Monday, May 13, 2024


 So that didn't go the way I'd planned.

"You got me up at 5am, what did you expect?"

I've posted videos, there's plenty of evidence that Theo has a perfectly acceptable change.  But in recent rides, we've been having some extra drama.  That drama means he's out of balance and the change is kind of a mess.  It started when I started really pumping up the canter to counteract that drop change from left to right.  Sometimes he boils over and jumps about before the change.  He's also started to figure out the test for Third 1 and is anticipating the change in the 10m circle.  That means he's starting to pop up while we're still on the circle.  By the time I am at the right spot in the arena to change, he's usually thrown at least one jump or buck which means his balance is out of whack.

Put me under pressure in a show ring and the wheels come off of our changes pretty significantly.  It's frustrating because everyone assumes I entered Third without a real change.  No, I had a change, we just misplaced it this week and I had to enter this show over a month ago.  Some shows are just not great timing and this show was one of those.   I certainly wouldn't have entered if I thought I was going to get a 3 on a movement that defines the level.  Even my right to left change that is usually lovely was described as 'muddled' due to a couple strides of anticipation drama.  The rest of the test couldn't compensate for that much of a mess.  I got a low 58 and a high 57.  No comments suggesting I shouldn't be at the level but definitely comments on needing a more confirmed change.


Love, love, love his show halter from Dark Jewel Designs on Etsy

I'd feel worse but we still got two red ribbons with those scores.  In one class no one broke 60.  Third 1 is cruel because it's such a big move up.  I can cover a blooper in a shoulder in or half passe and save the score.  Flying change?  Nowhere to hide and you need to nail it in one stride.  It's like when I was jumping and I'd know I'd botched a distance four strides out.  I know I've screwed it up as I leave the circle and he's so busy bouncing that he's down on his shoulders.  He can't change clean from down there.

It's a good time for me to drop back to Second 3 and focus on my test riding.  This past show was intended to get the temperature of our Third level prep and we are below the standard.  So we'll take the judge's comments and drop back to get our confidence back up.  Trainer Z is chomping to get me back out there at Third (she couldn't coach for this show which seriously hindered my warm up, not gonna lie) since we're really quite close.  Straighten up this last minute drama and we're right there.  It wasn't just the scores for the changes, it was the effect it had on my collectives.  Judges don't like it when you enter a test where you can't complete the movements and my submission scores took a hit with his drama.  Theo hasn't gotten a 5.5 for submission in a long, long time.

What I saw at 5am when I went to get him

I'm slightly disappointed but mostly okay since I was able to safely ride the test and he never got ugly.  It really does seem to come from a place of anticipation.  We got a 6.5 on his second medium walk, 7s for both of his reinbacks, and 6.5 for his walk pirouettes which were challenges before.  6.5 for his extended trot in one test.  Lots and lots of 6s and 6.5s.  I got a 7 for my rider position on my second test which was definitely a balm.  I think Trainer Z summed it up best with 'that sounds like they don't think you're not ready, they just want you to get your shit together'.  Fair.

It really did hurt to hear spectators questioning whether or not I actually had a change after my tests.  We do, I promise, and its a really cute change.  Just not this weekend.

Next show is three weeks away and we'll be going for our qualifying scores at Second 3 so we can go to regionals and do our freestyle.  I also have a clinic in two weeks so Pam will have a chance to rip into our changes and help find the root cause.  It must be something I recently changed in my riding since he was doing fine.  If there's something I'm doing, Pam will let me know.  In the meantime, we'll just practice that shoulder in on the quarter line for my freestyle.  

And spectators, give competitors the benefit of the doubt.  Horses live to keep us humble and Theo certainly kept me humble.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

The Doctor will see you now

 It's not horse related but it is very much part of my horse story.  On May 1st, I successfully defended my dissertation for my Doctorate of Business Administration.  My frantic four years of graduate school has come to an end and I am now Dr. Catie.  Yay!

Some days it still seems like something I dreamed up.  I wake up thinking I've still got homework to do or more reading that needs to be completed or some discussion posts to write.  I expect I'll be one of those doctoral students that needs six months of self care after they complete their dissertation.  After my successful defense I immediately went into a massive funk and felt terrible as my body suddenly stopped producing stress hormones like it was a full time job.  I had to beg Trainer Z for mercy in my lesson and we ended up working my walk pirouettes.  I thought I'd just rebound and be free but no, the past four years won't be that easy to shake off.  It's going to take some time for me to undo everything I did to myself in pursuit of my two graduate degrees.

But the important goal was met, I defended my dissertation before show season.  I am now able to focus on getting Theo out there and chasing that Bronze medal.  We ran through the test again and I genuinely feel comfortable with my test now.  It's not a stretch, it's where we're comfortable.  This weekend we have two attempts with two day shows.  I'm glad it's a pair of day shows since I also had Theo scoped today.  

Guess what, we've got ulcers!  Not 'omg injectables emergency' ulcers but he is on omeprazole and sucralfate for the next 28 days.  He'd been girthy in the past two weeks so I wasn't surprised.  Now I know for sure what's going on and we're going to tackle it head on.  He's always been rather ulcer prone, he stresses.  Even with his ideal set up with Trainer Z, he's delicate.  Vet wasn't worried and thinks they'll clear up with the standard treatment.  We'll rescope in a month to check up on him.

We've also had x-rays done of his teeth and his front feet as a baseline, nothing wrong.  We had his fasted blood work done for metabolic stuff.  Got his hocks done and completed another course of Adequan.  He got floated.  I've really checked him nose to toes at this point and if all we find is ulcers on my 20 year old Third level horse?  We're doing good.  He's been feeling awesome under tack and I can only imagine how good he'll feel after ulcer treatment.

Day shows are less stressful for him since he'll get to sleep in his stall at night and roll in his turn out.  Since I'm going solo (Trainer Z got injured and I'm definitely able to handle showing alone) I'm glad I'm not setting up a stall and handwalking for hours.  We'll show up, do our one test, and head home.  With our ride times, the whole thing will be done in 24 hours with 4 hours in the trailer.  5:30 pm on Saturday and 8:30am on Sunday.  I'm going to sleep in my truck in Trainer Z's parking lot because I'm not unhooking with that short of a time at the barn.  Show, park, unload Theo, flop in my truck and sleep, get up, load Theo, show again.

I don't know how we're going to do with my brain still rebooting and going out on our own but we're definitely chasing that Bronze now.  And all of that brain power I was using on school stuff can start to redirect on Theo.  Poor baby.

"Just let me drive and we'll be fine, mom."