After my genius moves out on the stadium course, I was bound and freaking determined I was NOT GOING TO GET LOST on XC. Like, that was my goal. What’s that saying, “aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll be in the stars” – this is something like “aim for making it to your gd space shuttle, even if you miss, you might make it to Target.”
Spoiler alert: I didn’t get lost! WOOHOO!
I did, however, do the following:
Talk through my entire course (I really need to get a Cambox if only for the audio recording)
Sit up and ride at the first (big) ditch, getting over it beautifully, only to completely not ride to the second (not even real) ditch and have a stop
Convince Iggy that, yes, there was a rollback in this XC course and yes, he was going to do it
Gallop the last two jumps completely out of stride because I am a minor adrenaline junkie, I love my pony and it was SO MUCH FUN
Essentially, that sums it up. The stop was dumb-dumb-dumb, but entirely my not riding. It was a half coffin, ditch to coop and others had issues there, mostly with the coop, but Iggy could have cared less about that. I honestly think he likes to look in ditches to check for hidden treasure. Like, “Oh, a ditch, I wonder if someone hid some hot tamales in here for me!”
Needless to say, I will be riding every single stride to every single ditch forever now. He can have hot tamales after the finish flags.
Even with my dumb 20, we easily finished inside the time (honestly, without the penalties, we would have been cutting it a little close on speed faults, OOPS) and it was a fantastic experience. Overall, my goal for the weekend was to finish on a number, and that we did! We ended up 11th out of 15, but honestly I could seriously care less about it. It was about getting our first completion together under our belt and that we did!
Next up is camp (!!!) the 6th-10th of July and then off to IEA, assuming we get in. I sent entries in on opening day, so fingers crossed.
Our barn holds a schooling HT every June and with all of COVID going on, it was unsure if it would be a go for a while, but it ended up happening two weekends ago.
It’s a one day HT on Sunday, so we run some little mini derbies on Saturday evening which is a fun way to stretch legs and get some saddle time before Sunday. We went out and just did the BN derby and had a blast.
Our course had three stadium jumps to start, five XC jumps and back to the arena over two SJ jumps. Iggs felt awesome going in and while there were some jumps we hadn’t jumped out there, I wasn’t over concerned about anything; mostly just so excited to finally get out there with him! We had a great, albeit slowwwww, round. He thought realllllly hard about stopping at the same ditch he had in our lesson with Tim just a few days earlier, but I had predicted that and with a tap and a cluck he realized it was just easier to do as I asked. Good pon. We took some really long routes because I wasn’t concerned with ribbons (it was closest to OT), mostly just wanted a good, confident run before the next day. Mission accomplished, he was lovely and it was the perfect setup.
Sunday morning was literally… chilly. Like, we had jackets on. It was so bizarre, but then again it’s 2020 so I honestly shouldn’t have been surprised if it had snowed or something. We had great ride times so we had a nice, relaxing morning before our dressage test.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from our test – I had no real baseline with Iggy. We’ve taken some lessons, but we hadn’t actually run through the entirety of BN B except for the Wednesday before (which was an actual rodeo when two horses got loose and Iggy immediately said “F DRESSAGE, THEY ARE RUNNING WHY ARE THEY RUNNING SHOULD I BE RUNNING I THINK I SHOULD BE RUNNING TOO IS IT GOING TO EAT ME I JUST KNOW I’D BE AN APPETIZER OMG”). Fun times. Luckily, Sunday we had our brains between our ears (mostly) and were feeling good. Our test was certainly not my best, but also wasn’t my worst. We ended up with a 35.3 with a test that scored consistently at 6.5. Essentially, it came down to an unsteady connection which was no real surprise because I haven’t entirely figured out how to maintain it. I can get it, sure, but then I lose it, get it back, lose it… Rinse, repeat. All in all, I was happy to get through without any major mistakes and with something that had good feedback to build off the rest of the season.
Our stadium round was absolutely lovely and beautiful and smooth until it, uh, wasn’t.
“Iggy, please come to the front of the store to retrieve your lost mom.”
We came off four and were supposed to come around and jump five which was across the short end of the arena and I just… cantered very nicely right on by it. Until I spotted the jump I was going to was six and thought, “Waaaait. I know I can count to 5 and that’s six and I’ve only jumped five jumps so….” Cue loud exclamation of, “Oh SHIT.” (Apologies to underage ears in warmup) We proceeded to do a lovely 30m circle and jump five and the rest of our course beautifully. And so, my should-have-been clear round had 6.4 time penalties because I CAN’T STAY ON COURSE THIS IS A PROBLEM.
It started with my old Airowear XC vest – it used to give me bruises on the inside of my upper arms. I figured it was the downside to boobs + XC vest and lived with it until I upgraded to my Champion. Magically, that problem was solved overnight. Life was good.
Spoiler alert: life never stays that good, not in 2020.
Then it was the breeches. First, the beautiful Carma Italia’s that are my absolute, favorite summer breeches. The fabric. The fit. The color. The grip. The… seam across the shin that has never bothered me before? Yuuup. Then the brand new Ariat Pro Tri Factors – OMG finally a breech with a tech-y European fabric I can afford! But wait. Seams.
Despite this never being an issue before in 27 years of my life, apparently if there is a seam on my shin under my boots now, I will get a nasty, awful, painful (bloody, ew) rub. No matter where my socks go or what boots I use.
What. The. Hell.
Thank GOD most of my fancy ass Animos are just fine to keep riding in, but it means I’m down to five pairs of breeches and one pair of whites. This should be enough, but I also despise doing laundry. It also means I’ve sold a really large number of beloved breeches recently and just resigned myself to riding in my workout leggings all summer.
The realization is I am the human equivalent of the Thoroughbred you know who gets rubs, scratches, scrapes and hair falling out if you so much as look at them wrong. Is there some kind of incentive program for me?
Quarantine meant nothing happened and then suddenly… everything happened at once and now I have 32235 things to write about and catch up on? Two weeks after our Sharon White clinic, Tim Bourke was at our barn for a clinic. It filled basically the day it opened and I didn’t get my act together fast enough, but luckily he had a few spots for lessons on Monday morning before he left. I snagged one of those up real quick and took the morning off work for a XC lesson (best use of PTO).
I audited all weekend as well, so my notes from the clinic are in somewhat haphazard bullet points that are a mix of my own lesson and others, but the points are consistent.
I didn’t have a stadium lesson, so I’ll just throw all those notes in at once, because writing them down = helpful.
Don’t jump your last fence like it’s your last fence: keep riding like you have to go jump something else
If you don’t get the change, half halt/block the outside, teach them to do the one stride/skip change. If it takes you 3-4 strides to change every time, you’re costing yourself time and rhythm (hiiii it me!)
Check all your gears and change them up before you get to the first fence – make sure you have forward, collected and can move between them. Obviously applies to XC too!
He doesn’t mind a miss on the way into a line because that’s information you can use to adjust, but a miss on the way out means you didn’t listen or use the information you got on the way in
Tim is big on making sure you have your transitions within the gaits before you ever jump so much as a ground pole. Lengthen, shorten, lengthen, shorten. They all have to be available at the touch of a button (leg?) and that’s where you want to start. Iggy is decent, but we definitely have to remember to do this in warm-up every time because it’s not a given that he’s going to remember this is something he has to do every time. Like reminding men that dirty socks go in the hamper. They’ll do it, but they’re not going to remember…
I know he’s made the example before, but I always love coming back to his basketball example – if you bounce it softly and take your hand away, it just fizzles out. But if you bounce it hard, it bounces more frequently and if you remove you hand, it keeps bouncing (aka horse’s legs keep hitting the ground and you don’t miss).
He also talks a lot about making it subconscious – because if you have to remember to do it, when you get to a show, you’ll probably forget. What was fun to see, because we’ve talked about this concept for two years now, were the things I used to have to think about consciously that have evolved into subconscious. While my actual visual riding skill may not look a whole lot different now vs two years ago, my mental skills are totally different. Tim is also big on making a decision. Do something. Even if it’s wrong, you’ve learned something (like… don’t do that). If you don’t do anything, you can’t learn from it. Two years ago, I was the QUEEN of doing nothing. These days, I actually have the ability to think and make decisions on course (more on that soon!) now as opposed to just using all my mental capacity to make it around and not make any decisions at all.
We jumped a whole assortment of things, including the trio of banks/ditches/water. Iggs didn’t care about banks or water, per usual, but definitely wanted to stop and eyeball the ditch before jumping it. Funny enough, one of my prouder moments was when he stopped and I actually reacted the way I’m supposed to – make him move his feet, think about it, don’t just turn away. After that, he didn’t care and popped right over it like no thing. However, this ‘I want to look at ditches I have already jumped many times before’ should have been a lesson that stuck with me…
The other big theme of the day was timing. Knowing where to collect before a fence as to not slow the feet down too much and understanding where that sweet spot is on your horse. On a hot one with a big ass stride? A little earlier. On Iggy? A little later. We played with it and sure enough, the timing got better each time (no pun intended).
It was a fantastic lesson and I was so glad to ride with Tim on Iggy before camp starts in a few weeks. We left with some homework and some things we put into practice right off the bat.
Sunday was everyone’s favorite: cross country day. I just had this feeling Iggs was going to be a blast and I was… not wrong. Holy crap, he’s like riding a little rocket. A rocket with OPINIONS, but definitely feels like you’re on that Space X ship. (Was my horse also designed by Elon Musk? It feels… like a question I don’t want answered…) Yet, there’s something about taking a brand new horse XC for the first time where you have those nerves – what’s he really like out there?
I was nervous about the heat from the get go – it was only the second truly hot day we’ve had and our weather had (in classic Indiana style) bounced between 55 and 85 that week. We ended up handling it better than expected which is a good sign since IEA’s HT at the Hoosier Horse Park has been rescheduled to the first week of August. Gulp.
We warmed up over some little starter stuff and right away Iggy had his game. face. on. Those ears were SO FAR FORWARD, he was like “FINALLY THE HUMAN ALLOWS ME TO DO MY THING” after weeks of hacking out in the fields. Two jumps in and I had a smile like a kid at Disney World – like OMG this horse is SO FUN. He did decide the tiny raised log we added in was not worth his time or effort and we nearly fell on our faces when he DIDN’T PICK UP HIS FEET WTF DUDE, but otherwise after those first few I knew it was going to be a good day.
We meandered over to the bank and just like last summer, Sharon had us just easy goes it cruise on up and down it – Iggy was like, “I got this bro” and put on his best western pleasure horse impression, getting a laugh out of everyone. We strung together some little courses with our little group of starter jumps and banks and hung out while everyone went through it. Iggy promptly tried to eat the steeplechase brush and was highly offended to discover it was fake.
From there, we headed to the water. In and out, walk, trot, canter, cool, not a problem. Up the little bank out of the water? Sure thing, mom! Down the tiny bank into the water? “HOLY HELL WHAT IS THAT THING I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT MONSTERS DEFINITELY LIVE THERE”
This damn horse convinced Sharon White he’d never gone down a drop into water (he has, in face, done this multiple times, complete with video evidence from his owner). I have 6 minutes of video of convincing this horse the only option was down and forward. I will spare you. It was ridiculous. Opinions, I tell you. So many opinions.
And then of course, we hopped in and it was, “Well if that’s all you wanted you should have said so. GOD, why did you make such a big deal out of this?” SAYS THE CHESTNUT PONY.
Once that was resolved, Sharon had us each pick our own little course so we could do what we felt confident about. I was feeling.. perhaps a little too confident, but set out a fun course – down the bank, through the water, out over a little red coop, right turn back through the water, out over a decent size log, blue table to some steps finishing over barrels heading home.
This should give you an indication of how it started. It was.. dramatic? Like, is this jumping into the head of the lake at Kentucky or a (barely) BN drop, Iggy? I swear this horse embodies #diditforthegram.
Somewhere in the midst of this drama, my figure 8 noseband came completely undone. Sharon saw my hesitation and basically said, “Don’t you dare stop!” so, uh, I rode the entire thing with half a noseband. The photos look like I don’t know how to tack up my damn horse, so that’s fantastic.
Noseband or not, Iggy had the freaking rocket boosters on and off we went. He’s so sensitive sometimes, I forget I’m driving a Ferrari now, not a limousine and my first turn nearly had me on my ass. I got a nice correction for that one, which I fully deserved. Gotta keep those eyes up and not make turns like I’m coming around the track at the Indy 500.
Off that turn though – the best part of my entire weekend. Through the water and out over that log and hot damn if Iggy didn’t blast off. I’m pretty sure I landed off that one laughing and yelling.
The rest of the course was a total blast too, but I’m not sure I’m going to forget the feeling of that air. I asked Sharon when we were cooling down if she thought I should drop to Starter for my first HT in a few weeks and her response made me squeal: that horse loves the bigger jumps (can you call BN bigger? Asking for a friend…), take him BN. You’re ready.
When I watched the video later, one of the other ladies from my barn looks over and goes, “She’s kind of an adrenaline junkie, isn’t she?”
WHOOPS. They found my secret. Glad I’ve got a rocket partner in crime.
Originally we were scheduled to ride in a Sharon White clinic at our barn around the end of March – needless to say, that didn’t happen and it ended up being rescheduled to last weekend. I didn’t have nearly as many rides leading up to it as I would’ve preferred, but work got crazy and… alas, it is what it is.
We had a good dressage ride Thursday and went for a fun road hack on Friday, before our Saturday morning SJ lesson. The morning started with two ground poles, set at a longish 5 strides and just going over them. First at a trot, then cantering. First time, in 5, next time trying to get as few strides as possible, then as many, alternating which direction you were turning at the end and adding a circle if you needed to (ahem, spoiler alert: we always needed to). Sharon’s big on having intention – so have your intention be, “Go for it, get up there, stretch it out,” or “Come back to me, sit, shorten up your step,” and really maintaining it in your head the whole way. It sounds a little like a hippie yoga class, but it works. We managed to do 4 (hey, 4 in a long 5 is pretty good when you’re 14.1) and all the way up to 7 before she turned them into a crossrail and an oxer.
Once we started jumping it was trotting in, canter out, just keeping it nice and straight and even and getting the 5. Not because the “number” was important, she explained, but because it was just something to focus on – that pendulum in the middle. The idea being you have a pendulum of energy and it may swing too far one way and it’s too much, then it comes back and it’s too little, and then the next time it’s still too much, but it’s less than it was the time before – and soon, with repetition, it’s in the middle.
I have a bad habit of coming in weak to my first line and this Called. Me. Out. Trotting in and cantering out over a BN oxer is not a big deal, my horse is honest, I’m solid in the tack, but for whatever reason coming into that first crossrail, I have this moment of mental panic which physically results in taking my leg off and throwing my horse and hands at the line and saying, “Jesus take the wheel!”
Which is not really, like, helpful.
I didn’t fix my issue by the end, but it was better – all about having that intention from the beginning and maintaining it. It also helped when I remembered something Trainer C used to tell me – “soften your eye’s focus.” Not, look down or away, but I tend to get laser eyes where I’m staring at my point in front and burning holes into it (like, you can literally see my eyes narrow in videos). Just letting everything soften and my peripheral vision open up helps me to just relax and everything just gets… quieter? I have no idea how it works if I’m being honest, but I’m glad I remembered it today because it was great tool to have in my pocket.
We ended doing a course where we essentially added circles into the end of every line. We actually did a nearly identical exercise with her two years ago at Event Camp and I remember the course we had after without any circles was the most flowy, huntery course I’d ever had on Doc. We definitely needed our circles today.
Essentially we come off a line, I ask for a simple/skip change and Iggy goes, “FALSE LADY WHO U I ONLY LISTEN TO IGGY.” Fantastic. (Told you there was ponytude involved) When I insist and force the issue, I get all the head flings because OPINIONS. As Sharon put it – “it’s you, but it’s him, but it’s you” which is hilariously true. He chooses to blow through my quieter aids, so I go to my hand, which he protests loudly by flinging his head around. Needless to say, we have a lot of circles and downward transitions in our future… (He also doesn’t do this flatting – only when he’s excited because WE ARE JOMPING PEOPLE WE GO ZOOMIES)
The course was fairly lovely, minus the place he needed an extra circle and I got so focused that when I looked up, I… had no idea where I was going next. Fabulous. Got that fixed and off we went.
The day was a total blast and was the perfect lesson I needed going into XC the next day. He’s such a game little guy and definitely a different ride than Doc, but so much fun.
I’ve been a slacker, in large part because I have no photos and it makes me sad to write without photos because I’m apparently 7 and need pictures in my stories.
We’ve been plugging along riding again, under our weird, but entirely manageable new guidelines. Iggy is on day turnout again so I usually can grab him straight from his pasture and never even go inside the barn. My SUV’s entire cargo area is now a tack room with various stages of organization depending on day/time/weather/moon stage/what I had for breakfast. We’ve been asked to ride outside as much as possible and luckily the weather has mostly held up so that’s been the easiest of all!
Over the last few weeks we’ve taken a few lessons, both jump and dressage. Nothing to worry about having not been over anything in > 6 weeks, Iggy was like, “No worries, I got this mom” and stepped right up to the plate. My biggest thing with this horse (mainly jumping, but really all the time) is not letting him rush/run off his feet. He’s a forward little guy, but sometimes I egg him on or get ahead and pretty soon we’re like a little matchbox car going faster and faster and faster but not really like… going anywhere. Whoops.
I’m definitely still figuring him out over fences, but it’s much of the same on my end: keep your upper body back, pick up your hands, close your leg. Thankfully it seems to be working because my lower leg has never been more solid and even when he pulled a straight up PONY MOVE the other day, I didn’t budge.
I’ve been downright giddy over his dressage work. It’s amazing how much easier it is to package up and ride a horse when you’re well sized for each other. Not to mention, finding my glass slipper dressage saddle last fall which thankfully still works for Iggy. He’s going super well in the Bombers Loose Ring Happy Tongue and I actually ended up buying it in the 2.5 ring for jumping as well.
We’ve also been taking breaks and going for road hacks (you might have seen via Instagram). This seems very benign, but anyone who has known me a long time riding-wise knows it’s very much not. After my accident, riding outside an area was terrifying for years. I wasn’t comfortable on a trail ride until about 4 years ago and when I first got Doc, the idea of riding in the fields or galloping on the track was still scary. He gave me a lot of of that confidence back and so when Iggy needed a break last Sunday, a nice walk along the country road it was. Luckily our barn is in a pretty rural, farm-heavy area so it’s (as safe as it can be) safe to ride on the road/shoulder. Needn’t have worried as Iggs hasn’t put a foot wrong and seems to absolutely love going out and having a change of scenery.
We actually got to ride in our re-scheduled Sharon White clinic this weekend so I can’t wait to share more about that, but figured a general update was in order too.
(If you don’t understand the title, I made the mistake of downloading Tik Tok and now this is a thing in my life)
If quarantine has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I’m really bad at being bored. Once work settled into a manageable routine and flow, my days suddenly opened up and because I wasn’t riding or leaving the house… things happened.
It started innocently enough: I thought, oh I’ll try some color samples to paint my bathroom. At 5pm on a Friday night.
Fast forward to 9:30pm and it was painted. Oops.
Fast forward a few weeks and I had redone the entire thing.
Not to say I’m not happy about it. I’m obsessed and in love with it. I did all the work myself and did the entire thing for about $350. I have plans to do the shower next, but some other projects took priority so that’s hopefully a late summer to-do.
I’ve been wanting to add trim to my windows for a year, but hadn’t gotten around to it either. So, while waiting for paint to dry in the bathroom or something, I just… went to town.
Fast forward a few weeks (are you seeing a trend?) and all the windows in the house are trimmed out. Only three are primed so far because I effing hate primer, and none are painted, but the actual construction of them is complete and I love them. I can’t believe how much character they give to my little builder basic house. Plus, any time I get to bust out my trim nailer makes me a very happy camper.
In the middle of these projects, I decided my workbench area in the garage was a mess (it was) and needed help (it did). One pegboard later, things were improved, if not perfect.
But then I remembered the cabinet I’d bought for the laundry room that has been living in my kitchen for a few months. If I put it up and took down the shelf, the shelf could go into the garage…
So Sunday while waiting for the lawn mower to charge (I have a battery powered mower and it’s amazing and awesome), I took down the shelf and nearly had the cabinet up before realizing trying to hang a cabinet solo while standing on top of the dryer was… not one of my brighter moments. And remembered that time I promised my father I’d stop doing stupid things like moving cabinets as big as I am by myself. So, assistance was requested and by afternoon, the laundry room had a lovely cabinet and the garage had a new shelf.
But if you thought that’s all… well… I decided after doing my bathroom, I wanted to do the second bath too. So an afternoon of paint and a quick fixture change later, it was halfway improved (mirror, faucet and vanity TBD).
Yet, I can’t seem to stop myself. My garage has two walls drywalled, the rest are just studs and insulation. I’ve been wanting to finish the drywall, but… well, that pesky promise to my dad extends to drywall panels apparently. I found someone who was up for doing it next week since it’s a no-human-contact job, so assuming I get the garage cleared out this weekend… next week it will be drywalled and I can finally put up shelves and organize it!
My Excel sheet of house projects was at 48 pre-quarantine and I’m down 13 projects since SIP started so I’m feeling pretty accomplished, all things considered.
But, just in case I get too high and mighty, there also may be eight sample colors of paint on my bedroom wall and I might hate all of them, plus the cabinets for my kitchen island in the garage that can’t move forward until I pick a color for them. Oops.
I just finished this post and went back to proofread and realized it reads like a latter from war, which is depressing, but also they don’t get to go bra-less in war, so we’re WAY better off (besides all the obvious reasons). I thought about not posting it, but it’s my blog and these are my experiences and writing them down has been therapeutic…
Still here, still healthy, still alive (and thankful for all). Still working 7 days a week, with no real set hours (true story: this week someone asked me my work hours and all I could say was…. all of them?) except maybe when I’m asleep which ranges from 10pm to 2am. Great fun. I’m in a weird in-between area where I’m working from home, but also very much on the frontlines of this thing from a logistical and strategic point of view. I’m constantly on the phone with my physicians who are there, I’m coordinating clinical initiatives… It’s a strange place to be.
My barn followed suit after my self-quarantine last week and shut down to everyone except essential staff. I did go out on Sunday morning (uh, I think it was Sunday?) and grab some tack that needed cleaning. To clean with all my abundant spare time I guess? Yeah, I don’t know either, but having a saddle sitting on my kitchen chair and a bridle on the table makes me HAPPY OKAY.
As much as this all just royally sucks, professionally it’s been a huge opportunity for me (and yes, I have a lot of guilt around that I’m dealing with). My skills are put to use every single day, I haven’t been this challenged in years and I love it – it’s the kind of work and thinking I thrive on. I keep the guilt at bay knowing it’s not as though I caused this and my output is directly affecting patient care and our physicians positively. (Doing some cool things around resource utilization planning, staffing quarantines and clinical predictive models to identify patients at high-risk of complications early.) The whole team is working equally as hard and we’re all planning our vacations come the end of this… mine is going to include a super long massage, just saying.
My days are bookended with my scavenging my kitchen for something easy, edible and containing some nutritional value, showering and collapsing into bed. The weather has finally started to perk up some, so the windows are open and the fresh air has been a welcome addition to my day.
Not much pony-related to relay – Iggy is living his grand old life, playing with his buddies in turnout (got a video of that yesterday), begging my BO for cookies and generally thinking he’s retired. That’s going to come as a rude awakening…
Spring season is all but canceled. Hopefully we’ll still get to have event camp in June and show this fall, but I’m not holding my breath or making plans for much right now. There’s a very real possibility we see a resurgence/second wave (feels wrong to talk about while we’re still in the first, right?) this fall and even if the public measures taken aren’t as extreme, work will be right back here all over again.
Not much more to report – Finn the JRT now thinks he eats dinner at 3:30pm because his sense of time is completely miswired, I have no idea what day of the week it is at any given moment, and I rotate through three pairs of the Best Sweatpants Ever. My fun for the weekend was mowing my lawn and my new hobby is letting the dog in and out 968234 times a day.
Stay healthy, stay sane, wash your hands and hug your horse if you still can. More from the frontlines later…