Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Big "E"

Yesterday was our last Horse Trial of the spring season.  I prepared, I packed, and leaving later than I wanted to I still made it to Kelly's Ford with an hour and half before I needed to be on.  So I left the High Queen ensconced in her prison  trailer and went to pick up my packet and do a quick walk of the xc course.

Quick it was not, the course was really long and I realized half-way through that I realized that somehow I was walking the wrong course.  And when I asked one of the jump judges she was absolutely no help.  So needing to get on for dressage and knowing I had over two hours between dressage and stadium I decided to leave it until later.

My whole warm-up plan was to warm up just enough to get her moving, but let her be as calm as possible. Seneca was a bit reluctant to go in to the dressage arena and not great while she was in there.  She remember what the halt was, always very important. She was more bendy this time, also good. We managed to do both canter circles, though she broke in the second, went back to the canter in the wrong lead, and I had to ask her to change.

Not too bad a test, we got a 45 and put to the bottom of the order of 16 entries. Eh, better test than the last one that's all I really wanted.  Back to the trailer, untack, sponge off the sweat, it was really hot, not middle of the summer hot, but still pretty warm.  I relaxed for a bit, gave the mare-beast some water, let her relax although the field full of cows behind us had her giving them the hairy eye ball every 15 seconds.

I put Seneca back on the trailer then struck out to re-walk cross country.  A second judge at the starter box still was no help but directed me to a very condescending woman who informed me that the Maiden jumps were marked with a blue flag. Thanks for making me feel like an idiot.  I walked the course again, found the water jump not inviting at all.  You come up to it on an incline where the horses can't see it until the last second and it's just suddenly there. While I was walking the course I saw more than one horse absolutely freak when suddenly presented with the water. At that moment I was not looking forward to that jump on the course.

But I moved onwards along the long course and finally finished with an hour and a half before needing to get on for stadium.  I got something to eat, sucked down more water and trekked back to the trailer.  I took the mare-beast off the trailer to let her hang out tied next to it.  She freaked when she realized the cows had moved up closer and spent her time flipping from side to side at the end of the lead line. She did not however escape.

Then all too quick it was time to tack up for stadium/xc since they were within minutes of each other I would be show jumping in xc gear.  All tacked up and after having a lovely conversation with my neighbor, I picked up my giant jumping bat (It's long enough I can smack the mare-beast without taking my hand off the reins, if my reins a little longer than usual)  Off we went.  

The mare-beast was pretty damn fabulous in the warm-up. We jumped the baby X, the bigger vertical, and the even larger oxer.   Then we circled, circled, waited for our turn.  A minute or two before we were supposed to go in the mare-beast began to fidget.  When it finally was our turn the ring steward had to give me a hand lead-in.   I got Seneca to the first jump made the long sweeping turn to jump 2, went over it  and this is where the mare-beast lost her mind.   My trailer parking neighbor had warned me about the jumps going in the direction towards the judges stand.  Something over there was very spooky to a lot of horses.

And it was our undoing.  Upon landing after the second jump Seneca shied sideways almost hit jump 6 before I got her circled and pointed at jump 3.  Nothing doing whatever was over in that direction was too scary to be tolerated. We got elimated.  Head hanging a bit we made the walk of shame back to the trailer.

I finished off the day by getting a strawberry smoothie from the vendor area then packed up, spent 15 minutes convincing the mare-beast to get back in to the trailer then made the 3.5 hr trek home.

Was it worth it?  Yes. Was it frustrating to not even get to do part of the xc course?  Hell yes.  Do I wish there was another HT this season? Yes.  

All in all I spent around 200$ for a partial schooling event. Sigh.  So the plan?  Do h/j and dressage schooling shows closer to home at less entry cost and less gas cost.

Keep it between the flags everyone. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Practise Makes a Try at Perfect

After getting stuck at work until after 4pm I finally got home and had the time, energy, inclination and weather to ride.  It took me awhile to figure out what to do with Cowboy because Mr. I don't want to stay where you put me kept escaping in to my riding area. I even tried putting him on the trailer but he kept kicking and kicking and I just couldn't stand it.

Soooo I shut the dogs in the house and tossed the Spotted Beast in to the front yard which has the most secure fences. Finally when the High Queen and I were alone I tacked her up and went out to try and practise for the upcoming HT.

I did more flatwork than I usually do. Partly because super hubs had gone over to the neighbors and I didn't want to jump anything big or tricky with no one within shouting distance. I did lots of lateral work, lots of circles, bending, and tons of practice on trot to canter transitions. This is something that I am going to do in the warm-up for dressage on Saturday. I jumped a bit, but nothing too difficult. Tomorrow I'll be hauling both horses down to E's where I will school the stadium jumps there.

The ride times are up for Kelly's Ford, and all my stuff is in the afternoon which will give me plenty of time to watch other rides and settle the mare-beast. There are about 14 people in my section, including on of my friends who rides with Chris.  Should be fun though. Can't wait.

Anyway, long day tomorrow, longer day on Saturday as the drive is 3.5 hrs up and 3.5hrs back.

Keep it between the flags everyone. 

Rain on My Parade

I haven't been able to ride since Saturday. *face to palms* I gave the High Queen Sunday off as she'd w/t/c 15 miles the day before. Granted she was a total mare-beast for the first half of the ride, but she did decently and I think she diserved the day to rest.  I did bathe her and Cowboy in to super shinyness which lasted for about 2.5 seconds before they both rolled. Seneca is still pretty shiny and I plan on giving her a bath on Friday, putting her bug rug on to keep her semi-clean and separating her from Cowboy to keep them from injuring one another the night before the trial.

I could have ridden Monday but the weather was so iffy I just knew if I put my saddle on that it was going to pour. And it was the same for Tuesday, and yesterday it did pour buckets. I am hoping that today's heat and sun will dry out my riding area enough that I can at least do flatwork.  I am also trying to get ahold of the owner of the arena around the corner that has jumps AND footing so I can school there today or tomorrow. If I can't get permission today, and it's fairly dry I'm going to trailer down to E.'s and use her grass arena and show jumps.  I desperately want to jump her coop and rolltop. But we'll see.

Nothing else really new going on. Work is driving me crazy, minions constantly running amuk to the point that I'm afraid to leave the building for fear that they might burn it down in my absence.  *head to desk, wack, wack, wack* I soo need a new billet so I can escape this looney bin and go to a command where there is some sanity.

Anyway keep it between the flags everyone.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Different Track

This past weekend super hubs and I were supposed to be spending all weekend horse camping and trail riding on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Except that we wanted to test the strength of the portable electric corral we created first.

So Friday we set the corral up and put the Spotted Beast in. I moved Seneca way over in another pastrure where he couldn't see her.  We needed to know if when agitated enough would Cowboy escape.  *Le sigh*  Of course he did. No less than three times.  The first time he just bent his neck down shoved the electric tape up and Shetland ponied his way out.  So we fixed that with another line of tape along the bottom. That worked for a little while longer than the single top row of tape.  But within minutes the Spotted Beast flashed his talent and jumped out over the tape(It was at least 3 feet high).

But Cowboy will only jump out if there is no other option so we figured if Seneca was actually in the corral with him he wouldn't be tempted to jump. So in goes the mare-beast.  I went to get some buckets of water, but as it was late evening the High Queen thought dinner was being served and immediately began beating up on Cowboy, who's only alternative to getting bitten and kicked was to leap out of the corral again, this time dragging the tape with him and breaking a good half of the poles. *face to palm, epic fail*

So knowing that my husband was not going to be physically up to riding the trails on Sunday (He has only just gotten back in to riding and his butt was going to make major protests about two long trail rides in a row) We decided to just drive over to the trail ride for the day.  It started out well with the High Queen leaping in to the trailer at the first attempt(always a good sign).  Then when we got there and our horses saw the 250+ other horses, trucks, trailers, people they were understandbly unsettled.  Seneca not only snapped the trailer tie ring(the whole reason I bought extras after she snapped the first one) she escaped two more times before I actually got her saddled.

The first half of the trail was miserable for me. Seneca would not settle and spent the whole first half jigging, cantering in place with that whole "I am two seconds from bucking you in to a tree" attitude and basically yanking my arms out of my socket. But there was nothing I could do.I couldn't ride ahead giving Seneca other things to think about. I even tried leg yielding down the trail.  I had to stay with my husband and Cowboy and Cowboy has decided he likes to lead.  Then I hit upon the cure, althought it came back to bite me in the butt later. I simple let the reins go slack, and put my hands on the pommel of my saddle.  Seneca put her nose directly on to Cowboy's tail and traveled sedately that way the rest of the ride. She even went so far as to use his butt as a scratching post.

After that life was calmer and we had fun.  Getting down to the beach was a little crazy. There was a pretty steep drop off a sand bank. Cowboy refused, Seneca wasn't happy about it either. In the end I got off, led Seneca down and Cowboy then jumped down after her.  I remounted using a log and we went off to play in the waves and sandbars.  We even got some really nice photos from the professional photographer(I'll post them when I get them back)

After the beach we rode for another hour and a half, had lunch provided by the local fire department, then rode another 30 minutes back to the start.  This is where letting Seneca go as she pleased came back to bite me.  Because I'd let her think she was in charge for a couple of hours she now thought getting back in the trailer was not on her to do list. *GRRRRR*

This is inevitably what happens.  She's fabulous about getting in at home where there are no witnesses, but in public she wants other people to think I abuse her. It took me a good twenty minutes at least to convince her to get back in. Meanwhile I got several offers to help. I tried to be polite and rebuff them, telling them that I had worked with this mare for over a year and my way was the only way. But my anxiety level raised every time someone asked because now I can imagine them sitting there watching us and laughing at me.  We circled, we walked, we stopped, I did submission/release bending of her neck to her side, we walked, circled, stopped some more.

Super hubs loaded Cowboy in to the first slot in the trailer as encouragement even though that is typically where Seneca rides.  Finally she deigned to get half way in the trailer. I glared, kept a tight hold of the chain lead shank and firmly told her if she did not get her big brown butt in the trailer that I was going to make the alleged horse abuse a reality. She blinked at me then got in the trailer.  15 miles of trail riding logged, a slight sunburn, photos, and lots of smiles. Not too bad for a days work.

Yesterday I did more trailer loading training with the High Queen(I don't think I will ever be able to stop practicing) She resisted the first time I asked and she got the business end of a chain shank yank and she decided it was in her best interest to get in.  She got in perfectly the second time.  I will be practicing all week in hopes she won't embarass me at Kelly's Ford this weekend.

Yep finally decided to go do the Maiden division at the Kelly's Ford Recognized HT.  I've never been to a recognized trial, even to watch so I plan on trying to go early to see couple of friends take their young horses in the reg. divisions then try to make it through all three phases in the 2ft division without eating dirt or getting eliminated.

Here's hoping.  Keep it between the flags everyone.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Retail Therapy and Frustrated Tracks

This weekend was the big tent sale that our local tackshop has every spring. I swore I was only going over to pick up a new girth, fly spray, and some leather oil. I arrived at around 9:30 after leisurely making my way over from the farm with a stop at Starbucks for fuel along the way.  I knew from previous years that the place would be hopping. When I made the turn in to the long drive between the pastures that led to the tack store there were already cars lining both sides of the drive, in the pastures and packed every which where.

I had driven my car vices the truck, thank the Gods for foresight, and as I saw an SUV getting stuck in one of the pastures I endeavored to find a safer parking space. I managed that and then hit the big tent.  The human traffic in there wasn't so bad, and there were some fabulous things to be had. But I stayed strong and after surveying the tent went in to the store itself.  I am not a social person. Part of it is I just don't like people. I have a very low tolerance for stupidity and rudeness so parties and shopping are usually not fun for me. Grocery shopping is particularly trying for me and I endeavor to keep all the ugliness inside my own head. So when I opened the tack shop door and saw the mass of humanity crushed in together and milling about in chaotic confusion I almost backed right back out the door. Large groups of chaotically moving people make me anxious and I have to stop myself from wanting to hit people so they will get out of my way.

Just one of the many reason I do not ride at hunter/jumper shows anymore. Deep breath, deep breath and I plunge in. I try on a couple of hunt coats(I really need a new one since I have been wearing the same one since I was sixteen) I eye the bridles and resist, I collect some push in fence posts for the overnight camping my husband and I will be doing this weekend. I sigh over a dove grey Ariat polo shirt, and can't stop myself, I add it to my slowly growing pile that includes another pair of Tally Ho socks(LOVE them!) I throw on a pair of breeches(If I am going to be bad, I am going to be all the way bad, or nearly). I tack on a cushy saddle pad to match the shirt, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  *face to palms*  I should never have gone to the tackshop without my husband who usually keeps me on track.

I didn't get to ride on Saturday because it rained most of the afternoon and evening. I really need to connect with the farm owner around the corner who has an arena with jumps AND footing. The next day I was supposed to have lunch guests who didn't end up coming so instead I did farm chores until later in the afternoon.  My husband and I went back over to the tack store (the gloves I'd gotten him didn't fit) to wait for the 1,000$ shopping spree give away. Along with that there were tons of other things that were given away including a brand new Collegiate jumping saddle that this really sweet girl won.   We didn't win the shopping spree sadly(I really wanted that new coat and bridle damn it) but we had fun anyway. 

Rush back to the house, quick change in to riding clothes and off on a trail ride.  I jumped schooled the mare-beast when we got back. She was not happy about trail riding and then actually WORKING.  We made some headway with the leg yields at trot and canter, but she was a total cow about riding the in and out I had set up. And for some reason even though she had seen my Blok jumps a million times she kept giving them the hair eyeball, and trying to run out of them. Looks like I will have to put the side poles back on.

I think I have decided to go to a HT rather than the jumping show, but I will be dropping down a level to the maiden division at 2ft rather than the recognized BN. Maybe, my mind is all a whirl and I need a good solid, happily ending jump school before I can committ. I just love my lack of confidence issues, they are so much fun. And you would think recognizing that I have them that I could just get over them. But I can't.  I'm trying though, and that's what counts.

Keep it between the flags everyone.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Curse of the Frogs and Cowboy Grows Up

I just realized that I never told the story of the suicidal frogs. At the end of last summer I had finally convinced my husband that we needed a new trailer. I tracked down a lovely 2003 Exiss 3 Horse slant with a huge dressing room that I thought would be as close to perfect as I could afford.  I really wanted a Kieffer or Exiss 2+1 with a massive dressing room but couldn't afford even a used one.

So super hubs and drove down to Smithfield, NC to pick up the new trailer. This is about a 3 to 4 hour drive. Just as we were pulling to a stop light just before the trailer dealer's lot a little green tree frog crawled out of that space where the windshield wipers rest. It must have been in there since we left the house in VA, and it clung to the glass as the light turned green and we moved down the road. We watched it amused and then it crawled across the glass and I winced as it made a huge leap, hit the air stream going over the truck and disappeared. That was suicidal frog number 1.

The second suicidal frog appeared while the husband and I were in Lexington for the horse trial this spring.  We were actually hauling Cowboy out to his trainer's ranch and the second frog appeared on the driver's side window.  It too clung to the window, crawled along and I yelled at the thing not to jump, not to be a fool! But it leaped, hit the air stream, struck the trailer and was gone.

Now on to the High Queen for which this blog was created. She's fattened up a bit, which makes me happy. She's such a hard keeper that some days I am almost embarrassed to take her out to trials and shows because I'm afraid people will think I'm not feeding her enough.  That pig gets a ton of food.  One 5lb scoop of grain, half a scoop of soaked beet pulp, four cups of rice bran, alfalfa cubes, and her supplements. All this twice a day plus 24/7 turn-out on grass, and several flakes of hay.

She's all shiny sassy looking now, which is great, I love when she's all summer sleek. I showed her off in a lesson with Chris a couple of weeks ago. Much improvement was made in the being more aggressive and being more forward. We even CANTERED lines!  Woo Hoo!

We've also been doing more trail riding because Cowboy has come back from the trainer and is now completely ridable , not just semi-broke. So super hubs has been riding him out with me most afternoons.  By herself the High Queen is a paranoid freak, but with Cowboy leading she's calm and didn't even startle too much when she scared up a quail on our afternoon ride yesterday. And we have an overnight camp out trail ride on Mother's Day weekend which should be really fun.

The weekend after that I am taking the High Queen to a jumper show for some experience. Our next outing after that will be the starter trials in June. Soo looking forward to that. I want to actually complete every phase this time so hopefully the weather will cooperate.

I did a little jump school yesterday after the evening trail ride using the exercises that Chris taught me in the last lesson. The mare-beast was not in evidence, instead I got the Duchess of Lethargy and Laziness. Mommy needs to get out the giant jumping bat next time to encourge her ladyship to MOVE her butt.

We did however canter a couple of lines, and I am trying to move towards only trotting the first warm-up jump and cantering everything else. We need to do this, we need to move our riding to the next level, and since I have that fancy new and pain-free saddle it shouldn't be an issue.

I'm hoping to take Seneca down to my friend E's for a jump school on her course, or around the corner to the arena that has *GASP* actual footing and jumps next week, or the week after to practice for the jumper show. But we'll see weather willing.

Until next time keep it between the flags everybody.