Saturday, October 22, 2011

Life after Fair Hill

Life after Fair Hill isn’t much different than life before Fair Hill, except that now my hunger for and love of this sport has tripled. After seeing the quality of horses and riders, not to mention grooms, that was at FHI, I want nothing more than to continue to learn and progress in this sport and maybe, possibly, compete in an FEI event one day. Until then, I’ll be quite content just grooming at them. The atmosphere is unrivaled and I learned an immeasurable amount just by being there, watching and soaking it all up. Even though our week/end turned out to be disappointing, the best thing about eventing is that there’s always another competition to focus on. We’ll be heading to the CCI 2* at Chatt Hills next weekend with Monkee, and this time I’ll have a better idea of what to expect when we get there. Ardy, Benny and Pop are also coming along. I can’t tell you how excited I am to compete again, especially over the beautiful rolling course at Chatt Hills.

We had an amazing jumping lesson yesterday with C. Every time I jump Pop I get a better feel for when he is truly forward and when he’s faking. I also had a mental breakthrough. In the past I’ve usually kept my leg on, kept my leg on, kept my leg on…but then softened my hands three strides out only to get to the fence with nothing. This time, after being reminded by C, I kept a feel of his mouth and therefore packaged the energy instead of letting it get strung out. Voila! He jumped super and I felt very encouraged and happy after our lesson. We jumped a small course of an oxer off the right lead, to a vertical off the left lead, around to a one-stride off the right lead, and then over a skinny off the left lead. His changes were really good and clean (amazing how that happens when we’re not strung out) and he was really listening and we were on the same page. Good feeling! He’s such a good boy. He’s getting quite wooly and will be getting clipped in the near future!

Work has been a mix of trying to get everyone ridden and trying to reorganize the trailer. After every event I have a better idea of how to organize things in the trunks and the trailer. Watching some of the top grooms in our sport is really helpful and I’ve definitely come a long way from when I first started, throwing things wherever they would fit and never knowing where anything was. We seem to acquire more stuff after each show but everything is finding a place. I love packing! For the horses, anyway…I’m not the biggest fan of packing my own clothes!

I’ve been given a huge gift in an entire weekend off, so I’m putting the time into cleaning and organizing in the house (which I never seem to find time to do!) and lots of refreshing of Eventing Nation for Pan Am news. We’re leaving Thursday for Chatt Hills, with the jog up on Friday morning for Monkee. Wish us luck! God Bless!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lots of good updates from my neck of the woods! First of all, Pop has been consistently sound for six rides now, and we are slowly getting back into our routine (just in time for me to leave for a week for Fair Hill, naturally). We’ve only been flatting on the grass but he feels really good and is working well. Our goal is still Novice at Rocking Horse (FLORIDA!) the first weekend of November. I’m itching to get back out there!

On the Champ front, we’ve managed to make a good deal of progress. The day after my last post, I spent 33 minutes (yes, 33 minutes) trying to catch him. After the first time he ran from me, I began to push him away from me, making him work if he wanted to avoid being caught. It took a world of patience but finally he walked right up to me and lowered his head into the halter all on his own. I haven’t had an issue catching him since. That day I just brought him in, brushed him, and turned him back out so he’d understand that catching him doesn’t always mean work. The next time I worked with him we just stayed in the roundpen and worked extensively on halting and turning. He was very good and professional. The next day I was lucky enough to have my good friend come out to ride Bonita with me and Champ on the trails. Champ was very nervous at first and really trying to avoid the bit, but after a calming walk around the first loop we picked up a trot and he really settled into it and was light and happy to go forward at a reasonable pace with Bonita behind us. We practiced a little bit having Bonita lead, walking two abreast, and passing each other. We also cantered a little bit and he was very obedient. He’s such a smart horse and really grasps everything so quickly. Hopefully Sara can come ride Bonita at least once a week from now on and we can really get Champ used to going out like it’s no big deal. Update from today, his feet had just been trimmed and Bonita had just gotten shoes on for the first time so both of them were a little ouchy, but we just took them on two loops of the trail at a walk. Champ was very easy to catch, patient to groom/tack/mount, and was quiet and obedient throughout the trail ride. Very proud of him! He'll have the rest of the week off because I'll be in MD, but we'll pick up again next week!

Did have a really interesting lesson on Thursday on Noah, one of S’s babies. He’s a 4 y/o WB gelding, your typical tall gangly but amazingly talented horse. He is very powerful to sit on and I was definitely a little nervous about riding him, not to mention jumping him. It’s funny how my confidence was so shattered on the racetrack, and I’ve just now started feeling more capable and confident over fences on well trained horses, but riding a very green and unfamiliar horse over fences was a little unnerving to me. The good thing is my trainer knows my limitations and I trust he would never put me in a situation I couldn’t handle, so I took a deep breath and tried to just breathe and ride through it. Initially I could feel myself tensing up and getting nervous, especially since Noah was being a little spooky and looky and his big stride was throwing me off guard a bit. After we jumped a few fences, though, I started to relax and enjoy him a little bit. He gives you a really nice feel to the fences, and if you just sit quiet but with a light feel of his mouth and close your calves, he trots right up to a good spot and really jumps it nicely. I felt proud that I’d gone outside my comfort zone a little bit and ended up enjoying myself!

Well, I’ve finally caught whatever bug has been going around and just in time to leave tomorrow! Wish us luck, send Monkee good jingles, and I’ll update you all when I get home! Take care!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Catching Up Again

It’s that time of year again---Fall, the time where Eventing recovers from its summer hiatus in full force. We are quite busy at the barn right now, with lots of good things going on. First of all, the bad news is that Pop has been lame for exactly one week now. We diagnosed the problem early on to be soft soles, especially in his right front foot. After playing around with hoof packing and Turpentine for a few days, he came sound on Saturday and we had a good light flat session on the grass. Sunday he was quite lame again…today he got reshod and was lame afterwards. I painted the soles with Sole Paint today (wonderful for taking away the soreness but not so great at hardening the soles) and we’ll see how he is tomorrow. I really, really, really hope we can get this under control soon. Our next horse trials is Rocking Horse the first weekend of November and every day we lose another important day of training. Stay tuned!

Flaggy has found a new home as a children’s jumper. We are SO excited about his new career and the loving new home he’s going to. He leaves tomorrow, and although I’ll miss him very, very much, I know it’s what’s best for him. It’ll definitely be hard to fill his shoes, he was the barn clown and has more personality than most entire barns. Best of luck in your new home handsome man!

Monkee is getting ready for leave in a week (with me!) for Fair Hill.This is a huge deal…the Fair Hill 2* and 3* is one of the biggest events of the fall season in North America. I’ve never been but people who have say it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in terms of the quality of horses and riders and the vending! I’m so excited to go and spend a week up in beautiful Maryland, so close to one of my favorite cities in the WHOLE world (Newark, DE) and getting to see some amazing riding and hopefully score some shopping deals!

Champ has been exploring the world outside of the round pen and doing quite well. Today, after a week off, I for some reason thought it a good idea to take him straight to the trail without longing him or riding him in the round pen first. He’s been so good and willing that I didn’t even think about it until we were on the trail with no brakes and no obedience. He encountered deer, which literally made him shake, and a few scary stumps and trees that got to him today. When he took off (which was well, a lot) I immediately spun him in a circle until he came down to a walk and then we continued on. Let’s just say for the better part of half an hour we were doing circles and walking a few steps and doing more circles. As far as positives, I did get him past all the scary stuff without a fight. And took him through the scary spots several times until he didn’t think anything of it. I also got him to walk most of the way home without trotting. As far as my plan…more roundpen work, especially working on our brakes and turning skills. And I can’t limit him to the roundpen entirely, because the enclosure is like a safety blanket and therefore he tends to forget his skills once in an open area. While I COULD use his paddock to ride in, I almost feel like the trail is a safer choice because it’s lined well with trees and there’s really nowhere for him to go other than forward. Also, the paddock is where he plays and I don’t want him to confuse riding time for playtime. I also noticed today that his ground manners have started lacking again so I need to pay more attention to that.

So…the plan is to try and ride him tomorrow after work, in the roundpen with lots of transitions to halt and working on turning a little bit. Just to refresh his memory. Then we’ll maybe go for a spin around the pond to practice in the open and I plan on being very strict about ground manners and being polite. Then later this week we’ll go back on the trails (AFTER a roundpen session) and see where he’s at mentally. I’m hoping to get my good friend to come ride an older, experienced horse with us so Champ can see there’s nothing to be anxious about. Fingers crossed for that!

Well, tomorrow will be a new day and hopefully Pop will be ready to go and Champers will behave himself! Take care, everyone!