In which Jack expresses his opinions

Jack has been a busy boy recently… each week we have been both a dressage and a jump lesson (that we trailer out for), sprinkling in massage and chiro appointments to keep him comfortable. But still, going from light work to being in a program like that takes some getting used to. The golden boy has changed so much physically that the saddles I got fit to him upon purchase in June no longer are a perfect fit. This plus other things have made him a little sore, so while I’m off to Fair Hill this week he’s going to get some down time. And a reflocked saddle. And a shoulder relief girth. Seriously, the things we do for horses.

opinions, we has them.

One of the fun habits Jack has picked up that has specifically shown me where he’s sore is shoving. Like craning his neck to wherever you are, putting his nose into you, and pushing you with that big noggin of his. While not so charming (and I have been consistently telling him this, to no avail), it has been helpful (silver lining?) in indicating to me exactly his likes and dislikes. Things that will earn you a shove include putting the saddle on, pressing on anywhere sore (i.e, his back), bath time, and tying him in the trailer. Some of this I am attempting to remedy the situation, other times I am forced to tell him how expressing his opinions that way is going to be rewarded with my own opinions- and he isn’t going to like it. We’re still working on communicating with each other, and hopefully after his couple weeks off will instill a better attitude in him.

Documenting Fair Hill 2015 | PC: JP

Meanwhile, Fair Hill. I’m heading up north Wednesday to support a friend in her Young Event Horse competition, and staying through the 3*** and beyond. My plan is to do some photo shoots while I’m in the area, and I can’t wait to see actual sweater weather and all the fall colors. I would love to connect with any other bloggers out there too, so please let me know if we can meet up!

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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!

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.

 

Lesson Recap: Installing Rideability over Fences

As I mentioned last week, one of the main differences between foxhunters and eventers is the expectation of rideability, or being able to rate the horse between fences. It was fully disclosed to me that this was therefore a work in progress with Jack- that his whole life he has either trotted or galloped fences, and so the idea of a showjumping canter was still being installed. [For comparison, here’s our lesson from 3 weeks ago:]

Last week I had a lesson where Jack was in full-fledged foxhunting mode. He warmed up beautifully on the flat, but fences, even teeny tiny ones, were way more exciting than necessary, and half halts were completely ignored. So I went home and worked on cantering him over poles, where he was still tense/stiff but maybe not fully running as he had been previously. The plan was made that for our next lesson I would warm him up and the trainer would get on him for a training ride to feel out the situation.

As you can see, I ended up riding him the whole time. After warming him up and feeling like I had a buttery hunter in my hands, I cantered him back and forth over a pole like it was the easiest thing in the world. So we continued on, and if the running came back then we would swap riders. It didn’t, and I had a lovely and rateable horse throughout the schooling. It was such pleasure to be able to work with a light contact and feel him respond to my half halts. We kept all the fences small so we could focus on other things, and just in case he was a bit sore from his increase in work. But even when he got a bit tired at the end of the lesson, Jack was still the perfect gentleman, and we finished with a huge smile on my face and lots of treats for the palomino pony.

Our entry went off today for our first show together- a schooling Horse Trials about an hour away. We’ll just be doing Maiden, but this lesson gave me hope that it will be a great confidence building outing for us both!

Foxhunting vs Eventing

While Huntseat is supposed to originate out of the foxhunting world, it could be argued that as the equestrian sports are today, foxhunting and eventing- the cross country phase of eventing, that is- are most closely related. And yet still there’s a lot that separates the two.

Jack has been a foxhunter, or a foxhunting reject, all his life before being started as an event horse last year. I hunted first flight with the Mecklenburg Hounds and was an active member from middle through high school. This helps me appreciate his quirks and the holes in his training that relate specifically to eventing.

Jumping Natural Obstacles
This is easily the best advantage a foxhunter has when transitioning to eventing- experience over natural obstacles. And this is definitely Jack’s forte. While most jumps found on the hunt country are simple logs, coops, and walls/verticals, and understanding of how to negotiate terrain and solidly built questions is a handy quality in the eventing world.

Jack says What be these sticks I jumping?

Jumping with Balance
There are no bonus points for pretty out in the hunt field. Your objective is to survive to hunt another day. Much of the jumping therefore is a sort of get-er-done deal, with the goal being getting from the front side to the back side of the fence. The flight you are in typically determines the speed at which you hunt- first flight stays with the huntsman and therefore sees the most speed and challenging aspects of the hunt. Second flight, and/or Hilltoppers, often includes hunting novices or younger participants and was a walk/trot group in the club I participated in. So, jumping generally happens one of two ways- from a trot or from a gallop. The rideability and, more specifically, ‘showjumping canter’ needed for stadium rounds or technical combinations in cross country is not typically installed in a foxhunting horse.

Tolerance for Dogs
The hounds make the hunt. And years of thoughtfully produced programs and breeding are put into these [occasionally dumb] creatures, so they are a highly valued, even blessed part of foxhunting. Probably the fastest way to get kicked out of a hunt is to have your horse kick or injure a dog. This is one of the reasons why Jack is a foxhunting ‘reject’: not because he was a hound-kicker, but that the large groups of hounds baying, barking, and generally being completely underfoot was more than he wanted to handle. In eventing, this isn’t shouldn’t be a concern, as dogs aren’t meant to be part of the action at all on the cross country course.

So many opinions about this I can’t even.

Colors
Lord only knows how much we eventers love our colors. Gold, green, red, royal blue, orange… Life’s a box of crayons for us, and we go hog wild for that shit. Foxhunting? Not so. This is likely the place that Hunter-Jumpers relate to foxhunting still in the strictest ways. There are purposeful rules about who can wear what color jacket, with red being reserved for staff and dark colors for everyone else. For safety reasons this makes sense- you need to be able to see and follow the staff across miles of countryside. Imagine trying to pick out a staff member if everyone dressed as eventers do? Yeah, there’s not enough whiskey in the world to make foxhunters adopt lime green and orange as their attire.

Following the huntsman on my fuzzy pony

While I have every hope and intention of making Jack a successful event horse, it’s important to remember that all of this is a slightly different world than he is used to!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: How did we do?

Remember that ISO ad that traveled the interwebs? Well now that I am 7 weeks into owning the Barbie Dream Horse, let’s see how he compares to the initial requests in my unicorn hunt.

Adult amateur seeks fancypants unicorn in ultimate champagne on a beer budget scenario.
In budget? Check. Bonus: Champagne colored.

Prefer warmblood or warmblood X gelding, at least 15.3 hands tall and between the ages of 3 and 9.
Check. 9 yr old German Warmblood sticking at 16.3h. A bit bigger than I need but beggars can’t be choosers.

16.3h, most of which is shoulder.

Must have great brain, preferably canine-like personality and cuddly tendencies. A forgiving nature, for those amateur moments, is an absolute requirement. Need not be able to memorize show jumping tracks, but being able to count jumps would be helpful to this occasionally ditzy eventing DQ.
Great brain- got it, despite his tendency to notice everything. Personality-wise, he’s still blossoming, but is a big fan of chewing on his lead rope (or sneakily eating the right rein when I’m not looking). Definitely a cuddler, and thank goodness he’s forgiving of my rusty jumping game.

Suspension and athleticism important. And by suspension, I mean that of a Porsche or Audi, not a Model T.
Decent gaits- we has them. I don’t know cars that well (obviously)… maybe we’re like a new Volvo? Are those nice? Whatever, I drive a Kia.

Prospective owner seeks to be competitive in the dressage court up to 3rd level and in the eventing irons, that is, if she can remember her courses. Proven jumping ability preferred, but willing to survive training a green but willing jumper as well.
Horse can definitely jump, and probably fits the green-but-willing-jumper description. We’re going to be working on learning how to canter fences and not trot/gallop them. And that’s OK.

Horse will receive almost daily attention from prospective owner, be taught ridiculous tricks like smiling and bowing, and in general be spoiled rotten. As such, the horse must in turn tolerate copious amounts of picture taking, both as the subject of his new owner’s photography experiments, but also on a routine basis for the purpose of bombarding the blogosphere and social media channels with their presence.
Welcome to the blogosphere, Jack, aka Jack-Jack, aka Barbie Dream Horse, aka Goldenboy, aka Blondie. Thanks for giving me new things to write about. And photograph. Side note- we are already working on smiling.

Besides being sound of mind, horse must be sound of body. While this amateur owner has become efficient at wrapping, icing, hand walking, and bonding with vets, she would like to turn her attention to other hobbies. Like riding. Lemons need not apply, and you better believe there will be a pre-purchase exam.
Besides a few unsightly blemishes and a need for more conditioning…. I’m going to knock on wood right now.

In return for meeting these lengthy and lofty requirements, any future horse will be held on a pedestal above all others, if not in the judges’ eyes, then in his owner’s. He will receive the best of care at a top-notch facility, have his legs and feeding regimen obsessed over at length, and be stuffed full of cookies at every horse show. Oh, let’s be serious—he’ll be stuffed full of cookies on the daily. And with all hope, he will be a lifelong partner.
Yes, yes, and hopefully very much yes.