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!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Back At It!

Ben and I have had a fairly good run playing in the jumpers thus far this spring/summer but I am over the jumper thing a bit faster than I thought I would be and I'm ready to go back to eventing. There's only so many hours I can sit on my horse at the in-gate waiting for my classes to start...

Not to mention that the big A rated hunter/jumper shows get rather expensive very quickly!

For the most part, I'm just going back to the basics with Ben and "re-starting" him in eventing like he's a baby first being introduced. We've already begun this journey by going on a little xc school last week where he was an absolute star, jumping everything beautifully, and didn't look at a thing!

He jumped two different ditches like a pro the first time he was presented and genuinely seemed to be having a blast. I had a blast too, it's been a while since I actually galloped and jumped cross country!

Here's the video:

In about a month I'm going to take him to do the baby division at a local schooling event, which is listed at 2'3", but it's really just logs on the ground for xc. The goal is to just pass through all the flags and cross the finish line. He can quite literally step over every fence.

Then if all is well there, we'll go to the Lyme Horse Trials on August 17th, which is where we just went schooling and jumped all the Novice fences and where he's jumped awesomely for the past two years at their event, and we'll do the Novice. After that, I have no plans, as I'll just see what's happening.

Additionally, I am going to take my trainer's horse Beginner Novice at the Lyme Horse Trials as well. Dressage is not his strong suit but he LOVES to jump, and it is more or less a given that he'll jump clean so I'm really excited to take him too.

On Sunday, Ben and I are off to a little Novice combined test just to get back in the dressage ring because we haven't been since May. His dressage work has been coming along really nicely and I'm really happy with where he is right now. He seems very happy overall right now!

Monday, June 2, 2014


Everybody had better buckle their seatbelts because this is going to be long!

When I last wrote we had just had a fantastic outing at the Mystic Valley Hunt Club Combined Test. We were then supposed to head up to the Course Brook Farm Combined Test and cross country school there as well, but it was unfortunately cancelled so that did not happen. 

We headed to the Sperry View Farm Dressage Show on May 3rd and rode in Training 1 and Training 2 which went well. A few others from my barn came and competed too and my trainer came to coach which was super helpful. We placed 5th in both of our classes, scoring a 60.417% in Training 1 and a 62.857% in Training 2. 

Videos here:

Then on May 11th we were off to the first event of the season at King Oak Farm. We never did manage to find a venue that was open for cross country schooling, so we went in cold aside from a little cross country simulation I made at the barn with a fake ditch, some coops, and a homemade brush fence. He jumped all of that fantastically and I was feeling good about things.

Video of us popping around our makeshift cross country course here:

Unfortunately our dressage time was in the afternoon when cross country was already running and Ben became absolutely unglued. We warmed up for 45 minutes and he only got worse and worse. We went in the ring and survived through a pretty awful, tense, distracted dressage test and broke our record for the worst score we ever received in dressage, scoring a 52.6. Miraculously, we were not in last place after dressage, but we were very close. Quite a frustrating development considering how good his dressage has been both at home and off property lately but that is how Ben is. Once he loses his mind, its gone, and you're not going to get it back. 

Video here:

I laughed it off as first event of the season rust and headed to stadium with a positive attitude. He easily jumped double clear.

Video here:

I was feeling very confident going into cross country. The course was straightforward, stadium was fantastic, and I couldn't have asked for a better cross country warm-up. Unfortunately, as soon as we left the startbox he was back to his old ways of spooking at nothing, flying sideways, and trying to stop. After one stop at Fence 1 I managed to barely stuff him over and head to Fence 2. He felt great and bold on the short trip to the second fence and I thought maybe just getting over the first fence would get him into the swing of things. Again, first event of the season rust. 

I thought wrong and he got crooked into Fence 2, I saw a long spot, pushed for it, and jumped ahead and he promptly exited stage right and dumped me. The runout was my fault and the fall was my fault but I think he would have stopped anyway. Needless to say, I was incredibly frustrated. I really thought with the move to the new, busier barn, his recent good behavior, the hacking out in the open fields by himself, etc. that he would get over whatever his distraction issue on cross country is and get back to the old Ben, the one that was point and shoot cross country. No such luck.

I was already entered at Mystic Valley Hunt Club Horse Trials a couple weeks after and I decided that it would be our unofficial determinant of if we were really going to keep doing this awful thing where we go and get eliminated all the time with the few exceptions where he's having a good day and he's perfect. That's the frustrating part of Ben really: he's either really, really bad or really, really good. When he's good, he is a blast to ride, an excellent jumper, pulling me to the fences, and just everything a good event horse should be. However, the majority of the time he is frustrating and upsetting and I have not been able to find a solution to his issue despite trying everything I could think of.

So off we went to MVHC. He was great in dressage, scoring a 37.0 and placing himself in 7th out of 15. We even got a couple 8s on our test.

Video here:

He was really great in stadium warm-up and was chilling outside the in gate on the buckle for quite a while, as they were running late. About three trips before our ride, however, he realized there were horses running cross country right across the way (at this event they run xc directly after stadium) and he lost his mind a bit. Our stadium round was clear but it was very strong and I had a hard time containing him. Regardless, we moved up to 4th out of 15 after stadium.

Video here:

Off to cross country we went, where he proceeded to stop at Fence 1, stop dead on the way to Fence 2 for about 20 seconds until I got him going again, stop at Fence 2, and stop at Fence 3. Every single stop was because he was staring at the jump judges near the fences and no matter what I did: talk to him, growl at him, move the bit, kick him, tap him with the crop, I couldn't get him to pay attention to the fence. 

Fence 4 and Fence 5 were a bank up, down a ramp, right bending line to a bench. Because there was no jump judge sitting close to this fence and the question was something he had to think about a little bit, he did it absolutely beautifully. Same with Fence 6, which was just a hanging log: no jump judge sitting right next to the fence, no problem. 

We galloped into the woods for Fence 7 where a jump judge was sitting right next to the fence and picked up our fourth stop. Elimination. Again.

I was really quite upset about the whole experience for quite a while. It's not like this hasn't happened to us before, but because I unofficially made this event my deciding factor on whether I was going to keep trying to event him or not, it felt a little too final. 

The hard part about this issue is that it isn't easily fixable. We've been dealing on and off with variations of his distraction issue for close to two years now. It has just recently escalated to being this unmanageable within the last year or so. If I take him cross country schooling he jumps absolutely everything. He doesn't look at anything, he's straight as an arrow, bold, etc. So how am I supposed to fix a problem that only exists at competitions?

I know there are horses who just don't like cross country. I do not think that Ben is one of those horses. Back when he was green and everything on cross country was new to him, he had to think very hard about what he was doing. Because of this he was quite an easy ride on cross country, and was always very focused on his fences. He consistently ran double clear and had a blast doing it. As he got more and more experience, cross country became no big deal and he began looking for other things out on course to hold his interest. 

Typically once he gets over the first few fences he goes pretty well. And once he gets going he absolutely has fun. His ears are pricked the whole way round and he's bold and excited. That is why this is all the more aggravating. If he never jumped cross country well or he was miserable the whole way round, it would be a lot easier to accept that he didn't want to be an event horse. I think he likes cross country, but I can't figure out how to make him do it.

I've considered getting somebody else to ride him for a bit and take him to an event, but I really don't think it's financially feasible right now. My dressage trainer is great, has given me some tips, and does have jumping experience, but I don't currently have any one else to get on him and take him cross country to get a second opinion on what is going on.

So, long story short, we are taking at least the summer off from eventing. We will reevaluate in the fall and see where we are. For now, we are going to be competing in the jumpers. Ben loves the jumpers and he's really quite good at it, having been Grand Champion at the local winter series twice now. I'm certainly not counting him out of eventing forever, but eventing is supposed to be fun, and it is definitely not fun the way things are at this moment in time. 

 Ben is absolutely my heart horse and will never, ever be sold, so if the jumpers is what he wants to do, we're going to do it. I enjoy the jumpers enough to be perfectly content there for a while. 

We actually went to a jumper show yesterday and competed in the Child/Adult Jumpers, which are 1.0m/3'3" and had a blast. The footing in the ring was quite deep and I rode poorly in a couple places and caused one rail each in two of our three classes, but Ben was jumping well and was great. We ended up with a 2nd, a 4th, and a 6th. It's nice to come home with a ribbon (or three!) again. 

Video here:

In a couple of weeks we're headed to a show at Westbrook Hunt Club where we'll be showing in two 1.05m/3'5" classes in addition to a $1500 Classic. There's one good thing about the jumpers, there is prize money involved! 

I'm actually more excited than I thought I would be to be playing jumper for a while. It's fun to go and be successful. 

So this blog is going to turn into a bit of a Jumper blog instead of an Eventing Blog for a little while, but I definitely still plan on doing dressage shows, combined tests, hunter paces, cross country schools, etc. just for fun as well.

It took me a little longer than it probably should have to make the decision to take a minor eventing break, but I love the sport so much it was very difficult for me to let go. Again, this is certainly not a permanent decision and I feel fairly confident that I'll have my event horse back again at some point, but for right now I think this is the right decision for us.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog for sticking with us through everything and dealing with my severe writing procrastination. 

Ben doing what he does best

Monday, April 14, 2014

MVHC Combined Test Results

Show season has officially begun and we started it off fantastically!

Ben was great the entire day. He stepped off the trailer completely calm and happily stood tied to the trailer munching his hay, something that he has never been able to do for any decent length of time before. I got on him to warm up for dressage and he walked all the way there calmly on the buckle. He got into the busy warm up ring and just went right to work. He felt exactly like he does at home, another thing that has never happened at a show before.

He warmed up great, was round, soft, using his hind end, and being generally agreeable. We did some leg yields and walk/canter/walk transitions which I think helped a lot with his engagement. We even got a few really decent steps of trot lengthening.

This good work carried right over into the dressage ring and he put in what was probably his best test at Training level to date. We rode Training A, which I really don't like very much. We also ended up riding in a large dressage ring which meant he had to hold things like trot and canter lengthenings for longer periods of time which wasn't the best thing ever but it worked out fine.

The only parts of our test where we had a little hiccup was at the trot transition at A where Ben was positive I was actually asking him to canter and then at the canter diagonal, trot at X movement that I cannot stand. The latter was 100% my fault, it was the only part of the test where I just stopped riding. I gave a lot more effort to my canter lengthening than I ever have and I just never really got him back and we ended up careening down the diagonal and he was unbalanced so he broke gait. 

Other than that, it was a really solid test and I was very pleased with Ben. The judge was scoring very harshly and some of her comments didn't make sense at all. For example, our left lead canter transition at C, which I thought was quite good, received a score of 5 and a comment of "accelerates at X" which I am still scratching my head over. I am pretty confident that the judge is not rated and so I took her comments with a grain of salt. In addition, she judged everyone else the same way, so as long as I fit into the pack where I would have if somebody else was judging, I can't complain too much.We scored a 40 and were in 5th out of 10 after dressage.

Here is our test:

A little while later we headed over to the stadium ring where he got a bit more excited to be jumping, but was still remarkably well behaved. He jumped fantastically and I believe we only jumped four or five fences because there was no need to do any more than that.

He went in the ring and put in a really great round. He built a little bit as we went and I lost some of my brakes after the in and out, but he was jumping so great and felt so confident that I don't mind that so much. With his clear round, we maintained out fifth place position and earned ourselves a pretty pink ribbon!

Here is our round:

In a slightly annoying development, there was another competitor who wanted to ride both the dressage and jumping twice on the same horse. I assumed they would count her first round and then have her count as HC for the second round, but they instead scored her twice which I thought was a bit unfair, especially considering she placed first and second. Nothing I could do about it though and at the end of the day it really wasn't a big deal and certainly didn't affect how pleased I was with my horse.

I feel really great about the 2014 season after this weekend. Ben was fantastic the entire day and I really feel like he is finding his brain and growing up. He now knows that he needs to go to work when he's away from home too. Next up is the Course Brook Farm Combined Test at Training on Saturday, the 19th. As long as the weather allows, we'll be getting a xc school in there as well!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Show Season Has Arrived!

Show season is finally here! Ben and I will be attending a combined test at Mystic Valley Hunt Club tomorrow and I am rushing around doing a million things because it actually crept up on me a lot more quickly than I expected it would!

However, before I talk more about the combined test I should mention that we attended the last show of the jumper schooling series at Westbrook Hunt Club at the end of March and Ben placed first, first, and third, earning him Champion of the division and Grand Champion of the series!

He won a very nice cooler and a very fancy ribbon. Hopefully his good behavior at the jumper shows translates to our eventing season.

Here are a couple videos from the jumper show:

We'll be doing Training level at the 2-phase tomorrow and we've been really working hard on our dressage so I am optimistic that we can put in a decent test. Being the first show of the season my only goals are to put in a calm, accurate dressage test and jump a nice, rhythmical stadium round. 

Something I've been recently working on with my dressage trainer is really riding the test. For so long dressage was just about surviving for me because Ben was hot and spooky and would occasionally just start bucking so I didn't dare ask him for any more than he was giving me when he was having a rare sane moment.

Now he is much more well behaved in the ring and I think I can start to ask him for a little more. I need to have the courage to change what is happening if it is not correct. If he's not bending enough, I need to make him bend more. If he needs to go more forward, I need to make that happen. I can't just accept what he gives me anymore and excuse it with, "Oh well, at least he's not bucking!"

There is a little video of him schooling on the flat a few weeks ago here.

I have a dressage lesson this afternoon and then I'll be washing socks, trimming whiskers, and braiding. Unfortunately, it's not warm enough yet for a full bath so he'll definitely be a little dusty! 

My times are pretty early which means I should be home by afternoon time and I will hopefully be able to write you guys a same-day report!

Friday, March 28, 2014

In Which the Connecticut Supreme Court is Ridiculous...

Hey everyone!

I don't know if any of you guys have heard about the ordeal that is currently going on in Connecticut regarding the horse industry, but if you haven't you can find out about it here.

Long story short, there was a minor incident at a Connecticut farm quite a few years ago where a young boy was bitten by a horse, and ever since the family has been trying to sue the farm and get horses classified as "inherently vicious."

Because, you know, prey animals are usually vicious creatures. *Eye roll*

Anyway, the Connecticut Appellate Court ruled that horses were inherently vicious and the Connecticut Supreme Court has voted to support this ruling. This can have some serious impacts to the horse industry in the state from making horses un-insurable to hurting therapeutic riding programs. 

There is currently a petition on to overturn this ruling and it is very close to its goal; we only need 447 more signatures. If anyone is interested in helping out the thousands of horse people in the state, you can take a minute to sign this petition here:

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about it! I'll be around with a proper post soon (spoiler alert: a cute little brown horse may or may not have been Grand Champion of the jumper series...).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Getting Closer!

I finally feel like we are actually approaching spring! The sun has been shining a lot more lately, the snow is mostly melted everywhere, and I got to go on a little hack on the grass track at the barn. Not to mention that the first show of the event season, a combined test, is only a month away!

While we have been stuck in the indoor for the last few months, we have had plenty to work on and I haven't been bored at all this winter. We're still taking regular dressage lessons and Ben has improved leaps and bounds over where he was last fall. He is so much more responsive, is starting to take weight on his hind end instead of dragging himself around on his forehand, and his canter no longer resembles a runaway freight train. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how our dressage tests go this season. 

While we have been having a pretty quiet winter, I did take Ben to a couple jumper shows at the Westbrook Hunt Club over the past few weeks and he has been fantastic! The first one I took him to he placed third, second, and second and was Reserve Champion. The most recent one I took him to, about two weeks ago, he won all three classes and was Champion. He is also currently tied for first in the overall series standings after only attending two of five shows, so if he behaves himself at the last one this Sunday he has a shot at taking Grand Champion. 

Here's some videos from the shows (for some reason, YouTube will not let me embed the videos, so if you click on the links below, they will take you to the videos):

I've also updated the 2014 show schedule to reflect what I know so far about our season. We'll attend the last jumper show of the winter on March 23rd, then we're going to head to the Course Brook Farm Combined Test on April 19th, at Training as long as we get a couple of at height jump schools in before that, otherwise we'll just do Novice. I'm also hoping the weather/ground will be good enough to get in a xc school there as well. 

The first full event will be King Oak on May 11th, at Novice. I'm currently trying to decide between Mystic Valley Hunt Club or the Stoneleigh-Burnham Schooling Trials for another Novice run at the end of May. Assuming those two outings go well, we'll head to Larkin Hill in June to contest the Training/Novice and then hopefully run Training at Riga Meadow in July. That's as far as I've gotten at this point, and I have many backup plans in case Plan A doesn't work out for whatever reason. 

I can't wait to get back into the swing of eventing season so I actually have some more to write about and can get back to blogging more regularly! As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Is It Spring Yet?

Winter can be over at any time now. It seems as if it's either incredibly cold or snowing or sometimes both at the same time. Having an indoor this winter is of course great, but I think Ben and I are both looking forward for the weather to break so we can go on a hack, or even just ride in the outdoor arena.

There's currently about 6-8 inches of snow on the ground outside and its still snowing, so I have to skip my barn trip for the day. I'm sure Ben will be perfectly okay with this as long as he still gets his food delivered to him.

We've been continuing to work hard on our dressage and he is really coming along. He's realizing that it is a lot easier to do what is asked of him instead of throwing a temper tantrum. He is also consistently forward which is such a nice change. 

He is absolutely nailing his walk-canter-walk transitions and has even had some stellar halt-canter-halt transitions. He picked this up in about two days once my dressage trainer fixed my position. Go figure. I've been struggling with his walk-canter-walk transitions with mixed success for literally years, so to have them down now is a great feeling. 

We were supposed to head to a jumper show yesterday, but I decided against it at the last minute as I may or may not have severely procrastinated writing a big paper for my Marketing course that was due last night at 11:59pm. I just couldn't justify sitting around at the show for hours waiting for my classes to start when I could have been home making sure my work was in on time! There's another show in a couple of weeks and assuming the weather is decent enough we'll head to that one instead. 

I've been counting down the days until the first event of the season (97...) but its not coming fast enough. I would be happy if it would just thaw out enough to start on hacking and trot sets!

I've been trying to keep Ben in consistent work as much as possible but its been too cold to ride a lot of the time and last week he threw a shoe so we've been lucky to squeeze in a few rides a week on a regular basis. We should be back in business now if it would stop snowing!

He's getting quite chubby from sitting a little more than usual but he's still having a blast playing around outside with his buddies:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Little Inspiration

You all will be happy to know that keeping up with my blogging is my New Year's Resolution. Let's see how long I can keep it!

The past few months have given me a lot of time to reflect on my riding, particularly at competitions. Obviously, something in my riding needs to change to achieve the double clear cross country rounds that we used to consistently get so easily. 

Don't get me wrong, I think we ended the 2013 season on a great note. But it was Beginner Novice and we still had a stop. I feel like recently I have been right on the brink of finding the one thing that needs tweaking in order to finally get back to the bold, confident cross country rounds that we used to have. 

I got to thinking about the one most important thing necessary when riding, particularly in a discipline like eventing, and that is forward.

Ben is not a lazy horse. In fact, I often have to worry about speed faults. He moves quickly, he moves from his hind end, he covers a lot of ground with his strides. He may be physically forward, but I don't think he is mentally forward. He is always looking around at everything else and preparing to slam on the brakes if need be. He needs to know that this is not an option. He needs to have one, singular focus, and that is the path right in front of him: straight to the jump, straight over the jump, straight after the jump. Jump judges, spectators, dogs, decorations, invisible monsters, and the like should not matter.

So then I began thinking about how to achieve this mental forwardness. Well, how do you achieve forward? You put your leg on! Duh! I never use my leg aid on xc, because I was always convinced that because my horse was going fast, he was going forward. Not true.

Another thing is that whenever Ben tries to stop to look at something he goes sideways first, and then stops. I always attempt to correct the sideways movement first but I never put my leg on to tell him to keep going forward.

Lately I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos of hunter trials and also the European Pony Eventing Championships. These kids are quite incredible. They start off guns blazing, constantly driving forward. The horse are trained to land and gallop on. The horses never think about stopping. The riders don't worry too much about distances, they just gallop strongly down to the fences and a distance comes to them because they have the energy to safely jump from any spot. 

Now, not every horse needs this kind of ride and not every horse will tolerate it either. Ben, however, needs this kind of ride. He needs to know that the only option is up and over. I need to put my leg on and actively use it, because he is trained to know that leg on = go forward. Why did I never think of this before?

Here's a couple videos that demonstrate a bit what I'm talking about:

So obviously I won't know if it works until we get out there this spring, but I definitely am hopeful about this and I really think he just needs an overall more aggressive, active ride instead of me passively sitting there waiting for him to do something bad. 

Only time will tell!
(Can we tell I'm already getting cabin fever and its only January?)