Now that it’s stopped raining in Texas and our fields have dried up, we’re back to being able to ride outside of the ring as much as we want. This is a happy time, because Henry and I are both big fans of doing as much work outside of the ring as possible.
He’s still well-behaved in the confines of an arena, but he’s a little grumpier, a little more sullen, and a little harder to motivate. When the footing is good in the fields, we really only go in the ring to jump, since, ya know… that’s where the jumps are. So we might only ride in the ring once a week or so.
If it’s a dressage ride I usually take him out to the smaller field right next to the barn. In prepping for the 3 Day we’ve added a long walk or long trot before/after pretty much every ride, even dressage days, and it all seems a lot less monotonous going round and a round a field instead of round and round the ring. Plus Henry really likes to pretend to spook at random things, especially bushes, and who am I to take that joy away from him?
For straight up conditioning rides and gallops we go down the street to the big hay field. I’ve got that place down to a science – one lap at a 220ish mpm trot is exactly 5 minutes, and it’s a lot easier for my brain to handle 8 or 9 laps than it is to embrace the reality of a 40-45 minute trot. I can’t even imagine trying to do that in the ring, I think I’d stab myself in the eye out of sheer boredom and Henny would probably decline to continue carting my butt around.
As an eventer, riding outside of the arena is obviously pretty essential. You have to be able to control the horse in a wide open space, get yourself and your horse used to traversing varying terrain, etc. Plus you just need SPACE to gallop. Can’t do 450mpm gallops sets in an arena. Not without being really freaking scary, anyway. Most of the eventers I know ride outside of the ring at least a few times a week.
But I also know a lot of people that rarely, if ever, ride outside of the arena. Many because they just don’t need to, but for some people I know it’s a fear issue. Like the lady I knew forever ago who wouldn’t even walk a single step outside of an enclosed area – she would even mount/dismount in the ring and always close the gate. I guess that’s a control thing? And then there are the horses who seem to genuinely lose their shit outside of the ring. Granted, I’ve never had one, but I’ve heard of these mystical creatures.
How often do you ride outside of the ring, and for what purposes?
It’s official – we’re one week away from leaving for Coconino.
We’ve already talked about the tremendous task that is packing, and right now I’m choosing to bury my head in the sand and pretend I don’t have to worry about that yet (omg), so let’s not talk about it again. But as I’ve tweaked Henry’s work routine a little bit this week to prep for the long trip followed by two weeks of showing, it got me wondering what other people do to prep for shows.
Most of the time I don’t really do anything drastically different before an event, I just scale it all back a bit. Usually a few days before we leave I pop Henry over some fences, more for my sake than his, and put in a dressage ride or two, but mostly I just focus on keeping him happy and feeling good. I don’t like trying to fit a bunch of lessons and work in at the last minute; I want him to get to the show and be happy and interested in what we’re doing, not mentally/physically burned out or tired and sore. I feel like if I’ve done my job on a day-to-day basis in preparing him, there’s no need to cram a million things into the last week or two.
Of course for this show we’ve done way more conditioning than we’ve ever done in the past, so while I will keep up with his normal schedule of conditioning rides, he had his last really long one on Monday and now they’re getting scaled back a bit. We’ll do a couple more dressage rides and he’ll have his last jump school this weekend. The day before we leave he gets a day off and a massage. Otherwise we’re gonna hack out in his sidepull, go on some long walks, and take a little bit of a breather before the whirlwind starts. We’re as prepped as we’re gonna be.
Which approach do you prefer – a lighter workload the last week before a show, or lots of cram sessions to try to sharpen things up? And more importantly – why?
In my continuing efforts to make Bobby and Halo more fabulous, I’ve been fighting the bonnet battle for a while. When I first met Bobby he pretty much refused to put anything extra on Halo, saying that “he doesn’t like having stuff on him!”. So he went boot-less, and breastplate-less, and obviously bonnet-less.
Now that he’s past his 6 year reign of Beginner Novice and going around solidly at Training, we’ve spruced him up a bit. Everyone remembers the custom saddle of course, and the real leather bridle. He’s also got a full set of both XC boots and stadium boots now, and Trainer basically forced him to buy a breastplate. He’s so much more legit. Yet he has still staunchly refused to come around to the magic of a bonnet.
Bobby is out of town right now, and he left me with the task of working Halo while he’s gone. Yesterday as I was tacking him up I noticed that he was just swarming with flies despite being doused in fly spray, so naturally I thought “I’M GONNA PUT A BONNET ON HIM! BOBBY ISN’T HERE TO STOP ME!!!” <insert much cackling>. So I did. And you know what? Not only was he cute as hell, he had zero flies or gnats bothering his precious (giant) ears.
I immediately sent pictures to Bobby, who admitted Halo looks damn adorable in a hat. Once again I’m right. Halo needs one. Everyone tell Bobby that Halo needs one!
Just one with like 2″ longer ears than Henry’s bonnets have. Halo’s big ol’ donks were testing the limits of spandex.
His colors are black and red, so I was thinking either black with two rows of red cord (stealth mode bonnet) or black with red trim and white cord (bling bling bonnet). Obviously no rhinestones or beads, because while I have succeeded in making Bobby hella fabulous compared to the sad state I originally found him in, there are limits to my magic. I’m not a freaking miracle worker.
Peer pressure, people, let’s do it! Halo needs his own hat!
Steph, a fellow blogger who is also breeding her mare this year, did a post on why she picked the particular stallion that she did. I thought it was a good idea, and interesting to follow her thought process, so I stole it. Or forcefully and unofficially blog hopped it, however you want to look at it.
Like most things with horses, the choices we make about breeding are so very personal. A lot depends on the exact mare in question, the exact person in question, what the foal is intended for, and the current circumstances. There’s no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” answer, and there are hundreds of different choices that could work just as well as the next one. Choosing a stallion is a bit overwhelming. It’s not as simple as “this one is really pretty, let’s go with him!”.
While I had always toyed with the idea of keeping one of Sadie’s babies for myself, I didn’t really have a solid plan as to which one, when, or by whom. I’ve been involved in the breeding world for a long time and have a lot of opinions about bloodlines, so just the thought of trying to pick a stallion for her was anxiety-inducing. Then on our Belgium trip last year I kept seeing young horse after young horse that I absolutely LOVED, and they had one thing in common – they were all by Mighty Magic. He ticks all of my personal “must have” boxes:
at least 60% TB (he is 88%)
some Holsteiner blood (they’re guaranteed to jump)
approval by a major European-based registry (he’s approved with pretty much all of them)
average size (I don’t want a giant horse to try to keep sound)
a competition record in eventing (MM won the 7yo World Championship at Lion d’Angers)
offspring competing in upper level eventing (while most are still too young to be upper level horses, there are some starting to pop up)
a very good canter (I always buy for canter, so it makes sense to breed for it too)
Side note: not gonna lie, it was serious icing on the cake that Mighty Magic is homozygous bay, because I’m not a chestnut fan. His excellent test scores for rideability are always nice to see too. He currently shows international level dressage with a young rider.
While in Belgium I was lucky to be in the midst of breeders who had used the stallion a lot, seen/owned a ton of his offspring, and knew a lot about what he produced and what kind of mare he matched best with. MM is based in France, so they’re in a prime location to know a lot more about him than what I’d be able to glean from the internet. I spent quite a while picking the brain of one breeder in particular, and after showing him my mare options (at that time I had two), describing them both, looking at their pedigrees, talking about the tendencies of the offspring, what I wanted, etc, he told me which mare he would pick. Luckily, that was Sadie.
And ultimately, the mare is the most important piece of the puzzle. I love Sadie, had a lot of fun raising and riding her, she has a fantastic work ethic, she’s a good mover, and she has plenty of jump. If I got a carbon copy of her, I wouldn’t be upset. Ok, I would prefer that her baby be a lot less inclined to smash things with it’s butt (RIP Michelle’s stall walls, trees, truck wheel well, and pretty much 80% of things on her property).
We also discussed Jaguar Mail for her, but ultimately decided that their jumping styles might not be a good match. So I came back to the States and proceeded to scour the internet looking at more Mighty Magic foals and figuring out what bloodlines he crossed best with. Just so happened that as I watched youtube video after youtube video, the babies I liked most were out of mares with Hanoverian blood. Sadie is half Hanoverian. To go one step further, the winner of the 5yo Bundeschampionate for eventing in 2015 was by Mighty Magic out of a Hanoverian mare that shares several bloodlines in common with Sadie. That sealed the deal.
I’m a big fan of USEA and all the perks that come with my membership – especially their Medal Program. I dunno why, but it’s really fun to fill out that form and get a little something back in recognition of your horse’s accomplishments. I can’t resist any opportunity to add to my Henny Shrine.
Except now I have a lot, and I don’t really know what to do with these certificates and medals. Propping them up on the dresser in the guest bedroom was ok when there were only a few, but now I basically have a whole herd of them and they’re taking over. I can’t stand to throw them out, and it seems a little sad to pack them away in a binder or something. Seems equally weird to frame them all and put them on a wall, considering there are so many. What else can I do with these things?
The medals too – they’re cute little pins that I can’t figure out what to do with either, and I’m pretty sure I already lost one. Surely there’s someone out there with a brilliant idea that encompasses both the certificates and pins, yet doesn’t look goofy?
And no, I won’t stop applying for awards every time we qualify for one, so this is gonna be an ongoing thing. I’m an addict for stuff that shows how awesome my horse is.
Guess who was in Austin? HILLARRRYYY from Equestrian at Hart, one of my very favorite fellow bloggers! We have always had a lot in common (obviously she has impeccable taste) and chat constantly, so it just makes sense that one day we’d actually get to meet up in person. When she let me know that she was coming to the area for work, I immediately started planning.
The most important item on the to-do list was riding, of course. The second most important item on the list was food. Hillary loves food as much as I do (we have bonded over it a lot via facebook and instagram), and I will happily seize any excuse to eat my way around town and be super fat. I picked her up from the airport on Sunday morning, and after a quick visit to Henry to give him cookies and see how he looked the day after his event (awesome), we headed out into Austin in search of sustenance. After some tacos we roamed around and did a little shopping, including a stop at the best candy store ever. It has EVERYTHING, to the point of being overwhelming.
She claimed in her day 1/2 recap that she didn’t buy anything while we were downtown, but I have photographic evidence to the contrary.
Then we met up with Karen for an early dinner of shared appetizers before walking a few blocks over to Gourdough’s, the best food trailer on the planet. They make ridiculously amazing monstrosities out of donuts, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anyone completely dominate one before… until Hillary. She polished off the entire Fat Elvis and didn’t even throw up. Much respect, I was really impressed.
On Monday I had to work so she was left alone in my house with the most traitorous corgi ever. He decided Hillary was his new mom and pretty much stuck to her like velcro the whole time she was here. Worst dog, no loyalty.
After work I picked her up and we headed to the barn for a little hack. She took Henny for a spin in the hay field, which he thought was great fun, even if she was about to die in the heat. I’m not sure which thing she marveled at the most – the oppressive heat that feels a little bit like living in an oven, or the fact that our mud turns into concrete when it dries. Yay Texas.
Then we went out for dinner (with Bobby because he’s gotta insert himself into everything, naturally), featuring fancy ramen followed by vegan ice cream – because I can’t imagine anything more “hipster Austin” than that particular combo. When in Rome, right? As we were standing at the ice cream place Hillary said “I think I take too many showers and don’t have enough tattoos to live here.”. Nailed it. Austin hipster experience: complete.
On Tuesday I picked her up after work and again headed to the barn. This time I tossed her up on Henny and made her jump him. Ok – it didn’t take much arm twisting (read: none) to convince her to take him for a spin over fences. That’s where he really shines, after all. First she hopped over the little fences in the ring, then I raised them all to 3’3″ish. She gave me a slightly hairy eyeball but off she went around the course, and after the first couple fences she was like “I NEED A HENRY!” and tackled everything with gusto. You can’t have him, he’s mine. They got along really well though, and seemed to have fun together. Henny is great, and I like seeing other people enjoy his greatness.
After the barn we met up with Karen one last time and had breakfast for dinner, featuring my favorite cinnamon roll pancakes, at a restaurant near my house. I feel like there are still so many food experiences left to share in Austin, but we did our best at hitting a wide variety.
It was a super fun time getting to visit with Hillary, and we’ve made some horse show plans in the fall, so hopefully we’ll be seeing each other again soon! Quinn wholeheartedly agrees.
After a decent dressage, Henry was sitting in 2nd. This show was run in the format of doing stadium and then going straight to XC with only about 10 minutes in between, so our strategy for stadium was to keep warmup as short as possible and save his energy. Because the XC goes right past the dressage rings, they didn’t start anyone in stadium/xc until all the dressage was over, meaning that even though Henry was the 4th horse on course, his start time wasn’t until around 1:00pm… when it was about 96 degrees.
Trainer had actually never showjumped Henry before, so this was a first. She cantered a few laps of warmup, hopped over a few fences, and then went to wait in the shade for his turn. I had a bucket of cold water with me to sponge him with, but he seemed to be handling the temperature and humidity really well. This is why we condition in the heat!
He went in the ring and had a fairly uneventful course. He got a bit flat and went past his distance at 2, the smallest and least impressive fence in the ring, so of course he had that rail. He tapped a few more but luckily nothing else fell from the cups. If you asked me to predict which one he’d take down, that jump would have been my guess. Bigger/scarier is better for him when it comes to stadium, so a tiny plain fence is ripe for Henny annihilation.
I was ok with a rail though… Trainer and I both kind of think that he’s going to be a one rail type of horse at Training, because he just doesn’t find stadium particularly interesting or challenging, nor does he seem to mind tapping the fences. Someone might have some square poles in his future.
After stadium I hurried to put his XC boots on, give Trainer her vest and some water, get the helmet cam ready to go, and then off they went to the start box. Henry perked up immediately as soon as he realized where he was going. Once they headed off toward the start box I ran back the other direction toward the finish so that I could be there waiting to take him and cool him down when they were done. I positioned myself by a jump judge so I could hear her radio: “Rider 8 clear at fence 1… Rider 8 clear at fence 2…” and around they went. I knew he’d be golden through the first 7, but fence 8 was an option – you could either take a longer route over a simple Training rolltop, or you could take the quick route over the Prelim weldon’s wall… I knew she was taking the Prelim option, so I held my breath a little until I heard the “Rider 8 clear fence 8”. Whew.
By fence 10 I could see her off in the distance in the far field. Bobby was standing in that area to get video, since it was the place where you could see the most fences put together. Henry easily hopped up the bank combo, then into and out of the water, then over the brushy table, and then was off and running into the next field toward the combo at the mound.
He skipped easily over the A-B-C combo at the mound, then they headed to the Trakehner, which was the other one I had a little concern about. You can’t tell in the course walk picture, but the ditch under this thing was MASSIVE. Like 4′ wide and deep enough for a family of hobbits to live in, with a metal culvert pipe running through the bottom of the hole and some random brush in it from the recent flooding. I took one peek in that thing and just about peed myself. Henry has seen some little Trakehners before, but never one like THAT. True to form though, he motored right over it without a second thought. Then they disappeared from my view again for the corner (“Rider 8 clear fence 16”, thank god for the jump judge’s walkie talkie), then popped back into my view for the last two – a couple of tables.
At this point I heard Trainer whoaing… and this is worth a little backstory. Originally in the prize list the speed for Training was listed at 420mpm, but when we got the course map at the show it said 470mpm. A couple of the riders (including my Trainer) were concerned about the speed, given the extreme heat, and the TD agreed to reduce the speed to what was listed in the prize list. She jokingly told my trainer that she better not have speed faults, which we all had a good laugh about. The horse is just here for a good confidence building run around his first T, she was not going for time! Well… guess who clocked around so easily that she found herself whoaing the last few fences? He absolutely would have made the time at 470mpm. Henny says the speed is no problem, guys – double clear XC!
This might be my favorite helmet cam footage to date… he’s totally in Beast Mode tackling this course. He just gets better and better as things get harder.
Trainer crossed the finish, checked the posted OT and Speed Fault times to make sure she wasn’t too fast (nope, plenty of room to spare) and I got to work cooling Henry down. He wasn’t very hot, and didn’t look the least bit tired, but his respiratory rate was up pretty high, which was no surprise. I sponged and scraped him in the shade for a while and got his resp rate down while Trainer chattered excitedly about taking him Prelim this winter. Heh, you go right ahead with your bad self, I’m sure as heck never running Prelim! But there’s no doubt that the Training XC wasn’t a challenge for him.
The horse that had been ahead of Henry going into stadium had some rails, so by the time all was said and done, Henry won! It was a tiny division but they were really nice, more experienced horses and the course was legit, so I’m super proud of him. He recovered really well from XC, despite the heat, and was still bouncy and perky and very proud of himself by the time we got home – he pranced off the trailer. This is exactly what I had in mind when I decided to have Trainer ride him in his first couple shows at this level. Watching him go around so easily makes me more confident in myself too. He’s fit, he’s happy, he’s bursting with confidence, and he’s ready for Coconino! And now Trainer is trying to steal my horse for Prelim/1*…
On Friday I tossed all my stuff in the truck, loaded Henry up and made the 2 hour drive to MeadowCreek Park. I gotta say, it’s much easier to pack for a HT when you don’t have to bring show clothes or saddles. The “Owner” lifestyle… I could get used to it.
The great thing about the schooling shows at MCP is that they use all the same courses as the recognized HT – and they’re not soft courses. But to counterbalance that, they also allow schooling on Friday without requiring you to run HC the next day. This is super rare. Normally Henny doesn’t need to school anything, he’s a super XC horse, but there was a corner on the course and I realized – hmm… he’s never actually seen a corner. And definitely not a true, big, narrow, maxed out corner off of a really tricky approach. So in the interest of setting him up for success instead of failure, we took him out, Trainer pointed him at the corner, and of course over he went on the first try like no big deal. Corners – check. I dunno why I ever doubt him, he never disappoints.
It was blazing hot so she kept her ride really short. After a bath and some cookies I finished setting up his stall, then got to work on setting up my own accommodations for the evening.
This was my first time actually using my own tent and truck bed mattress, or trying to put it all up by myself. Gotta say, it was super easy to put up and the mattress inflated itself in about 2 minutes. By the time I crawled into it shortly after sunset, it was definitely still a bit too hot and humid outside to be comfortable, but after about half an hour it cooled down enough and I actually slept pretty well in that thing.
The next morning I was awake super early, as is usual for me. It was weird not having to braid, so I used that time to polish and clean everything I could get my hands on, from tack to boots to Henny. I was able to take my sweet time getting him ready, and Trainer came down around 8:30 to get on.
He warmed up pretty well, then went and put in an obedient albeit a bit tense test. On the plus side, his trot to canter transitions were both pretty good for him, he was straight on both centerlines, the weird little figure 8 of 15m trot circles at X was no big deal, and the trot lengthening was nice. On the less positive side, he was a bit reluctant to stretch in either the trot or the walk, and wasn’t really a fan of coming back down into the walk in general. Typical tension issues.
The judge was very lenient with everyone and Henry got a 28, which put him in 2nd. Trainer and I both agreed that it was really more like a 35 test, but hey, schooling show scores are fun! She was equally lenient across the board, so it all works out the same in the end anyway, the score just looks more impressive than his test actually was. I kind of failed at videoing… I would keep the phone pointed at the horse for a while, then start watching the horse and forget to keep the phone pointed at him, so the video is about half horse and half empty dressage ring. Whoops.
Still, for his first time doing Training Test B, and for his second dressage ride ever with Trainer aboard (the first one having been on Thursday), he was really good. Plus I think Trainer now has some newfound sympathy for me and the struggle that is Dressage Henry! He’s getting better though; he’s more obedient and more able to at least try to work despite his misgivings about the dragons that live in the dressage ring.
Now that the hard part was over – ON TO STADIUM AND XC!
Cuz it’s Friday, and we’re leaving for the show today! BYE!
That was a massive case of ADD on my part, but anyway…
Yes, Henry is sound after the nail incident, thank goodness. We still opted not to do our jump lesson yesterday just to save his feet from unnecessary pounding, but it worked out well because Trainer got to hop on for a dressage ride. Her very first dressage ride on Henry, at that… she’s only sat on him twice before, for XC schooling.
They really click well though, she’s used to his type of horse and he liked her sympathetic and quiet ride. He gave her some good work and she declared there is a fancy horse in there somewhere (I’ve been thinking that for the past few months too… he’s SO close to some good quality work).
I still have some work and then some packing left to do, then we’ll be on the road. I’m kind of excited to play owner/groom for once, this never ever happens! Much less stressful this way. Fingers crossed for a successful first Training for Henny. Ride times: