Show Recap: November War Horse BN XC

Having walked my course three times I felt confident that THIS time, I had no excuse for any kind of amateur moment. I knew that thing backwards and forwards, and though my feet hated me, I was sure I would remember my way around all 17 obstacles.

The course was nice in that it built in difficulty as it went along. Fences 1-4 were really straight forward, with the first question being a log pile on a slanted hill at fence 5. From there you went through the water and out over an inviting roll top, straight on to the world’s widest BN fence, and then a nice gallop up and down terrain to some combinations.

The second combination was what I was most unsure about- a log pile, followed by a U-turn left to a down bank and then slight bending line to a roll top. The only time I had ever done a bank with Jack was during the trial period, and that was only once down a baby (18″) bank. But I figured if I kicked on we would be fine.

One thing I noticed he struggled with at the last show was cantering down hills- Jack wants to come back to a trot immediately- so I decided this was an excellent thing we could practice to stay in rhythm through this course.

We had a bee-yutiful warm up and we felt really synced as I left the start box, and from there you can ride along with us:

My constant nattering will tune you in to where he shined, though it’s hard to tell from this vantage point where I felt him backing off or losing straightness as he made his way around the course. Fence 4 may have been “not cute” because we both got distracted by a person walking behind it, and a car driving behind it that you can’t see on video. The bank was a little bit of a scramble as well.

All in all I was beyond thrilled with how he built confidence through the course, and I admit I’m proud of myself for kicking on, even if I wish I was a little less talkative on course.

Our double clear round helped us stay in 3rd place- just .5 points out of contention for the bottle of wine that was 2nd place’s prize, and a healthy 10 points behind 1st- but considering Bobby Meyerhoff ran Rolex this year, I’m OK with that.

The show was a great way to end our short little season, and I have to say- I’m becoming a heck of a fan of the big banana boat!

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Show Recap: November War Horse BN Dressage and Stadium

Just to recap, our goals for this show were:

  1. End on a number and not a letter.
  2. Score in the low 30s dressage.
  3. Double clear SJ and XC
  4. Have Jack be a happier creature in his stall

And now that list looks like….

  1. End on a number and not a letter.
  2. Score in the low 30s dressage.
  3. Double clear SJ and XC
  4. Have Jack be a happier creature in his stall

Boom.

Saturday morning was bloody cold, and I got to the horse park about an hour and a half before our test. This in itself was a first for us, since normally we are there a day early and school XC and SJ (an amazing opportunity at this venue). But we came in cold this weekend in more ways than one, missing our schooling opportunity as well as our schedule jumping lesson that week. Bummer.

But Jack seemed settled and soon I was out warming up for dressage. This was a huge show, with 5 dressage rings going at one time. All the horses share one flat warmup, and I thought Jack handled the chaos with really good attitude. He was a bit tense and therefore behind my leg, but the test we put in was accurate and obedient. We got an 8 on our first centerline and final halt, things I specifically wanted to work on, and comments about staying steady in the contact, and the right canter transitiong, which is not so shocking as it continues to be a work in progress. With a 32.6 we ended in 4th place out of 20 after dressage. (No media, so here’s practice of the other BN test a few days prior)

If the dressage warmup was chaos, the jumping warmup was a legitimate hot mess. Horses rearing, spinning, passing on the left, jumping the warmup fence backwards… Seriously- who were these yahoos? But again Jack proved his worth and handled it well, though felt like he needed a wake up call for the most part, and I needed to remember not to lean through turns and think about going on the back side of the fence so we didn’t land in a heap.

Our stadium course

Our actual stadium round was nothing like our warmup. The number of brightly colored sticks in one place was sensory overload for poor Jack, and he bounced off the fences spooking as we made our way to fence 1. We got some less than great spots, including a moment where I thought I was going to actually land on his neck, but thanks to the yellow beastie’s ability and a get er’ done mentality we got around double clear and moved up to 3rd.

Tomorrow’s recap: XC!

 

 

Dressage Recap: A Lesson, A Blogger Meetup, and a Saddle Fitting

Since buying Jack in June, his body has changed a ton- homeboy has never been in a program quite like this one and he suddenly has muscle in places he never did before. So even though I had my saddles fitted to him in the summer, his back and demeanor was telling me that the saddles no longer were a good fit. Cue 2 saddle fittings (and crying into my empty wallet) and we are starting to see signs of a happier, looser version of Jack.

During the second fitting, Tracy of The Printable Pony swung by while they were in town and met the giant banana beast and listen to me complain about Jack’s not-so-rude rudeness (aka his shoving habits). It was so great to meet her and her sweet husband, and all the photos in today’s post are thanks to her! (Yay new media- thanks Tracy!)

Blogger meetuppppp

After weeks of not having a proper dressage lesson due to my Fair Hill and photography commitments, I finally got one in last night. The trainer rode Jack first to feel him in his “new” (read: not new) saddle, which sits up so much better than before. Jack is so much more relaxed than he’s ever been, even with a dropping temperature and riding in the spooky indoor. She commented on how much more rideable the canter is getting (thank goodness- that was such a hot mess before) and how he’s more reliably pushing to the bit, even if sometimes it means that he gets heavy in the hand. We’re fine with that, since he’s still finding his balance – all things in good time, especially with dressage!

I’m learning not to brace my legs in the saddle (this applies to both my jumping and dressage position) and engage my core and lower back- a constant struggle for me. And Jack is learning not to use his neck/giant shoulders to transition from walk to trot. As simple as a walk/trot transition is, doing it correctly is probably the most difficult thing we are working on, and a large part of our lesson was focusing on this one aspect.

There was plenty else to work on though, and so as not to bore everyone to tears, here’s the short version:

  • Get him in both reins before going down centerline to stop him bouncing off my L/R aids
  • Prepare early (earlier than I think) for centerline as he still doesn’t feel at home on that line
  • Use outside rein/core/lower back when he goes hollow- next two steps will likely be ugly but then he will soften
  • Keep walk small but active for trot transition
  • Don’t overbend to the right, keep thinking about having the neck come straight out of his withers
  • To the left, think about riding a hexagon instead of a circle to bring his shoulders around (not lean on R shoulder)

Banana Boat

Dressage is hard, folks, and we’re still getting those all-important foundational elements cemented. Once they are there I have the feeling we will start doing all the fun stuff. But for now, getting the basics- including saddle fit- will make for a happier, more correct horse with hopefully a long career ahead of him.

Looking ahead: Goals for November War Horse HT

This weekend marks what may be our final competition of the year. I’ve got a recognized event penciled in on the calendar, but I suspect we are not quite ready to make that kind of commitment, though I am sorely tempted.

So, with that in mind, and knowing a bit more about Jack with 3 shows under our belts, I have a few goals in mind for our second Beginner Novice Horse Trials.

  1. End on a number and not a letter.
    This is priority number one. No goofing and getting a technical elimination on my part, no tossing me off into the dirt on Jack’s part. Just stick together and jump all the jumps in the right order.
  2. Score in the low 30s dressage.
    We’re still refining those dressage skillz, but I feel like I should be able to ask more of him than in September. Depending on how tired he is, I may even wear spurs (gasp!) to get a little more oomph. The main goal is not to receive a comment about needing more push from behind.
  3. Double clear SJ and XC
    This is totally doable, and mostly requires me to keep my head in the game and my leg on. For XC, I would really like to get a good momentum going and keep it through the course rather than have the stutter-stop rhythm we had before.
  4. Have Jack be a happier creature in his stall
    I’m going to have some Perfect Prep, and Ulcergard, handy and at the ready for the show. Since we will be sans friends on the trailer, I hope the experience will be a slightly less stressful one for everyone.

Fingers crossed!

 

 

Photography Friday: Niamh & Scout

Whilst in Delaware (slash PA slash MD etc etc) for Fair Hill, I put out feelers for portrait sessions. I couldn’t have been more thrilled, then, with Niamh reached out to me saying she’d be interested in getting some photos with the men in her life. Blogger meetup + ponies + pictures = Hell yes count me in! After rolling up to their gorgeous NJ location (and quickly confirming that I was indeed pronouncing her name correctly!) we gushed about the appearance of sunlight (a rarity that week) and I got introduced to Scout, who is a sweetie.

Travis, Niamh’s other main man, also came to join us, and was truly a wizard in creating zen for all of us. With our trio of subjects complete, we wandered the fields and toodled down the path to another barn with the most gorgeous texture that I was in photographer heaven.

Niamh is also a photographer, which put some pressure on me, but luckily she was charming in front of the camera, and OMG her outfits?! Niamh if I come back I may be raiding your closet. Fair warning.

 

loved getting to meet Niamh and only wish that we would have had more time to split a bottle of wine and hang out for a while. Next time, plus the whole closet thing- OK?

Happy Friday all! Hope you have a great weekend!

An infographic view of the year of Photography

At the start of the year, I made a goal to really focus on my photography side-hustle. To get started I made an investment in new kit, namely a full-frame body and an 85mm prime lens that is officially my new workhorse. Then I scheduled a couple free shoots with folks who I knew had a large social media following. This not only allowed me to practice with my new gear in a low-pressure environment, but also helped get my name out amidst the huge number of photographers that pop up in my area every day.

Since then, I’ve made other investments in this endeavor- such as rebranding, and even getting the above headshot done for my website. I’ve learned a lot about marketing my services, though still have a huge way to go in that area. But 10 months later, I’m incredibly proud of where I am. For sure, sacrifices have been made, but every shoot is still so exciting to me and through my photography I get to meet some really incredible equestrians in my area that I wouldn’t otherwise know.

 

I hope you guys are not absolutely fed up with all of the Photography Friday posts, because I’ve got enough in the hopper to essentially see us through the year! Thanks to all who have made suggestions, left kind comments, and in general been on this journey with me. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings for BGD!

Let’s Discuss: Clipping Time

The weather seems to be distinctly schizophrenic at this time of year, which makes managing ponies a little difficult. With highs fluctuating from the 70s to the 50s, and lows in the 40s, layering is pretty much the name of the game. But for horses, that’s a little difficult.

A before image of the giraffe

Jack is a bit of a ninny in some ways, especially when it comes to bath time. I’ve discovered that the key to getting him not to dance around is to use hot water. Even if it’s 75* outside, cold water is still an affront on his soul. So with that bit of knowledge tucked away, and the work load getting no lighter, it was only likely that he would get clipped sooner rather than later.

If he’s moving it’s harder to see how jacked up it is!

Normally I like to wait until mid-end of November to clip, and clip once and be done with it. I’m a fan of a full body clip if I can get away with it, and admit that I hate the look of hairy legs on a svelte body. But Jack isn’t so hairy at this point, just enough so that getting him dry quickly after a good workout is still tough. So I opted to leave the legs on (for now) and leave a patch for the saddle, since he has some pressure bumps (or something) that makes clipping a little precarious anyway in that area.

hello dapples!

Blending his face was a little difficult, and I bet I’ll be doing my fair share of tidying him up before our next show in a couple weeks. But still, I’m hoping he’ll be more comfortable now and maybe we can avoid baths altogether for the most part.

When do you plan to clip? Do you have a multi-clip timeline? What pattern do you intend to do? Or do you prefer your pony au-natural for the winter? Does anybody plan on doing a fun “brand” or marking on their horse?

Let’s Discuss: 2018 Travel Plans

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may have seen two bits of information hit the news cycle in the last few weeks.

1. WEG (World Equestrian Games) tickets have [finally] gone on sale

2. The Kentucky 4* event has a new title sponsor- Land Rover

Both of these events have been on my radar, and I purchased Eventing tickets (to my angst- more on this later) for WEG right away. Kentucky (I am still restraining myself not to say Rolex) is a TBD event for me, though I would love to attend after being thwarted by weddings for the last 3 years.

I would love to know- what events are you all thinking about for next year? Are you going to WEG or Kentucky? Anything else on your list? Should we plan a blogger meetup of epic proportions? XD

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

And more importantly, the legs grow weaker.

I took not even 2 weeks away from riding as I bounced around the continental US, and coming back I am struggling. Like 25 minutes in and both Jack and I are puffing, my calves are screaming and really, I’m pooped.

Granted, it’s been unseasonably warm here (80* at the end of October?!) and so Jack is also feeling a little more tired, making me work harder than normal. But the other part, I’m sure, is that while I have done plenty of walking, I’ve done nothing remotely similar to two-pointing or posting from a muscular point of view during my travels.

Tomato faced

I would love to know- those of you who take forced breaks from riding, how do you maintain your physical fitness that relates to saddle time? Does simple cardiovascular activity get you through? Or do you have exercises that make the return to horses that much easier?

Tell me your secrets, while I catch my breath and ice my thighs.