Friday, October 30, 2015

tell me about: recognized v. unrecognized

Karen of Bakersfield Dressage shared a great post yesterday about what it's like to trot down the center line at a USDF rated show, and what those scores mean to her, relative to schooling at home or local unrecognized shows. Her point? It's HARD. Hard in a way incomparable to riding at home, in lessons, or at schooling shows.

MDHT Fall Starter #2 @ Loch Moy
It was a great post, but it got me thinking about my own circumstances as they relate to recognized vs. unrecognized (as evidenced by my many lengthy comments on her post haha - sorry Karen!).

This is a topic about which I have already considered my options, discussed with trainers, and ultimately come to a conclusion.

Starter CT @ GE
For me, at this point in my eventing career, unrecognized events are fully satisfying for my purposes.

Because actually, I have only been able to think up two reasons that would motivate me to strictly compete at recognized events while running in the lower levels:
  • Working towards qualifying for medals and/or championships (like the AECs). 
  • Developing a record for a sales (or potentially a sales) horse

Waredaca Starter Trial
Other reasons that come to mind but are not motivating to me:
  • Prestige (aka bragging rights) - simply not important.
  • Quality of judging - I ride with talented trainers who are not interested in flattery. They tell me if my riding is good or not, and work to help me become the best I can be. An inflated judge's score will never trump my trainer's opinion, and poor performances can happen at any level. (you may argue that the atmosphere and pressure of recognized makes it more difficult than a schooling show, but I believe that this diminishes with experience and nerves follow no logic anyway.)
  • Level of difficulty on course - So ok this is more of a concession. But again I think this is something that falls to the responsibility of the coach and me in our training program. Provided I'm schooling the full level and all it's required technicality, we should be good. Plus while many schooling shows are easier, many are also equivalent. If you do enough schooling shows, you'll eventually hit all the required questions / elements, even if it's not all on the same course. Plus this is also true of recognized events - some are easier than others, always. 

Fair Hill Starter Trial
Whereas I DO have a couple reasons for strictly competing at unrecognized events while running the lower levels:
  • I can (more or less) afford two unrecognized events for every one recognized - therefore doubling my potential experience and mileage. 
  • Should I be so inclined, I can quietly move up the levels all the way to combined P/T divisions at local starter events. Regular prelim only happens at recognized events, so at that point I'd make the switch. But until then? Unrecognized events fit the bill. 

MCTA Starter Trial @ Tranquility Manor farms
Essentially I see it as a function of goals. What are my goals? I want to have fun. I want to be the best rider I can possibly be. I want to see progress in the partnership between me and my horse - to see us tackling new challenges as they come. I want to demonstrate the progress of our training in competition settings, including moving up when it's appropriate. 

In my mind, nothing relating to these specific goals is really proved at the low levels between recognized and unrecognized. 

MDHT Spring Starter #3 @ Loch Moy
BUT. And here's the big "BUT" - and where I hope you will chime in - I've also never competed in a recognized competition ever (unless you count IHSA... which is its own entity entirely). So perhaps that single statement renders everything before it null and void, bc I lack the context for having an opinion on it. Idk. 

So my questions to you are: 
  • What do you think about this?
  • Why do you compete in recognized events? Or do you specifically avoid them? 
  • Is there something missing from above, something I haven't considered? Or do you disagree with any of my points?
  • Does it depend on the discipline? Meaning, does your reasoning change if you're talking about eventing vs. dressage vs. h/j etc? 

Really, please share your thoughts - I'm curious to hear more about this, since I know there are tons of opinions out there! 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

presented without comment

And also this too, bc obviously. 

And what the hell, let's also toss in a couple cats who prefer not to be touched. Just for good measure.

*This may or may not be my reaction when yet another random colleague stops me in the hall (thus disrupting whatever pitiful momentum I've mustered on the evil crutches, ugh) to tsk tsk me, saying 'now what on EARTH did you do to yourself!?!'    ughhhhh. 

"you fell down?"

"how did you fall??"

"oh, just taking a step?"


fuck. my. life.

***Obviously also gotta give a shout out to the equally numerous colleagues who stop by on their way to the kitchen to ask if they can freshen my coffee or water. thanks guys!

this somehow reminds me of L Williams' many fancy coffee pics lol

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Brita & Wick take BN by storm! a guest post

Many of you already know that Isabel and I have partners in crime in all our eventing adventures - Brita has been a barn mate and riding buddy for a couple years now, and officially hopped on the party bus with her new lease horse Wick last January. 

We do just about everything together and it's been so awesome to share these experiences. Barn buddies are pretty much the best for celebrating progress - even the most incremental steps forward - and also for dissecting and downloading when things don't go the way we hoped. 

Obviously now that I'm sidelined from the action, I plan on living vicariously through Brita as much as possible. As such, accompanying her to Olde Hope despite my busted leg was never even a question - obviously I would be there to cheer her on! 

And I thought you might like reading about her big move up to BN in her own words, rather than my outsider perspective. So Brita very graciously agreed to do this guest post. Hope you enjoy it! 

Hi everyone!  My name is Brita.  Wick and I travel most places with and get to learn and experience the awesome horsey adventures with Emma!  I am guest blogging for Emma about my awesome first experience on the beginner novice course at Olde Hope Farm. 

decorations were on point at this show - look at that horse!!
Unfortunately the day before the event Emma made a wrong step out of the trailer and broke her leg.  It was a terrible fall but Emma toughed it out.  Although Emma wasn’t able to ride in the event, she was an amazing coach, cheerleader, and friend to have by my side while I moved up to BN.  I’m not sure if you all agree, or are lucky enough to have a great person to learn from and travel with from show to show but having Emma really makes a difference in my confidence when I’m facing new challenges with Wick.  Emma crutched around the show and really helped me through each phase.  Thank you Emma!!! :)

horses + crutches = not the best combo. still totally worth it tho!
When we got to Olde Hope, we were lucky enough to park next to one of the trainers from our farm where Isabel and Wick live.  We were able to talk to the five students and follow how they were doing throughout the day {editor's note: it was the first off-property horse show for most, if not all, of them! and they were great!!!}

Petal's tail has never looked so good!
Caballo is ready for some dressage action!
Once we parked I went right into the same routine of unloading the millions of things I needed and unloaded Wick.  I ended up tacking Wick up a little early so I could watch some of the student’s dressage tests which was great to see!  Then I warmed up for dressage.  I haven’t really gotten my dressage warm up routine, which would be beneficial but I am about as green to showing as Wick is.  Thank goodness Wick is a forgiving!  

I was pretty useless helping Brita get everything set up
Our dressage test was BN B.  So much trotting!! Our test was rather terrible {ed. note: not true - they had some really nice moments!}.  Dressage is definitely our weak point but we have progressed so much since we started less than a year ago so I can’t really dwell on this phase.  We scored a 41.5 and needed a lot more of a lot...if that makes any sense!  We’ll get there though!  After dressage was over, Wick and I were able to breathe.

but I can take pictures!! isn't Wick super classy in his dressage tack? 
Going into the event, I heard from most people that the course will be easier than most beginner novice courses and it would, more or less, be a step between intro and BN.  So, needless to say, I was going into the event confident that Wick and I would do fine in the stadium and XC rounds.  Our toughest phase is dressage so it was nice to think that we wouldn’t have to worry about the jumps being too much higher.  Later Wick and I found out that Olde Hope decided to raise the standards!  Wick was happy about that…I, on the other hand, was umm scared!

LOTS going on here! 
Emma attempted to walk the course with me but soon found out that there were too many horses running the course that it would be extremely difficult to dodge galloping horses as well as crutch through the tall grass {ed. note: FAIL}.  One of the trainers from our farm, R, was able to walk the course with me, which was very helpful.  The most XC jumps I have done, before this event, is 12.  This time I needed to remember to jump 18 of them. (insert eyes popping out of face)  I have the memory of a gnat so I was a little nervous that I was going to get on the course and have no idea where I was going.  After about every two jumps I would retrace which jumps I needed to jump and move on.  I didn’t miss a jump so I guess retracing worked!  

Each jump looked big while I was out there.  I’m still very new to jumping 2’7”, so on foot these jumps are scary.  When I’m on a 16hh horse they don’t look as bad.  Not only is Wick forgiving, he is very good at making sure he is always between me and the ground.  He definitely takes care of me out there!   So I’m lucky there! (insert unicorn with a halo).

not a unicorn, but c'mon - how awesome is this?!?
So after I walked XC, I tacked Wick up and went over to warm up for stadium.  There were only 8 jumps in stadium so I was confident about that….until…we warmed up.  We trotted over the cross rails a couple times and that was fine.  We went over the vertical 3 or 4 times and knocked it over about 3 or 4 times.  Emma was coaching me through everything and attempted to set the jump up but crutches are not very friendly for that particular activity {ed. note: ugh kill me}.  When are doctors going to realize that all medical equipment needs to benefit equestrians! Geez!  I had to call over to my dad to help set up the jumps.  He didn’t really know what his new job entailed but that’s ok! 

Brita & Wick warming up. Wick is unimpressed by these dinky fences haha
We ended up having an interesting yet clear stadium round.  If you can picture a round of race horse, mixed with allergic to jumps, mixed with a rider forgetting where to go, that would be our round.  My dad, who is not very familiar with riding said “So Brita…..Wick…..he jumps so much……wider…..than the rest of the horses.”  Wick was overly clearing everything.  But anyway! We were ready to move onto the next phase.

but he gave all these gorgeous flowers plenty of room!
wheeeeee flying!!!!!
how gorgeous is this scenery?!? also Brita's bright colors make her easy to spot from a distance :)
Now onto XC….. I decided not to do a lot for the warm up. Wick has his winter coat and I really didn’t think it was necessary to make him any warmer.  Going into XC two horses before me couldn’t make it over the first jump so they were disqualified and the horse right before me refused the keyhole jump 3 times.  It was a warm welcome to the course...  The judges flagged me on and it was go time.  

they *nailed* this bending line!
Wick was on a roll.  A race horse roll.  We cleared the first 4 jumps with no problem.  He tested me at the 5th jump, the keyhole.  I gave him a little swing of the crop and he was over it!  {ed. note: Brita rode the *SNOT* out of that fence!!!} Woohoo!  

We then rode through the woods and the next jump that attempted to trump us was the ditch.  The ditch was about a foot wide in my eyes {ed. note: nope, it was definitely wider than that!} but it was about 9 feet wide by 20 feet deep for Wick.  I definitely almost came off but yet again Wick saved me and kept himself between me and the ground. 

not deep, but verrrrrry wiiiiiiide! (pics from last time I was there)
Then we jumped a couple roll tops and jump 12 had a water option.  I decided by the speed we were going and the result of the ditch, I opted out of the water and jumped the jump beside the water.  Jump 14 was a bank going down with a jump option to the side.  I chose the jump.  

another old pic - but shows pretty clearly how spooky the bank is compared to the stile option fence. 
We then finished the last couple jumps and when we were done I asked the judge if I missed any and they said they didn’t think so.  That was refreshing!

final fence options! Brita and Wick chose the big coop
Before my jumping rounds, I was in 7th place and then at the end of the show was 4th so it was a great outing for us!  I am really glad that we moved up and glad that we were ready to take on the challenge, mistakes and all!  Thanks so much for reading about my experience!  I wish you all the best in your horsey adventures and look forward to hearing about them!  Thanks again!  

good boy with his lovely ribbon!

-Brita and Wicked Thunder

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

happier times: a lesson with Bali

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts about the abrupt end to our season. My leg seems to be doing ok (will see a specialist today to get the full story), but the crutches are hell. Using them is more painful than the leg itself, which is crazy. Getting in and out of my 3rd floor apt is overwhelmingly difficult. So admittedly I'm wallowing in self pity. Ugh.

Luckily I have the perfect antidote for the depressed mind: pictures and video from a lesson at OF with Bali!

just add hay and bali is a happy pony
Obviously none of my well laid plans for the weekend ended up mattering, but the idea had been to save Isabel's legs for show day on Sunday and just focus on our flat work on Saturday. And since the OF lessons are fairly jump-centric, I figured I'd just take Bali instead to get the full benefit of the lesson, and then ride Isabel afterward at home.

he looked around a bit, but was very quiet at the trailer. dug right into the hay too. good boy!
Plus, as previously mentioned, I wanted to try a lesson with Bali to get help in making sure I'm on the right track with him. All too often I settle for 'good enough' when really I ought to push for a little more. So lessons are a good way for keeping me honest there.

wick was maybe a little surprised to be the 'adult' for once (he's only 7, i believe) but was a nice calm buddy for bali
And also I wanted trainer P's opinion of him, since I'm obviously totally smitten and as such, am blinded to his atrocious fetlocks, parrot mouth, and suspiciously weak hind end. P's general assessment? Yep he's pretty darn cute, and yep I actually fit on a horse WAY better than I do on Isabel (tho Izzy and I do well enough as a matched pair). She encouraged me to continue taking advantage of riding him while I can, but nothing really beyond that.

bali settled in to the lesson beautifully
Really tho he was a star. We walked around on a loose rein for maybe 10 minutes looking at everything while waiting for the lesson to begin. Bali eyeballed a couple areas but it only took a lap or two before we felt good enough to cut the cord between us and Wick and venture out for our own solo explorations.

short one stride grids are apparently quite easy for baby
Then once we actually went to work, I had a little bit more forward of a Bali than I'm used to. It was nice! The novelty of a new location made him much more responsive to my 'go' aids and he trotted and cantered around quite nicely. Still misfired into the left lead, and had a few moments of expressive leaping at the far end of the arena, but nothing major. He always comes right back from those moments anyway.

he don't care about no astro turf oxers
Trainer P had us start with a couple trot poles, then a small X, then a small vertical, just to get a sense for what we were working with here. And it was a very nice start - Bali was able to demonstrate both his talent and good honest nature, but also his greenness.

So P's prescription became: one stride grids! Haha, I'm pretty sure that's her favorite prescription for all horses anyway lol, but they have been super educational for Izzy so why not let Bali have a try too? I was a little nervous about whether he'd figure out how to adjust his rolling, ground-covering stride, but he's a good thinker and made it happen. 

We trotted in to the grid and knocked everything down a couple times, but as the heights progressively grew he became more and more nonchalant about it. This is not a horse that likes to repeat the same mistake over and over. 

We trotted in to the grid then bent left to the oxer with the astro turf covered barrel underneath a couple times - a tricky line for Mr. Lands Right & Drifts Right Every Time (funny - he's the total opposite of Isabel) - but he always managed to make it work. Sadly that's not on the videos tho.

he says, 'lemme at it!!!'
Then we moved on to very basic course work - still starting with trotting through the one stride grid each time, then long straight approaches to a bunch of singles - three oxers and one vertical, all at varying heights.

never quite found a good distance to this fence, but he's a super honest guy and gave it a good effort anyway
And the horse was really just so good. I luv him. So hard. Lol. It was a perfect lesson for me too, bc P was able to help me identify how to help him better (like keeping an eye out for when he gets too low in his poll and heavy on the forehand when approaching a fence). And also, as he became more tired - remember he's not at all fit right now - it became more imperative for me to really ride the rhythm and help him find the fence.

So we got a couple clunkier distances than normal - but in a way that's kinda reassuring to me. The horse is so talented and easy that it is tempting to keep raising the bar and going higher and farther and faster. But he really is just a baby, and it would be awful to scare him or undermine his confidence.

Therefore having a ride where he kinda has to deal with less than perfect distances (a little tight here, a little gappy there) at heights all well within his comfort zone, and figure out how to make it happen anyway might be nicely educational for him. Obviously I would rather do my job a little better... but eh, I consider it part of developing a horse's sense of humor, and that's never a terrible thing for a lesson pony.

he has the sweetest softest expressions
After the lesson, B asked for permission to hack out to the cross country course to school the water a little bit in anticipation of her BN debut the following day at Olde Hope. Wick has gotten better and better about water - but can still be a little wiggly, and has previously given drops into water the hairy eyeball. So B wanted that little bit of reassurance.

all the pretty fall colors!
And of course I was more than happy to accompany her and Wick out there with Mr Balimurphy in tow. He's been schooling before at Tranquility and ran BN at a schooling HT at Plantation in May, so he's no stranger. But it had been a while, that's for sure.

hacking out to the xc field like nbd
He's just so quiet tho. Such a good boy. Looking around at everything, sure, and I was happy to stay close behind Wick on the way out. But he was also happy to strike out ahead while B handled gates and all too. Very bold!

water is apparently for playing
And he marched right into the water too, definitely nbd. I didn't do any actual schooling with him aside from walking up and down the lowest banks into water, and he did it all just fine. Balked slightly at the down banks, but it was only ever a moment's hesitation before he stepped down nice and quiet.

my camera doesn't do the fall foliage justice
And he didn't mind standing around or walking around while B did a little trotting and cantering through the water. Good boy!

good boy plowed through the hay super quickly, then stuck his head into the trailer to keep snacking on the bags in there
Then back to the trailer, where I promptly loved all over him, untacked him, and then broke my damn leg. Ughhhhh fml.

It's super frustrating to get so excited about this horse and then be immediately sidelined from doing more with him. However his lease rider has been back at it with a vengeance - and even rode him in a lesson with Dan last week. Plus he's been getting back into regular lessons. This is all good news. And I plan to be around while his leaser schools him to maybe help her out and keep the pony on track. Gotta get my fix somehow, right?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

poof: season's over folks!

Today's post isn't really what I expected to be writing. It was supposed to be about show day today at Olde Hope - for their Oktoberfest HT, rescheduled from earlier this month.

LOTS to like about this course
They post the courses online in advance and I just love it. Lots of familiar stuff here - like that whole bottom right corner, fences 12 through 17, was on course last month. The Holly Hill Garden fence was that biggie that had me so worried.

Also lots of new stuff too, tho, and a longer course all together. Some familiar fences were re-purposed too - particularly fence 8, the Water Coop. Last month we came over the coop in the opposite direction, heading toward a drop into water. We barely made it over the coop last time, and this current set up looks even more challenging for our particular tastes. Canter through water, up a bank, 3-4 steps to a full size coop. Tricky tricky!

Plus there are a couple areas that look like potentially exciting combinations - like fences 6 & 7 - the ramp to a ditch. All in all, looking over the map made me feel like we were gonna get our money's worth on this novice course.

not looking good...
But. No. Won't be riding. Not today, and not for a little while. Because I'm a fucking idiot and broke my fibula taking a bad step down out of my trailer yesterday. Ugh.

what, like you've never seen a curious cat before? he obviously wants in on the ice pack.
The pain isn't too bad, really. Tho initially it was a tad searing. I kinda knew immediately that... probably would be scratching today. And from Loch Moy in two weeks. This might sound insane, but the crushing disappointment has me feeling lower right now than any actual pain from the leg.


cute pony travels! (and you can see the offending trailer step behind him. i fell moments after snapping this pic. good boy didn't flinch at all when I landed more or less underneath him)
So idk. Gotta see a specialist to get the full story, but will probably be out of commission for 4-6 weeks.

In the meantime I have a couple more things to update about (like how Bali came to a lesson at OF and was sooo good!!!), and will still be going to Olde Hope today for moral support for B and Wick in their official BN debut. Bc obviously walking xc courses on crutches is totally normal. Ugh.