Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The show that wasn't

I was super excited to go cross country schooling to put Mia over some larger fences and to make the final decision on whether I could put her in her first ever Training level horse trial, or if I should bump down to Novice for the first HT of the season. Decisions, decisions. On one hand, I KNOW we could do it. Mia's dressage is really good (when her rider does the crap that needs done) right now. Our jumping is very good too, I have successfully fixed my brain (I think anyway) and I don't have anxiety when looking at a 3'3" jump. Our fitness is just about where it needs to be, and we were ready to go. The concern? Why did I want this litmus test? Because we haven't done a horse trial in a long while. Last year's show season was basically non-existent due to the weather and schedule, I never went XC schooling at all last year. Would it really be FAIR to put Mia out so...unprepared?

On Saturday we started with the farrier. App was not helpful, as discussed in the last post. Thanks to him, I was about 25 mins later getting out than I wanted but it worked out well enough. I was SO lucky to have the daughter of one of the boarders be willing to come and be a ground person. SO was out of town and I could find no one else who wanted to haul down. The fact she was willing to just come and walk around? I was so extremely grateful.

We made it in about 2 hours and the ground was oh so wet. Not as wet as when I was there a few weeks ago for the CT show, but pretty damn close. In addition to being extremely wet, there were no large jumps set up at all. The cross country fences were still stacked in storage and the only jumps set out were some starter/BN jumps. I was annoyed because I had emailed the facility before I came to ensure they were open, advising I wanted to school Training fences to prep for the show. When they responded, they didn't say a word about there not being any Training fences up for me to practice over. Grrr.

We jumped everything set out. We also found the 3 biggest, permanent fences in the entire park and jumped them too. She is such a good mare. The biggest, which I suspect may be a Prelim fence, she was hesitant going up to it, but after jumping, she was every eager and forward. She just needed that confidence builder, apparently, and I threw it at her towards the beginning of our ride lol. She was such a good mare, she only biffed a fence once because she wasn't listening. She tapped the log and it rolled off of its stand. It was also water logged and had NO chance of going back up, even with the 2 of us trying to lift it. Oops...

I came away from the schooling confident we could probably do Training level, but now I had a bigger concern. The footing was horrible, really horrible. I wasn't able to gallop a single time because the entire grounds were swampy/in standing water. I really don't want to chance going at speed towards Training level fences if I don't have to. And then it rained for 2 days straight, plus off an on again during the week up to the show. The last time I rode in super crappy weather at a show, spring 2014, while it rained the ENTIRE DAY, the footing was actually fairly solid. And we won first place! There was no solid footing here, everything was squishy and waterlogged.

In the end, I couldn't do it. I really, REALLY wanted last weekend to be our first ever Training Horse Trial. There was only one other horse entered in Training and while they went double clear, they had a 38 in dressage. I think I could have beaten the score. I could have won our first ever Training Hose Trail. But the more I debated it, I realized if I am struggling this much, it is obvious I KNOW the footing is dangerous and it isn't worth it. So I didn't enter.

I need to try to find another show, I am traveling in June which eliminates the next Horse Trial. There is a jumper show in mid-June I may try because it is close. I am super disappointed that I didn't go, but I know it was the right choice. And that's all that really matters, right?

Friday, May 17, 2019

App update - it's his birthday!

So fresh, so CLEAN! Fresh out of the bath
The good news is App is chugging right along. He has come out of winter a bit harried and thin, he had definitely lost weight since January, but the barn manager is letting him free roam on the spring grass and he is slowly picking it back up. He is now probably only apx 50-100lbs underweight.

When he wants to nap, he just naps. At lest it isn't IN the driveway?
He has decided he likes neither Cool Calories or rice bran anymore, of the pelleted or powder variety. I am currently taking advantage of Smartpak's Sample program to see if we can find a weight supplement he will eat. He starts SmartGain today, then moves over to Smart and Simple, then FatCat. If these three are a bust, we will keep moving down the list!

App says "Do you have treat? I like treats, not supplements"
He is definitely FEELING good, even though he is thinner. I went to catch him just this week to put fly spray on him. He ran past me (literally trotted), waited until I approached again, and trotted the direction we just came. When I went to get him AGAIN, he literally cantered himself back to the barn. So....he may be broken, but he will still move and be a little snot when he wants to be! His mind certainly isn't broken haha!

Nom nom nom, grass outside of fences tastes much better
Unfortunately his shoulder IS causing issues though. We are currently at the point where we are still having an extremely hard time trimming his feet. The vet was out for spring shots when the farrier was out last time, so she got to see the difficulties. She had us try giving him some Ace, hoping that would sedate him just enough to let us work on him.

We tried trimming him while he was laying down
It helped....some? Barely? We were definitely able to trim him the best we have been able to since January, but it was still super difficult. I ended up being an App-stand (kick stand), and was holding his butt up to keep him from trying to sit back while his front feet were worked on. The vet's recommendation for the next time was to take him off of Equioxx, put him on 2g of bute, 2x a day, and give him banamine for the trimming. We tried that on Saturday, with minimal success. We even tried trimming outside in the grass, and some while he was laying down, but he was NOT cooperative. At. All. And my thumb will probably have a scar to remind me of that fact. *sigh*

It was only slightly successful. He is also trying to nap while we did this.
But the bigger deal is that today is his birthday! He turns a big 26 today, and is having a good day on grass. He got his first bath of the season on Wednesday, which he did not seem to appreciate, and has now shed most of his winter coat. He is definitely having a red year, I was wondering if he would be more white or red since his winter coat seemed to be white.

He is at least LOOKING better
Happy 26th birthday big guy!
So raise a glass and have a drink for App. I am glad he is gaining weight on spring grass and still LOOKS good, even if he isn't always comfortable. His spirits are high, as is his sassiness, so life seems good for him for now. Happy birthday App!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Progress is progress

With new plans in place, things have been going quite well. In jumping, I first bumped Mia's jumping down to 2'6" and she literally trotted over everything before I realized this was stupid and considered that a warmup. I then put things back up to 2'11" and even those looked small. Fences are now back up to 3'3" and Mia is happy and I am happy. Next week I may put a fence or two back up to 3'6", but I'm not pushing it. No need to break my brain again, no need to rush.

We actually jumped last night and Mia really was a rock star. I really don't deserve this horse. She didn't knock a single fence down, and only touched 2 rails over our entire ride. We started with fences at 2'11" to 3'3", ending with everything at 3'3".  Even when we had a couple of disagreements, she soared over jumps, found a way to get to the other side, and jumped beautifully. Our lead change is still broken and she is now landing over 90% of the jumps on the left lead, even when we are going right. She is, however, starting to give me the lead change 50% of the time again, so there is that. I'm not sure why she is landing on the wrong lead, I've tried changing my weight and paying close attention to ME but it hasn't fixed anything yet.

What else is going on? A lot actually. I had a lesson! It was really good in that my only homework is to stop riding like an newb. Huh. Okay, point taken. When I ride my dressage pattern, the moment things go awry or I get distracted, I ride my pattern. Instead of riding the horse. Meaning instead of squeezing every single point out of every stride, I get hyper focused on making sure I don't mess up the pattern. Which, yes, helps from getting eliminated but I am a much better rider than that. My homework is to instead hyper focus on riding every stride. Asking Mia to supple at least every other step. Wiggling the bit. Bumping her with my leg. I should be asking for a shoulder in, change of speed, half halting, changing direction, anything and everything so that Mia is asking me "Okay, what now" instead of going into "cruise mode". 

This makes 100% sense, but I think my brain thought that cruise mode was the goal. It's not, and I know this, but maybe the lazy part of me wanted it to happen? So once we "got" it, I would let Mia "cruise" instead of constantly micromanaging. But it's okay, we have new homework and we are working on it. We were also told our lengthened canter was non-existent. We have to feel like we are galloping. Hmm. I'll try it at the next show, and I guess I believe her, but it feels way faster and flatter than I thought it should. I've been watching some dressage to try to figure this all out, but I just have to ride it and trust the instructor!

Mia also had a massage and it was the first time she had no knots. She typically has knots in her neck, back and/or withers, but she just had some slight tense spots. Progress indeed! Now if *I* could have a regularly scheduled massage.... Instead I am dealing with shoulder pain. The nagging issue I have had for 2+ years is finally growing up, it now wakes me up at night. So I had the x-rays and am waiting to see the specialist. Who has an 8 week wait to get it *eyeroll*. Fingers crossed it will be quick, easy, and just some drugs to get right as rain, I just have to wait until mid-June to find out.

Finally, my plan is to go XC schooling on Saturday after the farrier visit. If all goes well, I am going to *gasp* enter our first Training level HT on the 19th. I am actually excited about it, I really want to redeem our crap ride from last time. We just need to get over Training level XC jumps, because we haven't been over many XC jumps period and it wouldn't be fair to introduce her to those jumps during a show. So cross your fingers, I will know on Sunday if I am checking the N or T box on that entry!

Monday, April 22, 2019

XC schooling!

By wonders of all things, the venue actually opened the cross country course for schooling after the show. It was perfect timing, because we hadn't gone xc schooling since last year and it is far, so I don't get down here often to do it. It was super wet, and getting wetter as it was raining, but I am so glad we did it.
Our new XC bit, just a little more whoa
Confidence builder
I started out with some really small stuffs, I really wanted to make sure I rebuilt some of my lost confidence but I was worried for nothing. Mia was totally ready to go and apparently solid objects don't bother me. Or my brain had finally reset itself after surviving the stadium round? Either way, things were good.

Trakehner? No problem.
The highlights? Mia was weirdly spooky at the woods until she got a couple of spanks from the crop. Then she got down to business and didn't flinch at a single thing. Up a bank out of water? Easy. Down banks? Good. Down banks into water? Fabulous. Little logs? Big logs? Easy peasy.
Blind landing!

Fun in the water
I am really glad we swapped our bit over to the 4-in-1 because Mia was often questioning my decisions for half halts. And collection. And slowing down. I understand, this IS in fact the first time we are out running for the entire season, but training is training and she can't let herself get so excited that she forgets she HAS training. She still has a job and she still has to apply that knowledge!

All the pretty things! Collection up the hill
Big logs are no big deal
The only thing she had issues with were the "roller coaster" jumps, but we went over them until she got it. They are a set up for a sunken road. There is a jump on top of a hill, you go down the hill, back up a small hill and over another jump. The one set is pretty easy, but the other two are significantly more difficult as they both have a blind landing. Mia didn't care about the blind landing, however she needed a reminder that the downhill ride does not mean faster.
Learning to not run downhill!

Tires are easy
The happiest moment? This picture. The last xc schooling we had in MI had this as a question and Mia was not okay with it. I knew it was just a matter of time, and apparently she has surpassed the confidence needed to question this type of jump. A log on top of a drop. I didn't even show it to her, we trotted up to it and she popped down the jump as if it was NBD. Training and confidence FTW!

Log on a drop? Easy!
We finished up over this huge log, it is UP a hill, and I think it would qualify as a Prelim question because of the hill, but Mia locked onto it after the tire jump and had no cares so we went for it. After an awkward jump, bc newbs, she got it on the 2nd try and we called it a day. We were soaked, she was getting tired, and I had my confidence back. It made me feel much better about the day and our abilities.

So much photo filter required to be able to see through the dark, misty rain
Big ol log on a hill, attempt 1. 2nd attempt wasn't captured
I am hopeful I can go schooling again before the next show, I would LIKE to go to a Training HT but most likely I will do a Novice HT first to confirm our training. I would hate to push either of us too fast, especially since we have done almost no Training level cross country jumps to practice. We will see though, the year is young and I have lots of plans!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Psyching yourself out- a Training CT recap

Before I get into the Training CT recap, I wanted to talk about confidence. And what it is like when you lose it. I am a pretty hardcore person. If I make a decision to do something, I put on my big girl panties and Get. It. Done. I don't have anxiety issues and I am not often nervous. For this show? I was a nervous wreck. Legit nervous. Thursday/Friday/Saturday I had trouble sleeping, I made myself sick on Saturday. I was actually literally shaking on Sunday. I couldn't eat breakfast. I didn't ride effectively in my dressage. And then I figured it out. It clicked. I realized why I was acting this way, when it is so abnormal for me. I had broken my confidence.

Fuzzy video screencaps FTW!
To prep for this show, I went from about 3', which we have been working on for the past few weeks, to 3'3" for one day and then immediately to 3'6". That ride on Wednesday went well, except for the end where she wasn't listening and was running to the jumps. But I was nervous and forced myself over it. And while it ended well, it shook my confidence because she wasn't listening. I figured I would power through like I always do, but apparently I didn't. I was suddenly put off of the large fences, she had knocked down those fences at the end bc she was running, and I think my brain could only see us bringing everything down in a total failure.

At least we looked cute!
So yeah. Sunday was not the show I had hoped. I really didn't ride effectively in dressage. I missed the canter lengthenings we have been working so hard on. I couldn't find my whip so I rode without it, but didn't then keep my inside leg back to keep Mia's haunches behind her. So almost every canter element on the test sheet has a comment about her haunches being in. She had no desire to stretch in our stretchy trot circle, an aspect I expected big points for, and she also didn't want to push during her free walk and instead meandered. Another big points loser. *sigh* The good part? We were sitting in 3rd out of 4 with a 36.4%. Not too shabby considering the state of the rider!

Position love!
 At least it was at this point I realized why I was having the anxiety. And you know what? After I figured it out, I felt so much better. I actually was able to eat, I was able to relax a little, and things were better. Mia warmed up well for stadium, though a bit fast. I actually regretted not getting the bit I tried last year for cross country, which did not help the anxiety that was trying to build. And, in reality? The stadium round went really well. Mia listened, she didn't knock anything over, she mostly collected when I asked, she even went over the triple combination with as much caution as I asked. Wonderful you say! What also happened during stadium? My anxiety made me lose my focus and I ended up off course., went WELL past our fence and had to double back, which gave me 4 jump penalties and 2.5 time penalties. GAH!!!!!!

Last jump of the triple, she was amazing
So we ended up 4th. We would have been a half point from 2nd if I hadn't had my course error, but oh well. Mia was AMAZING and had no idea why the hell I was such a wreck so I am happy. The plan is for ME to go back to 2'11" and then go up to 3'3" and  THEN stay there for several sessions before trying 3'6" again. I need to set myself up for success, mentally, because Mia is totally fine about all of it. She gets today off, and then I am giving myself some serious homework so we can try this again. But that's not all that happened on Sunday....

Monday, April 15, 2019

We are doing this - Oh and we are not hunters

**Edit - I had this set to go up last Thursday, but apparently I scheduled it for THIS Thursday. Oops. So...enjoy!**

Our debut in hunter land was good! In that Mia was foot perfect, had zero spook, zero hesitation, was super quiet and happy, and had good rounds. Unfortunately the judge must have been able to tell that we were blatantly not hunters as we placed last in both over fences classes, and 2nd to last in the flat class. But hey, what can I say. I didn't even really clean her, I forgot to clean the trailer rub mark on her butt off before we went in, I didn't pay attention to how the courtesy circle is supposed to be done, I wasn't trying to win. We were literally going to knock rust off of our jumping. And it was a success!
This is not a hunter canter...
Our first round was good, though I biffed the distance on one of the jumps. It was a long spot, Mia waited instead and ended up putting in a half stride. Oh well. She also didn't swap her lead, something she has been doing more and more of since we started working on counter canter. Hmmm....this needs to be addressed. Our second round was actually pretty perfect, save for one lead swap that didn't happen. I was very happy with our second round, and thought if I was going to place, that would be the round! Spoiler alert, I still got last place HAHA!

All the trot
Our flat class I was really happy with too, though it was super obvious that we aren't hunters. In the canter, Mia had this nice, collected canter and everyone else was long and low. Oops... That's okay, it was all for experience and I was actually really happy with how the day went. It was a close show, we were back at the barn by 11a, and the day was good.

This is also not a hunter canter
Then I actually did it, I entered us into the Training level CT for this upcoming Sunday. I have ridden the Novice dressage test and it is easy. I have ridden the Training level test and it is doable. I have ridden some of the Prelim level and it is too hard, Training is the right place to be dressage wise. It's just....intimidating and I keep psyching myself out. This will be the first time to ever show at Training. App and I jumped 3'3" and 3'6" but never at a show. Mia has jumped up to 3'9" (once, a couple of years ago), but this is the first time jumping this big at a show. I have been jumping up to 3' the past few weeks, but this past week I stepped it up. Last week I jumped 3'3" and last night I bumped it up to 3'6". And Mia couldn't have cared. The rider was trying hard to not have a damn anxiety attack. Apparently my lady balls are not as big as they need to be, and while 2'9" doesn't look big, 3'3" looks respectable, it turns out that 3'6" makes me weak-kneed. **Edit-more to come on this**

What did Mia do about it? Nothing. I don't deserve this mare. She couldn't have cared that I was all nervous but riding with determination. She jumped over everything like it was fun, even the bounce combo that was set up. I had a short panel fence at 2'6" and a vertical at 2'9" as a warmup, then an airy vertical with a ground line at 3'3" (moved to 3'6" after a couple laps), a 3'6" gate fence, and another 3'3" vertical with a barrel under it. She never even thought about touching anything until the very end, when she felt that running up to the jumps was a better idea than collecting and compacting to the jumps. Spoiler Alert. It is not. I may need something other than a copper eggbutt if she continues doing this, but I am going to try reminding her more before bitting her up. Fingers crossed?
Kinda a hunter-ish trot?
We have our Training CT to get ready for, cross your fingers we survive!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Operation Fitness - Part 2

Were you curious if I was actually putting up part 2 or if I was simply teasing you? Fear not, I DID have a huge post and I DID break it in half.

Since I need fitness, enter two-point, my old, evil friend. Any guess on who didn't have the stamina to stay in two point for more than a single 3 min trip? *raises hand* Yeah, that would be me. I can't expect Mia to jump 3 foot fences if I can't stay in position, so fitness has become a priority over the past 2 weeks. There has been some good progress too! After the first fitness ride (3x 3 min two point sets), I had legit wobbly knees and was sore for 2 days afterwards. The 2nd time, I pulled a quad muscle that took 2 days and massage to work loose. The third time I had general soreness. Since then? I've been good. Fitness FTW!

Last week it was actually "nice" enough to ride outside (ie mid 30's and super windy), so I set up 3 of the blown over jumps and we did fitness with some 2' - 2'6" jumps. Last night, I rushed to the barn and was able to RIDE OUTSIDE IN THE TWILIGHT! I had a good 30 mins of riding before it was dark and we jumped 2'3-3' jumps. Mia knocked the 3' jump down twice, both times I didn't get the striding right and I wasn't riding aggressively enough. But if I sit, put leg ON, she was absolutely flying over the fences. It was also getting dark and the jump was dark green, so I am not eliminating that as a possible issue either. For a horse that hasn't really jumped anything of height since fall, though, I am tickled at how well she is doing.

It's cold, but we can ride outside at night now. It is darker than the pic makes it appear.
My plan for the April 6 show was thwarted, my plan was go into the first 3 classes since the show starts at 8a and hopefully (since it is a hunter show and they don't list times like eventing) they would be done in time for me to get back to the barn around 10a because the farrier was coming at 10a. Not too bad. But then the barn also scheduled spring shots for April 6 at 9a. So I now have shots and farrier on the same morning as a show? I am talented, but not that talented in managing my time so I am going to pass on that one. BUT I now have a Plan B AND a Plan C.

Free roaming App likes to come say hi
I am doing (will have done by the time this post is up) a "pre show" at that same venue. Mia has never done hunters, and I am not good with hunters, however it gives us an opportunity to show in a very relaxed atmosphere over fences so I am planning on going! And then on Apr 14 there is a show at the horse park (2 hr drive) we go to and I am tentatively planning to enter the Training CT. I KNOW we can go training level in dressage and I think we can go training level in stadium, so it will be a really nice test. I want to go xc schooling at LEAST 2 times before I try going training level in a horse trial. I don't want to set Mia up to fail and there is no real rush. We didn't get out to school a single time last year and I need to fix that for this year. Fingers crossed I can go xc schooling after the show in Apr 14, I want to see how she is!