Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bonding and Bandaging

The High Queen has always been pretty good about being doctored. Which is handy considering how many times she's managed to hurt herself.

So while she's healing and I'm not riding I've been rearranging the jumps my husband made me for my birthday, installing the new jump cups on them, going over every inch of the trailer for sharp edges( I still can't fathom how she managed to cut herself so badly.) stacking our new supply of hay, and waiting patiently for the new eventing boots I ordered to protect the Queen while jumping.

Our next outting will be in two weeks at the Crescent Bay Pony Club again although it will be at a different venue this time.  We will also be going out at Beginner Novice this time as our first prep for the Virginia Starter Horse Trials.

We will also be going to a lesson with C on the day before the CBPC Horse Trial. Sooo excited about that.  So until we can ride again here are some pictures of the High Queen in all her wild glory.

Did I forget to mention Seneca also escaped during the horse trial?  Me and my friend J. recapturing the escapee.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

God Doesn't Give Perfect Days

I took the High Queen to her first horse trial today. Our dressage was less then stellar. Seneca forgot the meaning of "halt" and then proceeded to be a giraffe for the rest of the test. Stadium went pretty well after Seneca actually realized what we were doing. She refused the first jump but after that was great until we got to the far end of the ring.  There were all these empty travel chairs and Seneca did NOT want to go past the scary horse eating chairs.

Finally we got past that and tackled everything in the ring including the big scary jump with the brick look-a-like pillar posts.

Then we moved on to XC.  She was pretty fabulous, the footing was horrid, and there was a really ugly hogs back looking skinny fence on the course. She didn't even bat a lash at that, she did hesitate at the barrels jump, and horse devouring green gate.

We earned two shiny red second place ribbons for our efforts.  I watched the rounds of my new eventing friends and then loaded up the mare to go home.   In the exactly seven minute trailer ride the High Queen managed scrape up her butt, her shoulder, and gauged a nasty cut just above her left eye.  The only saving grace is that she didn't damage her eye.

*sigh*  Sometimes I think she hates me. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Too Lucky to Be True

Mostly I blog about my horses, they are my love, my passion, some might say Obsession. But no horse person is an island. Even the amateur rider who only shows locally has a supporting cast waiting in the wings to help, and the professionals have a cast of thousands.

For me, a socially awkward, adult amateur on a budget my supporters are few, though the list is growing longer every day. At the top of that list is my husband of fifteen years. He's given up countless weekends, driven hundreds of miles, slogged through mud and rain to feed my horses, and not to mention the financial  output to keep me and the horses clothed and properly equipped.

So when Christmas rolls around I don't expect big gifts. Most of my gifts come throughout the year. I got three huge ones this past year and told my husband repeatedly I didn't need gifts this year. Because Christmas is the beginning of a three month gift train. There is Christmas, then my wedding anniversary in January followed by my birthday in February. So my husband doesn't have it easy.

This year he went above and beyond. At Christmas I received jewelry, and a beach holiday with my husband and my family. For my anniversary/birthday(we just combined this year due to time and schedules) I received a new show jumping helmet, new boots(A present to myself as with my ankle injury I can't get in to my old pull-ons anymore), and then hubs pulled out the big guns.  He updated the lighting on my trailer and built me show jumps. HE BUILT ME JUMPS!  OMG!  And he did the dishes, twice. I don't know what I did to diserve him but I'm am so happy. Thank you horsey powers that be for sending me such a great guy.

Cold Truth

While at the lesson with Chris Hitchcock I learned of another eventer in my area who was also riding with Chris. I had been emailing and texing J. back and forth for a few weeks but had not yet met her when I loaded up the mare last Saturday.

J. had invited me to go schooling at Lionheart Equestrian out in Suffolk with a few other riders this past Saturday. As I was prepping the trailer and the High Queen for the 1hr journey it was not that cold. It was in the mid-fifties at my little farm as I put the Queen in to the trailer. I texted my neighbor to let her know that the Spotted Beast's temper tantrums were about to ensue then headed out the gates of the farm for Suffolk. This would be the first time I had taken any of my horses further than 20 minutes away on my own. I admit manuvering through early Saturday morning traffic was nerve wracking but the trip was uneventful.

As I pulled in to Lionheart I easily drove my trailer in to a great parking spot and began meeting all my new eventing buddies.  I can't tell you how great it was to be with other eventers! I even got a lesson and some coaching out of it from a trainer who came with two the younger riders in our group.

Seneca was great in the grid exercise we were doing up until the point that we added a third and fourth jump to the line of poles.  With only a jump at the begining and the end she was fabulous! No kicking in to over drive at all. But she started ducking and refusing when we pressed her by adding the two jumps in the middle.

After, I jumped a couple of 2ft show jumps then watched the other riders who were doing a higher level than I. When they went off to school the xc course J. switched to her other horse and I put the jumps back down to a more appropriate height for the High Queen.  I did leave several of the verticals up in the 2'6-2'8" range  because I wanted to see if Seneca would bulk at the larger fences. I really want to go Beginner Novice this year. My intent is to go to the schooling trial around the corner from my house this weekend and do the 2ft division, and then use the other three schooling events coming up to move in to the Beginner Novice division culminating with going to the Starter Horse Trials at the Virginia Horse Center at the end of March.

Everything so far is encouraging me that we can do this. It will be a big and scary move but it gives me a real chance at the ultimate goal for this fall which is my first recognized horse trial. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. J. has promised to help me in Lexington using her horse as a lead for the High Queen so that she can get comfortable with the things we have to do like the water complex, and the banks, two things we haven't done yet. And there is a pretty scary looking ditch and rail that I keep telling myself is just as wide as a coop but my heart says different when I look at it on the videos.

The rest of the schooling went fairly well. The High Queen did not like the coop in the show jump ring, but I made her go over it and then she was fine. The only other incident happened later. I was waiting for J. to finish schooling her higher level horse and go with me out to xc fences. I was just wandering about letting Seneca look at things. What she was looking at were the little herd of wandering farm ponies and she lost her mind. She spooked, I lost my grip, she took off and I hit the ground.  I had a moment to hope that I didn't reinjure my leg before I watched Senca's shiny brown butt going full out racehorse mode back to the trailer.

The trainer who had come with the other riders caught her and brought her back to me, making sure I was okay in the process. I assured her I was other than feeling like a fool. I did get to school a few xc fences with J. acting as lead pony with her ISH mare.

All in all other than the freezing cold(it was at least 10 degrees colder in Suffolk) it was a good day. Next up the schooling trial at Summer's End. Wish us luck!

Keep it between the flags everybody.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Moments of Clarity

I get off early from work and zip my way home making the decision in my head that dinner will be whatever I can throw together quickly or as my husband calls them "Fend for Yourself" nights where each of us is responsible for finding our own dinner.

The day is warm and dry, a rare combination these days. I get home, change, grab my new boots that I am still breaking in and my new helmet that I love, then let the dogs out.  Agate, the six month old Bull Terrier makes mad circles around me as I head for the door then bursts off the porch and in to the backyard like the bullet I sometimes call him.  Georgia makes a more stately jog down the porch then sprawls rolling and rubbing her shaggy Golden Retriever coat in to the grass.

In the five minutes that has taken me Seneca has emptied half the water from the water trough that I left to fill while I was in the house liberally splashing herself and then rolled. I mentally tack on an extra ten minutes for grooming then head over to take out all my gear before going to catch my bay drama queen.

When she sees me coming Seneca retreats to the furthest corner of the pasture because she thinks I can't see her down there. I fool her by making a fuss over Cowboy and pretending to feed him things from my palm when what he actually doing is licking the salt he tastes there. She comes halfway back and I clip on the lead line before she can walk off again.

I had set up the same exercise that C. was teaching me in the lesson although a shortened version as I don't have as many poles to work with. Seneca and I warm up at the trot and it is here that she is calm, I am chest up, heels down, leg secure, and the slightest tightening of leg and rein have her turning, circling moving as if there is a mental connection between us. It is in these moments in this clarity between us, that I have never felt before, that I feel as if I really am a rider. I feel as if were someone to take a picture of this moment I would look like Karen O'Connor, or Sinead Halpin, or Kim Severson or even some great professional dressage rider. I don't feel as I do most of the time that I am a child struggling to keep up with the adults who seem to know so much. I feel in those moments that I really could get to Beginner Novice this year.

We practice cantering and she is softer today, easier. On the left lead she even deigns to give me the canter depart from the walk something she has never done. The right is a bit harder for her, or rather my aids aren't as good and we struggle with it but get it in the end.

Then before the sun falls so far that it would be dangerous we canter the poles on the ground aiming for softness and rythym. Seneca gives me both on the third pass and I dismount to set the pole on to my Bloks so that it is raised as if it were a cavaletti. We canter this too and the first time through she puts her head down, rushes it and is flat.  I circle and we come back to it. I ask for more canter this time and give Seneca her head as we cross the first pole.  She is still quick but softer, she thumps the rail behind and half of it is knocked from its cradle in the Blok.  I end the ride there as the sun is going down and it will soon be dark, too dark to see. Always when I think of that I am reminded of a song whose words I stole. Guns N'Roses wasn't the orignal artist but Axel Rose's voice is the one I hear when I think of the song.

I untack carefully putting boots and helmet back in their respective carrying cases then put the chain lead shank on Seneca. I haven't loaded her in the trailer in a few weeks and I need to remind her that trailer loading is not a request, it's an order.  She steps on after me, no hesitation, only obedience and I sigh with relief. It has taken a long, hard year to get her back to this point. Thank you Kim Clark for giving me back my horse who I had lost somewhere behind the drama queen who has no respect for me or trailers.

I reblanket the High Queen as it is going to rain tonight then turn her loose in the driveway to graze on the often untouched by horses grass that grows there.  She dives at it as there is no grass in the back pasture at this time of year and the pickings in the side pasture are sparce. I put all my gear back then put Seneca back out in the pasture before feeding her and Cowboy and saying goodnight.

Another day is almost over. I go to bed early during the week so that I will not be a zombie at work. I'm thinking of taking Seneca to a trail ride this weekend and then maybe schooling at E.'s on Sunday if the weather is good. We'll see. I need more poles I think as I am trying to send myself to sleep. More poles for more jumps. And then I fall to sleep.