Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall Foliage Festival

And Fall has arrived!!! In full bloom. And it is gorgeous!

So gorgeous that Fleck and I decided to do our dressage at the horse park today on top of the hill. And since I started "No stirrups November" a day or two was exciting. He was working really well and we even got slobber! Then we went to do our canter work and that was a bit too exciting! Especially with no stirrups. Hee hee. He wasn't bad... just very forward! And very big. But he came back quite nicely and we got some really nice round bouncy canters. Even got two lead changes. When I asked! But they weren't exactly dressagey. Hee! They were...exuberant! He was really good though. It was fun. And then we had a good trail ride that was very colorful and peaceful. Minus the big gallop up the steep hill!

Is it time to gallop yet Mom? I was good, right?!

Okay, so half of these were at Ashland and the other half at the Horsepark. Both places are so beautiful right now!

I had to add a few more!! I forgot to include them. So yep, we've been doing some fun trail riding and some fun stirrup-less dressage and even a bit of jumping work. :)

Jumping Fun at Ashland

Saturday I joined in on a Mini-clinic with Kerry! It was fun. It was me, Judy, and Gail. We had fun and Kerry set up a good exercise. Especially for Fleck. Only he jumped through it like a pro. Either he's a lot more adjustable and a better reader than he used to be, or... Kerry can't walk strides properly. hee hee. The grid was built up to this, but ended with two bounces to a slightly longer two stride, to a shorter two stride. Fleck went on through like it was nothing. I was expecting him to get longer and longer and then have to scramble. But nope. Good boy! Then we jumped a few related lines. Another two stride and then a 5 or 6 stride. Fleck and I just kept getting to the lines at slightly awkward distances. Or so I thought. Kerry pointed out wasn't that the spot was that off. It just wasn't deep to the base. And who cares! Didn't the great JW say something along the lines of "There are 7 feet of good take off spots within the ideal take off spot". Or something along those lines. Point is... As long as the canter is right, the right take off spot grows. And Kerry was saying that we train so hard to get deep to the base that we don't remember to let them jump out of stride. And for Fleck, that deep spot is that much harder for him. So... perhaps I should learn to not freak when we get to the decent spot that's not the exact deep spot. And let him jump out of stride.

The caveat is that... I have to help him. I can't just take my leg off and let it fizzle to a icky take off. I need to close my leg and support him and let him jump out of stride. :) 

So we had another trip and while it still wasn't the perfect distance, it was out of stride and it was okay. :)

Fun day!

Dressage Clinic

I haven't been able to ride with Cindy this month because of funds, Chiro school, work, extra shifts, etc. So I've been trying to be good and do my dressage at home. An opportunity arose to take a friend to ride with Sandy Osborn, a judge and dressage competitor, so I jumped on the opportunity. And I'm really glad I did. It was a good lesson. Lots of hard work and non-stop hard work! Sandy is hard core. :)

We really just worked on the connection and getting him straight and even. Inside leg to outside rein. Sandy called me out on a lot of my position flaws. The ones Cindy has been working on! And she was a bit like Kelly too as far as getting him really into the connection. It was a very firm connection with the right rein and a more elastic connection on the left rein, regardless of the direction. I had to really remember to keep my right hand down and back. To the point of holding my stirrup strap. I also had to keep my left hand from turning over. Turn the key Holly, turn the key!! Sandy was saying that my thumbs and hands should be a straight line from Fleck's hind legs to his mouth. If I break at the wrist and thus point my thumbs across his neck, I'm "crossing the lines" and confusing him/blocking him. And she also said that by hanging on the inside rein, I was blocking his inside hind from coming up. I also needed to sit farther back and poke my belly button out. I was also told to soften my thighs and not grip so much, but to open them up. Without pinching with my knee though. I couldn't quite figure out how to do that without tensing up other places. Perhaps no stirrup November will help with that.

At the end, both Fleck and I had been working hard but it felt pretty effective. If I can just keep the momentum rolling....

Grid Fun

Grid Day at Wishing Tree!! Always fun. Hannah and I always have a good time jumping together. :) And Beth had a crazy fun grid set up for us. Flecky felt good!! The goober was bucking again like crazy! At one point, he almost got me off. Silly boy! But it was fun!

We started with a low cross rail with a ground pole. Then we either went left to a four stride or right to a five stride vertical. Then it grew to include another 4 or 5 strides on a bendy line in the opposite s curve to the "cats cradle". The cats cradle is an X but...parallel to the ground. So you could jump from all four sides essentially. It was tougher than it looked! Especially when Beth had us jump the cross rail (which was ultimately raised to an X) and didn't tell us which way to jump (Left or right) until we were over the X. It was a tough line really, but once I got the hang of it, it was easier. Beth said no cheating by angling the fences. Or turning in the air. So once I got the hang of just slightly changing the bend essentially, Fleck knew which way to turn and it was smooth. And I could almost do that in the air (without cheating!). 

Then we added more to it. After the cats cradle, we took a long curved line to either some skinny barrels or a big vertical. Those were a little bit harder to get the right distance to, but we eventually got it. Fleck was jumping well!

Lots of fun! No pictures though... :( 

9 Year Anniversary!!!!!
Right now I have no words.... Flecky is... Flecky! He has given me so much. We've had so much fun...I just love this horse!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Relaxing after Texas

Fleck and I had some leisure time after Texas. Well, Fleck did. HA! I went to Kansas to start my animal chiropractic classes. Then back to work. But Fleck enjoyed 5 days off and some trail riding. He still seemed a bit sore at his SI joint, even with the time off. I decided it was time to inject it. And Kim let me do one side. Wheee! It was fun. And I really feel like it helped Fleck a LOT! Of course after we did that he had his three days off and then I got to ride. He was sound and happy! And so happy he was bucking and galloping! Wheee. Then the next day I found him with a swollen leg. Argh.. It ended up being swollen and sore for 3 or 4 days and was due to ant bites. Jeesh dude! So I finally broke down and gave him a 1/4 dose of steroids. He felt MUCH better and that afternoon the fool was a bucking and galloping maniac! We went for a trail ride and he was a bit lit up. I finally got to the field behind halfshire and let him have a "Nice canter". Ha!! That resulted in him bucking and crow hopping across the field. He was polite at the walk at least. We had fun with Missy and Judy and when we headed back home, I decided to try a little bit of jumping, just for fun. That too resulted in bucking and bolting and galloping. But we did finally get in two polite jumps and a nice canter... that quickly turned into a race attempt with Cash. Jeesh. I finally gave up at trying to accomplish anything productive. But we sure had a blast doing what we were doing!! :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 American Eventing Championships

 Wowza's.... It was... a lot! 

After our last jaunt with Christina, Fleck rested for the day and then we hauled to Kims farm where he stayed in her spacious stalls for a few hours before we left for Texas. It actually wasn't too bad of a haul. (Of course I wasn't driving!). Pretty much straight on I-20 the entire way. We did hit a bad storm and there was a cop that was slowing down and directing people to slow down. I joked that Fleck and Bear were such rockstars they got a police escort. Hee hee. It slowed us down substantially but it was fine. 

We got them unloaded and settled in and set to work getting everything else unloaded. After the long day,
I decided to just hand walk and not ride Fleck. I figured he would be happier that way. We had decent stall locations in a great barn with the rest of the Georgia people. We even were on the same row (but opposite ends) of Lainey Ashker and she even asked me how we did at the end and said she "loved that horse"! whoo hooo! Anyways, the only downside was that the floor was packed dirt and they only gave us one bag of shavings!! For 5 days! And each bag was $10. You weren't supposed to bring in "outside" shavings so we snuck some in. Wednesday was a recovery day so Fleck and I had a dressage school. He was pretty darn good and I was feeling good about things. We were riding at the same time as Jonathon Holling and Kyle Carter and they were ribbing each other while they rode. "You call that a leg yield?". Hee hee. Jonathon and I almost hit each other twice (translate to... I almost ran into him twice) and I joked to Beth that Fleck must have been looking so awesome they decided to bump out the competition. Ha!! He did feel really good though. So good I wanted to keep riding. But I didn't. He got a bath and I got ready for dressage day! Oh, and in addition to his primping, Fleck got some acupuncture. He was still pretty tender on his SI and the SI points were definitely reactive. He got all humpy and bouncy in his stall while the needles were in. Afterwards, we did another walk around, let him have a pee, and finally called it a night. Kim let me use her truck to go to the hotel and back. Her and Hope stayed in their LQ's while Jamie and I drove back and forth to the hotel. Man... I like the diesel! It's loud and ... rawry!

So dressage day! I didn't ride super early so Fleck got another bath that morning and I braided. Then Beth fixed his trims and we even spray painted his tail. It actually looked good! My tack was all clean and I was actually on time and put together. We warmed up pretty well I thought. Beth said that I needed to ride my corners more effectively. And of course, I took that to heart. ;) And proceeded to go into the ring and override the corners. Doh. Oh well. It wasn't our best test, but it wasn't horrid. I actually liked it better on video than I thought I would. But... it was champs. And so we scored a 38 something and were tied for 30th place out of 39. Doh! Alas. Oh well. I was still proud of the big guy.

Now that dressage was over, it was time to focus on the fun stuff! I had walked XC already and jeesh!! It started out looking okay. And even like prelim would be okay. And then.. not so much! It was big!! Even BN looked big for BN. I was very glad we were running training level. In fact, I was a little worried about making it through. But then I walked it a second time, and it looked much better. And a third time made it look even better. There was the ditch and wall on there. And it looked huge. But I was actually kind of looking forward to it. It was a real ditch and wall. But it had a decent related approach and was next to a bunch of other bigger ditch and walls, so... I was feeling like we would get over it. I was starting to feel pretty good about the course. And then, the added a bunch of brush in the ditch and added a colored rail to the top. And then it kind of ruined my "yay, this will help me get over my ditch and wall fears" feeling because... it wasn't really a ditch and wall anymore. But...Oh well. I was still a little bit worried we'd have an issue there. So, back to XC day. The water at the horse park in Texas was coming out orange. Like orange gatorade orange. And it was staining the horses! I was a little afraid that Fleck's hiney was going to look like a pumpkin! I managed to get him mostly clean by using a particular faucet when it wasn't busy so he didn't look too bad. We got free flair strips, so I slapped that on. And Kim had fun and drew spots in on it. Hee hee.. I liked it! We got lots of compliments. I tacked up and and got on a bit earlier than I needed. I thought, oh well, I'll walk him around and loosen him up. Ha!!! Fleck had other plans. He was HYPED!! I got to warm up and it was all I could do to keep him at the walk. Any attempts to trot became canter/gallops and there was a few bucks and shoulder drop and spins thrown in too. What?!? Silly horse! Finally it was time to start getting ready and Fleck was so thrilled to be able to do something other than walk. Yay! He felt phenomenal. Like... I could have comfortably run around THAT prelim course!! THAT championship area 5 prelim course! He was on fire!!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1... have a great ride!! We were off like a rocket. The first three fences were table or roll top types and he jumped them easily out of stride. We then headed to the fourth fence which was a stacked log thing slightly uphill. I accidentally buried him at it and he sort of knocked his hind end a bit but carried boldly on. The fifth fence was the "OK corral". I won't lie.. this one actually worried me more than the ditch and wall. It was a very open airy table top fence, built into a fence line, uphill. I was afraid that I would either not rock him back enough and he'd chest it or that I would rock him back too much and take away and he'd chest it. But guess what?! That was our BEST Fence. He nailed it perfectly and galloped off through the exit to the corral like he jumped through corrals every day. Whoo hooo!!Then it was up to the steeplechase brush, bendy line to the corner, to the up bank to the table and on to the angled cabins. He nailed the two stride angled cabins and then jumped the stew out of the big red barn. He was a little stuffy into the water because I think I held too much. I tried to get him too "Coffiny" in his canter and over did it. But he rocked on through anyways. It was just stickier because I got him a little behind my leg. But maybe it was good because then I had to GALLOP uphill to the fairly intimidating big open airy trakenher. Fleck jumped the poo out of that one too. I even have a pretty pro shot coming! Then we turned to the other fairly scary open oxer jump, wiggled around the prelim and intermediate fences to the small bank down, out over the rolltop and then....7 strides to the ditch and wall. Fleck never even blinked. We had it!! YES!!! The rest of the course was great too. The big other fairly impressive open tabled oxer was met in stride. He collected nicely to the half coffin and jumped it pretty in two instead of strung out or stabby. He cleared the roll top and then sailed beautifully over the final steeplechase brush roll top which was shared with prelim. We cantered easily on home as we were up on time and I believe we finished within 2 or 3 seconds under optimum. Whooo hoooo!!!! Great ride! Fleck was so proud of himself too.

Our clean cross country run moved us up to 16th place! Whoo hooo!! Not a bad place to be. Not so high up that there's intense pressure to go clean in stadium but high enough that a clean round could potentially put us in the ribbons. We walked stadium and it looked like fun. The final line was a 5 stride to a 6 stride off set. Beth warned me that the 6 stride would be very easy to get long and flat too and very easy for them to pull a rail. Fleck felt pretty good the next morning and was jumping nicely in warm up. It was our turn and in we went. The first jump was great! No stickyness or anything. The second jump... all my fault! GAH! It was a solid wall with a very upright plank covered in roll top fake grass. For whatever reason it intimidated me. So what did I do?? I threw myself at it and flung myself up Fleck's neck a whole stride early. Doh! Bless his heart. He rolled his eyes, patted the ground, and heaved himself over it to jump it cleanly. We then had a splendid round for the rest of the course. He jumped the triple quite nicely (as usual!) and we came to the final line. He jumped the first two beautifully and we headed to the last fence. I swear I thought we had it. I even thought we had it as we were arcing over it. But it was not to be. I didn't quite get the impulsion I needed and he was a little flatter, so he hit the front rail with his hind legs. Doh! Oh well. We stayed in 16th place. Without the final rail, we would have been 8th. Oh well. Totally my fault. And considering he hauled that far and did that well all weekend long... I can't complain about the rail. I'm still so proud of him and was so pleased with him.

Ha!!! We kind of stick out in a crowd, don't we??

All in all, it was a wonderful and fun weekend!!! Our friends did super well and I'm very proud of them. Mr. Fleck gave it his all, as usual, and I couldn't be more proud of him.

I promised him.. and he deserved it!