Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Event Camp Part II


Sorry for the delay!  I've been sitting in front of my computer, thinking about writing up about event camp then just not doing it.


I entered Event Camp feeling pretty nervous.  I don't generally ride with different people so I get nervous with them, and I was worried about being pushed beyond my abilities according to past participants.

Then I was pretty disappointed I wasn't being pushed as I felt the fences were pretty small and unchallenged and I was really wanting to get over my fears of moving "up" to Starter and just get there.

Next I totally spazzed out and easily proved I had no business jumping bigger fences.

Then I jumped an "enormous" course and had some spaz induced stops and felt like I really had no business jumping bigger.

Finally I jumped some bigger stuff and ended up being upset that I didn't get to jump anything really big!

Here's a pic of the course I spazzed over.  Certainly not big, but bigger than I'd been jumping consistently and I created my own monsters.



I KNOW that Stella is a brave horse and will jump anything I want her to jump, but I still have issues making myself a brave riding and not sucking back and leaving her up to her own choices, which for Stella, means not jumping because I'm out the window.

So camp was really nice getting things drilled into my head over and over and over and over.  It was nice and a little humiliating hearing the same things in different ways from everyone.

I really enjoyed riding with Sharon White


She's a methodical and encouraging teacher who wants you to get things RIGHT at a slower pace over smaller fences even if you are capable of going faster and jumping bigger.  It's about making sure things look good, are safe, and that the horse understands the question and isn't just jumping because you said so.  When the pouring rain brought us indoors she quickly improvised a course including gymnastics over what she had available.  Her courses, were jump this fence, make a 20m circle, jump, halt, pick up a canter, canter this fence, make a 20m circle, trot the ground poles, pick up a canter, jump the fence, etc.  I really liked riding with her and she was neatly inside my comfort zone.

I also got to ride with Tim Bourke.  I was super intimidated by him at first and I was pretty sure he'd be a no nonsense jump the big stuff and quit your whining type of guy.  The other groups were jumping BIG.  However, he toned it way down for my group while still expecting the same things.  His courses were about being precise in your path and nothing to do about the jump itself.  Get your lead in the right place.  Get the strides, get into the corners.  Plan your path before and after.  I found this really helpful.  It wasn't about getting over the fences, it was about everything in between and I didn't worry about the fence by the time I got there.

We had another lesson indoors due to the rain and it was probably one of the most fun ones.  There were a TON of improvised fences set up, a skinny two stride line, a line of three bounces, poles to canter over, a scary blanket jump, flowers, everything you could imagine.  This was another lesson about getting there right and nothing about the fence itself.  I was really glad that I have to improvise things at home due to a lack of a real course as Stella had no issues with any of these things.

I must confess that I was the one who made the fence with the blanket over it.  Tim was looking for more filler and I've jumped blankets at home so why not?  So sorry to anyone who had issues.  


Oooops my bad.  

At least Stella was around for a friend to help give her horse a lead over the terrifying fence in all of its 18 inch glory.  Again, SO SORRY.  

I also got to ride with Lauren Lambert who was great getting to know everyone in an XC lesson for the first time.   For some reason Stella was super worked up for this lesson and I had a hard time handling a completely different horse.  Lauren said she had a ton of experience with people trying to event arabians and her advice was dead on.  

Looking back I enjoyed all of my lessons and everyone had pretty much the same advice.  Ride forward.  Ride straight.  Make a plan.  For the love of god your elbows!!  Hands down.  Leg on.  

What really made my day were the unsolicited compliments on Stella.  She was an awesome little horse who had a good mind, was willing, had a really nice jump, and was a good match for me.  I also got a great compliment from Tim on my position.  He said I had good balance and was really good at getting out of the way and he felt it looked like I always knew where my body was.  He also thought I needed to be more influential but everyone knows that!

So, I'd love to do it again next year if my wallet allows.  I feel like I came out ahead and the intense instruction really helped.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Event Camp Part 1

My first Event Camp, with 4 days of twice a day international quality instruction, is over!  I have lots of experiences to write about so I'm hoping to do one blog post a day to catch up with it all so stay tuned and check back often.


First, while it's fresh on my mind I'd like to go over some highlights from the round table discussions with some of the clinicians.  The clinicians were Leslie Law, Sharon White, and Lauren Lambert.  

I asked a question about level creep, as I've seen a ton of discussion about it online in various forums. Level creep is where course designers are trying to make courses more interesting, or trying to accommodate people looking to move up by adding smaller versions of more advanced questions. Drops into water, baby coffins, corners, etc.  I was pretty surprised that none of the clinicians had ever heard of the term.  My theory is that most of them deal with riders going above Novice and their horse/rider combinations are so experienced schooling before they compete that it isn't even noticed.

They all thought that riders should be prepared enough before their level that new questions shouldn't be an issue.  An example would be finding a drop into water at Novice (a recent hot topic on the COTH bulletin boards)  While the rules seemed clear at first that this was not allowed, and actually pretty uncommon, a few course designers believe it is legal and will put in a small drop at Novice level.  

For the clincians, if you have not schooled a drop into the water you have probably schooled a water entrance and a drop separately so it should be no big deal to add them together.  You shouldn't be going Novice any way having a horse that doesn't do those two elements apart.  If you anticipate having an issue you should school through the water first to get the feet wet then drop in.  

If you do have a stop at the water, don't represent to the drop!  You already have 20 penalties and are out of the running anyway, so take the time faults, school through the water, and then represent to the drop.  It's worse to represent again and get eliminated and teach your horse he gets to walk off the course.  

On a side note, some of the clinicians were a bit fuzzy on this, one felt you you would get in trouble for schooling as it was unsportsmanlike but would do it anyway for the horse, the other knew that it was allowed as long as you didn't go through your flags, and the other put so much work into training before hand they had never considered it.  

All three felt that it is difficult as a course designer to decide between giving a lower level rider a fun ride out, and prepping a rider planning on moving their horse up.  They all suggested knowing your course, and researching ahead of time to make sure there were no surprises.  



Another interesting discussion was about air vests.  Air vests have become popular options, and many upper level riders are sponsored by vet companies or chose to wear vests.  I've seen quite a bit of discussions of the research behind them as all research is done by the company and is kept private and not done by an independent body.  The riders were all ambivalent about the vests.  They felt that the vests probably kept your safer but maybe not, and that the vests restricted movement after they went off or if they went off on accident.  Leslie Law said he didn't wear an air vest, and believed it created a false sense of safety with a rider more likely to ride a horse into the ground then attempt to roll free.  He said he would rather step off a horse and jump free if he felt it was going to rotate and eliminate himself then ride it to the ground and hope that it got its feet back and he could continue on.

Other topics were feed (personal preference), fitness (not really a big deal until you hit Training and Prelim), gadgets (either the more the better or none at all), and nosebands.

The riders believed in schooling without or with a loose noseband at home as many issues were training issues, then using whatever the heck worked in competition.  

That's it!  Stay tuned for more tommorow!  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Slightly larger XC course schooled!

It's go time baby.  With event camp moving from a "why god why did I waste the money!" to "we are totally going!" to "why god why did I enter I'm so not ready!"  I've been extra motivated to not show up looking like total morons.

So when I found out the Hoosier Horse Park had an open XC Schooling day I begged a trainer that has seem me ride to coach me and away I went!  You can't turn down a chance when the trainer has actually seen you ride and doesn't slowly back away from you.

I showed up a bundle of nerves.  I knew the starter fences were out, but they were MUCH MUCH bigger than the little logs at Dan Hobyn.  So after warming up by cantering around the water area wondering why I was out here (Stella mostly ignoring me) we walked around looking for something suitably tiny to jump.  I passed up the first coop, but it ended up being more inviting than the hanging log I ended up starting over.

Or I meant to stay, stopping over.  I guess when  you trot down the jump, staring at it, observing how large it is, your horse stops.  We also stopped for the first time at the next two fences we jumped, due to the same issues.  Yet when I actually listened to short suffering new trainer she went over!

Who woulda thought?


Here's the main field where we started jumping.  She is playing a bit after the second fence, which is why I came back down to the trot.  I think I'm getting left behind and she is expressing her disdain for my lack of skills.

One thing I had to adjust to, was that when we are on a trail ride we follow the horse in front.  Stella gets a little attached to her trail buddies and when we were out schooling she got a bit worked up when the horse we were out with would gallop away, or when she was asked to move away.  I focused on keeping her busy, and not letting her come back to her new friend right away.



This was a bit tricky for me, although Stella didn't stop at anything.  The first fence was on a hill and it made me a bit nervous, but the added "threat" of meeting this at the wrong distance helped me keep my leg on.  She jumped the rolltop with gusto.



This last clip tickles me pink.  It's so nice having a horse that does water, and knowing that the steps I took when I first got her were the right steps to take.  She happily enters any water, even water she has never seen before and didn't have any compliance issues when asked to trot or canter in it.  It was really awesome to blaze through the water and nail this fence from a gallop.  Even if she did play after, and I wasn't worried one bit by the jump up the bank.


Overall I was just tickled to death by her.  She isn't a horse that takes a joke, and if you have jumped the same coop 8 times in a row and on the 9th time stop riding because you think she's going to react to the horse approaching from a distance, she will oblige you and stop hard.  As I gain more confidence in her ability and willingness it's nice to see that she is a pretty brave horse that requires a brave partner.

Friday, June 9, 2017

World's smallest XC course schooled!


Tuesday, after my general sense of doom and gloom about being able to go to camp lifted, I had a fantastic ride Monday, and I decided it was now or never.  With the prospects of getting lessons with my trainer getting slimmer and slimmer (she's a very busy lady!) I've been stuck with jumping at home in my small arena.  I had not schooled XC since last June?  Or really done a ton of consistent jumping period.

The weather was finally great, it is staying light out until 9pm, and I have a fabulous XC facility 15 minutes away.  So right after work I loaded up Stella, grabbed my ground person, and headed out.





My goal was to re-familiarize  myself with riding in an open field, jumping some small logs, and putting together my own courses.  Stella has shown twice at this facility before and since I was just there two weeks before on Loaner Horse I knew everything was set up.

At first I thought that Stella would have company as there were lessons going on and people flatting in the jumping area, but as soon as I got on everyone left!  Luckily being all alone in the great wide open doesn't seem to bother Stella so away we went.

I kept it short, small, and simple.

Stella stopped at the two fences I assumed she would stop at, thus telegraphing with my body that she should stop.  Self fulfilling prophecy anyone?  Since she easily walked over both fences as soon as I removed my head from my butt it was a pretty good indicator that I'm still wussing out.  Once I came to terms I was much more determined in not making a problem where there wasn't one.

So, on the video you might hear some swearing when I decided that I could canter all the way across the field to a fence.  You might also hear me naming the fences and establishing some determination as a substitute for swearing to a fence.

Overall I had a great ride.  It was more about me doing something on my own, without guidance, and realizing that I was actually competent!  Well, semi competent.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Loaner horse


A couple of weeks ago Stella's now confirmed habit of abscessing in wet weather finally caught up to me big time.  We were going to miss one of my favorite shows.  A local pony club barn always hosts these awesome horse trials and combined tests a 15 minute drive from the barn.  It's a great facility for someone introducing a new horse to the show atmosphere.  The people are fantastic, the courses are always super easy, and I've never had a bad day there.

Alas, Stella wasn't able to go.

Luckily I know some really awesome people and one let me know that she was bringing a spare horse to keep a green bean company.  Spare horse was available to me to do whatever I wanted.

SWEEEETTTT!!!


As an added bonus loaner horse's owner also happened to be a local saddler dealer and came with an entire truck bed (literally, she had like 20 saddles) of demo saddles of which I could try any.



Isn't he adorable?  His name is George (Isn't that perfect?) and he's a foundation QH who used to do contesting and now is a beginner novice champion.  I had to reach way way back to my college days where we would show on catch rides.  You got 30 seconds to meet your new horse and get all the info you could, then it was into the ring.

George was a bit stiff to the aids but was very forward and willing to do whatever I wanted, and I strongly suspect that my decade of riding small bendy horses made getting used to his chunky body a bit of a learning curve.  I could tell right away that George was BROKE so we only warmed up for about 15 minutes before dressage for a fairly decent score (and maybe I ran over a cone because George got rolling downhill in the grass ring but who's counting).

Jumping was exciting and nerve wracking for me.  I can't remember how long it's been since I've jumped something else, let alone jumped a few warm up fences then laid down a course.  Luckily George was all business and once you got him pointed at a fence he took no prisoners.

We had a couple discussions about speed and general things like turning (again, there's a steep learning curve from a George to my soft mouthed turn on a dime bendy arabs) but I had a blast.  He was very honest to the fences and had a comfortable, easy to sit canter.

Overall, despite me really wishing that I was there on Stella it was a great day!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stella conformation update


I had to search way back to almost a year ago when I last took a conformation picture of Stella, I managed to snag a helper and got Stella to semi cooperate (with help of a mint) and we took about 30 photos of her in various stages of crooked before I got one that was sort of good.  I think I'm seeing some really nice progress in her weight, fitness, and where she's carrying muscle.  Her neck was one of the biggest negatives about her conformation.  I thought that it was short and tied in low, but she also lacked any sort of riding muscle and I hoped that over time I would be able to reshape her neck and muscle it up, drawing your eye away to where it ties in.  How does her neck look now?



Here's Stella a few months after I bought her, at her first show over fences.  This was May 2015.


This is June 2016



Here's the picture taken today, June 2017


I think we are going in the right direction!  Unless you look at her tail, that's definitely going in the wrong direction dang it. Stay tuned for future blog post, preventing tail rubbing and a future future blog post about regrowing the tail.  Sigh.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bliss Saddle trial!



During my trip to Rolex I discovered that there was a new Indiana area rep for Bliss saddlery, to replace the old rep whom the company and many local riders had issues with.  The new rep has not only gone through all the training but is a local trainer and fellow eventer so she knows her stuff.  As it turned out she had a string of students at the show I just attended,  How not to prep for a show, and offered to bring several Bliss saddles for me to try even though I explained they were currently out of my budget.

How awesome is that!

While she was there she also checked out the fit of my dressage saddle, which sadly will never fit Stella so it's also up for sale.

I was able to sit in the Loxley Dressage, which, while being from their "lower end" line was of excellent quality.  The leather was super grippy and the saddle fit my leg well.  From someone riding in a lot of old school saddles the seat felt very cushy.  The panels had plenty of wiggle room to be custom fit to almost any horse.  I liked the placement of the blocks, and that they could move the blocks to suit me.  Big enough to keep your leg in place but not so big that I felt locked in, which I hate.  Stella went well in it for our trial and I think she was less girthy.


I sat in the Loxley Foxhunter on the fitting horse, but chose not to ride in it because I found the seat too confining for my taste.  Coming from a very shallow seat background I think that is probably my personal preference and someone galloping for hours over brush fences would probably like it.



I tried out the Liberty Eventer, which is an excellent option for someone planning on going over some drop fences as the shallow long seat lets you slide back enough to get your leg out in front.


I decided to ride in the Loxley Jump LX.   It fit me the best out of the box and was closely aligned to my modest goals while having a few extra options.   It has a cupped knee pad to add a little bit of extra security, and the pad can be adjusted to fit a rider's leg.





It also comes with a semi deep or flat seat, forward or short flaps, deep or shallow seats, as well as different options for blocks under the flap, I rode in the semi deep seat and it offered some extra security without feeling locked in.  As someone who is used to flat seat saddles I didn't mind the slightly deeper seat.  I think it's a good option for someone looking for an "average" type of saddle.  If you aren't doing big drops with super short stirrups so you don't need the longer seat and you aren't planning on doing hardcore foxhunting so you don't want a super deep seat.  With the addition of the knee cups it gives you some extra security for a bit of everything.


What do you think about the fit?