Posted by: shannonc | September 4, 2012

Scratch

After the Beth Perkins clinic, I figured one of three things was going on.  In pretty much reverse order of gut check:

  1. Pony needed more time, mileage, and a kick or two in the pants to get back online with this job.
  2. A riding problem.  I was wondering if maybe after rebalancing him I didn’t move him up enough to make him feel confident.
  3. His front feet hurt.

After watching the video, a few things stood out for me:

  • His form is slightly off.  He’s overjumping and getting his lower leg up tight but he’s not using his forearms the way he normally does.
  • He’s preferring to jump plain things and really feels like he does not want to go over lookier fences.
  • He’s trying very hard to run through my half halts.  He only runs when he’s worried.
  • He’s more willing at up fences than down ones.
  • Twice I can see we get to the perfect distance, but he pats the ground again.
  • He’s crooked, especially in the last stride and in the air.

Unfortunately, these are really familiar.  The indications aren’t as strong as when we finally figured out he wanted front shoes in our last season, but I promised myself I would listen to him, and my instincts, sooner next time.  Now that he has shoes, it would have to be something else.

Instead of getting better with more xc exposure, he’s been getting worse.  He was just as sticky at the end of Sunday as he was at the beginning.  For me this lobbies against #1 being the culprit.  Then there is the fact that he’s always tried for me.  Yes, he is a silly little pony, and he spooks at his shadow, but he wants to please.  For all his looking, he has actually rarely stopped with me, and almost never when there wasn’t something making him uncomfortable.

I was really hoping for #2, because I know I can fix a riding problem.  But I woke up Monday morning feeling kind of depressed.  I knew, knew knew deep down that I’ve been giving him a pretty decent ride, and that he doesn’t have a mental problem (well, aside from the ones we can already describe very well).  But off to Scarlet we went this morning to get a professional opinion from someone who will definitely tell me if I’m screwing things up.

We were ready with the tack changes Beth recommended, and I knew I needed to stud although I didn’t relish the thought at all given how bad he was to put hind shoes on.  But he stood quietly while I cleaned and tapped and wrenched in the parking lot, in the rain.  Good pony.

He warmed up okay.  The hardware didn’t feel like too much and wearing studs for the first time wasn’t bothering him.

Then we jumped.

He was all right over a couple of logs.  Denise had me make some adjustments.  He looked hard at a couple of plainish things, but went.  Then he dead stopped at a light colored wood feeder, got smacked, and crawled over it the second time.  Crawling over is something he’s never, ever done before.  Jumped up the bank well and over another uphill log stack then scared me half to death crawling over some bushes with a rail on top.

Both times he got there very well, but the jump was the kind of scary you never want to see, or sit on top of.  After the second one, I was done.  I know that something’s the matter.

I could be wrong, but I just know I’m not.

So vet next.  I’ll have to ask if I should even flat him in the meantime, and I’m still thinking of doing King Oak as a dressage show, but I will probably scratch.  I am pretty bummed out as I’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time – since fall 2010!  Horses…it’s always something, right?

I have lots of blessings to count and am going to save my tears for the occasion of an unfixable front foot issue, which will leave me with two unrideable equines in the back yard.  I believe the term is “lawn ornament” :)

Posted by: shannonc | September 3, 2012

Beth Perkins clinic at Groton House Farm

I may write more about the clinic…right now, I just have a lot to process.  Meantime, some pix:

He jumped my head right out of the frame. Lol!

We are supposed to be jumping the smaller box. However, we are SO crooked that we are clearing the exact center between the boxes…

 

It’s a tiny log…really…

 

Haven’t quite mastered the casual drop down yet, have we?

 

Posted by: shannonc | September 1, 2012

The show bag

I confess, I love getting ready for an event – traditionally, I make the day before into as grand a ritual as time allows.  Bathing, braiding, cleaning tack, packing up…the day before a show, I enjoy them all.  And with a couple of horsey occasions on the horizon, starting this very weekend!! – miraculously enough, considering the 9-month-old at home and everything else that’s happened in the past year and a half – I’m getting so excited!

I am by no means a highly organized person, but over the seasons I’ve developed a list of supplies to carry along on horse outings that seems to work pretty well for me.  Which is to say, I’ve been the victim of my own packing fail enough times to have learned what I imagine are most of the available lessons.  Experience – the thing you get just after you needed it, right?

Today, in preparation for the clinic this weekend – my dry run for next weekend’s event, prep-wise – I dug my event duffel out of the basement to wash everything and check content.  Here is my first tip:  whenever possible, keep all this stuff together in its own space.  It is a giant pain to be looking for your show shirt in your shirt drawer (and where is that stock tie?), your overpants (yes, you need these) in your pants drawer, etc.  Especially if you, like me, (a) would otherwise be doing the sifting the night before the event when you should be sleeping, and (b) have to rotate winter and summer clothes in and out of your bureau for easy accessibility – is the long sleeved xc shirt in with warm or cold weather stuff?  Nightmare.  Oh, and not to mention that in my case, all these things were last seen in 2010!

I actually have two bags for take-along:  the duffel, and the coat bag.  The coat bag contains the dressage and sj coats and the xc vest, and has a giant pocket in the front where I keep umptybillion sets of gloves (most of which have a hole along the seam of the left ring finger – thank you, Blue), hairnets, hairbands, stock pins, bobby pins (try not to use too many of these under your helmet…ow), extra helmet covers, hairbrush, ball cap, belt, and half a dozen other items I can’t call to mind without looking in it.  It’s in the trailer, so it doesn’t get to be the focus of this post :P

I’ve found it’s easiest for me to keep all the show day clothing in the duffel, including what I’ll put on that morning.  A few items it contains:

  • 2 pairs of breeches.  For a one-day horse trials I’m one of those people who doesn’t often change my breeches.  There’s usually not a lot of time to spare, and I also don’t savor peeling off the first sweaty pair, and yanking and squeaking the second pair on while still sweaty.  This means that your breeches have to be a light enough color for dressage.  I like white, but a lot of people don’t.  I feel like when I wear beige, it looks dirty against the white ponies (next time, I swear, bay!).  For an event over more than one day, you need more pairs of breeches and thus have more color choices.

That being said, you absolutely need that backup pair on hand.  Let me count the ways you can ruin the first pair:  get slimed.  Spill your coffee.  Rip them (this never seems to happen where the rip would be covered by your boots).  Fall off.  Get rained on (a special kind of fun with white breeches).  Segue to…

  • Underpants!  By all means, go with a neutral color here (nude actually works better than white, IMO).  This wisdom would seem self-evident…but it’s not.  The purple polka dotted bikinis will be no end of trouble after you fish yourself out of the water jump and make the walk of shame to catch your horse.  You are already the center of attention, you know?  Personally, I’m a bike shorts type.  NB:  you need an extra pair of undies, for the same reasons you need an extra pair of breeches.

 

  • Dressage shirts.  Two short sleeved, one long sleeved, in white.  This way you never have to repack for weather.  I like the zip up kind, but if you are anti-jacket, pack a polo because you need a fold-down collar.  Some people prefer a bib under the jacket over any kind of shirt.  Adjust as needed.

 

  • Stock ties and chokers.  I pack two stock ties and a choker collar.  What the heck, they don’t take up much space, and you never know when someone might need to borrow one, or one comes out of the bag with a weird stain.

 

  • Stadium polo, in case you go sans jacket for this phase and aren’t in your xc gear yet.

 

  • XC shirt.  Recommendations vary here but I like mine to be collarless – I feel like a collar is bulky and irregular under my vest.

 

  • Socks!  Boot socks (2 pairs if you use the runnable, Sox Trot type), and 2 or 3 pairs of whatever type of sock you wear with sneakers.  These are almost guaranteed to get wet on that early morning xc walk if you don’t have on Wellies.  Nothing worse than having to wear wet socks.  Yuck.

 

  • Overpants.  Unpadded ski or snowboarding type pants work well for this, and have the side benefits of being waterproof and of having zippers on the sides so you don’t have to take them off to get your boots on (or take your boots off to get them on).

Those are a few of the basics.  My bag has boot pockets on the sides, so I put my boot stuff in there too – boot pulls, jack, polish, Saddle Tite (because I always forget and polish the inside of my boots), and my infamous Futis, which brought my friends endless humiliation when I wore them in public.  The pockets on the ends also contain sunscreen, hand lotion, people bug spray, and of course…wrapped up in its original tissue paper…the Coach flask my friend Chris gave me on the occasion of moving up to Prelim!

Because, trust me, if you go there, you will want one.

Final tip…take along an extra, empty bag to put all your laundry in as you go along.  No muss, no fuss.

Happy eventing!

Posted by: shannonc | August 30, 2012

Flattened

Beginner Novice Test A:

Enter at A.  Undershoot center line…travel haunches-in to X.

Arrive late to M and two-wheel around corner.

HEKA, travel in stiff direction, working trot, arguing about whether horse should hang on the left rein.

A, circle left 20m.  Approaching K, anticipate canter, throw head in air.

Between K and A, lose correct bend, launch haphazardly into new gait.

A, circle left 20m.  Pretend to have horse in right rein.  Remind self the entire time that the left stuff is almost done.

2 centimeters past F, trot and breathe sigh of relief.

Between M and C, break to walk with almost no energy.  Kick horse heartily in front of judge at C to show this isn’t your idea.

HXF, free walk.  Leave hind end as close to H as possible the entire way across the diagonal.

AKEH, relatively acceptable working trot.

C, circle left 20m, working trot, trying like heck to keep hind feet on the same track as front feet.

X, drop back.  Curse “good” direction which was apparently left at home.  Dread what is coming.

Between H and C, hissy fit.

C, passage.

M-ish, three-quarters circle in an approximate imitation of canter.

One centimeter past M, trot running.

A, down centerline.

X, halt, salute.  Begrudgingly pat horse and try to ignore look of disdain from judge.  Contemplate providing a gift card next time…

 

Posted by: shannonc | August 26, 2012

It’s not easy being green (reprise)

Pony and I needed to step up the xc schooling.  Here’s how that went:

Cartoon thanks to Norman Thelwell

Oh, pony.  Tiny log => must be soundly whacked to negotiate, then run off after.  Up bank => buck (up?  Really?).  Woods entry => much snorting and dancing…sculptures marking woods exit => giant spook!

Couldn’t really  blame him for the stop at the honking table I mistakenly thought was on my course, and the other one resulted when I wasn’t quick enough to get after him.  He very clearly says “WTF?!?” from several strides away, and if I’m not fast and organized, it’s not going to happen.

On the plus side, we got through 3 back-to-back mini-courses over good distance and terrain without wearing out, so our conditioning program is on track.  And aside from when he was peeved at me, he was pretty rateable.  Balancing was a problem – he was coming above the bit to avoid me – I need a new running attachment, which is on order.  Straightness was also an issue.  Partly I know I have to fix that on the flat, and partly I attribute it to his knowing the property, creating a strong pull towards home.  He didn’t do anything dirty, he just required me to be 100% on task and when I fell short, I paid a price.

Mistakes he won’t tolerate include my being a stride or two off timing with my stick or not quite solid with my eye.  Fairly picky stuff, but I need to sharpen up too.  I’m hoping more exposure will make him feel more confident and let me shake the dust off a bit more.  We are green all over again.

It was quite entertaining…but not the sort of entertainment I necessarily want to provide at an event!

Posted by: shannonc | August 20, 2012

Fabulosity!

(Ryan Murphy would be proud.)

So I never seem to say things like this after my flat rides.  Probably means I need more flat rides (like exponentially more flat rides).  And if jumping is just dressage with fences in the way, then there’s a lot I could pick on…but for the moment, I can’t resist being all giddy for what was good about today – and when I say good, I mean I was thrilled!

I think I owe the vet an all-expenses paid trip to the South Pacific or something (you know those little bungalows with the glass floors built right on the water?  Like that).  A Christmas card just isn’t going to express my gratitude the way seeing tropical fish under your feet would.

I have jumped the pony a couple of times this season but I can count them on one hand, and when we jumped we stuck with plain, low rails.  Since his delicate brain is a question, whereas his athleticism is not, I wanted to be very careful to protect his confidence while bringing him back up to speed.  It’s hard to appreciate this unless you have had a horse with a similar mentality – but if you have, you know exactly what I mean.  For the pony, courage is an acquired taste.

Today it was time to break out the decorations – an event I have anticipated with no small amount of dread, to be honest.  My brain likes to seize on visions of disaster, so I kept seeing myself performing airs above the saddle and eating wet dirt while the pony demonstrates his last minute, shoulder-dropping pivot when faced with a plastic flower bed, or heaven forbid, a box painted like a stack of bricks.  It’s a move he has almost never pulled with me, so go figure.

I like to call my approach “underpromise and overdeliver” rather than “a big fat hot mess of anxiety.”

What we have done is produce some messy fences when he has looked very hard and then four-footed over – and to be fair, this happens typically at obstacles a bunch of other horses ask questions at too.  But you just never know when it’s all going to hell in a handbasket, so it’s obviously important to obsess as much as possible.  And anyway, the deer jumps are hard to sit and feel generally terrible.  Besides, the pony is afraid of signs.  And his saddlepad.

So my reaction to the following was pie-plate eyes and big, cartoonlike gulps.  Yep, I asked for it, and do this for fun.  Right.

wtf

small, but deadly

Yellow, and solid. That is all.

Well, pony schooled me.  He maybe peeked a little, especially at the purple monstrosity, but never said no.  And he was a DREAM to sit on.  I felt like he was taking me to the moon, and thought he might leave me there, having whacked my eyeballs with his knees on the way up and knocked me out.  He was adjustable on approach and we nailed most of our distances.  The way he jumped up underneath me made me feel like I was riding a four-star course instead of a 2’6″ one.

The balance and straightness are still a work in progress, but just for today, I don’t care.  I’m taking a vacation from worrying underpromising and I’m going to be in the moment.  I need a glass of champagne to go with this feeling!

Next for the pony, xc.  Then flat.  And some more flat…

Posted by: shannonc | August 14, 2012

The free pony strikes again

Anyone who has adopted, rescued, or otherwise taken home an animal after having uttered the words “but he doesn’t cost much”…you people know where I’m going with this.  You’re thinking you’ll just give them a good home, and boom:  enter the partially digested Manolo collection, complex surgery, long-term medication, re-engineering of your house, or whatever.  I like to tell myself that the ones who need suckers people like us find us somehow, and all is as it should be, mmmhmm.

The pony entered my life as a companion to my (at the time) semi-retired Prelim horse, and as a potential resale project.  He did not come with any great competitive accomplishments or other impressive resume bullet points.  Now, the original job he does very well.  It was riding him that was a mistake.  Because he is fun, and has a generous measure of talent to boot, so I wanted to ride him more, and not necessarily sell him.

I still have no complaints about the pony.  He’s totally adorable and a blast to ride, plus (if you subtract the elimination troubles that we eventually figured out came from sore feet) he’s been pretty successful at eventing.  And there is nothing terribly wrong with him, thankfully, though he clearly prefers the good life (“Mummy, I know I am a little pony, but could you see your way to putting some shoes on me? I’d like four”).  I just find it very funny to compare the general expenses of the two – the “tough” little season-of-BN pony and the delicate TB who came up the ranks from the track to Prelim in five years of hard work.

Naturally, the pony wins hands-down.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cold hose and prepare for his chiropractic treatment and massage…

Posted by: shannonc | August 8, 2012

One seriously pissed off pony

Well, you wouldn’t think it, would you?

So, the pony is entered in his comeback event!  Always pleased to oblige, today he demonstrated the sort of dressage work we might be able to produce in Ye Olde BN Test A at the beginning of Sept.  Just a little snippet for me.

My mom always says to look on the bright side and if I can’t say anything nice…so let’s see here.

Apparently, he can passage.

Working trot?  Not so much.  Unless I don’t mind if he opens a yawning hole on the right by dropping his hip and pooching his left hind out to the left.  Heard in my lesson:  “that noise on the wall?  That’s the left hind”…

I’m waist-high in the boot camp of Do Less.  You know Shannon, you might be able to concentrate on something besides staying in the gait if you, say, required the pony to carry you, instead of doing things the other way around.  And oh, it’s really time to make him be straight.

So I started to get the hang of this in the lesson, a little bit (less=way harder than more!), and my sweet, loving pony – who, in the way all ponies do, thinks the sun rises and sets on me - not! - pitched a no-holds-barred hissy fit.  It was hysterical.  He all but threw himself to the ground in his fury.  I could barely ride at all because he was making me laugh so hard.  You could just see him saying in his shouty caps, “THE OTHER WAY WAS OH SO MUCH BETTER FOR ME!  LET’S GO BACK THERE SHALL WE?”

I guess we will find out in four and a half weeks ;)

Posted by: shannonc | August 8, 2012

Blog, resurrected!

I swear, it was my plan all along, but to no one’s great surprise, full time care of an infant makes life a little busy!  Which makes resurrection a little late.  At least I have a good excuse for my absence, right?  Or at least a really cute one!  Happily, after a number of months feeding around the clock at 1-2 hours’ spacing, I finally learned to drag myself out of bed and ride in the early morning after taking care of the barn (no, there is no such thing as napping when the baby naps – at least, not if you want to vacuum, dust, do the laundry, clean the kitchen, and scrub the toilets.  Cooking?  No chance!).

The pony has reacted to the end of his vacation with more relief than I would have predicted.  I wouldn’t exactly say he has a great work ethic (ha, hahaha), but I would say that he feels more secure and confident overall when he has a job to do.

This is not to say that our rides haven’t been well punctuated with various moments of…resistance, er, abject terror.  The pony, recall, fears (to the point of bolting, natch, the patented pony spin-and-bolt) predator threats such as his own fly mask and windows being opened nearby.  So you can imagine his reaction to this carnivorous signage:

Yup, he took one look and backpedaled rapidly across the parking lot, snorting with wild abandon and not letting a little thing like me being attached to the end of the reins bother him.  It’s good to know he remembers me with such fondness.  Five minutes of inch-by-inch forward progress and much suspicious blowing later, I managed to get him to put his nose on the sign and reassure himself that he was going to live through the experience of passing by it.

Next, 3-phase eventing!  Oh, we’re so ready.

Posted by: shannonc | October 25, 2011

Jen and Beckett T3D: Part Two

When we left our hero, she was about to finish phase D ;)

Oh and what the heck…this one is too good not to include again, this time up close -

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