XC Schooling at Texas Rose

First off, yes I skipped blogging on Friday. No I’m not dead, but clearly I’m way too predictable judging by how many people messaged me to check in. I have a good excuse – we headed up to Texas Rose on Friday for a weekend of XC schooling!

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Hillary’s new trailer is freaking massive

I’m always excited for XC schooling, but especially when we get to go to places that we don’t typically visit very often. We are lucky to get to school at Pine Hill on a pretty regular basis, but a) there aren’t that many more facilities, and b) they’re further away. It’s 4 hours each way to Texas Rose for us, but they have a lot of good questions on XC. I was really looking forward to schooling their giant weldon’s walls and the bank combos that they’ve had at the last few shows. Except… womp womp… they’d already taken all that stuff down and started moving things around for their May show. A few combinations were already set, and some of the portables were staked down, but the weldon’s walls were completely gone. I had a lot of sads about that. There was still plenty to school though, and since we were staying overnight we could split it into two days.

On Friday afternoon Henry came out feeling REALLY full of himself, and kind of proceeded to drag me over the first couple jumps. We had a bit of a discussion about which one of us was in charge, and then his brain clicked and he settled. We jumped a few of the gallopy Prelim fences and then decided to save him for the combinations. It’s the technical stuff that we need to work on most, so jumping a bunch of singles is just wear and tear for no real benefit. We did a skinny house rollback to a skinnyish hanging log thing…

And then headed to the water. The Prelim question here was a hanging long, a long two strides to a drop into the water, and then out of the water over another fence. We jumped through the Training way first, which was a coop a few strides out of the water, over a log in the water, then circled around and jumped just the down bank to the Prelim jump out. After than we came around and did the whole Prelim question, adding the hanging log – bank – jump out.

The two strides definitely wasn’t going to happen, not in a schooling environment anyway. I’d have had to really chase him at it, and Henry definitely prefers to pat the ground a bit at the banks. I’d rather just sit and wait and let him decide where to put his feet. He also definitely does not need to be encouraged to leap wildly off of banks, he already tends to be a bit extra about them. He was super honest though, didn’t even give it a second thought, just figured his feet out and down he went. He hasn’t really jumped drops into water much, and definitely not in a while, plus we’ve had bank issues in the past, so I was really happy with him there.

We jumped a few more things, then opted to call it quits and save the other combinations for the next day.

On Day 2 we went back to the same water, did the Training route again first, then the Prelim route, and then Trainer asked if I wanted to try popping him down the Intermediate drop. It was a little bigger than the P drop plus had two logs stacked on top of the edge, so it looked relatively enormous. I know I kind of looked at her like she was bonkers, and hesitated for a second. The thing that caused Henry’s come-apart at banks a couple years ago was having the log on the edge like that… he just did NOT get it at all. But hey, if we’re gonna try it, now was the time. He was confident, we were building on what we’d just done the day before, and if it totally blew his mind we had a lunge line with us so I could dismount and lunge him down it if we had to. So we came back around, going past the Intermediate jump to just the drop by itself. And wouldn’t you freaking know, Henry just popped right in.

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Not even an ounce of hesitation. I was pleasantly surprised. So we went around again and this time added the jump before the drop (which would be brushed up a lot for the show, but was a pretty small little rampy thing as it was). I rode in quietly, so he could easily fit the third step, and again he just went right on through like no big deal.

He is 100% Good Boy.

Then we went over to the angled offset rolltop line, which was the thing I’d been least worried about of all the combinations. And of course, I proceeded to absolutely biff it. Twice. I rode in a little backwards and indecisive, too busy worrying about the distance to the first jump, and Henry was like nah fam, nah. He’s pretty tolerant of a lot of things, but if I’m squirrely and not committed, he doesn’t hesitate to put his feet back down. I don’t blame him. I was riding way too much to the first jump rather than being proactive and riding to the second jump. Once I put my eyes up and rode THROUGH it, rather than TO it, he of course went through just fine. How many times to I have to learn that same lesson? I dunno. A lot.

that sassy tail flip at the end tho

I was glad for that pearl of wisdom, because next we headed to the coffin combo. Prelim came downhill to a hanging log and then had an angled line over the ditch to a skinny wedge. The wedge didn’t have it’s brush on it so it didn’t look very big, but you would definitely have to be really committed to the line and ride up to it. As soon as we got to the log I put my eyes on that wedge and boom, we went right to it.

But, ya know… I took one too many tugs to the first log that time, so I had to come do it again without making Trainer’s eyes bleed (my bad). And again, he was super honest and good through there. It’s fun when you feel them looking for the next one in the combinations, like a heat seeking missile. He’s starting to understand the more technical stuff (okay let’s be honest, he probably gets it a lot more than I do at this point, he’s always been a quicker study than his rider).

It was a really good, helpful outing for us. We didn’t jump his legs off, just went for what would give us the most “bang for our buck”. It’s fun to push the boundaries a little and try harder/more complex things, and I’m learning where my weak points are and what I need to keep working on. At this point I feel like the horse will go however well I ride him. He understands his job and is confident enough to do pretty much anything within reason, as long as I’m with him. If I’m not, he won’t hesitate to peace out in a “mom, these are too big for me to do this alone” kind of way. He’s not wrong.

We have another XC schooling planned in the middle of May at another venue that I’m really excited about too. Hopefully we can keep carrying the momentum forward and figuring all this stuff out!

Equine Genetic Testing

If any of you are even remotely involved in breeding, you’ve probably heard about Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome. It’s a relatively recently-discovered genetic defect found mainly in warmbloods, and is fatal to all affected foals. Over the past year or so warmblood breeders (well the responsible ones anyway) have been testing their stock to check for carriers. WFFS is recessive, so lots of horses can be carriers and be completely unaffected, but breeding two carriers together results in a 25% chance of an affected foal. For breeders this is a big deal, since obviously you don’t want to breed two carriers and risk getting an affected foal that won’t be viable. There is still a lot of widespread testing being done, but the initial estimate was that between 6-12% of the warmblood population are carriers, and the current trend is more toward the higher end of that.

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Several of the warmblood registries have moved quickly to require stallion owners to test and submit the results of their stallions, so that it can be public knowledge. Most mare owners are doing the same as well, to identify any possible carriers amid their own stock. My friend Michelle at Willow Tree Warmbloods wanted to test her mares for WFFS of course, but rather than opting for just that test, she decided to go “all in” and get a full genetic panel of each of her mares from Elaton Diagnostics.

everything included in the full panel

It tests a wide range of each horse’s genetic makeup, from their color genes to their susceptibility to West Nile Virus, the presence of alleles that could lead to metabolic issues, roaring, lordosis, laminitis risk, Uveitis risk, etc. I guess the easiest comparison would be to think of it as an equine version of 23 and me.

Of course, some of this research is more confirmed, while some is still in “discovery” stage and the information may not be super reliable yet. All of the details and reliability are broken down on this page. Researchers have even found genes relating to temperament, gaits, and speed (all explained here). If you’re a nerd, it’s SUPER interesting.

Michelle has a wide range of mares that she tested, from traditional european warmbloods, to ponies, to a stock horse, to a full TB, to a half TB, to an Irish sporthorse. It’s possible that I spent a while paging through the results and trying to interpret what all of it might mean. To give you an idea of just how much is included on each horse:

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It’s A LOT! And admittedly, I had to google several things because I had no idea what the heck it was.

But let’s start in the easiest place, with the color results. Chestnut is recessive, so all the chestnut mares obviously only have two red genes. The bay/black mares were more interesting, seeing who has a red hidden in there… only one of them is homozygous black (that would be Inca), the rest all carry red and could produce a chestnut foal with another red carrier. Some of them have a genetic predisposition to produce more white markings, as well. The most interesting result from all of the color stuff (to me anyway) was this note on the Irish Sporthorse mare’s panel.

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Even the ponies and stock horse mare didn’t have anything like “non-dun primitive markings” show up. Is it from the Irish Draught part of her lineage maybe? Interesting!

For a lot of the stuff under the health category, horses can have a couple of alleles (or even more, in some cases) present without actually being affected by said thing at all. This is NOT a diagnostic, in any way, but merely showing where there might be more genetic susceptibility.

A couple of mares showed a slightly higher susceptibility to West Nile, for example. The one with the fewest alleles present on any of the stuff in the health category was Peyton, the full TB mare.

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She is the only full TB mare in the bunch, so I’m kind of interested in seeing what other TB mares might look like in comparison. For a TB she has relatively little inbreeding (only Nijinsky II), which I also wonder how much that contributes to how all this stuff shakes out.

Luckily nothing major showed up in any of the mares as far as being carriers, everyone is WFFS n/n, and it’s good information to know which ones might show slightly more genetic susceptibility to certain things. Not only does it make you a little bit more informed as a horse owner, it’s obviously important in a breeding program as well. Of course, like I said earlier, some of the test results are known to be more reliable than others, but still… more information can’t be a bad thing.

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I admit, even though I own two geldings I’d be super curious to see their results as well. It doesn’t matter for the breeding side of things, but I would definitely like to know if they show markers for metabolic issues, or are more predisposed to vision issues or roaring or laminitis or West Nile or anything like that. Seems like really good information to have!

In case anyone else out there is interested in the service, Michelle did report that Etalon was super helpful and easy to work with. She’s got a call lined up with them later to ask some questions and get more details about certain things (especially what the stuff in the performance category really means!). I’m super intrigued to hear more.

Would y’all find something like this to be interesting and valuable for your own horses?

Damn you, targeted Instagram ads

I admit, those stupid ads on Instagram have snared me on more than one occasion. Usually it’s something simple, like a shirt, or some hair tint, or food. Definitely food. That’s how I ended up following (and thus ordering from) Makarohn, which I regret both 100% and 0% at the same time.

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LOOK AT IT

But yesterday… yesterday Instagram got me reeeeaaaal good. I was scrolling fairly mindlessly through my feed, as one does, when a sparkly unicorn zoomed past my eyes. I stopped, scrolled back up, and saw an ad from Yes.Fit for a Unicorn-themed virtual race. It had a picture of the race medal and the race shirt, and let me tell you, that medal was a sight to behold.

LOOK. AT. IT.

A few months ago during one of our lesson days, we had talked about finding a 5k to do as a group – myself, Bobby, Hillary, and our trainer. We put Bobby in charge of picking the race, so naturally it never happened, but it’s remained in the back of my mind. I’ve been out of the running and triathlon world for a few years now, but I still love races. I especially love medals. And BOY do I love a friendly competition.

So I clicked on the ad, and it took me to Yes.Fit’s website, where it told me all the details of said Unicorn virtual race. It was 121.1 miles, cumulative over however long you want to take to complete it, and you can log running or cycling miles. All of their races are “set” in a particular place, this one being Scotland (hence the unicorn). As you enter your miles, it moves you around the pre-determined Google maps route, and you can click to see where you are on the street view. It was $24 (with a coupon code), and at the end they send you either the medal or the shirt, whichever you choose (or both, if you pay more money).

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Our virtual route
Apparently I am here.

The best part is that you can add friends, and if they join the same race, they join your group. It shows everyone’s progress as they log miles and move around the map. The only thing the app really lacks is a shit-talking feature. How am I supposed to verbally harass Bobby? Guess group text will have to do.

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Within the hour all 4 of us had signed up and joined the race, and now it’s on like donkey kong. Bobby logged his first couple miles last night, and I was up at 5 this morning to go for my first run in more than 6 months, since before I injured my knee. I want to make sure I don’t hurt myself again, so I kept it short and slow, but so far so good and everything felt great (it helped that it was raining on me so I couldn’t tell if I was profusely sweating or just wet). I will probably try to log at least half of the miles via cycling, so I don’t destroy myself (have I ever mentioned I’m competitive in a group setting? I will die before I quit.), but I’m excited. I think this format is WAAAAAAAY more fun and motivating than just regular training or trying to plug away at fitness on your own. Plus we can all do it on our own time, separately, but also “together”.

They have a lot of cool races and medals and shirts on that site/app, and we already decided that after this one we’ve gotta do the Nessie one, which is – you guessed it – Loch Ness themed. I mean, look at the shirt!!!

I also like the Yeti one, 39.5 miles through Nepal.

And this Peter Pan one.

And Sherlock Holmes.

I can see how this could quickly get addicting. Granted, the Unicorn race is one of the longest they have, so it’ll probably take us a while to complete. That’s good though, I think… it’ll require a little more dedication and effort. It seems like a good way to keep the motivation and the accountability up, since I know all of us are super competitive. Further proof that horse people are crazy, even when horses aren’t involved.

We’ll see how long it takes us to finish! You can bet your sparkly ass I’ll be posting a picture of the medal when I get it… just 119 more miles to go…

Q & A

Last week on Instagram I asked if there was anything in particular that people wanted me to write a blog post about. I got a couple of good suggestions, including one saying that I should do a Q & A post, and open it up to questions. I thought that was a pretty good idea, seeing as how we as bloggers just kind of put stuff out there as we please, but maybe unwittingly leave out details or forget to circle back around to things. I had some trepidation about what kind of questions I might get (you never know), but all in all they were quite good. So here’s the first round of Q & A, and I’m more than happy to do this again sometime if there’s interest!

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When do you think you might start backing Presto? Do you plan on doing it yourself?

The plan right now (I’m fluid, depending on how he’s looking/feeling) is to sit on him a bit this fall and just do some very basic “walk, steer, go, stop” type of stuff in the arena to let him start to get used to the weight of a rider and the idea of working for a living. Nothing strenuous, just a reaaaally basic intro into riding, probably less than 10 rides. Originally I was planning on letting someone else do this part, but he’s been so easy and we’ve already done so much groundwork leading up to it, I’ll probably just do it myself. I’ve started a handful of horses before and I think he’s going to be quite simple, so that’s the plan unless something changes. After that he’ll be left alone again until next spring, where he’ll expand on those original concepts a little bit more in the arena, then spend his summer hacking/trail riding out over terrain a few times a week to gain strength and confidence and figure out his balance. Once he’s coming 4 he’ll start more real work, but I want to spend a lot of time getting the basics installed and making sure that his body (especially his back) is strong enough by the time the real work starts.

Would you train up another OTTB?

If I had more money I would have a barn full of them. OTTB’s will always be my first love, they’re what I know best and what I’ve spent most of my life riding. You can’t beat a good thoroughbred, and it’s so rewarding to see them blossom in a new career.

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Which event horses would you want to ride?

Ballynoe Castle RM aka Reggie has been my favorite for a long time, and even though he’s been retired for a couple years no other horse has taken his place yet. He always seemed so kind and genuine, and like I could maybe ride him without dying. I feel like I wouldn’t be able to ride most of the upper level horses, but he’s an exception. Fun fact: he’s by the stallion Ramiro B, who Peyton was just bred to last week! My other sentimental favorite is La Biosthetique Sam, but I feel like the best part of that horse was watching the relationship he had with Michael Jung.

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Did I cry during Reggie’s retirement ceremony? MAYBE.

What do you think is the most important thing to remember when working with young horses? I’m not a professional so I admittedly get really uncomfortable answering stuff like this, where it feels like advice. I can only speak for what I feel, not what is necessarily correct or “right”. For me personally, the most important thing that I always try to keep in mind is that I always want to set them up for success. That means being thoughtful with your choices, being flexible, preparing them well, and working with whatever horse you have that day. I want the horse to be encouraged and confident at the end of a ride, and I feel like it’s up to me as the rider to make sure they’re prepared for what I’m asking them to do (physically and mentally), that I read their mood properly in the moment, and alter my plan as needed.

Favorite conditioning exercise for event horses? Definitely long slow distance (long walks and long trots) and hillwork. I think the less pounding you can do, the better, so I only gallop as much as is necessary and try build the fitness/strength in ways that are a little easier on the body. Especially important when your mount is an OTTB with crooked legs.

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How is the Neue Schule bit working out? 

Still fabulous since the last update! No bit is a magical tool that automatically turns a horse into the dressage winner, but I do think that finding the right bit for your horse (whatever that may be) is really important. It makes such a difference when they’re really comfortable with what’s in their mouth, especially if you have a more sensitive or tense horse. For me it’s really been the key to unlocking that “next level” with Henry’s flatwork, where he’s more confident in the connection and I can start to ask for more quality and more difficulty.

How do you balance work, 2 horses, a SO, pets, blogging, and sleep?

This is always tough, because everyone’s life looks a bit different. I definitely prioritize the riding and sacrifice the home/social life a bit, while others do the opposite. The thing that helps me the most is having an early work schedule. Also I’m a morning person. I’m at my desk at 6:30am and leave by 3:30pm. My barn is a relatively easy commute (aside from that whole toll road a$pect) so I’m usually there by 4pm at the very latest. That commute is one of the biggest draws to that barn for me, and why I’ve made sacrifices in other areas with regards to the facility. A long commute is just wasted time for me, and time is at a premium.

I’m usually leaving the barn by 6:30pm (sometimes earlier if Henry had a light day and/or I don’t do anything with Presto), home before 7, then I make dinner and chill with the SO and furkids for a while. I go to bed at like 8:30-9 (because I am an old lady) and usually read until 9:30-10, then I’m up at 5-5:30 to start all over again. I try to draft most of my blog posts on the weekend or when I have some free time here or there… it’s time consuming but it also pays for my horse shows, so it’s become a priority for me. It’s true that between riding, showing, and my side gigs, I’m gone way more weekends than I’m home. That’s something the SO has just had to get used to, because it’s a non-negotiable part of who I am. Luckily he has his own hobbies and is pretty independent. If I’m doing other non-horse things they definitely have to be scheduled in advance, so I can work around them. In the summer I swap things around and ride in the morning, since it’s way too hot in the afternoon, in which case I’m at the barn by 6am and get to work around 8:30 (luckily we have showers at work, which helps gets me to my desk sooner since I don’t have to go home). With that schedule I have a little bit less barn time and a little bit more home time, which works out in the summer anyway.

What would your dream tack setup be?

I’m pretty lucky to have amassed some really great equipment by now. OF COURSE I will always lust after the cool looking new bridle du jour (I love them. They’re pretty. I want them all.) and a newer saddle or something custom or blah blah blah. But the truth is that I’m pretty well set up already with my Devoucoux saddles, Lund bridle and strapgoods, PS of Sweden bridle, and Eponia bridle. I’ve had a long and very satisfying love affair with Majyk Equipe boots, too, and all of the things I have now have worked really well for my horses and stood the test of time. It’s taken me a long time to build up my gear to this point, and do it on my budget, and I’ve busted my butt to get the quality of stuff that I have. The things that I may dream about will vary from day to day, but the things that I have are what is proven to work, and if my horses are happy then I’m happy too. But, ya know… if you want to put some navy piping on it, I won’t argue.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Somewhere on the East Coast, pretty much anywhere between Ocala and Leesburg, with a preference for the eventing-centric areas. The ground is better, the grass is better, and there are more opportunities. I can’t even IMAGINE living in a place where I could drive half an hour in any direction and have 5 different XC schooling venues, or 10 different top level trainers, or 5 different shows. That is just not my reality at all. Everything here is far, which makes everything here more expensive and more logistically difficult. Not that I’m not excited to drive 4 hours each way to XC school this weekend, but ya know. I think of how much more I could get done living in a place like that, how many more opportunities I could make for myself, how much further I could stretch my dollars, and the temptation to uproot my entire life is real.


If you have more questions feel free to drop them in the comments, or shoot me a message/email!

A for Effort

Ok before I recap the goings-on around here, first I have to post these pictures. This was one year ago today:

And this was on Friday:

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Omg. OMG. O. M. G. By this time next year I think he might dwarf Henry.

Anyway, on to the weekend that went awry. I had entered a little local show, doing two dressage tests only (Prelim A and Prelim B). Which I think is the first time ever for us to do only dressage at a show. Or trying to, anyway. Apparently the weather gods also share my feelings about dressage, because Saturday morning dawned like this

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LOL yeah nah. It stormed its ass off all morning, dropping upwards of 3″ of rain in some places. The showgrounds got over 2″ in less than an hour, rendering the parking area way too wet to get trailers in and out of, thus cancelling the show. Hey I tried, but I guess I’m just not destined to fancy prance, y’all. Which is probably good because to be honest I’ve never really done more than scan quickly over the Prelim B test before, and who the hell even knows where all the letters are in a long court anyway? Granted, I should probably figure that out before July since Coconino runs the B test. Details.

So instead of a dressage show, Henry did a lot of this:

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And I did a lot of this:

Bless these live streams. I was watching XC from Florida and XC from California side by side. And I love getting to see coverage of Prelim/2* stuff, which is much more in our wheelhouse than the typical 4*/5* stuff. Seeing how stuff rides, seeing the different questions, thinking about how they would relate to my own horse… it was fun. Also, California has got some really badass kids pinging around there on ponies. I was impressed. Maybe there’s a market for higher level sportponies after all.

The sun came out on Saturday afternoon, along with the wind, which helped start drying things up pretty quickly. Sunday was absolutely gorgeous, so I did that thing where I told the SO that I was going to the barn for a couple hours and it really ended up being like 5. Y’all know what I mean.

It’s just so entertaining, watching this llama
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I judged the face-eating contest

The colt-starter guy that’s been putting some basic miles on Cannavaro wanted to ride him out in the fields for the first time, so Henry and I tagged along with them just in case. He didn’t need us at all, that horse was absolutely foot perfect, super quiet, brave and happy to go anywhere with or without Henry, and really relaxed. The guy was even swinging his rope around on him for a while, then put him to work trotting around the hills, cantering circles, changing directions, working on his half halt and his whoa, etc. I continue to be extremely impressed by Cannavaro, not only his brain (which is maybe one of the best I’ve ever seen) but also his quality. This is a nice horse.

oh ya know, just the baby OTTB hacking around the huge field for the first time, in a sidepull, on a loopy rein

After a stretchy w/t/c ride with Henry, it was Presto’s turn. I put his bridle on again, which he’s starting to hate less. It’s also possible that I’m bribing him, the only time in his life when he gets treats (because he’s a walking MOUTH) is when his bit goes in. Don’t judge me, he’s basically a dog so food motivation works well. Either way, it was the easiest bridling yet, especially considering it’s been over a month since I last put it on. I also had to let everything out a hole. His head really doesn’t need to grow much more.

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That’s big enough thanks

We went out and did some long-lining, attaching the reins to the bit for the second time. The steering is decent. I mean… it’s definitely better when he wants to go the direction I’m asking him to go, but it does work both left and right. And the whoa button has always been good with this one. We made some circles and figure eights, went over some poles and between standards, and then wrapped it up with a mounting block session. It’s so tempting just to slide a leg over. So tempting. I know I could and he wouldn’t care a bit, but alas we’re waiting until Fall for that.

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Found this little guy in the arena when I was moving jump poles and I can honestly say that’s a first

So maybe it wasn’t the most productive weekend on paper, but the horses still got worked and I got some education via the live feeds. Definitely not a waste. Plus now I get to be like “Oh darn, totally tried to dressage but got rained out, omg sad.”. Totally believable, right?

 

Gli Stivali

It’s been 10 whole days since I posted about hypothetically looking at getting a new pair of brown boots. As you may have guessed, my mind was already made up about getting new ones at that point, I just couldn’t decide which ones. I had a price point and I had sizing requirements but was relatively aimless otherwise. I went back and forth, up and down, to and fro, trying to decide.

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I tried coming at it from the most responsible way first – ie the cheapest pair. An odd approach for me, admittedly, but hey lets try it. The cheapest of the group I’d whittled it down to was the Brogini Sanremo, which despite the Italian-sounding name is actually a British brand.

Alas the Brogini run short, which meant I definitely needed the Tall for them to even be passable. Which I couldn’t find anywhere without placing a special order that (with paying full price plus shipping) made them just as expensive as all the others I was looking at, which were higher quality. If I’m giving up some leather quality I want a bargain, so… nah.

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Since being a financially responsible adult didn’t work for me (it never does), I immediately reverted to my true self. Although give me a little credit here, I did cross the DeNiro’s off my list because the leather upgrade that I wanted put them over my budget. Look at me, behaving myself (ugh boring).

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Really though, I couldn’t justify all that extra money on boots I don’t really need, but I also couldn’t convince myself to settle for the cheaper leather that I don’t love. That left me with two options left – the German brand Cavallo, and the Italian brand Pioneer. If you understand the title of this post, you already see where this is going.

I started researching the two brands, looking at reviews and asking around. I found mostly positive things about both brands, with a few detractors here and there for each. It was a stalemate.

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best gif ever

The price for each was almost exactly the same, which also didn’t help me tip the scales at all. In the end, it all came down to options.

The Cavallo boots are gorgeous, but only had one option for the top material that I remotely liked. And that top material was patent croc, which I really don’t like all that much. It don’t love patent. It’s just not my thing. Or animal print of any kind. It worked for me well enough on these boots to where I actually kinda liked it, but I didn’t love them. I wasn’t sure if they were speaking to me.

Granted, what Cavallo does have going for them is that it’s very easy to see and find their options. There’s even a handy dandy “configurator” online, so you can sorta feel like you’re building a pair. Granted, as far as configurators go it kind of sucks (it’s no Samshield configurator, that’s for sure) but hey… at least you can see all the options and pricing right there in front of you.

I only mention all of that because lord it was kind of a headache to figure that stuff out for the Pioneer boots. Pioneer has waaaaaaaaaaaay more options, but their stock photos, well.. they suck. The online swatch pics are hard to find, then hard to see, and figuring out the differences between all the models requires a lot of reading. Then trying to figure out what you can change, what you can change TO, and how much it will cost… LOL. G’luck. It’s awesome when you have a ton of options, but less so when figuring out said options is difficult.

They do have several major online retailers, and between them I was able to find the bulk of the information and pictures I needed. I had narrowed it down to the Atena model based on the leather and the general design, but it comes standard with a patent top. We just went over how I feel about patent.

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First I had to pick an online retailer to order through, and for once the cheapest one was also the only one I had personal experience with: Equizone Online. I started emailing to ask questions, and poor dear Emily is the one that got stuck with me. I think we exchanged no less than two dozen emails. But she told me that yes, I could make whatever changes I wanted to the Atena model. The first thing to pick – what color? There’s a mahogony brown that is really pretty and has more of a reddish tone, and a dark brown that’s more like chocolate. When it comes to brown boots I would generally rather err on the side of too dark rather than too light (not a fan of anything even remotely tan or orange) plus my helmet and gloves are more chocolate (and so is that espresso Motionlite I’m coveting), so dark brown it was.

Second order of business: change the sole to black. That tan sole just looks perpetually dirty to me in pictures, sorry.

THEN it was all about replacing the patent. Emily emailed me pics of some of the dark brown options, since I wanted a top that matched the color of the boot itself. But the pics were kind of small and dark, and I dunno about y’all but I am NOT particularly good at picturing how things will end up looking as a final product just by looking at a little swatch.

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Their “official” swatch chart also really sucks, just FYI

In the end I narrowed it down to the brown floral (which looks like lace to me), the brown glitter (bc sparkles), or just a matching plain brown leather top. The last option didn’t add any cost, but it also seemed sad to me to order semi-custom boots that had absolutely nothing special happening.

I was able to find a video on facebook where you could actually see some of the different swatches pretty well, including the two I liked.

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IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD

I liked them both, in different ways, so I asked what the cost would be for each. Adding the glitter top basically increased the price of the boot by 30%, whereas the price increase for the floral was pretty negligible. I like a little sparkle, but I don’t like it that much. Floral it is!

Sizing and measurements were discussed (luckily I am pretty standard as far as measurements go, and she came up with the same sizing options that I had from my measurements, which was reassuring), the invoice was received, the invoice was paid, and now… I wait.

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She said Pioneer generally takes about 4 weeks, depending on how busy they are, so we shall see. I hope they fit. I hope I like them. I hope they end up looking like what I think they’ll look like. For semi-custom they were ridiculously cheap (under $400 plus free shipping) so… we’ll see.

I have to say though, if Pioneer is reading this: pleeeaaaase invest in an online configurator. You would sell a buttload (how do you say buttload in Italian?) more boots if people could mix and match on a whim and clearly see all the different options and what they would look like and what they cost. It’s great to offer so much variety and be able to create pretty much anything, but boy is it hard to try to guess at what you’re getting.

Fingers crossed that I like them! Although I already started looking at other Pioneer models that I like, daydreaming about what else I could create. Now I see exactly how Stacie ended up acquiring like 49million pairs of boots…

Low Pressure

As anyone reading my show recap earlier this week may have noticed, I was feeling super low-pressure about the whole thing. This is certainly a departure from how I’ve been about this stuff in the past, when I would be up all night tossing and turning with anxiety, or worried about getting the score/placing I needed to qualify for something, or so focused on the outcome that I was too paralyzed to enjoy the journey. I have to say, feeling no pressure about anything certainly makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.

I think the pressure we feel as riders can be really complex. People don’t have the same performance expectations of us amateurs as they do of professionals, necessarily, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have those expectations of ourselves. There’s also the guilt of spending all that money on a show. Spending so much time away from work and family not just when we’re showing, but also just trying to ride every day. The fact that we usually only have one show horse to focus on, so everything that happens seems like a much bigger deal. We generally don’t get to show that much either, which can make us feel like every single one is super duper important and we really have to make it count. We have so much time, money, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears tied up into this sport.

Add being a blogger/relatively public person on top of it and that means there’s more scrutiny too. We’ve chosen to put ourselves out there in a public way, for all the good and bad that that entails. If you have a bad show it’s not as easy to hide and just not talk about it, you always have to answer to someone and explain. Not to mention that a lot of people at shows know who you are (for better or worse!), and attention is often the last thing you want in that situation. So… it’s very easy to see how the pressure starts to add up.

I think this last Pine Hill show was the first time I really felt NO pressure. It was pretty damn liberating, to tell you the truth. I think a big part of it is all the time I’ve invested lately into changing my mindset and addressing the mental aspect of riding, I really can’t express how important that’s been for me. It’s changed my whole perspective. But also I have to admit that there’s something really freeing for me about showing at a level I never in a million years expected to reach. I’m still very much in the “can you even believe this shit???” phase where I’m kind of just delighted to be here. I doubt we’re impressing anyone, but I don’t really care. My only regret is that I wish I’d figured all of this out a lot sooner… why haven’t I always just felt delighted to be here? It’s a freakin horse show, after all.

For the first time in a long time I have no particular expectations of myself or my horse. I don’t go into a show with pre-conceived notions of how we should score. For so long I kind of let the score define me, like it was some kind of barometer of my worth as a rider. Which is absolutely moronic, at best, in a sport like this.

These days I’m not trying to qualify for anything or prove myself to anyone. Honestly my only goal for last weekend’s show was just to complete, because I really felt like my horse deserved to have a recognized Prelim on his record (yes, I recognize how silly that sounds). We definitely take everything one show at a time now, and whatever happens is what happens. We show up, we try our best, we hopefully learn from it, and we move on. I guess that might sound aimless in a way, but after chasing big goals year after year with this horse, it feels like I can finally just… take a deep breath. I’ve spent so long trying to prove to myself that we can do this, and that we belong here, I’ve kind of forgotten to stop and take a look around and realize that we ARE here and we ARE doing this. What exactly am I trying to prove to myself at this point?

It also helps to realize that despite what other people may sometimes think, my horse is not a robot and neither am I. Sometimes he’ll get worked up and throw in a clunker of a dressage test, sometimes I’ll mess up and take a rail (or 3) with me. It happens. That’s eventing. None of us are perfect (or even all that great) all the time. If anyone wants to criticize me for that, they’re more than welcome. Along with having nothing to prove to myself, I sure don’t have anything to prove to anyone else either. The only opinions that matter in my world are my horse’s and my trainer’s.

I was scrolling through facebook the other day and came across this post from MuddyMayhem that pretty much summed it up perfectly. It’s a little long, but 100% worth the read.

This part, in particular, is freaking brilliant:

Y’see We spend so long in Eventing worrying:
worrying we are getting it wrong, worrying we aren’t good enough, worrying what our record looks like, worrying about MERs & levels, worrying about what we’re going to put on Social Media, 
worrying that we might die [wry laugh]. I had a chance for those 5 minutes to throw off those worries & just live & love the moment I was in. On that course I had left behind the feelings of inadequacy that I seem to battle with constantly & fuck me I was grabbing that feeling by the big hairy balls. 
Go ahead judge me for it, think I’m fool, that I’m ‘embarrassing’ because I don’t give a shitting toss!

By putting the worries and pressures aside, my whole world has changed. The self-doubt, the criticism, the never-ending comparison… girl, bye. We’re living in the moment, and loving every minute of this new challenge. I wish I’d learned how to not give a shitting toss a hell of a lot sooner.

At the end of the day, horse shows really just aren’t that big of a deal. We all want to do well, of course, that’s why we’re there. But this sport is so much more than that. No matter what happens, there will always be another horse show. I think that, at the end of the day, if you asked each of us what it is that keeps us showing up at the barn every day and putting the time in, pretty much none of us would say ribbons. We’d say it was the love of the horse, the love of the sport, and that feeling we get when we’re out there doing something so ridiculously freaking fun on a horse that we love so ridiculously freaking much. When you start thinking about it that way, and focusing on why we really do this, it’s funny how all the worries and pressures start to just fade away.

Soggy

While we were off showing in Houston on Saturday, everyone here in Austin was getting slammed with rain. Like… to the point where it took me 3 tries to get home, because the farm roads I usually take were completely flooded and the police had them closed.

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24 hour rain totals

I finally was able to find a way through, after 45 minutes of backtracking and trying again, and then basically had to Tokyo Drift my truck (which does not have 4WD) and trailer up the very flooded, muddy driveway. But hey… we made it. The ground in the fields was getting quite hard last week so I was happy to have the rain, except for the fact that it meant that Henry had to sit in his stall after a hard day of showing rather than go out like he usually does. Poultice and Magic Cushion are my bestest friends but he was definitely tighter in his body than usual. On Sunday morning it poured AGAIN for a solid 4 hours, turning everything into WaterWorld and relegating the horses to their stalls for another day.

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This was a driveway

Luckily our barn has good soil and is on mostly high ground, so the barn itself stays dry, and the arena/turnouts dry out pretty quickly. By Sunday afternoon it was dry enough for a walk/trot in the arena and a hack around the barn, so I took Henry out to stretch his legs a bit. The barn was super quiet and no one else was around, so afterward I decided to put Henry and Presto out in the arena to chill for a while and give Henry a break from his stall. And also because I can seriously sit there and watch them for hours, they are so entertaining.

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WTF, you can barely see Henry behind Presto anymore.

Being out with Dobby and Cannavaro for the past few weeks has definitely made Presto a little braver, socially. I mean, he still kinda curls up like a roly poly when Henry puffs up at him, but any smart horse would. He doesn’t immediately retreat like he used to, and he even thought about instigating a mutual grooming session before he wimped out at the idea of putting his teeth on Henry. Presto is naturally very low on the totem pole and probably always will be, but I’m glad that he’s at least learning how to Horse a little bit better.

He’s still pretty quick to go to the baby chomping behavior when he’s worried
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We are looking reaaaaaaal 2 right now, y’all. And his legs have like 4″ of fluffy hair that refuses to come off.
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Of course this swamp donkey goes straight to the one puddle in the arena

By Monday everything was pretty dry again, so they got to go back to turnout and I was able to do a stretchy w/t ride on Henry in the field (which has softened up perfectly in the way that only horse people could possibly be this excited about). After I was done with Henry I brought Presto in and decided to put a saddle on him again. When my schedule with Henry gets really packed, Presto tends to get less attention, so it’s been a while since I’ve really done much besides groom him. He stood there in the crossties looking bored AF and didn’t even blink when I just tossed the saddle on him and girthed it up like he was a grownup.

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real good at this part

I took him out to the arena and lunged him for a few minutes, then put the stirrups down and let them bang around as he trotted. After that we briefly went over some remedial stuff like giving to poll pressure, flexing his head, and doing some “leg yield” in hand. Those things all stick with him pretty well by now. What really pissed him off was the bath he got afterward… guess it’s been a while since I hosed his whole body down. You’d think that for a horse that loves water so much, he’d be less of a turd about getting sprayed with the hose. Jokes on him, we stood there under the water until he finally just stood still and glared at me. He just bought himself a lot of hose time.

For those who have been asking, Cannavaro has settled in really well.

Henry is still kind of obsessed with his semi-doppelganger, it’s hilarious

The resident barn worker/colt starter spent the first week doing a lot of desensitization groundwork, which Cannavaro flew right on through. He’s smart, and he’s naturally pretty chill. Yesterday was his first ride on him, in the western saddle, and again Cannavaro was really good.

He worked on standing still at the mounting block, bending and flexing his head/neck, backing, whoaing from voice, turning, and w/t/c. Bobby has been riding him at the walk and trot very lightly since he came off the track, but this was his first canter work and first time being asked to do much. The first couple laps were slightly dolphiny (god, he and Henry really have so much in common) but he smoothed out quickly. You can tell that he’s going to have a REALLY good canter once he figures out his balance.

I totally claim dibs on Cannavaro if something happens to Bobby. Just putting that out there in writing.

I entered Henry in a show this weekend, just a couple dressage tests to crush his spirit practice, and opening date for Presto’s first FEH show of the year was yesterday so I gotta get on that. I love this time of year, there’s never a shortage of things to do with ponies!

I’ve also been considering doing a Q&A type of post, opening it up to whatever questions you guys have. I get emails and messages with questions all the time, but I never thought about publishing them until someone mentioned it. So if you have questions you want to ask, feel free to drop a comment or send me a message or email… I’m an open book and happy to answer anything!

PH Spring USEA HT: Cross Country

Not only are we getting to recap the best phase today, I also have great news!

look who it is

Course walks with Bobby are back! At least this time. And they also feature Bobby’s dog, Walker, because apparently it IS possible to get more derp into one picture.

My XC time was a couple hours after stadium, but a lightning delay added an extra 40 minutes in there. I started prepping my studs early, which is good, since I realized I was somehow missing some of my favorite grass tips. I had plenty of time to go down to the vendor and buy more (I feel like I’m buying studs at every show, wtf) and stand around talking for a while before I had to go get ready. Henry took a nap, as he always does before XC. He’s figured this game out by now.

must recharge for All The Galloping

All the rain over the winter meant that they really didn’t change the course much from the last time we ran here at the schooling show. It was a little disappointing, but I also completely understood why and agreed with the decision. Dragging all those portables around could have really torn up the footing, and none of us want that. So since Henry and I had pretty much already seen this course before, barring a couple minor tweaks, it gave me the opportunity to focus on ironing out some of the things I hadn’t liked about the last run. Mainly – let him keep coming forward at the fences. Last time I took an extra pull in a couple places where I didn’t need to, so this time I really wanted to focus on riding out of the forward pace and not try to micro-manage so much. As long as he’s balanced, I need to trust that I can keep coming at the jumps.

Full helmet cam footage is here:

He came roaring out of the startbox, again. I’m pretty insistent that he stands politely in the box, and he generally obliges, but it’s so funny how he’s gotten to where he knows the countdown. As soon as I told him he could go, his ears went up to my eyeballs and he was off like a rocket. Pretty sure he never showed that kind of enthusiasm leaving a starting gate.

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puppy smooches
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Dad, is you dead?
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Dad, dis is a weird game.

The first jump was an inviting little house, the only challenge being that it’s positioned a bit oddly out of the startbox. I just came out pointing to the right, got him lined up, and let him hop over it. I landed clucking, encouraging him to open up, since the next two fences are galloping. The rolltop at 2 is wide but relatively small, and going uphill, so you can just keep coming at it no problem, and then the red wagon at 3 is off of a bit of a turn, which serves to help rebalance you naturally. I could have kept him coming a bit more open at 3 but they all jumped well out of stride and he landed full of running.

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Finally, media of the wagon! Thanks Kate! I swear it’s shrinking over time…

Then we were twisting through the woods over the Time Warp combo at 4, which… if you’ve ever felt a horse screaming “I AM SO FUCKING AWESOME” inside of his own head, that was where Henry was at by this point. There is no greater feeling in the entire world than galloping around cross county on that horse. I genuinely feel sorry for folks who have never ridden one like that, because they really haven’t yet lived.

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you can see the flags for B around the tree to the right
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Walker is already done with us by this point I think

Then it was around to the log stack with the big downhill drop, through the crater, and up over the skinny brush. They built the brush up a lot bigger than at the previous shows, which made me happy. I didn’t like how I rode it last time (I took a pull I didn’t need to take in the crater, rather than just channeling him forward between my hands/legs) so this time I took one half halt coming down the hill, then turned his shoulders, rode him forward back up the hill, and ping – he jumped it perfect. Like maybe a little too perfect, he rattled me a bit loose.

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Bobby fell down the drop, leaving only his hat and his wine behind. (jk he would never leave wine behind)
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I remember when he used to have to crouch down to hide behind the brush

After that we went left to the Irish bank, then up through the trees to the chevron. He’s jumped both of these well every time, but last time I rode a little sloppy off the Irish bank, so this time I made sure to focus on keeping my eyes up. Definitely an improvement (funny how that happens). I also really let him keep flowing forward more around the turn to the chevron, and Henry jumped it perfectly right out of stride. He doesn’t need my “help”, which is really just interference sometimes, as much as I think he does. The horse is pretty well-schooled by now, I have to trust all the basic work that we’ve done to get to this point.

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The chevron birthed a Bobby

An Insta friend was jump judging the bank and got a cool view of us going through there.

Then we had a bit of a galloping stretch back through the woods, so I let him open up as much as he wanted. The approach to the trakehner is a little awkward because there’s a tree right in the middle of your path, so I took the inside route and let him keep coming, slightly angling the trakehner. I got him a little bit close there, but he gave precisely zero shits.

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Fun fact: Bobby hates this jump.

Then we weaved around the little paths, dialing down to more of a showjump canter to hop over the little skinny rolltop out of the woods and back into the main field. From there we went to the water, jumping over the log down into it, then out the other side and over the bending line of arks. Henry slipped just a touch coming out of the water, so I rode a little quieter into the arks, but he handled it all just fine.

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not sure if this is prayer or yoga
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This is definitely prayer

After the arks we had another longer gallop stretch back up the hill, with just a little bench along the way. He hopped that right out of stride like it wasn’t even there, then we were up the hill and hanging a left turn to the corner, then around the pond back to the boat table. He totally locked onto an unflagged jump before the corner (again – he did that last time too) and I had to turn him off of it, but he immediately locked onto the corner instead. The footing around the back of the pond was muddy so I eased off the gas, but once we were clear of it he was back up to speed in a flash.

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Taking selfies of his boob sweat, I guess

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Rowing that boat

From there we headed back down the hill over the rolltop to down bank to chevron combo. As soon as I turned to the rolltop he was like BYE FELICIA and I was like a kid on a school pony, just along for the ride. He was polite about it, and patted the ground at the chevron like I asked, but he knows that combo really well by now and didn’t particularly need my input.

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You can see the downbank, but the chevron is completely blocked by Bobby’s ass.
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The ground falls away really sharply on the landing side, so Bobby legit almost rolled down the hill trying to stick his feet in this one.

The last two fences are pretty simple so I let him cruise again, hopping over the train car out of stride and then cruising over the last big box. I saw a little bit of a long one there, but there was no way we were fitting in another step without it being real ugly, so I just sat up and let him go for it. He pinged over it with no problem and cruised through the finish.

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Toot Toot!

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And just like that, we’ve got a USEA-official Prelim horse! We had 8 time penalties, which seems about right for my horse and a course as twisty and wooded as this one. Originally they had me as being a minute and 20 seconds over time, which… we all agreed there was NO freakin way… so for the first time in my eventing career I got to lodge an inquiry. I really appreciated the TD, she came over and I explained that they had me exactly a minute over what I thought I’d come in at, and she had seen me go so she knew there was no way I’d been that slow. That would have been basically Novice speed.

She immediately went in the office, looked at the sheets, and corrected it for me, no problem. I apologized for being a pain in the butt and calling her up to the office for that, but she insisted that it was her job and that it was important that it get recorded correctly. Super nice and professional, I really appreciated it. They also handled the lightning delays throughout the day completely by the book, which I have seen others NOT do at other shows in the past. So props to all the officials/staff/volunteers at this show, they did a good job of making sure everyone was safe and things ran as smoothly as possible.

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he was still wild by the end of the day, just in case you were wondering

Once again we were the only Prelim entry (which makes me really sad, this is SUCH a good show, but with all the rain and being a one-day and with how the season works out, the upper level people just didn’t come) so we won by default. I’m happy with a completion with a clear XC.

With how the rest of the shows work out schedule-wise, and the heat, we probably won’t run again until Coconino. We have a lot of little dressage and jumper shows planned though, and a lot of XC schooling. This show was exactly what I needed to give me a good confidence boost and make me feel like we’re ready to tackle some harder questions. Henry is still just eating it up, and I’m starting to figure out how to trust the more open pace a bit more. We have some things to go home and work on, and I’m really looking forward to it. We’re in a pretty fun place right now in our journey, with all kinds of new challenges. It’s hard, it’s intricate, and it’s unfamiliar, but I love it. This horse is pretty freaking cool, y’all.

Bobby’s alright too, I guess.

PH Spring USEA HT: dressage and stadium

Somehow the weather gods were with us at Pine Hill on Saturday, because we majorly dodged a bullet! While Austin was getting 3-4″ of torrential rain and flooding, we only got a couple of very brief storms. Aside from two lightning delays, it wasn’t enough to impact the show at all. And really, I think the little bit of rain made the footing perfect.

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Does he look kinda wild to you? Yeah well…

It was VERY humid though, which concerned me a little. It was warm enough to make the humidity a little miserable, especially in the morning before any kind of breeze picked up. Since my horse doesn’t handle humidity well, and we had a very long day ahead of us still, I opted to keep the dressage warmup a bit light. Ha.

Ha.

Ha.

The first half of the test was ok. A little tense, a little behind my leg, but not awful.

And then it started raining, which coincided with exactly when our canter work started. That was the excuse he’d be waiting for. So began the rodeo. He never actually bucked but his hind end bounced like a basketball through literally all of the canter work. If I put my leg on, it just bounced higher. The tail was spinning like a helicopter (I’m assuming for extra lift?) and I could practically hear Henry’s evil cackling.

can you feel the sass?

By the second canter loop I couldn’t help but start laughing. What else do you do? There was no salvaging that. He even spooked at A as we came up centerline at the end, like he’d never seen THAT before. Real nice. Much grace. So dressage. And that’s how we got our worst dressage score ever, with a 40. But hey, there are worse things than having a horse that feels a bit too full of himself to dressage. I just could not stop laughing at him the whole way back to the barn.

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Henry. 100% Henry.

Jokes on him, he has to go to a show this weekend and do ONLY dressage. HA.

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I only had an hour between dressage and stadium, so I pulled his tack off, stuck him in his stall to pee (and he peed A LOT, which made me wonder if that contributed to all the bouncing…) and drink some water, then ran down to stadium to look at the course one more time. This was our first time having both a triple and a double combination in stadium, but the only jump I was really worried about was the big square oxer at 6. It came off of kind of a weird turn and looked a little big, and have I mentioned I hate square oxers? Surely you can see where this is going.

I should also say that the ground at home had been so hard for the past couple weeks leading up to this show that I wasn’t able to jump much. Henry has literally been living in Magic Cushion, and I jumped maybe two fences that were of height and maybe 10 total. We haven’t had a stadium lesson since before the last show, in February. We were definitely rusty, and rusty isn’t great for either of us when it comes to stadium.

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The rain stopped by the time I got back on, and Henry warmed up great. The issues we had in stadium warmup last year seem to be resolved (knocking on wood) thank goodness. I went in the ring focused on getting the job done, and not feeling too terribly nervous. We had a rail at 2, a big vertical, where I think I just didn’t keep his balance rocked back quite enough. It doesn’t take much for him to pull a rail at Prelim, so millimeters matter. The turn back to 3 was fine, and I was actually really happy with how 4 and 5a/b rode. 4 was another tall vertical off of a tight rollback turn, so lots of potential to mess that one up, but we didn’t. Then it was around to 6, the big square oxer. In all of my carefulness to make a good turn, I really ended up hanging out a bit too far, and then the distance was long. I had to ride up to it quite a bit, and while he cleared 6 with room to spare, we landed with WAAAAAAYYY too big of a canter and I didn’t react quick enough to put him back together in time to make the striding work. That resulted in a gross yucky half stride out, taking the rail of the vertical with us. 100% my fault. Not a good ride into that line at all. I overthought that fence, for sure. Lesson learned. Maybe.

The rest rode well, although he did tick the front rail of the oxer out of the triple. I was happy with how I rode that line, so oh well.

Aside from my mistake in the line from 6 to 7, I was happy with it. That was the only real oops. Mostly though, I was pleased that Henry felt so confident at everything. He was looking for the next fence and taking me there (albeit sometimes a little bit too enthusiastically). The size of the fences are much more comfortable for both of us now, and I’m glad that we could make a mistake and keep going like nothing happened. I’m getting a lot more confident too. And honestly… I was kinda just thrilled to have our first two recognized Prelim phases in the books. I just wanted to get it done without doing anything monumentally stupid.

After that, it was time for the good stuff! Cross country recap tomorrow…