Tuesday marked 15 days since Sadie was bred to Mighty Magic. I was pretty nervous about whether or not she would take, considering that last time she was bred it took a few tries, plus this year we were trying with frozen semen instead of fresh. But the difference was a very very good repro vet with tons of experience using frozen, and some history of how Sadie cycles. His success rate is really high, so I was hoping he could work some magic (no pun intended) here.
And he did. This, my friends, is a big beautiful 15 day pregnancy. Ten years ago Sadie was a black dot on a ultrasound screen as well, and I’m just as excited now as I was then.
So we’ve reached the first milestone. Next up is the heartbeat check at Day 29. Hoping that our Little Black Dot decides to stick around and make him/herself at home in there for the long haul. I’ll breathe a little easier once we make it past 60 days, but for now… step 1 is done!
After a fairly solid dressage and double clear XC, the pressure was on for stadium. We were tied for 4th place after XC, with only a 1.3 penalty point spread from 1st to 6th, so if I wanted a ribbon I couldn’t afford a rail or a time fault. And when I saw the course, I immediately started dreading it. Why? Because it looked tiny. For some reason I can’t seem to sit up and ride like a normal person until the jumps basically force me to do so, and Henry is never impressed with little fences. But my coach reassured me that it was riding spookier than it looked, which is good news when you’re on Henry… he jumps a lot better when the fences are “scary”.
We also decided to switch him back to his plain french link snaffle for stadium. At the jumper show a few weeks ago I thought that the Dr Bristol was too much, so now it’s relegated to XC only.
When I got on for stadium on Sunday morning and walked to warmup, I felt tired. I don’t really know why, but I was just totally drained. In retrospect, I probably should have done a better job of staying hydrated in the heat and humidity. And eating… I tended to not eat all day. Whoops. Also when I walked into warmup Coach said “Did you really braid??” and Bobby rolls his eyes and says “Of course she did”. No one else braided. But a) I had the time, so why not b) it’s a big recognized show, I don’t want to look ghetto c) pictures are always 100x better when the horse is braided, and I’m superficial like that. Plus I had to put a purple lucky braid in there for my mom. Henry was jumping well, therefore the lucky braid worked, therefore they can shut it.
We went in the ring, saluted, and picked up the canter. The course started off immediately with a line, so I went right into a decently forward canter. As we were coming around the corner to the first fence Henry spotted some disassembled jumps sitting outside of the ring and immediately got looky, and I thought to myself “Excellent!”. No sarcasm there… looky is a good thing for him. He has no stop in him at this height, but he’ll be more careful if he thinks something might eat him.
The first line rode really well. Then I started to come out of the corners and pull. And pull more. And pull more. For some reason my go-to reaction for bigger fences is forward, yet my go-to reaction for little fences is to pull and slow down. We jumped into the third line weak, yet I felt that the appropriate reaction was to land and pull. Why? No idea. Serious case of the stupids. Luckily my horse is fantastic and marched right down there, added a stride, and plopped over the oxer despite my best efforts to murder it and us.
My riding didn’t get much better as we went along, but Henry didn’t seem to care. He hopped around easily, never so much as tapped a fence, and by some miracle we were clear. This horse you guys, seriously. I was embarrassed for myself, but SO proud of him. He really stepped up to the plate all weekend and showed some serious maturity. I could not have been more pleased with him. He’s come a long way in a year, and he seems to just keep getting better. Winning ribbons is nice and all, but having a horse that seems so happy in his job, physically and mentally, is what it’s all about. It gives me all the feels.
After stadium he ate the rest of his 1lb bag of fancy cookies while I apologized profusely, and by the time he got his liniment bath and graze, they had posted scores. Remember my efforts to come as close as possible to Optimum Time on XC in case of a tie? The tie remained after stadium since we were both clear, but I was 3 seconds closer to Optimum so I won the tie!
We finished 4th, 1.3 points away from 1st place in a big division that I didn’t think we had a chance of placing in. Again… this horse, y’all. Worth his weight in gold. And cookies.
The other cool thing about the weekend was that my family came down to watch. Apparently one of the items on my grandma’s bucket list was to see me ride in a show, so my uncle drove down with her from Arkansas to Louisiana and my dad met us there. My family has never seen me event, and I don’t think my dad has seen me show since I was 16, so it was fun to have them there.
What a great weekend. What a fun, gorgeous show. What a fantastic pony.
Oh, and we’re officially qualified for the Coconino N3D! Mission accomplished. Next stop, Arizona!
Yep, the fun part! Feel free to scroll past all the words to get to the helmet cam footage at the bottom, it won’t hurt my feelings.
When we walked the course on Friday I was really happy with it. Nothing looked big or hard, but there were a few more technical questions that I thought were a good test. I like technical… that makes it more fun when you have a horse that is usually pretty handy. The ground handled all the rain fabulously well, too. It was just springy enough to be perfect for galloping, with a couple of soft spots but nothing slick.
It took Henry about halfway through warmup to realize what we were doing, then it was Game On mode and he was all business. The professionalism that he showed in dressage was carrying over… he’s really learned the job now. I’ve also kind of learned what to expect from him. He’d never been to this venue before so I expected him to be a little bit looky in places, but it was also pretty open and rolling, so I thought he might try to pull me around a little in between the fences. Both of those guesses ended up being true.
Fence 1 was just a little basic hanging log with some flowers on it. No problem, standard first fence. Henry usually comes out of the box a little bit behind the leg though, so I tried to just sit up, keep my leg on, and wait for him to sort it out.
He popped over that no problem and locked onto 2 pretty quickly, which was just a simple little log.
After that it was down to the oxer in the shadows. Henry spooked at the jump judge a little bit a few strides away but kept going forward (he always keeps going forward even when he’s spooky, bless him) so it was fine.
After 3 he was really ready to roll and wanting to drag me a little, but hopped over 4 easily, pulled me slightly past the distance at 5, but was a bit more polite after that and cantered quietly over 6.
Then it was down to 7 and 8, a cute little Scrabble fence with four strides to an up bank. Several strides away I felt him look just a little bit suspiciously at the fence so I clucked a couple times, he went back in front of my leg, and hopped through here really well.
After that it was down the hill and around to 9, the brush fence (my personal favorite).
Then I brought him way back for the water, knowing that he was going to be surprised by the big expanse of Tidy Bowl blue when we landed from the little hanging log at 10.
He definitely gave it the hairy eyeball but leaped in (with a bit too much enthusiasm) anyway and cantered through the water, out over the A frame at 11.
Except Henry jumped HUUUGE over the A frame (HENNY ROLEX!!!), landing really far away on the back side and with way too much momentum, which completely messed up our line to 12A-B, a couple of barrels set on a bending line right after the water. This was a little bit of a tricky question for Novice, made tremendously more tricky by the fact that we landed past the point where I needed to turn in order to jump them center to center (how it was meant to ride).
I had to sit him on his butt, turn him hard right, and we ended up taking a totally shitty, very angled line from the left side of the first fence to the right side of the second in a fairly ugly 2 1/2 strides. But bless Henny’s honest little heart again, he didn’t even hesitate. As soon as he saw the question he went right on through it and got both of us out of that icky line with no problem. Extra cookies for the pony, I was really proud of him for that. He could have just as easily flipped me the bird and opted out of that one.
By the time I stopped crapping myself and remembered to check my watch, we were almost to 13 and 14, a 5 stride bending line going downhill. A lot of people had problems here throughout the day but this actually rode great for Henry, he was focused and had no issue.
Then it was another combination, a rolltop with 4 strides to a downbank. I brought him down to a little canter for this, to avoid a SUPERMAN off the bank, and he actually jumped down it pretty reasonably for him.
Then it was up the hill to the produce stand, which I thought he might peek at a little but he jumped it great, nary a hesitation.
After that I landed, looked at my watch, and saw that I was going to be pretty much spot on between Speed Fault time and Optimum Time. But remember… I was in a tie. And just in case we stayed tied through the end, I wanted to try to win the tie, so I needed to get as close to OT as I could. I squished Henry way down to a teeny tiny canter all the way to the last fence (which he thought was bullshit) and loped through the finish, crossing at 4:54. OT was 5:09, so I wasn’t sure if that was going to be good enough to win the tie but hell… I had to try.
Overall it was a good XC for Henry. Definitely a butt puckering moment out of the water, but I was super proud of how he came right back and salvaged the situation with no problem. There’s no doubt he loves his job and he’s proving to be a really great ammy horse. He actually got progressively more rideable as the course went on, although he did pull on me a bit more than usual. Probably because he’s pretty damn fit right now, as evidenced by the fact that he wasn’t even breathing hard by the time we were done, despite it being really hot and humid.
After a nice liniment bath and a graze, I checked the scores and saw that we moved up from tied for 6th to tied for 4th! But we still had to get through stadium, and with only a 4-penalty spread between 1st and 11th place, there was zero room for error…
As I mentioned last week, the days leading up to Holly Hill were wet. Really really wet. We had a ton of rain all week in Texas, which meant the horses were stuck in their stalls and our riding was limited to whatever we could do on the narrow strip of grass beside the road that was firm enough to ride on. I figured I might have a slightly feral animal by the time we got to Louisiana on Friday.
Bobby and I were loaded and on the road before 7am, and the drive was pretty uneventful. We stopped about halfway, unloaded the boys, let Halo graze and blow his nose (he has a condition that makes him aspirate his food, so if he’s unable to clear his nose/lungs on a regular basis he’s prone to pneumonia), offered them water, and let them walk around.
Once we arrived at the grounds we found our stalls, unloaded, and let the boys settle in while we grabbed some tacos at the lunch buffet (I love shows that feed us). Then we hopped on and walked out to the dressage warm-up area to ride. As soon as I picked up the trot I knew I had a wild man on my hands, so I just went straight to canter, got into a half seat, and let him go around and around the field until he quit leaping and squealing. No joke – he was actually squealing. Zero dignity.
He did settle though and we got some good work at the end, so we decided to just leave him with a little edge and hope that it worked out for good instead of bad the next day. We bedded the boys down, walked our courses, had some dinner (free food again, Holly Hill is the best), and then went to bed. The next morning Henry still had a bit of a wild man look in his eyes so I opted to leave the spurs off, but he was actually really quiet in warmup.
I have to be honest, I was a little worried he would lose his shit in the test. There were 4 rings all in one grass field, very close to each other. There was a whole lot going on, and in the past he’s not done well with that (ahem Greenwood). I have to give him much praise though, he marched right in there like a pro and didn’t look at a thing. He was rideable, he was professional, he was steady, and overall just a really good boy.
I messed up my first circle completely… I’ve gotten so used to my trajectory for a 15m circle that I came off the rail with way too much bend and kind of had to leg yield my way back out to a 20m path. If you’re into lopsided ovals, it was super. But his transitions were decent, his free walk was good, and the second trot to canter was very steady – we’ve struggled a lot with that so it was nice to finally get a good one.
Nothing about the test was brilliant, but nothing was bad either. Overall really consistent and he stayed totally “with me” mentally the whole time. Very unlike last year where most tests were just me trying to tiptoe through it without him getting tense and upset. We’re close… we’re really really close to having great scores. At this point it’s just a matter of me riding him better.
I was still expecting around our usual 35-36, since I was familiar with our judge and knew she was not exceedingly generous. Really I was just hoping to end up around mid-pack, but either way I was happy with Henny. He’s grown up so much since last season.
I was pretty pleased to see our score of 33, and even more pleased to see that it put us tied for 6th out of 23. It was a really stacked field of super nice, experienced horse and rider teams, so to be up there among them was exciting. Finally, all the work is paying off. Now I need to get my shit together and stop leaving easy points on the table.
But there wasn’t much time to bask in our mini taste of almost glory, because we only had a few hours until CROSS COUNTRY…
If you’re going to Rolex and want to win some free money and free stuff, keep reading.
The Eventing Unicorn will be at Rolex this year gathering even more autographs. For those who don’t know Uni’s story, read all about her here and here. Or the short version – we’re collecting signatures from upper level riders on the unicorn mask and taking pictures with the riders and Uni for a photobook. The mask and the photobook will be auctioned off to benefit a Texas eventing facility owner and her special needs daughter. Uni already went to Fair Hill last fall and got some pretty big names:
And now she’s headed to Rolex to add some more international riders to the collection.
So, about that contest…
A picture of Uni is worth one entry.
A picture with Uni is worth two entries. Don’t be shy, go up there and get a picture. Knowing Uni’s entourage, they’ll probably hand you a drink and you’ll be BFF’s 5 minutes later.
post it to Instagram with the hashtag #unidoesrolex (make sure to @eventing_unicorn)
There is NO LIMIT to the number of entries.
One winner will be randomly selected for a $30 Riding Warehouse gift card, plus two free belts and a shirt (of the winner’s choice) courtesy of Mango Bay!
Where can Uni be found? She will be tailgating of course, so look for her near Spot 57. Otherwise, just keep your eyes peeled – you never know where she’ll show up!
For the bloggers out there who don’t have Instagram (ahem EMMA), if you post the picture on your blog I’ll count that as an entry too. Just make sure I see the blog post and please link to The Eventing Unicorn’s facebook page when you post it!
Also please please please feel free to share this post anywhere you wish. The more we can spread the word about Uni, the more bids we’ll get when she gets auctioned off, which equals more money for her cause! And if you’re not going to Rolex, make sure to follow Uni on facebook and Instagram to keep up with all of her adventures.
Bobby and I are off bright and early this morning for the 6 hour trek to Louisiana for Holly Hill Horse Trials. This whole area of the US is so water-logged right now, hopefully some sunshine today will help make things less of a mess. Still betting on a muddy weekend, they’ve gotten about 7″ of rain this week and we’ve had even more.
Of course, we really haven’t ridden all week due to the rain and god awful mud, nor have the horses been turned out. Well… I did hack on the shoulder of the road a couple of days this week, and Henry got to go out in the round pen for a few hours yesterday. This could be exciting! Don’t worry, I brought the Shitshow socks, because they’ll probably be accurate.
There are 26 in my division and 16 in Bobby’s… I’m just gonna try not to die and finish on a number. Luckily I don’t need a placing, just a completion to fulfill my qualifications for Coconino. Yay, first recognized of 2016 (for me)! But first, a really really long boring drive awaits…
A few weeks ago I was pondering the idea of buying a new skull cap, but at a loss as to what to buy. This is one of the many times where being a blogger and wondering things aloud paid off – a Charles Owen rep was reading and came to my aid, suggesting I try the Pro II. One pretty helmet purchase later (bonus points for navy), I have a new skull cap.
It fits way better than the other one and is much more stable on my head. For a skull cap it’s not too terribly bulbous, and it’s pretty lightweight and comfortable. Love the harness too. Even all of the padding and harness is navy! Little things like that make me happy. Fellow oval headed eventers – I definitely recommend trying the Pro II.
The next step is ordering a fancy custom cover from Sipp Silks. I think I’ve decided on a simple two center stripe design in navy and yellow but I’m still mulling it over a bit. So many options. Like for real…
As far as the Samshield goes, I have to update here and say that I’ve been even more pleased with it now that we’ve had some gross and hot weather. The airflow with the Premium liner in it is better than my old Speed Air, which I was not expecting, and I love being able to pull the liner out and wash it. Very happy with my helmet collection now!
Also – thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday’s post and shared their stories. I wasn’t expecting such a reaction but I absolutely loved reading what everyone had to say.
It’s hard being an equestrian. This sport is not easy; in fact, a lot of the time it can be downright defeating. It seems like we all learn to survive, and thrive, on the little moments. For some it’s a hard-fought ribbon, for others it might be a quiet trail ride, or even something more simple like a therapeutic grooming session. Whatever it takes put a smile on our face and a happy, fuzzy feeling in our soul.
And sometimes, in those quiet little moments that otherwise seem so insignificant, it’s someone else’s words that can bolster our spirits in momentous ways. They probably don’t even realize the weight that their words carry, but when we hear them they instantly warm us to our very core and make us feel like all the blood, sweat, and tears have been worth it.
Maybe it’s the trainer that says you have a great seat. Maybe it’s the vet that says your horse looks amazing. Maybe it’s the friend who says they wish their horse was as good about xyz thing as yours is. Whatever it may be, it’s a compliment that stays with you and helps get you through the hard days, or makes you feel an intense sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished.
In the past two weeks I’ve heard the exact same sentence from two trainers. I’m not going to lie, their words meant more to me than is probably reasonable, but I can’t help it. They both said “You’ve done a great job with this horse.”. Both times, tears immediately sprang to my eyes (and I am not a cryer, crying is the absolute worst, there’s no crying in eventing, crying is only allowed in private, etc) and I had to grit my teeth to be able to swallow the flood of emotion. It’s a simple sentence, but one that carries so much weight with me.
I’ve always had young, green horses. Most of them I’ve put some miles on and re-sold, moving on to the next project. Henry was originally purchased as a project as well, but he’s become so much more than that. He’s been a bit of a challenge for me, and I constantly second guess myself. Am I doing the right thing? Is this what’s best for him? Am I bringing him along correctly? These are decisions I’m sure all of us struggle with. I mean… if I’m asking the question to myself, I think I’ve done a decent job with him, but it’s SO important to me that it be true, it holds more weight when other people (who’s opinions I greatly respect) say as much, especially unprompted. This horse is just so genuine and so honest, I feel an extra sense of duty to make sure I don’t mess him up.
That responsibility sits on my shoulders all the time, and guides every decision I make with Henry. So when two different pros who have watched Henry and I’s relationship develop over time tell me that I’ve done a great job, that compliment goes a lot deeper than they might realize. The sense of pride that I felt in those moments means more than any ribbon ever could. As we slog through our day to day struggles, doing all the hard work it takes to make us better, I’ll always keep those words stored away in the back of my mind, and feel a little bit more confident in my choices and abilities.
So in the interest of taking a moment to celebrate our small victories, I want to know– what’s the highest compliment that anyone has ever given you, and what did it mean to you at the time?
After Henry went XC schooling on Friday afternoon, he seemed a little confused to see me again bright and early on Saturday morning. Bobby was going on a very low key, informal XC school and I figured I’d tag along too, just to ride off-property and also to act as Bobby’s Scraper if he fell off and died.
I will now explain how the day’s events unfolded, and why Henry thinks I have committed the ultimate betrayal.
He unloaded, looked around, and went “I KNOW THIS PLACE! I RANFASTJUMPEDBIG HERE AND WON RIBBONZ! HENNY EXCITED! XC TWO DAYS IN A ROW? BEST WEEKEND EVER!”. Then I started tacking him up…
and he went “Wait a minute… mom, dis the wrong saddle…”.
Then I got on, Bobby went off on Halo to warm up, and I… well… I made Henry dressage.
In the XC field.
The very XC field where he attained (in his mind) glory, fame, and riches.
First he was confused, then he tried his very best eggbeater trot, then he neighed for Halo to come save him, then he just gave up and dressaged. But with the saddest, grumpiest possible demeanor, of course. What fresh hell was THIS? Once he gave me some good work I trotted him over a tiny log, which made him a little happier, then finally I just went and parked him in the water jump. His ears immediately went back up. Because standing in water = going XC, obviously.
Then he supervised Halo while Bobby galloped and jumped some fences
and gave me the nastiest glare when we went back to the trailers and got off. We came all this way to dressage? When there were perfectly good fences to be jumped? Obviously I must hate him.
After a few handfuls of cookies he seemed to forgive me a little, but he still made it very clear that I completely ruined what could have otherwise been a fun time. Worst. Day. Evar.
Guess who finally got a pro ride on XC for the first time ever? That’s right,this guy:
I’ve had this brewing in the back of my mind for a while. Henry is super solid at Novice but I feel like he just needs a bit more confidence to run Training (at least with me), and since a few of the Training fences still make me think I might die, who better to put those miles on him than my coach? I’ve never seen her die, not even once. She’s the confident ride he needs right now.
I was both really excited and a little nervous at the same time. The only other pro ride Henry has had was the one last year from my dressage trainer. No one else besides me has ever ridden him XC. He’s a pretty solid dude (I’ve broken his spirit) so I figured behavior-wise he would be ok, but I kept thinking “What if she hates him? What if she’s like ‘omg this thing is horrific, you’re gonna die!’ or ‘Nope, he needs to start all over.’?”… those are all sane, rational things to lay in bed and worry about… right?
She got on, was warned about the spookiness while walking (which he displayed approximately one minute later when another horse spooked and he split all 4 legs in different directions with his belly two feet off the ground), and off they went. Luckily within just a few minutes she said she loved his canter, and then once they started jumping she said she liked him, and by the end she loved him and was trying to keep him. Because Henny is the best.
He jumped through the water (after spooking while walking past the hose), the ditches (after giving them all the stink eye as we walked up), the banks (superman impression is still solidly in place), the Weldon’s Wall (more stink eye), and then the mound, taking all the Training options with no issues. Coach praised him highly for how adjustable he was and his rideability. I explained that yeah, that’s the problem–he always does what I tell him and I have horrible judgement! Poor Henry, he is long-suffering.
So I’ve decided to have her run him Training the first week of Coconino. My pride really wants me to be the one in the irons, but the horse’s greater good trumps my pride any day of the week, and I really think that having her run him will be great for his confidence. And, after all, the whole point is to build a smart, happy, well-schooled horse, so that’s what we will do. He can have a good run around Training the first week with her, do the Novice 3 Day the second week with me, and hopefully come home having learned a lot. Besides… it might be fun to just play Owner for once.