Emily from May As Well Event posted a great picture challenge on her blog to post a picture from each year of the last decade as we enter 2020. I’m hopping on this one!
Enter Gemmie. This is the picture from the day I brought her underfed, wormy, sorta ugly body home to a boarding barn in Ohio. It was January 2, 2010. I can’t believe it’s been a decade. Also proof that I wasn’t always a wimpy Southerner and did in fact once live where it was cold and snowy.
My first ever endurance ride! A 25 mile limited distance outing in all the wrong tack and all the wrong clothes. Fun fact: this was the first time I ever rode Gem solo on trail. Another fun fact: We finished in 8th place in a huge field but I didn’t know best condition was a thing so I packed up and went home. We were living in WI at the time and I was in my first year of residency.
Still in WI and now a second year resident which meant life got a lot better. We snuck in a fall trail ride before the trails closed for the year. It was gorgeous.
We had moved down to SC that summer and Pete was still a riding horse. We got a babysitter for Wyatt and hit up my first hunter pace. It was gorgeous and I was addicted from the get go.
Somehow I managed to go all of 2014 with a cell phone and didn’t get any pictures of me on my horse. I did my first 50 mile endurance ride on Gem this year finishing middle of the pack and happy. This is her in camp the day before the ride.
This was followed closely by a February 50 mile endurance ride. I love looking at these pictures and remembering how much Gem ate up the trail. She loved endurance. It is also pretty neat to see how all my gear changed. I was now in an endurance saddle, tights, light weight mesh half chaps, a halter/bridle combo, and sporting a hydration pack. It took me a long time to hone in my endurance equipment.
Long time readers knew this one was coming. I’ve used it a lot. This is from the 100 mile endurance ride I did at Biltmore in the spring. One of the best days of my life. Gem was so happy and on it all day long. We finished middle of the pack and she could have easily kept going had there been more trails to do.
This was the year I hung up my endurance gear and picked up eventing. The above picture was taken while we waited to go in for our dressage test in an amoeba level CT at Full Gallop Farm. We ended up placing in the ribbons which still shocks me. You can see quite clearly why this was the one and only CT we ever did. Gem hated everything about being an arena horse.
Gem retired and Eeyore joined the herd mid 2018 and then immediately went lame. I don’t have many riding pictures from this year since most of it was spent sidelined while he grew his hoof back and I found a farrier who knew what he was doing. This was right as he came back to work before the year ended.
It was hard to pick my favorite from this year. There are so many I love. I think this wins because even though my equitation is awful, I had been petrified of this pipe jump to point where I was shaking. Yet we went and did it and now I’m doing combinations with two pipe jumps and have added a rail on top. Trainer has changed me in ways I can’t even explain.
Thanks Emily for the awesome trip down memory lane.
Thank you all for your kind words and support yesterday. It meant the world to me.
For starters, I’m not giving up on my eventing dream due to one bad show. We had issues, sure but deep down I know we can conquer starter level. Eeyore is capable and I am capable. We just need to be capable on the same day.
I’ve been running different ideas through my head ever since packing up and driving home from the show and I think I have a decent enough plan to start with.
First, I want Trainer AB to take him to his next show. Possibly at Windridge in February if she is available. Eeyore needs a big confidence building outing and she is the better one to do that for him than I am. Getting him some show miles without me in the irons will go a long way to ease my own concerns when it comes to leaving the start box. Plus it will give her a better idea of how he feels throughout the show so we can come up with a more solid plan of how to manage him. Right now he gets too amped up for dressage to go well, but then can lose too much to make it all the way to the end.
Second, we need better fitness. This time of year is the absolute worst for working on this. Yesterday it rained all day again and the 10 day forecast shows half the days with over a 50% chance of significant rain fall. It makes for sloppy conditions and a lot of time off with no indoor arena available for use. Still though there are options. Even walking trail rides help build good strong abs and butt muscles and if there is one thing I know how to do, it is leg up a horse. Eeyore is getting slated for some long, slow miles on trail on bad days and faster miles on good ones. Hopefully come spring we are both in better shape to tackle this sport.
Third, I have some spare change from selling my Bates and I’ve been toying with the idea of sending him off to Trainer AB for a month of full training, but I think taking more lessons is a better use of that money. When it comes down to it, I’m the weak link here and having someone else ride my horse won’t fix me. With a limited horse budget the money has to be well spent and I think right now it would be better to try to finagle at least one lesson a week, if not two, with Trainer AB for the next month or two until it runs out. January and February are my slowest months at work due to deductibles starting over again. I typically don’t do surgery which frees up every Friday. I think I can sneak in a lesson every Wednesday night at the local barn she comes to then add a Friday lesson at her place as well. This should help with fitness too but more importantly, it gets me on him in front of her eyes much more frequently.
With more education on my part and better fitness on both our parts, I think we can come out swinging better in the spring of 2020. Eeyore does enjoy this game quite a bit when he isn’t half dead and sore. He isn’t a horse who digs down deep to find his next gear when the going gets rough and I’m fine with that. I don’t need a brave horse that will get us killed and I have no dreams of upper level eventing. If I ever make it to BN, I’ll be thrilled. He does have it in him to do starter though and I really want to do it, so my eyes are set on a redemption outing in mid to late spring 2020.
By the time I entered at A Eeyore was the most rideable he has probably ever been. Of course he was sore and exhausted which I didn’t really pay attention to at the time, but still he was rideable and I had a good feeling about the test.
My only goal for this phase was to go in and ride the test this time. I didn’t want to survive it. I wanted to ride it.
And to that end I’m actually quite pleased. When he lost his focus outside the arena, I dragged him back. My circles were larger and more round. I asked for bend and while we didn’t achieve at home levels, we were much closer to what we can do than the last time. I was more proactive about slowing him or bumping him up and he felt much more even paced because of this.
Other than him breaking from the left lead canter early (a warning sign of what was to come, this horse never chooses to stop cantering on his own) I really felt the test rode 100x better than our prior attempt. I was super proud of Eeyore and myself as we left the dressage court.
In reality, it scored 1 point worse than Jumping Branch with a score of 39.7. It was fair though. We got 7s for the left trot circle, left canter transition and right trot circle. I got dinged with a 5 for the break in the left canter circle and then another 5 for the return to trot afterward with the comment “could be more supple”. Other than that it was a bunch of 6s and 5.5s. End comment was that he needs to be off the forehand and is a bit braced and stiff into the contact which happen to be the main focus of our flat work these days, so yup. Spot on judge.
I had about an hour before stadium which gave me time to put him in his stall to rest a little while I showed Dusty the xc course and he made a plan of where to stand to get the most fences on camera. At Jumping Branch I had gotten on too early before stadium, so this time I waited and gave myself 20 minutes of warm up time.
And this is when I knew we were in trouble. I had Dusty set up a small vertical and Eeyore just sorta plopped over it from a trot and refused to canter on the backside. We did it again and he was better but the horse was half asleep and not wanting to move. He cantered away from the fence for about 3 strides before putting on the brakes and asking to be done. This from who generally gallops off into the sunset after each fence. Typically once he gets pointed to a fence, he lights up like a Christmas tree and tackles it with obvious glee. Not this time. This time he put in the smallest effort possible and with a glance over at the massive looking course we had before us, I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty.
Now here it gets a little confusing. The course looked huge to me. It was supposed to be 2’3” but it didn’t appear any different than the just finished BN division and nobody had seen anyone change the height. I asked the steward to make sure it was in fact set to starter and was told that it was the lowest it was going all day and to go when I was ready. I popped him over the vertical again, asked the steward yet again about the height and then assumed I was just being a wimp and entered.
What ensued was a bloodbath.
Rumors after said it was still set to BN height especially since some of the people entered in starter were seen jumping a much smaller, simpler course though when I asked about it I was told they were doing amoeba and it was correct. I don’t know. What I do know is that Eeyore and I were over faced. We were not prepared to go from our prior experiences of tiny verticals with no fill at our last starter outing to a beast of a course that was 90% oxers, overloaded with fill and brightly colored. I’m not saying the course wasn’t fair. I’m saying we weren’t prepared for the massive jump in questions we were asked.
I’m posting the video here but be nice folks or I’ll haunt you all in the afterlife. It’s embarrassing and ugly and if I wasn’t such an honest person I’d hide it.
I came in to the first fence, which had a huge wall under it and was a wide oxer, backed off and Eeyore said “no thanks”. My fault. We came again and he pogo stick jumped it then proceeded to do the same until jump 5 which was finally a plain vertical. On my end I got left horribly behind and had a hard time figuring out my own body as he would come to the base under powered and behind my leg, then ask to stop, I’d add more leg and he’d launch over at the last second. I couldn’t get in sync with him which didn’t help his confidence at all.
Jumps 5,6,7 went pretty well but then 8 was another heap of ugly and coming to 9 you can see him take some not good looking steps on his front left. We eeked it out over 9 and 10A/B to finish with no rail and 1 refusal, but folks my horse was done. Fried. Kaput.
Cross country was immediately to follow and I had a bad feeling about it. What little fumes Eeyore had been running on were long used up after the efforts he put in to not kill me in stadium. His mental health was shaken by my poor riding and Dusty said he saw some bad steps on his front left.
I headed to cross country hoping the longer stretches of cantering would help loosen him up and we got counted down.
There were three jumps on course I was worried about. A palisade at 4, a scoop/coop option at 11 and massive table option at 12. The rest were logs, cabins, a fake ditch, straight through the water and a down bank.
Well, we came out of the start box and I knew I needed more power so I got him in a canter and he said no. He ran out to the left which I knew was a possibility since the right was blocked by the BN fence. We came again and the same thing. A third time and we were done.
The start guy yelled that I could still go on, so I did thinking maybe it was that fake log/tootsie roll thing that had him backed off. A violent no in a sloppy muddy hole right before the jump told me we were done for the day.
And you know what? I wasn’t upset at Eeyore. I told him he was a good boy. Thanked him for the effort he had put in during stadium and walked him back to his stall to drink while I grabbed my dressage test and packed up.
Eeyore may be a lot of things, but he is honest and brave and loves to jump. Him saying no like that was about as loud as he could make it that he didn’t have it in him to do it. I could have been more forceful and he may have gone over but why? There was no way we were going to make it over 12 jumps that way and the footing was sloppy and slippery from all the recent rain. All I could think about was him getting hurt. He saved my ass in stadium over the hardest, highest course we had ever done and I was thankful for that.
As far as I’m concerned we did the best we could on Sunday. The decision to work him Saturday was based on past experiences and recent life choices and it ended up biting us in the butt. I do think that had I not done that, we likely would have completed. Or at least made it past fence 1. I won’t make that mistake again. Easy fix. We were also outfaced in stadium. The leap from amoeba to starter was bigger than I anticipated and while I know we can do that height, we need a lot more work before I do another full course at that height in competition.
Eeyore got bute in his dinner Sunday night and will have a few days off. Dusty examined him closely and believes he is just muscle sore. Hopefully that is the case and we can get back on track quickly. I have a lot of thoughts of where to go from here, but thankfully none of them include giving up. I know we can do this, we just need more time to get us both on the same page and a better base of fitness.
So….yeah. That didn’t go according to plan. But you know what? It all boiled down to a wrong decision I made on Saturday compounded by a few things Sunday and well, I can fix that easily enough.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed because I am. Who wants to be eliminated at the first fence of cross country? Eeyore was a good honest boy though and I’m proud of him for what he did and I know we can tweak some things and come back and try again.
The original plan was for Trainer AB to meet me at the show around 8 am Sunday morning. We’d do a xc school while the course was still available and then she’d help me during the show. Unfortunately she realized the next day that she already had some lessons scheduled on Sunday and wouldn’t be able to make the show. Which was fine. It was very last minute planning.
We discussed the best plan B. The working data we had was that he had been a psycho the day before and morning of Jumping Branch and it had taken nearly an hour to get him listening and still he blew through me for most of the dressage and stadium. That was after a pre ride the day before and another one the morning of. Add to that the fact that every single ride since then has been dedicated to slowing his roll. Then add to that the fact he had been inside the prior 24 hours due to the freezing rain conditions and well we both thought it wouldn’t be terrible if Trainer AB came to my place Saturday to ride him. Get him off his forehand a bit. Get him tuned back in. Wear him out a little.
She worked on flat work for about an hour and came away with a ton of good advice, tips and future ideas. It was a great experience for all. Except…..
Sunday morning Eeyore was exhausted and muscle sore. I never would have guessed it but I suppose she had him really working his butt and abs and he had earned those sore muscles. He was malleable and easy to ride at the show but I had zero horse under me the entire day. He was half asleep and sore and then I made some more wrong decisions.
The xc course was still open when I pulled in at 830am but when I checked in I was told I needed a grounds person which I didn’t have. Dusty and the kiddos were coming closer to my ride time, so I spent the extra time walking my courses a few times and getting the lay of the land. It was a really chill atmosphere with only maybe 20-30 or so riders the entire day and a lot of room to warm up.
Since I hadn’t gotten the xc school in I had planned, and still working off my prior experiences with him where it usually takes a solid 40 minutes to get him to stop breaking into a canter and chill out, I got on him to warm up at 1130 for a 1237 start time.
Yeah. Not a good idea.
I worked him w/t/c at large and on a 20 m circle until he relaxed and was listening both directions and then looked at my watch and it was 12. Womp.
He was done. More than done in fact. I hopped off him and chilled by the dressage court until they told me I could go early at which point I mounted again, did a few more trot/canter/trot transitions to make sure he was tuned in and then headed into the dressage ring 15 minutes before my scheduled time with an easy to ride horse under me who was running on 1/4 tank of gas at this point.
I felt bad knowing he was over worked from the day before and my insanely long warm up ride. Nothing I could do at that point though except enter at A and get going with the day.
I don’t care if you all are tired of me saying it. Trainer AB is amazing.
There is no way I could make a regimented training situation work in my life. It was one reason it was so hard for me to find a trainer. Many require a set lesson date and time with four weeks paid in advance. And I get that. They need the consistent work and schedule to make their own ends meet.
For me though, it’s last minute or not at all. I love the fact that I can text AB on a Wednesday and set up a lesson for Sunday. Or get a text from her with her whereabouts and tag along. It works for me and is the only way I get any education in at all.
The most recent example of this happened last night and has moved AB to icon status in my eyes.
I was scrolling through FB between patients late yesterday afternoon and saw the Full Gallop Farm was accepting late entries to a schooling HT this Sunday.
Huh. That sounds like fun and I don’t have any plans for Sunday. A quick look at the weather (yes I’m a fair weather rider especially when it’s last minute) showed that while currently it is 35F and pissing rain, Sunday was going to be 60 and sunny in Aiken.
Sign. Me. Up.
A quick existential crisis about which division then ensued. I texted with KC to get her opinion which was basically to grow a set of lady balls. Ok not really but that was how I interpreted it. She sent me a link to the starter run she did there back in 2015 and next thing I knew I had an email confirming my entry in the starter division. I guess my goal of doing a full course at 2’3” before the end of the year just may happen yet!
My next step was to text AB and inform her that her slightly insane, wayward student had just signed up 3 days before the show. I asked if there was any chance she could come and….
Yeah. She gets Trainer of the Year for sure.
Now my lead up to this show is less than stellar. The weather has been complete crap. I had my lesson Sunday where he decided to run through me and buck after each fence but honestly I’m not worried about that. By the time we get to xc he will be regretting his life choices. The course has 12 fences which will be the most we have ever done. Frat Boy won’t have the energy to buck by that point. 😈
All week has been rainy and gross or my arena is still sloppy from the prior rain. Today is 35 and pouring all day. It’s gross enough that for the first time in forever the horses were kept inside last night and I left them in this morning too.
Tomorrow is looking better though so even if the arena is sloppy I should hopefully be able to get a little work in to check where his brain is. Then it will be off to Aiken Sunday at the crack of dawn. Again though. I’m not too worried. With xc schooling allowed until the first horse leaves the start box, I should be able to wear him out a little plus introduce him to his first ever ditch well before I need to warm up for dressage.
If worse came to worse and you had to find a new home for the equines in your life, could you?
The question floated through my head this past weekend while Eeyore was being…well….Eeyore and I briefly debated trading him in for a level headed, non opinionated OTTB with a heart of gold and a work ethic. I’m not going to do that because the Big Orange Butthead is teaching me to be a much better, more assertive and braver rider and I still like riding him, but the thought was intriguing.
After thinking for a while I decided the following:
Gem – She would by far be the easiest for me to re home through my connections in both the endurance and ride and tie world. She is currently retired because I changed disciplines and while she is out of shape, she has a natural athleticism and soundness that makes me very confident she could easily do a 50 mile ride at a middle of the pack pace without much conditioning required. She for sure has more 100 milers in her and really loved the trail, camping and ride experience.
Gem is also super sweet with kiddos, easy to handle on the ground, is sound as can be, gets fat on air and thrives living outside but also does equally well in a princess stall. She stands ground tied for the farrier and you can draw blood on her out in the pasture without a halter on. I wouldn’t say she is beginner friendly or kid safe off the lead, but for anyone with a good seat, light hands and a brave spirit she would be suitable. I’ve had Wyatt win a lead lie class in a busy show with her and taken him on a trail ride with creeks and bridges no issue.
Pete – He would be the next on my list for ease of finding a good home. His biggest draw back is his age. At 30 years old many people would have no interest. However, finding him a companion home wouldn’t be too hard. He has all his teeth and gets fat on pasture. He requires no supplements, medications or maintenance. He is barefoot and stands well for the farrier and vet. Wyatt can lead him in and out of the pasture safely. he is sound and gets along well with everyone.
He loaded on the trailer the last time we needed him to without a fuss and in general is a great old man horse to have around. Companion horses are harder to find homes for, but he is the easiest old man horse to have so with some good connections and digging I think I could find him a great soft landing spot without too much issue.
Eeyore – Honestly, I think my only riding horse would be the hardest to relocate. Eeyore is an acquired taste and I doubt many would find him as amusing as I do. His ground manners are getting better all the time but he still pushes his limits, likes to invade your space and is extremely mouthy. He cribs which would turn off 75% of potential homes right from the start and good luck hanging anything near his reach as he throws things around.
Personally, I find his penchant for mischief endearing, like the time he grabbed an entire mouthful of water, walked over to me and dropped it down my back. I’m not sure many would agree with that.
His positives include the fact that after a year my farrier no longer wants to kill him, he behaves well for the vet, he is healthy and currently sound and well…he is now an official event horse. I do think I would eventually find my big lovable orange Frat Boy a good home, but I also know his short comings and I think it would take longer than the other two.
How about you all? Would your horses be easy to rehome if the need arose?