Posted by: shannonc | October 25, 2011

Jen, Beckett and the GMHA T3D: Part One

Hilary and I made a trip up to VT to be part of Jen’s Training 3-Day grooming committee at GMHA in August on endurance day (I know, I owe Jen apologies for posting these pix so late!).  It was tons of fun and launched lots of plotting about participating in one, of course!  Unfortunately I have been dumped by Blue at all the various T and P level ditch options at the GMHA venue several times, but his behavior last year did give me reason to hope for reform, so maybe we can find a way to put those nightmares behind us.

Jen and Beckett were absolutely fantastic.  She commented that the format seems to bring out the best in him.  I think if the expressions of horse and rider are any indication, there’s no question it was a pretty amazing day!

Congratulations Jen on a fabulous payoff to all your hard work!

File uploader is giving me troubles now.  Maybe too many pix – TBC…

Posted by: shannonc | August 1, 2011

The One Fall Rule

In short, count me among those who aren’t fans of this USEA rule, which states that any rider fall xc at a recognized competition results in elimination for that horse and rider pair (there is a separate rule for a fall of horse, which also ends the day, in mandatory retirement).

This rule has been controversial since its inception and is now on the agenda for review and discussion at a USEA Board of Governors meeting this month.  The Adult Rider Coordinator in Area 1 sent out a request for comment, and (unusually for me) I went ahead and put my opinion out there:


Thank you for the poll. I’m glad this rule is being reviewed, and I believe that absolutely it should be repealed.

As many others have pointed out, the one fall rule unevenly targets the one-horse amateur over the pro, who can get right back on another three horses, debilitating head injury or no debilitating head injury, and ride the rest of the day. At the very least, this loophole needs to be closed. If there is a one fall rule, it should specify that you’re out for the day/event, and for consistency the fall should be penalized anywhere on the property – warm up, walking down from stabling, etc. The latter cannot reasonably be enforced, though, and as long as that is the case, how much risk are we really reducing by only addressing falls on course? As far as I’m aware, we have totally insufficient data to prove that a fall sustained while wearing a xc vest is more likely to result in serious injury than one sustained while walking down to dressage in a plain coat.

In fact, there seems to be precious little data to show that we have prevented injury with this rule, period, and the same lack of supporting data has been reported in Europe. The rule was inspired, as I understand it, by a number of upper level accidents – none of which would have been prevented with the rule anyway, as they were first falls. So it sounds nice, but what is the rule actually doing for us, especially the lower level competitor, who’s impacted more than anyone?

I would put forth that we’re actually seeing some negative, and thus counterproductive, consequences of the one fall rule.  First, it’s a terrible way to end a day from a horse training and rider psychology standpoint. Most of us were taught that when we fall off, we get right back on. This way, we have a chance to correct the mistake, close the school positively for horse and rider, avoid sending the horse a potentially very bad message about getting out of work, and all can generally move on from the experience. Sending a rider home after a fall without any opportunity to get back on simply ensures they will be more apprehensive the next time they mount and the next time they face a course, or a similar question on course…and while we don’t have good evidence that the one fall rule helps the LL rider avoid injury, we all DO know that riding with fear is dangerous.

Finally as someone who attends many events in many different roles, I will say that there appears to be a trend developing since the rule was instituted of trying to stay on when you should simply just fall. I have seen, much more frequently, riders windmilling off grabbing desperately for the neck, hanging underneath the horse clawing to right themselves, etc – basically, putting themselves in very dangerous situations – anything to try and avoid the mandatory E.

I think the best solution is to just scrap this rule. Second best would be to scrap it for the lower levels, let’s say BN-T.  Have a one fall rule if there has to be one at P and up, and make sure it applies equally to the pros and amateurs.


You can read more reporting and discussion on the one fall rule here and here.

Posted by: shannonc | June 18, 2011

New camera

I really can’t even scratch the surface of what it can do yet, but we got to pressing a few buttons…it’s going to be very cool!

Posted by: shannonc | April 29, 2011

Best Rolex links 2011

My favorites:


Posted by: shannonc | April 29, 2011

rk3de 2011

No, I have not abandoned you!  I’m just a little, er, stalled.  But there is nothing like the biggest event of the year in the US to get my heart racing.  This year there is free live streaming, so I’ve been glued to the computer, of course.

With Peter Atkins not in the race this year, I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite rider.  But I *have* picked a favorite horse:  Snip!  This was an almost too easy choice…

  1. He’s one of the smallest horses in the competition this year at 15.3.  I have to say he did not look anything like small to watch, though – he carried himself very proudly!  The look he wore on his face the whole way around his test was clearly, “I got this!  I got this!”
  2. He’s a TB (a NZ TB.  I dream of owning one of these someday.  A BAY one, thank you very much).
  3. He is, I believe, the oldest horse at Rolex 2011:  19.  I can only imagine the love and care that Joe Meyer has put into keeping this horse sound for a four-star level of competition.  Joe said in an interview that the horse just wasn’t ready to retire – and even to an outsider, it’s pretty obvious Snip loves his job.  Even the dressage!
  4. See how this was a patent choice?  Senior, grey, little TB?  Likes the dressage?  Okay, yeah, right.  I have one of (most of) those in my back pocket…and if Snip can do it…we best get cracking!

Snip and Joe at Badminton

The image is from Joe’s website.  A lovely dressage photo can be found there on Snip’s profile, too.

Posted by: shannonc | February 8, 2011

More of winter

We’re up to seventy-something inches of snow so far this winter.  Home improvement stores have big signs out front titled “WE’RE OUT OF” with extensive lists underneath:  shovels, ice melt, roof rakes…at our house we actually broke a shovel trying to clear snow.  It just wore out.  And making headway on the roof was, well, entertaining. 

Hardware stores are recommending that MA residents hop on over to VT or CT to find rock salt.  We have to snowblow space in the paddock for the ponies – we have to snowblow just to open the paddock gates.  Facebook is covered with photos of people’s snow and ice damage, and every night the news features a new story of a building collapse.

I vow that on the 80th inch, I will score 1 for winter and 0 for our front walk.  That thing is long.  We can get in through the garage.

Or we could go through the back door.  You know, up the porch and through the back door.  This porch.

This door…

Or not so much.

It can be pretty:

And the ponies aren’t unbearably cranky yet.  Or at least, their appetites are still okay.

This is such a revealing photo of pony dynamics at our house.  Blue comes over to say hello, and the little one tries to sneak across to the other hay pile.  He even looks sneaky, doesn’t he?

Two minutes later, here’s the picture:

He’s a very cheerful loser, that one.

I owe an award post.  I swear I will get to it.  It’s just that the snow ate my homework.

Posted by: shannonc | January 24, 2011

Last lesson of the year

I should probably call it “Blast from the Past” instead :P

Our final lesson of 2010 was memorable, actually.  We were first in the ring after it’d been dragged.  I have learned that when jumping, this results in a special phenomenon known as “hoofprints don’t lie.” 

It was a cold and very, very windy morning.  While we were warming up, one of the horses turned out on the hill was absolutely going nuts – galloping and bucking for about 5 minutes straight.  The horse was just off the track and his owner was observing this display of, um, exuberance, somewhat skeptically.  Joking, she called out to someone else, “guess who you get to ride today?” and aside, to me, “Ummm…I didn’t know he could buck like that.” 

When it became clear he was going to keep it up, Energizer bunny style, someone went to rescue him and found that his blanket straps had gotten stuck under his butt, so in the end, he had a good excuse.

The pony started out well while this was going on and then got squirrelly.  I could see the hamster running on the wheel in his little pony brain.  He was thinking, “okay, I *thought* that horse was just having a little fun, but it’s gone on so long, there must be something I don’t know…”  Pony HAS to be in the know.  You’d think he was a mare, but maybe it’s an Arab thing.

So to distract him, I put him to work.  Unfortunately, my clothing conspired to thwart me.  My outer layer was a lightweight jacket with a hood, and as we got going and the wind continued to blow, it started to make a racket flapping against my helmet.  The pony is generally suspicious of All Things I Can’t See That Make Noise, and I could tell that his tolerance level was about to go bust, so I pulled up, got off, and removed the evil thing.

Maybe that’s something we’ll work on this year.  That would be a real luxury project, after the events of 2010.

Lesson takeaway number 1:  I am not, after all…in this particular instance anyway…crazy.  I’d been riding only very lightly for the previous two-plus weeks, and felt that the up transitions to canter had shockingly improved.  Shockingly, as in, the best I’ve ever gotten.  Ever.  Pony didn’t make a lesson liar out of me, and demonstrated.  Denise agreed, and her eyes got kind of big too.


We brainstormed on this for awhile and came up with nothing much conclusive.  Maybe he had some low level soreness going on that never had the chance to entirely resolve while he was in harder work.  Maybe the Legend had reached a critical concentration.  Maybe it was a coincidental breakthrough.  It will be very interesting to see where this stands when his winter vacation is over.

So back to the telltale hoofprints.  I set off on my usual straightness exercise.  Turn onto line from the rail, straight straight straight to fence, straight straight straight alllll the way to the rail on the other side. 

Here is what it’s supposed to look like.  If you know anyone who needs a graphic artist, just send them my way.

Make no mistake, that rider is definitely wearing a helmet.  Just squint a little.

In a big ring, one line seems to go on for about an hour and a half, and it’s usually on landing, not approach, that I lap up some failsauce. 

We refer to these failsauce lines as “drunken.”  Here is what they look like:

Unsurprisingly, we are perfectly capable of turning in the exact same failsauce lines in dressage.  The pony and I are equal opportunity that way.

On this day, our very first lines passed muster.  Strangely, it appears that if I ride him straight on landing, that’s where he goes.  Oh.

But now we have a new problem.  See what the hoofprints exposed (note, drawings are to scale)…

The little stinker was jumping to the right in the air.  What am I supposed to do about that??

So off we went with a precision takeoff assignment.  Do not jump the center of the fence.  Aim left to compensate.  There are lots of jumps in the ring with specific markers – allowing the assignment to read, “I want you to leave the ground at the yellow part of the panel,” etc – and I find this kind of exercise really fun.  It works…not the ideal solution, but it works, and he is jumping extremely well.  Denise tells me he is jumping the best she’s ever seen him.  She calls it “snapping his knees to his eyeballs,” and that makes me so proud of him!

AND, the canter between the fences…it feels amazing.  In his french link eggbutt.  He is balanced and light and powering from behind and I might be riding a flying chaise lounge. 

Two courses of this and I ask to quit 15 minutes early.  I’m more than pleased – and more than a little scared that if we keep going, I’ll somehow undo the accomplishment!  Denise tells me that if I were someone else, she wouldn’t allow it.  Apparently, when some people want to stop, they need to go three more times.  But I know this is my last lesson, and probably the last time I will jump him, this season, and I think this is exactly how I should put him to bed for the winter.

Since I have a little extra time, I ask her my big question.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the shoes.  I loved riding my barefoot pony in the rain-heavy ’09 summer, but this year the ground was so hard that his feet began to hurt, he stopped wanting to leave the ground, and lost confidence – which broke my heart, since building his confidence has really been all I’ve tried to accomplish from day one.  With help, I eventually figured out what was wrong…and barely had enough time to fix it before winter.  Soo, the million dollar question:  to shoe him in front at the outset next year, or to wait and see how the ground is?

She gave an unequivocal answer, which surprised me.  “Absolutely shoes,” she said.  “Don’t even risk it.”

I find myself agreeing.

Posted by: shannonc | January 18, 2011


I kept meaning to post a report of our last lesson before the onset of winter, but evidence would point to the suggestion that some time has passed since then…reference Exhibit 1:

The road to breakfast

This may mean I have fallen a bit behind…I will get to that lesson, though.

Posted by: shannonc | November 28, 2010


Blue’s pix from King Oak came in.  I like how he is sticking his tongue out in stadium, and taking a canter stride over that xc fence as if to say, “where are the real ones, Mom?”  Well Blue, you have to start over somewhere! 

After a slow season of sitting at home asking “me??” each time the trailer came out, he finally got a turn :)

Used with permission from Flatlandsfoto.

Posted by: shannonc | November 4, 2010

Cheer up and follow up

The portables are disappearing!  It’s officially the end of the season here in Area 1.

The pony and I got in one last go at them yesterday. 

I wanted to do an actual course – a pretend sanctioned xc, so I could pretend say “he was great at our last event!”  :)

Warmup was a tour of the field (just one small slip on a shaded hill), followed by a few warmup jumps, and some concentrated work at the canter, just getting him to relax on a circle.   I worked on softening my hips and seat, which brings his back up and requires me to be quick to reinforce with my leg as he wants to break.  It’s a balancing act right now, but it felt like the exercise worked very well to stop him from worrying.

Denise asked me what we’d done last week with Eric.

“That log…the birches…I skipped the telephone log oxer, which felt sort of chicken, but I just didn’t think it’d go well…”

“That oxer is solid T.  Even if you were having your best day ever, you should not have pointed him at it.  He’s just not ready.”

Well, yay for reinforcement.  I guess I don’t have to feel guilty anymore!

“Let’s see…the red house, the ditches in the fenceline, steps up, big ditches in the back including ditch to skinny log and skinny log to ditch, that brown rolltop there -”

“That rolltop?” 

“Yeah, and -”

“THAT brown rolltop?”  She points, for clarity.

Ummm.  I guess I haven’t walked up to the rolltop.  I nod and wait to hear what I’ve done.

“And how was he?”

“Well, we did the big up bank, bending line to it.  He was good – Eric was happy.”  (This was the jump that provoked the grin and the “don’t look so smug” remark)

“That rolltop is 3’3″.  A solid 3’3″ at that.”


So my course is:  fat log, across the field to hanging birch, up the hill and turn to a small tire jump we’ve never done, straight down the steep side of the hill to a rolltop (different one), over the cordwood built into the return uphill, across the top left turn to the green house, straight down the hill to the ditch, bending right to the bench, optional rolltop which I’ve just learned is giant, across and down the hill to the open ditch to log combo, up the hill left turn into the water, bank out, to the tiki hut.

14 efforts.

Here are my priorities:

  1. Jump all the jumps, on the first try.
  2. Practice my half bridge.
  3. Sit and take the strong check on approach at the right time and get the balance so that I can move him up to the fences.


Fat log – not quite enough engine, so I get up off his back and really move him up across the field.

Birch – very good.  He gets a good boy.

Tires – he wants to peek.  I bring him to trot so he has time to, and he figures it out and jumps right over.  Pat, pat.

Steep hill – we walk a little.  My pretend xc isn’t timed, I decide.

Rolltop – good.  I wished for a little bit more boldness, but good.

Cordwood – easy out of stride.

Green house – fine. 

He comes back to trot for me and jumps exuberantly at the ditch, but I don’t toss him away so much that we can’t get reorganized easily for the bench, which jumps well, soooo…

I go for the big rolltop (other direction this time) and he jumps it just as happily as he did last week with Eric.  More good boys.

Trot down the hill, get straight and trot the ditch to skinny log – again with the trot in he gets the easy 2 strides in the distance.  Another good boy and we swing around and up the hill to the almost blind water entrance. 

We get trot just as we crest the hill and he doesn’t even hesitate to get his feet wet, but he feels like he is staring hard at the bank and wanting more time, which we don’t have – I realize I need “sharp” and that means (per Eric) tap behind the saddle, so I do it (less wallopy this time), and he blasts right out.  My butt gets a little left behind but stays out of the saddle and I think I do a good job of giving the arm that has the reins.  I’m pretty sure I grabbed mane up there with the left hand.  I land in my feet and he seems unconcerned.

Tiki hut – I gather him back up again and he goes happily.  He’s so nice and rhythmic, he cruises right along and gives me plenty of time to organize.  We’re done!  Good pony!

Review:  speed – much better – no jump-by-hurrying.  Denise tells me the left hind is stepping under well and that we looked much more comfortable together, with a better relationship to the canter.  It is interesting how he’s getting more to the bottom of the bigger jumps:  he knows which ones they are, and he chooses to come right down and pop over safely.  Not awkwardly, he just doesn’t stand off and take the flyers.  Very smart.

We decide to just redo the bank out of water.  I take the route over the down bank on my way, just because we haven’t done a down bank yet and I want to lick that.  He’s good.  I could be with him a little more, but I don’t interfere.

This time he flies out of the water as if to say, this is what you wanted right mom?  It’s a little *too* sharp, so we go around again, collect the trot a bit more into the water, and he gets out PERFECTLY.  I don’t have to adjust one bit, I just take my hands back from the release and we canter on down to the tiki hut.  It feels awesome!

And that is the real story of our pretend zero-penalty course.  Followed by very real treats for the brave pony who appears to have recovered fully from our roller coaster season!  He really seemed to have fun…PHEW.  Go pony!!

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