Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fair Hill: dressage + stadium

The forecast for show day at Fair Hill was ominous - 100% chance of heavy rains and thunderstorms from 10am through 5pm. Organizers emailed us the night prior expressing optimism tho, claiming Fair Hill typically doesn't get storms as heavy as nearby areas. 

And they were right. We made it through our full day in just plain old rain. Sometimes a light mist, other times a steady rain. But nothing horrendous. 

meaning my new MCTA saddle cover was put immediately to use!
But our group of competitors had dwindled to just two of us for various reasons totally unrelated to the weather. And probably most of you are familiar with these happenings - horse is suddenly dead lame day before the show. 100% sound the day after. Typical, right? Our barn mates still came out to cheer us on tho, and brought along a whole army of young riders. Felt like a party!
never ending path (blurry bc we were on a mission, no stopping for photos!!)
The other rider M (from our xc lesson posted yesterday) and I arrived early enough to walk the xc course before our rides, while Isabel and Special chilled on the trailer. 
good for practicing water crossings on the way to xc tho!
M has been to Fair Hill a few times now, but this was my first visit. I had heard about the long walk to stadium / xc - but was still fairly taken by surprise. This walk was LONG omg. Very pretty, yes, but looonnnng. And I walked the path at least 4 times, maybe more. 
seriously... this was a freakin HIKE. now i understand perfectly why this property is great for endurance rides
Anyway the stadium course is just out of sight on the crest of this hill, so we walked that first before cross country. Thoughts on each to follow. Then it was a quick hike back to the trailer to get M and Special ready for their dressage. Our times worked out really nicely actually - we could watch all of each other's rides while still having time to prepare for our own. So right after her dressage, I came back to get Izzy ready for ours. 

warming up in the grass like nbd (note to self: LOOK UP!)
And I was a little surprised - Isabel was AMPED at the trailer, and had gotten pretty attached to Special. Which I guess makes sense bc they're pasture mates... but considering her typical aloofness toward Wick, it seemed unusual. She was dancing and pawing and calling out for Special... but I just kept my game face on and maintained the expectation that Isabel is a proven professional at shows. 
not the nicest - but a fairly typical way of going for us. moving in the right direction slowly but surely
All the same tho - I made sure to have everything totally ready to go before getting on bc I knew Isabel would be off like a SHOT the moment I swung my leg over. She knew *exactly* what was up, and that we were going to JUMP THE JUMPS!!! But mare - don't forget about dressage first!! Of course she hadn't tho, good mare!
ah but yessssss - we have moments of this too. i LOVE these moments, and they are happening more often these days
Our warm up in the grass went just fine. She was forward and working, and doing better with bending to the right than she has been for schooling. Only a few misfires with our leads. Mostly tho we just schooled transitions. Walk to trot. Trot to walk. Trot to canter. Canter to trot. Trot to halt. Kept it quick and easy then off to our test! 
our canter transitions are still scoring low, but the circles are gradually getting better
And she was so phenomenal! It wasn't our best test, but it also wasn't far off. 

There were a couple strange moments of bracing and tension that we don't normally see - but they were mostly in the never-ending sections of un-judged trot work. Except for one blip at K for our last walk-trot transition before the center line turn... which was a bummer bc we usually score well on those turns but the transition killed the score. 

Our canter transitions still score < 6 despite a lot of focused work on this. It's entirely possible that my work isn't making any difference bc I'm somehow doing something wrong that I don't know how to fix... but I'm also wondering if it's a chiro problem... We'll see. I AM heartened to see our canter circle scores improve. We got a 7 (!!!) on our second canter circle - yesssss!!! 

The free walk was scored a little generously since Isabel was popping up and diving down... but I'll take it. All in all I was very pleased with the test, which is below in video form with all the scores and comments added in for the viewer's convenience. Enjoy!

Then we had a little break for M to ride her stadium and cross country, and I got to see first hand just how slippery and torn up the footing was becoming (stadium was on grass). There were something like 6 splits for BN, and I was in the last one... meaning the footing only got worse and worse... 

Allison managed to find me among the crowd too and again I just can't fully express how cool it was to finally meet her in person!! Also - my parents arrived just in time for stadium and xc. This was a real treat and meant so much to me, esp as they are decidedly non-horsey and hadn't seen me ride in maybe 10 years. So I was excited for them to experience the atmosphere and adrenaline that defines eventing for me :) 

nice balance of left and right turns, and singles vs lines

The stadium course was a bit more to my tastes compared to Tranquility. Lots of bending approaches, a straight and bending line, and only a couple long runs between fences. 

The left lead tour from 4-8 had me a little worried - esp between 4-5 and 5-6, since Izzy typically lands right and those were tight, close-ish distances on iffy footing... Plus 5 and 6 were maxed out oxers... But really it was a good course and test for the level.

I kept our warm up pretty short (esp given the loonnnnng walk up to the field from the trailers, wherein Isabel MARCHED and out-walked every other horse there despite her pony legs). I meant to trot the X but we cantered it instead. Eh it was fine. Jumped the vertical a little tight but ok. Jumped the oxer BIG and decided we were good. The warm up footing was getting sloppy but Isabel was fine with it. 
But then she got into the ring where the footing was arguably worse and decided that she was a lot less fine with it. She was definitely sticky and behind my leg.
she's half focused on me, and half focused on Special who was calling for her
Our distance to fence 1 was a little backward but nothing too ugly. I did NOT like how distracted Izzy felt tho. We brought Special up with us, rather than leaving her at the trailer since it was her first ever event and we wanted her to have a positive experience, rather than melting down all alone on the trailer. This was fine and all, except that she kept trying to chat with Isabel during our ride!
pictured: me yelling at izzy to pay attention. izzy meanwhile is mid scream lol
And in fact Izzy actually called out to Special upon landing from fence 1 - the first time she's EVER whinnied under saddle at a show. I did not likey. You can hear me on the video going 'hey hey HEY' lol - pay attention mare!
Fence 2 came up a little snug too - with the horse still stuck behind my leg.... 
And you can see in the video I kinda helped her out a lot in getting over the fence. I pretty much stayed in this defensive stance - close to the saddle and occasionally even a little behind the motion - for most of stadium and all of cross country, given the footing. I historically lose my seat if the horse's front end goes down (whereas I'm usually ok when the back end goes down), so I wasn't taking any chances!
We then slipped our way around the corner, and Isabel perhaps realized that, um, YES she should probably pay attention lest she end up falling on her ass.
We got a nice distance to fence 3 - into a line that walked in a weird distance, maybe around 5 strides? I planned to do 6 tho, and was very happy with our balanced but forward jump in.
And in fact the 6 strides came up a smidge tight coming out of the line, but given the sloppy footing and the upcoming left bend to a big oxer, I was jussssst fine with that. 
My plan was to get 7 strides to the oxer - but our conservative jump over fence 4 combined with a wide-ish bend and more slippage through the line, we did 8. Again, I was fine with this. The conditions definitely did NOT call for the pace we had at Tranquility - and really my main goal was to maintain enough impulsion to get over the fences without running like a maniac.
Fence 6 was another big oxer off a left turn and had me worried on the walk. Isabel jumped it beautifully tho. Really really nicely - maybe even our nicest jump on course. I think the technicality of the 3-4-5 question had forced me to actually ride the horse up in front of my leg, and it paid off for 6.
Then we came back downhill to 7 and I perhaps got a little too gung ho again haha, esp given this fence was so much smaller in comparison.
We approached in a really nice canter - I just didn't really balance in time and we took a bit of a leaper. It was fine tho - no harm no foul. It would have been bad news if this had happened at 4 or 5 tho, bc we landed in a bit of a heap and had our work cut out for us to get to fence 8.
So naturally we cross cantered around the turn until Izzy slipped again and fixed her leads. She nailed 8 tho out of a very nice canter.
My phone sadly died after 8 (I think it was actually just cold in the unseasonable damp weather), but the right turn around to 9 followed the same pattern and was handled easily by the princess. 
So we were clear! Hurray!! It wasn't our best stadium round ever - esp the first few fences - but I'm actually quite satisfied with it. 

The footing was a serious factor tho. Isabel had gotten distinctly more comfortable in the slop throughout the stadium round, but we slipped a LOT. So it would be imperative to keep Isabel up and in front of my leg on cross country so we could stay on our feet and maintain enough power to make it over another full sized BN course. Bc yep, I got my wish and the cross country was absolutely level-appropriate. Details tomorrow!

Monday, June 29, 2015

eventers school xc in the rain too

Ok so what follows is complete and utter photo spam. And I'm not even sorry - we had so much fun during this lesson and I got a LOT out of it.

Our usual lesson with Dan was cancelled due to 'damaging' storms, including lightning, hail, and tornado warnings.... Boo! But I wanted to reschedule before Fair Hill and the only day that worked for him was Thursday. Meanwhile, M and I had planned to school xc on Thursday since she was showing at Fair Hill as well, and her borrowed horse had never been out before....

So what the hell, two birds one stone, right? Dan was game, so we moved our lesson to the cross country course at Tranquility - conveniently still set up from the previous week's event.
Of course it happened to be drizzling this evening as well - but the thunder and lightning blessedly never arrived, and the footing was way better than it was for the event. Plus we're certainly not made of sugar and won't melt in the rain :) 
We started in the big front field that had jumps 2-4 at the event, plus a TON of other stuff. Dan put us immediately into course work over pretty much all the things - like the weird jump above, described as a mini-trakehner or mini-weldon's wall (there's a ditch underneath). I'm not sure exactly what it was - except that it was on the novice course at the event. It's not very big, but I gave it the hairy eyeball anyway. Isabel obvi didn't care tho. 
Dan had to consistently remind me to ride the same as when I'm schooling in the arena. Balanced gaits with horse in front of my leg - not running fast and flat. He repeated this probably more than he wanted to since I was feeling overly gung ho and confident lol. But actually it was a good reality check for me.
It was especially enlightening having his supervision / feedback over these same fences I had just jumped at the event, or that I had jumped on previous schooling outings. Mostly we were doing pretty good, but Dan flat out told me that some of what I was doing was wrong ('not appropriate' were his exact words lol) and would actually increase the likelihood of a stop (like my penchant for gunning it to the fence...).
and oh yes - gif spam galore in the post too haha. because i can.
Isabel showed up with her game face on tho and didn't look at anything. Nor did she care about the footing or the rain or what have you. And we managed to stay in a pretty nice rhythm. I am just so crazy about this little mare - not only is she a saint but she is just SO MUCH FUN OMG. 
She jumped everything I pointed her at on the first try, whether I buried her or raced for the leaper. Tho of course her nicest efforts where when I settled and rode the canter properly.

I had a minor miscommunication with Dan about this line above (he had us doing a TON of related distances, which I thought was interesting). After this log we went down the same little hill that I walked at the Tranquility event (between 4 and 5) to a row of log jumps. The footing was much better and he wanted us cantering the whole thing. I could not for the life of me figure out which log jump he wanted me to finish over, and ultimately chose the wrong one (a slightly off-center skinny log, rather than the wider log dead ahead that he intended...) but it rode just fine. 
Then we moved along toward the water - which sadly appears to be under construction and had a tarp floating through half of it. So we just trotted and cantered through a few times while Dan reminded us that everything we've learned about rhythm still applies to the water: sit back and keep the horse in front of your leg on the same rhythm. 
There wasn't much more we could do there, so then we went up the same path from the event into the little wooded clearing. Meaning we jumped that line of the muck buckets to the tires again - and now it's on video, yay! Once in the woods we jumped around a whole bunch of the logs in there, including the above log to small up bank. Dan's big point was that horses tend to back off and get behind the leg in the woods, so we had to ride proactively.
we also turned this around - coming down the bank then over the log. slightly nerve wracking!!
Next we went out to the line from the bench to the faux ditch (or the fauxffin, as I referred to it haha). Dan had us start by trotting just the faux ditch first, then cantering it and adding the bench, which was a rolltop in this direction.

And here's where I got reprimanded since I remembered getting 4 strides in this line at the event (even tho now we were going up hill instead of down) and GUNNED it, leading to a nasty sliding chip stride. As Dan said: "That was not an appropriate approach for this fence." Oops.... He was right tho - and you'll see what he meant on the video.
we fixed it tho
So after that I remembered to actually organize my canter and ride the freaking horse, not the distance... and we did it just fine both directions in an even and rhythmic five strides.

Dan specifically pointed out the terrain here - noting that the hill wasn't insignificant and played a role in our approaches in both directions. He said that for a down hill approach it's important to get all the way to the base of the fence.
After that we moved on to the last section of the day: the bank complex. And this complex appears to be fairly recently freshened up with really nice footing all around it. So we stuck around playing for a little while.

I needed to be reminded to let my reins slip on the down banks after catching Izzy in the mouth badly the first time. He wanted us trotting to the banks exactly as if we were trotting to a jump in the arena. And again - we were supposed to get all the way to the base for the up banks - no weird leaping.
We then added the small left side roll top to the line after an up bank, and it rode just fine (except I nearly ran into the tree, oops). Then I almost peed my pants when Dan told me to jump the bigger side (above) and come down the bigger bank. I actually asked if he was serious. Which naturally was a stupid question deservedly met with silence and I just sorta wandered away to find my line (and try to remember when I last updated my life insurance policy...). 
But Izzy jumped the bank! And I didn't fall all the way off!!! And only almost killed the horse!!!!
not shown in the gif (but fully included in the video) is my graceful scrambling after losing a stirrup and yanking Isabel almost off her feet by turning too sharply on the steep hill...

So yea... we survived haha. Isabel is a saint. I think this mare will eventually take me to novice. She's probably ready now, actually. I'm not (obviously) but it feels amazing knowing she is. 
We finished up with a quick up bank, bending to the down bank in 4 strides. Both of these banks were about equal in size - therefore nbd after the monster middle section. And I actually remembered to stop Isabel *straight* on the hill.

(video includes both M's and my rides since Dan's feedback is pretty useful to hear regardless of who it's aimed at)

Phew - sorry (but not really) that this was so long! Virtual cookies if you made it this far - and if you did I hope you enjoyed all the media haha. It was a really great ride that left me feeling super positive about our event at Fair Hill. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fair Hill preview

Isabel and I had another event yesterday - this time at Fair Hill. And it was completely awesome. This event was everything you could ever hope for an event to be. The venue was gorgeous, and while the weather wasn't perfect the really heavy stuff held off long enough for us to get through.

gettin ready!!
Plus we went with a great group - including almost all of our young riders, so it was fun having them around (and Izzy LOVES them haha). 

And even better, I got to meet the lovely Allison from PONY'TUDE!!!! What a treat! And of course the timing was perfect bc she was straight off her own fabulous event (tho obvi that's her story to tell!) so there was lots to chat about. Looking forward to seeing you again soon Alli! And next time the red headed ponies are gonna get in on it too - look out world!

bloggers unite at horse shows!
Lastly tho - the icing on the cake - was that Isabel was phenomenal. She really stepped it up at this event, despite being a little more 'up' than usual at the trailer. Honestly I think she just knows exactly what's up now when we go places. And she is READY for whatever challenge awaits. 

good girl brought her game face for dressage
Sadly editing media is a real thing that takes time (esp for media-obsessed folks like me), so I actually won't have a full recap until TUESDAY. I know, I know.... but in the meantime you'll get the details from our awesome cross country lesson with Dan. Yay for posting about things in chronological order!

And also, I guess I can fill you in on a couple pertinent details from the event: we met every single goal I laid out. Including the basic 'have fun and finish with a number' to more of the reach goals. In fact, we finished on our dressage score (first time this season!!!!!! second time evar!!!!) which was itself competitive. Add in the clear jumping and we moved up to take home a very pretty ribbon. The color of which starts with an "R" and ends with a "D" (and has an "E" in the middle). 

Definitely a very good time - details coming soon!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

june confo (and show day) (and other stuff too)

We're at Fair Hill today - so exciting!!! If everything goes according to plan we'll be traveling with a fairly large group. Six competitors and a whooooole slew of barn rats and young riders accompanying us. Should be awesome! 

PLUS - I am seriously looking forward to seeing fellow blogger Allison from PONY'TUDE, who will be there grooming for another rider. Yay for blogger meet ups!

For our rides, I would like to see a more level-appropriate course than what we saw at Tranquility - but want to have the same approach. If we can canter at Fair Hill the way we did at Tranquility, there won't be anything we can't handle (except maybe water, ughhhh). 

So for the sake of documentation, I'm repeating last week's goals:

  • dressage < 40
  • clear cross country

Tho if we're being honest, I'd actually like a sub-35 dressage score and a clear stadium round to boot... We'll see what happens tho (don't get greedy, emma!). Wish us luck! 


Anyways.... onto the actual purpose of this post: June's conformation shot. Continuing the trend of finding as many drastically different lighting options for each month's photo, I give you this beauty snapped while hanging at the trailer at Tranquility.

June 2015
I continue to be really bothered by how peaked her SI joint is... and also continue to like how her neck is developing. Her back could be a little more filled in tho... but generally I think she's looking quite fit and in good weight. 

May 2015
April 2015

Also: I managed to find a pro pic from the MCTA Starter Event at Tranquility. Thanks to Rylee from RP Photography

how happy does this little mare look???

Plus the swag from Tranquility that I never posted:
completion prize #1: saddle cover that fits my dressage saddle!! score!
completion prize #2: Eqyss grooming spray. haven't used yet but am excited all the same
this is not actually swag from Tranquility - it was a gift with purchase from The Herbal Horse - a lavender scented balm that Izzy wanted to eat. I rubbed it around her nostrils on show morning and she seemed quite happy with that.

And finally - one last little teaser pic of a lesson that happened a couple days ago. Not quite finished editing all the media yet (brace yourself - the photo spam cometh!), and it will likely get pushed back by Fair Hill stuff too.... but it was an epic lesson out on the cross country field with Dan (in the rain, to boot). After this outing I'm feeling quite good about today's cross country course!

'jesus take the wheel!!!' - emma