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We Are Flying Solo

April 21, 2013

W Is For Widiculousness

Encore:  Oooo, look trees!
In the dressage arena that is.

Encore's back was available for warmup and his body felt decent, if a bit stiff from the trailer ride.  His brain...appeared to have blown out somewhere back on Highway 1.

I worked at suppling his body and pushing his inside hind leg underneath him.  I asked for many changes of bend and tried very hard not to hang on my left rein.  Becky swung by on a big, stunning dapple grey going BN who looked ready to do Prelim Test A and she said hi; I tried not spit on myself in mortification because I already knew I was not riding at my best and my horse was spooking at camera shutters and apparently birdwatching, judging by his posture.  I can only hope she was busy riding and did not actually witness my test.  Afterwards, I actually stopped by to ask the secretary, a friend of mine, if she could post my score under a code instead of my name.  Shame.

I was unaware that he was plotting evil.
Trainwreck would be an understatement.  After trotting down centerline, Encore checked out and completely ignored my existence as he studied trees, other horses, dirt, and anything else that seemed remotely interesting.  His rider was not even close to that category.  I had zero response to leg, hand, seat, body, no bend, no push, no.thing.  I hope the judge enjoyed my downward transition to trot where I finally had to yell, "WHOA, DAMMIT!"  She tactfully wrote, "Against hand.  Rider's aids ineffective."  Ya think?  I was not in love with my horse.

I could not let that stand.  I rode back to the field behind our rig and we proceeded to have a lesson in who decides when and how and where things happen.  It took about 30 minutes, but Encore eventually ran out of evasions and realized I was just going to sit there and keep asking, so he gave in and discovered that obedience is easier.  That was when I realized that THAT was the ride I should have given him in warmup.  I'm pretty good at lessons after the fact.

I did my best to let it go, although a set of stripped out stud holes and an ineffective wrench may have led to rage-hurling said wrench across a field.  It wasn't my finest moment, although it did make me feel better for 45 seconds and since I throw like a girl, it didn't go very far; Amber had the grace to not laugh out loud and fetch it later.  Bless her.

A rather more responsive horse warmed up for XC, which was a straightforward course with some good rider balance and steering questions.  The first 3 jumps were also on the steeplechase track, which I have wanted to run on for yearrrrssss.  Oh yes, my racehorse noticed the rail and the marker poles and the oval.

Beautiful track, I finally got to run on you...
I did not put on the helmet cam, my apologies.  Time was short and I wanted to focus on my horse; additionally, post-course walk, I knew there would not be anything new or dramatic to see.  Mea culpa.  Although you might have been entertained when Encore teleported sideways when someone opened their car door (perhaps he just left his brain at home?) and I barely clung on with one calf muscle. 

Oh, and car lady, it's fine to open your door, my horse usually has no issues with that on non-idiot days and you did nothing wrong, but when someone almost gets dumped (on their already trashed leg) as you do, it's common courtesy to apologize and at least ask if they are ok instead of squawking, "OMG!"  Just sayin'.

We made it to about jump 7 or 8 when I could feel my horse was developing some muscle-tiredness behind.  He was jumping very well, boldly and honestly, but between jumps, I had a cinder block at the end of my reins.  Today I feel like I was dragged behind a truck!

It was good mileage for him though.  Encore was excellent over a log two strides from the first big water and really showed off our improved "down" skills off a big drop.  The following jump was the baby sunken road, so the ground dropped sharply behind a log pile fence and he is still leery of leaping when he cannot see the landing.  He did stop in front of it, but I insisted and he climbed over (it wasn't very big) without taking a step backwards (GOOD BOY!) so we were able to finish with no penalties except for two seconds of time.  Which was a result of my having to pulley-rein him in a circle mid-course and make him trot down a very steep hill so we would not roll down it instead.  :\

As we crossed between the finish flags, I knew I had a tired horse and I felt in a couple of lead swaps that he had developed some butt soreness.  It was not a difficult decision to just withdraw, call it a day, and head home.  There was nothing to be gained by staying overnight and jumping a flat, ugly stadium course -- that kind of mileage I can do without, thank you. 

In the end, it was not a total loss.  We were pushing our timeline between his back injections and the event, so I am not surprised his muscles tired early.  I hope that a few more weeks of slow, steady work on some hills and the lines will bring him back to solid.

Sure I caaan be round, but...oh look, pony!
There were good lessons:  I need to push harder in warmup, take more time, and bloody well RIDE, no matter what anyone else is doing.  Encore got in a much needed XC run and handily answered all questions, with only one minor hiccup.  So my entry fee was not wasted and hey, even with all that, we still weren't last!

I will employ some Advil and enjoy an unexpected Sunday break crammed between two weeks of work travel and fish rodeos.  Encore can rest and we will resume our work at a slower pace later in the week.

To come:  the promised unveiling of a surprise at the event.  Better pictures need to be procured to do justice to said surprise.  Trust me, you will be filled with want. 

Last but not at all least:  THANK YOU, Amber, for being an expert team crew despite my dressage tantrums (I did not eat or drink enough, bad bad event blood sugar rule breaking!) and stud struggles.  You are truly awesome and I am so so so grateful to have had your help!


  1. That's a bummer that he was sore, a lesson learned is always good. Hopefully the recovery rides go very well!

  2. Better luck next time! I'm sure you guys will rock it when you get everything together. I love that first picture of you guys, btw.

  3. That stinks about the add'ness during the dressage, but some good lessons learned!

  4. But Mom, there were trees!

    Glad you made it in one piece and still got something out of your event. The steeplechase is gorgeous.

  5. Aw man you aren't going to tell us the dressage score?? I was hoping I had some competition in the highest eventing dressage score ever! I know the feeling of showing up to a show and finding the horse you know and love has been replaced by a distracted adhd alpaca. Then there is that elusive perfect warm up that if I only did _____. It happens and we get over it and love our OTTB anyways. What they lack in attention span they make up for in heart. Come on tell us the score, pleeease! I quite shamefully always post mine for the sake of honesty even when it hurts :)

  6. Thanks for your kind words! And thanks, Amanda, Amber took that for me!

    The trees are so very, ummm, tree-y?

    ROFL, Amy, I figured I didn't need to since I live-linked the results board in the last post, I certainly have no problem with honesty -- riding horses means shit happens! But it was a 49.5, which seems appropriate because we DID all the right gaits and transitions in all the right places, just...not in a dressage-y way, so half right! But it wasn't my all-time highest score, psshh, Solo has SO beaten that, hahahahaha! So you know, I could've done better (worse? more entertaining?), hence my non-posting.

  7. Aaah, the fussy red horse... I am currently training one of those myself ;) Same thing works for her though, just sit there and say "here is X length of rein and X speed that we are going, I'm going to stay right here until you figure it out!" and after bouncing around within those parameters for long enough, she goes, "well crap, it's just easier to do what she's saying, she's obviously not going anywhere!"

  8. I love it! I know you are always brutally honest. That's why you're one of my favs. And that you always do what is right for the sake of your partner no matter what. You are widiculously cool!

  9. You guys both look ADORBS, and, really, looking good counts for at least like 25%, right?
    Sounds like Encore was suffering from a case of Temporary Brain Displacement Syndrome, which Salem unfortunately suffers with on an almost-daily basis! Luckily, Encore seems like he pulls himself together eventually and does give you an honest effort out there on XC(gotta love that TB heart!), so it's not all bad.
    Hope his ass is all healed up soon and you guys can get back out there and rock it! :-)

  10. Hey, like I said - as long as you don't throw anything AT me, or in a place I can't retrieve it later, it's all good. :)

  11. I can so relate to the lesson after the test and then, the realization of what to do in the future... Your descriptions are priceless!

  12. Andrea, so true. It can be SOOOO hard to be patient and consistent, but it really is the best approach.

    Hahaha, Amy and Suzanne, thanks!

    Frizz, he is generally a super honest tryer, I can never stay irritated with him. This type of mental checkout happens very rarely and he had such light and inconsistent work in the leadup due to injection layup, not exactly shocking.

    Amber, LOL, I love you.

  13. Count me in as one who looooves that first picture! I wish I had one that good of me with a favorite equine.

    Glad you made 'round XC in good form and ended on a positive note. I like your line about somebody's brain blowing out of the trailer on the way there... you'd best travel with windows shut next time. :-)

  14. I'm sorry for your downfalls, but this post was well written and hilarious. Better luck next time!

  15. LOL, thanks Check! And RW, I think I'm screwed, the trailer has stock sides since I'm a ventilation nazi, so no closing. Maybe I will have to saran-wrap Encore's earholes!