Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Small Bright Spot

After slogging through most of a week at work and still feeling awful about our horrific outing at Kelly's Ford the weekend prior I did my usual stop at the mailbox before turning on to my driveway.  Inside was a manilla envelope from Kelly's Ford.  My first thought and I admit uncharitable thought, was that it was a bill for not taking all the shavings out of Fox's temporary stall.  At which point I was thinking they could stick it.

Instead I opened up the envelope to find 2 fourth place team ribbons.  I burst out laughing so hard that Superhubs poked his head in from the livingroom. These could not possible be ours. You don't get ribbons when there is an alphabet next to where your super low score should be.

But apparently and unbeknownst to me when I entered at KF I was automatically put on a team and even though I retired, the rest of my teammates did fairly well and we placed 4th!  Which entitles my crazy donkey in a red thoroughbred's disguise to legitamate ribbons!

So a little bit of a bright spot in an otherwise bleak weekend.  Keep it between the flags everyone, you might get stealth ribbons!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kelly's Ford Strikes Again or Fox Finds His Inner Crazy

I'm pretty sure that I don't ever want to go to Kelly's Ford again. Don't get me wrong it's a beautiful venue, a lovely slightly rolling XC course, stabling on-site, food on-site but for me Kelly's Ford will always make me feel sad and disappointed.

It all started with an email.  Thursday morning as I was enjoying breakfast with my house guests (Superhubs Dad and Brother came to visit) I received an email from Kelly's Ford reminding everyone that the Intro Division would be doing USDF Intro Test C. This is where I start to panic.  Fox and I have cantered yes, was it pretty? Nope.  Was it presentable to the public? Ermm no.  Would I even be able to get him to canter starting it on a circle? I doubted it.  But we had a lesson that day with our new coach K. and this was one of the things we wanted to work on.  Our canter departs were super ugly.

Later that day I loaded the wonder pony and we trekked the hour west to our coach's training barn where she had a lovely dressage arena with footing and a covered arena for inclement weather.  The first part of the lesson went great. I actually got Fox on the bit for the first time and working through his back. The second half went not so wonderful.  Our first attempts at cantering were....hmmm explosive.  There was bucking, yanking and several attempts to take off with me. Bad pony.

After a couple of less explosive attempts we let the matter rest and practiced the test.  It wasn't fantastic. At this point I was really wondering if I should just stay home.  I should have listened to that inner voice but no. Like an idiot I ignored my inner sanity.

The next day was departure day. Was I packed ? Not quite and I had an errand to run in town as well as the Farrier Fairy coming to do Seneca and Cowboy's hooves.  Needless to say I left way later than I would have liked, got stuck in awful traffic no less than three times but finally made it to Kelly's Ford around 8pm.  A friend helped me get Fox settled and he commenced to munching hay while my friend and I walked over to the pub on KF's property for dinner. 

The next morning dawned clear and I went about feeding Fox, cleaning his stall, and checking in with the coordinators before begining to walk my XC course.  Everything on course looked doable until I got to the first jump after the water crossing.  Jump number 9 was a big black bench that just intimidated the hell out of me.  That was until I saw the stadium course.  Mind you we are in the 18 inch Intro Division but the course remained the same for all the levels.  It was a twisty turny course that was basically two figure eights entwined.  Which included at fence 2 an option to do what was a triple for the higher levels but surely would be an oxer for us or you could jump the up-bank, jump the vertical and then jump down the bank again.  I was thinking the oxer option but that wasn't the scariest thing on course.

No, no that was undeniably fence 4.  It was a hill, oh yes my little eventers, a hill in the show jumping arena with a vertical at the crest. Which was included on every single course for all divisions.  Seriously? For the Intro and Starter Divisions?

But alas all my anxiety about the big bench on XC and the hill on the stadium course were unfounded because we weren't even going to get that far.  After walking the courses a few times I went back to stabling, moved all my tack/gear up to the barn next to Fox's stall then grabbed my camera and went to take photos of a couple of friends who were also riding that day.  But time flew and soon it was time to go back to stabling to get ready for dressage.

I changed in to my show clothes, dawning the lovely coat I hadn't ever gotten a chance to wear with the High Queen and then went to sit in stabling until it was time to tack up.  I had to admit my pony looked lovely all braided and clean.  I'd never braided him before and hadn't really intended to for the Intro division but I figured why not?  Then it was time to tack up.  At this point I had no hint whatsoever what was in store for me.  Fox was his usual mellow self and when I threw a leg over in the barn and headed out I was optomistic. And that is pretty much the last happy moment we had.

It could have been the sheer amount of horses moving about in the dressage warm-up. It could have been the XC/SJ warm-up right next door with its speeding horses. It could have been his routine being messed up. It could have been half a dozen things.  But the moment Fox saw the dressage warm-up he lost his marbles and never got them back.

He was tense, nervous and didn't know what to do with himself.  He yanked at the bit even when my hands were soft and loose, he jigged, he sidled, he spun, he shied, he tried to take off with me a couple of times.  In other words Psycho Pony made an appearance.  I was totally taken aback because other than a moment or two once in a long while he'd never been this upset ever.

But instead of withdrawing I had to make sure I felt the full brunt of shame and embarassment. We tried to do the dressage test but it was ugly. He yanked and was generally disobedient the whole time.  I didn't dare canter for fear he'd really run off with me.  I think in the back of my head I thought if I could get through the test and get him jumping a little that he would settle down. But three quarters of the way through the test I decided enough was enough and I retired.  I made it back to the dressage warm-up and finally after another five minutes got Fox to pause long enough for me to dismount.

Walking him back wasn't much better. He jigged, yanked and basically acted like a deranged donkey the whole way.  Until we got back to his stall where he promptly settled down again.  I think I hated him just a little right then.  I untacked him, hosed off all his flop sweat, threw his cooler on him and released him in to his stall. Where he promptly rolled four times before getting up and coming over to me where he put his head against my chest in contrition.  I sighed, hugged him and told him it wasn't his fault then proceeded to pack up to go home.

It was the worst weekend I'd had in a long while and I'm still not really recovered. I still feel sad, depressed and overall unhappy. Not at Fox he just had a bad day. But at myself. I knew when I saw that the test for Intro was the C test that I should have scratched but no like an obstinate child I had to keep shoving forward. I don't know what's next for us except a lot of lessons with K. and maybe have her do some training rides on Fox to smooth out his understanding of the canter.  There is a last HT the weekend before Thanksgiving in November. Do I want to go? I don't even know at this point. I'm sad and tired and discouraged.  So I'm leaving any further plans in the back of my head to be looked at once I've worked myself out of this funk.

Keep it between the flags everyone.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The OMG! Moments

Everytime I sit down on Fox's back I am more impressed with him and grow infinitely more in love with him. This past Saturday after a particularly hellish week at work I loaded up my favorite fuzzy, red pony and trekked the hour to a small CT put on by one of our local Pony Clubs.  Gods bless them for putting together a lovely event that I don't have to get up at the butt crack of dawn to get to.

They also allowed for this go round of the CT (that had one earlier in the summer as well) competitors to enter two different divisions if they chose. I entered Fox and I in the 18 inch Grasshopper division and the 2ft Kangaroo division.  I hadn't been able to ride since the previous weekend (I truly do hate my job if for nothing else than jacking my schedule so badly I can only ride on weekends) so I was going more for the miles that Fox would gain than actually trying to be competitive.  Fox however had other plans.

The day dawned drizzly but cleared by the time I had to load up and we made decent enough time that I was able to stop for gas and breakfast. Which was a good thing since I left all my carefully packed horse event snacks sitting on the kitchen counter.  I really am losing my mind.  Our first dressage foray for the day was frought with lovely work from my pony and excitment from a loose horse. 

I was awaiting my turn near the dressage arena when the clarion calls of loose horse, loose horse! rang out.  Said horse comes flying up, rounds the arena, jumps in to the arena with the still going dressage competitor in it then comes barreling at myself and Fox.  I tried to get out of the way while Fox is making very definite, friendly murmurs in his chest.  Seriously? You're going to be buddy buddy with a horse who at this point might mow us down? But we evaded the other horse and he went around us and found his owner who also happened to be my old coach.

Fox being Fox didn't let that little escapade rattle him and we put in a good test to score a 33.  Fox got a break at the trailer while I went to walk the twisty stadium course.  These were the same jumps used last time just in a new pattern but it had been a couple of months since Fox had seen them sooo Momma packed her jumping bat.  We got in a good warm-up and Fox made a small effort to actually jump the fences rather than trot them.

Our course went fantastic! He didn't looky-loo, he didn't pause to decide whether he really wanted to jump the fences, he even cantered off after quite a few of them. I was soo extremely proud of him at that moment.   Then we went on and did our second dressage section which I thought had gone better than the first but we got a 34 and several remarks on the test of "slow".  Alrighty then Momma is going to test out the brand new spurs we just bought. 

Then the second jump course.  This did not go as well as the first round.  I think for a couple of reasons.  A, by this point Fox was just a little tired and B, half the course consisted of oxers.  I'm not talking one or two. I'm talking at least five or six of the ten fences were oxers.  A fence that unfortunately Fox had never seen before.  My only thought when I got ready to go in to the ring and saw all those gleaming width fences was CRAP!  But my pony showed me his true heart and bottomless grit. 

When I had read or heard about horses people called real "try-ers" I never really got what they meant until we entered the arena that day. Fox, caught completely off guard by these strange fences, really, really tried.  He approached each one with enthusiasm, he took hold of the bit a few strides out, pulled me to the fence and really tried to read the question being asked.  He did remarkably well for a horse that had never jumped an oxer before.  We had two small bobbles.  He just barely ticked the rail on fence number five and one side fell out of its cup and then on the last fence he had what would technically be a stop but after a milisecond of thinking it over threw himself over it(leaving the rails up) and nearly unseating me on the other side.  But I managed to stick like glue, stay on, right myself and pump my fist in the air and yell (embarassingly) VICTORIOUS! Yeah I'm that dork.

I waited around until my group's scores were totalled so I could get my dressage tests, Fox happily hung at the trailer pretending to be a plow horse (LOVE HIM!) and then I picked up the pretty ribbons that went with our tests.  In our grasshopper division we got 3rd! Soo proud of that, it was a large section and I was really happy with the effort we put in.  In our kangaroo 2ft section we faired less well and got 4th out of 4.  I think if we hadn't pulled the rail or had the stop we would have placed at least second.  And I know, I know I shouldn't care about the placings but that little hunter princess girl inside still likes taking home the blue and red ribbons. 

Overall though...sooo much love for my pony! He really did try and gave me what he had to give.  The CT also showed me where we need to work so that we can be really polished and ready for our end of the season event at Kelly's Ford.   We definitely need to practice some oxers at home so that Fox can read the question in a less stressful environment and really understand what I'm asking.  And I desperately want to be able to canter all the fences.  We are so close, we just need a little more practice and Mom needs to get her big girl pants in gear and just CANTER ON!  I will also be taking a lesson the Thursday prior to Kellys Ford with my friend who is well on her way to being an Intermediate level rider.

I'm also going to try and do a session with a saddle fitter. I want to make absolutely certain that I'm riding Fox in something that keeps him happy and as much as I love my Pessoa I am not totally certain that it fits him that well. I want what we all want, for my horse to be happy and sound.

So here's to keeping a happy horse between the flags!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hands On

Another dose of me talking about my super awesome pony. I know you ought to be getting sick of it by now but I just can't help myself.  Saturday I had to work but Sunday I put in a solid three hours of farm chores and other ridiculous tasks like dishes and vaccuming.  Then I reset my jump course including having Superhubs help me move the coop he built me over Labor Day weekend that I hadn't been able to try out yet.  Though I did paint it! Photos to come.

So I moved most of my jumps around so I could have a bit of a dressage area and a new pattern for the jumps though I left one of the jumps alone since I really do love its position in the field.  I also, ingeniously if I do say so myself, made a psuedo liverpool by painting two 1 by 4 sized boards with blue paint and positioning the boards under the jump.   With the jumps all rearranged I decided to push our limits and without measuring the actual height I set the jumps a bit bigger than I usually would.  I wasn't completely worried because Wonder Pony had been jumping two feet at the last couple of outtings.  So away I went to prep the pony for a jump school.

Which took over 30 minutes because fuzzy, red ponies who shall remain nameless have decided their coats need extra moisturizing with copious mud baths.  He even gets it in his ears. Not just ON his ears but INSIDE THEM!  How does he even accomplish that.  My pony definitely has talent.

After suiting up with hoof boots and jumping  boots then doing some warm-ups at walk and trot I started out with just trotting my pile of twigs baby log then on to the baby cross-rail and BLOK standard jump.  The BLOK jump was set at maybe 18 inches and Pony Boy dragged his lazy self over it and bumped it. Seriously?  So next time around he earned a swat on his furry red butt which perked him up an he started making an effort.  Then on to the big X which was probably 2ft or so, then the baby vertical at 2ft.  Next it was time to suck up our courage and try the psuedo liverpool and the coop. 

Fox did a hard stop at the liverpool, mainly I wasn't aggressive enough and he wasn't foward enough so he threw on the brakes.  Back a few steps, turned around, re-present and over we went.  Then on to the coop.  Same thing, I was a bit nervous about jumping the coop, Superhubs makes solid fences if we hit that thing, or Pony Boy dragged his feet it was going to be an ugly outcome,  so Fox threw on the brakes because mommy was less than committed.  Back, turn, re-present and over we flew.  YEE-HAW!   A couple more turns over each of the fences AND at the end the Wonder Pony cantered the BLOK cross-rail!  So proud of my red, diet flavored, pint sized OTTB!  Later I went to check the height of the tallest fence which was the psuedo liverpool. 2ft 3inches!  We are almost at my goal of jumping BN height.

But the biggest improvement from yesterday's ride was in point of fact my own hands. I was reading some posts over on the Eventing Solo blog(LOVE it all over there) about how when Eventer79 jumped Solo for the first time in a long time she had to remember all those things that are just muscle memory for regular Eventing Gods like Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton and Sinead Halpin.  The rest of us more earth bound people have to remind ourselves to do it.  Like "Thou shall not clutch at thy horse's mouth".  This one for me is a big one.  The High Queen could and did a few times attempt to run off with me.  So I had this ugly habit of thinking speed = ex-race horse having a flashback of the Derby must rein her in! Which rolled over on to Fox.  But the majority of the time Fox doesn't have those kinds of thoughts.  His are more along the lines of "Can we walk now? It's time to walk right? I think it's time to walk, so I'm just gonna slow way down and see if she notices." 

At the CT a few weeks ago I did major clutching after the fences because Pony Boy got it in to his head that the jumps were Rolex height.  So yesterday I kept repeating "Slowest OTTB on the planet, he's not running off with you, he's not running off with you."  And it worked! I remembered to stay up after the fence, leave my hands laying along his neck, let him reorganize for a few strides and then gather him back in.  We are still at Intro level and even at BN level there is a bit of distance between all the fences. I think they plan this so that people can do just what I did. Sneaky USEA people.

So with all these great rides and things is it to early to dream about qualifying for the AEC's at this point?  I'm not sure even if I could qualify that I would be able to afford to go but wouldn't it be awesome to have such a great partnership and have the kind of good training and competitions that you actually are good enough to compete against the best in the country?  My living in reality goal is to complete a recognized BN horse trial by the time I'm forty.  Which scarily enough is not that far away.  But couldn't I dream a little bigger? I mean it would be cool to go and be able to place but I'd be happy with going and completing whether it's at the bottom of the standings or not.

In three weeks Fox and I will be going to Kelly's Ford to make our assault on their Intro course.  I'm hoping just to complete, don't care about time, or even if we have a refusal that adds major points.  I just want to finish. Wish us luck.

With much excitement for this weekends Combined Trial I am definitely keeping it between the flags!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Difference a Year Makes

It has been just over a year since I met the fabulous red pony who I named Fox. He was just coming off the track as a well bred but lack luster racehorse and I was swallowing down the pain of having to retire the High Queen. He wasn't the true black Irish Sport Horse that I'd been dreaming of(and that my wallet could never afford), he wasn't tall, his coat was an odd dusty copper and most people would have passed him by without a second look.

But something made me look. He was quiet and seemed uninterested in being the cliche of a high strung OTTB. And when he laid his nose on the back of my neck after our trial ride I was absolutely sure I wanted to take him home. Superhubs was a little cautious because Fox had had that one baby moment on our trial ride but if nothing else Superhubs lets me do pretty much whatever I want.

That fall Superhubs and I took the two boys over to a local park that has equestrian use trails. We did the exact same trail ride on Sunday and it struck me then the huge difference that Fox and I's year together has made.  Last fall when Fox and I were just getting to know each other he would not cross the shallow dry ditches at the park or the wooden bridges and you can just forget any kind of water crossing that involved the red pony getting his feet wet and or muddy.

This past Sunday Fox happily walked or hopped over the dry ditches, didn't bat a lash at crossing the wooden bridges and when I asked him to walk through a muddy part of the trail he complied without a fuss.  It was at the mud puddles that I realized Fox trusted me, that somewhere in the last year he'd grown to see me as his leader and his partner.  This had been a huge sticking point with the High Queen. I don't think she'd ever learned to truly trust me, not on trails and not in the ring.  Which made her anxious and unhappy most of the time and in turn that made me overly alert and cautious with her.

But my dusty copper, no one would look twice, 15.2 hand OTTB has turned in to a deep copper, loving, trusting partner who I'm hoping to complete our first horse trial with next month. If the beginning of a true partnership wasn't enough Fox and I cantered our first jump together on Sunday as well.  Just a pile of baby logs but still it was a massive step for us.

So here's to the year that passed that has bonded the red pony and I and to whatever comes next.  Keep it between the flags everyone.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Red Pony Finds His Inner Jumper

A couple of weekends ago I hauled Fox about an hour south to the Currituck Rural Center for a day at an Open Horse Show.  They had added a Combined Trial for the local eventers and I thought it would be a great way to get my pony some miles without putting too many on my truck or my check book.  As you can see from the photo I didn't go all out with the spa treatments mostly due to time and energy the week prior.  But despite being a little rough around the edges we did great.

I got Fox a stall for the day(I know all my eventer friends are cringing) but I like having the option of letting Fox loose in a stall to enjoy some hay and companionship of other horses versus tying him to the trailer all day. Not that he actually cares. As long as there is hay available he's content  He settled in like a pro and the day just got better from there.

We were late to the dressage warm-up but there were very few entries and the show was extremely laid back about that kind of thing.  Mostly with the dressage Fox and I need to work on bendiness.  He's very stiff going to the right so as is a common problem with baby horses our circles were less circle-y and more eggish or pear shaped. Not surprising but homework for the rest of the season.

But the excitement came later in the jumping classes. Fox has always been a bit lazy about jumping and a bit looky, as in I will hesitate or pause in front of this fence before I deign to lift my hooves above the ground.  That day he did his "look see" on the baby warm-up cross rail and the next time around I lightly popped him on his furry red butt as we got to the fence.  He flung himself over like it was the Grand National.  And that is how he jumped the two courses in our two classes.  It was like he suddenly decided everything was Rolex height and he would do his best to jump the height of the standards.  He nearly jumped me out of the tack a couple of times.

Fox finally discovered his inner jumper and let that pony fly!  And at the end of the day our reward, other than the lovely experience was this.

Next stop XC schooling with friends at Kelly's Ford before we try to make another assault on that event.  Then I think, if we do well, as in we actually complete the event without getting eliminated for something, it will be the end of our eventing season.  So until my next tale from the back of the red pony keep it between the flags everyone!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Leaping in to the Fall Season

I can't believe I haven't posted in a month. Then again with all the work related traveling and the sheer amount of hours I've been putting in at my evil regular job it's not surprising. So last time you tuned in to my on going saga I had just completed my first clinic with a big name trainer and Fox's first clinic period.  Then Fox got almost two months off while I chased the almighty dollar with which I purchase things like horse feed and electricity.  First I was gearing up for the big work related travel, then I was in Florida for the Navy thing and then I was unpacking/catching up on all the stuff I missed while I was gone. In the mean time Fox got to laze about and be a pony shaped slug.

Between weather and late hours I wasn't able to get much riding time in the last two weeks but I squeezed in a couple of days here and there in which I reestablished what Fox's job as a baby event horse entailed.  That and we're finally getting a handle on the cantering thing. Our first upwards transitions are still rather ugly but we'll smooth it out with time and some lessons with one of my friends who is an up and coming Intermediate eventer.

The last ride I put in on Fox before work swallowed me again and then I had to head off to my Mom's for the Labor Day weekend was in a word FANTASTIC!  There was cantering, there was cantering several laps in either direction of my riding area and there was cantering of poles and twigs on the ground baby logs.  We just need to put in a couple more rides of this same thing and we'll finally be ready to start cantering fences.

And because I'm an obsessive planner I've already laid out lots of shows/HT's to take my baby eventer to for mileage so that maybe, just maybe we could be doing Beginner Novice next spring. So I signed us up for a local open horse show this coming weekend where they offer dressage and over fences classes so we can sharpen our skills. With this in mind I put together a new scary stadium type jump using some stuff I found around the farm.

Unused garden pots make a great filler for a show jump! Fox even cantered away from the big cross rail in the back which is a new exciting thing for him as he is the laziest OTTB on the planet! I am so proud of my little red pony I could explode in a glittery puff of smoke and love.

Then I had to put away horsey things for a few more days while I visited with my mom and sister down in North Carolina.  But while I was gone Superhubs proved once again that he is the most awesome man on the planet.  I've been planning for a long while to build a few XC type jumps of my own since there are no really good schooling areas within less than 2.5hrs away and it takes a monumental amount of planning to go to one of the big ones that are further out.  But I'd never gotten around to it.  Superhubs took it upon himself while I was away to build me an Intro level, 18 inch, super fantastic COOP!

Shown here with the massive brown hippo fabulous Seneca aka High Queen checking out the new addition to her domain.  I cannot wait to try this out this week!

What's on the horizon for Eventing at Midnight? I have several small local outtings planned which saves on time/gas/stabling/lodging and gives my pony lots of miles close to home.  But I have decided to make another attempt at Kelly's Ford. Which if you've read some of the posts from a couple years ago you know was the site of Seneca and I's first walk of shame back to the trailer when we got eliminated on the third fence of the stadium course before we'd even gotten near the XC course.  This time the cows shouldn't be in residence and Fox hasn't shown a lot of interest in cows the couple of times he's seen them at a distance so I'm hopeful he won't think aliens are coming to abduct him if they do appear at Kelly's Ford.  In this plan is a schooling day with a lot of the local eventers to make a big group xc school of it and I cannot wait.  Other than some playing around this will be Fox's first real look at a XC course with water, banks and ditches oh my!

Wish us luck everyone and keep it between the flags!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Somewhere towards the middle of last week I had stopped believing I was going to be able to go to the Dom Schramm clinic and I stopped hunting for all those odds and ends and I stopped packing/organizing for the trip.  Friday morning before I left for work Fox still looked hitchy in the front to my eyes but I figured that the Farrier Fairy K. coming out wasn't going to do any harm and she fit me in to her schedule for Friday afternoon.

K. arrived and she looked, she squinted, I walked and trotted Fox for her. K. said she really couldn't see this hitch I had been talking to her about.  Incidently when I'd arrived home that afternoon not only couldn't I see it but the persnickety beast jumped the then water filled ditch that runs down my small back pasture. Seriously?  This is the pony who had been gimping around all week. And now he was calling me a paranoid liar in front of my farrier.  Excellent.

K.  trimmed up his feet and we both discussed the possible work Fox would be doing over the weekend and that he would definetly need to go back in to his Easy Boots arena with footing or not.  I agreed and if it kept Fox sound I'd happily look like a dork eventing in trail boots.

The Clinic Day 1: 

Challenge Number 1:  Finding the farm.  My GPS can sometimes be lets say mentally challenged telling me too soon, too often, or too late when I should make a turn.  So I missed the turn in to Rose Equestrian's driveway the first time and had to find a suitable place for my long rig to turn around. A church parkinglot helped with that and we were soon settled in the trailer parking at the farm.

Challenge Number 2:  There is no shade in trailer parking and it's 11am in the middle of July.  But I have an awning. Which I have only rolled out at home with Superhubs directing.  I can do this!  Out came the awning and my wonderful pony who settled in to his plow horse routine happily hung out in its shade.

Challenge Number 3:  I belatedly discover that I need to change the gullet plate in the saddle I'll be riding in about 30 minutes before I need to be up at the arena.  Fan-freaking-tastic.  Dig for a screw driver, quick change, throw tack and gear on the pony, throw gear on myself, struggle into the field boots I only wear to big shows and off we go. Thankfully I wasn't the only one running late so only a little embarassment.

Challenge Number 4:  Because my horse is the greenest I will now automatically go first for every exercise.  Brilliant!  First exercise trot then canter through these ground poles.  *Gulp*  I've been cantering Fox a bit at home but not over poles yet.  Come on Wonder Pony!  And we successfully manage that.

Challenge Number 5:  This will be only the second time Fox has seen a real show jumping course will Wonder Pony rise to the occasion?  There were a few "EEK a SCARY FENCE!" moments but Fox made it over everything.  We made turns, steering can sometimes still be an issue, jumped things that Fox found scary and generally had a great time.

Challenge Number 6: Will Wonder Pony get back in to the trailer without fuss so I can leave him to watch the other lessons.  I'm quite sure I could have left him standing tied to the trailer without issues but for my own sanity I wanted him back in.  He made a try at being stubborn but after a few minutes he got back in settled in to eat hay and bask under his fan.

Challenge Number 7:  Do I submit to the jet blast of cold water in the barn's shower or go for a sponge and bucket bath?  I braved it, shrieking like a five year old girl, and managed to get all the sweat of the day off and wash my hair.

Clinic Day 2:

Challenge Number 1:  Again as I have the greenest horse we were the trail blazers for everything.  Could we improve on the day before and get Fox out of this immediate break check, peek at the fence then lurch over thing he'd been doing.  YES!  Judicious use of my jumping bat about two or three strides out had Wonder Pony rocking back, lifting his feet and actually producing a big boy jump. Who knew an actually jumper lurked in there?

Challenge Number 2: The Corner Jump.  EEEK! From both me and Fox.  I'd never jumped a corner, not even with Seneca so this was new and a bit scary, but we managed it.  I had to one hand the reins, the other swatting him on the butt but we leaped our first corner!

Challenge Number 3: Remaining silent and unresponsive when a couple of obviously not eventer people started making catty comments about a rider in the ring.  They were awful and the other eventer I was sitting with and I went dead silent and just tried to ignore them.

Challenge Number 4:  Managing to get my trailer turned around in a tight area without having to back up too much, AND without mangling either the truck, the trailer or anything else.  DID IT! So proud of that one.

So over all Fox and I had a fantastic weekend.  We learned alot about jumping, I learned alot about my pony and myself.  Dom was fabulous!  He was funny and informative.  He likes to not only tell you what to do but how to do it and why you're doing it.  As in doing A.  will produce this result and this is why and how it effects the over all ride.  He was tough but fair as long as you listened and tried to implement what he was teaching you.

Fox will now get about a month off as I deal with work trips and other vile things.  There will be grooming thrown in there but that's it until I get back in mid-August. Then we'll focus on flatwork and jumping basics with a goal of trying to go to a starter trial in October or November.

And yes I was an extreme fan girl. At the end of day two along with all the teenage riders I lined up so that Dom could sign my XC helmet.  I'm hoping he will come back again and we can show him how much we've improved.  And my eventing love has been sparked a bit more.  Keep it between the flags everyone.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Plan Meet Hoofprints

And as soon as I started getting all my plans in order Fox's ears pricked up and he threw his hoofprints all over them.  Thank you Amazing, Lame in Millisecond Pony! 

It's true I came home yesterday afternoon from work and while Superhubs and I were putting the groceries away I glanced out the glass inserts in the kitchen door that overlooks Fox's pasture.  Stare, stare, frown, frown harder.  Is he....God no!  He is!  At first he was just very slightly off, a minute hesitation in his walk.  Damn it.  Then I made the monumental mistake of thinking he might like a chance to graze on the lush grass of the front yard since his current pasture is more of a holding area to let the main pastures recover for a couple of weeks before they get grazed on again.

Silly me. What was I thinking trying to be kind to my horse.  Because even though his two best buddies were clearly right across the driveway.  He threw a tantrum and even after he mostly calmed down and stopped racing and leaping around the yard he still threw minor tantrums for the next hour. I finally decided that his screaming was more damaging than letting him have a few flakes of hay to keep him happy.  And when I went to fetch him he was even more off.

I had hoped the magical horse healing fairy would visit him in the night but no such luck he still looked gimpy this morning.  I felt him all over for heat, none, then I palpated his shoulder which he had tweaked once before.  For that I got angry faces, twitching, tail lashing and pawing.  I called my farrier out to make sure its not his foot(I wanted her to look at his hooves anyway he seems to be growing at a rate quicker than my other two horses) and I'm going to cold hose him as well as do some massage.  I am crossing my fingers that this thing resolves before Friday morning.  If it doesn't.  SIGH!! No clinic for us.  It's not like I didn't spend a scarily large amount of money to go which included the registration, the stall fees, the gas, the food, the replacement and augmenting of gear. Naww it's okay Pony Boy it's not like I reallly wanted to ride with Dom Schramm.

I swear he planned this.  Keep it between the flags everyone.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

A List, a Plan, a Journey

I am one of those people that is perfectly happy to do spontaneous a point.  If it involves a long trip, my horse, or packing more than one set of clothing there better be a plan involved somewhere. I haven't been driving my full rig of truck+trailer all that long. Yes I can get it in and out of the driveway which most times is the worst part of any trip and I can go various places with only a small amount of heart palpitations.  But hauling my trailer longer than an hour to a place I have never been fills me with a special kind of fear.  The kind of fear that screams for me to hide under the bed and never come out. A plan, a solid plan with back up plans is the only way that I have learned to keep the brain eating fear demons at bay.

I have a little less than a week until I must load the red pony and trek the 2.5 hours west in preparation for the Dom Schramm clinic. This weekend because I couldn't ride (don't ask just way too many factors got in the way including Hurricane Arthur) so what did I do? I obsessed. I cleaned the inside of my trailer, took out all those things that get thrown in there but really don't need to be there, I organized  everything in to neat and tidiness, I drove to Wal-Mart and bought 2 battery operated fans to keep Fox cool, I raided my hay/storage shed for things I don't use on a regular basis like shipping boots and stall guards.  In short my anxiety got channeled in to cleaning and farm chores.  Whilst the red pony and his barn mates the Crack Beast, and the Brown Hippo(she is so massive right now I cut her grain in half) grazed on summer grass I cleaned the inside of my house, did dishes, put a crockpot meal together, made cupcakes from scratch, mowed every concievable piece of lawn/pasture that needed it and groomed both Fox and Seneca.  Oh yeah and I started doing the massive amounts of horse laundry to include my three best saddle pads, Fox's fly sheet which also needs mending, and a couple of other odds and ends. Plus I loaded both Fox (to make sure he wouldn't spaz about the fan I put in for his comfort on the trip) and Seneca (Just to keep her on her toes and make sure that in an emergency like a bigger, badder hurricane headed our way, that I could load her.)

I did all this on Sunday because Saturday I felt like total crap from having spent the night before tossing and turning trying to get comfortable on the folding cot I set-up in my office for when I have duty and have to spend the night at the command babysitting.  I forgot to grab my camp mat and as I have bony hips and am well past my teens I had a rough night and paid for it on Saturday.

So what does the rest of my week look like?  Well lots more things to do.  I wasn't able to wrangle Friday off of work like I wanted so I could spend a leisurely morning doing the final packing and make a nice unstressed trip to Powhatan. So instead I have to pack my trailer on Thursday evening with everything but the hay I'm taking, then Friday as soon as Superhubs gets home with the truck he'll hitch it up for me so that I when I get home a couple hours later I can just load the pony and go.

Which still leaves me with washing the outside of the trailer, packing my own clothing/tack/gear, double checking that I have things like feed, supplements, water buckets ect, bathing Fox on Thursday evening and throwing Seneca's fly sheet on him to keep his clean for the journey, and oh yeah last but not least actually riding my horse!

I did get to ride earlier last week despite the awful heat.  I did a fitness ride following Jimmy Woffords fitness for event horses plan.  We can easily do 9 minutes of trot with 2 minutes of walk between each 3 minute set.  And, and AND! We cantered! not for huge stretches of time but I asked and Fox gave without a whole lot of fuss.  So now I know where the canter button on my horse is. I just need to ride him a few times this week to make sure that button is fully functioning before we go to the clinic so that we don't embarass ourselves.

A couple of my friends are planning to come to the clinic so hopefully we'll have some awesome photos from our adventure! Until then keep it between the flags everyone!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hail the Conquering Pony!

Saturday, saturday, saturday how shall I recount thee with appropriate wonder and awe?  As best I can so here goes.  Saturday was to be Fox's first foray in to being an event horse. The day before I really did want to ride him to refresh his memory about being a properly behaved boy but fate is a fickle mistress. While Thursday the weather was clear I put riding to the side so I could get deep in to making from scratch cupcakes for a friend's birthday. I deeply regretted not riding first and staying up late to do the cupcakes because Friday it poured just before I got home. But I decided not to care about it because it was the Intro B dressage test and 18 fences.  Which I decided meant 6 or so little cross rails this assumption would come back to haunt me on the actual day. So I packed the trailer carefully, refreshed Fox's memory of dutifully getting in the trailer when asked, set out my clothes for the next day and went to bed at a reasonable hour.

 The day of the CT dawned grey and overcast. I sent up a hope that it wouldn't pour on us, packed the pony in the trailer and off we went. I wasn't worried about doing the dressage test or the jumping my overall anxiety lay with how Fox would react to being out and about without Cowboy his security blanket for all things off the farm.  But Fox quickly put my fears to rest by happily settling in at the trailer with his hay bag and other than looking around a bit going in to his plow horse routine.

The dressage test went fairly well all the mistakes that were made were mine and Fox stayed quiet, obediant and all four feet where I asked him to put them.  I was crooked on the centerline both times, blew the second halt, my circles were rather egg shaped but overall it was good and we earned a 37.2 which put us 4th.  Stadium wasn't for an hour and half so I untacked and left Fox munching his hay while I chatted with friends and went to look over the jump course.

It was...not what I expected.  The fences were indeed 18inches but they were not cross rails but rather the actual fancy show jumps just lower.  9 efforts in all of panel fences, lattices, flower boxes and every crazy color you can think of. This was going to be a real test to see if Fox could put his big boy pants on. Soon enough it was time to tack up again and head to the warm up area. Fox hesitated over the very first fence put a pop with my jumping bat and he hopped over quickly enough. After that he was great and even cantered a bit.

Then it was time to circle before the in gate.  Fox was a bit up and didn't want to stand still but I didn't mind because his idea of being up is to huff loudly and fidget rather the Cowboy's idea of being up which usually means literally that as in only two feet touching the ground. Finally it was our turn and we went out to do our first stadium course as a partnership.  On the whole it was good with only a few little issues.  I could Fox's eyes get huge at the colorful jumps and for the first one he did hesitate and wimble womble in front of it before finally stepping over.  The second fence though he did a full on stop, no I don't wanna and I actually had to circle and present again at which point he decided to hop over.  The rest of the course went better and he looked but went over everything else without too much fuss.

Afterwards with much praising I left him at the trailer to munch hay while I sat ring side with friends watching other friend's rounds and chatting about horses, lives and various injuries.  While we were sitting there a horse broke loose behind us and from the direction of the "loose horse" calls it was obvious it was either Fox or his nearest neigbor.  I got up to check and the culprit, not Fox, trotted around the end of the row of trailers.  It had been his neighbor but I went to make sure he wasn't trying to make a break for himself only to find him casually watching the fuss and munching his hay.  I so love that horse. I could never have left Seneca unattended and I wouldn't want to leave Cowboy unattended because he can be very naughty when he's bored. But Fox is completely happy standing tied at the trailer and lazing away the afternoon.

Later after the rounds were all done I went to check the scores and pick up my dressage test and I found that despite our refusal we had finished 3rd over all!  Fox's first ribbon! I was esctactic though you can see from the photo that Fox was completely blaise about his win and even somewhat annoyed because it was interfereing with his hay munching.  After much fussing over him I retacked him up and went out to find some riders to school XC with because Fox is still very anxious about being by himself.

We schooled various fences with a couple of younger girls on more advanced horses.  The only fence that was a real issue was the dog house and only because Fox clipped the thing and sent a piece of it's roof in to the grass.  One of the mothers that were supervising the girls put it back and because I worried about Fox injuring himself I took him off to jump something less scary which he did and even cantered away from it. And I made that the end of our day and went back to the trailer to untack, pack up and go home. 

There were bobbles here and there throughout the day but it was a good experience. I feel that trust was created on both sides. I learned to trust Fox to stand quietly at the trailer and he learned to trust me to take him someplace scary and show him that it was an okay place to be. Our goal over the next two weeks before we go off to the Dom Schramm clinic is to work on our cantering.  I need to trust Fox and start asking him for it rather than waiting for him to give it.

So with our yellow ribbon fluttering we kick on and ride forward.  Keep it between the flags everyone.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Crazy Wonderful

This past Saturday was supposed to be Fox's debut in the show ring. We were going to do our best Faux Hunter Princess impression and strut it at a local show.  This time thankfully I do not have to chalk up our lack of appearance due to a certain horse's disinterest in getting in to the trailer.  No this time the weather blew in and the coordinators cancelled the show.

I did however have a fantastic school on Friday. The weather held off and it was pretty decently dry in my riding area. I set up a couple of warm up cross rails, then two cross rails in a line with an unrelated distance because I was sure given Fox's plow horse tendencies we weren't going to be setting any land speed records, making distance a non-issue.

We practiced a lot of walk to trot transitions, something he's getting better about and also trying to get lots of impulsion at the trot, something he's not so great about. We did lots of changes of direction and circles to try and get some softness and suppleness.  Fox is actually getting really good at giving to the bit though Friday he was a little crabby about it because I'd taken more of a hold then I usually do. But once he realized we were jumping he ceased to care about the contact.

The first couple of jumps were kinda eh. More of a wake-up there is something in front of you which you need to step over.  And once I stopped looking at the fence (old bad habit I am still trying to shake) then he was better at picking up his feet. 

The best part though and as usual Superhubs who was cleaning out his truck missed it.  On the last run through of the line Fox actually cantered off after the second fence!  Six strides even!  I was a little surprised but I softened and forced myself not to panic and not to pull.  Which is my standard fall back reaction when my horse gives me an upward transition that I didn't ask for.  This all goes back to my issues with Seneca who could and did try to run off with me at least once a ride. But I'm slowly learning that my plow horse usually (there was that one time at the park when he lost sight of Cowboy) doesn't harbor those kinds of thoughts in his head.  He's more like that surfer who smoked half a dozen joints and won't get off the couch unless absolutely forced to.

But all this is not the Crazy Wonderful for which I named the post.  I found out some time last week when I was crusing the Central Virginia Combined Training Association's facebook page that Dom Schramm was coming to give a clinic at a farm about 2.5 hours from me.  Que the super fan girl squeal! Originally I was just going to go audit. Because I was sure there wouldn't be any spots open, or any stalls available, or a level for which I thought Fox and I could enter with confidence.

But being me I was curious so I emailed the coordinator.  Yes they did still have one spot left. In the INTRO SECTION! And the barn did still have one stall available! I could not believe my luck. I hesitated for a second before telling the coordinator  Yes please! When she asked if I wanted to the spot. 

I am as I told my friends both anxious and excited.  Anxious because when I have to take my full rig somewhere I have never been I always get nervous.  What if the driveway had a really narrow opening? Where was parking going to be? In a nice open field or somewhere less parking friendly? I'm not going to have to back up am I? AM I!?  At which point that more sane part of my brain kicked in.

You can already get your trailer in to the narrowest driveway on the planet that has ugly drop offs in to nasty ditches on both sides.  If you're in a field no problems, if not ask for help.  Backing up, if you feel you can't, again just ask for help.  Eventers are super nice people no need to panic.  Yeah my heart rate is still freaking out just writing this.

Also will the Super Plow Horse and I be able to perform all the exercises and not embarass ourselves? This is where my plan to train for the clinic kicks in. I know it sounds weird but if I expose Fox to grids and say 2ft fences now we should be cracking along by the time we have to do it in front of Dom Schramm.  And there is the whole cantering thing.  I need to strengthen the Plow Horse's butt so we can I don't know actually canter around an entire arena. 

So with all those plans made there is only one more question.  What are Fox and I going to where? Keep it between the flags everyone.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

All the Little Things

So lots of stuff that has happened over the last couple weeks.  I was able to ride the Red Plowhorse as I like to call him or Prince of Ponies or the Red Rogue Pony when he's being naughty or throwing a tantrum.  But usually it's the "I was a Clydesdale in a previous life" pony and not one of those cool ones that pulls the beer wagon but one the ones that you see standing in a field waiting patiently and happily for his farmer to stop jawing with the neighbors so they can get back to plowin.

But I was able to ride him last week before Superhubs and I went down to Charlotte, NC.  Our trip was a two fold manuever. Months back I had bought Superhubs a package where he could drive a real NASCAR race car around a real track.  And then he wanted to do it again at another track. We chose the Charlotte Motorspeedway because we potentially might be moving near there when I finally get free of the evil blue beast that owns me right now better known as the Navy.

I have my eye on Monroe, NC because it's an easy drive from Charlotte and it's two hours from Aiken and an hour and a half or so from the Carolina Horse Park.  Sounds perfect to me.  Superhubs wants Mooresville because it's where the mother ship of Lowes Corporate is docked.  While Mooresville has lovely rolling countryside and also not a bad drive to Charlotte its 3hrs or more from both CHP and Aiken.  No.  Not just no, hell no.  I swore after living in the furthest part of VA from all HT's that I would not live more than two hours from either Aiken or CHP.  I can deal with losing distance to one but not both.

I want to live in a horsey concentrated area. I want neighbors to trail ride/train/event with all three would be nice but any one of those would be awesome.  I want to live in a place that it doesn't take a miracle to get a great clinician out to.  A friend and I were just discussing after seeing that Dom Schramm would be giving a clinic about 3hrs from us what it would take to get him out to us. At least three months of planning, aggressive advertising and a lot of begging around for enough eventers in my area. Damn the Navy why can't they have a Navy base in Aiken? I'm sure there's a lake out there big enough for Admiral So and So to park his Air Craft Carrier in.

Superhubs and I also did a lot of other fun stuff including a food tour.  If you've never done one, DO IT! Delicious food, new friends, history and usually lots of wine/beer/mixed drinks. This is where we booked ours. Awesome woman who owns the business and does a lot of the tours.  We also visited the US White Water Center, totally cool and we saw a movie in a theater that had not only a resturante that served you while you watched the movie but a full bar!

Back to the horsey side of things. We returned last Sunday but I didn't have to go back to work until Wednesday.  Monday I spent being a house slug. But Tuesday I planned ahead fed early, got some housework done, then rode the pony.  Usually not a big deal except this would mark the first time I would ride without Superhubs being home.  I had a ton of stuff to get done in the afternoon and sometimes by the time Superhubs would roll home I'd lose all my motivation.  So pulling on my big girl pants I tacked up and got on.

If it had been the High Queen I was swinging a leg over I probably wouldn't have ridden alone.  But Fox when he's doing his Plow Horse routine is pretty unflappable.  I decided that if he acted like an ass while I was grooming and tacking up I'd just turn him back out and wait for Superhubs. But he behaved himself and we actually (despite the over 80 degree and stifling humidity weather) had a really great dressage school. Lots of bending, changing direction and practicing the test for the CT.

What else is on the horizon for us? Well the perfect opportunity to take Fox off the farm to a place with other horses that weren't either of his farm mates presented itself. Two local h/j associations are doing a double show at a place about an hour from me this weekend. One of the associations is very...Hunter Princess. The other is more laid back.  The laid back one had THE perfect class for us.  A Beginner Hunter Over Fences class whose 4 baby fences max at 18 inches!  Yes this is perrrrfect!  This situation will almost completely mirror what we will be doing in two weeks.

 And Superhubs will be able to come with as the official photog/videographer/driver.  I have an absolute terror of taking my full rig to a place I haven't been before or at least eye balled for parking. I am always afraid I'll put it someplace I won't be able to get out of and have EEEK! back up.  *shudder*
So Superhubs will take that anxiety off my shoulders. Not that I haven't taken my rig out solo to unknown venues but all of them I had double checked that they could easily accomodate larger rigs ie they had massive fields to park in so that even if I got there late there was always a large space for me to manuever in.

I need to pop the pony over some more cross rails today or tomorrow just to give him a refresher and he needs to load in the trailer a few times to make sure we don't have any issues there either.  But all in all I think this is going to be awesome. Despite having to become a Faux Hunter Princess and infiltrate their ranks, although I REFUSE to wear a jacket (not required but idiots will do it anyway, its going to be in the mid to high 80's with mad humidity for the love of all things sacred!)

Until we return from the alien planet of Hunter/Jumpers keep it between the flags everyone!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Baby Steps

I admit between work and weather I lost my motivation again for a little bit. But somewhere during my 24hr watch (babysitting the buildings so wild hooligans don't destroy it) I found it again.  Mostly I have to thank Facebook otherwise how would I have known that one of the local Pony Club's was having a combined test only about an hour away from me?

The event is at the end of June so not much time to prepare but I am at this point only taking Fox in to the Grasshopper division which maxes out at 18" and the dressage test is the Intro B which I've done a hundred times at least and there is no cantering in that test.  The sweet bonus? I can school the XC course after the combined test. WIN WIN!

This will however be one of Fox's first forays on his own and I have a bit of anxiety about that, wondering just how my super unmotivated but clingy pony is going to deal with going some place by himself. I'm thinking I need to trailer Fox out a couple times by himself and see what we see.

And a trip to Lowes is in order to pick up some landscaping timbers with which to make jump poles. The PVC as I stated previously isn't gaining Fox's respect and he just barely picks his feet up over them. Even though we will only be doing the 18" course I want Fox to start using himself more rather than just doing the Plow Horse Amble dance.

I could have chosen the 2ft division or Kangaroo division which if Fox's attitude towards picking his feet up improves I might still do but I really, really want him to have a good experience so unless he developes some springs we'll trot along over the smaller fences and make it a good day.

And of course no new endeavor should be embarked upon without a new piece of gear. This would probably be the reason I have something like 9 bridles and only one horse that is rideable for me. But that thought didn't stop me from ordering a new fly bonnet for Fox with a custom monogram for Midnight Hill Eventing!  We are going to look fabulous when we strut our hopefully calm and collected stuff at the combined trial!

Hooray for an attainable goal that will hopefully propel us on to bigger and more exciting things! Keep it between the flags everyone!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mugging Monday

Even though it's Tuesday I took this photo yesterday.  All day Fox had been acting strange or strange for him. Usually the screamer is Seneca the Drama Queen. But yesterday when I tried to be extra loving and put him out in the front yard where the grass is lush and green he screamed every 10 minutes because OMG! I cannot see the mare! 

Even though Fox was in a strange mood I was determined to ride anyway.  Other than a few tenative attempts early on to find all of Fox's buttons I hadn't done an real ring work with him.  Mostly as previous posts have attested I have just been seriously unmotivated. That needed to end. If I ever want to event Fox I need to stop lazing around when I have the time and weather to school my horse.

So mood be damned I was going to ride. I just had to wait for Superhubs to get home because even though Fox is perfectly trust worthy my two accidents (both while Superhubs was thankfully home) have convinced me that riding alone is a no-go.  So when the man returned from work I went out in to the pasture to reset the jumps that Cowboy had pushed over.  Its always fun having my very own Pasture Poltergeist!  While I was setting the jumps to rights Fox pretty much stalked me around the pasture and when I took my phone out he became instantly insanely curious which is how I ended up with the Fox selfie above.

Our ride was actually pretty good. Other than screaming at Seneca a couple of times Fox behaved himself and did most of what I asked.  He did have a few moments of stubborn/laziness.  The first time I tried to pop him over the extremely low cross rails he bumped them with his feet.  Seriously?  They were like 18inches high!  But he did go over which we were having an issue with in the fall.  And we did some bending circles and lots of walk breaks as Fox is not that fit right now.

Then after a little post ride grooming I loaded him in the trailer without fuss and then put him away for the evening.  Although I did strip his halter off because Mr. Sensitive was having all his facial hair rubbed off.

Right now I am aiming for a low key H/J show in mid-July.  But to do that we need to be at least trotting 2'3" which is the height of the two classes I want to enter Fox in.  So that's the goal right now.  To get there I think I need to invest in some real jump poles. Fox isn't exactly respecting the PVC poles I have right now. Seneca on the other hand never wanted to touch anything but she was also more naturally forward than Fox.  I may just have to break out the spurs.  Until next time keep it between the flags everyone!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Eventing Training Old School Style

(Fox and I at the Genito Trail Head)

Last Saturday Superhubs and I packed our two boys and headed out to the beautiful Genito Horse Trails in La Crosse, Virginia.  Its about a three hour drive during which Superhubs and I passed the time listening one of two series of books on tape that we both enjoy.  If you haven't read or listened to the Janet Evanovich "Stephanie Plum" series then go do it!  Its hilarious!

Anyway after finding our way to a parking spot next to my trail riding friend Laina and her lovely Friesian/TWH cross Harry, Superhubs and I unloaded the boys who looked around for 2.5 seconds then proceeded to be plow horses eating at their hay bags.  So nice to have horses that don't fuss in new places.

Then soon enough it was saddle up time! I didn't know what to expect not having ridden at Genito before but I'd been told their were lots of rocky places. So on went Fox's Easy Boots, though I ran out of the special tape the Farrier Fairy gave me to make the boots have an ultra secure fit. This would come back to bite me later, and needless to say I went out and bought some yesterday.

The terrain was varried with lots of soft dirt trails through meadows and pine forrest, up and down hills and some small banks in the early parts of the first half of the trail.  There were no bridges in the first half which Fox hadn't liked the last time we went out trail riding last Fall. But there was a water crossing with a steep bank descent to the creek side.  Harry crossed without fuss, Cowboy followed after a second's hesitation at the bank but Fox stalled then stopped.  Errr!  But I'd been prepared this time and left Fox's halter on underneath his bridle and had brought a lead line.  So off I hopped, clipped on the lead line walked down and then in to the water. Fox followed submissively after as if to say "I just wanted you to make sure it was safe first Mom."

Somewhere between the creek crossing and some heavy clay mud the boot without the hoof tape on it came off.  Not good.  Superhubs was going to go back for it, but Laina volunteered saying it would be faster.  Superhubs, the boys and I chilled in the shade while Laina retrieved Fox's wayward boot.  I reapplied it and on we went.

More up and down hills, some of them I even got Fox the trotting fiend to canter up!  That is an achievement for the world's least mostivated ex-racehorse. We halted for lunch, which was the standard grilled out fair of hotdogs, hamburgers, soda and water.  Fox, Cowboy and Harry got a bit of grazing done and then we were off again.

By this time we'd been riding for four hours or more.  I was tired, Fox was tired, and the security of Fox's boot had me and Superhubs deciding to try and find our way along the short trail back to the trailer rather than another three hours on the long trail.  Laina gave us directions and we parted ways.  Which would have been great if Superhubs and I had a lick of directional sense between us.

We ended up riding along a two lane road where Fox had his first encounter with Seneca's nemesis, COWS!  They weren't close up to the fenceline that ran along the road otherwise I think Fox would have been more upset.  He didn't lose his mind like Seneca would have but he definitely gave those cows some long hard looks. Eventually we saw some other trail riders crossing the road ahead of us and we decided to fall in behind them.  Laina caught up to us there. Somehow our jaunt down the road had short cutted us in front of her.

It is at this point that my love for Fox grew even deeper.  Cowboy was leading but we came upon a huge, steep decline down a hill.  Cowboy decided at that moment that he'd used up all his bravery points and would someone else please go first.  Okay says I, we can do this.  I nudged Fox and he took a long moment to eye the steep hill then very carefully began picking his way down, Cowboy fell in behind us. My SUPER BRAVE PONY! I so wish I'd gotten a picture of that hill, it was truly an ugly descent.

But Fox's bravery didn't stop there.  He crossed the one and only bridge, FIRST, with no horses to lead the way in front of him and then the piece de resistance!  Another water crossing.  We were all supposed to walk in to the creek then walk down stream to the easier up bank.  Fox walked calmly in to the water, then Harry, then Cowboy.  Fox was busy doing his impression of a camel when two other riders who didn't want to go in to the water(one of the horses had a history of rolling in creeks) came along and I pointed out the narrow but there path to another crossing further up.  They passed us and Harry took that as permission to leave the water and follow them, which Cowboy did as well. Fox was still filling his second hump with water when he looked up and realized he was being left behind.  I did try to point him at the bank but the horse who wouldn't even cross water in the Fall, and needed a lead across earlier in the day suddenly become a sea horse and forged his way down stream to rejoin his group.  He even gave a little call to tell the others, "Look at me!  I can trot through water like a real event horse!"

There were a few other obsticales but nothing as major as creek or the steep down hill escapade. But the best, the very best, and one of the reasons I love, love, love my pint size OTTB!  After we got back to the trailer, untacked, checked everybody for sores, rubs, and cuts, then made sure they had their fill of water Superhubs and I decided to load up before we partook of the free dinner being provided to the riders.

This was always the moment of truth with the High Queen, will she or won't she?  I grabbed my chain lead shank (Only there to provide a little extra nudge) and the little green feed bucket I always bring with a handful of either the boy's grain or some alfalfa pellets.  I made sure Fox knew I had the bucket, then walked around to get him pointed at the trailer door. At this point he was trying to mug me for the grain.  Then I strode off, head up, jumped in to the trailer and without a second's hesitation my beloved red pony hopped in after.  YES!  He got a mouthfull of grain, then secured in the first stall of the trailer.  I handed off the bucket to Superhubs who attempted to get Cowboy on.  Ehhhhhh. Wrong answer Sir.  Cowboy balked.

I didn't want to be amused but I was so freaking happy that it wasn't my horse causing the issue this time.  Superhubs tried for a few more minutes before handing me the leadline.  I swapped his leadline for the chain shank, shook the bucket then walked in to the trailer.  Still no go.  Bucket shake, shake dance.  Cowboy got half way in then stalled for a few minutes.  I slid the bucket under the divider to give Fox a mouthful which he crunched loudly, and then Cowboy got all the way in.  Never underestimate the food motivated and jealous gelding.

All in all we rode close to 15 miles that day. At the end we had two tired ponies, one sore Superhubs, and a very happy me.  On the ride home I was thinking about what eventing training things I might squeeze in to my schedule then realized I just had.  All the things Fox and I had done today required endurance, bravery and trust,  three big things all eventers need.  Plus alot of the things we did I would also see on a XC course, water crossing, up and down banks, and lots of spooky stuff.  By summer's end we'll be ready and fit to go out and really do a XC course. Yippee!

Keep it between the flags everyone.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Motivation or Why I Need a Team

(Fox sporting his new trace clip and getting ready for a trail ride with Superhubs and Cowboy)

I realized this morning while goofing off catching up at work that I hadn't posted in awhile. Lately I've been thinking about the importance of goals and their impact on motivation which further has sway over my own self confidence.

I'll admit it I am not a self confident person, I'm not assertive, or outgoing. Which is one of the reasons that eventing appeals to me so much. It forces me to find my confidence, be assertive(even if it's only with my horse)and with the gregariousness of the eventing community I don't need to be outgoing I just need to sit still and eventers usually fall all over themselves to help, give a friendly word or throw out an enthusiastic good job!

So when this link to a blog on COTH popped up in my Facebook feed I was intrigued, clicked, read and felt a sense of connection with the writer.  This blog by Kristen Carpenter Plugging Away in a Program really made me realize the importance of a Team, whether that team is a barn crew, a coach, your vet box pit crew, or just a group of friends on horses at a similiar level.

And looking back over the last six years the most forward momentum I had with getting toward my ulitmate goal which is to complete a recognized BN event was when I took once a month lesson's with Chris.  But then he moved away due to personal reasons, Seneca went in to lame/pasture status and I was in limbo not knowing if Seneca would ever be sound and if not what did I want to do about my riding?

Enter Fox, LOVE!, and I suddenly had a new horse but no coach and most of my friend's horses we're all going at levels way above us. Then throw in a horrendous winter, my job taking a turn that I didn't expect that requires me to spend with it and the fact that I haven't been taking any regular lessons.

Swirl all this together and I get the realization that I need to find my own team.  I need other eventers with tadpole level horses, I need a good coach to motivate me, help me to be brave, and move me forward.  I need a group of people to go to HT's with even if it's only to make sure I can get my trailer out of anywhere I park it(I cannot tell you how much anxiety I have about getting my rig stuck some place, or EEEK backing up, although watching Dom Schram's video on that subject has bolstered my confidence a little.) Find that great video right here at Eventiontv's YouTube page, Overcoming TRA.

So I will be spending the spring trying to find a coach that I can really connect with, along with taking some dressage lessons from a GP rider around the corner from my farm.

What's going on other than epiphanies about Teams?  Well this weekend Super hubs and I are supposed to be going on a group trail ride with our trail riding club.  I may or may not be riding. Sunday afternoon when the weather got decent I put Fox in the side pasture.  He was fine for about five minutes, grazing happily and then he realized he couldn't see Seneca.  Screaming, flailing, flying up and down the fence.  I just let him do it, sort of like letting a toddler cry himself out.  He quieted down after awhile and went back to grazing.  But the damage had been done, I just didn't know it yet.

The Fabulous Farrier Fairy came out yesterday and Super hubs was on hand to hold the horses for her.  Fox was not exactly welcoming.  Apparently he tweaked a muscle in his right shoulder when he was running around and when K. went to pull his right leg forward on to the stand so she could round his hoof out with a rasp he protested violently.

When I got home I went to catch Fox who was out in the side pasture so he could get tucked in with his dinner next to the other horses.  I watched his movement and sighed unhappily. He was now gimpy on the right and feeling around he was a bit flinchy high up between his wither and the big muscle above the knee.  I gave him some bute and told Super hubs that if Fox wasn't sound I'd leave him home but still go with Super hubs and Cowboy so they could at least enjoy the day.

Here's to capricious horses and keeping it between the flags. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Eventing Wonderland

Today I finally got home from my trip to watch the Carolina CIC.  From my first minutes in Southern Pines I was immersed in the eventing culture that we all love so much.

After a quick stop in Jacksonville to pick up my mother who was accompanying me on this trip we pulled in to Pinehurst dropped our luggage and immediately headed back out in search of food.   We intended to go to Chili's but accidently wandered in to Bone Fish Grill instead.  And man am I glad that I did.  Not only was it full of eventers, but just as we were being shown to our table Jimmy Wofford walked in! Then I had to try explain to my mother why I was practically bouncing out of my chair and craning my neck like a Justin Beiber fan who has just sighted the object of their obsession.

Ever try to explain to a non-eventer why Jimmy Wofford is a big deal?  It got complicated, but onwards with my story. After a good night's sleep Mom and I availed ourselves of the free hotel breakfast where I smiled over a parent's excitement over bringing their daughter all the way from Texas for their first 1*.

Then we headed over to the horse park.  After pulling out my fancy shmancy camera and some folding chairs Mom and I went over to start the day with show jumping.  As I am settling in to the bleacher seating I glance up and HOLY MOTHER OF EVENTING!  David O'Connor!  Again with the trying to look casual and still watch the eventing God.

Can you tell I've never been to a really big recognized event?  After watching some amazing show jumping Mom and I walked over to check out some cross country action.  Since my Mom's rhumatory arthritis makes it harder for her to walk and I didn't want my Mom witnessing a possible accident I plunked us down near the beginning of the course at the Stone Henge complex.

Loads of talented people flashing by on gleaming horses. I didn't get a whole lot of great photos from that position, too many things between me and the horses and because of the way the course ran it would be almost impossible to stand anywhere safetly.

Sunday dawned colder but the rain was supposed to hold off until the afternoon.  More free breakfast then off to the horse park.  The day before my mother had overhead the announcer talking about a rider who had gotten ditched in to the water jump. "I want to see that!" She exclaimed.  Seriously? I've created a monster.  So Sunday we found ourselves a spot by the water jump.  But I soon realized that the spot for spectators was great for watching but sucked for photos.  Looking around I spotted a couple of professional photographers and being bolder than I normally am made my way over to hang out with them.  Two of the ladies were from Brant Gamma photography, the other was a hobbyist with an awesome camera that I grilled her about.

Again tons of fantastic riders and lovely horses doing their thing and making the water complex look easy.  Not only did I see my most favorite rider Sinead Halpin galloping past but Karen O'Connor and Marilyn Little.  Through out the day I also spotted Ryan Wood, Buck Davidson, Sharon White, Charles Plumb, Doug Payne, Michael Powell, and jeez too many eventing Gods and Goddesses to count.

The whole experience was one I will always remember. The staff were friendly and helpful, the venue was great, the food was excellent and you can't fault the scenery.  Below are some of my favorite shots from the weekend.  Enjoy and keep it between the flags everyone.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Star Struck

I had a few minutes down time at work and decided to cruise over to the Entry Status on the Carolina CIC*** page just to see which riders were going to be there. Can you tell how excited I am!

I was scrolling through the list and saw not only is Dom Schram(SQUEEL!) going to be there, love his and Jimmie's videos, but my long time idol, the one and only Sinead Halpin will be there with the phenom New Forrest Pony, Forest Nymph aka Farrah, but Sinead will be riding Manoir de Carnival aka Tate in the ***

HOLY GODS of Eventing!!  I have followed Sinead's career since I saw her on an episode of that short lived eventing series on HRTV. But I've never been able to make it to an event where I might actually see her ride without a TV or computer screen between us.  I am soooo excited I can barely stand still. 

There will definitely be some photo stalking and if I can get a chance to have my photo taken with Sinead, or lets face it I'd be just as happy with Tate, I think I could probably die a happy woman.

There will be lots of other famousy eventers there, Kim Severson, Doug Payne, Will Faudree, and what's that guys name again? Oh yeah Boyd Martin.  I cannot wait for my adventure to begin! 

Until next time I am definitely doing a happy dance between the flags! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Look Its Spring...No wait

And yet another try at riding Fox goes awry.  This past Saturday I had to work so no riding got done, though I did stop at the tack store on the way home and indulged in one of my obsessions, horsey socks.  I've become quite the conniseur over the years and I have my favorites but I'm always willing to try some new brands.  I picked out a fun pair to wear at the CIC*** in a few weeks, and a more working pair.

Sunday superhubs and lazed around in the morning ate blueberry pancakes and generally did nothing until noon.  At which point it was warm enough to pull the horses blankets and let them be naked for the day.  Superhubs and I pretty much finished the new run-in shed although Cowboy will be enjoying the sole use of it until his head has healed. 

Which is where the major issue of the day originated.  When Cowboy got hurt I shifted Fox over to Seneca's pasture.  I did not want to do this.  Even only sharing a fence line my two OTTB's are far too attached to one another. But it hadn't been a problem before.  Well Fox having been living with Seneca for nearly two weeks has decided she is the sun, the moon and all the stars.

So when I decided to ride Fox yesterday as it was nearly 70 degrees and there was snow and more crappy weather forcasted for the rest of the week he pitched a royal fit.  He screamed, she screamed, she raced up and down the fenceline despite Cowboy being in the pasture right next to hers.  At one point I had to turn Fox loose in one the empty pastures so he could tire himself out.  He raced around like a maniac for ten minutes then stared longingly at the other horses.  I forced him back to being tied at the trailer and when he still wouldn't behave I got the chain shank out and we took a little walk where I made him pay attention to me. 

At this point I knew I wasn't going to ride him that day and even lunging would have ended in an ugly argument.  But I didn't totally give up. I made Fox stand at the trailer while I pulled half his mane(something I've needed to do for awhile since he, like Seneca, has wild, thick, jungle mane) and afterwords we practiced his trailer loading skills.  Then I tossed him back in the pasture where he paced for a little while before settling down.  If the weather weren't so freaking crappy I'd put him in the furthest pasture from Seneca and leave him there until he remembers that the human is to be respected and life will not end if we lose sight of the mare.

Which is exactly what I will be doing as soon as the weather clears.  Solitary confinement may seem mean, but its better for both myself and Fox.  I have no tolerance for a herd bound horse and he absolutely wasn't like this when he was pastured with Cowboy.  So I know he can put his big boy pants on, its making him realize that he needs to that is the problem.

I made my hotel reservations for the CIC*** YEA!  And though my two friends probably won't be able to go I invited my mom who, though not a horse person, seems excited by the prospect of spending time with me.

Keep it between the flags everyone, even if they are encrusted with snow!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Update on Cowboy's Progression Towards Healing

Because I leave at a Gods awful hour of the morning that should be reserved for dreaming about cross country fences snug in my bed under the down comforter I don't get to see my horses very clearly some days as its too dark and a head lamp doesn't do my horses justice sometimes.

So I try very hard to be home before dark, I don't always manage it, but yesterday I made it home with just a little bit of daylight left.  I immediately threw off my uniform and tossed on farm chore clothes so I could go do Cowboy's daily wound cleaning.  That and his new, tougher, higher denier blanket arrived from Dover.  He's already mangled his other 150 weight blanket, it's not totally ruined but it's got some sizeable tears that will have to be patched before another horse can wear it.

I, like alot of horse people am a blanket nazi.  It has to last, it has to be tough, and it has to stand the test of Cowboy who is really the only one of the three who regularly tries to deconstruct his clothing.  Cowboy is now sporting an Amigo Bravo 1200 Lite/Medium blanket which is a 100 weight.  I like these alot. I have one for Fox, which used to be Cowboy's before he grew a bit. So far neither gelding has managed to destroy it.  So Fox and Cowboy have their Amigo Bravos, and Seneca is sporting on the cold but not freezing days an Amigo Mio 150 weight, 600 denier blanket.  Which is great for her, not too heavy, and she's never been a blanket mangler.  On the really, really cold days the boys get another layer, and Seneca gets switched in to her Weatherbeeta, mid-weight(250 gram), neck to tail blanket. I want to say it's a Landa, but can't recall for sure.  It's got a fancy diamond weave to the outer shell and so far it's been doing a great job.  Horseware is my go to brand, love the T buckles, and the durability (the Mio's not withstanding, but Cowboy is really rough on his clothes, so I'll give it a B rating), but I also love Weatherbeeta.  I have a turn-out sheet that I can't even remember how long I've had it, and as long as its not pouring is still doing a decent job of protecting the ponies.

But enough blanketing obsession and back to Cowboy's head wound.  Last night it looked, and smelled loads better.  The wound is starting to scab over (our recent drier weather has helped), it's oozing less fluid, and while there is still a bit of a bad smell it's not like the previous days where I could smell Cowboy from four feet away.  He still has some swelling in the area, but he's acting like the wound is a bit itchy. Cowboy tried to rub his face against my hands while I was cleaning him up. I'm taking that as a good sign.

Until the next bit of farm chaos, keep it between the flags everyone.