Ashley Adams Clinic Redux: Stadium

Yeah, it does feel like we JUST did a clinic with Ashley. It was a little over a month ago actually, but the clinic was such a great success that Trainer brought her in again. Word on the street is that we’re going to try to bring her in on a pretty regular basis, which would be great. I think. My brain is still trying to reconcile everything that happened to it this weekend.

At the last clinic I took a private stadium lesson with Ashley on Friday and then let Trainer ride Henry in the clinic so she could get her “big jumps” post-baby balls back. This time it was all me in the clinic itself, starting with stadium on Saturday.

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Yeah, all I’ve got right now are the pics I took with my phone from Michelle’s camera screen. Learn to like it.

It’s no secret that stadium is our worst phase at the moment. As I’ve gotten better at the XC ride, I’ve gotten worse at the stadium ride, and I’m pretty sure I just live on the strugglebus right now. My eye has gotten a lot better, but my ability to be effective has gone on vacation somewhere and I dunno when it’s coming back. Soon, I hope. I miss it terribly. The horse needs a much better ride from me as the jumps go up, and right now he’s just not getting it. So I was 1 part excited for stadium day with Ashley, because she is the level of buttkicking that we really need, but also like 3 parts seriously dreading it, because I knew it would be tough. Especially when she started with “Okay, it’s off season! Time to get serious!”. Well shit, it felt pretty serious last time!

Some of the takeaways were the same as before, which isn’t surprising considering it’s only been a month. I really have to keep the POWER in his canter, and I have to do a better job of supporting him more with my leg and seat. My reaction time also has to be quicker, and my aids have to be more clear. Ashley said (and is 100% correct) that I suffer a little bit from paralysis up there… I tend to just sit and wait for it to be over, which is about as unhelpful as possible, and makes Henry end up really stuck in his lower back, therefore not good with his hind end. I really need to RIDE more, not be afraid to change the canter or the shape or the balance, not be afraid to move my body around and move his body around. I also need to be sure to really support him off the ground with my leg, pressing him up and across the fence. My patented maneuver is to abandon him and freeze up in the last stride, which again… about as unhelpful as possible.

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I also need to get better about riding from my seat and leg FIRST, not my hand. She emphasized always PUSHING the horse forward into the whoa or the re-balance, and keeping them always connected in the outside rein. Like seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I heard the words “OUTSIDE REIN” and “KICK” all weekend, across all the lessons, I would be buying myself a pretty bangin Christmas present. Pulling on the inside rein and not using enough leg were common themes. We also practiced riding deep and powerful to low wide oxers to improve the horse’s shape across the fence.

Ashley said I really need someone around all the time to remind me to keep moving and changing things around, which I totally agree would help me a lot. Too bad I ride alone 99.9% of the time. Too bad I have literally 3 jumps in my field. Too bad I don’t jump very much in general. I’m going to sit down this week and re-examine my normal ride schedule and put more jump schools in there over the winter. Also gonna try to find some jumper classes over the next few months, so I can give myself some more practice in the ring. The horse doesn’t need it so much, but clearly I do. We’ll keep doing lessons whenever we can, too, obviously… I just continuously find myself wishing that I lived somewhere where all of this was a little easier and more convenient. Living is Austin isn’t helping my situation.

But at the end of the day, all of those things are just excuses, so I need to find a way to get it done anyway. I need to build some more jumps, fix my broken ones, and get creative with my schedule to make more jump schools and lessons possible. I need to focus more and I need to ride better. I owe it to my poor saintly horse, who is probably pretty tired of packing my paralyzed monkey ass around stadium. Guessing he’d appreciate a little help on my part.

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However, I think the best part of Stadium Day was our potluck Thanksgiving dinner. Trainer’s husband fried up some turkeys and everyone brought sides to share. I ate so much that I kind of wanted to throw up, but I regret nothing because it was all so friggin good. Plus everything is better when you drown your feelings of inadequacy in gravy and stuff them inside of a dinner roll!

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Grem Update

CATS, am I right?

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one of us is excited that she can jump on the mantle now

The good news is, Grem is still really cute. The bad news is, she grew into her ears. I know, it’s a bummer, I miss those big bat ears. Her tail sure is FLUFFY now though so I guess it balances out.

I’ll be honest, the SO was not that happy with me when I showed up with a cat. He didn’t say as much, but his face gave him away. Neither of us have ever been cat people, and we had sure never talked about getting one. More dogs, yes. Always more dogs. But a cat??? Now, though… NOW he’s that guy that’s seriously obsessed with his cat. OBSESSED.

I won’t even tell you how many toys he’s bought her. I can’t, honestly, because they’re all under the couches and coffee table. She’s a hoarder deluxe.

Any initial hesitation Grem had about the dogs is completely gone now. She quickly conquered them and now rules them with an iron paw, spreading fear and terrorizing her subjects on a daily basis.

Dis my doge

For real though, the corgi is LEGIT terrified of her. He won’t cross the living room without first looking both ways to see if he can spot the cat, which he inevitably always fails at, and ends up getting divebombed by her anyway. You’ve never seen a corgi run so fast in your life.

Delia, on the other hand, is her best playmate. It would figure that the biggest dog (she’s a GSD mix) would be the one who likes her the most. Those two will play for hours, and Delia is really careful not to step on her or bite her, even when Grem has affixed herself to Delia’s face. Stewie just tries to stay away from her in general… it didn’t take him long to figure out that she’s sharp and pointy at literally every end.

She is still in that full-fledged psychotic kitten phase, where her only two settings are Sleep and Spaz. She’s awfully cute when she’s sleeping. She’s less cute when she’s galloping laps around the house, springboarding off of furniture, dogs, and people, inevitably trying to literally climb the walls in the process. She can jump up on pretty much everything now, and has learned how to climb curtains and window screens.

dear god why

She has this pretty cute habit of letting out a loud, throaty “MEEEEWWW” right before she does something terribly naughty… makes it kinda hard to get mad at her. There have been a few casualties of her insanity along the way, though.

But she’s also really sweet when she wants to be, and pretty “into” people. She will plop herself in your lap and demand cheek rubs, or try to cuddle your face at what is inevitably the most inopportune time. Again… pretty hard to get mad at her when she’s so damn cute.

Despite not being cat people she has managed to win us both over, and added a lot of humor to the house.

I do kinda feel sorry for the corgi though.

The Trust Factor

I gave Henry Monday off, then headed out on Tuesday with the intention of doing a long stretchy trot in the field. Except somewhere between pulling into the driveway and getting out of my truck, I lost any tiny amount of motivation I had and instead decided that it had been way too long since we used our trusty neck rope. How about a tackless hack instead? We could go for a long walk and add some trot in there, and Henry and I would both get a change of pace.

Can we talk about his exceptional Dad Bod?

So I pulled him out, brushed him off, picked his feet, grabbed his neck rope and an Ogilvy pad (aka my bareback pad) out of the tack room, put on my helmet, and off we went. First we wandered down the driveway towards the front pasture, then looped back up the side road toward the chicken coop. One of the barn workers was in there feeding the chickens, and when he saw me pass by, his eyes bugged out and he said “You ain’t got NOTHIN on?? YOU CRAZY!”. Direct quote. I just kinda laughed at him and said “You might be right!” and went off on our merry way to the field (where Henry was super, btw, and never put a hoof out of place).

I started thinking about it though, as we kept walking. Is it nuts to ride a pretty fit TB event horse around in the wide open with nothing but a neck rope? Maybe. Probably. I can’t think of another horse I would do it on. But I trust Henry a lot, and we’ve spent a long time building up our relationship to this point. I’ve had him for almost four years. We’ve done A LOT together. I know him inside and out, and he knows me inside and out. I can pretty much always guess how he’s going to react to something. I would also like to think that he trusts me just as much as I trust him. I think he knows that I won’t put him in an unfair situation, and I think he respects my authority as “leader” (most of the time, anyway). I’ve been really careful and deliberate about cultivating that part of our relationship over the years. I want him to always feel confident in what I’m asking him to do, and it’s really important to me that he trusts me.

I ride him bridleless with some kind of semi-regularity, every few months or so, and he is as predictable as any living breathing thing can be. Also, running off just is not something that he would ever do. Of all the things that are in Henny’s repertoire, running for no specific reason just is NOT one of them. Stop and graze with no warning, almost chunking me over his head? Yes. Spook at something and relocate 10′ sideways in the blink of an eye? Sure. But I’m almost as likely to fall off from those things with tack as I am without it. I know for a fact that he just isn’t going to take off in the field and leave me physically unable to stop him. If I fall off otherwise, then oh well, I fall off. Just like I might do on any other given day anyway.

 

I really do enjoy our little tackless fun days, and they present a great opportunity to work on riding only from my seat and leg. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty neat to do figure 8’s of 10 meter circles in the middle of a giant field with no tack on. We spend a whole lot of time doing hard serious work, so it’s nice to just have a little bit of relaxed, no pressure, pure fun sometimes. Most of all though I’m just super appreciative to have a horse that can gallop around XC like a total badass on Sunday and then trot around the field with no tack on Tuesday. Horses like that don’t come along often, and I’m going to enjoy mine as much as I can for as long as I can. If that means I’m crazy… I’m okay with that.

Texas Rose Fall HT Day 2: XC

Well if I was lacking on media for dressage and stadium, you’re about to get more than you ever wanted from XC. Buckle up!

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No one is more excited than Henny

I kept waiting for the nerves to kick in about XC, but they never came. It was a beefy course. All the brush fences were boob-height (a very specific, scientific form of measurement), the ones that weren’t tall were WIDE, and the combos required competent riding. But I dunno, it just didn’t bother me much walking the course, and it still didn’t bother me as we got closer to Go Time. I respected the course, for freakin sure, it was the biggest “ask” we’ve been up against so far together, but I also knew my horse could do it no problem. I just had to keep him pointed between the flags, keep my leg on, and not do anything stupid. I really appreciate having a horse like that.  He might be difficult in dressage and stadium, but he is easy-peasy on cross country and therefore worth his (significant) weight in gold to me. I was really excited for XC.

Your course walk this time stars Bobby, his puppy Walker, and fellow blogger/Texas eventer Wendy (she also writes for Heels Down Magazine, of which I am a fan and subscriber!) with her two giant white fluffs. I’m pretty sure they’re dogs but they could also be polar bears. Clearly Bobby and Wendy had been drinking and clearly the dogs are embarrassed. I felt like I was herding cats around, the course walk took so long with these two idiots, but it was kind of worth it for some of these pictures.

For as grumpy and sullen as Henry had been on Saturday for dressage and stadium, he was bright-eyed and bushy tailed as soon as I showed up on Sunday morning. He knew what phase was left, and he was jazzed AF to get going. He kept his head over his stall guard all morning, staring off into the distance. You never have to guess how Henry feels about anything, he makes it quite clear. Luckily we went pretty early so I didn’t have to sit around too much… I videoed a friend’s stadium, went over my course in my app, and then started getting ready. As soon as Henry’s boots went on and studs went in, his eyes assumed a permanently bugged out position that Bobby says was still present as we walked into the startbox. Game on, bitches. Henny came to play.

Fence 1 was a simple little log box thing to start, then across the field beside the interstate to fence 2. Some horses had been spooky here (there’s a lot going on, between warmup to the left and the road to the right) so I sat a little defensively and just let the jump come to us. Of course Henry was so locked-on that I’m pretty sure a tornado could have touched down next to us and he wouldn’t have waivered from his line. Henry is Pro at two things: resting mare face and XC.

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After 2 we crossed over the little bridge and he thought it was a jolly time to try to run off with me, so he got a sharp HEY and half halt to remind him of his manners as we hung a left and then a right to get straight to the log oxer at 3.

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That was no problem, and we were quickly away and up the hill to the hay table thingy at 4.

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I love it when they put the T fences between P and I, it makes them look so small

After that we were over to the first combo on course, a couple of small little rolltops that were slightly angled. It walked a 4 but as soon I jumped in I knew there was no way that was happening unless I absolutely hauled his face apart, so I just let him work it out and the 3 came up fine. A little long out, but still safe. Maybe I rode it more directly than I walked it or something. I dunno.

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After that we headed to 6AB, another combo. The approach to this makes it a bit tricky, because you went down a hill, then back up again, hooking a sharp left to the small up bank, one stride to a big brush fence. Everything to this point had been pretty small and inviting, but that brush fence was legit. If you whoaed too much going down the hill, you’d have a serious momentum problem coming back up, making it more likely that you wouldn’t make it to the brush. I really needed to make sure I kept a lot of power coming up the hill. So I let him roll a bit, turned toward the bank, and really closed my leg to drive him up again. I got him a teeny bit close to the bank so that he would land a little deeper into the one, gave him a tap with the whip, and he was right there to hop over the brush easily, then through the water. Jump 7, a little house out of the water, was our only icky distance on course, I think because it was so small that I kinda stopped riding a little. Oops. Henry didn’t care either way.

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After 7 we went left across the field to a corner at 8,

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and looped back around to the second water. It was a big brush fence, through the water, and then another big brush fence on an angle. I was really pumped to ride this. The only thing I like more than big brush fences is jumping stuff on an angle, and Henry loves water, so I hoped it would ride well for us.

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And it DID!!! So much fun. That was a blast, for real. There’s just something about flying over big jumps and charging through the water that appeals to my inner 5 year old. She was delighted.

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PC: reiequestrian

Geez, eventing is fun, y’all. Especially on this horse. Don’t mind me, just having the friggin time of my life up here. Too bad they don’t let you loop around and do the fun parts again.

After that we were off and running to the trakehner at 10, down the hill to an open oxer, then down the skinny bank. No problems with any of that.

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After the down bank, it was back up out of the basin and over the red barn at 13. Fun fact, I used to really detest this fence (y’all know how much I hate square tables) but meh, no worries when you’re on Henry. He jumped it super, right out of stride. Really hope the pro photog got this shot.

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Then off to the little step jump at 14, which was little more than a speed bump by this point, to the option at 15. We could go straight and jump the world’s giantest Weldon’s Wall with a big ugly ditch in front, or we could loop around the opposite direction and jump just an open ditch. Henry is brave as hell, but he’s also only ever seen one Weldon’s Wall before, and it wasn’t nearly as robust as this one. I was 95% sure he would have jumped it, but Trainer and I decided to play it safe rather than risk him not understanding the question. We’ll jump the big one once I’ve been able to school that type of fence more thoroughly. Not interested in putting my horse in an unfair situation and hurting his confidence. He’s a fantastic XC horse, but he IS still a bit green to the level, after all. The loop around cost me a lot of time, but I was okay with that to make sure I had a confident horse.

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That was the backside of our Weldon’s Wall on my left as we hop over the ditch. Henry was very confused about wtf we were doing wasting time on a ditch, he would probably be offended if he knew I took the sissy option.

The rest of the jumps after that came up pretty quickly one right after the other. First there was a 2 stride of wide, skinny houses that walked a bit short, so I brought him way back for that (because ain’t nobody want to leave a stride out of THAT shit… although I did see it happen…)

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PC: reiequestrian

then a log oxer table thingy (technical term)

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then the gallop to the last big brush table, the one I’ve wanted to burn to the ground since the first time I laid eyes on it. I was galloping up to it going “yeah, this thing still looks big from up here. The flowers are pretty though.”. You know you’re mentally ill when you’re galloping up to a big table, admiring the flowers. But Henry jumped the crap out of it, and it was a great last jump to end on.

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We were a little over time because of our long route option (the speed was 470mpm, we’d have been right under time with the direct option), but I could not have given less of a shit. Henry felt amazing, jumped really well, and I never even felt so much as a hint of hesitation from him. He took me to everything and seemed super confident. I was so incredibly proud of him, I thought I might burst. The course didn’t seem to take much out of him either, since he strutted the whole way back to the barn.

Even though we left without a ribbon, I couldn’t have been happier even if we’d gotten a blue one. I showed up at TRHP feeling a little intimidated, and left feeling like we actually belonged. There were no big terrible mistakes, just little things that we need to keep working on. And most of all, I just plain had a ton of fun all weekend. It was relaxed, calm, I got to cheer on a lot of friends, and my horse was fantastic. It wasn’t a perfect XC run on my part, but it was a really good one, and Henry ate that course for breakfast. What more could you want from a horse show?

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PC: reiequestrian

The full helmet cam video is here if you want to watch, and many thanks to all my friends who were able to grab pics and video clips for me. This run meant a lot to me, so it’s great to have so much media of it.

I officially CANNOT WAIT for next season!

 

Texas Rose Fall HT: Dressage and Stadium

Alright alright, I’m gonna try to climb down from Cloud 9, where I’ve been hanging out since XC on Sunday, to recap this show properly. Even though I don’t really want to do anything but skip straight to the XC part. Alas, there were 2 other phases (still waiting for those to become optional).

Henny and Sophie, sitting in a tree…

On Friday we loaded up early and headed up to Tyler with our new friends Lucy and Sophie. Lucy’s trailer is nice and big and her mare Sophie is super sweet, so Henry was in love. He had been acting a little weird earlier that morning though. He was very slow eating his breakfast, which isn’t normal, and pawed a couple of times, so I was instantly on alert. Otherwise he still wanted cookies, was pooping normally, and his vitals were all perfect. I made sure I had Banamine packed in my trunk, just in case, and decided to just see how the day unfolded. If he was feeling a bit weird, I figured the trailer ride might help anyway.

He looked normal when we got there, and peed and pooped and drank half a bucket of water. I kept an eye on him while I unpacked but kept doing the super overanalytical horse owner thing of “does he always stand like that?” and “is he napping or is he dying?”. You know how that goes. Ultimately we all decided (because by this point I had recruited more overanalytical horse owners to my cause) he looked fine, so I got on to do a quick dressage school with the rest of our group. He felt good, and gave me work pretty close to how he’s been at home, so I decided he probably wasn’t dying. Because if he was dying, he sure as hell would put up a bigger fuss about having to do dressage in his last moments.

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He’d rather do this

The next morning I got on for dressage and he still felt pretty good. Tighter in his topline than usual, but there were a lot of horses going every direction in the warmup and Texas Rose has a lot of “atmosphere” so it wasn’t surprising. I have literally no media, not even a picture of my test sheet because I never went to pick it up (see earlier note about Cloud 9 after XC, who the eff thinks about picking up a dressage test after that?). I actually never even checked scores AT ALL, so I had to go look at them while I was writing this so I could say what we scored: 39.3, for 12th of 17. The lowest score was 32, so we ended up right about where we normally do if you put it on a sliding scale. I feel like that was fair, he was tense and got “stuck” a few times, especially in the right lead canter. Someday the horse I have at home will actually make it into the arena at a show. We’re getting closer… that good horse made it at least as far as the warm up this time. It was a better test than MeadowCreek, even though this judge was harsher. Work in progress. More dressage shows for you, Henny (I can hear him groaning from here)!

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BUT MOM WHY?

After dressage it was time to focus on stadium. The course was kind of weird, super twisty and tight for the first few fences, and then pretty much just outside, inside, inside, outside after that. I started off with not enough forward and by the end I let him get a bit too quick and flat, so we pulled a rail at fence 1 and then at the second to last, for two totally different reasons.

Consistency, I needs it. He’s different to ride at shows than he is at home, so I still need to figure out that middle ground. I think we’re close, we just need more miles and I need more focus. Again, it was better than MeadowCreek, just not quite up to par yet. It’s a lot harder to go clear at this height on this horse, especially since he’s not particularly careful.

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except when I ride like a sack of dog crap and kind of bury him, then he magically digs out some careful

Honestly though, I was just really glad to be through the first two phases and get to move on to cross country. I wasn’t there to try to win, I was there to find our feet at this level, and cross country was where we were going to find out what we were made of. I was kind of terrified that I’d end up doing something incredibly stupid in the first two phases and get myself eliminated (am I the only one that has nightmares about getting rung out of dressage?) before we got to the good part. Hence why I never even checked scores. I legit DID NOT CARE.

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I was sad they took the liverpool out from under this one

So, while it wasn’t a “winning” day by any means, it was definitely a learning day. I can’t get away with a lot of the little errors at this level that I used to skate by with at Novice… now we pay for them with higher dressage marks and rails down. And that’s ok. Growing pains and all that. I was still proud of my pony, and even better: WE WERE MOVING ON TO XC.

And y’all… I was so friggin excited for Sunday that I could barely sleep…

Before we get to the show recap

Y’all are gonna have to put up with me being a sap for a minute. Sorry not sorry.

that post-braid perm

Henry went to his first event 3 years ago, at BN. I remember walking the course and looking at the Novice fences as we went past, horrified about how huge they looked. Not really just that they looked big, but more that it seemed so… BEYOND us. Light years beyond. I️ swore we’d never go Novice.

And then at Henry’s first Novice, at Texas Rose, I remember looking at the last fence that Prelim and Training shared, sitting next to our last fence, and feeling like it too was way beyond anything we could ever do, or ever be. Training was a fantasy, something that looked – from where I️ was standing at the time – like it was a whole world away. At that point I didn’t really even know if I wanted to get there, much less whether or not we could. When it seems impossible, it’s not something that even crosses your mind. You may as well have asked me if I wanted to go to the moon.

QH impression – on point

I guess I looked at the people and horses at that level and saw something that was way better than we were. Way better than we could ever even hope to be. After all, I’m a very very average rider just trying to make it work as best I can in our less-than-ideal circumstances, and Henry is a mentally scarred, crooked legged, unassuming looking horse. We’re as “mere mortal” as it gets.

Over time he showed me that he was more than worthy and more than capable, but I’ve always struggled to find confidence in my own ability. I got so caught up in how great other people were that I forgot we all have a different journey and we all take a different path. I had to stop living and dying by how I️ thought we compared to everyone else. Somewhere along the way I perfected the art of at looking at other people and seeing all the things that me and my horse are not. I’m not a 16yo kid with balls of steel and talent to spare. I’m not in a regular program. I don’t get many lessons. My horse is not fancy.

#1 Poptart fan

What I so often have failed to remember is that sure, I have it worse than some, but I also have it better than a lot of others. We all have advantages and disadvantages. We all have struggles. And for the love of god, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Trying to use someone else as a template by which to measure our own success is idiotic, at best. It makes a lot more sense to focus on what we can do and what we do have.

When we finally did officially move up to Training, it was on “home turf” courses. Places we’ve been a lot, and schooled a lot, and we were pretty comfortable at. This weekend was a lot different. We haven’t been to Texas Rose in two years, and we’ve certainly never jumped any part of the Training course. It was only our second recognized Training together, and it was big. It had some serious questions. It was not a gimme by any means. This was a real test… can we actually do this? Do we really belong here? This is supposed to be the impossible for us, isn’t it? That’s what I thought a year ago.

Ice boot champion

But this horse has, time and time again, made the impossible… possible. Henry rocked right around that course, one that not too long ago seemed so far outside of our wheelhouse that it may as well have been the Olympics, and it was a walk in the park. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of a horse in my entire life. Holy shit guys. He is incredible. And WE DID IT.

I never really take the time to celebrate and appreciate these milestones. I’m more of the “that was cool… except for that mistake, or that fence, or that part of the dressage test. I need to do better.” type. We can have 17 out of 18 perfect jumps, and I always end up focusing on what I did wrong at that 1 bad one. Which is fine and all, when it comes to improvement, but I think I’m missing out on the sheer joy sometimes. I have a pretty amazing horse that allows me to do some pretty amazing things. I had The Best Time jumping stuff that was friggin BIG. But Henry made it feel easy.

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the fence that has had me crapping my pants for the past 2 years

So for today, I’m NOT going to recap the show and tell you all the things I could have done better and all the things we still need to work on. Today I’m giving myself the luxury of just being tremendously happy with how far we’ve come, how lucky I am to have such a badass horse and awesome friends, and how much fun I had out there yesterday. The rest of it can wait.

Show Ready!

Today we’re headed out bright and early for Texas Rose Horse Park! I haven’t been back to Texas Rose since the 2015 AEC’s, so I guess you could say we’re well overdue. To be honest I had kind of planned to avoid the place for a while longer, because the courses are beefy, but this was my last option for the year so here we are. If I don’t vomit and/or crap myself at some point over the weekend, we’ll call it a win.

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I wavered about entering Training Horse or Senior Training Rider, ultimately settling on STR. Of course, that means that there are 17 in my division and only 7 in TH. Isn’t that how it always freaking goes? I’m gonna have to figure out a new 2018 goal because AEC qualifications clearly aren’t happening. The perk is that I’m one of the first out on cross country on Sunday morning, so at least we’re done early and can get home before dark.

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The weather looks like it will be fantastic, too, aside from the fact that I might get rained on during XC. Warm enough to not be miserable, but cold enough for Henry to wear his Back on Track sheet at night. Perfect! I’m actually looking forward to running a Training course when it isn’t balls-hot. My horse feels so much better when he can actually breathe.

On Monday he had his electroacupuncture appointment, and then I clipped him again for like the 9000th time. Really I’ve been clipping him every couple months all year, trying to help him handle the heat better. Now that the temperature is starting to drop a bit I waffled a lot on which kind of clip to do. I much prefer a hunter clip for showing, and that’s what he’s been getting in the warmer months, but I really liked how the Irish worked out for us last year… I didn’t have to worry so much about whether he was getting blanketed appropriately. I was still on the fence until I was standing there holding the clippers, then practicality won out. He might look a little goofy at a big recognized show, but I prefer that over worrying about whether he’s cold all the time. Especially since he’s the type who swears he’s freezing to death when it’s below 60 and boiling alive when it’s above 80. Plus we’re still kind of at the point where what kind of clip he’s got is like… the least of our horse show problems.

On Tuesday the farrier came out to drill and tap Henry’s shoes. We’ve been doing that all year but I guess last time they forgot, or maybe thought the season was over. Either way, I had no holes in which to insert studs. That’s a problem. Henry feels way better studded at this level, so I had to have the farrier come back out, pull the shoes, drill and tap them, and put them back on. Yep, I’m that high-maintenance client. Don’t worry, he makes plenty of money off of me and my every-5-weeks-on-the-dot horse. I still felt kinda bad, but pony needs his cleats.

I’m hauling up and staying with a friend this time instead of taking my own rig and camping, so that’s kind of a weird change. I’ve gotten so used to the routine of packing my tent and camping supplies that I felt a little bare last night when I was looking at my pile of crap. Hopefully I didn’t forget anything important. YES I GOT MY SADDLES.

Bobby has already declared his intentions to stalk me all weekend, so I’m sure that if nothing else I’ll have some good stories come Monday. Have a good weekend everyone!

 

Dressage on ice

Do you ever have one of those moments of extreme clarity when you’re like “I really am a special kind of stupid”? That was me last night.

Henry agrees

There’s nothing like a 40 degree temperature drop plus wind and misty rain to liven up your biweekly dressage lesson. Or test your resolve and dedication to this idiotic (and futile) pursuit of circle-trotting perfection.

Ok maybe I’m over-simplifying the objective of dressage.

And maybe I’m being dramatic about the temperature. There was no ice. Not even close. It was 48. Not pleasant, but not too terribly miserable. Granted, it was 88 a couple days ago so my thighs and butt were numb all the same.

wouldn’t even look at me

I was a little concerned I might have a lot of airs above ground, so I got on early and walked for a while. I definitely had some forward but Henry was surprisingly not that tense or silly, aside from pretending to spook at the poles on the ground (which is kind of embarrassing when you’re on an event horse at a dressage barn).

After a short warmup we went straight to two-track work, where we quickly displayed that if it’s possible to do something, it’s also possible to OVERdo something, and we got dinged for too much angle in the shoulder-in. Look, Henry has decided he’s super good at sideways, ok?

He had a little bit of a tantrum when we got to haunches in on a circle. And by tantrum I mean he tried to root down hard against my hands and trot quickly away, like a horse’s version of clamping his hands over his ears and going LALALALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU.

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Unfortunately for him I’m more stubborn than he is, so he ended up doing the exercise anyway (albeit with a lot of sasstail).

When we got to the canter work, Dressage Trainer threw out this little tidbit: “think of getting him to take longer strides with the hind legs”… which… are all of the people I ride with co-conspiring behind my back or something, because he’s literally the THIRD professional in the last month that has thrown out that exact idea.

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I became even more convinced of a conspiracy when we were walking out afterwards and I joking told Dressage Trainer that I was gonna try not to die at Texas Rose this weekend. He barely even hesitated before he said “Well if you do, I’ll take Henry”. Jokes on him, because Event Trainer staked her claim a long time ago and she’s way meaner than he is so there’s no way he’d win that fight. But really though… I’m starting to get paranoid about their motives…

 

All I want for Christmas is

…a Yeti cooler.

Roadie 20

Before you get too shocked about it not being an actual horse-related item (if I ever stop asking for horse-related stuff for the holidays it’s fair to assume I’ve been bodysnatched), I specifically want it for horse shows. Mostly to keep ice for Henry’s ice boots so I don’t have to worry about it the morning of cross country. That’s normal, right? I don’t need anything huge, just the Roadie 20 or the Tundra 35 would work. I don’t even care what color it is. Ok that’s a lie, they should make one in navy, but they don’t.

The serendipitous thing about this is that the SO gets employee discounts on Yeti stuff through his work, so he can buy me one! So thoughtful, I am. He hates buying me horse-related presents so I think I won’t tell him why I actually want the cooler. We’ll just let him think that I’ll use it for normal things like food and drinks.

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Otherwise, my dad is taking us all to Utah for Christmas, which I’m pretty excited about. Maybe it’ll be snowy? Hopefully we can hit some of the national parks and do a little hiking. Christmas mini-vacay!

The only thing left is to figure out what to ask me to buy for myself (because I buy myself the best presents). I think Henry is going to get the Back on Track quarter sheet (shhh don’t tell him), so we’ll see what else tickles my fancy on Black Friday. I have become weirdly obsessed with this checked vest at Riding Warehouse. It’s so… lumberjack chic. And I dunno about y’all, but I definitely want to be lumberjack chic.

But I’ve also been toying with the idea of getting a pair of my beloved Aqua X breeches in a full seat, for cooler weather. They’re definitely not winter breeches, but maybe the full seat would make them workable for Texas’ version of winter?

There are a few things I actually do need to buy that I’ve been putting off, like more poultice, brown spur straps, new clipper blades, etc… we’ll see what “fun” thing jumps in the cart along the way!

As for Presto, he’s getting a box of toys and either a blanket or a leather yearling halter with a nameplate that he can grow into. I haven’t decided yet. I mean, what does a scruffy, awkward weanling/yearling really NEED anyway? Besides manners.

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I have a feeling this is how the next 4-5 years are gonna go

Did you guys figure out what you’re asking for for the holidays yet?

Charles de Kunffy clinic notes

It’s been a couple years since the last time I audited a Charles de Kunffy clinic. He comes to Dressage Trainer’s barn pretty regularly, but I’ve been off focusing on not getting killed during the jumping phases. This time was kind of perfect though… SO was out of town on Sunday and I was up stupid early anyway thanks to the time change, so planting my butt in a chair for 6 hours to watch CdK at work was quite a treat. Below I’ve copied all the notes that I put into my phone over the course of the different rides. Hopefully you find some of them as helpful as I did! If you have questions just ask and I’ll try to remember the context/give more explanation.


Most warmups included Zig zag up centerline at the walk, leg yield left 4 steps, right 4 steps, left, right. With precision – always practice everything with precision.

Toe in (straight), think of touching the inner calf to the seam of the saddle pad.

Steady elbows, always perpendicular to the ground.

Alternate left shoulder and right shoulder back (NOT the hand, just the shoulders) in rhythm of the gait to connect the seat bone to the horse’s back and improve the shape of the topline.

Down transitions – be sure to stay connected in the outside elbow.

“Grow large” in your upper body in the sitting trot.

Alternate giving the reins (one and then the other) to verify correct connection and to give the horse the feeling that it can always go forward – never stuck in a rigid hand.

In half pass, the reins are only for alignment, do not pull or overbend the horse.

Horses are where their haunches are. (he said this about a million times)

Practice the things that are more difficult for the horse and reward any effort.

Think of dressage as physical therapy for the horse’s body, and slowly build on difficult exercises over time as they gain strength.

Riding without a purpose is totally stupid. (he is not a fan of mindless toodling)

Use constant transitions within the gait to supple the horse and increase rideability – you want to have many different trots to choose from. Don’t just trot around in one set tempo.

The best route to the perfect extended trot is not to practice extended trot but to practice 10 different trots until you have the suppleness and rideability to create whatever trot you want, whenever you want.

Think of the upper body as 3 vertical pillars – the spine and each arm.

Your center of gravity is a direct reflection of the horse’s center of gravity.

First posture, then transportation – which means first get the horse round and bring the hocks up to the bridle before changing gait.

For canter aid, think of bringing the outside knee back.

Always give the outside hand forward a bit in lateral work to allow the horse to travel.

We have to be careful not to disturb the horse’s posture or gaits with our hands. (He told almost everyone to work on quieting their hands – no bouncing)

Don’t stop a horse when it does an unexpected move – keep going and pretend it was intentional. Don’t start a fight. The horse will learn to stay more relaxed and obedient.

A croup high horse needs more development of the lumbar back to have enough strength for collection.

Collection always comes from the seat, never from the reins.

Take time but don’t waste time.

Energy and suspension come from the inside leg.

Teaching is repetition. If you don’t get what you want the first time simply re-organize and ask again, as many times as it takes.

Resistance = confusion. When horses offer resistance, usually it is because they are confused. Always consider how the horse is interpreting your aids and make sure you aren’t inadvertently giving conflicting cues.