Sunday, December 10, 2017

Molly Sue Kinnamon Clinic


Last weekend I participated in a Molly Sue Kinnamon clinic at local dressage/eventing barn Greystone Equestrian Center.  Although I had seen this clinic being offered I had originally passed for another lesson elsewhere, but when that lesson didn't work out I figured, what the heck!



Why not take a lesson with someone totally new?

I've been trying to push my buttons and get Stella out to other locations in an effort to become better partners, explore new places, meet new people, and generally work on my anxiety issues.

I'd seen a few FB posts of people visiting Molly Sue at her home barn MK Equestrian in Pennsylvania and they all came back alive so I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea.  From the clinic entry form, here's Molly's history.

Molly competed at the 3*/Advanced level aboard Havarah's Charley and was named to the Developing Rider List, where she had the opportunity to work with Mark Phillips, Boyd Martin, and Phillip Dutton, who remains her coach to this day. Molly has finsihed in the top 10 at CC1* events in the last several years, and aboard Diesel Boy finished at the top 25% at Fair Hill International CCI2*. Just last week she finished in the top 5 at the Virginia Horse Trials CC1* event in that horse's first ever 1* event. She participated in Pony Club Championships, earned her Pony Club "A" rating, and was a working student for Olympian Jil Walton. During her tenure with Jil, Molly competed on the 1998 NAYRC 2* Team. She then attended Fresno State University where she was a NCAA Varsity Equestrian Team member and received a BS in Animal Sciences.

Stella had been to Greystone once before, but only in their indoor, and this clinic took place in their outdoor arenas.

Here's their outdoor dressage arena, with the barns and indoor in the background


Jumping arena


The warm up was over three cavelleti placed down centerline of the dressage arena.

You circled over the two far poles first, then over one of the end poles and a middle pole several times, concentrating on getting the same distance over each pole and making your circle circular.  Then you did a lead change over the middle pole and circled over the middle and pole at the other far end. Some of the riders made this exercise look easy.  Others, such as myself, launched over the poles like Superman leaping a building and buck farted away on the other end.  Sigh.  This is an easy looking exercise that contains a good deal of difficulty for a horse with an uneven stride and poor rate-ability.

After completing this exercise we were ready to jump.  What I liked was that Molly Sue moved the fences around almost constantly.  Each group started with the same exercise but she wasn't afraid of modifying the exercise to suit each horse in each group and if an exercise didn't work for one horse she was quick to change it to something that did, modify the distance, lower the rails, or add guide poles in an effort to do what was best for each horse.

In this exercise we are trotting into our first one stride!!!!  Then coming around over a simple line using placing poles in front of and behind the oxer to make the distance more accurate.


Molly focused on accuracy and taking things back two steps before going forward one step.  She wanted the horse to understand the exercise in a calm manner so even with a horse that was capable of jumping much higher she kept the fences small and focused on details.

Did the horse understand the exercise?  If not, was it the fault of the rider for not making things more clear?  What helped the rider modify their riding to help the horse understand what was being asked of it?

 This helped with the greener horses because they were asked to slow their brains down and think about the exercise, and it helped with the experienced horses because they worked on refining their response to the aids.  The experienced horses were required to be more accurate with the obedience, where they put their feet, how many strides they fit down the lines.

She was able to deal with a wide range of rider/horse combinations from professionals on their project horses, to ammys on school horses or their green projects.   I think she's an excellent instructor for someone looking to learn some new skills with their green horse, learn how to ride their schoolmaster, A pro who has been out of competition for awhile or has a greener horse, or for someone to refine some rusty skills. 

What I found difficult was getting out of my head when Stella had a bad start to the clinic.  Stella needed my support in a new location while I was busy being concerned about looking like a moron to the large group of spectators.  Molly was an excellent clinician for both someone like me, and for a couple professionals looking for some new ideas for their competition mounts.


Overall I'd definitely come back for another clinic with her, and I'm happy I was able to add another notch to my "clinic" belt.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas List

As a horse owner on a shoestring budget most of my Christmas present ideas are about practicality.  I'm pretty much a practical gift person.  Gift me something I can use over and over as part of my daily life and I'm happy.  Gifts should be thoughtful but useful.  OK, so maybe it's boring but that's what I like.



My first want is the Horze Prescott figure 8 bridle.  I saw this bridle at the event formerly known as Rolex last summer and loved both the price and the attention to detail.  I thought it would make us look like serious eventers. 




Do I really need another saddle pad?  Does anyone?  Maybe if it's the Horze Turner saddle pad which has a little bit of a different design to it so it stands out in the crowd.  I love the big bold circles and the color choices!  This would make a great XC pad for the eventer on a budget. 


I also love this ECP quilted contoured correction pad.  Not only does it have a really cool cutaway XC design but it has inserts for included memory foam shims, ensuring that your horse is getting a little bit of a cushion when he's out there galloping around like a beast.  It's not only affordable, but it comes in all the colors you need to be matchy matchy.




At some point you might want some white breeches when you feel you've earned them but you struggle with wearing white around horses.  These Horze active silicone grip breeches fit the bill.  White with a sticky silicone grip seat for sitting that trot at an affordable price so you don't cry when Dobbin slobbers grass all over you or you get bucked off in the warm up. 


This is more of a camping item.  Do you hate using the slightly sketchy poorly light full of smells and wasps pit toilet at camping sites?  Or do you find  yourself at barns without a public toilet but you can't quite bring yourself to peeing in the trailer?  Try this Camping flush toilet, set it up in your dressing room and feel slightly more like a regular person. 




Still being a relatively new horse trailer owner I can't get enough of safety gear.  These Reflective horse trailer signs are supposed to keep you more visible at night and warn people that you have a live load.  I'm not sure if drivers actually care but I do feel like drivers tail gate slightly less when I have my rear curtains off and they can see Stella. 

I also like this Noble Outfitters grooming tote.  It comes in plenty of colors and has enough storage for all of your things for lessons and shows. 



Road ID provides a great alternative to the old medical armbands.  This handy bracelet comes in lots of colors and has an online option. You can wear it at horse trials, while biking, hiking, or just every day for that hopefully never to happen emergency. 

“EV113.3 MEDICAL CARDS/MEDICAL BRACELETS. An approved and completed medical card or medical bracelet is required any time while jumping. Medical cards must be enclosed in a transparent, waterproof carrier. Medical cards must be securely attached to the competitor’s upper arm on the outside of the competitor’s clothing. Medical bracelets must be visible on the competitor’s wrist. Medical cards must include any relevant medical history, injury (particularly to the head), drug allergies and current medication. If wearing a medical bracelet, any relevant medical history injury (particularly to the head), drug allergies and current medication must be included in the online medical form of the bracelet’s vendor website. Athletes are responsible to record all injuries on the card or in the case of a medical bracelet, update their medical information online. Failure to wear one’s own medical card or bracelet shall be penalized by a fine of $100 (payable to the Organizing Committee).”





Sunday, November 19, 2017

Going Pro, part II

So, I promised you a video of Stella's dressage test with THE PRO.  Sadly my phone is a disagreeable sort and ejected the video out the window. 

To recap in boring type, Stella did great!  She got a 35, which two seperate 4.5's.  One for "I don't really want to canter in this cave like indoor lady, OK FINE I guess I can" and "HALT?  What halt!"  Other than that she was obedient and Pro was able to keep her in the bridle for the entire test.  YEAHHH!!!!


Moving on, I had signed Pro up for a Crossrails round so they could work out any kinks over smaller fences.  I didn't anticipate any problems as Stella is usually pretty good for me over the small stuff, and she was just as good for Pro. 



Then came the 2' 3" round, a division that I've been struggling with at shows.  This is the round I was really looking forward to seeing.  Would Pro have any issues here, and would she be able to correct them?  Would they be big spectacular issues? 



Stella got a little nervous and flat over a few of the fences, probably a combo of my previous poor riding and someone new.  She hit a rail, which is something she has never done with me, and then over jumped several, which is something I'm glad I didn't have to handle!  It was nice seeing someone stay out of her way and reward her for the extra effort.  She did get a few clucks and a solid WHACK over the owl fence.  This was an oxer, and Pro said she had a hard look at the things on the ground and wasn't sure she should jump the oxer but went with a solid whack.

Overall I was very pleased, and a little disappointed.  Which is a weird mix.  I guess I expected more fireworks?  Pro's rides looked relatively easy, which I suppose is a compliment to my riding being the only person to work on her with the dressage and the only person to take her over fences.  Yet considering the difficulty I'd had with her at the last show I expected more of a schooling round. 

So what's the deal?  Why does she go forward with a simple whack or use of leg with the Pro and not me?  Does she not "believe" me?  Is some part of me saying "NO!" while part of me is saying "GO!" and she just nopes it out of town?  Is this something I can fix with my own riding to give her the ride she needs, and is it something I want to fix?  Does she need a better rider and I need a more forgiving steed?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Going pro

Giving my general failings as a rider, and a trainer (who was it that said we train our horse every time we ride?) I've decided to go pro.

No, not me.

I decided to have a pro put some rides on Stella at a show.  We seem to be making steady progress in lessons but it all falls apart at shows and I wanted to try to get the bottom of 1. Her 2.  Me  3. Us 

So pro was the way to go!

I was super nervous as I've been the only one on Stella for a long time, and the ability of someone else to just hop on and go reflected my skills as a rider.  Or lack of skills.  Stella was pretty green when I got her, so did my training amount to anything?

I found a plucky young pro who came highly recommended and had a solid history of getting on strange horses and getting them to perform at their best.  She had seen Stella go in lessons and at shows and I gave her the lowdown on what I wanted from the rides.

 Her first ride on Stella was warming up for their dressage test!

Here's a video of them working together out in the field waiting for their turn in the ring.  It was about 28 degrees, the poop was frozen, but Stella performed great!  She settled into some contact in the bridle easily, with a strange person outdoors in freezing temps.





Cantering together!  Stella picked up her right lead promptly.  An indication that my work on her right lead was finally paying off. 





But would the dressage test in the scary indoor turn out just as well?  Stay tuned for more! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Product Review, Big Dee's padded halter and lead


A few months ago Stella's leather turnout halter finally kicked the bucket during a trailer loading moment.  The leather simply fell apart with one good tug on the leadrope and I was left with a loose horse, luckily at home!  An important reminder to check your tack on a regular basis for signs of wear and tear.  Also, always care a spare halter on your trailer!  I can't say I was super surprised, she has worn it daily for turnout in all sorts of weather for at least two years, and Annie wore it before that (sniff).




While I'm fine with Nylon halters I like the look of a leather halter more, and there are literally hundreds of options such as this stunning twisted leather Premiera Vienna halter from 20X60 tack for a quick $119.95.  A stunning show halter no doubt, but not something I ever want to see rolling around in the mud or the rain or pretty much anywhere near my filthy beast.





I finally settled on the Padded Leather Horse Halter and Lead from Big Dee's.  On sale for just $39.  It looked decent in the videos, and satisfied my need for a padded leather halter that was nice enough it could go to lessons but not so nice I'd feel queasy letting her get turned out in it.  I chose padding because sometimes she gets rubs in the summer when she sheds, and I also wanted a throat snap and double buckle crown for ease of removal and adjustment.


Big Dee's even has a handy little Youtube video demonstrating its qualities.  I looked at a few more halters in the same range that came with name plates, but I've never had good luck with nameplates surviving regular wear.  As a bonus this came with a free matching show shank, something I had vaguely considered buying at some point just in case I felt Stella had a chance at being a halter horse.  Snicker.



Overall I was pleased with the quality of the halter.  It isn't something I'd parade around at an A show in, but it has good quality leather, is highly adjustable, and there were enough measurements to determine size.  The padding is nice and soft and seems to be protecting Stella's face during the break in period.  The leather is sturdy enough you don't feel like it's going to snap when you have to knock some sense into a frisky horse, but soft enough it isn't causing sores.

Here's the halter after a solid week out in the rain and mud.  I think the cob size is average, I'm picky about my halters and I like them to sit on the first or second hole on either side of the crown.  If it's done all the way up it's too big. 



Please excuse the mare face. 




close up of the workmanship and some mud!


The lead shank is OK for local open shows.  It's a nice color, and has a 24 inch long chain, but the leather is covered in a thin plasticy type layer, and where it sat wrapped up in the store you can feel bubbles where the surface has started to separate.   I'll keep it around for when I decide Stella has a career as a halter horse. 


What do you like for a turnout halter and how much do you like to spend?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Product Review, Ovation helmets

I'm an eventer on a budget.  A shoestring budget.  Make that a Velcro closure budget, only the generic hook n loop fastener type and not the actual brand name type because I can't afford brand name.  If you're looking for reviews of the latest $600 helmet, please move on.  Although, if someone wants to send me one to review I'll be more than happy to!

Helmets are an important part of safety, and I believe in wearing a helmet EVERY SINGLE time I'm on a horse.  What I don't believe in is that the more expensive helmets are any safer than the cheaper helmets.  There is no safety rating scale.  Helmets either pass or fail.  So when I helmet shop I want something that fits, something that is affordable, and something that doesn't look out of place with what everyone else is wearing.


For my everyday and XC phase helmet I chose the Ovation Protege helmet which runs about $40 from various tack shops.   This helmet looks very similar in design to the popular with eventers Tipperary Sportage helmet for half the cost.  It has a low profile look, an adjustable dial on the back, and comes in every XC color you could imagine.  With the price I don't have to worry about tossing it calressly in my tack trunk, or running into a tree branch on the trail (shut up).  An excellent value for your money.



Here's the helmet in action.



For my show helmet I purchased the Ovation Z-6 Glitz helmet for $67.00 with their perpetual %25 off coupon from Statelinetack.  I fit in the same size as the Protege.

For under $70 this doesn't look like a cheap helmet.  It looks expensive, with the leather brim and harness, and the white stitching.  It has an adjustable dial in the back to perfect your fit, and has a very low profile look from the front and sides.  I like the multiple vents to keep my noggin cool during hot summer show days.   I really like the blingy stickers and I've had multiple comments, both at horse trials, and at hunter shows where hunters tend to have much more conservative helmets.  It even comes with a nice helmet bag to keep it looking its best in between shows.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Hunters, the rebuilding year?




A week after our utter failure of a horse trial I decided on a whim to head to a hunter show.  It was just 45 minutes away, and being a hunter show has the added bonus of accepting on the spot entries, as well as adds and scratches as I changed my mind through the day.  This lead to several hours of frantically googling "current HJ fashion"and seeing if I had anything that wasn't horribly out of date. 

Then we showed up, hit the ring to school over some of the fences (love this about hunter shows). had some issues due to my nerves but didn't have a ton of time to fix those issues before the ring closed so I signed up for some divisions, and waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

I popped over to watch a friend in the 2 foot jumper divisions and was glad I hadn't entered those classes.  They hadn't been able to get some of their filler under 2 feet so the course looked "intimidating" and I suck at memorizing courses on the fly.  This divison was a mixture of normal and terrifying.  When speed wins it's easy to let children tear around at 90mph on their horses since you don't really need to have proper distances to leave such small fences up. 

I also noticed a direct correlation between the turnout and the round.  The students on dirty or thin horses wearing poorly fitting tack and clothing were more likely to be terrifying, to have stops, or to just plain hit the dirt.  I think turnout has a direct relation between the quality of the instruction and I hope that these children don't give up when they've hit the ground one too many times. 

As the morning wore on I felt the need to get out immediately, get over a tiny fence or two, and deal with some issues.  I had initially entered in the (don't laugh) 18 inch division but when warming up over fences produced some serious anxiety I decided to throw in a few X rail rounds (don't laugh).  As morning turned into afternoon and I needed to get back into the ring before dark I decided to add an on the spot ground pole EQ class (ok, you're totally laughing now). 

It was quite humorous as Stella hand galloped down the lines, launched 4 feet into the air over her ground poles but we got 2nd!  I'm not sure that's something to write home about but I'll surly blog about it.  It was eye opening to feel my nerves being back in a ring a week after our fail, especially over such a non event as ground pole EQ. 

During my X rail classes Stella stopped at the first fence.  Was it the flowers or my lack of a backbone?  We will never know.  After that I pulled my head out of my ass and started to think about riding.  One of the things I like about hunter courses are the predictable lines.  I worked on focusing on my strides down the lines and my release and it helped to focus me and calm my nerves. 

We ended up doing one more course, over the X rail course in the other direction (most hunter X rail courses are simply twice around the outside lines, because hunters think at this stage cutting across the diagonal is too much for a novice rider).  This one was fairly nice.  She stayed on the same lead so I didn't have to think about a simple change, and we got the same number of strides in each line. 

I was going to get the heck out of dodge, having promised my recupterating boyfriend that I would be home by noon (we didn't even ride until noon!) but I chatted with a few people I knew then decided to stick around for ribbons.

Imagine my surprise when we took fourth out of 10!  Pretty good for a terrified adult and her unconventional horse.  On the way back to the trailers I bumped into the judge who I thanked for her time at the charity show.  She complimented my horse and said that she was a nice hunter and that if I cleaned up my flatwork (surprise!) I would find myself pinning in decent company!

What a pick me up!

So, still lots to think about.  Are Stella and I a suitable pair for jumping period?  Will I solve the show nerves problem?  How do I fix our XC warm up explosions?  Do we switch to hunters where we can work on nerves over multiple rounds?

Stay tuned for next week! 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October HT wrap up


My BIG MOVE UP at the October show was a big fat fail. 

This is me, dismounting off of Stella in the middle of a massive XC melt down in which she got eliminated the day before and snorted around part of her derby course like she'd never been in a field before, got eliminated the next day in stadium at fence three, and lost her freaking mind when I was stupid enough to think that all our schooling experience would make a difference and we could just treat XC like a schooling day.

This happened a few weeks ago and I've honestly just not blogged about it because, well, it's sad.  I feel like a failure.  I don't feel like I'm riding terribly.  Not as well as in lessons for sure.  But this?  To get this kind of behavior just because I'm nervous?  Is it all me?  Do my nerves cause this dramatic behavior?  Have we just not warmed up for an XC show enough that it had her this on edge?  

So it's hard for me to find a going forward from here point when I'm not sure where here is.  Keep taking lessons and working on my nerves?  Stop showing until I'm comfortable 6 inches over what I'm showing at?  Continue showing at a much lower height until I'm comfortable and confident at that height.  Sell Stella and buy something more suitable?  Hard to wrap my head around when I feel like we've been improving as a team all summer.  

Bleck.







Friday, October 13, 2017

Stella gets her XC groove

I feel like I've made significant progress this summer going schooling, including a second trip to our local horse park in which I jumped a BN fence!!!

My summer program of trail ride XC school trail ride XC school trail ride XC school seemed to be working fantastic. 

After two slightly squeamish XC schools and one another much more positive XC lesson I finished it out with three solid performances.  Zero stops, bolder and bolder.  Jumping strange fences out of stride. 


My last XC school before the October HT was AMAZING!  Stella was game, forward, and brave.  I took note of how well she has been galloping away from the group, an issue I have not had occur the entire summer.  She also didn't have any issues with how busy the place was, there were people galloping all around her and she kept her mind on her job.

She's still fantastic in the water!  So happy my hard work trail riding paid off.  She does want to stop in the middle and have a drink which is humorous but might land me as the only eventer to get dumped in the MIDDLE of the water when she screeches to a halt!



She's also been great on drop fences, something I also attribute to trail riding.  I'm still a bit of a mess, but hey, what's new?


We did our first sunken road!  Love the game face.



Not so much to love about our leap up the sunken road.  Dramatic much?


Our only stop of the day was at this ditch.  We've done natural ditches before no big deal but nothing like an eventing ditch.  This stop was my fault.  I ambled up to this without direction or purpose and Stella had no idea why she couldn't just go around. 


I represented her and no hesitation whatsoever!



Here we are going both directions like real eventers!


Did I mention all the galloping?  Stella did a lot of taking me to my fences, like a real eventer.  She wasn't running away in the gallop, she had good pace and rhythm and listen to my adjustments. 


Finally, Squeeee!!!!!!  Jumped this like a pro and left plenty of air between her and the fence!  I was super proud of myself, this is a little big to me and even though I've jumped it three weeks in a row I'm always EEEPPP it's real fence sized!  But I have been so good about keeping my leg on and building to the base that it jumped great. 


After this school I thought we were more than ready for our big move up at the October show! 


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Summer program, trail ride trail ride trail ride

After event camp I had a few ups and downs.  You would think that I would come off a high and progress by leaps and bounds but alas that just isn't me.  I start each lesson by being timid, and end by being confident, but I lose confidence even if the lessons are only a day or a week apart. I do better if the next lesson starts out a bit smaller and easier than I ended the last week then works up.  Even if I'm bored at my current height, a three inch increase has me quaking in my boots.

 Part of it is baggage, I have a hard time being positive and a small setback in a lesson can easily crush my confidence.  Plus, Stella is the type of horse that needs a supportive rider to be brave and isn't the type to be super forgiving and humor me when I'm riding like crap.  I felt like I needed to go to something I'm good at and work more on our forward and group think there.  



So this summer I had lots of time to do what I do best, trail ride!  I feel so much more confident working on forward issues on the trail and I believe that you can work on one problem by fixing another area.  I made it a goal to work on solo trail riding with Stella.  It's a big boost for me, and if I can get Stella to go forward on a strange trail in the middle of nowhere, I can get her to go over a tiny fence!   Plus, my barn owner was out of town for two weeks and if I don't find a way to force myself to ride during that time I get pretty grumpy! 


I'm still picking trails in public areas where I can easily walk back to the trailer, and there are people to find my body.   They still have plenty of nature, and added benefits like people bicycle racing and screaming children.  I do a variety of all three gaits.  Sometimes I let Stella pick her speed and sometimes I pick it for us.  She moves out really well alone, while in groups she has started to get lazy.  Perhaps a sign of being comfortable?  I've had to start working on a forward walk in groups now. 

I also let Stella have snack breaks.  I figure if she's calm enough to graze while all alone she's comfortable doing what we're doing.  She does take advantage of this, and gradually sneaks to a nice looking patch then ducks her head down.  When we ride behind a slow horse she will graze until they are out of sight, catch up, repeat. 

Bad habit?  Probably, but oddly enough she has never once tried to snack when we are out XC schooling on the grass.  She will stand on a buffet on a slack rein.  Maybe she knows the difference?




Usually the only horses we see are their leftovers!  Stella likes to take time to smell the poop to see if she knows them.  I did run across other horses here, and it was a big WHAT IF for me because Stella has been herd bound in the past.  Could I get her to keep going by a group of other horses?  Would she have a meltdown and try to follow them?  She has had issues being buddy sour at other trail rides and shows. We ran into a few groups here and Stella didn't care at all so I think her confidence in me as herd leader has been growing.  Or she felt they were beneath her.


This sign was very spooky.  We were trotting and Stella made a really big zag and I was thankful for the big pommel on my endurance saddle.  We did lots of snorting and she tried to back up and spin around.  I kept my reins short, used my spurs, and would not let her turn away.  We made it past this sign and the 50 other ones some kind person put out! 


This park bench was also a doozy.  In a blind corner (why are spooky things in blind corners?) but I was able to get Stella by this as well.

Overall I have been really pleased with our progress solo trail riding.  I've had to get off and lead her before, either because it was an unsafe area to deal with shenanigans, or because I wasn't making any progress.  Last month she had a meltdown on a ride with a friend.  We were on day two, and the area was hilly and rocky.  It took nearly 30 minutes, her rearing, and me getting off three times and walking before she would go, and this was with another horse!  It really helped that the other horse didn't care about Stella drama, and that his rider was able to move him safely out of our way.  I think that ride was really a turning point.  It was really ugly, but sometimes you need to make a stand.  Stella and I both did and I think I won!  You can either go forward or you can go forward.

I'm also tickled pink that I have a horse I can ride solo, and a horse that I can gallop down a trail and not only not have to worry about not being run away with, but that I am secure enough with to do it in the first place! 

I'm hoping that this helps our jumping in a round about way.  It sure isn't helping our dressage!

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?


Molly Sue Kinnamon Clinic

Last weekend I participated in a Molly Sue Kinnamon clinic at local dressage/eventing barn  Greystone Equestrian Center .  Although I had s...