Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reddums - secure in his masculinity

Let's get the important stuff out of the way. Red ended up wearing a pink plaid blanket this weekend.

Only Feerless War Ponies can rock this look.

If you know me even a little, you'll know that I absolutely abhor pink. Passionately. I'm fairly sure I haven't owned a pink clothing item since I was about 8 years old (and Mom? Those pink outfits when I was really little? We need to talk.) There is no pink anywhere in my house - in fact the very first thing to go was the Pepto-Bismol pink tile bathroom. So for any horse of mine to be wearing something pink... well you KNOW there had to be extenuating circumstances.

Let me 'splain.

Saturday morning we headed up to jousting practice with some friends of ours. We've got a big demo mid-March, so we wanted to get as much ride time in as possible. Red doesn't joust anymore, but I'm riding him in the mounted combat part of the demo.

Yep, you heard right. I'm armoring up and we're going to go whack people with swords. All in the name of charity - the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, to be exact.

You see, combat is totally Red's thang. He is absolutely not afraid of any horse out there, and he knows that his rider is going to smack the other riders. He's also super-maneuverable, spins on a dime, and can dart in and out at a moment's notice. He LOVES this game.

Objects in photo are much fiercer than they appear.

The team of combatants. Hubby is second from the right, Red and I are third from the right.

Alas, I don't have any pics of Red doing mounted combat, but here is a pic of hubby and Oberon doing some jousting practice. Go Oberon GO!

I also worked with Oberon in mounted combat. That's me on the left.

 And at the end of the day, Red handily doubles as a lawn mower. How much talent does this guy have?

Between the jousting practice for hubby and the combat practice for everyone, Saturday was a long day. We also decided to fit in another practice first thing Sunday morning, so we ended up leaving the boys at our friend's house Saturday night. It was in the 30s, I hadn't brought blankets for the boys, and Red grows almost no coat. DA very kindly loaned Red the pink plaid blanket, since it was the only thing that fit him.

It's a good thing that Red's so studly and all. I mean, not every gelding can pull off pink plaid.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Out-stubborning Mr. Stubborn

Oberon is, we're pretty sure, part goat... and part mule.

We knew when we got him that he could be hard to persuade to do certain things. If he didn't want to go near an object, he'd simply plant his feet and refuse to move. No amount of kicking or smacking him with a bat (bats made and impressive sound at least, dressage whips don't phase him at all) could get him to move. And those Natural Horsemanship games where you "annoy" the horse enough so that he moves his feet? Yeah. Oberon doesn't annoy easily, if at all.

But still, he was good when we needed for it to count. He's not afraid of armor and is a jousting wonder pony. He foxhunts, he jumps. We could put up with his oddities.

Unfortunately, we've had to get rather creative to work through them.

Although he's boss in the pasture (yes, Red lost his status), he REFUSES to lead on a trail ride. Red happily strides out all day long, feerlessly passing bikers, dogs, horse-eating rabbits, and other terrifying things. If we ask Oberon to lead, he stops dead when he gets literally one step past Red. Usually he'll then start backing up, as this is his favorite mode of evasion. Hubby has learned to smack, kick, and move his head left-to-right, to keep his feet moving. If this doesn't work, we turn him around and BACK HIM UP down the trail, in the direction he doesn't want to go. Since his evasion is to back, this actually works pretty well.

Let's just say Oberon's done a lot of backing in the last few months. A LOT of backing. Hubby will back him past whatever he refuses to go past. Initially he'd have to back him 20 feet down the trail, but now it's to the point where a few smacks and kicks usually gets him going. Brat.

You never know when this ugly tendency is going to rear its head. For example, Oberon's always been a good loader. You toss the lead over his neck, walk him up the ramp, and in he goes. Self-loading. Love it. Until last weekend... when he decided he ABSOLUTELY WAS NOT going to get within 20 feet of the trailer. I wasn't there, but I understand it was quite a show. He reared, he backed. He snorted. He reared some more. He wouldn't put a foot on the ramp. Finally, after 15 minutes of antics, with one person pulling on his lead and the other tapping him on the butt, he loaded himself right in. BRAT.

The funny thing was, he wasn't afraid. He's been in this trailer once or twice a week for the last year. Nothing had changed, he simply didn't want to get in. The only thing we can figure is that it was on the way home after a 3-hour haul there, and he didn't have a buddy. We almost always haul 2 horses, so maybe he was objecting to hauling solo? Who knows. Regardless, it's unacceptable behavior.

Another lovely habit that Oberon came to us with is that he likes to set back, break his halter/lead/tie point, and wander off. We've watched him do it any number of times - he'll simply be standing there one moment by himself, and then he'll pull back until something snaps, wander off 5 feet, and start to graze. He's broken two halters, half-a-dozen leads, and the tie point on the side of the trailer (&^$!). Clearly he's learned over the years that he's big and strong and can get away with this. Trust me, this is not a fun habit for a horse to have.

He uses anything as an excuse to do this - from "just because he feels like it", to someone walking around the corner of the trailer, another horse, being asked to move his butt over, and most recently, wheelbarrows. He's decided he's absolutely terrified of wheelbarrows, but only when he's tied (I can trundle past him while he's out in the pasture, and he never bats an eye). The ties in our barn are all Velcro safety ties (they tear apart when under pressure), which is a good thing because otherwise, we'd have to invest in another dozen lead ropes. Gah.

So the rule with Oberon is now that we either hard-tie him (rope halter attached with a bowline knot to a 3/4 inch thick 25 foot rope, then tied to an immovable object) or we tie him with something that will give, so that we don't have to keep replacing things that break. For the past few days, we've been hard-tying him in the barn during morning and evening chores. Hubby holds the end of the lead and has it wrapped around a post so that when he sets back, he can put some pressure on the rope, or let it slide if that seems like the better option. If I come around the corner with a wheelbarrow, he sets back, rears, sets back more... it's quite a show. If I truly thought that he was afraid of the wheelbarrow, I'd be concerned, but he's not snorting, trembling, the whites of his eyes aren't showing... in other words, there are none of the classic signs of fear that you see in a horse. Instead it seems that he's learned he can do this, so he's just going to do it.

Did I mention that he's really quite a brat?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Elias and Freya update (good news and bad)

As part of a fabulous start to 2013 (NOT), Freya and Elias were both diagnosed with cancer. Freya has cancer of the mouth and was not given long to live, and Elias has...

... nothing. The vet's original diagnosis of a nerve sheath tumor was dis-proven when they biopsied the lump they removed, which turned out to be nothing more than a lipoma (fatty tissue deposit). It was completely benign! All he has to show for his ordeal is a lovely scar - he's completely back to his usual bouncy, talkative self, "helping" with the barn chores and "guarding" the house.

Elias is ashamed of his new scar. OK, not really, but this is what he did when I went to take a picture of it!

We are so, so relieved. Elias is such a personable dog, and such a huge part of our lives. It's good to know that we'll have him with us for a little longer.

Freya's cancer, unfortunately, is very real. It's in her jawbone, and you can see her cheek poofing out a little more each day. She doesn't like to have that side of her face touched, and she has trouble eating. However, she still comes and gets me to let me know that her bowl is empty, and she's still eating, even though she has lost a lot of weight.

Her Highness Freya the Furbisaur, poofy cheek and all. 

She's never been a hugely affectionate cat - she likes to cuddle on her terms, thank you very much. But since Christmas she makes sure to cram herself between hubby and I at every possible opportunity (sitting on the couch, snoogling in bed, etc), and she stares at one of us until we pet her. For now, she seems to be doing OK, but one of these days she'll take a turn for the worse.

Until then, we're making every minute count.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meet Echo Tango

I had a completely amazing weekend in central Florida! Not only did I get to meet THE most handsome pony in the entire universe (well, with the exception of Cash, Red, and Oberon, of course), I also got to visit with my 104-year-old grandfather and my mom, who just happened to be in town.

First things first: Meet Echo Tango, my new eventing prospect. These pictures are of him as a three-year-old, in racing condition.


Echo's sire is Medaglia d'Oro, who is also Rachel Alexander's (the filly who won the Preakness and the Belmont a few years ago) sire. So he was royally bred for speed, and sold for an obscene amount of money as a two-year-old. Fortunately for me, he was too slow and had an abysmal race record. He raced two times as a 3 year old, and was then off for a year with a saucer fracture (which healed perfectly). He raced six times as a four-year-old and never finished any better than 2nd, then was retired.

Currently he lives at GoldMark Farm, which is where I visited him this weekend. If you want to see a truly drool-worthy place, go check out their web site. Racehorses are just in another league, aren't they?

The "service" entrance. 

Part of the main barn.

Usually the horses owned by GoldMark are simply put out to pasture (they have 2600 acres)  if they are too slow - they are generally not adopted out.  When I started looking for a horse after it became apparent that Saga wasn't going to be rideable, I put word out with pretty much everyone I know to see if anyone had a prospect or knew of one. I got to meet Echo because one of my childhood trainer's brother is the head trainer there, so it was very much a friend-of-a-friend sort of thing.  

Echo has been out to pasture since his last race in May 2011. He was ridden twice over the Christmas holidays to make videos for me. I didn't want to share any information prematurely, but I've had my eye on Echo since just after Christmas and we've been slowly moving ahead since then. This last week, we were able to do the vet check on him. He's got a bit of wear-and-tear from his racing days, but two different vets have looked at him (including mine), and I've had several people I trust look at him as well, and everyone agrees he's a great prospect. So, I found a last-minute plane ticket to Florida for the weekend to go see him.

I think he was a bit put out about being pulled from his life of leisure and asked to work. He's not currently a terribly personable fellow - actually he was rather aloof. However, he hasn't been handled much in almost two years other than worming and farrier work, so his lack of human interest was understandable. However, he enjoyed me rubbing his face and he wasn't mouthy, so that was good.

Our first ride was rather awkward. The grooms groomed and tacked him for me, then hand-walked him for 15 minutes in the covered round pen. I got a leg up into the saddle (no mounting blocks to be seen!) and got to sit in a racing exercise saddle for the first time in my life. There's not a whole lot of substance to those things, that's for sure! He was also decked out in a racing bridle with a racing martingale. They have 1.5 inch thick rubber reins which I could barely wrap my hands around, so I sort of muddled along. I'm pretty sure Echo was wondering WTF I was doing up there, since clearly I hadn't a clue. Fortunately he walked around quite nicely. It's really hard to give subtle cues with thick, heavy reins, so I'm afraid our circles were less than fabulous, but he listened to me well enough.

When we went to trot, it was apparent that he was sore from a chip in his hoof that had just recently come off (it was a BIG chip, down to the laminae, and right in the toe. More on that later). I hopped off, they called the farrier, who called back in 5 minutes and showed up 10 minutes later. (Meanwhile I'm thinking, GEEZ! It takes a day or two for my farrier to get back to me!) He tacked on a couple of racing plates and we went back to the round pen again. This time I was able to WTC both directions, and wow, I didn't want to get off! He's got a huge walk, a big, ground-covering trot (but sooo comfy!), and a nice rolling canter. He was also more than a bit lazy - I really had to smooch him on to get him to canter, but better lazy than running off with me, right?

When I hopped off, Echo was immediately escorted away by his groom, and was untacked and cooled out for me. It was sort of awkward, to be honest. I'm used to doing everything for myself, and here everything was done for me! It's a little hard to bond with a horse that way, you know? But that's just they way they do things at the track. I chatted with the grooms and trainers, and by about 12:30, it was clear that everything was done for the day. They get a crazy early start (4 am!) but they are also done early, so I headed out to go visit my grandfather for the afternoon.

Sunday I went back for a second ride. Echo was again groomed and tacked for me, and I got to witness some of his not-so-exciting TB behaviors. He picks up a front foot (as if to paw) sometimes while being groomed, and does not like being touched on his off flank much. But grooming is clearly a very businesslike affair at the track, not a chance for bonding like most of our pet horses are. I am guessing that with time, his attitude will change.

I learned that they pick feet in a different order at the track. It's LF, RF (from the left side), RH (also from the left side), LH. Also, the horses are ALWAYS walked left, both for warming up and cooling down. No wonder he's a bit odd about his off side, nobody ever works him from that side. Interesting, eh?

My second ride was fantastic!  I did a little W/T warmup in the round pen again, where he offered to do nothing worse than not trot when asked. We moved to the outdoor arena and proceeded to do some serpentines at the walk, followed by some nice 20 meter blobs at trot. Did I mention how hard precise steering is with racing reins and a martingale? I rode on a soft, loose-ish rein and he was content to pick a steady pace and occasionally ask if he could walk now, especially near the gate.  We got a decent canter both ways, although he decided that one 20 meter circle each direction was plenty and sort of died on me after that. He definitely made me work, but to be honest I'm glad he had more whoa than go! He was game enough and did what I asked, although he was not terribly engaged with me. Still, he didn't spook, buck, or do anything even the tiniest bit bad - he was just green. I even got a smidgen of leg yield in the walk (which is to say, he shifted his weight away from me when asked), and threw in a flying lead change at the canter when asked.

Not a bad view from up here!

I was grinning ear to ear when I was done, and told the assistant trainer that I could not wait for him to come home with me. So that's where things stand now, we're waiting to get the paperwork signed and make shipping arrangements. I CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE HIM HOME!!!! Too bad I couldn't fit him in my carry-on!

Maybe he could go in checked luggage?

Back out in his pasture. 

And if that's not enough, I had a really funny experience while I was in Ocala. I'd stopped off at Starbucks for a chai (chai is the nectar of the gods, in case you didn't know), and TWO girls walked in wearing breeches and boots. I asked them where the best tack store was in town, and as it turned out it was close to GoldMark. Not only that, but H.I.T.S Ocala was going on this weekend and was only 3 miles further on down the road, so you know I had to stop by both.

HITS 4' jumper course

Fortunately I emerged from both shopping venues with minimal damage to the credit card. Which is a good thing really, since I am BUYING A HORSE!!!! 


Friday, February 15, 2013

The One?

You know how sometimes you see a picture of a horse and you're just like, "WOW".

You don't even need to see him move, he's just that nice?

Then when you DO see him go, you think about how amazing it would be to ride that. To have all that power and talent to work with.

And then you're half in love with him before you've even met him?

Good things come in plain brown wrappers.

He's OTTB, belongs to a friend-of-a-friend. Impeccably bred, too slow as a racehorse. My vet has checked him and several people I trust think he is a fantastic prospect.

All that's left now is for us to meet. He's several states away; I fly out today to spend the weekend with him. 

Keep your fingers crossed! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Horse shopping - worse than shopping for jeans. Or a husband.

I haven't posted for a while about shopping for my next event horse. Honestly, it's been less than a month since Saga's been gone, and I haven't really felt like doing much about it. And of course I've been riding Red and feeling less pressure to find a new horse. However, in late December I spent quite a lot of time on various horsey shopping sites, checking to see what was out there. I've probably called and/or sent emails on 30-40 horses, although I've only been to see a few in person. I know I said I didn't want an OTTB, but I've started looking at those too since I wasn't finding anything to speak of in the non-TB world. Karma, right?

There are a few horses that stood out. I have opted not to post videos or links to any of the online ads, simply because the horse world is small and I don't want to burn any bridges.
  • I called about the RPSI gelding that I posted last time I mentioned horse shopping - he paddled like a duck, but several people commented that it wasn't considered a fault. After a bit of prying, I got from his owner that he "came out crooked and had to wear a cast for several months" but was "completely sound." She wouldn't say any more about what had happened, but suggested that I do a vet check on him. Um, thanks but no. (He's also been for sale for over a year.)
  • A LOVELY 7 y.o. OTTB gelding who was jumping 2'6 very quietly and tidily, and clearly had the scope to go higher. I really enjoyed watching the video of this horse - he looked like a super fun ride. But pictures of his legs revealed a splint the size of a golf ball in a very bad location, and an old bowed tendon. A conversation with his owner - where she talked about him getting 2 scoops of senior 2x/day, plus free choice hay, and him still being a hard keeper - screamed ULCERS in a big way. Pity, he's a lovely boy.
  • A farm in north Texas had several 4-5 y.o. QH geldings for sale, bred for HUS and whatever passes for jumping in AQHA shows. All of them were attractive boys, but they were all downhill and sort of heaved themselves over the fences. One of them had hind cannons that were literally TWICE as long as the front ones. Yikes!
  • Another 5 y.o. OTTB (one I actually went to look at) was reasonably put together, seemed quiet and steady, if green. I confidently WTC him both ways, and things were really looking good. Then I went to trot him over a tiny X. He stopped dead about 10 feet away, and it took several kicks to get him over it. We came back again with the same result. The next two tries were worse, if anything, and on the 5th try, he took the jump apart. I decided that he didn't really want to be a jumper and politely told the owner he wasn't what I was looking for. 
  • A completely adorable 4 y.o. palomino pinto half-arab, green and at 15.1 hh a bit smaller than I wanted, but with lovely gaits and almost clearing the 5' standards on a 2'6 jump. He was sold to someone else two days after I contacted the owner. Bummer.
  • A super-cute 4 y.o. BLM mustang gelding who had to be half draft. He'd had extensive ground work and about 10 rides, seemed very level-headed. I had a very pleasant ride on him and hubby even took him for a tiny 5 minute trail ride where he went through a creek. He free-jumped very nicely and we both really liked him. Unfortunately, the combination of an upright shoulder, short neck, and toeing out pretty badly, saner heads prevailed (y'all know who you are!) and I passed on him. 
  • An athletic 4 y.o. Trakhener gelding who looked like a cross-country machine in the videos. However, his gaits were only just OK, and the confo shots showed why. Long back, long pasterns, upright shoulder, and no hind end. He was above my price range anyway, which I suppose is good.
  • An adorable 8 y.o. Paint gelding who has showed 2nd level and has jumped some. Unfortunately, he's got a looong back and cannot really get under himself because of it. In the videos of him being ridden, his extended trot is really only happening in the front end - the hind end just trails behind. He looks like he's gotten super-good training, but he's just not built for what he's being asked to do. I'm also not sure how he would do jumping long-term, as he's about as round as a snausage and probably weighs as much as Oberon, even though he's shorter.
I've looked at OTTBs in other states (ermahGAWD there are some FUUUUGLY horses out there!), horses WAY out of my price range, 2 year olds, 10 year olds, and everything in between. What I've come away with is that unless you are willing to spend upwards of 30-50K, it is very, very hard to find a well-conformed horse of any breed, with a short back, good neck and shoulder, and decent legs. How some of y'all ended up with the lovely horses you have is completely beyond me!

But there is ONE...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dressage saddle fitting

I mentioned in my last post that Red seems to get a bit back sore with extended riding. The real truth is that none of our saddles have been specifically purchased or fitted to Red, with the exception of my husband's jousting saddle. Our Wintecs have fit him well enough in the past, but if I'm going to be spending more time asking for more precise movements, I want to make sure his back is comfortable and stays that way.

Enter my amazing Reactor Panel saddle. I originally bought it for Saga, who had very high withers, a deep "hole" right behind his shoulder, and a long flat back. Yeah, it looks weird, but those panels float over the shoulder and flex with the horse. The difference between the RP and a traditional wool-flocked panel saddle on Saga was like night and day - he instantly stopped with the head tossing and "hopping" in the trot. *I* like the saddle because it doesn't have a super-deep "bucket" seat like some dressage saddles do, so I can get out of it if I need to. I've also discovered that because of the flexibility of the panels, it fits a variety of horses reasonably well, including Cash and Oberon. However, the panels were too long for Red, and came up well onto his shoulder. I knew (from ordering a show pad last fall) that I had the 24 inch "long" panels instead of the standard 23 inch panels, so I called up RP to see if I could order something that would fit him better.

The customer service at RP is second to none. I called up, they immediately put their master saddler on the line and pulled up the info about my saddle. Mine is a Baker with a 13 inch tree - a good, standard size - but the Bakers tend to run flat so there was some concern it might not be a good fit for Red. They explained how to pull off the panels and take pictures of how the saddle sat on Red's back, which I dutifully did.

It doesn't look like there's much wither clearance, but that's because there aren't any panels on the saddle. Overall the saddle sits on him well.

One nice thing about Red being the size he is - I didn't need a stepladder to take this picture!

Looks pretty good (erm, except for needing a good cleaning)!

I heard back from them after about 3 business hours (!!!!) and they confirmed it looked like the saddle would fit him well. We got the panels and the disks (which stick the panels to the saddle) sorted out, and everything should be here today. Not only that, but they agreed to exchange the unused white show pad I got last fall for the long panels (unused b/c Saga was injured just after I got the pad) for the same pad for the regular panels. Wow! It's been almost 5 months since that pad was purchased, but they were very understanding and said it would be no problem. How nice!

So, fingers crossed that the new panels will make the saddle nice and comfy for Reddums. Certainly it's a whole lot less expensive than buying a whole new saddle!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pine Hill Schooling Horse Trials with Red

I believe it was just two weeks ago when I made the statement that “Red would never event, and never do dressage, because he’s gaited.” Or something of that sort. Well, I should have had more faith in The Feerless War Pony, because he has proved me entirely wrong.

At the Working Equitation clinic last weekend, I was encourage to enter an eventing schooling show this weekend. On a lark, I decided to go. We entered the “Goldilocks” division (there is no such actual USEA division, this is made up by the show organizers) – Beginner Novice dressage test A, no flowers or scary fences in Stadium, and 2’3 max height on the XC fences.

We had a lot working against us. I haven’t jumped Red consistently in probably a year, although he’s jumped 3’ coops a few times while out foxhunting this season. I was out of practice and so was he. Also, he’s never, EVER schooled a cross-country course. He’s never jumped a brush fence, or gone into a water jump, or anything like that. Most people at this show had not only been XC many times, but they had schooled the same course that they rode this weekend. And then of course there’s dressage. Yeah, we made huge inroads last weekend, but there’s a big difference between having a trainer (with magic trainer dust) walking you through every stride on an endlessly repeating 20 meter circle, and having to string movements together in a test. So yeah, not the most prepared I’ve ever been for a show. WTF was I THINKING?

And as I walked the XC course yesterday morning, I was also wondering WTF was I DOING! Those 2’3 logs were HUUUUGE! And could we make the time? 300 mpm? I mean, sure, Red can keep up hunting, but usually we jump 2 or 3 fences in a row and then we’re done. Would he quit on me halfway through? I made some whiny comments to MC, who went with me to groom for the day, and questioned my sanity. Again.

The dressage warmup was pretty awful. The warmup area footing was super hard, and Red did not like it AT ALL. Even his trot was flat, and his canter was worse than it has been. We missed a bunch of leads, and they had been so good on Saturday. Me being tense did not help at all, I’m sure. I’d studied how the test would be scored carefully beforehand, and of course there was a lot of emphasis on the up/down canter transactions (each scored separately) as well as the canter itself. I knew we’d have to make up for it on the trot work if we could.

We went into the arena and gave it our best go. The initial trot was really good, and then we blew the left canter lead, which landed us a 4. Downward canter/trot transitions were as awful as expected, although I managed to get him to actually trot and we got back into a fairly tidy trot quickly. We got an 8 for the free walk, which was extra good since it had a 2x coefficient. The right trot circle was OK, and the right lead canter depart was iffy, as was our right canter circle (his hard direction). I believe the comment said something like “loss of rhythm” – um yeah, that would be where my horse was doing a 4 beat gaited thing? I dug my spurs in and urged him to keep going, and we did actually manage to complete the entire circle without breaking. I had a hard time getting him organized enough for the right turn down center line, so we rather flubbed that move, but we finished the test and stayed in the arena. Overall we scored a 39 (YIKES!) and landed in 3rd place.

A good moment in trot.

Free walk. I'll take the 8!

This is what a gaited "loss of rhythm" canter looks like. Note how far forward my outside leg is, turning his shoulder. We got the circle, but wow my leg looks funny from head-on!

Another nice trot moment.

Each competitor is required to volunteer for an hour at these shows, so MC and I went out to jump judge Prelim and Training. We had an impressive ABC combo for Prelim – an enormous rolltop, 2 strides to a ditch, 2 strides up a hill to a seriously skinny fence. All 5 Prelim competitors rode it well, and I was SO happy to hear two of them come through counting “One-TWO, One- TWO!” before the first fence. I’m not the only one who does iiiiiiiit! (singsong voice)

I had to head back early to get ready for stadium, then about had a heart attack when they said our division was going early. I raced to tack up Red, sped up to stadium to walk the course in 30 seconds (I handed Red to some stranger to hold while I walked it), and then hopped on to warm up. Red liked the footing in the stadium warmup arena much, much better – I had a nice, forward, bouncy pony under me. I kept warmup to an absolute minimum – we jumped the X, the vertical, and the oxer, and called it good. Red isn’t the type that will put up with a lot of warmup or repetition – he wants to get out there and get the job done, no fuss no muss. Fine with me, it just means that *I* need to be spot on so I don’t have to drill myself.

I headed back up to stadium and watched a few rounds to make sure I had the course down. It was just simple poles, no flowers, brush, rolltops, or stone walls, so I wasn’t worried about the actual fences. A couple people had stops and rails down, but I just wanted to ride the course forward and balanced, and not let Red chip. My turn came, we trotted in, got the whistle, and started on the left lead. Fence 1 was a crossrail which I flubbed (oops), then an easy turn to a vertical, and 3 was another easy vertical. We made a wide-ish loop to fence four, and oxer. Red was on the left lead but kept his balance through the right-hand turn, and I opted not to try to fix it but just ride what I had. Fence 5 should have been a right lead as well, but he stayed left and I didn’t mess with him. We had a bit of a mess turning to fence 6 – he was unbalanced – but we got it back together in time and had a nice spot off a short turn off the rail. A long canter to fence 7, and another long go to fence 8 – he came barreling down and I sat up a little to organize him, but we got over on a bit of a long spot anyway. However, no rails down! Go Wonder Pony!!! I patted him over and over again and told him what a superstar he was, and I’m pretty sure he was like, “Yeah, I’m all that!”

We had a long break until XC, where DA (who was also showing) and I talked a little and MC snuck in a nap. The warmup area was the same as for dressage, hard as a rock. I trotted Red around once each direction, cantered once each way, and jumped the warmup log once off each lead. Red was starting to get frustrated with everything, snatching the reins out of my hands during the walk breaks. I took him over to MC, where he ate grass for a bit. While we were waiting for our turn, Red ate MC’s Charley Bears, which are actually dog treats that she’d brought along for her service-puppy-in-training. Apparently Red likes liver-flavored dog treats, who knew?

XC warmup.

Finally, we were up! I started my watch with 5 seconds to go, walked into the start box and cantered out of it. Red seems to have this extra gear reserved for foxhunting and cross-country – powerful and balanced. We blasted over the first log and came around to fence 2, a rolltop. I screwed up the spot ‘cause I was looking at the fence, and lost my right stirrup on the landing. Red kept going as I fished around for it, and fortunately we had a nice long run before fence 3, a ramp. Fence 4 was another log going up a bit of a hill, and then a sharp left turn and another good run took us to fence 5, which was a small drop. Red looked at it a bit as we came up to it, as if he couldn’t quite figure out what to do with this half-log on the ground, but we’ve dropped off a small bank at home enough times that he went over it without fuss. We then had to weave through a Novice and Training set of fences to get to fence 6, a bridge. He trotted boldly over that, then a sharp left to fence 7, which was a HUGE log that we shared with BN. I kept my eyes up, leg on, and clucked to him, and he went right over. We had a bit of a zigzag through the woods to fence 8, which was a brush fence. I felt him take a good look at that one when we came around the corner – he’s never jumped brush before – but I again closed my leg and it was no problem. I looked at my watch and we were FAST. Ooops! I’d figured that I could make up time on course between 9 and 10, but opted to ride quietly instead. Fence 9 was another log that I almost missed the turn to, but Red’s super-maneuverable and recovered from my mistake in time to make the jump look tidy. A long canter to fence 10 (I had to remind myself to slow down, I was having so much FUN!), which was a trot through the water. Red took a small look at it but went right in and trotted through, splashing everywhere. He got a bit behind my leg and I was a little worried about him taking the opportunity to stop for a roll, so I gave him a tap with my whip and reminded him that he was still on the clock. We came out of the water, I asked him for a left canter, and we made a tidy turn around some trees and headed for home. We took a HUUUGE (for him) spot on fence 11 and galloped across the finish line, with me yelling “WOOOHOOO!!!!”

OhMyGawd, I haven’t had that much fun in YEARS. I’m still picking the bugs out of my teeth!

Definitely bugs in there.

So yeah. We finished second on our (not so great) dressage score, two points behind a lady riding a 22 year old made eventer who had done Training her daughter several years before. You know, I’m good with that. :)

I think Red has the scope, talent, and heart to do Beginner Novice jumping-wise, but if we really want to be competitive, I have got to get our dressage together. I suspect that part of the not-bending-left thing may be tooth-related, which is logical since everyone is due for a floating anyway. I also know that our saddles don’t fit him very well, so I’d like to get our saddle fitter out to see what we can do. I’m hoping that I can get some shorter panels for my RP dressage saddle and change the billet system around, and perhaps get a shim pad for my jumping saddle. I’m hoping that better-fitting saddles will lead to less hollowness in the canter, as well as fewer balance problems.

And for those of you who are thinking, “Wait, weren’t you looking for a new horse?” Yeah, I am. But it doesn’t seem so pressing right now. After all, I have Reddums the Feerless Eventing War Pony!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Red ribbon for the Reddums! :D

I take back everything I ever said about Red not being able to event. ;)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dressage school and jumping lesson with the Redster

I believe there are a couple of folks out there who are proud owners of amazing chestnut ponies – and not that I ever doubted you, but I am finally coming to an appreciation of the awesome power of the Red-headed-attack-pony!

Wednesday evening, hubby went for his dressage lesson and I came along to school. After Red’s back soreness over the weekend, I added a fleece half-pad and used the old folded towel trick (classy!) to raise the pommel of the saddle a bit. He certainly felt much more forward and freer in his shoulders and back – so much so that I could NOT sit his trot for love nor money. Our upward trot and canter transitions were much better, and he’s getting SO much stronger in the canter, particularly to the left. Which is funny, since two weeks ago his right canter was stronger. Oh well. The downward transitions were still pretty messy, but at least we are getting them more-or-less on schedule. I think part of it is that I need to have him more collected and slower in the trot to nail the downward trot-walk transitions, and he was just forward-forward-forward. Leg-yielding into and out of transitions worked pretty well, but I really felt like I could have used some magic trainer dust from the weekend for a smoother ride. Don’t you wish you could bottle that stuff and use it when you need it!

Last night we took a jumping lesson, the first in a long while. Red was a total star, although he likes to take the short spot. I worked on riding the canter stride all the way to the fence, instead of trying to pick a spot, and keeping the RPMs up all the way to the base (Shoulders Back! Leg ON!). It feels like we don’t have any speed because he doesn’t cover much ground with each stride (we made a tidy 5 strides in a 4 stride line), so I have to resist the urge to let him flatten out and run. I also have to almost sit in the saddle in order to keep my upper body back – I think this has to do in part with the fact that I’ve got a very long torso and he’s got a very short neck. If I get even a tiny bit forward I’ve practically got his ears up my nose. If I ride in a tiiiiny half-seat, stay steady, up, and back, and keep my leg on, he jumps tidily around every damn time. If I get a little ahead, we chip. We only had one really truly awful chip where I ended up on his neck and he would have had every right to stop, but he jumped for me anyway because he’s such a good boy. We even blasted over a 2’6 fence that had a Christmas tree under it – he jumped so big and round he about threw me out of the tack. Ooops! We finished up with a few confidence-building (for me, not him) fences, and called it a day.

Yes, I jumped this. No, I did not try to eat the pink flowers. Much.

He’s got tonight off, and then I’ll give him a short dressage school tomorrow. We’re not super-prepared for the show on Sunday, but I’m confident we’ll make it around if I ride well. He’s certainly got the heart for it, I just need to believe that we can put in a good team effort and get the job done.

Too bad mom's eventing vest and stuff is all green. I look so awesome in blue!