Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Rushing Back

I spent the past week in Maine and was scheduled to come home today, arriving into Orlando around midnight. By Monday this was looking less and less ideal, and I got on the phone with Delta to try to move things around. It involved a loooong hold time to talk to someone and then another looooong hold time to get the change made without charges, but other than that the experience was amazing. They offered a variety of options into Gainesville, Orlando, and Jacksonville and basically just let me pick my favorite. Then because I selected Gainesville, there was going to be an add on charge, but the first rep pushed me over to a second one who went out of her way to make it happen without a fee. This is extra amazing because Gainesville is 45 minutes from my house with 0 interstate minutes whereas Orlando is 2 hours away with a long stretch north on 75 or parallel roadways that were very liable to be clogged with people heading north away from the storm. It doesn't take much on a good day to turn 75 into a parking lot between the turnpike, Ocala, and Gainesville, so add in evacuation traffic? Guaranteed to be hell. 

Anyways, major major points to Delta for that. The customer service reps offered a variety of options and worked extra hard to make sure I didn't pay for the change. Then the flights themselves were on-time and pleasant as well. I'll definitely be intentionally looking for Delta flights in the future. Good move to make the change though, last night Orlando announced that they would be cancelling all flights after 10:30 this morning. At least that would have been before my departure so I could have lingered in Maine vs. getting stuck in LaGuardia, but still, not ideal. 

Hiked "the Precipice" yesterday morning in Acadia before heading to the airport 

You can see the metal hand rail off on the left side of the picture

It did seem a bit silly to be rushing to fly back into the state where a hurricane was about to hit. But I did leave my husband, our newly surgerized cat (sutures came out Tuesday before I left, but she's still getting tube water and meds multiple times daily), pigs, chickens, and BEN!! in Florida. So there was impetus to get home before the storm. Ms. GY has been through quite a number of storms and had the standard grain, hay, and WATER needs taken care of. But I still wanted to give Ben an extra kiss and cuddle before the wind/rain got too bad. We did a bit more than that even and had a pleasant, if a bit spicy, ride this morning before it started spitting rain.

I attached a nifty mane tag with my name and info. Just in case fences go down. Fortunately Ben's pasture mate is also the oldest, smartest horse at the farm. This reassures me that even if fences go down, he'll probably stick around and not engage in too much drama and shenanigans and hopefully inspire Ben to do the same.

And that is that. Not a whole lot else to do - we're north of the projected path, so barring any tornadoes, it is just going to be a LOT of rain and some wind. The strengthening to a Cat 4 this morning right before it is scheduled to make landfall is not exactly ideal, I'm hoping everyone in the direct path weathers this okay. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Doing the thing at 1m

Ben and I redeemed ourselves at Majestic Oaks yesterday. Well, I redeemed myself, he did that Friday at Sweet Dixie. The Majestic Oaks jumper shows are just so low key and so fun that it is hard to stress about them. It's also the venue we go to the most. Which means that even though their standards and fill are fun (to humans) and spooky (to horses), Ben has been around their course more than a couple of times and no longer eyeballs things inside or outside the ring. 

We drove through some rain on the way and it had turned into a misting/spitting rain situation by the time we arrived, but it all cleared in time for Ms. GY and I to get on our ponies. Ben felt a little stuck and behind my leg in the warm up ring. We did a few gallops forward and then coming back to lift with power to remedy that and it was mostly fixed by the time JT got there to put us over some jumps. He only stuck to one, but felt great to the rest. We headed into the ring and did a 3' class first. 

JT described this as "ride him like you don't like him much." She said it won't always have to be this way, but for now, he NEEDS to learn that he MUST go over the jump, so when in doubt, spurs in and ride forward. He sucked back a bit, in a way only I could feel, to the one stride. So spur in and a growl and he went over it smoothly. Maybe some of that feeling was my own one stride demons coming to haunt me? Either way, we got it done. 

And then took a short break, jumped a larger oxer in warm up, and went back in for our meter round. And we did it!! The rails were times that I needed to stretch up and balance a bit more while maintaining the forward, but that will come with time. By the last line of a two stride to a three stride, I felt like he was trustworthy and I did stretch up and balance better in that. 

It felt really good to go out there and get it done. I am not a worrier exactly, but it did shake my confidence to have our failure at Sweet Dixie, so this felt like putting another deposit in the bank for both of us. 

Next up is a bit of a break for him while I go out of town, and then back to it for a recognized training at Ocala with JT the second weekend in October. If I had not been planning on a week long trip, I would have tried to see if I could make it work for that, but Ocala is spookier in stadium and NOT messing around on their cross country, with some pretty challenging combinations out there. It will be good for both of us to have JT take him around there. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

A legit grown up horse

Pico has had two surgeries and three hospital stays in the past 2 weeks for a stone in her ureter. So I've been a bit absent. Fingers crossed this time she is home sticks. 

Saddle pads make the best cat beds, so I've flung a bunch around the house

But... in the mean time... Ben has been doing AWESOME! 

Photo by Lisa Madren

He and JT had a CLEAR cross country round at training level last weekend!!! He was first after dressage with a 30.2. Could have been higher, but 8:06 AM + foggy, damp morning = really slippery dressage on grass. Which meant being conservative in the lengthenings to keep everyone upright. Stadium made me VERY glad I was not the one on him. He was a bit surprised by the height of the first one and had a green rail there. Things went along fairly smoothly till he tried to NOPE out of the second in the two stride. JT was RIGHT THERE and told him to do his damn job. My husband was watching and said "She was already tapping him a second before I even saw him hesitate." Yep, that's the timing that is needed! He had a rail on the next one because he went AHHHHH a bit after being told to step up and get it done. 

Cross country he looked AWESOME around. Looked legitimately very fun and I wish I had been riding him there. 

He had a chill week and got some chiropractic done and then went back to Sweet Dixie today. He and JT jumped around the 1.0m just fine. JT casually introduced me to Karen O'Connor while I was setting fences for JT and Ben in warm up. And then Karen said he was a really nice horse. Fan girl moment over, but I do love Ocala. A couple other trainers commented on how nice his trot was. A lot of external validation this morning for sure! 

JT said he might not have taken a breath at all in the first round. The second round looked much more relaxed. Both were still smoother than at Majestic, he is learning his job.

Plan is for me to take him in the 3' then the 3'3" at Majestic on Sunday if I am feeling up to going. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Lesson time

JT and I regrouped post-not moving up to 1m. We decided she would take Ben around his first couple of training level events and then I'd take the reins back. Just so when he asks "Will I, won't I?" the answer is a definite YES. The first show they're doing together is going to be at Majestic in a week. 

She was going to jump school him on Monday, but she threw her neck out that morning, so asked if I had brought riding gear. Something in my head had told me to, so I did have my own stuff with me. The lesson overall went super well. Early on he opted out of the second jump in the one stride. I pulled him to the side because he was definitely going to crash the second jump with his NOPE. JT then said that we were going to do the one stride the rest of the lesson. I got reprimanded once when I chased him the last three strides to the in and felt him almost stop because I had scared him by shoving him AT the jump. But other than that, it was great. She put it up and up and up and we kept going through it. She messaged me after that it had ended up at intermediate height. I thought my eyes were bugging out of my head at it the last few times through... 

The last couple of trips we did the one stride in the opposite direction and then turned through the two stride as well, also set SOLID. The first trip through in this direction, we got a tight spot to the in and I had to boot him in the middle. The next time though, he fought for getting out over the second jump without needing to be booted. 

JT said that is what we are trying to instill - the desire to FIGHT for the jump and FIGHT for getting it done. He's got talent enough to jump from not perfect spots, even at 1m, so I don't need to worry about getting it wrong and him not being able to do it. 

Friday she took him schooling at Majestic. It was SO FUN to watch! 

He's got the most earnest face!! <3 

They tackled the rest of the training level course that we didn't last time, including the up bank combo shown part of above. He was trying very, very hard the whole time. JT said we had maybe made our point about doing the dang thing and he was now trying to be the best boy, but with some anxiety about it. She did a lot of scratching his neck. One of the major (and many, LOL) differences with our riding was how quick she could flip between a DO IT NOW to good boy, you're fine, it's okay. This applied to half halting while galloping and going over fences. As an example, she halted him a couple of times from the gallop in warm up. As soon as he stopped it was reins loose, scratching neck. He tried to move without being asked, immediate woah, then as soon as feet stopped, immediate back to scratching neck. She repeated this four times without an ounce of impatience until he finally woahed and took a breath and could stand there. Same thing out over fences. If he looked hard, it was DO IT NOW! and then as soon as he responded "yes ma'am", it was GOOD BOY, well done! Timing man, it's hard. 

She said he was much better than when she was riding and jumping him right when he was coming back into work. I can feel it myself too, he's much straighter and we're getting the right, forward spot to jumps more and more often, but it was nice to hear that as well. 

I'm SO excited to be horse show mom on the 10th. I work till 2 am the night before; it is really just as well I won't need to be thinking and riding. I can (probably) manage to get him all tacked up properly without much sleep, but making riding decisions without much sleep? Not the best. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

August Wrap Up

 In August we had 23 rides including 

Off property adventures... 

  • Novice CT at Majestic Oaks - getting back into the swing of things! 
  • An unsuccessful attempt to move up to 1m stadium
  • very successful XC schooling at Majestic Oaks
  • 4 jump lessons and 1 dressage lesson with JT at her place 
Trail pony adventures... 
  • A total of 5 neighborhood trail rides
  • 1 with a friend the whole way, 1 where we left our 2 friends partway through and STILL were super good 
  • 1 where we got absolutely drenched and nearly struck by lightning and he was SUPER in spite of all that 
Body work... 
  • Ben volunteered as an acupuncture demo pony and LOVED IT!!
  • My BFF equine vet came to stay with me for a long weekend and adjusted Ben and he also loved that
Ben also has a slightly adjusted living situation. Like Yoshi, Ben was getting chewed on, so now he goes out with only Ms. GY's older horse and they are best friends. Ben sticks close to him, lets him be in charge, and scratches him, which is really all anyone could want in a friend.  

September we have planned... 
  • Majestic Oaks 3 phase with JT at training level on Sept 10th 
  • Chiro appt with his usual vet and a check to see if he needs his hocks injected on Sept 12th 
  • Possibly a stay with JT? I'm going to Maine for a week to visit a friend and Ben may go to her place for a week of training. But it includes a weekend the barn is going to an away show, so I'm not sure if we'll end up doing that or not. 

We are also ending the month HAPPY and SOUND. So grateful for that. 

Spotted this "friend" meandering around AFTER I'd spent a solid 20 minutes swimming at the springs the other day... glad I still have all my toes! There was another smaller one close by. This one was about 1.5 feet long from head to tail!