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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label Encore competition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Encore competition. Show all posts

March 15, 2012

I'm Trying!

I am not holding out on you on purpose, I swear to you.  I am so swamped this week, am completely booked solid for the weekend, I don't even have time to eat!  I managed to get Encore out for a great hack last night (THANK YOU, TIME CHANGE) complete with deer and turkeys and streams and very large puddles and he proved once again that I bought the right brain.  Hopefully, we will be back in work next week and things will settle down a little.  Of course, my field season for work will start soon so that will mess everything up again!  Argh, work really gets in the way of my eventing!!!

As a consolation prize, I offer you this, Encore's XC run from Sunday.  He DEFINITELY needs some bigger jumps to back him off.  His only real hesitation was a pause of a bulge at 3, with the logs and brush, but I kept my left leg on, touched his shoulder with the stick, and he went boldly on.  I thought the log and drop at 5 and 6 were a fairly significant question for BN, but the more I thought about it, it made a lot of sense -- for most of them, the momentum of going over the log at 5 would carry them the stride or two to the drop at six and they wouldn't have time to think about stopping.  Encore, of course, took it like a pro, we've diligently practiced our banks and I make him walk through every puddle we see, much to his annoyance.


5...4...3...2...1...Have a great ride!

And get this:  he was quite tired from Saturday, so we actually got within 18 seconds of optimum time, something I NEVER managed with Solo.  At BN and N, I was always frantically trying to slow that train down so we didn't get speed faults.  And I can't believe I finally found something that makes Encore tired....but it was a big mental AND physical day Saturday with dressage and stadium to deal with, so everyone slept well that night.

March 12, 2012

I'll Almost Fill You In

My entire body and brain is tired, but I promise many media are coming.  There are photos to be cropped and videos to be uploaded and it all takes time.

I do want to say one thing immediately:  THANK YOU.

Thank you to the volunteers -- I try to be one whenever I can and I think it's a fantastic job, but it's also a long day(s).  I was happy to see some of the jump judges chowing down on a really good lunch, so good job, CHP, for taking care of your peeps.

Thank you to mum -- none if it would be possible without you.  Having an extra pair of hands for the weekend was an extra bonus!

Thank you to everyone who stopped and said hi, sent a text, or wrote a note of encouragement.  Each one is so special and unexpected to me, it makes it all that much more fun to know that Encore is sharing his journey.  A shout-out to Alana and Ryan, I wish I could have had more time to talk!

Thank you to the atmosphere, which gave us two perfect, Carolina blue days in the sandhills. 

As for the event itself, well, you will just have to be a little patient with me.  I'll give you some hints:

Our dressage test was much better than two weeks ago, but would have been even better if I had listened to a friend...

Our stadium round was nearly flawless, until...

Our cross country run was, as it always is for me, an exercise in pure awesomeness, but there's a funny story about a ditch....

I will say that I was THRILLED with the way Encore handled himself, it's amazing to watch a horse who spent three years racing take in a whole new scene so professionally.  Any and all mistakes were rider error, we crossed the finish flags on XC clean and clear within 18 seconds of optimum time, and a month from'll see us back at the Horse Novice.

For now, it's all between Encore and the giraffe...

February 27, 2012

It Was A Dark And Windy Night

Well, actually it was a chilly and windy day, but close enough.  I'm short on time, but I'm going to give the rundown of our very, hmm, interesting horse trial on Saturday.

There were some time hiccups and some OMG, the XC course is 47 miles from my trailer and I only have an hour before dressage moments.  But it was the first time this HT has been run, so one expects some speed bumps until the process gets sorted out.  I tried to take deep breaths and everything worked out fine in the end.

Since the HT was situated at a farm where we regularly XC school, I had not bothered to read the direction on the bottom of the omnibus listing.  After all, I've been there heaps of times.  You smell an ominus turn coming in this story, can't you?

Oh yes, I get there, driveway is blocked and sign says go around to the back.  Which means turning the trailer around and going back to a different road and it's a few miles around.  I finally find the correct entrance and it felt so familiar....oh, because we are parking on the Moss Foundation, a massive property where lifehighway and I have ridden many times, as it is managed for longleaf pine habitat and trail riding.  So the XC course IS actually about 47 miles from my trailer.

Uh oh.

I had an hour and a half before my dressage time, so I hiked as quickly as humanly possible to do my course walk.  I was lucky enough to have bribed asked a friend to come help and I must say to her THANK YOU, CINDY, I COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU

I left the trailer at 9:30, leaving her in charge of Encore and told her I planned to be back by 10:00.  At 10:00 I was on jump four of my XC course and I called her and said if I'm not back by 10:10, please tack up my horse.  I actually arrived sweatily (it was hilly!) back to the trailer at 10:20.  My dressage ride time was 10:43 and I still had to put on boots, helmet, gloves, spurs and GET to the dressage ring, which was only 20 miles away, instead of 47.  I was on my horse by 10:32 and I took off at a trot, reins in one hand and eating a Powerbar with the other.  Keep in mind, it was 50 degrees with 15 mph winds.

In brief, we arrived, steward said ring was running 20 minutes late.  After I restrained my from leaping off my horse and hugging her, we warmed up.  Encore was good, I got him round and reaching for the bit and as  supple as I could get in that situation.  My plan was to only walk and trot in warmup so he would not be anticipating the canter in the test.

This was not us.
That was a horrible plan.

He went in the ring and decided to go the confused llama route.  He did not understand the little white chain that made the arena in the grass and he did not understand what his job was supposed to be because it didn't look right.  I think had we been in the other arena (covered with footing) he would have been much better.  At best I would describe the test as....apocalyptic.  You know you're good when you (eventually) halt in the general vicinity of the required location and you salute, then look up to the judge cracking up laughing.

Oh well, I patted him and told him, good try, buddy, but not quite what we were looking for.

Next time, there will be much cantering in warmup to take that edge off!  Note: find a place with a grass dressage arena with chains to practice.

I didn't worry -- I was at the HT primarily for jumping mileage for Encore, so I was satisfied he stayed in the ring and we were on course (approximately).

We then ripped off tack, threw on jumping gear (XC gear too, they were back to back) and Cindy was literally stuffing Powerbar in my mouth as I was buckling my bridle.  Show jumping warmup was small and crowded but Encore warmed up well again, although that wind had him ready to GO!  But he listened when I said whoa and jumped well, so that was good enough.  Result:

You can't really tell, but I am about half in control and Encore is going at a great pace...for Prelim.  I really thought we had that brush box, even though my steering was a wee bit off.  He made it TO the takeoff spot, then did this amazing tango twist around the standard.  We were so close to the jump, I saw top of standard about a foot from my face.  I almost lost it; if my saddle had been slippery, I would have been a goner.  But this situation is why I REQUIRE horses I ride learn the one-rein stop.  Encore's only thought was RUN LIKE THE WIND, AHHHHH!!!!!  I had no stirrups and just kept my body centered and pulled his head right around.  The key was not to rush now, I needed his brain back.  I got my stirrups back, took my time, walked calmly to the edge and resumed our course.

It was then straight to cross country from there.  The course would be a bit of a new challenge.  Designed by Gina Fiore, when I walked it, I felt it the BN course was really a Novice course with some smaller logs thrown in.  There were some challenging questions and use of terrain and I felt fortunate that we had jumped many of the complex jumps before (and my horse remembered).

Want to ride it?  5...4...3...2...1...Have a great ride. 

The circle mid-course where we slowed down was where Encore took a flying leap of the house and I had NO brakes anymore (someone is going to meet Mr. Elevator bit for jumping at competitions, we must balance, my dear).  The next line was a hard right turn and down a steep hill to a suspended log and then a hard 90-degree turn to a bank line.  It was not going to happen at Mach 10 on the forehand without a chance of killing us both.  I pulled his head hard around uphill and he quickly broke to trot.  I said, honey, I need your brain back.  We then went downhill at the trot, picked up a much more balanced canter in front of the log, and pulled off a beautiful turn to our bank.

The last three or so years of eventing have taught me, forget the clock, when you lose your horse's brain, you will get in trouble in a big hurry.  Stop everything you are doing and get him back.  You may get a few penalty points, but they are very low and continuing in a crazed fashion will only end with someone getting hurt.  It is critical in this sport to think on your feet and make quick decisions no matter where you are.  It just good safety practice and good horsemanship -- your horse learns nothing bolting around unbalanced, every moment you are on his back, you are teaching him something, even if you don't mean to.

In summary, a crazy day, but very educational for horse and rider.  I learned what young-OTTB-on-a-windy-day feels like.  We achieved our goal of good jumping miles, even the runout taught me something (aim for the middle of the jump, doofus).  We kept the rails up and were completely clear XC.

I've already painted one of our brush boxes at home bright white (yesterday) and Encore will be jumping it until he's sick of it.  Southern Pines HT is in two weeks and I know what I need to work on, so I better get busy getting busy!

November 21, 2011

Jumping For Joy

I want to first thank you all for your emails regarding sale items and your perusal of my equine flea market.  I am always overwhelmed and stunned by people's random kindness (you know who you are), as most of you do not know me.  I hope that I can prove worthy of the generosity you have shown.

A few sale details: (1) I have added a loose ring snaffle, check the bottom of the post! (2) SillyPony, I have added rein lengths and one set is 58". (3) If you want items shipped before the holiday, I need to know before 10 am Wednesday morning, otherwise, you have to wait until next week. (4) If you have expressed interest in an item in the comments and still want it, but have not contacted me at, email me now!

In other news, there may have been a little jumper show this weekend, that a certain chestnut wunderkind attended that I imagine some of you might be interested in hearing about. It went a little something like this:

Carefully check online show bill Friday night and confirm show starts at 9:00 am. Plan accordingly. Curse loudly and often when alarm goes off at 5:30 am Saturday morning. Kick wildly to clear felines from pathway and stumble into 14 layers of clothing to protect against 30 degree morning. Unplug My Precious (truck) and rumble to the farm.

Hook up trailer in chilly dawn and load horses (Encore and Big D) at 6:45 am. Roll out a little before 7:00 am with Cindy (Big D's owner) wishing I had a chicken biscuit. Arrive at showgrounds around 7:40 am and OF COURSE, we are the first ones there.

Fall out of the truck and head to arena to walk freshly dragged course. Run into course designer/judge who informs us show ACTUALLY starts at 10:00 am. Cindy and I exchange a look and whimper for that extra hour of sleep. Oh well. At least we won't feel rushed.

The rest goes smoothly. Encore is bright and alert but trots around nicely. Since it's a schooling jumper show, we can cheat and warm up in the show ring and jump any jumps we like. So I school a narrow-ish chevron and both the brick and stone walls, which have formidable large cubic standards. Encore is fine with it.  We now remove 13 layers of clothing because all of a sudden it is 65 degrees, a detail which Weather Underground failed to bring to my attention.

My plan is this: do two courses in the 2' - 2'3" division. Dream of 2'3" - 2'6" course if Encore feels magical. The rules have been somewhat bastardized -- unlike an actual jumper show, there are no jumpoffs. Quite simply, the fastest time around the course wins. I'm NOT racing kids on ponies; my goal is to teach my horse to be relaxed and businesslike on course, so I do not ride for time.

Our first course:

I kept him at the trot for the first half. The last thing I want is a horse who barrels around a course; I want him considering each fence and focusing on the task, not lost in a speed high. I ignore the "helpful" railbirds clucking at us with a giggle.

Encore finished strong and I let him canter the entirety of his second course. He never rushed and I felt it click in his mind: my job is to canter around where the nice lady tells me and jump the little jumpies. Got it. On it. Done.

Video capture of the post-course grin.
 So yeah, I went for the 2'3" to 2'6".  I'm not thrilled with my riding; I am still trying to adjust from the style I adopted for Solo.  Encore is a completely different ride, on top of which, he still jumps like a green horse, so staying out of his way can be challenging!  I felt too far behind him, much of the time, but I did the best I could and hoped he didn't hold it against me.

There was no hiding my glee. That rhythm? That was all him, just doing his job. I have ridden more than a few horses in my life; I have never before sat on one who was so...I don't even have a word. He waited for the explanation of his job, I gave it to him, he went ok, and he just did it. Checked the box and ready for the next assignment. There was no "how can I get out of this, how can I make this easier on myself, can I spook at that, how about I race really fast." None of it, just honest, wonderful, amazing trying. I thought I would explode from sheer happiness, which terrifies me, but is completely freaking awesome.

As an extra bonus, even though we totally ignored the time, Encore still won his first ribbon, even if it is heinously pink (must have been four ponies in that class, LOL!).

Look who is getting more muscle-y!  Hint:  it's not me.

And for you Big D fans (and, of course, those who can't get enough of my appalling videography), he also was an excellent boy, taking very good care of his very nervous rider! He and Cindy did a wonderful job in their first jumper show - check out his flying lead change! They did both courses in the 2'3" - 2'6" class and I hope very much to see them going Beginner Novice in the spring (write in and tell her she just must, she needs some peer pressure, LOL!).

I also want to give a shout out to Macnair's Country Acres for hosting the show, which was fun and relaxed enough to give us the flexibility of a great schooling opportunity.  Then another huge shout to Tom Pollard who designed the courses and judged -- the courses were lovely and made sense to my young pony and I have not talked to a friendlier person in a long time.  From the time we met him in the morning and throughout the day, he was gracious, funny, kind, and warm and made it a pleasure to be there, so thank you (because I am sure he totally comes home and reads this blog every night)!

October 24, 2011

The Most Fun You Can Have On A Horse

It's the first time they experience cross country, the way their whole body comes alive with excitement when they realize that, hey, my job is FUN!  It's impossible to hide my ridiculous grin when I feel that joie de vivre pulsating beneath me and the exuberant leaps over tiny logs hardly worth a step.  A horse's first eventing experience is indeed an exercise in uninhibited glee.  But I will let the pictures tell the best stories -- thanks to lifeshighway and our friend, Cindy, who both manned media recording devices to capture the Encore debut.

Someone thought my hairnet wearing skills were hilarious awesome.

The unicorn is all ready for dressage.


I can't say I was overly thrilled with some of the judge's comments -- I get a little irritated when they write "could be rounder" on an Intro test.  The point of the Intro tests as marked on the score sheets and judging guidelines is a horse who moves forward into a steady contact with a clear rhythm.  If they know how to go round, then they should be at a higher level! 

Nonetheless, I was THRILLED with my boy.

For the photographer's caps of us, you can click here.  If that site gets you lost, we actually have pictures under #62 and #63 (62 was a friend of ours who scratched the day before, perhaps the photographer got confused?)

Now I'm jumping poneh.

Tying your own pinney:  always an exercise in contortion.

The blue stripey jump
Stadium jumping was quite the adventure for baby Encore!  He was so busy staring at the XC horses during our warmup that it took a few tries to get over the oxer, but eventually he managed to pay attention.  The course was VERY bright and colourful (you can see the jumps as expertly demonstrated by Solo here).  As Encore trotted into the ring, he was game to try but I'm not sure he'd really figured out what he was supposed to do yet!  Having never jumped a course before, I just wanted him to take his time and let the course educate him.  The second jump on course, though, was the one with the crazy blue striped sail standards (at right, with Solo at Novice) and here Encore picked up a baby stop, running out to the left.  I don't think he'd really focused on the task at hand, so I turned him back around to the right and represented.  He jumped it very willingly and then I felt him click and go Ohhhh, I get it now!  It's ON!  And the rest of the course.....went off without a hitch!  Giant daffodil standards, pink, orange, black and white spots, even a skinny on top of a mound -- no problem.  He had it all worked out.

Which left us....the start box.  That crazy Thoroughbred walked in, sighed, cocked a foot, and stood licking his lips as my favourite starter counted us down.  At which point I promptly forgot to turn my helmet cam on.  Devastated sobs.  But for most of the course, I looked like this (sorry for the blur.  And what happened to my breastcollar?):

And Encore looked like this:

My goal was to have him finish happily, but not run around like a crazy horse.  As Allie Conrad told me, with great wisdom:  A quiet mind is a trainable mind.  So we attempted to trot each jump (ok, there were a couple deliciously uphill canters) and upon landing, we would return to trot and sometimes even walk.

A few extra great candid shots of Cindy and her Percheron/Friesian Diesel (aka Big D) who also competed Sunday and landed a freaking SWEET 37!  We were so proud of these two, they have worked so hard and D is not an easy horse.  But he has a good heart, a fun jump, and a really great canter and they deserve all the success in the world!

Big D can turn on the charm.
I'm not sure if this is a smile or a grimace.  Oh wait, it's before dressage.  Definitely a grimace, then.
Not everyone can rock my awesome coaching boots like this.  Don't be jealous.
Big D and Mini D!  This pony was adorable.

Don't let the body fool you, this guy can JUMP.
Don't look so excited about the sandbox...
Remember to breathe....

See, mom, I can dressage....
This is what makes it all worthwhile....
 I couldn't be more thrilled with our day and I couldn't be happier with Encore's performance.  He came through those finish flags high on life (possibly egged on by me yelling GOOD BABY for the entire course, which reportedly could be heard back at the start box...ummmm....) and I gave him a giant hug.  I can't wait to see what happens next...

September 17, 2011

Baby's First Dressage


Now that we're clear on that...

In some fit of insanity, I decided to take Encore to a dressage show today. Because I've had him all of, what, seven days? I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get him out there in a dressage arena and start racking up the miles. Our goals: staying in the arena, not getting eliminated, and successful exposure to a show atmosphere. What could possibly go wrong!?

Yesterday, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and a layer of silky, grey clouds unrolled above us. Perfect weather for Horses Gone Wild, right?

I'd selected USDF Intro Test A, so simple a 3-legged pig ridden by a blind gerbil could do it. Except I've only ridden this horse twice in any sort of arena. And he doesn't know how to bend yet. Or half halt. And oh, there's my tendencies towards Idiocy Upon Entering At A.

After nearly falling out of the trailer upon arrival in his haste to check things out, Encore proceeded perfect. Well, he was about 17 hands tall for the first hour, but he still never put a foot wrong. Funnily, he was more interested in the woods than the people and horses and trailers and fences and booths and flowers. That little racehorse never spooked, never flinched, never rushed, never protested for even a moment. THIS is why I buy horses for their brains. The evidence does not lie:

I apologize for video quality -- the only thing I had charged was the helmet cam and given the high chance of rain today, I decided waterproof was the way to go.

Naturally, I managed to mess up even that simple test. Being trained for years to trot boldly down centerline upon arena entry, that's exactly what we did. Even though you are supposed to transition to the walk at X and walk all the way around to M. Ooops.

But Encore was a superstar; he held a rhythm, he even did some stretching! And we won! First place in our class of, oh, well, one. Ha! I can only thank the amazing CANTER ladies for what they have done for him. They took a horse who was sour and hated people (it's true, this babyfaced ham wanted nothing to do with the pink apes) and gave him a chance to blossom into the amazing horse he is already becoming.