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!