Category Archives: Horse Life

Hesitation

I’ve gotten a lot of, “When are you moving up?” inquiries lately, and the truth is, I don’t know. Thankfully I have 5 more days to figure it out.

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If anyone has any insight on Carolina Horse Park’s Novice course, let me know! I’ve found some helmet cams on YT, but most are from 2015.

See, the thing is, for all the jokes I make, the jumps themselves don’t scare me. What gets to me is how I think Pilgrim will react to them. If my dear horse would just come right on out and say, “Listen lady, I won’t stop at a single thing today,” it’d be GAME ON.

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And P has a killer game face.

But sadly, Pilgrim no habla ingles. Now, do I think it’s helpful to walk around a course and go, “He’s going to stop at that, and that, and that…?” Of course not. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all. If I’m unsure, P feels that. He doesn’t know that the REASON I’m unsure is whether or not he’s going to stop, he just knows I don’t feel right. Then he stops. And around and around we go. It’s mental, I know. I’m working on it.

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The next horse trial coming up is, on paper, the perfect setting for a move up. It’s a venue we’ve been to twice before, it’s unrecognized, and they have a schooling day the day before where you can jump the exact stadium courses and all of the XC jumps (you can’t jump the XC jumps in order, if I remember correctly).

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So why the hesitation?

Number one: Memories

I attended this same show exactly a year ago. And joined a clinic for the schooling day, which still to this day, remains my absolute worst ride on P. The clinician was so critical of P that although I started off defending him (there was A LOT going on, to be fair), I slowly started believing her. She made comment after comment about how “shitty” he was, which really got in my head. Then made some comments about how we should be competing over poles on the ground, when she didn’t know we were in earshot. And the next day, even when P was back to his non-demonic self for the actual competition, she made some more comments about his sanity that rattled me.

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Yep, she was really talking about THIS horse. And I let it get to me.

Now, should I have let this virtual stranger dictate how I felt about my horse when she had observed us for a grand total of ONE crappy hour? No. But I was keenly aware that this was my FOURTH time at attempting to move up to BN, not to mention I’d only had him back from the worst-selling-experience-ever for 2 months, so I was a bit fragile. The most awful part about falling off halfway through stadium wasn’t the bruises, the burn from sliding in the sand, or the embarrassment; it was the smug look on her face as I led my horse out of the arena.

Number two: The Schooling Day

The schooling day there can be a bit crazy, which was my main reason for putting P in the 2’3″ division when we went last November. The XC course for the baby levels is separate from the BN+ levels, and sure enough, when we schooled, it was calm and quiet. P’s main downfall is other horses, so when we were there last June, he was totally freaked out when we were in the woods part of the XC course and could hear all these horses, but couldn’t see them. So even though we have the advantage of seeing the jumps before the competition, that could easily be negated by the craziness of the schooling day.

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Much better on XC when we’re alone

Number three: ALREADY?

Now, this is how I see other people out there doing things: they train, have success, move up. Rinse and repeat. We have not been so linear.

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I’m not saying no one else has issues, but rather sometimes I look back and we seem to have moved at a snail’s pace. I’ve owned P for 4 years, for crying out loud. And I sometimes cringe when I think of it like that. BUT…when I got P he was 4. We didn’t even attempt anything jumping-related until late 2015. Then there were those 3 months I was out with a broken ankle. And the 2 months he was in Aiken to be sold. So in reality, I guess it’s actually closer to 2 years that we’ve been struggling along. Sounds better than 4 years!

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But no matter how you slice it, I’m still used to taking things quite slowly. From 2015-2017, we entered 8 horse trials at the starter level. Of those 8, we completed 6. We were eliminated two times (one because I steered P out of the arena in dressage). So not as bad of a track record as I sometimes make it sound, I admit.

In 2017 I entered two horse trials at BN. The first one ended with the RF, the last one ended on our dressage score.

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Full Gallop HTs, you have my heart

And we’ve had one go together in 2018- at Windridge at BN where he was great jumping, but felt off while galloping, so I opted to retire.

And then of course, with Trainer B in the saddle, P has now had a successful run at Novice on a tough course in a huge field. And was a total champ.

So is it really too soon? Maybe not.

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Some Changes. Some Nerves.

First things first. Asmar Equestrian stuff is super expensive. Like, $70 for a T-SHIRT ON THE SALES PAGE expensive. With Kastel you can search their sales for $20 sun shirts (thus why I have such a large collection). Asmar? They maaaaybe took $50 off their $200 vest. OMG.

I finally settled on these:

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Those have been ordered and hopefully will arrive soon!

I’m super low on media at the moment- constant rain has kept the Cambox tucked safely in it’s case and my phone inside the barn. Pilgrim is mostly out 24/7 and unlike me, enjoys the rain. Because rain makes mud and mud is life.

While I enjoy that my horse comes galloping up to the gate to meet me, he doesn’t have to look so HAPPY with himself that he’s turned himself bay.

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Almost didn’t recognize ya there.

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What a mess ūüė¶

Though lately it’s been harder to get him out of his stall during the day. BO sent me this yesterday and it’s easy to see the reason why.

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Loving his fan

At this time last year, we were still at the H/J barn and the stalls were tiny (10×10 maybe) and it was SO HOT in there. There were 2 outlets in the entire barn so they blew big fans down the aisle, but none of the air ever reached the horses, so it was pretty pointless. I asked a few times for him to just be out because at least he’d have a breeze, but that didn’t really happen. I absolutely LOVE the barn I board at now- I only wish I’d moved him much sooner!

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If they had any openings I’d totally take up residence in of these babies myself.

We’ve been to Trainer B’s twice in the last week for him to ride P on the flat. And that’s led to a pretty big decision to change who we train with for dressage. The main reason is that both Trainer J and Trainer B are an hour away from me and time-wise, it’s typically impossible for me to get up there twice a week (this week has been stressful enough, moving things around).

The other reason is that if I have to pick between the two, it’s clear we get more accomplished at Trainer B’s. Absolutely nothing against Trainer J and her methods, because the woman definitely knows what she’s doing, but the two wildly different training methods have left me confused more than once. Trainer J always had me ride with my hands low, practically touching the saddle pad. Trainer B then tells me to raise my hands, since P tends to dive onto the forehand in downward transitions. Trainer J has me focus on moving the shoulders, Trainer B has me work the whole horse. Trainer J says bend comes from the inside leg with steady outside aids, Trainer B wants to see my outside leg keep control of the haunches. The two don’t even know each other, which is the funny part, but they’re complete opposites.

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At first I was all, “I need a dressage person as a dressage trainer!” Plus I love Trainer J. P loves Trainer J. But I don’t love the confusion that’s coming out of working with two trainers. And Trainer B isn’t exactly shabby in the dressage arena; he routinely scores in the low 20’s at the lower levels, and mid 20’s-low 30’s at the 2* level. Pretty sure that more than qualifies him to help me at BN.

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Like when this half halt changed my life

His rides on P have been pretty cool to watch. P tends to get all sorts of strung out at the canter, but Trainer B really worked on keeping him moving upwards instead of lunging forward and you can practically see the light bulbs clicking on inside P’s head.

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And it’s clear P trusts B. Always important.

He’s also quite the advocate for working slowly with P to build the muscles he needs, rather than forcing him to do something he’s not ready for. Which is really important to me because well, I want P to remain as healthy and sound as possible.

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Working on myself so I can stay sound enough to keep up with P as well.

So a big change there for us, but one I can’t see regretting.

We’re heading up there Thursday for him to hop on P for the final time before we journey to VA. And for some reason, I’m over here freaking out about it. I’m not even riding. Which is good because P’s got some stiff competition: Emily Beshear,¬† Laine Ashker, and Becky Holder all have horses in the same division, making me super thankful for Amateur/Rider divisions.

I was planning on packing a bottle of wine for the trip but after typing this out, I’d better make it 2. Or 3.

Wish Trainer B & P luck!

All I Do Is Win…

Well actually NOT me this time. But BO! See, after we did my video and found out that the winners were selected randomly, we thought it best to submit a 2nd one under her name. And it won! Enjoy. You need the sound on for this one.

So the monthly prize is $500 and we had said if either of us won, we’d each get $250. They’ve already sent the code, so I checked out the website and…wow. Uhhh, expensive much? I definitely want a shirt- was thinking either their sunshirt(s) or the Ocala vest (though it’s $200- yikes). I have zero Asmar Eq gear, can anyone tell me anything about their sizing? I usually get a size L in shirts (like Kastel) because I have loooong arms and a loooong torso, and just want to make sure they don’t run super small or anything.

Any suggestions?

So That Happened

After a few days of riding in a halter last week, P’s cut was completely healed- praise the Lord above. But since it happened in the rubber bit (though I’m not 100% sure it was¬†because¬†of it), I was a little reluctant to put that back in his mouth. So I borrowed BO’s Nathe bit to see how he’d react and, um, magic.

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While I had brakes with the plain rubber mullen mouth, he was terrible flatting in it. No bend, no suppleness, but he DID seem bolder to jumps (which was the point), although after riding him in the XC field, Trainer B thinks P may be TOO strong in it. While I haven’t jumped him in the Nathe yet, his flatwork last week was exceptional. P’s mouth is a bit on the smaller side, so I’m thinking the rubber mullen mouth just didn’t fit him properly. Some more time will tell.

On Friday I had every intention of going out to jump around, but that morning a friend tagged me in, what else? A contest.

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A trip to WEG and $2,000 for Asmar Equestrian gear? I mean, sure that would get me a whopping 2 shirts or so, but still. So BO and I brainstormed. We wanted to do something no one else had done.

Lo and behold.

Our first idea had been to have P drag the arena while I tossed hay and pulled his mane (but not really), but taping it proved to be problematic.

Now, when we first decided on the whole dragging the arena thing, I was more than a little nervous. P has never even been ground-driven, let alone pulled anything behind him (except the raft, but I was holding onto that). So we got out BO’s surcingle, strapped some lunge lines on either side and I led him around while BO walked behind him, increasing pressure on the lines.

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“What dis?”

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“Omg, the human is at it again.”

To both of our surprise, rather than stop when she pulled, P just dug in harder and kept going. Maybe he was a plow horse in another life? So we hooked him up to the drag (which is HEAVY) and I led him around again.

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Checking out what ridiculous thing we’re about to have him do.

But again, he drug it around the arena a lap, not caring one bit. So day one of prep was over.

The next day, we realized that we (obviously) couldn’t get the surcingle and the saddle on at the same time. So BO goes, “How about bareback?”

Errrm. No. I’ve ridden him bareback maybe twice- the first time he was fine (I was uncomfortable…holy withers) and the second time he was super tense. So bareback in a T-Rex costume? Pass.

So she goes, “How about with my bareback pad?” So I said ok, we’ll try it, since I had seen some boarders riding around the property in their bareback pads, complete with stirrups.

Well, hers didn’t have any stirrups so I shimmied on (sans T-Rex costume at that point), and P seemed quite fine with it all. So I hopped off and we added the T-Rex costume. I’m sure I held my breath while mounting (the T-Rex tail goes rogue), but P just let out a sigh and stood there.

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So I walked around a few laps, making sure he wasn’t going to suddenly get freaked out.

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And then we added the surcingle. Still no issues….

And finally the drag. And, well, you know the rest. See video above.

My horse is Grand Champion of the World.

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He didn’t even look back at me as his little human took him to his stall

Now for the bad part. So all this is taking place over the course of an hour, at least 20 minutes spent inside the T-Rex costume, which DOES.NOT.BREATHE. and it’s 96 degrees outside with insane humidity. I was soaked, P was soaked. It was all a bit miserable. But hey, definitely going to win, right?

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Ya. All that to be RANDOMLY chosen. Heavens to Betsy, it was all for naught.

Ok, I joke. Totally worth it to see yet again how insanely cool my horse actually is.

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It’s HAPPENING

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I’m a little sad not to be riding, as I love competing and it seems like it’s been forever. But then the experience portion got filled out and, well, I think P’s in capable hands. Cough cough.

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Opposite ends of the spectrum 

Because of course, the most important thing is to give P a good experience. Besides a handful of schoolings, most of our XC experience has come from horse trials, equating to 5 minutes every few months or so- not a lot of education there. Currently P & I both go around cross-country alternating between “Cross country is so fun!” to “WTF is THAT?” It’s just been luck that we haven’t had the same WTF reaction to the same fences, and I don’t want to rely on luck. I want education.

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Like our stadium education- which is getting pretty solid

And as much as I love competing, I’m a little excited to just play owner for the first time. My friend is one of the photographers, and will be there, and Trainer B is also riding another clients’ horse, so they’ll be there and they’re super cool people. And if Michele can stop by on her way to TN, that would just be ahhhhh-mazing (no pressure, Michele. J/K there’s SO much pressure.).

Come ON May 24th, I’m ready to go!

Oh wait. I need my trailer finished first.

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Double Barrel Challenge

Barrels have always given me the heebie jeebies. I never gave them a single thought until at one of our failed BN moveups, one of the stadium jumps had a barrel underneath and P refused it over a dozen times. And since the actual stadium course had a jump with a barrel underneath, I scratched the competition. I think this was back in November ’16.

Then after auditing a Clayton Fredericks clinic, I brought one out to see what P would do.

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And then promptly never did another thing with it.

Until we got to Trainer B’s a few weeks ago and he’s all, “Go warmup over those barrels.”

And somehow to my utter surprise, he jumped it the first time.

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HE’S CURED!

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P says, “Not so fast.”

Then last week, Trainer B hopped aboard. He also used the barrels as a warmup…

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Sigh.

So then I left for Kentucky for 4 days.

Monday I went out to get his Always-Emotional-After-Vacation-Ride (AEAVR) in. If P has more than 2 days off, one those is needed. During an AEAVR, you simply need to get on and put him through w/t/c for a short period of time to remind him that he is, in fact, still a riding horse.¬†Sometimes the rides have to be as short as 5 minutes, sometimes you can eek out 10 or 15.¬† You don’t EVER expect to have a good ride, you just don’t.

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P during an AEAVR

He was fairly quiet when I got on, though stiff and unwilling to soften, which is totally fine for an AEAVR. I worked a bit at the canter, trying to remember how to get the half halt I worked on with Trainer B the week before. At first it took 12 strides to get it, by the end he was consistently coming back in 6. I’ll take it.

Tuesday I rolled out the barrels. They’re a bit different than Trainer B’s in that they’re blue, not black, but same size and shape, and P spooked at them, so I figured I was on the right track. I took my spurs off, grabbed my crop, and mentally readied myself for battle.
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After warming up, I put him right into the canter. Coming around the turn, I half-halted him, sent him forward and before I knew it, we were on the other side of the jump.

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I mean…he didn’t even take a flier, which is usually what happens when he jumps a weird looking jump for the first time. We did it a few more times, then I hopped off and put a pole over to make it 2’7″ and spread the barrels out. So now it was bigger AND looked different. P hates when jumps change shape.

He’s sorta useless as jump crew.

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Taking a mental picture

So I clambered back on, warned myself not to expect him to jump this just because he did the last time, and came around again.

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We came around again a couple more times, but it was clear that he was jumping it just fine. So…that ride got to be super short because that was literally my only objective for the day.

P will get hacked out today, then jumped tomorrow. I set up a fun course consisting of a one stride to a bending 5, and a 4 stride gate to funky-looking oxer, with a couple of single jumps around the arena, plus the barrels (muahaha). Friday he’ll have off, since I have a fundraiser to go to, and then Saturday we’re heading to Trainer B’s.

It’s in the 80’s and sunny here finally (guess we’re just going to skip spring and go right to summer), so perfect riding weather here this week!