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.