Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Horses Have Terrible Timing

My horse has no concept of when important things are coming up. So he does stupid things like get hurt three days before we're supposed to go cross country schooling.

Luckily, its nothing tragic. Sunday I went to the barn later on in the day. I wasn't planning on riding so I just brought him in to give him a grooming. He had some hair sticking straight up on his spine behind his withers which I assumed was mud or something similarly sticky. So I curried it. And he flinched and swished his tail and leapt sideways. Well that can't be good.

Its one little spot, about an inch long, right along his spine. He is very reactive to it. I kind of just assumed it was a bug bite or something that he was being sensitive to. I know its not saddle fit or anything as it came on very suddenly and I also just had both saddles checked and reflocked two months ago. I left it overnight and went back yesterday to no change.

I can just lightly touch it with my fingers, or run a soft brush right over it and he doesn't care. Its only when you put pressure on it that he flinches and reacts. There is no cut, no open skin, no bump so its all kind of a mystery at this point.

In turn, Ben has had Saturday-Monday off which can't be any good for either of us. I put him on the longe line yesterday just to see if he moved any differently and he is perfectly fine. He is acting completely normal. I put my saddle on him yesterday sans saddle pad just to see where it fell. He didn't care and my gullet is far far away from being even remotely close to the area so he'd probably be fine for riding but I don't want to take a chance like that.

So the vet is coming out today in a few hours. Hopefully he'll just tell me that he banged it on a rock or something, that it'll be fine on his own, and that I can ride and xc school tomorrow. If we get the okay to ride I will give him a really good workout tonight to avoid too much silliness tomorrow. If not we have a backup date to school next month. I don't really think its anything big but I'm just stumped on what it could be and I'd rather just have the peace of mind knowing what it is and what I should do about it.

Sigh. Horses...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Frazier Farm HT Results

Today was, in a word, amazing.

Ben was the best I could have ever asked him to be from behaving himself in all three phases, to standing like a gentleman tied to the trailer, munching on hay (which he never, ever does. At least not without pawing himself into a hole and trying to climb on the trailer).

Dressage was awesome. He was spot on for everything. Its amazing to me how far this horse has come. He now knows that he has a job to do in the dressage ring. Sure our test had a couple of little bobbles, like a few canter strides added in to the left trot circle, and flipping our nose in the left canter circle a bit, but considering at the beginning of the season I considered it a good test if he only bucked once or twice...I think it is safe to say that we are making progress.

We went into the ring to score a 31.7, the best score I gave ever gotten in dressage on any horse, ever. I was ecstatic. We had five 8s! In my entire show career, on three different horses, I have gotten three eights across every dressage test I have ever ridden. So five in one test is pretty amazing to me! We were in fourth place after dressage out of twelve people. I have never been in the top half after dressage. Never. Usually I'm happy if I'm not last. I've never been in a position to say "Well, if I just jump clean, I'll definitely get a ribbon." I've always had to hope that if I jumped clean I would move up into the ribbons.

Of course, the pressure was kind of on for me then! I wasn't about to mess this up now that I had finally gotten the opportunity to see what it felt like!

So on to cross country we went! The course looked like it would be a blast! He warmed up fabulously and we headed over to the start box...where it proceeded to start raining and thundering and lightning. They sent me off anyway, and I must say it was pretty awesome to be galloping cross country along to the claps of thunder!

I finally, finally remembered to get pictures of the course! So I'll post the picture of each fence and write about how it rode:

Fence 1
This was a very simple, straightforward log on an uphill slope and winged by other jumps on either side which helped to minimize his wiggliness. We had a bit of a long spot and awkward jump here, but I'd take too bold any day over sticky and not confident.

Fence 2
This was a very, very cool fence although it was quite odd that it was only the second fence on course. It was a bank up, one stride across the top, bank down. Ben jumped really boldly up on the bank and was in for quite a surprise when he realized he had to jump down again! But he handled it pretty well, even though he kind of launched off the bank a bit, which he doesn't usually do. I just hung in there and let him figure it out.

Fence 3
This stone wall is off a long uphill gallop and rides like a bank up, even though it is a jump, because the landing is significantly higher than the takeoff. Ben jumped really nicely up here, although he took off a bit long!

Fence 4
This fence is tiny, but it comes off a fairly steep downhill quite soon after fence 3 and there is a pretty decent drop on the landing. We just popped quietly off the edge and galloped on. Of course, the exciting part happened on the turn to fence 5, when he launched himself into three huge bucks. He was having a little too much fun!

Fence 5

This fence is uphill, straightforward, and well-winged and Ben just kind of took charge and motored on over this one without any issues.

Fence 6
A fairly upright brush fence, we got a touch close to, but he snapped his knees up and had no problem clearing it.

Fence 7
A pretty narrow approach to a decent sized, but inviting, bank up. Ben pretty much was running away with me at this point, so I can't take much credit for the perfect spot we got to this ;-) This was followed by an extremely steep uphill, then to fence 8.

Fence 8
Not the best picture in the world, but this log was small and had a flat approach, considering you just came from the crazy steep uphill. Ben was long here but had no problems.

Fence 9
The reason I moved back up to Novice here, was because they didn't have a ditch. So imagine my surprise (and panic!) when I find this on my course walk. It wasn't terribly big, but it was indeed a ditch. And guess what? My horse didn't bat an eye at it. I turned to it, sat up and back, kept my eyes glued forward, and kicked on. And he just popped over it like he's not deathly terrified of ditches. Huh.

Fence 10
This was quite the pretty little fence, although a little spooky because of the shadows. We got a good spot here and jumped well. We then went through the clearing and turned left to fence 11.

Fence 11
I expected him to try to wiggle out to the right because this fence was off a blind left turn after the stone wall, but he saw the fence, locked on to it, and jumped it fabulously!

Fence 12
I really don't know why this picture makes this fence look so small because it is quite big. And its airy and has a bizarre groundline. Of course, this was the only fence we jumped really badly because you jumped 11, crossed a dirt road, down a little hill, then a sharp turn right to this fence. At this point, my medical armband decided to fall down to my wrist, so I was trying to get it out of my way while maintaining control of my horse. No easy task! He got rolling down the hill and I never really brought him back so we got close and he jumped over his shoulder a little bit which was kind of scary when this fence is as upright as it was! But we made it over and carried on.

Fence 13
This was up a slow, gradual hill going away from home so Ben turned into this field and balked sideways. He was nowhere near the fence at the time so it wasn't a refusal or anything, just an attempt to get out of doing more work. I took this as an opportunity to check my watch and realized we had more than two minutes left on the clock. To avoid speed faults I had to come in with less than 58 seconds left on the clock. Oops, wayyyy too fast. I never used to have this problem, but then my horse got really fit and really strong and I no longer have brakes... So I took his balking as an opportunity to kill some time and we trotted up the hill until a few strides out from this fence where we picked up our pace again and jumped this really well. You can see fence 14 just to the left of this photo.

Fence 14
This was quite a small fence because it had a bit of a downhill landing and a few strides later had a fairly big step down. He was good and put in the extra stride here and then actually listened when I asked him to trot to pop off the bank.

Fence 15
I don't have a picture of the landing side but this was quite the sizable drop down, probably close to three feet. So I trotted right off it to avoid any potential launching!

Fence 16
Last fence! A bit of a close spot but we made it out just fine and straight through the finish. Even with the balking and trotting, we still came in with 49 seconds left on the clock.

And by the time I finished my round, the rain had stopped, and the sun was back out! Go figure...

Then onto stadium which was a swamp of mushy footing and standing water. Yuck. It wasn't slippery or deep or dangerous, you just had to be extra careful around the turns. Novice goes last at this show so the footing has already been chewed up in front of every fence by 3 Elementary divisions and 2 Beginner Novice divisions. You kind of got sucked down in front of the fences which led to some ugly, over the shoulder fences from Ben. Somehow, we still managed to jump clean! There was little moat with water in it that Ben decided he needed to jump over between fences 4 and 5. Silly boy!

So in the end, we placed 3rd! I was so proud of Ben, he was everything I asked for and more today! He'll get a bit of a break from showing for now. He won't show again until Mid-July although we are going schooling at King Oak in a couple of weeks to school every ditch on the property!

Here are all of the videos from today:

And for your cute fix of the day, here is a picture from the other day when Ben found a turtle in his paddock and decided to make friends:

As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, June 1, 2012

MVHC Horse Trials Results

Whew, time flies when you're running back to back events!

Well, I finally got the videos uploaded yesterday, and I found some time to write this post today. Didn't even realize it was Friday already!

So, last Saturday seemed to be shaping up to be a pretty successful event.

I decided not to lunge Ben just to experiment and it ended up working out very nicely for us. He definitely gets more tense when I lunge him at shows. So that's good news that I figured that out, and it also makes things a lot less stressful between trying to find a place to lunge that I won't get yelled at for, to bringing a bunch of extra lunging equipment.

I warmed up for about a half hour and for the first twenty minutes it was going really, really badly. He was calling to everyone and was leaping and zooming around with his head straight in the air like a giraffe. So I had kind of just come to terms with the fact that this was going to be a very terrible test.

But then, something clicked in his brain and he just settled down. I took a deep breath and put my shoulders back, and just tried to ride him really quietly. He was absolutely awesome for our test!

He did whinny once in the beginning, but that wasn't a huge deal, and our free walk wasn't too stellar, but he didn't trot so that's great too. Our judge, however, was a flat out idiot.

For starters, my ring had a whistle as the signal to go in. As I was coming around the corner towards A, I head a noise, which may have been a whistle, but also could have very easily been something else. I looked to the judge who wasn't even looking, so I decided I'd better not go in in case it wasn't the whistle. So I trotted down and asked very politely if that was indeed the whistle and I got a very snooty "Yes, it was!" back. Oh great. Sorry lady, not my fault that I didn't want to be eliminated, she should have been happy that I double checked.

So I check my scores after my wonderful, amazing test and see that we had a 43.5 and we were sitting in 10th place out of 13. To be perfectly honest, I was shocked. I really, truly expected a score in the upper thirties (37-39). I assumed that she had to have given me an error for the whistle thing, because there was no way that test was a 43. It wasn't a 41 either, but that would've at least beeen a little better.

Of course, I get my test back later, and it seems she took the whistle thing out on every.single.mark considering my test sheet was covered with 5s and comments next to them that made zero sense. No error. Normally, even if a test goes badly, I hardly blame the judge. Even if I think I deserved a better score, I can mostly see why the judges gave me the scores they did by looking at the comments. But not this one. I had a perfect canter transition saying that it was a 5 and he was braced and running. Um, no, he was perfectly balanced, bent, and round, what are you even talking about? There is no way we deserved that score, which means the only possible explanation is that she was taking the whole whistle debacle out on us through our test.

No the test was not a 25 scoring test, but not one of those movements should have earned a 5, except maybe the free walk, which she actually gave us a 6 on. I only had 5s and 6s in the entire test. Really? It most definitely should have broke 40. See for youself:

So while I was quite furious with the whole situation, I was incredibly proud of my horse who started off like a maniac, and calmed down enough to put in one of his best tests. And no kicking out in the canter transitions! WooHoo!

So on to stadium! He warmed up great, was jumping really well. Went in to put in a lovely double clear. Okay, so maybe 'lovely' isn't the word. He was wicked strong, and I buried the poor thing into some fences, and he charged down some of the lines, but he still did well! Part of me thinks I need a bigger bit, because quite honestly he is just blowing me off like I'm not even there, but I also know my horse, and he would hate me forever if I put anything besides a snaffle in his mouth. The stadium judge called us over after our round and 'suggested' that we try to go slower cross country as our time was 1:05 and most had been jumping the course in 1:25. Oops. Sorry, my horse thinks he's a jumper.

Here's our round:

So cross country was immediately after stadium and he was WAY too hyped up, I couldn't get him to stand at all. We were leaping and bucking and launching ourselves around the start box. Then we came charging out of the startbox with some more leaping and bucking, and then we got out on course.

He was good to one, quite wiggly to two (but a lot of horses were, it was a new fence for this course), jumped three fine, wiggled our way stickily through four and five, a little downhill combination, and then we finally got things straightened out (literally and figuratively ;-) ) for fence six. Once he stopped wiggling I relaxed and said "Okay, we're home free now that you've stopped wiggling. We should be clear the rest of the way!"

Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. When are you going to learn that every single time you say that, something bad happens directly after? Similar to ENYDCTA when we jumped the third to last and were having the first clear round in our division until I stopped riding to the scary rolltop and got a face full of horse neck. Well, this time we came up to a small fence with a downhill landing, that was then three strides to a little natural water crossing. Well, Ben thought for sure that he would be landing IN the water if he jumped that jump and so because I stopped riding he quit on me.

So we reapproached, and he did it again. Deep breath, REALLY ride it, smack on the way in. He feels like he's going this time, but SLAMS on the brakes at the last second, getting his feet up in the fence a bit, then panics and spins out from underneath me. We can't just have a normal three stops, you're out elimination you know. Nope, my horse has to dump me and go careening around the cross country course. Sigh. Well, on the bright side, I was wearing my air vest and man that thing is like landing on a pillow, I didn't feel a thing.

Even with our crappy dressage score, we would've placed 6th if we had finished clean. It truly was a legitimate question on Ben's part because, I realized with his lack of depth perception, he really thought he was going to land in the water. And this was in the woods, where it was dark, and the water was dark. The fence wasn't the problem, and the water wouldn't have been the problem if it was by itself or farther back, but the combination together didn't sit well with him, and I wasn't there to tell him yes. It also didn't help that he was SO hyped up because I think he had so much adrenaline, that at the slightest hint of something spooky (the water) he just reacted without trying to read the question. Because I know a lot of horses there who jumped that jump without an issue, so it wasn't the fence, it was him.

Here's the first half of cross country:

So, hopefully that was just a silly little fluke. Because he was perfect at King Oak. So things are still on for Frazier this Sunday, where we're moving back up to Novice. They have no ditches or water, and all the fences are straigtforward and mostly inviting, so hopefully we won't have any issues.

Later on this month, we're going cross country schooling at King Oak so I can jump every single ditch on the property, including the one he dumped me at in the fall. I also want to try dropping into water, so that he can see that even if he was going to land in the water, it really isn't all that bad!

The even sadder part of the whole weekend? If I was in the Novice division, which he probably would've gone clean around since he's jumped clean around that track twice now, we would've place at the very least 4th. And my horse actually jumps the Novice water. Silly horse.

Oh well, hopefully we can redeem ourselves this weekend. Thanks for reading!