Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jim Wofford Clinic

Pa, Kiki, and I are hot, sweaty, and exhausted from a long weekend on the road and in the saddle but it was well worth it. The clinic with Jim Wofford was a huge success! I'm sorry this post is long, but there are lots of stories (and pictures!) to share.

(Warming up on Day 1)

I wish I could say the same about the drive down, which was an absolute nightmare. We left almost exactly when we had wanted to and were hoping to be in Dover, PA, by 9:30. Then we hit traffic in Hartford… and Waterbury… and Danbury… and then got deluged in a massive rainstorm that slowed everyone on the road to a crawl in New York state, and then hit traffic again just outside Bethlehem, PA. Ughhh.

At a few minutes before midnight we finally rolled into the farm for the night. The farm owner was SO NICE and had waited up for us and showed Kiki to the nice big grass pen with run where she'd be staying. Kiki was pretty ready to get off the trailer, but in classic style took two steps into her paddock and immediately started eating. What a champ. We got her tucked in for the night and then stumbled off to our hotel and fell asleep almost instantly.

Day 1: Stadium Jumping

The next day dawned early as we got back to the farm to get Kiki all squeaky clean before the 8am Q&A session. As usual my mind went utterly blank as soon as I was asked to come up with questions (this happens in school all the time, too - one of my biggest weaknesses) but Pa came through with a few really great ones about the differing philosophies between having a quality canter and needing to see a distance. It's so cool to hear Jim reach into his deep, deep well of experience and give such eloquent, funny, intelligent responses.

After that we quickly grabbed Kiki, got her ready, and I headed up to the ring with butterflies beginning to flutter around in my stomach. We warmed up briefly and then got to work right away, trotting and then cantering over a small vertical all while counting out loud to try to achieve a steady, unchanging rhythm in the approach to the fence. This was ultimately going to be the big take away from the lesson, which I was somewhat expecting given my previous experience with him as a clinician. Which was mostly why I was nervous, because smooth and steady in the approach has never been Kiki's and my strong point!

(Getting started under the watchful eye)

(Looking so cute!)

I think I was a little nervous to start and kept trying to overcorrect Kiki in order to not have her start rushing, with the opposite effect that I ended up choking her into some miserable jumps. To fix this, Jim made me change my grip on the reins to driving reins (basically the reverse of normal, so that the reins lie over the top of your index finger instead of coming up from your ring finger) which makes it harder to pull.

(Getting our grip changed - Jenny (on the other grey) went to driving reins as well)

(Showing off our new driving reins)

The first time I came around with my new grip I had a total mental panic attack and got into the fence totally wrong. Kiki launched from way way off and I got left behind, slipping reins out to the buckle to try to keep from hitting her in the mouth. Jim immediately layed into me, saying that I was a bad rider who didn't have good enough balance to stay with my horse when I wasn't choking her to death with the reins. He then suggested I take up waterskiing instead so then I could at least lean against a boat, which didn't care, instead of a horse, who did. Yikes!! That was a pretty rough response for one mistake!

At this point, the lesson wasn't moving in a direction I was particularly happy with. It didn't help that the next exercise was a long four stride (which, with Kiki's short stride, was always going to be a tougher one) that we got five in like three times in a row. It felt like I had to be pulled aside after every attempt I made, and had to do the exercise like five times more than everyone else. We took a water break and I was feeling a bit low.

But then, we got better! I took a deep breath, put on my big girl pants, and got my sh** together. I got Kiki into a nice canter and then stayed quiet and relaxed, and she actually responded beautifully! From the break on, we really made no mistakes from there out. I could have brought her back a bit more the first time we went through the next exercise, a tight downhill 5-stride, but nailed it on the second attempt.

(Looking classy!)

(This one was the best picture, position wise - too bad it's blurry!)

(Being nice and quiet into the quiet 6)

Our last course, which involved a going 3 to a steady 3, around to the forward 4, back to the quiet 5, and then up a quiet 6 stride, went very smoothly. I could have ridden the 3 to 3 better, which Jim noted, but then I got myself together and rode more and more focused as we went. Jim even complimented us at the end - wahoo! As we walked back for lunch, I admitted to Jim that this was only the 8th time I'd jumped since last August (which, shockingly, is true!!), and he agreed that it was just a matter of time for me to get my mojo back. Phew! A lesson that could have easily gone south ended up excellent!

(Kiki's tail looking "ethereal" as Suzie would say =D)

(Finishing up over the faux-corner - after which, Jimmy said, "Thank you!!")

Day 2: Cross Country

Day 2 started even earlier as we were trying to finish before the heat set in. We moved the Q&A to the end and started riding right away out in the cross country field. The first field we were in was very hard with short, wet grass that made the going extremely slick. I had put studs in but still felt a little tentative as we cantered around to warm up.

(SO. CUTE.)

(Kiki's tail having a life of its own again!)

We just did a few little coops and rails to start, and then popped on and off a little bank. After our first round Jim said, "Ah excellent, Kate, starting off today where we finished yesterday: jumping in stride!" Which made me very, very happy. Kiki was a little spicy and lit up with the start and stop nature of the 6-person cross country school, but jumped wonderfully.

(A little close but very sensible given the ground conditions)

(My first bank in 11 months!)

After that we started moving onto the real xc course, with our first station at a post and rail on a slope that we had to jump coming uphill, turn, and jump again going downhill to practice different approaches for different terrain. Kiki was great and I was really starting to feel back in my element, position and balance-wise.

(Clever Kiki)

We did a few more things in the woods, which were more difficult because of the fact that Kiki was very tense leaving the group and getting going on the uneven footing, rather than because of the jumps themselves. When we moved out into the big field, though, we were in our element! Once I could actually let Kiki canter on a bit before I had to start jumping she immediately chilled out. We did a few little courses, for which Kiki was a total champ.

We only had one hairy moment when we came up to a corner that you couldn't see the width of on the approach. We got there on a bit of a going stride and then Kiki saw the width at the last second and hesitated ever so slightly and ended up sort of diving across the face. She knocked the top of the corner very hard with her forelegs, which would not have been that big of a deal except that the fence wasn't fixed properly and it tipped slightly, meaning that her front legs dragged along with the fence longer than they would have if the fence had been totally immobile. The end result was that her trajectory changed fairly significantly and we sort of nosed dived into landing. Yikes! Not good!

Fortunately, Kiki didn't seem too worried after our incident and jumped neat as a pin from there on out. Jim was very happy with the way we went, and gave us some nice compliments at the end of the lesson. Kiki was definitely the star of the class and finished up fresh and very proud of herself. Yay!!

(Going yeehaw over the wee dray)

(Flying over the spooky green coop that undid some other members of our group)

The weird thing, though, was that driving home I didn't feel super confident. I'm so happy with Kiki and proud of our performance this weekend, but for whatever reason didn't walk away feeling super assured. I think it was that the jumps stayed very small all weekend, and I still found it plenty hard enough. Looking ahead to GMHA, which is in just two weeks, our planned return to Training is still feeling like a big ask. Hmm...

I've also been very short on sleep and my neck has been bothering me more than usual (it always hurts a little bit, all the time, but I tweaked it at the dressage show last weekend and it's gotten bad enough again that sitting in a chair for the four hours of my German class is almost enough to drive me to tears on a daily basis), which could be accounting for my grumpiness. Hopefully a week of maximum rest, minimum stress, and maybe a trip to a chiropractor can get me feeling feisty again! In the meantime, I just have to remind myself of what a star my pony is, and think good, happy, chill thoughts. Onward!

(Also, sorry for the continual changing of the banner - I promise I'll settle on something soon!)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Off to the Woff

I may be running off of an average of about 4 hours of sleep per night over the past week and am facing the daunting challenge of a seven hour drive to Pennsylvania directly ahead (though mercifully Pa and I will tackle that together), and I may have butterflies jumping around in my stomach at the idea of riding in front of one of the biggest figures (scratch that, THE GOD) of eventing and am nervous whether he'll like Kiki and all those usual pre-clinic jitters, but I'm also SO EXCITED. I get to ride with Jim Wofford this weekend!!

I got to ride with Jim Wofford once in June 2009, right towards the end of my time with Dually. Dually and I had had a terrible go at Copper Meadows just over a week earlier and our confidence was pretty low; at Copper he had been so tentative and sucked back in the show jumping, and I was doubting whether he wanted to do this anymore. Within a few minutes with Jimmy he was blasting around like his old self again, jumping better than he had in months and feeling like we could go Advanced the next weekend. I may or may not have almost killed Jimmy at one point when our steering utterly failed in a sunken road, but otherwise it was a massive massive success.

So, when the opportunity opened up to ride with him again, even as far away as York, PA, I jumped at it! I have no idea how Kiki will behave, but that's part of what makes owning her exciting, haha. I jumped for the first time since Huntington on Wednesday and set up a gymnastic from his book, which generally went well though I felt massively rusty and like I couldn't see a distance--worse even than when I first came home from England!! Yikes! I think I was just psyching myself out a bit; if I stay loose and cool over the weekend and don't over think too much (always my biggest problem), I have good reason to believe that all will be well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

GMHA Dressage Days: The Tests... Sort Of

So I had this super clever plan that I was going to make this beautiful Excel spreadsheet with all my tests from the weekend, complete with scores and comments. Well, I did indeed manage to do that, and even figured out how to transfer those into PDFs and then into JPEGs that I thought I could upload here.

And I could... but I couldn't get them so that when you clicked on them, they actually got any bigger! This left me with a bunch tiny, unreadable images on the screen. Not good. I spent thirty minutes of exhausted semi-comatose frustration at midnight last night trying to resize the images so that when you clicked on them, something happened (as it was they didn't do anything, even though most of the pictures on my site will open in full size on another page if you click on them). Grrr!! It's times like this that I wish I was less obtuse when it comes to computers... oh well.

Anyway, it was really interesting to study the tests a little more closely as I was entering them into the spreadsheet. I realized that Kiki's best test actually had a lot more range than I thought it did, with us getting a lot of pretty sketchy (and certainly justified) scores early on. On the other hand her last test, which I had been certain had been pretty cheaply judged at the time, actually had more consistently good marks than the first one! It just so happened, due to the placement of the coefficients, that it ended up on a lower final percentage.

I've never really thought about the actual breakdown, movement by movement, of my scores before, and it is both humbling and fascinating to see how much a single move or mistake can affect the final tally. It definitely ups my appreciation for the level of concentration and preparation required to really produce a top test!

It rained yesterday (hallelujah), but I still rode as I'm off to a Red Sox game tonight and didn't want them to have two days off (tough life, I know). I was hoping to just do something really brief and suppling to feel how the show treated them. Ringo was fabulous and feels better coming out of the show than he did coming into it - always a great feeling! Kiki on the other hand was as witchy as she has been in a long long time, even trying to ditch me at one point early on in the ride! I think it was the rain that was undoing her, which is a pretty poor excuse for a New England-based event horse. So her plan of "10 minutes of stretchy trot, maybe a loop of canter each way" quickly became a little more involved. Kiki!! Always keeping me on my toes, haha.

The countdown for Jimmy Wofford is ON!! I'm getting sooo excited, though the 7 hour drive to the clinic... maybe not so thrilling.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

GMHA Dressage Day 2: DQ Transformation - Complete

I feel like I start all these posts with something incredibly corny and gushy about my horses, but I just can't help it: they were both soooo good today!

I did manage to get the class changes I wanted, meaning that Kiki started the morning bright and early at 8:35 with a redo of First Level Test 1. This is where the multi-day dressage show became super helpful, because I really felt like I had some guidance from the comments from my previous day's test that were still fresh in my mind and try to apply this time around. I focused on having Kiki be steadier and quieter in her tempo, consistent in the contact NO IFS AND OR BUTS, and more accepting of my leg. This meant lots of patient leg yielding in the warmup, but it really paid off. She was MILES better in her test compared to yesterday. And, we were actually rewarded in the judging! She didn't get a hugely better score but she did break into the much-coveted 60% region and the judge wrote really nice comments, so I was thrilled. Good girl!

(Classic Kiki-induced smile/grimace - when you might want to cry, but all you can do is laugh)

(Kiki showing off her suspiciously good medium trot, while I show off my wacky new habit of playing with with my tongue in moments of concentration... Bad Kate!)

(You've come a long way, Baby)

(WHITE TAIL BITCHES)

(Actually square! It only took us six attempts!)

After a few hours, in which time I washed and braided Ringo, Kiki and I came back for her last test of the weekend, First Level Test 2. She was, I thought, even better than before, with our test marred only by a mistake of my doing where I half-halted a little too eagerly in the corner while cantering and Kiki, feeling a bit tired from the weekend's exertions, broke to trot. Whoops! But she broke very nicely and trotted beautifully, so no complaints =) She ended up getting another 58% (a bit undeservedly I thought this time, but it was a different judge who was scoring very harshly so what can you do) but the comments were yet again very helpful. I'm so happy I decided to bring her because I feel like I have a real direction to head with her in our training over the next few weeks.

(Flying! I wish I didn't look so lumpy, but there you go)

(Leg yielding - I've lost the hind end a bit but she's still being remarkably obedient given some of our practice attempts in warmup!!)

(Trying very very hard)

(Looking so relaxed! Shocking)

Finally, it was Ringo's turn to finish out the weekend in First Level Test 3. He felt a little tired in warmup but still put in a great effort, just ending up a little sticky off my leg in some of the leg yields. 1-3 is pretty reminiscent of the eventing Prelim tests, with leg yields off the rail, medium trots and canters, and that damn KXH shallow serpentine loop of canter that I never seemed to be able to figure out. So, it felt like real redemption to go in today and rock it!

Ringo was faultless, and every point we lost was my error (mostly involving getting him a little too tight in his neck at times - a classic problem for us). We got several 8s, including one for our first medium trot (yes!!! SWEET REDEMPTION!! After always feeling like an idiot at Gina's for never being able to get it right!!) and one for me on rider (another serious WAHOO because it's a first!). He finished with a 69.5% which was enough to win a seriously big and competitive class. What a champ!!

(I'm sort of yawing off to the side... unclear)

(8 Baby!)

(Free walk, another one of Ringo's natural strengths)

(Another good picture spoiled by my wacky hands - clearly the judge who gave me an 8 on my position was looking away during this moment!)

(Ringo showing off his mega-powerful medium canter - as close as we're getting to galloping these days...)

In terms of Bronze Medal goals, we're now officially half way there! I have both my first level scores (technically I could choose from Ringo's 67%, his 69%, or Kiki's 60%, which all qualify as they all came from different judges) and am still sitting on a 2nd level score that I got with Dually way back in 2008. Of course, the second half will presumably take a bit more doing, as being competitive at 3rd level is still seeming pretty far away at the moment, but I'm really excited to keep going!

At the moment Ringo's next show isn't until mid-September in California, though I may try to go to Saugerties the third week in August if I can work it schedule/time/money wise. It might be for the best to wait until September (as eager as I am to show him again), as the thing we need to work on most between here and 2nd and 3rd level is strength building to get his frame more consistently elevated and collected, and that's just going to take good old fashioned time. Still, very exciting to contemplate showing with Ringo again!!

Kiki, on the other hand, is in for a big treat next weekend as she and I get to ride in a clinic with GOD (aka: Jim Wofford). I've gotten to ride with him once before, back in 2009 with Dually, and had a great time, so I'm really excited to do it again! We've been in full-on dressage mode for the past week, so I think Kiki will enjoy the chance to put her jumping shoes back on again.

I'm in the process of making excel sheets of all my tests for the weekend (with scores and comments), which I should hopefully have up by tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

GMHA Dressage Day 1: We're Back!!

RINGO. IS. AWESOME!!!!

Seriously, this horse is the coolest. I was so happy when I finished my test with him today, our first competitive outing together in over a year, that I almost cried. He was PERFECT, and if hadn't been for me forgetting my test halfway through and trotting at the wrong letter, we would have won our big and competitive class. We still ended up with a 67.8%, though, which I'm thrilled beyond thrilled with. Good man!!

Kiki was great too, though the first level test is a pretty big stretch for her at this point. I wanted to test her with the harder level to see how she would react to being pushed on a little further in the arena, even though I knew it meant we wouldn't be taking home any top prizes, and I was really pleased with how she reacted. She was rideable and sane throughout, and stayed forward without getting frantic. She's still unconfirmed in the contact, which pulled all of her scores down (and especially the transitions, which nearly all carried 2x coefficients in this particular test). She ended on a 58% in 1-1. Considering that she got a flat 60% at Training Level Test 1 just over a year ago, a 58% at 1-1 is still a pretty good step forward. She definitely has moments!! We just have to keep working on making those moments last longer and longer =)

Kiki is entered in 1-2 and Ringo in 1-2 and 1-3 tomorrow, but I think I'm going to scratch Ringo from the 1-2 (he was soooo good today, and I'm not sure I want to push him to do two rides in a day yet) and add Kiki into a 1-1 (she could use more ring time). I of course realized that I wanted to do this as we pulled into the parking lot for dinner, 35 minutes from the show grounds, and so wasn't able to request these changes tonight when they would have been more likely to go through, but we shall see! I'm feeling sooo lucky to get to be at a show with my dad and my two wonderful horses. Yay!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ready, Set, MELT!

First of all, I wanted to write more formally to thank everyone for their wonderful support about Dually. He is a wonderful athlete and friend and your words really did help a lot with getting over the shock and sadness of learning that he is in pain. So thank you!! We'll get through this, one day at a time.

Now to the real post: IT'S SHOW TIME!! The trailer is (mostly) packed, Ringo and Kiki both got their first rounds of baths yesterday, and I've spent the past three days frantically trying to learn and practice my tests. Of course, we've been hit by a mega heat wave in Massachusetts, meaning that I've been slogging through preparations while sweat endlessly pours off my body, but I'm not complaining. It's supposed to be cooler in Vermont, hot weather means jackets will almost certainly be waived (no getting choked by my weirdly tight collar!!), and I GET TO SHOW RINGO!! Carlisle could be converted to the surface of the sun and I'd still be getting excited because I've waited such a long time for this weekend to come.

Of course, with that excitement comes a bucketful of anxiety. What if it's too soon? What if I'm pushing it and he reinjures himself? Have I prepared him enough? Has his rehab been thorough enough? What if I've bitten off more than is reasonable to do? GAHH SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION.

*Deep breaths.* I just have to remind myself that he's been cleared for all flatwork by my vet, he's been cantering/building to full work for nearly two months now, his leg feels as good and normal as it ever feels, and it has not changed in the slightest since I got him back from Suzi's. We are only showing 1st level, which in the long run is not a huge strain on the horse's body. I will be vigilant, super overprotective, and paranoid for any changes or unusual behavior. ...But I'm still worried!!!

We head up to GMHA at 4pm today. I'm not sure what access to technologies we'll have, but I'll try to give updates as regularly as I can. Dressage World, here we come!!

(Ringo and I after the dressage at our last Preliminary together)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bummer Dude

Horses. The highs are so high but man, the lows can sure be low. After last year, which was pretty much a nonstop roller coaster of soundness problems between Kiki and Ringo, my primary goal for 2011 was that everyone finished the year happy and as sound (or sounder!) than they'd started.

Touch wood, so far all has been going fine with my two horses (but there's still more than 4 months left! Plenty of time to do stupid crap like fall off the trailer or just mysteriously hop oneself into massive lameness like Kiki did on two separate occasions late lsat summer).

But, alas, things have not gone so smoothly for The Dude. The vet came back to visit Dually again on Monday, and he was, inexplicably, worse yet again, despite the most controlled possible treatment of stall rest, short hand grazes, and constant hoof packing and soaking. WTF?! At that point Dr. L (our vet) recommended that Pa drive D up to New England Equine to get a further diagnosis, as we'd pretty much run through the gamut of diagnostic options available to us at home. They headed up yesterday, and today the news came back: it's not good.

Dually has torn his deep digital flexor tendon down in his hoof. Tendon injuries within the hoof are super slow-healing because there isn't a huge amount of blood flow to that part of the horse's body compared to other places, and good blow circulation is one of the primary factors that determines the speed at which the body heals itself. The injury is such that the vets my dad spoke to today were not super confident about his ability to return to full competitive work, and at the age of 16, it's not likely that we want to push him to do that. So, we're in for another long and difficult road of healing and decision making.

I feel awful for Dually. Over the past 10 years, The Dude has completed 60 USEA events between Novice and Intermediate (with over 30 at the Preliminary level or higher) and in all that time amassed only a single cross country penalty (which I completely blame myself for - as far as he's concerned, he's been perfect!). Even more incredibly, he never missed a single event due to lameness. I only even had to give him more than a single day off twice in our six and a half years together: once for ehrlichea and once when we fell on a gallop and he cut his leg open. He's never had to be on extended stall rest, never had to miss out on the job he loves. He's the horse I owe more to than probably any other single living creature, human or otherwise, on this planet (with the exception of my parents), and it destroys me to know that he's in pain. Fortunately he's a pretty laid back guy and I feel good that he'll take this setback in classic Dude fashion, but I'm still gutted to know that he's going to have to be on stall rest for the foreseeable future.

(Me and the Dude getting ready for a jog; he was never held once in all his many CCI*s)

(Coming home at our first Intermediate, a lifelong dream come true for me - my mouth is open because I'm shouting 'Good boy!!' as loud as I can)

(You'll always be my favorite handsome man)

I also feel terrible for Pa, who was just starting to really figure The Dude out. I'm certain that they were right on the brink of a real competitive breakthrough, and am crushed that they won't get the chance to highlight one another's talents in competitions in the near future.

(Pa and The Dude sharing a moment back at Galway 2008, before their partnership began)

Ughh!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Huntington!!

Well, I'm feeling a little sun fried after my first long horse show weekend in the sun in a loooong time, but am so thrilled! Huntington was my first competitive outing (outside of intercollegiate stuff) in eleven months. I was definitely feeling rusty, and so was double thrilled with Kiki because she was really obedient and tolerant when I made mistakes. She's grown up so much!

(I'm looking a little unkempt, but Kiki was great)

We arrived in the late morning, just in time to start getting ready for dressage. I think I've been trying so hard to get back into shape with my riding that I've been overdoing it just a bit with both Ringo and Kiki, meaning that they're both feeling a little tired and flat. Combine that with the sudden surge in the heat and humidity that rolled in over the weekend, and Kiki definitely wasn't feeling her sparkliest! I feel bad and am giving them both a few days off over today, tomorrow, and possibly Tuesday to try to give them both a chance to recharge.

Given that, I tried to just make the test as pleasant an experience as possible for Kiki and didn't push her to be in any sort 'competition' outline or try to get to the fancier work that we've been pushing for in preparation. So, she was pretty low in the poll and the comments and scores reflected that, but she was also super obedient and relaxed. With memories of Stuart one year ago this weekend, where Kiki went totally rank and then mysteriously came out of the ring hopping lame, this was a MASSIVE improvement!

(A little low in the poll, but so chill with competing and grown up)

We ended on a 33.5 which put us mid-field in our division. Looking at the pictures, I feel like I know where our homework is, both in where I should try to improve Kiki's way of going and my position. I looked pretty rough sometimes!! But it could be a lot worse too, all things considered.

(Position = a bit rough; canter = a bit flat)

After dressage Pa took Kiki back to the trailers (thank you Pa!! Best groom ever!) while I zipped off to walk the cross country course. Despite getting lost a few times because I didn't think to procure a map, I thought the course looked very fun and doable. I was getting excited!

(Good girl)

I had planned for a pretty short warmup for cross country since we'd done dressage only like two hours earlier, but when we got down to the warmup area with twenty minutes to go, the division hadn't even started yet! We ended up sitting around for probably fifteen or twenty minutes before the division even started, which was a good chance to catch up with some folks I hadn't seen in a long time because I've been a abroad, even if I was a bit peeved to force my horse to be out into the sun any longer than necessary.


Finally it was our turn! Kiki was AWESOME. I felt very secure in my two point and jumping position, but my setting up skills were somewhat lacking. Sometimes I brought her back too much and then had to make a move, other times I didn't feel like I really got her off her forehand. She jumped really well despite my shortcomings, but I know I have some homework to do! We finished clear and well within the time, moving up to 5th after the second phase.

It got really, really hot by mid-afternoon, and in the wait for show jumping both Pa and I got pretty dehydrated and sick feeling despite our best efforts to keep drinking and find shade. In my somewhat foggy and headache-ridden state, I walked over to show jumping on three separate occasions to try to walk the course and got turned away each time. Then, finally, I decided to just get tacked up and head over, only to find that my division had already started! Yikes! Talk about show rusty!

I'm usually pretty good with my timing, so I was a little mortified. I never even got to walk my course! I literally had enough time to trot and canter around, jump one jump, and watch the rider in front of me go to figure out the general pattern of the fences. I was pretty happy with how I handled the situation, given how badly I had set myself up, and managed to not get totally nervous.

I went into the ring and made sure to take every turn extra wide to give myself enough time to read the fences, and it actually went pretty well! We only had one turn/jump that I wasn't very happy with, where we jumping pretty boldly down a six-stride line going downhill and then I got a bit discombobulated and made a pretty sloppy turn to the next fence, a vertical on a slight rise. We kind of buried into it, but Kiki was very clever and jumped it cleanly. After that, we finished up well and finished with our first clear round in a USEA event ever! Good girl Kiki =)

We ended up tied for 3rd, but since we'd gone pretty fast on cross country we lost the tie and came home with 4th. I couldn't be more thrilled with Kiki. What a star!

Today, I went back to Huntington and spent the morning scribing. If you've never volunteered at an event, DO IT. It's always a lot of work and time in the sun, but it's soooo fun, educational, and rewarding. I felt like I had a lot better understanding of what the judge was looking for by the end of the day, and hopefully had a better grasp of what separates a good test from a winning test. Plus the judge I worked with was super nice and it was fun to meet new people. So VOLUNTEER!! It's beyond worth it!

Next up is GMHA dressage next weekend; Ringo has, of course, thrown a shoe, but should be getting it back on in the next few days. I'm getting really excited to show him again!! Hopefully he can follow in the Piggy's footsteps =)

(CHAMP!)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Huntington, Briefly

Kiki was great! I was not awful! No tears! Nobody melted in the heat or turned into lobsters in the sun! We even came home with a ribbon! Does it get much better than that?

I'll do a more complete update tomorrow when I have the energy to upload the pictures (we only have dressage, but I think there are some cute ones) and give a better description of the day. In brief, though, Kiki was super obedient in her dressage test to score a 33.5 and end up in the middle of the pack, was a BLAST cross country despite some questionable preparation to the fences at times by her jockey (whoops - rusty!), and then had one of the smoothest rounds we've ever had in the show jumping (and our first clear round in a USEA event together... EVER). We finished on our dressage score and moved up to 4th place. Super mare!

(we also sported our SEXY new ecogold saddle pad, shown here getting a good luck break in ride the Thursday before the event. I've wanted an ecogold pad for year and years and years, and so when they did a fundraiser for the True Prospect Farm fire a couple months ago, I decided it was time. I love it so much!!)

I'm off to bed because it's another BRIGHT AND VERY VERY EARLY morning tomorrow as I'm making the trek straight back to Huntington to spend the day scribing. I'm very excited as I've never scribed before, and am looking forward to learning and helping out at the same time. The two and a half hour drive and 7:30am call time, though... not so much. It will be worth it, though, because I'm very excited to do some volunteering at one of my favorite Area I events!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Heart my (almost) Thoroughbred

I took Kiki for her last conditioning set before our eventing re-debut at Huntington this evening. My previous experience with conditioning has almost entire been through Dually, which meant that for me, conditioning has been quite an effort. Dually was sooo hard to get in shape. Every three day I took him to, I felt like I had to toe the line between trying to do every gallop I possibly could and keeping him sound, and even then I got to the show and he was only just fit enough. Needless to say, his big drafty body was not the easiest to get three day-ready!

Now that I have a 7/8 TB in Kiki, conditioning is suddenly... easy! I mean, we're also going Novice, which makes things considerably breezier, but there's no denying that Kiki is also just naturally way easier to put condition on that Dually was. Today we did a 10 minute trot warmup up and down the hill (in which I successfully stayed in two-point the entire time - getting better!) and then two 4 minute canter/jump sets with a 1 minute rest in between that involved about a half dozen 2'9"-3' fences, some sprints, and some figure eights/flying changes.

She was BRILLIANT, jumping beautifully and sprinting and coming back like a champ. After the first set she wasn't even blowing, and after the second set she was a little warm but after two minutes of trotting out was completely recovered and ready to go again. Good girl!! I <3 my (7/8ths) TB!!

(Kiki looking like a lazy little pony before our gallop this afternoon... oh how looks can be deceiving!)

I'm also in the process of trying to get Kiki registered in the non-breeding Sport Horse Book of the Irish Draught Horse Society of America, which meant that today we took some conformation shots. Kiki was pretty special about standing still with all the evening bugs, but hopefully they'll be good enough!

(She's getting so grey!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Double Disappointment

Sigh. Horses are heartbreakers, aren't they?

Today the vet came out to do both Ringo's one year ultrasound, and hopefully his clearance to jump, and to recheck Dually's foot after his weekend of hoof packing and epsom soaking. Alas, as the title of this post might suggest, neither visit went exactly according to plan.

Ringo's leg looks fine. It hasn't changed much since last time, which is good because his workload has increased significantly. This means that, hopefully, it's pretty stable for flatwork and the vet gave the go ahead that we can keep working up to whatever level of flatwork our heart desires and ability allows.

(I'm 'glowing' rather unpleasantly in this picture, but I had to include it because check out his awesome DQ browband in action! He's so handsome)

But, it only just looks fine. It doesn't look normal, and there are still some little striations and irregularities in the tendon composition that are a little worrisome. Because it has now remained pretty much unchanged for that past six months, despite all the work increase, it's likely that the irregularities are scar tissue that isn't going anywhere fast. This means that the leg is always going to be in a somewhat compromised state. For flatwork, or even low coursework, on a nice level surface in an arena, it should never be an issue. But for upper level eventing, with drops, tight turns, uneven and constantly changing footing surfaces, and slowing down and speeding up? Not so much. It's just never going to be strong enough again to not be constantly flirting with another serious blow out.

So, we made the decision right there: Ringo is not going to event again. I've been prepared for this fact from the beginning, but it's still obviously very disappointing. He's been feeling so good recently that I've been letting myself daydream more and more frequently about getting to head out of the start box with him again. He has the most amazing gallop and riding him cross country is like piloting a cruise missile... in the best possible way. It's very, very bittersweet to realize that I'm never going to feel that again.


(The best)

(No one does it like you)

On the upside, his flatwork is going well and there's never been a horse out there that I've had more fun riding on the flat. I had my first lesson on him in 13 months today with the dressage instructor my dad has been using, and it was fabulous. Ringo was great and Kim (the instructor) though that my long term goals of getting my bronze and silver USDF medals on him were definitely within my longterm grasp. Plus, it's not that we don't get to jump at all; we just have to keep it low, controlled, and always on good level footing. We can start doing trotting poles next week! Not all is lost =)


(Hey! I don't look totally rusty! It's a miracle! Also check out that hind leg step - Ringo is so fancy schmancy)

(working on adding some jump to that canter)

Dually, unfortunately, did not have the positive recheck we were hoping for. In fact, he seemed a little worse than last time. Boo. A bruise still seems the most likely candidate; it's just a significantly worse bruise than we'd hoped. He'll now have at least another 10 days off, which means that the Training Three Day is out for this year. What a bummer! The great news, of course, is that he should be totally fine and should even be able to finish the season out well... he just won't be fit enough in time for the Three Day in August. Oh well... =(

(Big D in invalid mode)
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