Monday, October 19, 2015

Course Brook Horse Trials Results 2015

Last weekend, Donovan and I did our first Training level event as a pair! He's done one Training down in Florida, and I've done a handful with Ben but never actually finished one, but this was our first one together. 

He warmed up absolutely beautifully for dressage, he was so supple and relaxed, his transitions were excellent, and he just felt fantastic. I thought there was one less rider in front of me in the order than there was, so unfortunately we ended up sitting for a few minutes before our test which did not do his little pony brain any good. We lost all semblance of relaxation which led to lots of unwanted cantering in our test... There were some decent moments here and there and he did get better as the test went on (The right canter was gorgeous!), but as a whole it was a pretty yucky test and scored a 45.0. But hey, at least there was no pressure for the jumping phases!

Stadium was a sizable course. He warmed up really well, much calmer than he was at Kent which was nice because I could actually adjust his stride. I watched rider after rider come around the turn to the oxer at 4, get to a half stride, forget to put leg on, and then stop/crash through/pull the rail on the fence. I reminded myself I needed leg around that turn but I'm sure you can imagine what I didn't do... :-) We got there on a half stride, I had no leg to help him out, and we took the rail down in a rather dramatic fashion. 

He's great, however, and doesn't care about things like that. He went on down the line to jump the two stride well, did the five stride line of verticals super nicely, jumped the following vertical right out of stride, and then I buried him to the in oxer of the one stride which he helped me out of but did take the front rail of the oxer down. Turn to the final fence, I thought I saw a stride but it was just a hair too long and he just tapped the back rail with his hind feet to bring our round to a total of 12 jump faults. While the score was the worst of the three stadium rounds we've ridden thus far, it rode a lot better than the one at Kent and I felt like he was listening better. I've only had him for less than two months, so I'm still trying to figure out the best way to ride him over fences where I'm helping him instead of hindering him.

Cross country was shortly after, we jumped one quick warmup fence and we were out of the box. He was really wonderful and dead honest to nearly everything. Fence 4 was a skinny wedge that he had no problems with and Fence 6 was a skinny house off a short left turn that he was straight as an arrow too. He got a little wiggly to fence 7B which was a set of logs on a downhill slope set three strides after a bank up but I honestly think he was just a little confused about the question. He was perfect to the corner and bold about jumping into the water. A little too bold though, and our turning skills went right out the window! The water was 9A and B, a log into the water and a sharp right turn in the water to a bank out. We jumped into the water but as soon as I tried to turn right it was like pulling against a brick wall. We regrouped and got it done, but he left long and dragged his hind end on the bank a bit which left us both a little discombobulated and him a little unfocused as we turned to fence 10, a stone wall. 

I really think he just didn't know where I was pointing him up to that point, because as soon as we got in front of it he definitely thought about jumping it which I didn't allow. We got it back together though and continued on. We were a little messy through the coffin right after, mostly because he was really jumping and jumped me out of the tack at the jump after the ditch but after that everything was smooth again.

He jumped the log to bank combo beautifully, hit the two giant tables right out of stride, and finished really nicely. Even though the scoreboard may not reflect it, we had a great outing, I am so in love with this pony, and we now have our homework to work on for this winter: relaxation in the flatwork, adjustability in the stride, and rideability, particularly to the right!

We've got one more show this weekend, its unrated so the highest level offered is Novice so we'll have another Novice run, Ben is also going to go and just do the Beginner Novice two phase for fun and to get him off the property, and I'm also riding one of our client's ponies, he's young and has only been under saddle for three months. He'll be doing what is called the "Grasshopper" division. I'll certainly be busy riding three horses but I think it will be a fun day and a good way to end the season. 


Helmet Cam:

Stadium and XC:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kent School Horse Trials Results

This past Sunday Donovan and I ventured off to the Kent School Horse Trials. It was a very cold morning, being a whopping 42*F when we arrived. 

Our dressage warmup was limited as I procrastinated a little getting to the warm up area because I was under the impression that I had more time than I did and Donovan doesn't need much in the way of dressage warmup. I think if I had about five more minutes he would've been a little more relaxed for our test.

That being said, the test was decent, we had one little blip coming back from the free walk and he got a little uppity about the trot transition after it. Other than that, he really just needed to be more relaxed over his topline and go forward more in the trot. The canter work was much improved from our last event so I'm very pleased with that. 

We're still figuring each other out, I've only had him a little over a month, and he's very sensitive to the leg, so there's a fine line between pushing him forward and being way too forward, so I think once we figure that part out he'll actually be quite nice in the dressage ring.

All in all we scored a 39.1 to put us in 7th place after dressage,

Stadium was a little messy, I'm used to stadium being my best phase so there's a little bit of a learning curve riding a horse whose worst phase is stadium. The course design was honestly a little strange in a small, muddy ring so there were a lot of tight turns and short approaches; not exactly the best possible scenario for a forward going horse who likes to attack the fences. 

Our biggest problem was that he jumps better from a slightly longer spot, but I was hesitant to let him take the long spot when we had a sharp turn afterwards because I have yet to master bringing him back quickly. When I ask him for the closer spot, he ends up lengthening the stride before takeoff which makes him jump past his arc. We ended up pulling two rails, both the front rails of oxers, because we took off too close and he couldn't clear his hind legs from the front rails. 

At least after watching the video I can see what the issue was and we can work on our homework. He just needs to be slightly more backed off from the fences. I also need to work on getting reorganized after the fences faster (for an example, see the interesting maneuver we made between fences 5 and 6 on stadium in the video below ;-) )

Cross country was great, and again he was easily double clear. He is so game to jump anything out there, it's an incredible feeling. We had a couple disagreements about distances out there as well where I asked for a shorter spot and he responded by jumping poorly, but I think a little practice on adjustability will go a long way in helping us with that issue.

Helmet Cam:

Dressage, stadium, xc:

We ultimately ended the day in 7th, and Donovan earned himself a pretty purple ribbon:

Next up for us is the last event of the season, Course Brook Horse Trials, on Saturday!

Monday, September 21, 2015

I'm Baaaack!

Hello there!

I'd like to start this post off with a little story...

Once upon a time at the end of July, I was spending a rare day off hanging out by the pool and scrolling through Facebook when an ad on an "Event Horses for Sale" page caught my eye. There was nothing to this ad but a few lines of text and a link to a YouTube video. Something about this ad struck me in such a way that a few days later I had purchased a five year old pony sight unseen from Florida.

Fast forward to a nightmarish experience of dealing with a shipper that kept pushing his pickup date further and further back and I was stuck waiting an entire month from the time I purchased him to his arrival. Finally, about three weeks ago, my new purchase arrived. 

I'd like to introduce everybody to Donovan:

Donovan has done a handful of events, including a Training level, and he is everything I hoped he would be. Buying a horse online sight unseen is definitely one of the craziest things I've ever done but so far everything has worked out wonderfully!

We went to a hunter pace as a makeshift cross country school before going to our first event together and my trainer and I ended up winning which was fun. He was great and had a great time!

This past Saturday we made our eventing debut together in the Novice at the Stoneleigh-Burnham Horse Trials and I couldn't have asked for him to be any better. He scored a 31.8 in dressage (I will admit that the scoring was rather generous...), jumped an exuberant but clean stadium round (which included putting one stride in the two stride combination...oops!), and jumped a perfect double clear cross country round.

I can't even begin to express how amazing it felt to be on a horse that loves cross country as much as this one and to be finishing on my dressage score again. 


Helmet Cam:

I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for this pony. I plan on doing a couple more events with him to finish off the season.

Ben is doing very well as well, he seemed relieved with the news that he has a new little brother to take his place as my event horse... Ben has actually transitioned wonderfully into his new duties as a babysitter for my young students, he is the ultimate lunge line walk/trot horse and one of my seven year old students actually rode him walk/trot all on her own last week. In addition, I'm going to continue showing him straight dressage and we jump at home for fun.

I was definitely getting turned off from eventing after continued failures with Ben, but now that I have a horse that wants to do this as badly as I do again, the eventing bug is back with a vengeance and I can't wait to maximize our potential together. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Long Time, No Post

I know I've always been pretty bad at keeping this blog regularly updated but man I really failed big time recently!

It is safe to say that a lot has changed since I last wrote!

Shortly after the Lyme Horse Trials last August, Ben had some on and off lameness issues. There was no apparent injury, no swelling, no heat, no sensitivity. I was pretty baffled and had myself convinced that something horrible was happening.

I finally had the vet out who watched him go and then decided to nerve block just the outside wall of his right front hoof. Bam, instant soundness. Ben had had a horizontal crack on the hoof for about 6 months on his right front that was pretty high up but wasn't very deep and didn't appear to be worrisome. He had been sound on it since he got it until this point.

My vet recommended corrective shoeing, so I spoke with my awesome farrier who worked his magic and I had a sound horse again. He dug out all of the hoof around the crack which revealed some bright purple bruising and the lameness all made sense.

Here are some photos of his hoof with the crack and the corrective shoeing throughout the whole process:

He's now down to just a plain bar shoe which we hope to get rid of completely for the next shoeing or the shoeing after that. Here is what his hoof looks like as of his last shoeing:

So we're almost there!

In other news, at the end of last September I was hired as the barn manager and the assistant trainer at the facility where I board Ben which is an amazing opportunity and basically my dream job. I work extremely long hours and I'm also still attending college online with a full time credit load so I'm very busy but I love what I do and it really doesn't get better than that.

That also explains why I haven't had a spare moment to write for this blog!

We had an awful winter this year so Ben didn't do a whole lot. I tried to ride whenever I could but between the temperatures being far too cold to ride for most of the winter and the long, exhausting work days of caring for more than 20 horses and dealing with all the extra projects that come along with running a barn in the winter such as shoveling paths to paddocks and constantly breaking ice on frozen water troughs, he really didn't get worked as much as I would have liked him to.

He got a ton of turnout this winter, however, and kept himself fit enough messing with his friends outside so he's doing pretty well coming back into a regular workload. I can't wait to get jumping again, the most he did was a couple jump schools in early winter and a little gridwork a few weeks ago.

Thanksgiving Day jump school back in November

Gridwork night at about 8pm a few weeks ago after a long work day

We've been working on our flatwork and his trot work is coming along quite nicely, his canter is still a work in progress as always but as he gets fitter and fitter he's starting to sit and collect more and more. Pretty soon we'll be out doing trot and canter sets on the grass track and hacking out in the fields now that the snow has finally melted!

This was the "first day of spring" at the barn if it gives you guys any idea what this winter was like:

Now that the weather is warming up again I have a lot more motivation to get riding again and get show season started. Waking up at the crack of dawn, changing blankets and turning out 20+ horses, mucking stalls, turning in, feeding, blanketing again, and then teaching lessons doesn't leave much gas in the tank for riding at the end of the day but it's definitely easier when the sun is out and its not in the single digits. 

The first stop on the show schedule is a dressage show at the end of the month. I'm taking Ben to do Novice B and Training A and one of our new school horses to do Beginner Novice A and B as a test to see how he does for his first trip off property. 

The plan is then to do a combined test with Ben in mid May and hit up the first event of the season for us in early June. I then have plans to participate in a Dom Schramm clinic with Ben at the end of June which I'm really excited for. I'm also going to try and get some of the greener lesson horses out and about and start a couple of them over fences. 

Now that the outdoor is rideable again my plan for tomorrow is to set a nice course and jump two of the greenies and Ben. I also want to try out my new GoPro that I won in a raffle back in November at the Equine Affaire. 

I feel ready to take on this summer and get out of the winter funk that pretty much everyone up North got into this year. I'm ready to improve my riding further, get a bunch of horses out competing, and hopefully start posting on this blog more frequently (but we all know how that goes...) 

As always, thanks for reading!

I've recently discovered Ben's love of raisins

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lyme Horse Trials Results

The Lyme Horse Trials was a resounding success!

I took Ben in the Novice and my trainer's horse, Mickey, in the Beginner Novice. Both horses were excellent and it was a really fun day, although quite exhausting considering all I did from 8am to 1pm was switch back and forth between the two horses!

Ben's dressage was the first phase of the day at 8:30am. He was a little bit wild for dressage and stadium so his test was definitely not anywhere near the quality of work that he has been putting in lately but he had some really nice moments in the test as well. He scored a 30.4 to sit in 7th after dressage although I do think they were scoring generously and I would have put his score for that test more in the 35-36 range. 

He spent his first trot circle desperately trying to scratch his nose/leg/get a fly so he added in some unnecessary flair with that right front leg in the beginning of our test! Here it is (the video is of all three phases but dressage runs from 0:00 to 4:37):

Next up was Mickey's dressage at 9:00am. Mickey has a very severe distaste for dressage and with him it is all about surviving. You kind of just have to grit your teeth and get though it, hopefully without getting run away with and making all the transitions happen where they're supposed to. It actually went better than I expected it to and he scored a 42. This put us in 17th out of 19, but I had expected to be in last after dressage so I was pretty happy with it all things considered!

Ben's stadium was up at about 10:00, so we headed up to warmup at about 9:45. The warmup area was small and full of a lot of horses which made Ben a tad crazy but he was jumping well.

He went in the ring and put in a really nice round, aside from the first fence which he totally just went through the top rail of because he was too busy bucking from excitement! 

Here's our round (again, all three phases, but stadium starts at 4:42 and goes to 6:02):

I went back to the trailer, swapped horses, and was back at it with Mickey for his turn. The event was nice enough to let me jump out of order and jump stadium first in the division at 10:45 so I had time to get to xc on time with Ben at 11:15. That being said, the division ended up starting very late and we spent a lot of time hanging around the in-gate!

When it was finally our turn we went in and Mickey put in a really nice clean round (runs from 0:00 to 1:50):

It was finally onto the best part, cross country! I got back to the trailer at about 10:55 due to the lateness of the stadium start and I had to be at the start box on Ben at 11:15. He still needed to be tacked and on top of that its a mile hack to xc at this event, which takes about 10-15 minutes. I threw Ben's tack on and got my butt down to xc as soon as I could! 

Ben was an absolute star on xc and he put in probably one of the best cross country rounds I have EVER had on him. He easily jumped double clear (a little too easily, we had to circle at the end to avoid speed faults!), proving that our great ride last weekend was not a fluke and I actually do have my horse back. I am so excited to see what the rest of this season and especially next season brings!

Here's the helmet cam:

And here's the on-the-ground video:

The last phase of the day was Mickey's cross country. This was more or less his first real eventing experience and I was super proud of him, he handled everything like a pro. This horse loves to jump and will basically jump anything you put in front of him. We did have one little issue at fence 4, just a basic log, because I didn't have enough left leg on and I think he just wasn't entirely sure he was supposed to be jumping it. Absolutely my fault. That was our only issue in an otherwise great round though!

We did lots of walking and trotting to avoid speed faults because if you let that horse go he doesn't come back! I made sure I kept him nice and steady the whole way. Here's the helmet cam:

And here's the on-the-ground video:

At the end of the day Ben ended up in 5th and Mickey ended up I believe 12th out of his big division even with the stop. I was super proud of both boys, they were both great. I had a ton of fun riding two horses and I think it was really great for my riding to have to continually switch back and forth between two very different horses. I slept pretty good that night, however!

There's not too much going on for another month or so on the eventing front, sadly, as now that Ben is back all I want to do is run him cross country! I think September 21st we'll head somewhere, I haven't decided where yet though, as there's a lot to choose from that weekend! I think I'll also try to get him to Kent and Course Brook in October to round out the season. If he keeps up the good work I think he'll have an early Training moveup next spring but as always we just take it one day at a time!

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Frazier Farm Horse Trials Results

I have my event horse back and he is better than ever!

This past Sunday, August 10th, we ventured off to the Frazier Farm Horse Trials for our first event back since our disastrous spring and our mini eventing hiatus. I didn't know what to expect. We just went Beginner Novice to keep things small and simple.

His dressage was fantastic, he has really been stepping it up lately. Obviously there is always room for improvement and the biggest thing we need to work on is just getting him to be less fussy in the bridle. We scored a 28 for 3rd place out of 12 after dressage, proving that our 26 at our last show wasn't a fluke! We even received a 9 on our first centerline! I can get used to this. Its such an awesome feeling knowing that the hard work I put into this horse is finally paying off. And of course my awesome dressage trainer has helped us leaps and bounds and has helped us to drop our scores by ten points in about six months.


Cross country was next and the course was absolutely perfect for what I needed it to do: give us a test to see if Ben was back to his old self on cross country or not. It was very simple and straightforward which was exactly what we needed.

He was absolutely incredible. He was focused the entire time, he pulled me to the fences, and it was obvious he was having a blast. He had one blip at the "water crossing" which is essentially just a very murky puddle with some fish swimming in it. He'll do any water complex I put in front of him but he's always had a strong dislike for this particular puddle. We did pick up 20 penalties for that but I couldn't have cared less. He jumped all the jumps perfectly, even after pausing at the water and breaking his focus. 

The course speed was only 300mpm so I spent the majority of the course making various sounds trying to get him to slow down to avoid speed faults. He ended up being the fastest time in the division by more than a minute, only 7 seconds away from speed fault time, but he was never out of control and he was jumping well from the pace he had so I let him go as he wanted to as much as I could. 

Here is our helmet cam, check out those happy ears and him taking me to the fences, he hasn't been like that in a looooong time!

XC Video:

After cross country we had actually only dropped two places to 5th out of 12. There were a lot of problems at the water puddle, not to mention that when you score in the 20s, your score is still better after a xc stop than some people's dressage scores! I am so not used to this 'getting good dressage scores' thing!

Stadium was last and it went fine, Ben doesn't really give much effort to jumping stadium fences that are under three feet and these fences were quite small, so he was being lazy and did end up having one silly rail, only one end came out of the cup and it actually just fell onto the rail below it and didn't even hit the ground. A rail is still a rail, though, so we picked up 4 more penalty points and ended the day in 6th. 


So we still finished in the top half of the division despite a couple blips here and there and I was absolutely thrilled with him. He felt like a completely different horse out on xc than he's been the past couple of years. He feels like the horse that I originally bought, the one that constantly ran double clear and pulled me to every fence. I almost burst out crying into happy tears at the finish line because I was so incredibly thrilled to have my event horse back!

I do believe this night and day change in his behavior at events is due to the addition of a magnesium supplement to his diet. It was suggested to me by multiple knowledgeable people, and while I was quite skeptical and didn't really buy it at first, magnesium is safe because it is naturally occurring in their systems and nearly impossible to overdose, it is perfectly legal for eventing, and its fairly cheap so I decided to give it a shot. It couldn't hurt. 

I started him on it about a month ago and immediately noticed a difference in his focus at home. He was never bad at home, just easily distracted. Once on the magnesium, even if he lost his focus a bit, I'd just half halt or tell him "hey" and he'd go right back to work. I then took him to the combined test last month where he was basically perfect. I was still skeptical that the magnesium was the reason for this behavior and figured the true test would be what he did on cross country. Lo and behold, he was an angel on cross country this weekend. I suppose it could be a coincidence, but I really think the odds of it being a coincidence are slim.

Regardless, what we're doing right now is obviously working, so I'm going to keep on keeping on! I am so excited about how great he was this past weekend and I am so looking forward to the rest of the season now. 

We're still taking it quiet and easy until I'm absolutely positive he is back to his old self, so we'll probably just stick to low key schooling horse trials for the rest of the year. This Sunday he's going Novice at the Lyme Horse Trials. I'm also riding my trainer's horse at Beginner Novice at the Lyme Horse Trials which should be fun. I'm hoping my ride times are manageable!

After Ben's performance this weekend I can't wait to see how he is on Sunday. If we can pull off another great dressage test and he's as good about jumping as he was this past weekend, I think we'll have a great outing!

As always, thanks for reading, I'll be back with a report from the Lyme Horse Trials soon!

Monday, July 21, 2014

CDCTA Two Phase Results

Ben and I competed in the Novice division at the CDCTA combined test at Mystic Valley Hunt Club yesterday, and I could not have asked for a more perfect day!

He warmed up fantastically for dressage. He felt incredibly light, he was calm, and he was being quite obedient. The only thing I was a bit concerned about was his left canter transitions as he was popping above the bit when he did them in warm up.

We headed down to do our test and he was incredible. He stayed in the bridle the entire time, he was bending really well, and he absolutely nailed his left canter transition. If I was being really picky, he could have had a little more energy in a couple places, especially the free walk, he could have stayed on the bit a better in the canter-trot transitions, and his trot-walk transition was kind of abrupt, but overall the test really was excellent, probably the best one he's ever done.

We were handsomely rewarded for our efforts with our personal best dressage score, a 26! I don't think I stopped smiling the entire day yesterday after that, we've never even broken into the twenties before. His test was all 7s and 8s, which is just remarkable for the horse who scored a 52.6 three months ago...
I don't have the video uploaded yet, but I'll post it here when I do!

Stadium was also great. We just popped over three fences in the warmup before heading into the ring, and he was totally on it, dragging me to all the fences, and jumping clear. I got him a little close to fence 1, I let him get away with dropping his inside shoulder on the way to fence 5, and we has a slight disagreement about the distance to the last fence, but there were all minor things to work on and I was thrilled with the round as a whole. I received lots of compliments on Ben the whole day, which is always a nice feeling, especially on a horse I brought up myself.

I just uploaded the stadium video so here it is:

When all was said and done we finished in second, just one point off the leader! I feel like we're finally starting to put the pieces together; I always knew this horse had a really good dressage test in him!

Next up is Frazier Farm Horse Trials on August 10th!