The horse you bought

I’m nothing if not a follower of trends and since Cathryn started this one and I saw Olivia’s post… I figured I would throw back to my best girl for this one because retired life means you don’t get nearly enough attention. Also because she lives like 1000 miles from me, but yeah.

The earliest photo I can find of us

Lucy was purchased as I was moving out of the 11 & Under walk-trot division into the 13 & Under and later, the 14-18 division. We found her at the 2004 Pinto World Show, literally a paper ad posted on one of the bulletin boards. Over the course of a week or so, we rode her and tried her a few different times. The final time that solidified it being late at night while the baseball park next door set off fireworks – and she could not have cared any less.

She was only 6, but had been shown by a junior prior who decided she wanted a western pleasure horse. Lucy was (is) a pattern horse – equitation, showmanship, trail – and she’s a good mover, but she’s not a specialized pleasure horse. For me, I was coming off of a barely-15h pleasure horse who put up with patterns, but much preferred to hang on the rail in a pleasure class and was still a very nervous rider. I distinctly remember thinking she was HUGE and a huge mover – in hindsight, Luce is all of maybe 15.3 and moves like any average stock horse. Mind of an 11 year old though.

We actually didn’t purchase her at the show – negotiations stalled and we walked. I was heartbroken, but we went home and I kept looking for horses. Turns out, within three weeks my parents were back at the table and made it happen – and Lucy came home.

Unapproved helmet, stock pin and OMG THOSE BOOTS ARE SO SHORT WHY

Luce was basically finished when we got her, but what took a lot longer was for me to figure out how to ride her. She had buttons on buttons, but I also had the legs of a mosquito larva. Figuring how how to canter her was an ordeal, much less, you know, doing anything with it. Then came learning how to package up a stride that was bigger than anything else I’d ever ridden. How to ask for (and get) a clean change.

I don’t honestly think there was a button we had to truly put on Luce, except maybe finishing her canter and that was more of ‘finishing her canter for a 12 year without legs’. I was a really, really lucy kiddo in that way.

I didn’t give her any real firsts – no first bath, no first away shows, none of that, but together we had a lot of firsts – so much learning how to synch up, for me to put my hand down damnit, for her to like, not fall asleep in the middle of a pattern.

We showed consistently through 2006, then came suspensory tear #1 at the end of the 06 season. She was off for 16ish months and then rehabbed back. That was a learning curve for both of us – learning how to rehab. A good lesson to have that you don’t want to use. We made it back to show at the 2008 World Show, which would really end up being my last ‘big’ stock horse show.

Everyone is skinny in this photo which is the first indication it’s old

Since then, my mom showed her in some amateur classes here and there and she took a little girl from my barn to her first Congress in the walk/trot. I think she could have stepped into that job the day she came home to me, but I’d like to think that I had a hand in getting her to the point where she was the perfect pony for tiny legs.

Lucy’s favorite job (also LOOK you can see her heart marking under her belly!)

In 2011 she tore her suspensory for the second time and we pretty much retired her at that point. She hangs out at my parents’ place with her mini-donk Sancho and bullies him around. She’s still my best girl and I trust her more than any other horse in the world. It’s totally common for me to jump on her when I get home in a halter bareback only for someone to tell me nobody has sat on her since the last time I was home… six months ago.

She did more for my confidence and making me a competent rider than I did for her, but I hope she’s loving her cushy retired life knowing I’ve finally moved on to bugging another horse to go do things requiring energy while she naps.

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In which water takes a defining role

The end of summer brought some low key weeks with it (as if all summer hasn’t been low key, but…) around here. Doc and I went on a nice long trail ride with a friend a few weeks ago (where we played in the water), then Finny the Dog and I packed up and spent a week with my parents at their house in Florida (next to the water) where we did a lot of iguana stalking, crab chasing and reading. I’ll let you guess who did which.

We got home just in time for football season to kick off with a big Auburn win (yes, this is not horse related, I do not care, it’s my blog). And then for it to start raining (water from the sky).

#CFB

And basically never stop. I was pretty sure I needed to trade my car in for a boat this weekend. Instead, I lessoned Saturday morning, came home and drank pumpkin spice chai while watching college football all day. Not a bad way to spend a gloomy Saturday.

Lesson itself was good, but not great. We were just figure-8-ing over a cavaletti in the middle and I just could not. At the trot my body decided I was a walk-trot beginner. I tried (in no particular order): throwing myself and horse at the pole, getting behind the motion, acting like we were jumping 3’6″, falling on his neck and bouncing around like a disaster in motion. Cool, cool.

I love that this dork of a horse so much

I earned myself a lunge line lesson for that one. Yup. Reins taken away, two point on a circle, stand up, back to two point, figure out how to actually, you know, carry your own body. Weird idea.

So I’m like, cool, got this now. An exercise that most 11 year olds can do, but whatever. We’re cruisin now. Let’s canter!

HAHAHA.

Off the right lead? Great. I can do this. Look left, come around the circle, remember to sit up… and miss the cavaletti. Veer right.

Repeat 509349534 times. (No, literally it felt like that many times). FINALLY, I manage to not dive at it, sit in my right seatbone, keep my outside leg on and tap on the right shoulder and we, you know, canter over a 12″ cavaletti. Big accomplishment here guys!

By this time, by back is done. While it’s healed and I’m medically allowed to do whatever I want, I’m still so weak through my core that I can feel it get tired much easier/faster than it used to. A year ago, I would have pushed through it, but these days I’ve had to accept that it means it’s time to cool out. Riding through it either leaves me hurting for days after or just becomes unproductive. No point in really continuing to practice doing things wrong. So Doc got lunged over it to the left to prove to him that uh, he could do it, it’s just his uncoordinated minion who can’t.

The river was so high and moving so fast that day!

It finally stopped raining (insert hallelujah hands here) and was sunny and beautiful today. I’m (hopefully!) in my last week or two of funemployment, so I’m trying to take advantage of all the gorgeous fall weather we’re supposed to get here. Wouldn’t you know, I had an amazing flat ride. So much power and roundness from his hind end, really good canter work and some lovely transitions. I guess someone was as happy to have sunshine as I was.

I’ll be out of town for a bachelorette party the last XC schooling date in September here, but the tentative plan has us doing a CT and (finally) a HT in October, so I’m ridiculously excited and hoping things can fall into place. It’s been a non-existent show season and I’d love the chance to at least get out once before winter sets in and I have to hibernate.

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Riding a dolphin

There are two Docs: five-minute Doc and two hour Doc. They follow the 80/20 rule – so 80% of the time, I have five minute Doc who comes out ready to play ball and happily carts my butt around. But 20% of the time… I get two hour Doc. Doc who does not remember he is 17. Who thinks I am his minion and my input is unnecessary. Getting two hour Doc at home just means we work – a lot.

Last weekend weekend, though, we had the perfect storm of circumstances that meant I got 2 hour Doc… going XC schooling.

Even WTForecast decided to mock me…

It started when he pulled his shoe last Saturday and didn’t get it back on until Thursday afternoon. Nothing like a little five day vacay. Then, he got turned out Friday night without his grazing muzzle – and promptly gorged himself on grass all night long.

Add in some muggy swampy weather in there, a very spooky *empty* field next to the XC course…

I am v awkward

I spent the 2/3rd of my morning (sortof) reinstalling brakes. Including the one time we bolted clear across the entire back half of the course in some sort of Saddlebred American Pharoah impression that was independently decided upon without any input from the bipeds. I stayed on my the grace of Animo sticky breeches, God going, “well I guess one broken back is enough for a year,” and the willpower to know if I landed on the ground I was probably just going to send everyone on their way and lay there until I shrived up in the heat and died.

I had these grand plans after jump judging last weekend – we were going to school all the fun BN jumps! Maybe some smaller N stuff! Whee!

More like ‘canter through mud’ vs water but…

HAHAHAHA. We made it over approximately 4 starter jumps. The actual jumping? No problem. The landing and immediately deciding to go full tilt Training 450mpm? Not really on my to-do list. I have discovered muscles I did not know existed from the level of sore I am.

My water bottle was gone by the first hour and at one point I actually had to get off and stand in the shade, take off my vest and helmet and attempt not to throw up from being so hot. It was warm and muggy, but more, he’d managed to suck every bit of strength and energy out of me by then. I finally got to a point where I was confident I wouldn’t pass out off the side of my horse, got back on and we headed to the back side of the course (okay, front actually here, we went backwards). Where my saintly horse returned and was more than happy to go happily jump over anything and everything,

when snax appear at perfect height

Where were you an hour and a half ago?! By this time I was essentially out of steam and Doc was straight up drenched in foamy sweat, so even though we now had the hamsters back on the wheel to go do fun things, neither of us had much left to give.

Where was this horse all morning?!

We had a blast jumping around and through the water, did a baby bank into the water, jumped an inviting little BN jump finally and called it a day on that note. The second half felt successful, but the first half of the day was… not fun. At all.

Good for the stories, but I don’t need to experience 2 hour Doc for like… ever again.

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All quiet on the (mid)western front

If you think the blog has been quiet the last few weeks, it’s because it has. Because life in general has been quiet. First, we had an easy week post-camp where we did a lot of toodling, some bareback hacks and general summer activities. Doc took care of his favorite human, C’s son.

Seriously, he tolerates me, he likes C, but he LOVES her son.

Then, we did some dressaging – good, solid work, but not the most thrilling to write about… “Cantered on a 20m circle. Stop collapsing left. Trot transitions. Trotted on 20m circle.” NYT Bestseller, right there.

I volunteered and jump judged at IEA Leg Up Horse Trials last weekend and had a blast. They only ran three divisions (Starter, BN and Novice), so we were done with XC by.. 1pm? I hung out and helped set SJ courses for a while and was still home by 3pm.

I had this cute little combo, of which you only see A. Unicorn was double clear XC, obviously.

N jumped this to a rolltop as a combo, BN jumped this alone, S just came down the hill.

I had the fun jump of the only refusals of the day, but everyone got over and had a good time.

Doc promptly ripped off his shoe and half his front foot with it and earned himself a week of vacation, along with his nice case of scratches. Cool story, bro. I spent my birthday washing legs and slathering on Desitin, although I did turn him into a couch while we grazed out front of the barn. Because nothing says cLaSsY eVeNtErS like running shorts, tennis shoes, tshirt with who-knows-what on it, bareback grazing in a halter in the driveway.

Enjoying his vacation by refusing to stand up when he sees me and instead making me hold his head up… Um plz stop taking lessons from Frankie 

Just keeping it real around here so nobody starts thinking I’m fancy or something.

As of this morning, Doc has shoes on, my accomplishment of the week involved finding a brand new Patagonia Capilene top at Goodwill for $3, I am still interviewing for jobs and therefore have negative horse budget or fun budget or any other budget. But we’re going XC schooling Saturday, I’m now closer to 30 than 20 but still got carded this week and I only had to pull one stick out that Fin the Dog managed to get stuck in his teeth like the genius he is.

It’s a glamorous life we lead. I’m just going to keep pretending I’m on summer vacation.

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The Walk-Up Song

I’ve had this draft sitting here waiting to be finished for a while when I realized how perfectly it fit with the In Others Words hop, so I just kind of combined and threw them together and last minute cause why not?

It’s summer so the only sport on is baseball and while I can’t watch an entire baseball game without needing distractions, I absolutely love going to games at great minor league/college ballparks. I mean, I grew up with this one, spent many a college afternoon here, and a few grad school spring’s here. I love the food, the beer, the fireworks post-game, the company, the ability to sit and just relax (because there is no relaxing when I watch football come fall). But my favorite thing? Players’ walk-up music.

Not walk-up… but yeah, that’s one of my schools. #proud

Which, combined with the fact that I love riding to music, had me thinking – what if we got walk-up songs? Like entry circle in the SJ or waiting in the start box on XC? I’m 100% in support of this, just saying, okay?

I have a wide variety of music interests… like, I listen to a lot of different genres. And while I’m no music-hipster (I like Top 40 pop and Taylor Swift waaayyyy too much for that), I do have a talent for putting together a great playlist. I do mine seasonally, with additions for anything special. Mostly, I ride to whatever season’s playlist I feel like, but for this, I finally put songs together for a riding playlist just for Doc and me.

Explanations for 75 songs might take a while (too long) so I just pulled a few.

  • Nice For What (Drake): my current favorite trot set song – the perfect beat and in general I love doing conditioning work to rap
  • The Champion (Carrie Underwood): One of those ‘get out there, blood, sweat and tears’ songs. Perfect for pushing through no-stirrup work when I want to die.
  • There She Go (Fetty Wap): Okay, bear with me… this is one of my favorite dressage school songs. It’s like, make that shit fancy.
  • We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (T Swift): Reserved for when Doc is being a princess and I can’t deal any longer. Sometimes involves yelling-singing.
  • Magic (B.o.b.): Dressage. For sure. Trots across the diagonals right here. Makes me feel like I’m riding Valegro.
  • Good Feeling (Flo Rida): Warm up music here. The title says it all.
  • Taking Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive): Trot sets/conditioning work. Getting business done. To a fun beat. Singing included with package.
  • GDFR (Flo Rida): When I need a pump up. The last bit of two point and my legs hate me? Get psyched up before a big jumping lesson? This one.
  • Red Hop Lollipop (mash-up Red Hot Chilipeppers, Lil Wayne & Kanye): One of my favorite mash ups – totally a beat I would go out to XC with
  • Drake & Diane (mash-up Drake & John Mellencamp): Another top favorite and one I love dressaging to. All those DQs appalled at dressage to Drake and I’m like, “yeah, and?”

So, then what would be our walk-up music? I seriously can’t decide…

(PS if you have tiny human ears around, my playlists aren’t exactly… child friendly)

It could totally be Jump Around  – would there be a better pre-SJ round song?

But I also feel like there’s not much that says “eventing” like Tubthumping

Oops I Did It Again (Pulled to the Base)?

Nah, more like some Country Grammar because… Nelly. That could get us out of the start box.

Because there’s also a side for me that thinks if it’s going to be pump up, walk-up song, it should definitely be Drake or another solid rap song.

Then there’s the side of me who love nothing more than Auburn football season and totally needs it to be All the Above (yup, can still sing every word)

At the end of the day though, as much as I totally want it to be We Didn’t Start the Fire (life goal: memorize all the words), I don’t think there are a better first 20 seconds we could start to than the classic… Yo I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want

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The barn that raised me

I was lucky enough growing up to have my horses at home, right in my backyard. My dad built my mom and me a little two stall barn with a tack room and wash stall, later adding on a third stall and hay storage area. We also kept a lot of our daily tack in the trailer and just walked over there to tack up, so needless to say, there was no lack of storage space. (Sidenote: this is also why I never had a tack trunk and never understood them.)

Yes, dis my barn. Why you so interested?

These days, it’s just Lucy living her best retired life at home along with her mini donk Sancho. My arena is still there, but has seen better days. But the last time I was home, I snapped a few photos of the barn and thought they’d be fun to share (because I love seeing photos of other people’s barns!)

Lucy looking semi-feral and wondering where more food is

New Mexico means sand and sand means dust and dust is why our barn will not ever look like some east coast (or uh, anywhere it rains) barn. Luckily our barn stays relatively cool in the summers (perks of no humidity) and moderately warm in the winters (not that the horses take advantage).

Can we take a moment and acknowledge my horse’s stupid perfect tail?

Both stalls open out into large paddocks and then Lucy’s actually opens into a big turnout. She paces in a stall and will walk the fenceline into a ditch in the paddock, so she just has free roam which helps to curb it… some. She’s still a pacer at dinnertime, but she’s also 20 at this point and we’ve given up. We refer to her being out in the “field” but again… New Mexico. There is no grass. It is dirt.

Naptime is v important when retired. Also, NM in winter is not the prettiest unless you really love brown.
Sancho in his turnout, Lucy’s bigger one in background. Also, I’m totes a fashion blogger in this outfit.

Opposite Lucy’s stall is our grooming/wash stall – it has cross ties and then shelves for collecting dust organizing.

The aisleway leads to the second stall (really the first one because you pass it when you walk in…) and the tack room.

Door into barn in white, tack room on left, cookies in bottom left corner

 

Do as I say not as I do. Don’t ride your 20 year old retired horse around bareback without a helmet in her turnout. Also do not canter her while sitting backwards, you will fall off and nobody will feel bad for you.
And finally, our lovely trailer which doesn’t go much of anywhere these days. Arena opposite grey wall on the other side.

There’s the mini tour of my home barn, in all its glory. Sometimes I really miss having it all right there, but mostly I love being at a barn where there are other people and horses and friends to talk to and ride with. I spent so much time growing up riding completely alone or in a private lesson, that I really craved that social interaction.

But I do totally miss all my tack rooms.

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Event Camp 2018: The wrap-up

It’s so surreal to me that I’ve been riding this horse a year. A year. With a three month break so really more like nine months. For years I was the most nervous rider – I wouldn’t go on a trail ride, even on my dead broke QH. The slightest thing was enough to make me want to get off, much less my horse deciding he didn’t have brakes that day. I had reason to feel this way, but I thought that would be why I’d always be a QH rider or maybe if I got brave, I’d go do the hunters.

An eventer? Me? Never in a million years.

And then this week, here we were. Galloping around, having the time of our lives. Trusting the hell out of my amazing chestnut opinionated Saddlebred (who got like 59053809 compliments this week and deserved every single one of them). Feeling like I’ve found my place. Where I can be brave and do hard things and challenge myself a little bit more every day.

There’s a line in the Auburn creed that says, “I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.” The last line of my RoadID says “& a spirit that is not afraid” because sometimes I need that little reminder. (And I just love that line, okay?)

My friends may tease me (lovingly) that I went to pony camp and that I’m always at the barn, but this makes me the best version of myself. It makes me braver, it makes me grittier, it makes me happier. And it may be dressage or jumpers or endurance or western pleasure for you, but for me right now? It’s eventing.

It’s a reminder that I can do hard things.

2018 has been a year of hard things. I broke my back. I left my job the beginning of June, under less than ideal circumstances. I’ve felt lost and sad and useless and I’m simultaneously overqualified and underqualified and I’m “not the one” and I’m ‘just not the priority’ or “it’s not you, it’s me”. But this week was a week where a group of people I’d never met stepped up and cheered and said, “Yes, you can!” and celebrated when I did.Where people laughed at antics, cheered when you conquered something (hey, I see you coffin jump), never let you leave the barn without a, “Have a great ride!” Where I was told, “You are enough, you are good, you have this” and I believed them.

It may seem deep and emotional for a week of pony camp, but the things this week taught me run a lot deeper than the barn. I did this week on my own – I hauled myself, unloaded, tacked up, fed, hooked up the trailer, hauled home, parked (!!) the trailer. Things I never had to do all by myself because I had the world’s greatest horse show mom. But at the same time – I didn’t do it on my own at all – I did it surrounded by a village of people.

I got through grad school knowing I could do hard things. And then somewhere in the last two years, I lost myself a little bit. I settled. I stopped challenging myself. I didn’t know what I wanted – in my career, relationships, living situation, hell, I didn’t know what I wanted for dinner most nights.

So it may just be a stadium oxer or a blue rolltop in a field, but this week it was a lot more to me. It was the stretching of muscles that haven’t been used in a while, the getting back out there, the getting back on the (literal and figurative) horse. It was deciding what I wanted and going after it, full steam ahead, teeth gritted, not afraid of a little blood, sweat and dirt.

It was me, becoming an eventer.

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Event Camp 2018: Day Four

And we’ve made it to the final day of event camp, excuse me while I go cry for a minute over here and miss it.

On our last day, we were allowed to choose what kind of lesson we wanted. For me, this was a no brainer – we wanted to go XC again. Stephen left after day two, so our final lesson ended up with Leslie Law. Bookend lessons with him, how perfect for the week.

We were back on our 8am ride time, which I was perfectly fine with considering we had to pack up and be done that afternoon and it was going to be the hottest day of the week so far. My group this day was one of the girls and horses I’d ridden with all week, plus two juniors who I hadn’t (and damn, those girls were brave!)

Log to start

Leslie’s big on doing jumps strung together versus schooling anything individually on XC because that’s how we ride it. We warmed up initially over a log and then proceeded to immediately go jump log to blue rolltop. Where Doc decided that left drift we love so much was back and strong. So that’s how today was going to go.

From there we moved to the water, stringing together water, blue rolltop, baby log into the water, red coop, baby drop into the water. And per usual, if I saw a bad distance, I took it. Particularly  coming into the water.

And for whatever reason, I decided that the appropriate way to enter the water was to ride like a monkey, lean forward, drop all contact and do nothing. Thank God my horse is a saint and was like, um, okay mom, I don’t know why you’re so dumb, but I can do this in my sleep.

What even is this riding
But wait I can do it TWICE

Off we went to the other field, my poor saintly horse and his monkey rider.

Where we successfully jumped through the entire sunken road! Which I have no photos or video of so just use your imagination!

Coming off the sunken road, we came down and then back up a hill to a small grey house and then around to a rolltop. Well, down the hill Doc’s (as Leslie phrased it) brain left for another planet. He decided I was no longer necessary, he was a fast Saddlebred, he was galloping and he did not need a Captain.

This earned him about fifteen canter-halt-canter-halt transitions up and down this hill until Leslie was satisfied we had brakes once again. And from there, we were great – over the house to the rolltop which had a slight drop on landing.

At this point we had some discussion – Leslie gave us each some galloping tips (which I will be working on for sure) and position tips (I bring my heel up to use it and I pinch with my knee).

Some of our group hadn’t jumped the half coffin at all, so he had us back over there and over it. After two successful trips over each way, our group was calling it a day, but I had one more request. As the truest testament to my bravery this week – I said the rest of my group got to jump the full coffin on Tuesday, but I had chickened out. Well, I wanted to end my week doing it.

So we did it.

And I haven’t stopped smiling since.

Seriously, the best week ever.

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Event Camp 2018: Day Three

Day three meant I had a late start time (9:30!) so I finally didn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn which was amazing. Our lesson was a jumping lesson with Tim and when I went to pull Doc out of his stall to get ready, I’m not kidding, I got a look of, “You? Again?”

Apparently someone thinks two lessons/day is hell and I am the Devil.

I am also the devil when I insist you have a bath

Sure enough, when we got out to the arena, I had a horse who was pretty sure he had never ever heard of the idea of being in front of my leg. Drag along the ground like you were on your way to the guillotine? Far more accurate. Our warmup left… a lot to be desired.

Tim’s jumping lesson was totally different from Sharon’s in a great way – he sent us over one jump to warm up, told us our course and had us go ride, just like we would show. Of course, my first ‘warm up’ jump was a hot mess where I came in entirely underpowered, stared at the ground, my horse chipped in and I basically said JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL. Needless to say… we got a correction and sent through it again.

Left drift still not fixed but they’re humans not Harry Potter okay. And this is the most midwestern jump of all time.

 

Our correction, which I’m writing down here so I have it for myself (probably need to tape this to Doc’s ears honestly), was simple, but powerful. You add power before and through the turn, really go get it! – and then a few strides out, you sit up, keep your leg on and stop micromanaging. You let him carry you to the jump. You also have to look up, that helps.

Once we had Tim convinced we wouldn’t, you know, die, that day, he sent us out over the course. Oxer to oxer bending line, rollback to a vertical plank five (I think?) to a vertical, around to the outside line in six, through the one stride, rollback to an oxer three strides to a vertical. Our first time through left some to be desired, but we got better. Which is, you know, what matters. As Tim said – the first half of my course was like, lalala, just going to sit here and let my horse jump and then I came through my first rollback, woke up and went wait, I’m going to ride today.

This would be the phrase my trainer growing up used to refer to as “Holly gets mad.” It’s not anger per say – certainly not at my horse. It’s more of this mental feeling where I grit my teeth and go, oh HELL no. It happens when I ride (see: Day 2 “Captain”), it happens in my regular life (Fastest way to get me to work my ass off and get something done? Tell me I can’t). I can tell you the literal expression my face takes on when it happens – I set my jaw, narrow my eyes a little bit, and it’s like my body kicks into overdrive.

Once that clicked on? Well, we got this ride.

Our lesson ended on that happy note and we toodled back to the barn to hang out. Wednesday afternoon we we able to do a mock stadium round or a dressage test, but we’d signed up on Tuesday. Well, Tuesday I was thinking I could use all the time over fences I could get, but Wednesday afternoon when I realized I’d be jumping the same course as that morning I wasn’t so sure. Too late to do anything about it, so stadium it was.

First, we split a bag of Goldfish at the barn.

And then off to warmup we went.

Tim was acting as our mock trainer in warm-up and I happened to get there as the Novice riders were finishing up… so he sent me over all of their warm up jumps. Nothing to get things feeling good like that. Three jumps and he sent us into the ring. Where I noticed the jumps suddenly looked so… small. Yeah, the course that I thought looked normal and totally do-able moments before? That was the full height Novice course.

Uh, guess we’re ready to jump full size BN!

And damn if we didn’t put down the best round of our freaking lives to date. Tim told me all morning how I needed to be my horse’s cheerleader – not because he was nervous, but he needs all the energy I can give him. Well, between this and my little Captain moments, apparently this means I now keep a running commentary going.

After this round? I’m not changing a freaking thing. Horse can have all the Goldfish he wants and I’m going to be out there chatting away like a 14 year old on the phone (wait, do teenagers talk on the phone anymore, I guess they just text so idk, chatting like my grandma or something).

Except… I think the jumps can get bigger.

(Who am I?!)

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Event Camp 2018: Day Two

Some people are really good about writing recaps of things while they are happening. I am not one of them. Each night after camp, I came home, made an effort to play with the dog, showered, scavenged for food and fell into a coma. Repeat. So, you get day two’s recap four days later.

We had a bright and early ride time of 8am on Tuesday morning, which I did not love when my alarm went off at 5:45, but did love when it wasn’t 90324 bazillion degrees outside. My group went XC with Stephen Bradley this morning, something I was nervously excited for. The extent of my XC schooling on Doc to this point has been the logs in one of our back fields, where he decided to become a cutting horse around a tree and I yelled a lot of four letter words. After our gridwork lesson the day before though, I was feeling comfortable with some height.

Stephen immediately shortened my stirrups another two holes (um, ouch) and sent us out to go warm up around the field. To which Doc said, “yeah, nahhhh” and stood there not moving. Have I mentioned this is our latest trick? Not moving no matter what I do, including kicking, clucking, tapping with crop, tapping harder with crop, pulling head around, backing up, setting off dynamite, doing gymnastics, blasting an airhorn… Super awesome. Stephen had me pull his head around while tapping his hind end to get his feet moving in the tiniest circle of all time, gradually adding to it and changing directions constantly. While minorly mortifiying, I was actually really happy this happened so I could get some input on it.

(Yes, we have had vet check, bodywork, saddle fitted, Holly checked, etc etc etc. It is 100% attitude.)

Doc finally seemed to realize we were doing XC and oh, he loves the jumpies and oh, okay he could go now and off we went. We started out over a small Starter/Intro level set of steps, around to a small rolltop, back over a set of BN steps.

BN Steps

Immediately, it was a confidence builder. It all just clicked – my horse knows his job, he’s going to take care of me, I can do this, we got it. It helped Stephen was so so encouraging. The entire lesson, he wasn’t afraid to help correct things, but was quick to praise a good ride and when things went well.

Eventually, we cruised around jumping all kinds of things – essentially the entire BN course (out of order) at this farm.

Jumped these

We went splashing through the water, where Doc decided it was his own personal waterpark.

omg stop splashing and GO
Tiniest little jump but omg my horse is so cute ok

Eventually we headed to the second field to school the ditch back there. Doc, per schoolmaster status, was basically like, yeah, k, ditch cool. I had slightly more issues getting my shit together. But we did. This ditch is actually set up as part of a full coffin, but we started out schooling it by itself. Then we added in the rails on one end, back and forth.

As we started to head down to it, Doc finally woke up, realized where he was and decided he wanted to go Mach 10 for this half-coffin. Um, no.

In my previous riding life, this would have had me off my horse. Walking back the barn. Opting out of jumping. In this life? I laughed at him, growled and told him (what I thought was quietly), “DAMNIT I AM THE CAPTAIN NOW.”

And then you know what we did? I sat up, put my leg on and rode the shit out of that thing. And I was damn proud of myself for it.

As seen here

Little did I know, what I thought was my quiet rev-up was not-so-quiet and had been heard by a number of observers. Which is how, on day 2 of event camp, I became known as Captain.

And yeah, I’m 120% having a XC bonnet made with that.

Tuesday afternoon brought a stadium lesson with Sharon White (seriously even writing this all out is like pinch me, did that really happen?!). All the other trainers made fun of her/us because she warms you up on the flat for what feels like 2823 years. But damn if it wasn’t worth it – every horse in our group was sharp off our aids after that. So many transitions. Short, mini ones – three steps of walk, back to trot. Three steps of trot, back to canter. I can sum up my entire flatwork lesson as, “Open your hip flexors, relax your elbows.” We got lots of good first toolkit stuff. From there, we moved to two ground poles. Her entirely philosophy – jumping is just ground poles with height. If you can do it there, you can do it over height. Guess what? It works.

We did those two, eventually adding in a single vertical and then an outside line. Circle at the end, back down the line, over the poles, circle. Added it into a full course (we’ll see if I can remember it) – outside line, vertical to vertical bending line, oxer across the middle, vertical to oxer bending line. The trick was we added a circle after every line. The idea being the circle gave us the time to get reorganized, breathe, get the canter we wanted, and rebalance. Eventually we took out the circles and actually added in a second oxer off the middle oxer on another bending line (originally we had circled around it). It was amazing the feeling we had – it was actually easier to make the bending line than it had been to circle. The feeling of using the circles in between stayed and being able to take our time and get the canter we wanted.

I walked out of that lesson about ready to keel over and die (she will work you!) but also feeling like a million bucks. Had I just rode my horse around an entire 2’9″-2’11” course without feeling a hint of nerves? Hell yeah I had. Suddenly courses didn’t just go by in a blur of cantercantercanter jump don’t die cantercanter turn jump and instead I had the time to think and proactively make decisions and ask for what I wanted.

And I can’t state it enough but Sharon is freaking amazing and positive and encouraging and hard as hell on you in the absolute best way and I can’t wait to ride with her again.

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