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!