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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label Becky Holder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Becky Holder. Show all posts

May 17, 2015

Winners Don't Always Carry Ribbons

Partner love from Dr. Kim Keeton
Our sport is, above all, about partnership & horsemanship.  Winning comes in many forms & it’s not always about a number.  Every time I work an event, I see the people who display the best of those values, who achieve the quietest form of greatness.

And they are not always the ones holding a ribbon on Day 3.

Greatness I saw included young T3DE rider Laura Duhamel, who walked into the secretary's office at the end of endurance day & withdrew.  Although she & Fate's Patriot had only a single refusal on XC, she felt her horse just wasn't quite right & chose to take him home, putting her partner first so they could try again another day.

Lost with a map like this? Surely not!
Or Rebecca Barber, another Training 3DE entry. She found herself halfway through phase D…lost & desperately circling for the next jump.  Just as she reached her maximum time on course, she decided to retire.  All of our hearts fell with her as she walked back to stabling.

But after hanging up her bridle, she stayed to help others with a big smile for the remainder of the competition. It earned her the award that is my favorite to give: the Sportsmanship Award.

Which included an autographed copy of Training of the Three-day Event Horse and Rider, with a handwritten note from author God Jim Wofford himself, a prize I’d guess many of us would cage fight for (or you can buy new on Amazon...for $500?!!).  Not to mention the rest of the loot in her packed bag.

It’s Never Just A Dressage Show

Just getting there is an accomplishment on its own.  Completion of a long format event is yet another.  So each & every entry gets my resounding applause.

BN3DE Bonnie Coulter's grin says it all when she & 21-yr-old QH Otto Be Lucky finish Phase D (& place 5th!); thanks, Erica, for the WIN selfie!
Winning one of our special awards takes yet another level of heart & dedication, so a HUGE TFS shout-out to:

Donkey gets Becky's happy face!
Best Conditioned Horse, primary sponsor So8ths Farm:
Donkey Hote (I get to say his name again, yessss!), owned & ridden by Sue Goepfert; they were also a close 2nd both in the N3DE division & for the N3DE TIP award by a mere 2.9 points.

Lowest Scoring Adult Amateur, sponsored by BlackWatch Stables (must be a member of your Area Adult Rider program): Dr. Kim Keeton & Evita-Veron, T3DE division winners.

Effenzauber effen-gallops!
Best Turned Out in Jog-Ups, sponsored by Higher Standards Leather Care, Cowboy Magic, Brant Gamma Photos, Dover Saddlery, & Grand Meadows:
  • Training – Louisa Flaig & Effenzauber
  • Novice – Ann Bower & Prosecco
  • Beginner Novice – Patricia Thompson & The Dark Knight
Red Fury even pauses winningly
Highest Scoring TB, sponsored by The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP; some divisions did not have any riders who gave me numbers, hence the gaps):
  • Novice 3DE – Paychecker, with Minge Wiseman, who also won the N3DE division on their stunning 28.1 dressage score.
  • Beginner Novice 3DE – Red Fury, with our friend Nobie Cannon; they were 2nd in their division as well,  behind winner Emma Boswell & Sprite by only 0.3 points!!
  • Training HT – Laurelin, with Lisa Borgia, who also won the Open Training HT.
  • Novice HT – Action Jackson, with Erin Kimmer, 4th in Open Novice on a lovely 27.3.
And of course, CONGRATULATIONS to Kim, Minge, & Emma for winning the T/N/BN 3DE division, respectively!!!  In all three, the top three were separated by less than a single stadium rail (well, Novice had a whopping 5.2 pt spread, close enough), so well done under intense pressure.

Brad's mule is easy to spot
Moar Thank You

From the first day I met him, during a long format clinic with Becky Holder, where I tortured took Solo, farm owner Brad Turley has been beyond generous & supportive of both the long format & the adult amateur.  You can read his message in the gorgeous (not that I’m biased...) event program (apologies to those who got hard copies, subjected to printer error, but the linked .pdf has correct format).    

Thank you to Horse Junkies United, The Cheraw Chronicle, & Leslie Threlkeld with Eventing Nation for your articles (including a new one just yesterday), social media sharing, & Leslie's onsite help not only with media, but as Assistant Organizer!

BN3DE Don Warren & Sunny One adorably on their way to 6th
Thank you to the ever-wonderful Becky Holder for bringing her students down the road to participate; your support & presence throughout the event helps show our sport how much it matters!

Sorry, you just got photobombed by a Holder AND a TARDIS portajohn
To Dr. Debbie Williamson, owner of Williamson Equine Veterinary Associates, & Dr. Marsha Severt, of Brown Creek Equine Hospital (along with asst. Stephanie Graham, as Dr. Skip, Marsha’s husband & co-owner of their practice, couldn’t make it this year), who take time away from their own practices to help keep the horses safe & healthy.  To JJ Johnson, Radio Control Queen from here to Rolex & beyond, for enabling vital communication & sharing her vast experience with me!

JJ makes XC run smooth as silk; N3DE Heather King & CF Baltic Royal Tee
I Swear, This Post Has An End

If this were the Oscars, the band would have begun playing long ago; there are just too many thank you’s to clinicians, farm staff, volunteers, builders, riders & more, but hey, I did write a program for that…

It takes more than a village, really, it takes something akin to a metropolis, but the result…even I don’t have enough words to encompass it.  And while I can’t give away any secrets, 2016 is going to be even bigger, with even more features!

Have you started your trot sets yet?

N3DE Samantha Messamer & Finn McCool contemplate next year's plan

May 9, 2015

Who Makes The Magic Happen?

*Retroactive apology for heinously long post, should have split into two...
but all the awesome...& the words...so hard to fit...hang in there*

That moment which puts a tear in the corner of your eye, the exhilaration & triumph of achievement that comes with taking your horse to a whole new level of partnership:  participating in a long format event that represents the “heart” of our sport, such as Southern Eighths Farm’s Heart of the Carolinas.

It’s easy to recognize some of the elements which make it so special – just look at the Beginner Novice 3DE victory lap!



Exciting for me (after I contain my whimpering envy…ONE DAY!) is that Every. Single. Rider. who completed in both the BN & T3DE divisions got to take home not only their USEA completion ribbons & So8ths completion medals (damn straight, you earned a freaking medal), but also a much-coveted neck ribbon AND a bag of sweet prize loot!!!

This is just for the BN3DE division...
The Novice 3DE division had a few more competitors (we give prizes to 8th place), but all finishers still get the more-than-deserved USEA ribbon & So8ths medal (can I just put one in my pocket to borrow for a year & pretend?).

N3DE: Sabine Desper & her Akhal-Teke Adamek finish Endurance Day!
So who is it that makes these enormous grins possible?

YOU.

You heard me right.

Weary, but smiling judges & staff as SJ winds down
It Takes A Village…For 365 Days

Anyone who has ever been part of the core staff running even a schooling horse trial knows what a monumental task it is.  The words “herding cats” do not even begin to describe the challenge & there are more moving parts than the inside of a grandfather clock.

However, every single one of those parts, from judges to concessions, competitors to volunteers, sponsors to farm staff to secretaries to stabling to the one who put the flagging tape on the parking sign, is a person.  A person like you, a person like me.

Click to embiggen
This blog has never been about marketing or money & it never will be.  As I’ve said so many times before, I share my journey because I know there are thousands of us out there, working adult amateurs trying to make it work, trying to figure it out.

So the reason I was typing at midnight last Saturday, the reason Solo’s beloved Minion & I have Twitted you to death, is because this event, aside from being mind-blowingly awesome, is the perfect illustration of all that makes eventing unique.

A group of people, from all walks of life (even non-horsey ones) & just as many states, come together & build, through a combination of diverse skillsets & what I’m convinced is a dose of fairy dust, as one competitor so aptly put it, “the experience of a lifetime.”

Seriously, these were my Steeplechase judges - I told you they could fly - when I was radio control for Phases A/B/C on Endurance Day (hey, my butt’s even in the end of the video, woot, along with Best. Organizer. Ever. & friend/neighbour/teacher, Cindy DePorter), from the very special All Veteran Group (absolutely check out their website, even more amazing than this video; THANKS, GUYS!).


Video warning:  Viewers who have ever experienced something magical & had to say goodbye may experience simultaneous weeping/joy.  Not that I, erm...

I’m Not Special

I’m a nobody.  Yes, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t have money, I forget what spare time is, I often work 50+ hours a week at a stunningly low-paying job (who gave that great advice “do what you believe in?” LOL), & I’d have to look in my own archives to remember the last time I rode a jump course.
Although Solo won 6th with Cari Budny in N3DE (srsly, his name is Solo!)
I’ve never won championships, trophies, or stacks of horse trial ribbons.  I don’t have any special certifications (well, relevant ones; I’m pretty sure my Wildland Firefighter Red Card is not very useful at a horse trial…unless the XC course catches on fire, then I've got it covered).

I do most of my own training because I can’t afford many lessons, & I’ve never competed above Training in eventing or First Level in dressage.

Here Is What I Do Have.  And So Do You.

Despite not owning a horse until a very special person bought me Solo in 2006, I’ve spent a lifetime watching horses & reading everything that has the word “horse” in it.  I believe in good horsemanship above all else:  my partner ALWAYS comes first.

Although not a competitive person, I have run horse trials (pretty much because that’s the only way I can run a proper XC course, heh) & benefited from those who took their time to give me that privilege.  And I believe in “paying it forward.”
BN3DE winners Emma Boswell & Sprite
I know how to push buttons, count (at least to ten), I can use a pencil, send emails, & print documents.  I can even drive a golf cart without breaking it.  *pause for permitted giggle*

These things may seem ridiculously simple, but this truly is how I, how YOU make magic.  And not just on event weekend.  Planning for the 2016 event started the day after the 2015 event ended.  There are so many more ways to help, even if you can’t be present on the showgrounds.

Treating vets Dr. Marsha Severt (R) & Stephanie Graham
Who Can You Be?

It is impossible to name everyone without giving you carpal tunnel from scrolling (you can read team bios, as well as check out great educational material in the full event program, downloadable here), but I want to offer an inside-out perspective & debunk any misconceptions that YOU aren’t special enough or qualified enough to be a part of this or any other event.  As has been wisely said, “We may be small, but we can do great things.

You can be Ed Madden, a semi-retired health care consultant & grandparent, who, along with his charming wife, Annie, recently moved to the Carolinas from Seattle.  Ed is our safety coordinator each year, making sure we all know what to do in every possible contingency (that hopefully never happens).

You can be Cindy Wood (yeah, it gets confusing on the radios), an Adult Amateur who is our dedicated Stable Manager to perfection here & at Waredaca’s N/T3DE in October, holding down the fort in the stalls & making sure all the horses have what they need.

She even TFS selfie'd Becky for me; two great people!
You can be Erica, Solo’s Minion, who is working on a post-doc at UNC-Chapel Hill while simultaneously raising her two-yr-old (human) with her husband, who also works full time.  She also has full-time duties dealing with me, which is a feat unto itself!!  She was an incredible help to me this weekend, at her first ever 3DE, running TFS social media while I spread-sheeted like a fiend, ferrying & handing out prize loot, bit checking, & filling any other gaps as needed.

You can be Melissa Rundt, serving dual duty being hilarious & upbeat when staff got tired, as well as making the requisite pre-event grocery run so everyone had meals & snacks at all times (my job in 2013, only she does it better!).

Melissa always strikes a dramatic pose
You can be James Baker, another working Adult Amateur rider who has ridden at So8ths & Waredaca’s long format event with his faithful partner, Wings.  He was in attendance again this year…just showing up to volunteer wherever needed.

T3DE Bag O'Win. Value: $1,400
You Are Even A Sponsor

We often think of event sponsors as companies with products on storeshelves nationwide & thick catalogues & professionally designed websites.

We are beyond grateful the event & the USEA Classic Series has some of these, such as the partnership of:
(Full list of event sponsors & links here)
  
TIP loot includes $75 cash
And I cannot leave out The Jockey Club’s great TB Incentive Program (TIP), whose fabulous rep was so helpful & friendly & voluntarily offered awards not just for the 3DE, but for the HT we run alongside!  (If you don't have a number for your OTTB yet, getting one today is easy & instant...& free)

However, YOU are sponsors too.

As so many of our entries are young or amateur riders, I couldn’t think of a better group of partners to add to the team than small businesses started by members of the same community!
 
You are Melinda, creator of Nickerbait, handmade horse treats that I would probably eat before they made it to my horses.

Who, when I emailed in a panic, searching for tracking numbers, because the farm did not appear to contain her box of prizes, sent back a set of printable gift certificates on Saturday night.  She also makes custom labels for events, if someone wants their brand on prizes, in addition to contributing products to fundraising events. 

You are Kate, owner of BlackWatch Stables, a friend of the farm owner, & 3rd generation warmblood sporthorse breeder, who couldn’t make it out to volunteer this year.  So instead, after contacting me asking how she could help, she donated a $100 SmartPak gift card & a fly sheet as the Lowest Scoring Adult Amateur award (taken home by Dr. Kim Keeton, winner of the T3DE division, & owner/head vet of Coyote Creek Equine Veterinary Services).  Just because.

Dr. Keeton & Evita-Veron on their way to finishing T3DE on their 29.6 dressage score
You are Pat of So Southern, who hand-makes customized saddle pads, covers, & other fabric products, even creating entire collections for your school/team/organization with specially reserved patterns & logos.  She sent three beautiful baby pads including return shipping labels so winners can send them back for monogramming.

Not kidding: mad golf cart skillz
You are Beka, of The Owls Approve, who was crafting unique gifts for friends & fun until she was generous enough to say yes to my impulsive recruitment over dinner in Savannah three months ago.  And now has a sold-out inventory in her Straight Shot Metal Smashing Etsy shop because everyone who saw them had instant coveting.

Of course, there are more, as previously mentioned & listed.  And each of you, from largest to smallest, are a gear without which this clock would not keep time.

To be continued...

3rd in BN3DE, Madeline Maynard & Airborne Ranger look like Endurance Day was no biggie

May 3, 2015

Don't Expect Sentences In Satuday's So8ths 3DE Update Of Blogger-Exploding Epicness

Moar prize oogling!  Thanks, of course, to all these people & more:

Mary Ellen at Logorific did a fantastic job on the long banners!!

A better picture of Beka's surprise that made me sniffle:

It's been my nametag decoration...
Meghann went overboard & sent beautiful certificates & a sample for display:


The lovely banners will frame tonight's Derby party & dinner display in the little indoor out back:



And the reason I do it, the reason you all need to do it...

N3DE XC: Jodie Stowell & Island Fever lock on to the stone wall

If Becky's picked her #1... (N3DE rider Alcy Christie & Abraxis in the Phase C Assist box)

N3DE:  Sabine Desper & Adamek pause for their super crew!


Solo's Minon Erica looks like she got the temp check job in the 10-minute box! (who else stands at the horse's butt?)

Amanda Miller-Atkins & Barley clear N3DE gorgeous XC Fence 1

N3DE Julia Burke jogs Davignio for the Ground Jury before proceeding to Phase D:  XC!

N3DE Ann Bower & Prosecco (also "Best Turned Out" for their division jogs!) clear the XC Frame

...is because this.  Donkey Hode (who won Best Conditioned over all divisions!), currently in 2nd place in the N3DE explains it all, walking back to the barn with an equine smile.
Because it's just zen, man...

August 30, 2014

Free Riding Clinics For You! A TFS Redux.

God spake to me...and I could not look upon his holy face.
Ever wanted to absorb decades of experience like a little fangirl sponge from greats like Jimmy Wofford, Ian Stark, Becky Holder, or Eric Smiley?

Well, aren't you a lucky little fangirl!!  In the spirit of relaxing over the holiday weekend, for those of us who can't access FEI TV (or don't want to), I have collected, in chronological order, our hilarious spectacular performances in front of these phenomenal horse(wo)men & teachers.  I'm sure they felt just as lucky as I did.  *insert sarcasm font*

I also wanted to share with more recent readers some earlier parts of this wild journey.  I'm sure you are spending every free moment catching up on the 500+ posts since August of 2009 (where's that font again?), but in the meantime, I set the time machine in motion.  Encore & I may appear fearless & quasi-competent at times (usually when no one is looking), but those moments are built on the foundation of 1,000 stumbling blocks of trial-and-error that Solo, my un-erringly brave & accidental partner, made with me.

Have no fear, I am unoffended if you point & laugh.  I do (at myself, past AND present).
The only Olympic-quality ride Solo ever got
The Man Who Ruined Changed Solo & I For All Time (or That First Time We Met The XC Grin)
Ian Stark - Summer 2007
(Yes, I was afraid to canter my horse in an arena because he misplaced that gait.  He only had trot & gallop...except on the trail.  I'll let you guess how humbling it is after 20 years of riding, to finally have a horse & be afraid to canter it.  And yes, I did try to make an eventing legend wear my sweaty helmet.  I failed.  Then Solo nearly dumped him.  Thank cod my horse did not gain infamy as The Killer Of Ian Stark.  *horror*)

I Finally Get To Meet God
Jimmy Wofford - Fall 2008
He only whacked my horse on the ass with his baseball cap once...

Becky has not convinced Solo that dressage has merit
We Discover Eventing Mecca & I Become A Bona Fide Stalker (& My Last Clinic With Solo)
Becky Holder - Fall 2010

Ok, he can jump
The Best Christmas Present Ever & Encore's First Proper Clinic (Thanks, Mom!)
Camp Becky Holder - 10 Days of Spring Training, 2013

A Scotsman Started The Fire, An Irishman Throws A New Log In The Flame
Eric Smiley - Summer 2013

Encore's 1st Training course (Fall 2013)
Wander at will & explore the evolution!  Or save it for some rainy day entertainment.  May there be useful lessons YOU can apply next time you swing a leg over.

And not least of all, thank you to my mother, to Jim, to our amazing friend, Beth, and to the victims kind, random people I threw cameras at.  Your support made these experiences possible & each one is a treasure, both in lessons learned & the partnership forged with my horses.  Not only did these incredible teachers raise the bar on my training & riding about 47 holes, but they did so with patience, grace, generosity of spirit, humility, & humour.

For that, I consider myself lucky indeed. 

April 25, 2013

The Becky Diaries: An Afterward

All eyes are turned to my favourite patch of turf right now, a park filled with history in Lexington, KY and an event that continues to change, but still offers the amazing spectacle of horse-human partnerships giving their all in an incredibly difficult test of courage, grace under pressure, and preparation.

Just before lunch today, behind those rolling fencelines, our hero and teacher, Becky, and her workhorse of an OTTB, Can't Fire Me, laid down the gauntlet in the dressage arena and I was lucky enough to watch online as they smoothly cantered into second place, just behind the legendary Andrew Nicholson.  While they are up there, checking and double checking jump gear and legs and footing for the days ahead, I figured it was the perfect time to wrap up my training series with the last few tips from the woman herself.  Turn your sound up!



When watching other jumping lessons, I'd often noticed Becky yelling, "Keep your body between the reins!" at a rider's cantering back.  I'm a very visual person, so the concept seemed obvious enough.  I had no idea that I did not practice it!  Becky demonstrates above in a way that makes it very clear to me why you NEED to separate your eyes from your body.  I have a very hard time with this and I also am mostly unaware of it unless I specifically think about it.  After repeating our jump line while working on this concept, I immediately felt a sharper, more accurate response from Encore too!



I think we've all done it (do it!) -- as we approach a drop, we slow down so the horse has time to read the question and he is not tempted to launch at terminal velocity, leaving an unsuspecting rider on top of the bank wondering if she found a crop or lost her horse.  This often takes some, er, convincing on the rider's part, so the horse's head comes up against the rein as we "discuss" this strategy.  We then arrive at the edge of the drop with an inverted horse who then might put his head down with a snort and skid to q stop to investigate the sudden appearance of a cliff at his feet.

What we should be doing instead is using our body and balance to ask the horse to shift his weight back while we let out the rein several strides early (see above video).  This encourages him to lower his head and neck so he can see the edge and put his body in the right shape to leave the bank rounder and softer and we now have far less of a chance of catching him in the mouth.  Another one that seems obvious, yet takes thought to get done.

Finally, a conundrum I have puzzled for many years.  There is an insistent chant in the horse world that when you first mount, you MUST let your horse walk around, stretch out muscles, and not ask anything of him for X period of time.  But my horse spends 23 (often 24, ha) hours a day walking around, rolling, galloping, stretching in the field he lives in, is the prior statement not better applied to horses who are primarily stalled, standing still?  I've gone back and forth in dressage and schooling warmups and never settled on either side of the fence.  So, after watching her school one of the youngsters, I just asked.

Becky confirmed my suspicions.  PARTICULARLY if a horse lives outside for all of much of his time, he's already moving.  When you get on, it's work time.  You can have a lap to check out distractions if you need it, but after that, we pick up the reins and get to work.  Of course, you still retain your common sense -- your starting work might be in a longer frame or focusing on serpentines or other figures to supple his body, but he is still asked to immediately move forward into the bridle, step under himself, and lift his back.  And asked is the key word.  He is working towards this -- a green horse, an older horse might take longer to get there, but he still has to be trying.

Talented young RJ (Telperion) out for a test flight.
Thus endeth the Becky Diaries of 2013 and one of the richest training experiences of my life.  Becky's graciousness, eye for detail, phenomenal instincts, positive teaching approach, insistence on correctness, and systematic approach to building a horse in both strength and skill all impress me endlessly.  She deserves nothing but success and I hope that this year is her year to shine in the Rolex spotlight.  I will certainly be waiting with bated breath until Teddy clears the last jump in stadium!

I can  honestly say that Becky is probably one of the best, if not the best, instructors I have ever worked with (and that is some stiff competition), both in terms of teaching skill and compatibility with my style of learning and riding.  It was truly a gift and an honour to live and ride with her for those two weeks (although my horse was probably less excited about the Raising of the Bar), thank you, Becky.  Thank you again to everyone I met and watched and learned from, thank you to Amber for coming down and helping, thank you to Encore for showing up for work and trying his hardest every day, and thank you most of all to my mother, who made it possible.

March 25, 2013

The Becky Diaries: Day 10: Stadium Jumping

It was time to put it all together.  Adjustability, focus, position, balance, and accuracy.  All without running over Scrappy.  Yeah, I think you get kicked out for that.

We started out as we do with David -- a simple, tiny pole you canter in both directions.  Your goal is to be in a consistent rhythm, be steady in your position, soft with your hand, and have your horse in front of your leg without galloping around like a nutball.



Although apparently, you are supposed to approach jumps with a straight horse.  Sheesh.  So picky.



Next, we find our rhythm and pace to another single jump.  Keeping the straight approach and your position, settle and commit to your canter rhythm and just. ride. it. no. matter. what.  I was apparently confused by being in the XC field so I decided that we still needed to gallop fences.  Tiny show jumping fences. 



Becky, however, did not see any need for a 15' stride to a 2'3" fence (I wanted to be REALLY sure we cleared it!) and had us bring it down a notch to, say, a show jumping canter.  Crazy woman.



Then came something new for Encore:  a short bending line.  The first time through took some seat-of-my-pants steering (what, leaning doesn't help?) and he did some greenie foot-shuffling, but it improved each time until we finally got my eyes and both our bodies on the same page and he understood the question being asked.



Success!



With our eyes tuned up, it was time to put a few jumps together and NOT lose the rhythm, focus, and balance by thinking ahead and preparing.  No celebrating what you just jumped, no sigh of relief, no worrying, simply, ok, next this.  I honestly thought I would have to work hard to steer from a wide triple bar to a skinny vertical and that my horse would fall apart and rush after the wide first jump.  Colour me pleasantly surprised.



THREE jumps, with Becky emphasizing planning and waiting for your turn after the skinny to give you the squarest possible approach to the oxer, ENSURING your horse's hips are lined up just as we'd worked on over the warmup pole.



Finally, we get to our course.  Encore was very good; the hardest thing for me was staying mentally focused -- my tendency is to lose my brain about halfway through the course.  Becky made an excellent suggestion of picking the points on your course where there is some space between the jumps and bring your horse back like you were starting a whole new course with the next jump being your first.  It was a really effective mental exercise for, erm, ADD overthinkers like me.  *guilty*



We were given the option to be done at that point, but I wanted to fix our messy bit of the first four jumps.  I resettled my brain, promised my mentally tired pony we were nearly done and fixed it.  Well, the second time.



I think that is actually the first time Encore has ever bucked!  To be fair, I was trying one link tighter on the Pelham chain since he'd nearly ripped my shoulders out in the snaffle the day before.  It worked VERY well and I needed to be lighter on it than I was.  My leg strength is getting much better in PT, but we are still working on lateral muscles and I am just starting on rebuilding my abs so I do not fall back in the saddle as much after the apex of the jump.  *more guilty*

But to say I am proud of Encore does not even begin to cover it.  He came to the paddock gate and loaded on the trailer 20 times in 10 days without a single protest.  He tried so hard every day and never once tried to purposefully evade work; his protests were limited to explaining to me when things were hard, which is fair enough.  That horse knows how to WORK and caught me a little off guard by bringing it at a whole new level of pressure.  All I can say is...

GOOD BOY!!

March 21, 2013

The Becky Diaries: Homecoming

Day 10 IS forthcoming; I was able to trap an unsuspecting mom and get some great video of our final lesson -- a show jumping challenge for Encore and I that really put our focus and body control to the test!

But until then, is there anything cuter than this?

The BO didn't think Solo would miss his brother, but I know that mellow orange exterior holds an enormous heart...


March 20, 2013

The Becky Diaries: Day 9: Adjustability

It is the end times.  *insert ominous music here*  Tomorrow will be just washing linens and throwing things back in the truck and hauling our butts back to what I'm sure will be a very excited Solo!

After a quiet Tuesday morning watching the girls long line Comet and RJ (Becky was off in Aiken Mon/Tues for the USET High Performance Training Sessions -- I wanted to creep there soooo badly, but figured that might be pushing it) and helping set up a new stadium course, I fetched a rested Encore and Becky was kind enough to squeeze us in at the end of the day when she returned.

It's springy!!!!!  Just like my horse.  Or is that jumpy?
By "rested," I mean completely refilled with insane amounts of energy and with renewed conviction that large, hilly fields are only for galloping and avoiding large predators.

I knew I should have put the Pelham on.  I won't make that mistake twice.

Shoulders ow.

But it was time to install some new gears, or rather put controls on pre-existing gears so they appear when I ask for them, rather than at Encore's whim.  I quickly discovered it was NOT going to be a soft and round day, try as I might and I cursed myself for not rebuilding those core muscles faster after surgery.

Exercise 1:  Working in a circle, establish teeny tiny canter, as close to cantering in place as possible.
Key points:  Wrap your calves around the horse and use your core/thighs to (as my dressage trainer put it) "suction cup" his back and ribcage up underneath you without losing the hind leg energy.  It's ok if he breaks or loses stride, he just needs more strength.  Think of making a transition to walk, but do NOT lean back; this will only dig your seat into his back and hollow him out.  Keep hands low, connect your elbows to your hips, and ride through his assertion that he can surely go no slower.

Teddy watches big bro Comet give Dad a lesson.
Exercise 2:  Push him forward into a big, giant canter for about 6-8 strides, then come immediately back to teeny canter.  Stay on circle.
Key points:  Don't give up your position and seat when going to big canter or else he'll just get strung out.  When coming back to teeny canter, GET IT NOW -- don't fight about it for ten strides.  If you are not getting a change, you might have to get in his face a time or two.  Again, don't lean back, make an elastic wall of core, elbows, thigh, and butt suction him back up to that tiny stride.  Rinse and repeat a billion times and only do each (big, teeny) for a short time, maybe half the circle.

Exercise 3:  Get soft, round walk, pick up teeny canter for 5 strides, walk, reverse direction, repeat ad nauseum.
Key points:  Don't ask for the canter until you have a moment of topline softness in the walk, then lead with your inside hip.  Accept the first few tiny canter strides that you might feel like are just him being stuck; don't push him too far out of that, those are him really sitting on his butt.  Come back to the walk quickly and as you reverse direction, use the turn to unlock him.  Soften him, then get canter back. 

I have been a wuss and avoided exercises like these so far because even though I knew it was time to take this step, I was dodging getting him riled up.  Encore really did a lot better with then I thought, however, given that we had thusfar not played much with adjustability.  As Becky said, you might just start out the exercises going through the motions, but give them a chance to relax into it through repetition and it will get better.

Solo demonstrates the barrel in 2010.
Exercise 4:  Use a small jump (we had a single barrel on its side with two vee rails resting on it) and use all your canters in approach and landing.  For example, approach in big canter, land in teeny canter.  Approach in teeny canter, land in big canter.  Approach in medium canter, land in teeny canter.
Key points:  Approach is easy, landing is HARD.  Hold your position and committment to the gait you chose all the way to the base of the jump.  Get the new pace as quickly as possible on landing.  Even though this one was difficult, I really liked and could see its utility for a variety of training goals.  I'm not sure Encore completely got it yet, but he did very well at holding the rhythm I picked and not pulling me to the fence.

Hopefully, we can build on this work today when we finally tackle show jumping.  I tend to fall apart in the second half of courses, so I will be trying to improve my focus and slow things down.  Which will, please universe, be a bit easier with some brakes not provided by the snaffle -- Encore is really very good about understanding that arenas are for work now.  This is great news for, say, competing at the horse park.  He just needs to get the memo (which has not failed due to lack of sending, believe me!) that work can happen anywhere, gasp!