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We Are Flying Solo

September 30, 2013

Back In The...Show Ring!

Fitness, thbpitness.  Eh, I think it's naptime anyway.
It was really sort of a ridiculous decision.

Encore came sound last Friday, bruises healed and body restored, a little over a week before the CT we completed yesterday.  In some form of horse-show-withdrawal frenzy, I scribbled his name onto entry forms and shoved them through the mail slot without much consideration of details.

Just little things, like, oh, test preparation (we haven't taken a dressage lesson since the beginning of July), or the fact that Encore hadn't seen coloured jump poles in three months, or the teeny issue that his rider was just as winded and out of shape as he was.

Lucky for us, his TB magic meant that with a concerted effort to ride/long line/hot walk him every day until the show, he regained more than adequate condition to perform two phases on a lovely fall day.  His rider had a generous crew who kept a bottle of gatorade and a granola bar close at hand so there were no dramatic fainting episodes and only a little gasping for breath.

Suzpension iz hard.
Leading up to the competition, Sunday-Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday became long line-dressage-jump-hot walker-long line-dressage-hack.  I was baffled to discover that Thursday and Friday's trot/canter transitions had become flying bucks akin to a Lippizaner's greatest triumph.  Until it occurred to me that after what amounted to six weeks off for foot healing, Junior Pony was probably a bit sore after being thrown back into schooling every day.  They weren't long or particularly demanding sessions, but certainly awoke slumbering muscles in his hiney!  Hence Friday and Saturday's liberal application of Sore No More and a slow walking hack through woods and fields on Saturday to stretch and relax mind and body.  Hey, it worked.  Sorry, dressage judge, no entertainment for you!

Tip:  Sore No More contains witch hazel (which you can also buy on its own by the jug at the drug store).  Wait until the horse's body cools down completely and then begin rubbing it into the muscles.  Any areas where there are knots, tension, or heat will cause the liquid to foam up a little as you gently rub it in, indicating a sore spot.  You can then massage that spot some more or identify stretches or alternative techniques to relax and rest those a
Enter Working Cute.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little stunned that this all paid off.  We've not exactly had a run of amazing luck over the past two years and I'd just spent way more time and money getting my horse sound once again than I would have liked.  BUT IT WORKED.

In warmup, I focused on riding correctly and accurately and made sure to leave enough time before my test to do a little trot work next to the actual show arena so he could relax there (I've always rushed that part too  much in the past).  While he did sometimes get looky and tight in his neck and jaw in the arena, especially his corners, he was pretty obedient, there was NO acrobatic bucking, and that entering centerline felt really damn good (and nailed us an 8!!!!).  All of the judge's comments were spot on and helpful, encouraging us to work on creating more jump and straightness in the canter (oh lady, if only you knew how awesome it was that we HAVE a sound canter on both leads), and better bend where it is called for (definitely agreed!).

But he is finding that suspension!!!
He earned himself a SECOND 8 on his first medium walk and 7's on both impulsion and submission (o.m.g. we finally have some submission) in his collective marks.  I could not be prouder and I admit to squeaking with startled glee when the leaderboard whispered that Encore had nailed a 34.8.  With only one week of schooling, my earnest kiddo was only one point away from Solo's best score of all time.

Sure, I be dressage poneh, whatevs.
We've got the step, just need the jump!

We then had somewhere around 2.5 minutes to change tack and be ready to jump.  I confess, I wasn't thrilled about the horses not getting much of a break between the two, but it did mean that your jumping warmup merely required hopping over something a few times to get them thinking forward and over and you were good to go.  And that he was -- as soon as we entered the competition ring, a firecracker lit up underneath me.  Encore hadn't tackled a course in three months either and he fairly vibrated with excitement.  The whistle blew and we were off.

I sendz telepathik Cuna-thankz youz!
The detail-oriented among you might notice something different in our jumping outfit.  In a gesture of amazing generosity, the wonderful SprinklerBandit we all know and love from her adventures with the mighty Cuna and the new protege, Courage, sent us an incredible gift while she was sorting out her tack collection.  I found it on my porch after work last week, definitely one of the best ways to end my day in recent memory!

So in honour of the badass-ness of the Cuna/SB mastery of mad skillz, Encore very proudly wore (and I had long coveted) the gorgeous chocolate and powder blue Five Star Tack breastplate (which is just as exquisite in real life as I imagined) originally sported by Cuna during his reign of glory.  Encore must have absorbed some magic from the Cuna-dust in the elastic because we put in the first double-clear stadium round I can remember in a long time.  He was bold, he was rock-steady, and he galloped through the finish flags begging for more.  Oh, and his mom tried really hard to ride properly and WAIT for him.  It helps, really.

Thank you, Aimee and Cuna, we will strive to live up its legacy!!!

2'11"??  Heck, I'll take 3'11", mom, bring it!!!

The elegant beadwork of his Topline Leather browband just sets off that classy TB profile!
We went home a tired bunch, but oh-so-pleasantly-surprised with our fluttering white reward. My spirits are buoyed indeed for next week's cross country lesson with David and then...HORSE TRIAL.

Good pony.  Cute pony.  Honest pony.  At the moment, sound pony!  Who could ask for more?


  1. Thanks for the awesome sore no more tip!

  2. Love hearing about your return to competition! Well done, and I second the thanks for the excellent liniment info!

  3. I very much like Encore's posture in the dressage phase. He looks nicely balanced, soft, and attentive. :)

  4. Love that jump photo, he uses himself so well!

  5. :) I got all misty eyed. So glad you guys did well.

  6. Woohoo! Congrats a fabulous return to the ring. And I must say, Encore looks spectacular in his breastplate :-)

  7. I love when things just work out! Congrats!

  8. Thank you, thank you! Sometimes it really does feel like I am chasing my tail, but every once in a while, things line up and I see that we have made progress!!

    And SB, it is now a lucky charm, I will not be able to compete without it!!!!! Extra hugs for Cuna!!!!

  9. Congrats at the show! Encore looked super confident for not having seen colored poles in a while! I've seen those yellow planks and their chevron cause quite a few problems there, but not for you guys! Looks like y'all had a great time :)

  10. Thanks, Britt! I wondered if he'd peek at the yellow too, but he didn't even take a glance. And I'm a derp and forgot to put in the dressage video, but it's up now.

  11. Definitely sounds like your program works!

  12. yaaaaaay! what fun. (also, I am so jealous of his forelock.)

  13. Oh, congrats! Encore looks great and happy and y'all look awesome together. :)

  14. Thanks! And Gingham, I feel like I am owed one forelock since Solo's only has about 7 hairs!