Wednesday, April 4, 2012


We arrived at the Fork in Norwood, NC today with four horses (including pop!!) I've never been here before but despite the long treks to the competition arenas and extremely hot weather, the excitement is contagious. This will be the last stop for many before Rolex weekend, and for us before some pretty monumental stuff (Ardy's first two star, for example). After I had unpacked, dealt with a missing shoe, conquered the ant piles in Monkee's stall, and taken some drugs for my pounding head, I sat down and just thanked God for my chance to be involved in this amazing sport.

4:50 wakeup call? Bring it on.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quick update from SP2...

A long enough break in my day to write a tremendously quick blog! Guppy is winning the OT-A currently which is definitely exciting. He's been absolutely super. Monkee had his season best dressage test and is sitting mid pack going into a tough cc tomorrow. The other boys were all good too and I'm feeling pretty proud of all of them.

Pop had a good dressage test, I finally felt like I went into the ring and actually rode him and he stayed pretty soft in his jaw and forward (thank you, Mr. dressage whip!). We scored a 32.2 and that was a good deal better than our last test. Cross country was next and for some reason I really let my nerves get the best of me. I got rushed in warm up and wasn't feeling so confident heading to the box, even though I knew he would get me home safe I just didn't feel like *I* was ready. Poppers reared at the start and once I got him going we were just flying along on the forehand and although we had a nice first fence I just didn't find any sort of rhythm for a while. I misjudged the ditch and thank goodness he had the sense to leave the stride out. We had a great jump over fence 7, a brush that landed downhill, but then I had some crummy spots leading up to the water.

We dropped into the water and all I could think of was "close your hand and leg. Don't let him get strung out." maybe it wasn't enough leg but sure enough we got to the same funny spot we did at Pine top. Thanks to pop who made the smart decision to leave long, we avoided disaster again. The rest of the fences including the ditch combination rode well but I came home a bit discouraged (yet incredibly proud of Pop.). I hate not giving him the ride he deserves and feeling like I let him, and myself, down. I don't know why I panic and become a zombie when I can't see a spot. I guess I don't have that natural instinct...I don't know. Feeling a little bit down at the moment..

Alas, the Star is wrapped and fed and happy and he doesn't hold grudges, and tomorrow is a new day :) love this event and can't wait for Ardy and monkee to show their stuff tomorrow.

Wish us luck!

Friday, March 9, 2012

I love March!

This is the best time of year to me. Spring is close, so close we get to experience tastes of it every few days, and the spring season in turn is upon us. Even though our season is already underway (thank you, Area III!!) there's nothing quite like Southern Pines I and II. Everyone it seems is here for the next month to compete and there's a sense of excitement and anticipation all around our beautiful town.

We have 4 going tomorrow and just finished walking the Training course. Even though I'm not riding I wanted to walk to get a feel for it and plan how I would ride it. To me it was simpler than what we did at Pine Top so I'm glad I opted to skip this one. There are some nice galloping fences and a very inviting water. Should be the perfect move up course for Val!

I get to see lots of friends this weekend and am really excited about that!

Pop is doing beautifully and so is Champ! Champ has managed to overcome his fear of water...well, sort of. *grin* we are working on it. He really a smart boy and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him. He's learning a bit about bend and moving off my leg, and we do lots of transitions. He's such a joy.

Good luck to everyone competing this weekend!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Heart of Gold

I would like to start by saying, by the grace of God and the kindness of a lot of people, I have completed my FIRST USEA TRAINING LEVEL HORSE TRIALS!!!!!!!! (x infinity) could have just as easily gone the other way. Hence why I must credit my horse with the success of our first Training together rather than myself. Yes, I gave him a good ride most of the weekend. But one little mistake COULD have ended our weekend if not for his catlike reflexes and big, big heart.

It was a hellacious weekend, weather-wise. We got down on Thursday to a beautiful, balmy 80 degrees. By Intermediate dressage time on Friday, we were close to floating away (okay, maybe that's a BIT of an exaggeration) and cross-country was moved to Saturday. The big boys (Monkee and Lardy) had good dressage tests that day and even though I was exhausted that night, I had no idea how tough Saturday would be.

Going into details of the difficulty of staying organized when you are solely grooming four horses who are doing cross-country/stadium/dressage all on one day PLUS riding your own horse would be a long, boring spiel that I won't subject you to *wink* Let's just say I've learned a lot about grooming for an event rider in the past year and a half and I'm grateful that I've figured out how to balance everything without panicking. Everyone jumped super, ESPECIALLY Lardy in his first Intermediate (he was definitely the star of the weekend).

I think I've talked about how frustrating my dressage warm-up has been in the past with Pop. I always get on too early and end up running out of (his) energy by the time we enter at A. So this time, I had my 20 minutes planned out perfectly. No rush. Except they were running ahead. Yeah, go figure. After a few minutes of tense, stuck trot/canter in the muddy warm-up my number was called. I could have and SHOULD have deferred until my ride time. However, I was frazzled, exhausted, and forgot to even check my watch, so I trotted over hurriedly, praying that by some miracle he would go into the ring instantly through and forward and perfect.


Well, we had a very stuck test. Not as bad as it could have been, he was willing in his transitions and for the most part was doing as I asked. Of course, being frazzled and focusing on getting him to just soften for just a second (please, Poppers, please), I forgot my test. I tried to just smile at the judge and pick back up where I had left off, but my perfectionist side came out in full force and I just wanted to crawl into the tack stall and throw a pity party. I felt SO dumb. I should have run through my test mentally that morning, I should have been more prepared in my warm-up, I should have had the ability to ride through my issues in the short warm-up I'd had, I should have been like EVERYONE else (funny how your mind can exaggerate things when you're upset) and had a perfect dressage test because my horse is experienced and accomplished and surely I'm just not worthy of him.

This side of me RARELY comes out anymore. I've learned that doing the best you can with what you have that day is the best attitude you can have, because otherwise you're ALWAYS setting yourself up for failure. I've learned to not beat myself up, to learn from every mistake, and to always appreciate the effort my horse has made, even if it's not his best. At home, this attitude is always prevalent. But there's something about being in front of a bunch of accomplished riders and horses that just made me lose my confidence in myself and more than anything, I was just pouting.

Looking back, I shouldn't have let nerves take over. I shouldn't have hurried him. I should have requested a few more minutes until my actual ride time and I should have gone into the ring on a positive note. In the end, I did learn from my mistakes, and I hopefully will improve on them next time. I think the dressage is the toughest portion of the horse trial for a lot of eventers, and I am no exception. It gives me a lot to work on at home, a lot to learn, and lots of goals to accomplish. I feel better about it now. My test comments were constructive and I will study them a lot during the next few weeks. And Pop is none the worse for the wear :)

So our stadium time wasn't until 6 p.m. Yeah. By that point I almost didn't want to bother. Boy, am I glad I did. I had SO much fun. He was fabulous. He NEVER touches a fence. I can bury him, I can take a flyer, I can fall all over his neck and he never misses a beat. We had a great round except for one fence in the double, where I softened my hands too much and he got a bit strung out. We headed back to the barn ready to rock and roll the next afternoon.

First of all, disclaimer. I've never done a drop into water in a competition, never mind TWO drops into water, one of which had a bank out and two strides to a house.

Pop was bouncing all over the place as we went into the start box. Countdown began, I set my watch, and off we went. As each fence approached I actually managed to hear Charlie's words from the course walk. Fence 3 had a very downhill landing, and we hit our close spot PERFECTLY. He was dead on to everything. When we reached fence 11a and b, I realized that even though he had been flying, we were about 30 seconds down on time. I know I shouldn't have worried about it, but it was in the back of my mind and I really wanted to try to make time. He picked it up, but we took a few flyers and by the time we reached the second water combination, and he launched in, I wasn't prepared at ALL for the rebalancing we needed before the "out".


By all means, he should have fallen. Or at the very least, run out at the C element two strides away.

But I picked my head up and clucked, and he picked himself up and popped right over the C element and flew to the final fence.

This is why we choose event horses based on their heart more than anything else. Because a split second decision gone wrong can be the end of your weekend. We need our partners to have the heart and the courage to keep going. To save our butts. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this horse will do everything in his power to keep us from getting hurt or getting in trouble. I trust him completely now. And that is worth more to me than any ribbon, any success on the scoreboard. Because of his heart of gold, I can say that I COMPLETED MY FIRST USEA TRAINING LEVEL HORSE TRIAL.

Thanks, Poppers.

See our other show photos here and feel free to let me know your favorite. I'm going to purchase at least one once my tax refund comes in!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

XC Schooling, Show Pics and Why I Shouldn't Ride When I'm Swamped

Hey guys! We leave for Pine Top tomorrow morning with four horses, including Poppers, so this week has been BUSY to say the least. As I'm now nursing a migraine and upset stomach (probably shouldn't be blogging) I'm ready to just get in the bed and try to get a good night's sleep. But first...

We went XC schooling yesterday and Pop was awesome. He was totally gung-ho and bucked after every jump. His bucks are more like spastic hops, but funny We schooled a ditch and some wa, including a log 2 strides to a bank down into water, which looked pretty man-eating and terrifying when I was riding to it, but on the video doesn't look nearly as imposing:

He was super and I feel really confident about this weekend. I'm finally learning to trust him. He's going to try no matter what, so I just need to focus on riding my best and making his job easier. I can't believe I'm (God willing) finally going to go Training! At a recognized USEA horse trials!

And professional photos from the pipe opener can be found here. I am THRILLED with my dressage pictures. He looks like he's really going forward! And my position is less hunched and crumpled that in previous photos. Do you guys see an improvement? I just have to remember to ride him the same way this weekend.

So I was literally swamped today, to the point where I don't know if I'll ever actually be DONE tonight. I get stressed very easily especially when I'm tired, and I struggled to fit in a quick ride on Pop this afternoon...and my impatience and anxiety reminded me that I really, really shouldn't ride when I'm like this. Luckily for me, Pop is forgiving, and after a terrible first few minutes we started working together like a team. I was light in my hands, he was light in his jaw, and he was quite a bit "up" today, so I had a horse more like the one he is at shows. I have two days to ride him at the show grounds before our dressage test Saturday so I didn't do a lot with him, about 30 minutes of w/t/c with lots of circles and changes of direction. He wanted to put his hips left today (which is the opposite of usual), mainly because he was spooking at the Pop-killing bush in the corner, so I had to really work at keeping him straight with BOTH reins (good reminder for me) and keeping his jaw soft at all times. He was good.

Time to get back to packing, and hopefully bed is in the near future! Wish us luck this weekend, I will attempt to blog from my phone! :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Saturday!

Just got home from our little schooling CT and although I am exhausted and have a huge headache, I am so happy with how things went today! Pop was so good! I think I feel pretty ready for our first Training HT next weekend. Our dressage warm up was much more spot on today, as far as timing goes, and yet (almost as if to say HA!) the same issue started happening right before we went in the ring. I opted at that point to just post through my test…as fantastic as it feels to sit his beautiful swinging trot when I have it, if I try to sit when he’s leaning on my hands and not going forward it just makes him ten times worse. So..I posted, and carried a whip, and tried to keep riding, riding, riding. Man, every single time I trot into the ring I am like “Oh shoot…this is a lot smaller than I remember.” Everything comes up so fast. Mentally, I tried to be on top of each movement and try to ride every stride, but it still felt rushed to me, and I could feel him hanging on my right rein and put his haunches right…and wasn’t having much success correcting it. An intelligent me would have to remembered to use my outside rein to straighten him a bit, and to encourage more LEFT bend tracking left (oh yeah…you’re not supposed to counterbend to the right IN THE RING….just at home to help you with the haunches. Silly.) But the real me did not, and so even though I felt like his forward button was much improved and our accuracy was better, we got several comments about me using too much right rein (let go, dummy). Alas…our score was much improved from our last test (last test was a 36)…a 25.5! Which, strangely enough, was only putting us in 5th place, but alas.
Our stadium was delayed about 45 minutes so by the time we needed to start warming up, my darling boots had officially cut off the circulation to the foot I broke last summer and when we started jumping I just couldn’t make my leg work. I would generally panic at that moment but I’m learning to trust that this horse is super careful and super game, and I’m not going to die or crash, and everything will be okay. So I headed on in. This was the result:

Comments are welcome. It felt super. He was dead on, he tried his guts out, and it was a BIG training course. Everyone commented that it was bigger than 3’3”…I don’t know if that was true but it did ride a little tougher than the past two courses we’ve done. Nevertheless, we did it! I am so elated. GOOD BOY!
On another note, BooBoo had his (drum roll please) FIRST RIDE BACK today. He was super. A little weak on that right stifle but that’s to be expected, and he was patient and willing and perfect. Video evidence of the perfection:

Thanks for reading…looking forward to your comments! Have a super rest of your Saturday!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mourning as life moves on...

I don't like to get philosophical on here because this blog is about the horses, and not my personal life...but personal tragedies on two levels have greatly affected the last day and a half, and human suffering has been a huge whirlwind subject in my mind. My faith in our Lord is strong, and absolute, but my understanding of losing loved ones (human and animal) is one of those things that trips me up. I can explain a lot of things away, and for the things I can't, my faith keeps my resolve strong...but when it comes to losing those which we love so much, I can't reason, and even my faith seems to waver a bit. Not my faith in God Himself, but my faith in this life, my faith in joy.

I don't want to delve far into this, at all. I just needed to write it down. And the thing is, there ISN'T an answer, or an explanation for why things happen. No one has it. No amount of kind words or inspirational thinking or positive energy can make it "okay", reconcile it in my brain and in my heart.

*sigh* in other news...I had a crummy flat school on the Pop Star today, which is not my ideal prep for our CT tomorrow...but I'm chalking it up to me being exhausted and sore in my back (from my mid morning gallop on Ardy!). Sometimes I just get on and know I won't be on my "A" game. This was one of those days. I just stopped trying to ride through it and took him wasn't his fault and we were getting very frustrated with one another. Poor munchkin. Hopefully I can actually sleep tonight and be a better rider for him tomorrow. I really, really want to improve our dressage score tomorrow. I want a good, forward, light test. I'm carrying a whip with me and using it if I need to.

Keep your fingers crossed for us. I don't care about ribbons, I just want to feel like our excellent work at home is actually being utilized in the ring.

Also...Edward had his first ride on U.S. soil today!

Yay! What a smart little man. I adore him.

Wish us luck tomorrow...I'm hoping to have someone film my test and my SJ round. Have a great Friday night, everyone!
God Bless!