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!