Show Recap: September War Horse Final Thoughts

Our only real goal for the War Horse Show was to end on a number and not a letter with Jack. With Riley, it was to show him off to potential buyers and just have fun. The other goal with Jack was just to experience our first overnight show together, which was exceptionally revealing in helping me understand my new horse’s brain.

Things I learned my horse will get anxious about:

  • Being left in his stall
  • Other horses whinnying
  • A random fence not on course in the showjumping ring
  • Footing, particularly going downhill
  • Leaving his buddies

Things I learned my horse will not get anxious about (even if I do):

  • Horses galloping toward him and away
  • Crazy horses in warmup
  • Tents/bikes/dogs
  • Being put to work

Things I learned/remembered about myself:

  • Seriously, I must walk my course 3 times. 3 TIMES!!!
  • My friends are the bomb-diggity
  • If I tell myself to dig deep, I can and will. No more excuses for riding like a sack of potatoes!
  • I really need to find my damn pinny holder
  • Porta-potty advertising is the best advertising (as a show that is)
  • I can ask more of Jack and expect him to rise to the occasion

There are so many things that I walked away from the show knowing that I can implement next time. The more exposure and miles we get together, the better off we are going to be!

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Show Recap: September War Horse Cross Country

So after showjumping, somehow Jack was leading a large division of horses. The opportunities for messing that up were endless, and well, it only took one.

Unfortunately there is no GoPro video of the incident, so you’ll just have to trust my version of events. I won’t say that it was the absolute smoothest cross country run there ever was, but then again, I don’t think anyone expected it to be. We had a nice jump over 1, a long spot to the scary bright feeder at 2, and then I hemmed-and-hawed over trotting 3, which was a fence with a downhill away that Jack had worried about the footing for the day prior.

Fence 2

Fence 4 was a max (if not Novice sized) coop at the bottom of the hill, and from there we got in somewhat of a groove through fence 8. And then fence 9AB. Ughhh this combination. What the course designer was trying to accomplish, I have no idea. It couldn’t ride as an angled line because you would land in the trees, and it wasn’t set as a bending line either. Instead, it was a rolltop then a squiggly line to a small cabin, going downhill. The footing was already getting churned on the schooling day, and Jack would land and attempt to lurch into the trees where the footing was better. In any case, trainer agreed that trotting was the best idea for this solution, and so when I landed from fence 8 I cantered on and then slowed to the trot.

And proceeded to trot right past it.

For whatever reason, I had thought the combination existed in the second trail head, not the first. So when it caught my left eye I cursed myself and looped back around to the combination. Of course, making a somewhat big loop like this at the trot is bound to incur time faults, and our 8 time penalties moved us from 1st to 10th.

Still, the rest of the course rode just fine. Jack braved the water that Foster always found terrifying without question, and jumped the last 3 fences with confidence. I came through the finish flags with a huge smile on my face and having learned a ton about my horse and excited for our next outing. But more reflections for tomorrow!

Show Recap: September War Horse Jumping

After dressage was settled, the nerves started sinking in. This is my first time doing anything more than maiden since…2015? In any case, I was lucky to have friends there to tell me to take deep breaths. Jack, meanwhile, had finally settled and was miffed that I woke him up from his nap to tack him up. He warmed up feeling like a calm hunter horse, which, though great for the relaxation, needed more push and packaging to get around the course we had ahead of us. We both were tired, and I had to verbally remind myself to dig deep and ride every fence.

Our round wasn’t maybe as smooth as it had been in the schooling the day before, but it was clear. Jack went from tired and strung out to feeling looky and up. The chips we got were a combination of not being quite balanced/forward enough and him being a little more backed off of the fences. There’s still so much to improve, but I was impressed that he stayed rideable and attentive as we navigated the course, even if we didn’t quite make all the turns that we had hoped to accomplish. The clear round moved us up into 1st out of 19 and then it was off to XC! But that’s a tale for tomorrow.

… what face am I making?
PC: High Time Photography

Riley’s warm up for jumping was again short and sweet. Basically W/T/C and do a cross rail a couple times. I had realized that morning that he has schooled stadium fences all of twice in the last 18 months, but figured that since it was small and he is basically a point-and-shoot ride that we’d be fine. And we were.

Given that his fitness is still a work in progress, I determined that I would simply feel it out in regards to cantering vs trotting the course. It’s therefore pretty unremarkable, but since we went around clear Riley earned a lovely blue ribbon and lots of pats for being the best boy ever.

Tomorrow, XC recap for Jack!

Show Recap: September War Horse Dressage

Questions I ask myself this morning… Why do cats only barf on carpet instead of hardwoods? Why is the Dunkin Donuts closest to me 3 times slower than every other one? Why am I so sore?

Well, at least I can answer the last one. Riding 2 horses is hard work, y’all, but competing two horses is brutal. I now have so much more respect for Buck Davidson and his 10,384 string of horses that he competes. I took Jack (doing BN) and Riley (Green as Grass) to a schooling horse trial this weekend and my body is wrecked. But rather than whinge about my aches and pains, we’ll focus on dressage.

Jack did a cross country schooling the day before as well as a showjumping round, then proceeded to wear himself out by screaming and pacing his stall for an hour. So when he came out on Sunday for dressage, he was a very tired pony. I warmed him up away from the hustle and bustle of the warm up ring and tried to put some spring in his step, but overall he felt a little flat and not nearly as supple as I am used to.

This definitely translated into our test. While our upward canter transition is hollow at home as well (a training issue we are working through!), he’s not normally braced in the other changes between gaits. But in the test I was challenged to keep him soft through those movements. Jack earned an 8 on his free walk (awesome) and the judge nailed me for bracing my own legs into the downward transitions (a known issue for me, darn it). I walked out of the ring expecting to score a 34 or 35, and was pleasantly surprised to earn a 32, which shockingly put us in 2nd out of our division of 19 after dressage.

Riley handled the new atmosphere with his general aplomb, and spent Saturday toodling around at the walk checking out the sights. With energy conservation as the name of the game, he got a whopping 5 minute warm up before dressage. We practiced walk trot transitions and a few centerlines and headed over to the ring. My goal for the test was to ride with better geometry than the previous weekend, get straight centerlines and ride him more forward to my hand. Unfortunately my phone ran out of space just after the centerline, but I believe we accomplished all those goals.

Riley earned a 26 in dressage, a full 10 points ahead of the other (admittedly pint-sized, adorable) competitors in our GaG CT division. If you want to see a slightly less steady version of the test, you can watch this video from the previous weekend. Our free walk was hugely improved this time around, and Riley garnered sweet comments from the judge and even earned a 7.5 on gaits!

Riley’s ribbon and Jack’s test

To say I’m proud of both boys is an understatement- they were phenomenal and given how green they are they handled everything amazingly well (bar Jack’s screaming). Tomorrow, jumping recaps!

Lesson Recap and General Life Update

To say I have been busy would be a gross understatement. Between photoshoots, riding 2 horses, and you know, life, this little blog has fallen to the bottom of the list.

Something pretty much every day, all month.

Jack has been progressing hugely. His canter is less snowballing-out-of-control and is becoming lovely and adjustable. I am learning how to work through his tension and use lateral work to teach him balance and engagement. While this has obvious rewards in dressage, it was jumping last week that showed me how different he is now. That lesson was probably the most fun I have had jumping in almost 4 years- well before Foster started breaking down.

Lord knows, there is so much for me to improve on (oh hello swinging leg, I’ve missed you- not.). But Jack is really bringing me his best recently- not rushing, listening to my half halts, and forgiving all of my adult ammy stupidity. This was the first time that we jumped around at 2’7″ – 2’9″ since I tried him, and it just felt good.

I hope we can keep the pieces together and continue to progress like this… because it’s rides like this that leave me all smiles, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

Photography Friday: Maddy and Starski

The blog has been light recently because I am running at light speed doing other things- including TONS of photography! After getting my 85mm lens calibrated and knowing that I was going to this stunning location, I was very excited about this shoot, and there was nothing to disappoint! Seriously though, how cute are those boys and how stunning is Maddy and her ponies?!

Wishing everyone a safe and happy weekend- stay dry Southern friends!

For Sale

Trying to clear out the random ish!

18″ Wise Bates Caprilli General Purpose Saddle – $750

46″ brown leather girth – $15

Waffle white dressage saddle pad. Schooling condition as does have some stains. – $3

White dressage saddle pad with green and black trim. Has saddle/girth marks. – $5

NC State Dressage saddle pad. Has saddle staining, used condition. – $15

Kensington Roustabout Saddle bag. Used <5 times. Retails for ~$120. – $80

60″ Courbette strirrup leathers. Very lightly used, just need a good oil after being in storage. – $15

32″ Ovation black gel Body Form girth. Used less than 1 month. – $20

Cell phone holder (iPhone for reference). – $3

Safety stirrups (no bands). – $5

Next Steps

There’s no peace for the wicked, and therefore, no reason to not keep keepin’ on, despite not crushing the maiden course as planned last weekend.

Our next competition is in a couple weeks at the Carolina Horse Park. This is practically my favorite venue ever, and Jack seemed to like it too. I hope that with the opportunity to see everything the day before during our schooling sessions, Jack will be a much more confident guy on the actual show day. I also have the benefit of knowing him a little better thanks to Saturday’s outing, and I feel like I can hopefully be a little more confident in piloting him around as well.

If I can find an extra pair of hands, I’ll also be trying to squeeze a dressage show into the mix to ideally assure him that the demons at C won’t eat him.

We’re going to get through this, Jack!

Show Recap: Maiden at Portofino Horse Trials

So Saturday was Jack and I’s first show together. I learned a lot about him, and he learned a lot about life, and I remembered just how many things you need for a horse trial (next time I’ll try to bring them all!).

The venue, Portofino, is a stunning facility just over an hour away, and while somewhat compact, it was well run with lots of supportive volunteers helping things go smoothly. But for Jack, who has little to no previous show experience, it was a lot to take in. There were food trucks, tents, horses and people everywhere, and judges blowing whistles from various directions. Jack’s expression in general was fairly bug eyed at the whole thing.

I managed to get him somewhat settled in the warmup, but when it came to walking around the arena for our dressage test, I knew we were in a bit of trouble. The judge’s stand is a large overhang at the end of the arena, standing at the precipice of a steep slope where horses and goats graze below. For whatever reason, Foster, who was normally brave, did not like this setup, and Jack was convinced it was going to eat him. I somehow managed to get him [unwillingly] down to that end of the arena, but we did not execute any of the movements in trot while down there. I’m fairly sure I laughed through the majority of my test at my giant green bean pony.

Scoring a 42 in dressage (richly deserved, with comments of obvious tension- uh, yes!) meant that the rest of the day was more about schooling and getting a positive experience in than competing. I had signed up for one Beginner Novice schooling round which was 50% acceptable, 50% disastrous, but that allowed me to make a game plan for an extra happy Maiden show jumping round about 30 minutes later. Knowing that he had just spooked hard at the plank fence down the long side, I made a plan to trot it, and use my bat to remind him that forward was the only option. Though it’s not perfect, our maiden showjumping ended up being the highlight of the day.

The Maiden cross country course was interesting, ranging from fair-to-undersized all the way up to BEEFY (if a beefy maiden course is even a thing). Fences 4 and 9 gave me the most pause- 4 being a legit BN sized fence in the shadow of a tree and fence 9 being a tiger-trap leading up to the water.

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My plan was to canter everything except 3 and 9. Fence 3 because it was pretty skinny (for Maiden) and 9 to give him time to read the question. Well, in the end we ended up trotting almost all the fences, since each one was somehow a surprise for Jack, as you’ll see in the video (thanks J for the video of fence 3, and C for every other video present!). But he tried very hard to be a good boy, and came in a hilarious 8 seconds over time but clear.

We amazingly didn’t place last, but definitely at the bottom of the pack, and I couldn’t care less. It was an incredibly fun day, and I feel confident that with more exposure my golden green bean will become a super star event horse.

Photography Friday: Sway

Sorry for being MIA this week, folks! Between work, riding 2 ponies, and getting ready for the show tomorrow, the blog got a little neglected. Also neglected were these photos of the gorgeous Sway, a horse who passed through our barn this spring on his way from Ocala back up north!

Hoping you guys all have a great weekend, and updates on our first show to come next week!