Wednesday, February 21, 2024

my weekend at Ram Tap

Over the years, I've worked to diversify my involvement and activities in eventing. Mostly because I'm really interested in learning more about the administration of the sport itself, and everything that goes into it. 

Also because... Let's be real, I'm not super likely to reach the pinnacle of the sport as a rider -- but I definitely want to stay involved in other ways.  

welcome to a very special place
So a few years ago, I started getting involved in more formal certification programs. And it has been an incredible (and humbling) experience ever since! 

The program renewal came due last year, tho, with the seminar located far enough away that costs were prohibitive. So I deferred. Then this year... Well. Same story. Except, kinda worse.

tucked neatly between a power line field and railway line, this little plot of land has been fostering west coast eventing for decades and decades and decades
It had been so long since I'd even competed myself... with no clear path toward change any time soon... It felt a bit ridiculous to lay out a big investment in renewing my certification when I'd honestly much prefer to spend that capital on my own riding. 

Gotta keep the main thing, the main thing -- right??

our esteemed panelists discussing the big impact from simple treatments like paint and plants
So.... I did what "normal" people do lol: I let my association know my license would be lapsing, and bought a young horse instead (hi, Doozy!). Because... Let's be real, I need to keep gaining experience in the saddle, right?

yea, there's geometry involved. but eh, it kinda just makes sense
But Lo! I'd applied somewhat haphazardly to the Broussard Charitable Foundation grant program for the "r" training program, never believing in a million years I'd be awarded-- but I was! 

Holy moly and THANK YOU to the generosity of families and sponsors supporting and developing the officiating pipeline!

spent time walking and evaluating courses solo
And thus we arrive on the West Coast in February, among a great group of  seminar participants, warmly embraced by the Ram Tap family at the Fresno Horse Park. 

very pretty fish!!
And these seminars are incredible, guys. The topics covered are wide and varied, relating to fence construction, use of terrain, the impact of decorating, risk mitigation, and the biophysics of how horses perceive color and contrast. 

color matters! consider the red corner B element on the left side....
Much of this feels at least passingly familiar to the intrepid eventer -- and it should! But it also bears repeating, and often. 

just bc it's an older style of fence doesn't mean we can't make it work!
Probably my favorite aspect of this seminar, vs when I was originally certified down in Aiken, was that we actually got to see the competition in action over the weekend. 

ground lines, yo!
Like, we walked the courses first, evaluating them from a variety of perspectives (ie, design, construction, decoration, safety, etc.), assessed what we liked or how we might adjust or do differently... Then watched the riders go, and mapped actual footprints against our expectations afterward. 

Especially when it comes to conversations about fence profiles, terrain and distances in combinations, this was an extremely useful exercise. 

checking out takeoff + landing footprints afterward
The most interesting bits for me included how different the ground is on the West Coast from my usual haunts in Area II. 

footprints aren't always where you'd expect!
The travelling lanes on Ram Tap's courses are impeccably maintained -- scraped of grass, harrowed, aerated, watered, etc. It's almost like jumping on arena footing, except with terrain!

beautiful execution of the P sunken road by Elsa Warble on FE Unlimited
Not that the horse park has a whole lot of terrain, let's be real, but they definitely put to use the roughly ~15m of elevation gain they have! (Compared to the roughly ~30-35m of elevation change you might expect to see at the Fair Hills or Plantations of the world).

blue line delineates the far-out landing zone from the sunken road, with human for scale
Another interesting observation, at least imho, was the notably high quality of both the riders and horses at this event. Not that we don't have extremely talented riders and lovely horses here in Area II (obviously we do). But the uniformity was kinda amazing. 

plotting hypothetical future combinations
Maybe bc the format of events in Area VI is just so different -- all levels at this event ran across 3 full days, with each phase on a different day whether you rode at Intermediate or BN. Most riders shipped in with big programs from 4+ hours away (and often much farther distances). 

behold, my hypothetical training combination -- raised log to angled palisade
It was an expensive event for these riders who need to be highly committed to their performance. Compared to here in Area II, when you might be a bit more reasonably casual about entering a one-day event an hour up the road to show out of your trailer all day and still make your dinner plans that night. 

and my prelim combo -- drop to angled shoulder brush, set a bit farther back from water's edge
Just a very different level of accessibility for showing, ya know? Which maybe makes for a broader range of execution performance. Or maybe it was just an early season event where everybody was riding well within their comfort zone? Who knows haha, just an observation!

organizers were so kind to us, we got to attend the Area VI awards banquet!
Anyway, it was a very cool event. Apparently they've been running horse trials here for decades. Seemed like everybody had a fun story or memory of competing at the Fresno Horse Park as kids over the years, and they have a super dedicated core group of organizers, builders and volunteers. 

again, this is a very special place, here's to many more decades of eventing at Ram Tap!
I always love going to new venues -- esp in such a different geographic region from my own home base! 

The seminar itself was also super valuable and inspiring. It's exciting to see the USEA continue to develop and formalize curricula for future officials -- especially considering many eventing stalwarts are aging out and retiring. Thanks again to the Broussard Charitable Foundation Trust's Going Forward Grant for supporting this pursuit by offsetting the costs of registration and travel!

So. Overall it was a fun trip to California, and a weekend well spent with the experts! Curious if anyone else has also explored these sorts of seminars or certification programs, and what your experience has been. Or maybe you're interested for the future? 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Doozy does Arena XC

Whew happy Tuesday, folks! More to come later about the rest of my California trip --- to include recapping the incredible weekend I spent at the Ram Tap Horse Trials. Wow, talk about a special place! 

exploring the grounds at Loch Moy
But! No rest for the weary. I touched down in Baltimore at 2AM yesterday, and by noon was tacking Doozy up at Loch Moy to ride on their all weather arena xc schooling courses. 

Quite a few serendipitous things worked in my favor -- like my seminar ending a day early, and somehow all the stars aligned that I could actually get directly home... My friend Katie had been planning this schooling day for some time and I leapt at the opportunity to tag along.
guys it was crowded --- but lookie at her omfg! #TrafficSkoolGraduate
Tho ya know, obvi it was always going to be a somewhat big ask for Doozy. Not least bc she'd had a week off while I was away. But, eh, I figured... It was going to be hard no matter what, right? She is who she is. At some point we have to give her the opportunity for exposure, and go from there. So I went into the adventure with literally zero expectations and no agenda. 

closer up pic of doozy doing doozy
But at every step... Doozy kinda just... Stepped up. She came off the trailer quietly. Tied right away (tho she did dance around a little and bonked her head at one point). Stood easily for the saddle and bridle, and more or less proceeded in a direct route to the big mounting block by Loch Moy's score board (which also features a whole bunch of flags). 

Sure, Katie was there with Rosette to assist with the process as needed. And we certainly needed the assistance, obvi. But everything went off on the first try with minimal fuss. YES! 

we got comfortable with lots and lots of little logs at walk then trot
Our warm up was more of the same. We started in the ring typically used for show jumping, and basically spent about ages familiarizing. Walked past the ivy wall and signage in both directions, observed spectators, experienced horses running and jumping in all directions... And didn't murder anybody. Tho we didn't really get much done either beyond a few little trots while Katie did her thing.

then we did proper jompies!
As we moved from ring to ring, tho, Doozy seemed to kinda figure stuff out. And by the time we made it to the lower ring, where a lot of the little stuff was set up, she was a lot more at ease with existence. 

just cantering this little rockette out around wide open spaces omg
The cool thing about this horse is that once she's thinking about jumps, kinda nothing else matters. The rest of the world melts away. It's.... honestly a wild feeling. 

her expression is honestly pretty incredible
But there's just kinda a big hump to get over before she's ready for that. Like, gotta put the "bolting" feeling to bed first before starting with the jumping lol. And that... takes a while.

pictured: a relaxed horse making a small mistake about distance as she learns to be clever and more consistent with footwork
But literally as soon as we started tinkering around with little logs, this mare was ALL ABOARD the schooling train. 

this is a FUN horse to ride, guys omg <3 <3 <3
I aimed her for some of the ittiest of bittiest actual jumps, and she just... is a lot of fun haha. 

bebe's first "table" lol
So obvi we went for the next little level up -- the 2'3 fences. 

ermagerd we got into the water and learned it's actually kinda fun!
And she just jumped everything I pointed her at, some questions asked, but all answered correctly. And I didn't push things, ya know? Like, I didn't try to string things from different ends of the arenas together --- we kinda stayed in one "zone" at a time. And I didn't do anything with banks or ditches, tho we did get through the water nicely.

But I'm just so pleased with this mare, guys, omg <3 And she's getting exponentially better about life as Le Sport Horse with every single trailer outing. Like, sure, the first hour of our 1.5hr ride was spent keeping a lid on the powder keg... But the last 30min was worth it <3

guys, i'm so so so excited about this sweet little mare!
It's honestly wild to see her grow in leaps and bounds from week to week. She's sensitive and reactive... but actually pretty darn sensible too. She wants to be good, wants to color inside the lines, and has an incredible and innate pressure response. 

can you believe that's Charlie's Back on Track cooler?? maybe she's not that small after all...
So. Another achievement unlocked, another milestone in the books. It all feels very exciting, and so good to get back to doing fun horsey adventures. 

It's actually kinda crazy, bc I really haven't experienced the same type of anxiety (yet) with Doozy that characterized some of the early days with Charlie. Maybe bc... Charlie just gave me a lot of confidence over the years? Or bc after a year away from doing the things I wanna be doing, the determination is winning out over the anxiety? 

Who knows, ya know? All I know is that this process has been a lot of fun so far, and I'm not really in any rush to change that!

Friday, February 16, 2024

friday foto finish

In this week's episode, we see a sculptural representation of Charles, looking like the trazadone just kicked in lol...

"feeling kinda funny, guys!" - charles, usually

"mmmmm tastes colorful"

getting ready to bask in his sedation for a full 45min longer than the vet said haha

This trippy fountain is brought to you courtesy of the Huntington Gardens lol... TGIF y'all!!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

westerly wordless(ish) wednesday

Happy mid-week, y'all. Not too too many words today, bc I'm actually out of town so not a whole heckuva lot is happening! 

look closely -- this statuette apparently has an abscess-wrap on his hoof lol
Or at least, not a lot for Doozy. She's getting a little vacation, aside from some extra TLC from barn mates. 

beachy with my aunt!
I figure, she's been working hard and doing well. Plus she proved after the snowstorm last month that she can come back from a break without much fuss. 

the wild west
So, eh, what's another week or so, right? 

garden at the Getty Center was incredible
Charlie, meanwhile, decidedly does not thrive with neglect haha. And in his book, "neglect" means going longer than 36hrs without direct personalized 1:1 attention lol. 

certainly more scenic than late winter mud lol -- see charles spying from the bottom right?
He actually started back under saddle about two weeks ago maybe, very simple rides spent mostly working on lateral suppleness at the walk, with adding trotting very slowly -- a minute or so more every couple of rides.

different day, same charlie <3
His heel bulb wound is almost entirely gone, but recall he still needs his hocks done since he keeps interfering with those plans... Plus ya know, he's been out of regular work for a year. And at the end of the day we just aren't sure how his feet will respond to increased load again.

back to hacking!
But I'm hopeful. Aside from the janky hocks, he honestly feels like a million bucks. 

lots and lots and lots
Like, feels so good that it's easy to get greedy haha. Bc damn it's just so nice to be sitting on him again!

and lots and lots and lot and LOTS of hacking lol
So I'm eager to keep up the (slow low intensity) momentum with him, ya know? 

and a sma smidge of ring work too <3 talented junior got a lesson on him before i left town
Fortunately, Charlie has a LOT of friends around the barn -- and he's reliable enough that it's practically worry free to hand the keys over while I'm away.

and got to enjoy hacking around too
I'm never sure if he's the most classically "fun" horse to ride, bc he can be a little pokey and lazy... But then again, he knows a LOT. And maybe can teach a lot. At this point, basically all you have to do to ride him is hold a steady position with a clear forward intention... And he just... goes lol. 

So... Actually, maybe that IS fun for the typical barn rat junior who always ends up with the surlies or greenies lol.

he's in good hands! and so is she ;) 
All in all, I feel good about it -- and it definitely helps me feel a lot less guilty about leaving for so long (wish the same could be said for my guilt for my two little house kitties who are used to having me home almost full time....). Feels like a win-win, ya know?

So anyway, more news later. Hope y'all are having a nice week!

Monday, February 12, 2024

schooling dressage show

Guys!! Doozy did her first little schooling show this weekend!! My first show since April of last year, omg! Just a little at-home show in our normal indoor lol... So maybe not really anything significantly different for Dooz. But we did it, and we survived! And it was all ok!! Haha....

good girl post-tests, existing out in the open *without* killing anybody!
For real, tho, I'm gonna skip right over our lesson from the day before bc... While it started out really well and we're definitely figuring some stuff out, Doozy's quarter Ran. Out. somewhat unexpectedly about half way thru the lesson and the rest was an absolute wash... 

Like, true story, the lesson finished so poorly that it didn't seem likely we'd make it through the tests for the show if Doozy was in the same condition the next morning... Fortunately, tho, we got a few lucky breaks for the show. 

devil's in the details, like riding with the doors wide open for the first time!
First of all -- I had the first rides of the day, so got to warm up inside the indoor instead of out in the dressage court. Secondly, my barn mate would be right after us -- and she also prefers warming up on the indoor footing. So Doozy had a friend to warm up with inside, which helped take the edge off coping with the doors being wide open omg.

Said friend also parked her horse right in the middle of the doorway for our tests too -- plus there were a few spectators, so we had a nice healthy wall of bodies to prevent against unceremoniously bolting away lol....

getting lectured by the judge for riding poorly. doozy is super cute tho!
With that said, tho, the tests still weren't great. Realistically, we *can* do all the things required by the test, theoretically, but not necessarily within the parameters and constraints of the test itself. Like, yea... we CAN halt... but... mayyyybe not at X lol, ya know what I mean? 

useful feedback from test 1
And we also may or may not have cantered throughout the entire first test --- which, for the unaware, USDF Intro B does not call for canter. Oops. The judge really took me to task for that too -- told me that I was riding too crookedly and that this was why the horse kept stepping into canter, and that I'm basically going to ruin the horse by training the crookedness into her him if I don't fix my shit. 

Which like. Cool. Thanks judge for the deep diagnostic review of my training that you managed to accomplish in the last 2.5min... But maybe just give me the 5 and let's get on with it, yes? Thx. 

doozy kept a lid on it with the help of her emotional support barbie dream horse lol... 
also, my local consignment shop was selling these gorgeous SSG show gloves brand new for $2/pair. sure, maybe the white draws too much attention to one of my weakest areas, but the gloves are NICE
We rode our tests back to back, and a couple more things worked in our favor. First -- I was a bit more proactive about not letting Doozy slide into canter lol. Second, the mare was sliiiightly more on board with riding the pattern this time, just from having accomplished it once already. 

not gonna lie, we did a lot of cantering considering it's a W-T test LOL
There are definitely moments in the second test (video below) that excite me. Sure, it would be easy to get stuck on frustration for when I couldn't hold my position, or when Doozy would invert and run off on the muscle (basically any time we turned toward the door). And esp with these silly bright white (but oooh-so-luxe) gloves, there's no hiding any sins with my hands....

can cherry pick good moments for horse or rider (rarely both LOL).. you'll have to watch the video to see the truth tho ;)
But idk, I kinda feel like if you imagine stepping back, letting your eyes get a little blurry maybe, and viewing this test more from a materiale perspective, it feels like a really solid effort. Like, in each movement we have little glimmers of development. Small moments of give and softness... We just can't hold it right now. Ain't got no rhythm yet! 

always amazed when she can walk out even when super tense
Doozy is such an interesting horse bc she's tense, yes, but not quite in the tight taut way I might expect. Like, she can basically always walk nicely. Even when going from getting cantered away with in a trot circle, to not quite nailing the transition down to walk... It's still fine to push the reins forward in free walk and she just slinks her way across the diagonal in her lovely Doozy way. 

Tho, for some reason we got a 5 on our medium walk in this test. Idk. Looked fine to me, but eh, the judge disagreed** and gave it our lowest mark for the test. Idk, watch the video and lemme know what I missed??

(**Truthfully, the judge was in my sightline and was noticeably not watching us in this moment, but was instead dictating a comment to the scribe. Weirdly, she was watching the scribe write, too, which seemed unusual to me. Found out when I picked up the test sheet, she had the scribe add a comment to the margins about my "tending to tilt left," and in the process missed the medium walk and then trot transition, two of nine scored movements. Opted to dole out a 5 anyway tho! Thanks judge!)

more or less representative
Doozy is just so sensitive right now to where we are with respect to the door, a lot of how she goes is influenced from that draw. It's really up to me to be a bit more proactive about trying to keep things a bit steadier and more in line whether we're turning away or turning toward the door, ya know?

lolz pretty sure this is what the cool kids call crip walkin
We're figuring it out, tho. Maybe haha. Maybe not totally ready for going out in public for real yet... But for a home show? Felt like positive mileage. 

And honestly -- maybe the biggest win of the day was being pretty darn mature about hanging out after we finished, while Pride took her turns. 

There wasn't necessarily a TON of activity, but there were a few horses warming up in the dressage ring (including Candee Kisses omg!), plus a few more wandering around here and there... And lots of spectators, natch. 

mare was grown up enough to exist out in the open amongst the spectators and in view of warm up with horses coming and going, while we waited for Pride to finish her tests - good girl!
But it was all nbd. Doozy had exactly zero little episodes!! Progress!! Slowly but surely, we'll desensitize this little lady lol.

So. Doozy's first show is in the books. It maybe wasn't "real" in the sense that, ya know, it was at home in our safe normal indoor. But, then again, it was a real judge who neither knew nor cared about our history and simply judged us as we were. AND it was a heightened and unusual level of activity "at home," which sometimes is more challenging than just going somewhere new. 

Apparently there are ribbons too, 4th and 6th place!! (Out of 6 I think LOL womp...), so maybe Doozy will get her first satin glamor shot soon ;)