Fall Harvest HT: Baby Shark goes XC

What I didn’t mention is that Saturday the farm hosting the HT also held a derby. In order to get out on the XC course and jump some things, we did the starter (2’3″) and BN derbies the day before. This ended up being a great idea because by the time XC rolled around on Sunday, I was totally feeling game and ready to go vs being a hot mess of nerves.

The course was set up so you had quite a few places to gallop and settle in, which I really liked. I was a little nervous that Doc was going to tune me out and do his best racehorse impression, but after two good derby runs the day before and a good stadium course where he was super tuned in, I started to think maybe we’d be able to really go for it and have some fun gallops.

Warm up consisted mainly of being told to put my hands down and shoulders back – which apparently my body can’t do at the same time. I always thought I was cool because I could pat my head and rub by stomach, but the real world application has failed me. I can have hands down and shoulders leaning forward or I can have hands up and shoulders back, but both at the same time is a mental struggle.

Oh, and the person who started singing Baby Shark in warmup. Thanks for that one.

We left the startbox (to the tune of do-do-do-do-do-do) and had a short little cruise into the next field for our first jump, a red stairstep we jumped a few times at camp this summer I felt good about.

1 - Stairstep

He was a little behind my leg until he locked onto the jump and went, “OOHHH doing jumpies, OK” and then it was like, game on.

Two, you came around through the field to the fence line to a red coop, set really nicely to just gallop out of stride and he did just that. I did make sure to have my inside leg on so someone didn’t opt to take the lazy way out, but he just cruised on over.

2 - Red coop

Around the end of the field and back out to three which was on the slightest bit of an angle, but still just a fun galloping pheasant feeder.

3 - Pheasant feeder
Slight angle because you turned left at the end of that fence

Coming into 4 was the first time I really let him out and was going to find out if he’d come back easily or if this was going to be a fight – it was going back towards home and you came right next to warmup and where everyone was hanging out.

4 - Hanging rail
Hanging rail at 4

Needn’t have worried – half-halt, shoulders back, about five strides out, and he just came up perfectly – the way Trainer K described our feel for the course was ‘bounce the ball’ – like the horse was a basketball underneath you with power. It was as we came over this jump and past everyone in the warmup area (to cheers because Indiana eventing is chock full of the Greatest People) I settled in and went, “OMG we are doing the thing and it’s fun.” It is also where everyone on course heard me talking hilariously enough, because when I talk, I breathe. So I talk through my entire course. To Doc, to myself, to the jumps, to the world.. I’m chatty Cathy up there. Add in galloping and breathing and I’m also… loud.

Through the gate to the next field and over the lincoln logs at 5 (which we’d jumped the day before) and then a sharpish right hand turn to the ditch at 6.

5 - Lincoln logs

6 - Ditch option

Per usual, Best Horse Ever didn’t bat an eye at anything and gave the ditch the most half-hearted jump effort ever. I have felt bigger strides out of this horse over ground poles. At this point, I’m audibly laughing because this is holyOMGfun.

We came around the corner, downhill and then back up to jump the trojan horse at the top of the hill. Fun fact: this jump was set on a different hill at camp and it is the jump I got run away with to… about 6 times in front of Leslie Law. So when I walked it, my mind was like, “UGHHHH Y” Literally everyone else doesn’t like 8, I’ll jump 8 anyday. I hate this stupid jump. It looks big and dark to me and I don’t like it.

7 - Trojan horse

Well, guess I should say didn’t like it, because I just half halted at the bottom of the hill, remembered to keep my damn shoulders back and rode a little deeper like K suggested and it came up basically perfect. Jokes on me.

Around to the left to 8 which is a table nobody else likes, but I think is a badass fun fence (as badass as anything at BN can be…) that was set on a slight downhill.

8 - Slatted table

It’s amazing how when you listen to smart people and remember how to ride, things work. From 8 we cruised downhill to the bank at 9 – half of the sunken road we jumped through this summer at camp. Doc had a split second he thought that jumping up this thing was dumb when he could just go to the right and around it, but some leg and a little tap nixed that idea.

If there was going to be a fence anyone had problems with on course, it was going to be at 10. You had to come through a gate at the end of the field and make an L to the tires at 10. Well, no worries here. It’s at this point I’m realizing we’re on the second half of the course and it’s going better than I could have ever imagined.

10 - Tires

Through those two gates ahead, to a small ditch at 11 to a rollback left to the distillery, which is also one we jumped at camp.

11 - Ditch

 

12 - Distillery
I love this jump because it’s a distillery

From 12, we came back through that gate to the adjustable bench which when I walked looked stupid big. Luckily since it was set as 13 and we’d had 12 basically perfect jumps up to it, I just went, “Welp, here we go bud,” and quietly jumped it out of stride.

13 - Adjustable bench

Hah. More like I yelled myself over that damn thing. Literally was like a damn high school cheerleader psyching up an entire football team. He jumped big over it, but instead of going, “Oh shit,” and being unseated, it was this moment of, “Oh my GOD that was fun, I want to do that AGAIN!” Like.. there was air time. And I landed off it and galloped on and was like YEAH REAL EVENTERS.

Reserved and quiet, I am not.

Between 13 and 14 we cut through the arena to to the end of the course. 14 was this new jump – a big cut out table that had freaked me out the day before, but Doc didn’t blink at. On Saturday, I pulled to it, he added and we chipped which is a super fun feeling to a big ass table. Knowing that, I consciously added leg and Did. Not. Pull.

And of course, Perfect Horse jumped it Perfectly.

 

From the table around the back of the water to the left and a few strides to the last jump on course, a blue table we jumped at camp and the day before.

I came through the water on the line to the last table and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I remember just sitting up and telling Doc, “let’s go buddy!” and we just galloped for that jump.

This was basically the happiest moment ever and my favorite photo ever

I was giggling like a little kid as we came over that last jump and through the finish. Cheering like I’d just finished a freaking 4 star. I was almost in tears I was so happy, as embarrassing as that is to admit.

That smile

We ended up being double clear XC (I didn’t wear a watch so I had no idea what our time was like – turns out we were spot on at 5:21 with OT being 5:41 and speed faults being 4:51. It was enough to move us to finish in 11th despite our other, uh… mishaps, but I could care less about that ribbon.

I don’t have words to describe the feeling of finishing that course. It was the most fun I think I’ve ever, EVER had on a horse. I’m pretty sure running XC is a drug because I’m addicted.

Only… five months? until next show season.

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Fall Harvest HT: Jumping colored sticks

 

After a… less than desirable dressage test, I untacked and let Doc chill in his stall for a bit while I walked over to watch the Training riders ride SJ. The trainer I was working with this weekend (Trainer C was out of town) and her daughter (who is like 12 and a better rider than I will ever hope to be) both had horses in the Training division I wanted to see go and I wanted to see how the course was riding.

Super thrilled to go do things

I don’t have a photo of the course, but it was bending line 1 to 2, left rollback to a vertical at 3, 5 strides to an oxer, right to 5 on the outside, around the end to a tight bending line from 6 to 7, left to a two stride on the outside set as 8A and B. The first four jumps were the same as the derby course we rode the day before, so I felt good about them. The rest of the course seemed to be riding well, save one exception – that line from 6 to 7.

In watching the Training riders go, I watched multiple people have misses or near misses at 7. No problem, I figured, my jumps are a lot smaller, I’ll just really ride for 7. Famous last words.

Think we went on this

I got him tacked up and we got warmed up – popped over the jumps in warmup a few times until I had a great one at the oxer and we went on that. He felt really good as we got into the arena and the bell rang and I was feeling great about the course.

Vertical at 4 and my leg somewhere around three strides behind us

The first four went beautifully – the distances were just coming up perfectly, he was in front of my leg and responsive, I remembered not to pull and things felt great. Down five felt good, he started to get a little tuned out, but having two corners at the end gave me exactly what I needed to get him back and set up for 6. So I thought.

No touchy 5. Photo from J. Nelson Photography

We went to head for 6-7 and I got so damn focused on Not Missing 7, that… we missed 6. Yup. Just completely went right of it. I can’t blame it as a runout or a refusal, literally my horse was going where I was aiming him. That just happened to be… at the standard.

Cool.

Second time’s the charm? Photo from J. Nelson Photography

Circled around, actually like, remembered to ride 6 and keep my outside leg on and whatcha know, it worked and the line rode great, as did the last combo at 8.

I promise I will tailor my coat before next season. Photo from J. Nelson Photography

Even with that dumb rider error, it was EASILY our best SJ round to date. We ended up with 9 time penalties so I think we would have been close to double clear if not for my dumb miss. I can’t be too mad though because it was just a fantastic round otherwise. Every jump just came up and felt perfect. It was like the culmination of everything we worked on all summer and fall and camp and everything else. In other words, it was the perfect setup to go XC off of because I finally felt the nerves settle and realized that we could totally do this.

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Fall Harvest HT: Dressage

The day didn’t even start at the crack of dawn thanks to a 10:27am ride time, so it should have been a good omen. I got to wear my sparkly white Animos for the first time! These were good things!

I have zero dressage mediaz so you’re getting random other photos

I made sure to get on with plenty of time to warm up, knowing he likes a longgggg walk before being asked to do anything these days. We did just that, then added in some long and low trots before moving into the warm up arena for Trainer K to finish help putting it together. I started to pick him up and push him forward and he responded well, adding in some canter transitions upward. The last few weeks have been a total breakthrough in our canter work – I’ve had some fantastic lessons where it finally (a year and a half later) feels like I can influence it in a positive way, as opposed to being an unbalanced lump on his back. He was feeling amazing and when we came back down to trot, it was even better, having now really warmed up. I had just enough time to let him walk a few laps and then it was time to go.

It started out with such promise.

The beginning felt good – he tried to get a little wriggly on the centerline, but we stayed straight and the scores/comments reflected both of those. A 7.5? I’ll take it. Nothing was perfect, but we were solidly in the 6.5s range, which is basically where I am right now. This winter is going to be dressage boot camp.

And then came the second canter circle. Beginner Novice B has you trot a half circle before picking up the canter on the circle – sounds great, right? I was feeling good, we had this. Well, I went to ask for the canter and felt him suck back behind my leg. Instead of taking a deep breath and adding some extra leg and keeping him bent, I panicked, saw E straight ahead and tapped him with my whip (literally barely a tap). Which earned me a sassy kick/mini buck and One Pissed Off Doc. Who was now on the wrong lead. I was flustered from All That, so it took me three or so strides to fix it and then it was basically time to trot. Well, now Doc was like, “Yeah RIGHT lady, you had the audacity to touch me with your crop to canter so now I will ONLY CANTER FOREVER.” Thx. Got dat 4.0.

Late to trot. Late to walk. Judge literally CIRCLED the movements on the test. Like, I am aware I was late, I was just trying to STOP CANTERING. Medium walk became more of a ‘wrestle-with-giraffe-in-corner’, to the free walk where I went, “Oh dear God, please just take this moment to RELAX.” At least that was a 6.0, a small flicker of light in a dark dressage world. Back to medium walk, with my Angry Llama who I am not helping with my tense ‘well fuck’ body language. Our trot transition earned the remark of, “prompt” which just makes me laugh because uh, yeah, he was ready to get the hell out of there so going faster was not a problem. It was also “hollow and counterbent” but really, not the biggest problem here now.

We pulled out a 6.5 for coming down the centerline at least and a final 6.0 because someone halted square. Needless to say, when the 6.5s are the HIGH points in your test, you’re not exactly going to be like top of the class. No worries, we weren’t. A 40.5? No, that is not the dressage court speed limit or the number of times this weekend I was told to bend my elbows. Yes, it is unfortunately our dressage score. It’s never good when your score is closer to ‘midlife crisis’ than ‘legal drinking age’.

Plz stop communicating with Murray via brainwaves

But! It was over and it was time to jump the jompies and we like doing that more anyways.

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Outlook optimistic

Despite all the temptations that exist right now, I’m on a spending freeze (cold snap?) due to some fun things this year is holding. They’re also the things currently pushing me to get off my couch and go jog or do something else to prevent from turning into a blob of human-ness in the off season.

Me, coming back from winter

Mainly, I got my deposit in for Event Camp which is as awesome as it sounds – four days with Sharon White, Tim Bourke and Leslie Law. It’s like all of my childhood dreams of horse camp, but way better. I’ve heard great things about riding with all three and I basically can’t wait for July now. (Except I can because whoa, out of shape and need to get that fixed.) It’s two lessons on days one and two, one lesson and one competition evaluation on day three and one lesson on day four of your choice (flat, XC or SJ). It’ll mean taking four days of my vacation time, but seriously would I rather be on horse vacation or off doing touristy things, uh no competition there.

Always would rather be doing this

We also have a Lucinda Green XC clinic scheduled for this spring, so essentially come hell or high water I will be there, although auditing or riding is TBD.

Otherwise, the schedule is still a little up in the air, but I’ve been rounding up some of the local options that have published dates. We have a lot to choose from this summer, so I’m excited to see where we end up. I’ll be playing with the budget and work dates to make it happen.

Bank account looking at me like…
  • March 24th – First Day of Spring CT at CAF
  • April 14th – Heartland CT at CAF
  • May 5th-6th – Penny Oaks HT at Hoosier Horse Park (we may not be ready to run XC, but we’ll see)
  • May 12th – May Flowers Derby and CT at CAF
  • June 2nd-3rd – IEA Horse Trials (also N/T 3 Day starting May 30th, so will definitely go down to volunteer!)
  • June 9th-10th – Lucinda Green XC Clinic
  • June 16th-17th – Day before HT Derby and Father’s Day HT at CAF
  • July 9th-12th – Event Camp!
  • August 11th – Summer CT and Derby at CAF
  • August 18th – Hoosier Hops Derby at HHP
  • September 8th – Fall Harvest CT and Derby at CAF
  • October 13th-14th – Fall Festival Derby and Horse Trials at CAF

So. many. options! IEA doesn’t even have their full calendar up either.

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CAF November Combined Test

We left off at a high of 36 degrees and a very pissed off dog who promptly went back to bed as I left. I actually entered two consecutive divisions; our local farm that runs these shows makes it super affordable to do two and if we’re already there… why not?

Proof of survival/regal Saddlebred pose

My dressage ride times were 9:15 (Starter) and 11:10 (BN), so we were tacked up and walking by 8:30 aka my hands were already goners by like 8:38. Aside from Doc feeling very appalled that he was not allowed to graze during our walk, things felt pretty good. As much as I could feel anything, that is. Starter rode BN Test A and BN rode BN B, so I was mainly focused on remembering to turn the correct way at C.

And success! At least of the ‘not forgetting my test’ sort. Still didn’t really get that whole ‘connection’ thing going and my circles were all more of the 15m oval variety than the 20m asked for, but improvement is improvement and we managed a 36.3, which is our best score to date.

Helllooooo 7.5 free walk

Second test, I went in with the instruction to stop, “trying to ride pretty” and to actively ride. What a thought, right? Turns out it even works. We even had moments where we did real dressaging. Miracles, I tell you. The best part? An even better score of 35.5.

An actual moment of dressaging!

By this point, I was only semi-frozen as we’d hit a heat wave of 28, making it downright balmy out. Just in time to go jump.

I’m not cut out to be a midwesterner, plz send more clothes mom

My first round was actually one of the best rounds I’ve ridden to date – things felt really, really good, which is always the best feeling. Minus the small place where I, um, got lost going to 8, nearly rode past it and had to trot it like a snail to get there from the weirdest distance ever. This course also featured the sailboat jump, the site of our first rail at 18″. We got kind of a weird distance to it here and we’re now just convinced Doc thinks the entire jump is stupid and not worth his time, because he made sure to give it a nice whack for good measure (it stayed up). Seriously, we have a sailboat jump vendetta.

Horse iz so cutes

Second round was my BN round, the same course except 5 was now an AB combo. Not nearly as pretty of a course, but we were instructed to get a good distance to the damn sailboats, and we did. Maybe at the expense of um, everything else? But we did!

When your rider basically rides you into the jump and you only manage to knock ONE rail down vs the entire thing

We pulled the rail at 3 because I can’t ride and basically made my horse jump from underneath it like the fantastic rider I am and then I got lost to 6 because I’m an amateur who can’t remember things and all my brain cells were frozen by this point.

Hello, crappy video screenshot

The best part of all this? In August we showed at this same series and I remember looking at the Starter course and thinking they all looked big. Three months (almost to the day!), I went out and didn’t think a single jump on the BN course felt big. That when Trainer C asked what I thought of the Novice course, I was able to say it looked… not that big. Crazy stuff, right there.

This felt totally do-able and great

It’s amazing that I started riding this horse four months ago. Four months ago, I hadn’t jumped a course in 10 years. I said that Starter looked big. And this weekend?

Satin!

We came in 2nd in our first BN CT. Sure, it’s just a CT, we still have an entire phase to add next year (2018, we’re coming!), but I’m pretty damn proud of that. I also feel very proud of surviving (maybe even thriving a little bit?!) a horse show in literal freezing temperatures. It might even feel like a greater accomplishment, but I’m not admitting that publicly.

That’s ending the show season on a high note. (Approximately a 2’7″ note, more precisely.)

Let’s not forget that Auburn win either, kay?!
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How to go to a horse show

How to prepare for your first CT at BN:

  • Have giant work project take over your life, including 10 hour Saturday and Sundays

  • Temperature drops out from under you, making it miserable to go outside
  • When you do make it to the barn, have horse decide he hates you and will only go backwards

  • Back around round pen 45 times until horse decides that also sucks
  • Now you can’t go forwards OR backwards
  • Have saddle rep come out to try saddles
  • …where horse immediately decides he CANNOT HORSE NO

  • Repeat, inability to move
  • Trainer has to get on while you’re supposed to be trying saddles… twice
  • Hallelujah, horse can trot
  • Canter is still iffy
  • Remind yourself that you can trot BN and horse can get over all of them
  • Hyperventilate a little bit

  • Second work project goes from being nice, casual easygoing thing to HUGE PRESENTATION
  • …on the Thursday before your Saturday show
  • Cue anxiety that manages to keep you awake despite Benadryl AND melatonin

  • Sleep is for the weak
  • …or those without crippling anxiety issues. That too.
  • Horse decides he can horse again, but only likes to canter in dressage test
  • NOWALK NOTROT THOSE DUMB, HORSE ONLY CANTER, I IS FAST SADDLEBRED, I CANTER BEAUTIFUL

  • Give up mentally

  • Look at show day forecast: high of 36. Sob.
  • Consider buying stock in hand warmers
  • Figure out how many layers of clothing you can wear and still ride effectively enough not to fall off
  • Get look of pure disgust from dog when you take him out at 5:30am on show day and it’s 15 degrees outside
  • Wait until brain cells are frozen enough that you cannot be nervous, or frankly, care

Recipe for success, right?

Outcome to come tomorrow. Spoiler alert: I am alive.

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Octoberfest Charity Combined Trial

The days leading up to and after last Sunday were gorgeous, which means that obviously Sunday was 100% disgusting with rain, wind and overall grey dreariness. Perfect day to go horse show!

When Doc came off the trailer, we all went, “Oh boy, we got two hour Doc.” As in, the amount of warm up he was going to need. Then he realized it was gross outside, there was a hay bag in front of him and it was not, in fact, nearly that interesting, and quickly became 15 minute Doc. I got on way ahead of my 11:15 ride time and we went over to dressage warmup. After a few laps around, I got the ‘balance dressage whip on top of wrists’ instruction because apparently jazz hands aren’t welcome in dressage tests. Rude. I finally got my stuff together more or less, we headed back to the trailer to wipe some of the mud off (a recurring theme of the day) and I changed into a show shirt. Back to the show rings we went, where I promptly realized I had managed to get filthy. This is why I can’t have nice things.

My groom extraordinaire/horse show mom, J, went back to the trailer to grab my quarter zip and I say thank yous to the world who made this a casual dress schooling show. Outfit change complete, we were ready to go show.

This was a better moment

In the ring, we turned into a giraffe. Maybe a llama. Gir-ama? And damn, did our test reflect it. Literally we had the exact. same. comment. the entire way down. “Needs to lower neck to connect through back.” She could have written it once and then drawn a line down with “ditto”. Despite that, it was still worlds better than our first test back in August. Transitions happened in the right place, circles were (mostly) round and I didn’t get lost. I mean, was our score anything to write home about? Not at all. We still have a lot of work to do. But for the second test we’ve ever done? I’m okay with it.

After a quick tack swap, we popped over some warm up jumps, hoping to get in my round before the ominous looking sky decided to stop playing nicely. Crossrail, vertical, oxer, got a, “YES, go jump the entire course like that!” So, obviously, I did not.

One and two went well, at which point I promptly couldn’t find three for a solid 10 seconds. Thankfully, it appeared and we stayed on course. Down the bending line to four, we took our favorite long spot, came around to five where I actually semi-rode, down to six, annndd pull off that patented left drift to seven!

Seriously, why am I incapable of jumping straight?! Eight on the course map shows it out in a line from seven, but when it was set, it was to the inside of seven, so you had an awkward line there, but of course Doc was like, yeah, k.

Over nine, and then past the gate to 10. Almost every horse, including mine, thought they were done after 9 as they came by the gate. I had to seriously add some major leg to convince Doc we had one more jump to actually go do.

HAHA you mean you’re not supposed to leave from the next county over?

Overall, no rails, not the prettiest, but still better than where we’ve been. On the plus side, everything looked tiny. Nothing induces confidence like that. We ended up third in the division and got a lovely pretty ribbon we have no photos with because of the nasty weather. With the gross weather, xc schooling got rained out (my luck is the worst), but we loaded up as the sky decided to open back up and got outta there. I was home by 1:30pm, which is insane to me. Ride times are miracles.

Not perfect, but getting better and what else can you ask for?

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