Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Checking the lug nuts

When the wheels fell off the bus when Ben's feet hurt and he started stopping at fences, Ms. GY said "You don't look nervous though," I said that I was actually incredibly nervous. I think this was somewhat of a surprise to JT. I don't really show my emotions much. I will feel like I am incredibly stressed and panicky, but I don't seem to appear that way to other people. So I guess I need to use my words more often. JT said that going forward, we would make sure the wheels were so securely put back on that even if he stopped, my reaction would not be to panic and start riding defensively as though he was not going to leave the ground at the next fence either. 

Our jump lessons have been geared in that direction. When we jumped before the November Rocking Horse, we left the jumps at novice height. It looked and felt easy. Then we had our lovely course at the show where he loped around like a hunter (with a bit of sass). Our jumping lesson on Tuesday we went back up in height. Ben was FEELING himself like crazy and was playing in the corners. I was able to go with that mostly okay and tell him to get it together with leg on, but then he hit a couple of rails and started taking off a bit. 

We finally got it all together for our second to last time through the course. Watching the video though, I need to square my shoulders and put my butt in the saddle like woah. I ordered some K tape to use to try to remind myself. I've been pretty dedicated to doing my "T's, Y's, and W's" and my husband's assessment is that the strength is there in the upper back, but I need to strengthen the lower back and remind myself to use those muscles I've developed. 

We had a check in of how well we had it together on Sunday at a schooling jumper show. The course was a bit interesting with a quadruple across the diagonal - a 4 stride to a 1 stride to a 3 stride. ohhhh boy. Ben warmed up spooky, shocking, I know. But he was jumping well. JT popped the warmup oxer up to 3'6"-3'9" and I did that without too much screaming, so we went in. He then pretended like he had never been in the ring before and spooked at EVERYTHING. I wasn't able to move his back enough to soften him up and get him to take a breath, probably because I didn't try very much. But y'know what? He still went in there and jumped all the jumps. 

When we turned to the quadruple, he definitely took in the whole line and then screamed a bit. But I sat up and rode him forward and he did the dang thing. I told JT it felt scrappy when we came out. She said it didn't look that bad, and she was right, the video doesn't look quite as screamy/scrappy as it felt. He knocked two rails in the first round, JT noted "He jumps by braille when his back is tight." 

The second round was a bit smoother, we still had two rails, but one was a complete derp at the second jump and the other was him spooking at someone racking on the other side of the skinny. We still majorly chipped to the one stride and he consequently had to launch for the out, but we put the right number of strides in all the related distances and again I didn't question for a second whether or not he was going to jump. 

We are doing one final jump lesson on Thursday and then heading to Rocking Horse this weekend! 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Blog Hop - 10 Questions

A fun blog hop, from T over at Raincoast Rider

1. What's your favorite thing about your current horse? 

Ben is very honestly THE NICEST PERSON. JT and I say it all the time. He is just the sweetest, most lovely horse ever. I don't think anything in the world could make this horse kick or bite a human intentionally. When he was on stall rest he ::ahem:: bounced on my arm a bit. But it was just sheer bouncing exuberance. Nothing nasty. When you do things that are painful (ie chiro adjustments, hock injections) he just makes sad puppy dog faces at you, he doesn't threaten. He is such a pleasure to be around because he is just so kind and nice. 

2. What do you find to be the most challenging about your current horse? 
His spookiness. He is genuinely quite frightened by a large number of things. We are getting much better at functioning in spite of it, but he will never be a brave horse. I am getting better at accepting this too and not trying to put a rational human brain onto his actions. He is who he is, everything he does is honest. 

3. If you could only hire one person to help you, would it be with coaching, riding/training, or barn work? 
Absolutely coaching. I don't have a barn so the barn work I do is to help the GY's out or because I enjoy it. And while Ben has definitely benefited from JT's training rides and shows, if I could only have one, it would definitely be her coaching me. Granted she does both coaching and riding.... soooooo if I get one person, it is her. 

4. What's something you want to learn or wish you were better at? 
Hrm... I would LOVE to learn how to start a baby from the ground up. If I ever own a baby, this is something I am definitely paying someone to do, but it would be very cool to learn to do it with the trainer. 

5. Shout out to your support crew. Who are they? 
My husband, absolutely, he hand walked at least twice a week when he was on stall rest while I was in vet school. JT and her whole barn - she does an AMAZING job cultivating a supportive, caring environment where everyone is cheering for everyone else. And the GY's. I have only know JT and the GY's since... June of 2021 and April of 2021 respectively, but it feels like I have known them so much longer. 

6. Favorite book, website, podcast, or other equine resource? 
Book wise, Equine Fitness by Jec Aristotle Ballou is one that I keep finding myself returning to every few months.

7. If money was no object, what would you do all day? 
Each day would vary. I would certainly have a second horse. I'd keep the young, up and coming 3-5 year old with JT. She'd do 2 days a week and then I'd do 2 lessons a week on/with said horse. I'd work relief, 1-2 days a week, 7AM to 3 PM, to keep myself busy and keep my mind engaged. Ben would stay with the GY's and our schedule would be basically as it has been. Since I was only working 1-2 days a week though I'd be fully able to embrace riding him 5-6 days a week. The two horses, cat, husband, and I (and maybe the chickens and pigs?? Or I'd just pay someone to take care of them here in FL) would all go to the mountains of NC for July and August though, we'd have a nice 10 acre pasture up there somewhere with access to some trails to enjoy during their summer vacays. I might fly my BFF in from Oklahoma so I would have someone to ride with as well. 

8. Because this is the real world and horses are expensive, have you ever had a side hustle or considered having one? 
Kind of? During undergrad I was a TA for multiple courses, worked at the farmer's market every Saturday, and worked at the student Writing Resource Center. During vet school, I worked as a tech at the school and worked at Zinger's barn. Now I have my full time job, but also pick up relief shifts as they work for my schedule at a few different places. That money gives me less guilt about things like having to buy completely different saddles for the swap from Ben to Yoshi. But it isn't some unique and creative side hustle... it's just more of what I already do lol. 

9. What's the best horsey decision you've ever made? 
Oh man. Recent one would definitely be  hunting down JT! She's an amazing trainer who helped me so much with Yoshi AND connected me to Ben. 

In all my horsey career? Definitely deciding to keep Zing when I went to undergrad. I tossed around the idea of selling him because he was worth a decent chunk and financially it would have made more sense, but... yeah. Love of my horsey life. 

10. Worst decision? 
I still regret saying "yeah we can do one more" at the end of the clinic that led to Leila somersaulting. But it did show us her nasty cervical OA that was probably part of why she wasn't particularly willing to bend. She was just such a sweet, kind mare though and didn't deserve that trauma though.  

11. What's the best thing that happened to you or that you accomplished in 2022? 
Meeting and then buying Ben! 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Levels of Dedication

Side note, this entire post is a work through of a very first world problem. At the end of the day, I am SO SO happy to be out doing the thing with a sound and happy horse. The goals other than that are just icing on the cake. 

When I said to JT back in August that my goals for this competition year were to move up to training level, qualify for AECs, and then attend AECs, I was a bit... naive. I was not particularly unaware of the difficulty of qualifying - area 3 is large and competitive, especially in the winter season. As a long time stalker of event entries to watch the live scores for local events, I knew it was going to be tough. 

Rocking Horse Winter 1 - open training, open used for the dramatic effect of "You can be out of the ribbons with a 31??" 

That same event, the winning score in the training rider division was a 28.1 with second place being a 32.3. Ocala Winter I training rider division winners were around 32, with the top three being very closely clustered together. Rocking Horse Winter II first through third were all under 30.5. So basically we need a stellar dressage test and no more than 1 rail (if that, depending on the group) and then the obvious clear cross country trip (or clear jumping with minimal time) to think about being in first or second to get our qualifying score for AECs. But honestly, if we're going to go to AECs, not just to go, but to plan on being competitive, those are fair qualifications. 

First though, getting out there and completing a training level event. That's where my naivete shows. Welcome to the blog of an amateur eventer LOL. I alluded to it in this post regarding how difficult training level cross country is, but that's just the beginning. Ben is a thoroughbred, so the challenges of fitness are less than in a lot of WB types, but they are still present. The competence aspect is more pressing though. I suspect that by the time we are competent at each phase, the thoroughbred is going to be fit enough. We do roughly one day a week with 20 min trot followed by 3 x 3 min canter sets with 2 minutes in between each canter set. Some forward and back in the canter, not just galumphing along. And another flat day has 20 minutes of long/low trot (if we're sane enough to long and low) added to the end of it. 

He is so delighted by his stall guard

That competence though... moving up to a new level... requires 6 rides most weeks. It has become clear to me this fall that I have been sitting at a 4-5 rides a week level for... well... forever. Adding in that extra 1-2 rides a week does put a bit of pressure on my schedule. I have an amazing amount of time off with my job, but the days I do work I have 8-12 hour shifts. Riding before an 8 hour shift is totally doable. Riding before a 12 hour shift? Mehhhhhh gets a little wearing by the third day because that means sleep is minimized in order to work and fit in riding. The obvious solution here is keeping Ben at JT's and having her do a training ride each week. A training ride would be good for him and mean just 5 days of riding instead of 6. But when he is at her barn, it is a 3-4 hour production to go ride rather than a 2-3 hour production at the GY's because of the extra driving time to JT's. The other benefit of him being at JT's though is that I don't have to haul to a lesson each week, which makes one of the rides while boarding with the GY's a 5-6 hour day instead of 2-3. Tough world I'm living in deciding between two places where I love the people and my horse gets incredible care. 

So there's the logistics of riding 6 days a week. No perfect solution unfortunately unless I suddenly become independently wealthy. I have considered going to only relief work and making my own schedule, but... benefits and all... not quite a jump that I am ready to make at this time. This fall has been a split of time at JT's and the GY's, we'll see how the rest of the winter pans out. 

Our ideal schedule for theoretical competence and fitness: 
  • Trot/canter sets
  • Dressage day
  • 1 hr+ walk hack
  • Jump lesson 
  • Light dressage + 20 minutes trot 
  • Possible cross country schooling? Or second light jump day? Or another dressage day
  • Off 
Most recent walk hack, always a little dicey taking out my phone to take a picture on a cold windy day, but we survived

Now that I have put a goal out there, I am committed to the going for it for 2023. But beyond that? I'm not sure that I am a person who wants to be regularly competing at training level (and certainly not above). I do suspect that once we are established at training level, it will get a little easier. A little bit less stress around going in and jumping a meter course. A bit less need to get the jump lesson weekly, once every 1.5 weeks might suffice. We might be able to slip by with XC schooling once a month instead of once every 2-3 weeks. But we might not... and I think I could be content bopping around novice for forever. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

October Wrap Up

Better late than never, I suppose. 

Ben had: 
  • 19 rides
    • 5 with JT including a training level event where they finished second and a stand alone training XC run at Majestic where he was soft and lovely and easy 
    • 1 off property trail ride
    • 1 cross country school
    • 2 jump lessons, one of which was where things fell apart
  • 5 walk/trot lunging sessions where we practiced relaxation in all and hunting ground poles in a few 
  • Unfortunately a very sore back and sore feet 
October was also when I braided my horse for the first time since high school. He also got his first clip, and I managed to do a much more respectable pattern than on Yoshi last year

Overall a bit bumpy of a month, but it ended on a positive note! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Rocking Horse Fall HT: Cross Country

The boys got to spend the night at home Saturday night and then get loaded up at a brighter 7:30 AM again to head over. Ben travelled SO quiet with the other horse. No giant thumping around in spite of being confined to a single stall rather than his cushy box stall. Then we hung out for a WHILE. And I walked cross country again, just making sure I knew exactly where I was going. 

#1 house

Right hand turn through some trees for #2 bench

#3 - ramp

Another right hand turn past the T/P/I combos to #4 - "feeder"

Forward gallop to #5 - table thing

#6 triple bar

#7 was right next to the training #7  which was up on the hill to the left with a steeper landing. Novice got a stride then down a hill. 

#8 bench - JT - "JUMP the decoration, that is where you are jumping, no where else" (ie don't let him wiggle)

#9 our friend the tiny corner from last April. Love that they put it by some spooky trees. We were instructed to jump it on the flat front face or even angled a tiny bit towards the "wider" back of the corner

A nice gallop to #10 - a brush fence

Another nice long gallop to a ramp for #11

12AB - rolltop few strides to water

13- Roll top a few strides out of the water

Another little gallop to a ditch at 14 - JT's instructions "Check in 3 times - DO YOU SEE IT?!?!" 

Long gallop through some woods to #15 

Forward to 16AB - they were so far apart I did not count strides

B - a right hand turn through a clump of trees to the little ramp

AND 17! 

Hanging out, looking so handsome

He warmed up well, we were ready a bit early because they were running 10 minutes early. So when they were looking for a volunteer, we headed right over. He left the box.... uhm... and then acted like he'd never seen a cross country jump before as I pointed him at 1. I think he was looking at the bigger ones to the left going "we've been jumping those though". From there, everything was beautiful. He just flowed around in such a lovely fashion. Around #7 I thought how tired I was and then went "WTF, I've changed my workouts, we've changed the bit, why am I tired" and then I think took a deep breath for the first time and smiled. Breathing helped AMAZINGLY well with the tiredness, imagine that. Then I realized it was FUN! We were going and jumping and just having a good time. 

The only bobble/time I felt him kind of take off a bit was when I asked him several times if he saw the ditch and he landed from that a bit offended - "Of course I saw it! I got this!" 

Last fence! Weeee!!

I did not buy the pro picture package (only $109 for all the images if you buy it before the show!) because of his several hundred dollar vet bill right before the show. But JT caught the nice XC one above and our whole stadium round on video. 

We ended up third out of 19! We were tied for third, but fortunately my "gallop" is apparently not that fast, so we were closest to optimum time so broke the tie breaker. Looks like I'll need to pick up the pace for training!! Which is hopefully back on the agenda for the December Rocking Horse. 

Monday, November 7, 2022

Rocking Horse Fall HT: Dressage and Stadium

Side note, I need to make the time to do monthly wrap ups again. I like to be able to look back at those and then pick out specific posts. But, time and all... 

Wednesday Ben got plain shoes put back on. Thursday I brought him out to lesson with JT's saddle with fancy half pad. He was not shifting and uncomfortable in the cross ties. I shmeared his feet with magic cushion and we headed out to the ring. And he was back!!! He didn't try to hollow in the canter transitions like he had been. He definitely did spook at all the fillers though that he's jumped.... oh... roughly a million times at this point. He is who he is. 

But he jumped GREAT! We started over the cross rails again and he felt like himself. He spooked at a vertical that had been a set of bounces, but that felt like... well... him. He was coming off the ground beautifully and didn't touch a rail the whole time. He actually felt so good that he did celebrate with a bit of spooking and bronc-ing in the corners (because dogs outside the ring and water on mats, never before seen items). JT told me to sit up, half halt him up and then push my hands forward. She said I had to ride him like he was up and nice before he actually was. Basically one of us had to give first and as the human, that had to be me. Once we sorted that out, the corners were nice too. We popped the two stride up to a bit over novice height and hopped through it to make sure the wheels really were back on the bus. And they were. He felt great popping around there, GOOD BOY! 

I have my coworkers to thank for being ultra accommodating about my weekend swap requests. I was scheduled to work this weekend, but managed to switch with someone to get it off. But I did take their Thursday and Friday to get the Saturday and Sunday off. Sooooo I worked until midnight on Friday night. I was originally going to stable at Rocking Horse, but since Ben was at JT's, it made more sense to bring him home in between. I just set up my bed in the trailer and slept there at JT's instead of sleeping at Rocking Horse. Means the stall fee was for nothing, but I hauled JT's working students horse too, so we split gas. AND I didn't have to drive to Rocking Horse, back to Ocala for work, then back to Rocking Horse at 1 AM. So it all worked out and Ben was probably happier being back home at night and was definitely pretty happy about hauling with a friend. 

Since we were in different divisions, I had about 3 hours after we arrived before dressage. So Ben got braids and we walked stadium and cross country. 

He's just so handsome and my braids are getting more respectable even

Dressage was his typical, professional test. He could've been slightly more inspired, but it was soft and relaxed. I probably should've carried a dressage whip even though I rarely need to use it, the presence helps. And then we got a 33. Our worst score on this test by 8 points. 

When I picked up my score sheet Sunday, it became apparent what had happened. His tongue had come out part way through, changing an 8 to a 6.5, and from there the judge saw tension EVERYWHERE. When in fact he was less tense once he weaseled his tongue out. The collective remarks said "Lovely elasticity but some connection issues (tongue, twisted neck) disrupt harmony today" Ugh. AND I actually did short diagonals this time, ah well, I'll throw in the stereotypical eventer we're just here for the jumping!!! 

Stadium he was SO GOOD!!! He warmed up great, eliciting comments from another trainer asking where to find more OTTBs like him. And then we went in and just had fun. We were both smiling. He was jumping great. A tad bit sassy over spurs which is new, but it seemed playful not mad. This is how a course before moving up should feel!!! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Plot Thickens

Ben got checked today by his beloved vet. As soon as I got him to JT's, it was apparent he was horrendously foot sore just standing in the cross ties (mats over concrete). I don't think I'd noticed at home because there are mats over sand where we tack up. And I'd been doing some light lunging in the soft sand ring. We pulled his shoes and some sand had gotten between his leather pads and foot and he was very positive to hoof testers there. I had stared at him a couple times on the line wondering if he was off in front but it was subtle and went away if I pushed him forward.

I had acupunctured him Tuesday. He was pretty reactive to the needles, but his back was a lot less sore after that. His vet said the sudden stopping is usually foot in her experience. The hock/stifle/back usually causes a more gradual quit. Makes sense. So I still ignored his back like an asshole, but that's not why he was suddenly saying no. 

We did shock wave his back. His farrier is coming out tomorrow evening to get just plain shoes back on. We found a shimmed pad we're happy with one of JTs saddles with. We have a plan, again. Isn't that all you can do with horses? 

And he got his first clip of the season to get rid of his fluffy belly fur. He is SO GOOD to clip. Genuinely the best. And is so handsome and shiny.

Saturday he joined my husband and I on our evening walk. I put a chain on in case of hopping about, but didn't need it. And Ben was just thrilled to be taking a walk with us. He nailed the grabbing a bite of grass and then trotting to catch up again all without touching the end of the lead. Clever boy. He just had the most pleased, content expression on his face while strolling around the neighborhood, I loved it so much. 

With my relaxed lunging days while he wasn't getting a saddle put on we played more with hunting the pole and clicking when he got it right. He started to pick up on it and was pretty happy he learned how to get a treat to dispense. He's also gotten WAY better at woah on the lunge. Clever pony. 

So things go. Rocking Horse is still a big maybe. If it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't. We'll see how shoes+jump school Thursday go.