Monday, October 29, 2012

Coming back with a vengeance!!!!

HELLSYEAH!!!! Flecky's back!!! And better than ever!
What an exciting weekend. I'm sooooo glad that we ran Training. I'll say it again... Beth is always right. :) It was tempting to run P/T even, but Chatt Hills didn't offer it. And while we may have been just fine on the prelim course, it was nice to be confident and feeling brave and ready to tackle everything before going out on course. Although the way Fleck felt and was jumping, the extra height and difficulty may not have mattered. :) So... here's the long story... 

I worked Wed night and Thurs night and Thurs night kicked my butt!!! It was non-stop patients, complicated cases, and just..... a looooooong night. So by the time Friday morning rolled around, I was beat. Luckily I had done most of the packing on Tuesday and Wednesday so there wasn't too much to do. I managed to get out of here at 1ish despite being blocked in by the the tree people. Then as soon as I was able to get them to move and get the truck and trailer out, I had to stop and move the yard guy out of the driveway while blowing leaves. Then as soon as I did that and got about 10 feet down the driveway the "rooms to go" people came to deliver our new table, thus blocking me in again. Argh!!! Just let me out!!! Finally, fleck and I were on our way. We made good time and got settled in. I quickly realized that somehow I was down at Barn B.... with the Laws! While Beth, Beth, Jamie, and Kristin were up in barn h. Huh?!? Oh well... Nothing I could do about it. So Fleck and I got settled. And by the next day all of the Law's horses were neighing at Fleck. I was laughing and told him he was cool cause he was friends with the poplar horses. ;) So we got settled and went to ride. Oh no!!! Fleck was like jello!! I think Christina adjusted him too well. He was so loose in his hips and pelvis he was practically falling down! hee hee. He kept loosing his hind end out behind him. Of course he had been like this the past two days and worked out of it quickly, but I think it was a little more obvious in this footing and I was paranoid and tired and exhausted mentally, so I panicked. I rode like crap and Beth couldn't get me to cooperate. Finally, she told me that I needed to stop worrying, he was fine, and ride him connected! Sit down and do it. And I did... and lo and behold Fleck actually stopped falling out behind and settled and we had a nice ride. We then hacked around the field to let him stretch some more and he was just being silly. He obviously felt good, despite all his jello moves, as he was dragging me around and trying to GO! Finally Conrad and Nike joined us and he settled down and went back to his normal self. So then it was dinner for the ponies and then finally dinner for us. After Mexican, I went back to check on Fleck, do another walk around, and get him settled. Then it was back to the hotel. I was so exhausted I didn't even clean my tack. I just went to bed. And slept like a ROCK! I think that was the first time I've slept solid through the night without tossing and turning and waking up repeatedly that first night at a horse show. I was just too tired to be too nervous. 

Saturday morning wasn't too chilly when we first got up, but the day did get a bit windier. Fleck warmed up nicely and we did some canter work first to get his hips straightened out and then he felt good. We warmed up quite nicely and then it was our turn. It was actually a good test. He jigged through the entire walk, but.... you know, I didn't mind. He felt good. I know it's an issue with us, and he was good for the rest of the test. Beth was really pleased and said that he was SOFT and SUPPLE for most of the test. Which is a first. :) YAY!!! She sat by the judge and said it was basically all 6 and 7's on the trot and canter work. However, my geometry sucked and I lost some points by making my circles too big or too small. Argh. Oh well. We scored a 37.5, which is pretty cruddy. BUT.. it was Kate Hutchinson, who can be fairly tough. And that put us in 5th out of 10. Not bad for us. :) 

I got Fleck settled and then Beth and I walked XC. It was an easy course. Mostly! There was one or two tough questions that may cause problems for us. But most of it was fairly small and simple. It was the brush/hanging log thing, to a stone wall, to a hanging log, then through a little valley, then to a log pile upright thingy, then to the swedish oxer, then to a coop (all fairly small and straight forward). Then it got a little tricky. You had to do two mounds with jumps on top. They weren't that big, but it was on a bendy line or an S curve and the second one had a fairly substantial drop. I was a little concerned about that combo. Then it was a left hand turn to a decent sized picnic table, then through the woods, down the lane along the lake, then out through the woods to a faux corner, then to another combo. It was the coffin and was fairly tricky. It was a coop, to the ditch, to a skinny, offset. Tough, but not that bad. Then sharp left turn, straight up the hill, to a skinny between two trees, then diagonally uphill to a slight drop fence, downhill to a cabin, two strides into the water, out of the water, two strides to another cabin, uphill and then down the bank to a cabin or log, and then a long gallop to a tiny little ramp thing, then a right hand turn to another cabin thing. So really a fairly easy course with a lot of gallop room. So finally it was time to get ready. I think my ride time was 3:50 pm!!!! What??! That's crazyness. :) So we got ready and they were running a bit late. But I was already tacked up, so I figured oh well... I'll just hack him around a bit. HA!! Fleck had other plans. We got down to warm up and I tried to just walk him around. He was having none of it. He was ready and wanting to GO!!! I tried to tell him that there was a lot of galloping and he needed to save himself, but nope... so we trotted.. and it was that powerful almost skipping trot... then we cantered... then we bucked, then we cantered sideways, then we power trotted, then we stood for about 15 seconds, and off again. hee heee. He was READY! Finally it was close enough to start jumping. He was off like a rocket and jumping out of his skin! Beth said I needed to make sure to keep my leg on despite him jumping like a mad man and to keep the connection. I told her that there was no way I was dropping him, because if I did... we'd end up in Canada! Seriously... I was glad for those knots in my reins. The beast was rarin' to go. We had some great warm up jumps and then decided we were ready. I just had to ride like that. At this point though... I knew it was going to be a good ride. Fleck was too amped up and feeling good for it to be anything but. 
We shot out of the box like a rocket and sailed over the first fence. The next two fences were good and the we shot off. As we hit the little gulley/valley in the woods, Fleck sorta spooked. Hee hee.. I almost came off as he hit the brakes rather hard, but then got him momemtum again and off we went. He sailed over everything like it was nothing. Then we hit the mounds... and he was AMAZING!! I closed my leg, rode him up the hill and over and then down and up and over and he was amazing!!! It was beautiful! Only on landing he shot off like a rocket again and we went to the right instead of the left, so we made a big wide turn to probably the biggest jump on the course. He jumped it totally on an angle but it was fine. He cleared it. Then up the path and down along the lake. I let him take a little breather and just canter on the trail along the lake. Partly because there was a freakin' van going down the lane!!!! It was far enough ahead that it didn't look like it was going to interfere with us, but we were gaining ground quick. Luckily we turned off before we caught up to it and then he sailed over the fake corner. I got a little off balance and was a little worried about the coffin because of it. It came up quick and I didn't get the line I wanted. But Fleck locked in on it and pretty much did that by himself, with my hanging off balance the whole way. What a beast!!!! Then he shot off again and some poor girl was in the path. She just stopped and we sailed past her... only again we shot off the wrong way and I realized I wasn't going up the hill. So we turned and went up the hill and he angled the skinny and jumped over that, the rocked over the slight downhill jump. Down to the water and sailed over those two jumps and then up the hill. I made him trot so he could see where we were going but I only managed to get about two trot steps before he cantered and then cantered off the drop. Luckily I kept the connection and was able to ride him forward between my legs (and my slightly long reins) over the log. Then another long gallop and he just about tripped over the little jump, despite me really trying hard to set him up better. Then we turned to the final jump and I'm coming around the corner and realize about 4 strides out I'm looking at the wrong jump. Eeeks. It's to the left! So Fleck angled that one a bit too. Hee hee.. We made time easily despite our two little "detours". I told him what a Rock star he was and hopped off for the walk back. Fleck was dragging me for the whole walk too! I almost got back on his happy butt! :) Our clean run moved us up to 3rd place!!!  So... then we rinsed him off, iced his legs, his knees, and his back legs, then poulticed him and wrapped him. Then he got dinner, a walk, and then it was time for dinner for me. Kristin and I ended up finding a Cracker Barrel just down the road from the hotel. YAY!!! It was carb yummyness.

I also slept great Saturday night....and was pretty well rested despite having to get up early that morning. The wind had picked up and it was pretty dang chilly! Fleck's legs looked great though and he was feeling good. We had a little graze and then helped Beth with the last of her 1 star!! She and Phinn were awesome and she finished in second!! Whoo hoo. So after that I went back to walk Fleck again and get him ready to go. Because they were running only the 2 star, 1 star, Intermediate, Prelim and Training stadium on Sunday (BN and Nov were doing XC Sunday as they had stadium jumped yesterday), I was late in the day again. I was in Training Rider B and since it was reverse order of go.. I was the third to last rider of the day. Doh. But it was fine. That morning as I pulled in, I picked up a screw, so I had a flat tire. AGAIN... I swear, this is the fourth flat I've had at Chatt Hills. So at least I had time to change my tire while waiting to ride. I finally got tacked up and Fleck felt good. He warmed up like a fiend again. I swear, he jumped the big oxer from a slightly long spot.... it felt like he over jumped it by about 3 feet.... HOLY SCOPE!!!! So... he felt good. We went in and jumped a good round. I didn't ride as best as I could have, but I also fixed things and rode pretty darn well too. It wasn't our prettiest round, but it was clean (despite a few rubs, we got lucky!) and Fleck listened and I helped him mostly and didn't drop him even when I wanted to! He was looking for the next fence and locking on. So it was awesome!!! The two girls ahead of me rode beautiful rounds and also went clean so we finished third. On our dressage score. 

But most importantly... Fleck felt amazing all weekend. He jumped his heart out and was having a blast!!! I couldn't have pulled him off a fence if I tried! He was ready to go and having fun and feeling good. BEST FEELING EVER!!!! I'm just so glad that he came back this well. I really think that the prelim courses would have been just fine for him too. THIS tells me that it wasn't prelim, it wasn't him getting sour, it wasn't bad naughty pony. It was discomfort. And when I get him happy... he's ready to rock and roll!! 

I'm so glad we're back and better than ever. The third place was icing on the cake. I'm just so thrilled with how good he felt and how confident he felt and how happy he was to be back out there. He had a blast too!!!


Monday, October 22, 2012

I don't want to jinx us, but....

it's all coming together!!!! "They" always say that in riding, you have ups and downs, and lots of lulls with no real feeling of progress. And yes, I would agree with that. Then you have a few shining moments of progress, which are usually followed by some backsliding. ;) But it's all good... as long as the overall journey is one of forward progression. 

Well, I'd say Fleck and I are in one of those shining "it's all coming together" swings! And it... is..... awesome!!!! I really think it's just a culmination of all our hard work, things finally making sense in my brain, happy bodies, happy backs, healthy pony, and even some time off to allow for bad habits to become less ingrained. I owe my trainers, all of them, a HUGE THANK YOU for everything. Each and every one of them has given me something to make me who I am today. And Fleck thanks them too. :) And by no means are we done... it's just, the last few rides have really been coming together for us :) We're back baby!!!

We had another jump lesson today - stadium this time. And it was great. Fleck was excellent and I was riding. It really just clicked in today how connected Fleck and I have to be. I can't drop him or throw him away at the base of the fence. I'm not helping him at all by giving away the connection. He needs me to support him. And when I sit my butt down lightly in the saddle, and close my leg and keep the connection... all is well. Regardless of what type of distance we get. Even if it's icky, if I WAIT and support him, he jumps well. He was so good. We even got most of our leads on landing too :) And thinking of owning my elbows instead of dropping my hands really seemed to help too.

So yep.... I'm feeling REALLY good about Chatt hills this weekend and Jumping Branch next weekend. He'll have a flat ride tomorrow, a nice chill trail ride Wed, then a day off Thursday, a nice hack and flat Friday and then hopefully we'll kick some butt this weekend. Then he'll pretty much get a light week. Monday and Tuesday off, then trails and chiro Wed, then a flat Thursday and a hack Friday and then hopefully kick butt at Jumping Branch. Then, we'll take it easy over the Winter and see where Spring puts us. Hopefully he'll feel just as good and we can see how things go. 

Man do I love my pony..... It was such a gorgeous day too. We finished our ride as usual with a short trail ride and an "icing" in the lake. :) I'm so glad we can do that!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Happy 8 years together Flecky!

Happy 8 years Flecky!!!! And what an 8 years it's been!!! :) I'm the luckiest girl ever...

Fleck owes me nothing more, yet each and every day he comes to me, ready to work! He tries his heart out! Just for me. Though I do think he enjoys it too. We have accomplished every goal I dreamed of with him. He's done it all for me. I'll say it again... I'm the luckiest girl ever! He's my best friend, my partner, and .... my life. And he does it all...... I can hack on the buckle, alone, and never have a problem. I can put my nephews on him, three at a time, and he takes care of them. I can do serious dressage and he tries to be a fancy boy. Yet, I can also get on him and gallop across the field at full speed, or jump cross country or stadium with power and spunkyness! He does it all. He's a snuggler, a goof ball, but also a show off.

 Back when I first got him... it was love at first ride... :)

 And for some highlights over the years...

 This was from the MPM clinic Karen did. We were supposed to canter around the farm at the correct speed for our level. Ours would have been novice... 325? Ish... Yeah... we started out, and Fleck asked to gallop and I said yes.. so we just galloped at full speed the whole way. We got in "trouble". hee hee.. SOOOO worth it! 

This was Pine Top. We did a recognized event at novice and had some issues, but then went back a month later for the schooling show and nailed it - got 2nd place. It was also the schooling show that they did their "cattle drive". Fleck was so good. He was nervous, but shortly was even nudging the little "doggies" along with his nose! So much fun!

 We also did a lot of schooling shows. We usually ended up with at least one blue ribbon! But mostly because we were the only one in the class ;)
One of my favorites... Fleck and me (in my alligator socks) just hanging out.

We spent many hours at the horse park, riding the trails. Often by ourselves, and this helped our bond.

Then there was the AECs 2007!! We qualified at Novice and drove all the way to Illinois. It was a blast, despite us finishing 49th out of about... 52. ;) But we were top 50 in the nation baby!!! And we finished on our dressage score (plus some speeding tickets). 

2007 was also the year we qualified for the Area Championships at Novice... and placed 5th, out of a large field. It was the first time we won an actual prize!  A bag of treats and a pretty leather halter. We ran XC when it was 103.7 degrees in the SHADE! But Fleck was fit and I gave him plenty of rest between warming up and running and he handled it like a pro.

Then we moved up to Training Level at Jumping Branch's schooling show. And won it!! Of course our next few attempts at Training Level did not go so well.

Our first recognized training at the Ark. Yeah... didn't go so well, but we got over the darn ditch and bank on the second attempt!! And we were in 7th after dressage, so we did get a pretty purple ribbon anyways.
 We spent some time during the Summer cooling off at Ashland.
 And kicking some butt at schooling shows apparently. ;)

We rode with Ralph Hill twice in 2008. And had a fabulous time both times.
 We played at some h/j shows, doing the jumpers. I don't think we embarassed ourselves too much.
Oh wait...we did, but I won't show THAT picture. ;)

 And then in 2009, we got to clinic with THE WOFF!!! Yes, we rode with Jimmy Wofford and had a blast!

2010 started off with a bang. We hauled with Peri and George to Florida to show there. And got 6th place! Then came home and rode in the snow that next day.

  We got a good bit of snow! Three whole different snowfalls to be exact!

And then we won FENCE. Which gave us our 4th clean run to be qualified for the Training 3 Day. One of my long term goals with him.

Then it was onward to the AECs.. this time in Georgia!

We finished on our dressage score... 15th out of 51!!! MUCH better this time around :) So close to the ribbons! We had a blast though.

And then... the Training 3 Day! At Kentucky, just a few short days after WEG. Fleck was amazing... We finished on our dressage score. It was such an amazing experience. The training and conditioning up to the event really did help our bond. And then steeplechase...oh my, how we loved that part. He was amazing... I'm so proud of him.

Then it was our first P/T. We were warming up over some big giant fences. I swear they were still set for intermediate's warm up. Fleck jumped like a fiend over this vertical. He overjumped the heck out of it and popped me out of the tack. I knew I wasn't going to stick the landing. And I didn't. I lawn darted hard core. I was sore and had dirt in my teeth, hair, underwear, bra.... ha! But I got back on and rode "Tight as a tick" and had an amazing stadium round. Then we jumped clean on XC. :)

We conquered the ditch and wall at Full Gallop!
Poor Flecky... having to play taxicab.
He overcame his fear of fowl... well, chickens at least. ;)
And he graced the COVER of Appaloosa Journal!! And was in an article about "Eventing Appys".

 And then... our FIRST PRELIM!!! And we finished!!!! Two stops, but they were totally my fault. He was amazing. We were even part of the Adult Team Challenge. And shockers, it was our BEST dressage score ever. We were even the top score of my team after dressage (if I remember correctly, maybe second highest, but still). It was our first 9 too!! I think the judge was WAY generous, with everyone and especially us, but.. maybe we were just so glad to not have to do the Training B test anymore. We ended up 7th in our division and our team came in 2nd (I was the drop score, but still part of the team). And then I won the "sportsmanship award" for GDCTA.

 Then we had another successful prelim run and this time we jumped clean XC!!! It was awesome.... we were stuck behind the girl in front of us, so they gave us a bunch of time. I contested it and they gave me some of the time back. So we finished 9th. BUT... if we had not had any time faults, we would have finished 5th!!! In a pretty big division. But who knows, we might have had some time. Flecky is a PRELIM HORSE!!!!!!!!

 And then we ran into trouble. I think this is when Fleck's knees really started to bother him. It just took me awhile to realize it. We had a stop on XC at Poplar, but that was all my poor approach. Then we had two stops in stadium and eliminated ourselves. Then we tried again at Chatt Hills and he was jumping like a fiend, but we got eliminated at the sunken road. Argh... We were really on a roll. But I can't blame Fleck. Ouchy knees and all. I just wish I had noticed it sooner. Bad Mommy.

Although he did manage to jump this despite having ouchy knees!! And quite willingly too! Such a big heart he has!
 So we spent the summer resting, recovering and treating! We enjoyed it immensely and Dan joined in the fun.

After some time taking it easy, Fleck tried to tell me he was feeling good and ready to get back to work! YIPEE!
So we did, but still kept it light and fun.

We did some work, but focused on upping our fitness through trail rides. You can walk your way to fit!!! And that we did :)

And as he got more fit and more comfortable... and more bored...we went back to work. I remember the day we were out hacking and trail riding and I decided to trot around while my friend jumped. Fleck said "I have waited long enough, it's my turn" and took off with me!! He honest to God, took off with me. There was no stopping him. So we did some gallops. And then we did a few jumps.. and later a few more, and then before we knew it... we were back to work. Smart work, but work.
And so far, so good... I've been blessed with a happy pony who wants to go back to work and feels amazing!!! Not only do I still have my friend, I still have my partner in crime. YAY!!!!! We'll keep having fun while we can and when it's no longer fun, we'll back down and have fun doing what we can... trails, swimming, and just hanging out :)

I am so lucky..... :)