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?


Monday, May 15, 2017

How not to prep for a show

Things were not looking too good for the May show.   I hadn't had a lesson with trainer since before the April Heartland show.  Trainer was quite busy that month and I work weekdays so it is difficult to manage a weeknight lesson, plus trainer is generally booked in the evenings.  When I finally got someone to agree to let me hog their weeknight lesson Stella promptly went lame.  I felt like a pain for all the arranging people did to let me join and then I wasn't able to go.  Boooo.

So I entered the show anyway.  Cause why not?  I figured she'd do her usual thing and be sound the week before.  Then we had 4 straight days of rain where the horses stayed in.  Like 7 inches of ridiculous wetness.  A local HT had to cancel XC and run their show as a CT, for the second year in a row.  Rumor is the show is cursed.  I lunged Stella on day three and from what I could tell she appeared sound.  I mean, in between the rearing and leaping and bucking and I didn't know horses could do that she looked sound.  So I gave her two days turnout, scheduled another lesson, then cancelled it exactly 5 minutes later when my BM texted me to say she looked lame again.

DANG IT

Another call to my farrier with a good bit of begging and he came out to reset her hind shoes, finding an abscess under one which answered why she wouldn't pick up her feet for him the last time.  He found the remains of a front abscess and said if he beveled it she would be good to go.  So I packed her feet with the newly discovered to me miracle stuff Magic Cushion and loaded her up having not ridden her in over two weeks.

Friday night she schooled fine, except a wee bit fresh.  Considering things, I was happy to not get dumped.

Spent the night in my trailer with a lumpy sleeping bag (don't wash cheap sleeping bags) when it dipped into the 40s.   Popsicle eventer.  Eventer with trailer.  8am ride time.  No sleep for me.  Cold pillow.


Had an even fresher horse Saturday at 7:30 am for my test.  I spent most of my warm up in an indoor because it was so soggy on the grass and when I did head for the grass I had a behind the leg horse but I could tell she was being very careful of the ground.

What I really like about this season is that she's warming up great, with only a few minutes of SNORK!!! before she goes to work and drops onto the bit.  I can't hold onto it when we enter a new location like the show ring, but I am getting it more and more consistently at home and warming up so I know it's coming.  I actually got some pretty decent scores despite me squeezing her a bit too much and demoing and excellent canter entrance in our Intro test.

Oh well.

Show jumping warm up she was also quite unwilling to go forward but she jumped all her warm up fences.  I think that's the first time she hasn't stopped at the first warm up fence so I was thrilled.  Unfortunately over the last fence she left long and I got her in the face which caused her to slip on landing and then we had a rather dramatic melt down involving lots of head throwing, bucking, popping up, and general "I've been so good lady considering the circumstances but I'm OVER IT"  I tried to get her going again then just headed over to the ring.

I had a nice discussion with a helpful local trainer about what I should change about my riding on footing like that and was happy to learn my instincts were on target.

We made it over all of our fences!!!  No stops at the first fence, and no thinking about stopping to anything else.  We had some technical issues with steering where she still hadn't forgiven me for catching her in the mouth and wanted to leave the arena early but the actual jumping went great and we beat some cute kids on ponies for a respectable second place.  I got some super nice compliments about my riding from both long suffering trainer, another trainer, the judge whom I've lesson-ed with before, and a few friends who have seen some of my struggles learning to ride Stella.   The fences looked pretty small and I'm really hoping we can finally move up a level to a slightly less weenie division.





Thursday, May 4, 2017

All the Saddles

Another really awesome part about Rolex is ALL THE SADDLES EVERYWHERE.  If you want to sit in a bunch of saddles to see which ones with which options you like before you schedule someone out or purchase one sight unseen,  Rolex is the place to be.  Here are just a few of the saddles I sat in and my impressions.  I did confirm from several saddlers that I've had some trouble fitting saddles in the past because I have a long hip to knee measurement but short legs over all and a small size.  Which explains why forward flap saddles are too forward and regular flap saddles let my knee sit over the flap.

Bliss Saddles  have to be my favorite.  I sat in the Paramour last year and fell in love.  Like I felt like I could bang out a 4th level test and take a nap at the same time love.  The Paramour has this drop away option which lays your entire thigh right on the horse so you can feel ultra super close.  You also get lots of options like blocks custom designed for your leg in whatever size you want and plenty of color options.  Plus they had no issues when I explained I wanted a wide saddle and a narrow twist.  Sure, no problem!  They did have other saddles in their more affordable option.  I liked them but would list them as "average" as far as how I felt in the saddle.  I got to be realistic with my budget though.


Voltaire  The best part about Voltaire were the tall skinny hot French guys hawking the saddles.  Enjoy them explaining taking measurements of your leg in the saddle every two inches as they gently touch your thigh while softly muttering "bien d'accord merci"  $5,000 you said?  Here's my credit card.  They had a lot more jumping saddles than dressage and I'd describe the feel to me as "average."  They had the ability to completely replace the panels if you bought a new horse which I thought was a really cool option.



Stackhouse  I love the design of the stackhouse.  It's just cool looking.  Every saddle is custom made from scratch to each rider and horse and is adjustable.  Which I thought was great for buying new but harder if you were hunting used as you didn't know what the previous rider looked like.



County  County is a great option because they are everywhere and have some pretty standard options without going full custom so you can buy used, and they are more than happy to help you find a used saddle and fit it for you.

Custom  I initially liked the looks of the Custom saddles and have heard good things.  My biggest problem was that I found the twists to be too wide for me.  When I asked about the twist they said there was nothing they could do about it and the wider the saddle the wider the twist.  Which marks them off my list.



Southern Stars

I sat in a Southern Stars pony saddle a few years ago and really liked it.  The saddle below was their only option at Rolex and it DID NOT FIT ME AT ALL.  The knee block was at least 6 inches in front of my leg on a 17 inch saddle.  I asked the sales rep if there were custom options but that appeared to not be the case.  Disappointed in the service but at least I was able to write these saddles totally off my list.


There were several more saddlers there but I couldn't sit in all of them.  What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rolex free samples

My favorite part of Rolex, I mean besides the shopping, and the horses, and the shopping, and the bourbon chicken, and the famous riders, are all the companies out promoting their products with free samples.  I like stopping by the booths, listening to them talk about how their product is the best, and taking home samples to try out.  It's usually enough of a product to make sure your horse is going to eat it, and to see if there is any sort of change.






Foxden Equine  sells this product called TractGard, it's billed as an equine GI track buffer, re-hydrator, digestaid, and electrolyte source.  It claims the ability to pull water into and lubricate the GI tract, buffer excess acids, and support digestion.  Available in Smartpaks, it averages out to about $0.61 a day which puts it even with U-gard and much cheaper than Succeed and U-7.



Finish Line sells Fluid Action HA powder.  It is advertised as joint support at an affordable price and contains HA, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Vitamin D.  It even contains Tumeric powder if you are familiar with the Golden Paste phenomenon.  Also available in Smartpaks, it averages out to about $1.36 a day.  It's also sold in a liquid form but I went with the powder to make my barn owner's life less difficult.










Platinum Performance had small samples of Platinum Performance CJ and the Platinum Bar for both equines and people (people version tastes like your standard power bar).  The CJ formula contains ASU for joint health and is said to support your horse on all levels.  Digestion, skin, coat, hooves, and joint support.  A 10 lb bucket will run you $147.00 from Platinum Performance for a 58 day supply which ends up being $2.53 a day.  Their equine power bar is similar, with the benefit of giving your horse his supplements disguised as treats.

I'm looking forward to trying out these samples, and will report back if Stella eats them or if miracles happen.  Has anyone had experience with these products?  Did they work as advertised?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

All about the horse, Vermicullus withdrawn



Vermicullus looked game and full of run Saturday despite the very tough course design.  It was pouring rain when he left the startbox but the weather didn't seem to bother him.  Unfortunately he had a stumble entering the Head of the Lake


Probably thanks to the quick feet of his Arabian dad he remained on his feet, actually jumped the fence two strides away, but got a little lost and had a run out at the next one.  He wasn't alone, there were quite a few stumbles and glace offs all day long and several other horses stumbled in the Lake.  It's a big drop so I don't think footing was the issue.


He continued on and galloped across the finish line, but after he ended up a bit muscle sore when he cooled down the decision was made to withdraw him and save him for another day.  That's good horsemanship and he many more years ahead of him so expect to see him next year!

You can see his run on the USEF Network.


Lest we not forget that the Rolex horses are still just regular horses, here is Vermicullus, 4 star event horse, on his way to Rolex dressage and those are plastic bags.  Horses never change, no matter how brave.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Arabians at Rolex

Yep, we got Arabians at Rolex!
 Lauren Kieffer  is well known for her career starting on an Anglo Arabian named Snooze Alarm who was by the Arabian stallion Serazim and out of the TB mare Wake Me Gently. Her parents bought her Snooze Alarm when he was a five year old from his breeders, at the time Lauren had not ridden past Novice.  Under the guidance of David O'Connor they moved up the levels, eventually reaching the ultimate eventing goal, Rolex.

When Snooze Alarm's breeders told her they had Snooze Alarm's full brother she bought him as a yearling.  Now he's following in his brother's footsteps and representing Arabians at the top of the eventing world.

Here are Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus in the dressage, where they placed 7th.


Here they are running Training in 2012, they've come quite a long way since them!


Here is his older brother, competing in the same arena! I'm sure he's proud of his baby brother.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Heartland show wrap up


After a considerable amount of hemming and hawing (was Stella going to have an abscess, could I make some progress on my staggering fear of jumping this horse?) I entered the Heartland show at our local horse park. Most of my friends were going and I didn't want to avoid it.

Insert panic.

Stella and I were still quite inconsistent over fences but I felt like I had a bit of a handle on it.  When I feel like I'm getting a bit nervous, ACCELERATE!!


Schooling the night before was a mad house.  90 horses of varying stage of off the track, and 90 riders in varying stages of THIS IS OUR FIRST SHOW! made it insane.  I had to work hard remembering how to ride at a show and provide a stable support for Stella who had a lot to look at.

I had initially planned on schooling through all the rings, but at least one was occupied by a trainer giving lessons so I settled with schooling around the outsides of two, inside one, then changing venues and trying to perform a test in a new arena cold.







Dressage warm up Saturday was also bonkers.  The arena was huge, but the kids on ponies were all the places at once.  I worked on encouraging Stella to accept contact and maybe put her head down just a little itty bit?  I felt overall that she relaxed and focused quite a bit sooner than the night before but I knew I was going to lose most of it when we moved to the new ring. 


I felt our test was pretty decent for where we are in our training.  She was obedient to most of my aids, crooked where she normally was, but thankfully prompt in her transitions even when she had a lot to look at.  She spent most of the time bent to the outside so she could SEE ALL THE THINGS but in the end we got  a 40.9 which I felt was about right.


Jumping warm up was all about controlling my nerves.  She stopped at the first warm up fence.  Which I knew she was going to.  Yet failed to ride aggressively enough to prevent.  Doh.  Thankfully, I got her over it from a standstill to let her know that she knew her job and it was unacceptable to stop when it was a teeny tiny fence and her rider was being a moron.

After that it got easy.  She didn't care about the fences, she cantered away, and I even cantered the other two cold.  ME!  HA!


I went into the ring knowing that I was going to have a bit of a time getting her to focus on me and what was in front of her.  There was lots of stuff to look at.  I had a plan in place to school past a few things, change direction, walk and trot a couple times.  Get her sharp and focused.

She had a dramatic meltdown in front of fence one.  Was it the poop under the fence?  The fact that we had been trotting around and not jumped yet?  Me giving up my plan ahead of time?  The person on the ground?

Does it really matter.

I gathered myself, got to whacking, and whacked her butt right over one.  WOOO!

The rest of the fences were nothing.  She didn't look, she didn't question, she didn't stop.  I tried very hard to remember my trainer's voice in my head ACCELERATE!  GO FASTER!  When she landed in a canter I kept my leg on and for the love of God we actually cantered down to most of the fences.  It felt easy.  It felt fun.  It felt like I knew what I was doing!

Then I cantered right past fence 10.  Oooops.  Can't be 100% on it at once I guess.


In the end I was very happy.  When I got past our (My?) first fence jitters everything else felt easy.  I had most of a plan and carried it out.  Stella didn't know we had to circle back to 10.  It gave me a confidence boost for our next show and further lessons.  Unfortunately due to some scheduling mountains it will be three weeks before we have another jumping lesson, and for once this spring I can hardly wait!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Faster! To fences


It's no secret that I've had a bumpy road teaching Stella to jump.  One second she is bold, brave, and jumping 2' 6", the next she is rearing in front of a ground pole.  Currently I'm still on the fence if we are a good match over fences, she is a brave horse that occasionally needs a confidence boost from her rider, and she's not a take charge packer type.  I'm an inconsistent rider over fences, and I tend to drop a horse a few strides out when I'm nervous about fence height and let the horse figure it out.  When I lose confidence and she stops because she isn't going without motivation I lose more confidence and we end up rearing in front of cross rails.

My previous two horses worked well with this program.  One didn't care what I was doing as long as she was pointed at a fence, the other cared enough about me to figure it out on her own.  While they both had their flaws they allowed me to progress as a rider and even as a trainer while still having my own flaws.

Last week we had a jumping lesson that I hope is the tip of the iceberg.  It was a lot about controlling my own confidence and mainting a jump or die attitude even if I felt like death was imminent.  Stella can be a horse that quickly gets behind the leg so we spent a lot of time GALLOPING down to fences while my poor ever suffering trainer screamed GO FASTER!!  While it might look initially like the beginning of one of those "Should I leave my trainer?" threads on COTH she was able to break it down for me.

I'm really not going that fast.  My GO FASTER is probably more of a reasonable hand gallop.  I can see my distances, make my turns, and the reminder to ACCELERATE toward the fence helps me keep my leg on and keep Stella motivated.  When I did things went remarkably well.  I boldly galloped down to fences we had not jumped since last summer before THE INCIDENT.

Here's a nifty helmet cam video of the end result of  our GO FASTER! lesson.  I'm still adjusting to the helmet cam and which angle it should be for best viewing.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Eventing Bingo

Emma, over at Fraidy Cat Eventing  has a great contest going called Eventing Bingo, where you get an assigned Bingo card and have to write a believable story around the card spots to get BINGO!

Here's my entry!





Annie wasn't always the most perfect horse out there.  In fact, we had some rough patches in our show career together as Annie learned how to be a team player, and how to trust my judgement and respect my wishes.

I had a hard time getting Annie to pick her her canter when I restarted her, she had been shanked in the mouth in order to get a "lope" so many times she either wouldn't pick the canter up at all, or would throw her head constantly.  I had her picking her left lead pretty good, but I foolishly entered her first CT ever and didn't realize it was a WTC canter test until three weeks out.  We still didn't have a right lead.

Morning of the test it was snowing.  I felt like I was doomed.  However, Annie was a very good girl and promptly picked up her right lead when asked.  Judge called it EXUBERANT, and we got a four on the movement when she quickly swapped to the wrong lead.


Our dressage woes gradually went away but cropped back up when Annie realized I was less likely to whack her for being lazy in the dressage ring.  Which lead to this lovely test when I brought the hammer down for the lack of obedience to my leg.  She jigged through the entire free walk so we got a big fat "free walk not shown" but the next test was amazing!!





Luckily she was never THAT HORSE in the warm up as she was always pretty good on the flat.  Nothing compares to Nikki running backwards out of the dressage warm up because she couldn't deal with the crowd.  When in doubt, back out.  Nikki eventually mostly became comfortable with crowded dressage warm ups, although oddly she never had the same fears in jumping warm up, even crazy ones.  Go figure.

Nikki also never had a problem going forward on the XC course so I was quite surprised during Annie's first XC run when we racked up 2 minutes of penalties.  Due to a golf cart.  Lurking in the woods.  Suspiciously.  No amount of beating got her to move while she remained on high alert.  Eventually the golf cart inhabitants got tired of waiting and moved on and so did we.



Would you believe that we actually got a ribbon?  Apparently we didn't have any stops at the fences on stadium and XC and our dressage by that point was decent enough!



I always like to look back at past shows and years and it makes me all fuzzy and warm to see the improvements.  From horses who were in dead last after dressage to horses that won on their dressage score.  Horses that spooked and snorted over a pile of poles on the ground at their first show over fences to horses that bravely jumped their first roll top.

Eventing, never the same ride twice!

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...