Saturday, June 22, 2013


Fiona is not happy when the attention is not on her and today, she decided to make sure my attention was right where it belonged.

Today was Day 1 of my two day dressage show at UNH.  I entered the Opportunity classes purely because they were cheaper and I had no way to know if I would even have Fi when the show rolled around.  That means the tests are the same, but they don't count as qualifying scores for the USDF.  Same tests, same judges, same challenge.  The Princess was up to the challenge.  First 1 and First 2, we completed our move up to First Level.

To be fair, Fi hasn't been to a horse show since the disastrous GMHA back in September. 

She was a bit wide eyed after she was braided up and her shipping boots were put on.  Once we got to the show, she hung out by the trailer while Dorkzilla went out for his debut at Third Level.  I did have 'for sale' flyers hung up, but I tried to not look at them too much.  It was about me going out and having a good day with my princess.  Warm up was a bit exciting the the FEI horses warming up, including some stallions.  Fi was very offended by this, but after a couple of temper tantrums she settled in to a really nice frame and mind set.

And what a day we had.  The princess warmed up beautifully and I was more relaxed than my usual dressage outings.  We went in the ring and, aside from my complete inability to remember the First 1 test, laid down a heck of a trip.

Yes, you see that right.  66.6% at First Level.  Ho-ly crap.  That includes my rider error at the end.  We were the only ones in my class so the blue was kind of a silly thing, but I wanted it after I saw that score.  Highest.  Dressage.  Score.  EVER.

We also did our First 2 test, but we had a big spook due to a screaming kid and got a 61.6%.  I certainly can't complain when my 'bad' test was still well over 60%.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Fiona is a confirmed First Level horse.  She was so well behaved that both tests said 'willing and obedient' as comments.  The canter transitions were quiet, the leg yield was willing, and the stretchy circles were very stretchy.

There will be video of the First 1 test.  Dorkzilla's owner taped that test, so it should be up in a day or two.  I also paid to have a videographer tape both tests, so I'll have those in about two weeks.

And as though our day wasn't already awesome, Dorkzilla and his owner finished their Bronze Medal with two qualifying scores at Third Level!  It was a very exciting ride home for both of us. 

Tomorrow we'll be back at the dressage show for a more relaxing day.  Dorkzilla's owner doesn't need any more scores, so she'll be riding just for herself.  I accidentally signed up for a Training level test for tomorrow, so we'll be doing First 1 and Training 2.  Oops, but it's still good practice for me.

Tonight, the martini is purely celebratory.  My princess is all grown up.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


So, Ben and I went to this show over the weekend.  Some little place called Valinor where we did the Novice division.  The nice part about an old pro is how easy he is to handle on the trailer and at the show grounds.  He snoozed and munched hay while we waited for our turn to play.  The Horsepesterer was there, so here's video of our dressage!

He was still white!  All of that armor worked!  The most amazing part?  We got a 30.0.  Yes, you saw that right, a 30.0.  Lowest dressage score I've ever gotten and the lowest he's ever gotten.  Just think what kind of score we would have had if his friends hadn't been calling for him through our entire test!  I felt like I was holding it all together by the skin of my teeth, but hey, so long as the judge didn't notice it's all good.  That put us in 7th place out of 16 horses.  It was a huge division.

Our stadium jumping was a bit overly exciting.  My sleepy Meathead disappeared as soon as we walked into stadium and I suddenly had a heck of a lot of horse on my hands.  Not too alarming when you've ridden the Princess in competition, but it took me a couple fences to adjust to the fact that he was going to be charging about.  That cost us a rail at fence two, but we were otherwise good and the trainer seemed pleased.  We walked over to cross country.

I'll admit at this point that I was very nervous.  I was just this side of scared.  I'd only taken Ben out cross country the one time, and it had been terrifying.  I had the muscle weakness you get with high anxiety and I was seriously worried about how I was going to do this six minute Novice course.  That's a long time to be galloping about when you feel weak enough to slide off at the walk!  The starter said go and we took off.  I did as the trainer said and let him really go up the first hill to get us both in a groove.  The first two jumps went well, but I had a heck of a lot of horse on my hands.

We came down the steep hill, then we were supposed to turn right into the woods for fence three.  Ben saw the trail going up the hill and started to take off again.  I wrestled with him to try to make the turn and we ended up in the trees.  The jump judge was laughing as we got ourselves untangled and turned around.  The Meathead was so surprised to see a jump sitting there in the woods, but he went over it and we were off again.  Fences four and five rode beautifully and I started to feel like I'd found the right ride.  It was a bigger gallop than I was used to jumping out of and Ben doesn't have the natural balance of Fiona.  Galloping him is a bit unnerving because I don't have the same confidence that he'll be able to keep his feet underneath him.  I'll admit, I trotted a couple of the downhills because I just didn't feel comfortable.  I was also feeling weak still and having trouble staying with him.

Six was good.  A bit long since he was looking at it and I gave him a smack, but good.  I ended up trotting seven because I couldn't get the canter I wanted for a tight turn to a ditch.  After eight we had another overly exciting gallop up a hill and I couldn't get him back for a tight turn so we ended up going long at the water.  Seeing a pattern?  I felt weak and didn't totally trust his balance, so we kept slowing down and going the long way.  At twelve we got our groove back and it carried us around to fifteen nicely, all galloped out of stride and very nice.  These were also some of the bigger fences on the course, including a maxed out table.  It gave him something to at least notice.  Then I tried to turn right, but Ben was convinced we had to go left.  You almost always go that way at Valinor and clearly he remembered his past courses.  We had a wrestling match before I could get him heading to the last jump and the finish.

Our finish was far from fast or dramatic.  We went down a steep, slippery hill and suddenly there was the finish.  A big, temporary shed, a bunch of kids standing around waiting for us, a hastily cleared out area with odd colored footing, and the finish flags.  Ben went over the last jump, but refused to canter on the other side.  He trotted up snorting and wide eyed, much to the amusement of the judge that could see me kicking like a pony clubber.  At least I didn't get a willful delay.

So when the dust cleared, we got 4 time penalties on cross country.  We ended on a 38, which was actually a really good score, but it was a big division.  We ended up in 9th.

Overall, I was pleased with the day.  We got out there, did our jobs, and had respectable rounds.  No stops, no elimination, no falls, no dangerous moments.  It did leave me with a lot to think about, though.

The big thing was my nerves going out for cross country.  When your nerves are bad enough that you feel physically weak and can't ride the way you need to, there's a problem.  I have to say, that's never happened before.  I usually can be very physically aggressive cross country and have no problem doing that in competition, but my nerves completely got to me.  I was lucky Ben is inherently honest and didn't take advantage of me. I never felt like I was in danger, we could always stop and he never tried to buck, but I just didn't feel secure enough to make time on a challenging course.  I was worried I would get rattled out of the saddle.

It took time for me to trust Fi and I have to remind myself that this is an all new relationship.  Ben hasn't given me any reason to not trust him.  I just need to get out there and do my job, since he's going to do his.  I also need to quit comparing him to Fi.  No, he doesn't have her gallop.  Very few horses have her gallop and balance.  He can't sit down and just ski down a steep hill at the canter like it's nothing, but that's no reason for me to trot as much as I did.

July 10 is our next outing.  The current plan is to go Training, but we'll see how my next cross country school goes.  If I can't get my nerves under control, I'll step down for safety reasons.  I can't go to that half coffin question or the big drop they have if I'm not secure in my ability to hang on.  But as I told my trainer, this is something I can work with.  He packed my ammy butt around regardless of my nerves and that's worth it's weight in gold.

His owner suggested we could extend his lease . . .

Friday, June 14, 2013

And so it begins

Where is my show shirt?  Or my braiding supplies?  Or my XC vest?  Has anyone seen my dressage coat?  Good belt?  HAIR NETS?  I know I had them when the 2012 season ended, and yet, I can't find anything.  And the things I can find all need to be cleaned.  My stock tie is hanging up in the shower drying, my saddle pad is in the dryer, and I can only hope my horse is staying some shade of white.

Here's what he looked like today after a long day of work:

Hubba hubba.  He is one handsome Meathead.  The best part about grey horses is how darn nice they look when they're all cleaned up.  His owner swears by Dawn as a shampoo so I gave it a try.  He certainly does look shiny and it is way cheaper than any of the other things I've tried.

And how do we keep grey horses grey?  Armor, and a lot of it.

I'm hopeful that I won't have more than an hour's worth of stain removal tomorrow with this much of him covered up.

It's pretty darn late in the season to say this, but the bus is leaving the station.  My dressage coat has been located and packed, new hair nets have been purchased, lots of water and snacks are packed, and I even purchased some new bamboo boot socks (amazing stuff, highly recommended!).  Don't know my dressage test, but that's what the drive down is for.  T minus four hours and twenty three minutes.  Fortunately the sleep aids are hitting now so I might just be able to get a couple hours of sleep.

2013 Eventing Season is a go!

Friday, June 7, 2013


The down side to things going well is that expectations are increased.  I had a really solid jumping lesson today despite the pouring rain.  There were some simple gymnastics, a goofy bending line, things of that sort and they were set above Novice.  No idea how tall they really were, since my trainer said 'a bit above Novice' but there's only four inches between Novice and Training.  And the holes on a jump standard are three inches apart.  How much variation can there be?  But I'm getting off topic.  The point is that Ben and I schooled around quite nicely at very close to Training height.  No rails, no scary jumps, just the odd spot that was a bit long or short, but that's to be expected.

So after heading back to the barn to dry off (thanks, Tropical Storm Andrea), I sort of sidled up to my trainer and asked her if they had split divisions at the upcoming Scarlett Apple Three-Phase.  I can definitely do the Training level dressage and if I can school stadium at that height so comfortably . . .

Her response?  Just move up to Training.


Of course as soon as she said that, all of my lesson mates started to chime in that it would be fun and I'd do fine.  Dorkzilla's owner is doing Training at that event and offered to share a trailer with me so we could leave when we were done rather than waiting for the little divisions.  Ben is a total packer at the Training level, other than the occasional brake failure.  Cross country isn't timed so I don't need to worry about stepping up to a Training level gallop.  It's the farm where we do most of our cross country schooling, and we're going schooling again next week.  I could jump everything that's Training sized in schooling so that I would know for sure that we could do it  . . .

Holy crap, I'm moving up to Training.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shades of grey

Why, why, WHY did I ever lease a grey horse?  I always say that I don't want one, the best feature on Fi is the fact that she's a liver chestnut and doesn't show dirt.  Now I have the Meathead, and I get to see things like this on a daily basis:

Really, Ben?  REALLY?!

I'm going to buy stock in Quick Silver, bluing, Dawn, and anything else I can think of to get him cleaned up.  That's 16.3 hands of TB gelding that I have to keep at some shade of close to white.

I'm insane.  Why did I ever lease a grey horse?!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Race day

Today was the ECTAthalon in Hamilton, Massachusetts.  This was a relay race where each person did there section of the trail in a different way:  run, bike, ride, or paddle (kayak).  This was something we'd been planning for weeks, and despite some last minute shuffling of team members, a complete team showed up for the race even with the ridiculously high temps.

And let me be clear, it was ridiculously hot today.  Absolutely stupidly hot.  You don't see highs of 95 very often in this region, and of course, that was the temperature today.  

First up was the 3.5 mile run, then the 3.8 mile biking loop, then it was me and Fiona's turn for the 3.9 mile equestrian section.  We waited with the rest of the equestrians in a field for our turn and the princess showed everyone else how this worked.  She sacked out in the shade and ate grass.  One by one, the bikers showed up, ditched their bikes, and ran to their counterparts to hand off the team wristband.

We certainly weren't the fastest team.  Fi and I were one of the last six horses waiting when my husband hustled over to hand off.  The heat really did wear on the bikers and runners more than the riders and paddlers.  We weren't looking for a fast time, we just wanted to have fun.  Fiona's section was an optimal time section, so it wasn't like we were going to be racing the clock.  With an average speed of 10 mph, I was more worried that we would get a speed penalty.

Some of the other horses were pacing, jigging, and even a bit of spinning was going on, but the princess was perfect.  She cantered to my husband for the hand off, cantered to the start line, and then walked while I check with the starter that we were okay.  Once we heard go, we were gone.

She was perfect.  We walked, trotted, cantered, and even squeezed in a gallop.  She was brave as a lion over the bridges and didn't even mind the combines that were working in the hay field.  She had to walk in the woods for both time and because of the heat, but I let her go in the fields so she could really enjoy herself.  We cantered into the finish with Fi's ears pricked and looking for the next four miles.  I handed off to our paddler so he could finish the race and headed back for the trailer.

Doesn't she look proud of herself?

I didn't have a watch on, so I was just guessing at our time.  We weren't looking at winning anything anyway, so I just went with whatever was the most fun.  Looks like fun worked, since I was just one second off from the optimum time.

The trip wasn't completely perfect.  There was about a mile between the finish and where the trailers were.  It seemed like a great way to cool Fiona down, so I hopped off to walk her back in hand instead of having the trailer driven to meet us.  This was a poor decision when wearing field boots.

I now have my feet all bandaged up.  Small price to pay for such a fabulous day.  The event was well run with water available everywhere and friendly volunteers to help.  I recommend anyone in the area sign up to do it next year.  I know I'll be there!