Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Rocking Horse Winter I - Cross Country

I walked the course Friday after hacking, which is when these nice sunset pictures are from. And then JT and I walked it again on Saturday after dressage. 

#1 - Log box - get going, set the tone for the rest of the course

#2 - Bench - this was a left hand turn instead of going back to stabling - get his eye on it, turn early, mean it

#3 - mushroom table - canter it, jump it

#4 - approach this in a forward, uphill canter because you have to land and turn to 5ab

#5ab - angled 4 stride line of coops 

#6 - triple bar - jump on a bit of an angle to show him the opening in the trees

#7ab - roller coaster - this was the roll top, downhill then slight uphill then downhill again to chevrons for b. Possibly very spooky, so spurs in until he leaves the ground for a. 


#8 - Oxer - show jumping canter for a big oxer because you have to land and turn right 

#9ab - roll top through the water to a log - off a right hand turn under the tree - if you overshot this turn from 8 you were on the wrong angle for b - the log out of the water

Pretty sunset over the course

#10 - table - canter it, jump it, don't do anything weird

#11 - "Big Red", then down a hill then up a hill to #12 - show him you're going left in the depression (the up banks were straight ahead)

View from inside the depression up to #12, the straight ahead line to the double up banks barely visible on the right hand side there

#12 - wedge

#13 - brush - don't jump it like a brush though because you have to line up #13 as you're doing 12 

#14ab - half coffin

#15 - brush 

#16ab - coop to left hand turn around the tree to a corner

#16b - get his eye on it, land from the ramp and set up your turn in a nice forward, uphill canter 

#17 - loooong gallop uphill after 16 to the coop

#18 - wedge - kinda funky as a stand alone, 5-6 strides out get him uphill and listening then wide hand, take me to it

#19 - house 

Sunday I was putting a lot of pressure on Ben and myself - THIS could be our AEC qualifying score, we could actually do it!! Not a good attitude to start with, I think it led to some sub par riding and more chasing than supporting out on course. I also was feeling too comfortable at this level, taking some things for granted because we were "established" at this level (LOL). Not riding as Ms. GY put it "like you've already had a stop". 

Warm up was in a new location, next to some woods on the far side of the venue. We were the first to go, so we were alone by ourselves out there initially, which led to all kinds of spooking at a horse through the woods and the cross country jumps in warm up themselves. Once we got to work, he felt kinda heavy and downhill. JT and I simultaneously decided halts from the gallop would be a good exercise, so we did a few of those. He did those okay, but still felt less responsive than he has typically in the elevator/chain combo. He was jumping the jumps though, so we did a few more transitions then went to the start box  

#1 went well 

Gallop along, #2 also went well

#3 he chipped and got a little tight too 

#4 rode decently, #5ab we put in 5 strides not 4 though

5a - jumping in fine

5b - getting deep to the base and chipping 

7ab actually rode really well, I was determined to get it done and he responded perfectly. 8 is where it fell apart - I tried to get him up into a show jumping big oxer canter. And I think we got to a good spot. It felt like we took off appropriately, but landed in the jump. It was terrifying looking down and seeing his legs tangled up with the jump. I was in front of the saddle as we crashed, but he lifted his head and neck up and flung me back into the saddle and then backed himself out. It was a frangible oxer, thank goodness, and the pins dropped both rails on it. He ended up with just a couple of superficial scrapes around his left knee and a small scrape on his right hind.

Until we got the photo series from Xpress Foto (shout out to them for their order all package being so reasonable and for sending me ALLLLL the pictures of the crash so JT and I could sort it out) we couldn't figure out what went wrong. What it looks like though we got to a good spot and then his hind legs slipped and he couldn't save it. He looks pretty surprised to be ending up in the jump. 

He trotted a circle sound, and his legs looked okay, so I made the decision to keep going after they rebuilt the jump. 

Frangible pins down

He jumped the snot out of it the second time 

Not taking any chances with the rolltop either. 

Through the water

And out over the log 

Table at #10

#11 "Big red" down into the depression 

Then over the wedge up out of the depression

The rest isn't photographed, but #13, 14ab, and 15 rode okay. He knocked #16a on the way in and I fumbled around the left hand turn and didn't get his eye on b until about 1.5 strides out. Then it was going to be a looooong spot or a tight one at the base. I chased him rather than sitting up and supporting with leg the crummy distance and he rightly said NO WAY and stopped at b. We circled around and jumped it fine. #17, 18 and 19 all rode okay too. 

I'm still unpacking feelings about crashing into a jump. We're going to stud him behind in the future. The ground wasn't terrible, but it was sandy and fairly deep and this show was HUUUUUUGE. We were the first of training rider to go, but all of training horse and open training had gone on Saturday. We're also going to do a lot of schooling before the next show to make sure this is a level we are comfortable at. I do not blame him at all for 16b, that was absolutely the right call. But I want to make absolutely certain that if any part of 8 was caused by trying to chip at the base that we have got that part sorted out, and that we never do anything like that again. 

At the end of the day, I'm grateful for frangible technology, and I am very grateful to have Ben home in one piece. But we have a lot of work to do to make both of us comfortable out there again and make 100% certain that we are as safe as we can be in this inherently dangerous sport. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Rocking Horse Winter I - Dressage and Stadium

After matching out three separate scenarios (stabling, commuting from the GY's, commuting from JT's), I had decided stabling made the most sense. And in one regard, I was right, I rode at 8AM on Saturday, and 830AM on Sunday. But in several other senses, stabling was not ideal. 

The stalls are a bit dusty. RIP that cooler. 

See, ya learn something new about your horse daily. And mine loves wallowing. Literally dug into the somewhat questionable clay/sand stall base and then rolled. Repeatedly. Love ya Ben. On the less light humored side of things, Ben was a bit stressed by stabling. He was uber confused by what we were doing hacking on Friday. "Okay, we're at a show, k, we're going into that dressage ring. NO? We're just wandering? With a few other horses? What is our purpose here???" He was a bit stressed and tight until I put him to work. Then he went straight to work and softened really nicely. But still wouldn't hack on a loose rein after working. So we called it quits after 20 minutes since he had to be working the whole time in order to not turn his back into a board. 

Also, my phone told me Friday night was in the high 40s. The frost on the grass Saturday morning and the fact that my feet were cold all night long told me otherwise. So dressage was not our best effort by far. It got better as I rode the test more and let it happen to me less. Also being able to feel my toes by the end of it helped some too. I was kind of bummed coming out though. They had divided senior training rider so we were in a division of 10, seemed like a pretty good time to try to qualify for AECs. Turns out the judge liked Ben a lot and so the scores were fairly generous and definitely reflected the improvement in quality as the test went on. We actually ended up with a 28.3, sitting in first going into stadium. 

We had two hours between dressage and stadium and I actually parked him on the trailer in his box stall so he wouldn't roll with his braids and get himself super dusty again. He seemed pretty content there. 

Stadium was pretty much identical to the December horse trial. Ben warmed up like the pro he is and we went in and made decisions. And jumped our first clear round at training level!!! Not to take away from that, but we had a very lucky whack at 9B that somehow stayed up. But he put 2 strides in the 2 stride and 1 in the 1. And when I felt him jump in a little quiet to the diagonal line related distance, I closed my leg and he moved up to the second jump in the line. 

I took his braids out, brushed him off, and tossed him in his stall naked to wallow to his heart's content and eat some hay. My husband had come over to watch stadium and we hiked a bit of the Ocala NF down the road. That afternoon Ben and I went for a long mosey together. He is pretty adorable and kept checking in with me periodically by sniffing my face, but then grazing and sniffing things and wandering. Exactly what I wanted for his legs. At one point in the evening, someone's Great Dane was off leash and wandering around. Ben made a beeline towards him, he LOVES dogs, but the dog didn't reciprocate and moved away, so Ben kept pulling towards him, just trying to say HI! Fortunately Saturday was much warmer, so neither one of us froze overnight. 

Spoiler alert: Sunday did NOT go the way we wanted it to. But we're both fine. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Sunday, January 22, 2023


I lucked out Wednesday and managed to get Ben to a local schooling show at Clayton Frederick's farm. There are so so many different options available this winter. It's really nice to be able to check out different farms and courses. I was feeling anxious about stadium. With Ben starting January with a week off and with our stadium round at the December POP show, to put it bluntly, being pretty shitty, I wanted to get a couple more rounds done before the Rocking Horse event next weekend. 

Ben started super goofy. He'd gotten to play with the other horses in the morning and was very upset about being taken away from his new BEST FRIIIIEEENDS. He was screaming as I got out to open and close the property gate, and I'm pretty sure he worried the whole drive there. To his credit though he's a professional and even though I couldn't leave him alone on the trailer while I went to look at the course, he was totally fine once I was on him. He spooked a tiny bit at the mirrors in the warm up area, but I don't blame him. There were shards of mirror left stuck to a concrete wall, not really normal. 

Our first round wasn't the greatest, I could NOT see a distance to save my life. 

Solidly left behind to a meter oxer, Ben is the best

He was absolutely perfect though, two strides in the two stride, no spooking, just a complete professional. 

We went back in and went around again and it was lovely. I missed to the in of the two stride but he stepped up and it jumped out nicely. 

With these rounds under our belt/girth, I realized driving home that it feels like we are a training level pair. Unlike our first few rounds at 1m and even our move back up to 1m, it doesn't feel scrappy anymore. As seen above I still screw things up ALL THE TIME. But it doesn't feel like we're going to die/crash the jump/stop. It feels solid and good. I still reserve the right to screw up badly enough to die/crash the jump/stop at any point, but I'm no longer internally screaming about that possibility before each round. 

Ben knows his job and while he reserves the right to spook at things that might eat us, he now does his whole hearted best to get us to the other side of the jump. If we turn and a jump enters his field of view, he locks on to it now and doesn't go "Really?!?! That one??" while internally screaming, he goes "That one!" And goes for it. And he doesn't let mistakes I make, like missing to an oxer, shake his confidence.

I certainly still screw up plenty, but we can shrug, say oops, and move on without panic. It is a really awesome feeling, and I'm savoring every bit of it.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Green Numbers????

First, ulcer (treatment) updates: 
  • Since it is freakishly cold in FL right now, Ben is actually hanging out with the whole herd more often than not because he is protected by his blanket. He is the only one with hind shoes and when he was with them in the summer, it was just bites. So far he hasn't been bit on his exposed neck and he is DELIGHTED to be with the whole herd. He had an entire party the first time I let him out with everyone. Everyone else kept eating hay while he carried on behind them trying to get SOMEONE to play with him. It was adorable. 
  • I started him on ReSolvin EQ. At the price of $214 for 32 days, I figured it would come with some kind of dispensing system. NOPE! It's fine, I am drawing it up into 60cc syringes that the GY's are top dressing on his food daily. But as fish oil, it does need to be protected from light and heat. So the bottle stays at my house in my closet and then I dose out a few syringes at a time. Not sure how this will work when it is hot again. The feed room is air conditioned, but not always to 70 degrees. He also was a bit displeased by it the first few days. He isn't that much of a picky eater to be honest, he ate his powdered Chinese herbs that they warned horses might not eat. Soooo for very picky horses, probably not the right thing. Looking back at their study though, they did use it for treatment, which makes the price more palatable if you compare it to the month of GG we're doing. My current idea is to keep him on this through the end of the GG then consider overlapping it with a cheaper, easier to deal with supplement. 
  • He is still getting alfalfa cubes soaked. But he's getting worse about eating them. I have found this with several other horses over the years too. At first they're super eager, but then they get bored or something?? So he gets a bit of grain mixed in with them, which may kind of defeat the purpose, but then again he gets lunch so it is lunch buffered with alfalfa cubes. 
Moving on... we went to Magnolia Sands again on Friday. And we jumped modified and prelim combos! Holy crap! Nothing of prelim height, but if you'd told me last June that I'd be pointing this horse at skinny wedges as the second part of combos and he'd be going "Got it!" I would've called BS. 

We warmed up over an entry mulch table that prompted a "WHA?!?!? We're jumping things???" Okay sir, get it together. From there he was all business though. We even managed NON-derp jumps over what JT called my favorite sharks tooth. It's not the jump itself, its just that it is off in a busy, spooky corner, so every time we've jumped it in the past he is too busy spooking at everything else then sort of derps over it. 

Picture/narration follows, but if you just prefer to watch the video: 

After the warmup and our sharks tooth, we looped over a coop uphill - uphill jumps are still a bit of a mystery to me... I kind of hold the reins and go forward and Ben always jumps them BEAUTIFULLY. I was scarred by a jump a long time ago at Pony Club camp on my appy. It was uphill and I thought it was HUGE and we never did get over it... 


Right hand turn back down the hill, he was right in being this close, the long spot would've been a flyer. We headed down the hill to a coop after the house.

Then did a log 

And headed back down into the depression to do this wedge

Then JT pointed us at a combo with an M on the side of it. It was a BN bench in, to a modified wedge. I think my eyes bugging out of my head was unnecessary, pretty sure the wedge out was not at all modified height, but was skinny. 

We were tight to this

And so did 4 strides instead of 3 to the out

Got a much better spot the second time

And I didn't fling myself up his neck 

The up bank combo to wedge we kinda sorta screwed up, but not in a terrible way, and we got the strides right the second time. 

Too quiet up

Aannnd very tight to the wedge, but he did it like a GOOD BOY

A bit more power up this go round

For a much prettier jump out

The coffin... the first time through we did a log, bending line to ditch two strides to the house. He stared hard at the ditch, so I probably should have done that same line one more time, but instead I put the whole straight combo together. He proceeded to stare HARD at all of it again, put a hind leg in the ditch. Then I flung myself up his neck at the out jump. He was a very good boy and jumped the out which was very kind because I was 100% not helping and would've ended up on the jump if he stopped. 

Why on earth am I riding like that??? 

Much better

And the other direction

We did get it together though, and that was the only real OOPS of the day. I called it a day there and let him drink some in the water complex before walking back to the trailer. He is cleared to go back to full work by his vet, but it still kinda feels freaky that two weeks ago he was standing on three legs, so I'm being conservative. I realize that going out XC schooling at all is not conservative, but if he is getting tired and doing things like slipping in the ditch because of that, then that is the time to call it a day once we sort that specific question out. 

Begging for cookies after we got back, of course he got some