newest twit on the block at the new job, and unfortunately spending my evenings treating poor Foster’s abcess.

Soaking the foot

 

I sat on him Sunday and after trotting off found him head-bobbing lame on his left front. It’s been super wet and gross recently, so it was no surprise when the farrier confirmed that he had an abcess that came out through the bottom of his foot. After a couple days of treating, Foster is still in that pathetic hobbling stage that will hopefully give way to a magically happy prancing pony soon. The only positive note to the whole thing is that I am blessed with a horse who is content to stand still (or paw with his good foot) for a whole 20 minutes, and save my fingers from the frostbite that might occur should I be forced to play with water in hellish brutal frickin’ freezing subarctic such cold weather.

happy pony

As a result of recent weather conditions and the abcess, we will unfortunately be foregoing our first Combined Training show next weekend. Luckily, there are a couple jumper shows in two weeks so *hopefully* we can get out of the barn and go somewhere soon! Until then, thinking happy thoughts for my pony who is stuck in his stall today, but will be getting lots of treats and pats tonight!