It’s a new feeling for me. Excitement has replaced fear. Eeyore and I are ready for this show. There will be bobbles. There will be mistakes. We may not even complete. But I don’t care about any of that because for the first time since starting this journey in 2016, I don’t feel like an imposter playing at Eventing. If the wheels fall off completely and we crash and burn, I know I’ll be disappointed but I also know that it won’t mean that we shouldn’t be there or shouldn’t be trying. It will only mean that it wasn’t our day. And that folks is a huge shift in my perspective on this.
The jumper show I scooted off to a few weeks ago laid aside any lingering doubts about stadium. Having done three courses at height that day I know we can go in there and get it done. Again, it may not be pretty and it certainly won’t be fast but we can do it. Check.
Dressage and cross country were still plaguing me with doubts though. Last weekend was it. No more chances to work out the kinks and uh….it was worrying me that I had yet to ride Eeyore in a dressage arena except for one time in August when we left the arena accidentally…twice.
Saturday afternoon I drove up to her facility to work in the grass dressage arena there. Friday night I spent going over the test again and again until I had it down pat. We started by warming up in the derby field and other than the constant reminder to sit up and not to let him pull me down towards him, it went fine. He is really starting to have a better balance about his movement and that is translating to a slower and easier canter to ride.
She wanted me to work in the arena at the trot and canter both directions to get a feel for the size and shape of the 20 m circle. Eeyore was relaxed and willing to play along which was a bit surprising since the nasty weather and family commitments had meant his last ride was Tuesday and the one before that was 10 days prior.
I exited and then circled to enter at A, working trot.
Really the first run through went pretty well. We hit all the proper transition points, got the correct canter leads and nailed our final halt. Trainer AB screamed out “that’s a 10 halt!!” I made some bobbles and we were a bit tense but I think it was a worthy test.
Then she had me exit and do it again and uh….Frat Boy was pissed. Typically after we do that much dressage he gets to jump and there we were in the jump field trotting past all the jumps. When we entered again at A, he got incredibly tense, had angry Appy ears and was swishing his tail the entire time. He was not happy.
Still he gave me what I asked for if with a bit of Appytude. The only major bobble was his bucking leap into the right lead canter. Trainer got on me for not setting him up by slowing down his left side and encouraging the right side to get a little ahead before asking. She thinks I startled him. I think he was being a piss ant.
Either way he still gave me the correct lead so while it was exuberant it still counted. By the time we halted at G he was giving everyone in a 5 mile radius the middle finger and I burst out laughing after my salute. What else are you going to do? Homeboy does not hide his opinions well.
She asked if I wanted to run through it again and I didn’t really see the point. He was over it and had done well enough to not get us eliminated and that’s my only goal for this show. Plus we still had cross country to do and I didn’t want him to be too worn out.
After we talked a bit and she sent me on my way I felt pretty ok about the dressage phase. I need to work on preparing him for what is next instead of going “surprise now we trot!” and hope that he holds it together in the crowd and noise. Honestly right now the weather looks awful for the show. 50s and raining. I’d rather it snowed. Maybe it will keep a lot of people away and the atmosphere will be more subdued.
Either way I was two phases under control as we hacked over to the cross country facility!
Hey All!! I have been keeping my side hustle quiet on the blog because this isn’t the right venue for it, but I’m making an exception today.
It is Veteran’s Day and while I don’t have any veteran or active military family members, I’m pretty passionate about supporting those who choose to enter the service and risk their lives for our freedoms. Say what you want about today’s politics and our country, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and I think we are all pretty damn lucky to be here. Those freedoms we all take for granted? They were won in blood.
As a way to try to give something back to those who have made this choice for me, I’m donating all proceeds on any sales made through my link today until midnight. I’ll make the donation tomorrow to the Gary Sinise Foundation which supports active duty, veterans and first responders in a variety of meaningful ways.
These nails have been the only way I can justify having pretty nails. They are inexpensive, really pretty and last 1-2 weeks depending on how hard you are on your hands. You all know my life and I get 2 weeks with anything with glitter and 1 week with solids unless I put the Clear As Day clear top coat strip on top. then I get 2 weeks from the solids as well. Packs range from $11-14, there is a Buy 3 Get 1 Free sale at all times, and you’ll get 2 manicures or a manicure and a pedicure out of a single pack.
I make 25% on all sales and every single penny made today will go straight to the foundation. This is me personally doing this.
With Christmas coming up, these make excellent stocking stuffers, secret santa work exchange gifts and filler gifts for those you want to do something special for.
Sitting in lectures this weekend for my continuing education requirement and something struck me. A surgeon was discussing a new technique to fix fifth metatarsal fractures through a percutaneous incision and said “anytime you learn a new procedure make sure you ask them what the rookie mistakes are” and I thought “huh”.
My first HT is in two short weeks. It is not optimal to be sitting in another state right now instead of riding but if I don’t get these hours I don’t renew my license and then I can’t afford to show at all so….life. I’m plotting ways to sneak in both another xc school and riding in a real dressage ring for the first time prior to the show. If not then when’s a better time to run through your dressage test for the first time than at the show itself??
As I’m sitting here, I’m wondering what are the rookie mistakes at a HT? Throw them out there please!
I should clarify some things. We are running tadpole which is BN A dressage, 2’ stadium and 2’ xc with a 300 mpm speed and 4 mandatory fences with all others being BN and optional. This is in my wheelhouse as far as complexity and training goes. Trainer AB will be there for me to help with my warm up (from the ground, she is not permitted on the horse once the show officially starts Friday night) and walking courses and will give me a plan of attack for all phases.
My only goals for this show are to complete all three phases and to capture that feeling I had at the jumper show of having the time of my life. Otherwise why bother? My life is stressful enough. My hobby must be fun.
So….outside of the above what are some rookie mistakes you’ve made or seen others make at their first HT that maybe I could prevent with some knowledge? Funny, helpful anything you can think of please!
Saturday morning I woke up to a dark, cold and eerily quiet house. It was the Hubby’s Saturday to work, but usually Wyatt is up and already talking a million miles an hour. After peeking in his room and seeing him not there, I called Hubby. Apparently Wyatt woke up Saturday morning telling Hubby he wanted to go to work with him. Huh. When I hung up I was still in my pajamas and it was 7:31 am. I looked around the house thinking about the free morning I now randomly and unexpectedly had. I knew of a local schooling show happening that day. Go or stay home? At 8:04 am I was pulling out of my driveway with Eeyore tacked and loaded in the trailer. Don’t ask me how I managed that.
The rest of Saturday was spent in bliss. Well, with some boredom mixed in as I waited an eternity for my classes to come up. That could have been abated by not showing up at 9:15 am when my first class didn’t go until 12:30 pm, but I had reasons for wanting as much time as possible at the venue. And at a hunter jumper schooling show you have no idea when the classes are going to depending on how many show up to compete.
Eeyore was absolutely amazing all day long. He handled the warm up really well with only one early temper tantrum and a little bit of distraction with the happenings outside the ring. Really the only time he got nervous was when a guy walked by pulling the squeakiest wagon on earth along the longest path possible. Even I wanted to stab my ear drums out with pencils by the time the guy stopped freaking moving.
After getting on and warming up, we stood at the trailer for a couple of hours, then I got back on to warm up again and wait by the in gate for our turn. There were horses and kiddos everywhere with kids hopping on and off, riders thrashing whips around in boredom, lots of tears as people left the ring with performances less than their expectations, and mild chaos and do you know what my Big Orange Butthead did? Well, besides sidle up to the awards table and try to eat the ribbons? He napped. As I sat on him not wanting to get off and back on yet again, he dozed in the sunshine. My heart melted right then and there.
My first course finally came up as the 11th class of the day and was an easy loop along the outside four cross rails, twice. Outside line, outside line, repeat. It was a nice warm up round to test him entering the arena to work alone after dozing.
The trip around was mostly uneventful and we left all the poles up. I laughed out loud after fence four when Homeboy slammed to a walk thinking we were finished and then got all surprised when we did the four fences all over again. Sorry Buddy!
But we were clean and ended up with a second place! His first official show ribbon!!
Then we went back to wait by the in gate amid the chaos once again. My next class was 15 and in between there were a few flat classes that went on forever and two sit a buck classes as well. Eeyore went back to sleep.
My second class was another hunter round this time all set as verticals and with the diagonal lines added in. We entered and he was much more aware of what was expected of him and went to work much quicker. I still let us coast to the first fence, but he took it no issue and off we went for a fun round.
We trotted a few times and weren’t very hunter-y so didn’t place but he never said no and he went clean and I was very happy with that.
Thankfully my last class was right after this one and I was fourth to go, so we went back in fairly quickly. This was a jumper round and the course was a bit funky looking on paper with some nasty tight turns, but I figured at 2′ I could walk the lines if need be.
Eeyore entered ready to go. Since we had just run a course and everything looked the exact same, he pretty much figured he knew where we were going. Sorry big guy, but this was a different course. He locked on to the wrong jumps a number of times, but he was willing and we both had a complete blast out there.
And you know what? We rocked it!! We cantered 90% of the course, took the turns sharper than I would have in the past and I had a face splitting grin the entire time. I realize we weren’t really flying but it felt like it at the time and I was having the time of my life out there. So was Eeyore. It was the best 1:38 I’ve spent on a horse in my entire life.
Unfortunately M had some technical difficulties so you don’t get to see my best round of the day in full but here are the first 5 fences that she did capture.
I stuck around until the end of the class juuuust in case and ended up with 6th in a field of 13. I was thrilled!! After that I packed up and headed home. We had been there for five hours for three classes. It was a long but glorious day.
I just…. I just can’t put into words how amazing this show was for me. Spending five hours with Eeyore let me bond even more with my goofy oaf of a horse. I had three clean rounds around three different courses and came home with two ribbons. I never once felt fear. Even my nerves stayed at home and all I did was go in and have the best time ever. Having snuck this show in I feel way more prepared for the HT now and am loving this horse with every fiber of my being.
Frat Boy has been a bit of a piss ant under saddle as of late. It is entirely my fault though and I own up to that. Life has gotten insanely busy as it always does this time of the year with work, school and the rainy season. Looking back Eeyore has been getting 4-5 days off between rides on the regular since the middle of September. I’ve long since learned that he needs more consistent riding than that to remain my steady eddy boy, so when I hopped on him last night I took the emotion out of it and rode him through his early shenanigans fully knowing that if I got my butt in the saddle more frequently I wouldn’t have to spend 20 minutes letting him blow off steam followed by getting 15 minutes of amazing work before he decides life is too hard to continue on and then dealing with a pissy pants boy again.
With the show looming in the near future and a 5 day trip to FL for work two weeks before it, I’m trying to squeeze in as much solid work as I can. I only have two weekends before the show once I take out the trip, so there isn’t much time. We won’t be perfecting much in the next three weeks but I can get him back into the mental space of working again which will go a long way to having a pleasurable experience.
To that effect I rode last night with the simple plan of working on his mental game and the right bend. Because the right bend is going to kill me. We are sufficient enough for our current level going left at the walk, trot, sitting trot and canter. The canter is becoming way more balanced and I can get several strides of a true uphill canter before he loses it due to lack of strength and stamina. He is trying and giving me his all and that is all I can ask for.
The right though? It is like his brain melts out. While he tries going left and is focused, to the right he all of a sudden finds everything else in the world so much more interesting to look at. He loses his relaxation the moment we change directions. Now, before all well meaning readers start yelling “Pain! Saddle fit! Chiropractor!” at me, I assure you all the horse CAN bend right. In fact he can bend himself into a pretzel when he chooses to. For some reason he has decided bending right is something he won’t do. I’m sure my own body is doing something different to the right than the left which adds to it as well. So we ride the struggle bus a bit that direction and I’d like to clean it up a bit before the show.
After about 45 minutes, I hopped off and declared that I will be riding him every day this week to get his butt back in shape and his head screwed on straight again.
Then I looked at the forecast.
Well, damn. Looks like he will get another 3 days off between rides. I need to hit the lottery so I can cover my arena and still ride in weather like this.
Outside of trying to get back into work mode, I’ve splurged on some new items online which should be arriving today – yay! – and then I need to make up my mind if I will be going the day before the show or hauling in the day of. It will rely heavily on my ride times which I am guessing will be later in the day as the show runs high to low and I’m in the lowest division. I have a lot of back and forth thoughts about this but am holding off exposing you all to my inner madness until I have all the information in front of me, so prepare yourselves for that nonsense.
It is probably a sign of mental growth that I had a lesson like I did last night and still walked away feeling proud of myself for getting it done. In a way it was a no good, very bad, terrible lesson and Past Me would have been all over lamenting about the jumps we literally crashed through (2 to be specific), the dozens of times I had to be reminded that getting left behind over a jump is a bad thing, and the complete twat Eeyore was at the beginning which led to me giving him over to Trainer for the first time in a long, long time.
But Present Me, while wanting to be real on here, doesn’t want to focus about all the ways the lesson was ugly and hard. About the times we failed. Instead, I find myself rehashing the praise Trainer doled out for me finding my grit and getting the job done. For the fact that I tackled jumps set to a height I’ve never done before, in a fun mini course of 6 fences including two pipe jumps and the coop and didn’t feel a single twinge of nerves or fear. Even when Eeyore decided that life was too hard and he would rather not thank you very much.
Sure it was ugly, but as I thought about it last night I realized something. We are doing hard things now. We aren’t pitter pattering over a single 18″ cross rail anymore. My “Grand Prix (which by the way is my absolute favorite thing about Trainer AB – she always ends the lesson with my very own personal Grand Prix, an exercise that is challenging and pushes me out of my comfort zone, but that she has complete faith we can do) isn’t a two fence vertical combination anymore. No, my grand Prix last night was a doozie of a 6 fence course set with two 4 stride combinations and a skinny I had to slice at a pretty good angle. Of course it was ugly. This is all new to us! And you know what? We got it done. Left all the rails up (at least the second attempt, the first attempt had us take the entire first fence down with us oops). Made good decisions to regroup after I royally screwed up. At the end of the course I sat there laughing and saying how that was the ugliest stadium course ever and Trainer AB walked over and pointed out everything she was super proud of and ended by saying that a couple months ago I would have wimped out of the entire course. So yeah..it wasn’t a no good, very bad, terrible lesson after all. It was a hard lesson. It was a challenging lesson made no less so by a horse who was not with me for the majority of it, but we got it done and I learned a lot.
Want the nitty gritties? No…well too bad here they come!
It started off rough. Rougher than I can recall since that first lesson with Trainer AB way back at the beginning of summer. Frat Boy wouldn’t even let me mount which has never happened before. It took me four tries before he stood still at the mounting block. It didn’t bode well. It was an odd night for us. There was a beginner lesson occurring at the same time with a different trainer and while I know excuses are lame, Eeyore hates when another horse is in the arena. His brain gets shut down for some reason. Then there was the fact that the footing was sloppy and not safe in some regions, there were jumps everywhere, it was a cozy 45F and the black kittens were hunting in the grasses by the rail. I did my best to contain the powder keg under me, but when one of the kittens jumped on a post by the gate right as we went past causing Eeyore to bolt forward – I gave up, slid off and handed him to Trainer AB to work the wiggles out. She can do it without emotion and I can’t.
Fifteen minutes of cantering later, she proclaimed him “10% better, good enough” and handed me back the reins. He was sweaty, sulky and pissy at this point, but the other horse left the arena, the cats decided to play inside the jumps in the arena instead of hiding in the grasses, and his brain turned back on, so I worked him a little at the trot and canter to make sure he was tuned in to me and then we moved to jump work.
Now typically he suffers through dressage and then lights up when we move to jumping, but last night he was tired and sulking which resulted in him sucking back behind my leg and putting in the least amount of effort he possibly could get away with. It was tricky though because he had reverted back to his old behavior of “mistaking” any tiny rein aide to mean he could stop moving his feet. It was really hard work to get him to slow down his roll, move up in front of my leg, but still keep moving.
But we managed to get it together enough to start jumping. We began on a left bend cutting between the two pipe jumps and jumping away from the barn, then when that no longer sucked , we came from a right bend cutting between the two and taking the other pipe jump towards the barn before running through the combination as a four stride. The individual jumps were fine though Eeyore kept trying to take the easy way out by heading right and only sorta jumping the full pipe. This resulted in Trainer AB adding a rail above the pipe which meant that we couldn’t cheat. The first time through the combination, I felt him trying to run out to the right but a lot of right leg and left rein got us over the second one. We chipped in badly and I got left behind badly, a theme for the entire night ugh, but we did it. Trainer actually praised me for staring down #2 and getting it done, another theme of the night.
From there we headed over to an airy vertical. There was a second set of standards one stride out from this and Eeyore gets a bit hairy about empty standards. He expects a rail to jump and when he sees open air it confuses him. The first approach he was so focused on what was happening with those standards that he ran through the entire first jump scattering poles and standards alike. It was…special. I was about to get upset when Trainer chimed in that she thought I rode him really well through that and hoped he learned his lesson. She really has a way of knowing exactly when to keep me out of my own head. Love her. Have I said that before?
He did fine the next approach, though he remained sensitive and in this weird zone of behind my leg but when I got after him to move up he’d then go hollow and on the forehand and then when I tried to get him to use himself properly he’d go “oh ok I’ll just walk then”. It was a delicate balance I had a hard time following and it ended up with a lot of chip ins, me being behind the motion and then getting told to do better.
Once we didn’t biff that so much, she pointed us at the coop heading away from the barn. I don’t know what happened to me, but when she asked me if I was comfortable doing it I replied with “yep, we’ve done it before!”. Seriously don’t know where my bravery came from, but I liked it. We soared over that coop as the best jump we had done all night.
As we cantered back towards her, I knew Eeyore was pretty tired. I mean, it was his fault for being such an ass in the beginning and wasting all his energy, but still he was tired and I didn’t want to over do it. We had already gone beyond our lesson time, he was lathered despite the chilly temperature and we had done a lot of jumping efforts. So I spoke up! First time for that! I told Trainer AB he was feeling really tired and I didn’t think doing the coop again was necessary since we aced it the first time. She agreed and told me I was ready for our Grand Prix.
It was a doozie of a Grand Prix too. She set up a skinny vertical in the center of the arena towards the back 1/3rd as fence 1. She wanted me to come at it at a sharp angle from right to left to give a big sweeping right hand turn to the four stride pipe combo, turn right and come back tot he skinny as fence 4 on a left to right angle to make a big sweeping left turn to hit the coop four strides to airy vertical to end. I knew I had to ride Eeyore pretty forward and my #1 goal was to NOT BE LEFT BEHIND.
I casually mentioned to her that I have never done a fence on a n angle before and approached. The previous horse had peed a small lake right in front of this jump and Eeyore had eyes only for that. He slammed to a stop. Now in the past I’d get all scared about this and let him back off. Not last night. I made him face that jump and take it from a stand still. He was not getting the option to say no. So we did and took out the entire jump on the way through it. But again Trainer was full of praise that I made the decision I did and got the job done.
We started over, re-approached fence 1, I rode backwards to it planning for another refusal and got left behind, made the turn and took 2 and 3 in four strides. Then…..
I forgot that I had the rest of the course to ride and blew past my turn back to the skinny. Oops. But….I didn’t freak out or panic, I simply made an s shaped turn to get back on line and this was one thing Trainer pointed out at the end that she loved about my ugly course. I didn’t circle. I didn’t stop moving. I didn’t cross my tracks. Sure I was off course but it wouldn’t have been a refusal, so we were still ok.
Back over the skinny now angled the opposite direction, sweeping turn to the left and over the coop, four strides to the vertical and we were done.
It was pretty ugly with a lot of chip ins, a lot of me being left behind and a missed turn, but you know what? This was the hardest course I’ve done, with the scariest jumps and the biggest heigth and we did it. It was gritty but we left all rails up and hit every fence.
So yeah…I’m proud. I’m proud of my tired, sweaty beast who had no interest in playing along but did it anyway. I’m proud of myself for digging deep and making choices, some better than others, throughout the course. Heck, I’m proud that I was still awake at 9:45 pm when the lesson ended. Ugly yes. But hell yeah for the rest.
A few of you gave the suggestion that I start halting after fences to get Eeyore to stop being all “Talley Ho!” after jumps. I always love comments and suggestions so thank you for taking the time to read and type out a response!!! I feel a little bad when someone makes a suggestion and I’m all like “thanks…but no thanks” plus this is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about anyway, so here you go…my explanation for why I do not use this technique with the Orange Butthead.
Stupid, why is this even necessary, disclaimer: I’m not a trainer. This is not an expose on how to train your horse nor is it commentary on your own/your trainer’s methods. You do you. This is how my trainer is training me on this horse in this moment of our education.
Way back when I showed up to my first ever lesson with Trainer AB, visibly shaking in fear and doubt, she had me start my typical warm up routine so she could watch the dynamic. All of 30 seconds later she called me out on the root of my woes with Eeyore: he doesn’t go forward and my tactics of halting, backing, and making a million changes in direction were only adding to this issue.
Yes, his feet were moving but not in a valuable way. Mostly his energy was going vertical and when I did finally ask for a trot he would explode into it, shaking his head in frustration only to then be asked to change direction or walk again or even halt. After he did that, I would ask for forward again and he would go sideways or backwards or up mostly because when I did ask for forward he wouldn’t actually be let to go forward, or at least not for very long.
Trainer AB explained to me that her theory of training a future event horse is to focus on the skills needed to be safe in the most dangerous phase: cross country. While most people spend the least amount of time practicing the skill on a cross country course, you can instill the basic tenants of that phase into the horse from the get go even when riding in the arena most of the time. In her opinion, the safest thing to teach a young event horse is to go FORWARD always, forever, no exceptions, no questions.
By doing this, you teach the horse that when faced with a new question or experience, the go to response will be to go forward. Never seen a ditch? No problem, go forward. Never tackled a down bank? No problem, go forward. Never cantered through water? No problem, go forward.
As such, my first task with Eeyore was to get him moving forward. She told me to stay along the rail and use the entire arena, no more circles, no more serpentines. Certainly no more halting. If he was feeling particularly fresh, get him in a canter, get up in 2 point and coast around. My job was to keep him going forward along the path I chose which sometimes resulted in cantering with his nose nearly touching his flank as he tried to cut across the arena instead of staying on the rail. She didn’t care. As long as he was moving forward and his feet didn’t wander off the chosen path, he could go around like he belonged on the short bus for all she cared. That was his problem, not mine.
Of course, as time has gone on we have been asking more of him. He is no longer allowed to canter when not asked to and we are working on slowing him down and getting his balance better, but she never wants me to sacrifice the forward for this.
The same concept has been true in our approach to jumping. She has explained, probably more times than she should have to, that as long as I keep him straight after a jump I am to encourage him to move away from the jump on the back side. We approach, I let him get his eyes on it and stay out of his way, we go over, and then my job is to get my legs on, steer and keep him moving. She wants him to learn to look for what is next on the horizon, again with cross country in mind since that phase encourages a forward ride.
Even when he feels like he is running off, her solution to me is not to halt or circle, but instead to put my leg on and focus on getting a quality canter out of him as we ride away from the jump. This works for him because he is inherently lazy and once he realizes that he is being put to work, he will stop.
Last but certainly not least in this equation is me. Most of his back side issues are me issues. I tend to black out over jumps then sit on him like a monkey once we land. When I focus, sit up and you know ride the back side he does too. Circling would help me for the fact that it gives me something to do but so does combinations and gymnastics which is why most of our lessons start with a small gymnastic before moving to a mini course. I ride way better when I have a second fence to aim for.
So that’s the long of it. The reason we don’t halt after each fence. Or circle. Trainer AB has a method and I’m not going to buck that with the results we are getting.