Pipe Opener Recap: Jumping

Expanding on yesterday’s dressage recap, after dressage I was slightly meh about my test, but determined to still give a good go of the showjumping. I paid in advance for an extra round, with the expectation that he would be his normally spooky self in the show arena (which he was) and give him a more confidence building experience the second time round.

Since Jack started out being looky at the lakes puddles that dominated the facility that day, I purposely got his feet wet over and over again in the warmup ring- not hard to do when the “puddles” are almost 20′ wide. This gave me hope that I wouldn’t be swimming once we got into the arena proper, since there was literally no approach from 6B to fence 7 that avoided a splash zone.

After confidently navigating the water, we had a beautiful warmup, thanks to friend C channeling the trainer’s words from Tuesday’s lesson. I actually felt like my leg was under me, and for the most part that my shoulders were back, and Jack felt lovely and supple and relaxed. Where is that horse for dressage??

She helps me tack, warm up, and video- also her hair is fabulous!

But all that relaxation went away as predicted the moment we stepped into the competition ring. Just like all the previous times, he would basically ping off of all the fences while I tried to assure him these were fences of the non-horse-eating variety. Enter again lots of verbal praise to calm the big weenie.

Accurate representation of Jack on course

Beyond that, we had a decent go.

Except for this. Right here. On the last fence, and the last foot over- cost us a rail that moved us from a potential 3rd place to tied for 7th.

Oh well.

We sat around for 20 minutes and came back in for our schooling round, and I was shocked to find Jack more spooky on re-entry than before. I can only figure that he was tired at this point and backed off. So we really didn’t get to smooth anything out until after fence 4. You’ll see in the video that he comes back to a trot, and I think the adrenaline wore off and I actually was able to give him more of a decent ride than before.

Overall, I’m really happy with the big blondie. We got all our leads, and even though we got a couple wonky spots (including a deep one I asked him for- sorry buddy but waiting is a thing), in general it felt way smoother than our last time there in November.

I believe the plan is to shoot for Novice height at the next SJ outing at the end of January. We’ve also got a cross country schooling this weekend if the weather cooperates! All the things!!!

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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!

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!

 

 

Show Recap: Running Start BN Combined Training

Saturday, Jack and I (with the help of our amazing friend C) headed out to do a quick Combined Training event in Southern Pines. The goal was to get a little more exposure and get a confidence building round. Essentially we were to do our dressage test, go back to the trailer for a tack change, jump, and head home again.

Jack’s dressage test was okay. The next time I take him out I’ll be adding spurs, because I feel as though his tension translates into getting behind my leg, and I definitely was not able to be nearly as quiet as I am at home. Still, the judge liked him well enough, giving him an 8 on the following movements, as well as his gaits:

  • Trot circle right
  • Change rein KXM
  • Trot circle left
  • Change rein HXF
  • Downward transition to trot
  • Free walk
  • Upward trot transition + turn down centerline

We got dinged overall for our hollow moments which was not surprising- again I know that we are going to have hollow canter transitions for some time until we re-wire Jack to use his hind end instead of his massive shoulders to change gait. The test scored a 29 (71%) with plenty of room for improvement.

Our jump warm up was also just okay, and I needed a swift kick in the butt to hold to the base of the fence. Our jumping round was then the total opposite, as each fence impressed Jack more and more and we got ugly chippy distances and even a stop at the swedish oxer (which is fine- that’s a new question to him and no ground line). So after having cowboyed him through the course, I was not satisfied and quickly requested a schooling round, which is what you see below.

It’s amazing what change you can effect when you actually ride. I was really thrilled with the result and felt like Jack would have a very positive note to end on. The pony got lots of pats and stuffed full of treats and we were homeward bound.

Thanks to a brain fart on my part, we likely won’t be competing in October, but definitely lots of lessons and hopefully even a clinic with a certain former trainer of ours. The more miles the better!

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!

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!

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.

Raleigh Dressage Show II Recap: Day 2

Sunday at the show was an exciting day, as TC and I moved up to First Level in an Opportunity class. I felt like despite not really working at that level for very long, TC was more than able to handle it. After all, 10 meter circles are a lot easier on a 14.2 1/2 hony than on a 16.3 gigantor palomino. His trot lengthenings might be so-so, but they are there, and the canter lengthenings were quite good for this pony with a motor.

TC warmed up a little quietly, and I worried that we wouldn’t have enough gas in the tank to make for exciting lengthenings. Though he did wake up once we got into the arena and were surrounded by more of the show environment. In hind sight I should have slowed his tempo down slightly in the trot in order to show more of a difference in the lengthenings, but that’s a learning experience for me. We score 6’s on all the lengthening movements (bummer), but an 8 on the stretchy circle and a good smattering of 7’s. I was surprised to see the judge give him less than a 7 on his gaits, but rewarded me slightly more. Overall we earned a 65% and another blue ribbon for our efforts.

The weekend in general was a great success, and a huge feather in the cap for TC who is becoming a star of a show horse. I can only hope that Jack will settle into the fray just as quickly, but then again, TC has that ponytude to give him an edge in that area. I’m glad to have wrapped up my time riding TC on such a high note- I think his next rider will do an even better job with him and honestly am excited for the little guy’s future!