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