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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label helmet cam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label helmet cam. Show all posts

December 18, 2013

Oh Yeah, By The Way, I Did Remember To Turn On The Helmet Cam...

...on the only course I didn't finish, heh.  But I did capture Encore's awesome leaps over 1-4 & his first coffin at 5 (and they named it the "Sunken Road," ahahaha!).  Bonus:  if you crank your speakers up, you get to hear "I always forget my camera has a microphone" dorkiness!  Hey, Bill is my favourite starter of all time & sent Solo & I out of the box throughout our career, I get excited.

November 11, 2013

That Other Long Event Story Before Yesterday's Long Event Story

Oh no, you don't get yesterday's story before you get the lead-in story!  I will tell you that for those of you who don't check our FB page (you don't have to be a FB member) that Sunday at CHP, nothing bad happened, I was proud of my pony, and I retired on XC simply for safety, because I knew he was tired.

Awesome, fit Solo through the trademark FenRidge lattice in 2010.
In mid-October, as you know, I took Encore over to our much beloved FenRidge Farm for what I later learned is the last horse trial that will be hosted there!  While that makes me very sad, I can only express an enormous thanks for all that Patricia has done there, as I certainly know all too well how much work and time and stress and money and people it takes to pull these things off, even at a schooling level.  I competed Solo in their first horse trial ever and those events have been unbeatable for bringing a horse along the lower levels.  I do hope that we will continue to be able to school there and I believe she will still be doing her dressage and CT shows.

I entered Encore in the T/N division, which means that you ride Training Level dressage and stadium and finish with a Novice XC course.  It makes a nice stairstep so the horses don't get everything thrown at them at once.  I also know that Patricia loves to make a tough, twisty stadium course (which I love and is always at the perfect level of challenge!), so Encore would have plenty to take in.

I may have bought the CD just for this portrait.  Now everyone knows he's #1. 
In addition, we had the challenge of about an hour between dressage and stadium in which I'd have to change tack, walk my XC course, put in studs, and warm up.  Uh huh.  There is no measure for the amount of gratitude I have that Awesome Crewer, B was there to help!!!!  All Encore photos thanks to High Time Photography!  Early morning light is tough.

His dressage warmup was lovely.  When ARE they going to start doing that judged warmup, LOL?  But I was overambitious for our 8:28 am ride time (we were #1, literally, I kept that bridle tag, hee) and he was ready to go twenty minutes early.   No problem, I'll just walk him around and stretch.  The steward informed me in a while that the judge was about ready, so I figured one more lap and then we'd trot around the outside of the arena.  Then the whistle blew.

First mistake:  I panicked, gathered up my horse, did one quick trot circle outside of A with Encore saying, "Wait, what??  Are we doing the trotty thing again?  Weren't we done?  Which part am I supposed to do now?" and I entered.  Should have trotted around the outside anyway...

Note:  on all our videos, they are shot in HD.  You can force YouTube to play them that way by clicking the little gear icon on the bottom right of the video and picking your resolution of choice.  If you use Firefox, they also have an awesome little add-on which pushes all YouTube videos to HD automatically when they open.

Yes, that is someone apparently clicker training in the background.  I always see something new!  Despite the "pop quiz," Encore was obedient and tried hard.  I was not so good at that!  I never did get him in front of my leg and there was this argument between my brain and my body:

I tried, mom.  I had my moments.
Brain: MORON, let go of his face and GO!

Body:  meh.

Brain:  LET GO!!

Body:  Nah, I'll just stay all tense in my arms, it's what I do, man.

Argh!!  Despite all of that nonsense, Encore walked out with a 36.6 on his first Training test ever that, erm, we may never have practiced in full.  The judge did not penalize him for tripping at the end of his "lengthened" right lead canter in the corner, gave him an 8 on his medium walk (WOOT!), and a 7 on his second trot lengthening (yeah, we don't really have lengthenings yet, but I don't worry about it, dressage is always a project) with a "good effort!"  I even (thank you, ever-so-generous and helpful COTH critique crew!) managed to bump my rider score up a point from our CT a month earlier!

Stretchy circle efforts!
This, my friends, is a lateral canter.  He is very good at stepping under himself without truly engaging!
No probs, mom, blue matches my outfit anyway.
B was able to hand walk Encore while I walked XC and then retacked and studded my horse for both jumping phases.  I am glad that I know that land well -- it had rained most of the week and there is a fair amount of clay out there, so it gets slick in a hurry.  We had a beautiful day to ride on and Patricia works hard to make the footing the best it can be, but mud is mud.  So Encore got to wear his big mud studs (I'm not taking any chances with Sir Slips-A-Lot-When-Excited-About-Jumps) for the first time ever, which takes some getting used to.  Which left us with about 60 seconds of jump warmup time.  Awesome.

Second mistake:  I should have put my foot down and refused to go in the ring until we were a bit readier.  Not that it would have been very long since there were only three people in our division, but still.  We were able to do two warm up jumps while Encore got used to the soccer cleats.  The rest is all OTTB heart and try.  And yes, this silly rider needs to get her leg strength back -- we both lost muscle during the Hoof Bruise Debacle.

Both rails were my fault.  I did not have my leg on yet at the first jump.  The second was a result of my not getting a big enough half halt and rebalance coming down off the mound.  I also circled purposefully before the third jump, a big oxer on a sharp bending line of about 3-4 strides, because Encore was unbalanced and rushy on landing and it was going to be a bad approach with a potential crash.  I want good experiences!!!!
A big, focused effort over that third oxer. 
I am particularly proud of the mound jump.  It's a really great rider question that is used there often.  She sets a narrower vertical on top of that mound and for Training, the standards are moved apart so the pole is barrreely resting on the edge of the cup.  If you touch it, it will fall.  The question asks if you can keep your horse's hind end impulsion engaged while the uphill tries to suck it away.  I have learned a lot from that mound and we did it!!
Don't touch my hoofies, weird flower thing!
Another important focus, especially on this tight, twisty course, was making sure my horse's poll was UP (with leg on, yeah, sometimes I forget I have legs) in front of the jump, so he had the correct balance and didn't hurl his shoulders at it.  David is always reminding us of this and I wish I'd had the helmet cam turned on for this course, as you'd hear me before every jump saying, "Poll up, poll UP!"
Video cap (JJ Abrams style) of POLL UP as we prepare for the flower jump above.
Then it was a Novice XC course, that had some fun new elements added.  Typically, I forgot to turn my helmet cam on until after jump 6 (but hey, I remembered it yesterday before the start box!!) and somehow the lens alignment got knocked out of whack so just tilt your head left.  And I swear, I do not stare down at jumps, I just had the camera angled too far down.  Sigh.  Doug Payne, how do you do it????

I apologize if you have quality issues here.  I have some software that has communication issues with other software that has issues with YouTube, they need to work that crap out.  The clicky clack is just the plastic safety clip on the camera hitting my helmet.

I'm sad I missed 4-5-6.  You galloped down a little trail in the woods, hopped over a deeeep square ditch with water running through, took four to five strides to a big pile of branches, then three to four to a fallen tree which had propped itself way up in the air.  FUN!
5...4...3...2...1...Have a great ride!
I did take it very slow (you hear "whoa" a lot, heh).  There were some squishy spots and my goal was to school and prep to go full-on Training at CHP in November.  I never understood when pros said, oh, I'm not going for time, we're just going to jump and whatever...until now.  So we had plenty of time faults, but excellent jumping despite some rider baboon moments (throwing self at horse's ears = no).

Apple stand table second from last.
Last jump on course and oh so fitting...
Encore was a wonderful pony, stepped up to the plate even with 10 seconds of warning and, clever little brain spinning like mad, got it all done and then some.  He definitely has learned his job, the only thing I have to do is make sure he locks on to the RIGHT fences (How about this one, mom?  No?  That one!  No?  Oooo, this one?  Ohhhh, that one, ok!!) but this is a good problem.

We had a beautiful (albeit with its stressfull time crunch moments) day, a great, safe learning school, and both Encore and I felt confident and ready to tackle what Training had in store for us.  A huuuuge thanks to B, we couldn't have done it without you, and of course THANK YOU, THANK YOU, to Patricia and all the crew and volunteers not only for this event, but for each one.  I have a lot of wonderful memories (ok, and some crazy ones!) and large parts of both my horses' careers that are captioned "FenRidge Farm."  I hope we will get to make more!

A great finish for any day.

September 26, 2012

Encore Goes Training!

Only without extended trot.

I can see your face now:  o.o

That's what mine looked like on Saturday too.  To be fair, one never does know what you'll get with a schooling horse trial, but I have been to a number of excellent ones in our area and never gave it a second thought.  This particular trial had its inaugural run this spring; the farm owner is lovely, gracious, generous woman, who allows us to school on her her amazing XC facilities and enjoy her gorgeous farm.  There were some hiccups (and 30 mph wind!) in what was Encore's first BN HT, not unanticipated given that this was their first go at putting it on.  I sent some email feedback on points that I LOVED and points that I thought could be improved to make for a smoother experience.  So I decided to give it another chance.


Our dressage test was once again a llama parade on downhill grass (Encore has not quite mastered the balanced AND round AND go down a hill thing yet).  Even though our score was slightly better than the one we received at Five Points, I was very unhappy with the test and my horse was tense and unhappy in the "arena."

The rather humbling downside of going to a schooling event in Southern Pines is that half or more of your division is probably made up of people who have, at one time or another, ridden around Rolex, or train 8 horses a day.  The horse before you and the horse after you will very likely perform a soft and lovely dressage exhibition that doesn't even have a whiff of llama hovering in the smallest corner.  You are certainly left with no false impressions as to how you stack up in the wide eventing world!!!!

Ride times were again so close together that you'd have to be a marathon runner to walk your courses and get back in time for your jump times, because locales were far apart.  Fortunately, I keep my bike in the back of my truck during eventing season; it helped some, but I was exhausted already when I finished the course walk and got on to jump.

The stadium warmup was.....uncontrolled chaos in a very small space.  Encore cantered around very nicely and jumped well, but at once point, we slid to a halt as the path in front of us was completely blocked by two horses leaping and spinning and we had no where to go.  My horse watched with much curiosity, like what is up with that???

The course itself had walked okay, but was taking down riders left and right with refusals and missed lines, many at the first fence.  I closed my leg to it and told Encore it was over or through and he did it all!  The lines were very twisty and difficult, especially for a green horse and we pulled the last rail, a big oxer off of a bending lines of 4 or 5 strides.  But I was proud of him for being in the half of the division that survived it and making 9 out of 10 challenging fences clean jumping efforts

Side note:  Even though we've been at this for a year now, because of my job and travel, much of Encore's training is still rough around the edges, so he still remains quite green about some things in comparison to a horse who is ridden and in training every day.  Finesse will come with time, but one of the hardest parts of being a working adult amateur is FINDING (usually MAKING) that time.  I almost feel as if I am letting him down a bit because he has enormous ability and I should be presenting it better -- I know that he doesn't know that, but I do.  And since I won't be able to ride after November for quite some time, we are out there, rough edges and all, while I still can.

Cross country  was definitely a tough course if you didn't have an honest, bold, and steerable horse.  Lucky me!  There was even a mini Stockholm slide (watch for fence 11, a small log with a drop slide behind it) that Encore was sure had no ground on the other side.  Fortunately, stumbling/walking over a  jump still counts as "jumping."  It was very different from any course I have ridden with several new challenges, so I really enjoyed it -- I could tell Encore was getting a bit tired, we did this whole event in 3 hours (0.0) but he jumped well to the end....and then fell asleep in his water bucket.  You can watch the helmet cam, but I advise you to tilt your left ear about 45 degrees to your left shoulder -- we had so little time to get ready for jumping, I just slapped it on the helmet, so the horizon is, well, unconventional.

Because of the complexity of questions asked and the rideability the jump courses demanded, I did leave feeling as if we had just completed a Training Level HT with slightly smaller jumps.  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  On one hand, yes, I am proud of Encore for finishing it!  On the other though, this fall was meant to be confidence-building mileage -- and I'm not sure bombing around sharp turns in showjumping is quite that.  I also don't really enjoy having to dash around the entire time like a headless chicken.   Efficient is great, but give me a chance to sit and eat my WHOLE granola bar at least and for my horse to get a snack and a drink, since we don't ALL travel with staff.

Again, the farm and owner are wonderful and it is a big, generous thing to open your land and private property so other riders can use the facilities you have built and I am always grateful for that.  I am a bit sad that it appears my feedback fell on deaf ears, but I am not an organizer (HUGE job) so there may be limitations of which I am not aware.

We all also have choices of where we go to compete and this has taught me that not all are the same and not every event will have the same expectations of your horse, even though you are the same level.  There were definitely lessons learned both positive and negative, so now we move forward to our next event, back at CHP, where I DO know what to expect and what is expected of me. 

September 11, 2012

Horse Trials = Ridiculously Expensive Lessons In Horsemanship

Edited to add:  there appear to be some photo sizing issues in Firefox.  When viewed in IE or Chrome, they appear normal to me.  All photos have been uploaded at the smaller size, I don't know what's up with that.  Sorry, working on it.  Oh, Firefox, you disappoint me so, I have loved you long time... If you click on the pictures, you can see them at normal human size (as opposed to ginormous).

And nothing makes you feel like your HT experience was complete like sitting on the curb at AutoZone on your way home, waiting for a clerk to come bring you a new truck battery (my back was not in the mood to be lifting batteries).  Ends up, he took too long, so I stole his tools and did it myself.

It started well though and I'm going to try to keep the story short and instead, crash your browser with media.  Because I'm nice like that.  All photos by High Time Photography, thank you!

Dressage:  Wow, I had a heck of a horse.  For the first time EVER, Encore was completely rideable in the ring.  He was (mostly) soft, he did not anticipate and only had a few tense moments.  He canter was sheer loveliness to sit on.  The judge nailed him hard on almost every movement because he is still a bit counterbent quite often.  I have ridden under her before and knew she was tough, she never liked Solo's work much either.  But as I said before, she doesn't know his journey and she doesn't know what he was like even a week ago, or last Wednesday, when I spent a marathon NO MORE ANTICIPATORY BULLSHIT session that about killed my knee but apparently worked! So me = completely stoked with his test.





Where are my cute points?

Cross Country:  Here, he started to feel the hurt.  Because HE WOULD NOT DRINK ALL DAY.  It was hot and humid and the little bugger would just not slurp any water.  He galloped his heart out and went double clear, but he was getting tired.  The footing was also hard and slick (never experienced that at CHP, would never have dreamed of needing studs there for Novice!) and he lost his hind feet out from under him a couple times, so he jumped around just feeling a bit greener than he is.  Oh, and the last jump on course?  His nemesis which he defeated this past spring.  Ha!  I cooled him off and we went "home" to our wonderful friend's farm where I hoped he would tank up overnight.










HELMET CAM I REMEMBERED TO TURN ON!  It was supposed to upload to YouTube too.  Crappy software fail.  I'm not thrilled with this one and I'm not sure why it appears we are riding in an earthquake while being pounded by hail, but perhaps you should take some Dramamine first...

I am making this a link for now, because the sizing all wrong and this whole post seems to have imploded blogger. So, CLICK HERE FOR HELMET CAM VID!

The ever-super Sue's perspective:

Stadium:  Sunday woke us up with cool, beautiful air that smelled the way a fall horse trial should.  After jump-starting the rig, sigh, Encore and I went back to the horse park and I expected a clean jump round.  Expected.  When we got to warmup, I found out that my horse had not taken full advantage of his pasture and trough Saturday night and felt a bit tired.  I warmed him up and he was jumping clean, so I let him hang out till it was time to go.  My plan was just to gallop him down the side of the arena to the start flags and just keep my leg on to keep him moving over the fences.

CHP had other plans.  They had apparently had a group meeting and voted to use all their shallowest jump cups.  The hollow "thunk" of rails in sand had been a common sound all day.  So while Encore jumped double clear with the first 2/3 of his body, his tired back toes tapped a rail.  Or five.  I couldn't be upset with him, really, and I have a call in to David to see if he will help me analyze if there is anything we could have done differently.  But Encore never gave up and never hesitated, so his heart was there.  Naturally, once he walked back to the trailer, he drank two buckets of water.  *eyeroll*

But he looked pretty...


It looked bigger, mom!


A little focus fail, but he looked too cute to pass it up.

The round:

In the end, I wouldn't have changed a thing and I already have a solution for the water issue -- I think the water in my container was just stale and I did not think like a horse and fill his bucket from the park hose until Sunday.  Sigh.  Nonetheless, I am very happy with his performance and overjoyed with his dressage transformation (I hope it sticks) and very much look forward to our next competition, a schooling trial on the 22nd.

This weekend though, we will hit the mountains, build some butt muscles, drink some beer, and be judged by no one but a few arrogant grey squirrels.  Who says Thoroughbreds can't do it all?

July 1, 2012

When Baby Says No: Encore Vs. Round Pen Pt II

The helmet cam is so much more than XC courses!  I put it on a week or so ago to tape Encore in the round pen, where I was briefly going to work him before riding him.  However, someone had had the audacity (according to Encore) to place a bright blue bottomless pit harboring zombie cows right next to the round pen.  End result:  no riding, but a repeat of our last round pen escapades with a twist of anxiety which melted in the heat into stubbornness.

I first led him around the pen and let him stare at the Blue Pit for a few moments, giving him a fair look at it and leading him back and forth by it a few times.  Then I turned him loose and said, "Ok, buddy, you're own your own to work this out.  Go."  He then goes to what is becoming his textbook response of (a) rush through thing I don't want to do and pinning my ears, (b) pulling out all evasion tricks to avoid said thing, (c) finally, unable to think of any other ways out, giving in.  For today.

Ridiculous commentary in my horrible video voice provided free of charge, as I walk you through my approach, although you will have to turn your volume all the way up.  I'm still working on finding the perfect mic settings for the camera.

When he is still in the "no" phase, but he is getting hot and tired, watch him hunt for the stop near the gate opposite the Blue Pit.  It it critical that I do NOT let him stop here in a place HE has decided is safe.  He may only stop or relax when he enters the space which I insist is safe, despite any zombie, real or imagined.  You can see, it's like a switch flipping, when he decides it is too much work saying no, so he might as well just play along.

This second video is the last two minutes of our work in the other direction before my battery died.  He was much more difficult to the right and threw out every evasion he could come up with multiple times, which are caught here, including turning his butt to me, shoving his head over the fence, looking away, trying to switch directions, backing up and so forth.  LITERALLY ten seconds after the battery died, he dropped to a walk, dropped his head licked his lips, sighed, and said, fine, you win.  Of course.  You can see that moment begin right as the video stops.

*SAFETY FIRST.  At all times, I am conscious of his body language, just how belligerent he is feeling, where his body and feet can go, and where my feet and body are.  I stay focused and on my toes and am ready in a moment to drop or back off should feet start to fly.  I would like to say he is too kind to go for that option, but a horse is a horse, so if you engage in asserting your leadership, BE CAREFUL and be sure of your plan before you walk in the pen.  And plans B, C, and D.

You are now free to discuss at will... 

June 24, 2012

Look Whose HelmetCam I Found??!

Remember how I said back here that I had tried and failed to turn the helmet cam on in mid-course at full TB gallop? 

Well, guess what?

I discovered last night that I didn't fail!

So hang on for the ride, because here are XC jumps 5-15 of Encore's very first Novice completion this spring!

May 8, 2012

Just A Few Notices

(1)  I have finally broken down and made a Facebook page for TFS.  I admit, the curiosity got the better of me, even though I don't use Facebook much anymore.  But there are often quick things I'd like to post and it offered a faster medium than writing a whole blog post, so there will be extra content, fun pictures, videos, polls, and more -- so find the link here or the permanent link in our sidebar and have even more dorky ridiculousness in your life!

(2) I still have some times for sale on the "Sale" tab, so check them out.  Thanks to those who have purchased and I hope you have fun with your new Solo karma!!

I do remember these books though!
(3)  I NEED YOUR HELP!  I am clearly a moron and suddenly am incapable of remembering to turn on my helmet cam in the XC start box.  Help me come up with a clever solution that even an amoeba could remember and post it in the comments!  I thought to sharpie it on my arm, but that requires remembering the sharpie and remembering to write it.  I did have a sharpie with me, but did not remember to use it.  Life stress really reduces brain function!

You do get extra internet karma if you test your solution on an amoeba and it works.

EDITED TO ADD:  Pictures from Encore's run at the Carolina Horse Park this weekend are up for your entertainment.  Although he was tense in the dressage test, he still had some good engagement behind.  He definitely still jumps like a greenie, but he looks damn cute on XC!  You can view them here.

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.

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!

January 31, 2012

An Event Horse Isn't A One Trick Pony

It's no secret I'm a firm believer that an event horse MUST NOT be an arena baby.  They need to learn balance on uneven terrain, surefootedness, confidence in new situations, problem solving, and endurance.  They must be able to deal with mud, rocks, sticks, water, brush, dogs, crazed animals running around, golf carts, ATVs, weird buildings, rustling leaves, holes, and any kind of footing you can imagine.  I don't believe in manicured footing everywhere and I don't believe in protecting your horse from distractions; I think this makes a weaker athlete with a weaker mind and I believe it does a disservice to our partners.

It is well established in the world of physiological science that in order to strengthen a system, you must challenge it.  This goes for bone, tissue, respiration and brain.  So I take my horses everywhere and I welcome umbrellas and terriers and strollers and bicycles and rocky mazes and steep, muddy hills because all of these things are tools to to shape the animal that an event horse should be.  And I shouldn't have to make this disclaimer, but I will:  always handle yourself and your horse with SAFETY in mind.  Just...don't be a dumbass.

So I present to you, the "wild, hot, crazed" OTTB who at 6 years old goes on his first "off-road" experience (our trails at home are, shall we say, a bit tamer) and I actually remembered to turn on the helmet cam.  With us are Louie, a big chestnut Irish TB who is an ex-steeplechaser turned Training Level eventer; a gorgeous mover who has just come back from a suspensory injury at 22 (or somewhere around there).  We also have Buck, a 15-ish-year-old bay OTTB who also competes a Training Level (although I heard a rumour he may give Prelim a shot) who can rack like a Saddlebred -- who says TB's aren't versatile?

PS I am not responsible for the helmet habits of my friends.  The rider's names shall not be mentioned for the sake of privacy and avoidance of public shaming.  That includes you, commenters.  

PPS The videos are in HD but I can't get YouTube to default to that.  So after you push play, click the little button on the bottom video bar that looks like a gear and you can increase the resolution/video quality to it's HD awesomeness.  And if you want to hear the inane commentary, you have to turn your volume all the way up.  I'm still messing with mic levels on the helmet cam.

Encore goes all-terrain and Louie reluctantly follows.  Encore actually loves water but he does NOT like super soft squishy mud, which is why he has so much hesitation on the bank.  He is not a fan of his hoofies sinking!

Our canine companions.  Oh yes, the terriers really are named Jack, Russell, and Pumpkin.  I kid you  not.


Louie and Encore jump a massive log.  Louie does a very amusing dance when he gets excited, like when horses pass him.  Or trot in front of him.  Or when it's Wednesday.  But I never did really capture it, dangit.

Just a nice canter in a beautiful field.

June 2, 2011

The Solo-Cam Returns: Cross Country In Virginia

Here it is, then, the trip around Virginia's spring Training Level cross country course. In all its glory bumpiness. I sat too much, obviously. And you are free to laugh when my legs get too pooped to function at the end as Solo says, "Ya know, I'm kinda tired and this place is hilly, do I HAVE to jump those dodgy-looking things?" But we made it through the finish flags and hopefully we did not make anyone's eyes bleed. I get all hot and tired again just watching it, it was about 90 degrees...

April 28, 2011

Long Dazed And Confused At Longleaf: Part III

After sleeping off Saturday's exhaustion, Sunday's task seemed so simple:  jump one little course and then go home.  Easy peasy, right?  Ha!

Back in my magistrate suit I went -- only, no, wait, blessed be all things, jackets were waived!! The heat and humidity climbed and as a result, I was given a reprieve from the silly outfit!

I walked the course early in the morning with C and EHF and watched some Training and Prelim rides. I had it down pat.

Only to discover as the Training divisions ended that the Novice course was completely different. Of course it was.

EHF and I dutifully walked the course again. Bobby Costello was out with that damn cute puppy, so we had to take a break for some petting as well. EHF was drawn in by the puppy eyes...

The time came. Warmup felt good. I concentrated hard on jumping Solo up into the bridle as per David's instructions. Keep the leg on, keep the hand soft, but stay connected to the horse...

We went into the arena and we rode all 8 jumps. It felt fantastic. I rode forward to each jump, kept Solo balanced and focused, and the distances just happened as we rolled along in rhythm. I only wobbled at the combination - Solo wasn't quite in front of my leg, I peeked a little at the first element, which the previous horse had refused, and we got a bit of a bumpy ride there, but it was all clean.

I was STOKED! THAT is how we are supposed to ride! I patted my boy and rode to the exit gate after 8 successful leaps. The ring steward stared at me and would not lower the string.

I glanced around worriedly. Was I supposed to do a trick to get out? Had I forgotten some secret ritual? Then I noticed the time clock.

It was still running.

"Hey, my time is still going!" I told the steward. "Yes, it is," she answered cryptically. I look around some more, standing by the gate in a confused stupor.

"Number 9! Number 9!" I hear some guy muttering from his golf cart.

Pssshhh, I thought, 9 isn't my number, why is that guy so weird??

Finally, I look behind me and damned if there isn't NINE JUMPS ON THE COURSE. "OMG, I am a moron," I groan, as I turn Solo and make a beeline for the last jump, which he clears neatly.

We were just standing by the gate pondering the best approach to the last jump. I swear. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So we have 347 time faults or so and apparently if you stop and stand there for a while in the middle of your course, you get 4 jumping faults, but I'm still laughing. And the judges are laughing, as I am sure are many of the spectators. Well, at least I can entertain a crowd!  Sadly, this is not captured on video because EHF thought we were done too!!!

In the end, we finished DFL, but I feel good about it. I feel like this was the most educational and most useful of all our horse trial experiences. Despite my pilot errors, my riding was the best and most relaxed it has ever been in competition. Solo's jump rounds were both round and powerful and miles ahead of where we were a year ago.

Bring it, Virginia!

For more action shots, check out the always-beautiful work of Brant Gamma -- she captured some great stills of Solo and although I hardly need more pictures of my horse jumping things, I am sorely tempted by a few of these. Brant and her team always produce gorgeous images; they are not the cheapest but I do my best to support them because they do an exquisite job!

March 14, 2011

Something About Good Things And Waiting

Yes, there were good things this weekend. 

Saturday brought us a two hour hack in the sunny woods. It was marvelous -- both because of the spring warmth and green grass and because a month ago, Solo couldn't walk for 20 minutes without exhaustion. Now, though, his bright trot and eager canter are making their way back and it warms my heart.

Ahhh, the peacefulness in the jingle-swish-clop of our trail ride sounds. The seranade of the Carolina wren: teakettle-teakettle-teakettle. The serenity....


Oh yeah, and they're putting in a new gas line back there too.

Sunday...Solo made his return to the cross country field! The stamina is not back yet, but with lots of breaks, he was jumping well and taking it all like an old hat. He offered a steady lead to the greenies and stayed soft in the bridle the whole time with cool confidence. And the best part of all? HELMET CAM! My apologies for some unsteadiness that resembles riding in an earthquake -- my schooling helmet needs some extra padding, it's feeling a bit loose these days. Maybe my head shrank when worry caused mass die-off of brain cells?

This one is a particular triumph of mine. I have been eyeing this overturned boat for three years. It's a Training level fence that is high and wide and just looks intimidating from every angle and I have wanted to jump it with burning jump-lust. Today, well, it was time. As you can tell from my big dorky whoop, yeah, it was good.

Next we have a particular gem -- the video starts with BO and her green TB, Evan, doing their first down bank into water. Evan's labrador belly-flop illustrates his signature jumping style and I think he found the splashing quite satisfactory. Then Solo and I go up and down the larger bank with some splashing of our own. No, I have no idea what is blowing across the lens in the beginning. It was about 70 degrees, so I am pretty sure it's not snow.

It feels damn good to be on the way back.

February 27, 2011

Bad Boy's Back!

It was 72 degrees today (don't hate the player...) so I decided some jumping was in order!  Which of course meant I had the perfect excuse to try out the new helmet cam.  So, the end result after two hours of fidgeting with the crappy software it came with?  Your 18 seconds of entertainment...

No, I have not yet figured out how to make it fit within the column. Or how to upload it to our YouTube channel. Or how to even truly crop the video. Or how to make it not sound like there is a hurricane on my helmet. Thus far, we can only get it onto the camera manufacturer's website, sigh... Baby steps.

While Solo did get very tired quickly, his stride felt good and his jump felt GREAT. He was rounding and using his back end to get over the fence again and seemed comfortable even hopping through a bounce. Oh, I hope this is only the start of good things to come!

November 13, 2010

Best Mail Day. Ever.

OMG OMG OMG!  So I get home from the conference today and pull a handful out of the mailbox.  The first envelope I opened had...THIS!  Beautimous giant purple ribbon, apparently our final placing in the Adult Team Challenge was 7th (I like purple better than green anyway!) so hooray for all of us on Team Nuts To You!

Yes, I got it, the special surprise I warned you about earlier. This completely totally awesome awesomeness is brought to you thanks to Heads Up! Helmet Cams, who hooked us UP at VHT so I could finally get video to share with you! So hang on, gang, you are now...

Flying Solo!!!