New decade, new goals

Today I turn the big 3-0. I kind of treated myself to a giant [16.3 hand] personal birthday gift, so now I can go, you know, hog wild with the calendar. Kind of.

My big goals this year aren’t really new, but now that I officially have a pony in the stable I can really start preparing for this. On the agenda are the following fun-filled activities! Priorities in bold. Recognized events *

  • June 17th – XC schooling with Holly Hudspeth at the Carolina Horse Park
  • June 25th – EITHER Ryan Wood XC clinic OR (more likely) XC schooling independently at local venue
  • July 20-21 Eric Duvander Clinic (anyone ever cliniced with him??? Would love thoughts on this!)
  • August 19-20 Holly Hudspeth Clinic at Southern Eights
  • August 26 – Portofino Horse Trials
  • Sept 9-10 Five Points Horse Trials*
  • Sept 29- Oct 1 Stable View HT*
  • Oct 12 – 15 Fair Hill (Photographing/Cheerleading only)
  • Oct 21-22 FENCE Horse Trials*
  • Nov 11 War Horse Horse Trials

There may be a recognized dressage show in there, but feeling like this is already an ambitious calendar! Woohoo- hope this is a great year!

Advertisements

Throwback Thursday: Ivan

Thinking it would be fun to do a mini throwback series on the horses of my past. Afterall, they are the ones that made me the rider and the horsewoman I am today, for better or worse. So starting with the most recent, here’s Ivan, the sometimes terrible.

Christmas Ivan

 

Name: Ivan
Registered Name: Padi’s Classic Mountain
Breed: Irish Draught (RID)
Color: Grey
Height: 16.2h

Ivan was one of many horses that seemingly fell into my mother’s lap. A friend of hers had a 2 year old Irish Draught stallion, and simply didn’t have a place for him anymore. So we acquired him, at a hefty 90% discount off his weanling price. The intention would be to raise him for another year, maybe breed a couple mares, then send him through the Irish Draught stallion approval process and sell him as a Registered stallion.

I, as silly teenagers who have watched one too many romantic horse movies tend to do, was immediately drawn to this stallion’s quirky temperament. We’d play tag in the field, and he let me play dress up with him on occasion.

Baby Ivan wears the monkey hat

Baby Ivan wears the monkey hat

He grew up for a year, then Ivan put on his big boy pants and went off to training in order to pass the rigorous Irish Draught Horse Inspections. After passing, he came back home, was bred to a few mares, then went down to Georgia to go on consignment with a trainer.

Ivan at his inspection

Ivan at his inspection

It was some months before things went wrong. All that raging testosterone was getting to his head, and after her latest fall, the trainer’s husband forbade she ride him until he was gelded. We agreed, he was gelded, and he came back home. Where I promptly fell back in love with this quirky big grey.

First ride on a freshly gelded Ivan

First ride on a freshly gelded Ivan

As they say, the rest was history. For the most part. I retrained him in a more classical dressage way-of-going (as opposed to dressage in an elevator bit), and slowly we started working on showjumping courses.

Ivan's second show

Ivan’s second showjumping competition

Both dressage and showjumping progressed somewhat slowly, as sometimes Ivan’s personality could be… unpredictable. I never knew if it was Jekyll or Hyde that I’d be riding that day, and I can recall lessons where the trainer just told me to ‘wait it out’ until he saw fit to stop galloping a 20 meter circle. Once he got going, Ivan was a train, and his bucks were unbelievably athletic for a horse his size. A fractured ankle (thanks to Ivan) and a maybe broken hip (thanks to Ivan) put me out of commission and were part of our slowish progress. Yet still, I loved him.

Showing first level for the first time

Showing first level for the first time

Because of this unpredictability, I decided Ivan would be shown as a dressage horse only. We showjumped at home, jumping 3’3″ courses and the occasional 3’6″ fence with ease.

Athletic, and a bit on the exuberant side

Athletic, and a bit on the exuberant side

Luckily, his dressage was fairly good as well, and we started campaigning at the local shows at First level, and the ribbons started finally coming our way.1923424_541191201449_618_n

@ FENCE

@ FENCE

Even though he had his terrible moments, in his 6 year old year Ivan started to calm down, and which the naughty side still existed, it was only appeared once in a blue moon. 95% of the time, he was a sweetheart, and a great dressage partner. He toddled my 10 year old sister around over crossrails, and even walked and trotted about with my husband (as his can-you-deal-with-horses test when we started dating), who had sat on a horse only once before.

Ivan and his best friend Bo

Ivan and his best friend Bo

Ivan was my heart horse, and for the most part was an exceptionally cuddly creature. He wouldn’t let me bridle him without a big neck hug and a raspberry into his cheek, insisted on grabbing the hose at bath time, and had a huge love of water. Oh, and he used to get into everything- the things I pulled out of his mouth! Phones! Pens! Jackets! Santa Hats! (Sound familiar?) What wasn’t to love?

Ivan's molar marks in a phone he destroyed

Ivan’s molar marks in a phone he destroyed

1909773_712602087659_1205767_n

1930067_571154394969_1242_n (1)

But alas, all good things must come to an end. I completed college and was forced to send him home until I could figure out a permanent salary to support my horse habit. Eventually, when no permanent job happened, and not wanting to see his talent wasted, I agreed to put him on the market. No less than 2 weeks after he sold, I received a full-time job offer with benefits. The resultant horse shopping led me to Foster, so I can’t complain, but I am still thankful to the skills Ivan taught me, and certainly happy for the memories of those years together.

Luckily, a piece of Ivan still lives with my family. Of the 2 foals by Ivan, we kept the Haflinger cross, a darling cob sized gelding named Riley. Not a mean bone here, but a quirky disposition, an affinity for playing with dogs, and a horse that I hope will see his true potential brought to light!

Riley

Riley

 

 

Looking back at the Season – Part 1

2014 definitely marks a year of doing more shows than I’ve ever done before (at least with my own horse, because, IDA). Now that the show season is officially over, it’s time to be retrospective and look at how things went.

Running Start, Feb 2014

Running Start, Feb 2014

February – Running Start Horse Trials
This was our debut at the Novice level, and technically a little on the more difficult end of a move-up course. Foster put in a great dressage test (a 35.5 put us in 2nd after dressage), and was about as relaxed as I’ve ever had him. He then went double clear in showjumping. On the cross country course, he came out a little strong, but did his first jump into water and faux trakehner confidently. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep my leg on at the half coffin and he had a silly runout, followed by my celebrating too early and not realizing I hadn’t yet gone through the finish flags, racking up a whopping 26 time faults to leave us at the bottom of the pile placing-wise.

MacNairs, March 2014

MacNairs, March 2014

March – MacNair’s Combined Training
Somehow I barely remember this show. It was an eh dressage test for a 33.4, and I did a crap job as pilot and we brought down one pole for a 2nd place ribbon.

CHP, May 2014

CHP, May 2014

May – Carolina Horse Park Horse Trials
Our first Novice at the Horse Park, and I remember being pretty intimidated. Instead, I had a solid dressage test, scoring a 31.3. Our showjumping course was pretty sticky, but Foster’s clever feet got us around for a double clear round. Cross country was the first time I really had a blast the whole way around, and we came in with a big grin and double clear. We earned ourself a 4th place ribbon, our first Novice ribbon!

The Fork, June 2014

The Fork, June 2014

June – Fork Combined Training
We drove down to the Fork so my mum could see the painted pony in action. I tried for a forward dressage round that may have been borderline rushing, but earning a 31 nonetheless. I didn’t get to walk the showjumping course at all, and it was the toughest course to date- with two one-stride combinations and lots of bendiness throughout. We took out one rail and I believe we placed 3rd overall. We followed the show with a super fun cross country schooling, and practiced our first water-upbank-fence combinations.

Thus concludes the first 1/2 of the year! Tomorrow, part 2!

Moving Up

When I was younger, the decision to move up was solely based on whether or not I could get around a course at that level. Our dressage was crap wasn’t pretty, our skills not confirmed, but I could get around a Training level cross country course without any faults, and that was the measure of success we held to.

Merry at the Ark Horse Trials

Merry at the Ark Horse Trials

Upon my return to the realm of competition as an adult amateur, I decided I was fed up with the days of just ‘getting around’, and redefined success as a competitor. To me, success is putting in a dressage test I can be proud of, jumping around a show-jumping course in a non-scary and tactful way, and giving my horse a confident ride over cross country. That is not to say that mistakes cannot be made, but that at the end of the day I am not embarrassed of the way I rode my horse and that he is better for the experience.

Cross country is supposed to be fun! Photo by High Times Photography

Cross country is supposed to be fun!
Photo by High Times Photography

Since I bought Foster as a just-turned 4 year old, I have had the reins for his entire career. No one else makes decisions about what he does or when he moves up, though certainly I try to be open minded to advice when knowledgable advice is given. Our first event was at the maiden level (video below), and we trotted almost the entire course, and racked up time faults galore, but I could have cared less. We campaigned at the Beginner Novice level for over a year and a half, as we struggled to find confidence and rhythm on a cross country course. When he cantered around a Beginner Novice track with ears pricked the whole way, and came in over 30 seconds under time, I knew we were ready to move up.

And now as I consider moving him up again, I pause. Foster has now completed 3 Novice level events, and proved he can rock around a harder Novice course and still come in with confidence and spunk. He has schooled Training height fences, and training combinations. His dressage is rocking along, and with some tweaks to my warmup, I hope to break into the 20s soon.

Training Jump, yay!

But.

I know that part of me wants to move up to Training so badly, because I’ve always sort of put it on a pedestal. I hated that I didn’t get to compete more at Training with Merry, and in my mind it is the first real test of a non-green horse. Training level demands bravery, fitness, and finesse in a way that Novice only occasionally hints at. And I am more than eager to prove my horse can answer those demands.

There are still elements of Training that he hasn’t mastered. He hasn’t seen corners, or chevrons. He hasn’t got confirmed lengthenings (granted, two separate trainers have commented that he may never have great lengthenings). So do I trust that when asked, Foster will answer the new fence-type questions?

I’ve been hoping and planning to move up to Training in the spring, but I feel at war with myself, trying to judge if he is ready versus trying to judge whether it’s my ambition just saying he’s ready. But if all goes well, we will conquer lengthenings this winter, and I will find a facility to expose him to more training cross country questions. The latter is tough, because I can’t think of any schooling facilities have corners and chevrons available to practice over. We’ll just have to do our best to prepare, and I will have to trust Foster to continue to be confident in his abilities and my riding. And if it doesn’t go well, we’ll come back to Novice without regret. Because at the end of the day, success is still about him, and not me.

How do you measure success? When do you decide to move up?

2013 Accomplishments Part I: The Horse

Dressage at Portofino

Dressage at Portofino

This year has been a big one for Foster and I. After the crappiest winter ever basically the whole winter off, we started our spring season with him being lame and myself being busy (wedding planning > riding, and that’s just the way it goes). So it wasn’t until May that we really started to figure out the problem, but after a plethora of treatments he was finally serviceably sound and ready to go.

After that, it was a matter of rebuilding the lost muscle and teaching him to be confident and trust that the movements wouldn’t be painful. We tried very hard to find zen and I rediscovered how much my horse thrives on positive (vocal) reinforcement.

After that things started moving quite quickly, so without writing a novel here are some of our accomplishments this year:

Dressage

Shoulder In

Shoulder In

 

At a dressage show over the summer

At a dressage show over the summer

 

Show jumping

  • First gymnastics
  • Cantering an entire course
  • 1 & 2 stride combinations
  • Jumping 3’6″
  • 3′-3’3″ courses
Standing next to our first 3'6" (3'7"?) fence

Standing next to our first 3’6″ fence

Showjumping at the Carolina Horse Park

Showjumping at the Carolina Horse Park

Cross Country

Before: Our first XC school in Feb 2012. Note tiny jump and horrible release

Before: Our first XC school in Feb 2012. We’re jumping the log- note my non-existent release

Training Table

After: Training Table Nov 2013

For myself too, I have seen some improvements:

  • Sitting more, using core
  • Better elbow-to-bit line
  • Looking straight
  • Leg Position
  • Better release during and after fences
  • Better use of positive reinforcement
Shameful photo of me jumping Merry in a dressage saddle circa 2007

Shameful photo of me jumping Merry in a dressage saddle circa 2007

Look ma! Soft hands!

Look ma! Soft hands!

Overall I am quite proud of what we have done in essentially 6 months of the year. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but of course that is the nature of owning and training a horse. I can’t wait to see what he does next year!