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WEG 2018

Living just shy of an hour from TIEC, there was no way I wasn’t going to get tickets to go to WEG in 2018. No freaking way.

TIEC opened up sales on Saturday for residents of NC and SC. All session, all week, event passes and day passes were offered over the weekend. Now some people were complaining pretty loudly about this fact but I thought it was a great way to say thanks to those who support the facility year round by attending the less popular events, eating at their restaurants and shopping in their tack stores. Plus it was good PR for when all the tourists hit the tiny, sleepy town and destroy it.

I logged in on Saturday but the site was basically crashed from the high volume. In order to get the early tickets you needed to create an account with an address in NC or SC and have the verification code. I had no clue what the code was and never received it by email. By Sunday I was a bit panicked about it, but someone eventually sent it my way in a list of FB comments. Phew!

Looking at the prices I nearly choked. $1,000 for all events, $500 per week, $90 for a single day. There was a bunch of confusion on the day pass too. One description said it only got you in the park, but not in to see any events. Another said you would get seats for every event that day. I emailed the company for clarification and was told the current pass being sold for $90 would grant seats to all events going that day.

I chose Sept 20th which is hosting para dressage, vaulting and show jumping and ordered two tickets, one for a friend. The oddest thing about the entire sales to me is that you couldn’t select your seats. Your ticket purchase only reserved a spot and then they will go through in November and randomly assign seats based on the time stamp of when you purchased. They promised to keep group sales together which I why I bought them for my friend. Yeah, that sounds like nothing could go wrong.

But anyway as of now I should be there on 9/20/18 in case any other bloggers will be there. I’d love to meet up! I am hoping to be there more through volunteering but that is all up in the air at the moment as well.

If the farm purchase goes through (not looking likely at the moment), we will be closer to 90 minutes away so I doubt anyone would want to, but anyone would be welcome to crash at my place and avoid hotel fees. Keep it in mind as it gets closer!

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A Case of the Blahs

My typical keyboard diarrhea has temporarily dried up. I’m not sure why. There are some big changes in the very near future yet every time I sit down to write about it I just don’t like anything I’ve written. I delete and try again and hate that even more.

Wags has taken to jumping in my lap while I am typing my medical records. It makes it a bit harder to do, but I can’t say no to some puppy kisses. 

Riding had been blah too. I think it basically boils down to the fact that both Gem and I are bored. I’m bored of doing walk, trot, canter in the pasture in circles and figure 8s. Gem is bored. When I rode her last, she made me laugh by basically running through my exercises on autopilot. I feel very stagnated in my riding right now. After nearly a year of lessons, albeit only twice a month, I’m still working on w/t/c in a balanced manner, still jumping the same height, still trotting my jumps. I know we are both calmer, we’ll typically, and that a lot has changed in the last 8 months, but it just feels like I’m doing the same stuff over and over and over again and getting nowhere.

My mom surprised me with a blow up Frankenstein. She was at my office supervision new carpet being installed while I worked at the hospital and when I came over after work , there was Frankenstein chilling in my exam chair. 

I did introduce turn on the haunches to Gemmie. She makes me laugh any time I try something new since her default response is getting pissed off about it. We stood at the halt and I asked her to move that big butt of hers. Her ears immediately got pinned back and her neck went all giraffe and tense, but she did move the way I wanted. She got a ton of praise and asked again. Both directions went fairly well and then we went off trotting again. Mare was angry that I changed up her routine and made her use that big brain of hers but at least the task was at the halt so she couldn’t do her typical escalation of speed.

The new vest is wonderful so far. Hopefully I will get back out on the cross country course this weekend to try it out for real. 

I don’t know. I guess I was hoping to be doing something different by now. I am hoping to attend my first HT in December and feel less ready than ever. See? I’m just so very blah about everything right now. I think it is stress. A big work thing didn’t go the way I had hoped which bummed me out and then there is a big personal thing that should be exciting but has just been a lot of work and stress and ugh.

My two point time did double though! I used the dressage saddle again because I just like using that better when doing flat work only than my jump saddle. I got in 1:07 before Gem zigged a way I was expected and my butt touched the saddle. This challenge is going to be more about learning how to steer and control pace with Gem while in two point than about my legs keeping it.

An improvement from the baseline

And that’s about it. It started raining yesterday which killed off my riding plans. I think it should stop tomorrow. We need the rain though so I’m not complaining too loudly. Wyatt is supposed to have his second lesson tomorrow after work and then I might have a lesson myself on Wednesday. I’ve been invited to go cross country schooling on Sunday though and I can’t really justify doing both in the same week plus the hunter pace I went on already this month, so it will be one or the other and I’m not 100% sure which. I really, really want to do the cross country schooling since we need to exposure and experience plus it is with a different trainer to get new eyes on us and with a friend. But…Gem and I aren’t the easiest pair and we have only been trotting our jumps and and and and….so many reasons to feel…sorta inadequate….being out in a group like that. I don’t want to drag anyone else down or be told to basically just go trot around out of sight. So maybe I’ll just do the lesson. I don’t know.

 

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Tears

I’ve re written this post now four times. I was so distraught after the lesson that I texted Emma to talk it out. Thanks Emma for chatting with me!!!! I’m still uncertain what I want to say about it.

Thursday afternoon I had a lesson prior to bringing the horses home. It was so bad that I had tears in my eyes right before I called it a day. At 35. While riding my horse. It was that bad.

I’m not sure the details are that important here. Gem was angry. Who knows why. It wasn’t pain. We weren’t doing anything hard per se: more work on rhythm and balance at the walk and trot with plans to add in the canter although we never got there. We didn’t jump either. Instead we zoomed around while Gem got angrier and angrier and I got more and more frustrated at life.

It’s odd. I wasn’t ever angry with her which is a major change from in the past. I didn’t get scared or tense even when she had had enough and eventually reared for the first time in the seven years I’ve had her. I was just heart broken that I had let it get to that point without speaking up

more firmly on her behalf. That’s my job as her owner. And I failed big time.

I was frustrated with Trainer for the first time ever though even that isn’t deserved. The woman sees us two hours a month. She can only do so much.

It’s just. Well, Gem wasn’t having it with the slow pace on a 20m circle. I understand she should be able to do that, but on Thursday for whatever reason she couldn’t handle the pressure. She told me loud and clear. And I didn’t listen because I figured Trainer also saw it and knew what to do. And maybe her tactic was right and my way wouldn’t have changed the outcome at all. I don’t know. I know what we did just made everything worse.

With a pissed off mare under me going at her best 12 mph endurance trot, Trainer had me work on transitions to get her listening better. I understand the logic. But I know my horse and I know transition make things that much worse. She hates them. Doing them on the circle made her get angrier. Her neck got shorter and shorter and her energy got more vertical with every passing lap and every passing transition. By the end of that she no longer had a walk. She jigged.

Ok. Let’s try something else. We began working on turns in the forehand at the halt. At least that wouldn’t require forward movement. Gem proved a quick study going both right and left. Perhaps installing better lateral aids would help. Nope. Once we returned to our trot work she was still feeling more like a carousel horse.

We then tried trot poles. Maybe getting her mind on those would help? Except we did poles on a bend requiring more circles. And that was the icing on the cake. She tried to escape the constant pressure to circle and bend by cantering and when I shut that down she reared. It was tiny and pathetic but it was a rear and I quit then and there. She was screaming at me to back off the pressure and I had to listen. I should have listened earlier. I knew better.

What she needed was a long trot around the arena on a soft contact with maybe some canter thrown in to loosen her up and let her blow off some steam. She needed a larger work space and a slow gathering to the 20 m. She needed the release of pressure and she never got it. So she exploded and I apologized to her and got off.

I’m frustrated. It was a bad ride for sure but not bad because Gem was acting up. It was bad because I didn’t speak up for her. I didn’t tell Trainer we needed to work on something else. I didn’t ask to jump a little or canter. I was a sheep and Gem needed a wolf.

Gem needed me and I slunk away and hid behind Trainer. That was wrong. I understand and like the training process we are going through, but sometimes the horse just can’t and it needs to be tweaked. As Emma put it “the training pyramid means jack shit if the horse is soured to the work”. I’m not ready to say she is soured to it after one bad ride. She was tense from the get go but I do think that the way we worked her made it worse and not better. We should have given her more space and gotten off the forsaken circle for a while. Maybe came back to it at the end after we jumped or did something else entirely like go out and jump the stone wall she loves so much.

I plan to ride Saturday and see what she is like. Hopefully it was just a small blip and we can return to the fun progress we were making before. Time will tell.

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Wyatt’s First Lesson!!!!!

So much squeeing occurred from my end of the bleachers it was mildly embarrassing.

I take that back. I didn’t care one but how annoying I was. My heart was overflowing.

Wyatt has been begging for lessons on a smaller, slower horse for a while. Timing just never seemed to work out until yesterday.

We are heading out of town this weekend and half of next week and after the horrors of our last farm sitter (she fed 5 bales of hay in 7 days when we might go through 2, she let her dog inside when I told her no, said dog proceeded to terrorize my very sick cat and pee all over our house, and she let her dog loose when I told her not to and it got hit by a car and died) I was very hesitant to go that route again.

Trainer had just texted me that the farrier was coming again the week we were gone and I was scrambling a bit on what we would do when amazing Trainer said we could just board the horses there while gone. I told you she is AMAZING!

Thursday night we were going to drop them off and I asked if perhaps Wyatt could get his lesson. She was game and the poor kid was so excited he didn’t sleep at all Wednesday night.

Wyatt got to ride Misty, the resident pony club pony who has seen it all and decided walking was the fastest she ever cared to go again. I gave him three rules and then melted into the background to let Trainer do her thing. Those were:

  1. Listen to everything Trainer says
  2. No screaming. If you are scared tell Trainer nicely (we have an issue with his temper)
  3. Have fun!

She started off talking to him about his position and why he needed to sit that way. I’m telling you all I wish I had his riding posture. Holy crap!

She had Misty on the lunge and I was so curious to see how she went about teaching a nearly 5 year old how to ride. It is pretty much the same as she teaches me. But he listened better. Ugh 🙂

Wyatt has never expressed interest in any other sport or activity so I had no clue what to expect from him in regards to listening and responding to her. I needn’t have worried. She would say “heels down” and his little tiny heels would go down! “Look up” and his head would immediately swivel up!! I was so happy and very proud of him.

She had him work on halting Misty on his own. At first he pulled super hard, but that just garnered him a small lesson on where the bit was attached and how he needed to be gentle. From there on out he was firm but gentle and Misty responded by stopping every time.

Trainer also had him working on using the outside rein to keep her on a larger circle. It took him a bit to get this concept and I’m not sure he fully understood but he would pull on the rein when asked. I need to buy him some reins that are two colors so she can say “use the red rein” and make it easier on him.

After that he started tattling on me. When he last rode Gem I took him over a couple crossrails. It was only at a walk and Gem just stepped over them while Dusty stood at her side ready to grab Wyatt if she did decide to jump. But to Wyatt that was jumping and he proudly told Trainer “My mommy lets me jump Gem. Can I jump Misty?”

That got him learning his two point. Again, his posture is amazing.

As they walked around she would tell him to get into jump position and he would! It made me so proud to see him so focused and listening so well. She eventually let him go over ground poles in two point at the walk and he was so happy.

After that they did a little trot work which brought out the giggles. She likes to teach them to two point the trot before posting as it is easier for the kids. Wyatt enjoyed sitting and being bounced.

I thought it was over at that point, but nope! She headed out for his first ever trail ride. My heart almost burst!! I’ve been waiting for this for 5 years!!!!

She had him go to two point up the hilly entrance to the trail. He was so comfortable in his two point. I don’t know how his little legs weren’t burning. Mine would have been!

After ward he told her the trail was his favorite but he wants to learn to jump “higher than my mommy does”. Sorry to burst your bubble kiddo by that won’t be such a hard feat 😉

He helped groom her at the end and led her all the way back to her pasture before getting to go play with his toys at the truck while we unloaded Gem and Pete and got them settled for the week.

We have been casually, very causally, on the lookout for a pony for kiddo. That search is now not so casual although I am extremely picky and it has to be a free lease type situation to begin with. I have a bead on the perfect little guy and we are hoping it works out!

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Irma

The weather has been on constant refresh on my phone. I was living in FL when a tropical storm came through and that was scary enough. Now they are saying Irma will still be a category 1 hurricane when it comes my way Monday afternoon. I thought we would be well out of the path being so far inland, like we were in 2015 when Columbia flooded, but not this time.

We don’t have a barn and I’m not going to take away a stall offered to an evacuee from Florida or the SC coast just because I am nervous. Most of the barns around here, including TIEC and my trainer’s barn, have opened up for evacuees and are full already. It is amazing to see everyone pull together and help one another out. Wouldn’t it be nice if it could be like this always and not just in times of disaster?

But I am nervous. Without a barn to keep the Dynamic Duo warm, dry and snug they will be forced to be out in it. The electric fence we chose has been tested in hurricane force winds. The tape is fairly loose which allows the wind to go through it with minimal turbulence. My area gets high winds with gusts up to 50 mph in late Feb through March (the windy season) and we never saw the tape move at all through all of that. Baring a tree falling on it, I’m pretty confident the fence will be just fine.

The shelter, though. That is my concern. It has held up perfectly since we built it last winter even through the windy season when the tarp roof didn’t flap in the harsh gusts. We also added more reinforcement than the original plans recommended. But this isn’t a few wind gusts here and there. This is a category 1 hurricane with sustained wind and blowing rain. The shelter is their only dry spot out of the wind and rain, so if the tarp goes it will take away their only escape from the weather. Plus it will scare the crap out of them.

Not a whole lot we can do about it now. The tar is as secure as we can make it and has no holes or tears. We are adding more sand to the interior floor and will hope for the best. As for the horses, their halters will be on them and I am going to use nail polish to paint my number on their hooves and livestock paint to put it on their butts as well. If they do get out of the pasture, at least they will have identification on them in multiple spots.

A lot of people will have it way worse than we will. 6″ of rain in 24 hours isn’t so bad compared to what Florida and the coast will be getting. I’m holding off on closing my office down until I know for sure what is coming. Some sources are saying Tuesday and others are saying we will just get high wind and rain, but not at hurricane or tropical storm levels. I won’t close down for rain and wind, but if it is a category 1 hurricane I will. So much is up in the air right now. I can’t even begin to imagine those in Florida awaiting the arrival of Irma in her full glory. Mother nature is a force.

Hopefully all my worry is for naught and we will only get some nice rain to help with the slightly crunchy late summer grass and make for some nice mud puddles for the kiddo to splash in.

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Warm Up

While there were a lot of little things I picked up from my days volunteering at AECs, the biggest take home was in watching the warm up. Being stationed at Fence 6ab for Training gave me a front seat to the warm up arena and I made sure to watch what was going on over there in between riders at my fence and wallowing in self pity at being drenched by sideways rain in 60 degree weather for hours on end.

There were two main groups running training:  Professional riders on training level horses and amateur adults/young riders. The two groups used their time in warm up so distinctly differently that even a beginner like myself could see it. I don’t have a good comparison on how the courses went after these different approaches to the warm up since the weather turned ugly right after the professionals rode. Too many factors played into it to be able to make any correlation between the warm up and the course and I only saw the riders over one combination, but it was still interesting enough to make me ponder it all weekend.

So what was so different?

Both groups entered the warm up about an hour prior to me seeing them at my fence, so warm up time seemed about the same for both groups. It was in how they used that warm up time that separated them out. Of note, which I think is important, the vast majority of amateur/young riders had a a trainer at the rail giving the instructions as they warmed up, so how those riders warmed up was being generated by the trainer who is also a professional and yet they were doing it very different than the professional riders were. Something to think about.

The amateur/young rider group warmed up in a manner that seemed the norm from what I have seen and read.  There was a line of jumps in the center of the arena with several stadium type fences and a couple of solid obstacles and this group spent 85% of their warm up time jumping. They went over each one multiple times. A lot of these riders came to the jumps from various angles and approaches, but others just kept jumping the same ones over and over and over again. From my point of view, not knowing anything about the rider or the horse, it seemed like a whole lot of drilling and jumping efforts right before the course. But…I don’t do training level, so I have no clue if it was that much or not. It just appeared that way to me.

The trainers along the rail would yell various things like “don’t use a driving seat” or “hands down and forward” and “sit up until the base of the jump”. It gave the picture of the warm up being all about the rider. It was focused on working on the rider’s position, approaches and confidence. The time spent not jumping was spent milling about on the buckle. I saw a lot of trotting and same canter circles, but mostly it was jump then relax.

With the professionals, though, it was all about the horse. Unlike the prior group, the professionals spent 90% of their warm up time working on adjustability. They used the long sides to gallop and then would randomly bring the horse up at various points to a slower, more rocked back and collected canter. I saw the professionals jump maybe 3-4 times, once over each obstacle and that was that. The rest of the time they cantered, galloped and cantered some more. There was no milling about, on the buckle or trotting. They were either working on adjustability, doing a jump, or left the arena.

There are a lot of things to be thought about here. For starters, these are professional riders so yeah…they likely don’t need much work on themselves at training level when several had just been to Rolex this past spring. I’m sure they weren’t particularly nervous and this sure wasn’t their first rodeo, so working the rider kinks out wasn’t necessary. Unlike the amateur/YR group where many looked like they were about to lose their lunch off the side of their horse. I know if I had been there at the championship ride in those conditions, I would have needed all the confidence boosting a warm up could give me.

The biggest thing that got me thinking though was that trainers, who are professionals by nature of being a paid trainer, were dictating the entire warm up and not one had their student work on the adjustability of the canter before going over a course that had a lot of tight turns and bad footing. Having just watched the pros work solely on that one thing for 45 minutes, I would have thought they would have spent at least some time on the same things. While the riders were not pros, they were jumping the exact same course.

I’ll never know the reasoning behind it, but I do know that when I reach the warm up for my first cross country course that I’ll make sure to work on adjustability for a lot of it and jump just enough to get Gem thinking about jumping solid things.

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American Eventing Championships (AEC) Volunteering

When this event headed to TIEC last year, I scrambled at the last minute to volunteer and ended up having a really good time. So much in fact that I stalked sign ups to grab exactly the job I wanted and took my first actual personal day of the year for it and closed my office on Thursday.

Thursday saw me getting up at 5:30 am to make the hour drive to TIEC and sign in by 7 am. I was Cross Country jump judging all day and when I got there I was informed that Preliminary and Training would be running. I’m probably in the minority here as most people prefer the higher divisions, but I was a little bummed it wouldn’t be beginner novice. At my level, it’s nice to see the next level up and learn from it.

They gave each volunteer a chair to use. I was so thankful for that canopy as it at least allowed part of me to remain dry

I was assigned jump 22, a yellow roll top along the back side of the berm and one I knew right away wouldn’t pose any issues for the day. The approach was basically a turf race course lane with a skinny brush on the corner leading up to it and then the last fence of the course around the corner and out of sight.

Fence 22 – a preliminary size table. It rode really well all day. What was odd was that Fence 4, cabin corners, was above it on the berm. 
Looking out at fence 21, a skinny brush on the corner

While my fence was clean the entire morning, there was some pretty decent carnage at fence 9 which claimed quite a few victims with falls and refusals.

What was really interesting was seeing the horses at the end of the course. Most looked tired but still had the ability to go on, quite a few were dragging and a rare couple looked like they had been out warming up only.

The preliminary riders were pretty lucky. The weather was cool and would intermittently spit some rain, but nothing major and the footing held up really well. That wouldn’t be the case later.

Fence 4 up on the berm. There were a few times when both 22 and 4 were being jumped at the same time.

Once Preliminary ended, I booked it all the way to the other side of the course in the sand arena for Training jumps 6a and b which were two brush corners set at three strides on a tight turn. In order to set up correctly, the riders had to make a wide approach nearly hugging the arena fence.

Fence 6ab from my vantage point with the warm up arena behind it
Fence 6ab looking through the line. You can see the foot prints in the footing in front of 6a to show where the riders planned to approach a to make it to b which is the far left second fence. 

Training wasn’t so lucky. I had one fall and a few refusals at the b element, but that wasn’t so bad compared to the rest of the course. Around lunch time the sky opened up and it poured the rest of the day.

Training didn’t end until 6:30pm and I don’t think I have ever been so wet when in regular clothes before. It was cold too and the afternoon was pretty miserable. I felt so bad for about 30 horses who had to run during the worst of it. The footing deteriorated quickly and the radios were lit up with requests for footing assistance. The turf just isn’t mature and there are no roots to the grass. Once it got saturated it just peeled up making for really slick conditions.

Training got beat up pretty badly. For nearly two hours there wasn’t a single clean run and a lot of people were eliminated after four refusals on course. I know you can’t help the weather but that sucked for a lot of people who spent a lot of money to be there.

One of the many barns

What was the coolest thing about my spot though was that I watched warm up right behind my fence. I paid a lot of attention to how the different divisions handled the warm up. It was neat to then get to see those same riders come through my fence.

I’m not sure how many pros were riding as I’m not really into paying attention to that but I did recognize Don Schram, Becky Holder and a local pro Erik Dierks all in the Training Horse division.

Warm up

I thought my shift was never going to end. Finally at 6:30pm the last rider left the start and never made it to my fence before being eliminated. It was awful out there. I squelched my way back to my car hoping my feet would eventually dry out again.

Friday morning was early too but the rain stayed away so that was a blessing. I originally had an important work call at 2 pm, so I only signed up for the morning. The call ended up being rescheduled for October, not sure it constitutes as really important any longer, and I was wishing I had signed up for the entire day.

Friday I was scribing for the jump judge which is my favorite thing to do. It was made even better when I saw that Preliminary and Training were running in the morning so I’d get to see those I judged the day before again. Training had run from 12:15pm to 6:30pm on cross country with a massive list of competitors. Once I saw the order of go I was shocked to see how many were eliminated on course.

Scribing itself is super easy, but the real reason I love it is that I get access to the judge and that is always a learning experience. This time I also got to meet and chat with the course designer and that was my highlight of the entire weekend.

My view from the judges tower. It looked nasty out but the rain stopped early and stayed away until later that evening

After the first 12 riders went, the designer came over and looked at the sheet over my shoulder. He was really happy and I asked him what he wanted to see. His answer was a lot of rails down spread out throughout the course. He doesn’t want a bunch of clear rounds (course too easy), no clear rounds (course too hard) or to see one particular fence always coming down (a badly designed fence). The course was running perfectly to his expectations above. Later he also said he wanted 50% of the top 10 to have at least one rail down.

I noticed that jump 6 had a lot of rails and it seemed odd to me. Fence 5 was a two stride a b combo along the rail with fence 6 being an oxer after it still along the rail. It didn’t look difficult yet a lot of horses had rails down there. He explained that he set it at 5.5 strides and apparently nobody figured that out. To ride it right the rider would have to come out the of combination, which needed to be ridden pretty compact, and gun it to get 5 in there. Not many made it and would bury themselves deep and pull the rail.

It was fascinating to watch the course and talk to him about it.

Sadly, my time ended around 11. But….then I got to meet up with fellow blogger KC!!!! She met me at the judging tower and then we had lunch. She is super nice and great to talk to. Funny too!!! We watched a bit of the cross country course which was running novice and then caught the end of the Training stadium rounds before a long break.

Cross Country derby field
You can see the berm on the far left. We watched as one rider couldn’t get their horse to cross it. The only jump on this course for novice was at the far end of the berm. The rider eventually dismounted and retired from the course although not until the next rider was on top of her 

About that time she mentioned Bette was there competing in BN. Bette is another blogger but she doesn’t write very often. I met her one other time and she is amazing. We wandered over to her barn, found out her dressage wasn’t until nearly 5 pm and chatted for a bit making future horsey plans this fall.

It was a great way to end my AEC time. WEG will be here next year and I am for sure going to try to find a way to volunteer there too. I may just have to take the entire time off work for it and work every day for all the various disciplines if they will have me.

In case I haven’t said this loudly enough: GET OUT AND VOLUNTEER! If you need a selfish reason to do so, you can learn an absolute ton doing it (I have an entire post about what I learned) and meet some great people.