You know what’s great after you’ve been awake for 41 hours? 9 1/2 hours of sleep. I got in bed to read at 8:30pm on Wednesday night and think I made it about a paragraph down the page before I passed the hell out. And that was my status all the way until 5:58am the next morning, two minutes before my alarm went off. It was fantastic.
I fed the horses, turned everybody out, and then went exploring around the property. I found the cross country jumps, and the pond, and then walked up the driveway to take a pic of the barn in the early morning light. It’s so nice and quiet and peaceful here. It was way better than your typical Thursday morning for me, that’s for sure.
Everyone else showed up around 9:30, and I got on Henry for a quick run-through of the dressage test. Or tried, I guess. He was tense and pissy and just kind of a monster in general. A sassmonster. He felt like that awesome combination of wild but behind the leg. Everyone’s favorite thing to ride. Yay.
By this point it was stupid humid and getting pretty hot, so I made it through the test once, got a couple good moments, and called it done. Some days things just don’t go the way you want them to. No point in getting Henry even more worked up and end up making it worse or getting him overheated. It took me a while to get him cooled out as it was.
After everyone else got done riding and we got the barn cleaned up, the others left to go back to the house they’re staying at. I ate lunch, grabbed my book, and enjoyed some A/C for a while.
And then, right on cue again: the rumble of thunder. Except this time the horses were already inside, so I didn’t have to do a repeat of the Tough Mudder Sprint from the day before. Thank goodness, because I don’t have that in me again for a while.
But that storm blew in like a wrecking ball. The barn shook, stuff went flying, the power flickered on and off a few times, and the WiFi went out (nooooooo not the WiFi!). I headed downstairs to check on the horses and make sure everyone was ok, and found a whole bunch of random stuff blown all over the place from the wind. I shut the end doors, picked stuff up, and confirmed that all the horses were indeed just fine.
Then I got distracted cleaning my tack and sweeping all the different rooms out. I’m a total piddler when you leave me alone in a barn with nothing better to do. Everyone else came back out to help feed dinner, and the rain just kept going. We got a solid 3+ hour shower, enough to dash our plans for night turnout.
After that I just ate dinner, read my book, checked on the horses one more time, and went to bed (early, again, because I’m a total old lady). It was a pretty relaxed and chill day overall, which is nice since tomorrow is when everything gets really busy again as we pack back up and head over to Chatt for the show. Having a calm day sandwiched in between a bunch of craziness is much appreciated. It was a very welcome chance to catch our breath, rest up, and let the horses de-stress from the drive out here.
Happy Friday everyone! We’ll pick back up on Monday with a show recap… hopefully I can keep the Sassmonster at bay.
Y’all… did you know that it’s possible for one day to be 41 hours long? It’s true. That was my Tuwednesday.
After a long, busy day at work on Tuesday, I went home and packed my stuff, then went to the barn and packed Henry’s stuff. Then I spent a really long time saying bye to Presto (I MISS HIM ALREADY 😩), loaded Henry in the trailer, and drove south to rendezvous with my actual ride to Chatt. We unpacked everything from my truck, loaded it into theirs, got all the horses in, and were on our way out of Austin by 10pm, with the goal of meeting up with the rest of our caravan at 1:30am, south of Houston.
I thought maybe I’d be able to doze a bit in the car but yeah no. Apparently when you start to get old, things don’t bend the same way anymore. My back couldn’t take the weird positions that are required for car sleeping, so I didn’t get so much as even a wink.
We stopped again at 4:15 in Louisiana, at which point I took over driving from Trainer. That’s pretty close to when I normally wake up anyway, so I was starting to feel perkier right as she was starting to crash. I drove on across Louisiana through sunrise, and then bam – shredded tire. I pulled off the highway into a parking lot and trainer acted like she was auditioning for NASCAR pitcrew or something… she had that thing changed in like 10 minutes. It was quite impressive. I wish I had videoed it.
After that, everything started blurring together. The cities, the states, the hours… omg. By 11am or so I think delirium was starting to set in, but I wasn’t feeling particularly tired. It’s like my body went “well I guess sleep isn’t a thing we’re doing” and moved on to the next day. Like Europe jet lag but way more boring.
We weren’t actually going straight to Chatt since the show isn’t til this weekend. Instead we’re spending a few days at a really nice farm outside of Birmingham, so the horses can relax and enjoy some turnout after their long trip. We’ve got a covered, a dressage arena, a jumping arena, trails, and some XC jumps. The barn is GORGEOUS. And since it’s for sale, it’s currently empty, meaning we have the entire place to ourselves.
All the horses unloaded great, and after a few minutes in their stalls to settle and drink some water, we turned them out in the nice grassy paddocks. Henny took one look at that grass and was like “bye Felicia”. 14 hours in a trailer will do that, I suppose.
We got ourselves organized in the barn, and then everyone else left to go to the house they’re staying in (about half an hour away) to shower and relax for a bit. I’m staying in the apartment above the barn (because 1. I am the anti-social grump of the group, 2. I’m always up really early anyway, so it makes sense for me to stay here and feed the horses in the mornings.) which is really nice. I took a shower, sat on the couch, and immediately felt myself falling asleep. I didn’t want to nap for too long so I set an alarm on my phone for 45 minutes later, closed my eyes, and I was out like a light.
Twenty minutes in, a distant rumble jolted me out of my nap. I was so discombobulated when I woke up that it took me a minute to remember where the heck I even was, and then I heard a rumble again, but louder this time. I opened my weather app, swore loudly, and leaped for my shoes, slamming my feet into them as I took off down the stairs. Some storms had popped up out of nowhere and were coming fast.
I bolted out to the paddocks, grabbing Henry and the horse next to him. I ran back up the hill with them, threw them in their stalls, and turned to run back out. Right then the sky lit up like the 4th of July. I haven’t seen a lightning show that impressive in a long time. I stopped in my tracks. I still had 6 more horses out, but there was so much lightning that I couldn’t even find a break in it to make a mad dash.
I paced the barn aisle for a few minutes, waiting for a lull, and finally got enough of one. I sprinted like I don’t think I’ve ever sprinted before, grabbing both of Trainer’s horses and running back up the hill with them. Then I had to wait for another lull, dashing back out and grabbing the draft cross and the pony and running THEM in. Now I was sweating, soaked, and freaked out. I hate lightning. A lot.
The two horses left out were down at the bottom of the hill, sort of behind some other paddocks. I bolted down there, leaping over a fallen board and landing ankle deep in mud. When I kept running I realized I was missing a shoe. Screech to a stop. Run back. Grab shoe. Jam bare muddy foot back in and keep running. I wrangled the last two horses (who had little interest in my urgency) and dragged them up the, by now, very long never-ending hill into the barn.
My freaking god. It was like a warrior dash or spartan race or something. I was soaked, muddy, and it felt like I sprained basically everything from the waist down. I do not recommend any of this when you’re running on literally 20 minutes of sleep in the past 36+ hours.
By the time I got the horses in and settled, everyone else arrived to help. We fed, tucked the horses in, I had a very glamorous dinner of cheese and crackers, and then I basically collapsed and died.
By the time this post is published on Wednesday morning, we should be on the road – and hopefully at least half the way – to Chatt! Or actually, our “home” farm for the week near Birmingham. The plan was to leave Tuesday night around 10 and drive overnight (we have plenty of people to switch out shifts) so that the horses don’t roast in the trailer. Henry the delicate flower appreciates that, I’m sure.
This whole trip kind of snuck up on me. Between the MCP show the weekend before last and then Presto’s FEH show last weekend, I have not focused on Chatt at all. Like 0%. I didn’t even start packing until Tuesday afternoon, right before I needed to leave. I have no idea if I got everything, probably not, but hopefully I at least remembered the essentials. (YES MICHELE I GOT MY SADDLES, YOU A-HOLE. That was ONE TIME.)
I have no real plan for this whole excursion at all, since I’m basically along for the ride. I have no scheduled posts in the queue, so if anyone is actually interested I can try to do daily updates from my phone app like I did for Coconino. I’m not sure if y’all care about that or not. But basically I’m not back til the 9th/10th, so everything else besides the Henny adventures comes to a screeching halt.
I was excited to check the mail on Monday and see that a TraumaVoid EQ3 helmet arrived just in time to make the trip with us. Thanks Riding Warehouse! Yeah I know, I just got the One K, but I have to be honest… I don’t really love it. I expected to love it, because it seems like everyone that has one does, but the fit is weird on me, it looks huge, and for some reason it makes sweat drip like a faucet directly into my left eye. The air flow is decent though, and I like the dark brown color. It’s wearable, it’s just definitely not my favorite, so I’m glad I got it cheap.
The EQ3 though, which I was concerned I would NOT like, given the mixed reviews of the fit/profile that I’ve heard so far… I like a lot. The fit is definitely better, and I think it makes me look less bobbleheaded than the OneK. Not as flattering as my Samshield, but I mean, I DO have a big ol’ melon so I always looks bobbleheaded to some degree. The MIPS layer is really interesting too. So the EQ3 made it into my trunk to take with us, and the OneK got left at home. We’ll see how it handles the Southeast heat and humidity. Stay tuned.
OH – one last thing while I’m thinking about it! The Central FEH Championships is still looking for sponsors. I know a lot of business owners are readers, so I’m throwing this out there for you guys (or for anyone who might want to sponsor privately, I suppose). Link to sponsorship info/form is here: Central FEH Championships. This is the first year for a Central championship and it looks like it’s going to be fairly well attended, so hopefully we can make it a good one!
Last Friday I had the vet come out to get all of Henry’s paperwork in order for our trip to Georgia, and asked him to look at a few general things on Presto while he was there.
Henry was quick and easy, just some paperwork, a health certificate, and a look in his mouth. And we had our annual talk about how he’s been handing the heat, and why the horse is so damn weird. The vet thought he looked really good (aside from where the hair all fell out on his face because I dared to try Equiderma when I ran out of his usual tea tree spray… so that’s cool right before a show…) and we decided we’d wait and do his teeth after we get back since there was nothing urgent happening in there.
Henry got to go back to his stall, and I nabbed Presto to drag him inside. I wanted to check a few things on him – mostly just a bunch of little things and a general wellness check, because I will never stop being completely insane when it comes to this horse.
First he felt him up again, to see if there’s been any progress on the inguinal ring on that stubborn right side. He said he thinks it feels better, and gave the go-ahead to geld him once the weather cools down. So, like… October/November probably. We still haven’t had any colt-related problems with him, and he seems happy living with his donkeys, so that’s fine. Honestly, development-wise it’s probably better that we wait a little longer anyway. Maybe some of that testosterone will kick in and help his topline? A girl can dream.
I also stood there and drilled the vet over basically every tiny little thing. Does that leg look crooked to you? I mean yeah I know it’s normal for them to toe out before the chest sprouts, but is it TOO toed-out? What about the hocks? What about this foot? What about how he’s wearing this hoof down? Will you look in his mouth, he’s been making weird faces lately?
And so on and so on. The poor vet, he was looking at me like I was the top nominee for Crazy Horse Lady of the Week. I was just like, look, this is going to happen pretty much every time you’re here so get used to it and I’m sorry. I can’t help it.
The only thing the vet really agreed with me on, as far as being slightly concerning, was the fact that his coat is kind of rough-looking in a couple places. He liked the deworming schedule that I’ve done and didn’t think he looked particularly wormy, but agreed that I should go ahead and send in a fecal sample next week (which I was gonna do anyway). I asked him if it would be worthwhile to run a full blood panel, just to be sure nothing looked weird, and he said that he didn’t think there would be anything abnormal on the results but agreed that it couldn’t hurt.
So we pulled some blood (while Presto gave me the evil eye), and that’s about it. Nothing looked weird in his mouth, although the vet did note that he already has some big ass wolf teeth in there. I won’t be putting a bridle on him until those come out.
Maybe that was money I didn’t really need to spend, but it makes me feel better. I see Presto every day and tend to worry about every tiny little thing. We’ll see if the bloodwork shows anything “off” – hopefully not – and then I’ll nab a poo sample for the fecal. After that I’m done being crazy. Well, probably not. But hey, at least the vet is making some money off of my craziness?
Well that was definitely an adventure! And one that went about as well as I could have possibly ever hoped.
Presto got a mega deep clean scrubby bath on Saturday, which seemed to annoy both of us equally. I’m so glad he only has one tiny white sock. Obviously it’s been a while since I’ve had a show horse with any leg white, because I forgot how freaking annoying it is to scrub socks and try to keep them clean. Plain bays forever. But I got him clean, brushed all the burrs out of his forelock (OMG the debris that thing can hold, it’s like a big puffy tangle of velcro) and told him not to get too dirty overnight.
Sunday morning I was out at the barn by 6am, and managed to get him fed, hitch up the trailer, check and put air in my trailer tires, load my stuff, bring him in, groom him, braid him (the Quick Knot did AMAZING – stayed in perfectly for all 8 hours of our day and were so quick and easy to put in/take out with a wiggly baby), get after his orange tail with some black spray, and get him loaded, all in under an hour. There was some initial screaming but by the time I got on the highway he was settled and munching hay, which he did the entire rest of the 2.5 hour drive. Thank you kiddo for being a good hauler.
The trip was delightfully uneventful, and we got to the facility, parked, I went to check in, and then unloaded. Presto took a quick look around, let his presence be known with a trumpeting neigh (like, really though, my eardrums), and went straight to grazing. Pretty crazy, this baby horse.
We arrived with about an hour to kill until our class time, so I just let him hang out and graze until about 20 minutes before. Then it was back to the trailer for another quick brush off, a halter change, some hoof oil, and I grabbed my whip and helmet.
But everything was running a bit behind, so we went back to the real serious business: NOMS.
Finally it was our turn in the ring, by which point I was dripping sweat. Thankfully Presto was pretty well behaved. A little wiggly at times for all the standing parts, but nothing too dramatic. Of course, by the time he’d stood out in the baking sand ring in the midday Texas summer sun for a while, he didn’t have much fire in him for the walk and trot. He did his best impression of a pokey hunter. Which would be great if they weren’t looking for uphill dressage type gaits with impulsion.
After we were done I went and tied him to the trailer again and then watched some of the older horses go while we waited for scores. At one point while I was standing next to the ring I caught part of a conversation between the judge and the organizer, with him telling her not to think he’d lost his mind with the scoring, that at a show a few weeks ago he’d scored only one or two in the 70’s, with the rest in the 60’s. My heart kind of sank at that, interpreting it to mean that the scores were really low. I didn’t go to the show expecting a qualifying score (which is 72 or higher), in fact I actually didn’t think Presto would get one, but, ya know… hope springs eternal? The judge was Peter Gray, one of the Championship judges from last year and will be again this year as well, so I know he’s legit and can be tough. I also knew that my yearling definitely looked gawkier and less developed than everyone else’s did. In a sea of Irish babies, a mostly-TB-with-a-little-warmblood definitely looks… different. Legs twice as long, body half the mass.
So I was pretty floored when I got his score sheet and saw that he’d scored a 75.95 (at what point do we get to round up to 76?). He was last of the 4 yearlings, of course, I knew he would be, but they were all within a few points of each other and had some good scores. The judge said the overall quality of the group was very good.
Looking at the score sheet and the comments, I agree with all of it. Presto’s biggest strength is definitely his type, he LOOKS like an event horse, but he’s pretty awkward right now development-wise, especially in his topline (or lack thereof) and that showed up in his frame score. That part just might not come until he’s older, honestly. And despite not really showing his gaits as well as I know he can, he scored decently enough there, and then got a nice score for general impression too.
I can’t complain about that. For one of the Championship judges to give him a good enough score to essentially stamp Presto’s ticket, it’s a compliment. It means he thinks the horse is good enough to want to see him again in September, and he will. FEH Championships, here we come!
Really though, the way Presto handled the whole day was just as exciting as getting a qualifying score. He hauled great both ways, loaded easily both ways (I did all of this ALONE, btw), drank well, ate all of his hay, and stood at the trailer like a champ. That’s really what it’s all about.
I made kind of a weird observation while watching the Upperville live feed a few weeks ago, and have continued to build on this observation since. While just about everyone patted their horses after their rounds (which made my heart happy, because #alwayspatyourpony) the particular style of patting seemed to always fall into a few certain categories. Some discreet, some aggressive, some flamboyant. So what were the main styles I noticed?
These people are the most subtle, generally just reaching slightly forward with one hand and rubbing the horse’s neck or withers discreetly with their knuckles or a few fingers. It was quick, it was quiet, it was to-the-point, and it didn’t require taking a hand off the reins. Usually because taking a hand off the reins might result in imminent death of the rider and/or some spectators.
One step up from The Rubber, the PitterPatter takes one hand off the reins and reach out for a nice soft little *patpat* or *rubrub*. Still quiet, still soft and sweet, but with a little less “I fear for my life right now” to it. These are the perfect people to use the Instagram Superzoom filter on. Much purple fuzz, many sparkles.
Along the same lines as your PitterPatter, the Crossover takes it one (crooked) step farther and reaches one hand across to pat or rub the opposite side of the neck. Sometimes they do one side first, and then the other, other times they just go straight across. This is my own particular style of patting although I can’t tell you why the heck I have to pat the left side of the neck with my right hand. There is no rhyme or reason. I think I just like being crooked.
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The Monkey is the rider who leans forward (sometimes abandoning ship and dropping both reins, other times not) to give a hearty, usually two-handed rub or pat. Typically the pats are accompanied by such phrases as “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” or “YOU’RE THE BEST BOY” and an ear-to-ear grin. Extreme cases of The Monkey can turn into The Hugger, taken just one step further with a full-on embrace of the neck.
Ok I’m gonna be sexist for a minute and say that this is most common with professional male riders who have just won some money, but you know what I’m talking about. They give one or two BIG SMACKS on the neck, usually followed by some kind of spectacular fist-pump or (my preference) a finger pointed down at the horse in credit. This one is generally more of a celebratory style, reserved for special occasions.
There are some variations on all of these of course, but… these are the main ones I’ve noticed. So what kind of patter are you?
While it’s true that Presto is, overwhelmingly, a really good baby horse, he’s still a baby horse. Not sure if y’all have met horses, but they’re dumb. Especially when they’re young. And when the Baby Horse does decide to be naughty, he’s generally smart, clever, contemplative, and creative about it. Ie: kid is trouble on four hooves.
He’s been a little more full of himself than usual this week. He had Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to himself, when I was busy with Henry and the horse show. Usually I have my hands on him doing something at least 5 days a week, even if it’s just a quick 10 minute grooming in the crossties. Then we got some rain on Monday that meant the horses were inside all day, so by the time I got to him on Monday afternoon he was riding quite high on his own overinflated ego.
I brought him in for grooming, as usual, but he was Mr. Prancy Pants and just could not keep himself from wiggling. He wasn’t pushy about it, so I didn’t get on his case too much… I know he was a little amped from being inside, and he’s a yearling, and I was asking him to be still. So I took him for a walk out toward the back hay field, working on his “whoa” and “cluck” voice commands. Then we wandered into one of the front paddocks so I could practice his FEH stuff – standing still and then walking/trotting on a triangle. We were on our second “stand” when it started to rain.
As soon as it started coming down hard on the metal roof of the barn next to us, he thought that was a great excuse to turn into a horse kite. I, on the other hand, thought that his decision to turn into a horse kite was a great excuse to stand out in the rain and let him figure out that sometimes life just sucks and you have to deal with it anyway. Once he stood still and relaxed, I took him in.
He’s gotten a little more mouthy lately too, wanting to chew on things and pick up EVERYTHING in his mouth. I think he might have some baby teeth things going on, so I’m going to have the vet take a peek in there tomorrow when he’s here doing Henry’s health certificate, just in case. Either that or Presto has just discovered his mouth all the sudden. Could be either/or. Colts.
Yesterday morning I took him out to pony with Henry and he was ON FIRE. Normally if he’s “wild” he just kind of bounces around next to Henry a little bit but I think that being cooped up due to the weather made him extra frisky. He decided it was a prime time to play and popped up on his hind legs, trying to bite at Henry. I turned the end of my lead rope into a club and stopped that shit real quick. Being frisky in your own space, fine. Coming at Henry, even in a playful way, with hooves and teeth – NOPE. Nope right between your big fluffy donkey ears. He was dedicated enough to try it one more time, but after wallop #2 all the wind went out of his sails and he decided to just trudge along next to us, looking dejected.
The good thing about him is that he’s not at all dedicated to being naughty. One or two good reprimands and he abandons those ideas post haste. And he’s not actually scared of anything, so it’s not like he’s being spooky or something. Just… testing his boundaries a bit. I keep them very clearly defined, and if he chooses to step over the line then that’s his choice and he gets to deal with the consequences. Yeah, I’m a mean lady.
We’ll see which Presto decides to show up on Sunday for his FEH class. Hopefully it’s the sweet angelic one, but with just a touch of the naughty wild one for the trot so that he’s cute. Now that I’ve said that I’m probably going to get the opposite, aren’t I?
Alright, Day 2! Dressage was done and dusted, time to get on to the good stuff – stadium and XC. Or really, XC. That’s the actual good stuff. For once we found ourselves in very unfamiliar territory at the top of the leaderboard after dressage. Who needs that kind of pressure in their life? Not me. I’ve always been more of the “come from behind” type. Or, more often, the “stay behind” type. Okay, so maybe being at the top is nice sometimes.
Our ride times were 8:27 for stadium, with XC at 8:37. I got up at my regular time (5:30), fed Henry, cleaned his stall, got all my tack ready, went over my courses and minute markers one more time, put his studs in, and got my ring bag ready to take down to warmup. I was kind of bummed that the course hadn’t changed since we were here last September, so we’ve already run this same XC course before. Because of that I only walked it once, to get a feel for the footing and decide on studs.
Stadium and XC being only 10 minutes apart posed a potential challenge for me, seeing as how I had to do a bridle change between phases and had no one with me to assist. Because if I tried to run Henry XC in a hackamore we’d just be galloping off into the wild blue yonder never to be heard from again. But I didn’t want to SJ in his XC bit, because part of the whole point of coming to this show was trying out all of the changes we’ve been making. So I trudged down to warmup with his XC bridle, his XC boots (because I’m pretty sure if we did stadium in those we would have every freaking rail), my XC whip, and a mounting block, then hung out for a bit to watch how the schedule was flowing. It became pretty clear right off the bat that stadium would be lagging behind.
When I got on to warm up I went and asked the steward if we’d still get our 10 minutes in between, and she told me that the gap had narrowed to where now they were sending people out on XC about two minutes after they came out of stadium. Goody. Luckily I spotted a familiar face in Paulina, who runs the local CT’s here in town that we do sometimes. She and a student were total lifesavers and graciously agreed to be my pit crew between phases (they also got all the media snippets that you see here!).
I kept my warmup pretty short and sweet, knowing that he wouldn’t get much of a breather before XC. We trotted a couple laps, cantered a couple laps, jumped the vertical once and jumped the oxer once. He felt pretty good, even giving me a frisky little head toss when we picked up the canter. As soon as they put all the stadium jumps down to Training size I got a feeling of dread. They looked really small. I ride like a monkey when they look really small. I would have much rather jumped them at Prelim height. The course also started on an oxer-to-vertical line, which makes me a little grumpy.
This venue’s stadium is always wheeled super tight, so I went in knowing I’d have to try to cut off as many unnecessary strides as I could. I took that a little too far when I jumped 5 totally on an angle. Whoops. I got away with that one, though. What I didn’t get away with was when I pulled to the base of 9 and Henry had to jump out from underneath it, taking the rail with us. 110% my fault, without a doubt. I knew I needed to keep my leg on and keep coming out of that turn, but I took a pull instead. So we finished with one rail, which is fine. Not unusual for us. What was really weird is that they said we also had 4 time faults. I have no idea how, I literally cut off as much space as I could and don’t feel like I could have gone much faster without running through the distances, but… oh well. I only have video of part of the course, so I don’t have any way of knowing what our time really was.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that dropped us down to 3rd. I had to trot out of stadium, across the warmup, to my waiting pit crew that was stationed near the start box for XC. I jumped off and slapped Henry’s boots on while Paulina and her student swapped Henry’s bridle. I really have to thank them again, because I swung back aboard when the starter said “30 seconds” and hustled my way over the box with just enough time to take a deep breath and try to focus. There is NO WAY I could have made it without their help.
What I didn’t have time to remember, though, was my helmet camera. After jump 2 I was like “Oh crap, I never hit the button”. But let me tell you what I can’t do at a gallop on a very full of himself Henry. I tried to turn it on but quickly gave up. Here’s the helmet camera from last September, if you want to see the course again, or the jump pics. Nothing was different except the speed was 450mpm instead of 470mpm.
What I DID have though, was a pretty cocky horse. He jumped the snot out of 1 and 2, then thought maybe he should drag me to 3. I had to set him on his ass a bit in the turn between 3 and 4 and have a quick discussion about who was actually in charge here, and he was much more polite after that. He is 0% intimidated by anything at this level anymore, which is great, I’m glad that he’s confident, but that doesn’t mean he gets to be rude and try to take over.
I went ahead and let him gallop a bit across the big field from 5, 6ab, and 7, knowing that the second half of the course rode a lot twistier and had a couple of combinations that would eat up some time. He was full of run, ears pricked and looking for the fences. It was almost an auto-pilot type of experience. Rolltops at the mound? Check. Skinny? Check. Water? Check. Down bank to skinny rolltop? Check. Angled combo? Check. Weldon’s wall? Check. There wasn’t much more to it than that. I did learn my lesson from how the water rode last time and landed, closed my leg, and rode out more positively so the distance worked way better. That was an improvement. The Weldon’s jumped better too. I did bury him at the Trakehner though just because I rode sloppy to it. My bad, although I don’t think he noticed.
Two fences from home I looked at my watch (which I had blissfully ignored to this point) and we were a bit ahead of time, so I slowed him down to more like 350mpm and let him just coast home. He still tried to argue with me a bit about that. Not tired at all. We crossed the finish at 4:37, with OT being 4:46, for a double clear. He was puffing a bit in the heat, but was still attempting to drag me around when I got off to go collect my bridle and mounting block. I untacked, hosed him, walked him a bit, let him graze and get some water, hosed him again, and then left him parked in front of his fan in his ice boots while I went to check scores.
Making time was the name of the game on that day. Everyone else accrued quite a few time faults, except for the person who had moved into first after stadium that unfortunately had a parting of ways with her horse at the water (they were both ok), and someone else who had a stop there as well. Our double clear moved us solidly back up into first.
This show was an experiment in a lot of ways. We totally changed our approach to the dressage, it was our horse trial debut of riding stadium in the hackamore, and I wanted to get a gauge of where his fitness is at, as far as running XC in the heat, before we head to Chatt. I think we definitely got some improvement in the dressage, we’re on the right track for stadium (will I ever stop pulling? we’ll never know…), and there’s no doubt his fitness is just fine for Chatt. We will definitely be having a halt-halt reminder session during his next gallop though, since that’s something that apparently slipped Mr. Cockypants’ mind at the beginning of XC, and I will keep chanting “SHOULDERS BACK” to myself on repeat.
It was good to get back out there again, and I think we’re both feeling ready for Chatt!
Hope y’all aren’t into, like… lots of pro quality pictures and ample videos and stuff. I went to this show 100% completely alone, and the only reason I have any media at all is because of a couple of very nice friends who were in the right place at the right time. Lets all be very happy with that.
As usual I was super well prepared, in that on Friday morning I was like “I should probably look at the dressage test again. Well… actually I should probably look online and make sure of which test we’re doing.”. Upon which I realized it said Training Test B, which I have never even so much as looked at before, much less ridden or practiced. Ha. Friday was Henry’s day off though, so instead of trying to do a last minute run through the test I just texted Trainer (who sadly would not be attending) and asked her for tips.
See, our objective as of late has been to make him borderline TOO forward. He’s always had this tendency to go in at A and immediately tense up and get stuck behind my leg, to where it’s just a big yucky tight sewing machine type of test. Obedient, always, but there’s nothing relaxed and forward-flowing about it, and the connection can be a bit fake when he’s like that. So we’re hoping that if I just ride him a bit overly forward for a while, we’ll be able to get him un-stuck. I am all about making new and different mistakes instead of repeating the same ones for years on end, so I was determined to just keep my freaking leg on and keep going forward no matter what happened.
Our ride time wasn’t until 7:22pm, and they were running a bit late in my ring. I was kind of okay with that, though, because a) it was still really hot and humid, b) for some reason Henry was REALLY tense and spooky when I got on. Like, he spooked at the flags that marked the perimeter of warmup. He’s seen flags like that a million times. We walked until I felt him release his back a little, then we trotted and cantered both ways, lengthening and shortening, and then in the last few minutes I practiced a couple of the little 10m half circle “teardrops” that are in the test. Henry felt a bit like he was on a hair-trigger, but whatever… I was here to just ride him a lot more forward and see what happened.
As we trotted around the outside of the ring he looked at the letters, the judge’s booth, the announcer, and the chains around the arena, then flinched at the crackling loudspeaker. Awesome. The whistle blew and in we went. As usual, he was pretty obedient. The first teardrop rode a lot better than I thought it would, and was bang-on accurate. I expected it to be harder than that. He took a couple of wanna-be-trantering steps in the second teardrop but it was going away from the judge so I don’t think it looked obvious from behind. I really went for it in the trot lengthening, to the point where we got the comment “running”, but usually we get the comment “show more difference”, so LOL. Middle ground? Maybe someday.
The canters were ok – a bit launchy and crooked into the right lead depart – and again I tried to really go for it in the lengthenings. Those are quite hard for croup-high Henry, being on a circle. I was also a bit worried about both of the canter/trot transitions happening at X. He has a history of getting quite tense about the idea of cantering across the diagonal, anticipating a lead change. They were both decent though, no major problems. The stretchy trot, usually our best movement at home, is always just meh at shows (see entire post about tight and tense), but he took a deep breath and gave me some good effort in the free walk.
The second medium walk (after the free walk) was an absolute chess match, trying to keep him from jigging. Man it was close. REALLY CLOSE. He kept a lid on it, but barely. That is a long ass walk from H to M when your horse really just wants to gallop. I was a couple steps late picking the trot back up at M, mostly because I was trying to make sure I actually got a trot instead of a gallop. The half circle turn back up to center line and his halt were great though, garnering the comment “square, immobile”.
I really wasn’t sure how that test would score at all. He was still tense, just less stuck-feeling than he normally is. I knew it definitely had to look hurried in a few places, but I tried to ride as accurately as I could and not give any points away. I’m not even in the habit of looking at dressage scores anymore, so I had no idea how we’d done or where we were sitting until Trainer texted me while I was getting in bed and said:
Turns out that all of our scores were between 6 and 8, with the majority of them being 7, and a final score of 32.3. That landed me in a brand new place for us – the top of the leaderboard after dressage. I’d seen at least bits and pieces of most of the other tests, so I was guessing we’d be mid-pack, but no… somehow we creeped out ahead. Granted, there was only a 6 point spread between first and last, so that’s not saying much. I think maybe we got a little charity there for whatever reason, or maybe it was the accuracy that helped make up the difference, but either way I’ll take it.
By the time I cooled Henry out and hosed him, put my tack away, cleaned his stall, fed him dinner, took a shower, and set up my tent, it was 9:30. I was even too hot/tired to eat dinner, so I settled for chugging 2 bottles of water instead. And then my air mattress’ battery died when it was only about 70% inflated, but again, too hot and tired to care. I just collapsed into the floppy mess and laid under my little fan, trying not to move. Stadium was at 8:37 the next morning, with XC right after, and we still had a whole lot left to do.
Every year when I leave a summer horse show, coated in 15 layers of sweat and filth, rubbed raw in places that shouldn’t ever be, I think “omg, why did I do that? That was miserable.” and then the next year I do it again anyway.
Horse people, we are gluttons for punishment.
I feel a little bit like a walking piece of beef jerky today. I drank 12 bottles of water in less than 24 hours (and was asleep for 8 of those hours) but I still basically attached my mouth to the hose after XC and chugged. Then stopped on the way home for a Powerade and chugged that too. I have to give the show management many props for how they organized the ride times this year, though. My dressage was late on Saturday evening, and we were done with stadium and XC before 9am on Sunday. The riding parts were the most pleasant.
The show recap will have to wait until tomorrow though, mostly because I need to organize myself a bit more before I tackle that. Spoiler alert: we won.
But I have to be honest, it didn’t really feel like a very deserving win. I made some mistakes and had some bleh moments and picked up my ribbon mostly just feeling like I’d ended up on the lucky end of things that day. A friend of mine said that I was the most self-deprecating person she knew, a comment that I kept mulling over as I packed my things and started driving home. I fell into a cycle of glancing at the ribbon on the dash, mulling over my rounds in my head, and then thinking about her observation.
Finally I got tired of myself and starting flipping through radio stations, trying to find literally anything without static until I could get enough signal to turn on Spotify. Quite serendipitously, as I was pushing that Seek button over and over and over, one sentence came through loud and clear out of the static – “There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy”. Not sure if you’ve ever spent much time driving through Texas, but the stations we unfailingly have the most coverage for are the Christian stations, and that’s what this was. The signal quickly faded away to static again as I went down the hill, but I found myself pausing for a second on that particular lyric.
That was really the perfect way to phrase what I was doing to myself… stealing my own joy. We won our first HT ever (pretty sure? I think our other wins have been in derbies and CT’s.) at a level that at one time seemed like my own personal version of Rolex, and here I was, stuck on a couple of fences that I rode sloppily. My friend’s observation was spot on – I AM super self-deprecating. I couldn’t even give myself one friggin day to just enjoy the fact that we finally came out on top before I started analyzing and tearing apart every single mistake.
I decided, in that moment, to just stop it. I turned my brain off, got just enough signal to open Spotify, and selected my “Horse Show” playlist… something I made a couple years ago to play when Bobby and I were driving to shows together. It’s a ridiculous mixture of really random songs, but they feel celebratory to me. I cranked that shit the whole rest of the way home and set everything else aside.
So, tomorrow we’ll tear this thing apart and talk about what went right and what didn’t and what we need to work on. There are always plenty of those things. But for today I’m just gonna shove a bunch of cookies into my fantastic horse and appreciate the awesome journey that he’s taken me on.