Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You are my sunshine......

So it's been a bitter dark place in Hollyland lately. I'm not sure why... well, I am, but not really. I mean, I'm exhausted.... I work 82 hrs in one week, then am off for a week and during that time I've been picking up relief shifts here and there and house work and adult pony club stuff and riding stuff and family stuff. And work has been stressing me out completely and financially. But you know.. I'm always tired... I'm always working... I'm always doing house stuff. So why suddenly is it such a total disaster? Finances... I think that's why. But even riding has been bumming me out. Not in the sense that I don't enjoy it anymore, because that's just not true. But in the sense that I've ben feeling like a complete failure lately. I feel like I've let my horse down, he no longer loves me, I'm not worthy of him, I've ruined him, and that I can't do right by him. And THAT leaves me more depressed than anything. A friend had a good thought. She said that perhaps since life is so stressful, I'm counting too much on my riding to be the highlight and expecting perfection. And when I'm not getting perfection I'm letting it get me down more than I normally would. I think she's right in a way. It's not that I'm usually awesome and great and super rider and all things are amazing. It's just that the little things don't bother me and I'm able to enjoy the little successes and even enjoy the journey because I'm not terrified about what is going on in life in general. The rest of my life isn't normally such a disaster that the only thing I have going for me is riding. Perhaps?!?! I don't know. But I do know that I'm miserable and need to fix something. I'm attempting to do that, but it's hard. Really hard. Just as hard as it is to NOT hang on that darn left rein with puppy paws. So... I'm working on the work stuff, the house stuff, the family stuff, etc. But today.. I decided that I would do my best to NOT let it interfere with my riding. Cause screw "It"! Riding is my happy time.. how dare "it" interfere. Of course.. that's easier to say than do. And normally I think I would have been much happier, but at least I didn't cry the whole way home this time. So... it's a start.

So... back to the lesson. The second I got on, Cindy wanted me to focus on lifting Flecks back up. No more of him bracing and being inverted. And yes.. I have been working on it at home too. So, we started to get him in gear, and it's a battle at times. And it will be a battle for a bit. Until Fleck resigns himself to the fact that from now on... no more giraffe. But he's a stubborn dude, so.. we continue to fight that battle. Only this time I'm determined to not fight! No more taking my frustration out on him. I used to hear all the time how "quit treating him like he's your best friend, mean it"! and suddenly.. I don't get that anymore. Sure, that wasn't necessarily correct either, but I should train him, not punish him. So.. instead of getting sucked into it and pulling back when he pulls, bracing when he braces, I'm just going to ignore it, REALLY put my inside leg on and make him lift that back. If I have to lift my hands and wiggle and soften until his back comes up, then up his back comes eventually and down his head goes. And it's about his back.. not his head. So we did that and then lo and behold, the trot steps were nice from the get go. Since I've been focusing more on his back, he's giving me a place to sit and that means that I can feel things better and slow my post and tempo and that means he can slow his rythm. It's just a nice win win situation. So yay... And of course, we had the giraffe moments sneaking back in. A lot... But we had a LOT of good stuff too :) Yay. The canter is really getting nice too. I have to remember to supple that outside jaw... And by that, I think, Cindy means to take a good feel of it and even counterflex him (not counter bend, just counter flex) to get him to give that jaw and get straight on his shoulder again, then GIVE!!! So he can go back to true bend and flex. And right now.. it's before the corner, in the corner, halfway down the long side, before the corner, in the corner. But.. we ARE getting it :) And... my seat seems to be improving too. Hopefully this time I wasn't as flaily as I felt (and looked.. I have video proof) as last time. I'm not sure how much of it was that she was focusing on the other things or that I'm fixing it, but my leg position didn't get as many corrections. I tried to ride him with my weight in my inner calf (not the back of it) and not focus on my stirrup so much. By gripping him with my inner calf, my thoughts are that I could use my leg more effectively and have a better position and work better with the inside leg to outside rein connection. So... hopefully it's working.
So yep.. a better lesson. He was nice and drooly after and then proceeded to smear it all down Cindy's sweater. Oops!!!

Oh, and... I also thought to myself that I needed to spend more quality time with him in general. So.. we had a nice long graze and he made me smile quite a bit today. After the ride I came home and was bagging leaves in old feed bags. Him and Danny were chewing on them, pawing them, flipping them around in the air. :) Happy horses... Happy Holly...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Epic Fall

So the embarassment just keeps coming.... Sigh, one of these days I'll get my act together. My poor horse...

So, we had a lesson with Julie today at Jumping Branch. We started out decently and warm up was good. I need to remember to wait my face and keep my leg on. Squeeze with my calves. Also remember the flat work. Inside leg and even knee and thigh to outside rein. Keep my inside hand up with thumbs up and keep my outside hand low. Watch that devil left hand for holding... And... it's soft elbows, not soft hands. Don't go dropping the reins, but keep that connection. And give with my elbows over the fences. Give forward, not chickening out to the side! Slow my post rather than posting faster than he trots. Sit on BOTH seat bones... inside one too ;)

So then we moved on to the jumps in the field. Yeah... the first fence was fine... the second fence, a simple novice bench, ate me. Fleck got there on a half stride I guess and I just... didn't do... anything! I thought "go for the long one" and then "no, ask for the wait" and... did NOTHING. So poor Fleck... did both I guess... or neither. He basically climbed it, but fell to his knees and dropped his head. And I think I waited then flung myself so I went over his head and basically slip and slid down his neck, landed on my hands and somersaulted over the fence. He was fine.. just scraped his knee. I was fine.. Just mortified. But.... What was it that Jimmy said? Something about mistakes being an opportunity to learn. So I tried. We came back and jumped the first jump fine, then jumped a bigger table fine, then came back to the bench, and I clucked, squeezed, and may have even pony club kicked, but we did it. Then we went to the prelim mulch table and I felt Fleck back off a bit, BUT.... I manned up! I closed my legs, squeezed, kept the connection and he moved up to the slighly long spot. It was great :) Yay.. .redemption! At least for the time being.

So then we moved on and Fleck was fine and I was okay. We had some issues doing the half coffin. It was a gallop through the woods and over a roll top. I think Fleck was pissed at me by this point. He was ready to go and do it already. So we jumped the roll top and then made the tight turn to downhill to the coffin. Well... he was on the wrong lead and I didn't get his shoulder moved around and so we resorted back to spazzyness. Think octopus legs again. Sigh.. so of course, he stopped. Well duh.. he can't jump it like that. So.. we did the water just fine, then went back and did the whole mini course again. It was fine. We got over the coffin but it wasn't much better. But I bucked up and RODE the water line again. We finished with the water line again, doing it beautifully in four and five and then the short spot and then the long spot to the log.

And.. Julie mentioned that I'm much better at riding him rather than perching, but that my lower leg is weak. It's swinging. So.... that is related to my core too. So... sitting two point trot sets!! And crunches and leg swirly thingys. Lots of them....every night. So.... did my first set tonight and will do another set in a bit.

Maybe I can turn this funk around!
God... I hope so!

Dusting off the cobwebs

Yet again.... I swear... am I ever going to make progress?!?!

Had a jump lesson today. And yes, I will be the first to admit with this weather and work and my life in general right now... I haven't jumped consistently. And that is obviously not a good plan.
We started out alright. Beth had some trot poles to an X, then two strides to a vertical. We eventually upped the vertical and made it an oxer. We managed to make it decent height, and did well. Even when Beth had us come down the grid, then turn left and come back to the oxer at an angle, then go down the grid and turn right and come back to the oxer again, different angle. We did fine until it got big and then we had issues. However, once Beth pointed out that I needed to angle it, meaning jump it on a straight line on the angle as opposed to jump in on an arc, we did fine. So then we did the line a few more times and I made the comment of how jumping big jumps with grids is a great confidence booster. You almost can't get to a wrong spot. Yeah... so that meant Beth made it harder :) We took the X away and she had me jump just the oxer off a tight turn and then off a longer approach. We had plenty of issues then. I was losing Flecks shoulder. Then he was lengthening his stride each time he came up, getting longer and longer, then running under/past/over his spot and stopping. So... once I made sure to keep his shoulder and maintain a consistent stride.. we had some great jumps. And not just great by luck... great in that I could see the spot from the beginning and knew we'd get there. As opposed to not seeing it and guessing wrong. And I know.. it's not my job to see the spot.. just create the canter. But that's exactly what I did... rode the canter, which created the spot that I then saw.

So.... In my brain it's a bit of half-halting, sitting, and waiting for the spot, keeping the stride the same. Beth said it's not so much that I'm half-halting or waiting... because I'm not actually shortening him. I'm just maintaining but at this point, to maintain that stride and keep him from lengthening, I have to half halt him.

So.... hopefully I can remember all this and ride like a normal person from now on.... Instead of some flying squirrel cracked out on cotton candy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Healthy Back Fitness Work is Hard!

So.... Fleck and I got our gallop in!!! Yay!!! Its a soggy misty kinda day but we mustered up and did it. Hauled out to the horse park for our fitness work. We did 25 minutes of trotting in the woods. And I TRIED to be good. I tried to make Fleck soft and supple and not hollow and inverted. I won too!! But man.. it's hard work. He was really "Up" today... guess he channeled his TB side. He was spooky and looky and therefore wanted to spend the entire ride with his head up high on full alert. I started out trying to get him to soften and supple but it just wasn't happening. I started to panic and get frustrated... I didn't want to resort to pulling his head down... and I also didn't want to let him keep trotting merrily along upside down.... AHA!! I remembered what Cindy said! When I can get him to soften with just inside leg to outside hand... focus more on bringing his back up and sending his barrel back to midline. And leg yield him back and forth. So we spent the first ten minutes of our fitness hack.... me singing "Go left... go right... healthy back.... go left.... go right... back up.... good boy....". Hee hee. And it worked! It took awhile for him to  settle, but I finally got that back up and those shoulders loose and swingy and him breathing!!! Granted each tree log required more effort, but still. It's a start!!! We managed to keep it for most of the ride and then we got to do our canters. He's MUCH easier to keep up in his back through the canters. So whoo hooo!!

I just need to focus on the Healthy Back part! It's better for him to use his back and lift it and oscillate than to invert and pull himself along with his forelegs. :)

Such a good pony!! We had fun getting our gallop on!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ha ha!! I win this round Mother Nature!!!

Whoo hooo!! YAY!!! I got my ride in :) I worked my Wed, Thurs, and Fri overnights and of course.. the weather for today is 80% plus rain with thunder and lightning. ALL DAY!! Argh...  While I appreciate the great day for sleeping, since I'm averaging 5 hrs a day.... I really wanted to ride! So... I ended up getting groceries on the way home from work in the rain. Then I finished my book... still raining, intermittently storming and pouring. Then I hopped on the computer... still raining... Sigh. So I gave up. I went to bed and figured I'd at least catch up on some sleep.

I woke up at 5 to say hi to Mike before he went to work and lo and behold it was NOT raining. And the sun was peeking out. So... you know what?! I'm getting my ride in!!! I threw on breeches, and decided that I would try hitching up the truck. I was afraid it was too wet in the pasture. I did the quickest hitch ever knowing I would quickly run out of daylight. Luckily Fleck came right up to the carrots I was waving and we loaded up and headed out. By 6:15 I was on and we were working on what we did in our last lesson. I was good!!! I didn't get frustrated and resort to bad habits. And Fleck was good. Especially considering it was starting to get dark as the sun was setting and there were deer running around. :) We had a lovely ride and finished with a short walk around the showgrounds. Then I realized the covered arena was open. Doh! Oh well. We didn't get rained on so it was okay. Plus the horse park is nice enough to have two open arenas and I didn't want to piss them off by riding where I wasn't supposed to.

We got off, loaded back up and came home. And I have to say... it's such a GREAT feeling knowing that my horse and I trust each other so explicity that we can go to the horse park, at dusk, by ourselves, and not only ride around but put in a great ride! Despite the wind, the deer, and the random car driving by. He's such a good boy.... Man I love that horse!

Oh, and PS... don't worry... I had my phone on me, my helmet on, and my pepper spray at the ready!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Horses teach humiliation....

So... as it often goes with horses... there are plenty of lows along with the highs. I was feeling good after this weekend and feeling "one" with my horse. We were a team, on fire. And I got cocky about it. So you can only guess what happens next! Nope... Fleck didn't dump me ;)

Basically, I've always though Fleck and I were a great team! And that he put his heart into it for me, because he loves me. And that I was good for him too. That he wouldn't be where he is today if it weren't for me, just a little bit.(Typing it out is embarassing, because well.. because!). So... I decided to look at pictures from when I first got him and compare. To see how far we've come and be proud. Yeah.. that backfired in my face big time. Sigh.....


When I first got him, he was fat and a little out of shape, but had great training. And even despite me not knowing much, he still looked good. Sure, he was in a long and low frame, more training level than first, but.. he was soft, swinging, stretching through his shoulders, and dare I even say it?! Round!

So, obviously he was nice when I got him. Yet... lately, we haven't been able to get that! We've been locked in the poll, breaking just in front of the base of the neck instead of at the base of the neck, and just.... short strided and quick. So yeah... That sent me in a downward spiral. You know... "I ruined him... I took a nice horse and broke him. And not only that, but during the "best" years of his life... I taught him horribly wrong". It was enough to make me cry. And I knew, logically, that it wasn't entirely true. I told myself that as the work got harder, ie we moved up to 1st level, he had to work harder and therefore came up with evasions. And that made it harder on me. And that there were some awful pics in those first few years too. And there are some really good pictures now. And that he's not ruined, and I can still fix him. But still.. it was enough to make me cry and feel like a total butt.

So... I went for my lesson. And Cindy got on first and worked some stuff out. Some really obvious simple stuff that ALL dressage riders know and live by. Like turning around the inside leg. Ugh... and that made it worse. Because jeeze... he was acting like he didn't understand basic simple concepts. Because I"ve been riding him horribly wrong and ruining him. Argh... So, Cindy is amazing, and I guess she kinda caught on to what I was feeling with the simple sentence I said to her. And she made it all better. She wasn't "oh, you're awesome, you're amazing, you don't need me", but she wasn't mean or harsh or even negative at all. She was encouraging and helpful. She basically told me that she wouldn't let me take the responsibility of ruining him because it's always a learning process and that you have to have mistakes to be able to learn from them. And that it's easy to get sucked into the same wrong riding when you ride the same horse all the time. And that he had a little bit to do with it too. In that he knew what worked to evade with me and what didn't. But I had to man up to it and change it now. More or less. Which is just exactly what I needed. Not a pity party.. not a big fat lie... and not to be told how horrible I was. So we just... went to work on it. And you know.... I didn't ruin him!! He was pretty dang nice today. It's all there.. hidden under all the baggage I've brought to the table. But when I ride like a real dressage rider, he becomes a real dressage horse. This was the first time in awhile I've had his back in a place that allows me to sit. Probably because it was the first time in awhile my seat gave his back a place to go. And I hate to admit it, because I'm proud, but I quit riding with my hands. Mostly. Bad habits are very hard to break. So..... phew!!! Pity party averted and back to movitation station!

So... things that I MUST remember for every ride!!!!! (Yes Holly.. that means trail rides too!). Because dang it... I'm not going to keep ruining him... I'm going to fix him!!! ( And yes... I KNOW all of this, and have known all of this. But for some reason, knowing it in my head, and even telling myself while I'm riding... doesn't always translate to me achieving it in my riding. I'm just... dumb like that!)
  • Inside leg to soft following outside rein. Always!!! If his head comes up, the answer is to remain calm and push his barrel medially away from my inside leg. And if his head comes up, my reins can go up too and softly play with the reins WHILE MY INSIDE LEG IS ON!!!
  • Not to worry about him throwing his shoulder to the outside as an evasion. If I get his back up, his shoulder realigns itself. I can gently use my outside leg as a buffer, but not actively. At least for now. Because then he changes the subject instead of answering the question I asked.
  • It's not so much about the "frame' or getting his head down. It's about getting his back up. It's a healthy back... a gymnasticing oscillating flowing back! That's healthy for him too!
  • Keep aiming for that lovely back!!! Insist on it from now on!
So.... yep. I'm committed.... just hope I can remember and not get sucked back into my bad riding ways as time goes by.

And would like to give a special shout out to Karen... for creating my perfectly wonderful horse, giving him the great training, and not cringing everytime she saw me riding him improperly, and for still being my friend. I will make it up to him!!!

And then... since I need to make myself feel less embarassed....  an awesome pic of the awesomeness himself...

Okay... a few more. Cause I love him and he's amazing!
Props to my favorite photographer, Mark at hoofclix, for taking this awesome photo of us.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Octopus vs Horse, Challenging vs Confidence building

So.... poor poor Flecky.. My motivation has commenced, so... back to work we have gone! After our great lesson on Thursday, we opted to take Danny trail riding Friday. So, Fleck got a little break as we did a trail ride that was mostly walking. But it did have hills and he did have to put up with Danny trying to chew on him.

Thits weekend was a good weekend... It was another "exactly what we needed" situation. It started with pushing the issues and digging down deep to get to the root of the problem. Well needed, but.. a bit humiliating and depressing. But we ended well, so.. not all bad. Then today, we got to make it as easy as possible for us to succeed and succeed we did! So the happy feelings came back, despite knowing full well that it wasn't necessarily good riding... just good circumstances.

It started on Saturday at Wishing Tree Farm and a lesson on square turns. Sigh... It was frustrating. I'm not sure what was going on, but Fleck was naughty! It was like riding an Octopus... legs flailing every which direction. He would do the first jump or two on the square decently and calmly and then land after the downhill one, scramble and pogo and flail about, then launch himself at the liverpool. So... then we tried almost halting him and that helped. Then... Beth pointed out that perhaps I was asking him to take the long spot and making it worse. I didn't think I was, but... It's always me! I asked for the added stride, and lo and behold... he calmed down and jumped like a normal horse. I guess perhaps that I felt him behind my leg and saw the long distance so instead of waiting and adding... I went back to bad Holly and yeehawed him. And he obliged. So.. yeah... After that he was fine and paying attention and listening. It's always me... or perhaps flash backs from fox hunting ;) So we ended on a good note with Fleck behaving because I was behaving (and singing Lovely Rita to help keep the slow rhythm). It was actually a good thing I think. Or so I'm telling myself to make myself feel better. I think had we put the jumps up and done our normal thing, we wouldn't have realized that I was rushing him or whatever the actual issue was. But.. because we worked on the square turns we were able to addresss the root of the problem, and success!!

So then I worked the overnight, came home, ate breakfast, fed ponies, and loaded Fleck back up. We hauled to La Parilla and had lunch with friends. Me, taco salad, and Fleck, alfalfa! Then we went to Karen's for a grid lesson. There were ten of us riding!!! But Flecky was good. Sure... he can handle warming up in her ring with nine other riders, but not at dressage warm up in events?!?!? Goober.. But everyone was great. We started small and worked our way up. It was great watching everyone and seeing them figure it out and improve. Some excellent riding and some nice ponies too! Fleck was lovely.... I just sang "Lovely Rita' and we managed to start with the nice calm sane easy going canter. He was jumping like a machine... never once rolled over his shoulder, up in the withers, and tucking his knees. And I managed to keep my position mostly and didn't embarass myself. So.... we finished up with a good sized swedish oxer on a bendy line. Because of the exercises and the grid work, and the set up with the lines, etc.... we pretty much couldn't get a bad jump. We set it up for success! And you know.... even though I know that... we still feel like Rockstars!!

So it was a great weekend. Albeit one that involves me getting 45 minutes of sleep between 8 am Saturday morning and whatever time I'll go to bed tonight. It was exactly what we needed... a gentle reminder that I must be vigilante and really ride or I'll cause problems with a fun confidence building happy ending.

Oh... and an excellent reminder from another Rockstar, Caroline! Fleck would start soft and round and then a few strides from the jump, he'd "show us his chin"! hee hee.. He would invert and hollow. Not nearly as bad as he used to be, but... still. So I was trying to figure out how to fix it without messing with him the last three strides of the fence. Caroline reminded me to ride his inside shoulder and barrel (via pressing my inside knee and calf) into the outside rein. It helps... definitely helps!!

So... tomorrow and Tuesday.... dressage torture again! ;) Then Wed, new kicks and then hopefully a gallop at the horse park. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Take that Hibernating Motivation!!!! Kapow!

Yay... I had just what I needed today. A great ride on Flecky!! It was a great lesson, but lots of hard work. I'm not sure who worked harder.. me or Fleck. :) Or Cindy! ha...
We did some nose to rail leg yielding to get Fleck even on both hinds. Cindy had me focus on the things I learned in the seat lesson..  Such as...
Keeping my hips moving and not stopping the motion. For some reason I seem to lock down my core and seat in an effort to make my leg position better, but then I stop Fleck's back from being able to move. So, I need to focus on letting my hips move.
Moving the correct hip: I tend to be much freer in my right hip than my left hip, but my left hip has to move too. Cindy had me do SI for four steps, then renvers for four steps, and I really had to "flip my hips".... lead with the right, then the left, and on. It was HARD!! Plus I kept wanting to swing  my leg back...

I also realized that I need to relax my cheeks. Yes... those cheeks! I'm not sure why but I tend to clench them and that makes me bounce on Fleck's back instead of sitting on it. So... if I can relax my seat... he relaxes his back and then we can slow the tempo and get some swing!!!

What else...oh, the canter! I got some nice LIFT going today. It almost felt like he was trying to buck me off (although that was actually the case once!). He was reaching under himself. Yay! And... it's true... I really had to kick him off my right inside leg and make sure he was staying off it. And that means he has to bend around it.. but I have to soften my outside rein in order to allow him to bend around. So... instead of holding the left rein so much that he can't bend in an effort to keep him upright... I have to use my right leg to keep him upright. I also need to move my elbows with the canter motion. He likes that and softens. ;)

Sigh.. it's really all so simple...why is it so HARD!!??

I think that's the key points.... Must remember them and that feeling!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My motivation is hibernating!

But... starting tomorrow, it's back on track!! I think the weather... my horrible eating habits, work stress, and working extra hours.... are just making me want to hibernate this month. And it's not even horrible weather. But... I've got to get on track.. We're heading to Poplar in less than a month! It's time to get back in gear.

So... I have the week off, minus the one extra overnight shift I picked up. Which means tomorrow is a dressage lesson, Friday is a gallop at the horse park day, Saturday is a jump lesson, Sunday is a grid day, Monday another dressage lesson and Tuesday... dressage lesson. Then I'll do my best to sneak in a ride Wed before work, probably a trail ride at the horse park. Then... another work week. (And... I realize this sounds like I"m loaded and having a ton of lessons, but.. it's not really the case. I work off a few, and then I get a discount by taking so many per month and because of my schedule.. I have to take them all at once instead of weekly. So... I'm not the "loaded veterinarian" that everyone seems to think exists. If so.... point me in that direction!!!

I will also get Danny back on track again... He needs to learn about clippers and go for another trail ride. :)

So yep... motivation... commence!!!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012: The Year of Becoming Prelim Awesome!

Friday, January 6, 2012
Wow..... I've been a slacker about writing in the blog. But not while riding... Flecky and I have accomplished a lot. We are officially a PRELIM TEAM!!!! Last year we completed two prelim events. We had two refusals the first one, but that was not Flecks fault... completely mine. Then we ran clean at Poplar and finished in the ribbons! Yay!!!
So... this year our goal is to become better and more confident at Prelim, qualify for the AECs at prelim, and get qualified for the Prelim Three Day!!! Fleck's even registered with USEF and will get his own passport! Exciting stuff.... In order to help us achieve our goal, I am going to become more diligent about keeping track of my lessons and what we've learned. I figure it's just as easy to type as write, so... it can go on here :)
December was a wicked busy month for me and I figured on that, so I planned on giving Fleck some down time. We rode and lessoned, but really didn't do that much. However, there were two lessons of note that deserve notes. Oh... and Flecky and I went foxhunting too!!! We LOVED it. okay.. I have to add about that too...

12/20/11: Fleck and I forayed into foxhunting thanks to Beth Huddleston and the Aiken Hounds. We had sooooo much fun!!! Everyone was so nice and welcoming. Fleck was great! He didn't mind the hounds and didn't try to step on them. He really didn't even spook at them. He mostly stayed in line without cutting, but was awfully excited. He tended to not stand still when we stopped, but danced a jigged. However, he wasn't unbearable. He was just excited and anxious to get started again. And when the hounds were running and he was running... oh he was great! He was on fire and wanting to go faster and faster, but he listened! He was ratable and so rocked back on his haunches he was almost cantering in place! Yet he never once tripped and once, he even saw the half stride and corrected it so he didn't trip. Um... that's not like trippy McSue....He was great. It was so much fun. We aim to go back often :)
12/30/11: We had a XC lesson with Beth. At our last school at Pine Top Fleck got confused/scared/annoyed or something while schooling the up bank to roll top over the ditch and down. He refused it twice, then sorta climbed over it, and then wouldn't jump it again. So we moved on and did other things. When we came back to it, he did it just fine. However, I was rattled and after our double up bank, bounce to small coop at Poplar... I was a little concerned that I wasn't riding the up banks properly. We had a lesson with Julie later and he hopped over the novice, training, and then prelim bank questions without batting an eye, so perhaps it was THAT bank complex. Anyways, in my lesson with Beth we worked in stadium to get him in the right canter as prep. She set up a tight three stride to a long one stride. We managed to get the two to one once or twice but then figured it out. Once we got him nice and bouncy and in Tigger mode, we moved on to XC. Unfortunately there wasn't a stadium jump out so we only had the up banks, but we worked on getting the right canter for them. And lo and behold I think my brain clicked in and I figured it out. I really think I've been so paranoid about sending him to the flyer (because of our chatt hills bank incident) that I've been a little behind the motion. Which means he has to pull me up too and that means he lands without impulsion. However, if I get him nice and bouncy, and DON'T jump ahead but go WITH him (which in my brain still almost feels like a bit of a flyer but I know there's not enough room for another stride)... it works. He doesn't have to drag me up there so he can land with impulsion and carry on to whatever is next. I finally almost felt a little ahead of him instead of a little behind, which I know is the cardinal sin in eventing, but it's not that I'm really ahead... just paranoid. :) so Yay!!! We'll tackle PT again soon and carry that over.
12/31/11: I had a lunge/seat lesson with Cindy and wow... that's a humbling experience. For how many years have I heard "slow your post" and "you're trotting faster than your horse". And I get it.. I know I'm too fast... but wow.. when you don't have reins and are only relying on your seat... man that horse trots fast!!!! It was ridiculous. And soooo hard to slow my tempo down. But when I did.. that one or two strides, wow!!! That horse can float!! The other enlightening experience was when Cindy said to have my hips/my acetabulums post first. So I almost had to think about throwing my hips forward first which meant my seat had to be underneath me and I couldn't perch and my sternum was up and out. Magic!! So I must remember to continue that!
Right... so that sorta catches us up to 2012: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! ;)
Unfortunately with work, a little mental breakdown secondary to work for me, and then more work... so far 2012 hasn't involved much riding. But that is soon to change. Also, I read some one elses blog that mentioned positive thinking, so I'm hoping to add that to my riding notes too. :)

Fleck and I had a great dressage ride. I started off by focusing on me and my position and slowing my tempo. I KNOW I had to use hand and I need to work on that, but we did make some progress. Then I dropped my stirrups and did about 15-20 minutes of no stirrup work. Mental note... work on the canter seat too!. Fleck was good and then I picked my stirrups back up and did some more work. We definitely need to figure out the aids for the half-pass to the left a little better. not sure what I'm doing wrong and it got better when I remembered to open my left rein and not cross his neck, but definitely still something missing. However, we had a lovely soft ride and some really lovely canters. And as usual, Fleck loves his canter transition work and we were able to get some really nice counter canters and some really decent walk to canter to walks and some simple changes. Yay! We even got a nice foamy mouth... on both sides!!! yay!

My other resolution (like every year) is to become fitter so.. I did Wii Dance that afternoon too. I think that might help loosen my hips too! All that gyrating ;)

Our Prelim Debut!

Friday, January 6, 2012

So, this has been a LOOOOONNNNGGGG time coming, but we were finally ready to try our hand (and hooves) at prelim! We opted to go to Tryon Riding and Hunt Club's horse trial held at FENCE and we were not disappointed. I LOVE that place.... it's always so beautiful and such a good time. And I wasn't disappointed. It was really the most fun I've had in a long time. It was also the Adult Team Challenge East Coast Edition, so we had that fun added on too.

I hauled up with Karen and Grant and we had fun hanging out together, like we always do. We had a good dressage ride and then we ate with the Area 2 and 3 Adult riders pot luck and had fun hanging out. The food was delicious. We slept great and stayed warm despite the howling wind.

Saturday morning was an early morning. I got up and got Fleck taken care of and braided. Luckily he wasn't dirty so no bathing needed! We had a good dressage warm up and a great test! Fleck was a little behind my leg in the first leg yield and then when I went for the medium canter... we went for it! And Fleck said yes ma'am and "Porpoised" through the first half of the circle. But he settled nicely and behaved for the rest of the test. It was very consistent and steady and quite nice. Nothing spectacular but I was pleased and Beth was super pleased! We ended up with our best score ever!!! Not just at prelim, but ever! A 31.4!!!! WOW!!! The judge gave us a 9 on our entrance down center line and at the end of our test she wrote that I needed to "lift his poll and get him using his hind end more, then Wow!".... WOW!! We got a "wow"!!! I won't lie... I did a happy dance! Twice ;) That put us tied for 3rd place out of 9. Another wow.... we're usually not that high up after dressage. The stadium course looked super fun and was a good course. Two doubles, a triple bar, a skinny, and some fun lines. Fleck warmed up like a wild man! He was bucking and carrying on, but he finally settled and jumped well. We went in and I didn't quite keep him in front of my leg on a few. We had one rail, which was sorta cheap. Everyone said that the wind blew it down more than Fleck did, but... we also had a few jumps that should have had rails but didn't, so it all worked out in the end. The one rail moved us to fourth. We enjoyed the rest of the day watching and cheering on friends. And my Dad, Grandma, Stepmom, and brother and sister came to watch! They were there for stadium and we had lunch together after. It was great seeing them too. Then I walked XC twice. The first time I walked it with a Mikes hard lemonade. I think that was smart ;) It wasn't a really terrifying touch course, but there were definitely some areas I had concerns about. Nothing that I was too afraid to do and nothing that I thought would be a definite issue. But definitely a few jumps that I knew I would have to ride and Fleck would have to help me out. It didn't look any different the second time around. We had another great dinner that night and got another night of restful sleep. (Which was a little surprising! I think that's the best I've ever slept at a horse show! And it was in the trailer at my first prelim! I think the wind wore me out more than I thought!).


Sunday morning dawned cold and windy, but not quite as bad as I expected. Fleck was warm and cozy and ready to go. I got tacked up and headed across the road to XC. He warmed up PHENOMENALLY!!! Like the best he's ever felt!!! And then I heard "Pat, thump, pat, thump, pat, thump". I thought... hmmm... I bet that's a loose shoe! It wasn't clinking yet, but was getting close. ACCKKKKK!!!! It was not loose when I picked his feet out that morning. But the walk over must have loosened it or the few jumping efforts. So... lucky for me Super Coach and Super Grooms came to the rescue and got it all done!!! I was about to cry.... our FIRST prelim XC.... and he felt sooooo good!!! If I couldn't get out there I would have been so upset. We had done prelim CT's before, but never ran a full prelim XC. But again, the forces aligned and thanks to super coach, super grooms and super farrier.... after much nerve wracking waiting, the farrier found me and got his shoe on tight and we trotted back to warm up. They were waiting on me, even though they moved me to the end of the prelim riders. Of course I was stressed and rushed so I basically ran Fleck at the four warm up fences I took and... at the last one.. which was a hanging log... he said NOPE! We CANNOT jump like this... stopped quick and I flew over his head, landing on my feet on the jump with the reins still in my hand, and was back on his back before I even realized I had fallen! I think my adrenaline was pumping so hard and my brain was on fast forward I didn't even realize I had fallen until I was back on. Luckily my coach was able to calm me down and get me breathing. Ahhhhhhh... deep breath! So we took two more jumps with me actually RIDING! and they went well. So off we went.....

Five, four, three, two, one... have a great ride! We were off. The first four fences were up the hill/mountain so off we went. Fleck was amazing and jumped them all great. We galloped on and did the skinny cabin, then made our nice turn to the bank. Up the bank we went, down the bank we went, and... oops! Drive by instead of jumping the skinny cabin on the bendy line. Totally my fault. I took it for granted and just tried to steer with too long reins, and never used my leg. I lost his shoulder and he ran out. So we circled, got it and carried on. Jumped the table, then down to the coffin. This was a worry spot... The coffin was a decent sized hanging log thing to the ditch to another hanging log. No problem... except it was straight downhill. I was worried I would either over balance too much and take his engine away, or not balance enough and have him be too heavy on his forehand and either not be able to jump, or try and catch a leg. But... no worries... it rode beautifully!!! YAY!!! Off we went to the next jump. The lighting was a little bad and so it was hard to tell what color the flags were. A team mate and friend had told me this and said our jump was the far left. Or that's what I heard... she really said far right. So we jumped the training jump and as we're two strides out I realized it.... but jumped it anyways and then circled around and jumped the proper jump. At this point, I wasn't worried about time. So we carried on, jumped the corner great!!! And I admit... I was a little concerned about the corner. He was amazing though. Then over the coop and onto the bendy brushes. Rode well though he got a little deep to them. Then we came to the super scary fence. My bugaboo fence.... It was a HUGE tall skinny upright steeplechase with brush. TALL before the brush even. And it was a hard line to hold, the path pulled you off to the right. And of course... that's where we had our second run-out. All my fault though. We came up to it and I thought "We've got this"! And I tipped my shoulders just enough a stride out and Fleck said "Sorry mom... can't do it". And he was right.. it was too big with me riding on his head. So... we circled, reapproached and I kept my body back this time, and wow... it worked! ;) He jumped it fine and off we went. We did the downhill hanging log better than I expected and then the trakenher went well too!! Fleck jumped that great and trakenhers usually aren't our best jumps. Of course on landing I lost a stirrup so we went careening around the hill for a minute until I got it back. Luckily in time for the water combo. He jumped that well and then we made it over the giant table and then around the bend to the last jump. WHEEE!!! We finished our first prelim!! Not perfectly and I would have preferred to not have had stops, but... at least they were my fault and I felt like I actually RODE through most of the course.

So whoo hooo!!! We are officially a PRELIM TEAM now!!! I'm so proud of him. He was tired but not exhausted and recovered very quickly. He is sound and happy with tight legs this am and feeling proud of himself.

The weekend was so much fun. In addition to Fleck and I's debut, we also had a grand time with friends. FENCE always seems to be such a fun venue because everyone is close together and we were all cheering each other on. The team competition was a lot of fun too. My prelim team came in second place (no thanks to me, but I knew we'd be the drop score!) and so we got a pretty red neck ribbon for that! And then they ribboned to 8th so we even got a pretty purple ribbon!!! It was just a whole lot of fun.... great company, great views, great weather, great food, and FANTASTIC horses!!

Training Three Day: Check!

Thursday, October 28, 2010
So... Fleck and I have been aiming to run a T3D since I realized what one was :) Probably at least 4 years ago. We did our homework, we joined the Long Format Club, we got fitter, and we got our 4 qualifiying scores in. We then picked a date and place and set forth to really getting fit. I knew it would be a journey, but wow...what a ride!!!
It's funny because everyone always says "the long format helped their horse", and "it really enforces the bond between horse and rider", and "it takes an army of people to help make sure it all runs smoothly" and "you really get to know your horse". And.. well, I didn't quite believe them. I mean, sure.... but I already know my horse... we already share an incredible bond, and quite frankly... I was a little terrified about him becoming more forward on XC after steeplechasing! But you know... I found all those thoughts to be true after all. Going from riding 4-5 times a week to riding 6-7 days a week did make a difference in our relationship. Sure, some days he wasn't pleased to see me, but most days he was ready for work. The long hacks gave me time to chat with him because, well... what else was I going to do during a 2 hour trail ride by myself. It also probably increased our bond and his trust in me being out by ourselves more. We often hacked by ourselves, but... this just increased the bond and his trust in me because every time was another time that nothing bad happened to him. And yes.. I knew Fleck.. but I now know Fit Fleck! And he's a little bit of a different animal. It was a little funny at first because he wasn't all snorty or spooky and honestly, it kinda made me sad. In my mind I wanted the fire breathing super fit long format horse. But you know... that's just not Fleck. He's a good ol' boy and a big puppy dog. However... the week before we left...not so much! He hit his peak fitness that week and man did he start breathing fire! Our two hour walk trail ride turned into a 45 minute straight trotting ride with a bit of a gallop and then some walking. Not because I asked, but because he asked! And the deer that used to cause only a start were now fire breathing Appaloosa eating deer that made him stand on his toes and dance and dance. I couldn't help but bust out laughing. Partly out of sheer joy that my horse was that fit and electric and alive and partly because I was a little bit worried I was going to get bucked off!!! And that's NOT a normal feeling on Fleck...ever! But luckily his Appaloosa brains prevailed and for the most part, he was alive and electric but not stupid. It was a great feeling! And aside from knowing fit Fleck.. we did get to know each other a little better. I became much more in tune with his mood and even his soundness. We worked so hard to get there, by golly, I was watching him like a hawk to make sure he stayed sound and happy. And...yes, it does take a village. I could have never have made it without everyone's support and help. Yes, my farrier is awesome, but he stepped up to the plate and really went above and beyond to make sure Flecky kept his feet together and looking good. And my vets... my wonderful vets! I'm sure they were as sick of hearing from me as Fleck was ;) But we got him feeling his best and ready to perform his best. And then when the inevitable issues sprang up... super vets to the rescue. Then there was the cheerleaders and friends. Those who helped talked me down when I was freaking out, those who rode on those long fitness rides with me, those who encouraged me when I was not quite motivated, and those who just lived vicariously through us and made it all that much more special! And I can't forget the trainers. We worked so hard on everything.. not just the dressage, but the jumping, the fitness, and the details. Even how to make my braids prettier! I got help with my fitness routine and moral support and encouragement. And last but not least.. the husband! He put up with my long hours in the saddle, sacrificing housework and husband time, because we had to ride and get fit! And that's not even counting the wonderful people who made it all happen once we got there!!! My supergroom who took such wonderful care of me and Fleck, my friends that helped partake in the journey with me, the volunteers who went above and beyond to help out in the B and D boxes, the volunteers who put the show on despite having just gone through WEG, and Dorothy Crowell, who donated so much time and energy to helping us through it.... The list of people required to make this happen really is a long list. So yes.. it really does take a village! And finally... the long format does make your horse a better horse! Fleck and I had a blast on steeplechase and sure.. our first few cross country fences were a little bit like steeplechase, but then he settled down and was a dream! He was more rideable and just really jumped beautifully for me. And it also helped make me a better rider. I was able to back off when needed, and when Fleck needed some extra support, I was right there to give it. And while he's always been perhaps a bit too forward on XC, he was actually more forward to the jumps but in a sane listening way. It was great!! So yep.. believe what everyone says!
So to get to the details now about the actual event itself! Which... while we got there on Tuesday and stayed til Monday, was really such a short part of the journey! But it was the climax I had hoped it would be! We had a little bit of a scare the week before we left where Fleck was ouchy but luckily with some rest and time, he healed up nicely in time. So we stuck to our original plan on leaving Tuesday morning and I quite surprised myself by only being an hour and a half late! We picked up our supergroom Peri and our friend Kerry and her horse Chase and headed north. It was a long but beautiful drive. The leaves were changing colors and we had nice sunshiney weather. We arrived and got the ponies settled and took them for a walk to stretch their legs. And how cool was it that we got to walk them on the WEG and Rolex course!!! I had picked the Hagyard MidSouth T3D to go to and that was at the Kentucky Horse Park, which means... we played on the same cross country course as all those greats on it a few weeks prior. They had watered the WEG path because of the lack of rain, so Fleck even got to graze on WEG grass ;)

Anyways, Wednesday morning the education part of the T3D started. The Training Three Day is an awesome event because it's not just a horse trail with roads and tracks. It's a hybrid of education and competing! Wonderful funny Dorothy Crowell and super smart Dr. Duncan Peters of Hagyard Equine Hospital had donated their time to help us out and provide us with educational information too. It was fantastic! So the inital arrival meeting involved meeting them and a quick discussion of the long format and it's goals. You could tell Dorothy was a huge supporter of the long format as she was very animated about it, in addition to the sacrifice she made in helping us out. We then had a practice jog where Dorothy showed us how to do it and let us each practice. It's not as easy as it looks folks! But Dorothy had some great tips and we all felt much less nervous about the official jog in the morning. After that it was a quick lunch and then the in barn inspections. This is basically a baseline veterinary exam to make sure the horses are all healthy. But it allows for the vets to make note of any initial issues. With that done, we cleaned tack, grazed the horses, and then set out for a quick hack to find the dressage rings. Fleck was full of fire and ready to go since he had a few days off prior! It was fun. The Kentucky Horse Park is such a beautiful place and our short hack to the dressage rings was fun too. Then at 5:30 pm we had another meeting. This one was with Dorothy and Dr. Peters and we discussed before and after care of the event horse. It was all pretty much stuff I knew, but that made me feel good. Both agreed that we shouldn't change our routine just because everyone else is doing it and that sometimes we can do too much. In other words... too much soaking and icing can soften the hoof wall and soles and make them more sore. But if your horse has a known problem, then we definitely want to be proactive. Dr. Duncan is a fan of poulticing and believes it really helps. As does Dorothy... as she has even used it on herself. We also discussed feeding. The basic thought is to decrease the grain before a cross country run because of the sugar spikes. The general recommendation is no grain 4-5 hours before the start box. However, Dorothy said she feeds a small meal in the morning if it's an earlyish ride instead of depriving them completely of grain. As far as hay goes, you don't want them overloaded, but hay can increase thirst and anything we can do to get them and keep them drinking is beneficial. And speaking of drinking, I'll say it again...let them drink as much as they want as soon as they are done! It is an old wives tale that you shouldn't let them drink cold water immediately after exercise. That is when their thirst is the greatest and we have the best chance of getting them to drink. And oral fluids are so much more effective than IV fluids. So... let them drink! And grazing is another good way to get water into them as grass is about 95% water. The other thing mentioned that I thought was important is to do lots of grooming and massage. Currying is a great way to help them feel good, get the muscles warm, and find out any areas of tension. And then... let them rest! They need their beauty sleep too.

Thursday morning was a not quite so early morning and we were able to enjoy our free hotel breakfast. We then had a competitor briefing which went over some of the concerns particular to the competion. Then we ran back to the barn and braided our ponies. Then it was back to another meeting. This one was about how to ride the roads and tracks part and we also walked steeplechase. How exciting!!! But man, were those steeplechase jumps big looking. The meeting was very helpful as the roads and tracks part is the confusing part. It was explained in detail about how to ride it, how to set your watches, and where to go. And the steeplechase course walk was great too because we metered out the distances and we could hang duct tape on the ropes to use as markers! And it's not illegal :) Although Dorothy pointed out we'd be going awfully fast and may not have time to look at our meter markers. Wheeee! After that it was another mad dash back to the barn to get the horses cleaned up for the First Official Jog!! Fleck was a good boy despite being a little too enthusiastic and almost running me down! We looked all pretty and got to hear "Accepted"!

Then we had a quick lunch and then tacked up for the steeplechase school! I almost didn't do it because the ground was so hard but I figured that I couldn't turn down the opportunity and we'd be taking it easy anyways knowing the ground was hard, so.. we did it! And man was it fun! Dorothy had us gallop a stretch to get up to speed and then jump a triple bar she had set up. All in my group, Cindy on Perry and our new friend Ellen on her horse Joe and another nice girl, all did it fine. Then she had us jump the real steeplechase jump. WOW!!! So much fun!!! Fleck was all fired up and I was too! We wanted to do it again, but nope... we had to wait another two days. So we went for a hack and then untacked and grazed. Then at 5 pm we had the cross country walk with Dorothy! (Told you she went above and beyond with her time). The course was pretty straight forward. Lots of uphill jumps, some downhill jumps, and really nothing too technical. There was only one jump that really scared me on the course. The rest... really not exciting or scary looking. The one that scared me was at the second water. We had to drop in to the water and then head out over a fairly large log that was set in the water. Fleck and I have done water to water jumps before, although this one was barely water to water.. it was more water to half-land/half-water, but.. it was big. And for some reason bothered me. Anyways, Dorothy explained to us that at some point in the course our horses will likely get "jelly legs". Jelly legs are where the horse starts to feel the strain of just having trotted for 16 minutes on A, then jumped steeplechase, then trotted and walked for 26 minutes, and then is now out on cross country. At some point, they get tired and land a bit wobby and weak. She explained that at this point, it was our job to help them out a bit by supporting them a tad more. Otherwise, the course should ride pretty much like our normal cross country course aside from a few horses that might think they are still on steeplechase for the first few fences. Ahem coughcoughFleckcoughcough.

Finally Friday morning dawned and the competition began! Fleck and I had a fairly early dressage ride at 9:44. And it was the coldest morning that week. BRRRR!!! I was freezing! Luckily Fleck got bathed the day or two before and stayed clean so we just had to rebraid and groom and clean his feet. I got on and got him warmed up with the help of Cindy. He felt pretty dang good! We went in and started our test and I only had a small moment of panic. There was two judges and the head judge stayed standing until I started my turn. In my brain I thought "halt and salute" and he'll sit down and then thought... "but not in eventing dressage'! so I panicked a bit as I kept trotting and listened for the whistle. Nope, just a really polite judge. So we continued on and had what felt like our best test to date! Sure, there were problems. He was still haunches in at the canter to the right. And then the canter to the left, which is our better side... I got that nice lovely canter that he gets just before he breaks... and then we broke to the trot. Doh! We immediately picked it back up but the damage was done. Our lengthens really felt lovely at the trot as he really started to push. But when he did that, it became very obvious that he's so much weaker in his right hind and the pushing was uneven. Our leg yields were lovely and his free walk was great! We came out feeling pretty dang proud of ourselves. But alas... the judges weren't quite as pleased as us. We scored a 43.9. But that's okay... I am still proud of Fleck for trying and doing all I asked. As the day went on the scores got better so my ranking dropped and dropped throughout the division. When everyone had ridden we ended up in 23rd place. Out of 34. Doh! But still, not last :) After a breather, we tacked up again and hacked the horses along the roads and tracks paths so we knew where to go. It was great and was definitely starting to make sense now :) Then at 6pm we had yet another rider meeting and then our "Team Building" meeting. This was where we figured out who did what on endurance day. There were three lovely volunteers who were pro's and offered to help us all in the Vet box, which was oh so helpful. So we got that straightened out and then I had Dorothy go over the watches and their timing again once more and then it was time for one more graze and bed!

Saturday was much much warmer than Friday and we were pysched to get going on the endurance phase. Nervous, but psyched! I had everything all ready to go and finally it was time to go. I kept telling myself "It's just a trail ride" to help keep myself calm. And it was! With some really fun stuff added in. Fleck and I started out on phase A, which is basically 14-16 minutes of trotting. We started out a bit drunkenly because Fleck was looking for some friends, but we managed to go through all of the gates (Flag markers to keep us all on the same path and make sure we all went the same distance) and timed our arrival at the start of B about perfectly. Peri checked us and made sure we were all set and then it was off to the steeplechase start box.
 WHOO HOOO!!! Fleck was so excited he could hardly wait, but they finally announced 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and have a great ride and we were off! Fleck shot off and we flew to the first fence and rounded the turn to the second. The second fence was probably the best fence EVER!!!! He launched over it in perfect stride and we just felt like we were in the air for eons. I had to stop myself from fist pumping, but couldn't resist letting out a yahoo!! We then flew down the path and changed leads and flew around to the next fence. Fleck took that turn a little wide so we sorta jumped fence three icky, but we recovered and soared over fence 4! I realized after fence 1 that I hit the wrong button on my watch, so I had no idea what our time was. But it was obviously faster than the 520 mpm allowed because we had no time penalties! Fleck and I both loved phase B! Fleck proved it because as we hit the finish line there was a patch of gravel that had filled in a hole and Fleck jumped that too! Yeehaw!

So then it was on to phase C. We didn't make much of a pit stop but continued on our way. Pat, superwoman of the D box, explained that the whole point to phases A, B, and C were to warm the horse up best for cross country. So by doing a long trot before steeplechase, then steeplechasing, then doing a cool down after and then going cross country, our horses were best prepared. After steeplechase there was a build up of lactic acid, so the best way to cool them down and reduce the lactic acid load, was to do a gentle canter/gallop off the finish line, and then as they relaxed into it, come down to the trot. Pat said that most horses will trot for a bit and then when they hit their "easy rolling trot" they usually sigh and visibly relax. That is the point where homeostasis has been restored. So that was my plan.. easy canter after the finish line, then trot til Fleck relaxed, and then do some walking. We stuck to that plan, although the whole walking part was not quite what Fleck was interested in. He was anxious to keep trotting and find his friends again and get on to some more jumping! We managed to walk over the section of really hard ground, but trotted the majority of the way. I figured it was better to trot happily than fight him the whole way. So we ended up in the D box a little earlier than necessary but it worked out well.

Fleck was cleared and I got back on and headed to the start box and on we went! Fleck flew over the first three jumps in steeplechase mode. We even veered way off the path and had to realign to fence 4, which was a really cool A-frame trakenher. He jumped that great and then we jumped the corner smoothly and then started on the uphill jumps. Fleck was cruising but listening at this point and jumping well. We got to the first water and he was great and then he jumped the sharp turns to the fenceline jumps awesomely! We then cantered down to the second water, which was my buggaboo fence. I think I backed him up a bit too much because he broke to the trot, but jumped right in and then.... I lost my stirrup! Drats!!! Not here... I need my stirrup for that jump out of the water! I managed to barely grab it and poor Fleck jumped that big ol' jump without any help from me. But he jumped it. However, when he landed he felt a little jelly legged. I thought it may have been because of my stirrup issues but at the next fence, he also landed a little wobbly almost. I totally get what Dorothy meant because that's exactly what it felt like! It was like all of a sudden he was just a bit weak and wobbly. Nothing to the point of having to pull up or anything! Just that feeling that he probably felt like I feel sometimes when I run and it starts to burn a bit. So I took a little bit more of a hold on the reins, added a bit more secure leg and helped him. And man did it work! He jumped the table to trakenher on the bendy line great and then galloped on nicely balanced to the downhill coop and onto the coffin. We slowed down a bit because of it too, but still were doing okay on time. After the coffin we only had two fences left and Fleck also jumped those nicely and we crossed the finish line just a few seconds under optimum. Whoo hoo!!!

Fleck got vetted and untacked and within less than 10 minutes he was grazing and calm. We got the all clear to head back to the barns, but waited for Cindy and Ellen so we had company. We walked back and took our time, letting the good boys graze! All three of us went clean :) Back at the barn Fleck got iced, walked and iced again and then I put him in his stall for some quiet time. We grazed again and his legs were tight and cool, so we poulticed and put him to bed. Oh, and on the way out we checked the scoreboard and Fleck and I had moved up to 17th :)

Sunday morning was an early morning as we had the final jog at 10 am. That meant I had to braid Fleck, hose the poultice off his legs, groom him, and change into my jog outfit. We got there with plenty of time until they notified us that they had changed the jog to about 9 am. EEEKS!! We made a mad dash and managed to get ready in time, but poor Fleck didn't get any grazing or walking before hand. Luckily it didn't matter and he passed the jog easily. After that he got to graze and he was happy. We then had to distract ourselves until about 2:30 when our stadium started. It wasn't easy, but we managed. Finally it was time to warm up. We headed to the rings and started to trot around to loosen Fleck up. He was a little stiff to the right so we worked on that. Because of the pounding his feet took yesterday, I didn't want to do too much jumping, especially since stadium is not normally an issue for us. We jumped a cross rail and then headed to the big vertical and ... stopped!!! Doh!! I totally got carried away and nervous and threw myself at it, so I apologized to Fleck and tried again and he was fine. Then we jumped the oxer and continued to walk him and stretch him out. Finally it was our turn! Deep breath.... We went in, saluted to the judge... figured out how to get a good approach and cantered on. Fleck jumped beautifully!!!! It was one of our best stadium rounds ever! He was forward but not speedy and jumping lovely. He did the bendy line oh so lovely and didn't even blink at the liverpool. Then fence 5 was a bunch of small boxes painted to look like those toy blocks with letters on them. I felt him back off so I tapped him with the crop once and forward he went. He jumped the double beautifully and then around to the other double just as beautifully!! I was sooooooooo proud of us!!! We had just finished the T3D on our dressage score with no penalties on cross country or stadium. Unfortunately our dressage score wasn't quite good enough to get us in the ribbons but we moved up to 13th place.

Fleck got a nice long graze and more grazing and then we went to dinner to celebrate! Since it was so late we decided to leave the next morning and not have to arrive home at 2 am. Fleck I think appreciated the sleep and graze the next morning, but was glad to be home. As soon as we unloaded from the trailer he rolled and rolled and then drank and then neighed for his dinner. And he's been enjoying just being a horse for the past few days. He definitely earned his days off.
So yes... Fleck is now officially a long format event horse!! His resume now includes "Completed and finished on his dressage score.. a T3D!". I'm so proud of him. He did everything I asked and then some. He truly is a superstar! I am so glad we took this journey together and now my eyes are set on the Prelim 3 Day! But first things first... prelim ;)

2010 American Eventing Championships! Yeah Baby!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So Fleck and I qualified for the American Eventing Championships this year. Luckily they were held in Fairburn, Georgia, and not Illiniois, so it saved me some gas money ;) To qualify, we had to have 1st or 2nd in any USEA recognized Training Horse Trials, or 3rd in two USEA recognized Training Horse Trials or 1st through 5th in any USEA Training Area Championship. We ended up qualifying by getting 1st at FENCE!
We have been working our butts off and were all set to go!! And then... disaster struck! I got on for my lesson Tuesday morning and after 10 minutes of warm up, Fleck was almost 3 legged lame. WHAT?!?! What happened!!??? It wasn't the leg with the hole in it from the stud injury. It was the other leg! So... I hopped off and investigated. We figured out it had to be a hot nail and pulled it. However, Flecky was still lame. So..... we headed back home to soak and wait for Kip. Poor Kip... he was headed to the Keys for some rest and well deserved relaxation. But not yet!! Oh no... he had to come back out and pull Fleck's shoe and figure out what the deal was. Poor Fleck just couldn't tolerate more than one nail on that inside wall. So....one nail it was! Kip put a big ol' nail on that side, then put some pour in pad in and we crossed our fingers. Fleck got soaked, and some bute and we crossed our fingers. The plan was to leave Wednesday am, because our ride times were Dressage: Thursday 9:06 am, Cross Country: Thursday 11:34 am, and Stadium: Saturday morning. Sigh.... Wednesday morning Fleck was much much happier. He was not toe touching, was sound at the walk and even sound at the trot.... Until we turned a tight circle. Drats. But... we loaded up anyways because he was so much better I figured maybe a few more hours and he be healed. So off we went, hoping for the best.
We got there and WOW!! What a sight. There was something like 706 horses entered and the sight was amazing. We got unloaded and got Fleck settled and unhitched the trailer. The drove the mile back to truck parking then walked the mile back to the barn ;). Luckily I had "Piglet" to drive around. That itself was an adventure. It took me a few days to get used to driving the mini dirt-bike but what a life saver! After getting organized, we walked the XC course. It was a good course. It started off fairly easy, but by fence 5, it was a championship course. Fence 5 was a fairly steep brush on the top of a hill with a slight drop going down hill on a curve to the water. At the bottom of the hill was a roll top on a small berm, then a few strides to the drop into the water, then a bendy line, out of the water, over a substantial steep skinny brush. Then a few easy gimme fences, then the bank complex. The bank was nothing major, but up a big steep hill and at the apex a hanging log just as you started down the hill. So it was a fun roller-coaster type jump. Then another cabin type jump, then the "man from snowy river" drop but we shared it with BN and Novice so really not that big of a deal, except that we landed and immediately went to an angled double skinny cabin. It was a tight angled line and honestly... Fleck probably would have been fine since he was on fire, but.... we have troubles with angled lines sometimes, we decided to play it safe and circle. Which was allowed as it was 12 and 13, and not an A and a B. Then on to a double corner/faux corner then to the coffin, which was easy (not the angled coffin like at regionals). Then a coop in the big boy field, then a big picnic table, then a one or two stride thingy, then the kennels and then we're done. So then we decided we had better walk the ponies a bit and then get on and ride and see how Fleck's foot was feeling. And yay of yay's the big boy was sound!!!! Hooray for Kip!!! He was actually a little too sound!!! He was soooo excited. It didn't help that it was starting to get dark and the atmosphere was electric, but he was hyped up. :) We had fun ;)
So we packed his foot with ichthamol just to make sure, gave him his bath, and got everything all set up for the morning. Then we did the typical horse show ritual of Mexican dinner and set off for the hotel. We got up nice and early and headed for the show grounds for Day 1!!
Warm up was crazy and Fleck was a little fired up. We had a few antics but nothing unexpected considering how busy warm up was. Fleck behaved for the most part and we avoided collisions. We did as well as could be expected for where we are in our training and felt pretty ready going in. However, I did have a little panic as they sent me in the big ring as the girl was exiting the ring, not as she was starting. Eeeeeks!!! I like to have at least a few seconds to get my thoughts together, so I had a little bit of a panic minute and I think it cost me a bit. But it's okay. It may not have mattered and it may have helped. We went in and had probably as good of a test (minus the one error on my part) as we probably could have given where we are at in our training. Fleck did everything I asked. I started my first 15 meter canter circle and as I got through the first quarter I panicked and couldn't remember if I had just started it or should be finishing it... ie.. should I go to the rail or the quarter line. EEEEKKKKS!!! Crud, crud, crud... what do I do?!! So I weaved.. .maybe?! I finally figured it out, but it cost us. Probably cost us a bit in the lengthen right after too, but again, maybe not. Then I think I got a little hangy in the left rein in the right lead canter and our scores reflected that. I was a little tense in our medium walk so our scores reflected that. Our stretchy trot was better, but my reins were too long in the lengthen so I thought well crud.. I better really push him into that longer rein then.. and Beth said that it was actually a pretty decent lengthen. yay! So overall, not a horrible test for us. The pictures aren't great, but not horrid. We can do better and we will do better, but it wasn't horrid and at least I RODE! Which was my goal. We actually shaved almot 5 points off our score from Full Gallop's test too, which was aweosme. So we ended up with a 40.9. Both judges gave us that score too, so again, it was scored pretty fairly, maybe even a bit generous in my opinion, but I'll take it. That put us in 37th of 51. I'll take it! And we'll keep working at it!

So then... we had two hours before XC. I hosed Fleck off, unbraided him and let him have some time to rest while I tried to walk XC once more. I had just enough time to walk 3/4 of the course and get back and get ready. Eeek, talk about nerves! Actually, it worked well because I really didn't have time to get nervous. I ran back to the barn (well, rode the golf cart back with Liz) and got dressed and tacked up. I was worried Fleck would be tired, but oh no.. He got his second wind when he saw that XC course and was fired up! We warmed up and were all set to go. He felt so good that I really wasn't even nervous. I figured he'd take care of me, and he did! We started off and I didn't touch his face and just let him go. I tried to use my shoulders to balance his shoulders and half-halt and balance him and we had some beautiful first jumps. We got to the scary first fence, which was the upright brush fence on the top of the hill. Fleck just cruised over it and then we went down to the water. There I let him down. I just kinda let him do the work and he kinda rolled over the roll top and rolled down the bank into the water. It wasn't pretty, but he got it done. It didn't feel as bad as the pictures look, but...they look pretty bad! But we'll fix it! But he jumped right in... no dancing on the edge like he used to! Then he jumped out fine, thought not quite as rocked back as I thought I had him. Then off we went. He jumped the roller coaster bank jump lovely and we had a blast. Then he jumped down the "man from snowy river" bank lovely and probably would have jumped the bendy cabins fine, but we had a plan to circle so we did! And man did I circle... I think we did 15 meter canter circles at cross country speed. Hee hee... Without studs! ;) But you know... we had to. The fence lines and jump judges were in the way ;) Plus I wanted to avoid adding too much time, so... we did what we had to do. Then onward to the faux corner and then the coffin. Then we heard the watch beep for the fourth minute as we entered the big boy field. Oops... In my mind, we had one minute left coming out of the big boy field. Which meant, we had to speed up. Only.. that was wrong. Optimum time was 5 minutes and 20 seconds so we were actually spot on (get it?!). But in my brain, I was thinking that instead of having 1 minute and 20 seconds left, I only had 1 minute left, so I clucked a little and Fleck answered. So... we picked up the pace a bit and hurried on. We flew over the coop, flew over the picnic table, and then apparently angled the one or two stride line and flew down to the cabin. THEN... I realized... oops, we still have like 20 seconds, so we cantered politely to the far left side of the finish line and still finished at 4:59. Instead of 5:20 like we wanted. But WHOOO HOOOO!!!! We went double clear and Fleck was amazing!!! He never once faltered... He had his ears pricked looking for the next fence the entire time and he never once questioned. Just answered with yes ma'am and what's next?! I never had to go to spur or crop, just a cluck or squeeze with my legs. I barely even needed to steer, just looked and he went. It was awesome. And the time was at 470, so we were probably running a little closer to 500 mpm. Nice :) Speeding tickets were at 4:49 so we were safe there too. Yeehaw!!!! What fun. So we headed back to the barn and hosed Fleck off and got him cooled down. His heart rate came down fairly quickly, but it did take a little longer for his respiratory rate to come down. Not unusual for him given the humidity and dust. I iced his legs and gave him his icey cold carrots and he was a happy camper!!! Afterwards he took a big long nap! Poor kid, he deserved it. That was a lot of work on one hot day! And all that hard work moved us up to 22nd place!!! Yee Haw!

So then Friday we had the day off. Well Fleck did... I volunteered in the morning, so it was another early day. I manned dressage warm up and met some nice people! We managed to keep the rings running smoothly and had fun! The Chatt Hills people kept us fed and watered so it was fun! We also got a great t-shirt from one of the sponsors.... I can't remember the companys' name, but I will... and edit this! Then at noon I got to go play. Liz wanted a quick ride so I hopped on Fleck bareback and went to join her! However, I wanted to get my free sandwich for volunteering so I grabbed it on my way out and carried it while riding. Hee hee.... Fleck was a good boy, but man he got a little skinny and it wasn't as comfy as he used to be! Then we got down to the cross country field where the schooling riding was (so we didn't interfere with the competitors warming up in the rings) and he perked up! He was all ready to go again! So yeah.. riding the bony boy bareback in the hot sun when we were both sweaty while trying to hold onto my sandwich wasn't easy! But I managed. Even managed a little gallop or two also :) Then we headed back and I watched and cheered Liz and Beth on. They both looked awesome doing their cross country rides! Then I did a little browsing but was good and didn't buy anything. Then walked Fleck some more and had Mexican again :)

Saturday morning... I was nervous!! I'm not sure why. Our double clear cross country run had moved us up to 22nd place. So it wasn't like I was in the ribbons. But maybe it was because I knew I had the potential to cost us a rail and I wanted to end on my dressage score. And maybe it was because I actually had a little bit of time to get nervous. So I was. But it was all good!! Beth had us warming up well and we had three of the most perfect jumps ever!!! Then I screwed it all up by trying to get the lead change and got Fleck and I all unbalanced. And of course it messed up the next jump and that was right as they asked if I was ready. NO!!!! EEEEK!! So we sorta fixed it. Then in we went. Well... I kept telling myself Ritch likes those forward course, so...FORWARD we went! Only a little too forward. Apparently we left out a stride in every combo. The five stride we did in four, and the six stride... we put in five. But that's okay because we went clean :) YAY! It may not have been beautiful and we got away with two lucky rubs, but Fleck tried his heart out for me and kept the rails up. So... we'll finesse that some more and be a bit less desperate next time.

So whooo hoooo!!!! We finished on our dressage score and those double clear jumping rounds moved us up to 15th place!!!!! Fleck and I finished 15th out of 51 of the top Training Amateur Riders in the Nation. :) Well, of the ones that qualified and made the journey, and on that particular week, but still :)

I'm so proud of him!!! Fleckers was a rockstar and really shone this week!!!! He was on fire and I couldn't have asked for anything more from him!!!
Man I love my horse!!