Monday, April 23, 2012

Lucinda Clinic 4/12

So... SUPER FUN WEEKEND!!!!!  Fleck and I went to a Lucinda Green clinic and had an absolute blast!!

Like I said, it started Friday am on Flecks birthday! We had a good lesson with Beth and then started off on the adventure. We picked up Caroline and Jack and now Fleck has a new friend. Him and Jack hung out all weekend and Fleck decided he thought Jack was awesome. So we headed off to Easy Breeze, a TB training farm. The Lucinda clinic was at the Gibbes Farm in St. Matthews SC, but they had limited stabling so the rest of us stayed a few minutes down the road at Easy Breeze. What a nice place! Fleck had a big stall with tons of fluffy shavings and then there was this awesome gallop track!!! I was soooooo tempted to hop on and take Fleck for a spin. BUT... it was his birthday.. he had already been ridden... and it was getting late and we still had to unhitch and go find our hotel, eat dinner, and sleep! So... now track for us. Caroline and I found our hotel and had dinner with Beth at Fatz. Then we went back to the hotel and went to bed!

Saturday morning was foggy and beautiful when we first got up. We took the boys for a little walk after breakfast. Fleck was silly! He felt good... anytime the babies got riled up, Fleck would bow up and get all prancy with his silly little tail flipped up over his back. The day was supposed to get hot and we didn't ride til after lunch, so we put the boys back in the stalls with hay and went to go watch.

Lucinda is AWESOME!!! I really really enjoyed her. Before we started she asked a bit about each horse and rider. I told her that Fleck and I were doing okay but having our issues. Most of the stuff was my fault and just rookie mistakes and fixable. But that at Pine Top and Chatt hills he had his "No" moments. I told her that he basically quit and wouldn't do it. She said that she knew a few appies and all of them were like that. It got to a point where they just quit and said no. I told her he's always been a good guy and tried, but that perhaps this was starting to get hard for him. She agreed that he wasn't really built to be a prelim or higher horse. She asked about veterinary reasons and I told her that he's been poked and prodded thoroughly and should be quite happy and comfy. Then she asked if he was all Appy. I told her he was 3/8 TB and she replied with "well, you have 3/8 hope then!". hee hee.. And then she said that she'd watch and see and we'd go from there. Now... let me add my disclaimer. She is VERY nice and was not rude at all about it. She said that of the appaloosa's she's known... she has found them to be chickens and they will quit. But she also was very open minded and quick to change her mind if it was shown to be otherwise. After we started jumping she said "oh.. there's no reason he can't be a prelim horse!" She was quite pleased with him.
So, the first day was stadium day. She basically says that any horse can jump from the right distance. BUT... EVERY one will get them to a bad spot at some point and the horses that can think on their feet and get through it are the ones you want. It's not always going to be right but you have to make do and do it. So she didn't measure any lines and put stuff out and about. It was looky spooky stuff too! She wanted to challenge them but also build their confidence. And ours. There was a bunch of skinnies, some of those walls that are jump "fillers" - the short 4 foot wall pieces. There was barrels, a plank, and even a chunk of astroturf/fake grass carpet. She had each group trot over everything to show that we could control the ponies. She said that trotting makes it harder for a horse to refuse because he only had one hind foot on the ground at each moment, instead of being able to push off and away with both hind feet. So we started off by jumping over anything we wanted for about 4 minutes.. the only rules were NO cantering and no running out. We could stop, we could back up, and we could go through it... but we were not to go past it unless we went over it. I took Fleck over everything and surprisingly he didn't refuse anything! Even the skinnies... the carpet... whatever. He just jumped over. And straighter than he's ever been before too. I guess our mounting block lesson helped ;) Then she set up a course and we did that and then we were allowed to canter. Then we kept doing courses but she kept making them harder.... At one point we had to jump the arm of a V jump, bending line to 3 skinny bounces then slice the oxer. And then later we did an extreme diagonal line from a corner, to the barrel, to the plank... all very angled or bent. It was a blast! Fleck was a rockstar! The only issue we had was that I got a little too excited and forget to ride and let him get long and flat and so he took a flyer to the corner and then made the barrels but only by the skin of our teeth and then we missed the plank. When I packaged him and rode properly he nailed it. So then she was pretty much out of stuff for us to do with course work and said she was impressed with us. :) Then we did the barrels from a walk. The goal was to get us more comfortable with being in the back seat. Then she had us jump the barrels from a walk, slip the reins, and then keeping the reins long... we had to practice steering with the long reins and our legs and jump them over three more jumps on an curved line. It was great fun. She also stressed always stopping at the end of our  lines, or a course, or even just when they were being naughty, and making them halt and telling them they were good (or bad). She said that it was a good way to instill leadership without having to get into it. In other words... it was a dominance thing, but we didn't have to get into it with them to prove it. So...we all finished with a straight line halt and we were done! yay!! Lucinda said that Fleck was lovely and she didn't see any reason so far that he wasn't a prelim pony.

The other groups did pretty much the same stuff as our group did, only not quite as technical. It was great because Lucinda said the same things and had each group accomplish the same goals, but also challenged the higher leveled groups a bit more and demanded a bit more from them. It wasn't so much that the jumps were higher, but the questions were tougher. So it was great fun to ride in because it wasn't just the same ol' exercise but bigger. And it was great to watch all the other groups too. I learned a lot just from watching them. There were some issues in every group and each issue was a learning experience. There was a few bit changes and the why's behind it were very helpful.

So... after a long hot day, we hauled the ponies back to the race farm and get them settled for the night. Then we had dinner with Stephanie (who came up to audit) and headed back to the hotel. I woke up around 4 am to pouring down rain but by the time we had to get up, it had stopped. It was crazy... hot and sweaty and sunshiney on Saturday, and cool, drizzly, and overcast on Sunday. We got super lucky though because despite the forecast predicting rain the majority of the day with storms, we really didn't get anymore than a fine misting for a few minutes. Caroline and I ended up just taking the ponies over that morning and leaving them tied to the trailer. We figured it would be easier and would allow us to watch more. And since it wasn't too hot, we felt okay with them tied up eating hay.

So... Cross country day... Holy smokes.... the Gibbes Farm is magnificant. There is sooooo much space with soooo many cross country jumps. They had a training level rolex looking duck!! There was about 5 ditch and walls, two waters, banks, sunken roads, mounds, coffins, tables, palisades, bendy lines, bounces, bounces in and out of water, and all sorts of fun stuff! Lucinda said she would give us a little bit of a free rein and let us do what we wanted but would also come up with some games for us. So again, I watched the first three groups and learned a lot. Then it was our turn. Eeeks!! I was nervous. But Fleck was great.. He was a bit of a firecracker at first. She had us jump a few jumps to get in the groove and Fleck was so wound up I wasn't sure I'd be able to steer. But once I picked a line, he locked on and started to focus. So.. then we went to the banks to start. She had us trot up the bank, then trot down. I must remember to not jump up his neck on the up banks... Then we added a skinny up top and a skinny at the bottom. I"m definitely getting better at steering and using my legs rather than relying on just my hands. And then.... it all fell apart. She set up a little mini course with a rather hard jump. And I wanted to do it because I sorta thought we might see Flecks' "No" come out and I wanted help on how to fix it. So we did the skinny, down the bank, bending to another skinny, then to a hanging log, then roll back around to another hanging log (only this one was special.... it had a rolled out ground line and in between that ground line was a sunken/buried water trough), then up around to the top of the bank again and over a log stack bounce down off the bank. I was thinking Fleck would say no to the log stack at the top of the bank because I figured he couldn't see the bank behind it but would know something was afoot. Yeah, well... we didn't quite make it that far. He saw the water trough from a stride or two back and said NO WAY!!! I tried a few times and couldn't even get him close to it. Lucinda came to help and we walked him up to it to let him see it and sniff it. He was snorting and blowing and would only get so close. She did say it was brave of him to get as close as he did, as he was obviously scared and that others wouldn't have gotten that close. But.. he wasn't going over it. We then tried following Phinn. I wasn't sure it would work as it didn't at Pine Top, but... she had me hot on his tail. Like... almost on top of him (whether that's what she meant or not... oh well). I honestly thought Fleck just might go over it but at the last minute Phinn stopped too,s so Fleck was like "oh, see.... I told you guys!". So.... we then got Phinn over it by following Cavalier and then tried to get Fleck to follow Cavalier. He still said no. So... Lucinda said that it wasn't going to happen today. And that she didn't know how to fix it because you couldn't break it down... She said to not take Fleck to fences like that because I couldn't help him over it if he decided he didn't like it. Argh... I was frustrated. I admit it. I mean, it was nice to know that it wasn't poor riding on my part... but still. I'd prefer it that it was so I could fix it. So... I'll have to set something up at home that is similar. So, then we went around and did the log to the drop and he saw it and hesitated but only because he was thinking. He went.. he just had to think for a second. So I was proud of him for that. Then we went over to the little water. Fleck was a good boy there too and we did fine. Then we made our way to the ditches.  But on the way we jumped two more hanging logs with rolled out ground lines. They had stone and such, but not water troughs. As I suspected (but maybe Lucinda didn't), Fleck jumped those like they were nothing! Lucinda set up a trakenher skinny using poles and had us go over that. Fleck peeked but was fine. Then we did a bendy line coffin. Lucinda said that you always want to go straight over ditches and banks. You do not want to angle them unless you absolutely have to. But usually you can angle what comes before and after and jump the ditches and banks mostly straight. So then we did two more bigger hanging logs with rolled out ground lines and of course, no problem. So then onward to the coffin. It was a funky one with the two rolltops set up on mounds and the ditch down in the trough of the mounds. Fleck and I sorta crawled through it the first time but then I sat up and rode and he rocked it. Then we jumped two more jumps and cruised down to the sunken road, which he jumped just fine. Again though... I sorta expected it. It was downhill, so he could see what was coming. So then we moved onto the big water. Megan was brave and jumped the ditch and wall but I chickened out. I had already had the stop at the water trough and didn't want to hold up the group again. Plus, there were a few ditch and walls that were smaller so I figured i"d work my way up to them when I came back. So we went to the water where Fleck was awesome again. After sitting for quite a bit we cantered into the water and out over the barrels, then around and over a log, one stride, dropped into the water, over a roll top in the water, and then out, and then over a chevron (well, over the chevron on the second attempt when I did NOT throw myself at it and climb up his neck)!. Then around to the drain pipe into the water, then a log bounce into the water...  Great stuff. Fleck was great.

Lucinda told me that she was sorry that Fleck and I had our issue and she wished she could have helped us. She said that he's great and I just need to remember to sit up and stay sitting up. I need to be stronger, allowing the reins to slip so he can drop his head and look and not allow him to pull me down. She also said that when I do that I need to keep my leg on and prevent him from getting behind my leg. She said he goes from going, to behind my leg suddenly, and that throws me forward and then he can't jump. So I must figure out how to get stronger and stay back there and prevent it from happening.

So yes.. all in all, a great weekend!!! It was a little bit of a bummer that we couldn't work through the water trough jump issue, but I was glad we did everything else. Fleck was great and game and happy and we had a blast! It was a great learning experience and great fun hanging out with old and new friends. Exhausting... but fun!

I'm definitely going to sign up to ride with her again and hopefully by then, we'll have fixed our problems and can convince her that not all Appies are chickens :)

Coming back

So... after Chatt Hills, Fleck had a day or two off and we did some light riding. I took him and Danny for a trail ride. Nothing too exciting. Then we injected his knees. He was only supposed to have three days off, but got a whole week off, thanks to work and life. Which put us to Thursday of last week.  We're still working on getting a new dressage saddle and at this point we are dressage saddleless. But since we had a big jumping weekend ahead, I opted to try to flat. So on Thursday we did some dressage and worked on our dressage test for the Area champs. And man oh man, do I HATE that dressage test. I am so tempted to move back up to prelim just so we don't have to do that stupid test...  It's the absolute worst test possible for Fleck and I. It plays on all of our weaknesses. So, it's down centerline, then a 15 meter figure 8 at the trot. Which isn't too bad except I suck at geometry, so I'm either doing a 10 meter or a 12 meter egg thing. Then it's canter a 15 meter circle then a canter lengthen 20 meter circle. Ugh..  I hate lengthenings on the circle. Then the free walk, which is also not our forte. And this is where it REALLY goes downhill... then the right lead canter... our worst.. to the canter lengthen... on a circle... then back to working canter, then down to trot in the corner, then you have just the corner to get them back in a decent trot before you do your stretchy trot at A. Okay, I've broken Fleck's stretchy trot.... So then you have a corner to collect them back up and then it's trot lengthen across the diagonal. All of this comes up really really fast. So argh... Flecks confused, I can't get my act together to tell him what I want.. It's just a mess. But oh well. We'll muddle through it at Area Champs and we BETTER get our clean run so we can try prelim again and get away from that darn awful test! So then after that I was a little annoyed and knew Fleck was too. So I decided, hey... since I'm in my jump saddle... let's jump. Well, the only jump up was one rail of my swedish oxer... which was the biggest jump I had set up. But no worries... Fleck was great. Good to know his knees were happy :) So then I thought... hmmm... we're going to the Lucinda clinic this weekend... she likes skinnies. So... I made Fleck jump my little step stool mounting block. Hee hee. He was so confused. It took three or four tries, but he did it. Whoo hoo. We're ready!

So then Friday came. FLECKS BIRTHDAY!!!!!! Awww... my best guy turned 15!!  My husband asked how much longer he would be rideable! NO!!! He's not old.. he's PRIME :) We celebrated with carrots and then..... I put him in the trailer and took him to Robin's farm for a lesson with his favorite Aunt Beth! :) We did flat work because of the jumping weekend ahead. It sucks trying to do dressage in my jump saddle. But we did it and got some nice work out of him. We worked on the rapid fire transitions in the test and on the stretchy trot. Got some decent work. So then Fleck got a bath in the nice warm water at Robins. Yay! And then we headed off to start our next adventure....  :) :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Well this weekend sucked! Argh... I mean, it ended well but I was really in a bad place Saturday.

So I was all excited and looking forward to Chatt Hills Horse Trial Easter weekend. I was sad that I was mising my family and Easter fun, but figured I'd be having some Easter fun of my own. And was hoping to finish early enough to get home to join in. Well, life, work, and Fleck had other plans. So the week started badly as it was.... Sunday we did our fitness work. He felt fine but seemed a little too happy to come back down to the trot during our canters and was a little slow. I attributed it to lack of fitness as I haven't been keeping up with our work lately because of work. So then Mon and Tues I had to work. Wed I was too tired to ride.... I wanted to and I knew I needed to, but I just couldn't gather up the energy before I had to get up and go see Dr. Brown. We got to Dr. Browns and he said that Fleck was sore in his knees. Really??? He's never been sore there before, except one time. Sure enough... Jan 11, but not since. They thought he was sore enough to xray so we did. And wow... Fleck's got some bad arthritis in both knees. We talked about what to do. And finally decided to give him equiox and take it as it went. If he acted sore at all, I'd stop. But since it was chronic and obviously didn't happen overnight, he may be fine. However, after this weekend, both Keelin and Stan suggested injecting his knees. Then they said he'd be rarin' to go for the Lucinda clinic. We just didn't want to do it then because that would put me riding him too soon after ideally.
So home we went with a  jump lesson scheduled for the next morning with Beth. We got up early (Ugh... only got about 6 hours of sleep after being up and only getting 2 the day/night before). Hauled all the way to Beths and tacked up. I talked to Beth and Peri and we all decided that we'd jump him because if he was going to be sore, I'd rather know now then halfway around XC with his adrenaline kicking in. I had started the equiox and he has been on pentosan and I was planning on giving him a legend dose that day anyways. So.... we start to warm up and he looks fine and is acting fine. We jumped a vertical both directions and he felt great. Moving up to the spots and jumping nicely. Then we did a little course of 3 jumps... landed after the swedish oxer, and lost a shoe. Sigh... Really?!?! Argh.... so Kip was heading over there that day but didn't have time to fit me in and was already planning on coming Friday morning as it was, so.... we watched Peri ride and then went home. I spent the whole day cleaning tack and packing and organizing the trailer. I was up late cleaning ALL of his tack and had to get up early to meet Kip the next morning.
Kip got him all done and prettied up. We even put front stud holes in and got his pads on and he was set to go. Did Roany pony and Dan and then I finished packing. Fleck felt good as he trotted off and enjoyed his free time before we left.
We got to Chatt Hills in good time and I got him settled. I tacked up and met Beth down at dressage for a little school after doing a quick hack around the farm with Beth H. and Phinn. Beth said she did NOT like me in the new saddle I was trying. I had to agree, although I had liked it at home. But here at the show I felt like I was pivoting around and my legs were swinging and my shoulders were pitching around. So.... Beth said that Cindy from County was here and she would bring me a saddle to try. No charge cause she wasn't fitting him. Okay, fine I can do that then.

Things to remember from dressage schooling: Right lead canter - keep his head straight. He likes to overbend to trick me into thinking he's bent around my right leg, when it's just his neck. Straighten his neck out and that allows him to be able to bend and give his right rib cage. Shorten my reins and don't compensate by then extending my elbows. Keep my elbows bent and at my side. Really sit him on his hiney.. protect thos fragile knees by rocking him back ;)

So after that we got the ponies all cleaned up and settled in and then went to walk XC.
You know.... it wasn't that scary of a course. Of course that might have been the Mike's Hard Lemonade talking. But it really was a decent course. Nothing terrified me, but it was definitely something I would have to ride. I wasn't convinced we'd make it around clear on the first attempt, but I knew we could make it around. HA!!! (remember this for later!).

Fence 1 was kinda tough and mean. It was shared with intermediate and only about 10 strides out. A big brush...fairly vertical but ramped some. Then a nice little gallop to the second fence...which was the usual first fence. Then a little short gallop to a rolltop slightly downhill. All no sweat really. Then you hugged the treeline and turned left into the big field. But before your left turn came the first combination. It was pretty easy but he added a big hay bale in the middle to distract the horses. It was two fairly big skinny hay feeder thingys. The line wasn't difficult but it was a bendy line and again, the hay bale to the left tended to spook them and make them bulge wide. Then a looooon gallop to a HUGE table... Very wide, but it looked normal sized til you were over it.  Then another little stretch to a fairly small little log coop thingy. Then along the river and slightly uphill to the sunken road. It's a slight uphill to a very vertical upright fairly skinny brush, two strides and down the bank, I think one stride or two strides and up the bank, then a slightly offset/bendy line to a big brush rolltop with a downhill drop landing. Then a right hand turn to a cool combo. It was a sharkstooth then a "rollback" to a skinny cabin, S turn to a very tight bounce! It was two little rolls slightly offset, but a straight line. As in one was a little farther left and one was a little farther right, but the line was still straight to straight. Then another long gallop to the teepee/T frame/A frame jump, then to a big stone table, then up a very steep hill with a slight bend to a pretty small cabin/coop with a slight drop. Then down the hill, hit the flat ground and over another upright brush. Then over a little tiny mound thing and drop over the log into the water (was the old training line) with a bendy line to a big rolltop brush in the water. Then you head straight to the road, turn right, and jump the trakenher (which is really just a hanging log with a ground log and slight ditch behind it). Then another gallop to the bank complex. This was a cool line.. You jumped this cabin thing either angled or on an arc and ran up the mound... then down the VERY steep mound and cut across it and jumped another cabin off to the right. Then a long gallop to an uphill rolltop and then a little gallop to another shared intermediate fence - a sharkstooth. And done.

So anyways, we fed and checked and walked ponies, then sheeted them and went for dinner. Then bac to the hotel for showers and a little sleep before getting up early. I got Fleck braided and Cindy showed up with the two saddles for me to try. We put the first one on him and it fit well so I figured I'd ride in it and see what happened. We got to warm up and Beth coached us and Fleck was being really quite good. We were getting some pretty nice medium trots and some nice canter work with only a few little temper tantrums. :) And I liked the saddle. I felt pretty secure in it and definitely didn't feel like I was flying around in it like I did the day before in the other saddle. Beth asked if I wanted to try the other one and I told her no.. it was too many changes before my test. I should have listened to her. Remember that!! I should always listen to Beth. She's always right! hee hee.. So anways, we head down to the arena's and make our way to the last one. As I start to circle around I asked Fleck for his right rib cage. Well, that made him mad so he bolted into a canter. Sigh.... I cantered a little and then got him back and then the bell rang so in we headed. We had a decent trot and halt and trot on. Then it was across the diagonal in a medium trot... yay, our time to show off our new fancy medium. NOT!!! Goober pony cantered almost the whole way. It went canter 6 strides, trot 2 strides, canter 5 strides, trot 1 stride, canter 3 strides, trot 1 stride, canter 2 strides.. and now we're back at the rail. Really horse/~!?  Argh... so then the leg yield and canter was pretty nice, but not like we had in warm up. Then we had a pretty nice counter canter until we headed back up the long side and "Swap"... Fleck gave me a beautiful flying change. Argh... I attempted to switch him back but it was too late... so crud. Onward we went and by golly I was determined to hold that second counter canter. Unfortunately that is the direction that I tend to overbend his neck in anyways, so while we held it...we got counted off for over positioning him. Then came the walk.... first medium was fine, free walk was mostly fine until I started to collect, then it was a jig. And then I guess because I was trying to address the jig... we got to C and I asked for a trot and Flecky said "FU" and slammed on the brakes. He became a recalcitrant little butthead! He would NOT go forward. I had to resort to grumbling at him and pony club kicking so that we didn't get eliminated. And of course this meant that he shot forward, inverted, hollowed and really not even on the rail. Sigh... I did manage to get him somewhat back together again and finish on a decent note. But really?!?! Way to blow that test Buddy! Although I'm sure some of it was my reactions and over-reactions to him.... Just so frustrating because he was going so well in warm up. I told the judge "I am so sorry" and she said "Me too honey, me too". ha ha.... Oh well.
Suprisingly we got a 39.6. It went 7, 3, 7, 8, 6, 6, 4, 7, 8, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 3, 7. But you know... for prelim that is one of our better scores. Doh! It put us tied for 8th out of 11, so hey, at least I wasn't last after that. So then I went back up the ring and Beth told me most of it was my fault for over-reacting or not riding enough. I sorta reverted back to old habits. Of course... :) So then she said we should try the other County saddle on him. Sure.. why not?! Well... if that little turdball didn't MOVE in that!!! I mean.. he floated!!! It was like the uppitiest, bounciest, most collected and rocked back canter EVER! Felt like he could have done tempi's! And the medium trots..... holy smokes!! He rocketed across the arena flipping his little footsies like a true warmblood!! It was impressive. Darn you silly horse!!! So, yes... I'll be trying that saddle to see what Cindy thinks.

So... alright, whatever... off to walk XC again and get prepared. I was definitely getting nervous again. Beth H and I got ready to go and trotted down there. Still no feelings of offness or stiffness to Fleck. No discomfort... if anything, extra freshness! So we got to warm up and Fleck was AWESOME!! He jumped like a maniac! Forward, happy, taking me to the right distance and just... fresh and happy :) Then Beth had me start him back at the ropes, halt like I was in the start box, and come out and jump the roll top in preparation for the first fence. It was lovely. So... now it's our turn and off we go.
Fleck is all hyped up and prancing and dancing so we circled the start box. Well, I didn't quite get the right approach in the box, but it was fine. We rocketed out of the start box and I rode like the devil was behind us to that first fence. And... I may have overdone it... to put it mildly. I think I was a flapping whirling clucking cropping maniac that on top of that proceeded to throw myself up his neck one stride out... so of course... poor Fleck is like "What on earth is this crazed cracked out monkey doing on my back" and has to slam on the breaks. As I go flying up over his neck and almost over his head. Both reins went over his nose and I think I only stopped myself because my hands hit the fence. I almost took his bridle off with me. So.. okay, I'm REALLY feeling like an idiot as I collect myself, and then realize the reins are somehow both coming under the left side of his neck. So now I really look like an idiot as I sit there trying to flip them back over his giant head. I finally get it together, apologize to the starters, and approach the jump like a normal person. To which Fleck says "sure thing, got this now that you aren't being a complete idiot.. .jeeeshh.... I had it the first time freak'! So... yes, he jumps it lovely and we carry on. Fence 2 is great... Fence 3 is great.... then we get to the first combo. He jumps it nice and collected and bulges just a hair at the hay bale but holds the line and bounds on through the B element. Yay!! Then onward at a gallop to the giant table. Which luckily, I had forgotten how big it was and it really doesn't look that big until you are upon it. So... he flies over it like it's nothing. AWESOME!!!! Beth was right... one of the most fun jumps! So then he skips over the little log pile and here comes the first real test.... the sunken road. It's slightly uphill so I start collecting him and getting him bouncy... and feel him backing off. Oh no you don't!! Honey Badger don't play!!! So I kick on and even smack him once with the whip... Nope, that just opens up the left side and out he goes. Son of a...... Argh!!! So I circle around and get a powerful canter and come again. Same thing... he stops again. Alright... I'm going to be smart about this. Maybe this is just like Pine Top and that darn red rolltop. So I come at a trot. I thought I was getting a powerful trot, but he broke into the canter and then I pulled him back and it resulted into a wimpy trot. And stops. Awww man.....

So we make the long walk of shame back from the farthest depths of cross country. Sigh... At this point, I'm crying... I"m mad... and I'm sad. I'm about ready to give up. Seriously!! I don't know how much more effort I can keep putting into this... I work my ass off to make enough money to support my house and life and still do the horses... I take as many lessons as I can to get him prepped, I did XC schoolings, I practiced a freakin' sunken road.... he's about as ready as he could be. Short of sending him to a pro, I really don't know how much more I can do. And I don't think it's pain... he just flat out said no. If he had been painful, he wouldn't have jumped the other stuff so beautifully. I"m exhausted and tired and working my ass off to make this crap happen and here we are... another $500 down the drain, another weekend wasted away from my family, another disappointment with nothing to show for it. And again, it's not like I wasn't prepared... I don't know how much more I can do... So.. I was in a bad place. I was really really mad at Fleck. I kinda felt like it was his fault. I mean, sure maybe I could have been a little stronger, but.. it's just like he got to it and quit. I don't know if I could have done anything to get him over it. And if it was pain... why wasn't he showing it earlier? So yes, I was mad at him.

So.... I put him up and got him taken care of and stewed for awhile. Everyone was nice and attempted to make me feel better, and Beth helped a lot. But I was just so disappointed. I debated going home, but someone suggested that they may let us school it after the show. And with that as a possibility and having friends to cheer on, I decided to stay. So we cheered everyone else on and I started to feel a little better. I even grazed Fleck some ;) We went to the competitors party and headed back to the hotel. Hannah had a bad day too, as did Kristin, so we decided we deserved ice cream. So... we hit up baskin robbins. I ordered mint chocolate chip. "we don't have that". What/?!? Really? Fine, I'll have oreo then. "We don't have that either". Oh my freakin' jeeze... really?!?! So fine.. give me the darn reeses pieces then. In a cone.... And I took two licks and darn if that stupid ball of ice cream didn't fall right into my lap. I almost started crying again. Sigh... instead I picked it up and ate it anyways. So.. off to bed I went... still mad and bitter and upset, but not quite as much.

The next morning I was a little brighter and Fleck did make me laugh. We were all watching him and I said "you know I still love you right?" and he shook his head Yes. Then I said "But you know that Auntie Beth is going to make you work 4 times harder if we get to school XC than if you had just jumped it yesterday right?" and he shook his head vehemently NOOOOOO! Ha ha...
So... since I had the dressage saddle, I got a flat lesson. He wasn't as super fancy as he was Saturday, but still moved quite nicely and I still liked how the saddle fit me. Again, no issues, no hesitation, no lameness, no heat, etc. So.. we cheered everyone else on and finally it was time to go school XC.  Luckily they changed their minds and allowed it rather than making us have to come back later in the week. So we headed down there with Conrad and got him squared away. Fleck was naughty and dancing and getting all worried. Well, Conrad finished and went back up and Fleck was really upset then. But he settled down and we jumped the coop in warm up. Then we went to the rolltop and the turd stopped! Argh... I was so pissed at him then.... He just wasn't paying attention and was so concerned about Conrad. So I got mad and smacked him. We came to it again and the little turd stopped again. Again, another smacking with his crop and then we came at it a third time, with a slightly more collected canter. This time he listened and jumped it fine. Argh... silly distracted pony... Don't make Mommy mad when she's already slightly mad at you!!
So then we went to the sunken road and attempted to work through that. We did the training line... which, was tough. It was a sharp 90 degree turn from the river essentially, down the drop and a few strides to the upright brush fence. Well, the first time he stopped. Argh!!! So we tried again with a better approach and me making him realize we were JUMPING IT!! And he did. So we did it again, and he did it great. So then we did B and C of the prelim line... no problems. Then B and C and D.. no problems. Then canter in to B, C, and D. Again, no problems. So fine.. then we canter bouncily up to A. Stop..... argh... Canter again up to A... stop again. Really horse?!?! So fine, we trot up to it. Stop.... Argh... So breathe holly, breathe... Trot up to it one more time but soften my hands at the last second and he finally jumps it! GOOD BOY!!! !YOU'RE THE BEST!!!! So we do it once or twice more and then add in D and the goober rocks right through it every time after that. Sigh.... I just don't get it!! I mean... he obviously is fine with it once he's been through it once. But why does it take breaking it down and showing him that he can land on the backside?? Argh... So then we do it with the first two jumps prior to it. And he rockets right through it like it's no big deal. Sigh.... So then we do that section of the course... he does the sunken road, the sharkstooth and we get through the skinny and bounce. I got off balance but he carries me through. So we do it again and this time I stay balanced. Then we had to skip the T-frame because of construction but we carry on to the next section. We run the course from the stone table on... He rocks over that, nails the uphill jump, and then goes right through the water combo no sweat! However, he throws out his left shoulder and as we finally make the turn to the trakehner, his shoulder is out, so I know we can't make it so I pulled him out. Try again and same thing. So then I take the training one for my nerves, come around again and GET THAT SHOULDER OVER and am then happy to take the prelim trakenher, which he jumps just fine. We then got to the bank complex, which was one I was worried about a little too. He nails it!! Jumps it like it's no big deal and we finish the course. Sigh... so really.. .was it that hard Fleck/!?! Argh...
I mean.. I'll give it to him..the first fence was totally my fault... The sunken road... I'm not sure anyone could have gotten him over it if we hadn't broken it down for him. But we had already ridden a sunken road two weekends ago...... And then he nailed all the hard stuff. The trakenher was totally my fault... I pulled him off it, and I never got his shoulder, so... you know, perhaps the trakenher would have been a stop in real life too. But argh!!! Just so frustrating... He's so amazingly awesome, yet.... then he just doesn't... jump the sunken road.

So... anyways, I felt better knowing that it wasn't an issue of him not being able to run the course.. it was just that particular fence. I really think he gets a little panicked when he can't see what's behind the fence but knows there's something coming up. I think he couldn't see around it and so he worried. And instead of trusting me, he just says Nope. So...we praised him highly for all the good jumps and will just have to keep working at it.

So... we headed home feeling pretty good about things. He IS a prelim horse.... he just is a SPECIAL prelim horse who needs to take the special horse route ;) But that's okay.. I'm game for that. If I can just figure out what jumps make him confused and how to unconfuse him, I'm okay with that. It would just be nice if I could figure it out sometime NOT during competitions!

So.. the current plan is to drop back down to training level. It's a little embarassing, but.. I figured we both need a nice clean happy FINISH! And to make it even easier to swallow.. it turns out we are qualified for Area 3 champs at training level, so... yay! It was all part of the master plan! Ha ha! But it does make me a little less embarassed and happier to do it. I'm almost as stubborn as him and hate to admit defeat, even temporary defeat. So... we'll hopefully rock the champs and then figure out where/when to move back up to prelim.

And hopefully the work drama in my life will settle down and make it easier for me to take horsey upsets and/or make it easier to avoid horsey upsets.
Oh, and Fleck was very happy and sound today... his legs were nice and tight and cool and he came galloping up for dinner. So no... I still dont' think it's pain. But being that he's an athlete and a good boy, he's going to get his knees injected to make ME feel better and hopefully him too. :)