Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Goals and Year in Review

Getting ready to leave the start box at the AEC's PC Shannon Brinkman Photography
I didn't do a 2017 Goals post at the beginning of the year bc 1) I'm a bad blogger and post inconsistenly and 2) I'm crazy superstitious and don't like telling people plans before they happen bc it increases the odds of it not happening (it's a real thing guys and seems to happen to me!!! 😂) But I'm all about reflecting back on what I wanted for myself and did I accomplish it?

1) Compete Novice successfully- CHECK! Well we only went to 2 novices in the spring of 2017, the Fork and FENCE. The Fork's xc jumps were massive and I fail at judging speed at TIEC bc the cross country course is basically one giant circle that twists around and around and you never really go full out bc you're constantly circling. It's annoying. But either way we jumped clean, kicked some dressage ass, and didn't place in the ribbons bc of XC time. Out next outing was at FENCE and compared to the Fork I felt like I was running around BN again. We smoked it around XC bc we COULD gallop in a straight line, and jumped clear with an ok dressage test. And got a ribbon AND 1 of 2 qualifying scores for the AEC's (you needed 3 events and either 1 event 1st or 2nd or 2 events placing 3rd. We were 3rd for amateurs at FENCE)

Coming to the last jump on course at the AEC's PC Shannon Brinkman Photography

2) Qualify for the AEC's- originally I had wanted to qualify at Novice and had plans to get the 2nd score needed at River Glen but 2 weeks before I slipped while hiking and my knee popped out of joint and I was crippled for about a month. So yeah, no riding which meant no AEC's. But then I got an email end of July/first of August saying I HAD qualified for the AEC's… at Beginner Novice. They changed the qualifying dates around and suddenly I had the 2 scores needed for BN to go. So I did! In hindsight I should of saved the money bc I wasn't really fit enough since I didn't really ride all summer bc I was working 12 hour days 6 days a week (I run the riding program at a summer camp for boys, it's not teaching plus it's summer camp so I still fall under the amateur status rules, I checked :) ) and since I didn't think I was going to the AEC's I wasn't making the effort to ride 4-6 days a week. Chimi stayed in work bc I had a lady taking him out on the trails but neither of us had attempted Dressage or a jump since I had injured my knee. Plus the cross country course was a big letdown from last year's AEC's and BN just ran around in a damn circle around the Derby Field at TIEC. At least last year we got to go around the barns and down past the congested water complex and loop around by the river and had real galloping spots. But I did have a great time and while the riding part wasn't very exciting at the AEC's this year I really enjoyed the social part and I met new fun people and hung out with old friends. Plus I ran into my trainer growing up who I hadn't seen in YEARS (at least 5 years or more) so it was great catching up with her! So basically I'm kinda torn whether it was worth it to be there or not. I do know if it hadn't been at TIEC which is all of 22 minutes away from my house I wouldn't of gone. But since it was local I did it bc I really wanted a pretty ribbon. Sadly due to my lack of fitness and not enough saddle time we got an awkward distance to jump 9 in stadium and pulled the rail (it was probably the most pulled rail on the course, probably bc you were coming out of a tricky corner and if you didn't ride forward enough it the jump fell). While we were definitely forward enough coming out of the corner Chimi was unbalanced and not listening to my half halts and I sort of froze and didn't do anything so we just sort of ran to the base of the jump in an ugly canter and Chimi did his best to get over it but he was so close to the jump that he pulled the rail. I should of been more firm balancing him through the corner but I do think if we had been working all summer he wouldn't of been unbalanced bc he would of been strong enough in his hind end to power through in a nice canter. Grrrr. I'm still a bit sad about that ribbon though. They really did give out gorgeous ribbons.

When I rode well enough to let Chimi clear the jump PC Shannon Brinkman Photography

3) Karen O'Connor Clinic- I DID write a blog post about this so I'm not going to rehash over it but you all know that Chimi was lame so I took Joe.

I love the horses in the barn windows of this jump PC Shannon Brinkman Photography

My fall season was basically shot with the Abscess of Doom but after the AEC's I didn't really want to spend the money to compete when I realized I needed to get the basic fitness back that I had lost over the summer. I'm glad I had made that decision BEFORE the Abscess of Doom so I wasn't to disappointed when I couldn't do anything with Chimi.

I feel so international with the flags in the background! And if the giant white tent wasn't there it'd be a really cool view of the mountains. Plus one day my horse will learn to gallop with his nose day. PC Shannon Brinkman Photography

So there ya go. The AEC's and Novice were my goals for the year and I mostly accomplished that. I'm not really the kind of person to set other types of goals like work on half pass or jump 3' or go XC schooling 1x a month. I kinda let those type of goals happen naturally and tend to stick with picking a competition goal like going to the AECs. If I pick something big like that or decide to move up a level I do what I need to to accomplish that which would cover the jump 3', go XC schooling, work on connection, and whatever else we need to do to be prepared for the competition and do well (not necessarily 1st place well but want to finish successfully, if that makes sense.) And on that note 2017 is coming to a close and we'll see what we have in store for 2018! But first we must survive Christmas... WOO!!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ambling Through the Snow on an Angry Painted Pony…

Last weekend it SNOWED!!!! I know this isn’t any big news but it was a big deal for us in a normally nonsnowy area. I didn’t think it would stick like it did but we got around 2” of really pretty fluffy snow. Just up the mountain in the Hendersonville/Asheville area they got even MORE snow with anywhere between 10” to 12” of gorgeous, packable, snowman making snow. And just a short drive south or across they got flurries and rain with little to no accumulation. Crazy how within an hour drive you go from nothing to a foot of snow…(also apologizing now if pictures and captions are weird… I’m editing this post on my phone)

Everyone goes to Waffle House when it snows!

ANWAYS back to ponies!!! By the time I got back home from work on Friday I had time to feed the ponies and then it was dark. But the snow kept falling and I couldn’t help but get excited as I tucked the ponies in their stalls for the night. The next morning I was determined to go riding while the snow was still falling in big beautiful fat flakes and grabbed the trusty old horse, Arrow, for a “magical” snow ride. HA. 

If I stand still maybe she won’t see me…

Marley and Chimi happily went out to eat their hay and poor Arrow looked over at them longingly as I grabbed my rope halter for him. Arrow is a pretty chill dude, and the guy has had some really nice training somewhere in his past, so you really don’t need a bridle to ride him. He’s 22 this year and he’s just the perfect “let’s do it” horse bc he’s not going to do anything completely stupid and can take a joke, even though he might roll his eyes at you. 

I drug poor Arrow over to the mounting block and he would not stand straight to save his life. This should of been clue #1 that he was not in the mood to play games but I sweet talked him into a short ride and off we went!

Look at my Yak fur! 

The entire time up the driveway and down the road he kept trying to turn around. He wanted none of my magical snow ride and made his opinion very clear. I couldn’t help but laugh at him and promised just a little bit further! And he ambled on. Finally after trying to take some pretty snow ride pictures I let him turn back and ZOOM. Arrow was on a mission home. 

When we got back to the barn he was very happy to be let out to munch his hay with his friends. Actually I don’t think he cared about his friends, he just wanted food after being “tortured” for 15 minutes!!

I am pretty lucky that this little furball showed up in our life 4 1/2 years ago. He’s quirky enough to make life interesting but safe enough that I can put anyone on him and he’ll take care of them. Plus this old guy is still going strong and has plenty of life left! Maybe next time he’ll be more excited about a snow ride but I doubt it!!! But either way he gets plenty of cookies and love when I ask him to do something that’s not a part of his normal life and he always obliges. :)

Ok ok ok, you got your picture, let’s go home. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Every Time Every Ride

Day 28 of NaBloPoMo bought back so many memories of my childhood growing up in Pony Club that I had to share, even if it's Day 30 now :)

Helmet or No?

Helmet. Always. Every Time Every Ride. Why? Because of the short movie I watched at so many Pony Club events/meetings/festivals/etc that I attended growing up. It was called Every Time Every Ride and it's on YouTube (sort of)

So fashionable!

The entire video hasn’t been posted on YouTube but you can see various clips. Oh man those clips. It goes to show you how much fashion and helmets have changed in the past 30 years. The ugly plastic helmets!!! I had the white schooling helmet for years!!

the experts

Like any good 90’s scare tactic movie they had experts talking about helmets and their function and a handful of horror stories of people dying or becoming severely disabled bc they fell off and weren’t wearing s helmet. From what I can tell by glancing through the videos is they edited out the personal stories on the YouTube clips and just left you the rest. Including the scene that has been burned into my brain forever. The jelly brain. 
Jelly brain inside a plastic bag inside a helmet being dropped- brain stayed intact

No joke- ask any of the other kids that grew up watching this video and they’ll probably talk about the jelly brain!!! They took a mold of a brain and drop it with and without a helmet to show you the protection helmets provide. But the jelly brain scene that really stuck with me was the expert lady digging her fingers into the brain and destroying it

So there you go. That’s why I wear a helmet when I ride. I like my brain just as it is :)

90's fashion at it's finest

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Attempted Artist

A long time ago I followed an Instagram account called EquiLines (or something of that variation). The person behind the account would trace normal photographs and then erase the picture just leaving the drawing. It was really simplistic and clever and I really enjoyed seeing what she would post. Sadly the account no longer exists. I went looking for it recently and found a tag of it but unfortunately that was a dead end bc the account has been deleted completely :(
My little Gus Pony

When EquiLines was still active I tried to figure out how she did it. All the apps I could find at the time would allow me to draw on the pictures but I couldn't delete the picture underneath. So I put it in the back of my mind and forgot about it. Until a few months ago when I stumbled upon a new (or at least to me) free drawing app that would allow me to create layers. It's called Color and it does exactly what I need to do to create fun drawings. 
Chimi at the AEC's

Since downloading it I have created a few pictures, and even the new heading on my blog (look up) I have no claims of being an artist and have zero natural talent, but did spend my entire school career drawing pictures of horses on notebook paper and in the margins of my notes. However I can trace a line and this new system of drawing is exactly that- tracing lines. How easy is that? And for the most part it is. But there are a few tricky spots that my less than stellar artistic skills haven't figured out yet.
Friend and her old horse who has since passed away

Hands. Hands. Hands. I struggle with hands. Hands are to intricate and small to trace well and I'm struggling to find a better way to draw hands. Right now I sort of draw squiggle lines and try to blend them in with the mane, reins, etc and that seems to work well enough. But if there is a picture where the hands are more prominent… well it's awkward.  But I'm working on figuring it out. I think having a pen would help bc right now I'm tracing with my finger. It's really hard to get precision with my finger! I do zoom up on the smaller detail bits so it's easier, but I think I'll invest in one of those little pens with the rubber thing at the end. 
I drew this in the car so it's far from perfect. I was just playing with it trying to figure out all the greenery in this one

Greenery/Fill/foliage- flowers and plants are also very detailed and they end up looking like a scribbled mess.  Haven't done a lot of fill and so I'm hoping that I'll figure out and easier way to deal with this. 

Drawing in missing parts. This is part of why I attempt to draw the greenery or fill in the picture bc when I go freehand and try to draw the parts in the picture blocked by the greenery/grass/jump/water it never looks good. This goes back to the I'm NOT artistic at all and struggle at drawing. I don't know which will be easier- learning how to freehand or learning how to make the greenery look better. Guess we'll see what happens as I do more!

Attempting to do some shading 
Shading. Colors. Patterns. Texture.  I've drawn a few cats and dogs and they took ages bc I couldn't quite decide how I liked them. My first attempt at drawing my dog Jello went really well but then I tried to draw a friend's Jack Russell and I ended up redoing it a million times. The. I tried to draw another friend's cats and they sort of came out too. I have another friend who I'd like to draw her cat but I don't think I'm quite to figure out her cat's coat color. It is very detailed and there are tiny bits of color throughout her coat. I might attempt it soon but have low expectations. 
My friend's cat who likes to sit in sinks. I can't draw sinks so I put him in a bed instead

Overall though I'm really enjoying my drawings. It's a nice way to do something else besides watch tv, play games, or read a book when I'm inside the house after dark. I can cuddle with my creatures and sit there with my tablet while tuning out the football game my husband is watching. It's a nice way to relax and for now it's a fun way to think about my horse when I'm not at the barn :)

Monday, November 27, 2017

The “Off” Season

Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday took my money, and winter is fast approaching. The days are disturbingly dark at 5/5:30, and some nights leave me cuddled under my down comforter dreading the morning when I have to leave my warm bed. The Off Season is here.

Nom Nom Nom

Unfortunately Chimi’s Off Season started way to early and he’s been benched since October with the Abscess of Doom. Just when he was sound enough to ride some personal family crisises arose that I had to attend to (and lasted basically all of November.) So Chimi’s Off Season continued and I’ve ridden him once since the beginning of October. But thinking on it, all the time off has been a benefit to Chimi and I think he’ll come out of it for the better. Chimi isn’t that young, he’s not old either but he will be turning 15 in April and he’s a big horse (17hands of chunky cuteness).

Just look at his Chunky cuteness!!! 

Since I’ve owned Chimi he’s had a significant period of time off almost every year and came out of that time off even stronger and better than he was going into it. I think his warmblood brain needs the time to process all the info we worked on previously and his body has time to heal. He came to me with some health issues that I’ve been able to manage so far but I don’t think he would fair so well if he was on go 12 months out of the year. He has a chronic sore back that I’m able to manage with Back on Track saddle pads, squishy half pads, and a saddle that is fitted to him and checked 2x a year by a saddle fitter. He’s a hot mess but he’s my hot mess and I love him for all his quirks :)

Rocking the "Dad Bod"

Because Chimi lives at home I do still spend quality time with him… at least twice a day to be exact! He also lives outside 24/7 (unless there’s bad weather) so he’s kept himself in good condition with his random gallops around the field and having to walk up and down the hill in my front pasture. I’ve been trying to pack on the pounds since we’re going into winter with lots of hay/forage. So right now Chimi is sporting a lovely “Dad” bod (like Emma’s Charlie) and I’m ok with that.

Stop taking pictures lady... I'm trying to eat!!!

But the Off Season is about to end. I’ve look at the calendar and penciled in a few hopeful shows (let’s face it we’re talking about horses AND winter… both are very unpredictable) I'm not far from Aiken so I might try and start my spring season a bit earlier since we didn't have a fall one. My goals this year don't require a top 3 placing so even if I end up competing against all those professionals in Aiken I just need a completion and not a placing which is really helpful! Though I do love pretty ribbons.... even if Chimi doesn't hahaha.

I guess it's time to put down my fork and get to work.... ok. Fork down. It's go time!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tally Ho!!!!!!

Last Saturday was Opening Meet for Green Creek Hounds, one of the two hunts in this area. The other hunt, Tryon Hounds, opening meet is next week on Thanksgiving Day. So November is a busy month for the Tryon area!

I have never been to a hunt, or heard of a hunt, that does Opening Meet quite like GCH. It is truly a party and ends up being one of the clubs biggest fundraisers of the year. Why you ask? Becauase of the Tally Ho Wagons, aka Party Wagons!!!! The Tally Ho Wagon started out as a way for the social members (the non hunting members) to follow the hunt and get a chance to participate in at least 1 fox hunt a year. There were light snacks and some form of alcohol served on the wagon and everyone had a great time. Word got out about how much fun the party wagon was and now there are 6 wagons, pulled by tractors, that follow the hunt. 5 wagons carry 18-20 people on them, and the 6th wagon has room for 48/50 people. Basically it is an epic party out in the woods!

Both hunts in this area are live hunts (which means they look for the scent of a live fox) but for opening meet GCH lays out a drag (someone ahead of time lays a trail of fox scent in a predestined area for the hounds to find) This guarantees a fast hunt and the Tally Ho Wagons will have a lovely view of the riders galloping by. It really is a fun day for everyone involved!!

After the hunt everyone returns and has a glorious hunt breakfast at this old house and the merriment continues. I'm going to leave you with a few more pictures b/c my brain is a bit addled with the impending holiday and I can't think through a well written paragraph :) Enjoy the pictures instead!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Abscess of Doom

The month of October started out with so much promise and excitement only to end with basically a month off of riding. The Karen O’Connor clinic was out (thankfully just for Chimi, thank you for saving me Joe!) and after an initial time for 2pointober any hopes I had of winning the cool prizes were thrown out the window. And just like that I was soaking, wrapping, and cursing the damn Abscess of Doom. 

Chimi says “but I’m innocent!!! Feed me cookies!!”
Chimi says "Who me?"

I think the Abscess of Doom started back in September when I was supposed to go XC schooling with KC and Pilgrim at FENCE. Chimi had come in lame the day before and I immediately started soaking and wrapping it bc I knew the KOC clinic was fast approaching. 2 days later Chimi was sound and I got a chance to ride a couple of days and get in my 2pointober time of 3:00 minutes. This summer killed my fitness bc I sat around and ate to much cake at work and didn’t get to move around as much as I usually do. So I had to come up with a “get fit quick” plan before the clinic, which involved lots of riding and two point. 2 days later Chimi was lame. 

Chimi did not like to keep his hoof in the bucket and proceeded to kick it over spilling all the hot water and epson salts out!!! Bad Chimi!

Normally when Chimi gets an abscess he stays sound and the only reason you know he had one is the blowout spot on his hoof. Occasionally he’ll get one and be lame but those normally last 2 days at the most and he’s fine. I was hoping that it would follow that same pattern bc we had just entered the week of the KOC clinic and I wasn’t getting a chance to ride at all leading up to the clinic! After 3 days of soaking and wrapping there was hope and Wednesday afternoon when I lunged Chimi he was mostly sound and I sighed a little bit in relief and thought “yes, we’re almost there”. Then Thursday morning rolls around and Chimi comes in 3 legged lame and refused to put weight on his left hind and I cried in frustration. 

As you know from previous posts Joe came to the rescue and we had a successful clinic. Chimi sat around all weekend probably laughing at Joe having to cart me around while he got a mini vacation and ate hay all day. 

Joe to the rescue!!!

The week after the clinic I was starting to freak out a bit. Nothing was blowing out and my horse was still really lame. I couldn’t decide if I should call the vet or not bc what were they going to do? Tell me to keep doing exactly what I was already doing? My farrier was supposed to come out that week so I begged him (it didn’t take much) to hoof test Chimi and see if he could figure out where it was. The day he came out Chimi came in with a huge tender bulge right at his cornet band and my farrier looked at me and said “there you go, that’s where it’s going to come out”. And sure enough 2 days later it did! 

The day it blew out

Much to Chimi’s relief the pressure had been released and he was sound. Unfortunately the day before it blew out Chimi developed a case of cellulitis that I recognized after the emergency/weekend hours started Friday evening. Trying to save my pocket book from an emergency call I started Chimi on antibiotics and wrapped his leg to help reduce swelling. Saturday afternoon the abscess blew out his cornet band right at the tender bulge. Over the weekend I kept watch over his leg and planned to take him to the vet Monday morning to make sure nothing was going on I wasn’t in control of. In the meantime I had another fun horseless cross country outing with KC and Sara and even got to hop on Gem for a bit! 

The day after it blew out his cornet band

Finally Monday rolled around and I called the vet to set up an appointment. I was feeling a bit of relief bc the cellulitis was going down and my horse was sound (at the walk). But I wanted to make sure it would stay that way so I loaded Chimi up and headed to the vet office. We were met by a vet tech and a younger vet while we waited for the more senior vet to finish injecting hocks on another horse. Chimi was not being a very good patient and kept insisting he walk around and the poor vet tech kept him going while I went over everything I’ve done and noticed with the younger vet. Finally the senior vet arrived and we went back over everything. Dr PJ (the senior vet) was amazing and used Chimi as a teaching opportunity for the younger vet (I feel terrible bc I forgot her name but I can recognize her face!) Dr PJ picked apart Chimi’s conformation, had him jogged to check on soundness, and asked younger vet (YV)  how to proceed and what she would do. She gave an acceptable answer but Dr PJ used this as an opportunity to talk about all the factors, including financial. YV wanted to do radiographs and clean out the area the abscess blew out and Dr PJ said yes that is an option, to make sure nothing else is there, or judging how sound this horse was (they were very impressed that he was sound at the walk and mostly sound at the trot b/c apparently horses with gravel abscesses (what Chimi had) are usually still lame after it blows out.) that his cellulitis was improving, and I was only 15 minutes away so if something changed Chimi could easily come back for a more in depth exploration. THANK GOD FOR DR PJ!!!!!! He looked at me and said "Radiographs and debriding the would would cost me $500-$700 or just wrapping it and keeping it clean would be much less and more budget friendly. I went with the more budget friendly option.

Chimi was pretty close to being a model patient and stood still but did lift his sore foot when they were cleaning it. But as the vets said "he's not trying to kill us so he's behaving wonderfully!" Dr PJ continued to use Chimi as a teaching opportunity and asked YV how you should wrap the wound. I'm sure at this point she probably started second guessing herself (I know I would!) and sort of answered questioningly. I really don't blame her b/c there's nothing worse being put in the spotlight and hoping you don't give the wrong answer. Either way Dr PJ showed YV how he wanted the foot wrapped to keep dirt and debris out of the abscess which was still draining. He layered Chimi's foot with so much padding that his hoof grew two sizes! One of the major things Dr PJ was very adiment about was no vet wrap directly on the skin, for 2 reasons. 1) Vet wrap can be an irritant and cause irritation on the skin for some horses and 2) if pulled to tight it can cut off the circulation to the hoof and cause the hoof to die. He then talked about how he's had to put down to many foals that were put in corrective hoof casts that were just vet wrapped onto the leg. And on that sad note... Dr PJ finished off Chimi's hoof wrap with elstacon and we were sent home with directions to keep the boot on for 48 hours and then rewrap it again for another 48 hours or until the abscess stops draining.

The vet's wrapping job.... it lasted 48 hours

Dr PJ's wrap lasted 48 hours and possibly could of gone another day but I cut it off 2 days later and OMG it smelled so bad! The animalintex (sp?) was soaked and smelly with 2 days worth of puss. Barf.

my wrapping job lasted 24 hours... vet did a better job but my was good enough! (I was very careful not to pull the vet wrap tight access his cornet band since I didn't have as much padding as the vet did)

Now a week or so has gone by and the abscess is growing out! Just hoping no lasting damage from the cornet band but at least Chimi's sound and happy. I've started riding him again and he seems no worse for the wear. My friend JP came over with her 4 year old to go trail riding and Chimi was very lazy! I think he's enjoyed his time off to much, but not anymore!!! It's time to RIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's starting to grow out

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gallop....GALLOP!!!!!!!! Karen O'Connor on XC Day

Now it was cross country day!!!!!! Unfortunately the lovely weather we had the day before was a fleeting moment bc a tropical storm rolled in on Sunday. It started out ok, misty with a few gentle showers. In order to attempt to to beat the bad part of the storm everyone's lesson time got bumped forward and the plan was to power through the 3 groups (BN, Novice, Training/Prelim) and hope for the best. As long as it wasn't thundering and lightening the clinic was on go and the storm wasn't suppose to arrive until later that afternoon. Karen had another theory lesson at 8 am and talked about riding XC. I have notes and will try to write those down later but the basic gist was there are 3 positions on XC (Galloping, Prepping, and Jumping) with a 4th position for Drop Fences. Ride with a bridge in your reins, and your angles in your body change the speed of your horse (increased angles= go faster, more open angles =slow down) and keep your leg perpendicular to sea level.

(sorry for the large pictures, for some reason Blogger isn't letting me adjust the size today)
The BN group warming up around the bank complex

BN was the first group to go and I was able to watch most of that lesson. She was really into fitness and had the group canter around for 5 minutes without stopping in their various XC positions (she would call out Galloping! Prepping! Galloping!) and the riders had to either speed up or slow down by changing their positions. She did spend a lot of time working on their positions before moving on to banks. A lot of the BN horses or riders were very green so they stuck to fairly simple exercises and worked on jumping off the bank and turning left or right to the verticals she had set up on a bending line after the down bank. After they got that they headed over to the ditch and worked on jumping a ditch and then adding the coop after and making it into a half coffin. I had to leave at that point to go get Joe so I missed the end  and the Training/ Prelim group.

As soon as Joe arrive at the clinic the bottom fell out and it was serious torrential rain falling. The poor Training/Prelim group was still out there riding during the rain and I heard that they stopped when the riders were struggling to stay in their tack (it was at the end of their lesson anyways so they got a lot done) The footing held up really well so the horses were fine but not so much the riders! Our lesson was temporarily postponed bc the weather map was showing the rain stopping around 1:30/2. And sure enough the rain stopped and we were able to have a lovely lesson. 
Gives you an idea how steep the hill was that we had to canter down. Bank complex is to the right just out of the picture

As soon as we all got out there it was time to work on our XC positions. While our horses were warming up at the trot we were practicing our different positions and learning how to balance correctly. We were on the side of a hill so we had to practice going up and down and making sure our horses were balanced. The footing was pretty torn up from the earlier groups and the rain so part of the lesson was being aware of the footing and changing our track to be on better footing. Though all in all I was really surprised how well the footing was holding up. None of the horses slipped going downhill even when we started to canter. We continued to work on our XC positions in the canter and we would stretch up and balance down the hill and close our angles and press down on the withers and gallop up the hill. It was awesome for really finding your balance and I thought to bad I’m not getting a time right now bc this would be a beastly 2pointober time right now!!!!!
This was the bank we dropped off of and did a bending line to a vertical and then circled back to another vertical and back up the bank

After that we went straight into banks and course work. She had us jump down a bank 2/3 stride bending line to a vertical, loop around to another vertical, up the bank, turn right up another bank, 2 strides down a bank landing on a downhill decline and 2 strides to a skinny chevron. Joe was so good until the skinny chevron and I think I froze and he said nope! You're not with me so I won't do it! Karen asked if I was nervous about the skinny and I said yes and she very calmly said channel that nervousness into determination and ride forward to the skinny. So I did. And guess what? WE JUMPED THE SKINNY DOWNHILL JUMP OF DOOM!!!!!! I wish I had it on video b/c it was probably the most nerve racking jump (for me) that we did at the clinic. I'm not a fan of skinnies and downhill jumps when it's been raining but I really had nothing to fear with Joe. He knows where his feet are and isn't going to slip b/c he bolted down a hill or anything. He's to clever to do something stupid like that :) I didn't get the bank complex on video but some nice spectators I guess felt bad for me and took some videos of the next thing we worked on, ditches and water.

So now it was time for ditches!!! We ended up struggling a bit with the ditch and when we started to string together a little coffin exercise I almost fell off. But I was in my trainer's Devecoux that had grippy calfskin leather and omg I get it!!!! I lost my left stirrup and never felt like I was going to fall off b/c my pants were stuck to the leather (and Joe's back is about as wide as a bus so yeah, wasn't going anywhere) and if I ever need a new saddle calfskin might be in my future... (I love you grippy wonderfulness!) But either way we finally got our act together and strung together the coop, trakener, skinny, water, vertical together! I had to overly exaggerate my elbows b/c I kept locking them and thats when Joe would stop. The final question of the day with the vertical in the water and we only had to do it once b/c I remembered to stay soft in my elbows and Joe was like "FINALLY!!!! OK lets do this!!!!!" So many smiles and pats afterwards!!!!!!!

After we were done Karen asked us if we had any questions and I really couldn't think of anything. I was so happy with the clinic as a whole and loved that my weakness were highlighted the entire clinic so I could work on them. My riding was far from perfect but I felt like I progressed and actually improved. I know what I need to work on and felt like I was given tools to do it. I know my overall fitness is at an all time low right now and that makes me a less confident rider. My confidence is related to my fitness and in the past I wouldn't of blinked at the downhill bank to the skinny but right now I'm not there. So this winter needs to be dedication to getting myself back on board so I can give Chimi the ride he deserves and we can come out swinging this spring!!!!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

He's a 4 Star Horse, but Not in a 4 Star Body- Karen O'Connor

Me with Joe the Wonder Horse!!!!
Finally it was time for my lesson! Joe arrived with minimal dirt around lunch and I quickly sprayed the spots with Green Spot Remover to make him look clean enough. I had Trainer and Trainer's Husband helping me get Joe ready so it took no time at all to head over to the ring. As soon as they were finished dragging and watering the arena (we hadn't had rain in eons) we headed in and Karen asked us about our horses. I told her that my horse was lame and I'm borrowing my trainer's horse who has competed up to Novice but isn't very fit. She looked at him and you could tell she's going "What the hell is this in my arena. It's a giant white blob. Can this thing even get off the ground?" She asked "When was the last time this horse jumped?" I called over to Trainer who said "It's probably been about a year". Karen looks at me and says "You know this is a jumping clinic right?" I replied back "Yes, but this is my only option. I will do what I can but my horse is lame" She sort of nodded her head and went on to the next rider and horse combo.

One of the few moments we looked decent over the poles!

As soon as she went through all the horses and riders to find out about their experience and horse's experience she sent us off to warm up. I was struggling with keeping Joe from tossing his head and being generally pissed at me but somehow we made it through the warm up. After that the first exercise she has us do was canter over 2 poles set 2 strides apart. We had to get 2 perfect strides and then we had to shorten our stride and get 3 in between the poles. OMG this was so hard. I've practiced this exercise plenty of times with Chimi and it's very easy us but not so much with Joe. Not b/c Joe can't do it, I was struggling to keep Joe in a nice canter without getting to tight in my arms which would annoy him so he'd flip his head and charge around (clearly he thought I was an idiot who needed to learn how to ride again, thanks Joe) Finally we got it well enough that Karen deemed it ok for us to continue.

Karen had a gate set up and had everyone canter over the gate which was the first jump in a 5/6 (?) stride line but we had to stop before we jumped the oxer out. When it was my turn Karen calls out "Here he goes, first jump in a year!" and not going to lie I was nervous as hell. The jump wasn't big but I was hoping we would of started with a tiny cross rail instead of a 2'3/2'6" vertical!!!! But I had no reason to be nervous. As we cantered to the jump I kept my leg on and Joe was PERFECT. He was so perfect I almost forgot to stop b/c I was smiling so much and thinking "OMG WE DID IT I DIDN'T DIE JOE YOU ARE AMAZING OH SHIT WE HAVE TO STOP" (very much a run on sentence thoughts going on in my head!)

After that we did various exercises that worked on bending lines and keeping a nice canter through the entire exercise. Sounds easy but it wasn't. There was one girl who I felt really bad for because she had just bought a really nice horse and was struggling to ride him. I caught Karen mumble under her breathe that the horse was to much horse for the rider but she did a good job of helping the kid through the lesson on her very high octane horse. In truth the horse really was to much for the girl and I can only hope that she somehow figures out how to ride him b/c it was not looking good during the lesson.

After everyone jumped around then bending line exercise we moved on to a course. By this point I'm not pissing Joe off as much but I'm still working on keeping a good canter pace without getting to stiff in my elbows. So HARD. I didn't realize how locked in my arms I get until I rode Joe. Chimi obviously ignores me but Joe did not. We had a stop at the 2 stride that was completely my fault but we came around again and I had soft elbows and Joe jumped through it beautifully. After that we were done! 2 plus hours had passed and even though we didn't do any crazy grids or new exercises it was a very successful lesson. Sometimes going back to basics is the best lesson ever because you realize you aren't very good as those basic exercises!!!!!

Joe getting some last minute wisdom from Karen

As we left the arena and everyone was riding high after a very positive lesson Trainer came over with a huge grin on her face. She was so happy with how everything went and it was all pats and hugs for the big white dude. Karen came over and asked us if we had any questions and no one did and then she looked over at Joe and said "That is a 4 star horse, but not in a 4 star body" Trainer and I laughed because it is the perfect way to describe Joe. He is massive and looks clunky if you just see him standing around but he is very sensitive and quite athletic! He is a full Irish Draught (or at least is mostly Irish Draught) and showcases the reason the breed is very successful. I know when Karen first saw him all she could see was a very fat white blob but after the lesson she seemed to really like him. Day 1 was over and we had Cross Country to look forward to the next day with a gigantic storm thinking about rolling in overnight too. But more on that tomorrow!!!!

The Novice group and Karen